Novice experience on the OMD-EM5 – Easy and Quick By Jason McCosker

Novice experience on the OMD-EM5 – Light, Easy, Versatile and Quick

By Jason McCosker

Dear Steve,

I thought I would share my thoughts on the existing gear and setup that I have come to love over the last 9 months. In fact all my gear and processing requirements have come from the real life experiences shared on STEVEHUFFPHOTO.COM.

In December 2012, I was fed up missing so many shots of my 4 and 2 yo with a point and shoot that had such limited control. So I looked out for a small manual system with options that could take me further. Following reviews particularly from this site and a love for the feel, weight, size, EVF and easy setup my decision was the Olympus OMD-EM5 that came with the 12-50mm kit lens.

A few months ago I picked up the 17mm 1.8 prime lens and at the same time your post on VSCO Film 04 came out and as it supported the OMD-EM5 I gave it a try.

I do not personally like the full grainy aspect or some orange skin of the VSCO however with the VSCO tool kit the desired needs to meet all taste can be achieved with 3 or 4 clicks. My desired needs are then resaved as a personal preset so my favourite VSCO combo’s are a one click processing scenario.

I share a few results from a novice perspective that I have managed to get from this setup across macro, kids, landscape and a street walk in the last couple of months. I know all GAS is in me with the release of the EM1 and A7Rr but this setup will last a my needs for some time and I would rather build my lens collection than cater for my GAS desires.

Each image has no planned setup, no specific lighting, is captured within 2-3 seconds of the moment and processed with 1-3 clicks in lightroom utilising VSCO (no more than a minute an image to import, utilise preset and save).


JSM (Jason McCosker)

Image 1: Flaming Flower

12-50mm kit lens (macro), VSCO (Kodak E100G Vibrant / Sharpen ++)


Although the 12-50mm lens is considered slow and big by many, for my needs it is a good all round lens in bright sunlight and of course those rainy days due to the weather seal. I did not utilise the macro mode for some time however it has nice detail and you can blur out edges if desired.


Image 2: Jumping High

Oly 17mm prime, VSCO (Fuji Fortio SP/Saturation – / Orange Skin Fix)


This was a first image test for the 17mm 1.8, I went out in bright sunlight with my 4yo son who was running, jumping, diving and climbing.


Image 3: The Web

Oly 17mm prime, VSCO (Fuji Provia 400k- / Orange Skin Fix)


I don’t often get the little ones to pose for a shot as it will never happen unless they are stuck in a web.


Image 4: Surfer on the Lake

Oly 17mm prime, VSCO (Fuji Provia 100F++++ / Grain (None) / Sharpen +++)


Riding my bike, I noticed a surfer paddling across the lake. Quickly grabbing my OMD and not looking at anything but the scene which is a learner mistake. The camera was setup all wrong (F3.5), so not sharp throughout but shows what the camera and lens combo can achieve even in a dummies hands.

The next three was a street photography experiment involving a quick street walk with no more or less than 7 shots. The first aim was to see if I had the mindset of a street photographer to carry it out. The second aim was to capture the story of the walk and give some insight into the inner city and people of Newcastle – Australia in just a handful of clicks.

Image 5: Ooooh

Oly 17mm prime, VSCO (Agfa Scala 200++ / Shadow Save ++ / Grain (None))


Image 6: Lunch Break

17mm 1.8, VSCO (Agfa Scala 200+ / Contrast ++ / Grain (None))


Image 7: Lost

17mm 1.8, VSCO (Agfa Scala 200 / Contrast ++ / Grain (None) / Vignette 1)


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  1. Hi Jason, nice shots. I must admit I’m not a big fan of the “special effects” treatment, but that’s just personal preference.

    One comment and one question.

    That last street portrait is very good, but would have been a lot better if the guy’s eye or eyes would have caught some light.

    The images appear, even on my iPad, very very sharp. Is that the camera’s default sharpening in LR, or did you use additional sharpening?

    • Thanks Michael953.

      The last street portrait is of a local homeless man that I pass once a week. I stop for a chat every time I pass and I could not tell you the colour of his eyes. I think those darkened eyes tell us we need to do more as a community. So I do agree more light in the eyes has more of a meaning than just the image.

      No additional sharpening other than the VSCO preset that does add a little pop that you can adjust down to meet desires. I have printed most of these images and they appear extremely natural in print.

      All but the surfer was captured in the harshest of the Australian sunlight with an ND filter attached. I have heard reports that the 17mm 1.8 lacks sharpness, however I tend to differ with these images and some others I have seen from the pro’s such as Steve and Robin Wong. It is a beautiful and under estimated lens.

  2. Thanks im_apatel. I am not sure if I have graduated to “enthusiast” or rather an “addict” as I now get the shakes if I don’t shoot for a small period of time. Oh dear.

