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E-PM1: Noise in Sky Photos in JPEG

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by larrytxeast, Sep 24, 2012.

  1. larrytxeast

    larrytxeast Mu-43 Rookie

    Sep 10, 2012
    A previous E-PL1 user (just barely 2 weeks ago), I acquired an Olympus E-PM1 from Cameta. I followed the advice of this posting here with regards to settings, turning the Noise Filter to OFF and sharpening to -1.

    Overall I love the E-PM1--however, yesterday, I took some shots at a local lake, shots which I took just 2 weeks ago with my E-PL1. One thing I noticed--many of the E-PM1 shots had noise-grain pattern in the sky when viewed at 100%, whereas the same shots with the E-PL1 2 weeks ago were totally smooth. Why would that be? Both were shot in Superfine-Large JPEG and at similar times of the day (around 2 p.m.).

    The only thing I can think of is that, with many of the E-PM1 shots, I used -0.3 EV to prevent highlight blow-out--maybe it was already dark enough & doing that created shadow noise? But it was only -0.3 EV, that's not a lot I wouldn't think. Also, 2 days prior I took some sunset shots around 7 p.m. over a different--with those shots, even the detail that "went to black" didn't have any shadow noise I could see, nor did the sky.

    I am liking this camera more than my E-PL1 overall, but this behavior disturbs me. Questions:

    (1) I can't find way to reset every last menu setting back to the out-of-factory defaults. I was hoping to reset the picture controls back to the factory settings, because I can't remember if the default noise filter setting is "standard" or "low."

    (2) To wit: is the default noise filter setting "standard" or "low?" Again, I switched it all the way off, would "low" have maybe been a better setting?

    (3) Other than that, what would explain this behavior? Again it's hard to fathom a mere -0.3 EV setting in mid-day creating such behavior.

    (For the record, the person who bought my E-PL1, I only got $80 for it, put it up for sale--his wife didn't want it--so I purchased it back, and I intend to take side-by-side shots with it & the E-PM1 so I can compare them better.)
  2. uci2ci

    uci2ci Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 22, 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    Sky noise is common. The explanation that ive read is that blue is a tough color to expose for a camera. . You can remove it in post processing if it bothers you. Boosting noise filter on the camera should also help.
  3. larrytxeast

    larrytxeast Mu-43 Rookie

    Sep 10, 2012
    Thanks for the response (uci2ci). Two questions:

    (1) Why would the E-PM1 do this but not the E-PL1? (I'm guessing the side-by-side shooting can help me figure it out also.)

    (2) What is the best method for removing it in post-processing? I have Photoshop CS (yes, ancient Photoshop CS) and Lightroom 3.5 (although I've never gotten on with its cataloging, I just use it for RAW processing.) Is there other software I should be using?

    (3) When I turn down sharpening to -1 in the custom settings in the "picture mode" menus, it isn't reflected in the super-control panel, I have to set it to -1 there as well. That seems peculiar to me, which one, if the settings are not the same, takes precedence?

    For the record, I DID figure out how to do a "master reset" and I saw that the out-of-box noise reduction setting is "standard," so I have 2 choices "low" or "off." Per the recommendations, I've been using "off."
  4. uci2ci

    uci2ci Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 22, 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    Sure, np

    1) I'd be surprised if the epl1 is free from sky noise. Even the OMD has it. Im guessing the epl1 is set to higher noise filter. Try the side by side tests, and post them here. We can help you better that way

    2) you can use blur in photoshop. Or use a gradient filter with noise reduction in LR. Search luminance noise on google. It should give you specifics

    3) im baffled by that too
  5. Luke

    Luke Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jul 30, 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    Noiseware community edition from Imagenomic is a fantastic noise reduction tool and is free to use. a highly recommended download.
  6. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    I have an E-PL2, and I get sky noise with some of my images too. I'm not sure why the E-PM1 would be worse than the E-PL1, but the sensors are slightly different and the overall jpeg settings could be too.
  7. crsnydertx

    crsnydertx Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 31, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Same sensor, different AA filter...?
  8. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    The E-PL2 has a stronger AA filter I think than the E-PL1.

    But the E-PM1 uses a "tweaked" version of that same sensor. I believe when Olympus came out with the E-P3, E-PL3, and E-PM1, they claimed the sensor was different but tests showed it was just tweaked.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. larrytxeast

    larrytxeast Mu-43 Rookie

    Sep 10, 2012
    I took some shots with my E-PM1 as such:

    # Sharpening Noise Filter EV
    1 -1 OFF 0
    2 -1 OFF -0.3
    3 0 OFF 0
    4 0 OFF -0.3
    5 -1 LOW 0
    6 -1 LOW -0.3

    The ones that have sharpening at -1, I set it in the menus (custom, then THAT "picture mode" is set to #3 "natural" & sharpening is turned down to -1 you then have to back out and select "custom" from that list) and I then ALSO set it in the super-control-panel (again, for some reason, what you set sharpening-wise in the menus doesn't show up in the SCP, so I set it there too--important, I don't think I was aware of that at the time I took the shots in question). The ones with sharpening at 0, I made sure #3 "natural" was selected straight-up in the menus & ALSO made sure sharpening was at 0 in the SCP.

    I then mounted it on a tripod, quality was Superfine-Large, IBIS was off, the camera was aimed at a tree against a blue sky at my home, using the "magnify" method to focus on the tree. The 0 EV shots were 1/320 second f/11, the -0.3 EV ones were 1/400 second f/11.

    I haven't posted the photos--if I choose to do, is it customary to upload the full-sized JPEGs, and where do you typically upload them to?

