1.19.2011

Can we talk very frankly? About the serious, red dot issue????

I walked in the door a few minutes ago and set down my stuff.  I've been shooting photographs for an oral surgery practice again today.  Yes,  I shot a model released patient having a procedure done.  Yes, there was a little blood.  Yes, I'm squeamish about blood.  Yes, we took lots of frames to get the angles and relationships between the surgical team just right.  I shot most of it with can big, heavy Canon camera but I shot some of it with the little Pen EPL2 because I'm trying to keep it in my hands all week.  It's the only way I can write a review about it.  Anyway, the first thing I find when I hit my mail box (sorry, I'm not the kind of pro that can keep his head in the game and still instantly respond to e-mails and texts.....) is a growing hysteria about the alleged Olympus EPL2 RED SPOTS CATASTROPHE!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Otherwise sane readers are on the edges of their seats, eager and anxious to know more about the red dots/spots dilemma.  Well.  That stopped me cold.  I've looked at the red dots on some sample photos from the middle of China and I've tried shooting the camera with the sun in the center third of the frame and I'm not able to replicate the problem.  At least that's the answer I posted a couple of days ago.

But that wasn't good enough.  People implored me to shoot:  "With the sun peeking around a building." "Directly in the middle of the frame."  "At 4 pm."  "At noon."  "With all the Pen lenses."  "Wide Open."
"Stopped down to f16."  "Surrounded by naked women."  "In a Klingon Null Force Field Containment System."  "While riding in a black helicopter."  And much, much more.

I have no doubt that you can make the Pen cameras create red dots.  Really.  Not disbelieving the possibility.  But chances are I have a Pen EPL2 in my hands and you don't.  I've pointed it at the sun, and a house lamp and an LED lamp and you haven't.  So,  to increase your anxiety or put your mind at ease (depending on which side of the fence you are on.....) I want to give you the straight scoop.

Now, before I do I need to let you know that ALL the camera and lens manufacturers are trying desperately to keep you in the dark about this.  I'm breaking all sorts of NDA's to tell you this.  But I think you have a basic, All American, All trans European, All Asian (etc.) right to know this......

Here it is:

SINCE THE DAWN OF COLOR PHOTOGRAPHY YOU'VE HAD THE POWER TO MAKE RED DOTS WITH ANY CAMERA!!!!!!!  It's nothing more than abusing an optical system.  It's like oscillating your Siemens centrifuges back and forth over their red line.  It's like driving your car at red line for hours and hours and waiting for the engine to smoke.  The red dots are no doubt coming from lens flare.  Here's the scenario:  Take a small sensor camera with a reflective sensor surface and shoot it at f16 (the system is already diffraction limited at about f5.6, at most, f8).  Point it directly at a point light source many times brighter than the surrounding area.  Watch the lens flare.  Watch the collimated light hit the sensor and bounce back against the rear lens element.  Watch it ricochet off the lens element and restrike the sensor. Repeat ad nauseum.

But here's the special, secret part:  You've been able to do this with any camera you can think of.  And pretty reliably too.  Just shoot stupid.  Of course the manufacturer warns you not to point the camera directly at the sun.  Of course every lens manufacturer warns you not to include a bright light source in the frame for fear of flare.  Guess what?  If you go it your own way, all independent and self-reliant and what not......you'll likely get some sort of flare.  Could be repeating patterns of the lens diaphragm.  Could be general light source smear, could be red dots.  But if you use any tool outside its proscribed parameters you get to deal with the......artifacts.  Or the blown engines.  Or the flare.

But......I would not give up on my personal search for the EPL2 red dots because I know how important it is to everyone out there considering a full featured, interchangeable lens, 12 megapixel, still / HD movie camera with included optical zoom to have a camera and lens that is more flawless than camera systems costing 100x more.

Well.  In my testing I could make a Leica M9 flare like fireworks with a $5000 lens on the front and I wanted to get the same performance from my $100 lens and, frankly,  I started to despair.  Perhaps my technique wasn't all I thought it was.  Did I have a defective system?  And I remember being able to ably elicit flare and red dots from the Phase One camera I tested a few years ago.

