Olympus OM5-TWO Delivers the Goods in the High-Res Mode. Two jobs in one day with more pixels that I know what to do with!!! An amazing keeper.

I started out my day at a tech company. My job was to photograph several servers and then a rack of servers against a white background. We'll be clipping out the backgrounds later tonight. Recently I did a job similar to this one for the same company using the Nikon D810 and several different Nikon macro lenses. That job was very successful. The client will use the images in everything from website illustrations to trade show graphics. 

And while everyone was quite satisfied with the output from Nikon's best camera I am never one to leave well enough alone, nor do I like to shoot similar stuff the same way every time I head out the door. As I was packing the night before I decided to take the Olympus EM5-Two cameras along with me this time, instead. I packed the two camera bodies and about ten little lenses into a Pelican case, grabbed five LED panels of assorted sizes, and my favorite location tripod and headed up to North Austin to set up a temporary studio in my client's big conference room. 

I have finally really mastered the Hi-Res mode in the Olympus cameras and I was determined to give the system a workout today. I used the Panasonic 12-35mm lens and shot everything at f8.0. That's the smallest aperture the system will let you set while using the Hi-Res mode. I am curious to find out if I can cheat and use an old manual focus lens on an adapter but that's for another time. I set the Hi-Res to give me a full second delay between touching the shutter button and starting the eight shot process+processing.  The Gitzo tripod I used settles down fast and I was as delicate with the shutter button as could be. Like a surgeon. Seriously.

(Quick addition for those uninitiated into the Hi-Res world of Olympus: The Hi-Res setting is a menu item that allows the camera to shoot eight fast frames of a subject. The camera moves the sensor between each exposure by half the pixel size. The oversampling creates files at a size of 40 megapixels and does so without the danger of aliasing or moire. The color is sampled in such a way that it is more pure than color from a single shot camera. It MUST be done on a tripod or you'll just end up with a mess. This new feature is very, very good.)

I was nervous about using the feature on the shoot but reviewed every single shot fired, at 14X. They were all perfect and perfectly detailed. Re-badged Dell servers never looked so good. I was very happy with the results, more so because my paranoia at what might go wrong pushed me to make a series of careful custom white balances and to meter more intently than I might have if just shooting routine, 16 megapixel raw files. I wrapped up that shoot and headed back toward downtown to my next appointment. 

You'll remember that I've been working on a video for a new restaurant called, Cantine. My friend and partner in video crime, James Webb, and I, had shot a bunch of live action cooking and bar shots last week, using the Olympus EM-5-Two cameras and the same buffet of lenses. We decided that we wanted to incorporate some hero shots of the food into the video so we arranged to get to Cantine after their lunch rush and have the chef prepare four or five dishes for us to videotape (with a bit of camera movement) and also to make still images. 

I manned the still camera while the more seasoned and experienced motion artist grabbed the video duty. I set the camera for the Hi-Res mode and did all of my static shots with the bigger files. The top images of this blog is the full frame of the 40 megapixel shot (reduced to 2100 pixels for the blog) while the bottom image, just below, is a 100% crop of the same image. 

I am very happy with the color, tonality and sheer resolution of the photograph. I think it's wonderful. I might select a lighter version for the final use but I grabbed this one first because I was so excited to see just how well the system handled this sort of shot. 

The lens used on this image was the Sigma 60mm f2.8 dn Art lens that I so eloquently praised not long ago. I think it's great wide open and even better stopped down to f4.5 or f5.6. If you shoot m4:3 and don't have this lens you should consider spending the small sum of $220 and adding it to your collection. It's a very nicely done lens and it turns in one great performance after the other. 

I've now shot about 6 hours of video with the Olympus EM5-Two cameras and a selection of lenses and I am upgrading my appraisal of this camera considerably. While the learning curve is a bit steeper than some other cameras I shoot with it is capable of pretty tremendous still image quality and very good video files. I don't regret my choice to upgrade to these cameras in the least. 

The usefulness of the Hi-Res setting for food photography, technical products and architecture should endear it to a lot of users who are eager to downsize from bigger systems while keeping the quality of their deliverables high. If you try one you will almost undoubtably love it.

James and I should have the video up in the next week or so and I think you'll be impressed by the footage(?) these cameras can turn out.

That's all I wanted to say. Now I need to get back to making my clipping paths and retouching fingerprints off the server chassis. That's what I get for not bringing along my cotton gloves to the first shoot.....

