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onsdag 21. september 2011

BW Grain Experiments in GIMP for JPEG Images From the E450 Olympus DSLR

Black and white images out of the camera can be dissappointing, and even more so when they are "monotonised" or de-saturated from colour shots. There are several very comprehensive bloggs and chapters in books about getting effects which mimmick some of the classic photo journalist and artistic shots from the hey days of ilford fp5!

In this blogg I will offer a simplified, very quick approach to adding a corn or heavy grain effect to images. In the days of film, the grain was often caused by photographers "pushing" the negatives or prints to make a dark image captured at silly shutter speed, light enough to get in print. Alternatively, the enlargements were of a small area of the negative, or they used a small negative in the first place, like the original PEN crop onto 35mm.

Firstly you will need a texture background with an element of random grain and you can create these yourself at vast hassle or get one like the png file from http:byscuits.com ( it is a big file and will slow your browser down) grain-400tm.png. Dave Gandy has hosted this big png on behalf of the owner, and has this as a kind of traffic dirivng advertisement for visitors. Thank you both Petteri S, and Dave G . for allowing this to be shared.

This particular image has some "Hairs" on it and is actually quite a fine grain. It is like an ISO 400 film I beleive, and at that level of "push" in BW you don't get the real effect- a half way house between sharp, natural textrure and impressionable grain.

1) Open and Adjust the Grain Image to Corny-ness, size and Orientation.

So the thing to do is then open this in GIMP and then clip out a section to be rescaled and therefore have more visible corn. The grain 400 png is about a 20mpx scan, landscape so you need to go to a small crop in order to get a heavy grain effect for a 10mpx image in the case of the E450.

Open as the first image, clip to between 10 and 25% of the area with the tool to either portrait or landscape rough dimensions. Then use in the image pull down ( scaling layers does not work to scale the grain once you have two open). To super impose this grain on a landscape it is W3648 x2736 for the E450 at 10mpx jpeg, and conversely 2736 x 3648 portrait 90'.

At this point it is worth saving the grain crop scaled to 10mpx, and probably worth making a set of different grain densities in portrait or landscape orientation. PNG is fine, but an xcf layer ( gimp's own bitmap with extended information on process) is as good or it can be okay as a jpeg.

2) Open The Image You Want Grain / BW onto as a Layer

Gimp seems to detect that the png layer is monotone and converts the incoming jpeg from colour to BW automatically: but if it does not in your case / version /universe then you can just select that layer alone and choose - desaturate - from the colour pull down.

If it is not open already, use CTRL-L to open the layers dialogue box.

3) Adjust your image layer tonal curve

If you are au fais with using the tonal curve adjustment then you should adjust the contrast upwards in that way, and also see if there is some quality of the image to be gained in the individual R-G_B channels. If you are a simple mortal just into GIMP and no more, then use contrast slider until you like the image.

The image will lose a bit of contrast and brightens when the grain layer is merged in, so you need to experiment and make sure you are looking at the layers properly: image on top of grain background, both "eyes" on in the dialogue showing they are both visible when you want to see the combined effect, and only the image is visible when you adjust that alone.

3) Adjust opaicity or use - Grain Merge -

This is the reverse of transparency. 95% is then only 5% see-through. Adjust this using first the "Normal" selection in the mini pull down on the Layers Dialogue window.

As stated you will lose some contrast which you then have to compensate for, and you may eventually need to darken or lighten the grain layer in order to get the desired texture.

You can then experiment with all this, but GIMP has done much of the job for you in mergign texture without altering the contrast too much, employed via the same pull down, quite far down the list you will find " Grain Merge" and this instantly shows the merging of the texture to the image : it still does change the contrast, adding some white and grey quarter tone noise from the png file: but you can then adjust the curve of the image more subtely and see the result directly

3) Save An "xcf" File " Save a copy..."

when you are near finished, do this: it is worth doing underway too, so you can trace your work back. FOr example if it was the grain layer which really messed up the contrast

4) final adjustments.

Fine adjustments to the curves, any sharpening you feel you may want ( with threshold above 8 pixels so the grain is not "worked up"). In the byscuits grain png there is are abberations, notably hair lines which have white trails left on the image at some point in its processing.

