Edit 1/9/13 - Added Luxrender test of the same scene.
Just a test see how well Blender's (in-progress) Cycles render engine stacks up against the (somewhat more expensive) Mental Ray... and how Luxrender beats them both.
MR is standard in Softimage, and a very popular renderer for Max and Maya as well... since Autodesk owns them all, and MR works very well, it's probably one of the most used render engines out there.
Then there's Blender Cycles... still in progress, a GPU accelerated unbiased physically accurate render engine... and it looks just as good.
As an added bonus Blender is free, where the programs that MR comes with cost thousands... and yet, they all do the same things, in much the same way, in the same amount of time.
Luxrender uses some very nicely optimized bi-directional path tracing algorithms with full-spectrum lights (allowing for real dispersion and prismatic effects) to quickly render true-to-life images. You can even choose real world film stock and actual real world lights inside the render engine to exactly match the real world conditions (and that's a lot of real!).
For any 3D work dependent on realism (as so many of them are), having an accurate model of how light actually works is pretty important, and the subtleties of reflected and refracted light is often critical to making a group of digital objects feel like they are real, solid, and sharing the same space.
Here's hoping all of these renders have fooled you into thinking these are all real objects in a real box with a real light on top... and just take a moment to realize one of these renders "cost" thousands of dollars... and the other two were "free".