E-M5: Face Detection quirks

Started May 7, 2012 | Discussions
Timur Born
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E-M5: Face Detection quirks
May 7, 2012

While I'm still getting to know the E-M5's 'character' it seems like its Face Detection algorithms don't want to be my friend. Within one week I already had:

  • Face are not detected too well, at least with the slow 12-50 kit lens (but even at 12 mm F3.5 with face facing a window it can have troubles). If people look down just a bit or wear something on their head it's already hard to detect faces, especially if they are in motion. Several times it detected a face with stuff like cardboard boxes or other objects that don't even remotely resemble a face.

  • Extreme (as in several stops) overexposure for no apparent reason. I know that Face Detection exposes on a detected face and if no face is detected it should use whatever metering is set up. But washing a scene mostly white and then doing one out of 4 exposures properly seems very fishy to me. The Fuji X10 interestingly did the same once.

  • Focus ca. half a meter behind the face, even while release priority is off and image EXIF reports that a face has been detected. This happened twice with the same person (a hardly moving adult) with different background. Both times the background included some sort of pattern, though, and both times the flash was used. However both time the center point was aiming at around the neck/shoulder part, so it should not have focused on something in the back (center focus point set).

  • Fires clip-on flash at full power to keep ISO at minimum, which results in very flashy skin-tones plus white speckles as if the skin was all wet/oily and very hard shadows. Exposing the very same frame with no face detected results in higher ISO with less flash power being used. I understand this is a result of metering the face which often lies more in shadows, but it's nowhere near as balanced as my Fuji X10.

  • The clip-on flash seems to have a too low vertical angle that creates a bright reflection line around people's hairlines. Even worse in combination with 'Auto' gradations, because then the much darker top hair (where the flash doesn't reach) is pulled up in exposure. This creates a mixture of well exposed and fine detailed low ISO hair up to the bright reflection line and low detailed flat and rather noisy top hair.

The following image is straight out-of-camera, with default noise-reduction and sharpening, Auto Gradations, Auto ISO (max 6400, 1/60s min) and by mistake "Vivid" colors (which shouldn't matter too much). Look at the Original, because DPR recompression smooths away most of the white speckles.

Fujifilm X10
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Anders W
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Re: E-M5: Face Detection quirks
In reply to Timur Born, May 7, 2012

Timur Born wrote:

While I'm still getting to know the E-M5's 'character' it seems like its Face Detection algorithms don't want to be my friend. Within one week I already had:

  • Face are not detected too well, at least with the slow 12-50 kit lens (but even at 12 mm F3.5 with face facing a window it can have troubles). If people look down just a bit or wear something on their head it's already hard to detect faces, especially if they are in motion. Several times it detected a face with stuff like cardboard boxes or other objects that don't even remotely resemble a face.

  • Extreme (as in several stops) overexposure for no apparent reason. I know that Face Detection exposes on a detected face and if no face is detected it should use whatever metering is set up. But washing a scene mostly white and then doing one out of 4 exposures properly seems very fishy to me. The Fuji X10 interestingly did the same once.

  • Focus ca. half a meter behind the face, even while release priority is off and image EXIF reports that a face has been detected. This happened twice with the same person (a hardly moving adult) with different background. Both times the background included some sort of pattern, though, and both times the flash was used. However both time the center point was aiming at around the neck/shoulder part, so it should not have focused on something in the back (center focus point set).

  • Fires clip-on flash at full power to keep ISO at minimum, which results in very flashy skin-tones plus white speckles as if the skin was all wet/oily and very hard shadows. Exposing the very same frame with no face detected results in higher ISO with less flash power being used. I understand this is a result of metering the face which often lies more in shadows, but it's nowhere near as balanced as my Fuji X10.

  • The clip-on flash seems to have a too low vertical angle that creates a bright reflection line around people's hairlines. Even worse in combination with 'Auto' gradations, because then the much darker top hair (where the flash doesn't reach) is pulled up in exposure. This creates a mixture of well exposed and fine detailed low ISO hair up to the bright reflection line and low detailed flat and rather noisy top hair.

