I am lucky enough or cursed enough to work just a few miles from a pretty nice state park, Potapsco State Park in Maryland. It isn’t the nicest state park, either in the state, let alone the other 49 states, but it still a little bit of isolation from the surrounding urban, exurban and suburban sprawl nearby. It is a bit cursed to work so close, but not close enough that I could just walk over there on my lunch and relax every day, but an 8 minute drive isn’t too bad.
Panasonic 14mm, f/3.2, 1/250s, ISO200
I had to loan out my Sigma 30mm to my wife (who ended up not using it, ahem) so I only had the Panasonic 14mm and Olympus 45mm with me, but it was still a nice outing. Nearly an hour of walking around, taking pictures and getting a feel for the E-M5. One lesson upon arriving home and pulling up the RAW files is that, despite the improved display (I was not using the histogram) things that look blown out or fallen in to shadow aren’t quite as bad as they actually are, especially in RAW being able to retrieve more of the highlights and shadows. Just something I’ll have to get used to and better to have more information there than you thought originally.
Panasonic 14mm, f/5.6, 1/160s, ISO200
Also I found that the tiltable screen really is nice. The later pictures of the bees and the Thistle were taken holding the camera at arms reach and up above my head to get close over a rusted barbwire fence to get the pictures. Even though the clouds rolled in more than I had hoped, I found that the EVF was pretty useful. The OLED screen that the E-M5 has is very, very nice. Especially moving up from the E-PL1, the extra resolution is immediately noticeable, the refresh rate either due to the new sensor, sensor readout or the screen itself is also noticeably better. There is less smearing and things are just crisper. It is also more viewable outside in full sun. A bit less glare and the screen isn’t as washed out. It is still nowhere near perfect in direct sun or bright light, but a lot more usable than the E-PL1 is.
Olympus 45mm, f/4.5, 1/800s, ISO200
Even with the improved OLED I found that I was using the EVF for at least 4/5ths of the photos I took. Maybe I am just a fan of shoving my eye right in to the viewfinder, but I didn’t find any issues with the EVF getting washed out in direct sunlight and it was a lot more usable than the OLED display in direct sunlight. I have since pretty much learned to love the EVF, even though I had some initial disappointments about it.
Olympus 45mm, f/4, 1/250s, ISO200
The above image shows both the nice and creamy bokeh of the Olympus 45mm, even when stopped down some, and one of the weaknesses that I can see in CDAF setups. I took 3 or 4 images of the berries with this one turning out the best. The first couple of pictures the camera locked right on to the berries, for the next two it locked on to the background even though the berries were taking up 80+% of the focus box, they were just too far out of focus for the camera to decide that they were the object with the highest contrast to lock on to. Both times a quick swing to the right, a half shutter press and it would lock on to the leaves/tree that the berries were growing on, recompose with the focus box back on the berries and it would lock on to them for focus. The next time I guess it was slightly off and it locked on to the background again and refused to focus lock on the berries, this time I manually focused on them. Not an issue I have frequently, but does happen with a certain manner of regularity especially with scenes like the above where the object does not/cannot fill 100% of the focus box and is at a significantly different distance than the background. To the best of my knowledge this is a weakness of all CDAF cameras.
Panasonic 14mm, f/2.5, 1/500s, ISO200
I also wanted to mention that the camera has a nice heft to it. It isn’t super heavy, but feels well weighted in my hands. Holding the E-M5 with 45/1.8 in one hand with my OM-1 with zuiko 50/1.4 in the other, the OM-1 only feels slightly heavier, even though I know it is actually a good 150-200g more. I think it is in part because the E-M5 is about 85% of the size of the OM-1. Anyway, a nice solid feel without feeling actually heavy.
Panasonic 14mm, f/4.5, 1/250s, ISO200
Click the image below for the 100% view of the crop from the center picture above.
The E-M5 is noticeably higher resolution than the E-PL1 at all ISOs. Not simply more pixels, but the pixels themselves just seem slightly sharper (weaker AA filter maybe?). It is not a massive difference in quality comparing RAW images at ISO200, but it is noticeable on a per pixel level and at screen filling sizes even on a lowly 1080p monitor the E-M5 images just look a little sharper. Obviously go to the corners at wide apertures, or bad handholding, etc and things will be soft, but in general for the same settings, scene, lens, etc the E-M5 definitely produces higher resolution images than the E-PL1 (and likely all of the 12MP m4/3 cameras) and not just more pixels.
Panasonic 14mm, f/2.5, 1/2000s, ISO200
A final note, I know many argue that 4/3 cannot produce enough DoF to be useful, but I’d say in large part that my use suggests otherwise. Sure, if you want to be shooting a wide-angle, full body portrait of a person and have good background separation, it likely is just not going to happen with 4/3 (unless you are lucky enough to own a Voigtlander 17.5mm f/.95). That said, with options like the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 on offer as well as the up coming Olympus 75mm f/1.8, you can definitely do full body portraiture with good background separation and things like head and shoulders portraits, near macros, etc most of the lenses will give plenty of background separation and a number of them have really nice Bokeh to boot. Yes, you need a larger sensor if you want even shallower DoF, but my feeling is for most people and most uses, m4/3 offers plenty, especially with the right lens selection.
Panasonic 14mm, f/2.5, 1/640s, ISO200
I probably won’t have any posts for a few days as most of my family, including myself have now come down with some kind of fever/bug. That combined with, well, not much note worthy to take pictures of, means no new posts for a bit. I do plan in the next few days, time permitting, to start working on full lens reviews now that I have the E-M5 which you’ll see posted up. My goal is to at least have a review of the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5, Sigma 30mm f/2.8 and Olympus 45mm f/1.8 up as well as a full review of the E-M5 and maybe even an E-M5 versus E-PL1, New meets Old comparo up before I head off for my Fourth of July reunion at the end of the month. No promises though.