Aug 052012
 

Weekend Ramblings – Leica Monochrom, Nikon D4, Panasonic 12-35 2.8 for Micro 4/3, angry people and more!

No updates this weekend..why?

Hello to all! It’s Sunday and yesterday I did not do any updates as I have been very busy this past week! My house has been taken over by women! My girlfriend has visited (they drove from Chicago) with her two daughters and their friend and we have been pretty much hanging out the whole time and keeping busy two of the girls turned 18 over the weekend. After living alone 50% of the time for the past 2 1/2 years it has been quite a switch, but a fun one :) It will be back to business tomorrow (Monday) and this coming week will be fun with some great guest articles including one very cool one which will show a photographic visit to Chernobyl by Ivan Holmedal.

Speaking of Chernobyl, I have always wanted to visit and take photos as I LOVE abandoned and dilapidated places and Chernobyl is about as abandoned and dilapidated as they come. If anyone has any hookups like travel agents or tours or even wants to visit there with me sometime in the near future send me an e-mail. It’s on my bucket list of places to visit for sure and to get to go and get photographs would be amazing!

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Leica Monochrome. Whats up with the review? 

A shot from the Leica Monochrom (Pre-Production)

I have been getting loads of e-mails and Facebook messages asking me when my Leica Monochrom review is coming but as of today, I can tell you that I have no idea. Leica told me a couple of months back that they would send me a Production sample Monochrom in July but it has yet to arrive to me or even be mentioned to me. I’d love to review it and will eventually but I think the camera is a bit delayed as I have heard ramblings that it will not be shipping until mid or end of September to those who ordered it. This is not a confirmation but just what I have been hearing on the “inside track”. So as soon as I know, you will know. I do have one pre-ordered through Ken Hansen ([email protected]) but was hoping to get one sooner rather than later so all of you can read and see my thoughts. The pre-production sample I tested was great but did have a few glitches. I am sure Leica has ironed those out as they were very minor. I do not comment on glitches with pre-procution samples as this is part of the pre-production process.  So hopefully the Monochrom will ship by Photokina! BTW, Every review posted online to date, no matter what they say, has been done with a pre-production camera. No one has received a final camera as of yet to review.

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Upcoming Reviews – Nikon D4, Panasonic 12-35 2.8 and more!

Nikon D4

I have had a Nikon D4 for a week or so but have been unable to use it until just the past 2 days. Being so busy with a constant flow of cameras and lenses to review has been hectic for a one man operation. Before I review a camera I HAVE to use it so if I do not get a chance to give the cameras a workout they do not get reviewed. Hopefully I can get more done with the D4 soon. So far it seems to me that it every bit as goof as I expected it to be though I did find the D800 files to be a but more magical. I prefer the D800 body shape to the D4 due to size but the D4 file sizes are much smaller and much easier to manage on my computer.

The D4 comes in at $5999 and it is 100% a professionals camera. More than I need for any job but I can clearly see how this camera could benefit ANY pro shooter. Even with the new 50 1.4 from Nikon this camera is a beast to contend with. Again, the D800 would be my pick but there are many who want the rock solid tank like constriction of the D4. I know so many who are lusting over this very hard to get camera and even while I have no need for one, I have been tempted to buy this review sample just so I can have a long-term test with it. Problem is I don’t ever have a spare $6k lying around and with the Leica Monochrom coming soon it would be just about impossible.

But never fear, my thoughts on the D4 with loads of photos will be coming soon!

Kyle Johnson withThe Nikon D4 with 50 1.4 

The Panasonic 12-35 2.8 Zoom for Micro 4/3

This 12-35 2.8 zoom lens has finally hit the streets and B&H Photo sent me one to review it. They wanted to know my honest thoughts on this lens and it looks good on paper. A 12-35 would equal 24-70 in the real 35mm equivalent world and with a constant fast aperture of f/2.8 it would make it extremely useful. Much like the $1900 Nikon 24-70 2.8. Problem is the price is $1299 which I find to be a tad overpriced but when I think about it..and what it offers..is it?

