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

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.


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



  1. Love the square format and the gritty pics. You could have claimed you used a Hasselblad and many would have waxed lyrical on the look of the pictures. The Olympus is a super camera to have with you at all times. I have one, and a Hassalblad, you can guess what I use the most.Too much concern (marketing) on what camera is used, more important is the result. Well done like your approach.

  2. Steve, these are excellent photos! I like how you have managed to so boldly yet effectively use the square format for landscapes. I like the gritty look that some have called “overcooked”, but I guess it’s a personal taste thing. I too use the OM-D and have virtually stopped using my DSLR. The quality of the lenses and relative cost-to-performance ratio compared to FF or DX format lenses is really great. I have the Panasonic 7-14mm lens and I’m amazed at the sharpness of that lens even at 7mm. I also use the Voigtlander 17.5mm f/0.95 lens, and it is also amazing and very sharp (f/1.2 onwards). Combined with the 5-axis IBIS, it is unbelievable what can be done with it’s low light performance. I cannot wait for the 42.5mm f/0.95 to be released.

  3. Beautiful pictures, Steve!!!
    Btw. I am surprised that you like the EVF on the OMD. For me it is a big disappointment. I dislike so much the fuzzy view in the EVF that I prefer to use the screen. Besides the otherwise great OMD I usually use my trusty Pentax k-5.

  4. My prime motivation with all of my photography is to communicate what I feel (as much or more than what I see) when I press the shutter so technical perfection is usually a secondary consideration. Communicating mood and emotion is what I’m about photographically. If you’d like to see more of my photographs and hear in depth about what drives me as a photographer then I can recommend the webinars I’ve done for the Manfrotto School of Xcellence (particularly ‘Photographing from the Heart’ and ‘Imperfect Impressions’) – they can be found here . Thanks once again for the interest in my work.

  5. I’ll try to answer some of the questions about the technical stuff. I always shoot RAW and JPEG so that if I’m using one of the Art Filters (usually the DT B&W filter) then I still have an untouched RAW file I can work with. I’ve found the JPEGs are great for web use and small prints but if I want the highest quality image (for exhibition quality prints for example) then I’ll process the RAW file using a combination of Capture One, Photoshop and Silver Efex Pro II to get the result I’m after. The lenses (all Olympus) I use on the OMD are 9-18mm, 14-42mm, 40-150mm and 12-50mm zooms; primes are 12mm, 17mm and 45mm.

  6. Nice shots. I like the composition and that they all have that homogenous look. maybe a bit too much grain for my eyes but thats just personal preference. thanks for sharing your experience.

  7. Hey Steve, Lovely work….your part of the world is a place I need to explore….Bravo from British Columbia

  8. Great shots of Stalker (and Eilean Donan).

    A little “sooty” in some of the darker tones for my liking, but it’s a minor quibble.

  9. Very, very compelling images, Steve. I also shoot my OM-D in RAW and with a selection of the filters. I agree that sometimes a shot yields a great OOC JPG and other times an idea or two for tweaking the RAW image. As for those of you complaining about crushed blacks, everything being magenta, overhyped camera, and noise, I say…all that is just so much noise. Stop commenting, go out and shoot some images, and bring them back to us.

  10. I like the article and I LOVE the images – They are fantastic. For the life of me I don’t know why there are always photographers that like to publicly put down another photogs work. These are the gritty type of images I have been aspiring to achieve but even if they weren’t, I’d just keep my mouth shut. I’d tell you to keep up the good work Steve but you obviously don’t need my slap on the back 😉

  11. Nice moody photos. The Dramatic BW filter can be very useful. I also like the square format and edge treatment.

  12. Nice work. Great camera for the sensor size and Olympus did a great job with this.

    Fairly safe to say you’d do a great job regardless of camera, though good to show what it can do.

    • I agree, Alan… Pleasing pictures and as the old saying goes, “Opinions are like a55holes, everyone has one and most of them stink.”

  13. I didn’t know my OMD5 had a B&W Dramatic Tone filter! But I do now. Can we assume that you used this filter on some or all of these photos? I have gravitated towards B&W, even for landscape, but I have always shied away from in-camera filter effects, preferring to use PhotoShop and NIK to transform color photos to B&W. I like the drama your photos are capturing, but of course this is what the filter is supposed to deliver. Embarrassing. I’ll review my camera’s menu system again for the hundredth time or so. I am completely sold on this 4/3 Olympus. Heavy into the lenses which are quite good. I still use my Leica M9 for what it was designed for, but the Olympus provides valuable features at the other ends, telephoto and macro. I’ll check your web site for more photos. These are a great sampler.

