Feb 232015
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOU MUST CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER AND CORRECT VERSIONS

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

The winner to my eyes is Olympus yet again.

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

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

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SMALLER CROPS 

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Each Lens Wide Open – A Shallow DOF Test

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

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

YOU MUST CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER AND CORRECT VERSIONS

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B&W Conversion Test

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

CLICK EACH IMAGE TO SEE IT CORRECTLY! 

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

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

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

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

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Color Test

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

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

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

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

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Portrait Test

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

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

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DR Test

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

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

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Low Light HIGH ISO Test 

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

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

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

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ISO 3200

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Now ISO 6400

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Feb 202015
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SONY A7s and A7II

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

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

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

CLICK all images for larger and much better view

The A7II and Leica Noctilux at 0.95

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ISO 32,000 with the A7s – Mitakon 50 0.95

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

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The Sony A7s and 55 1.8

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A7s again..

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A7II and Noctilux..and amazing combo

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

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

Fuji X-T1 and X100T

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

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

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

Typical Fuji look in normal light..

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

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

Olympus E-M1 and E-M5II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nocticron goodness…f/1.2

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

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

Leica M 240

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

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

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

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

The M with the 50 APO

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The M with a Voigtlander 50 1.5

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The M with a 90 Elmarit

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50 APO again

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Noctilux

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35 Cron

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

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

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

Feb 112015
 

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Nature Photography with Olympus OM-D E-M1

By Albert Lowe

Hi Steve, thanks for this opportunity!! Love your website, very informative camera and lens reviews. Keep up the good work.

I started photography when I’m in junior high school, at first I was just shooting for families, friends, and events. Yeah, those kinds of stuff. But then a professional photographer inspired me to do more and teaches me the basics of photography. From an ordinary student that pretty much play games everyday now loves to viewing pictures, I found a passion that changed my life completely, it’s called PHOTOGRAPHY.

My first camera given by my dad is an Olympus PEN E-P2. It’s simple to use and perfect for starters. I spent 1 year with it, learning, practicing. Love this camera. Had good memories, and bad ones too. In 2012, Olympus announced a new mirrorless camera called the Olympus OM-D E-M5. I bought it and wohoooo!!!! An awesome camera!! Yeah!! Small, awesome IQ, fast AF, well worth the money. I love the kit lens, not because of the quality, but because of the macro feature. Because of that lens I can do macro photography and quickly I fell in love with macro. Spent 1 year too with the E-M5, then comes the Olympus OM-D E-M1. After some thought and conversation with my parents… JUST SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!!! I sold my Olympus PEN E-P2, OM-D E-M5, my dad’s old Canon EOS 50D to get the E-M1 and the awesome kit lens, the 12-40mm f/2.8.

The day before I buy this camera, I was very excited. So excited that I smiled almost every time at school, even my teachers and friends thought I’m crazy. The next day, I have the E-M1 on my hands. I don’t think I have to tell my feelings, I’m pretty much sure you guys know already…. Anyway, it’s been 1 year I shoot with the E-M1 and I’m going to share my thoughts, experiences with the camera, what I like and dislike, suggestions for the new E-M1 MKII. Oh and yeah, I’m also gonna compare the E-M1 with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, I had the chance of using it with the 24-70 f/2.8 , 70-200 f/2.8, and 100mm macro L lenses. I usually shoot with RAW files as it gives me the extra quality and the extra editing capabilities for post-processing.

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What are my thoughts? (In general)

The E-M1 is simply a fantastic camera. An improvement from the E-M5 in many ways.

Here are the improvements I noticed from the E-M5:

1. The grip is very comfortable
2. Although it’s larger and heavier than the E-M5, it’s still small
3. The AF is improved and quicker, especially with the 12-40mm lens
4. 5-axis IS is updated!!! Yeah well… Let’s just be honest, it’s an overpowered feature
5. FOCUS PEAKING!!!!
6. FPS is quicker, making continuous shots more better
7. Timelapse, although i don’t use that feature a lot but it’s nice
8. EVF is much more enjoyable and more durable
9. And so on
10. Still, the E-M5 is a fantastic camera.

I’m pretty much a guy that loves nature, so i really like photography that has something to do with nature (Wildlife, landscape, etc.)

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So, what’s it like to shoot wild life with the E-M1?

Most of my wildlife shots are with the Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens & the Olympus FL-600R flash , some uses
the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens. (Seriously, can’t wait to try the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens)

Here are my thoughts:

1) The camera is small, so carrying it for photo shoot is very comfortable. I never feel tired of carrying that camera
2) The AF rocks, but in macro photography sometimes i prefer to use manual focus because sometimes the AF hunts
for seconds. But still, AF is usable in macro photography. As for other wildlife shots i use AF and it’s a 99% chance of
always getting the right focus.
3) The IS helps a lot, it stabilise the Live View for a much convenient shot and helps reduce the shake
4) Weather shield helps a lot, you’ll wish every camera and lens has it
5) I usually don’t exceed ISO more than 400, but sometimes I did surpass to ISO 1000 or even higher. The IQ is still good.
As long as the light is supportive.
6) Focus peaking helps a lot. Making manual focus much more easier.
7) I find that the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO can actually take close-up shots pretty well too. Perfect lens all
around for the E-M1

I have an experience in wildlife photography. I was going on a trip to the Thousand Island in Indonesia. Most of my shots are from my GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition because the main activity is snorkling. But somehow on that island, there is a goat. Yeah, a goat. And it’s a crazy one. Always running and trying to ram someone like a bull. I wanted to get a shot of it with the E-M1 but it flee already. I decided to track it down but my friends tell me to just give up. But I didn’t mind their comments and headed for the goat with or without my friends help. After 2 minutes of searching, I found it. But when it sees me he fled slowly so i follow it. After a while, it finally settles down and started to get curious of what I am. And then what happened? It walks slowly toward me. I also went closer to the goat so I can shoot closer. I quickly take my E-M1 and shoot it. Most of the shots are close-up because it really is close to me, I could even touch it. The results are wonderful and very rewarding. From that day, I believe that patience, will, and the guts to shoot the animal from a close distance will create outstanding pictures.

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Suggestions for wildlife photography with the E-M1?

1) For macro, a flash such as the Olympus FL-600R is a MUST. A flash ring is even better. Flash can make a really huge
difference as it produces more light to increase the aperture number, reveal more details, pop those hidden colours, and that’s what macro photography needs.

2) Gather some guts and shoot closer to the animal. I find that shooting closer to animals produces better result almost all
the time. The E-M1 size is also an advantage for shooting closely as it’s appearance is not as bulky as DSLRs that can
scare animals easily when get closely.

3) Maximize the usage of the tilt flip screen. You might have to shoot at low angle when photograph an animal and that
feature helps a lot especially in macro photography

4) Don’t forget to customise those Fn buttons. I set Fn1 button for ISO setting and Fn2 button of magnification. It’s a really
handy feature and you can quick changes without having to press the OK button

5) When taking pictures of an animal(s), don’t just take one photo but dozens. You don’t know what that animal will do later
after you take several shots. I usually find that my 10th picture is better than the first one because i constantly change
the focal length, composition, and angles. The expression of the animal can also change and make the shots completely
different.

6) Try do macro shots after raining. You’ll feel the magic of water droplets on the insects or spider web as you shoot it with
a macro lens and a flash.

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And now, for landscape photography. My thoughts with the E-M1? (My combo: E-M1 w/ M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO

Lens, polariser filter, Grad ND filter, SLIK travel tripod)

1) The size of the E-M1 is small and carrying it is very easy. I’ll explain more later with my experience.
2) The IQ is good for landscape photography
3) Focus peaking really does help when I’m shooting in manual focus for landscapes
4) Weather shield makes the E-M1 very durable and I’m not afraid of getting the camera wet from the rain
5) The dynamic range of the E-M1 is great actually for a four thirds sensor. I can recover lots of highlighted/shadowed
details
6) Sometimes, I shoot stars and milky way with the E-M1. Which means the usage of high ISOs (1000-2000). I kinda feel
the lack of quality compared to the other cameras, but it’s still good though. A couple of smart noise reduction can do the
trick or do the image stacking technique.
7) I find that the usage of the Olympus Imaging App can be useful as a remote shutter. I like it. The connection is fast too.
8) Live Time is the most overpowered BULB mode ever!!!! So as Live composite. You can see the process of the image
while on BULB mode. As far as I know, only Olympus cameras can do this.

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Suggestions for landscape photography with the E-M1?

1) LIGHT. M4/3 cameras can produce FF quality images if the light conditions are favourable. Pick the right time for the
shot you want. It’s not surprising for a landscape photographer to wake up at 04:00 a.m just to get the right shot with
the right light.

2) I suggest to use the E-M1 w/ the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens for landscape because of it’s light size and
outstanding IQ. The focal length is also very useful not just for landscapes but for human interest too. But, if you really
want something more light and comfortable with the usage of prime lens, then go for the Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm f/2.0 or Leica Summilux 15mm f1.7 or Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8. The size of these prime lenses are very very small that you
can even fit it with the E-M1 with a waist bag. But keep in mind that those lenses are not weather shield so be careful
when shooting.

3) Your E-M1 is very sturdy thanks to that weather shield. Take advantage of it. You don’t have to worry about taking a shot
when it’s raining.

4) Always have more than 2 E-M1 batteries with you. Due to the low temperature, batteries tend to drop faster at the top
of the mountain. Use silica gel or warm cloth to protect your batteries.

5) Always don’t forget to bring your camera and lens cleaning kit, a lens pen might do at least. You don’t want your shots to
be dirty just because you forgot to clean the lens. Beware of dirty sensors too. It’s a pain in the ass to see pictures with
slight black dots because there’s a huge dust on the sensor. Because the E-M1 don’t have a mirror on the front of the
sensor, the chance of a dust to enter the sensor is larger than DSLRs.

6) Hiking with a fellow M4/3 user is always a good idea as you can learn much more stuff and tips to get awesome photos
with an Olympus or Panasonic cameras.

7) Take advantage of the Olympus Image App, use it as a remote shutter so you don’t have to touch your camera for
changing the settings.

8) If you’re going to hike a tall mountain, I suggest you to hire a porter (Supportmen that helps you carry your supplies).
Ask for their help to carry your other supplies such as tent, food, etc. so you can focus to carry your own camera or
maybe grab a snapshot without have to worry you might get tired because of carrying the other heavy equipments.

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This is an important experience that changed my photography life forever:

I had once an experience in landscape shooting. In May 2013, I took a flight from Jakarta, my hometown, to Lombok, an
island near Bali, to climb Mount Rinjani (3625 dpl i think. It’s the second tallest active volcano in Indonesia). The mountain is known for its beauty scenery. The sky is awesome, the lake is awesome, the hot spring is awesome (If you’re going to Rinjani, I suggest to try the hot springs, it’s very very relaxing and worth your time.)

The camera of choice? Canon EOS 5D Mark II w/ 16-35mm f/2.8, 24-70mm, and 135mm f/2.0. I also bring the Manfrotto tripod 484RC2, several filters, additional batteries, and so on. All carried in a Lowepro Flipside Sport 15L AW. The total weight of all of them when i checked at the airport? 8kg!!!! That’s even heavier than my friends normal carrier. Back then, I believe that the 16-35mm would be awesome for the ultra wide shoot, 24-70mm for standard shots, and 135mm for human interest photography.

