Unified Color’s HDR Expose 3 algorithms trickle down to its affordable HDR Express app


posted Friday, October 31, 2014 at 11:27 PM EDT


HDR fans: Want a little more control than your camera can provide you with for your high dynamic range photos? If so, it's time to switch to your computer and really take charge of your photography -- and an update to Unified Color Technologies' consumer-friendly HDR Express app is here to help.

Based around the same algorithms that underlie in the company's flagship HDR Expose 3, the latest version of HDR Express keeps things simple while providing useful tools like automatic alignment and deghosting of your source imagery, as well as support for raw files from more than 600 different camera models. And if you use Adobe's Photoshop Lightroom or Apple's Aperture (the latter on the Mac only), then HDR Express will integrate as a plugin, ready to help you straight from your image library.

The HDR Express 3 user interface on a Mac OS X-based computer.
(Courtesy of Unified Color Technologies.)

With an approachable interface based around just nine easy-to-understand sliders, the HDR Express 3 app nevertheless provides plenty of scope for tuning the results of your HDR imagery. The interface is similar on Mac OS X systems (as shown above), and on Windows (shown below), and a total of ten color or black and white presets are provided as well, to help set you on your way to creating an HDR masterpiece.

HDR Express 3 in use on a Windows 7 machine.

Features updated since the previous release of HDR Express include its merge, alignment, deghosting and adaptive tone mapping algorithms, and there's a new Gamma control slider that makes it easy to bring up shadows and highlights without affecting highlights. Raw support has also been expanded, and the file browser user interface refined. Performance has also improved, with a claimed 200% increase in merge speed, and you can now preview merge settings in a small crop window, saving you from wasting time completing a merge just to find out that it needs further tweaking. Add in support for acceleration using OpenCL-compatible graphics cards, and HDR Express 3 is quite a step forward from the previous version.

HDR Express 3 provides quick and easy results with a minimum of fuss. Here, a processed image from a quick +/- 2/3EV bracketed raw series shot with the Panasonic DMC-GF5 is at left; the original metered out-of-camera JPEG is shown at right. This used the Vivid preset with some slight tweaks.

Available immediately, HDR Express 3 is priced at US$80 or thereabouts. Customers who purchased the previous version in the last 90 days will receive a free upgrade, and those who ordered earlier can upgrade for about US$50. More details can be found on the Unified Color website.