Cape Town (2013) - Original OMD EM-5 with 12mm f2.0 Lens
Last update: 21 December 2019
Let's take a closer look at these questions with this article. Before I kick-off, I need to confess that I have good experience with Olympus and Panasonic. I am new to Fuji and only recently bought a X-T10/20. In the past I used the Canon 40D, Powershot compacts and prior to that the 350D. I have no experience with Nikon and are also new to Sony. Fortunately my son used Canon full frame bodies professionally and from 2016 onwards he switched to Sony.
To compare different manufacturers I selected the Nikon D500, the Canon 80D, the Sony A7II and the Fuji X-T10. I used my Olympus PEN-F and the Panasonic GX8 for this discussion. I am not an expert on Sony and Nikon and realize I could misinterpret these cameras. You welcome to let me know if you think I missed important points or if I mis-represented information.
Reading several articles and watching product videos I was surprised at the differences between these manufacturers cameras. Especially on how to adjust and how to set-up advanced in-camera features. At the same time basic settings like white balance and white balance shift are similar between the different cameras. It was also inspiring to see the great results photographers and videographers achieve with minimum and small in-camera adjustments only. In addition it is also important to recognize photographers emotional attachment to color, especially when talking about how cameras interpret color.
My goal was not to determine the best camera, absolutely not!
My goal was to compare in-camera creative functions. To illustrate this point have a look at the video below. Carefully listen to these three guys and spot the influence personal brand loyalty has on each of these guys. In fact its fun watching them "objectively" analyze and discuss these two cameras.
Comparing the Canon 5D IV and the Sony 7RIII
The importance White Balance plays and the impact it has on color is well illustrated in the above video. I would go as far as to say that before we can start any discussion on creative color, it is critical to take a little time to talk about White Balance.
The camera use White Balance to interpret Color
From the previous article you will recall that we looked at how the camera recreates digital color from a black and white recorded image. We also saw the importance an accurate white balance has when reconstructing the color image. To spot an incorrect white balance photographers will look for a Color Cast. The question is, is a "flat" image also indicative of a faulty white balance settings? Spotting and identifying color casts is one of the first techniques digital photographers learn to master. Question, does the intro panorama image have a color cast?
I will go as far as to say, if you have not mastered identifying a Color Casts and how to correct that in the camera, you probably will also have little success working creatively with color.
Let's talk about image editing. Is it correct to say, not all photographers are familiar with Adobe Photoshop. Is it also fair to say Photoshop opens up endless creative possibilities? That said, the old school image of the camera changed when manufacturers started adding high end video capabilities to "normal" cameras.
Example:- In-camera video functions resulted in a completely new demand for in camera color options. In fact I think we only at the start of what we will see in the future. Look at the progress made from the Panasonic GH1 to the GH5. See the video below for an interesting story on how young creative videographers used basic in-camera settings to create some of the first color profiles.
One important take away from the above video is that commercial photographers develop their own unique signature and style. The reason is simple, customers like to know what they can expect from photographers. If you change your style too often, it will be confusing and clients will not be able to build a trust in your photographic deliverables or style.
Photographers need to differentiate between in-camera color control and computer editing or color grading (color editing). It is important to also develop your in-camera color skills separately from your computer editing or color grading skills. While searching for information on Canon I saw this interesting video below. It is a great example and demonstrates how photographers set up digital cameras by using traditional color controls.
White balance is not only critical when you need a perfect image color balance, photographers also use white balance to create special or intentional color casts. The first steps in mastering color is practicing how to adjust the white balance using the WB Kelvin settings manually. I like to challenge readers to train how to "see" color and how to see the correct white balance or Kelvin setting when entering a room or when evaluating a potential image. Practice and experiment how to "see" and apply white balance in different environments, the in-camera white balance and in camera WB fine tune adjustments.
White balance only impacts the JPEG file. Using white balance and white balance shift creatively, has no impact on the RAW file. Photographers can simply correct white balance in the RAW editor.
I prepared a quick comparison chart so you can compare the creative functions between the above selected group cameras. Keeping it simple I grouped the in-camera adjustments into groups. Starting at the top of the chart you will see standard adjustment and listed towards the bottom of the chart you will see more unique and specialized functions. Right at the bottom of the chart I compare camera PC software packages. Click on the image to see a clearer view of the image.
It's true that one can add much more information and detail to each of these cameras. That was not my goal, I wanted to see how the Olympus PEN-F compare to other brands. It is clear to me that brands like Canon and Sony also offer powerful creative color tools. Nikon and Fuji are more conservative with in-camera control and offer less. That said Nikon does have powerful color options in their PC software suite. Panasonic does offer curves and ART filters, that said it does seems like Panasonic encourage photographers to express their creativity with Photoshop.
I also found Fuji interesting. I always thought color is a Fuji strength and the old look Fuji film filters is something photographers crave for. Fuji filters are good and I can appreciate photographers using them. The draw back is these filters are always the same and its difficult to create your own individual style or look from these standard filters. Fuji offers very little flexibility other than white balance and standard image adjustments.
Finally a few comments on the PEN-F. The new 20MP sensor is great and Olympus knows how to extract excellent image quality from these sensors. Olympus ART filters are also unique and it allows the photographer a lot of creative freedom when creating on the spot result. The additional creative color control is new to photographers and it takes time and effort to master. When you look at the complete package I think the PEN-F is more than unique and it will become a powerful photographic tool. I also think that integrating different image and video creative tools, are interesting and will provide creative photographers with tremendous freedom. Comparing to the other brands I do not think Olympus are way out with the Pen-F, in fact I do think Olympus has stepped into a leading role with the Pen-F.
I cannot help to think that the Olympus Pen-F should become an instant hit with Vlogger's, its small, has awesome image stabilization, is hugely creative and always ready to transfer results when on the go or on-location. Add to that in-camera editing, both on stills and video. Some might complain, but the Pen F auto focus is not on par. Try the 12mm f2 with these settings, MF set to 1.2m, f5.6 to 6.3, 1/50 shutter speed and an ISO as needed. On sunny days use a ND8 filter.