Colour Creator and Art Filters

Color Creator

New to the E-M1 is a Color Creator mode that makes it possible to adjust the camera's color response. Like the Highlight & Shadow Control feature, it is accessed from the Multi-Function button and allows a live preview of its effects. The interface shows a color wheel that can be navigated using the control dials - the front dial changes the hue of the tint that is added, with the rear dial controlling the saturation of the image. As a result, scrolling the rear dial can reduce saturation down to zero - giving a black and white image, but with the hue dial effectively acting as a color filter.

The Color Creator interface overlays a color wheel onto the image, with a white dot indicating the current state.
Rotating the front dial changes the 'Color' setting, i.e. the hue of the tint that's being applied to the image. The level of control is quite fine, with 30 different settings on offer.
Rotating the rear dial adjusts the saturation, and can be reduced to the point that the image is mono. This 'Vivid' setting has a range of +3 to -4.

Color Creator adjustments can be applied retrospectively in-camera to Raw images you've already taken, although in a slightly clunky fashion (you have to dial your desired settings into the Color Creator before entering the raw development process). The effects are also honored when Raw files are opened in Olympus's Raw processing software (which replicates the interface), but can be tweaked or overridden completely if you prefer. You can't save your favourite effects as presets directly, but can store them within the camera's 'Myset' memories.

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The example below gives some idea of the possibilities. Using the Color Creator we've been able to develop several different 'looks' from the same image, both colour and monochrome. It's worth noting that the 'Color' setting in monochrome don't behave quite as you might expect, if you're used to shooting black-and-white film with colour filters. The camera's Monochrome Picture Mode is probably a better bet if you want to mimic such effects, as it offers several filter and toning options.

No Filter ('Natural' Picture Mode)
Color 5 (Red), Vivid +2
Color 25 (green), Vivid -1
Color 5 (Red), Vivid -2
Color 25 (green), Vivid -4
Color 5 (Red), Vivid -4

Highlight & Shadow Adjust

We've long admired Olympus's JPEG engine, so it's understandable that the company would want to give you as many tools as possible to fine-tune your results before shooting. As with the most recent generation of Olympus cameras, the E-M1 includes the ability to adjust the highlight and shadow portions of the cameras tone curve. The E-M1 uses the same implementation as the E-M5 - overlaying a graphic in the viewfinder so that the effect can be previewed, should you want to match the camera response to the shot you're trying to take. This preview can be combined with the cameras (tunable) highlight and shadow warnings, to give an instant sense of how much data is being clipped at the current setting.

The Highlight & Shadow interface overlays a tone curve graphic on the scene.
Turning the front and rear dials adjusts highlight and shadow curves up or down depending on which way you turn.

The Highlight and Shadow adjustments can also be combined freely with the Color Creator mode, all previewed live in the viewfinder. So overall there's huge scope for experimentation with tuning the color and tonality of your images in-camera, if that's what you want to do.

Art Filters

Olympus was the originator of previewable special processing effects, which it called Art Filters. The E-M1 has the full range of Art Filters, including multiple variants of some and the option to add frames to others. The E-M1 gains a useful addition - a Diorama filter with the in-focus region across the short-edge of the frame. Up until now, the Diorama mode (one of our favorites) was a bit limiting, as it could only place the sharp stripe of image across the full width of the frame. As before, this new variant positions the in-focus line based on the focus point, meaning you don't have to painstakingly position it as you do on some cameras' miniature modes.

This shot shows the new, short-edge variant of the Diorama Art Filter. Here's blurring the left and right edges of the frame while keeping the subject's eyes sharp, giving an even more dramatic effect to an already fairly shallow depth-of-field image.

The full array of Art Filters is included, accessible either via the mode dial, or as 'Picture Modes' when shooting in the PASM modes. If space on your memory card isn't an issue, Olympus offers its handy Art Filter Bracketing mode, processing as many or as few filters as you like with just one press of the shutter. If you dislike any of the filters particularly intensely, you can simply switch them off in the camera's menu (Custom D: Picture Mode Settings) and never see them again.

Pop Art
Soft Focus
Pale&Light Color
Light Tone
Grainy Film
Pin Hole
Diorama (II)
Cross Process
Gentle Sepia
Dramatic Tone
Key Line

Many of these filters come with a wide range of variants and additional effects, resulting in an almost endless range of possibilities. For example 'Pop Art' comes in two different types, and can have a number of effects added, including combinations with other filters such as such as Soft Focus and Pinhole. New to the E-M1 is the ability to add the selective blurring effect of from Diorama to several other filters, including Pale&Light Color and Light Tone. This is potentially handy for portrait shots, where the exaggerated colour response of Diorama mode isn't always ideal.

Each of the monochrome Art Filters (Grainy Film I and II, Dramatic Tone II) can be combined with tonality-manipulating filters that mimic using Red, Orange, Yellow, and Green lens filters with black-and-white film. If you like, the output can also be toned Sepia, Blue, Purple or Green, although not especially subtly. This essentially matches the options Olympus has long-offered in its 'straight' monochrome mode.

Best of all, Olympus (unlike most manufacturers) allows you to record RAW files when shooting with Art Filters, so you can always generate a 'straight' version of any shot later if you prefer. You can also apply any Art Filters to any shot when using the E-M1's in-camera RAW processing,