Nik Software brings us an ambitious update of its HDR plug-in : HDR Efex Pro 2. Not only it will bring new functions, new tools, a revised UI, an optimized tone mapping engine for natural HDR images, HDR Efex Pro 2 is also expected to be much more reactive thanks to a better use of hardware resources. I will get my hands on HDR Efex Pro 2 for a quick review within a few days and will keep you posted.
HDR Efex Pro 2 : what’s new ?
The programmers team located in Hamburg, Germany, of Nik Software did a fantastic job. This V2 of HDR Efex Pro is a real version 2 with loads of new tools and improvements that should be worth a try. I’ll check how efficient they are in my review. Till then, let’s tour the new stuff brought by HDR Efex Pro 2.
- New tone-mapping engine : if you are not into “creative” HDR or psychadelic HDR, and more into natural HDR, then you should like this update because it brings a new tone mapping engine that has been redesign to enhance the natural aspect of HDR photos. The plug-in has a set of preset that you can start working from. Some are creative and others are natural. To me, even the natural ones of the previous versions were not natural enough and betrayed my intentions as a photographer. Nik Software tries to compete with Photomatix that has an exposure fusion algorithm for supernatural images like you would like to get if you are in architecture photographer. HDR Efex Pro 2 new tone-mapping should offer very similar images.
- Depth control : that’s a new tool. This cursor will bring contrast back to the HDR image which tone mapping operation often ends up with a pretty flat image. That is well thought.
- Faster workflow : thanks to enhancements in multi-core processors and GPUs, HDR Efex Pro 2 should be faster offering a much smoother and better user experience than the previous version which was too demanding for the hardware. You had to think twice before moving a cursor. Could take ages to the vignette to refresh.
- Ghost reduction : by nature, an HDR image as produced by HDR EFex Pro, is a compilation of multiple images which can slightly differ, either because you could not use a tripod at the scene or because you were shooting moving subjects like car or people moving, tree leaves moving because of wind, etc. No software, HDR software, to date, is extraordinarily efficient at getting layers right and erasing ghost images. Nik Software say they offer a highly efficient ghost reduction system, easy to use with a 1-click operation.
- Graduated Neutral Density Control : to use the 32-bit color depth of the merged image in order to, once again, get a trully natural HDR image.
- White balance : you can now set the white balance of your images in the HDR plug-in. HDR Efex Pro 2 lets you use the tint and color temperature cursors to do so, but not only : you can also apply different white balances locally thanks to the U-points technology. Especially useful for multiple light sources. Note that even if you use HDR Efex Pro 2 with RAW images from Lightroom, the plugin gets the processed files (TIF) from LR. So, I’d advise you to deal with the white balance before, in Lightroom or Aperture, to benefit from the correction headroom of RAW files.
- Chromatic aberration reduction tool
- History browser : finally, HDR Efex Pro 2 gets a history browser like we have been using in Photoshop for ages, in Lightroom since the beginning. This will definitely save time.
Nik Software HDR Efex Pro 2 : prices and availability
HDR Efex Pro 2 is already available for purchase. It works for Mac and Windows and the plugin can be installed on Photoshop CS5, CS5.5 and CS6, Lightroom 3 and Lightroom 4 and Aperture 3 (no, not on Aperture 4 of course. Still waiting for it’s release….). You can download a trial version that is fully operational for 15 days. HDR EFex Pro 2 costs $99.95. If you purchased the previous version, you will be charged $49.95 for the upgrade and if you are a Nik Software plugins fanboy and have bought the “complete collection” after June 9th 2012, then you get HDR Efex Pro 2 for free.
Stick around for a review of HDR Efex Pro 2 with full size images gallery. I have arrived in the Caribbean and found a nice location for HDR photography.