Feb 182015
 

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The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Review. Olympus continues to innovate.

By Steve Huff

Below is my 1st look video on the E-M5 II, take a look!

February 18th 2015. I have reviewed almost all major Olympus mirrorless releases here since the original E-P1 that started it all. Ever since there have been cameras like the E-P2, E-P3, E-P5, E-Pl1, E-PL2 and so on. Then came the OM-D series and the E-M5 and then the “Pro” OM-D, the fantastic E-M1 (which I still own and use). I have loved all of the Olympus mirrorless cameras I have reviewed but WOW have they come a LONG way since the original E-P1 PEN! That camera was revolutionary for its time but looking back it was slow as molasses, had horrible high ISO performance and lacked in so many ways in comparison to todays Olympus cameras. Again, for the time it was great..for today, those old 1st PEN cameras are nothing like what we have today from Olympus, and what we do have today is quite amazing when you really dig into the cameras like the new E-M5II.

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Olympus has continued to innovate and create new technology in cameras while keeping the cameras small, fast, great looking, AS WELL as keeping them performing in Image Quality to the level of an APS-C sensor camera. Yes, there is nothing at all lacking when it comes to image quality, color, or pop when using good lenses. It also does not hurt to have the most amazing lens selection available as well as exclusive features such as Live Time, Live Composite, Advanced 5 Axis IS, and more. I have always said, the LENSES are the heart of ANY system, and for this system there is NO shortage of amazing glass.

The E-M5 II is fast, discreet, quiet, and provides fantastic IQ. The image below is an out of camera JPEG shot with the Panasonic Nocticron (my fave M 4/3 lens ever) under mixed indoor lighting. Sharp, creamy, and perfect color and AWB.

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I have written hundreds of reviews for cameras, lenses, bags, straps, accessories and all things photographic. For the life of this website, now going on seven years (Geez, where has the time gone), I have talked a ton about Olympus, Leica, Sony, Ricoh, Zeiss, Voigtlander and many others. I sometimes look back at reviews and remember which cameras were special to me, and which ones I had the best experiences with. Cameras like the Leica M 240, the Sony A7s and A7II, the Olympus E-M1 and E-P5, the Fuji X100..so many great cameras over the years and each year I ask myself…“How can it get better”? Seriously people, today we have so many cameras capable of jaw dropping quality. If we went back in time to 1984 with an E-M5 II or E-M1, photographers back then would FREAK OUT at what can be done.

With image quality peaking, camera companies are starting to look into other improvements such as improved high ISO quality, better video, better image stabilization, and a better usability experience. No other company leads this INNOVATION better than Olympus, and right behind them are Sony.

But remember! Olympus has created some of the best tech in cameras ever. EVER!

Olympus were the 1st ones ever with DUST SHAKING tech to clean sensors of dust automatically. They were 1st with 5 Axis IS and have just improved it to an incredible level in the new E-M5II. They were the 1st with LIVE VIEW in the Evolt E-330 back in the day! Yes, the 1st with LIVE VIEW and they were 1st and are still the only ones with “Live Composite”, an amazing feature that takes all guesswork out of astrophotography and long exposure work. Olympus keeps pushing new technology and for this reason they may be my overall favorite camera company. They are like the “Apple” of cameras.

Some would think that Sony or Leica is my favorite camera company but they are just behind Olympus. Anytime I shoot with a new Olympus camera I am wowed again and again. I mean, the lenses are stellar, 2nd only to Leica M glass IMO. Small, built well, and performance that exceeds the price point, Olympus has it going in in the Micro 4/3 lens world with so many fast primes that focus fast, look great and feel great. They are also small (with the exception of the new 40-150 2.8 pro, which is larger). Hand held low light shooting is a breeze with the latest Olympus cameras due to the amazing Image Stabilization inside. There really is NOTHING like it, not even in pro DSLR land.

The 12-40 f/2.8 Pro Zoom in the Crystal Caves – click image for larger.

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The SUPERB Olympus 17 1.8, at 1.8. I prefer this lens to the Panasonic/Leica 15 1.7 for color, pop and overall rendering. Click image for larger!

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In the early days of Micro 4/3 there were so many naysayers..“the sensor size is too small” – “you can not get shallow depth of field” – “noise levels are too high” – “can’t compete with APS-C” – yada yada yada. All of these statements had some truth to them in the very early days..E-P1, E-P2..yea, they were slow, had awful low light ability and were crippled when compared to something like a Nikon D300 of the day, but today it is an entirely different story, big time. 

Today, just as I said with the E-M1 launch, the E-M1 and now E-M5II, for me, beat ANY APS-C camera made today for usability, build, speed, features, lenses, color and IQ. There is not one APS-C camera made today that I would take over an E-M1 or E-M5II. None. No Fuji, no Sony, no Leica. When I shoot with the E-M1 I have nothing but joy and happiness as it just works. It does the job and it always delivers the results I love. In many ways, it beats some full frame cameras as well because it is consistent and reliable with almost ANY of the lenses you mount.

Now with super lenses like the Panasonic Nocticron, the Olympus 40-150 2.8 and the Olympus 75 1.8 this is a SERIOUS system capable of beautiful results.

So how has the new E-M5II upped the game over the original E-M5? In MANY ways, but the real question is…“Is it now better than the flagship E-M1″? I own both and have used both extensively so I will tell you my opinion in this review about that! Keep reading!

The E-M5 II with the 40-150 Pro Zoom at 2.8 – this lens is a masterpiece. JPEG. The colors, the bokeh and the detail this lens provides is just incredible. 

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The Panasonic Nocticron at f/1.2 – This is a GORGEOUS lens and has no faults. 

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The new E-M5 II vs the old E-M5..what’s the story?

I loved the original E-M5 and owned it until the E-M1 arrived. I have owned the E-M1 ever since launch and even bought the silver model when it was released and let go of my black one. It’s a gorgeous camera I love and adore for the reasons I already explained. Extremely tough and well made, extremely fast, extremely capable with the 5 Axis and beautiful lens selections…so much to like. But what about those who have the original E-M5..and still love it? Should they upgrade to the new Mark II version?

The new Mark II E-M5 has a more advanced top panel with metal dials instead of plastic. 

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Well, all I can do is tell you my opinion, and my opinion is that YES, the Mark II is a very worthy upgrade in almost all areas!

Here are the top 11 improvements off the top of my head, the ones that I really noticed from the Mark I…

1. Better build and feel. Grip is nicer and controls are more solid. Metal dials and a very nice and somewhat retro look. (Not to the level of the E-M1)

2. Still weather sealed. (though not to the level of the E-M1)

3. New side out swivel LCD makes shooting much more enjoyable IMO. (I prefer this to the E-M1)

4. The new 5 Axis IS is SPECTACULAR! Not sure how they did it, but they did it. It really excels with video. (Beats the E-M1 5 Axis)

5. New video options including 24, 30, 60 FPS. The video looks so good. (Better video than the E-M1)

6. The EVF is now the same large size as the E-M1. (which means an E-M1 MKII should be even larger when that one comes out)

7. Auto Focus is faster and FPS is faster as well. Overall, a much quicker camera. (Faster than the E-M1 in all but continuous AF)

8. Low light ability is now equal to the E-M1 which was slightly better than the E-M5I..high ISO up to 25,600.

9. It has Live composite and Live time that the E-M1 and E-M10 have. These are amazing features. 

10. Silent shutter option for total silence with 1/16,000 shutter speed. (E-M1 does not and will not have the Silent Shutter)

11. New High Res 40 Megapixel shot mode (Tripod is needed with NOTHING moving in the frame, E-M1 will not have this nor does it)

So for $1099, this camera will come as a body only and will NOT come with a Kit Lens. I think Olympus realizes that Kit Lenses are lackluster and do not really show what the cameras are capable of. When you throw a nice prime or pro zoom on these cameras they SHINE and give you APS-C or greater quality. Just browse through the images in this review or my E-M1 review or my E-M5 Mark I review and you will see that just because these cameras uses a smaller sensor than the APS-C and Full Frame cameras, the rendering of the images is spectacular from color to sharpness to pop (due to the sharpness).

ALL images here? OOC JPEGS. NO Raws yet as I am waiting for Adobe to release the update with this camera.The JPEGS from the E-M5II are fantastic. 

Panasonic 15 1.7 on the E-M5II – click any image for larger and better view

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Olympus 17 1.8 on the E-M5II

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Panasonic Nocticron 45.2 f/1.2 at 1.2

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So with all of that out-of-the-way, it is obvious when using the new Mark II that the camera has matured since the Mark I, which is now three years old. My review of the original Mark I is HERE and as you can see, I loved it then..but I love it even more now in Mark II form, and I have been used to the E-M1 flagship for 1 1/2 years now. Many have been e-mailing me “what camera should I get? The E-M1 or the E-M5II”? That is a tough one, and I will tell you why…

The E-M5 II and the 40-150 f/2.8 – tweaked this JPEG by lowering the brightness to make the color pop

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The E-M5 II or the Pro E-M1?

This is a tough question but when I was in Bermuda with Olympus I was using the new Mark II and thinking “why would anyone want the E-M1 with the E-M5 II having newer tech and features”? The more I used the 5 Mark II I was asking this question. Here, in a small well-built package I had amazing performance and speed, a great image stabilization system..best in the world, the larger EVF of the E-M1, a swivel out to the left LCD, better video capabilities and even a silent shutter and new 40MP High Res shot mode. When I came back home and pulled out my E-M1 I shot both side by side and then I realized why I still slightly prefer my E-M1.

The E-M1 is built better, feels better and I prefer the control layout. 

The E-M1 has a sturdier pro level shutter, will last longer.

The E-M1 is freeze proof and shock proof, better weather sealing than the EM5 Mark II. 

The E-M1 is slightly larger, fitting into my hand perfectly without adding a grip.

The E-M1, for me, provides slightly better IQ with sharper and richer files. Not sure why, but this is the case. It’s slight but there.

A video showing the E-M1 and E-M5Ii side by side…

For me, I just enjoyed using the E-M1 a bit more, but I have a feeling a new E-M1 Mark II will be out within a year and I will bet you that it will not only have the new features of the 5 Mark II, but newer features exclusive to the new model. Just a guess but Olympus will HAVE To do this as the new E-M5 II will start eating into the E-M1 sales because of what it offers for less money. For most, the E-M5 Mark II, at $300 less cost than the E-M1 while offering more, will be the favorite choice. Truth be told, if buying from scratch I would choose the E-M5 II over the E-M1. Having the E-M1, I would not sell to go to the 5II. For me, owning both is the answer. ;) The 5II makes a perfect complement to the E-M1 as a 2nd body as you get the best of both worlds.

