There are a lot of good render engines available for Blender nowadays, and we can read a lot of different opinions, so I decided to make my own simple scene to test render engines, and share my thoughts here. The goal is to do comparisons between Cycles, EEVEE, RadeonProRender, Luxcore, Renderman, Octane… It might take me a whole year to do them all so don’t be too impatient
I don’t want to compare only render times, but also workflows and actual work time to get to somewhere I’m satisfied with realism.
HDRI lighting only for this first test, shadow catcher workflow, 4k rendering.
No grading outside of White balancing, only a few lens effects (vignetting, distortion, fringing) and film grain added in Blender Compositor.
GPU: Maxwell Titan X 12GB VRAM
Porsche by Karol Miklas
Starting with Cycles and EEVEE:
- Realtime workflows, fastest workflow, WYSIWYG
- Render time: 15 seconds render including compositing (6 seconds)
- Quality can be great, I actually prefer some aspects of the render more than Cycles
- Material settings and nodes are very powerful.
- Great Shadow catcher trick with no compositing required. The final image is what I see in the viewport.
- Control over the position of the reflection capture point gives more control over the reflection results
- Lighting setup requires a bit of work.
- Probably good enough for this simple scene, but the current vanilla Indirect lighting is not usable for most scenes. Sampling probes should be ignored if inside geometry instead of rendering black splotches, irradiance smoothing is not enough to get rid of some weird probe information.
Waiting for SDFGI + SSGI to fix all that.
- Having to rebake all reflections every time you adjust the reflection volume is painful.
- Realtime workflows: I do a lot in EEVEE, and then Cycles X viewport performance is so good that I get almost realtime pathtracing results.
- Materials are easy to use (Principled), or flexible when needed.
- Render time: 3’45 minutes with E-Cycles CUDA. This is honestly great on a 5 years old GPU. I didn’t spend time to improve it as this is definitely fast enough for me, considering it’s rendering and compositing 3 viewlayers as well.
- Shadow catcher workflow requires compositing, also required some contrast adjustments as shadows felt too light. This made everything more complex, also for the glass coloring the background.
- Reflections look a little hazy compared to the EEVEE preview. I know that EEVEE and Cycles render reflections differently, but this is something to keep in mind when tweaking materials (I kept Principled with Specular at 0.5 on purpose).
- Memory issues in general because of the 16K HDRI. Uses 12.4GB of VRAM, I sometimes had to restart Blender to flush it. Cycles needs Tiled EXR and mipmapping.
- Memory issues with Cycles X, I was not able to render the final image with it.