Kill Your Babies (or "patience Grasshopper")

Terrible phrase, but a relevant one (if taken in context).

It means literally, to let go of your past victories and achievements and look to your next. It is ok to be proud of your past achievements, it is even expected, but the most important thing is not what you have done, but what you will do in the future.

lately I have been hero worshipping the results I got out of the EM5 mk 1 cameras and second guessing the value of the new ones and even questioning the direction Olympus has taken with their new cameras. The core of the issue comes from flawed lines of reasoning.

The new cameras have to compete with six years of memories. The mind of course plays tricks, usually only remembering the best results and then exaggerating them until they become paragons of the photographic art. When put to the test, the files I examine are very normal, often well worked and the mystery falls away. What I am comparing to them is every image that comes out of the new cameras!

Totally unfair and unrealistic.

The EM1 looked to produce grainy and smeary files in almost complete darkness, in light with little contrast, with a slow, middle priced zoom at ISO 6400. Who knew?! The only times I ever successfully used the EM5’s at really high ISO’s I was using the 40-150 f2.8 and good exposure. The images were then viewed from the perspective of the client, that was a web page and no more. What was good enough then became beyond that in my memory, then almost legendary in status.

Below is another example (on I have at hand).

This image and it’s crop were used to cite the quality of the 75-300 and EM5 vs my old 1Ds Mk2 (same pixels) and 400 f5.6L. The difference was minimal and the weight/cost/hassle factor very much in favour of the Olympus set-up.

Below is a set from the other day. I selectively forgot that the top set was taken in brilliant, contrasty and sharp light at ISO 400. The ones below were shot in flat light, with low contrast and little intensity at ISO 800 and I did not take in to account how much work I needed to do to lift detail out of the head (see below)!

Where do the bad things hide? In the shadows.

Where do the bad things hide? In the shadows.

Quite nice in better light.

Quite nice in better light.

Unhappy with what I saw, I set out to find the answer.

The answer? (Taken with the EM1 and 75-300 in  good  light!)

The answer? (Taken with the EM1 and 75-300 in good light!)

The answer is pretty simple really. The EM1 takes a better image than the EM5 and is generally faster and more sure footed,


It has not shifted the bar overnight. ISO 800+ is still a compromise on some level, that only better (faster) lenses with higher micro contrast and sharpness can partially alleviate. Light is the answer as always, along with getting to know the camera’s personality, it’s limits and preferences. The files do seem to be “mushier” at ISO 400+ than the Em5 files, but it was not that long ago I felt the EM5 files were too hard. A little processing examination, based n the excellent jpegs has given me a slightly more aggressive approach to it’s files. Jumping to a full frame or Fuji would help with high ISO performance, but reduce depth of field equally, making the exercise pointless, not to mention the added size, cost and weight.

The road to getting the EM5’s to speak properly for me was long, but worth it. The road to best results for the newer cameras will likely be less arduous, but it is only the beginning of the journey. I know there is more, because the jpeg coming out of the EM1 are the best Olympus ones I have seen (Fuji still rules here). I just need to get a RAW work flow that betters them and I will be set. There is probably a 40-150 Pro in the wings also as that lens had very good low light contrast.

When I use the EM5’s I generally avoid flat light. They have a simple beauty to their files, that can be brutally treated and take their licks well, but the best results will always come from strong and contrasty light, where they shine (literally) and tame blown highlights well. The EM1 and Pen F will, I am sure, offer similar or better images, they just need to be given the same opportunity.

I hope so anyway, because I am taking them to Japan this trip.