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Thread: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

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    Member popum's Avatar
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    Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    My OM-D just arrived with the kit lens. Looks great, feels great in the hand. However, when it is turned on there is constant low level whirring noise. The noise goes away when shooting video. I'm wondering if this is the same for all cameras or if I have a problem.

    Mike

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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    Quote Originally Posted by popum View Post
    My OM-D just arrived with the kit lens. Looks great, feels great in the hand. However, when it is turned on there is constant low level whirring noise. The noise goes away when shooting video. I'm wondering if this is the same for all cameras or if I have a problem.

    Mike
    I heard that is the 5 axis stabilisation gyroscope (located in the hump, near the EVF)) doing the job.

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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    You may be correct, but I still have the noise when IS is turned off.

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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    Found a post from Olympus Technical Support that says it is the IS and can be heard even when the IS is turned off. Guess I'll have to decide how bothersome it really is.

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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    So from this posts I assume you are mainly newcomers to the Olympus digital system, as this noise is in principle nothing new. Could be heard as well from the E3 and E5 I owned, although it was maybe a bit less because of the bigger mass of the camera itself.

    Anyway I am using the OMD indoors and outdoors and I am not disturbed at all. If you want a really quiet camera then go for a film Leica M - nothing will top that

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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    The noise on this camera is new and different from the older pens. Yes, it is normal and for some people really irritating. Yes, it is normal that it is still there when you turn IS off and yes it diminishes when you are shooting video. Lots of extensive threads on it at DPReview and it is mentioned in their review of the camera.

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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    Quote Originally Posted by Terry View Post
    The noise on this camera is new and different from the older pens. Yes, it is normal and for some people really irritating. Yes, it is normal that it is still there when you turn IS off and yes it diminishes when you are shooting video. Lots of extensive threads on it at DPReview and it is mentioned in their review of the camera.
    Actually in the PENs you are right I could not hear that noise. But from the E3 and E5 I definitely know it was there, but at a much lower level, so maybe many did not even notice it.

    As mentioned I do not feel disturbed by this noise from the OMD, but maybe others do so. Anyway it will not go away and I rather prefer this noise which does not disturb me, but gives me a really powerful IS helping to get blur free results.

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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    If the camera is set to auto-sleep in a short time, will the fan noise go away when it's sleeping? Just want to make sure it won't be a battery drain.
    David Young
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    Workshop Member ptomsu's Avatar
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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    Quote Originally Posted by Hosermage View Post
    If the camera is set to auto-sleep in a short time, will the fan noise go away when it's sleeping? Just want to make sure it won't be a battery drain.
    Indeed it goes away.

    Just to make sure it is not a fan noise, for some it might sound as something like that but instead it comes from the IS System.

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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    I tested the camera for a little over two hours in the store. Two salesmen and I spent about 15 minutes (5 each) trying to hear the noise and couldn't. We all pressed our ears to the camera in several different places. None of us could hear it with the BG noise of just a store - even with our ears pressed against it.

    One looker-on asked if we were going to perform CPR on the thing.

    I'm inclined to think one needs bionic ear implants in order to actually hear it!

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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    It's certainly there. But your victim certainly can't hear it.
    I guess it might bother you if you were already irritated, but the OMD is so un-irritating in every other respect - I can certainly live with it.

    More interestingly - I haven't noticed it with the kit lens, but I have with the Panasonic 100-300 . .

    Just this guy you know

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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    Quote Originally Posted by Tesselator View Post
    I'm inclined to think one needs bionic ear implants in order to actually hear it!
    I have normal hearing, it is trivial to hear it in a quiet room with the camera held at arms length. Very obvious when using the EVF. It is band-limited white noise, like a small fan or hard drive as some have described. Very inoffensive and not really distracting (to me at least) and unlikely to be heard by anything other than a macro subject and the photographer.

    It is certainly possible the magnitude of the noise varies from camera to camera.

