E-M1 Mark III - Lack in brilliance in HDR?

quatchi

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As an upgrade to my trusty old E-M5 (the first version) I bought myself a brand new E-M1 Mark III two weeks ago. So far I really like the camera as well as the advances in the in-camera processing capabilities (among auto-focus advancement, etc.). Currently, I am on vacation in Iceland and getting accustomed to the new feature on-the-go, so to speak.

Here goes my question regarding the E-M1‘s in-camera HDR processing. First of all, I love the idea of taking a hand-held HDR image which is already assembled by the camera itself. The result, however, is not so intriguing in my opinion. Already on the camera‘s screen, one can see a difference in the HDR picture vs. a regular one. The regular one has way more brilliance in its colors. Here are some example pictures:

First, the unmodified* HDR picture strait out of camera:
62055479-5773-4B2D-9B6D-788FFEC348FD.jpeg
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Next, the same shot as a regular image (same settings expect HDR). Again unmodified* RAW out of camera:
B0608EF1-2B47-4CA9-A560-874193FBE28C.jpeg
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*) unmodified means, loaded into Lightroom CC (iOS version) and exported as JPG without applying any changes/presets/etc. to it

As you can see especially in the green of the gras, the colors of the non HDR image is much brighter. Of course, the HDR version shows a nicer blue sky (due to increased dynamic range).

But in post processing - in this case only hitting Lightroom CC‘s ‚auto‘ button - the sky can be recovered from the RAW file as well. Here is the non HDR version with Lightroom‘s ‚auto‘ enhancement applied to it (no further tweaking).

56CFE6DD-CBED-4D12-82F6-8CF061CBB01C.jpeg
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Compared to the edited RAW file, the HDR file looks quite dull to me.

Here is my question: Is there some way to tweak the HDR processing settings? Back in the old days, when assembling an HDR image by hand (out of multiple exposures) it was always the ‘challenge‘ that the picture looked natural and not over saturated. Having a dull look to the picture (color wise) was never a problem.

Am I missing something or using the feature wrong? Should I not take the HDR image handhold? What are your experiences with the in-camera HDR processing?


The image was taken at Þingvellir in Iceland.
 
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Which HDR mode are you using?

From memory (I don't have the mark iii myself, yet), the camera has two modes. The default mode "HDR1" (neutral) and more bright/boosted "HDR2". You can access HDR2 by pressing and holding the HDR button.

I believe that the default setting is tuned to provide a neutral look but with a high dynamic range of a bracketed shot in camera. In post processing this file gives you room to to work with (and you can always boost saturation if that is the look you are after). HDR2 mode is brighter but still not super saturated and, straight out of camera, still a bit muted (albeit brighter vs the default HDR1).
 

quatchi

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Which HDR mode are you using?

From memory (I don't have the mark iii myself, yet), the camera has two modes. The default mode "HDR1" (neutral) and more bright/boosted "HDR2". You can access HDR2 by pressing and holding the HDR button.

You are right. Thank you for your reply!
There are two HDR modes (I was using HDR1). The manual describes HDR1 as natural and HDR2 as more like a painting (at least in my non-english version). I tried a indoor test-shoot against a window. With HDR1 the scene is muted but there is detail inside as well as outside. With HDR2, the indoor parts have more detail and seem brighter / more vivid but outside a lot of details are blown. By a first judgement I would say, HDR2 simply delivers a brighter image (more details in darker areas, slightly blown highlights). But I need to take proper shoots when beeing outside (its pooring at the moment :crying:).
 

PakkyT

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It's a shame that the camera doesn't save all the bracket'd shots. Unless they changed it, on my E-M1.1 you get the HDR JPG and the middle (properly exposed) shot of the three taken to create the HDR. Then at least you can try the HDR shoot but if you don't like the results could use the auto bracketed ones instead if you wanted to spend the time on it.

