5 Small Improvements Olympus Made in E-M5 Mark III

I managed to get my hands on a loaner E-M5 Mark III again from Olympus Malaysia, and I intend to shoot a bit more with the camera, and do a few more videos on YouTube. I made one exploring a few things that Olympus quietly changed in the camera which I believe no one has mentioned about yet. These minor changes may not be gamechangers and are certainly not worth making a big fuss about, but I do welcome any small incremental improvements, especially on menu and operational side of things. 

Shutter vibration is a real issue, any camera with moving physical shutter mechanism will induce shutter shock to a certain degree. The smaller build and lighter weight of E-M5 Mark III amplifies this issue, having less weight and bulk to dampen the vibration caused by shutter movement. An effective method to mitigate shutter vibration is to enable anti-shock on Olympus cameras. Anti-shock is the option to use electronic first curtain shutter, meaning that the opening of shutter involves no physical shutter movement, and the image sensor "turned on" digitally, hence successfully preventing any possible vibration caused by the shutter. Previously in any Olympus camera, this is an optional setting that can be switched on and off. However in E-M5 Mark III, the Anti-Shock setting is now permanently turned on, hence any image taken at shutter speeds of 1/320 sec or slower will be shot with Anti-Shock (electronic first curtain shutter). Anything faster than 1/320 sec, E-M5 Mark III employs the normal shutter mechanism. This makes perfect sense because at 1/320 sec or faster shutter speeds, there should not be any vibration recorded in the image. 

Super control panel is one of the best things in an Olympus camera, allowing quick adjustments of important settings, all laid out neatly within a single page. For some unexplained reasons, Olympus hid the option of Live Super Control Panel which is off by default. For most Olympus cameras, you need to dive deep into the menu system to turn it on. For E-M5 Mark III (and E-M1X), the Live Super Control Panel is now turned on by default, and can be called up by pressing the OK button while shooting via the Live View on LCD screen or EVF. 

Yet another one of weird decisions by Olympus in most of their previous cameras, the Live View Boost is turned ON by default when Manual shooting mode is engaged. When the Live View Boost is turned on, you lose the advantage of WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) while shooting. Typically, when live view boost is turned off, when we adjust the ISO, aperture or shutter speed, the exposure changes are simulated live on the LCD screen or EVF, allowing us to have live preview of the exposure as we shoot. This allows us to get the best exposure setting possible, preventing over or underexposed shots. Olympus disables this, for no apparent useful reasons, for most of their cameras. Thankfully in E-M5 Mark III, they had the sense to have the Live View Boost switched OFF by default when shooting manual. 

For all Olympus digital cameras since the beginning of time, they have taken great measures to hide their best possible JPEG compression setting, which is the LSF (Large Super Fine) setting. To enable it, you need to dive deeeeeeeep into the menu to find it. In the current new cameras, E-M1X and also now the E-M5 Mark III, LSF is no longer hidden. It can be accessed as an option for JPEG quality directly from the super control panel. 

Olympus introduced a new item in their mode dial, a "B" mode which has the 3 settings Bulb, Live Time and Live Composite shifted there in a dedicated slot. Previously, to activate Bulb, Live Time and Live Composite mode, you need to turn the camera to M (Manual), then scroll the shutter speed dial to the slowest 60 seconds setting and then turn it further to reach Bulb and subsequent settings. This was quite troublesome and honestly, not a very convenient way to activating some of the most useful and advanced features in Olympus cameras. Olympus knew this, and they made a quick workaround in E-M10 Mark III and E-PL9, shifting the Live Composite mode to AP photo mode (Advanced Photo). For E-M1X and now the E-M5 Mark III, Bulb, Live Time and Live Composite modes can be accessed directly from the dedicated B mode on the mode dial. I wish this is the same for all other Olympus cameras from now onward. 

Another change worth mentioning, which I have noted in my earlier review article/video of the E-M5 Mark III, is the removal of the "Fn" buttons. In all previous Olympus cameras, there are Fn labels, marking Function Buttons which can be customized to feature shortcuts. The labels all over the camera would be Fn1, Fn2, Fn3, and so on. This may not be a huge thing, but taking out the Fn labels resulted in a cleaner, more simplistic design and I love the less cluttered look of the buttons without the labels. Minimalist is the way to go, a cleaner and leaner look is surely more modern and sleek looking. At the same time, you don't  lose anything, you can still fully customize all the buttons and reassign their functions to whatever other features you prefer. 

I do appreciate the small efforts Olympus did to improve their cameras, but hey, I also believe they should rework their entire menu system and utilize more touch operated controls for quicker access and more simplistic use of the camera. I really wish they have included the MyMenu option from E-M1X, but I guess I can only dream for now. 

