OM System OM1 review – Not a birding review!!!

In this OM System OM1 review I am going to show you what the OM1 is like in general use. I originally bought the OM1 with the intention to start spending much more time doing wildlife photography. However, as is often the case I found that with a young family I simply didn’t have the time available to really dedidcate to that pursuit.

It is easy to find an OM System OM1 review that covers wildlife and particularly bird photography and as much as I would like to do more wildlife photography I simply don’t have the time.

 

Therefore this review will cover what the OM1 is like to use as a general camera shooting landscapes, travel and some candid portraits too.

If you find my review useful and plan to buy an OM1 then please consider using my Amazon affiliate link below. This wont cost you anything but will allow me to earn a small commission which helps me to write more reviews like this.

OM 1

As you can see from previous articles on my site I have been using Olympus gear for a long time now. I have owned and used the EM5III which I reviewed as well as the EM1X and EM1III. In all honesty I wasn’t motivated to write a review for the EM1 III as I really didn’t feel that it brought enough to the table to warrant a full review. The EM1X was and is a fantastic camera but one that was controversial due to the size. I actually really liked that camera and have been tempted recently to get another due to the great deals Olympus Europe are offering on it. However, I’m doing a lot of travel these days and so I have resisted as it doesn’t fit that well with my ethos of travelling light.

Anyway, back to the OM System OM1 review.

The OM1 had enough new features and claimed improvements to get me seriously looking at it because I wanted a camera that was suited to travel. It is not just the size of the Micro 43 system that attracted me but also the possibility to leave both my tripod and filters at home thanks to the IBIS and internal ND filters. This would enable me to travel essentially with just the camera, lenses and batteries without compromising on the kind of images that I could create.

So What’s new with the OM Systems OM1

Here are the main selling points that motivated me to buy the OM1, which I shall talk about in this article.

:Speed improvements brought about by the new dual Truepic X processor and stacked sensor.

:Usable handheld Hi Res mode

:Live ND mode

:Subject detection modes

:IPX 53 weather sealing

:Supposed improved high ISO performance

:50 FPS with AF usable in Pro Capture mode

:Improved viewfinder

Om System OM1 ergonomics

 

The OM1 was the last camera that was designed by Olympus before they sold their imaging division and it changed to what has now become OM System. It has the Olympus logo on it and it feels every bit an Olympus EM1 series camera. The handling is very similar to previous EM1 bodies. A couple of the buttons on the back are a little too recessed for my liking so using it with gloves is more difficult than the EM1X (which was among the best handling cameras that I’ve ever used).

 

However, it is comfortable and the build quality feels up to the usual standards I have come to expect from Olympus. It now comes with an upgraded IP53 rating for weather sealing. In practise, I have put my olympus cameras through some of the most demanding weather over the years, from the wild winds and driving rain of the Outer Hebrides to the monsoons of Asia and they have never let me down. With the OM1 I have no concerns that it will be anything less than solid in all weather conditions.

The main upgrade that interested me was the new 5.76 million dot EVF. This has been a long time coming and is a much needed upgrade in order to mix it with the competition. It is bright, clear and sharp. It makes the EVF a pleasure to use and is a huge upgrade compared with the previous generation’s old 2.36 million dot EVFs. I am now able to clearly see which areas of an image are in focus and combined with the focus aids it is infinitely better than the older cameras. With the EM1X I could barely define sharpness and manual focussing was a real struggle.

Dual SD card slots remain and while it would have been nice to see a CF express type B card slot to match the shooting speeds possible with the OM1 I find that the dual UHS-2 card slots work well for everyday shooting and save me a bit of money on having to purchase (the still expensive) CF Express cards.

On the top dial the OM1 has 4 custom slots which I find very useful for quickly swapping between setups for various shooting scenarios. I initially set these up with differrent birding and wildlife scenarios in mind and it made switching between hi speed shooting modes and various auto focus modes very quick and easy. My custom modes are now setup for various portrait and lighting scenarios.

In terms of ergonomics, everything else remains broadly similar to the EM1 mark 3 so moving from one to the other is pretty seemless physically.

The OM1 has a new and in my opinion, much improved menu system which anyone migrating over from another brand will find far easier to navigate. Items are laid out and named in a much more logical way than the older menu system. As someone who has used a lot of Olympus cameras I knew my way around the old menus but the new one is undeniably much better.

Not only is the menu laid out much more logically but unlike other cameras, when an option is not available it actually tells you why. You can also press the info button to get a brief explanation of what a menu option does. I find the new menu to be one of the best available from any manufacturer.

Sensor

The OM1 comes with a new stacked 20mp sensor that allows it to shoot at insanely high frame rates of upto 120 fps without AF and 50FPS with AF. For birders this is incredibly useful and when combined with Pro Capture it allows you to get shots that are simply not possible with most other cameras.

To read more about these features I would suggest that you head over to specific wildilfe and birding reviews as it is beyond the scope of this review and as mentioned in the title, this is not a birding review.

OM System claims that the new sensor offers a 1 stop improvement in dynamic range and a two stop improvement in high ISO noise performance.

In all honesty I have not done any scientific tests on the dynamic range of this camera compared to previous versions as I no longer have any other Olympus cameras. My instinct from looking at previous photos and ones from the OM1 are that any difference in dynamic range is fairly minor. The shots look the same to my eye and that’s fine as I normally get the exposure pretty close to where I want it in camera and I find the OM1 to have enough dynamic range to do this. Should it be a particularly challenging scene then it’s easy to setup bracketing.

I have tested for noise performance and I can say that a two stop improvement is a little optimistic. I would suggest 1 stop to be a little more accurate. There is definitely an improvement in the high ISO performance of the OM1 compared with the EM1 iii and EM1X and I am often surprised at how good images look at ISO 6400. In fact I was shooting the OM1 just the other day at night and found that the noise performance, even at ISO 10,000 was surprisingly usable when shooting black and white (which I do a lot these days).

Some of the claimed improvement in noise performance undoubtedly comes from OM Workspace now having an AI powered de-noise feature included which does a remarkable job at cleaning up image files. Adobe Lightroom also now has this feature.

As much as I wish they could, OM System cannot overcome physics and the small gap between Micro 43 and APS-C in terms of noise still exists. My Fuji XT5 files still look cleaner once I start to push the ISO to 3200 and above.

Key features

As mentioned at the start of this review, as well as wildlife photography, the OM1 has some key features and improvements that lead me to believe I could use this camera for travel and leave behind my tripod and filters.

The hand held hi res mode combines 8 images to create a 50mp file and importantly, composites the images much more quickly than the EM1 III.

Hand held Hi res image
HHHR 100% crop

In practise I have found this feature a mixed bag. Sometimes the additional detail and improved noise performance/tonality are readily apparent over standard 20mp images and at other times I struggle to see any meaningful difference between them. What I can say is that the speed at which the OM1 now produces the hi res images makes it much less of a hassle to take them as you are only waiting a few seconds for the camera to be ready to shoot again.

OM System’s Hi res mode still does not have motion correction unlike Panasonic so any movement in the scene can and does cause some issues. In practice, for landscapes I have found hand held hi res quite usable. I have even used it for portraits on occasion and providing your subject doesn’t move too much it can work well. I wouldn’t rely on it though.

One thing that I rarely hear discussed online is the fact that the larger depth of field of Micro 43 sensors for a given angle of view can be a benefit over larger sensors. For instance, when shooting a landscape where I want front to back sharpness on my GFX 100S, it will require me to stop down considerably, pay much more attention to hyper focal distances and quite often require me to focus stack. On the OM1 the hi res mode combined with deeper depth of field actually makes getting these kinds of images much more simple than on larger format sensors. The image quality of hand held hi res is not quite upto medium format standards but it is certainly a lot closer to full frame than you might think.  Either way, I find hand held hi res to be a useful feature and one that I hope OM System develop more in the future.

The other feature that interested me is the ND filter mode. I say mode because it is not a physical ND filter but a software based solution that combines multiple photos and blends them together in camera to give the apearrance of having used an ND filter. I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for slower shutter speeds when it comes to rivers, waterfalls and coastal images.

Shots like this are made easy thanks to excellent IBIS and the ND filter.

In practise I have found the ND filter in the OM1 to work really well and give natural looking shots most of the time. With upto 6 stops of ND filtration it offers plenty of scope to get those beautiful silky water effects yet leave your tripod and physical ND filters at home.

 

Auto Focus

While most OM System OM1 reviews focus on how the camera performs for wildlife and bird photography, not much has been said about how good it is for general photography.

The speed of the new processor along with quad pixel Af points mean that the OM1 is very quick to focus. I use the OM1 with single AF unlike when I use Sony cameras which do much better in continuous AF mode.

The OM1 easily captures candid shots like this one of my daughter enjoying snow for only the second time.

The AF is quick to attain focus and rarely gives me any false positive focus locks.

Face and eye AF work quite well when your subject is facing the camera front on and even to the side a little but it is not as good as the latest AF from either Canon or Sony. Those systems are exceptionally good at keeping the subject when they turn away from the camera and back again although my Sony A7IV does ocassionally give a positive focus lock yet the image is not quite in focus. Generally the AF on the OM1 is fast and accurate and on par with my Fuji XT5 when it comes to face and eye tracking. In low light it can sometimes struggle a little bit but all my other cameras behave in the same way under the same circumstances too.

One of the main benefits I find with the Micro 43 system is that I’m much more likely to take it out and capture casual moments and memories.

If i had to rate the OM1 AF when shooting general subjects and people I would put it in the second division, below Canon and Sony but on par with Fuji and Nikon and above my Panasonic GH6. It is more than capable of getting sharp in focus shots in the majority of situations.

The subject recognition modes also work really well, bird photography is a breeze and shooting my growing pack of dogs when they are charging around is no challenge at all. The fact that you can easily setup custom functions to switch between your favourite AF modes is also very useful.

 

OM Sytem OM1 review – Conclusion.

If you are considering the Om System OM1 as a general camera for family, portrait, landscape and travel photography then it is a very capable camera. It has the most advanced computational photography modes of any camera from any brand with features such as live view, live composite and hand held hi res and ND modes. Combined with the exceptional weather sealing and comfort it makes for a great all around camera. It will also allow you to capture some fantastic wildlife images for a lot less money than a lot of other systems while saving quite a bit of weight.

