EM-5 suitable for kids and pet photography?

Started Aug 21, 2012 | Discussions
realq86
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EM-5 suitable for kids and pet photography?
Aug 21, 2012

Hi everyone,

After months of waiting for a Sony FF, weeks of reading about m4/3, and days of discovering EM-5.

I think the A99 is a unicorn and looks like the EM-5 is a good solid camera providing most of what I originally wanted out of a FF body with modern amateur amenities.

I've read count less reviews of the EM-5 and have no doubt regarding its features and IQ especially the lens arsenal advantage over the NEX.

The sensor is most of the 5Dii.
The Panasonic 12-35 f/2.8 is worthy of a $1000 body.

I believe the EM-5 in RAW, 12-35, and Lr4 will make a great combination.

However I want to get a clear feedback on AF performance that I value as much as IQ. I'm buying a camera to keep priceless memories of my 7yr son and 2mo puppy. Both will NOT sit still for a camera and to make it worse, the Taiwanese lifestyle is mostly indoors.

With my current LX-5 and Canon 400D+Sigma 17-70 I have the following problem. The LX-5 actually gives me better IQ than the 400D under good light but goes to hell above ISO 1600. My 400D has a soft/slow lens and ISO1600, which is too slow most of the time.

The LX-5 is great portable but helplessly slow trying to catch up to my son and puppy. Its shot to shot speed and worse contrast-focus and tracking speed is useless on those 2 subjects. Thus I'm having to fall back on the 400D and its phase-detection focus even though I'll be taking a hit on IQ and under exposing. At the moment I'm making due with the cheap 50mm f/1.8II but thats too long indoors.

I'm sure the 2011 contrast detecting focus of EM-5 is much better than my LX-5, but WILL IT KEEP UP WITH KIDS AND PETS? Will this new mirror-less body focus and track as well as my 7yr old phase-detecting DSLR body?

Please fellow EM-5 owners who shoots fast erratic moving subjects share your experience. Should I suck it up and go back to a DSLR or will this new breed of contrast-detecting body work well enough?

I played around with the Sony RX-100 just now in AF-C and it was a joke. It was hunting back and forth focus like a vibrator on a STATIONARY object! Seems like that's Sony's electronic solution to tracking just randomly hunt back and forth and catch the object if it moves. Will the EM-5 do that?

Thanks!

Canon EOS 400D (EOS Digital Rebel XTi / EOS Kiss Digital X) Canon EOS 5D Mark II Sony SLT-A99
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Brian Wadie
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Re: EM-5 suitable for kids and pet photography?
In reply to realq86, Aug 21, 2012

"I'm buying a camera to keep priceless memories of my 7yr son and 2mo puppy."

have a look here for some action shots with grand-daughter and Poppy the dog, not indoors but in a shady part fo the garden (shot using the oly 9-18 which worked remarkably well for this shoot).

http://imagesfromnature.foliopic.com/gallery/olympus-em5-does-action-shots-14243

I suspect that you will really need to be using both fairly high ISO (800+) and flash to really freeze indoor action but the system should be up to it

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realq86
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Re: EM-5 suitable for kids and pet photography?
In reply to Brian Wadie, Aug 21, 2012

Thanks!

At the moment my equipment is probably only 1-2 stop short on light, so thats not my main problem. My main concern is if the EM-5 AF will keep up with the action?

BTW great shots, may I ask how many out of a series of burst are foces keepers?

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Kevdog
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Re: EM-5 suitable for kids and pet photography?
In reply to realq86, Aug 21, 2012

My experience with the E-PM1 (and the E-M5 is at least as fast if not faster) is that you do not need to use tracking AF for pets and kids, but the single AF is quick enough to capture them. I have a 5 year old who never sits still and the focus is quick enough.

I also caught these birds with my Panasonic 25mm. Yes, the depth of field was such that they should have been in focus anywhere, but the green focus box also locked on to the bird on over 90% of my shots.

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realq86
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I forgot to ask: How well is the touch focus feature?
In reply to realq86, Aug 21, 2012

I'd always thought it was a gimick until I got my 1st iPhone4S.

If it works as well as the iPhone, I'll put it on the rest assured list.

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Roger Nordin
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Re: EM-5 suitable for kids and pet photography?
In reply to realq86, Aug 21, 2012

realq86 wrote:

At the moment my equipment is probably only 1-2 stop short on light, so thats not my main problem. My main concern is if the EM-5 AF will keep up with the action?

