May 282016
 
PRED

PRED

My Crystal Ball sees a new Leica M coming…new Olympus..Sony..Predictions!

It has been years since I pulled out my old crystal ball to make a camera prediction (2012), and it has never failed me in the past so why not have some fun and write about what I feel is coming down the road SOON from Leica, and some others…BUT keep in mind these are predictions. I have zero inside info, so take them for what they are worth! All in good fun my friends but my old Crystal Ball predictions have all been very close or spot on! My last prediction was before the M 240, and here is what my Crystal Ball said then:

FROM 2012: “As for an M10…I saw a sad face like there have been difficulties with it..maybe it is not ready but I do not see an M10 being available until MID 2013 and maybe THIS will be the “R” solution. Imagine a CMOS – LIVEVIEW M that can take R glass as well. Hmmmmm. The M10…I wouldn’t expect a working demo unit to be unveiled in September but maybe can announcement about it.”

The M 240 ended up coming in March of 2013 and had Live View and was able to use R lenses via adapter. ;) Was not called the M10, but M240.

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LEICA

I do see a new Leica M coming THIS YEAR..a slimmer M..a new RF/EVF experience..an M with an RF and EVF and no lag with live view. It will be slimmer to resemble the Leica film bodies of past and present and will have new design cues as well. Something not so expected from hardcore M fans, but at the same time, welcome as it will take the M into the future. Leica, I feel, has heard the complaints from many about the M 240 thickness, and I truly feel the new M will be as good as a modern day rangefinder can get. Big things will be the new sensor, the new RF/VF, the new design which will keep the iconic shape and style but will be a slimmer body than the M 240. There will be an LCD, great battery system and possibly a new way to get to your SD cards besides removing the bottom plate.

I predict this will be the ultimate digital M with capabilities not seen before (high ISO) in previous M’s. Price, I also predict a lower price. Not $8k or $7k..I will predict $5995-$6300.

Now, I have zero inside info, as always..but my crystal ball has never been 100% wrong ;) So we shall see. I think last 1/4 of the year will see an announcement from Leica. I also see in the fog what looks like a Q but with a different lens…not sure though. ;)

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OLYMPUS

There may be a new E-M1 MKII coming by November. I predict this will be the most powerful Olympus Micro 4/3 ever devised and include some of the new features shown in their latest tough cam. Expect rock solid build, a more squared off appearance and unique to Olympus features that will once again show that Olympus innovates more than anyones else in digital imaging. I also see a large and beautiful EVF. Now, this is all a prediction, I have no inside info..if I did, I would be sued for giving it away, so let’s hope my crystal ball is still working after all of these years :) The E-M1 Mark II or E-M2 should be one slick professional M 4/3 camera with a new sensor and the best low light capabilities of M 4/3 to date and it will be FAST. I think this one will be huge for Olympus as in, a HUGE release announcement and it will be a big deal in the digital imaging world. My crystal ball fogged out before I could see details but I think this one will be quite awesome!

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SONY

Again, no inside info ever but my Crystal Ball, while foggy by the time I got to Sony showed me something massive..I saw the words BIG…SPECIAL..POWERFUL…and I do not think it was the body that is large, though it may be larger than the A7 series. I saw a bit of a square-ish shape, and sharp lines. Maybe the long rumored A9? If so, I except this to be a statement piece from Sony much like the NEX-7 was when it launched. Not sure yet…but Sony never ever disappoints!

I did see something with a huge letter N as well and it was NOT a DSLR. Hmmmmm

I hope you are all having a killer weekend as Summer approaches! More on Monday my friends!

 

May 242016
 

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PRESS RELEASE: NEW GEAR – Olympus Tough TG Tracker!

Look at what Olympus has been up to! Many of you know about the TOUGH series of cameras. Rugged, waterproof, freezeproof, and a camera that can be taken to just about any weather condition or scenario you can imagine. With the new tracker Olympus has created the most capable TOUGH camera to date, and at a nice price. This one has 4K video, a 204 degree ultra wide angle lens, Field Sensors to judge location with GPS, altitude and water depth with a barometric pressure sensor, an ambient temp sensor and an accelerometer as well. The lens is an f/2 design as well. The camera looks awesome, looks tough as nails and seems to surpass any TOUGH camera to date. At a price of $349, I will be picking one up for those days in the pool, at the lake or when I want to shoot some cool video. Vacation to the Bahamas? This camera could get tons of use.

PRE-ORDER IT HERE at B&H PHOTO IN BLACK

PRE-ORDER IT AT B&H PHOTO IN GREEN

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TRACK THE EXTRORDINARY: NEW OLYMPUS STYLUS TOUGH TG-TRACKER CAPTURES EVERY DETAIL OF YOUR ADVENTURES

Ultra HD 4K Video Comes Alive with High-Quality Imaging and Rich Log Data That Tells an Immersive Story

CENTER VALLEY, PA, May 24, 2016 — Olympus expands the outdoor video experience with the latest member of the Tough product family, the new Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker. The Stylus Tough TG-Tracker is the first rugged experiential camera that combines Olympus’s Tough rugged capabilities with an advanced Field Sensor System,*1 a 204° ultra-wide-angle F2.0 high-speed lens and Ultra HD 4K 30p video capture to record brilliant action video with corresponding activity data. The Stylus Tough TG-Tracker’s built-in Field Sensors include GPS,*2 a barometric-pressure sensor, a temperature sensor, an e.Compass and an accelerometer. Data logs can be displayed simultaneously with recorded images using the Olympus Image Track app, enhancing the excitement of reliving outdoor action with an immersive, data-rich viewing experience.

Like all other cameras in the Olympus Tough™ series, the Stylus Tough TG-Tracker is optimized for the most extreme shooting environments, with five rugged capabilities: waterproof to depths of 100 feet,*3 dustproof,*4 shockproof from 7 feet,*5 freezeproof to 14°F,*6 and crushproof up to 220 pounds of force,*7 — no protective case required. The Stylus Tough TG-Tracker represents a new category of rugged cameras with its Field Sensor System that’s capable of capturing location, altitude and depth, g-force and air and water temperature while users record videos and still images of their outdoor adventures.

A high-intensity LED headlight is integrated into the camera body for shooting support in low-light conditions. The bundled SG-T01 Steady Grip helps with stable framing during hand-held shooting. The Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker’s compact body and tilt-out LCD monitor provide for quick and easy video capture, including low- and high-angle shooting.

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*1 Because the GPS and other field sensors are not intended for use as strictly accurate measurement functions, under no circumstances are measured values (such as longitude and latitude, altitude, shooting direction and temperature) guaranteed. Additionally, information may differ from actual circumstances due to the effects of events such as natural disasters. *2 Depending on the country/region of use, different laws and regulations may be applicable regarding the use of the GPS function. Be sure to follow local laws and regulations. Turn off the GPS function in places where its use is forbidden or restricted, such as inside airplanes. Either the A-GPS Utility computer software or the Olympus Image Track app is required to update the Assist GPS data. *3 Waterproof functionality is equivalent to JIS/IEC protection class 8 (IPX8) according to tests performed following our in-house methods. *4 Equivalent to JIS/IEC protection class 6 (IPX6) according to tests performed following our in-house methods. *5 When the LCD monitor is closed, the Lens Protector is attached and the Mount Coupling, grip and Underwater Lens Protector are not attached, according to tests performed following our in-house methods. *6 The number of shots that can be recorded is reduced at very low temperatures. *7 When the LCD monitor is closed, the Lens Protector is attached and the Mount Coupling, grip and Underwater Lens Protector are not attached, according to tests performed following our in-house methods.

U.S. Pricing and Availability

The Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker will be available in green and black beginning in June 2016 with an estimated street price of $349.99 (U.S.) and $479.99 (Canada).
For a complete list of specifications, visit the Olympus website:

http://www.getolympus.com/us/en/digitalcameras/tough/tg-tracker.html

Main Features

Field Sensor System for capturing all the action of outdoor adventures

The wearable-device market has expanded in recent years, offering ways to automatically record location information, steps walked, calories burned and other life-logging data. In the same spirit, the new Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker is equipped with the Field Sensor System, which includes GPS, a barometric-pressure sensor, a temperature sensor, an e.Compass and an accelerometer. Users can select from three different display options on the LCD monitor, including a compass display, level display, and log display, to show the data captured via these sensors. Log Mode records data without video for extended time periods.

1) GPS
The camera uses GPS (with GLONASS and QZSS functionality) to precisely calculate the user’s latitude and longitude from satellite signals. Additionally, Assist GPS can significantly increase the speed of the system’s positioning calculations by downloading satellite information ahead of time using the Olympus A-GPS Utility computer app or the Olympus Image Track smart-device app.

2) Barometric-pressure sensor
Altitude and water depth are calculated based on air- and water-pressure information. When the camera is submerged below a depth of half a meter, the Underwater Detector will automatically switch the camera to the optimal mode for shooting underwater so you can focus on getting the best shot without worrying about complicated controls. The monitor log display will also automatically switch from altitude to water-depth information.

3) Temperature sensor
This sensor records ambient temperature with a high degree of precision. The Stylus Tough TG-Tracker captures water temperature in both Video and Log Mode, and air temperature in Log Mode only.

4) e.Compass
This sensor tracks the direction in which the camera lens is being pointed. It provides an easy way to confirm direction when shooting outdoors.

5) Accelerometer
This sensor measures acceleration (g-force) on three axes to record the photographer’s movements. When a preset acceleration level is detected while a video is being recorded, the Chapter Function*1 automatically identifies and bookmarks the moment. This feature supports editing and playback of exciting scenes, like when jumping and landing in intense sports such as snowboarding and motocross. Users may choose from two levels of acceleration or may turn this feature off.

Rugged capabilities: waterproof, dustproof, shockproof, freezeproof and crushproof

With its sealed construction, the Stylus Tough TG-Tracker is waterproof to depths of 100 feet (30 meters). The waterproof seal also makes the camera dustproof, so users don’t have to worry when operating the Stylus Tough TG-Tracker in dusty areas. The dual-layer chassis makes for superb shockproof performance, allowing the camera to clear drop tests from heights of up to 7 feet (2.1 meters). Operation is guaranteed in temperatures as low as 14°F (-10°C), so you can shoot in cold-weather environments where other digital devices fear to tread. The Stylus Tough TG-Tracker also boasts a rigid construction that can withstand loads of up to 220 pounds of force (100 kilograms of force).

High-quality images captured with an ultra-wide-angle lens

1) 204° ultra-wide-angle F2.0 high-speed lens
The Stylus Tough TG-Tracker’s ultra-wide-angle lens was developed using advanced optical technology. Its 204° angle of view is wider than that which can be captured by the human eye, allowing it to record action videos with a dramatic perspective, especially useful for ultra-wide views of outdoor sports scenes.

2) TruePicTM VII for 4K Image Processor and backlit CMOS sensor
The Stylus Tough TG-Tracker is equipped with the TruePicTM VII for 4K Image Processor, the latest iteration of the TruePicTM image processors used in the Olympus OM-D and PEN compact system cameras, now with 4K video capability.*2 It quickly processes data from the high-sensitivity, low-noise backlit CMOS sensor to produce high-quality images.

4. Versatile shooting style and superb controls

The compact body provides for quick and easy video capture no matter your shooting style, allowing low- and high-angle camerawork. An SG-T01 Steady Grip is bundled with the camera to help with stable framing during hand-held shooting.*3 The MC-T01 Mount Coupling comes with a small mirror on the front to assist in capturing wide-angle group selfies.*4 The high-intensity LED Headlight is built into the camera body for shooting support in low-light conditions.*5 Its quick-action operation lets you swiftly illuminate subjects for high-quality imaging. Even when the camera is turned off, users can press and hold the Info button to activate the headlight for standalone use.

