May 272015
 

The Olympus 40-150mmf/2.8 Lens User Report

By Imanol

Hi Steve and Brandon,

There has been a lot of Sony and Leica action on the site recently and so I thought perhaps readers might be interested in a user report of one of the newer Olympus lenses.

I came across your site last year when researching micro four thirds cameras and have been a regular visitor since. I’ve only taken up photography in the last eighteen months, and primarily so I could take better shots of my family. I guess like some other folks here, I started with buying a couple of decent lenses for the ubiquitous family DSLR that we already had and used as a posh point and shoot. I then found that I wanted something a little smaller for when out and about and bought an OMD- EM10 and Olympus 25mm f1.8 and pretty much stopped using the DSLR except for taking shots of my sons soccer matches and daughters basketball.

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Last December I decided upgrade to the OMD-EM1, and invest in some lenses (my niece got the OMD-EM10 as at 13 she already has a level of creativity I can only aspire to and was shooting with her mums old point and shoot). One of the lenses was the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 as I hoped with the improved tracking of the OMD-EM1 over the OMD-EM10 I’d be able to shoot sports and get rid of the remaining DSLR kit.

This lens has turned out to be incredibly versatile and I’ve used it far more than I anticipated when buying it. Below are several shots taken over the past few months in varying situations from snaps in the back yard and on walks, to family vacations and soccer matches. These are all hand-held snapshots and taken in whatever light was available so ISO was pushed in some of them to get the shot.

So, what are my thoughts on this lens? There are enough pros & cons lists out there from more serious and technically proficient photographers than me, so rather than replicate existing reviews I’ll share my thoughts as a distinctly amateur shooter wanting to capture better photos of my family and friends.

Firstly, I love its portability. I have a smaller messenger style camera bag and can comfortably fit the OMD-EM1, Olympus 12-40mm, 40-150mm, 17mm and Panasonic 25mm and carry this round all day without discomfort. The build quality is fantastic and I never feel nervous re damaging the lens, it gets used in all situations and weather conditions. The retractable lens hood is so well designed and just seems to reduce any messing around when switching lenses and getting set up.

In terms of versatility I find that I use the lens far more than I thought I would, due in part to how small and portable it is compared to my Sigma 70-200mm, (the OMD-EM1 with 40-150mm lens is pretty much the same size as my DSLR with 17-70mm Sigma) but also as it lets me get candid shots of my kids playing without having to encroach in any way, especially with the 1.4x extender. Image quality is as good as I need and the fixed 2.8 aperture is great in lower light environments like sports halls.

One of the main reasons for getting this lens was for shooting sports and this is where I’ve had the most mixed results. However, this is more due to the OMD-EM1 than the lens. As much as love my OMD it can’t compare even to my mid-range DSLR for shooting team sports and this has necessitated a change in approach when shooting. Firstly let me say that I’ve found the OMD tracking function pretty useless for shooting fast team sports, and multiple attempts to master its use have not resulted in improved outcomes – however that may just be a lack of skill on my part! Autofocus can also be a bit hit and miss when multiple bodies are moving around in the frame and if using high-speed burst mode this can lead to long editing times due to lots and lots of badly focused shots to review and ultimately delete in post. Low speed burst has been more successful with a greater percentage of keepers and I also get good results (probably my best results) in single shot mode though this means sometimes missing out on nice sequences. An upside of moving away from solely relying on burst mode has been focusing more reading the game to anticipate situations that will result in a good image. All that said, I come back to the fact that I’m a dad taking shots of his kids and not a pro, and having now climbed the learning curve I’m around 50/50 in terms of keepers, and that is good enough for me not to need to hang on to the DSLR just to shoot the odd soccer or basketball game.

All in all I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this lens for anyone with an OMD body looking for a high quality zoom lens. It’s pretty small and light for what it is which means I usually have it in the bag and I find it incredibly versatile, especially with the tele extender. Image quality is excellent and, having recently signed up for a course in portrait photography, I’m really looking forward to exploring using this lens for more formal portraiture.

A final thought on using this lens for action/sports; I anticipate that as Olympus continue to refine the autofocus technology in the OMD bodies that this lens will actually become even more useful to me, as at present it is the camera body that is the weaker element in the pairing.

All the best

Imanol

7MileBridge

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May 212015
 
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The Olympus Pen F – from Large Format to Half Frame thanks to W. Eugene Smith

By Ibraar Hussain

Steve, Brandon and every viewer of this site!

it’s been a fascinating year so far, and stevehuffphoto.com is as good as ever! Exciting camera news and excellent photography.
I really enjoy the daily inspirations and inspire they do!

After the recent Punjab trip I sold my Panasonic Lumix GX7 and was looking to go up into the world of Large Format, View cameras and 5×4 photography. My winning bid for an MPP Micro Technical camera with quick load Film holders, a Schneider lens and all the accessories had to be cancelled as the seller updated me with some information about the lens having some fungus inside.

I was disappointed as my advancement into the realm of LF had been put on hold, so until I find another one that has to wait. I was browsing the Web and came across a superb vintage Olympus advertisement showcasing their Olympus Pen F camera. It featured one of The Greatest Photographers and War Correspondents of all Time: W. Eugene Smith, composer of possibly, in my opinion,  The Most Beautiful and Magical photograph of all time: A Walk To The Paradise Garden. A photograph whose composition and making of is a story unto itself and worth looking up, and a photograph which does nothing but inspire. It inspired me to clean up my neglected darkroom and dust off everything, to gather my cameras again and shoot, to invest in an Epson SC-600 13”+ Printer and some Epson Exhibition Fiber paper and make some prints.

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Anyway, I digress.

Smith, with his ultra cool look had with him an Olympus Pen FT. I don’t know whether he used it much, and I am not really bothered about that, but I used to have an Olympus Pen F which I regret ever selling, as it’s a wonderful camera. It’s built as well as anything, solid metal housing and beautifully crafted, small and compact with tiny lenses and a wonderful portrait format finder.

I love everything about this camera, and it is a shame Olympus were unable to copy it instead releasing the Digital pen series which are nothing like this work of art, designed by the genius of Yoshihisa Maitinai himself.

The camera is unique, in so many ways. It is not a rangefinder like the Leica M series, but a true SLR. It lacks a Pentaprism and is thus oblong in shape with no un sightly prisms, humps and angles, instead it is sleek, with a low profile and an almost RF look about it – yet so very different as it is an SLR and not anything else. The Pen F was produced from 1963 to 1966 and was in turn followed by the Pen FT and FV models.

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I prefer this over any other model for a few important reasons.
Firstly, it’s the Original design and features the glorious and striking gold gothic F logo which is reason to buy it in itself.
It has a very bright large finder, which isn’t dark and cluttered like that in the FT (which has a meter and readout in the finder making it cramped). It has the double stroke wind lever which I prefer and lacks a light meter which makes it simpler and more spartan- but this is the beauty of it.

The construction is up there with the Germans, it is a solid hunk of crafter metal, a solid and satisfying shutter button, the shutter mechanism is a Ti Rotary Focal Plane Shutter and along with the Half Frame (APS sized) negative is very much like that on a Cine camera.
The Portrait format finder is like this as it is a Half Frame camera, with a 18x24mm negative which when exposed resembles that of negative stock shot with a 35mm motion picture 35 camera.

It has a nice set of compact lenses, with the 38mm f1.8 being the usual standard lens. 38mm on half frame is equal to 55mm in Full Frame Format.

I managed to get an almost Mint example from a seller in Japan with the fast 40mm f1.4 lens (pristine condition) and the Gothic F lens cap!
I also procured a classy leather strap and a 43mm Tiffen Yellow Filter to go with it.

Needless to say I absolutely adore this. It has so much character, it attracts so much attention and is so different and unique. It features nothing but the shutter button, the Shutter speed dial at the front, the wind lever and Film crank and that’s about it! it’s all i need! This is a keeper, especially the mint version I have.

Shooting with this is a different style altogether.

The portrait format with the half frames gives another dimension to the photography, and I am forced to think out side the box, to compose and shoot differently within the constraints of the narrow 60mm focal length of my 40mm f1.4 G Zuiko and the upright view finder I explore different compositions and subjects, with the added creative benefit of having a go at Penography – of shooting three consecutive pictures as a sort of three frame panorama, and using the unique format to create pairs of frames, telling a story or portraying something in chronological order, such as a triptych or montage. The possibilities are endless and with the fine grained sharp Film available Grain or resolution isn’t an issue. And I forgot to mention, one roll of a 36 exposure Film goes on seemingly forever! You get double the amount of frames courtesy of the Half Frame format!

The lens is a beautiful piece of work, solid in construction with an aperture ring and a depth of field preview button, and it has some interesting bokeh and gives delightful shallow depth of field effects. It is sharp at f4 and above and a very nice lens to own and use.

Using and owning the Olympus Pen F is a pleasure and will open many opportunities in creativity and satisfying and interesting results. It won’t make you into W. Eugene Smith, and you won’t look as cool as him, and nor will you be as great as him, but it sure as hell puts a smile on my face and has kindled the love of photography in my heart again.

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I took it for a trial run to some of my favourite walks in Epping Forest near my home (Strawberry Hill Ponds and Great Monk Wood and Wanstead Park for those interested). I used my trusty Minolta Autometer III and took the reading from the shadow areas this time!
The rest I left to experience and managed to gauge the light levels and loaded with Rollei Retro 400s (fast becoming my favourite 400 speed Film) I played with light and shadow of the sun beams amongst the trees.

I then took it to the woods in and around Burnham Beeches in Berkshire with the Missus, the Film eventually finished and I loaded it up with some Agfa Ultra 100 colour Film for some fun and games with the magic of the Bluebells and ancient Oak and Beech around here – but that is for another story!

The results were vey pleasing, and the double frames an interesting way of portraying photographs. I have used it as a gimmick though and haven’t really used the two frames or any triptych as they should be used here, though I did take a triptych of my Missus which is superb (but she’ll kill me if I upload any of her photos). I’m going to have a go at ‘Street’ photography with this delightful and beautiful camera soon, as I usually shoot Nature, travel portraiture and architecture I am pretty useless at reportage and street – but i think this camera will be ideal!

So in searching for a 5×5” Large Format Micro technical camera I’ve bought a Half Frame instead thanks to W. Eugene Smith and his über cool look. Anyway, for those bored of nature and trees, look away now. These snaps are a first roll trial.

All snaps:

Olympus Pen F
G. Zuiko Auto S 40mm f1.4
Rollei Retro 400s
Developed in R09 Rodinal
Scanned with Plustek 8100
Digital darkroom using Photoshop CS4 and Apple Aperture 3.6

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May 192015
 
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Camera? Doesn’t matter, shoot what you love!

By Thomas Rhee

I’ve been a visitor of your site for a number of years now and while it’s not the most polished looking site, the content is what speaks to me. It’s honest and down to earth.

Anyways, I’ve been into photography since my high school days starting with film, on and off again thru the years until around 10 years when I started taking it more seriously. Like you (Steve), I’m also very much into high-end audio, currently mostly Naim gear along with a Mac Mini and a Mytek 192 DSD DAC that acts as my music server.

Recently, my GF knowing how much I love photography, gave me a Fuji X100T along with the WCL-X100 wide conversion lens as a gift for my birthday. Also, my birthday gift to myself this year was the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk.II,. My other cameras include the Olympus OM-D E-M1, Fuji X100, Ricoh GR Digital III and a Canon 5D Mk.II. Of course, I’ve been shooting non-stop with my two new cameras so my submissions will be from those two, all of which were taken within the last two weeks.