However, as a general camera there is a lot of competition and if the features that I mentioned above are not integral to your plans then it may not make sense to pay for all the technology crammed into the OM1.

Yes, the OM1 is capable of doing just about everything you could want and that makes it a great all rounder. However you are paying for a stacked sensor and hi burst shooting rates which may be of no benefit to the things you photograph.

For landscapes and travel, an OM5 ii (if they bring the new menus, hand held hi res speed and ND filters of the OM1) would be perfect and cheaper/lighter. I would choose the OM1 over any X series Fuji for landscapes as I’m just not a fan of Fujiilm X series cameras for landscape photography.

If you shoot mainly people then I would take a Fuji XT5 over the OM1 and for street photography the Fuji weather sealed f2 primes are hard to beat. I wish OM System would update their compact f/1.8 primes to be weather sealed but they show no signs of doing so.

You also have to consider that you can now pick up some great full frame options for a similar price to the OM1. A Sony A7IV with an f/1.8 lens will still give shallower depth of field than an OM1 with one of the costly but excellent f/1.2 primes. The shooting experience with the OM1 may be a little nicer but the image quality of the Sony will be better.

As with all cameras, there are pros and cons and I could make arguments for and against almost all cameras and kits. In the end, if the OM1 does what you want it to do for a price you are willing to pay then you will not be disappointed as it is an excellent camera. There is no camera that does everything brilliantly, thats why I now choose cameras for specific needs. The OM1 suits me perfectly for travel where the subjects will be of the natural world and that’s why I take it with me on these kind of trips.

That concludes my OM System OM1 review. I really enjoy using the OM1 and Micro 43 in general. Many have spoke of the demise of Micro 43 but I sincerely hope that they continue to bring out new and innovative cameras like the OM1 because I certainly enjoy using them. Despite Youtube and other places constantly beating the drum of full frame I believe a lot of people would be well served using Micro 43 instead. All sensor sizes come with compromises and it’s up to us to decide which ones we are willing to accept. Now OM Systems, please make a Pen F II and I would be all over it.

Sony A7III vs A7IV

Sony A7III vs A7IV

In this post I am putting the Sony A7III vs A7IV to see how the two compare. Is the Sony A7IV worth upgrading to from the Sony A7III?

I originally owned a Sony A7III back when it was released in 2018. I was pretty impressed with it as you can see in my review at the time. The Sony A7IV intrigued me as I wanted to see how they could improve upon what is still one of the best hybrid cameras, even in 2022.

In this article I am going to cover everything that you need to know when considering the Sony A7III vs A7IV including image quality, video quality, ergonomics, menus and all the upgraded features. If you would rather watch then my video comparison of the Sony A7III vs A7IV Can be found here . The video shows screen recordings of the AF in action, the IBIS and video quality as well as everything else.


Sony A7III vs A7IV – Ergonomics

The first thing that you notice when you put the Sony A7IV next to the A7III is that the new camera has gained a little size over its predecessor. In terms of weight they are within a few grams of each other but the size difference, particularly the depth of the camera is more noticeable than the figures would have you believe. The mark III feels quite small and dinky in comparison to the latest mark IV version. The A7IV is deeper due to Sony adding a fully articulating screen (more on that later) and improving the heat management of the camera.

The grip has also grown and now offers more depth and provides more purchase on the camera, particularly when operating it one handed. Those with larger hands will definitely appreciate the added space and comfort. The A7 IV now weighs in at a measured 658g with the battery which is only 8g more than the mark III.


One of the most obvious changes to the A7IV is the switch to a fully articulated rear LCD screen. The previous model had a tilting mechanism often favoured by purely stills photographers but the new, articulated screen works much better for hybrid shooters like myself.

 

Not only is the new screen fully articulating it has also increased the resolution from 0.92 million dots to 1.04 million dots. More importantly the screen now has a 3:2 aspect ratio which matches the cameras sensor resulting in less wasted space on the screen.

The Sony A7IV’s screen now uses the touch screen functions to much greater effect, allowing you to use it to navigate the menus as well as the usual AF funtionality. The A7 III touchscreen was mainly limited to selecting AF points. The new one feels much more modern and in keeping with what we have become used to with modern gadgets like phones and tablets.

The EVF on the Sony A7IV has also been upgraded to 3.69m dots from 2.36m dots on the A7III. The improvement is welcome and a noticeable one but it is not class leading compared to some of the competition. The refresh rate can also be boosted to 120hz, double that of the older model. Everything else remains the same on the viewfinder.

One of the ergonomic changes that I find most satisfying is the increased size of the buttons on the mk IV. The AF-On button is now substantially larger and the AF joystick has also been enalarged and also flattened slightly which definitely makes it easier to move your AF point as desired.

The record button has been moved to the top of the camera instead of to the right of the viewfinder. In all honesty I don’t mind either location but given the choice I prefer the new placement as it is more in keeping with the other cameras that I use such as the Canon R5 and Nikon Z series bodies. I would prefer the Menu button to be on the right hand side like Nikon and Panasonic cameras so that it can be selected one handed.

There is now a dial below the PASM dial which allows you to switch between photo, video and S&Q modes. The dial is lockable as is the unmarked exposure compensation dial (it can be set to whatever you want now). There are also 3 custom setting slots on the PASM dial as opposed to 2 on the A7III.

The Sony A7 IV now has dual UHS-II card slots with slot 1 also accepting CF Express type A cards. You will need either V90 rated SD or CF Express A cards to record in the higher video resolutions/bitrates now available on the A7 IV. The A7 IV wont allow me to even try using a Sandisk Extreme Pro 170mb/s card for these higher quality video settings. I ordered a couple of these cards to enable recording using the higher quality video modes and they work well.

There is also a new locking mechanism on the memory card door. You now have to slide the lock (similar to the A7III) and at the same time slide the memory card door towards you. It is kind of awkward to be honest and one of the things that I prefer on the Sony A7III. Also the strap lugs on my A7IV are quite thick and can get in the way of the memory card door when opening. It’s not a big deal but something that I have noticed.

 

Menus

The A7IV uses the latest Sony menu system and my goodness what a difference it makes. The old Sony menus were a confused mess fo the most part. I often still find myself searching through them to find certain options and settings.

The new menu system is now much better laid out and for the most part it is logical and much quicker to find what you need. I particularly appreciate that it gives you a preview of the items contained within the selected menu option so that you don’t waste time diving into a menu only to find that the setting you needed is not there. I’d go as far as to say it is now one of the best menu systems available.

One thing that has caught me out and something that I find annoying is that when you set the camera up to use a picture profile in video mode, the camera carries this across when you switch back to photo mode. So I shot a bunch of images this morning with the log profile set for photos. Why Sony thought this was a good idea I do not know. Luckily I shoot in RAW + Jpeg so had the RAW files to fall back on.

Sony A7III vs A7IV – Image quality

The main headline grabbing upgrade for the A7IV is probably the increase in resolution from 24mp to 33mp. In all honesty, if this were the only reason that you are considering an upgrade from the Sony A7 III then I would save your money.

The increased resolution is nice to have as it enables a little more cropping room but the difference is not enough to justify the expense of an upgrade. You’re going from images measuring 6000×4000 pixels to 7008x 4672.

Yes, there is a little more detail in the 33mp images but it’s only just about enough to go up one print size. It does make the A7IV a more interesting proposition for landscape photographers who also have a hybrid workflow, perhaps aspiring youtubers who focus on landscape photography may give the A7IV more consideration but for most people resolution alone, while nice to have, likley isn’t the main reason to upgrade.

From my testing dynamic range remains essentially the same so at least that resolution bump has not come at the cost of dynamic range.

Here is an A7IV raw file with no adjustments. The blacks and highlights have clipped
And here is the same file with the exposure increased by 1 stop along with a 100 push on both the blacks and shadows as well as -100 pull on the highlights. It looks hideous but gives an idea of just how flexible the RAW files are.

In terms of high ISO noise performance, you can see from my test shots below that the A7III and A7IV perform very similarly.

A7III Raw ISO 3200, Converted in Lightroom, no adjustments
A7IV Raw ISO 3200 converted in Lightroom, no adjustments
A7III Raw ISO 6400, converted in Lightroom, No adjustments
A7IV Raw ISO 6400, converted in Lightroom, no adjustments
Sony A7III compared to A7IV 100% crop, ISO 6400

 

The A7III does slightly better once above ISO 6400 but once you down size the A7IV file to match the A7III dimensions it is actually a tiny amount better.

A7IV Tiff resized to A7III dimensions, converted in Lightroom, no adjustments
A7IV downsized to A7III dimensions, ISO 6400, 100% view

 

One thing that I have noticed is that the auto white balance in the A7IV does a better job than the A7III. I often had to apply fairly significant corrections to the A7 III images as they sometimes gave a magenta or yellow tint depending on the lighting conditions.  I have not found this to be an issue with the mark IV. Outdoors the colours are very similar as seen below.

A7III (left) vs A7IV

Skintones have also been improved on the A7IV vs A7III, particularly in mixed lighting conditions. This quick portrait was shot in window light with auto white balance and auto ISO. The AF nailed shot after shot. It really is impressive and the more I use it the more I appreciate just how easy the A7IV makes everything.

A7IV, Sony 85mm 1.4GM @ 1.4, 1/250, ISO1250 – RAW file, no editing done

The A7 IV now also adds the ability to shoot lossless compressed RAW files which helps to save some card and hard drive space without compromising image quality.

You can also shoot in 10bit HEIF format instead of Jpeg. In theory this should give more colour information than the 8bit Jpeg files but in use I haven’t noticed any difference. You also have to consider that HEIF is a relatively new format so before shooting chekc that they are compatible with your device/PC.

A7 IV vs A7 III – IBIS

The IBIS in the A7 IV is said to give 5.5 stops of image stabilisation compared with the 5 stops quoted for the A7 III.

 

I wanted to test out whether there was any real world difference so I shot my usual tests handheld at 24 mm on the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8.

I found that results were so similar as to not warranty any further testing.