5. Compatibility with the Olympus Image Track smart-device app

The Stylus Tough TG-Tracker is equipped with built-in Wi-Fi.*6 Using the exclusive Olympus Image Track app, users can easily transfer videos recorded on the camera, along with field data, to a smart device. Users can also display the log data and view images simultaneously, enjoying the experience of the shooting environment during playback. Within the app, the data display can be switched between geographical information and altitude/depth information to best match the scene, and data is saved so that users can conveniently check the information at any time.

Other Features

l Time Lapse Movie mode*7 for fixed-point observation of movement such as crowds of people, clouds crossing the sky or flowers opening.
l Loop Recording function for easier video-data handling.
l Bundled with the UP-T01 Underwater Lens Protector for underwater shooting.*8
l Graphical user interface (GUI) for intuitive control.
l Electronic 5-Axis Image Stabilization*9 for compensation of every kind of camera motion.
l 4K Video playback via HDMI connection.
l Remote control and image transfer with the Olympus Image Share app.

May 232016
 
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The Gear I am enjoying NOW (Video)

by Steve Huff

Hello! Happy Monday! Yes, it is yet another Monday already and today I wanted to share a video with you that I made yesterday showing the cameras and lenses I have been shooting with over the past few weeks and months. From the Olympus PEN-F to the Sony RX1RII to the Leica SL to the Sony A6300, RX10 III, and more.

Enjoy the video below!

MORE INFO:

Olympus PEN-F

OLYMPUS 8MM PRO

OLYMPUS 7-14 PRO

SONY RX1RII

SONY RX10III

LEICA SL

LEICA 90-280

SONY A7RII

PETZVAL 58 1.9

May 092016
 
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QUICK COMPARE: Sony RX10III at 600mm vs Olympus PEN-F at 600mm

Just for fun! Was checking out the Sony RX10III today (I have written up a small piece on it a while ago HERE) alongside the Olympus PEN-F with Olympus 300mm f/4 pro and since both can do 600mm equivalent, I figured why not see what kind of difference there is between the two at 600mm. The RX10 III, a small all in one with a 24-600MM equivalent lens on it and the Oly is a mirrorless body with a pro level Olympus 300mm prime, which gives us a 600mm equiv field of view.

Now this is not a scientific test but man, the RX10 III is quite the camera. Think about it. For $1200 you get an all in one with zoom lens that will get you between 24-600mm. THAT IS HUGE! You have 4K video capabilities, you have a full swivel LCD, and a great EVF. It’s quick and has great IQ for a small 1″ sensor camera. The PEN-F is just a gorgeous camera all the way around. Sleek, sexy, and delivers stunning IQ with all of the unique features we have come to enjoy with Olympus cameras.

The RX10 III comes in at $1498.00. Pretty pricey for a all in one zoom 1″ sensor camera. BUT then again, getting all of what it offers is quite amazing for this size and price. It even has a manual aperture dial and gives us 60mm at f/4. Same as the Olympus 300mm pro.

The Olympus PEN comes in at $1199 body only and the 300mm f/4 Pro is $2499 with a 2 month wait list. $3600.

Here are some just for fun snaps at 600mm with both. NOTHING FANCY, but you get the idea. The Olympus pairing will give you more shallow DOF, and richer files with better Dynamic Range. The Sony offers small and light, with a powerful built in lens capable of 600mm at f/4.

1st OLYMPUS, 2nd SONY – CLICK THEM FOR LARGER

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1st Olympus, 2nd Sony – CLICK THEM FOR LARGER!

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1st Olympus, 2nd Sony

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1st Olympus, then Sony

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At the end of the day, the Sony is a damn powerful camera for those who are looking for an all in one, vacation cam, kids cam, family cam, video cam, backup cam or for those who want to photograph birds or wildlife.

The Olympus is a more attractive package but also much more expensive. The Olympus will offer better IQ due to the larger sensor but be prepared to get a workout! The 300mm pro is heavy and large but it’s a beautiful piece of glass, a work of art and a pro tool without question.

Just shows that today, digital imaging tech is as good as it has ever been, and we still have amazing choices as photographers, hobbyists and enthusiasts in the mirrorless world.

I WILL SOON BE PUTTING UP FULL REVIEWS OF THE SONY RX10III, THE SONY 50 1.8, 70-300 AND A6300. ALSO, FULL REVIEW ON THE 300MM F/4 PRO FROM OLYMPUS! AFTER THAT, A PANASONIC GX85 REVIEW AND THE VOIGTLANDER 15 F/4.5 REVIEW FOR EMOUNT! ALSO, the new LEICA 90-280 with SL will be reviewed! Wooo, lots of work! 

May 022016
 

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The Mighty Panasonic-Leica 100-400mm Lens Review

By Bob Towery

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I recently acquired the Panasonic Leica 100-400mm lens to go along with my Olympus OMD-M5 Mk II kit. I didn’t start off with the idea of writing a review but as I began getting to know this lens I thought it might be a nice addition to Steve’s excellent collection of resources for us enthusiasts. (From Steve: Thank you Bob)!

As background, I have been shooting digitally since 2001, with Canon bodies and a wide array of L lenses. I have had a number of 70-200’s, as well as 300mm and 400mm L primes.

About five years ago I wanted to get into a smaller kit for travel work. Partly with the excellent information I got here on Steve’s site, I got a Leica M9 setup and used this for quite a few trips. But I do enjoy telephoto work as well, and certainly that’s not the M9’s forte. And although I became pretty proficient at both manual focusing, there are still those instances where you have one second to get a shot and it’s lucky indeed to have pre-focused accurately. I found I was only using my M9 when going street shooting.

Fast forwarding, when the Fuji XT series came out I dove in. Somehow I just never warmed up to this system. It’s AF was exceedingly poor (since improved I’m told). The camera also failed on a trip, the first time that had ever happened to me. Although Fuji did a stellar job of repairing it quickly on their dime, this unnerved me and I sold that kit off.

Knowing Steve had always been an Olympus fan, I followed those reviews, and when the OMD M5 II was released I jumped into the Oly pool. Using the Olympus kit has been very rewarding. It’s a high performing camera, with the only limit (for my use) being the noise at higher ISO’s.

THE SCENE

Living where I do on an island near Seattle, I have a lot of opportunities to shoot interesting birds like Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons. The Fuji would nearly always miss. So the first paces I put the Oly through were to shoot these birds, and its AF performance was excellent. This was with the 40-150mm, so fully zoomed in we are at 300mm effective. But even these large specimens of the bird world are pretty small subjects. BTW, below I’ll do a few comparison shots with both the 100-400mm and the 40-150mm.

It’s spring time right now and there are a lot of beautiful flowers to shoot here. This will be a “real world” review. Some of the images are those subjects I enjoy shooting, and some are just for the review factor.

THE MIGHTY PANASONIC-LEICA 100-400mm

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Enter the Panasonic-Leica 100-400mm! Image stabilized, effective focal length (long end) of 800mm. Before we get into the pictures, I want to state that I’m not a professional reviewer, or even photographer, just an enthusiast. I know many of you would do your own tests differently than mine. My testing was around the kinds of things I like to shoot, which don’t involve test patterns. And all of these are real world, no tripods involved (well, one exception). Also, to be practical when I give a focal length, it will be what LR reports and is on the lens body, i.e. in-between 100 and 400. If you want to double the focal lengths you see given the body’s crop factor that is fine by me.

WHAT ABOUT THE NEW OLYMPUS 300mm?

We all know Olympus was building and releasing their 300mm prime at about the same time. I considered this for a short time, as I prefer Olympus products and given the price of this glass, it’s going to be a fine prime performer. I’d bet my 401k that the Oly 300mm will outperform the Panasonic 100-400mm handily at the same focal length. But for me, these primes are impractical. “Zoom with your feet” really doesn’t work when say you are standing on a beach looking out, or trying to catch a flying bird. There have been times where I approached a sitting bald eagle with my full frame body and 400mm, and by the time I got close enough to make them fly away for a glorious picture, I can’t get the whole bird in the frame – too close! At an effective 600mm, I just can’t count on being the right distance from my subject. So the Oly 300mm prime is out for me.

HOW’S YOUR STABILITY?

I’m sure most readers know the camera has IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) and the lens has its own IS. Unlike a Panasonic body mated to the lens, sadly the Oly IBIS and the lens IS do not speak the same language. From my reading, and brief testing on my own, the best option is to turn IBIS off and use the lens IS, so that is what I did.

IMAGES IN THIS REVIEW

Also, Steve told me to process as I normally would. In general, this means a few tweaks in Lightroom, 90% of the time less than one minute’s work. I’ll point out below when I did no post. All images were made with the Olympus OMD M5 Mk II and the Panasonic/Leica 100-400 unless otherwise indicated. Only one shot was with a tripod. Others are hand held, sometimes with me leaning against a post. Apologies in advance if I didn’t test something as you would have. I really wanted to include some people shots, seeing how it rendered faces, even if that isn’t a practical use for the lens, but I didn’t have an opportunity to work that out.

Also, all images were exported from Lightroom using Screen/Normal sharpening. I decided to number the images, as readers often comment by number.

All right, let’s hit the road.

THE SAPSUCKER STUDY

Shortly after the lens arrived, I had a lunch planned with a friend who happens to be a great and dedicated wildlife photographer. Our lunch date was to discuss an upcoming joint trip. I had thrown the Oly and the lens in the bag, basically just to show him. He’s a Canon shooter too, no M4/3 experience.

When we got back to his home I opened the trunk and zipped open the bag. I handed it to him and we were chatting, but noticed a loud woodpecker nearby. I said, “let’s go check this out” and he said “they usually fly away once you start staring at them.”

#1 – 264mm, f/5.5, 1/2000, iso 640

Before we get to the “good shots,” I want to share this one, to show you what we were up against. (And it turned out to be a red breasted sapsucker, not a woodpecker, but they still bang away on the tree.) The sapsucker is in constant motion, including jumping from one branch to another. The tree is filled with branches both in front of and behind the bird. But notice that even in this tangled mess, with center dot focus selected, the lens focused perfectly.

CLICK ALL IMAGES IN THIS REVIEW TO SEE THEM CORRECTLY!

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So as I began shooting, I had to move both left and right around the tree, while waiting for him to get clear.

#2 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/1600, iso 640

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It was a pleasure to have the reach to fill the viewfinder with a bird that is just say six inches high. Here at 400mm and a distance of perhaps 20 feet, the bird and the branch are magnificently sharp.

Crop of #2

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Here is a 1:1 crop from this frame. How long is that talon, 3/8”s of an inch?

#3 – 300mm, f/8.0, 1/500, iso 640

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Moving along to bokeh, this certainly isn’t the finest I have ever seen. And I wouldn’t expect it to be, given the massive range of this lens, the f/6.3 aperture when fully zoomed, and the sub $2,000 price tag.

#3 with background smoothed in Lightroom

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However here’s what I got in about a minute in Lightroom. I used the Adjustment Brush, with the Clarity and Sharpness sliders all the way to the left. Then I went around the birdie numerous times which did a nice job of softening up the background area. I then lightened up the bird’s back just a tad. Given the fact that I’d have no shot at all with most of my other lenses, I can live with this.

As I’m getting these shots and my friend and I are viewing them on the LCD, he begins getting jumpy and then dashes into the house. He returns with his amazing Canon 200-400mm, mounted on an older 1D Mk IV. I have serious lens envy, but that kind of size just isn’t practical for me.

#4 – Iphone

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My wife got this shot of us with her iphone. Guess who can handhold longer?

#5 – Samsung S6

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Here we have King Kong on top and Cheetah below. Interestingly, my rig is both wider and longer than his, focal length speaking. His is a 1.3 crop body, thus the “widest” is 260mm. The lens has a 1.4 teleconverter built in, so with that engaged, he’s at 728mm by my calculation.

