Jul 272014

Black and White Storytelling

by Ben Miller

Steve and Brandon,

I think that all photographers are searching for the perfect camera and a photographic style that they can call their own.

My main focus in photography is black and white storytelling. I find that the sum of several photographs which tells a story can be greater than one just one perfect image. I have found the gear that best suits my focus. In my bag is a Leica M9 and an Olympus OM-D E-M5. Both of these systems allow me to get close to people without being obtrusive. I believe in prime lenses and do not own any zooms.

I recently was commissioned to shoot an event with my M9 and E-M5. During the gathering I was pulled away and asked to join a few gentlemen in the parking lot. I wrote the following story to accompany the captures of what occurred:


At every party there is a secret party.

One that only few know about and are invited to.

I was lured away from the crowd to one of these clandestine gatherings.

I turned down the smoke as it is not my thing.

I partook in drink instead.

They handed me a big shot of Fireball whiskey.

I gargled the cinnamon spiced liquor and then swished it around in my mouth.

After swallowing I asked if they had handed me water and if there was anything stronger.

As I raised my Leica to my eye I said “document everything”.

I then smiled and said “don’t worry…..

I’ll only capture you from the nose down.”


Attached are the images from the photo story.

You can view more of my work on my website and blog:



Thank you Steve and Brandon for having a wonderful website that so many of us look forward to everyday.


Ben Miller

Secret Party 1

Secret Party 10

Secret Party 9

Secret Party 8

Secret Party 7

Secret Party 6

Secret Party 5

Secret Party 4

Secret Party 3

Secret Party 2

Secret Party 11

Secret Party 12

Secret Party 13

Secret Party 14

May 072014

Using the Samyang fisheye

By Rob Scheurwater

Hi Brandon/Steve,

Half a year ago I bought a Samyang 7.5mm fisheye lens. I bought it from someone who didn’t like the silver version of this lens on his black Panasonic GX7 body. He also sold me his silver Panasonic 20mm II.

I think they both look great on my black Olympus OM-D EM-5 body and more important, I like the IQ of both lenses. After experimenting with Samyang for a while now, i’m quite happy with the results.

It now belongs to my standard equipment, I usually take with me, my Olympus OM-D EM-5 with three lenses, a Panasonic 14mm, Panasonic 20mm and the Samyang fisheye.

I think this lens stimulates the creative eye, it’s great for architecture but I also use it for landscape photography.

Thanks for the inspiration your site has given me.

Rob Scheurwater, The Netherlands

Paris subway



The Rotterdam building of Rem Koolhaas. Dutch photographer Ruud Sies made a really nice photo documentary, called „Building the Rotterdam



Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.



The old library of Bologna


Apr 182014

The Olympus E-M5 using Dramatic Tone

by Tamer Erdem

Though the basic principles of photography are still valid, digital photography changed the rules of the game when it comes to post/in camera-processing. Post-processing or in camera-processing facilities and potential are almost endless and much more effortless in digital era. Art filters were introduced by Olympus a couple of years ago. After Nikon D300, when I purchased my first Olympus, E-P1, I really fell in love with pinhole effect and grainy black and white art filters.

Then I got E-P2 and like new diorama filter that miniaturize the scene. But the ultimate filter that I can desire was offered by OM-D, E-M5; dramatic tone filter for landscape photography. If you do not have enough time for post-processing and like some punchy, strong and slightly surreal landscape images, go for it without any hesitation. This art filter makes the image, kind of HDR (pseudo-HDR) image by increasing the details in shadow regions and decreasing light exposure in the highlighted regions of image. Also it boosts the color saturation and rendition.
I’d like to show some of my dramatic tone photographs that were taken at Kuşadası seaside in the autumn and Ayder plateau, a unique natural beauty in Turkey. You can also visit Zirkale castle, bridges of Byzantine and Ottoman origin and Fırtına Vadisi ( Storm Valley).

Panasonic Lumix 14mm 2.5, 20mm 1.7 and Leica 45mm 2.8 macro lenses were used.








Jan 072014

It’s all about Inspiration!

By Sebastien Chort

Hi Steve

First I’d like to deliver a huge THANK YOU

I’ve been working for a long time in the so-called “graphic/animation/movie industry” therefore I’ve been dealing with picture composition, lighting, framing for years. But I mainly spent my time behind my computer creating images in 3D for animation studio or VFX companies. I always had an interest for photography but when digital cameras appeared my envy to snap pictures kind of vanished (IQ was disappointing) and I gave most of my energy toward my pro activity.

Eventually I started to feel frustrated with the long process it takes to create Computer Graphic images and I started to lurk again toward photography with the high expectation to create spontaneous pictures. Then while I was looking for a decent digital camera 2 years ago, I stumbled across your blog and it opened the Pandora box. The flow of great pictures and great reviews you share helped me a lot to find inspiration and to renew my interest toward photography.

I bought a GH2 which caught my interest for its movie capacities and later on I couldn’t resist the OMD EM5. I loved using the GH2 but the OMD is such a great tool I can’t thank you enough for advising it so loudly. I started to go mental with photography gear to be honest and bought a lot of lenses (C-Mount, Canon’s FD, and pretty much everything I could on Panasonic and Olympus MFT).

Finally I started to look back to some film camera as well and I’m the happy owner of a Hasselblad CM with 3 lenses, a Rolleiflex from 1928 and recently I acquired a Leica M3. This might sound like a G.A.S. issue, but I don’t feel that way. I’m experimenting a lot with all my cameras, I love to carry them, to shoot with them, those are just symptoms of an ongoing passionate story with a great medium to create pictures.

I mainly do portraits of my relatives or street photography, but I feel like I’m barely starting to discover how much fun I can get with photography, so it’s a permanent excitement to know I still have to learn about landscape, sport or studio photography.

So I think you have a large responsibility in my renewed passion for photography and I can’t thank you enough for that. I hope you’ll like the few pictures I’m sending and I wish you the best for the years to come

Thanks for reading me ;)

Sebastien Chort

WebSite : http://sebastienchort.com

Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/sebchort/

From Steve: Thanks so much Sebastien! I am glad that reading my site has inspired you but I must say that it is readers just like you that inspire ME in a day to day basis. Seeing so many great photographs helps to push me to get out there and shoot every week. So thank YOU! 

GH2 7mm

GH2 45mm

GH2 cmount





Dec 192013


The Olympus OM-D E-M1 VS the rest of the industry

by William Rappard

Photo gear biography: from Oly to Nikon

I have no real analog background, since I began “serious” photography only in early 2007 with an Olympus E-500 DSLR, Zuiko 14-54/2.8-3.5 (great lens) and a Sigma 55-200/3.5-5.6. Image quality from the sensor (8mp Kodak CCD) was terrible, ISO 400-800 being the sensible limit. But already then, this camera had an unusual ability to bond with its user.

I shot great pictures with this one and it taught me not to rely on super high ISO capabilities, but rather fine tune speed and aperture to get what I wanted. More so, it made me want to master it despite (or maybe thanks to) its limitations. However, when I compared my pics to others shot with Canon or Nikon enthusiast DSLR’s (20D/D70 by the time), high ISO’s were such a pity that my ego couldn’t take it. For the sake of comparison, the E-500 produced more (and uglier) noise at ISO 400 than a D7100 would today at ISO 3200/6400.

At that time, I posted my images on DeviantArt under the nickname “Ouylle” and got some very positive feedback, including a few “daily deviations” for those who know, and even winning a contest once with this picture which became a postcard for a charity cause:

Val d’Aniviers, Switzerland: The Cloud Factory Olympus E-500 @ ISO 100, 27mm, f5.6, 1/4000s


Of course, as a complete geek, I had to try other cameras to figure out if a better IQ potential in low lights could enhance my photography. I entered the high ISO quest many of us know since the heroic ages of digital photography, but still pulled out nice pictures with my E-500.

I’ve tried other Olympus DSLR’s, such as the E-420 and E-510, which were in a certain way the ancestors of the E-M5 and E-M1 in terms of form factor, except for the vintage design. But neither of them could compete with their APS-C counterparts from the likes of Canon, Nikon, Minolta (already sensor-stabilized) or Pentax, despite Olympus offering some of the best glass around (remember the Zuiko 50mm macro f2 ?).

My father still owns his Nikon F from the 60s and always told me Nikon was the Rolls Royce of photography (I guess he never heard of Leica, but that’s another story). So when I received some amazing Nikkor glass from a cousin as a present (!), I gradually decided to switch from Oly to Nikon and got myself a D70s to play with.

