The Power of the Olympus E-M5 II – Long Exposures

The Power of the Olympus E-M5 II – Long Exposures

By Steve Huff


Remember when I said that Olympus is a company that INNOVATES? They seem to surprise the hell out of me with every camera release. After the amazing E-M5 Mk I I thought…what else can they do? Then they released the E-M1 which is a POWERHOUSE, and I have owned one since release and now own a beautiful silver version. The system, the lenses, the capabilities..are pretty much unrivaled by ANYONE, even the Big C and N.

Now with the E-M5 MkII they did it again. Updated and upgraded the 5 Axis IS to a 5 Stop Performance increase, added a side swivel LCD, put in the large EVF of the E-M1, and added the High Res 40Mp shot mode (creates 107MB RAW files) and the camera also has the Live Time and Live Composite features of the E-M1 and other Olympus Micro 4/3 Cameras.

My review will be coming soon for the E-M5II but just wanted to share an image from last night. I was out with Alex McClure, a friend of mine who lives not too far from me who happens to be an Olympus Visionary. We headed out to a spot in the Desert that he knew of and set out to shoot star trails. With Alex giving me some tips (I have never done this before) it took literally 3 minutes to be off and running.

A video I did showing the E-M5II and E-M1 side by side

The Lens I used was the wonderful Panasonic 8mm Fisheye. The total exposure time? Just around 40 MINUTES! This was using LIVE COMPOSITE which NO OTHER camera system has. Basically you set it to Live Composite…then take ONE image. The camera exposes the scene perfectly so your subject (in my case below, the cacti) is perfectly exposed. You then press the shutter again and it stays open while giving you LIVE Updates on your LCD showing real time exposure. What it was doing was taking 20 second exposures and stacking them in camera. We shot for around 40 minutes at ISO 1000.

After closing the shutter, the finished image popped up on my LCD in about 10 seconds. What you see below is direct from camera, JPEG.

Super easy, super simple. All I needed was the camera, a tripod and a lens. Pretty amazing for 40 minutes of 20 second exposures. Never again will I have to stack images in photoshop. Never again will I have to worry about exposure or over exposure. Normally, just leaving the shutter open would have overexposed the cactus but with Live Composite, no worries. It is genius.

LIVE COMPOSITE MODE  – E-M5 II – Around 40 minutes of 20 second exposures, automatically done in camera. The camera does ALL the work. ISO 1000. The E-M1 also does this. This makes these tools my personal pref for night time long exposure work. It’s just SO easy and foolproof. 


PRE-ORDER the Olympus E-M5II – Ships in less than 2 weeks!




Two more images but these were shot with my E-M1 and were much shorter, using LIVE TIME not LIVE COMPOSITE 




  1. Hi Steve!

    I was wondering; everybody on the net talks about how the em1 is bad for long exposure and that it generates a lot of noise (even more then em5). What are your thoughts on that? i am upgrading from my em10 and looking at the em1 for better handling, im really need that grip!


  2. Hi Steve,
    Congrats for your smart website.
    I got 2 questions about e-m5ii and long exposure:
    1) sensor heat was quite an issue with my e-m5, with so many hot spots in the frame: how is it with the mark II?
    2) pressing the shutter in composite and time modes should cause a bit of camera shake: how do you manage that? Are you using a remote control?
    Thank you, cheers

  3. I’m kinda late to the party on this one. I tried the live comp mode last night, tried to also preview that though the WiFi app ( its drops out too regularly for me sofar), what I wanted to ask, and ive googled the hell outta this withmo real answer, just how do you get the live comp for a full 40 mins, I had several goes last night. All seemed to stop around 5-10 mins, basically when I’d go check the camera it was off and hitting the shutter just brought up the LCD ready for another shot?!?. Is there some setting I need to find, and its probably right under my nose!

    Cheers, love your site!

  4. Steve, I just got this camera yesterday. I am trying to figure out how to configure a group of shots for time-lapse. The documentation and interface are not as friendly as my GH3. The GH3 has an intervalometer like interface that is so easy to set up and I can set it for any number of shots. Do you know how to do this on the m5mark2? Ex. 200 shots at 20secs every 3 secs.

