EM-5 suffering from excessive jpeg DNR

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by nordattack, Jun 13, 2012.

  1. nordattack

    nordattack New to Mu-43

    Jun 12, 2012
    San Diego
    My friend and I ordered our E-M5’s in February and did not receive them until the beginning of June. So we were very, very excited to start shooting.

    Well right off the bat we noticed something odd. When we turn off the noise reduction and noise filter and shoot Large Super Fine jpegs at higher ISO’s ( 400 and up) the jpegs look really ugly and have lots of artifacts and smoothing. Even if you don’t zoom in on the picture it still looks wrong.

    So I got out my trusty E-PL2, mounted my Leica DG SUMMILUX 25mm and shot some high ISO jpegs to see how it handled it. I have used the E-PL2 for a couple of years now and love the sharpness and iso noise grain that it produces when you push it into the higher iso’s.

    I shot numerous comparisons between the E-PL2 and the E-M5 using the same lens, same light, same target, same iso etc.

    The results were clear:
    When you turn off noise reduction and noise filter on the E-PL2 it is off. Period.
    When you turn off noise reduction and noise filter on the E-M5 it is not off and really screws up the pics.

    I contacted Olympus and we went back and forth for a week on this. I sent them numerous samples and comparisons that were irrefutable. Finally it went beyond the abilities of the tech support rep I was dealing with and my case was escalated to a higher level.

    Here is the actual response of the Olympus escalation Dept. to a week’s worth of testing and emails:

    “The color engine in the E-M5 addresses high ISO sensor noise to improve image quality. It is part of the JPEG algorithm. As you have found, if you do not want to apply this algorithm, you can shoot RAW.”

    Olympus Imaging America

    So their answer basically is: “if you don’t like it, too bad, shoot raw.”

    So they are asking all of us to jettison the unique Olympus colors, art filters and pretty much everything that makes the E-M5 unique and just shoot raw in order to avoid the excessive DNR they are applying to jpegs when noise reduction and noise filter are turned off.

    I replied to their final email with this:

    I want to clarify the problem as I see it so there is no confusion about what I have been trying to point out to you:

    This problem, which is a borderline "deal breaker" for myself and my friend and a few others who have just got their E-M5 is that when we turn off all noise reduction it is not actually off and the jpeg engine is smoothing the image and producing the hated "DNR Wax Figure look".

    This "DNR Wax Figure look" has plagued many recent remasters of Blu-rays where uninformed techs think they need to remove film grain when remastering a film and use heavy DNR to the detriment of all detail and a smooth "Wax Figure" like look to people.

    The E-M5 seems to be doing this at higher ISOs.

    It is not the lack of noise that we take issue with in the E-M5, it is the jpeg artifacts at higher ISO's caused by excessive DNR that we take exception to.

    I have attached a screen cap comparison of 100% crops of the E-M5 at ISO6400 both in Raw and JPEG with all noise reduction and filtering "turned off."

    This is a crop of the same image file in Raw and JPEG.


    You will note that the raw maintains the noise that should be present in the picture but the noise is not that intense and is nice and "film grain like" and really does not hurt the image much at ISO6400.

    The JPEG however has so much DNR that it gets the smooth wax figure artifact ridden artificial look of excessive DNR.

    What we think would improve your E-M5 design is to allow all noise reduction to be turned off entirely when the setting is disabled. Currently disabling all noise reduction and filters "does not turn these settings off" like it does in the E-PL2.

    If a user wants noise reduction they can always turn it on. But if they want it off, like myself and most discriminating users, then it should really be off and the jpegs should look pretty much like the Raw image as far as noise and detail.

    Is there something you can do for us? We love many features of the E-M5 but we cannot tolerate degradation of the jpeg images due to excessive noise reduction.

    Our request is that the user be given the "choice" to use noise reduction or not.

    The Off setting should really be Off and not mostly off.

    Looking forward to your reply.

    As I told the other rep I am a Software Test Analyst by occupation would gladly volunteer my services in testing any patches you would like to try on my E-M5.

