Jul 202015
 

New Panasonic GX8 is coming! Pre-Orders Up!

Pre-Order the GX8 at B&H Photo or Amazon HERE!

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The new Panasonic GX8, which appears to have taken some ideas from the Olympus E-M5 Mark II (swivel screen being one of them) and some unique and one of a kind features from Panasonic (swivel up EVF) and turned it into what appears to be the best Panasonic Mirrorless to date for those who love the GX style as opposed to the GH style of body. 4K video, tillable EVF, swivel out LCD, and more are all packed inside this new GX8. The previous GX7 was a fantastic little camera, and I reviewed it HERE.

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I have the Olympus E-M5 II Titanium Edition here and think it is a stunner. Would I like the GX8 better? No idea as I have not touched one yet but I hope to soon but would be tough for me to part with the amazing 5 Axis IS in the Olympus as I use it mainly for video, and it’s amazing. Just as with the Olympus, the GX8 allows you to swivel out the LCD to the left and close it up to where we do not even see the LCD, which I like and shoot often with the E-M5 II.

I like the dial based AF selection here as well as the simplistic layout. Could be a great street or every day camera. At $1200 for the body only, it is a bit steep but I shall soon see if it is worth the cost. Keep an eye out for a review SOON!

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The GX8 Specs (from B&H Photo HERE)

Pairing 4K recording and an updated Micro Four Thirds sensor, the black Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 is a sleek, compact mirrorless camera enabling versatile, multimedia recording. Utilizing a high resolution 20.3 MP Digital Live MOS sensor, along with a Venus Engine image processor, the GX8 is able to record 4K UHD movies at 30 or 24 fps; record full-resolution stills at 10 fps with AF-S or 8 MP stills at 30 fps; and work in difficult lighting situations with a top sensitivity of ISO 25600. Complementing the imaging capabilities is a unique Dual I.S. system that offers the use of both in-camera and in-lens image stabilization systems to effectively minimize the appearance of camera shake. The body design is also characterized by a durable, magnesium alloy construction that incorporates a tilting 2.36m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder and a free angle 3.0″ 1.04m-dot rear OLED touchscreen to suit working from a variety of angles. Offering an enhanced set of imaging features with a comfortable form factor, the GX8 is an everyday camera designed with advanced multimedia capture in mind.

Among other features, the GX8 also features built-in Wi-Fi with NFC to enable seamless wireless image transfer and remote camera control from linked smartphones or tablets. Benefitting both stills and movies, Panasonic’s DFD (Depth-From-Defocus) AF system helps to quicken focusing speeds while a Starlight AF feature maintains focusing accuracy in low-light down to -4 EV and manual focus is accented by focus peaking and Touch AF controls.

20.3 MP Digital Live MOS Sensor and Venus Engine
An updated 20.3 MP Digital Live MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor pairs with the Venus Engine image processor to deliver fast overall performance, a wider dynamic range, with notable image quality to suit working in a wide variety of conditions. Sensitivity ranges from ISO 200 to 25600, with the ability to extend down to ISO 100 for working in bright conditions or with longer shutter speeds. Versatile burst shooting modes also allow you to pair high continuous shooting rates with single-shot or continuous autofocus. Using the mechanical focal plane shutter, you can shoot up to 8 fps with AF-S, 6 fps with AF-C, and 5.5 fps during live view with AF-S. For even faster performance, up to 10 fps shooting is possible with the electronic shutter function or 30 fps at 8 MP using the 4K Photo Modes.
4K UHD Video Recording
In addition to the versatile still shooting modes, the GX8 also supports recording 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) video with either 30p or 24p frames rates at 100 Mbps in the MP4 format. Full HD 1080p/60 is also supported, in both MP4 and AVCHD formats, as well as HD and SD resolutions.

A built-in stereo microphone can be used during recordings, and features an integrated wind-cut filter, or an optional external microphone can be utilized via the 2.5mm jack for even clearer sound.

4K Photo Modes
Utilizing the 4K video recording capabilities, a trio of still shooting modes are available for recording continuous 8 MP stills at a 30 fps shooting rate:

4K Burst: Just as with video recording, this mode will allow you to continuously record 8 MP images at 30 fps for up to 29 min. 59 sec., making it ideal for instances where you need a fast frame rate in order to capture the best moment.

4K Pre-Burst: This mode is ideal for times when you’re unsure of the critical moment to press the shutter button and will record 8 MP images at 30 fps one second prior to and one second after pressing the shutter button in order to give you 60 frames to choose from.

4K Burst (S/S): This mode most closely follows the 4K video recording process, and allows you to playback your video, pause at the chosen moment, and use the shutter button to mark a chosen frame from the video and save it as a single 8 MP frame.

Dual Image Stabilization

Helping to achieve the utmost sharpness when photographing handheld, Dual I.S. combines the GX8’s sensor-shift image stabilization technology with lens-based image stabilization to compensate for a broader range of movement types to render sharper, clearer imagery. Dual I.S. requires the use of compatible Lumix lenses featuring O.I.S.
Body Design and Built-In Wi-Fi

A large OLED Live View Finder features a unique tilting design to benefit working from low angles and also has an impressive 2.36m-dot resolution, 0.77x magnification, and 10,000:1 contrast ratio.
A larger means for image composition and playback, the 3.0″ 1.04m-dot rear OLED monitor has a free angle, tilt and swivel design to support viewing from a variety of angles. It is also a touchscreen, which permits intuitive menu navigation and settings control.

Constructed from magnesium alloy with die-cast front and rear frames, the GX8 features a durable design that also incorporates extensive sealing at each joint, dial, and button to render it both splash- and dust-proof.

The sleek flat-body profile incorporates both front and rear dials for intuitive control over aperture and shutter speed settings. Eight assignable function buttons are also available, as well as a dedicated exposure compensation dial.

Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC allows for wireless image sharing and remote camera control from linked smartphones and tablets.

Depth-From-Defocus and Starlight AF Technologies

For accelerated autofocus performance, DFD (Depth-From-Defocus) technology is employed to quickly calculate the distance to subjects and adjust the focusing position in as little as 0.07 seconds, which enables continuous shooting up to 6 fps with continuous AF. This contrast-detection type focus method benefits both still and video recording modes, as well as subject tracking applications where subject color, size, and motion vectors are used to intelligently lock-onto the moving subjects and ensure precise focus. Additionally, supporting working in low-light conditions, a Starlight AF feature enables accurate AF performance down to -4 EV.

Benefitting manual focus operation, focus peaking is available that highlights bright edges of contrast with a colored outline for quickly recognizing your focus point, as well as Touch MF Assist for touch-to-focus operation.

Other Camera Features

A mechanical focal plane shutter enables a fast maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 sec., as well as a top flash sync speed of 1/250 sec. An electronic shutter function also avails a top shutter speed of 1/16,000 sec. to better enable working in bright conditions and with wider aperture settings.
More than 100 consecutive full-resolution JPG files can be captured in a burst, or approximately 30 consecutive raw files in a single burst.
Raw image files can be processed in-camera for a more streamlined post-production workflow.
Depending on the lens in use, the included DMW-BLC12 battery provides approximately 330 shots per charge when using the rear monitor, or 310 with the electronic viewfinder.
Photo Style modes: Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait, Custom, Cinelike D, and Cinelike V.
Creative Control modes: Expressive, Retro, Old Days, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Monochrome, Dynamic Monochrome, Rough Monochrome, Silky Monochrome, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, Cross Process, Toy Effect, Toy Pop, Bleach Bypass, Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Fantasy, Star Filter, One Point Color, and Sunshine.

