Why I think the EM-5-2 might be an important tool for photographers who also want to be videographers.

After the announcement of the new Olympus EM-5.2 I wrote a piece about the two things I thought were important to photographers and videographers in the new camera. For people who are only concerned about still imaging it was that the new high resolution setting could provide fully accurate color. I didn't really see the enormous files as so much of a benefit as much as the nice work around of the bayer pattern of color interpolation. Pure colors means no aliasing and wonderful tonal separation. That's a distinct plus in the realistic rendering that so many want. But the thing that makes the camera a potential boon to videographers (now that the camera has a more detailed and robust selection of bit rates....) is the potential to do much more hand held work with the camera instead of always trying to tie the camera to a tripod or to some sort of (cumbersome, and largely ineffective) handheld stabilizing rig.

Of course the remarkable stabilization in the camera works beautifully for still images but the potential for moving video and smooth hand holding is huge. If the rolling shutter effects are engineered out this camera should be able to do some pretty amazing stuff. At least that's what I talked about at first blush.

But then I thought about it and realized that I had never really tried using the Olympus EM5s I already have for any kind of video. I just took everyone's word for it and assumed the internet was well informed and that the EM5 was a dud for video. I bought a GH4 to use instead of the EM5 for video and never really looked back. And that was a big mistake.

So yesterday I grabbed an EM-5 and went toe-to-toe with conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom also states that if you want to minimize the appearance of camera movement in handheld video you are always better off with shorter lenses. I put my 60mm Sigma lens on the front of the camera, left all the conventional rig stuff, at home and headed over to the graffiti park to make some video. It's a test. Only a test. But it showed me that even the older EM-5 could actually shoot decent video at 1080p 30.

This test is meant to show one thing. It's meant to show that the image stabilization in the EM series of cameras can provide a very stable platform with which to shoot handheld video. I've been shooting black and white with these cameras lately and decided to keep doing so for this test. There's a long sequence of people going up and down the wall followed by a much closer shot of two women sitting at a picnic table, watching the crowd and smoking. Finally, I added some footage of a movie truck rushing by. What I hope I've shown is the stability of the system for handholding. It's a major benefit for still photo and video shooters.

With the addition of much more sophisticated video files I think it makes the new EM5.2 a very capable second camera in a narrative project. And for not a lot of cash out of pocket. Not every advancement has to be high ISO noise abatement or megapixel increases to work for at least some of us....

Untitled Project from Kirk Tuck on Vimeo.

Handheld in the late afternoon. 60mm Sigma lens. No tripods, monopods or shoulder mounts were harmed or even disturbed in the creation of this short piece. This is not an art piece nor is it for any client. It's just what we used to call a test.


Michael Matthews said...

No mean feat, hand-holding the equivalent of a 120mm telephoto while shooting video. Of course, you're a pro; others of us may have...uh...stability issues.

By the way, anyone who sees a lot of frying edge artifacts viewing your test video as a small, inline item within the blog should pop it up to full-screen HD mode. They disappear. Smooth as butter on my older Dell monitor driven by an inadequate PC motherboard video card.

Anonymous said...

Well, If I was to play the role of the grumpy buzzkill here, I could note that all the recent hype about the E-M5 II IS also has an obvious flip side.

All this hype and nerdy, almost blind faith in some fancy camera feature is likely to result to an avalanche of ugly video footage online, lots of handheld movement for the sake of handheld movement and so on. But the truth is, no IS is a replacement for a tripod or another proper support device. It's pretty obvious even in that short EM5 mk1 test video.

On the plus side, it's analogue rather than digital, and it's likely to look slightly better than most digital IS systems. Hopefully it will prove to be durable and reliable enough in the long run, too.

Nevertheless, concentrating on the IBIS alone is likely to make the new EM5 version look like a one trick pony. Fortunately it appears to have more than that going for it, though.
I think the (apparently) improved image processing and All-I codec are equally important features, and getting a clean 422 signal (albeit only 8-bit) out of the HDMI port is a welcome detail, along with the weather sealed design and the flippy-flappy backside telly.

Meanwhile the IBIS is making all the headlines in the gadgetophile blogosphere. Hopefully the potential newbies won't start believing that the IBIS is the secret sauce to good looking video footage.

Anyway, all that is a step forward for Olympus, even though the footage provided by the E-M5 II is nothing special in 2015. I don't mind that it doesn't offer UHD/4K, but too bad it (apparently) doesn't offer either full pixel readout or 10-bit 422, or both. That would have made it stand out among video enthusiasts. Oh and too bad it's 'only' a 4/3 camera.

The jury is still out for the hopping and stitching sensor high megapixel image thingy. Whether it's just a gimmick of an actually useful feature for something like studio product shoots, for example, that remains to be seen.

But as a mFT camera the new Olympus appears to be one of the most interesting options within the 4/3 system to date. I'm not a fan of the system but got to admit the new E-M5 is sort of interesting.

Anonymous said...

If you read it on the 'net, chances are that the poster was wrong. Visual evidence always trumps "my cousins friend knows someone who said ..."

It's interesting that the production company has enough money to get the permits, complete with a motor officer to block traffic, rent a Chapman Camera Car, but uses two VDSLRs. One hand-held, the other on some kind of gimbal rig.

You may want to get listed in the TX411 production guide http://variety411.com/us/texas/ Or maybe not.

Anonymous said...

What a great video Kirk. These young people in the first 1/2 or 3/4 of this piece look like ants in the sand. Perfect representation of the current state of youth!!!