Image quality, while mediocre by today’s standards, was stellar compared to my trustworthy E-500 and it’s Oly fellows. However, the newly announced and highly anticipated D300 became my next dream camera. As I was enjoying shooting my Nikkor primes, I quickly traded my D70s for a D300 and was blown away again by the IQ: ISO 1600 became very clean and ISO 3200 fairly usable. This sort of abilities became my benchmark in terms of IQ. At this stage, digital noise control was already better than with any high sensitivity film.

With a grip, a tripod and some other lenses such as a Sigma 10-20, Nikkor 20/2.8, 24/2.8, 50/1.4, 60 macro /2.8, the incredible 105/2 DC and AF 80-200/2.8 D, I thought I had the PERFECT kit for a semi-professional enthusiast.

At the time, I was shooting everything from paid jobs (weddings, corporate portraits, events) to holidays, club or street photography. I learned a lot (and earned good money) with this heavy, but reliable and high performance Nikon kit, covering everything from eq. 15mm to 300mm with great quality glass.

Switzerland: Fields.
Nikon D300 @ ISO 200, 10mm, f13, 1/250s

Photo 3


Geneva: Right-before bride. Nikon D300 @ ISO 1600, 50mm, f2, 1/2000s

Photo 4


Beirut, Achrafieh: View on the mountains from the balcony. – Nikon D300 @ ISO 100, 16mm, f10, 30s.

Photo 5


Geneva, Usine Club: Happy cluber Nikon D300 @ ISO 250, 16mm, f13, 1/160 with SB800 flashgun

Photo 6

Back then, I was young, still fit, and my back was strong, all of which was required by the amount of glass and metal I had to carry around for my paid jobs and my own personal pleasure. Although the money earned as a semi-pro financed my appetite for new gear, shooting weddings, charity events or corporate portraits for money did not appeal to me enough to become my main job and eventually, I finished my law degree and became… a lawyer.


The photographer I remained: replacing the D300

Still, I LOVE photography and could not live without shooting and sharing my pics ! As a casual photographer, I love all kinds of photography. From portrait to architecture, streets to landscapes, holidays to everyday, there is always something in my sight that screams: “shoot me !!!”. When I hear the call and carry some gear, earth could stop revolving but I wouldn’t care less: I have to get that picture and if possible, get it right and be proud to show it.

Since my pro illusions are gone, I usually share my work on facebook (check me out: facebook.com/william.rappard), which isn’t very sexy and does not require more than a few megapixels. It may not be useless to recall that the D300 was only 12 megapixels, which is low today even by cell phones standards. However, those megapixels allowed me to execute many paid job and personal projects very efficiently.

I even made an exhibition once about an incredible trip in Senegal, and have been happy with the quality delivered by the D300’s 12mp for > 1 meter prints on canvas. Since then, I realized that outright pixel count was no faithful indicator of a camera’s real abilities in the big prints department. Shoot it right and it will look right.

At this time, the D300’s sensor was industry leading for those who wanted the performance and IQ, but not the bulk of a fully fledged full frame DSLR setup (or the cash for a Leica which, at that time, was less than convincing, high ISO wise).

On top of that, the bokeh I could achieve with the 60mm macro, the 105/2 DC and the 80-200/2.8 was fully satisfying and I remember saying I would never need to buy anything else for a very long while.

Here are three pics from my trip in Senegal which I believe are not too bad. The first one has been sold to a company on a 1.2 meter/ 80 centimeter canvas for a fair amount of money (financing an NGO in north-east Senegal) !


Senegal: They are into tires Nikon D300 @ ISO 800, 16mm, f5 1/20s

Photo 7


Senegal: Just another kid Nikon D300 @ ISO 400, 60mm, f3.2, 1/80s

Photo 8


Senegal: The gang Nikon D300 @ ISO 200, 24mm, f6.3, 1/80s

Photo 9

Quality wise, I remember thinking that for my needs, this kit was all I could ever want and I shot dozens of thousands of pictures with it, killed all the rubber grips and the camera just kept shooting whatever I threw at it. But boy, the whole package including 5-6 lenses was heavy !

The size, weight & IQ have-it-all quest: back to Oly

As a dedicated geek, I have tried MANY cameras since the Nikon D300, from Pentax K5 and it’s famous ltd pancakes (GREAT DSLR combo by the time) to the modern-vintage Fuji’s X-Pro 1 & X100 (superior image quality at the cost of slow general operation and somehow light built quality). As time went on, my priority was to reduce the weight and bulk of my kit in order to carry it with me as much as possible, while not going anything bellow my D300 in terms of IQ.

After trying many compact cameras to complement my Nikon/Pentax kits on the light side, I ended up buying a Ricoh GR which turned out to be the best pocket camera when a pocket is the only compromise you’re ready to make to lightness, but not at the cost of IQ and usability.

This camera is a gem of a compact in use, but you’re still stuck with 28mm and 2.8 max aperture. It will pull out some bokeh if shot close to the subject, but don’t expect too much in this department, given the focal length.

As for my full kit, Nikon and Canon (and to some extent Pentax and Leica) have failed to deliver a crucially lighter and more effective alternative to my “historic” D300 package at a fair price. Pentax’s attempt (K5 + pancakes) was nice, but still not light enough, when packed with lenses covering all my needs.

This was until Olympus, the brand which bonded me to photography with their slow AF/bad ISO/small viewfinder E-500, released the OM-D EM-5 powerhouse, which I brought, immediately loved and equipped with a bunch of nice primes.

It served well, shot right and reliably but yes, the buttons were small and the viewfinder, although great, was still small and not as enjoyable as an optical device such as the D300’s/Pentax K5’s. Despite these relative flaws, I LOVED shooting it as it always delivered what I expected in any given light conditions.

The grip (which secondary horizontal shutter actually broke after heavy use) made it really nice to hold and quite pleasant to look at as well. As with my old E-500 and my fantastic D300 kit, I was finally bonding with another camera system, except for a few niggles on the body side. Best of all, the image quality was clearly on par, if not better than the D300’s and the 5 axis stabilizer and small pin sharp lenses were blessings.

A whole package covering anything from eq. 24mm to eq. 150mm between f1.4 and f2 AND fitting a VERY small Think Tank bag was breathtaking compared to my DSLR’s ! I could finally use quality gear AND walk around with it not worrying about my back !

From landscapes to street photo all around the world, the E-M5 was (nearly) everything I wanted but…

Ireland: Draw-me a coast. Olympus EM-5 @ ISO 200, 12mm, f8, 1/500s



Basel: layered expectations – Oly EM-5 @ ISO 400, f5 1/10s

Photo 11


Cambodia: passing by… Oly E-M5 @ ISO 200, 25mm, f3.5, 1/400s


Bangkok: legs & shapes Oly E-M5 @ISO 2000, 75mm, f4.5 1/160s



Replacing the EM-5

Its time had come. Until the E-M5, I had never had such a high hit rate, but it was not “ultimate” enough in its handling. It’s niggles couldn’t be forgiven in a long-term relationship with a power user. The buttons and the viewfinder were just not as enjoyable as they should be on an ultimate camera.

The wait has not been too long before many amazing products began to ship from Panasonic, Olympus and Sony all offering nice occasions to spend some cash for the better. All the new releases in the prosumer market out-perform my D300 benchmark in terms of IQ, which ceased to be a crucial criterium of choice. The high ISO quest had ended.

What about full frame ?

One of my very best best friend recently posted a contribution about his switch from Leica to Sony. Didier Godmé, who’s been the instigator of my photographic passion, has always been craving for full frame cameras. He owned a Canon 5DMarkII and a Leica M9, two of the very best full frame cameras released at their times.

Let’s put this straight right away: the full frame rendering is magnificent and no smaller sensors will probably ever equal it. It is incomparable to what a micro four thirds sensor could deliver, due to it’s physical limits. This is particularly true with a fast 35mm (or equivalent) lens. Stick one of those amazing 1.2’s on a Leica M240, Canon 5DMark III, Nikon Df or Sony A7r and you will get the very best potential image quality in the industry for such combo.

Therefore, except for very small details (all of which can be played around in Lightroom and RAW), most of you won’t choose apart from these fabulous full frame cameras based upon sheer IQ, but mostly on their usability, depending on your shooting style and what you will do with your images after you shoot them.

In my opinion, this demonstrates that usability is not only a major argument in favor of a camera over another. It’s probably the ONLY acceptable argument, provided, for my needs, the chosen camera allows a beautiful > 1 meter print at ISO 3200 in color or 6400 in B&W, which settings correspond to more than my most ambitious needs to date.

At the end of the day, all full frame cameras listed above meet this technical requirement more than well, as also do many NON full frame. Conclusion: as much as I adore full frame rendering, I don’t NEED it to be moved by a picture.

If your skills are bad, full frame won’t save the picture. If your skills are good, full frame will enhance the picture’s looks, but will never be the sine qua non condition of your picture’s overall quality, contrary to your eye and your ability to translate what you see in the picture.