Having been to Iceland once a couple years back (loved it), I know one of the problems is if you take a lot of the guided tours (recommended for first timers for sure), you often are given a limited amount of time at any given place so it can be difficult to spend time setting up shots, manually bracketing, using a tripod & ND filters, and stuff like that. While I brought a tripod and ND filter sets (square ones with the holder) I kind of ended up using the tripod in the beginning and then deciding to just shoot everything hand held usually sticking to polarizing filters. When I did want to use the ND filters, I actually did OK simply holding the filter in front of the lens with my free hand and shooting handheld. Or simply cranking down the aperture to slow the shutter to get a little bit of water smoothing on water falls which worked well enough for my needs. But here you are with a brand new camera so in addition to the above, you are trying to learn how to use it to its fullest which is tricky when on a trip and on a schedule. Good luck!

Enjoy Iceland! I am definitely planning on going back soon.
 

whumber

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Olympus' HDR algorithm has always been pretty terrible. Much better off just shooting bracketed shots and building the HDR composite in post with Photoshop, LR, or some other dedicated software.
 

Growltiger

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I think HDR1 is good the way it is. By providing a dull image containing all the tones put together by the HDR, it makes sure you don't lose anything. It only takes a moment in post processing to make it the way you decide you want it.
 
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The in camera HDR is supposed to bring out shadows and highlights without turning the photo into a wild bunch of colors and halos. It is especially useful when the light information overwhelms our small sensors and good normal exposures are hard to get.
 

AndyT

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You are right. Thank you for your reply!
There are two HDR modes (I was using HDR1). The manual describes HDR1 as natural and HDR2 as more like a painting (at least in my non-english version). I tried a indoor test-shoot against a window. With HDR1 the scene is muted but there is detail inside as well as outside. With HDR2, the indoor parts have more detail and seem brighter / more vivid but outside a lot of details are blown. By a first judgement I would say, HDR2 simply delivers a brighter image (more details in darker areas, slightly blown highlights). But I need to take proper shoots when beeing outside (its pooring at the moment :crying:).

Please post a sample or two showing the results of the HDR2 settings - I'm sure it will be of interest to some folk here.
Not everyone want s to go the PS route.

Personally I do go the whole hog - bracket and adjust in PS, but it would be great to see how the in camera processing handles it.
 

quatchi

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Thank you guys for all the input. I am learning a lot each day when having the E-M1 in hand.

@Growltiger, SteveAdler: It makes absulutely sens what you are saying. The question marks in my head arose from beeing able to pull more ‘dynamic range‘ out of the RAW file compared to the HDR JPEG.

I took the HDR JPEG from the camera a pressed the magic ‚auto‘ button in lightroom. Here is the result*:

48B87ED1-DBCF-4D03-B99C-719A9DC30667.jpeg
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I don‘t know whether you can see/judge it here or not. But the edited RAW version is still more appealing to me.

*) DISCLAIMER: I know that Lightroom‘s auto-adjustment does some crazy/random stuff and is probably way behind what one can achieve by manually working on the image. MY excuse here is that I only have an iPad with me and editing on it is not much fun.
 

quatchi

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@PakkyT: I am not traveling with a guided tour. So, this is not a limiting factor. I, however, have to small children with me (age 1.5 and 5). They are what keeps me from unfolding my tripod... :laugh1:
 

Growltiger

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Thank you guys for all the input. I am learning a lot each day when having the E-M1 in hand.

@Growltiger, SteveAdler: It makes absulutely sens what you are saying. The question marks in my head arose from beeing able to pull more ‘dynamic range‘ out of the RAW file compared to the HDR JPEG.

I took the HDR JPEG from the camera a pressed the magic ‚auto‘ button in lightroom. Here is the result*:

I don‘t know whether you can see/judge it here or not. But the edited RAW version is still more appealing to me.

*) DISCLAIMER: I know that Lightroom‘s auto-adjustment does some crazy/random stuff and is probably way behind what one can achieve by manually working on the image. MY excuse here is that I only have an iPad with me and editing on it is not much fun.
Surely you can use some manual editing controls even on the iPad. The Auto button is not doing your picture justice. If I was editing it I would be using Levels and the Highlights/Shadows tools as a start.
 
