Thursday, October 21, 2010

Olympus E-5 Review: Adventures at Ledang

Side note:
1) The loaned Olympus E-5 is an initial production unit.
2) All camera settings and parameters vary from photograph to photograph. I used mainly: Picture mode - Vivid or Natural, Noise filter - low.
3) This is a user-experience based review (non-technical).

Amir and E-5 on Macro

Before I do my routine (oh no, this has become a routine !!) of posting a lengthy write-up and displaying my own sets of photographs with the Olympus E-5, allow me to divert your attention to my friend and great mentor, Amir Ridhwan. He is a photography-enthusiast, like myself, and I consider him a master-class macro photographer, whom I have learned a great deal by tagging along some macro shooting with him into the jungle. Like, REAL rainforest, jungle in the middle of the night. No kidding, we are insane.

Photographed by Amir
He writes at Olympus Malaysia has also decided to throw him a unit of Olympus E-5 for reviewing purposes. Do head over and check out his wonderful macro work with the E-5. Wait till you see his shots at superbly challenging situations, where the E-5 never failed to deliver.

So... after Malacca...

After staying the night over at Malacca, we woke up bright and early on Sunday morning for a long drive down to Ledang, a district in Johor, Malaysia. It was approximately over an hour drive from Malacca, to meet up a group of people whom I have come to be a part of in my walk of photography. The forumers of, almost 30 of us gathered at Ledang for a one day trip to experience nature at its best.

7-14mm F4: 1/6sec, F/11, ISO100

7-14mm F4: 1/8sec, F/11, ISO100

7-14mm F4: 1/30sec, F/14, ISO100

7-14mm F4: 1/125sec, F/4, ISO100, a friendly Forum has become a place that I have learned and grown a lot in photography. It was such a joy to discover this forum 2 years ago, with 95% of the members using the Four-Thirds DSLR system, mostly Olympus. Most of other photography forums in Malaysia (not to mention names, just to be safe) have veracious vultures who would worship Canon or Nikon and bash mercilessly on Olympus. I have always believed Olympus to be a great system. I just want to concentrate on photography, develop my artistic vision, learn and improve my skills, MINUS all the dramas and traumas of brand bashing from other forums. Hence, I have been around (mostly birds of the same feather) and I have benefited a lot ever since.

Photographed by Fred

Last Sunday, a great photographer whom we call Uncle James (his handle in the forum) invited us to Ledang for a shooting trip. The entire forum got excited, and somehow the responses to this outing was really overwhelming. It was such a great joy seeing so many people coming together in a large outing, sharing ideas, thoughts and passion about photography. The fellowship and bond can be evidently seen. I am proud to be a part of this community. Hence, we attacked Ledang with whatever cameras and lenses we have over the course of one day.

Weather-sealed body of Olympus E-5

Photographed by Kuan Ming. Even standing at more than 10 feet away, his E-3 was also splashed by the waterfall. The E-5 in the photograph was already fully drenched.

One of the main selling features of Olympus E-5 was the weather-sealed body. I have not had the chance to try this out, as I can imagine most of the other reviewers who have had their hands on this E-5 would do one thing first: drench the E-5 body in water. One crazy guy from Iceland even brought the E-5 into a pool, submerging it for a few seconds, directly underwater. I did not go to such extent, but merely brought the Olympue E-5 with a 7-14mm F4 lens to the toe of a running waterfall. The water was splashing everywhere and it was impossible not to have your camera and lens wet. After just a few seconds placing the camera one the ground as seen in the photographs, the camera was soaked. No problem. Everything still functions, the live view on the 3 inch dual axis screen worked wonders, and the shutter kept clicking as I locked focus again and again. The only downside in such extreme shooting condition was the need to constantly wipe the front element of the lens dry, or else all you will see in the photographs would be water droplets on the lens itself, not the waterfall.

50mm F2 Macro: 1/80sec, F/13, ISO200, Wireless TTL Flash

50mm F2 Macro: 1/80sec, F/14, ISO200, Wireless TTL Flash

50mm F2 Macro: 1/80sec, F/16, ISO200, Wireless TTL Flash

50mm F2 Macro: 1/60sec, F/8, ISO200, Wireless TTL Flash

Olympus weather-sealed cameras are designed to cater for such extreme shooting conditions. The group of forum members were mostly Olympus users, thus there was no surprise that the E-5 can handle the wet and splashing waterfall. Flexibility, reliability and versatility are important elements in a camera that we use. Even if your camera can produce images with noise free up to ISO10000000000, and shoots at 1000 frames per second, but if you cannot use it in many extreme shooting situations, your photography opportunity is being cut down. Such restrictions can affect the outcome of the photographs.

