Friday, October 15, 2010

My personal review of the Olympus E-5 [part 3]

*This is an initial production unit of the Olympus E-5. The features and performance of this camera may be subject to change.

*All images were taken using large basic quality jpegs. Minimal post processing was applied accept some minor cropping and exposure correction. Please respect copyright and do not repost without attribution.

*Click here for part 1 and part 2

In the yesteryears before the E-5, Olympus users would have to be content with the dismal ISO and autofocus performance of the Olympus E-3 in low light. Now with the advent of the E-5, this limitation is no longer too much of a worry, and we are all able to shoot in low light with the aid of the improved sensor, as well as the superb Zuiko lenses such as this Zuiko 14-35 f2. This was the exact kit which I used for testing at our local 'pasar malam', or night markets.

Why is the 14-35 essential to me during a night shoot?

By using its large f2 aperture, I am able to maximise the camera's sensor by using lower ISOs for better image quality and faster shutter speeds to reduce to possibility of camera shake. [Unfortunately Olympus doesn't make any f2.8 constant aperture zooms. A Zuiko 12-60 / 2.8 constant SWD lens would be REALLY nice though. Sigma does make a 18-50/2.8 for 4/3rds mount, but you do not get as wide a field of view because it is a 36-100mm equivalent on a 43rds camera.]

According to wikipedia, the pasar malam brings together a collection of stalls that usually sell goods such as fruit, vegetables, snacks, toys, clothes, movie discs and ornaments at cheap or at least reasonable prices. A pasar malam often takes place only one to a few days of the week, as the traders rotate around different neighbourhoods on different days of the week. Haggling over prices is a common practice at such markets. 

Pop corn chicken seems to be one of the most popular stalls around in the night market. Its not that cheap though... RM 5.50 will only get you 200 grams of that delicious chicken fillets. This is quite popular in Taiwan apparently.

The lens focuses accurately in most situations where there is enough contrast. I only use single point autofocus to speed up the camera instead of using all 11 AF points, set to small sensitivity.

The corn appears naturally illuminated using fluorescent lights.

OK, perhaps this is not a technically perfect image, but I like it for the fact that it shows motion.

Selling pancakes.

Ang ku kuih. Its skin is made from glutinuous rice flour, and it contains a smooth peanut filling. The yellow saturation of this image seems a little on the high side. Some custom white balance would've helped.

Vendors would find all sorts of ways to display their wares, despite how unconventional it appears to be.

Hmm.. this looks like a sign for me to return to my past.

Chinese joss sticks for prayers

Papayas, anyone? :)

I attempted to lock focus on this spring roll seller, but only managed to achieve so after trying a few times.

I bumped up the ISO to 5000 for this image as the stall's owner did not bother to install any lights. If I were to shoot this same scene with the E-3, it would not be possible as the image would quickly disintegrate when ISO 3200 is used. Fortunately with the E-5, a decent looking image could be achieved even though there's plenty of noise in the shadow areas. Fortunately most of this noise is luminance noise; chroma noise is very well controlled. Although there is visible loss of detail, dynamic range and colour sensitivity, the results are still very impressive considering what has been achieved so far. I would not hestitate to print this out at 8R size, but no larger than that.

The 14-35 had quite a bit of issues autofocusing when dealing with back lit subjects such as the one above. I had to reshoot the scene several times as a result. Hopefully the final firmware for the E-5 will solve the issue.

The char kuay teow man.
You can see customers are eagerly waiting for him to complete their order.

I've included a short 18 second video clip in 720p HD movie mode to showcase the movie capabilities of the E-5. Unfortunately autofocus capabilities are not as efficient as dedicated video SLRs such as the Panasonic Lumix GH-2, hence manual focus will have to be the only way out for now if you'd like to obtain smooth focus transitions.

And now for some shots with the wonderful Zuiko 7-14. The more efficient Image stabilisation system enables sharp images to be captured at low handholdable speeds, hence permitting lower ISO usage for cleaner images. This image looks pretty clean at ISO 1600.

Bridal houses are commonplace around this area.

Using the lcd screen for a low angled shot.

What're you looking at ?

For long exposures, plenty of detailed is retained in this image.

To get the best out of your long exposures:
1. turn off Image stabilisation and mount the camera on a stable surface or tripod.
2. Activate mirror lock-up and the self timer.
3. Activate long exposure noise reduction (although this would significantly increase the time required as the camera would lock up to process the noise.

You don't normally have to tweak your exposures because the E-5 / E-3 have very good exposure controls. You can try to restore detail in the highlights, but I reckon you can't extract much with the ORF files compared to NEF or CR2 files.

I didn't have any tripod, so I placed the camera on the road for this long exposure. I tried using ISO 5000, but the mood and quality of the image was completely lost.

I ended my shoot with a nice plate of nasi lemak. The original scene wasn't this vibrant and good looking. The E-5 surely did some wonders here.

In short, the E-5 performed admirably during the shoot at the night market. Perhaps not as well as I expect it to be, but its definitely a step above the rest of the other Fourthirds cameras in terms of image quality in low light conditions.



Anonymous said...

Pretty to read, nice pics.
Why not used the 5 point AF as advised by Olympus in this dark circumstances?

p.f. said...

Appreciate the review. Thanks!


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