A plea for better JPEGs

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by dhazeghi, Feb 5, 2014.

  1. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Even though I suspect most people on this forum shoot in RAW, the fact is that the vast majority of m4/3 users shoot only JPEGs. Moreover, all evaluation on the camera is based on the camera's JPEG engines - colors, sharpness, exposure (histogram) as seen in either while shooting or while reviewing on the camera. In short, even if we shoot RAW, we depend on the JPEGs, and many use the JPEGs as their final image.

    The single biggest change in my view that Olympus and Panasonic could make to improve real-world image quality for all users is therefore to improve their camera's JPEG engines. My basic problem is that not only do the default settings fail to give the sort of crisp clean output that decent RAW converter does, but even after customization one can't get those kind of results. On their default settings, RAW converters like Lightroom and Capture One do a substantially better job of producing sharp output and correcting image flaws. The difference is particularly striking with more mediocre lenses (like the 12-50/3.5-6.3) which actually produce sharper output using a RAW converter than high-end lenses (like the 12-40/2.8) using the camera JPEGs.

    Specifically, I would like to see:
    1) Significantly better sharpening. Existing sharpening on both Olympus and Panasonic cameras tends to be quite coarse by default, and cannot be substantially improved even at max. sharpening settings.
    2) Better and more customizable noise reduction. In particular, the default needs to be less aggressive at low ISOs, and more fine-grained at high ones.
    3) Image-based CA correction. We have now a system where Olympus only corrects Olympus lenses and Panasonic only corrects Panasonic lenses. We need a system that corrects all lenses (including adapted ones), rather than relying on profiles for specific ones. EDIT - it appears that Panasonic does correct Olympus lenses. However, Olympus does not correct Panasonic lenses, nor do either correct adapted lenses.
    4) Vignetting correction. Not a big deal, but for some lenses, this is needed (it should of course be optional). EDIT - as pointed out down thread, this already exists (though it default to off).

    While it's true that the image processing in the camera is somewhat limited due to the hardware, I think camera manufacturers would be well advised to if necessary spend a little bit more on better hardware and tuning. It's a relatively small investment that benefits all users, across the board. Most importantly, it means that users will be presented from the start with images that are close to the best that the camera can produce. RAW can then be reserved only for cases where major adjustments to exposure/color are wanted, rather than as a catch-all mechanism to fix poor camera sharpening, NR, and mask lens flaws. A better JPEG engine is like a lens upgrade, except that it benefits all lenses for any user that relies on JPEGs.
    • Like Like x 2
  2. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    I have read many threads where this is obviously not the case ;
    In fact at default settings Lightroom is often horribly lacking compared to a default Olympus SOOC Jpeg,
    especially when we go back to first-generation Pens.

    I cannot comment on Capture1.
  3. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    Buy an E-M1 or E-M10 and you get 3 of the 4 items listed addressed. (no custom noise reduction) I know this because I bought an E-M1 after trying it out. Significant improvement for JPGs compared to my E-M5 & E-PL5.
  4. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    I'm thinking I've seen more of the opposite opinions as well. It would be great to see some examples of JPEGs vs raw conversions at default settings though. If there is a nice improvement available I wouldn't mind processing with default settings!

    edit: I'd also like to see JPEGs from E-M1 or 10 vs 5. I wouldn't expect a huge improvement, but if there one maybe it's time to upgrade (or side-grade at least).
  5. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    For my own tastes, the biggest issue is how the JPEGs deal with highlights.
  6. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    And the little camera processor has only so much horsepower. As a converted raw shooter I prefer my camera save its batteries taking photos and not so much crunching on images.
  7. wildwildwes

    wildwildwes Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 9, 2012
    Brooklyn, NY
    Huh?!?!? :confused:
  8. nstelemark

    nstelemark Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    May 28, 2013
    Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada
    I shot RAW with the E-M5 almost exclusively. With the E-M1 I am shooting JPEG pretty much exclusively and I am really quite happy with it. One of the factors for me was the file sizes. With thousands of images at an event over a few days JPEGs are simply easier to manage.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. mrjr

    mrjr Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 25, 2012
    This one, at least, already exists. I'm pretty positive that's part of the micro 4/3 standard corrections, along with distortion.

