Best Cameras to Take Stunning HDR Photographs
There are many different types of photograph we can take – this is part of what makes photography such a fun and exciting activity. As a photographer, you can try out a myriad of different techniques and create some truly magnificent shots – black and white, long exposure, high clarity, selective color and macro are all examples of photographic styles you can experiment with.
You can take a single photo, and transform it into a range of unique edits all of which look completely different – the creative possibilities are endless. One particular type of photographic style that is hugely popular is HDR or High Dynamic Range – this article looks at what HDR photos are, and which is the best equipment to take this type of photo.
Intro – What is HDR Photography?
Before we look at which types of camera are suitable for HDR photography, it is important to understand exactly what HDR photography is. As mentioned above HDR photography stands for High Dynamic Range. At its most simple form, HDR photography is a photograph that combines together three or more different exposures to create a perfectly exposed photo that contains the greatest amount of detail.
Related Post: HDR Photography Explained
To understand HDR photography properly, we should first look at the limitations of exposure:
The Exposure Issue
When taking photos, you will notice that it is difficult to gain a perfect exposure. Let’s say you are taking a photo of a beautiful countryside landscape. If you focus on the sky, the foreground and landscape details will be underexposed and dark, with little detail. Alternatively, if you focus on the foreground, the sky will be washed out and overexposed – there is no middle ground. HDR photography can create that middle ground.
How it Works
Basically, to create an HDR composite, you must take several different exposures of the same photograph. One that is overexposed to capture the darker detail, one that is underexposed to capture the lighter detail, and one in the middle. This dynamic range of photos should hopefully have captured every detail within the photo – the overexposed photo will have captured the foreground, whilst the underexposed photo will have captured detail in the sky for example.
Related Post: Exposure Bracketing for High Dynamic Range Photos
Guide: the Best Cameras for HDR Photography
Now that you understand a little more about the wonders of HDR photography, we can look at which tools you should use to create your masterpieces! There are many cameras that you can use to take HDR photographs, but some are more capable than others.
Some cameras actually have a built-in bracketing mode or even an HDR mode which basically does all the work for you! Some smartphones now even have an HDR mode too as their cameras become more complex and functional.
HDRSoft, the creators of the HDR Software Photomatix curate a list where you can see the Auto Exposure Bracketing Settings by Camera Model.
We have broken our guide down into three categories – smartphone, mirrorless and DSLR cameras. There are certain drones and 360-degree cameras too that could take HDR photos, but for the best results, we feel that smartphones and DSLR’s are the way forward.
The Best High Dynamic Range Cameras
In years past, it would simply have not been possible to take HDR photos on a smartphone. In the last 5 or so years, smartphone camera technology has developed drastically. We now have an amazing array of smartphones that are equipped with cameras that are better than some DSLR’s! We also now have a range of smartphone cameras that can be used for so much more than taking selfies – they can be used to take truly beautiful photos. The following smartphones are both equipped with awesome cameras perfect for HDR photography:
Google has certainly branched out in recent years – who would have thought that this search engine provider would have its own range of smartphones? The Google Pixel wasn’t a huge success and had many flaws, but the new and improved Google Pixel 2 is certainly a vast improvement. One of the main features of the Pixel 2 is its camera – and boy is it a good one!
In terms of technical specs, the camera boasts a 12.2MP resolution and can shoot at an aperture of just f/1.8. It also features fantastic autofocusing and is great in low light situations too. What we loved about this camera, however, is the built-in HDR+ mode – it basically does all the work for you and takes some stunning HDR shots using the Pixel Visual Core processor. This improved processing system actually processes HDR photos in minimal time with hardly any battery drain at all.
- 5.0-inch AMOLED Capacitive Touchscreen, 1080 x 1920 pixels with Corning Gorilla Glass 5
- Android OS
- 12.2MP Camera with f/1.8, 27mm, 1/2.6" Sensor Size + 8MP Front Camera with f/2.4, 27mm, 1/3.2" Sensor Size
- Internal Memory: 64GB, 4GB RAM
- Non-Removable Lithium Ion 2700 mAh Battery
Related Post: Google Pixel 4 Announcement
2. Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus
Samsung has enjoyed huge success with their Galaxy series of phones and the S8 Plus appears to be the pinnacle of their technology.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus has some cool features that the standard S8 doesn’t and although the phone itself is actually smaller, it is just a joy to use. Many people prefer the S8 plus camera as opposed to the Pixel 2 or iPhone X due to its simplicity and ease of use – you can literally focus on what you want and the image processor will take care of everything else for you.
This makes taking perfectly exposed photos a breeze and somewhat removes the need for a dedicated HDR mode, but the S8 Plus has that too! When taking a photo, if you look on the settings bar you will see an HDR mode option – this takes several exposures of the photo and then uses the phone’s processor to create a stunning HDR composite. Although the processing power is not as quick as the Pixel 2, the quality of the end photo is still top notch.
- Fully Unlocked: Fully unlocked and compatible with any carrier of choice (e.g. AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, US-Cellular,...
- The device does not come with headphones or a SIM card. It does include a charger and charging cable that may be generic.
- Inspected and guaranteed to have minimal cosmetic damage, which is not noticeable when the device is held at arm's length.
- Successfully passed a full diagnostic test which ensures like-new functionality and removal of any prior-user personal...
- Tested for battery health and guaranteed to have a minimum battery capacity of 80%.
Although smartphones have indeed progressed hugely and can take some monumental photos, there is no true substitute for a mirrorless or DSLR camera.
Mirrorless cameras have come a long way over the past 10 years and are now at a similar level of DSLR cameras, with the advantage that they are more compact (they don’t have a mirror in front of the shutter). The electronic viewfinder has also seen good improvements and many enthusiasts and even pro photographer are now choosing a mirrorless camera over the bulkier DSLR cameras for their everyday shooting needs.
