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Apr 172017

Using the Leica M, Nikon D810 and Olympus EM5

by Tamer Erden

Dear Steve,

First of all, I’d like to thank you for this enthusiastic web site hosting those either amateur or professional photographers’ creations. As you might remember, I submitted a user report regarding the M43 system before (

After that I had used Nikon D810 for more than one year. Actually I’m really satisfied with the results. Mainly I had used it with Sigma 50mm 1.4 art and 180mm 2.8 lenses. Since I am dealing with the aesthetic and plastic surgery, shooting the portraits of people is my main subject of interest in photography. And now I’ve been shooting with a Leica M (Typ 240) and Zeiss 35mm ZM 1.4 Distagon for last three months. It cannot compete with the Nikon’s better dynamic range and super-detailed images, but it creates very filmic images that I really love, also known as Leica look.  I’d like to add some portraits taken by aforementioned cameras. Thanks for your feedbacks and inputs.


Figures 1-13 Leica M (Typ 240) and Zeiss 35mm 1.4 ZM Distagon, wide open.

Figures 14-18 D810, Sigma 50mm art, wide open

Figures 19-21 E-M5 75mm 1.8, wide open

Tamer Erdem


Interested in sending in a guest review, post or article? See HERE for instructions. 

Mar 202017

Olympus Micro 4/3 Buyers Guide: My Faves in the Standard (Non Pro) Line

By Steve Huff

Last week I posted an article featuring my personal fave products in the Olympus PRO line of cameras and lenses. The pro line has some gorgeous quality lenses and of course the  EM1 MKII that is just fabulous but that does not mean there are no gems in the standard line. In fact, there are some lenses for much less that do almost as good of a job. That’s one of the beauties of the Zuiko lenses, they are all pretty damn good. It’s tough to find a bad one from Olympus or Panasonic. This post will focus more on the Olympus gear as it is what I own, and know well. Also, so many email me every month asking “what Micro 4/3 lens should I get” so this should help you get started.

I’ve loved M 4/3 since its inception. From its smaller size to interesting styling of some of the cameras, like the PEN, I have fallen for the brand over and over. In fact, if you have read my full PEN-F review from a while back you would see my raves about it. I still have that camera sitting to my left in my camera cabinet and it’s as beautiful as ever. To me, each format has its pros and cons, and none are a perfect all in one for someone who likes bits of each system. For me M 4/3 is attractive due to its smaller size, gorgeous lenses in the pro and non pro line, speed and the fact that they always deliver. Many pros use EM1’s for wedding work today and the results are just as good as full frame offerings I have seen.

Check out my friend Tracey Jean, she uses an EM1 MKII for her Wedding Work and she does beautiful work. So this format is powerful enough for pro, studio, or everyday stuff.

With that out of the way, what about the standard cheaper line of cameras and lenses? First off, if you want to get into M 4/3 you have a choice. Panasonic or Olympus. Me, I prefer Olympus for the body styles and features. I prefer the 5 Axis from Olympus (they invented it after all), the retro designs that go further than Panasonic’s do and I enjoy the lenses they make for looks and build and performance. I also enjoy Panasonic offerings and will touch on a couple here because I feel they are amazing lenses.

But if you want to get into OLYMPUS and do not want to spend a ton for the EM1 MKII or you do not want to buy a used EM1 MKI, I highly recommend the PEN-F, without hesitation.



Buy at Amazon or B&H Photo

It offers fun, convenience, size, retro looks, fast speed (not for continuous action though) and lovely color with some cool customizations to the colors using the new color wheel. Film simulations are here as well. To me, the EM1 MKII image quality is more refined but the PEN-F is almost there for almost half the price. If you do not need pro features the PEN-F may be all you ever need.

Lenses, there are a few from Olympus that I love:

The 17 1.8

My Review HERE

Order it at Amazon or B&H Photo

This little lens is one that many miss out on due to some reports that called it soft. Me, I love this lens on any M 4/3 body and the manual focus clutch is a plus as well. While not CHEAP at $499, this lens is well worth the cost if you like the 35mm format. This lens is a 17.5 but will give you a 35mm FOV on Micro 4/3.

Two from the 17 1.8

The 25 1.8

My Review is HERE

Order it at Amazon or B&H Photo

At $399 for a fast 50mm equiv for your M 4/3 camera, this one is a no brainer if you are on a budget. While not full of magic dust like the new 25 1.2 PRO, this guy is almost $1000 less and delivers beautiful images. Some say this one is a little sterile but the character here is more about perfect over character. Nothing bad to say about this lens, and the price is right.

The 45 1.8

My review is HERE

Order it at Amazon or B&H Photo

Bringing you a 90mm Equivilant field of view, this 45 1.8 Olympus lens is a rock star for the price of $265 (current Amazon price). This may be the biggest no brainer in all of Micro 4/3. At this price, it would be a crime to NOT own this one. Fast in aperture and focus this offers a nice portrait length FOV with wonderful results.

The 75 1.8

My Review is HERE

Order it at B&H Photo or Amazon

I have a love and hate relationship with this lens. I love it for its image quality and build and price for what it offers. This could be a pro line easily if it were in a pro built housing (weather sealed, etc) as the IQ is that good. But this 75mm lens is really going to give you the magnification of a 150mm lens, which is quite long. I can do 75-85mm and get a lot of use from a lens but 150mm is not my ideal focal length. IF IT ONE OF YOURS though, you can not go wrong with this lens. It’s gorgeous in every way.

The Olympus 60 Macro

See my Review HERE

Order it at Amazon or B&H Photo Here

This is another NO BRAINER must own. At $399 I can think of no better Macro lens for your M 4/3 system. Crystal clear and sharp with GORGEOUS color output the lens is tiny and gives huge performance. See my review at the link above.

Panasonic Nocticron

See my Review HERE

Order at Amazon or B&H Photo Here

Panasonic 20 1.7 II

See my review HERE

Order it at B&H Photo or Amazon Here

This is another one in the MUST OWN category. At $265 or so, this one should be in everyone’s bag if you shoot M 4/3. Exquisite contrasty and gorgeous IQ. Almost cinematic in how it renders an image.

So for me, these are the best lenses in the Olympus NON pro line (with a couple Panasonic’s that I love thrown in). For the pro stuff, see my article from last week HERE.  Olympus (and Panasonic) offer some great tools today as an alternative to APS-C and FULL frame and they deliver just as beautiful IQ with, as I said, pros and cons compared to larger formats. The lenses above (and the PEN-F) are. my faves from Olympus. I enjoyed these lenses and the camera and still do. I own most of what I wrote about here, they are that good ;)


Mar 132017

An Olympus Micro 4/3 Buyers Guide. My faves in the pro line. 

Hey to all! It’s a new week and I have been shooting the new Sony lenses for the last few days, the new 100 f/2.8 GM and the new 85 1.8  as well. Both are amazing lenses, and reviews are being written now and should hit end of week for the 100 GM. Until then, I was also just admiring my Olympus EM1 MKII. I have yet to publish my 2nd part of my review (mainly because the 1st part was pretty thorough as is, just missing a few things) but man, the EM1 MKII is such a good GREAT camera, and that is no hype. It delivers beautiful IQ in a total pro body with speed I have not been seeing in my Sony’s or other cameras. The new line of lenses from Olympus are true stunners, even beating some of my old mega buck faves in the Leica world in some ways. Sure, the DOF issue is still there for some, but I have gotten over that. With lenses like the 25 f/1.2 and even the Panasonic Nocticron we have plenty of shallow DOF available to us if need be IMO. What I have been liking with those new Olympus lenses is the way they render. Sharp yet not analytical. Beautiful color, but never overdone and Smooth bokeh performance. The build on the Old pro lenses is also fantastic, and IMO, these lenses are up there with the best out there.

I currently own a PEN-F and EM1 MKII. I also have the 8mm Fisheye 1.8 the 7-14 2.8, the 25 1.2 and 300 f/2.8. So I am covered from ultra wide to a whopping 600mm. The lens the stays on my cameras are the 7-14 Pro and the 25 1.2. It’s what I use 90% of the time with these cameras. Even so, there are many more lenses out there that rock these cameras, and for less than what these cost. Below are my Olympus Micro 4/3 recommendations if one were to think about starting up with a new Olympus Micro 4/3 system. So let’s get to it! I will 1st go over the PRO lenses I love and recommend, then the lenses that are more affordable that I also love. This post is only about OLYMPUS, for those who want to keep it all OLYMPUS. While here are tons of 3rd party lenses that are amazing, this article will stick with gear made by Olympus, to keep it all zen like ;)


A True Pro level camera for Pros, Enthusiasts, Hobbyists and anyone who wants a quality camera to last you many years



The camera that does it all, and does it all very well. It’s only limitations are the super low light scenarios but with this cameras and lens like the new 25 1.2, most of that has been squashed as I can shoot this guy as high as ISO 10K and get usable results if I nail the exposure (shooting RAW helps). With gorgeous speed, color, build, usability, and all kinds of features unique to Olympus like livetime, high res shot and the best 5 Axis IS around, the EM1 MKII is a camera that will not be replaced or updated for many years. It can handle rain, sleet, snow and ice. It can handle extreme temps as I found out when testing it in the frigid air of Iceland. It was pelted by water, sleet, and salt and never faltered even though my fingers were stiff as a board from the cold. The camera kept going. Many say the EM1 will be just as good, but truth be told, this MKII is indeed better than the MKI. The MKI is awesome but this guy is just polished, and delivers an experience that not many cameras can match. Those who own it will know what I mean. It just works. Battery life is great due to the new larger battery, the quick charger is nice as well and comes with the camera. The dual SD slots, improved 5 Axis, a tad better noise performance and wonderful dynamic range and color and it si no wonder it made my camera of the year for last year. So I highly recommend this camera for any enthusiast, pro, hobbyist or gear aficionado.

Two with the EM1 MKII and the 25 1.2 lens. Great detail, color and bokeh. CLICK for best version. 

The 25 f/1.2 Lens – My FAVE lens for Micro 4/3

Gorgeous lens with a fast f/1.2 aperture for low light use and yes, even some beautiful bokeh with M 4/3



Yep it is larger than most 50mm lenses, but it is a 25mm lens at heart, though it gives us. the FOV of a 50mm. I know of a pro or two who ditched their Leica 50 Summilux and M setup to go Olympus and this new lens. They are not regretting it either. When I put my sensible hat on, I will admit that yes, a camera like the EM1 MKII and the 25 1.2 lens can end toe to toe with Leica. yes, we lose some shallow DOF but the images that come from this lens are gorgeous. I have seen some tear inducing wedding work done with this lens, and in pro hands who know their stuff it will shine. This lens is good for anything..street, portraits, weddings, or everyday life. It’s a perfect lens for the Micro 4/3 system and when you use it and start seeing what it can do, the size will not bother you, at all. The bokeh is smooth, color is gorgeous and it has it’s own unique character, and yes, it has some character. Never ever sterile and never soft. It’s just a wonderful lens that can be used for anything, and for low light the f/1.2 aperture provides light gathering that does the trick. I will soon be taking the EM1 MKII and this lens to shoot some low light clubs/musicians and I will post here on these pages how that turns out but I have no doubts in the abilities of the combo. I highly recommend this lens to  ANYONE who shoots Olympus Micro 4/3.


THE 7-14 F/2.8 PRO LENS

An ultra wide that delivers the goods. Great for video or photo.



I LOVE THIS LENS! I have owned it since it was launched and I have used it for mostly VIDEO on my PEN-F and EM1 MKII and it has always delivered great performance. Photos or video, this one in the pro line is perfect for those who maybe liked their Nikon 14-24 or Canon 16-35 but this one, IMO, performs even better as we do not have full frame sensors to worry about. With this lens, the edges are sharp as is the frame. The color, and all of the good stuff is typical Olympus Zuiko Pro. Again, $1199 is pricey but we are getting a  pro level lens here, much like a Canon L or Sony GM. This is the best line Olympus makes so the build, feel and performance is top of the heap. Below are a few images made with the lens over the last year or two. Highly recommended if you want an ultra wide zoom that has no compromise.

The 12-100 f/4 Pro – Oly’s best lens?



Well well. This lens here is what one Olympus employee told me was Olympus best lens they make, in his opinion. After using it, I may have to agree. While it seems limited at first, being 12-100 and f/4 it is far from it. For the new Cinema 4K video mode on the EM1 MKII, this lens does amazing things together with the IS built into the EM1 MKI body and the lens itself. This lens is perfect corner to corner, across the frame. It delivers stunning color, stunning detail, amazing micro contrast and fast silent Auto Focus. This lens is one that I want to buy as soon as I can afford the extra $1299. This with the 25 1.2 would fill mostly all of my needs. It may even get me to sell my 7-14 but maybe not. IQ wise, this is as good as it gets for Micro 4/3 and for me, it beats competitors on this focal range. It just delivers in all aspects and has no issues with CA, distortion or flare. Things that plague cheaper lenses. If you want beautiful perfection and can deal with an f/4 lens, this is it.

A few images..more to come when I get my own copy ; ) 

The 300mm f/4 Pro – 600mm FOV




This lens is crazy, and I am not sure why I own it. Probably because I love well made gear, and gear that lows through expectations. This lens is a whopper. A heavy large beast, meant for pros who want to get in close to the action with fast focus, and a 600mm reach. Yep, this is a 300mm lens but since we get the 2X crop we are at 600mm when used on our beloved Micro 4/3 bodies. So this is one focal length and that will give you a 600mm FOV. WOW. The in lens IS works amazing as well. I was able to hand hold shots in my early tests with this that should not have been possible.

BTW, Here is the wide image of this taken with another lens…so you can see how much 600mm will get you in close..

and a few more with the 300mm

So there it is. My Fave Olympus PRO gear. From the EM1 MKII to my fave pro lenses. Yep I left out the 12-40 and the 40-150 as I have not been huge fans of them. I have always felt the 12-40 was a tad over-rated. In comparison to the 12-100, IMO it falls a tad short in contrast, detail. etc. The 40-150 I just never fell in love with as I would prefer the Nocticron or Olympus 75 1.8 in its place. The lenses and camera above are the Olympus PRO products I either own or soon will (the 12-100). if I buy it, then I must like it ;) I also own the 8mm fisheye which is also gorgeous but I rarely EVER use it. I use it maybe once a year so I am not recommending it unless someone LOVES fisheye. If you do, then the pro 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye is amazing. I will not sell mine, even though I rarely use it. Lovely lens.

