Gear review !!!
Reviewing the Olympus OM-D E-M5 in Dubai
Shortly before our timelapse workshop in Dubai, Tudortech (distributor for Olympus in SA) asked us to do a review on the OM-D E-M5. Such perfect timing to review this camera! I mean, we'll be traveling like typical tourists and this camera will certainly come in handy on adventures like this ;-)
We were really eager to test out this little monster! We got the camera a day or two before we left for Dubai and were only able to get one lens for this trip. In South Africa, gadgets and gear like this is limited so choice is often not an option ;-) Luckily we got the one lens that we really wanted to try out - the Zuiko 12mm F2.0. Such a beauty!
Things were quite crazy for us and Tudortech as this was just after the annual Photo & Film Expo and people were queuing up to get their hands on these cameras. In all the chaos we didn't get a manual and had no time to set-up the camera to our personal preference, although we are aware that you have a decent amount of freedom to personalise the functionality of the camera to your liking.
Also, this is not a hardcore technical review. There are loads of those on the internet already! Since timelapse photography is our main interest, shooting some timelapse was high on the priority list. Note; the Olympus OM-D E-M5 does not have a built-in intervalometer. We used the Timelapse+ for the timelapse shooting.
Firstly, being a tourist carrying such a small camera around your neck the whole day is just brilliant! The bonus is, you can capture really high quality images wherever you go. The other benefit is that you don't look like a potential commercial or pro photographer therefore you have more "freedom" to take pictures as you please. Well, for now at least. I had the OM-D E-M5 with me ALL the time!!
This SLR-style mirrorless camera has a high-resolution digital viewfinder (not impressive at all) which allows you to see exposure, colour and filter effects live, not after the shot has been taken. We didn't really use the digital viewfinder though. Maybe because it's so small. Perhaps because it has such a big tilting OLED touch-screen and because the body is so small. I think your brain "knows" to use the screen rather than the viewfinder. I suppose living in a smartphone world has already influenced our brains more than we care to believe, keeping in mind it is a 3 inch screen - you can't miss it! I'm sure if the body was bigger you would automatically want to use the viewfinder over the screen.
The touchscreen is really handy and works very well! Once again, I didn't really use it except for viewing the images. I'm sure if I use this camera regularly I will quickly develop the habit to use the touchscreen for focussing too. That will give me less of a reason to use the multi-selector which brings me to another point.
While shooting with the Olympus there was one thing that both Joe and myself found a bit frustrating. It's really difficult to use the multi-selector because it's four individual buttons instead of one dial or four-way button. You have to use some accuracy to make sure you press the right button and press it in the right place. This often slowed you down while shooting and it's annoying when you want to shoot fast. It's a tad slow to change some of the settings, like ISO and so on. Then again, I am used to work with a DSLR so you tend to expect some functionalities to be easier and more user-friendly and the E-M5 is in a totally different league.
I am most impressed with the low-light shooting capabilities of the OLympus E-M5. (Maybe not as good as the top-notch Pro DSLR's but it's good!) The focusing is super fast and high ISO's is incredible!! This makes it a valuable piece of equipment for shooting night-lapses and especially for astro-lapses as you have to shoot wide open on a really high ISO. Even on ISO 5000 the results are still acceptable. Not that you will really make a print of it but if you have to shoot and it's all you have, you'll get a good shot. The noise on ISO 200 and 400 is not that great and will be a draw-back when shooting portraits etc. Since 200 is the lowest you can go it's not spectacular for day-time scenic shots and the like however, the moment you go indoors or the light is lower, the images are great.
The E-M5 has a 5-axis stabilisation system and this truly is remarkable! It's unreal to see how much it stabilises your videos and it's effective for stills too. Plus, you don't need specialised lenses to benefit from the image stabilisation as it is integrated into the body therefore it even works with manual focus lenses that are not electronic.
The video quality is exceptional and the sensor is very good for HD recording. Below is a scene that I shot while driving through the underwater tunnel to the Palm. At this moment I was shooting in Aperture Priority (auto focus) and we were blown away to see how the camera handled the extreme exposure shifts as we exit the tunnel!!
So what's up with the Micro Four Thirds sensor? For one, it offers high image quality in both stills and movies witch can not easily be achieved. Micro Four Thirds sensor is definitely something to keep an eye on in the future! Read an depth explanation on the benefits, image quality and advantages on Micro Four Thirds.
Bottom line… The image quality is fantastic!! I love the way the sensor records colour (based on subject matter and lighting conditions that we were able to shoot in). Don't forget that beautiful Zuiko 12mm F2! The quality, clarity and contrast is just unbelievable! And it's fast too. When processing the images I found that I had to add less contrast in comparison to other RAW files. Images have a nice vibrance to them too. The dynamic range is pretty decent too although we didn't do extreme tests on this. There was just something about editing these images that I enjoyed. It's still hard to say what exactly it is. When aiming to get correct colour for your final edit it just seems easy… It's weird, I know.
There is a strange "soft feeling" to the images. But a good soft! The noise is soft and subtle and the lens we used (Zuiko 12mm F2.0.) is super sharp, particularly F2.8. WOW! I also love the fact that you can switch between auto and manual focus simply by moving the barrel forward for auto focus and backward for manual focus. It's a wide-angle prime lens and produces incredibly crisp images. It's unbelievable! It's pin sharp and the manual focusing is amazing
I would love to shoot some more with this camera and to test it more thoroughly on certain aspects. I would really like to see how the sensor performs with skin tones and how it records different colours in a wider variety of shooting and lighting conditions. Our time was very limited for testing because of the workshop we hosted in Dubai.
So why is the Olympus OM-D E-M5 a great timelapse camera?
Being a mirrorless camera it means it will have less vibration when taking a photo.
With a maximum resolution of 4608 x 3456 you comfortably produce 4k quality timelapses.
The high ISO noise and low-light shooting capabilities is incredible! Great for nightlapses and astrolapses.
You can buy two bodies for the price of one semi-pro DSLR allowing you to shoot two separate shots at the same time, since your camera is occupied for more than just a minute to shoot one shot.
It's a small compact camera and for timelapse you don't work with the body in your hands so you don't need a camera that "feels" good. It's also less weight on your dolly cart.
It's decent value for money. There is a variety of lenses available for the Olympus OM-D E-M5 so you can choose the one that will fit your type of shooting. Best of all, you can mount just about any lens you can think of on the camera. Adapters are available in just about any mount.
In the end, I had loads of fun shooting with the E-M5 and is seriously impressed with it's performance. Do I want one?? It would be really nice!! There are pro's and cons to the OM-D E-M5 and it will depend greatly on your type of photography whether the E-M5 will fit your needs, but for street and travel type photography it is awesome. For this trip it was perfect!
Below is some of the shots from our timelapse workshop trip to Dubai.
Check out the shot of the tomatoes - shot on 400 ISO / F2.8 in the grocery store (low light). Shot below that is a 100% crop.
The image taken through the front window of the car was shot on ISO 5000.
The sail yacht at sunset was shot on ISO 200.
Please note; All images were shot handheld. No sharpening or noise reduction was done on any of these images. Edited in Adobe LR with default sharpen/noise settings. Edited as RAW, saved to JPG's for web.