    • Larry, under Menu Option 2, try Bracketing > Art. It keeps your standard settings (and RAW if you’ve selected that), and then adds one image per filter chosen. I like some but not all of them, so have mine set up to take Color, Diorama, Black and White, and Custom, which I’ve set to Black and White with a Red filter. Sometimes add Portrait for a softer tone.

      Gives me lots of OOC JPEGs, and some visualization of potential for the shot, that I can often use straightaway. If not, I go into PS or LR and adjust the RAW file for more control over the final image.

      Beware choosing too many, as it’s got to write them to the card!



      PS: love the photos,OP! 🙂

  14. These are outrageous! keep “overcooking” whatever you want because it sure does make my eyeballs happy

  15. All fab pictures, though overcooked for my taste as someone has already said it. Absolutely love the last picture, would love to have that on my wall, a bit postersize! Sublime….

  16. Steve, your olympus collection over the years sounds a lot like mine.

    In using the 9-18 too (love it) but its not weather sealed is it? Are using the 12-50 or one of the Panasonic lenses?

    Great shots.

  17. Nice compositions.
    But well, well, the OM-D E-M5. After two test sessions, I sold mine, as I had rapidly realized that it always produces an ugly red/magenta cast even in RAW files, and that its RAW files have got only a minor potential for black-and-white conversion. I think it is a very weak and extremely over-hyped camera.

    • You may wish to read the manual. This is a well known issue with the default settings.

    • That’s odd. I get some of the best images I’ve ever had out of any camera I’ve owned with the OMD.
      I don’t care about pixels, files, noise or any of the other’ digitalis obsessius ‘ that people seem to worry about. i simply look at the results and I’m getting great stuff in terms of sharpness and color in my images with OMD.Nobody has looked at any of my shots and said..oh dear, too bad about that ugly magenta cast.I don’t think the OMD is ‘hyped’ any more than the other cameras on the market.
      Leica is over hyped. Ricoh GR is over hyped. Canon is over hyped. Don’t you think so?
      Look at the pictures taken by Robin Wong on his shutter therapy web page. They are sharp with great color. Some of the best I’ve seen. No hype there. Just beautiful results.
      Stop worrying about raw files, conversions, sensor sizes. Let the camera companies take care of that stuff. Take pictures. Many of the cameras on the market today have more than enough quality for you and me.
      Your reaction to looking at these great shots by Steve Gosling is just to complain about some inherent technicality in the camera used to take the photos???
      Out of curiosity. After selling your Olympus which camera did you buy to solve your magenta cast black and white conversion problem?

      • That’s is i’m talking about 🙂 … just shoot n print, the final result is in the print, n my family is happy that i take a camera where ever i go, so after, trip, there is something to look over n over again 🙂

        in the other hand, i shot for living to, my client never complaint about the pixel, dynamic range, iso, noise, DOF bla bla bla, like Steve Jones say, if the shot is sharp, is SAVE :D, plus olympus color … i never found a client who reject an olympus color … that is prove, oly color is that good 🙂

  18. Beautiful black & white, looks like noise appeared on all photo of the sky portion. According to my experience of converting colour photo to black & white, noise reduction has to be applied, otherwise noise can be visible in the sky portion.

  19. Steve, these are stunning landscape images. With a very sensitive approach. Are you photographing in RAW or Jpeg {since you mentioned the Art Filters}. I find the Oly OMD to be my favorite camera. And like you favor it over my Canon pro gear and L lenses. The OMD is super light weight, extremely responsive and a pleasure to shoot with. After my wife, its my favorite traveling companion. My lenses are: Zuiko 75 1.8, 45 1.8, 12mm 2.0 and the Panny 20mm 1.7. My next purchase will be the 17mm 1.8 {for street} and the 60 mm Macro just for fun. Thank you for sharing you landscape photography.

  20. Like that last shot. The others are interesting but a bit overcooked for me. I had an XZ-1 for a while and found it’s art filters too strong.

    • I agree, crushed blacks. Leaving something in the shadows would have been nice. I would imagine this was post-processing style rather than the camera, per se.

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