The Best Vlogging Camera - Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III?

So the last thing I did before returning the loaned Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III was testing it for vlogging. It is something that I do not do really, I don't call my videos vlogs, I think they are just videos with content that I have planned carefully and with clear ideas and messages that I wanted to convey. I think vlogs are just random people recording videos of themselves doing random things, or ranting about their lives, which can be fun an entertaining, but my life is nothing but random, and I don't think I am that fun. Therefore, the general vlogging format does not suit my approach in doing video, but I acknowledge a majority of content creators, YouTubers and social media influencers (oops did I just say the word influencer out loud?) have come to love and use the vlogging method as a part of their content and routine. I made this video, and extension to that, this article to discuss the use of Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III as a vlogging tool. 


The 5-Axis image stabilization on the E-M5 Mark III is probably the single, most stand-out feature and capability of the camera against any other competitors in the market. Like seriously, did you see how amazingly smooth and steady the footage from E-M5 Mark III is? It is like having a mini gimbal or steadycam. Ok truth to be told the level of stabilization is nowhere near what a true gimbal can do, but still it is the best we can get at the moment in the market on a camera and the image stabilization can make a lot of difference for small creators, YouTubers or cinematographers starting out using minimalist and simple gear setup. It just freaking works!

Walking around with the E-M5 Mark III, holding it with my hand, was not fun. I do not enjoy doing videos this way. The multitasking is real - hold the camera with one hand, walk, make sure not hit by car or motorbike, or walk into an open drain (we have a lot in Malaysia), think of what to say, and make sure you are within the frame.  The amount of brainpower required to execute the typical vlogger style video is insane. It is not only dangerous, but not easy to execute! Massive respect to all vloggers out there. As for me, after this video, I will resume my simpler video shooting style, have the OM-D camera rested on a tripod and just talk without having to worry about 10,000 things while I do that.



The Autofocus was fantastic. I tested the AF on 3 lenses, 17mm F1.8, 12mm F2 and 45mmm F1.8. The AF had no issue locking  onto my face without being easily distracted by people moving within my frame, or any other subjects. Even under severe backlit, the AF worked extremely well, staying on my face. It stays on me throughout the duration of the video, and the AF did not even fail one. Bear in mind that if you use Panasonic lenses, the AF effectiveness will dip a little, and if you use an even older lens from Panasonic, the AF reliability will drop. If AF is priority when shooting video with E-M5 Mark III, just use Olympus lenses. It is not like they lack choice. There is plenty to choose from!

I saw a  YouTuber complaining about the inability to do auto-exposure on E-M5 Mark III while on video. I am not sure what happened to his E-M5 Mark III or what settings he did to the camera, my auto exposure worked perfectly, with no issue. If that was his number one complain as a dealbreaker from buying the E-M5 Mark III as a vlogging camera, then do not panic, the auto exposure works perfectly fine.

What else do you need from a Vlogging camera? There is a microphone input, which I used my lavalier microphone to record my own voice. There is no audio monitoring, which is a bummer, but if you want to do any serious video production, go to E-M1 Mark II and E-M1X guys, they even have the OM-LOG400 profile which is missing from E-M5 Mark III.

But hey, I am not the typical vlogger. But in terms of image stabilization, C-AF during video tracking face, clean, sharp footage and having that cinematic, amazing colors and look straight out of camera with minimal work necessary, the E-M5 Mark III may just be for you! 

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Shooting Video with Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

I released a short video "Robin In The City" yesterday on YouTube, if you have not seen it kindly check it out here. That video was filmed entirely on Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III in Kuala Lumpur. I am a noob when it comes to videography/cinematography, so I am reviewing the video shooting capabilities of the E-M5 Mark III from a newbie's perspective! I will explore the effectiveness of 5-Axis Image Stabilization for video, the C-AF capability while filming and also my general experience using the E-M5 Mark III doing the short film "Robin In The City". I made a video to share my experience here:


The concept of the short film was fairly straightforward - it was about me (Robin), being represented by a Robin Lego Brickheadz going about in Kuala Lumpur city. I came from a smaller city, Kuching which is situated in Borneo,  and having lived in KL for many years, it has never failed to awe me every time  I stepped into the city. I wanted to capture that sense of wander and grandeur, from a small town boy's perspective. The video also chronicles my daily journey, I commute on the LRT and the places and scenes shown in the video were places that I do visit. In the second part of the video, the city was caught in a thunderstorm, and yes, it rained a lot in this tropical weather. Sometimes I was caught unprepared and was drenched wet in the heavy rain. I wanted to show that too. There is nothing too deep or layers of meaning to peel from the short film, but one important emotion I did want to convey was a feeling of loneliness. I am not sure if you can see it, but yes, the theme was loneliness, though it was very subtle. 

