At the time of this post, Oloneo PhotoEngine is very close to its release and for those of you who are on the fence on buying it, I thought this review would help you make up your mind.
This review will be updated when the final version is out and corrected (yes there are hidden spell-check errors, email me when you find them) if necessary.
A LITTLE HISTORY OF HDR
HDR is nothing new to me as I’ve been using mostly Photomatix since 2006. My first HDR, a view of Montreal at dusk was published on Flickr in March 2006. Some of my HDRs have been published in magazines and other publications.
OLONEO PHOTOENGINE AND HOW I FELL IN LOVE WITH AN HDR APPLICATION
One of my obsessions as a professional photographer is having the most efficient workflow and clients expect more and more to be delivered quickly in the digital age (especially in real estate photography). Having worked in test automation for 5 years, I had already started to create actions in Photoshop to improve my workflow. Then I started to model my workflow to make it more efficient.
I was also looking for an application that would give me the result I wanted straight out of HDR processing. This was never really the case with any of the applications that I’ve used. Photomatix is amazing for artistic stuff, not so much for professional use. Then, after browsing flickr forums, I ended up on the mention of Oloneo PhotoEngine.
I then installed the application and within 5 minutes, I was already playing with it. This was a revelation to say the least. The application, while still in beta, was impressive and the results were nothing less than spectacular and it took me barely 15 minutes to figure out MY base settings. Processing an HDR from start to finish took me less than 5 minutes (that was before it was possible to save presets).
Here is one of the first picture to come out of the application:
With the latest beta, it’s possible to create an HDR from start to finish in less than two minutes, as you will see later.
ABOUT OLONEO SAS AND OLONEO PHOTOENGINE
Oloneo is a french firm established in Paris a few hundred meters from the Eiffel tower and founded in 2006. The team, led by Antoine Clappier, has been working on Oloneo PhotoEngine since its beginnings and after communicating with them, they’re clearly out there to help bring HDR to the next step using their previous experience in the Silicone Valley to the table and by listening to the needs of both enthusiasts and professionals.
A gimmick for a long time and the target of lots of hate from old school photographers, HDR is now getting increasingly used by professional photographers and with its efficiency and its consistent results, the application will certainly appeal to a lot of pros and enthusiasts who are looking for crisp, sharp and realistic HDR images.
High Dynamic re-exposure in real-time
Deeply re-expose pictures in a fully real time, 32-bit per channel (96-bit per pixel), ultra-wide gamut and full resolution high dynamic re-exposure module without compromising details and color appearance.
Main features (HDR Tonemap)
- Full real time controls.
- Four high-end tone mapping engines:
- Auto Tone Mapper
- Local Tone Mapper
- Advanced Local Tone Mapper
- Global Tone Mapper
- Natural HDR™ processing mode.
- Auto-exposure correction with fine-tuning.
- Detail size and threshold controls.
- Halo control.
- Ghost removal.
- Over 40 factory presets + user presets.
- Batch processing.
- EXIF preservation.
- Full color management with display calibration support.
- Edge sharpening.
- Auto-align and auto orientation, and more.
There is definitely some room for improvement here. The button to open the browser is a bit difficult to locate at first.
Once you get used to it, it’s easy to select your files and add them for processing with HDR ToneMap.
Right now the only application that manages alignment correctly is the load files into stack from Photoshop CS3-5. PhotoEngine gives weak results
Editing (HDR ToneMap)
This review focuses on the core of the application which is HDR ToneMap. HDR ReLight and HDR DeNoise will be discussed later. Also, no manual or documentation was used for this review. It reflects how I understood the settings based on my own experience of HDR software.
The HDR ToneMap is very intuitive and is reminiscent of Photoshop. The placement of the different panels is (pretty much) based on the sequence you’ll be using them.
The histogram is always visible and is the best indicator for feedback to show you if you’ve clipped highlights or colors and if your exposure is correct.
The terminology in the interface is rather easy to understand and here is my understanding of some of the main terms used for the local and advanced local tonemapping.
It’s also possible to enter a numeric value manually, which is very useful if you want to use presets.
High Dynamic Tone Mapping box
TM Strength: strength of HDR. it’s pretty much the main slider for the tone mapping.
Detail Strength: increase edge contrast (value between 0 and 20 recommended for realistic images).
Exposure: pretty self explanatory, the fine exposure comes in handy for minor adjustments between -1 and 1 ev.
Contrast: pretty self explanatory
Detail Size: adjusting this setting changes the way micro-contrast is handled
Detail Threshold: adjusting this setting changes the way micro-contrast is handled. When close to zero, it removes halos altogether, when pushed to maximum, it participates to create the grunge effect. it works a bit like high radius high pass sharpening in Photoshop.
Edge Sharpen: adjust edge contrast (very subtle adjustments)
natural HDR mode
enable: this checkbox is VERY useful to retain original hue and saturation values of colors.
Low Dynamic range: those are adjustments to be used if you’re not using the High Dynamic Tone Mapping box
Exposure: pretty self explanatory
Brightness: pretty self explanatory
Contrast: pretty self explanatory
White balanced adjustments (temperature and tint): very useful and easy to use for ajusting color balance in the image.
Photographic print toning: useful and interesting for toning and split toning (highlights and shadows)
Advanced: those are adjustments are useful for finetuning the final image, especially brightness and saturation curves adjustments.
Brightness/Brightness: Curves adjustments to increase or decrease luminosity without increasing saturation. This adjustment works a bit like the curves adjustments in luminosity mode in Photoshop.
Saturation/Saturation: Curves adjustments to increase or decrease saturation based on original saturation value.
Hue/Saturation: Adjusts saturation based on hue
Hue/Luminance: Adjusts Luminance based on hue.
Hue/Hue: Adjusts Hue based on hue.
Time Machine: works like a history and it’s possible to save versions and compare different tone mapping settings instantly. VERY useful!
Presets: this is a lifesaver. Makes it easy to create and visualize different tonemappings instantly.