August 4 2010

This is a review of Oloneo PhotoEngine Beta 1 (1.0.300.98 ), a free public download as of July 13 2010 from Oloneo's website. The review covers the section HDR ToneMap, the image editing section of the program. A "HDR ToneMap Project", as Oloneo names it, is all about image editing but it is not restricted to real (32 bit/channel) HDR images. It also offers great functionality for tonemapping of single "out of camera" pictures; RAW, JPG or TIFF.
This review includes several tests; tests in comparison with PM (Photomatix), PS (Photoshop) and in some cases with "HDR Expose".
All reviews of image editing programs are subjective and my review is no exception. It is my personal opinion not more, not less. Where I give my opinion about some Image Quality aspects I present the facts and the images so you can draw your own conclusions.
Most of the pictures presented here can be seen in large format by clicking on them.
This review will be posted in several parts during August 2010

I really enjoyed testing Oloneo PhotoEngine. Not only because I like to experiment but also because the program is very fast and responsive. Changing image controls (sliders and curves) changes in (almost) real time
the displayed image. Even the most dedicated reviewer becomes frustrated when he/she has to wait again and again for response of a program. With Oloneo PhotoEngine this is not the case at all. The program is "snappy". I used Oloneo PhotoEngine (let's call it from now on "OPE") on PC's of 3 different classes:
a 1 year old desktop i7 920 Quad Core 2x4x2.66 Ghz 6Gb Win 7 64 Bit.
a 2 year old laptop Dual Core T5750 2xGHz 3Gb Win XP 32 Bit and
a 5 year old desktop Pentium IV (HT) 3Gb Win XP 32 Bit.
Even on this last old machine 9 (!) bracketed JPG's, from my old 10 Mpix Nikon D200, loaded aligned into the 32 bit HDR space of OPE within 21 seconds. The same task on the same machine with Photomatix 3.2 took 1 min and 51 seconds; 5 times longer. This difference between OPE and Photomatix is so huge that perhaps there is a relation with one of the points were there is room for improvement of OPE. That point is: "Alignment".

The first task a HDR program like OPE, PM or PS has to do
is to align the multishots. Merging multishots without alignment is impossible. And that alignment must be perfect because even the most superior tone map operations are not capable of correcting misalignment faults. Let's now see how OPE is performing. First by looking at 2 images of test doll Susy in my garden. Composed of 9 RAW shots 12 Mpix on tripod merged by OPE. To the left the whole frame, to the right a 100% view crop. We see that in this case, where the alignment was guaranteed by the tripod, OPE produces a perfect picture.

The average HDR photographer does not use a tripod and shoots bracketed series with the camera hand held. Most popular are 3 shots with 0, +2 EV and -2 EV. To really challenge OPE I tested with larger series. Below are the results of a 9 and of a 5 shots series. All hand held, all JPG , 10 Mpix. To the left is the result of the 9 series, to the right is the result of the 5 series. Images are already tonemapped to give more flavor to this review! We see that in these tough hand held cases Oloneo PhotoEngine did a pretty good job.
A lot of other tests were done with hand held series from my library. Most series were aligned by OPE with good results. But occasionally results were not that good. By comparing the various bracketed series it became clear that these were of different quality.
Some were taken under deliberate conditions but others were taken more hastily and more "point & shoot" wise. Then comparisons were made with "point & shoot" series in different HDR programs. Results below with OPE (auto align), Photomatix (match features) and HDR Expose (align source image & sharp edges). The 100% view of the OPE result shows misalignment which certainly will spoil any print of, let say, 12 x 8 inch or bigger. The 100% views of Photomatix and HDR Expose show no difference on the monitor. Both look sharp. Looking carefully at the 200% views however shows that Photomatix aligns slightly better than HDR Expose.
100% View Detail
7 RAW shots hand held 12 Mpix
Aligned and tonemapped in Oloneo
PhotoEngine (Beta 1)
Misalignment artifacts clearly visible
Repeated tests showed the same results

100% View Detail
7 RAW shots hand held 12 Mpix
Aligned and tonemapped in Photomatix 3.2
Good alignment, sharp picture
Repeated tests showed the same results

100% View Detail
7 RAW shots hand held 12 Mpix
Aligned and tonemapped in HDR Expose (1.0.2 build 6207)
Good alignment, sharp picture
Repeated tests showed the same results

For high quality HDR pictures with Oloneo PhotoEngine (beta 1); always use a tripod and a remote control.
Shooting HDR pictures hand held; look for support while shooting. Support from a wall, a tree etc. Or sit down. Then Oloneo PhotoEngine can do a good job.
Of course tonemapping in Oloneo PhotoEngine of one RAW, JPG or TIFF shot can always give good results.

Oloneo needs to improve alignment to the level of the competition. An option for small ghost corrections would be nice.
Personally I would not care if Oloneo PhotoEngine would slow down as a side effect of better alignment.

I like to acknowledge Michael World for editing and correcting my English.

--------------------August 4 2010 ------ Peter Meijs ---------- Next part 2 will deal with tonemapping -----------------------------

----------------------------------- Part 2 is online as of August 17 ------- To read go to Next --------------------------------------

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