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Nik Software announces HDR Efex Pro 2 with improved tone-mapping

By dpreview staff on Jul 9, 2012 at 15:22 GMT

Nik Software has announced HDR Efex Pro 2, an update of its high dynamic range software package. The latest version features a range of updates, including an improved tone-mapping engine that promises better color rendering. The user interface and workflow have also been re-worked to make the process simpler, with a host of features added to provide increased control and image quality. HDR Efex Pro 2 will cost $99.95/€99.95, with upgrades around half that price and free upgrades for customers who bought version 1 after June 9th.


Press Release:

Nik Software Releases HDR Efex ProTM 2

Hamburg, July 9, 2012 - Nik Software (www.niksoftware.com) today released HDR Efex Pro 2, a powerful new version that enables professional and amateur photographers to create exceptional natural and artistic images. HDR Efex Pro 2 represents the next generation of high dynamic range photography that produces exceptional results. This new version not only adds a wide range of new features, but is also built on a proprietary and even more powerful tone mapping engine, providing unrivaled speed and quality. The company’s patented U Point® technology enables precise, selective fine-tuning, simplifying and speeding up the process for creating extraordinary high dynamic range images. To watch videos and join live online training sessions, visit www.niksoftware.com/hdrefexpro.

“With HDR Efex Pro 2 we set out to advance photography by offering a wider range of possibilities for HDR photography while increasing both speed and quality.” said Michael J. Slater, President and CEO of Nik Software. “Over 400 professional photographers from our beta group play an important part in our development process and ensure that we deliver quality and performance that professionals expect.”

“HDR Efex Pro 2 is a giant leap forward in HDR image editing software that makes life easier for professional photographers.” said Rien Van Rijthoven, award-winning architectural photographer. “I can create photographs even with the difficult lighting situations that I encounter on a regular basis all without compromising my vision or the high level of quality my clients demand.”

Key New Features

  • NEW: Improved Tone Mapping Engine — Develop superior results with better color rendering and improved natural styles
  • UPDATED: Interface, Interaction, and Workflow — Benefit from improvements to the merging interface, tone mapping and enhancement controls, visual presets, and more
  • NEW: Depth Control — Enjoy added depth and realism in images and helps with the new and proprietary Depth control, which helps counteract the flattened look commonly associated with HDR images
  • NEW: Full GPU Processing and Multi-Core Optimization — Gain even faster performance with GPU processing that takes full advantage of the processors found on modern display adapters
  • UPDATED: Ghost Reduction — Improved ghost reduction algorithm ensures that artifacts created by moving objects are removed with a single click
  • NEW: Chromatic Aberration Reduction — Reduce color fringes around objects
  • NEW: Graduated Neutral Density Control — Access the full 32-bit depth of the merged image, providing a natural effect especially on images with a strong horizon line
  • NEW: Full White Balance Control — Take full advantage of the white balance in an image with a new Tint slider, which along with the Temperature slider, can be applied both globally as well as selectively using U Point technology
  • NEW: History Browser — Easily review adjustments and different HDR looks via the History Browser which records every enhancement used in an editing session
  • NEW: Extended Language Support — International users benefit by the addition of Brazilian Portuguese and Chinese (Simplified and Traditional) to a list of languages that includes English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Japanese

Pricing and Availability

HDR Efex Pro 2 is available now in English only directly from Nik Software (www.niksoftware.com). HDR Efex Pro 2 will be available soon in other languages. Customers may also purchase Nik Software products through specialty camera and national resellers. A complete list of Nik Software resellers may be found at www.niksoftware.com/resellers.

The suggested retail price of HDR Efex Pro 2 is €99,95. Upgrades from the first version are €49,95. Customers who purchased HDR Efex Pro or a Complete Collection bundle on or after June 9, 2012 are eligible for a free upgrade and may find all instructions for accessing their free software at www.niksoftware.com/freeupgrade.

HDR Efex Pro 2 is Windows and Mac compatible and installs as a plug-in for Adobe® Photoshop® CS5 or later, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom® 3 or later, and Apple® Aperture® 3 or later. For more information about HDR Efex Pro 2, including video tutorials, live online training, and a free 15-day fully functional trial version, please visit: www.niksoftware.com/hdrefexpro.

