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High dynamic range with Photomatix

Reader Mike F emailed to suggest that I check out HDRsoft’s Photomatix. Reader Leping Z had previously suggested Photomatix about a month ago regarding tone mapping (thank you), but I finally got around to looking into it! Reader John W suggests checking out XFuse by Kekus Software, but I have not yet done so.

I downloaded the 3.0 beta of Photomatix for Mac OS X. I then processed not just yesterday’s two images, but all 5 exposures, to see if I could improve the results over yesterday, and also eliminate the excess shadow noise the 21MP Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III produces (even at ISO 200).

As a “newbie” (not knowing the product at all), I processed all 5 images of my 7 stop bracket with exposures ranging from 1/200 sec down to 0.3 second—a few checkboxes and buttons and wow! The total “clean” dynamic range of the resulting image seems to be around 14 stops, eg 5-7 stops more than I would have obtained from a single 1/200 sec exposure. (Figures are rough estimates, not a scientific analysis). No single exposure could have made this resulting image, so this is truly “new territory” not approachable with conventional single-frame exposures. Cool stuff indeed.

I intend to explore Photomatix much more because it looks like one of those tools that might become indispensable. My initial impressions are highly favorable—it was able to quickly combine the images with no fuss (“one button” so to speak—I did have to choose the right alignment options to get them aligned correctly). The combined image near the window frame is especially impressive for its natural tonal range from extremely bright to darker areas—see the actual pixels crop. My one complaint so far is that its processing appears to be single-threaded—it uses only 1 of 4 cores of my quad-core Mac Pro.

Output from Photomatix
(Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III + Zeiss ZF 25/2.8 Distagon)

Output from Photomatix — actual pixels

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