On the contrary, when I’m moved by something I observe, I DO NEED to be able to shoot it the best possible way. The camera should NEVER stand in the way because it’s too slow or suffers a sluggish conception or is too noisy. Period.

As of today, in my view, no complete kit based around any full frame camera currently in the market is the best possible tool for my kind of spontaneous and compulsive shooting.

For my needs however, there is now one kit that fits the whole bill. Yes, each and every of my NEEDS are now covered by this equipment. A nice break, if not an end, in my long quest for the best possible complete enthusiasts’ photo kit.

The OM-D E-M1

First, the IQ. As I said, the E-M1 is NOT on par with likes of Fuji APS-C or the latest full frames for potential outright high ISO/narrow DOF/high resolution image quality, solely due to it’s sensor’s size. However, global IQ of an actual image is basically the result of four things:

The sensor;

The lenses;

The light conditions;

The eye of the operator.

On the sensor, the Oly cannot compete due to size. Right. However, it undeniably performs well until ISO 6400 in color and B&W, which is way good enough for me, even when I pixel peep (which I confess I do !). Sensible Lightroom processing (which I use) will greatly improve things if I’m not happy with the OOC images.

On all other factors, as much as the technical side is concerned, it just rules badly over ANY rival on the market. Zuiko prime lenses are notably mind blowing, dare I say next to the likes of Leica or Zeiss if maybe less character-full. Throw in IS, fast AF, size and weight and they become dangerously close to industry leading.

Get a grip and the Zuiko 12/2, 17/ 1.8, Pana-Leica 25/1.4, Zuiko 45/1.8, 75/1.8 along the pro 12-40/2.8 zoom, stuff the whole gently in a smallish Retrospective 7 Think tank bag and stare at what this small and light package represents in terms of photographic opportunities. Very few things you can’t achieve with such a small kit, don’t you think ?

If you think the telephoto range and bokeh are on the weak side, I don’t. Remember my old Nikkor 105/2 DC ? With an adapter, that baby gets me an equivalent 210mm with an f2 aperture and “defocusing” abilities. Feel free to compare this combo to other offerings in terms of size, weight and equivalent speed and you’ll realize this is unique in the industry. Believe me, this piece of glass has character when mounted on the E-M1 ! And guess what: there is enough room in the bag for it too !

I would love to mention the Voigtländer f0.95’s, but I don’t own any… What I can mention, however, is the best image stabilizer money can buy. Bare hands, the Oly IS set behind any of the aforementioned glass makes you feel like you can capture more light than actually available, even in a dark street by night. In my eyes, this unique feature alone more than compensates for the lower high-ISO abilities of the Oly’s sensor.

With such a kit, you can capture light in any conditions with your own two hands. On a tripod, you can use the live time functions to see your image appear while it’s being shot… looking at your cell phone ! This little Oly let’s you tailor craft your image, whatever the light conditions. The following pictures have all been shot in Geneva in various occasions:

Law Firm
Oly E-M1 @ ISO 200, 26mm, f3.2, 1/160s



From my heart to you Oly E-M1 @ ISO 6400, 75mm, f3.2, 1/50s.



Oly E-M1 @ ISO 5000, 105mm f2 DC f2, R4.



Omega Seamaster Chrono Diver’s 300m, a.k.a “the Blakexpedition” Oly E-M1 @ ISO 400, 34mm, f6.3, 15s



Very un-twins !
Oly E-M1 @ ISO 250, 12mm, f2.8 1/40s



Through there, eye Oly E-M1 @ ISO 5000, 23mm, f11



Runner under the moon Oly E-M1 @ ISO 1000, 34mm, f1.8, 1/30s



The Courtyard Oly E-M1 @ ISO 100, 12mm, f16, 1800s



My love Oly E-M1 @ ISO 6400, 20mm, f2.8, 1/40s



Geneva Airforce Oly E-M1 @ ISO 100, 105mm, f2, 1/400s



End of Automn Oly E-M1 @ ISO 200, 105mm, f2, 1/1600s 






Oly E-M1 @ ISO 3200, 21mm, f3.2

No offense to Sony fans but to tell the truth, I didn’t feel the same willingness to gather light so steadily using Didier’s new A7r, nor… any other camera. For me, the A7r’s shutter sound kills it in terms of discrete shooting and I don’t feel the same urge to shoot in low light. Nikon and Canon’s DX cameras are way too heavy when fully equipped. Fuji’s hit rates are way too low. APS-C DSLR’s are not better in terms of IQ, and despite their optical viewfinder, they are worse at pretty much anything else.

Which brings me to the E-M1’s viewfinder. The Oly’s exceeds all reasonable expectations one would have in this area for a digital device. It’s huge, crisp, doesn’t lag (the Sony does) and although it can provide visual peaking for manual focusing, it’s good enough to do without. 

Is it a better experience than looking through a Df’s full frame optical viewfinder ? No. Is it a worse tool than the Df’s or… the M’s ? Oh no ! It’s not romantic, but it never get’s in the way of pleasure. And let’s face it: previewing the result before triggering is a gorgeous cheat indeed.

Build quality and design, although industrial, is at least as good as Leica’s or professional grade Canonikons, while being, in my opinion more comfortable in hands than any of those when used with the vertical grip. Design is a matter of tastes, but to mine’s, it’s how the ultimate shooting tool should look like today. 70-80’s golden age design and size, plus modern controls, a grip and a tiltable screen. Seriously how was it supposed to be better ? By altering the power switch’s place and that’s pretty much it.

Many have already praised the qualities of Oly’s new flagship. I’ll go a step further and say that, in my opinion, a full kit based on this baby may well be… the best photography kit ever made available for the masses. The whole set costs barely more than Leica, Nikon or Canon’s flagships… body only.

In conclusion…

For full frame lovers already equipped with Leica glass, the Sony A7r is an absolute must, but for the rest of us, it’s Olympus all the way. No other camera than the Oly OM-D E-M1 and it’s stable of fine glass gave me so much pleasure in capturing life around me, day after day since I got them.

Whatever you shoot, any combo based on this baby will nail it just right, provided it’s setup the right way. The keep rate is far superior to my old D300 (past reference), due to this godsend blazingly fast and deadly accurate AF, which will never ever suffer from front/back focus issues (unless I decide to use the DF function of my brave old Nikkor 105).

For manual focusing fans, no problem. It has focus peaking, provided you even need it despite the huge viewfinder… Take it for what it’s worth, but you could shoot Leica glass on this baby and I’d be curious to see how a fast 50mm would performs on it at an equivalent of 100mm.

The OM-D E-M1 gives access to what may be the best system ever conceived for 98% of enthusiast/pro photographers having enough cash to afford it. As a system, it has no competition. Period. In my opinion, as far as the price/quality/weight/size ratio of a whole functional kit is concerned, Olympus has become an industry leader.

If I’d had one request, it would be about the menu system and the looks of the indications in the viewfinder, which I find terrible compared with the A7r. I don’t see any reason not to work this out through a firmware update and actually really look forward to it. Of course, I could use more megapixels to do some crops, but having the menus and viewfinder info fixed is a priority which should not wait the next product release to see the light of day. However, this cosmetic imperfection is by no means a deal breaker.

Unfortunately, Olympus don’t pay me to praise them… ;) Nevertheless, it is a firm which, like Apple in the end of the nineties, has understood early what most quality-conscious customers really wanted and worked hard to deliver a product that fits the bill.

I know I sound like an Olympus fan boy and that’s probably what I am. However, I must say this company stuns me. When they came out with the 4/3 concept, everyone laughed and indeed, the output could be terrible. Today after every possible technical and financial difficulty, they show the way to the rest of the industry by giving us what we really want at a price that we are ready to pay.

With such a kit as mine, everyone trying hard and having an eye could become a professional, from a purely technical point of view. To my opinion, this is a small revolution in the industry !According to my standards, such a performance is pretty admirable nowadays. Cheers Oly !

Last word: do I shoot better pictures with the OM-D E-M1 than I did with the E-500, D300 or E-M5 ? No. I still believe I shot my best pictures with these cameras. Do I feel I could shoot my best pictures with the OM-D E-M1 in future years ? Oh yeah ! Did I have the same feeling with any other camera I tried ? Nope.

In my humble opinion: Olympus: 1; the rest of the industry: 0.

Cheers ! Thank you for reading !

(Steve’s full Olympus E-M1 review is HERE)


Nov 252013

Olympus OM-D E-M5 User Report 

By Floyd K. Takeuchi

There’s a rush for the exits to buy the new (and appealing) Olympus OM-D E-M1. But for some of us, there’s still more to learn about the capabilities of the OM-D E-M5.