The following image is straight out-of-camera, with default noise-reduction and sharpening, Auto Gradations, Auto ISO (max 6400, 1/60s min) and by mistake "Vivid" colors (which shouldn't matter too much). Look at the Original, because DPR recompression smooths away most of the white speckles.

Hi Timur,

Sorry to hear about your troubles ... but they all sound, to me, like good reasons for having you rather than the camera decide about important things like focus and exposure. As to flash, I rarely use one but would bounce it if I could, use a diffuser if I couldn't and not let the camera decide the balance between available light and flash light. If I know you right, you'll have no difficulty learning how to take commmand over your camera to the extent that you haven't done so already.

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jkrumm
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Re: E-M5: Face Detection quirks
In reply to Timur Born, May 7, 2012

The speckles look like normal specular highlights combined with noise reduction/sharpening artifacts. Focus looks spot on.

Most likely you just have to keep practicing, get used to the cameras quirks. The image itself has that dark background flash look that isn't always so appealing. Sometimes if you raise the iso, the background looks better and the light from the flash helps keep the subject noise down.

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Timur Born
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Re: E-M5: Face Detection quirks
In reply to Anders W, May 7, 2012

Anders W wrote:

Sorry to hear about your troubles ... but they all sound, to me, like good reasons for having you rather than the camera decide about important things like focus and exposure.

As a beginner the exposure part will still be hard, the focus part is a problem because of the ever moving nature of the subject. Because of that I was hoping for good face detection, especially with the eye detection feature and I will keep trying to get the best out of it. A 45/1.8 is on its way, I'm curious whether the shallow DOF will make things worse or the faster aperture will make things better.

As to flash, I rarely use one but would bounce it if I could, use a diffuser if I couldn't and not let the camera decide the balance between available light and flash light.

I am waiting for the FL-600R to arrive on market. It's quite expensive, though. 399 EUR on list and the least expensive offer still is 335 EUR (incl. VAT). One of the reasons I will try the 45 instead of the 25 is that it leaves enough money for the flash.

But even with the clip-on flash the camera could make better decisions. It tries to keep ISO down and instead fires the flash at high power when it detects a face and thus shifts metering to the face area. Without face detection the flash is fired with less power at higher ISO. The Fuji cameras do that on their own in order to keep natural skin tones and less of that overflashed + tunnel appearance.

If I know you right, you'll have no difficulty learning how to take commmand over your camera to the extent that you haven't done so already.

Understanding functions and quirks doesn't replace photographic experience, though. And using manual ISO just for softer flash is something I'd rather avoid.

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Timur Born
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Re: E-M5: Face Detection quirks
In reply to jkrumm, May 7, 2012

jkrumm wrote:

The speckles look like normal specular highlights combined with noise reduction/sharpening artifacts.

Yes, but when flash produces specular highlights on people's skin then something went wrong to begin with. The camera should know how to keep skin-tones from becoming an over-flashed mess even when AUTO ISO is used. Seems like it does not, so I have to wait/hope for better results with bounce flash or make the camera balance flash vs. ISO better.

Problem with that is that you get different metering/exposures between when a face is successfully detected and when it's not.

Unfortunately trying the alternative 'Slow' and 'Slow 2' flash options seems to be useless for capturing people indoors. Not only do these ignore the minimum flash time (1/60 by default), but they can easily lead to over a second exposure times.

Focus looks spot on.

Yes, focus is good on this one. The following should give you an idea of what I mean (and yeah, I cleaned the window meanwhile ;):

Most likely you just have to keep practicing, get used to the cameras quirks. The image itself has that dark background flash look that isn't always so appealing. Sometimes if you raise the iso, the background looks better and the light from the flash helps keep the subject noise down.

Yes, this is what the Fuji does on its own with AUTO ISO, it uses the built in flash for fill, not for flashing a bright tunnel of light and shadow into a room. Practice might overcome this less than ideal programming of flash vs. metering, but I thought it would be good to report my own tripping hazard to others who might also want to use Face Detection.

