Friday, December 13, 2013

Machinery HDR Review
HDR photography is getting very popular over the last few years, with good reasons. First, HDR allow you to 'see' broader range of light and tone as we seen in the real world. Second, perhaps the most engaging reason for many people – it’s allows you to create the unique-looking, surreal and artistic effect. HDR can be subtle or extreme; it’s all depending on your personal taste.

Today, there are dozens of HDR software on the market. I have been a hardcore church shooter over the past few years. Often, the complex lighting condition is a big challenge - the church interior is dark and usually underexposed, while the windows are bright and usually overblown. It seems that HDR is one of the best solutions. However, many HDR software tend produce unnatural result, color shift, halo, loss of contrast, etc. The recent generations of HDR softwares are working hard to solve these problems. From my testing, the Machinery HDR really stood out. I am extremely impressed with the result. 

Figure 1. Interface of Machinery HDR, with all the tools on the right side.
My major concerns about HDR software are quality of image, functionality, and price. Surprisingly, Machinery HDR passed all my test, with distinction!! Machinery HDR is very easy to use. The processing is quite straight forward – just load to pictures and it’s ready to go! Once the tone-mapping is completed, you may enjoy the preset. Surprisingly, they are amazingly good, I use them every time. The tool box on the right is where you can do the fine control and adjustment – basically everything that you can imagine, e.g. tone-mapping of HDR, white balance, contrast, saturation, etc. (Figure 1). Best of all, the price is high competitive and attracting! It is very affordable and it doesn’t break your bank!

Figure 2. Original images to be loaded on Machinery HDR,7 photos from +4EV to -2EV.
For my first test case, I use the photos taken in the St Johannes Church (Stockholm, Sweden). My goal was to create an image that has better tone and light in highlight (the overblown winder) and shadow than I could do in a single picture. To capture the full range of light and tone, I took 7 photos, from +4EV to -2EV (Figure 2). Besides, I would like to see more detail, particularly the textures on the wall, bench, and floor, while still looking natural. This is difficult to achieve and has to be done in caution. In many situations, increase in detail will cause the resulting photos look unnatural. Nevertheless, Machinery HDR makes it an easy task. I am particularly in love with the preset “clarity” which did a great job in my church interior photography (Figure 3). Let’s see the result (Figure 4). Please note that I did not further processing the picture in Photoshop, since you are able to fine adjust many of the setting here. I am very happy with the result – with much better highlight/shadow, textures and detail are significantly enhanced, and best of all, it’s look very natural. 

Figure 3. The preset options on Machinery HDR.
By magnifying the picture to 100%, I was amazed with the image quality (Figure 5). It is very sharp, with a lot of detail in it, negligible noise level, and no color shifting. I have used some software in which the resulting image looks terrible in full resolution. Machinery HDR stood out in this aspect – with good resolution and no artifact. What else can I ask for more? 

Figure 4. Final result.
Figure 5. Original size at 100% zoom.
I love the Machinery HDR. I have tried several other HDR softwares and I just couldn't get something like I wanted. My experience with Machinery HDR is great. You can try the Machinery HDR yourself; the download is available from the Machinery HDR website ( The trial version is fully functional except that you cannot save the full size photos or 48-bit TIFF and there is no plugin for Adobe Lightroom. I am sure you will love it after a few clicks! Stay tuned for the future posts, which I will show more examples on architectural interior and landscape photography using Machinery HDR.

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