Pixel Shift: A Primer for Beginners

Started Feb 19, 2020 | Discussions
MEDISN
MEDISN Senior Member • Posts: 1,396
Pixel Shift: A Primer for Beginners
76

Having answered several PM’s over the years on the subject of pixel shift, I thought I would combine the common questions and post a thread on how I use pixel shift. There are many…let’s call them opinions, on what can and cannot be done with pixel shift. Let’s use this thread to discuss the practical uses and limitations.

For background, prior to pixel shift, I carried an A7R and later A7RII with compact primes alongside mFT for scenes where I desired more resolution and dynamic range. That practice eventually changed in 2016 as I gained experience with pixel shift on the PEN-F and later, the EM1mkII. Let’s be clear, it will NOT turn your PEN-F into a D850, but under the right circumstances it does produce far better image quality than you might expect from a crop sensor camera.

Dealing With Motion:

Let’s put the obvious issue at the forefront. Yes, you can have motion in your scene, but not all motion will compliment pixel shift. You might have seen the artifacts that appear when movement occurs. How do I avoid those? Let’s start with the simplest scenario. When shooting a still scene as below, I use whatever shutter speed comes with the best aperture and lowest ISO while keeping the camera motionless. Easy enough!

Static scene - wanted additional DR to see underside of roadway without blowing out the sky.

In scenes with movement however, I tend to live at the extremes of shutter speed. Either as fast as possible, or so slow, it doesn’t matter. With large aperture (shallow depth of field) I usually end up pushing shutter speed (and sometimes ISO) higher in order to complete the 8-shot sequence before movement in the scene occurs. When I need to maximize depth of field, I often resort to long exposures. I find this coincides nicely with light levels at the times I prefer to shoot (dusk and dawn). It certainly doesn’t preclude one from using “in-between” shutter speeds for say landscapes in broad daylight at 1/200th, it’s just that you increase your likelihood for motion artifacts if there’s movement. These portions of an image can be masked out by overlaying the standard resolution ORI file (rename to ORF) if need be.

Long exposure to smooth out the waves

Environmental Conditions I Avoid:

I avoid pixel shift in unpredictable, gusting winds, pedestrian/auto bridges and shooting from anything suspended in or above water, like a dock. This is one area hand-held high-res is really handy but beyond the scope of this thread. Ultimately, the camera has to be motionless for this to work so avoid working on anything that moves beneath you. Sand can be tricky – I avoid small contact area on soft sand. Either bury the tripod feet as deep as you can or find a wide stable base (driftwood, surfboard, camera bag etc) to set the camera on.

How Do Results Compare?

Quite favorably. You’ve probably seen the difference between standard 20MP and 50 or 80MP high-res (examples below). More detail, cleaner shadows, etc.

A 1:1 example of the additional image quality present in pixel shift (left) vs standard shot (right @200%)

What about high-resolution full frame cameras? If you’ve edited full frame RAW files you will appreciate the additional latitude pixel shift images afford. Want to lift the shadows 5-stops? Go for it!

Shot at equivalence but underexposed 5EV then lightened in post. The pixel shift image on the left has effectively one additional stop of light.

If I had to draw similarities, I would say the output of pixel shift typically resembles a 40-something MP FF image (think A7RIII, Z7, S1R). This is probably why Olympus caps the JPEG output at 50MP. I’m not convinced you’re getting usable resolution beyond 40-50MP in most cases.

1:1 view - high-res on the right downsized to match A7R2. Overall similar, maybe a little more detail in the pixel shift image.

Perhaps with a very good lens, there is a little more detail in it (Nocticron at f/4):

Viewed 100%. When downscaled to 60MP or so, the pixel shift image looks very similar to A7RIV with regard to detail.

What Lenses Do I Use?

Whatever you have with you! Don’t be afraid to experiment. As with any camera/lens combination you want to extract the most detail from, it helps to know the apertures your lens performs best. Often the subject will determine your aperture for you but don’t be afraid to use the lens you have with you. Even a relative mediocre performer like the Olympus 17/1.8 will benefit from pixel shift vs standard res; the 17/1.2 even moreso.

1:1 view. Looking at the numbers printed around the BASS knob, there is obvious benefit from pixel shift (left vs center). The 17/1.2 at the same aperture (right) is better still. Note: the 17/1.2 was shot from the exact same position as the 17/1.8 but the effective magnification is rather different between these lenses for near subjects.