What do you guys think of the small changes made in the E-M5 Mark III?

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Shooting Live Music With Olympus OM-D

Last weekend I was privileged to be shooting Bihzhu, a dear friend performing in her own live mini concert show "Bihzhu: In Bloom", and I thought why not use this opportunity to share my experience and some tips on shooting live music using Olympus OM-D System? Typically in stage shows, the lighting is often far from deal and dealing with low light shooting, use of ISO6400 and above is unavoidable. Most people would hesitate and doubt the capabilities of Olympus OM-D or any Micro Four Thirds camera, having smaller image sensor, having to raise the ISO numbers. I am here to tell you that the camera is good enough and the Olympus OM-D performed admirably throughout the shoot. 

Special thanks to Bihzhu and band. Do check out their awesome music!

Of course, I also made a video about how to shoot live music on YouTube, since YouTube is all the rage now.

The stage was set up outdoors, with LED lights not shining on the performers directly, with plenty of back and side directional lighting. There was no bright white or warm light to neutralize the skin tones, so I was dealing constantly with shifting heavy color casts of blue, yellow, red, purple, green, you name it, all colors being destructive to what we normally consider ideal for stage photography. Nonetheless, my job was merely to document the event and capture the performance as true to what it was on stage, so I was not too concerned about color accuracy.

My gear set up was rather simplistic. I was using my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with M.Zuiko PRO lenses, 7-14mm, 17mm, 25mm, 45mm and 40-150mm. The 40-150mm f2.8 PRO was the most used lens of the night, followed by 45mm F1.2 PRO.  All the other lenses were rarely used and stayed in the bag just in case.

Reasons To Go For Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 PRO

Olympus F1.2 prime lenses have been the subject of question when it comes to what Micro Four Thirds stand for - a camera system that is truly compact and small. The Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 PRO is a lot larger and heavier than the F1.8 counterpart, and priced significantly higher too. Is the heftier price tag and the bulkier build justified with the better optics, F1.2 bright aperture, feathered bokeh and weather-sealing? I am exploring this in my latest video on Youtube. 

If you are a street photographer, or buying a camera for travel and you want to shave off as much weight as possible from your gear, the M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 is obviously not for you. The F1.8 smaller compact form factor is a perfect fit to any Olympus OM-D or PEN camera and being so light and tiny, it does not add much weight and bulk to your luggage. If you want to keep your gear minimal, the F1.8 primes is the way to go. 

However, if you are a professional photographer like me who shoots for a living, and intend to provide the best possible results from my Olympus OM-D for my clients, then the F1.2 lens makes perfect sense. The optical construction is superior, rendering images that are looking super sharp yet having the "feathered bokeh" characteristics which the F1.8 lenses do not deliver. The feathered bokeh is also what sets the Olympus F1.2 PRO prime lenses apart from other alternatives such as Panasonic 15mm F1.7 or Sigma 16mm F1.4, both amazing lenses that I have tested, reviewed and written before in this blog. The feathered bokeh renders beautifully smooth background and giving that 3D pop to the images.

Also the brighter aperture of F1.2 make a huge difference in comparison to F1.8, giving one full stop of advantage when it comes to high ISO shooting. The weather-sealing allows me to shoot in the rain, which happens a lot in this tropical weather. 

Some people voiced their complaint that the 17mm F1.2 PRO (and other Olympus F1.2 PRO lenses) is too bulky, and is counter-productive to what a  Micro Four Thirds system is. Here is the kicker - you cannot have a small F1.2 lens, if you do, then there will be some compromise, the images will not be sharp wide open, horrible soft corners, annoying purple fringing, heavy vignetting, etc. I'd rather have an F1.2 lens with great image output, with PRO grade build, than a sub-par lens just with the label F1.2 opening. There is just no other way to go around it, the lens has to be this size. If you are against the size, why attack the lens? You have the F1.8 version. 

Also, I never found the size to be difficult to manage. The 17mm F1.2 is about the same size as the 12-40mm F2.8 PRO which was designed to match E-M1 and E-M1 Mark II perfectly. It was such a good combo, handling was balanced and the lens does not feel front heavy at all.  The 17mm F1.2 being slightly smaller and lighter, surely has no issue with camera handling. 

Are we expecting PRO level lenses to be extremely tiny? We can't have everything can we? But the good news is, we have options. And choices are always good. 

Do you own an Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2? What are your experiences using that lens? I would love to hear from you!

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The Best Vlogging Camera - Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III?

