Does The New Merge to HDR Feature In Lightroom Replace LR/Enfuse

May 26th, 2015

EnfuseLR6Dwayne asked the following:

I have used Photoshop from it’s first edition. Now I have the new Photoshop CC along with Lightroom CC. I’ve never used Lightroom before but have seen a lot about Enfuse. My question is: now that LR has it’s own “Merge to HDR”, do I really need LR/Enfuse? The LR version seems to work faster than LR/Enfuse. I have Photomatix Pro 5 but I am not happy with the garish colors it sometimes gives and I end up desaturating everything. Your thoughts?

Since Simon Maxwell (author of the Enfuse e-book and video series) is the expert on the LR/Enfuse plugin because he uses it intensively, I asked Simon to weigh in on this subject. Here is Simon’s answer:

Batch processing: LR/Enfuse is still ahead of LR merge to HDR in that you can bundle up/stack all the bracketed groups of files in one sitting in LR and then leave Enfuse to it. I don’t think there is any other system/process to beat it on time-saving. This can be a huge time savings.

The long tonal range DNG (RAW) file generated by Lightroom: while this could be seen to be an advantage in terms of further adjustments to the blended file presumably displaying the same characteristics as standard adjustments in Lightroom to RAW files. I have found that making basic adjustments to the 8 bit TIF generated by LR/Enfuse to be a predictable process with no loss of quality. Highlights can be recovered still further and there is plenty of shadow detail to be uncovered by means of the usual Lightroom develop sliders, post-enfuse. it has been said that HDR is the new RAW and I have enjoyed working with an enfused file for all images from a shoot. These files seem just as rich in tonal information as RAW files with the ability to extend their apparent range even further with careful global adjustments. If you think you might be applying major changes in contrast or exposure you can always output from Enfuse in 16 bit but I have run tests on the same file in both 8 and 16 bit to which major adjustments have then been applied and have really not noticed any appreciable improvement for working in 16 bit (with the added doubling up of storage space which that entails).

Speed of processing: Lightroom CC seems to be able to produce an effective result with fewer files which would benefit processing times and there are reports of quicker processing in general. Since putting an SSD and 12GB of RAM in my Macbook Pro (I do not use a desktop) I have found LR/Enfuse runs very quickly. I am actually able to work on other images/stacking while the main enfusing of shoots of regularly up to 100 plus images are being processed in the background. There is no doubt though that for those running laptops/systems with lower RAM/ processing power the LR merge to HDR function may be a more efficient process than running Enfuse from Lightroom.

Conclusion: If you have an adequately configured laptop or desktop that you do your post processing on you will probably find the batch processing features of LR/Enfuse still has a big advantage over LR merge to HDR.

What are others experiences?

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11 Responses to “Does The New Merge to HDR Feature In Lightroom Replace LR/Enfuse”

  • So, it sounds as if the batch process is the only(?) real difference?

  • My experience thus far has been less than stellar. In my opinion the LR Enfuse does a much better job. With that said the the new panorama feature is pretty darn awesome!

    Ethan

  • I have had some really good results on my last 3 jobs using the new “merge to HDR” in a pseudo batch process.
    Step 1 – Create the Stacks
    Step 2 – Click on a stack and hit Control+Shift+h. Move to the next stack (don’t wait for the processing) and repeat until all stacks are in progress.
    Step 3 – Go get a cup of coffee and in about the same time it takes for LR/Enfuse to batch process a new HDR DNG file will be created next to each stack.

  • I use a PC to process, and have been using LR Enfuse for about 2 years and Photomatix.
    Sometimes the photomatix looks a little better, than the LR Enfuse, but I don’t batch process. How do I know for sure if I have the latest version of LR Enfuse, as I can not find any place that asks for updates or tells you the version I am using? also, when bracketing for these shots, do most bracket 1 stop or 2? many of my HDR friends claim that the results with 1 stop bracketing gives better results. I have tried both and still not love my results.

    I shoot both RAW and jpgs but mostly use the jpg files unless the lighting was difficult, then I will use the Nikon RAW files.

  • After using the HDR feature for several weeks now, I’ve realized that it’s probably the fastest, most efficient, and most realistic HDR processor for me, that provides the longest tonal range without all the grundge. It’s very clean. The resulting merged DNG file has pretty much an infinite value range, so it can be reprocessed in LR to give you any pixel information you need, while remaining in a non-destructive state.

    But, I still find the GUI to be painfully slow on LR CC, probably because the preview quality is high.

  • I like it, but find it annoying that I have to do my lens corrections again on the DNG.

  • Tom Z – is that process worth it if you have like 30 – 40 stacks? I may just wait until batch mode is available.

  • Well Patrick I just found out on my last couple of jobs that LRCC did have a problem with 20+ stacks.
    It really slowed down.

  • I have been using Photomatix and Enfuse for real estate HDR for a long time, but was never really satisfied wit the results…

    The HDR implementation in LR is a bit of a joke, very few parameters, no batch processing, no way to assign the merged results to a separate folder, and a very inefficient use of computing resources, but, it has to be said, the results are far better than Photomatix or Enfuse.

    Which is annoying because, as it was mentioned above, the shift+ctrl+h method is time consuming and only works for max 15-20 stacks.

    When I do a hi end project I commonly shoot 100-150 brackets of 7 shots, which means I have to import the project in LR in 5-7 different folders in order to make it possible for LR to process them without choking.

    I have tried once doing 68 HDR merge in one go, my hi end mac pro with plenty of ram went totally unresponsive, and the process took FIVE (5) HOURS!

    I think of LR6 as a rushed, semi beta version, and hope that the HDR function will be better implemented in future upgrades.

    Do not hesitate to let your voice be heard by the good people at Adobe on this matter!!! We need a workable HDR function as it was loudly advertised!!!

  • @Eric Hilton: The latest verison of Enfuse is 4.32 as can be seen here: http://www.photographers-toolbox.com/products/lrenfuse.php? in the upper right hand corner. I’m sure you can upgrade for free.

    Thanks to your question, I have discovered that I can purchase Enfuse for a mere $4 donation to use it with full functionality! Looking forward to experimenting with this plug in!

  • So,
    “the results are far better than Photomatix or Enfuse.”?

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