1. This is a user experience based review.
2. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 3.
3. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
4. No post-processing applied to the images, except slight brightness/contrast balance tweak. All images were as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping for better presentation.
This blog review is a continuation from Part 1 (click) and Part 2 (click) of my Olympus PEN E-P5 review series. If you have not read the previous parts, please do so.
In this particular blog entry, I shall be going two main things: 1) discussing about the new built in Wi-Fi feature, which is the first for micro 4/3 Olympus cameras and 2) shooting on the street with a C-Mount CCTV lens, as promised earlier, to test how well the focus peaking works in manual focusing for street shooting.
I strongly believe that in the future, built-in Wi-Fi functions will be a mainstay for any cameras, promising better connectivity with computers as well as smart devices (phones and tablets). After all, with Wi-Fi being the mainstream feature in most devices we use day to day, such as laptop computers and smartphones, it only makes sense that having the camera with Wi-Fi enabled capabilities will surely make overall photography workflow more seamless and efficient at the same time.
To demonstrate how the Olympus E-P5's Wi-Fi function works, I have made a very short video clip demo, as follows:
Obviously, your smart device (Android phones, tablets, or I-phones and I-pads) must have built in Wi-Fi feature. To be able to use the Wi-Fi features on your smart devices, you will need to first download and install an App called O.I. Share (Olympus Image Share), which is available for two main platforms: iOS and Android. The App can be obtained from Google Play Store or Apple Apps store.
Basically, there are two main advantages of using the Wi-Fi, the first being the obvious one, to be able to transfer the photos stored in the SD card (inside the camera of course) out to other devices, such as a smartphone, or a tablet PC. In the video demo, I have shown how to transfer the photographs to my own Android phone. Secondly, you can have a "remote control" function, which means you can control your camera via your smart phone or tablet.
Easy Setup with QR Code Scanning
Once you have activated the Wi-FI function on camera (tapping the icon on top left corner of camera live view screen, by touch) you will come to a screen with QR code generated. To connect your smart device to the camera, you then open the App, and scan the QR code from the O.I Share built in scanner. This should work rather easily, and fast. Once the scan is completed, you are automatically connected, and no further steps are required. As simple as that.
I really think this is a genius way to implement the setup connection between the camera and the intended smart device. The traditional way of keying in complicated long passwords can be troublesome and annoying with failed multiple attempts. Not only is this QR scanning method fast and efficient, it is also safe because the connection established is private, since each time the connection is made, different QR code is generated. I have a feeling "other big manufacturers will copy this method, one way or another. Mark my words. This is one rare occasion when Olympus actually succeeded in user-friendliness and simplicity!
Remote Control Function
The remote control allows you to control your camera with your smart device. I then have used the phone as shown in above video, to shoot some images. The phone screen acted as the camera's live view, replacing the camera backscreen. Imagine if you have a 10 inch powerful, Retina grade display on your I-Pad, how amazing it would be to be able to compose image with that? Once the live view is activated and you are seeing in real time what the camera is seeing, you then have the ability to touch and shoot. The operation was impressively lag-free, and the response of the camera to the touch on my Android Phone's screen was instantaneous. You can quickly tap and shoot again and again with no delay, or interruptions! If you have seen some other manufacturers' implementation (lets not mention brands here for the sake of not "accidentally" insulting others) you will acknowledge how blazingly fast and efficient in Olympus' implementation.
The downside? The shooting mode was restricted to I-Auto only. Which means you have no control over the shutter speed, ISO and Aperture while shooting. You cannot manual focus, and no white balance adjustment. Everything was purely automatic. Surely, this was the very beginning of Olympus' implementation, and early version showing what their App O.I. Share can do. I am very confident, more and more functions and controls will be added in the future. It is not too far a stretch to demand that we have a FULL SUPER CONTROL PANEL on the smart device, fully controllable in the remote control function! That, would be awesome. And why not throw in some even more useful features such as intervalometer through the remote control function?
Image Transfer Function
The most important feature I believe, is the ability to transfer images out from the camera directly into the smart devices, and from the same App O.I Share, you can immediately edit your images (applying all Olympus Art Filters) and more: share your images out into popular social media platforms. The one very powerful feature which Olympus introduced, that many other manufacturers at the moment do not have, is the ability for you to SELECT which photos to transfer out of the camera, before the transfer begins. Most other Wi-Fi offerings will force you to transfer EVERYTHING out all at once, which can be a disaster if you have shot a total of 32GB (erm... thousands of photos?). If you intend to just use a few images quickly, you can select them from the preview screen (in grid style) by tapping the images you want, and then save. The "saving" part, transfering images out was quite fast, averaging about 1-2 seconds per image (reduced size to about 3MP resolution, and there is an option to transfer ORIGINAL image, JPEG or RAW). After you have the images on your smart device, you can then quickly share them out, by Email or Messaging, and even publish to social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. All of these can be done in the same O.I Share App.
I do like how the O.I Share is very responsive, and quick. There was almost no delay in operation, and everything seemed smooth and efficient. Perhaps, the App can gain more attention and popularity, once all the more important and sought after photography features are included. Photographers are control freaks, the more we can control, the more we love our devices. Olympus, make that SUPER CONTROL PANEL, which by itself is so awesome, available in the O.I. Share App! Then you will have one killer App.
I also believe this first generation O.I Share is intended for integration with social media use, as their primary delivery function. This is the generation of instant sharing of images online, via multiple social media platforms. Yes, the phone has a camera which is mostly used everywhere by everyone, but imagine, what if you can use your more powerful micro 4/3 camera, and shoot the image which appear more "professional" and yet, having the ease and flexibility to quickly use those images, and share them almost as instantly? The problem with most "DSLR" or "advanced camera" shooters, is that they tend to go home, spend heaps of time unloading the photographs and then even more heaps of time editing them before actually publishing anything. Perhaps, the way photographs are shared will change, and surely this is the age of the instant noodles where everything has to be fast.
