A Look at E-M5 JPGs 1600-6400

A Look at E-M5 JPGs 1600-6400

by Lisandra Sandiago

Thanks Lisandra for a great article on shooting between ISO 1600 to 6400.

So for the first time ever a JPEG engine impresses me so tremendously that unless its for work I’m just gonna shoot JPGs. BUT, despite how awesome it is, out of the box it can do with some tweaking, and with said tweaking its perfect.

First lets talk gradation
with gradation set to normal things stay, well, normal. It should say “off”, the normal option suggests that it does something. Low key digs intensely into the highlights, showing detail in every light intensity but the purest of whites. High key does the opposite.
Gradation auto expands the whole dynamic range noticeably, digging into the highlights (to me) about 2/3s of a stop more than normal, and it also digs into a shadows a full stop. The problem with that is that the shadows look murky, not noisy or with artifacts, but there’s an overall reduction in contrast that make the blacks look greyish. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Click on all the images to enlarge them

CSo immediately one thinks that the solution is a boost in contrast. Problem with that is that even a contrast +1 robs you of the gained 2/3s highlight detailed with gradation auto. So what now? The OM D has a lovely shadow/highlight control feature where you can independently adjust both (fn2 button). Well if you open that up and darken the shadows 2-3 clicks (depending on your “black” taste) by using the rear wheel (there are 7 clicks in total each way for + and -) you’ll keep the highlight detail and get back the proper “contrast”. Here’s the result with 3 clicks

The “keep the warm color” is set to off because more often then not, it’ll give you weird colors

Now lets talk some noise/sharpness
There’s some confusion with noise reduction because there’s an option for noise reduction and another one for noise filter (G on the custom menu). At a first glance it seems like the noise reduction setting is for long exposures only BUT, if you set it to “on” instead of “auto, it’ll apply a weird noise reduction (that looks like crap) to all of your exposures. So set it to auto and leave it like that. In auto it’ll only do the noise reduction to exposures over 1 second. Noise filter is the actual noise reduction on this camera and its quite good. To my tastes and after some intense pixel peeping, you can leave it off up until ISO 1600 with very little noise at ISO 1600. Now if your gonna go shoot in a place where you’re gonna be using the range between over 2000 to up to 6400 you can go ahead and set it to low and the results will be awesome. It’ll still have a bit of noise, but it’ll still look like fine grain and it’ll hold a ton of detail. Setting it to standard blurs the image unpleasantly, making both the noise and the details ugly. Sharpness should be set to -1 at all times, the default sharpening will show some unpleasant artifacts around edges from ISO 800 onwards and -1 sacrifices almost nothing. The difference with sharpness set at 0 at low ISOs is almost non existent unless you 100% it. These are crops from the same scene as above

ISO 1600 noise filter off

ISO 1600 noise filter low

ISO 3200 noise filter off

ISO 3200 noise filter low

ISO 6400 noise filter off

ISO 6400 noise filter low

ISO 6400 noise filter standard

As you can see at ISO 1600 you can still leave it off and get very good results, certainly lots of detail and little noise.
So all in all:

  • JPEG super fine
  • gradation auto
  • highlights shadow: 2 or 3 clicks darker shadows
  • sharpness: -1
  • noise reduction auto
  • noise filter: off up to and including ISO 1600 and low up until ISO 6400
  • turn your IS off if using a tripod
  • keep warm color: off

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