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fredag 3. desember 2010

To GIMP or not To GIMP.....GIMP vs Photoshop

Back on track.....helpful tips

Choosing GIMP of PhotoShop CS4 onwards...

Firstly, so you don't have to read through the usual blog rants, here is the deal: why spend all the cash on PS? When do you REALLY need PS?

1) If you need to integrate to other professionals : such as ad' agencies or design studios.

2) If you have a long history of PS; don't get side lined into a whole new set of unlearning short cut keys etc: stick to an older version of PS , you can probably buy an old machine with the CD Rom for a couple of hundred euro/squid/spondooolics.

3) If you are a budding photo-montage artist, god help us, but you will not find GIMP very good for that.

4) If you are very aware of copyright issues and want to use defined fonts and effects which you will pay reach through licesnsing for to originator

5) COlours: You need to compare image colour adjustments in the ring of image approach. You want to work in the better colour "space" that is Adobe RGB; or you need to supply Adobe RAW and tif images to a discerning customer.

6) If you have lots of cash and want to feel big and important and better than the GIMPers....

Why stick to GIMP..

Hello.....it is free... ( or try Paint SHop, LR3 etc if you have some cash)

1) GIMP has a pretty easy to understand user interface

2) GIMP is a community oreintated happening - it evolves and you can get information on how to use it or add plug ins free on the internet. Alternatively you can pay for books

3) Bit Maps are Bit Maps: noughts and ones: although GIMP does some things slower, functions like rotate are fast and the whole thing uses up less processor power, onboard memories, bus-bandwidth , RAM/ virtiual memory, and hard disk space. GIMP doesn't seem to lose data or introduce "Hot" pixels like even olympus viewer seems to do.

4) GIMP from the Gnu central administrasjon at least, ensures all fonts and effects are copyright waived: there is no reach through if you utilise them professionally.

5) You have no relationship to PS and think that the cash, like french vintage wines, is maybe beyond what your abilities to get out of it are worth when compared.

Personal Aside and Recommendation

I like GIMP, but I have become more used to settings on the Olympus E-450, so I spend less time in "Post". In fact I have a pile of images from my early days which are killer but have poor exposure or need rotating. So by taking better JPEGS in the first place, I can just crop and repurpose to the size I need for internet, printing or reference.

Curve work seems to be excellent and relatively fast. Gausian blur / high pass are slow, but work well. Rotation stutters but comes up with a file size not much less than the original. Effects vary and some plug ins can fail

GIMP is good for masks and layers, with a reasonable set up akin to earlier PS versions ( PS 4 or 5 users would like GIMP given they had been in liquid nitrogen for the last decade)

With Spotify and GIMP open at the same time, I feel like maybe an early 90s hacker in the virtual bank vault. I am getting spoilt rotten.

tirsdag 30. november 2010

Anyone for an E530? E700 ...do I hear any higher bids?

Following on from my last ranting blog, which is based on a lot of social media buzz about how sthooooopid oly are in ditching the hobby DSLR range, I wonder what features we would all like to see in a 2012-13 upgrade possibility as a DSLR from Olympus? An E530 or E700 possibly for us and PEN owners to upgrade to?

Here is my wish-list for the "E700"

1) FT. Stick to FT; even the kit lenses out perform micro.

Give the E5 or later top end some feeder customers, and give the E3 and E5 owners a back up body!

2) At least 14 mpx for a 2012-13 launch. Ignoring the "space race" arguements , more mpx has practical advantages: for example with an electronic shutter, using a crop ara of the sensor for much higher FPS while still producing usable images is good for sports, scientific applications or just plain enjoyment. While on needing more mpx to allow for cropping "in-camera", digital zoom for that matter, with built in image enhancement from the crop area rendering to an 8 or 10 mpx output.

I crop about two thirds of my "keeper" shots in "post" processing, and there are some gems to be had from cropping. The GH2 has an innovative use of the larger sensor to deliver better one shot panormas for examplke. Having just a bit more mpx to work from is like having two f stops and 40mm extra FT on the front end.

To be serious in 2013,Olympus will need 14 megapixels as a bare minimum; they can't keep on trying to educate the market that 12 is plenty. The market will leave the lecture hall.

3) A single replacement for all the current "E" hundreds. This would be a senisble marketing strategy: this would mean that you capture 400-600 and E30 upgraders already in the system as well as being able to focus all your NPI yen into a camera which can perform at the price point of the D90/450D and the likes today. Oly' could base some variants, suggest titl screen and HDV, on the same body and core production line tooling, rather than having three lines.

4) Great ergonomics: improving grip from even the reknown 520. Great hard buttons and user interface: and more on that below:

5) Compact size: smaller than the 600. This is a stregnth, keep it going, stay on FT's script.

6) A big view finder: the optics or EVF (god help us) prism-hood area does not need take up a huge increase in volume like we see on the otherwise over grown E3 and E5.

7) Communications: an "i Olympus": FaceBook ready, flickr auto sync....okay I am not generation "i" but I crave this: put up a VGA sized image with high contrast and sharpness on the internet in no time. This means WiFi and even a 3G/ LTE capability. Then maybe some more generation "i"s will buy in.

8) user definability and programmability. In respect of things like toggle buttons which can be user defined, and other things like combinations of more than two image storage types. Also complete user definable modes which can be selected very quickly: for example, user defined output for web ( as in 7) with a high contrast, highly sharpened VGA image output. Sports, with a default range of 30-50m, IS on, high ISO and highest available shutter speed and FPS. BW mode, tripod mode and so on and so on.

I have taken some torturous routes to customise the 450, see previous blogs, for things like fill in flash one touch which are a pain! Also being able to set output to a prefered image treatment: sharp, high contrast, colour balanced etc, even curve work which can be optimised in post and then back programmed into the camera as an option or like a third JPEG output.

9) Improved AF; focal range locking ; much better C-AF and the option for traditional ground glass-split prism manual focusing as an upgrade/ version of the camera: why not?. There is just too much good OM glass and other usable stuff from the SLR boom of the 1980s lying around! Focal range lock would be a useful short cut to getting more performance out of the current rather simple AF system, and would help live view immensely.

10 ) Touch Screen - Button User Interface picking up on 8 and 9 and 7, 6, 4........a really good user interface, in both hard buttons and a touch screen. . Simple things like pinch zooming in LiveView and Playback, double click-touch to select focus target, two wheels, a "super toggle" button for the right thumb to get onto easily. A front mounted focus range lock toggle button. Focus hard lock with a simple means to do this for fingers off waiting for the subjec to come into shot....As in 8, the abiloty to communicate directly, and programme the camera from a laptop while retaining other settings or defaults as a fall back.

Shape and Package

All this in a sub 1000USD body....throw in a new kit lens with f2.8 performance.....and do that 100 f2.0.... I don't need a flip screen or video...make those later upgrades or a G2/GH2 set up, the same camera basically, two different OSs so to speak.

The WIfi or maybe just the 3G could be put in the extra battery and features "drive" which would plug into the base. This could also have an SSD drive with a SATA cable.....more SD ports....okay it would be cash to splash, but a good upgrade. Even the thin iPod touch and most slim smart phones have WiFi so why not us?

Another market such a camera would address, apart from E400-600 upgraders and new buyers, would be E5 owners (E6 by then?) looking for a back up body, or actually considering the camera as a feature-pack and mpx upgrade. Of course, PEN users would see this as an upgrade and need to start buying new glass, while keeping their PENs as back up/travel camera.

The deployment of an EVF would be difficult for many, and given it needs to stay full FT, a bit of an irrelevancy without some ehanced benefits in this feature anyway.

