HDR photography is a technique that produces images with a very high dynamic range. To produce an HDR image, you take several shots at varying shutter speeds and combine them using a technique called tone mapping to produce the final photograph.
Hydra Pro 3 will allow you to combine up to seven exposures of a scene to wring out the most dynamic range so skies don't get overexposed and shadow details aren't lost. This new version has a 12-preset tone mapper, ghost artifact removers, cropping tools, batch processing and export to Facebook, Flickr, Lightroom, Aperture and OS X Mail. You can create a frame around your image, but the color options are limited.
I've been testing the app for a few weeks and found it easy to use and getting solid results. You do get extensive control of your image, and you can make it as realistic or as surreal as you like. If you play with the HDR setting on the iPhone, you can get a taste of the technique, but HDR comes into its own when you work with a higher-quality digital camera and more exposures than the iPhone can provide for combining.
I compared Hydra Pro 3 to my first choice in HDR programs, Photomatix Pro. In each set of images I processed, I preferred the Photomatix output. There was more control, and I thought the images had better depth and color. You can see a comparison in the gallery. Hydra Pro 3 failed a few times to automatically align photos. I switched to manual alignment, and that worked fine. Although there is a help menu it did not bring up help, but instead took me to the Creaceed website, where there was no manual for Hydra 3 Pro there either. The company says the manual will be online next week. Swing and a miss.
Hydra 3 is roughly half the cost of Photomatix, and you can sample most of the features of Hydra Pro 3 using Hydra Express 3 for US$24.95. Hydra Pro 3 also includes plug-ins for Aperture and Adobe Lightroom, which is a price advantage over Photomatix which charges for those plug-ins. Hydra Pro 3 has a pleasing and clean interface without a lot of arcane sliders. Of course, simplicity is a trade-off for control, but the end result is good.
Hydra Pro is US$49.99 for the next few days, which is a 50% savings over the normal cost.