Apr 182014
 

The Olympus E-M5 using Dramatic Tone

by Tamer Erdem

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

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

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

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Apr 032014
 

Streetshooting the Olympus OM-D E-M1

By Robin Schimko

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

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

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

Ease of use:

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

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Reliability

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

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Precision

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

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Quality

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

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

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

If you want to check out my websites:

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

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

or follow me on facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/RobinSchimkoPicture

Thank you all for reading,

Robin

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Mar 262014
 

User Report: The Olympus E-M1

by Leigh Miller – His website is HERE

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

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

Size

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

Sunrise in San Pedro

Performance

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

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Image Quality

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

Absolute nonsense.

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

Portofino Resort Docks

Summary

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

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

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

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

Feeding Time

 A couple of items you want to watch:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Streets of San Pedro

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Equipment Used for the images here

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On Horseback

Mar 172014
 

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The Olympus E-M10 and 12-40 f/2.8 Pro Zoom Mini Review

With Olympus continually being on top of their own mirrorless camera game I admit…I was a bit hesitant when the E-M10 was announced. I mean, was Olympus going the way of Panasonic who in the past  released cheap, dumbed down tiny bodies just to make a quick sale and find a market for their camera bodies? Let’s face it, the OM-D E-M5 is stellar. The OM-D E-M1 is stellar. The PEN E-P5 is fantastic and beautiful and one of my faves of all time in Micro 4/3. These are three Micro 4/3 mirrorless models that are truly state of the art and can easily provide anyone with gorgeous quality photos while offering speed, build and features that would make any shutter bug happy and many other mirror less camera companies a little nervous.

So why an “E-M10″ that is smaller? 

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Well, that was the question I had when it was announced. I glossed over it and while it looked cool I had doubts about why anyone would want it over an E-m5. Then I saw the cost of only $699 and thought..“well, if it is as great as the E-M5 in use, it will be a BARGAIN of epic proportions”! Then I realized that it had even better performance than the E-M5 and equaled the E-M1 for IQ and Af Speed. That was all I needed to hear. Done deal.

The E-M10 and 12-40 2.8 – This combo is lightning fast, sharp, amazing prime IQ and the very 1st zoom I have ever really wanted to buy in the mirror less world. The IQ is stellar. The color reproduction is rich. The contrast is striking. This lens is truly a pro zoom with a constant f/2.8 aperture across the range.

ALL images in this review are JPEGS shot with the E-M10 and 12-40 2.8 Lens!

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So one day I received a UPS box from the wonderful B&H Photo who sent me the little black Olympus E-M10 to check out and review. When I opened it up I was impressed with the look, the style and the design..which is basically just like the OM-D E-M5, just in a mini format. It felt solid, booted up quickly and had that blazing Olympus AF speed I have come to love and trust. It surprised me really as I was expecting it to be a little “laggy” seeing that it is a “mini”model that is cheaper.

I ended up deciding to just shoot this camera over a weekend with the Olympus 12-40 Pro Zoom. WHY? Well, I have not yet reviewed this lens and figured it would be a nice test of the camera and lens. AN ALL IN ONE. No need to worry or stress over lenses to use or take with. Easy Squeezy.

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So me, the E-M10 and the 12-40 2.8. That is all. That was the plan.

So how did it do? Read on to find out. Please note! This is not a normal tech “review” but it will be more of my thoughts using this camera over a weekend along with the photos I was able to casually snap. I always prefer real world use of a camera and have been doing these types of reviews and write ups for almost 6 years now. It is IMO, the only way to test a camera for what it is meant to be used for. TAKING PHOTOS and ENJOYING IT!

So one morning Debby and I took a 4 hour drive to Las Vegas and decided to just walk around and shoot the scenery. I did end up bringing along my Leica M 240 and 50 1.5 Nokton but only fired off 6 shots. The Olympus was so much fun, so fast and so GOOD that I did not want to stop using it! Seriously. It did have some faults but only in the handling. Basically, when using the 12-40 and the E-M10 I would highly recommend the accessory grip as the body is a little small for the Zoom as is.

“Orgasim Clinic” – what happens in vegas stays in vegas…

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Olympus and Micro 4/3

I have been a fan of Olympus forever. From the OM film cameras to the 1st real flagship E-1 digital back in the day. The PEN series..yes, I have shot with them all (The E-P5 is the best of PEN’s) and of course the OM-D series all the way to the  top of the Micro 4/3 heap with the Professional E-M1. ALL of these cameras have been wonderful to use and to shoot but especially these new camera bodies Olympus have been releasing over the past couple of years. The E-M5, E-P5, E-M1 are stellar, and I mean that 100%. I have said it a million times about these Olympus bodies but they have something about them that are special.

I have finally figured it out though..as to just what that special thing is. It is a combo of things actually that no other camera manufacturer has been able to accomplish as of yet besides Olympus.

In my opinion, the reason these latest Olympus bodies have been so special is because they offer it all and do it all very well without any real compromise:

1. Build quality – This E-M10 is built just like the current and more expensive E-M5 which is built very good. Solid, smooth dials, precision. It feels “right”. The Pro E-M1 is even better. All are built VERY well with the E-M1 being as good as it gets in the build for a mirrorless camera. 

2. Speed – The E-M10 and other OM-D bodies have blazing fast and accurate AF. It is pretty much instant. No hunting, no slowdown, no misses. I had no AF misses with the E-M10 and 12-40 2.8 lens. Focus was instant and so fast that I was just having fun testing it to try to make it miss or slow down! In super low indoor light at night it did slow down but still locked on and fired and nailed the shot. The Olympus bodies all have stellar AF speed and accuracy. They lose out a bit on CONTINUOUS tracking AF but for shot to shot, they are hard to beat. No other mirrorless body I have tried has the AF speed of the E-M1, E-M5 and E-M10.

3. EVF – The EVF in the E-M10 is NOT the best EVF around. The E-M1 and Fuji X-T1 share that honor but the EVF in the E-M10 is good, just a but on the small side. But this is not a “flagship” body. It is an affordable entry into the OM-D series. The fact that it has an EVF is great, as these days I avoid cameras without them. But overall, the E-M1 has one of the top EVF’s on the market. Huge, clear and VERY easy to use and frame with.

4. Image Stabilization – Olympus has the best IS in the business, no contest. I have never used anything like it. The E-M10 has “3 Axis” IS instead of the higher end bodies “5-Axis” but it works almost just as well. It is so cool to have this feature in a small, more affordable OM-D.  If you have not yet experienced the 5-Axis IS or even 3 Axis IS you are in for a treat.

5. LENSES – Again, Olympus and Panasonic are at the top of the mirrorless heap (next to Leica of course) when it comes to lenses for the Micro 4/3 system. I have shot with all Fuji lenses. All Sony lenses. All Panasonic lenses and mostly all Leica lenses. IMO, these little Olympus primes and now the 12-40 Pro Zoom are some of the best I have shot with next to Leica glass. The size, weight, feel, silence, speed and IQ are stellar on almost ALL of them. I a NOT a zoom guy but this $999 12-40 Pro Zoom equals or surpasses what I have seen from the Canon 24-70 and equals the Nikon 24-70 as well while being smaller and much less expensive. This is an amazing zoom lens. Fast, silent, small (in comparison to full frame and APS-C) and beautiful rich color and contrast/sharpness. Olympus lenses as well as Panasonic make some of the best mirrorless glass. Compared to Fuji lenses, these are faster to AF, all silent in operation, smaller and just as good with IQ. 

6. Image Quality – IQ from the Olympus bodies, including the E-M10 is as good as 98% of us will need. Pro’s use them for high paying jobs. They are that good. What it comes down to is preference of “look” when you decide on a camera body or sensor size. You can print large with Micro 4/3, no issues. You can print large with APS-C and full frame. All will give you a different look and feel but Micro 4/3 is no longer lacking in IQ in any way. The JPEGS are also fantastic out of camera and no special processing software is needed for the RAW files :)

I saw this guy getting ready to give a high-five. I turned around, aide and fired and hit the moment. No hesitation on the camera or lens. THIS is what makes a camera enjoyable.