Jul 172015
 
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VIDEO: The Olympus E-M5II, 8mm Fisheye Pro and Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95!

By Steve Huff

Hey guys! It’s FRIDAY! That means the weekend is here, and what a better way to spend it than with a new camera, and two new lenses for me to test out. WooHoo!

No, I never ever tire of getting these new jewels in the mail. In the case of the 8mm fisheye, I rented it as Olympus has a wait list for reviewers so I wanted to check to out NOW, so I went to lens rentals.com (site sponsor) and rented it for a week. The Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95 was sent to me for review by Stephen Gandy at CameraQuest.com, who happens to be the USA distributor for Voigtlander, so his site is the place to go for new Voigtlander lenses.

With that out of the way, the new Titanium E-M5II is stunning in appearance. Very Classy. Best color option IMO. To those wondering, “is it really titanium”? NO, it’s titanium in color, not material ;) Even so, it is beautiful and gives the camera and extra bit of pizazz and as I said, class. No cheap looking paint jobs here, in fact, this should be a standard color for all future Olympus bodies. Reminds me somewhat of the old “Steel Grey” of the Leica M9 days. You can order it at B&H Photo HERE, it is IN STOCK NOW!

My video on the E-M5II Titanium, the 8Mm Fisheye Pro and Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95

After owning and using the crap out of the E-M1, I am finding the E-M5II to give me things I never realized I missed. The swivel out LCD, I use it ALL the time. The new 5 Axis is amazing, especially for video. Eliminates the need for big stabilization rigs. Really. The small size and gorgeous lenses. Even though this is not a full frame camera, and I have been shooting my full frame Sony A LOT, I still adore the Olympus and use it often for personal shooting. The size, speed, response and lenses all put it up in my “top two” status these days.

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With the limited edition Titanium set, of which there are 7000 made, we get a leather wallet with limited edition numbered card telling us what number we have, we get a custom made leather strap that matches the camera and we get the limited edition color, Titanium. This camera comes in at $300 more over the black or silver versions, and all we are getting are those three things. For me, it is worth it just to have this color. The strap and wallet are nice, but the color is what I love about it and when I was in a meeting with Olympus month ago they told me about this edition, and I said :I WANT ONE”. I knew it then and when I saw B&H Photo had them IN STOCK I ordered my own to replace my E-M1, of which I have been shooting since it was launched.

If you missed my big E-M5 II review you can see it HERE. This is the same camera, just with a new paint job so it will not be reviewed, just showing it here in the video so all of you can see what it looks like.

I will have full reviews of the 10.5 f/0.95 and 8mm Pro Fisheye SOON. But for now, here is a blurb and image or two or three from each:

The Olympus Pro Fisheye 8mm:

I have always loved fisheye lenses. In the past you may have seen my write ups on the Panasonic 8mm Fisheye for Micro 4/3. Believe it or not, that was one of my fave lenses for the system. I love ultra wide fisheyes as I can do so much with it. Unique images, cool video, and they are just fun. At $550 the Panasonic was pricey, especially with options from Rokinon and the like at a fraction of the cost. With the new Olympus they have taken it a step further and produced the worlds 1st f/1.8 8mm fisheye. Usually these lenses are f/3.5-f/4. This Olympus is f/1.8!

I find this to be amazing as while we do not need a fast aperture with a fisheye, IT HELPS for low light, especially with Micro 4/3 who lacks at high ISO compared to full frame offerings many of us are used to.

This lens focuses to 1″, yes ONE INCH, and when you do this you can actually get some BOKEH, crazy but true. With it’s pro build, weather sealing, fast aperture and auto focus it is the premier Fisheye lens for ANY system, and it beats my old Panasonic in sharpness, color and pop. So far so good.

You can buy the 8MM fisheye NOW as B&H Has them in stock. $999 is not cheap, but IMO its the best fisheye in the world. 

click them for larger and sharper versions ;) 

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The Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95

Another lens that just hit the streets is the Voigtlander 10.5mm f/0.95 for Micro 4/3. This lens goes with the line of f/0.95 lenses that Voigtlander developed for Micro 4/3. ALL of them are beasts. Heavy, large and FAST aperture. All are manual focus only. This lens is something. It is built to a high standard, and if you have tried the other lenses in this line, the 17.5, 25 and 42.5 then you know what I am talking about.

With this lens on the E-M5 II (see it in the video above) you have a pretty cool setup allowing you a 21mm equivalent focal length while giving you close focus performance. While not crazy sharp wide open, it does produce  the same flavor and character as the others in the line.  It’s a gorgeous lens, and so far the only negative I have found is the purple fringing that is prevalent on all of these lenses when shot at 0.95 (to be fair, fast Leica glass does the same).

Look for my full review soon, but for now, you can buy this lens at CameraQuest.com HERE. He has a few left. Limited quantities. I’s a gorgeous lens. Kind of like shooting the Voigtlander 21 1.8 on a full frame M.

Click images for larger, sharper and better versions!

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Jul 062015
 

From full frame to Micro 4/3

By Joshua Young

Hi Steve!

After spending a few years taking pictures with a full frame, it is a strange new world finding myself in the Micro 4/3 camp. I bought the A7R the first day it was available, wow what a camera. At the time my wife and I just had a baby, and I loved watching him grow, capturing timeless moments with that amazing 36mp sensor. Every milestone he hit, I was there with my FE 55 1.8, and every place we went, the 35 2.8 was right there with me. We took him to a few countries, and got some amazing captures in front of some of the most beautiful landscapes.

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Sony  A7R in Bruges

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I am not a professional by any means, I just have a love for photography. As we vacation, I try to plan itineraries that will get me close to beautiful photo spots, and try to make the most of it with as little time as possible. Whatever camera I choose to carry has to have the best of all world: 1. Good for travel photography, and 2. Good for family photos.  As my son got older, he started to move faster and faster. I found the A7R AF could no longer keep up with the bottle of pure energy that is a toddler. Time and time again I found myself missing moments due to AF issues (toddlers never repeat what they were doing when asked). To try to improve AF speed, I ended up buying the A7II last February. As nice as a camera as it was, it did not feel right in my hands. It had amazing IQ, but I never enjoyed shooting with it. In May we took a trip to Miami/Disney, and I found myself leaving it in the hotel.

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Then came the Olympus E-M1. This camera single-handedly restored my love for travel photography. Simply put, this camera is FUN to use. With blazing fast AF, high quality lenses, and loads of features, I fell in love right away. Yes there was a tradeoff in noise, and DR, however IQ is not less than that of the A7II, I would use the word “different”. I have found there are pros and cons to both systems, it all comes down to the look you are happy with. I am learning more and more about the m43 sensor, and I like what I see.

Olympus E-M1 in Chicago

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See more of my work at https://www.flickr.com/photos/111565956@N05/

Josh

Jun 182015
 

Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95 Micro 4/3 lens is now shipping!

The new Voigtlander 10.5MM Micro 4/3 Lens is now in stock in VERY limited quantities at Cameraquest. So limited, I could not get one for review just yet! But Stephen Gandy is now shipping, and his shop is superb. This will be like having an uber fast 21mm for your Micro 4/3 camera. It is up there with the 17 0.95, 25 0.95, and 42.5 0.95. In other words, it will be pretty special, they all are.

