UPDATE – Olympus E-M5 or Sony NEX-7 ?

I’ve been out of town for a few days and a lot has been happening with regard to the E-M5.

The biggest development has been the release of “Studio Scene” images on DPReview.com. There, we can finally compare the E-M5 head-to-head with all of the other cameras that DPReview has tested.
I compared it to the NEX-7, Fujifilm X100, and Sony NEX-5N … three cameras that I have also used personally. What surprised, and pleased, me was the fact that (to my eye) the E-M5 beat the NEX-7 and compared very favorably to the other two. So, go look for yourself, compare it to your favorite cameras, and let me know how you see it.
On another note, I’ve added a page to my blog where I am trying to put together an up-to-date list of links to other websites with good information and reviews about the Olympus OM-D E-M5. You can see that here at Thru Mikes Viewfinder.
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*Images from manufacturers websites are not to scale
So, what do you think – the Sony NEX-7 or the Olympus E-M5.
One problem is the lack of images from a production E-M5 camera, making it hard to directly compare image quality, especially at higher ISOs. That means, most of my information will be based on specs and available reviews of the E-M5 and my hands on experience with the NEX-7.
COST [+ E-M5]
For the camera bodies, the price is similar with the NEX-7 being slightly higher at $1200 compared to $1000 for the E-M5.
SIZE [same]
They are almost identical in size except, of course, for the “viewfinder hump” on the E-M5.
As close as I can tell, the Olympus has 13 “native” lenses available while Sony only has 9, so far. Of course, they both can use a much wider range with the use of various adapters. Still, any adapter adds a bit of bulk so I’m going with the E-M5, here.
The NEX-7 wins this one, hands down, with 24 Mp compared to only 16 Mp for the E-M5. A true test of image quality should wait until the production E-M5 is out and there are more images for us to view. However, that being said, I’m expecting the Sony to be slightly better – we’ll see.
This is so close as to not be a factor with Olympus claiming 9 fps versus Sony’s 10 fps. One review I read, actually clocked the E-M5 at 10 fps, so they are very close.
For me, this is important. As I’ve aged, I’ve found I have a slight tremor in my “shooting” hand, so I will take all the help I can get. Sony does have some IS lenses for the NEX-7, but with the E-M5, every lens is stabilized.
It appears to me that the Olympus has significantly more options to customize various settings. Of course, by necessity, this probably means their menu system may be a bit more complicated but I like being able to decide how I want certain things to work.

NEX-7 doesn’t have it … E-M5 does.
While I’ve found the NEX-7 viewfinder to be excellent, there is one thing that bothers me about it … high noise levels in very low light levels, like shooting stars, for instance. There is almost too much noise to even bother looking through the EVF. What makes me think the E-M5 EVF could be better is its lower resolution. The reason I think this, is that has been my experience using the Fujifilm X100.
COMPLAINTS [E-M5 – maybe]
The Tri-Navi control system on the NEX-7 is wonderful … except … the top knobs are just too easy to turn accidentally, especially the right one. I find I am often shooting with some “unintended” exposure compensation. The “click stops” just need to be a little bit stiffer.
My other BIG complaint is with the position of the Video button on the NEX-7. I probably average at least one unintentional movie a day, sometimes more. I try to turn the camera off when I’m not getting ready to take a shot, but that is not an optimal solution. These complaints have been loud and numerous around the internet and should be easily fixable with a firmware update, but so far … Sony has not responded.
There may be some serious design flaws in the E-M5, but I haven’t read about them, yet.

In this completely biased and unscientific examination, the Olympus E-M5 is the clear winner, even if the unknowns happen to fall to Sony, later.
There are, of course, many other areas of comparison, but these are the ones that caught my interest. I’m sure you all have different needs and wants in a camera, so please feel free to chime in … I suspect I’ll learn something if you do. 🙂


Old Shack

I found this old shack on a hill, not too far from Crested Butte, Colorado. Actually it’s near Taylor Park Reservoir, situated about equi-distance from Crested Butte, Gunnison, and Buena Vista.
At the time, I was just too lazy to walk up closer so I used a telephoto lens for this shot. The “unplanned” result was this compression of distance, making the clouds look like they’re right on top of the shack.
This is a single-image HDR using Nik HDR Efex Pro.  The processing in HDR Efex is what helped to really bring out all of the texture in the image, especially the clouds.

