My Ongoing learning process with Video and the Olympus OMD EM5.2. Caution: Video programming included.

EM5.2 Video Test 2 from Kirk Tuck on Vimeo.
This video is about Untitled Project

Click through to Vimeo using the links above if you want to see the test video at full res. The embedded version is limited to 800 pixels wide.

I bought the Olympus EM5.2 cameras because I am convinced that the image stabilization in those cameras will really work well with the way I like to shoot video. While some people may be able to sit down, read a review on the web or watch a YouTube video and hit the ground running, getting perfect video every time, I am not so lucky. I seem to have to work through a camera and try it in every setting before I really understand how the camera will give up its best images for me.

The EM5.2 is a classic case in point. It's a great still cameras that is both blessed and cursed with ultimately flexible configuration possibilities. But for everyone who likes to shoot video there might be a combination that makes their work look better than any other collage of settings. For me it's all about rejecting what doesn't work and focusing on what does.

My first experiments with the camera weren't bad, they just weren't as good as what I was getting out other cameras, like the Panasonic GH4 and the Nikon D810, and I had an inkling that I could do better.

The video above is my attempt to tune in my camera and make it work of the primary task I envisioned; walking around with the camera and getting wonderfully smooth, handheld footage with good sharpness and detail.

I am happy now to say that I am finally very happy with the video in the EM5.2. In the experiment above I can see lots and lots of detail in my face and hair and the overall appearance of sharpness is just right. That's a good thing. But how did I get there?

I set up the camera to record in the All-I setting. This means every frame contains the full image file and this makes editing easier even though it increases the size of the in-camera video files. It's the highest quality in-camera setting but you can get even more serious and buy an external recorder and take a clean, uncompressed video file from the HDMI port if you really need more quality and control.

My camera was set up to do 1080p video at its highest quality ISO, which is 200. The frame rate was set at 24 fps and the shutter speed was 1/50th of a second. Finally, the aperture on the 45mm f1.8 lens was set to f3.2 which should be in the optimum range of apertures for that lens. I metered myself with a Sekonic light meter which has a cine scale and used the meter's recommended settings.

Here's where I changed direction (happily) and where I think I was able get footage I liked today. I had the feeling that the noise reduction in the camera was just too strong and was killing fine detail so I set it to "off." That was one step too far and I could see noise in the mid-tones when I played test footage back on my desktop monitor. I stepped back one step and set the noise reduction to "low" and that seemed
to do the trick as far as detail and relative sharpness were concerned.

Next I wanted to deal with the excess contrast so I used a profile I had rarely used before in the Olympus cameras = muted. In the "muted" sub-menu I dropped the contrast setting by one notch. The controls are not finely stepped so one notch is halfway between the default and zero. I also pulled the sharpening down one notch but I left the saturation alone. Interesting that even with minus one sharpening set in the muted profile no sharpening at all was needed in post production.

Once everything was shot I dumped the files into Final Cut Pro X and looked at them. The sharpness was fine; in fact, perfect. The only issues I had were with how flat the overall look of the file was. I used the exposure and color correction controls to bring the images back up to a pleasing level for me.

While the video above has some audio hiss the visual look is what I have been looking for. Now I feel confident I can use this camera and get good results in just about any scenario where I need to have the camera off the tripod and handheld.

This test gets me where I want to be in an interior and lighting controlled environment. The next time we are blessed with some sunshine I'll see how the new settings stand up to the higher contrast scenes outdoors. Now I have two fun Olympus cameras that have been video tamed and that makes me happy.

My next experiments will be to see how well footage from the Nikon cameras cuts together with the Olympus cameras. You really have to do your own experiments to see what you can get out of a camera or a lens---especially with video. There are more moving parts than there are in still photography.

On an unrelated note I'm packing up to go and shoot a television commercial for Zach Theatre this afternoon. I'll be shooting with the Nikon D810 because I have more experience with it. Don't worry, the Olympus machines will get their turns.


  1. Hi Kirk,

    This looks pretty good, I have 2 remarks:

    - There are some dark spots on the background, I hope these are not speckles on the sensor?

    - At some points in the video the image becomes very briefly unsharp like the lens is refocusing?

    Thanks for posting.

  2. Hi Henk, The spots are actually on the wall behind me. I freaked out when I saw them on the video because in their defocused state they looked exactly like sensor debris. Sorry to scare you.

    Also, since I was videotaping myself I was experimenting with face and eye recognition AF. Every so often when I closed my eyes the camera would go out of focus just a bit but quickly recover when I opened them again. All in all though I think the video is nice and sharp. Next I'll add the I.S. back in...

  3. The headshot video looks quite good, but best at the smaller inline size.

    You might want to consider -- if you have another lifetime to devote to it -- using actual video excerpts as B roll to illuminate the points you're talking about. The product cutaway shots are a bit disruptive.

    I gotta say, your to-the-camera presentation is superb. Need an additional career? Start making TV commercials for consumer products in this same pleasant, direct, and authentic style.

    Help rid the world of all those Shoutin' Shecky car dealers and the inane fake enthusiasm which has made broadcast TV basically unwatchable.

  4. I'm really impressed that you're putting the time and effort into getting the most you can out of the camera. How about the rolling shutter? It was a severe issue on the first e-m5.

  5. Hi Kirk,

    Nice video! I have been following you for a while and it seems in terms of equipment we have made many similar choices and I lo and behold, you have 2 cameras that I am eyeing up now: the D810 + EM5 mark ii!

    I used to have a D800 a couple of years ago, but got rid of it when I wanted to go lighter and have better video as my work now is 80 percent stills and 20 percent video.

    After a fling with sony a mount + e mount, I have been using two GH4s for a year, but honestly, I miss the quality of the fat d800 raw files, and when a client turns around and tells me "I really like this photo but we can crop it into landscape right?" I give them them the sweat-dripping-down-the-forehead "of course we can!!!" reply.

    I am thinking about getting rid of one or two GH4s, and getting a D810 for stills studio work, and an EM5 mark ii for casual everyday snaps and for handheld video.

    Honestly, the GH4s are too good for me video wise, like 100% percent of my video work goes online or on instagram! I aint a video pro and won't be anytime soon, I am thinking of just working with other people if commercial video work is needed, and just use the EM5ii for fast handheld videos designed for social media, then the D810 if i need to do tripod based video work such as interviews etc.

    So after the lengthy rambling, I would like to ask you:

    1. How capable of a video camera is a D810? I loved the D800 for stills but didn't like the image quality of the videos. Is there a drop in quality if you film in DX mode? Was thinking to get the 20 1.8 and 50 1.8 so i could cover 4 focal lengths with two lenses. (I will also get the usual zooms for studio work but i love working with primes!)

    2. I guess you are the only guy on the internet working on a review of the EM5ii for real world video use, am really looking forward to the next videos you do! But would just like to ask a few things, sometimes I edit social media videos on my iPhone, do you know if it is possible to transfer video files to an iPhone via wifi like you can on lumix and sony cameras?
    Also, how big is the crop factor when filming, as I might want to pick up a pan-leica 25 1.4 and have read from various reviews that the crop is either minimal or huge.

    Thanks and keep up the great work Kirk!

  6. Hi Kirk!

    I'm sure you know this, but a best evaluation of sharpness/detail in the video is infinity shot with a wide angle lens. Could you consider doing such a test?

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