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E-1 Software

in Olympus E-System , Monday, January 26, 2004

With the first photos comes the first photo-processing. I've installed both the Olympus Viewer and the Olympus Studio Trial software on my desktop machine, which is an Apple Macintosh G4 867Mhz "Quicksilver", with 1.5Gb of RAM and as much disk space as my whole University had back in 1983 :-)

As I said before, applying the 1.0.1 updater to Olympus Viewer stops it working. A pity because it claims to solve 1 annoying bug, which is that converted RAW files are saved without colour profiles. I haven't tried it on my Powerbook yet. The announced 1.1 updater does not yet appear to have arrived.

Apart from a mysterious "High Speed / High Function" RAW development engine tradeoff in Studio (the manual has little to say about it, despite being 292 pages long), it seems that unless you want edit tools and camera control, and find RAW batch processing useful, Studio has little to offer over Viewer. In any case, they're both quite clearly version 1.0. Whilst they offer a lot of interesting functionality, they're both clunky and slow, especially in RAW conversion. Roll on the E-1 updated to Photoshop CS.

The RAW developer is especially annoying. Whilst files can be saved using the same file name as the RAW (with the appropriate filetype, so it doesn't overwrite anything), or saved using a rule-based formula, you can't, believe it or not, enter your own filename. Secondly, the type always defaults to Exif-JPEG. Finally (so far), if you ask it to open the converted file in Photoshop, if Photoshop is already open, Viewer crashes - after saving the file, fortunately.

But... the results are pretty good. At 240dpi I get more less full A4 (using no margins on Epson 2100). Images straight "out of the box", capture and output sharpened using Pixel Genius PhotoKit Sharpener and printed using ColorByte ImagePrint are pretty impressive. No tweaking, no optimising. Next step is to go to A3.

I think that Josh Anon's Lightbox software is worth investigating too, certainly for organising all the various derivatives of the RAW files. I daresay that will be the topic of a future post.

Posted RAW file

For anybody wanting to experiment, a RAW file and associated JPEG of a Swiss mountain peak can be found online here.

The blue sky was very transitory...

The photo was taken handheld, at 100ASA, 54mm, 1/250th, F9, using ESP metering. The metering coped pretty well.

First photos

So, no post yesterday. Circumstances, for example shovelling snow, kept me away. Today, however, the E-1 has leapt into action. Taking advantage of a business trip over the Alps, I stopped off at a few places to try it out. The weather was still both foul and boring, but there were a few better moments. I just used the 14-54mm lens for these first trials.

I'll post some photos soon, when I decide how I'm going to organise it. But my first impressions are very good. First of all, I'm relieved to report that I like the 4/3 framing. I expected to, having taken to 6x7 very quickly, but you never no. Next point, this camera just works. The learning curve, even when coming from manual focus Canon SLRs, is practically non-existent. Most controls work on the "press a button and rotate a dial basis", with the added feature that you have two dials to choose from. So far I've only discovered one mode where the two dials do different things, which is setting aperture and speed in M mode. The comment that the buttons seem to be randomly spread all over the camera has some justification, but you soon get used to it. I found that the DOF preview button didn't immediately fall to hand, but again, after a few minutes it became second nature.

The viewfinder is superb. It does not feel at all restrictive. I don't know quite why, because it clearly is much smaller than the one on my T90 for example, but it isn't noticeable. However, I think investing in the eye cup might improve things even more.

On the menu front, well again it is easy to use, but I should say that I have been using an Olympus C4040Z for the past two years, and the logic is similar. One thing which I haven't seen reported anywhere is that the Info mode "remembers" its last setting. So, if you choose histogram view (requiring click Play, press and hold Info, rotate dial) the exit, the next time you click Play then Info, you get the histogram. Not quite such a pain in the neck as some have suggested. I guess a single button press, like on other DSLRs, would be nice, but this is hardly awkward.

One thing I haven't taken much notice of yet is changing the default settings. Apart from changing the colour space to Adobe RGB I've left it all as it is. I may well be wrong but so far I assume that all of this stuff is relevant only to processed images, not RAW. Still, as I've using RAW + JPEG, I will probably tweak the settings so that it produces JPEGs as I want them.

For some shots I used my tripod, with the Acratech ball head. I used a Really Right Stuff plate - model ..., which I bought for the T90. It isn't ideal as the curved base of the E-1 body doesn't fit very well. Really Right Stuff claim to have released an E-1 specific plate, but when you try to order it, a different, generic (and cheaper) plate ends up in the shopping basket. I'll call them tonight to clarify this.

Not much news

{categories limit="1"}in {category_name} {/categories}, Saturday, January 24, 2004

Well I promised to post everyday, so here it is... but, due to horrible weather and saturday domesticity contraints, the E-1 has been untroubled... One thing that might be interesting - it would have been for me - is what is actually in the box. Well the Europoean E-1 kit includes: - E-1 body with body cap - 14-54mm lens with lens shade and soft case, front & back caps - Li-ion battery and charger - Getting started manual (full manual is PDF only, on CD-ROM, and can be found also at the E1 website. The quick reference guide can also be found there but strangely is not in the box or on the CD. The manual is some 170 pages long. - Software CD with Olympus Viewer 1.0 and Olympus Studio Trial 1.0. As far as I can tell Viewer is quite adequate if you already have Photoshop. - Firewire, USB and Video cables - body strap with "I'm an expensive OLYMPUS camera, please steal me" written on it. The 50-200mm lens ships with lens shade and a very nice case. The booster/grip does not include the hand strap, which seems a bit cheap... So, all pretty much what one would expect. FIRST GLITCH: I'm using Mac OS X 10.3.2. I installed Olympus Viewer, and immediately applied the patch to version 1.0.1, which seems to be recommended. However, Viewer 1.0.1 crashes on launch, whatever I do. Luckily there's an uninstaller, and it works. Unistalling 1.0.1 and re-installing 1.0 gave me a working program. Of course this may be a local problem.

very first unpowered impressions

{categories limit="1"}in {category_name} {/categories}, Friday, January 23, 2004

Well, I'm at home surrounded by boxes. I haven't charged the battery yet, so all I can do is read the manual. But I have had a peek through the viewfinder, and, well, I'm amazed. It just feels right. It doesn't have the tunnel vision feel of the Canon 10D or 300D (note, please, this is not Canon knocking. If I could afford Canon lenses I'd have chosen it, probably). It is almost as good as the Minolta Dynax 5. My idea that I'd be using this 50% of the time, and my film cameras the rest of the time starts to seem archaic. This thing just feels great. Let's hope the image quality is up to the standard of the handling!
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