Honestly, no. I have tried chasing my daughter with the OM-D, and while I can get very fine photos when she is calm and still, as soon as she starts to run around it's all bets off. Perhaps a different lens would make a difference, but the 20/1.7 just keep buzzing back and forth trying to lock a focus, and sometimes often when she is running around the camera fires the shutter 2 seconds after I pressed the shutter, after having locked onto something else... while the scene I wanted to photo has gone since long, of course. Or if I use the touch-to-focus if it doesn't lock it whirls back n' forth about 3-4 seconds before finally giving up and giving me the chance to try again (I don't know know if its possible to abort the hunt somehow...).

In fact, my super-cheapo Panasonic DMC-GF3 (picked it up with the 14/2.5 lens for a price that in total was 2/3rds of what the 14mm lens retails for alone...!) runs rings around the expensive OM-D E-M5 in indoor photography while paired with the 20/1.7 lens (and with the 14/2.5 it's just goes into light speed mode...). At very low light levels the image IQ takes a toll if you don't use a flash, though.

If you want to chase kids running around in low light, there's just nothing that can replace a phase detect dSLR with a decent AF system. My 7D paired with a fast prime just nails the shots - without having to resort to that orange AF assist light that the m43 cameras above require to focus in low light, which kills any chance to do some candid shots, since the subject has a bright orange light shining on them a second or two before the shot can be taken.

On the other hand, the m43 cameras are so much smaller. If the lighting is decent (daylight filling the room from windows, for instance), then they are quite good. For chasing my daughter around, I'd grab my DMC-GF3. At these light levels, the older sensor still produces very nice results, and AF is snappy and fast, without using that ugly AF assist lamp. But I keep trying over and over with the OM-D, to see if I can improve things somehow... although so far it's the scenario it has proven weakest to me. Any suggestions are most welcome.

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Roger

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mpgxsvcd
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Re: EM-5 suitable for kids and pet photography?
In reply to realq86, Aug 21, 2012

The EM-5 will do what you want. However, it can only do that with the right lens.

I use the 25mm F1.4 and 45mm F1.8 for my kids that are definitely on the "Active" side.

I don't think even F2.8 is quite fast enough for true low light indoors.

I think that the biggest problems with AF are not that it isn't fast enough. Instead it is that people zoom in way to close and expect the camera to accommodate their error.

Zooming out slightly and then cropping makes autofocus a lot better.

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Roger Nordin
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Re: I forgot to ask: How well is the touch focus feature?
In reply to realq86, Aug 21, 2012

realq86 wrote:

I'd always thought it was a gimick until I got my 1st iPhone4S.

If it works as well as the iPhone, I'll put it on the rest assured list.

Provided the camera can lock AF, it works like a dream. Just touch and it shoots away, with the subject in perfect focus. Man and machine in perfect harmony!

However, if the AF doesn't lock because of low-light and/or motion, it's a real pain. At least with my 20/1.7 pancake, it hunts back and forth 3-4 seconds totally obsessed with its task, before finally giving up and giving me a chance to do anything with the camera.

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Roger

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mpgxsvcd
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Re: EM-5 suitable for kids and pet photography?
In reply to Roger Nordin, Aug 21, 2012

The 20mm F1.7 is not capable of doing AFC for stills and really isn't suitable for AFS. The 25mm F1.4 is light years better for AF and low light shooting. I traded my 20mm for the 25mm and have never regretted it.

As sharp as the 20mm lens is I never recommend it anymore. The 25mm F1.4 is simply better in every aspect and the focal length difference is not really that significant.
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Shawn67
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Re: EM-5 suitable for kids and pet photography?
In reply to realq86, Aug 21, 2012

"Will this new mirror-less body focus and track as well as my 7yr old phase-detecting DSLR body? "

Not AF-C with tracking. Tracking on contrast detect systems lags way behind what phase detect systems can do.

Outdoors in good light (and a fast AF lens) you should be OK using AF-S and a wider depth of field. Indoors will be harder but you should still be able to get some keepers.

Shawn

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realq86
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Thank you very much for your experience and info!
In reply to mpgxsvcd, Aug 21, 2012

I didn't but I guess this is what I needed to hear! I'd hate to dump $2k on a kit that just shoots better pics of what my LX-5 does good enough for me!

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realq86
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Thanks to everyone! You saved me $2000 worth of headache!
In reply to realq86, Aug 21, 2012

I guess I'll need a new dSLR or a just a new lens.

And just update my LX-5 to LX-7 or the RX-100.

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Roger Nordin
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Re: EM-5 suitable for kids and pet photography?
In reply to mpgxsvcd, Aug 21, 2012

mpgxsvcd wrote:

The 20mm F1.7 is not capable of doing AFC for stills and really isn't suitable for AFS.

Not suitable for AFS? Then what was it designed for, manual focus only? Please elaborate.