Then, my dog reminded me of a new and better way to get the red dots.  Photoshop's filters menu.  Apparently many of you think of Photoshop as only a tool to get those wonderful and sought after HDR files.   But, it's also a great tool for red dots and all kinds of flare effects.  Just go to Filters.  Then to Render.  Then to..............lens flare.  The possibilities are endless.  And they represent what photographers have seen from real world camera and lens systems for decades!!!!

Cameras and lenses are not yet computers.  They are tools.  They have limits.  No one camera system has a lock on flare.  Get over it.  I'd worry more about this:  I measured the self timer performance of the camera, with a fresh battery and at room temperature.........the ten second increment on my unit is fast.  It goes off in just 9.85 seconds.  Wait till they hear about that over on the forums.  Olympus will never be able to sell another camera.......... (for the achingly literal:  The last sentence is not true.  I have no way and no intention to test the self timer on any camera....).

48 comments:

Danny Chatham said...

Kirk,
Tell it like it is,perhaps someday these clowns
will accualy take a REAL photograph.

Anonymous said...

LOL

kirk tuck said...

I knew it. Tuck is on the take. Olympus must be paying him to lie about the red dot issue.

(just thought I'd beat them to it.....)

obakesan said...

I'll have to google this to even know what the storm in the teacup is ...

Godfrey DiGiorgi Photography said...

You made me laugh. Thank you.

Paulo Rodrigues said...

Awesome Kirk. Glad that the red dots weren't blood

Wolfgang Lonien said...

I bet Leica recently stopped sending paychecks hehe...

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Ha! Found it! So Obakesan doesn't have to search, and we have a proof that Tuck *is* lying:

http://www.mobile01.com/topicdetail.php?f=249&t=1960556&last=25235312

;-)
cheers,
Wolfgang

Elizabeth said...

I want a T-shirt with "Just shoot stupid" Awesome!

greyhat said...

Kirk, totally agree.

No one should do something _real_ wrong and expect camera processor to clean all the dirt. Oh well...

But this is not the only storm about E-PL2 (but is the stronger).
The other one is, to me, a _litle_ more important: E-PL2 is not as sharp as E-PL1.

I can name some reasons to have it like it is:
1 - same sensor with higher ISO because every consumer/enthusiast thinks that there is a must to be able to shoot [at the end noisy] ISO 6400... go figure. On good old times using 3200 film was only to crazy people that want special effects, i.e. lots of grain.
2 - less processing with demosaic / cleaning noise to use _same_ processor for other important things: faster AF, AF tracking and Eye detection

Just for my curiosity and only for my curiosity can you comment if you noticed it? (same lens, same focal distance, same ISO, same....)
Again just curiosity, I just want extreme sharpness for eye lashes on face close ups and landscapes - not for every day family documenting tool.

Anonymous said...

Kirk,

regarding the "sharpness" issue, i.e. the next issue everyone will talk about, someone asked Olympus and confirmed that it should be the same because Sensor, processor and AA filter are the same. Probably is lens or processor "firmware" on internet gurus amateur tests.

greyhat

the guy that asked Olympus: http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1041&message=37499364

Bill Beebe said...

Kirk,

Here is a link to one of my photos on my Flickr stream. It's was taken with an E-3 and Sigma 30mm. I'm shooting deliberately such that the bright Florida sun is in the upper left quadrant. The lens was set to f/16, ISO 100. You'll see red dots/spotches all over the image. I had to deliberately force this to happen. Id doesn't happen under normal use.

Link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wbeebe/3447343477/in/set-72157616839104280/

Idiots! (not referring to anyone here)

Anonymous said...

It's not a fault, it's a feature.

obakesan said...

Wolfgang

thanks mate ... actally its a pretty awsome looking effect.

Anonymous said...

Red dots haven't been a problem for me, but, when I'm shooting at the long end of the 40-150 zoom at less than 1/5 sec, my pictures aren't as sharp as I'd like. Can you check that out for me? ;)

Anonymous said...

Bill Beebe, Some of us who commented on dpreview were concerned because one of the photos with red dots was set to f/5.6, ISO 200. Most of us also said that we wanted to see confirmation that this problem could be reproduced and that, even if it could be, it would be of minor or no concern for most people. If you want to think we are idiots, so be it.

kirk tuck said...