An E-M1 shot with the 12mm f/2 Olympus prime

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At the end of the day, for those who are just now jumping to Micro 4/3 I will 100% recommend the E-M5 II as the camera to go for over any other Olympus or Panasonic. It’s a no brainer really. For those asking me if they should sell their E-M1 for the E-M5II, no, I would wait for the E-M1 Mark II. For those wanting to sell the E-M5 Mark I for the II, I would say GO FOR IT. It’s a definite upgrade. You can quote me on that ;)

LIVE COMPOSITE and LIVE TIME = GENIUS!

The Olympus E-M1, E-M10, E-M5 II and the E-P5 Pen have features called “Live Time”, “Live Bulb” and “Live Composite” and I feel many owners of these cameras NEVER use these features or even know they exist. If you have one of these cameras and have not yet used these features, I urge you to give it a try as amazing things can be shot using them, and, the best part…it is a blast to use and shoot using these modes.

Last week a buddy of mine, Alex McClure who is also an Olympus trailblazer, took me out to the AZ Desert to shoot some long exposures and do some light painting with the new E-M5 II and my E-M1. He went over his preferred setting and gave me a tutorial on how to shoot star trails..and it was a blast.

STAR TRAILS, LONG EXPOSURES..LIVE COMPOSITE

For long exposures, Live Composite is phenomenal. We set up our cameras to shoot on a tripod and I plopped on my Panasonic 8mm Fisheye to the E-M5II and set the camera for Live Composite (set it to Manual mode by choosing M on the control dial and turn to the left until you see LIVE COMPOSITE). I set the camera to ISO 1000 and we set it for 20 second exposures. When you take the 1st shot, it will expose for your subject and nail the exposure. The camera will then tell you it is ready to take the composite shot. Press the shutter again and in our case, it started taking 20 second exposures and stacking them automatically IN the camera until we stopped, which was around 40 minutes later. The camera shows you the progress in real-time on the LCD, so no more guessing when you need to stop the exposure! This is HUGE for astro shooters!

Because the 1st shot exposed the scene and our cactus, the 2nd press of the shutter allowed the camera to ONLY LOOK for NEW LIGHT, which in this case were the stars in the black sky. So even with 40 minutes of exposure, the cactus never overexposed and the camera only saw the star trails, and recorded that to the final image.

E-M5 II, 40 minutes of 20 second exposures stacked in camera to create this 100% out of camera JPEG. Amazing, foolproof and the best part? The camera shows you the updates in real time on the camera LCD so you know when you want to shut it off..when you shot is exactly how you want it. No more guessing games. Panasonic 8mm fisheye was used (review here)

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LIVE TIME – Real time exposure allows you TOTAL control over your long exposures

Live Time is similar to Live Composite except that it does not take an initial image with perfect exposure. Live  Time allows you to do long exposures or light painting while viewing in real time what your images is turning out to be. Sort of like when you used to develop actually film prints in the darkroom..you see it exposing in real time. Set it up on a tripod, press the shutter and start the exposure..when it looks perfect, press the shutter again to close down the shutter.

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The image above was taken with the E-M1 as my E-M5 II was on the tripod for 40 minutes taking the Cactus shot above. Still works the same way on both cameras. I stood there and Alex McClure pressed the shutter, ran over to me with some lights and “drew” the light behind me. He ran back to the camera and shut off the exposure. Was VERY cool. This is an OOC JPEG. How amazing is this? No other camera can do what the Olympus does in this regard. It is built into the camera and is basically a one button press and done. What you see is what you get.

Below: Spinning Steel Wool with Live Time – E-M1

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E-M5 II Live Time on the Beach in Bermuda

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Sony has an app or two that can do similar things, but A: It’s an app that must be added to the camera and B: It is a bit clunky in use and C: It is not as easily implemented nor does it work quite the same way. Other than that, no one else does this. With Olympus it is as EASY as pressing the button and watching the exposure come to life right before your eyes.

Many buy the E-M1, E-M10 or E-M5II just for this feature alone as it works so well and is very easy to use.

The Speed of the E-M5 II

The new E-M5II is faster than the old Mark I for sure, and is up there with the E-M1 when it comes to AF speed. In fact, I was told the only area where the E-M1 excels with AF speed is in continuous AF, which the E-M1 has the edge with. Still, I had no issues with the C-Af of the E-M5 II as you can see in this Dolphin shot..click it for larger.

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Overall, in my 2-3 weeks of shooting with the camera I have not had ANY Af issues, whatsoever. In low light it focused and was accurate and in good light it was instant. Olympus also claims to  have the least shutter lag of any mirrorless camera made today in the new E-M5 II.

It’s fast, it is smooth and it is quiet. The physical shutter is damped and smooth but it also has the ability to shoot in SILENT mode when you want 100% stealth. I still prefer the physical shutter but many will enjoy the total silence which also allows you to bump the shutter to 1/16,000 s.

The 40-150 Pro Zoom..

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The Panasonic Nocticron at f/1.2

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The Panasonic Nocticron at f/1.2

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Five Axis Improved yet AGAIN! 

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The new E-M5II has a new improved 5 Axis Image Stabilization that must be used and seen to be appreciated. It beats the 5 Axis in the original MK I E-M5, it beats the even better 5 Axis in the E-M1 and beats the 5 Axis in the Sony A7II handily. I have never seen anything like it. I have tested the limits and found it is easy to take 1 second handheld shots if you wanted to. I pushed it to 2 seconds and while the shot was not usable, it was not nearly as bad as you would think. It was taken in the DARK, and is a TWO SECOND hand held exposure..take a look! TWO SECONDS!

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My favorite way to appreciate the new 5 Axis though is for VIDEO. Attach any lens to the E-M5 II and your video will look silky smooth and professional, like it was shot on a massive rig with stabilization. Hand Held video will never be the same. In fact, I will be using the E-M5 II for video production in 2015 due to the superb video quality I can get out of it. It’s quite special.

40 Megapixel High Res Shot Mode

Another new feature of the E-M5 II is the new High Res Shot mode. It is VERY limited though and when I first heard about it I was excited, but as I used it I was less excited because before you can use this mode and get good results with it, you need to have the camera mounted on a secure tripod, you need your subject to be 100% motion free as ANY movement, even from wind, will mess up the photo..and YOU NEED A PRO lens. I shot some side by side with the 12mm f/2 prime at f/4 and was disappointed. I then used the 40-150 Pro 2.8 Zoom and saw the difference better, but again, where and when you can use this mode will be VERY limited.

At the end of the day though, it works and will indeed give you a 104 Megabyte RAW file and a 40 MP image from the 16 MP sensor. The E-M5II does this all in camera without any work needed in post. There is even a RAW converter plug in for lightrroom and photoshop that will process the massive RAW files (which is what I used for the test shots).

Below are two examples. Click the image below  to see a larger size and true 100% crops from each file. 1st on the left, the standard 16MP out of camera shot from the E-M5II. On the right, the high res shot from the E-M5 II. You will see differences if you click on the image and look closer. Lens used? The Olympus 12mm f/2.

Right click the images and “open in a new tab or window” to see larger size and 100% crops. 

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If you opened up the above image and looked at the 100% crops you will indeed see more detail in the 40MP high res mode. This shot was taken with a brand new Olympus 12mm f/2 lens, stopped down to f/4. This was shot with a tripod and is one scene in which you can take advantage of this new feature. The E-M1 will NOT be getting this feature but I expect it will make it to the E-M2 or E-M1 Mark II, whenever they camera comes out (I expect a year).

Here is one more where I used the sharpest Olympus lens I know of, the 40-150 f/2.8 zoom. It is on another level in sharpness and color from the 12mm f/2, and is probably the best lens of this type I have ever used in my life. Smaller than the Nikon and Canon 70-200 2.8 lenses, but sharper, crisper, more pop, better bokeh and better made. If I were a telephoto guy THIS WOULD be mine.

So using a great Olympus lens… let us see if there is a larger difference between standard and high res mode…

Click image for larger view and 100% crops. 

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How about one with a shot with the E-M5II in standard 16mp mode, one in 40Mp High Res and one from the E-M1 in Standard mode with the same lens? The high res shot is the only one from RAW. 

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To me, the most detail is coming from the E-M1 in standard mode! I have been finding the IQ from my E-M1 to be slightly more detailed and sharper than what is coming from the E-M5II. One reason why the E-M1 is still the “Pro Flagship”.

For me, this mode is something I would rarely use. If I were a daytime landscape guy I can see this being used but for most of what I shoot, this would not be needed. The cool thing is that it is here if you want it and it will end up being on the next version of the E-M1..of course.

All of the other stuff. High ISO, Art Filters, Etc

Because the E-M5 II is not a brand new model line, and is a continuation of the OMD itself, much of what I have written in the past about the previous models would be repeated here if I wrote about them again. So just to be clear, this E-M5 II has all of the art filter effects and extra features that the previous models have. It also has the same high ISO performance as the E-M1, so look to that review for my ISO tests.  This E-M5II does NOT have an AA filter so it is like the E-M1 in this regard (The Mark I had an AA filter).

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The Pros and Cons of the E-M5 II

Pros:

  1. Small size, solid build. Improves on the build of the E-M5 Mark I
  2. Faster AF than the Mark I
  3. Better 5 Axis than the Mark I and E-M1! Best in the world.
  4. New metal control dials feel better in use
  5. Slight redesign feels better in the hand
  6. New swivel to the left LCD is great in use
  7. New video modes make this the best OM-D for video yet.
  8. High Res 40MP Mode will be useful for some
  9. EVF now E-M1 sized!
  10. Literally no lag
  11. All of the art modes are still here and better than ever!
  12. Live Time and Live Composite modes are incredibly good.
  13. Lens selection is the best in the mirrorless world.
  14. Improved high ISO from the Mark I, now equals the E-M1
  15. Overall, best mirrorless camera around for versatility and usability and features.
  16. Meets or exceeds APS-C cameras.
  17. Buttons are assignable to however you want them
  18. Price is only $1099 and you get A LOT for your money here!
  19. Has a mic input for video use.
  20. Silent shutter with 1/16,000 second capability.
  21. In camera KEYSTONE correction (works so good, and easy to use – like tilt shift, but in camera controllable)

Cons:

  1. I am getting slightly better IQ (sharpness) from my E-M1 using the same lenses
  2. Camera seems small, may be too small for some hands
  3. High ISO still can’t compete with full frame and some APS-C
  4. Menu may be getting too packed with features, making it confusing for some new users.
  5. As always, Micro 4/3 will not offer you the shallow DOF control of a full frame sensor.

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My conclusion on the Olympus E-M5 II

First of all, if you have not seen my E-M5 Mark I review or the Olympus E-M1 review, I urge you to take a a look. Those reviews go over more of the older features of the camera and I did not want to rehash things such as art filters, etc.

