Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Dynamic Range - Sufficient?

One topic that I seldom discuss is dynamic range and that is usually because I rarely stretch the limit of the camera. I always look for good lighting condition and pay attention at how the light falls onto the subject or the frame that I am shooting. However I do acknowledge that in some situations, having good dynamic range capability will can help in obtaining a better photograph. I am not a landscape photographer so I do not need that massive shadow and highlight recovery capabilities. For what I normally do, the worst situation would be people hiding in shades versus those out in the open under harsh Malaysian sun. Even in such a challenging situation an Olympus OM-D (from the first generation E-M5 till now) is sufficient to produce a pleasingly balanced image, with some massaging of the RAW file of course.

This is a processed RAW image, with extensive shadow and highlight recovery. Take note it was not an easy shot, with a dark skinned man in the shade and some of the other guys under harsh tropical sun. 

This was the original unprocessed image. 

Some would say that a HDR image would help with multiple exposures from the dark to bright areas, creating a more balanced output. Nonetheless, street shooting is usually a snap and go situation and I rarely spend too much time at one spot. Besides, the OM-D's RAW file was good enough for some stretching when it comes to highlight retention and shadow boosting. Surely this is nowhere near what a full frame camera can do but it is not too bad either. I do not mind the little overblown background as the overexposed part of the frame was truly representing the harshness of being in a tropical country. Over-correcting the image would have resulted in an over-processed look which may look completely unnatural. 

I understand the pain of dealing with dynamic range limitations when shooting landscape. Sunrise or sunset photography in particular demands every bit of dynamic range you can squeeze out of the camera. Hence the heavy investment in accessories that may help, such as graduated ND filters. Nonetheless, for other less challenging situations, do you find your camera struggling in terms of dynamic range? Or do you think your system is sufficient for what you do? Discuss in the comments below!

7 comments:

  1. I am mostly travel/landscape photographer using the original E-M5 and it still is a very capable camera even for what I shoot. When the scene is too contrasty, it's not a problem to use HDR (carefuly). I have no illusions that more current cameras and those with bigger sensors will produce better results and most importantly give you more working space, but for my needs (internet, prints up to 80*60cm) it is perfectly fine, as long as you do the post processing right.

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    1. You are right about your own personal needs, and that was what I was tying to get to. I find what I use being sufficient for my personal use and that may not be true for others. Nonetheless, I agree with you about the E-M5, that is one wonderful camera even today!

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  2. I use a Sony a7R next to my Olympus cameras. The dynamic range the a7R gives me cannot be touched by the smaller m4:3 sensor....but that doesn’t mean the Pen-F I use the most is insufficient in post processing. Since my move to Capture One Pro I really dare to push shadows and hold back the highlights. So yeah, mostly enough data to work with.
    Greets, Peter Zeedijk
    So dynamic range, very helpfull if it gives you enough room to handle. Sometimes needed. For work I really need it I shoot 3 shots on the a7R and make a HDR from those. Needed for Urban Exploration.
    You think the Pen-F and E-M1 mk2 sensor differ a lot? I am very happy with the F because it does what I want!

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    1. The ‘ greets ‘ ended up the wrong place thanks to a inferior WiFi connection at my holiday residence.

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    2. Ah yes the wifi at some holiday places can be treacherous.

      I am glad to hear you claim that your Olympus PEN-F is sufficient for your own photography, and yes that Capture One Pro does handle highlights and shadows very well.

      I have not done extensive comparisons between the E-M1 mark II and PEN-F but I doubt the difference is that significant to write about. Lets hope there is more improvement in their newer cameras!

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  3. I shoot street portraiture during the height of the day in Costa Rica also a tropical country. Dynamic range is less important to me than tonal range, as 95% of my shots are in black and white. And the tonal range of smaller sensor cameras is normally good enough for me.

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    1. That is great to know, and I am glad you aren't nitpicking about dynamic range either. Surely the thought process on how to capture a shot for black and white is very different! Tonality is the right emphasis here.

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