Update: Exposing Olympus OM-D E-M10 (and E-M1/E-M5II) Myths – HDR and the EVF

Note:  There are a couple of great books available from The Friedman Archives that cover all of the features in great detail for both the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and E-M5II
Olympus OM-D E-M10 (and E-M1/E-M5II) Feature Clarifications: HDR and EVF settings.
Okay, there are a couple of myths floating around the Internet that are bothering me. In the last couple of days, I’ve read blog posts (and reviews) that either neglected to mention or complained about what they “perceived” as problems with these OM-D cameras.
Myth #1: The E-M10 is not good for HDR work. I disagree because Olympus gets it. Bracketing and HDR really are separate issues. We bracket to ensure we get a correct exposure. We use HDR to expand dynamic range of an image. So Oly has separated these two features. And while Bracketing does limit the number and range of options, the HDR setting is great, allowing up to 5 exposures with 3 EV spacing and 7 exposures with 2 EV. Plus, it automatically puts the Drive Mode to Continuous H. Nice!: -)
Myth #2: Some seem to have an issue with using flash, generally in a studio. Sometimes, it’s necessary to use high shutter speeds and/or small apertures to make sure you get a dark background. Normally, the EVF tries to show you what your image will look like with your current camera settings, so in this case you get a very dark (or black) view in the EVF, making it impossible to frame and focus. To avoid this and have your EVF behave like an OVF (i. e., show you what’s in front of the camera unadjusted for settings), just turn Live View Boost (Custom Menu D) “ON”. And “voila”, problem solved. Maybe even create a flash preset with this setting (and others, of course).
Now, go take some pictures!: -)
UPDATE:   Readers +Paul Amyes and +Eric Lawson  offered this idea:  Set one of your buttons to DOF Preview and it will accomplish the same thing as turning Live View Boost ON.  My guess is that it temporarily does just that when you press the button, giving you an OVF like look at your scene.
Advertisements

HDR with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is Much Improved

HDR image using Nik HDR Efex and 5 exposures at 2ev.

My biggest complaint with the various mirrorless cameras I’ve used over the last couple of years has been their rather anemic HDR (High Dynamic Range) capabilities.  Generally they only offered to bracket 3 or 5 images with up to about 1ev spacing.  They’ve been getting better, but now the Olympus OM-D E-M1 has raised the bar and given us extensive HDR functions.

The new E-M1 has an awesome HDR setup.  Auto HDR is there if you want, but even better are the great options for bracketing your exposures with either 3, 5, or 7 frames at 2ev, or 3 or 5 frames at 3ev. Nice!

Out of the box, the default settings are to press the HDR Button and turn the Front Dial to choose your HDR settings.  (The HDR Button is the front half of that button on the top left shoulder of the camera.)  Olympus has gone even further by having the camera automatically set the ISO to 200 and Drive to Sequential Shooting so it will take all the desired shots with a single press of the shutter button … you don’t even need to hold it down for the full sequence.

The Auto HDR offers two settings called HDR1 and HDR2, with each of those taking 4 exposures and combining them in-camera to create your HDR image.  If you’re in JPG only, you’ll just get one exposure, the HDR.  However, if you have RAW+JPG selected, you’ll get an HDR JPG and a normally exposed RAW file.

I should mention that the E-M1 also offers an AEB (auto-exposure bracketing) mode in a separate menu (Menu > Shooting Menu 2 > Bracketing), for those who really just want to bracket the exposure of their images to make sure they get the perfect one.  The options on that menu are much more limited than the HDR options.

The above image is a full HDR image, created by taking 5 exposures at 2ev spacing into Nik HDR Efex and then back through Lightroom 5.  Below are in-camera HDR images, using HDR1 and HDR2, plus a normal exposure and a copy of HDR1 edited further in Lightroom5.

For more information about HDR with the E-M1 (and E-M5II), be sure and check out Gary Friedman’s excellent and very thorough books.
Available at:  www.FriedmanArchives.com

Normal Exposure – note the blown highlights out the window
In-Camera HDR2
In-Camera HDR1
HDR1 Edited in Lightroom5.  Cut the highlights, enhanced the shadows, and added Clarity and Saturation

Waiting Game – Olympus PEN E-P5 Release Delayed

I ordered the E-P5 the day it was announced from Amazon and have been waiting for almost two months … nothing yet.  Initially, Amazon showed a release date of June 21st, but then on June 21st they informed me the release had been delayed to sometime between late July and late August.  So, what does one do …… Get the E-PL5 and stick the new VF-4 external EVF on it!  🙂

The E-PL5 is a very nice little camera but I miss the control dials that are on my E-M5 and coming on the E-P5.  Image quality is of course pretty much the same as the E-M5 (same sensor) and the menus are nearly identical with just a few differences.

As for the VF-4, it is very nice!  The higher resolution is a bonus and the larger view is wonderful.  I don’t really like the look of the camera with the VF-4 sitting on top, but I much prefer a viewfinder for composing shots instead of using the rear screen, so I’ll make the sacrifice.  It looks a bit fragile and vulnerable up there, but it actually attaches very securely, by plugging into the accessory port and also the hot shoe.  Another nice feature is that it will rotate up 90 degrees, which can be a big help when composing shots with the camera close to the ground.

Hopefully, the E-P5 will show up in the next 3 or 4 weeks at which point I’ll be putting up my first impressions and images from the new camera.

Below are a few of the initial shots with the E-PL5.  The first one is an HDR from 5 images at 2EV spacing and processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Bringing Out Dynamic Range in Lightroom 4

I’m still frequently surprised at how much dynamic range Lightroom 4 is capable of extracting from an image. I’m also pleasantly surprised at how good the images can be from the “older” Olympus PEN E-PL1, especially using the 14-42mm kit lens.

