Olympus E-3 Digital Camera Infrared Photography Tests

We’ve been testing the E-3 (among others) for infrared photography suitability and to discover the best ways to use it.
The Olympus E-3 digital camera is an impressive unit. It has a decent resolution of 10Mpixels, LivePreview using the shooting sensor, a swing and tilt LCD screen and excellent ergonomics and weather proofing. The weather proofing I can testify to after getting soaked when a bigger than expected wave broke over me and the camera.

For infrared shooting there were a number of things I wanted to have a good look at. One was whether the LivePreview would give a useful image for composing. Sadly this is not the case, since it uses the same sensor that takes the picture. The sensor has a fairly strong IR blocking filter. This means that while there is a faint image visible it is not enough for careful composition. The other thing to look at has just how strong this IR blocking filter is, since the trend has been for this to get more effective at blockign IR with each camera generation. Here, as you will see, we are lucky.

Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

The RAW image straight from the camera when using a Hoya R-72 IR filters is as below:
Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

The individual channels are as follows,

Red
Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

Green
Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

Blue
Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

and here is the red channel image after processing:
Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

As you can see, there is quite a difference between the three channels.

So now let’s look at the exposure issue. I shot a sequence of images, starting at 2 second, f4 and 100ISO:

2 Seconds
Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

4 Seconds
Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

8 Seconds
Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

15 Seconds
Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

As you can see from examining the histograms, 4 seconds is a good exposure if you are only using the red channel, 8 seconds if you want the green and 15 seconds for the blue. The difference in exposure is showing that the green and blue Bayer filters are progressively cutting off more parts of the spectrum and so we will get a slightly different look from channel to channel.

Here we have an image from the red channel of an image exposed correctly for the red:
Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

and here from the blue channel when exposed for that:
Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

Now let’s look at noise. This sequence was shot starting at 4 seconds and 100ISO, keeping the aperture fixed, and we have taken the red channel only. This is a 100% crop from the center of the images:

100ISO
Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

200ISO
Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

400ISO
Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

800ISO
Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

1600ISO
Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

3200ISO
Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

Overall, noise is pretty good with this camera, especially given the small sensor size. However given that even if you raise the ISO you will still be in the tripod range there is not a lot of reason to raise the ISO.

Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review
The above shot is taken from the blue channel.

Olympus E-3 digital camera infrared photography review

The Olympus E-3 is a lovely camera and is very capable of excellent quality, long exposure infrared images.

If you are in the US, we can recommend buying the E-3 from B&H Photo in NY.

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4 Responses to “Olympus E-3 Digital Camera Infrared Photography Tests”

  1. wael hijazeenMay 5, 2010 at 6:05 pm #

    i have olympus camera e3 i have the following qustions :

    ***what the best way to focusing with camera e3 &12-60mm lens with hoya mr72 ir filter
    *** can i buy e30 0lympus camera converted IR filter which located on the sensor.
    hope to answer me asa
    thank u best regard
    wael hijazeen
    Jordan -Amman

    • Wayne CosshallMay 5, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

      Auto focus should work. I’m sure that’s what I used with the e3.

      Re conversion of the e30 I would check with some of the conversion people nearest to you. Maxmax.com list some Olympus models, so I would ring them and ask. Lifepixel.com don’t list Olympus models at all but you could ask. I’ve heard some other places will convert Olympus but not sure of the details. I’ve had gear converted my maxmax.com and been very happy. If they will do I would use them. Quick, efficient and it works.

    • chimolMay 11, 2010 at 9:06 am #

      Set focusing on manual AF after that put IR filter on lens.

  2. chimolMay 11, 2010 at 9:03 am #

    If autofocus doesn’t work use manual AF. Set focus manually and after that put IR filter on lens. This is the way how I do IR Images

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