Sounds cool right? 3 L lens with a full frame body. But in reality, IT’S NOT!!! My camera bag is so so so heavy that I become too tired of carrying my carrier (Main backpack for hiking) and my camera bag. When I reach the campsite, I didn’t take my camera out. Why? Because I’m so tired. My will to shoot has gone. All i wanted is to sleep. ZZZZzzz I immediately regret my decision. I should have just bring the E-M5 w/ the 12-50mm (I still didn’t bought the E-M1 yet). Instead of cool landscape shots, I only shoot human interests back when I’m on the mountain. But I did create some good shots though after I decent from the mountain and went to a local beach.

In June 2014, I’m back to that mountain and this time I bring the E-M1 with the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO and the SLIK travel tripod. It’s so light that I can move much faster, my will to shoot is raging and burns to get those beautiful shots, and I feel like a boss. Because I feel more energetic and not tired, my shots are better too. The conditions are better to actually The tripod is also very light compared to my heavy Manfrotto for the 5D Mark II. Oh and by the way, the E-M1 is so small that I didn’t bring my big Lowepro bag instead i put in my waist bag, and it fits!!

Once when I was in junior high, I was a Canon fanboy that pretty much say “Nikon sucks!!” to my friends (I’m trying to be honest here). I believe that Canon is the most superior camera system in the world. However, due to the Mount Rinjani incident, somewhat I kinda “hate” my 5D Mark II and started to realise that all cameras are actually good and the act of being a fanboy is omg… so embarrassing. I realised that those type of acts are the ones that destroyed the photography community, newcomers will feel very uncomfortable with these kinds of act. Nowadays, I never dislike camera brands. I like all of them. Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Fuji, Panasonic, etc… They created wonderful cameras. Remember, it’s the one that behind the camera that matters, the PHOTOGRAPHERS.

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So, here’s what I like about the Olympus OM-D E-M1 in general:

1) Great build quality

2) So many awesome features

3) Menu system (Now the Olympus OM-D menu system is considered by many as hard. I admit when using it the first time I was confused. But after a month using it and learned the menu, I think that the menu is actually functional and awesome)

4) 5-axis IS is great. And over powered also. Why? Think of it. Every single lens attached to the E-M1 has an IS although it
actually don’t have one. Because of the in-body IS, Olympus can create awesome lens with much cheaper price because
all of their lenses don’t need IS, the iS is in the body. In my country, the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 OIS is more expensive than the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens just because the Panny have an IS that increased the price.

5) Outstanding overall image quality and dynamic range

6) AF is fast, really fast even

7) Awesome EVF, feels more comfortable than an OVF in my opinion

8) The fps is fast

9) The camera is very responsive

10) The one thing that make me love this camera so much: The SIZE. IT’S SMALL!!!

11) Small sensor. Now this is actually what I like and dislike. Due to the smaller sensor, the body can be smaller and so the
lens too. Which means more convenience for shooting.

12) Many customisable buttons

13) The buttons are big and very comfortable

14) Weather shield is a beast

15) Live bulb and Live Time (Live composite can be upgraded to the E-M1 with firmware update) is no damn nice!!!

16) All Olympus lenses are full-time MF lenses

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Here’s what I don’t like about the Olympus OM-D E-M1 in general:

1) Battery is kinda not that strong, I know it’s a general problem for a mirrorless camera but still, it’s kinda annoying.

2) I don’t know if you guys have this issue or not, if you playback an image, sometimes the image is pixelated when zoomed
in on the camera’s LCD. But when imported to the computer, the image is normal, no pixelated problem.

3) Low light. I feel that the biggest weakness of M4/3 cameras compared to APS-C cameras is the low light capability. I’m
not saying that the E-M1’s low light is awful but it’s just lacking. They should focus on improving the sensor’s low light
performance.

4) Small sensor. Now this is actually what I like and dislike. Due to the smaller sensor, I get less DoF. But that’s not much
of a problem for me, I can bear with it. The issue is that smaller sensors can’t handle high ISO very well compared to
APS-Cs and Full Frame cameras.

5) Video mode. I know it has nothing to do with photography, but nowadays, many photographers are interested in
videography. One of those interested in videography is me. It’s kinda sucks that for a $1500 camera you get only
1080p 30fps. I really wish that they give RAW video mode and 24fps. 4K is not necessary yet but it’ll be awesome.
But at least they improved the video in the E-M5 Mark II. I’m very happy about that.

6) The price.. I think it’s kinda too high or maybe that’s just my country. Inflation is so high. Gotta move to USA as fast as I
can.

7) So mmmm…. Yeah i think that’s the only thing I found problematic about this camera

And now, it’s time for E-M1 Vs 5D Mark II based on my experience using it (M4/3 Vs Full frame):

1) Build quality: Both of them are great

2) Size: Without doubt the E-M1 is much smaller and I like it. The 5D Mark II is just a big beast that can cause my arms to
feel tired after 1 week of using it.

3) Handling: The E-M1 is smaller and I like it better than the 5D Mark II. But it depends on people though, because some
actually prefer larger cameras because it has larger grip that fits with their hands.

4) AF: Easy. E-M1 wins, the 5D Mark II isn’t designed for fast AF, it’s more about getting that superb IQ for it’s class back
when it’s released. But the 5D Mark II’s AF is still usable especially put in some high quality L series lenses such as the
24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 L. I also find that the AF system in DSLRs are better for shooting sports so I
actually use the 5D Mark II for sports instead of the E-M1 (REMEMBER: I haven’t tried the 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens yet.
maybe that lens can transform my E-M1 into a better sport camera than my Canon). But if your gonna go sport
photography, don’t use 5D cameras, use 7D or 1D cameras.

5) Low light: The 5D is better in my opinion due to the larger sensor. I even once shoot with ISO 25600 on a concert.
Although the low light performance isn’t that great nowadays but it’s good actually back in 2008 when it’s first released.

6) IQ: Actually I see almost no difference but it’s just that the 5D has higher resolution so yeah the 5D wins but seriously,
the E-M1 can catch up and even better than the 5D Mark II as long as the light is enough.

7) Features: The E-M1 wins because the controls are better and besides, it’s a newer camera than the 5D Mark II.

8) DoF control: The 5D obviously wins due to the full frame sensor so creating bokeh pictures is easier with the 5D. But still
the E-M1 can create bokeh pictures too. Give it a fast lens and you can still create a bokeh picture with the E-M1.

9) VF: I find EVF (E-M1) to be more useful compared to OVF (5D Mark II), the EVF of the E-M1 is very responsive and
overall I prefer the EVF rather than the OVF. But OVFs are still very responsive and more natural looking.

10) Video: 5D wins. 1080p with 24fps is available. Olympus only has 30fps. The only thing that I like about the Olympus
for video is the 5-axis IS. It’s very well stabilised, and not all Canon lenses have OIS. But in the end… When you shoot
a film, gimbals are much more useful and create better results in terms of quality and stabilisation than normal IS.

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Suggestions for a new E-M1 MKII camera:

1) Video update please: 1080p that can do 24, 25, 30, 50, 60 or even 120 fps. RAW video. 2.7K can also be a nice upgrade

2) More Fn buttons please. Loved them

3) I’m really interest with the High-Res shot of the E-M5 Mark II. Try improve it and put it to the new E-M1

4) 5-axis IS improved please, make it 6-stop if possible :D Pretty much sure almost every photographer will be astonished with that.

5) AF system that can actually shoot better in sports, would really appreciate that.

6) Improve the battery life

7) Low light performance must be improved and make a big difference than the first E-M1. With that, I’m pretty much sure everyone will be interested with the new E-M1

8) Focus peaking can be actually used while recording on video

So yeah that’s it. Thanks for reading!!! The Olympus OM-D E-M1 will always be my main camera unless there’s an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II coming out :)

You can buy the E-M1 at B&H Photo HERE, or Amazon HERE

Pre Order the new E-M5II at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE

Jan 132015
 

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Italy, Transylvania, Austria with Sony A7s, Olympus E-M1 and Leica

by Neil Buchan-Grant – See all of his guest posts HERE

Hi Steve,

I thought it was about time to share with you some of the pictures I’ve been making over the last year. As ever my photography has been mostly made with the Olympus EM1 but following on from your enthusiastic response to the Sony A7s, I decided to trade in my A7 for one. I only use the Leica M 50mm Summilux ASPH on the A7s but its a combination that, although limited in application, has proved to be a great one.

I spent most of the summer at home in England enjoying the fine weather we had here, but I booked myself a week of shooting in a villa on Lake Como in northern Italy for the end of August. The village I stayed in was buzzing as George Clooney was in town shooting his latest coffee commercial just before his wedding in Venice. I then had a very fruitful week in the marvellous city of Sibiu in Transylvania. I was given backstage access to a fashion show there which led to some intimate low light shots made with both cameras.

This was made in the hotel Villa D’Este, in the games room, with a Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/160s, f1.4 ISO 1600 Model: Thorn

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Shot with the Sony A7s + Leica M 50mm Summilux in available light, 1/320s, f1.4 ISO 100 Model: Bethany Cammack

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Another shot in the city of Sibiu made with the Olympus OMD EM1 + Leica DG 25mm 1.4, 1/200, f1.4, ISO 200, available light. Model: Amalia Beksi

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In London this shot used only available light and was made with the OMD EM1 and the new 40-150mm 2.8 lens @ 45mm, 1/50s, f2.8, ISO 1600

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During a quick break in Vienna Austria, I was lucky to come across an exhibition featuring the work of a New York fashion photographer of the 1950’s called Lillian Bassman. I found her work incredibly beautiful. She was a contemporary of the likes of Richard Avedon and Irving Penn but for me she took things to new levels of artistic endeavour with her innovative printing techniques and her eye for elegance and drama. I’ve since bought her book “Women” and I now long to work with long-necked women and couture hats!

This was shot in the villa on Lake Como with the Sony A7s + Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/200s f1.4 ISO 800, available light (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Donutella Viola

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This was made in the villa on Lake Como with some continuous lights I had brought with me. Shot with the Olympus OMD EM1 + Olympus 17mm 1.8, 1/80s, f2.8, ISO 800 (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Chiara Sgarbossa

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I made this shot in the garden in Como with the Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/80s, f1.4. ISO 100, available light Model: Jessica De Virgilis

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Another shot of Jessica made at the edge of Lake Como. It was shot at dusk with an off camera flash through a mini softbox on the Olympus OMD EM1 and the Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 lens @ 12mm, 1/250s, f3.5, ISO 200. The image is a composite of the original colour version and a black and white conversion, blended to give a dramatic effect. Model: Jessica De Virgilis

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Shot with the Sony A7s + Leica M 50mm Summilux in available light, 1/320s f1.4, ISO 100 Model: Bethany Cammack

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Finally the prospect of more dark winter skies was too much so I booked a week in the Spanish Canary Islands over Hogmanay. I had the new Olympus 40-150mm 2.8 PRO lens on loan, it just went back today..:( and I was dying to use it in good light. Its’s a lens which I would happily recommend to anyone with a micro four thirds camera, it’s bitingly sharp! By some ridiculously lucky chance encounter, I ended up shooting a UK model who was there on vacation. This gave me some great opportunities to test this new lens on something other than landscapes. Thanks again for the opportunity to share these pictures with your readers.

