A while back I reviewed Photomatix 3.1 Pro Plus, and I must confess that at the time I didn’t really do much HDR or Tone Mapping work . Although that has changed over the last year as there’s exciting stuff happening in the HDR world including the release of Photomatix 4.1 – the industry leading solution in HDR processing! or existing owners of Photomatix, this is a no brainer upgrade, and for those who have used the trial version forever, it’s time to pony up and get those watermarks off your HDR images!
Using the latest build of Photomatix I processed this image on August 17th. At first I had the natural look and then I couldn’t help but go wild with it as this image needed some oomph. You can click the image to see my mini-review of this lens or click here to purchase it from B&H.
User InterfaceThe 3.x Workflow Shortcuts window gets new terminology and features, but the 3.x Generate HDR – Options dialog is simplified and renamed to Preprocessing Options.
Performance ImprovementsTrey Ratcliff’s HDR Workshop DVD’s, and in it he still recommends converting your images to JPEG when processing in Photomatix because it is believed that this is what Photomatix does with your RAW files anyway, and its raw conversion isn’t very good – I agree. As a result of this recommendation from the king of HDR, I decided that I’d give up my obsession with passing in the fat RAW files and get with the times. As you can see from the dialog above of the files I passed in, the files still aren’t exactly tiny but both the 32 & 64-bit versions of Photomatix 4.0 only took 42 seconds to process all 5 shots into an HDR image, and 4.1.1 is even faster!
After I was done making changes, I clicked the process button which generated the final tone mapped image in only 22 seconds which saved out to 88.9 MB TIFF file when I chose Save Image (again faster in 4.1.1). Overall this felt like a huge improvement over what I was seeing with the previous version, where I’d go do some chores, eat dinner, etc… while it churned on 5 big jpeg files.
I did see the performance slow down to 2 minutes and 10 seconds when I chose all the Preprocessing Options, so you’ll benefit by having noise reduction done by your RAW processor before bringing your files to Photomatix. I strongly recommend Canon users with cameras new for 2010 or later export their images as JPEG from Digital Photo Professional (DPP – the software on your camera CD that you never installed), or use in-camera JPEG’s, for the best results. Lightroom does a decent job of reverse engineering Canon’s file format to do decent raw processing, but DPP is still the best Canon raw processor (despite its horrible user-interface and uselessness after that).
I was using a 3 year old Dell XPS 420 Quad Proc system with 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate system and 8GB of RAM for my testing. For those who are interested, the Experience Index numbers on my system are Proc 7.1, RAM 7.1, Graphics 6.5, and Hard Disk 5.9, so it is an old system with the disk I/O being the bottleneck, so this file processing performance will only improve on faster disk I//O systems. I’ve also tested it with my MacBook Pro (pre-Lion) and the performance there was equally good.
Other Improvements (UPDATE)
One of my readers from my photography club who is a more experienced Photomatix user than me, was kind enough to share some additional improvements that he has discovered in his more extensive use of this new version:
- Improved ghosting support
- Halos are much less pronounced. Joseph Calev reports that he recently ran some photos through Photomatix 4 that he had previously run through 3 and the halos were much better.
- Presets can also be used when running batch processes – which is huge for those with a fine tuned workflow.
- 4.1.1 has numerous enhancements, so be sure to stay up to date on the latest version of Photomatix for improvements and bug fixes.
What about Photoshop CS5 & Nik HDR Efex Pro?
Your version 3 license key does not work to register version 4.0, so you will need a new license key. Pro Plus license users can upgrade free of charge and get a new license key by filling out the following here. Additional details are available at that link as well.
Special Offer Promo Code
HDRSoft, the makers of Photomatix HDR tone mapping software have extended an offer to readers of this blog for a 15% discount when you use the coupon code RonMartBlog when you checkout on their web site (see picture above). Don’t forget to click the recalculate button after you enter the code to get the discount.
Additional Useful HDR Information
If you are struggling to get HDR results that aren’t cheesy, check out my review of Trey Ratcliff’s HDR DVD Workshop and his eBook, Top 10 Mistakes in HDR Processing and How to Fix Them as well as his best-selling book A World in HDR.
Photomatix 4 – A great starting point in only 10 minutes!
If you are new to Photomatix, then please read my old Photomatix review here. What I am seeing in this release are great performance and usability improvements which make it worth the upgrade, but I’m not seeing much beyond the Fusion feature that wasn’t possible in the previous release. As a result, I think my old review is still fairly accurate which is why this is a “update review”, instead of a full review.
I do think that this is the best version of HDRSoft’s Photomatix to date and the changes are significant enough to warrant an upgrade (which fortunately for many will be free or limited cost). I found this version to be much more enjoyable and user-friendly, so that I was actually able to get pretty solid HDR results in about 10 minutes. The image had some flaws that needed to be worked out, but far fewer than in previous releases. As you can see above that without any additional work whatsoever, it’s a decent place to start on what is an impossible single-exposure of Times Square in New York City.
I was provided a copy of this product to review. I may also get a commission if you make a purchase the links in this article. Thanks for supporting the blog by coming back here to make your purchase!