    It is nearly silent in video mode.

    Ken

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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    The very soft hum is a total non-issue.

    Far more importantly, the shutter is very quiet even at 9fps.

    The EM5 is certainly one of the best cameras for unobtrusive shooting I have ever used. Better than my M9.

    -Bill

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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    Well, on the kit lens I simply cannot hear it (12-50)
    On the 100-300 it's quite obvious (but not a problem)

    I'd do some more research but it really is a non problem (for me at least)

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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    non-issue for me. I have to try and hear it, and there can't be much ambient noise to do so.

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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    Quote Originally Posted by jonoslack View Post
    Well, on the kit lens I simply cannot hear it (12-50)
    On the 100-300 it's quite obvious (but not a problem)

    I'd do some more research but it really is a non problem (for me at least)
    Ah, that might explain it. I tested it with the 12-50 kit zoom only. I did put the Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 G on it for a bit but I didn't try to hear the noise while it was on. I put it on only to check how everything handled while shooting at 1:1 ratios hand-held. It did great BTW!





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    Last edited by Tesselator; 3rd May 2012 at 09:42.

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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    The noise or hum is interesting. I'm used to Panasonic OIS lenses that will clunk as they are moved about, strictly a mechanical and non-electrical function of stabilization. Is it correct that the Olympus noise is similar, but rather the stabilization is now electrically-powered? Does the noise continue when the camera is turned on but at complete rest, such as sitting on a desk?

    And, then, are there other functions on modern digital cameras that are always on and that combine electrical power input plus mechanical movement of some sort? Of course, one thinks of autofocusing as you move a camera around, and lenses are sometimes more and sometimes less noisy, constantly adjusting. But at rest, I haven't experienced a constant noise.

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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    If the camera is on and IS is on and you put it on a table (at rest) the noise continues. Till the camera powers off.

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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    Got a new OM-D today and it has the same noise. Very strange. Is there some idea what that could be?
    Uwe Steinmueller
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    Editor&Owner of Digital Outback Photo
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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    Quote Originally Posted by ustein View Post
    Got a new OM-D today and it has the same noise. Very strange. Is there some idea what that could be?
    I think it's the IS . . . . with mine it doesn't happen with the 12-50 kit . . . but it does with both the panny 100-300 and the zuiko 45 f1.8.

    IMHO it's no kind of an issue . strange though!

    How do you like it? (the camera that is, not the noise)

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    Senior Member Amin's Avatar
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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    I can hear the sound, but it doesn't bother me in the least.

    As for the cause, I had an interesting email discussion about this with someone who would rather not be identified:

    Have you noticed how the sensor jumps into position when the power is turned on? This means that the magnetic suspension must be on at all times for the sensor to be in the correct position!

    This does not mean that IS is always on. The magnetic suspension is always on. By default, IS is OFF, which means that the sensor is stationary with respect to the camera body. In other words: no effort is made to cancel camera motion. No vibration dampening is occurring. No action is performed, other than maintaining the sensor in the correct position respective to the lens!

    When IS is turned ON, then the vibration information provided by solid-state accelerometers is used to compensate for vibration. In other words: with IS ON, the sensor moves with respect to the camera body, in a fashion that (hopefully) cancels out vibrations.

    The sound produced by one E-M5 may vary from the sound produced by another E-M5. The sound is the result of magnetostriction. The sum of the magnetic forces produced by the small windings in the IS assembly causes equivalent stresses on the windings themselves, causing them to vibrate. This is the same phenomenon that makes power transformers (like wall warts) hum, only the frequency is higher in this case. Since no two of these very small windings are exactly alike, their acoustic properties will vary slightly from one camera to the next. This is absolutely normal.

    This is not something to be addressed by a firmware update. The magnetic suspension is required for the camera to operate properly. There is nothing wrong with the camera.
    Any guesses as to why the sound is much quieter in video mode?