You can order the lens HERE at CameraQuest. Free next day USA ship, and free B+W filter!

Close focus .17m, weight 586 grams, clicked or clickless aperture, 72mm filter size. Equivalent field of view of a 21mm lens on full frame 35m. Detachable Lens Hood. Length 82.4mm, maximum diameter 77mm.

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May 182015
 

NEWS OF THE DAY, Part 1: New Panasonic G7 Announced!

Happy Monday to all! I love Mondays, and yes, I am aware that most people HATE Mondays! But me? No, I love them. I rest up all weekend and then I am ready to rock and roll by Monday. I get anxious, I get energized and I tell myself every day just how lucky I am to do what I love each and every day. Over 7 years now I have been running this blog/website and each year that goes on I become more and more proud of what this site has accomplished. Over 12 million views per year, hundreds of thousands of comments, thousands of articles, reviews and posts…all housed here forever. So thank YOU all for coming here, making this one of your daily or weekly stops. I know there are thousands of web sites out there, and I know I do not post every little bit of news like many do but I just like to post on things that I think are AWESOME and that I feel my readers would really enjoy.

In any case, this week we have some new releases from Fuji and Panasonic that look interesting, more on the new Fuji later today.

Panasonic seems to be taking aim at Olympus as their new Silver G7 looks very “Olympus Like” in design and style. For those who love Panasonic Mirrorless cameras, the G7 looks like it will be the best G yet but then again, I feel the Olympus offerings give more bang for the buck, especially the new E-M5II, as that is one gorgeous and capable little camera. Even so, many prefer Panasonic as there are differences in color, rendering, and usability. The cool thing is that Micro 4/3 is so mature these days there are a myriad of AMAZING lenses available for your Micro 4/3 camera bodies.

THE NEW G7 – Looks sweet huh? Looks sort of E-M1-ish. You can pre-order it at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE

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G7 Specs:

16 MP Live MOS Sensor and Venus Engine 9

A 16 MP Live MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor pairs with an updated Venus Engine 9 to deliver fast overall performance with matched image quality to suit working in a wide variety of lighting conditions with consistent results. Sensitivity ranges from ISO 200 to 25600, with the ability to extend down to ISO 100 for working in bright conditions or with longer shutter speeds. Versatile burst shooting modes also allow you to pair high continuous shooting rates with AF; including shooting up to 8 fps with AF-S, 6 fps with AF-C in one area, and 6 fps during live view. For even faster performance, up to 40 fps shooting is possible with the electronic shutter function or 30 fps at 8 MP using the 4K Photo Modes.

The sensor and processor combination also helps to ensure notable image quality through the use of accurate white balance settings, Live TTL direct exposure metering, and intelligent NR (Noise Reduction) control for clean, natural imagery. Additionally, the Venus Engine 9 aids in reducing image blur caused by diffraction using electronic adjustment to automatically sharpen edges for clearer results when photographing with smaller aperture sizes.

4K UHD Video Recording

In addition to the versatile still shooting modes, the G7 also supports recording 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) video with either 30p or 24p frames rates at 100Mbps in the MP4 format. Full HD 1080p/60 is also supported, in both MP4 and AVCHD formats, as well as HD and SD resolutions.

A built-in stereo microphone can be used during recordings, and features an integrated wind-cut filter, or an optional external microphone can be utilized via the 3.5mm jack for even clearer sound.

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4K Photo Modes

Utilizing the 4K video recording capabilities, a trio of still shooting modes are available for recording continuous 8 MP stills at a 30 fps shooting rate:
4K Burst: Just as with video recording, this mode will allow you to continuously record 8 MP images at 30 fps for up to 29 min. 59 sec., making it ideal for instances where you need a fast frame rate in order to capture the best moment.

4K Pre-Burst: This mode is ideal for times when you’re unsure of the critical moment to press the shutter button and will record 8 MP images at 30 fps one second prior to and one second after pressing the shutter button in order to give you 60 frames to choose from.

4K Burst (S/S): This mode most closely follows the 4K video recording process, and allows you to playback your video, pause at the chosen moment, and use the shutter button to mark a chosen frame from the video and save it as a single 8 MP frame.

When using any of the 4K Photo modes, you are afforded complete exposure control using the PSAM dial in order to base metering results and exposure configurations on your own shooting needs.

Depth-From-Defocus AF Technology

For accelerated autofocus performance, which performs in low-light conditions down to -4 EV, DFD (Depth-From-Defocus) technology is employed to quickly calculate the distance to subjects and adjust the focusing position in as little as 0.07 seconds. This contrast-detection type focus method benefits both still and video recording modes, as well as subject tracking applications where subject color, size, and motion vectors are used to intelligently lock-onto the moving subjects and ensure precise focus.

Benefitting manual focus operation, focus peaking is available that highlights bright edges of contrast with a colored outline for quickly recognizing your focus point, as well as depth of field distances.

Body Design and Wi-Fi

Featuring a sleek design that is characteristic to Micro Four Thirds cameras, the G7 pairs retro aspects with modern functionality for intuitive use and classic appeal. Front and rear dials avail direct aperture and shutter speed control, as well as quick changing of ISO and white balance settings. Six function buttons can be assigned to control a range of custom features and the main drive wheel offers fast switching between shooting modes, including the 4K Photo modes.

For greater versatility when shooting, both a high-resolution electronic viewfinder and rear LCD monitor are available. The 2.36m-dot OLED Live View Finder features a 10,000:1 contrast ratio for bright, accurate viewing of scenes, even in difficult lighting. The 3.0″ 1.04m-dot LCD features a static touchscreen design for intuitive navigation and control, as well as a vari-angle design for easier working from high and low angles.

Rounding out the handling capabilities, the G7 also features built-in Wi-Fi connectivity for wirelessly sharing images and remotely controlling the camera from a linked mobile device using the Panasonic Image App. Connection is simplified using a QR code system to pair the smartphone or tablet with the camera.

Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. Lens

A versatile standard zoom, the Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. is a 28-84mm equivalent wide-to-short tele featuring an Optical Image Stabilizer to minimize the appearance of camera shake for sharper handheld shooting. Two aspherical elements are incorporated within the lens design to reduce the overall size and weight as well as benefit image sharpness and clarity. Complementing the optical design is an internal focusing system that pairs with the camera’s contrast-detection AF for quick, accurate focusing performance.

The G7 with 14-42 Kit lens is coming it at under $800, so price wise it seems spot on. No 5 Axis, No Live time, but appears to be a solid Micro 4/3 offering and as always with Panasonic, I am sure the video will be spectacular. 

You can also pick up the G7 with the 14-140 Lens at $1097 is you prefer the better “kit” lens. 

 

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!

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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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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

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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Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

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AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

Feb 112015
 

Having fun with incandescent light bulbs

By Dirk Dom

Hi!

Because they’re phasing out incandescent light bulbs, I thought I’d better get a few to show to eventual grandchildren.

Over a few months I obtained 14 1,000 W light bulbs, and now I’ve made a piece in which eight bulbs are connected in series.

Olympus PEN EP-5, macro lens.

Enjoy!

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Feb 092015
 

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Year of the Cat with Micro 4/3

by Pierre Arden

Yeah, I know what you want to say: “Cat pictures are boring. They are for amateurs with mobile phones. A cat pictures can never be considered as art.”

Is this really true? Cats are probably the most photographed creatures on earth and there must be a reason for that. Yes, they are cute. But as an owner of two cats I can tell they are so much more and it’s up to you to show that through the lens.