Another example from an adapted Pentax 24/2.8 worth about $10 vs the Olympus 25/1.2.

1:1 view. Even an old adapted lens benefits from pixel shift, but there is more to be gained from using a sharper lens like the 25/1.2

Smaller primes are often easier to balance and stabilize but I have experienced excellent results from larger zooms as well.

1:1 portion of a photo from ~ 350 meters away on an overcast day. Shot with the 40-150/2.8.

1:1 view sandbox toy, shot with the 12-100. Yes, it's over-exposed (sand in direct sunlight).

What Do I Use It For?

I use it primarily landscape, seascape, architecture, urban scenes, still life, product photography (example gallery here). Occasionally macro, archiving, real estate, and light trails. Perhaps my favorite use for pixel shift is long exposure scenes. It’s a shame that Panasonic limited the G9 to 1s. The early Olympus cameras like the EM5mkII and PEN-F were limited to 8s which is usually sufficient for what I shoot. The later OM-D’s go all the way to 60s.

Once you get into long shutter speeds (1s and longer) the resulting image looks similar to the effect of a ND filter. Not identical, but similar (top right vs bottom left picture below). You can take it one step further and combine pixel shift with an ND filter to really exaggerate the effect (bottom right).

Shot with the 12-100 with and without 6-stop ND filter

What Tripod Do I Need?

Let’s put the “must have sturdy tripod” mantra in context. A solid, heavy tripod is no doubt beneficial to gain the most from any camera but that’s not always conducive to life. Use what you have, but I wouldn’t further encumber yourself with a $1000 Gitzo just because you might try pixel shift on your next outing.

I travel a lot for work and leisure, forgoing a tripod for mobility. When I do carry a tripod it is a pocketable, plastic UltraPod. Otherwise I use what the environment affords: rocks, bricks, logs, camera bag, paint cans, ledges, you get the idea. How big of a difference does it make?

Just to to make some readers cringe - an empty aluminum can for pixel shift!

1:1 view - taken with the PEN-F and 45/1.8. One of these was shot with my largest, heaviest tripod. One with a $10 UltraPod II. One resting on a camera backpack. One sitting on an empty aluminum soda can Can you guess which is which?

To be clear, I would avoid something as vibration prone as an aluminum can but I was curious what the results would look like (it's A if you couldn't tell. Look at the jaggies around the 1/40s marking ;-))

Why Do RAW Shots Look Soft?

The 50MP JPG’s produced in camera are excellent but if you want to further play with the RAW, a word of caution; while Adobe Camera RAW will open a high-res ORF file, it’s probably not where I would start. The DPR Studio Scene “simulated RAW’s” are a great example of this. To say Olympus Workspace (OW) is better at retaining detail is a gross understatement – see for yourself. There is no amount of magic I can work in Adobe to make the pixel shift Olympus images look like they do straight out of OW.

1:1 view of a wine label. Same file, but converted differently. Taken with an EM1mkII and 45/1.8

1:1 view of a cathedral window. Same file, but converted differently. Taken with the EM1mkII and 12-100/4.

1:1 view from the studio scene. Same file, but converted differently.

How Should I Sharpen for Final Output?

Entire threads have been devoted to optimal sharpening of pixel shift images. Everyone has their workflows and preferred methods so I can’t say what is right or wrong for you. I will advise you to start your RAW workflow by converting the ORF into TIF via Olympus Workspace first, in order to save yourself some headaches later. Pixel shift images require more aggressive sharpening than you might expect. Every photograph is different. I have a preset saved as a starting point in Lightroom: Amount: 75, Radius: 2.7, Detail: 3, Masking: 50 and will adjust accordingly from there. I have seen great results from unsharp mask in Photoshop and the AI Module from Topaz as well. This part takes some experimenting to find what works for you.

Final Words:

There are many creative uses for pixel shift beyond what I first anticipated. Like many, I had my doubts as to the utility in the field. What I’ve learned is that like any camera feature, there are circumstances that will benefit and those that are best avoided. My advice is to experiment with the suggestions above and see for yourself if it’s something you will benefit from. Feel free to post questions, suggestions and tips below. I do ask that we try and keep commentary constructive and on topic. Thank you. -IM

Nikon D850 Nikon Z7 Olympus E-M1 II Olympus OM-D E-M1X Olympus PEN-F Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 Sony a7R
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kmax47
kmax47 Forum Member • Posts: 83
Re: Pixel Shift: A Primer for Beginners
4

Thank you! Very helpful!

