4 Dec 2018

Olympus E-M5 Mll & M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 PRO - Low Light Test

I normally never bother with the Black Friday sales as mostly here in Europe they are not such great value. However an ad popped up on the BBC news website with a deal I could not pass up, an Olympus E-M5 Mll and M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 PRO combo at about half normal price! I have been contemplating a mirrorless camera for some time now and so I jumped in feet first. After fiddling with the rather special menu system for a few days I finally got it set up the way I wanted so today I headed out into town to give it a whirl.

There are a few things I really like about the E-M5, starting with the rather diminutive size. It is tiny compared to the Nikons I have been used to for so many years, but they still manage to squeeze in more external controls than I realistically will ever need. The second thing I like is the viewfinder, it is big, bright and great for chimping on the move. The preview of what the pic is shaping up to look like is fantastic.

Next up of course is the image stabilization system, Olympus claims 4.5 stops correction and after this evening I can believe it. I consistently got sharp images hand held, whereas even with my stabilised Nikkor glass I would have to resort to a tripod in the kind of light you see in the pics here, especially towards the end when the natural light was completely gone.

The pro grade f2.8 lens has great out of focus characteristics and is sharp sharp sharp from wide open. Even sharp in the corners. No visible chromatic aberration either, but apparently Olympus has some magic built in that removes it from jpg's as well as raw images. Lovely piece of glass and the main reason I jumped at this deal.

Did I mention that the camera is really small? Great to carry around and not tiring at all. Viva mirrorless viva!

There are of course a few things to keep in mind. The sensor is small so noise is more than what you would get from full frame but still very well controlled. All the pics seen here were taken at 800 iso and if you look too close then you will see noise in the sky, but not a whole lot and it is a pleasant sort of noise that isn't objectionable. Photos are perfectly usable up to 1600 iso but I wouldn't go much higher than that.

On the upside the small sensor also means deeper depth of field which for a lot of applications is very desirable. So ups as well as downs then.

Something I don't really like is the fact that the lens is a bit too large for the small body... but of course not everybody agrees with me. I think a great walkaround lens for this body would be a small fast normal to wide prime. It really cries out for that sort of combo. In my opinion. 

The focus is basically instantaneous in good to goodish light, but there comes a point when the light is too low and it starts to hunt around a bit. There are ways to overcome this but it can be a little irritating.

The rotating screen is great and made better by the fact that a tap where you want focus can also trigger the shutter and take the shot. Very handy for taking those low perspective shots that we used to have to lie on the ground for years ago.

DXO Photolab is my software of choice to "develop" raw images and of course they have the right modules for camera and lens which download automatically the first time you open a pic. I am sure that Olympus's own software probably does a great job but DXO have always had their own special potion built in that makes photographs look as good as they can possibly get. Try their free trial software and compare it to whatever you are using.

Almost every button can be configured to do something else, but good luck remembering what you have done a week down the line if you get carried away. 😜

The E-M5 doesn't have a built in flash but it does come with the tiniest little external you have ever seen which swivels and tilts just like a bigger external flash and for this reason it is better than a built in flash. Well done Olympus!

So anyway, if you have the chance to switch to micro four thirds mirrorless and you are tired of lugging around a huge dslr, then this might just be what you are after. Go into your local photography store and play around with their demo stock.

I foresee that I will be carrying around this camera a lot more than I will ever bother to carry my big lug Nikon dslr's again. I am also keen to test this E-M5 out for portrait and studio work together with my big lights, as well as the interesting sounding high resolution mode.

Until next time then...

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