So the last thing I did before returning the loaned Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III was testing it for vlogging. It is something that I do not do really, I don't call my videos vlogs, I think they are just videos with content that I have planned carefully and with clear ideas and messages that I wanted to convey. I think vlogs are just random people recording videos of themselves doing random things, or ranting about their lives, which can be fun an entertaining, but my life is nothing but random, and I don't think I am that fun. Therefore, the general vlogging format does not suit my approach in doing video, but I acknowledge a majority of content creators, YouTubers and social media influencers (oops did I just say the word influencer out loud?) have come to love and use the vlogging method as a part of their content and routine. I made this video, and extension to that, this article to discuss the use of Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III as a vlogging tool. 

The 5-Axis image stabilization on the E-M5 Mark III is probably the single, most stand-out feature and capability of the camera against any other competitors in the market. Like seriously, did you see how amazingly smooth and steady the footage from E-M5 Mark III is? It is like having a mini gimbal or steadycam. Ok truth to be told the level of stabilization is nowhere near what a true gimbal can do, but still it is the best we can get at the moment in the market on a camera and the image stabilization can make a lot of difference for small creators, YouTubers or cinematographers starting out using minimalist and simple gear setup. It just freaking works!

Walking around with the E-M5 Mark III, holding it with my hand, was not fun. I do not enjoy doing videos this way. The multitasking is real - hold the camera with one hand, walk, make sure not hit by car or motorbike, or walk into an open drain (we have a lot in Malaysia), think of what to say, and make sure you are within the frame.  The amount of brainpower required to execute the typical vlogger style video is insane. It is not only dangerous, but not easy to execute! Massive respect to all vloggers out there. As for me, after this video, I will resume my simpler video shooting style, have the OM-D camera rested on a tripod and just talk without having to worry about 10,000 things while I do that.

The Autofocus was fantastic. I tested the AF on 3 lenses, 17mm F1.8, 12mm F2 and 45mmm F1.8. The AF had no issue locking  onto my face without being easily distracted by people moving within my frame, or any other subjects. Even under severe backlit, the AF worked extremely well, staying on my face. It stays on me throughout the duration of the video, and the AF did not even fail one. Bear in mind that if you use Panasonic lenses, the AF effectiveness will dip a little, and if you use an even older lens from Panasonic, the AF reliability will drop. If AF is priority when shooting video with E-M5 Mark III, just use Olympus lenses. It is not like they lack choice. There is plenty to choose from!

I saw a  YouTuber complaining about the inability to do auto-exposure on E-M5 Mark III while on video. I am not sure what happened to his E-M5 Mark III or what settings he did to the camera, my auto exposure worked perfectly, with no issue. If that was his number one complain as a dealbreaker from buying the E-M5 Mark III as a vlogging camera, then do not panic, the auto exposure works perfectly fine.

What else do you need from a Vlogging camera? There is a microphone input, which I used my lavalier microphone to record my own voice. There is no audio monitoring, which is a bummer, but if you want to do any serious video production, go to E-M1 Mark II and E-M1X guys, they even have the OM-LOG400 profile which is missing from E-M5 Mark III.

But hey, I am not the typical vlogger. But in terms of image stabilization, C-AF during video tracking face, clean, sharp footage and having that cinematic, amazing colors and look straight out of camera with minimal work necessary, the E-M5 Mark III may just be for you! 

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Shooting Video with Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

I released a short video "Robin In The City" yesterday on YouTube, if you have not seen it kindly check it out here. That video was filmed entirely on Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III in Kuala Lumpur. I am a noob when it comes to videography/cinematography, so I am reviewing the video shooting capabilities of the E-M5 Mark III from a newbie's perspective! I will explore the effectiveness of 5-Axis Image Stabilization for video, the C-AF capability while filming and also my general experience using the E-M5 Mark III doing the short film "Robin In The City". I made a video to share my experience here:

The concept of the short film was fairly straightforward - it was about me (Robin), being represented by a Robin Lego Brickheadz going about in Kuala Lumpur city. I came from a smaller city, Kuching which is situated in Borneo,  and having lived in KL for many years, it has never failed to awe me every time  I stepped into the city. I wanted to capture that sense of wander and grandeur, from a small town boy's perspective. The video also chronicles my daily journey, I commute on the LRT and the places and scenes shown in the video were places that I do visit. In the second part of the video, the city was caught in a thunderstorm, and yes, it rained a lot in this tropical weather. Sometimes I was caught unprepared and was drenched wet in the heavy rain. I wanted to show that too. There is nothing too deep or layers of meaning to peel from the short film, but one important emotion I did want to convey was a feeling of loneliness. I am not sure if you can see it, but yes, the theme was loneliness, though it was very subtle. 