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Ken

 kmax47's gear list:kmax47's gear list
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Isacas Contributing Member • Posts: 662
Re: Pixel Shift: A Primer for Beginners
1

Thank you so very much!! Great service to all of us!!

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kenw
kenw Veteran Member • Posts: 6,324
Re: Pixel Shift: A Primer for Beginners
2

Great post! Pixel Shift is definitely very effective if you pay attention to the cases in which it works most effectively. The good news is the camera still saves the first single exposure so even if it ends up not being a good situation you are still no worse off than if you just took a regular single exposure (though the file renaming required can be annoying in some workflows).

I'd add to the list of problem situations being telephoto on distant high contrast subjects. By this I mean focal lengths about 100mm and longer on m43 and photographing things a few hundred meters away or more. In most cases atmospheric scintillation begins to have a significant effect and the coherence time is typically shorter than the time the camera takes to capture the 8 exposures. The result is the effective displacement by changing refraction of details in the scene. The camera isn't moving. The objects in the scene aren't moving. The apparent positions of the objects are however moving because of the changing refractive path between them and the camera.  It is exactly the same effect you see right along hot pavement with your eyes but just much more subtle.  It isn't subtle anymore though when you use a telephoto lens and a really high resolution capture!

This can result in the dreaded "jaggies" showing up on high contrast edges like railings and roof lines in an urban scene or the tops of mountains in a landscape. Usually there aren't too many but they can be scattered all over the scene which makes them annoying to track down. Since this scintillation is driven by convection it can actually be worst on a calm day which can result in the mystifying appearance of artifacts on a dead calm day while shooting from a rock solid tripod.

A quick check for this condition is to use 1:1 magnification in live-view.  If you see that swirling turbulent scintillation probably best to give Hi-Res a skip.

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Ken W
See profile for equipment list

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Danielvr Veteran Member • Posts: 5,647
It's called high resolution shooting
4

Or 'High Res Shot' for short. You may want to mention that, so readers can find it on their cameras and in their manuals. Olympus doesn't use the phrase 'pixel shift'.

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glassoholic
glassoholic Veteran Member • Posts: 5,866
Re: Pixel Shift: A Primer for Beginners

An interesting thread thanks. In the last few days, using RAW and DXO PL 3 Elite, I have (finally) been creating a preset to work with Oly HHHR files. It surprised me how much extra sharpening I needed.

After much tweaking, I found a setting that was better in IQ than a single shot RAW, but TBH, at 200 ISO, I think it has limited application... the single shot RAWS are so good.

Next, I will use higher and higher ISO with HHHR, and see how that pans out. I am not in a hurry as I don't often shoot where high ISO is a necessity, the subject has no movement or my f1.2/ 1.4 lenses can't lower ISO enough for the IQ I find good enough.

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Addicted To Glass
M43 equivalence: "Twice the fun with half the weight"
"You are a long time dead" -
Credit to whoever said that first and my wife for saying it to me... Make the best you can of every day!

MEDISN
OP MEDISN Senior Member • Posts: 1,396
Re: Pixel Shift: A Primer for Beginners

@kmax47, @Isacas

Appreciate the compliments, thank you.

@kenw

Good point on environmental effect.  I notice the same thing during long exposures on my A7RII at longer focal lengths.  Not jaggies, but blur/distortion.

@Danielvr

Indeed, Olympus markets as "High Res" but many manufacturers offer some sort of pixel shift mode now under different names.  I was trying to keep it generic these issues apply across all systems to some extent.  I intended to post under "photographic technique" sub-forum but thought it would have more interest in mFT given how many affordable models offer this feature relative to other systems.

@glassoholic

I would be interested to see the high-res conversion from DxO vs OW vs Adobe if you get a chance.  And yes, the standard 20MP files are very good but the additional 3-stops light gathering and additional detail in the pixel shift is even better.  That's what I like about pixel shift as a supplement to the "everyday" 20MP files.  99% of the time, I don't need anything beyond the 20MP file but in the event you need/want the extra, it's there for certain kinds of work.

andrew bentley
andrew bentley Forum Member • Posts: 56
Re: Pixel Shift: A Primer for Beginners

Thanks, really interesting. I'll certainly look at OW again for pixel shift.

