Friday, 29 August 2008

Got an E-3? Get LR2+Standard profiles!

Ever wanted to work with a nice RAW converter for your E-3 (or any other Olympus camera, for that matter)? Tried all of them and found that they either produced a nice conversion (such as Olympus Studio or Silkypix) or have a great workflow and are thus easy to use? Well, many of us went through this, complicated by the dilemma of "what makes the Olympus colors".

My experience is that many of us decide - rightly, I think - in favour of convenience, even if it means giving up not only the "Olympus colours", but sometimes also pleasing colours as such (strong subjectivity warning!). Lightroom is a prime example of such a solution. It is very-very handy, but uses the ACR engine for RAW development, which produces colours, reds and greens in particular, that are very different from what the belowed Olympus colours look like (or, many would argue, colours of the real world). The example below shows a notorious case: red t-shirt with along with skin colours. The result coming from the ACR 4.3 (or 4.4) engine is not that very-very bad, but soon you will find that there is a (kind of complicated) yellowish-greenish cast on it.

Naturally, this and similar experiences made many to play around with the "Calibration" sliders, including me, either eyeballing results or using one of the scripts that are trying to match camera colours to the Gretag Macbeth chart. This is a possible way of proceeding, but it has its own problems, most importantly the oversaturation of some skin tones as we try to create a red red. One reason for this is that the sliders allow only for a limited adjustment of colors. To adjust one tone, you have to introduce a global shift in all colors, which is naturally not what you genuinely want. In this case, I very much do not like the colour of the lips.

This is the point, where Lightroom 2 enters. In this incarnation of LR, Adobe made the considerable effort of introducing camera profiles, which they confusingly named DNG Profiles. These profiles have little to do with DNG, but are very powerful, because they can shift all hues individually and thus do not require the creator to use global shifts. There is a free tool to download, which can be used to home-brew a profile either based on personal taste or a calibration (with a GM colour patch card), but most of us will not want to use this (come on, this is difficult to do properly). The good news is that Adobe has created a profile for a number of cameras, including the E-3. There is a pack of "Adobe Standard Beta" (ASB) Profiles to download, which they claim to have been built to match the camera manufacturers' colour signature. If you install it, you'll be able to choose them in the calibration module. I find the result using this profile the most pleasing: reds are reds, but not oversaturated (similarly to what Ryan Brenizer finds). This is my calibration of choice at the moment.

Give LR2 a spin, if you want convenience and good colours. Now they seem to be possible at the same time!

PS: Ironically, I find that the ASB profile for the E-1 does not do such a great job, especially to blues, which are remote from the Olympus blue. On the other hand, I have to say that as much I loved the out of camera jpgs of the E-1, I am not a fan of those coming out of the E-3 (colour-wise). In this case, I find it a bit yellowish, but fine in general. This is so though the ASB profiles try to emulate the E-3s jpgs, but I have to admit, that the difference is marginal.

1 comment:

erichK said...

Thank you for your insightful and useful comments. I agree with your characterizations of both the E-3 jpg engine's colour and the default LR-2 ones; that jpg's, while good, do have a slight greenish /yellow cast, and that those which LR-2 tends to produce are much worse. Additionally, I have found that LR2 does particularly unpleasing things to the E-330 files I occasionally try to use it with.

I will try the beta profile but I also wonder about ways of doing RAW conversion outside LR and then saving and passing modified DNG's of particularly problematic - or important - images.

saskatoon, sk