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Lightroom 6 HDR merge-Where it Falls Short

Let’s see how the new merge to HDR feature in Lightroom 6 compares with the Photomatix merge to 32-bit plugin for Lightroom.

The first thing I notice is the difference in file size:

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 11.59.56 PMIt’s a pretty significant difference. Let’s see what’s happening here.

Lightroom 6/Photomatix - 32 bit / 191 mb

image: Compare Photomatix to Lightroom HDR

Photomatix Merge to-32-bit Lightroom Plugin

Hi! I’m a luscious 32 bit HDR file made with Photomatix with 191 juicy mb of light data inside me. With me you get the best HDR possible today.

Stick around and I’ll tell you why my buddy next door doesn’t look as good as me and why he has a crooked horizon.

Lightroom 6 merge to HDR - 16 bit / 59 mb

LR HDR merge with develop settings copied from photomatix merge to 32 bit version

Lightroom 6 HDR Merge

I’m the svelte 59 mb result of the spiffy new Lightroom 6 HDR all-in-one merge feature now included in Lightroom 6 and Lightroom CC. What? Nobody told you that I’m just a common 16 bit file? You were expecting to have it ALL and get a REAL HDR file???

“Yes. I was expecting more. Who was in Adobe’s focus group when they decided to cripple what could have been a truly awesome addition to Lightroom?!”

Does it sound like I’m not too keen on Lightroom’s try at getting HDR right?   The only good thing I have to report about Lightroom 6 HDR capabilities is that it’s stupid easy to merge your bracketed files. Big deal, it only saves me right-clicking once to send my bracketed files to Photomatix for merging.

Sorry to also report that the HDR file from Lightroom 6 is not the HDR file I was expecting. The deal breaker is that 16 bit file that Lightroom dumps out just doesn’t act like what I’m used to when using Photomatix these past few years for HDR.

Example. The sun is too harsh for me in the LR file. The Photomatix file gives me much more light information to work with and it’s possible to render things the way I like; a much mellower, yet still piercing, sun for instance. No amount of fiddling with sliders gives me what I can easily get out of the Photomatix HDR file.

The high contrast edge in this Lightroom merge, between the big rock & the sky in this shot, looks funky. It’s hard enough to make natural looking images without it starting life already flawed.

Lightroom 6 is slower. The merging process took 7 seconds longer (for this photo) to merge and re-import the finished HDR than when using Photomatix. I could go on…

The crooked horizon thing?

Well, I captured it crooked. That’s on me. Lightroom can usually level me out with the Upright feature. Upright worked just fine on the Photomatix file. However, it simply couldn’t help out it’s very own baby, the skinny 16 bit Lightroom file. I tried LEVEL, AUTO, and FULL… nada. It’s just a bug that’ll be fixed shortly. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Until then, we’ll rotate it manually.

Photomatix is Still Top Dog for HDR

For me anyway. I’ll keep using my Photomatix merge-to-32-bit Lightroom plugin to make my HDR files until either Adobe get’s it right or something better comes along.

Some of you might not know it but HDRsoft, the people who make Photomatix, have discontinued pushing their little $39 merge to HDR plugin which I’ve used for years.  That happened about the time Adobe announced that they would be including HDR merging capabilities in the upcoming LR 6 release.  Did HDR Soft also expect Adobe to do it right so they just threw in the towel?

Can You Still Get The Photomatix Plugin for HDR?

It’s possible to still get the plugin from HDRsoft, but it looks like they might be dropping it completely any time now.  When that happens, if Adobe doesn’t make their HDR merge in Lightroom better, you’ll need to use Photomatix PRO to make your high quality 32 bit HDR file. The rub; Photomatix Pro gives you the 32 bit file you want and need, but it costs $99 instead of $39 for the plugin.

Here’s what HDRsoft says about that on their website:

On their products page, at the very bottom is this update about the merge-to-32-bit plugin for Lightroom.

Screen Shot HDRsoft website

Screen Shot HDRsoft website

While it’s still available, you can still get the plugin here.

Happy HDRing!

Final HDR made using the Photomatix file

Sands of Time-Cannon Beach,Oregon
Showing 2 comments
  • Scott
    Reply

    Pleased you’ve expressed in your post, what I have been thinking.
    I won’t give up my Photomatix Pro for LR’s lackluster attempt at HDR.

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