Raw files from the newest Olympus cameras are still not supported by Lightroom or Photoshop. Tired of waiting? Here’s how to process Olympus .orf files in Olympus Viewer 2, the free software included with the camera.
Introducing Olympus Viewer 2
According to Olympus, Olympus Viewer 2 “provides various functions and powerful tools to assist your workflow, such as examining and selecting the best shot from a large number of images, searching for a desired image from folders, editing and processing images you have shot, printing pictures, etc.”
But Lightroom users have no reason to use Olympus Viewer 2 for anything other than a temporary method to process ORF files. And that’s only because Lightroom doesn’t yet support this Olympus raw format. Once it does, it’s hasta la vista, Olympus Viewer.
If you’re still using an older version of Lightroom (version 1 or 2), then Olympus Viewer 2 might need to become a permanent part of your work flow. That would be a shame.
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Why Use Olympus View 2? The Pros
The main reason to use Olympus Viewer 2 to process raw images is that it works now. It’s the only free option.
One less significant advantage is that Olympus Viewer 2 duplicates all of the settings available in-camera. Art Filters, Picture Mode, Gradation and even the camera’s built-in Noise Filter settings are available. You won’t find these in Lightroom.
I found it easier to play with the Art Filters in Olympus Viewer 2 than in-camera, but that’s hardly a good reason to keep this software permanently installed on my computer.
Olympus Viewer 2: The Big Con
Olympus Viewer 2 has one glaring fault: the processed images cannot be saved as DNG files.
Why is that important? Images saved in Adobe’s Digital Negative (DNG) format are raw files that can later be reprocessed in Lightroom. Images saved as JPEG, TIF or BMP – the only output formats supported by Olympus Viewer 2 – cannot. Not to the same degree, anyway. (And who uses the archaic BMP format anymore?)
As with any other JPEG or TIF image, further processing of these types of images in Lightroom is limited. Since the images output from Olympus Viewer 2 are the final product, some time will need to be spent learning how to use it properly.
When Lightroom is eventually updated to recognize this new raw format, we’ll probably want to reprocess the images in Lightroom and delete the Olympus-processed JPEGs and TIFs.
That’s a lot of work. So, it might be best just to wait for the Lightroom update. But Adobe has not yet mentioned an update. So, if you need images now, Olympus Viewer 2 is the way to go.
Read more about saving raw files for later processing in my article, “Lightroom 3 Doesn’t Support My New Camera’s Raw Files. Now What?”
There is at least one other program that can process the E-PL2’s .orf files right now: DxO Optics Pro Standard (for most cameras) or DxO Optics Pro Elite (for all cameras including, high-end pro models). Both versions support the E-PL2.
It’s excellent software that I use often as a plugin for Lightroom to correct lens and perspective distortion – keystoning, for example – on certain images. It does a better job at this than Lightroom 3.
DxO Optics Pro can save the processed images as DNG files. But, as with Olympus Viewer 2, this creates a second file in addition to the original .orf.
Since Lightroom can’t even preview the E-PL2’s .orf files, you’ll have to use DxO Optics Pro in its included stand-alone mode rather than opening it as a plugin from within Lightroom.
Read more about DxO Optics Pro or download a trial version at DxO.com.
How To Process Raw Images in Olympus Viewer 2
Here’s how to get going with Olympus Viewer 2 raw processing:
- First, update the software to version 1.11. According to Olympus, this update (from the original 1.10 that came on the disc with my E-PL2) adds raw processing for the E-PL2’s images. But I found I could process them using version 1.10. I updated anyway.
- Open the software. The first screen you’ll see is for browsing your images. You can’t process raw files from here.
- Use the folder list on the left side of the screen to browse to your unprocessed .orf files. Thumbnails of the images in the folder will appear in the center panel.
- Click the Raw icon in the top toolbar. Or, go to the Edit menu and choose Open Raw Development Window. This window will display only ORF and DNG files, so you don’t need to separate JPEGs from raw before processing.
- Now we can begin raw processing. Click on a thumbnail in the film strip at the bottom of the screen to work on a particular picture.
