I’ve use many of Nik Software’s products over the years. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with some of their competitor’s less expensive, but equally useful plug-ins. But HDR EFEX PRO 2 has brought me back to Nik. When HDR Efex Pro 1 came out I was impressed, but not enough to use it as my only HDR processor. I used to use a combination of Photomatix Pro and HDR EFEX PRO 1. Now I no longer need Photomatix. HDR EFEX PRO 2 is a standalone solution that provides the best of both worlds and adds a cornucopia of new features:
New tone-mapping engine Enjoy improved color rendering, more natural results, and simplified controls
Unified workflow Users in Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture will all have the same experience the same features and functionality
Updated merging interface Previews of each exposure and the ability to enable Smart Objects streamline the merging process
Improved ghost reduction and alignment New algorithms and the ability to select a reference image dramatically improve the initial merge results
Chromatic aberration reduction New controls to reduce unsightly purple & blue fringes where dark tones meet light tones
Updated tone mapping and enhancement panel Completely redesigned controls for enhancing images make crafting superior HDR images fast and easy
Depth control Overcomes the flat dull look that so often accompanies HDR imagery
Improved White Balance controls Addition of the Tint control makes for a complete White Balance system
Graduated Neutral Density control Correct or stylize your image with access to the full 32-bit depth of the merged image, providing for a natural effect especially on images with a strong horizon line
Improved visual preset browser Single click starting points for a wide variety of HDR looks, newly categorized for quicker results
History browser Quickly compare previous edits to your final result or the middle exposure of a series
Improvements to Loupe tool Benefit from viewing clipped highlights and shadows
Extended language support Maximum accessibility for speakers of English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese (Simplified and Mandarin), and the Japanese languages
I really like the way the new version lets you pre-stage the images before you convert. You have a workflow now that is similar to that used by people who use Lightroom and Photohshop. You use the opening page of HDR EFEX PRO to work on the basics, then you create the tone map and make further adjustments from there.
It’s faster for sure. The ghosting control is powerful – really powerful (I experimented on this image and found that 60% stopped the moving clouds) and the new Depth Control feature is stunning. There are 28 presets and you can modify them and/or make your own.
I’m still experimenting with the program. I’ve only had it for one day but I can tell you I am already satisfied that as of today, it’s the best HDR processing software money can buy.
The program costs $99.95 and upgrades are available from version one for half that. You can find a free 15 day HDR EFEX PRO 2 trial here.
If you’re an HDR fan, this is your software. Highly recommended.
(Disclosure. Nik Software is not now, nor have they ever been a sponsor of Photofocus but I am on the Nik Software BETA team and have had pre-release access and input into the design of Nik products.)