Added June 18, 2015: About the iPhone App: The iPhone app for the EM-5.2 will trigger the camera but NOT in the Hi-Res mode. It only works with regular Raw and Jpeg settings. In a previous blogpost from my first adventures with the camera I was mistaken about being able to trigger the camera in hi-res mode. I was working (and being frustrated and on a schedule) I shot a number of images with the Hi-Res mode released by hand and then tried to do the same thing with the phone app. I reset the camera to raw at one point and continued doing the job. When I looked at the images later there were a number of Hi-Res files that were sharp and well done and I assumed that those had come from my the phone app triggering, not remembering my switch back to raw. Instead they were a result of my delicate touch. But it was hit and miss. I am beyond happy to finally find, and learn how to use, the delay method and it works solidly every time. Sorry for my inaccurate testing procedures on the first go around. I blame it on the staff here at VSL.... And the lack of an 8.5 x11 inch, color illustrated, leather bound owner's manual from Olympus....


Richard Alan Fox said...

Can you trigger the camera in hi-res mode using a wi-fi connection from your camera to your phone?

Ed Pledger said...

I have used a legacy lens with the HiRes setting, but you bring up an interesting question...whether it works beyond f8 when a dumb adapter is involved. I see comments about diffraction limiting quality beyond f8 over at the m4/3 forum, but I will give this a try tomorrow. Always good to experiment.

ODL Designs said...

Hey Kirk,
I cant wait to see your videos from the restaurant, I am shooting some headshot interviews for a lawfirm (to use online) and testing out optimum settings.

The HR mode is far more useful than originally thought of. While everything does move I have shot a number of buildings using a simple gorilla pod for stability, often on a post or the floor with a 4 second timer. Even if there is a tiny amount of movement you get some faint diagonal banding, however with the right amount of sharpening and a reduction to 5000px on the short side you get a very sharp rich image. I am going to explore using it for interiors soon enough.

I also ran a test recently using the OM 50mm f3.5, which is a stunningly sharp macro lens looking at the trade off of diffraction with the HR mode. I found that even up to F16, for whatever reason the HR mode had a better look than the 16mp file. Just remember one can actually be very aggressive with the sharpening in ACR (I go up to 75 with no penalty) but the radius/detail needs a tweak depending on your aperture.

Once you reduce to 5000px on the short side they look superb. Tight texture/grain, great colour. Anyways, in case you find it useful here is a link to a DPR post i started which got little attention :)


For someone like myself who does a lot of product work, the HR mode is a very useful tool. I do wish Olympus hadn't locked the apertures higher than F8 though as there is still a colour/noise/DR benefit... for those apertures for now I use one of my manual lenses.


Kirk Tuck said...

Richard, I don't know the answer to that. I always leave my phone in the car so it doesn't annoy me while I'm shooting...
but the settable delay works charmingly well.

Grant said...

I think the reason for the f/8 limit on high-res photos is because the diffraction effects at (say) f/16 will introduce such blur that the images will effectively be no sharper than a 16 MP shot. Maybe worse, I haven't tried to run the numbers.

Ed Pledger said...

FWIW...I tried the 55 f2.8 AiS MicroNikkor this morning in HiRes, going from 2.8 to 32. Target was a well illuminated dollar bill shot at an angle, for the detail in the fibers and to get a measure of the depth of field. There's a color shift from 2.8 to 4, but color stays about the same from 4 to 32. To my eye resolution is still good at f11, then diffraction effects fuzz things up. F16 might be okay for a small image but 22 and 32 are definitely kapooey.

Michael Meissner said...

I wonder if in the future we will have automatic focus stacking with the E-M5 mark 2 Hi-res mode.

Kirk Tuck said...

Michael, wouldn't that be cool?

Richard, Sorry for being snarky about cellphones. I added the real answer to your question at the bottom of my blog. Just chalk up my churlishness to a neutral/hate relationship to cellphones in general...

ODL Designs said...

Hey Kirk,
I think if you use the shutter release you can trigger the HR mode, but not in live view mode.

At least this is how it works on my android, but I remember going through this, setting live view, being disappointed I couldn't set HR mode, then going to shutter release mode (so you are making the settings on the camera not on the phone) then trigger the image.

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi Brad, You'll like it. And the EM-5 is a gnat's whisker away from the image quality of the next version. cheap is just another feature!