The lens has built-in Optical Image Stabilization, it is dust and splash proof like the Olympus OM-D, it has a nano surface coating to reduce flare (and it seems to work), and when compared to something like a Nikon or Canon 24-70 it is tiny though it is still large compared to the Olympus primes.

One can get the Olympus 12mm, Panasonic 20 1.7 and Olympus 45 1.8 for a couple hundred more and get better quality, faster aperture and smaller size BUT you lose convenience and splash proof build. It’s a tough call. 

My review will be up soon!

The 12-35 at 2.8 and ISO 1600 on the OM-D in Mono mode

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Dale Photo has a MINT Leica M9 Titanium set for sale at $26k

I noticed that Dale Photo has a Leica M9 Titanium Set for just over $26k. For those wanting the most ambitious M9 camera from Leica here is your chance!

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Don’t be angry…be happy! What this site is about…

What this site is about, in case some of you have forgotten….

Man, like I always say..TIME FREAKING FLIES! We are now in August and I have realized that there have been a surge of guest articles here in the recent moths. I have also noticed that with the increase in traffic there has been an increase in those negative and bitter people who like to trash others work for the mere reason of being mean and rotten.

When this site was started over 3 1/2 years ago it began as a place where I would write about my experiences with cameras and lenses. Being a guy who has a true passion for photography I wanted to have a place to write down what I felt and then share these thoughts with others who were like me as I realized there were many just like I was..those who enjoyed cameras and gear but also loved to document things in life. In many ways, just keeping a record of your life.

I never considered myself a full-time “Pro” photographer nor have I really ever attempted to be a full-time ‘Pro”. I have taken jobs here and there at the rate of 2-3 a year and that was it. I realized while ago I would much rather do what I do here than run around shooting photos and doing jobs I was not passionate about. We only have one life on this earth and while I am here I plan to stay happy and do what I love to do.

My photography was always and still is mainly about my family and my life. Like many of you who read this site, I enjoy taking photos of my family, my friends, my trips and travels and I have taken over 100,000 images in the past 10 years. I have a record of my son growing up from age 1 all the way through today at age 16. I have memories from my past, my present and will also have them from my future. Almost 90% of these images are never shown here but some make it into my reviews, which have always been of a personal nature anyway.

The day my son Brandon received his mega zoom from Amazon..he was so excited until he saw how crappy the quality was!

To me that is what photography is about  – preserving memories. We are not all in this to take street photography shots showing a man walking out of a shadow with one foot off of the ground trying to emulate a Bresson shot, or a woman being surprised by a flash in her face. We are not all in this to go shoot weddings or events. We are not all in this to be the best portrait photographers or landscape gurus. We are not all in this to be technically perfect photographers because how boring is that?

Many of us enjoy this as a hobby. To  take photos of our daily lives, our family… and yes, even our beloved pets. It really saddens me when I see someone who gets up the courage to write a post or a daily inspiration to share their images..that THEY are proud of only to have a few bitter people knock them down with insults. My site is not a place for that and I would rather have those people just not be here. Period. It amazes me how many bitter angry people are out there with seemingly nothing better to do but knock others down. Nine times out of ten these commenters never share or show their own work and that says it all right there.

Not every photo posted here by myself or others is going to be a technically perfect work of art, or even close to it but what they will be are photos that the photographer took for a reason, with their heart and with the intention of capturing that one moment they have seen..and are proud of. It makes them happy and that is something that goes a long way in this life.

So the bottom line is that my site is here for me, for you and for any and all who have a passion for photography. A passion for creating memories. A passion for capturing the moments we can easily forget as time passes us by. It is not for those who come here to be bitter jealous or angry or  to belittle or trash talk others. I am going  to start getting more strict with the moderation of negative and trash talk comments that serve no purpose at all. If you want to criticize then do so constructively otherwise your comment will be deleted. This site is for those who like to get a camera and just shoot! You may not know all there is to know about photography and that is OK..as we can all learn, even the “Pros”. The fact is that no one knows all there is to know about photography and no one can create a perfect image that will please everyone. Just not possible. The key though is that the person doing the shooting is getting satisfaction and joy from the process, and part of that process for some is sharing.

