Profiling the E-PL5 for “bad” weather

It’s the first of May, and the weather is still what we call “April weather” sometimes – rainy, overcast, and a bit too cold. Perfect “portrait weather”, as Michael Johnston wrote lately, and looking outside I thought that until now I’ve never made a camera profile for this kind of weather.

I’m a raw shooter. I find that raw images give me more latitude and some kind of a “safety net” for later manipulations, in case I got the white balance or some other parameters not like I intended, or like I saw the original scenes. But basically, Olympus colours and jpgs are very nice, and I like and use them a lot. I’ve set my camera to a custom profile – based on the camera’s “natural” one, but with both saturation and contrast set to “-2”. Set that way, I can later decide how to deal with the picture, and by default it gives me the widest possible dynamic range plus colours which aren’t overly saturated. That’s my starting point, and taking a photo of my ColorChecker Passport test target with these settings (and with an exposure correction of -0.7EV (2/3 stops) to avoid blown highlights), a typical out of camera picture would look like this:

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Like I said, a starting point for making a profile, not much more.

My usual “workflow” (if you would call an amateur’s efforts “work”) would be like this: since I like and like to keep these famous Olympus colours, I use the Olympus Viewer 3 software (on a small virtualized Windows7 image on my Linux machine) to make a 16 bit .tif file from the original .orf. Here I apply basic exposure and/or white balance corrections, or sometimes I even decide that “-2” was too much for (or too little) saturation or contrast. Then I shut down my small Windows image again and continue using the free and open source RawTherapee raw converter to add some image descriptions, and to do the final corrections (it shows you blown channels like no other, and should the image benefit from some additional sharpening – which I rarely do these days – it also has tools far superior to these in other raw converters). With RawTherapee I make the final .jpg, ready for export to Flickr or to send for printing.

An image made with this usual workflow (which is faster than it reads here) then looks more like this:

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Olympus E-PL5 and 45mm/1.8 profiling shot, out of camera .orw to .tif to .jpg (my normal workflow)

Nice enough for 99% of what I do. But like pros like Ming Thein once said: Olympus colours are nice, but not very accurate, so there might be that 1% chance that you need something profiled, even if you don’t regularly work in advertising like he does. So using some other tools, I’ve made a profile for this combination of camera, lens, and light.

To do that with the ColorChecker Passport and the software provided with it, you first have to convert your proprietary .orf raw image to the .dng format – this ColorChecker wouldn’t accept anything else. You can download a free DNG Converter from Adobe if you need to do that – and some other cameras (like the ones from Pentax and Leica if I’m informed correctly) save in that free format anyway.

Now, with the .dng file, you can make your profile – the target is usually detected automatically, but you should avoid to overblow the whites in it when shooting – or you’d have to shoot again.

That profile is then stored in a .dcp format, but RawTherapee and many other raw converters need an .icc file instead. Luckily, there’s also another converter for this.

After storing that .icc profile where all others also are (on a Linux machine, that would typically be something like /usr/share/color/icc), you can use it and make a one-click input profile like “epl5 45mm rainy overcast” or whatever you’d want to name it. And if you apply all this on the .dng image you’ve just made, you’ll get something more like this:

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Olympus E-PL5 and 45mm/1.8: profiling shot “rainy, overcast” (from DNG)

Of course, converting every image to a .dng file first would be a bit cumbersome, so you can as well take the out-of-camera .orf and use that one:

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Olympus E-PL5 and 45mm/1.8 profiling shot, rainy and overcast, from .orf

There are still tiny differences between these two, which might come from RawTherapee’s interpretation of white balance mostly. Where both the Olympus Viewer 3 as well as the Adobe and ColorChecker tools agree that this image (shot with automatic white balance with the option keep warm colors = “off”) had a setting of 6457K (Adobe and ColorChecker made this 6500K), and even RawTherapee thought so when using the .dng file, with the original .orf loaded into RawTherapee that software displayed some 2000K more. I don’t know which one’s correct – I’m not an expert on colour that much to understand what’s going on behind the scenes, but as you can see, both are very usable as a starting point again.

I don’t know if there’s any interest in the profiles I made, or how many of you (I don’t) expect Vogue or GQ to knock at your doors and ask you for their next cover magazine shot. If there’s any interest or demand, then let me know – I could upload that .icc or even .dcp profile for light of around 6500K here or to something like Dropbox to make it available.

Update: just uploaded the original .orf and .dng image and the profile in .dcp and .icc combined as a .zip file to my Dropbox. So if you want these, you can find them there.

Anyway: like always, thanks for reading.