One of the best example that my friend, Fish has highlighted to me over the weekend was the motorsports shooting at Japan Super GT (or was it something else?) a year ago. It was raining heavily, and you see other camera systems hiding in the shed, or shooting cowardly with plastic sheets covering their cameras, while Olympus army marched forth and continued making photographs of motorsports happen with their Olympus E-3. This is what I meant by flexibility, reliability and versatility. I am glad Olympus continued to maintain the weather-sealed feature on Olympus E-5.

7-14mm F4: 1/250sec, F/11, ISO200

7-14mm F4: i/20sec, F/16, ISO200

7-14mm F4: 1/60sec, F/9, ISO200

DRAMATIC TONE Art Filter applied. 11-22mm F2.8-3.5: 1/200sec, F5.6, ISO200

One with Nature

This was my first time being at Ledang. There was an initial plan to climb all the way to the peak of a mountain, which would have a breathtaking view over the surrounding areas of Johor and Malacca. Unfortunately, the route to the peak has been closed due to hazards of erosion and landslide. Therefore, we only went around the district of Ledang for some nature beauty and waterfalls. It was really nice to run away from the busy city life for a while, and immerse yourself into the natural environment. Breathing clean, pure green air was a blessing in itself.

Do bear in mind that I am not quite an adventurous person, hence I seldom venture into the jungle and photograph nature. Nonetheless, I was just being in the moment, and capture the shots from my own perspective. I do love seeing green, which was soothing, and Olympus renders the green colour quite differently from other cameras. It comes out natural-looking, yet vibrant. I have not the chance to do direct comparisons, not that I have intended to, but those who have used Olympus with other systems would know such difference in the shades of green reproduced by the camera.

Olympus is such a great joy to use, especially at the outdoors. Man, the more I use the E-5, the sadder I feel because I know I will not be able to afford one in such a short time. I might need to save up for possibly a year or more before I can grab one, possibly a used unit. Yes, they pay Malaysian engineers peanuts here.

7-14mm F4: 1/250sec, F/16, ISO100

7-14mm F4: 1/500sec, F/16, ISO100

E-5 and Olympus Community

I just cannot wait until the day comes when E-5 is made available worldwide, and many of you from all around the world would grab it and start recording the beautiful sceneries from your part of the world, and share it. I have this vision and thought in mind, to collect all wonderful photographs taken by Olympus E-5, and publish it in one photo-based website. I believe if this was to be successful, it would be the largest non-profit photography movement the world has ever seen in history. It is just a dream, and an idea. I sure hope this idea and dream would somehow grow and become something real. I also hope someone would take up the challenge, and lead the way for the rest of us, faithful Olympus users to follow.

They tell us Olympus Four-Thirds system is dying. There is no future. They say there is no hope in staying with Olympus. I say, why don't we show the world what we can do with Olympus E-5? The world is stomping at us right now, and if we let that happen, we will be crushed.

Why don't we prove that we are here, we are passionate about photography and the E-system, and we are NOT going anywhere !! I love my E-System. I am sure a lot of you do.

I will leave you with this thought and idea I have just shared. I will have one more concluding blog entry after this, well, like a real, final concluding entry.

50mm f2 Macro: 1/500sec, F/2, ISO200

50mm F2 Macro: 1/500sec, F/2, ISO200

50mm F2 Macro: 1/500sec, F/2, ISO200

50mm F2 Macro: 1/500sec, F/2, ISO200. Sorry, I cannot help the urge to do a simple B&W conversion. I prefer a monotone outcome somehow. It amplifies the powerful facial expressions and the overall energy of the image.

50mm F2 Macro: 1/2500sec, F/2, ISO200

Thank you to forum members for making the trip to Ledang such a success. I enjoyed myself tremendously. I managed to meet and made friends with so many new faces that I have not seen before (apart from constant message exchanges in the forum threads) and catch up with many members whom have become good friends.

If you have an E-5 for just a weekend, what would you do with it?


  1. ur pics is sharper thn mine!

    damn it!!!!

