Sunday, September 29, 2013

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Review: Color Creator

Important Notes:
1) I am an employee of Olympus Malaysia. I am reviewing the Olympus OM-D E-M1 from a photography enthusaist’s point of view. I was given the liberty to perform the gear review as usual. 
2) This is a user experience based review.
3) The images were shot with JPEG (Large Super Fine) and no post-processing was applied, except resizing with ACDsee7 (with Powerpack). 
4) General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
5) Color Creator applied to all images.

This is Part 4 of my Olympus OM-D E-M1 review. If you have not done so, please go to Part 1 here (click)Part 2 here (click) and Part 3 (click)

Special thanks to friend Khong for taking this shot of me in action! Image taken with E-M5 and the new M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lens. 

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko lenses 12mm F2 and 45mm f1.8, unless otherwise mentioned. 
None of the images above were post-processed. The color cast was added via the Color Creator, BEFORE the shot was taken, and fully previewed through the Live View, either through the electronic viewfinder or the LCD backscreen. You can see different colors creating different ouput for similar subjects under same lighting condition. 

LEFT: the standard color picker.
RIGHT: Olympus Color Creator: It is Adobe Color Picker built into your camera


In the Olympus OM-D E-M1, there is an interesting new feature, called Color Creator. Before we go on talking about this new Color Creator, allow me to quickly discuss about the importance of color in photography. 

We often emphasized on a few important factors when deciding how good an image is: the typical being high ISO noise control, dynamic range, sharpness, white balance accuracy, etc. Nonetheless, color has always been an important characteristic of any image, and can affect how the audience view your image. Colors can create a certain mood or expression for an image, if applied or controlled appropriately to correspond to the photographer's intention. Warm color will suggest a different feel than a cold photograph. A successful photograph usually has strong consideration of color balance and tones that evoke certain emotion or sends a particular feeling that relate strongly to the idea of the image. Knowing the importance of color itself, many modern digital photographers have spent much time tweaking colors in post-processing to get the "look" that they have in mind. 

So what is this Olympus Color Creator and how does it help with color control of the camera?

The Color Creator is built in camera "color picker", based on the color circle/wheel and you can select whichever color within the wheel to add as a color cast into your image. The color cast can be further fine tuned, by adding or reducing the saturation/intensity of the color cast. The Color Creator can be activated by pressing the assigned shortcut button (you can choose one of many), and incidentally, there are two control wheels on the camera, thus you can conveniently use the front dial to select the color by rotating through the color wheel picker, and the inner dial will adjust the saturation of the color cast added onto the image. Do take note that while you are adding the Color Creator, you have FULL control over the basic camera settings such as shutter speed, ISO and Aperture, as well as White Balance. The Color Creator output is saved as a JPEG, and you can opt to have a RAW file where the original unprocessed image will be saved without the effects of the Color Creator. 

Please do not confuse Color Creator and White Balance. In White Balance, you can control the temperature of the image, and can be set separately from the Color Creator. Color Creator, from a perfectly white balanced image, will add a color cast. 

Lets see some images with Color Creator in action! As I mentioned, controlling or adding colors to images can create a whole world of possibilities, when the photographer intended to emphasize on certain feel or message through the image. I shall do my best to write down my rational of doing so in each image shown here. 

I added "orange" and boosted a bit of saturation, to produce warm and fuzzy feeling. Warm color is associated to feeling safe and comfortable. 

For this shot, I wanted to create some "cinematic" effect, hence yellowish green cast was added. Another reason why green/yellow was added, was the prominence of red and blue colors on the screen (red and blue shirts), hence the color cast will harmonize the whole image very well. 

I saw this man walking along the newly constructed building wall panels. The urban characteristics can be further enhanced with the "cold tone", where steel and glass futuristic look is usually associated with blueness. Strong desaturation and cold blue cast added to create this effect. 

In this image, besides the man, the main subject was the vegetables he was carrying. The color of vegetable is usually GREEN, and I want that color to dominate this image. 

This was originally a very flat shot. The pigeons were black and white, while the roof was brown, white and grey. Sky was cloudy and white. Adding a color cast, I chose red/purple, created a completely different image, something more dramatic and alive, than the initial uninteresting image. 