Olympus: ask a thousand users to consider various options, mine are just the obvious ones above, and then come back to them with a MOSCOW purchasing regime: what MUST they have, should and would. Coupled to a high intent to upgrade from Ex00s and other marques, this would be using ears to the market.

What is Happening to Olympus's Ear to the Market?

What will Olympus do next ?

Do their won strategists think that the company can attract endless new customers to the muFT format, while watching the ordinary mortals, with less than top end E cameras, migrate with smiling faces to micro FT? Which fairy tale writer gave them this PR to spin?

Take 2: Disposses the E "hundred" owners and leave the top end with no grass roots recruitment to FT, making it an ever decreasing circle...this is the wicked stepmothers take on this supposed strategy.

Or will they hedge-their-bets and keep a foot in the sub pro level DSLR segment ?

What They Say Themselves

What Olympus have said in several interviews is that the current DSLR users in the 400-600 and 30 range will have an eventual "upgrade" route in a muFT camera which will 1) have a satisfactory EVF 2) take nearly all the legacy glass from FT.

In reality this could mean than low-and-behold, Olympus in 2012 Q4 launch the wonderful new......G1-like-hybrid....... er , sorry it may not be as good as the G1 and it will not be near the G2/GH2 in anything but the lenses.

We hundred users are paniking and saying "no way, PEN is a DOWNGRADE from a DSLR"

Marketing ? Eyes but not Ears

Olympus are not currently a market oriented company in their camera division it seems: they are innovation and product centred, and while setting themselves commendable quality goals against other manufacturers, the customer is somewhat lost in there. They have got very lucky with the idea of a retro-style muFT camera range in a compact size being accepted in the market, especially at the premium pricing they demand for it.

However earlier DSLR innovations like IS and sonic dust control, were never successful brand builders for Olympus. Perhaps the punters saw the features as "un proven gimmicks", they certainly did not achieve any core value creation in the wide market for the Olympus E brand.Or perhaps the punters just did not see Olympus!

It looks like the "hundred" range cameras are a copy strategy in tyring to compete on many price-value points with "CaNikon" rather than actually finding a fast expanding customer need and resulting happy niche or early explosive sector.

The style / size with DSLR quality in the current PEN series with its high price-pingosition, is a very exposed place: at the top end you have a new Fuji and Leica options, while you also compete with the GH2/G2 and the non view finder lumix mFT cameras. Now Sony and Samsung, while Canon are just around the corner with a system-compact. So far Olympus have been in a good place they can thirve in with PEN at 12 mpx, but soon they will be fighting it out on the "wallmart" or "dixons" shop floor on mpx number with the spotty "youffs" selling the system compact cameras at various outlets knowing >mpx=quality therefore sale!

Thinking of an Marketing Strategy?

Who is going to buy their FT hundred range camera?

Current upgraders?

In going muFT, we have slower lenses that are relatively more expensive. Not all the Zuiko FT will work well on the mirrorless little sister. Most of the glass will be darn chunky too of course, on the little PEN bodies. For 520 owners in particular, gone are the ergonomics , when looking at the PEN bodies so far.

For we upgraders on E300 to 600 cameras looking to buy in 2011 to 2013, PEN is a downgrade and as commented, the expectation of an EVF camera would be delivering something Panasonic did last year.

New Customers?

Well, for new-to-brand punters, Olympus will have all the other compact system cameras to compete with, maybe Nikon too will join the fun. And people looking for a DSLR at a hobby-ists budget, will want a good view finder for the size of camera. They will go APS-C and around there, with the split light and transparent mirror offering size benefits from Sony and Canon. Once again, Oly will not be able to compete with say a G3/ GH3 which may be on the market by then as an EVF "Hybrid" or bridge camera.

In the PENs' fast growing segment the quality of the "glass" will not be so very important for most users. Most zooms when set to portrait legnths will throw the background at f4 and some at f6 will have a nice bokeh at 80-120mm (135 format eq)

Olympus can't play catch up for the main market, coming out with a "G1" in 2012, and they won't get that many E hundred users, who are a small group anyway, moving to a PEN EVF. Given the likely hood and desirability of swapping to the smaller, slower mFT glass to replace their FT, then they will be buying the Nikon 7000 / Canon 450D model of the future.

Olympus are moving some PEN features and production line parallels into a new, high quality compact which will compete with the Canon Powershot G10 range, amongst others, at what used to be the top end of compact erm, compact-compacts before you go superzoom or system. Great. But why not just get some leverage from the 12mpx FT sensor chip and software and put it into the Uzi range to offer a single lens solution with a DSLR quality chip? I'd buy one over a PEN as a back up camera.

Okay, so tunring this on its head, not what CAMERA in 2012 but what CUSTOMER in 2012?

Obviously Olympus have had their eye on the asian markets. Here consumers have little experience with the sinlge lens reflex : in the 70s and 80s it was only a tiny proportion of many populations who could afford one, or saw the value in the hobby at that level, or were even permitted to own one! Now there are small percentages of affluent middle- and owning-classes, easy to dismiss when they are say 1%, but in the huge populations of Asia & China, that makes them large consumer segments and they tend to cluster around the major cities making them accessible, in contrast to the US and European markets with diffuse customers and channels.

In the west, we are lumbered with these photographic traditions which is why the big two still have no real EVF DSLR to offer: there is a whole TTL ( through-the-lens) expectation and quality being determined by a bulky mechanical mechanism. It must be 90% of users who wouldn't notice the difference if their next camera was EVF. Burdoned, however, we are by our histories and feel for quality.

So in the east, where people and clothing are smaller and there are more theives or security police looking at your 70-200mm on a DSLR, PENs educate the market. Whereas in the west, we have our baggage.

Meanwhile, generation "i" are too busy sending rubbishy images up to facebook from their mobiles in the incessent need for immediacy of social recognition to care about FT versus mFT. It is the thirty somethings and old timers who are probably the market for the next step from Oly. Photography for "i timers" is not the hobby, social media is.

So who among us, the baby-boomer's babies, are going to be in the market for a new, high quality, mid priced camera in 2011-13?

I dare say it is people who have either owned a film DSLR or two way back before compact 135 zooms came in, or those who have a current investment in a DSLR which is finally becoming obselete: all the folk with 5 to 8 megapixel D3000s etc etc. People with no real SLR experience, film or bytes, will probably become a decreasing source of demand for higher quality compacts and SLRs as a first time purchase.

If olympus are able to pre-empt the personal product life cycle and get in on a niche which is the tip of a wave of people upgrading in 2012, then they will be in a position to offer a midrange DSLR to match those needs alongside the PEN for lesser mortals.

...and of course, such a camera would be an UPGRADE for PEN users.......

mandag 29. november 2010

Black and White and Sepia All Over

Why take shots in monotone ?

All digital cameras I have used ,or looked into in the last five years seem to have a black-&-white feature which takes the BW as the saved image. Most have a sepia function for this or to apply to images in camera.

Obvioulsy these are converted from the "colour"digital- info in the bitmap, which is extracted from a RGGB grid pattern on the sensor chip. With BW and a myriad of related monotone or tinted possibilities in software ("Post" as the anoraks call it for post photography processing) why set your camera for MONOTONOUS pictures?

Firstly, to avoid the monotomy.........or rather the mundanety. We are all used to so many colour images with very saturated skies, seas, neon signs and t-shirts that a BW image can truly stand out. Another reason is that the SUBJECT in the BW image has a chance to stand out.

Secondly, when you see the opportunity to use BW, then take it and don't waste time in the "light room" later.


