Olympus Viewer 3 vs Lightroom

I get a lot of questions about Lightroom and even more about Olympus Viewer 3.  Color is important to photographers.  Details are important to photographers.  Nobody wants to sacrifice quality by using a software that can’t deliver.  Then again, using a workflow or program that can’t deliver is just as bad.  I want to share some images and let you decide for yourself what is right for you.  My workflow may be quite different than yours.  My color preferences may be quite different than yours.  As always, make your decision for you, to ensure you are getting the results you want.  Lets dive into this.

Lightroom has been around for quite a while.  I criticized it heavily up until version 3 or 4.  It just wasn’t there yet.  By version 4 lightroom had really sorted out well into a very strong workflow system with solid raw development.  I have always shot with various brands of cameras.  Especially since I work in the commercial photography world, I occasionally have to shoot with gear different from my main setup.  I also own, or have owned gear from Canon, Fuji, Olympus, Leica, Phase One, and Hasselblad.  I have shot with gear from Panasonic, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony as well.  Having a workflow program that could handle different camera files and not require me to use different software for each was amazing.  It works.  A lot of people just use one system though.  And for those situations…why use lightroom?  Or why use the manufacturer’s software.  It is free after all.

In these scenarios using Olympus Viewer 3 software may be just fine.  It offers metadata and metadata presets.  It offers raw development.  It offers folder browsing and tagging.  It offers export and conversions.  So what’s the problem.

OV3 is slow and non-intuitive.  Image editing from shot to shot is not nearly as smooth and functional as Lightroom in my opinion.  It is also not as easy on the eyes.  Layout and movement within the software is not nearly as refined in my opinion.  Processing images is slow…and I have a pretty hefty workstation.  When I have a LOT of images to go through, it becomes a giant time-eater to work in OV3.  Most people i’ve spoken with share this experience.  (Yes I know lightroom has had its share of performance issues…but it works a LOT better than OV3)

OV3 has something that draws most people to it though.  Olympus Color.  Each manufacturer has its signature color palette, and Olympus is known for their excellent color.  JPG shooting from an olympus is great for this reason.  (I still recommend only RAW…)  With color profiles, you can get these JPG color palettes on the raw file.  OV3 has all of these settings built in the raw developer.  Photographers that want these colors have thought they need to use OV3 to keep these colors in the RAW environment and that Lightroom can’t match them since the Adobe color profile is very different.

Well…not so.  Adobe releases color profiles that “match” the olympus ones.  In the develop module under Camera calibration is a dropdown with color profiles.  If you have my Presets, then you have already seen my quick presets to activate these.  But do they really match?  Can lightroom obtain the same color results as Olympus’ own software?

Let’s find out!  These files are all straight from the camera with no adjustments made.  The only thing done is to select the correct color profile in each software.

Click on the photos if you want to see a larger version!

olympus vivid comparision
Olympus Vivid


olympus portrait color comparison
Olympus Portrait


olympus monotone comparison
Olympus Monotone

These next two images are more of a look at the overall scene and details.

Natural color comparison olympus
General Comparison – Natural


100-percent detail comparison of lightroom and olympus viewer 3
100% detail comparison

Blue is where the strongest difference is to my eyes between lightroom and Olympus viewer.  You can see this is VERY close.

olympus viwer 3 and lightroom comparison
Color comparison

In this last image you can see there is definite difference in the way Moire (or false color) is rendered on the screw threadings.  Take a close look once you click to open the image up.

olympus viewer 3 and lightroom comparison
Detail comparison and Moire

So that is plenty of examples.  I personally find that the colors represented via Lightroom’s color profiles virtually match the Olympus colors.  It is so close that any difference is not worth the hassle of the workflow I give up.  I also find that the details in Lightroom are by default a little softer and can be sharpened cleaner to individual taste.  I found OV3 gave me more artifact looking details in general.  I preferred Lightroom’s detail rendering personally.

In terms of Moire…both show it.  Each shows it different.  For me its a draw.

Do I like one or the other?  To me I can obtain the same results from either.  The colors are so close.  At the end of the day, I stick with lightroom.  What are your thoughts?  Have you tried both?  Any other observations I haven’t brought up here?  Again, this wasn’t a which is better in terms of software use…but more a comparison to see if lightroom can provide the same color looks.  What has your experience been with either?