The first photo is a street photo taken with my E-M5 Mk.II after having dinner at a restaurant located deep inside of a few alleyways here in Seoul, Korea. The image is of a waitress getting hot coals for a table-side Korean BBQ restaurant. The alley was pretty dark but fortunately there was a light in front of her that acted as a spotlight as well as the two open doors (two different restaurants) that brought in some light. Nonetheless, the ISO had to brought up to 3200 to bring up a reasonable shutter speed with the lens wide open.

“Waitress”

OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5 Mk.II, 25MM, F1.8, 1/50, ISO 3200

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The second image was taken on Buddha’s Birthday here in Seoul, Korea. Like most other Asian countries, Buddhism is prevalent and Buddha’s Birthday is a big event where thousands come out to celebrate. This image was taken at one of the Buddhist temples here, nearby where the parade was happening. There was a homeless man surrounded by families, children on a field trip as well as devout Buddhists who came out to pray that day. The homeless man kind of stuck out from the crowd and I captured this while he was eating a popsicle although I have no idea where he obtained it from. The tree in the middle signifies to me a the disparity of how others see him as well as how he sees himself.

“Disparity”

OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5 MK.II, 45MM, F6.3, 1/60, ISO 3200

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The third and last image was taken this past Sunday where my GF and I decided to go to a botanical garden just to have a leisurely Sunday and get away from the hustle and bustle of living here in Seoul. The place was amazingly beautiful and when I came across this scene, with a Juniper tree, decided to take a snap.

“Juniper & The Garden Of Morning Calm”

FUJIFILM X100T, 19MM (28MM EQUIVALENT), F8, 1/1100, ISO 400 (FUJIFILM WCL-X100 WIDE CONVERSION LENS)

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Anyways, thanks for reading and looking,

Thomas Y. Rhee

https://www.eyeem.com/u/tyrphoto

May 122015
 

Shooting Weddings with a CCTV Lens

by Tom Le Vine

Hi Brandon & Steve

I have submitted a few posts before and figured it was about time for another. As ever, I love the site and it’s still a ‘daily read’ as well as my go to site for getting a feel for a camera/lens and not just the technical. Thanks!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A while back on the site there was an article about using a super cheap CCTV lens. The results to me looked something like a voigtlander 0.95 but for a tiny fraction of the cost. I picked one up off ebay for something like $20 a year or so ago.

It’s as cheaply made as you’d expect (although with a metal barrel) and it comes apart easily. The focusing is tricky and everything feels a bit like a ‘toy’ lens. It vignettes like crazy. There are tons of chromatic aberration. The sweet spot of focus is very small. Any enlarging of a photo shows how poor the glass is in terms of sharpness. Lots of bad points.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And yet, it also produces some of my favourite photos. It has a character and look unlike anything else I have used. And with a bit of post processing in LR you can really take the edge off a lot of the image quality negatives. All in all I love the lens and love the results. So what’s not to love?

As for shooting a wedding with it, you’d have to be pretty reckless. But, when a friend asks as a favour for you to tag along and shoot the wedding as a second shooter (and knows how little experience you have), you don’t have a lot to lose. So pop on a $20 CCTV lens and see what the photos come out like. (I should also mention he knows I am very much an amateur, this was definitely a freebie, we only had a short time to take photos, it was very overcast grey weather and he wasn’t relying on my shots…so if you want to try this yourself…on your own head be it!)

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As for the photos…they were pp’d in LR (just a minute or so on each one…some colour adjustments, a few BW conversions, purple fringing removal and some straightening). The ones with the heavy vignetting and swirly bokeh are with the CCTV lens, the others are with my 20mm 1.7 Panny Lumix (I).

Hope you enjoy.

Tom Le Vine

May 122015
 

olympusnew

New Olympus 7-14 Pro lens, 8mm f/1.8 Pro lens, and Special Edition E-M5 II!

PRE-ORDER THE 7-14 Pro f/2.8 HERE

PRE-ORDER THE 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye HERE

PRE-ORDER THE E-M5II Titanium SE HERE

Last night Olympus announced some new goodies, two of which I have been waiting for patiently as I am ALL IN on these two (and possibly in on the 3rd as well). We all know that Olympus pro lenses are fantastic, and the new 7-14 is finally here along with the 8mm 1.8 fisheye! Olympus is continuing to lead the way with lenses and we now have a pro level ultra wide for our Micro 4/3 system. YES, there has always been the Panasonic 7-14 f/4 from many years ago, one of the first M 4/3 lenses, but now we have a new Olympus PRO 7-14 that will give us a 14-28mm equivalent and a faster f/2.8 aperture. Below see the 7-14 on the E-M5II (see my E-M5II Review). It’s a chunky beast of a lens but I am confident it will be flat-out AMAZING in performance as all Olympus glass is these days. You can pre-order the 7-14 at B&H Photo, PopFlash.com or Amazon. Amazon says it will not ship until August 1st, B&H is saying end of June. I say June as that is what Olympus says,  but either way, you are not charged until it ships so pre-ordering is always a good idea if you REALLY want an item as you can cancel anytime before it ships with no penalty or charge but pre-ordering secure’s your place in line, and this lens will be popular as all get out. Watch and see. At $1299 it is not cheap, but this is a pro lens, weather sealed and up to the Olympus pro standards, which is about as good as it gets.

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I am also looking forward to the new 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye as I love a good Fisheye lens. The previous premium fish for the Micro 4/3 system is/was the Panasonic 8mm fisheye (my review of that lens here) but this Olympus will be even better with a fast 1.8 aperture vs the f/3.5 of the Panasonic. That speed is not really needed for a fisheye lens but still way cool to have in ANY lens..SPEED is KING. It also has a minimum focus distance of just 2.5cm. See the 8mm below on the E-M5II… The cost of the PRO Fisheye, which will be weather sealed and up to PRO standards will be $999. It will also be called “mine”. Get it HERE at B&H Photo, or at Amazon, or at PopFlash.com. Ships end of June 2015.

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Below, The 7-14 Pro f/2.8 Ultra Wide

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Olympus has also announced a limited run edition of the new E-M5 II in a new and unique “Titanium” E-M5 II, limited to 7,000 units worldwide. This is not real Titanium of course but just the color to be reminiscent of the old Olympus OM-3 Ti from 1994. It will come with a special leather strap, a leather card case, and a numbered owners card showing your cameras #. The price? $1,199. Me like. Very much! Looks much more classy than the standard silver or black IMO. This sounds like a Leica special edition with the strap, card case, and numbered card ;) You can order the SE E-M5II at Amazon HERE and it will be released August 1st. My pre-order is in for this and the two lenses above! Ships end of June 2015.

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OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE FROM OLYMPUS:

OLYMPUS M.ZUIKO® DIGITAL ED 7-14MM F2.8 AND 8MM F1.8 FISHEYE PRO LENSES FOR COMPACT EXPLORING

Excellent Optical Performance, Ultra-Wide, Compact and Lightweight for Ultimate Mobility, Dustproof and Splashproof Construction, Underwater Accessory Compatibility

CENTER VALLEY, Pa., May 12, 2015 — Today, Olympus is pleased to announce the availability of two new premium M.ZUIKO DIGITAL PRO lenses. The M.ZUIKO Digital ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO is an ultra-wide-angle zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent focal length of 14-28mm, while the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 8mm Fisheye PRO, the world’s first with an f/1.8 aperture, features a minimum working distance of just 2.5cm and offers excellent bokeh with wide-angle macro shots. Both lenses are equipped with Olympus’ legendary weather sealing, providing peace-of-mind while shooting in extreme weather conditions with an OM-D® camera.

The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO is the ideal lens for wide-angle shooting needs in any condition. This premium lens includes weather sealing in 11 locations, enabling use in rain and snow, or even on the beach, where other lenses may not be able to withstand ocean spray or dust penetration. At 534 grams, or just under 19 ounces, the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO is about 45 percent lighter than similar competitor products, eliminating heavy equipment that may slow the user down.

The lens also includes premium close-up shooting capabilities, thanks to the minimum working distance of just 7.5cm, offering extremely sharp capture capability, even at the very edges of an image. Three Super ED lenses, one ED lens and two EDA lenses help to minimize peripheral chromatic aberration, while the ZERO (Zuiko Extra-Low Reflective Optical) Coating aids in minimizing ghosting. The lens also boasts an L-Fn button with 27 assignable functions and a Manual Focus Clutch with built-in Focus Distance Meter. The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO lens comes with a fixed lens hood and pinch-style lens cap LC-79 for added protection.

Hobbyists, photo enthusiasts and professionals alike will be captivated by the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm f1.8 PRO Fisheye lens’ 180-degree diagonal angle of view. Like the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO, this lens includes dustproof and splashproof construction, for unlimited wide-angle adventure. The lens is also compatible with a custom dome port for use with an Olympus underwater housing.

The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm f1.8 PRO Fisheye lens is constructed of 17 elements in 15 groups and can capture high resolution at the very edges of an image, even at the maximum aperture of f1.8. ZERO Coating minimizes optical flares and ghosting. The lens also comes with a fixed lens hood and a pinch-style lens cap LC-62.

Both of the lenses’ compact size, brightness and weight reflect Olympus’ mastery of precision engineering. When used in conjunction with core OM-D technologies, like 5-axis image stabilization, the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO and M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm f1.8 PRO Fisheye open the user up to new possibilities for long exposure hand-held shooting.

Underwater Lens Port, PPO-EP02

The PPO-EP02 glass dome lens port is a great accessory to the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 8mm f1.8 PRO Fisheye lens, enabling the user to capture the widest shot possible underwater with the OM-D E-M5 or OM-D E-M1 underwater housings. The PPO-EP02 is 15 percent smaller and 30 percent lighter than Olympus’ previous lens port model, the PPO-E04, allowing for more compact and lightweight underwater shooting. Also, the hood section can be removed to reduce waves for over-under shots. (Rear Cover (PRPC-EP02) and Front Cover (PBC-EP02) are bundled).
U.S. Pricing and Availability

The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO lens will be available in June 2015 (black) for an estimated street price of $1,299.99 (US) and $1,599.99 (Canada).

The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm f1.8 Fisheye PRO lens will be available in June 2015 (black) for an estimated street price of $999.99 (US) and $1,249.99 (Canada).

To find out more about the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO and M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm f1.8 Fisheye PRO lenses, and for a complete list of specifications, visit the Olympus website at
http://www.getolympus.com/us/en/lenses/pen-omd.html.

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Apr 202015
 

Shooting Streets with the Olympus OM-1

By Justin Halim

With so many people buying the ever-more popular Olympus OM mirrorless cameras, I thought I would pay homage to the original OM – the OM-1 35mm SLR – with which the mirrorless system derives its name and styling.

The OM-1 is an incredible camera, period.  Based on the Leica M camera (it was even called the M-1 before Leica complained about it), the OM-1 maintains the same philosophy of its German inspiration – simplicity.  This has led many to call the OM-1 the Leica SLR – they have identical dimensions, similar dial placements, and similar shooting methods.  And like the Leica M, the OM is the perfect street photographer’s camera.  I actually got very lucky with my system – after Hurricane Sandy a couple years ago, I was cleaning my house and found a bag with four OM Zuiko lenses – a 28mm f2.8, a 35mm f2.8 SHIFT, a 135mm f2.8, and a 50mm f1.8, along with a beaten up Olympus OM-G (the consumer OM model).  I can’t even describe how excited I was by this – I immediately went on eBay and bought myself a nice OM-1 to mount the lenses.