The new E-M5II is the latest camera in the Olympus Micro 4/3 lineup and it is quite a powerhouse. Olympus has “done it again” and not sure how they keep innovating but they do. No other camera company thinks of new ideas quite like Olympus. From the Live Time features to the 5 Axis IS to the speed and build, the E-M5II is revolutionary in many ways. For me, no DSLR could take the place of the E-M5 II or my E-M1. None. With todays technology these little cameras offer MORE for LESS and in the case of the E-M5 II and E-M1, also offer superb build and feel and speed.

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Olympus has been committed to their system for years and they show no signs of slowing down. The new 40-150 f/2.8 Pro lens is a masterpiece in design, build and quality. The 12-40 f/2.8 zoom is the best of its kind and all of the fast primes are jewels in the world of lenses. Today, Micro 4/3 lacks in nothing besides ultimate low light high ISO work and super shallow DOF. If you want full frame .95 DOF you will not get it in a Micro 4/3 camera but at the same time, you will get detail and pop all day long and with lenses like the 40-150 and Nocticron, there is plenty of creamy Bokeh to go around.

The next two shots were with the 40-150 f/2.8 wide open…

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I have owned the E-M5 and E-M1 and still own the E-M1. It is one of my favorite cameras of all time, and still performs just as well today as it did when it was released. Did the E-M5 II overtake my E-M1? Well, no. I still love my E-M1 a bit more due to the body design, feel, and extra pro build. I also seem to get a bit more snap from my E-M1 images. Other than that the E-M5 II is a powerhouse of features and function. Video, 5 Axis, High Res mode, the new Swivel out LCD, the larger EVF (same as E-M1), Live Exposure modes, the colors and fast AF make it one heck of a bargain in the mirrorless world. Today no one can say Micro 4/3 lacks when compared to other mirrorless cameras because they do not. Anyone who says they do, well, they never gave an E-M1 or E-M5II a serious shot with some great lenses. Once you really use one of these, learn it and shoot with some of the glass that is already legendary, you will fall in love. They are not only powerful, intuitive and beautiful but they put out pro level image quality.

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Most of you here know I love Olympus and Micro 4/3. They just feel “right”, especially the Olympus creations. For me, my fave cameras these days are from Sony and Olympus and I see no signs of that changing anytime soon. I have used so many cameras and lenses over the years you can say that I am jaded. I use the favorites that I have tested over the years and one thing has remained constant for me..there has always been an Olympus Micro 4/3 camera on hand at my house. Started with the original 4/3 E-1, then E-3, the the Micro 4/3 E-P1, then E-P2, then E-P3, E-P5, E-M5, E-M1 and now the E-M5II.

With each release they get better and better and while the sensor performance has sort of peaked (for now), they are now doing things that make using the cameras so much more fun and BETTER. Features no one else has. Shoot a video on the new E-M5II and you will be amazed at the new 5 Axis. Shoot a night long exposure with Live Composite and be blown away. Shoot exotic lenses like the Nocticron or 75 1.8 or 40-150 2.8 and look at the detail, color and richness. When I look at images in this review I see amazing color, fantastic details and an organic quality to the files that tell me YES, this is a fantastic camera that should please ANYONE. When I go back to my Fuji X-T1 review the images look..well..like they lack “life”. When I go back to my recent A7II review I see rich files and gorgeous IQ, but in a different way from the E-M5Ii images. That is the difference between full frame and Micro 4/3, a certain creamy richness with plenty of shallow DOF.

What the E-M5II offers is some serious snap, crackle and pop. By that I mean crisp files (snap), bold gorgeous color (crackle) and great edge definition of your subject (pop). Just as beautiful as full frame but in its own way. Two different styles which is why I own a full frame and Micro 4/3 system.

1st two shots below, Nocticron at 1.2. Third shot was with the Olympus 17 1.8 at 1.8

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So once again I will say BRAVO to Olympus for pushing the envelope yet again. Offering us a fantastic and highly capable camera at a good price.

I HIGHLY recommend the new E-M5 II without hesitation and if you want to see what lenses I like, read THIS article which I just updated. 

Two shots below were with the Olympus 17 1.8

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WHERE TO BUY?

You can order the new Olympus E-M5 II from the highly recommended and trusted vendors below. They get my best ratings! Use my links below and you will AUTOMATICALLY help this website move on and grow AND you will get the best deal! 

1. B&H Photo – Olympus E-M5 Mark II Pages (Black or Silver)

2. Amazon – Olympus E-M5 Mark II Page (Black or Silver)

3. PopFlash.com – Olympus E-M5 Mark II page.

Buy the new 40-150 f/2.8 Pro Zoom Lens – Amazon, B&H, PopFlash

Two more with the Olympus 17 1.8 (my review of that lens is HERE)

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PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

Feb 042015
 

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Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II! Hands On 1st look & Video!

Man, doing camera reviews is a TOUGH job. Here I am in beautiful Bermuda with other colleagues testing out the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. The follow up to the HUGELY successful E-M5 (My review of the original E-M5 is HERE). For the past couple of years I wondered how Olympus could top themselves after the E-M1. I mean, what else can they do? The E-M5 and E-M1 (E-M1 review is HERE) are superb cameras for the Micro 4/3 format, and IMO, the best there is for this system. When I was asked to come do a test of the camera for two solid days in Bermuda, I could not pass it up. ;)

I also learned about the new PRO 8MM F/1.8 Fisheye they are coming out with this year as well as the “Olympus Air” and the new 14-150 “kit” zoom that is now weather sealed. Also, Firmware 3.0 for the E-M1 which should be out in the next 2-3 weeks. Good stuff!

All images in this 1st look report are OOC JPEGs with either the 12-40 Pro or 40-150 Pro Zoom Lenses. Click them for larger. 

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OFFICIAL…

“CENTER VALLEY, Pa., February 5, 2015 — Olympus introduces an exceptional high-resolution still and advanced motion picture hybrid with the new OM-D E-M5 Mark II®. This advanced interchangeable-lens camera features a compact dustproof, splashproof body, with a familiar, premium design. Packed with 5-axis image stabilization, a 40-megapixel high-resolution shot mode, sophisticated, stunning HD video, integrated Wi-Fi® and a variable-angle 3-inch touchscreen, the OM-D E-M5 Mark II makes it easy to get the shot you need, every time. The easy-to-use 2.36 million dot, super-large, high-definition electronic viewfinder has a field of view of 100%, and a viewfinder magnification of 1.48x. The camera is equipped with Adaptive Brightness Technology, which automatically adjusts the backlight brightness in accordance with environmental lighting. The new LV Boost II*1 is convenient for shooting stars, and Creative Control provides complete freedom of control over color, tone, focus, and aspect ratio.”

Today was day one with the camera. That is it. ONE day. I had  the 12-40 f/2.8 Pro Zoom and the 40-150 Pro Zoom to shoot with it and of course I only shot JPEG as there is no software to process RAW files as of yet. So remember, all images here are 1st look images, all JPEG and out of camera.

My 1st Look Video on the Olympus E-M5 II with my thoughts and some quick video samples (nothing fancy here)

With that said, here is the real lowdown, the real scoop..the real deal after only one day with the E-M5.

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Well, IT IS GORGEOUS and an AMAZING update to the old E-M5, and here is why:

40 MP High Res Shot

Olympus said  that with this mode you will meet or exceed full frame detail. Yes, you can get a 40MP file from the 16MP sensor using this new exclusive mode on the E-M5 II. You will need a tripod and a good lens to take advantage of it but from what I understand the detail is stunning in this mode and I have sen samples. I will be testing this mode TOMORROW but once again it is Olympus pushing tech and INNOVATING as they have done for years. Remember, they were 1st with 5 Axis..they were 1st with a Swivel LCD (E-330 back in the day) and they were 1st with a mirror less weather proof, freeze proof, shock proof body in the E-M1. They are also the ONLY camera today with the exclusive LIVE TIME and LIVE COMPOSITE MODES, which are FANTASTIC.

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Here is what Olympus says about 40 MP High Res Shot:

“The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II takes high-resolution imaging to a whole new level. In addition to the exceptional 16-megapixel stills you’ve come to expect from OM-D, the E-M5 Mark II captures 40-megapixel images*2 using an innovative pixel-shift technique that is facilitated by the voice-coil motor IS unit. The 40-Megapixel High-Res Shot mode captures eight sequential images, moving the sensor by 0.5-pixel steps between each shot. Then, the E-M5 Mark II compiles those images to produce a super-high resolution shot that rivals those captured with a 40-megapixel full-frame camera.

A tripod and a high-resolution M.ZUIKO® DIGITAL PRO or M.ZUIKO Premium lens are recommended to use the 40-Megapixel High-Res Shot mode, which captures eight shots over a period of one second. Another two seconds are required to compile the final image. Images can be captured at up to f/8 with a shutter speed of up to eight seconds and a sensitivity of up to ISO 1600. When shooting in RAW+JPEG mode, the camera will save a 40M JPEG file, a 64M RAW (ORF) file and a 16M RAW (ORI) file. 64M RAW images may be processed using Photoshop CS4 and later with a required plug-in.”

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The new improved 5-Axis IS. 

This is new and upgraded and works SO AMAZINGLY WELL. It beats the 5 Axis in the Sony A7II, E-P5, E-M5 Mark I and the E-M1. Olympus briefed us and told us it is their best Image Stabilization system to date. This new improved 5 Axis is so amazing with video and photos. One guy here took a handheld shot at 1.2 seconds and it looked damn good on his LCD! Crazy. Olympus claims 5 Stops of performance. I was seeing unreal performance with this E-M5II 5 Axis..can not wait to test it more.

1st image was using “Live Time” where you can see your exposure happening in real-time, perfect for night exposures. The image below was shot at ISO 1600 at night, and I let LiveTime go until the exposure was right where I wanted it. 

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…and “Live Composite” which is quite special and unique to Olympus. Basically the camera takes TWO shots. The 1st one determines the exposure for the shot..the 2nd shot just leaves the shutter open for up to SIX HOURS looking for NEW light. When it sees the new light it adds it to the images, without affecting your original exposure. This would be amazing for night-time shooting but you do need a tripod of course.

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Here is the Lowdown from Olympus on the 5 Axis in the E-M5 II:

“The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II’s in-body 5-axis VCM image stabilization system offers unprecedented performance. The camera’s 16-megapixel sensor shifts horizontally, vertically and on the X (pitch), Y (yaw) and Z (roll) axes in order to provide 5.0 EV steps of compensation performance. The OM-D E-M5 Mark II can capture sharp images at shutter speeds as low as 1/4-second without the use of a tripod. Sensor shift on the X and Y axes can also assist when photographing close-up subjects. Image stabilization extends to the 3-inch, 1.04M-dot rear vari-angle touchscreen and the 2.36M-dot electronic viewfinder (1.48x magnification), providing a full image stabilization preview when the shutter button is pressed halfway.”