    My observations:

    (1) The noise is hardly a huge mess, it's just that I like it pure clean, not a hint. That happened with shots #5 & #6, with sharpening at -1 and noise filter set to "low."

    (2) Otherwise, almost all of the 0 EV ones were clean. With #2 and #4, you could see an increase when I applied -0.3EV.

    (3) #4 was probably what parameters were used for the shots in question, because at that time while I set the custom parameters in the menu I didn't properly back-out and select "custom" from the list (I effectively specified what custom LOOKS LIKE but didn't specifically ACTIVATE custom itself, I didn't realize at that time you had to "OK" custom after specifying the parameters). With #4, "normal" parameters and noise filter off and -0.3EV, the greatest amount of sky noise was being observed.

    What I take from this:

    (1) Apparently I was shooting with "normal" #3 picture control paramaters at the time without realizing it--again, you have to "OK" custom in the menus after you specify the -1 sharpening parameter within custom, and it SEEMS you need to specify -1 sharpening in the SCP as well. At least it SEEMS that way to me.

    (2) I can avoid almost all sky detail by selecting a "low" noise filter, and it's my guess that that's probably how the E-PL1 handles its JPEGs by default.

    (3) For "critical" shots, although the idea is to avoid RAW "gruntwork," I suppose it would be wise to also shoot a RAW file with the Superfine-Large JPEG so I have an "uncooked" file to fall back on

    When my old E-PL1 arrives (I bought it back), I intend to compare them side-by-side. For now, it looks like I overreacted--I simply failed to have the E-PM1 set to -1 sharpening when I thought it was. At least that's what APPEARS to be the case. (The software I have doesn't seem to reveal the sharpening settings, or at least I can't make out the labels they use.)
  10. alan1972

    alan1972 Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jun 23, 2012
    Malaga, Spain
    Alan Grant
    I don't see this behaviour with my E-PM1. If I set sharpening to -1 in the menu for the Custom Picture Mode, then look at the SCP with picture mode set to Custom, I see the -1 without having to change it again. ("C Custom" should appear in the Picture Mode box at the top right of the SCP. I found it a bit confusing that "3-natural" for example is both the name of a picture mode and a possible setting within the Custom picture mode). If I use the SCP to change to a different picture mode and then return to Custom, the -1 is retained.

    It also works in reverse - if I now change sharpening to -2 in the SCP while using Custom mode, and then edit the settings in the picture mode menu, I see -2. So a given picture mode always reflects the most recent changes to that mode, regardless of whether they were made in SCP or the menu. Or at least I think it does - it is quite possible there is some sequence of steps I haven't used that works differently!

    In any case, maybe you don't need to use the Picture Modes at all. I find it more intuitive to rely on a combination of the SCP and MySets. Unlike the Custom picture mode, I know that once I have saved a particular MySet it will always mean the same thing unless I make a specific decision to change it.

    I know none of this really addresses the blue sky question but maybe it will help a little with understanding the menus.
  11. OpenCS

    OpenCS Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 16, 2012
    I'm not sure this ever really goes away.. it sometimes feels that I spend 90% of my processing time worrying about speckled skies at 100% zoom but really.. when do we need 100% zoom? The skies smooth out just by zooming out to a full view. Doesn't help if you're having to crop the image savagely, of course, but if you can frame the final shot with the lens then the problem starts to recede on normal viewing.

    Having gone back to some old Canon G12 (which I expected noise from) and EOS 30D (which I did not) pictures I took years ago, the sky noise was there with those cameras too, and on pictures which I had convinced myself were smooth as silk. I'm not sure it's entirely avoidable - there is a constant compromise between noisy skies and over-smooth foregrounds.

    What would be handy is if LR allowed you to reduce noise on the blue channel only..

    That said, I'll try the -1 sharpening thing and see if it assists; as a landscape photographer, clear skies are something I always look to get :) 
    • Like Like x 1
  12. Papayoyo

    Papayoyo New to Mu-43

    Nov 1, 2012
    Worth trying this in photoshop/ LR.
  13. WT21

    WT21 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    You should get noise in the sky on BOTH these cameras. The margin for error on the older 12MP sensor is pretty tight. Slight changes, such as -.3EV, could be a culprit. We'd have to see side-by-side samples to know for sure, but (to be repetitive) I would expect to see noise in the sky on both cameras at ISO200.

    The newer sensors should smooth the sky better (e.g. the newer Pannys and the EM5 with the EPL5 and EPM2)
  14. arentol

    arentol Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 29, 2012
    It took me almost 3 years of noise induced GAS to finally come to the realization that pixel peeping is idiotic. If I can't see obtrusive noise in the final image at screen size on my 1920x1200 monitor then (unless I print the final image unusually large) whatever noise is there will never affect me.... And even if I can see a little noise it probably doesn't matter that much, and may even add some character to the photo (though I admit not usually in the sky in landscapes).
    • Like Like x 2
  15. phl0wtography

    phl0wtography Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 15, 2011
    Noise in blue skies? What else is new? ;) 
    This will NEVER show up in print. Should you ever need a 1:1 on-screen view (I doubt it), you can always run some NR.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    First of all, 2 different days aren't going to produce the exact same photo shooting the sky in an outdoor setting. Second of all, yes -0.3 EV is a VERY different setting from 0EV. Third, am I understanding you correctly that you turned the Noise Filter off on the E-PM1 but left it at default on the E-PL1? The default Noise Filter setting is Standard, and yes it will smear out the noise as well as all other details in your photo. Do you really want to soften the details in your images just to eliminate any noise in the sky, which we've all stated is only natural and shouldn't show up in print?
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