Comparing Chromatic Aberration and Sharpness in 5 HDR Programs

For HDR One’s comprehensive HDR reference manual, I’ve spent some time comparing the performances of some of the best HDR programs on the market. Today I looked at how well 5 different programs handled chromatic aberration and sharpness.

Essentially, HDR software is famous for softening pixels and exaggerating CA. However, testing the various software on an even scale is somewhat difficult since they all have different sliders that don’t necessarily have an equivalent in other software. As a base measure, I used either the default/natural preset present in all 5 software.

The main problem with this is that when testing for sharpness, pictures with higher exposures may give brighter midtones a softer feel as they blend more with highlights.

No chromatic aberration removal was done at all.

Software tested:






Results (click to enlarge)

We can see that despite being the most popular HDR program around, Photomatix is comfortably the worst performer in both areas. The two most successful programs on this occasion seem to be NIK and Oloneo, with Nik slightly edging it due to the significantly smaller amount of CA around the window ledges.

What does this tell us?

In truth, all we can deduce from this is that under these conditions NIK and Oloneo perform strongest. Under different conditions other software may lead the race.

Should you abandon your HDR software for NIK and Oloneo?

HDR is much more than CA and sharpness, both of which can be adjusted in post-processing. It’s a tool that gives you more control over your image, which in turn can help you create a style that is uniquely your own. The type of software you use is down to how you want to mould your images.

My name is Jimmy McIntyre and I’m the editor of HDR One magazine. I travel for a living, learn languages, take pictures, and generally strive to enjoy every minute of the waking day! You can visit my daily HDR travel blog or subscribe to my updates on facebook – Jimmy McIntyre
  • Adrian Evans

    nice article, waiting for the follow up on now :)

  • Marek Koteluk

    All output images look bad. Machinery output look best.CA must be removed before hdr process…

  • Steve

    Have you also tried the Enfuse plug-in for LR and PS? It gives much more ‘natural’ looking HDR results IMO.

  • Mike Hardisty

    As you say HDR processing is very subjective and we all have our favourite program. Over time I have tried them all but keep coming back to Machinery, mainly because I like the results I get and it’s ease of use. I usually try and remove CA in Lightroom before starting the HDR process.

    Anothe HDR software you could try is SNS-HDR Pro. It does a very good job of creating natural looking HDR images.

  • Marianne Wedell-Wedellsborg

    Yes, I agree with Mike Hardisty, give SNS-HDR a try. It’s a good program.