Software (contd.) - RAW conversion

As is normal in our digital SLR reviews I like to compare the supplied RAW conversion software, any optional manufacturer RAW conversion software and some third party RAW converter. At the time of testing the only third party tool which could read Olympus E-500 RAW files was a Beta version of Adobe Camera RAW 3.3..

  • JPEG - Large/Fine, Default settings (Vivid unless otherwise specified)
  • Master - Olympus Master 1.32 *
  • Studio HF - Olympus Studio 1.3 (High Function mode) *
  • ACR - Adobe Camera RAW 3.3 Beta (Photoshop CS2)

* The RAW Development engine used in Olympus Master appears to be as-good-as-identical to the 'High Speed' engine available in Olympus Studio, hence we chose to only use High Function mode in Olympus Studio (the best possible result).

Color reproduction

Place your mouse over the label below the image to see the GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart converted using each RAW converter. In this comparison we chose to use the 'Natural' camera setting as this is the closest to output from Olympus Master and Studio. As you can see there's a clear color response difference between the camera and both Master and Studio, between these two the difference is less obvious. Adobe Camera RAW in its Beta state produced slightly muddy greens.

JPEG (Natural) Master Studio HF ACR (Beta)

Sharpness and Detail

JPEG from the camera has a sharp appearance but also suffers from jagged artifacts and over-sharpening halos around black detail. The best results came from Olympus Studio in High Function mode and Adobe Camera RAW (as is becoming the norm these days). Both of these RAW converters produced as much detail as JPEG but without the artifacts.






As you can see Olympus Master (and therefore Olympus Studio High Speed engine) produces the same results as a JPEG direct from the camera, a pretty good performance but noticeable moire towards the limits of resolution. Olympus Studio does better but it does help to increase it's "False Color Suppression" setting, this cleans up moire quite nicely. Last but certainly not least, the nice clean and sharp result from Adobe Camera RAW (pretty much the same as Olympus Studio HF).

JPEG from camera Olympus Master
Olympus Studio HF (False Color Sup. 0) Olympus Studio HF (False Color Sup. 6)
Adobe Camera RAW  

Noise Reduction

Both Olympus Studio and Adobe Camera RAW have noise reduction features which can be user controlled. In Olympus Studio there is a simple 'Noise Cancellation' slider which in our tests appeared to have no effect on the type of noise in these images. The Olympus Studio High Speed engine appears to apply some kind of automatic noise reduction and delivers the same 'mottled' looking image as the camera (in JPEG mode). Adobe Camera RAW provides control of Luminance and Color noise reduction. The test image below was shot at ISO 1600 (1/40 sec), the top half if each crop has been brightened by 50% to improve the visibility of noise.

Olympus Studio, High Speed
Olympus Studio, High Function, NR 0
Olympus Studio, High Function, NR 10
Adobe Camera RAW, Lum NR 0 / Color NR 25 (Default)
Adobe Camera RAW, Lum NR 50 / Color NR 50