Sometimes mother nature can just take your breath away. A beautiful sunset can leave me speechless in wonderment. Living in the city, we don't often see the sun disappears into the horizon, at least not for me, but the exquisite colours temporarily paint everything into an amazing picture. This is one of the many reasons I always have a camera with me wherever I go.
Port of Toronto in Sunset - Olympus E-M5 & Jupiter-3 5cm f1.5. Click for larger.
With a little more than a week of using the Olympus E-M5 under my belt, I think it's time for a little usage report, especially what it's like against the NEX-6, which is still one of the best mirrorless cameras I have used.
I am generally happy with the image quality of the E-M5, but make no mistake about it, you can not bend the rules of physics. The larger sensor in the same sensor generation will always have an advantage over the smaller sensor, and there is no question the NEX-6 has cleaner images, especially in low ISO. This is not to say the image quality of the E-M5 is bad; it's just not as good as the NEX-6. Not something I concern myself with.
I actually prefer the handling of the NEX-6. It has a larger hand grip, and the controls are easier to access. I am so used to be able to hold the camera in hand, and turn the camera on or off with my index finger. There has been a few occasions where I missed shots because I was fumbling with the power switch on the E-M5. This camera requires two hands to turn it on or off. I know I can leave the camera on and let it sleep, but this uses more power and I only have one battery at the moment. Also, if it powers off automatically (at the set time, say 30 minutes), you will have to physically turn the camera off, and then on again to turn it back on.
My other beef with the handling is the small buttons. Even without gloves, I find it hard to use the 4-way switch at the back. My thumb keeps hitting other buttons. Understandably, this is a small camera so there isn't much can be done. I find the implementation is better done on the NEX-6.
Other things I like better on the E-M5 is the dual wheels on top of the camera, to control the aperture/shutter speed, among other functions. The placement of the Fn2 is excellent when it's assigned to magnify view. The memory card has its own door, whereas the NEX-6 has the card slot inside the battery door, and I cursed the #$%$# thing whenever I try to take out the memory card, because the card is not easy to grip and remove.
Being as good as the EVF in the NEX-6 is, it's not without shortcomings. For one thing, in high contrast scenes, the shadows tend to block up and becomes hard to focus. With the E-M5, the contrast in the EVF is dialed way down, to a point that if you are trying to focus on something with low contrast, it's very hard to do. The good thing is opens up the shadows and you can see a lot of details in the EVF. I do prefer the E-M5's implementation.
Even though the NEX-6 has a higher resolution EVF, honestly, I didn't notice much difference between them. The E-M5 seems to have a faster refresh rate and thus better and easier to see at low light.
I have only one auto focus lens for M4/3. It's the excellent Panasonic 14-45 kit lens that came with my Panasonic G1 and I only shot a few test pictures with it when I bought the camera. For sure, the E-M5 beats the NEX-6 in quick focus and low light performance. Even in moderately good light, the NEX-6 has trouble locking focus. I see that the A-6000 has a much improved AF system, but frankly, AF is just not that important to me, at least at the moment.
This is the area where the E-M5 shines. Its In-Body stabilization system is fantastic and is as good as lens based systems, except, perhaps with very long lenses. I am completely blown away by its effectiveness. Best of all, it works with ALL lenses mounted on it. The E-M5 wins hands down.
The NEX menu system is chaotic. It seemingly has no organization and finding anything in the menu is a challenge. The E-M5 is much better, but due to its endless configuration possibilities, it's not the easiest to understand. The good news is that once configured, there is little need to go in the menu again.
Obviously, it's much easier to find manual focus wide angle lenses for the NEX-6 than the E-M5, due to the larger sensor. But on the telephoto end, the E-M5 wins. So depending on what your needs are, this could dictate your decision. To me, owning both is the best. NEX-6 for wide angles, and E-M5 for long lenses.
Both are great and capable cameras with its own strengths and weaknesses. For taking pictures with manual focus lenses, I prefer using the E-M5, simply because the In-Body stabilization is so amazing, you can you use the majority of c-mount lenses without severe vignetting. On the other hand, the NEX-6 gives you wider angles on the same lens, and has better image quality. You can't go wrong with either camera; it all depends on what is more important to you. Ideally, keep both on hand, and use whichever you want :)
This concludes the (mostly) telephoto lens week, which I started with the Canon FD 200mm f4. Two years ago I was very surprised to find this Omnitar 200mm f3.2 in a pawnshop for a ridiculously low price, since it had a Arri mount and the shop owner obviously knew little about it. I love the Omnitar 150mm f3 and 200mm f3.2 would make a nice pair.
This lens is in much better shape than the 150mm f3, but it has a stiff focusing ring, which makes quick snaps difficult. Despite this, I like using it. It's not a high contrast lens (I think most cinematic lenses aren't) but a good balance between sharp and smooth.
