EM1 Mk III: HHHR vs small panorama

peterwgallagher

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I continue to experiment with HHHR. I've got the shot 'sanitation' about right, I think: chosing visibly immobile subjects and waiting for the icon to settle before gently depressing the shutter button. Still, after dozens of attempts, I have not seen the full 50MB resolution in any of my shots. This might be because there is some movement in the subject at the last minute (a waving branch, something entering a corner of the frame) and the camera has to discard part of a frame or because the subject has a large undifferentiated area (sky, mostly).

Of course, I can try to limit apparent subject movement by opening up the aperture (which should give me a faster frame-rate) but this also reduces DOF and, in the case of HHHR, doesn't seem to make a great deal of difference to the frame-rate anyway. Or not that I've noticed.

Still, even some <50MB+ HHHR shots have great resolution with all my OLY PRO lenses.

But the shooting delay while the camera merges the frames bugs me. Particularly if there is a limited window to repeat the shot while the subject is still. (There's nothing worse for shot discipline than tested patience!). And I don't understand why Olympus insists on giving me a JPG that I don't want and just delete on import. If it would speed up processing, I'd like to have an option to NOT have the JPG.

Recently, too, I've begun to wonder if the additional resolution of HHHR is really that valuable. Not the resolution per se: it's good to have the additional pixels because I often don't know precisely how I'm going to transform or crop the image on processing or maybe (even) years later when I find a(nother) use for it.

But the price of HHHR resolution is not just the delay in shooting; it's the uncertainty about whether I've captured a partly blurred/compromised frame that the camera has saved because... well it always tries to save SOMETHING unless the shot is a complete mess. (I don't know what Olympus' threshold is for 'a complete mess' but every now and then I get the "failure" message when, I assume, the camera's algorithms just cant put the omlette together. I think this is mostly when, because I'm impatient to get in a shot, I fail to check that the flashing HiRes icon has stabilized).

There's no convenient way to know this until I get back to my Lightroom catalog. It's almost impossible to see the tiny blurs in a compromised HHHR image by CHMP'ing on the back screen of the camera. (Hey! Olympus, if you're listening: how about some BLINKIES for blurs in an HHHR image. You know where they are. Why not give us a hint??)

So HHHR benefits come with additional risk. Part of the image might be soft, or worse, when I eventually get round to processing it.

"So what?" you say. "Olympus has come up with a way to make pretty spectacular images from a small sensor, even if it doesn't always work." True! But I already had a similar option, with greater certainty, without HHHR. (I admit I didn't use it as much with my EM1 Mk II).

That opportunity is a small (3-5 shot) panorama. I can shoot a panorama hand-held -- admittedly with some distortion risk but it's minizable if you use good shot discipline and with the advantage of the Mk III's superior stabilization -- that delivers equivalent or better resolution. The subject of a 40-50MB HHHR shot can be captured with even better accutance using 5 overlapping 21MB images that I can be confident have no apparent subject movement (because the aperture and shutter speed are entirely controllable). Better still, high quality Panorama stitchers like PT-GUI (and even LR, to be honest) can often take care of a bit of frame-to-frame movement for you with much better results, it seems, than Oly's HHHR algorithms.

Here's a couple of test cases. A 100% crop of an HHHR image (43MB: image #2 below) and a 100% crop of part of a casual hand-held panorama of the same subject -- actually a much wider and higher frame than the HHHR image -- that turned out to be about 330MB when the 12 constituent images were merged in LR (image #1 below).
StAndrews-pano.jpg
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StAndrews-HHHR.jpg
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.

Both were taken with the Oly 75mm f1.8 but they were not taken with the intention of comparing the two techniques: the pano was made from further away from the subject and a different angle to the light. Still, from the point of view of resolution, the pano is just as much use to me as the HHHR.
 
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Chris
Good points. Agree that if you have the time, and space to setup for a panorama shot, this is a great option.

I have not used HHHR too much yet but when I did there was a noticeable improvement in resolution but I have not quantified it.