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willymcd
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Re: E-M5: Face Detection quirks
In reply to Timur Born, May 7, 2012

I noticed that the EM5 sucks at locating faces as well, most of my problems were with it finding non-existing faces. I just disabled face detection and problem solved. Face detection is stupid anyways, it's not that hard to point meter and focus then frame the picture...

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rrr_hhh
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Re: E-M5: Face Detection quirks
In reply to Timur Born, May 7, 2012

The main problem I'm seeing in this picture is that you caught a very reflective surface in the flash reach (that TV screen). This created flare in your picture, which is clearly seen along the arm and hand of your child (the lightest part is clearly in line with the bright frame of the TV or whatever that is).

The little shiny spot on your child's noose are pretty normal for direct flash. In general I find that the camera meter did a rather good job given the conditions. The shiny highly reflective object in the background would have fooled any of my film cameras.

The E-M5 will perform well, if you put it in the right conditions. First you have to avoid reflective objects in the background. Secondly, direct flash will always create unwanted shiny faces. There is a reason why fashion and portrait photographers put make up on the face of their models and sitters.

If you find that your P&S works better, then use your P&S. To take good pictures, you have to know your camera well, not only how to customize its buttons and options, but also know how it will react to given situations. After a while you will know instinctively when your camera can take a good picture and when not.

Concerning focus : each lens has a minimum focusing distance, did you respect it ? Also if the main subject is too tiny in the frame or too near of the edge, it may no work.

One thing I don't know is how face detection works with the other focusing options ? Does it takes precedence in all situations ? Or do you have to enable multipoints AF ? What if you have pinpoint focus ? Or center point only ? And suppose you have set AF to a custom button, how does that interfere ? May be all this can influence face detection ?

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Timur Born
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Re: E-M5: Face Detection quirks
In reply to rrr_hhh, May 7, 2012

Thanks for the feedback!

rrr_hhh wrote:

The main problem I'm seeing in this picture is that you caught a very reflective surface in the flash reach (that TV screen).

It's an oven and I should have cropped it out, because the picture was only meant to demonstrate the skin and gradations hair parts of my report.

The little shiny spot on your child's noose are pretty normal for direct flash. In general I find that the camera meter did a rather good job given the conditions. The shiny highly reflective object in the background would have fooled any of my film cameras.

Combining "Face Detection" with Evaluative/Multi/Matrix metering (enforced on the X10, optional on the E-M5) leads to a special metering mode on both cameras. What happens is that in this one combination you get Spot metering on the focus spot, but only when a face is detected with the focus spot being on the face. I really wished that focus-spot metering were available without Face Detection, too, but it's better than nothing.

I will check my pics and the E-M5 behavior again, thought. It is possible that the last shots used Spot metering and that only Evaluative works like this.

The E-M5 will perform well, if you put it in the right conditions. First you have to avoid reflective objects in the background.

Of course I did not only shot reflective surfaces like that oven.

Secondly, direct flash will always create unwanted shiny faces.

Not always, but only if the camera fires the flash at full strenght and low ISO when a combination of lower powered flash with higher ISO would have been less "in the face" (pun intended). When a camera knows that it's using it's built in direct flash then the firmware can make educated decisions in favor of more natural skin tones. And even more so if metering suggest indoor light instead of bright sunshine.

There is a reason why fashion and portrait photographers put make up on the face of their models and sitters.

And there is a reason why sometimes you have to use built in flash (or the small clip-on coming with the E-M5). I am currently trying out what can be expected from that combination and report it here.

If you find that your P&S works better, then use your P&S. To take good pictures, you have to know your camera well, not only how to customize its buttons and options, but also know how it will react to given situations. After a while you will know instinctively when your camera can take a good picture and when not.

Which is why I am sharing my experinces in this thread.

Concerning focus : each lens has a minimum focusing distance, did you respect it ? Also if the main subject is too tiny in the frame or too near of the edge, it may no work.

