Lets not forget old and faithful friends

Lots of talking about, playing with and thinking on the merits of new cameras, but lets not forget old friends.

I have 3 OMD EM5 mk1 cameras, ranging from 4 to 6, nearly 7 years old, all with a 100k+ frame count, each going well with the following minor “faults” recorded.

  • The second oldest lost the cap off it’s top rear thumb dial about 3 years ago, I stuck it back on with double sided tape and it has been fine since.

  • The youngest and special edition model produced at the end of the production cycle, very occasionally (twice?) had to be turned off/on again to get the sensor to power up, although this may be a lens contacts issue.

  • The oldest one, purchased out of the first batch we received, had a spot on the sensor once very early on (oh the horror!), but it disappeared next on/off cycle and has never happened again. It is also sporting two pretty deep gashes on it’s top plate, with no known after effects.

The two older ones have not had their firmware updated since purchase, but it does not worry me.

What they are still great at;

The sensor/processor combination creates beautiful, uncomplicated, cleanly sharp and rich images especially in strong light. They really love late afternoon sun, shiny things and strong contrast with deep blacks, reminding me of how film rendered the same.

 75-300 at 75mm. The two make an amazingly capable combo.

75-300 at 75mm. The two make an amazingly capable combo.

 17mm at f5.6

17mm at f5.6

 45mm. Kyoto has a series of odd chrome buildings in and around the city centre.

45mm. Kyoto has a series of odd chrome buildings in and around the city centre.

 75mm. Building detail Tokyo Japan.

75mm. Building detail Tokyo Japan.

 25mm

25mm

 75mm at f1.8. The slight “CA” on the dog tag was actually from a green tinted, hardened glass window, not the lens, but it could/should have been cleared up anyway.

75mm at f1.8. The slight “CA” on the dog tag was actually from a green tinted, hardened glass window, not the lens, but it could/should have been cleared up anyway.

 I just love the simple 70’s film glow that some files have.

I just love the simple 70’s film glow that some files have.

The image above was taken “loosely” on a day when both Fuji and Canon FF were in the final mix. This file was the only one that came easily and well (the Canon missed focus and Fuji at that time was just too slow and “detached”). I had at that point decided to go back to full frame. After trying this image on an XE-1 and 6D mk1, I added a couple of lazy grab shots from the Olympus . On examination, these 2-3 files were the best focussed, easiest to manipulate and fastest/surest to take. This one ended up printed as an A2 for work, helping sell a lot of M43 cameras.

 40-150 f2.8 through a hazy window.

40-150 f2.8 through a hazy window.

 75mm at f2 through a reflective window.

75mm at f2 through a reflective window.

The controlled highlight rendering matched with good shadow recovery combine to make post processing surefooted and consistent.

 45mm

45mm

 75mm

75mm

They are still quick to fire, reassuring in operation and low profile enough to go under the radar more often than not.

 17mm. this set is jut a small showing as a brilliant day in Tokyo. Hitting a real winning streak, I captured 20+ “keepers” in an hour.

17mm. this set is jut a small showing as a brilliant day in Tokyo. Hitting a real winning streak, I captured 20+ “keepers” in an hour.

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The first acquisition AF is still cutting edge, surprising me still to this day, as long as you do not need tracking.

 17mm. One of many hip level snaps, using the tilted-up rear screen.

17mm. One of many hip level snaps, using the tilted-up rear screen.

tokyo summer 2-010366.jpg

High ISO performance is still good as long as the lens used has strong micro contrast and the exposure is accurate.

 Shot with the 40-150 pro and a slight crop. This lens allowed me to use ISO 3200 cleanly for a series of images shot in on unlit stage, without flash.

Shot with the 40-150 pro and a slight crop. This lens allowed me to use ISO 3200 cleanly for a series of images shot in on unlit stage, without flash.

One of the big advantages of M43 cameras is the combination of format (rendering better depth of field at lens wider apertures), and stabiliser means you do not have to use high ISO’s as often.

 17mm wide open. Taken in near darkness, this was one of my first revelatory images with the new (then) EM5. The combination of a lower than expected ISO due to an excellent stabiliser, good shadow recovery, natural “filmy” grain and the ability to shoot with a 17mm lens wide open made this possible.

17mm wide open. Taken in near darkness, this was one of my first revelatory images with the new (then) EM5. The combination of a lower than expected ISO due to an excellent stabiliser, good shadow recovery, natural “filmy” grain and the ability to shoot with a 17mm lens wide open made this possible.

Black and whites can be either smooth and very tonally pleasing of have a very film like and natural grain.

 75mm

75mm

 17mm

17mm

 45mm

45mm

 From early on I found myself keen to shoot in available darkness.

From early on I found myself keen to shoot in available darkness.

What I feel needs addressing for best results.

I personally do not like the colour straight out of the camera. Jpeg’s need the warm tone setting taken off then -1 magenta in the tonal slider (camera back).

RAW files get a pretty strong Lightroom pre-set applied (Darkened blacks, lightened whites, reduced highlights, increased shadows and added blue saturation in the camera calibration window). This gives me a cleaner, cooler-neutral and richer look without the yellow/magenta caste the base images tend to show. I also find the brush* with a little added sharpness/clarity/contrast really makes important parts of the image jump out. Although highlights recover well, I lean on under exposure to make the shadows deeper or stronger, knowing I can recover them if needed.

*Generally I lay off global sharpening, saturation and contrast/clarity. You get better results by locally brush-tool applying these.

Images on bad light days can be a little flat and dark, almost too literal. This is to be expected, so Fuji cameras, compared at the time were my go-to’s for poor light quality shooting as their jpegs added a little (possibly fake) brilliance to dull day images. I think part of the problem comes from the expectation you can get something useable from every file and sometimes, the simple, honest images form the Em5’s are just too honest. Often reviewing them later, they look better than their first impression. Another thing I need to remember is the blue saturation slider in camera calibration trick came later, after the first two trips to Japan that were plagued with cool, wet spring light.

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 The basic adjustments outlined above, quickly (too quickly probably) applied. Sometimes I feel the more I dig, the more I will find.

The basic adjustments outlined above, quickly (too quickly probably) applied. Sometimes I feel the more I dig, the more I will find.

 As above, nothing added, only found and enhanced. All the colour in both images is natural to them. Post processing need only strengthen the better elements and reduce the weaker ones.

As above, nothing added, only found and enhanced. All the colour in both images is natural to them. Post processing need only strengthen the better elements and reduce the weaker ones.

In comparison to the Canon sensors I came from using (5D2, 550D, 50D) 6 years ago, they held much better highlight detail and were generally more robust in processing. Canon’s issues with burned out highlights, lens calibration and accuracy issues and general “softness” in operation really pushed me over the edge and at the time and Olympus/Panasonic were the only viable alternative if you wanted to swap fully into mirrorless, not just fiddle.

Many of the little niggles I had with the EM5’s have now been addressed and the new sensor and processors have raised the bar, but there is still much to like in the older cameras.

Exciting times.