  5. Hey Steve!

    I have a very big dilemma that I believe someone of your knowledge could help me with. I am deciding between the GH4 and E-M5ii. I am looking to take crisp pictures, but I also want clear videos. 4k isn’t a deal breaker, but I would be able to downscale 4k to 1080 if that makes the video substantially better. I also want the speedier camera just in case I see that bird or animal I want to catch on camera. All photographs will be taken on the island of Kauai, so you know that i will be taking pictures of beaches and jungles. Budget isn’t an issue, but I’m really looking for the overall better video and photo. Bells and Whistles are defiantly my second priority! Thanks for your reviews, and i am looking forward to hearing from you!
    Best Regards,

    • I use my E-M1 for video all the time and have done MANY videos that have 100-200k views using it. It’s great with the 5 Axis. But I am not into 4K, etc. I’m 1080 as that is all I need. Best thing to do would be to rent both and see which you prefer.

  6. Thanks for the review matey! I purposefully didn’t buy the E-M1 because of the high noise on long exposures that some reviewers found, but I was led to believe the E-M5 had a different sensor so didn’t suffer from this problem. Do you say the mark 2 has the same sensor as the E-M1, and if so then do you think it will suffer from the noise problem? Thanks!

  7. The 40mp mode shouldn’t be a reason to go for the em5 mkII over the em1.

    You literally have to have nothing moving even a tiny bit. landscapes are out, how often is nothing moving, even tiny movement in leaves, trees, water etc. It’s not a shutter thing, you’re talking 1/2 pixel movement move in the sensor. Even vibration from the flash on the camera going off is enough to ruin a shot.

    Still will make a beautiful back up to my em1, but need that new 40-150 first!

  8. Steve, sorry if i miss your answer somewhere else in 5 Mark II posts but…can you compare E-M1 focus with 5 Mark II? Just wonder if i would miss PDFA stuff?

  9. Is the Live Composite feature the same as in the EM-10?.
    When my Nikon v1 dies eventually, I will be seriously looking at Olympus, unless Nikon can come up with something similar. Really enjoy your website.

  10. Hi Steve,

    I’ve looked through the manual online and can’t find any answers, so maybe you can help – is it possible to disable both the rear screen and the eye sensor so that the EVF remains on at all times?

    Thanks for everything!

  11. Steve, this is more than awesome. Now that I’m back into M4/3 (Panasonic GM5) this Oly looks quite interesting. I just saw a presentation on astro, and while I like the result, I didn’t relish all the time in PS. Thanks!

    • Hey Bob, I am telling you..I have the E-M1 and E-M5II (review unit) and both are amazing, best M 4/3 cameras you can get and they are quite powerful. With lenses like the 12 f/2, 25 1.4, 42.5 1.2 and 75 1.8 it is capable of some amazing things. The new 8mm 1.8 fisheye is coming and the 40-150 2.8 is mind blowing good. For long exposures they are SPECTACULAR.

  12. Looks great, Olympus seems to have hit the nail on the head when it comes to making mirrorless cameras useful, great quality and most importantly fun to use (so many brands seem to overlook this). I’ve been lucky enough to get to use all the flagship mirrorless cameras on the market for the last few years and the Olympus stuff probably comes closest in the mirrorless world to being like s canon or Nikon DSLR and just working. Even the battery life surprised me, I got 2 full days shooting in Taipei (over 500 shots) from a battery no problems. I can’t wait to get a look at the e-m5 II, just a shame it wasn’t available last week. Just waiting now on getting a 25mm lens.

  13. When doing long exposures on mirrorless cameras such as this, how is the battery life? How many batteries does one need to carry to comfortably shoot an average day/ nights worth of usage?

    • We shot for 2-3 hours and my battery was still 3/4 full, and that was after that 40 minute exposure. I shot all today as well, same battery and still have charge left.

      • Thanks!
        I still use a D700 and would like to add a smaller camera for backpacking/hiking. I still haven’t come to a decision as to which camera to go with. There are so many great choices nowadays.