When I was standing at the top of a building, I suddenly have a feeling that I was in the movie "The Matrix". My idea was to add green/blue cast to replicate that Matrix tint. However, it was not that successful, as the image turned out whiter than I expected. I still liked this image though!

I am sure all this color casts added via Color Creator can be easily applied through post-processing, and someone with very good PhotoShop Skills can do even better. I do not use photoshop, and I am not that great at post-processing. I prefer to spend a lot more time out there shooting, and do less post-processing. I still process my images (non-review blog entries) and I strongly admit that post-processing is an integral, crucial part of digital photography workflow, which must not be neglected. At the same time, I also do not intend to waste so much time working with my computer. The action and photography opportunities are waiting out there, and if I can do as much as I can with the camera, the question is, why not?

Now, it is easy to see that the Color Creator has a lot of potential and power to create some really interesting images. On the other hand, it is also important to know what you are doing! Knowing what color to choose, and how to apply them in what kind of shooting condition can really benefit the shooting with Color Creator, and not just add any color blindly to any scene. I am saying, some thoughts are needed to carry out proper execution, and if you do not have a concept of what you wanted to accomplish in your image, the color you added may work against your image output. 

What I did, was asking myself these few quick questions before adjusting the Color Creator: 1) What is my main subject/idea/message in the photograph I am shooting? 2) How does color improve that main subject, what color is associated with the main subject? 3) what kind of emotion/feel I wanted to evoke? Cold, warm, hot, neutral? As I was asking these questions, my fingers were already busy twisting the two dials to finally get to the color I was satisfied with for the particular image I was shooting. 

For the first time, shooting color on the street has become fun again! I am sure many of you have noticed how I have strong preference to black and white images lately. if only Olympus has Color Creator much earlier!

It was a grey sky morning, and everything was looking flat. After walking for a while I started sweating and being in a humid country, sweating while walking was common. When I saw this man, I wanted to show how hot I was feeling at that time. So I added strong orange cast to this image. 

Again, I was asking myself what is the main subject of this image, and it was the man sharpening the knife. Steel and the sharpener were neutral in color, so I made the whole image looked as neutral as possible. I eliminated the warmth, but I did not want the image to look cold either. Thus I added slight blue cast and some desaturation. 

Another attempt of the Matrix feel. Darn... failed attempt! Though I do like this portrait shot. 

I just cannot seem to get the "matrix" effect right!

Another attempt of neutral color tones, since the chopping knife and board were my main attention for this image. 

As I mentioned before, sky was flat, with dull white. I wanted a blue sky so I made the sky blue! Well, obviously it was not the same blue sky as a clear day, but hey, somehow I am loving this blue sky!

The umbrellas were arranged with strong color combinations, thus increasing the warmth and saturation can add much punch, making the color pop even more. 

Adding color cast can completely change the feel of an image. I was trying a few colors and I find the red cast worked well with this subject. Yes when I did not know what to do I made a few trial and error attempts! People here were friendly and accommodating. 

The color red and purple were strong in this image, because they were the primary colors of red onions and dried chillies. I have an option to further amplify the colors, or tone them down. I worked against the colors and desaturated them, creating a flatter image overall tone. Sometimes, paying attention to consistency in image series can make a difference, so can adding creative variety! It is about how to make things different. 

In contradiction to the previous image, I chose to enhance the strong colors in this image, but boosting saturation, and lifting up the strong red cast, which blended well with the peppers, tomatoes, brinjals and red onions. 

My favourite style of presenting my black and white images, has always been with an added warm color cast. I spend time post-processing my black and white images to create that particular look. Now, I do not have to do that anymore! It can be done by toning down the saturation to near zero, and then I can add just a bit of whatever color cast I want! 

Warm colors are normally associated with feeling safe, and comfortable. I wanted this when I see these children, being innocent as they were. 

This baby was looking a little uncomfortable being wrapped around the tower, and to emphasize on the discomfort I added green cast to throw the image out of balance.

Leaves and vegetables, green, with desaturation. By now it is quite predictable what i am doing with the Color Creator right? I am starting to repeat myself!