Comments

Total comments: 56
SteveInTheUk
By SteveInTheUk (Nov 26, 2012)

"Went on the niksoftware website, in the US $99 in the uk £99.
I make it a policy to never buy from companies who treat potential customers with this sort of contempt, no matter how much I might like their product."

Agreed.. Looks good but not paying that price being set for the UK.

disgusting practice IMO

0 upvotes
Lorrin Baker
By Lorrin Baker (Nov 3, 2012)

I just got the chance to download it and am thoroughly impressed. Finally a great alternative to the disappointing Merge to HDR in Bridge!

0 upvotes
TwoToneTony
By TwoToneTony (Aug 2, 2012)

Hope this one handles 36 megapixel images a little more gracefully than the first version did!

0 upvotes
gerryabc
By gerryabc (Jul 16, 2012)

Went on the niksoftware website, in the US $99 in the uk £99.
I make it a policy to never buy from companies who treat potential customers with this sort of contempt, no matter how much I might like their product.

4 upvotes
jeremiahtrue
By jeremiahtrue (Jul 20, 2012)

What kind of contempt is that, charging for their product? They offer a discount to current users to upgrade and I paid the full $150+ for the original version. They have a 15 day demo which is more than fair and the product is extremely capable so I don't really understand your complaint.

0 upvotes
TwoToneTony
By TwoToneTony (Aug 2, 2012)

He means charging UK customers $160 for a $99 product which is completely digital.

2 upvotes
JakeB
By JakeB (Jul 13, 2012)

Looking forward to trying this out. I'm a huge fan of version 1, finding it able, when used carefully, to produce natural-looking images with a wider tonal range than possible through one shot.

Like any other photographic technique, HDR can be used poorly and frankly abused, but that's no reason to dismiss the entire technique.

My favorite piece of Nik software remains Silver Efex, though. A little cheaper than buying a Leica Monochrom. :)

0 upvotes
Paul T Klenk
By Paul T Klenk (Jul 11, 2012)

Bought this iteration as an upgrade. I own ALL of the NIK plugins and evaluate them to be the best in the market today. However, I do take exception with the new NIK HDR EFEX PRO v2.0.

I am running it with the latest verion of Apple's Aperture on a high end, 3.8 GHz i7, iMac with 16 GB of RAM.

Totally removed the previous iternation of the software including preferences and license data and then installed v2.0. So great choices and a substantial improvement. However, when using the split view, if I select another image and then return to the HDR image, there is significant distortion and just plain junk in the primary screen.

I am not one to throw in the towel readily; it's a problem and I can eliminate extraneous causes. Removed HDR v2.0 and returned to v1.0. Works perfectly with no preview distortion. Removed v1.0 and reinstalled v2.0 with the same results as previously noted. Rebuild of the Aperture Library is a temporary fix.

0 upvotes
cricketfan
By cricketfan (Jul 11, 2012)

Now available on the Australian site.

Finally purchased upgrade.

0 upvotes
cricketfan
By cricketfan (Jul 11, 2012)

What kind of e-commerce is operating here?

My attempt to buy this product was blocked because "The incorrect country was selected for your sales area", even though this has been the way I have bought 8 or 9 pieces of Nik software previously.

But it is even more stupid than that. I live in Australia, and if I go to the Australian web page, THERE IS NO WAY TO PURCHASE HDR EFEX PRO 2!!!

I cannot believe how ridiculous this is. A sale has been knocked back and I have been directed to a site where a sale cannot take place!

0 upvotes
guyindasky
By guyindasky (Jul 10, 2012)

Am trying out the demo version in LR4...keeps crashing. Don't think I'll be paying the upgrade fee for this buggy software.

