Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II High Resolution Mode

The headline new feature of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is the high resolution mode. The camera is not the first to take multiple pictures while shifting the sensor, to achieve a higher image quality. The Hasselblad H5D 50c takes six picture for a total of 200MP resolution.

However, the E-M5 Mark II takes this feature to the affordable enthusiast market. By taking a total of eight pictures using the electronic shutter, while shifting the sensor, it achieves a whopping 64MP resolution (available using RAW only, the JPEG output tops out at 40MP).

But is the resolution really twice that of the ordinary 16MP output? That is what I am looking into here.

To test it, I have taken the same picture at 12mm using the high resolution feature, and at 24mm using the normal exposure. The pictures were taken with the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 (my review), which is the best M4/3 lens I have used.

All the pictures were taken with the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod, with fast shutter speed, and using the self timer to avoid camera shake.

E-M5 Mark II with Lumix 12-35mm @ 12mm f/5.6, 16MP mode
E-M5 Mark II with Lumix 12-35mm @ 12mm f/5.6, high rez mode
E-M5 Mark II with Lumix 12-35mm @ 24mm f/5.6, 16MP mode

To convert the images from RAW to JPEG was a two step process: First I converted the RAW file (ORF) to DNG using the Adobe DNG Converter 8.8, which is free. Then I loaded the DNG file into Lightroom 5.4 and converted it to JPEG format.

You can download my example files here, if you would like to examine them yourself:

High res ORF file at ISO 200 (105MB)High res ORF file at ISO 1600 (105MB)
High res DNG file at ISO 200 (48MB)High res DNG file at ISO 1600 (54MB)

Here are 100% crop comparisons between the images. The picture taken at 12mm with 16MP resolution is upscaled to match that of the high resolution image:

Note that the 64MP image has different noise reduction settings, but it still gives you an idea about the detail level.

What you see here, is that the 64MP picture certainly has more details than the plain 16MP version. But you should not expect to have double the resolution in both directions, as in the picture taken at twice the focal length.

I think Olympus made a good choice when selecting 40MP for the JPEG output in high resolution mode. That is pretty much the limit, resolution wise. Using the 64MP RAW file, you will not get significantly more resolution, however, it may give you more headroom for adjustments of the exposure in post processing.

40MP is still more than any other enthusiast system camera in the market today. The Sony A7R tops out at 34MP. The Canon EOS 5DS will provide 50MP, though, and a similar sensor is expected from Sony as well, for their upcoming A9 model.

In the mean time, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II attempts to keep Micro Four Thirds users from migrating to other systems for a higher resolution. Keep in mind that the high resolution mode only works for static subjects, though, as the process of taking the eight exposures needed takes at least one second.

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