Nov 072012
 

How to tweak your Olympus OM-D E-M5 to shoot sports by Jim Huffman

Dear Steve,

I thought I’d tell you in the first sentence, that i am recommending the E-M5 for sports photography, and providing you a couple of customizations that will help you do so.

I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years now, and LOVE it, because of your non technical approach to reviewing and recommending gear. I am technical (electrical engineer / law -am a patent attorney), but technical reviews of photography equipment don’t tell me much – they cover the basics, but rarely inspire me to buy equipment. What does inspire me is when I see someone enthusiastic about taking pictures, and loving the device that lets them do so.

Sorry for being long-winded, but a little background is necessary for this email. I’ve been shooting for 39 years, since my first camera (minolta SRT 101), soon moved to Nikon – and shot Nikon until last week (D3, with an array of lenses). I also shot Leica. Of the 100k photos in my aperture library – the only ones printed and on the walls around the house came from Leica glass….

At your enthusiasm over m43 cameras, I have purchased several, both Panasonic and Olympus. most recently, the E-M5. (and 12, 25, 45, 75, 12-35, 35-100). It has virtually replaced the leica as my travel camera, particularly fond of the 12 (and can’t wait for the 17!!!). But…. I just felt like it could never do justice to shooting sports, much less indoor sports – both because of focusing delay, high iso needs, the live view lcd blanking out in the eyepiece while writing a burst to the memory card, etc…)

On the other hand – I LOVE the size of the Oly, and…. Nikon just won’t update their primes! I paid over $2k for the 85mm f1.4 – in Tokyo, to shoot my daughters volleyball – in the darkest gym in Colorado. what I have wanted is a 135 1.4 or worst case f2. the 85 is a great lens, but a big piece of glass, and even the latest model is not a fast focuser.

So, on saturday, i left the BIG RIG at home, and walked into the gym with my oly setup. Of course, the local press was their with their canon and Nikon gear. I saw them looking at me like – who is the amateur (I’ve shot for AP in my youth – political events, concerts, etc.) with the little toy camera? Well, with the 75 and 25 as my main tools (b/c of both focal length, and wide aperture), i put the camera in 9fps mode, 6400iso, and blasted away. I came home, loaded the pics, and put my entire Nikon rig up for sale on eBay.

Conclusion? is the E-M5 as good at high iso as the D3? not quite – but close enough. Can it focus fast? actually, with the 25, 45 and 75, it was faster than the nikon – and my hit ratio went up! Is it a replacement for a pro staff sports photographer? of course not. But for a dad photographing his kids teams? unbelievable! for years, parents have walked into our gym with their D40, Rebel, etc. and kit lens, and asked me to change the settings on their camera so they could take action pics of their kids. I frown, shake my head, and say, impossible. Those cameras can’t shoot high iso, and the aperture is so dim, that the best they can hope for in shutter is about 1/8/sec… Then they ask about the cost of my D3 with lens… More than most people’s cars! No more! Get an E-M5 with a 25mm Panasonic (or 45 oly), and they will get better results than anything else in the price range! And for me? one system to use rather than 2. and for travel with sports? I don’t have to lug around my 30lb nikon bag!!!

I am attaching a few pics at 6400 iso, shot in jpeg without any WB fix. thought you might like to see.

Keep up the good work, and know I’m out here reading you every day!

Best…Jim

NOTE: The below is a geek tweak to the oly that you can skip, or read if really interested

WRT sports – the E-M5 is a battery drain. i have the pistol grip with 2nd battery – but even the combination can’t shoot an all day tournament. the camera dies after 600+ shots… Plus…. the back lcd screen always comes on unless the camera is at your eye. if you want to use the eyepiece, there is a short latency between putting it to your eye and switching. the latency is not great for sports. plus, when you take the camera away from your eye, the back panel lights for a while, creating battery drain. And, the toggle between the two screens drains the battery. I thought – I’ll call Olympus and see if there is any way to:

1. Turn of the back lcd entirely. This would save on battery life AND eliminate the delay in switching.

2. still allow for back panel adjustment settings, if desired.

Well, 2 days later the Oly support guy called back. Viola! no direct way, but you can accomplish the same thing. Let me know if you want the settings, but essentially, you go to the K gear in options, and then into touch screen settings, and turn them off. then go to D gear, control settings, P/A/S/M, and turn off all live control settings. Then turn ON live scp (super control panel). OK, almost done. Hit the button on the ‘prism’ to the right of the eyepiece, and bring up the super control panel. use the OK button to activate any setting you want to change. When done, hit the info button. The screen goes black!

Now? the camera is essentially an SLR. no rear view at all, UNLESS you hit that button next to the right eyepiece. it becomes the toggle between live view (like before) and a black back screen! I just significantly increased my battery life! if you want to go to settings, just hit the info button. the info button becomes the settings toggle.

I am in heaven with my new longer life sports camera, without the rear lcd getting in the way.

one more geek tweak?

The magnify focus is turned on, and great with the 75mm, but also annoying. when you are moving the focus ring, it magnifies. great. but the SECOND you stop moving the focus ring, magnify turns off. well, my eyes are too slow. My question was, how do I get the magnify to stay on longer.

Answer: go into custom buttons – and assign magnify to any function button (or the record button). now, to enter magnify, hit the control button twice. magnify stays on until you half press the shutter release! and, you will note that the magnify is 10x. rotate the rear control dial and you can change the magnification! You have to do the double punch to activate magnify any time you turn the camera on. after that, one push activates it.