For comparison, you can check the image at the bottom of the post, and you can see the main adjustments on this screen capture from Lightroom 4. As you’ll notice, the four sliders below Exposure/Contrast did most of the work with a little help from Clarity.

What you can’t see are the settings from the “Adjustment Brush”. I just reduced the saturation a bit and then brushed over the areas of the trees and the deck to reduce the blue cast on the snow.

So, from a 1EV underexposed image, Lightroom 4 enabled me to bring out the shadows, control the sun, and get a “near” HDR look from this photo. Nice!

If you’ve got any tricks to share, please drop me a message.

HDR with Lightroom 4

DSCF0199-58-2012-03-9-07-44.jpg
I am really liking a lot of things about the new Lightroom 4! Adobe came through with many improvements and additions, but I won’t go into those, here. Suffice it to say that I consider it a must have for serious photographers … AND, they lowered the price, too!
The above image is a “single-image” HDR, processed using LR4. Total time in LR was probably only 3 or 4 minutes.
LRHDRsettings-2012-03-9-07-44.jpgI had originally underexposed this image, using the Fujifilm X100, because I knew I really wanted to get the colors in those clouds, but Lightroom was able to save the photo. The “new” sliders in Lightroom 4 made this possible, using the settings shown here. What surprised me the most was just how much of the shadow detail I was able to salvage from what was an underexposed image. (See the original image, below)
The processing did introduce a bit of noise, as expected, but again LR 4 came through with about a 50 setting on the noise slider.
Another nice thing about this processing is that it seemed to give me a much more “natural” looking image without that somewhat over processed look that sometimes results from HDR work.
At $79.99 for the upgrade and $149.99 if you’re new to Lightroom, I don’t think you can go wrong.
DSCF0199-2012-03-9-07-44.jpg

Auto HDR with the Sony NEX-7

Sony’s newer cameras have been offering an in-camera HDR (high dynamic range) function.

When you select this “auto HDR” mode, you can also set the EV (exposure value) range from 1 to 6. This is a total range and not the spacing between each of the 3 images it will shoot. So far, I’ve just been using the 6 EV range and been quite happy with the results.

When this mode is selected, the camera takes 3 quick images with the proper over/under exposure values and then combines them, automatically, to produce an HDR image. One nice thing it also does is to save the normal exposed image in addition to the HDR. This allows you to have at least the normal exposure in  case you’re not pleased with the HDR.

At first, I was skeptical and then not particularly impressed with the output. The images had a flat look that seemed to lack contrast and color saturation. However, as I began to work with the HDR images, I found that just a bit of post processing could correct that. And, in retrospect, it actually makes sense. The HDR image was doing what it was supposed to do … i.e. save the highlights and shadows for you, such that the detail information was preserved.

In this sunrise image, the auto HDR worked great. It preserved the detail in the brighter clouds, didn’t allow the sun to be completely blown out, and also saved the shadow detail in the trees.

It seems, the more I use it … well, the more I use it. 🙂 What I mean by that is that as I become more adept at working with the HDR image it produces, I find I am more likely to use that feature. There’s really not much to lose – if the auto HDR doesn’t produce for me, I always have the normally exposed image to work with.

So, if you have an NEX-7, give it a whirl – I think you’ll like what you see!

Sony NEX-7 w/Sony 18-200mm OSS; auto HDR
Lightroom 4 (beta)

NEX-7…I’m Loving It!

 I’ve only had the Sony NEX-7 for a couple of days, but I’m liking every part of it. I’ve read a lot of “rave” reviews and, mostly in forums, a lot of negative comments. But, from my perspective, it is a terrific camera!
It has 24 Megapixels with excellent higher ISO capability, 10 frames-per-second, lots of in-camera processing features (my favorite is the auto hdr), and size…it is so small and light! With the 16mm pancake lens it will fit in my pocket.

Some naysayers say that with the larger lenses like the 18-200mm, the size is no longer a factor, but it’s still much smaller and lighter than a normal DSLR with an 18-200 zoom on it, so I can live with that.
Sure, there is a shortage of E-mount lenses available (for now) but there are several adapters that allow you to use many amazing lenses made by other manufacturers. In fact, the Sony alpha-mount adapter even adds phase-detection focusing to the mix!
The other thing is the “Tri-Navi” control system. You pretty much have to try it to appreciate it, but it gives you very quick access to most of the settings you would use while shooting, like:
  • program shift, exposure compensation, and ISO
  • Image quality and auto-HDR settings
  • focus and metering
  • white balance
  • and more
All without ever having to take your eye from the viewfinder…very nice!
And, speaking of the viewfinder, this new EVF (Electronic ViewFinder) is truly amazing. I know, it’s not on a par with a good optical viewfinder in all situations, like bright contrasty light or in low light situations. However, it gives you something that not even the best optical finders can provide – WYSIWYG. In general, what you see in the viewfinder is what the image will look like on your computer. Adjust the exposure or white balance and, instantly, you see how that image will look with those settings. In my opinion, that is very important! Some say, “Pro photographers don’t need that”. Well, maybe not, but I bet even the pros will get more and more enthusiastic about this capability as it is improved and more cameras have it.
These images are from Sedalia, Colorado. They were shot, using the auto-HDR feature of the NEX-7 with a total of 6 EV spacing in 3 images. Then most of the processing was done with Lightroom 4 (beta) and the Spicify preset in Topaz Adjust.
These were with the new 18-200mm E-mount Sony lens and I’m very happy with it – great color and sharpness.
Thinking of switching cameras? I don’t think the NEX-7 would disappoint you! 🙂