The rules have been posted on this site since its inception…

The Rules…

Since this site has been growing there have been quite a few comments on many of the articles. When you leave a comment anywhere on this site you must follow three simple rules:

  1. Keep it clean. Not only in language but with SPAM. No foul language, no SPAM, no links to commercial sites. If you want to advertise, e-mail me.
  2. Keep it relevant to the post. If a post is about a Leica lens, do not write a comment about a Canon camera or  my various grammar mistakes :)
  3. Be civil. No fighting, no name calling. I hate it when people start posting garbage and calling others names or putting someone down or arguing about equipment. Let’s keep it civil and professional. Personal attacks will NOT be tolerated.
So when commenting on a post just follow these rules. If you are writing personal attacks on the author of the post or myself, you will be banned. Period. Personal attacks and just plain mean comments will not be tolerated, at all. They serve ZERO purpose. Period!
Thanks for reading and I hope everyone has a GREAT Sunday!
Nokia 808
OH! I almost forgot! I also have a Nokia 808 that I will get to testing this week as well!
Jul 312012
 

David VS Goliath

Hi Steve,

In my long search for a compact high quality alternative to the bulky 5DmkII, I have passed through Sony Nex5, Ricoh GXR-M+35mm zeiss (published by you), Panasonic GX1 and now I’m landed on a Olympus E-M5 + Pana 14-42X + Pana 20mm. I’ve been in holiday on the mountains near were I live, the Dolomites, and I had with me just the Oly in a small bag hanged on the backpack. If you see in the picture the dimension difference between my 2 cameras, is easy to understand the advantage. I took the Panasonic X zoom because I need a zoom on the mountain (your Leica People’s motto “my zoom are my legs” can be very dangerous up there…). It’s an honest kit lens, but has the advantage to be so thin, much more than Sony, Nikon, Canon, Samsung and original Olympus one. But is with the razor-sharp 20mm that the OM-D really shines.

After these 2 weeks, what I can say is that I have completely fallen in love with this camera! It’s so nice to touch, to handle, to shot with. It’s a bulky, small, quick, solid jewel. I’ve never been excited by a camera as with this one (OK Ok, Steve I’ve just tried M9 but I don’t own one… I know, I know it is the most sexy camera ect… ;-) If you look to the picture of the cat, took at 2000 ISO (the max I set for auto-iso), also the low-light performance is enough for me. The other images are shot at 200 iso. All images shot with low noise reduction and as shot in raw, converted with no adjustment in PS.

Yes DOF is wider than 5D with fast primes, and I’ll keep my DSLR for some exit dedicated to photography, where I don’t care if I have to transport an “iron boiler” with me… But for sure, my travel companion will be the OM-D (+ in future 45mm 1.8 and 14mm 2.5)

Bye Steve, and thank you for your helpful reviews!

Jul 242012
 

 

Quick “Just for Fun” Comparisons: Sony RX100, Olympus OM-D and Nikon V1 (With an X2 detail shot thrown in for fun)

Working on the Sony RX100 review but until then check out some quick comparisons I did between it and the Nikon V1 and Olympus OM-D. Since the Nikon and Sony use Zoom lenses, either kit or built-in, I used the 12-50 for the Olympus to be fair. BUT, in a shot or two the Olympus accidentally slipped into P mode from A mode so the test is not a fair one as the Oly lens was stopped down much more than the others in a couple of the test shots.

I will be doing new test shots for the RX100 review that are matched but thought some of you may enjoy seeing these, just for fun. 

I also took a detail shot that you can download in full size from the V1, OM-D, RX100 and Leica X2 and these are at the bottom.  Just for fun of course :)

Finally, these are all OOC JEGS ONLY! There is no RAW support for the RX100 yet from Adobe so to be fair, all were shot JPEG. So this test is a “just for fun” JPEG test :) Again, I will have more detailed tests in my RX100 review soon. For now, enjoy these and be sure to click the images for larger views and to see the true 100% crops!

Thank you!

Click images for large size with 100% crop – 1st shot is from the RX100 at f/4.5 – 2nd shot is form the Nikon V1 at f/4 and third is OM-D 

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Again, RX100, Nikon V1 and then OM-D – CLICK THEM FOR LARGER and 100% Crop! ALL JPEGS! But this one is not fair as the last shot (OM-D) was set to f/11 by accident. Still, you may find it useful for color, etc.

