Sony A7R II vs Olympus OMD EM1 II Depth of Field Comparison

Sony A7R II vs Olympus OMD EM1 II Depth of Field Comparison

I just took delivery of a Sony A7R II yesterday with the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 lens. Part of my decision to buy this combination was to supplement my Olympus OMD EM1 II with a camera with a full frame sensor as I believe Micro 4/3 and full frame compliment each other as systems very well. The idea being that the Olympus will be my everyday camera and the Sony will allow me to get more subject isolation and better low light performance when I need it.

The difference between micro 4/3 and APS-C is so negligible that I don’t see the benefit of owning both for my uses.

Anyway I thought it would be interesting to do a quick test to see the difference between the two when it comes to subject separation.

I shot both on a tripod from the exact same location. The Zeiss is a 55mm lens whereas the Olympus equates to roughly 50mm so the field of view is not exactly the same with the Zeiss being a bit narrower. The Sony was paired with the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 and the Olympus with the 25mm f/1.2 Pro (see my review here ).

So here are both shots wide open.

The Sony A7R II + 55mm Zeiss lens wide open
Olympus OMD EM1 ii + 25mm 1.2 Pro wide open

The Sony is definitely doing a better job of isolating the subject and that is no surprise as the 25mm 1.2 on the Olympus is roughly equivalent to a 50mm f/2.4 on full frame in terms of depth of field and field of view. Part of the difference can be put down to the longer focal length of the Zeiss lens but even then here are the things to look at that highlight the differences.

 

Look at the detail in the brown unit to the left of the top of the lens. The Olympus is picking up more texture and details whereas the Sony has blown most of that into smooth out of focus rendering.

Secondly the light sphere immediately left of the focus markings on the lens is much more in focus on the Olympus shot than the Sony one.

So even wide open and with a larger aperture the Olympus 25mm 1.2 can’t quite match the Sony with a 1.8 lens.

Here are  the Olympus and Sony both at f/1.8 side by side in Lightroom so you can directly compare like for like what you would get when shooting at the same apertures on different systems.

Sony (left) and Olympus (right) both at f/1.8

 

So as you can see the Sony definitely offers an advantage when you want to isolate your subject. Just as expected. You can of course also buy lenses with a larger aperture for the Sony system which will widen the gap further. However I have no intention of buying those lenses, not because of the price (which is expensive) but because I don’t want to imbalance the camera by putting on huge lenses that will make the whole setup incredibly front heavy.

 

So if you want that creamy shallow depth of field look then it’s a no brainer right? Get full frame….. Or is it.

 

One thing to note is that these Olympus Pro line of lenses have a trick up their sleeve that can level the playing field somewhat if you are not constrained in your shooting position.

They can focus incredibly closely.

All the shots above are taken from the closest focusing distance of the Sony Zeiss 55mm 1.8. In these circumstances the full frame Sony clearly does better. However take a look below at just how close the Olympus 25mm 1.2 Pro can focus. The lens hood was nearly touching the subject when I too this.

The Olympus 25mm 1.2 and all the Pro lenses can focus really close.

 

I’m not arguing that one is better than the other here. For some things the Sony will be better and for others the Olympus. That is why I bought the Sony A7Rii to compliment, not replace my Olympus OMD EM1 ii. For example when I shoot the Olympus 25mm 1.2 Pro I get the light gathering of a 1.2 lens but I gain a little extra depth of field which can be useful to ensure enough of your subject is in focus. More depth of field can be an advantage at times.

The Sony will of course give me better low light performance, a little more dynamic range and the ability to print gallery sized prints with more detail but if anyone tells you that Micro 4/3 is not capable of producing shallow depth of field images then you can safely ignore them as they clearly haven’t used lenses like the 25mm 1.2(review here ), 45mm 1.2 (review coming soon) and 75mm 1.8 (review here )from Olympus.

The best value portrait lens in the World

If you are looking for the best value portrait lens in the World then I think I may have the answer for you.

For many years now I have been shooting a variety of cameras and lenses ranging from Micro 4/3 to large format 4×5 film. As I am not rich I like to get the best gear that I can afford that will do the job I need it to do.

With that in mind I have used many different lenses and for portraits I have found that the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens offers the best value of any lens for portrait shots. It comes in at around £200 and is as sharp as you need for portraits. In fact it is pretty sharp wide open at f/1.8 and gets a little sharper when stopped down to f/2.8-5.6.

So below I am going to show why I think it offers great value and is basically a must have lens for every Micro 4/3 photographer.

 

Don’t forget that you can really help me out by buying this lens through the links on this page. I will earn a small commission and it won’t cost you a penny more.


If you are looking for an even better lens for portraits and don’t mind paying a bit more then be sure to check out my Olympus 75mm f/1.8 review here

Best Value Portrait Lens in The World – Handling

There is nothing outstanding about the handling of the Olympus 45mm f/1.8. It is made of plastic and doesn’t feel particularly expensive. However it is still a notch above lenses like the Canon 50mm 1.8 (sometimes called the plastic fantastic). It feels decently made but certainly cheaper than other lenses such as the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 or Olympus Pro zooms. However it is perfectly functional and does what it needs to do.

The reason I mention handling is because it is such a small and light lens that you can easily add this to your bag or even in a pocket and not even notice the weight. This makes it a carry everywhere lens for me and if I was to only have a 2 lens setup the little 45mm would almost always be one of the two lenses that I would carry.

Best Value Portrait Lens In the World – Image Quality.

More importantly, the reason why I think this lens offers such great value is because it offers really good image quality for the size and weight. It is sharp wide open and as mentioned before it improves a little when stopped down.

It easily defines eyelashes when shooting portraits which is one of my prerequisites for sharpness in a portrait lens.

It doesn’t suffer with any major flaws in terms of CA or distortion. Therefore for the price you get a very handy high quality lens that doesn’t add much weight to your setup. The only criticism I could level at it is that sometimes the bokeh can get a little nervous so you have to watch your background sometimes. However you should always be doing that anyway.

The f/1.8 aperture allows it to be used in low light and maintain fast enough shutter speeds to get sharp people images and the focal length is my personal favourite for portrait work.

Below are a few images taken with the 45mm f/1.8.

100% Crop

 

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.

Exit mobile version