E-M1 high ISO

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by OzRay, Mar 20, 2014.

  1. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I know that Olympus cameras have never excelled in very high ISO situations, but I have been pleasantly surprised at how well the E-M1 (and supposedly the other E-M versions) actually performs. Last weekend I went bush with a group of friends and used the trip to learn more about the E-M1 and get better acquainted to its foibles etc. Having been a very long time Olympus digital user, I have to say the E-M1 is the best body that I've used so far, extremely versatile and everything readily at hand (a very short learning curve). Anyway, I just wanted to show a small example of how the E-M1 performed at night, shooting a 'street scene' around a campfire.

    The following shot was taken only with the light from the campfire at nearly 11:00pm, processed in Lightroom and then reduced in Photoshop with a couple of 100% crops. The shot was taken with the Olympus 14-35mm f2 lens at 14mm f2, ISO6400 and 1/2 sec handheld. First the full scene and then two obvious crops:




    I could never, ever, have taken such a shot with any previous 4/3 camera. How I wish I'd had the E-M1 when I was shooting late evening and night football, I would have absolutely been romping it in, despite the less than stellar C-AF.
    • Like Like x 3
  2. tomO2013

    tomO2013 Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Oct 28, 2013
    Yup. The 'disadvantage' isn't nearly as pronounced as forums would have you believe. I've found that shooting high iso with the E-M1 you obviously have to use RAW to get the best out of it.

    While I've found Olympus Viewer 3 and DXO look to pull more detail from the RAW at lower ISO's, I've also found that shooting RAW and processing high ISO shots with DXO Optics Pro 9 and the PRIME noise reduction technology (while slow) is leagues better than what is achievable with Lightroom 5, Photo Ninja, Topaz clean, Nik Dfine, etc... They give you 'high' (fast) and 'prime' (slow analysis) noise algorithms out of the box.
    If you haven't tried it yet, I'd love to see how you get on with DXO Optics and Prime on the same shot and post your results back here after.
  3. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I tried Olympus Viewer 3 and Master 2 and both performed far worse than Lightroom. I have Nik Define and don't like the results that it produces, but I also have Imagenomic and it tends to wok very well. These shots used none of those, just noise reduction in Lightroom. I tried LightZone as well and it's noise reduction capability is fairly poor. I might download the trial version and see how it goes.
  4. Web-Betty

    Web-Betty Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jun 16, 2013
    I do love all the different opinions. I'm a fan of Nik Dfine2. I found DxO to be cumbersome.

    Regardless of your NR methods, however, I feel the E-M5 and the E-M1 produce fantastic, high-ISO shots.
  5. fortwodriver

    fortwodriver Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 15, 2013
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Looks good! Far FAR better than anything I could get out of iSO 2000 colour negative film.

    Is that a star in the sky between the trees?
  6. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I just tried DxO Optics Pro 9 and after that, uninstalled it. LightZone did a better job with the RAW file and I too found DxO cumbersome. I'm going to see how the latest version of Capture One works.
  7. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    And I just tried capture One Ver 7 and if I was forced to abandon Lightroom, I'd be using LightZone. Capture One didn't do better than Lightroom or LightZone and was especially heavy on processor use, as my PC started fan howling almost the entire time I was doing something with Capture One. It too has been uninstalled.
  8. tomO2013

    tomO2013 Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Oct 28, 2013
    I do probably 90% of my work in LR and even for high iso 6400 shots , it's often more than enough.
    I don't really bother too much with NR anyway, preferring a little grain over loss of detail. Still if I absolutely need to rescue a shot or if I'm going for a cleaner look with no loss of detail, DXO Prime with a lower NR does a great job - the default 40 value is far too aggressive.

    Yup. Prime is slow and the UI is cumbersome to say the least. However the results are excellent and often times the default profiles are a great starting point to get you 80-90% of the way there before you export to a DAM like Lightroom or edit further in Photoshop or other editing package. Especially their lens softness tool and automatic lens correction modules.

    One thing that I don't like is that I've also found that DXO's out of the box tends to over-saturate the reds - I've created a custom profile to fix this (I didn't use it for this sample).