Technically speaking, the advantage of taking BW sometimes breaks down into figure-ground effect and removal of colour noise: the two are usually present in good shots.

Figure-ground refers to subject:background separation: we DSLR owners like to think we are terribly clever by setting an open aperture and throwing the background, and sometimes forground if we are super clever. However especially on the Four-Thirds system, depth of field on some lenses like the 25mm pancake, is too deep to separate the figure from the background. Changing over to a longer lens helps in ranges of up to 200m to give a shorter DOF at a relatively higher f stop like f5.6 ( the 40-150 is very good at this: the 70-200 is an excellent semi pro lens).

Colour is more obvious for exposure shots.
There are different approaches in these situations of longer DOF than wanted in making the subject stand out and in the studio of course lighting : in the field this can mean trying different metering and bracketed exposures ( see earlier blog on spot metering and AE BKT) to get a contrast in lighting which makes the subject stand out from the fore-and back-ground. These two images use spot metering, and also Bokeh, but it is the exposure ( in "broad" winter daylight, with a low sun) which makes the subject ping out at you.

In terms of choosing to shoot BW ( or sepia as I have set defualt BW shots to be) is often a bit more subtle to interpret as an opportunity for setting the camera to BW. However it can be the "no go, nah, there is too much going on there....I can't get figure ground separation...the colours are clashing or unattractive. If you have thought this far about any potential shot, then something caught your interest, but your sense for composition realised there was something cluttered. Try monotone on a bracket.

Here is are some examples of subject emphasis using BW

1) "Lucifer "

It was cold and I didn't have time to rearrange the wings, but I saw the meaning in the image immediately and chose BW. The green clover and grass disappear to become a texture in a shot with no desire for any DOF effects.

2) As if by magical moonlight

This was in fact in full daylight, with a low winter sun, just after the title shot was taken. There was something very forboding and threatening in the trees with this light, very stark and I knew right away to leave the camera on BW. Colour would have been nothing in this shot, just woods.

The subject here is the vertical pattern of the trees, but the whole picture takes on an atmosphere driven by the lighting.

3) Dog

This is a very half to three quarter tone shot ( just above full shadow) and shows off the Olympus tonal depth and dynamic range. The background qould be just too confusing _ green brown, onto the beige dog, a reddish scots pine to carry the eye away....just a snap shot which took on a life of it's own, as the dog, a deer hunter, seems to be part of its environment and we are the ones looking into a darker nature lurking in the animal.

Now for some quick comparison shots'

A slight crop and this time in GIMP, BW with heavy contrast. Alklk the noise is gone: you want to look at the mans eyes and weather beaten face.

Back to the title image "flurry" : taken in colour it lacks some impact, although it is a nice shot you can "feel" the downy seeds almost.

In BW, in fact you almost get deluded to colour being side by side here, but it clears out the cluttered background and brings out the central subject with the crescent of compatriots around it.

The image on the left gives a nice figure ground separation when the 25mm gives too much depth of field, tending to the infinity focal legnth. On the right, a slight over exposure "lights up" the leaves and grass

I think one thing photographs should convey is a wish to be there, not just as if you are there, but that you would like to be there to feel what was going on in the frame and around. I'll leave you wiht an unremarkable shot which does a lot for that, perhaps reminding us of those moments when we see beauty in that which is purely simple.

fredag 26. november 2010

ISO Noise? E450 Not So bad

The E420-E450 are entry level cameras and the main criticism against them is noise at high ISO. The image above is taken at ......can you guess? An overcast winters' day, handheld. Good capture of tonal depth, true? Muted colours, but near to real as I saw them.

Compared to using an OM series with the 1980s slow and colour altering zooms, then the E450 is positively way out there ...if you have a time machine.

Today people don't keep cameras or any other electronics very long really. Product user-cycles and the marketing life cycles are just a matter of two or three years. Also, comparability and user advice on the internet leads to PNS-envy. People publish shots of the office block over the way at night, an umremarkable sunset taken hand-held, and so on and tell you that high ISO performance is a must. well to get that and good dynamic range AND tonal depth AND 5 fps, you need to splash the cash.

Admittedly, you will get better sports shots, maybe a the cost of fps though!

Get real: you can buy the Olympus E450 for less than most " mid to top end" compacts from Canikon: it has limitations: you need a tripod and desire a monopod.

Noisy Night Shots?

Well, use a tripod. ISO 100 is always a setting you can limit the camera to.

Noise in the Day versus Hand Held Camera Shake

A detail from the first image.

Can you guess the ISO yet?

A little bit of grain gives it away as higher than 100 or 200, but this is actually 800, allowing for a reasonable shot in poor light with little noise: handheld.

Shot Two 1600 ISO

The grain is there and the noise is in "banding" or super-pixelisation and red flecking. However as a small internet image it would be completely acceptable, given there had been better light in the first place!

ISO 200

The issue here is not ISO, it is a dark image at just 1/25th of a second. Solution? A tripod before you trade-in for an E620. Good tonal depth giving a feeling of realism, while it is under exposed and not worth saving by curve work to be honest.

ISO 100

This is actually brighter, but one of maybe 12 shots to get enough sharpness at 1/10th sec while handheld. The issue here is DOF: it needs a bit more DOF to give roundness to the front apple which is the subject of the image. This means a high f stop....and manual IS ... viz a vis a tripod.

Top Custom Settings for the Olympus E450

I had a couple of coments about maybe making a snappier, ie succinct, version of the blogs on custom settings for the E450. One nice enough to motivate me to do it.

Okay, so what are my top ten tips?

1) avoid VIVID, set colour to NATURAL. ( NB Vivid is default factory setting. When set to natural etc, it is however, over-ridden in SPORTS and SNOW/BEACH for example, where saturation is maybe desirable. )

2) To automatically try out three different exposures to get the best or just experiment: Set AUTO BRACKET (BKT) : in the menu> camera 2> (above metering)>AE BKT [left arrow]>3F 0.7. Then you can toggle this on and off by using the shooting mode, button on the top LHS of the camera behind the flash up button.

NB! You need to watch what Exposure Compensation you are on in individual frame shoot, because it advances 0.0, +0.7, -0.7 if that is the one chosen.

NB! AE BKT will also adjust the ISO upwards, so set a limit on auto, 200 for finer shots, 400 for general.

3) Experiment with SPOT meter AE exposure on the control panel, and get an understanding for Spot- Highlight and Spot-Shadow. Spot metering will enhance your ability to make the object stand out from the surroundings in addition to or substittion for short depth of field- It will definetly add a lot to your photography and you will capture some much more impressive, eye catching images.

4) Set up the left arrow as a one touch during view finder use, to either WHITE BALANCE or TEST SHOT.

5) Complex but worth it, you can actually have a LOCKED focus Lock! Useful to just set the focus, and then wait for something to happen, "fingers free". It actually retains the focus between shots too unless you press the AFL/AEL and refocus. The button works on-off, S-AF seeks a taget and peppes/circle is fast when it finds something.

This is by setting the AFL/AEL button to lock the focus in menu, moving from default MODE2 to MODE3 : this overrides the usual half-way-down shutter-release button we are all so used to, but it stays locked once focus is acquired: VERY useful when you struggle to focus or want to set a range for say, a racing car to come into ( C-AF is not very good on oly'). My next experiment will be this PLUS MF : ie S-AF:MF mode, where you capture a near by object or part of the close up and then manual adjust. See last blog on actually finding this obscured but darn useful setting. It saves slippy fingers and frustrations when you take a shot by accident.

