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!

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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Apr 032014
 

Streetshooting the Olympus OM-D E-M1

By Robin Schimko

The last couple of years I was shooting DSLR full frame bodies only and I didn’t care much about mirrorless cameras. After a while I realized that taking candid pictures out on the streets is a lot of fun. The only problem was the bulkiness of my camera that seemed a little intimidating when people noticed me taking their picture. It would have been an easy solution just to step back a little and take a longer lens, but that’s not me since I like to get close. So I got myself a Fuji X100s but even though I really loved it, the AF frustrated me from time to time and I sold it.

Then I started researching about mFT cameras and that’s when I stumbled upon stevehuffphoto.com and I was blown away by his work. That’s why decided to jump into the Olympus system and I bought the E-P5. I was shocked about the super-fast AF system and the pretty good image quality. The only thing I was really missing was a proper grip and suddenly Olympus came out with their new flagship, the E-M1. A couple of weeks later my local camera store had the E-M1 in stock and I went there to try it out. I couldn’t resist and bought one. Usually I am not that guy who is changing his gear so rapidly but the mirrorless world was new to me and I had to find out what would work best for me.

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So, how does the E-M1 perform out on the streets? Well to date it’s the best camera I have ever used for street shooting and there are several reasons to back this up:

Ease of use:

It has a proper grip and looks like an old SLR camera but it’s still lightweight and very comfortable to hold, even though it’s really small compared to a DSLR. The buttons and controls are very well designed and they are all very accessible. The only thing I don’t like is the power switch on the left side, because it’s much tougher to use the camera with one hand only, but it’s definitely no deal breaker. And then there are the custom profiles you can link to the mode dial on top. That’s pretty handy and allows you to change the set-up of the camera in the blink of an eye. Did I mention the viewfinder yet? It’s amazing how good the EVF is even though I don’t use it that often. Coming from a DSLR I was used to use an OVF but with a mirrorless camera I discovered how convenient it is to compose by using the display.

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Reliability

The E-M1 is considered to be a professional camera and after using it for a while now I am absolutely sure it really is a proper tool. There was not a single second where the camera failed on me. I’ve never dropped it but I read stories about people who did and the camera had not one single scratch afterwards. I can’t imagine a place where I wouldn’t take the E-M1.

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Precision

Out on the streets it’s sometimes essential to be really quick to capture a certain moment and here is where the E-M1 really shines. It’s absolutely amazing how fast and responsive the AF works. Sometimes I even use face detection and it can be really useful especially when there is no time to manually change the focus points.

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Quality

Of course, when it comes to image quality, it’s no D800, but it’s not as far away as the numbers might suggest. I am very comfortable with cranking the ISO up to 6400. Yeah, there will be grain visible, but at least to me it looks really pleasing. What surprises me the most was the dynamic range of this fairly small sensor. In post it is very easy to push the shadows like hell, wow that’s something my old D700 wouldn’t have done better.

I think at the moment the E-M1 is a damn good choice for all you street photographers out there. It’s lightweight, powerful and can deliver very decent image quality. At the moment I am testing the Fuji X-T1 with the 23/1.4 and it seems to be a nice combo, but even though both bodies have nearly the same size, the E-M1 with the 17/1.8 is a lot smaller and the focus is noticeably quicker.

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Oh, did I mention that I dumped my D800? I am going mirrorless only and I am happy with that decision.

If you want to check out my websites:

http://www.fotodesign-rs.de/

http://www.hochzeitsfotograf-rs.de/

or follow me on facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/RobinSchimkoPicture

Thank you all for reading,

Robin

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Mar 262014
 

User Report: The Olympus E-M1

by Leigh Miller – His website is HERE

These are exciting times in the world of photography and for the first time we have cameras in three different formats that show some real innovation.

I’ve switched completely from the dominant format (35mm) to Micro Four Thirds and APS-C. All of my professional work is now done with a combination of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and an assortment of Fuji cameras. The E-M1 saw the majority of use on my trip because it’s so versatile. The small size, fast performance and great image quality meant that I could take it anywhere with zero concerns.

Size

The complete kit of body and 12-40 zoom lens takes up practically no space at all in my slingback bag. Over the two-week period I hiked, biked, rowed, went boating and horseback riding making pictures along the way. It’s so light that I was shooting one-handed in many situations.

Sunrise in San Pedro

Performance

You don’t wait on the E-M1, it waits for you. This thing starts up fast, focuses fast and writes to the SD Card fast. I never over-ran the memory buffer during high-speed shooting. The 12-40 zoom was tailor-made for this camera. Used together you have a weather-resistant kit that can go anywhere. I took it out of an air-conditioned hotel into searing heat without it fogging up. I got it splashed with water repeatedly while boating down a fast-moving river with absolutely no problems. I never missed a shot because of focusing issues either. The AF is as accurate as it is fast.

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Image Quality

Lot’s of noise has been made about the IQ of M4/3 sensors. The general opinion is that while they turn out great travel and leisure activity images, you need a full frame or APS-C camera for professional work.

Absolute nonsense.

The image quality from this camera in top-notch and I haven’t had any trouble using them in my professional assignments. I’ve done headshot, product, product, real estate…beauty & fashion photography assignments for my clients with it. In many cases, I don’t even bother shooting RAW. Like Fuji cameras, the E-M1 allows you to pre-process your images exactly as you want them to look.

Portofino Resort Docks

Summary

I spent a month with the E-M1 before taking it to Belize. More than enough time to familiarize myself and set it up according to my shooting style. The sheer number of configuration options can be overwhelming but there are good resources to help you out.

http://www.biofos.com/mft/omd_em1_settings.html

http://photolisticlife.com/2013/10/17/olympus-om-d-e-m1-user-guide/

Give yourself an hour and a glass of wine. By the time the hour is up and the glass is empty this camera will be configured with all of the important functions right under your fingers.

Feeding Time

 A couple of items you want to watch:

Battery Life: Right out of the box this camera is set up to drain the batteries really fast. Change it to turn off the rear LCD unless you are reviewing an image. Also turn of the full-time auto-focus. When you have done those two things, set the camera to go to sleep after two minutes. Doing this extended my battery life to about 700’ish shots per charge.

Weather Resistance: The only lens that completes the body sealing is the 12-40mm zoom. If you have older lenses such as the 45mm, they become the weakest link.

JPEG Engine: Very good but you want to tone down the noise reduction. It’s far too aggressive with the factory setting.

Shutter Button: Very light action. If you sling the camera over your shoulder and it comes into contact with your body, you will go home to find an SD Card full of random shots.

Video: Olympus readily admits that video wasn’t their biggest concern when they designed the E-M1. That may turn some people off but it shouldn’t. Unless you need the advanced video features of the Panasonic GH2/3 or 4 the E-M1 will do a good enough job.

The IBIS alone is worth it’s weight in gold when shooting video. Handheld footage is smooth and generally well exposed and detailed. The files also respond well to post-processing in Adobe Premiere. The only time it tripped up was when I filmed while on horseback. The gait of the horse threw off the IBIS and focusing. However in every other situation it performed very well.

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Streets of San Pedro

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Equipment Used for the images here

Olympus OM-D E-M1

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M.Zuiko 45mm F/1.8

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On Horseback

Mar 172014
 

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The Olympus E-M10 and 12-40 f/2.8 Pro Zoom Mini Review

With Olympus continually being on top of their own mirrorless camera game I admit…I was a bit hesitant when the E-M10 was announced. I mean, was Olympus going the way of Panasonic who in the past  released cheap, dumbed down tiny bodies just to make a quick sale and find a market for their camera bodies? Let’s face it, the OM-D E-M5 is stellar. The OM-D E-M1 is stellar. The PEN E-P5 is fantastic and beautiful and one of my faves of all time in Micro 4/3. These are three Micro 4/3 mirrorless models that are truly state of the art and can easily provide anyone with gorgeous quality photos while offering speed, build and features that would make any shutter bug happy and many other mirror less camera companies a little nervous.

So why an “E-M10″ that is smaller? 

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Well, that was the question I had when it was announced. I glossed over it and while it looked cool I had doubts about why anyone would want it over an E-m5. Then I saw the cost of only $699 and thought..“well, if it is as great as the E-M5 in use, it will be a BARGAIN of epic proportions”! Then I realized that it had even better performance than the E-M5 and equaled the E-M1 for IQ and Af Speed. That was all I needed to hear. Done deal.