  2. Hi again Robin...

    Love the photos. Such a beautiful place. There seem to be an awful lot of spiders though! ;)

    I would be delighted to participate in an E-5 photo and discussion website-it's a great idea and I can guarantee that there will be at least one person making submissions from the Toronto area!

    All the best and thank you very much again for your hard work and for your inspiring approach to photography.

    - Paul
    Toronto, Canada

  3. Hi Paul,
    Thanks so much. Malaysia is rich and full of rainforest.

    Do not worry about the spiders, they are actually quite small in fact, macro lenses made them look huge and scary.

    I have a feeling many people will pick up the Olympus E-5. Someone must lead, and make the bold step to create a website to gather all photos from around the world. It is not an easy task. We need a great photographer, with decent skills in web-building/designing as well.

    Thanks again so much for your support.


  4. Hmmmm... Looks like E-5 has finally dig out all the potential from the 50mm. The IQ is slightly different from E30 and E3, in a better way of course. haha

    Great review btw. Cheers. :D


  5. Yesssss Robin - what a fantastic idea to join our forces on a E-5 website. Just can't wait for that thing being started. Although my currently rather poor photographic skills will prevent me from making contributions for quite a while. But then...

  6. Another great post. If I had the E-5 for a weekend I would put it to the serious test. I would use it for some outdoor work (hopefully in a rainy environment) and I want to put it to test when it comes to portraiture and strobist work. Around the time users started getting their hands on the E-5 I contacted Olympus about testing one for my website. Got a response saying there are no test cameras available. Sadly no camera stores will carry it locally so I will have to order online. This camera is a must see/use for me.

  7. Hi KP,
    Thanks mate !! Yes, the sharpness of 50mm has become even better in E-5. Weaker AA filter for more details.

    Hi DonParrot,
    My skills are not that good as well, I am still very new to photography. Sometimes it is not the skills that drives a great photograph, but the passion and love for photography.

    Hey Ian,
    Thanks Ian. I really wish Olympus would have lent you a copy, even if it is not a testing unit. They should have at least a few initial production unit now with them. Maybe the marketing strategy at your place is different.
    I would love to see some strobing and portraiture works as well.
    I am sure soon enough the E-5 will be out (end of this month, very soon).

  8. Hi Robin,

    Such a wonderful macro photos you have there! I'm impressed with the SOOC jpegs of the E5 and the effort you put forth in promoting it :)

    The clarity, sharpness and the Olympus color is just impressively pleasing (for me at least).

    I just hope that such a capability will be available in the form of micro 4/3 cameras that I shall acquire in the future.

    Keep up the wonderful job! Cheers!

    p/s: I mixed up Ledang with Redang, where I believe the E5 will shine even better :D

    from fellow Kuching guy,

  9. Hello Jong,

    Nice to see another fellow Olympus user from Kuching !! Thanks so much for the compliments.

    I also strongly believe that such capabilities of the E-5 will be trickled down to the PEN series, with time, technology will definitely find its way.

    Redang would be too expensive !! Probably we should have asked Olympus to sponsor a photography trip. then we just worry about photography not the cost ahahhahaha

  10. Oh no. Failed to be the first commentor. Gotta keep the feeds on your blog . Hehe.

    "I just want to concentrate on photography, develop my artistic vision, learn and improve my skills, MINUS all the dramas and traumas of brand bashing"

    I like this very much or should I sing the newly hyped song : I LIKE THAT! XD

    ok sorry for blabbering, it seems that the Olympus is doom because of lesser effort in marketing. We should have Avril's promoting the E-5 too you know. Heh.

    When are we going outing lar? My butt are really heavy to go out alone. :S

    p/s: I'm not going to comment on the photos because inherently, by dropping by here and commenting would show intangible two thumbs up to the photos! ;p


  11. Hey Snowfire,

    I guess a lot of people from screw screw feel the same way. We just want to take photos for goodness sake, so what if we do not use their camera system?

    I am free to shoot most weekends. However this weekend there is the Olympus gathering. You coming? Great chance to meet a lot more Olympus users.

    Intangible eh? No worries, any comment is appreciated. After all, anything in the virtual world is intangible.

  12. You got the kung fu Robin. I drool over some of your shots like the one of the trees looking up. Now, I have seen E-5 shots from several people. Seriously this camera gives really impressive sharp results - if the human handles it right. I see some E-5 shots that look no better than any previous Oly - but yours are mostly, sharp, clear and attrative colours. One day, one day, either E-5 will drop in price or Oly will put the Trupic latest version and sensor into a cheaper camera......

