Experiments with The Olympus JPEG Engine and Street Photography

I’m normally an event photographer, so I’m used to seeing images of people being interesting or doing interesting things. I work in a situation where I am The Photographer, so it’s easy to ask people if I can take their photograph and I don’t have to feel out of place with a “Proper Camera”. Town is quite different, though in a place like Harrogate with so many tourists maybe a camera isn’t so out of place. The heavyweight tripod may be a different story. I walk around and see so many People Shots, but don’t take them. One exception was three old ladies sitting on a bench who I asked and they said yes, but not to publish. That was some time ago.

My Olympus E-M1 failed eventually after an incredibly large number of shots in very varied and often harsh conditions. Now I have an E-M1 Mk2 which is so far quite an interesting camera. It’s nice to be out again and I think this can be seen now that I’m taking more Photographs, rather than the mobile phone snaps. The phone is pretty good, especially for family memories, but it’s not quite the same as a DSLR.

Sitting under the cherry blossom. Maybe I need to ask the camera to reprocess in Natural profile.

Vivid or Natural

Natural profile tends to give reasonably flat images. When I first bought the camera and used it after factory reset I was impressed with how close the colours were to reality. I’m not sure I’ve kept that as I’ve adjusted. Vivid is a little more vivid. These shots have gone through the “Raw Data Edit” function to generate the profiles from the same base image. Gradation is set to Auto.


Gradation really affects the shadows. I wonder if it’s like Nikon’s D-Light feature. The effect is highly dramatic and completely changes an image. The main exposure was adjusted in this image given the dark subject of most of the frame. This is one image I’d likely use dodge and burn on.

The 75mm f/1.8 lens

All of the above were taken with the 12-40 f/2.8 PRO lens using a circular polarising filter. It’s a great lens for general purpose use. It adds weight to the camera, but seems nicely in proportion to it. The solid metal feel is nice, as is the weatherproofing. This lens has been through a lot with me.

Another great lens is the 75mm f/1.8 prime. It’s more telephoto, at 150mm equivalent on a 35mm system it’s a long portrait lens (and very good at that!). Images have a sort of glassy quality which is incredibly clear. It’s nice for the shy street photographer because a relatively small lens (similar to the 12-40, but not as small as the 45mm f/1.8!) has a quite long reach.

These images were taken on walkabout with the 75mm lens.

There’s a lot to adjust with the Olympus JPEG engine. One advantage of raw is that I can just capture the image and make the decision later. An advantage of JPEG is rapid sharing from an event as it is happening. The camera has its “Raw Data Edit” feature for some in-camera retouching, and the mobile phone can perform edits. The latter may be best from the more neutral “neutral” profile. I’ve not touched on the lightness and shadow settings and all the different changes I can make to contrast and saturation and other processing from the super-menu.

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