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Let's talk Oly picture modes

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by Promit, Nov 18, 2012.

  1. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    Alright, so there's a variety of settings for the JPEG processing on Olympus cameras and I'm not quite sure what settings people tend to use most of the time. On the EM5 we've got seven picture modes:
    1) i-Enhance
    2) Vivid
    3) Natural
    4) Muted
    5) Portrait
    6) Monotone
    7) Custom -- assigns presets from 1-6

    To be quite honest, I'm not too clear on what some of these do. I believe 3-Natural is the default on the EM5, and i-Enhance was the default on older cameras. i-Enhance disables 120fps refresh for some reason, and I'm unclear if it behaves separately from the others or just tries to select one. Vivid, Muted, and Monotone are fairly obvious. It seems like Natural is supposed to be halfway between Vivid and Muted, and i-Enhance sounds like it's not a separate setting so much as it just selects between 2-5. Portrait is described as "Produces beautiful skin tones", which is pretty vague to me.

    I've heard that Muted produces results more similar to Panasonic rendition and closest to accurate. LR's defaults are noticeably less saturated than Muted -- though on my arbitrary test scene, I'd have to give the accuracy nod to Muted over LR. Of course I haven't calibrated this monitor since a Win8 install so I'm not sure about that one.

    There are also four Gradation settings: Auto, Low, Normal, High. I gather that this is a dynamic range optimizer like most manufacturers offer (i.Dynamic, Active D Lighting, DRO, etc). Basically it tries to lift the shadows, at the cost of noise in the lifted areas. Normal seems like a fair choice to me in most cases; Low leaves too many crushed black areas.

    What are you guys using for your picture modes? I've been going back and forth between i-Enhance and Natural, but I'm not really sure which one to settle with.
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  2. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    The modes basically set some factory presets for RAW to JPEG conversion if you're shooting JPEGs. They don't affect your files if you're shooting RAW, but they do affect the display of your image in the viewfinder or on the screen while you're shooting and since the meter reading is taken from a JPEG conversion rather than RAW data, they can also have an effect on your meter reading.

    I shoot RAW and I have the mode set to muted because I read in one of Pekka Potka's articles on exposing to the right with the E-P3 that it was the most accurate mode for metering purposes (or at least that's how I read the comment). The modes are irrelevant to my images since I shoot RAW and process them myself in Lightroom.

    If you're comparing the way a RAW image appears in Lightroom to the way an out of camera JPEG looks, yes, it will most probably look less saturated than the OOC JPEG. That's because the in camera JPEG processing has a saturation boost that is not present in the way Lightroom displays the RAW image. Lightroom expects that you'll be doing the processing yourself and adding saturation or vibrancy to suit your own tastes. Olympus automatically applies a certain amount of processing that Lightroom doesn't when you shoot JPEGs. What processing is applied and how much is applied depends on your choice of mode and other settings such as gradation that you make.

    The thing to remember is that whether you shoot RAW or JPEG, some processing needs to be applied to your image. If you shoot RAW what you're doing is electing to make your own decision on what processing is applied and to apply that processing yourself after you've imported the images into Lightroom or whichever RAW editor you choose. If you shoot JPEGs you're electing to have your camera do the processing based on your choice of certain camera settings, and it will give exactly the same processing to every image unless you change your settings from shot to shot. Certainly you can modify the processing of a JPEG file later, but there are limitations to what you can change with a JPEG file so you're more restricted in your processing than you are with a RAW file, and the camera throws away some data when it processes the RAW data into a JPEG file. That data can never be recovered.

    So that's my take on modes and how they work. And, as I said, I have my 2 bodies set to "Muted" for metering accuracy since I only shoot in RAW.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    Sorry, my intent is not to ask about RAW vs JPEG. Found out long ago that it's easier just to shoot RAW+JPEG and pick what works later, on calibrated screens. I like to get it right in the OOC JPEG, but the RAW is there when the camera gets it wrong. I'd like to get a better understanding of the Olympus options for tuning JPEGs, because it keeps me out of the Develop tab for "tier 2" images. Sometimes Olympus does a better job OOC than Lightroom does without substantial tweaking, too. Wish I could say the same about my Sony.

    So to be honest, RAW shooters don't have useful feedback for me; this is for people who lean heavily on JPEG :doh:
  4. M4/3

    M4/3 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 24, 2011
    In Natural mode colors look duller than real life IMHO so I don't use Natural much. I think Vivid mode is closer to reality though sometimes a little too saturated. Scene mode is an automatic exposure / auto ISO / auto WB mode option for landscapes that is sometimes produces results as good or better than Vivid, especially if the white point is adjusted in post processing in the yellow direction to compensate for the Oly's tendency to produce colors that are slightly too warm. Yet another option for landscapes that sometimes produces jpegs that have reasonably realistic colors and alot of "pop" character is ienhance with the effect set to low.

    Takes alot of time and experimenting to figure out which mode and white balance setting is best for different situations and best for different model Oly's because the jpeg engine is not quite the same in each model.
  5. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I did try to keep my comments away from that and just provide some info on why there may be a difference between LR's display and the JPEG image.

    Basically for JPEG shooters my take is that there will not be one mode which suits all shots because there is no single set of processing options you can choose which will suit every image regardless of lighting or dynamic range. That will be true regardless of whether you shoot JPEG or RAW. It's true for film processing also. If you want the best results processing has to be adapted to the dynamic range of the scene at some stage.
  6. Mikefellh

    Mikefellh Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 7, 2012
    Toronto, Canada
    The BEST thing to do, is to put the camera on a tripod and set up a scene with lots of colour in it (items from your house with colour), and take the same picture in every mode, and see what you like.
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