Handheld HDR Test

This article features some handheld HDR (high dynamic range) test images that were captured at Westfield Heritage Village. My main objective doing these test photographs was to determine if a combination of 5 HDR exposures could be successfully taken without the use of a tripod, relying only on the IBIS performance of my Olympus camera gear. I apologize in advance for the quality of the HDR versions in this article.

I should state upfront that I have very little experience or skills working with HDR exposures and related software. So, the final quality of the HDR images in this article likely fall short of what is possible if a more experienced person had produced this article.

All of the photographs in this article had a bare minimum of post processing done to them. I used an old copy of Photomatix Pro 4.0 to combine the images in post. This software is at least 10 years old.

Here are some details on my HDR process.

  1. I used the 5f 2.0EV setting in my E-M1X. You’ll find this under the camera 2 icon in the menu. Go to HDR, then scroll down to the 5f 2.0EV setting.
  2. When the 5f 2.0 EV setting is used the camera will take 5 successive images with a single shutter release. Depending on the shutter speed used you may need to wait for all of the frames to be captured. I did some HDR tests using shutter speeds of 1/15 and 1/8 of a second and there was a sight pause with the last image in the run.
  3. When the 5f 2.0EV setting is used, my E-M1X takes a base exposure as per my camera settings. It then automatically takes successive exposures at -4 EV, -2 EV, + 2 EV and +4 EV.
  4. I put all of my RAW files through DxO PhotoLab 4 using the automatic corrections. I also applied auto MicroContrast. No other adjustments were made to the RAW files. I then exported DNG files.
  5. Using Photomatix Pro 4.0 I imported the DNG files, and had Photomatix Pro 4.0 combine them and exported a jpeg.
  6. All of the five photographs captured when using the HDR 5f 2.0EV setting are display as jpegs made from the corresponding DNG files.

For each of the HDR test photographs in this article you’ll see the HDR version first, then followed by the base exposure, – 4EV exposure, -2 EV exposure, + 2 EV exposure and +4 EV exposure images.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge

Let’s have a look at our first HDR test image. This one was captured handheld at 1/8 of a second. I had no problem with the E-M1X’s IBIS performance when capturing these 5 images with a single shutter release. The E-M1X automatically took 5 successive images and made exposure adjustments with each photograph.

My software was able to combine the five images without issue. For photographers like me who hate using a tripod this slow shutter speed test result was a great learning point. It demonstrated that if I’m out in the field without a tripod (as is my standard practice) I will have a lot of latitude should I decide to use the HDR function. This opens up a lot of additional potential when doing handheld landscape and architectural photography.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 24 mm, efov 48 mm, f/5.6, 1/8, ISO-200, HDR version
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 24 mm, efov 48 mm, f/5.6, 1/8, ISO-200, base exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 24 mm, efov 48 mm, f/5.6, 1/8, ISO-200, -4 EV
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 24 mm, efov 48 mm, f/5.6, 1/8, ISO-200, -2 EV
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 24 mm, efov 48 mm, f/5.6, 1/8, ISO-200, +2 EV
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 24 mm, efov 48 mm, f/5.6, 1/8, ISO-200, +4EV

Our second handheld HDR test image is a profile view of a small covered bridge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 16 mm, efov 32 mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-200, HDR version
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 16 mm, efov 32 mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-200, base exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 16 mm, efov 32 mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-200, -4.0 EV exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 16 mm, efov 32 mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-200, -2.0 EV exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 16 mm, efov 32 mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-200, +2.0 EV exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 16 mm, efov 32 mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-200, +4.0 EV exposure

Now we’ll have a look at a photograph taken from inside the covered bridge and looking out into bright sunlight. Again, my apologies for my lack of HDR processing skills.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 16 mm, efov 32 mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-200, HDR version
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 16 mm, efov 32 mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-200, base exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 16 mm, efov 32 mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-200, -4EV exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 16 mm, efov 32 mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-200, -2EV exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 16 mm, efov 32 mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-200, +2EV exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 16 mm, efov 32 mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-200, +4EV exposure

Here is a different view looking out into bright sunlight from inside the covered bridge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 16 mm, efov 32 mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-200, HDR version
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 16 mm, efov 32 mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-200, base exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 16 mm, efov 32 mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-200, -4EV exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 16 mm, efov 32 mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-200, -2EV exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 16 mm, efov 32 mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-200, +2EV exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 16 mm, efov 32 mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-200, +4EV exposure