Now coming back to the technicalities of filming the short video. 

1) Everything was shot on Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, and I did this video alone, with no aid from anyone else. I wanted to ask a few friends to tag along for some behind the scenes footage, but I figured I have bothered too many people and asked too many favors from my previous review video, so it is not nice to trouble any of my friends further. 

2) It took me about 7 hours out on the street to get all the footage (I was out at 10am and finished the last raining shot at about 5pm). 

3) Everything was shot hand-held, with no use of tripod, gimbal or any sort of stabilization support. I used both Movie Stabilization 1 and 2 modes. For wide angle, uncropped scenes I used M-IS 2 mode. For everything else, M-IS 1. I may have accidentally used M-IS 2  when I was walking around, some wobbly effect was seen, which was not supposed to be present with use of M-IS 1. 

4) I used 3 lenses for this short video. The lens I used most was M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8, which covered 90% of the shots. For close ups of the Lego Robin and some scenes during the rain, I used M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8. I also used M.Zuiko 12mm F2 for wide scenery shots. 

5) I used C-AF for the entire video shooting. I tapped the screen to "pull focus". 

6) I used ND filters for all scenes before the rain. I had Variable ND 2-400 for both 45mm f1.8 lens and also 17mm F1.8 lens (17mm and 12mm shares the same filter thread). 

7) The whole movie was shot on Manual Exposure mode. Shutter speed was kept at constant 1/50sec, Aperture varies depending on situations (for blur background, I used wide open, for scenery shots, I used F4 or narrower), ISO was fixed at 200. I adjusted the ND filter to achieve correct exposure balance. 

8) The video was shot in "Natural" color profile. I decided not to use Flat Profile, because I did not want to do any color grading, and honestly, I don't know how at this moment. I relied on Olympus' superb straight out of the camera color profile, which I have come to love over the years. I did not do any other changes to the image profile parameters (contrast, saturation, sharpness, noise filter, all on default). 

9) White balance was set to Daylight. If there was a greenish/blueish tint, that was because of the ND filter (I used cheap no brand filters). It could have been easily corrected if I set the White Balance to Auto, but I wanted to maintain color consistency, hence I set to Daylight. 

10) The footage was all shot in 24p, on Cinema 4K, except the slow motion rain scenes, which were shot in Full HD 120FPS mode. 

11) Battery life was not great. I managed to get a total of about 30 minutes footage before the battery died. Do consider to get MANY spares if you want to shoot video with E-M5 Mark III. 

I am seriously noob in making video, so please do cut me some slack and forgive some of my mistakes if I did any. I figured I have to dive in now, and started doing something, else I will just remain noob forever. 

The stabilization works like a charm. You must know I am new to all this and I know not how to do "cinematic movements". I was happy with how shake free and stabilized the output was, and I have to say, this is the best that you can get from a system camera, the most capable image stabilization, without the use of gimbal. The gimbal or steadycam will still give you steadier results, but not everyone wants to carry more equipment. Not all of us are cinematographers, and I don't see myself venturing into making videos seriously. My passion is in photography, that will not change. So for someone like me, who does not intend to use a gimbal, who keeps the setup as minimalist as possible, the 5-Axis IS from Olympus is a Godsent. 

The Continuous Autofocus just freaking works! The one thing I worried the most while shooting the video was AF during filming. I had no idea what to expect since I lack experience from doing video work, and unlike shooting stills, I cannot zoom in/magnify my shots during preview to ensure critical focus. Inspecting all the shots, they were ALL, I repeat, ALL in focus. I was genuinely impressed. If the E-M5 Mark III works for someone as new to video as me, the C-AF is almost foolproof to anyone!

Overall I just love how small the camera is, and how well it handles with all the small prime lenses. I strongly suggest using the prime lenses, 12mm, 17mm, 25mm, 45mm and 75mm, these lenses can give you sharp footage with incredible shallow depth of field effect, low light shooting and super reliable AF during video. Yet they were so small and easy to move around with the camera. 

If you are a cinematographer I am sure you already know the kind of gear you are getting, the professional kind. E-M5 Mark III is not competing with that, instead it allows people like me, people with very limited knowledge and experience with video shooting to just pick up the camera and shoot. Yet I come home with very usable results! The image stabilization works and the AF is insanely reliable. Vloggers out there, I don't think there is other camera better than this! You get Cinema 4K at 237Mb/s, Flat Profile (if you want to color grade) and 120FPS Full HD slow motion!

I will do ONE more post/video about E-M5 Mark III, and I will be doing it the typical Vlogging style. It shall be out in a few days. Stay tuned!

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