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Olympus At ISO 3200: No More Fear

Back in October of last year I wrote about "shooting at ISO 3200 with impunity" with the Sony NEX-5N and its 18-55mm kit lens. I wrote how I didn't feel that way with the Olympus cameras I had at that time. That's now changed.

Friday night, while on a fish taco run to Lime Mexican Grill, I happened to grab the photo above on the way in to eat. After looking at the results I'm here to say that I now feel that same sense of impunity with the Olympus E-M5. Granted, I used the Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 prime instead of a kit zoom, but the flip side is that the raw files are especially luscious coming out of the E-M5, and the 20mm has no distortions to speak of, especially compared to Sony's 18-55mm kit zoom. And I like the fact my 20mm prime is still two stops faster stopped down to f/2, than the equivalent focal length on the Sony zoom, 27mm at f/4 wide open). (No, I do not shoot any fast prime wide open unless I have no other choice. Old habits ingrained during my film days will never die).

Granted, DxOMark shows that the 5N's overall sensor score is 10 points higher than the overall score of the E-M5. But I'll take that "deficit" and run with it, since the E-M5's overall score is a good 20 points higher than every other 4:3rds and µ4:3rds body olympus manufactured before the E-M5.

If Sony had poured as much ingenuity and manufacturing into affordable NEX prime lenses as they seem to into bodies, I'd be using Sony's near-equivalent 30mm f/1.7 prime on a NEX-6 or NEX-7 and lauding that combination in low light, instead of the Olympus E-M5 with the Panasonic Lumix 20mm.


  1. Looks good Bill. Oh and isn't f2 actually two stops faster than f4? Anyway - this looks like at least a two stop improvement (concerning noise and such) over my E-PL1. Oh, and at ISO 3200, do you still have headroom for exposure and/or curve corrections in the shadows?

    I guess what I would love the most about the E-M5 is the built-in viewfinder, on which I could mount an additional radio transmitter for the flashes. And yes, a Nex-6 or -7 would have those as well (and even better ones I guess), but those lenses would be missing. As would the IBIS.

    1. >> ...isn't f2 actually two stops faster than f4?

      Yes, 2, 2,8, 4. I can't count...

      Oh, and at ISO 3200, do you still have headroom for exposure and/or curve corrections in the shadows?

      It would appear so. I'm just happy to have what I see right now. I never tried to tweak the NEX files because I stayed strictly with the NEX JPEGS to take advantage of the NEX's internal lens corrections. And every time I went to touch a JPEG it just fell apart.

      My needs are remarkably modest and easily met by every current mirrorless camera. Mirrorless is where I want to be now on due to their small size and innocuous nature compared to "classic" DSLRs.


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