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e-p3 low light issue

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by tardegardo, Feb 21, 2013.

  1. tardegardo

    tardegardo Mu-43 Veteran

    375
    Apr 3, 2012
    Rome, Italy
    I shoot jpegs. And if I try to further underexpose a shot in low light, pushing the bar indicator all the way left, I see annoying smearing and artifacts in the darker parts of the shot itself. Black is not a nice and plain black; it's smeared, with artifacts and pixels…
    I tried everything, turning off nr, maximizing nr, changing the gradiation settings, lowering sharpness or contrast; nothing helps. With OM-D things were pretty different, I mean better. Should I resign miself to it? Is it how e-p3 manages underexposed shots?
     
  2. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    Some questions:

    1. Can you post some examples?
    2. What mode are you shooting in: P, A, S, M or auto?
    3. Also, what do you mean by "pushing the bar indicator all the way left?" Do you mean you are adjusting the EV down to -3?
    4. Why are you trying to underexpose a shot? What do you need to achieve?

    With these answers, we can better get you some help.
     
  3. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    The E-P3 has an older sensor than the E-M5. It is not as good as the E-M5 in low light and you will get noise in shadow areas in low light, especially if you're shooting at ISO settings of 1600 or above. In my experience, shooting RAW, that noise is also not as easy to clean up as noise in an E-M5 shot. I have both cameras myself and there is a lot of difference between the two cameras when it comes to low light and underexposure.

    As a rule, underexposing in low light isn't a good choice with digital because it's a recipe for generating noise in the image. How much noise you will get depends on the camera and sensor and there are cameras which are worse than the E-P3.

    You will probably get best results from shooting in RAW and applying noise reduction in processing for this kind of work with both cameras.
     
  4. tardegardo

    tardegardo Mu-43 Veteran

    375
    Apr 3, 2012
    Rome, Italy



    here they are, both at 800 ISO, first at -2,3 e, second at 0 ev .

    2. shot in A mode
    3. I mean adjusting ev, yes
    4. I underexpose in order to have a dark image, as it is in real life, and shot at high shutter speed, with less blur then.

    in the first example you can see some unpleasant smearing in the upper grey side, above the couch, which doesn't compare in the second one. Same thing happens often in the black parts of other photos.
     
  5. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    Hmmm... with apologies, because I'm not trying to be rude, but clearly you are not taking pictures of blankets in darkened living rooms to put on your flickr account :)

    What I mean is this -- sometimes we get wrapped around testing cameras for problems, and then we find them, but the problems aren't really the way we will shoot.

    Back to your question -- in general David A is correct. Purposely underexposing in dark conditions will create issues in ALL cameras. The EP3's older sensor will show it worse than others. I believe the estimates on the OMD is it's got 2 stops better noise performance in shadows.

    I did some shooting of stage work with the EP3 (actually EPM1 - same sensor), and I had to dial-back the EV because the spot light on the subject was so bright. This would create noise in shadows. By increasing the black clipping level in post production, this would help with the problem, but in general, my EPL5 is easier to work with.
     
  6. What "gradation" setting are you using?
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. tardegardo

    tardegardo Mu-43 Veteran

    375
    Apr 3, 2012
    Rome, Italy

    Yes, thank you David,
    I didn't mention it happens at 200 ISO too.
    this is a 100% circa crop, where you could see some artifact in the light/shadow at the left of the abate-jour:

     
  8. tardegardo

    tardegardo Mu-43 Veteran

    375
    Apr 3, 2012
    Rome, Italy
    normal
     
  9. tardegardo

    tardegardo Mu-43 Veteran

    375
    Apr 3, 2012
    Rome, Italy
    Yeah, I know what you mean, no apologies needed,
    but I like dark photos, even darker sometimes than how they look in real life.
    And no, I don't usually shoot my blankets at home… ;)
     
  10. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    If you do like dim/dark photos, then be prepared to play with the black levels in post, and as Nic said, check the gradation settings. You have shading comp set to off?
     
  11. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    You can control the darkness of the image later in processing. It's easy to make a negative exposure adjustment then and you'll get better results doing that than by underexposing in dim light at the time you take the photo.

    Shutter speed and lens blur are reasons for raising the ISO setting, but they aren't reasons for underexposure. In general the best approach to exposure for digital cameras is to avoid overexposing highlights in which you want to retain detail. In low light I tend to use the spot meter, meter the brightest highlight area in which I want to retain detail, and then give that area a +2 EV adjustment (yes, plus!). Note that I said I use the spot meter and that I'm metering a highlight so that usually results in a shorter exposure than the meter indicates if you use the matrix or centre weighted modes. My approach often results in darkish photos straight out of camera but if I want darker I can easily get that in processing.

