Olympus introduced today a new OM-D series camera. It is called E-M5 I or E-M5 Mark II. As a hand held stills camera it is sort of child of E-M5 and E-M1. Basically it has E-M5 form factor with E-M1 brains. The highlights of this camera are totally newly done and vastly better video capabilities and 40/64 megapixels Hires shooting mode.
I will not go through all specs lines. They can be found at various Olympus sites worldwide. I guess the interesting thing for most of readers is how this camera compares to E-M5 and E-M1.
Here's a short list which shows where E-M5 II stands compared to the original E-M5 and E-M1:
- Size: E-M5 II has no EP-2 port below hot shoe which makes it lower than E-M5 and E-M1. I am not quite sure if leaving EP-2 away is a good sign for the future.
- Image processor True Pic VII: Better than E-M5 (TruePic VI), same as E-M1. Many of features below come from TruePic VII processor.
- Image stabilization: Improved in stills compared to E-M5 and E-M1. Plus new video IS mode. I have not tested how big (or small) this improvement is in practise. Will do it later on. According to Olympus CIPA tests, this IBIS should be the better than you can find in any other camera.
- EVF: Better than E-M5, same as E-M1. Same panel, same processor and same main features.
- Swiveling touch screen: E-M5 and E-M1 have tiltable. This is better for video. Panel has same higher 1M resolution as in E-M1.
- Autofocus: Better than E-M5, not as advanced as E-M1 for stills with moving subjects. Only E-M1 has PDAF ability. E-M5 II should be better than either for video because of new optimization. I have not tested if it is true.
- Dust, splash and freeze sealing: Better than E-M5, same as E-M1.
- Video recording: Better than E-M5 or E-M1. E-M5 II has video IS, more than double bitrate (55 Mb/s), all standard frame rates, time code, adjustable exposure parameters while recording, adjustable sound level while recording, in/output for external microphone and headset. 77 Mb/s bitrate with HDMI out into recorder.
- 40/64 MP Hires shooting: Not available in E-M5 or E-M1. Gives (almost?) true 40MP resolution JPEG file with (almost?) true colors for every pixel straight out of camera. 64 MP RAW file can be opened with downloadable Photoshop plug-in.
- WiFi: Not available in E-M5, same features as E-M1 with free Olympus Image Share 2.5.
- Tethered shooting: Not available in E-M5, same as E-M1 with free Olympus Capture.
- HDR: Not available in E-M5, same as E-M1.
- Back side function switch: None in E-M5, same as E-M1
- Two part battery holder / grip: Like E-M5 (new grip, same battery holder), E-M1 has grip built-in.
As a hand held stills camera E-M5 II slips easily into OM-D family. If you have used one, you will know how to use the newcomer. On the surface it even might seem like not much has changed. Configurability is better than with E-M5 but not as extensive as with E-M1. Handling is roughly the same as with E-M5 but compared to E-M1 it is inferior with or without grip. As an example, I can't understand why Olympus has not kept AEL/AFL thumb button as it is in E-M1. Here we have a puny, unresponsive, almost unusable button. When shooting everything is faster and more responsive than with E-M5 and E-M5 II has superior EVF. It lacks phase detecting AF which makes it a lesser action camera.
The highlights and reasons to choose this body rather than any other OM-D really are video and Hires modes.
With E-M5 II Olympus has brought video features to the level where it should stand today. Only it has no 4K. Personally I would say that we could benefit more from higher dynamic range in HD videos than from present low dynamic range 4K videos. The dynamic range in videos is so miserable when compared what RAW gives in stills photography. Even so, mainstream is going for 4K and high dynamic range (RAW) will be left as an exotic high end option in video.
Who needs a 4K video camera then? Well, who ever wants to have one, of course. Still, day-to-day professional video production seems to stay for a while at HD level. Big money productions are naturally made on 4K because TV business needs content. This creates a steady drift towards 4K. I have no opinion on whether this camera should have had 4K. Personally I don´t need it yet for what I want to do with video.
I shot dozens of clips at a motor bike show and they look mostly good to me. What I have not done is to compare HD video quality from other new cameras lately, so I can´t say where this is in general. It is far better than anything from Olympus before and better than some professional footage I have seen. Maybe the biggest notion was that now with higher bitrate IBIS really shows its strength. It is so smooth and steady. My problem is that I am such a lousy video shooter. It is better that I return to this subject later on when I have done some home work.
40 Million Pixels
E-M5 II has a new multi-shot mode where camera takes 8 consecutive shots with half a pixel sensor shifts between each image. I wrote a separate blog on sensor shift. I do not know in which directions E-M5 II does it's sensor shift movements and what kind mathematics is done while creating the final image file. When asked, anything related to sensor shift was said to be "highly classified". Obviously very few people outside Olympus Inc. Japan know much about it. Some things are known:
- You can only shoot on tripod if you want sharp images. Camera must stand absolutely still while exposure process goes on.
- Sensor shifts are done with image stabilizator which means it is not availble for it's normal task.
- It takes roughly 1 second to take these 8 exposures with fast shutter speeds.