6) Power Saving:

the camera seems to use less power when left ON in the course of a two hour shoot/walk. Boot up must be quite intensive.

ii) Secondly, take the flash setting to the manual method : ie pop up on button press (see 7.), then it is ON! and switch off the "night focus assist" which uses a lot of power. You can switch off the external flash synchronisatin if I remember right: this is in a spanner settings IIRC; and saves a little bit of power from not transmitting when you use the flash.

iii) Also NR reduction uses time which therefore uses battery, and NR can be done in "post" ie software on the PC/Mac.

iv) There are also settings for screen off and sleep, which save a bit but as long as it does go off or hibernate after 10, 20 mins then you can live with the up-time.

v) Using LIVEVIEW a lot will use up a lot of power.

7) Manually Actuated Flash: Is not a default on the camera oddly enough: the flash will maybe fire either on AUTO, which pops it up when "needed" or when you press the silver button on the top of the camera. BUT that doesn't mean it WILL fire: So you want to select the flash not Auto Pop Up in the menu, and then "fill in" or actually ON on the control panel

8) Set a limit to AUTO ISO. You should set a limit of 400 if you want okay quality, and 200 if you want the best. See in menu. This helps reduce noise and keeps your expectations of an entry level camera on handheld realistic, hence encouraging you to take a tripod or at least monopod out with you. The olympus E450 and E420, do not handle high ISO well: okay if grain is nota n issue. The 520 is not so hot either, but has IS so you can live with ISO 200 in more situations.

9) Switch off NR: Noise reduction uses time and locks further images once the buffer is full. All the post processing software can achieve it. As above, you should be realistic about what this camera can do, as against the E3 or 5 and say the mid range Nikon D90.

10) Choose Image Save mode set which suits your style and occaisions, especially for memory and time saving in combining RAW with a choice of jpeg sizes : We will all have RAW occaisions, where we can squeeze ( or get someone to squeeze) out a little more quality for printing, However, getting real again, most of us will pop most of our images up on the net, so even 1000x1800 is big at 72dpi or 110dpi for mac users. Do we want to resize all the time? The camera has a RAW + VGA quality ( 640x860 pixels) you can select in the Meny as one option on the set of 4 which appear on the Control panel for easy toggeling.

søndag 21. november 2010

Custom Settings on the Olympus E450

The E450 is really very pleasing little camera to use, and for me one pleasure is to be found in exploring the number of features and settings it has available compared to say a D3000. This should not really be a suprise- olympus are an enthusiasts marque, and for them it was natural to roll all the software advances and flexibilities into the E420, and now 450 - the latter has also a better JPEG engine apparently.

There are in fact probably way more settings on the E450 than the average DSLR owner would ever want to look into, but some are very useful, while the defaults on others are plainly a bit crazy: for example "vivid" is the default colour setting and it is on the verge of garish!

Here are some more points to reiterate and extend an earlier blog on this from some months back

Flash Settings.

Pop up flash off, a best setting tip: this means you can leave flash ON in the control panel and activate it manually with the sivler button on the top LHS of the camera body. In doing this, you don't need to select AUTO mode and you have complete control over when it fires: you know when you need a flash, so just press the "hard" button and it is there for you.

"Late Curtain Tonight Mrs Otis?"

The flash function has amazingly enough an early curtain and late curtain flash synchronisation ( available on maybe the OM4 or OM10 ti IIRC): this achieves what night portrait does- long exposure with fill in flash- but eccentuates the early flash or uses a the late stage flash near the end of the exposure time: there is a good diagram in the manual which shows a car either being flashed early or late, the latter giving the classic red light smear up to the "stopped" car. Very suprising feature on an entry level camera: of most use with an external and probably useful in studio to get the shaken head, blurred hair effect with a sharp face.

Flash intensity: can be set on the control panel, just above XD/CF card select. It goes all the way upto +3.0 which gives the flash a much higher range, although it is still purely manual in its' intensity!

It may be worth using some kind of diffuser or reflector to take advantage of this power at +3.0: the shots with this direct little pop up are poor IMHO, because it is a bit hit or miss with distance/stregnth : diffusing the light and having the metering work on flash test (?) would be ideal before investing in a decent flash with angled head, infra red and full integration to the Olympus control system. As long as the images are either just a little over- or under-exposed you can correct for them and you will avoid complete white outs, very high local contrast and flare / some red eye with a diffuser.

Monotone Shooting

Monotone can be set to Sepia in the Menu to save much work later, although it appears a weak cup to tea effect IMHO ompared to a more robust sepia you can choose in most image programmes.

Just as a follow up to the earlier blog on filters, the camera amazingly enough has some post processing colour filters for use in Monotone which work like actual colour filter effects: these are worth experimenting with to see if you can achieve artistic effects, or enhance figure- backgrond effects for example, with leaved trees.

Facebook Ready Shots?

You can change the set up of the choices of combination of RAW and jpeg qualities: So for example for getting stuff up on the web ASAP, while working them up later at high quality, in the menu you could set RAW plus small, low quality JPEG and set small as being only 780x640 ( vga) qaulity. This would be completely fine for FB, where images are shown at about 340x580 or the like, and smaller of course as posting thumbnails or gallery listings. This can be one of the fast options in the "set" you have immediate access to on the control panel. Safe if the 72dpi'er turns out to be a keeper or sale-worthy!

Dealing with Noise :

NR : noise reduction I believe is default as AUTO engage. This means in difficult light situations
your camera will struggle to take more than a couple of shots before freezing while the orange light blinks, and will only take one in LV, before processing the NR. All good image manipulation programmes and even MS Live Picture thingy do NR. Switch NR Off if you want to take a lot of shots to get the best one to work on.

Set a limit to the ISO chosen on Auto: ISO 800 shots in colour are pretty noisy and super- pixelated, losing TD and DR. As per last comment, you should move away from the default and limit your camera to 400.

Alternatively, if you like taking quality shots in Ap'or Shutter' priority or manual exposure,
while just wanting to get the shot without a tripod or flash in P programme or auto, you can select which mode ISO Auto comes on in, and set it to 1600 ie no limit.

ISO Auto is also used in bracketing shots, meaning an unexpected loss of quality in larger exposure compensations or lower light conditions. I don't know if manual setting over-rides this, but I would guess it does.

Useful "AFL/AEL" Button and "<" Left Arrow Button Custom Functions

Left hand arrow one touch: TEST PICTURE for ordinary days this is pretty good you have to take the shot again I believe to be found in : spanner 1>spanner B"Button/dial"> "<>to <"Test">

The test image cannot be saved, but if you are going to this legnth then you will have something in frame which is not going anywhere fast.

With more snow forecast, this button will go back to "white balance set", which is activated and then the new WB is set from shutter release facing a white surface or test card.

MEMO for AEL / AFL: a lock and load v.useful ammendment to be found in spanner 1>spanner B"Button/dial"> "<>AEL/AFL memo > "ON" which will lock the auto exposure at one point and you can refocus on another.

MODE two in S-AF for AEL : p 84 or 88 of the book; to be found in spanner 1>spanner B"Button/dial"> "<>S-AF select "mode 2".

Annoyingly, you cannot really use it as a focus lock and also have exposure lock on half way. Work
around this by spot AE or using a multi point average to avoid a particular bias from where you focused upon.

BUT with AFL/AEL applied to S-AF in "Mode 3" AND AFL/AEL "memo" ON you can lock to a focal distance and leave the button alone. "mode 1" is the default of course, and this has both exposure focus locked on half way shutter-release (SR) press, while you can "Memo" ON the auto exposure

AEL button. Mode two is somewhat more sensible all round because it holds off exposure metering until the instant you press the SR all the way down, thus capturing the correct exposure if say the sun/clouds are moving or if the lighting otherwise mobile like at a rock concert for example, or the white hull of a boat comes more in frame, altering the correct exposure required from the instant when you focused on the bow for example.