I’m a professional documentary-travel photographer who was late to the digital party. It wasn’t until 2009 that I made the move from a Nikon F100 to the D700, which still soldiers on for me. A camera bag full of Nikkors made that decision easy, but so too did my high comfort level with Nikon ergonomics. My first Nikon SLR was a Nikkormat purchased in the early 1970s, so the transition to the D700 was a natural one for me.

Adding the E-M5 to my camera bag wasn’t as easy a move. I initially bought the body to use 1950s Zeiss Contax rangefinder lenses (with an adapter) that don’t get much of a workout these days. But I quickly discovered that while the output was beautiful, the process of manually focusing on an EVF didn’t suit me. So the decision was made to add the Olympus 17 mm f/1.8 M Zuiko and the Panasonic/Leica 25 mm f/1.4 Asph. DG Summilux. And I added the grip, which is the only way I could comfortably hold the camera.

The biggest challenge to adding the Olympus kit was fitting it into my post-production workflow. I use DxO as my RAW processor, and had to wait until both the camera body and lenses were supported by DxO. In fact, the biggest challenge to my using the E-M5 more is the hassles of having a separate RAW format to download – using Nikon’s ViewNX is second nature to me, using the comparable Olympus program is not. I’ve had to resort to YouTube videos on more than once occasion to remember how to use the program.

That said, I’ve been happy with the quality of the files produced by the E-M5 with the Olympus and Panasonic lenses. They are easy to post-process and hold up extremely well as prints (the largest I’ve had printed so far have been 16 x 20s), which is the critical test for me, as most of my work is done for use in either books or exhibitions. The only challenge I’m still dealing with is handling extremely high contrast scenes, since I’m finding that I have a tendency to blow out highlights. This is an issue for me since I do nearly all of my shooting in the tropics, either in Hawaii or closer to the equator in the Micronesia region, where high contrast light is a way of life.

If forum posts are to be believed, like many new users of the E-M5, I found it a real challenge to navigate the Olympus menu system. My solution was to have a quick-print shop print and bind the camera’s PDF manual, and spend about a couple of hours going through it page by page. Then, once I had a better understanding of what the camera could do, simplify things by only worrying about a few software features – ISO, RAW capture, and setting a dial to control EV. I shoot in aperture priority 99 percent of the time, and usually don’t fiddle with the other settings.

What I really like about the E-M5: the light weight makes a huge difference on travel assignments, and I can use a lighter-weight tripod when I need one; the prime lenses I’m using are outstanding, the results are easily comparable to the Nikkors I’m used to using and much smaller and lighter; the files are gorgeous and easy to work with in post-processing.

What I still find frustrating about the E-M5: I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer an optical viewfinder and am still adjusting to an EVF (albeit a high quality one); and, when I do have to go into the menu, it can be a slow process.

I’ve used the camera for project and personal work in Hawaii, the islands of Pohnpei and Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia, and in Japan. It has only failed me once in the year-plus that I’ve owned the kit. That was on the island of Pohpnei, while shooting the ancient ruins of Nan Madol, a huge Venice-like city of homes and temples built of huge basaltic rock logs on a mangrove swamp. I’ve taken photographs there – film and digital – since 1976 and never had a problem shooting in the area.

The night before going into the Nan Madol area, I had dinner with a friend who has lived been on Ponpei for four decades. She told me and another friend about how her grandchildren had just taken an iPad into the complex, and when they got home and looked at their photos, they saw faces in the rocks. Our friend said she looked and also saw the faces. A few days later, after the grandkids posted the photos to Facebook, our friend went online to show others the faces in the rocks, and discovered that some of the faces had disappeared.

I didn’t find any faces in my photos, but after hiking through the ruins for an hour, as we were walking back to the main island, I decided to get a final few snaps of how the mangrove was overtaking ruins. That’s when I discovered that my camera had died – it wouldn’t take a photograph. I was using two fresh batteries, one in the grip and one in the camera. Both had been recharged the night before. And I had taken few than 50 photos at Nan Madol.

When we got back to our car, I loaded a new battery into the grip. The camera worked fine.

The author is a writer-photographer based in Hawaii. He is a member of the Waka Photos agency.


Floyd K. Takeuchi

Waka Photos

Hawaii01: Pualani Armstrong, Hawaii.

Pualani Armstrong


Hawaii02: Ka Iwi coastline, Oahu, Hawaii. 

Ka Iwi Shoreline


Hawaii03: Ka Iwi coastline, Oahu, Hawaii.

Ka Iwi Shoreline -

Japan01: Shidome district, Tokyo, Japan.

Dentsu Building, Tokyo -

Kita-Kamakura, Japan. 

Kamakura temple, Japan


Priest, Kita-Kamakura, Japan. 

Priest, Kita-Kamakura, Japan


Kamakura, Japan. 

Spring flowers, Kamakura, Japan


Kamakura, Japan.

Children's shrine, Kamakura, Japan


Kepirohi Falls, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia.

Kepirohi Falls, Pohnpei, FSM

Oct 212013

Congrats to Neil Buchan-Grant for winning the AOP “Best in Show”


A while ago Neil posted an article about his love for Micro 4/3 and the OM-D camera. He posted a photo (above) that got quite the response and as soon as I saw it I knew it was special. Neil showed that yes, the little OM-D E-M5 could indeed take photos that not only excelled in quality but were able to be pushed and used by someone who really knew how to work a camera. His photo has now officially won the Best in Show AOP open award for 2013!

So let us give a big Congrats to Neil!


Over the years I have defended Micro 4/3 (ever since the GF1 and E-P1) while many bashed it and predicted its doom because it had a smaller sensor than APS-C or Full Frame. Today less and less are trash talking Micro 4/3 and I even know of quite a few who dumped their slower APS-C cameras for an E-M5 and they never looked back. With the E-M1 it goes up another notch and I will state right here and now that Micro 4/3 is going nowhere anytime soon because it offers the perfect mix of IQ, performance, speed, build, and lenses. The lens Neil used for this image was the Panasonic/Leica 25 1.4. One of the best overall lenses for this system.


In any case, Neil has shown what this system can do in capable hands. Make sure you see his latest post here as well as his own blog.  I also want to thank him for his continuing contributions here where he shares his love and passion for photography with all of us here.

Thanks Neil!

Oct 092013


A Vintage Year with the OM-D E-M5 and E-M1

by Neil Buchan-Grant – His website is HERE

From Steve: Hello to all today and happy Wednesday! What you are about to see is an incredible collection of images all shot with Micro 4/3 using the OM-D E-M5 and new E-M1 by Neil Buchan-Grant. As it is all about who is behind the camera, I feel that Neil really shows what these cameras are capable of. My full E-M1 review will be here SOON and I am having a blast shooting with it. Enjoy!


Hi Steve and readers!

Its been quite a good year so far photography-wise. Unlike many people who take their camera out every day, I tend to concentrate my photographic efforts into short projects based around travel or events. This year I have been very fortunate to attend a number of amazing ‘vintage’ events and as my relationship with Olympus UK has flourished, they have let me try out their new gear in sunnier parts of Europe

My last submission back in January announced how little I was using the Leica M9 since buying my Olympus OMD-EM5. Well now that the EM1 has been launched, the time has come to say goodbye to the M9 (but I’m keeping the lenses!).

The year started with a long weekend in the Canary Islands where I had always wanted to shoot the dramatic sand dunes of Maspalomas on Gran Canaria.

Shot with the Olympus 12mm f/2 – E-M5



12mm – E-M5



On rare occasions I wake early and venture out into Winchester for a dawn shoot, this shot was from the last time this happened.

12mm – E-M5



Next, a one-day workshop I was asked to host in the historic city of Cambridge produced these two shots

Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5



Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5



I was commissioned to shoot Wayne Hemingway’s vintage festival which this year took place in Glasgow, it was good to be back in Scotland for a weekend. These two pros attend many of the Vintage events across the globe, they own the dance floor!

 Olympus 17 1.8 – E-M5



Then I was sent out to Budapest with Jay McLaughlin, a very experienced fashion photographer (and Olympus user) to create some marketing images. Here are two of my favourites from the shoot.

Olympus 75mm 1.8 – E-M5



Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5



Goodwood Revival is heritage motor sport race meeting held in the Sussex downs and always attracts a vast number of impeccably dressed vintage enthusiasts from around the world.

Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5



Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5



Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5



Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5



Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5



Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5



And lastly I just came back from Portugal after a week of testing the new OMD-EM1. As a result I am quite smitten with this camera! It was a joy to use on an extended shoot where I took over 5,500 frames. The Swiss/French model who came along for the job had broken her foot 2 weeks before but fortunately didn’t have to wear a cast. She did extremely well, considering she needed crutches to go anywhere. Here are a few of my favourites from the week.

