Friday, 22 July 2016

Olympus Viewer 3 vs Lightroom CC Part 2

Since my last post on the comparison between Olympus Viewer 3 and Lightroom CC, I've done a little more research into OV3 (Olympus Viewer 3).

It appears that Olympus are applying a decent amount of sharpening and noise reduction to the file once it's output - even if the software settings are all set to '0' or Off. Olympus's jpegs are praised by many as being some of the best out-of-camera jpegs in the industry. Sharp, contrasty, and with great colour. It would appear that the software developers for OV3 want to make sure you get these same results when outputting from an .orf  RAW file, even at the '0' or Off settings.

So I decided to repeat the comparison, but this time I dialed in -2 Sharpness, -2 Contrast, -2 Saturation, and set the Noise Reduction to 'OFF' (from 'As Shot' - even though NR in the camera is, in fact, set to 'OFF').

Lightroom CC on right, Olympus Viewer 3 on the left.
So what's the verdict now? Well, on the sharpness front, things have definitely evened out by setting OV3 to -2 Sharpness. In fact, I'd say that now the Lightroom Tiff is maybe just a 'hair' sharper - maybe. Contrast and Saturation are also now about the same. But I have to say that I still prefer the Olympus colour rendition. Once again, it looks slightly 'truer' to my eyes.

The other difference that still remains between the two is the noise - or at least the lack of it in the Olympus Viewer 3 generated Tiff. Noise is still cleaner compared to Lightroom CC's conversion, so either Olympus are ramping up Noise Reduction regardless of what you set as the user - or they really do have the secret to their own 'special sauce' contained within the .orf file. I like to think that it's the later of the two?

Lightroom CC on right, Olympus Viewer 3 on left.
But at the end of the day, it's still the colour rendition from OV3 that stands out the most. And it's the above sunset shot comparison that is still the most telling (for me at least). With most settings dialed down to their lowest (-2) in Olympus Viewer 3, Lightroom CC and OV3 Tiffs are very close - except for their colour rendition. I happen to prefer the way OV3 renders the colour from the RAW file. I think it's a truer representation of what I was actually seeing when I took the photograph.

So given that a simple 'flattening' of the OV3 Tiff file is all it takes to bring it in-line with Lightroom CC - but that I find the colours more pleasing from Olympus Viewer 3 - then I still think it's a win for Olympus.

Besides - this all assumes that I want my Tiffs to start out looking like Lightroom's slightly flatter conversion. What's wrong with starting with sharpened, noise-reduced, colourful, contrasty Tiffs from your RAW processor? I know I can always dial down all these settings if I need to. But 99% of the time it's what I want my photos to end up looking like anyway.

I've always been the kind of photographer who tries as much as possible to get it 'right' in camera. I rarely spend more than 5 minutes editing any image, and that includes cropping. I crop 'in-camera'. A sharpened, colourful, noise free Tiff suits me just fine. I only ever do very basic edits to my RAW files before saving it out to a Tiff or jpeg, so the controls available from OV3 also suit my needs perfectly. Once I have the Tiff, I'm going to do final edits in something else anyway. So the OV3/Tiff/Photoshop workflow makes a lot of sense to me personally. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

I would also finish this off by reiterating the whole purpose of this comparison. I wanted to see if Viewer 3  - the FREE software supplied with my camera - was a worthy consideration when placed up against the industry standard Adobe Lightroom. The fact that there really is hardly anything in it - and that I actually prefer the files that are coming out of OV3 - speaks volumes for the manufacturer's software. When it comes for free and the results can be this good, what's not to like?

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