I find that when driving my car and trying to handhold the camera for exposures longer than a full second on bumpy roads the camera fails to hold my compositions still.......

Steve Weeks said...

Man, I see a whole line of sports clothing with the logo "Don't shoot stupid" emblazoned on them.

Anonymous said...

kirk tuck said...

I find that when driving my car and trying to handhold the camera for exposures longer than a full second on bumpy roads the camera fails to hold my compositions still.......
January 19, 2011 8:23 PM

Ha...
Could it be the shocks on the Element, and maybe not a camera related issue?
By the way, sign me up for one of the first runs of the "Don't shoot stupid" shirts please :)

Anonymous said...

All this time I thought the "red dot problem" was that some cameras were taking good pictures while costing a fraction of those cameras with the famous red dot on the body.

Paul Feng said...

"It's like oscillating your Siemans centrifuges back and forth over their red line."

That sounds vaguely naughty.

(In a covert kind of way.)

kirk tuck said...

My biggest "red dot" problem is the cost of the M9.....

kirk tuck said...

I'm sure Bill didn't mean everyone on the forums was an idiot but the group hysteria is pretty weird given that the photos were sourced from one person not known to the group. I stand by what I said. All camera and lens systems flare when light sources are present in the frames. Some better and some worse. And I would imagine the smaller the effective aperture the more pronounced the artifacts. I've posted a setting sun, in the middle of a frame, shot at f20 and the artifacts are no where to be found. I've posted street lights at twilight and, again, no problem. People might want to wait to try the camera first. Most good brick and mortar stores will be glad to let people test out the demos with a memory card. And online merchants like Amazon have very liberal return policies.

Brian Smokler said...

I see dots when I stare at the sun too. Go figure.

Minerva said...

"In a Klingon Null Force Field Containment System."

This is hilarious! Loving it!

We call the red dots "Buddha's Light" in Taiwan.

Jim said...

I too see red dots when I stare at the sun too long, with or without a camera....

BTW, I believe that Bill meant what he said (everyone on the forums is an idiot), but I digress...

Keep up the good work.

Bill Beebe said...

I'm going to make two comments and then I'm "putting this to bed."

First, I'm concerned about the provenance of the photos that have stirred up such a furor, and second, I'm more concerned by those who have not worked with the E-PL2 accepting, with little or no challenge at face value, images that supposedly show a major flaw, and further accepting the conclusion that it's a flaw of all E-PL2's, rather than the one or possibly several copies.

When someone makes such an important accusation it is prudent to make sure that you either definitively prove or disprove the accusation yourself, or, barring that, find a trusted source who can do it for you. In this case, my trusted source is Kirk.

As as for the use of the word idiot, I use it in the context of "someone who acts in a self-defeating or significantly counterproductive way." It is self-defeating and significantly counterproductive to accept, at face value, images along with a conclusion from the other side of the planet from an individual who we know next to nothing about.

I am reminded about the Canon 5DMKII black dot problem and the ruckus raised by a very vocal minority. In the end Canon did fix that issue with a firmware release, but as Bob Atkins wrote back in 2008, "it's important to keep some perspective here." It was true then, and it's true now.

Link: http://www.bobatkins.com/photography/digital/eos_5D2_black_dots.html

steveH said...

Now I won't be able to stop until I can get the nifty red dots to appear...

Thanks loads, guys.

Fran├žois said...

"I find that when driving my car and trying to handhold the camera for exposures longer than a full second on bumpy roads the camera fails to hold my compositions still......."

Hi Kirk, are you trying to tell us something about the Olympus in body IS :)

efix said...

Kirk, I am deeply concerned about the red dot problem my Leica is showing. Any tips?

Minerva said...

Hi Kirk,

I'm an E-PL2 user from Taiwan.

Many E-PL2 users of Taiwan are still very concerned about the red dot issue, even though I've gave them the link to this article, and provided Traditional Chinese translation for them, trying to make them calm down and get over it.