Man at work - Birns & Sawyer [TEWE] Omnitar 200mm f3.2 & E-M5. Click for larger.
Making a splash - Birns & Sawyer [TEWE] Omnitar 200mm f3.2 & E-M5. Click for larger.
Due to the defective coating of the lens, the Birns & Sawyer [TEWE] 150mm f3 lens produces pictures with low contrast in most lighting conditions. For this reason, the pictures need more adjustments, especially the black level. Not really a big deal. I am just amazed the pictures still come out so sharp and colours so beautiful.
Used on the E-M5, the corners of lens is still mushy, but most people don't expect a lens designed for 16mm movie cameras to have very sharp corners on a digital camera with larger sensor. We just have to accept it and appreciate its other unique qualities.
I really like this picture when viewed on a large monitor. It looks like a painting - Omnitar 150mm f3 & Olympus E-M5. Click for larger.
Smoke Break - Omnitar 150mm f3 & Olympus E-M5
Standard Bokeh Test - Omnitar 150mm f3 & Olympus E-M5
One of the best aspects of having a blog, is that I can learn so much from readers. Case in point: Mike Aubrey has been extremely helpful with tips on configuring and using the Olympus E-M5. I do admit I am guilty of not reading/researching some of the complaints I have, such as having the IS available in magnified view. Today, with the tip from Mike, I set up the camera so that IS still works in Magnified View. This is a huge deal when using long lenses. The E-M5 (perhaps the E-M1 too) is probably one of the most configurable cameras and it can be very confusing. I thought the Canon 1D Mark III was complicated to setup, but the E-M5 takes the cake.
Due to the smaller sensor of the M4/3 system, normal wide angle lenses on 35mm format won't be wide when used on M4/3. On the other hand, if you love long lenses, you will be in cloud 9, especially with a M4/3 body that has stabilization built-in. Your 200mm f2.8 lens is equivalent to a 400mm f2.8 lens on 35mm format. I have quite a few long lenses that I intend to try them on the E-M5. Today's pick was the Birns & Sawyer (made by TEWE of Germany) Omnitar 150mm f3 cine lens, originally in Arri mount but I converted to Nikon F mount.
I doubt there are too many of this lens (and it's sister lens, the Omnitar 200mm f3.2) floating around, as a search on Google didn't seem to return much information, especially sample pictures. In terms of optical condition, this lens is by far the worse. The coating has disintegrated, and unfortunately can not be cleaned off, so it looks like a thin layer of glue if viewed from a certain angle. It would flare like crazy and depending on the angle of the light, the pictures could also be hazy.
This lens does not vignette on full frame, but it was optically designed to cover the 16mm film, as the edges are very blurry on full frame. I used this lens on the ancient Canon 1D-S before, and I liked the pictures from it, despite the blurry corners; I like it even more on the E-M5, as the M4/3 sensor is almost the same size as the 16mm film. We are seeing what the lens was designed to show.
More pictures from Omnitar 150mm f3 to come...
All pictures below were taken with the Omnitar 150mm f3 & Olympus E-M5.
My MD, L39 and Leica-M to M4/3 adapters arrived yesterday. I was earger to test the effectiveness of the E-M5's stabilization system with long lenses, specifically the Minolta 250mm mirror lens. Today I shot some pictures with the combo and I am very pleased. In short, longer lenses are not as effective as the shorter lenses with the stabilization, but it definitely helped. I get more sharp pictures than I could with NEX-6, while using lower ISO. With the NEX-6, I had to use ISO 800 to 1600 in day light, but with the E-M5, the ISO is usually at 400 and even 200.
I wish the In-Body Stabilization would work without half-pressing the shutter button; this way I can have IS on while in magnified view, to help fine tune focus. As it is, as soon as you half-press the shutter, the magnify feature is deactivated.
I am quite pleased with the E-M5 and Minolta 250mm combo. Imagine shooting 500mm (35mm equivalent) without tripod. That's what I call freedom. There are many opportunities with a longer lens, which allows the capture of some candid moments that could otherwise not available.
All pictures below were taken with the Minolta Rokkor-X RF 250mm f5.6 mirror lens and Olympus E-M5.
Despite the very cold temperature, I have been out shooting on my lunch time around my work place. It's been frustrating, not all because of the cold, but also because with gloves, it's very hard to operate the E-M5. The camera is small and the buttons are smaller than that of the NEX-6. I actually prefer the NEX-6's wheel with rocker buttons on the rear, than the very tiny individual buttons of the E-M5. The Fn2 button besides the Shutter release is much too small. It took many tries to activate it each time I needed to use it. I think a camera can be a negative being small. One solution is to wear very thin gloves, but that -10 to -20 degrees Celsius, that's not an option as your fingers will be numb in about 5 minutes.