The 20/1.7 works quite well with the DMC-GF3 camera (that came free with the 14/2.5 lens, lol). It's a lot faster. Maybe its simply so that although the m43 system is supposed to be compatible between brands, there maybe is a difference between "compatible" and "optimized"?

It's just like "the battle of the 300:s" where I discovered here at DPR that shooting burst mode with active AF on each frame on the Oly OM-D gives 3.5fps @300mm with the Oly 75-300 zoom, but only 2fps with the Panny 100-300 @300mm. Compatible? Yes! Optimized? No.

I traded my 20mm for the 25mm and have never regretted it.

But then, you use Panny bodies? On the Oly OM-D body there is supposedly some very annoying aperture chattering noise while you are composing your image in broad daylight. Compatible? Yes! Optimized? No.

Anyways, I can try to hunt my daughter with the 14/2.5 instead on the OM-D. It has blazingly fast AF, and a wider DOF too. We'll see what happens.

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Roger

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Roger Nordin
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Re: Thanks to everyone! You saved me $2000 worth of headache!
In reply to realq86, Aug 21, 2012

Since you shoot Canon, the 650D would give you all the advantages with a touchscreen and touch-to-AF-and-shoot etc for situations where AF speed is not critical, combined with the possibly of shooting with traditional blazing-speed phase-AF when required.

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Roger

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Brian Wadie
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Re: EM-5 suitable for kids and pet photography?
In reply to realq86, Aug 21, 2012

in this series I was getting around 80% keepers, typically shooting short burst of 4 - 8 frames with the 9-18mm and 4 - 6 in a series with the 75-300mm

When I didn't get this level of keepers it was usually my fault, having hit the button at the wrong moment, rather than the system not keeping pace with the action

(I'm just working through the full set of images from my 2 day visit and the overall keeper rate is up around the 70 - 80% so far, with over 400 images processed - I'm beginning to wish I could "Bin" more of them to save some time! )

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Kevdog
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Re: EM-5 suitable for kids and pet photography?
In reply to mpgxsvcd, Aug 21, 2012

+100

The 20mm is known for its slow autofocus. They really should release an updated one with fast AF and they'd sell like hotcakes. The 20mm is great for low light static shots. If things are moving forget about it.

I went with the bigger 25mm and haven't regretted it either. It is very fast to AF and at f1.4 it lets in buckets of light.

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sean000
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Re: Photographing my kids and dogs with one.
In reply to realq86, Aug 21, 2012

realq86 wrote:

I believe the EM-5 in RAW, 12-35, and Lr4 will make a great combination.

Yes it will. I'm using the E-M5 mostly with primes, but a fast zoom sure is convenient for active subjects.

However I want to get a clear feedback on AF performance that I value as much as IQ. I'm buying a camera to keep priceless memories of my 7yr son and 2mo puppy. Both will NOT sit still for a camera and to make it worse, the Taiwanese lifestyle is mostly indoors.

I use both a Nikon D200 (mostly with a 17-55mm f/2.8) and the E-M5 mostly with 20mm f/1.7, 45mm f/1.8, and (when I'm outdoors in good light) either the Panasonic 14-45mm or Oly 12-50mm kit zooms. Also the 45-200mm Panny.

I have a two-year-old daughter and an infant son. We also have a greyhound. Nobody is as active as a 7 year old or a new puppy though

I upgraded my GF1 to the E-M5 and the newer camera is much better for action. Of course the lens also plays a role, and the 20mm f/1.7 is not as fast focusing as the 25mm f/1.4 or the Oly 45mm f/1.8. The 20mm is pretty much one of the slowest focusing m4/3 lenses you can buy, but I still manage to capture a moving toddler with way more hits than misses. Face detect helps.

The GF1's big downside was major LCD blackout while shooting bursts. Not only does the E-M5 shoot at a higher frame rate (although I usually shoot at the lower fps setting), but viewfinder/LCD blackout isn't as much of an issue...although there can be some lag (until the buffer clears) that still makes tracking a moving subject more difficult than using a DSLR with an optical viewfinder.

My D200 is definitely better than the GF1 at tracking a moving subject in AF-C mode, but the E-M5 seems much improved over the GF1 in that area.

I'm sure the 2011 contrast detecting focus of EM-5 is much better than my LX-5, but WILL IT KEEP UP WITH KIDS AND PETS? Will this new mirror-less body focus and track as well as my 7yr old phase-detecting DSLR body?