Our next handheld HDR test image combines a small structure in shade along with an expanded forest view.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 17 mm, efov 34 mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-200, HDR version
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 17 mm, efov 34 mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-200, base exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 17 mm, efov 34 mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-200, -4EV exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 17 mm, efov 34 mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-200, -2EV exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 17 mm, efov 34 mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-200, +2EV exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 17 mm, efov 34 mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-200, +4EV exposure

Our next handheld HDR test image is the corner of a ‘sugar shack’ in the woods.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 25 mm, efov 50 mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-200, HDR version
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 25 mm, efov 50 mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-200, base exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 25 mm, efov 50 mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-200, -4EV exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 25 mm, efov 50 mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-200, -2EV exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 25 mm, efov 50 mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-200, +2EV exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 25 mm, efov 50 mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-200, +4EV exposure

Our final handheld HDR test image is of an antique train.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-200, HDR version
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-200, base exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-200, -4 EV exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-200, -2EV exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-200, +2EV exposure
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-200, +4EV exposure

The outstanding IBIS performance of the Olympus E-M1X, in tandem with the M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS zoom, makes capturing multiple handheld images to create HDR photographs a very simple and reliable process. One click of the camera’s shutter release sets a multiple frame, automatic exposure-adjusted run of images into motion. The E-M1 Mark III, and I assume other Olympus models, also have this HDR feature. This handheld HDR capability further expands the creative potential for photographers who do not want to be burdened with hauling a tripod around with them.

I’ve done almost no HDR work in the past, mainly because the process was time consuming and I hate carrying a tripod around with me. I’ll need to improve some of my skills to be able to fully leverage the potential of the HDR function in my E-M1X, but I am intrigued with the functionality and simplicity of use of this technology.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process as well as Photomatix Pro 4.0 software. All photographs are displayed as full frame captures without any cropping. This is the 1,079th article published on this website since its original inception.

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10 thoughts on “Handheld HDR Test”

  1. I was recently in Yellowstone which begs at times for HDR work. I used the in camera settings with my OIy EM1 mark2 and found the results to be satisfactory since I didn’t try more than 1 stop over and under. Too many people causing distractions. I should as you suggested for yourself to try more shots using HDR. Thanks for the article.

    1. Hi Lewsh,

      Yellowstone is a magical location. My wife and I had the good fortune to visit in 2016. I plan on experimenting with the in-camera HDR function to see how it performs.

      Tom

      1. I should have mentioned that all my HDR shots were on tripod which didn’t always help because of the human traffic and being on boardwalks shaken by the passing of many feet.

        1. Hi Lewsh,

          That would complicate things a bit. One of the reasons that I love my E-M!X is not having to use a tripod. In over 2 years of use I have not used a tripod, monopod or other camera support yet. I will likely set up a video studio in my basement within the next few months, so I will be using a tripod (maybe 2) for in-house video productions. In terms of all of my other camera supports (numerous tripods, stabilizer and slider) I may decide to sell of of it.

          Tom

  2. Tom,
    Thanks as always for your thought-provoking and interesting high-quality work.
    My enthusiasm for using multi-image HDR has waned over the years. I’d be very interested to see a comparison between the HDR image and the ‘mid-point’ image with very simple post-processing, lightening the shadows and darkening the highlights.

    1. Hi Colin,

      I’ve never been highly motivated to do HDR work… probably due to my aversion to spend much time in post.

      Once I improve my HDR skills in post I’ll see what I can do in terms of doing some comparative type work.

      Tom

  3. Tom,
    Thank you for your many efforts to develop the public and users perception of the abilities of the Olympus system. Did you also try the Olympus camera built-in HDR? if so do you plan to post a comparison between the in-camera JPG and the PP JPG versions?
    John

    1. Hi John,

      I started with the 5f 2.0EV setting as this was recommended in an Olympus video done by Peter Baumgartner. Peter mentioned that this was the setting he uses most often so I thought it was a good initial test. As noted in the article I have very little experience working in post with HDR so I intentionally kept things in this article very simple.

      My plan is to do more articles around the HDR theme, including the in-camera HDR function. On a personal basis I don’t have specific needs to do HDR work, so this article came from my ongoing need to have fun by experimenting. This will also be my motivation for future HDR articles.

      The primary goal of this website is to celebrate the joy of photography and share my experiences with others. I’ve been shooting exclusively with smaller sensor cameras for over 6 years now and I have no desire to ever go back to full frame gear. Smaller sensor cameras like Olympus M4/3 and Nikon 1 are underestimated and misunderstood by many people. If my work shared here helps to shift those perceptions that’s a bonus.

      Tom

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