Now coming back to the technicalities of filming the short video. 

1) Everything was shot on Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, and I did this video alone, with no aid from anyone else. I wanted to ask a few friends to tag along for some behind the scenes footage, but I figured I have bothered too many people and asked too many favors from my previous review video, so it is not nice to trouble any of my friends further. 

2) It took me about 7 hours out on the street to get all the footage (I was out at 10am and finished the last raining shot at about 5pm). 

3) Everything was shot hand-held, with no use of tripod, gimbal or any sort of stabilization support. I used both Movie Stabilization 1 and 2 modes. For wide angle, uncropped scenes I used M-IS 2 mode. For everything else, M-IS 1. I may have accidentally used M-IS 2  when I was walking around, some wobbly effect was seen, which was not supposed to be present with use of M-IS 1. 

4) I used 3 lenses for this short video. The lens I used most was M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8, which covered 90% of the shots. For close ups of the Lego Robin and some scenes during the rain, I used M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8. I also used M.Zuiko 12mm F2 for wide scenery shots. 

5) I used C-AF for the entire video shooting. I tapped the screen to "pull focus". 

6) I used ND filters for all scenes before the rain. I had Variable ND 2-400 for both 45mm f1.8 lens and also 17mm F1.8 lens (17mm and 12mm shares the same filter thread). 

7) The whole movie was shot on Manual Exposure mode. Shutter speed was kept at constant 1/50sec, Aperture varies depending on situations (for blur background, I used wide open, for scenery shots, I used F4 or narrower), ISO was fixed at 200. I adjusted the ND filter to achieve correct exposure balance. 

8) The video was shot in "Natural" color profile. I decided not to use Flat Profile, because I did not want to do any color grading, and honestly, I don't know how at this moment. I relied on Olympus' superb straight out of the camera color profile, which I have come to love over the years. I did not do any other changes to the image profile parameters (contrast, saturation, sharpness, noise filter, all on default). 

9) White balance was set to Daylight. If there was a greenish/blueish tint, that was because of the ND filter (I used cheap no brand filters). It could have been easily corrected if I set the White Balance to Auto, but I wanted to maintain color consistency, hence I set to Daylight. 

10) The footage was all shot in 24p, on Cinema 4K, except the slow motion rain scenes, which were shot in Full HD 120FPS mode. 

11) Battery life was not great. I managed to get a total of about 30 minutes footage before the battery died. Do consider to get MANY spares if you want to shoot video with E-M5 Mark III. 



I am seriously noob in making video, so please do cut me some slack and forgive some of my mistakes if I did any. I figured I have to dive in now, and started doing something, else I will just remain noob forever. 

The stabilization works like a charm. You must know I am new to all this and I know not how to do "cinematic movements". I was happy with how shake free and stabilized the output was, and I have to say, this is the best that you can get from a system camera, the most capable image stabilization, without the use of gimbal. The gimbal or steadycam will still give you steadier results, but not everyone wants to carry more equipment. Not all of us are cinematographers, and I don't see myself venturing into making videos seriously. My passion is in photography, that will not change. So for someone like me, who does not intend to use a gimbal, who keeps the setup as minimalist as possible, the 5-Axis IS from Olympus is a Godsent. 

The Continuous Autofocus just freaking works! The one thing I worried the most while shooting the video was AF during filming. I had no idea what to expect since I lack experience from doing video work, and unlike shooting stills, I cannot zoom in/magnify my shots during preview to ensure critical focus. Inspecting all the shots, they were ALL, I repeat, ALL in focus. I was genuinely impressed. If the E-M5 Mark III works for someone as new to video as me, the C-AF is almost foolproof to anyone!

Overall I just love how small the camera is, and how well it handles with all the small prime lenses. I strongly suggest using the prime lenses, 12mm, 17mm, 25mm, 45mm and 75mm, these lenses can give you sharp footage with incredible shallow depth of field effect, low light shooting and super reliable AF during video. Yet they were so small and easy to move around with the camera. 

If you are a cinematographer I am sure you already know the kind of gear you are getting, the professional kind. E-M5 Mark III is not competing with that, instead it allows people like me, people with very limited knowledge and experience with video shooting to just pick up the camera and shoot. Yet I come home with very usable results! The image stabilization works and the AF is insanely reliable. Vloggers out there, I don't think there is other camera better than this! You get Cinema 4K at 237Mb/s, Flat Profile (if you want to color grade) and 120FPS Full HD slow motion!