I took this shot backstage at the fashion show in Transylvania with the Olympus OMD EM1 + 45mm 1.8, 1/60s, f1.8, ISO 3200 available light, (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Raluca Mararu

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This was also made at the same event with the OMD EM1 + 17mm 1.8, 1/100s, f1.8, ISO 1000, available light (grain added later in Silver FX Model: Rosalinda Mihaela Zadaroinea

Behind the Catwalk

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This image was made in the changing rooms with the Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/125s, f 1.4, ISO 1000, available light, (grain added later in Silver FX) Model: Cucerzan Adelina

Behind the Catwalk

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During my stay in Sibiu I was lucky to work with some of the models on locations in the city. This was made with the Olympus OMD EM1 + 12-40mm lens, 1/320, f2.8, ISO 200 using an off camera flash through a mini softbox (18”) Models: Amalia Beksi and Flavia Bodi

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Kind Regards
Neil

Neil Buchan-Grant
http://buchangrant.com
British Travel Press Photographer of the Year

A few more…

This landscape in Fuerteventura was made with the OMD EM1 + 40-150mm 2.8 PRO @ 40mm, 1/320s, f4, ISO 200 Polariser

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This image was made at sunrise in Fuerteventura with the OMD EM1 + 12-40 2.8 PRO @ 12mm, 1/2500s, f2.8, ISO 200, Polariser

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Another one in Fuerteventura this time with the Olympus OMD EM1 + 40-150mm 2.8 PRO @ 115mm, 1/1600s, f2.8, ISO 200 available light Model: Bethany Cammack

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This picture was made in Fuerteventura in available light with the OMD EM1 + 45mm 1.8, 1/3200s, f1.8, ISO 200 Model: Bethany Cammack

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This picture was made during a rehearsal of the English National Opera’s Nutcracker at the Colosseum in London. It was made with the OMD EM1 + 75mm 1.8 lens, 1/400, f1.8, ISO 3200 (grain added in Silver FX)

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This photo of people watching a firework display in Winchester was made with the Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux, 1/125s, f1.4 ISO 25,600

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Nov 052014
 

Getting back into Underwater Photography with an E-M1

By Thomas Streng

Hi there,

In spring 2014 I decided to go for a dive-vacation, after 10 years not diving at all and I wanted to bring a camera underwater.

In earlier times I had used a Nikonos V camera setup with film. But this time I decided to want the advantages of digital for underwater photography. I own several camera-systems for “land” photography already, including FF-DSLR, rangefinder and micro4/3 as well as a compact RX100. But which was the best system for my underwater needs?

My criteria were:

  • A fast AF-system – fishes can be fast
  • A fast flash synch – under water you often have a mix of natural light and flash (to get the colors). So if you want to shoot moving subjects with flash you want a fast synch speed
  • Good wide-angle lenses – because that’s what you want underwater to keep the distance short between you and the subject
  • It should be easy to control underwater – especially fast access to ISO, F-stop, Exp-comp and WB

In the end I decided to use my Olympus EM1 since it seemed like the best compromise for me, offering more speed and options than a compact, but being less bulky and expensive than FF-DSLR and their underwater housings. Also M43 offers nice lenses for underwater use (I have used the Panasonic 8mm Fisheye, the Oly 9-18mm and the Oly 12-40mm). Other great lenses for underwater should be the 7-14mm and the 60mm Macro. 

There are a couple of options for EM1-underwater housings. I decided for a Nauticam-Housing: It is solid, has handles included where you mount the flashes, and for my hand size it allows really good access to all important functions. Aquatica, Subal, Olympus and others also offer very nice housings. I included a vacuum valve system. You suck a low pressure in the housing before you go underwater and a green light indicates that the housing doesn’t leak. This gave me some mental “freedom” underwater.I combined the housing with a 100mm glass Dome for the 8mm FE and a 170mm glass dome (ZEN) for using the 9-18mm and 12-40mm lenses.

The 12-40mm is not a typical underwater lens, because most people use either ultra-wideangle, Fisheye or Macro lenses. But for me the 12-40mm in combination with a Dome offers great flexibility. You get 12mm wide-angle which is fine for many things, and you can get pretty close at the 40mm end, close enough for Fish-portraits and other smaller creatures. That’s why the 12-40mm became the lens I have used most often. As flash I used 2 Sea & Sea YS-D1.

Finally we went for our dive trip to Zakynthos, a wonderful Greek Island. You don’t have as many and big fishes as in the Red Sea or on the Maledives, but it’s a beautiful underwater landscapes, many caves and interesting creatures. I did 15 dives during that trip and really enjoyed the time under water. My #1 goal was to enjoy the dives – so getting good images was “just” #2. I mention this because I have met people who told me they were so busy with their camera that they could not really enjoy the dive and underwater environment.

The EM1 in the Nauticam housing has worked very well. I believe m43 is great for underwater photography. It handles quite easy and allows good image quality.

Here are some of the results, I hope you like them. You can find more images here https://www.flickr.com/photos/111665084@N07/sets/72157646745077278/

I encourage every diver who hasn’t been underwater for a longer time: Go out and dive, it´s fun.

Kind Regards, Tom

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Aug 072014
 

My quick interview with Olympus on the E-M1

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When I was in Ireland with Olympus they sat down with a few of us at Castle Leslie and asked us a few questions about the fabulous and game changing E-M1 camera. Below is my short but sweet interview. Of course you can see my full E-M1 review HERE and my visit to Castle Leslie in Ireland to shoot the E-M1 HERE. I feel the same about the E-M1 today as I did the 1st week it was launched. Best Micro 4/3 made today!  Thanks Olympus!

May 222014
 

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Olympus E-M1 for wedding photography?

By Katrin Küllenberg

As a professional wedding photographer I decided to use Olympus as my sole camera system. After one year in practice did this prove to be the right decision?

Traditionally, one had to have the biggest and most expensive camera around to be respected as a wedding photographer. There would always be some guest comparing his own equipment with yours, trying to discredit your professionalism. By switching to the Olympus OMD I refused to take part in this kind of competition and ignored all disparaging remarks about my gear. To my surprise, the longer I am using these cameras now, there is an increasing number of guests asking me about the benefits of the OMD, talking about their own intention of getting rid of their heavy DSLRs.
I also noticed that I now can blend into a crowd much easier and am able to take more candid shots than before as people hardly notice me – or just don’t take me seriously enough to freeze in awe of the camera, which serves my purpose just as well!

The biggest plus oft the OMD system is its weight. As a wedding photographer I will have to lug around two cameras all day but even after a 10-16 hours workday my back hardly registers the cameras at all.

Ergonomics
I started using the E-M5 first and added the E-M1 when it came out last December. The E-M5 is smaller and a little bit lighter, their functions are basically the same but the EM1, though bigger, is the more user-friendly model due to the greater amount of buttons, which can be programmed individually.
These shortcuts are missing with the E-M5 which you need to control by going into “menu” more often.
Both cameras are equipped with an EVF. Although it takes a short while to get used to as its view differs from a traditional view finder, the eye adjusts quickly and the positive aspects outweigh the cons. For reviewing the photo the camera shows the image just taken, giving you instant control of composition and exposure without having to refer to the monitor.
I shoot in manual mode, which is supported perfectly by the EVF. No test shots to determine ideal lighting are required. All adjustments in speed, aperture and ISO are reflected directly in the view you get by looking through the EVF. It is not a 100% perfect rendition of the image loaded down on the the computer later on but it comes approximately close.

The autofocus is very fast and accurate. To move the AF center-point one needs to press the buttons which, unfortunately, are quite close to the face ( remember: the camera is small!) but it is also possible to control the autofocus by working the dials regularly used for aperture and speed or the touch screen.

The OMD system offers high image quality with the following lenses:

Lenses
I work with several lenses for different situations.
My favourite is the 45mm 1.8.
The portraits are extremely sharp , and due to its f.1.8 I can use it everywhere all day long with beautiful bokeh.
The 12 mm is my wide angle lens. Light and combined with manual focusing + flash my favourite lens for the wedding party. Don’t use it with a higher aperture than f8.0 because of diffraction.

Sometimes I also use the 12-40mm 2.8. Not being quite as sharp as the primes it, nevertheless, gives me a broader range of possibilities but, unfortunately , its bulky size and heavy weight don’t recommend using it for very long.

The 75 mm 1.8 is great for intimate moments when the photographer does not want to interfere with the couple too much, e.g. at chuch or some moments during reception.

I hardly ever use the 60mm 2.8. I bought it for details and ring shots but besides that I yet have to discover its advantages for other situations.

Things to improve

Though being a great friend of the Olympus system, there are some aspects that I would want to see improved.

  • Sometimes the E-M1 freezes and has to be switched off and on. I don’t know if this is a common problem or just personal bad luck.
  • A general deficit of the entire OMD system it its lack of high ISO potential. It should not be pushed over 1600 ISO what gives it a disadvantage for use in badly lit places and at night. Here I need to use a bounced flash sooner than I would like to.
  • Another aspect waiting for improvement is its battery power: Shooting a wedding I need to have a serious backup of batteries as the OMD has to be recharged three or more times during the day.

Conclusion

Is the Olympus E-M1 the perfect camera for wedding reportage photography ?

It definitly depends on your shootings style and the look you want to achieve. E.g. if you prefer really shallow Depth of Field, use full frame with 85mm 1.2. This extreme effect you cannot achieve with the E-M1.

For me it is the nearly perfect camera system at the moment, which supports my style and does not get between me and the image.

All the best
Take care and take pictures
Katrin Küllenberg

www.heiter-bis-wolkig.info

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Katrin-Küllenberg-heiter-bis-wolkig/687532634605529?fref=ts

http://instagram.com/heiterbiswolkigphotography

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May 012014
 

The NEW SLR Magic Anamorphot “add on’”Lens with SLR Magic Hyperprime 35mm T0.95 Cine Lens and Olympus OMD EM-1

by Wilson Chong

This article was originally written in Christmas last year in anticipating the launch of the new SLR Magic Anamorphot Lens. However, some delay in sending to you this belated review. All shots were taken last year before Christmas.

First of all thank you for Andrew for lending the new SLR Magic Anamorphot Lens for me to try out. Secondly, I also thank you for Steve and Brandon for posting my user experience on this lens.

So, what the hell is “Anamorphot” or “Anamorphic” lens? This was way ahead of me but according to what I can understood how from Andrew over a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop, it was cinematography technique which basically squeeze everything into the 35mm format but you have to correct it to the right aspect ratio before screening it…. huh? He was getting way too technical for me and I have no idea what he was talking about but I would love to try it out this new lens.

Here is bascially what Anamorphic format means according to Wiki.

My review purely as a user with little technical background.

I first thought Andrew was going to give me some special lens but suddenly a straight clip on lens appeared in front of me, It is a kind of add-on lens which you can put it over your existing lens. This makes we wonder, will it hold? Yes, it does and very solid too!

Since, I will be shooting this with my new OMD EM-1, but using the SLR Magic Hyperprime 35mm T0.95 Cine Lens. Now, I mounted it on my proud OMD EM-1, I wonder how this thing do on photos and vidoes.

