Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

Processing Olympus Pen EP-3 ORF with Adobe Camera Raw 6.5 (RC)

Adobe Labs just announced the release of Lightroom 3.5 Release Candidate which brings third party processing of files on the Olympus Pen EP-3 ORF images. Although this isn't a Final Candidate or a Golden Release, it's about the only alternative for the Pen users that makes sense. I tried a few other processors like SILKYPIX which doesn't really offer much more over the included Olympus Viewer 2 software (although it is slightly better is also almost $400 USD).

I am also waiting for DxO Labs to update DxO Optics Pro to complete this comparison which should be arriving any day now (usually they are ahead of Adobe, but looks like they were beaten to the punch for a change). Regardless, it is more important to point out the differences of using the right processor to get the most out of your RAW images out of your camera.

The PEN is not a spectacular high ISO camera, but it doesn't mean it still can't do it. I did this processing comparison with ISO 2500 images as it's the highest ISO setting you can choose before they pushed in the ISO expansion modes. The images are not meant to demonstrate how well the Pen handles high ISO, but to show the differences with JPG, Olympus software and Adobe Camera RAW.

ACR/JPG/ORF Comparison

Definitely see the differences of in camera JPG and the Olympus provided raw processor. The colour moire noise is still very present (you can really spot it in the gray card where traces of yellow and green are showing up).

Olympus Viewer 2 processed ORF
Olympus Viewer 2 Processed ORF file.
Big differences are seen in the recently RC release of ACR 6.5. Noise is cleaned up very well here, and control of colour moire noise is very apparent. Also ACR does a better job of preserving details. The tea pot certainly retains much of the delicate details that are lost in both the JPG and Olympus Viewer 2 processed files.

In Camera JPG. Colour is more accurate with the JPG file for some reason.
Like choosing the right lab to process your film images, it's also important to choose the right software to process your digital images. This doesn't definitively show that ACR/Lightroom is the best solution, but it shows that alternatives can provide much better image control than the stock software. Keeping in mind that Lightroom is $299 USD retail, there are plenty of reasons to pay for software that provides better workflow options, speedier processing, and of course higher quality images. DxO Optics when it comes out with an update will also provide another level of quality, but regardless, don't always think that the manufacturers provide the best software out of the box.

ACR Processed ORF
Adobe Camera Raw 6.5 processed image. Better colour control, more details and noise control.
Even if you don't use the software, sometimes the in camera JPG files provide better processing than the RAW files themselves. However the key is the loss of dynamic range and the leverage you lose to edit your images later. But for the layman, this is often the easiest and simplest solution, supporting the idea that sometimes RAW files are not necessarily the best solution for most people.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

135 format vs Four Thirds

This might seem like a silly or unfair comparison, but I decided to pit the 5Dmk2 with the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 50mm f/1.7 lens vs the Olympus Pen E-P3 with the Leica Summilux 25mm F/1.4.

Of course there's going to be some differences in the crop to DoF rendering in the background, but in reality, the Pen holds it's own well especially with the Leica lens on it.

E-P3 vs 5Dmk2
Olympus E-P3 with Leica 25mm F/1.4

Both systems render colour really well, and both lenses have wonderful background blur. The micro contrast on the Leica is much nicer, and being that the Carl Zeiss is a manual focus lens, takes more time to focus. Because the Pen's background blur looks more like an F/2.8 the advantage goes to the 5D in this regards.

E-P3 vs 5Dmk2
View on Black
Canon EOS 5D Mark II with the Carl Zeiss Sonnar F/1.7
Frankly though, considering the 5Dmk2 with this lens is still double the price of the Pen with the Leica lens the question for others should be is this worth enough of a difference to them?

Certainly the 5D to me still wins me over in regards to subject isolation, but the Pen isn't all that far behind. There's another Micro Four Thirds lens out there that might render the background closer to the Carl Zeiss (the Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95) but like 50 F/1.2 lenses and faster, they usually suffer from LoCA, soft images and other issues. These kinds of issues might render the wide aperture benefits a little pointless, but regardless it does mean manufacturers can make fast lenses for smaller sensors that gives the same look and feel of it's bigger cousins. 

Frankly the Leica's micro contrast really makes this combination a super sharp portrait combination.

Even though this might be a comparison of apples to oranges, it does give some perspective that a compact body can be a strong contender to replace a big bag of large equipment. It would be much easier to run an event carrying only the 5Dmk2 with the 70-200 F/2.8 and the Pen with the Leica 25 F/2.8. Both would give me all the available light shooting that I could ever want and maybe more (with a shutter speed that is half of what I could get on the 5Dmk2 with equivalent F/2.8 DoF which is a huge benefit in my books while one struggles in the dark at F/2.8 my F/1.4 will work just fine.).