Disclaimer: Yes, I like dogs, too – I even make pictures of them, but cats are more mysterious and I am attracted to them a little more. Sorry dog lovers / cat haters ;).

So given the millions of cat pictures out there, how can one try to create some unique and inspirational cat photos? Well, I always try to “read” the cat and make pictures according to the character. It’s much easer if you have a bond of course or at least some street cat has an affection to you so being good with cats is a big plus (and a good way to have a chance to get near them).

Indoor cats

But let’s start with my own cats: Of course I know them very well so I try to show some different sides of them which make them unique to me. McLovin (I know, the name…) is an impressive British Shorthair tom who can look like a boss but on the other hand also be very cute and persuasive when it comes to his favorite food. So most of the time he is lying around, making the room look nicer. So I use a longer focal length like my 45mm (90mm equivalent) on the Olympus PEN E-P5 or the OM-D EM-1. That lens is not to long for indoor shots if you don’t want much of the surrounding on the picture. I also used the Sony NEX 5r with the 50mm prime lens (75mm equivalent) in the past.

Since these cats trust me it’s easy to get near and make pictures so it’s always fun to use a fisheye lens with a short minimum focus distance for some nice close-up shots.

Wanda, my second cat, is more active than McLovin is – she is a Savannah so there are some wild cat genes left in her. Due to that I make pictures of her on the balcony or while playing fetch with me. I have a good view on the Frankfurt skyline so it’s possible include some nice background in the shots. She is very curious so there are lots of nice opportunities to make interesting pictures of her.

Before I talk about outdoor cats in the next part let’s see some pictures on Wanda and McLovin:

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Street cats

It’s more difficult to capture pictures of street cats. It’s often not possible to get near if they are shy and since you don’t know them and probably can’t spend much time with them you have no chance to get very deep into their character. I often use a longer lens like the brilliant M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 (150mm equivalent) on the Olympus E-M1 for some nice portraits. In this case I try to be on eye level with the cats to make them look more impressive, a tiltable screen on the camera helps a lot in this case. If you are lucky, you have nice surroundings you can include in the pictures, in this case I use a wider angle like the M.Zuiko 9-18mm (18-36 equivalent).

It can be very interesting to spot street cats in their areas and on my vacations I always look for some cats to make a scene more interesting. A cat makes every picture better ;).

In the following examples you can see some cats I met in Malta, Sicily, Portugal and Kyoto. Some of them were very shy, some were very relaxed (like the little cat in Malta):

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Macro

A macro lens is a good chance to capture some of the amazing details a cat body has to offer. It’s not easy because you need to get very near and movement often makes the pictures unusable (and you don’t want to use flash on a cat eye!). The results are worth it though, I use the the M.Zuiko 60mm Macro lens from time to time to get a closer look at my cats. See some examples:

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There are more ways to create nice cat pictures that stand out from all the mobil phone pictures out there but I think this is enough for some inspiration. You can see my complete set of cat pictures by following the link below:

http://www.ultraweit-verwinkelt.net/Galleries/Cats/

Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions, thanks for your attention!

The Author

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I live in Frankfurt, Germany and when I’m not working in a bank I am a passionate travel photographer. You can see more of my pictures on my homepage www.ultraweit-verwinkelt.net where you can find pictures of Japanese cities like Tokyo, Nara and Koyasan as well as other places around the world (and pictures of cats, cats are important…). All photos are also available as prints and for licensing.

Homepage: www.ultraweit-verwinkelt.net
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ultraweitverwinkelt
Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pierreaden/
Google+:  https://plus.google.com/u/0/110027262868810382651/

Feb 042015
 

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Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II! Hands On 1st look & Video!

Man, doing camera reviews is a TOUGH job. Here I am in beautiful Bermuda with other colleagues testing out the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. The follow up to the HUGELY successful E-M5 (My review of the original E-M5 is HERE). For the past couple of years I wondered how Olympus could top themselves after the E-M1. I mean, what else can they do? The E-M5 and E-M1 (E-M1 review is HERE) are superb cameras for the Micro 4/3 format, and IMO, the best there is for this system. When I was asked to come do a test of the camera for two solid days in Bermuda, I could not pass it up. ;)

I also learned about the new PRO 8MM F/1.8 Fisheye they are coming out with this year as well as the “Olympus Air” and the new 14-150 “kit” zoom that is now weather sealed. Also, Firmware 3.0 for the E-M1 which should be out in the next 2-3 weeks. Good stuff!

All images in this 1st look report are OOC JPEGs with either the 12-40 Pro or 40-150 Pro Zoom Lenses. Click them for larger. 

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OFFICIAL…

“CENTER VALLEY, Pa., February 5, 2015 — Olympus introduces an exceptional high-resolution still and advanced motion picture hybrid with the new OM-D E-M5 Mark II®. This advanced interchangeable-lens camera features a compact dustproof, splashproof body, with a familiar, premium design. Packed with 5-axis image stabilization, a 40-megapixel high-resolution shot mode, sophisticated, stunning HD video, integrated Wi-Fi® and a variable-angle 3-inch touchscreen, the OM-D E-M5 Mark II makes it easy to get the shot you need, every time. The easy-to-use 2.36 million dot, super-large, high-definition electronic viewfinder has a field of view of 100%, and a viewfinder magnification of 1.48x. The camera is equipped with Adaptive Brightness Technology, which automatically adjusts the backlight brightness in accordance with environmental lighting. The new LV Boost II*1 is convenient for shooting stars, and Creative Control provides complete freedom of control over color, tone, focus, and aspect ratio.”

Today was day one with the camera. That is it. ONE day. I had  the 12-40 f/2.8 Pro Zoom and the 40-150 Pro Zoom to shoot with it and of course I only shot JPEG as there is no software to process RAW files as of yet. So remember, all images here are 1st look images, all JPEG and out of camera.

My 1st Look Video on the Olympus E-M5 II with my thoughts and some quick video samples (nothing fancy here)

With that said, here is the real lowdown, the real scoop..the real deal after only one day with the E-M5.

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Well, IT IS GORGEOUS and an AMAZING update to the old E-M5, and here is why:

40 MP High Res Shot

Olympus said  that with this mode you will meet or exceed full frame detail. Yes, you can get a 40MP file from the 16MP sensor using this new exclusive mode on the E-M5 II. You will need a tripod and a good lens to take advantage of it but from what I understand the detail is stunning in this mode and I have sen samples. I will be testing this mode TOMORROW but once again it is Olympus pushing tech and INNOVATING as they have done for years. Remember, they were 1st with 5 Axis..they were 1st with a Swivel LCD (E-330 back in the day) and they were 1st with a mirror less weather proof, freeze proof, shock proof body in the E-M1. They are also the ONLY camera today with the exclusive LIVE TIME and LIVE COMPOSITE MODES, which are FANTASTIC.

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Here is what Olympus says about 40 MP High Res Shot:

“The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II takes high-resolution imaging to a whole new level. In addition to the exceptional 16-megapixel stills you’ve come to expect from OM-D, the E-M5 Mark II captures 40-megapixel images*2 using an innovative pixel-shift technique that is facilitated by the voice-coil motor IS unit. The 40-Megapixel High-Res Shot mode captures eight sequential images, moving the sensor by 0.5-pixel steps between each shot. Then, the E-M5 Mark II compiles those images to produce a super-high resolution shot that rivals those captured with a 40-megapixel full-frame camera.

