Photomatix Essentials 4 - free (Win/Mac)


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Doug
Photomatix Essentials 4 - free (Win/Mac)

[No expiration date is given, but I suspect this promotion will be available for an extended time, perhaps even a number of months.]

It's a revision old -- Photomatix is now on version 5 -- and it's just the Essentials version, but if you're looking for a simple HDR program, Windows and Mac users can get Photomatix Essentials 4 for free through a promotion with Popular Photography magazine.

My initial impression is that Photomatix Essentials relies heavily on automation rather than user input, so there's not a lot of room for adjustments. Well, the linked page does say, "Photomatix Essentials focuses on simplicity and ease of use." And Photomatix says of its Essentials version, "Easy-to-use program to create HDR photos."

Processing an image in Photomatix Essentials is a 3-step process:

  1. You load in either a single image or up to five bracketed exposures. If you loaded bracketed exposures, Photomatix automatically combines them with no input from the user except for alignment and deghosting options. The Essentials version doesn't offer the ability to reprocess a single Raw file at multiple exposures; that's a feature of the Pro edition.
  2. In the tone-mapping phase, you apply one of the couple-dozen predefined "looks," which preselects one of the control sets: Details, Contrast, or Tone Compressor. There's supposed to also be a "Fusion/Natural" control set, but I didn't see that during my playing; maybe it only applies when multiple bracketed images are used. It seemed odd to me that you only get one of the control sets to work with on any given picture. You can twiddle the limited set of controls that are presented, but you can't get to the controls from any other control set. The Details control set does include an optional choice of five (unadjustable) lighting effects. When you're done, you'll have the option of applying noise reduction if you were working in Raw (if selected in Preferences).
  3. After letting Photomatix crank out the full-size processed image, you can adjust sharpening (choice of three levels) and overall contrast, then save it.

And that's it. Very simple, very little room for user input. The big choice is which of the preset looks you want. A PDF of the manual can be obtained here if you want a sneak peek.

To me, Photomatix Essentials is like the exact opposite of Franzis HDR Projects Platin (also free at the moment). Franzis gives you a lot of control, but I have this suspicion that the Franzis user interface was designed by a follower of Nietzsche. I've survived using the Franzis UI on three of their products, so I should now be strong enough to bench-press a Prius C.

Jacal
Nietzschean UI

Thank you, Doug!

 

I must admit I have only installed the Fransiz's program, just to see the Nietzschean user interface.

 

Have a nice day!

 

Mart

Doug
Re: Nietzschean UI

One my favorite (??) parts of the Franzis UI is right at the beginning. You set the color temperature for a Raw file before opening the file. If you didn't get what you liked, you close the file, pick a different color temperature, and re-open the file. Repeat until you get something you like, or until you run out of patience and simply accept whatever you got. Apparently, eyedroppers and real-time WB adjustment are for sissies.

Jacal
Re: Nietzschean UI

I see what you mean, nice. (But since we are no sissies, we shift-delete bad results.) Perhaps I expected a more dionysiac program.

 

Have a nice day!

 

Mart

 

evetsf8
Try FDR Tools Basic

I've tried Photomatix Essentials and agree with your assessment.  Still have it on my machine, though, for when I need to to basic HDR quickly.

 

For more full-featured HDR processing, I find FDR Tools to be a good balance between ease of use and the ability to truly control the results you get.  It's unclear whether or not it's still being supported, but you can still find it for download if you search.

 

FDR Tools Basic is a somewhat less full-featured version of the full program, and is free for the download.  I think the main difference between the two is the ability to script and automate a batch of files in the full version, as FDR Tools Basic seems very full-featured...

 

Steve