Three cheers to the US Oly support staff for giving me these tidbits of customization! i haven’t seen them anywhere on the web, so thought you might not know about them…

Jim Huffman

UPDATE 11/12/12

Steve,

Thanks again for posting my email to you – i didn’t expect that – just thought you’d like to see what the oly could do. two things:

1. The girls had an amazing come from behind to win the Colorado State Championship saturday night. Whoop!

2. And the oly? wow! after turning OFF the rear LCD, and making the EVF auto, I got >1200 shots per battery! the spec says 340ish. Some guy commented that the EVF is a bigger battery drain than the rear lcd. Well, that may be true if always on, but the EVF turns off almost immediately when your eye is not next to it, and the lcd won’t. I’d say a 4X improvement in battery life is incredible!

Thanks again for the post!

  84 Responses to “How to tweak your Olympus OM-D E-M5 to shoot sports by Jim Huffman”

  1. Good article Jim but all the faffing around to disable the screen and set it as you want it puts me off the OMD-E5. It seems that is the Oly way. It reminds me of old Windows computers where you needed to know DOS in order to tweak the thing (the Apple Mac was so much easier). I hope the next version will be more user friendly.
    I wonder how a Fuji X-Pro 1 or X-E1 would fair in the same shooting environment?

    • i doubt the Fuji’s would do well at all given the focus speed required and especially when you compare them with the EM5. I had both machines by the way and used them for a few weeks…so it’s just my personal opinion.

    • It really isn’t that bad and the E-M5 is made to be customised. As to your question about the fuji, it’s excellent at high iso but doesn’t have (the great) image stabilisation of the e-m5, which means very steady hands or a tripod are needed to prevent motion blur. My other half borrowed my xpro1 to shoot a conference in a theatre which was very dark. The results in many cases suffered from motion blur even though they were fine from a noise perspective. In similar conditions, when shooting an exhibition with my e-m5 I actually had overall superior image quality results (notwithstanding higher noise) because of the stabilisation.

      • Not with the upcoming 18-55mm IS lens and the other IS lens on the way…

        • Sorry, Fuji doesn,t play in this league — f/4 at the long end is too slow for indoor sports; remember, stabilization doesn’t help with subject movement. And 55mm on APS-C (equivalent to 85mm on 24x36mm nostalgia format) isn’t long enough. You really need something like the Olympus 75/1.8 (150mm nostalgia equivalent) to get enough reach.

    • That’s the way I have mine set up. It wasn’t hard to find.

    • It’s hard to get the xpro (with fw updates) focus correctly on a not moving subject, more so in low / mixed light conditions. It sometimes takes several seconds to get it focus on a face against a bright background (and at the end the focus point might be wrong). So for sports… And I totally agree with motion blur : the grip/button position does not really allow steady shooting conditions, and I doubt the IS on the new zoom can counterbalance this.

    • There is actually a short cut, and we don’t have to go into the menu to turn off the screen, while using the auto EVF function. Turning off K gear touch screen settings and D gear Live view settings have no bearing on the said desired “off screen”.

      Simply press and hold the button next to the EVF, to enable/disable the auto EVF. With auto EVF enabled, you then press the same button one more time to decide if you want to keep the screen on or off, and it will stay that way.

  2. Hi Jim,

    Thanks for your great article. I am a professional photographer and use to shoot with Canon gear. Just happened to be my first brand for a camera. A analog compact Canon Snappy 20 in red. Made great shots by the way.

    Most of the time I shoot news photography in my area, the South-West of the Netherlands. This also includes in- and outdoor sports + concerts/theater(much experience with this).

    The last three years every now and then I got more & more frustration with all the big gear luging around. I found out that I was sometimes way more happy with my Panasonic LX-3 + wide angle converter. Could brought into positions the big Canon wasn’t able to. The LX-3 gave me quiet some front page pics!

    Looked at Olympus ever since the E-1, but waited till last year to buy an E-5 with a pana/leica 14-150mm as walk around combo. Image quality was way better as expected, also because of the high quality for such a zoom lens. At low iso the sharpness was wonderful. Although the E-5 has its limits. For example, why the hell didn’t make Olympus this a 10 frames a second toll for sports with their bright HQ tele lenses? They would have sold double.

    Last month I bought myself an OM-D/EM-5. Amazing camera tool and last weekend I shot my first concert with it, Marcus Miller! and also indoor lady’s volleyball. That went way better as I could ever expected. Tack sharp, c-af is not super, but because the super fast single focus that isn’t missed at all times.
    Me too had the lcd screen frustration. So I’m gonna try your settings.

    My Canon dslr’s feels like a dinosaur camera now. Although I know and admit the OM-D can’t replace them entirely yet. Have to get use to the EVF of the OM-D. & Olympus/Panasonic where are the long + bright tele lenses?

    Now I wait this coming months what new camera bodies + lenses OIy/Pana will come up with and invest certainly more in this amazing system.

    Took also some slow shutter speed handheld shots in a dark theater of the audience with the 20mm/1.7 pane. Also not possible at all with any Canon + lens combo.

    Greetings from the Netherlands. WACON-images, Ronald

    • Ronald,

      “..where are the long + bright tele lenses?..” ..have you tried the 75mm f1.8?