It is impossible to explain the difference in IBIS performance for video without showing the footage so please see my video here

 

This is where the A7IV shines against the A7III – Auto Focus

The AF in the Sony A7 III was always pretty good, especially as Sony updated the firmware to add better Eye AF as well as animal detection. However this has been improved again, with the A7 IV taking advantage of the BionZ XR which Sony claims is 8x faster than the BionZ X found in the mark III.

The A7 IV has 759 phase detect AF points giving 94% coverage vs 693 with 93% coverage on the A7 III. The increase doesn’t sound like much but more importantly it puts it in line with the A1 and A7SIII which I suspect will allow it to benefit from any AF improvements added to those bodies.

The phase detect points now work down to f/22 (vs f11 on the A7III) and the AF will work in -4 EV vs the A7III’s -3 EV.

When I first noticed that you can now change the AF point selection colour from white to red I gave a little prayer to the camera gods as this was something that I often had issue with in previous generation Sony cameras. When using the A7III and the A7R2 I owned before that, it could sometimes be incredibly difficult to know which focus point was being activated if the colour matched the background. It’s funny how small things can sometimes turn out to be instrumental in giving you a feel for whether you will like to use a camera or not.

The A7 IV has ported over the same AF algorithms found in the top of the line Sony A1 which adds real time eye AF and subject tracking. The A7 IV also adds human/animal AF that works  in both photo and video mode. There is also vehicle tracking for photography as well as the ability to select bird eye AF.

Having tested this out on some not too challenging geese and pigeons I can say it does a great job.

Bird Eye Af works flawlessly for subjects such as this goose.

Again, it is best to watch the video for demonstrations of just how good the AF in the Sony A7IV is.

In use I have found it to be as good as anything available (including my Canon R5). In fact I would even put it a notch above the R5. It locks on really quickly and is accurate. To see this in action subscribe to my Youtube channel and hit the notifications bell as the full video will be released soon which includes footage of the AF captured on an Atomos Ninja V. You can now see the video here

With Eye AF turned on it is the quickest system that I have used to pick up the subjects eyes and it can do it even when the subject is quite small in the frame. Mind you, the Sony A7III is no slouch in this area either.

I could see a discernible difference when shooting the Sony A7IV vs A7III. It is simply much quicker to react, pick up the subject and place that green box over the eye.

When the subject either turned away from the camera or left and then returned to frame it was significantly quicker to regain focus on the eye than the A7III. The MK III  did not always pick up the subject’s eyes again quickly and on some ocassions even failed to do so at all. I believe this is due to the older algorithm scanning the entire scene to re-aqquire the subjects eyes whereas the Sony A7 IV has been programmed using machine learning to prioritise looking for a subjects eyes in the same area as it last detected them. Whatever the technicalities it is a marked improvement.

 

Video

The Sony A7III was one of the first true hybrid cameras, bringing together great stills and at the time, excellent video specs. However times have moved on and the lack of 10 bit internal video as well as 4k is starting to show against the competition.

The A7IV has adressed this and now offers upto 4k30 with no crop whereas the A7III tops out at 4k25 without a crop. Once you go to 4k30 there is a 1.2x crop on the A7III. The recording limit of 30 minutes found on the A7III has now been removed too.

As well as the usual S-log options the A7IV now includes S-Cinetone.

Importantly the A7IV now offers 4k60 full pixel readout (no binning) but this does crop to APS-C or 1.5x.

Where the A7IV has definitely taken things up by several notches vs the A7III is with the codecs and colour depth available. This is great news for those wishing to colour grade their footage in post.

The A7III only offers 8bit 4:2:0 internal shooting options whereas the A7IV now shoots 10 bit 4:2:2 internally with the option to use the H.265 codec or All Intra H.264 at a bit rate of 300mbps for 30p or 600mbps for 60p footage. Lower data rates are also available for those who don’t need the added grading headroom or simply want to save on disk space.

Below are the various 4k codecs and bit rates available.

4k H.265 24p bit rates
4k H.265 60p bit rates
4k H.264 24p Bit rates
4k H.264 30p bit rates
4k H.264 60p bit rates

4K All intra has fixed settings as follows :

24p – 4:2:2 10 bit 240mbps

30P – 4:2:2 10 bit 300mbps

60p – 4:2:2 10 bit 600mbps

 

The A7IV does away with the Micro HDMI port and replaces it with a full sized HDMI which is so much more sturdy.

It also adds what Sony call Active stabilisation. This is basically a digital stabilisation using information from the gyro on the IBIS. The field of view crops in a little to allow this. This is something that I tested for my video review and will show there.

The A7IV now lets you adjust (in 7 steps) how quickly focus transitions are performed as well as 5 steps of control for how quickly the AF will switch from one subject to another.

 

An interesting concept and one that I have seen carried out extremely well by DJI is the focus mapping option. This shows you which areas of your image are in and out of focus by colouring the areas. I’m still not convinced on its usefulness so will report back when I have had time to use it a little more.

Sony A7III vs A7IV – Conclusion

When I saw the specs for the Sony A7IV I wasn’t blown away. There was no one aspect that really stood out to me as groundbreaking or a must have. A little more resolution, an articulating screen, a new menu (again), a few extra video modes and promised AF improvements didn’t really seem like that much considering how groundbreaking the A7III was back in 2018 and how long it has been since then.

I have had and owned at least one of each generation of Sony’s A7 series bodies since the A7R. I have always appreciated their technical abilities, groundbreaking specs and ability to push the boundaries for autofocus. However, I have never gelled with one the way I have with say, the Fuji X-Pro 1 & 3 or the Nikon Z7II or Canon R5. The difference, I have always felt is that those feel like cameras made by a camera company that understands photographers. They get the little things right in terms of button placement, menus, ergonomics, design and handling.  These things really do make a massive difference when it comes time to pick up a camera and shoot.

 

The Sony A7IV is the first Sony camera that I have picked up and felt like it is finally designed by a company that understands what we as photographers/videographers want. There are no headline grabbing features that blow your mind the way that the Canon R5, Sony A1 or Nikon Z9 did at release but the whole is definitely more than the sum of its parts when it comes to the A7IV.

After having shot a lot with both of these cameras side by side, if it were my money and I had to decide between the Sony A7III vs A7IV , I would buy the A7IV without doubt. It feels like a camera, makes everything easy and gets out of your way and lets you shoot. Not to mention that I would no longer consider a camera without 4k60 video.

 

I hope that you found some value in this article and it helps with your decision. Please don’t forget to help out in anyway you can by subscribing to this blog, my yotube channel or buying through my links. Any help is much appreciated and allows me to spend more time creating content like this.

Fujifilm XT4 Review in 2021

Fujilm XT4 Review in 2021

The Fujifilm XT4 was released in April 2020. In that time many other cameras have been released by various manufacturers. So I wanted to review the Fujifilm XT4 in 2021 to see how it performs. If you want to see how the Fuji XT4 compares with the X-Pro 3 then take a look at this article 

If you would prefer to see a quick video on why you should buy the Fuji XT4 then you may want to check out my latest video instead. Alternatively you can see my Fuji XT4 video review which is now up on Youtube

The Fujifilm XT4 that I am reviewing is my own. I purchased it in October 2020 as it featured several important upgrades over the XT3 that convinced me that the XT series could finally be my main camera system. So here I am in 2021 reviewing the Fujifilm XT4.

The XT4 is Fujifilm’s top of the range X series camera. It uses the same 26mp X-Trans sensor as the previous generation of X series bodies. Having experience with the XT3 I already knew that the image quality that can be achieved with this sensor is excellent both in terms of resolution, dynamic range and high ISO performance. I will include sample images below just in case you are unaware of how this sensor performs.

Original raw capture
Shadows pushed all the way in Lightroom
100% crop of above image shows very little noise in the shadows

For me, the image quality that I would get was a known quantity and one that I knew I was happy with. However, the upgrades that made me look more closely at the XT4 were more on the handling side of things.

As I spend a lot of time out shooting with my family in tow, I often find that I don’t carry a tripod on these types of trips. Having been a long-time user of Olympus cameras and their excellent IBIS (in body image stabilisation) the inclusion of IBIS in the XT4 was a very welcome addition. So how well does the IBIS work?

 

With the Fuji 10-24mm f/4 lens attached the IBIS in the XT4 works alongside the OIS in the lens to give a claimed 6 stops of image stabilisation.

100% crop @10mm 0.4 Seconds

I took a series of images to see just how effective the IBIS was. Normally I can get sharp hand held images on the 10mm end of this lens shooting at 1/20th second. If the shutter speed drops any lower then my keeper rate goes down. 1/15 of a second and below and it becomes a bit hit and miss.

With the IBIS turned on I found that I could consistently get sharp handheld photos at 1/3

to ½ a second. This is with excellent technique. If I shoot in a more casual manner, then I cannot achieve sharp images with slower shutter speeds than 1/5 second.

So, the XT4 IBIS in combination with the OIS in the 10-24mm lens is giving me approximately 4 stops of stabilisation at the wide end.

100% Crop @200mm 1/10

I repeated this experiment using the Fuji 55-200mm lens and found that I could consistently get sharp handheld images at the 200mm end at 1/10 second whereas normally I would have to be shooting at 1/320 giving me around 5 stops of stabilisation.  This is pretty much in line with what Fuji says the XT4 IBIS will give you alone and about a stop under the 6 stops they claim the combined IBIS and OIS of the lens will give.

Overall the IBIS is not quite as effective as that found on the Olympus EM1 III where I could regularly handhold wide angel images at 1-2 seconds but I’m still happy with it when you take into account the larger APS-C sensor found in the XT4 giving you better ISO performance. It allows me to just about get down to speeds where I can add an element of motion to water which is the main reason I would be shooting at those shutter speeds.

Build quality and handling

When I first opened the slick black packaging of the Fuji XT4 and held the camera in my hand I was very pleasantly surprised. My previous experience with the XT series ( I have owned the XT1 and XT2 and tested out the XT3) was that they are well made but always felt a little hollow. I was not a fan of this feeling as I like a camera to feel solid in my hand. I take my gear all over the World and I want it to feel as if it can stand up to some serious work.

