Lousy embedded JPEGs in RAW files from OM-D E-M1 (and possibly also E-M5?)

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rungabic
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Lousy embedded JPEGs in RAW files from OM-D E-M1 (and possibly also E-M5?)
9 months ago

Before I go to the trouble of posting samples, I wanted to see if anyone else has noticed this issue.

I shoot in RAW only, and just in the past couple of weeks that I've had my E-M1, I've had more than a handful of incidents where apparently the JPEG that's embedded in the RAW file has looked like absolute hell (i.e., areas of splotchy compression artifacts), whereas the RAW file itself was pristine.

Initially, I freaked out when I pulled up a picture on the computer and saw hideous splotchy artifacts on a person's face and hair, with the rest of the scene looking just fine. When I realized that my viewer was set to display the RAW embedded JPEG for speed reasons, I switched it to show the actual RAW file, and lo and behold, the image was just perfect.

Later, I experienced the same issue when shooting a busy scene of palm fronds, and when I chimped the picture on the camera, it looked like absolute garbage, even at relatively low magnification. Putting two and two together, it occurred to me again that I might be seeing a case of a poor embedded JPEG, so I had the idea to switch the camera to RAW+JPEG (large, superfine). I then shot basically the same picture, chimped it, and found that it looked great. I changed the camera back to RAW-only, shot it again, chimped it, and it looked like garbage.

So my assumption is that if you just shoot RAW, then the camera uses the embedded JPEG for display/chimping purposes, bu if you shoot RAW+JPEG, then it's that separate JPEG that gets displayed on the camera, rather than the JPEG embedded in the RAW file.

Furthermore, when I used Photo Mechanic to extract the embedded JPEG from a RAW-only file, I discovered that the embedded JPEG is significantly lower resolution (3200 x 2400) than the RAW file. Furthermore, for all I know it could also be heavily compressed (JPEG Basic maybe?)...I'm not sure how to check that.

The bottom line is that I'm coming to the E-M1 after 7 years of shooting RAW on Nikon DSLRs, where the embedded JPEGs in RAW files were full-resolution and were certainly adequately compressed -- they never failed me for looking great, with zero artifacts. But with the E-M1, although most of the time they look OK, I've had more than a handful of instances in only a couple of weeks, where the embedded JPEGs were flat-out, critically terrible -- complete abominations.

In practice, I can work around this in post, if I'm willing to sacrifice browsing/loading speed, by setting my software to display the original RAW files at all times, rather than showing the embedded JPEGs. Not great, but I'll do it if I have to.

However, in the field, this poses a very serious problem if you need to chimp a shot to check critical focus, because you might well end up trying to view an embedded JPEG that is absolutely unusable for any purpose, despite the fact that the RAW file itself is fine. And ultimately, you simply won't be able to check that shot in-camera. To me, whether this is a "bug" or not, this seems like a major failing that deserves high-priority correction by Olympus.

Can anyone comment on or verify this?

Olympus E-M1
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