Well... my D200 is a 7 year old phase detect body and I'd say for action it's still got an advantage when it comes to AF tracking in AF-C and shooting burst shots (Even though the E-M5 shoots more frames per second). But my impressions of the E-M5 after six weeks is that it is darn close. Close enough that I would use the E-M5 for indoor sports because it can shoot MUCH cleaner high ISO shots than a 7 year old APS-C sensor. For outdoor action I still like my D200 for the optical viewfinder and no LCD/EVF lag while shooting bursts.

Please fellow EM-5 owners who shoots fast erratic moving subjects share your experience. Should I suck it up and go back to a DSLR or will this new breed of contrast-detecting body work well enough?

Well... a newer DSLR will have the edge for action, but personally I still prefer the E-M5 as a family camera for a number of reasons:

  • Portability... maybe it's not as bad with a 7-year-old (or maybe it's worse), but I have too much to carry on family outings these days to haul along my DSLR gear. I will take the E-M5 everywhere.

  • IBIS for video. If you shoot family video, you know a tripod isn't always practical. The E-M5 5-axis IBIS is like having Steady Cam for video. The results are amazing and look great on an HDTV. The flip-out LCD is also handy.

  • My toddler is less distracted by the E-M5 than she is by the DSLR. It's smaller and quieter than my DSLR. I seem to get more natural shots.

  • My wife prefers using the smaller camera, which is important if I want to be in some of the photos. She hates using my DSLR. I can just set the E-M5 on Aperture Priority, Auto-ISO, and Face Detect AF and hand it over to her.

I played around with the Sony RX-100 just now in AF-C and it was a joke. It was hunting back and forth focus like a vibrator on a STATIONARY object! Seems like that's Sony's electronic solution to tracking just randomly hunt back and forth and catch the object if it moves. Will the EM-5 do that?

Thanks!

Honestly I haven't used AF-C that much. Even with my DSLR I tend to use S-AF more than AF-C even when shooting sports. I tried E-M5 AF-C at a park one day and it was hit and miss... but it's also hit and miss on my D200. The nice thing about the E-M5 is that for S-AF it is so fast that I can usually get sharp shots with Face Detect even when the kids are on the move... and even in low light. However... I usually don't like those shots nearly as much as the shots I get when I just wait for my daughter to pause.

So it's tough to say whether or not the E-M5 will meet your expectations for AF-C. Others here have had more experience using AF-C and there have been threads devoted to AF-C on the E-M5. Personally I would probably get a new DSLR if I planned to shoot action with AF-C most of the time. It just depends on what is important to you. Right now the portability of the E-M5 is more important to me, but a 7-year-old is a whole different level of energy from a toddler. By the time my daughter is seven I am sure m4/3 will be much improved for fast action.

Sean

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A4
A4
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Came from D300 Re: EM-5 suitable for kids and pet photography?
In reply to realq86, Aug 21, 2012

Sir,

I came from a D300 shooting primes primarily (Sig 30 1.4/Nik 50 1.4) and my kid and indoors in available light is primarily what I shot for years. I have the 20 1.7 and it's for sure slower to focus that the 12 2.0 or 45 1.8 in similar situations. I have the 75 1.8 too and haven't had the same level of success but that's because I wasn't used to the min focus distance.

The big thing for me is that I don't try to use the tracking focus and that's because I don't have to. It focuses so fast using the touchscreen or spot in EVF that I don't worry about it. I can simply go higher with the 'film speed' and get to an appropriate shutter speed for the occasion.

The biggest thing for me is that the EM-5 with fast lenses weighs nothing in comparison to my old set-up.

Before letting it get poo-pooed by others here, maybe you could borrow one for a trial from a rental outfit or local photog group/club.

Sometimes I miss the shallow DoF but really, I was using it as a bit of a crutch I think. I feel that the EM-5 has brought something to my pics rather than taking away or compromise. I think it would be a fine machine for your purposes, just different.

Lastly - The FL-600R works beautifully with the EM-5 for when natural light is unrealistic. A much simpler to manage combo (for me) than my D300 and SB-800. I'm getting more consistent strobe shots for sure.

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apekkpul
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Re: EM-5 suitable for kids and pet photography?
In reply to realq86, Aug 21, 2012

I just shot photos from my son's (parkour-oriented) birthday party. Kids were running and jumping on trampoline. I used EM-5 in shutter priority mode and Olympus 45mm. I had set the shutter speed to 1/400 and 1/640 to stop the motion, auto-ISO, continuous auto focus (without tracking). I got a lot of great images. In many images ISO is around 2000 and they still look good. Oly 45mm focused quickly. Great combo!

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John Bean (UK)
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Re: EM-5 suitable for kids and pet photography?
In reply to Kevdog, Aug 21, 2012

Kevdog wrote:

Excellent!

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