I’ve recently downloaded a trial version of Nik’s HDR Efex Pro 2 after reading on Moose Peterson’s blog of the new version. I don’t think I ever played with version one so I’m giving it a go and so far it’s pretty impressive. My first thoughts are that the interface is much clearer than Photomatix. I love the layout and the details in the sliders. Maybe because I’m familiar with it in Silver Efex Pro. Anyway, that goes directly to the pro side of the pros and cons.
I’ve decided to include 3 versions of the Absecon Lighthouse to give you a visual comparison of my choices. The top photo is a processed version (Lightroom) of a raw file without Photomatix or HDR Efex Pro 2. Not too bad actually. All I did here was play with the tone curve tool to bring out shadows and give some depth to the sky, increased saturation and sharpened.
Next is the Photomatix version you saw on a previous post. Fairly significant changes especially in shadows and the sky. Details have been accentuated as well. One of my pet peeves with Photomatix is that it doesn’t seem to handle the fairly extreme transitional areas quite well. An example of what I mean is at the top of the lighthouse where it meets the sky. Too much work is involved with making that lighting to be more realistic( it’s usually too dark).
The default look in HDR Efex Pro seems to be a bit more subtle. The work involved with producing this final image was streamlined and from a time standpoint I like that. I like the smoother transitions from dark to light at the top of the lighthouse but now, as I look further, there is a bit of a halo at the top of the roof line. I’m sure I can fix that with more work in the program.
There are certainly aspects of each version that I do like and some that I don’t. That margin would likely decrease with more experience with Nik’s product. From a personal standpoint I think my workflow would be a bit shorter with HDR Efex mainly because the interface is less cumbersome and I seem to be able to reach my desired effect much quicker in it. A direct product of it’s easy interface. Now do I need another HDR program? I already have Photomatix and Topaz Adjust. Is it worth the $80, that remains to be seen.
If you are a novice at this HDR stuff I would probably recommend HDR Efex Pro over Photomatix or Adjust simply for the interface and it’s ease of use. Your learning curve will be much shorter. For a more seasoned photographer involved with HDR, at this point, I’m not sure yet if it’s worth the extra $. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very nice program but if your like me and have a few tools in your toolbox already this one might put you over the top. Then again, if you’re like me, you like new toys every so often. Someone once said, “You can never have enough tools right? I’ll let you know.