HDR app shootout: Apple v. Pro HDR v. TrueHDR (updated 2x)

HDR app shootout: Apple v. Pro HDR v. TrueHDR (updated 2x)

Summary: I did a casual high dynamic range (HDR) imaging test this morning. Apple HDR blows out the highlights, Pro HDR is heavy-handed and TrueHDR is the best.


A guest blog by Bob Snow.

I did a casual high dynamic range (HDR) imaging test this morning. The backlit shots benefit from HDR in all cases.  Apple HDR -- now included in the iPhone's Camera app -- makes a small difference, mostly in the shadows. Pro HDR ($1.99, App Store) seems very heavy-handed but interesting. TrueHDR ($1.99, App Store) is more subtle and probably the best of the three.

Here are some sample HDR images:

(click for a higher resolution 1900 pixel wide image)

The second series of HDR test photos is well lit and does not benefit much from HDR. In fact, the Apple HDR blows out the highlights in favor of some shadow detail. Pro HDR is again very heavy-handed and TrueHDR is the best, but hardly worth the time and effort compared to the straight shot which is actually better than Apple HDR and ProHDR.

(click for a higher resolution 1900 pixel wide image)

Apple HDR is near instantaneous and is worth keeping on at all times, as long as you opt to keep the straight shot for comparison. Pro HDR is faster than TrueHDR, but the results on Auto go too far in my opinion. TrueHDR seems to provide the best overall results in Auto mode.  I did not try to fine tune any of the apps, just point and shoot on Automatic.  Using a tripod and adjusting settings would undoubtedly yield better results.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones

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  • Example problem

    Hey Bob, I'm pretty sure you've reversed Pro HDR and TrueHDR's example images. The "TrueHDR" images look like the output of Pro HDR and visa versa. Can you please verify?

    Also, TrueHDR does not make HDRs out of three images. It only uses two; the first of the three images it captures in auto mode is only a preview picture used to calculate the exposure for the next two. Both TrueHDR and Pro HDR use exactly two images in their HDRs.
    • Example images

      The example images have been updated and are now correct.
      - Jason
      Jason D. O'Grady
  • Good Article.

    IT would have been helpful to show (as a reference) a shot with the HDR turned off. Also none of these programs do HDR.. these are examples of Tone Mapping. I think this point should be made so there's pressure on hardware developers to give us true HDR.
    • Photos updated

      I updated the photos with new, labeled photos from Bob that are correct. I got the photos mixed up and apologize for any confusion.
      - Jason
      Jason D. O'Grady
  • Would like to have more detail on tweaks available in each

    While the default settings show reasonable improvement from all of the HDR apps, I'd be more interested to know what is possible with a little tweaking of each. Just what sort of adjustments are available? If you can get significantly better results with slight tweaking of one versus another, that's worth hearing about.
  • RE: HDR app shootout: Apple v. Pro HDR v. TrueHDR

    I don't know, I'd say the Pro HDR shots look best.
    Migration Expert Zone
  • RE: HDR app shootout: Apple v. Pro HDR v. TrueHDR

    I'm not a photographer and don't even play one on TV but I'm thrilled with the HDR that comes with iPhone 4 and iOS 4.1! In a freakin' phone for crying out loud. I'm still trying to get the phone part to work. Can't find the dial.
  • RE: HDR app shootout: Apple v. Pro HDR v. TrueHDR

    @Migration Expert Zone
    As a professional HDR photographer, I agree with you.
    It is a first weak attempt however.
  • RE: HDR app shootout: Apple v. Pro HDR v. TrueHDR

    I agree, I think the Pro looks the best and True appears to me to crop the photos unless that was the author that did that.
  • RE: HDR app shootout: Apple v. Pro HDR v. TrueHDR

    Absolutely agree with those who say the ProHDR shots are better than the TrueHDR ones. Not even close. And the improvement is considerable, not "weak" in my opinion.