      That’s equivalent to 150mm f1.8 on micro4/3. I repeat: 150mm f1.8. That’s reasonably long, and it’s extremely bright, and it’s so sharp that you can easily crop its results to the equivalent of 300mm!

      ..Long and bright enough?

      • Hello David, Thanks for your suggestion. I had one in my hand in the camera store and I will buy the 75mm/1.8 anytime soon! :-) An amazing lens, high quality and small for what it is and does. And you are right, some cropping might be not a problem.

        However this is still nog ‘long’ enough for photographing soccer sports and big arena concerts or festivals. I use a Canon 7D with Sigma 120-300mm/OS/2.8, sometimes even with the Canon 1.4x converter.

        I already use the OM-D in many situations for daily press-photography. My colleges look at me if I’ve gone mad or so. But maybe they are….
        The MFT equivalent of the 43 150mm/2.0 is what I’m waiting for… Or a OM body with hybrid autofocus maybe, so the original 150mm can be used without slower focusing.

        • Ronald,

          If you use your “..120-300mm/OS/2.8, sometimes even with the Canon 1.4x converter..” then you’re used to shooting at – roughly – f4 (with the converter on). So why not try the Panasonic m4/3 100-300mm f4?

          It’s a very lightweight lens, it’s equivalent to 200-600mm (!) on the m4/3 OM-D, and the two-and-a-bit stops worth of stabilisation, and good high ISO performance, which the OM-D gives you – and its fast autofocus – would let you use it handheld for “..soccer sports and big arena concerts or festivals”.

          Just turn OFF the stabilisation in the lens, and use the camera’s own stabilisation instead.

          • Guess I will try the Panasonic 100-300mm. It is f 4-5.6 & I’m sure it will do for sports & festivals during daylight or acceptable stage or field lighting spots. Favor for MTF lenses is that they already sharp wide open.

            But still I need a fast shutter speed for soccer, also at evening. The Sigma 2.8/120-300mm is an amazing lens. Very sharp, even wide open.

            Panasonic showed a prototype of a 150mm/2.8. I’ll try to be patient.

            Now I just got used to have also high quality photos with half the weight lugging around, it becomes ‘harder’ ;-) to go out with the big gear again.

            • Of course although you may get a bright lens for M4/3 you do not get the same (shallow) depth of field as full frame. The 75 f1.8 is the equivalent of 150 f3.6. The 100-300 f4-5.6 at the long end will have the depth of field of a 600mm lens at f9 on full frame. Not bad but a bit of a trade off.

              • Hi Dougbm, Yes you right about this. f9 is maybe a bit too much depth of field, although I’d never use the 100-300mm

                With the 75mm f3.6 dog is fine I think. I do a lot of concert photography and with fast moving rock artist for example that f3.6 is more a bless as a curse having just a little bit of that extra dof.

                For certain shootings you will want that shallow dof of full frame, for other styles of shootings not.
                Shooting a soccer duel between several players the f9 will help, isolate just one player in action f9 is probably too much dof….

                Dof is of course an endless discussion. Full frame will always have its advantages above MFT in some areas of photography, but vice versa also :-) Lucky for these different camera brands.

              • Dog must be DOF… auto spelling correction..

  3. Most mirrorless cameras should be able to shoot a volleyball game with a nice prime. I think where you would get a bigger difference is focus tracking on the D3 such as football, basketball, etc. Volleyball is pretty much like shooting baseball.

    You really shoot 600 shots a day? Wow….that must be a chore to go through

    • Johnny,

      I’ve been scrubbing thru pics for years, and for sports, I can do 600 shots in about 10 minutes. I use aperture, but Lightroom is the same workflow. When shooting bursts, you are often lucky to get 1 frame where the ball is in frame, with the subject, and the subject is in focus. I flag those and delete the rest. Then I examine the flagged shots and star them. I do this immediately after a shoot, and then look at all my 3 star or better at the end of a season for a slide show… None of these pics made a 3 star rating, except the group pic. But I was amazed what the Oly could do…

      • Photographing ‘fast’ sports you do have to make, many, many shots most of the time. Even if you are very experience to ‘catch’ the moment, a lot of times you have the right action moment! However with the ball just at the wrong place. English isn’t my native language, but I hope you understand what I mean.

        If a ‘ball’ is involved in that particular sport, most magazines and newspapers want that ball also in your action shot. So fast frames a second surly help.

        ‘Johnny’ you might be right about yes/no of the 3 star rating of Jim’s pics. But I think Jim made these pics as a great memory instead of selling these images. He surly pointed out that a OM-D is quiet capable. I recent use the OM-D at volleyball also with a 20mm/1.7 lens very close to the net. I had more keepers as expected. The images especially looked clean! Also used my Canon at the same game. Had a better lens attach on this and better close-up action. Although I preferred the look of the OM-D files better.

      • A question about the intended focal point in a couple of your photographs. The ones with player number 6 appear to have focused on her rather than the ball. Was that intentional or were you using facial recognition (which would have picked out the face even through the net)?

        Thanks!

        • Richard, I shoot with shallow depth of field which makes it almost impossible to have the athlete and the ball in focus. I always opt for the athlete, it would be almost impossible for me to follow the ball :-)

  4. Great article and great sports shots Jim, I agree the OMD is a fantastic all round camera. The customisation is one of the things that makes it so pleasant to use, you don’t get stuck hating or wishing for certain features. I made similar changes to my OMD when I first got it, and I don’t need to worry about them any more, I now just use the camera and it works the way I want it to.

