Olympus OM-D E-M5 … Yes, I Like it!

I’m still amazed at all that this camera can do and how well it does it. Sure, I have a few little annoyances … okay, maybe a couple … but overall I just like it – a lot! Going forward, I won’t be attempting to do a professional review or any technical tests and comparisons. Almost everything here will be very subjective according to my personal tastes.

Today, I’m just going to post a few of the initial images and maybe a few comments about various features I’ve discovered, so far. Most of these images have had some light processing in Lightroom 4 since they were RAW files and needed a bit of contrast and saturation added.

Just for fun, this first photo was taken using the Key Line filter found in the Art Mode. One really cool thing the Art Mode can do is bracket all of the art filters available. Even if you’re using only RAW, once you’ve selected this and take the photo, the camera does in camera processing to give you a JPG of each art filter, plus you’ll still have the original unedited RAW file. It does take a few seconds to accomplish this so there will be a short “time-out” before you can take another shot.

Olympus 14-42mm II R; ISO 200; Key Line Art Filter

Olympus 14-42mm II R; ISO 200

Olympus 14-42mm II R; ISO 200

 Here, the ISO starts to bump up, 2500, but still very clean at web sizes.

Olympus 14-42mm II R; ISO 2500

This image was taken at ISO 25600 and at this size looks fairly good. When “pixel-peeping” the full sized image, there is a lot of noise and noticeable loss of detail and it is certainly unsuitable for any kind of commercial printing. However, it is still VERY usable and when that once in a lifetime chance comes for a moon light shot of Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster, this could make you famous! 🙂

Olympus 14-42mm II R; ISO 25600

Olympus 14-42mm II R; ISO 6400

Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4; ISO 200

Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4; ISO 200

Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4; ISO 200

Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4; ISO 200

Olympus 45mm f/1.8; ISO 1600

Olympus 45mm f/1.8; ISO 800

Olympus 45mm f/1.8; ISO 8000

Next, I’d like to address a couple of the complaints I’ve read here and there on the internet.

  • Noise: There have been lots of comments about the noise from the IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization). It’s mostly what I would call whisper quiet, a bit like a laptop fan on its lowest setting. Sure, you can hear it, but the only time I “notice” it, is when it stops – i.e. when I turn the camera off or it goes to sleep.
  • I’ve read a couple of complaints about how the right strap post is in the way and very uncomfortable. Maybe I just have the right sized hands, but I’ve never even noticed it.
  • Too Slow to Wake Up: One blogger complained that he missed shots because his E-M5 took too long to wake up. Frankly, I can’t even imagine that happening. From Sleep, it took about a second, maybe 1.5 seconds, for the camera to wake up, focus, and get the shot.
A couple of my favorite things:
  • IBIS – So far I’ve taken sharp photos with the Leica 25mm lens (50mm equiv.) at shutter speeds as low as 1/5 second. I think it is as good a stabilization as I’ve ever experienced and I’ve owned some pretty high end equipment.
  • Autofocus Speed – Olympus claims it is the world’s fastest autofocus (contrast detect I think) and I have no reason to doubt that claim. It is very fast and very accurate even in dim light on dark subjects. I’ve only seen it hunt one time and that was shooting a dark object in low light. Of course, a good Phase Detection AF system like you find on DSLR’s can out do it, but not by much. It’s a huge improvement over what I saw with the NEX-7 and Fuji X100.
Finally, I do have a complaint. I love the size and I’m still amazed at how much they have packed in to this small package. However, that small size does cause one problem for me. With the arrow keys set to move the focus point around, I find that my thumb pad is often inadvertently changing the focus point. Maybe there’s an elegant solution I just haven’t found yet – I hope so.
So, as you can tell, I LOVE this camera. It’s small and fast, looks fantastic, takes excellent images, and is fun! Now, it’s time to get back to taking pictures! 🙂

New Images Posted at Four Thirds User

Are you, like me, trying to figure out which lenses you might want with your new Olympus OM-D E-M5?
Well, here’s a great place to start: Four Thirds User (By the way, their sample camera came with the battery grip … it looks pretty good!)
They have posted a large sample of full-sized images, RAW and JPG, taken with several different lenses and over the full range of ISO possibilities. All were taken using the Olympus E-M5.
I think the biggest surprise for me was the quality of the photos taken with the 75-300mm lens. Here’s a lens giving you the equivalent of 150-600mm, yet weighing less than a pound and a bit smaller than a coke can – amazing!  From their images, it looks like, even at 300mm, it still produces nice sharp images with good contrast.

For Me … It’s the Olympus OM-D E-M5

Okay, the votes are all in (okay – “the” vote is in – mine) and I’ve decided on the Olympus E-M5.

