Help! High noise on EM5?

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by Oriana, Oct 4, 2015.

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  1. Oriana

    Oriana New to Mu-43

    2
    Oct 4, 2015
    Hi all,

    I am new to the forum although I have come here often before I decided to buy my Olympus EM5.

    Yesterday I went out to old Cairo and, being a bit lazy I decided to leave the settings in auto. After a day of walking and taking photos I felt I got some nice shots, however once I got back home and imported the RAW files on Lightroom, I saw that most of the photos were not crisp and zooming in I was quite appalled to see high noise.

    Another weird thing is that somehow throughout the entire day, the EM5 kept the ISO at 3,200, whether I was in a shadowed place or under direct sunlight. Even though it's high, I expected the ISO performance of the EM5 to be better from other sample photos I've seen.

    I'm sure I might be missing some issues here (e.g. lens quality, I was shooting with an Olympus 12 -50 F 3.5-6.3) but I would really appreciate your help in figuring out how to get cleaner, crisper images!

    Attached (under media gallery) are a couple of photos and their zoomed versions!

    Oriana
     
  2. Oriana

    Oriana New to Mu-43

    2
    Oct 4, 2015
    I figured out it's probably better to attach the photos directly :)

    87738-8c12137f234d0b01c4d373e56314e28a. 87737-98afe114a2015c16488edb07292b814f. 87736-18cbca4d2dbac8f32a88d2e7b9697e47. 87735-d426c1ae3d37980b4a8fceb0703dbd2f.
     
  3. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Australia
    Are you sure you are shooting on auto? ISO should not be 3200 for day shots, you would have accidentally set ISO 3200 manually.

    The noise you see at ISO 3200 is normal. It would actually look worse if you had taken those shots in low light. If you zoom out and look at the whole picture, the noise isn't actually that bad. If you pixel peep, you will see it.

    ISO 3200 is where m4/3 starts falling apart a little. I still find it acceptable so long as I don't pixel peep or crop too heavily. I find ISO 6400 acceptable as well with the right conditions and post processing.

    If you want noise free images at ISO 3200, you've picked the wrong system.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  4. tyrphoto

    tyrphoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2014
    Seoul | NYC
    ㅇtㅈyㅅr
    Noise at ISO 3200 is about the limit for me in terms of what I find to be acceptable although I prefer to keep it at 1600 or lower if at all possible. If you pixel peep, you'll see noise at much lower ISO as well. It all depends on what's acceptable to you as well as noise reduction in post process.
     
  5. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Lorenzo
    Hi Oriana and welcome to the forum. Can you give us the full exposure info of a couple of shots? When you say "auto" you mean iAuto, P or some semi-auto mode (A, S)?

    Did you recovered shadows or otherwise increased the exposure of the photos?

    Lightroom default RAW development is not great for noise, you could try to see if Olympus Viewer (or in camera raw development) gives you better results.
    Or you can check this thread, for example, for Lightroom noise tweaks: https://www.mu-43.com/threads/76508/
     
  6. Tapper

    Tapper Mu-43 Regular

    184
    Mar 12, 2013
    I have the EM5 II, so not sure if my advice will apply to EM5 I.

    But I suggest setting the auto ISO range from 200 - 1600. I only use 3200 and above when it's truly dark, and I set it manually in those cases.

    Also, don't use Auto mode. IMO these cameras are meant to be used with at least some manual control.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2015
  7. memzinla

    memzinla Mu-43 Top Veteran

    505
    Oct 31, 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    I also have the E-M5, and the max I use is 1600.
     
  8. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 Top Veteran

    767
    Jun 4, 2014
    Maryland
    Loren
    Try to minimize what you leave to the camera to manage. There is more than one way to do this, but I will tell you mine:

    I allow the camera automation for one parameter (shutter speed), but in essence that means I give it nothing. I use mostly Aperture priority and I manually keep ISO as low as I can. This way, I have direct control of my depth of field and maximize image cleanliness. Since I am controlling both of those aspects directly, it means I have full (albeit indirect) control of shutter speed as well, if I need to capture motion in a certain way. The camera can be trusted to give me the fastest shutter speed needed for proper exposure, so I know what shutter speed I will be getting based on the aperture I choose. If I still don't like what I see in in terms of exposure in the EVF, I use exposure compensation.