However, they're now accusing me (and you) of being indifferent to this "FREAKING SERIOUS MAJOR FLAW" of E-PL2. They insist that they do need to use the Aperture Value more than F8 to capture pictures and the resulting red dots really annoy them. And they're wondering why other cameras do not have red dot (but maybe with some other kinds of flares, which they could accept, I guess?)

They're demanding Olympus to fix this problem ASAP, like updating firmwares. Here's my question, does updating firmwares really help?

Thank you.

Jean Labelle said...

Turn the camera off and put it down... good.
Now put it back into the box it arrived in and return it to the place of purchase.
Problem solved!

JPL

kirk tuck said...

Minerva, At this point I would counsel all of those people to move on to another camera that they might like better. Once people are convinced of something they rarely change their minds. I posted a sunset shot at f20 yesterday but no one liked to see it because it didn't have the red dots. I give up. I'll review a very nice camera and if people want to see red dots and buy something else then I guess it's the nature of the market.

I can't think that firmware would have much effect on an optical artifact...

Minerva said...

Thank you, Kirk, your opinions are quite helpful and informative. The red dots (whether exist or not) doesn't bother me anyway. Let those who are bothered be bothered. I'm gonna enjoy my E-PL2.

Jeff Snyder said...

Kirk,

Just awesome. I predict that the RDP (Red Dot Problem) will be the next benchmark that DSLRs are judged by. Forum sages will go on and on about how well their Canikon does Red Dot suppression and how Olympus is lagging in that area.

Dave Elfering Photography said...

The forums often remind me of a scene from the children's movie "Finding Nemo" where the sea gulls repeatedly say "mine... mine.. mine". I drop by DPReview a couple times a week but by and large find little there these days. People want raw photo examples blown up to 300% and then get into obtuse specifics about atmospheric temperature, whether Jupiter and Saturn are in alignment, etc. Its always a good chuckle.

I've been known to test my own lenses against one another informally but wow Internet hysteria is a crazy animal.

I love this blog because you remind me of those few friends who if you are wearing something goofy will ask you how many paint chips you ate as a child :)

Rick D said...

@Elizabeth

"I want a T-shirt with "Just shoot stupid" Awesome!"

That would be fun, just don't stand next to anybody wearing an "I'm with stupid" with pointing hand t-shirt.

As to the glories of flare, the new red-dot fanbois need to play with a Zuiko 7-14. They'll soon be shouting about aliens and magic thumbtacks.

Paul Glover said...

Kirk, thank you. Thank you thank you thank you times infinity.

There's a reason why I don't frequent gearhead forums and sites. This would be it. If I based a camera buying decision on everything I saw on the internet, I'd forget about photography entirely and just rock back and forward on my haunches in a darkened room for the rest of my life hoping for the moon to crash into the earth and end all the insanity. I might even suck my thumb and whimper quietly while I waited.

Gino Eelen said...

Now if the pictures with the red dots were the ones that would have sold for thousands of dollars had they not had any red dots (and the dots were not removable 'in post'), I would see the problem...

I think most users have a bigger problem to contend with - getting interesting and worthwhile pictures from the camera systems they actually own.

Or perhaps they have given up on that and are desperately trying to find some other way of being involved in 'photography'.

Cat said...

Coincidence that the E-PL1 won the Red Dot Design Award last year?

http://www.olympus-global.com/en/corc/history/design/award/reddot/

The engineers were just showing off by embedding the award in an E-PL2 pixel. :)

Better get on those T-shirts, Tuck, they could be best sellers! I'll take an XL.

Anonymous said...

Ummm, I don't get it. So sometimes there are red dots. And most times there are not. Why turn it into a credit/discredit thing? I think someone is sore from the political conspiracies that have been going on in the USA and UK that people are just now waking up to.

So just know that there are red dots if you use your camera in a particular way and drop it.

Weird what people will put effort into these days.

Waste of time.

Anonymous said...

I knew it! This is a conspiracy! Leica knew about the red dots for DECADES! That's the secret meaning of their logo! And I'm sure, if we all look close enough, there is a PATTERN! These red dots have a purpose, they probably can be used to track us!