Coming from a Leica M6, I found the OM-1 very intuitive and natural to use.  It is very small (it fits perfectly in a Leica M case), built incredibly well, and very elegant – it doesn’t have the “industrialness” of a Nikon F3, but more of a jewelry-like quality, like a fine Swiss watch.  The viewfinder is the biggest and brightest viewfinder I have ever looked through, the shutter makes just a soft whispery click, and the Zuiko lenses are simply amazing – they have a certain character that makes pictures pop out at you.  I actually often find myself preferring my OM-1 to my Leica M6.  And to top it all off, they are dirt-cheap – I got my OM-1 with a 50mm 1.8 for just $70!  For anyone looking to get into 35mm film, I highly recommend this camera.

From a shooter’s perspective, the OM-1 is like a breath of fresh air to shoot.  It is so easy and so simplistic – it is that rare camera that makes shooting just pure fun.  Everything about it allows for quick and efficient shooting.  With its portable and unobtrusive design, quick focusing system and versatile lenses, it is an outstanding street photography camera.  In fact, I only ever really use it for the occasions I shoot street photography, which is kind of a shame – it deserves to be used more. My parents both work NYC, so on the days they bring me, I spend hours just walking around with my OM-1 taking pictures of whatever, just because it is so much fun to use.   Using this camera is what makes me look forward to my visits to the city.

Thank you everyone for reading and thank you Steve for publishing this article!  I hope you all enjoy the pictures!  I believe all photos were taken with the 135mm f2.8 Zuiko and 50mm f1.8 Zuiko, on Kodak Ektar, Iflord PanF, and Kodak TMax.

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/112710288@N03/

Instagram: http://instagram.com/justinhalim/

Washington Square Fountain 

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This man noticed I was taking pictures, and approached me asking if I wanted a rap in exchange for a portrait and a couple of bucks.  I don’t regret saying yes.

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In NYC parks, chess is a very popular game.  Chess tables are built into the ground, and many players will sit and call out to passerby’s asking if they want to play.

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There are hundreds of street musicians in NYC, but this musician is my favorite.  He plays in a duo called the Outlaw Ritual with whom I believe is his wife (I may be wrong), and they can always get a crowd going.

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One of the many “Pigeon Men” of Washington Square.  They attract pigeons and let the birds perch on them.  Sometimes they hand pigeons over to tourists for fun.

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I had never actually seen one of the people who hang the posters that line NYC’s streets, so I found this strangely interesting.

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In the summer, the city boasts some surprisingly colorful gardens.

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Even among all the concrete, there are plenty of grassy spots to sit and relax (or study, as many NYU students do in the park).

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The other half of Outlaw Ritual.

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One of the many ways people get their voices heard in the city – chalking messages on the sidewalk.

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Apr 202015
 

Shooting combat sports: pushing the limits of the Olympus OMD EM-5

By Vlad Georgescu

I was recently shooting a combat sports event in London and I tried a little experiment, knowing from the very beginning that I was going to fail. However I like pushing cameras to their limits and I wanted to see how bad the results were going to be. Basically I shot one of the boxing matches with an Olympus OMD EM-5 and the standard 12-50mm kit lens. With a 3.5-6.3 variable aperture, this lens is too slow for this type of photography. However its 24-100mm 35mm focal length equivalent makes it perfect for the job.

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Shooting combat sports generally pushes any camera to its limits. The light is decent, but not very good – it is also mixed and needs careful white balance checks before the event starts. You need to freeze action with shutter speeds of at least 1/320s. Generally 1/500s or 1/640 are better in order to capture that fist smashing the opponent’s face. Flash is not permitted, to allow the fighters to maintain concentration and to keep the TV coverage clean. Focusing is demanding and requires good tracking of fast movement. When shooting mixed martial arts, following the action step by step is even more difficult as you need to shoot through the cage.

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Ringside, most photographers will use a full frame body or an APS-C with competent ISO capabilities. A fast 2.8 short zoom is mandatory in order to keep the ISO at manageable levels, but a 35mm 1.4 lens would also work to cover the ring.

Obviously a few eyebrows were raised when I pulled the little Olympus, but nevertheless I kept using it throughout the entire duration of a fight. A few shots are attached here, but  here are some pros and cons.

Pros:

The 9 frame per second shooting capability comes very handy here. For combat sports, it is mandatory to shoot rapid fire in order to capture that unique moment of the blow’s impact or the blood/sweat mix exploding from one of the fighters’ faces.

The auto-focus with tracking worked unexpectedly well. The EM5 does not have the more complex auto-focus of the EM1, combining phase and contrast technologies. However I was amazed to discover that very few shots were out of focus – the number of properly focused shots was basically on par with what I would get with a DSLR.

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For a micro 4/3, the sensor behaves reasonably well at high ISO. Most shots are done at 3200 ISO and you can easily detect the noise degradation on closer inspection. However the files keep an impressive amount of detail in the faces and the body vascularity of the athletes remains visible. The sensor’s performance is miles away from what micro 4/3 was delivering a few years back, but surely still far from what you get at 3200 ISO with a modern full frame camera.

Size was also a major plus for the EM5. Shooting for a few hours in a row can be very taxing, and a lighter camera definitely helps. You are also able to be much nimble, move around and shoot from tighter corners. This is important as, at some fights, photographers are literally on top of each other trying to get a good shot because the space by the ring or cage is restricted.

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The electronic viewfinder coped really well; the image in the viewfinder was fluid despite the fact that the ring movements are fast and the light is not great.

Controls on the camera are nicely laid out and the two top dials are enough to control the body of the camera without taking your eyes off the viewfinder.

Ah, and one other thing! The weather sealing comes in handy if you get splashed with a bit of blood or sweat. This is fairly normal at combat events.

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Cons:

Battery life, at 200-300 hundred shots max, is terrible for covering hour of sports, where you could easily need to shoot almost 1,500 frames throughout 9-10 consecutive fights. Extra batteries or the battery grip will be needed. Disabling the live view helps a lot and will extend the battery life significantly.

Sensor size and noise remain significant issues. The file size also means that not much cropping is possible without dramatically alter the quality. The reality is that the larger size you get with a full frame sensor allows decent crops, which are many times required because there is simply no way to react quickly enough to the speed of the action in the ring.

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Despite all this, I feel it was worth playing (and failing) with the Olympus OMD EM-5, in a challenging environment, with a lens not suitable for covering this type of action. As I was returning to the normal kit for the next fight, I felt I enjoyed the experience and would be willing to give it another go with the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm 1:2.8 PRO lens, which should give me much more room to maneuver in terms of settings.

Some more sport shots, taken with other cameras, can be seen for comparison here: http://vladgeorgescu.500px.com/sport

Thanks,

Vlad Georgescu

Mar 262015
 

Micro 4/3 at the pub

By Shaul Naschitz

Hi Brandon and Steve,

I live in a tiny rural community in northern Israel about three miles from the Syrian border. Our local pub is situated in a bomb shelter 20 feet underground. One of its benefits is the absence of cellular reception; when you’re down there you communicate directly.

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I used an E-M1 with a Voiglander 25 for the first two shots and an E-M5 with a 75/1.8 for the third. Lighting conditions down the pub are atrocious, which makes any attempt to convey the atmosphere a challenge. Still, I hope you enjoy them.

I wish the Syrian people peace and quiet. We are greatly concerned about their situation here, across the border. Wish we could do more to help.

Kind regards,
Shaul Naschitz

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Feb 232015
 

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MIRRORLESS BATTLE! Micro 4/3 vs APS-C vs Full Frame!

E-M1, X-T1, A7s – 8 side by side tests

This was a blast to do, and shows the STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES of Micro 4/3, APS-C and Full Frame cameras, specifically the E-M1, X-T1 and A7s. Even I was surprised at some of these results and I did each test fair and square according to my rules below, which have been my comparison rules for seven years because it shows REAL WORLD shooting (not nonsense that no one does when shooting an not pro studio or lit images from a shooter who is sponsored by a camera company). This is as close as I will ever get to a “scientific test” while keeping it “real world”, and yes, it is what it is. Even so, whatever camera “loses” this test will have the fans of that brand attacking me, no matter which one loses. Should be entertaining in that regard as well. :)

Images and test descriptions will speak for themselves. Just how much difference is there between Micro 4/3,  APS-C and Full Frame when using the same or equivalent focal length? Sharpness, IS, color, detail, B&W conversions and more are tested here. 

  • I let each camera choose exposure. 
  • I am using the E-M1, X-T1 and A7s for this test so take it as just that. 
  • I set the aperture on each camera to match DOF of the smaller sensors the best I could for some tests.
  • For one test I will use each lens wide open to show DOF differences.
  • I shot each camera in the same way for each test, either hand-held or tripod.
  • ALL images are converted straight from RAW, WYSIWYG
  • Used the 25 1.4 on the E-M1, 35 1.4 on the Fuji and 55 1.8 on the Sony
  • I will pick my personal preference winner after each test based on the test itself. Score will be tallied at the end. These will be my preferences and may not be yours, which is OK. 
  • I used Adobe Camera RAW for ALL conversions which is what 95% of us use for our RAW files. No jumping through hoops to help any brand.
  • Was going to use A7II but it has many more MP and I had loaned it out to a friend for a few days so I did not have it. The A7s is the Sony Flagship in the A7 line, and is closest in MP to the Olympus and Fuji.
  • As this is a test of cameras in real world use, I let cameras choose exposure and used AWB so we can see what to expect in the real world. When we go out to shoot these cameras 95% of us use them in this way..auto exposure and auto white balance. So what you see here is what you can expect to get from each systems flagship camera. For detail shots all cameras were set to same ISO and Aperture. 

With all of that out-of-the-way, remember that the tests here are all dependent on lenses used. Some lenses on some systems will render differently when it comes to sharpness, color, bokeh, etc. I used a well-regarded lens for each system, lenses that have had rave reviews. OLY: 25 1.4 Panaleica. FUJI – 35 1.4 Fuji. SONY – 55 1.8 Zeiss.

Hand held test at 1/60th s. and basic overall IQ.

My pick for best IQ here at 1/60th is the Olympus E-M1 for sharpness and color. Right click on each image and open in a new tab or window for full size files.

The reason the E-M1 did so well and WON the 1st test below? The 5 Axis IS kept it steady letting me shoot in lower light at a minimal ISO. The other two bumped ISO but also were stopped down a little more. ALL were at 1/60th S. If each image was sharp, it would almost be a wash here and would have to go by color preferences. I still prefer the E-M1 color here as well but what is important is it shows how useful the 5 Axis can be, even for 1/60th s.

YOU MUST CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER AND CORRECT VERSIONS

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Tripod Test Stopped Down for DETAIL – Same aperture on each camera.

The winner to my eyes is Olympus yet again.

Here I stopped down each lens to F/4. NO, I did not stop down the larger sensors more as this is in no way a DOF test, it is a detail test and each lens should be at the same aperture to be 100% fair. So the Olympus E-M1 and 25 1.4 was set to F/4, the Fuji X-T1 and 35 1.4 was set to f/4 and the Sony A7s and 55 1.8 was set to f/4. All were ISO 200, all were shot from a tripod that was in the same exact position for each camera.