Electronic Silent Shutter capable of 1/16,000 S

The new silent shutter is superb and capable of 1/16,000 of a second shutter speeds and 11 FPS continuous shooting. If you prefer to use the physical shutter you are limited to 1/8000s and 10 FPS shooting, which exceeds the E-M1 and past E-M5 regardless. The silent shutter is just that..silent.

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OM-D Movie – They now are getting much better with video

“The OM-D E-M5 Mark II’s advanced video features enable photographers to capture cinema-quality movies from the palm of their hand. The camera’s 5-axis image stabilization compensates for even the slightest movement, allowing the camera to capture stable footage without the use of a sophisticated and expensive stabilization rig, or even a tripod, letting users shoot in environments where adding heavy equipment may not be practical. The mechanical IS unit can also work in concert with Electronic Stabilization if desired.

The OM-D E-M5 Mark II captures 1080p video at up to a 60p frame rate with up to 77 Mbps high bit-rate recording possible at the 30p setting. Additionally, the OM-D E-M5 Mark II supports 50p, 30p (29.97p), 25p and 24p (23.98p) frame rates, making it easy to blend footage captured using other camera systems. An integrated microphone jack supports external audio input, while a headphone jack positioned in the HLD-8G External Grip enables real-time audio monitoring. Focus Peaking with four color choices (red, yellow, black and white) as well as three selectable intensities for optimal manual focus results. Settings can be adjusted while recording using the 3-inch touchscreen, including AF-point selection, exposure, electronic zoom and Movie Tele-converter, microphone sensitivity, headphone volume and art effects. Additionally, OM-D Movie supports time code settings and connection to an external HDMI® monitor during recording. You can also add an Olympus PCM recorder for high-quality audio capture.

Photographers can take advantage of the OM-D’s popular Art Filters while in Movie Capture mode. Users can select from Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale and Light Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process, Gentle Sepia, Dramatic Tone, Key Line and Watercolor while capturing video. A Movie Tele-converter lets users touch an area on the screen to enlarge it without losing image quality, while the Clips tool enables short clip capture, allowing users to combine footage and effects directly on the camera for instant sharing.”

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I am only one day in with this new camera and I am really enjoying it. From the quick and fast AF (faster than the E-M5 and E-M1 from what I can tell) , the new side swivel LCD which is FANTASTIC in use and the improved 5 Axis IS and Video. I will be testing the new 40MP High Res Shot tomorrow but I can see the possibilities with it for sure. The E-M % Mark II will not ship with a lens as it will be body only for $1099. It will come with a very cool new flash that not only rotates side to side but up and down as well. I was able to handle this little dynamo and it was very cool, not your typical bundled flash (though it is small).

I love Olympus..always have ever since the good old film days, and then again with the original 4/3 E-1. They always have something special and unique about their cameras and they ALWAYS innovate and bring us new features, including superb firmware updates for the E-M1.

So far so good and I have only been shooting OOC JPEG in NEUTRAL color mode…for ONE day.

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This camera easily outclasses the older E-M1 Mark I and IMO even outshines the E-M1 for less money. Next to the E-M1 the E-M5 II is smaller but feels just as good, is a bit faster, can shoot faster FPS, has better 5 Axis IS and video, and so on.

My full review will be up by the end of Feb 2015, so be sure to check back as I am sure I will be posting updates over the next few days and weeks, including a test of the new 40MP High Res Mode. We have a full day of shooting tomorrow as well so I am excited to see what I can squeeze out of the camera.

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So far, so good! GO GO GO Olympus!

PRE ORDER THE E-M5 II

You can PRE ORDER the E-M5 Mark II at B&H Photo using the link below. The camera will be shipping by the end of this month, Feb 2015.

B&H PHOTO: PRE-ORDER THE E-M5 II HERE IN SILVER!

B&H PHOTO: PRE-ORDER IN BLACK!

AMAZON: PRE ORDER IN SILVER

AMAZON: PRE ORDER IN BLACK

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More from Olympus on the new and exciting E-M5 Mark II

Exceptional Performance
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II pairs a redesigned16-megapixel Live-MOS Micro Four Thirds® sensor with the Olympus TruePic™ VII processor, enabling brilliant image quality in bright and low-light conditions alike. The 1/8000 mechanical shutter allows photographers to shoot using a large aperture for maximum bokeh, even in bright, daylight conditions. Users can capture RAW images at up to 10 fps with S-AF, or 5 fps with C-AF tracking enabled. An Anti-shock mode utilizes electronic first-curtain shutter to reduce shutter shock during sequential shooting, and a new Silent mode enables a full-time 1/16000 second electronic shutter, eliminating the mechanical shutter noise entirely for absolutely silent shooting. The 81-point Fast AF provides an expanded focus area, with unparalleled speed, while Small Target AF allows users to focus on small areas across the entire frame.

Ultimate Connectivity
The OM-D E-M5 Mark II includes integrated Wi-Fi, enabling remote shooting, geotagging and easy image sharing using the Olympus Image Share app on an Android® or iOS® smartphone or tablet. Photographers can use the Olympus Image Share app to apply Art Filters. Users can also start and stop movie recording using a wirelessly connected smartphone, or with the RM-UC1 Remote Cable Release. Studio photographers can take advantage of Olympus Capture support, enabling complete control of the OM-D E-M5 Mark II from a connected Mac® or PC.

Portability and Build
The OM-D E-M5 Mark II features a dustproof, splashproof body, that, when properly sealed and paired with select M.ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses, can even be used in the rain. Olympus’ renowned Supersonic Wave Filter technology uses super high speed frequency movement to “shake” any dust or debris off the sensor, eliminating dust marks that irreparably spoil images. Two body colors are available: a luxurious black with texture casting, and a bright, gorgeous silver. The camera includes machined metal dials, an extended grip and a lowered center of gravity that makes the OM-D E-M5 Mark II comfortable to hold in a variety of positions. The camera (body only) weighs just 417 grams, or 14.7 ounces, making it one of the lightest models in its class.

Accessories
The OM-D E-M5 Mark II includes a dustproof and splashproof bundled flash, the FL-LM3, with Guide Number 9 (at ISO 100) and tilt and swivel positioning, enabling users to light subjects directly or by bouncing the flash off of a ceiling or wall.

The HLD-8 is a dustproof and splashproof power battery holder for exclusive use with the OM-D E-M5 Mark II, which enhances both the camera grip and power supply. The HLD-8G Non-powered Grip pairs a substantial camera grip with a headphone jack for monitoring audio during video capture, and an HLD-6P Power Grip, which can attach directly to the camera or to the HLD-8G, provides additional battery power for extended shoots. Because the grip (HLD-8G) and battery holder (HLD-6P) can be separated, the grip can be used alone when necessary. The HLD-6P battery holder is the same as the HLD-6 which was previously designed for the OM-D E-M5. The ECG-2 Metal External Grip can be attached to and removed from a tripod easily, and includes a battery pass-through for changing batteries without removing the grip.

An EE-1 External Dot Sight, which is compatible with any camera with a hot shoe, makes it easier to frame subjects during super-telephoto shooting An EP-16 Large Eyecup is also available, which blocks sunlight, making the electronic viewfinder easier to use. A redesigned version of the OM-D E-M5’s popular full-cover case, which includes a body cover and removable front cover, is also available as the CS-46 FBC Leather Cover and Body Jacket. The PT-EP13 Dedicated Underwater Case can be used at depths of up to 45 meters, and is designed specifically for the OM-D E-M5 Mark II. The case is equipped with a pick-up viewfinder and can be used with the cameras bundled FL-LM3 flash, along with a variety of lenses.

U.S. Pricing and Availability
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II will be available in February 2015.
Estimated Street Price
$1,099.99 Body only in Black or Silver

Nov 182014
 

$400 off on the Awesome Olympus OM-D E-M5!

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Anyone up for a great deal? Getting closer and close to Christmas time again and with there only being 36 days until that big day, maybe some of you will want to buy one of these to place under the tree for that special someone?

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 was the original groundbreaking OM-D digital camera that put Micro 4/3 into the masses. It is still a fantastic camera today, and very similar to the newer E-M1 in image quality. At $599 it is a GREAT buy with a $400 savings going on.

You can check them out or order one at B&H Photo. 

Nov 142014
 

Hi Brandon and Steve,

I live in Thailand and follow your website regularly.

I took up photography as a hobby around 2 1/5 years ago. This is when I got my Olympus OMD E-M5 + the kit lens. I love this camera for its compactness, speed, image quality. Needless to say, after starting reading your reviews on different 4/3 lenses I got “bolder” and got myself the Olympus 17mm f1.8, 45 f.1.8, 75 f1.8 and the Panasonic 25mm f1.4. Most of my photos are black and white ones. I shoot RAW and use Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro for editing. In general I try to keep the “natural” look of the lens by doing minimal editing work.

Your reviews, the other contributors’ pictures and the comments attached to it have helped me learn about getting the right photo composition, the right light, tones, etc. I still have a long way to go to achieve some notable results…but as long as I am having fun doing it I’ll keep on carrying my camera wherever the road takes me. J

I recently went for business in Switzerland and Italy. I attached some of the photos made during this trip. There are more than the allowed 3, Brandon, Steve, please be so kind and choose the ones you think are worth posting! Hope you guys are going to enjoy it! Thank you!

If interested, you can see more of my photos at:

www.flickr.com/photos/andrewwrx

Thank you all in advance for taking the time to look at the pictures,

Best regards,

Leandru GIUCA

PS: Lens details:

Rapallo_Italy: Olympus 45mm f1.8

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Lake Geneva_CH-1: Panasonic 25mm f1.4

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Lake Geneva_CH-2: Panasonic 25mm f1.4

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Lake Geneva_CH-3: Olympus 17mm f1.8

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Portofino_Italy-1: Panasonic 25mm f1.4

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Portofino_Italy-2: Olympus 17mm f1.8

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Thank you!

Oct 202014
 

PORPUBTT

Portraits from the Pub with an Olympus E-M5

By René van Wijck

Hello!

After many years of making photographs I got a little bored by it and I lost my inspiration.

Two years ago I bought myself the Olympus OMD-EM5. This little machine changed my life! It was and is such a pleasure to work with that I have it all the time, wherever I am with me.

I work as a bartender downtown Rotterdam in Holland and started to make pictures of my guests. They all come alone to the pub, and most of the time leave alone.

