Raw and Raw Conversion
The E-M5 comes with the familiar Olympus Viewer 2 (Version 1.2, Mac/Windows) and the curiously-named Olympus [ib] (Windows only). Olympus Viewer 2 is an update of the older Olympus Viewer raw conversion software that came bundled with the very first E-series camera, the E-1, and [ib] is a more beginner-friendly platform for photo organizing and tagging, as well as some basic JPEG and raw editing.
- Olympus Viewer 2 - Image browser and raw/JPEG image editor, with video editing capabilities.
- Olympus [ib] - launched alongside the E-PL1, [ib] combines a photo database with a series of features for editing and searching images, including face recognition and geotagging (Windows only).
Olympus Viewer is a capable and versatile image editing platform that can be used to make adjustments to the E-M5's JPEG, raw and Motion JPEG video files). The range of adjustments for raw files is impressive, and as well as the usual core white balance, sharpness and NR sliders, Viewer 2 also allows you to apply any of the camera's various color and filter modes to RAW files directly. You also get access to a range of editing functions not available in-camera, including perspective correction and lens aberration corrections (for chromatic aberration, vignetting and residual distortion).
You can also edit Motion-JPEG movie clips shot with the E-M5 (note though that AVCHD .MTS movie files can't be edited). The range of options is fairly small though; clips can be trimmed or merged with other movies, individual frames can be extracted and saved as stills at actual size, and fade in/out effects can be added to the start and end. It's fairly basic stuff, but enough to edit clips together and prepare a composite movie.
Olympus Viewer is a more-than-capable converter that's probably one of the best 'free' programs supplied with any camera. It has a few irritations - it's rather slow to preview any changes you make, and has a bad habit of displaying a coarsely-pixelated preview until you 'let go' of adjustment sliders when viewing at 1:1 - but the results are sufficiently good that many users may well find it the only raw converter they need.
For more detailed information about Olympus [ib], take a look at the Photographic tests (raw) page of our Olympus E-PL1 review.
As is normal in our camera reviews we like to compare the supplied raw conversion software, any optional manufacturer RAW conversion software and some third party raw converter. In the case of the Olympus E-M5 we used the supplied Olympus Viewer 2 as well as Adobe Camera RAW 6.7 Beta.
- JPEG - Large/Fine, Default settings
- Viewer 2 - Olympus Viewer 2
- ACR - Adobe Camera Raw 6.7 Beta (at default 'Adobe Standard' setting)
Sharpness and Detail
One advantage of shooting raw is that it can enable a more convincing rendition of fine detail. The E-M5's in-camera sharpening is relatively unsubtle, and can be prone to giving visible halo artefacts around high contrast edges. This kind of wide-radius sharpening is distinctly destructive of very fine detail.
Shooting in raw and applying careful sharpening can therefore be advantageous if you want to extract the maximum possible detail from the camera's output. The conversions below show better rendition of the very finest low-contrast detail by Adobe Camera Raw. Olympus Viewer 2 by default gives visually identical output to the camera's JPEGs, and while it can be tuned to give better results by careful tweaking of sharpening settings, it never quite matches ACR in this regard.
|Adobe ACR 6.7 Beta Raw -> TIFF (Default output settings)
ISO 200 studio scene 100% crops
|Olympus Viewer 2 Raw -> TIFF (Default output settings)
ISO 200 studio scene 100% crops
|JPEG out of camera, Super Fine setting, manual WB (all other settings default)
ISO 200 studio scene 100% crop
Once again, Olympus Viewer 2 gives identical results to out-of-camera JPEGs when both are set to default (or equivalent) settings. There's very obvious halo artefacts around the numbers of our chart, but the lines themselves are rendered impressively cleanly with no moire. You can reduce the haloes (but not eliminate them entirely) by turning down the sharpness settings, without significant detriment to the actual resolution. Meanwhile switching to Adobe Camera Raw gives similar results in terms of actual resolution with our high-contrast test chart, but there's a hint of colour moire.
|Adobe Camera Raw 6.7 Beta||Olympus Viewer 2|
Real world advantages
One of the selling points of the E-M5 is its excellent JPEG engine, the usefulness of which is bolstered by the ability to re-process with alternative settings, in-camera. However, taking the Raw files onto a computer makes it easy to adjust white balance, brightness and noise reduction on large numbers of images.
Post-processing of Raw files also allows you to tune the sharpening and noise reduction of your image to suit the particular subject. Here we compare a shot taken at base ISO with noise filter off but otherwise default settings. Here the blue background appears to have confused the camera's white balance (which is totally understandable), and rendered the image too 'warm.' Running the file through Adobe Camera Raw allows us to set a more accurate white balance and tailor the sharpening to the specific image.
Setting a sharpening radius of 0.8 pixels and the sharpening amount to 39, you can pull a lot more fine detail out of the image. For a portrait, you may not want to emphasise quite this level of detail, but shooting Raw gives you that option.
E-M5 with Sigma DN 30mm F2.8, ISO 200, F2.8
|JPEG (Noise Filter Off, Sharpness = 0)||Raw + ACR 6.7 Beta|
|100% crop||100% crop|
The other thing Raw allows you to do is tailor the amount and type of noise reduction used to suit the image. Noise characteristics can depend on the light-source of the scene (natural light includes more green and blue illumination than tungsten light, for instance, so won't produce such noisy images at the same capture settings), so it's handy to be able to carefully tailor the noise reduction to get the best out of each image.
E-M5 + M ZD 45mm F1.8, ISO 6400, F1.8
|JPEG (Noise Filter On, Sharpness 0)||Raw + ACR 6.7 Beta|
|100% crop||100% crop|
Raw files for download
Here we provide raw files from the sample shots we take, to allow you to apply your own workflow techniques and see for yourself the benefits of shooting in raw mode.