YOU MUST CLICK THE IMAGES TO SEE THE LARGER VERSIONS AS  TRUE 100% LARGE CROPS

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SMALLER CROPS 

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Each Lens Wide Open – A Shallow DOF Test

For me, there is no substitute for Full Frame if you want shallow DOF, but some will prefer a little bit of a larger DOF that you get from Micro 4/3 or APS-C. The reason being is that with the Olympus, you can still get some shallow DOF but you image will be sharper with more detail in most cases, if using a good lens. Same with APS-C in most cases. With full frame you can miss focus easily due to the shallow DOF. BUT if you nail it with FF the results are indisputable. For this reason, I choose the SONY as the winner here as it has the most capability for SHALLOW DOF or LARGE DOF and  this is a shallow DOF test :)

 BTW, the most detail at 100% came from the E-M1 but for shallow DOF, nothing beats full frame. The differences you see are from the lens focal length, not the sensor. The wider the less the larger the DOF (less blur), the longer the lens the more shallow DOF (more blur). Olympus used a 25mm, Fuji a 35mm and the Sony a 55mm. All give the same equivalent field of view but each lens has an effect on Depth of Field which is why you see a more shallow DOF on the Sony. As you can see, the difference between the DOF with the APS-C Fuji and Olympus are actually slight. Nothing to stress over.

YOU MUST CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER AND CORRECT VERSIONS

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B&W Conversion Test

I did a crazy comparison test once showing how the E-M1 could replicate the Leica Monochrom to some extent, when it came to tonality (not detail) so how will this test go for B&W conversion between these three powerhouse cameras? For this test I shot in color and then converted to B&W using the same exact Alien Skin B&W filter for each file. Many claim Fuji has an amazing capability for B&W conversion, above other standard cameras. I never noticed this at all, so  let’s see how that holds up…

CLICK EACH IMAGE TO SEE IT CORRECTLY! 

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For me, and my tastes, I prefer the Olympus rendering the most. To me, it resembles the Leica Monochrom more than the others, and that is a camera I consider to be the best B&W camera ever made (next to film of course). In fact, this E-M1 file looks eerily similar to a Monochom file. There seems to be more grayish tones and more black details which is preferred, especially for post processing. The Fuji is 2nd place for my tastes and the Sony 3rd but they look the same as any camera B&W conversion. For the most grey tones, the Olympus somehow gets it.  You can see more details when clicking on the images for larger sizes (as long as you are not viewing on a phone).

But let us see another B&W example…CLICK THEM TO SEE THEM CORRECTLY!

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Again, here I slightly prefer the Olympus but ALL are great. I see none here that are a huge step above the others though the Olympus has the most detail yet again. Interesting huh?

SCORE SO FAR: So far we have Olympus with 2, Sony with 1 and Fuji with 0. Let’s keep on moving.

Color Test

Just to show how each camera renders colors. These are all from RAW so any in camera color choice will not come into play.  Shot outdoors in natural direct light to give all cameras the best chance at showing their stuff. This will be 100% personal preference as what I like in color you may not. I did three color shots and chose three different winners, so this one is a draw as color can be quite good from all of these cameras.

The 1st sample is for color accuracy only. After looking at the crayons with my own eyes and looking at these images I feel the Sony comes closest to reality, with Olympus being 2nd and Fuji 3rd. 100% crops are embedded when you click on the image for a larger view. 

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Another color test and this one was between the Fuji and Olympus with the edge for me going to the Fuji. I feel Olympus is equally as good but the Fuji shot has a teeny bit more something that I like. Either are superb. The sony has a yellow cast here so it gets last place. 

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Finally another color shot in beautiful morning light. My grass, up close. ;) This time I much preferred the Olympus shot with the color, the light and the highlights all working for me. Then the Fuji. The Sony here is a bit dull but that is only in direct comparison. Many may prefer the Fuji or Sony here.  All from RAW. There is no “winner” – just preference. 

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Portrait Test

Many of us love portraits, so how will each camera do with a basic portrait? Let us see which YOU prefer. I prefer the Olympus as the Sony AWB really screwed the pooch creating a much too cool image. The Fuji is a bit overdone with color and INCORRECT color IMO while the Olympus strikes a balance that is most pleasing to me. This was just a simple indoor natural light test shot and nothing more. I am not a huge fan of the rendering of any of these to be honest as it was a quick indoor portrait with no good light, but it had to do.

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Here they are converted to B&W using the VSCO T-Max Preset. Click them for larger 1800 pixel wide versions to see the detail and rendering better. The Fuji has the most contrast here,but it looks better than the color version. The Olympus stays nice and neutral and the Sony looks much nicer in B&W due  to the color being off in the original. But one is Micro 4/3, one is APS-C and one is full frame. NOT that huge of a difference. 

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DR Test

Dynamic Range is good from all three of these cameras, and the Olympus E-M1, contrary to popular belief has is about equal in DR to the Fuji X-T1 with 12.7 stops of DR. The Fuji, in RAW (it is less in JPEG) can do between 9 and 13 stops of DR and the Sony has 13.2. So all are similar but the Sony has the most (as you can see below). The Olympus is quite amazing for its smaller sensor to have 12.7 stops but in the real world, the full frame sensor shows its stuff. Here is a shot that was blown out. I recovered the highlights the best I could for each file.

Below is the Sony file AFTER I brought back the highlights that were blown to shreds. The SONY has the most DR hands down, which is what I figured due to the full frame sensor and big fat pixels. 

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Low Light HIGH ISO Test 

Sony Wins ISO, no contest. ;) What is interesting is that Olympus had the most detailed file at high ISO. For some reason the Fuji, even though tripod mounted and focus point selected manually, looks very soft (and yes, this is the sharpest part of the Fuji image) and that may be due to the NR Fuji applies that you can not turn off. The Sony looks softer but this is due to DOF even though I stopped down the Sony. It also appears that the Fuji RAW files are also doing some sort of Noise reduction even when turned off, which also loses detail. Me, I much prefer detail which is why I turn NR off on all cameras that allow it. (Fuji does not).

It seems here that the Fuji is even or slightly better than the A7s, but remember, the A7s allows you to go above and beyond most cameras with 102,000 ISO capability. Shooting at ISO 32,000 on the Sony provides usable and nice files. Not possible on the Fuji  or Olympus.

The Fuji, as I said, is applying NR to the RAW file and the Sony and Olympus are not. So not a fair test as the Fuji does not allow removing all NR. You can see the noise is smeared. The TRUE winner for high ISO is the Sony A7s. The winner for most detail at high ISO is the Olympus E-M1. The CA in the OLy shot is a result of using a Panasonic 25 1.4 which is an awful performer for CA.

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ISO 3200

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Now ISO 6400

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Again, (many do not read what is written above the tests) the Fuji has NR as it can not be turned off, which is why you see the noise is actually smoothed and smeared. So in the above examples the Fuji has NR and the others do not. The Fuji is also the softest (which some has to do with NR as it robs details) – a shame you can not turn it off on the Fuji. It is even applied to RAW files.

My Final Thoughts and which camera I prefer out of all of these..and WHY.

Moral of this story? Anyone who tells you Micro 4/3 cannot hang with larger sensors is 100% incorrect, as I have said for years.  Also, what was not mentioned yet is the fact that the best made and designed body here is the Olympus E-M1. It is built to a higher standard the the Fuji X-T1 from solidity, quality of dials and buttons, and unlike the Fuji  – ZERO hollowness and zero cheap feeling parts without much extra weight at all.

In other words, I found the Fuji’s build quality to be the lowest of the three from body to dials and switches to the D-Pad, etc. This is not just talk, it is fact.

The E-M1 feels and operates like a pro camera, the Fuji *feels* more toy like (though it is NOT a toy, at all). The Sony is solid and hefty without any cheap feeling parts but again, the E-M1 slightly beats it in build quality and feel and control. The new Sony A7II stepped it up and is now about equal to or better the E-M1 in build.

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Of these three cameras my money would be spent on the Olympus 1st and Sony 2nd (and it was). I would skip the Fuji for my tastes. Just not my cup of tea from feel, focus, usability, speed and IQ in most lighting scenarios. For me the E-M1 has it all from build, speed, looks, feel, features, In body IS, lens selection, IQ and capabilities. The Sony A7s is a low light champ and works great with 3rd party and Leica glass but overall, the best all around general use every day and pro camera *of this lot* is the E-M1 by Olympus, and I say that without hesitation.

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So take this for what it is, a few tests with a few cameras using one lens each, all 50mm or so equivalent. Any IQ discrepancies there may be with Micro 4/3 (and there really are none besides shallow DOF possibilities of full frame) are easily over ridden by the amazing tech in the body and the features, usability, and overall quality of the images. It’s not only a superb camera to use, but it is a very FUN and enjoyable one to use. Many times the Fuji, again, frustrated me (dials would move too easily so settings were changed just from placing the camera in my bag, the way to change the drive mode is odd, with a cheap lever that also switches way too easily…overexposure on many occasions…etc). The Sony was fine besides a few AWB issues that I never noticed until doing these side by sides. So seeing the files next to each other and handling each body one after the other told me a lot.

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At  the end of the day these cameras can all do a great job, but it will be personal preference as to which one is best for you. Do some PP and the images can go to the next level, so remember that as well.

So for me, I love these two plus the Leica M, which will always have a place in my heart.

At the end of the test, here is the score with my eyes on all of the tests: Olympus with 6 wins, Sony with 4 wins and Fuji with 1 win. Your score may be different of course, as this is not a cut and dry thing. It is personal preference. So for you, Fuji may win or Sony may win. That is the beauty of it. It is not about WINNING or LOSING it is about WHAT YOU PREFER. 

Even though this test is what it is..some owners will come here to defend their choices, which is fine. But it doesn’t change reality. Also, no need to say ‘Fuji needs Capture 1, Fuji needs EV comp set at -1, Fuji needs sharpening, Fuji is light and hollow feeling  because of weight, Fuji needs a special technique for AF, etc etc”. To me, these are all excuses and we should not have to fly through hoops to get the best quality from our cameras. It should NEVER be “work”. All cameras were tested the same with no special treatment to any of them, that was important. Enjoy ;)

REFERENCE: See my Olympus E-M1 Review HERE, my Fuji X-T1 Review HERE and my Sony A7s Review HERE.  For the record over the past seven years I have been called a Leica, Fuji, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Ricoh, Nikon and Pentax fanboy. Lol. Why? Because I love many cameras from all of these manufacturers. 

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Feb 202015
 

28 images from the A7s, A7II, E-M1, E-M5II, Fuji X-T1, Fuji X100T, and M 240

Hello to all and HAPPY FRIDAY! After I posted my recent E-M5II Camera review (see it HERE) many have been asking me THIS question:

“NOW I AM CONFUSED! What camera do I buy? The E-M1, E-M5Ii, A7II, M 240 or Fuji?!?!

Yes, I get these questions daily and I never give a definite answer as this choice is personal. That would be like asking “what car should I buy” or “which house should I get”? A camera is a personal choice and the reason these reviews are written is so all of you can read and make an informed decision. I understand how hard it is, believe me. But just know that any of these cameras mentioned are truly fantastic and can get the job done. If you are in love with PHOTOGRAPHY and the art of making memories and making art, ANY of these will do.