    If you try my approach you may be surprised at the results. I've got good shots handholding at 1/25 sec at F/1.4 at ISO 200 on the street at night with the only lighting coming from street and/or shop lights, and there's lots of dark shadow areas that didn't have excessive noise in them. I worked my approach out initially on the E-P3.

    So my advice is to start playing with spot metering and learning how far you can go with that. The E-P3 and E-M5 both have a Spot Highlight mode which you can also try. It's intended for setting the exposure based on a highlight but my experience on both cameras is that it is likely to clip the highlight, perhaps not too far for recovery in processing, but it does clip them. You could use that mode and dial in some negative EV, or just use normal spot mode as I do, meter the same highlight area, and dial in some positive EV. It's just a matter of working out which approach works for you and how much EV you need. I think I ended up settling on normal spot mode because I use it a lot of the time anyway so I didn't need to change my metering approach by using it.

    You will need to run some experiments for yourself in order to find out how much EV works best for you. What you do is simply set up a scene with a highlight area with some sort of detail in it, set your meter to one of those 2 spot meter modes, and take a series of shots dialling in more or less EV in third stop steps. Open the shots in whatever program you use for processing and decide which EV setting gives you your highlight area without clipping, or with recoverable clipping, and the shortest exposure. It doesn't matter whether you use a tripod or not because that won't affect the choice of meter mode and EV. Once you've got that worked out, you then shoot that way and adjust your ISO as necessary to keep the shutter speed high enough for your purposes, or should I say "just high enough" because you want to keep the ISO setting as low as you can.

    Try that approach in your living room at night with something lit by a low wattage lamp and the rest of the lights off and see how you go. I think you'll learn a lot about what you can actually get in low light. You don't need to push the ISO setting as high as you would think in order to get good results, especially if you want to keep the dark areas of the scene dark so you end up with an image looking like how the scene looked.
     
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  12. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    What David A said. Also, shooting at higher ISO and then dropping the EV in post will yield cleaner results than shooting low ISO purposely under exposed.

    Why didn't I think of that, lol. Good advice David.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  13. tardegardo

    tardegardo Mu-43 Veteran

    375
    Apr 3, 2012
    Rome, Italy
    Great tips, thank you.
    I only forgot to mention that I don't like to pp very much and that I usually try not to do it. But I know will have to...
    Thank you again for the long how-to.
     
  14. fin azvandi

    fin azvandi Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 12, 2011
    South Bend, IN
    I like dark images as well - listen to the advice given above. You'll get a better image by starting with a clean file that brighter than your ultimate goal, and then darkening it on the computer (lower exposure, adjust curves, etc).
     
  15. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    OK, so what you're testing then is what gives an acceptable result for you with as little pp as you want to do. Don't do any more pp than you would normally do, just work out what delivers a result you're happy to accept with that much processing. You don't have to do any more processing than you want to and I'm not suggesting that you should, just that you do some tests to find out what exposure gives the best result for your tastes with the sort of processing you're happy doing.
     
  16. tardegardo

    tardegardo Mu-43 Veteran

    375
    Apr 3, 2012
    Rome, Italy
    Ok Fin, thank you,
    and congrats for your shots, they're great!
    (especially the dark ones… ;)
     
  17. tardegardo

    tardegardo Mu-43 Veteran

    375
    Apr 3, 2012
    Rome, Italy
    Sure, that sounds very reasonable.
    Thank again.
     
  18. Henry

    Henry Mu-43 Regular

    54
    Apr 24, 2012
    Montreal
    The E-p3 jpg engine is very bad in low light situation. I was confused and asking for help when I first bought my camera. My E-pl1 was giving way much better results. I was going to sell the E-p3 to get back an E-p2 but I learned to work with its weakness because I love the fast response and fast focus of the camera. Now I shoot Jpeg+Raw most of the time, so I can work on dark areas in postproduction if I need to.
     
  19. tardegardo

    tardegardo Mu-43 Veteran

    375
    Apr 3, 2012
    Rome, Italy
    Thank you Henry. I am learning it too, in fact. And resigning myself to it.
    I use e-p3 as second very portable camera though, and I can live with it, for now.
    Till I won't buy an e-pm2….