August 17 2010

This is a review of Oloneo PhotoEngine Beta 1 v 1.0.300.110 which, as of August 10 2010, now includes the 32 bit and the 64 bit versions. It's a free public download from Oloneo's website but at present only for the Windows platform. This part of my review covers 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. For the first part issued at August 4, dealing with "alignment", click: PART 1
My review on this page includes several tests; tests in comparison with PM (Photomatix), PS (Photoshop) and 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.

I continue to enjoy Oloneo PhotoEngine. I like to experiment and Oloneo PhotoEngine is responsive. Changing image controls (sliders and curves) changes in (almost) real time
the displayed image. The program is "snappy". I did all the tests for this part 2 of my review on a desktop with an Intel i7 920 Quad Core 2 (HT) x 4 x 2.66 GHz processor, 6Gb RAM and Windows 7 64 Bit.
Oloneo PhotoEngine is super fast as you can see from the following comparison.
Time to align, merge and open as 32 bit HDR of a set of 9 bracketed JPGs of 10 MP (Nikon D200):
- Oloneo PhotoEngine (auto align): 7 seconds
- PhotoShop CS5 (auto align): 34 seconds
- Photomatix 3.2 (match features): 1 min 14 seconds.
- HDR Expose (Align+Smooth Edges): 1 min 27 seconds.
There are large speed differences among the 4 programs; but what about the Image Quality? Let's look immediately how OPE behaves compared to the other programs.

The set of 9 JPGs mentioned above was taken in a flower-shop and comprises a rather large (but not extreme) dynamic range. As a hand held series it was a bit risky because the last 2 shots, 1/15 sec and 1/8 sec, are too long and sensible for camera shake. But the shots were taken as a photographer's reaction to the nice light scene I happened across. I had no tripod with me so I looked for support for my body and camera and fired off these 9 shots in about 1.6 sec. The Nikon Vibration Reduction lens helped a lot I think.
Below you see the 9 shots and how these showed up in the Project Image Selector of OPE.

,After choosing "Auto align" and clicking "Create HDR ToneMap Project" in OPE it took only 7 seconds to open the 32 bit HDR picture.
For tonemapping the option "Advanced Local Tone Mapper" was chosen. A well balanced tonemapped picture could easily be achieved by bringing TM Strength up to 70. By bringing all the Detail sliders to 50 a little more "punch" was added. Saturation was set to 75 and a little nick in the shadow part of the brightness/brightness curve was made to bring back some darkness in the shadows.

Click on the pictures below to get a large view.

To the top: 32 bit HDR as it opens in OPE
Below: 32 bit HDR tonemapped with settings to the right.
Below you see the results of the 4 programs. Although there are differences in color and luminance (unavoidable) all 4 programs compressed the large Dynamic range into the displayable range with a pleasant picture. Of these 4 programs my appreciation is that, with some experience, OPE gives you very quickly a pretty good result. The same holds for Photomatix with the Default preset in the "detail enhancer" followed by slight tweaks in PS. HDR Expose also needs some experience but once you got that you can define a recipe to speed up processing of other pictures with about the same dynamic range. Photoshop gives a good result but you need to be patient.
The tonemapped pictures of all 4 programs did not show (at 100% view) halos; an indication that for this picture tonemapping was "mild". But as always for bracketed sets good alignment is essential. In this particular case HDR Expose was (repeatedly and with different options) not able to align correctly. This may not be visible even at the largest size on the internet but a 100%ViewDetail of HDR Expose shows considerable artifacts. Alignment of Oloneo for this set of JPGs is very good and about on par with Photoshop. See the 100%ViewDetail of OPE. Scrutinizing carefully on my monitor, alignment with PM seems to be slightly better than OPE and PS.
Below are the results of the 4 programs of 9 bracketed RAWs of 12 Mpix (Nikon D300s) shot from a tripod with remote control. I was curious to see which program is the best to bring up the most details in the highlights.
It took a lot of time in all 4 programs to find the best settings to squeeze out the details in the highlights. Look at the hairs on the stalk of the sunflower. Looking at the results, Oloneo definetly did the best job. In Advanced Local ToneMap my settings were: TM Strength 75, Detail strength 60, Auto Exposure "on" with settings 0 and 0, Auto contrast 0, Detail size 50, Detail Threshold 50, Edge sharpen 0. Low Dynanmic Tone: Exposure 0, Brightness 50, Contrast 0,
Saturation 85.
A classic scene for any test of a HDR program is the interior/outdoor picture. Below is an example to test Oloneo in comparison to the other programs. The set is 8 JPG 10Mpix (Nikon D200) hand held. This scene has a high dynamic range. The bracketed set should have been taken with RAWs but I simply did not do that in 2008 when I started to experiment with HDR and took this picture.
This is a difficult task for all 4 programs. No one is able to show a blue sky, without clipping in the clouds, with a nice white but detailed tablecloth. I think with RAWs results could be better. Anyway this review is about Oloneo PhotoEngine in comparison with the competition and as such this test is valid. It is my appreciation that in these real high dynamic situations Oloneo at least is a match for the competition. But it is not all hands up for Oloneo. Click on the OPE picture to get the larger size and look at the edges of the trees. There are dark lines contrasting with the sky. And also the curving edge of the table cloth to the left shows artifact lines. The other programs are free of these problems. I repeatedly got the same results and I think that OPE's alignment is the cause of the problem.
All the examples above are sets of 9 or 8 shots and as such little academic. I think that in real life about 80 % of all HDR pictures are from 3 shots series. The +2, -2 and zero EV series. That's why I continue below with that simpler series. Simpler but perfectly suitable for most situations. I limit the comparison to Oloneo PhotoEngine versus Photomatix.
Results from 3 RAW shots +2, -2, zero EV. This is a situation that one often has to deal with. A bright sky with white clouds. The main object full in the sun but also an interesting part (ornament below) deep in the shadow. Both programs produce a perfect picture very easily. Oloneo: TM Strength, 65. Fine Exp. - 1,0. Detail size 59. Detail strength 53. Photomatix: Default preset in Detail Enhancer and some minor tweaks to that. All right, there is a little style difference but by clicking on the pictures to see the larger ones you can see that both programs gave about the same results.
The same camera details as for the preceding example. Picture full against the sun. (Don't mistake the sun for a tone map halo!) Tone mapping Oloneo: TM Strength to 70 and Fine Exp. to - 0,25. That was all. Photomatix: Default preset with some tweaks.
I did a lot more comparisons but putting them all on this page would become too much. It may be that I will put some more online separately. I will then update this page with a link. For now I would like to end with a summary of my findings.
Oloneo PhotoEngine (beta 1) is perfectly capable to fully recover highlights and opening up shadows.
Most pictures do not require a great deal of tweaking. Playing with the TM strength, (fine) exposure and saturation often gives a fast and good photorealistic result. More local contrast if desired is also easily achieved by playing with detail size and detail strength.
Oloneo PhotoEngine does tone mapping very fast and I did not find any negative points (halos or artifacts) as a cost for this.

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

---------------August 17 2010 ------ Peter Meijs ---------- Next part will deal with various aspects of Oloneo PhotoEngine ------------

Click for Homepage