0 upvotes
klarue
By klarue (Jul 11, 2012)

Sorry you're having some problems with the software. We'd love to help out. Sometimes it's a video card driver or something simple. Contact us at niksoftware.com/support and we'll get you running. Kevin (from Nik)

0 upvotes
Paul T Klenk
By Paul T Klenk (Jul 11, 2012)

Thank you for contacting Nik Software.  I asked to see if your system information would be helpful to our engineers, but they have said that the issue has been identified as an issue within Aperture itsself, and unfortunately your system information would not help.  What is happening is your system is running out of Graphics Memory, which is causing the scrambled previews in Aperture.  On the Mac system, once video memory is used (for example, for the processing with HDR Efex Pro 2 which uses a large amount of GPU processing and memory) it is not "released" even after you stop using the program, so your system runs out of the GPU memory which is what is used to update the Aperture previews

0 upvotes
Paul T Klenk
By Paul T Klenk (Jul 12, 2012)

Examine my experience with Apple's Aperture. You will note that NIK was aware of the problem and has thrust blame on Apple. My questions is quite simple. Why did NIK knowingly release a software plugin that would, without a doubt, cause issues in Aperture?

0 upvotes
cricketfan
By cricketfan (Jul 10, 2012)

Worse news!
It appears that Nik software is now imposing a geographic pricing model on their products. That means that, depending on where you live, you might pay more than someone in the US will for the same download.

This is both discriminatory and greedy.

3 upvotes
cricketfan
By cricketfan (Jul 10, 2012)

Just went through the order process and it FAILED! Some rote response indicates their system is down and they'll get back to me during office hours. From what I see that would appear to be at least 15 hours away.
Now I don't know whether to reorder or wait.
I might mention that I am a long-time Nik user and I have most of their software.
Hardly satisfactory e-business!

0 upvotes
klarue
By klarue (Jul 10, 2012)

I'm seeing orders in the U.S. shopping cart every 5-9 minutes, so it seems to be working. Are you in the U.S. or EU? Kevin (from Nik)

0 upvotes
cricketfan
By cricketfan (Jul 10, 2012)

I'm in Australia!

0 upvotes
Alberto Tanikawa
By Alberto Tanikawa (Jul 10, 2012)

I've got it installed, and I must say I'm impressed. One thing that got me really excited was the history panel, in which you can go back to the merge settings, choose a different level of ghost reduction, re-merge/align the hdr, then go back to the adjustments you had performed previously. It saves time not having to readjust everything for the new hdr image, but its gpu optimization also makes image scrolling/zooming/setting-adjusting faster (and I only have a lowly Nvidia 8800GT, gotta try it on my other computer with GTX 295). The ghost reduction is better than the first one also. I had a series of images shot at Penn Station in NYC, and version 2 got rid of more moving people/vehicles than the original! I'm now revisiting previous images I had worked on with the original version. :)

1 upvote
Vasyl Tsvirkunov
By Vasyl Tsvirkunov (Jul 10, 2012)

It seems to be an improvement overall although it appears to come with some cost. The preset format changed completely and old presets cannot be imported anymore. Pity, I liked those from Photographer's Guide. Not as quirky as extra presets (total of 4) on Nik's site, some very useful for realistic HDR.

0 upvotes
BillRauch
By BillRauch (Jul 10, 2012)

Here is one of the first reviews I think:
http://www.luminescentphoto.com/blog/2012/07/09/nik-software-hdr-efex-pro-2-hands-on-review/.

Also, it's up to Nikon to make decisions about Capture NX - not Nik.

0 upvotes
dralph
By dralph (Jul 9, 2012)

So, when is NIK going to start making its filter sets, such as HDR Efex ProTM 2, so that they interface with Nikon Capture NX2?

Nik Color Efex 3 is written that way, and it integrates seamlessly with NX2. NIK Software wrote NX2, a program which uses U-point technology in sophisticated ways that the filters often do not.

Millions of Nikon shooters are awaiting the answer.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (Jul 9, 2012)

I think it's more like dozens of Nikon shooters but I am one of them and love the combination. I even run my Canon files through, as tiffs. Once you've experienced layer-free software, it's addictive. Fun, too.

0 upvotes
M Lammerse
By M Lammerse (Jul 10, 2012)

If I'm well informed Nik software stopped making versions specifically aimed at NX2. Further what I heard, Nik software is also not involved in the development next installment of Capture NX (NX3)

0 upvotes
DaveInHouston
By DaveInHouston (Jul 11, 2012)

Loved Color Efex 3 and how it integrated into NX2 so I jumped on Color Efex 4 only NOWHERE did NiK tell you that 4 did NOT work in NX2. It comes as no surprise that the HDR free upgrade only dates back a month. What a way to treat your loyal clientele.

