Night Street Dance: High ISO on Olympus E-5

Last Sunday evening, just after sunset, I was strolling the Petaling Street area with Brandon and we stumbled upon this street dance performance which was shown in public in conjunction to the opening of the night market adjacent to the Pasar Seni. What an unexpected but lovely surprise. Time to put the camera and lens to good use !!

ISO 2500, 1/200s, F2

ISO 2500, 1/200s, F2

ISO 3200, 1/200s, F2

ISO 2500, 1/200s, F2

ISO 2500, 1/160s, F2

ISO 2500, 1/160s, F2

General camera settings:
Noise Filter = Standard
Sharpness, contrast, saturation = 0
White Balance = Tungsten

Under dim street lighting, to freeze rapid motions of the dance, high ISO setting is needed to adequately capture blur-free images. I pushed the Olympus E-5 up to ISO3200.

Is there noise in the images?
Yes, of course, high ISO shooting has never been something that Olympus users can brag about.

Was the noise unbearable and unacceptable?
The answer to this question is subjective, but to me, I believe the images turned out more than good enough.

Loss of detail was evident, but on the whole, looking at the images as a whole (without pixel-peeping) I find them very usable. Colour is well maintained, and the 50mm F2 sharpness prevails.

The comparison of the high ISO noise performance against rival camera brands may put Olympus behind (though I still strongly believe up to ISO 1600, Olympus E-5 can still hold its own place very admirably) but I dare to testify that against all other Olympus cameras out there, E-5 seriously is ahead. Although E-5 is far from perfect, but being able to shoot at ISO 1600 to 3200 comfortably as shown in this entry (by my own standards of course) it is definitely doing great for all my general photography requirements.

Time to push the camera further and further. Just how far can the Olympus E-5 go?


  1. Nice pictures, Robin. I like the colors/white balance. I wouldn't worry about the noise. As long as there is no chroma noise I see no problems :)

  2. Hey Bartosz,
    Thanks !! the chroma noise is very well controlled in E-5, which was a good thing.

  3. the e-5 is definitely in its own league with regards to image quality using high iso.

    about "Time to push the camera further and further. Just how far can the Olympus E-5 go?" Well thats up to your own imagination I guess , but a challenging test that I put my E3 through last time was to shoot in available light using high ISO (with the heavy 35-100), and shooting sports with 'just' 5fps. shooting a basketball game without flash was challenging enough.

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  5. Hey brandon,
    Yeap, E-5 indeed has a lot of improvements, but of course it does not satisfy many expectations from the newer generation.

    About pushing the E-5, it is not just about how much the camera can do, but a big part of it will have to come from me. I have come up with a lot of usable (sharp, accurately focused, properly exposed, good color balance) shots from that night's street dance, but in a hand of another photographer (can be a professional or someone a lot more skillful than I am) he may not be able to use the E-5 efficiently.

    I guess it has a lot to do with knowing the camera in and out, understanding and not just making it work for you, but working with it to achieve your artistic vision. I find it a lot harder to be "one" with the E-5 though, in comparison to my old E-520, it just feels that there is so much more I do not know about E-5 yet. Hence I want to push and see how far the E-5 can go.

  6. The noise is noticebale. That for me is a turn off, but I guess night shots are always with noise...

  7. Cyril,
    There will ALWAYS be noise in photographs, it is unavoidable. Even if you use a RM99,999 camera there will still be noise.
    However, I have learned to look pass the "judging the quality of a photo based on noise" mentality. Yes, high ISO noise performance is important, but I believe photography is a lot more than just that.

  8. It's not about what the camera can do for you but what can you do with your camera. Noise is often associated with high ISO but as long as its tastefully done. What really bugs me is that the advent of digital cameras everyone suddenly becomes an expert and/or a photographer. Up till now I'm still learning but one things for sure. One has to know the limits of his equiptment and must learn his way around it. Good job as always with your pics Robin. Your subjects always looks natural and not fake or forced. That is one skill even the most expensive camera in the market can't produce. Keep on shooting my friend.

  9. Hello Eric !!
    Thanks so much for your compliments, you were being too kind !!
    I fully agree with you, knowing the camera is very, very important. Exploiting its strengths and working around its weaknesses to bring the best out of the gear is a continuous learning process. That, and there are also many things that only the photographer can do, not the camera.