Later this week I will feature my fave picks in the Olympus NON PRO lineup. From camera to lenses, for those who do not want to spend the big bucks on the pro gear. Olympus offers greatness at all price points, so no worries. Check back later in the week for that and more new reviews!



Mar 112017

Best Olympus M 4/3 Lens Made NOW IN STOCK (Only 2) at Amazon!

One the best, if not THE best Micro 4/3 lens ever made (IMO) is now in stock at Amazon (The new 12-100 f/4 Pro). Only two remain and even I have been waiting to add this one to my Micro 4.3 lens arsenal (though it has to wait for me…$$$ is tight these days) as it is the most beautiful lens I have used for M 4/3. When paired with the EM1 MKII this 12-100 f/4 lens offers insane Stabilization…”This lens’ built-in image stabilization provides 5 shutter speed steps of compensation. Pair this lens with select Olympus OM-D or PEN camera bodies to get 5-Axis Sync IS, the world’s most powerful image stabilization of up to 6.5 shutter speed steps compensation at 200mm (35mm equivalent). This compensates for all types of camera motion for tack sharp images and video”

This lens has a fantastic close up capability as well, zoom out and get as close as 1.5CM. The lens is weather proof as well. I used it in storms in Iceland and it never failed. The contrast, color and detail is astonishing with this one as well and its nano coatings mean no flare or ghosting or other issues. This lens covers 24-200 in full frame terms, all in a slim compact package. This lens is, according to Olympus, the best lens they have made for M 4/3 in regards to performance.  A true no compromise design with pro build, performance, and speed.

Just a few of the images I shot with this lens…click them to see the incredible detail, contrast and performance…

Buy it here at Amazon (PRIME)-  only TWO left at the time I am writing this! (Sat 03/11, around Noon eastern time). They also have TWO EM-1 MKII’s for sale HERE, IN STOCK!

Mar 062017

The Fuji X100F Review. The Fourth Generation of the Fuji is “The One”

By Steve Huff

Order the Fuji X100F at B&H Photo or Amazon.

The X100 series from Fuji has long been dear to my heart. In fact, it is one of the cameras that has taken the ride with me on this journey of life for the last six years or so (see this post from a week or so ago), on and off. It has given me memories of these last six years of my life with some great personal moments (most never published) that quite frankly, no other camera has. As I sat and browsed my thousands of photos taken with the X100, X100S, X100T and now even the X100F I kept saying to myself “wow, I have more personal photos that I love taken with this camera than even my Leica M cameras”. Well, maybe not really but it sure seemed that way as my head got lost in a time machine of memories. Seeing my son younger, and remembering the times we used to have taking all day adventures or even seeing memories from other areas of my life that were important to me. Those moments where I seemed to have a X100 body over anything else.

X100F OOC JPEG using the “CHROME” color preset – Click it for larger

and this one, 10 seconds later – from RAW

I even did this comparison back in the day, an X100 vs Leica M9 and the X100 did very well, if not portraying the images in a somewhat “flatter” way..but at 1/7th the cost, we have to give a little somewhere, right?

Then I sat there and wondered why that was, why I had an X100 body over a Leica or Sony or whatever I was using at the time, but then it hit me. The X100 was easy to carry, always easy to bring with me, always easy to USE. Sure, the 1st one, that original, had some slow focus issues, and some response issues. It was the 1st, and the 1st of anything is usually never perfect. Hell, even the new F is not perfect but it’s still an X100 through and through and for that I am pleased as punch because the X100 to me represents the ultimate take anywhere camera when you just want to capture your life, and with great quality and color to boot. But I took that X100 with me as it was a joy to use and the output of that 1st version (without the Trans sensor) was beautiful.

X100F with the perfect strap I have found for it. The Tie her Up “Snake”  I use the 125mm version as I prefer the strap across my chest. 

Now, of course there are other cameras that do this very well. A Leica M is fantastic for this, and has usually always been my “Go To” for these things. Small, slim, tiny lenses and a joy that comes from manual focus and nailing those shots. For me, lately, my eyesight has been degrading (comes with the territory when you hit mid to late 40’s and I am 47 now) so manual focusing a RF has been tricky lately. When I fell in love HARD for the new M10 I realized it was harder for me to shoot as I never wear my glasses when shooting (though I should). I would now need diopters for using an M reliably. Then I remembered that I never missed a shot with the Leica SL due to its huge picture window EVF. Then I realized…”HEY, I never missed focus with the last two X100’s using the AUTO FOCUS”…lol, even better.

X100F, f/2 – Must click to see larger better version

So with my 47 year old eyes fading and me not liking the whole “shooting with glasses” experience just yet I decided to delve into the new X100F with a thought that this time I may keep this camera instead of selling it. I bought it from Amazon when up for order and had one on the day of release. Sometimes I buy a camera for review, then sell it if I do not feel I want it. To be clear, I have a stable of cameras here and being a camera and lens reviewer allows that. I always keep my faves on hand for comparison sake. Today, in March 2017, I keep the Sony A7rII, An Olympus EM1 MKII and PEN-F, A Leica SL, A Sony A6300 and various lenses. These are the bodies that I enjoy and get the most use from right now, and I doubted if there was a place for the X100F but then I realized there most certainly was. I do not own a Fuji right now, and I need one. The Fuji colors, the newer Acros B&W mode that delivers (IMO) beautiful B&W images out of the camera and the small size mixed with the retro design that always made this series beautiful. I have nothing like that in my stable right now besides the PEN-F and while these two have some similarities, they are quite different. So yea, I will add the X100f to my shelf of favorites, and if that was a spoiler, I apologize :)

I went with the classic Silver and Black model because to me it just give the X100F that vintage look and style, and I already have the normal black SLR style body filled with my other cameras ;)



So first things first. What does this X100F offer than the X100, X100s and X100T did not? Well, as with all of these Fuji releases most improvements have been incremental and each new model brought forth improvements in auto focus speed and capabilities, response time and in the case of the X100F, the new things or improvements over the last model are listed below:

24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III Sensor and X-Processor Pro

“Utilizing Fujifilm’s unique, randomized pixel array, the 24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III sensor affords a high degree of image quality and sharpness due to the omission of an optical low-pass filter. Versus conventional pixel patterns, the X-Trans design more closely mimics the organic nature of film in order to produce nuanced colors and smooth tonal transitions, while also reducing moiré and aliasing. Additionally, the sensor is paired with the X-Processor Pro image processor to yield smooth, low-noise results, an extended sensitivity range of ISO 100-51200, and quick performance speeds throughout the camera system, including an 8 fps continuous shooting rate, Full HD 1080p video recording at up to 60 fps, an AF speed of 0.08 seconds, 0.2 second shooting interval, 0.5 second startup time, and a 0.01 second shutter release lag.”

My Brussels Griffon, Olive. X100F, Acros Mode in full sun in my yard. 

Advanced Hybrid Viewfinder

“Both optical and electronic viewing means are incorporated into the unique Advanced Hybrid Viewfinder, which provides both the simplicity of an OVF with the technological advancements of an EVF. Switching between both viewing methods is done with the dedicated OVF/EVF switching lever, enabling quick transitioning between both modes. The OVF has its benefits in providing a clear, unadulterated view of the scene you’re photographing and reduces the shutter lag time to a minimum. For fine-tuning of focus, exposure, white balance, and other camera settings, the EVF gives you the ability to monitor all of the applied settings prior to making the exposure.

An enhanced optical viewfinder now incorporates an electronic rangefinder mode, harking to traditional mechanical rangefinder cameras of which this camera gains its appearance from, and permits refined and comparative manual focusing methods. The magnification of the electronic rangefinder can be adjusted to 2.5x or 6x for improved precision, and real-time parallax correction also enables more accurate framing and focusing in manual focus mode.

In contrast, the high-resolution 2.36m-dot EVF provides you with 100% frame coverage along with the ability to utilize electronic focusing aids for precise manual focus control. By using the phase-detection pixels located on the imaging sensor, Digital Split Image is able to assist in acquiring precise focus by showing comparative in and out of focus areas of the image. Also contributing to manual focus accuracy, focus peaking has been integrated and enables a more objective system of focusing by way of highlighting sharp edges and lines of contrast in a clear manner.

When working with the EVF, you can also utilize Shooting Effect Reflection settings in order to preview and utilize selected camera effects, such as Film Simulation modes. When this setting is turned off, the image will revert to a natural view, void of any exposure or camera settings applied, to better suit working in darker conditions and to greatly reduce any display lag.”

May have been Velvia mode, JPEG – X100F

Body Design

*Rear 3.0″ 1.04m-dot LCD monitor for image playback and review, menu navigation, and for live view shooting.
*A physical ISO dial has been incorporated within the shutter speed dial to allow for intuitive, direct switching of sensitivity settings – This is something cool, and in use I like it. I normally keep my ISO on Auto but here I can easily switch ISO (much like the new Leica M10) and it is very easy to lift up and adjust from Auto, to an actual number or a low or high setting. 
*Focus lever has been added to lens to improve manual focus adjustment – A nice touch here. 
*Rear focus lever is available for intuitive selecting and switching of AF points – A welcome addition. I love the joysticks on cameras, and use it all the time on my Leica SL. Here it is now on the Fuji X100F. 
*The physical exposure compensation dial now features a C position to permit an expanded +/- 5 EV range when working with the control dials – This is also new and nice to have. 
*The majority of the camera’s control buttons and dials have been placed on the right-hand side of the body to enable easier one-handed use – In use this works out very well. A nice clean layout and all on the right side. Perfect. 

91-Point Autofocus System

“Utilizing both contrast- and phase-detection methods, the hybrid autofocus system employs 91 total points, which can be divided into 325 total areas for a high degree of focusing accuracy in a variety of lighting conditions. Approximately 40% of the frame is covered by 49 phase-detection points in order to provide fast AF performance to suit working with moving subjects.”

Film Simulation Modes

Now with the new B&W simulation “Acros” which delivers stunning out of camera B&W images.

Two with the Acros B&W film simulation. I love this mode and will use it for all of my B&W images. Click them for larger. 

More Features of the X100F

*Built-in Wi-Fi lets you wirelessly transfer images or remotely control the camera from a linked mobile device.
*Integrated three-stop neutral density filter benefits working in bright light conditions with wider aperture settings or slower shutter speeds.
*An electronic shutter function affords high shutter speeds up to 1/32,000 sec.
*Auto Macro focusing mode lets you focus on subjects as close a 3.9″ away.
*Digital Teleconverter settings let you simulate the look of a 50mm or 70mm lens.
*Advanced Filters: Toy Camera, Miniature, Pop Color, High Key, Low Key, Dynamic Tone, Soft Focus, and Partial Color (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purple).


Shooting with the new X100F vs the old versions…

When the X100F arrived I was excited to use and shoot with the latest version. I was curious as to what Fuji could do to improve upon it from the T or even S. To be honest, I was not a huge fan of the T as I felt it was very similar to the S. Small changes made that really did not affect me at all with it. But this new F, for me is the one that finally surpasses the original for IQ and everything else. To me, this new F is “The One” when it comes to the X100 series. ]

It now uses the same battery as the X-Pro  system so we get better battery life, and the body still stays slim and trim. The body to me feels a tad more beefier in weight though, which is a good thing as I always find Fuji camera too feel hollow and almost too light when compared to other cameras makers. Sony, Olympus or Leica. But this X100F feels great, just as it should. Not too light and not too heavy. It’s fantastic in feel and form.

I basically just took mine out with me wherever I went even though these last two weeks have been filled with personal things I had to get done for life in general, as well as some sickness issues and even losing my passport before a huge out of the country trip and stressing to find it (so far without luck). So while I have been stressed and hectic with life, I managed to evaluate the X100F anyway ;) Truth be told I try not to let myself get stressed out too much, ever, and shooting the X100F seemed to help me forget some of the stress I have been getting thrown at me this week.

Shooting it has been a smooth experience. No lag, no missed Auto Focus shots, no problems with over exposure as I used to get with the older models. Now I seem to be getting a tad but of underexposure which is strange for a Fuji but I usually shoot with a little exposure comp set in to avoid highlights blowing out. Something I became used to with the original Leica monochrome. With the X100F I do not need to do that as it seems to expose the scene perfectly for my worries and the dynamic range is there, as it is with all cameras made today (the good ones).

The EVF is still nice, and how I remember it. Fuji has improved it yet again but in reality, in real use, it is pretty much the same as I remember from the last three. You can shoot full on EVF or use the optical VF that mimics a rangefinder (though not really). So if you like optical, it is here. Like EVF? It’s here as well. I always seem to be drawn to the EVF as I am able to see just what I am getting out of it. If I shoot in Acros mode I can see what the image will look like, and even be exposed like. With the OVF you do not get these luxuries. The EVF is good, but not a “WOW” EVF. For the cost of the camera though ($1299) Fuji has packed in loads of useful features and given us all kinds of goodies. EVF/OVF, the fantastic Fuji Film sim modes, the enhanced AF speed, Better Video (though I still would not use this as a video camera), silent shutter with 1/32,000 speed, they kept the built in ND filter for sunny days when using the mechanical shutter, and an overall package that is just such a joy to use and attractive.

This is a beautiful camera in every way and to be honest, I have fallen for it as it made me remember more than any before it, the good times and memories I made with the original X100 and to some extent the ones that came after it. I have decided that to me, this camera is perfect for making life memories. Even more so than a Leica. It’s cheaper, it’s fast, it’s easy to use yet advanced enough for the geek in us or even a backup for some pros, it has a wonderful sensor as well. Many know I have not been thrilled with the last two Fuji X Trans sensors but this one, I like it. A lot.

No more smudges when using Adobe software, and some of that “flatness” has gone away as well. While not as “deep” as a Leica SL file, what we get for our money here is IMO unmatched in a camera of this type.

X100F, all at f/2 and Acros mode (LOVE this Film Simulation)

The Competition for the X100F?

This camera is a fixed lens 23mm lens camera. This 23mm lens is an f/2 lens and gives us the illusion of being a 35mm lens due to the magnification of the APS-C sensor. This is not a full frame sensor camera and will not give us the huge shallow depth of field we can get from a Sony RX1R system, or even the Leica Q. But those full frame single lens cameras? They run from $3800 to $4300 where this Fuji is $1299.  So with the Fuji we get a similar vibe body for $2500 less money and the X100F actually has more features and things going for it in general over the other two BUT, and this is a huge BUT, the RX1R and Q systems will indeed offer better, richer IQ. The Fuji will offer a tad flatter image, and I still do see some of that “flatness” in this latest X Trans sensor but overall, it is closer than ever.