I will do ONE more post/video about E-M5 Mark III, and I will be doing it the typical Vlogging style. It shall be out in a few days. Stay tuned!

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Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III Review

The much awaited and long overdue Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is finally launched today, and thanks to Olympus Malaysia I have had a loaner to shoot with for the past almost 2 weeks. The E-M5 Mark III is a huge upgrade from the previous E-M5 Mark II, with overall performance and feature set matching the flagship camera E-M1 Mark II. The E-M5 Mark III has similar 20MP image sensor, Truepic VIII engine, 5-Axis IS capability, AF performance and video shooting features from the E-M1 mark II. In this article, I am exploring what the E-M5 Mark III can do when it comes to various shooting environment. 

Here is a video review I have done for Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III on YouTube! Yay, Robin Wong finally reviews cameras on YouTube!


Before diving too deep, here are some important disclaimers. I am an Olympus Visionary, an ambassador to Olympus brand. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III was a loaner from Olympus Malaysia and will be returned shortly after this review. Olympus Malaysia did not ask me to do a review, so this review blog article and the video review on YouTube were made because I genuinely wanted to. This is not a technical review, there will be no graphs, charts or comparisons.  This is a user experience based review, I will be sharing lots of sample images shot with the Olympus E-M5 Mark III during the course of my testing period, and from the images I shall be drawing my conclusions on how the camera performed. For this article (and this video) I will only be discussing the stills shooting capability of the E-M5 Mark III. I have a separate article and video to explore the video/movie recording of E-M5 Mark III, which will be published several days from now. All images in this blog entry were shot in RAW, and minor post-processing (exposure compensation, contrast tweak, small white balance adjustments) were performed via Olympus Workspace.


With that out of the way, let's have some fun with the E-M5 Mark III!

Here is a quick rundown of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III's specification highlights:

1) Small & Light build
The body is light, weighs at about 414g with battery and SD card, and 366g only without battery. To keep the build light, Olympus discarded the magnesium alloy construction and the E-M5 Mark III was made entirely of plastic.

2) Weather-Sealing, and Improved SSWF Dust Reduction. 
As with all other E-M5 iterations, there is full weather sealing against splash, dust and freezing (down to minus 10 degrees Celsius). The Supersonic Wave Filter (SSWF) Dust Reduction on the image sensor is not using the same one found on E-M1X, vibrating at 30,000 times a second, repelling dust much more effectively.

3) 20MP Image Sensor and Truepic VIII Processor from E-M1 Mark II/E-M1X
Similar image sensor and processing engine used in flagship E-M1 Mark II/E-M1X, hence the E-M5 Mark III is expected to deliver similar image quality in terms of resolution, dynamic range and high ISO performance.

4) 5-Axis Image Stabilization with 5.5 Stops Effectiveness
The rating of the built in 5-Axis IS is also similar to the E-M1 Mark II

5) Similar AF algorithm and capabilities with E-M1 Mark II
The camera features similar AF performance for S-AF, C-AF as well as movie AF as found in E-M1 Mark II.

6) Electronic Viewfinder at 2.36 Million Dot and 1.37X magnification
The EVF is smaller than what was found in E-M1 Mark II (1.48X), but it has very low latency of rated 10ms only, with high refresh rate of 120fps. The EVF panel is OLED.

7) Maximum sequential burst shooting - Mechanical H 10FPS, Silent H 30FPS

8) BLS-50 Battery
The previous E-M5 series cameras used BLN-1 battery,  however Olympus decided to go with the smaller capacity BLS-50, probably to shave off more size and weight to keep it truly compact.

9) WiFi and Bluetooth connection, with USB-Charging
USB-Charging yes, but sadly, no USB-C! It is 2019, and Olympus included Micro USB in the E-M5 Mark III. Why?????

For full specification, kindly visit the official product page here (click). 


Olympus OM-D E-M5 The Gamechanger - 10 Things Olympus Got Right

In modern times, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 not only became the turning point for Olympus but also shaped the course of what a mirrorless camera should be and was capable of. It was a camera no one saw coming, as deeply involved as I was with Olympus, even I was pleasantly surprised with what the E-M5 can do. E-M5 effectively set many new benchmarks for what the mirrorless system is, and the many new features and improvements found in the camera was subsequently incorporated into many other newer camera models from Olympus as well as other manufacturers. It was indeed an exciting time and I was glad I was involved with the initial review of Olympus OM-D E-M5 when it was launched. In this new video I am making, it is a little throwback to that 2012 released E-M5, and let's dive deep into what made that camera such a winner!