    IS turns ON when video starts!

    Magnetostriction is a bit of an odd phenomenon. To picture what's happening, think of a winding traversed by an electrical current. Whenever the current increases, the magnetic field pushing apart the individual strands in the winding increases, effectively minutely increasing the volume of the winding. When the current subsides, so does this mechanical force, allowing the winding to return to its relaxed state.

    Now, the reason why there is a such high-frequency current variation in the said windings is related to electrical efficiency issues (preservation of precious battery power). A detailed explanation would be way beyond what seems appropriate here, so I'll simply suggest that you research the following topics if you want to dig further: Linear vs. Switched Mode Power Supplies, and Pulse-Width Modulation. Suffice it to say that it is more efficient to send a pulse train with a 50% duty cycle (50% of the time full ON, 50% of the time OFF) than to create a 50% amplitude constant current to drive a winding. The former uses less than half the power required for the latter, generally speaking, and the end result is identical.

    So, the question is thus: we have tiny windings being fed high-frequency pulse trains. A corresponding vibration in the windings produces an audible sound in some cases and not others. Why? As it has been pointed out, the sound is, in the worst cases, really faint. I posit that the only reason it can be heard at all is because, when IS is OFF, the magnetostriction frequency is absolutely constant, and so is the resulting sound. When IS turns ON, the duty cycle (and/or frequency of the pulse train, depending on the strategy adopted by the designers) starts varying with the vibrations imparted on the camera (i.e. the IS goes to work). The faint sound is still there, but it is much harder to isolate because it varies constantly and randomly. In other words, it is much easier to train one's ear to a constant sound than to chase some ever-changing elusive whisper. There may also be some other electrical explanation (for example, a severe increase in pulse frequency when IS kicks in, moving the sound into the ultrasonic domain), but that would need to be verified in-circuit.

    One could also speculate that there might be a resonance effect at work, effectively increasing the sound output when the frequency is constant and near a certain resonant frequency. But that would be pure speculation until resonance can be identified and demonstrated factually (and I would like to believe that such resonance would have been caught and eliminated by Olympus' engineers).
    Is this all speculation, or do you have a reliable source at Olympus?

    Is speculation backed by an entire career spent designing similar systems. I wouldn't say so. Actually, when I speak of the IBIS assembly as being the source of the sound, it is indeed a bit of speculation (I haven't yet put my hands on an E-M5). I point to the IBIS because it is the most likely culprit, and also because of some indirect clues (some people are reporting that what they hear clearly seems to be coming from the sensor area).

    But the sound could very well originate from the switched-mode power supply (SMPS) of the camera, which uses inductors to translate the battery voltage to whatever regulated voltages are required by the circuitry. Such circuits are well-known for producing all kinds of buzzing/humming/whirring sounds. Think of laptop power supplies, _fancy_ LED flashlights, compact fluorescent lamp ballasts, etc. The explanation is exactly the same, as the inductors (=windings) used in SMPS circuits are subject to the same type of mechanical stresses as the IBIS windings are. Also, the sound would vary according to the power consumption, possibly explaining why the sound changes while recording video (although the buzzing from an SMPS usually gets louder with an increase in power consumption).

    One way to find out would be to listen closely to the source of the sound. It is quite certain that the SMPS is located as far away from the sensor as it was feasible, most likely on the battery side. SMPS circuits tend to radiate significant electrical noise, and that's why you wouldn't want that anywhere near the sensor.

    Anyway, same conclusion: all is normal, and it's hardware, not software. Perhaps refining some power consumption strategies could change the noise level a bit, but I doubt it very much.
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    Contributing Editor ustein's Avatar
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    Re: Olympus OM-D whirring noise

    > with mine it doesn't happen with the 12-50 kit . .

    Strange as it happens with our 12-50mm.
    Uwe Steinmueller
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    Editor&Owner of Digital Outback Photo
    http://www.outbackphoto.com

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