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Does High Res Mode Work – The Truth.

High Res Shot Tested

Many cameras now include a High Res mode that combines multiple exposures to create a single high-megapixel image – thus enabling a 20-megapixel camera to capture 80-megapixel photos.

Sounds great, but do High Resolution Modes work? To find out, I grabbed my OM-1 and took some test photos. Suffice it to say; I was surprised with the result. Jump to Conclusion

Testing High Res Shot Mode with the OM-1

I am testing High-Resolution modes using the OM-1’s High Res Shot feature for two reasons. First, the 20-megapixel OM-1 allows you to capture 50-megapixel photos handheld. No tripod is required.

The OM-1 is not the only camera with a high-res shot mode. However, it is one of the few that can do it in-camera without resting on a tripod.

Second, the OM-1 constructs the 50-megapixel image in-camera, so there’s no need to use external software. As a result, the OM-1’s High Res Shot is extremely practical and an entirely reasonable alternative to single-exposure photography for capturing static scenes and objects.

Limitations High Resolution Modes

High Resolution modes work by combining a number of single exposures to create a single high-resolution composite image. As a result, each single exposure needs to look almost identical.

For this reason, High-Resolution modes are unsuitable for photographing moving subjects since each exposure will differ from the next. It’s worth noting that this may change in the future, but High Resolution Modes are best used for photographing static scenes and subjects.

High Resolution Mode Tested

I took two near-identical photos of some shells. One is a standard, single-exposure 20-megapixel image. The other is a 50-megapixel handheld high-res shot. Let’s see how they compare.

Olympus 25mm F1.8

High Res Shot vs Standard

High Res Shot

So we’ve learned that a 50-megapixel image is larger than a 20-megapixel image. However, it’s not clear whether the 50-megapixel image is any more detailed.

High Res Shot vs Enlarged Standard

I used Photoshop to do a standard bicubic enlargement of the 20-megapixel image to 50-megapixels. Now the size of each image is matched.

High Res Shot
Standard – Bicubic Enlarged

The enlarged standard image is as detailed as the High Res shot and even looks sharper. However, the sharpening is entirely down to image processing rather than a meaningful difference detail. Nevertheless, this is not a good advert for the OM-1’s High Resolution Mode.

High Res Shot vs Gigapixel AI

As the old saying goes, Bicubic resizing is for Dinosaurs. So how does the OM-1’s High Res Shot mode compare with Gigapixel AI, one of the best AI upscaling software applications I’ve tested? Read Gigapixel AI Review.

High Res Shot
Standard – Gigapixel AI Upcale

Gigapixel AI produces the best-looking version of this photo yet. However, the difference appears to be in processing – rather than any increase in resolution or detail. Regardless, the OM-1’s 50-megapixel High Res Shot mode has failed to differentiate itself from a digitally enlarged 20-megapixel image.

High Res Shot Tested – Noise

So far, it looks like High Res Shot Mode is Photograhy Snake Oil. But what about photo noise? After all, one of the alleged benefits of the High Res Shot modes is noise repression since eight shots gather more light than one.

But does it work? To find out, I took an ISO2000 picture of my bookcase.

High Res Shot vs Enlarged Standard Photo

High Res Shot
Enlarged Standard

The OM-1’s High Res Shot produced a far cleaner image than the enlarged 20-megapixel exposure.

High Res Shot vs Gigapixel AI

One of the reasons why Gigapixel AI is the best AI upscaler is that it also enhances detail and reduces noise. But in this case, the noise reduction has led to some posterization, also known as the oil painting look.

High Res Shot
Gigapixel AI

When I saw this result, I loaded the image into Topaz Photo AI and tried multiple combinations of upscaling, sharpening, and noise reduction. However, each image suffered from that unnatural wax-like effect that over-processing is known for. Overall, this is a win for the High Res Shot image.

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High-Resolution modes are a mixed bag. Some require a Tripod, others require external software, and some require both. As a result, many high-resolution modes are too awkward to be practical.