I gave myself a few rules: no color,no flash,no drinks in the pictures. Most of them I shot with the 45 mm 1.8. I’ll hope you like the results!

You can see more of it on flickr.com/photos/renevanwijck

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Jul 272014
 

Black and White Storytelling

by Ben Miller

Steve and Brandon,

I think that all photographers are searching for the perfect camera and a photographic style that they can call their own.

My main focus in photography is black and white storytelling. I find that the sum of several photographs which tells a story can be greater than one just one perfect image. I have found the gear that best suits my focus. In my bag is a Leica M9 and an Olympus OM-D E-M5. Both of these systems allow me to get close to people without being obtrusive. I believe in prime lenses and do not own any zooms.

I recently was commissioned to shoot an event with my M9 and E-M5. During the gathering I was pulled away and asked to join a few gentlemen in the parking lot. I wrote the following story to accompany the captures of what occurred:

 

At every party there is a secret party.

One that only few know about and are invited to.

I was lured away from the crowd to one of these clandestine gatherings.

I turned down the smoke as it is not my thing.

I partook in drink instead.

They handed me a big shot of Fireball whiskey.

I gargled the cinnamon spiced liquor and then swished it around in my mouth.

After swallowing I asked if they had handed me water and if there was anything stronger.

As I raised my Leica to my eye I said “document everything”.

I then smiled and said “don’t worry…..

I’ll only capture you from the nose down.”

 

Attached are the images from the photo story.

You can view more of my work on my website and blog:

www.photographsbyben.com

www.photographsbybenmiller.blogspot.com

Thank you Steve and Brandon for having a wonderful website that so many of us look forward to everyday.

Cheers,

Ben Miller

Secret Party 1

Secret Party 10

Secret Party 9

Secret Party 8

Secret Party 7

Secret Party 6

Secret Party 5

Secret Party 4

Secret Party 3

Secret Party 2

Secret Party 11

Secret Party 12

Secret Party 13

Secret Party 14

May 072014
 

Using the Samyang fisheye

By Rob Scheurwater

Hi Brandon/Steve,

Half a year ago I bought a Samyang 7.5mm fisheye lens. I bought it from someone who didn’t like the silver version of this lens on his black Panasonic GX7 body. He also sold me his silver Panasonic 20mm II.

I think they both look great on my black Olympus OM-D EM-5 body and more important, I like the IQ of both lenses. After experimenting with Samyang for a while now, i’m quite happy with the results.

It now belongs to my standard equipment, I usually take with me, my Olympus OM-D EM-5 with three lenses, a Panasonic 14mm, Panasonic 20mm and the Samyang fisheye.

I think this lens stimulates the creative eye, it’s great for architecture but I also use it for landscape photography.

Thanks for the inspiration your site has given me.

Rob Scheurwater, The Netherlands

Paris subway

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The Rotterdam building of Rem Koolhaas. Dutch photographer Ruud Sies made a really nice photo documentary, called „Building the Rotterdam

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Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

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The old library of Bologna

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Apr 182014
 

The Olympus E-M5 using Dramatic Tone

by Tamer Erdem

Though the basic principles of photography are still valid, digital photography changed the rules of the game when it comes to post/in camera-processing. Post-processing or in camera-processing facilities and potential are almost endless and much more effortless in digital era. Art filters were introduced by Olympus a couple of years ago. After Nikon D300, when I purchased my first Olympus, E-P1, I really fell in love with pinhole effect and grainy black and white art filters.

Then I got E-P2 and like new diorama filter that miniaturize the scene. But the ultimate filter that I can desire was offered by OM-D, E-M5; dramatic tone filter for landscape photography. If you do not have enough time for post-processing and like some punchy, strong and slightly surreal landscape images, go for it without any hesitation. This art filter makes the image, kind of HDR (pseudo-HDR) image by increasing the details in shadow regions and decreasing light exposure in the highlighted regions of image. Also it boosts the color saturation and rendition.
I’d like to show some of my dramatic tone photographs that were taken at Kuşadası seaside in the autumn and Ayder plateau, a unique natural beauty in Turkey. You can also visit Zirkale castle, bridges of Byzantine and Ottoman origin and Fırtına Vadisi ( Storm Valley).

Panasonic Lumix 14mm 2.5, 20mm 1.7 and Leica 45mm 2.8 macro lenses were used.

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Jan 072014
 

It’s all about Inspiration!

By Sebastien Chort

Hi Steve

First I’d like to deliver a huge THANK YOU

I’ve been working for a long time in the so-called “graphic/animation/movie industry” therefore I’ve been dealing with picture composition, lighting, framing for years. But I mainly spent my time behind my computer creating images in 3D for animation studio or VFX companies. I always had an interest for photography but when digital cameras appeared my envy to snap pictures kind of vanished (IQ was disappointing) and I gave most of my energy toward my pro activity.

Eventually I started to feel frustrated with the long process it takes to create Computer Graphic images and I started to lurk again toward photography with the high expectation to create spontaneous pictures. Then while I was looking for a decent digital camera 2 years ago, I stumbled across your blog and it opened the Pandora box. The flow of great pictures and great reviews you share helped me a lot to find inspiration and to renew my interest toward photography.

I bought a GH2 which caught my interest for its movie capacities and later on I couldn’t resist the OMD EM5. I loved using the GH2 but the OMD is such a great tool I can’t thank you enough for advising it so loudly. I started to go mental with photography gear to be honest and bought a lot of lenses (C-Mount, Canon’s FD, and pretty much everything I could on Panasonic and Olympus MFT).

Finally I started to look back to some film camera as well and I’m the happy owner of a Hasselblad CM with 3 lenses, a Rolleiflex from 1928 and recently I acquired a Leica M3. This might sound like a G.A.S. issue, but I don’t feel that way. I’m experimenting a lot with all my cameras, I love to carry them, to shoot with them, those are just symptoms of an ongoing passionate story with a great medium to create pictures.

I mainly do portraits of my relatives or street photography, but I feel like I’m barely starting to discover how much fun I can get with photography, so it’s a permanent excitement to know I still have to learn about landscape, sport or studio photography.

So I think you have a large responsibility in my renewed passion for photography and I can’t thank you enough for that. I hope you’ll like the few pictures I’m sending and I wish you the best for the years to come

Thanks for reading me ;)

Sebastien Chort

WebSite : http://sebastienchort.com

Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/sebchort/

From Steve: Thanks so much Sebastien! I am glad that reading my site has inspired you but I must say that it is readers just like you that inspire ME in a day to day basis. Seeing so many great photographs helps to push me to get out there and shoot every week. So thank YOU! 

GH2 7mm

GH2 45mm

GH2 cmount

Hasselblad_80mmZeiss

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FujiX100

Dec 192013
 

olyvs

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 VS the rest of the industry

by William Rappard

Photo gear biography: from Oly to Nikon

I have no real analog background, since I began “serious” photography only in early 2007 with an Olympus E-500 DSLR, Zuiko 14-54/2.8-3.5 (great lens) and a Sigma 55-200/3.5-5.6. Image quality from the sensor (8mp Kodak CCD) was terrible, ISO 400-800 being the sensible limit. But already then, this camera had an unusual ability to bond with its user.

I shot great pictures with this one and it taught me not to rely on super high ISO capabilities, but rather fine tune speed and aperture to get what I wanted. More so, it made me want to master it despite (or maybe thanks to) its limitations. However, when I compared my pics to others shot with Canon or Nikon enthusiast DSLR’s (20D/D70 by the time), high ISO’s were such a pity that my ego couldn’t take it. For the sake of comparison, the E-500 produced more (and uglier) noise at ISO 400 than a D7100 would today at ISO 3200/6400.

At that time, I posted my images on DeviantArt under the nickname “Ouylle” and got some very positive feedback, including a few “daily deviations” for those who know, and even winning a contest once with this picture which became a postcard for a charity cause:

Val d’Aniviers, Switzerland: The Cloud Factory Olympus E-500 @ ISO 100, 27mm, f5.6, 1/4000s

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Of course, as a complete geek, I had to try other cameras to figure out if a better IQ potential in low lights could enhance my photography. I entered the high ISO quest many of us know since the heroic ages of digital photography, but still pulled out nice pictures with my E-500.

I’ve tried other Olympus DSLR’s, such as the E-420 and E-510, which were in a certain way the ancestors of the E-M5 and E-M1 in terms of form factor, except for the vintage design. But neither of them could compete with their APS-C counterparts from the likes of Canon, Nikon, Minolta (already sensor-stabilized) or Pentax, despite Olympus offering some of the best glass around (remember the Zuiko 50mm macro f2 ?).

My father still owns his Nikon F from the 60s and always told me Nikon was the Rolls Royce of photography (I guess he never heard of Leica, but that’s another story). So when I received some amazing Nikkor glass from a cousin as a present (!), I gradually decided to switch from Oly to Nikon and got myself a D70s to play with.

Image quality, while mediocre by today’s standards, was stellar compared to my trustworthy E-500 and it’s Oly fellows. However, the newly announced and highly anticipated D300 became my next dream camera. As I was enjoying shooting my Nikkor primes, I quickly traded my D70s for a D300 and was blown away again by the IQ: ISO 1600 became very clean and ISO 3200 fairly usable. This sort of abilities became my benchmark in terms of IQ. At this stage, digital noise control was already better than with any high sensitivity film.

With a grip, a tripod and some other lenses such as a Sigma 10-20, Nikkor 20/2.8, 24/2.8, 50/1.4, 60 macro /2.8, the incredible 105/2 DC and AF 80-200/2.8 D, I thought I had the PERFECT kit for a semi-professional enthusiast.

At the time, I was shooting everything from paid jobs (weddings, corporate portraits, events) to holidays, club or street photography. I learned a lot (and earned good money) with this heavy, but reliable and high performance Nikon kit, covering everything from eq. 15mm to 300mm with great quality glass.

Switzerland: Fields.
Nikon D300 @ ISO 200, 10mm, f13, 1/250s

Photo 3

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Geneva: Right-before bride. Nikon D300 @ ISO 1600, 50mm, f2, 1/2000s

Photo 4

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Beirut, Achrafieh: View on the mountains from the balcony. – Nikon D300 @ ISO 100, 16mm, f10, 30s.

Photo 5

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Geneva, Usine Club: Happy cluber Nikon D300 @ ISO 250, 16mm, f13, 1/160 with SB800 flashgun

Photo 6

Back then, I was young, still fit, and my back was strong, all of which was required by the amount of glass and metal I had to carry around for my paid jobs and my own personal pleasure. Although the money earned as a semi-pro financed my appetite for new gear, shooting weddings, charity events or corporate portraits for money did not appeal to me enough to become my main job and eventually, I finished my law degree and became… a lawyer.