    I got some great tips from DPreview;
    http://www.dpreview.com/articles/9115179666/user-guide-getting-the-most-out-of-the-olympus-e-m5

  5. Although I love the general sentiment of your article there a couple of points I’m having issue with:

    I find it strange that you basically made the same faces or had similar reactions to people asking how to shoot thier child’s sporting event with entry level cameras as the pros seemed to have had towards you and your M43. Namely: “impossible with that toy”
    When in actuality for dad use it probably was totally possible with thier rigs or a mildly improved one. Images of saying pish posh or now, after your oly revelation, telling them “go get a em5, it only 1,000 dollars!” You could say “oh sure, trying getting a fast prime like a 50 1.8 or something, it’ll run you like 300.”
    I’m sure for personal use that would be fine. Am I wrong?
    And ya all that monkeying about for some Dad sports shots is a bit much as well.
    Still a fun article. Thanks.

  6. Ooooooooooo..short shorts! ME LIKE!

  7. love the last shot!

  8. Excellent images and article, Jim! You make me really consider the OM-D system as a “travel” camera to replace my larger Pentax K-5. (Although I do get very sharp images from the K-5 and assorted Pentax optics! If you like, please check them at my Totalqualityphoto url.) That said, I’ve read some awesome reviews of the Olympus mZuiko lenses such as the 12, 45, and 75, not to mention Steve’s excellent reviews of the OM-D and lenses! Now my hope is to sell more images to afford the Oly System…Thanks again sir!

  9. Come on. just hold the eyepiece button for about 3 seconds to jump directly to this K-Gear setting page where you can switch between Manual/Automatic EVF activation. It’s pretty intuitive. Sometimes you need the automatic EVF actvation, sometimes not. And it’s easy to switch between the two modes.

  10. Those pics at such high ISO made my jaw drop Jim. Needless to say, good job. I was wondering what those parents’ reactions were when you told them the price of your D4?!

    I own a e-p2 and still shoot with it, but learn to live with the slow focus and low iso capabilities. Also, trying to outgrow it before buying a new camera to think that it would make me a better photographer. I’m thinking about getting into a new camera with all the full frames coming out, but wonder if the RX1 focus will be as fast as the OMD. Will just have to wait for Steve’s and others’ reviews. Thanks for your post. It is making me reconsider the OMD.

  11. Nice story, Jim ..but you had to phone Olympus to find out how to turn off the rear screen and just use the electronic viewfinder?

    It’s in the instruction book (like the magnify instructions) ..and it’s pretty intuitive anyway: just press the button on the side of the viewfinder. That offers the options ON or OFF. ON means that the eye-detector works, and switches between the rear screen and the ‘finder, when you put the camera to your eye. OFF turns off the eye-detection sensor, so that the ‘finder is permanently on, and the rear screen is off.

    But then who, nowadays, reads camera instruction manuals..?

    • I was thinking the same thing, I just hit the LCD button on the side of the viewfinder and shoot with the EVF. You don’t have to go through all the steps outlined above and it takes all of 2 seconds.

    • Perhaps I was a little dense. I’d read the manual several times, and entirely missed what you are saying. But I don’t feel terrible. The Oly tech support (level 2) needed two days to figure it out :-).
      There are still several things I don’t understand. Modes? Is1, 2? Olympus only hints in the manual about what these are…

      • ‘Modes’, Jim?

        Press the ‘Menu’ button: the first thing it shows you, on the back of the camera, is Camera-Symbol-1, with options “Card Setup”, “Reset/Myset” and “Picture Mode”, etc.

        Press the right arrow to step into the first of those menu items, then press the down arrow to go down to “Picture Mode”. Then press right arrow to see what those options in “Picture Mode” are, and it offers 1 “i-Enhance”, 2 “Vivid”, 3 “Natural” (..it spells this all out on the screen..) 4 “Muted”, 5 “Portrait”, “Monotone” (that’s black-&-white), and “Custom”, and THEN, scrolling down further, all the “Art” modes: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale&Light Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, etc, etc. [..Fairly self-explanatory, for a man who’s a “technical (electrical engineer / law -am a patent attorney), surely?..]

        If you further press the right arrow alongside any of those ‘Modes’, you’re then offered the option to change the Contrast, Sharpness, Color Saturation, for example, of any of those Modes. And if you’ve scrolled down to the ‘Art Modes’, and you press right arrow, you’re offered all sorts of extra variations (described onscreen) such as “Add White Edge Effect”, “Add Star Light Effect”, or you’re shown, onscreen, in coloured pictures, the effect of adding different “Filters”.

        Don’t be afraid: just press that Menu button and scroll through the options which you’re offered, and which are described and shown, onscreen. Select one and try it; if you don’t like it, scroll back and turn it off.

        That’s one of the glories of digital cameras – as distinct from film – you can select an option for just one photo (..and not be forced to use it for a full roll of 36 shots..) and if you don’t like it, change it for something else.

        Push a few buttons; see what you get! ..as you work your way through the Menu items, each – except “Image Stabilizer” – has a few brief words of explanation onscreen. To see what the particular Stabilizer modes (1, 2 and 3) are, just refer to the instruction manual.