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glassoholic
glassoholic Veteran Member • Posts: 5,866
Re: Pixel Shift: A Primer for Beginners

kenw wrote:

Great post! Pixel Shift is definitely very effective if you pay attention to the cases in which it works most effectively. The good news is the camera still saves the first single exposure so even if it ends up not being a good situation you are still no worse off than if you just took a regular single exposure (though the file renaming required can be annoying in some workflows).

I'd add to the list of problem situations being telephoto on distant high contrast subjects. By this I mean focal lengths about 100mm and longer on m43 and photographing things a few hundred meters away or more. In most cases atmospheric scintillation begins to have a significant effect and the coherence time is typically shorter than the time the camera takes to capture the 8 exposures. The result is the effective displacement by changing refraction of details in the scene. The camera isn't moving. The objects in the scene aren't moving. The apparent positions of the objects are however moving because of the changing refractive path between them and the camera. It is exactly the same effect you see right along hot pavement with your eyes but just much more subtle. It isn't subtle anymore though when you use a telephoto lens and a really high resolution capture!

This can result in the dreaded "jaggies" showing up on high contrast edges like railings and roof lines in an urban scene or the tops of mountains in a landscape. Usually there aren't too many but they can be scattered all over the scene which makes them annoying to track down. Since this scintillation is driven by convection it can actually be worst on a calm day which can result in the mystifying appearance of artifacts on a dead calm day while shooting from a rock solid tripod.

A quick check for this condition is to use 1:1 magnification in live-view. If you see that swirling turbulent scintillation probably best to give Hi-Res a skip.

Yes... those "jaggies" often show up if I look at a HHHR file at 100%. If I then look at the same enlargement (output size) as a standard file, they largely disappear.

-- hide signature --

Addicted To Glass
M43 equivalence: "Twice the fun with half the weight"
"You are a long time dead" -
Credit to whoever said that first and my wife for saying it to me... Make the best you can of every day!

glassoholic
glassoholic Veteran Member • Posts: 5,866
Re: Pixel Shift: A Primer for Beginners

MEDISN wrote:

@kmax47, @Isacas

Appreciate the compliments, thank you.

@kenw

Good point on environmental effect. I notice the same thing during long exposures on my A7RII at longer focal lengths. Not jaggies, but blur/distortion.

@Danielvr

Indeed, Olympus markets as "High Res" but many manufacturers offer some sort of pixel shift mode now under different names. I was trying to keep it generic these issues apply across all systems to some extent. I intended to post under "photographic technique" sub-forum but thought it would have more interest in mFT given how many affordable models offer this feature relative to other systems.

@glassoholic

I would be interested to see the high-res conversion from DxO vs OW vs Adobe if you get a chance. And yes, the standard 20MP files are very good but the additional 3-stops light gathering and additional detail in the pixel shift is even better. That's what I like about pixel shift as a supplement to the "everyday" 20MP files. 99% of the time, I don't need anything beyond the 20MP file but in the event you need/want the extra, it's there for certain kinds of work.

I have only set up DXO PL3 for HHHR RAW files, so no idea how they process with the other two.

My brief experiences with OW show that it is very, very good technically, but the slooooow speed of the program means I will never persevere much with it.

-- hide signature --

Addicted To Glass
M43 equivalence: "Twice the fun with half the weight"
"You are a long time dead" -
Credit to whoever said that first and my wife for saying it to me... Make the best you can of every day!

MEDISN
OP MEDISN Senior Member • Posts: 1,396
Now with the EM1mkIII...
8

A few observations from the EM1mkIII pixel shift (high res) mode:

50MP vs 80MP JPG

JPG's can now be saved as 25MP, 50MP or 80MP +/- RAW. Here's a comparison from 4 different 20MP Olympus cameras:

1:1 view of pixel shift OOC JPG's from PEN-F, EM1mkIII, EM1mkII and EM1X. ISO 200, 1/4s, 17mm f/2.8.

Same as above but 200%

Viewed at their respective sizes, they all look very good. I'm not sure I would use 80MP vs 50MP OOC differently in my workflow. When I downscale the 80MP to 50MP it looks better at high-contrast edges (the white paper on black paper part of the penguin for example) but I'm not certain I'm getting any additional resolution from the 80MP JPG OOC. This is shot with the 17/1.2 at f/2.8 which is fairly sharp in this system.