        • Your D700 is 12Mpx, the E-M1 has 16. As its sensor is of a later generation, it would be quite comparable in its low-light behaviour. I have: D3, D800, E-M5 and E-M1. Am just using the E-M1 anymore. It is great, its stabilisation is superb and there is outstanding glass, some of it clearly better than the Nikkor ‘trinity’. I wish to mention: Olympus 75mm, Nocticron, Voigtlander… Since weight is your consideration, you will not regret the move to a modern instrument

  14. Great stuff. I got an EM-1 last year and have been loving it ever since. I have hardly even begun to scratch the surface of what can be done with these cameras. Fun stuff, and neat to see this example! Thanks!

  15. Do you think that the 40mp hi res mode and the improved IS might appear as a firmware update on the EM-1 at some point? They use the same processor and virtually identical sensors so if the mechanics of the respective IS systems are the same or similar then why not? Clearly not in version 3.0 but maybe sometime.

  16. Hey Steve, have you tried the star trails or light trails apps with your A7S? While not exactly the same seem to do a mostly similar thing.

    • Nope, but will this weekend. It doesn’t work the same way, as it does not have a live composite mode, which made that cactus shot possible without overexposing the cactus. I will try them though.

  17. Wo astrophotographers dream.

    Greenwich Royal Observatory Astronomy Photographer of the Year : EM5ii would clean up.

    • Live Composite & Almost Foveon like full colour sampling per pixel of 40MP composite
      makes EM5ii THE digital camera for me :
      above any digital FF, Medium Format and yes Foveon.

  18. In case any Sony a7s or a5100 are interested,(and as I mentioned in comment on Steve’s great EM5II preview) you can do the same type of “Live Time” and “Live Compsite” view as the EM family if you get the “Light Trail” app from the Sony PlayMemories website (think it works on a7s and a5100 only – not a7, a7r or even a7II). One of the best lightpainters / night exposure photographers in the UK (flickr user andwhynot) uses the LiveView app on his a7s .

  19. Steve from Oly website regarding firmware changes of EM-1 (per one of your recent posts I thought change was going to be more earth-shattering):

    Firmware update to Version 3.0
    Improvement on shooting capability of moving subjects
    with max. 9 fps AF tracking sequential shooting

    Olympus Imaging Corporation (President: Haruo Ogawa) is pleased to announce the latest firmware Version 3.0 for the flagship Compact System Camera, OLYMPUS OM-D E-M1 (Micro Four Thirds System standard compliant), scheduled for release on February 24, 2015. With the firmware Version 3.0 update, a maximum 9 fps*1 AF tracking sequential shooting is now possible, improving the ability to capture moving subjects.

    The OM-D E-M1 is the Olympus flagship Compact System Camera, with dustproof, splashproof, and freezeproof performance. Equipped with an on-chip phase detection sensor, this model is capable of high-speed, high-precision AF even when using a Four Thirds or Micro Four Thirds lens.

    By reworking the algorithm on phase-detection AF when shooting at continuous AF (C-AF), the previous AF sequential shooting speed of 6.5 fps is raised to a maximum high speed of 9 fps in Version 3.0. This improves AF tracking performance when using C-AF to shoot in Sequential H mode. When set to C-AF, 37-point on-chip phase detection AF is used. This lets users accurately capture moving subjects so they never miss a photo opportunity.
    The latest firmware Version 2.5 of the dedicated smartphone app, Olympus Image Share, is also supported. Users can now select movies as a shooting mode, and record movies while viewing the Live View screen on a smartphone.

    *1 Just as on previous models, max.10 fps when set to Sequential H mode (S-AF)

        • Well, I love the 17 1.8 and the 15 1.7 seems to be fantastic as well. The Panasonic has more contrast and a tad more pop. The 17 CAN have that if you add it in post, but the 17 has a gentleness about it, a delicacy that I like. Both are fantastic but the 15 has the Panasonic look similar to the 20 1.7, 25 1.4, etc.

  20. Steve, great video. Keep ’em coming!

    I see you already have the 14-150 II…

    PLEASE post your impressions of that lens on the EM5 II soon. I know you prefer fast, high quality lenses and primes over zooms, but it could still be a useful and fun lens for many people. Very convenient zoom range on that lens + weather sealing; could be great for trips and vacations in varying weather conditions. Just hoping its IQ is good, but I know it will not be as sharp as the pro lenses or primes.

  21. I would like to see the Sahauro image in black and white. I think it would be stunning?

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