40 Years of Imaging Technology Development – how much difference has it made?

An earlier post saw me going on about how good the Olympus Trip was.  So in the interests of  ‘putting my money where my mouth is’  I got to thinking – how does it compare to a relatively recent digital equivalent – an Olympus PEN? Both are aimed at roughly the same group of  photographers, even if they are separated by a generation or two. How much has technology really improved photography at the ‘consumer end’ of the market?

Olympus PEN and EPL3

So, armed with an Olympus Trip (loaded with Agfaphoto APX100) and an Olympus EPL3 on a fine winter’s day I took the same pics with both and did a comparison – it turned out to be more of a challenge  than I anticipated.

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Trip on the left, EPL3 on the right. Not bad for the Trip but the EPL3 has a bit more dynamic range.

The EPL3 has a smallish micro 4/3 12 Mp sensor, the Trip uses full frame 35mm film so can be scanned to 20 MP, it’s only advantage. The Trip has no autofocus, no image stabilisation and only has simple metering. It’s also only equipped with ‘P’ program mode, the EPL3 has all the bells and whistles – aperture priority, ISO 200 (the lowest setting) and mid aperture were used for this comparison.

The film pics are nearly all crops – it’s surprisingly difficult to compare the field of view between a LCD and a basic viewfinder when taking comparison shots. Good fun though… This is a monochrome test because – well, I like black and white. No other reason!

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EPL3 Top, Trip bottom. More even this time – the Trip has a slightly better look but it’s only a personal preference.

To do a fair comparison, the EPL3 pics were taken in RAW and converted using default settings to JPG and desaturated in Photoshop, the Trip shots scanned, then noise reduction, ‘dust and scratches’ and unsharp mask applied which seemed fair for comparison purposes.

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Trip left, EPL3 right. The EPL3 has managed to capture more DR in the water but only marginally.

The EPL3 has a nice 14-42mm (28-84mm equiv) zoom lens, the Trip a faster fixed focus 40mm lens. this meant the ‘defining’ shot had to be taken with the Trip, then an approximation with the EPL3.

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Trip left, EPL3 right – these were framed as the same shot the same to me on the day. This was more difficult than I’d initially imagined!

As much reduced images size can only give a basic impression – so here are some crops:-

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Detail crops from the above shots – Trip left, EPL3 right. Not much in it but the EPL3 has just won this one on sharpness (and no scratches).

The APX100 film was developed in Rodinal 1+50 for 12 minutes.

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Trip left, EPL3 right. The Trip is better based on personal choice here – more subtle midtones.

It’s significant that these shots were taken in good light – the EPL3 would have such an advantage in low light that the test wouldn’t be worthwhile.

There are so many film/developer/post-processing variables that any number of answers could result from this test – I like film and digital so I’m not trying to force any conclusion – just come to a general one.

The surprising thing is that for these two ‘consumer grade’ cameras the differences aren’t that great. The Trip needs slightly more experience to get the most out of it – especially estimating focus distance, and it’s results aren’t immediately available like its modern digital equivalent. However within the restrictions imposed by its age the Trip can put up a decent performance against its modern digital descendent which surprised me.

Maybe it shouldn’t though – film technology had many decades of development before it was widely dropped in favour of digital 10 to 15 years ago. The EPL3 is a very capable camera for all everyday uses, as was the Trip in its day. I’m really surprised that the Trip can still – just – hold its own against a much younger rival.

Is the inconvenience (some might say fun) of using film worth it versus the convenience and sharp clarity of digital? B/W film + home processing is £3 for 36 (more carefully) taken shots so you’ve got around 3000 shots before the cost equation is equal (the Trip was £50 refubished, the EPL3 £300). I’d personally say yes – on aesthetic as well as cost grounds, but many would say no!

Hope you find this interesting and thanks for looking – I had loads of fun doing this!

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A Bit of ‘In Camera’ Processing

In the last few years, most new digital cameras have some sort of  ‘in camera’ processing special effects on board. This post looks at one of the more useful ones – ‘dramatic tone’ on an Olympus EPL3.

These shots have been given a bit of a twist by being shot on a Sweet 35 Lensbaby and the two seem to complement each other nicely.

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The processing (amongst other things) pulls out minor differences in mid tones – those clouds just looked plain white on the day. The effect can be previewed on the LCD and can produce a look which is similar to print dodging/burning,  film fogging or even strong flare.

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What’s more, minor movements of the camera produce some major variations in the way these effects are distributed on the image – it’s quite fascinating! It can also be applied to a ‘normal’ RAW image using the Olympus supplied software ‘Viewer 2’ but without any fine tuning by moving the camera obviously.

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The output from the process is in colour, but they seem to me to look better in mono – something done in DXO Filmpack choosing either one of the film profiles or the creative presets and tweaking the settings. To add a final finish a layer can be added too (see above)!

EPL3_dramatic_tone_2

So, with the effect toned down a little, and with conversion to a mono image it’s quite useful and not just a novelty (which many of the others are). Just don’t use it for every shot!

As always these shots are taken for the book cover market, and all comments, critiques and questions are welcome.

Thanks for looking – hope you like them and they give you some creative ideas for your photography.