The E-M10 and 12-40 2.8 – This combo is lightning fast, sharp, amazing prime IQ and the very 1st zoom I have ever really wanted to buy in the mirror less world. The IQ is stellar. The color reproduction is rich. The contrast is striking. This lens is truly a pro zoom with a constant f/2.8 aperture across the range.

ALL images in this review are JPEGS shot with the E-M10 and 12-40 2.8 Lens!

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So one day I received a UPS box from the wonderful B&H Photo who sent me the little black Olympus E-M10 to check out and review. When I opened it up I was impressed with the look, the style and the design..which is basically just like the OM-D E-M5, just in a mini format. It felt solid, booted up quickly and had that blazing Olympus AF speed I have come to love and trust. It surprised me really as I was expecting it to be a little “laggy” seeing that it is a “mini”model that is cheaper.

I ended up deciding to just shoot this camera over a weekend with the Olympus 12-40 Pro Zoom. WHY? Well, I have not yet reviewed this lens and figured it would be a nice test of the camera and lens. AN ALL IN ONE. No need to worry or stress over lenses to use or take with. Easy Squeezy.

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So me, the E-M10 and the 12-40 2.8. That is all. That was the plan.

So how did it do? Read on to find out. Please note! This is not a normal tech “review” but it will be more of my thoughts using this camera over a weekend along with the photos I was able to casually snap. I always prefer real world use of a camera and have been doing these types of reviews and write ups for almost 6 years now. It is IMO, the only way to test a camera for what it is meant to be used for. TAKING PHOTOS and ENJOYING IT!

So one morning Debby and I took a 4 hour drive to Las Vegas and decided to just walk around and shoot the scenery. I did end up bringing along my Leica M 240 and 50 1.5 Nokton but only fired off 6 shots. The Olympus was so much fun, so fast and so GOOD that I did not want to stop using it! Seriously. It did have some faults but only in the handling. Basically, when using the 12-40 and the E-M10 I would highly recommend the accessory grip as the body is a little small for the Zoom as is.

“Orgasim Clinic” – what happens in vegas stays in vegas…

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Olympus and Micro 4/3

I have been a fan of Olympus forever. From the OM film cameras to the 1st real flagship E-1 digital back in the day. The PEN series..yes, I have shot with them all (The E-P5 is the best of PEN’s) and of course the OM-D series all the way to the  top of the Micro 4/3 heap with the Professional E-M1. ALL of these cameras have been wonderful to use and to shoot but especially these new camera bodies Olympus have been releasing over the past couple of years. The E-M5, E-P5, E-M1 are stellar, and I mean that 100%. I have said it a million times about these Olympus bodies but they have something about them that are special.

I have finally figured it out though..as to just what that special thing is. It is a combo of things actually that no other camera manufacturer has been able to accomplish as of yet besides Olympus.

In my opinion, the reason these latest Olympus bodies have been so special is because they offer it all and do it all very well without any real compromise:

1. Build quality – This E-M10 is built just like the current and more expensive E-M5 which is built very good. Solid, smooth dials, precision. It feels “right”. The Pro E-M1 is even better. All are built VERY well with the E-M1 being as good as it gets in the build for a mirrorless camera. 

2. Speed – The E-M10 and other OM-D bodies have blazing fast and accurate AF. It is pretty much instant. No hunting, no slowdown, no misses. I had no AF misses with the E-M10 and 12-40 2.8 lens. Focus was instant and so fast that I was just having fun testing it to try to make it miss or slow down! In super low indoor light at night it did slow down but still locked on and fired and nailed the shot. The Olympus bodies all have stellar AF speed and accuracy. They lose out a bit on CONTINUOUS tracking AF but for shot to shot, they are hard to beat. No other mirrorless body I have tried has the AF speed of the E-M1, E-M5 and E-M10.

3. EVF – The EVF in the E-M10 is NOT the best EVF around. The E-M1 and Fuji X-T1 share that honor but the EVF in the E-M10 is good, just a but on the small side. But this is not a “flagship” body. It is an affordable entry into the OM-D series. The fact that it has an EVF is great, as these days I avoid cameras without them. But overall, the E-M1 has one of the top EVF’s on the market. Huge, clear and VERY easy to use and frame with.

4. Image Stabilization – Olympus has the best IS in the business, no contest. I have never used anything like it. The E-M10 has “3 Axis” IS instead of the higher end bodies “5-Axis” but it works almost just as well. It is so cool to have this feature in a small, more affordable OM-D.  If you have not yet experienced the 5-Axis IS or even 3 Axis IS you are in for a treat.

5. LENSES – Again, Olympus and Panasonic are at the top of the mirrorless heap (next to Leica of course) when it comes to lenses for the Micro 4/3 system. I have shot with all Fuji lenses. All Sony lenses. All Panasonic lenses and mostly all Leica lenses. IMO, these little Olympus primes and now the 12-40 Pro Zoom are some of the best I have shot with next to Leica glass. The size, weight, feel, silence, speed and IQ are stellar on almost ALL of them. I a NOT a zoom guy but this $999 12-40 Pro Zoom equals or surpasses what I have seen from the Canon 24-70 and equals the Nikon 24-70 as well while being smaller and much less expensive. This is an amazing zoom lens. Fast, silent, small (in comparison to full frame and APS-C) and beautiful rich color and contrast/sharpness. Olympus lenses as well as Panasonic make some of the best mirrorless glass. Compared to Fuji lenses, these are faster to AF, all silent in operation, smaller and just as good with IQ. 

6. Image Quality – IQ from the Olympus bodies, including the E-M10 is as good as 98% of us will need. Pro’s use them for high paying jobs. They are that good. What it comes down to is preference of “look” when you decide on a camera body or sensor size. You can print large with Micro 4/3, no issues. You can print large with APS-C and full frame. All will give you a different look and feel but Micro 4/3 is no longer lacking in IQ in any way. The JPEGS are also fantastic out of camera and no special processing software is needed for the RAW files :)

I saw this guy getting ready to give a high-five. I turned around, aide and fired and hit the moment. No hesitation on the camera or lens. THIS is what makes a camera enjoyable.

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Sure, many cameras have these 6 features but Olympus is at the top of the entire mirror less game when it comes to mostly all of them. Micro 4/3 has established itself as a serious format and those who have predicted its demise over the past 3-4 years have been wrong as it is still going and growing in popularity because nothing offers a mixture of getting everything so close to being right that Olympus in the mirror less body world. Others are getting close, but for me, Olympus still rules the mirrorless roost. They do so much right and so little wrong. That is what it is all about because if a camera is frustrating to use, it will fall by the wayside and be forgotten.

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So how is the E-M10 and 12-40 in real use?

For some, the E-M10 will be much too small but as I said, the slick grip for this camera will add the size most need.. IMO, the E-M10 is one hell of a camera and paired with the 12-40 is one of the, if not the, most fun and reliably good camera and lens combos I have shot with. The good thing about the small size is that it makes it LIGHT. The lens is large on the body though so maybe a pancake lens with E-M10 would make a perfect coat pocket companion. Imagine a 17 1.8 or 20 1.7 on the camera. You could slide it in a coat pocket and have it with you at anytime. That kind of quality in your pocket beats any iPhone :)

With the 12-40 being a wide-angle and medium telephoto all in one I was able to walk around and gran shots in different ways. As I walked around Las Vegas I was doing some street sniping as well as normal photos with the stop and frame. With the fast AF and response the E-M10 was able to catch what I wanted without a problem. Something I could not do with any Fuji or Sony I have shot with to date (for example, the high-five guy above would have been missed with the Fuji or Sony). As much as I love the Sony RX1 and A7, they are nowhere near as fast and responsive as the Olympus bodies (though the IQ is GORGEOUS from the full frame sensor – much richer, a different league really). As much as I liked the Fuji X-T1, it is no match for the speed and response of any recent Olympus body.

