Olympus OM-D E-M1 RAW … What Works … What Doesn’t

Like many of you, I prefer to shoot in RAW.  The well established reason is that it gives me more information to work with in post processing … more latitude in “tweaking” the image if necessary.  My second choice (when I have to) is RAW + JPG.  It’s a second choice because then I have twice as many files to deal with plus, it sucks up more memory on my SD card and on my computer.  But, of course, some cameras in some cases force you to shoot JPG.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 actually does a pretty good job of automatically changing the image quality setting to one that is compatible with whatever camera function you’ve selected … but, not always.  In Gary Friedman’s recently released, excellent book about the E-M1, you will find a table showing you how the camera behaves with different settings.  So, below you’ll find a short excerpt from his book that will hopefully clear up what the camera does in those different situations.

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Excerpt from “The Complete Guide to Olympus’ OM-D E-M1” by Gary L. Friedman

The E-M1 offers many advanced bells-and-whistles, which are not all compatible with RAW mode. And the ones that don’t support RAW, will (sometimes) silently switch to RAW+JPG (LF) shooting while you use them and then switch back when you’re finished. Which features are incompatible with RAW, and how does the camera behave for each? A comprehensive table appears below:

So, here’s what you really have to remember … a RAW file is always a RAW file and few of the fancy camera settings (except exposure, of course) will apply. The camera may show you the effect in the EVF/LCD, but the RAW file will NOT record that effect. So for those cases where the camera does not automatically switch to RAW+JPG, it is only showing you a preview of what the effect “could” look like.
Fortunately, the Olympus editing software, Olympus Viewer 3, will let you apply all of the in-camera effects to a RAW file on your computer, after the fact. Those include Art Filters, Picture Modes, Color Creator, and Highlight & Shadow Control.

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You can find a great selection of camera and photography books at The Friedman Archives.


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Setting Up the NEX-7 – Revisited

I recently read somewhere, “Photography is a disease for which there is no known cure.” ( – Author Unknown)  I know I’m afflicted by it and I sure hope it isn’t fatal . . . . . aside from my wife wanting to kill me for exceeding my photography budget! 🙂 

A couple of days ago I “reacquired” the Sony NEX-7. There’s a lot to love there:  A beautiful, black, metal body; 24 Megapixel APS-C sensor; 10 frames-per-second; Terrific EVF (Electronic ViewFinder); and the Tri-Navi control system to give you almost instant access to many of the camera’s functions.  This camera is very customizable with several buttons that can be re-configured to setup this camera to work the way you work.

Many of you may not want your camera setup exactly like I do and that’s okay. We’re all individuals and approach photography with different goals and techniques.  In fact, my settings change from time to time as my current photographic emphasis changes.  But, if you’re new to the NEX-7 or maybe just struggling with the overwhelming customization options, maybe this will help. Here’s how I have mine setup, at least for now.

First, in the Main Menu, go to Setup and about halfway down you’ll find the Function Settings. These are the settings that are accessible using the Function Button (next to the shutter button) and adjustable with the two top Control Dials and the Control Wheel (Tri-Navi Controls).
  • Function Settings 1 > Focus Settings
  • Function Settings 2 > White Balance Settings
  • Function Settings 3 > Creative Style Settings
  • Function Settings 4 > Custom Settings
  • Custom Settings 1  > DRO/Auto HDR (Having Auto HDR and Quality in Custom Settings means they are both accessible at the same place. And since I often shoot in RAW, this makes it easy to quick change to JPEG when I want to use Auto HDR.)
  • Custom Settings 2  > Quality
  • Custom Settings 3  > Picture Effect
  • Function Settings Start > Previous (this just takes me back to whatever I had last changed)
Next, with Soft Key A, go back into the Setup Menu, and select Custom Key Settings. These will change the function of several of the buttons on the back of the camera.
  • AF/MF Button > AF/MF control
  • Right Key Setting > Flash Mode
  • Soft Key B Setting > Focus Settings
  • Soft Key C Setting > Shoot Mode
  • Custom Settings > N/A unless you set Soft Key C to Custom Settings, then you will have several choice to add, here.
With this configuration, I almost never need to go into the camera’s extensive menu system to make a change while I’m shooting, which is a big deal for me since I do tend to change settings quite often.  The possibilities are so varied, that you’ll probably need to do some experimenting with different combinations to find what works best for you, but maybe this guide can give you a place to start.

Please comment and share with us how you have your NEX-7 setup – and why – so we all have the chance to learn another way of doing things.

In a recent blog post, I mentioned that I worked with Gary Friedman (www.friedmanarchives.com) to produce a comprehensive manual about the new Sony NEX-5R and NEX-6.  You can find that eBook about the Nex-6 / 5R at www.FriedmanArchives.com , plus other books about all of the Nex models including the Nex-7, the RX100/M2 and most of the Sony Alpha models.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 … Yes, I Like it!

I’m still amazed at all that this camera can do and how well it does it. Sure, I have a few little annoyances … okay, maybe a couple … but overall I just like it – a lot! Going forward, I won’t be attempting to do a professional review or any technical tests and comparisons. Almost everything here will be very subjective according to my personal tastes.

