The program formerly known as "Project Wukong" has been released a few days ago as Essential HDR. I've no idea why they would drop an awesome code name like Wukong, maybe the guys from Imaging Luminary aren't real Ninjas after all...

But they are certainly nice people: You can download the demo version for free (called community version), which is essentially a demo with a bottom frame watermark and 1 megapixel size restriction. Even better, the first 1000 copies are on sale for 30% off ($48.99 instead of $69.99).

Essential HDR is an HDR generator and tonemapper. It has a global and a local tonemapping operator. The local TMO (Detail Revealer) is the big selling point. According to the developers it is a new algorithm that produces less artifacts (halos, over-saturation) and runs at a decent speed (multicore support). I can wholeheartedly agree: this is indeed a very powerful tonemapper. Without much fuzz I got a very natural images, the preview is pretty accurate, and it is super-easy to use. For control freaks there might be too few sliders, but I find it very intuitive.

Update: Due to a bad misunderstanding, I've used Christian Bloch's review on Essential HDR. I did actually use the software, and I did enjoy it. These are my comparisons.

Side-by-side comparison.

The overall interface is kept simple and it blends right in with other Windows Vista applications. There is no Mac version, but it runs fine on Boot Camp or VMWare Fusion.

My test image #1.

My test image #2.

My test image #3.

We have 2 copies to give away, so just leave a comment and we will announce the winner next week.

About the author of this post

Abduzeedo is a blog about design. There are all sorts of articles for those who want to look for inspiration. Also you will find very useful tutorials for the most used applications out there, with a special selection of Photoshop Tutorials and Illustrator Tutorials. Of course there are other softwares conteplated like Pixelmator, Fireworks, and web design tutorials.