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Hydra 2.0

Product Review

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Product: Hydra 2.0
Company: Creaceed
Contact: +32 65 37 44 90
Price: $79.95
Pros: Very easy to use
Cons: Not sure

Product Rating

moose

Excellent

by Richard Geiger, AAUG Member

Hydra 2.0 is a software program developed by the Creaceed from Belgium. Hydra allows the user to create high dynamic range (HDR) photographs with ease. The program works as a stand-alone program or with Apple’s Aperture as a plug-in.

Why would a photographer want a HDR program? The average lower end digital camera sensors can only record roughly 5-stops of light value on a frame and many of the higher contrast subjects photographers shoot can contain over 12-stops of light values. This is quite a bit more than it’s possible to capture on a digital sensor today unless one has a new high-end digital single-lens reflex camera. An example of a high contrast photograph would be shooting a picture with a foreground shadowed with the mountains and sky sun exposed correctly. If the photographer attempts to expose for one area the other areas would be too dark or over exposed. In the past most photographers would not take the picture, or would use filters to reduce the number of stops of light values in the photograph, or, lastly, would wait for a different time of the day.
Hydro allows one to create a photograph that the eye can not see but what the camera does see by using under, correctly, and over exposed photographs. The program can use up to 10 different photographs and merges them together to create a photograph that looks closer to what the photographer sees in viewing a scene.

To test the Hydra 2.0 software I took my camera on vacation in Mazatlan, Mexico. I used a Koncia Minolta Dimage Z5 camera which shoots only jpegs. The Dimage Z5 allowed me to have manual control over exposure which made it easy to test Hydra. If you are going to purchase Hydra it would be best if you have a camera that allows you to manually set exposure settings. The Hydra manual gives you directions on how to change exposure if you do not have manual expose settings. Hydra also supports camera raw for any camera support by Aperture.

My first test of Hydra was taking a picture of Senior Frogs mascot near the El Cid Hotel in Mazatlan, Mexico which is below. I shot all my tests hand holding the camera. I probably would achieved better results using a tripod but I did not have one with me. I had walked across a street bridge and took photos of the Senior Frogs mascot with 3 different exposures. I shot my camera at F-stop 5.6 using exposure compensation -0.7 stop (the buildings in the background were correctly exposed), correct exposed (the frog was correctly exposed), and using exposure compensation set at +0.7 (the grass was also correctly exposed). After taking the picture of Senior Frog I went back to the hotel to test the software.

I down loaded photographs from my camera to my computer and then opened Hydra. Hydra has an area on the software screen where one drops the photographs. I dropped the three photographs onto import area. The program then showed me photographs I was about to merge. I then viewed them individually in Hydra to ensure I had the correct photographs.

Hydra will automatically align the photograph by assigning tags to various parts of the photograph if there is enough contrast in the photographs. If there is not enough contrast the program might have a difficult time aligning the photographs which one would have to do manually. I then hit the render button and merged the photographs into one photograph and it looked great. Since I hand held the camera the pictures were not shot exactly the same but the program compensated and merged them into one photograph. I found that the photo merge on an older MacBook Pro took less than a minute.

I also photographed the boats and hotel at the El Cid Marina and tried -2 stop exposure compensation, correct stop, and +2 stop exposure compensation. This was too much of a range because the photo did not look right so if you go on a trip you need to test some of the settings on your camera before coming home and using Hydra because you might be disappointed. You need to have some judgment in the amount of stops you would like to change to get the results you want. If you are not sure try to shoot a range of different exposures so you can experiment with them in the Hydra program.

Creaceed has a great manual in the PDF format. The manual was easy to read and helped the user to understand the program. I was pleased that company spent the time to write a manual. In this day and age many software companies only have a help database that you have to search through to find the answers to your questions.

Hydra 2.0 is an easy to use HDR program that will help you capture photographs that you have not been easily able to do in the past. Most people would not have attempted to take certain pictures because it was too hard for the average user to pull off. Hydra 2.0 changes the game for the average user to make good photographs in high contrasts areas. The cost of the program makes it is reasonable for most users.

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