For my previous review on the 35mm Hyperprime T0.95 cine lens, please click HERE.

Now, I must admit, I am no video shooter. In fact, I probably made so many mistakes in my shooting that I will fail my class (if I am a Videography student). However, I am eager to show you what I shot is because this thing actually make me to shot films and make me do some editing (even I have not done it before). Here is one of my test film shot in Mongkok, Hong Kong:

(Note: I am not too bothered with the aspect ratio because it does give you a 60s/70s retro feel to it. However, I guess occasional use is fine)

The second time, I have edited a couple of shots I and made this short film:

However, I must give kudos to this video using SLR Magic Anamorphot Lens called RELIEF (an excellent watch!):

Back to shooting using the new Anamorphot Lens. Since the Anamorphot Lens is very much depends on what the other lens you use, hence, you have to be careful to select the right one for your own use. As many of you may know, the 35mm Hyperprime T0.95 Cine Lens is a very contrasty lens and great for black and white shots. Shooting it with new Anamorphot lens also give you this unique characteristics.

The handling of new Anamorphot Lens together with the 35 Hyperprime and the new OMD EM-1 is surprising good. Mind you, I have got the hand grip add-on so that I have the pressure point at the bottom of my hand to hold up the camera and both lenses. Of course, when mounted the lens to the OMD, it looks like having a huge lens wandering around with you. Is heavy and definitely not discreet either.

Set aside the ergonomics, the focusing on both lens is rather simple, once you have the right setting on the Anamorphot lens, you don’t need to do much. The focusing is mainly on the 35mm Hyperprime lens. Of course, one of the main advantage of having the OMD EM1 is the anti-shock capabilities. The lens performs good and well up to my expectation. Once you are used to the set up, both lenses become one and I do not feel any immediate danger of the Anamorphot Lens being fall off or loosen during my filming.

The photos are great and with the new OMD EM1, it is surely, one of the best M4/3 camera available (although I got the new Df later with no Video Mode). I am sure it will satisfy fans who like to add some cinematic feel and also the opportunity to take advantage using other lens for the other moods. In short, the possibilities are endless.

please visit my flickr page

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Anyway, I would thank you Steve and Brandon for posting my submission and wish you all the best! Looking forward to your reviews, reports and thoughts on photography!

Best regards,
Wilson Chong

 

Apr 032014
 

Streetshooting the Olympus OM-D E-M1

By Robin Schimko

The last couple of years I was shooting DSLR full frame bodies only and I didn’t care much about mirrorless cameras. After a while I realized that taking candid pictures out on the streets is a lot of fun. The only problem was the bulkiness of my camera that seemed a little intimidating when people noticed me taking their picture. It would have been an easy solution just to step back a little and take a longer lens, but that’s not me since I like to get close. So I got myself a Fuji X100s but even though I really loved it, the AF frustrated me from time to time and I sold it.

Then I started researching about mFT cameras and that’s when I stumbled upon stevehuffphoto.com and I was blown away by his work. That’s why decided to jump into the Olympus system and I bought the E-P5. I was shocked about the super-fast AF system and the pretty good image quality. The only thing I was really missing was a proper grip and suddenly Olympus came out with their new flagship, the E-M1. A couple of weeks later my local camera store had the E-M1 in stock and I went there to try it out. I couldn’t resist and bought one. Usually I am not that guy who is changing his gear so rapidly but the mirrorless world was new to me and I had to find out what would work best for me.

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So, how does the E-M1 perform out on the streets? Well to date it’s the best camera I have ever used for street shooting and there are several reasons to back this up:

Ease of use:

It has a proper grip and looks like an old SLR camera but it’s still lightweight and very comfortable to hold, even though it’s really small compared to a DSLR. The buttons and controls are very well designed and they are all very accessible. The only thing I don’t like is the power switch on the left side, because it’s much tougher to use the camera with one hand only, but it’s definitely no deal breaker. And then there are the custom profiles you can link to the mode dial on top. That’s pretty handy and allows you to change the set-up of the camera in the blink of an eye. Did I mention the viewfinder yet? It’s amazing how good the EVF is even though I don’t use it that often. Coming from a DSLR I was used to use an OVF but with a mirrorless camera I discovered how convenient it is to compose by using the display.

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Reliability

The E-M1 is considered to be a professional camera and after using it for a while now I am absolutely sure it really is a proper tool. There was not a single second where the camera failed on me. I’ve never dropped it but I read stories about people who did and the camera had not one single scratch afterwards. I can’t imagine a place where I wouldn’t take the E-M1.

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Precision

Out on the streets it’s sometimes essential to be really quick to capture a certain moment and here is where the E-M1 really shines. It’s absolutely amazing how fast and responsive the AF works. Sometimes I even use face detection and it can be really useful especially when there is no time to manually change the focus points.

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Quality

Of course, when it comes to image quality, it’s no D800, but it’s not as far away as the numbers might suggest. I am very comfortable with cranking the ISO up to 6400. Yeah, there will be grain visible, but at least to me it looks really pleasing. What surprises me the most was the dynamic range of this fairly small sensor. In post it is very easy to push the shadows like hell, wow that’s something my old D700 wouldn’t have done better.

I think at the moment the E-M1 is a damn good choice for all you street photographers out there. It’s lightweight, powerful and can deliver very decent image quality. At the moment I am testing the Fuji X-T1 with the 23/1.4 and it seems to be a nice combo, but even though both bodies have nearly the same size, the E-M1 with the 17/1.8 is a lot smaller and the focus is noticeably quicker.

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Oh, did I mention that I dumped my D800? I am going mirrorless only and I am happy with that decision.

If you want to check out my websites:

http://www.fotodesign-rs.de/

http://www.hochzeitsfotograf-rs.de/

or follow me on facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/RobinSchimkoPicture

Thank you all for reading,

Robin

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Mar 312014
 

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The Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5 f/1.2 Lens Review & Comparison

By Steve Huff

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT AMAZON HERE

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT B&H PHOTO HERE

Hey hey! It is review time again and I have been a busy man shooting this Panasonic/Leica Nocticron lens for the past two weeks and let me tell ya, it is a serious lens my friends. It is large, it is expensive, and it is FAST with an f/1.2 aperture for those “NOCTurnal” moments.

Panasonic decided to create a “statement lens” to show that Micro 4/3 users can have some fun with shallow DOF, subject isolation and 3 Dimensional POP just as much as the APS-C guys :) The only problem is that they must have forgotten that Olympus has the 45 1.8 Lens that one can now buy for $350 or so. Yep, almost the same focal length and almost as fast in the aperture department for about $1100+ less. Oops.

But is it really an Oops? I do not think so because this Nocticron is so so so good that it beats the 45 1.8 in most ways (besides size and weight and cost). Is this Panasonic jewel $1100 better? No, but the Nocticron is a lens for those who want the best of the best..the unique draw and style, a taste of a real Noctilux and yes, the LEICA name.

Indoors, a coffee shop..I raised the Panasonic GX7, aimed, and fired. F/1.2 wide open and sharp as a tac. This Nocticron offers it all. Color, contrast, sharpness, gorgeous bokeh, build and more. Click the image below for a larger and much better view. 

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It seems that some think that Leica makes this lens. They do not. It also seems that some feel Leica supplies the glass for this lens. They do not. This is a made in Japan Panasonic lens made by Panasonic. Panasonic has a deal with Leica where they use the Leica name on certain lenses because Leica helped with the design. So in reality, Leica did help with the design but the construction is all Panasonic, made in Japan.

So does the LEICA name on the front of the lens mean that this lens at least has some of that Leica mojo and magic? Previous lenses from Panasonic with the Leica name included the now legendary 25 1.4, which has been considered as the best Micro 4/3 lens available when you want that Leica look and quality. There is also been the older 45 2.8 Macro, which was astounding in the IQ department though slow to focus. Panasonic also recently announced the new 15mm f 1.7 with the Leica name and that one looks like a 100% winner at $599. A 30mm equivalent with a fast 1.7 aperture. Yummy.

After using this lens extensively I would say that YES, it does indeed have a little of that Leica look, feel and rendering..or as I call it “MoJo”. I will go a bit farther and say that this is an overall better lens that the old Leica F/1 Noctilux that sells for $6500 or so used.

Olympus E-M1 with Panasonic Nocticron at f/1.2 – IMO, nothing beats Olympus colors.

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So if we look at pricing..the “PanaLeica” 25mm 1.4 is around $529. The 45 2.8 comes in at $719. The new 17 1.7 will be $599.

So why is this Nocticron nearly $1600?

Well, the real answer is because it is a costly design AND an amazing performing lens and as I said earlier, a Statement piece from Panasonic. Panasonic will not sell loads of these due to the cost and the fact that it is really a specialty lens. So they can not spend millions to design and create it only to sell it for $500! Even the old 45 2.8 is $720, for an f/2.8! This Nocticron is not or in any way a $500 lens. In fact, when I first saw it and held it it reminded me of the real deal, the $11,000 Leica Noctilux f/0.95. It has the same design on the outside. In that regard it has some “Noctilux” character to it. The Leica is $11,000 for a 50mm f/0.95 and that lens is a tour de force of optical magic. Is it worth $11,000? No. But it sells well at that cost for Leica because there is nothing like it, at all. It is one of a kind and sharp even at 0.95 with a creamy Bokeh that melts into the frame.

The Panasonic is $1600, or $9400 less than the Leica Noctilux! While the Panasonic is NOT a Leica Noctilux it does indeed offer some of the flavor of that big money lens, for MUCH less money..MUCH less. I will state right up front that the Panasonic Nocticron has the best Bokeh I have seen next to the real deal. It competes and compares with the Leica Noctilux in this area 100%. The Bokeh is amazingly creamy, dreamy and NOT headache inducing like some lenses. Many exotic lenses fall short in this area..the out of focus background areas. Not this lens!

This is also the area where the 45 1.8 falls a bit short as the Bokeh can get busy and neurotic during certain scenes. The Panasonic has gorgeous Bokeh quality above and beyond any Micro 4/3 lens I have seen to date. In fact, I will call it the “Bokeh Master” of the Micro 4/3 world.

E-M1 and Nocticron at f/1.2 – click it for larger

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Is smooth and creamy background blur worth $1600? No, not really but in this review I will be taking a look at this lens as a whole from build, to O.I.S., to AF speed to sharpness at all apertures, bokeh and a comparison with the Olympus 45 1.8 and Voigtlander 42.5 f/0.95 (that comes in at $1000 but is manual focus only). Then I will decide if as a whole “is this lens worth $1600″?

I have used this lens exclusively for the past two weeks and what you will read below is my experience with it in all aspects. If you do not want to read the full review let me just say that after my time with the lens I bought one for myself from Amazon right HERE. Yep. I found it is just as special as the real Leica Noctilux (in a Micro 4/3 kind of way) and offered me more character, more pop, better contrast,  and much nicer Bokeh than the $350 Olympus (which I also own). I guess that answered my question of “is it worth it” pretty quickly! I will get more into why I bought one of these expensive lenses when I already own the $350 marvel in the conclusion of the review :)

The Nocticron Arrives

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I originally rented this lens because I did not want to buy one to review it. I figured I would rent it for a week or two, use it, review it and say “Buy the Olympus 45″ and be done with it. But as it went, I was wrong. When the lens rental arrived I pulled it out of a case only to say “wow, this LOOKs like the Noctilux”! It is not built like the Leica Noctilux, not even close…but it does resemble it. It is much lighter than the Noctilux as well. Still, this lens looks and feels mighty impressive for a Micro 4/3 lens. I instantly knew that this was the best built AF lens for the system, hands down. While all Olympus primes are built nicely and feel like little light jewels, this Panasonic is more of a brute..a serious light gathering machine..more importantly “An Artist’s Tool”.

