The picture above is all too often the image in mind when High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is being discussed. This image is not from the G1X. This image was post-processed in Photomatix using three RAW shots from the G1X. The Photomatix setting was “Grunge”. I don’t like it but it does get your attention! I set up this scene to show variations on HDR images made with the G1X. The scene has shadows with detail as well as a bright sky. In my experience, HDR is often necessary for such wide range of contrast. In fact, when the camera histogram indicates a “good” exposure without clipping, HDR is not necessary or effective. The in-camera HDR (using “Standard” setting) from the G1X is below.
G1X in-camera HDR “Standard”
Now it is obvious why the G1X “HDR” is sometimes criticized for being too tame – G1X HDR do not look like over-the-top “HDR” images. However, on comparison to the normal G1X in-camera JPEG below, one can tell that the G1X HDR images do indeed open up the shadows while not blowing out the highlights in the process. The normal JPEG has slight clipping in the shadows and much clipping in the highlights.
G1X in-camera default JPEG
Not “Grunge” but still not a good HDR for this scene is the “Painterly” setting in Photomatix shown below. The bright areas between tree and sky is called the “halo effect”.
Just to show that all the Photomatix canned settings are not bad, the image below was made with “Smooth Sky”. Of course, the canned defaults really serve as starting points and can be adjusted in many ways.
Photomatix “Smooth Sky”
In comparison to the in-camera HDR from the G1X, the Photomatix “Smooth Sky” needs a bit more contrast and saturation in my view. This adjustment can be done in the Photomatix settings or by using Photoshop post-processing after Photomatix. However, my favorite “HDR” for this scene is the “Compressor” rendition from Photomatix, below.
In fact, more often than not, I prefer the “Compressor” rendition with a little customization in the settings to fit the scene. I’ve probably gone through my over-the-top HDR days (well, almost) and Compressor suits me just fine (except that my all time favorite is not realistic at all).
Note that all shots above were made with the G1X mounted on a tripod and set for the defaults. I made no effort to select focus, compensate exposure or tweak the in-camera settings. With tweaks, surely every image could have been improved. Likewise, I used Photomatix default settings and profiles and these could (should!) have been adjusted.
There are so many, many variations on HDR that it is almost not fair to even begin the comparisons. Here’s another set of G12 variations; I assume that the G1X variations are similar to the G12 but will have to check them out.
I occasionally use HDR but usually process three shots in Photomatix and, almost always, select the Compressor rendition. The G1X in-camera HDR seems to do a reasonable job of capturing shadow and highlight details but the G1X shot-to-shot time interval does require a tripod. I know myself well enough to know that even if I made a G1X in-camera HDR I could not resist auto-bracketing three shots in RAW and seeing how the Photomatix variation turned out.