In C-AF you can use a mode to operate CAF activate with the AEL/AFL button from the same menu, while giving the final lock on exposure and focus on complete press of the SR.

In terms of learning curve, the camera is really spot on for me to develop the skills I had from years ago. I don't find it too frustrating yet with the low ISO performance.

...... which I will blog with some images of the appalling iso 800 performance of the 450 in colour images: Anyway, all in persepctive because I hated using anything faster than Fujichrome 200. Labs just could not get results, even with T grain kodak BW films. So I am used to ektachrome, fujichrome and for snap shots in ASA 400, yeah I took them to Boots! I'm not proud! Now I can get back on a learnign curve which both picks up on where i left off in STX/k1000/OM 10/4 days and get a monopod for christmas to solve some ISO issues!!!!

message to the etheral vesicles of the mindernet ends...............next blog likely to be comparison of noise at different ISOs and overall IQ ( image quality, pretentious acronym, IKnw) with some shots I took of orchids and apples.

fredag 19. november 2010

Knowing What is Wrong in a Shot: Concert Example

I was post-chating on the interweb with a woman going off to photograph a concert, looking for advice.
This reminded me straight away of a mate of mine who bought an EOS in 1988 and got a press pass for all the gigs he could have lusted for in Glasgow, allededly phot'ting for the student rag.

He always used to push the negatives and the prints, getting some very grainy, atmospheric BW shots typical of the 80s.

Anyway, a nice memory aside from a talented photographer ( Kenny Dobie MBA now!) but concerts are a pretty good shooting session and easy to make faults before, during or after.

Take this rather poor snap shot, which could have actually been a great shot:

@150mm ( roughly 1.8 x eyesight) 250th/f6.3

Comments first and foremost is the wide light range desirable to capture: large areas of highlights and quarter tones. I took no more unfortunately, I remember running out of card because I had a whole pile of "keepers" on the cards from the wooden boat regatta, this scene being part of the entertainment apres voiles.

f5.6 possible on the lens at 150mm (=300mm on a 35mm camera) . This would have been preferable pushing a faster shutter speed ( 320/400) to control my shakey hand these days and the band's movement. A bigger lens or a closer perspective would have been preferable.

This was just a snap shot while I sat drinking a pils looking out at the floating stage, having run off about 250 shots of classic wooden boats racing. It is pretty bad quality, appalling for a DSLR actually, and so here are some self C&C / tips if I had been thinking at the time I took it.

1) it is on P mode but with an expsorue compensation of +0.7 ( probably because I bracket nearly all my shots) This was careless and overexposed the shot: check the camera is onthe base settings you want before you go!

2) on from this it would benefit from spot meter on the girl and centre focus (centre dot on S-AF mode).

3) Shutter priority or Programme are best on the 40-150. If it is darkish, then check you have no limit on AUTO ISO or just select 800 as a reasonable compromise.

4) in difficult light conditions, it is worth also auto exposure bracketing shots : this can be "toggled " on and off by just using the shooting mode button (on top next to flash up button) between muliple and single jnust check what the +- is once on single shot mode. The better the original , the better the post processing image or the less time wasterd in PShop.

5) This image above is at just 250th of a second: 320th usually is minimum for hand held work at 150mm full legnth IMHO. There is notable camera shake

6) Composition is limited: here I am quite far away. So set to RAW if you can handle ORFs or largest / fine JPEG so you can crop later.

fredag 12. november 2010

Filtering the E-450

You need filters!

Yep, at least to protect the front element of your glass. If you had a film SLR or an earlier say 5mpx DSLR from another maker with different Ø and owned a pile of filters, then STOP ! Hang on with your Visa card, you can buy ring adapters to go up in size and use the old ones if they are the same or larger than your current lens(es)

Why bother with other filters than a protective UV one, everything can be done in Photoshop (TM)? Well I am a great believer that the better the image transmitted lens to sensor the better the end effect. Also it can save time: if you have a style of image you can achieve repeatedly with use of a filter, then why waste time in after effects??

The "skylight" UV (B)

Screw on and leave Skylight UV (B) filters on all your lenses, making sure they also have a thread for other filters to go on top or other accessories standard to the size mm Ø. This reduced unwanted glare and colour effects from UV rays, especially in winter where these wavelegnths penetrate cloud more than others: in film days they lead to a surprising blue tinge to winter shots, and also on very bright days when the camera was well stopped down below f11.

CCD/CMOS/NMOS vary in their sensitivity to UV and how they capture photons and register them to give noise or a white balance appearance to the blue. Since this can be corrected for by simply taking out a white sheet and adjusting to the conditions, then a UVB filter is not essential. ( the same is true of the tungsten and some studio specialist filters which "corrected" the white to a more natural or desirable "colour temperature")

But it protects your lens : it will break or scratch before the front element on the lens does, and over time, cleaning dust off will produce potential micro scratches on most types of glass, so swapping the filter is way better.

I have actually a clear glass tamron 43mm Ø on my pancake as the UVB for this strange diameter was out of stock. Clear glass itself does absorb and reflect away some UV, while transmitting visible light nearly 100% and a high percentage of infra red too. Polycarbonate absorbs a lot more UV in its clear form, and being tough ( the plastic most used in safety glasses) it may be an option if available for your Ø.

While on the Pancake 25mm f2.8, at the moment there are atleast two ring convertors from 43mm to 49 and 52 , the two most common 50mm FL prime Øs of the 1980s. Buy soon before they go out of production!!!

The ND Filter

A Neutral Density can be useful when the highlights or bright areas of the shot are too wide a dynamic range for this, ie most any camera. A good example would be wedding dresses, always bleaching out to little detail even on many pro's shots. NDs reduce overall light into camera without any other effects.

NDs are often used in landscapes and architectural images where they help reduce the maximal light areas, thus exteding the DR upwards and allowing for detail in the QTs and lower end highlights now visible through this sun glass! Conversely they therefore can reduce the DR in the shadows, extending into the three quarter tones and creating a loss of detail; this may be desirable to add some percieved depth to the image and drama. The

They also can help in portraiture using a tripod and natual light, where they have the same effect on the rounded countours of the face, adding detail and appearance of deoth to the image: too much and they do the opposite, reducing contrast and flattenting the face, which may be desirable come to think of it!

The down side of using an ND is that the shutter speed will be lower, especially if you are going to have a long depth of field. NOTE! not all NDs are truly neurtal; some have a purple tinge apparently!!

NDs are quite expensive for what you get and how often you use them: So they are most useful for the faster f2 lenses for handheld work, otherwise necessitating still subjects and a tripod. NDs are a grey colour, and available in different "densities" ie darknesses: you should ask for one which necessitates less than 2.5 up-f stops. The most feint ones may not be of use to you though.

I am popping out to get some 58mmØ ND soon.

Polarising Filters

These are not as popular as they used to be: in the 80s a rotating double element polariser was de rigeur for all SLR owners and many an upmarket compact owner too.

They have two main functions,( but work a little like an ND in outset when at their minimum darkness and aare therefore a substitute for the darker density NDs.)

Firstly they reduce glare, flare and reflections. Secondly, relating to this and general light scatter, they saturate colours. This is one reason why they are not so needed in the digital world: DSLRS like mine have a"vivid" function which just makes blue skies richer and saturates people and still life shots very like a polarising filter. After effects in software do much the same and more in manipulating the curve and colours.