1st – RX100 – 2nd – Nikon V1 – 3rd – OM-D

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one more set – f/4 on all cameras this time! – ALL JPEGS!

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Now some high iso, tripod used, low light – ISO 3200 – JPEG only in this test (No RAW support for RX100 yet)

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and below are full size direct OOC JPEG  files from each camera just to test for detail and what you would get out of camera shooting JPEG. Click them for full size. Each camera was set to “Standard” color mode, same aperture. Camera chose exposure as this is how 95% of people use them. 

Jun 222012
 

Crazy Comparison! Leica X2 vs Nikon J1

OK! Many of you have asked for a Nikon J1/V1 vs Leica X2 comparison to be done as a “Crazy Comparison” so here it is! There are a ton of Nikon 1 series fans who read this site and some of them thought this would make a cool post. So what do I do about it? Well, yesterday I headed down to Sedona AZ and I brought both the Leica X2 and  the Nikon J1 along with the Olympus E-M5 to see how each one would do shooting the same scenes, same aperture. I used the E-M5 for one shot only because this is mainly between the X2 and J1.

Keep in mind that the Leica X2 is $2000 and the J1 is $499 with a kit zoom, bag and SD card. So this is NOT a fair fight which is why it is called a “CRAZY” comparison. Just for fun guys so enjoy it!

The 1st one is from the Leica X2 from RAW – f/5.6 – click it for FULL size file

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and now one from the little Nikon J1 – The sensor is much smaller and the J1 is only 10MP but the file looks pretty good! This one used the 10-30 Kit Zoom at f/5.6 and is from RAW. Click it for full size file.

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and I couldn’t leave out the OM-D E-M5! This one is with the kit zoom at f/5.6

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So here are a few more X2 and J1 comparisons…

The X2 at f/5.6 – from RAW – click it for full size file

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and the J1 file

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One more from the X2 – click it for full size

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and the J1 – same deal, click it for the full size

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So there you go! For those asking this should be cool – a few full size files from each camera. The J1 can put out a sharper (but noisier) file no question, but the X2 has the capabilities to print larger of course. The X2 also has the capability to shoot at f/2.8 and with the larger sensor would help speed, noise and depth of field (for those who want more shallow DOF). I can not tell a lie…in use, the J1 destroyed the X2. It was much faster, focused as fast as lightning, never missed and it was a piece of cake to use and shoot. The X2 was slower, missed a few times and had more motion blur doing indoor shots at the same shutter speeds (due to the IS with the Nikon V1 lenses).

These are two totally different cameras though with the J1 being a glorified point and shoot (but an excellent one at that) and the X2 being a more advanced enthusiast point and shoot :) Below are a couple of shots I snapped inside of a restaurant with each camera. These were not ever meant to even be comparisons and I did not use same settings but it is cool to see that either camera can give good results inside.

The X2

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The J1

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and more from the little $499 J1 – click them for larger versions – I went a little bold on the colors here…

One thing I learned from this test is I still stand by my opinion of the Nikon 1 series and that the J1 is a kick ass little camera for $499 that IMO beats something like a Canon S90 any day of the week. The Leica X2 is also a beautiful camera but is for those with bigger wallets of course, and for those who want the Leica experience, which many of us do it seems!

I am a huge fan of the Nikon V1 and if you are someone who mainly posts to the web and prints 8X10’s or smaller than there really is no need for more camera than this. One thing to also note is that the video on the 1 series cameras is also SUPERB..all Nikon needs to do is release some faster glass for these little guys and then we will really be talking. As for the OM-D, I still have yet to find any issues or problems with it. Flat out great camera, period.

UPDATE: Just for giggles, why not?

Just to test things I snapped this AC unit at f/4 with the X2 and Nikon V1 (yes the V1 not J1) – I used the 10-30 Kit lens for the V1 and both were at ISO 100.

I then took the 10 megapixel file from the V1 and blew it up to 16 Megapixels to match the X2, just to see how bad it would be

Those are 100% crops but you must click the image to see the full size crop!