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I second your observation, while I don't own the E-M1 Mk III, I use the Pen-F all the time which also has built-in HDR1 and HDR2 modes. The few times I tried them, I found the results rather lackluster, HDR2 can be pretty extreme, but easily blows highlights, HDR1 is rather dull and flat looking. While I am really not good when it comes to RAW development and image editing, in the few pictures I tried HDR1 jpeg vs. the accompanied RAW file, with just some mild adjustments in DXO Photolab I can easily get a better result than the SooC jpeg. That's without even touching things like Clearview, Contrast, Saturation, etc. just Smart Lighting and Selective Tone.

I guess the HDR modes are most likely if you need quick results without having access to any RAW development software, my case for example: When I am on the go, I rarely have a tablet with me and even if, the tablet I own can is already limited by just running trivial daily tasks, let alone run stuff like DXO or Workspace. I also don't own a laptop. Yet I like to share pics via phone, in this case I send the jpegs via OI Share to my Galaxy Note, crop them to taste with Snapseed and finally send them off. Also some people don't like to bother with RAW files at all. So it still is a nice to have addition in my opinion.
 

PakkyT

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I have used the built in HDR feature literally a handful of times. But I have found it very useful when you want to quickly capture something that you are more interested in sort of documenting rather than having some fantastic quality photo. Perfect example is showing the view of a hotel room while also showing the room. Typically you can shoot the room and let the view in windows blow out white. Or you can shoot the view out the windows and let the room go dark. For example:

Exposed for the windows and no HDR used:
15001288581_5a536e62a8_o.jpg
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2014.07.20-17.11.17 by Patrick, on Flickr

Or use HDR just to get the idea of the room and view:
15004014922_769d2bd691_o.jpg
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2014.07.20-17.11.53 by Patrick, on Flickr

It isn't great but who cares. I just wanted to "remember" the setup we had when visiting Vancouver that time and in camera HDR allows a quick way to get it with zero post processing needed on a computer.
 

quatchi

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As promised here are three pictures RAW, HDR1 and HDR2. All without any processing (i.e., imported into Lightroom CC and exported into iPadOS‘s camera role without applying any preset, etc.)

RAW:
40003CF8-D69D-4F08-B8FD-066E856279D8.jpeg
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HDR1:
7BB75298-73CD-4901-810D-594C0A1CB1FE.jpeg
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HDR2:
575017D4-E036-4854-9424-2B43CDBF8966.jpeg
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I acknowledge that this is not a very good scene, but it shows shadows in the tree as well as highlight in the clouds with pieces of blue sky. Camera setting was manual mode (M) with 1/200 seconds, f10 and ISO200.

Overall I find the HDR2 version the worst (without any post processing). The sky is best in the HDR1 picture but the most pleasing colors are in the non-HDR version. HDR2 has the most details in the leaves/tree, though. Without the possibility of post-processing I am torn between the non-HDR and HDR1 version.
 

quatchi

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For completion sake, here are the same files edited in Lightroom CC. Starting point for each image was Lightroom‘s auto function. Afterwards I tweaked each image (reduced luminance for blue to increase the blue in the sky, played a bit with shadows and highlights). As expected, the RAW files has way more headroom to adjustments compared to the both HDR jpegs.


RAW:
09C26E32-5020-4BD2-90E9-18FEE840C0BF.jpeg
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HDR1:
38634ACA-F9F8-4576-B58B-98C7AEBA1261.jpeg
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HDR2:
64CEE330-57AD-4033-9502-964379834709.jpeg
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(Note: I wasn‘t able to recover the grass in the HDR2 version. Maybe that is what the manual describes as ‚paint like‘).
 

Growltiger

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You would got far better results with HDR1 compared to the raw file, if your scene had extremes of light and dark that exceed what a single raw file can capture.
Your scene didn't need HDR.
Try again with something really extreme - a very dark room with no lighting and a small window onto a sunlit view.
 

SaintMovies

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You would got far better results with HDR1 compared to the raw file, if your scene had extremes of light and dark that exceed what a single raw file can capture.
Your scene didn't need HDR.
Try again with something really extreme - a very dark room with no lighting and a small window onto a sunlit view.

‘Agree 100% with this^
 
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