E-M 5 for low-light documentary shooting - example pics

Started May 21, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Ranger 9
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E-M 5 for low-light documentary shooting - example pics
May 21, 2012

This weekend I was invited to a small screening of a new documentary film, and took along my E-M 5 to document the reactions of the film's subjects as they watched it. I thought I'd post a couple of examples so you could see how it fares in this type of application.

Basically, I was pleasantly surprised at how well I did with the E-M 5. Its low operating noise was a big plus: it may not be completely silent, but it's unobtrusive enough that it attracted absolutely no attention. With the 20mm f/1.7 Panasonic lens, I was literally within arm's reach of some of the subjects, but no one reacted in the slightest when I'd take a picture.

With most of the light in the room coming from the projection screen, the camera's low-light capabilities got a workout as well. I shot a lot of photos at 1/15 sec and got a surprisingly high usable percentage (it surprised me, anyway); I was able to brace my elbows on a table, but I suspect the IBIS helped too. Fortunately, the subjects mostly sat quite still as they watched the film.

I often found myself using ISOs in the range of 5000 to 12,800. The ISO 5000 shots looked quite good to me after some Lightroom noise reduction (20 setting) and given the documentary nature of the photos, I thought even the 12,800 shots (with a Lightroom 40 setting) looked completely usable, as long as I didn't underexpose. (On a few that I did underexpose, I saw some hints of the horizontal line noise others have been reporting when using the 20mm Panasonic lens -- although I didn't notice this on any correctly-exposed images.)

My biggest issue so far with the E-M 5 for documentary-style shooting is one I've complained about in another thread: the eye sensor takes a relatively long time to turn on the EVF when you bring the camera to your eye (I missed a few "grab shots" because of this) and after-shot review images also appear and disappear sluggishly in the EVF, leaving a comparatively long interval during which I can't see the subject. It would be great if Olympus could do something in firmware to make these functions snappier. In terms of imaging results, though, I'm pretty impressed.

Watching the film (ISO 5000):

Detail of Angela's eye from the above image:

Watching the film (ISO 12,800):

Detail of faces from the above image:

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