Previous page Next page

Software - RAW conversion

Supplied software

Unlike many of its competitors, Olympus supplies a perfectly usable - albeit cut down - raw conversion utility with the SP-500UZ in the form of Olympus Master. Master is a nicely designed browser application with basic image editing (cropping, red-eye removal, 'instant fix' features and a basic, but functional raw converter.

Master lets you browse folders or - as here - browse thumbnails by date using a calendar. Images
Images are edited full-screen using simple sliders.

The raw conversion module offers control over exposure compensation, white balance (using a color temperature slider or gray point selector - there's no access to white balance presets), contrast, sharpness and saturation. It's more than enough to get you started with raw shooting, and is a lot better than most competitor's offerings. If you want more control you'll need to upgrade to Olympus Studio or use Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop or Elements.

JPEG & RAW Resolution compared

Like other Olympus budget models the SP-500UZ's JPEG output is a little over-processed, though nowhere near as badly as the recently reviewed Stylus 800 or SP-310 (the images look a lot softer, and are a lot easier to work with in post-processing).

The supplied conversion software - even at the default setting - ekes a little extra resolution out of the lens / sensor output, and if you turn down the sharpness and contrast sliders you can get fairly 'flat' TIFF files that respond well to post-processing. Surprisingly, the default settings produce results that look over-sharpened and a lot less clean than JPEGs (with visible moiré).

To see just how much sharpening and noise reduction is going on 'behind the scenes', run the raw files through Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). You'll get roughly the same resolution (actually a tiny bit more), but without all that software sharpening the results do look a lot softer (in fact if you've ever wondered why we refer to resolution and sharpness as two distinct qualities, just flick between the images below).

Adobe Camera Raw
RAW -> TIFF (Default)
ACR 3.3 Beta
JPEG from camera Olympus Master RAW
RAW -> TIFF (Default)

Studio shot comparison

As you can see from the 100% crops below the Olympus Master RAW converter (default settings) is producing results that don't differ hugely from an SHQ JPEG, though they actually seem to be more sharpened and to feature even more heavy-handed noise reduction. By comparison the ACR result (again using the default settings) is softer, but has a little more 'real' detail and a little more noise. By increasing the sharpness and luminance smoothing options you can actually produce some very clean, very detailed results using ACR.

Adobe Camera Raw, RAW -> TIFF (default settings), ACR 3.3 Beta
ISO 80 studio scene 100% crops
Olympus Master, RAW -> TIFF (default settings)
ISO 80 studio scene 100% crops
JPEG out of camera, SHQ quality setting
ISO 80 studio scene 100% crops
Adobe Camera Raw, RAW -> TIFF (default settings), ACR 3.3 Beta
ISO 400 studio scene 100% crops
Olympus Master, RAW -> TIFF (default settings)
ISO 400 studio scene 100% crops
JPEG out of camera, SHQ quality setting
ISO 400 studio scene 100% crops
Previous page Next page

Comments