If you are a pixel peeper it is best to go for something super high res like a Sony A7r as that will give you something to zoom in on and measurbate to. Me, I prefer real photography and making memories as I go on this long journey that we call life. A camera, to me, is made to capture those moments we lose and those memories that in 10-20 years will be very foggy for our aging brains. Looking back at images remind us of the many good times, the family, the friends, the sad times and the exciting times. THIS is what it is all about for ME. I do not pixel peep, I am against it. I occasionally will post crops just to show those who love that sort of thing how much detail we can get but overall it does not matter. At all.

Any of the cameras below can make LARGE prints (I have a 20X30 from E-m1, it is gorgeous. I have larger from my A7II, beautiful). So remember, ANY camera will get you the memories you want to capture but the main difference between them is HOW YOU GET there!

Yes, some cameras make it a joy to get your memories while others make it a pain. Some will get you there with amazing technology and others with their simplistic charm. Some will offer you bold looking files and others a more natural looking file. Some will offer you tools to help you (such as 5 Axis IS or a nice large EVF) while others make it a challenge (Leica M RF).

Below I have chosen 7 images from the A7 and A7II, Olympus E-M1 and Em5II, Fuji X-T1/X100t and the Leica M 240 so you guys can see in one place, the differences between full frame, APS-C and Micro 4/3. Depth of field will be different, color will be different and the overall vibe will be manufacture specific. I have no secrets here on this blog and I always tell it like it is..FOR ME and MY tastes. Not everyone will agree. But enjoy as I share my thoughts on these different mirrorless systems.

SONY A7s and A7II

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The Sony A7 series appeared with a bang when the A7 and A7r were announced. Full frame small mirrorless cameras that performed amazingly well with rich files, rich color and decent usability. While slow in Auto focus and a bit clunky with the early models, the newer A7s and A7II improved things such as AF speed and accuracy, high ISO capability and in the case of the A7s, amazing capabilities with Leica M glass. I love the A7s and A7II with a preference to the new A7II for its better build, 5 Axis IS, and gorgeous IQ (for me, the best of the A7 series IQ). If you want that full frame creamy look with massive shallow depth of field, Full Frame is where it is at. APS-C or Micro 4/3 can not do it to the level of full frame.

If you want the most dynamic range, usually a full frame sensor will give it to you as well. On the other hand, shooting fast lenses on full frame can be difficult as the Depth of Field can be so slim and narrow many times people misfocus. But when you nail it, it can be gorgeous.

The Sony system is still somewhat new, less than 2 years old yet there are many lenses out for the system already, and me, I like to use Leica M glass and old exotic lenses with my Sony’s.

CLICK all images for larger and much better view

The A7II and Leica Noctilux at 0.95

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ISO 32,000 with the A7s – Mitakon 50 0.95

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The A7s – click the images for moire detailed versions! What you see here is NOT the best way to view them. You must click them!

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The Sony A7s and 55 1.8

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A7s again..

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A7II and Noctilux..and amazing combo

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An OOC JPEG at ISO 8000 using the 35 2.8 Zeiss lens

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The Sony A7II represents the best of the Sony A7 line for me. It has all you need to create beautiful rich files. Wether you use native lenses or Leica M glass or old vintage rangefinder lenses, this is the camera that can handle it. The A7s is the king of the night, with amazing low light and high ISO abilities. The A7II can not come close to this ISO performance but IMO beats the A7s in overall IQ. The A7 series is doing VERY well for Sony, above expectations so this is good and can not wait to see what they come out with next.

Fuji X-T1 and X100T

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Ahhh, Fuji. Many love Fuji and they have some hardcore fans, that is for sure! Me, I like Fuji. I used to LOVE Fuji back in the days of the S5 pro and original X100. Today I feel they went a bit backwards with the X Trans sensor. I just do not like it as much as the original sensor from the X100. When I look at any Fuji images (not just mine) they have a look to them from the X Trans that while nice, is not my preferred look. In fact, its at the bottom of the heap for me. There is something un-natural about the files for my tastes but even with that said, this is a personal thing and what I may dislike, someone else may love to death.

Many love Fuji and that can not be denied. They sell well and they do “Fuji Color” very well. Where it falls flat for me is true low light ability. The files get “dirty” and “mushy” in low light and this is why all of the really great Fuji images in recent years were shot in amazing light. Give the X Trans amazing light and it will reward you. Give it dull or low light and it will not. For me, the Sony files and the Olympus and Leica files below beat the Fuji when it comes to overall IQ.

Body wise, the X-T1 is fantastic. Its a wonderful body but still compared to the A7II, E-M1, and M 240 it feels the lowest quality of build. It is not bad in build, but when you compare side by side with the competition, it feels a bit lacking and hollow. Much better than previous Fuji bodies though. Fuji has come a long way since the X-Pro 1. Now they have much faster AF, world class EVF (best there is), nice external controls for all of your needs and great usability. If Fuji still used the old X100 sensor I would own an X-T1 :) That X-T1 above looks AMAZING doesn’t it?

Typical Fuji look in normal light..

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I always have issues with the X-Trans blowing highlight, even if using the extended DR modes (which make the image look very flat imo) – Here the bird is exposed correctly but the highlights have blown. There are many examples of this and i never have this issue with my other cameras. Nothing I did could save the blown out highlights here or in other X-T1 images. 

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The good thing about Fuji is they support their cameras NON STOP. Firmware releases are regular and they fix bugs that pop up, improve AF speed and do good things AFTER you buy the camera. They are improving their bodies non stop as well, and the X-T1 is a winning body without question and I am sure they will keep coming out with better and better cameras. One of these days I will buy myself a Fuji :)

Olympus E-M1 and E-M5II

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To me, this system is so mature and so well executed today that these are some of the best cameras you can buy today, regardless of mirrorless or DSLR. There are a thousand reasons for this from size, build, pro level features, freeze, shock, weatherproof…huge EVF, super fast AF, amazing 5 Axis (best in the world), awesome video in the new 5II as well as the rich files with superb color richness as well. Some of my favorite images of my life were shot on 4/3 and Micro 4/3 systems and I place this just behind the Sony A7II and Leica M for IQ.

Today, the E-M5II and E-M1 meet or exceed nearly all APS-C cameras for build, speed, features, capabilities, color and yes IQ. It can not beat a full frame model for Dynamic Range, Details or high ISO but it holds its own and then some for APS-C and for me, the E-M1 is probably the best camera body I have used, ever. I am talking about the whole package… build, features, speed, controls, versatility, what is possible with them, etc. As I said, IQ is just behind the full frame models. It really is.

Even so, Olympus is doing great things and they are the inventors of Live View, Dust Cleaning in camera, 5 Axis IS, and more. Good to see them still innovating. I also feel the best lenses next to Leica M are right here for Micro 4/3, from the Nocticron to the 75 1.8 to the 40-150 to the 12mm f/2 to the f/0.95 Voigtlanders. So many choices.

Shot with the 17 1.8 at 1.8. Amazing lens with just the right amount of detail and tones.

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The 40-150 – the color here is WOW. JPEG. The way I brought this out is by using SPOT metering. 

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The 12-40 f/2.8 pro zoom. One of the best standard zooms I have used. 

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The 17 1.8 again, smooth, sharp and wonderful bokeh.

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Nocticron goodness…f/1.2

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The Voigtlander 25 0.95 at 0.95 – THIS is a special lens. 

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Olympus have created quite the tool for the PHOTOGRAPHER who puts his priorities at capturing the image, the moment, the memories. The Af doesn’t let you down, the controls are spot on and the build is the best of the lot. Lens choice is plentiful and its only weakness is that it will not give you full frame shallow depth of field (but neither will APS-C). For me, the E-M1 and E-M5II beats most APS-C camera as a whole, without hesitation, even factoring in size. Now there are some great bodies by Panasonic as well but for me, they do not have what it takes to take on Olympus’s E-M1 and E-M5II.

Leica M 240

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Ahhh, the system I loved and used for many years, ever since the film M7. I have had an M ever since from the M8 to M9 to MP (film) to M9P to M-P 240 to Monochrom. I have had them all and loved them all. For me, this is the pinnacle of simplicity. Real photography. Not much in the way of features but this is how it should be with an M. Just you, the camera, and the subject. Nothing to worry about  – just focus, set your aperture/exposure and shoot.

The Leica M is an all time favorite of mine, hands down. The only issues today is with cost. Buying an M 240 and 50 APO will set you back $15,000. Buy a used M and used Voigtlander lens and it will still set you back $6k. You have to be majorly dedicated and have a nice padded bank account to jump in today,  so not everyone can.

Today with cameras like the Sony A7II leica seems to be losing some ground. Back in the M9 days they ruled the roost as there was nothing quite like the M9 in use or in age quality. Today, there are  a 1-2 mirrorless cameras that meet or exceed the M 240 image quality and color and for much less money. While you will never get the experience of the M from a Sony, Fuji or Olympus and you will never get that true pride of ownership with anything else (once you feel and shoot with an M it is tough to go to anything else) you will get IQ that can beat it from other cameras. Today Leica is not “the best” in IQ but they are “the best” in lenses, experience, build, and feel AND simplicity. The M lenses are the best in the world IMO and they are SMALL and built like mini tanks.

I love Leica, and I love the M 240. Period. It’s has some magic in the bloodlines but today it is getting harder to justify unless you REALLY only love RF shooting and have a big fat bank account.

The M with the 50 APO

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The M with a Voigtlander 50 1.5

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The M with a 90 Elmarit

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50 APO again

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As I look back at these random images I chose for this article I study them and not only am I looking at the file quality and character but I am remembering the times I had shooting those images and according to my memory, the most fun I had shooting was with the Leica M, hands down. Then it would be the E-M1 and E-M5II, then the Sony A7II and A7s and then the Fuji. All have the capability to capture your frames in high quality but the one you choose will be part of your personal journey. The one that speaks to YOU, not ME. So next time you get ready to send an email asking “What should I buy” – ask yourself this question and go with you 1st gut instinct. That is usually the correct choice :)

You can see my full reviews of the cameras listed above:

Sony A7IISony A7s Fuji X-T1Fuji X100T Olympus E-M1Olympus E-M5IILeica M 240

Feb 192015
 

Crazy Comparison!

Olympus E-M1 with 40-150 f/2.8 vs Sony A7s with 70-200 f/4

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Many have asked for this as well as a Olympus/Sony/Fuji crazy comparison so I will start this one off with a Olympus vs Sony JUST FOR FUN Crazy Comparison! I will be using the E-M1 and the Sony A7s because the E-M1 is the flagship from Olympus and the Sony A7s is closest to the Megapixel count of the E-M1 as well as Sony’s “flagship” A7 series product. If I used the A7II it would have been an 8MP difference vs the 4 MP difference of the A7s and E-M1.

The two lenses used will be the Pro Olympus 40-150 f/2.8 which is a fantastic lens that gives an equivalent of 80-300mm with the light gathering of an f/2.8 lens. The Sony 70-200 f/4 has a constant f/4 aperture yet it is the larger lens with the Olympus being a bit smaller. They are the same price coming in at a cool $1500. The Olympus is weather sealed and has a great integrated slide out hood included.

Next week I will do another more involved comparison, probably my most extensive to date using the Fuji X-T1, Olympus E-M1 and Sony A7s or A7II.

For now, I will keep it simple with two shots. What i am looking for is sharpness, color performance, and overall pop of the shot. Just how much difference will there be using a flagship Micro 4/3 camera and lens vs a killer full frame A7s and premium telephoto?