5) Merge down and Save

Merge down is the final thing you need to do: when using GRAIN MERGE you get a perfect preview of the merge, while with semi opaque you can have an issue sometimes with final versus your impression from viewing the layers.

If you choose to save a copy now as a jpeg, then it will merge and export to jpeg., leaving you free to save as an xcf and also work backwards in "undo-s" if when in the cold light of day you hate it all!!

fredag 9. september 2011

Extended dynamic range using Layers from Bracketed Exposures 1.

One criticism of the 43 sensor is that it has limited dynamic range compared to mid to high end APS-C sensors. This means that highlights become white blocky areas and lose realism, and shadows the same in dark slabs. In fact the criticism is that the top of quarter tones, light with detail, and the bottom of three quarter tones actually disappear into highlight and shadow in an otherwise well exposed shot, leaving an area which is unrealistic, in being blocky, posterised or marked by noisey speckles.

In a perfect world we would have sony's sensor qualities in the D7000 in four thirds, and there will be progress in this at least within 12-14 megapixels according to many enthusiasts who know a thing or two about quantum physics.

However we want to acheive what we can within our limits or as part of the challenge of mastering our equipment and post processing (post') technique.

A simple means to capture more dynamic range is to make bracketed exposures, and then layer them onto each other. The top layer or even several layers are made partially transparent.

The best technique is to use a tripod and take three immediate shots, especially in daylight so conditions and shadows will be as near as possible between each bracketed shot. Most all enthusiasts cameras bracket on increments (+/-0.7 is a good starting point, giving three bracketed shots). Otherwise cameras often have an exposure adjust, which allows for slight under and slight over exposure to +/- one exposure step. A simpler but less effective means of doing this is without bracket function is to set the camera to aperture priority and simply take one shot "right" and two other shots either side of that. Alternatively you can as I have below, set up manual exposures which vary the depth of field as well as the overall exposure.

From the cameras own LCD /LED screen it can be difficult to judge the exposure of each shot, but you can see that some are quite dark while others become too bright. You can look at the histogram to see if there is a large skew to the last 5% of either side of the scale. However some overly dark shots on screen actually have a lot of detail to be tweaked back out of them.

So I recommend setting up with a tripod and running lots of shots: get a feel for the depth of field ( we are going to consider a long depth of field which gives a sense of "realism" in combination to extended dynamic range). The second advantage of a tripod is you can shoot unusually long exposures in daylight @f18-22 or in addition an ND or polarising filter.

Example Using Gimp

This is my next experiment, having come a long way in adjusting jpegs in curve work, sharpness and so on. It helps if you have worked in layers before, but in fact this can be the simplest use of layers (as apposed to the long route to masking to blur a background in an earlier blog).

For my first ever venture into layering for extended dynamic range, I chose some night shots with very long exposures. I wasn't happy with the end results in either of two exposures : one was too dark and the other was light and soft with flat highlights around some nice period style lamps.

I wanted to try several exposures but on the laptop I wasn't pleased with either of the two "keepers" from the back of the camera view. However both had their merits. So my first fodder for a long awaited experiment.

So what came out of the box??

One too dark: maybe a lift would help it, but then it may lose depth and realism. The other one is about right, but a bit too soft and short a depth of field. Also the highlights are overcooked around the detail lamps I wanted.

Try One: Dark onto of lighter: shining through?

Okay, so these have uploaded not so great but you can see there is a subtle extension to the DR in the merged down shot, dark ontop of light with about the right transparency (sorry I forget if it is 60% + or under 30%: experiment yourselves, use undo to get back !)

The highlights are still blown and the detail is not sharp. A kind of worst of both worlds but the exposure is better.

Now the reverse: a thin, 24% light layer ontop of a 65:8:5 sharpened dark layer which was lifted slightly in the shadows. The light layer on top is slightly dropped on the highlight peak (lamps of course)

Now! Here I have had quite a plasticy looking "dark" layer once sharpened, but the feint light layer is merged down at 24% opaicity it unexpectedly softens it nicely. The main aim was to lift the shadows.

Any benefit over just one image worked up on curve and sharpening though?? Well as mentioned the sharpening which hardened the details on the lamps, balcony, woodwork etc would be too intrusive while the image with the best DOF viz the darker, if chosen would become noisy and dull when lifted so much!!

