Olympus Malaysia takes local pre-orders now (9 to 31 March 2012). There are promotions with FREE gifts too, choice of MMF-3 adapter or 32Gb Sandisk EXTREME card. Do check out their official promotional page here (Click).
1. This blog is written from a user-experience perspective.
2. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG Large SF (super fine) via Olympus Viewer 2 version 1.3 (provided by Olympus Malaysia).
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. All images were as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping for better presentation.
Thanks to all the overwhelming response from you beautiful readers, Olympus Malaysia approached me again, loaned me the OM-D E-M5 (initial production unit) for another weekend and asked me to “extend” my blog reviews. I was delighted of course and have no objections shooting with the E-M5 again (who would complain, right?) but I do not intend to “continue” my review write-ups, mainly because I have said everything I intended to say in my four part reviews. I believe if I keep on rambling here, my blog entries might be dreadful and redundant in many ways.
Therefore, lets NOT call this a review.
I decided to just shoot, present the photographs from the shooting session, and then cover on the aspects of the E-M5 which I did not manage to cover in my previous brief encounter with it.
If you guys have not seen this video yet (it has been uploaded about 2 weeks ago), Eric Kim was kind enough to feature me in his Youtube hands-on review with the E-M5. Eric had a workshop in Kuala Lumpur 2 weeks ago, on the same weekend which I spent fully on shooting with the E-M5 and review works. I managed to catch Eric up after his workshop, at the Leica Cocktail Party.
Special thanks to wonderful Eric for having me with him. It was indeed an honor.
The location of shooting was Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, world’s largest free-flight walk-in aviary (what a mouthful of description as advertised officially), which was situated in Lake Gardens (Taman Tasik Perdana), not too far from the National Monument (Tugu Negara).
In this shooting session, I shall be discussing about the following items on the E-M5:
1) Handling with larger lens, eg M.Zuiko 75-300mm F4.8-6.7
2) Effectiveness of the 5-Axis IS on the long tele-photo end of the lens
3) Using the Continuous AutoFocus with 3D tracking on good lighting condition
The gear setup for this session was rather simple. I mounted the 75-300mm super tele lens onto the E-M5, and I added on the full HLD-6 grip, including both parts of the horizontal grip and portrait battery pack. I needed the extra bulk and weight on the camera to counter balance the size and heft of the long lens. Originally I wanted to use my amazing Zuiko 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 (mk1, non-SWD version) on the E-M5, mainly because of the superior optics (in terms of sharpness) and also the wider aperture opening. However, after trying the 50-200mm on E-M5 and did some test shoots, it was obviously not a very wise decision due to the very sluggish and unreliable Autofocus. I will NOT use any 4/3 DSLR lens on the E-M5 because of this reason: the AF is not optimized for use with the micro 4/3 system, and I do not want to create false hope that you can comfortably use the 4/3 lenses on E-M5. Olympus has already stated that there is no improvement in terms of AF speed when using the 4/3 lenses on E-M5, in comparison to E-P3.
200mm: 1/200s, F/6.1, ISO640
300mm: 1/320sec, F/6.7, ISO1000
164mm: 1/100sec, F/5.8, ISO1600
Handling with Larger Lens
The battery pack HLD-6 made a huge difference when it comes to balancing the camera against the long lens, 75-300mm. It felt comfortable, and I had sufficient grip on the camera with the added bulk. I can steady my shots much better, and surely it was more reassuring for longer shooting hours. Without the battery pack/grip added on the camera, I would have struggled to hold my shots steady, or use the lens and camera combination comfortably.
I remember when I was reviewing the E-P3 last year, I brought the E-P3 with 75-300mm to shoot at various locations: 1) Zoo Negara and 2) Traditional Malay Cultural Dance. In both scenarios, I strained my left wrist and came home with stiff right elbow, handling the 75-300mm on E-P3. The lens was obviously too long, and heavy to be used on such a small body like E-P3, which did not provide sufficient counter weight and balance. The strain was actually worse than shooting with my DSLR E-5 and larger lenses such as the 50-200mm. Although the DSLR E-5 and 50-200mm were heavier, the E-5 has very good handling, and it works with larger lenses very well. Thank goodness Olympus thought of this issue on the micro 4/3 line, and released the battery pack just for the OM-D series. It shows that the OM-D series is not just a carry-around camera, it can be serious when you need it to be.
228mm: 1/100sec, F/6.3, ISO1000
85mm: 1/125sec, F/6.3, ISO1000
228mm: 1/200sec, F/6.3, ISO800
150mm: 1/200sec, F/5.6, ISO800
156mm: 1/100sec, F/5.7, ISO800
281mm: 1/160sec, F/6.7, ISO640
12-50mm lens: 3.2sec, F/22, ISO200
5-Axis Image Stabilization on Long Lens
I was doing the impossible of achieving very sharp images shooting as slow as half a second shutter speed when I used the 12mm F2 lens in my previous reviews. It was a surprise that the IS worked so well, and obviously this added a lot of advantage in certain difficult shooting conditions. In this Bird Park shooting, I wanted to see how well the IS works with the 75-300mm, especially on the longer end.
As I have anticipated, shooting experience with the “IS live preview” through the Electronic Viewfinder (I shot all images through the EVF this time) was God-sent. After half-pressing the shutter button, the effect of the image being stabilized is seen, and the IS worked so well to minimize, if not completely mitigated any “shaking or jumping” I have reported this when I was shooting extreme magnification with my 50mm F2 macro lens. I am very happy to find that the IS works just as well on the long lenses, even at 300mm end (600mm equivalent focal length on 35mm format). This surely improved composition flexibility as well, as your image will not accidentally “jumped away” from where you intended it to be due to extreme shaking at longest tele-photo end of zoom.