A tripod and a high-resolution M.ZUIKO® DIGITAL PRO or M.ZUIKO Premium lens are recommended to use the 40-Megapixel High-Res Shot mode, which captures eight shots over a period of one second. Another two seconds are required to compile the final image. Images can be captured at up to f/8 with a shutter speed of up to eight seconds and a sensitivity of up to ISO 1600. When shooting in RAW+JPEG mode, the camera will save a 40M JPEG file, a 64M RAW (ORF) file and a 16M RAW (ORI) file. 64M RAW images may be processed using Photoshop CS4 and later with a required plug-in.”

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The new improved 5-Axis IS. 

This is new and upgraded and works SO AMAZINGLY WELL. It beats the 5 Axis in the Sony A7II, E-P5, E-M5 Mark I and the E-M1. Olympus briefed us and told us it is their best Image Stabilization system to date. This new improved 5 Axis is so amazing with video and photos. One guy here took a handheld shot at 1.2 seconds and it looked damn good on his LCD! Crazy. Olympus claims 5 Stops of performance. I was seeing unreal performance with this E-M5II 5 Axis..can not wait to test it more.

1st image was using “Live Time” where you can see your exposure happening in real-time, perfect for night exposures. The image below was shot at ISO 1600 at night, and I let LiveTime go until the exposure was right where I wanted it. 

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…and “Live Composite” which is quite special and unique to Olympus. Basically the camera takes TWO shots. The 1st one determines the exposure for the shot..the 2nd shot just leaves the shutter open for up to SIX HOURS looking for NEW light. When it sees the new light it adds it to the images, without affecting your original exposure. This would be amazing for night-time shooting but you do need a tripod of course.

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Here is the Lowdown from Olympus on the 5 Axis in the E-M5 II:

“The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II’s in-body 5-axis VCM image stabilization system offers unprecedented performance. The camera’s 16-megapixel sensor shifts horizontally, vertically and on the X (pitch), Y (yaw) and Z (roll) axes in order to provide 5.0 EV steps of compensation performance. The OM-D E-M5 Mark II can capture sharp images at shutter speeds as low as 1/4-second without the use of a tripod. Sensor shift on the X and Y axes can also assist when photographing close-up subjects. Image stabilization extends to the 3-inch, 1.04M-dot rear vari-angle touchscreen and the 2.36M-dot electronic viewfinder (1.48x magnification), providing a full image stabilization preview when the shutter button is pressed halfway.”

Electronic Silent Shutter capable of 1/16,000 S

The new silent shutter is superb and capable of 1/16,000 of a second shutter speeds and 11 FPS continuous shooting. If you prefer to use the physical shutter you are limited to 1/8000s and 10 FPS shooting, which exceeds the E-M1 and past E-M5 regardless. The silent shutter is just that..silent.

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OM-D Movie – They now are getting much better with video

“The OM-D E-M5 Mark II’s advanced video features enable photographers to capture cinema-quality movies from the palm of their hand. The camera’s 5-axis image stabilization compensates for even the slightest movement, allowing the camera to capture stable footage without the use of a sophisticated and expensive stabilization rig, or even a tripod, letting users shoot in environments where adding heavy equipment may not be practical. The mechanical IS unit can also work in concert with Electronic Stabilization if desired.

The OM-D E-M5 Mark II captures 1080p video at up to a 60p frame rate with up to 77 Mbps high bit-rate recording possible at the 30p setting. Additionally, the OM-D E-M5 Mark II supports 50p, 30p (29.97p), 25p and 24p (23.98p) frame rates, making it easy to blend footage captured using other camera systems. An integrated microphone jack supports external audio input, while a headphone jack positioned in the HLD-8G External Grip enables real-time audio monitoring. Focus Peaking with four color choices (red, yellow, black and white) as well as three selectable intensities for optimal manual focus results. Settings can be adjusted while recording using the 3-inch touchscreen, including AF-point selection, exposure, electronic zoom and Movie Tele-converter, microphone sensitivity, headphone volume and art effects. Additionally, OM-D Movie supports time code settings and connection to an external HDMI® monitor during recording. You can also add an Olympus PCM recorder for high-quality audio capture.

Photographers can take advantage of the OM-D’s popular Art Filters while in Movie Capture mode. Users can select from Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale and Light Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process, Gentle Sepia, Dramatic Tone, Key Line and Watercolor while capturing video. A Movie Tele-converter lets users touch an area on the screen to enlarge it without losing image quality, while the Clips tool enables short clip capture, allowing users to combine footage and effects directly on the camera for instant sharing.”

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I am only one day in with this new camera and I am really enjoying it. From the quick and fast AF (faster than the E-M5 and E-M1 from what I can tell) , the new side swivel LCD which is FANTASTIC in use and the improved 5 Axis IS and Video. I will be testing the new 40MP High Res Shot tomorrow but I can see the possibilities with it for sure. The E-M % Mark II will not ship with a lens as it will be body only for $1099. It will come with a very cool new flash that not only rotates side to side but up and down as well. I was able to handle this little dynamo and it was very cool, not your typical bundled flash (though it is small).

I love Olympus..always have ever since the good old film days, and then again with the original 4/3 E-1. They always have something special and unique about their cameras and they ALWAYS innovate and bring us new features, including superb firmware updates for the E-M1.

So far so good and I have only been shooting OOC JPEG in NEUTRAL color mode…for ONE day.

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This camera easily outclasses the older E-M1 Mark I and IMO even outshines the E-M1 for less money. Next to the E-M1 the E-M5 II is smaller but feels just as good, is a bit faster, can shoot faster FPS, has better 5 Axis IS and video, and so on.

My full review will be up by the end of Feb 2015, so be sure to check back as I am sure I will be posting updates over the next few days and weeks, including a test of the new 40MP High Res Mode. We have a full day of shooting tomorrow as well so I am excited to see what I can squeeze out of the camera.

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So far, so good! GO GO GO Olympus!

PRE ORDER THE E-M5 II

You can PRE ORDER the E-M5 Mark II at B&H Photo using the link below. The camera will be shipping by the end of this month, Feb 2015.

B&H PHOTO: PRE-ORDER THE E-M5 II HERE IN SILVER!

B&H PHOTO: PRE-ORDER IN BLACK!

AMAZON: PRE ORDER IN SILVER

AMAZON: PRE ORDER IN BLACK

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More from Olympus on the new and exciting E-M5 Mark II

Exceptional Performance
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II pairs a redesigned16-megapixel Live-MOS Micro Four Thirds® sensor with the Olympus TruePic™ VII processor, enabling brilliant image quality in bright and low-light conditions alike. The 1/8000 mechanical shutter allows photographers to shoot using a large aperture for maximum bokeh, even in bright, daylight conditions. Users can capture RAW images at up to 10 fps with S-AF, or 5 fps with C-AF tracking enabled. An Anti-shock mode utilizes electronic first-curtain shutter to reduce shutter shock during sequential shooting, and a new Silent mode enables a full-time 1/16000 second electronic shutter, eliminating the mechanical shutter noise entirely for absolutely silent shooting. The 81-point Fast AF provides an expanded focus area, with unparalleled speed, while Small Target AF allows users to focus on small areas across the entire frame.