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Sure, many cameras have these 6 features but Olympus is at the top of the entire mirror less game when it comes to mostly all of them. Micro 4/3 has established itself as a serious format and those who have predicted its demise over the past 3-4 years have been wrong as it is still going and growing in popularity because nothing offers a mixture of getting everything so close to being right that Olympus in the mirror less body world. Others are getting close, but for me, Olympus still rules the mirrorless roost. They do so much right and so little wrong. That is what it is all about because if a camera is frustrating to use, it will fall by the wayside and be forgotten.

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So how is the E-M10 and 12-40 in real use?

For some, the E-M10 will be much too small but as I said, the slick grip for this camera will add the size most need.. IMO, the E-M10 is one hell of a camera and paired with the 12-40 is one of the, if not the, most fun and reliably good camera and lens combos I have shot with. The good thing about the small size is that it makes it LIGHT. The lens is large on the body though so maybe a pancake lens with E-M10 would make a perfect coat pocket companion. Imagine a 17 1.8 or 20 1.7 on the camera. You could slide it in a coat pocket and have it with you at anytime. That kind of quality in your pocket beats any iPhone :)

With the 12-40 being a wide-angle and medium telephoto all in one I was able to walk around and gran shots in different ways. As I walked around Las Vegas I was doing some street sniping as well as normal photos with the stop and frame. With the fast AF and response the E-M10 was able to catch what I wanted without a problem. Something I could not do with any Fuji or Sony I have shot with to date (for example, the high-five guy above would have been missed with the Fuji or Sony). As much as I love the Sony RX1 and A7, they are nowhere near as fast and responsive as the Olympus bodies (though the IQ is GORGEOUS from the full frame sensor – much richer, a different league really). As much as I liked the Fuji X-T1, it is no match for the speed and response of any recent Olympus body.

IQ wise, I like them all but the Olympus colors and IQ always do it for me and I never am left wanting or regretting taking one out. For  my tastes, I prefer the Sony RX1 and Leica M 240 IQ the best overall but the Olympus Micro 4/3 next, ahead of ANY APS-C camera. The fact that these Olympus bodies work better (the 6 things listed above) than any APS-C I have shot with also helps seal the deal.

Olympus JPEGS are always bright, crisp and colorful. 

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The Sensor:

Here is what Olympus has to say about the sensor in the E-M10 along with the processor:

Unprecedented Image Quality That Exceeds Others in its Class

“The lens technology, sensor and image processor are the core of any digital camera. The OM-D E-M10’s partner in photographic excellence is the acclaimed Olympus M.ZUIKO lens system, a family of professional-grade glass that delivers unsurpassed resolution and overall image quality. The E-M10 ups the ante by pairing a 16MP Live MOS sensor with our most powerful TruePic VII image processor for extraordinary resolution and accurate color rendition. Add 3-axis in-body image stabilization that compensates for horizontal and vertical angular shifts (yaw/pitch) as well as camera shake along the optical axis (roll), and you have a camera that captures incredibly sharp images and video, yet is compact enough to bring just about anywhere.”

Walking around the crowds and grabbing shots was not an issue for the E-M10 and 12-40. Speed was fantastic.

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IQ that equals the E-M1. For $699. 

The more I used the E-M10 the more I enjoyed it but I also was starting to realize just how good the lens is. The 12-40 lens is giving us a 28-80 full frame field of view equivalent but in a much smaller package than those huge and unruly and expensive 24-70 full frame zooms. I reviewed the previous Panasonic 12-35 f/2.8 zoom HERE but I enjoyed the Olympus a little bit more. It just seems like a more polished lens and when using it on a Olympus body it is one of those lenses that just “works”. This lens has been a huge seller for Olympus and for good reason as I was finding out. The IQ that comes from this E-M10 and 12-40 is just as good as what I have been seeing from my E-M1 and E-M5, no question about it.

Both of these are JPEGS from the E-M10 and 12-40 Zoom. EXIF is embedded. Click them for larger/better. The 1st one is a full size camera JPEG. NOT from RAW.

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The E-M10 or the E-M5? That is the question.

Many are wondering..E-M5 or E-M10? Well, after using the E-M10 more and more I came to realize that for me, it beats the E-M5 in almost every way (except it is just a smaller body which I do not prefer..so the grip would be mandatory). It has better Auto Focus implementation. It has a better LCD. It has E-M1 IQ. All for $699. Amazing. Add a nice prime lens and you have a powerhouse capable of pro quality photos and speed. It also has video on par with the other Olympus bodies (which I enjoy and have used for personal projects on many occasions). Today, if I were buying and had to choose between the E-M5 and E-M10, it would have to be the E-M10 and grip.

BUT! There are areas where the E-M5 excel. One, the E-M10 is not weather sealed so if you shoot in rain, dust or rough environments the E-M5 or E-M1 will be the best bet. Also, the 3 Axis is not as good as the revolutionary 5 Axis IS of the E-M5 and E-M1. It is still superb, just loses out a little to the bigger and more expensive brothers.

If you want the ultimate OM-D, go for the E-M1 as it is the best in all areas but this E-M10 is about HALF the price of the $1400 E-M1 while giving the same IQ, speed and performance. Hmmmm.

This one has a vintage Alien Skin filter applied which is giving it the soft look..but I like it. 

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12-40 Zoom or Primes?

I am a HUGE believer in PRIME lenses. Especially FAST prime lenses. I love the 12 f/2, the 20 1.8, 45 1.8, 75 1.8, 17 1.8, etc. They are small, well made, silent and provide the best IQ with the Olympus and Micro 4.3 system. You can achieve shallow DOF and crisp images without an issue. I have avoided Zooms in the past for two reasons. The first reason is that usually, unless you buy a “pro” zoom there is always a compromise in image quality. Cheap zoom are horrible IMO. Kit Zooms are usually horrible as well (though the Fuji 18-55 is nice). Zooms like the Canon and Nikon and Sony 24-70 offerings are nice but they are full frame, horribly large and insanely expensive.

One reason I haven’t used this Olympus 12-40 yet is because I did not think it could offer the IQ of the primes as well as the fact that it is an f/2.8 design. No f/1.8, etc. I like f/1.4, 1.8 lenses!

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Well…after using it I realized that it will be sorely missed when I send it back and I may have to just add it to my Olympus collection when I can fund it. It is so well worth the $999, in fact, if it were $1400 it would be worth it. This lens is versatility and IQ and speed all in one package that comes in at half the size and less than half the cost of those full frame 24-70 counterparts while giving up nothing in performance. Of course full frame sensors offer better everything but in the Micro 4/3 world, THIS 12-40 f/2.8 PRO ZOOM is a must own if you want ONE lens to take out that will deliver prime lens image quality.

It is one hell of a lens and while larger than the primes, it offers much more with a field of view from 24-80mm. This means if you go inside you can shoot at 12mm(24mm)..go outside and zoom out to catch a face at 40mm (80mm)..whatever you need without swapping lenses.

The 12-40 also has a fantastic close focus feature that allows you to focus close when wide. You also have the Olympus Manual Focus clutch for instant switching between AF and MF. The lens is freeze, shock, dust and weather proof. It is silent for movie recording so no rattles, noise or irritating audibles. Olympus designed this one just right and it is an impressive zoom.

With a constant semi-fast f/2.8 aperture, it is the real deal in the Micro 4/3 Zoom world.

I will always love my primes but this is a lens I can see taking out on those days when I just need one lens to cover all I need. Yes…it WILL be mine one day!

All of the images below are JPEG’s ranging from base ISO to ISO 1600. EXIF is embedded.

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Dynamic Range! 

When I wrote my Fuji X-T1 review HERE I mentioned that I had some issues with blown highlights and the Fuji X-Trans sensor. Where I live here in Phx AZ the sun can get quite harsh..in fact, some of the harshest light I have ever come across. It is usually a torture test for most cameras and I have had issues with previous Fuji bodies in this light with flat files, blown highlights and dull looking photos. I have always said that if you give a Fuji some great light it will reward you with amazing image quality. Give it tough light and it can be a tricky situation. Low light can make the Fuji files muddy and ruddy.