Though the E-P5 does not have a GPS to record the exact location of each photo taken, you can use the O.I Share, which must be activated on your smartdevice. As you bring along, say, your smartphone, having the geo-tagging (your smart device must have a GPS, obviously) on the O.I Share will then allow you to embed the location information into the image data, as you sync them by shooting time. As you transferred the images into your smart device, the geo-tagging should be done automatically. This is a smart way to overcome the lack of GPS built in the camera, but taking advantage of a smartphone or devices which, most photographers, should own.
Olympus PEN E-P5 and C-Mount CCTV Lens 25mm F1.2 lens
Alright, enough of Wi-Fi talk. Now lets get on with some shooting, and yes, some photographs from the E-P5!
As I have mentioned in my Part 1 review in this series, I have brought the E-P5, with the CCTV lens 25mm F1.2 mounted for a full morning shutter therapy session. This time, I went to Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur for my photowalk. It was a cool morning with overcast weather, which it actually rained much later in the afternoon. The color was dull and lighting was flat, but it was a cool weather for walking and shooting, so I was not complaining. However, having a cloudy day meant that again, I could not test the 1/8000sec shutter speed, because the lighting was not intense enough to create a necessity for the use of such fast shutter speed. Oh bummer!
In my Part 2 Review, I have also complained how impractical the focus peaking implementation in the E-P5 for insect macro shooting (with high magnification factor). I felt that the focus peaking was more suitable for quick manual focusing, and surely this would be beneficial for street shooting, which I intended to test in this session. I had focus peaking switched on at all times, and I used interchangeably between the VF-4 electronic viewfinder and the E-P5's LCD backscreen.
Portrait of an Indian Lady
100% crop from previous image. Not bad, for a cheap CCTV lens, eh? The center sharpness is quite good. Of course, the corners were... erm... useless.
Lets get right to the point: the focus peaking was a life-saver! It was a joy to have focus peaking for manual focusing with the CCTV lens. It was very easy to use, and the indication was very accurate. The live view, as I have reported earlier, was jumpy and the refresh rate dropped but that was not a big issue for wider angle lenses such as the 25mm, shooting the subjects from a far distance. In fact, the accuracy of the peaking was so good that I felt there was no need for autofocus, and I can confidently use the CCTV lens now for more serious street shooting, if I have the E-P5's focus peaking in any of my other Olympus cameras!
There are several occasions that I was shooting moving subjects (good example, Ties) and it was not difficult to achieve good enough focus. You have two options for peaking color, either black or white, and I used white.
As unforgiving as the focus peaking can be for macro shooting, I do believe for most general shooting, it is still a very useful and powerful feature. I do not understand why Olympus disabled focus peaking for video recording. They should, in the future, updated the firmware to enable the focus peaking in movie mode.
As expected, the CCTV lens is not the best lens to be used to judge the image quality of the camera, so please do not use the images from this blog entry as reference of E-P5's capabilities. I just wanted to show you that I have very high percentage of "hits" using manual focusing via focus peaking Those images are evidence that, for a guy who RARELY use manual focusing shooting on the street, the focus peaking has become something that made shooting with manual focusing very fun, and doable!
War on Wall
Friendly Strangers (they asked me to shoot them!)
There are only a few occasions I missed focus, and those are difficult conditions. One notable on was when the subject moved too fast and I could not track (follow) the focused area, or I followed wrongly. Also, your subject must have sufficient contrast for the peaking to work. In very dark areas with flat shadow, the focus peaking will not work. To counter these issues, there is the magnify 7x, 10x or 14x preview for manual focus assist so you can get very accurate focusing, but you lose speed and efficiency in executing your shots. I believe the main advantage of focus peaking is allowing you to shoot in manual focus without much compromise in terms of speed. You only have to quickly approximate the focus by seeing patches of white (or black) at the areas/zones where you intend to be in focus. It was fast, and easy to use, and should work well in most shooting conditions.
The following are some examples of failed shots:
In the shade, the peaking failed to show.
When subjects moved too fast, my fingers were not fast enough to rotate the manual focus ring.
Before I end this part 3, there is one VERY important improvement in E-P5 which I must report.
The Battery Life: IMPROVED
Olympus PEN E-P5 uses a BLN-1 battery, which is similar to the one used in OM-D E-M5. While the battery life of OM-D was very poor, as I have complained mercilessly, it was quite the opposite for the E-P5. I have shot more than 1200 images, mostly using the VF-4 (200 images on the street, about 1000 images in an indoor stadium event, which I will blog in the following entry), and having the 5-Axis Image Stabiliazation on all the time, with active preview for every single image (my habit of setting auto-review for each images captured). I did a lot of pixel peeping.
Yet, after the 1200 images captured in a single battery, as I got home, there was no indication of "low battery" warning. So I continued to shoot the above video clip of the Wi-Fi demo, which took me about half an hour with multiple retakes. The Wi-Fi was on for a while and I was transferring dozens and dozens of images out from the camera. Yet at the end of the session, the camera still did not show signs of battery dying.
I did not kill the battery yet, because I always made sure I have the battery fully charged before I went out shooting. 1200 shots, with Wi-Fi usage, and not low battery, is something unheard of in previous Olympus micro 4/3 cameras I have tested. The most I could go with E-P3 or OM-D was 400-500 shots. I am not sure what Olympus did with E-P5, but this is a GREAT news.
I hope you beautiful people find my sharing on the Wi-Fi features in this blog entry useful. And yes, the focus peaking is also a good feature, for most general manual focusing works.
I will have one more part of my review next, to wrap up and conclude the series.
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