Four Thirds, E-5, Noise and other stuff.

Olympus E-P2 Four Thirds 50mm f/2 Macro lens

A beautiful sunny morning allowed me the opportunity to try the Olympus 50mm f2 macro in some decent light, where it once again performed superbly.  This may well be the sharpest lens I have ever used, as well as having the best wide-open performance. 

Olympus E-P2 Four Thirds 50mm f/2 Macro lens

For the above picture, at f2, I focused on the sign on the post. This is razor sharp and the rest of the image is beautifully out of focus with gorgeous bokeh.

Olympus E-P2 Four Thirds 50mm f/2 Macro lens

There's a real 3D look to many of the images I took and I was even more impressed with the lens. The statement on the Dpreview review "Its the nearest we've yet found to a technically perfect lens" is a bold one, but from my limited experience with it, I wouldn't argue with them.

Olympus E-P2 Four Thirds 50mm f/2 Macro lens

Olympus E-P2 Four Thirds 50mm f/2 Macro lens

Since the two lenses I like the most are both 4/3 lenses (This and the Vario-Elmar 14-150mm) I started to think about the possibility of a 4/3 camera as my DSLR, should I decide to keep one. Since I've not been impressed by the sensors on the Olympus cameras I've used nor the Panasonic L10 I currently have, there would seem to be a choice of one, the newly announced Olympus E-5. I was somewhat scathing on the camera when it was announced as it seemed to offer nothing very new. Since its now been reviewed and there are lots of samples available I decided to have another look, to see if I'd missed something.

I've always been impressed by the spec. of Olympus DSLR's and the E-5 is no exception. In terms of what it will do it would be fine for my requirements. The articulated screen is nice and things like built in IS and the Olympus dust reduction system are useful. 

However the most important thing is image quality, and from my experiences of the softness of all the previous Olympus cameras I've used, this was something that I was keen to investigate. The good news is that the sensor is apparently the same as used in the Olympus Pens. Since I was getting these spectacular results above with the 50mm and my E-P2 this sounded promising. However, the E-P2 isn't great at high ISO's and I'd need some proof that the E-5 was better.  

My first look was at the Dpreview samples.

The high ISO samples here were really not very good, so I thought thats that really.

Its only when I was looking on another forum that I ended up at another site. It had more samples.,5290.html 

The high ISO samples here at 1600, 3200 and 6400 were actually quite remarkable. There was obviously some noise reduction applied but they were very sharp. I had a good look at these and compared them with equivalent shots that I had taken at a recent wedding on a Canon 7D and 550D. I actually preferred the Olympus shots. Canon do have this reputation for low noise at high ISO's but I've always thought that it comes at the expense of some detail. I always use jpgs if I'm shooting higher than ISO 800 as the raw files are always worse and Canon do a much better job of noise reduction in-camera than I'm able to do. 

In theory there shouldn't be much of a difference between an APS-C and a 4/3 sensor. They are not that different in size. 

Finally I found some raw file samples on another forum post and was able to convert them using Olympus Master 2. They were shot at ISO1250 and were again very sharp with well controlled noise. 

I'm much more inclined to take notice of raw files than jpgs since that is what I use.

Whether or not I get an E-5 is open to question. I haven't even decided yet whether I want to keep a DSLR, and I certainly want to see what the Panasonic GH2 is capable of first. However from these samples it seems that Olympus have done something significant about the issues of softness and poor high ISO performance and consequently I must withdraw my hasty comments about the camera. It is still very expensive however, which may prevent photographers from considering this camera. It will provide a good vehicle for the excellent 4/3 lenses that are available & if I do consider getting one, I certainly have some quality lenses to use with it.