I have heard of layers being used from negatives in the dark room, suppositioning several exposures onto one paper. And of course it is the origin of the colour process!

So I am pretty pleased and once again I feel a little of the magic that people had 30 years ago and longer when an image would appear out the baths magically.

Here is the image larger below because I can see the compression is killing the IQ : however you can see what I mean above in all the shots.

fredag 2. september 2011

Mu Ft y

Well I am disappointed that sony is going over the top in spec and price for the NEX 7 while Nikon look like following Pentax into an early grave with limited, price point competing interchangeable lens cameras.

What do I like about mFT?

Same things I like about FT- size, entusiast spec in controls and menus, expandability

Then there is : expandability..in 2020....the range of bodies, the new choice

-ve? CDAF ?? the range of new cameras...will I miss out on IR laser range finding which will be PDAF quality if i buy the flavour of next week? or built in EVF?

Sensor quality gap: will it be worth it? I mean a d7000 for 'serious' thought out shots and a ZX1 for walk around shots capable of wowing or sligjhtly impressing people on Facebook?

PRICE of decent kit. The price per f stop has to come down!

Unfortunetly Nikon isn't going APSC or a crop onto their 16mpx chips set up to say 12. They are allegedly doing a small sensor and a slow mega zoom according to the rumour mill. Bummer . Panolyeiaca will feel no pressure to do anything more than the EPM 3 and maybe an entry level from panny.

mFT is an annoying premium market: you pay more for less: slower lenses by in large, and more per f stop under f3 than FT or sony for example. They use less materials, which is probably one reason they went FT rather than APSC or of course FF . Oly would have been well served with a manual FF based on OM lenses sans autofocus as a serious pro, top am' cam'. But they struggled to make margin out the top line from the OM2 apparently and made cheaper lenses after y2.

The japanese engineers have been at it since the 1950s: compete on size-miniaturise and use mechatronics to employ less labour per part and less materials too.

For me the cash on the lenses which flatter the body is just too difficult. I mean if they had a killer 12-40 f2-2.8 and a 40-150 f3.5-4 I would be happy to buy a complete system. Then I'd have the OPTION of the 45mm f1.8, not feel the necessity for faster glass.

søndag 28. august 2011

The micro FT proff' camera?

Olympus seem to be spitting out new PEN models faster than a sausage machine so god knows how their product & project managers cope with endless change-? Panasonic too, have a fairly meteoric rate of upgrades to both G and GF cameras.

But when will there be a higher end micro four thirds camera from these two?

Olympus stole the limelight again with the faster((sub f2) fixed focal legnth lenses, then Panasonic came out with a super thin kit zoom, optimised for size and actuall HD video uptake.

Crystal Balling First over the Line

I would think Olympus will beat panny because they will coincide the launch of their pro "short" zoom, starting at 12mm and ending somewhere 40 to 60mm, f2.8-4 I dare say. They would then launch this with a pro level body if you ask me, and thus beat panasonics two "fast" 12-35 and 35-14x mm .

At this time then olympus will have the two fast primes, the walk around 14.150 and perhaps a fixed telefoto (200 f 2.8) : anyway we would expect them perhaps to make a grip extension body to be able to handle up to this size from the ZD shg range in full four thirds: remember compared to DSLR APSC and NEX lenses, these are still quite compact and fast enough for most anyone who doesn't want silicon wafer layer thin depth of field.

SO basically they will have all the lenses, and just need to decide to take on board all the e1, e3 and e5 users with a body which will take the big lenses of FT.

Form and Fucntion

In effect, if they choose this route, the camera will NOT be a PEN PRo but rather a camera between E620 and E5. THis will probably be about the size of the samsung NXs but with something special ergonomically, either out the box or with the "strap on" approach which has now reared is potentialy ugly head on the PEN EP3.

In fact though, if it is to be a pro level camera, with a value-added electronic view finder (EVF) I don't seen any need for it to be smaller than the current E520.