As you can see I was testing 45 mm length (to see if the 45/1.8 would suit me), so of course I was not up close to the subjects. And like I wrote, the images' EXIF report that faces were detected, but the images look as if not. One of the possible culprits of face detection systems is when they lose confident in their own assessment and drop detection just the moment when you press the shutter.

I will do some more test shots to better understand the numbering scheme of the face detection EXIF fields.

One thing I don't know is how face detection works with the other focusing options ? Does it takes precedence in all situations ? Or do you have to enable multipoints AF ? What if you have pinpoint focus ? Or center point only ? And suppose you have set AF to a custom button, how does that interfere ? May be all this can influence face detection ?

Face detection is a 'priority' option, which should take precedence in all situations where you see a green box on a detected face. This is another possible culprit, the visual AFconfirmation always comes late (or not at all) after the audible one and thus shutter release allowance (with release priority off).

So lots of things to look for in detail and over time.

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rrr_hhh
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Re: E-M5: Face Detection quirks
In reply to Timur Born, May 8, 2012

Timur Born wrote:

It's an oven and I should have cropped it out, because the picture was only meant to demonstrate the skin and gradations hair parts of my report.

Cropped or not, it was there when the camera metered the scene and such a bright spot will necessarily have an impact on the meter. Even if deepening on the metering mode this impact can be downplayed. My point is that in ths picture the camera metering system worked pretty well.

The little shiny spot on your child's nose are pretty normal for direct flash. In general I find that the camera meter did a rather good job given the conditions. The shiny highly reflective object in the background would have fooled any of my film cameras.

Combining "Face Detection" with Evaluative/Multi/Matrix metering (enforced on the X10, optional on the E-M5) leads to a special metering mode on both cameras. What happens is that in this one combination you get Spot metering on the focus spot, but only when a face is detected with the focus spot being on the face. I really wished that focus-spot metering were available without Face Detection, too, but it's better than nothing.

First remark which I forgot in my previous post : distance to subject plays an important role in flash photography. Your flash has a range of shooting power available, if you are too ear of your subject and have a large aperture, the weakest flash power may still be too much. This is a frequent cause of flash overexposure.

Concerning spot metering, this is something to use sparingly IMO, the meter will then try to render any small spot in an 18% grey tone; on my flash meter, the angle of view of the spot meter is either 5 or 7 degrees, which is very narrow; it may be a little larger on camera meters, but still would only measure a very limited part of the picture. It is usefull when you want to be sure to get details in a spot where they would disappear, being either underexposed or over exposed; after taking the spot light measure, you have to use the compensation wheel if you want detail in the shadows, but don't want it middle grey, you would dial in -1 to -2; the other way around if you were metering to avoid burned highlights. Or best use the HI spot or LO spot metering to the same result. Personnally, i have never used it for portraits : when a person fill half or full of the frame, the usual metering modes are good enough. However, thinking to it, if you want a face to be right in the middletones, it may be right to use it.

Concerning spot metering and AF target : if you set AF and AEL separately (for exemple AF/AEL mode set to 3 and one on the Fn button is affected to AF), then it s easy to have them coupled or decoupled at will: first AF using the Fn button and aiming the focus target on your subject, then point the spot meter target on the spot you want to meter and halfpress the shutter, then reframe and press the shutter fully. You can point the spot meter target either on the same point as the focus target, or elsewhere, but you have to go in three steps and use the aim and reframe technique (twice if they are decoupled) and you need to have previously customized your camera accordingly.

The E-M5 will perform well, if you put it in the right conditions. First you have to avoid reflective objects in the background.

Of course I did not only shot reflective surfaces like that oven.

What I meant is that you have to inspect your frame and recognize where you could get problems. In some situations it is just not possible to get a picture exposed correctly without human intervention.

Secondly, direct flash will always create unwanted shiny faces.

Not always, but only if the camera fires the flash at full strenght and low ISO when a combination of lower powered flash with higher ISO would have been less "in the face" (pun intended). When a camera knows that it's using it's built in direct flash then the firmware can make educated decisions in favor of more natural skin tones. And even more so if metering suggest indoor light instead of bright sunshine.