        And if you connect the OM-D to your computer with its USB cable, you can install “Firmware Update 1.5″ which gives you better video stabilisation with non-Olympus lenses, and turns off the faint background buzz of the stabiliser except when you squeeze the shutter release. (You may have to install 1.3 or 1.4 and then afterwards update again to 1.5.)

        The Olympus OM-D E-M5 1.5 Firmware Update is HERE:
        http://www.olympusamerica.com/cpg_section/software_results.asp?id=1583

      • Jim, you should try downloading the digital version of the manual. I think there’s one on the setup CD that comes with the camera body, or you could get it from the Oly website. It has significantly more information than the paper version.

        Re: the IS modes, IS 1 reduces all movement along all five axes, while IS 2 doesn’t correct for lateral movement. IS 2 is good for video if you’re going to be panning, so the IS system doesn’t resist the camera movement. IS 1 is good for everything else.

      • Sorry if someone has mentioned this already, but I found it helpful:

        http://www.dpreview.com/articles/9115179666/user-guide-getting-the-most-out-of-the-olympus-e-m5

  12. Great post Jim,

    I made the move from DSLR to the OM-D earlier in the year and have not looked back since. Funnily I was thinking of writing a blog post for OM-D customisation as it can make a huge difference to how you use the camera for different styles of photography. I think what some people miss understand is that the Olympus menu is not complicated. It is very flexible and in fact after using the camera for 7 months, I now find myself wanting further customisation that I hope Olympus release in future firmware upgrades. You can read some of my blog posts at http://www.jamesharold.com/blog if you are interested.

  13. Great article.

    Some contributor of 43rumors.com have found a way to use the art filter setting for a false “focus peaking” for shooting stills on OMD. I like to share this.

    Here are the steps written by Amin Sabet of Mu-43.com

    1) Change the mode dial on the E-M5 to “A”

    2) Menu > Shooting Menu 1: set the “Picture Mode” to “ART 11 Key Line” (press right and choose Filter II). You may need to repeat this step twice to get the art filter setting to stick.

    3) Optional step if you want magnified view during focus peaking: Menu > Shooting Menu 1 > Set “Digital Tele-converter” to “On”

    4) Menu > Shooting Menu 1: select “Reset/Myset”, then select “Myset1″ and choose “Set”

    5) Menu > Custom Menu B: select “Button Function”, then select “Fn1 Function” and choose “My1″

    6) Menu > Shooting Menu 1: set the “Picture Mode” to “Natural” (or whatever you started out with)

    7) Menu > Shooting Menu 1 > Set “Digital Tele-converter” back to “Off” if you set it to “On” in Step 3 above

    At this point, you’ll have the “Key Line” art filter, which acts like a form of focus peaking, assigned to the Fn1 button. You can hold down the button while focusing for a kind of “on demand” focus peaking and then release the button before you shoot so that the art filter doesn’t affect the captured image itself.

    • Hi Alexander.

      Indeed bright! + high quality enough! But still not long enough for certain shootings I’m afraid. I need something between 200mm-500mm to make a replacement possible for my Canon 7D + Sigma 120-300/OS/2.8 = 192mm-480mm

    • Probably long and bright enough, but it’s a 4/3 lens, not micro 4/3.

      Haven’t used this one, but my other 4/3 lenses, when adapted to the OMD, produce slow and weird focusing. The lens focuses somewhere close to where it should be, and then does 5 or 6 little adjustments until it’s right.

      OK for a macro lens (the 50mm f2 is amazing!) but for sports, not so much.

      Maybe someone else has experience with other 4/3 lenses?

      • I have and use sometimes a normal four thirds lens, the 14-150mm Leica Vario Panasonic OS 3.5-5.6 with the new adapter on my OM-D. Focus works and is accurate as well. But slower, yes!

        When zoomed in the lens seems quicker and has faster focusing as used at 14mm, that it won’t focus at all at times. Lucky when it does, it is tack-on.

        The Panasonic 100-300mm(200-600) will do during daylight soccer games. But unfortunately I have to shoot sports a nightfall. Some sport fields have very dim lighting….

  14. Cool story and feedback.

    Forgetting the FF thing for a moment this system/camera is miles ahead in my opinion of anything else, not FF….Fuji, Pentax, Sony (though these are pretty good!), etc…. They have built a really great system, with super fast AF, good ISO capability with great features and all in a small package…..

    Well done Oly….(I don’t own one!)

  15. To the original question (to Olympus):
    1. Turn of the back lcd entirely. This would save on battery life AND eliminate the delay in switching.

    2. still allow for back panel adjustment settings, if desired.
    ———————————————————————————————

    What about if you just simply press the info button when the super control panel is visible in the rear lcd (and nothing is selected), and the live view from the rear screen is disabled (by pressing the button next to finder)?
    At least in my specimen this toggles whether the rear lcd is on or not. Did not require any special tweaks from the settings…

    Might be I’m missing something here, but with this method I have never had any problems turning of the rear lcd when it’s necessary.

  16. Nice work Jim. I also sold my D3 and other Nikon gear for the EM-5. Does 90% of the job for me and I can live with the 10% loss for the portability.

