Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Olympus E-5: Absolute Sharpness

I have received many comments regarding the rather incredible sharpness of my photographs shown in my blog. Some questioned how I managed to obtain sharp images, while others requested me to share my techniques on how to process the photographs to increase the sharpness. Seriously, it was not so much on the processing part.

Everyone loves sharp images. In order to accomplish tack-sharp images, the following steps are important:

1) Make sure your focus is dead on accurate. On DSLR (or large sensor cameras) even slight miss-focusing can cause soft images.

2) Shoot at low ISO settings to capture maximum amount of details while minimizing noise.

3) Use fast enough shutter speed to mitigate blur due to hand shaking in dim lighting situation.

4) Mount the camera on tripod for slow shutter speed works

I usually do perform a little sharpening on my photographs before resizing, but it is crucial to get your image blur free and as sharp as possible while shooting. If your image is out of focus, or blurred due to shake or subject motion, no matter how much post-processing sharpening you apply it will not be able to salvage the broken image.

If you have experienced using Olympus E-System or their newer Micro 4/3 Pen series cameras, you will realize that one of the many strengths of using Olympus would be the absolute sharpness. Though the sensor size of 4/3 or micro 4/3 cameras are smaller in comparison to competition, the amount of details being able to be captured by the superior quality lenses is nothing short of breathtaking. Olympus Zuiko lenses are so sharp even being used at wide open aperture (most other brands’ lenses require stopping down to match the Olympus lenses’ sharpness), and this is no joke. Now mount them on the Olympus E-5, the combination is no slouch. Comparison tests (which were being done in-house by Olympus) have shown the overall sharpness and resolution to evidently surpass what the 18MP Canon 7D and the 12MP Nikon D300s can achieve.

With the proper techniques and execution on field, using significantly superior optical quality lenses with a respectable professional grade camera body like Olympus E-5 can really make a difference in delivering absolutely sharp images. I know that we are not really very supportive of the pixel-peeping culture which has gone wild in the modern photography world, but to answer the questions of you beautiful readers out there, I shall post up 100% crop images.

All images were taken with Olympus E-5. General camera settings: Noise Filter OFF, Noise Reduction OFF, Sharpness 0, Contrast 0, Saturation 0, Picture Mode Natural. Lens and exposure settings used are as stated below following the image. All images straight out of camera with no post-processing applied.

The Shop Assistant

50mm F2 Macro. 1/160sec, F/2, ISO 200

100% crop from previous image.

Baby Over the Shoulder

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

100% crop from previous image.

Sleepless Pedestrian Overhead Bridge

50mm F2 Macro. 1/320sec, F/2, ISO200

100% crop from previous image.

Sun Dried

11-22mm F2.8-3.5, 1/200sec, F/2.8, ISO200

100% crop from previous image.
I did not even know there was that fly in the middle of the frame !! Though not entirely in focus, the fly still appeared reasonably clear, amazing !!

Kitchen Life

11-22mm F2.8-3.5, 1/80sec, F/3.3, ISO200

100% crop from previous image.

Quality Print Results

11-22mm F2.8-3.5, 1/25sec, F/3.2, ISO400

100% crop from previous image.
Check out the texture of the yellow paper, and also the price tag that says RM 25.

All images were shot during my street walking sessions. Both Olympus 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 and 50mm F2 Macro lenses performed flawlessly, and they will be my main working lenses for a long, long time. The versatility of using those two lenses are commendable, covering from an extra wide angle on the 11mm end, all the way to 50mm (100mm on 35mm format) which is medium telephoto range already. The 50mm lens allows macro shooting, since It is a dedicated macro lens by itself. Both lenses are so sharp I think only the Super High Grade lenses from Olympus (which I will not be able to afford anytime soon) can beat them.

For full size images (unedited, straight out of camera with EXIF data intact) please download the files at the following link:
I have been using the Olympus E-5 for months now; there really is not much to complain about it. Even up to now, I still get impressed by the image quality, particularly the image sharpness that it can deliver.


  1. haha...
    the zuikos are definitely super sharp..
    now i'm using my kit lenses (14-42 and 40-150) most of the times just to show my friend in flickr that even with kit lenses, the zuikos are really top-notch performer..
    nice entry..!

  2. Hello capin,
    indeed the zuiko lenses are super sharp! Even the kit lenses are really sharp and top of the class.

  3. Your blog is always enlightening and inspirational. Hopefully one of these days I can book an appointment to have a shutter therapy session with you in Malaysia. Just don't charge me too much...hehehe.

    Anyways just couple of questions...Did you use the same general setting when you first obtained your Olympus E5 especially when you did Macro photography? Do you also use a converter attached to your 50mm lens?( ie: Olympus EX-25 Extension Tube)to obtain such sharpness?

    Thank you for your time and more power to your website!!!
    PS. I made the mistake of posting this msg on your previous blog. Sorry

  4. Hello Eric,
    Thank you so much for your support and comments, I appreciate them. When you do come over to Malaysia, do let me know, there is NO charge for shutter therapy sessions !!! I will bring you to the streets I usually go street hunting.

    I actually set my Noise Filter to LOW for my reviews previously, and sharpness to +1, the rest of the general settings were the same. No I did not use extension tube, it was 50mm F2 macro alone. With the extension tube I could go a lot closer. However do take note that for my macro shots, many of them were executed with manual focus, especially the super close up ones.

  5. Hi,

    Got my E5 for 1 week now and have some question. Although it's really sharp I see some disturbing artifacts in photos unless I reduce the sharpness to -2 and keep the NR on standard! Even on your shots I can see them. See the first shot one the mustache of your subject. What do you think?

  6. Hello Mehrdad,
    That only means there were too much details being captured and the JPEG engine was working extra hard to squeeze everything out. Not very sightly I agree especially the compression artifacts, but they can be easily cleaned up. Usually I set to noise filter LOW and sharpness -1 should do the trick. I seldom see issues beyond that.

  7. Robin,

    Is the offer to join you when visiting applies to all your blog readers?



  8. Hello Joseph,
    Yes, it is open to all, when I am free, I will try my best to make time for street walks. Do contact me directly at

  9. Hi, Robin

    nice review again!

    I do have the e-5 (actually, one of your reviews made me buy it eventually), and I own the 12-60 SWD, 50-200 SWD, 9-18 and the 50mm.

    Well, I am convinced that the order (from lowest sharpness to highest) would be somewhat like that : first we have the camera lenses (no matter the OEM), then the Medical Microscopes and better than those (by far) the Zuikos. :-) LoL

    If only Oly could do better for the high ISOs.....