An afternoon spent testing the Olympus 40 meg (and 60 meg) Hi-Res feature at Pedernales Falls State Park. Hot and crazy.

I'm not much of a landscape photographer but I'm willing to fake it for an hour or two at a time if I'm trying out something different and new. That would be the Olympus Hi-Res mode out in the real world. 

I packed a couple of the EM5.2 cameras and two lenses. The Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 zoom and the Olympus 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 R. I also packed a 58mm polarizing filter and three bottles of Evian water. Grabbed my straw Stetson cowboy hat, a Columbia long sleeve Sun Guard shirt and a bottle of spray on sun screen, and then I drove the 40 minutes to the park.

All my gear was in a little backpack and I carried a Berlebach wooden tripod over my shoulder. I parked the car and slipped on the backpack then I headed down the steep trail to walk out over the rocks, worn and crevassed by centuries of running water. The head of the falls that bubble up from underground is a vast field of smoothed rocks that hide little pools and streams that all run together in to the Pedernales River.  It takes fifteen or twenty minutes to trek down from the car and another thirty or forty minutes to find the good spots. Spots uncrowded by people dragging along coolers and screaming children.

It was about 97 degrees by the time I got to the boulder field. My hat provided good protection from direct sun, as did the shirt, but after two hours of walking around, finding interesting views, setting up the tripod and comping everything up for the shots, all in direct sun,  the heat just starts to wear you down. It radiates from the baked rocks and even with UV protection in all quadrants the sheer thermal load just starts to elevate your core temperature. 

I headed into the trees surrounding the field and drained the contents of one Evian bottle. Then I looked at what I'd gotten. I liked it. 

When I first started to shoot I set the camera to record in Hi-Res, in the Super fine Jpeg mode. Later I modified that by selecting the Raw+Jpeg setting. While the files jumped up from a 40 megapixel size to a 60 megapixel size I didn't see much difference in quality when I got back to the studio and could take a good, long look on the monitor at 100%. 

After a little break in the shade I headed down the long trail to the area of the park where people are allowed to swim in the river. It's about two miles from the Falls. I spent some time shooting there as well but I kept thinking about the walk back in the heat so I cut the photography down when I started to feel a bit off and trekked back to the car, drained another bottle of water and headed home. 

So, what did I discover about the Hi-Res mode in the EM5.2? First of all, being on a tripod in broad, Texas sunlight just feels so strange. It took me right back to my view camera days. You get to spend a lot of time extending legs in uneven arrangements and making adjustments to the tripod. The upside of my time spend with the "blond beauty" of tripods was that the wood is wonderful to touch even after being exposed to direct sunlight for hours. While a black, metal set of tripod legs would fry your hands the Berlebach was more or less temperature neutral.

In Hi-Res mode the images are loaded with tons of real detail. They also have a different, richer color palette than images that are shot in traditional modes. But much can be done to equalize files from traditional capture and Hi-Res. To this point I have included a file from a large super fine jpeg shot in the regular mode at the bottom and I find it malleable enough to get close to the look of the High-Res stuff in terms of tones and colors. Where it is no match is in resolution.

While we are mostly programmed to profess our undying love for RAW files I think in the future I'll stick to my instincts and shoot the Hi-Res stuff in large super fine jpeg. It looks great to me that way.

I set the camera to the regular file size for the image below because I felt constrained by having to shoot motionless subjects with the super-pixel mode. I like to see people in my images and I like it even better when they move around and do stuff. All the files here are sized to 2100 pixels on the long end for blogger. You'll have to take my word for the fact that the larger files have a embarrassing amount of detail. But for everything that moves you'll probably be just fine with the 16 megapixels you get standard. Nice to know you aren't totally screwed if you left that tripod at home....


Larry Cordeiro said...

Hi Kirk,

Liked your landscapes. When we were stationed in San Antonio back in the early 1970's we didn't visit the Austin area very often. We'll have to try to visit Pedernales Falls on our next visit to Texas.

Larry C.

alexander solla said...

Kirk, if the camera is capturing these massive files, presumably in some kind of linear stacked sequence, what does that do to moving objects? Trees blowing, people walking? How long does it typically take? Is the write speed very slow?

Anonymous said...

My main impression of the hi res mode is that the colour coming out of it is amazing.

But my favourite photo is the last, normal res one. A bit like a warm Lowry.

Great stuff.

tnargs said...

The 40 MP JPEG files might be all you need to keep, but the nice thing about shooting raw high-res is that the first frame is saved as a 16 MP raw .ORI file.

So, if the motion artefacts are not acceptable, you can simply revert to the .ORI file and you at least have a keeper image. Or, if most of the high-res image is delightful but one or more small areas are not acceptable due to motion, do a bit of post processing by upsizing the 16 MP .ORI file to match the high-res file and blend it as a separate layer with the motion artefacts superimposed by 16 MP with no motion.

If you shoot JPEG high-res only, these 'resurrection' options don't exist when motion artefacts are not acceptable.

All the best.