Olympus Viewer 2 Adjustments
To make adjustments to your raw photo, use the right-hand panel.
- The Histogram at the top is for display only. You cannot make adjustments using the histogram as you can in Lightroom. You can set it to display individual color channels by clicking the icon to the right of the word Histogram (the arrow inside a circle).
The Basic 1 tab includes:
- Exposure Compensation. There is no auto compensation, so adjust the slider as necessary. Or type a number into the box to the right of the slider. Adjustment range is +/- 2 EV.
- White balance. This panel consists of two parts. Only one can be used per image. Click its radio button to activate it.
- Color Temperature Setting. Choose Custom WB Setting from the dropdown in order to have access to the white balance sliders. Otherwise, choose As Shot (to keep the setting originally recorded in-camera) or one of seven other white balance presets.
- Gray Point Specification. Once activated, click on the eyedropper icon and then choose a neutral white or gray spot on the image to adjust white balance. Unlike Lightroom, you cannot further refine this setting. Switching back to Color Temperature Setting negates the effect of the eyedropper.
- Resize and Crop. Skip these and use Lightroom instead.
- The Basic 2 tab allows you to change several in-camera settings. If you’ve already set these up properly in the camera, there’s no need to change them here. Most default to As Shot. These adjustments can be done better in Lightroom after minimal processing in Olympus Viewer 2.
- Picture Mode. Color-rendering presets including Natural, Vivid, monochrome and four others.
- Contrast. A coarse adjustment range of +/- 2 and a Fine Adjustment slider with a similar range. Fine Adjustment is not available when the coarse adjustment is set to As Shot.
- Sharpness. Same kind of controls as Contrast.
- Saturation. Same controls range as Contrast.
- B&W Filter. If Picture Mode is set to Monochrome or Sepia, you can apply one of five colored filters. Otherwise, this control is not available.
- Picture Tone. If Picture Mode is set to Monochrome, select one of four rather garish color casts. As Shot is your best bet.
- Gradation. The poor man’s shadow/highlight adjustment. Four settings including Low Key, High Key, Auto and Normal.
- Noise Filter. This one might be useful. I have not experimented with it, but if it does as good a job as the in-camera noise filtering does on JPEGs, it might be worth trying. Settings for Low, High, Standard and Off.
- Color Space. sRGB or Adobe RGB.
- Art Filter. All the Art Filters are available including the new one: Dramatic Tone. Fun to play with, but not practical for our current purpose.
- The Tone Curve tab works a lot like curves in Photoshop or Lightroom.
- Add adjustment points by clicking on the red line.
- Remove them by clicking and dragging them out of the graph.
- Reset to linear by clicking the Reset button.
- The Advanced Settingstab offers these adjustments:
- False Color Suppression. Color and luminance noise removal in a range of 1 to 10. Probably best to set it to Off or Auto.
- Aberration Comp. Adjust color aberration such as purple fringing. Two separate sliders: one for Red/Cyan and one for Blue/Yellow.
- Distortion Correction. If you need straight lines – such as for architectural images, this works pretty well. Some of the image edge will be cropped out, so use it only when needed. I’d set it to Auto and make sure that Use Lens Information is checked. Put a check mark next to Apply or all the other settings are moot.
- Shading Compensation. This poorly named control is actually used to lighten image edges to remove lens vignetting.
- Unsharp Mask. Sharpening with adjustment sliders similar to those in Photoshop: Amount, Radius and Threshold. It’s a pain to use, because it takes forever to update the image preview when even a small change is made to any of the sliders.
- If you make a mistake, you can undo all the settings on all the tabs by choosing Revert RAW Development Settings from the Edit menu.
Save Your Work
- The entire set of adjustments (except the Art Filters setting) can be saved as a preset. Later you can quickly apply the preset to other images.
- Click the plus sign just below the histogram and the Save My Setting window pops up.
- Give your new preset a name under Setting Name.
- Leave Save as a file unchecked. You’d check it if you wanted to be able to load your preset on another computer.
- File Name and File type are used only if Save as a file is checked, so leave them alone.
- Click OK to save the preset.