The Sony will be slower in AF than the Fuji, and the Q is fastest of all. The Sony will offer the best IQ of all three IMO, then the Q, then the X100f. All three are FANTASTIC cameras with the Sony being the smallest form factor in some ways, though not as thin as the Fuji due to the HQ 35mm f/2 Zeiss lens attached. The Q is the largest.

To see my reviews of those cameras, check them out here. Sony RX1RMKII, Leica Q and the older Sony RX1R

To be honest I love all three of those but the Q is priced out of my rage for what I would pay for a camera of this kind. The Sony, I love and adore..but it is not the speed demon that the Q is. That leaves me with the X100f. It’s the cheapest, it’s one of the smallest and it offers quite a bit like the unique OVF/EVF experience and the Fuji color and Fuji cilm simulations that can, in the right hands be delicious ; ) I have not exploited this camera for all it can do just yet. But again, this camera can not compete with the Sony for IQ so if IQ is your all out be all end all, I’d say go with an older Sony RX1R (not the MKII) and you can get one for much less than the MKII and it’s output is gorgeous.

The original Sony RX1R…IMO gives a more smoother cinematic vibe due to the full frame sensor. 

Other cameras, like IC cameras are not really competition for this camera. If one is pondering an X100F, I doubt they are pondering something like a Leica M or Sony A7 or Olympus PEN because all of those are so different from each other. This camera, you can not ever change the lens. So when you buy one, get ready to set into the 35mm state of mind as 35mm is the equiv focal length you will shoot at with this guy. All the time! No 50, no 75, and now 21. Just 35. So if this is scary to you, you should be looking at an interchangeable lens camera.

The Olympus PEN-F on the left with the AMAZING 25 f/1.2 lens. The X100f on the right. 

The closest IC camera to this one is the Olympus PEN-F. It’s look are similar, and the feel is similar and even the PEN-F has a cool Tri X B&W film simulation mode ;) IN fact, since I have both here, let me compare them a bit, B&W mode to B&W mode ;) I will use the 25 1.2 lens on the Olympus (closest I have to the 23mm lens on the Fuji). With the APS-C of the Fuji this brings us a 35mm magnification. With the Olympus and the M 4/3 sensor that doubles and gives us a 50mm effective FOV. I do not have one of the 17mm M 4/3 lenses on hand to do a 35vs 35 thing but either way, the Fuji is a 23mm lens, pure and simple. The Only is a 25mm lens. So they are close and this will be a WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET comparison…

SHOT 1, Fuji X100F vs Olympus PEN-F – Acros vs Tri-X

These are OOC JPEGS from each camera using their own B&W film simulations. The Only does Tri-X (though I turned off grain for sake of comparison) and the Fuji does Acros…let’s see if they differ and how..

Immediately I see the Fuji delivers a softer less contrasty look to the conversion. The Only looks a little more “WOW” but that is due to the higher contrast of Tri-X  so it is going for that look. Also, the lens on the Old delivers a tad more pop due to the f/1.2 aperture. The Fuji was shot at f/2 and the Only at f/1.2. both wide open to show what you get with each camera and respective lens (23mm on the Fuji and 25mm on the Olympus). The Only has a 2X crop so that 25 will look like a 50 where the Fuji is APS-C. The Fuji’s 23 will appear as a 35mm in regards to FOV. CLICK THE IMAGES for larger.



In the 2nd image I see more DR with Fuji out of the box for these JPEG’s as well as a more even tonality to the B&W look. Again, Acros vs TriX but I see that more grey look much like the original Leica Monochrom. This gives us a more unique B&W look IMO, at least for my eyes. I prefer the Fuji here. While the Only is doing the shallow DOF thing better it appears to look a tad more digital. THOUGH I have to say, I like both and would use both. If I wanted a more harder look like TriX can give, I’d choose the Oly. If I wanted softer beautiful portraits I would choose the Fuji. Of course, each can be edited to taste as well. These are right out of the box. 



How about color? The Olympus has a Slide film emulation and the Fuji has Velvia..let’s see how they look

The Fuji has more glowing color and here the Old is a but more subdued. Again, both wide open and since they are around the same focal length we get more shallow DOF from the f/1.2 of the Olympus over the f/2 of the Fuji. THIS IS NOT A sharpness or detail comparison, just color and to show what we can expect from each combo wide open. 



and one more…



So to me, I slightly prefer the Fuji renderings for the B&W and for the color, I prefer the Olympus color tones (Velvia vs Slide) in these modes but also look at the OOC DR of the Fuji vs Olympus. Interesting. Of course if these were shot in RAW I could have adjusted the Olympus to be just fine but the SLIDE FILM emulation would have left, so these are all what you see is what you get out of camera JPEGS.


Just for fun I pulled out the Leica SL and a 35 Zm f/1.4 Lens to shoot a test image of Debby with each. How would the X100F compare against the big SL which is a $10k combo? Yep, a just for fun $1300 vs $10k combo comparison…heeheehee.

Here the 1st one is from the Leica SL and the 35 f/1.4 Zeiss ZM Lens. A $10k combo, or just under. ($7500 for the SL, $2300 for the lens) – Click for larger to see them correctly!

X100F with Standard color

Now while I feel the SL blows the Fuji away here in all areas, I have to say..this Fuji, especially at 1st glance gives us the impression that it is not far behind the SL with Zeiss lens. Yep, the aging 23mm f.2 on the Fuji vs a true 35mm f/1.4 on the Leica yet the Fuji is  holding its own. While the SL is in another league in build and feel and control, the X100F has the IQ, and for some that is all that matters. I will say the color is closer from the SL than the Fuji (to reality) but both are lovely. This makes a good argument when spending our hard earned money…do we go for what we WANT or what we NEED?

Now, the SL is a pro camera and can be used in all pro situations. It beats the X100f in all areas and you can use any lens you desire on it, almost. Even Canon and Nikon. It’s a versatile beast and it also has amazing video quality. The X100f is a cheaper made smaller take anywhere camera that can slide in any bag, or be grabbed running out the door. No muss, no fuss. Pick your poison and cost : )


Fuji has delivered yet another X100 camera, the fourth one since 2011. That is a new X100 every year and a half on average. This version is absolutely the best of the X100 models and the reason why is because it is fully matured, it feels better than ever, has a good battery system for its size, has a wonderful EVF/OVF hybrid and has beautiful color from the standard presets or the custom film emulations. It has wide dynamic range and the lens, while aging, offers a bit of classic and modern thrown in. Not bitingly sharp but pleasing and beautiful in its character.

Many wanted Fuji to release this with an f/1.4 lens but that would have made it larger, and most likely slower. It has taken Fuji 6 years to get this lens to be pretty quick in AF as it is, adding a new bigger lens with a wider aperture would probably have been clunky and slow, and for me the X100 series is about having a beautiful take anywhere capable camera with one 35mm equivalent lens on it to you anywhere you need to go, while learning how to “see” as well. A 35mm lens (or equivalent as we have here) will teach you more than using a zoom for a year and when using a camera like this, day in and out, you will learn how to get the most from the focal length and this can result in better images through time and getting comfy with the system.

ISO 6400 at night, one small table lamp to my right. ACROS mode. NR was at -3

The X100F is a camera you can bond with and while never perfect, and not for everyone, for the money there is nothing that beats it. That is important to know..FOR THE MONEY. If you want a fixed lens camera this and the two full frame beasts, the Leica Q and Sony RX1R series are the only game in town. This one is much cheaper and if you can deal with less shallow DOF and an escape from the richness of a full frame sensor then you will be ecstatic to save $2500 or so on the Fuji X100F over the other two. For those who want all out IQ and pop and wow, the Sony and Leica would be your best bet but it will cost you. For me, I am very happy with the X100F and have decided to keep this one on my shelf to add with my other cameras that have stood the test of time in my house. A good way to have a take anywhere no muss or fuss camera companion and a great way to have Fuji color when I want it without having to invest in lenses for another system.


This is the best Fuji X100 to date, and you can take that to the bank. I recommend setting your noise reduction to -4 though as these cameras (Fuji’s in general) have a tendency to really be aggressive with NR if cranked up.


My top recommended dealers are below. You will never get screwed over by them and I have used these shops forever. Class A all the way:

B&H Photo Fuji X100F Info and Order Page

Amazon Fuji X100F info and order page Info and Order page

CameraQuest Fuji X100F Page


Hello to all! For the past 8 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has a crazy amount of visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 40-60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (At peak times I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny and I NEVER EVER DO! I do this for free basically, and have for years…but I do get paid when you, the reader makes a purchase (of anything) using my links to my sponsors. That is the only way I make the money to keep this free info flowing.

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing. But each month I need HUNDREDS of you to do this in order for this site to continue, and believe me that is not easy.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link (not the B&H) and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

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Jan 132017

Photography is for memories, not pixel peeping.

By Dennie

Hi Steve!

I hope you are well and happy. I have been reading your website since you review the Olympus PEN E-PL 1.

My name is Dennie, I’m from Bandung, West Java, Indonesia

A lot of people think that a pro photographer is an expert but I say no, not entirely. A Professional is somebody who makes a living by doing it … making money, marketing, dealing, shooting, printing … client happy … job done.

But, in the world of the enthusiast like this one … it is another story. In this world, a lot of dangerous stuff, starting with new lens or new camera body, latest technology, the best high ISO, the best low light, the sharpest lens, the super aperture 0.95, the king of the night, the mega pixel monster, the fastest AF of the world, the lightest body, bokeh king, leather straps, the expensive bags. Even though we buy cameras to take pictures … saving the moment … right?

Thats why I love this site, coz the review is to be USED … not compare the spec!  For the enthusiast of this site, I wonder if the picture is not labeled, or embed with exif, can u tell the difference ?

Some of my images below with various cameras…

I wrote this when I finished reading Steve’s article about “Should we buy camera gear with our heart or our brain?” I just want to say that, what is really important? Your pixel peeping ? Or the moment it self that is being captured?

I will just tell u guys that I use the following:

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 5
  • Olympus E-PL1
  • Olympus E-PL3
  • Olympus E-PL5
  • Canon 600D
  • Canon 5D classic
  • Canon 5D mk2
  • Canon 6D


Jan 052017

The new Panasonic GH5 and more of my thoughts on the future of Digital Imaging.

It never ends! The upgrade train keeps on rolling by, making stops across the world right to our doorsteps under disguise of a UPS or Fed Ex truck. Camera manufactures today, even with slumping sales across the board (compared to previous years) are still going for it big time with flagship models that are more Niche, which is exactly as I thought it would be. Even Sony’s incredible A-6500 could be considered an APS-C flagship as that little speed demon does things we could have never dreamed a camera could do just a few short years ago.

With Hasselblad now being owned by Chinese Drone manufacturer DJI (according to my friend Kevin Raber a Luminous Landscape (see the story here), and Samsung pretty much out of the camera game, and Sigma trailing behind in sales and ideas… who is left here? What is the future of the digital camera market? Point and shoots are all but gone thanks to smart phones, and with new smart phones like the iPhone 7 mimicking shallow DOF lenses, it’s only a matter of time until I feel the APS-C market will decline even further. 

That leaves Niche cameras. I consider Leica a niche camera maker, and I feel while they may suffer a little over the next few years, they will survive. They are never about larger numbers or millions of bodies sold. They are about their user base who is very passionate about the brand, and loyal as can be. Even me, a guy with access to any camera I want..I still LOVE my Leica cameras and want more. Olympus is sort of of a Niche brand as well these days with their well crafted, pricey and unique offerings with M 4/3. The EM1 MKII at $2000 is the most expensive M 4/3 to date, but it is one hell of a well engineered and amazing pro camera. I think they will be OK for quite a while. Then you have their direct counterpart who has many fans, Panasonic.

Panasonic just announced the new GH5, and it is taking aim at the Em1 MKII. $2,000, 4K at 60fps, 10-bit 4:2:2 recording, 12 fps, 5 Axis IS, no low pass filter, and nearly twice as fast processing. Seems they were on the same page as Olympus here. Yes, I see this as a Niche camera as well. Back in the day, Panasonic would release those ridiculous little tiny M 4/3 cameras that were borderline junk. Today they are making nice solid pro gear, at least with the GH5. That, truth be told, is the only way to compete with smart phones of today.

I wrote an article some time ago where I said I feel the future would be higher end, well made niche bodies. We are seeing that now with the new Olympus, this new Panasonic, The Leica SL, M, T, etc.

But what about Sony? I also see and feel they may have some changes coming over the next 2-3 years. They will be forging ahead full steam for sure with mirrorless tech, and my guess is something big is coming from them, maybe even over the top. Then there is Fuji, who are also doing well. Fuji has loads of fans and while I am not one of those hardcore fans I applaud them for bringing passion back to so many photographers who fell in love with the Fuji design, style and of course COLOR. Their Xt2 is fantastic, and I still have a love for their little X100 series. With their medium format coming, THE GFX 50S, they are also breaking into the high end Niche area which is where the future of Digital MIRRORLESS is going.

I am not even mentioning DSLRS which have been doing the same old same old forever now, albeit with some enhancements in focus tech but it seems to always be more of the same. I was shooting the 5D IV and was thinking…”This feels similar to last time I shot a 5D”. Similar IQ, feel and experience. Not much TRUE advancement that makes much of a difference in experience and output…and they are suffering for it with slumping sales (DSLR’s in general). Until Nikon and Canon make that BIG bold move into mirrorless, the right way, with worthy competition to Sony, Fuji, etc I will just see them as very slowly dying brands. DSLR sales today are nothing like they were just a few years ago. Yea, DSLR guys will get mad at me for saying that but mark my words..see where we are in 3-4 years. Also, no need to get mad as these words are just MY opinion ;)

So I predict Sony will come out with something big soon, something pro and off the charts. I think they have to. Fuji is doing it, Micro 4/3 has done it, Leica has done it. It’s the future of all digital imaging as more and more continue to ditch their camera for their advanced smart phones. Mark my words ;)

We will also start seeing more and more digital imaging WITH DRONES. We already are. I own a Phantom 4, and have a Mavic Pro on the way. I love these drones for video and getting incredible PHOTOs. That is also the future of digital imaging…maybe we will see a Sony drone soon ;) In fact, Ashwin Rao, Bo Lorentzen and I are currently in the planning stages for a Palouse Workshop with cameras and drones both for this June. It is going to be EPIC AND AMAZING. The Palouse was my fave workshop of all time (see some of the images here)…MORE here. Details soon.

The era of the expensive, big bad ass niche camera and flying camera is upon us. Let’s enjoy the ride.