Ultimate Connectivity
The OM-D E-M5 Mark II includes integrated Wi-Fi, enabling remote shooting, geotagging and easy image sharing using the Olympus Image Share app on an Android® or iOS® smartphone or tablet. Photographers can use the Olympus Image Share app to apply Art Filters. Users can also start and stop movie recording using a wirelessly connected smartphone, or with the RM-UC1 Remote Cable Release. Studio photographers can take advantage of Olympus Capture support, enabling complete control of the OM-D E-M5 Mark II from a connected Mac® or PC.

Portability and Build
The OM-D E-M5 Mark II features a dustproof, splashproof body, that, when properly sealed and paired with select M.ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses, can even be used in the rain. Olympus’ renowned Supersonic Wave Filter technology uses super high speed frequency movement to “shake” any dust or debris off the sensor, eliminating dust marks that irreparably spoil images. Two body colors are available: a luxurious black with texture casting, and a bright, gorgeous silver. The camera includes machined metal dials, an extended grip and a lowered center of gravity that makes the OM-D E-M5 Mark II comfortable to hold in a variety of positions. The camera (body only) weighs just 417 grams, or 14.7 ounces, making it one of the lightest models in its class.

Accessories
The OM-D E-M5 Mark II includes a dustproof and splashproof bundled flash, the FL-LM3, with Guide Number 9 (at ISO 100) and tilt and swivel positioning, enabling users to light subjects directly or by bouncing the flash off of a ceiling or wall.

The HLD-8 is a dustproof and splashproof power battery holder for exclusive use with the OM-D E-M5 Mark II, which enhances both the camera grip and power supply. The HLD-8G Non-powered Grip pairs a substantial camera grip with a headphone jack for monitoring audio during video capture, and an HLD-6P Power Grip, which can attach directly to the camera or to the HLD-8G, provides additional battery power for extended shoots. Because the grip (HLD-8G) and battery holder (HLD-6P) can be separated, the grip can be used alone when necessary. The HLD-6P battery holder is the same as the HLD-6 which was previously designed for the OM-D E-M5. The ECG-2 Metal External Grip can be attached to and removed from a tripod easily, and includes a battery pass-through for changing batteries without removing the grip.

An EE-1 External Dot Sight, which is compatible with any camera with a hot shoe, makes it easier to frame subjects during super-telephoto shooting An EP-16 Large Eyecup is also available, which blocks sunlight, making the electronic viewfinder easier to use. A redesigned version of the OM-D E-M5’s popular full-cover case, which includes a body cover and removable front cover, is also available as the CS-46 FBC Leather Cover and Body Jacket. The PT-EP13 Dedicated Underwater Case can be used at depths of up to 45 meters, and is designed specifically for the OM-D E-M5 Mark II. The case is equipped with a pick-up viewfinder and can be used with the cameras bundled FL-LM3 flash, along with a variety of lenses.

U.S. Pricing and Availability
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II will be available in February 2015.
Estimated Street Price
$1,099.99 Body only in Black or Silver

Jan 262015
 

My Panasonic LX100 Thoughts…

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Hey guys, hope you are all 100% fantastic! Many have been asking me “Steve! Where is your Panasonic LX100 review”!!!

Well, to make a log story short..I had the camera for a few weeks and have mixed emotions on it. After using it with the Fuji X100T and even a Sony RX100 (Hasselblad Stellar) I came to the conclusion that I liked the LX100 the least of the three. Yes, for me (key words..for me) the early version 1 Sony RX100 beat it out due to a few reasons. Even with that said, the LX100 is a compact camera with serious innards and a handsome and rugged build. Leica has their version of this camera which is made in Japan, has Leica styling, and better software and warranty. It is called the D-Lux Typ 109 and many love this camera due to what it offers. I have not had a chance to hold the Leica version so this short and sweet “review” or “non review” will only go over my thoughts of the LX100 from Panasonic. I do have friends who have the D-Lux 109 and they did not have the same issues I had with the LX100. So there ya go.

Most compacts these days use 1″ sensors or smaller. There have been a couple with large APS-C sensors but they were usually with wider angle fixed lenses of 28mm.

The LX100 is a smallish compact, short and squat with a beefy feel and it houses a semi large Micro 4/3 sensor, the same size and type as the wonderful Olympus E-M1, which even today is a world-class camera. The same size as Panasonic’s own GX7, which I really enjoyed. 

It sounds like a dream right? A small good-looking and feeling camera with a highly capable sensor and the big name of Panasonic behind it for under $1000. Well, in some ways it is and in others it is not.

After shooting with it for a while I decided I would not review it (as I was not a huge fan) but there has been a surge of emails asking me about it so I decided to put up this short post with my thoughts on the LX100.

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It’s a fact, yes, the image quality of the LX100 can be fantastic and really close to APS-C offerings. Most cameras today are good in the IQ dept. as long as you stay away from $49 specials. What I look for when I use a camera is a list of things..and for me to like it, this check list is required..

  • Usability. Is the camera easy to use? Is it responsive with well laid out controls?
  • Auto Focus. Does the camera have speedy AND accurate AF?
  • Image Quality: Is the IQ good, fantastic or AMAZING? I like Fantastic to Amazing :)
  • AWB, Color, ISO. I also take these things into consideration.

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So let me start with the Usability..

The Lx100 is a great looking camera design. Many will adore its style and ease of use. The menu system is a breeze to go through and configure and due to the external controls, the camera is easily learned and anyone can get great results with it. So it passed the design and usability test with flying colors. 

Auto Focus. This is where I had issues. The AF of the LX100 seemed speedy enough but in MANY cases it would confirm focus and the result would be an out of focus image. I was using center point, so I knew where the camera should be focusing but it was telling me it nailed it and the results said otherwise. I had enough of these misses (more than any other camera I have used) to make me wonder what was going on with it. It started to frustrate me and made me not want to use it.

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Image Quality. The IQ is nice, and just about what I expected but I did expect a little more as I can get better IQ with my E-M1 or the E-P5 or even the GX7. When I shot landscapes at infinity focus with the LX100, the details were mush, even at base ISO. I took several shots and it was always the same. So not sure if I had a defect or if this was a camera issue. Another reason I decided to NOT review it as I was not sure if I had a lemon or this was just how it was. 90% of the time, the IQ was superb. 10% of the time I had issues. But the issues were enough to make me say “wait a minute..something is not right”. I did a comparison here with the LX100, X100T and Sony RX100 V1 (Stellar). Click HERE to see it.

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When the LX100 did nail the shot all was well. As for higher ISO, it failed that test for me as well. I am used to other cameras amazing high ISO capabilities these days and Micro 4/3 is losing the high ISO battle for sure. Even so, it is not horrible and MUCH better  than it was years ago. Still for the price of $899 I feel there are better options. As I said, I prefer the original Sony RX100 (now $399) to the LX100 for speed, usability, IQ, color, etc. It can be had for half the cost of the LX100 and it will even fit in a pocket. So for me, the LX100 was not enough to push me from my RX100.

Also, the LX100 will not fit in a pocket. Its thick and beefy. RX100 will. Now that I thin of it, look at these names..LX100, RX100, X100…seems the companies are trying to use the same names for some reason :)

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LENS FLARE

The lens on the LX100 has a tendency to flare badly if you have a light source in the frame. I have seen it with street lamps, sunlight and just about any light source if it is in the view of the lens. Wen I tested this side by side with the Sony RX100, Fuji X100T and my Sony A7s and A7II there were no flare issues. Another nail in the coffin for the LX100..for me but do others have this same issue or did I get a lemon?