The photographer I remained: replacing the D300

Still, I LOVE photography and could not live without shooting and sharing my pics ! As a casual photographer, I love all kinds of photography. From portrait to architecture, streets to landscapes, holidays to everyday, there is always something in my sight that screams: “shoot me !!!”. When I hear the call and carry some gear, earth could stop revolving but I wouldn’t care less: I have to get that picture and if possible, get it right and be proud to show it.

Since my pro illusions are gone, I usually share my work on facebook (check me out: facebook.com/william.rappard), which isn’t very sexy and does not require more than a few megapixels. It may not be useless to recall that the D300 was only 12 megapixels, which is low today even by cell phones standards. However, those megapixels allowed me to execute many paid job and personal projects very efficiently.

I even made an exhibition once about an incredible trip in Senegal, and have been happy with the quality delivered by the D300’s 12mp for > 1 meter prints on canvas. Since then, I realized that outright pixel count was no faithful indicator of a camera’s real abilities in the big prints department. Shoot it right and it will look right.

At this time, the D300’s sensor was industry leading for those who wanted the performance and IQ, but not the bulk of a fully fledged full frame DSLR setup (or the cash for a Leica which, at that time, was less than convincing, high ISO wise).

On top of that, the bokeh I could achieve with the 60mm macro, the 105/2 DC and the 80-200/2.8 was fully satisfying and I remember saying I would never need to buy anything else for a very long while.

Here are three pics from my trip in Senegal which I believe are not too bad. The first one has been sold to a company on a 1.2 meter/ 80 centimeter canvas for a fair amount of money (financing an NGO in north-east Senegal) !

 

Senegal: They are into tires Nikon D300 @ ISO 800, 16mm, f5 1/20s

Photo 7

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Senegal: Just another kid Nikon D300 @ ISO 400, 60mm, f3.2, 1/80s

Photo 8

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Senegal: The gang Nikon D300 @ ISO 200, 24mm, f6.3, 1/80s

Photo 9

Quality wise, I remember thinking that for my needs, this kit was all I could ever want and I shot dozens of thousands of pictures with it, killed all the rubber grips and the camera just kept shooting whatever I threw at it. But boy, the whole package including 5-6 lenses was heavy !

The size, weight & IQ have-it-all quest: back to Oly

As a dedicated geek, I have tried MANY cameras since the Nikon D300, from Pentax K5 and it’s famous ltd pancakes (GREAT DSLR combo by the time) to the modern-vintage Fuji’s X-Pro 1 & X100 (superior image quality at the cost of slow general operation and somehow light built quality). As time went on, my priority was to reduce the weight and bulk of my kit in order to carry it with me as much as possible, while not going anything bellow my D300 in terms of IQ.

After trying many compact cameras to complement my Nikon/Pentax kits on the light side, I ended up buying a Ricoh GR which turned out to be the best pocket camera when a pocket is the only compromise you’re ready to make to lightness, but not at the cost of IQ and usability.

This camera is a gem of a compact in use, but you’re still stuck with 28mm and 2.8 max aperture. It will pull out some bokeh if shot close to the subject, but don’t expect too much in this department, given the focal length.

As for my full kit, Nikon and Canon (and to some extent Pentax and Leica) have failed to deliver a crucially lighter and more effective alternative to my “historic” D300 package at a fair price. Pentax’s attempt (K5 + pancakes) was nice, but still not light enough, when packed with lenses covering all my needs.

This was until Olympus, the brand which bonded me to photography with their slow AF/bad ISO/small viewfinder E-500, released the OM-D EM-5 powerhouse, which I brought, immediately loved and equipped with a bunch of nice primes.

It served well, shot right and reliably but yes, the buttons were small and the viewfinder, although great, was still small and not as enjoyable as an optical device such as the D300’s/Pentax K5’s. Despite these relative flaws, I LOVED shooting it as it always delivered what I expected in any given light conditions.

The grip (which secondary horizontal shutter actually broke after heavy use) made it really nice to hold and quite pleasant to look at as well. As with my old E-500 and my fantastic D300 kit, I was finally bonding with another camera system, except for a few niggles on the body side. Best of all, the image quality was clearly on par, if not better than the D300’s and the 5 axis stabilizer and small pin sharp lenses were blessings.

A whole package covering anything from eq. 24mm to eq. 150mm between f1.4 and f2 AND fitting a VERY small Think Tank bag was breathtaking compared to my DSLR’s ! I could finally use quality gear AND walk around with it not worrying about my back !

From landscapes to street photo all around the world, the E-M5 was (nearly) everything I wanted but…

Ireland: Draw-me a coast. Olympus EM-5 @ ISO 200, 12mm, f8, 1/500s

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Basel: layered expectations – Oly EM-5 @ ISO 400, f5 1/10s

Photo 11

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Cambodia: passing by… Oly E-M5 @ ISO 200, 25mm, f3.5, 1/400s

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Bangkok: legs & shapes Oly E-M5 @ISO 2000, 75mm, f4.5 1/160s

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Replacing the EM-5

Its time had come. Until the E-M5, I had never had such a high hit rate, but it was not “ultimate” enough in its handling. It’s niggles couldn’t be forgiven in a long-term relationship with a power user. The buttons and the viewfinder were just not as enjoyable as they should be on an ultimate camera.

The wait has not been too long before many amazing products began to ship from Panasonic, Olympus and Sony all offering nice occasions to spend some cash for the better. All the new releases in the prosumer market out-perform my D300 benchmark in terms of IQ, which ceased to be a crucial criterium of choice. The high ISO quest had ended.

What about full frame ?

One of my very best best friend recently posted a contribution about his switch from Leica to Sony. Didier Godmé, who’s been the instigator of my photographic passion, has always been craving for full frame cameras. He owned a Canon 5DMarkII and a Leica M9, two of the very best full frame cameras released at their times.

Let’s put this straight right away: the full frame rendering is magnificent and no smaller sensors will probably ever equal it. It is incomparable to what a micro four thirds sensor could deliver, due to it’s physical limits. This is particularly true with a fast 35mm (or equivalent) lens. Stick one of those amazing 1.2’s on a Leica M240, Canon 5DMark III, Nikon Df or Sony A7r and you will get the very best potential image quality in the industry for such combo.

Therefore, except for very small details (all of which can be played around in Lightroom and RAW), most of you won’t choose apart from these fabulous full frame cameras based upon sheer IQ, but mostly on their usability, depending on your shooting style and what you will do with your images after you shoot them.

In my opinion, this demonstrates that usability is not only a major argument in favor of a camera over another. It’s probably the ONLY acceptable argument, provided, for my needs, the chosen camera allows a beautiful > 1 meter print at ISO 3200 in color or 6400 in B&W, which settings correspond to more than my most ambitious needs to date.

At the end of the day, all full frame cameras listed above meet this technical requirement more than well, as also do many NON full frame. Conclusion: as much as I adore full frame rendering, I don’t NEED it to be moved by a picture.

If your skills are bad, full frame won’t save the picture. If your skills are good, full frame will enhance the picture’s looks, but will never be the sine qua non condition of your picture’s overall quality, contrary to your eye and your ability to translate what you see in the picture.

On the contrary, when I’m moved by something I observe, I DO NEED to be able to shoot it the best possible way. The camera should NEVER stand in the way because it’s too slow or suffers a sluggish conception or is too noisy. Period.

As of today, in my view, no complete kit based around any full frame camera currently in the market is the best possible tool for my kind of spontaneous and compulsive shooting.

For my needs however, there is now one kit that fits the whole bill. Yes, each and every of my NEEDS are now covered by this equipment. A nice break, if not an end, in my long quest for the best possible complete enthusiasts’ photo kit.

The OM-D E-M1

First, the IQ. As I said, the E-M1 is NOT on par with likes of Fuji APS-C or the latest full frames for potential outright high ISO/narrow DOF/high resolution image quality, solely due to it’s sensor’s size. However, global IQ of an actual image is basically the result of four things:

The sensor;

The lenses;

The light conditions;

The eye of the operator.

On the sensor, the Oly cannot compete due to size. Right. However, it undeniably performs well until ISO 6400 in color and B&W, which is way good enough for me, even when I pixel peep (which I confess I do !). Sensible Lightroom processing (which I use) will greatly improve things if I’m not happy with the OOC images.

On all other factors, as much as the technical side is concerned, it just rules badly over ANY rival on the market. Zuiko prime lenses are notably mind blowing, dare I say next to the likes of Leica or Zeiss if maybe less character-full. Throw in IS, fast AF, size and weight and they become dangerously close to industry leading.

Get a grip and the Zuiko 12/2, 17/ 1.8, Pana-Leica 25/1.4, Zuiko 45/1.8, 75/1.8 along the pro 12-40/2.8 zoom, stuff the whole gently in a smallish Retrospective 7 Think tank bag and stare at what this small and light package represents in terms of photographic opportunities. Very few things you can’t achieve with such a small kit, don’t you think ?

If you think the telephoto range and bokeh are on the weak side, I don’t. Remember my old Nikkor 105/2 DC ? With an adapter, that baby gets me an equivalent 210mm with an f2 aperture and “defocusing” abilities. Feel free to compare this combo to other offerings in terms of size, weight and equivalent speed and you’ll realize this is unique in the industry. Believe me, this piece of glass has character when mounted on the E-M1 ! And guess what: there is enough room in the bag for it too !

I would love to mention the Voigtländer f0.95’s, but I don’t own any… What I can mention, however, is the best image stabilizer money can buy. Bare hands, the Oly IS set behind any of the aforementioned glass makes you feel like you can capture more light than actually available, even in a dark street by night. In my eyes, this unique feature alone more than compensates for the lower high-ISO abilities of the Oly’s sensor.

With such a kit, you can capture light in any conditions with your own two hands. On a tripod, you can use the live time functions to see your image appear while it’s being shot… looking at your cell phone ! This little Oly let’s you tailor craft your image, whatever the light conditions. The following pictures have all been shot in Geneva in various occasions:

Law Firm
Oly E-M1 @ ISO 200, 26mm, f3.2, 1/160s

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From my heart to you Oly E-M1 @ ISO 6400, 75mm, f3.2, 1/50s.

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Wifed
Oly E-M1 @ ISO 5000, 105mm f2 DC f2, R4.

