RAW (contd.)

Olympus Viewer / Studio vs. Adobe Photoshop CS RAW conversion

After a passing comment in our forums I decided to check to see if there was any improvement in final output image quality using Adobe Photoshop CS's built-in RAW conversion compared to Olympus's own software. The results are very interesting indeed (good and bad).

Resolution (100% crops)

As you can see from the crops of our resolution chart shown below Adobe Photoshop CS's built-in RAW conversion engine makes a better job of the image with no visible artifacts and especially a complete lack of moiré.

JPEG (SHQ) RAW (Olympus - High Function) RAW (Adobe Photoshop CS)

Quality (200% crops)

Initial observations reveal that CS RAW conversion delivers much more pleasing images with cleaner lines and higher dynamic range (more detail in highlight areas). However it's clear that Adobe doesn't yet officially support the E-1 in CS when we see nasty Bayer artifacts such as those exhibited on the overexposed tip of each crayon in the sample below.

Olympus Studio (High Function) Adobe Photoshop CS (default conversion)

Overall Image Quality / Specifics

Overall image quality is as we would expect, images from the E-1 have a very 'D-SLR look'. This basically means moderate sharpening, good dynamic range with neutral color and tonal balance. In my eye there is little doubt that the E-1 delivers images of notably better quality than the previous 'E series' Olympus E-20.

That said it has two image weakness, the first is that its five megapixel sensor / image processing engine doesn't deliver the full potential we would expect of a five megapixel digital SLR. Secondly the image processing engine in built into the E-1 which is responsible for the production of TIFF and JPEG images appears to be identical to the 'High Speed' RAW conversion engine found in the Olympus Studio application. The same subtle artifacts we noted in this mode of the RAW converter apply to TIFF and JPEG images from the camera, these are mostly Bayer interpolation and moiré artifacts. These aren't the kinds of artifacts we expect from a modern professional digital SLR (or even those considered 'prosumer' such as the EOS-300D).

The implication is that better image quality is possible but only by shooting RAW and converting images using Olympus Viewer or Olympus Studio.

Bayer interpolation / Moiré artifacts

As you can see below JPEG's straight from the camera exhibit blockiness and jaggies along diagonal lines as well as fairly clear red/blue moiré patterns. As noted in our examination of RAW conversion from Olympus Studio it is possible to avoid some of these artifacts by shooting RAW and converting using the 'High Function' RAW conversion engine.

Resolution chart 'Every day shot'
100% crop 100% crop
200% magnified crop 200% magnified crop