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At the end of the day the LX100 did not inspire me enough to want to really get out there and shoot with it. I wish I could have tested the Leica version because while it is the same camera, it is made in a  different factory to higher standards and includes better extras (warranty, accessories, software) while looking nicer. If the flare issue was not so bad it would jump this camera up from NOT recommended to RECOMMENDED. If the AF did not miss on occasion (more than it should) it would go from RECOMMENDED to HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Maybe I will see if I can get a hold of the Leica version to see if it has the same issues I had with this LX100. If I can, expect a full review. This here was not a review, just my thoughts after using it for 3 weeks. I did not like it enough to recommend it so just wanted to explain why in this short post. But if you want a great camera at a superb price, right now you can get the original Sony RX100 for a song. Check out this deal here.  $399 loaded with extras and prime shipping at Amazon. I use the Hasselblad Stellar SE as I nabbed one at the blowout 70% off price over the holidays but it is the same camera.

if you want a step up in IQ try the Fuji X100T, Leica T, or Leica X

If you want an LX100, click here. If you want a Leica D-Lux 109, I suggest Ken Hansen or PopFlash.com .

Tomorrow I will post my Sony 16-35 Lens review ;) Stay tuned!

Nov 042014
 

A year with the Panasonic GH2

By Aaron Hayman

First of all, I’d like to thank Steve for hosting such a great site. I spend a lot of time looking at and learning about photography on the web and this site is definitely on a very short list of favorites. The quality of the work tends to be on a level well beyond what I see in other places. I draw a lot of inspiration for my own work from the diversity and imagination of the work shown on these pages. There’s also the fact that the gear is very much biased towards mirrorless, compact cameras. I thought a bit about getting a DSLR, but since I saw so many really great images taken with mirrorless and since I’m a great believer in having something compact and therefore being more likely to have it with you, the mirrorless tech was what I gravitated towards. There are of course other advantages as well in going mirrorless…

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About a year ago, I bought a Panasonic GH2. I’ve been interested in photography for quite a while; I studied in college where I learned all kinds of darkroom processes as well as lots about the history and theory of the art form. I switched to digital some years ago when I picked up a Canon A630 point and shoot and though I did some work with that camera that I was quite happy with (I posted some photos I took with it before on this site), I eventually got tired of “working within limitations” and yearned for a more versatile tool. I did a fair bit of research and came to the conclusion that a used GH2 represented the features that I was looking for at a cost that I could afford. I have to say that despite the fact that there are a few more recent offerings with a little bit better IQ and more contemporary features that are certainly able to stir the gear lust within me, I’ve been quite happy with the GH2. Of course with only the very old and very simple A630 to compare it to, the GH2 obviously wins in every category. Still, I think that it’s much better than that. I’m consistently impressed with the IQ, I love that I can use old legacy lenses with it (and the macro focusing definitely helps), it seems very fast to focus with low shutter lag (unlike the A630, which seemed to be expressly designed to miss the moment!), all of the controls seem to be very logically laid out, the EVF shows me just what I need to see and when I’m shooting at some odd angle, the tiltable LCD really comes in handy.

kids

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beer

In the year that I’ve owned the camera, I’ve used it more than I have any other camera that I’ve had in any given year; I’ve owned a few and done a lot of photography over the years. Part of it has to do with the simple fact that with digital “the film is free,” but also because the GH2 is beautifully handling camera. I’m a firm believer in the idea that it’s the brain behind the lens that’s the most important factor in making an image. Nonetheless, a well designed, high performing camera can make the act of photography much more of a joy and to that effect, the GH2 has really helped to inspire me to get out and take photos. As for the photos, I’ve shot them in several different locales and experimented with a number of different subjects and approaches… I’m always experimenting and working under the influence of different ideas. My work though really isn’t so all-over-the-map as this collection of images might suggest; most of these photos are part of a larger series, each with a consistent theme. The most recent series that I’ve been working on involves shooting little details in my neighborhood. I don’t feel like I live in the most glamorous, scenic place and my surroundings seem rather ordinary… and yet I feel that there are compelling images to be made of my less-than-spectaular surroundings. It’s more difficult to feel like I’ve gotten a really good photo in this type of situation but also a greater challenge and I like that. I’m often thinking of what one of my favorite photographers, Garry Winogrand said, “Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed.” When I think more of how the subject “looks photographed” then I’m able to worry less about what the subject is and I feel like I can produce more surprise in my photography by creating something out of materials that don’t usually get a second look.

planets

amazon

Initially, I used just the kit zoom on my GH2, a 14-42mm thing. As a kit lens that comes with the camera, I didn’t expect to like it that much, but it seems capable of some really sharp images… I’ve been quite happy with it. Later I got around to buying adaptors for some old 35mm film lenses I had, a Canon 28mm f2.8 and a Nikon 50mm f1.8. I’m really happy with the Nikon in particular in that it’s fast and just the right length for some musical events that I’ve gotten into photographing. The fact that as with any old lens like that, it isn’t capable of auto focus isn’t a problem at all as in the low-light situations where I’m using it, the autofocus in the camera doesn’t work very reliably anyway. The Canon, though it seems to be sharp enough has gotten less use as the focal length and max aperture aren’t ideal for me. I’ve messed around with a Nikon E series 70-150mm zoom as well and gotten better results than I thought that I might with a lens like this. Folks generally don’t seem to be so hot on adapting those old manual focus zooms. The lens I’ve really come to love to use with this camera the most is the only other one that I’ve got that’s designed for it (as opposed to adapted) and that’s the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f1.4. Perhaps I’m projecting something special onto it because I spent nearly the cost of the camera with the kit lens on it, but it certainly does seem like there is something very, very nice about the quality that I’m getting with this lens. It’s very fast, which has been proven to be useful in shooting indoor musical events, which are typically not so well lit. I bought it for these low light situations, but I’ve come to love the look that it’s capable of even more than the speed that I get with that low F-stop. I’m not so great at describing this sort of thing (Steve is really brilliant at it!) but suffice to say, it gives me a look that I haven’t gotten with other lenses. I’ve been using it a lot more than I thought that I would because I usually favor a wider field of view and have felt kind of addicted to the convenience of a zoom. I think that I’m starting to lose a bit of my bias toward the wide-angle lately though and when I go out shooting I’m thinking more in terms of what works with the 25mm.

tunnel

winogrand

As for processing (very important to me!), I’ve been using a free program for RAW conversion called LightZone that I’ve been really happy with. I use Photoshop as well from time to time for certain kinds of effects, but I always start with LightZone. I always shoot in the RAW format and really like to spend time adjusting the images with software. I believe that the creative choices I make with the software are nearly as important to creating the images as the parts of the process that I do in the camera…

Thanks for looking and I hope that you enjoy the images. For more of my work, please see: www.flickr.com/photos/128435329@N08/sets

 

Oct 272014
 

review-10mm-title

The SLR Magic CINE 10mm t/2.1 Lens Review

by Amy & Tony Medina

Generally, I’ve really enjoyed the SLR Magic lenses, as I already own the 23mm f/1.7 Hyperprime and 35mm T/1.4 CINE, and use them on my Fuji APS-C cameras often. When Steve asked me if I wanted to review the new SLR Magic CINE 10mm T/2.1 for Micro 4/3, I jumped at the chance.

To start with, I think that overall, if you’re a fan of SLR Magic lenses, this one will not be a disappointment.

