First off, I’m not a fan of HDR. Even though I understand the arguments that HDR photo have a greater dynamic range than a non-HDR photo and that a HDR photo is closer to the image seen by the normal human eyes. There is definitely a lot of great HDR images out there and some that I would even buy. But I still prefer the limitation of a non-HDR photo, if that makes any sense at all.
That being said, I bought the whole package of Nik Software earlier this year when the price of the whole package were reduced by approximately 200% by Nik after the acquisition by Google.
After more than 4 months, only a couple of days ago that I started to try out HDR Efex. Unlike Photoshop or Photomatix, HDR Efex uses only single exposure to create a HDR image.
So, I can only guess that there is no tone mapping being done on the image . (Edited: I just realised you can tone mapped a single digital image) I tried out on a couple of photos and the final jpeg output is quite “nice” and “interesting”.
Here is one original image that I took that’s directly from RAW file.
And this is the image after going through Nik HDR Efex.
I used the Graduated ND filter options and adjusted some of the sliders. I also did some noise reduction using Nik Dfine and a finally increase a bit of the saturation and contrast on some parts of the photo.
As you can see the limitation of using a single exposure is definitely the noise level after some details is being extracted from the deep shadow. The greens are a bit contrasty and “harsh”, but I would say it’s acceptable.
So, is it any good? I believe this plug-ins is more than acceptable for the layperson, especially to salvage those photos that weren’t properly expose. And considering when the final output is a small jpeg file to be shared in social media such as FB, I would say it is definitely worth the buy. I would definitely use it for some of my photos at least to extract some details.
But I’m not too sure if it will held up under the scrutiny of prints. I would have to try print one of the photos that I edited using HDR Efex before I can comment any further.