The XT4 immediately felt better and much more solid. Yes, it weighs a little more at 607g vs 539g for the XT3 but it feels much better built, does not have that hollow feeling and the grip has been enlarged which makes it much more comfortable in the hand. It is now 2mm wider and 5mm deeper than the XT3 at 135 x93x 64mm. The size now seems just about a perfect compromise between feeling solid, well-built and comfortable in the hand without being too bulky or heavy. Please do not change this Fuji as I think you nailed it this time.

The shutter mechanism is now rated to 300k actuations compared with 150k on the XT3. This alone speaks to the improved build quality and gives me confidence that the XT4 will easily cope with professional use.

LCD Screen

One of the most significant (and controversial) changes comes in the form of a fully articulating rear LCD. I know that some Fuji fans prefer a standard or 3-way tilt screen as found on previous generations, but I find a fully articulating rear screen to be the most flexible solution. It allows you to tilt up and down as well as front facing when horizontal and it also allows you to flip it 90 degrees to the camera body when shooting in portrait orientation. Not to mention that you can conveniently close it so that the screen faces in towards the body and is protected from being scratched or damaged. I understand that for ‘from the hip’ street shooting it may be less balanced and subtle but I rarely do that so don’t miss that ability.

 

The fully articulating screen is great but note the mic prot cover which is fiddly in use.

While I love the screen, I do have one gripe with it. Well actually its not with the screen itself but with the cheap flappy port covers for the mic and remote sockets. They get in the way when you are setup for video and then want to flip the screen from rear facing to forward facing. I wish Fuji would have made them removable but they didn’t. Inexplicably they did decide to make the memory card door removable. Surely that is the wrong way around.

Battery

Lastly the other change that was especially important to me was the use of the new NP-W235 battery which lasts much longer than the older generation NP-W126s found in the older generation cameras. I can now shoot well over 500 shots on one battery and as I have the battery grip and two additional batteries this can easily see me through a long weekend landscape photography shoot. The camera itself can also be charged by USB-C which is great as I have a ton of power banks lying around so I can just bring one or two power banks on my trips and charge all my devices including the camera.

Something that I am not so fond of is that Fuji does not include a proper charger in the box. Only a cheap looking Phone style USB charger and USB-C cable is included so you must charge the batteries up while in the camera. Not great if you need to charge batteries while using the camera. The same can be said of the batter grip as there is no way to charge this separately. You must attach it to the camera and then charge all 3 batteries together. Again, not really the best solution as it would be nice to be able to charge the batteries in the grip while using the camera. It’s not a big deal though because the batteries now easily get me through a day’s shooting and I can simply plug everything in to a power bank at night to charge them.

There are a few other additions to the XT4 which may be of interest to you but are not that significant for my use. One is the addition of Classic Chrome film simulation. This is a beautiful filmic looking preset that I find works very well for side lit scenes and Caucasian skin. However, as I shoot a lot of my portraits in Asia it doesn’t work so well for Asian skin tones, so I only tend to use it when I’m back in Europe.

Classic Chrome (used for this shot) suits Asian skintone better than the new Classic Neg but I tend to use one of the Pro Neg film simulations the most.
100% crop of above image using the 56mm 1.2@ 1.2, 1/125, ISO 160

The Fujifilm XT4 now also allows for 240 fps HD video capture but I must admit I have not used it thus far being primarily a stills shooter. The video specs of the XT4 are excellent and varied, offering a lot of options for professional video capture which I will be exploring more later in the year if I can get back to the UK once this damned pandemic is dealt with. The Eterna profile along with very good 10 bit 4k video means that the Xt4 is more than good enough for my video needs.

Image Quality

Finally, as promised here are some image quality samples for those of you who are unfamiliar with what the 26mp X-Trans sensor can produce. The image quality is basically unchanged from the XT3 and X-Pro 3. I own an X-Pro 3 and get exactly the same images from it as I do the XT4.

The AF performance and in particular face and eye detection is slightly improved in the XT4.

XF 55-200mm, F/7.1, 1/480, ISO 160
XF 56mm @ f/1.2, 1/4400, ISO 160

So why would I (and you) choose the Fujifilm XT4 over rivals such as the Sony A7II (which I have also owned)?

For me there are 3 main reasons.

Firstly, and most importantly (for me) the handling, ergonomics and joy of using the XT4 is beyond the A7III. The XT4 feels like a ‘real’ camera with its manual dials for ISO, shutter speed and aperture. The Sony feels like a smart phone on steroids and as a bit of a techno dinosaur I prefer the more analogue feel of Fujis. If I enjoy using a camera and it makes me feel inspired then I generally get better images with it.

Secondly, I wanted a rugged but lightweight camera system (note I said system) and while the XT4 may not be much smaller than the A7III/Z6/EOS R etc, when you combine it with the vast array of Fuji lenses (particularly the Zooms) then the kit as a whole is still significantly smaller than a full frame kit. My go to lenses for travel are the trio of 10-24mm, 18-55mm, 55-200mm and the 35mm f/2. This all fits easily in my bag ( Lowepro Flipside 400AW) with room for a spare body, batteries, filters, laptop, hard drives, mics, Mavic 2 Pro drone + 3x batteries and more.

You can build out quite a small full frame mirrorless kit but I always found it limiting to only stick to the smaller cheaper lenses and having used Sony cameras with the GM series of lenses in the past I found them unbalanced and unwieldy on the A7 series bodes. I understand why many use them and would never discourage that but for me the Fuji system does what I want at a size and weight that I am happy with.

Finally, an important factor in any decision is price. The Fuji system has options from cheap to expensive but overall, the cost of building a comprehensive kit around Fuji is cheaper than that of full frame and IMO the difference in image quality between APS-C and full frame is not worth the additional cost. In fact, I skipped it altogether and also added a medium format camera to my kit for those occasions where I need it.

 

For an alternative view from a talented photographer check out Jonas Rask’s Fuji XT4 article

 

 

Olympus OMD EM5 III Review


Today I am going to share my Olympus OMD EM5 III review with you.

I have been waiting for what seems like an age for the release of the Olympus OMD EM5 mark III camera. As an avid Olympus user over the years I have been fortunate enough to try out all of their top tier cameras since the original EM5 right through to the EM1X. I used the EM5 II as my main camera for around a year and you can see my review of that here 

Yet somehow while I was caught up in our recent house move from the Philippines to the UK I missed the official release. It was only when I got back to the UK and had time to settle that I picked up that the third iteration of the Olympus EM5 had been announced, released and was on sale. The orignal EM5 was the camera that lured me away from shooting DSLR’s for my professional work way back in 2012. The competition has come a long way since then with Sony flooding the market with 35mm sensor sized options and Fuji providing attractive APS-C options.



I had high hopes that the OMD EM5 III would bring together everything I love about mirrorless cameras, small form factor, beautiful design, advanced features. ease of shooting and hopefully, an upgraded sensor.

On reading the specs there are two ways to look at it… We didn’t get a brand new sensor from Olympus as some had hoped but we did get the excellent one out of the EM1 II. This along with phase detect auto focus, improved image stabilisation, OLED viewfinder, 4k video and that beautiful form factor and design was enough to have me clicking the buy now button and ordering one to test.

For this Olympus OMD EM5 III review I have purchased the camera myself and will be using it in depth to see if the EM5 III is worth the money and can compete in todays even more competitive market place.

Olympus OMD EM5 III Review – Handling

The new layout on the Olympus OMD EM5 III

The Olympus EM5 and mark II had a metal construction which gave them a really substantial feel in the hand. Yes they were tiny but they felt well built and easily capable of surviving the daily scrapes our gear sometimes has to deal with. The new Olympus EM5 III has dropped the metal construction in favour of a lighter poly-carbonite shell. I must admit this had me a little concerned when I first read it as I wondered if they had shifted the EM5 series further down their product lineup and were aiming it at a different, less demanding audience.

Well in all honesty I prefer the feel of the mark III over my original and mark II versions. It feels noticeably lighter at 414g down from the mark II at 469g. It also feels a little smaller but it is actually more comfortable to hold thanks to a thumb rest that protrudes more from the back of the body. This allows for great purchase on the camera and I have no issues with the balance of the camera when combined with larger Olympus lenses like the 12-40mm Pro. There is an optional grip which would be welcome if using the pro telephoto lenses although I note that a full battery grip is no longer going to be offered as an optional accessory. I presume because Olympus wants you to purchase an EM1 series body if you require this functionality. I can understand that and although I would like the option of a battery grip I, like most other buyers probably value the light weight and compact nature of the EM5 bodies more.

When I did my Olympus OMD EM5 III unboxing video I was so interested in the feel of the camera that I didn’t even initially notice some standout changes that Olympus has made to the body of this EM5 III. I’ll go over these now in this Olympus EM5 III review.

Firstly, the control dial is now on the right hand side freeing up space for dedicated buttons to select the shutter mode (single, burst, Timer etc) and another that by default switches the LCD display from showing a live display or the Olympus Super Control panel. Damn, no single handed switching the camera on then.. A quick play around in the menus and I found my trusty option to use the function lever to turn the camera on and off, problem solved.

Another addition that I’m happy to see is a dedicated ISO button just to the right of the thumb rest. It’s not ideally position with my thumb (at least) having to stretch slightly to reach it but it works and its there, so again I’m pretty happy.

For any existing Olympus users the handling will be very familiar and now more in line with that found on the EM1 series bodies which will offer better continuity when switching between bodies. I can envisage people (myself included) using the EM5 III when they want to be lightweight and discreet (think street photography, candid portraits, family outings, long treks etc) and the EM1 series body with larger lenses for more serious work.

The Olympus EM5 III still has a 3 inch fully articulating screen (unchanged from the previous model) and it does its job more than adequately for my needs. Yes there are larger screens with more resolution available but is it really needed? In my eyes not really. Yes, more is often a good thing but this screen shows me the information I need quickly and clearly.

One change on the EM5 III that I do really appreciate is the new 2.36 million dot EVF. Although the magnification has decreased slightly (0.69x ) it is a vast improvement over the old model and provides a clear rich image. Yes higher resolution EVF’s are available on more expensive models from other brands but while these are nice I honestly don’t see them as essential as long as they are good enough to clearly frame your shots. One thing to note for those among us that wear glasses is the 27mm eye point.