0 upvotes
cjep1
By cjep1 (Jul 9, 2012)

Don't flame it just because you don't know how to use it!

HDR is a technique that, used skillfully, can help making extremely well produced photo work.

You really should focus on this versus other HDR software, and if you don't want to use too much of your time nerding with technical settings, but just want great results - I recommend a look on HDR Efex Pro.

1 upvote
vFunct
By vFunct (Jul 9, 2012)

No. no it can't.

There has never been a good HDR photo in the history of photography.

Ever.

1 upvote
Shengji
By Shengji (Jul 9, 2012)

That's funny, I could have sworn Gustave Le Gray produced some wonderful high dynamic range images in 1850.... In fact isn't his "Beech Tree" still the most expensive photograph ever sold?

And then there was Schweitzer, you know, who's name was used for the Albert Schweitzer award, using HDR techniques which took him 5 days to apply to a print who's photography was so important to his humanitarian work.

Ansel Adams? Massive proponent of HDR photography, but you say he never produced a good one? Each to their own I guess.

That's aside from the importance of medical HDR photography, who knows, next time you have a deadly disease and are cured by modern medicine, the scanner may have been a HDR camera, OH NOES!

Let's just hope, for your sake that you were trying some clumsy sarcasm.

3 upvotes
gsum
By gsum (Jul 10, 2012)

HDR is horrible when over-cooked - I know, having produced more than my fair share of HDR monstrosities. I still use HDR sparingly occasionally to bring out shadow detail but far prefer Nikon's D-lighting (similar to Photoshop's highlight/shadow control except that it works properly and doesn't mangle colours).
Regarding Shengi's comment, Adams used dodge and burn techniques - DR equalisation rather than HDR.

0 upvotes
keng00ru
By keng00ru (Jul 9, 2012)

Nikon? - YES! Nikkor? - YES!
Nik Software? - No, thanks! I've had enough!

0 upvotes
Devendra
By Devendra (Jul 9, 2012)

HDR efex pro is amazing. So is Silver FX Pro 2. I also have Color Efex Pro 4 which can I live without, but all 3 are some of the most amazing and well thought out/ui products.
I suppose I am hooked to Nik* (nikons, nikkors and nik software!)

1 upvote
vFunct
By vFunct (Jul 9, 2012)

HDR style is really the worst, ugliest most over-processed photography style imaginable. There is absolutely NO art critic that would find this look acceptable.

And really, art critics are the only viewpoints that matter, since they reference the leading edge and do not care for populist appeal of the Wal Mart crowd that so many photographers love.

HDR is the equivalent of a Thomas Kinkade painting, and even looks like it. THAT'S how bad it is.

Photographers: do NOT do HDR. Learn the subtleties of a proper naturally lit non-overprocessed photograph. Study Hedi Slimane or Terry Richardson or Ryan McGinley or Ineez & Vinoodh for some proper fine-art photography. Learn why the art critics love that, and learn why they hate Thomas Kinkade paintings so much,

5 upvotes
dgeugene1
By dgeugene1 (Jul 9, 2012)

Using Thomas Kinkade and Walmart to support an otherwise reasonable (personal) point of view is simple snobbery.

4 upvotes
Alberto Tanikawa
By Alberto Tanikawa (Jul 9, 2012)

You are entitled to your opinion, but you do not speak for me or many others. I think HDR has its uses, and can help convey imagery that we see in our creative minds, not just the plain well exposed images with see with our eyes. And in my line of work, art critics have no bearing whatsoever on my pay, so their opinions are utterly worthless to me.

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
5 upvotes
archaiesteron
By archaiesteron (Jul 9, 2012)

Actually, HDR exactly matches what Adorno would call a regressive process.