Dec 142016

My Camera of the Year 2016. The Olympus EM1 MKII takes the Prize!

By Steve Huff

Order the E-M1 MKII at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE.


Hello everyone!

Another year is passing us by and 2016 provided us with many new mirrorless camera releases. Some were good, some were great… but to me only one “HAD IT ALL” with its amazing build, speed, technology, fantastic lenses and features. I knew the Olympus EM1 MKII was special the moment Olympus handed me a bag loaded with one and a few lenses when I was in Iceland this year. The size, the feel, the design, the haptics and the usability are just about perfect but that is only the beginning of what this camera offers.

Two with my fave M 4/3 lens ever, the Olympus 25 f/1.2 Pro

click e’m for larger

Olympus has come such a long way since the original 4/3 E1 (who remembers that one)?

The original 4/3 E-1. I loved this thing back when it was released..

I loved that E1 so much, and used it every day back when it was new. The performance at the time was superior to anything else I had tried, and it just worked so well. Today though, Olympus has created a camera that is so far beyond that original E1 it is a little bit scary, and amazing at the same time. In the past many were suspicious of investing into 4/3 or even micro 4/3 due to the smaller sensor. Some trashed the system, some praised it but all who really sat down to use it knew something good was brewing within these cameras that were being developed. When the EM1 MkI was released I saw quite a few pros switching over to Olympus from Nikon, Canon and others. What drew so many to the EM1 was the pro rock solid build, the 5 Axis IS, the weather sealing, the speed, the lenses and the performance that to me, and I said it back then in my EM1 review, stood toe to toe with ANY APS-C camera.

More with the lovely 25 1.2 – Click them for larger!

When I used the new MKII in Iceland, the weather was cold, the skies were grey and dreary, and the elements we subjected the cameras and lenses to were extreme to say the least. The MKII I was using was pelted with sleet, rain and snow. I dropped it twice, the lenses were soaked to the core and yet it never ever gave me a hiccup. It just kept shooting. The resulting images portrayed exactly what I experienced in Iceland..grey, dreary and wet ;)

Now that I have an EM1 MKII here at home, I have been evaluating it further and it just impresses me more and more. With the pro lenses like the amazing 7-14, 12-100, 25 f1.2 and others there truly is nothing this camera can not do. With the 5 Axis in this guy along with the new 12-100 lens I have seen some handhold a shot for 5 seconds. I managed 2 seconds but my hands are not as steady as they used to be. The EVF is brilliant, the speed phenomenal, the AF tracking as good as I have seen, and the dynamic range is as good as most other cameras I shoot with. With the new 25 f/1.2 we can now get shallow DOF with M 4/3 and it’s truly one of the best primes I have ever shot with. I proclaimed it the new “Bokeh King” in my review. Not for the amount but for the quality.

The 25 f/1.2..such a lovely lens. My review is HERE. 


The EM1 MKII today can be used by amateur, enthusiast or pro and with the long life of this series it is a camera that can be with you for a long long time. Many still use the EM1, as its just as good today as it was yesterday. The new MKII steps it up in all areas.

Truth be told, I think Olympus really needed this camera and I am happy they forged on and created it. With the review accolades mounting it is apparent that this camera is one to be reckoned with. Looks like Sony finally has some mirrorless competition this year :)

Click images for larger and better view

In any case, this is my 2016 pick for best camera of the year, and for me it was no contest. I feel no other camera released this year can touch it for EVERYTHING, as a package. It’s versatile as all get out, the 4K cinema HD video is phenomenal, the speed is as good as it gets, the size of the lenses and system are indeed smaller and lighter than pro DSLR’s and the lenses, especially the pro line are up there with the best lenses ever made. No lag here…response is king. The only knock one may have against it is that this system is never going to be as good in really low light as a full frame sensor. Then again, there is no full frame sensor camera on earth that can perform to the speed and response level of the EM1 MKII.

KEEP IN MIND, I do not review DLSR’s these days, so I concentrate on mirrorless, hence no DSLR’s were under consideration by me for this slot.

I will be continuing my evaluation of the EM1 MKII, and will have my part 2 of the review soon ;) Stay tuned. Even so, I know enough to say that for me, no other camera released in 2016 delivered the goods quite like this one did.


Previous cameras of the year

2015 Camera of the Year – Leica SL

2014 Camera of the Year – Sony A7II

2013 Camera of the Year – Olympus EM-1

2012 Camera of the Year – Sony RX1



Hello to all! For the past 8 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!!

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link (not the B&H) and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

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One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Nov 292016


How to use Focus Stacking and Bracketing with Olympus Micro 4/3 Cameras

By Olympus Trailblazer Peter Baumgarten

Every autumn, in the forests near my home, a massive reproductive event takes place that I just can’t ignore. It starts during the warm days of summer when long tendrils of mycelium digest their way through the rotting corpses of fallen forest detritus. When autumn arrives, an asexual explosion erupts from the earth, as the fruiting bodies strive to spread their genetically identical spores throughout the forest floor. We’re talking mushrooms here, people! And I love to photograph them.

Mushrooms grow remarkably quickly and decay even quicker. But if you time it right they can be quite photogenic. Many species are so small that a macro lens is an absolute necessity. Anyone who has worked with a macro lens recognizes that it can be a real challenge to achieve a sharp subject from front to back and still maintain a nice, soft, defocused background. In fact, with most subjects it’s an impossible task. Enter focus stacking or focus bracketing.

The concept is quite simple. Take a series of photos with each one being focused at a slightly different point on your subject. Then use software to stack and process them in order to capture a greater depth of field than is capable with just a single shot using a macro lens, all while maintaining nice bokeh in your final image.  Olympus developed built-in focus stacking in their OMD E-M1 with the release of the 4.0 firmware update. That feature has been included and improved in the E-M1 Mark II. Although focus bracketing will be addressed, the main focus of this post is the focus stacking feature. All of the images have been photographed using the new Mark II model.

Olympus OMD E-M1 Mark II, 60mm f/2.8 macro, ISO640, 1/200s, f/3.5, +0.3EV, focus differential 4



The following Olympus cameras have built-in focus bracketing and focus stacking.

OMD E-M1 Mark II
OMD E-M1 (firmware version 4.0)
OMD E-M5 Mark II (firmware version 2.0)
OMD E-M10 Mark II 

Not every lens is compatible with the focus bracketing/stacking feature. The PRO line of lenses have both the bracketing and stacking feature. Other Olympus lenses allow for bracketing, but not the built-in focus stacking.

A tripod is definitely recommended. However, a few of the shots in this post were hand-held and for others I placed the camera on the ground.

The Process

The following steps will set up the camera for focus stacking.

From within the Menu, select the Camera2 options.
• Select Bracketing. You can bracket a variety of settings (Auto Exposure, White Balance, Flash, ISO, Art Filters, and Focus Bracketing). Select Focus BKT.
• Turn Focus Stacking On.
• Select Set Focus Differential. Choose a focus differential from 1 to 10. This determines the difference in focus position between shots. 
• Press OK repeatedly to engage the settings. You should see the letters BKT at the top of the LCD indicating that Focus Bracketing is set. 
 The focus stacking feature will shoot 8 photos at the focus positions you set and then merge them into one jpeg file at full resolution. Achieving good results will take some experimenting since so many variables are at play – subject size, distance from subject, lens choice, aperture setting, and focus differential.  All eight photos are recorded plus the final stacked image.  





The focus stacking feature is accessed through the Bracketing menu. With stacking turned on, the “Set number of shots” is greyed out.

The focus differential will set a wide or narrow focus difference between shots.

Generally I have found that a wider aperture and a narrow focus differential yields excellent results with the fungal subjects in this post. In all of the photos below I have included the lens, basic camera settings and focus differential.

Although I have found the focus stacking feature to yield excellent results, it is not infallible. There are times where the camera cannot process the stacked image and a message pops up stating, “Focus stacking error. Image composite failed.” This is usually due to camera or subject movement, however I have also had it occur when the lighting changes rapidly during the sequence.

60mm f/2.8 macro, ISO640, 1/125s, f/3.5, focus differential 4


60mm f/2.8 macro, ISO 400, 1/250s, f/3.2, -1.3 EV, focus differential 3


40-150mm f/2.8 PRO, ISO 1000, 1/80s, f/3.2


Lens: 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO, ISO 400, 1/125s, f/5.0, -0.3EV, focus differential 3


60mm f/2.8 macro, ISO 400, 0.5s, f/5.0, -0.7EV, focus differential 3


60mm f/2.8 macro, ISO 400, 1/20s, f/4.5, focus differential 3


60mm f/2.8 macro, ISO400, 1/13s, f/5.0, focus differential 3


12-40mm f/2.8 PRO, ISO400, 1/20s, f/5.0, -0.3EV, focus differential 5


60mm f/2.8 macro, ISO 640, 1/60s, f/3.5, -1.0 EV, focus differential 2


60mm f/2.8 macro, ISO400, 1/25s, f/5.0, focus differential 3


Using a wide angle lens can provide a bit more context to the shot.

7-14mm f/2.8 PRO, ISO200, 1/640s, f/2.8, -0.3EV, focus differential 2


This animated gif illustrates the focus bracketing process. 8 images are taken based on the pre-set focus differential. In this case the differential was set at 3.


Bracketing vs. Stacking

I have found the built-in focus stacking to be remarkably accurate. So why would you opt for bracketing vs. stacking? Here are a couple of reasons;

The stacked image is trimmed. Regardless of subject, which lens you use, or whether you use a tripod or not, the final stacked image is trimmed along all four edges. The final image remains the same size (5184 x 3888px for the E-M1 Mark II), which means some interpolation must be going on. This must be taken into account when composing the shot.
• Details vs distance. The fungus below had countless stalactite-like fingers and was about 15 cm from front to back, a fair distance for a macro shot. I attempted to use the stacking feature, which only brackets and stacks 8 photos. After some experimenting with the focus differential settings I had to compromise. I could capture the details of the front fingers but loose the details in the back, or I could capture the entire distance, but have too much interpolation that would blur out some of the fingers. Not willing to compromise I opted to use bracketing instead.


To access the bracketing options turn off focus stacking. This allows you to choose from 3 to 999 shots with a focus differential between 1 and 10. For the image above, I selected 20 shots with a focus differential of 2. After the sequence I had a look at each one using the LCD and determined that I had captured sufficient detail throughout the range.

Upon uploading the images I determined that I only needed 12 of those images to clearly capture the fungus from front to back. I then used Photoshop to stack them. This gave me greater control over the process (which I like), and there was no trimming of the final image. That being said, I really do like the convenience of the built-in focus stacking and how easy it is to use.

A Final Photo

It was my interest in the sheer number of mushrooms sprouting up in a local bush lot that inspired me to experiment a bit more with focus bracketing and to write this post. However, there are plenty of subjects out there where focus bracketing can be used. The photograph below is one example, but with full disclosure, it was a complete accident. Shortly after photographing a mushroom, I came across two toads on the trail. I bent down quickly, framed the shot, and pressed the shutter release only to realize I still had focus stacking enabled. Here’s that shot.

12-40mm f/2.8 PRO, ISO 400, 1/160s, f/5.0, focus differential 5


Nov 262016

Just for Fun: Olympus PEN-F with 25 1.2 vs Leica SL with 50 1.4 Summilux ASPH


Happy Saturday everyone! I slept in and woke up so energized I decided to do something a few have asked me to do for a couple of weeks now. Pit the new fantastic Olympus 25 f/1.2 against the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH. Now, as always, I am not doing the nonsense like changing the aperture to match DOF, etc.

Since light gathering is just about the same (a little more with the Oly due to f/1.2 aperture  vs f/1.4) I let the camera choose exposure, and ISO and as expected, they both are exposed the same with slightly higher ISO with the SL due to being f/1.4 vs f/1.2. Exposure is slight different as well (1/80 vs 1/100) due to the slightly different aperture.

I basically wanted to see and show how each lens would render, and each system in regards to DOF and Bokeh quality. We all know that DOF on M4/3 is not the same as full frame. So f/1.2 on an Olympus is around f/2.4 on full frame for DOF. But here, I want to show just what you get with each wide open. Truth be told, they are pretty close with the Leica edging it out for me due to the way the Lux renders. The Olympus is more of a modern perfection lens, the Lux a little more dreamy.

The differences between thee two cameras in real life use is HUGE though.

The Leica SL is pure pro and I am not aware of any digital camera that feels this overbuilt. It’s sleek, smooth, weather sealed, has dual SD slots, and the whole nine years. It also feels like a solid hunk of camera. SOLID. The EVF is amazing, the shutter is beautiful, the menu system is simple, and the controls intuitive once you use it for more than 10 minutes. I could never ever understand anyone who thought using an SL was difficult. To me, it’s the easiest of all digitals to use next to an M. It’s beautiful, and expensive but if you have the cash, it’s damn nice. I love the rich color it puts out above any other camera I own.

Leica SL – 50 1.4 at 1.4


The PEN is fun, snappy, quick and well, FUN. It’s lightweight, and not a pro camera but it’s pretty damn nice as it is. These two cameras here, along with my Sony A7RII are my fave cameras. The Sony has been since it’s release for all that it can do..VERSATILE. The SL is more exotic of course and the PEN is just lovely. This PEN-F is my fave PEN ever, and that includes the old film classic PEN. It’s an IQ machine as well, with features that are all Olympus.

PEN-F with the 25 1.2


When it comes to IQ, the differences are not huge here though. You see the DOF difference for sure. But what do you think of the images below?

AGAIN, to those who did not read the above text, this is not a test to match DOF or whatever. It’s a test to show what each system and lens does wide open, when letting the camera meter the scene and choose ISO (Auto). 






I feel that today, cameras and especially LENSES are getting so incredible. Look at what Sony is doing with its G Master line, what Olympus is doing with its PRO line and the upcoming primes Leica has set for the SL (Summilux and Summicron) have new technology that they have been hyping like mad. I expect those new SL lenses to set a benchmark. But how much better can they get? I thought we peaked years ago but these lenses keep getting better and better, but also larger and more expensive. Either way, today, as I have said many times, we have so many choices, and 95% of those choices are excellent. Comes down to personal preference today and how much you want to invest into your camera hobby, addiction or business.

Have a great weekend guys!