One thing that I also have loved about Olympus is that I have never had issues with blown highlights. One reason is that the sensor with these latest OM-D cameras have a very good Dynamic Range and if you do blow the highlights they are easily recovered with the RAW file and a slider or two, even under extreme blow outs. Many think that the DR of the Olympus Micro 4/3 bodies suffer because the sensor is smaller than APS-C or full frame. Usually this would be true but these Olympus sensors always test high on the DR scale and in my real world experience, I have found this to be true.

An OOC JPEG in mid day Las Vegas sun with the white water fountain going full steam. 

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My conclusion on the Olympus E-M10 and 12-40 Pro Zoom.

I will make this easy. If you are leaning towards a Micro 4/3 system but do not want to break the bank with an E-M1, go for the E-M10. It is a WONDERFUL camera that can do just about anything anyone would need. If you want simplicity and versatility as well, buy the 12-40 f/2.8 Zoom and have an all in one kit. This would be a perfect street kit, portrait kit, family kit, vacation and walk around kit. Basically, a jack of all trades and master of most. With the E-M10 and zoom you will only lose out on those shallow DOF effects but if you desire that from time to time add in a 45 1.8 at $399.

In my opinion, Olympus has done it again and are on a constant winning streak with these new cameras and technology. The 3 Axis IS is so good, almost as good as the 5 Axis. The whole speed and user experience of the camera is so pleasurable you just want to keep shooting.

I love the E-M10. It is another camera in the OM-D line that is just a WIN and does not make any real compromises to offer us a more affordable entry unto the Olympus system. Bravo!

Steve

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WHERE TO BUY?

My review sample came from B&H Photo, and they sell the E-M10 at their web site HERE. I highly recommend B&H Photo!

You can also buy the 12-40 f/2.8 Pro Zoom at B&H HERE as well as the accessory Grip HERE.

Amazon sells the E-M10 HERE, the Grip HERE and the 12-40 2.8 Zoom HERE.

PopFlash also sells the Olympus line HERE.

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Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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Oct 202013
 

PROST! Oktoberfest with the E-M1 (sort of)…

Just a fun Sunday night post before getting serious on Monday Morning :)

Over the weekend we drove in over to Scottsdale AZ for some Oktoberfest fun :) NOTHING like the real deal of course but I brought along the Olympus E-M1 and when I arrived my 1st thought was “Uh Oh..it is way too dark in here for photos..should have brought the RX1R”.

I had the 17 1.8 with me as the only lens. Even in the dark conditions the camera focused blazing fast and while I only took a few shots in various conditions ranging from ISO 200-3200 it never let me down. I converted these to B&W using VSCO as I felt this would give a good vibe to these dark low light condition photos. The look you see in the images, the washed out grey and whole “look” is due to the VSCO filter I chose. Has nothing to do with the camera and there is no way to get this look without the filter. I chose this look for these “just for fun” images and have used this same filter with the Leica M, Sony RX1, etc. They look  the same :)

To see images without filters, just look at my lengthy E-M1 review. The E-M1 is just as contrasty as the next camera and has image quality as good as any APS-C camera (but with much faster AF).

So once again, the little E-M1 performed very nicely and never once did it even come close to hunting for AF. Press, focus, fire. Every time. Keep in mind, this was indoor, no windows to the outside world so I was dealing with the interior lights only. Some shots had to be taken at 3200 and the lens was shot wide open 95% of the time. The 17 1.8 is probably the best “one lens” solution for the E-M1 due to its sharpness, AF speed and performance. Highly recommend it.

Seeing that it was a local Oktoberfest celebration the beer was good..too good in fact because after an hour I forgot to take photos!  I was too busy enjoying the music, the fun and the friendly atmosphere! Still, when I take a break from this website it seems I am still working on the website, but I love it.

All have a VSCO filter applied which gives it B&W, Noise and a Washed out look

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and by request, one without the filter below, straight from camera – RAW – must click it to see it larger sized

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Oct 122013
 

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The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Full Review. The most versatile Mirrorless Camera ever.

Inspiration: a person or thing that inspires. 

The E-M1 with 17 1.8 at 1.8. Also ran through an Alien Skin Color Fading filter – click it to see it the right way

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Hello to all and once again I thank each and every one of you who have been reading my reviews, my raves, my rants and of course all of the amazing guest articles and posts that have been posted for the past few years. Without YOU, this site would be nothing and would have become one of the thousands that get lost every year in the sea of information we call the internet. I am truly blessed to even have this website doing what I love to do day in and day out.

So again, I thank you all.

It is strange, I have  recently been asked by a few people starting photo blogs how to make a successful blog or website. Well, besides writing an article on this subject HERE like I did quite a while ago I can state that when one writes from the heart, when one is honest, when one sticks to their guns and also injects their personality, emotion and passion into what they do, no matter what it is, then they will have the highest chance of success.

The E-M1 and 17 1.8 Lens at 1.8. Amazing Combo. The kid below was dressed up as a Zombie for the yearly Phx, AZ Zombie Walk :)

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I did not get into this nor am I in it for the money because if that were the case I would have gotten myself into big trouble a long time ago. Nope, this site was born and continues on due to my passion, your passion and the common love of photography, memories… AND cameras :)

The gentle transitions to an out of focus meltdown are beautiful indeed. The E-M1 with Voigtlander 25 0.95 at 1.4. This combo is incredible. 

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So long story short: Live life, love in life, and be kind to all you come in contact with. Enjoy what you do and do not worry about things in life that do not matter but the things that do. :)

WAIT! I thought this was a Camera Review? Yes, yes..the OM-D E-M1…

Lol, me too! Sorry about that but as some of you know, I sometimes get lost in a rant that has nothing to do with the article I am supposed to write so I apologize! So yes..the Olympus OM-D E-M1!

The new hot-shot on the block that promises everything and delivers on just about all of it.

Released in October of 2013 and the follow-up to the highly successful E-M5, the new E-M1 is slightly bigger, quite a bit stronger and subtly faster. After using the camera I thought Olympus must have been injecting the E-M5 with steroids for the past two years to give it some beef and the E-M1 was/is the result.

Don’t mess with this guy! Shot this at a horror convention with the 17 1.8 but did some PP tweaks to the background for more pop, so this one is a just for fun shot. 

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Yes all of my camera gearhead friends, the new Olympus is here and let me tell you this without hesitation (SPOILER ALERT) – This is the best Micro 4/3 camera ever made if Photography is your main use (rather than Video). But I will take it one step further and probably by saying this will irritate some but it is how I feel after extensive use.

The new E-M1 is the fastest, best built, best size, and most versatile mirrorless camera you can buy today as of the moment I am writing this (October 12th 2013). In APS-C land, Fuji can’t touch it, Sony can’t touch, Leica can’t touch it for these things:

Speed, Versatility, Size, Lenses, Features, Viewfinder Experience, in body IS, and so much more. 

My video from Castle Leslie with the E-M1

For Micro 4/3 video, the Panasonic GH series takes the cake. But for Photography, the reason these were made and built, this camera is the real deal and just does not get any better when it comes to Micro 4/3 . I can go on and on and on and on about the features, the history, the reasons why this is THE camera to own for those who want performance in a small package but most of you already know all of this. I wrote about this camera a couple of  times already here on these very pages.

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I was able to be one of the many who tested this camera in Ireland at the huge Castle Leslie Olympus launch event and I was wowed with the camera for sure.

While it is no match IQ wise for a big fat full frame sensor, it easily takes on all APS-C and smaller challengers and beats them in so many ways it is not even funny.

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This E-M1 is destined to be a classic and yes, it is a replacement for the full size E-5 (according to Olympus) and I applaud them for this because we get the speed, IQ, pro build and results all in a body that is smaller than those old 4/3 bodies.