80MP RAW:

1:1 view of pixel shift TIF's (converted from ORF in Workspace) from PEN-F, EM1mkIII, EM1mkII and EM1X. ISO 200, 1/4s, 17mm f/2.8.

Looking at the burlap area in the upper left corner of each image, the PEN-F appears to have slightly less detail than the others. I didn't notice this in the OOC JPG files.  The EM1mkII appears a little better than the PEN-F but not as good as the EM1X. The EM1mkIII appears to offer slightly more detail than the other three.

Let's move in closer

Same as above but 200%

Looking at shadow area on the right side of the image (wall), the PEN-F appears to have the least detail and a touch of color noise. Both the EM1X and EM1mkIII appear to offer more detail than the other two (burlap above the feather). The EM1X in this particular crop appears to have cleaner shadow area than the rest but I still see a detail edge overall to the EM1mkIII.

To be honest, all are excellent for a 200% crop from a mFT sensor but there appears to be subtle improvements in the newer pixel shift implementations - at least on first glance. I need to devise a scene with a little predictable/repeatable motion in it to see if there are improvements in how the newer cameras handle motion artifacts.

RAW vs JPG:

What about 80MP JPG vs RAW from the EM1mkIII?  This surprised me a bit to be honest.  Hard to tell them apart - the detail looks almost identical.  The JPG looks to apply a little bit of noise reduction in the shadows even though noise filter is set to "OFF".  To be honest, unless I needed to significantly adjust exposure or WB, I would most likely stick to OOC JPG's.

200% view EM1mkIII TIFF on the left converted from Workspace vs OOC JPG on the right.

File Sizes:

The PEN-F continues to have the largest ORF file size of them all (120MP vs 62MB).  Not sure why this is.  The  50MP OOC JPG's are all around 22MB.  The EM1mkIII 80MP OOC JPG's are 36MB.

Kenboydart 09
Kenboydart 09 Regular Member • Posts: 119
Re: Now with the EM1mkIII...
2

Thank you so much for all this hard work MEDISN .

Its very useful to me and others I'm sure .

Ken

still in love with the PEN F

Jonas Palm Senior Member • Posts: 1,049
Thanks!
2

Thanks for an extremely interesting and thorough post!

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Donald B
Donald B Forum Pro • Posts: 18,433
Re: Pixel Shift: A Primer for Beginners
3

I went a step further than your 80meg image, i stacked 16 x hi-res 50meg images of a wasps eye, finished image was 264 meg FF 60meg pffffff...

Don

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alan scott Regular Member • Posts: 465
Re: Now with the EM1mkIII...
1

Great piece of work - thank you

A bit more info on file sizes - on my EM5 2 the sizes are:

- jpeg 17.824 meg

- orf 101.98 meg

- ori 14.103

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Alan Scott
"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth" - Marcus Aurelius

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Joe Snow Regular Member • Posts: 141
Re: Pixel Shift: A Primer for Beginners
1

Great post, OP!

I enjoyed reading it, and definitely will be using it.

Also, I really appreciate your time and effort to put this together, while the first few pages is just arguing about useless info.

Phocal
Phocal Veteran Member • Posts: 3,250
Re: Pixel Shift: A Primer for Beginners

post violates forum rule #18 and should be closed

MEDISN wrote:

Having answered several PM’s over the years on the subject of pixel shift, I thought I would combine the common questions and post a thread on how I use pixel shift. There are many…let’s call them opinions, on what can and cannot be done with pixel shift. Let’s use this thread to discuss the practical uses and limitations.

For background, prior to pixel shift, I carried an A7R and later A7RII with compact primes alongside mFT for scenes where I desired more resolution and dynamic range. That practice eventually changed in 2016 as I gained experience with pixel shift on the PEN-F and later, the EM1mkII. Let’s be clear, it will NOT turn your PEN-F into a D850, but under the right circumstances it does produce far better image quality than you might expect from a crop sensor camera.

Dealing With Motion:

Let’s put the obvious issue at the forefront. Yes, you can have motion in your scene, but not all motion will compliment pixel shift. You might have seen the artifacts that appear when movement occurs. How do I avoid those? Let’s start with the simplest scenario. When shooting a still scene as below, I use whatever shutter speed comes with the best aperture and lowest ISO while keeping the camera motionless. Easy enough!