Of course I would never expect the Panasonic to compete with this Canon in IQ. However it does cost six times as much and weighs eight pounds. (My apologies, my friend didn’t get any shots that he felt like sharing, so we could compare.)

IMAGE WITHIN AN IMAGE

Over the years I have found finding new compositions within my images to be very rewarding. View your image full size, set a crop, then drag the crop around in the Navigator window. It’s surprising how often you can get an additional image or two from one of your shots. Sometimes even more compelling than your in-camera composition. But of course there is a penalty in terms of resulting image size, due to the crop. Not a big deal for blog/facebook posting, but would come into play say if you intend to print.

#6 – 100mm, f/5.6, 1/200, iso 400

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When I saw the scene above, my thought was that the child on the bike could be interesting. Looks like a beginner, the setting is quite nice, and so on.

#7 – 280mm, f/5.6, 1/500, iso 400

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Look what happens zooming way into the scene. The rider is nicely isolated. Bonus points for my timing of an otter jumping into the scene, what do you say? Normally I’d crop that out but it’s so unusual I left it in just for the fun factor. If I cropped that deep into the original image, there just wouldn’t be enough pixels left for much use. I believe at the time I planned to wait for the rider to get into that sunny area, but the otter surprised me so much I lost track. (I scrambled down on to the beach to try to get him too, but he was long gone.)

#8 – 141mm, f/9, 1/640, iso 200

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When I saw this sailboat going by, I wanted to get a couple shots just to see how clearly the lens would render the lettering and sailboat details. But thinking about this “image within an image” idea I zoomed all the way in and moved the lens around the boat.

#9 – 400mm, f/9, 1/640, iso 200

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I found this colorful and pleasing composition and grabbed a couple frames.

#10 – 400mm, f/8, 1/1250, iso 400

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This kayak was WAY far away. I would estimate 300-400 yards. The piling and bird are about half way to the kayak. Thought it would be interesting to see how the foreground would be rendered when I focused on the kayak. This is about a one quarter frame crop!

MT. RAINIER STUDY

So I’m very fortunate to have a view of Mt. Rainier from my backyard. She’s only out one out of every three to four days. There are often clouds that completely obscure her.

#11 – 70mm on a Canon FF body

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Google Earth says the summit is 60 miles from my house. I wanted to get a full frame shot at 50 mm to show you what that looks like in person. But the weather hasn’t cooperated, so here is an older image I shot at 70mm on full frame. What can we do with the Panasonic 100-400mm on a nice day?

#12 – 400mm f/9, 1/800, iso 200

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Here we are at 400mm. Handheld! Note that between our positions are Seattle’s southern suburbs, as well as the Sea-Tac airport. The sky is continually filled with jets. It takes a rare day to have completely clear air, and I didn’t have any while preparing this piece. So I believe some lack of sharpness here is because we are looking through 60 miles of air as opposed to lens performance.

#13 – 300mm f/8, 1/200, iso 200 – tripod mounted – 12 sec timer

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I took this one at 300mm as it includes an island that provides a little context. Used a polarizer to cut through the haze.

GOING BOATING

#14 – 100mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, iso 200

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There is a continual parade of boats in front of my place. Including ferries, commercial, military and pleasure craft. Here is one that isn’t real attractive but serves our purpose of seeing what this lens can do. This is a small boat, 30 feet at most. Above is what it looked like at 100mm.

#15 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, iso 200

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Full zoomed in. Keep in mind the boat is moving, I’m having to pan to keep up with it. Pretty acceptable detail.

#16 – 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, iso 400

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Google Earth tells me this buoy is 735 yards from my location (that’s more than four-thirds of a mile).

Sea lions often jump up onto the buoy and boats and other passersby stop in for a look. In this case some kayakers. Previously I have only been able to see this kind of detail with my high powered binoculars.

#17 – 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, iso 400

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As I’m shooting this, a speedboat comes along. While I can’t make out the license numbers on the bow, I can clearly read the model letters on the side. See the faded “4” on the top right of the buoy? Not bad from this distance.

#17 – crop detail

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FYI this shows the crop in the boat/buoy image.

#18 – 300mm, f/8, 1/800, iso 200

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This boat was much closer. This is the uncropped shot at 300mm. Boat is going perhaps 20 mph; I’m panning. Everything looks good to me.

#18 – crop detail

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Take a look at this crop. Look straight down from the second zero in “2000.” There are two openings there. The one to the right is most likely a drain from an ice chest compartment. We are talking two inches wide, at the max. I’d say that’s pretty amazing detail. One can see that the dye from the canvas is leaching out and staining the hull, and this is in a shaded spot!

#19 – 236mm, f/5.3, 1/640, iso 640

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Lots of small details to look at in this ferry shot. Note that these ferries really move – about 23mph. This is a bit of a crop. Full size, it is very sharp.

#20, 100mm, f/4, 1/80, iso 1600

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This shot amazes me. There had to be some luck involved with my panning here, given that I’m at 1/80th and the shot is very sharp. But look at that perfect focus, in the dark.

BUILDING STUDY

#21 – Panasonic 100-400 – 146mm, f/8, 1/640, iso 320

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Let’s get into comparing the 100-400 vs the Olympus 40-150 PRO. I really didn’t expect the Panny to hold up well against this lens, but once again I am surprised, in a good way. These shots are about a minute apart. I’m standing in the exact same location, attempting to have the Panny at 150 but missing by a couple mm’s. I turned IBIS on for the Olympus lens. The shot is cropped just a bit to be identical.

#22 – 40-150mm Olympus Pro – 150mm, f/8, 1/640, iso 320

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There isn’t really much between these two, is there? When I look at them full screen in Lightroom’s compare mode, it’s hard to tell which one is which. Even the tonality is remarkably similar – the building, the sky and the grass. No post on these images by the way.

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Crop of #21 (Panasonic Lens)

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What happens if we examine crops to show us more detail? Here are crops of the same two images for closer comparison.

Crop of #22 (Olympus Lens)

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I can see the wording on the sign is a bit sharper with the 40-150 shot. The focus was on the center rectangle, so the building was the focus spot. Perhaps the result here would have been different had I focused on the sign? It’s a slight difference in any case.

Crop of #21 (Panasonic Lens)

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And here is the upper right corner, which I chose because of the tree branch.

Crop of #22 (Olympus Lens)

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Once again, the 40-150 shows more definition, at least to my eye. But I don’t think there is much to complain about with the 100-400 version.

(This setting by the way is http://www.bloedelreserve.org )

FLOWER STUDIES

#23 – 146mm, f/4.6, 1/200, iso 200

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The wind was blowing these plants around, so the shots don’t look as identical as they could.

I focused on the center flower in both cases. I think both images are perfectly reasonable. Kind of like the bokeh on the 100-400 shot a bit better actually.

#24 – Olympus 40-150 Pro – 150mm, f/4.5, 1/200, iso 200

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But there is definitely more detail in the lightest part of the flower with the Oly 40-150 version.

#25 – 264mm, f/5.6, 1/200, iso 200

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The post for this image was +38 on Vibrance, +12 on Saturation and a touch of vignette. I didn’t mess with the background area at all. Gorgeous bokeh, I’m sure due to my distance to the blossoms, and then the distance to the background.

#26 – 236mm, f/5.3, 1/1250, iso 1600

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Just a touch of Vibrance.

#27 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/250, iso 640

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I came across this tuilip in someone’s yard and thought it would be interesting to see what the lens did with the very busy background. I added Vibrance as well as a graduated filter at the bottom in post, but left the background alone. Using the adjustment brush with de-Clarity would fix that right up.

#28 – 100mm / f/5.6, 1/250, iso 500

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Here is the scene, from the exact same spot, minimum focal length.

#29 – 100mm, f/4.5, 1/200, iso 1600

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Another shot from someone’s yard.

#30 – 146mm, f/4.6, 1/1250, iso 200

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One more, just to show that a background doesn’t have to be completely blurred to add to the image.

BIRD STUDIES

#31 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/640, iso 500

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We have some spectacular birds in our area. On the larger side, we have Great Blue Herons and Bald Eagles. Wasn’t fortunate enough to get any Bald Eagles but Ms. Heron decided to join in the fun.

Herons are very aware. They are able to get airborne with one leap of those long legs. So they don’t fly off unless you get too close. Given their great size, in the past I have gotten some nice images with my full frame Canon and 400mm fixed, approaching very slowly.

#32 – 318mm, f/6.3, 1/640, iso 200

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These birds are a joy to see in flight. They are gorgeous and graceful. Unfortunately they will show their tails in nearly all shots. That is because if you approach from the side, they fly the opposite way. If you approach from the back, as I did here, no matter which way they go, you only see the back. I really need to try this from a kayak or boat.

They are also smart and often wait to fly off until you look down at your footing, back of your camera, etc. So you have a very small reaction time. To me the important thing about this shot was that I sensed the takeoff, raised the camera, framed, autofocus was instant, and I got a crystal clear shot.

There’s just no griping about autofocus with this lens.

#33 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/640, iso 500

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Here is an even better test. I was out on my deck, which is about 75’ above the water. I believe I was shooting the Harlequin ducks when all of a sudden I see movement in the sky. I instinctively raise the camera, get focus and shoot. No time to play with any settings. And we have a crystal clear shot in glorious focus.

#34 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/500, iso 500

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I was very close to this tiny bird, about 15-20 feet. This bird is perhaps 6 or 7 inches beak to tail. There was a concrete half wall between the bird and I, perhaps that is why it didn’t fly off. At 200mm on a full frame, this wouldn’t be much of a shot as the bird would be too tiny for any usage. Very impressed with the lens in this situation. The definition in the feathers seems just about perfect to my eye.

#35 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/500, iso 500

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Mallards are relatively large, but at this distance, only this sort of focal length will create any type of reasonable image. This is a crop – about one-third of the frame.

#36 – 300mm, f/8, 1/500, iso 800

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These harlequin ducks are regulars in my back yard every Winter/Spring. They are extremely shy and fly off basically as soon as they see you. I have never gotten a decent shot of them until now. This shot was taken from about 100 feet away. I’m far enough back that they don’t panic.

#37 – 318mm, f/8, 1/640, iso 500

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Having this range leads to some compositions I have never been able to consider before.

TELEPHOTO-MACRO?

#38 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/800, iso 320

While shooting the ducks, walking back to my house, I ran into this lizard. Pretty good size, probably 9″ long. Why not give it a try? Minimum focusing distance is 1.3 meters, which is where I was (moved a bit back and forth until I got focus lock.)

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CONCLUSION

I like this lens a great deal. I have never had this kind of reach before, and for some of the subjects I like to shoot I feel it will be invaluable. I’m very impressed that the IQ compares “quite well” to the Olympus 40-150mm. If I was going on a trip where I wanted this extra reach, I’d have no problem leaving that Oly lens at home, maybe throwing in a couple of Olympus primes for the intermediate range.

All things considered, this is an effective 800mm lens that is 6.5” long (collapsed) – a modern marvel, in my book anyway.

Would really have been nice to compare my images with my friend’s, with his Canon bazooka. Especially since his older body is also a 16mp like the OMD M5 II. But I’m not trying to get into NatGeo with my images. I especially appreciate the size/weight/value proposition of this Panasonic lens. His outings with that lens are few and far between, whereas I can bring this lens along anytime I want.

Although I didn’t show these images, for a while it appeared to me that images at 300mm were superior to those at 400mm. I did some test shots and cropped the 300mm ones to see an equivalent. Upon review, my thoughts just didn’t seem to hold up. I didn’t see any significant degradation at 400mm vs 300mm.

#39 – 400mm, f/8, 1/800, iso 200

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If you want to be able to shoot anything moving, quick AF is a must. This lens has it. I was down by the beach having a cocktail with my wife this evening. I noticed this heron feeding. I took some shots of her wading, but really she was just too far away, even at 800mm, to make an interesting composition. Somewhere between 100 and 150 yards. I didn’t even have the camera to my eye when I sensed the movement. Quickly raised, got focus, fired. I love this artistic rendering, with the sun more or less directly behind the heron.