It will be more or less pronounced and some flash/camera combo will be better than others, but direct flash is rarely flattering for people; it is not only about over exposure due to an overpowering flash, it has something to do with face grease and the way a direct flash catch it. There are a wealth of flash diffusers available to tame it. If that wasn't a problem, they won't sell like cakes.

There is a reason why fashion and portrait photographers put make up on the face of their models and sitters.

And there is a reason why sometimes you have to use built in flash (or the small clip-on coming with the E-M5). I am currently trying out what can be expected from that combination and report it here.

It sounded like you were whining about the E-M5 not delivering. When you use that type of flash directly, it comes at a price : shiny faces and red eyes; it can also cast a nasty shadow behind the head of your subjects.

Which is why I am sharing my experinces in this thread.

Just don't make it look as if the camera was faulty. And don't buy all the manufacturers' hype like "press the shutter we will do the rest" things have greatly improved since the first Kodak's brownies were issued, but nothing will replace the human eyes and experience the camera just can't be right all the times.

As you can see I was testing 45 mm length (to see if the 45/1.8 would suit me), so of course I was not up close to the subjects. And like I wrote, the images' EXIF report that faces were detected, but the images look as if not. One of the possible culprits of face detection systems is when they lose confident in their own assessment and drop detection just the moment when you press the shutter.

I was just hinting at some possible sources of problems. The longer the lens, the longer the minimal focusing distance.
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efg40
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Re: E-M5: Face Detection quirks
In reply to Timur Born, May 8, 2012

For me, using the 14-42 kit lens, the camera has grabbed the face every time (using closest eye setting). Also, I found auto gradation to be too unpredictable and use the "normal" setting instead. Not sure if that's related to your white face spot issue but it's something to try.

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Timur Born
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Re: E-M5: Face Detection quirks
In reply to rrr_hhh, May 8, 2012

rrr_hhh wrote:

Cropped or not, it was there when the camera metered the scene and such a bright spot will necessarily have an impact on the meter.

Fair enough, nice that the metering worked in this scene. And in most other scenes that I mentioned it likely worked, too, except for the ones where the whole image was overexposed to a pulp of white.

First remark which I forgot in my previous post : distance to subject plays an important role in flash photography. Your flash has a range of shooting power available, if you are too ear of your subject and have a large aperture, the weakest flash power may still be too much. This is a frequent cause of flash overexposure.

Like I wrote, when no face is detected the camera uses less flash and higher ISO to get a more natural result. This likely is a result of face detection causing spot metering on the face, but the X10 does exactly the same and gets away with better looking skin results and less flash at the cost of higher ISO.

Concerning spot metering, this is something to use sparingly IMO, the meter will then try to render any small spot in an 18% grey tone;

Once you turn on Face Detection you also turn on spot metering on the detected face. I have to go through the various options again, though, because I mean to remember that this only happens when Evaluative Metering is used. So what's more or less left as an alternative is Center weighted.

... but don't want it middle grey, you would dial in -1 to -2; the other way around if you were metering to avoid burned highlights.

That would mean to change flash compensation or use manual flash power, though, because it is still the too strong flash power that is the problem. Of course you are spoiled for any shot where a face was not detected then.

Concerning spot metering and AF target : if you set AF and AEL separately (for exemple AF/AEL mode set to 3 and one on the Fn button is affected to AF), then it s easy to have them coupled or decoupled at will...

I know, but thank you for the hints. Please remember that we are specifically discussing the E-M5's "Face Detection" here, not the various manual shooting techniques that may or may not be better alternatives.

What I meant is that you have to inspect your frame and recognize where you could get problems. In some situations it is just not possible to get a picture exposed correctly without human intervention.

Maybe you could help me here. What do you think was the problem in the following frame? I got four white-washed shots and one properly exposed. According to EXIF no face was detected, metering was set to Center Weighted (average). What went wrong in the first frames that turned right in the last?