Wish list
14 mpx -16 mpx
better Sensor with Extended Dynamic range
10 fps std. - 20 fps @10mpx
2 CF cards, 2 SD cards
Repixilated Monotone shots to 24mpx
Inbuilt iR laser range finding / focus alternative
Enhanced CDAF
Focal range lock, focal distance display, focal bracketing
Focal target selection OLED and EVF
OLED 1 mpx ( 960,000 dots) touch screen
Multiple bracketing
In built blue tooth
Information rich, large EVF with extended functionality
In camera DR extended processing option
Curve adjustment in camera by touch dndrag
User definable programmed modes ( eg sports, bracketing etc)
Internet optimised blue tooth/3G/Wifi file transfer
RAW + thumbnail jpeg with option for "process jpeg on idle"
Battery life indicator (frames, minutes, %)
Option for powered zooms from on camera control
Light intensifying slow refresh live view and EVF for low light / night

14 mpx -16 mpx...perhaps with a G3 style extended aspect with target tracking on outside the frame


Instead of a high refresh rate which everyone really wants, what about a light collecting slow refresh allowing you to see a night or low light, or very high contrast scene to be able to compose the frame before you shoot.

That and instant monotone view for example, or as with the high contrast situation above, a composite shot refreshing to the extremes of the tonal curve thus fooling the eye with a hyper DR view to help compose long exposures with ND filters----for example!!

Infact you can go beyond the OVF, into showing detail the human eye can't capture TTL!!!

Also, as with sony, you can have an in EVF "spirit level" which would dfo help me anyway!

The grip extension: additional battery in built. An SSD drive with SATA cable. In build 3G and WiFi FTP, swing out side flash mount.

more on layers

Layer for extended dynamic range, colour correcion, sky/background adjustments are the next exeriment for me.

Brikk333 presents the following quick fix for a washed out sky

okay, at the risk of being too technical:

1. Duplicated the original layer, and then on top of it created a bright luminance mask (which masks out everything but the brighter areas of the photo.

2. picked a cyan/blue that seemed pleasing to my eye in terms of a blue sky, and painted over the unmasked areas.

3. That also obliterated the clouds, so on top of the painted area I added a gradient mask that removed the mask from the bottom and gradually less and less going up to the blue sky. And then on the underlying layer, in blending options, I played with the white blend if slider until it brought out all of the whte clouds.

Entire process - about 5 minutes.

søndag 21. august 2011

Work Flow: Take End Point for your Image First!

Sasuo Writes on DP Review about his Work flow and I have to question some things about this:

Firstly- in your initial run where will the image be going? These days, for me it will be facebook and the processing will be on a little super portable netbook (eventually a tablet when the software and processors are up to it).

So I would actually reduce SIZe first then work on the smaller JPEG at even VGA size: this is all you need for FB and probably flickr but even then it may get compressed further and shown in about 500x 400 maximum anyway!

Why FB , why not eleswhere? SOme of my pals are really talented photographers and everyone appreciates a nice album amongst the "brushing my teeth and mega late for work" posts. The best shots will get worked up elsewhere and to 10mpx, comparing a RAW processed image once I like the worked up jpeg at full size, just to see if there is more detail and nuances ( very rareley: Olympus has a fantastic JPEG engine built in which would be one reason for a photo journalist to get an E5 or PEN 3- no POST required!)

WHy? it is a shed load faster. However I do take the best images

Sosua writes on dpreview:

My workflow is process in lightroom, I will often shoot bracketed shots to blend for dynamic range (after years of experience with GNDs, blending is preferable for me), in lightroom I tweak:

Balance individual colour channels (awesome tool)
Lens corrections
Image rotate and crop
Noise reduction and capture sharpening

Then in CS5 (some images will go through PTGUI or exposure fusion):

Local micro contrast adjustments
Dodging and burning as required
Print sharpening and sizing as required

For the record, here are Reuters guidelines for image manipulation (not that I am a documentary journalist anyway):


Interesting reading, and far more liberal than I imagined. I'm seeing more stitched images in Nat Geo these days too.

But really as Ray says, you can do anything you want if you feel it adds to the image.

After all, we are trying to communicate three dimensions, emotion, sound and smell into a two dimensional medium and the camera as a tool is inherently limited to achieve that.

I get everything right in camera, its just how I choose to develop the colour and tone of those images which is my choice, rather than an irreversible decision made by a hunk of metal, silicone and plastic

fredag 19. august 2011

Hyper on Dynamic Range

Even photography itself, in the days of degeurrotype, was a novelty and a little bit of a gimmick.

Many of the gimmicks and fawcets of cameras, films, lenses, filters and now sensors in their path of evolution have come to roost as established styles and techniques.