  3. Thanks erics75218, these are all very true and valid points. VSCO is a simple series of LR pre-sets you can do yourself. I feel the value of VSCO will be up to the users. The larger issue for many is that there is no trial period as it would be way too easy to copy. Therefore, this series of images with no adjustments other than VSCO pre-sets will allow novice Users to determine if it is value for them or not.
    For me I thought the investment offered value, a quick solution but has also taught me a lot about the effects of the sliders and curves. Yes, my hands have become dirty with sliders and curves and I can get carried away behind. Unfortunately, my wife does not see the fun side that I do.
    A STEVEHUFFPHOTO.COM friend (recently posting award winning images with the EM5) advised me to get Silver Efex Pro 2 to improve my Black and Whites. I originally said no as I wanted to invest my hard earned into quality lenses. However, I have just utilised the 15 day trial period and posted two of the images on Ipernity. These went to the Ipernity EXPLORE page within hours. So in my opinion he was proven correct, well worth the investment.

    • Well said,and that is exactly how I used the VSCO. I wanted to see what they were doing in case I was missing something in lightroom. Maybe they were more Plugin, than Preset. They turned out to be preset, and i learned a lot deconstructing them.

      End of the day,who cares…..your pictures look cool, you had fun, and if you have a job you have already made more of that money stuff you can use to buy more things!

  4. Thanks A.Costa. I agree the 12-50mm kit is very under rated for what it does and is. On a recent trip around the South Pacific Islands tropical rain fall made me put the prime away and take out the 12-50mm and hope the camera and lens stood upto the wet. It did and the shots I got were preety good even at a higher ISO.

  5. Thanks for posting this Brandon and thanks for all the comments as there is some great advice.

    I was so surprised of this post as it was something I did many months ago to illustrate an easy technique I found that would be good enough for most of our memories.

    Since this I started a blog, that inspires me to get out and shoot and tell some stories with my EM5.

  6. Nice images, and I’d like to start by saying I wish people would stop paying VSCO for their LR Presets.

    They adjust nothing you can’t adjust yourself….just find an image you like the grain/tonality of…and then get your hands dirty in the curves and color panel and do it for your own photograph.

    Spend 20 minutes…using a reference image.

    They pray on those who don’t understand what’s happening under the hood of Lightroom. It’s not magic, it’s curves and colour adjustments and it’s easier than you can possibly imagine.

    Even if they claim to be using some method by which they deduce the film qualities, they can’t predict what your lens and subject matter will be, this is a fact. Maybe their Fuji Superia 160 or whatever, is “mathmatically” like the real film….you’d only be able to get the effect as they intend, using their EXACT setup, real life to print on film. Which clearly you can’t do, they are a starting point at best. Which is fine, it’s just not worth 100+ bucks!

    • p.s. their comment about compatibility blows my mind. If you can import an image into Lightroom, then your “compatible” with a Lightroom Preset..ANY lightroom preset.

      Image saved from a google image search, compatible.
      Image from your EM5, compatible…
      Scan of a 30 year old photo you found in the garbage… guessed it…COMPATIBLE!

      it’s just a digital image. But depending on what your image is, the preset may not work well with it. If your preset is designed to crush your shadows, and really lift the highlights….and you have a very very low contrast image with no shadow data or highlight data…well it may not work that well.

      But that is very different from compatibility. When I read that it makes me think they knowingly are trying to scare people into thinking they are offering more than they really are.

    • Lay off man. The VSCO presets provide convenience in making LR adjustments bottom line. And, that convenience comes with some level of film emulation that this company has spent resources to achieve. Whether the film emulation is perfect or imperfect is really irrelevant to someone who likes the presets and finds value in them. If the $100 is worth it to him, then so what? If it’s not worth it to you, then so what?

      Jason — I really like “Image 3: The Web” and congrats on finding a system that you like right off the bat! And good for you for creating a processing workflow that you are happy with. Seems like you are graduating from “novice” to “enthusiast”!

      • As long as people are aware that you can do it on your own. I feel their language and advertising is misleading. That’s all, it fires me up. The entire set is the cost of a nice Minolta CLE Rangefinder camera, or a nice lens. They do look good, no doubt, I own one set. And I’ve used it as a base for a lot of my stuff.

        Just want to make people aware, that’s all, trying to help save some coin!

    • What VSCO provides is a template to work with. If someone is already advanced and suitably adept at working the RAW converters, VSCO is absolutely unnecessary; however, if you aren’t at that level, you might not know what you need to adjust to get a particular look. The options and variations in adjustments add up to being too infinite.

      VSCO provides a nice framework for understanding what does what to get a certain look and for many, that’s worth paying for.

  7. Very nice ones, congrats! A quick suggestion: if you don’t really need something peculiar from the E-M1 just stick with the E-M5, you’ll have a big time with it (I’ve done the switch but for precise needs, no reason otherwise ‘cos is a wonderful camera). And about the 12-50mm, when I sold my E-M5 kit, I so missed what many wrongly calls “another cheap kit zoom” that I bought another one mint new!

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