3. Sony A6300
Sony is sometimes overlooked in the camera race because of giants Canon and Nikon, but the Sony A6300 is a magnificent camera with a great deal to offer. This model is actually classed as a Sony high-end camera, and it comes in at a decent price in comparison to similar Canon and Nikon models. As with all cameras in the mirrorless segment, you have to buy accompanying lenses, but you can usually pick up a starter deal that includes the camera body and a standard 16-50mm lens.
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Regarding processing power and image quality, the A6300 boasts a 24.2MP resolution with an APS-C 23.5 x 15.6mm CMOS sensor. The build quality and functionality of the camera is superb and it is easy to use and take photos with.
For HDR photographs and perfect exposures, the Sony A6300 actually has both an HDR mode, and a dynamic range optimization mode. Both modes allow you to take perfectly exposed photos with minimum effort. What makes the HDR mode different from most DSLR cameras, however, is that the three bracketed photos are automatically combined on the camera into a JPEG end product that you can see immediately.
- FASTER AUTOFOCUS: Shoot up to 11fps with 425 phase detection auto focus points and 0.05 sec AF speed
- INCREDIBLE PHOTOGRAPHY: Advanced 24.2 MP Exmore CMOS sensor expands sensitivity and minimizes noise
- ELECTRONIC VIEWFINDER: Cameras feature a high resolution XGA OLED Tru-Finder for enhanced viewing
- 4K & HD RECORDING: Record professional content with multiple movie functions and full pixel readout
- LENS INCLUDED: Sony E-Mount 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS retractable zoom lens shoots in stunning detail
If you want to take photography up as a hobby of a profession, a DSLR camera is an absolute must.
DSLR cameras present the ultimate in flexibility and quality and the end products you can create can be simple jaw-dropping. The following are a handful of high-quality DSLR cameras suitable for HDR photography:
Canon is a trusted brand that is renowned worldwide for its high-quality DSLR cameras. The 80D represents an upgrade to the previous EOS 70D and offers improved technology and features.
The Canon EOS 80D camera boasts a 24.2MP resolution with an APS-C CMOS sensor and an ISO range of between 100-25,600 which is quite impressive. Furthermore, the autofocus system has been improved with 45 focus points and Dual Pixel AF technology.
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What makes this camera fantastic for HDR shots is that it features both an automatic HDR mode, and the standard Canon bracketed mode. The bracketed mode allows you to define an exposure range and then take a series of photos that you can then combine into an HDR photo on your computer.
This camera also features an automated HDR mode that provides a great deal of customization and different settings – you can choose various effects and also toggle the dynamic range before the camera compiles the HDR shot for you.
- The EOS 80D camera’s Intelligent Viewfinder helps bring the thrill of SLR photography with each use
- The Intelligent Viewfinder displays AF points and AF mode, has a grid display, a horizontal electronic level, plus numerous...
- The 242 Megapixel (APS C) CMOS sensor captures high resolution images and has refined individual pixels that enable high ISO...
- Use the EOS Utility Webcam Beta Software (Mac and Windows) to turn your compatible Canon camera into a high-quality webcam
- For next level AF operation, the EOS 80D camera has a wide area, 45 point, all cross type AF system with low luminance...
Related Post: Canon EOS 80D Review
5. Nikon D7500
Nikon is the other big contender in the DSLR market next to Canon and the D7500 is a fantastic camera that represents an upgrade to the previous D7200. The Nikon D7500 is a fantastic mid-range camera with similarities to the EOS 80D. The camera features a 21MP resolution and an ISO range of 100-51200 which means it is fantastic for low-light shots.
This range of Nikon camera actually features a built-in HDR mode too – when choosing the HDR mode, the camera will take both an over-exposed and under-exposed photo and combine them together to create a high-quality JPEG composite.
Although only two photos are used, the end quality is fantastic. Using this mode you can change the exposure range, and also alter the smoothing level too. Aside from the auto-HDR mode, you can take a series of bracketed shots too that you can import into post-processing software afterward.
- Class leading image quality, ISO range, image processing and metering equivalent to the award winning D500
- Large 3.2” 922k dot, tilting Lcd screen with touch functionality. Temperature: 0 °c to 40 °c (+32 °f to 104 °f)...
- 51 point AF system with 15 cross type sensors and group area AF paired with up to 8 fps continuous shooting capability
- 4k ultra hd and 1080p full hd video with stereo sound, power aperture control, auto ISO, 4k UHD time lapse and more
- Built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for easy connectivity through the Nikon snap bridge app
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Conclusion: 5 Great Cameras for HDR Photography
There you have it – 5 fantastic cameras perfect for taking HDR photographs. When taking HDR shots, we also recommend taking a couple of other accessories with you – namely a tripod and a remote control.
- A tripod is a must to ensure stability. If you use a tripod, you can be sure that your camera is stable and that the bracketed shots you take will be identical in composition.
- A remote control can also be used to avoid pressing the camera shutter and potentially disturbing the composition or causing motion blur.
Related Post: Best Tripods for Real Estate Photography
Remember that once you have taken your HDR composite shots, you must then combine them together using post-processing software.
Most popular HDR post-processing tools such as Lightroom have a built-in HDR feature – you can simply select which photos you want to merge and the software’s rendering processor will do the rest for you! Or you can buy a dedicated HDR Software like Photomatix Pro.
We hope you have found this guide useful! Why not pick up one of the above cameras today and try your hand at HDR photography to see what works of art you can create?
Paul loves traveling and photography. He is also a Lightroom and Photoshop expert and likes to test new photo software, apps, and gear. Paul frequently shares his travel photography tips on his travel blog and writes for known photography publications.
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