    On Olympus cameras, you can find this optional setting in Custom Menu > G as "Shading Comp."

    But, I hear you. I like being able to use JPEGs (I normally do), but I'd like to have CA correction as standard.
  10. GFFPhoto

    GFFPhoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2013
    I'm pretty surprised by the OOC JPEGs from the GX7. I still shoot RAW, but I've used the wifi feature to email JPEGs a few times, and they are really quite good. I'll even go out on a limb and say they have fantastic skin tones.

    Edit: Oh, and the GX7 corrected the CA on my Oly 45. I emailed a JPEG with zero CA, and when I processed the RAW later, there was CA there (and the camera was able to correct it better than I was :frown:).
  11. alex66

    alex66 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 23, 2010
    I do not shoot jpeg with my main cameras but I saw that they have added to the jpeg standard and now it is possible to make 12 bit jpegs. Given that the higher the bit depth of the file the more can be done with it and the better the final image should be I would hope that that new bodies, at least the higher up ones would be of this depth. I would guess that within certain bounds the camera would not use or require much more power to process in a certain way, they should be able to get better jpegs from the camera.
  12. yakky

    yakky Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 1, 2013
    I agree, I really like the files my PL3 and PM2 produce. Especially in the DR department, they do a nice subtle approach to lifting shadows and preserving highlights without creating images that look like single shot HDR messes.

    I do agree on the lens correction working across systems. At a pixel level, yes LR does a better job at noise reduction and sharpening, but then the image starts to loose something, and most times I prefer what the camera did.

    Colors... Nikon picture controls, maybe extend that model even more. End of story.
  13. Mr Hahn

    Mr Hahn Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 9, 2010
    SLC, Utah
    I actually made a quick color test after playing with an X-rite Passport at local camera store yesterday. This is just something I was playing around with, I didn't know about this thread at the time and it wasn't the most scientific test I could do. I actually plan on redoing it in a more controlled manner when I find an X-rite Passport for less than $99.

    This is the same image taken with an E-M1 and 12-40mm f2.8 lens. I used RAW+JPEG and processed with Adobe Lightroom 5.3 on my 27" iMac with a Color Munki display calibration.

    Taken at 16mm - ISO 200 - 1/50sec - f2.8

    For the OOC camera jpeg image I was in Standard color mode on the camera, and I made one adjustment in Lightroom to set the white balance to the target with the eyedropper tool.

    For all of the RAW images I used my personal default sharpening setting (Amount +50, Radius +0.5, Detail +20), white balance set to the target with eye dropper, and color mode set as noted. No other adjustments were made.

    Make of it what you wish, I promise nothing.

    Out of Camera jpeg:
    View attachment 340199
    SOOC.jpg by NathanHahn, on Flickr

    X-rite Custom profile
    View attachment 340200
    Custom.jpg by NathanHahn, on Flickr

    Huelight Standard profile
    View attachment 340201
    Huelight Standard.jpg by NathanHahn, on Flickr

    Universal Lightroom preset for the E-M1 from "archeogeolab" at Dpreview: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/52628862
    View attachment 340202
    Universal.jpg by NathanHahn, on Flickr

    Lightroom Camera Natural profile
    View attachment 340203
    Camera Natural.jpg by NathanHahn, on Flickr

    Lightroom Camera Vivid Profile
    View attachment 340204
    Camera Vivid.jpg by NathanHahn, on Flickr

