People have been questioning Olympus cameras' capabilities in handling dynamic range in demanding situations, especially on the highlight retention. I admit, in comparison to generally superior and much more expensive camera systems auch as full frame, Olympus having smaller sensor size does have limitations in this regard, and would not have as much flexibility and buffer safety zone. Highlight clippings happen in harsh, contrasty regions of the photographs. Yes, we know there are better cameras out there, and the comparisons never ends. The question I am asking myself: is the highlight retention on the Olympus E-5 sufficient for my shooting requirements? My answer is absolutely, yes. Allow me to illustrate with an example, more appropriately put, a mistake which I have made.
In one of my actual day wedding assignment from earlier this year, I screwed up one of the most important shots during the wedding dinner, well almost actually. It was during the wedding dinner march of the newly wed form the entrance of the hall towards their main dining table. I set the camera settings manually to gather as much ambient light as possible, with the aid of my flash to boost up some additional fill. I considered the available dim light, and the single spot light shining on the couple. Everything went well in the first half of the walk, until somewhere in the middle of the path, the spotlight suddenly intensified and the become extremely bright. In the midst of shooting I have failed to consider the change of lighting condition to set my camera accordingly to compensate for the extra brightness due to the intensified spot lighting on the couple. The result? A disaster, overexposed image, overblown skin, and highlight clippings all over the bride's dress. When I previewed the results on E-5's LCD screen, I went "Oh SHIT !!!!!"
Thank goodness I shot the photographs all in RAW.
ISO1600, recovered by Ev compensation value -2 in Olympus Viewer RAW development.
The original image, all blown out. Mistake in manual exposure setting I have made. Critical mistake I must say. Thank goodness this was shot in RAW.
A tighter crop of the previous image to show how seriously burned out the overblown region was. In JPEG this could have been beyond salvation.
The rescued photograph. Take a close look at the maintained skin tone color, as well as the details on the white dress. This truly is impressive coming from Olympus, and shot at ISO1600.
To view more photographs from this wedding assignment, kindly go to my PORTFOLIO Page here (click).
As I got home, I loaded the Olympus Viewer software (yes I am one of the few people in the world who actually used and depended on the original bundled Olympus software, while everyone else is using Lightroom and the much more powerful Photoshop). As I come to the particular image shown in this entry, I quickly went to the exposure compensation (EV setting) and slided it down to minus 2 EV (-2 EV). To my surprise, the image did not come out too bad at all !! Do take note that the image was shot at ISO1600, and at such high ISO, the E-5 still managed to hold in the details which could be salvaged even after being OVEREXPOSED by 2 EV. I certainly did not anticipate this, and knowing I have this much flexibility, I would be shooting RAW more confidently, and trust the E-5 more. I know this camera could have done much better, but seriously, if I lower down the ISO setting, I could have achieved even more highlight retention capability with the E-5, perhaps a additional stop at ISO400 or lower. I am not greedy, and for now, this shall be more than sufficient for all my shooting needs.
I have come to realize the importance of shooting RAW especially for paid assignment and any crucial shooting sessions that require technical perfection without compromise. As much as we rely on our own ability and consistency to make sure all controls and settings are right on camera during shooting, there are times when the situations can turn out to be rather unexpected and disaster is not possibility to be overlooked.
I know how frustrating it is, having easily burned out whites at bright and harsh lighting conditions. Yes, it is a valid issue for most Olympus cameras, but have you tried the latest cameras from Olympus such as the DSLR E-5 and the PEN E-P3? They may not be as bad as what most Olympus haters have published all over the internet. Recently, thanks to one of my blog-friends, I have spotted a possibly FAKE image supposingly taken with the E-P3 and being used in a review site. I do think somehow the haters have gone too far to tarnish Olympus. This, shall be a story for another day, if I see the need to blog about it.
Share your thoughts on Olympus dynamic range and highlight retention issues. I know many have plenty to vent out !!