Overall the handling of the Olympus OMD EM5 Mark 3 is almost exactly what I want in a small mirrorless body. Its buttons offer good tactile feedback (no more squidgy buttons here) and the front and rear control dials are the best in the business offering just the right amount of resistance to feel solid and assured in use.

Video

I now do quite a lot of video both in my work and for my Youtube channels and I’m pleased to see that Olympus kept the mic input on the EM5 III. This along with the ability to record in 4K at 24 and 30 FPS, as well as 120 FPS in 1080 make it a pretty good option for casual video.

Having looked at the video quality produced by the EM5 III I would be quite happy using it for my Youtube channels. Combined with the excellent IBIS as well as vastly improved video AF I found it easy to get good results straight out of camera.

The colours are beautiful as I would expect from Olympus and I believe it would be more than capable of putting together very nice looking travel videos and vlogs, aided by that fully articulating screen.

I currently use a GH5 for video work which as we all know has a plethora of options but for less demanding users I believe the EM5 III will be more than good enough in terms of output quality, colour and usability as long as you don’t need 4k60 which is sadly missing.

The only issue I would mention is that the headline bit rate of 237mbps is only available for cinema 4k (including fast motion up to 8x speed) and then drops down to 102mbps for 4k at 24,25 and 30 FPS.

If slow motion is your thing the EM5 III can shoot at up to 120FPS in 1080 but the bit rates drop off significantly from the numbers above which could cause quality issues, particularly if you may grade the footage. The 120 FPS high speed option shot and re-timed in camera only offers 26 MBPS.

The highest bit rate when shooting in IPB is 52 MBPS for 1080 , regardless whether the frame rate is 24, 25, 30, 50 or 60. You can shoot 24, 25 and 30 FPS footage in All Intra at 102Mbps.

Sample video will be available once I upload my Video review to Youtube.

Auto focus

Olympus have put the sensor (including Phase detection AF) from the EM1 II into the EM5 III and it really does show. Now let me just clarify one thing, I am not a sports shooter. I hate firing away like a madman in the hope that if I spray enough bullets I’ll hit the target. Not to mention I don’t have the will to go through thousands of pictures just to find the one good one. So I have not tested the EM5 III AF for sports or birds in flight which are arguably the most demanding tasks for an auto focus system.

However I have shot a variety of subjects from portraits to my 3 year old daughter tearing around on her bike.

Single AF, S-AF in Olympus’ language is as fast as the fastest cameras out there. If you can’t get in focus shots with this camera then I’m afraid it’s not me, it’s you says the EM5 III. The focus is snappy, assured and never skips a beat. That’s to be expected these days although some do better than others and of the cameras I have used Olympus is easily up there with the best for single AF.

The interesting thing with the EM5 III is that it now has phase detect AF for the first time so in theory its continuous AF and tracking modes should be vastly improved over its predecessor. In short yes they are.

Shooting multiple portraits of my wife using eye AF and C-AF the camera locks on to her face and eyes and nails the focus almost every time. It is also doing a better job of following the subjects face even when they are not face on to the camera.

I also tested out the tracking AF using my daughter riding her push bike. The results were pretty impressive, especially when compared with previous generations of the EM5.

With the subject riding straight towards me at a jogging pace the camera picked up focus immediately and followed her through until she filled the frame and exited to the side. The last couple of images were out of focus but 80% of the remaining series were all perfectly sharp with 15% being acceptably so and just 5% being unusable.

When tracking a subject across the screen the results are better still. In fact they were all perfectly sharp.

So for normal use photographing people, kids, pets, the Olympus EM5 III is more than up to the job in terms of AF. The only issue and one I would like to see improved in a firmware update is that when several faces are in the scene I couldn’t find a way to select which face to focus on. The AF is also very usable for video and certainly better than my GH5.

Olympus OMD EM5 III Review – Image Quality

I will add a few test shots below for those of you who want to compare ISO in a more controlled manner but for the most part I find that the biggest test for a sensor in terms of high ISO performance is capturing skin tones. The smooth skin of a models face really does show up issues when using higher ISO’s and this is something that the EM5 II had started to fall significantly behind with compared to the competition.

100% Crop , 1/125/ f/1.2, ISO 1250 shot with the Olympus 45mm 1.2 Pro lens
1/125 f/1.6, ISO 2000

Of course a Micro 43 sensor does have an inherent disadvantage in low light performance due to its smaller size compared with APS-C and 35mm. However whenever I have tested this I am always surprised just how close to APS-C it gets. Don’t get me wrong if you want and need killer low light performance then you need a larger sensor but I am yet to produce an image at ISO 3200 or above on any camera which I would consider a true keeper. If an image is that important then I am generally shooting at lower ISO or controlling the light. I understand that some people (documentary photographers, nightlife and wedding photographers etc) do genuinely need the best possible high ISO performance but for the rest of us, is a very usable ISO 6400 not enough? If it is dark enough to need ISO 12800 or more then I honestly doubt the image is going to be that good anyway. I know I will get some angry responses and justifications to that last comment but for how and what I want to shoot I rarely go above ISO 1600 and if it’s a landscape I’m at base ISO anyway.

1/400, f/1.2, ISO 200

With that said I am pretty happy with the high ISO performance of the Olympus OMD EM5 III. ISO 3200 is very good and 6400 looks very usable too. I would even say it is a little better than my EM1 II at high ISO as the 12800 shot below doesn’t fall apart as badly on the EM5 III as it has on my previous Olympus cameras. The magenta cast that the EM1 II sometimes suffered with at high ISO’s is also no longer present on the EM5 III. Below I shot an image in near darkness as I prefer to test ISO performance like this rather than shooting in daylight and raising the ISO for the sake of it.

The Test scene how it looked to my eye.
ISO 200
ISO 200 100% Crop, ORF File Straight conversion with no noise reduction. Processed in Lightroom CC
ISO 400
ISO 400 100% Crop
ISO 800
ISO 800 , 100% Crop
ISO 1600
ISO 1600, 100% Crop
ISO 3200
ISO 3200, 100% Crop
ISO 6400
ISO 6400, 100% Crop
ISO 12800
ISO 12800, 100% Crop
ISO 25600
ISO 25600, 100% Crop

To be perfectly honest, this is the first time I have been totally happy with ISO 6400 on the Micro 43 platform. I always thought it was usable with a bit of work in post production but with the Olympus EM5 III it has now edged over into perfectly satisfactory and ISO 3200 looks very clean. Of course when shooting with the EM5 III you’re only going to need to use those higher ISO values if you need to use a faster shutter speed to stop action. Otherwise you can hand hold this camera in almost any situation thanks to the incredible in body  image stabilisation. All the test shots above were shot handheld with the 45mm Pro lens. The ISO 200 shot used a shutter speed of 1 second and was almost perfectly sharp. That would usually require a shutter speed of 1/100th to be sharp. That’s over 6 stops of image stabilisation working right there and to be honest I didn’t bother about my technique, I have so much faith in Olympus’ IBIS that I just fired away without really thinking about it. It is unlike any other IBIS system I have ever used and yes I have owned the Panasonic G9 but the EM5 III, EM1X and the EM1 II are all much better in my opinion. I know some test results put them close but that was not my personal experience.

So if people say that you need a large sensor to shoot in low light I would say it depends entirely upon what you are shooting. Yes there are scenarios where the larger sensor will be of benefit if you are shooting moving subjects and need to freeze the action but for anything else the EM5 III can shoot at ISO 200 and give you great results.

One thing I had noticed on the EM1 II and previous Olympus bodies that I have owned (so most of the higher end ones) is that the red channel was prone to becoming over saturated and clipping. I can say that this issue seems to have been resolved on the EM5 III.

The red channel no longer clips when shooting super saturated red colours such as this rose.

This is especially true if you shoot in Raw rather than JPEG as the raw files hold substantially more detail and information as you can see below.

SOOC JPEG , Natural picture profile, 100% crop shot at 1/13, f/4, ISO 200. Shot on a tripod.
Raw file with no adjustments except +25 sharpening in Lightroom CC. 1/13, f/4, ISO 200. This is the matching raw file to the above Jpeg both shot in raw + Jpeg Large Fine mode.

If you want to see all the full resolution images from this review then they are all available over on my Flickr page.

As you can see from the above image the raw files are holding substantially more detail and colour information. When I zoom in 100% on the Jpeg file here I can just see a few areas where the red channel is starting to clip slightly. However there are no such issues in the raw file. The raw file also shows more fine detail such as the veins of the petals which are not visible in the Jpeg. It should be noted that I turned in camera noise reduction down to the minimum setting but it can also be turned off altogether.

High resolution mode

The Olympus EM5 III now gives us 80mp raw files and 50mp Jpegs in high resolution mode thanks to the new 20mp sensor inside the camera.

At first glance the hi res shots show a noticeable improvement in detail but is this simply due to the larger file size?

I wanted to see how they compared with a standard raw file that was up-rezzed on my PC to match the file size of the in camera hi resolution image.

Hi Res Shot 100% crop from 80mp raw file with no adjustments.
Standard Raw file up rezzed in Adobe to match the in camera hi resolution image.

The in camera hi resolution image contains more genuine detail than the standard raw file up rezzed to match. The other main benefit that is quite obvious is that the in camera hi resolution image is giving a noise benefit too. Olympus themselves claim 2 stops improvement when using the high resolution mode. I believe this to be pretty accurate. The file is cleaner and contains more detail so if you really want to get the best output possible then it is worth using the high resolution mode. Just make sure that you take the time to ensure you are using the camera on a rock steady tripod and use a shutter delay. My first attempt to capture this hi res image resulted in softness caused by the vibrations when I pressed the shutter release. A delay of 8 seconds was sufficient to get perfectly sharp images.

I still have to test the hi resolution mode for landscapes to see if it deals with movement any better than previous generations. I’ll report back once I have thoroughly tested it.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark 3 – Conclusion

The Olympus OMD EM5 III has been a long time coming so was it worth the wait? On the one hand if you look at the technical specifications and price some may argue that there are no standout features in such a competitive marketplace. However it is only when you actually get the camera in your hands and use it that you can appreciate all the little improvements that in the end add up to one of the best handling and performing mirror-less cameras on the market. Let’s not forget that Olympus’ IBIS is definitely still the best available.