Static scene - wanted additional DR to see underside of roadway without blowing out the sky.

In scenes with movement however, I tend to live at the extremes of shutter speed. Either as fast as possible, or so slow, it doesn’t matter. With large aperture (shallow depth of field) I usually end up pushing shutter speed (and sometimes ISO) higher in order to complete the 8-shot sequence before movement in the scene occurs. When I need to maximize depth of field, I often resort to long exposures. I find this coincides nicely with light levels at the times I prefer to shoot (dusk and dawn). It certainly doesn’t preclude one from using “in-between” shutter speeds for say landscapes in broad daylight at 1/200th, it’s just that you increase your likelihood for motion artifacts if there’s movement. These portions of an image can be masked out by overlaying the standard resolution ORI file (rename to ORF) if need be.

Long exposure to smooth out the waves

Environmental Conditions I Avoid:

I avoid pixel shift in unpredictable, gusting winds, pedestrian/auto bridges and shooting from anything suspended in or above water, like a dock. This is one area hand-held high-res is really handy but beyond the scope of this thread. Ultimately, the camera has to be motionless for this to work so avoid working on anything that moves beneath you. Sand can be tricky – I avoid small contact area on soft sand. Either bury the tripod feet as deep as you can or find a wide stable base (driftwood, surfboard, camera bag etc) to set the camera on.

How Do Results Compare?

Quite favorably. You’ve probably seen the difference between standard 20MP and 50 or 80MP high-res (examples below). More detail, cleaner shadows, etc.

A 1:1 example of the additional image quality present in pixel shift (left) vs standard shot (right @200%)

What about high-resolution full frame cameras? If you’ve edited full frame RAW files you will appreciate the additional latitude pixel shift images afford. Want to lift the shadows 5-stops? Go for it!

Shot at equivalence but underexposed 5EV then lightened in post. The pixel shift image on the left has effectively one additional stop of light.

If I had to draw similarities, I would say the output of pixel shift typically resembles a 40-something MP FF image (think A7RIII, Z7, S1R). This is probably why Olympus caps the JPEG output at 50MP. I’m not convinced you’re getting usable resolution beyond 40-50MP in most cases.

1:1 view - high-res on the right downsized to match A7R2. Overall similar, maybe a little more detail in the pixel shift image.

Perhaps with a very good lens, there is a little more detail in it (Nocticron at f/4):

Viewed 100%. When downscaled to 60MP or so, the pixel shift image looks very similar to A7RIV with regard to detail.

What Lenses Do I Use?

Whatever you have with you! Don’t be afraid to experiment. As with any camera/lens combination you want to extract the most detail from, it helps to know the apertures your lens performs best. Often the subject will determine your aperture for you but don’t be afraid to use the lens you have with you. Even a relative mediocre performer like the Olympus 17/1.8 will benefit from pixel shift vs standard res; the 17/1.2 even moreso.

1:1 view. Looking at the numbers printed around the BASS knob, there is obvious benefit from pixel shift (left vs center). The 17/1.2 at the same aperture (right) is better still. Note: the 17/1.2 was shot from the exact same position as the 17/1.8 but the effective magnification is rather different between these lenses for near subjects.

Another example from an adapted Pentax 24/2.8 worth about $10 vs the Olympus 25/1.2.

1:1 view. Even an old adapted lens benefits from pixel shift, but there is more to be gained from using a sharper lens like the 25/1.2

Smaller primes are often easier to balance and stabilize but I have experienced excellent results from larger zooms as well.

1:1 portion of a photo from ~ 350 meters away on an overcast day. Shot with the 40-150/2.8.

1:1 view sandbox toy, shot with the 12-100. Yes, it's over-exposed (sand in direct sunlight).

What Do I Use It For?

I use it primarily landscape, seascape, architecture, urban scenes, still life, product photography (example gallery here). Occasionally macro, archiving, real estate, and light trails. Perhaps my favorite use for pixel shift is long exposure scenes. It’s a shame that Panasonic limited the G9 to 1s. The early Olympus cameras like the EM5mkII and PEN-F were limited to 8s which is usually sufficient for what I shoot. The later OM-D’s go all the way to 60s.