IQ wise, I like them all but the Olympus colors and IQ always do it for me and I never am left wanting or regretting taking one out. For  my tastes, I prefer the Sony RX1 and Leica M 240 IQ the best overall but the Olympus Micro 4/3 next, ahead of ANY APS-C camera. The fact that these Olympus bodies work better (the 6 things listed above) than any APS-C I have shot with also helps seal the deal.

Olympus JPEGS are always bright, crisp and colorful. 

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The Sensor:

Here is what Olympus has to say about the sensor in the E-M10 along with the processor:

Unprecedented Image Quality That Exceeds Others in its Class

“The lens technology, sensor and image processor are the core of any digital camera. The OM-D E-M10’s partner in photographic excellence is the acclaimed Olympus M.ZUIKO lens system, a family of professional-grade glass that delivers unsurpassed resolution and overall image quality. The E-M10 ups the ante by pairing a 16MP Live MOS sensor with our most powerful TruePic VII image processor for extraordinary resolution and accurate color rendition. Add 3-axis in-body image stabilization that compensates for horizontal and vertical angular shifts (yaw/pitch) as well as camera shake along the optical axis (roll), and you have a camera that captures incredibly sharp images and video, yet is compact enough to bring just about anywhere.”

Walking around the crowds and grabbing shots was not an issue for the E-M10 and 12-40. Speed was fantastic.

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IQ that equals the E-M1. For $699. 

The more I used the E-M10 the more I enjoyed it but I also was starting to realize just how good the lens is. The 12-40 lens is giving us a 28-80 full frame field of view equivalent but in a much smaller package than those huge and unruly and expensive 24-70 full frame zooms. I reviewed the previous Panasonic 12-35 f/2.8 zoom HERE but I enjoyed the Olympus a little bit more. It just seems like a more polished lens and when using it on a Olympus body it is one of those lenses that just “works”. This lens has been a huge seller for Olympus and for good reason as I was finding out. The IQ that comes from this E-M10 and 12-40 is just as good as what I have been seeing from my E-M1 and E-M5, no question about it.

Both of these are JPEGS from the E-M10 and 12-40 Zoom. EXIF is embedded. Click them for larger/better. The 1st one is a full size camera JPEG. NOT from RAW.

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The E-M10 or the E-M5? That is the question.

Many are wondering..E-M5 or E-M10? Well, after using the E-M10 more and more I came to realize that for me, it beats the E-M5 in almost every way (except it is just a smaller body which I do not prefer..so the grip would be mandatory). It has better Auto Focus implementation. It has a better LCD. It has E-M1 IQ. All for $699. Amazing. Add a nice prime lens and you have a powerhouse capable of pro quality photos and speed. It also has video on par with the other Olympus bodies (which I enjoy and have used for personal projects on many occasions). Today, if I were buying and had to choose between the E-M5 and E-M10, it would have to be the E-M10 and grip.

BUT! There are areas where the E-M5 excel. One, the E-M10 is not weather sealed so if you shoot in rain, dust or rough environments the E-M5 or E-M1 will be the best bet. Also, the 3 Axis is not as good as the revolutionary 5 Axis IS of the E-M5 and E-M1. It is still superb, just loses out a little to the bigger and more expensive brothers.

If you want the ultimate OM-D, go for the E-M1 as it is the best in all areas but this E-M10 is about HALF the price of the $1400 E-M1 while giving the same IQ, speed and performance. Hmmmm.

This one has a vintage Alien Skin filter applied which is giving it the soft look..but I like it. 

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12-40 Zoom or Primes?

I am a HUGE believer in PRIME lenses. Especially FAST prime lenses. I love the 12 f/2, the 20 1.8, 45 1.8, 75 1.8, 17 1.8, etc. They are small, well made, silent and provide the best IQ with the Olympus and Micro 4.3 system. You can achieve shallow DOF and crisp images without an issue. I have avoided Zooms in the past for two reasons. The first reason is that usually, unless you buy a “pro” zoom there is always a compromise in image quality. Cheap zoom are horrible IMO. Kit Zooms are usually horrible as well (though the Fuji 18-55 is nice). Zooms like the Canon and Nikon and Sony 24-70 offerings are nice but they are full frame, horribly large and insanely expensive.

One reason I haven’t used this Olympus 12-40 yet is because I did not think it could offer the IQ of the primes as well as the fact that it is an f/2.8 design. No f/1.8, etc. I like f/1.4, 1.8 lenses!

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Well…after using it I realized that it will be sorely missed when I send it back and I may have to just add it to my Olympus collection when I can fund it. It is so well worth the $999, in fact, if it were $1400 it would be worth it. This lens is versatility and IQ and speed all in one package that comes in at half the size and less than half the cost of those full frame 24-70 counterparts while giving up nothing in performance. Of course full frame sensors offer better everything but in the Micro 4/3 world, THIS 12-40 f/2.8 PRO ZOOM is a must own if you want ONE lens to take out that will deliver prime lens image quality.

It is one hell of a lens and while larger than the primes, it offers much more with a field of view from 24-80mm. This means if you go inside you can shoot at 12mm(24mm)..go outside and zoom out to catch a face at 40mm (80mm)..whatever you need without swapping lenses.

The 12-40 also has a fantastic close focus feature that allows you to focus close when wide. You also have the Olympus Manual Focus clutch for instant switching between AF and MF. The lens is freeze, shock, dust and weather proof. It is silent for movie recording so no rattles, noise or irritating audibles. Olympus designed this one just right and it is an impressive zoom.

With a constant semi-fast f/2.8 aperture, it is the real deal in the Micro 4/3 Zoom world.

I will always love my primes but this is a lens I can see taking out on those days when I just need one lens to cover all I need. Yes…it WILL be mine one day!

All of the images below are JPEG’s ranging from base ISO to ISO 1600. EXIF is embedded.

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Dynamic Range! 

When I wrote my Fuji X-T1 review HERE I mentioned that I had some issues with blown highlights and the Fuji X-Trans sensor. Where I live here in Phx AZ the sun can get quite harsh..in fact, some of the harshest light I have ever come across. It is usually a torture test for most cameras and I have had issues with previous Fuji bodies in this light with flat files, blown highlights and dull looking photos. I have always said that if you give a Fuji some great light it will reward you with amazing image quality. Give it tough light and it can be a tricky situation. Low light can make the Fuji files muddy and ruddy.

One thing that I also have loved about Olympus is that I have never had issues with blown highlights. One reason is that the sensor with these latest OM-D cameras have a very good Dynamic Range and if you do blow the highlights they are easily recovered with the RAW file and a slider or two, even under extreme blow outs. Many think that the DR of the Olympus Micro 4/3 bodies suffer because the sensor is smaller than APS-C or full frame. Usually this would be true but these Olympus sensors always test high on the DR scale and in my real world experience, I have found this to be true.

An OOC JPEG in mid day Las Vegas sun with the white water fountain going full steam. 

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My conclusion on the Olympus E-M10 and 12-40 Pro Zoom.

I will make this easy. If you are leaning towards a Micro 4/3 system but do not want to break the bank with an E-M1, go for the E-M10. It is a WONDERFUL camera that can do just about anything anyone would need. If you want simplicity and versatility as well, buy the 12-40 f/2.8 Zoom and have an all in one kit. This would be a perfect street kit, portrait kit, family kit, vacation and walk around kit. Basically, a jack of all trades and master of most. With the E-M10 and zoom you will only lose out on those shallow DOF effects but if you desire that from time to time add in a 45 1.8 at $399.

In my opinion, Olympus has done it again and are on a constant winning streak with these new cameras and technology. The 3 Axis IS is so good, almost as good as the 5 Axis. The whole speed and user experience of the camera is so pleasurable you just want to keep shooting.

I love the E-M10. It is another camera in the OM-D line that is just a WIN and does not make any real compromises to offer us a more affordable entry unto the Olympus system. Bravo!

Steve

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WHERE TO BUY?

My review sample came from B&H Photo, and they sell the E-M10 at their web site HERE. I highly recommend B&H Photo!

You can also buy the 12-40 f/2.8 Pro Zoom at B&H HERE as well as the accessory Grip HERE.

Amazon sells the E-M10 HERE, the Grip HERE and the 12-40 2.8 Zoom HERE.

PopFlash also sells the Olympus line 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 5 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 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. 

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. 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.

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!

