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RAW File Test: Olympus EPL-2

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When we finished reviewing the Olympus EPL-2, the RAW file support hadn’t been released yet for Adobe Lightroom 3. With the latest release of Lightroom 3.4 RC, that support is now available. In our review, we gave the camera rave reviews for JPEG image quality. RAW files are supposed to be more versatile in the editing process, so it would only make sense that the processing would be amazing, right?

Here’s the deal: in good light or with a great exposure, the raw files are top notch in terms of achieving amazing quality. This means that the best thing to do when shooting is to get it right in camera. However, RAW files are supposed to give you latitude to correct mistakes that you may have made: at least this is what Canon and Nikon do from my previous experiences. Now, I don’t mean to rain on Olympus’ parade but I expect more leeway with the editing by now with new cameras coming out very often.

The image above had no noise reduction applied. The only things I did was raise the exposure and tweak the white balance settings. I’m beginning to think that the white balance settings in the Olympus EPL-2 are flawed for the reason that the ambient lighting was extremely warm to begin with and the Olympus should have theoretically given me an image like this to begin with to balance the color temperature. For those of you that don’t know, the lighting temperature works in an inverse relationship to your camera’s color temperature.

So that means that if the lighting was orange-yellow, that the camera should have set itself to blue-violet (incandescent as they call it) to create a more balanced image. This leads me to believe that in good lighting, the images will be very properly balanced and that in not so appealing lighting, you’ll need to work a bit harder.

In the image above (once again in good lighting) all I did was a minor color balance tweak towards the warmer end of the spectrum.

Oppositely, this image was balanced more towards the cooler end. At this point it would be a good idea to say that I left the white balance setting in auto the entire time because of the fact that I just didn’t want to bother messing with it. As a professional wanting a smaller camera, I wanted to do as little work as possible and just focus on creating the image.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the images are terrible. In fact, when you shoot in JPEG and don’t even bother with the RAW files you will never be happier. I’d only recommend shooting RAW in very low light.

Something that is still killing me though is the dynamic range of the Olympus cameras. It really needs a boost. I tried editing and saving this image, but darn well couldn’t. The blues are overly dominant, I wanted to rescue more detail in the blown out areas but couldn’t, and overall editing of the image was just frustrating because common editing practices applied to other brands didn’t work here.

If I were to buy the Olympus EPL-2, it wouldn’t necessarily be for the image quality. It would be because of the form factor, light weight, sex appeal of the camera, the amazing viewfinder, fun art filters, and the stealthiness that I have when shooting street photography.

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