E-M1 and 75 1.8



E-M1 and 45 1.8



E-M1 and 25 1.4



E-M1 and 25 1.4



E-M1 and 25 1.4



E-M1 and new 12-40 Pro Zoom



E-M1 and 25 1.4


 Hope you’ve enjoyed looking at these as much as I have making them, much more to see up on my blog as usual.

Aug 142013

USER REPORT: Myanmar with my OM-D E-M5 by Suryo Widjaja

Hi Steve,

As I have been reading your past Daily Inspirations pages about Myanmar from few of your readers, I found different perspective of Myanmar through my lens. For me, Myanmar is a must visit country for Photographers before this country infected by Western’s culture ( like Thailand and Vietnam, soon Cambodia).

I went to Myanmar last January 2013, with other 19 photographers from Indonesia for Photographic Tour. Main reason to visit Myanmar at that time was for “Bagan’s Festival” which only happen once a year. It has been beautiful, inspiring, adventure 6 days of our life, seeing Myanmar like Indonesia back in early 80’s, very friendly people, safe, food is nice (but do not eat food and drink water from the street, they might not friendly for our stomach). Tips before visiting Myanmar: 1. Pack yourself with medicines: sore throat, flue & cough, 2. Bring Masker (keep you from dusty air, what you see in the landscape photos which have haze or mist, they were actually dust!), 3. Wear Sandals/ open-toe-slipper, because we have to take off our sandals to go into temples or sacred place, shoes will be inconvenience.

Every one on this tour was packed with heavy gear of “big guns”, few with Leica gear and fuji XE, I was packed with 2 body of OMD-EM5 (one body I borrowed from my brother-in-law), brought my 12mm, 17mm and 75mm, but most of the time i was in Myanmar, I set my camera with 17mm and the other one with 75mm. What you see in my Photos, most of them was taken with Oly 17mm F1.8 except for Close up portrait and landscapes, they were taken using Oly 75mm, for 12mm most of the time just stay in the bag. My motto for this trip, travel lite and took good photos! LOL.

All the photos were minor edited in Photoshop. Pull out the DR and color tone on the Adobe Camera Raw, adding little bit of effect on NIK Color fx.

Hope your readers enjoy these photos.

Warms Regards,













Apr 192013

bagan nights

From Steve: Today I want to thank Barnaby Robson for these gorgeous images which goes to show what a camera like the Olympus OM-D E-M5 can do when in good hands. Thanks Barnaby!

A journey in gear

For me, it all started in 2010 with a GF1 + 20mm and 7-14mm lenses.

I loved the small size and relative to a P&S, the image quality, ability to control depth of field, and the focus speed. But the low light performance still wasn’t good enough.

In 2012, the Olympus 45mm, E-M5 and Leica 25mm followed (inspired by stevehuffphoto.com). And they were wonderful. I was a happy photographer: learning, getting technical, becoming more aware more capable and… taking better pictures.

But I was getting full frame IQ lust.

And then… I picked up the Olympus 75mm on my way through Bangkok on route to Yangon. Before purchasing I was worried about:

• The size and weight

• How often I would use the full frame 150mm equivalent focal length

Firstly it feels right at home on the E-M5, and is very similar in proportions to the Panasonic 7-14mm. Compared to all my other lenses the construction is something else, the cool metal feels and looks wonderful in the hand, with the right heft, the focus ring just glides, the lens text is inscribed in the metal… it just feels wonderful. I’ve never had so many complements about a camera-lens combination.


And as to whether I would use the lens, it’s absolutely my favourite by a mile. I had all my other lenses with me in Burma, but the 75mm remained strapped to the E-M5 as I made my way around the streets of Yangon, across the plains of Bagan, over Inle lake and up Mandalay Hill. The focus is ultra fast and true, including handheld in low light with the lens wide open, the IQ is visibly better than through my other m4/3 lenses and it allows you to achieve genuine shallow depth of field. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.


A real journey (in pictures)


Exif: 1/400 sec at f2.5, ISO 200

Taxi E-7959

Notes: One of my first shots in Yangon. Taxi E-7959 stopped at the lights. As I lifted my lens, he looked across. Was so pleased with the accuracy of the focus on this one.


Exif: 1/400 sec at f2.8, ISO 200.

Bettlenut vendors

Post processing: Cropped then edited with an Alien Skin Exposure 4 preset (can’t recall which) to bring out the vibrancy.

Notes: Love the vibrancy, clarity and depth of field from the 75mm in this shot.


Exif: 1/80 sec at f1.8, ISO 3200.


Post processing: Cropped, but otherwise straight from camera,

Notes: Taken on the other side of four-lane Mahabandoola Road (busiest road in Yangon). I could see the opp for a great photo (looks like a scene from a 1970s movie to me), but kept on getting interrupted by traffic passing across the field of view. Finally there was a gap in the traffic and the camera/lens hit the nail on the head first time. Shot handheld.




Exif: 1 1/320 sec at f 2.5, ISO 200.


Post processing: Edited with the Alien Skin Exposure 4, Fuji Provia 100f preset.



Exif: 1/800 sec at f3.5, ISO 200.

Amazing Bagan

Post processing: I spent more time then I care to remember bringing out the colours to the desired taste in Lightroom.

Notes: The Bagan sunsets were absolutely stunning. Easily the highlight of the trip.



Exif: 1/60 sec at f 1.8, ISO 3200.

bagan nights

Post processing: Edited in Alien Skin Exposure 4 to bring out the blue-black haze (the dark areas were brown in the raw file). Finished off with a vignette.

Notes: Shot handheld (as were all these photos). This is probably my favourite shot from the trip. Again, this wouldn’t have been possible on m4/3 pre E-M5.



Exif: 1/640 sec at f 8.0. ISO 200.

Inle Lake Clichég

Post processing: Edited heavily in lightroom to bring out the colours, vibrancy and tones, from a rather flat raw file. It’s brilliant how malleable the E-M5 raw images are.

Notes: Inle Lake fishermen are renowned for practicing this distinctive rowing style, which involves standing at the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar. Shot handheld from a moving boat. The light was excessively bright. The 75mm has a lot of glass and suffers from lens flare – I would recommend buying the very expensive but beautifully constructed Olympus hood.


Exif: 1/400 sec at f 6.3. ISO 200.

Rebels without a cause.

Post processing: Edited in Lightroom – played with the vibrancy, temp and tint to bring out the blues & greens to my taste.

Notes: The guy on the left is wearing a ‘Fuck the Police’ T-shirt. Given Myanmar is still a hardcore military state, I think this is so cool.



Exif: 1/100 at f 4.0. ISO 200.


Post processing: Edited in Lightroom – used split toning to bring out the yellow – green colour scheme.

Notes: U Bein bridge was absolutely mystical. I was worried there would be loads of tourists, but there were blissfully few.



Exif: 1/500 sec at f3.2

U Bein's bridge

Post processing: Edited in Lightroom – using colour settings and graduated filters to bring out the mist and greens.



It should come as no surprise that I am in love with this beautiful lens. Something about it has gotten me to take more photos in the last four months than I have in the last two years combined. In fact, this lens is one of the impetuses for a current travel lust that I haven’t felt for many a year — I want an exotic subject on which to use it. The lens is looking for a muse…

If you want to see more from the 75mm (and me) check out: http://www.flickr.com/photos/barnabyrobson

 myanmar cover image-1

Apr 052013

Journeys with the Fuji X-E1 and Olympus OM-D by Arindam Pal

Hi Steve,

Ever since I started following you, my opinions about photography systems changed. Your articles have inspired me to move to a smaller form factor even after shooting full frame for years.

I will try to be brief with my story. I started shooting a few years back but never improved because of poor lens choices and lack of proper education. Then I purchased my first Full Frame, a Nikon D700. Coupled with a few good pro lenses, the initial IQ motivated me to gain more education in this fascinating hobby. So, even though I work as a Management Consultant, my second career would definitely be in photography where I work for myself and not The Man.

When I started reading your blog and discovered mirror-less cameras and the gorgeous Leica, I was skeptical about migrating to a whole new system. But the constant barrage of mind-blowing photos from fellow enthusiasts ignited a spark and I bought my first compact system – the Fuji X-E1 along with 35 f/1.4, 18 f/2 and a Voigtlander 21 f/4. I thoroughly enjoyed shooting with considerable less load to lug around and the superior IQ that rivaled even my D700 in low light. I used the system on a trip to Maui. As you can see, the monochrome renditions and the shallow DoF when wide open were better than what I had expected from this system. Even the color spectrum looked great. It was my companion for a few months.