Anonymous said...

interesting: all this funny talk about stupid people complaining about a tool that is obviously not working right. i have made pictures with the e-pl2 in different conditions and the "red dot problem" wasn´t hard to produce. but o.k., go on and ignore it and keep on shooting "smart" - no sunsets, no streets with bright lights, no cars with their lights on . . . always looking for the right angle to avoid red spots must be big fun, i guess.
then why does e-pl1 doesn´t have the problem?

Anonymous said...

Had my Epl2 for a week took over 4oo shots and yes the red dots appeared.
The sun was behind a cloud but still very bright not so bright that you couldn't look at it however very bright.
I was shooting tree tops and saw a nice composition.
Sure enough the red spots showed up on the branches.
Hey it is real and it happens.
I am not in the FUD camp about this but also not in denial or just because it has not happened to me it must not be real either.
Anyway I will try a lens hood or polarizer as a workaround to see if that helps.

Anonymous said...

My take on the Incredibly Stupid Response to such a problem.

It does happen. Should it bother anyone?
Well it depends if you believe that when you buy a product that it should be fit for the use it is intended. Whether you think someone should be pointing a camera lens directly at the sun or not is besides the point. I have some great shots of the sun just rising through a cliff crack in front of which there are some huge amazing spider gossamer webs moving about on the breeze. They were only visible at that camera angle. I guess I had a strong chance of getting the red dots. Lucky I only had an old Oly 2100!

Should it be fixed? Well, I guess according to the 'owner' here and his followers, ... no.

I would beg to differ.

When I buy a car I expect the ABS, EPS etc all to work ... period, not just when the system chooses, or when the wind is not blowing southerly etc. An F-16 should fully fly competently (oh that's right, a one in a million off chance of being sued is cheaper!).

A red dot pattern may never happen to you, but it DOES happen. The camera should not have to come with a caveat saying "Do not use in bright sunlight, bright lights, fireworks,etc". It shouldn't be ignored just because the odds are low. I know they are not equivalent comparisons, but the logic is the same: the chance of getting CJD, AIDS etc is small... should we just pretend none of it happens and not bother about it all? At the minimum the circumstances under which this can happen should be defined .. then if you know that when you buy it ...

Just my 2 cents worth for all those out there who don't have 6 cameras and don't change their cameras every 18 months like lots of you gearheads seem to. If I did, I probably wouldn't give a monkey's either!

Steve
(Fed up of being pushed consumer products designed to last as long as the warranty!
Woe is the day cameras become like Windows software)

By the way: Lens flare is one thing, even desirable under certain circumstances. This is an entirely different phenomenon.

kirk tuck said...

Steve, You must be an idiot. Not to notice that all products are compromises, very few are perfect and all of them break. We've spent billions on incredibly flawed products from Microsoft and Dell. Twelve million cars were recalled last year in the US. And many of the issues were safety related. I don't review products for you or Olympus. I review them and discuss what I find interesting.

I mentioned the red dot again in the final review. If you can't read you don't need to have a camera. At any price. Don't write me another comment like that one.

(I posted it as an example of the crap I don't like to read.) Buy a different camera. Read a different blog.

Matt said...

Kirk,

In upgrading from a p&s camera, I landed upon the e-pl2. I saw some red dot comments and also saw your words on the subject. I took your words as more of the realistic view on this, vs. the people in the corners acting a bit hysterical. I just assumed they were kind of kooky.

Unfortunately today, I am feeling kind of kooky myself. Having picked up the e-pl2 and fooled around with it this week, I got a red-dot issue. I am comparing the red-dots I got with a number of shots I took with my p&s camera in the locations I'd love to have a better camera at (such as e-pl2) and am concerned shots that are acceptable on the p&s are going to have an unacceptable red dot pattern from the e-pl2. Whether it is lens flare or mysterious camera boogeyman gremlins..doesn't matter, if the shots I have with my p&s had that large red dot pattern in them, I'd be unsatisfied with the pictures.


Can you possibly give any feedback or thoughts? It is greatly appreciated! thank you.

my e-pl2 and p&s shots:
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1008&thread=38254162


Matt

Egdon said...

LOL. I'm going to buy this E-PL2 and surround my self with naked women to see if I get the red dot thing. LOL.

Seriously, thank you Kirk for taking time to share us your wisdom. It also teaches people to be tolerant of the things we cannot have even if there is money to burn.