Once you get into long shutter speeds (1s and longer) the resulting image looks similar to the effect of a ND filter. Not identical, but similar (top right vs bottom left picture below). You can take it one step further and combine pixel shift with an ND filter to really exaggerate the effect (bottom right).

Shot with the 12-100 with and without 6-stop ND filter

What Tripod Do I Need?

Let’s put the “must have sturdy tripod” mantra in context. A solid, heavy tripod is no doubt beneficial to gain the most from any camera but that’s not always conducive to life. Use what you have, but I wouldn’t further encumber yourself with a $1000 Gitzo just because you might try pixel shift on your next outing.

I travel a lot for work and leisure, forgoing a tripod for mobility. When I do carry a tripod it is a pocketable, plastic UltraPod. Otherwise I use what the environment affords: rocks, bricks, logs, camera bag, paint cans, ledges, you get the idea. How big of a difference does it make?

Just to to make some readers cringe - an empty aluminum can for pixel shift!

1:1 view - taken with the PEN-F and 45/1.8. One of these was shot with my largest, heaviest tripod. One with a $10 UltraPod II. One resting on a camera backpack. One sitting on an empty aluminum soda can Can you guess which is which?

To be clear, I would avoid something as vibration prone as an aluminum can but I was curious what the results would look like (it's A if you couldn't tell. Look at the jaggies around the 1/40s marking ;-))

Why Do RAW Shots Look Soft?

The 50MP JPG’s produced in camera are excellent but if you want to further play with the RAW, a word of caution; while Adobe Camera RAW will open a high-res ORF file, it’s probably not where I would start. The DPR Studio Scene “simulated RAW’s” are a great example of this. To say Olympus Workspace (OW) is better at retaining detail is a gross understatement – see for yourself. There is no amount of magic I can work in Adobe to make the pixel shift Olympus images look like they do straight out of OW.

1:1 view of a wine label. Same file, but converted differently. Taken with an EM1mkII and 45/1.8

1:1 view of a cathedral window. Same file, but converted differently. Taken with the EM1mkII and 12-100/4.

1:1 view from the studio scene. Same file, but converted differently.

How Should I Sharpen for Final Output?

Entire threads have been devoted to optimal sharpening of pixel shift images. Everyone has their workflows and preferred methods so I can’t say what is right or wrong for you. I will advise you to start your RAW workflow by converting the ORF into TIF via Olympus Workspace first, in order to save yourself some headaches later. Pixel shift images require more aggressive sharpening than you might expect. Every photograph is different. I have a preset saved as a starting point in Lightroom: Amount: 75, Radius: 2.7, Detail: 3, Masking: 50 and will adjust accordingly from there. I have seen great results from unsharp mask in Photoshop and the AI Module from Topaz as well. This part takes some experimenting to find what works for you.

Final Words:

There are many creative uses for pixel shift beyond what I first anticipated. Like many, I had my doubts as to the utility in the field. What I’ve learned is that like any camera feature, there are circumstances that will benefit and those that are best avoided. My advice is to experiment with the suggestions above and see for yourself if it’s something you will benefit from. Feel free to post questions, suggestions and tips below. I do ask that we try and keep commentary constructive and on topic. Thank you. -IM

 Phocal's gear list:Phocal's gear list
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 150mm 1:2.0 Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS Pro Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus E-M1 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm 1:2.8 Pancake +6 more
knickerhawk Veteran Member • Posts: 7,107
Blending to get best of both worlds
4

MEDISN wrote:

Why Do RAW Shots Look Soft?

The 50MP JPG’s produced in camera are excellent but if you want to further play with the RAW, a word of caution; while Adobe Camera RAW will open a high-res ORF file, it’s probably not where I would start. The DPR Studio Scene “simulated RAW’s” are a great example of this. To say Olympus Workspace (OW) is better at retaining detail is a gross understatement – see for yourself. There is no amount of magic I can work in Adobe to make the pixel shift Olympus images look like they do straight out of OW.

1:1 view from the studio scene. Same file, but converted differently.