You can see my 1st report of the E-M1 HERE

I added noise to this image during the B&W conversion. Lovely. The E-M1 and 17 1.8

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Remember the E-P1, E-P2, E-P3 and E-M5? 

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I do remember as I owned them and shot them all long-term so I could write about them and compare to competing cameras. Back in the E-P1 and E-P2 days Micro 4/3 had many challenges. The AF speed was awful, the IQ was full of noise and the usability was average. But back then we didn’t care because the technology we have today was not there yet. We were used to these flaws in most cameras and dealt with it and saw it as a challenge in many ways to do the best with what we had. We also only had the 14-42 kit zoom along with the 17 2.8 pancake, which I enjoyed but it was far from being a WOW lens.

Even then, I preferred those little PEN cameras to many others due to their style, charm and full on fun factor. I reviewed them all and by the time we got to the E-P3 things were looking pretty good. When the E-M5 came that is when I knew that this format was here to stay (contrary to what some “experts” have predicted) because with the E-M5 we have a camera that does so many things so well. The E-M5 has been my favorite Micro 4/3 ever but that has now changed with the introduction of the Pro Level E-M1.

Sir Jack Leslie, Ireland 2013 – E-M1 and 45 1.8

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So what has improved in the E-M1 over the E-M5?

When I reviewed the fantastic E-M5 I remember it being a very long 8000 word review. Some said TOO long. I was also recently told by one person that it took him a few days to read it :) So this time I will go lighter on the text and just write about what  you really need to know instead of yapping away about things that I already yapped about in that E-M5 review! So I promise it will not be 8000 words, maybe 5000 at most :)

So what is different? What is better? What is the big deal with this new E-M1?

Well, for me the OM-D E-M1 is THE  mirrorless camera to own right now. Since the beginning of Micro 4/3 there have been bashers and haters who hated for the sake of hating! Calling cameras like the E-M5 and even new E-M1 “Toys” and “Not Serious” and “Silly” and “The format will die” .. these individuals were ones who either never shot with the cameras, and if they did then they went in with that attitude or only used a kit zoom, which is NOT recommended by me at all.

The AF tracked this horse and rider from the water until she passed in front of me. Every shot I took was in focus. 

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In fact, if you are planning on buying any Micro 4/3 body, be sure to get a GOOD lens. The fast primes and new zooms are fantastic. In any case, those who bashed this system really were only bashing it due to the smaller sensor in the camera even though it was just as capable as larger sensors. Since I am not biased and only rave about the cameras or lenses I truly love and feel are worth it, no matter the sensor size, I was telling it like it “was and is” for years now.

Today, Micro 4/3 is as serious of a system as any APS-C format system. While not equalling full frame in image quality it can equal APS-C easily while being built better, while auto focusing faster/more accurate and while having the BEST mirrorless lenses available next to Leica. It’s a win/win and the only ones who dismiss this system in 2013 are those who are living in an alternate universe.

Full size file – click it. E-M1 with 17 1.8

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I have met and spoken with pros who shoot the E-M5 as their main cameras. They earn a nice living doing so. I have met some of the most talented street shooters and many of them use Olympus.

OM-D Users: Check out these two guys who shoot with an E-M5 – Thomas Leuthard and Adde Nakoseda

The facts are plain and simple. There are really are no limits with this system in 2013 . It may lose some in high ISO ranges from 6400 and up and it may not have that last 5% of bite that a Leica M has but it easily matches an APS-C and in many cases, exceeds in beauty of rendering and that is thanks to the lenses. But even if I have said it a million times, usability and joy of use go a long way, and this camera has it.

So fear not my friends. With a camera like the E-M1 or E-M5 you can take images in any situation. You can go for wide and large depth of field or get very shallow DOF. You can shoot with one of the best Macro lenses ever as well as an amazing Fisheye and Ultra Wide Zoom. You can use a fast 2.8 pro zoom or even one of the best portrait lenses made today. You can go as fast as f/0.95 in three focal lengths and get gorgeous results. It is absolutely amazing when you sit and think about it. A few years ago we had a couple of kit zooms and a couple of pancakes.

Today it really is limitless. Amazing.

Again, the lovely 17 1.8. This lens has become my fave lens for the E-M1

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But what has improved?

Oh yea, there I go again! Here is my list of improvements over the E-M5 that I realized while shooting:

  • Better build, pro quality feel and heft
  • NO Anti Alais filter on the E-M1. The E-M5 has one (from what I understand)
  • Faster AF with Dual Fast (contrast and Phase detect)
  • HUGE brilliant EVF (EVF-4) makes MF and composition a breeze!
  • Better control placement and more custom options
  • Shockproof and better Weather Sealing – also freeze proof!
  • Live Time rocks!
  • WiFi implementation is AMAZINGLY simple and app works great
  • Slight improvement to image quality..richer..sharper.
  • New Color Creator is interesting
  • Small improvements to 5-Axis IS
  • Improvements in high ISO over the E-M5 by one stop
  • The E-M1 has a dedicated microphone input jack for better sound quality with your video!

So for me, it is a no brainer. This is an amazing camera because the E-M5 is amazing the way it is. Add these improvements and you have something special that usually only comes around every 2-3 years. I do not know where Olympus can go from here except to make a “Pro PEN E-PX or even better OM-D E-MX” – still not sure what they could improve, though there is always something because no matter what, sensor technology is constantly evolving.

The Voigtlander 25 0.95 on the E-M1. Love this lens as it feels like you are shooting a Leica when using it on the E-M1. It may not always be sharp and perfect but it has character for sure :) 

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The Torture Test. How tough is it?

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I love this camera. :) So much so that I gave it a bath in my kitchen sink when it had some dust on it. You know, water gets dust off quite easily :) Lol. In reality, this camera is made to take a beating and keep on going. Freeze it, spray it down with heavy rain or drop it and Olympus says it will keep in going..and going..and going.

Yep, Olympus has been really pushing the toughness of this guy though and since I had a review sample with me for a couple of weeks I decided to give the camera a test and see if they are for real. But what if I do a torture test and it breaks the camera? Would I have to pay for it? Ahhh, what the hell. Why not. I sprayed it with water for 120 seconds while it was on, no problem. I buried it in ice for 30 minutes. No problem. I did NOT drop it as I did not want to damage a lens. But this camera is as tough as they come in the mirrorless world.

The cool thing though? While it is tough as nails, it is a gentle giant with gorgeous handling of color, highlights and details.

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ISO tests

Below is what you can expect from the camera at higher ISO’s. While I would not shoot it at ISO 12,800, I would go up to ISO 3200 no problem. The good news is that I never go over that with ANY camera and neither does 99% of photographers or enthusiasts. Remember film? ISO 400 is as noisy as what you will get with this camera at ISO 3200.

Looking at 100% crops is deceiving as at 100% you see more noise than you would in a print or resized image. The tests I have done show the E-M1 to match the GX7 and just about match the Fuji X-M1 as well. (you can see the E-M1 vs Fuji ISO HERE). If it can get close to the Fuji, then we know it is pretty damn good at higher ISO. It can not match full frame, no, but for 99% of us who shoot up to ISO 1600 or even 3200 it is just fine.

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ISO 3200 on the E-M1  with a Voigtlander Leica M mount 35 1.4 Single Coated classic

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and one at ISO 6400 in the worst conditions. Low light, indoor at night, normal house lamp in the room, zero NR

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Inspiration

Early on in this review, during the 1st line of text, I put up the definition of the word “Inspire”. Why did I do that? Well, I did that because the E-M1 is one of the few cameras made today that does just that. INSPIRES you to use it. There are not many cameras out there that have been made over the past few years that have inspired me to want to pick it up, to use it, to push it to the envelope, to learn with it and to have it be my constant companion. It used to be my Leica M but with the price of those things as well as them being fragile in the RF department (as in, the focus getting out of whack if you breathe on it wrong) I tend to baby the Leica M more these days. With a 50mm Lux, the M and lens will set you back about $11,000.

So while it was the same situation with the M9 a few years back (high cost), I always had my M9 with me because at that time nothing compared in that small size for usability or IQ. Nothing.