1st up, a simple shot for detail and color and bokeh…

A simple tree shot to show detail, color and bokeh. 1st up, the Olympus shot. If you right-click and choose “open in new window” you will see the full size image where you can pixel peep to you hearts content. I love the color, sharpness and pop. The bokeh is quite nice as well. Used the 40-150 f/2.8 Zoom at 2.8. On my 27″ screen this image has some real POP and detail.

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Same shot as above but resized with a full 100% crop embedded. To those who can’t see the full size shot for some reason, you can see the crop here. 

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Now the Sony A7s, same shot. 70-200 Lens at f/4. The color is a bit dull in comparison to the Olympus as is the pop. Bokeh is a tad smoother though neither is bad. I love both in this regard. The Olympus is sharper and the edges are sharper as well with the E-M1 file. A tad more shallow DOF due to focal length differences. (True vs Equiv)

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For those who can not see the full size shot above see the same image below resized with a full 100% crop embedded..

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So from what I see here, the Olympus lens and E-M1 combo produce a more exciting image here. More pop, more detail and more OOMPH! You can see the color differences here easily. As for Bokeh/DOF, f/2.8 on the E-M1 is about the same as the f/4 – f/5.6 on the full frame Sony with a tad more blur going to the Sony (for DOF only). This is a true 40mm vs an 80mm here, so this is why. With the Olympus you are getting a TRUE 40mm f/2.8 and with the Sony a TRUE 80mm f/4. Longer focal length = less (more shallow) DOF.  With the Olympus you are indeed getting TRUE f/2.8 light gathering and 40mm (not 80mm) f/2.8 DOF with an 80mm FIELD OF VIEW.

Let’s try one more image …here you can see the DOF differences with the A7s giving you a more shallow DOF at f/4 than the Olympus will give you at f/2.8. For many, they would take the sharper image and larger DOF of the E-M1 over the less detailed and more shallow DOF of the Sony. The same goes for the other way around..many would choose the creamier Sony version over the more sharp Olympus version.

Interesting to see that at 40mm (80 Equivalent on full frame) and at f/2.8 the Olympus E-M1 is bitingly sharp with more depth of field than the Sony file at 80mm and f/4. This is because the Olympus is actually shooting at 40mm, which will always give you more depth of field (less blur) as it is a wider lens. If I plopped the amazing 75 1.8 on the E-M1 and shot at f/4 we would get the same Bokeh as we do from the Sony at f/4 but we would have a 150mm equivalent focal length. It’s all about the lens focal length so even though we are testing a 40mm vs a 80mm, the Olympus 40mm turns into a 80mm for magnification but retains the Bokeh of a 40mm lens. So this is indeed a true 40mm f/2.8 shot for light gathering and bokeh. But we have an 80mm magnification. Understand? Hope so because many do not and get this so wrong. 

The E-M1

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The Sony A7s image at 80mm and f/4 gives us a more shallow DOF as we are truly shooting an 80mm lens. So more blur and a more “organic” looking image. If I shot the Olympus image with the 42 1.2 Nocticron it would offer even more shallow DOF than the Sony image below and be sharper. So again, it all comes down to lens and what we see here is a 40mm f/2.8 lens vs an 80mm f/4 lens and while the magnification appears similar (because it is) the DOF will always be different. For some, shooting full frame is more of a challenge due to the shallow DOF. 

UPDATE: This is the CORRECT Sony image with CORRECT focus. Thank you.

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So at the end of the day I own both of these cameras. My Sony comes out when I want ultra creamy shallow DOF or when I want to shoot with Leica M glass. The Olympus comes out when I want to do video (love my 8mm and 12mm primes with 5 axis video) and use a telephoto or use a special prime such as the Nocticron or Voigtlander 25 0.95 or my 8mm Fisheye..or when I want to do night long exposures or will shoot in adverse weather.

There is no winner here, but there can be a “preference”. What is yours?

More Sharpness with more depth of field (Olympus) or a more creamy shallow DOF look (Sony)? BOTH lenses are around $1500 and having both here side by side I can say with confidence that the Olympus 40-150 f/2.87 is technically the better lens. It is better built, weather sealed, has an amazing pull out hood attached and is probably the best lens made for Micro 4/3 (though my fave is still the Nocticron) as well as giving you the light gathering of an f/2.8 lens, fast and accurate focusing and amazing IQ. The Sony is larger, white for some reason, and f/4 but made for full frame and has OIS built in. Both are $1500. Same price. I own both systems..if I were to buy a lens of this type it would hands down be the Olympus 40-150 over the Sony.

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See the Sony 70-200 at B&H Photo HERE. 

See the Olympus 40-150 at B&H Photo HERE.

Also, For those who say the E-M1 can’t do high ISO, here is a quick snap at night using the Nocticron at 1.2 – ISO 6400 with no noise reduction at all. Click it for larger. Usually 6400 is my max with the E-M1 though I have used 10k ISO images. With the A7s, my cut off is 80K ISO ;) Yes, the A7s is the king of high ISO without question and the Micro 4/3 system can not even get close to what it can do at ultra high ISO.

But at 6400, the E-M1 retains color, sharpness and the files look great. Its all about exposure and NOT using noise reduction…

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…and an ISO 10,000 shot from the E-M1 without any NR..stays sharp as can be, even at f/1.2…

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…and just for fun, a bokeh shot with the 12mm f/2  – Olympus

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Feb 182015
 

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The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Review. Olympus continues to innovate.

By Steve Huff

Below is my 1st look video on the E-M5 II, take a look!

February 18th 2015. I have reviewed almost all major Olympus mirrorless releases here since the original E-P1 that started it all. Ever since there have been cameras like the E-P2, E-P3, E-P5, E-Pl1, E-PL2 and so on. Then came the OM-D series and the E-M5 and then the “Pro” OM-D, the fantastic E-M1 (which I still own and use). I have loved all of the Olympus mirrorless cameras I have reviewed but WOW have they come a LONG way since the original E-P1 PEN! That camera was revolutionary for its time but looking back it was slow as molasses, had horrible high ISO performance and lacked in so many ways in comparison to todays Olympus cameras. Again, for the time it was great..for today, those old 1st PEN cameras are nothing like what we have today from Olympus, and what we do have today is quite amazing when you really dig into the cameras like the new E-M5II.

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Olympus has continued to innovate and create new technology in cameras while keeping the cameras small, fast, great looking, AS WELL as keeping them performing in Image Quality to the level of an APS-C sensor camera. Yes, there is nothing at all lacking when it comes to image quality, color, or pop when using good lenses. It also does not hurt to have the most amazing lens selection available as well as exclusive features such as Live Time, Live Composite, Advanced 5 Axis IS, and more. I have always said, the LENSES are the heart of ANY system, and for this system there is NO shortage of amazing glass.

The E-M5 II is fast, discreet, quiet, and provides fantastic IQ. The image below is an out of camera JPEG shot with the Panasonic Nocticron (my fave M 4/3 lens ever) under mixed indoor lighting. Sharp, creamy, and perfect color and AWB.

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I have written hundreds of reviews for cameras, lenses, bags, straps, accessories and all things photographic. For the life of this website, now going on seven years (Geez, where has the time gone), I have talked a ton about Olympus, Leica, Sony, Ricoh, Zeiss, Voigtlander and many others. I sometimes look back at reviews and remember which cameras were special to me, and which ones I had the best experiences with. Cameras like the Leica M 240, the Sony A7s and A7II, the Olympus E-M1 and E-P5, the Fuji X100..so many great cameras over the years and each year I ask myself…“How can it get better”? Seriously people, today we have so many cameras capable of jaw dropping quality. If we went back in time to 1984 with an E-M5 II or E-M1, photographers back then would FREAK OUT at what can be done.

With image quality peaking, camera companies are starting to look into other improvements such as improved high ISO quality, better video, better image stabilization, and a better usability experience. No other company leads this INNOVATION better than Olympus, and right behind them are Sony.

But remember! Olympus has created some of the best tech in cameras ever. EVER!

Olympus were the 1st ones ever with DUST SHAKING tech to clean sensors of dust automatically. They were 1st with 5 Axis IS and have just improved it to an incredible level in the new E-M5II. They were the 1st with LIVE VIEW in the Evolt E-330 back in the day! Yes, the 1st with LIVE VIEW and they were 1st and are still the only ones with “Live Composite”, an amazing feature that takes all guesswork out of astrophotography and long exposure work. Olympus keeps pushing new technology and for this reason they may be my overall favorite camera company. They are like the “Apple” of cameras.

Some would think that Sony or Leica is my favorite camera company but they are just behind Olympus. Anytime I shoot with a new Olympus camera I am wowed again and again. I mean, the lenses are stellar, 2nd only to Leica M glass IMO. Small, built well, and performance that exceeds the price point, Olympus has it going in in the Micro 4/3 lens world with so many fast primes that focus fast, look great and feel great. They are also small (with the exception of the new 40-150 2.8 pro, which is larger). Hand held low light shooting is a breeze with the latest Olympus cameras due to the amazing Image Stabilization inside. There really is NOTHING like it, not even in pro DSLR land.

The 12-40 f/2.8 Pro Zoom in the Crystal Caves – click image for larger.

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The SUPERB Olympus 17 1.8, at 1.8. I prefer this lens to the Panasonic/Leica 15 1.7 for color, pop and overall rendering. Click image for larger!

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In the early days of Micro 4/3 there were so many naysayers..“the sensor size is too small” – “you can not get shallow depth of field” – “noise levels are too high” – “can’t compete with APS-C” – yada yada yada. All of these statements had some truth to them in the very early days..E-P1, E-P2..yea, they were slow, had awful low light ability and were crippled when compared to something like a Nikon D300 of the day, but today it is an entirely different story, big time. 

Today, just as I said with the E-M1 launch, the E-M1 and now E-M5II, for me, beat ANY APS-C camera made today for usability, build, speed, features, lenses, color and IQ. There is not one APS-C camera made today that I would take over an E-M1 or E-M5II. None. No Fuji, no Sony, no Leica. When I shoot with the E-M1 I have nothing but joy and happiness as it just works. It does the job and it always delivers the results I love. In many ways, it beats some full frame cameras as well because it is consistent and reliable with almost ANY of the lenses you mount.

Now with super lenses like the Panasonic Nocticron, the Olympus 40-150 2.8 and the Olympus 75 1.8 this is a SERIOUS system capable of beautiful results.

So how has the new E-M5II upped the game over the original E-M5? In MANY ways, but the real question is…“Is it now better than the flagship E-M1″? I own both and have used both extensively so I will tell you my opinion in this review about that! Keep reading!

The E-M5 II with the 40-150 Pro Zoom at 2.8 – this lens is a masterpiece. JPEG. The colors, the bokeh and the detail this lens provides is just incredible. 

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The Panasonic Nocticron at f/1.2 – This is a GORGEOUS lens and has no faults. 

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The new E-M5 II vs the old E-M5..what’s the story?

I loved the original E-M5 and owned it until the E-M1 arrived. I have owned the E-M1 ever since launch and even bought the silver model when it was released and let go of my black one. It’s a gorgeous camera I love and adore for the reasons I already explained. Extremely tough and well made, extremely fast, extremely capable with the 5 Axis and beautiful lens selections…so much to like. But what about those who have the original E-M5..and still love it? Should they upgrade to the new Mark II version?