    • I sold my d3 system for close to what I paid 5 years, and 60,000 pics ago. Amazing really. But I love my Oly and lenses. Everything fits in my fogg case that used to house my m6 system. The weight is gone. And the cost for the system is so reasonable relative to the big rig…

  17. Hi!

    I love my OM-D as well and I think it’s great to read articles about how other people are using it. The one thing I really miss if focuspeaking. Why oh why didn’t Olympus include it?
    It’s especially infuriating since one the artfilters included comes so damn close to being focuspeaking, just look at this article and movie: http://www.43rumors.com/how-to-fake-an-e-m5-peaking-mode/
    Clearly we are just a small firmwareupdate from achieving it. Olympus get working on it!

    Stefan

  18. Actually, the EVF will drain the battery far more quickly than the back LCD. The OMD EM5 is a great, albeit amazingly quirky camera with a remarkably jumbled UI (for anyone not used to Oly’s menus I guess) and one big gripe early on has been the poor battery performance which led me, and others via various forums to test and determine a few things that can help in some of the more high profile failings of the OMD EM5. With the battery, for pure life, using the LCD will get you more frames than using the EVF. As for the banding, the freeze up issues, the menus and others, well, how long you got? :)

    • Regarding the freeze-up problem: I’ve used the OMD as my main camera for almost a year. It froze 3 times in the first month, and then never again.

      I’m wondering if the one firmware update fixed the problem.

      I’ve never had banding, nor any problem with the menus. It’s all about what you’re used to and the manual is your friend.

      Oh, and I always buy an extra battery or two with every new camera. Problem solved.

    • The E-M5 was my first Olympus camera (after shooting Nikon DSLRs and Leica film cameras), and I never found the menu to be more complicated than my Nikons.

    • I’ve had the camera since it came out and it has never frozen or displayed any banding.
      I have read that you can get banding with the Panasonic 20mm lens. Is this what you are referring to?

    • There are many documented cases of the freeze, even post v1.5 update and the banding is widely accepted as an issue when coupled with the Lumix 20mm f/1.7 lens shot on the OMD at ISO 6400. Neither of these issues has been addressed (at least entirely) with the firmware updates, but I also think that there may be a somewhat focused run of EM5’s that may be affected (or at least more prone to the freeze up issues) as there seem to be those who say they’ve never seen the issue and many that have. I have limited the freeze up issues by turning off the auto power off option entirely, but have still had two instances where I’ve needed to pull the battery because the camera was entirely unresponsive, even after switching it off/on, and this is in the last few weeks after the v1.5 update. It may not affect all cameras, but it has certainly affected mine and others who I’ve interacted with.

      Menus are a personal thing I guess, and maybe it’s a squeaky wheel scenario, but far more folks that I’ve interacted with via conversation, or via my blog feel that the UI is far more jumbled and complicated than is necessary, and much more so than say the Panasonic UI (which I feel is very intuitive by comparison personally).

      To top it off, my OMD EM5 has had to go back to Oly after I tried using the rebate flash (FL300R) on camera which entirely fried the electronics. Luckily for me, it will be covered by the warranty, but it is one of many issues I’ve had with my EM5. Could be a lemon, but I’ve never had a camera that I both loved and despised so much. It is a great camera, no doubt about it, but it is a very flawed camera in both operation and implementation.

    • I wanted to respond to the notion That the evf was a bigger battery drain than the rear LCD. Not sure where that comes from. I was never able to get more than about 340 shots using the rear LCD. Well… I am at the high school volleyball state championships in Denver, shooting with my Oly. As mentioned in my article, I’ve turned the LCD off entirely, and am using the evf exclusively, with it set to turn on/off automatically. At shot 804, I began to get the 2 bar warning on my first battery! I am between games, so am taking a moment to recharge before the finals. With 2 batteries fully charged, I should easily beagle togetanother 1000 plus shots with this little dream of a camera..

      I’ve reviewed all comments and posts. Am obviously not as smart as some, but that will always be the case :-). But I am ecstatic at what this little em5 is capable of, in high iso, at 9fps, bot in terms of focusing speed (using mainly the 75mm 1.8), and image quality. Now, if Oly could come out with a 100mm f2 for soccer, and maybe a teleconverter?

      • Jim, if you have the EVF set to turn off automatically, then yes, but if it is constantly on (vs the LCD constantly on), it is more draining on the battery than the LCD is. If you’re getting different results, then I guess we can chalk this up to yet another inconsistent quirk where the batteries are concerned.

        Not sure if either are planning a 100/2, but Panasonic is developing a 150mm f/2.8 which will be very interesting.

    • I haven’t had any freezes or banding with the OM-D in many thousands of frames, although my specific conditions are probably different than yours. However, the UI drives me crazy even though I am a long-time Olympus user. Of course, terrible UI seems to be a problem with all camera manufacturers. It is ironic that these devices are so capable, and yet most of the features go unused because of the wall of obscure, eccentric controls. It just gets worse the more features they add. They would be better off rethinking the UI instead of dressing it up with icons and colors.

      • I have not had any freezing issues at all with any of the OM-D bodies I have had and still have. As for the UI, I find it extremely easy and hassle free..quite perfect actually! I never have to go into the menus and I never use the super control panel. The quick menu gives you everything you need with a one button press.

  19. I’ve been shooting the E-M5 for street work since just after it was released, and my method is really simple. I leave both the rear LCD and the EVF switched off, and when I want to shoot, I just stick my thumb over the EVF’s eye sensor as I raise the camera. By the time the camera reaches my eye, the EVF is ready to go, and it doesn’t drain my battery life. Give it a try!