Olympus E-M1 and Nocticron at 1.2 – ISO 12,800

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I say “An Artist’s Tool” because this lens has that capability, that extra something that is lacking in most lenses to call it just that. The rendering when wide open, at the right distance from your subject gives you the 3Dimensional Pop (not as much as an f/1.2 lens in full frame) as well as the color and contrast characteristics of high end lenses. The Micro Contrast is also very good here, among the best I have seen with Micro 4/3 (Olympus 75 1.8) and the Bokeh is phenomenal.

But before I go on and on about the qualities of this lens, let me start by talking about the specs:

Focal Length 42.5mm – Comparable 35mm Focal Length: 85 mm (classic portrait lens)

Aperture Maximum: f/1.2 – 16.0 (starting at a super fast f/1.2 this gives us true light gathering of an f/1.2 lens, so for night this is #1 in M4/3)

Camera Mount Type Micro Four Thirds

Minimum Focus Distance 1.64′ (.5 m) (pretty close min focus, Leica Noctilus has a 1 meter min distance)

Elements/Groups 14/11 – (14 elements, 11 groups)

Diaphragm Blades 9 (for better and smoother Bokeh. The Fuji 56 1.2 has 7 blades)

Image Stabilization Yes – (built in O.I.S. which is what makes it so large)

Autofocus Yes

Filter Thread 67 mm

Weight 14.99 oz (425 g)  -(Leica Noctilux is 700 grams)

Additionally, there is an Extra-low Dispersion element that increases contrast and sharpness and an Ultra High Refractive Index element allows for a uniform look to the edges of the frame.

The above specs are impressive for this lens no doubt and one of the most controversial will be the f/1.2 aperture. Micro 4/3 hater and naysayers always are quick to point out that an f/1.2 lens in Micro 4/3 is like having an f/2.4 lens in full frame. Well, this is not true. FOR LIGHT GATHERING AND LOW LIGHT USE, this is a true F/1.2 lens. Period. For DEPTH OF FIELD it is more like a 90mm f/2.5 lens. Something like the $1800 Leica 90 f/2.5 Summarit but with a closer minimum focus distance and true f/1.2 light gathering ability and for less money. :)

The lens breakdown…

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The key to this lens is that you are getting pure state of the art performance for your Micro 4/3 camera and yes, Micro 4/3 is a legitimate format that is used by pros, enthusiasts, amateurs and every day camera Joe’s. The performance of the latest M 4/3 camera bodies (specifically from Olympus) is up there with any APS-C, and as I have reported about before, in some areas they are better. Cameras like the E-M1 are a whirlwind of performance in every way. I also feel, after using everything out there, that Micro 4/3 offers the BEST quality lenses for any mirror less camera system (besides Leica M). They are that good in build, speed, and IQ.

These Leica/Panasonic lenses take it up another notch when it comes to color, contrast, micro-contrast and overall IQ.

Was in my kitchen table at night, Brandon was in front of me and I called his name and fired. The E-M1 was at ISO 800, lens was at f/1.2. CLICK it for larger and sharper.

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This lens will work for portraits..

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or even candid street moments..

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Bokeh is smooth and free of the nasties, even in a bokeh torture test condition like the one below  – click for larger. E-M1

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Yes this lens works well with Olympus or Panasonic bodies

This lens works with the Olympus Micro 4/3 bodies just as well as it does with the Panasonic bodies. Yes, I have been shooting a GX7 and E-M1 side by side and I get consistent results with the E-M1 in regards to color and lower noise. The GX7 files have SLIGHTLY more noise (RAW, without NR) even at base ISO and I prefer the color rendering, build, and quick menu of the Oly system. But the GX7 produces IQ almost the same as the E-M1 with some color differences but the build is of a lower standard with the Panasonic GX7 vs the E-P5 or E-M1.

It is a fact! The Olympus bodies are built so so well. The E-P5 feels like a solid brick of metal with quality switches and dials. The GX7 feels plastic with lower quality dials and levers.

But with that said, the lens works well on either camera and on Panasonic bodies you will be able to use the manual aperture dial. On Olympus bodies the Aperture ring is useless and can not be used so you just use the normal aperture thumb dial on the E-M1. It is a give and take I guess.

The manual aperture dial reminds me of quality Leica M glass, much like the real $11k Noctilux (which I have owned long term in the past). 

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So wether you have an Olympus OM-D or PEN this lens works wonderfully. If you have a Panasonic you get the Aperture dial function.

Inside of a restaurant at f/1.2 – Olympus E-M1

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Built in OPTICAL IMAGE STABILISATION

The Panasonic Nocticron has O.I.S. built in, so for all of you Panasonic body shooters this is very important and useful. For Olympus shooters that have one of the 3 or 5 Axis IS bodies then you will want to use the in body 3 or 5 Axis over the lens O.I.S. as the Olympus IS system beats the lens O.I.S. hands down. I have said it before and I will say it again, there is NOTHING like the 5 Axis IS of the Olympus bodies, nothing. The few who put it down just do not shoot Olympus and prefer Panasonic but the real story is that the 5 and 3 Axis IS systems of the Olympus bodies is revolutionary and offers HUGE benefits, even for video use.

Below is a snippet where I tested the built in O.I.S. of the lens vs the Olympus E-M1’s 5-Axis IS – same shutter speed but the 5Axis provided a clear image vs the lens OIS blur.

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So having the OIS in the lens is good for those who shoot without a body that has the advanced IS built in. On the GX7 this is mandatory to have in a lens like this so it is good that Olympus packed it in, they really had no choice.

A Closer Look

Below is a comparison between the amazing little Olympus 45 1.8 that comes in at around $350 as well as the Voigtlander 42.5 f/0.95. It seems I had an issue focusing the Voigtlander on the Panasonic GX7 due to the small EVF. When the 42.5 Voigtlander is focused correctly it is razor sharp, even wide open, in the center of the frame. See my review HERE. 

1st up, YOU MUST click on the images below to see them correctly. 

The Nocticron is 1st at f/1.6, then the Olympus at 1.8 and then the Voigtlander (slightly mis-focused, sorry!)  The Olympus has more magnification going from 85mm to 90mm and is quite good for a $350 lens! The Olympus offers more of a “telephoto” look with more compression..flatter. The Nocticron offers a gentler more 3D rendering similar to a real Leica lens.

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Below is a more visible example of the difference between the Nocticron rendering and the Olympus 45 1.8.

Click the images for correct and larger versions..

The 1st image below was shot with the Noctiron and GX7 at f/1.2, wide open. Here you can see the 3D pop between the subject and the background. There is a clear distinction between Debby and the background, with a superb fall off from in focus to out. This is the hallmark of a good lens IMO. 

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Below is the Olympus 45 1.8 and when you click and view this side by side with the Nocticron you can see the differences. To some, you may not even see it. To others it will be huge and to some it will be slight. The 45 rendered the image in a duller way from color to a flatter look. As good as the 45 1.8 is, it does not approach the Nocticron, which is one reason why the Noct is so expensive. 

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And now and image from over a year ago in the same spot taken with the Leica Noctilux at f/0.95 on an M 240. This is the most 3D of them all but it should be considering the combo of lens and body will run you about $18,000. :)

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Full Size Files and a crop

I am finding the Nocticron to be sharp even wide open but at the same time it is not clinical in any way. It is more organic and flowing, much like the original F/1 Noctilux from Leica. It has a certain character to it wide open that I like, a lot. Below are two full size files, one wide open at f/1.2 and one that should have been f/4 but the EXIF reads at f/3.2

Thanks to “Baby” my little Chihuahua we rescued for being extremely still while modeling :)

1st up, wide open at f/1.2. Right click image and open in new tab or window for full size from RAW

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again, right click and open in new tab or window for full size at f/3.2

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The lens is RAZOR sharp wide open and gets sharper as it is stopped down. I actually love the lens at f/4 as well as f/1.2. It is an all around great performer and for this focal length, the ultimate lens for Micro 4/3. HERE IS ONE MORE wide open at f/1.2 – look at the sharpness, color, detail and Bokeh. Amazing..

CLICK IT for larger and better version – the way it was meant to be seen..AMAZING detail at f/1.2, superb color and Bokeh. This was shot with the GX7. THIS simple test shot reveals why this lens is so special. Bokeh gets an A, sharpness gets an A+, color gets an A, 3D pop gets an A. 

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Distortions

While shooting this lens in real word scenarios I never saw any kind of distortion or had an issue with CA. I do not do scientific tests nor do I shoot white walls looking for vignetting, because if I do not see an issue while using the lens for what it was designed to do (take photos) then I do not see a problem. When shooting the Panasonic Nocticron I had no issues with Vignetting or Distortion. Period. The lens does have slight vignetting wide open though but so does the Noctilux f/1 and 0.95.

The one shot that slightly missed focus but this so reminds me of the Leica Noctilux F/1 Rendering! I love it.

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AF Speed

The Af speed of the lens is VERY quick in good light and slows down in low light but it always locks on and the only time it missed for me is in the above shot of the dog but I think it was trying to focus on the dirty glass instead of the dog, so maybe it did NOT miss. AF speed was a TAD faster on the E-M1 vs the GX7 but both were comparable.

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VIDEO USE

This lens SHOULD be a video shooters dream. I have yet to shoot video with this guy but plan on it soon and when I do I will post a sample video right here :) So check back in a week or two!

Bottom Line Conclusion

So is this lens worth $1600? THAT is the question, especially when we have lenses like the Olympus 45 1.8 which is similar in focal length and slightly slower in aperture speed for $350. The Olympus is also MUCH smaller and MUCH lighter and slightly faster to AF. So wouldn’t the Olympus be the “No Brainer” decision? Why yes, it would.

BUT! If you are like me, and DO notice those small differences such as contrast, color, bokeh quality and rendering then you might want to take a serious look at this Nocticron. The Panasonic/Leica lenses have all been SUPERB. The 25 1.4, the 45 2.8 and now the Nocticron all use a Leica design and in the case of this Nocticron, more exotic glass than a normal Panasonic lens. When good glass is used you can tell and this lens has a way of lighting up a scene just like a real Noctilux does.

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Sometimes a lens comes along that is special. This is one of those lenses. It has it all built into one monster shell, though it still comes in smaller in size and lighter in weight than a comparable full frame lens. Built in O.I.S., great sharpness and rendering at f/1.2 AND Auto Focus, something that the Voigtlander lenses are missing and those lenses can be tricky on a smaller EVF camera like the GX7. I am thrilled that Panasonic created this lens.

Many will argue that this is not an F/1.2 lens, but it is indeed a true f/1.2 aperture lens. I will repeat: THIS IS A TRUE 42.5MM f/1.2 LENS.

Yo will get f/1.2 light gathering capability. You will be able to shoot at f/1.2 in the dark and you will be using a true f/1.2 aperture with 1.2 light gathering ability. THIS is what an f/1.2 lens is made for..low light and in that regards the Nocticron is true to its name..NOCTURNAL.