Using a VSCO Film Preset gives me that vintage vibe of color that takes me back a bit. 17 1.8 

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Olympus Colors are always pleasing – this is an OOC JPEG

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Another JPEG in Vivid mode..8mm Panasonic Fsheye at f/3.5

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Well today that is a different story.

While I love, adore and really enjoy the Leica M 240 (as you can read here, and SEE here), today there are cameras that not only compete with it in the small size category, there are cameras that are tougher, faster, and offer overall better performance in use and  “close enough” IQ  for 1/8th the cost. There are also some things right around the corner that may just put a dent in Leicas plans (the rumored Sony FF)  because at the price point of the Leica M there should be nothing to compare to it. With the M9, there wasn’t. With the M, due to technology, there is.

OOC JPEG – My son as we were out exploring in Prescott AZ – I added some B&W grunge via Alien Skin.

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I am not saying the E-M1 can touch the Leica M for IQ but it can get me 80-85% there, and in some cases, match it for beauty depending on lighting and skill.

So when I see a $1800 combo getting close to an $11,000 combo but the $1800 combo is tougher, faster, more responsive and problem free..it makes me think and also makes me look at my wallet and bank account.

*Again, not saying in any way that the E-M1 beats the Leica M for image quality or high ISO. It does not. But how close is close enough?*

For some it does not matter, Leica is their life, their lifestyle and the camera they truly enjoy and bond with. For others, they will go with what gets them close enough and use that extra cash to travel, or save or buy a lens or two. Whatever works for YOU is the direction you should go or stay in. These days, you will never have to worry about the camera as mostly all decent cameras today are fantastic.

But as much as I love Leica (and I own one) I have to say I am not sure I will continue buying new Leica bodies because I just enjoy cameras like the E-M1 so much, while getting beautiful results and saving a ton of cash. Like I said, when the M9 was out there was nothing in its size that could compare. Today there is.

The Voigtlander 25 0.95 up close and personal with a Chameleon. Shot at 1.4 and ISO 640

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So will I leave my M and use the E-M1 as my #1 carry around? Probably not. But the more I think about it, the more I realize something. I do not take pro jobs any longer. I do not have the time to do so. The free time I do get these days I spend with my loved ones so these days, no more tours, no more paid portraits, no more paid weddings, no more paid photo work, period. So why would  a guy like me who gets to use every camera and lens made due to my profession need a $15,000 Leica M setup?

I don’t.

But the problem is that I am “bonded and attached” to the Leica M. I have been shooting with an M for many years starting with the M7. So not so sure I can just leave it, but the money is tempting. I can buy a new car with what I could get for my Leica set (though I would not as I do not need one).

So if I did, this E-M1 would be my daily shooter, or 2nd daily depending on what Sony has in store this month :)

ISO 1000, B&W conversion using Alien Skin Exposure – 17 at 1.8

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So that right there says a lot. The E-M1 is so good, it is making me think of no longer owning a Leica camera body! Me, the Leica “Fanboy”. WOW.

Also think of this..I use ALL cameras that are released. I review many of them but not all. If I could buy into ONE system camera today and start from scratch it would be the Olympus OM-D E-M1.

I would spend $4500 for an E-M1 setup before spending it on Fuji, Samsung, Nikon, Canon and possibly Sony NEX depending on what their full frame move is, and even so, I would just own both most likely, the Sony FF and the E-M1. :) 

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So Micro 4/3 is rocking in 2013. The Panasonic GX7 is fantastic, the OM-D E-M5 is still amazing, and the new E-M1 is the best yet. In fact, I could say that, feature for feature, build and speed and taking all into consideration, it is the best mirrorless camera made today. WOW, did I just say that???

Is Olympus the new Leica? I’d say they are the closest to Leica as you can get in a mirrorless body. 

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Compared to the Leica M. Can you get Shallow DOF? 

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Same lens – 50 Lux ASPH

This next test should be illegal because Leica owners always hate when I do these tests (and remember, I am labeled as a Leica fanboy). I did one once where I pit the E-M5 against the $8000 Leica Monochrom. Of course, two totally different cameras but hey, why not? Sometimes that underdog gets mighty close to big dollar results but we all know it is a totally different experience and state of mind (and results when viewing full size). Now in all reality, the Leica Monochrome is one of the most beautiful and unique cameras made today and it is in another league but again, you CAN get B&W with an E-M1 :) Not all of us have $8k lying around.

With that said, how about an image with the same lens  – one on the Leica M, one with the E-M1. Of course the E-M1 will double the focal length and make that 50 a 100mm but that is OK, we are just looking at color, rendering, bokeh, etc. All with the same Leica 50mm Lens.

COMPARE THE TWO for Depth of Field – Same lens, one on the M and one on the E-M1 – The M image was taken with the NEW firmware that corrected skin tones and it is improved over the previous FW for sure. 

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Yep, the Leica has that full frame creaminess and the E-M1 looks more compressed due to the sensor crop but look at them closely. The color is fantastic from the E-M1 and also looks nice from the Leica though a little warm. The E-M1 file is basically a cropped full frame file due to the 2X crop of the Micro 4/3 sensor. The question: Does this come close enough? Some will say yes, some will say no and some will say the E-M1 is even better when considering the cost but the fact is that when you look at those two images, the E-M1 looks DAMN GOOD next to that $11k combo.

Micro 4/3 today in 2013 is FANTASTIC. It can not match the fine texture of the Leica M file, and it should not be able to, but it can put out a very nice pleasing and beautiful image that goes head on with any APS-C and gets 85% of full frame quality. Not too shabby.

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Other thoughts and tibits. Live Time, no AA filter, and all around awesomeness

No AA Filter on the E-M1

At ISO 1600 the E-M1 retains sharpness, even when shooting with the 17 1.8 wide open. Love that it has NO AA filter!

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Many may not be aware of this but the Olympus OM-D E-M1 sensor does not have an AA filter. I was not fully aware of this early on but it was told to me that indeed it does not where the older E-M5 does have one (supposedly, still not 100% on that). That would explain everything because the Olympus 17 1.8, while a great lens, was a little soft on the E-M5.On the E-M1 it is razor-sharp, even when wide open at 1.8 and at high ISO. THIS lens now is my #1 preferred for this focal length even over the slower focusing Panasonic 20 1.7 II. So without an AA filter we get more sharpness and pop. To me, this is a step in the right direction for sure. At times the output has that crispness that I remember from the Leica M8. Crisp and detailed while remaining very pleasing. To me, this is a BIG deal as I strongly prefer my cameras without an AA filter.

Art Filters

The art filters are still here and better than ever. You are either a fan or not but they only work in JPEG mode for that quick cool looking image. My fave is the grainy B&W mode. Not much has changed from the E-P5 or E-M5 in regards to the filters.

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Live Time

There is also much more about the E-M1 that should be talked about. One thing I did not even touch on in my E-M5 review is “Live Time” which I believe was called “Live Bulb” on the E-M5. To activate live time, just go into Manual mode and twist the exposure dial all the way until you see “LIve Time”. Then you can set your aperture and ISO. For really long exposures of the night sky you could set your aperture to f/22 and ISO to base ISO. Press the shutter and then watch as your exposure develops like magic right in front of your eyes. When the exposure is where you want, press the shutter again. There is nothing like it from any other camera manufacturer. I previously showed some light painting we did in Ireland with the camera and the possibilities are endless:

Live Time in Action

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In camera HDR mode

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I am not a fan of HDR but there is no denying there has been quite an HDR movement in the past few years. MANY love it and while 99% of the time, in camera HDR is lousy, on the E-M1 it is not horrible. I would never use it but for those that like to dabble in HDR, the settings here make it as easy as taking a normal photo. The sample above was shot in HDR1 mode.