Oct 202013
 

PROST! Oktoberfest with the E-M1 (sort of)…

Just a fun Sunday night post before getting serious on Monday Morning :)

Over the weekend we drove in over to Scottsdale AZ for some Oktoberfest fun :) NOTHING like the real deal of course but I brought along the Olympus E-M1 and when I arrived my 1st thought was “Uh Oh..it is way too dark in here for photos..should have brought the RX1R”.

I had the 17 1.8 with me as the only lens. Even in the dark conditions the camera focused blazing fast and while I only took a few shots in various conditions ranging from ISO 200-3200 it never let me down. I converted these to B&W using VSCO as I felt this would give a good vibe to these dark low light condition photos. The look you see in the images, the washed out grey and whole “look” is due to the VSCO filter I chose. Has nothing to do with the camera and there is no way to get this look without the filter. I chose this look for these “just for fun” images and have used this same filter with the Leica M, Sony RX1, etc. They look  the same :)

To see images without filters, just look at my lengthy E-M1 review. The E-M1 is just as contrasty as the next camera and has image quality as good as any APS-C camera (but with much faster AF).

So once again, the little E-M1 performed very nicely and never once did it even come close to hunting for AF. Press, focus, fire. Every time. Keep in mind, this was indoor, no windows to the outside world so I was dealing with the interior lights only. Some shots had to be taken at 3200 and the lens was shot wide open 95% of the time. The 17 1.8 is probably the best “one lens” solution for the E-M1 due to its sharpness, AF speed and performance. Highly recommend it.

Seeing that it was a local Oktoberfest celebration the beer was good..too good in fact because after an hour I forgot to take photos!  I was too busy enjoying the music, the fun and the friendly atmosphere! Still, when I take a break from this website it seems I am still working on the website, but I love it.

All have a VSCO filter applied which gives it B&W, Noise and a Washed out look

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and by request, one without the filter below, straight from camera – RAW – must click it to see it larger sized

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Oct 122013
 

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The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Full Review. The most versatile Mirrorless Camera ever.

Inspiration: a person or thing that inspires. 

The E-M1 with 17 1.8 at 1.8. Also ran through an Alien Skin Color Fading filter – click it to see it the right way

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Hello to all and once again I thank each and every one of you who have been reading my reviews, my raves, my rants and of course all of the amazing guest articles and posts that have been posted for the past few years. Without YOU, this site would be nothing and would have become one of the thousands that get lost every year in the sea of information we call the internet. I am truly blessed to even have this website doing what I love to do day in and day out.

So again, I thank you all.

It is strange, I have  recently been asked by a few people starting photo blogs how to make a successful blog or website. Well, besides writing an article on this subject HERE like I did quite a while ago I can state that when one writes from the heart, when one is honest, when one sticks to their guns and also injects their personality, emotion and passion into what they do, no matter what it is, then they will have the highest chance of success.

The E-M1 and 17 1.8 Lens at 1.8. Amazing Combo. The kid below was dressed up as a Zombie for the yearly Phx, AZ Zombie Walk :)

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I did not get into this nor am I in it for the money because if that were the case I would have gotten myself into big trouble a long time ago. Nope, this site was born and continues on due to my passion, your passion and the common love of photography, memories… AND cameras :)

The gentle transitions to an out of focus meltdown are beautiful indeed. The E-M1 with Voigtlander 25 0.95 at 1.4. This combo is incredible. 

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So long story short: Live life, love in life, and be kind to all you come in contact with. Enjoy what you do and do not worry about things in life that do not matter but the things that do. :)

WAIT! I thought this was a Camera Review? Yes, yes..the OM-D E-M1…

Lol, me too! Sorry about that but as some of you know, I sometimes get lost in a rant that has nothing to do with the article I am supposed to write so I apologize! So yes..the Olympus OM-D E-M1!

The new hot-shot on the block that promises everything and delivers on just about all of it.

Released in October of 2013 and the follow-up to the highly successful E-M5, the new E-M1 is slightly bigger, quite a bit stronger and subtly faster. After using the camera I thought Olympus must have been injecting the E-M5 with steroids for the past two years to give it some beef and the E-M1 was/is the result.

Don’t mess with this guy! Shot this at a horror convention with the 17 1.8 but did some PP tweaks to the background for more pop, so this one is a just for fun shot. 

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Yes all of my camera gearhead friends, the new Olympus is here and let me tell you this without hesitation (SPOILER ALERT) – This is the best Micro 4/3 camera ever made if Photography is your main use (rather than Video). But I will take it one step further and probably by saying this will irritate some but it is how I feel after extensive use.

The new E-M1 is the fastest, best built, best size, and most versatile mirrorless camera you can buy today as of the moment I am writing this (October 12th 2013). In APS-C land, Fuji can’t touch it, Sony can’t touch, Leica can’t touch it for these things:

Speed, Versatility, Size, Lenses, Features, Viewfinder Experience, in body IS, and so much more. 

My video from Castle Leslie with the E-M1

For Micro 4/3 video, the Panasonic GH series takes the cake. But for Photography, the reason these were made and built, this camera is the real deal and just does not get any better when it comes to Micro 4/3 . I can go on and on and on and on about the features, the history, the reasons why this is THE camera to own for those who want performance in a small package but most of you already know all of this. I wrote about this camera a couple of  times already here on these very pages.

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I was able to be one of the many who tested this camera in Ireland at the huge Castle Leslie Olympus launch event and I was wowed with the camera for sure.

While it is no match IQ wise for a big fat full frame sensor, it easily takes on all APS-C and smaller challengers and beats them in so many ways it is not even funny.

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This E-M1 is destined to be a classic and yes, it is a replacement for the full size E-5 (according to Olympus) and I applaud them for this because we get the speed, IQ, pro build and results all in a body that is smaller than those old 4/3 bodies.

You can see my 1st report of the E-M1 HERE

I added noise to this image during the B&W conversion. Lovely. The E-M1 and 17 1.8

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Remember the E-P1, E-P2, E-P3 and E-M5? 

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I do remember as I owned them and shot them all long-term so I could write about them and compare to competing cameras. Back in the E-P1 and E-P2 days Micro 4/3 had many challenges. The AF speed was awful, the IQ was full of noise and the usability was average. But back then we didn’t care because the technology we have today was not there yet. We were used to these flaws in most cameras and dealt with it and saw it as a challenge in many ways to do the best with what we had. We also only had the 14-42 kit zoom along with the 17 2.8 pancake, which I enjoyed but it was far from being a WOW lens.

Even then, I preferred those little PEN cameras to many others due to their style, charm and full on fun factor. I reviewed them all and by the time we got to the E-P3 things were looking pretty good. When the E-M5 came that is when I knew that this format was here to stay (contrary to what some “experts” have predicted) because with the E-M5 we have a camera that does so many things so well. The E-M5 has been my favorite Micro 4/3 ever but that has now changed with the introduction of the Pro Level E-M1.

Sir Jack Leslie, Ireland 2013 – E-M1 and 45 1.8

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So what has improved in the E-M1 over the E-M5?

When I reviewed the fantastic E-M5 I remember it being a very long 8000 word review. Some said TOO long. I was also recently told by one person that it took him a few days to read it :) So this time I will go lighter on the text and just write about what  you really need to know instead of yapping away about things that I already yapped about in that E-M5 review! So I promise it will not be 8000 words, maybe 5000 at most :)

So what is different? What is better? What is the big deal with this new E-M1?

Well, for me the OM-D E-M1 is THE  mirrorless camera to own right now. Since the beginning of Micro 4/3 there have been bashers and haters who hated for the sake of hating! Calling cameras like the E-M5 and even new E-M1 “Toys” and “Not Serious” and “Silly” and “The format will die” .. these individuals were ones who either never shot with the cameras, and if they did then they went in with that attitude or only used a kit zoom, which is NOT recommended by me at all.

The AF tracked this horse and rider from the water until she passed in front of me. Every shot I took was in focus. 

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In fact, if you are planning on buying any Micro 4/3 body, be sure to get a GOOD lens. The fast primes and new zooms are fantastic. In any case, those who bashed this system really were only bashing it due to the smaller sensor in the camera even though it was just as capable as larger sensors. Since I am not biased and only rave about the cameras or lenses I truly love and feel are worth it, no matter the sensor size, I was telling it like it “was and is” for years now.