    Thank you,


    They never got back to me. So it is up to us now to complain to them until they fix their product.

    Do your own high iso tests, compare them to the raw and you will see the same DNR. If they get enough emails about the same issue they will act.

    Below is one last comparison. 100% crops of the same image file in raw and jpeg. Remember that all noise reduction and the noise filter are "turned off" and the jpeg setting is the highest, Large Super Fine.

    • Like Like x 2
  2. Steven, you need to do a bit of software testing: your images all look like frogs in an iceblock: Domain unregistered!

  3. nordattack

    nordattack New to Mu-43

    Jun 12, 2012
    San Diego
    Not sure what you are talking about Tom. These are 100% crops from the E-M5. No processing was done to these pics.
  4. M4/3

    M4/3 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 24, 2011
    I agree with you and that's why I use my E-PL1 (with noise filter and reduction turned off) to get the most
    detailed and pleasingly colored jpegs and I use my E-M5 mainly for video or for fast action like sports
    and in situations where I need the tilt screen.

    My E-M5's jpegs are not real bad, it's just that I've been spoiled by the extra crisp detail my E-PL1 delivers.
  5. I can't see them on my computer. I get an image of a frog in ice, and a message: "Domain unregistered" etc. Possibly a privacy setting?

    Here's a link to why: http://guidesandstuff.com/imageshack_picture_photo_problem_issue.html

    Sorry Imageshack, but I'm not going to log onto your website so that I can view an embedded image......

  6. 250swb

    250swb Mu-43 Regular

    I can't see any frogs, just a doll, but I can see what you mean nordattack. Maybe Olympus can change this in a firmware update.

    I have just done a quick test at 6400 ISO and I do see a smearing with the JPEG. In fact I opened each file both in Olympus Viewer and ACR/Photoshop. Both RAW and JPEG in Viewer showed the same smearing despite capture and processing Noise Filter being set to OFF. So perhaps there is some default forced Noise Filtering in both camera and Viewer? In ACR/Photoshop only the JPEG showed the smearing, the RAW had a very pleasant grain effect. That said I can't see any difference between Olympus colour in JPEG or Olympus colour put through the latest ACR, and as I only use RAW anyway it won't affect me.

  7. hanzo

    hanzo Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 22, 2010
    Real Name:
    Imageshack does not allow images they are hosting to be viewed freely..
  8. Agent00soul

    Agent00soul Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 22, 2010
    I don't see what the problem is. If you shoot iso 6400, it will compromise the image quality in any camera. If you're so fond of noise, you can use some software plug-in that simulates film grain.
    Personally I prefer the E-M5's noise-cleaned version in your example above. Remember, this is a 100% crop and when you look at the entire frame, it will look fine even at large print size.
  9. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    This is not news. The earliest high ISO jpegs shown from the EM5, even before it was officially released, showed NR artifacts at higher ISO. Its noticeable at 3200 and quite bad at 6400 (although really not that bad at smaller viewing sizes, but definitely there). The raw files are much better - there may be some NR happening even in the raw files, but its not objectionable and there's more to work with. Olympus clearly did this intentionally and it hasn't been a big secret. I seriously doubt this is something they'll "fix" because they don't consider it broken. Its part of their high ISO jpeg approach. I just shoot raw with my EM5, for this and other reasons...

    • Like Like x 2
  10. MajorMagee

    MajorMagee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2011
    Dayton, OH
    I'm just seeing Jpeg artifacts, not noise reduction.
  11. 250swb

    250swb Mu-43 Regular

    The 'problem' as it stands is that ACR does a much better job of processing higher ISO images from the E-M5 than either camera JPEG's or Olympus Viewer with RAW. A much cleaner and sharper image can be created by using the ACR noise filter than Olympus can manage with its default and un-switch-offable settings. You have no option but to endure the Olympus default treatment if you use Viewer or use JPEG.

    So it isn't about the fact that some image degradation takes place if you use high ISO, it's about making the best of it.

  12. f6cvalkyrie

    f6cvalkyrie Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 12, 2010
    Brussels, Belgium
    I just shoot RAW and am very happy with high iso performance of the OM-D
    At least on pair with the GH2, maybe even better !