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Omega Seamaster Chrono Diver’s 300m, a.k.a “the Blakexpedition” Oly E-M1 @ ISO 400, 34mm, f6.3, 15s


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Very un-twins !
Oly E-M1 @ ISO 250, 12mm, f2.8 1/40s

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Through there, eye Oly E-M1 @ ISO 5000, 23mm, f11

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Runner under the moon Oly E-M1 @ ISO 1000, 34mm, f1.8, 1/30s

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The Courtyard Oly E-M1 @ ISO 100, 12mm, f16, 1800s

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My love Oly E-M1 @ ISO 6400, 20mm, f2.8, 1/40s

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Geneva Airforce Oly E-M1 @ ISO 100, 105mm, f2, 1/400s

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End of Automn Oly E-M1 @ ISO 200, 105mm, f2, 1/1600s 

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Waiting

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Oly E-M1 @ ISO 3200, 21mm, f3.2

No offense to Sony fans but to tell the truth, I didn’t feel the same willingness to gather light so steadily using Didier’s new A7r, nor… any other camera. For me, the A7r’s shutter sound kills it in terms of discrete shooting and I don’t feel the same urge to shoot in low light. Nikon and Canon’s DX cameras are way too heavy when fully equipped. Fuji’s hit rates are way too low. APS-C DSLR’s are not better in terms of IQ, and despite their optical viewfinder, they are worse at pretty much anything else.

Which brings me to the E-M1’s viewfinder. The Oly’s exceeds all reasonable expectations one would have in this area for a digital device. It’s huge, crisp, doesn’t lag (the Sony does) and although it can provide visual peaking for manual focusing, it’s good enough to do without. 

Is it a better experience than looking through a Df’s full frame optical viewfinder ? No. Is it a worse tool than the Df’s or… the M’s ? Oh no ! It’s not romantic, but it never get’s in the way of pleasure. And let’s face it: previewing the result before triggering is a gorgeous cheat indeed.

Build quality and design, although industrial, is at least as good as Leica’s or professional grade Canonikons, while being, in my opinion more comfortable in hands than any of those when used with the vertical grip. Design is a matter of tastes, but to mine’s, it’s how the ultimate shooting tool should look like today. 70-80’s golden age design and size, plus modern controls, a grip and a tiltable screen. Seriously how was it supposed to be better ? By altering the power switch’s place and that’s pretty much it.

Many have already praised the qualities of Oly’s new flagship. I’ll go a step further and say that, in my opinion, a full kit based on this baby may well be… the best photography kit ever made available for the masses. The whole set costs barely more than Leica, Nikon or Canon’s flagships… body only.

In conclusion…

For full frame lovers already equipped with Leica glass, the Sony A7r is an absolute must, but for the rest of us, it’s Olympus all the way. No other camera than the Oly OM-D E-M1 and it’s stable of fine glass gave me so much pleasure in capturing life around me, day after day since I got them.

Whatever you shoot, any combo based on this baby will nail it just right, provided it’s setup the right way. The keep rate is far superior to my old D300 (past reference), due to this godsend blazingly fast and deadly accurate AF, which will never ever suffer from front/back focus issues (unless I decide to use the DF function of my brave old Nikkor 105).

For manual focusing fans, no problem. It has focus peaking, provided you even need it despite the huge viewfinder… Take it for what it’s worth, but you could shoot Leica glass on this baby and I’d be curious to see how a fast 50mm would performs on it at an equivalent of 100mm.

The OM-D E-M1 gives access to what may be the best system ever conceived for 98% of enthusiast/pro photographers having enough cash to afford it. As a system, it has no competition. Period. In my opinion, as far as the price/quality/weight/size ratio of a whole functional kit is concerned, Olympus has become an industry leader.

If I’d had one request, it would be about the menu system and the looks of the indications in the viewfinder, which I find terrible compared with the A7r. I don’t see any reason not to work this out through a firmware update and actually really look forward to it. Of course, I could use more megapixels to do some crops, but having the menus and viewfinder info fixed is a priority which should not wait the next product release to see the light of day. However, this cosmetic imperfection is by no means a deal breaker.

Unfortunately, Olympus don’t pay me to praise them… ;) Nevertheless, it is a firm which, like Apple in the end of the nineties, has understood early what most quality-conscious customers really wanted and worked hard to deliver a product that fits the bill.

I know I sound like an Olympus fan boy and that’s probably what I am. However, I must say this company stuns me. When they came out with the 4/3 concept, everyone laughed and indeed, the output could be terrible. Today after every possible technical and financial difficulty, they show the way to the rest of the industry by giving us what we really want at a price that we are ready to pay.

With such a kit as mine, everyone trying hard and having an eye could become a professional, from a purely technical point of view. To my opinion, this is a small revolution in the industry !According to my standards, such a performance is pretty admirable nowadays. Cheers Oly !

Last word: do I shoot better pictures with the OM-D E-M1 than I did with the E-500, D300 or E-M5 ? No. I still believe I shot my best pictures with these cameras. Do I feel I could shoot my best pictures with the OM-D E-M1 in future years ? Oh yeah ! Did I have the same feeling with any other camera I tried ? Nope.

In my humble opinion: Olympus: 1; the rest of the industry: 0.

Cheers ! Thank you for reading !

(Steve’s full Olympus E-M1 review is HERE)

 

Nov 252013
 

Olympus OM-D E-M5 User Report 

By Floyd K. Takeuchi

There’s a rush for the exits to buy the new (and appealing) Olympus OM-D E-M1. But for some of us, there’s still more to learn about the capabilities of the OM-D E-M5.

I’m a professional documentary-travel photographer who was late to the digital party. It wasn’t until 2009 that I made the move from a Nikon F100 to the D700, which still soldiers on for me. A camera bag full of Nikkors made that decision easy, but so too did my high comfort level with Nikon ergonomics. My first Nikon SLR was a Nikkormat purchased in the early 1970s, so the transition to the D700 was a natural one for me.

Adding the E-M5 to my camera bag wasn’t as easy a move. I initially bought the body to use 1950s Zeiss Contax rangefinder lenses (with an adapter) that don’t get much of a workout these days. But I quickly discovered that while the output was beautiful, the process of manually focusing on an EVF didn’t suit me. So the decision was made to add the Olympus 17 mm f/1.8 M Zuiko and the Panasonic/Leica 25 mm f/1.4 Asph. DG Summilux. And I added the grip, which is the only way I could comfortably hold the camera.

The biggest challenge to adding the Olympus kit was fitting it into my post-production workflow. I use DxO as my RAW processor, and had to wait until both the camera body and lenses were supported by DxO. In fact, the biggest challenge to my using the E-M5 more is the hassles of having a separate RAW format to download – using Nikon’s ViewNX is second nature to me, using the comparable Olympus program is not. I’ve had to resort to YouTube videos on more than once occasion to remember how to use the program.

That said, I’ve been happy with the quality of the files produced by the E-M5 with the Olympus and Panasonic lenses. They are easy to post-process and hold up extremely well as prints (the largest I’ve had printed so far have been 16 x 20s), which is the critical test for me, as most of my work is done for use in either books or exhibitions. The only challenge I’m still dealing with is handling extremely high contrast scenes, since I’m finding that I have a tendency to blow out highlights. This is an issue for me since I do nearly all of my shooting in the tropics, either in Hawaii or closer to the equator in the Micronesia region, where high contrast light is a way of life.

If forum posts are to be believed, like many new users of the E-M5, I found it a real challenge to navigate the Olympus menu system. My solution was to have a quick-print shop print and bind the camera’s PDF manual, and spend about a couple of hours going through it page by page. Then, once I had a better understanding of what the camera could do, simplify things by only worrying about a few software features – ISO, RAW capture, and setting a dial to control EV. I shoot in aperture priority 99 percent of the time, and usually don’t fiddle with the other settings.

What I really like about the E-M5: the light weight makes a huge difference on travel assignments, and I can use a lighter-weight tripod when I need one; the prime lenses I’m using are outstanding, the results are easily comparable to the Nikkors I’m used to using and much smaller and lighter; the files are gorgeous and easy to work with in post-processing.

What I still find frustrating about the E-M5: I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer an optical viewfinder and am still adjusting to an EVF (albeit a high quality one); and, when I do have to go into the menu, it can be a slow process.

I’ve used the camera for project and personal work in Hawaii, the islands of Pohnpei and Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia, and in Japan. It has only failed me once in the year-plus that I’ve owned the kit. That was on the island of Pohpnei, while shooting the ancient ruins of Nan Madol, a huge Venice-like city of homes and temples built of huge basaltic rock logs on a mangrove swamp. I’ve taken photographs there – film and digital – since 1976 and never had a problem shooting in the area.

The night before going into the Nan Madol area, I had dinner with a friend who has lived been on Ponpei for four decades. She told me and another friend about how her grandchildren had just taken an iPad into the complex, and when they got home and looked at their photos, they saw faces in the rocks. Our friend said she looked and also saw the faces. A few days later, after the grandkids posted the photos to Facebook, our friend went online to show others the faces in the rocks, and discovered that some of the faces had disappeared.

I didn’t find any faces in my photos, but after hiking through the ruins for an hour, as we were walking back to the main island, I decided to get a final few snaps of how the mangrove was overtaking ruins. That’s when I discovered that my camera had died – it wouldn’t take a photograph. I was using two fresh batteries, one in the grip and one in the camera. Both had been recharged the night before. And I had taken few than 50 photos at Nan Madol.

When we got back to our car, I loaded a new battery into the grip. The camera worked fine.

The author is a writer-photographer based in Hawaii. He is a member of the Waka Photos agency.

 

Floyd K. Takeuchi

Waka Photos

Hawaii01: Pualani Armstrong, Hawaii.

Pualani Armstrong

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Hawaii02: Ka Iwi coastline, Oahu, Hawaii. 

Ka Iwi Shoreline

Hawaii03: Ka Iwi coastline, Oahu, Hawaii.

Ka Iwi Shoreline –

Japan01: Shidome district, Tokyo, Japan.

Dentsu Building, Tokyo –

Kita-Kamakura, Japan. 

Kamakura temple, Japan

Priest, Kita-Kamakura, Japan. 

Priest, Kita-Kamakura, Japan

Kamakura, Japan. 

Spring flowers, Kamakura, Japan

Kamakura, Japan.

Children's shrine, Kamakura, Japan

Kepirohi Falls, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia.

Kepirohi Falls, Pohnpei, FSM

Oct 212013
 

Congrats to Neil Buchan-Grant for winning the AOP “Best in Show”

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A while ago Neil posted an article about his love for Micro 4/3 and the OM-D camera. He posted a photo (above) that got quite the response and as soon as I saw it I knew it was special. Neil showed that yes, the little OM-D E-M5 could indeed take photos that not only excelled in quality but were able to be pushed and used by someone who really knew how to work a camera. His photo has now officially won the Best in Show AOP open award for 2013!

So let us give a big Congrats to Neil!