17 responses on "Olympus Viewer 3 vs Lightroom"

  1. Thank you for this in-depth comparison, Tony!
    I am working with LR since version 4 and when I switched from Panasonic to Olympus gear I never wasted a single thought about moving to OV. To me, LR is the perfect means to develop and manage my images. The LR profiles for Olympus are so close to OOC JPG that you will notice only very small differences in side-by-side. Sometimes I use different profiles though (Huelight) since Olympus colors are quite saturated which is difficult for some subjects like eg red poppies.

    • I find the Olympus profiles are too much some times too…but I find it selective…depends on the subject and depends on the color. My next set of preset updates will most likely be including a set of custom color adjustments I have made. That way you can tone down just red, green, yellow, etc… I have been making very targeted adjustments to the colors as an “add-on” to the profile when needed. It’s been helping in nature images especially.

  2. Glad to rediscover your site. Very nice indeed. Thanks for the work you put into this and share. I often encourage acquaintances when asking about a camera to consider Olympus, especially if they are wanting small, lightweight, and capable all in the same package. I like to be able to connect them with online resources that will ease their minds as well as help them along the learning curve. Unlocking Olympus is definitely among the best for this.

  3. You have demonstrated that there is little or nothing to lose using LR instead of OV.

    However, I do have two comments:

    1. If you are really concerned about accurate color, you should use a Color Checker Passport or SpyderCHECKR to create profiles for your camera. Those profiles work in Camera Raw, Lightroom, and some third party programs, and have the advantage of being able to compensate for differing spectra of light. If you shoot when narrow spectrum light (gas vapor, etc) or multiple light sources are present, they are critical for color fidelity.

    2. Neither Lightroom nor OV in my experience produces the best RAW development for Olympus. Iridient Developer provides the crispest detail, lowest amount of moire and coma, and most natural range of exposure of any RAW processing program I have tried. Plus, it can use my Color Checker Profiles for color management. Let’s face it, Canikon still produce most of the cameras out there, and the Adobe team has an incentive to make sure LR and CR work as well as possible for their files. Iridient on the other hand gives just as much weight to “minority” cameras; in fact, it is the only program that serious Fuji users find acceptable for RAW. It costs $99, but the increase in IQ more than justifies the price.

    • Hey Guy! You are totally correct about the Color Checker Passport. I do use one of these myself and it is a great tool. I rarely use it for personal shooting, but for client projects that have a demanding need in color reproduction, I always have a CC-passport with me. Especially product work.

      As for iridient…to be honest there are two main areas that have kept me from integrating it into my workflow at least. 1. Mac only. (as far as I know) I only use macs in the field for tethering and do all my actual editing and digital asset work on a Windows machine. 2. No complete asset management.

      Those two things just make my workflow a bit slow if I have to work around them…so the difference in quality is too little in my opinion to justify. However, others may definitely want to consider Iridient. I have worked with their software on Fuji and it is much better than lightroom with the Xtrans files for sure. Bayer sensors…the gap is not nearly as large in my experience.

      Thanks again for your input. It is a wonderful contrast and very helpful points for people. Especially about the Color checker.

  4. Hi Tony

    Exactly the article I’ve been hoping to read for some time, many thanks!

  5. Hi Tony,
    Speaking of Olympus programs… Did you use OIShare, their tool for android tablet ? I tried it with my E-M1 II, it could be (IMHO) very useful on the field (or transportation…) to make a first sorting and quoting of the pictures… except there is no way to keep the name of each picture : they are renumbered OIxxxxxx, xxxxxx being a number starting with 000000. So you have no way to retrieve the original name of those 10 pictures selected from 500 on the camera – or at least I did not find a way…
    Did you tried to use it ?
    Best regards,

    • Hi Laurent! I use OIShare all the time. Very useful to control the camera like this. I use it with my iphone. Since you mention you are using it with an android tablet… is it safe to assume you mean the images that were shot and transferred directly to the tablet are the ones with the new filename? If so…I am not sure there is a way to align the filenames or not have the app rename the files. Generally when I use it, if I transfer a file to my phone for immediate sharing…it really ends up being an isolated event. I later re-edit the file on my computer from my memory card upload so then my file is in fact correctly named and in order since I am using the files from the card, and not what was transferred during OIShare usage on my phone. There is one easy way however to sort through this. It is a weird work around…but hey! If you shoot in RAW only…any files that OIShare takes into a tablet or phone are transferred as a JPG. This JPG is also stored on the memory card. If you are using lightroom, you can sort the files by time taken. This will line up the JPG with the RAW file originally saved to the card. Again…not the most elegant solution.