Of course I wish Olympus and Panasonic would cooperate such that the body-lens combo would use both IS systems. But these results are plenty good IMHO. Every single body/lens combo is a compromise in one way or another. Even a brand new Leica SL with the 90-280 zoom could not get many of the shots on this page, not being able to reach out to an effective 800mm.

#40 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, iso 1250

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I’m closing with this one last image. First, it is my favorite image in the review. The camera and lens performed perfectly, the lighting was favorable, and Mr. Heron contorted himself into this wild position. This is a crop, it’s about 60% of the frame. Imagine the FF Body/800mm lens it would take to get a shot like this? I could own one, but it is doubtful I would be all set up with it to capture this moment.

Which brings me to my very last thought (finally! You are thinking). Had it not been for needing to go shooting for this review, I wouldn’t have a lot of these shots. As I’m quite pleased with many of them, this is a reminder to us all to get off the computer and get shooting. It’s a beautiful world, and at least for me, this lens is going to help me capture that much more of it.

Thanks Steve once again for your site. Thank you to my fellow photographers for reading and I hope this is helpful.

Apr 092016
 

5

Five Reasons why I prefer Mirrorless to a DSLR, ANY DSLR…

By Steve Huff

You know, ever since the humble beginnings of this website I have been drawn to smaller, sexier and cameras that have fun factor and mojo to them. I started this site with a Leica M8 review due to my love for what was at the time, IMO, the sexiest digital camera available. It was so different from the standard DSLR’s that flooded the digital camera market for so long. It was small, but had a serious heft, feeling like it was made out of a block of stone. The viewfinder on a Leica M has always been a tried and true old school rangefinder, which offered a much more challenging experience, at first. Soon, it became my favorite way of “seeing” with a camera viewfinder.

The Leica M8 had a good run, but when the full frame M9 hit, all hell broke loose. At the time, the only full frame digital cameras were things like the Canon 5D and Nikon D700. The M9 hit and there it was, a full frame camera that was much smaller than any DSLR. The M lenses were and are tiny in comparison to DSLR lenses (due to being manual focus) and the M9 made an amazing small, but very well made (better made than any DSLR) full frame powerhouse, with image quality that could no be matched, at the time, by any camera. Even today no camera can recreate the look of the old M9, not even the M 240 which is Leica’s latest M camera.

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But this article is not about Leica, I only mention the M8 and M9 as I feel, for me, these are the cameras that were very important at the time they were released, as there was simply no other full frame offerings that could come close to the build, size and performance (as long as we had decent light of course, those early Leica’s were not so hot in low light). The M9 was huge for Leica, they sold a ton of them and it was the M9 that had Leica selling out their entire stock of M glass for months at at time. Wait lists were long, and Leica was riding the new mirrorless wave. There was a reason for this, and it is called TIMING.

LEICA T AND NEW 35 SUMMILUX 1.4 T Click it for larger.

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Soon after the M8 and M9, other companies started releasing convincing mirrorless cameras that lived up to the promise of smaller size, and more fun factor but many of them were flawed with lack of lenses, slow AF or quirky performance. Many looked gorgeous, like the Olympus EP1, but it was so dog slow, had no EVF 0r OVF and it had only a couple good lenses to choose from. Panasonic made waves with the GF1 and soon, many were on the mirrorless train, but it was a slow road. Over the years these companies were releasing body after body but the lenses were taking time. This caused the DSLR crowd to predict the demise of mirrorless … “What good is a small body if you do not have good lenses”..

Then Olympus and Panasonic started kicking ass  by releasing amazing lenses that were small and performed incredibly well. Fast primes with attractive jewel like design and stunning performance. Lenses like the Olympus 75 1.8, 45 1.8 and the Panasonic 20 1.7 and the drool worthy Nocticron..today we have LOADS of lenses for the Micro 4/3 system, all we could ever want or need from ultra wide 7-14 or 8mm fisheye to 300mm fast pro primes and consumer zooms.

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Fuji was going full steam ahead as well, let us not forget about them! Fuji created TONS of excitement for mirrorless with the original Fuji X100. Many were saying “Now I can have my affordable Leica M style camera”..some were calling it a rangefinder, of which is most certainly was and is not, but it gave us the same kind of feeling as using one. Image quality was up there with the M9 even though the X100 was an APS-C camera and not full frame. Low light slaughtered the M9 and many feel the X100 was the start of Leica’s sales decline. See, Leica attracted the MASSES with the M9, unlike what they have done before (and after). The masses came out for the worlds first full frame mirrorless camera, which was the M9, there was nOTHING like it. I was getting THOUSANDS of emails over 6 months about the Leica M9 from normal joe’s who heard about it and was intrigued, even at the high price tag. When the X100 came out, that halted Leica’s mystique a bit as many saw the X100 as being like an M. While it was not, in any way – not in build, feel, shooting experience, or output, an M, it resembled one with its shape, and put out fantastic performance, so that was plenty good enough for the masses, at 1/6th the price.

Sony 24-70 G Master and Sony A7RII. Click for larger!

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When Sony hit the market with the original A7 series, I was excited by the possibilities. Attaching Leica M glass to it, shooting great full frame video, and having this full frame powerhouse taking up less space in my bag than a DSLR. While the A7 was larger than anything from Olympus, Panasonic or the other guys, it was indeed full frame. Much like the Leica M9, the Sony had the same benefits, but more of them. While the Sony was nowhere near as beautiful in design, build or feel as the Leica M9, the sensor inside the Sony was much more versatile. Able to capture scenes with massive Dynamic Range (the M9 did not have a huge DR) and even at night with low light high ISO performance that was cutting edge (unlike the Leica which suffered even at ISO 1250). Add swivel LCD’s and the EVF and video performance and you had an all in one powerhouse that was smaller than an APS-C DSLR yet full frame. Again, the weakness was LENSES. Sony had a 28-70 kit zoom that was average, and a couple of primes, the 35 2.8 and 55 1.8 Zeiss.

New-Sony-A7rII-camera-rumors

I jumped in but over time realized the A7 series would need a lot of polishing to get up to speed and be better than most of what was out there. Soon we had more lenses, and more bodies. The A7 and A7R were replaced with the A7II, A7RII and A7S and A7SII. NOW we are talking! The MK II bodies improved the shape, build, and feel of the old A7 series. Also, the AF speed was improved quite a bit and we had a better EVF and better specs all the way around. Lenses I love for my A7RII are the Sony/Zeiss 16-35, Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4, Loxia 50 and the new Sony 85 1.4 G Master which is just gorgeous. The new 70-300 looked very promising as well.

Sony 24-70 G Master – A7RII

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Sony 85 1.4 G Master – A7RII

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Today there are tons of lenses for Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji, Sony and always have been for Leica. The choice of high quality Mirrorless systems out there today is head spinning. Most looking to dive into mirrorless TODAY have a tough choice, and again, I get so many emails asking me “which one should I get” and I do not really answer those questions as a camera choice is personal, and should be made by the buyer, not me! With that said, I love them all but my faves, today are still Leica, Sony, Olympus and a couple Fuji models. After using them all, shooting with them all, for me, these brands make cameras that just fit “me”.

fujix100s

Leica’s M 240 is a beautiful camera in every way but with so many other full frame offerings today (from Sony) the Leica M 240 did not sell as well as the M9. The Olympus E-M1 and PEN-F are fantastic as well, mature cameras that perform to a high standard, look and feel amazing and just “work”. Sony is on a roll with the RX1RII which I have not even mentioned yet! The RX1R for me, was a huge step forward for Sony as they created a SMALLER than Leica M full frame mirrorless with a Zeiss 35 f/2 that beat Leica’s own 35 Summicron (and the Leica lens cost more than the entire CAMERA and LENS from Sony). To me, one of the most magical cameras ever made was the RX1RII, for IQ. The new Mark II has slightly different image rendering and color but has improved the AF speed and performance. I own the RX1RII and adore it and use it for personal shots all the time.

Click it for better version – Sony RX1RII

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With an RX1RII I could not even imagine wanting to replace it with a large bulky full frame DSLR and 35mm lens that would be 3X the size, 4X the weight and not even perform as well. The RX1RII is an amazing tool, if  you can handle 35mm. The Leica Q also rocks but is $1000 more, much larger and has a 28mm. I prefer the Sony in every way but many prefer the Leica. Personal pref, and both are two of the best most practical mirrorless cameras released in recent times with IQ that is tough to beat.

RX1RII and the Leica Q

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OH! I totally forgot this article was titled “Five reasons why I prefer mirrorless to DSLRs”..so before I start on another long ramble, lets get to that:

  • THEY ARE SMALLER, PERIOD. Even the larger mirrorless cameras, the Sony A7 Mark II series, are smaller than even APS-C DSLR’s while providing performance that trounces them in many areas. Low light, Dynamic Range, Sharpness, EVF over small OVF, and very good AF performance. Add something like a Voigtlander 40 2.8 to an A7 series body and you have a small powerhouse (and you can not use this lens on a DSLR). Add a HUGE 24-70 G Master lens and the fight gets closer for size but even so, still smaller in the body, which is the part you HOLD. The part that must be comfy in your hands. The Sony wins in size over ANY FULL FRAME DSLR, to which it must be compared. Take a 5DII and 24-70 and it will be larger and heavier than the Sony yet we lose the EVF, swivel LCD, and that nice Sony sensor DR and ISO performance. There is a reason Sony leads in the sensor department, they make the best. So I will choose the Sony over any DSLR due to size, features (did I say 5 Axis IS inside)? Make no mistake, the Sony A7 Mark II series may have some large pro lenses but as a whole, it is still smaller and more enjoyable for me to use over a full frame DSLR and  those large pro lenses? For me they beat the Canon and Nikon equivalents in IQ and build, so why not use them on a smaller body? Hmmmm. Take on a Olympus PEN-F or Panasonic GX-8 or Fuji X100 and you are at a whole new level of small, light and with amazing IQ. Mirrorless wins the size game every time.

A7RII vs Nikon D810 – SIZE body only. 

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  • LENSES! There are now plenty of lenses to choose from! No excuses now! Fuji, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus and Leica all have great lenses available for their mirrorless systems. Some are tiny like the Sony full frame 28 f/2 and 50 1.8, some are large and some are small and incredible (almost any prime from Olympus).
  • FUNCTION! EVF, Tilt LCD and something like 5 AXIS IS inside are things you will not see in a mirrored DSLR. While I appreciate that MANY prefer a good OVF to a good EVF I think many OVF die hards have not shot through an incredible EVF yet. Something like the Leica SL offers an EVF experience that beats ANY OVF, hands down. It’s incredible. Using a Sony A7 or Olympus E-M1 or even a Fuji X-T1 offers more function and is more versatile than any DSLR I have ever shot with. Things with Olympus like Live Bulb, Live Time and Live composite is changing the way we shoot astro. Things like this we do not see in DSLR’s.
  • ABILITY TO USE 3rd PARTY LENSES: These new mirrorless cameras work very well with Leica M lenses these days, any M mount lens in fact. I can buy a used M lens for $300 and get amazing shots with character when mounted on a Sony, Fuji or even Olympus camera. Can’t do that on ANY DSLR (mount a Leica M mount lens to it). I love shooting my Sony with a 50 Jupiter or even 50 Noctilux. We can now use these incredible lenses on something other than a $7k Leica.
  • PROGRESSION: Never have I seen technology in digital imaging move so fast. Mirrorless is moving ahead with new innovations, new designs, and new tech. EVery year we have some kind of new progression in mirrorless while DSLR’s remain pretty much the same in looks, style, function and everything else. In my eyes, DSLR’s today are getting stale. Mirrorless today is energizing so many with the size, tech inside and the things we can do with them in a much easier way than ANY DSLR. (something like shooting the night and seeing your exposure develop in real time using Olympus’s LIVE TIME)

rx1rII

There are more reasons like being able to pick up something like a Fuji X100 or Sony RX1 and just be UBER light. No lenses, no bag needed. But you will come back with impressive high quality shots. The mirrorless world is growing, and sales are strong for some, stronger than DSLR’s in some cases. I remember 10 years ago (or so) going to disneyland and seeing so many with big DSLR’s around their neck (I had a Leica M7 and 35 Lux) and thought “WHY would they do that”! Today if I go to Disneyland I see MANY with small mirrorless cameras, but mostly all use their phones or even iPads for their photo and video. THIS is why DSLR’s are also losing steam with the average Joe’s of the world. While Fuji and Sony helped slow Leica’s M sales, I see the phones slowing DSLR sales. See, the mass public used to walk into Best Buy and say “I want to look like a pro”, and they would buy a DSLR and then realize that simply buying one will not make them a pro! They end up using it for a few weeks and then sitting it on a shelf due to size and disappointment. These days, the masses use their smart phones so while a few still go to Best Buy and buy those DSLR’s they have on display, as they know their phone can not compete, that number is MUCH lower today than 10 or even 5 years ago.

