HDR Software overview

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HDR software overview

Certainly one of the most interesting upcoming technologies for photographers is High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDRI), allowing to work with the full real world levels of illumination. While standard image formats utilizes 8 or 16 bits with applied Gamma and color space, the HDR image format extends the bit depth up to 96bit in a linear color space.

On this overview we will focus on the currently available Windows GUI-based software packages that are able to create and process HDR images. I want to thank all authors of the respective software packages for their support during the creation of the overview, especially Geraldine Joffre, Andreas Schömann, Paul Nolan, and Thomas Lock. The following software packages have been tested:

Software overview
Software Homepage Version Platforms Price comments


2.4.5 Win 59.99 CDN -


1.22 Win 19 EUR -


1.8 (beta6) Win, Mac 39.00 EUR -


1.0 Win free for non-commercial and educational use
(commercial license: HDRShop 2 (399.00 USD))
no further development, superseded by the commercial version 2.0
Photogenics HDR


7.0 Win, Linux 699.00 USD focuses on 3D workflow and film editing
Photomatix Pro


2.3.1 Win, Mac 99.00 USD -


9.0 (CS2) Win, Mac 649.00 USD (US download)
1042.84 EUR (Europe boxed)
Picturenaut No Homepage (download here) 1.9b (beta) Win free German only software

As you can see,there is a wide variety of fees you have to pay for the different software packages. This is partly justified by the features and the editing functions the various programs offer.

HDR creation and tonemapping
measure camera response curve
create HDR from bracketed images
create HDR from camera RAW image (*1) tonemap image to LDR
single HDR image creation batch mode LDR image alignment ghost
number of different operators single image batch mode parameters save-/restoreable panoramic mapping
manual ? 11 + 2 downloadable
EasyHDR ? manual ? ? 1 during creation
& modify-able histogram

(via command line)
(also supports compression & contrast bracketing)
Photogenics HDR
(relies on EXIF data)
? ?
(tethered shooting with Canon cameras possible)
Photomatix Pro
(selectable) 2 + 2 LDR blending methods
(no zenith/nadir possible)
(supposedly automatic)

(relies on EXIF data)
(selectable) ? 4

(via command line)
(selectable) ? 2 √/–
(can read MKHDRI-curves)

*1: Most software relies on DCRaw for RAW conversion. Some cameras with extended DR capabilities are not converted correctly (e.g. Fuji's S3 camera: Although DCRaw could theoretically read all photosensors, it would need one conversion call for every photosite which is not implemented in the testes software packages.)

HDR image manipulation

There are basically 2 types of appications available:

  • Converter software: This type of software will assist you in generating and tonemapping HDR images
  • Image editors: These are full-flagged image manipulation programs that will also give you the possibility of HDR generation and tonemapping
Software File formats (*1)
EXR/HDR: 96bit
TIFF: 32bit
software type full image editing capabilities manipulation essentials no. of builtin panoramic transformations filters plugins possible
read/write resize, crop, rotate white balance approx
HDR capable scriptable
Artizen EXR, HDR, TIFF image editor (color adjust) 4 >40 ?
EasyHDR HDR, TIFF converter
FDRGui EXR, HDR converter
HDRShop HDR, TIFF converter 6 (+ 3D rotation) ~15
Photogenics HDR EXR, HDR, TIFF image editor (color adjust) 4 >40 (beta)
Photomatix Pro EXR, HDR, TIFF converter 1
Photoshop EXR, HDR, TIFF
(always assumes 32bit)
image editor (white point adjust) >40 ~15
Picturenaut HDR, TIFF converter

*1: TIFF: 32 bit floating point TIFF. Please note that the TIFF file format is an abstract container for various encoding methods. This may result in incompatibility when exchanging TIFF files between various applications.
This is also true to some extent for .hdr files. Though, all applications in this overview use the most recent file format.

UI functionality and large image processing

The best HDR software is not of much use if it lacks of an intuitive user interface. We will now have a look on some key functionality and UI design.
We will also have a look if the applications utilize a clever memory management. The test file is a HDR panorama stitched by Hugin with a size of 8000x4000 pixels (32 Mpix), converted to the Radiance (.hdr) format.

Software drag & drop operation from operating system possible large image processing
drop JPEG LDR images → generate HDR image drop HDR image load 32Mpix HDR file tone map 32Mpix image
Artizen no / no no runtime error
EasyHDR no / no no runtime error
FDRGui no / no no (very slow)
HDRShop no / no
(will open multiple images for editing)
Photogenics HDR no / no
(will open multiple images for editing)
(very slow)
Photomatix Pro √ / √ √ (only in batch mode)
Photoshop no / no
(will open multiple images for editing)
Picturenaut no / no no

--> next:

HDR and Tonemapping dialogs in detail

--Bvogl 12:13, 25 November 2006 (CET)