Olympus has finally updated it's proprietary image development software after what seems like an eternity. Actually I've given up using it long ago and resigned myself to the mediocracy of Adobe Lightroom. I complain about Adobe a lot and they deserve it. Lightroom is probably one of the worst performing RAW processing application that I've ever used. Despite that, it still is many steps ahead of it's nearest competition.
My beef with OV3 has always been the glacier-like speed at which it works. I recommend a computer with few cores and a higher base clock speed and plenty of RAM in the order of at least 16GB. Your hard disk and GPU won't make an ounce of difference.
That aside, I wanted to give the newest version (2.1.1) a fair shot to impress me...
Screenshot The interface itself hasn't changed much. It's definitely gotten a little more pleasing to look at over the years and the thumbnail previews are attractive. It's laid out much like Adobe Lightroom: Directories on the left and image properties/RAW file development on the right. It's fairly easy to scroll through your shots and select away the ones you don't want. No frills and works just fine if you don't want to spend another cent on the software end of your photography.
Screenshot I chose a test file that was shot at high ISO (1250) on a rainy afternoon with very little sunlight peeking out from the clouds. That means a bit of noise but I wanted to maintain a high shutter speed in case my subject decided to hop away. I followed my usual steps...White Balance, Colour & Contrast but left everything else AS SHOT. That means no SHARPENING or NOISE REDUCTION, what you see is what I shot.
The results is a good news, bad news thing.
As I've always found, Olympus Viewer 3 is simply the best RAW conversion software for Olympus images. No surprise there, they make the cameras so the software should handle it's images better than anything else. Despite the noise the subject is perfectly sharp with plenty of detail. If I had applied a little NR I'm pretty sure I could clean it up nicely. Frankly, it's a pleasing noise pattern almost like film and in practice the prints look great right up to ISO 3200, maybe 6400 in some cases. At WEB sizes most people won't be able to tell anyway. The colour fidelity always amazes me from the tiny sensor in my E-M1, so no disappointment there either. You have to be careful not to boost saturation too much with these M4/3 sensors...it's easy to turn an otherwise normal image into a cartoon.
How does it perform?
It's still dead slow..really, really slow. Too slow for me to process more than a few images where a short deadline is in place. Each time you edit a value the application regenerates the image and it takes it's sweet time doing it.
That is...until I went into the OPTIONS menu and enabled the support for GPU Acceleration.
Screenshot The change is very noticeable. In the old version I would make a bunch of edits to the image then step away for a glass of rum. By the time I took a few sips and sat down again, my image with all the changes applied would be finished rendering. Big improvement. It's still slow as compared to Adobe Lightroom or Capture One Pro but I'll take it. This upgrade will definitely enable me to process one-off files without ripping my hair out.
....And that's the only reason I keep this application installed. The detail and colour that can be pulled out of a RAW file is so much better with OV3. You just have to plan on having lot's of patience.
Now for that bad news...if you are sluggin' away on an older computer with a GPU that has less that 2GB of memory or is in some other way incompatible, this update won't do anything for you. In fact I think they have added a bit of bloat in the code to accommodate the newer cameras such as the E-M1 Mark II. Updating your workstation may not be so straightforward either. Newer GPU's place greater demands on your computer's power supply. Just be aware if/when you upgrade your system components.