See my PEN-F Review HERE

See my Leica SL Review HERE, Gallery HERE

Leica 50 Summilux Limited Edition Review HERE

Olympus 25 f/1.2 Lens Review


Nov 232016


The Hottest Photo Gear of 2016 Buyers Guide


It’s the most wonderful time of the year! yep, the Holidays are not creeping up on us… they are HERE! Thanksgiving is tomorrow and then just over a month away is Christmas! Each year many out there in internet land click on links, and purchase cameras, lenses, bags or accessories for their photo inspired loved ones. This year I want to post about the gear I loved in 2016, new or old, and talk about the hottest gear coming up as well (only the gear I have tried as I never recommend gear I have not used).

As always, this is focused on MIRRORLESS as that is all I have been shooting for the last 6 years or so. I am not a DSLR guy.

So check out the list below featuring my fave gear as of November 23rd 2016! You will not see point and shoots, you will not see budget cameras, and you will not see one item I have not used or tested myself. Enjoy!!!




The Olympus EM1 MKII 


The new pro level OMD EM1 MKII is a beautiful camera in every way from design, feel, controls, speed, function, features and even performance. No question, for me, it’s the best Micro 4/3 camera ever developed or offered. Solid weather sealed body, touch LCD, fantastic EVF, and as I said, fast response and fast AF. Fastest yet for M 4/3. Also, the best noise performance yet for M 4/3 with a one stop improvement over the last model, the E-M1.

EM1 MKII, 25 f/1.2 Pro. Yep, I had the camera in this Hot Springs and yes, it was soaked. But it still worked and never gave me an issue. 


The only niggle for some is the Micro 4/3 sensor, but the sensor size is what makes this camera possible in all it does. You will not see full frame cameras with this kind of speed or response anytime soon. The IQ is also very rich, colors are fantastic, dynamic range seems solid and the lenses offered for this system are some of the best made today, in the world.


The EM1 MKII is a beauty, and not a cheap one. When we look at all it offers, and all it can do, and how it can do it whether you are in rain, sleet, snow or whatever the weather..then we have one hell of a pro level camera here. If you shoot M 4/3 and have an old EM1, this one steps up the game. If you own an old generation PEN, this is like the hot rod and your PEN is like the Yugo. Maybe you own a Panasonic M 4/3 camera. Well, none can touch the EM1 MKII as of November 2016. BUT for some, the PEN-F or original EM1 may be the pick as they can be had for half the price of the MKII. Then again, if you want to keep a camera for 6+ years, this is one that qualifies.

If you want the best M 4/3 has to offer, and one of the best cameras available to order today, then take a look at the incredible EM1 MKII. I also highly recommend the new 12-100 f/4 lens. It’s one of the best lenses I have used in recent times. SEE MY PART 1 REVIEW OF THE EM1 MKII HERE

Buy at Amazon, Buy at B&H Photo. 

The Sony RX100 V 


This camera is like lightning in a box. It’s fast as all get out, small enough to slide in your front jeans pocket, light enough to take anywhere and will blow away your phone camera in a big way. This guy is capable as most DSLR’s (or better) when it comes to getting the shot. While you will not have the all out IQ from a larger sensor camera, or the depth, ISO performance or dynamic range it makes up for it in every other way. With a pop up EVF, great color and image quality (better than your phone), speed and a crazy 24fps shooting mode it is designed for all out speed and accuracy. You will never mis a shot if you use this camera how it was meant to be used. It can and does catch the decisive moment. See for yourself HERE. 

Catching the decisive moment can be easy with the RX100 V


You can also see my 1st look here while I was in NYC testing it out a while back. This is the most serious pocket point and shoot ever created but I hate to call it a point and shoot as it is a pretty advanced little machine. I never recommend cameras I have not used or did not like, but this one would make a killer gift for someone wanting a step up from their smart phone camera while giving them amazing speed, video, and features you just do not get with most smart phones. It’s perfect for someone on the go to shoot everyday life as well. Beautiful camera and comes in at just under a grand.

Buy the RX100 V at Amazon or B&H Photo

The Leica Q


While this is a 2015 camera, it is still a popular choice for today at the end of 2016. In fact, just a couple months back we started to see regular supply in stock of the Q. Leica makes these in small batch quantities and they have been selling the Q in good numbers. In fact, I would wager that this is Leica’s best seller right now.

The Q has snap, pop and no crackle. B&W or Color, the IQ has that Leica feel. 


The Q is FANTASTIC if you can deal with only having a 28mm lens. The 28 Summuilux here is nice, has a macro mode, puts out great IQ and colors and has that Leica style and design all the way. You can go as easy as a point and shoot here, or go full on manual. Great for beginners or pros. The Q is a winner.

 My Leica Q Review can be seen HERE

Buy the Q at Ken Hansen (Email: [email protected]), PopFlash, B&H, or Amazon

The Olympus PEN-F


The PEN-F is one of my favorite cameras ever, in my top 10 without question, and possibly my top 6. It’s the best PEN model Olympus has ever created, and yes, I feel it is better than the old film PEN camera without question. What we can do today with imaging is pretty amazing and this camera does it all with style, grace, speed and a fun factor that is missing in many cameras. This is for someone who wants to take great shots and look good while doing it.


You can also enjoy some of the greatest lenses made today with this Micro 4/3 camera. The PEN-F is beautiful and the IQ can be serious, fun or anything in between as there are modes, filters and even a slide film emulation along with a Tri-X emulation. All with a twist of the front dial. See my PEN-F Review HERE

Buy the PEN-F at B&H Photo or Amazon

The Leica SL


My camera of the year of 2015 and for good reason, it is to me, one the best all around digital cameras ever made as of November 2016. Many pass this camera off due to the insane cost to get in to this system, the large native lenses and the size but once you use a Leica SL for any length of time, you will most likely get hooked on it. The HUGE large clear EVF, the solid as all get out build, the weather sealing, the dual card slots, the huge battery, and the functionality and simplicity of the menu and controls.

Tow guys some of you may recognize! Ashwin Rao and Kurt Kamka, two Leica aficionados! Ashwin had his SL (as did I) and Kurt had his Leica S!




The feel of the camera in use is like when you drive a $80-100K luxury sedan. It’s smooth, it’s reliable and it delivers the goods. This is a camera for those who want QUALITY in ALL areas from construction, to handling, to controls, to function and IQ. It’s the most expensive camera here on this list but if you can stretch this guy, you will not be disappointed. With adapters available to shoot M lenses, Canon EF lenses and Nikon lenses we can now shoot almost any lens on this guy. It’s like a Sony A7RII on steroids with a more refined IQ and better build, feel and that EVF..OMG..The EVF.

See my review HERE. I will have an update soon on the SL. More shots here. 

Buy the Leica SL at Ken Hansen (email:[email protected]B&H Photo HERE, HERE, or Amazon HERE.  

The Sony A7RII


No buyers guide would be complete without my #1 most used camera of 2016. The Sony A7RII is a powerhouse of imaging. While it is not the fastest camera out there today, or the most responsive, nor the one with the most is one hell of a camera and video maker. This may be one of the biggest successes Sony has had in recent years.



The A7RII may be a year and a half old already but it has a few more years in her before she retires from this household. Even if an A9 pro were to come out, my A7RII will stick with me as many memories have been made with me and this camera. Highly recommended. See my full A7RII Review HERE.

Buy the A7RII from B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE

The Sony A6500


The new Sony A6500 is a pretty awesome under $1400 mirrorless APS-C camera. The speed is astonishing and this one takes the best selling A6300 and adds major speed upgrades along with AF tracking upgrades to make for one hell of a fast action shooter. If you shoot sports, action, concerts or anything that involves a moving subject then this may be the camera of your dreams.

Photos by Chad Wadsworth for using the A6500 in Austin TX



Many will think “This A6500 or the Fuji Xt2″…well, two totally different types of cameras IMO. The Fuji is built like an old school camera with knobs, buttons, controls for everything. The A6500 is much smaller, sleeker, faster, responsive and will excel for any moving subjects. Then the IQ differences, as the Fuji has a unique color signature all its own, as does Sony. Question is, which one is for YOU? The A6500 is a marvel of engineering and tech but it feels more like a high speed computer than a camera. Either way, it still gives results! Beautiful ones at that.

See the 1st hands on look at this camera HERE

Buy the Sony A6500 at Amazon or B&H Photo. 

The Fuji Xt2


The Fuji Xt2, to me, is the best Fuji APS-C sensor sized camera that they have ever made. I prefer it to the X Pro series as well. It has the design, controls and response that we love and the Fuji color that is always sure to please, especially the Fuji fans! The XT2 is not my favorite camera but it is my favorite Fuji camera and it now has a lens arsenal to be reckoned with.


It’s a solid Fuji release, and I would urge those curious about the Fuji system in general to give this one a go, or rent it for a couple of days. Many think I hate Fuji or take jabs at them but that could not be further from the truth. For the past eight years what I have done is tell my honest feelings about the cameras I have tested or shot with. The last Fuji I enjoyed a lot was the XT1, before that the X100 series with a pref for the 1st gen X100 for IQ and color. This XT2 is the only Fuji since those two that I can say I truly like, alot. I feel Fuji has matured a great deal over the last two years and I am liking what I am seeing from them with this camera.

I can not wait for the medium format Fuji in 2017. That is going to be something to behold. My look at the Fuji XT2 is HERE

Buy the Fuji XT2 at Amazon, PopFlash or B&H Photo

The Leica M (Any Variety)


No buyers guide from me would be complete without a Leica M included! I started this blog eight years ago, inspired by the Leica M8. I have always had a Leica M ever since, of some variety. Today I am with the Leica MD, a 28 Lux, a 50 Lux and 90 cron. I also can use those lenses on the SL which is a great experience due to the glorious EVF.




The Leica M has a way of inspiring you, motivating you and making you want to run out for the day and use it. After you use one for a while you start to get an idea of what will look good, and what will not when framing images. Using the rangefinder is quite unique as well. No live view EVF here. The Leica M is legendary, and while it is costly to get into an M system, there is no question it is one of the best camera systems available for those who do street shooting, travel, or even portraits. I know a few who shoot sports with an M ;) See my page with all Leica M images using the M 240 and MD

Buy a Leica M from Ken Hansen (email: [email protected]), PopFlash, Amazon, B&H Photo


Micro 4/3

OLYMPUS 12-100 F/4


Olympus 7-14 Pro f/2.8

The Olympus 25 f/1.2 Pro

The Olympus 12-100 f/4 Pro

The Panasonic Nocticron 42.5 f/1.2

The Olympus 300 mm f/4 Pro

Sony E Mount



Sony 35 1.4

Sony 50 1.4

SONY/ZEISS 16-35 F/4

Zeiss Loxia 85 f/2.4

Zeiss Loxia 21 f/2.8

Leica M or SL

LEICA SL with Zeiss 50 Sonnar at f/1.5


Leica 24-90 SL

Leica 50 Summicron APO – M or SL

Leica 50 Summilux LE – M or SL

Zeiss 35 1.4 Biogon M Mount

Zeiss 50 Sonnar 1.5


Wotancraft Camera Bags


The RYKER from Wotancraft. This has been my GoTo for well over a year now. See my one year update on the bag HERE. This is a quality leather bag. Comes in black or the brown as shown above. This is my day in and out bag most of the time if I am staying local. It holds my camera, 2-3 lenses, accessories and even an iPad. The construction is as good as it gets and beats some super fancy brands that sell for $800 and up. The only weakness I have found it that due to being all leather, it is heavier than most bags. If you want style and function this bag is awesome. The original review is HERE. Any bag you buy from Wotancraft will be up there with the best of the best.

Buy the Ryker direct from Wotancraft HERE. They also have other bags I love like the RAVEN and SCOUT.  

Blackforest Bags


I have been using this bag HEAVILY for the past two months and I am going to post my review of it by the end of the week. It has been a godsend for my long travels as it holds everything I needed. When I traveled to Iceland, it held my camera, lenses, macbook pro 13″, iphone, chargers, cables, batteries, my headphones, sunglasses and a hand towel. This is larger than the Ryker, but full quality here. All leather, with all high end materials. It has the same protective zip up section under the flap that the Ryker does so your gear stays safe and dry.


See more about this bag at BLACKFORESTBAGS.COM


This bag is not for everyone but until you try one, don’t knock it. This is the best buy in camera bags when it comes to convenience, size, ease of use and literally no weight or back pain! This straps around you like a belt, like a holster of sorts. It will hold a camera and lens and will be at the ready in a nanosecond! I love the camslinger bags and even met up with the owner in Las Vegas a couple of years back to try out the bag  on the streets..


So check out the Camslinger. It’s affordable, and very effective.

You can see the ENTIRE Line at B&H Photo



I own several JB Handmade wooden grips for my cameras. I have one for nearly every camera I own and use. They are affordable and beautiful all at the same time. Each grip is made in the USA and all are also available at Amazon via prime shipping. Can’t go wrong with a JB Grip! I love mine with the PEN-F most of all.


You can see all of the grips on offer from JB Designs at Amazon HERE



This is a lovely lens for your iPhone or Smart Phone that allows you to shoot Anamorphic video to your iPhone. See my demo of it HERE. This can help you create very cinematic videos or films. I have used it a few times now for personal projects and it never disappoints.

You can see all of the options at MOONDOG LABS here

Walter Leica Contrast Lens for the M


These little lenses are fantastic. If you shoot a Leica M camera and want an aid to help you focus, or see more clearly through the Rangefinder then one of these will make you a happy shooter. The Walter Leica contarst lens is now upgraded and comes in a Golden Contrast Lens or a Coral Contrast Lens. I have the coral above and it is awesome.

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-11-34-47-am prod_page_image_golden_coral_contrast-lense-1

To see more info on this great M upgrade, check out the Walter Leica page HERE. 

Renato Lamberti Leica M Grip


Above I spoke of the JB Designs grips. But what I like even better for my Leica M is the Renato Lamberti Grip. It is beautiful, chunky and hand carved. You can email him HERE for info. It’s gorgeous and I believe he has now made one for the Leica Q as well!


For the past 8 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week. Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!!

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link (not the B&H) and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!

You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. ;)

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is TRULY needed and welcome. Thank you!

Nov 112016


The No Comprise Olympus 25 f/1.2 Lens. My Review of Olympus’s best fast prime.

By Steve Huff

NOTE: Click images in this review to see them how they were meant to be seen! The small versions you see below have the quality reduced so to see larger, click them!

ORDER: Order this lens at B&H Photo HERE. Or you can Also go with Amazon HERE. 

Wow, it’s been an Olympus whirlwind these past two weeks. From the new E-M1 MKII review to the testing of the new 12-100 f/4 in Iceland  to this lens, the 25 f/1.2, we have been flooded with not only Olympus gear, but some of the best gear they have ever made in my opinion. When I heard the rumors long ago of the new f/1.2 Pro line of lenses (I think there will be one more to come) I was skeptical. How big would an f/1.2 lens have to be, especially when it is a 25mm which are hard to keep small while retaining super quality that is reserved for “Pro” lenses?