The build quality still feels reassuringly good, the new thumb rest gives just that little more purchase to make it more comfortable to shoot with. The new EVF is crisp and clear and little additions such as the dedicated ISO button improve the handling to the point that this camera simply gets out of your way and lets you shoot. For me this is more important than an extra stop of dynamic range, a few more megapixels and being able to fire off a million shots a second. That is just the way I prefer to shoot though. I prioritise the experience when using a camera as long as it is able to give me the end results that I need.

In the last year I have heard quite a few people predicting the demise of Micro 43 and in particular Olympus, citing Sony’s A7 line as being far superior. I don’t deny that the Sony A7 series are great cameras, I have owned the A7R, A7II, A7R2, A7III and A7rIII.

While the Sony A7 series bodies are in the same size and weight bracket as the higher end Micro 43 offerings like the EM1 II and GH5 the professional grade lenses are no smaller than those on full frame DSLR’s. Yes they will get you better low light performance and more megapixels to play with and if you genuinely need those things then no doubt you will already know so.

However for the rest of us who want a fast responsive camera with good AF, a big step up in image quality from your phone, more features than pretty much any other camera on the market and a range of high quality lenses from super wide angle to super telephoto then I think the EM5 III offers that. All wrapped up in a lightweight package that you will be much more likely to carry than a bulky DSLR.. I know that I will take my Micro 43 cameras out with me on trips where I would leave the Sony cameras behind and in the end as the cliche goes, it’s the camera that you have with you that’s the best.

I get to try out a lot of cameras and I usually know which ones I would be happy to keep pretty quickly. For me the Olympus OM-D E-M5 III ticks all the boxes for what I want in a camera and I’ll be keeping mine for some time to come. In future articles on this website and videos on my Youtube channel I will be putting the EM5 III up against my Panasonic GX9 and a Fuji XT30 so be sure to check back soon for those comparisons. I’m also hoping to pick up the recently announced EM1 III and Fuji XT4 to compare those two models.

I’ll be updating this page from time to time when I have more sample images and hopefully get a chance to shoot some proper landscapes (if I ever get the time) over the coming months. I hope this Olympus OMD EM5 III review has been useful for you. Now get out and shoot.

Sony A7III Video Review

Here is a link to my video review of the Sony A7III camera. If you are looking for more information on the Sony A7IV then I have just posted a setup and best settings guide

I have been using the Sony A7III since it was released along with the Sony 50mm 1.8, Zeiss 55mm 1.8, Sony 85mm 1.8 and the Sony 16-35mm f/4 lenses. I’m now in the process of testing both the Panasonic G9, GX9 and Nikon Z6 cameras and will be posting reviews of them once I have had enough time to do them justice.

Olympus 25mm 1.8 Review

Olympus 25mm 1.8 Review

The Olympus 25mm f/1.8 is a premium fast aperture prime lens from Olympus. It is available in either silver or black. I have the black version and have been using it on my OMD EM1 ii.

Olympus 25mm 1.8 Review – Construction and Handling

The Olympus 25mm f1.8 is constructed using high quality plastics. It feels nicely built and not cheap like Canon’s nifty 50 lens. The lens makes for a very light and compact combination even on Olympus’ larger bodes such as the OMD EM1 ii.

I have been out this morning for a Sunday stroll with this combination and it feels so light and compact that I hardly even noticed that I was carrying the camera.

Thankfully Olympus supply this lens with a lens hood although I haven’t used it much but it is certainly right and nice that Olympus saw fit to include a lens hood with this lens.

In terms of construction it feels more solid and better made than the cheaper kit zooms but it is not up to the standards of the Olympus 75mm 1.8 or the pro grade lenses but then this lens is not in the same price category coming in at under £300 on Amazon UK.

From left to right Olympus 25mm 1.8, 25mm 1.2, 75mm 1.8

Autofocus performance of this lens is nothing short of excellent. It is incredibly quick to focus and silent too. It focuses instantaneously and is very accurate. Whether the scene is front lit, back-lit or when using it in low light the auto focus performance is a s good as any lens in the system. It is noticeably quicker to focus than the Panasonic 25mm 1.4 for instance and as quick as the Olympus 25mm 1.2 Pro. Both of which are more expensive.

Olympus 25mm 1.8 Review – Image Quality

The Olympus 25mm 1.8 doesn’t suffer from any noticeable distortion. It is also highly resistant to lens flare, even when pointing it directly at the Sun as I did this morning.

It doesn’t suffer with CA in high contrast situations and in fact having tested it over and over again I am very impressed with the performance of this lens in every aspect.

The lens also focuses incredibly closely at 25cm. Combine this with the f/1.8 aperture and you ave the ability to really throw the background out of focus to create some nice bokeh effects.

The Olympus 25mm 1.8 focuses incredibly close.

 

 

100% crop at f/1.8
100% crop at f/2

 

100% crop at f/2.8

The lens is sharp wide open and doesn’t really show much improvement when stopped down further. Again the performance of this lens is excellent.

Olympus 25mm 1.8 Review – Conclusion

There are now a lot of choices in the Micro 4/3 system for this focal length. I currently have 3 25mm lenses, the Pana-Leica 25mm 1.4, Olympus 25mm 1.2 Pro (see my review here)  and this lens. So which one should you choose?

The performance of all 3 lenses is stellar, however the price points vary so is it worth paying more for the other the lenses.

In terms of optical performance they are all excellent. Only the Panasonic lens suffering slightly with CA. All are sharp wide open. The Olympus 25mm 1.8 is the cheapest option and if you have an Olympus camera I would recommend it if you don’t need weather-sealing and the 1.8 aperture is sufficient for your needs. It is also the lightest of the 3 lenses and makes a great walk around package even with my OMD EM1 ii. It is also small enough to carry in a pocket and light enough to sling in your camera bag as a just in case you need it lens.

Of the 3 lenses I would say it offers the best price/performance ratio and is the one I would recommend to most people. It really is a fantastic little lens and its performance is so close to the 25mm 1.2 optically that unless you really need f/1.2 or weather-sealing then it is hard to justify the additional cost of the Pro lens.

On an Olympus camera I also prefer the handling and auto focus performance to the Pana Leica 1.4.

Olympus 25mm 1.2 Pro review


In this Olympus 25mm 1.2 Pro review I shall go through the pros and cons of this premium lens from Olympus and weigh up whether it is worth the extra cost over other 25mm options like the Olympus 25mm 1.8 and Pana Leica 25mm 1.4 lens.

I have had this lens for a couple of months now and mainly used it in Asia for portrait and travel photos on the Olympus OMD EM1 Mark ii and Panasonic GH5. If you want to see how those two cameras compare for stills photography then head on over to my comparison here

Olympus 25mm 1.2 Pro review – Specs and handling

Lens Specifications
NameOlympus 25mm ƒ/1.2 Pro M.Zuiko Digital ED
Image CircleMicro Four-Thirds
TypeStandard Prime
Focal Length25mm
35mm Equivalent50mm
Max Apertureƒ/1.2
Min Apertureƒ/16
Diaphragm Blades9 (circular)
Lens Construction19 elements in 14 groups, including 1 aspherical, 1 SED, 2 ED, 1 E-HR, and 3 HR elements
Diagonal Angle of View47 degrees
Focus DetailsHigh-speed Imager AF (MSC)
Front Element RotationNo
Zoom Systemn/a
Closest Focus30cm / 11.8 in.
Magnification Ratio0.11x / 1:9.1
Filter Size62mm
Dimensions(Length x Diameter)87mm x 70mm / 3.43 in. x 2.76 in.
Weight410g / 14.5 oz
NotesSplash and dust proof; Lens hood, lens caps and case included.

 

Obviously the stand out specs for this lens are the super fast 1.2 aperture along with the weather sealing.

The lens feels very well made, the same as all Olympus’ pro lenses. It is quite large by Micro 4/3 standards being around the same size as the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8. Pro. However it feels well balanced on the OMD EM1 ii and Panasonic GH5. I never felt that the size of the lens was an issue. In fact I prefer the size of this lens over something smaller like the 25mm 1.8 as it just matches up with the larger Micro 4/3 bodies better.

From left to right Olympus 25mm 1.8, 25mm 1.2, 75mm 1.8

Construction is impressive as it feels solid and well made. The focus ring is buttery smooth and allows you to easily and accurately manual focus when necessary. The lens features a clutch mechanism which you simply pull back to engage manual focus or push forward to be back in auto focus again.

The only criticism I would have is that the focus clutch mechanism is a little too easy to move so sometimes when picking it up out of my bag I knock it into manual focus by accident.

The focus clutch is nice to have but just a little too easy to move on this lens.

I can vouch for the excellent weather sealing on this lens as it withstood many Asian downpours while attached to the EM1 ii and I never had any problems at all with it.

It auto focuses quickly and accurately on the Olympus OMD EM1 ii and GH5. It is incredibly quick to focus and combined with eye detect AF makes shooting portraits a breeze.

There isn’t really a huge amount more to say on the handling of this lens. It is impressive and if you don’t mind the size then you will not be disappointed.

 

 

Olympus 25mm 1.2 Pro review – Image quality

I bought this lens and was expecting great things from it as Olympus has made a big deal about the image quality and in particular the quality of the ‘feathered bokeh’. Is this all marketing hype or is this lens really something special and worthy of the price tag.

In terms of sharpness I am not particularly interested in MTF charts and DXo scores. They tell me very little. What really tells me if a lens is sharp is if it looks sharp to me when I examine my images in Lightroom.

I shot a lot of portraits with this lens and the test for me is always when looking at eyebrows and eyelashes. I want to see if they are clearly defined or not.

Lets take a look at some samples below:

25mm @f/1.2, 1/1000, ISO 200 unedited raw file
100% crop of above image

As you can see when shot wide open the Olympus 25mm 1.2 pro is incredibly sharp for a 1.2 lens. It renders the details of your subject beautifully and indeed offers some of the smoothest and creamiest bokeh I have seen. The bokeh is not busy or nervous at all and to my eye is very pleasing.