For portraits, generally I would go for softer color tones!

For testing the Color Creator feature in the Om-D E-M1, I went to Pudu Wet Market with a group of friends, Khong, Shaun and Steve. Shaun brought along an OM-1, the first of the OM series camera, and we have the oldest and the latest OM camera with us today. 

Anyone who is considering to get the E-M1 as a street shooting camera will be happy to find out how I love it! It is basically everything that the older E-M5 can do, and so much more. 

I was so fixated with the Matrix cinematic greenish tint that I kept trying until I finally got it right. So here are some photos of the group, with my Matrix effect done with the Color Creator!

Steve, Khong and Shaun

Steve, Me and Khong

I apologize again for not being able to fulfill my promise to blog my review series in the original promised order. But rest assured I am doing my very best to get it done. 

For those of you in Malaysia, you can PRE-ORDER the new amazing Olympus OM-D E-M1 from  Olympus' Online Store here (click).

Please support me by "liking" my FACEBOOK PAGE (click).

You may also read my FULL user experience review blog entries of other Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras and lenses at Gear Review Page here (click).  


  1. Hi Robin!

    Interesting photos. Am pretty sure the EM1 is a capable camera. I just wish Olympus released a 4/3 version of this camera (re:E7) I guess with the EM1 we have the best of both worlds. But stil.....

    Eric V
    Edmonton Alberta

    1. Olympus mentioned they have no new cameras from the E-Series DSLR. Now it is all micro 4/3.

  2. This camera is just getting better and better. Thanx Robin for the awesome review, can't hardly wait for part 5 :D

  3. what lenses did you use for this fotos?

    1. Hey David,
      I added a statement before the first photo. All images were shot with 12mm f2 and 45mm f1.8. M.Zuiko lenses.

  4. Robin, I plan to read this post three times, once for the information on the Color Picker, which is very instructive, once to appreciate what your vision with the 45mm portrait lens vs. the 12mm wide-angle, and then a third time just to enjoy the incredible, insightful photos of downtown Kuala Lumpur, as always. So glad that you can now deeply enter the photography-dharma without having to split your time into occupation and avocation! This is our benefit! - Blessings!

    1. Thank you so much reverend for the kind words!! Oh dear three times indeed is too much!! I can't even see my photos for that many times!

  5. I have the EM-1 as of yesterday and my multifunction button only allows to change the levels / contrast curve. How do you gain access to the Color Picker?

    1. Hey Rob, congratulations on getting the E-M1. To activate the Color Creator press the multi function button, hold then turn the front dial.

  6. You forgot one of the coolest features of color picker - massive control over your black & white images! You mentioned desaturation, but if you then change the color it gives you the same control as putting color filters over B&W film. I'm super excited about that prospect. Hopefully I'll get mine next week.



    1. Hey Mark I did mention briefly in one of the photo descriptions. When you desaturate the color it still has some small trace of the original color, not similar to black and white only with color cast.

  7. One thing that still bother me, E-M5 and E-M1 are considered professional range camera, at least for those who decided to replace their bulky dslr. My only complaint is olympus didn't support tethered shooting. Since I shoot a lot in the studio, is there any workaround on this beside eye-fi and ol.share? My sole purpose is just to show client every shots on larger display beside the small Lcd on the camera.

    1. leonuts, I believe that the new E-M1 offers WiFi connectivity to mobile devices like tablets and phones. This should offer some degree of the tethering you desire. I know there are several other professional bloggers out there using micro 4/3 who leverage the newest WiFi and NFC features from both Olympus and Panasonic.

    2. Leonuts, E-M1 does not support tethered shooting. We understand the importance in this feature and will look seriously into it.

    3. Yes, as Hal mentioned, you can control the camera via remote control with your smart devices. I shall elaborate further on this in my coming blog review

  8. Hi Robin, Thanks for the update and the great photos! And no worries on the delays. You owe us nothing...and we owe you our gratitude for sharing your joy of photography through this wonderful blog ;-) We're happy to receive your updates whenever life allows for them to arise!