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HD Video 1080p

While Olympus themselves say their video could be better, when mixed with the 5-AXIS IS it is amazingly smooth. I used the video on the E-M5 for a few productions and will also use the E-M1. I do not make hollywood or pro movies, so for what I do it is good enough. The 5-Axis is amazing!! I can not stress that enough. So for me, the video is great. The good news is that the E-M1 now includes a dedicated mic input jack so you can record with a better microphone :) This is not a camera one would buy for the video but for occasional or hobbyist or youtube use, no problem.

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Yep, the E-M1 is the whole package in one small compact powerhouse. The following two images were shot with the Voigtlander 25 0.95 wide open

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Focus Peaking for Manual Lenses

Olympus did implement focus peaking in the E-M1 and while I am happy to see it I found the peaking to work better in the Panasonic GX7 I reviewed a week or two ago. For some reason the peaking quality is not up to snuff yet. BUT, the good news is that due to the huge EVF you do not even need peaking and can easily manual focus just by eye, and if that is not enough, one button press and you can magnify the screen and do critical focusing.

I shot a few images with a couple of Leica lenses and did not even need the peaking or the magnification. Still, the peaking could be better. Sony still leads the way in focus peaking IMO.

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My Final conclusion on the OM-D E-M1

Well here we are in 2013 and the choices for all of us crazy enthusiasts are plentiful and excellent. We finally have a definitive Micro 4/3 camera body that is pro level and can do just about anything one needs it to do and do it in any weather. As always, I review cameras from an enthusiasts point of view in a real world way. There are things I do not even get into like Flash, because I have not used a flash in 14 years. I am anti-flash even though I know it is good to have on some occasions. But as an enthusiast and a passionate photographer who has seen it all and used them all, I can say with confidence that the OM-D E-M1 is one of the best cameras “as a whole” that I have ever reviewed. It is superb. Yes, there are others with better overall IQ and others with better high ISO but as a whole, speaking of the whole package, nothing else has come close.

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You have seen me rant and rave about a few different camera models over the year. Leica’s and Sony’s for the most part. Well as of today there is a new camera in town that offers the perfect mix of speed, usability, build, image quality, cost and lenses to place it at the top of the heap in the world of mirrorless cameras. Someone asked me today if I would take a Canon 6D and 85L or an E-M1 and 25 1.4. For me that choice is easy. The E-M1 only because it would go with me everywhere when the 6D would be left behind. It is just too large, too bulky and too heavy and the lenses, while fantastic are just too much weight wise for everyday use.

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The image quality of the E-M1 is an improvement over the E-M5 due to the new processor and lack of an AA filter. The files pop more and I feel they also have slightly different color that I prefer. Crisp. Beautiful. The exposure metering is fantastic, the AWB is fantastic, the out of camera colors are beautiful.

There will always be naysayers no matter what towards this Micro 4/3 system. But those who disregard or trash Micro 4/3 or the E-M1 have no idea what they are doing or saying. There is simply nothing to trash and that is fact.

It will not match full frame like the RX1 or M in all out flat out IQ but it will meet head to head ANY APS-C mirrorless and beat them on build, speed, and every other area usability area with ease. What it boils down to for me is..Olympus E-M1 or Full Frame? The answer for me is BOTH. One all out IQ monster and one usability and IQ monster. :)

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Also, let us not forget the lenses. Micro 4/3 has some of the best lenses made for any system, period. There are many highly recommended jewels in the lineup.  At the end of the day this camera gets my highest recommendation. Buy the E-M1 and a couple of nice fast primes and go out and use it and it will be hard to put it down. The Olympus E-M1 has the charm, the soul and the goods to Be my pick for Camera of the Year 2013. Not sure if it will as I hear Sony has something on the way but as it stands now, the E-M1 is at the top of the list. :) 

As of this writing (October 12th 2013) I can say that for me, the Olympus E-M1 is the best Mirrorless camera on the market today when looking at the “Whole Picture” of cost, size, build, speed, toughness, EVF, performance, features and lenses available. No one else even comes close and I should know, I have used EVERYTHING out there. Well done Olympus, you have indeed created a mirrorless masterpiece!

The E-M1 and 8mm Panasonic Fisheye at f/3.5

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Which would I take?

Panasonic GX7 or E-M1: E-M1 no contest.

E-M1 or Fuji X Body: E-M1 no contest.

E-M1 or new rumored Sony Full Frame: BOTH, one for the Full Frame IQ and look and one for all that I have raved about.

E-M1 or NEX-6: E-M1 due to the lenses and speed and build and IQ.

E-M1 or Fuji X100s: Close, but for me, E-M1

E-M1 or Pentax K3? The new Pentax looks amazing on Paper, but is still a DSLR. I can not say until I test the K3 :)

E-M1 or Leica M: Two different cameras for different audiences. End of story, so BOTH :)

The Exposure, the color, the sharpness, the lenses..wow.

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Where to Buy the E-M1?

If you are interested in the Olympus E-M1 you can buy it at the recommended links below, and THANK YOU for stopping by and spending some of your time to read my thought on this exciting camera:

Buy the E-M1 at Amazon HERE

Buy the E-M1 at B&H Photo HERE

Buy the E-M1 at PopFlash.com HERE

The cool thing is that you can pre-order and your credit card will NOT be charged until the camera ships, ensuring you a place in line. Pre-orders are also easily cancelable. With Amazon it takes one click. So if you want this camera, I suggest pre-ordering from one of the dealers above!

More Samples

I will leave you with a few more samples below. Enjoy!

Some JPEGS, Some from RAW, some High ISO, Some LOW – EXIF is embedded in all. Click them for larger.

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Recommended Lenses for the E-M1:

The Olympus 17 1.8

The Panasonic 25 1.4

The Olympus 12mm f/2

The Olympus 45 1.8

The Olympus 75 1.8

The Olympus Pro Zoom 12-40

The Voigtlander 25 0.95

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MORE TO COME!!

As I use the camera more I will be adding to this review with more samples including video, so stay tuned and check back every week or so to this page. 

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HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

PLEASE Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help even if you are NOT in the USA as I have Amazon links to GermanyUnited Kingdom and Canada as well!

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +!

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Oct 092013
 

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

by Neil Buchan-Grant – His website is HERE

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

 

Hi Steve and readers!

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

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

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

Shot with the Olympus 12mm f/2 – E-M5

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12mm – E-M5

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

12mm – E-M5

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

Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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

 Olympus 17 1.8 – E-M5

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

Olympus 75mm 1.8 – E-M5

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Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5

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

Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5

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Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5

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Olympus 75 1.8 – E-M5

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Panasonic 25 1.4 – E-M5

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

E-M1 and 75 1.8

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E-M1 and 45 1.8

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E-M1 and 25 1.4

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E-M1 and 25 1.4

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E-M1 and 25 1.4

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E-M1 and new 12-40 Pro Zoom

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E-M1 and 25 1.4

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

Sep 272013
 

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Shooting with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 in Dublin Ireland 

by Steve Huff

ATTENTION: My full and complete thorough E-M1 Review is HERE!

Check out the video below that goes over the E-M1 and my use with it over the past few days. Everything I can say about this new E-M1 is said in this video!

So as some of you know from reading yesterdays post I am in Ireland.

I spent the last three days in Dublin Ireland as well as Castle Leslie with Olympus and about 15 other photographers testing out the latest and greatest Micro 4/3 camera, the E-M1. I used to own the E-M5 which is the model that preceded the E-M1 and I LOVED It. It was small, light, fast and highly capable. I have always been a fan of Micro 4/3 and the love just continues with this release :)

The new E-M1 takes it up a few notches and is titled the First PRO Micro 4/3 body and not only does it shoot with Micro 4/3 lenses, it can shoot your 4/3 glass as well, and the AF speed is quick and snappy even when using the adapter for that 4/3 glass. See a sample below with the 14-35 at f/2. 

The 4/3 14-35 f/2 lens on the E-M1. Focused fast and nice.

Has some of my own Processing style and a crop in this one :) 

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Olympus had the set up at the castle and allowed us to all shoot with an E-M1 (we were all supplied with our own E-M1, bag and two lenses). We shot models, we shot horses and we shot some very cool light painting effects with Live Time, which is exclusive to Olympus.

