5 Small Improvements Olympus Made in E-M5 Mark III

I managed to get my hands on a loaner E-M5 Mark III again from Olympus Malaysia, and I intend to shoot a bit more with the camera, and do a few more videos on YouTube. I made one exploring a few things that Olympus quietly changed in the camera which I believe no one has mentioned about yet. These minor changes may not be gamechangers and are certainly not worth making a big fuss about, but I do welcome any small incremental improvements, especially on menu and operational side of things. 

Shutter vibration is a real issue, any camera with moving physical shutter mechanism will induce shutter shock to a certain degree. The smaller build and lighter weight of E-M5 Mark III amplifies this issue, having less weight and bulk to dampen the vibration caused by shutter movement. An effective method to mitigate shutter vibration is to enable anti-shock on Olympus cameras. Anti-shock is the option to use electronic first curtain shutter, meaning that the opening of shutter involves no physical shutter movement, and the image sensor "turned on" digitally, hence successfully preventing any possible vibration caused by the shutter. Previously in any Olympus camera, this is an optional setting that can be switched on and off. However in E-M5 Mark III, the Anti-Shock setting is now permanently turned on, hence any image taken at shutter speeds of 1/320 sec or slower will be shot with Anti-Shock (electronic first curtain shutter). Anything faster than 1/320 sec, E-M5 Mark III employs the normal shutter mechanism. This makes perfect sense because at 1/320 sec or faster shutter speeds, there should not be any vibration recorded in the image. 

Super control panel is one of the best things in an Olympus camera, allowing quick adjustments of important settings, all laid out neatly within a single page. For some unexplained reasons, Olympus hid the option of Live Super Control Panel which is off by default. For most Olympus cameras, you need to dive deep into the menu system to turn it on. For E-M5 Mark III (and E-M1X), the Live Super Control Panel is now turned on by default, and can be called up by pressing the OK button while shooting via the Live View on LCD screen or EVF. 

Yet another one of weird decisions by Olympus in most of their previous cameras, the Live View Boost is turned ON by default when Manual shooting mode is engaged. When the Live View Boost is turned on, you lose the advantage of WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) while shooting. Typically, when live view boost is turned off, when we adjust the ISO, aperture or shutter speed, the exposure changes are simulated live on the LCD screen or EVF, allowing us to have live preview of the exposure as we shoot. This allows us to get the best exposure setting possible, preventing over or underexposed shots. Olympus disables this, for no apparent useful reasons, for most of their cameras. Thankfully in E-M5 Mark III, they had the sense to have the Live View Boost switched OFF by default when shooting manual. 

For all Olympus digital cameras since the beginning of time, they have taken great measures to hide their best possible JPEG compression setting, which is the LSF (Large Super Fine) setting. To enable it, you need to dive deeeeeeeep into the menu to find it. In the current new cameras, E-M1X and also now the E-M5 Mark III, LSF is no longer hidden. It can be accessed as an option for JPEG quality directly from the super control panel. 

Olympus introduced a new item in their mode dial, a "B" mode which has the 3 settings Bulb, Live Time and Live Composite shifted there in a dedicated slot. Previously, to activate Bulb, Live Time and Live Composite mode, you need to turn the camera to M (Manual), then scroll the shutter speed dial to the slowest 60 seconds setting and then turn it further to reach Bulb and subsequent settings. This was quite troublesome and honestly, not a very convenient way to activating some of the most useful and advanced features in Olympus cameras. Olympus knew this, and they made a quick workaround in E-M10 Mark III and E-PL9, shifting the Live Composite mode to AP photo mode (Advanced Photo). For E-M1X and now the E-M5 Mark III, Bulb, Live Time and Live Composite modes can be accessed directly from the dedicated B mode on the mode dial. I wish this is the same for all other Olympus cameras from now onward. 

Another change worth mentioning, which I have noted in my earlier review article/video of the E-M5 Mark III, is the removal of the "Fn" buttons. In all previous Olympus cameras, there are Fn labels, marking Function Buttons which can be customized to feature shortcuts. The labels all over the camera would be Fn1, Fn2, Fn3, and so on. This may not be a huge thing, but taking out the Fn labels resulted in a cleaner, more simplistic design and I love the less cluttered look of the buttons without the labels. Minimalist is the way to go, a cleaner and leaner look is surely more modern and sleek looking. At the same time, you don't  lose anything, you can still fully customize all the buttons and reassign their functions to whatever other features you prefer. 