0 upvotes
Mike Snethlage
By Mike Snethlage (Jul 9, 2012)

What ?? Your choice of fashion photographers as an example of "naturally lit none-over-processed" photography is suspect. It's not the processing that counts it's the subject matter. And, having said that the constant battle landscape photographers have in capturing DR is an issue. Go look at the plethora of HDR processing that is being done without turning every photo into a Walt Disney Cartoonish look. There are some masters out there who are raising the bar in post processing without being gauche about it.

3 upvotes
Jim Salvas
By Jim Salvas (Jul 9, 2012)

I fail to see how HDR is conceptually different from burning and dodging when printing from a negative. Some people do it well. Some don't.

5 upvotes
MarkInSF
By MarkInSF (Jul 9, 2012)

Serious art criticism is mostly impenetrable academic jargon. I was a painter and I never knew a practicing artist who cared at all what art critics thought. Or even had a clue what they were writing about. There are exceptions, mostly writing for popular magazines. But their populist approach was disdained by academic critics who considered them mere journalists, reviewers, not critics. Photography criticism may be better, but I doubt it. Over the long term, tastes in the art world are influenced far more by gallery owners and serious collectors than by critics. For photography, photo editors likely have as big a role.

HDR is just a tool with many uses. Some hokey and garish, others subtle. Maybe its because I come from painting, but I find most photographers too wedded to the literal, busy judging histograms and peering into shadows in search of noise instead of considering the artistic worth of the entire image.

1 upvote
Michael Kaufman
By Michael Kaufman (Jul 9, 2012)

You people are missing the joke. vFunt is kidding you. The giveaway was the line about art critics having the only viewpoints that matter. C'mon that was so obvious.

1 upvote
bronxbombers
By bronxbombers (Jul 9, 2012)

That's only because most people way overdo it or don't do it properly. It's possible to do it and make it not even apparent.

1 upvote
Shengji
By Shengji (Jul 9, 2012)

So vFunct, what camera do you use? I hope for your sake it isn't one which has been optimised to produce a high dynamic range, like say... all of them since Charles Wyckoff developed triple layer film to produce a greater dynamic range (in 1955).

Perhaps it would be better to say "Don't do bad HDR", but then who is the ultimate judge of what is good or bad? You?

I'm guessing from your comments that you don't like the overly tonemapped images. Fine, no probs - but some people do like that. Leave them to it, stop trying to dictate other peoples taste, it honestly makes you seem like a complete moron. If you don't like it, don't look at it. I don't like it either, but neither do I like it when someone has gone way over the top with the clarity tool. Doesn't mean the clarity tool should be banned because I don't like pictures which have used it to the extreme.

As with all post processing, the best examples are those where the viewer doesn't realise it has been done. Simple as that.

2 upvotes
Shengji
By Shengji (Jul 9, 2012)

Oh, and by the way, saying that the only person who's viewpoint matters is an art critic is by far the stupidest thing I have seen written for a long, long time. Not all photography is fine art. Oh and an art critic is not a qualified role.To be an art critic, one merely needs to call one self an art critic.Or more precisely one needs to actively criticise art.

But to say that the photo I took of my kids for the family album is good based on an art critics point of view is ridiculous.What if an art critic slams it for poor composition yet it brings my family joy and laughter for generations.

What if the "fine art" shot I took for a client is eviscerated by a critic then goes on to hang pride of place in my clients home, bringing joy for generations.

Art critics, along with most opinion journalism are there to entertain the reader.They are paid to make the public want to read their articles again,wannabes who need to validate their opinion or just be titillated by someone being rude.

3 upvotes
G10Rebel
By G10Rebel (Jul 10, 2012)

I displayed six of my hundreds of HDR photos at work, and everyone who has seen them are totally

AMAZED!

Granted, they are not photo critics, but who cares? The masses love it!

2 upvotes
Robert Ardill
By Robert Ardill (Jul 11, 2012)

My own feeling is that the only real value in HDR is getting shadow detail ... which I guess is kind of obvious (as it's name implies!). However doing this with the current crop of HDR programs is a nightmare, IMO ... everything has to be right, including things we can't control, like the wind. I have wasted hours or days or weeks (probably) trying to get an image that is realistic, doesn't have artifacts, and doesn't lose critical detail.