I’ve seen no color fringe, RAW or JPEG. I have seen amazing detail when wide open at f/1.2 and this lens features 19 lens elements in 14 groups for maximum quality. 


Olympus just did not want to release any old normal 25 f/1.2, and make it OK wide open, and usable by f/2…they wanted to make the best fast prime they know how to make. They already have the bargain of the century 25 f/1.8 lens which will also give a 50mm equiv field of view, but that lens, as good as it is for the money, is not going to deliver the goods, IQ, color, and Bokeh like this new f/1.2 can. This new 25 f/1.2 is a masterpiece, and I compare it to the big guns from Leica and Sony more so than any cheap “Nifty Fifty”, which in no way can compete with this lens.

Understand, this is a statement lens from Olympus, to showcase the best they can do. It is not going to be small, it is not going to be cheap, but it is going to deliver some of the best IQ you will ever see with Micro 4/3. Wether you shoot with a Panasonic or Olympus, this is a lens you MUST try or rent or buy if you have been craving this look with Micro 4/3.

Closer in, wide open at f/1.2 and some Vignette added to really pull out the dogs face ;) Click it to see it the right way!


The last time I was this excited about a fast prime for M 4/3, it was for the Nocticron by Panasonic/Leica. That lens offered an 85mm FOV with a fast f/1.2 light gathering aperture. That lens, and this lens now offer Micro 4/3 users the most shallow DOF they can get at this kind of detail level, period. No other lenses for this format delivers this speed of aperture with this performance. For the M 4/3 haters, you would never understand. But for Micro 4/3 lovers, this is a BIG DEAL. Also, the Nocticron IMO is not as good as this Olympus for all out Image Quality. WHAT?!?! Well, both are stupendously good but the Nocticron offers up a more “digital” feel while the Olympus, still digital of course, offers up a more organic style of rendering that reminds me more of something out of a Leica SL and 50 APO. Well, not quite but you get the point, lol.

This lens is indeed special for Micro 4/3 owners. Anyone who says this lens is not worth the cost either never used it or does not shoot Micro 4/3. Maybe they are the type to shoot  a lens like this at f/8, which defeats the purpose of the beautiful rendering and performance when wide open. I feel that this lens is made to be shot at any aperture though I would stick from f/1.2 to f/8 to avoid diffraction. In other words, for Micro 4/3 it is recommended to not shoot f/11, f/16, etc. But one would never need those apertures on Micro 4/3. This lens is razor sharp at f/1.2 or f/8.

My little dog Olive. A Brussels Griffon with gobs of attitude. f/1.2


When I pre ordered this lens from Amazon when it was announced I kept wavering back and forth. $1200 is a lot of cash, and for a Micro 4/3 lens? With that money I could almost buy the amazing Sony 50 1.4, which is one of the best 50mm fast primes available today (review here). I could have purchased a new OMD EM1 MKI body. I could have purchased quite a few things instead of “another 50mm equivalent lens” for a system with a small sensor, and a system that is not known to offer tons of “Bokeh” or “Shallow Depth of Field” . But I preordered with the knowledge of knowing that if it sucked, or if it underperformed or if it was just another average 50mm (equiv) lens, I could send it back for a full refund. Amazon is amazing for this. Buy something that is broken, is awful or sucks, or doesn’t live up to the hype? I can have a refund processed the same day I send it back. So I knew I had insurance. I would not be stuck with a lemon if it were to be one. But no way this lens is going back.

This 25 “captures all available light and renders your image in a way that is organic, rich in color and has just the right amount of contrast. Sharpness is off the charts or seems to be visually. When you have a sharp fast lens like this it truly makes your subject be the center of attention. 


When the lens arrived about 2 days after I returned home from my Iceland trip where I evaluated the new EM1 II, I was surprised. I was not expecting it until 1st week of November but it made it by end of October. The box is larger, which when opened revealed a manual, a lens hood, lens pouch and the beauty itself, the lens..the 25 f/1.2!

I agree..this lens is a Bokeh KING


While large for M 4/3, and especially when compared to cheap 50’s from Canon, Nikon or Sony or the cheap 25 f/1.8 by Olympus, it is still not large as most DSLR lenses. Shooting a 24 1.4 on Nikon will bring you a MUCH larger and heavier lens. Yep, I said a Nikon and a 24. This Olympus is physically and technically a 25mm lens. It is not a 50mm, so let’s compare size to another 24-25 mm lenses for kicks, with AF, and with a fast aperture if we want to be fair about size. Since no other 25 f/1.2 exists, we can look at the Nikon 24 1.4 which is much larger, and more costly. We can look at the Canon 24 f/1.4 and again, larger, and more expensive. The point is, for what it is, the lens is still small, as it is a 25mm f/1.2 lens

Debby with the 25 f/1.2 at f/1.2, and with some PP. I altered the color here which is why there is a green-ish hue. 


For size comparison only…

An APS-C Nikon D500 and Nikon 24 1./4 is quite a bit larger than the Olympus PEN-F and 25 f/1.2 I have here, and I would wager that the Olympus 25 is just as good if not better than the Nikon lens in detail wide open, and Bokeh quality. While we lose some DOF (though not much as the Nikon is APS-C)  this lens is stunning when used on the M 4/3 system. The Nikon will give you more of a 36mm FOV, the Oly a 50mm FOV but the lenses are both 24mm lenses (25 for the Oly) in construction.


In regards to size… If you can sacrifice some contrast, micro contrast, bokeh quality, more shallow DOF, outright detail and overall vibe of the f/1.2, then the f/1.8 can be had for $850 less. So we have choice. Want cheap and small? Go for the f/1.8. Want the ultimate quality that Olympus can put out and the fastest aperture you can get with AF for this system, then this is the lens you want.

If you want to see what it looks like compared to a Canon 5DIV and 50 1.2, here you go. The body of the Oly is much smaller (and quicker to boot) and sharper at f/1.2. You will get less of that crazy shallow DOF of course when wide open, and your ultra low light/high ISO will be hindered with M 4/3 compared to the Canon but in this scenario, the body size is MUCH smaller yet the lens size is longer, and this is due to what I said above..the Olympus is a 25mm lens as advertised, not a 50. Wider angles are always larger, especially ultra high quality like what we have here with the 25 f/1.2. The Oly option below is also about half the cost as the Canon.


All comes down to needs and likes of the purchaser ;) The Oly on the right is like a sleek sports car, fast, reliable, and fantastic performance. The Canon is more like a luxury sedan. Will be slower, larger… yet deliver the IQ goods like a luxury high end camera can. The Canon option is also 2X the cost as the Olympus option.

Here the lens was coated with water, fog and mist. Yet the shot still came out OK. ;) It’s a little foggy because the front lens element was also a little foggy!


To those who bash the size and price of this lens when never trying it, well, they are not doing their homework, and I guess they really never appreciated a really really fine lens as there are more expensive equivalent lenses out there that cost more and probably do not perform to this level or at this level. I love to give credit when it is due, and Olympus deserves HUGE praise for this one.

Debby saying “Another picture..OK, only one more” – Lol. Truth be told she is awesome and always puts up with my picture taking without complaint ;) 


So you know I love this lens, but what about it makes it worth the $1200 price tag? I mean, one has to be really deep into Micro 4/3 to spend $1200 on a lens when the same focal length can be had, by the same manufacturer for $399 in a slightly slower aperture prime lens. So how is $800 worth going from f/1.2 to f/1.8? How is it worth going from a tiny small lens in the f/1.8 to the larger f/1.2?

The 25 f/1.2 is large for Micro 4/3. See the PEN-F with 25 f/1.2 next to a Sony A7RII and 55 1.8 Zeiss. The 55 1.8 Zeiss is a pretty small fast 50 though. If the new Sony 50 1.4 masterpiece was put in this lineup, these two would be dwarfed. 


For me, and anyone who has been shooting with fast primes most of their life, this new lens is a welcome addition to the ever growing Olympus Zuiko lens lineup. If you own and shoot M 4/3 and have always had a love for the look a fast prime can bring you, then you will be thrilled with this lens. If you value micro contrast of pro lenses, color performance of pro lenses, speed of pro lenses and a Bokeh that may be the most beautiful I have seen yet then you owe it to your self to give this lens a go. It is not overly heavy, and while larger than the usual Micro 4/3 fare, it is because of what is packed inside.

Weatherproof, Quick AF, Whisper Quiet AF for Movies, and a Z Coating Nano to eliminate ghosting and flare. Wow. This is why this lens cost what it does.


This lens even has the Olympus pro weather sealing, and it can focus close to about 10-11 inches. That’s awesome. Paired with the new EM1 II, this lens can withstand any weather situation. Rain, snow, sleet or hail ;)

So the answer to why it would be worth the $800 investment over the 25 1.8 to some shooters who shoot with this system, ask yourself the following:

  1. Do you value overall IQ over everything else?
  2. Do you want or need weather sealing?
  3. Do you want the ability to shoot full frame style shots in regards to Subject isolation and Bokeh?
  4. Do you want the best in regards to detail and sharpness, even when at f/1.2?
  5. Do you want a lens that will be the best for low light with your Micro 4/3 gear?
  6. Do you want a lens that will focus fast and accurately?
  7. Do you want to own the best overall fast Prime Olympus makes? (well, that is my opinion)
  8. Do you want minimal CA and distortion?

If you answered YES to those questions I have no doubt you will LOVE this lens. I have been shooting it for two weeks now and truly have found no weakness. I can not even complain about the size or cost as the size, for me, is just fine. It is smaller than the 7-14 Pro I use all the time, and it is comfy to shoot even with the PEN-F and my JB Designs Grip. 

I have seen such minimal (if none at all) purple fringing, even when shooting RAW, which tells me this lens is well corrected and a pleasure to see since most fast lenses today suffer from some pretty bad CA in our digital world. Distortion? No barrel distortion here and I see a lack of wide angle distortions as well. Reminds me of good Leica wide angle lenses that have minimal distortions.

This lens renders quite a bit like the expensive exotic lenses I have tested in the past. 


Monochrome mode #3 on the PEN-F (Tri-X Simulation)


Wide open…


Let’s see some details

So let’s take a look at the details and sharpness of this lens. What I have found is this lens behaves much like a good Leica lens. Sharp wide open, almost MEANT to be shot at f/1.2, this lens will deliver detail and sharpness to your images no matter the aperture. This lens is making a serious case for Micro 4/3, and not because this lens does things other lenses do not do, but more of what the bodies do. Small, fast, fun to use, and in the case of the EM1 and EM1 MKII, you get so much for your dollars in regards to speed, response, weather sealing, pro features, etc. These cameras are just a joy to shoot as they do not hunt for AF, they do not lag..they are quick and with the line of lenses we have today, they perform in all aspects of IQ. I said when the original EM1 was launched that (at that time) I would have taken that camera over any APS-C model. I feel the same today. I just do not see much improvement TODAY in APS-C that I am seeing in Micro 4/3 (in regards to body design and speed and features). For example I’d be happier and more comfy shooting a PEN-F and this lens over a D500 and Nikon lens simply due to size, and what the PEN-F offers me and my style of shooting.

The fact is this lens with a good M 4/3 body will deliver on all aspects of what makes photography so enjoyable. Great Color, Smooth Bokeh, Nice Subject Separation, Sharp Details, Speed, and Reliability in any weather.

A few detail crop shots…click them to see the 100% crop and larger image! I see no faults with this lens. 





That fingerprint on a beer glass is amazing. When I shot the image I did not see the fingerprint. I was taking it as a Bokeh example at f/1.2, When I looked at the image I was impressed to see that detail when wide open! The fact is that this lens is a masterpiece from the way it renders an image to the detail capabilities it has on tap.

The MF Clutch, the Function button, and an 8 inch close focus distance. Use that 5 Axis with an Oly body and you have a lens you can hand hold for close to one second, at f/1.2 allowing you to keep ISO lower.


Just a few of the old reviews from previous Micro 4/3 lenses below:

Olympus 17 1.8 Review

Olympus 25 1.8 Review

Olympus 75 1.8

Olympus 8mm fisheye

Olympus 60 Macro Review

Olympus 300 MM Pro

Olympus 45 1.8

Panasonic Noctocron 42.5 f/1.2

Bokeh at f/1.2


The subject separation is fantastic with the detail at your subject, making it pop but in a nice gentle way. 


Low Light with this lens and an Olympus PEN-F?

While this lens and body combo will not deliver high ISO performance like a Canon 5D MK whatever or a Sony A7S series camera, you can get by up to ISO 10K if you shoot black and white ;) This was a low light night time shot, inside my house. No light here, it was low light. I cranked the PEN-F to ISO 10,000, set the lens to f/1.2, set the camera to Mono mode 2, turned off the artificial noise that is added to that mode and fired the shot. This is the out of camera JPEG:


Low low light in my kitchen. Night time. 


So this lens does open up some more low light opportunities. With the 25 f/1.8 I would have had to be higher than ISO 10,000 on the shot of my dog above. It also renders in such a gorgeous way.







My Bottom Line on the Olympus 25 f/1.2 lens

So I have used them all, and know them all when it comes to Micro 4/3 lenses. This one is up there with the best Olympus makes, and is without question to me, the best fast prime lens Olympus makes. It has the AF speed that we will be happy with (though in the dark it will hunt a tad with a PEN-F body), it has a wide aperture allowing maximum light gathering, it offers the creamiest Bokeh I have seen in a long while, and it offers detail, even when wide open that helps to create the lovely rendering and 3D subject seperation that it does. If you are a fast lens junkie but maybe NOT a fan of busy, overly done Bokeh then this one may be up your alley. If you are not thrilled with fast lenses being hard to focus due to the shallow DOF, this one offers just enough but not quite enough to allow your images to be in focus. If you shoot Micro 4/3, then you owe it to yourself to give this lens a try. It has the manual focus clutch for an instant switch to manaul or auto focus, and it has a programmable function button as well, so you can assign it to focus peaking for example when you go manual.

Three using the 25 on the EM1 MKII, all OOC JPEG for these




BTW, I NOW CALL THIS THE BOKEH KING LENS OF 2016 ;) It has the most pleasing Bokeh I have seen with anything in Micro 4/3 to date. Up there with the best Bokeh lenses ever for QUALITY and smoothness of Bokeh. It is never offensive or busy!