Today, Micro 4/3 is as serious of a system as any APS-C format system. While not equalling full frame in image quality it can equal APS-C easily while being built better, while auto focusing faster/more accurate and while having the BEST mirrorless lenses available next to Leica. It’s a win/win and the only ones who dismiss this system in 2013 are those who are living in an alternate universe.

Full size file – click it. E-M1 with 17 1.8

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I have met and spoken with pros who shoot the E-M5 as their main cameras. They earn a nice living doing so. I have met some of the most talented street shooters and many of them use Olympus.

OM-D Users: Check out these two guys who shoot with an E-M5 – Thomas Leuthard and Adde Nakoseda

The facts are plain and simple. There are really are no limits with this system in 2013 . It may lose some in high ISO ranges from 6400 and up and it may not have that last 5% of bite that a Leica M has but it easily matches an APS-C and in many cases, exceeds in beauty of rendering and that is thanks to the lenses. But even if I have said it a million times, usability and joy of use go a long way, and this camera has it.

So fear not my friends. With a camera like the E-M1 or E-M5 you can take images in any situation. You can go for wide and large depth of field or get very shallow DOF. You can shoot with one of the best Macro lenses ever as well as an amazing Fisheye and Ultra Wide Zoom. You can use a fast 2.8 pro zoom or even one of the best portrait lenses made today. You can go as fast as f/0.95 in three focal lengths and get gorgeous results. It is absolutely amazing when you sit and think about it. A few years ago we had a couple of kit zooms and a couple of pancakes.

Today it really is limitless. Amazing.

Again, the lovely 17 1.8. This lens has become my fave lens for the E-M1

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But what has improved?

Oh yea, there I go again! Here is my list of improvements over the E-M5 that I realized while shooting:

  • Better build, pro quality feel and heft
  • NO Anti Alais filter on the E-M1. The E-M5 has one (from what I understand)
  • Faster AF with Dual Fast (contrast and Phase detect)
  • HUGE brilliant EVF (EVF-4) makes MF and composition a breeze!
  • Better control placement and more custom options
  • Shockproof and better Weather Sealing – also freeze proof!
  • Live Time rocks!
  • WiFi implementation is AMAZINGLY simple and app works great
  • Slight improvement to image quality..richer..sharper.
  • New Color Creator is interesting
  • Small improvements to 5-Axis IS
  • Improvements in high ISO over the E-M5 by one stop
  • The E-M1 has a dedicated microphone input jack for better sound quality with your video!

So for me, it is a no brainer. This is an amazing camera because the E-M5 is amazing the way it is. Add these improvements and you have something special that usually only comes around every 2-3 years. I do not know where Olympus can go from here except to make a “Pro PEN E-PX or even better OM-D E-MX” – still not sure what they could improve, though there is always something because no matter what, sensor technology is constantly evolving.

The Voigtlander 25 0.95 on the E-M1. Love this lens as it feels like you are shooting a Leica when using it on the E-M1. It may not always be sharp and perfect but it has character for sure :) 

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The Torture Test. How tough is it?

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I love this camera. :) So much so that I gave it a bath in my kitchen sink when it had some dust on it. You know, water gets dust off quite easily :) Lol. In reality, this camera is made to take a beating and keep on going. Freeze it, spray it down with heavy rain or drop it and Olympus says it will keep in going..and going..and going.

Yep, Olympus has been really pushing the toughness of this guy though and since I had a review sample with me for a couple of weeks I decided to give the camera a test and see if they are for real. But what if I do a torture test and it breaks the camera? Would I have to pay for it? Ahhh, what the hell. Why not. I sprayed it with water for 120 seconds while it was on, no problem. I buried it in ice for 30 minutes. No problem. I did NOT drop it as I did not want to damage a lens. But this camera is as tough as they come in the mirrorless world.

The cool thing though? While it is tough as nails, it is a gentle giant with gorgeous handling of color, highlights and details.

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ISO tests

Below is what you can expect from the camera at higher ISO’s. While I would not shoot it at ISO 12,800, I would go up to ISO 3200 no problem. The good news is that I never go over that with ANY camera and neither does 99% of photographers or enthusiasts. Remember film? ISO 400 is as noisy as what you will get with this camera at ISO 3200.

Looking at 100% crops is deceiving as at 100% you see more noise than you would in a print or resized image. The tests I have done show the E-M1 to match the GX7 and just about match the Fuji X-M1 as well. (you can see the E-M1 vs Fuji ISO HERE). If it can get close to the Fuji, then we know it is pretty damn good at higher ISO. It can not match full frame, no, but for 99% of us who shoot up to ISO 1600 or even 3200 it is just fine.

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ISO 3200 on the E-M1  with a Voigtlander Leica M mount 35 1.4 Single Coated classic

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and one at ISO 6400 in the worst conditions. Low light, indoor at night, normal house lamp in the room, zero NR

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Inspiration

Early on in this review, during the 1st line of text, I put up the definition of the word “Inspire”. Why did I do that? Well, I did that because the E-M1 is one of the few cameras made today that does just that. INSPIRES you to use it. There are not many cameras out there that have been made over the past few years that have inspired me to want to pick it up, to use it, to push it to the envelope, to learn with it and to have it be my constant companion. It used to be my Leica M but with the price of those things as well as them being fragile in the RF department (as in, the focus getting out of whack if you breathe on it wrong) I tend to baby the Leica M more these days. With a 50mm Lux, the M and lens will set you back about $11,000.

So while it was the same situation with the M9 a few years back (high cost), I always had my M9 with me because at that time nothing compared in that small size for usability or IQ. Nothing.

Using a VSCO Film Preset gives me that vintage vibe of color that takes me back a bit. 17 1.8 

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Olympus Colors are always pleasing – this is an OOC JPEG

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Another JPEG in Vivid mode..8mm Panasonic Fsheye at f/3.5

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Well today that is a different story.

While I love, adore and really enjoy the Leica M 240 (as you can read here, and SEE here), today there are cameras that not only compete with it in the small size category, there are cameras that are tougher, faster, and offer overall better performance in use and  “close enough” IQ  for 1/8th the cost. There are also some things right around the corner that may just put a dent in Leicas plans (the rumored Sony FF)  because at the price point of the Leica M there should be nothing to compare to it. With the M9, there wasn’t. With the M, due to technology, there is.

OOC JPEG – My son as we were out exploring in Prescott AZ – I added some B&W grunge via Alien Skin.

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I am not saying the E-M1 can touch the Leica M for IQ but it can get me 80-85% there, and in some cases, match it for beauty depending on lighting and skill.

So when I see a $1800 combo getting close to an $11,000 combo but the $1800 combo is tougher, faster, more responsive and problem free..it makes me think and also makes me look at my wallet and bank account.

*Again, not saying in any way that the E-M1 beats the Leica M for image quality or high ISO. It does not. But how close is close enough?*

For some it does not matter, Leica is their life, their lifestyle and the camera they truly enjoy and bond with. For others, they will go with what gets them close enough and use that extra cash to travel, or save or buy a lens or two. Whatever works for YOU is the direction you should go or stay in. These days, you will never have to worry about the camera as mostly all decent cameras today are fantastic.

But as much as I love Leica (and I own one) I have to say I am not sure I will continue buying new Leica bodies because I just enjoy cameras like the E-M1 so much, while getting beautiful results and saving a ton of cash. Like I said, when the M9 was out there was nothing in its size that could compare. Today there is.

The Voigtlander 25 0.95 up close and personal with a Chameleon. Shot at 1.4 and ISO 640

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So will I leave my M and use the E-M1 as my #1 carry around? Probably not. But the more I think about it, the more I realize something. I do not take pro jobs any longer. I do not have the time to do so. The free time I do get these days I spend with my loved ones so these days, no more tours, no more paid portraits, no more paid weddings, no more paid photo work, period. So why would  a guy like me who gets to use every camera and lens made due to my profession need a $15,000 Leica M setup?

I don’t.

But the problem is that I am “bonded and attached” to the Leica M. I have been shooting with an M for many years starting with the M7. So not so sure I can just leave it, but the money is tempting. I can buy a new car with what I could get for my Leica set (though I would not as I do not need one).

