Olympus Australia have been kind enough to lend me one of their fairly new OM-D E-M1 Mark II’s to try out for a couple of weeks. One of the features that initially really intrigued me with this camera was it’s ability to shoot in a mode Olympus are calling ‘High Res Shot’. There are a bunch of other really appealing features in this camera, a few of which I’ve never seen in any other cameras on the market. Props to Olympus for thinking outside the box!

High Res Shot

So, what is ‘High Res Shot’ and why am I so attracted to it? High Res Shot is a mode in which the E-M1’s sensor is able to capture a higher resolution image by shifting the position of the 20mp sensor, 8 times, in half pixel increments, capturing images at each increment and combining them using some fancy in-camera processing that I’m not smart enough to try and explain. This results in either a 50mp JPEG or 80mp RAW file (20mp sensor x 8 frames x 0.5 pixel).

Caveats of High Res Shot

As exciting as shooting an 80 megapixel RAW file on a tiny micro four thirds camera sounds, it’s not actually a true 80mp image. By that I mean, it doesn’t have the sharpness and detail you’d expect from an 80mp sensor, but more a 50mp sensor upscaled to 80mp. I believe this is why Olympus outputs a 50mp JPEG, because they are obviously aware of this features limitations. Now, I’m no maths/science genius, but this may have something to do with the resolving power of the lenses? Or the processing of the stacked images in camera? Someone correct me if I’m wrong!

There are a few other limitations when shooting in High Res Shot such as being restricted to the use of a tripod, camera settings are limited to a maximum aperture of f/8 and max ISO of 1600 (I believe shutter speed is now unrestricted) and also shooting scenes with moving subjects can be difficult i.e. trees, water, clouds etc. It goes without saying you could never shoot a portrait using High Res Shot… unless it’s a portrait of a robot?

Whenever someone tells me a piece of gear has a limitation, be it big or small, I like to push those limitations and try to find a workaround. In regards to the restricted smallest aperture of f/8 theres always the option to focus stack for larger depth of field. And when shooting scenes with moving subjects, particularly water and clouds (maybe not so much with trees), you can shoot extra long exposures and blur out any detail that may have been causing inconsistencies with the use of High Res Mode.

Real World Example of High Res Shot

So, this would be a pretty boring post if I didn’t at least share one image captured using this feature. Here’s a little before and after shot. I took one image during sunset using High Res Shot, and another about 30 minutes later once the city lights were shining, then blended them in Photoshop. Use the slider to see before and after!

If you want to see the full res 80 mp (watermarked) file, check this link: 80mp cityscape. – It’s nearly 40mb – sooo maybe don’t click the link if you’re using data on your phone…

Final Thoughts

There are definitely some drawbacks and limitations with the use of High Res Shot, but in a pinch and under the perfect conditions, you’re able to capture some incredibly high resolution images. Personally, I would recommend shooting in RAW so you have the 80mp file, then downsizing and sharpening to around 50mp for the best results. All things considered, this is really incredible technology and I can’t wait to see how Olympus further develop it in future cameras. Dare I say, the E-M1 Mark III?