First of all - outstanding thread. Thanks for taking the time to put it together and to share it. Regarding the pros and cons of Workspace vs. ACR for converting HiRes raws, I have slightly different take from yours. Each "solution" has a serious downside. The downside of the Workspace conversion is that you simply can't completely turn off the heavy-handed sharpening and NR that Workspace applies. The sharpening halos are sometimes way too visible and ugly for me. If you're willing to push ACR to the sharpening and texture-enhancing limit, you can approach similar levels of detail as with WS with less obvious haloing. However, ACR tends to add these nasty (usually diagonally oriented) zipper-like artifacts along strongly contrasting edges/detail. Sharpening just makes it worse. Bottom line: neither converter is the perfect solution.

My workaround to these limitations is to stack, auto-align and blend a WS-generated rendering and an ACR-generated rendering in Photoshop. There are several different ways to accomplish the blending, but the simplest is to place the WS rendering as the top layer and select Darken as the blending mode. As long as the overall processing of the two renderings was done to output pretty similar looking images, the Darken should primarily just remove the unwanted halos in the WS (top) layer. You can take more control of the blending by doing the following:

  • Double click the (Workspace-rendered) top layer to open the Layer Style window.
  • Grab the little highlight (right) double triangle for the This Layer slider in the Blend if subwindow and drag it down from the default 255 value to something like 220 or otherwise until the unwanted highlight halos in the image disappear.
  • Dark halos aren't usually nearly as noticeable as the white halos but you can fix them as well by sliding the shadow (left) double triangle toward the right until the halo disappears. However, there's a good chance you'll also end up eliminating desirable local contrast/detail, so proceed with caution with this second slider.

Below are a few crops that illustrate the benefits of this approach. I started with default renderings from Workspace and ACR, layered as explained above using the blend if highlight adjustment. The four crops are as follows:

  • Far Left = Default ACR rendering
  • Mid Left = Default WS rendering
  • Mid Right = Blended rendering
  • Far Right = Blended rendering with additional smart sharpening applied

The crops have been upsized to 200% to make it easier to see the differences

View at 100% to see the detailed differences!

Note diagonal zippering/aliasing-like artifacts along the diagonal line in the numeral 4 in the ACR rendering. Note the strong halos in the WS rendering. Note the balanced combination of the two renderings in blended version. The smart sharpened version shows that you can apply some added sharpening without the risk of making halos or artifacts worse. (Admittedly, I slightly overdid the blend if adjustment to ensure that the halo was completely gone and ended up reintroducing some dot-like artifacts from the ACR rendering along some edges. I was too lazy to go back and tweak the blend if adjustment to get the perfect balance, but it could be easily corrected by backing off a bit on the highlight adjustment.)

Here are several other crops from the same set of renderings:

kenw
kenw Veteran Member • Posts: 6,324
Re: Pixel Shift: A Primer for Beginners
4

Phocal wrote:

post violates forum rule #18 and should be closed

Sure. Let's delete some of yours that violate it as well:

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/61783919

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/61695084

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/62051176

But yes you've got sour grapes over this:

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/63429650

The difference is that in a technique or review post separating into a gallery makes it impossible to follow what is being described. And this post is specifically about m43 equipment.

On the other hand a large collection of fox pictures fits in a gallery just fine and that thread had a proper place to live.  Which in fact you also posted to and that one wasn't locked because it was posted in the correct forum.

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Ken W
See profile for equipment list

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 Olympus E-M5 II Nikon Z7 Nikon Z 14-30mm F4 Nikon Z 24-200mm F4-6.3 VR +37 more
Phocal
Phocal Veteran Member • Posts: 3,250
Re: Pixel Shift: A Primer for Beginners

kenw wrote:

Phocal wrote:

post violates forum rule #18 and should be closed

Sure. Let's delete some of yours that violate it as well:

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/61783919

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/61695084

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/62051176

But yes you've got sour grapes over this:

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/63429650

The difference is that in a technique or review post separating into a gallery makes it impossible to follow what is being described. And this post is specifically about m43 equipment.

On the other hand a large collection of fox pictures fits in a gallery just fine and that thread had a proper place to live. Which in fact you also posted to and that one wasn't locked because it was posted in the correct forum.

Fine with me. They violate rule 18 and should be locked as well.

Several of those are reviews of m4/3 gear and according to you is ok for breaking rule 18.

I just want the mods to either come out and say they are either going to enforce rule 18 or not and if they are going to enforce it to enforce it as written.....not on a per thread basis.

 Phocal's gear list:Phocal's gear list
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 150mm 1:2.0 Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS Pro Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus E-M1 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm 1:2.8 Pancake +6 more
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