Probably what is the latest of the emperors-new-clothes to many luddites, is Hyper Dyanamic Range in post processing and the latest enhanced, broad dynamic range nascent in-camera, surpasing that of the human eye even. HDR is here to stay.

DR- dynamic range a measure of the extremities of light intensity which can be captured on the sensor and subsequent image file for the given exposure. This means that the nuances of light and dark extend so far as becoming pure white, or pure black shadow at a given upper and lower level of light intensity.

What is actually equally important to image quality, is tonal depth. Despite modern digital cameras proporting to have the same technical tonal depth in number of bits, different cameras render these better in RAW and in-body jpeg. Combining a wider DR with excellent TD means that more detail and nuances of colour and brightness can be captured.

How does this add up to the pretentious and contentious "IQ" ? Well you can argue a lot about subjectivity in this, but if you are a 10 - 12 mpx Four Thirds / mFT owner then you know all about limited dynamic range. Blown highlights where large blocks of white make a very intrusive presence on photos from scenes with high contrast taken on an average or subject spot exposure.

High or broad DR means you are capturing more tonal depth at the extremes of the intensity of a scene. This can now surpass the ability of the human eye, leading to a slightly surreal or jamais vu feel to especially dawn and dusk images. The additional nuances allow us to see more detail and more texture. This means the eye, sorry brain, picks up on additional qeues for depth and interest in a shot, and basically makes the perception of realism. Alternatively the surreal or the presque vu or jamais vu come through.

Okay now I am getting a little arty and subjective about how good DR and corresponding TD make for a good shot. Essentially good DR also means that more of the scene can be reported as being properly exposed or at least "pleasantly". When combining several images of different exposures as layers in post processing software, the very best of each can be employed in a final image.

Technically you can measure DR and tonal depth as finite, and DR from the various tests is often worth looking up for a camera you want to buy, and comparing to in particular the excellent DR of the Nikon D7000 and the Nikon D3S and then to rival models vying for your hard earned wonga.

But what about doing your own HDR on a four thirds camera? We want to avoid both blow highlights AND heavy shadows with in my case, the Olympus / OEM CMOS "red spotted dabs" syndrome in shadows and highlights.

Here is my next experimental path in The GIMP, starting asap, as expressed by JPMATH on flickr.

jpmatth (70 months ago | reply)

here's the entire process, simplified where possible:

* set the 20D's auto exposure bracketing to 1 stop.
* stand really still, and squeeze the shutter until three shots are taken (that would be 0, +1 stop and -1 stop). try not to move the camera (didn't have a tripod with me).
* developed each RAW file with the same settings (with recipes in DPP), and exported to highest quality jpeg (to retain the EXIF data).
* opened the three jpegs in gimp as three separate layers, with the 0 exposure at bottom, then -1 on top of that, then +1 at the top of the stack.
* moved the layers around until each element of the scene lined up as much as possible (because i was handholding, each exposure was a few pixels off from the others even though they were taken milliseconds apart)
* added transparent (black) layer masks to all but the bottom layer
* painted white on the layer masks where i wanted sections of each layer to show through.
* flattened everything and cropped the edges where the misalignment was obvious.
* a little unsharp masking to hide the slight softness of the misalignment
* saved to a final jpeg with quality at 90, no smoothing, subsampling at 1x1,1x1,1x1 and DCT method at floating point.

tirsdag 19. juli 2011

Blogg Deck Olympus E450

Time for another short BLOGGDECK of links to the E450 bloggs over the last year.

My portrait project is on hold until I join the new camera club, so this is jsut retrospective and I haven't been blogging a while.

2011 Posts

Photoshop vs Camera Skills


Living within Your Boundaries on the E450


GIMP or Photoshop ?


Monotone is Rich


Custom Settings for the Olympus E450 Part I
Custom Settings for the Olympus E450 Part II
Mini Useful Tips

Earlier Best Blogs

Spot Meter Experiments
Bracketing Exposure on the Olympus E 450


Virtual Short Depth of Field


Night time and low light Shooting with the Olympus E450

mandag 10. januar 2011

Sliders, Curves or the straight out the box

Ever since the first Degeurrotype was developed and shared with the public and compartiots, the post processing debate has raged, or maybe just simmered in the back ground. The death of film and the power of image adjustment software, from the Gimp, Aperture. LightRoom or PS Creative Suite has reignited the arguements:

who is cleverer? Are the best images made in the "darkroom" or is the instant it is captured ? Can we forget good camera technique and save everything in post?

