Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; The ongoing story of Olympus's video implementation in the OMD cameras. revised 3/29.

the wall with Olympus EM-5-2 from Kirk Tuck on Vimeo.

Go see the 1080p version: https://vimeo.com/123524213

I had this dream. In my dream I would find a small black camera and it would have a port for an external microphone and another port for set of headphones. The camera would be beautifully designed and as fast as agile as a cheetah. While its primary function would be taking beautiful still photographs it would be a new, "universal" camera that would also make wonderful video content.

This miracle camera would have a built in image stabilization that would make tripods, sliders and other rigs in the video world obsolete. The audio would be surprisingly clear and crisp; easy to use.
Working with it in the field would be a breeze because its perfect EVF would show focus peaking while recording along with a live histogram. It would be so amazing. Perhaps the perfect news gathering and art video video camera.

But then I got the footage back to the studio and that's when the dream started to fall apart....

The first clip I opened was a wide scenic with moving leaves in the distance. The frame was not particularly sharp. Oh yes, it was in focus, but the things in focus just weren't crispy sharp in the way that the video from better cameras like the GH4 is. It looked over sharpened and the victim of some amount of noise reduction even though we were shooting, for the most part, at ISO 200.

I know the fault doesn't lie with the lens because I have terabytes of images from the Panasonic 12-35mm X f2.8 that say otherwise.

The camera is not unusable for video but I have to say that Andrew Reid's rant about the camera's video codec is pretty much right on the money. In other words, buy this camera is you want a micro four thirds camera that takes amazingly good photographs but don't buy this camera as your primary video production camera or you will be crying tears of disappointment and frustration.

Can it be saved via a firmware upgrade? Good lord I hope so.

I gave the camera every chance I could. Lowest ISO. A bright, sunny day. A tack sharp lens. A day without coffee. A mindfulness toward exposure and color balance. The highest quality, All-I codec and much more.

The audio is clean enough, especially given the uncontrolled audio on that location. The colors are perfect. But the whole sharpness thing is just not convincing me. At all. But I did go to all this trouble to piece together a video from the footage so you can see for yourself.

I must say that the big Nikon runs circles around the video capability (at least in terms of video quality) of the EM5-2. And the GH4 makes the Nikon grovel by comparison.

I hope someone will figure out what settings we can use to optimize the camera for shooting much better video because the one thing the video should show is just how good that stabilization is. But it doesn't really matter if the client ends up asking me why the video doesn't look sharp. Right?

They swung. They missed. Hey! Olympus!!! Get working on that firmware. We deserve better looking video than this. Next step? See how the uncompressed video looks via a digital recorder sucking data from the HDMI plug. That's all I have for now.

Added notes: I thought about the material I shot yesterday and I decided to try a few more tests this morning in the studio. I've read a number of different articles and looked again at John Brawley's nice  project, shot with the EM5-2.  I re-tested the camera with all new settings. I've ditched the All-I codec in favor of the highest quality setting ACVHD codec at 60p. I went into the profile settings and created a custom profile that drops the sharpness to minus two, the contrast to minus two and the saturation to minus one.

I turned off the image stabilization, turned off the noise filter and the noise reduction and carefully manually focused the lens with the camera sitting on a stout tripod.

The files were better but not "head and shoulders" better. The drop in contrast and sharpness is definitely helpful and a small bit of post production sharpening in Final Cut Pro X adds back some snap. I also brought the black levels down in post which adds back some contrast but not in the destructive way that in camera contrast control seems to work.

I think I am closing in on a more workable set of parameters for shooting video on this camera. I am hopeful that I'll get it into the ballpark to work as a competent B-roll camera and as a quick, mini-ENG camera for run and gun stuff that's not destined for bigger productions.

If you have suggestions for improving the look of the footage from the Olympus EM5-2 I'd love to hear it. Put it in the comments and we'll share. The camera is a wonderfully fun photography camera. Perhaps we can pound it into shape (with the help of a firmware update or two....) in the near future.
Thanks for staying tuned.

Forget the new cameras. Buy a nice book:

Added notes v2.0: I tested the camera with different settings in the studio today. See video here: https://vimeo.com/123557879


Anonymous said...

Fun video. Who did the music?

G Gudmundsson said...

I'm sorry to hear this. I was also hoping ... so, I guess I'll have to wait, stick to the Panasonic GX7 & LX100 ...

Thank you for the heads up, Kirk ....

Michael Matthews said...

Sorry it turned out to be a disappointment. I guess there's always a line between hype and reality that is both vague and shifting -- until someone gives it a good look and says, "Uh, Emperor...about your choice in clothing...".

Using just an iMac monitor to view the 1080p version on Vimeo, I'd say the quality is OK for casual personal use, the equivalent of home movies back in the day. For professional applications, probably not so much. There's a definite lack of acuity in wide shots. I would have put that down to format and sensor limitations were it not for your experience showing the GH4 to produce a superior rendering.

There appears to be a problem with loss of fine detail when any form of motion is involved. In particular when it's camera movement.

Having some familiarity with the labyrinth of Olympus menu structures, is there any chance there may be one vitally needed setting they've managed to bury somewhere?

tnargs said...

Turn off digital IS. I think use IS Mode 2. And use FHD no A-I video mode (?- from memory -- I'm no video guy). There is a setting that fixes it. You just have to experiment and find it.

Unknown said...

Wow, that's pretty bad.

Frank Grygier said...

Another view point with some setting suggestions.


Paul said...


Just a thought, have you tried an Olympus m4/3rds lens it might be a comms issue using Panasonic or legacy lenses

Unknown said...

I guess Olympus thought that they could add a swivel out LCD and it would show the world that they are serious about video.

Michael Matthews said...

Round Two looks good.

Can't compare one to the other as the circumstances are so radically different.

Although the camera has to be usable with any appropriate lens when set up manually, there may be something to the comment from Paul, above, re trying an Olympus lens of the current generation.

Since all mirrorless cameras seem to lean a bit more on in-camera lens corrections than those of an earlier era, it could be you'll find a different response.