Perfect Photo

No, of course this isn’t the perfect photo. However, it was processed with onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 6.

I’ve had the software installed for a couple of months, but this is the first time I’ve taken a close look at some of it’s capabilities. Still, I only used one of the six modules, the Perfect Effects.

This is a perfectly white pitcher with no defects in the finish. So, using the Perfect Effects module, I selected the Textures tab and picked the “Cracked Paint” preset. The beauty of Perfect Effects is that it not only has over 300 presets available to you, but those presets are very flexible with options to change several of the settings.

As the name implies, Perfect Photo Suite 6 is a suite of six modules:

  • Perfect Portrait
  • Perfect Layers
  • Perfect Effects
  • Perfect Mask
  • Perfect Resize
  • Focal Point
These various modules give us photographers some terrific tools for solving some of the processing problems we face with different images, plus a huge variety of creative effects to take those photos in new directions.
Check it out – I think you’ll like it!
Sony a65 w/Sony 16-50mm

My Favorite Tools

These are great tools, amazingly accurate and completely mechanical – nothing digital here. The micrometer (on the left) is supposed to be accurate to 1/10,000th of an inch! But, I digress.
The “favorite tools” I’m talking about are photography tools. Of course, my true favorites are whatever camera and lens I’m using, but this changes about as often as the weather, so I’ll talk about processing tools.
For me, the “Big Dog” is Adobe Lightroom. It’s where I do all of my organizing, placing images in appropriate folders and tagging them with keywords. But more importantly, it is just an amazingly powerful image editor. It is often where I start and finish my post processing.
However, another feature of Lightroom that I love is it’s ability to easily export an image to something like Nik Silver Efex Pro (used for this image) and then automatically reimport the changes when you finish.
And, Nik Silver Efex Pro is another of my favorite tools, but only one of several in the Nik stable of editors: Color Efex Pro, HDR Efex Pro, and Viveza are also incredibly useful programs and I use them all frequently.
They are a bit expensive, but for me, well worth it.

Bar Lighting, Sony, Lightroom 4

I know – what do those things all have in common? Well, not much but I’ll get to that later.

It’s not only common, but almost universal that the lighting in bars will be soft and low. I don’t know if it’s for ambience, privacy (maybe you won’t be recognized), or just to make us all look a little better than we really do. 🙂
Another constant in bar lighting is found behind the bar – the liquor is brightly lit and glowing as if to say, “drink me”. It must work because I’ve always heard that most restaurants survive on their bar revenue, not food sales.

Whatever the reasons for these lighting contrasts, it worked well for me, giving me another chance to test the capabilities of the Sony A65 with the Sony 16-50mm lens.

This was shot with the camera in Sony’s “hand-held twilight” mode, in which the camera sets the ISO (up to 6400) at a high enough level to allow a faster shutter speed. Then, when the shutter is released, it automatically takes 6 exposures and combines them to reduce high ISO noise. So far, it seems to me that sharpness is mainly a function of how still you can hold the camera.

This image was shot at an ISO of 1,000 and came out very sharp with very low noise, too. I’m also happy to report that after just a few images with the 16-50mm lens, I am very pleased – it is producing extremely sharp images with great color and contrast.

Finally, I lightly processed the image in Lightroom 4 (beta). There’s still much to learn about the new LR4, but the sliders just seem to make more sense and work better, the map function is a great addition, you can email images directly from within LR, and of course they’ve now fully integrated the Blurb book making service. There are many other improvements, but these are the ones I noticed on day 1.

Check it out – I think you’ll like it, too.