There is no wrong or right in this: the crux of the matter today is the nerdy-smart-alecs and the pros alike are feeling uneasy as camera JPEG quality starts to exceed what they used to be so clever at doing in post'. This even at the compact camera level.

My opinion is clear: get the best out of your camera and your eye when shooting and save yourself the time and potential disappointment anyway in RAW. It won't save an out of focus image, and if you used bracketing on a diffficult light range then you may get a best shot straight out the box. Spend more time on your photography, not your post. Get better glass with a spare time job if you intend to spend a lot of time on your photography rather than being glued to a mouse.

Are we idiots not to work on RAW? Well given your camera doesn't have a weak JPEG engine, then you could easily waste a lot of time, even in "batch processing", which incidentally runs the risk of destroying subtleties in unqiuely exposed images.

Well RAW work will never make up for out of focus shots, camera shake, natural photon noise in low light, or of course bad, boring or just stupid composition.

One of the biggest bleeting cries of the nerds ( and I am not talking Photoshop post process artists and collage types, they are in a world of their own artistic merits) is that we should not rely on some ersatz JPEG engine horse shoed into the camera. Well, I actually think that Olypmus in particular have some pretty knowledgable people in this area, who live and breath photography and understand IQ for pros and family users alike. Looking at RAW developer in CS4, it looks like it is going very "quick slider" oriented, which both deskills and debunks a lot of the long learned tricks the nerds have. Now their tools are reduced to sliders, which are programmed by someone else...ersatz.

Don't listen to the nerds: they don't have galleries on FLICKR because they are intro-perfectionists, they never get there and all they will share with other people is their opinion, not their images. When you do see the real slider-freak images then often they are not their own, or they fall into the boring or image library shot copy-cat images.

Why RAW then?

RAW is there in the same way negatives were 20 years ago; somewhere to go when you get a really good shot and you need to enlarge it in particular or present a print in a professional looking processing.

JPEG is like running test prints and making an album of 6x8"s , you can have fun with curve work, colours, sharpness, and then all the masks, paths and effects you like: why not do these on raw-? it only takes longer, and you will be best advised to export to JPEG rather than TIF for modern media at some point anyway. ( TIF files are often much larger than the RAWs they are made from because they contain EXPANDED info, not compressed as in JPEG. The latter was introduced by the "joint photographic experts group" when smaller file sizes were desirable, while quality to the human eye ( ie low detail, low data) was acceptable.)

Great if you are making money, and we mostly have to use 35-65 hours a week doing that, to get paid to sit and only work on RAW: even then your true value added activity is putting subject in front of lens.

As an amateur photographer, and not data-chained geek, RAW is there to work over to TIF for the very best compositions and most interesting possibilities from a very few images you have most likely, or if you have had a very intense and organised "shoot" then you may want to a default batch process to see which ones are actually the best by making them "pop" ( i hate this term now, so cover-all and mean little) .

Currently there are no DSLRs on the market with "poor" jpeg engines, and most have some degree of control over how much sharpness, contrast etc gets incorporated into the JPEG.

A few DSLRs are way slower when doing RAW plus JPEG, so if you do have a powerfu PC workstation, then you may be as well to batch process to achieve pretty much what the cameras "first pass" would do, just to get more FPS when shooting. This is actually a very good reason to shoot RAW only if your camera is notably slower when combining RAW with a JPEG

Finally there are some difficult scenarios : white balance is one and blown highlights is another, while often shadow detiail can be addressed in larger JPEGs straight out the camera. This is not an afternote at all, this is an important application for RAW develpment, but only once you have tried in the JPEG then you may need to go back to the raw to stretch detail and tonal depth into highlights and quarter tones, while also getting a larger eventual image output.

torsdag 6. januar 2011

Living with the Limitations of the Olympus E450

Now I am not an Olympus fanboy by any means: I rather do not like the PEN direction and pricing.

And so I chose a camera to get a little system together and was happy to learn its limitations.