But then, the utterly sluggish AF posed a lot of problems in the kinds of shots I was aiming for. After reading a few comparison reports, I decided to sell the system for an OM-D with the Pana-Leica 25 f/1.4 and the Oly 45 f/1.8. Overall, I am happy with the system as I can now get sharp focus without even trying! However, I do miss the Fuji look and in contrast to what many others have said, the low light high ISO of the OM-D still does not compare to what the X-trans sensor could do. But for everyday purposes, this system fits fine and even though I was nervous in moving to the M43 format, I think there is no doubt that from a sensor that small, the IQ and the fun factor shooting with the OM-D just topples every notion of modern-day photography. My dream compact would be an updated full frame X-trans like sensor, OVF/EVF with rangefinder options for MF, Leica quality glass and snappy AF with a hybrid contrast/phase detect. Let us see what the future brings!



Image 1: X-E1 with 35 1.4, ISO 250 f/2.8; 4 wheel drive in Lanai 



Image 2: X-E1 with 35 1.4, ISO 2000 f/1.4; I loved the super shallow DoF of my wife’s eyes



Image 3: X-E1 with 18 f/2, ISO 800 f/5.6; sunset shot but handheld – carried the least amount of gear as possible



Image 4: OM-D with 45 f/1.8, ISO 1600 f/1.8; the rickshaw puller during a recent trip to India was surprised to see why I was shooting him



Image 5: OM-D with 25 f/1.4, ISO 200 f/2.2; Streets of Old Delhi – the pup had decided to take an afternoon siesta on top of a parked car



Image 6: OM-D with 25 f/1.4, ISO 1600 f/1.4; A hand pump (or tube well) that provides fresh water to the neighborhood. I liked the small area of light on this otherwise dark street



Image 7: OM-D with 45 f/1.8, ISO 1600 f/1.8; Dimly lit room but the IQ was quite good unless you pixel peep


Apr 012013

USER REPORT: OMD E-M5 and Panasonic 12-35mm in Cambodia and Vietnam by Richard Nugent

I recently returned from a trip to Cambodia and Vietnam where I had the chance to really give my OMD E-M5 and Panasonic 12-35mm zoom a workout. I have had the camera for less than a year, having down-sized from a Nikon D300 and D5100. However, I had not had the chance to use it extensively until this trip. So it was a learning experience for me that I thought some of your readers might also find worthwhile.

We started at Siem Reap touring the Angkor archaeological sites and then took a cruise down the Mekong River into Vietnam, stopping at villages, marketplaces, schools and temples along the way, ending up in Saigon. The lighting conditions throughout were challenging: very bright sun and deep shade, with many hazy-bright days thrown in. I shot almost everything in aperture priority with automatic white balance and set the ISO myself. I found that I often had to use the exposure compensation dial (which is perfectly located up front), probably mostly because of my inexperience with the camera. Battery life was less than with my Nikons: I had to change out about mid-day, but still easily got by with two batteries each day. I brought three batteries on the trip: one charged overnight and one charged during the day while I was in the field with the other two. . The electric current in both countries is 220 volts, but the outlets in the hotels and on the boat all accepted standard US-style plugs. So I didn’t need an adapter.

I shot hand-held although I brought along a monopod. Moving with a group through the ruins and villages just did not lend itself to using it. Likewise, I stuck with the zoom and didn’t use my prime lenses much because the pace of moving through the ruins with a guide (while trying to get a shot without tourists in it!) made changing lenses problematic. In the villages, I felt very intrusive and shot as quickly as I could. I have to say that I found the Vietnamese and, particularly, the Cambodians incredibly polite, friendly and tolerant of groups of foreigners traipsing through their villages snapping photos of them, their children and their homes. No one was looking for a hand-out, but some (particularly the children) were eager to see their image on my LCD after I took the shot. They are amazing people making a life for themselves under challenging circumstances. By the way, I found that flipping out the LCD and shooting from the waist was very effective in getting to eye level with children and seated adults. It also appeared to be less intimidating for the subjects.

12 to 35mm was a good range for the village and people photos, but a wider lens would have been very useful for capturing the interior of the temples and their exterior extent. I used an Olympus 40-150mm for shots from the boat; it’s a great little lens and quite sharp, even hand-held. In a few instances, I could have used a longer lens.


The 12-35mm yielded some really good images, some of the best I’ve taken (I find I do best with people). There is obvious edge distortion at the wide end (more than I remember with my Tokina 12-24mm) and chromatic aberration is evident in some shots. Overall, I’m very pleased with the color rendition and sharpness of the lens. It is a bit bulky on the OMD, but it gives me a familiar feel and heft reminiscent of my DSRLs.

I processed my RAW files with Lightroom 4, which I am just starting to learn, so I probably fiddled with the sliders more than necessary. I tweaked the shadows and highlights on most images and was able to save a number of badly exposed ones that way. The OMD’s automatic white balance was almost always spot-on, so I rarely had to adjust it. I did have to tinker with the luminescence in some images shot at about ISO 640 and above (in-camera noise reduction and sharpening were set to “off” or “low”). When I get more proficient with LR, I’ll have to go back and see if I can get even more out of the data.

I’ve attached a few of my favorite images. If anyone is interested, they can see a photo chronicle of the trip at http://www.flickr.com/photos/rsnugent/sets/72157632700316808/. The set includes both good shots and just ordinary ones, but they will give the viewer a sense of the experience. I highly recommend the trip, both for the photographic opportunities and the cultural interaction.


Richard Nugent

P.S. Steve, I find your site very useful and informative. It’s one that I check every day!

Image Data: Monks: 1/400, f/4.0, ISO 400. Four Girls: 1/1000, f/4.0, ISO 400. Old Woman: 1/4000, f/5.0, ISO 640. Four Kids: 1/640, f/5.0, ISO 800. Temple: 1/10, f/4.5, ISO 800 (I know you said only three photos, but I couldn’t decide….)

Interior of Bayon Temple at Angkor Thom

Kampong Tralach village, Cambodia

Near Angkor Bahn, Cambodia

Near Kampong Chhnag, Cambodia

Sadec village, Vietnam


Jan 312013

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 – One year on. By Neil Buchan-Grant

Hi Steve,

It was last August when I told your readers how little use my Leica M9 was getting since I bought the Olympus OMD-EM5 in March. I have now had nearly a year with the OMD and I thought I’d fill you in on my progress.

So my M9 has, I’m afraid, had even less use since August. It is currently the most expensive paperweight I’ve ever owned. It is of course a camera capable of stunning results but the rangefinder/manual focus system has lost out to the infinitely more useable but equally compact OMD. I have found its snappy, accurate auto-focus and well-engineered, flip-up screen to be a winning combination for shooting subjects quickly and from fresh viewpoints. In so many situations the OMD has proven to be a more useful and versatile camera.

As fine as the images out of the Leica M9 are, I feel sure the new M will be a considerably more ‘useable’ camera with all the advantages of an articulating electronic viewfinder, (hopefully the new high res Epsom) and a sensor that shoots well in lower light. I can’t help thinking however, that I’ll still be wishing it had a flip-up screen like the OMD, perhaps that will be featured in the M2.0.

Here are some of my favorite shots from my first year with the Olympus OMD EM5.

















Jan 272013


The Olympus 17 1.8 Lens Review by Steve Huff

Another home run for Olympus with their 35mm equivalent lens

Hello again to all! It is time once again for me to sit down and write for a few hours as I tell you all about my experience with the Olympus 17 1.8 Lens for the Micro 4/3 system. Once the news hit about this lens I knew I had to try it as this gives us a 35mm equivalent when shooting our beloved Micro 4/3 cameras and let me tell you…it is a PERFECT everyday mate for  the OM-D E-M5.

I have been shooting with the OM-D and 17 along with the Fuji X-E1 and Sony RX1 and getting out and taking photos, not test charts which reminds me of a time about 4 years ago now when I started this site. When I wrote my very 1st review on the Leica M8 I called it a “Real World” review because at that time there were ZERO websites reviewing cameras in a real world way, meaning, using them for what they were designed for..taking photos. Other sites did massive pixel peeping tests and other tests which never meant squat to anyone who really used the camera for what they were designed for. So when I started writing reviews based on the shooting experience, the feeling and real image quality results I was ridiculed and laughed at by many. But here we are in 2013 and the majority of review sites have gone “real world” which I think is FANTASTIC as it tells more about a camera or lens than any scientific tests do.

As for me, I still do things the way I always have and when I use a new camera, a new lens or a new photographic product I actually use it and if I have an issue with it I say so. If it is amazing I say so. I also show the results to back up what I say and I try my best to let you guys know how it is to use the product. I use it just as you would. I unbox it, charge the battery and get out and shoot.