A 135mm equivalent angle of view

Today I was in the mood for something a bit longer than usual. When I started with analog film photography, I had lenses with 28, 50, and 135mm, and I wanted to see and to get a feeling for the latter again.

On Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds cameras, you have sensors with roughly a quarter of the area of film, which means they have a so-called “crop factor” of two. So as a substitute for my 135mm film-aera lens, I had to use something around 67.5mm to get an almost similar angle of view (beside the differences in formats; (Micro) Four Thirds has a 4:3 format, while 24x36mm film was of course 3:2).

The only lens I have in that focal range is my Zuiko Digital 40-150mm zoom lens, so I decided to use that one today, first on the Olympus E-520 DSLR, and later with a cheap Viltrox autofocus adapter on my E-PL5 “Pen”-type camera. So here are some photos I took with that lens today:

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Toys on Arno’s monitor. E-520 with the lens at 64mm.

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Through the roof of Arno’s car. E-520 with the lens at 64mm.

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Soup. E-520 with the lens at 67mm.

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Corpse. E-PL5 with the lens at 70mm.

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Zuleikha. E-PL5 with the lens at 67mm.

Differences? Well yes. First, the lens was made for the phase detection autofocus of the DSLR. Which means it’s lots faster on it, but not as precise as on the Pen which uses a contrast-based autofocus technique. Second, it’s sharper on the “Pen”, not only because that one has more megapixels (16 instead of 10), but also because it has a much thinner or almost non-existent anti-aliasing filter in front of its sensor. And another part of the reason for the higher sharpness is the contrast-based autofocus – I said already that it’s more precise than fast.

As part of my DSLR double zoom kit, this lens was and still is an absolute bargain, and as such an easy recommendation. If you have – or plan to get – a Micro Four Thirds camera, there’s also an M.Zuiko version of it today, and some dealers offer these as a rip-off from double zoom kits from around 150€ or so, which is still a very nice proposition.

If – like me – you have a Micro Four Thirds camera and like faster lenses or even fixed focal length lenses, you have several other options in that focal range:

– the Panasonic 35-100mm/2.8 zoom is one of them. Costly, but very very good. And Olympus is planning to release something similar, even with a tripod collar if I remember correctly
– the cheapest fixed focal “prime” lens option with autofocus would be the Sigma 60mm/2.8 “Art” lens, of which I keep reading only the best comments. Very nice portrait lens or general short tele for not too much money (around 200€ or so)
– then there is the probably most versatile one: the Olympus 60mm/2.8 Macro. Maybe three times the price of that Sigma, but if you want or need a macro lens, it’s worth every penny of it. Comparable with my Zuiko 50mm/2 macro, which says a lot.
– and last not least one of the kings or poster childs of Micro Four Thirds: the awesome Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm/1.8 – probably the best lens of the whole system so far. Costs about as much as the Panasonic (or Olympus) zoom, but if you really want to “melt” away the background of portraits with Micro Four Thirds, you don’t really have any better option. For even shallower depth of field, you would need one of the old, heavy, and super expensive Zuiko Pro Grade lenses with aperture 2, which are still available bust cost north of 2000€. Or you’d need a real 135mm/2 on a “full frame” camera. The cheapest of these would be a Canon 135mm/2 which is offered starting slightly under 1000€ (like the 75/1.8 from Olympus). See this or this photo from Elena – or more from her impressive collection – to get the idea.

Thanks for reading.

Black and white conversion

Took the same photo on film and digital today. Here’s the digital one:

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Bird feeder

The one on film will be developed later, as usual. And here I made the black and white conversion for a change, not the camera. Tried to emulate a film look a bit, without the grain.

Thanks for viewing.

Just a flower on our table

Cropped to a 5:4 format, which leaves a bit less than 15MP:

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A flower on our table (Phalaenopsis). LED reading light, ca. 5W. Manually focused (tho I didn’t have to, the AF worked just fine). Minimal post processing like always.

Thanks for viewing.

A universal digital back?

I’ve read an almost similar quote in the past already, and in fact it was partly the reason for me to get into the mirrorless µ43rds system. But it’s even more true for the Sony A7 family with their “full frame” sensors which almost have the exact same size like 135 film used to have. To quote Giles about it:

“So , if you are familiar with mirrorless cameras, they aspired to become a universal digital back, because their short distance to flange allowed them to accommodate any FF35 lens, with no need to correct the crop factor which other systems have (as high as 2x, in the case of m4/3) with a focal reducer.”