The new Mark II E-M5 has a more advanced top panel with metal dials instead of plastic. 

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Well, all I can do is tell you my opinion, and my opinion is that YES, the Mark II is a very worthy upgrade in almost all areas!

Here are the top 11 improvements off the top of my head, the ones that I really noticed from the Mark I…

1. Better build and feel. Grip is nicer and controls are more solid. Metal dials and a very nice and somewhat retro look. (Not to the level of the E-M1)

2. Still weather sealed. (though not to the level of the E-M1)

3. New side out swivel LCD makes shooting much more enjoyable IMO. (I prefer this to the E-M1)

4. The new 5 Axis IS is SPECTACULAR! Not sure how they did it, but they did it. It really excels with video. (Beats the E-M1 5 Axis)

5. New video options including 24, 30, 60 FPS. The video looks so good. (Better video than the E-M1)

6. The EVF is now the same large size as the E-M1. (which means an E-M1 MKII should be even larger when that one comes out)

7. Auto Focus is faster and FPS is faster as well. Overall, a much quicker camera. (Faster than the E-M1 in all but continuous AF)

8. Low light ability is now equal to the E-M1 which was slightly better than the E-M5I..high ISO up to 25,600.

9. It has Live composite and Live time that the E-M1 and E-M10 have. These are amazing features. 

10. Silent shutter option for total silence with 1/16,000 shutter speed. (E-M1 does not and will not have the Silent Shutter)

11. New High Res 40 Megapixel shot mode (Tripod is needed with NOTHING moving in the frame, E-M1 will not have this nor does it)

So for $1099, this camera will come as a body only and will NOT come with a Kit Lens. I think Olympus realizes that Kit Lenses are lackluster and do not really show what the cameras are capable of. When you throw a nice prime or pro zoom on these cameras they SHINE and give you APS-C or greater quality. Just browse through the images in this review or my E-M1 review or my E-M5 Mark I review and you will see that just because these cameras uses a smaller sensor than the APS-C and Full Frame cameras, the rendering of the images is spectacular from color to sharpness to pop (due to the sharpness).

ALL images here? OOC JPEGS. NO Raws yet as I am waiting for Adobe to release the update with this camera.The JPEGS from the E-M5II are fantastic. 

Panasonic 15 1.7 on the E-M5II – click any image for larger and better view

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Olympus 17 1.8 on the E-M5II

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Panasonic Nocticron 45.2 f/1.2 at 1.2

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So with all of that out-of-the-way, it is obvious when using the new Mark II that the camera has matured since the Mark I, which is now three years old. My review of the original Mark I is HERE and as you can see, I loved it then..but I love it even more now in Mark II form, and I have been used to the E-M1 flagship for 1 1/2 years now. Many have been e-mailing me “what camera should I get? The E-M1 or the E-M5II”? That is a tough one, and I will tell you why…

The E-M5 II and the 40-150 f/2.8 – tweaked this JPEG by lowering the brightness to make the color pop

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The E-M5 II or the Pro E-M1?

This is a tough question but when I was in Bermuda with Olympus I was using the new Mark II and thinking “why would anyone want the E-M1 with the E-M5 II having newer tech and features”? The more I used the 5 Mark II I was asking this question. Here, in a small well-built package I had amazing performance and speed, a great image stabilization system..best in the world, the larger EVF of the E-M1, a swivel out to the left LCD, better video capabilities and even a silent shutter and new 40MP High Res shot mode. When I came back home and pulled out my E-M1 I shot both side by side and then I realized why I still slightly prefer my E-M1.

The E-M1 is built better, feels better and I prefer the control layout. 

The E-M1 has a sturdier pro level shutter, will last longer.

The E-M1 is freeze proof and shock proof, better weather sealing than the EM5 Mark II. 

The E-M1 is slightly larger, fitting into my hand perfectly without adding a grip.

The E-M1, for me, provides slightly better IQ with sharper and richer files. Not sure why, but this is the case. It’s slight but there.

A video showing the E-M1 and E-M5Ii side by side…

For me, I just enjoyed using the E-M1 a bit more, but I have a feeling a new E-M1 Mark II will be out within a year and I will bet you that it will not only have the new features of the 5 Mark II, but newer features exclusive to the new model. Just a guess but Olympus will HAVE To do this as the new E-M5 II will start eating into the E-M1 sales because of what it offers for less money. For most, the E-M5 Mark II, at $300 less cost than the E-M1 while offering more, will be the favorite choice. Truth be told, if buying from scratch I would choose the E-M5 II over the E-M1. Having the E-M1, I would not sell to go to the 5II. For me, owning both is the answer. ;) The 5II makes a perfect complement to the E-M1 as a 2nd body as you get the best of both worlds.

An E-M1 shot with the 12mm f/2 Olympus prime

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At the end of the day, for those who are just now jumping to Micro 4/3 I will 100% recommend the E-M5 II as the camera to go for over any other Olympus or Panasonic. It’s a no brainer really. For those asking me if they should sell their E-M1 for the E-M5II, no, I would wait for the E-M1 Mark II. For those wanting to sell the E-M5 Mark I for the II, I would say GO FOR IT. It’s a definite upgrade. You can quote me on that ;)

LIVE COMPOSITE and LIVE TIME = GENIUS!

The Olympus E-M1, E-M10, E-M5 II and the E-P5 Pen have features called “Live Time”, “Live Bulb” and “Live Composite” and I feel many owners of these cameras NEVER use these features or even know they exist. If you have one of these cameras and have not yet used these features, I urge you to give it a try as amazing things can be shot using them, and, the best part…it is a blast to use and shoot using these modes.

Last week a buddy of mine, Alex McClure who is also an Olympus trailblazer, took me out to the AZ Desert to shoot some long exposures and do some light painting with the new E-M5 II and my E-M1. He went over his preferred setting and gave me a tutorial on how to shoot star trails..and it was a blast.

STAR TRAILS, LONG EXPOSURES..LIVE COMPOSITE

For long exposures, Live Composite is phenomenal. We set up our cameras to shoot on a tripod and I plopped on my Panasonic 8mm Fisheye to the E-M5II and set the camera for Live Composite (set it to Manual mode by choosing M on the control dial and turn to the left until you see LIVE COMPOSITE). I set the camera to ISO 1000 and we set it for 20 second exposures. When you take the 1st shot, it will expose for your subject and nail the exposure. The camera will then tell you it is ready to take the composite shot. Press the shutter again and in our case, it started taking 20 second exposures and stacking them automatically IN the camera until we stopped, which was around 40 minutes later. The camera shows you the progress in real-time on the LCD, so no more guessing when you need to stop the exposure! This is HUGE for astro shooters!

Because the 1st shot exposed the scene and our cactus, the 2nd press of the shutter allowed the camera to ONLY LOOK for NEW LIGHT, which in this case were the stars in the black sky. So even with 40 minutes of exposure, the cactus never overexposed and the camera only saw the star trails, and recorded that to the final image.

E-M5 II, 40 minutes of 20 second exposures stacked in camera to create this 100% out of camera JPEG. Amazing, foolproof and the best part? The camera shows you the updates in real time on the camera LCD so you know when you want to shut it off..when you shot is exactly how you want it. No more guessing games. Panasonic 8mm fisheye was used (review here)

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LIVE TIME – Real time exposure allows you TOTAL control over your long exposures

Live Time is similar to Live Composite except that it does not take an initial image with perfect exposure. Live  Time allows you to do long exposures or light painting while viewing in real time what your images is turning out to be. Sort of like when you used to develop actually film prints in the darkroom..you see it exposing in real time. Set it up on a tripod, press the shutter and start the exposure..when it looks perfect, press the shutter again to close down the shutter.

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The image above was taken with the E-M1 as my E-M5 II was on the tripod for 40 minutes taking the Cactus shot above. Still works the same way on both cameras. I stood there and Alex McClure pressed the shutter, ran over to me with some lights and “drew” the light behind me. He ran back to the camera and shut off the exposure. Was VERY cool. This is an OOC JPEG. How amazing is this? No other camera can do what the Olympus does in this regard. It is built into the camera and is basically a one button press and done. What you see is what you get.

Below: Spinning Steel Wool with Live Time – E-M1

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E-M5 II Live Time on the Beach in Bermuda

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Sony has an app or two that can do similar things, but A: It’s an app that must be added to the camera and B: It is a bit clunky in use and C: It is not as easily implemented nor does it work quite the same way. Other than that, no one else does this. With Olympus it is as EASY as pressing the button and watching the exposure come to life right before your eyes.

Many buy the E-M1, E-M10 or E-M5II just for this feature alone as it works so well and is very easy to use.

The Speed of the E-M5 II

The new E-M5II is faster than the old Mark I for sure, and is up there with the E-M1 when it comes to AF speed. In fact, I was told the only area where the E-M1 excels with AF speed is in continuous AF, which the E-M1 has the edge with. Still, I had no issues with the C-Af of the E-M5 II as you can see in this Dolphin shot..click it for larger.

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Overall, in my 2-3 weeks of shooting with the camera I have not had ANY Af issues, whatsoever. In low light it focused and was accurate and in good light it was instant. Olympus also claims to  have the least shutter lag of any mirrorless camera made today in the new E-M5 II.

It’s fast, it is smooth and it is quiet. The physical shutter is damped and smooth but it also has the ability to shoot in SILENT mode when you want 100% stealth. I still prefer the physical shutter but many will enjoy the total silence which also allows you to bump the shutter to 1/16,000 s.

The 40-150 Pro Zoom..

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The Panasonic Nocticron at f/1.2

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The Panasonic Nocticron at f/1.2

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Five Axis Improved yet AGAIN! 

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The new E-M5II has a new improved 5 Axis Image Stabilization that must be used and seen to be appreciated. It beats the 5 Axis in the original MK I E-M5, it beats the even better 5 Axis in the E-M1 and beats the 5 Axis in the Sony A7II handily. I have never seen anything like it. I have tested the limits and found it is easy to take 1 second handheld shots if you wanted to. I pushed it to 2 seconds and while the shot was not usable, it was not nearly as bad as you would think. It was taken in the DARK, and is a TWO SECOND hand held exposure..take a look! TWO SECONDS!

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My favorite way to appreciate the new 5 Axis though is for VIDEO. Attach any lens to the E-M5 II and your video will look silky smooth and professional, like it was shot on a massive rig with stabilization. Hand Held video will never be the same. In fact, I will be using the E-M5 II for video production in 2015 due to the superb video quality I can get out of it. It’s quite special.

40 Megapixel High Res Shot Mode

Another new feature of the E-M5 II is the new High Res Shot mode. It is VERY limited though and when I first heard about it I was excited, but as I used it I was less excited because before you can use this mode and get good results with it, you need to have the camera mounted on a secure tripod, you need your subject to be 100% motion free as ANY movement, even from wind, will mess up the photo..and YOU NEED A PRO lens. I shot some side by side with the 12mm f/2 prime at f/4 and was disappointed. I then used the 40-150 Pro 2.8 Zoom and saw the difference better, but again, where and when you can use this mode will be VERY limited.

At the end of the day though, it works and will indeed give you a 104 Megabyte RAW file and a 40 MP image from the 16 MP sensor. The E-M5II does this all in camera without any work needed in post. There is even a RAW converter plug in for lightrroom and photoshop that will process the massive RAW files (which is what I used for the test shots).

