Sunday, February 28, 2010

Next Generation Olympus E-System DSLR – My “E-5” Wish list

There have been quite a few rumours of Oly releasing a new professional level DSLR for almost a year now, since it released the last semi-pro E-30 back in Mar-2009.

There have also been rumours about what Oly would call it. Some say its going to be E-5 or E-4 or E-40! Who knows!!?

I don't care what Oly calls it, as long as it meets my wish list.

So, here is the list of things I would Like to see in E-5 (lets call it that, since it sounds a logical nomenclature for E-System)

  1. EVF or OVF – If its EVF then I would like it to be integrated in the body and should be either of same or better quality than that of E-P2 EVF. If its OVF then its got to be as good as E-3 at least. 100% view OVF will only make sense when you are talking of a pro-DSLR
  2. High ISO noise – Although E-P2 is a definite improvement over E-30 in terms of noise management, its still leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to ISO beyond 3200. I would like to see 2 things as far as high ISO is concerned;
    • I would like to have the ISO limit extended to 12800
    • I would like the IQ (image quality) to be same as current ISO 1600 in E-P2 up until at least ISO 6400. This will be totally phenomenal if E-5 can deliver this.
  3. Integrated Vertical Grip -  Although HLD-4 for E-3 and E-30 is great, I still feel an integrated vertical grip would make it better in terms of handling and looks. Though is a low priority, I really won’t be disappointed if its not provided.
  4. Dynamic Range – E-P2 senor + image processor provides a vast improvement on DR over E30. I feel E-30 is a great camera and has a good DR between ISO 200-400, but it decreases rapidly beyond that and also ISO 100 DR is not same a compared to E-P2. I found E-P2 has better DR even till ISO 1600. I would like to see an improved on this. It will be really cool to have a sensor and image processor with a DR better than E-P2
  5. Auto Focus – While E-30 and E-3 have one of the fastest AF in business, but its tied to Oly’s HG & SHG lenses. I would still like to see an improvement in following  areas;
    • Increase in number of AF points and more zones.
    • Faster AF performance with consumer grade lenses like 18-180 or 70-300.
    • Better lowlight AF performance across all lens grades. E-30 sometimes struggles in low light.
    • Better Continuous AF with tracking. Its a good idea introduced in E-P2, but C-AF + Track needs a lot of improvement if it has to be effective in real world, like race course for example.
  6. Live View – This is simple. The E-30 LV is hardly usable. While E-P2 is a major milestone. However, if I can go back a little in the past, I think E-330 LV was fantastic, sexy and revolutionary! I am not saying I want one like that in E-5, but I would definitely like to see improvements in LV and LV + AF. The LV+AF in E-P2 is not what you would expect from even mid-range camera. Low light LV performance should be better than E-P2.
  7. Image Stabilization (IS) – The IS in E-P2 and E-30 are fantastic. Not sure what more can be done to this. But miniaturization done for E-P2 would definitely help because IS in E-30 is a little noisy and the one in E-P2 is quiet as a feather. So E-5 should have the same (or better, if at all possible) IS performance as E-30 with reduced noise.
  8. The Body – The body should have the following quality
    • The body should have same or better ergonomic design as E-3 or E-30. Button placements should be logical as in E-30. Oly should change the button placements only if they can see at least 200% improvement over E-30 or E=3 otherwise they would be better off leaving it unchanged.
    • Body should be same size as E-3 or E-30. It SHOULD NOT be smaller. That would be a real shame.
    • Body should be weather sealed and dust proof. I should be able wash my E-5 after taking it to the beach!!:-)
    • Should have 3-inch or bigger swivel LCD. LCD should have a higher resolution. I know Oly guys must have gone deaf hearing this request, but yes, it needs to have higher resolution. A touch screen would be nice ;-) but I wont mind if its not! :-)
  9. HD Video – I am not a great fan of HD videos in DSLRs. However, since I have 6 year old, I find using E-P2 convenient because I can shoot photos and videos when needed with a twist of a wheel. I liked the idea of having a great quality still and video camera in the box. Also following the expectation from the users would be a good idea. So HD video with 1080p resolution. Also the AF in movie mode should be faster than E-P2.
  10. FPS – Frames Per Second – While 5FPS of E-3 and E-30 is ok for me. I sometimes do miss the 8 to 10 FPS when shooting birds. I would like to see at least 8FPS on E-5. If E-5 happens to be mirror less with electronic shutter, then recent technological advances predict that 20FPS is also possible. But I would be happy even with 8 or 10 FPS.
  11. RAW + TIFF – My E-330 has this option. Not sure why Oly removed this from there future E-bodies. This is great feature to have. I need this back.
  12. Better in Camera RAW edit – I would like to see better RAW edit in camera. Like ability to crop after changing aspect ratio, or ability to change the Exposure in RAW, ability to apply all art filters etc. But this is lowest on the list. Ability to change the exposure and making copy into RAW would be very helpful though.
  13. In Camera Time Lapse Photography – This would something I would love instead of having to shoot tethered. I know I can buy 3rd party remotes which do that. But I still would like this feature in camera, though low on list.
  14. Better Customization – I would like to see the customization;
    • Function button has improve drastically. It should be more intuitive and more customizable. I liked what old Canon EOS-30 had. I want to see something like that
    • I would also would like my commonly used settings to be storable and retrievable easily.