    This color picker feature sounds really cool. I like the prospect of the new upgrades to the OM-D line through the E-M1. I love my OM-D E-M5 and I'm likely to hold onto it for some time to come before making any upgrades. Out of curiosity, any word on whether Olympus may be planning for some feature transfer to these older OM-D and/or PEN models through firmware updates? My major hope is for the ability to create custom settings on the mode dial as well as focus peaking and possibly even this color picker for my E-M5.


    1. Thanks for the kind words Hal. Thanks for understanding the delay.
      I do find the color creator to be quite useful. Nonetheless it is a unique feature that will not likely to be featured in older cameras, such as the E-M5.

  9. Good explanation of Colour Creator. I think it is a feature that requires some patience, persistence and tuning time to become a signature.

  10. hi Robin can the colour creater be used in conjunction with art filters or the black and white colour tones (purple, blue, green brown)?
    Looks like a very useful tool, would still like a tool that can do custom gradient maps (duotones) in camera....

    1. Nope, it is only unique as a shooting mode on it's own, "color creator" and cannot be used with other modes, certainly not with Art Filters

  11. A very nice read, Robin, and a good tutorial on the color picker features. The samples you showed -together with the well-considered rationale- are quite interesting. The B/W with some cast has tons of artistic possibilities too. Excellent work, as always, and don't worry about "delays"! It will be done when it is done and that's that! Indeed, like Hal above rightly observed: you owe us lurkers nothing.

    I enjoyed your work and your enthusiasm, together with some very nice Robinesque portraits. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks for the kind words Andre!
      No worries, I shall do my best to push out the remaining entry as soon as I can.

  12. What about noise level vs FujiFilm X-Pro?

    1. If you can loan me a FujiFilm X-Pro I am willing to try.

  13. Thanks Robin for the preview on the Color Picker. Whilst I can see that there is a lot of potential for the CP feature, I am not sure if this is going to be a feature that is much used by professionals since the camera is aimed squarely at pros. Furthermore, pros would tend to pay a lot of attention to PP on the desktop. It's really not possible to do any serious PP on the tiny on-body screen. Moreover, the screen has to be color calibrated correctly, and there is no mention I can see yet on whether the screen has been properly calibrated to to allow dependable use of the color picker.

    A lot of the color casts that you speak of is quite easily done in PP and there are tons of addon filters to Photoshop, and other image editors, including those on tablets, such as Instagram, etc. I am therefore not sure whether this feature is going to be of much use for color shots. However, as some have pointed out, including you, I think the color picker may be more useful for B&W, and perhaps you should have focused your review on this since B&W is your favoured style now. In B&W, you could choose to use the color picker to enhance or suppress certain colors, just as you would with color filters, e.g. yellow, red, orange, blue. I think this may be far more powerful a feature.

    By the way, I think the "Matrix effect" is more of a white balance "trick", but you have to be careful in using it in scenes that do not have a lot of color in it, otherwise it will become very apparent and will look very odd. You also have to adjust for skintones, as these become very sickly in appearance as some of your shots show. Green casts are the worst.

    Keep up the great work, and we all appreciate your efforts and dedication to bringing us such great insights.

    1. Correction: I meant to say that "but you have to be careful in using it in scenes that HAVE a lot of color in it"

    2. Thanks for the words of advice. To some photographers this may not seem like a life-changing feature, but to the others, it is very convenient and easy to use.
      If you prefer to spend time post-processing your images, then of course there is no stopping to that.

    3. Hey Robin, I'm sure many would find a use for the CP, and I certainly would explore it myself, I was talking more about the professionals who tend not to do in-camera processing. But... could you perhaps do some tinkering with the CP on some B&W shots, I would be very keen to see that here. I think it's probably the best application of the CP in combination with some of the Art Filters.

      As always, thanks so much for sharing and for all your hard work!

  14. Seems finally the camera we've all been waiting for has arrived.

  15. Hey Robin nice talking to you on sunday olympus event at ipoh. Keep up the work!!

  16. No need to apologize. This was a very good "filler."
    Your reviews are great; practical, and with the user in mind.
    Keep-up the good work !