  20. Helpful tips on improving battery life. I set this up last night. Tx!

  21. All well and good if you can get sports shots with a small camera – and I’ve done it too (I took some Thai Boxing shots with a Digilux 2, of all things) – but I’m seeing an interesting kind of reverse-snobbism trend emerging recently. Not that this article is a particularly egregious example, but it follows the pattern of subtly insinuating that “Big DSLRs” are now terribly uncool and unhip and on the way out because these four thirds machines are eating their lunch and doing every single aspect of photography better. I find it a little hard to believe that a mirrorless 4/3rds camera – even an Olympus – can outfocus a D3 when shooting sports. Not to cast aspersion on the writer of this article, but that’s a heck of a claim. I do know that the Om-D-e-m5 has fast autofocus (and a terrible name!) but D3 level? Hmmm.

    Nikon and Canon (not to mention Sony) are still putting a whole lot of money into DSLRs, and people are evidently buying them, so the herdlike “DSLR is finished, mirrorless is the new black, baa-aa-aaa-” shtick is somewhat of a Dewey-Truman case.

    When we see the sports stadiums of the world populated by Four Thirds cameras shooting from hundreds of feet away and hitting perfect focus at 9 or more frames a second on fast, irregularly-moving targets, THEN you can start crowing about how the DSLR is obsolete.

    • Hello Jan, You have a point with “reverse-snobbism trend”. A D3, D4 or 1Dx are professional tools with excels in certain areas above anything els on the market yet. They can do things an OM-D can’t, that is for sure. The other way around also!

      I use to ‘shoot’ a lot large rock festivals and still do sometimes. Lugging around with 2x pro-boy + several pro, large, big and heavy lenses + a MacBook, batteries etc. If you are honest with yourself, you find out for at least 60% of the shots I’ll or you take this kind of equipment is overdone. I began to dislike this kind of shooting events Instead of photographing only the bands on stage, I’ll like to walk through the audience for atmosphere shots. A crowd of over 40.000 most of the time. I use live-view a lot for my shots, especially with extreme wide-angle lenses. You know the live-view on most dslr’s is still a pain for fast use & shots.

      So now at this moment I use one pro-body + a big lens if really needed and make my other shots with the OM-D or even with a older Lumix LX-3.

      Do I need for example a D800, 36mp for publishing my photographs.., no I don’t. It come in handy for cropping or for well payed assignments. Thats why I’m also funned of the V1 and now horrible looking V2. Use the FT1 adapter with a 70-200mm/2.8 during reasonable light condition and switch to a dslr if needed with that same lens. That might be a great future combo for festivals.

      I don’t really care about using what ever brand. Photographing is my living and still a pleasure to do. I just want good tools to make certain photographs. That can be a pro-body or a high-end compact. I did have quiet some front-page photographs taken with my LX-3. But also taken with the big gear.

    • I think on this subject, like in politics, we tend to read or pay attention to sources that reinforce our prejudices. If all your friends are buying mirrorless, then everybody must be buying mirrorless.

      Thom Hogan has an interesting little article here:
      http://www.sansmirror.com/newsviews/more-about-mirrorless-sales.html

      His numbers show that unit sales of dslrs are still running 5 to 7 times as many as mirrorless sales.

  22. Jim

    Thanks for sharing these good pictures. I use the OMD with the kit zoom 12-50 and the 45/1.8 I noticed you have the 35-100/2.8 Is this the Panasonic one? Any comment on its quality? I am considering getting one. I sold recently my Nikkor 70-200/2.8 VR1 after 10 years of great use.

  23. Thanks for the post, Jim.
    If you are shooting at high frame rates or trying to use tracking AF on the OM-D the default image review makes it almost impossible to use the EVF. You can go to the Setup menu (the wrench) and turn “Rec View” to off. Now the EVF won’t try and show you every image in a 9fps string as you’re shooting. I would imagine that this would help with your batterylife too. Also setting the “frame rate” to high in Custom menu ‘J’ helps the EVF keep up with action.
    Cheers!

  24. Sorry but I find these shots muddy a D 3 would have rocked

    • Comparing anything to a D3 is kind of unfair, don’t you think? That camera is in a whole other league.

    • The muddiness of these shots is due primarily to the light in he gym. Horrible yellowish dim lights. Iso 6400 required. As I said in the article, the em-5 is not quite as good at high iso. Am sure the d4 is even better. That’s not the point. But having taken nearly 60,000 shots in this gym, with the d3, what surprises me is how incredibly close the two cameras are in terms of notice at that iso. I didn’t know the Oly was almost as good – I wouldn’t have bet that. Two hings made me switch. The Oly 75 f1.8 lens (Nikon doesn’t make anything remotely equivalent, and it is perfect for this gym) and… The ability live with one camera system. Can I afford to have both? Sure. But I no longer need to. Downsizing, simplifying has real benefits beyond economy.

      Am now in Ireland on vacation, and stunned at the results of this Oly with the pany 12-35. Amazing!

  25. Very informative post! I’m considering getting an Oly 4/3 system and enjoyed reading this!

  26. Good article. Indeed you can shoot sport with m4/3! With Oly 75mm you can get beautiful results. I’m using Oly 45mm too and the camera is G3. Planning to upgrade to GH3 when it’s released.

    Someone asked about 100-300mm and I have to say it is very good lens to outdoor sports shooting. Of course not that sharp as prime lenses, but that 300mm is very impressive.