I usually get many wanting me to do comparisons with lens A, B, C or X but this lens is not really one we can compare to most cheap 50’s. I did a side by side with my Sony full frame and 55 Zeiss HERE, and will do a couple more in the future. But Sony lenses do not work on an Olympus M 4/3 camera and vice versa, so the only lens this one should be compared to is the Olympus 25 1.8 and the Panasonic 25 1.4 when it comes to image quality.

I have owned and used both of those lenses extensively and will do a new post in 2-3 weeks comparing them all but for now, by memory and past images I have taken, this lens offers up better IQ, better contrast and color, micro contrast,  better build, weather sealing and fastest AF of all. It also gives us that f/1.2 aperture and the best Bokeh of the lot by far.

It’s costly at $1200, it is larger than most M 4/3 lenses, and it is not going to make you a “no light shooter” with Micro 4/3 but it delivers on IQ. It’s a true pro weather sealed lens as well. It does not get much better than this in the world of Micro 4/3. Put this lens in the hand of a wedding pro and I expect great things to happen. Actually, I think this is a HUGE welcome for Wedding Pros who shoot Micro 4/3 (and yes I know a few who do, and they are wonderful). It will give M 4/3 shooters an edge that they never quite had before when it comes to all out IQ.

A Snap of my Dog Baby, who truly is a big Baby. 


Debby this time with a smile ;) 



If you want to buy this lens, the links are below from my top recommended Olympus dealers online. 




Bold color from the PEN-F Chrome Mode


Nice Color and Tone


Bokeh that is smooth as silk






I will be using this lens for product shots as well due to the detail, color and close focus of this lens. What is this device? See it here. And yes, it is real. 


Wide open, 1.2  – focus on straw



Hello to all! For the past 8 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

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Nov 092016

Crazy Comparison! Sony A7RII and 55 1.8 vs Olympus PEN-F and 25 f/1.2


Man, I have been doing these crazy comparisons for years and years now, and every time I do there are many comments and many who like to be outspoken about this or that..but remember, these are all in fun and while they are real world side by side tests that show real world differences, they are not meant to be scientific tests, as that is not what this site has ever been about. It’s about WYSIWYG from each camera and what you can expect out of a specific combo of body and lens. This time, we have a full frame vs a micro 4/3 body and are looking at Depth of Field  and light gathering.

This morning as I sit at my desk I was looking at my Sony A7RII and 55 1.8 Zeiss sitting next to my silver Olympus PEN-F with Olympus 25 f1.2 attached. I remember someone asking me to do this comparison, and figured it could be fun. I immediately thought “well, the Olympus will lose on ISO noise, will lose at shallow DOF and will lose on detail”. But hey, I love my PEN-F and 25 1.2. So I wanted to see how it would go.

Now, it is true that using the 25 f/1.2 on the PEN-F would give me a Depth of Field like that of a 50mm lens at f/2.4 on full frame. Light gathering is the same, so ISO was set to 1000 for two of these shots, and wide open on the Olympus at f/1.2 vs f/2.4 on the Sony, as these are equivalent apertures.

You must click each image to see the larger image. ISO 1000 for both.

Top one is from the PEN-F and 25 f/1.2 at 1.2. You will see more noise in the Micro 4/3 shot at ISO 1000. 


…and below is the Sony A7RII with 55 1.8 at f/2.5 to match the DOF of the Olympus. ISO 1000, less noise than the Micro 4/3 shot as we expect. 


In the image above I prefer the Olympus rendering but I do because it is warmer (a trait of the Olympus color signature), it seems more inviting due to this warmth. The Sony renders cooler out of camera and always has and will, but it could have been warmed up in post to match the Olympus, so technically, the Sony will give you better IQ due to more MP, more DR, and the ability to go even more shallow with the DOF. But what about detail? This is a spot where Micro 4/3 can indeed do well in some cases…

The Olympus PEN-F with the 25 f/1.2 at 1.2. This lens is stunning wide open, and delivers sharpness and pop that rivals most high end f/2 50mm lenses. 


Wide open with the Sony A7RII and 55 1.8, this time wide open at f/1.8 which allows us to see the depth of field difference. The Olympus is at an f/1.2 aperure but it is technically a 25mm lens, not a 55mm. So we will get the DOF or Bokeh from a 25mm lens (less) compared to the 55 (more) as the longer in focal length you go, the more shallow DOF that is possible. 


To me, both shots above from the Olympus win me over in regards to the color signature. Some will prefer the Sony here as some prefer cooler and some will not care as we know each photo could be made to look the same with some color tweaks. What this test tells me though is that Micro 4/3 owners have a lens here that IMO is a must own if you like fast aperture and a 50mm equiv. focal length! It truly is a joy to use and the PEN-F focused about 2X as fast as the Sony for these two shots. It was instant with the 25 f/1.2. The Sony hunted for a second or two for these shots in the same light. The Olympus PEN-f is for sure the faster and most fun camera to shoot of the two but in the end, when shooting RAW the Sony will eek out more power and more depth to the iQ.

With full frame, we use real 50mm lenses to get 50mm. With a crop sensor like on M 4/3 we are using wider angle glass in the 25mm, so this is going to always produce a wider DOF. Light gathering though, is another story. The Olympus f/1.2 is an f/1.2 in light gathering terms.

Do not believe me? TAKE A LOOK BELOW:

Both cameras, one full frame, one micro 4/3. Same ISO, same aperture, and same exposure. They look the same in exposure as both were shot at f/2, same ISO of 200, and same shutter speed of 1.6s. This proves that both lenses, on these different systems, full frame and micro 4/3 give us the same light gathering capabilities. The weakness in Micro 4/3 due to the smaller sensor is that it will have higher noise levels once we crank the ISO up.

Click to see larger. The Olympus with 25 f/1.2 at f/2 ISO 200, 1/6s, tripod


Now the Sony and 55 at f/2, ISO 200 and 1/6 second, tripod. The Sony will give us a more shallow DOF which is why the crop is blurred. The camera focused on the copper wire and therefore, due to the razor thin DOF, what is behind the copper is slightly out of focus. Some call this a weakness of larger sensors and fast glass. 

But as for exposure? Just about the same. The Sony added in +3 exposure comp even though I was in all manual. Therefore it is a shade lighter. 


Me, I love both systems. I use them both and have a ton of shots and time on my Sony A7RII. The PEN-F is getting much more time lately though, with the 25 1.2 and my 7-14 pro. My full review of the 25 f/1.2 should be up by the end of the week. Then after that, I will do my review of the Fuji X-T2 ;)

Have a great day everyone!

Nov 082016

It’s Election day, so get out and VOTE! Plus the Olympus 25 f/1.2 Review..coming soon..


Here in the USA it is Election Day!!! After a year and a half of being flooded with both sides and their campaigns on TV, radio and everywhere it is finally just about OVER!! But as Americans, we MUST exercise our right to vote, using our voice and our power so please get out and VOTE if you are capable! No matter who you vote for, no matter if you are democrat, republican or independent or green, voting is the power of the people, it is our power. This one may be a nail biter or it may be a landslide, and can truly go either way. So have a great Election day here in the USA!

I will be out and about shooting my Olympus PEN-F and new 25 f/1.2, which I am seriously in love with. ;) My review of the lens will be up by end of the week! Until then…

One quick detail shot with the 25 f/1.2 at 1.2 on the PEN-F. Look at the detail wide open, the bokeh, the color… This lens is GORGEOUS and seriously makes M 4/3 that much more desirable to me. You must click the image to see it larger! THIS IS AT f/1.2!


Nov 072016

Fujian 35mm f1.7, the Cheap Charm Offensive for M4/3

By Brad Nichol

Close up of lock on iron box at rear entrance Cathedral de Sevilla, Spain approx f3.5

Over the past few years many wise words have been written extolling the virtues of the “cheap as chips” 35mm f1.7 Fujian lens, most articles are accompanied by a few pics of flowers and the occasional portrait all shot wide open or very close to it. All good stuff and certainly an appetite wetter, but having bought one of these little charmers and then extensively using it as a creative tool on a recent overseas trip I thought why not try to write a definitive article on lens in the hope that it may prove technically and creatively useful for potential and current owners. So here goes, let’s really see how this almost free lens can be used.

First of all to be very clear, this is not a lens for inexperienced photographers, it’s not easy to use well and being fully manual you need to know how to perfectly set exposure, adjust rendering options, be able to determine exactly where to focus and then nail that focus perfectly. Furthermore you need to choose your gunfights carefully, there are far more images it’s in no way suited to than those it truly excels at.

Finally unless you are prepared to shoot RAW and use a raw converter and post editing options creatively it’s unlikely you will achieve results that look ideal, in fact your photos may end up looking simply bland and out of focus.

It goes without saying then that all the images you see in this article were shot in RAW and appropriately post edited, which is the way I always test a lens, I am always more interested in a lenses’ potential rather than out of the box results.

For Micro 4/3 Only

Yes, yes, I know it does come with C mount options for APSC mirrorless cameras, and yes you could mount it on a Sony A7 series but let’s be frank, the lens is designed to cover a much smaller format than even M4/3, all you are going to get if you use it on anything bigger than M4/3 is a lot of useless wasted pixels.  M4/3 is where it’s at, of course you could use a larger format and crop the middle out, if that’s what you desire or you don’t have an M43 camera go ahead, I won’t argue, but for this article please accept that everything I am saying is on the basis of shooting the lens on an M43 platform.

The lens will cover the M4/3 image area at moderate apertures with a little bit of vignetting, nothing too dramatic mind and easily sorted in post editing if you wish, normally I don’t wish, in fact I usually add more vignetting to taste, and many of the images in the article were treated that way.

The lens will never resolve truly sharply across the whole frame regardless of aperture, but it gets extremely close at the minimum aperture (more on that later), you could never consider this as a small replacement for a regular M4/3 lens of the same focal length, I know most folk reading this with be well aware of this but I mention it just in case you’ve no prior knowledge of the little blighter.

Detail of plaster work, Alcazar Palace, Seville, Spain, approx f4.5


Sure it’s small, but some reviews might lead you to believe it is absolutely tiny, in the scheme of M4/3 lenses it’s about the same weight as several of the obvious fixed focal length M4/3 options, say 17mm f2.8, 45mm f1.8 etc and its most similar in proportions to the 45mm f1.8 Olympus or the 42mm Panasonic equivalent.

Being all metal/glass construction it’s not particularly light for its size but then again at 160 grams with mounting plate, caps and hood attached it is only 8 grams heavier than the Olympus 45mm f1.8 with caps and hood attached, anyway most shooters could pop it in their bag and hardly notice the impediment.

As a further example the rather nice Panasonic 14-42mm f3.5 – 5.6 series 2 zoom, whilst physically much larger (though still small for a zoom), weighs in at 140g with caps and hood.

font-b-fujian-b-font-font-b-35mm-b-font-f-font-b-1-7Build Quality

I know from comments on various forums there can be some sample variance with this lens, mind you that’s not uncommon with any lens, even expensive ones, but my example is tightly built, has a very smooth focus action and the aperture movement whilst just a tad stiff is still rather nice and happily it has loosened us with use.

The black paint seems to be evenly applied and has a nice quality to it.

In short there is nothing to complain about for the price of entry and I’ll add that I have used many far more expensive lenses that are nowhere near as well made!

The Odd Little Physical Bits

For $35.00 AU you can’t expect perfection and you will find this lens exhibits a couple of odd little foibles that won’t break the deal but could potentially lead the unaware astray.

First up, there is something super nice about the lens, the aperture, it apparently has 12 blades, yep you read that right twelve!  Those 12 blades do a very good impression of forming a perfect circle as you stop down, which certainly helps when you’re seeking smooth creamy bokeh, it’s only at the smallest aperture that the aperture hole gets a bit ragged, but by then the point is moot. It is worth noting that earlier versions of this lens appear to have come with a much lower number of aperture blades so be sure to check this out when you purchase as it’s quite likely there is some older stock floating around in eBay land.

But, and don’t you hate it, there is always a but, the aperture can close right down to nothing, which could be a good thing for video work, but if you get brutal and push too hard once getting to the fully closed down position I fear, in fact I am sure you will be able to distort the aperture blades and permanently damage them. I modded my lens to prevent this happening and we will come back to that later.

Next foible, the lens can focus wayyyyyyyy beyond infinity, that sounds like a cool title for a book or movie “Way Beyond Infinity”, this is somewhat of a nuisance when shooting stills so I modded that too. If I were using the lens only for video I may have left this foible alone and called it a feature as it could serve as useful video effect.

The aperture markings are probably best considered as a guide only, they’re not totally off kilter but certainly not spot on and in any case once you stop down further than f5.6, you have no markings for 8 or 11, it’s straight to f16 folks and beyond infinity!

My tests indicate that the marked f16 is actually about f11 or just a tiny bit smaller and I assume from this that the true f8 mark would be much closer to the f16 mark than you might think.



And Now the Odd Optical Bits

To be clear, “odd and optical” can be a cool combination, if this lens didn’t offer some oddities it wouldn’t get lodgings in my camera bag, so just what are these optical oddities?

First up the colour rendition is quite cool, by that I mean cold, not exciting! If you compare an unedited RAW file from this lens to say any other Olympus lens it’s pretty obvious there is a lack of warmth and saturation in the files, is this an issue? Nah, it’s easy enough to get any look you want in editing, it just means if you shoot with your camera on say “sunny” WB you will probably find it best to fine tune the in-camera WB rendering by adding a little red/yellow tint. As an aside, at least on my Olympus EM5 mk2, the rendering of blue skies seems really nice, possessing a richness lacking in other lenses.

Next up, wide open there is very little clarity anywhere in the frame, except in the very middle, stop it down just 1/2 stop and you get a different look altogether. Some folk will no doubt love this wide open fuzzy mush, me, not so much, I like at least a little detail to play with.

That tiny, limited “wide open aperture circle of clarity” disappears completely as the focus distance is extended, in other words at infinity you will be hard pressed to find anything even in the middle of the frame sharp, the reverse being as you adjust focus to close up distances the circle of clarity expands (assuming depth of field is not an issue), this being the case the wide open setting could prove to be useful for some macro needs. In fact the “circle of clarity” extends to such a degree that once you add a short extension tube to the back of the lens you can almost get a sharp image across about 60% of the frame wide open!

Alcazar Palace Seville, Spain, main stairwell finial, approx f2.8

Bokeh varies considerably with both the aperture (as expected), and the focus distance. With extreme close ups using a macro tube the bokeh is smooth and kinda dreamy, extend the focus distance to the regular close up range without the tube and it becomes swirly and super funky drawing the eye into the middle of the frame, extend the focus to normal distances and it is smooth but with a slight secondary ghosting effect. More than any lens I have ever used this one offers an array of ways to play the visual tune, which I just love, trust me optical perfection is a very over-rated attribute.

