True HDR or high dynamic range photography is about taking images at multiple exposure levels. Using a post production tool like Photoshop , these images are merged into one composite which has the best of all.
This difficult process remain limited to professionals who live to click. They even mix slow shutter and filters to get even more vivid images.
With better cams in smart phones, most image editor apps introduced filters that emulate HDR by tweaking the levels of a single image.
As phones became powerful, manufacturers started to include this as a part of their standard camera app itself. Here it was more of real HDR, as the cam clicks 3 to 5 images at one shot and automatically fuse them to create a more dynamic looking image.
Each manufacturer uses a different algorithm n hence results are typically varied with each performing better at different conditions.
This oppurtunity lead to true dedicated HDR apps producing better results. However, superiority also means lots of controls to tweak with for to that perfect shot.
The slot for one click best HDR image in almost all outdoor lighting conditions remains open! Well one can say Lumia 1020 does the job fairly well.
Gear is just half the job
The quality or even need for HDR depends greatly on the landscape and lighting conditions. It's something one needs to master even if you hold the latest Mirrorless cam. Over the past 2 days I have been trying HDR in iphone5 and my experience is that it gives better image when there is much more varied levels of brightness n color.
I'm still experimenting where it works well. (standard photography texts says HDR is for landscape situations with varied lighting like cloud shadows falling over distant landscape or light rays filtering through clouds). But going against rules sometimes throws up suprises.
Below are some pics I clicked on HDR mode, but as silly as it can be, I never thought of a post on this and hence deleted the normal pic that could hv been used as comparison . In the below images, if on normal auto mode, I would either get a blue sky and very dark car or a washed out sky and a bright car. HDR brought best of both together.
Maybe in a week time I would be able to get some stunning twilight sky shots as seen in Instagram (claimed to be shot on iphoneHDR n no filters). I am nowhere near that now!