Today, I’m just going to post a few of the initial images and maybe a few comments about various features I’ve discovered, so far. Most of these images have had some light processing in Lightroom 4 since they were RAW files and needed a bit of contrast and saturation added.

Just for fun, this first photo was taken using the Key Line filter found in the Art Mode. One really cool thing the Art Mode can do is bracket all of the art filters available. Even if you’re using only RAW, once you’ve selected this and take the photo, the camera does in camera processing to give you a JPG of each art filter, plus you’ll still have the original unedited RAW file. It does take a few seconds to accomplish this so there will be a short “time-out” before you can take another shot.

Olympus 14-42mm II R; ISO 200; Key Line Art Filter

Olympus 14-42mm II R; ISO 200

Olympus 14-42mm II R; ISO 200

 Here, the ISO starts to bump up, 2500, but still very clean at web sizes.

Olympus 14-42mm II R; ISO 2500

This image was taken at ISO 25600 and at this size looks fairly good. When “pixel-peeping” the full sized image, there is a lot of noise and noticeable loss of detail and it is certainly unsuitable for any kind of commercial printing. However, it is still VERY usable and when that once in a lifetime chance comes for a moon light shot of Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster, this could make you famous! 🙂

Olympus 14-42mm II R; ISO 25600

Olympus 14-42mm II R; ISO 6400

Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4; ISO 200

Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4; ISO 200

Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4; ISO 200

Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4; ISO 200

Olympus 45mm f/1.8; ISO 1600

Olympus 45mm f/1.8; ISO 800

Olympus 45mm f/1.8; ISO 8000

Next, I’d like to address a couple of the complaints I’ve read here and there on the internet.

  • Noise: There have been lots of comments about the noise from the IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization). It’s mostly what I would call whisper quiet, a bit like a laptop fan on its lowest setting. Sure, you can hear it, but the only time I “notice” it, is when it stops – i.e. when I turn the camera off or it goes to sleep.
  • I’ve read a couple of complaints about how the right strap post is in the way and very uncomfortable. Maybe I just have the right sized hands, but I’ve never even noticed it.
  • Too Slow to Wake Up: One blogger complained that he missed shots because his E-M5 took too long to wake up. Frankly, I can’t even imagine that happening. From Sleep, it took about a second, maybe 1.5 seconds, for the camera to wake up, focus, and get the shot.
A couple of my favorite things:
  • IBIS – So far I’ve taken sharp photos with the Leica 25mm lens (50mm equiv.) at shutter speeds as low as 1/5 second. I think it is as good a stabilization as I’ve ever experienced and I’ve owned some pretty high end equipment.
  • Autofocus Speed – Olympus claims it is the world’s fastest autofocus (contrast detect I think) and I have no reason to doubt that claim. It is very fast and very accurate even in dim light on dark subjects. I’ve only seen it hunt one time and that was shooting a dark object in low light. Of course, a good Phase Detection AF system like you find on DSLR’s can out do it, but not by much. It’s a huge improvement over what I saw with the NEX-7 and Fuji X100.
Finally, I do have a complaint. I love the size and I’m still amazed at how much they have packed in to this small package. However, that small size does cause one problem for me. With the arrow keys set to move the focus point around, I find that my thumb pad is often inadvertently changing the focus point. Maybe there’s an elegant solution I just haven’t found yet – I hope so.
So, as you can tell, I LOVE this camera. It’s small and fast, looks fantastic, takes excellent images, and is fun! Now, it’s time to get back to taking pictures! 🙂

Light Painting with an Olympus PEN

Light Painting – Beretta Px4 Storm Pistol

This was another “light painting” session, this time with the Olympus E-PL1.

This is really very easy to do. I set up in a darkened room with the camera on a tripod, set manually at f/8 and 10 seconds, with the drive mode in 2 second timer. Focus was achieved with the flashlight full on and then switched to manual focus. After shutter release and the 2 second timer expired, I illuminated the subject with the flashlight, moving it around and also pointing from different directions to reduce harsh shadows.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the Olympus PEN E-PL1. With care, the image quality is very good, and sharpness is excellent even with the 14-42mm kit lens.

This image was taken in RAW, then processed and tweaked in Lightroom 4 and Nik Viveza

Balancing Act

There was a big, bright full moon on Feb. 7th, so I hoped to get a great photo, but the clouds intervened. So, I did the next best thing…I took a daylight shot and made it look like a moonlight shot!

The next morning after the sun was well up, about 9:30 a.m., I took this photo. Then the fun started.

I almost always shoot in RAW because it gives me a few more options “after” I get the image on the computer and this was one of those cases. In Lightroom (4 beta), I just changed the white balance setting from “as shot” (which was daylight) to “tungsten”, which resulted in this bluish hue. I think it makes it look like it was taken at night under a bright moon instead of during a bright, mid-morning daytime.

We all know that colors can be manipulated, even with a jpg. However, this can sometimes result in added noise in the image. The big benefit of using a raw file and adjusting the color temp/white balance is that it is non-destructive and introduces no noise into the image.

Another thing I’ve learned is that with the newer Sonys (and many other cameras, I’m sure), is that you can actually preview this effect in the viewfinder before you even take the shot…nice!

Sony a65 w/Sony 16-50mm