enfuse/photomatix hdr comparison

wpid426-20090131-6276-fused.jpg wpid428-20090131-6276-hdr.jpg 

So I said two posts ago that I would look at presenting a comparison between creating HDR images with LR2/Enfuse and Photomatix Pro. So here are a series of images, all taken on the same day when we visited Punalu’u Black Sand Beach back in January. All images come from 3 bracketted images taken 2 EV apart. 

Images on the left are HDR composites using Enfuse, and those on the right are using Photomatix Pro.

wpid432-20090131-6285-fused.jpg wpid430-20090131-6285-hdr.jpg

I processed each Enfuse and Photomatix HDRs using the same settings. These are quite different programs in execution and so I couldn’t really process the images to the same settings for the two, so I did the next best thing which is to find a setting I was happy with for each program and kept it the same each time. In Photomatix, I used the Details Enhancer rather than the Tone Compressor (which I’ve yet to play with).

In a way, this is also a bit of a hack as (especially given the flexibility that Photomatix Pro offers) when you do this for real each HDR image is processed differently, depending on the scene, lighting, etc. But I wanted to maintain some sort of control in making this quick comparison.

wpid442-20090131-6349-fused.jpg wpid444-20090131-6349-hdr.jpg

And finally, the images were then re-imported back into Lightroom, but I refrained from doing any post-processing on the images, which one would normally do, as final tweaks to the images. So these images you see here are exactly what you get out of the HDR processing software.

You’ll probably agree that the differences between the two are clear to see. In each of these cases I feel that Photomatix does a better job of rendering more saturated colours (I had the Saturation pumped up to 0.5 instead of the default 0.2  in Enfuse) and producing more interesting lighting, especially with the dark clouds and lava rocks.

wpid436-20090131-6371-fused.jpg wpid438-20090131-6371-hdr.jpg

However, there is one aspect which I feel Enfuse won every time. All the images that I took that day were handheld, no tripod. So, inevitably there is some image motion between the three bracketted images. Both Enfuse and Photomatix have options to align images (which were selected each time), but in every case Enfuse does a better job. You can see artifacts introduced by alignment errors in all the Photomatix images above when you look closely, but especially in the one above.

So as a quick comparison, this exercise has shown me that Enfuse can produce more natural HDR effects which is truer to the actual scene at the time you took it. However, Photomatix offers you much more control and flexibility and is able to produce more dramatic images. There is a much larger parameter space to explore with Photomatix Pro and it does offer the ‘natural’ look as well as the real funky/surreal/grunge look. What you do need is patience as  you go exploring in that parameter space

wpid448-20090131-6344.jpg

Finally, this image above is not HDR. It is just me playing where I feel most comfortable – in my Lightroom. And it is an image of the real star and excitement of our afternoon at Punalu’u. Personally, I’m extremely excited and happy that the population of Green Sea Turtles (or Honu in Hawaiian), which are found all around the Hawaiian shores, seems to be making a comeback. Punalu’u is one of the honu’s favoured feeding and nesting beaches. 

Respect the Honu. Always keep at least 5-10 feet away from them and if you want to take pictures, do so with a long lens.

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9 thoughts on “enfuse/photomatix hdr comparison”

  1. I just did a comparison of my own, each has it’s pluses and minuses. They are both good tools to have, but I still like the results of using Photoshop layers and mask to combine my HDRs. Photomatic and Enfuse both work better for me outside of Lightroom. Thanks for the posting.

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    1. Hi Allan, thanks for reading. I need to update this post now. I also want to try out the layering technique. Basically there are a number of ways of executing HDR and at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what the tools used are. What does matter is the final image.

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  2. So basically you admit to not knowing how to use Enfuse, and still did a comparison anyway?

    Of course that’s not unbiased!

    Here’s a tip: Before you try to “compare” products, how about you learn how to do an unbiased comparison by learning both programs first? Your results might be more accurate.

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    1. Hmmm – not sure how your insightful comment has any bearing to what is said in the post. I didn’t ‘basically admit’ to anything, I wasn’t biasing or pushing one program relative to the other, and there are caveats in the post. I say at the beginning that the two software programs are quite different in execution and can produce different (yet complimentary) results. The bottom line is that it depends on what you want to get from your image and what look you are after. The only real substantive difference (aside from the ‘look’ of an image) that I could see is that the image alignment in Enfuse is better than in Photomatix – and I have seen several examples of this.

      Here’s a tip: if you’ve got nothing useful to say (and I note that you don’t offer anything), just keep quiet.

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  3. Nobody knows everything, we learn new things all the time, the comparison is just that, a comparison and a opinion base on what one has learned from ones experience. There are a million variables using the programs, Splorched need to make a contribution from his knowledge of the products an how he/she handles HDR. The images we choose for HDR will work better for one image than another. So, what constructive input do you have “Splortched”.

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  4. A more realistic comparison would be with a well edited RAW, especially after good denoising. The examples above don’t appear to have an especially great dynamic range. Your examples clearly show greater saturation and contrast with Photomatrix. What we are seeing as differences above could easily be simply due to overall and local contrast plus saturation.

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  5. Enfuse is basically exposure blending, which HDR is not — although it appears to. So, is photomatix an exposure blending tool or an HDR tool? If its the latter, we are comparing apples and oranges here.

    A better tool to pit against Photomatix is LuminanceHDR (a.k.a. qtpfsgui).

    Cheers.

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  6. I just now spent a couple hours messing with enfuse, tufuse, and ptgui/enfuse, and qtpfsgui. They can all be adjusted to produce the same image.

    In one perspective, enfuse blending is like interpolation, whereas hdr is more like extrapolation.

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