But cameras such as the OM-1 require neither. Simply hold your camera, turn on High Res Shot, and press the shutter release. In other words, it’s no more difficult than taking a normal photo.

But does High Res Shot mode work? Well, sort of. After repeated efforts, I’m not convinced the OM-1’s 50-megapixel images are any more detailed than an enlarged 20-megapixel image. Thus, on these terms, the OM-1’s High-Resolution mode is reduced to a convenient way to make a larger image of equivalent detail.

However, the OM-1’s High Res Shot mode effectively reduces noise. Thus, if you’re out late taking photos of static things – it’s worth turning on the High Res mode entirely for the sake of noise reduction.

Overall, the OM-1’s High Res Shot mode is more a nice-to-have than a revolution. Yet, I’ll continue to use it because it’s so well implemented. But if you’re looking for 250% more detail, you’ll be disappointed.

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4 thoughts on “Does High Res Mode Work – The Truth.”

  1. well, actually it works quite well in my experience 🙂

    best results gives you 80Mpix shot from the tripod and sharpened in the Topaz Sharpener. It gives you a lot more details than 20Mpix shot or 50Mpix HHHR. I usually then resize 80mpix to 50mpix additionally

    1. Hi Tomas. Glad you’re enjoying it. I’m still using it because its so easy to do so and for the noise reduction benefits but I’m still unconvinced. I love the OM-1 though 🙂

  2. I have a few years experience with E-M1 Mark III and now with OM-1 and High Resolution shots are very situational mixed bag. There a few issues that makes it difficult to recommend as a default shooting mode even for still subjects:
    *It requires large amounts of sharpening required in post to bring out th clarity of the image (where the 20 MP I used 50/1.5/50 sharpening in Lightroom, for 50 MP HHHR it needs 100/1.5/100 to make it worthwhile)
    *Artefacts type 1: all the images will have a crosshash pattern not just in areas with subject motion (like leaves moving in the wind) but also still areas with lots of details (walls, bricks, statues, etc). Once I noticed them I can’t unsee them on every image and I stopped using the HHHR as a default mode for anything but fast moving situations. Sharpening exaggerates the artefacts and it makes it significantly worse and more difficult to recommend.
    *Also related to artefacts type 1, the new Lightroom DeNoise AI built in will exaggerate those artefacts on a larger scale by turning certain areas that should be soft or out of focus to spots of sudden and artificial overshapened mess, very distracting and noticeable to the eyes.
    *Artefact type 2, they are basically hotspots when doing HR and HHHR that add up at any slower then 1/15th sec shutter speeds. They show up in red, purple, green, yellow or blue colour. With HHHR having more hot pixels stuck as they multiply by 16 from every image and end up in bunches in the final shot. HR shows smaller gatherings but that’s because it shoots fewer images for the final high resolution shot. Very frustrating to deal with in low light and for night shots.

    The main and (mostly for me) only benefit for HHHHR is the extra information in the shadows, around 1 extra stop of light that can be recovered compared to 20 MP images. It doesn’t have the strong magenta cast when boosting the shadows and it’s a bit cleaner overall. That’s why I use HHHR in Low Light and Night Shots or very strong contrast situations. I still think I was getting significantly better IQ from the 32 MP Sony a7 Mark IV compared to both HHHR and HR of OM-1 but I picked OM-1 instead and sold the Sony system for the extra speed (stacked and 20/25 FPS), Pro Capture, Focus Bracketing, the ergonomics and comfort of lighter weight for wildlife usage.
    I don’t think HR and HHHR is a solution until we have global electronic shutter and true fast processing that mobile phones have (current Pixel 8 and iPhone 15).

    1. Thanks for writing in. I’m sure Hi Res can work, but critically, its outdone by AI software in terms of building detail and noise reduction. As you may know, the age of the full-frame global shutter is here with Sony’s A9iii.

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