Revisiting the Olympus MFT System – Part 4

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The other parts of the “Revisiting the Olympus MFT System” series can be found below:

Controlled testing of the OM-D E-M1?
Continuing on from my previous post I had to go back to the LCE store to re-test the camera. It took a few days (as they had sold their only E-M1) but fortunately for me when I went back to the LCE Silver Street store on Friday they had had another OM-D E-M1 delivered and it was ready for me to do some test shots. Lee got the camera out of the case, handed it to me and I inserted my test card.

This time I set the white balance to Auto set the lowest ISO which is 200 on this camera – I could have sworn it was 100 but this appears to be an extended setting as opposed to the base ISO – never mind. So I started to shoot test shots from 200 upwards and unusually for me I could do this without taking my eye of the viewfinder, this bodes well as this is not something I normally do. At first I could not get the camera to autofocus so the first two shots were out of focus, eventually I remembered the manual focus clutch mechanism at the front of the lens; once this was moved back to the “auto” position we had a working autofocus system again. So there I was taking pictures at each setting when I remembered when I got to ISO 3200 about setting the camera to RAW. Arrgghh!

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So after a quick jump to the menus and turning on the RAW + JPEG setting I counted my test shots this time starting at high ISO (3200) and went downwards until I go to ISO 200 again. I had to do this quickly as the low battery setting was blinking red.

Just a side not here; when selecting a JPG quality in the menus (with or without RAW) it isn’t obvious which of them gives you the highest quality and at first I wasn’t sure that I had picked the correct one. I’m not sure who in Olympus designed the menu system, it is horrendous and could put potential users off with its overly complex structure. Frequently used settings are buried, most of the labelling is cryptic at best and some of the options are not in the menus you expect. There seems to be a difference of opinion on where some of these settings should go, all of the other camera manufacturers put them in one place but Olympus puts them somewhere else – go and see the Potato episode of Blackadder II. With all that said it appears that I did pick the correct option.

Edmund Blackadder: Look, there’s no need to panic. Someone in the crew will know how to steer this thing.
Captain Rum: The crew, milord?
Edmund Blackadder: Yes, the crew.
Captain Rum: What crew?
Edmund Blackadder: I was under the impression that it was common maritime practice for a ship to have a crew.
Captain Rum: Opinion is divided on the subject.
Edmund Blackadder: Oh, really? [starting to get the picture]
Captain Rum: Yahs. All the other captains say it is; I say it isn’t.
Edmund Blackadder: Oh, God; Mad as a brush.

I had a quick look at the JPGs on my work computer and I had to say they were very nice and the built-in noise reduction in the JPG files was very nice. Needless to say I decided that the ISO performance was acceptable and very good from inside a dingy Photographic retail shop (it wasn’t much nicer outside either). In fact I went to the shop after work and put down a deposit on the 40-150 f2.8 PRO Zukio lens that won’t be available until late November – I think that I am the second person to put down a deposit on this lens.

That night I had a look at the RAW files in Lightroom and this confirmed my earlier opinions, although I will need to apply some noise reduction on the higher ISO pictures. In fact, if you are a low light shooter you might be better off with a camera that has a larger sensor (i.e. Nikon D750 or Sony A7). I’m not normally at such high ISO settings so this shouldn’t be a problem for me. I also had a look at shots from other photographers on the web at various ISO settings and they all looked very good so I think that for me this is a non issue. This coupled with the very good Olympus glass (PRO lens line up and the fast primes) means for me that this is a good system to invest in.

Now you might ask why I didn’t get the OM-D E-M1 at this point – there are three reasons:

  1. Even though there is a free grip offer on at the moment as well as some cash-back (see reason 2), the Lincoln Photo and Optics show is only a few weeks away and I might get an even better show deal on the day. Last year’s offers on the OM-D E-M1 were very good; I might get a free battery or lens cloth or something else.
  2. If you purchase the camera and then a lens within 30 days after the purchase, you get £150 cash-back. I would like to use the cash-back on the 40-150mm f2.8 lens if possible. The lens isn’t out until late November, I therefore need to purchase the camera no more than 30 days before this, preferably in November, the show is on the 5th so is the most obvious time to purchase it.
  3. Funds – Although I now have the proceeds from the sale of the Panasonic gear (that I didn’t want), I am still waiting for the refund from Panasonic which should be in my account next week sometime.

So there you have it – decision made. I just need to wait😦