I’ve read and studied and pixel-peeped every online source I could find and the E-M5 will be my next camera. The reasons are several and varied and no indication of which camera might be better for you or someone else. The perfect camera has yet to be built, so every camera includes a series of compromises in one area or another.

Here are some of the main reasons I’ve decided to go with Olympus:

  • Size: The size of these newer ILC (Interchangeable Lens Cameras) appeals to my sense of carry-ability. With a smaller lens, the camera will literally fit in my coat pocket.
  • Resolution: At 16 Megapixels, it’s no where near the top that is available, today, but still produces images that can be printed very large.
  • Image Quality: This has yet to be completely tested, but DPReview.com released their “Studio Scene” images which allow you to compare various ISO images against other cameras. In the DPReview tests, the E-M5 appears to compete very favorably with the Sony NEX-5N and Fuji X100 – two cameras that we know produce excellent images. Plus, it looks like it just edges out the NEX-7 at higher ISOs.
  • IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization): As I’ve grown older, I find that my hands just aren’t as steady as they used to be, thus the need for a little help from my camera. With IBIS, “every” lens can be stabilized if needed.
  • Lens Selection: Between Olympus, Panasonic, and now even Sigma, there is a substantial and growing selection  of Micro Four Thirds lenses available. Plus, a small adapter, the MMF-3, allows Four Thirds lenses to be used.
  • Weather/Dust Sealing: I don’t shoot in the rain much, however, a sealed camera is still a good thing – you never know when that next great shot may require you to get wet!
  • Customization: The E-M5’s menu system looks like it is very extensive, allowing the operator to set many camera functions the way they desire, not how the manufacturer thought it should be. Also, it has 4 User Memories for storing frequently or preferred settings.
  • Price: I’d love to have a Nikon D800, Canon 1DX, and the Fujifilm X-Pro1 (and others) but, like many, I have a budget. 😦 And while this camera is NOT cheap, it does work for me … after I sell a few things! 🙂
Of course, there are so many features and they’ve been discussed in depth across the internet, so I won’t go into all of them. My list includes just the “Biggies” that affected my decision process and, frankly, the IBIS stabilization system is probably one of the bigger factors … for me.
As always, I invite you to share your thoughts, pro or con, and let me know which way you’re going and why.
Be sure and check out my page Olympus E-M5 Info – it’s loaded with links to many reviews and other websites with pertinent information about this camera.

NEX-7: Anti Motion Blur or Hand-Held Twilight

Anti Motion Blur, ISO 6400, 1/125 second

At first glance, the Sony NEX-7 has two almost identical modes: Anti Motion Blur and Hand-Held Twilight. After reading the manufacturer’s handbook (not much help, there), and using both modes a few times, I still couldn’t see much difference. Mainly, I suppose, because the differences while important are also very subtle.
I finally talked to the Sony rep at my local camera store and he explained it this way:
  • The Anti Motion Blur (AMB) mode is for when your subject could move during the exposure. The camera tries to use a higher shutter speed (and possibly a higher ISO) to try and freeze that motion. Then, the in-camera processing attempts to also negate that motion as it combines the 6 exposures, reducing noise in the process.
  • Hand-Held Twilight (HHT), on the other hand, doesn’t care about subject motion. It just tries to choose an ISO / shutter speed combination that will allow the shot to be taken such that any camera movement will be offset, and, of course, noise also reduced during the in-camera processing.
The “rep” also said that, in general, HHT will produce better, cleaner images.
So, I did a very informal test and according to my results, he was right … but I’m still not sure of the exact reason. The HHT image is definitely cleaner with less noise and a bit more detail than the AMB image, but it also chose a lower ISO – 4000 as opposed to 6400 with the AMB shot.
What is a striking difference, though, is the differences between both of those modes and a normal Program AE shot at ISO 6400 or even 3200.
The top photo was done using AMB, ISO 6400 and 1/125th second. It produced a very nice, low noise image.
The next image was shot in Program AE, ISO 6400, and then a Noise Reduction setting of 50 in Lightroom 4. (I did this because the Program shots were done in RAW and thus had zero camera processing.)
Program AE, ISO 6400, Noise Reduction setting of 50 in Lightroom 4

Below are the 100% crops of all 4 images. I think you will find it obvious that Hand-Held Twilight will be your preferred mode when you need a higher ISO and your subject will remain stationary.

Program AE, ISO 6400, Noise Reduction setting of 50 in Lightroom 4

Program AE, ISO 3200, Noise Reduction setting of 50 in Lightroom 4

Anti Motion Blur, ISO 6400, 1/125 second

Hand-Held Twilight, ISO 4000, 1/60 second