Ok Oly guys! Now get to work! :-)

V for Valentine...

Friday, February 12, 2010

High ISO Shooting

First of all – Apologies for not writing for almost 2 months. As most of you know, I am now in India and the move was extremely hectic and overwhelming! I am now settled though, and hope to continue my blog as before!

So, coming to this blog. Lets first understand why HIGH ISO is even a topic and what ISO and high ISOs are.

As many of you would have noticed something labeled as ISO on your cameras. But most people I know have hardly used this feature because they either don’t know how to use it or don’t know what it means or both.

In simple terms – ISO is defined a film or the image sensor speed. It defines how fast or slow the film or image sensor is. In other words it is simply a measure of sensitivity of the film or the image sensor to light. So higher the ISO, greater is the sensitivity of the film or image sensor - which is what is called fast film or sensor. If the ISO is low then its the slow film or image sensor which is to say its less sensitive to light.

If you own a digital camera, then ISO speed are marked as 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 and so on…

I will not touch upon the how the ISO affects the exposure stops as its much more involved subject. For the time being its enough for you to understand that the following

  • A low ISO say 100 or 200 will make your image sensor less sensitive to light. So you will need more exposure time to shoot a scene. Slower shutter speed.
  • A high ISO of say 800 or 1600 will make the image sensor more sensitive light. So you will need less exposure time to shoot the same scene. Faster shutter speed.
  • To be exact – every doubling of ISO speed, you double the sensitivity of the film or sensor. So you will need a faster shutter speeds as you increase the ISO (assuming your aperture or f-number is constant) to get the correct exposure.

So, when do you need high ISO? – In most daylight situations, an ISO of 100, 200 or 400 should be enough. But things change when you have following scenarios and that is when you need higher ISO

  • You cannot use or do not have a flash and you are shooting indoors under natural or artificial light
  • You want to use fast shutter speed to freeze an action.
  • You are in an aquarium or a museum. Now you may say you can use flash. But you will get horrible pics if you choose to use external flash in aquarium unless you do a professional setup. So I would rather go with high ISO to get faster shutter so that I reduce shake
  • Remember – as a general rule you should have the shutter speed which is at least reciprocal of the highest focal length of the lens. So if you lens is 50mm then you should have the minimum shutter of 1/50 so that you don’t get into camera shake effect. So increasing ISO in such a situation to get optimum shutter speed is desirable.

Now having said this, if you are shooting in a lowlight without tripod then you better have a very good reason for doing so. But like we all know, its not practical to have tripod every where you go, even if you have it, its not practical to set it up everywhere. High ISO will come to the rescue for you.

Those were the advantages and ways to use high ISO, of course as with everything else in life, all good things come with a price. So does high ISO.

A high ISO makes the image sensor very sensitive to light, which in turn introduces digital noise in the picture. As seen from the picture below, use of ISO-2000 has allowed me to use a shutter of 1/500 inside a mall. However it has lots of tiny specs. This is noise.


However there is way to get rid of digital noise during post processing. I use a software called Noiseware.

The corrected image in Photoshop and using Noiseware to reduce noise.

In the spirit!!

But such software have their limitations. They work best when your exposure is spot-on. If your picture is under exposed, then you are in trouble. The noise reduction software will do more harm then good.

This is because any image sensor/processor has a higher latitude for over exposure in low light than under exposure. So if you over expose your pic then you may be able salvage it even if it has lot of noise. But if you under expose, then you are definitely in trouble.

I will show you an example. Here are 2 pictures.

Both are shot @ ISO 3200. The first picture is terribly under exposed. So it had a lot of noise and even with a lot of post processing in Photoshop, I couldn't get the exposure right nor was the Noiseware able to remove the noise properly. The result – bad picture, terribly underexposed, no clarity what-so-ever, bad noise. You can see the noise even after processing with Noiseware.

Second picture was over exposed by 2 stops. I could salvage this picture in Photoshop and get almost correct exposure. I could also remove almost all noise and picture is perfectly clear. Although you do see some camera shake in it, that's because of slow shutter as a result of over exposure. Also there is some loss of details in the bright areas, but who cares….I got the subjects nice!


So, if you want to shoot in low light with high ISO, always remember to ensure your exposure is right. One way of ensuring this is to use SPOT metering on the subject and adjusting the EV (Exposure value) to get the appropriate exposure.

Remember over exposure is better than under exposure any day when shooting in lowlight.

Some High ISO examples





This is India - A balloon seller inside the mall! 


ISO-1600 for 1/8000 sec to freeze the bird. Broad daylight.





Hope this was helpful!