Here are the 10 things Olympus got right with their Olympus OM-D E-M5

1) WEATHER SEALING
At that time, mirrorless cameras were seen as mere toys, or nothing serious for photography use. Build quality were mostly plasticky and the cameras were small, unprofessional looking. However, the E-M5 was announced as the first mirrorless camera to be weather sealed. The splashproof and dustproof design sent a very loud and important message - this camera meant business, and was not just a toy. The weather-sealing allow the E-M5 to push shooting envelopes and be used in harsh operating environment. This was a bold but necessary move to change the public perception of what a mirrorless camera can do, and how it is the future, overtaking DSLR.

2) FAST & RELIABLE AF
All mirrorless cameras (not just Olympus) before E-M5 had sluggish, almost unreliable Autofocus. (with the exception of E-P3, which the E-M5 uses the same AF system). The contrast detect AF was accurate but too slow to acquire focus. Phase detect AF in DSLR system was already mature and the performance difference was obvious. Therefore, many professionals and serious hobbyists were reluctant to pick up a mirrorless camera due to the poor AF performance. Somehow, E-M5 managed to improve the AF based on contrast detect (at least for S-AF) to a point that it was matching the AF speed of even the fastest DSLR at that time. Then there was the touch shutter, shooting an image immediately by a tap on the LCD screen. I even shot weddings with E-M5 and the camera delivered, as expected.

3) NEW 16MP LIVE MOS IMAGE SENSOR
The new image sensor was a surprise. Not only having more resolution, which was necessary to catch up to competition, but everything else in the image quality department got a nice upgrade. Dynamic range was noticeably better and high ISO performance was improved drastically. The image quality came very close to even what the best APS-C DSLR at that time had to offer, and that is saying something coming from a Micro Four Thirds sensor. The ability to bridge the gap when it comes to final image output was a huge determining factor for a lot of photographers. The only way to have a huge margin of image quality difference is to go full frame, but that is a story for another day.

4) ELECTRONIC VIEWFINDER
Another reason that held a lot of DSLR users back from getting a mirrorless camera, was the absence of a viewfinder and having to use the camera back screen to compose (Kirk Tuck cutely named this "Stinky Diaper Technique"). Olympus added an EVF into the E-M5, with very little lag and the refresh rate was high enough to look very smooth, even if you jerk and pan the camera around viewing through the EVF. The colors were accurate and pleasing to look at (certainly much better than the OLED camera back screen, which was my biggest complain of E-M5). Having that EVF makes a world of difference, and it sets the path for future high end mirrorless camera models. In fact, the subsequent release from Olympus, PEN E-P5 which did not have an EVF built in was not well received by critics.

5) 5-AXIS IMAGE STABILIZATION
Olympus single-handedly changed the public opinion on whether image stabilization is necessary in a camera or not. There was a popular opinion that image stabilization is optional because it did not directly affect the outcome of the images, and also the effectiveness of older image stabilizers was questionable. Olympus broke those beliefs by introducing their 5-Axis IS, something that sounded so alien and cool at the same time. I was the first to doubt the effectiveness of the new image stabilization system when I was briefed privately by Olympus. You have to understand, I was an engineer, you can claim whatever you want on paper but I will only believe it when I can prove it myself. And that actually happened, when I was testing the E-M5, the benefits of the 5-Axis IS, though in the first iteration, was undeniable, and I knew immediately this was the future of imaging products. 5-Axis IS has become a standard for high end cameras, just take a look at all other cameras out there from Sony, Fuji, Panasonic, Nikon, their highest end flagship cameras, don't they all have 5-Axis IS? It began in Olympus E-M5!


6) NEW BATTERY
To ensure that the battery can sustain the drain of all the new technology and features added to the E-M5 (eg 5-Axis IS, EVF, fast AF, etc) Olympus used a new battery, BLM-5 in the E-M5. The upgrade was much needed, and I could confidently get 500-600 shots per single charge. Unlike some other mirrorless cameras from other brands that dies after less than 200 shots per charge. (we are talking about 2012-2013 period of course).

7) TWO PARTER HLD-6 BATTERY GRIP
Olympus released battery grip to support the E-M5, and this design was the first in the world to make it two parter. There was the horizontal part only, to add beefier grip to the hand-holding area without the need of additional battery or bulk, keeping the camera as small as possible but with additional stability when holding the camera. Then there was a second part of the grip that added weight, bulk and another extra battery for longer shooting. The second part of the grip design is more DSLR battery grip conventional.

8) M.ZUIKO 12-50MM LENS
Olympus released M.Zuiko 12-50mm kit lens ahead of E-M5, which was weather sealed and has very capable macro shooting. There were no other weather sealed lens at that time, and having a weather sealed kit lens to go with a weather sealed body was crucial. I personally loved the 12-50mm lens, though I do admit the 12-40mm F2.8 PRO that came with E-M1 after that was a superior lens.


