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søndag 14. august 2016

Custom Settings and TIps for the E-450 revisited

I did a blog a while ago on custom settings for the E-450 which got a 'whole bunch of hits' over time and really I needed to add a couple of comments or updates to it.

One repeating issue is unsharp images, with users blaming the kit lenses - Olympus kit lenses may be plasticy, but they are far higher quality than Canikons for their period. Yes there are bad, late friday shipped examples, but these are few and far between. Read on to seehow to solve soft, unsharp image output.

1) The Vrontiak Files. The Raw and the Cooked.

His (or hers) settings are basically up +1 on the Sharp , Contrast and Gradation, but the latter can be left on Auto quite happily.

In addenum to this though I would say do not pump up the saturation, leave it zero, or even drop it in scenes with a lot of grass, foliage or greens. Oly does them nasty in their colourspace, which favours wonderful blues and flattering skin tones in stead (R B with nasty G)

Olympus has a great JPEG engine in this particular camera to which these vrontiak settings help make OOC images instantly publishable, but remember if you shoot RAW ORF files, then Olympus Viewer will actually impose these settings on the preview you see and 'developed' jpegs,. I think there is a work around for this in fact, or you can use a non native editor or RAW developer which accepts ORFs.

2) Shoot Cooked and Keep it Cold  - Jpeg is fine, natural , Base ISO

Just as a follow up to 1, really a sub point but you should just really reserve RAW for finer landscapes, or portraits in low light or high contrast- in my honest opinion you will just waste card space and your own time processing general shots from RAW instead of allowing Olympus to make its rather fine JPEGs as you go. All of the work I have published to print media, and that includes litho colour separation, has been in jpegs and some of them are reduced pixel size to help the guys on the other end with an old mac or a heavy Heidelberg laser cut queu.

Keeping it cold though means not going above ISO 200 for anything which is going to be of artistic value or in quality print. Also as mentioned above, turn off or down saturation, and shoot always in NATURAL mode or even MUTED when you have a lot of light and any greens or reds.

RAW is by no means a total waste of time by any means- there is a lot more detail in the shadows and three quarter (darkish)  tones, a bit better tonal depth through the range and a  little more general detail and microcontrast to be had from a USM in a good editor. Hightlighs seem to blow when the sensor decides anyway, but yes there is some sublteties to be had for landscapes and finer portraits.

However as soon as you talk about batch processing then you are back to sending your film off to a cheap lab who ran a single, first frame test shot before printing from the negatives and made your whole roll look mediocre. You are not big and clever batch processing a hundred, random and varied images dropped off your card. If you are not at a very controlled shoot, in very constant light then each and every image needs its own RAW developing., If you use oly viewer to develop RAWs to nice, easy to work on JPEGs then you are also fooling yourself a bit because it is very similar to their incamera, first pass hard programmed jpg engine.

3) Shoot Fast  and Delay in Low Light- Use Shutter Priority and Mirror Lock Up Delay

For some reason the real bug bear of this camera even for family snap shots is camera shake, and this is in part down to it not being super ergonomic, but also that it has one hell of an agricultural mirror mechanism.

Also to make matters worse, the P mode selects a slower shutter than is really optimal, You can work round this by using the wheel in P mode, but really it is a pain. In good light I shoot now minimum 320th using only S mode and have found that the number of sharp images where I can quibble about composition or what is in focus has gone up to 90% from around 60%. I really did think my kit lenses were nearing their pensionable age, and this was just not true, it is my own shakey hand and the little ladies slappy tongue to blame

I find for anything with significant movement needs a 500th btw. Remember at base 200 ISO there is still a lot of detail in the shadows of a FINE; LARGE jpg and more to hank out if you insist on RAW. Underexposed shots which are sharp are usually better than soft right exposed or of course, lots of blownm blocky highlights.

Amazingly for an entry level camera, it has variable mirror lock up, delayed by 2 or 5 secs if i remember right, I have it on 2 secs. Toggle to the Drive mode and you will find a black diamond appear to the right of the usual single frame shot rectangel. This helps dampen things down in low light or slow shutter speed otherwise. On a light tripod you may also want to use timer with this function, which will allow vibrations from your touching the camera to die down too. A remote is a nicer option but sometimes you just want to look and press the god dammed button!

4) Turn on centre Spot Focus only, and Centre Weighted Metering

For photos of a subject or a main light area central to a landscape, select centre weighted metering, which is very good in Oly.  You can always bracket exposures manually on the +/- button and wheel or automatically,  and use a bit of liveview with historgram to check for blow highlights, or heavy shadows.

Centre PD AF spot focus is just a lot more reliable, and intuitive. Okay it is 1995 era technology, but it works. Remember focus, re-compose before 51 point tracking? Well that is my every day camera I am sorry to say and also, a tad nostalgic for.

PITA Warning!!!   You need to set the metering and focus point for the oridnary modes SPAAutoM one by one, and sometimes it seems to 'forget' them.

You can also use the AE button on the back to lock focus, which is useful in various situations like 'simulated macro' using a telefoto or cropping, and if you are waiting for a shot of a sports competitor are a particular spot and have to get it right, prefocusing and leaving it locked with at least f5.6 will solve your challenge of yeah, slightly leisurely focus capture and the risk of back focusing in the heat of the moment. See last blog.

5) Upgrading to Better Glass?

You are kidding me right? I mean Olympus E system die hards are just that, they think their fast glass, two zooms and a macro are worth their weight in gold still, and hope to sell them at about 70% new price to new OMD users.

Joking aside, now I do see that some of the SWD glass is coming down in price as people themselves have upgraded to OMD, and find the lenses are not that fast to focus and are a little clumsy with the adapter an' all, on the new and petite bodies. I see 12-60s now advertised in VGC occiasionally for under 300€ which is an acceptable price for an old lens of indescrimate useage, from a dead system.

Bodies for E system cameras, bar the E 5, are literally being given away and the going street price for a 450 or 420 is only about €80 with one kit lens.

However, there are bound to be some folk getting rid of the 14-54 Mrk II which is a nice, CAF optimised lens for a good price, and no doubt folk will be dumping their SWD glass soon for deposits on what ever takes their fancy and works above ISO 400. Olympus E system tends to have an older user base in the west, who like me, had OMs, and they have hung onto their system longer than whipper snappers who now dump nice little MILCs with kit lenses for fifty bucks after a year or two. Soon all but E5 body owners will most likely jump ship, so I predict a steady decline in used prices of the better glass.

An e450 with the better glass is just a really nice, neat system to have for brighter, photo friendly days, but you have to weigh up say paying €600 euros for two to three pro level, used and aged lenses versus a down payment on a now semi pro level,  full frame like the sony's, the Pentax K1 or the Nikon hundred FX cameras.

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