Raw comparison (Adobe Camera Raw vs Capture One)

Studio scene comparison (RAW)

As discussed earlier in this review, raw support for the E-P1 is currently limited to the official Olympus software (Master or Studio) - which produces output that's indistinguishable from the camera JPEGs, with none of the major third party commercial raw developers yet able to even recognize the E-P1's .ORF files. The open source command-line converter DCRaw can be coaxed into developing E-P1 files, and, again, you can see the results it produces here.

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Normally in these situations we'd simply leave the raw comparison section out of this review until there was official support for the E-P1 in one or more of the raw converters we commonly use in our tests (Adobe Camera Raw, Bibble or Capture One), but we really wanted to see what the E-P1 was capable of. To trick ACR and Capture One into opening the E-P1's files we used a hex editor to each raw file's header metadata so that they appeared to be shot with an Olympus E-30 (this doesn't affect the image information, it just fools the software into thinking it was taken on a different camera).

We will update this section as soon as our raw converters are updated to officially support the E-P1, for now it's important to remember that the samples in this section are not fully optimized; although the demosaicing is unlikely to change, the color mapping (and probably the sharpening) will be tweaked when the E-P1 is officially supported.

Recent generations of Olympus SLR have not been particularly well supported by Adobe Camera Raw, and we've struggled to get as much resolution out of the raw files using ACR as we see in JPEGs. Since the E-P1 has a slightly lighter low pass filter (and therefore theoretically has even more resolution) this represents a serious problem for our standard testing process. We'll start therefore by looking at how ACR compares to our other 'benchmark' raw developer, Capture One (which tends to get a little more resolution out of Olympus files, even if the default sharpening, color and contrast are a bit extreme). Unfortunately at the time of writing Capture One doesn't support most of our comparison cameras either, making 'level playing field' comparisons impossible.

This is our standard studio scene comparison shot taken from exactly the same tripod position. Lighting: daylight simulation, >98% CRI. Crops are 100%. Ambient temperature was approximately 22°C (~72°F). Camera settings as per previous pages.

In both cases we used our standard workflow (sharpening turned off in the raw converter and applied at an equal level in Photoshop before saving as JPEG):

  • Load RAW file into Adobe Camera RAW (Auto mode disabled) / Capture One
  • Set Sharpness to zero (all other settings default)
  • Open file to Photoshop
  • Apply a Unsharp mask: 80%, Radius 1.0, Threshold 0
  • Save as a TIFF (for cropping) and as a JPEG quality 11 for download

E-P1 (RAW) Adobe Camera Raw vs. E-P1 (RAW) Capture One

E-P1 (RAW) Adobe Camera Raw
E-P1 (RAW) Capture One
3.2 MB JPEG (4032 x 3024)
2.6 MB JPEG (3872 x 2592)

The difference isn't huge, but there is a difference in what Capture One and ACR are getting out of the raw files, with Adobe's result looking not only softer but - crucially - very slightly less detailed (lower resolution) too. The ACR result is cleaner (Capture One's sharpening is obvious even when ostensibly turned off - and you can see some noise even here at ISO 100), but if it's detail you're after, Capture One is the clear winner here.