So if I did, this E-M1 would be my daily shooter, or 2nd daily depending on what Sony has in store this month :)

ISO 1000, B&W conversion using Alien Skin Exposure – 17 at 1.8

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So that right there says a lot. The E-M1 is so good, it is making me think of no longer owning a Leica camera body! Me, the Leica “Fanboy”. WOW.

Also think of this..I use ALL cameras that are released. I review many of them but not all. If I could buy into ONE system camera today and start from scratch it would be the Olympus OM-D E-M1.

I would spend $4500 for an E-M1 setup before spending it on Fuji, Samsung, Nikon, Canon and possibly Sony NEX depending on what their full frame move is, and even so, I would just own both most likely, the Sony FF and the E-M1. :) 

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So Micro 4/3 is rocking in 2013. The Panasonic GX7 is fantastic, the OM-D E-M5 is still amazing, and the new E-M1 is the best yet. In fact, I could say that, feature for feature, build and speed and taking all into consideration, it is the best mirrorless camera made today. WOW, did I just say that???

Is Olympus the new Leica? I’d say they are the closest to Leica as you can get in a mirrorless body. 

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Compared to the Leica M. Can you get Shallow DOF? 

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Same lens – 50 Lux ASPH

This next test should be illegal because Leica owners always hate when I do these tests (and remember, I am labeled as a Leica fanboy). I did one once where I pit the E-M5 against the $8000 Leica Monochrom. Of course, two totally different cameras but hey, why not? Sometimes that underdog gets mighty close to big dollar results but we all know it is a totally different experience and state of mind (and results when viewing full size). Now in all reality, the Leica Monochrome is one of the most beautiful and unique cameras made today and it is in another league but again, you CAN get B&W with an E-M1 :) Not all of us have $8k lying around.

With that said, how about an image with the same lens  – one on the Leica M, one with the E-M1. Of course the E-M1 will double the focal length and make that 50 a 100mm but that is OK, we are just looking at color, rendering, bokeh, etc. All with the same Leica 50mm Lens.

COMPARE THE TWO for Depth of Field – Same lens, one on the M and one on the E-M1 – The M image was taken with the NEW firmware that corrected skin tones and it is improved over the previous FW for sure. 

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Yep, the Leica has that full frame creaminess and the E-M1 looks more compressed due to the sensor crop but look at them closely. The color is fantastic from the E-M1 and also looks nice from the Leica though a little warm. The E-M1 file is basically a cropped full frame file due to the 2X crop of the Micro 4/3 sensor. The question: Does this come close enough? Some will say yes, some will say no and some will say the E-M1 is even better when considering the cost but the fact is that when you look at those two images, the E-M1 looks DAMN GOOD next to that $11k combo.

Micro 4/3 today in 2013 is FANTASTIC. It can not match the fine texture of the Leica M file, and it should not be able to, but it can put out a very nice pleasing and beautiful image that goes head on with any APS-C and gets 85% of full frame quality. Not too shabby.

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Other thoughts and tibits. Live Time, no AA filter, and all around awesomeness

No AA Filter on the E-M1

At ISO 1600 the E-M1 retains sharpness, even when shooting with the 17 1.8 wide open. Love that it has NO AA filter!

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Many may not be aware of this but the Olympus OM-D E-M1 sensor does not have an AA filter. I was not fully aware of this early on but it was told to me that indeed it does not where the older E-M5 does have one (supposedly, still not 100% on that). That would explain everything because the Olympus 17 1.8, while a great lens, was a little soft on the E-M5.On the E-M1 it is razor-sharp, even when wide open at 1.8 and at high ISO. THIS lens now is my #1 preferred for this focal length even over the slower focusing Panasonic 20 1.7 II. So without an AA filter we get more sharpness and pop. To me, this is a step in the right direction for sure. At times the output has that crispness that I remember from the Leica M8. Crisp and detailed while remaining very pleasing. To me, this is a BIG deal as I strongly prefer my cameras without an AA filter.

Art Filters

The art filters are still here and better than ever. You are either a fan or not but they only work in JPEG mode for that quick cool looking image. My fave is the grainy B&W mode. Not much has changed from the E-P5 or E-M5 in regards to the filters.

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Live Time

There is also much more about the E-M1 that should be talked about. One thing I did not even touch on in my E-M5 review is “Live Time” which I believe was called “Live Bulb” on the E-M5. To activate live time, just go into Manual mode and twist the exposure dial all the way until you see “LIve Time”. Then you can set your aperture and ISO. For really long exposures of the night sky you could set your aperture to f/22 and ISO to base ISO. Press the shutter and then watch as your exposure develops like magic right in front of your eyes. When the exposure is where you want, press the shutter again. There is nothing like it from any other camera manufacturer. I previously showed some light painting we did in Ireland with the camera and the possibilities are endless:

Live Time in Action

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In camera HDR mode

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I am not a fan of HDR but there is no denying there has been quite an HDR movement in the past few years. MANY love it and while 99% of the time, in camera HDR is lousy, on the E-M1 it is not horrible. I would never use it but for those that like to dabble in HDR, the settings here make it as easy as taking a normal photo. The sample above was shot in HDR1 mode.

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HD Video 1080p

While Olympus themselves say their video could be better, when mixed with the 5-AXIS IS it is amazingly smooth. I used the video on the E-M5 for a few productions and will also use the E-M1. I do not make hollywood or pro movies, so for what I do it is good enough. The 5-Axis is amazing!! I can not stress that enough. So for me, the video is great. The good news is that the E-M1 now includes a dedicated mic input jack so you can record with a better microphone :) This is not a camera one would buy for the video but for occasional or hobbyist or youtube use, no problem.

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Yep, the E-M1 is the whole package in one small compact powerhouse. The following two images were shot with the Voigtlander 25 0.95 wide open

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Focus Peaking for Manual Lenses

Olympus did implement focus peaking in the E-M1 and while I am happy to see it I found the peaking to work better in the Panasonic GX7 I reviewed a week or two ago. For some reason the peaking quality is not up to snuff yet. BUT, the good news is that due to the huge EVF you do not even need peaking and can easily manual focus just by eye, and if that is not enough, one button press and you can magnify the screen and do critical focusing.

I shot a few images with a couple of Leica lenses and did not even need the peaking or the magnification. Still, the peaking could be better. Sony still leads the way in focus peaking IMO.

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My Final conclusion on the OM-D E-M1

Well here we are in 2013 and the choices for all of us crazy enthusiasts are plentiful and excellent. We finally have a definitive Micro 4/3 camera body that is pro level and can do just about anything one needs it to do and do it in any weather. As always, I review cameras from an enthusiasts point of view in a real world way. There are things I do not even get into like Flash, because I have not used a flash in 14 years. I am anti-flash even though I know it is good to have on some occasions. But as an enthusiast and a passionate photographer who has seen it all and used them all, I can say with confidence that the OM-D E-M1 is one of the best cameras “as a whole” that I have ever reviewed. It is superb. Yes, there are others with better overall IQ and others with better high ISO but as a whole, speaking of the whole package, nothing else has come close.

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You have seen me rant and rave about a few different camera models over the year. Leica’s and Sony’s for the most part. Well as of today there is a new camera in town that offers the perfect mix of speed, usability, build, image quality, cost and lenses to place it at the top of the heap in the world of mirrorless cameras. Someone asked me today if I would take a Canon 6D and 85L or an E-M1 and 25 1.4. For me that choice is easy. The E-M1 only because it would go with me everywhere when the 6D would be left behind. It is just too large, too bulky and too heavy and the lenses, while fantastic are just too much weight wise for everyday use.

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The image quality of the E-M1 is an improvement over the E-M5 due to the new processor and lack of an AA filter. The files pop more and I feel they also have slightly different color that I prefer. Crisp. Beautiful. The exposure metering is fantastic, the AWB is fantastic, the out of camera colors are beautiful.

There will always be naysayers no matter what towards this Micro 4/3 system. But those who disregard or trash Micro 4/3 or the E-M1 have no idea what they are doing or saying. There is simply nothing to trash and that is fact.