Leica Q

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Olympus PEN-F

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Today many have been trained by their phones (for small size and ease of use) and when they go to buy a real camera, they want something SMALLER, something FUN, not a huge DSLR. They see cameras from Sony and Fuji and think “WOW, this is smaller and looks great”, this is why the original Sony A6000 did SO WELL and sold in huge numbers. So for most of the public, the smart phone is the way to go. For most Enthusiasts and Hobbyists, Mirrorless is the choice. For most PROS who shoot weddings, Sports or wildlife, DSLR’s are still king but that is starting to also go the way of mirrorless. While many predicted the doom of Mirrorless years ago, I will say here now that I predict a continuing downward slide for the DSLR over the next few years. Eventually, Canon and Nikon are going to have to give in and create a kick ass mirrorless system. Otherwise they face the reality of even more shrinking sales over the long term. I guess time will tell but the way I see it is that mirrorless gives us smaller size, more function and features, an experience which is more fun that using a DSLR.. and today, IQ is no longer a compromise as it was a few years ago. We can have it all and then some with mirrorless today, and that is a good thing.

Steve

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ALL Mirrorless Camera Review – MIRRORLESS CENTRAL

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Apr 072016
 

New York through the Olympus 7-14 Pro Lens

by Mohamed El Barkani

Hi Steve!

I hope you are doing great and had an amazing weekend. I’m a reader of your blog since I discovered it last year and helped me moving to the Olympus OM-D system. Based on your reviews and experiences I bought the E-M10 which I really love. A few days I saw that you do offer the possibility to publish guest reports on your website. I would love to publish one article on your website and help other people.

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Some background information to my person: I’m Mohamed El Barkani, born and raised in 1988 in Nador (Morocco), but I live in Germany (Rhine-Main area). I have always loved photography, but I have started to learn about photography since I bought my first DLSR during my semester abroad at the San Diego State University in California. The type of photography that I enjoy revolves around the urban and city environment and its stunning, often unnoticed architecture. I find myself photographing a lot of skylines, stations, building interiors and spiral staircases in cities around the world. In the field of architectural, night, cityscapes and long exposure photography I feel most comfortable, but I’m always keen to learn and try new photography techniques and always look forward to exploring new architecture and cities!

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New York City, the city that never sleeps is one of the most beautiful places on Earth is the center of much activity. From arts to business and science, a lot goes on in NYC. Many photographers have tried to capture the gorgeousness of the city. The city that never sleeps has me immediately excited! Special buildings like the Empire State Building, Flatiron Building, Chrysler Building, the Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero, the impressive view from the Rockefeller Center, the peace in the Central Park, the lights of Times Square, the fantastic buildings such as the Grand Central Terminal or the Public Library on 5th Avenue. You can hardly find enough time for all the photo opportunities in the Big Apple and who likes skyscrapers will love New York!

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I will send you the images in the next e-mail. Let me know if you are ok with the text, otherwise I will make some changes to fit better for your blog.

Best regards,
Mohamed

www.moelbar.com
www.facebook.com/moelbar
www.instagram.com/moelbar

Mar 292016
 

The Mirrorless Revolution is just Starting..

By Steve Huff

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COMMENTARY

As I sit here in a Sony “Rountable” meting with all of Soy’s top people telling me about the past, present and future of their digital imaging business, things are looking very good for Sony. Sales are up, profits are solid and they are dedicated to releasing high quality premium digital imaging products to those like me and you, who love quality cameras, lenses and also camera that are fun to use, functional and provide us with the capability to create our own visions using a tool we enjoy and love.

Ever since Sony released the original NEX series, the 3 and 5 (my review here) I have been smitten with their unique out of the box thinking and while I have not loved or even liked every camera they have released (as I feel many have been a rehash of the same designs), I have adored a few of them and feel that Sony is now, without question, the one camera company that I feel is innovating and doing the most to push imaging tech forward. During  those early NEX 3 and 5 days, many dismissed mirrorless and for good reason. They were slow, sluggish and not very “user-friendly”  – but man how things have changed in a few short years.

The 1st Sony NEX. The NEX-3

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While Sony IMO is the one doing the most innovating, this does not take away a thing from others who are also innovating. Companies like Olympus are doing great things with every camera release, and trust me, they have something really amazing planned for this year. I feel it in my gut!

Then we have companies like Leica who are trying very hard to release unique cameras that are different from anything else out there. Think the T, the SL and even the super popular Q (all have been reviewed here in detail). Sure, Fuji, Sigma and even Canon and Nikon who are also releasing amazing cameras but to be honest, what I see from them is more of the same..less innovation in every release and while something like a Fuji X Pro 2 is a beautiful camera (that I actually do indeed really like) it is Sony who just keeps pushing and creating cameras that can do more.

Serious Mirrorless: The Leica SL

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While I feel Sony could have a redesign of some of their bodies, and even be more aggressive in what they are doing, I think they are on the right path and honestly, I can see them leapfrogging over Nikon in the near future. Sony is on a roll, sales wise and their popularity in the camera business is growing quickly and steadily for them.

Look at the brand new just announced RX10 III. I did not even review the Mark II version as I felt it was pretty much just like the Mark I (though it did have upgrades). I did not feel it was worth an upgrade to the II from the I and did not even want to do a review as I like to spend my time on cameras that I feel are really great and worth a purchase. It has to excite me these days to get a full long review and as I look back at my recent reviews over the past two years, the largest ones have been from Sony, Leica and Olympus.

Serious Lens Power: The new Sony RX10 III

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I will state right here, that these three camera companies above are my faves . Each of these are doing things that most others are not. Technology is getting quite amazing, even with something like the new Sony 4K HDR video, which looks so amazing. Yes, video in HDR 4K…think MASSIVE Dynamic Range instead of the cheesy HDR look of some images when they are overdone. But back to the new RX10 III. With its all new high quality 24-600mm f/2.4 – f/4 lens. Yes, f/2.4 at the wide end and f/4 at the long end, of 600MM. With this comes incredible opportunities for shooting. Macro, video, telephoto… it’s something that has never been done, which is what I am talking about here. I mean, who has made an all in one camera with a 24-600mm lens, a HIGH QUALITY lens no less, with a starting aperture of f/2.4? No one. Add to that the impressive video capabilities of this new offering. It will be a great solution for so many.

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While I was not a HUGE MASSIVE RX10 fan, I did enjoy the 1st one (see my review here) but this one changes the game of this series of camera. It could be an all in one for almost any personal, family or every day situation. So Sony is innovating constantly and this is what I love to see.

Some call me a “Sony Fan Boy”, Some call me an “Olympus Fanboy” and some even still call me a “Leica Fanboy”. I find these terms amusing as I am not a fanboy of anything, I just love quality. I love good build, consistent focus, smaller size, great lens choices, even is using a third party lens with adapter to get my vision out there.. and each of these brands offer all of that and more.

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With that, I am thrilled to see what is happening in digital imaging these days. It seems we are getting more and more QUALITY offerings for those of us who enjoy these things (ME AND YOU) and while most of the world already own a camera in their smart phones, there are some of us who want more..a real experience and you just can not get that from a phone. At least I can’t. The feeling of holding something like a Leica M or Olympus PEN-F or Sony RX1 and using them is so much more satisfying to me than using a phone, or any DSLR.

Today, in 2016 we have choices. We can go DSLR and get great results. We can go tiny and get great results (Sony RX100) and we can go enthusiast and get amazing results with something like a Leica M, SL or Sony A7RII or A7SII.

While the death of the point and shoot is upon us, or past..the mirrorless revolution has just begun, and it’s getting so so good. Stay tuned my friends, there is so much to come this year.

Steve

Mar 232016
 

Photos of my watches

by Christopher Chia

I’m a hobbyist from Singapore and I would like to share some photos of watches. It’s a bit different from what I usually read from your website.

At work, I’m the guy to approach if there is an event which requires a photographer. So, I do a lot of event photography, free of course, to my employer. Recently, I was invited to give a photography talk to my colleagues. While preparing for my photography talk, I realized that I have a specialty, which is watch photography. Collecting watches is my other hobby and taking photos of watches daily is what I do.

I usually shoot watches with an Olympus EM10 coupled with the 25mm f1.8 lens or a Nikon D700 with a 100mm Tokina macro lens.

Here are some photos of my watches, hope you like them.

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Matching Chriscentro a

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Regards
Christopher Chia

Mar 152016
 

Year of the Cat

by Hajdu Tamas

Hi Steve,

Usually I am not looking to photograph cats, but I seem to run into them every time I go for a stroll in town. They are rather cosmopolitan and perfectly adapted to the neighborhood life. I have selected a few of the most catchy shots.

all Photos were taken with Olympus EM5 + 17mm 1.8 , 45 mm 1.8

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regards,

Hajdu Tamas

Mar 092016
 

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Photo Contest from SteveHuffPhoto and Olympus! Win an Astrophotography Experience! 

Hello to all on this lovely Wednesday! I have some exciting news for all of you today as I have teamed up with Olympus to create this awesome photo contest where the winner will be awarded one spot in the upcoming Astrophotography Workshop (lodging included in Flagstaff, AZ) where you will Join Olympus Trailblazer (and my good friend) Alex McClure for his sold out Astro Photography workshop from May 6th to the 9th! Jamie Macdonald, another Olympus Trailblazer will also be there and when Jamie and Alex get together for something like this, believe me, it is so so so worth it. Both really know this kind of work VERY well.

But I am not trying to sell you on this workshop as it is sold out, instead Olympus wants to give one of you here a spot, which is perfect for ANYONE wanting to learn how to shoot the stars.

Photo by Alex McClure

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In order to capture stunning astro shots of the Milky Way and star paths, attendees will be staying at a 8,000 ft. elevation in Northern Arizona in some of the darkest skies in the U.S. The group will also be staying close enough to take day trips to the Grand Canyon and the red rocks of Sedona.

Yep, Sedona, Grand Canyon – amazing beauty in the Southwest, and the winner will have his or her workshop paid for along with all lodging. Just be sure that you are free May 6th-9th 2016! Travel/Airfare NOT included. 

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HOW TO ENTER and WIN?

Entering this contest is super easy but winning may be a challenge! Be sure to get your best shot ready for this! 