There is also a quality to the photos taken on this lens that you just do not find on many lenses. Your subject pops but because of the smooth transitions from in focus to out of focus the images feel very natural. In comparison to the Pana Leica 25mm 1.4 the images feel more organic and less digital. The Pana Leica is a lovely lens too and seems to offer more of a 3D pop to the images making your subjects  look very 3 dimensional and thus stand out from the background. However I find the rendering of the Olympus more natural and pleasing. The Pana Leica’s bokeh is a little more busy.

Olympus 25mm 1.2 Pro @ f/1.2, 1/250, ISO 200
100% crop of the above image

 

Pana-Leica 25mm 1.4 @1.4, 1/800, ISO 200

 

100% crop of above image

 

Pana Leica 25mm 1.4 shot on the GH5 @ 1.4, 1/160, ISO 500 I find the Pana Leica just as sharp but the bokeh is a little more busy

At f/1.2 the lens is already sharp and it gets a little sharper as you stop down to 1.4 -2. I would say the Pana Leica is perhaps a little sharper wide open but both are easily sharp enough for me.

Olympus 25mm 1.2 @ 1.2, 1/60, ISO 1600 SOOC Jpeg

The Olympus 25mm 1.2 Pro controls CA very well.

Olympus 25mm 1.2 @1.2, 1/800, ISO 200
100% corner crop shows CA’s are very well controlled

 

I didn’t experience any issues with lens flare and I was often shooting in broad daylight with strong sunshine.

Olympus 25mm 1.2 Pro Review – Conclusion

 

So would i recommend the Olympus 25mm 1.2 Pro?

That is a resounding yes. It is my favourite lens and in my time in Asia with it I only took it off my EM1 ii once and I regretted it. I absolutely love this lens for the fast aperture and build quality but most of all for the superb image quality and beautiful rendering. It allows you to create images that you just cannot get with other 25mm lenses and it means that I can shoot those images in to the night while keeping my ISO to 1600 and below.

If you can afford it and like the focal length then I can highly recommend this amazing lens. You will not be disappointed.

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram where I am regularly posting photos of my travels.

 

You might also like to check out Robin Wongs excellent review of this lens

 

Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 Review

Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 Review

 

In this Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 review I will go through the pros and cons of this professional grade zoom lens after having used it for well over a year in my personal and professional work.



The Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 was the first in Olympus’ Pro series of lenses designed for Micro 4/3 cameras. It is a weatherproof (dust, splash and freeze proof) fixed aperture zoom lens offering the 35mm equivalent field of view of a 24-80mm lens. It has a fixed aperture of f/2.8 throughout the zoom range with a filter thread of 62mm.

62mm filter thread

 

Build Quality

 

The first thing you will notice when you pick up the 12-40mm is the build quality. Like all of the Olympus Pro range of lenses it is extremely well made. At 382 grams and featuring a metal construction it feels solid in the hand and inspires confidence in use. For me it fits perfectly on the Olympus E-M5 II with the HLD-8G grip attached or on the EM1 and Em1 II giving you a weather sealed combination.

 

There is also an additional function button on the lens which you can program to activate a variety of features by simply customising it in camera.

While it is a larger lens for Micro 4/3 in comparison to some of the tiny primes, it is not oversized and much smaller than something like the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8. You can carry it attached to your camera all day and not notice the weight.

 

Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 Review – Focus

 

This is going to be a very quick section because all there is to say is that focus is as fast as any lens on the system. It is instantaneous to focus and is deadly accurate. Absolutely no issues here.

The zoom ring is nicely damped and it features a manual focus clutch mechanism that allows you to easily swap between auto and manual focus simply by pulling the clutch back or pushing it forward. It uses focus by wire but don’t let that put you off as the focus ring is incredibly smooth and allows you to easily and finely adjust your focus.

Zoom markings are shown for 12, 14, 18, 25, 35, and 40mm. If you pull back on the focus ring you put the lens into manual focus mode and reveal a focus scale. The focus scale has markings at 1’, 2’, 5’, and .2m, .5m, and 1m, plus infinity. Close focus is 8” (0.2m), and the lens can produce a 1:3.3 magnification ratio at 40mm.

The Olympus 12-40mm zooms externally so it increases in length from 3.3″ -5″ when extended.

Size compared to the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 lens

Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 Review – Image Quality

 

The 12-40mm pro does suffer with some barrel distortion at the wide end if you shoot raw. The Jpegs are corrected in camera and the software does a good job in most cases. At 40mm there is a slight amount of pin cushion distortion. If you are shooting raw and have straight lines in your shots then you will need to correct in post.

The lens also shows some vignetting when wide open at f/2.8. This is easily corrected in post. I guess Olympus tried to keep this constant f/2.8 zoom as small as possible and that means the image circle only just covers the micro 4/3 sensor.

This lens handles chromatic aberration very well and I see very little sign of fringing even when shooting high contrast scenes. It also handles flare well.

The Olympus 12-40mm is sharp from 12mm all the way through to 40mm even wide open at f/2.8. At 12mm the corner performance is slightly softer than the centre but still way better than something like a Canon 17-40mm L. As mentioned the lens is bitingly sharp in the centre at f/2.8 and performance increases slightly when stopped down to f/4.

100% crop of above image

 

While f/2.8 on the Micro 4/3 format does not offer the same shallow depth of field as on 35mm sensors it is still capable of allowing your subject to be isolated from the background as shown in the above portrait. The bokeh from the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 at 40mm is enough for portrait work and the rendering is smooth and not overly busy. While it couldn’t be described as creamy it is not nervous and distracting and so works well. If you want a dedicated portrait lens then I suggest that you check out my Olympus 75mm f1.8 review or 45mm 1.8 review

Conclusion

Overall I would rate the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 as one of the best zooms I have used. It is very well-built and combined with my EM5II or an EM1 series body offers excellent weather-sealing and a very useful focal range.

In terms of image quality sharpness is outstanding throughout the zoom range enabling you to shoot it wide open at f/2.8 without concern. It can do everything from wide-angle landscapes to portraits and it does it all well. Yes other lenses may be better at specific roles but none offer the versatility and fixed bright aperture of this lens.

If you are trying to decide between this lens and the Panasonic 12-35mm (mark i or mark II) then it really comes down to a few factors as optically they are very similar. The Olympus is better at the wide end and offers a little more range at the long end. However the Panasonic is slightly sharper at 35m than the Olympus is at 40mm.

If you are shooting on a Panasonic body then perhaps you might prefer to go with the Panasonic lens to take advantage of Panasonic’s depth from defocus system and in the case of the mark ii lens their dual sync IS. The Panasonic lenses are both lighter than the Olympus.

However having owned all 3 lenses and as an owner of the Panasonic GH5 and Olympus EM5 II I decided that the build quality of the Olympus 12-40mm edged out the Panasonic and so I kept it over its rivals. When I say edged out, it is night and day. The Panasonic’s feel like a consumer grade lens with very good optics. The Olympus 12-40mm feels like a professional grade lens in every way.

During my testing, dual sync IS between the GH5 and 12-35mm ii made no noticeable improvement in the image stabilisation and didn’t allow me to handhold shots for any longer than when using the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 on the GH5.

 

If you are going to own just one lens for Micro 4/3 then this may very well be the best choice. Make sure to check out my Olympus 25mm 1.2 Pro review as well.

 

If you found this Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 review helpful then all I ask is that if you buy anything from Amazon that you use my links below. Your purchase doesn’t have to be photography related, it can be anything at all. I will earn a small commission if you use the links and it really helps me to keep this site going and create more content.

 

 

Olympus OMD EM5 II Review

This is not just any old Olympus OM EM5 II review. I have written this review after having spent nearly a year using this camera for travel, landscape and portrait photography. In this review I will tell you what is great and not so great about this small but powerful camera. So lets crack on and get into the review. If you are looking at higher end Micro 4/3 cameras then you might like my comparison of the Olympus OMD EM1 ii vs Panasonic GH5



 

Olympus OMD EM 5 II review – Build Quality and Handling

 

Let’s start with the build quality and handling of the EM5 II because for me in these days where almost all cameras produce high quality results I find myself more and more concerned with how a camera feels and handles.

The OMD EM5 II is a very well built little camera. It is constructed of a magnesium alloy body and is fully weather sealed. I have used it in everything from tropical rain to sub zero temperatures and it has functioned faultlessly.

The body weighing in at 469g feels dense and solid. Unlike Fuji cameras which often have a slightly hollow feeling. It is a little larger and heavier than the Mk I at 124x85x45mm  but I also find it more comfortable to hold. This is thanks in part to the thumb rest (which extends out a little further) and the increased grip size on the front.

The buttons on the camera also lose the slightly spongy feeling of the mark 1 and as a result give better tactile feedback when in use.

The dials on the mk II are larger and the power switch has been re-positioned to the top left of the camera a la the EM1.

The 3 Inch fully articulated LCD screen feels robust and not in danger of snapping off or becoming a weak point. Let’s not forget that this little camera is weather sealed against dust, water and it is also now tested to be freeze-proof.

The only issue I have had in the handling department with the Olympus OMD EM5 II is the tendency for the rubber viewfinder eye piece to get knocked off when taking it in and out of my bag. So I would advise that you keep an eye on it to make sure you don’t lose it.

I would also mention that in its default state the startup time can be slow. It can also be tedious when the eye sensor is turned on and you switch between the LCD and EVF. I personally turn off the eye sensor and shoot only through the EVF. Leaving the LCD for reviewing images. This greatly speeds up operation of the camera.

I like the modular nature of the OMD EM5 II. What do I mean by this? Well I would advise any owner to at least pick up the HLD8G part of the battery grip because it really adds to the handling of the camera when using larger lenses. I find that with the HLD8G grip added the camera handles very similarly to my old EM1. It feels just right with larger lenses like the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro attached. Of course with this combination you now have a very well weather sealed camera and lens combination that can take in just about any climate.

But of course you also have the choice to go small and light when you wish by removing the grip and using smaller prime lenses like the 25mm 1.8.

The HLD 6G grip transforms the handling with larger lenses attached.
All the function buttons are customisable and so are the dials.