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Over the years I have defended Micro 4/3 (ever since the GF1 and E-P1) while many bashed it and predicted its doom because it had a smaller sensor than APS-C or Full Frame. Today less and less are trash talking Micro 4/3 and I even know of quite a few who dumped their slower APS-C cameras for an E-M5 and they never looked back. With the E-M1 it goes up another notch and I will state right here and now that Micro 4/3 is going nowhere anytime soon because it offers the perfect mix of IQ, performance, speed, build, and lenses. The lens Neil used for this image was the Panasonic/Leica 25 1.4. One of the best overall lenses for this system.

winners

In any case, Neil has shown what this system can do in capable hands. Make sure you see his latest post here as well as his own blog.  I also want to thank him for his continuing contributions here where he shares his love and passion for photography with all of us here.

Thanks Neil!

Oct 092013
 

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A Vintage Year with the OM-D E-M5 and E-M1

by Neil Buchan-Grant – His website is HERE

From Steve: Hello to all today and happy Wednesday! What you are about to see is an incredible collection of images all shot with Micro 4/3 using the OM-D E-M5 and new E-M1 by Neil Buchan-Grant. As it is all about who is behind the camera, I feel that Neil really shows what these cameras are capable of. My full E-M1 review will be here SOON and I am having a blast shooting with it. Enjoy!

 

Hi Steve and readers!

Its been quite a good year so far photography-wise. Unlike many people who take their camera out every day, I tend to concentrate my photographic efforts into short projects based around travel or events. This year I have been very fortunate to attend a number of amazing ‘vintage’ events and as my relationship with Olympus UK has flourished, they have let me try out their new gear in sunnier parts of Europe

My last submission back in January announced how little I was using the Leica M9 since buying my Olympus OMD-EM5. Well now that the EM1 has been launched, the time has come to say goodbye to the M9 (but I’m keeping the lenses!).

The year started with a long weekend in the Canary Islands where I had always wanted to shoot the dramatic sand dunes of Maspalomas on Gran Canaria.

Shot with the Olympus 12mm f/2 – E-M5

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12mm – E-M5

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On rare occasions I wake early and venture out into Winchester for a dawn shoot, this shot was from the last time this happened.

12mm – E-M5

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Next, a one-day workshop I was asked to host in the historic city of Cambridge produced these two shots

Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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I was commissioned to shoot Wayne Hemingway’s vintage festival which this year took place in Glasgow, it was good to be back in Scotland for a weekend. These two pros attend many of the Vintage events across the globe, they own the dance floor!

 Olympus 17 1.8 – E-M5

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Then I was sent out to Budapest with Jay McLaughlin, a very experienced fashion photographer (and Olympus user) to create some marketing images. Here are two of my favourites from the shoot.

Olympus 75mm 1.8 – E-M5

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Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5

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Goodwood Revival is heritage motor sport race meeting held in the Sussex downs and always attracts a vast number of impeccably dressed vintage enthusiasts from around the world.

Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5

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Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5

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Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5

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Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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And lastly I just came back from Portugal after a week of testing the new OMD-EM1. As a result I am quite smitten with this camera! It was a joy to use on an extended shoot where I took over 5,500 frames. The Swiss/French model who came along for the job had broken her foot 2 weeks before but fortunately didn’t have to wear a cast. She did extremely well, considering she needed crutches to go anywhere. Here are a few of my favourites from the week.

E-M1 and 75 1.8

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E-M1 and 45 1.8

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E-M1 and 25 1.4

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E-M1 and 25 1.4

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E-M1 and 25 1.4

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E-M1 and new 12-40 Pro Zoom

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E-M1 and 25 1.4

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 Hope you’ve enjoyed looking at these as much as I have making them, much more to see up on my blog as usual.

Aug 142013
 

USER REPORT: Myanmar with my OM-D E-M5 by Suryo Widjaja

Hi Steve,

As I have been reading your past Daily Inspirations pages about Myanmar from few of your readers, I found different perspective of Myanmar through my lens. For me, Myanmar is a must visit country for Photographers before this country infected by Western’s culture ( like Thailand and Vietnam, soon Cambodia).

I went to Myanmar last January 2013, with other 19 photographers from Indonesia for Photographic Tour. Main reason to visit Myanmar at that time was for “Bagan’s Festival” which only happen once a year. It has been beautiful, inspiring, adventure 6 days of our life, seeing Myanmar like Indonesia back in early 80’s, very friendly people, safe, food is nice (but do not eat food and drink water from the street, they might not friendly for our stomach). Tips before visiting Myanmar: 1. Pack yourself with medicines: sore throat, flue & cough, 2. Bring Masker (keep you from dusty air, what you see in the landscape photos which have haze or mist, they were actually dust!), 3. Wear Sandals/ open-toe-slipper, because we have to take off our sandals to go into temples or sacred place, shoes will be inconvenience.

Every one on this tour was packed with heavy gear of “big guns”, few with Leica gear and fuji XE, I was packed with 2 body of OMD-EM5 (one body I borrowed from my brother-in-law), brought my 12mm, 17mm and 75mm, but most of the time i was in Myanmar, I set my camera with 17mm and the other one with 75mm. What you see in my Photos, most of them was taken with Oly 17mm F1.8 except for Close up portrait and landscapes, they were taken using Oly 75mm, for 12mm most of the time just stay in the bag. My motto for this trip, travel lite and took good photos! LOL.

All the photos were minor edited in Photoshop. Pull out the DR and color tone on the Adobe Camera Raw, adding little bit of effect on NIK Color fx.

Hope your readers enjoy these photos.

Warms Regards,

Suryo

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Apr 192013
 

bagan nights

From Steve: Today I want to thank Barnaby Robson for these gorgeous images which goes to show what a camera like the Olympus OM-D E-M5 can do when in good hands. Thanks Barnaby!

A journey in gear

For me, it all started in 2010 with a GF1 + 20mm and 7-14mm lenses.

I loved the small size and relative to a P&S, the image quality, ability to control depth of field, and the focus speed. But the low light performance still wasn’t good enough.

In 2012, the Olympus 45mm, E-M5 and Leica 25mm followed (inspired by stevehuffphoto.com). And they were wonderful. I was a happy photographer: learning, getting technical, becoming more aware more capable and… taking better pictures.

But I was getting full frame IQ lust.

And then… I picked up the Olympus 75mm on my way through Bangkok on route to Yangon. Before purchasing I was worried about:

• The size and weight

• How often I would use the full frame 150mm equivalent focal length

Firstly it feels right at home on the E-M5, and is very similar in proportions to the Panasonic 7-14mm. Compared to all my other lenses the construction is something else, the cool metal feels and looks wonderful in the hand, with the right heft, the focus ring just glides, the lens text is inscribed in the metal… it just feels wonderful. I’ve never had so many complements about a camera-lens combination.

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And as to whether I would use the lens, it’s absolutely my favourite by a mile. I had all my other lenses with me in Burma, but the 75mm remained strapped to the E-M5 as I made my way around the streets of Yangon, across the plains of Bagan, over Inle lake and up Mandalay Hill. The focus is ultra fast and true, including handheld in low light with the lens wide open, the IQ is visibly better than through my other m4/3 lenses and it allows you to achieve genuine shallow depth of field. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

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A real journey (in pictures)

Yangon

Exif: 1/400 sec at f2.5, ISO 200

Taxi E-7959

Notes: One of my first shots in Yangon. Taxi E-7959 stopped at the lights. As I lifted my lens, he looked across. Was so pleased with the accuracy of the focus on this one.

Exif: 1/400 sec at f2.8, ISO 200.

Bettlenut vendors

Post processing: Cropped then edited with an Alien Skin Exposure 4 preset (can’t recall which) to bring out the vibrancy.

Notes: Love the vibrancy, clarity and depth of field from the 75mm in this shot.

Exif: 1/80 sec at f1.8, ISO 3200.

myanmar-3

Post processing: Cropped, but otherwise straight from camera,

Notes: Taken on the other side of four-lane Mahabandoola Road (busiest road in Yangon). I could see the opp for a great photo (looks like a scene from a 1970s movie to me), but kept on getting interrupted by traffic passing across the field of view. Finally there was a gap in the traffic and the camera/lens hit the nail on the head first time. Shot handheld.

 –

Bagan

 

Exif: 1 1/320 sec at f 2.5, ISO 200.

Bagan

Post processing: Edited with the Alien Skin Exposure 4, Fuji Provia 100f preset.

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Exif: 1/800 sec at f3.5, ISO 200.

Amazing Bagan

Post processing: I spent more time then I care to remember bringing out the colours to the desired taste in Lightroom.

Notes: The Bagan sunsets were absolutely stunning. Easily the highlight of the trip.

 

Exif: 1/60 sec at f 1.8, ISO 3200.

bagan nights

Post processing: Edited in Alien Skin Exposure 4 to bring out the blue-black haze (the dark areas were brown in the raw file). Finished off with a vignette.

Notes: Shot handheld (as were all these photos). This is probably my favourite shot from the trip. Again, this wouldn’t have been possible on m4/3 pre E-M5.

 

INLE LAKE

Exif: 1/640 sec at f 8.0. ISO 200.

Inle Lake Clichég

Post processing: Edited heavily in lightroom to bring out the colours, vibrancy and tones, from a rather flat raw file. It’s brilliant how malleable the E-M5 raw images are.

Notes: Inle Lake fishermen are renowned for practicing this distinctive rowing style, which involves standing at the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar. Shot handheld from a moving boat. The light was excessively bright. The 75mm has a lot of glass and suffers from lens flare – I would recommend buying the very expensive but beautifully constructed Olympus hood.

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Exif: 1/400 sec at f 6.3. ISO 200.

Rebels without a cause.

Post processing: Edited in Lightroom – played with the vibrancy, temp and tint to bring out the blues & greens to my taste.

Notes: The guy on the left is wearing a ‘Fuck the Police’ T-shirt. Given Myanmar is still a hardcore military state, I think this is so cool.

MANDALAY

Exif: 1/100 at f 4.0. ISO 200.

Mist-ery

Post processing: Edited in Lightroom – used split toning to bring out the yellow – green colour scheme.

Notes: U Bein bridge was absolutely mystical. I was worried there would be loads of tourists, but there were blissfully few.

 

Exif: 1/500 sec at f3.2

U Bein's bridge

Post processing: Edited in Lightroom – using colour settings and graduated filters to bring out the mist and greens.

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It should come as no surprise that I am in love with this beautiful lens. Something about it has gotten me to take more photos in the last four months than I have in the last two years combined. In fact, this lens is one of the impetuses for a current travel lust that I haven’t felt for many a year — I want an exotic subject on which to use it. The lens is looking for a muse…

If you want to see more from the 75mm (and me) check out: http://www.flickr.com/photos/barnabyrobson

 myanmar cover image-1

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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