So how did it improve the images? After much testing, I dare say I can only confidently shoot at shutter speed 1/160sec at 300mm end, and 1/80sec at 150mm end. Based on my personal usage (my own hands may not be as steady as most birders out there) those numbers were the furthest I would push, after much testing with the camera. That means the new IS benefited me at least one stop EV advantage, in comparison to my previous Olympus E-5. However, this result surely varies from an individual to another, and it all comes down to how well you handle your camera and lens. Yes, I did manage to shoot as slow as 1/40sec on 300mm end and got away with reasonably sharp image (the peacock headshot), but I admit that was purely luck.
For most of my shooting, I applied the general rule of thumb of minimum shutter speed not being slower than 1/focal length. I may go slightly slower than that formula, but not too stretching too far from that, just to be safe.
264mm: 1/320sec, F/6.7, ISO250
IMAGE SAMPLE 1
100% Crop from Image Sample 1
100mm: 1/320sec, F/5.1, ISO500
IMAGE SAMPLE 2
100% Crop from Image Sample 2
124mm: 1/640sec, F/5.4, ISO500
IMAGE SAMPLE 3
100% Crop from Image Sample 3
164mm: 1/320sec, F/5.8, ISO400
300mm: 1/40sec, F/6.7, ISO640
Continuous Focusing with 3D tracking
I have mentioned I was not too impressed with the Continuous AF with 3D tracking in my conclusion (Part 4 review). However, I also stated that while I was testing the continuous AF, it was in unfavourably dim lighting condition, and perhaps, the camera would have fared better in brighter lighting. In this shooting session, there was plenty of natural sunlight as most of the shots were taken outdoors (some of the birds were inside cages). There was good contrast in the subjects and there should not be any excuse for the camera not to handle the continuous focusing well.
I have tried my best to make the continuous focusing with 3D tracking, and believe me I tried and tried and I shot over 300 images in total (probably half of the shots were done with the continuous 3D autofocus, shot in burst mode). I did not manage to get any good image at all, honestly, none of them come out usable.
I admit, I seldom shoot with continuous AF. I am a single-AF shooter. Perhaps, I am not the best person to verify the capabilities of the continuous AF with 3D tracking.
194mm: 1/500sec, F/6.1, ISO640
252mm: 1/640sec, F/6.5, ISO640
286mm: 1/160sec, F/6.7, ISO1600
300mm: 1/125sec, F6.7, ISO1000
IMAGE SAMPLE 4
IMAGE SAMPLE 4
100% Crop from Image Sample 4
Note: at 300mm, the image seems soft.
Note: at 300mm, the image seems soft.
171mm: 1/50sec, F/5.9, ISO1600
IMAGE SAMPLE 5
100% Crop from Image Sample 5
As we know it, the 75-300mm lens is not very bright, with maximum varying aperture of F4.8 to F6.7. I started shooting just after 2pm, when the weather was bright and sunny, but it gradually turned cloudy towards the later afternoon. Under heavy shade, shooting at longer end of the tele lens (more than 150mm), there was no choice but to bump up the ISO to at least more than 1600 to achieve adequate shutter speed to minimize shake. Yes, the Image Stabilization has aided significantly to reduce hand-shake, which was much appreciated, but what makes the OM-D stand out from the previous micro 4/3 offerings from Olympus, is the improved high ISO shooting. Even at ISO1600, noise level was very minimal, with no significant loss of detail or colour fidelity. Dynamic range was reasonably good, maintaining much detail in the shadow region (I see more significant improvement in the shadow areas in this shooting session). The 75-300mm lens may have struggled when used on E-P3 and older iterations of Olympus micro 4/3 cameras, but new life has been breathed into the long lens, as Olympus made that high jump in high ISO performance and dynamic range advancement in E-M5.
Nonetheless, there is no excuse for Olympus not to come up with better, brighter, and sharper zoom lenses. Both standard wide zoom and also the tele-photo zooms. Olympus has been known to make nothing short of great zoom lenses, considering their legendary line-up of Super High Grade and High Grade Zuiko Digital lenses, such as the 14-35mm F2 and 35-100mm F2 lenses (and many more). I see no reason why Olympus cannot create similarly great zoom lenses for the micro 4/3 system.
194mm: 1/200sec, F/6.1, ISO800
208mm: 1/320sec, F/6.2, ISO25,600
As I was about to leave the Bird Park, I found this bird, which I have shot earlier. However, due to change to weather, it was very dark, and I could no longer shoot with ISO1600 to achieve enough shutter speed. Hence I naughtily pushed the ISO up to 25,600. I think we can all agree that ISO25,600 should best be avoided.
179mm: 1/80sec, F/5.8, ISO6400
At reduced resolution for web display, ISO6400 looks incredibly clean, with good colour tones. Amazing.
179mm: 1/20sec, F5.9, ISO1600
Yes, the IS works, but I think this was purely luck. Because I shot another few trials and they all come out blurry at 1/20sec shutter speed.
On a separate note, DPreview has updated their image comparometer with E-M5 sample image. After spending much shameful time pixel-peeping, it is clear that my reported “jump in image quality” was not exaggerated at all. What say you?
I understand there are many requests for me to use the 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 lens on the E-M5. I shall create one more entry just for that.