· Enter to win by tagging your best outdoor or astro image with #OlympusOutdoors on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – Starting NOW!
· Prize: 1 spot in Olympus Trailblazer Alex McClure’s Astrophotography workshop (valued at $999.00, lodging included – travel and meals are not included in the prize) (see details here)
· Dates: May 6th to May 9th
· Olympus Trailblazer Jamie MacDonald will be onsite for further hands-on instruction

The workshop will take place for 3 nights from Friday, May 6th at 5pm to Monday, May 9th at 10am, offering hands-on instruction from Alex and Jamie, guided fieldwork, editing training, and helpful critiques of your digital files. Olympus cameras will also be on hand if you want to try out their abilities with Astro. This will be a fun, educational and fantastic workshop for  those with an interest in this type of shooting, and the locations will be beautiful.

All that would be required of the winner is to get to Arizona where it all begins on the 6th of May, Friday morning. The winner would connect with Alex McClure about carpooling to the event. The workshop and lodging will be covered by Olympus to the winner. This is a sold out workshop but there is room for one more, and it could be YOU. So get your best outdoor or Astro image and tag it on social media with #OlympusOutdoors (Facebook, Twitter or Instagram). 

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Get your best image ready and ENTER anytime between NOW and March 31st 2016 by posting your image using the hash tag #OlympusOutdoors on social media (FB, TWITTER and INSTAGRAM).

Only one entry per person please! 

Winner will be chosen on April 1st 2016 and announced HERE! 

Mar 082016
 

IR Photography with the Olympus E-PL2 – Three shots

by Thorben Bonarius

Dear Brandon and Steve!

I recently had the IR filter of my Olympus E-PL2 removed, so I took it on a tour to the Swiss Alps. All shots were taken with a Panasonic 14 mm lens equipped with a 830mm filter. Panos were stitched in Lightroom and processed to taste. Enjoy!

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Cheers
Thorben

Feb 092016
 

Pro’s moving to Mirrorless? Yes they are!

By Craig Roberts

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Are pro’s moving to mirrorless cameras as well as amateurs and enthusiasts? Yes, they are. Is the quality good enough? Yes, it is. Can you still sell the images easily? Yes, you can. Are the images accepted by photo libraries? Yes, they are.

I made the move to mirrorless cameras a couple of years ago and use them for travel and landscape photography. I had intended to invest in the Fuji system with the XE-1, but trying both this and the Olympus E-M5 MK1 at a trade show, in my hands there was no question which felt best and I bought an E-M5 the next day.

The E-M5 has since made way for the E-M1, whilst a faulty E-PL5 was replaced with an E-P5. It’s a great combination of cameras and I have a great set of primes and zooms in the OMD system to cover all eventualities. I don’t like talking gear that much. To me it’s all about the image. The camera is just a tool and whether you choose Olympus, Fuji, Sony or Canon or Nikon for that matter, makes no difference to the end result. It’s the picture that’s important in the end, not what was used to create it.

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That said, mirrorless cameras have some great advantages over their digital SLR cousins and whilst they aren’t perfect, each of the Fuji, Sony and Olympus models have their plus and minus points.
The OMD system works for me as a landscape photographer. It suits me, the cameras feel good in my hands and the system matches my way of shooting and produces fantastic results. If I had chosen the Fuji or Sony instead, I’m sure I would have written the same sentence about them for this feature.

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I started off buying the selection of primes for the cameras, because I felt the small and compact size of the lenses, especially the Olympus ones, suited the smaller and more compact camera bodies. I love working with prime lenses and I like the discipline they force upon you. They make you consider your viewpoints more. They force you to see the world through their focal length and encourage you to put more thought into whether you should stick with that focal length or swop to another, much more than there would be with a zoom lens. Of course, they are smaller, generally faster and sharper than zoom lenses and everyone should have at least one fixed prime lens in their arsenal to appreciate the limited vision that they offer, which is a bonus, rather than a hindrance.

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I do have some zooms and they are useful for certain situations and subjects. There are times when changing lenses all the time is not convenient and so this is where zooms come into their own. Having spent the last 20 years shooting landscapes, I now, like many others, pass on my knowledge though workshops etc. In this changing world of photography, it has often become the way for landscape photographers to earn money from their profession. There’s not many photographers shooting and selling landscape images without using teaching as a way to top up their income.

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I use many was of teaching. Through location-based workshops, online courses, text-based articles and more recently through video. This last medium is an exciting one and a way of teaching that the others can’t match. I have a YouTube channel and I also a subscription service run from my website called e6, which offers even more videos and content. I teach about landscape photography and to a certain extent, the advantages of shooting with mirrorless cameras. I will rave about the Olympus system, but appreciate the choices others have made too. They all have their place and as I said at the beginning, the camera is merely a tool for an artist to use (we photographers are artists aren’t we?!)

I love photography and I love shooting with mirrorless cameras, just as I did with my Canon SLR and my Mamiya medium format camera before that come to think of it. I need a camera that suits my needs as a professional photographer. The Olympus does that in bucket loads and I’m happy to use these new breed of cameras as a workhorse for my work.

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So, the images in this feature were all captured with Olympus cameras. They make fantastic landscape cameras, yet are equally perfect for street photography too. I’m capturing images that I probably never would have with my Canon SLR and they have made me a more creative photographer. They are part of my evolution as a photographer. Why? Because of their size, their design and their flexibility. Yes, they are just a tool, but if you have great tools to work with, your progress isn’t hindered.

My YouTube Channel:
www.youtube.com/channel/UCqRkV8eRVvxwVStV5May0rQ

My website:
www.craigrobertsphotography.co.uk

Jan 302016
 

Olympus PEN-F Pre-Order Links! SHIPS MARCH!

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THE PEN-F FROM OLYMPUS IS SELLING LIKE HOTCAKES!  MY REVIEW IS HERE.

Links below to pre-order at Amazon and B&H Photo, my two fave dealers for Olympus. 

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Using these links above will help me keep the site moving forward and help deliver reviews for years to come. You will not pay extra, but I will get pennies on the dollar which is what helps make this site continue to be 100% FREE and full of valuable info, THOUSANDS of articles, posts, reviews and more. ALL FREE. The actual real cost to keep this site going smooth month after month costs big money, and since I refuse to charge money for these reviews I rely on the readers to use my links to help out. It’s easy, and free to you. So if you are thinking of buying a PEN-F, using the links above will help me greatly!

The PEN-F will ship starting March 2016. Also, pre-orders are not charged until shipped, so pre-ordering will always ensure your place in line but can be canceled anytime. I always pre-order new gear immediately because I know if I change my mind, I can cancel it, no harm. If I decide to keep the order, I will be one of the first to get it! It’s a win all the way around.

SO THANK YOU IF YOU USE MY LINKS ON THIS SITE! YOU ARE APPRECIATED!

Jan 262016
 
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The NEW Olympus PEN-F Camera Review. Just. Wow.

NOTE: Be sure to click the images here to see them larger and how they were meant to be seen.  ALL images here are Out Of Camera JPEGS, 100% (No real RAW support yet) and I mainly tested the new dedicated Monochrome Mode in mode 2 which simulates something like TRI-X so this is the look that mode gives and the Chrome/Slide Color mode as these are new modes for Olympus. Enjoy my look at this new exceptional camera from Olympus but be prepared for a slew of Monochrome images! Next update I will show images from RAW which will be the more standard color and B&W profiles. 

My 1st look VIDEO on the new PEN-F

 

It’s been an amazing last few days. I am here in Austin TX and have had the opportunity to shoot with the brand spanking new Olympus PEN-F every day which is by far, the best Olympus digital PEN EVER. Hands down, no contest. No Hype, No B.S., No Lie. This review will be one of the very 1st full REVIEWS in the world of the PEN-F. Enjoy!

The PEN-F with the 12 f/2 – Using the new Monochrome Mode 2 (Tri-X Style Simulation but with all grain OFF)  – Click it to see it correctly!

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With its gorgeous retro style. swivel screen, 5 Axis IS, 50MP High Res Shot mode, Live Time, Focus Bracketing, new color modes, new Monochrome mode, 10FPS or 20FPS with its electronic shutter, silent mode, 1/8000th s standard shutter, 1/16,000 electronic shutter, large and clear EVF, shortest lag of any other camera in this class, touch screen, and loads of other cool features Olympus have hit it out of the PARK with the PEN-F.

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Yes my friends, this is quite the camera and while not up to Full Frame sensor cameras it can stand up to any APS-C sensor camera made today IMO (been saying this since the pro E-M1) and if given a choice between the new PEN-F and ANY APS-C Mirrorless or DSLR, the PEN-F wins in a huge way, for ME. Maybe not for you, but for me, 100%. I LOVE the PEN cameras and always have, so this one really struck a chord with me.

This may end up being the most loved Olympus Digital yet by the camera buying public as well as enthusiasts because it has cool factor, speed, great construction and feel, some of the best lenses made today available for it and superb image quality. I see it as a “Super Enthusiast” camera with great design and control, just what an Enthusiast wants and just what camera companies need to be doing..making special cameras that people will WANT to use and shoot over their smart phones.

Yes yes yes, this is one of those cameras that can do it and put a big grin on your face while doing it.

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THE BEST PEN EVER

Long time readers will know, I have had them all from the EP1, E-P2, E-P3 and the EP5 and some of the in between (EPL Series) models and this new PEN-F has more than ANYONE would ever want in a  mirrorless camera, and for me, (and others I have spoken to who are using it with me) it beats ANY DSLR made for usability, fun factor, features, size and style, again, my opinion. Oh, and the performance is the best yet from Olympus as well and while it does not have the weather sealing of the Pro level E-M1, in many ways, I’d rather have this than the aging E-M1. In fact, if given a choice I know the PEN would have my heart instantly.

With an all new 20MP sensor is inside, upping the Ante over the usual 16MP in Olympus Micro 4/3 cameras, we finally get a new higher MP Micro 4/3 sensor, and it does not disappoint. In fact, I am seeing some of the sharpest most detailed M 4/3 images yet, and I have only seen JPEG’s so far. I am sure the RAW files will be spectacular.

The new 20 megapixel sensor is indeed an improvement over the old 16MP sensor.

They are even releasing some gorgeous leather accessories for it as well as a half case and the grip. The Leather accessories look pretty sharp to me…

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MONOCHROME & MORE!

I will state right now, the PEN-F is BEAUTIFUL and the new MONOCHROME mode is great to have and quite stunning.

I am thrilled to see a camera company concentrating and working on Monochrome imaging…with a camera under $1200 instead of $7000 like the Leica Monochrom. Of course this is NOT a dedicated Mono sensor but take a look at the B&W images direct out of the PEN-F camera below. Nothing at all to complain about. The way the new sensor handles light is quite stunning. This is a $1200 camera, and believe me, well worth this cost when some cameras these days cost much more and in some cases, give less.

MUST click it for better version! This one with the 17.5 Voigtlander 0.95 at 0.95 – OOC JPEG MONO MODE 2

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When this new PEN-F was handed to me I was super excited as soon as I saw the design and held it in my hands. The Chrome model is GORGEOUS, SEXY and SLEEK but the black is much more stealthy and just as handsome. I am not 100% sure which I prefer. I love the looks of both though the Silver has more definition to the dials as they pop out more giving more of a retro vibe.

I still have an E-P5 on my shelf at home along with my OM-D camera but this one WILL be replacing my E-P5 and may become my main shooter for a while due to the fact that it can do whatever I need it to do except for very super low or no light shooting, which I reserve for my Sony full frame A7 series cameras. But take this and some nice fast primes like the 12mm f/2, 17 f/1.8,  Panasonic Nocticron or even the AMAZING DROOL WORTHY Olympus 300mm f/4 and you will have a camera capable almost anything you need.

Voigtlander 17 0.95 on the PEN-F – MONO MODE 2 (Tri-X Style)

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Now with the awesome Olympus 8mm f/1.8 Pro Lens

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But right here, right now, the big buzz among those shooting the new PEN-F here in Austin along with me? It’s all about the MONOCHROME MODE. Not sure if its a mental thing, a nostalgia thing or a combo of both but we all seem to love it and have had a hard time shooting in other modes. Olympus did a great job with this, and it is NOT a new Art Filter. It’s a new MODE. Very cool. 

