Friday, 14 August 2015

Using Olympus ORF files from OMD-EM5 Mk2

Last post I finished by relating my experiences using the Olympus RAW files (ORF), and how my version of Lightroom (Lr4) doesn't support the raw files from this latest MFT (micro four thirds) camera.

I also concluded that this wasn't going to change for me anytime soon, since the newest version of Lightroom (Lr6) that does support the RAW files from the Mk2, won't actually run on my (old) iMac. I'm using OS 10.7, but Adobe CC and Lightroom 6 required at least OS 10.8 to run. So that's that really. I'd consigned myself to becoming a (gasp) jpeg shooter.

I'm not the kind of guy who lives on the 'bleeding edge' of technology - my iMac is seriously at least 10 years old. And since I tend to only be able to afford second-hand cameras from around that time as well, it's never been much of an issue. Photoshop 4 does everything I need it to do - as does Lightroom 4. Heck, I'd still be using Apple's 'Aperture' if they hadn't canned it (don't get me started).

But something like this did happen to me a few years ago, when I was one of the first people to purchase the Fuji X10. Lightroom initially couldn't read the Fuji RAW files, and then when it could, it didn't play all that nicely with the newly developed X-Trans sensor. My fix at that stage was also initially to shoot jpegs on the X10, and then I came across Adobe's own DNG (Digital Negative) RAW conversion software.

I think the DNG file format from Adobe is brilliant, and I've had quite a bit to do with it over the last few years. My Pentax cameras shot the DNG format natively (brilliant), and then when I switched back to Canon, I still converted all the RAW files to Adobe DNG on import (an option from within Lightroom). Many think of this as an 'extra' step, but it really doesn't add too much to the download time, and I see it as a 'future proofing' strategy of sorts.

Do I think Canon, Nikon or Olympus will be around forever? Well, no actually, I don't. Surprisingly, I think of the three, Canon and Nikon are the most shaky of the three - even given Olympus's recent financial difficulties. Why? Simply because they are so far behind the 8 ball with the whole mirrorless movement. As much as we might want to shout and rage against it (and believe me, I've raged with the best of them), I do think that mirrorless is the undeniable future of photography. I'm not saying it's the only possible future. Perhaps something else will come along and take its place too? But that doesn't change the fact that the traditional SLR, as many of us know and love, is a thing of the past. But I digress.

My point is, I find it far more likely that Adobe, and the DNG file format, will be around longer than the camera manufacturers themselves - hence the future proofing of converting to DNG.

But of course, when you jump on to new technology, that isn't supported by your old gear, sometimes proprietary formats like DNG can also be your only option (and saving grace).

Olympus OMD EM5 Mk2 jpeg
So anyway, to cut an already probably long story short, I've downloaded the latest version of Adobe's DNG Converter (which supports the OMD EM5 Mk2's ORF files and runs on my iMac under OS10.7) and will simply take that 'extra' step of converting the ORF files from the EM5 Mk2 into DNG's. Then I can have my cake and eat it too!

Here is just a quick example of what a difference it can make shooting in RAW - and why it's worth persevering with RAW capture if you can.

This first image is as shot, from the camera, using the OMD EM5 Mk2's viewfinder with live histogram to make sure that the highlights were retained and not blown out.

Now of course, the dynamic range of the scene was such that something had to give. There was fairly bright sunshine on the white hull of the boat, and deep shade to the side and behind in the bushes. I exposed correctly for the highlights so they wouldn't blow out (as you should), and just had to let the shadows fill in to black. Shooting in jpeg would mean that this is the image you would be left with. It's ok, but the shadows are a touch on the dark side and could do with 'opening' up.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mk2 RAW 
Shoot in RAW, however, and you still expose in the same way, but you do get the chance to go in with the RAW software processing later on and 'recover' some of the detail in those shadows.

It can be quite subtle, and I don't like to overdo the post processing, but side by side the differences are obvious. That's simply the flexibility that RAW allows you, that jpeg doesn't.

So with the latest version of Adobe DNG Converter I can set the OMD EM5 Mk2 up to shoot RAW and know that it is going to fit into my workflow. Who knows, I may get another 5 years out of the old 'iMac' yet? :-)

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