There are two popular programs to create HDR and Exposure Blend images: Photomatix and Enfuse. I’ve always been a Photomatix girl – I just prefer the user interface and the simplicity of the program over Enfuse.
I recently acquired a new computer (that’s a whole other post) and decided to download the Enfuse plug-in for Lightroom, just to see. I can’t say I’m an expert at Enfuse (or Photomatix for that matter) but thought I’d post a comparison between images for you.
For the test,to make it a more honest comparison, I spent only ten minutes on each image. Each image was composed of three bracketed images +/- 2 stops.
Both images were run through Noise Ninja and Shadows/Highlights with the same settings and as close to the same settings as I could get for rotation and vertical correction. Both images also got a quick dodge on the ceiling and around the french doors.
The plug-in for Lightroom makes the process very easy – took under a minute for the final image to be blended. I didn’t care for the fact that it doesn’t give you a preview of the final image. I’m not sure how you know what adjustments you need to make – it only gives you two options anyway – without having a preview.
The final blend, taken into Photoshop CS3 for the processing, required more color correction than I anticipated. The 40D – and all Canons from what I understand – shoots heavy on the reds and I had to color balance pretty heavily for the reds in the image. The exterior/window pull was pretty amazing, color accuracy-wise, and if window pulls are important to you, Enfuse does a pretty good job with them.
It took a bit of futzing to get the color vibrancy and contrast where I wanted it and worked the curves and saturation pretty hard.
I’m pretty comfortable with my Photomatix settings and have them saved as a preset. (Note: I tone map in Photomatix for a true HDR). Like Enfuse I have a Photomatix plug-in for Lightroom (I don’t use LR in my normal workflow but used it for the purposes of this comparison) but unlike the Enfuse plug-in you’re taken to the Photomatix program where you can adjust your settings and see previews of the final image. Once settings were applied the blending took about the same amount of time as the Enfuse blend.
The processing in CS3 is where I noticed the big differences. I did not have to do any color correcting for the Photomatix image, only had to push the saturation a few points. Instead of using curves to create the depth of color I wanted I did a quick Selective Color: Black adjustment and that was it.
I did, however, have to work the desaturation brush a bit on the french doors and then dodged them to balance out the color a bit (I just dodged them on the Enfuse version).
So, that said, which do I prefer? I’ll start by asking you, can you tell which is which? Ultimately fantastic images can be created with both programs, if given the proper time and a better starting image. I think it’s funny when people remark that they dislike Photomatix and/or HDR when, as you can see, the final outcome is so close.
I will go on record with a Photomatix preference mostly due to the familiarity with the program and ease of use.