    C U
  13. heli-mech

    heli-mech Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 9, 2012
    Vancouver Island, Canada
    Real Name:
    The only "detail" that is lost(smeared) is never going to be noticed at anything other than 100% on screen viewing.... aka pixel peeping. If this is actually an issue then Olympus does give you the raw option.
  14. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    What you're saying is that there is a better solution than either OOC JPEGs or using Olympus Viewer to handle RAW. That should be no surprise to anyone.

    Why is there anything wrong with a company like Adobe putting out a RAW converter that yields better results than OOC JPEGs or a camera company's own, free software? If Adobe couldn't do better, no one would buy their product. They need to do better if they are to have a market and they do do a better job. People are buying Lightroom and PhotoShop and other commercial processing software only because Adobe and other companies can and do deliver better results than the camera manufacturers.

    There's nothing surprising here at all, and nothing to complain about in my view. Your choice is simple. You can use Olympus' free software in camera or their Olympus Viewer software on your computer, or you can buy a program that does a better job. You're not going to get the best for free with your camera.
  15. snkenai

    snkenai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 5, 2010
    I don't yet have the E-M5, but hope to some day. But, I would like to make a comment. I don't shoot high iso. I came from many years of film, where you bought your choice of film speed/grain, within the ones offered by the film company. You then used it. No changes possible, except some push/pull.

    I almost never take my OM digital cameras off ISO 200. There are my own personal reasons for that. And every one else also has a personal way of operating. It is wonderful how far we have come in that ability. I realize that companies cannot meet every owner's exact checklist of features.
    BUT, we are now in an era of "people control" in both government and private sector. By that I mean, "you don't know what is best for you. We do, and we insist on keeping control of your decisions. So, you don't get to decide whether off is off. We do and you can like it or not. We build them, you buy them, or not."

    So, live with it, or get rid of it. "And, you WILL enjoy yourself!" :biggrin:

    PS: Doesn't hurt to ask for a fix. Just don't expect too much. Less disappointment that way. :smile:
    • Like Like x 1
  16. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    When you shoot JPEGs, you have to accept the vendor's processing, both the good and the bad. The E-PL2 actually does apply noise reduction even when the noise filter is set to off - it's just more subtle than the newer models.

    It's not just a high ISO issue - at 800 and sometimes even 400 you'll see the degradation too (smeared shadow regions).

    I agree that it would be nice if you could disable noise reduction entirely, but Olympus has decided not to go that way.

  17. f6cvalkyrie

    f6cvalkyrie Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 12, 2010
    Brussels, Belgium
    Well, you can ! Shoot RAW !

    C U
  18. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin .

    Oct 9, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    It's worth a try, but I don't know about the likelihood of Olympus changing the jpeg processing. The probably did it because we spent so long complaining about noise on the old 12MP sensor! By choosing to shoot jpeg you'll always be at the mercy of the manufacturer.
  19. nordattack

    nordattack New to Mu-43

    Jun 12, 2012
    San Diego
    The Magic of Olympus has always been their jpeg engine. The E-PL series has always produced tack sharp jpegs with no smearing or smoothing or jpeg artifacts when noise reduction and noise filter are turned off.
    In the E-PL series they are basically giving us Raw quality with Olympus colors.
    In the E-M5 they took all that away.
    If I have to shoot only Raw with the E-M5 then why would I even want an E-M5, what's my motivation to buy Olympus?
    Any good modern digital camera will produce nice Raw output that I can later post produce.
    My complaint is not lack of grain in the jpegs, my complaint is the destruction of the quality of the jpegs through whatever crazy processing they are doing that they did not do in the E-PL series.
    This was a $1000 camera, we expect much more for that coin.
  20. heli-mech

    heli-mech Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 9, 2012
    Vancouver Island, Canada
    Real Name:
    Really? 100% on screen Jpeg quality is your primary motivation to purchase/keep the E-M5??

    I shoot jpegs 95% of the time and don't really see a issue here.