It will be more or less pronounced and some flash/camera combo will be better than others, but direct flash is rarely flattering for people;

Yes, and for the information of others I am sharing my experience that the E-M5 + clip-on flash is among the less good cameras when it comes direct flash exposure of people/faces.

It sounded like you were whining about the E-M5 not delivering. When you use that type of flash directly, it comes at a price : shiny faces and red eyes; it can also cast a nasty shadow behind the head of your subjects.

Yes, I am whining... err... no, wait. I am comparing with my experience using another (less expensive) camera that can do the same thing better and report my experience with how the E-M5 does. This doesn't mean that there are no alternative ways of doing things, but if someone wants to use the E-M5 for automatic Face Detection in combination with direct flash exposure then my experiences so far are not too encouraging.

Just don't make it look as if the camera was faulty. And don't buy all the manufacturers' hype like "press the shutter we will do the rest" things have greatly improved since the first Kodak's brownies were issued, but nothing will replace the human eyes and experience the camera just can't be right all the times.

Sure thing. Still it's is a feature you pay for and a feature that other cameras manage to do better. Everyone can go manual and spoil things up, by going (half) automatic you are entrusting the engineers to have made the right decisions in firmware. Some are better than others and if anyone is interested in the results of others they read threads about such topics in articles and forums.

I was just hinting at some possible sources of problems. The longer the lens, the longer the minimal focusing distance.

Thanks again for the hint.

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Timur Born
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Re: E-M5: Face Detection quirks
In reply to efg40, May 8, 2012

efg40 wrote:

For me, using the 14-42 kit lens, the camera has grabbed the face every time (using closest eye setting). Also, I found auto gradation to be too unpredictable and use the "normal" setting instead. Not sure if that's related to your white face spot issue but it's something to try.

Thanks for the feedback, Elizabeth. Auto Gradations really is a variable with unknown outcome, so I will be experimenting some more with how normal turns out. I did not use Auto on all my shots, though, so this point was more meant as one additional possible culprit to watch out for (strong direct flash on face and beginning hairline + pushed noisy shadows on top of the head).

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efg40
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Re: E-M5: Face Detection quirks
In reply to Timur Born, May 8, 2012

Timur Born wrote:

efg40 wrote:

For me, using the 14-42 kit lens, the camera has grabbed the face every time (using closest eye setting). Also, I found auto gradation to be too unpredictable and use the "normal" setting instead. Not sure if that's related to your white face spot issue but it's something to try.

Thanks for the feedback, Elizabeth. Auto Gradations really is a variable with unknown outcome, so I will be experimenting some more with how normal turns out. I did not use Auto on all my shots, though, so this point was more meant as one additional possible culprit to watch out for (strong direct flash on face and beginning hairline + pushed noisy shadows on top of the head).

Yes, I see the smudginess. I think the auto gradation can cause pushed shadows too, but I don't know if that's what this is. Like I said, I found it to be very unpredictable! For shots when you didn't use Auto Gradation I guess something else is in play.

I'm sure you'll figure it out!

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MT
MT
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Troubling...
In reply to efg40, May 8, 2012

This is troubling. I was really hoping that the OMD would have improved the face focus compared to my PL2. My PL2 would often show boxes around the faces - clearing showing it recognize a face in the photo, and yet miss the focus by focusing on the background instead. Face focus with eye detect so that focus is on the eye is a brilliant idea and I really hoped that the OMD would nail it compare to the PL2. Very unfortunate.

MTMT

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Timur Born
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Re: Troubling...
In reply to MT, May 11, 2012

For those interested I went on writing about Face Detection on my longer E-M5 report (+comparison to Fuji X10) thread:

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1041&message=41486586

Better to keep it all in one place for the time being.

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Willing
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samples with face detection
In reply to Timur Born, May 11, 2012

I have my E-M5 with face detection turned on and I was aiming to the photos from my photo album, photos from the web(on monitor) and a doll...etc. My E-M5 has no problem to identify each faces and I can see the square box appears on the LCD whenever I point to the human face or a doll. I don't know if this will react differently with actual human beings and I will do more test with my kids tonite. Here are some samples:

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