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

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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.

Old Ford Truck – HDR

Near my home, is this old abandoned Ford truck sitting forlornly by the road. It looked pretty sad with no headlights, bullet riddled windshield, and paint so oxidized it was barely still red.

Luckily, the light was literally spot-lighting it at that time, so I took 3 quick bracketed shots with my Nikon D7000 (2-EV spacing).

Later, I combined the 3 images into an HDR using Nik HDR Efex Pro. Then, with another Nik program, Silver Efex Pro, I converted it to a black and white, tweaked the micro contrast and was done…well, except for some minor sharpening and noise reduction in Lightroom.

Stormy Times

Got some new or newly updated photo software? Take another look at some of your old images – you might be surprised at the new possibilities and capabilities. As photo software evolves, the options for photographers to enhance their images in new and interesting ways also improve.

I was going through my images and came across this image of a huge approaching thunderstorm hovering just above and behind my home in Colorado. I had, of course, already done the basic editing by adjusting exposure, color, and contrast but felt it needed something more to really bring out the drama of the scene.

I decided to run it through Nik’s HDR Efex Pro even though I only had the single exposure. HDR Efex did a wonderful job of dramatically increasing the texture in the clouds to reveal the turmoil that was taking place a few thousand feet above us.

So, every once in a while it’s worth our time to take another look at our images and consider how some new bit of software might enable us to improve on what’s already been done.

Old Shack

I found this old shack on a hill, not too far from Crested Butte, Colorado. Actually it’s near Taylor Park Reservoir, situated about equi-distance from Crested Butte, Gunnison, and Buena Vista.
At the time, I was just too lazy to walk up closer so I used a telephoto lens for this shot. The “unplanned” result was this compression of distance, making the clouds look like they’re right on top of the shack.
This is a single-image HDR using Nik HDR Efex Pro.  The processing in HDR Efex is what helped to really bring out all of the texture in the image, especially the clouds.