The image below was shot on the E-M1 at ISO 10,000 at f/1.2. It was inside my house at night with barely ANY light at all. ZERO noise reduction. Reminds me of something that would have come out of the Leica Monochrom! Good lenses can make all of the difference in the world. 

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So if you shoot Micro 4/3, Olympus or Panasonic, and you want a fast portrait length prime that offers a bit of EVERYTHING such as fast aperture, delicious bokeh, amazing sharpness and detail/micro-contrast which also happens to shoot great video then PUT THIS LENS ON YOUR LIST. Yes, it is $1600 and yes it is expensive but this lens will hold value over the long-term, moreso than a standard M 4/3 lens.

Micro 4/3 has come a long long way since the early days and today it offers astounding IQ, fast speed, the best built mirror less bodies as well as the fastest and the best collection of glass out of any mirror less system. From wide to tele and macro, there is nothing that a Micro 4/3 system can not do. Olympus and Panasonic are rocking it big time and this lens just solidifies the fact that Micro 4/3 will NOT go away despite the doom and gloom of some large sensor fans. Many have asked me about the new Fuji 56 1.2, which is also a fast portrait prime for the X system. I have NOT tried the Fuji yet but HAVE handled it. The build of the Panasonic is better. I have seen numerous shots from the Fuji and they look gorgeous as well but no OIS in the lens OR body for Fuji. Also, the Bokeh from the Fuji is a little on the busy side in comparison.

If a man came up to me and said pick one and keep it..for free. Either a Fuji X-T1 and 56 1.2 or an Olympus PEN E-P5  with finder and the Nocticron, I would not hesitate for a nano-second. It would be the PEN and Nocticron. Easy choice for me. Still, Fuji is another company that seems to “get it” when it comes to releasing what many of us enthusiasts want. I say, keep ‘em coming!

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I feel that the Panasonic Nocticron 42.5 f/1.2 lens is the best built AF lens for the Micro 4/3 system. Period. It is also the fastest aperture AF prime for the system. It is a true “Noct” lens in its rendering and style and deserves to be up there with other well-known “Noct” lenses that cost MUCH more than this one does. For me, I had to own one so I bought one after shooting the review sample for 2 weeks, so that may say something right there.

In regards to the 45 1.8 which I also own, I bought the Noct as it inspires me more to go out and shoot with it. It offers am ore creamy and organic rendering over the 45 1.8, better color and contrast and is more of an Artists tool than a lens. I am a sucker for fast glass and I did not believe for a nanosecond that I would spurge and purchase this lens, but it is that good. It has more Leica than Panasonic it seems, and that is a good thing as you can not get a real Leica lens for less than a few grand new (50 Summilux f/1.4 is $4300). This is why I purchased one for myself.

So I highly recommend this lens for any and all Micro 4/3 shooters who WANT and DESIRE a lens such as this.

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WHERE TO BUY THE NOCTICRON!

You can buy the Nocticron using the direct links below to Amazon or B&H Photo. Using these links will help me to keep this site going and costs you NOTHING extra so if this review helped your decision, I thank you for using the links below!

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT AMAZON HERE

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT B&H PHOTO HERE

More samples from the Nocticron!

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PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 5 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 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.

To help out it is simple. 

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

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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Mar 262014
 

User Report: The Olympus E-M1

by Leigh Miller – His website is HERE

These are exciting times in the world of photography and for the first time we have cameras in three different formats that show some real innovation.

I’ve switched completely from the dominant format (35mm) to Micro Four Thirds and APS-C. All of my professional work is now done with a combination of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and an assortment of Fuji cameras. The E-M1 saw the majority of use on my trip because it’s so versatile. The small size, fast performance and great image quality meant that I could take it anywhere with zero concerns.

Size

The complete kit of body and 12-40 zoom lens takes up practically no space at all in my slingback bag. Over the two-week period I hiked, biked, rowed, went boating and horseback riding making pictures along the way. It’s so light that I was shooting one-handed in many situations.

Sunrise in San Pedro

Performance

You don’t wait on the E-M1, it waits for you. This thing starts up fast, focuses fast and writes to the SD Card fast. I never over-ran the memory buffer during high-speed shooting. The 12-40 zoom was tailor-made for this camera. Used together you have a weather-resistant kit that can go anywhere. I took it out of an air-conditioned hotel into searing heat without it fogging up. I got it splashed with water repeatedly while boating down a fast-moving river with absolutely no problems. I never missed a shot because of focusing issues either. The AF is as accurate as it is fast.

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Image Quality

Lot’s of noise has been made about the IQ of M4/3 sensors. The general opinion is that while they turn out great travel and leisure activity images, you need a full frame or APS-C camera for professional work.

Absolute nonsense.

The image quality from this camera in top-notch and I haven’t had any trouble using them in my professional assignments. I’ve done headshot, product, product, real estate…beauty & fashion photography assignments for my clients with it. In many cases, I don’t even bother shooting RAW. Like Fuji cameras, the E-M1 allows you to pre-process your images exactly as you want them to look.

Portofino Resort Docks

Summary

I spent a month with the E-M1 before taking it to Belize. More than enough time to familiarize myself and set it up according to my shooting style. The sheer number of configuration options can be overwhelming but there are good resources to help you out.

http://www.biofos.com/mft/omd_em1_settings.html

http://photolisticlife.com/2013/10/17/olympus-om-d-e-m1-user-guide/

Give yourself an hour and a glass of wine. By the time the hour is up and the glass is empty this camera will be configured with all of the important functions right under your fingers.

Feeding Time

 A couple of items you want to watch:

Battery Life: Right out of the box this camera is set up to drain the batteries really fast. Change it to turn off the rear LCD unless you are reviewing an image. Also turn of the full-time auto-focus. When you have done those two things, set the camera to go to sleep after two minutes. Doing this extended my battery life to about 700’ish shots per charge.

Weather Resistance: The only lens that completes the body sealing is the 12-40mm zoom. If you have older lenses such as the 45mm, they become the weakest link.

JPEG Engine: Very good but you want to tone down the noise reduction. It’s far too aggressive with the factory setting.

Shutter Button: Very light action. If you sling the camera over your shoulder and it comes into contact with your body, you will go home to find an SD Card full of random shots.

Video: Olympus readily admits that video wasn’t their biggest concern when they designed the E-M1. That may turn some people off but it shouldn’t. Unless you need the advanced video features of the Panasonic GH2/3 or 4 the E-M1 will do a good enough job.

The IBIS alone is worth it’s weight in gold when shooting video. Handheld footage is smooth and generally well exposed and detailed. The files also respond well to post-processing in Adobe Premiere. The only time it tripped up was when I filmed while on horseback. The gait of the horse threw off the IBIS and focusing. However in every other situation it performed very well.

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Streets of San Pedro

Video Sample

 

Equipment Used for the images here

Olympus OM-D E-M1

M.Zuiko 12-40mm F/2.8

M.Zuiko 45mm F/1.8

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On Horseback

Feb 252014
 

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The Olympus 25 1.8 Lens Review on the E-M1

By Steve Huff

Hello once again to all of you camera crazy readers! Today I am going to talk about the new-ish Olympus 25 1.8 lens as it has recently shipped and is really the only Auto Focus competition to the now legendary Panasonic 25 1.4 lens, which has been known as one of the finest lenses for  the Micro 4/3 system. That lens, on SOME cameras, has been known to have slower focus and a “rattlesnake” sound when just attached to the lens with the camera being powered on. (On the E-M1 I do not hear this effect though). The new Olympus is smaller, sleeker, focuses faster, much shorter with hood attached and comes in at $129 less than the Panasonic counterpart.

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But how does it stack up to the Panasonic? Well, I will tell you right off the bat that while it is not as sharp as the Panasonic, it gets about 99.5% there. It does not have the Micro Contrast of the Panasonic, but gets us about 90% of the way there. It vignettes slightly when wide open where the Panasonic does not but it does focus slightly faster and like I said, it is quite a bit smaller as you will see below in the size comparison.

On the Las Vegas strip at f/2.5 with the Olympus 25 1.8. If you click this image you can see a larger size that is much sharper. In fact, it will show you just how sharp the lens is. I converted this one to B&W. 

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Over the years I have grown fond of certain lenses for the Micro 4/3 system. The Panasonic 25 1.4 is one of them while others like the Olympus 45 1.8, 75 1.8 and even 17 1.8 are up there as well with me. The 60 Macro is astonishing and the 12mm f/2 is one I really enjoy. The new 12-40 Zoom seems pretty versatile and incredible as well. I’d say my #1 most used lens on my E-M1 is the 17 1.8. For me, it has the sharpness, the detail, the color, and the “feel”. I love it but I also have been enjoying the 35mm (equiv) focal length more lately.

Shot at f/1.8 this is close focused and right out of camera. Bold bright color and sharp with a pleasant Bokeh. Click it for larger/sharper!

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The Micro 4/3 Version of a 50mm explained

I go in phases between the 35mm and 50mm being my #1 fave to shoot with and these days it is 35 all the way, so when out shooting with this 25 (50mm equiv) I was once again having to get used to shooting this focal length. After a solid few days of shooting with it daily I remember what it is that makes it my #2 favorite focal length! It has the perfect mix of sharpness and shallow DOF possibilities. While this is indeed a true 25mm lens, and we will get 25mm DOF from the lens, the focal length appears as a 50mm. So imagine the Olympus 25mm as a 50mm with 25mm Depth of Field and “Bokeh”. Due to the shorter focal length we will not get subject isolation as we will get on a real 50mm. It will give us 25mm DOF and isolation and yes, f 1.8 is a true f/1.8. Just on a 25mm lens.

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At the end of the day though, a 25mm acts like a 50mm for focal length/magnification so this is what you are going to see when looking through your viewfinder. It will not be like when you put a 24mm on your full frame camera, but like when you put a 50mm on your full frame camera except for the Depth of Field control. Basically, on Micro 4/3 we are magnifying that 25mm to give us a 50mm field of view.

Other 25mm lenses include the Panasonic 25 1.4, which is one of the highest rated 25mm lenses for Micro 4/3. We also have the amazingly good, and one of my all time manual focus faves, the Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 which allows you to focus close, get almost full frame quality Depth of Field and Bokeh, and is built like the Voigtlander lenses for the Leica system.

One of our workshop attendees taking a break in the middle of the desert with his Starbucks and Leica M :)

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As always, speed costs and in Micro 4/3 is no exception. The Olympus 25 1.8 costs $399, the Panasonic is $529 and the Voigtlander will run you a cool grand.

You can see my Panasonic review HERE and some Voigtlander shots are HERE.

At the Valley of Fire with Todd Hatakeyama (Master Organizer – foreground) and Pro Photographer Extraordinaire Jay Bartlett (Background)

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Just as with my other Micro 4/3 lens reviews, there is not much to say about the lens. I mean, when a lens is sharp, focuses fast and is small, light and beautiful in design what can you say? It really has no faults so all I can do is write about what I feel when it is compared to the Panasonic 25 1.4, the lens who reigns supreme in this focal length for this format. I already did ONE quick comparison while out on the road (which is why it was quick) so let me go into more detail about this lens VS the mighty Panasonic.