  6. Thank you for this article – and for coming back to your good website again – you have very good articles on Olympus!

    Two questions related to this theme:
    A. Can Lightroom in this way reproduse the jpg-versions of (especially) the monotones and / or colours from the Pen F?
    b. When shooting both jpg and raw at the same time, how do you store them, both on the harddrive and in Lightroom? (For the moment I store them separate physically on the HD, but only import the raws into Lightroom, but then I loose track of the JPGsn which is a shame, since the Pen Fs jpgs are so good.

    Alle the best,
    Anders Holt

    • Hi Anders!
      A. Yes, in this way they JPGs and the Raws with the color profile should be identical.

      B. So first thing you need to do is go to “Preferences” in lightroom and under the “general” tab there is an option that says, “Treat JPG files next to RAW files as separate files.” Make sure that is checked. Now if you just import all your files into a folder via lightroom, the JPG files will appear next to the raws. From there I just make two sub-folders in the lightroom catalog for that shoot. I use the filter option at the top to see only the raw and then move them into one subfolder and then do the same to see the remaining jpg files and move them into the other subfolder. Now I can easily select from only the JPG or the raw.

      So yes, both are kept on the hard drive and in lightroom, but I use lightroom to keep them separately organized. To make the subfolders, just right click on the folder lightroom put them in from the finder pane on the left hand sidebar. Create new folder within the current one.

  7. Thank you for the great aricle and tips. I’ve been struggling a lot with the issue regarding cameraprofiles in Lightroom. Took a long time to find and try them out. I do have a question; when do you apply them to the image, and is there any difference for the look when they are applied? Are the profiles “quick jpgs” for the image?
    Regarding to have your camera to record both RAW and jpg, and then have them in two folders makes me confused, how to best manage (delete) unwanted images?
    Best regards

    • Hi Marko!
      The camera profiles are adobe’s recreation of the built in camera profiles. They basically just alter the base color readout. It’s like a starting point. They can be applied whenever you like during the raw processes and they can be changed any time as well. They are not a quick JPG…it is really just like a color palette change. Often I will try a couple to see if I like the look better than the Adobe Standard profile.

      As for separating raw and jpg and then wanting to delete images… for me that works because I never delete images. Literally. Hard drives are cheap, I never delete unless it is obvious waste. Like test files, or if my trigger ran out of batteries and I make several solid black exposures while troubleshooting why my lights wont fire!

      If you dont want to see them separate, you can always go to Lightroom Preferences, General Tab, and check or uncheck the “Treat JPG files next to RAW files as separate photos.” When this is checked you will see both raw and JPG next to each other as separate files. You can easily delete both at the same time by selecting both. Or if the box is unchecked, you only see the raw files. When you delete a raw, the JPG automatically goes with it. Usually if I have shot both RAW and JPG I treat them as separate files, and then separate them into different folders. I work on the RAWs and just keep the JPG as reference. If you need to delete files both the JOG and raw, it is often easier not to separate them.

  8. I’m pretty new to photography, and my e-m10 mkII is my first ‘proper’ camera. I have used OV3 for about six months, but I started a trial of Lightroom this week and I was quickly sold on the superior speed and interface of Lightroom. I was about ready to start a Lightroom subscription, but I had some concerns that it might not be doing my Olympus RAW files justice, so this article was exactly what I needed to see.

    OV3 isn’t terrible on my fast Windows desktop, but it crawls on my Macbook Air. I haven’t installed Lightroom on my Mac yet, but I anticipating a big improvement over OV3. My next step is to work out how to use your Lightroom presets. Thanks.

  9. William WordsworthJune 3, 2018 at 2:28 pmReply

    Just the article I was looking for! I use OV3 almost exclusively unless I have problems with highlights in which case, I turn to Lightroom 4. And I always thought – wouldn’t it be nice if somehow I could use Oly’s colour and sharpening presets in LR4 – without having to save TIFF in OV3 etc ? I followed your instructions and sure enough, I have the Olympus presets now showing in LR. Is this where I use them ?? I ask because I don’t understand this part: “In the develop module under Camera calibration is a dropdown with color profiles. If you have my Presets, then you have already seen my quick presets to activate these.” How do I get the presets to activate these settings?

  10. Good day Tony,
    I recently purchased an Olympus TG-5 that produces an “ORF” RAW file. I am using Lightroom 5.7.1. It and from what I know Lightroom 6 are not able to open these files. What type of Lightroom are you referring to in this article?

  11. I have the latest version of lightroom 6. I haven’t jumped to CC yet. The TG-5 will unfortunately only be supported on CC I think. So, subscription it looks like. I know that whatever my next Olympus camera is…I will have to switch to subscription version now too.

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