The time I spent with this lens, I shot it primarily on the Panasonic GX7. They paired well, but I think on a slightly bigger body it would be every better. My husband paired it with the GH1 for video, and he thought it balanced on the camera really well. SLR Magic lenses in general are well built, and they aren’t what I would call light. They have a nice heft to them, and they pair well with bodies like the Fuji XT1, Olympus OMD-EM5 and the Panasonic GH Series that themselves aren’t the smallest of the mirrorless cameras. It did work well on the GX7, and I’m sure it would feel good on equally small bodies… I just think they pair better with bodies that seem a touch more solid themselves.

One nice feature right off the bat that those of you with SLR Magic lenses will appreciate… no screw-on cap this time. Finally! It was your typical snap-on-type lens cap. Ya know, sometimes I like the fact those screw-on caps stay put, but most of the time I find them to be a royal pain in the butt, so I really appreciate a “normal” lens cap on this one.

Call it a pet peeve, but it really irks me that not all SLR Magic lenses are built the same. Some have the f-stop (or t-stop) control on the outside ring, furthest from the body… others have this ring closest to the mount. When I switch back and forth between their different lenses, I find this quite annoying! As a photographer, to me all f-stop dials should always be the furthest one from the body. Of course, it’s mostly just a minor annoyance, and it’s not something that would keep me from buying the lens, but I just wish they were ALL made with the f-stop control in the same place.

As for image quality, there were no surprises. I feel like I know what to expect with SLR Magic lenses, and that consistency carried through to the 10mm T/2.1 CINE.

SLR Magic lenses have that wonderful character they’ve become known for… a bit of a dreamy retro look around the edges, but nice and sharp in the middle. Typically, they shoot just a little flat.. they aren’t super contrasty lenses straight out of the camera, but they grade beautifully and just have so much charm. I find their color rendition quite neutral — not too warm or too cool — and I’m never disappointed with the images I get out of their lenses… it was no different with the 10mm T/2.1. I was very pleased with nearly every photo I took with the lens.

First one is straight out of the camera, the second is post-processed to my taste…

crawling-ivy-original

crawling-ivy

In my opinion, SLR Magic lenses perform okay stopped down, but that isn’t why we buy them. Sharpness edge to edge, that’s not usually the priority of the SLR Magic user. These lenses are really meant to be used wide-open, or more on the open side of things, where they shine and show their unique personality. They provide excellent subject isolation while delivering a lovely “magic” image quality.

The front element is rather large (77mm in diameter), which isn’t a surprise on such a wide lens. Of course, that seems to make it a little prone to flare. However, I find the flare itself to be of the attractive type, and I have the kind of personality where I like to use flare to my advantage to enhance a photo. With a lens like the 10mm T/2.1, where I find the flare so pleasing, I’m often tying to introduce it rather than eliminate it.

It’s up to you whether you want to let that flare creep in or find a 77mm wide angle lens hood that will work to keep it out. The lens does not come with one.

A bit of flare…

bridge-graffiti

I can’t say 10mm is my favorite focal length on micro 4/3, but that’s a really personal thing honestly. Sometimes I did find it a bit awkward… but that’s no shocker when I tend to gravitate more towards the normal focal lengths from 35mm to 55mm (full frame equivalent), or I go for the ultra-wides, like 15mm. 20mm, to me, is just at that point a bit in-between.

Now, my husband on the other hand, when shooting some video tests, loved that it was right there in between… he told me that he liked that it didn’t give that overly distorted look that ultra wides often do, but certainly gave a wider, much more unique perspective than lenses in the mid-normal range.

What’s interesting is that we often disagreed a bit about this lens: some of the things that I would criticize are things he would really liked. An example is that he loves the clickless aperture dial, where that’s one of the things I generally don’t like about SLR Magic lenses (I think I even mentioned that in another review here on Steve’s site). But seriously, that’s not at all unexpected when it comes to a photographer’s vs. a videographer’s opinion.

It’s part of their CINE line of lenses of course, which means it’s optimized for video and has some of those built-for-videographer features, like click-less aperture and a focus ring that will mate up with follow-focus gears. The focus throw is smooth as silk, and comfortable for shooting both photography and video.

For my husband, the wide angle helped minimize shakiness when hand-holding the camera, and having a lens so wide, but also fast, can make for some really cool shots.

All of the footage below is just test footage shot by my husband, and we thought we’d share it. It has been color graded a bit… but most serious videographers will appreciate that rarely are you using footage that you don’t color correct and enhance.

This was all shot on an original GH1.

 

In conclusion, the best way to express how much we both think this is a great lens is to share that we indeed plan to buy it.
For me, even though the focal length was a little “in-between”, I think I can find use for it in my growing arsenal of wide angle lenses that I use for work. And since my husband and I will share it, and he loves it, the biggest downside will be us fighting for it when I want to use it. LOL

As I started off by saying, if you’re an SLR Magic fan already, there’s a lot you’re going to like with this lens. It delivers exactly the way you’d expect it to. It’s wide without being fisheye-distorted, and it’s fast to let in tons of light and allow that great depth of field control.

Overall, it delivers quality images with tons of personality — exactly what we’ve all come to expect from an SLR Magic lens.

 

You can purchase this lens at B&H Photo HERE.

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3trees

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Oct 212014
 

The Shadows Are Your Friends. Micro 4/3 Creepiness.

By Vince de la Pena

Greetings from Down Under.

My name is Vince de la Pena and I’d like to share my very first personal photographic project. This was shot in the infamous (for photographers) old abandoned Larundel psychiatric hospital in Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.
I purchased an Olympus OM-D E-M5 2 years ago after finding the my Canon 30D and lenses were too heavy and bulky for me. I have recently sold my Canon 6D and 2x L-series lenses to fund more micro 4/3 lenses and a Lumix GM1 body. I have also upgraded from the Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 to the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 which I find is quite a bit sharper. The majority of the shoot was done with the Olympus 12-40mm and the bunny-eating scene was shot with the Olympus 45mm f1.8.

The Shoot.
This personal project was months in the making. It required scouting out the old hospital and looking for some cool grafitti or murals to shoot against. This is a popular place for budding photographers. The upper level had lots of holes in the roof which would allow beautiful spots of harsh light from above. You can google the images of Larundel and see what I mean. Unfortunately, with the advancement of high ISO sensors and the overuse of HDR to see into the shadows, I felt that the creepiness of the shadows has not been taken to its full potential. I believe that the shadows create the unknown. And that unknown creates fear. Embrace the shadows. The shadows are your friends.

For this particular shoot, we had to bring a lot of props like a door; a mattress with pillows and sheets; lighting, stands, a purpose-built electric chair, ladders, tripods, black blankets, lots of flashlights, etc. I even had to buy some black cherry jam for the bunny rabbit eating scene. Have you ever had generic fake blood in your mouth? It’s freakin’ disgusting. I didn’t want to risk my model Emma pulling the lemon face during the gore scenes.

Finally, I want to thank my mum for her brutally honest feedback. Every time she looks at my photos and just says “Nice”, it makes me go “Whaddayamean NICE?!?!” It makes me try harder to get a shot that has more impact. It makes me see things beyond the pixel peeping, the retouching, the bokeh, the noise and grain, etc.

Happy Halloween, folks!!!

Vince de la Pena

PS: Special thanks to model Emma Jarrett (who flew down from Queensland for the shoot) and to Mikel Magdadaro and Edwin Retuta (assistant photographers). Also special thanks to Richard Denek (also a long time subscriber of yours) for getting me into photography, supplying my first serious camera and introducing me to this inspiring website

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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