This is an OOC JPEG from the E-m1 and 25 1.8 shot at 2.5

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The Olympus 25 1.8 vs the Panasonic 25 1.4

  • Cost. The Panasonic can be bought HERE for $529. The Olympus can be bought here for $399. So, the Olympus is $129 less expensive than the Panasonic. Makes sense because the Olympus is an f/1.8 lens vs an f/1.4 of the Panasonic. So for cost, and bang for the buck, the Olympus wins.
  • SIZE. The Panasonic is quite a bit larger than the Olympus when the hoods are attached (see below) but the Panasonic is still a very small lens. Only when viewed next to the Olympus does it look large. The Olympus is super small and light where the Panasonic is wider, taller and has more bulk. The Olympus almost appears to be half the size when looking at the image below. So if small size if your thing, the Olympus wins. 

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  • Sharpness. BOTH of these lenses can render a super sharp image. BOTH have slightly different color and contrast signatures though. I would say that the Olympus is just as sharp as the Panasonic..well, 99.5% as sharp when both lenses are shot at 1.8. I’d say the Panasonic has a little bit better Micro Contrast though as when looking at some real world street shooting files on my 27″ display I see it. This is a sign of a very good lens, and is one area where Leica excels with their uber expensive lenses. For example, the Leica 50 Summicron f/2 has amazing micro contrast and one of my all time favorite Leica lenses for the M system (or Sony A7). The Panasonic 25 1.4 is a Leica/Panasonic collaboration so it shares some of that Leica magic. I used to think it did not but it does indeed though not to the level of true Leica glass. The difference is not huge between the Panasonic and Olympus  by any means but you can see it when pixel peeping. So because of this, For overall performance and sharpness, the Panasonic wins.

See the full size files below from each lens at apertures from 1.4 to 1.8 to 5.6..the Panasonic does not appear to be any sharper than the Olympus here:

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Now the Panasonic wide open at 1.4, which the Olympus can not do..

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and both stopped down to f/5.6

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  • AF Speed. When out on the street shooting these lenses I though for sure that the Olympus would smoke the Panasonic with Auto Focus, and that was not the case! Both lenses focused fast on my E-M1, and to be 100% honest, I saw no difference in speed when out in the street at night using both. The Olympus may have a slight edge overall, but it is not a night and day, and for some will not even be noticeable. Remember  though, this is on the E-M1 which may be helping the lenses to focus fast. So I give this one a Tie with a SLIGHT edge going to the Olympus.
  • Bokeh. Well, if Bokeh is what you are after (and many Micro 4/3 shooters are indeed after this) then you will want the Panasonic as it is an f/1.4 lens. While not much of a difference at all, there is indeed a mental difference going on in that head of yours and if speed is what you need then you will not be happy with the f/1.8 of the Olympus. Nope, go for the Panasonic! If speed is not of great concern and you realize that f/1.4 is not a huge step up from f/1.8 then the Olympus may be just the ticket. In reality, when the Panasonic is shot at f/1.4 you will not see much more background blur than the 1.8 of the Olympus. It exists but will you see it? Maybe, maybe not. Both lenses rock this.  Panasonic wins here as it has the ability to create MORE shallow DOF and Bokeh. 

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  • Distortion and CA. The Panasonic has more CA (Purple Fringing) than the Olympus, which is clear and evident. So for this the Olympus wins. See the crop below from each lens. 

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So at the end of the day BOTH of these lenses will deliver the goods. Me, I prefer the Olympus as I am not losing much at all over the Panasonic but I am gaining the small size, the nice price and the overall look that matches my other Olympus primes AS WELL as almost no CA issues. I could live with EITHER lens long-term. It comes down to if you want small size, slightly faster AF, and f 1.8 or if you want larger, faster aperture at 1.4 and slightly slower AF while paying $129 more.

If you own the Panasonic, keep it. If you do not own either, you can save money and be 100% happy with the Olympus. If you want the Olympus you can sell your Panasonic for as much as it costs to buy the new Olympus. In other words, there is no wrong choice here. Both lenses are fantastic. Those who are putting down the Olympus (and I have already seen it on forums and right here on the comments of this website) are just those who own the Panasonic, never tried the Olympus and are sticking up for their brand. BOTH lenses are wonderful and both will give you the tool you need to express your photographic vision. I have to hand it to Olympus for constantly releasing new amazing lenses. This is another one they can add to the premium list of primes that help make the Micro 4/3 system so enjoyable! Keep ‘em coming Olympus AND Panasonic! PLEASE!

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WHERE TO BUY?

You can order the Olympus 25 1.8 at Amazon HERE or at B&H Photo HERE.

PopFlash also sells the lens here.

This lens has a 46mm filter thread so using my favorite ND filter is possible with this one!

A few more shots with the Olympus 25 1.8 Lens 

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PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 5 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 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.

To help out it is simple. 

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

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

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

Feb 242014
 

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Quick Comparison: Olympus 25 1.8 vs Panasonic 25 1.4

So here is the much asked for comparison of the $399 Olympus 25 1.8 vs the $129 more expensive 25 1.4 for Micro 4/3. Besides the slight speed increase of 1.4 vs 1.8, what does the Panasonic offer you for the extra $129..or should I say what DOESNT it offer?

I have shot with them side by side for a few days and found that they are VERY close in regards to image quality/sharpness. So close in fact that if I were buying new today I would buy the Olympus if I was using an Olympus Micro 4/3 camera. It seems to be just as good, it focuses fast, is smaller, and has no issues on the Olympus bodies. Below are a few quick comparison shots so you can judge for yourself.

The test images below.. you can right-click and open them in a new tab or window to see the full size file.

1st, Olympus 25 1.8 with the E-M1 at 1.8, wide open

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Now the Panasonic 25 1.4 at 1.8 on the E-M1

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and the crops..

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The Panasonic is slightly sharper here but not by much at all. To me, the benefits of the Olympus ($129 less, smaller, faster AF, silent focus, more neutral color) beat out that small miniscule sharpness difference.

and speaking of sharpness, here is a full size shot from the E-M1 and 25 1.8 – right-click and open in a new window to see the full size image (from RAW). This was shot at f/2.5.

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Feb 122014
 

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Olympus E-M1 takes Manhattan!!

By Neil Buchan-Grant

Just before Christmas I sailed from Southampton to New York on the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner for the 3rd year running. This time I had with me two beautiful models, one was the London-based print model Irina Sosnova and the other was the Olympus OMD-EM1. My objective was to come back with some shots depicting the loose narrative of a beautiful woman crossing the Atlantic alone to be with her man in New York.

Along with the EM1 body I had with me a bag of Olympus lenses including the 12mm, 17mm (f1.8), 45mm, 60mm macro, 75mm and 12-40mm f2.8 Pro. I also had my Leica DG 25mm Summilux and a Leica M 35mm Summilux ASPH (non FLE).

The weather was pretty bad for most of the journey. We managed to get out on the deck for only 15 minutes during the whole trip. During this mini-shoot the winds were so high Irina was convinced her false eyelashes were going to blow right off! As we shot, passengers and crew were forming an audience and were running a book on how long it would take for her flimsy silk dress to do the same! I was using my Olympus FL50 flash on manual but was still managing to wildly overexpose many of the shots. Everything felt so rushed with the winds, we could hardly hear each other talk, it was both frantic and exhilarating! Fortunately I shoot RAW so managed to save the files but I really need to try to get to grips with flash this year:)

The rest of the journey we spent indoors, moving around the ship looking for interesting light and reasonable backdrops. By the end of the week we knew exactly where to go for the best light at any given time of day. Night time shooting was not easy but I did find some wonderful diffuse light in the doorway of the perfume store, thanks to the huge perfume display lighting. But as I keep reading in Gregory Heisler’s new book, things would be so much easier if I could crack the ‘off camera-flash mixed with ambient light’ thing! I will do one day but even on manual, I seem to get big variances! Anyway, I pressed on with my reflector disc and what comes through the window.

We arrived in New York with unusually balmy, warm weather. Within 3 days it dropped about 25 degrees. It started warm and rainy and we had a terrible first day of shooting traipsing around Soho looking for opportunities in the rain along with our NYC based make up artist Gil Aldrin who very wisely as it turned out, wore uber-fashionable Wellington boots!. The next day we awoke to clear blue skies, it was colder than a well-diggers ass, but brilliant sunshine. We were joined by a New York model TJ Fink who does a sideline in stand-up when he’s not smiling for the camera. We shot a few scenes near the Brooklyn bridge where it seemed extra cold by the water. I had remembered from my first year in New York that around 2pm the low winter sun lights up 6th Avenue and creates a monumental drama at around 56th street. So we headed over there and popped out the reflector which Gil kindly wielded for me. I’m not accustomed to shooting more than one person at a time and even newer to shooting peoples’ ‘legs’. Combined with the Christmas traffic and having to dive inside nearby cafe’s and hotels just to warm up it made for a challenging but rewarding day!

I also brought out a Sony A7 to use with my Leica M 50mm Summilux lens. I thought perhaps a full frame option would be useful. It’s a breakthrough camera there’s no doubt but I have to say, I found it slow and unresponsive in actual use. Reviewing images was a drag. The images I was able to capture with the fast AF of the EM1 were turning out more accurately focussed than I could do manually. Of course the A7 with that lens has a little more subject isolation but its not enough of a difference to make me want to pick it up in place of the EM1. I ended up shooting very little on the A7 even though I took it along every day.

The last proper day of shooting was even colder but we lifted the mood with a trip up to the top of the rock which was surprisingly warmer than on the street! We got there about an hour before sundown and it made for some nice reflector shots wide open and closed down. I normally have my standard prime glued to the camera but as I wanted some context, I used wider lenses a great deal. The 17mm was a great performer wide open and still gave me a very pleasing background. The 12-40 zoom was a great lens to use too, sharp, contrasty and handy in its range of immediate focal lengths. But the EM1 body was simply the most intuitive camera I have ever used. Ive been using it since September and it just works. It feels solid and secure to hold without weighing me down and it produces lovely clean files in low light. Adjusting the exposure in real-time in the viewfinder, using exposure compensation is now for me the only way to shoot. No numbers, no calculations, no guessing, just visualising the shot, dialling it in and seeing the end result appear before I even push the release.

So here are my favourites from the shoot. I’ve processed these with Photoshop, Lightroom Silver Efex Pro 2 and Colour Efex 4. Of course as some of you may know, I do have a working relationship with Olympus but I have to say, I’m a very willing evangelist (or ‘fanboy’ as I think is the popular vernacular:) I sold my M9 recently and I have a strong feeling that I’ll be selling my M lenses soon too!