    Here are a few pics to illustrate my findings:
    First is OV3 (RAW low NR absolutely murders detail and the colour isn't great
    View attachment 349262

    Next Lightroom with the following settings :
    Camera Natural Profile
    Sharpening 41
    Radius .8
    Detail 30
    Masking 27

    Noise Reduction
    Luminence 37
    This did a fairly good job but lost a lot of tonal detail in the face. LR's NR coupled with the modern E-M1 m43 sensor continues to impress.
    View attachment 349263

    Finally DXO Prime with the following settings:
    Default Standard profile. Enabled color body OMD EM1 and auto intensity. Prime NR set to 22
    Lens Softness Global 0.59, Details56, Bokeh 71

    Much more detail in the face and overall. The default profile upon opening up the app has 'smart lighting' enabled. I didn't touch anything else beyond that shown above. It's interesting how it manages to relatively intelligently pull details in different parts of the shot such as the crowd in the background. To me this is by far the best of the bunch. Please be aware that the out of box default DXO profile does a bunch of lens corrections such as vignetting as soon as you open in the developer module. I left this on as most people woul automatically benefit from this just opening an image up.
    View attachment 349264

    The only other 'common' adjustment made to all 3 were to set the white balance based on the grey at the end of the hockey stick.
    It wasn't ideal shooting conditions, lighting was terrible but E-M1 really amazed me.

    I'm going to download and try lightzone tomorrow and see how I get on. I've tried darktable previously and was not impressed by the UI or NR algorithms. I found Nik Dfine, LR and DXO better.

    BTW i'd still love to see what DXO was able to do with your test shot when you downloaded it, tested it and deleted. Maybe you still have the output file from PRIME there lying around somewhere that you could share. It's always interesting to see what details it manages to rescue. On my thinkpad w530 it can take approx 1min 30 seconds to export using GPU acceleration.
    I tend to use it for shots that I really care about and still want to print as large as possible.

    Interesting explanation here about prime :

    Most reviews of Prime were based on v9.0 of DXO optics. This is the only one that I could find about 9.1 for those interested which shows a significant improvement over v9.

    [off topic ] As for low ISO RAW conversions - there is an interesting comparison between LR 4 and OV2 here. Much of which still holds as true today for lower ISO's :
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wfZ69LqPW0 [/off topic].

    EDIT: in case anybody is wondering about the exif for the DXO shot. I ran the shot through DXO as already mentioned, exported to LR as TIFF so that I could quick and dirty apply watermark and export. Yup DXO does not have a watermarking feature. Criminal that.
  9. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I didn't even convert the image in DxO. I ran DxO and LightZone together (one on each monitor) and compared results at 100% while I was trying to get the best out of each. Possibly it may have been the DxO settings, which I did adjust up and down on both adjustments, but the results weren't looking very good at all. After further comparisons, I still find Lightroom the better option and I guess I'm just used to the way that it works..
  10. tomO2013

    tomO2013 Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Oct 28, 2013
    That's your problem!
    Or rather that's the unintuitive problem of dxo.
    The preview square sample box above the prime tick box shows you how it would impact output and the results of the prime settings... But it's tiny! The main image preview window doesn't use prime even at 1:1 resolution. It always uses the high profile instead of prime (irrespective of whether you select prime or high noise reduction profiles for its preview for the sake of speed). Prime is slooow but totally worth it as you can see above!
    You literally have to export the file to see your prime results. Or check the changes in that tiny preview window that I mentioned earlier.
    Clear as mud!

    This caught me out too. It's buried in the dxo documentation and online master classes. If you haven't been completely understandably put off by now, it might be worth trying just one more time with similar settings as I described above and check the output jpeg/tiff.
    One last thing... I'd normally reduce the omd intensity color slider to about 80 to get a stating approximation to Olympus natural profile.
    Best of luck if you decide try again :)

    No harm if not... Would be a lesson to dxo to make their software more user friendly. ☺


    Sent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk
  11. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I tried it again and nope, the end results are no better. While exporting, I thought my PC was about to take off, it sounded nearly as loud as our vacuum cleaner and must have taken half a minute or longer to do a JPG conversion. Lightroom will do the same in seconds. I'm afraid that DxO just doesn't work for me.
  12. tomO2013

    tomO2013 Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Oct 28, 2013
    Nothing ventured, nothing gained :)
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