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. Hi Anandasim,
    Thanks !! My kungfu level is still very low, but of course, through time and lots of effort I will improve.
    The looking up to the trees shot were taken with the 7-14mm lens, which by itself is already very sharp on any Olympus DSLR/PEN cameras.
    After a while, of course the technologies on E-5 will trickle down to lower end DSLR bodies, and the PEN.

  15. Hi Robin
    Indeed nice pictures! I also use Zuiko 50mm F2 lens with my E-510, and find that it takes a lot of time to focus (if at all). I wanted to ask what was the focusing speed and quality of this lens when connected to the E-5

  16. Hi Roni,
    Thanks for your compliments.

    I have covered the 50mm macro performance of AF on E-5 in my part 2 review: macro shooting at the butterfly park. Please go to the review via the shortcut I have placed at my sidebar on my main blog page. Thanks.

  17. Hi Robin,

    More great pictures and commentry. Shame you have to give the E-5 back. Hey, come on Olympus, this guy has made a tremendous advert for your new camera, not just in Malaysia but Worldwide. It's got us all drooling here in the UK! Let him keep it, he deserves it and with the pictures he will produce it would be a sound investment and wise business decision on your part.


    John Perriment

  18. Hi John,
    Thank you so so much for such kind words.
    I hope they are reading this !!

  19. Hi Robin,

    Thank you very much for your E-5 review. It has been a pleasure to follow and I really like your pictures. Malaysia seems to be a very interesting and nice place. I would really like to go there sometime.

    By the way, I just made a bookmark and will continue to follow your blog. Keep the pictures coming...

    Regards from Staffan from Sweden.

  20. Hello Staffan,
    Thanks so much for the kind words, and also the bookmark. I will update my blog two to three times a week, and I go shooting on weekends mostly, as I have a full time job. I wish I can shoot every day.

  21. Same here, since i open your site, i sort of keep on following it....Like the review since then....

    Jing V...Philippines

  22. Hello Robin,

    Olympus E-5 group has been created at Flickr. Maybe you can upload all of the photos that you have taken with the E-5. Especially this one ->

  23. Greeting Robin,

    Great pictures. I especially like the tower of boys. :) So funny and fun!

    I would love to see a world-map based photo gallery. PicasaWeb Albums and Google Maps has something like that already. Shared albums can be viewed by location on a map if you enter "place" when loading pictures. I'd like to see collaborative galleries taken to the next level by someone. (Maybe it's already been done). I imagine an Oly DSLR users group galley where we can zoom around the map visiting the beautiful locations shot by fellow photographers. (Not just E-5).

    Thanks for your write ups. I'm on the 1+ year savings plan for the E-5 as well. My E-1 will have to last. They pay teachers peanuts in the US. I'll be the E-5 will be $1200 by the time I can swing it. I was secretly glad it was only 12mp because I think the price will settle quicker because of public perception.


  24. Robin,
    I just bought an E5 and have two E3 bodies. I went to Uganda and literally abused my E3 in every possible environment. It even rode on the top of a safari van for over 500 kilometers or remote road in the rain. Are all of your lenses Oly or do you use off brand? And if so please share.


  25. Hey Seth,
    The world map idea is a brilliant one !!! I wish someone would pick up the idea and make the first move. I will surely support him/her.
    E-1 will surely last, it is still a treasure. I have a few friends here who still hold on dearly to their E-1, and told me nothing can replace the E-1 just yet. Once you have got your E-5, you will know it is all worth it.
    Thanks again for your encouragement and support. I really appreciate it.

    Hey Gabe,
    Wow, you bought the E-5 already !! Congratulations !!
    You sure used your E-3 to the maximum potential. Glad to find that they survive your rough handling. Amazing how reliable and durable Olympus can be right?
    Anyway, at the moment I only have a few lenses, and yes they are all from Olympus. I have very limited funds. I would love to explore third party lenses if I can too.

  26. I have to admit . I saved a picture of yours on my computer. it's the man sitting on the tree in the river looking to his left.ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL! . It's one of those images reminds me what art is. something I can loose myself in yet shows me who i am at the same time. I find it provocative. I thank you for that. I ordered an e-5 earlier today before stumbling on your blog, I only hope to create images that can move me as that picture of yours has.