    1. Thanks Joseph! A "filler" it was!

  17. Dear robin , hows ur opinion on the 12-40mm compared to the 12mm f2 in term of sharpness at the 12mm length

  18. Dear robin , hows ur opinion on the 12-40mm compared to the 12mm f2 in term of sharpness at the 12mm length

    1. Hey Tham,
      I have not done any comparison, but I would want to think that the 12mm F2 is better. Nonetheless, this will have to be proven with side by side comparison. If I can spare some time I would love to do the comparison. Now I am backed up against the wall with my work schedule!

    2. No problem man..u are doing a great job !

  19. Dear Robin - as always, very interesting and informative! Your writing style is both, easy and engaging!

    Keep up the good work!


    1. Thanks Alex! I write as if I am talking to someone, I guess that was why!

  20. Awesome.. nice picture with explanation on color creator.. honestly i like this feature.. can create any mood just change the color.. really like it.. dunno when can i get this gear.. hehehe..

  21. Awesome.. nice picture with explanation on color creator.. honestly i like this feature.. can create any mood just change the color.. really like it.. dunno when can i get this gear.. hehehe..

  22. It's an amazing camera, but at a steep price point. I am most certainly what some may describe as an Olympus fan boy, judging by my investment into Olympus gear. I own an XZ-2 with accessories, an E-520, an E-5, an E-PM1 and the E-M5. I won't even care to list all the Micro Four Thirds lenses I own, since it's most of the prime lenses. In Four Thirds land, I own the 50mm, the 12-60mm and the 50-200mm as well as the Panasonic 25mm.

    Where does that put me in terms of my desire to upgrade to the E-M1? Not where Olympus would like me to be.

    I won't upgrade to the E-M1 for basically two reasons:

    No gain. I wouldn't gain anything on top of what I currently use. I got equal low light abilities with the E-M5 and the primes I possess already. I have little desire to use the big Four Thirds zooms on a body as small as the E-M1, even though it now has a grip. The 50-200mm is already an edge use case on the E-5. I don't think it balances well on the E-M1.

    Less usability. I still prefer the E-5 in terms of usability and quality of hardware over the E-M5. This probably carries over to the E-M1. The E-5 is the pinnacle of usability and customisation. I also love the fact, that I can stash away the display safely when I bang the camera around in rougher environments. Battery life. The E-5's battery lasts several times as long as the E-M5's battery, the same will be true for the E-M1. And that statement is true for both the number of shots I get from one battery as well as the standby time I get from a single battery. And that's normal, as the E-5 is a DSLR.

    I guess there will be many non-pro shooters out there with a E-5 which will just buy an E-M5 to complete their gear rather than replace the E-5 with the E-M1.

    As for the money I will spend in the future with Olympus they shouldn't worry. The 75mm and the new 12-40mm are on my bucket list. And should the street price of the E-M1 fall to a reasonable level after one or two years, I will consider it maybe. The ironic thing is that I would have bought a DSLR "E-7" with updated electronics and sensor for the same price point as the E-5 at market introduction in an instant. Still, Olympus did the right thing. They need to grow their customer base beyond existing long time customers like me and that won't happen with DSLRs.

  23. I believe a find a bug using the color picker. When I select or played withe color picker and then want to change the WB, it locks to auto WB and it's grey out so I can't change my white balance

    1. its not a bug its made that way turn off cp and you can change the wb

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  25. Robin, I just purchased the Em-1 and 3 lenses, I am selling my Canon. I love the fast auto-focus speed. I feel lost in the menu's I had shot once with an E-510 and picked it up and started shooting off the cuff, it was amazing how simple it waS. MY " ok " button with the 4 controls next to it keeps wanting to go to the manual focus grid, I really need quick access to aperture, iso, exposure compensation. So I know the camera is great in the menu's the first thing is formating a card, great simple to find but now my card is formatted and I'd really like to have quick access to " Live Bulb" color picker, and focus peaking. Any feedback as to resources to be orientated to my great camera would be great.



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  29. Yes, but when you then go to the Colour Picker, and you're a RAW shooter, it always defaults to RAW+ Large FINE, not SUPER FINE. You have to set it each time.

  30. Yes, but when you then go to the Colour Picker, and you're a RAW shooter, it always defaults to RAW+ Large FINE, not SUPER FINE. You have to set it each time.