Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Auto HDR, Quicker, Faster And Better?
New DSLRs with Auto HDR features can create high dynamic range images in just seconds, but are the results worth the convenience?
Camera designers apparently didn't think this was easy enough, which explains why there are now Auto HDR modes in several new DSLRs from Nikon, Pentax and Sony, and we expect the trend to continue. At the push of the shutter button, these cameras shoot a quick burst of exposures and then use their powerful image-processing engines to merge them into an HDR JPEG image. As a bonus, several Pentax and Sony models can correct minor camera movements that occur between frames in the burst, allowing you to create HDR images without a tripod!
The Auto HDR function cuts out the postprocessing time and effort, but many HDR purists and photographers who prefer to have the option of controlling their images more down the road cringe when they learn that all current Auto HDR modes create an HDR JPEG file (8-bit) from the exposure sequence and not RAW or TIFF files (16-bit). On top of that, Auto HDR modes in the Pentax and Nikon cameras discard the entire exposure sequence used in the process, so there are no "redos" or adjustments possible after the creation of the HDR JPEG. The Sony models store two images—a normal exposure JPEG and an HDR JPEG—so you can quickly compare results. If you don't like what you see on the camera's LCD monitor, you'll be forced to change modes or HDR settings and shoot again.
The only Auto HDR controls that exist allow you to select the exposure range between the images in the sequence from a 2-stop range to about 6 stops, as well as choose the resolution and quality of the final HDR JPEG file. You also can select full Auto HDR, which tells the Sony models to select an appropriate exposure range based on scene contrast, or in the case of the Pentax models, set the camera to a 2-stop range: -1 stop, Normal and +1 stop.
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