Below are two examples. Click the image below  to see a larger size and true 100% crops from each file. 1st on the left, the standard 16MP out of camera shot from the E-M5II. On the right, the high res shot from the E-M5 II. You will see differences if you click on the image and look closer. Lens used? The Olympus 12mm f/2.

Right click the images and “open in a new tab or window” to see larger size and 100% crops. 

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If you opened up the above image and looked at the 100% crops you will indeed see more detail in the 40MP high res mode. This shot was taken with a brand new Olympus 12mm f/2 lens, stopped down to f/4. This was shot with a tripod and is one scene in which you can take advantage of this new feature. The E-M1 will NOT be getting this feature but I expect it will make it to the E-M2 or E-M1 Mark II, whenever they camera comes out (I expect a year).

Here is one more where I used the sharpest Olympus lens I know of, the 40-150 f/2.8 zoom. It is on another level in sharpness and color from the 12mm f/2, and is probably the best lens of this type I have ever used in my life. Smaller than the Nikon and Canon 70-200 2.8 lenses, but sharper, crisper, more pop, better bokeh and better made. If I were a telephoto guy THIS WOULD be mine.

So using a great Olympus lens… let us see if there is a larger difference between standard and high res mode…

Click image for larger view and 100% crops. 

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How about one with a shot with the E-M5II in standard 16mp mode, one in 40Mp High Res and one from the E-M1 in Standard mode with the same lens? The high res shot is the only one from RAW. 

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To me, the most detail is coming from the E-M1 in standard mode! I have been finding the IQ from my E-M1 to be slightly more detailed and sharper than what is coming from the E-M5II. One reason why the E-M1 is still the “Pro Flagship”.

For me, this mode is something I would rarely use. If I were a daytime landscape guy I can see this being used but for most of what I shoot, this would not be needed. The cool thing is that it is here if you want it and it will end up being on the next version of the E-M1..of course.

All of the other stuff. High ISO, Art Filters, Etc

Because the E-M5 II is not a brand new model line, and is a continuation of the OMD itself, much of what I have written in the past about the previous models would be repeated here if I wrote about them again. So just to be clear, this E-M5 II has all of the art filter effects and extra features that the previous models have. It also has the same high ISO performance as the E-M1, so look to that review for my ISO tests.  This E-M5II does NOT have an AA filter so it is like the E-M1 in this regard (The Mark I had an AA filter).

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The Pros and Cons of the E-M5 II

Pros:

  1. Small size, solid build. Improves on the build of the E-M5 Mark I
  2. Faster AF than the Mark I
  3. Better 5 Axis than the Mark I and E-M1! Best in the world.
  4. New metal control dials feel better in use
  5. Slight redesign feels better in the hand
  6. New swivel to the left LCD is great in use
  7. New video modes make this the best OM-D for video yet.
  8. High Res 40MP Mode will be useful for some
  9. EVF now E-M1 sized!
  10. Literally no lag
  11. All of the art modes are still here and better than ever!
  12. Live Time and Live Composite modes are incredibly good.
  13. Lens selection is the best in the mirrorless world.
  14. Improved high ISO from the Mark I, now equals the E-M1
  15. Overall, best mirrorless camera around for versatility and usability and features.
  16. Meets or exceeds APS-C cameras.
  17. Buttons are assignable to however you want them
  18. Price is only $1099 and you get A LOT for your money here!
  19. Has a mic input for video use.
  20. Silent shutter with 1/16,000 second capability.
  21. In camera KEYSTONE correction (works so good, and easy to use – like tilt shift, but in camera controllable)

Cons:

  1. I am getting slightly better IQ (sharpness) from my E-M1 using the same lenses
  2. Camera seems small, may be too small for some hands
  3. High ISO still can’t compete with full frame and some APS-C
  4. Menu may be getting too packed with features, making it confusing for some new users.
  5. As always, Micro 4/3 will not offer you the shallow DOF control of a full frame sensor.

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My conclusion on the Olympus E-M5 II

First of all, if you have not seen my E-M5 Mark I review or the Olympus E-M1 review, I urge you to take a a look. Those reviews go over more of the older features of the camera and I did not want to rehash things such as art filters, etc.

The new E-M5II is the latest camera in the Olympus Micro 4/3 lineup and it is quite a powerhouse. Olympus has “done it again” and not sure how they keep innovating but they do. No other camera company thinks of new ideas quite like Olympus. From the Live Time features to the 5 Axis IS to the speed and build, the E-M5II is revolutionary in many ways. For me, no DSLR could take the place of the E-M5 II or my E-M1. None. With todays technology these little cameras offer MORE for LESS and in the case of the E-M5 II and E-M1, also offer superb build and feel and speed.

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Olympus has been committed to their system for years and they show no signs of slowing down. The new 40-150 f/2.8 Pro lens is a masterpiece in design, build and quality. The 12-40 f/2.8 zoom is the best of its kind and all of the fast primes are jewels in the world of lenses. Today, Micro 4/3 lacks in nothing besides ultimate low light high ISO work and super shallow DOF. If you want full frame .95 DOF you will not get it in a Micro 4/3 camera but at the same time, you will get detail and pop all day long and with lenses like the 40-150 and Nocticron, there is plenty of creamy Bokeh to go around.

The next two shots were with the 40-150 f/2.8 wide open…

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I have owned the E-M5 and E-M1 and still own the E-M1. It is one of my favorite cameras of all time, and still performs just as well today as it did when it was released. Did the E-M5 II overtake my E-M1? Well, no. I still love my E-M1 a bit more due to the body design, feel, and extra pro build. I also seem to get a bit more snap from my E-M1 images. Other than that the E-M5 II is a powerhouse of features and function. Video, 5 Axis, High Res mode, the new Swivel out LCD, the larger EVF (same as E-M1), Live Exposure modes, the colors and fast AF make it one heck of a bargain in the mirrorless world. Today no one can say Micro 4/3 lacks when compared to other mirrorless cameras because they do not. Anyone who says they do, well, they never gave an E-M1 or E-M5II a serious shot with some great lenses. Once you really use one of these, learn it and shoot with some of the glass that is already legendary, you will fall in love. They are not only powerful, intuitive and beautiful but they put out pro level image quality.

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Most of you here know I love Olympus and Micro 4/3. They just feel “right”, especially the Olympus creations. For me, my fave cameras these days are from Sony and Olympus and I see no signs of that changing anytime soon. I have used so many cameras and lenses over the years you can say that I am jaded. I use the favorites that I have tested over the years and one thing has remained constant for me..there has always been an Olympus Micro 4/3 camera on hand at my house. Started with the original 4/3 E-1, then E-3, the the Micro 4/3 E-P1, then E-P2, then E-P3, E-P5, E-M5, E-M1 and now the E-M5II.

With each release they get better and better and while the sensor performance has sort of peaked (for now), they are now doing things that make using the cameras so much more fun and BETTER. Features no one else has. Shoot a video on the new E-M5II and you will be amazed at the new 5 Axis. Shoot a night long exposure with Live Composite and be blown away. Shoot exotic lenses like the Nocticron or 75 1.8 or 40-150 2.8 and look at the detail, color and richness. When I look at images in this review I see amazing color, fantastic details and an organic quality to the files that tell me YES, this is a fantastic camera that should please ANYONE. When I go back to my Fuji X-T1 review the images look..well..like they lack “life”. When I go back to my recent A7II review I see rich files and gorgeous IQ, but in a different way from the E-M5Ii images. That is the difference between full frame and Micro 4/3, a certain creamy richness with plenty of shallow DOF.

What the E-M5II offers is some serious snap, crackle and pop. By that I mean crisp files (snap), bold gorgeous color (crackle) and great edge definition of your subject (pop). Just as beautiful as full frame but in its own way. Two different styles which is why I own a full frame and Micro 4/3 system.

1st two shots below, Nocticron at 1.2. Third shot was with the Olympus 17 1.8 at 1.8

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So once again I will say BRAVO to Olympus for pushing the envelope yet again. Offering us a fantastic and highly capable camera at a good price.

I HIGHLY recommend the new E-M5 II without hesitation and if you want to see what lenses I like, read THIS article which I just updated. 

Two shots below were with the Olympus 17 1.8

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WHERE TO BUY?

You can order the new Olympus E-M5 II from the highly recommended and trusted vendors below. They get my best ratings! Use my links below and you will AUTOMATICALLY help this website move on and grow AND you will get the best deal! 

1. B&H Photo – Olympus E-M5 Mark II Pages (Black or Silver)

2. Amazon – Olympus E-M5 Mark II Page (Black or Silver)

3. PopFlash.com – Olympus E-M5 Mark II page.

Buy the new 40-150 f/2.8 Pro Zoom Lens – Amazon, B&H, PopFlash

Two more with the Olympus 17 1.8 (my review of that lens is HERE)

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Feb 112015
 

The Power of the Olympus E-M5 II – Long Exposures

By Steve Huff

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Remember when I said that Olympus is a company that INNOVATES? They seem to surprise the hell out of me with every camera release. After the amazing E-M5 Mk I I thought…what else can they do? Then they released the E-M1 which is a POWERHOUSE, and I have owned one since release and now own a beautiful silver version. The system, the lenses, the capabilities..are pretty much unrivaled by ANYONE, even the Big C and N.

Now with the E-M5 MkII they did it again. Updated and upgraded the 5 Axis IS to a 5 Stop Performance increase, added a side swivel LCD, put in the large EVF of the E-M1, and added the High Res 40Mp shot mode (creates 107MB RAW files) and the camera also has the Live Time and Live Composite features of the E-M1 and other Olympus Micro 4/3 Cameras.

My review will be coming soon for the E-M5II but just wanted to share an image from last night. I was out with Alex McClure, a friend of mine who lives not too far from me who happens to be an Olympus Visionary. We headed out to a spot in the Desert that he knew of and set out to shoot star trails. With Alex giving me some tips (I have never done this before) it took literally 3 minutes to be off and running.

A video I did showing the E-M5II and E-M1 side by side

The Lens I used was the wonderful Panasonic 8mm Fisheye. The total exposure time? Just around 40 MINUTES! This was using LIVE COMPOSITE which NO OTHER camera system has. Basically you set it to Live Composite…then take ONE image. The camera exposes the scene perfectly so your subject (in my case below, the cacti) is perfectly exposed. You then press the shutter again and it stays open while giving you LIVE Updates on your LCD showing real time exposure. What it was doing was taking 20 second exposures and stacking them in camera. We shot for around 40 minutes at ISO 1000.

After closing the shutter, the finished image popped up on my LCD in about 10 seconds. What you see below is direct from camera, JPEG.

Super easy, super simple. All I needed was the camera, a tripod and a lens. Pretty amazing for 40 minutes of 20 second exposures. Never again will I have to stack images in photoshop. Never again will I have to worry about exposure or over exposure. Normally, just leaving the shutter open would have overexposed the cactus but with Live Composite, no worries. It is genius.

LIVE COMPOSITE MODE  – E-M5 II – Around 40 minutes of 20 second exposures, automatically done in camera. The camera does ALL the work. ISO 1000. The E-M1 also does this. This makes these tools my personal pref for night time long exposure work. It’s just SO easy and foolproof. 

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PRE-ORDER the Olympus E-M5II – Ships in less than 2 weeks!

AMAZON 

B&H PHOTO

POPFLASH.COM

Two more images but these were shot with my E-M1 and were much shorter, using LIVE TIME not LIVE COMPOSITE 

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© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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