The sensor shift high-res function is the most written about feature of the new OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5 II. So is it useful?
The snag with this feature is of course the time it takes and the fact that movement in the frame affects the image. And it's not like the motion blur effect of a long exposure. It actually creates some odd artefacts which you can see in the top left image in the gallery above. But bearing this in mind it does work well. Obviously not an option for sports photography, it is useful for landscapes in certain conditions, still life, studio product shots, architecture (inside and out) and it could also be used for portraits, if lit well and with a model who can keep still for a few seconds. It will be preferable if Olympus can, as they have indicated, get this to work handheld. But at the moment this is what we have and while it is limiting, it's certainly an interesting option to explore.
If you are planning to use this, I would recommend using the raw files as the jpgs. are not great for dynamic range and seem to create a lot of CA and fringing. Processing raw can eliminate these issues, though the files need more sharpening than 'normal' files. However, the files produced have lower noise levels to start with so this isn't a problem. The above examples were processed in Raw Therapee, the free dcraw software.
For what I shoot it is a bonus, though for many it will be completely useless. But Olympus can rightly claim to have the highest resolution currently available in a non medium format camera. And, somewhat incredibly, in a m4/3 camera as well. So that's a worthwhile option to have and is an interesting pointer to what we might expect in the future from this sensor shift technology.
Halfway through writing this article Adobe released the latest camera raw update which supports the OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5 II. I've certainly had issues with how Adobe handle the files from certain camera, notably Fuji X files, but I've always had excellent results from both Sony and m4/3 cameras. And that is the case here.
Again, the amount of sharpening I have to apply is more than I would use for a 16MP file, but again this can be done with no ill effects to the file. In fact the 64MP raw files produces significantly better results that the 40MP OOC jpgs.
I'm very impressed by the lack of noise, CA and fringing that these high-res raw files produce and by the resolution and crispness that careful sharpening can produce. I'll be having a look at what I can achieve with some more 'tweaking' but it didn't take very long to get the results above. I would mention that these raw files, via Photoshop, are capable of very acceptable dynamic range as well.
So it seems to be the case that a somewhat different approach needs to be taken with these high-res files. There are lots of comparisons on the photographic internet with other high-res, high-MP cameras and I've seen a few with the Nikon D810 for example. But the nature of how these files are created makes that comparison somewhat irrelevant currently. Operationally, the Olympus can't compete with the Nikon or the Sony A7r or the upcoming 50MP version of the Canon 5D. All of these cameras are much more useful in pretty much every photographic situation. But if you have the time to work slowly and carefully, are happy carrying a tripod around and shoot static subjects, then you will be rewarded with some incredible images. Just to show what you are getting here are some size comparisons.
That gives you an idea of just how big these Olympus files are. And whatever the qualifications that need to be applied and the proviso that there is a somewhat restricted set of options for this high-res file creation, the Olympus O-MD E-M5 II produces the largest files in a non medium-format camera.
Now whether this is as useful for you as it is for me and the kind of images I create, is a question only you can answer. However, I'm certainly looking forward to what I can do with this and there is no doubt that for much of what I upload to picture libraries, this WILL make much of what I do more commercial. As I've written many times before, the perception of quality that files of this size produce is perhaps more important than the actual quality, but these Olympus high-res files offer genuine jaw dropping resolution. And yes they may take significantly more effort to produce than from other high spec. cameras, but it's certainly something that I and I'm sure many others will take advantage of. m4/3 just grew up. Literally!!