Couple this to the fact that a good brand name 58mm Ø or bigger polarising filter is way over priced now, I guess this is why the ND is more popular and recommended in books. When a most open, the polarising filter will still be a lot darker than the first level ND, so stop your camera up maybe two or even three f stops. For their purpose, shooting in bright sunlight, this is often an advantage. I habitually underexposed polarised shots when using fuji/koda/ekta chrome transparencies (film !) to get very saturated seas and skies.

Double element polarising filters work like the way you test to tell if Polaroid TM sun glasses are real: light is only let through in one parallel plane through each, and when crossed over at 90' the sun glasses usually go completely opaque. In the camera filter, the density of the microscopic polarising elements (a lined pattern produced by a photolithographic patented process) is less than in sun glasses, and when rotated togther to maximum light" block", they are only about as dark as pair of good Raybans TM.

It may be most cost effective to buy a big polarising filter for your largest lens and use a step up, or two step up ring adapters to fit your smaller lenses. You can actually hold one infront of the lens once the desired darkeness is found. I used to do this with my pentax W90 35mm compact, but I think it had a non TTL meter, so results were mixed to say the least!

Polaroid used to produce SLR filters themselves, and if I remember correctly had some neutral single element filters : these reduce both overall brightness but specifically glare-flare-reflections. This is a specially THey also had, IIRC, some toned filters : skin and tobacco for example.

Gradient, Colloured and Therefore Square Kit/System Filters

The gradient tobbacco and grey filters and kits of square filters from various marks do not seem to be so popular either, and this is no doubt because people believe all-is-possible in photoshop. If I could get a cheap used set with all sorts then I would just to experiment. They come in their own carry case, but are a little cumbersome to use and vulnerable to breakages. Usually much better value for money as you could get a whole kit with the mount at about the price of 4 or 5 screw mount filters. Also you can tilt the filters and some systems allow for multiple filters.

Cokin are probably the most famous makers of such system filters, and used by pros world over. There used to be some cheap and cheerful makers, I have seen some budgets systems but there will be masses of used quality kits out there gathering dust. Hmm, i must stroll into a used shop I know!

Colin Baxter ( a name which also appears on the Digital Preview forum, wonder if it is the same guy?) was the arch proponent of the tobacco and grey scale gradient filters in the 1980s. Basically half his mountain shots looked like a "Line Squall" was passing over,if a little jobbie tinged, where a darkened sky lies over a lighter foreground. Stylish and a bit dated, they may be something I would like to revisit for one!

Other filters, like green, are maybe of use for things like macro of plants, or in black and white to produce remarkable colour subtracted shots.

The most useful for those of you who like portraiture, are the warm tone. Like some sun glasses, they give a "rose tinted" or often sun-tanned brown to otherwise "peely wally" caucaisian winter complexions. Very flattering to the subject, and they can help cover blemished, blotchy and red skin appearances.

Not that i ever used them as a lens filter: I used to use a skin tone flash filter- a light brown/yellowish acetate over the stand flashes and lamps, in studio protraiture . This worked nicely in colour, making British people look more Californians, and even in B&W where it helped hide blemishes on skin and give some more contrast, like an ND filter may help achiev ein natural light photography.


That is about as far as my knowledge of filters goes.

I am actually a biologist originally, back in the time fo Darwin it seems like now, and have studied the chemistry of photography, and to a little degree studied in optics and a l light physics amongst other relevancies.

torsdag 11. november 2010

Snap Shots from Today

Just some shots from today and today's cutting and sharpening.....the E450 comes up great when the sun is out....good conditions.

What WIll Be The Next Move For Olympus E System FourThirds ??

Keeping an FT Range of DSLRs/ Hybrids

My own contention is that Olympus are darn fools if they leave the entry and mid range FT users and potential owners out of the picture so to speak. They will not be able to force entry and mid level users over to PEN: the users will keep their systems but will not migrate to a compromise.

PEN so far have external only EVFs, and the mFT lenses are slower per dollar! No, the FT users coming up for repurchase in 2012 will not want a camera at 12 or 14 mpx: in two years time they will all be onto a minimum of 16 mpx and...... someone elses system, most likely panasonic in a by then G 3/ GH3 if they want some use of their Zuiko glass.

Keeping just the E5 and possibly one or two top range children thereafter, is like BMW just keeping the 7 series: they will loose the brand franchise at the grass roots, and system builders on FT now, and thus kill even more of the market for their own top level bodies and lenses by leaving no realistic system upgrade route for we owners today.

However, with only 5-6% of the DSLR market by value, then what would be sensible for Olympus is to stop competing at so many price - feature points and launch just one main "hundred" brand, maybe E700, and follow upgrades and slight variants there only.

Performance of even my entry level Olympus E450 far out stips that of the fixed lens compacts, at a total package price of less than the top Finepix or Nikon coolpix superzooms.

Competing in the Mid Range.

Really olympus shoud look at rationalising their range to compete just with mid range, amateur DSLRs beneath the pseudo pro E5 and after comers. Then they could focus all their R&D and market research efforts on pre-empting the next move in the market, or in markting comms on the key IQ, size, price of lenses and other qualities of Oly-Zuiko. When they get a camera right for the mid point in the market, with users who might actually understand why 12 or 14 mpx is perfectly adequate given good glass and great software, then it will be easier to market the USPs and spend more on the one model ( like they are doing with the E5 now)

The problem for them is that on the shop floor, the spotty university drop outs selling cameras in the major chains, know only the key selling points: MPX = quality, Nikon= speed FPs etc, Canon = all round performers... they don't understand the components of IQ or how many pixels are needed for a reasonable 200dpi print out at 10"x15".....They don't want to explain why 12 mpx is enough, or why you can put up with a smaller OVF in a more compact sized DSLR.

In strategy talk, we would want to see a consolidation of R&D and product lines and a rationalisation to a more sustainable line, competing with real USPs in a higher value segment than the two lower cameras series do so today. Product variants would be based upon the core, roduction line : for example tilt screen, HD video. The core product would then grow towards the end of the FT technology life cycle, with roll downs from the E5 + (onwards) and other fortuitious developments or collaborations on technology enhancing series update models or variants with USPs and competitor point matching.

In practical terms, such a position would mean that olympus would appear serious and focused on the needs of the keen amateur as a new owner. For those of us with the lower level ( this camera would probably be 600 pricing) 400-600 10/12mpx then it still offers a sensible upgrade step, and the current kit glass bought today, will still be good enough for 14, 16 or more mpx.

So what Next to Hold the FT - Oly Brand Franchise ?

For example: start at 14mpx with E5 image handling, while forgetting the video: ie serious amateur photographers: show DR / TD and user definability of programms and buttons etc is better the D90 / 450D were and compete with the D7000 and 550D.

Produce one body, which has excellent ergonomics (best in class!), smaller than d7000, also a low weight and good, intuituve while user definable, hard controls ( best in class)

Shove Wifi on it as a USP

Or put in WIfi, GPS , 3G and extra memory, battery and induction charger into a plug-in.

Then proiduce a version with a tilt and flip and video at a 20% price hike ( G2-GGH2 ?) for those who need these gimmicks and make them pay for it, not us the still photographer. 700 and 700HD.

Next upgrade to 16 or 18 mpx and fully compete on IQ and user interface with the 20mpx APS-C cameras which will be the "Norm" for mid range by then.

and so on until the potential 43 chip is maxed out at 22mpx or so, or replaced with a fovean mulit layer with better DR/TD or a split, multi sensor system.

On pricing, then they could of course sell quite a few body only at around 800 to 1000usd to we upgraders in 2012, and to E5 owners as back up and smaller body.

