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Raw mode

Although the E-PM2 is primarily aimed at novice users, like all of Olympus's PEN range it offers a Raw shooting mode in the .ORF format. JPEG wins from the point of view of convenience (JPEGs are relatively small on your memory card, they look great straight from the camera, and they're universally supported by online and offline software) but there are several reasons why you might consider shooting Raw.

Essentially, a Raw file is like a negative, in film terms. You can go back to it as many times as you like, and make new versions of the file, which will not degrade. When working on Raw files you also have much more control over specific aspects of image quality such as sharpness, and noise reduction, but also more general things like exposure and white balance.

Sharpness and Detail

If you're doing critical work (like anything you want to print large, for instance) one of the most useful benefits of shooting Raw is the extra potential for sharpening compared to JPEG files. Here, we're showing you a default JPEG, straight from the camera, next to a simultaneously-captured Raw file, processed in Adobe Camera Raw 7.4, with sharpening adjusted 'to taste'.

JPEG - 1/640sec, F8, ISO 200 100% crop
Raw file converted 'to taste' in ACR 7.4 100% crop

Exposure and color

The thing about JPEGs is that once you've taken one, that's basically it. You can adjust them on a computer, but only within narow parameters. There's less tonal data in JPEG files than in Raw files, and because the files are compressed, image quality drops significantly when you try to make serious adjustments to JPEGs. This shot, below, was taken in hugely challenging conditions for the E-PM2, and as you can see, it has (correctly) exposed the shot for its subject - the backlit motorcycle. But in doing so, most of the brighter areas of the scene have 'burned out'. Take a look at the difference that a carefully-processed Raw file can make.

JPEG Raw file converted in ACR 7.4

As you can see, the processed Raw image has a much wider tonal range. We've been able to recover the blue sky, the delicate tones in the fresco on the right of the image have come back, and we've also lifted the shadows a little as well to reveal more detail in the darker areas. The result is maybe not as naturalistic as you'd want for critical purposes, but it illustrates the flexibility of the E-PM2's Raw files compared to the default JPEGs.

Noise-reduction and white balance

Shooting in Raw mode also allows you to fine-tune white balance and color post-capture, as well as take more control over noise-reduction. This shot was taken in very low light at the E-PM2's maximum ISO sensitivity of 25,600. The JPEG looks pretty good, considering, but careful adjustment of the .ORF Raw file has enabled us to achieve a warmer, more pleasing color balance, and get back a little bit of low-contrast detail. The final result is more print-ready.

JPEG - 1/640sec, F8, ISO 200 100% crop
Raw file converted 'to taste' in ACR 7.4 100% crop
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Comments

Total comments: 5
Rolfens
By Rolfens (2 months ago)

I've lost more than a couple of shots already due to the un-intuitiveness and hidden secondary effects within the interface. If you're the type who like to fiddle with settings and have some amount of control over exposure, expect to waste shots during the first months as you get acquainted with the interface and it's traps, quirks, limitation and bugs. It can be a real concern, and it's hard to trust this camera. If you can pay $100 - $200 more take a good look at what Panasonic has to offer, it might be worth it. If you're more the type to shoot full auto or only use a small subset of the camera's interface (ex: always shoot aperture priority and not use video) or only shoot landscape or are not interested at all in low light or action photography then this does not apply to you.

The bundled software is very slow as well.

Yes, it very fast and responsive for a camera of this class. It is compact, the image quality is great, and it's a bargain.

But don't take the rest for granted.

Comment edited 5 times, last edit 14 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
namssurt
By namssurt (3 months ago)

The fact is that I looked at a lot of options and have just ordered this camera. Current pricing is $400 with 2 zooms, which is quite a price. Why did I pick this camera?
1) light weight is important due to neck & back problems. Carrying a bigger format all day would be a BIG problem.
2) I wanted something better than a 1/2.3 sensor that is what most compact or bridge cameras use. APS-C increases the weight of both body and lenses that I would need to cover the focal length range See 1)
3) I wanted a good focal length range without having to carry around 30# in lenses. I could get that in a compact or travel zoom like the hx50v from Sony, but that sensor is just too small and the lens's f-stops are pitiful. The package that Olympus/Amazon is offering covers that range quite nicely in just 2 lenses, although I wouldn't mind starting at lower than 14.
4) the image quality is not perfect but is an improvement and the price/quality ratio is excellent.

0 upvotes
Rolfens
By Rolfens (3 months ago)

Ergonomics are not so good, the software is counter-intuitive and buggy, in the sense where it's very quirky. Many functions and options are fighting each other over a couple of customizable buttons. They shou've allowed for the other buttons to be customizable! The delete button, for example, just sits there and does nothing in shooting mode. One and only one dial used for shutter speed, aperture, iso (or any other setting, actually), browsing photos, browsing the settings menu, dialing in EV compensations, and all the rest. Not that great.
Aside from that, one has to say: it delivers.

2 upvotes
ulfie
By ulfie (11 months ago)

Pretty sharp with el cheapo kit zoom lens. Slap on the Panny 20/1.7 and you could lacerate your eyeballs.

3 upvotes
il_alexk
By il_alexk (8 months ago)

Yeah, this Panny 20/1.7 toy is amazing even with the old E-PM1. IT should be the perfect match for the E-PM2 or GM1.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 5