 

Olympus OMD EM5 II Review – Features

 

  • 16mp Micro 4/3 sensor
  • In-built 5 axis image stabilisation
  • 40mp Hi res mode
  • 1080/60p shooting and 1080/30p at up to 77Mbps (All-I)
  • 1/8000th sec maximum shutter speed (1/16000th with electronic shutter)
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Live Bulb and Live time for easy long exposure photography

 

 

Let’s talk about that 16mp sensor because some may feel it is lacking compared to many competitors today where they are regularly offering 20-24mp on larger APS-C sensors.

While the 16mp sensor doesn’t quite keep up with competition anymore it is still perfectly capable of giving detailed images that can easily be used for everything from social media to prints up to 30×20″ with proper technique.

 

This is a 100% crop from Raw file with no adjustments or sharpening.

 

Dynamic range is on par with larger APS-C sensor offerings from Fuji and Nikon (see my Micro 4/3 vs APS-C comparison here).

Up to ISO 3200 is perfectly usable and the grain from noise is not unsightly.

Below are a couple of samples from shots taken at ISO 3200. Test charts don’t really give you a clear idea of real world noise performance. I find that the real test is shooting portraits and seeing how the camera does with skin tones. Both of these are 100% crops.

ISO 3200 straight from raw file with no adjustments, no noise reduction or sharpening

 

The same shot with +25 luminance NR in LIghtroom CC and a little sharpening.

Olympus also offers a Hi Res mode which gives 40mp files that both improve the detail and colour accuracy of the images. It is an incredible feat. However the caveat is that you really need to lock your camera down on a solid tripod and have minimal to no movement within the scene. It is workable with landscape images and is certainly very useful for studio product and architectural photography.

Click the image to see the full resolution shot on Flickr

The image stabilisation within the EM5 II is one of the standout features of this camera. At 24mm I can comfortably hand hold shots at 1 second which has several benefits. Firstly it allows you to lower the shutter speed and keep the ISO low, resulting in better quality photos with less noise. This somewhat negates the benefits of larger sensor cameras if your subjects are stationary.

Secondly it allows you to feel comfortable heading out with your camera without a tripod.

Shot handheld at 1/3 second.

The 1/8000 of a second fastest mechanical shutter speed means that even using fast prime lenses in broad daylight is usually not an issue.

Video has been improved on the EM5 II over the original and the quality is decent enough for travel use and V-Logging. You can even shoot time lapse and slow motion in camera. However the video image is nowhere near as sharp as that given by recent Panasonic cameras.

Here is a quick video I put together using the OMD EM5II and GH5. The scenes up to the vegetables being chopped are all shot on the EM5 II

I also find myself using the handy Olympus Viewer app to transfer images from the camera to my phone for quick uploading to social media. Unlike Fuji there is no 30 picture transfer limit. The app is simple and functional, allowing you to also leave your shutter release at home as you can trigger the camera from it.

The viewfinder on the EM5 II is taken directly from the EM1 and is larger than the one found on the Olympus Pen F for example. It is not the largest EVF in the world, with those from the Fuji XT2 and Panasonic GH5 offering a better experience. However it is large enough to manually focus lenses and see all the details that you will need to capture the moment.

With really useful tools in camera such as Live Bulb and Live Time you can capture long exposures while being given a preview on the LCD screen as the image builds. This is one of the standout features of Olympus cameras at the moment and genuinely useful.

Olympus OMD EM5 II Review – Verdict

 

So why am I reviewing the Olympus OMD EM5 II when it has been out for a couple of years now and its replacement is expected in a few months time.

Well in this day and age with companies constantly bombarding us with their marketing telling us that we need the latest and greatest in order to be good photographers, compete with everyone else etc, I wanted to show that this 2 year old small sensored camera is still perfectly capable of producing professional quality results in a small package with all the features you are likely to ever need.

It can now be bought for around £600 in the UK from some suppliers such as Cotswold Cameras and at that price it is an absolute steal.

If you are trying to decide between the Olympus OMD EM5 II and the Olympus Pen F then check out my comparison here 

 

And if you are going to do any shopping on Amazon UK or Amazon US then please do click through my links as I will earn a small commission and it wont cost you a penny more.

Olympus 75mm 1.8 Review

 

 

The Olympus 75mm f/1.8 has a rather odd focal length but despite this it is regarded as one of the best lenses in the Micro 4/3 lineup.

In this Olympus 75mm f1.8 review I am going to show you how this lens performs in the real World. You wont find any charts here, just real World use and everyday photos.

Olympus 75mm 1.8 Review – Build quality

 

Lets not beat around the bush, the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens is not cheap, however it is within the price range of a lot of enthusiasts before we push into the territory of really expensive glass such as the Panasonic Nocticron 42.5mm 1.2.

 

The build quality of the Olympus 75mm feels excellent with its metal barrel and smooth focus ring. In matt black finish it looks beautiful attached to my black EM5II. Suffice to say you can feel where the extra money goes in comparison to lenses such as the Olympus 25mm 1.8 and 45mm 1.8. Those lenses are optically very good but they feel made to a budget whereas the 75mm 1.8 feels like no expense has been spared in crafting this lens. Easily on par with the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro lens, in fact it feels a little nicer in the hand.

It feels well balanced on an EM5 II and even better with a grip attached. For a 150mm equivalent lens this is exceptionally small and light. But it doesn’t feel cheap. Just well built, solid and professional.

Size wise it is easier to just show you the lens compared to the 45mm 1.8 and 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro zoom to give you an idea of the size.

 

 

The 75mm compared to 45mm (left) and 12-40mm Pro (right)

 

 

I’m not going to go into detail on auto focus performance except to say that it is very quick to focus. As fast as any lens on the system. The only caveat is that in low light it can hunt a little but that is due to the contrast detect AF system on the EM5II. All lenses perform like this on the EM5 II. However I will retest it on the EM1 mk II once I have one as its phase detect focus points should help it perform better.


Olympus 75mm 1.8 Review – Image Quality

A lens like the Olympus 75mm 1.8 is a beautiful thing. I really do find satisfaction in handling and looking at a piece of glass that is this well made. There is a beautiful aesthetic to well made products and I appreciate this.

However that means very little if the performance is not up to scratch.

 

This is the second copy of the Olympus 75mm lens that I have owned and they both performed to a very similar level. That is they are both pin sharp. In fact this is some of the sharpest glass you will ever use should you decide that the focal length suits your style.

It is sharp from wide open with only minor improvements when stopping down to f/4 and f/5.6.

 

Lets take a quick look at some samples below.

 

 

Shot at f/1.8
100% crop from the centre (conversion from raw with no adjustments)

 

100% Crop from the corner

 

The lens is sharp and gives plenty of detail even wide open at f/1.8

 

Stopping down to f/4 increases IQ slightly

 

 

 

All the above images were shot in raw and then exported as jpegs for the website without any adjustments in lightroom.

 

The Olympus 75mm 1.8 is pin sharp in the centre at 1.8 with some slight loss of quality as we get out to the edges. One thing you can pick up on here is a little bit of purple fringing in the corners in the first image. I’ll go in to that in more detail later.

Here’s a shot of my wife that I took which shows how sharp details such as eyelashes look when shooting portraits. I didn’t make any extra effort to get a really sharp shot here. This was how it came out when we were playing about taking pictures.

 

 

 

Shot at F/8 using off camera flash but sharpness is nearly as good even wide open.

 

Bokeh

It’s pretty obvious that a lot of us buy fast glass for the ability to throw the background out of focus. Some lenses exhibit nervous bokeh (out of focus areas) and others render the scene in to a dreamy hazy creaminess. It is somewhat subjective to analyse bokeh with many factors playing a role. However I can say that the Olympus 75mm 1.8 offers creamy smooth bokeh with a gentle fall off. It doesn’t suffer with nervousness which can cause the out of focus areas to become distracting to the viewers eye. But hey, why read about bokeh when it is easier for me to show you a few examples below.

 

 

 

 

Shot at f/1.8
Look at the difference in subject isolation between the previous shot and this one shot at f/4.

Is the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 a perfect lens?

It’s pretty close to perfect if the focal length suits you. However there are two points that I would note.

  1. It is not weather sealed but I don’t mind as this is a specialist lens for particular situations. It is not intended to be a do everything lens like the 12-40mm Pro. Therefore weather sealing while nice is not essential.
  2. It suffers with some Purple fringing in very high contrast scenes.

Lets talk more about the purple fringing

This is quite a common flaw in many of todays lenses and I am not usually put off by it as long as a lens doesn’t suffer too badly.

The Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens does suffer some purple fringing when shooting very high contrast scenes. The real acid test for this kind of fringing is always backlit leaves on trees so I shot a few example to see how it performed.

 

 

Notice the purple fringing due to the very high contrast scene. This is 100% crop of the worst affected area of the image

 

Just bare this in mind if you are going to shoot in very high contrast conditions but I would not let it put you off what is otherwise a superb performing lens.

Olympus cameras generally do a good job of removing Chromatic abberations in camera using profiles for each lens so it is not always a problem. I have also intentionally shot the lens in what is the most difficult situation so that I can highlight any flaws.

 

The Olympus 75mm 1.8 doesn’t exhibit any issues with lens flare. In fact I shot it straight into the sun through some leaves and it coped remarkably well. It retained plenty of contrast in the image. Move the sun just out of frame and you have no problems with flare at all.

 

The lens does not suffer any noticeable levels of distortion.

 

Olympus 75mm 1.8 review – Verdict

 

Overall the Olympus 75mm is a great performing lens. Optically it is one of the sharpest lenses I have used for any system. If you are using micro 4/3 and you want to define every eyelash in your vicitms (ahem sorry I mean subjects) then this lens can easily do that. The creamy bokeh and sharp glass from wide open mean that you can use this lens exactly how it is intended to be used.

The fact that Olympus do not provide a lens hood with a more premium lens like this still grates a little but in the end the results that this lens can produce makes it worth the added cost over something like the 45mm 1.8.

However if you are just looking for your first portrait lens to add to say, a standard zoom, then I would advise you to look more closely at the incredible value of the Olympus 45mm f/1.8. It is sharp, light and a lot cheaper than the 75mm. Plus I find the focal length much more useful in a wider range of situations.

 

If you found this review helpful then all I ask is that if you buy anything from Amazon that you click on my links below first so that I can earn a small (and I mean tiny) commission. It wont cost you a penny (cent, pesos) more.

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