Image parameters (contd.)
When we reviewed the Olympus E-410, the E-420's predecessor, we found that the Noise Filter was applied surprisingly heavily even at ISO 100 and that it had a significant (negative) impact on overall image sharpness. On the new model Olympus has changed this approach quite radically and reduced the Noise Filter impact at base ISO to a minimum. At (very) close inspection you will see a marginal difference between an image taken with the Noise Filter switched off and on the 'High' setting (check the face of the clock and you'll find very slightly more visible detail). Still, even without any Noise Filtering the image is still pretty soft (and has little of the surface detail we'd normally see on this watch face); as covered elsewhere we can only presume this is down to the use of a slightly stronger low pass filter on the sensor itself.
|Noise Filter: Off|
|Noise Filter: Low|
|Noise Filter: Standard (default)|
|Noise Filter: High|
The E-420 features the same 'gradation' setting seen on previous E series cameras and now alse features the E3's 'Auto' setting. The gradation parameter provides the ability to change the brightness of the image to either low key, normal and high key. In reality all this appears to do is apply +0.3 EV or -0.3 EV adjustment to the metered exposure and subtly adjust the tone curve applied. The four shots below: 1/50 sec (Auto), 1/25 sec (High Key), 1/50 sec (Low Key), 1/40 sec (Normal). (Picture mode Natural used for these samples).
The 'Auto' setting lifts the shadows in order to increase the dynamic range of very high contrast scenes. Unfortunately this usually also generates quite some image noise in these lifted areas. You're therefore better off shooting RAW and doing this kind of tonal correction at the RAW conversion stage.