It will not match full frame like the RX1 or M in all out flat out IQ but it will meet head to head ANY APS-C mirrorless and beat them on build, speed, and every other area usability area with ease. What it boils down to for me is..Olympus E-M1 or Full Frame? The answer for me is BOTH. One all out IQ monster and one usability and IQ monster. :)

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Also, let us not forget the lenses. Micro 4/3 has some of the best lenses made for any system, period. There are many highly recommended jewels in the lineup.  At the end of the day this camera gets my highest recommendation. Buy the E-M1 and a couple of nice fast primes and go out and use it and it will be hard to put it down. The Olympus E-M1 has the charm, the soul and the goods to Be my pick for Camera of the Year 2013. Not sure if it will as I hear Sony has something on the way but as it stands now, the E-M1 is at the top of the list. :) 

As of this writing (October 12th 2013) I can say that for me, the Olympus E-M1 is the best Mirrorless camera on the market today when looking at the “Whole Picture” of cost, size, build, speed, toughness, EVF, performance, features and lenses available. No one else even comes close and I should know, I have used EVERYTHING out there. Well done Olympus, you have indeed created a mirrorless masterpiece!

The E-M1 and 8mm Panasonic Fisheye at f/3.5

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Which would I take?

Panasonic GX7 or E-M1: E-M1 no contest.

E-M1 or Fuji X Body: E-M1 no contest.

E-M1 or new rumored Sony Full Frame: BOTH, one for the Full Frame IQ and look and one for all that I have raved about.

E-M1 or NEX-6: E-M1 due to the lenses and speed and build and IQ.

E-M1 or Fuji X100s: Close, but for me, E-M1

E-M1 or Pentax K3? The new Pentax looks amazing on Paper, but is still a DSLR. I can not say until I test the K3 :)

E-M1 or Leica M: Two different cameras for different audiences. End of story, so BOTH :)

The Exposure, the color, the sharpness, the lenses..wow.

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Where to Buy the E-M1?

If you are interested in the Olympus E-M1 you can buy it at the recommended links below, and THANK YOU for stopping by and spending some of your time to read my thought on this exciting camera:

Buy the E-M1 at Amazon HERE

Buy the E-M1 at B&H Photo HERE

Buy the E-M1 at PopFlash.com HERE

The cool thing is that you can pre-order and your credit card will NOT be charged until the camera ships, ensuring you a place in line. Pre-orders are also easily cancelable. With Amazon it takes one click. So if you want this camera, I suggest pre-ordering from one of the dealers above!

More Samples

I will leave you with a few more samples below. Enjoy!

Some JPEGS, Some from RAW, some High ISO, Some LOW – EXIF is embedded in all. Click them for larger.

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Recommended Lenses for the E-M1:

The Olympus 17 1.8

The Panasonic 25 1.4

The Olympus 12mm f/2

The Olympus 45 1.8

The Olympus 75 1.8

The Olympus Pro Zoom 12-40

The Voigtlander 25 0.95

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MORE TO COME!!

As I use the camera more I will be adding to this review with more samples including video, so stay tuned and check back every week or so to this page. 

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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.

Sep 272013
 

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Shooting with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 in Dublin Ireland 

by Steve Huff

ATTENTION: My full and complete thorough E-M1 Review is HERE!

Check out the video below that goes over the E-M1 and my use with it over the past few days. Everything I can say about this new E-M1 is said in this video!

So as some of you know from reading yesterdays post I am in Ireland.

I spent the last three days in Dublin Ireland as well as Castle Leslie with Olympus and about 15 other photographers testing out the latest and greatest Micro 4/3 camera, the E-M1. I used to own the E-M5 which is the model that preceded the E-M1 and I LOVED It. It was small, light, fast and highly capable. I have always been a fan of Micro 4/3 and the love just continues with this release :)

The new E-M1 takes it up a few notches and is titled the First PRO Micro 4/3 body and not only does it shoot with Micro 4/3 lenses, it can shoot your 4/3 glass as well, and the AF speed is quick and snappy even when using the adapter for that 4/3 glass. See a sample below with the 14-35 at f/2. 

The 4/3 14-35 f/2 lens on the E-M1. Focused fast and nice.

Has some of my own Processing style and a crop in this one :) 

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Olympus had the set up at the castle and allowed us to all shoot with an E-M1 (we were all supplied with our own E-M1, bag and two lenses). We shot models, we shot horses and we shot some very cool light painting effects with Live Time, which is exclusive to Olympus.

Improvements Galore that I noticed in my real world use…

Body & IS

But what about the camera in general? Is it an improvement over the E-M5? YES, YES, and YES! It is a pretty nice improvement in body style and ergonomics…it feels better than the E-M5 no question. The grip was added and the body feels better made, more solid. The buttons and dials are placed nicely in the correct positions and also feel professional and solid. The E-M1 still has the incredible class leading 5-Axis IS but it has been tweaked a little for better performance.

The 17 1.8 at 1.8 – click it for more detail and to see just how sharp this lens is on the E-M1

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The HUGE EVF

We also have the EVF upgrade which gives us the huge VF4 built-in to the body, which means this is the mirrorless camera with the best EVF to date. It is beautiful to look through and work with. Id take this over an optical any day, but I love EVF’s these days. They are damn good from Sony and Olympus.

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SPEED – contrast and phase AF

The camera also has dual fast AF, Contrast and Phase Detect which means faster AF. I did not really notice the AF to be much faster over the E-M5 but did like the new options. When shooting some action scenes I was able to change my AF points from single to a patch of them in the center which made it easier  and faster to lock on and follow, and lock on and follow it did.

The next three shots: The 12-40, then the last two are with the beautiful 75 1.8. The camera had no problem tracking these fast-moving subjects!

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LIVE TIME 

One amazing thing I loved about the E-M5 and now E-M1 is the Live Time feature. This is not new on the E-M5 but just wanted to show how easy it is to get an amazing long exposure JUST right. If you like light painting or shooting the stars, this is your camera, hands down. It takes the guesswork out as you watch in realtime as your image develops. Leaving the shutter open for your long exposure allows you to see via the LCD just how it is exposing, and coming along. When it looks right to you, you stop the exposure. Amazing capabilities and this feature is only in Olympus cameras.

Me as an Angel

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and then there is the Devil

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Both of those images were done by Light Painting which is leaving the shutter open while lights are moved and placed in areas to allow them to get exposed. These were exposures up to 2 minutes in length. Pretty cool. You can tell when your image is ready just by viewing the exposure in real-time. Amazing.

WiFi – EASY to access and set up

One thing I go over in the video at the top of the page is WiFi and how to set it up. It is easy and takes about 1 minute and once you are all set up you can use yoru smart phone as your viewfinder, control settings and snap the image, all remotely. You can also transfer images from the cameras SD card to your smart phone or iPad, quick and easy. It works well.

The lens every Micro 4/3 shooter should own. The 45 1.8 – (buy it here). It seems that most lenses are REALLY sharp on the E-M1

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HIGH ISO

What was once ISO 6400 is now 3200. The high ISO is improved with the camera and while it is still no full frame or Fuji X in the extreme high-end range of ISO, it does very well.

ISO 640 – 75 1.8

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ISO 400 – 45 1.8

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ISO 12800

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ISO 6400 using “Grainy B&W” Art Filter

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So while I recommend shooting B&W after ISO 3200, the camera is more capable than the E-M5 was before it when it comes to low light and high ISO. Micro 4/3 sensors just keep getting better and better.

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ART FILTERS

The Art Filters are still here including two of my faves, Grainy B&W and Pinhole. Below is a sample OOC file using the Pinhole filter.

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At the end of the day…

The new Olympus E-M1 is a “Mirrorless Masterpiece” it does almost everything right, and really gets nothing wrong. Olympus wants us to know that this camera is just as capable as a huge DSLR at half the size, and they are correct. The E-M1 does everything that a DSLR can do, but in some cases better and in a some ways not so much.

Will this match the overall IQ of a full frame DSLR or Leica M? No. Will it match an APS-C DSLR or camera? YES, and then some.

The reason why I call this a “Mirrorless Masterpiece” is because it has class leading features, build, feel, AF speed, lenses, and usability. No other mirrorless has the 5-axis IS, no other mirrorless has the innovative Live Time feature and no other mirrorless has this many amazing prime and zoom lenses available for their system. No other Mirrorless has this kind of EVF attached and built-in.

