Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II: Exploring landscapes with 40 Megapixels

Like a Painting, Valley of Fire State Park - Overton, Nevada

Like a Painting, Valley of Fire State Park – Overton, Nevada

I’ve talked about the new 40 megapixel mode on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II a couple of times already (here and here). Out in the canyons near Las Vegas, I explored this special mode some more, via landscapes. The high-resolution mode thrives on stillness. It needs a tripod and, ideally, very calm weather to do its magic. This high-resolution is achieved via sensor shifting which makes 8 passes. When the conditions are just so, you get some wonderful results.

Luckily, the wind was non-existant most of the time. And even though the bulk of compositions consisted of immovable rocks, there’s always scrub and grasses that would benefit from absolute stillness. Back in San Francisco, where I tested the high-res mode, I had some doubts of its efficacy outside. Even in the city, I often found some subtle movement that would render less than perfect results. However, on a very still day at Muir Woods, I found that landscapes were indeed possible.

Greenery in the Desert - Near Las Vegas, Nevada

With tripod in hand, I shot in and around Red Rock Canyon, 30 minutes west of downtown Las Vegas as well as at the Valley of Fire State Park, located 1 hour east. All of these where shot as 40MP JPEGs with the E-M5 Mark II with the 12-40mm f2.8 Pro lens. I cropped all but the last image in a 2 x 3 aspect ratio. I find that I like these landscapes better that way. And even with the crop, I’m left with sizable 35.5MP images.

A Western Landscape - Near Las Vegas, Nevada

I’ve mentioned before that I’m new to landscape shooting. And I don’t consider myself a true landscape shooter since I’m not camping out for days waiting for the perfect environmental conditions. That, to me, is what sets a true landscape photographer apart. The lighting here is hardly dramatic and the skies are sort of blah. I suppose you can almost consider these well composed snapshots. But, I am happy with the results. Also, I think these high-resolution “test shots” are a lot more interesting to look at than the typical snaps used to test cameras.

One Peak, Valley of Fire State Park - Overton, Nevada
Mostly Scrub and Rocks, Valley of Fire State Park - Overton, Nevada

I haven’t spent much time in the desert but I really enjoy its minimalist beauty. With less underbrush, visual clutter is easily controlled. The rock formations have some vague similarity to the urban structures that I typically shoot. And the red rocks are striking and make a nice counterpoint to the blue skies and the blue-green plants. These two photos are from the Valley of Fire. I’m sure you can tell where it gets its name.

A Road Runs Through It, Valley of Fire State Park - Overton, Nevada

Here’s a bit of cliché but it’s hard to resist a gently curving road. The 40MP high-res mode takes a couple of seconds to execute even under bright conditions. Luckily there wasn’t much traffic.

The image looks OK but a bit flat. I shot the photograph at the top of the post, 20 yards left of this road. It’s my favorite with the wonderful color variations. It’s also a HDR — created from three 40MP images, which I post-processed on the computer. While the image pops nicely, I don’t think it looks garish like some HDRs.

A Contrast in Rock Colors, Red Rock Canyon - Near Las Vegas, Nevada

Finally, one from Red Rock Canyon. I took the same scene with both 40MP and the standard 16MP. At web sizes, the resolution can’t be appreciated. However look at two squares at 100% — therein lies the difference. The one the left at 40MP and the right at 16MP.

The problem of course is that you, the viewer, don’t get to see full resolution images on a large display. These small web sizes ultimately don’t do these images justice. I have two displays on my computer. A 15” retina display on the Mac Book Pro and the 27” external Thunderbolt display. While the big external monitor looks fine, it’s really the high-resolution retina display that really shines. I would love to take a look at these on one of those new Retina 5K 27” iMac displays. Now that should be truly spectacular.


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5 thoughts on “Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II: Exploring landscapes with 40 Megapixels

  1. Really awesome shots! I wonder if the 40MP (sampling) is because of the sensor or is it because of the software… Do you think the E-M1 will get an update and be able to do the same?

    Would be a shame if not, I really wish Oly came out with an update for E-M1 for sampling 40MP

    1. Thank you, tiger claws. I thought I heard somewhere that the new high-re mode is a combination of the new firmware (software) and the newer, more sophisticated sensor shifting hardware. If this is true, then they probably will not be able to update the E-M1 with this technology.

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