Aurora HDR alternative

Why does Aurora HDR do bad marketing


This article is a response to what can be found since several months at the Aurora HDR website (2017.10.30 snapshot). I've tried to contact Aurora HDR team since beginning of March 2017 several times and I always received assurances that their article will be corrected, but they are very busy. I thought a month will be enough, but it's now 8 months... so, let's go through that article.

The merged photos are what give rise to the resultant hybrid HDR image. An ideal HDR-image is generally near as perfect as what our naked eyes can perceive.

The need for HDR arose sequel to the series of dynamic-range deficiencies observed even in images that were captured by very powerful camera lenses. This is so because the human eye's photo sensors are still the most efficient photo-sensors known. The HDR is designed to come as close as possible to achieving eye-photo-sensor image perfections.

EasyHDR, in its 10th year of release, is an astounding app. Having undergone several version upgrades, the app has become one of the best, excellent-quality, easy-to-use HDR-producing software with a quick and easy setup process.

EasyHDR gets a little rusty with some RAW images. This can, however, be easily rectified if you'd open the images in Lightroom, then export to EasyHDR. Once your images are in 16 bit TIF format, EasyHDR easily does the merging in moments. EasyHDR is generally compatible with JPEG and FIT file formats. The JPEG, however, produces noticeable noise and artifacts with image overlays.

What does it mean "generally compatible"? That statement's purpose is to raise concerns... By the way, easyHDR is compatible (apart from RAWs and JPEGs) with TIFF (8/16/32-bit), OpenEXR, Radiance RGBE, PNG and FITS (used in astrophotography).



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EasyHDR Features and Functionalities

The app features the free-trial, Basic/Home and Pro/Commercial versions. I'd, however, be focusing on the Pro version since it encapsulates the app's full functionalities.

EasyHDR features two licensing schemes: HOME and COMMERCIAL. In both cases the program's functionality is the same. The only difference is in the license agreement. The COMMERCIAL is required when the program is used to earn money.



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By selecting the 'auto-align' option, the app makes image adjustments that help to make up for possible shift or rotation that often alters the overall quality of resultant HDR images. The manual alignment option, however, allows for individual adjustments of the input set of photos.

Just by accident (or intentionally?) they forgot to mention that the easyHDR's alignment tool (both auto and manual) does compensate also for scale and perspective (since December 2011), which is the key to perfectly align photos taken hand held. Additionally, when the camera is strongly moved between the subsequent exposures used to merge into a HDR, there is a possibility of mismatch caused by parallax. That cannot be fought with alignment, but ghost removal is able to fix it.

Good that they pointed out that any transformation that is not 90/180° rotation or simple X/Y shift does alter quality (in Aurora HDR too). Fortunately, the camera pixel resolutions are so big, that slight loss of sharpness on the single pixel level barely noticable, especially that there is visible also noise, imperfections of the lens, blurriness caused by Bayer pattern demosaicing, etc.



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Much care needs to be taken when performing tweaks on your images because EasyHDR doesn't support the Undo (Command-Z) function. Whatever effect you'd need to undo would have to be done manually, which could be very frustrating especially when you are working on complex images.

That's a lie. Undo/redo functionality was added to easyHDR in version 3.1 released in September 2013. The first version of Aurora HDR was released in November 2015.

In easyHDR many actions can be undone and redone. Not only tone mapping parameter changes, but also changes painted in the layers masks and the ghost mask. Even the input photos can be re-aligned, corrected for lens distortions again without re-loading them. The HDR can obviously be also re-generated. The only what's not possbile to be undone is cropping (that allows also perspective, rotation and distortion alteration) - that would require too much memory.



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Aurora's tools are absolutely flexible, and the file support is massive. It's, in fact, more robust than EasyHDR. Besides the general image file support, Aurora supports both 8-bit & 16-bit TFF, as well as virtually all the popular RAW file formats available. It also supports color profile settings.

Unlike EadyHDR, you can easily undo or redo effects in Aurora. The presets tools are amazing! They offer quick previews that enable you instantly see the effects of what's being made in the right sidebar.

Generalization, shameless boasting, keyword generation, you can do it. Funny thing is that easyHDR also has massive file support, including virtually all RAWs and 8/16 bit TIFF (and 32 bit as well) and it also supports color management. Yeah, easyHDR also has presets, which allow instant previews... they are just not in the bottom, but in the left-hand side of the main window (by default, because the panel can be detached and put i.e. on a second computer screen).



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When you consider Aurora's rich tool sets, one would expect it to cost twice as much as EasyHDR which isn't so. In fact, you save more on Aurora's standard version which goes for a token of $49.99, EasyHDR is $65.00 and are both available on the Mac store. Aurora's robust and feature-rich Pro version goes for $99.99, and can be purchased directly from Macphun website as well as on Trey's Stuckincustoms page.

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If comparing just the features, full-featured easyHDR goes for $39.00 while Aurora for $99.99 (more than twice more expensive). If you insist to compare full featured, commercial easyHDR with full-featured Aurora, it's $65.00 for easyHDR and $99.99 for Aurora.



By the way... screenshots in the article show easyHDR with photos that are not HDR, while Aurora HDR is shown with something that can pretend it, or at least is eye-catchy. I know, it's just a style of their marketing...



30.10.2017

Current easyHDR version
3.11.0   (16.11.2017)