    It sounds like you may have accidentally had ISO set at 3200, but whether it was because of that or because it was on Auto, it's definitely the one setting that will make the most difference in your IQ. You won't have to change ISO often in a single outing (if at all), so it's an easy thing to manage manually via the SCP. In full daylight, shoot at ISO 200. I would only raise it if I needed more shutter speed to get movement sharp in lower light, or if I am shooting in such low light that I can't get a sharp images due to camera shake. With IBIS, however, you can push the envelope on this a bit.

    In terms of sharpness, I think the blown up version of the second image looks reasonably sharp at the left eye of the woman, which is weird because the zoomed out version doesn't look nearly as sharp. It might be a matter of the way that second image was post processed or uploaded? Did you apply noise reduction? Or, there may be a DoF issue as well. Even at f/3.5 (assuming you were shooting wide open), it's possible that you had too shallow DoF to keep the whole face in focus.

    The first image just looks out of focus. I can't even tell where the point of focus is to say if it's a DoF problem. There is also considerable moire on the corrugated gates. I'm not sure if much can be done about that.

    Your method of exposure might also be contributing to the overall image IQ. Particularly the second one looks like it might have been tricky to expose because there were light and dark areas. If you underexposed, say, the woman's face, and corrected for the entire image in post, it could bring out more noise. The highlights in her head wrap look like they might be overexposed.
     
  9. bikerhiker

    bikerhiker Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 24, 2013
    Canada
    David
    Hi Oriana,

    Thank you for giving us some valuable information. If the ISO is kept at 3200; I am guessing that your shutter speed should not be below 1/500sec most of the times. This gives me a clue that those soft photos would not be the cause of shutter shock and camera shake. Your weak link is the 12-50 lens. It is a good kit lens, but optically speaking it's only very good @ 12mm, but gradually gets weaker towards 40-50mm focal range.

    To improve image IQ, you would need to shoot at a lower than 3200 with no sharpening. And when you want to sharpen your images to give that crisp look, balance this sharpening on your output criteria -- be it for print or for web display and this should be your final task in your workflow. Do not over-sharpen your images to match those taken with a higher quality lens. You can increase noise needlessly if you do. Or learn how to do high-pass sharpening or selective sharpening in Photoshop.

    Certainly, it would be nice to have a sharper kit lens to begin with, but there aren't a lot that are within the price range of the 12-50 and is weather sealed. You may need to accept the weakness of this lens at its longest focal length.

    Hope this helps and welcome to the m43 forum!
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2015
  10. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 Top Veteran

    767
    Jun 4, 2014
    Maryland
    Loren
    I know the 12-50 is not among the sharper of lenses for m4/3, but I used it until the 12-40 came out, and it wasn't nearly as bad as these images show in terms of sharpness. The 12-50 may not stand up to vigorous pixel peeping, but it is capable of producing acceptably good images.

    I think there was something else going on. I agree with your point that camera shake can likely be ruled out because the shutter speed was likely very high. On the first image, I think there was something wrong with the focus. The second one is baffling, because the zoomed-in version looks sharper than the zoomed-out version.
     
  11. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    Somehow you accidentally changed your camera settings to fixed ISO = 3200.
     
  12. bikerhiker

    bikerhiker Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 24, 2013
    Canada
    David
    I agree that the 12-50 isn't a bad lens if you don't pixel peep. The OP showed us some crops = pixel peeping and are not happy with the noise and ask how to make the images look crisper and with less disturbing noise. If you want to make them look crisper even in a crop (pixel peep), you will need to step up to a better lens. That's my point. I don't suggest that she cranks up sharpening to make up for the softness. You will get more noise if you do that. Noise is generated and recorded without going through a lens and not affected by camera shake nor shutter shock. So the noise will look very sharp and distinctive. A weak lens make noise look more prominent when you pixel peep because the noise will just look sharper than the captured image which is what she is illustrating especially the skin tone; which is why you are seeing the zoomed in version being sharper than zoomed out (The smaller the object is, the more in focus it appears to be which is noise). You can't see the noise clearly when it's in normal view. You are seeing actually what the lens could capture acuity wise, which is good but not up to the standards of a 12-40 Pro lens if that is what she might be aspiring to achieve?
     
