Using the E-PL1 with Aperture 3 for the TOTAL BEGINNER!

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by Ray Sachs, Apr 21, 2010.

  1. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    Hi,

    I'd mentioned having come around to using Aperture 3 to process RAW files in a different discussion, BBW asked me for clarification in a PM, and, after a couple of back and forth messages, asked me to post this here on the forum for the other legions of relative beginners to digital photo processing who have just bought an E-PL1 and are going through the whole RAW vs JPEG vs RAW+JPEG debate. As a little background, I'd done a lot of B&W photography and a LOT of darkroom work in my youth. Turned into a point and shooter once we had kids, made the transition to digital in the point and shoot world, and am just now getting back into photography as a bit more of a hobby again with the M43 system. I don't have any desire to deal with a DSLR system, but I wanted better cameras, lenses, and image quality than I could get from even my very nice point and shoot.

    I'd only shot digitally with jpegs until a few weeks ago when I got the E-PL1 (doing minor tweaks with iphoto) and didn't understand the benefits of shooting with RAW. Being the inquisitive sort, I started shooting RAW + JPEG to try to figure it out. And then I found that Apple doesn't support RAW from the E-PL1 yet. So I had to solve that problem. And then I realized that iphoto and Olympus Master 2 has relatively limited processing options, so I decided to try the Aperture under their 30 day free trial program since it dealt in the basic Apple conventions that I was already familiar and comfortable with.

    This isn't real short, so I'm gonna break it up into a couple more posts:
     
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  2. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    First, getting the E-PL1 files to work with Aperture

    Since Apple doesn't yet recognize the E-PL1 files and since E-PL1 files are virtually the same as E-PL2 files except for the identifier data in the file, the key is to make Aperture think its reading an E-P2 file so it will open it. There are two shareware-ish programs available (that I'm aware of) to do this. One is written by photographer extraordinaire Kevin Paris and I think he's provided a link to it else where. But here it is again:

    http://facefullofbees.com/journal/2010/3/6/e-pl1-convertor.html

    It does the job very effecitvely, but as Kevin has warned, it takes a while to do what it does. QUITE a while. You could probably have a fine discussion of the relative merits of Oly vs Pany in the time it takes to convert 100 files or so. And it costs a few Euros, which is more than fair for the function it provides.

    The other one is here:

    http://public.me.com/dr_lha

    I've read that this one may not work on earlier Mac systems, but it works on Snow Leopard, which I have. If you have Snow Leopard, get this one. It does the same thing Kevin's does, but it does it pretty much INSTANTLY - (no time for banging heads over Oly vs Pany!!!). And it doesn't cost a few Euros or a few anything else. With all respect to Kevin, whose photos are my new Gold Standard (simply INCREDIBLE stuff!), this little program blows the doors off of the one he wrote. Which he graciously acknowledged in a discussion over on the DP Review forum.

    How it works is, once you've downloaded it and installed it,

    1. Set up a new folder somewhere and call it something. For simplicity sake, I put mine on my desktop and called it "Unconverted RAW files".

    2 Put your SD card in the card reader and it comes up on the screen as a new disk icon. It may also open Aperture if you've designated Aperture as your default importer of new photos - if so, put Aperture aside for now. You click through the folders on the SD card until you're looking at all of your files.

    3. Drag the RAW files to the new empty folder ("unconverted RAW files", in my example above) and let them copy over. If you're shooting RAW + JPEG, don't copy the jpegs over, JUST the RAW files. I'm not sure what, if anything, would happen to the jpegs, but it can't do anything useful and, on the off chance it might harm them, don't do it. Then eject the SD card (you can keep or erase the files on the card at that point - you don't need them anymore unless you just want to keep them on the card).

    4. Double click the program icon "EPL1_RAW_convert". It will ask you to show it where your unconverted files are. Navigate to folder with all of the copies of the RAW files and select it. Don't OPEN it and try pointing to the files within it - just highlight the folder. And then click on "choose" in the bottom of the window.

    5. Almost instantly, before you can even begin to THINK about the relative tradeoffs between Oly and Pany, a new sub-folder will appear called "E-PL1 files" or something very close to that, and it will fill up with the newly converted files that Aperture will be fooled into thinking came from an E-P2.

    6. FINALLY, now you can open Aperture 3 (or go back to it if it opened automatically earlier), and tell it to import new files. Navigate to the subfolder where the newly converted files live and they should all be checked. Just hit the "import selected" button and Aperture will bring all of these new RAW files into its domain.

    7. And it will begin to process them according to a pre-determined bunch of settings (this will be in the next post).
     
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  3. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    Once you have your image files in Aperture 3

    First, a disclaimer. Aperture 3 has approximately 2,481 different options for how to manage your files and where to store the originals, the processing information, etc. I know VERY VERY little about these 2,481 options (this is an exaggeration, but there is more than one option, so its potentially confusing). This is a STRENGTH of the program and for those of you shooting huge volumes and with a big workflow to manage, go find out more about this. There are LOTS of people around this forum who know lots about it and can help you with the options. I'm not one of them, so I won't try - I'd just confuse you.

    OK, your files are in a new "project" in Aperture.

    1. Once Aperture brings them in, thinking they're E-PL2 files, it processes them according to a default "pre-set" of adjustments developed to make them look very much like the JPEG output of an E-P2.