I do appreciate the small efforts Olympus did to improve their cameras, but hey, I also believe they should rework their entire menu system and utilize more touch operated controls for quicker access and more simplistic use of the camera. I really wish they have included the MyMenu option from E-M1X, but I guess I can only dream for now. 

What do you guys think of the small changes made in the E-M5 Mark III?

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Shooting Live Music With Olympus OM-D

Last weekend I was privileged to be shooting Bihzhu, a dear friend performing in her own live mini concert show "Bihzhu: In Bloom", and I thought why not use this opportunity to share my experience and some tips on shooting live music using Olympus OM-D System? Typically in stage shows, the lighting is often far from deal and dealing with low light shooting, use of ISO6400 and above is unavoidable. Most people would hesitate and doubt the capabilities of Olympus OM-D or any Micro Four Thirds camera, having smaller image sensor, having to raise the ISO numbers. I am here to tell you that the camera is good enough and the Olympus OM-D performed admirably throughout the shoot. 

Special thanks to Bihzhu and band. Do check out their awesome music!

Of course, I also made a video about how to shoot live music on YouTube, since YouTube is all the rage now.

The stage was set up outdoors, with LED lights not shining on the performers directly, with plenty of back and side directional lighting. There was no bright white or warm light to neutralize the skin tones, so I was dealing constantly with shifting heavy color casts of blue, yellow, red, purple, green, you name it, all colors being destructive to what we normally consider ideal for stage photography. Nonetheless, my job was merely to document the event and capture the performance as true to what it was on stage, so I was not too concerned about color accuracy.

My gear set up was rather simplistic. I was using my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with M.Zuiko PRO lenses, 7-14mm, 17mm, 25mm, 45mm and 40-150mm. The 40-150mm f2.8 PRO was the most used lens of the night, followed by 45mm F1.2 PRO.  All the other lenses were rarely used and stayed in the bag just in case.

Reasons To Go For Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 PRO

Olympus F1.2 prime lenses have been the subject of question when it comes to what Micro Four Thirds stand for - a camera system that is truly compact and small. The Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 PRO is a lot larger and heavier than the F1.8 counterpart, and priced significantly higher too. Is the heftier price tag and the bulkier build justified with the better optics, F1.2 bright aperture, feathered bokeh and weather-sealing? I am exploring this in my latest video on Youtube. 

If you are a street photographer, or buying a camera for travel and you want to shave off as much weight as possible from your gear, the M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 is obviously not for you. The F1.8 smaller compact form factor is a perfect fit to any Olympus OM-D or PEN camera and being so light and tiny, it does not add much weight and bulk to your luggage. If you want to keep your gear minimal, the F1.8 primes is the way to go. 

However, if you are a professional photographer like me who shoots for a living, and intend to provide the best possible results from my Olympus OM-D for my clients, then the F1.2 lens makes perfect sense. The optical construction is superior, rendering images that are looking super sharp yet having the "feathered bokeh" characteristics which the F1.8 lenses do not deliver. The feathered bokeh is also what sets the Olympus F1.2 PRO prime lenses apart from other alternatives such as Panasonic 15mm F1.7 or Sigma 16mm F1.4, both amazing lenses that I have tested, reviewed and written before in this blog. The feathered bokeh renders beautifully smooth background and giving that 3D pop to the images.

Also the brighter aperture of F1.2 make a huge difference in comparison to F1.8, giving one full stop of advantage when it comes to high ISO shooting. The weather-sealing allows me to shoot in the rain, which happens a lot in this tropical weather. 

Some people voiced their complaint that the 17mm F1.2 PRO (and other Olympus F1.2 PRO lenses) is too bulky, and is counter-productive to what a  Micro Four Thirds system is. Here is the kicker - you cannot have a small F1.2 lens, if you do, then there will be some compromise, the images will not be sharp wide open, horrible soft corners, annoying purple fringing, heavy vignetting, etc. I'd rather have an F1.2 lens with great image output, with PRO grade build, than a sub-par lens just with the label F1.2 opening. There is just no other way to go around it, the lens has to be this size. If you are against the size, why attack the lens? You have the F1.8 version. 

Also, I never found the size to be difficult to manage. The 17mm F1.2 is about the same size as the 12-40mm F2.8 PRO which was designed to match E-M1 and E-M1 Mark II perfectly. It was such a good combo, handling was balanced and the lens does not feel front heavy at all.  The 17mm F1.2 being slightly smaller and lighter, surely has no issue with camera handling. 

Are we expecting PRO level lenses to be extremely tiny? We can't have everything can we? But the good news is, we have options. And choices are always good. 

Do you own an Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2? What are your experiences using that lens? I would love to hear from you!

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