- The preset is now available in the My Settings dropdown menu (next to the plus sign).
Once you’ve adjusted one image, the same settings can be applied to multiple images.
- Each image to be processed must have a checkmark on it’s thumbnail in the filmstrip. Click on each thumbnail to add a checkmark.
- To add the checkmark to a large number of thumbnails, select the ones you want using typical Windows or Mac shortcuts (CTRL + A, and the like).
- In the Edit menu, select Check RAW Development. This option is also available by right-clicking on one of the thumbnails.
- Select the thumbnail that has the correct settings by clicking on it.
- In the Edit menu, select Apply Current Settings to Checked Images.
- All of the check-marked images will now take on the same adjustments as the manually adjusted image.
- Once you’ve adjusted all the images to your liking, it’s time to process them. Make sure all of the images have a checkmark on them.
- In the File menu, select Develop and Save. (Or click the floppy-disk icon in the top toolbar).
- The Save Allwindow pops up:
- Save In. Set the destination folder for the processed images. By default, they are saved in the same folder as the originals.
- File Naming Rule. Files can be renamed as they are created. Renaming is only available if more than one image is selected for processing. For a single image, you can manually type in a new name. It’s better to rename them later in Lightroom, so don’t bother clicking this button.
- Add IPTC Information. This is also best done later in Lightroom.
- Format. There are four useful formats available (omitting BMP): two JPEG formats and two TIFF. Exif_JPEG and Exif-TIFF save the EXIF metadata along with the image. JPEG and TIFF omit the Exif data (the fields will be blank). If you choose Exif-JPEG, you can also set Resolution.
- JPEG Compression. If format is set to JPEG or EXIF-JPEG, choose image quality. Choices are High, Standard and Low.
- Number of Bits. Choosing TIFF for the format, allows you to choose 8- or 16-bits per channel. Exif-TIFF is 8-bit only.
- Resolution. Available for all formats except JPEG.
- After Saving. You can set up a Registered Application (under the Tools menu, choose Options and then Registered Application) that will open once the raw processing is complete. Since we’re using the Olympus software as a stop-gap, we won’t bother with it. Leave it set at Do Nothing.
- Click OK and the processing begins.
- It’s hard to tell if Olympus Viewer 2 is doing anything at this point. Look closely and you’ll see the word “Processing” in the lower right corner next to a circular icon indicating the program is working.
- If you’d like to track the progress of the processing, go to the Edit menu and choose Confirmation of Processing Status. This will open the Processing Status window which gives a bit more information.
Back to Lightroom
- Once all the processing is complete, exit Olympus Viewer 2.
- Open Lightroom and find the folder where you saved the processed raw files. If that folder does not appear in Lightroom (because you created it outside of Lightroom), browse to its parent folder.
- Right click on the folder and choose Synchronize Folder.
- Lightroom will check the contents of the folder and let you know that there are files in the folder that it didn’t know about.
- Click the Synchronize button and Lightroom’s Import window opens.
- Import the newly processed files and you’re done.
Other Olympus Viewer 2 Tools
There are a few other Olympus Viewer 2 tools worth mentioning:
The left side of the bottom toolbar (just above the filmstrip) contains icons which allow you to view the preview image full-size (1:1) or fit it to the screen. You can also enable blinkies to show blown-out highlights or blocked-up shadows.
The right side has an icon to Apply Current Settings to Checked Images in case you’d rather not use the menus. It’s the second one from the right. The other icons are for sorting images; not something we’ll be doing here.
In the top toolbar, just above the preview image, you’ll find the Back button which takes you back to the Browser window so you can select more images to process.
To the right of that are the already-mentioned Save button, two image-rotation buttons, the Options button (to set Olympus Viewer 2’s preferences), Help button (but don’t expect much help from the poorly written documentation) and the iB button which takes you to a useless photo-sharing website.
While Adobe drags its heels, Olympus Viewer 2 allows us to process raw files from cameras not yet supported by Adobe Lightroom 3. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done.
Don’t bother learning any more about this program than necessary. Adobe is bound to update Lightroom soon and you’ll be leaving Olympus Viewer 2 behind.