    Some example pictures: (75mm/45mm) women volleyball: http://juhakoivula.kuvat.fi/kuvat/Lentopallo/
    (75mm/45mm) ice hockey: http://juhakoivula.kuvat.fi/kuvat/Jääkiekko/
    (mostly 100-300mm, some with 75/45mm) finnish baseball: http://juhakoivula.kuvat.fi/kuvat/Pesis,+2012/

    I just bought the new pana f2.8 35-100mm and will try it first time next Wednesday. Should be great lens for sports shooting.

    Feel free to ask questions about pics or sports shooting!

  27. I am one of those parents…. I am looking for a camera to get better still shots of my figure skater daughter. We were about to get our first DSLR (a Canon 650D) with this and an upcoming European trip in mind – until I read this article. Have any of you enthusiasts and experts tried the OM-D on figure skating? The lighting and contrast are generally awful… and a decent zoom is also needed. We are currently using a ‘Bridge’ Panasonic FZ100 and it is woeful for stills. The video is not too bad though. I would love to be able to take a smaller camera around. That is why we bought the FZ100. It has been a complete waste of $. I would love to hear your opinions!

  28. What are the recommendations for af, manual, tracking when shooting soccer or other fast moving activity with omd e5?

  29. A very nice article. It is a brilliant idea to turn off the LCD and let the EVF turn on/off automatically to save the battery life. But I wonder, if you hang the camera on your neck without taking a picture but with the camera powered on, would not the EVF always be on (the eye sensor is very sensitive) and drain out the power of the battery quickly?

  30. Hi,

    I just recently discovered this article.
    A very nice and informative article.
    I wasn’t satisfied about the number of pics I could make with óne battery.
    I’ve read the recommendations in this article.
    With my test (today) I managed 664 pics with óne battery, my card was full, my battery net emty jet.
    Perfect.
    No I have to test if this is going on when I’m in the field, outside.
    I will set my cam of as often as possible, the EVF is activated most of the time.
    Of course when you look thriugh it and also when your cam is hanging along your body.
    Ad B from the Netherlands

  31. Hi Jim, great article.

    I’m a sport photographer (Nikon) and bought the OM-D E-M5 (Gawd that name…) + the two layer “Lego” grip for street (sports, mainly).

    But I got some issues with the little boy …

    1. Latency and mellowness (just an impression ?) is a bit disturbing.
    2. My screen menu (and menu access button) is very reactive. Much too reactive in fact that, during action (with the viewfinder), I always end with the AF point anywhere but where I want it, or with a screen I don’t want. It feels like there’s a short-circuit and screen passes one after the other lightning fast. That added to the small buttons (event if I knew the button size when buying) give the impression that one needs to use the Oly like a delicate cup of tea. But not much.

    So, my questions are :

    1. is it possible to switch off the “touch screen” and use it only with the input button ?
    2. is it possible to “lock” the AF point once and for all during, say, 10 minutes :) … or more if needed ?
    3. with your tweakings, did you get a faster (or more immediate) latency ?

    Many thanks for your help

    P.S. IMO, The Oly is a really great (even stunning) camera for anything that don’t move. For sport, It needs to be roughen up a bit to avoid all the configuration to fly away at first shot.

  32. Dear Steve,

    We recently moved from USA to Taiwan, our entire house was packed into a 20′ moving container and would take a month to get there. So I decided to take a one month family vacation. The big debate was whether to take my Nikon D600 and 3 lenses, OR my wife’s EM5. My biggest concern was battery life; and after reading your suggestion, I decided to go with the EM5. With 2 batteries in rotation, I never ran out, there were a few days I managed almost 1000 shots without recharging! EM5 + 20mm F1.7 + 14mm F2.5 was the entire package, and it did phenomenal.

    One thing I do want to share with your readers that was just insane to me; I assigned Fn1 to being “2x”. So with the 20mm F1.7 on, I basically got a 40mm shot out of it; I know, people will say I’m only getting 4Mpixels then, but so what? I don’t have to recrop in photoshop later; and I recall owning a D90s which was 5MP and loving the IQ from it. So I basically had 3 lenses with me with the package, 14mm, 20mm, and 40mm. I now do the same thing with my D600, assign an APS-C button so I get a 1.5x crop factor when I need to “zoom”. Makes for one less lens; and makes my 105mm F2DC into a 157mm F2! It’s a great time to be a photographer. Thanks for all your tips.

    • YOu get 40mm out of the 20mm anyway as teh sensor is a 2X crop. When using a 20 you get 40, when using a 12 you get 24. That is just how micro 4/3 is. 2X I believe is for the magnification for manual focusing (an aid for MF)

  33. Has anyone used the Olympus OMD EM1 for sports basketball photos indoors

  34. What focus mode do u use when shooting sport?

  35. Like the author, I’m a lawyer who’s on a quest to find a compact SLR substitute that’s usable for sports. My impressions:

    1. A decent SLR would produce better results, but these are pretty good shots, good enough to establish that the OM-D E-M5 can produce usable sports output.

    2. They do have a “muddy” quality, probably the result of horrible ambient light,and the high ISO used. They would look better with good conversion to monochrome.

    3. I don’t think that Walter Iooss or Neil Leifer will be using mFT gear for SI any time soon, but the OM-D line is a feasible alternative for us amateurs who want or need to travel incognito.

  36. Jim, sold my D3 and purchased an EM-1, so loving it!

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