(from his article in “Sony A7, or the Lego FF System“)

Right. The price, body-only of the basic A7 (24MP) model here in Germany is 1230€ (at Amazon and others, partly with free shipping). And I would have a really good Olympus OM 50mm/1.4 which would be very nice to have on such a camera.

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Those 50mm lenses on the “Pens” (I used the OM Zuiko 50mm/1.8 at f/5.6 here, hand-held at 1/8 of a second at ISO 800, which wouldn’t have been possible on these Sony cameras, since they don’t have image stabilization built in. So using these I would have had to use an even higher ISO setting, or a tripod. Cropped to 3:2 format during post to get a feeling for that other format again.)

My brother Willi has a Canon FD 50mm/1.8, a Canon FD 24mm/2.8, and a Sigma Zoom with Canon FD mount which would also be very nice when used with such a non-crop digital sensor. Both the resolution and also the dynamic range couldn’t be met with smaller systems like APS-C or µ43rds, which makes that thought a very tempting one indeed. That new Sony system doesn’t have all the native lens options that Canon or Nikon have for their DSLRs, but as a mirrorless system with a built-in electronic viewfinder at an even lower price than these older DSLRs, the Sony would be superior at least when used with these “legacy” lenses anyway.

Thinking about it since a while already…

After the rain

Well the weather predictions usually are right as long as they predict “bad” weather. Which means we’ve finally had some rain. I woke up late on this last day of my week off, and we didn’t go out – except me when having a smoke on the veranda. I took this photo with the camera set to black & white, and cropped it into a 16:10 format so it can fill my screen:

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After the rain, on a Sunday in spring

Thanks for viewing.

Me, by Sebastian Schoen

me, by Sebastian Schoen
me, by Sebastian Schoen
Got my image taken last Tuesday by another fellow photographer. His name is Sebastian Schön (you can write German Umlauts using the original vocal followed by an ‘e’ if you don’t have that on your keyboard, so in this case, ‘Sebastian Schoen’ would be ok as well).

He has an impressive collection of portraits and made some book already, and you can also see some of his work at a big local magazine called “Stern” (=star). He was published in their Stern View Spotlight No. 81, from page 29. See more photos from Sebastian there.

He made this photo of me using his Nikon D800 with what looked like a Nikkor 85mm/1.8G lens – didn’t look that close.

Thanks Sebastian – cannot wait to see more of your great portraits!

Tuna the cat, sleeping, with Mitchie’s 20mm lens

Had the camera on -0.3EV when I took this, but it had to be corrected to +0.5EV during post. Even at ISO 800, this push of +0.8 steps still gave a nice result. The camera was set to black & white without a simulated filter, and using RawTherapee I toned the image a bit with pushing the lights of the ‘b’ curve in LAB mode to +18 – in my opinion that fits the ‘old fashioned’ look of a b&w image taken with a 40mm-equivalent lens:

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Tuna the cat, sleeping on Zuleikha’s bed, April 2014

Thanks for viewing.

Thursday: two photos taken with the “kit zoom”

Wow. A week off isn’t much – these days are going much too fast. It’s Thursday already, and today we even didn’t leave the house, tho it was warmer outside than in.

I played around with the “kit zoom” of my Olympus E-PL5 camera, taking about the equivalent of a roll of film (about 35 shots or so). Some I can’t show, but here are two from today:

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Zuleikha, April 2014

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Long way down

Both taken with ISO 800 and the lens as wide open as the focal length allowed. These lenses have the best price-/performance-ratio you can get, and for a photographer who’s just beginning, they’re possibly the best way to get into it all. Very convenient, and more than good enough, especially for a walk-around lens during daytime. I don’t use mine that often, since I prefer my fixed focal length lenses with 14, 25, and 45mm, but this one almost covers the range of these three. Just get one of these if you plan to buy a camera. It might be everything you really need.

Thanks for reading.

The night sky

It’s Wednesday morning already, and I’m still awake. Which isn’t unusual when I have a week off like now, but because yesterday during daytime I didn’t take a single photo (instead several of me were taken – which I don’t have yet), I decided to leave the flat way after dinner for a short walk around town.

I did take some photos, but looking at this night’s sky was what amazed me the most. So here are two photos from around the old and new protestant churches – I did take one from the first place already some time ago, but still:

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The sky above 1/2

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The sky above 2/2

Both taken with the Panasonic Lumix 14mm/2.5 lens on my Olympus E-PL5 camera. Slightly auto-cropped due to rotation correction. I had to manually focus the lens for the second one, because it was much darker in reality than what you see here. But with magnification in the electronic viewfinder that still worked quite well, even if that “Live View” appeared to be a bit noisy – yes, it was that dark.

Thanks for viewing.