The plethora of Bokeh rendering options is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because you can with experimentation probably find a super creative option that matches your image intentions and personal taste, the downside, you could spend a loooong time getting to that result and it can be difficult to reproduce specific looks unless you have made careful mental or even written notes regarding focused distance, subject shape, aperture and even exposure.

Next up we have flare, and this little baby can flare like a 70s disco unless you use a deep lens hood, keep it away from direct light and make one important modification,(again I will get to that a little later) and the results will be much better, though you will never completely eliminate the flares.

The flare can be annoying or charming and there are actually two types of flare you will come across, one is the normal flare you get from light sources shining down the length of the lens barrel, the other flare is strong veiling flare where light objects glow a little lowering the contrast and softening things up, the only fix for that is stopping down but for portraits and other romantic style subjects this later type can be a blessing of the first order adding a sweet dreamy quality to your pics.

Sculpture in Loggoa Dei Lanzi, Florence Italy, approx f6.3

I actually prefer working with low contrast lenses, they can act like a hand-brake on highlights and shadows giving me a nicer more organic file which usually edits wonderfully, as you can image high contrast optics like Zeiss lenses don’t normally float my boat. This baby is a classic low contrast lens, punch is not in its vocabulary, it hasn’t even made it to boxing ring.

Generally I found that highlights are almost always recoverable, unless you really throw caution to the wind and seriously overexpose, which interestingly can produce a nice high key result if that’s what you’re seeking. The recoverability leads to renderings that look rather filmic, it’s hard to describe but basically your highlight tones become smoother in gradation and the specular highlights are reduced in intensity.

Shadows can also be recovered, but are nowhere near as responsive as the highlights, being easily greyed up if you’re not careful with exposure or the raw conversion process, that being said it’s really easy to simulate cinematic shadow renderings with this lens as the slightly greyed rendering works nicely with selective shadow colour tinting.

Field Curvature

Most lenses these days have close to flat field rendering but the Fujian 35mm is not like most lenses and exhibits significant field curvature. This field curvature is why under normal circumstances you get such massive separation between the in focus and out of focus areas, basically as you move towards the edge of the frame the correct point of focus comes closer to the camera. In practice you can use this to render things in focus towards the edge of the frame that normally wouldn’t be and vice versa, normally however it tends to accentuate the blur as generally with most images the items on the edges and corners of your frame are further away from the camera than those bits in the centre.

The last article on my blog is on using field curvature creatively, it can be found here:


The lens exhibits a bit of pincushion distortion, I have noticed it on occasions when shooting straight edged subjects but generally for the type of images you are likely to be capturing with this lens it’s unlikely to be an issue.


I’ve made it clear earlier that the lens does not resolve sharply across the entire image at normal apertures but in fact central resolution between f4 and say f8 can actually be pretty high, it will never exhibit high macro contrast but the raw files when properly sharpened show very pleasing levels of detail rendering within that central core.

To get some perspective I ran a little test where I shot this lens at f6.3 and the Panasonic 14-52 mm series 2 kit zoom at the same setting, (confirmed by keeping the shutter speed identical and reading the aperture off on the Panasonic EXIF data). Now consider that the Panasonic is a really excellent kit lens, but when comparing the central portion of the two lenses the Fujian is just a tad sharper, of course that clarity falls off pretty quickly as you move away from the centre of the image but the salient point being in-focus detail rendering is potentially fine.

Robe on display in Museum area of Cathedral de Sevilla, Spain approx f4, it’s easy to see the central core exhibits rather good detail capability.



The Modifications

You could always use the Fujian 35mm out of the box, but for me it was just a bit too annoying and one of the mods I have added I consider absolutely essential for all users.

So here’s what I did:

• The mount provided with the lens is just a simple screw in C to M4/3 mount version, there is nothing to lock the lens in place, this caused two issues, first the markings on the lens ended up on the bottom of the lens when the lens was tightly fitted to the mounting plate and much worse, when turning the aperture or focus ring it was all too easy to end up unscrewing the lens from the mount. To resolve the problem I screwed the lens onto the mount as far as possible whilst still having the focus and aperture markings lined up correctly on the top of the lens and then glued the lens firmly to the mount. The downside being that I cannot use the supplied plastic extension rings with the lens but this is a non-issue as I have a set of m43 extension tubes anyway.


• There is no marking point on the lens to line the aperture ring or focus ring up against so I drilled a two small indents into the mount and the lens barrel and filled then filled the drilled indents with white paint to visually line things up. There are no marking on the lens barrel for apertures between f5.6 and 16 and if I were going to regularly use the lens at smaller apertures I would probably take the time to test the settings and mark properly mark aperture points up.


• I added a physical external stop onto the aperture ring (made of brass) so it could not be forced too far at the closed end and accidentally damage the aperture blades.

• I added a brass infinity stop on the underside of the lens barrel so the lens could not be focused beyond infinity.


• So what was the one essential modification that everyone should do. Well I noticed early on that when you shot subjects with bright areas and especially those with specular highlights I got a circle of flare around the perimeter of the photo. It was easy to see what was causing this, the back of the lens focusing tube was chromed and it was bouncing light backwards and forwards off the cameras sensor, a simple coat of Tamiya matte black model paint killed the issue stone dead.

Note: many of the versions of this lens seem to come with shiny alloy C mount adapter plates, I suspect it might be a good idea to black the circle in the middle of these plates as well. This simple mod is an essential fix, unless of course your lens is already fully black internally and I suspect some of the versions of it might be.

• I added some little knobs to the focus and aperture rings to make it easier to adjust both using just finger tip pressure, the knobs are made of alloy but I am sure you could use plastic or rubber or anything else that is practical, anyway it does make the lens nicer to use.

• Finally if you didn’t get a lens hood when you bought the lens then you better do so, this baby needs a hood like a meat pie needs tomato sauce. And make it a good deep hood too!

Note: If I were going to use the lens purely for video work I would likely only black the back of the lens focusing tube and leave the other items alone as they could be used creatively for video as indicated later in this article.


Two Tips To Help Get The Most Out Of The Lens

You must centre focus using magnified live view, especially at wider apertures. The field curvature makes it impossible to accurately set the focus if the focus point is anywhere other than in the middle (unless you are shooting at f11 or smaller). The difference between being in focus and out of focus is just the tiniest movement of the focus ring once you have moved beyond the near macro distances, the magnified view option on your camera to help get it just right.

The middle is where all the detail is rendered which generally means you need to frame your photos a bit loose with your subject right in the centre of the frame and then move the cropping box around the image in post to give the final composition that you desire.

Aperture Choice and How It Looks

I will preface the following aperture assessment by saying that most people seem to buy this lens to use it wide open or at least very close to that, this is a shame as the lens can offer many alternative rendering options at smaller apertures which are well worth experimenting with.

• F1.7 is next to useless as far as I am concerned, think of this as an f2 lens and forget about that last part of the aperture range and you will get much better results, trust me there is no gain to be made in terms of bokeh rendering and much to lose by going all the way to f1.7

• F2.4 – 3.5 is very nice for portraits and soft dreamy renderings. Bokeh quality is swirly, especially in close up but non macro range.

Violinist in Piazza del Duomo, Florence, Italy appor f4.5, the very strong field curvature means that despite the aperture used the head of the violin and his wrist is far more focused than you would otherwise expect. The swirly Bokeh is still evident at the aperture than somewhat subdued compared to the results you will see in the f2 to f4 range.


F3.5 to 5 For general creative work, f3.5-5 seems to be about perfect and even at f5.6 there’s still plenty of out of focus blur if you want and it’s a nice soft bokeh, still a little swirly on the outer perimeters of the frame, generally this is where I take most of my shots with this lens.

• F8 is great for close ups and out to about 2 metres where you still want the background nicely blurred. Surprisingly you get much more blur than you would normally expect and the bokeh is really quite smooth, it only gets a little busy as you get closer back towards the point of focus. The central 50 % of the image is nicely sharp and this could be a good choice for portraits where there is nothing detailed in the frame right behind your subject, which I realise sounds odd but trust me it works.

• F11 will give you cross frame clarity that would cover the equivalent of approximately the area of a 1inch sensor. Actually pretty useful for close up shots of plants, flowers and food and much better than you might expect. At this aperture you can start to focus a little off centre if you need to.

• Between f11 and f16 is where you will obtain the largest area of central detail without wandering into contrast reducing diffraction if that’s what you need, (once of course you have properly sharpened the raw file with very low radius/high percentage sharpening to compensate for the mild diffraction).

• F16 will almost give clarity across the whole m4/3 sensor area and is fine for fully resolved square images. If you had the lens on your camera to do all the creative things on offer and quickly needed a more regular shot of something you could probably get away with this aperture instead of changing out to a normal lens, it’s not ideal but with a little cropping much better than you might expect.

• F18, it’s not marked at all) will give total cross frame clarity on the m43 sensor, now you might think this would be a useless diffraction ridden pile of optical stink but I have used this option quite a bit and when combined with appropriate corrective RAW file editing it gives a rather lovely long tonal range rendering that looks very analogue, check out the pics in the article to see what I mean.

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence Italy, shot at approx f18 shows overall image clarity and smooth tonality in this monochrome rendering.


Chromatic Aberration

We have a real mixed bag here, and to get the most out of the lens you will need to roll up your sleeves and make yourself familiar with the CA correction options in your RAW convertor.

First of all, you’re not going to be able to fix the CA using canned profiles, the lens does not transmit any information to the camera so there’s no lens information available to base the corrections on.
Additionally the correction process is a little more complex than with most lenses as the CA is very tightly aperture dependent.

At wide aperture apertures CA is a non-issue, it’s there but the lack of edge and corner definition means you are very unlikely to notice it but as the aperture is closed down the CA becomes increasingly evident and it requires quite different adjustments for each aperture step and even between apertures.

It is well worth fixing the CA as it radically changes the look of the image, making it appear much sharper at small apertures, it also noticeably improves the colour rendering on the edges and corners of the frame.

Generally at middling apertures CA mainly requires yellow/blue adjustment but as the aperture gets smaller red/cyan adjustments also have an effect and by f18 it is almost entirely an issue of the red/cyan adjustment.

Test shots taken at approx f22 demonstrates overall clarity and the ability to control highlight tonality in high contrast lighting, it really is sharp out into the corners and this is not a cropped frame, the image below is taken under the same settings and further demonstrates the lenses stopped down ability. Note that chromatic aberration and minor vignetting have both been corrected in these files.


Channel Differences

Most lenses fail to render an even degree a clarity across the three colour channels though generally they are reasonably close, not so with this lens. The red and green channels resolve quite closely and allowing for the fact that the Red channel is derived from only half the pixels used to build the green channel I would say it is probably a draw.

The blue channel however lacks resolution across the board, as the aperture closes down both the red and green channels quickly improve, the blue barely budges.  I know from years of tinkering with all sorts of lenses that this behaviour can provide for a nice image rendering that suits portraits in particular but for sharp general shots it’s not a helpful characteristic.

The good news is that if you wish to convert the images into a monochrome, a 50/50 mix of the red and green channels will give a final image that looks sharper and generally more detailed than the original full colour shot, it’s just the difference with this lens is more extreme than you would normally encounter. I rather like the way this lens renders images in monochrome, you get a sort of old world medium format look which is hard to define but quite attractive.

Where Is This Lens Useful?

A) For a unique depth of field rendering on otherwise flat field objects which benefit from the field curvature and soft edge definition. For example I used this lens on our recent European trip to take photos of carvings and statues on the walls of churches and give some separation from the surrounding stone work, a trick that is impossible with a regular flat field lens.

B) The lens is terrific for portraits, you can get the background well out of focus and easily give a softer rendering of skin texture, all the ladies I have shot with this lens have made much the same comment when seeing the pics, ” I love that, you can’t see the wrinkles so much”.

C) It is perfect for dreamy landscapes in the fog, I really can’t think of anything better suited.

D) A great choice for macro and close range shots where you want serious separation of the subject from the background.

E) Where you want an old word monochrome look, say something akin to a “box brownie style” rendering of buildings and landscapes.

F) Ideal for video work where you want something a bit different from the highly resolved, high contrast rendering offered by most modern lenses.

G) A nice option to help images read well on the web, the accentuated blur strongly directs the eye towards the frame centre which is helpful when dealing with smaller low res on-line images where the overall look trumps fine detail rendering.

G) Finally the lens works well with built in film mode simulations.

My wife Wendy taking some moments out in Piazza del Duomo, Florence, Italy approx f3.2


Locks attached to the Ponte Vecchio, Italy, approx f3.2, focused in centre and crop moved to suit.


Detail above door Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence Italy, cleary shows the ability of the lens to render relatively flat field objects in a more three dimensional way,
approx f4.5



This is potentially a brilliant lens for video, in fact I envisage that you could shoot a whole video with it using the obvious deficiencies as creative options, just think of the possibilities:

A) With the aperture able to closed down fully you can fade from black to regular exposure or the reverse whilst shooting.

B) The lack of clarity at the wide open setting means you can move from unfocused to focused purely by adjusting the aperture and leaving the camera in auto ISO, this will give a look quite different to pulling focus.

C) You can isolate subjects in ways not possible with regular lenses, even having the camera pan across the scene with the central area remaining in focus as the camera moves across the image field.

D) Easily create “glowing flare” by removing the hood and shining lighting towards the camera out of frame.

I am sure there is much more you could do, my main point is that with this little package we have an enormously powerful and creative tool that well exceeds its tiny monetary value.

There is of course nothing to stop you modifying the lens to make it more suited to video with focus levers, moveable stops etc and even if you messed up it’s not much dosh to lose in the process.

Violinist in a dark alleyway, Venice, Italy approx f5.6


Plaque on gate at Piazza del Duomo, Florence, Italy approx f2.4


To Sum Up

So in summary what can be said, first it really is ridiculously cheap, so long as you know where the limits lie and you need actually the unusual rendering characteristics for creative purposes, however if you merely want a general purpose fixed focal length lens then look elsewhere, this one would then prove to be very poor value indeed.

Really the Fujian 35mm f1.7 is a specialist tool for specialist needs, it truly opens up a vast array of photographic options, for the money there is no real reason why any half adventurous M43 user shouldn’t have one in their kit.

I will finish by saying I am so impressed with the little lens, I intend to buy another couple and modify them accordingly for specific needs!


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