One other thing the bothers me a lot, is the very slow write speed to the SD card, and the review button does not work until the writing is done. I found myself waiting for the writing to finish way too often. I am very surprised that I have had so many negative points toward the E-M5. Most people are very positive about its handling. I guess I am the odd-ball. I am not saying the E-M5's handling is bad, it's just not what I was expecting.
Flowers behind window - E-M5 & Taylor-Hobson 75mm f2 TV Lens. Click for larger.
Feeding the geese - E-M5 & Taylor-Hobson 75mm f2 TV Lens.
Bench - E-M5 & Taylor-Hobson 75mm f2 TV Lens. Click for larger.
One of the strongest and best features of the Olympus E-M5 (and the E-M1) is the 5-Axle In-Body Stabilization. After a few days of use with the E-M5, and shooting in various lighting conditions, I can confirm that it's extremely effective, easily as good as the lens-based stabilization, and it works with all lenses attached to the body. I am absolutely loving this amazing feature.
I took Mike Aubrey's advice, and set the ISO to a lower maximum of 1600, so that the Auto-ISO will force the shutter speed to be lower, since the E-M5 seems to favoure higher shutter speeds (higher ISO). With a 50mm lens (100mm equivalent in 35mm), I can shoot at 1/25s and the images are sharp; even at 1/13s, it's still tack sharp. With a very fast lens, you can practically shoot in the dark with very little available light. I wish the NEX-6 (and the A7/A7r) has this incredible IBIS feature.
William - E-M5 & Kodak Anastigmat 50mm f1.6 Cine Lens. Click for larger.
Port of Toronto at night - E-M5 & Kodak Anastigmat 50mm f1.6 Cine Lens. Click for larger.
Never ending snow - E-M5 & Kodak Anastigmat 50mm f1.6 Cine Lens.
obakesan wondered how the rather expensive Minolta Rokkor-X RF 250mm f5.6 mirror lens compares to the very cheap Canon FD 200mm f4 lens. I always knew a mirror lens is a compromise in design; you can have very long reach in a small package and relatively lightweight, but with a fixed, slow aperture. Since I own both lenses, I thought I would give my thoughts on these two lenses. This post is not a direct comparison; it's my impression from use.
Size: FD 200mm vs Minolta 250mm - Click for larger.
The advantage of the Canon FD 200mm f4 over the Minolta RF 250mm, of course, is it's more than 10x cheaper, and sharper at the same aperture of f5.6, and it has aperture control and a faster maximum aperture of 4. On the other hand, the Minolta RF 250mm f5.6 is about 3 times lighter, almost half the size, and is 50mm longer. This version of the FD 200mm f4 lens does not have the Spectra Coating (S.C), or the Super Spectra Coating (S.S.C) of the later FD lenses. It suffers from very heavy purple fringing, a problem that the RF 250mm f5.6 does not have. As old lenses go, the FD 200mm f4 is quite sharp, although I am not to crazy about its bokeh.
There is no question which lens I would like to shoot with. I prefer the Minolta for its lightweight and small size. This is the only reason people pay crazy money for it (OK, the image quality is decent too). If I wanted to carry this much weight, there are better alternatives out there than the FD 200mm f4.
The second reason I bought the E-M5, was to replace my dying Panasonic G1, which has a broken card slot, so that I can use some of my c-mount lenses again. The G1 has a 16GB Kodak memory card stuck in there permanently. Still works, but annoying to get the pictures out through the cable.
But, allow me to get a few things off my chest; things that bothers me with the E-M5.
The combination of a high base ISO of 200, and the limited maximum shutter speed of 1/4000s pose problems shooting with large aperture lenses during the day. Version 2.0 of the firmware for the E-M5 added ISO 100 (as LOW) but this can not be used in auto-iso as default, which is stupid, me thinks.
Another oversight for the E-M5, I think, is the focal length of manual focus lenses are not written to the EXIF. Seriously, the focal length is already there when setting up the Image Stabilization for manual focus lenses. Why is this focal length not part of the EXIF? The ancient Pentax K10D did it. It would have been very helpful in identifying what lens was used after the shoot.
The last gripe I have, is that the E-M5 favours higher ISO instead of lower shutter speed. I don't understand it, even with a focal length of 24mm, it chooses to use ISO 6400 with a shutter speed of 1/125s. The stabilization is so good in this camera, one can use 1/focal length and still get sharp pictures.
Sorry you have to hear my whining about the E-M5. I want to get these out of the way so that I can start enjoy it from now on :) I do love this little camera.
Bokeh - Olympus E-M5 & JML 25mm f0.95 TV Lens @ f0.95. Click for larger.