No other mirrorless can beat the E-M1 for speed either. I had a hard time finding something to NOT like about the E-M1 and after two days of use and thinking, I really have nothing bad at all to say about it. If  you know what Micro 4/3 can do then you will love this camera. If you are someone who refuses to believe that a Micro 4/3 can deliver, well it can. Just do not expect full frame performance :)

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The new 12-40 2.8 lens is also a fantastic lens if you want a convenient 2.8 aperture zoom. I loved it but I still prefer my prime lenses with even faster apertures but those looking for a pro level zoom, the 12-40 rocks and I prefer it to the Panasonic 12-35 2.8. It’s also blazing fast and Olympus says it beats the quality of their 4/3 lenses, so fans of the old 12-60 rejoice, your Micro 4/3 version is here (sort of).

Olympus says this is the biggest digital camera release ever for them, and now I can see why. If Micro 4/3 is in your future or in your life right now, there is no way you would or could be disappointed by the OM-D E-M1. Some will not enjoy the looks as that snazzy new Panasonic GX7 is pretty damn sexy but at the end of the day Olympus has yet another winner in the E-M1 and 12-40 Zoom.

If you have not watched the video at the top of the page, do so as I say quite a bit about the camera as well as give a WiFi tutorial. If you have not seen my long and full Olympus E-M5 review, click here to see it. 

The E-M1 is an achievement in the Mirrorless world. yes my friends, these cameras just keep getting better.

The video from the US Launch Event (I am in the video for a short bit) :) 

Where to BUY? 

You can pre-order the Olympus E-M1 at the links below, and if you do use the links  you are helping this site to keep on chugging along. So I thank you!

Buy the E-M1 at B&H Photo – Buy the new 12-40 2.8 Zoom at B&H Photo

Buy the E-M1 at Amazon – Buy the new 12-40 2.8 Zoom at Amazon

Buy the E-M1 at PopFlash.com

I will leave you with a few more samples :) Enjoy!

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UPDATE: Full size from RAW image samples. Click any image below for the full size file!

By Request: Full size from RAW Olympus OM-D E-M1 Images

Hello to all! I just arrived back home from Ireland after an 18 hour travel day, delayed flights and missed connections but hey, it was worth it just to go to the gorgeous castle and put the E-M1 to  the test in a beautiful environment. The weather was not so hot on the day at the Castle which required me to up the ISO on the camera but I still feel the images are superb. I have had a few email requests for full size images, from RAW from the camera. So here you go!

Enjoy and have a great rest of the weekend! I will be back Monday morning!

You must click on each image to get the full size. Text is embedded on each image with the lens used as well as ISO.

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…and for comparison, a full size Leica M 240 file from the same day, same weather at ISO 200:

Many were complaining of the visible noise at 100% with the Olympus E-M1 files. Well, the Micro 4/3 files have always been like this. It has been one thing that has remained constant. The E-M5 does it, the E-P1 does it and the GX7 does it as well. What you see in my full size samples are images with all Noise Reduction turned OFF. When you print these images and view them at web size  you will not see the noise. While I did not do any side by sides with my Leica M (only took 6 shots with my Leica) I did take the one below with the M from my Blacony. ISO 200, 50 1.4 Summilux. A $11,000 combo. You can see noise in this sample as well at 100%. Again, I turn off all NR on every camera I own for maximum detail as slight noise at 100% does not bother me. : ) The dreary weather also adds to this effect.

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Sep 122013
 

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Amazing photos with the new Olympus OM-D E-M1! By Edmond Terakopian

A reader, Edmond Terakopian was at an Olympus Event where he was able to REALLY use the camera. He shot photo and video and WOW, the results are spectacular! Check out his video shot with the E-M1 below followed by his photos shot with the camera. These are some gorgeous looking images that not only shows what the new E-M1 can do, but also what Edmond can do! Thanks Edmond!

BTW, I was invited by Olympus to attend a 3 day event at Castle Leslie in Ireland, where Edmond shot these images. Seems they are really going out in a big way to show what this guy can do! My event time is near the end of the month. Looks gorgeous!

You can see all of Edmonds E-M1 photos at his Flickr HERE

His blog is HERE

His site is HERE

Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Video from Edmond Terakopian on Vimeo.
 

Photos shot with the E-M1 by Edmond – More on his FLICKR page

Portrait of a model and lake. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot using the new Olympus 12mm-40mm f2.8 lens.  Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian    *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

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All images copyright Edmond Terakopian

Of course you can nab the E-M1 (ships in about 3 – 3 1/2 weeks) at Amazon, B&H Photo or PopFlash.com

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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Jul 052013
 

Using the Olympus OM-D E-M5 for Landscapes By Steve Gosling

By Steve Gosling

Over the years I’ve owned a number of Olympus cameras – icons like the OM1n and the OM4, the original Olympus Trip (I still have a collection of these) and compact classics like the 35RD, 35RC and the XA. I’ve always been attracted by the marques blend of style and functionality. And that attraction continues today with the PEN and OMD range.

When the EPL2 was launched I acquired one and loved using it as a lightweight, go anywhere camera (usually combined with the Olympus 9-18mm lens – still one of my favourite zooms for M4/3s). That was eventually joined by an EP3 and more recently by an EPL5. But I’m a traditional kind of guy when it comes to photography gear, particularly for landscape photography and I struggle with composing images on a rear LCD (particularly when handholding a camera). So when the OMD came out I was keen to see if it offered me the portability and quality of my PENs with the convenience of a built-in finder.

Other than occasional use of the Olympus VF2 it was the first EVF I’d really tried and I have to say I was impressed. For the way I work the absence of an OVF wasn’t a great loss (my main camera for landscapes is an Alpa TC & Phase One P45+ back and the Alpa doesn’t have any viewfinder at all).

I’ve been using the OMD for around 12 months now and really enjoy it as a supplement to my Alpa based outfit, particularly for those occasions when I want to be more opportunistic and require the flexibility & portability of the Olympus gear.

Undoubtedly, when I need the highest quality or want to take a more considered & methodical approach to my landscape photography then nothing is ever going to beat my Alpa and the P45+ (this combination is a landscape photographers dream).

But when I’ve wanted to travel light it has been my Olympus OMDs that I have turned to, not my Canon 5DmkII. In fact, in spite of being a Canon user since 1990, I’ve now sold my entire Canon outfit – it just wasn’t getting used.

If I had to highlight the features that really work for me on the OMD it would be the following: -

– Small & light but solidly built – when it’s in your hands it feels like it’s got some substance to it (it reminds me of my much missed OM4s);

– Weather sealed body & lens – essential for outdoor photography in the UK (I believe that if I haven’t got wet then I probably haven’t got a good shot!);

– Live Bulb/Live Time feature – great for monitoring the exposure progress on the long exposure photography that I love to do. This is a fantastic feature that I don’t see mentioned very much in reviews of the camera;

– The viewfinder – as I’ve said I much prefer to view the scene through a viewfinder than looking on the back of the camera. It’s also better in bright light and makes it easier to judge the effects & positioning of ND grad filters;

– The tilting screen – however the addition of the angled screen is a great option to have for candid/street & low level photography. I’m not getting any younger and getting down onto my knees is still possible – it’s the getting back up again that has become harder!;

– The built in level – off kilter horizons are generally a no-no in landscape photography (unless as a deliberate, aesthetic choice) so the level visible in the viewfinder really ensures handheld scenic shots aren’t spoilt by this problem.

– The Art Filters – I love to use these on my PEN & OMD cameras; they’re a great stimulus for the creative photographer. I really like using the B&W Dramatic Tone filter – it can give some atmospheric results with the choice of the right subject matter.

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About the Photographer

Steve is an award-winning professional photographer based in the UK. He specializes in producing creative & contemporary landscape images (his signature style is moody & atmospheric black & white photographs). His photographs have been published internationally in books, magazines & newspapers and on greetings cards, posters & advertisements.

He particularly enjoys writing & teaching about photography and frequently gives talks to photographic groups in the UK & abroad as well as being a regular contributor to photography magazines in many different countries. He has run a successful workshop program for several years encouraging and inspiring photographers of all levels from across the world.

Further details about his workshop programme and a selection of his images can be found on his website

 

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