More EM1 pics can be seen at www.buchangrant.com

Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 17mm lens Olympus FL50 flash ISO 200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 17mm lens ISO 200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 45mm lens ISO 3200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 60mm Macro lens ISO 1600

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux 25mm lens ISO 200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12-40mm pro lens ISO 200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux 25mm lens ISO 200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 45mm lens ISO 200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 17mm lens ISO 3200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux 25mm lens ISO 1000

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12-40mm Pro lens (31mm) ISO 320

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux 25mm lens ISO200

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Queen Mary 2 – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux 25mm lens ISO 640

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6th Ave Manhattan – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12-40mm Pro lens (17mm) ISO 200

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Manhattan – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12-40mm Pro lens (27mm) ISO 320

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Manhattan – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 45mm lens ISO 1250

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Times Square street portrait, Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux lens ISO 1600 (grain added for effect in post-processing)

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Williamsburg Brooklyn – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12-40 Pro lens (15mm) ISO 200

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Manhattan – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 17mm lens ISO 200

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Top of the Rock, Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica 25mm ISO 200

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Times Square – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12mm lens ISO 1600

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Top of the Rock , Manhattan – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 17mm lens ISO 200

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Times Square street portrait – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica DG Summilux 25mm lens ISO 400

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Manhattan – Olympus OMD EM1 Olympus 17mm lens ISO 200

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Brooklyn – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 12-40mm Pro lens (27mm) ISO 200

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Brooklyn – Olympus OMD-EM1 Leica M 35mm Summilux lens ISO 250

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This was shot handheld at 1/5th of a second thanks to the OMD EM1′s in-built stabilisation system. Taken on the very cold open air rooftop bar of the Peninsula Hotel off 5th Avenue (which you can see below filled with last minute Christmas shoppers!)

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Top of the Rock,Manhattan – Olympus OMD-EM1 Olympus 17mm lens ISO 200

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More EM1 pics can be seen at www.buchangrant.com

Jan 212014
 

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24 Hours with The Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4. A quick review.

by Steve Huff

This is not really a “review” of the X-E2 and 23 1.4 but more of a report on using the camera for 24 hours. The X-E2 is VERY similar to the X-E1 and there is not much more to say about the X-E2 besides talk about the AF speed improvement and the overall response time. Has it improved from the X-E1? Read on to find out as I write about my 24 hours with the X-E2 and 23 14!

Here we are in 2014 and Fuji is still continuing to pump out X body after X body with another new one supposedly on the way at the end of Jan 2014. For now I will be talking a bit about the Fuji X-E2 which is the replacement and update to the X-E1, which I found to be a good camera but a little slow to focus.. With that said, the X-E1 had the IQ behind it even if I have not been a fan of the X-Trans sensor for various reasons (I am in the minority here, I admit). Nope, I have always preferred the X100 sensor above all of the Fuji cameras as it just a had a tad of magic behind it that I preferred. The X-E2 continues with the X-Trans sensor but these days the support for processing these X-Trans files has finally grown and one can now use Adobe products to process the RAW files without any issues.

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This makes a difference or course and helps to removes some of the “flatness” and odd artifacts I saw in earlier reviews or earlier X-Trans cameras (when using Adobe to process). In fact, I am now really liking what I see coming from these X-Trans sensors and I do not have to download special software or software that I do not enjoy using to get fantastic results.

Fuji X-E2, 23 1.4 at 1.4 and ISO 320

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The Fuji X-E2 looks and feels like the X-E1 though it feels better and more solid when in use with the new and fantastic 23 1.4. Thanks to B&H Photo I was able to shoot one for a few days or so and while I originally was not going to review or do a report on the X-E2 I decided to give it a shot as I really wanted to check out the new 23 1.4 lens, which I knew would rock. Fuji makes some fantastic glass and all of their lenses have been stellar even though a couple of them have had focus speed and accuracy issues. Overall they are solid in the IQ department even beating out the Zeiss Touit designs.

ISO 3200 – 23 1.4 wide open

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With the X-E2 Fuji brings in a few improvements

For starters the sensor is still 16Mp but is now named the X-Trans CMOS II and the processor is also version II. The AF is also quicker and now included phase and contrast detect AF, which indeed does speed up the focus from the snail days of the original firmware X-Pro 1. The X-E2 adds the gimmicky face detection and the LCD has grown by a smidge as well as the resolution doubling (LCD). Same battery, same charger, same everything else but the body is now $999, same price of the X-E1 at launch. Basically it is what the X-E1 SHOULD HAVE been from the get go! But Fuji is learning and I give them the award for most dedicated support because n other camera company has been as dedicated to firmware updates for their cameras. Fuji improves the performance of their cameras with each and every firmware update, and they are not shy about releasing them like some companies (Leica for one).

In use the X-E2 is indeed an improvement over the X-E1!

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Size and Weight

The size of the X-E2 remains exactly the same as the X-E1. In fact, besides some button changes the bodies are almost 100% identical. So the X-E2 feels the same as the X-E1, which as I reported before is a little on the hollowly side of neutral. Both the Sony A7 and Olympus E-M1 feels more solid in the build department and in fact, the X-E2 is bigger than both of them, even the full frame Sony A7! The X-E1 is nice but not quite there yet when it comes to build quality but there has not been any issues reported with the X-E1 or X-E2 so this really means nothing when it comes to shooting and bringing home the image. Just know if you are coming from Leica, Sony A7 or the E-M1 that your 1st impression may be “this feels hollow”. ;) If Rambo were to shoot a mirror less I see him more as a Leica guy…

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What happens in Vegas..gets reported about HERE. Under certain light the Fuji’s always give me this pinkish tone/hue. Talk about bad taste…they do not call it “Sin City” for nothing!

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Vegas Baby!

When I decided to give the X-E2 a try a decided I wanted to take a drive to Vegas and shoot the camera. I brought along the X-E2 and 23 1.4 as well as the Sony A7 and Olympus E-M1, both with 35mm (or equivalent) lenses. All I had with me was one focal length and that was 35mm. I wanted to shoot all three and see which one I preferred shooting. Would I enjoy the X-E2 the most or would the E-M1 slaughter them all for usability? For me Usability is very important because if a camera mis focuses, can not focus or is slow to start-up or just plain giving me hassles I will HATE it. That is one reason the X-Pro 1 bothered me so much with the 1st shipping firmware. By now Fuji has surely fixed all of the teething issues..at least that is what I told myself.

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The good news is that during my 24 hour stay in Las Vegas I had 3 missed shots with the Fuji out of 100 due to not being able to focus due to low light. This is a huge improvement over when I reviewed the X-Pro 1. I also missed a few from the camera taking so long to wake from sleep mode. By the time it popped back on the subject and photo pop was long gone so beware if you are attempting to shoot on the street when you need all of the speed you can get. When the camera goes to sleep it can take a couple of seconds to wake up. Other than that I had only TWO shots that mis-focused out of the 100. So again, a huge improvement over the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 (in my experience).

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This is more like a modern day camera :)

The color was typical Fuji and if you love Fuji and know Fuji then you know exactly what I mean. Fuji has a way of rendering colors that can be very pleasing. They can pop, they can give a feeling of “wow” and they can be very contrasty as well. Throw that Velvia setting on and shoot JPEG and you will have some rich and contrasty vibrant shots and IMO a bit too much. But some love the JPEG presets and they are well known to be that “Fuji Look”.

Rich Fuji Colors will explode from the X-E2. These are colors that do NOT come out of a Sony or Olympus. If you like it you buy Fuji.

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Shooting it with the A7 and E-M1..which did I prefer?

While I was having fun walking around Vegas and looking for a shot or two I was taking turns shooting between the X-E2 and Sony and Olympus. For starters I can say that the fastest and most complete feeling experience came from the Olympus E-M1. To be honest, it feels and shoot with such speed and grace and feels so good doing it many would never need anything more. It does lose quality as the lights get low though and the Sony and Fuji was able to keep plowing through. Still, the 17 1.8 on the Olympus was able to shoot without issue in any light and remained fast in doing so no matter if it was dark or light. The Fuji and Sony slowed down in the AF department when the lights got lower but as stated, the quality stayed high.

So it is a give and take and all depends on what you desire more..speed and usability or the best IQ in all situations. All cameras delivered images for me that I was 100% happy with. None of them left me wanting anything more. I enjoyed them all.

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Auto Exposure..a quick comparison

As a quick test for my own curiosity I wanted to shoot each camera and lens wide open with Auto ISO set to ON. The 23 1.4 at 1.4, the 17 1.8 at 1.8 and the 35 2.8 at 2.8. What exposure and ISO would each camera choose? How much higher would the Sony have to go in the ISO dept to get the shot? The results are below. Be sure to see my full size file comparison of the X-E2, Sony A7 and Olympus E-M1 HERE.

First the Fuji. Set to 1.4 the ISO chosen by the camera was ISO 1600 and the Shutter Speed was 1/60s.

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The Sony was set wide open to f/2.8 and the camera chose 1/60s and ISO 6400! Yes, ISO 6400. Due to the slower lens  the ISO had to be jacked up. As you can see the Fuji DOF looks the same as the Sony but the Fuji need a 1.4 lens to match 2.8 on the Sony. If I threw a f/1.4 on the Sony it would have been much better with a lower ISO, more shallow DOF and more pop. 

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And the Olympus E-M1 and 17 1.8 at 1.8. You would think the Olympus would fail here but it chose ISO 1600 and 1/30s. A little more noisy but still looks great considering the circumstances and low light. This shot has the MOST DOF for obvious reasons. 

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The thing to remember here is that I had an f/2.8 lens on the Sony. If I brought along the 50 1.5 Voigtlander or the Sony 55 1.8 the Sony would have the most WOW factor and neither the Olympus or Fuji could have touched it. for sharpness, noise or 3D pop. In other words the Sony can do better as it has much more in the reserve tank but the Fuji and Oly are maxed out to their limits here.

To sum it up..

To sum it up..the Fuji X-E2 is the BEST fuji X body at the time of this writing. I may still prefer the X100 and X100s but if you want interchangeable lenses then the X-E2 gets my nod for best body today (until the new X-T1 arrives at $1700 US). At $999 it is a good buy and fairly priced for what you get. Many like to claim that the Fuji’s have the best IQ of any camera today. I do not agree with that at all but can say that these Fuji’s have a look all of their own and can pump out fantastic beautiful quality images that have the Fuji signature stamped on them. If you happen to adore that signature then there is nothing better than the X-E2 to get you there.

Fuji is pumping out quality fast primes as well. The 23 1.4 is the best lens from Fuji that I have shot with and the aperture dial on the lens is the icing on the cake. I think ALL camera manufacturers should do this as it just adds to the whole shooting experience.

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Today we have choices like we would have never dreamed of just a few years ago. Sony, Olympus, Fuji, Pentax, Ricoh, Leica are just a few that come to mind when I think of high quality small mirror less. Each one of those manufactures have a solid offering that can deliver images that rival just about anything out there, and imagine..it WILL be getting better in 2014 and beyond.

My only niggle with the Fuji X-E2 is that the auto white balance can be pretty off in some lighting where the A7 and Oly did fine. I sometimes get a pinkish and harsh hue in low light situations (see the nuns above of the table balancer below) which I have only seen in the X-Trans sensors. Other than that I had no problems with the Fuji X-E2.

So yes! I can highly recommend the Fuji X-E2 and especially the 23 1.4 lens.

Where to Buy the X-E2 and 23 1.4 Lens.

X-E2  – B&H Photo

23 1.4 – B&H Photo

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X-E2 – PopFlash.com

23 1.4 – PopFlash.com

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X-E2 at Amazon

23 1.4 – Amazon

More images below from my 24 hours with the X-E2 and 23 1.4! Enjoy!

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PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 5 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 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.

To help out it is simple. 

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

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

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

Full size from the Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4. EXIF is embedded. Right click and open in a new window to view correctly.

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