The other HHHR benefit is supposed to be reduced noise at slightly elevated ISO values. Do you see this as a benefit?
 

travelbug

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Oct 20, 2014
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when I use the hires shot on my em5ii it is mostly to get better dynamic range. I believe the same applies to an hhhr image. If dynamic range is important to you then, that's likely the way to go.
 

pdk42

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pdk42

One of the "Eh?" team
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when I use the hires shot on my em5ii it is mostly to get better dynamic range. I believe the same applies to an hhhr image. If dynamic range is important to you then, that's likely the way to go.
HHHR may even do better than tripod mode in terms of noise reduction (= better DR via virtue of shadow pushing) since I think it takes more shots.
 

peterwgallagher

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Jun 7, 2017
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Dynamic range? Well we know the dynamic range of the sensor: it's a physical variable that you can estimate using RawDigger and some test shots. If you are exposing any kind of raw image properly (ETTR, basically) you should be able to maximise your use of the available DR. Frame-stacking as in HHHR simply isn't necessary. With the EM1 Mk iii, I follow a shot preparation routine that more or less guarantees ETTR in reasonable light simply by locking exposure to the highlights were I want detail and over-exposing by +1.7-2.0 EV using "exposure compensation".

Noise control and shadow detail? Yep. Frame stacking will provide some benefit for small sensors like the µ-4/3. That's why it's the default mode in many phone cameras these days (following the lead of the Pixel and iPhone).

But it's easy to replicate without the trickiness of HHHR by shooting a burst of (say) 12 shots using the hi-sequential drive mode on the OMD EM1 (you can quickly choose it by using the half-button on top of the ON/OFF switch). Then, process the burst as as layered-aligned Smart-Object in Photoshop, choosing 'mean' as the layer-stacking mode. Remarkable results, as Paul says (above).

Still, I think there's a lot of unnecessary angst about noise. I see very little noise that matters in my OLY RAWs when properly exposed. There's always likely to be some technical noise in the image from a small sensor caused just by the demosaicing. But I find it hardly ever interferes with the detail and it's often better to keep the noise for the sake of the detail than smooth it out (LR) or overwrite it with fake pixels (as in the "AI" noise programs). I find I can mostly get away with minimum LR correction or, if it's really reducing the detail in an image, I use the Imagenomic "Noiseware" plugin in PS.
 

peterwgallagher

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Jun 7, 2017
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You could just buy a Canon Eos 5 DS. for $1200.00.

Yup! Or a Nikon D5: IMO the champ of DR. A wonderful camera for what it does (About $AUD7500). But you need to wear one of those silly vests and haul a heavy backpack to carry all the kit. Ugh!
 

Hypilein

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Mar 18, 2015
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In my opinion (and I have no camera that can do any form of HiRez) the interest lies in the fact that you don't have to take a bunch of photos and than later process them. You complain that you don't know for sure if the HiRez had any processing errors, but with Panoramas you're often not even sure if you got the composition right in any way.

I have tried mean stacking and it does reduce noise, but I'm never quite sure if the images are as sharp as a single one. And the whole process is too annoying for me to do it for most photos. Shooting a stack of 12 images of every frame is not exactly light on space requirements and makes sorting a nightmare. I've tried it and it's not for me. I would think that Oly's HighRez does a better job. As far as I know (please correct me if I'm wrong) it produces a HiRez Raw, a JPEG and a single shot RAW (in case the high rez failed). So if you have a shot where you think it might work, and that you think warrants having higher resolution (maybe you want to print it) you can just turn it on and if it didn't work out you still have your regular shot. For my purposes that would be ideal, although once again I'm happy enough with my GX8 that upgrading to a new camera makes no financial sense.
 

mfturner

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Aug 6, 2019
Messages
286
I have used panoramas for getting better resolution in landscapes, but i agree that the composition was imperfect and the pp tedious. I do think that's where hhhr benefits.

Regarding noise, panoramas have the effect of shrinking the apparent noise clusters. It's the opposite of cropping a noisy image. It's not the same as median stacking, but the result is nicer nonetheless.
 

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