As for the Monochrome mode, to me, it is FANTASTIC.  Take a look at these OOC JPEGS while in Mono mode #2. No PP here at all.

CLICK THEM for much better version! These are all MONOCHROME MODE 2 (Tri-X style, so the “look” you see is emulating this film. Deep black, high contrast. 

Next 11 images were shot with the Olympus 45 1.8. A true no brainer lens at $299. Bargain of the decade. 

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The Olympus 17 1.8

Tri X simulation Mode 2 with heavy grain (you can choose OFF, LOW, MED, HIGH)

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The $299 25 1.8

Mode 2 with medium grain

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WITH A FLICK OF THE SWITCH!

With the flick of your finger you can swap modes easily while your eye is up to the EVF. Go from standard to monochrome to chrome/slide and EACH mode has three presets with unlimited customization of each and every preset! It’s quite amazing and may take a day or two for you to learn how it all works but once you do, it is as easy as 1-2-3.

In Mono mode you can choose color filters just as you did with B&W film. For example, using the RED filter will darken and enhance the sky and lighten skin tones. You can also choose the grain and have it off, low, medium or high. The grain is also film like as Olympus made sure to make it as much like film grain as possible. This is NOT the old grainy B&W mode, it is all new.

The nice dial right on the from of the PEN-F allows you to easily select which mode you want, if any

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Myself and others here see the new PEN-F as competition to the new X-Pro 2 or even a Sony A6000..but with the new film modes that look VERY good, along with the gorgeous design and high quality parts and construction, this would most likely be my choice over any APS-C counterpart due to size, speed, lenses available, features, IQ and the gorgeous design and control and customization.

For me it is always MUCH more than just output as a camera needs to have MANY things going for it for me to LOVE it. The PEN-F is blazing fast, has one of the best selection of high quality lenses of ANY brand (I put them 2nd only to Leica for high quality and small size) and has the highest fun factor of ANY camera I have used beating Sony, Leica, Fuji. etc.

THIS PEN IS NOT A TOY ;) 

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But do not confuse FUN FACTOR with it being a Toy as the PEN-F is no toy. It could be used for anything from family snaps to pro work (I know many pros who use Micro 4/3 with gorges results) like weddings or events. When choosing a camera as an enthusiast or amateur or someone who just loves taking photos, never worry about wether a camera is labeled as “PRO” but look at a cameras capabilities, features and how versatile it is. I said it many times in the past but Olympus makes some of the most versatile cameras EVER. I see so many online who stick by their brands and like to call other brands “toys”  – which I feel is ridiculous. NO camera that is made for enthusiasts use is a toy. That is just ridiculous. ALL cameras at this level are very good to great, and it is hard to make a choice on IQ alone, which is why you must look at everything the camera offers you, how easy it is to operate and what it can do FOR YOU and your photography.

The PEN-F motivates and really makes you want to shoot it.

The new PEN-F even has a cool mode where you can be framing your image with the EVF while using your thumb on the back LCD to move your focus point. AMAZING! These are the things that set Olympus apart from other cameras made today. They are truly the leaders of Innovation with digital imaging and I have said this for years. There is a silent mode as well with a 100% silent shutter. I mean SILENT. This one may have all YOU need.

OOC JPEGS with no PP at all. These were shot in the COLOR WHEEL mode 3, which is simulating the super saturated slide and chrome films of the past. If you want a bold color pop that still looks good (it really does look much like some old slide film) use mode 3 when you have your wheel on COLOR. You choose mode 3 in the super control panel which makes camera settings a BREEZE. 

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AN EVF ON THE PEN, FINALLY! 

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The PEN-F is the first Olympus PEN digital to include an EVF. Something I have wished for since the E-P1. The PEN-F uses the same EVF as the one in the latest E-M10 Mark II. It’s VERY good and I would say in the top 3-4 EVF’s made today with the Leica SL being the best I have ever seen or used. Even so, this one is fantastic and it is so cool to have. My fave way of shooting the PEN-F was to close the LCD (which also has the nice leatherette covering) and just shoot with the EVF, while NOT reviewing the images. Was like shooting film ;) So THANK YOU Olympus for making this one with an EVF!

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SHUTTER  – MECHANICAL OR ELECTRONIC

The new PEN-F has the traditional shutter which can go up to 1/8000S or you can activate the Electronic Shutter and enjoy up to 1/16,000S. When using the E-Shutter the camera is 100% SILENT. Super stealth here. This means that if you want to shoot an f/0.95 lens in the sunlight wide open, it will not be a problem.

This camera has just about every tech feature you can imagine.

PEN-F VS LEICA MONOCHROM? WHAT?!?!?!

When I look back at my Leica MM shots I do not see a major WOW difference between those and what I can get with the PEN-F and a nice fast prime when it comes to B&W tonality. I do see more pop with Leica due to the full frame sensor and $3500 Zeiss lens I used but as for tonality, I slightly prefer the Olympus. Crazy. But I like that Tri-X style and I like to get there easy. ;)

THIS tells me that the new PEN-F is special, and quite the accomplishment from Olympus. I SO can not wait to slap on the Nocticron to this. My guess is that it will be a match made in heaven for Monochrome portrait work.

Being Micro 4/3, it still has that super high ISO/Low Light weakness next to full frame but as long as you do not need ISO 50,000 then the PEN-F just may be all you need. If you need the best high ISO low light performance I would look to a Sony A7S or A7SII.

In black with the new Olympus Grip which is much like an RSS style grip. ITS A MUST if you want more grip ;) 

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Yes, the PEN-F is retro and it is beautiful. It is modeled after the original PEN-F film camera which was a half frame camera to cut down on size but quite cute and attractive in its own right.

The Original Half Frame Film PEN

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The new digital PEN-F uses a new 20MP sensor and it is much more than a pretty face, I can assure you of this. As with all Olympus mirrorless cameras these days, the cameras are mature and the lenses are some of the best out there for ANY system. Sure the sensors are smaller, but these cameras are all about FUN, SMALL SIZE, and FANTASTIC QUALITY in build, feel, control and IQ.

PEN-F, Olympus 17 1.8 Lens (review of the lens is here) – Chrome Color Mode 3 (Super Saturated Slide Film)

Remember, click images for better versions!

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Below are the key things I think make the PEN-F one hell of a camera, and things I have really enjoyed about it in my 2-3 days of non stop shooting…

  • MONOCHROME MODE! On the front of the PEN-F is a chunky metal dial that will switch to different color modes. The new MONOCHROME selection is beautiful and provides quite nice out of camera B&W images. Mode 2 recreates slide film and ALL OF IT is 100% customizable to your tastes. Just a switch of the dial with your finger as you look through the new built in EVF is all it takes to go to go to MONOCHROME, SLIDE/CHROME COLOR, ART FILTERS or STANDARD.
  • The Exposure Compensation Dial! This is new for Olympus and it is much welcomed. Now you can adjust EV comp on the fly.
  • Tilt OUT LCD – Just like the E-M5 II, this is great for all kinds of things. Video, Selfies, Vlogging, etc.
  • Speed – As with all of the current Olympus models, this one is blazing fast to AF with most lenses.

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  • The new BUILT IN EVF! For the 1st time EVER in a Digital PEN we have a nice big EVF. It is the same EVF as the one in the E-M10II, and it is quite nice. I have been asking for an EVF in a PEN for YEARS, now we have it!
  • DESIGN is gorgeous. Not one visible screw. Classic/Retro design that looks like a classic PEN-F. Olympus did this one justice.
  • IT’S FUN AND JUST WORKS! Olympus PEN cameras have always had something special about them to me. They are fun are fast, and just work. They are small, light and powerful with gorgeous color and overall performance. The new PEN-F is no exception and is probably the funnest PEN yet.
  • CUSTOMIZATION. The new Monochrome or Chrome settings have three presets each but can be 100% customized to your liking. It’s quite intense at first but once you get the hang of it, then it is quite nice.
  • Best 5 Axis IS inside and Olympus has THE BEST Image Stabilization on the market

NEXT THREE IMAGES – THE NEW CHROME/SLIDE COLOR MODE (COLOR MODE 3, Super Saturated Slide) – Olympus 17 1.8

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When in mode 3 using the new Color modes, you are getting CHROME/SLIDE with super enhanced color, just like some old slide film that has HUGE color pop. You can turn that back a tad by going to mode 2 while the front control knob is on COLOR…

Color MODE 2

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I have been shooting the new PEN-F here in Austin with 15 or so other journalists and we all seem to be enjoying it IMMENSELY. After speaking with most of these guys the one thing they all agree on is that the Monochrome mode rocks and the camera is amazingly fun and easy to use, and the results and IQ can be BEAUTIFUL with the right lenses. I can not wait to get my full review unit and put it through paces with lenses like the Nocticron and other fast primes.

Slide Film Mode 3

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The PEN-F construction is special as well. Not ONE screw is visible anywhere on the camera. It is made VERY well with a magnesium alloy base and solid feeling knobs and dials. Nothing on the camera feels cheap and while not built like a Leica M, the build of the PEN series has always been very nice. The PEN-F is even better. lovely.

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JPEG DETAIL 

Again, every image you see here is an out of camera JPEG as there is no RAW support for this camera yet. When RAW support is available I will do an updated post with RAW files and tests. For now, take a look at some detail coming just from the JPEGS!

YOU MUST CLICK IMAGES TO SEE TRUE 100% CROP AND CORRECT SHARPNESS!

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ISO TESTS

With the new 20MP sensor, how does the camera do with high ISO while in low light? Let us see…

1st the whole image..

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Now the 100% crops (no need to click these as they are already 100%)

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Monochrome Modes Explained

The PEN-F has three Monochromatic modes. Mode 1, 2, and 3.

Mode 1 is more of a neutral B&W (click them for much better version)

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MODE 2 has several options with grain and offers a more contrasty Tri-X style of rendering. Below is a samples of Mode 2 with grain off, low, medium and high.

*Must click them for best view*

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Below is Mode 3 which is sort of like an Infrared simulation which is why the images below look like IR with grain and the blowout look. Many love this look, many hate it . ALL OOC JPEGS as with every image in this review. 

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So while the Pen-F offers normal color modes (That I did NOT use here but will add some over the next two days)  it also gives us the Chrome Film simulations and the Monochrome simulations, and I feel these are the best film simulations on any digital camera to date. Easy squeezie to get these results with OOC JPEGS.

Pros and Cons of the Olympus PEN-F

PROS

  1. It’s small, light, but VERY well made
  2. It is GORGEOUS in design and controls
  3. Super customizable
  4. MONOCHROME MODE
  5. SLIDE FILM MODE
  6. Swivel out to the left LCD get for video or Vlogging
  7. New 20MP sensor is fantastic
  8. Some of the best lenses out there are available for this system
  9. Under $1200
  10. NOW A PEN WITH AN EVF!
  11. Control dial on front adds a cool look and is very functional
  12. 5 Axis IS best so far
  13. Touch LCD screen can even change focus point with thumb while viewing through the EVF
  14. Wonderful Image Quality
  15. Decent low light high ISO capabilities though better can be had with some APS-C and Full Frame
  16. Super fast AF, very accurate AF, Fastest I have seen in M 4/3 so far
  17. This is a street shooters DREAM camera, well if not yours, it should be
  18. Exposure Compensation Dial!!! A 1st for Olympus
  19. SO many cool modes – Live Time, Focus Bracketing, Color Controls, Art Filters are still here, so so many things that are so functional that no other cameras have.
  20. Nice quality Leatherette covering, even on the back of the LCD if you want to close it and shoot without it.
  21. SILENT shutter option, and I mean SILENT!
  22. 1/8000 mechanical shutter or 1/16,000 electronic shutter. No problem for fast glass in the daylight.