But I certainly do find that manually processed bracketed exposures in most cases works extremely well and is very easy and quick to do. It's just a case of developing each image (usually 2 is enough) in Lightroom and then opening as layers in Photoshop, doing an Auto-Align Layers, and then blending them using a gradient or a luminosity mask, depending on how complex the image is.

What helps a lot is to develop the images in Lightroom so that they are as similar as possible.

I find that it's quite rare that I need to use an HDR program.

0 upvotes
gchamp727
By gchamp727 (4 months ago)

As Frank Zappa put it so appropriately, "The mind is like a parachute, it only works when it's open."

0 upvotes
gl2k
By gl2k (Jul 9, 2012)

I guess the HDR trend is over. Highly overprocessed images are repellent and for a mild HDR image the DR of modern DSLRs is more than sufficient.

3 upvotes
Aleo Veuliah
By Aleo Veuliah (Jul 9, 2012)

True, and the LightRoom can even make it better, with shadows and high lights recovery, LR4 is great on this, no need for no natural looking HDR's images

1 upvote
BigBadWolfie
By BigBadWolfie (Jul 10, 2012)

With camera manufacturers and mobile phones adding "in camera HDR" features, I don't see the HDR trend being over.

HDR has always been a tool and should be viewed as one. When I bracket my shots, I always have a shot that is properly exposed, so the HDR option is there for me but it never comes at the expense of a proper exposure.

1 upvote
turtlec
By turtlec (Jan 2, 2013)

HDR is a technique liek any other technique, and the secret is in using it correctly.

So wither you push it to th elimits to produce a very stylised and totally obvioous almist 'painted' image, or you take the bore subtle approach and produce an image that is not blatenly obviously manipulated.

But to term a specific technique rubbish is a sweeping view is wrong....just because some dont use it correctly

0 upvotes
jmmgarza
By jmmgarza (Jul 9, 2012)

When I upgrade to the new iMac, I may have to consider this product.

0 upvotes
dgeugene1
By dgeugene1 (Jul 9, 2012)

I am always fascinated by new software that will unleash my unlimited "creative potential". Sadly, I am usually not creative enough to take advantage of it.

This new program looks like a complicated and expensive way to do what I already do with HDRtist.

Some of the samples I saw on their site still show a "glow" around contrasty objects. This is a problem I have had with various HDR programs.

Does anyone know how to avoid this?

1 upvote
klarue
By klarue (Jul 9, 2012)

The tone mapping engine was completely re-done and there was a real emphasis on enabling a realistic/natural look with the new software. If you have a chance, download a free trial and try it on your own images. Kevin (from Nik Software)

6 upvotes
Vasyl Tsvirkunov
By Vasyl Tsvirkunov (Jul 9, 2012)

Some Nik presets still have that glow, others don't. It is not completely consistent from picture to picture, you would have to experiment to see which preset works the best. Even the previous version usually allowed to find something that worked well. I had much better luck creating realistic rendering with Nik than with any other HDR tool.
BTW, there are extra presets downloadable from Nik's site and from a few other locations.
One of the listed changes is improved ghost removal. IMHO, that was the weakest part of HDR Efex -- I had a few cases when I just could not get a usable final image because of ghost removal artifacts. Photomatix had much better implementation. Let's see if it changed.

1 upvote
mmarian
By mmarian (Jul 10, 2012)

Does v.2 work as a stand alone software or only as a Plug-in?? I preferred to use the version 1 as a stand alone software, as it worked quicker than the Plug-in. I am not sure how to launch this one outside of PS as a stand alone software ??

Comment edited 33 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Vasyl Tsvirkunov
By Vasyl Tsvirkunov (Jul 10, 2012)

There is some executable in "Program Files/Nik Software/HDR Efex Pro 2" (on Windows, at least) that works as standalone. For some reason they have decided not to make it too obvious.
The standalone version can only import JPG which limits its usefulness quite a bit. The plugin version uses Photoshop import so it is much better in this respect.
I had some issues with the version 1 standalone that it crashed importing some large JPGs. Did not bother to investigate any further as the plugin did not have this problem.

0 upvotes
Rene van Dongen
By Rene van Dongen (Jul 10, 2012)

I love it. What an improvement

0 upvotes
Total comments: 56