  13. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 Top Veteran

    767
    Jun 4, 2014
    Maryland
    Loren
    I dunno... I'm no expert, but you don't need to pixel peep to see these images (particularly the first one) are not sharp. I also dont think more acute noise is responsible for the sharpness I am perceiving in the blown up version of the second image. The noise isn't even that bad, probably because the lighting was good (or maybe because she used noise reduction so aggressively it killed the sharpness). What you are saying is all logical for a lens portraying a certain level of sharpness, but I think the problem goes beyond the lens. I'd hate to tell her that the lens is the primary culprit when she could get better images with the same lens and better technique. Without more information, though, I'm not good enough to isolate what that issue is.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  14. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Lorenzo
    One possibility is that the camera was in A mode at f22 for example. Or fixed ISO and the camera has set the aperture to a small value. Strong diffraction, everything in focus and ISO 3200 in daylight.
     
  15. RAH

    RAH Mu-43 Veteran

    271
    Dec 1, 2013
    New Hampshire
    Rich
    I agree with Loren that the problem here doesn't have much to do with the lens. What I'm seeing is kind of what I'd expect from images taken at ISO 3200. Sometimes you can get away with it, but if your exposure isn't perfect, you'll get noise, especially if you pixel peep. And especially if you shoot RAW and then don't remove the noise aggressively in PP.

    The OP says that she was "lazy" and shot Auto. I recommend the following and you can still be lazy: shoot in Aperture mode, set it at f5.6 or f8, and set your ISO at an appropriate value from 200-1600 to get a good shutter speed for the conditions. You'll hardly ever have to touch the settings when you do this, except occasionally tweaking the ISO. Piece of cake.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2015
  16. bikerhiker

    bikerhiker Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 24, 2013
    Canada
    David
    Loren, the first photo was a magnified crop of an off centre image of the second. The corner sharpness of the 12-50 is not that great even stopped down to f/8. A magnified crop like that usually never look critically sharp. What i'm seeing is excessive noise around the chair. I've shot in that kind of lighting @ 3200 and I never get that much noise unless I turn JPEG sharpening to +1 or +2 in the processing menu and get a JPEG output that way. Or process the RAW with some mild unsharp mask sharpening and with some enhanced color saturation.

    Whenever I shoot JPEG in higher ISO like ISO 3200, 6400 and 8000, I usually use picture mode 3 (Natural) and turn off all sharpening, contrast, saturation and set gradation to Low Key and I usually get very good acceptable JPEG and RAW images. The key to lower noise is to set the white balance and exposure correctly and turn everything OFF. To set white balance, use pre-shot custom white balance. DXO Optics Pro does my RAW conversion and it does a pretty swell job keeping it neutral and no sharpening when I wanted it too.

    I had done some non-scientific tests myself inspired by Robin Wong (who blogs and works for Olympus) as I always wondered how in the heck he managed to pull off some nice high-iso shots; the same situations I couldn't pull off. What I had found is that, if I use a sharp pro lens like the Panasonic 35-100 for instance, I can shoot neutral with no sharpening and get very sharp images. In order for my Panasonic 14-42X to keep up to my Panasonic 35-100, I have to apply a bit more sharpening to increase acuity to give that crisp look. In the process, it increases noise. I've been shooting with high ISO 3200, 6400 and even 8000 with good success using the E-P5 if I remember to shoot mode 3, no sharpening and use pro lenses which I have. For lower ISO work, you can be more liberal.
     
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  17. bikerhiker

    bikerhiker Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 24, 2013
    Canada
    David
    Quoted from the Imatest article:

    http://www.imatest.com/docs/noise/

    When poor quality lenses are used (or the image is misfocused or shaken), the image is lowpass filtered (blurred) but the noise is not. Some sharpness loss can be recovered with sharpening or USM, but noise is boosted in the process. That’s why good lenses are important, even when digital sharpening is available. RAW converters often perform both sharpening and NR, whether you want it or not. This makes it difficult to compare the intrinsic performance of different cameras.Standardized sharpening is an imperfect attempt compensate for these software differences.

    Hope this helps..