- It takes some 2,5 seconds to combine exposures into one and save them on card.
- Camera uses electronic shutter for exposures.
- Available exposure times are 1/16000 - 8 s.
- You can set a delay between shutter pressing and first exposure. This is very advisable.
- You can set interval time between exposures, which good for studio flash shooters.
- It produces a 64 MP RAW file, which has extension .ORF. Also the first of eight exposures is saved as a an .ORI RAW file. This .ORI is not a regular Olympus RAW file even if it contains one... Don´t ask why... (This may be a fluke caused by pre-prod body. I am still waiting for explanation on this issue. The idea of naming Hires ORF simply as ORF is plain stupid. It should be ORH or something, actually anything but ORF. The regular first shot RAW file should be ORF!)
- 64 MP is 9216 x 6912 pixels, or 192 MB when opened in Photoshop.
- The size of .ORF file is roughly 100 MB
- This RAW file can not at the moment be natively opened with Adobe Camera Raw. Olympus will have a plug-in for Photoshop CC. At least now there is no plug-in for Lightroom. Hopefully Olympus and Adobe will sort this out.
- Camera can save also a 40 MP size JPEG file. It is 7296 x 5472 pixels or 120 MB when opened in Photoshop.
- You can process JPEGs with various parameters from Hires .ORF files in-camera.
In my blog on sensor shift I figured out a color array for an eight-shot file.
This file has 216 pixels and it can be done with a 54 pixel Bayer-array.
Let's see, 54 x 4 = 216, just like 16 MP x 4 = 64 MP. A normal 16 MP .ORF file is roughly 16 MB by size, which means that 1 byte corresponds to 1 pixel. Half of pixels in "my" color array need 1 byte, a quarter needs 2 bytes and another quarter 3 bytes. 64 + 16 + 32 = 112, ie. this array would give a roughly 112 MB RAW file. While I do not know anything about possibly used lossless compressions etc. I am inclined to think that this is in the ballpark and Olympus is using something in those lines.
Obviously this kind of file is vastly superior to a single shot and it also should give better quality than a 64 MP single-shot Bayer file. Naturally this is only true if there are no hickups in sensor shifting system and camera stays absolutely still during exposures.
I have no idea on how Olympus is creating a 40 MP in-camera file from this 64 MP RAW file. Other than they are interpolating downwards somehow, of course. I would suspect they get close to true full color resolution because they claim that a file created in computer from 64 MP RAW file is not sharper than 40 MP file (saved as best quality SF-JPEG) from camera.
I did not have Photoshop plug-in available which meant I could natively work only with JPEG files. Some converters open Hires .ORF files but again I have no idea on how they decode/demosaic the colors. (It is possible that Hires .ORF is a 12-bit TIFF-type file with colors coded as YCbCr - or not) That's why I stick with JPEG for now.
As I had no suitable cameras to compare, I am comparing to my earlier test target shots with 36 MP Nikon D800 E. I was using 35mm lens while testing D800E, which is why I chose corresponding focal lengths for E-M5 II. This test target setup is 100% repeatable.
I had in-camera JPEG in E-M5 II set at as low contrast and sharpening as possible. Also I exposed for RAW (as I expected to get a compatible version of Olympus Viewer which I have not gotten yet) which is too light for best JPEG quality. E-M5 II JPEG compares favorably with D800E NEF. Also it has no moiré in high frequency areas like D800E has. I have not tested other cameras and lenses like this since D800E. E-M5 II at 8 shots with 12-40mm PRO is the sharpest combination I have seen so far at this test. It will be interesting to see if RAW files give something extra.
The last image with Olympus kit zoom shows how Hires sensor is nothing without the very best lenses. There are no more actual details in 40 MP file from kit zoom than what 12-40mm PRO lens can bring out in single 16 MP image.
How about moving subjects?
Shutter speed 1/50 s. There is a feeling of movement but also you can see separate exposures. As you can see here it takes one second to capture 8 frames, unless slow shutter speeds make total duration longer.
Shutter speed 1/13 s. While you still can faintly see separate exposures this gives a good sense of movement.
Shutter speed 1/6 s. Surprisingly separate exposures start to be seen again. Also there is discolorisation because movement is captured through different filters during each exposure. Because of slower shutter speeds total capture time is now nearly two seconds.
This example shows that moving subjects is not a strictly forbidden area for multi-shot photography. There are some potential problems. Some can be solved by slight softening, some by color correction. Then there are situations where movement is too fast to be captured as movement unsharpness. An example of this would be a car moving across the frame during one second. With a fast shutter speed you would get eight "ghost cars" in your final image. Luckily the first exposure is also saved on card as a separate file. It can be used to mask ghosts away.
The entire wristwatch image looks like this as single shot.
What I found impessive in my first 8-shot trials was the cleanliness of images. Even while they were JPEGs there were no artifacts, no moiré... Also grain is invisible when compared to image size. This feature needs more testing to find out what are the limits of usable envelope. Also lenses need to be sorted out, but I guess Premium and Pro series lenses are all worth using.