I love my Olympus E-M5. I love it for its lightweight yet solid body style and for the way it operates. So fast and easy. It just gets out of the way. It focusses accurately on whatever corner of the image area I select, it takes amazing low light shots thanks to its built-in stabilisation, it’s fast and responsive and reliable. And it’s almost always with me.
But if you’re a guy like me that makes 24×36 inch gallery-sized prints, you’re always worried about one question: Detail!
The E-M5 RAW files really contain a lot of detail. In this respect, they’re about as good as 16 MP RAW files get. So, while it is a clear step down from a Nikon D800 or even D600, it’s still superb. There’s more detail than any 35 mm film will give you (as long as you’re not going to revert to some ultra-low ISO specialist films). These 16 MP are a digital equivalent of 6×4.5 “small” medium format. I’m strictly talking about detail here, not about that special wow factor that good medium format lenses will give!
But even if you do know what Micro Four Thirds is all about, it is the lenses that cause a little bit of trouble on the E-M5. Because the simple truth is that only a select few Micro Four Thirds lenses really will deliver what the camera is capable of.
For whoever might be interested, here’s a few of my 2012 autumn colour shots. All those were taken with the Olympus 45/1.8. It’s a truly outstanding little lens! I’d say that the 45/1.8, 60/2.8 Macro and 75/1.8 are the only lenses that really rock on the E-M5. Yes, plus the Voigtländer 25/0.95 – and a couple of first-class other manual focus lenses – as well. I have seen gorgeous results from the Voigtländer 25, but not tried it so far for myself, as the E-M5 is such a hot auto focus camera.
All the samples were developed with Adobe Lightroom. I have applied a bit of sharpening – 40-60 with 0.5 radius, and a bit of noise reduction – 25-40 luminance, 25-50 colour. Also note that these are not “test shots” and that I developed them all to my taste, also including a bit (really not much) perspective corrections. One of the nice points about the 45/1.8 is that it almost needs no digital correction at all. No huge amounts of CA correction, very little pincushion distortion – so the total amount of digital adjustments needed is much lower than, say, with the Panasonic 20/1.7, resulting in that fine but important edge in detail resolution and clarity throughout the picture frame.
One of the few real downsides of the E-M5 is that it does not give you an ISO 200 setting. I find that developing RAW files for maximum detail reproduction is very similar to the original Sony NEX-5, a camera that also lacked the ISO 100 setting. There’s always some extent of noise reduction involved. You’d never get the ultra clean files of a 35 mm digital SLR with their true ISO 100 or sometimes even “fake” ISO 50 settiongs. This bothers me much more than high ISO performance as the latter is really very good on the E-M5.
For private evaluation, I provide full size downloads. Enjoy!