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Olympus OM-D Dynamic Range (JPEG)

Our Dynamic Range measurement system involves shooting a calibrated Stouffer Step Wedge (13 stops total range) which is backlit using a daylight balanced lamp (98 CRI). A single shot of this produces a gray scale wedge from the camera's clipped white point down to black (example below). Each step of the scale is equivalent to 1/3 EV (a third of a stop), we select one step as 'middle gray' (defined as 50% luminance) and measure outwards to define the dynamic range. Hence there are 'two sides' to our results, the amount of shadow range (below middle gray) and the amount of highlight range (above middle gray).

To most people highlight range is the first thing they think about when talking about dynamic range, that is the amount of highlight detail above middle gray the camera can capture before it clips to white. Shadow range is more complicated; in our test the line on the graph stops as soon as the luminance value drops below our defined 'black point' (about 2% luminance) or the signal-to-noise ratio drops below a predefined value (where shadow detail would be swamped by noise), whichever comes first.

Note: this page features our interactive dynamic range comparison widget. The wedges below the graph are created by our measurement system from the values read from the step wedge, the red lines indicate approximate shadow and highlight range (the dotted line indicating middle gray).

The E-M5's lower noise levels than the 12MP PENs allow it to use a more gentle tone curve that offers greater dynamic range (because the bottom of the curve isn't so limited by shadow noise). The result is a camera that produces JPEGs with very competitive dynamic range, really making the most of what the sensor can capture. Switching Gradation to 'Auto' lifts detail out of the shadows, making it easy to create an image with a well-balanced tonal response, even in high contrast situations. And, indeed, in high contrast situations will lower the shutter speed to capture more highly detail and pull the rest of the image back up to the correct brightness.

The E-M5 is showing around 2/3EV more highlight range in the JPEGs than the PENs, or indeed the Panasonic G3, bringing it into line with the Sony NEX cameras. This is a significant improvement, and also means that you'll capture additional highlight detail when shooting RAW, unless you habitually override your camera's metering. This change is a sensible way for Olympus to optimize the use of the E-M5's improved sensor.

The E-M5's color modes have very little effect on its tonal response - only Portrait differs significantly, lifting the image brightness, adding a little contrast but with a gentle roll-off at both ends of the curve to prevent harsh jumps at either the highlight or shadow end of things. Instead, the dramatic changes in tonal response are achieved through using either the Gradation control's High Key and Low Key settings, or via the adjustable tone curve of the camera - both of which can be combined with color modes.

The gradation settings on the camera are really used for two things: to adjust the tonal response in the image to maximise the use of the captured dynamic range (Using the tone-balancing Auto mode), or to apply High or Low-Key special effects. The High and Low-Key modes affect the camera's metering as well as tone curve - with High Key using a brighter exposure and adding a more aggressive roll-off to highlight, and the Low Key setting doing the opposite.

This graph shows what the High and Low Key settings do, if the camera is allowed to set its own exposure: for instance the High Key setting makes a brighter image ('middle grey' in the scene is rendered at a luminance level of around 190, rather than the roughly 118 you'd expect with the Normal setting), with a very abrupt 'shoulder' at the top of the tone curve pushing lots of bright tones to near-white.

With the camera's adjustable tone curve now made so accessible, it's easy to use this an a bit of exposure compensation to recreate the effect of the High and Low Key settings and, indeed, better tailor the effect to your subject. With this capability so accessible, the High and Low-Key settings are best seen as simple presets if not entirely redundant.

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Comments

Total comments: 8
larryr
By larryr (2 months ago)

It is the only one listed in the camera feature search with a viewfinder as waterproof,but it appears to be only weather resistant, ie don't dunk it in water(or clipped to your life jacket while whitewater kayaking).

0 upvotes
saradindubose
By saradindubose (6 months ago)

OLUMPUS OMDE5 appears to be an interesting camera - I am specially attracted to its weathersealed body and lens ( which I think is very essential in a country like I NDIA) - that was the reason why I had purchased PENTAX K10D years ago. One thing which is bothering me is its made in China tag. I am an architect and basically interested in landscape and nature photography - I travel a lot . Can I am have some inputs from those who are using OLYMPUS OMD E5?

Comment edited 34 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Vaqas
By Vaqas (5 months ago)

As a hobbyist, I have been using OMD EM5 for more than an year now and I love it. Here are some of my clicks. There are mostly landscapes and outdoors sports shots.
https://www.facebook.com/VaqasPhoto
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaqasmalik/

4 upvotes
Liberator
By Liberator (5 months ago)

I recently got E-M5 and very happy with it. By no means I'm pro photographer but with my new 12-40mm F2.8 Pro lens is great combat and have been talking great picture. I use Toshiba Flash Air to use with my iPhone/ipad too. I mostly to landscape photos and it has not let me down.

1 upvote
photohounds
By photohounds (5 months ago)

It is an excellent little shooter.
THe EVF is quite good and KILLS OVFs in low light. THese were taken with one ..

http://http://photohounds.smugmug.com/Performing-arts

The CaNIKSon shooters told me that they got VERY few 'keeper' pics with their FF sensors. I get a few 'looks' while shooting, but they soon shut up when RESULTS are compared.

Anywhere it's really dark, you'll appreciate being able to SEE.

I also own the EM-1 and have yet to put it through its DIM light paces.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
Chad Hogan
By Chad Hogan (9 months ago)

I'm on the hunt for a new camera and weighing up my options just now.. I'm fairly new to the game though and a bit naive in all honesty! Is the EM5 much better than the Canon EOS 7D as this comparison...

http://versus.com/en/olympus-om-d-e-m5-vs-canon-eos-7d

suggests? What features make this camera great and what one would you go for?

Thanks, Chad

Comment edited 14 seconds after posting
1 upvote
TheRabbit
By TheRabbit (8 months ago)

Hi, I didn't see any answer yet, so I asume nobody saw your post yet. I'll try to help you (maybe you didn't choose yet). This comparison isn't very good in my opinion (for example, it compares 9 fps vs 8, but you have to take in account that is with fixed focus. With continuous focus is much slower and less accurate...). I had a 60 D (same sensor, and image quality as the 7D with different features) and I have now the EM-5. I can tell you it has some advantages (if you think smaller and cheaper very good lenses are important advantages; for me, it is essential), but you will have to sacrifice some speed and easyness of handling. The best way is to read the full review of both cameras and to determine what are YOUR priorities. Don't forget to look at the sample images, as the two cameras have different outputs and it's important if you don't like to spend time in post processing. You will find very nice and helpfull reviews on this site (in my opinion, one of the best). Good luck!

3 upvotes
coroander
By coroander (6 months ago)

I sold my 7D and lots of expensive L glass after buying the E-M5. The E-M5 is much smaller, it's images are sharper (no anti-aliasing filter), while the 7D has a very strong anti-aliasing filter (much stronger than any of the other Canon cameras with 18MP sensors) and the E-M5 has more dynamic range. It's also not nearly as prone to banding as the 7D is when pulling details from shadows. The 7D is a bit more ergonomic, but it's much larger, and it's lenses are significantly larger. And the reason i sold it is because it's so heavy. The E-M5 is very fast focusing, but for indoor sports (subjects moving towards or away from the camera) the 7D wins. Both cameras are metal bodied and weather sealed. Both have 4 channel, 3 group remote flash triggering. The E-M5 also has tilt screen and touch screen (touch point to focus and take image.)

1 upvote
Total comments: 8