Art Filters

The E-P1 is the fourth Olympus camera to offer 'Art Filters' - a series of dramatic, creative image processing presets. Since they first appeared in the E-30, they've also cropped-up in the E-620 and the E-450 (though only three of them in the second case).

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The Art Filters are accessed via their own mode on the main mode dial and they are all full program modes (you can't combine them with any other exposure mode), though you do still get full control of ISO, white balance, exposure compensation and so on. There have been several enhancements of the system since it was introduced - the E-P1 now allows you to flip between previews of each filter (without going back to a menu) and you can apply Art Filters to raw files in-camera (or using the supplied raw converter software). You can also use use Art Filter effects in movie mode.

The six filters offered on the E-P1 are:

  • Pop art
  • Soft Focus
  • Pale & Light Color
  • Light Tone
  • Grainy Film
  • Pin Hole

Three of the six filters (Pop Art, Pale & Light Color and Light Tone) are purely tonal, affecting only the color and contrast of the shot, with the remainder (Soft focus, Pinhole and Grainy B&W) having a more dramatic effect that goes down to a pixel level. These three also come with quite a serious performance hit, as the effects take between 5 and 10 seconds to apply, during which time the camera cannot be used. They also cause the movie frame rate to drop dramatically (to around 2.0 fps).

Below are samples of the same shot using each of the six Art Filters (Click here for same scene shot in normal program mode). Note: this section is reproduced from the E-620 review.

Pop Art Soft Focus Light Tone
Pale & Light Color Pinhole Grainy Film

Whether you find them useful is likely to be a matter of personal taste. In theory they're nothing that couldn't fairly easily be created or applied in most post-processing software - a methodology that gives a much greater level of creative freedom. However, we found that having simple access to them is much more likely to prompt you think about the options they offer when you're shooting. Knowing that they're sitting, just waiting, on the mode dial, I often found myself thinking 'would that work better as a pin-hole shot?' which isn't something that would usually occur to me.

That said, they do have an impact on camera performance (and battery life, for the more processor-intensive options), and are now available as a post-processing option in the supplied Master software (or even in-camera). At which point, you might prefer to wait until you get home, before selecting and applying them. Which, in turn, brings up the question of whether you could come up with something more creative, now that you've decided to post-process.