Kit lenses are fine and really very good, but they should look at pricing a package with say: 12-60mm; 25mm pancake; 50-200 HG-SWD lenses for people wanting to change complete system from canikon or god help us, Leicpenicoh...


Olympus are now the last of the original manufacturers to persist with the compact 43 system. It is a pretty lonely place, and now more so as Sigma announce no further lenses or probably production.

Olympus must move very carefully if they are not going to alienate many loyal customers in the DSLR segment. If they choose to abandon our loyalty by dropping the majority of the FT ( four thirds, full sized, faster lenses and system) range and believing people will just use a PEN EP (x) and pay more for less in effect, then they will find that the wishful thinking "users will have their needs met in the PEN range" to become in the market " I will move to another camera brand for a DSLR or get the GH2" especially if there is no in built VF.

This DSLR segment has not been as big a success for Olympus, which seems remarkable given the popularity of the OM range in the 1970s and 80s. Various interweb trolls quote only 5% of the market, while Canon and Nikon rule. The EOS system leant itself more to a smooth integration of proiduct and customers over to digital, while Nikon just got on with making very good cameras. Maybe Oly were a little late in, and their models were to begin with, a bit too left-field in appearance. Now they offer a comprehensive range, in the shops today that is.

PEN is not the solution for Most DSLR users

As an upgrade, PEN is a non starter for most SLR users: poorer ergonomics, smaller batteries and slower lenses: plus everything is really quite expensive.

Currentlyt he PEN range are bought by: 1) a second or even tertiary purchase to a DSLR for many pros and serious amateurs
2) Style conscious consumers with a reasonably good grip on photography
3) upgraders from earlier advanced compacts ( sub 10 mpx, 2 to 5 years old)

Depending on the market, and the far east is different, then it is probably the first group who are PEN buyers in the west. Many of these again, will be bringing in their FT full lenses and buying the adpater, and most of these are probably Olympus users.

mandag 8. november 2010

Why Olympus needs to keep an Entry Level E series

Just as I get into something, it is over. Like getting the last song the last greatful dead concert or whatever, I feel I have missed out on both the past and the potential future.

The trouble is Olympus are dropping all but the top FT cameras and also any real lens development. This means they are both cutting the grass roots of people searching for a quality, modest sized DSLR( or hybrid/bridge) and also not introducing any technical or cost advatages to the FT mount.

For now the PEN cameras have two drawbacks: slow lenses and expensive top range for medioce f stop Second: no inbuilt EVF. Olympus will now want to compete with the current G2/GH2...and they won't be there for two years.

Olympus have perhaps had too ambitious a range of DSLR cameras, trying to meet too many points in the market. I could see that throwing together all the 400-600 range for a mid priced body as their "entry" level would be more rational, given the faster glass which is proven to produce stunning results which they could pick FT onto. So instead of outcompeting the D3100s/ entry level Canons they would start at the D90 level:( a bit like BMW used to with the over priced 3 series. )

If oly' are working on theri own GH2 based on the current PEN with maybe a 14mpx chip and maybe some E5 kit on it, then an EVF is the only stumbling block for many users: but these would be users, already on the FT wagon. New users, upgrading from compact zooms by in large, would probably not flinch at a reasonable EVF.

So why drop DSLR apart from the top end E5?

Well there are less materials in muFT lenses at least, and so far a simpler construction sans mirror. They can concentrate on offering a stylish and very small high quality camera which leans on the Olympus heritage. In other words by price and margin, they can get some payback.

Now I have been dropping in some shots, some of which I took time over, some are truly P&S snapshots and I know most of them woudl not have been so good with an LCD only camera: the extra 300 euros for the PEN EVF seems like a poke in the eye to be honest!

Here are some more reasons, planned shots, snaps and lucky ones why Olympus should keep FT and an entry level camera:

onsdag 27. oktober 2010


Time for a blogg-deck: a links page or what we used to call affectionately, a jump station to my E450 bloggs and some external links if you have come here by Google/Yahoo.

Sample Images on the olympus E-450 : all web optimised, small/ medium 72ppi. Also see this blogg









Functionality on the E450: Bracketing Exposures; Using spot metering ; general settings and tips




What is Image Quality ?....Getting Better Results on the E450




Night Photography



Equivalency to the mrk 1 Human Eye in Focal Legnth and Field of view


Simulating a Blurred Background: The GIMP does Bokeh


External Links:

A very objective review , giving conclusions here

Olympus Europe Page on the E450

Using Manual Legacy Lenses from the Zuiko OM range biofos by John Foster

DP digirtal preview's forum for Olympus
E5 wannabees, sorry Olympus users with cameras in their hands.

Four Thirds User UK oriented forum

Dynamic Range, IQ and Tonal Depth Explained ( Olympus E450 owners)

Jargon Busting!

DR: Dynamic range. Seen a histogram? This is worth delving into on your camera display and at least on Olympus viewer on your PC. It relates very firmly to the actual digital data and the quality of the capture of the scene.

IQ No, your camera is not getting more intelligent, this is just a good old subjective reference "Image Quality"

Tonal Depth: this is just as important as dynamic range: given a hue or short range of light intensity, this is how many tones can be captured (and displayed!) such that the nuances of colour and shadow over shapes, textures and colour gradients like a sunse, add to the perception of quality and the technical accuracy of the shot..

How to Define Image Quality?

Well beauty is in the eye of the beholder and you could say therefore there is a dichotomy between technical accuracy and æsthetic value:

Most shots on the Dp forum showing Olympus DR etc are very dull subjects: standard test cards, studio objects or just desk foibles and views up the street from the office or shop with the new E5 on test!

However given some form of interesting content then you can say that the key contributors to image quality are:

1) representation of the scene in either true-to the eye or, a one that gives some æsthetic which impresses at first glance.

2) sharpness : usually the subject of the photo should be sharp: and when enlarged detail remains sharp, although this is a technical sharp: see the debate on how many mpx . I like many slightly blurry portraits - it is one of my own styles. Shaprness acheived by appropriate shutter speed, tripod, image stabilisation, correct focus and associated aperture mediated DOF:

3) Appropriate Depth of Field: the subject is either the only area which is represented sharp or the whole image is sharp ( by in large these two are what is regarded as contributing to good IQ.) DOF is a whole blogg on its own and can be mimicked in image software like gimp.

4) Accurate capture of shadows and highlights. The range apparent to the eye or a range which represents some æesthetic in the image.

5) A good representation of the colours and tonal depth of those colours across their hues and light intensities in the range between the white highlights and black shadows.

Rocket Surgeons Versus Picasso De Vanci

I guess the arguement could rage between the "technicians" and the "artists" on what IQ really is, but as in a previous blog on what makes a good picture, there are both technical elements and æsthetics which you could get rated by 1000 people and come up with an IQ rating if you must.

Certainly a good technical image will lend itself to representing the scene as intended or being worked up in after effects to a new æsthetic which may have been limited if the technical qualities were not there.

My favourite portrait photographers, including Anton Cobijn - the Joy Division and U2 image man, have often rather poor technical prints: very short DR, grainyness, blur, innapporpriate DOF , underexposure. However to me they are really striking.

Way Back When....

In the old days of film, given you had a reasonably good camera, there were two main areas affectting the quality of your colour prints.

1)IThe film as bought: how good the film was relative to its' ISO. it's colour "hue" representation, tonal depth and most of all the grain and noise.

2) At the Lab: The quality of the developing of the film ; the accuracey of the test exposure meter/print; the quality of the paper and chemicals, and the freshness of both.

Now we can't blame it on the lab or the shop or the film maker!

