OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5 - More thoughts on the sensor

OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5 Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5 Nikon fit
OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5 Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5 Nikon fit

Its always good to look at images again, first thing in the morning, just to see if I got too carried away the night before and exaggerate just how good they are.

Having done that and taken a few more, I can report that I'm still mightily impressed with what I'm getting from this camera. Top and bottom pictures were taken with my Nikon fit Voigtlander 20mm, which thankfully I can report performed superbly. Thus avoiding a crisis on the bank account front!

As well as the sharpness, there's a lovely quality to to the images that I like very much. Its very subtle and its something to do with the colour seperation and range of tones the OM-D captures.

I posted a version of this picture yesterday and it illustrates what I mean. There are many diferent shades in this picture, and considering it was taken in direct sunlight, the OM-D has captured a wonderful range and depth of colour. There is, to me, a real sense of three dimensions in the picture, and the camera / lens combination shows the varied textures of the leaves. Too many cameras, to my mind, "flatten out" the image in their haste to remove various forms of noise, and I do find many cameras have a tendency to "neuter" or "flatten out" images. Its certainly something I've always felt about the Sony NEX cameras I've used. AA filters, as well as softening images slightly, do also blur the edges and tone down contrast somewhat, which I guess is what they are designed to do.

Olympus have made no noises about what kind of AA filter is in the OM-D, and indeed they have been pretty tight-lipped about this sensor in general. It is therefore somewhat difficult to come to any conclusion as to what they might be doing differently. But a difference there certainly is. I've always enjoyed m4/3 "glossy" colour and that has been retained here, but there is also something else going on, that seems to add a real depth to the images. Its something I noticed with the Fuji X-Pro 1 also, but that has a radically different sensor array.

I really can't see that this sensor is made by anyone else other than Panasonic, though Olympus seem unwilling to either confirm or deny that. It could, I guess, be made by someone else, but that does seem unlikely.

A reason for their reticence could be what they have inside the camera. This is from the cameras initial press release:-

"The refined image quality of the OLYMPUS OM-D is made possible by the new Live MOS Sensor with 16.05 megapixels and the TruePic VI image processing engine. The excellent noise reduction capability enables still image shooting sensitivity as high as ISO25600. The dynamic range has been expanded for more faithful reproduction of a wide brightness range. With its high resolution and excellent color reproduction, the OLYMPUS OM-D offers the highest image quality currently available among Olympus digital cameras."

Not many clues there. My initial feeling yesterday when I toook the pictures with the Voigtlander lenses was that I was looking at images with either no or a very weak AA filter. Something that has has aoused my suspicions about this is that on the occasional image at 100% magnification I think I see some slight signs of moire. This morning however, I'm not so sure. Maybe Olympus have found a way to avoid the softening effect of these filters while still achieving the same goals. If they had removed the AA filter altogether, this would surely have been something they were keen to let us all know about, but this didn't happen so there is something similar still in place it seems. Also I doubt they would be so coy about some newly developed technique or in camera software that makes the images look so good.

So, my final supposition, is that they have just done the whole thing very well. They have taken great care to squeeze the best possible quality from this existing sensor. If this is indeed the case, then they have achieved a high level of success, since the difference between results from the OM-D and the Panasonic GX1 are quite marked, and would, I believe, be clearly seen by non pixel-peepers also.

Whatever the reasons, Its certainly something that has put a smile on my face. I can't quite beieve my luck. After all this time I get a camera that looks and handles the way I want and also takes pretty astounding images as well. Perhaps my camera brand "wanderlust" is finally about to end?

OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5 Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5 Nikon fit
OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5 Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5 Nikon fit

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