Improvements Galore that I noticed in my real world use…

Body & IS

But what about the camera in general? Is it an improvement over the E-M5? YES, YES, and YES! It is a pretty nice improvement in body style and ergonomics…it feels better than the E-M5 no question. The grip was added and the body feels better made, more solid. The buttons and dials are placed nicely in the correct positions and also feel professional and solid. The E-M1 still has the incredible class leading 5-Axis IS but it has been tweaked a little for better performance.

The 17 1.8 at 1.8 – click it for more detail and to see just how sharp this lens is on the E-M1

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The HUGE EVF

We also have the EVF upgrade which gives us the huge VF4 built-in to the body, which means this is the mirrorless camera with the best EVF to date. It is beautiful to look through and work with. Id take this over an optical any day, but I love EVF’s these days. They are damn good from Sony and Olympus.

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SPEED – contrast and phase AF

The camera also has dual fast AF, Contrast and Phase Detect which means faster AF. I did not really notice the AF to be much faster over the E-M5 but did like the new options. When shooting some action scenes I was able to change my AF points from single to a patch of them in the center which made it easier  and faster to lock on and follow, and lock on and follow it did.

The next three shots: The 12-40, then the last two are with the beautiful 75 1.8. The camera had no problem tracking these fast-moving subjects!

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LIVE TIME 

One amazing thing I loved about the E-M5 and now E-M1 is the Live Time feature. This is not new on the E-M5 but just wanted to show how easy it is to get an amazing long exposure JUST right. If you like light painting or shooting the stars, this is your camera, hands down. It takes the guesswork out as you watch in realtime as your image develops. Leaving the shutter open for your long exposure allows you to see via the LCD just how it is exposing, and coming along. When it looks right to you, you stop the exposure. Amazing capabilities and this feature is only in Olympus cameras.

Me as an Angel

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and then there is the Devil

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Both of those images were done by Light Painting which is leaving the shutter open while lights are moved and placed in areas to allow them to get exposed. These were exposures up to 2 minutes in length. Pretty cool. You can tell when your image is ready just by viewing the exposure in real-time. Amazing.

WiFi – EASY to access and set up

One thing I go over in the video at the top of the page is WiFi and how to set it up. It is easy and takes about 1 minute and once you are all set up you can use yoru smart phone as your viewfinder, control settings and snap the image, all remotely. You can also transfer images from the cameras SD card to your smart phone or iPad, quick and easy. It works well.

The lens every Micro 4/3 shooter should own. The 45 1.8 – (buy it here). It seems that most lenses are REALLY sharp on the E-M1

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HIGH ISO

What was once ISO 6400 is now 3200. The high ISO is improved with the camera and while it is still no full frame or Fuji X in the extreme high-end range of ISO, it does very well.

ISO 640 – 75 1.8

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ISO 400 – 45 1.8

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ISO 12800

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ISO 6400 using “Grainy B&W” Art Filter

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So while I recommend shooting B&W after ISO 3200, the camera is more capable than the E-M5 was before it when it comes to low light and high ISO. Micro 4/3 sensors just keep getting better and better.

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ART FILTERS

The Art Filters are still here including two of my faves, Grainy B&W and Pinhole. Below is a sample OOC file using the Pinhole filter.

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At the end of the day…

The new Olympus E-M1 is a “Mirrorless Masterpiece” it does almost everything right, and really gets nothing wrong. Olympus wants us to know that this camera is just as capable as a huge DSLR at half the size, and they are correct. The E-M1 does everything that a DSLR can do, but in some cases better and in a some ways not so much.

Will this match the overall IQ of a full frame DSLR or Leica M? No. Will it match an APS-C DSLR or camera? YES, and then some.

The reason why I call this a “Mirrorless Masterpiece” is because it has class leading features, build, feel, AF speed, lenses, and usability. No other mirrorless has the 5-axis IS, no other mirrorless has the innovative Live Time feature and no other mirrorless has this many amazing prime and zoom lenses available for their system. No other Mirrorless has this kind of EVF attached and built-in.

No other mirrorless can beat the E-M1 for speed either. I had a hard time finding something to NOT like about the E-M1 and after two days of use and thinking, I really have nothing bad at all to say about it. If  you know what Micro 4/3 can do then you will love this camera. If you are someone who refuses to believe that a Micro 4/3 can deliver, well it can. Just do not expect full frame performance :)

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The new 12-40 2.8 lens is also a fantastic lens if you want a convenient 2.8 aperture zoom. I loved it but I still prefer my prime lenses with even faster apertures but those looking for a pro level zoom, the 12-40 rocks and I prefer it to the Panasonic 12-35 2.8. It’s also blazing fast and Olympus says it beats the quality of their 4/3 lenses, so fans of the old 12-60 rejoice, your Micro 4/3 version is here (sort of).

Olympus says this is the biggest digital camera release ever for them, and now I can see why. If Micro 4/3 is in your future or in your life right now, there is no way you would or could be disappointed by the OM-D E-M1. Some will not enjoy the looks as that snazzy new Panasonic GX7 is pretty damn sexy but at the end of the day Olympus has yet another winner in the E-M1 and 12-40 Zoom.

If you have not watched the video at the top of the page, do so as I say quite a bit about the camera as well as give a WiFi tutorial. If you have not seen my long and full Olympus E-M5 review, click here to see it. 

The E-M1 is an achievement in the Mirrorless world. yes my friends, these cameras just keep getting better.

The video from the US Launch Event (I am in the video for a short bit) :) 

Where to BUY? 

You can pre-order the Olympus E-M1 at the links below, and if you do use the links  you are helping this site to keep on chugging along. So I thank you!

Buy the E-M1 at B&H Photo – Buy the new 12-40 2.8 Zoom at B&H Photo

Buy the E-M1 at Amazon – Buy the new 12-40 2.8 Zoom at Amazon

Buy the E-M1 at PopFlash.com

I will leave you with a few more samples :) Enjoy!

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UPDATE: Full size from RAW image samples. Click any image below for the full size file!

By Request: Full size from RAW Olympus OM-D E-M1 Images

Hello to all! I just arrived back home from Ireland after an 18 hour travel day, delayed flights and missed connections but hey, it was worth it just to go to the gorgeous castle and put the E-M1 to  the test in a beautiful environment. The weather was not so hot on the day at the Castle which required me to up the ISO on the camera but I still feel the images are superb. I have had a few email requests for full size images, from RAW from the camera. So here you go!

Enjoy and have a great rest of the weekend! I will be back Monday morning!

You must click on each image to get the full size. Text is embedded on each image with the lens used as well as ISO.

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…and for comparison, a full size Leica M 240 file from the same day, same weather at ISO 200:

Many were complaining of the visible noise at 100% with the Olympus E-M1 files. Well, the Micro 4/3 files have always been like this. It has been one thing that has remained constant. The E-M5 does it, the E-P1 does it and the GX7 does it as well. What you see in my full size samples are images with all Noise Reduction turned OFF. When you print these images and view them at web size  you will not see the noise. While I did not do any side by sides with my Leica M (only took 6 shots with my Leica) I did take the one below with the M from my Blacony. ISO 200, 50 1.4 Summilux. A $11,000 combo. You can see noise in this sample as well at 100%. Again, I turn off all NR on every camera I own for maximum detail as slight noise at 100% does not bother me. : ) The dreary weather also adds to this effect.

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HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

PLEASE Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help! If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +

Sep 122013
 

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Amazing photos with the new Olympus OM-D E-M1! By Edmond Terakopian

A reader, Edmond Terakopian was at an Olympus Event where he was able to REALLY use the camera. He shot photo and video and WOW, the results are spectacular! Check out his video shot with the E-M1 below followed by his photos shot with the camera. These are some gorgeous looking images that not only shows what the new E-M1 can do, but also what Edmond can do! Thanks Edmond!

BTW, I was invited by Olympus to attend a 3 day event at Castle Leslie in Ireland, where Edmond shot these images. Seems they are really going out in a big way to show what this guy can do! My event time is near the end of the month. Looks gorgeous!