We have responsibility for the quality of our images, but it is luckily much easier : especially with Olympus which has such a good JPEG rendering engine and actually RAW files which are sensibly worked up from the totally raw data. Unlike some camera makes, you start with a reasonably sharpened ORF with a little more sharpening on the JPEG.

The 400 series do not have the absolute best DR and Tonal depth but for the price the overall image quality even with the so called "kit" lenses, is really stunning.

What is dynamic range and how do I see it in an image?

Well you see it most immediately in the histogram as mentioned, but wait up: take a look at the image and the exposure just after you have taken it, and compare it to what the eye sees. Try and alter exposure and focus until you capture near to what the eye sees.

Now look into the shadows and highlights of the image: there is a function in "INFO" which displays highlights and shadows ( I believe it is above 251 and below 5 respectively, more on numbers later.)

The key to understanding DR is that it describes these two extremes: what the camera can pick up in nuances before shadows become black and highlights become white.

Another related issue which is unfortunetly prominent in some conditions and exposures on the E450, is that in being devoid of nuances at the highlight or shadow end, flecks of noise, usually reddish, creep in. More on noise later.


Dynamic range is defined in digital terms as the range from 0 to 255, with 0 being pure black on the left of the histogram or curve (graph) and white highlight being 255 on the right. In black and white, everything in between is a shade of gray in a BW image for example.

Some cameras do not acheive a complete capture of this possible range: they will therefore lose some tones into being just black or white : so for example 250 upwards or 10 downwards. Also some exposures in the E450 will not capture the range: this would be under or over exposed for the situation.

Finally relating to this last point, some subjects or scenes either lack light intensities from the whole range: high key/ low key , or sometimes the sun is just too strong for the camera to "find" grades in tones from about 240 upwards. The same is true in very dark images, where there is not enough light / long enough exposure to give any detail in the shadows.

The relative proportions of image area which are captured in the image are then shown as the peaks on the y axis.

To capture the very best dynamic range for the conditions on the E450, I recommend using bracketed shots on programm or shutter priority, such that the aperture setting is changed. Further to this, if you want to capture the best exposure and "local" dynamic range for a given subject within the fram, like a face in a crowd, or a bird in a shaft of sunlight, then use the spot meter function. The camera will then interpret only the correct exposure and DR for that small area of the shot. ( see earlier blog)

Tonal Depth

This is actually not justt the y axis of the histogram : it is more the accurate representation of the spectrum of colours and their light intensity or saturation.

Shadows are black? Well many argue they are blue tinged, brown or infact grey and not pure black. But at first glance , total shadow point of below 5 on the scale will appear black to the eye.

The whole thing is easier to understand in the LAB system of colour separations than in the monitor oriented RGB scale. In RGB all the colours combine : all off, "0" black, all on 100% light intensity, 255 white. In LAB the blue-yellow and red-green primary range are separated and represented as the opposiste they actually are: where there is yellow, there can be no blue!

The third channel is pure BW, grey scale. In LAB you get a better idea of shadows and highlight areas, and how this helps add depth to an image, while you also have a better level of control in colour balance ( a whole other topic!)

It can be worth converting to the LAB system to work up some images: especially high key and low key, or subtle tonal range images and then finally converting back to RGB JPEG at the end. Nearly all monitors are RGB so you see what you are going to acheive when the "separations" are viewed together.

Why is Tonal Range Important to Me?

What you can do is refer to books which discuss and illustrate "polarisation". This shows how good tonal range is necessary to help with depth and sharpness in a pciture and perception of good image quality. You can reproduce it by super compressing a JPEG at a small size at 50 ppi. Save a copy of a portait ( face only) and then repopen it to see the poor quality and then look at the historgram.

There are large areas of the histogram with zero values: colours become clustered into individual peaks and there is an appearance of "super pixelisation" , box like areas of single colour. There is a sharp grading between colour or shadow areas, with contours often appearing on faces like some maps and weather charts!

Think about making this gradually better, in more detail , and then you start to realise that tonal depth is important for representing a 3D scene. Also it is important for displaying hues and saturations of colours across the historgram. The graph would have more peaks and a rounder curve between peaks given sublte grades of colours, such as in skin tones or fabrics with light coming from a low sun for example.

fredag 22. oktober 2010

A Thanks to Olympus ...even if I am a non profit customer!

I have had the Olympus E450 since late january and am enjoying photography like never before.

Like many I had been a previous SLR owner and Olypmus OM user from the 1980s, moving over to 35mm super zoom ( pentax W90 135) and then a couple of 2 to 5 mpx compacts while other budgets were met long before a 5D EOS or Nikosillycash.

Now I would like to thank Olympus for making a quality, compact sized DSLR within my reach and making photography once again a big hobby of mine.

At the moment the Olympus E450 is a steal from many internet and chain stockests because it is being heavily discounted, often to under 400€ with the kit lens 14-42 f3.5-5.6.

This is rather fortuitous that a whole new group of owners can enjoy some of the plethora of features, which would on a 35mm film SLR make this a top pro model for the late 80s, at a price less than the non-veiw finder PEN cameras from Olympus. Other blogs rate the E450 very highly and some pros are using it even as a back up body, now it is revealed it has the version III image engine also carried in higher models.

In general, given bright conditions the camera takes great, sharp images with a level of control over depth of field which would be a familiarity to someone in 1985 with Ektachrome 64 asa or a 100 asa film ( ISO now). As soon as it get's dull, you need the faster prime lenses and to start pushing the ISO or using a tripod. So you could say the camera is lacking the image stabilisation or high ISO performance without unacceptable noise. However , you could save at least 500€ by knowing what good conditions for great photos are, using a tripod and furthermore, appeciating the limitations of your camera.

All these shots have been taken in the last day, with unexpectedly heavy and lying snow !

One petal left, but no.one has told the flower's that it is winter.....

( not a clear due to the trees, I was waiting for the AIr Ambulance to take off again and run a 10 second exposure on it or get the rotors in motion with a still body; but this is just sharpened 20% and reduced in size, demonstrating the DR of the camera at 25sec f22, and the manual focus using the maginfy in Live View)

Quite good DR on a difficult exposure I should have bracketed: my favourite feature. THis is from RAW ORF file, sharpened. The apparent noise on the petals is acutally the structure of the plant creating a "Pixel" effect, with whiter blocks. Focusing in such soft light was an issue, and this shot really needs a tripof and f11 to get the correct sharpness and DOF.

I see all too many E3 or Nikon 5D shots which are boring, poorly composed and not even in control of an interesting DOF. The aboive shots are a

However this nice pricing and the availability of the three of four entry level lenses is actually not a locking in strategy to capture new users nto the 4-3rds ladder: the ladder is clearly cut off now with just the top "pro" E5 ( a wannabees camera) . A micro four thirds camera which may suit the current 4-3s full sized lenses is a bone Olympus has thrown to the press and users.

To some extent, I don¨'t care! I would invest in a faster prime and maybe one more zoom with some smaller f numbers before I would upgrade the body. I have apparently, a longer product ownership lifetime (personal lifecycle) than most in the gnats-brain-attention span of the generation X's and "i"s have.

Olympus have basically stated that if you want entry level, then put up with no built in VF and slower lenses in both f Stop and AF on the live-veiw only PEN system. Also you will pay for the priveledge fo having something smaller and less SLR user friendly! So I am not worth enough to Olympus now and they are not worth enough to me when I come to upgrade body. Lose Lose it is called in game theory!

I think this is probably throwing in the towel for Olympus to both discount off their entry level, ultra compact DSLR and look for higher margins in the compact "system" or "Hybrid" camera sector.