CONS

  1.  No weather sealing but then again, at this price point and for what it offers I would not expect it to be there.
  2. I would probably prefer large buttons on the back as they are small, and seem hard to push. For example. the focus assist magnify button is very small and she I tried using a manual lens and using magnify I constantly had to take my eye from the EVF to find the button. I am sure after a couple weeks of use it would be second nature though it could have been bigger.
  3. Some of the MONO modes some may consider harsh but it is supposed to be emulating a Tri X style of film. So this is how it is supposed to look. If you wang normal smooth Monochrome, use Mode 1 which will offer less contrast and lighter blacks.
  4. NO MONO MODE IN RAW, only JPEG. But as I said, it is NOT a Monochrome camera, it simulates one very well.

THAT’S IT! It is one of the most “likable” cameras I have ever reviewed.

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My Final Conclusion

This camera is one of those that I love because it has everything I like and really nothing I do not. It’s an inspiration and if you are not a crazed pixel peeping maniac who only views 40-100 MP files at 100% you may not like Micro 4/3. But at the end of the day, Micro 4/3 offers shooters a real alternative to the bulk and size of many Full Frame offerings, even the smaller ones like the Sony A7 series but it does not offer full frame performance in ISO or IQ or DR. It does however keep up with APS-C, and I have proven this in the past with the E-M1. This has a better sensor. What you see here is all OOC JPEGS. My next update will be with RAW (when support is available) but my old E-M1 always did amazing with RAW and this one should be a tad better.

The PEN-F has been a long time coming and I am so thrilled that Olympus created this. There are many PEN fans out there and I feel they will FLIP over this one. I am replacing my old E-P5 with it so yep, I am ordering it even though I have an E-M5 around. I much prefer this to the E-M5 II and what sealed the deal for me was the COLOR DIAL allowing me to go from slide film like color to gorgeous Monochrome or even neutral if I so desired. The new EVF is nice (same one that is in the E-M10 II) and I just really LOVE LOVE LOVE the design here. Olympus outdid themselves and the PEN-F is 100% bonafide winner.

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With that said, for many hardcore enthusiasts and pros it will not replace a full frame camera (it’s not mean to) but for 90% of the camera loving public, it offers much more than most at this price point of around $1200 and if you want a HUGE step up from a smartphone or aging camera (even APS-C), THIS would be the camera I recommend to any and all from now on. Truth be told, if this camera was released in December, it would have been my Camera of the Year 2015 due to everything I just said about it, and the price which is excellent for what you get here. Its small, thin, and so easy to use and shoot. It JUST WORKS!

With its Electronic Shutter which is SILENT and allows up to 1/16,000S shooting or even the normal shutter at 1/8000s you are covered shooting fast glass in sunlight. With its fast AF, 10-20 FPS depending on the shutter mode and even the fantastic video capabilities (that I have not yet tested) along with the best 5 Axis IS in the business, this is a serious camera with a serious fun factor. The best part is that it delivers on all fronts from build to speed to usability to IQ.

The PEN-F will start shipping in March 2016 and will come in at $1199.00. 

Leave a comment below and let me know what YOU think of the new PEN-F!

WHERE TO BUY THE PEN-F & ACCESSORIES?

You can pre-order the PEN-F at B&H Photo & Amazon Below:

Order the PEN-F in Black at B&H Photo HERE

Order the PEN-F in Silver at B&H Photo HERE

Order the PEN-F In Silver at Amazon HERE

Order the PEN-F in Black at Amazon HERE

Accessories…

You can order the premium Leather bag at B&H Photo HERE

The grip is available HERE at B&H Photo

The half case is available HERE

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More Samples from the PEN-F!

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Below, with the new 300mm f/4 – THIS IS A DROP DEAD GORGEOUS LENS giving a 600mm FOV and easily hand holdable. 

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FULL PRESS RELEASE FROM OLYMPUS

OLYMPUS’ ICONIC MASTERPIECE: THE NEW PEN-F® COMBINES TIMELESS DESIGN WITH SOPHISTICATED COLOR PROFILE CONTROL FOR THE ULTIMATE STREET PHOTOGRAPHY TOOL

20 Megapixel Live MOS Sensor, 5-Axis VCM Image Stabilization, Fully-Customizable Monochrome and Color Profile Control, and Interactive OLED Electronic Viewfinder in a Classic Rangefinder Design

CENTER VALLEY, Pa., January 27, 2016 — Olympus is pleased to announce the PEN-F, a compact system camera created by fusing cutting-edge digital technology with craftsmanship handed down from 80 years of Olympus camera manufacturing. As the digital update of the original PEN-F, the world’s first half-frame SLR, the new PEN-F is packed with incredible performance advancements for photographers seeking superior image quality and creative control. The 20 megapixel Live MOS Sensor is combined with Olympus’ 5-Axis Image Stabilization, a built-in 2.36 million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder, and a new Creative Dial on the front of the camera that accesses a host of controls to deliver a captivating shooting experience, all included in a design that exudes timeless beauty.

Elegant, Meticulous Design
The PEN-F’s classic body lines and silhouette are inherited from its predecessor, which debuted in 1963. The top and front covers of the body are crafted from magnesium, and the precision metal dials (along with the bottom of the body) are crafted from aluminum. Olympus engineers devoted extraordinary resources to ensure superior quality and craftsmanship, so much so that even screws are undetectable on the camera’s exterior. Simple, stylish touches — like the included camera strap and the leather-grained exterior of the camera body and the back of the articulating LCD monitor — provide a unified look and feel. Customizable buttons and dials are positioned for easy operation while the user looks through the viewfinder, and the new Exposure Compensation dial and four custom modes on the Mode Dial offer instant access to registered settings for simple, direct control.

Ultimate Image Quality in Every Situation
The newly-developed 20 megapixel Live MOS Sensor is paired with the latest TruePic™ VII Image Processor to bring out the amazing image quality of Olympus’ M.ZUIKO® lenses. The sensor’s low-pass filterless construction delivers high resolution and a low sensitivity ISO LOW mode equivalent to ISO 80. In addition, the powerful 5-axis VCM (Voice Coil Motor) image stabilization compensates up to 5.0 steps* of shutter speed for one of the world’s highest levels of compensation performance. This technology allows users to capture clear images of night scenes and other low light situations with minimal noise, without raising the ISO. Focal length may be set manually, so that even legacy manual-focus lenses can be image-stabilized. The PEN-F’s High Res Shot Mode captures 50 megapixel equivalent images that reproduce incredible subject detail in ultra-high resolution, perfect for architecture and still life work. Plus, Olympus Viewer 3 Ver. 2.0 image editing software has been updated to process High Res Shot RAW images.

Complete Freedom of Expression
The PEN-F’s new Monochrome and Color Profile Control functions allow photographers the ability to emulate their favorite films of years past. These functions differ from using photo editing software after shooting, as they allow users to apply and check effects in Live View while shooting to create their own original images. Both functions include quick-select presets designed to give images the look of classic film. Or, settings can be completely customized to achieve specific looks. The camera’s front-mounted Creative Dial accesses Monochrome Profile Control, Color Profile Control, Art Filters, and Color Creator, all with a simple twist.

Monochrome Profile Control combines five photographic effects — Color Filter effect, Shading effect, Film Grain effect, Monochrome Color, and Highlight and Shadow Control — for a variety of monochromatic expressions. In addition to the default setting (Preset 1), there is also Classic Film Monochrome (Preset 2) for a monochrome film effect with high contrast, and Classic Film Infrared (Preset 3) for an effect that mimics infrared film. In Color Profile Control, users are able to adjust the color saturation of 12 individual colors in 11 steps. This is combined with Highlight and Shadow Control for limitless color expression. In addition to the default setting (Preset 1), there is also Chrome Film Rich Color (Preset 2), which provides deeper tones in images, and Chrome Film Vivid Saturation (Preset 3), which creates high levels of color saturation. The PEN-F’s rear lever lets users easily toggle through the various effect controls, including Highlight and Shadow Control, a feature that also allows for the adjustment of midtones within plus or minus seven steps for advanced customization.

High-Visibility Interactive Viewfinder
The PEN-F is equipped with a built-in 2.36 million-dot high resolution OLED Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) with a 100-percent field of view and a magnification rate of 1.23x (35mm equivalent: approx. 0.62x) for a clear view without aberrations, even at the edges. Simulated OVF (S-OVF) Mode expands the dynamic range and provides an image similar to what would be seen with the naked eye. The magnified display function and Focus Peaking (which offers three levels and four colors) allow for extremely precise lens focusing. In addition, the PEN-F’s vari-angle, touch-enabled LCD monitor lets users compose Live View shots from a variety of angles, high or low.

Super-Fast Response for Comfortable Shooting
The PEN-F features blazing-fast speed with the shortest shutter-release time lag of any compact system camera** at 0.044 seconds. The 1/8000-second, high-speed mechanical shutter provides superior performance for capturing fast action, and shutter functions can be customized according to the scene. Silent Mode is useful for shooting in situations that require complete silence, and Anti-Shock Mode allows users to prevent shutter shake. The AF Targeting Pad enhances control by allowing users to set focus points by touching the rear monitor with their thumb while composing their shot in the viewfinder. Face Priority AF and Eye Priority AF detect and continuously adjust the focus on faces or eyes for easier portrait shooting. Enhancing the detail of every shot is AF Target Spot Metering, which links the AF Target and the metering area, while Super Spot AF and Small Target AF make it possible to focus on small subjects.

The PEN-F offers additional compatibility with users’ legacy lenses by enabling them to register the information of lenses without electronic contacts for inclusion in images’ EXIF data. The lens information may be recalled with the press of a button. Up to 10 lenses can be registered, including the lens name, focal length and aperture value.

Even More Creative Control
Other creative features include Live Composite Mode, which allows users to extract and composite the brightest areas from multiple, sequentially shot images to capture incredible cityscapes and star trails. With the PEN-F’s built-in Wi-Fi®, users can utilize the Olympus Image Share app for Android® and Apple® to adjust settings and monitor the progress of the image as it develops in real time on a smartphone or tablet. In 4K Time Lapse Movie, the camera captures up to 999 images automatically at intervals ranging from one image every second to one image every 24 hours, and combines them into a stunning high-resolution 4K video, all in-camera, without the need for additional software.

For those who enjoy macro photography, Focus Bracketing captures multiple shots at the touch of a button, all with slightly different focus depths. The new Live View Boost 2 makes it possible to easily focus and compose shots while checking visible stars in Live View. The PEN-F’s high-speed sequential shooting capabilities let users capture all the action at 10 fps with the mechanical shutter, 5 fps with C-AF, and an extraordinary 20 fps with Silent Mode.
Premium Leather Accessories
Optional accessories include the External Metal Grip (ECG-4) that lets users replace the battery without removing the grip, featuring a Quick Shoe Compatible Rail on the bottom for direct connection to a compatible tripod head. Premium-quality leather accessories are also available in limited quantities. The Premium Leather Shoulder Strap (CSS-S120L PR) features high-quality leather with a two-tone design and a thickness that helps reduce shoulder strain. A Premium Leather Wrapping Cloth (CS-48 PR) made of finely textured genuine leather is perfect for wrapping the entire camera with a large lens attached. The Premium Leather Camera Bag (CBG-11 PR) is a compact, genuine leather camera bag produced under the direction of AJIOKA Co., Ltd., a Japanese leather manufacturer, with thorough attention to details including pockets, a shoulder pad, and shoulder strap. The Genuine Leather Body Jacket (CS-47B) is designed to protect the bottom of the Olympus PEN-F from bumps and scratches.

U.S. Pricing and Availability
The PEN-F is available now for an estimated street price of $1,199.99 (U.S.) and $1,499.99 (Canada).

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