This new Olympus lens is a beauty and when I say it is a perfect mate on the E-M5, I mean it. If you love the 35mm field of view then you will ADORE this lens on your E-M5. Trust me.

The OM-D E-M5 with the 17 1.8 at f/1.8 – WIDE OPEN – Click image for larger 1800 pixel wide version to see the real deal


Olympus has been the only company that has TRULY been ROCKING IT non stop in the mirrorless world with one solid release after another. The E-M5 is my runner-up for camera of the year 2012 and it is still one hell of a camera that can give you beautiful results and when paired with this new 17 1.8 the AF is just about instant. It focused about twice as fast as the Fuji X-E1 and 35 1.4 (this is fact) and just like my RX1, nailed it every time.

Olympus, IMO, makes the best Micro 4/3 lenses available. The 12 f/2 is beautiful, the 17 1.8 is gorgeous, the 45 1.8 is magical and the 75 1.8 is a masterpiece for mirrorless. I also can not forget the 60 Macro, which is the best Macro lens I have ever shot with. With that setup there is nothing else you would need for most photography and the beauty of it all is that this whole system is very compact while delivering top results.


The Lens Arrives

When the 17 1.8 arrived I took it out of the box and smiled. It is SMALL, light, and at the same time, very well made. It reminds me most of the 12 f/2 with its snap manual focus feature where you pull back the focus ring to automatically turn on manual focus. This is a great feature and I love it with the 12mm.

I have to admit, I have not read even one review of this lens because I wanted it to be new and fresh and I wanted to experience it for myself without influence from others. I have had e-mails asking me if I had issues with the lens as others reported but I can happily say I have had NONE. This lens has been phenomenal on the OM-D E-M5 in my use with it but then again I do not critically pixel peep and look at every pixel of the photo at 100%. I look at the photo and if it is pleasing to my eye and if what was captured was what I envisioned then I am happy. I also love character in a lens and this lens has a beautiful character. Not to critically sharp and not overly smooth. It really does provide very pleasing results and reminds me a bit of the Leica 35 Summarit in the way it renders.

UPDATE October 2013: This lens is even better on the new E-M1 and E-P5!


The lens is Sharp, has super fast AF, gives you beautiful Bokeh and a very nice “MOJO FILLED” character. Wide open and at f/2 the bokeh it produces is lovely and smooth. In that regard it almost reminds me of the “Bokeh King” Leica 35mm Summicron V4 which in reality does not have the smoothest bokeh wide open, but more so stopped down. The Olympus has pretty damn smooth Bokeh though, even when wide open.

Wide open Bokeh – click for larger



Build, feel, speed – this baby is built for it all when used on the E-M5

When you buy a new lens, especially one coming in at $499 like this one you expect it to be solid, perform well and focus fast and accurately. Well have no worries here because this lens is pretty slick and feels much like the 12mm f/2, focuses lightening fast and is accurate 99% of the time. I only use the center focus point on the E-M5 and it never seems to fail me.

The feel is nice. It is small, and the manual focus ring is smooth. Again, if you have tried out the 12mm f/2 then this is the same. For me, the $499 price is about right for a lens of this quality.

The next two these shots were taken WIDE OPEN at f/1.8 – click for larger views



Is the Olympus E-M5 still a wise choice in 2013? What about the Fuji X-E1?

I get this question quite often. I see so many people who are buying a new camera and they are stuck between the E-M5, Fuji X-E1 and a NEX-6 or 7. Well, those are all good choices and any will give you nice results but I look at the lenses as the future of any system and I also look at “usability” as that is also very important. Look at Leica, they are known worldwide for  their amazing glass and it is those lenses  that make the magic with their cameras which happen to be the king of amazing “usability”.

To me, Micro 4/3 has some of the best glass in the whole mirrorless world, and the E-M5 is slick as hell in the usability dept. Sony is also kicking some serious tail but they are lacking with good glass for the NEX system and to date they really only have ONE super fantastic offering for the NEX system, the Zeiss 24 1.8. The others are good but not “special”. The premium Olympus primes are all pretty special IMO.



Fuji X has a couple of good lenses and their 35 1.4 can be spectacular, in good light and when it focuses correctly. I took the X-E1 with the 35 1.4 to the same event and again the Fuji left me frustrated and I missed so many shots due to the AF missing the focus point. When the Fuji is indoor in lower light or funky light the results are not usually very pleasing as the AF is slow and the AWB is not up there with the best. It throws out funky color casts if you are in some indoor low lighting. I am hoping and have faith that the X100s delivers on speed and accuracy (and I think it will) and improved AWB. I feel the X bodies are more like beta models being tested by those who buy them. No offense to whoever owns them and loves them, and MANY of you do, it is just not working for me as they are much to quirky and for my tastes, there are better options out there right now in my opinion.

I can say the X-E1 and 35 1.4 taken out in good light or sunlight or studio light will reward you with a super nice image that draws you in to it with nice depth and colors. But side by side indoors low light other cameras do much better. I know, I shot them all.

So for me, I would take the E-M5 and 17 1.8 or 25 1.4 over the X-E1 and 35 1.4. I just do not get along with the Fuji X bodies. The images I get from the E-M5 are more to my liking, and the best part is, I do not miss shots due to slow or dodgy AF. I would also choose it over a NEX right now just due to the masterpiece lenses available for the Micro 4/3 system. The 12mm, the 45 1.8, the 75 1.8 and the 25 1.4 from Panasonic.

Again, I just write what I feel from MY experience and I am always 100% honest about my experiences. The OM-D E-M5 can give you back very rich and glassy images :)



The BIG question: This lens or the Panasonic 20 1.7/25 1.4?

Anyone who has shot Micro 4/3 is very aware of the superb 20 1.7 lens from Panasonic, which I have always loved. It has always been the go to lens for many M4/3 shooters and for good reason. It is priced well and delivered the IQ every time. It was the 1st fast prime lens for M4/3 and was a HUGE seller back a few years ago. Today we have so many more choices and even the newer Panasonic 25 1.4 which I LOVE. But if you do not own either of these and you are looking for a fast lens for your E-M5 I would not hesitate to recommend the 17 1.8 or 25 1.4 (if you want a 50mm equivalent). For me, it is the perfect fit for the E-M5. The build, feel, manual focus and AF speed beat out the other two. AF speed especially. The two Panasonic’s will not AF as fast as this Olympus if shot on an OM-D.

As for IQ..the Panasonic 20 1.7 will give you a cooler color cast and the Olympus a warmer one. The Olympus is a little more “organic” in its rendering (this is good) and the Panasonic a little teeny bit “flatter”. Both are pin sharp and my version of the Olympus is VERY sharp just like the other Olympus premium offerings but the Panasonic 20 may be a tad sharper if clinical is more to your liking. The 25 1.4 is superb and the best of the lot in IQ but is larger and slower in operation and is a 50mm equivalent not a 35.

The 17 1.8 lens is very good when it comes to CA. As for vignetting, when wide open it is mild but not an issue to me. If I am shooting a landscape I would stop it down. By f/2 you do not really see any vignetting (see the shot below of the statue which was shot at f/2)

The 17 1.8 is $499 at Amazon or B&H Photo. The 20 1.7 is $349 at Amazon and the Panasonic 25 1.4 is  at $499.

For a 35mm equivalent my money would go to the Olympus 17 1.8 as I just adore all of these Olympus premium offerings and on the OM-D they work extremely well. With that said, the 20 1.7 and 25 1.4 are also super and you can not go wrong with any of them. It all comes down to what works FOR YOU. Hell, I even like the old 17 2.8 from Olympus even though it’s somewhat “soft”. I feel it has a pleasing rendering.


A quick generic JPEG DOF comparison – Olympus vs Sony RX1

Just a quick JPEG comparison to show the difference between the OM-D with 17 1.8 at f/2 vs the RX1 at f/2 – both 35mm FOV but there will be a difference in DOF. You must click the images to see the larger and better versions of each. The Sony has a full frame sensor, the Olympus a Micro 4/3 sensor which is smaller than full frame or APS-C.

1st shot is with the E-M5 and 17 1.8 at  f/2. Very sharp but pleasing.


The same shot taken with my main shooter, the full frame Sony RX1. The little Olympus has DOF differences but not bad at all! 


While I prefer the RX1 version of this image the OM-D did not do too bad in comparison. I also shot this with the X-E1 using the manual focus SLR Magic 35 1.4 but it was not in focus due to my focusing error (or is it the lens)?