You can see all of Edmonds E-M1 photos at his Flickr HERE

His blog is HERE

His site is HERE

Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Video from Edmond Terakopian on Vimeo.
 

Photos shot with the E-M1 by Edmond – More on his FLICKR page

Portrait of a model and lake. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot using the new Olympus 12mm-40mm f2.8 lens.  Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian    *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

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All images copyright Edmond Terakopian

Of course you can nab the E-M1 (ships in about 3 – 3 1/2 weeks) at Amazon, B&H Photo or PopFlash.com

Aug 142013
 

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

Hi Steve,

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

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

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

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

Hope your readers enjoy these photos.

Warms Regards,

Suryo

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Jul 052013
 

Using the Olympus OM-D E-M5 for Landscapes By Steve Gosling

By Steve Gosling

Over the years I’ve owned a number of Olympus cameras – icons like the OM1n and the OM4, the original Olympus Trip (I still have a collection of these) and compact classics like the 35RD, 35RC and the XA. I’ve always been attracted by the marques blend of style and functionality. And that attraction continues today with the PEN and OMD range.

When the EPL2 was launched I acquired one and loved using it as a lightweight, go anywhere camera (usually combined with the Olympus 9-18mm lens – still one of my favourite zooms for M4/3s). That was eventually joined by an EP3 and more recently by an EPL5. But I’m a traditional kind of guy when it comes to photography gear, particularly for landscape photography and I struggle with composing images on a rear LCD (particularly when handholding a camera). So when the OMD came out I was keen to see if it offered me the portability and quality of my PENs with the convenience of a built-in finder.

Other than occasional use of the Olympus VF2 it was the first EVF I’d really tried and I have to say I was impressed. For the way I work the absence of an OVF wasn’t a great loss (my main camera for landscapes is an Alpa TC & Phase One P45+ back and the Alpa doesn’t have any viewfinder at all).

I’ve been using the OMD for around 12 months now and really enjoy it as a supplement to my Alpa based outfit, particularly for those occasions when I want to be more opportunistic and require the flexibility & portability of the Olympus gear.

Undoubtedly, when I need the highest quality or want to take a more considered & methodical approach to my landscape photography then nothing is ever going to beat my Alpa and the P45+ (this combination is a landscape photographers dream).

But when I’ve wanted to travel light it has been my Olympus OMDs that I have turned to, not my Canon 5DmkII. In fact, in spite of being a Canon user since 1990, I’ve now sold my entire Canon outfit – it just wasn’t getting used.

If I had to highlight the features that really work for me on the OMD it would be the following: -

– Small & light but solidly built – when it’s in your hands it feels like it’s got some substance to it (it reminds me of my much missed OM4s);

– Weather sealed body & lens – essential for outdoor photography in the UK (I believe that if I haven’t got wet then I probably haven’t got a good shot!);

– Live Bulb/Live Time feature – great for monitoring the exposure progress on the long exposure photography that I love to do. This is a fantastic feature that I don’t see mentioned very much in reviews of the camera;

– The viewfinder – as I’ve said I much prefer to view the scene through a viewfinder than looking on the back of the camera. It’s also better in bright light and makes it easier to judge the effects & positioning of ND grad filters;

– The tilting screen – however the addition of the angled screen is a great option to have for candid/street & low level photography. I’m not getting any younger and getting down onto my knees is still possible – it’s the getting back up again that has become harder!;

– The built in level – off kilter horizons are generally a no-no in landscape photography (unless as a deliberate, aesthetic choice) so the level visible in the viewfinder really ensures handheld scenic shots aren’t spoilt by this problem.

– The Art Filters – I love to use these on my PEN & OMD cameras; they’re a great stimulus for the creative photographer. I really like using the B&W Dramatic Tone filter – it can give some atmospheric results with the choice of the right subject matter.

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About the Photographer

Steve is an award-winning professional photographer based in the UK. He specializes in producing creative & contemporary landscape images (his signature style is moody & atmospheric black & white photographs). His photographs have been published internationally in books, magazines & newspapers and on greetings cards, posters & advertisements.

He particularly enjoys writing & teaching about photography and frequently gives talks to photographic groups in the UK & abroad as well as being a regular contributor to photography magazines in many different countries. He has run a successful workshop program for several years encouraging and inspiring photographers of all levels from across the world.

Further details about his workshop programme and a selection of his images can be found on his website

 

Apr 192013
 

bagan nights

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

A journey in gear

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

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

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

But I was getting full frame IQ lust.

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

• The size and weight

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

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

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

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A real journey (in pictures)

Yangon

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

Taxi E-7959

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

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

Bettlenut vendors

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

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

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

myanmar-3

Post processing: Cropped, but otherwise straight from camera,

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

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Bagan

 

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

Bagan

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

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

Amazing Bagan

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

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

 

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

bagan nights

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

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

 

INLE LAKE

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

Inle Lake Clichég

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

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

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

Rebels without a cause.

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

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

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MANDALAY

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

Mist-ery

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

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

 

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Exif: 1/500 sec at f3.2

U Bein's bridge

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

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

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

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Apr 052013
 

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

Hi Steve,

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Arindam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Apr 012013
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Richard Nugent

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

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

Interior of Bayon Temple at Angkor Thom

Kampong Tralach village, Cambodia

Near Angkor Bahn, Cambodia

Near Kampong Chhnag, Cambodia

Sadec village, Vietnam

 

Mar 302013
 

Using the Olympus OM-D and the Leica M-E by Andre Ritchie

My name is André Ritchie and I’m writing from Macau SAR, China. I’m a regular follower of your site, I like to check what’s new and I really enjoy reading your Real Life Reviews and Daily Inspirations!

I’m writing to share my experience using two cameras: the Olympus OMD and the Leica M-E.

My passion for photography started 20 years ago with my father’s Canon AE-1. Eventually I started buying my own stuff and during the film years I embraced the Canon EOS system. So when digital photography arrived it was a natural decision to buy Canon DSLRs and keep using the same lenses. My last DSLR purchase was a 5D Mk I.

But then something happened in 2010 that completely changed my approach to camera gear: my son was born and dragging around his stuff together with a heavy DSLR + lenses became impractical.

Mirrorless was the way forward and I adopted the M4/3 system because it seemed right: decent IQ and nice body and lens proportions. Large lenses on tiny cameras feel strange to me… I went for Olympus and after a foray into the Pen series, I ended up with the OMD. Picture #1 was shot using the Olympus 75mm/f1.8 at f8. It was shot at the Macau Tower at 300+ meters height. (The Macau Tower is, among others, home to the world’s highest bungee jump…). The picture was converted to B&W using Aperture and enhanced by adding contrast. No cropping was made.

I love my OMD as is such a small and light camera, but it’s solidly built with a professional feel. IQ is very good indeed. My everyday lens is the Panasonic 20mm/f1.7. I have the additional grip attached at all times, but only half of it – never felt the need to use the vertical grip. I think Olympus got it right by creating this modular system. Handling is perfect with the grip.

My other camera is a recently purchased Leica M-E. Initially I used it with two Voigtlander M-mount lenses I previously bought for M4/3 (35mm/f1.4 and 50mm/f1.1), but soon after I bought the clinical Leica 35mm/f2 Summicron. What a perfect lens. I mean, I was happy with the results of the Voigtlanders and I think they have soul: pictures #2 and #3 were shot using the 35mm and 50mm, both wide open at f1.4 and f1.1.

But the Summicron introduced me to a different world. The remaining pictures I’m submitting were shot using the Leica M-E with the 35mm Summicron. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Many people criticize Leica – and Leica users – because of the price and lack of features. Not that I agree with their pricing strategy, but I think people who had never owned or shot with a Leica should not criticize because – when the conditions are right – the image quality is outstanding and absolutely jaw dropping.

Pictures coming out of my M-E have this unique look and special ambiance that make them extraordinary. So yes, there really is this thing called the Leica look and I think it’s worth the money.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your photography!

André Ritchie

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