9) MAGNESIUM ALLOY BODY
If I remember correctly, the E-M5 was also the first mirrorless camera to feature a robust magnesium alloy body construction. The metal construction inspired confidence, and separated Olympus from the crowd. Only the highest end of DSLR cameras use magnesium alloy build, and having the same material construction placed the E-M5 at a different spot, bumping general perception of the camera that it was not a non-serious camera. 

10) TRULY COMPACT & LIGHT
All the above, the EVF, 5-Axis IS, new image sensor, fast AF, all packed into a small and light form factor of E-M5, this successfully demonstrated how a mirrorless camera should be. Small in footprint, yet capable to deliver professional quality results, and matching DSLR in terms of shooting performance. It paved a way for Olympus Micro Four Thirds system (many more cameras and lenses) to come. The small and light advantage was a big thing for Olympus, allowing the photographers to pick up the camera and shoot without worrying about neck strains or back pain!

I acknowledge the Olympus OM-D E-M5 was not a perfect camera, in my original review I did have my fair share of complains, but most of these shortcomings were fixed in the subsequent E-M1. Also Olympus never claimed the E-M5 to be a professional grade camera, it never was designed that way. Which hinted to the coming E-M1, but that camera deserves a spot on it's own.


I am sure many of you have owned an E-M5, or are still shooting with one. Is yours still alive? What are your experiences shooting with the E-M5? Share your story!


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MORE Hidden Olympus OM-D Tips

Since my previous videos on Olympus OM-D camera tips were proven popular, here is a new video showing some very rarely used and mentioned features that you may not even have known or heard of. A lot of these tips are not critical to shooting process and there are no serious consequences for not knowing them, but some of them are cool and can be handy in certain situations. Also, I made this video a while back, before I had a recent haircut, so hopefully that non-continuity in video was not too jarring for some. 


The Hidden Tips Mentioned in video are:
1) AF Target Area with Spot Metering - ability to spot meter at the exact location of the AF point placement on the framing
2) Audio Clip Recording with Image
3) Pixel Mapping in Camera - to fix dead pixel on image sensor
4) AF Limiter (for E-M1 Mark II and E-M1X only)
5) In Camera RAW Processing and development with extensive adjustments


I sure hope you have found something new in the video. If you have more tricks up your sleeve, please don't be selfish, share with everyone!

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Shutter Speed, ISO and Aperture Simplified

I made a short introductory video with simplified explanation of photography fundamentals - the exposure trinity of Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO. In the video, I explained what they were, how they worked, what photography effects they individually produce and how to control them using Olympus OM-D cameras. This is a quick, dumbed down version of photography basics for beginners, designed for newcomers to Olympus system and this is not a complete beginner's guide or how to use a camera. I made it as straight to the point as possible, cutting out all unnecessary bloat, with the aim of getting you to go out to shoot as soon as possible, because photography happens when you click the shutter button. 


Why am I doing this video?

For newcomers to photography, there are many simple and basic questions, such as how do I blur the background, how do I get motion blur, or how do make sure the moving subject is perfectly sharp? There questions are common, and can be easily controlled if the photography spent some time studying the very basics of how the camera operates, There is no shortcut to photography, if you want to take photography seriously, then you must master the fundamentals - shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Knowing how these settings work, and what they can do, you probably can do almost everything with your camera! 

I acknowledge that the video may be oversimplifying some topics, but it was never meant to be a comprehensive step by step tutorial. There are thousands of such videos out there, with articles and you can also by reference books if you want to explore anything further and in depth. The purpose of this video was to get you off your feet and start taking some pictures. Learn as you go, and you must allow yourself to make some mistakes along the way. You learn faster as you shoot more and more. I am a practical person, you can only learn something fully by actually doing it yourself. The problem with a lot of photographers (especially newcomers) these days? They talk too much and don't shoot enough. 

To freeze fast action, use fast shutter speed

To capture motion blur, slow down the shutter speed

To blur off the background, use large aperture (small F-number)

Shooting in very dark environment, ISO needs to be raised. 

Use large aperture for blur background "bokeh" efefct

Sports shooting require very fast shutter speed

This moment would have been lost if shutter speed was too slow. Prioritize shutter speed in fast action shoots

For light trails, you need very slow shutter speeds, such as this shot, taken at 4 seconds long. 

If you have a friend starting out photography, share this video, hopefully they will take Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO seriously! Because, they cannot advance too much further without properly understanding and mastering all these basics first. Tell them what I said - there is no shortcut in photography! Learn your basics. 


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