E-M5: Annoyances and Suggestions for Improvement

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AutoISO Doesn’t Know About IBIS (!!)

This is my biggest complaint. Street and travel photographers must be prepared for everything: one second it’s an interesting scene in a dark alley, the next it’s a silhouette glowing in the setting sun. We have to think about framing, zooming, optimal DOF, decisive moment and so on, why not let the camera worry about the ISO at least? There is nothing creative about this decision: keep it as low as possible without causing unnecessary image blur.

In film days the general recommendation was a shutter speed of one-over-focal-length. So for a 100 mm lens you would aim for 1/100″ seconds or shorter. In the digital days, with the very fine pitch of modern sensors the recommendation changed to one-over-twice-the-focal-length, so 1/200″ for that same 100 mm lens.

The E-M5 follows exactly this rule in P and AutoISO:

  • If there is plenty of light, it sets ISO 200 (the lowest possible) and chooses a good combination of aperture and shutter speed.
  • When the light levels start to decrease, it keeps the ISO at 200 and it both opens up the aperture and lowers the shutter speed.
  • As soon as the aperture is at its widest and the shutter speed reaches the one-over-twice-the-focal-length value, the ISO value starts going up.
  • If the light drops even further and the ISO value reaches the high limit set in the Custom Menu, the shutter speed drops below the magic value of one-over-twice-the-focal-length.

Sound good so far? Actually it’s perfect, except that the E-M5 features in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which is claimed to reduce shake-induced blurriness by as many as 3 to 5 stops!!! So instead of aiming at 1/200″ with a 100 mm lens, the camera could assume a three stop gain due to IBIS and allow the shutter speed to drop down to 1/25″ before raising the ISO value.

Optimal would be a custom setting where the photographer sets the number of stops he believes that IBIS is bringing, say 2 — 4, with 3 being the default. This is extremely easy to change in firmware, so let’s hope that enough people are bothered by this and take the time to write to Olympus about it. I have.

NOTE: Before someone tells me about setting a lower ISO limit or a longer flash sync speed, these are no real solutions! They are manual workarounds for a single focal length, but not a solution to the problem.

No Image Review in the Viewfinder (!)

This is a major one, and has got to be a bug and not intended behavior. Even if the viewfinder is currently active, as soon as you press the Review button, the rear display springs into life and displays the images you’ve captured.

Purple Areas with the Panasonic 7-14/4 Lens

These are definitely real, but surely not as catastrophic as some of the reports on the Internet. In this example image you can se a small purple area to the right and below the window and a larger greenish area halfway between the purple one and the lower right corner.

Histogram Screens are Ugly and Lacking in Detail

There are three information screens showing the histogram:

  • Histogram and other information in shooting mode,
  • RGB histogram in playback mode,
  • Histogram only in playback mode.

Unfortunately all three are crude and ugly, lacking important details, and look like they’ve been designed by overworked engineers instead of a joint-team of graphical designers and photographers.

Custom Settings Seem Like an Afterthought

Storing the camera settings into a set and restoring from a set involve very similar button sequences, so you might accidentally store instead of recall and vice versa. Performing the wrong operation must be quite annoying since the camera has so many user settings.

There is no way to export the custom settings on a memory card or import settings from a card, which would make it possible to share settings between users or keep the same settings on multiple cameras. This omission is especially annoying since the camera has so many settings and many people have trouble setting everything correctly.

The names Myset 1 – Myset 4 cannot be changed to more meaningful ones, like GeneralTripod, Bracket for HDR and so on.

Poor Cooperation Between Lens IS and E-M5 IBIS

If you mount an image stabilized lens with an on/off-switch for the IS (e.g., Panasonic 14-45), you have to manually turn off the lens IS or the in-body image stabilization (IBIS) of the E-M5, otherwise both systems are active and work against each-other.

For lenses with IS but without an on/off-switch the lens IS is always off and there is no way to turn it on. This is less of a problem because the IBIS is comparable, but if Panasonic came up with a super telephoto with excellent IS, there would be no way to take advantage of the IS with the E-M5 body. Newer bodies, for example the E-P5, have a menu setting which gives preference to IS or IBIS, so I assume that the E-M6 will have it also.

Date and Time

There is no support for “world time” or daylight-savings time. It would be much more convenient to set the current date, time-zone and time. Now when daylight-savings time starts or ends, the camera could add or remove an hour automatically. Or when you travel, you simply change the time-zone. The camera would then change the time and possibly the date to yesterday or tomorrow, depending on the time of day.

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