Olympus OM-D – f/2 – iso 320 – JPEG




While this lens is not as razor-sharp when wide open as the 75 1.8 or even the Panasonic 20 1.7, it is still sharp. You can click the image below for a full size from RAW image. Focus was on the statue.


and one more snapshot at 1.8



What I do not like about the 17 1.8 lens

I sat here and thought about it and at the end of the day this lens gave me no issues, was plenty sharp enough, was very good for portraits or available light scenes and was a very well made and performing lens. I am aware some think that this lens is not as good as the other Olympus offerings but in my experience, it absolutely is. It may not be a perfect as the 75 1.8 but it is damn good, and would be my pick for this focal length on the OM-D E-M5. But there is one thing I wish Olympus would do, and that is to include a lens hood in the box. Instead it is a $80 accessory and this is kind of ridiculous (as is the Sony $180 lens hood for  the RX1).

That is really my only complaint about the 17 1.8 lens. That and it should be weather sealed since the E-M5 is.




My final conclusion on the Olympus 17 1.8 Lens

This one is easy. This lens has the build, the speed, the feel, the looks, the design and the performance in IQ that makes it a no brainer for your Olympus Micro 4/3 camera (especially the E-M5). If you shoot a Panasonic camera I can not say how the lens does as I did not test it on a Panasonic body but on the E-M5 it rocks just as much as their other premium lenses.

You will get less “pop” when compared to an APS-C or full frame sensor when it comes to shallow DOF but there is plenty of shallow DOF to be had with this guy. I can not imagine anyone being disappointed with the lens. Some may crave more shallow DOF because with this lens you are getting the Depth of Field of a 17mm lens, as that is what it is. The wider angle the lens the more DOF you will get (less shallow) so you are not going to get the blurred backgrounds of a true 35 f.2 lens like one would get on the Sony RX1. Even so, for Micro 4/3 this lens is pretty damn sweet. I love it.

It may not be critically sharp corner to corner but it doesn’t need to be as it is sharp enough for any photo you may need to take and it has the character that will please you when you actually use it for photo taking :)

Another bravo to Olympus. Just makes me wonder what is to come next from them.

You can buy this lens at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo.






UPDATE: OK, so I read a review or two after I finished writing my own and came across one that sort of trashed the lens but then again, it was from a site that is more scientific and technical, which really does not tell you much about using it for real photos in the correct way. If I did not own the RX1 I would buy this lens in a nanosecond for the E-M5 and that is a fact but the RX1 is taking care of my 35mm needs just fine :)

Again, compared to the 20 1.7 this lens is faster to AF, has better build, warmer color compared to cool color and has features such as the pull back MF implementation and all of the correction on the Olympus bodies. For $150 more than the Panasonic you get this plus a little more “mojo”. If it is just sharpness you are after get the Panasonic as it is a little sharper of a lens.



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Nov 072012

How to tweak your Olympus OM-D E-M5 to shoot sports by Jim Huffman

Dear Steve,

I thought I’d tell you in the first sentence, that i am recommending the E-M5 for sports photography, and providing you a couple of customizations that will help you do so.

I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years now, and LOVE it, because of your non technical approach to reviewing and recommending gear. I am technical (electrical engineer / law -am a patent attorney), but technical reviews of photography equipment don’t tell me much – they cover the basics, but rarely inspire me to buy equipment. What does inspire me is when I see someone enthusiastic about taking pictures, and loving the device that lets them do so.

Sorry for being long-winded, but a little background is necessary for this email. I’ve been shooting for 39 years, since my first camera (minolta SRT 101), soon moved to Nikon – and shot Nikon until last week (D3, with an array of lenses). I also shot Leica. Of the 100k photos in my aperture library – the only ones printed and on the walls around the house came from Leica glass….

At your enthusiasm over m43 cameras, I have purchased several, both Panasonic and Olympus. most recently, the E-M5. (and 12, 25, 45, 75, 12-35, 35-100). It has virtually replaced the leica as my travel camera, particularly fond of the 12 (and can’t wait for the 17!!!). But…. I just felt like it could never do justice to shooting sports, much less indoor sports – both because of focusing delay, high iso needs, the live view lcd blanking out in the eyepiece while writing a burst to the memory card, etc…)

On the other hand – I LOVE the size of the Oly, and…. Nikon just won’t update their primes! I paid over $2k for the 85mm f1.4 – in Tokyo, to shoot my daughters volleyball – in the darkest gym in Colorado. what I have wanted is a 135 1.4 or worst case f2. the 85 is a great lens, but a big piece of glass, and even the latest model is not a fast focuser.

So, on saturday, i left the BIG RIG at home, and walked into the gym with my oly setup. Of course, the local press was their with their canon and Nikon gear. I saw them looking at me like – who is the amateur (I’ve shot for AP in my youth – political events, concerts, etc.) with the little toy camera? Well, with the 75 and 25 as my main tools (b/c of both focal length, and wide aperture), i put the camera in 9fps mode, 6400iso, and blasted away. I came home, loaded the pics, and put my entire Nikon rig up for sale on eBay.

Conclusion? is the E-M5 as good at high iso as the D3? not quite – but close enough. Can it focus fast? actually, with the 25, 45 and 75, it was faster than the nikon – and my hit ratio went up! Is it a replacement for a pro staff sports photographer? of course not. But for a dad photographing his kids teams? unbelievable! for years, parents have walked into our gym with their D40, Rebel, etc. and kit lens, and asked me to change the settings on their camera so they could take action pics of their kids. I frown, shake my head, and say, impossible. Those cameras can’t shoot high iso, and the aperture is so dim, that the best they can hope for in shutter is about 1/8/sec… Then they ask about the cost of my D3 with lens… More than most people’s cars! No more! Get an E-M5 with a 25mm Panasonic (or 45 oly), and they will get better results than anything else in the price range! And for me? one system to use rather than 2. and for travel with sports? I don’t have to lug around my 30lb nikon bag!!!

I am attaching a few pics at 6400 iso, shot in jpeg without any WB fix. thought you might like to see.

Keep up the good work, and know I’m out here reading you every day!


NOTE: The below is a geek tweak to the oly that you can skip, or read if really interested

WRT sports – the E-M5 is a battery drain. i have the pistol grip with 2nd battery – but even the combination can’t shoot an all day tournament. the camera dies after 600+ shots… Plus…. the back lcd screen always comes on unless the camera is at your eye. if you want to use the eyepiece, there is a short latency between putting it to your eye and switching. the latency is not great for sports. plus, when you take the camera away from your eye, the back panel lights for a while, creating battery drain. And, the toggle between the two screens drains the battery. I thought – I’ll call Olympus and see if there is any way to:

1. Turn of the back lcd entirely. This would save on battery life AND eliminate the delay in switching.

2. still allow for back panel adjustment settings, if desired.

Well, 2 days later the Oly support guy called back. Viola! no direct way, but you can accomplish the same thing. Let me know if you want the settings, but essentially, you go to the K gear in options, and then into touch screen settings, and turn them off. then go to D gear, control settings, P/A/S/M, and turn off all live control settings. Then turn ON live scp (super control panel). OK, almost done. Hit the button on the ‘prism’ to the right of the eyepiece, and bring up the super control panel. use the OK button to activate any setting you want to change. When done, hit the info button. The screen goes black!

Now? the camera is essentially an SLR. no rear view at all, UNLESS you hit that button next to the right eyepiece. it becomes the toggle between live view (like before) and a black back screen! I just significantly increased my battery life! if you want to go to settings, just hit the info button. the info button becomes the settings toggle.

I am in heaven with my new longer life sports camera, without the rear lcd getting in the way.

one more geek tweak?

The magnify focus is turned on, and great with the 75mm, but also annoying. when you are moving the focus ring, it magnifies. great. but the SECOND you stop moving the focus ring, magnify turns off. well, my eyes are too slow. My question was, how do I get the magnify to stay on longer.

Answer: go into custom buttons – and assign magnify to any function button (or the record button). now, to enter magnify, hit the control button twice. magnify stays on until you half press the shutter release! and, you will note that the magnify is 10x. rotate the rear control dial and you can change the magnification! You have to do the double punch to activate magnify any time you turn the camera on. after that, one push activates it.

Three cheers to the US Oly support staff for giving me these tidbits of customization! i haven’t seen them anywhere on the web, so thought you might not know about them…

Jim Huffman

UPDATE 11/12/12


Thanks again for posting my email to you – i didn’t expect that – just thought you’d like to see what the oly could do. two things:

1. The girls had an amazing come from behind to win the Colorado State Championship saturday night. Whoop!

2. And the oly? wow! after turning OFF the rear LCD, and making the EVF auto, I got >1200 shots per battery! the spec says 340ish. Some guy commented that the EVF is a bigger battery drain than the rear lcd. Well, that may be true if always on, but the EVF turns off almost immediately when your eye is not next to it, and the lcd won’t. I’d say a 4X improvement in battery life is incredible!

Thanks again for the post!

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