This was really the way it was in 35mm days, with "knowing the limitations" being many of the same as I find, but more centred around the film you used at the time. Re-spooling was a risky
business ( I lost a couple of half rolls in winding back and one film end caps failed!) , so multiple rolls just to "get the shot" with a higher or lower ISO, or FP4 was the
reserve of pro's and pseud's.

Technically, Olympus E system score poorly (DXO amongst others- However, they test only older and the basic 14.42 lenses and seem overly Nikon biased for an "independent". ) while in reality the E system continues to deliver very good images. Perhaps this says more about the type who choose Oly, and the quality of Olympus glass, the JPEG engine and the pre-RAW engine which does deliver improvements in red-RAW bitmaps apparently. Maybe most Oly owners are a little longer in the tooth, like me, with a love affair going back to OM2 to 10

So what are the limitations, or irritations of the E450?

1) Programme shift needed to speeden up P's shutter choice: the standard programme apertures and shutters are biased very oddly to slower, more shut down settings. You can twiddle the shutter speed up by using the wheel in "shift" Ps , but this is poor, I mean it should select for a reasonably fast shutter in the presumption it is a hand held shot.

Shutter priority is fine but it will just flash when the shot is over-under exposed, and not take the shot. mode relies on the very poor C-AF so is no get out of jail.

This has ruined many of my hosts in the poor winter light, whereas I found P with AE BKT to be so good in the strong summer and autumn light : see last point!

2) small ViewFinder; this gives me issues with perpendicular / horizon sighting and overall usability. However I prefer it over not having one! I did not see the big issue with the EVF on say the S1800. I will test a GH2 soon.

3) blown highlights : known on the 43 system; but in fact other DSLR do this. For that matter
fujichrome 200, my winter transparency favourite had often blown highlights or featureless skies too. Highlights as big blocky white areas are ugly, but using AE BKT can help get the best shot, or best combinaiton of layers if you are on a tripod and using PS / GIMP later.

4) FPS with Raw in combination with JPEG becomes quite slow, can be down at 1 ps.

5) No "in body image stabilisation" , purely jealousy, but even some tripod shots have been
blurry. The IBIS makes up for highlights and poor high ISO on the 520/620 cameras...which brings me to my next point......

6) poor mid to high ISO : this relates to being able to push the camera a little to get faster
shots or avoid using flash. Relative to newer cameras, like the D3100 and the 450D, this is a
decided weakness. If I had a 520 though, the IS makes up for it. Also, shooting in BW helps, because most of the noise is red specle, and this seems to be practically eliminated in BW for ISO800 and even 1600 "at first glance" ie normal viewing, not navel-gazing.

7) Mirror lock up is tempory, it should cover several shots with a choice. There is the
"antishock" ( lock up in Olympus' speak) over multiple exposures, but it flips down wasting time
inbetween shots.

8) focus can be slow, and C-AF is poor. Olympus are not known for their sports images these days, because both Nikon and Canon have superior focus systems which cope with fast moving objects across the frame.

9) NAGGING WORRY THAT THE S-AF IS OUT OF SYNC'. This is most likely because I can no longer enjoy 320th of a second in the weak mid winter light. I did test it with a tripod on a semi distant object, but the atmospherics weren't good enough actually. I always find a shot I am happy with, but so many are not keepers in the winter. A 12-60 or an f2 prime may well help my worries, and in the first place this may be cheaper than finding a service agent in another country.

I wander around test images on Flickr and DPreview ( which is mostly a tedious, untalented source or technical appreciation shots around the house, office, garden or "block") and I am suprised that some camera EXIF selections come up with a lot of rubbish, while others like say the Fuji S1800 super zoom, have a whole pile of really good images. If I'd had the budget I would have either got a PEN a GH2,. Even between olympus E cameras: the 450 is good, the 52o really very good while the 620 and E3 are suprisinly poorer composition and overall quality.

Understanding your camera's limits helps inform your overall skill and handling of cameras in different situations. Furthermore, it is invaluable when you choose accessories and expand lens systems or like me, come to buy a second, back up compact camera or move system.

Later when I do have a better camera, I will still understand the technical challenges of some subjects and scenes and take a little more thought into getting some good frames. Now I am more comfortable with the limitations of the E450 I can advance my concentration and ability in the true core of photographic art, composition.