    2. When you first click on one to view it in detail, it will come up looking kind of old and pale and not very full of life, the little spinny thing will tell you its processing, and then, BANGO, it'll pop to life with more vibrant colors and other adjustments that make it look like the Oly jpegs we've all come to love.

    3. In my experience, these processed files are almost visually identical to an E-PL1 jpeg, but slightly overexposed. I did a bunch of RAW + JPEG shots early on to compare and figure out how to make them identical.

    4. I found that the smallest increment of exposure reduction to the RAW files made them visually indistinguishable from the jpegs to me. This worked for several files.

    5. So, with this slight modification to exposure, I went into the little cog menu under "RAW fine tuning" in the "adjustments" tab, and selected "save as camera default".

    6. So from that point on, every time I import a new bunch of photos that Aperture 3 thinks are coming from the E-P2, it will process them automatically according that adjusted camera default preset.

    In other words, I don't have to do anything after this first step to have all of my shots processed automatically to look just like an OLY jpeg. It just happens automatically. And once Apple recognizes the E-PL1 and establishes a preset for it, even these first steps will be unnecessary! You'll just import your raw files into Aperture 3 and they'll look like an E-PL1 jpeg. And if they're off by a small amount, you can tweak their preset more to your liking.

    So, a lot of you are asking, WHY go to all of that trouble to make a RAW file look just like an Olympus jpeg, when you can just get the jpeg right from the camera? To which I reply, WHY just leave your files in jpeg when you can get the same quality in the RAW image with so little effort? But more about that in the next post.
     
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  4. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    Why make RAW look like JPEGs, when you don't have to?

    When you pull a jpeg out of your camera, you may love the way it looks. You may not want to do anything to it. Or you may want to tweak it. Olympus, in particular, is known for its very attractive (to the average viewer) jpegs. If you NEVER want to make major changes to your photos, you may not want to mess with RAW at all.

    BUT, if you DO, there's a LOT more data there to manipulate in a RAW file than there is in a jpeg. There's all sorts of stuff living in your shadows and highlights and colors than you may realize and you can access more of them more easily and make more refined adjustments to them using RAW files than using JPEG files.

    I sort of understood this before I started playing around with Aperture 3. I understand it much more after just a few weeks with Aperture 3. And I have barely scratched the surface of what this program can do.

    My primary concern about using RAW files was one I've heard from a lot of other beginners - RAW is just too much hassle and I don't want to have to go through and manipulate and process every image - I'd rather just let the camera process a jpeg. I was concerned about this too. I knew that RAW files contained a lot of data and you could do more with them, but I was concerned about the price of having to do more work on the 90% of my photos that really didn't warrant doing any more work to. The family snapshots, the basic "memory" shots that you just kind of want as snapshots, but you don't want to devote a lot of time to.

    But, as I've found and tried to outline above, once you learn the basic stuff and set up the program, YOU NEVER HAVE TO LIFT ANOTHER FINGER for those 90% of photos that you don't want to manipulate beyond the look of the basic jpeg. But for those few shots that are real keepers, that look good but could look even better with some burning and dodging and sharpening and changes to color saturation, you can do so much more with RAW. Or for the snapshots that you really wanted but that came out like garbage, with all of your relatives lost in a dark shadow, you can pull them out of the darkness so much more effectively with RAW.

    AND, the original RAW file is never altered. The SETTINGS you use in alttering an image are saved in something Aperture 3 calls a "version" and you can create multiple versions from the same file. And the underlying file is never touched. This is what they mean when they say Aperture is "non-destructive". So, as processing software gets better and better over the coming years, you'll still have this digital equivalent to a negative available to do new things to if you so choose.

    THAT's why shooting in RAW makes a lot of sense. Particularly for people like us (beginners) who aren't shooting weddings or NFL games and needing to process thousands of images VERY quickly and who know how to produce an almost perfect jpeg from their cameras.

    Its not inconvenient and difficult. Its very convenient and very easy. The files are a bit bigger than jpegs, but memory and storage are cheap and getting cheaper. So its worth at least considering.

    -Ray
     
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  5. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus

    Thanks so much, Ray. I think this is going to be very helpful to many.:drinks:
     
  6. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    ray

    thanks for the namecheck...slightly embarassed though :)

    Key thing to get your head around early with using Aperture is how and where it puts the files.

    By default it stores the imported file in a big folder/file called the Aperture library. To me the better way of working is what is called referenced files.. In this case you decide where you want to store the imported files.

    K


    K
     
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  7. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    I have a small enough number of files that I've been content to let iphoto first, and now Aperture, just store them in their libraries. I know the actual files are in there somewhere - I've found them when I've needed them. And I just let Time Machine back everything up. If I ever get prolific enough to have to deal with thousands of images, I'll probably start storing them in my own filing system of folders and letting Aperture just reference them. I'm sure with enough files, that's the simpler and cleaner way to organize. But for the amount I have now and foresee, letting Aperture handle the organization is simpler for me. I'll just have to see how far I want to get into this.

    Is there a functional advantage to storing them elsewhere and having Aperture reference them, or is it just better organizationally for folks with huge collections?

    As for mentioning you, nothing to be embarrassed about - I really like your work a lot, or that of it I've seen. I liked your conversion program too - but I liked the other one more.

    -Ray
     
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