A Review and Tutorial for Oloneo PhotoEngine HDR Software
Although HDR / HDRi imaging is nothing new to photographers, it seems to have gained in popularity over the last two years. Due to this increase in popularity, many major software vendors have decided to develop and release their own software for generating and processing these high dynamic range images. In the past to do HDR images, software was difficult to use, very slow and often had garish and unrealistic results. How times have changed since those early days…
I would like to think that I have a large amount of experience with HDR imaging having worked with it since about 2002. Since then, I have had a number of HDR images win awards from professional photography competitions and many positive comments from professional photographers around the country. Having done many of those images “the old way”, most had 40-80 hours of work into the finished product, now that has all changed with the Oloneo PhotoEngine software. (Currently in Beta testing for Windows only.)
The Oloneo PhotoEngine software is not a new concept as Photomatix Pro and a number of other HDR processing programs have been available for at least 5 years now. However, what sets PhotoEngine apart from others is the speed, control and overall processing quality of images created by this software. To get realistic results from most HDR software, you must learn advanced controls and even then you may still have “halos” and “contrast speckling” that are difficult to fix. With the Oloneo PhotoEngine, I’ve found that I can get very realistic results with none of the usual drawbacks without learning difficult controls AND still have very good control over the image before exporting it as a low dynamic range file to be further edited.
The software itself has both controls for Tone Mapping and something called “Re-Light” which is completely unique to the PhotoEngine software. The Re-Light option allows a user to take images with a constant exposure (must have same ISO, aperture and shutter speed to use Re-Light) and then “remix” the lighting within the software. To do this, you would take exposures with different lights on and off and then the whole scene lit and unlit. This gives you the ability to light and blend lighting in post-processing with nearly as much control as you could doing it at the time of capture. However, I don’t have an example to demonstrate this process for this review and tutorial.
The Tone Mapping controls are what I would like to focus on with this review and tutorial. First, to start a new HDR project, you simply load a series of bracketed images into the Browser window. From those, you select the images you want to add to the project, then click “Add” to use those images. They are then listed in the project window with the embedded image data displayed for comparison. Once the information is correct, the software allows you to start the Tone Mapping which is where the magic happens.
When you click the “Create HDR ToneMap Project” button, this will process the images into the high dynamic range image for user editing and processing. This can take a few seconds to several minutes depending on the number of captures, file sizes and of course the speed of your computer. However, I found the software to be fairly fast to process the images. Once processed, the Tone Mapping controls show up and the base image is displayed in the main window. This window has a number of controls depending on which tone mapping mode you have it set to. These controls can include Tone Mapping Strength, Detail Strength, Exposure and Color Temperature. In addition to the typical tone mapping controls, the PhotoEngine software also includes a number of controls for more fine-tuning of the image including Curves for both Brightness and Saturation plus H/S/L sliders to fine-tune individual color ranges. This is something I really feel makes this software stand out from most other options.
Overall, the controls allow for a wide range of adjustment and tone mapping allows for image processing from very realistic through very hyper-realistic and “HDR-like”. Watch the video for more examples of each control and the overall speed of the software. Although their are several controls I would like to see but are not included in the Beta currently. I think a lack of output sharpening, noise reduction controls and controls to do fine rotation would be a nice addition. (But all could easily be done after outputting the image to a tone mapped TIFF or JPEG.)
Although the software is currently in Beta testing, it is fully operational until the end of testing. It is also currently only available for Windows users. They are apparently planning a Mac version in the future, in the meantime it does run well within a virtual PC using Parallels or VMWare Fusion. Oloneo has not announced a release date or pricing as of yet. Check out the Oloneo website here and download the Beta here: http://www.oloneo.com/
As usual, here is the HD video review and tutorial. For the best quality, view in 720p full screen.