I’ve reviewed a lot of cameras. It’s been my job for many years. And I’ve quickly figured out that in-camera effects are mostly boring and unimaginative or just a bit crass.
But there are exceptions. In fact there’s one in particular – Olympus Art Filters. These are standard issue on any Olympus (or OM System) camera, and while you won’t find a use for all of them, there are a lot to choose from and some of them are genuinely good.
This isn’t going to impress photographers who habitually shoot RAW and like to create their own ‘looks’ with LUTs and presets. I am indeed one of those photographers.
But what’s different about Olympus Art Filters is that the quality and variety is of a completely different order compared to the rest. You can even change the parameters to add a border or a vignette, for example.
So I’ve discovered a couple of things. One is that I rather like some of these looks straight from the camera and that if I try to replicate them in software it’s easy enough to do, but not so easy to do it better. The other is that with an Art Filter active it’s so much easier to judge how to adjust the framing and the composition and the exposure to make that look work.
Of course, I can’t just let go of RAW files and RAW editing just like that, so what I do is set the camera to shoot both. Then I can either use the JPEG straight from the camera later on, or work from the RAW file to try to do it better (or swap to a completely different look).
For this shot I tried something new. I used the Vintage Art Filter for the first time ever at a country house. I’ve never much liked these color-shift filters in the past because they seemed to be a bit of a cheap trick, but I may have changed my mind. This one combines a strong warm tone with a purple shift in the shadows. Outdoors, it was pretty hopeless, but indoors, under artificial light, it produced a rich, colorful look I really like. Others may disagree, of course.
I have compared it to the straight RAW file and there are lots of different and varied treatments I could try on that to get a whole range of different looks, and one day I might try out some of those too. For now, though, I really like this Art Filter rendering.