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Software (contd.) - RAW conversion

This page is designed to compare in-camera JPEG with RAW converted by manufacturer supplied RAW conversion software as well as any third party RAW converters available. At the time of writing this review the only third party converter available was a Beta of Adobe Camera RAW 3.4.

  • JPEG - Large/Fine, Default settings (Vivid unless otherwise specified)
  • Master - Olympus Master 1.41 *
  • Studio HF - Olympus Studio 1.4 (High Function mode) *
  • ACR - Adobe Camera RAW 3.4 (Beta)

* The RAW Development engine used in Olympus Master appears to be as-good-as-identical to the 'High Speed' engine available in Olympus Studio, hence we chose to only use High Function mode in Olympus Studio (the best possible result).

Picture Modes, but not in Olympus Software

So I have a big "what's the point?" question for Olympus. Neither Olympus Master or Olympus Studio have the option for Picture Mode, nor do they read the Picture Mode selected in the camera and apply it to the image. Rather confusingly they both display the thumbnail embedded in the RAW file when in browse mode (so a monotone thumbnail for a monotone image) but as soon as you edit the file it's at the default 'all zeros' configuration. If you're going to implement a feature like Picture Modes in the camera you need to make sure your software follows it.

Color reproduction

Place your mouse over the label below the image to see the GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart converted using each RAW converter. In this comparison we chose to use the 'Natural' camera setting as this is the closest to output from Olympus Master and Studio. As you can see there's a clear color response difference between the camera and both Master/Studio, between these two the difference is less obvious.

JPEG Master Studio HF Adobe CR 3.4

Sharpness and Detail

JPEG from the camera has a sharp appearance but also suffers from jagged artifacts and over-sharpening halos around black detail. The best results came from Olympus Studio in High Function mode (no artifacts and no visible sharpening halos). Adobe Camera RAW also did well but didn't look quite as sharp.

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Demosaicing artifacts

One thing we noted (and have noted previously on Olympus digital SLR's) are visible demosaicing artifacts which appear as either 'dotted' details on fine angled lines or moire / jaggies on the edges of highlights or curves. The 200% magnified crops below demonstrate the difference between the camera's internal processing, Olympus Master and Studio. As you can see Olympus Master appears to use the same 'fast' algorithm as the camera, where as Studio's 'high function' algorithm delivers much better results (although still some moire which can be removed by using the false color suppression option).

JPEG from camera Olympus Master
Olympus Studio HF Adobe Camera RAW

Resolution

As you can see Olympus Master (and therefore Olympus Studio High Speed engine) produces the same results as a JPEG direct from the camera, pretty good resolution but noticeable moire beyond 1600 LPH. Olympus Studio does better but it does help to increase it's "False Color Suppression" setting, this cleans up moire quite nicely. The best performance being from Adobe Camera RAW which produces high resolution, no moire and no sharpening halos.

JPEG from camera Olympus Master
Olympus Studio HF (False Color Sup. 0) Olympus Studio HF (False Color Sup. 6)
 
Adobe Camera RAW 3.4 (Beta)  

Noise Reduction

Our early tests with the camera brought us to the conclusion that if you're going to shoot JPEG then it's best to avoid the NF option on ISO Boost it sacrifices detail which can not be recreated in exchange for slightly cleaner flat areas. Olympus Master doesn't provide the option to adjust noise reduction, Olympus Studio does (with the range of 0 to 10). As you can see from the samples below both the camera and Olympus Master apply some noise reduction which means lost detail and a blotchy appearance. Olympus Studio takes a different approach, attempting to maintain as much detail as possible but this leads to more noticeable luminance noise.

Note: Some of the sample images below are VERY large, please only download if you absolutely have to.

JPEG (NF off), 3,794 KB
Olympus Master (same as Olympus Studio, High Speed), 3,891 KB
Olympus Studio, High Function, NR 0 (min), 7,755 KB
Olympus Studio, High Function, NR 10 (max), 6,943 KB
Adobe Camera RAW, Color NR 25 (default), Luminance Smoothing 0 (default), 7,525 KB
Adobe Camera RAW, Color NR 25 (default), Luminance Smoothing 25, 6,680 KB
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