    Huelight High profile
    View attachment 340205
    Huelight High.jpg by NathanHahn, on Flickr
    • Like Like x 2
  14. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    I can see where Dara is going, but I for one only use in-camera preview/liveview to give me the composition and exposure; and for that the current Image rendering is fine (I hesitate to use the word "JPEG" since I suspect the conversion to JPEG is actually the last thing the camera does as it saves to the card). Doing more image processing would mean more hardware which would mean shorter battery life and that's an area where mirrorless is already compromised compared to DSLRs.
  15. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    In regards to 2), I think JPGs are often improved simply by turning NR off. I know this is the case on my GX1. I tried out a used EM5 at the camera shop with the adapted lens I had on the GX1, and when I looked at the files, at ISO 2000, my immediate reaction was "gross!" The NR artifacting was quite bad. Then I remembered I'd gotten used to living with NR at -2 and the fine grain of the GX1 for a long time.
  16. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    I have to say, I have not had much trouble with the E-M1 JPEG engine. Although I usually use RAW, when I was staying with my parents over Christmas, I took some photographs that I wanted to upload to Flickr straight away, so I used the camera's own JPEG converter from the RAW images that I had taken and uploaded them to my mobile telephone by wifi, and then to the internet (Flickr and Facebook). The quality was more than satisfactory:

    Pudding inferno by James E. Petts, on Flickr

    Christmas pudding by James E. Petts, on Flickr

    Snowman on cake by James E. Petts, on Flickr
  17. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Ask and you shall receive. E-M5 and 12-50 (so the lens is nothing special).

    OOC JPEG defaults

    LR 5.3 defaults

    OOC JPEG defaults crop

    LR 5.3 defaults crop

    OOC JPEG defaults crop

    LR 5.3 defaults crop

    OOC JPEG max. sharpness crop

    LR 5.3 mid. sharpness crop

    OOC JPEG max. sharpness crop

    LR 5.3 mid. sharpness crop
    • Like Like x 1
  18. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Just to make the point, here is a crop from a similar scene, using the 12-40/2.8, but from a camera JPEG (max. sharpness).

    And here from the 12-50, using Lightroom defaults.

    So far as I'm concerned, the difference in sharpness between the 12-40/2.8 and 12-50/3.5-6.3 is basically negated by the camera processing.
  19. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    Improve the camera's JPEG engine? Cameras like the E-M1 provide a multitude of options to improve on in-camera processing if you choose -

    • 5 basic Picture Modes where you can adjust 5 parameters: Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation, Gradation, and the i_Enhance effect
    • 24 Scene Modes including using the Color Creator - change hue and saturation to your liking
    • 32 possible Image Quality settings
    • White Balance to your choice of 8 presets or from 2000 - 14000 Kelvin
    • Highlight and Shadow Control
    • and Noise Reduction (p93)

    And if none of these work for the photographer they gave us RAW to change and process to our heart's content so that we don't have to depend on on preconceived processing.
    • Like Like x 1
  20. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Right you are! Learn something every day. I guess the only thing that remains to be done is change the default to 'On'.

    Hmm... Looks like this is an Olympus issue then. The CA on my PL 25/1.4 was definitely not corrected on the E-M1 when I had it. It would be nicer still if they did it in an entirely lens-independent fashion (as Nikon does) so that adapted lenses would get correction too.

    I don't have any issue with the JPEG format. So long as one isn't post-processing, it's sufficient. If one is post-processing, RAW works fine.

    Well, I guess wasn't as clear in my original posting as I should have been. I'm fine with the current level of customizability. I'm also more or less fine with color signature - it's a bit over boosted but it's certainly pleasant and does nothing to detract from the camera. I'm even fine with the highlight/shadow controls and handling - I'd prefer the defaults did a little less HDR-lite, but that's an easy fix.

    My basic problem (as illustrated above) is that not only do the default settings fail to give the sort of crisp clean output that decent RAW converter does, but even after customization one can't get those kind of results. The goal of the camera JPEGs is not necessarily to be able to mimic everything that Lightroom can do, but they should be able to provide in the average case a good baseline for quality. When it comes to color and tone curve, they generally do that. When it comes to sharpness, noise and artifacts, they don't.
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