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and below is the Nikon V1 10 Megapixel native resolution crop – again, to see the full 100% crop click the image

You can see the warm color signature of the X2 (a little bit overly warm IMO) but the V1 is sharper without question. The X2 is “richer” and “warmer” and has less noise of course due to the larger sensor. The V1 has a built in EVF, is much faster, a bit sturdier, has great video capability and is $1850 cheaper (when adding EVF into the costs). I was going to sell my V1 but decided to keep it as it is amazingly fun to shoot and it makes me want to grab it when I go out the door, moreso than the other cameras around here.

I do not get the creamy files of an X100 or the color of the X2 or the lenses of the OM-D but I do get no muss, no fuss, sharp images and huge DOF, which sometimes is a good thing.

Jun 132012
 

The Greatness of the Olympus OM-D – Using lenses with adapters

By Stefan Schmidt

I recently bought an OM-D as a second camera to my Canon 5DMkII and I have now used it for almost two weeks and even if I had high expectations of it from reading about it in your test, I really was blown away when I started using it. First I couldn´t develop the pictures as I wanted to but as luck would have it Capture One released their update the week after I got the camera, nice timing! Here in Sweden it is quite easy to get a camera, unless you want the silver one…

Anyway, since I only have the “kit-lens” I decided to buy an adapter for my Canon lenses and as I had to go and work on my summer cabin last weekend I decided to have a little fun and not just work. My cabin is in the region called “Småland”, it is built around 1850 in a small ravine that trails down from a small lake to a larger one called Vattern. The last winters have crumbled the  stone foundation that the cabin was built upon so I had my work cut out for me. In one of the pictures you can see the small dirt track that passes by my house.

The fun begun in the afternoon after a day of working. I strapped on the adapter to my Canon 100 mm F2,8 macro and took a picture of our dog that was drowsing in the sun. I was surprised how well the OM-D exposed ! I found that I really had to use the manual focus tool to enlarge a portion of the picture because otherwise my focus would be off. I then found a crab-spider that was waiting patiently for a fly to arrive. Again the combo of the macro 100 and the Olympus surprised me! The sharpness and color were great and the bokeh is really to my liking. The only thing I had a problem with was the mechanical aperture on the adapter. It´s a little tricky to set it correctly.

Also, when going in as close as possible, the area with sharpness is really tight. (See the closeup picture of the spider…)

The second lens I brought was my cherished 70-300 4-5,6 L that really is fabulous on the 5DMkII and I was eager to try it on the OM-D. I strapped it on and attached the battery grip on the OM-D to get at least some balance to things.

I sat down ten meters away from the corner of the cabin and watched the birds nesting there, the house does not have regular drainpipes for rainwater but rather a “gutter” made from a tree that is split in two halves, worked into trenches, and tarred. For some reason the birds always make a stop there before entering their bird house that´s mounted high on the house wall. I took these pictures on the 300 mm setting and since I wanted to try the stabilisation I didn’t bring a tripod. Worked great! Although I found that the 70-300 is really tricky to focus manually since the focus ring is so extremely sensitive.

My son wanted to go fishing and naturally I brought the camera with the 70-300 along. I shot some pictures of him and focused without using the manual focus tool to enlarge the picture and although I thought it looked good in the camera I was disappointed to se the pictures on my computer and find that I was off by half a meter. Since this lens “releases” the focus pretty quick even that short a distance from the focused area in the picture it really makes a difference if focus is not “tack on”.

I also shot a distance shot across the lake from where we stood on the opposite beach and the yellow fields and the forest there as well as an evening shot when the sun descended and we walked home. I am so pleased with the warm color tone the OM-D even though I have set the tone to neutral and I only shoot raw. I wanted to drop you a line and thank you for the review, it played a large part in my decision to buy the camera.

All my attached pictures are from this weekend using only my two canon lenses. I hope you enjoy them even though they are pretty far from  street photos.

I wish some shop i Gothenburg would stock the Voigtlander 17 F0,95. I am so curious to try it out after you wrote that the manual focus on it work brilliantly with the OM-D. Still it´s an expensive piece of glass, perhaps it´s for the best. I suspect I would buy it.

With My best regards

Stefan Schmidt

Sweden

Jun 022012
 

Comparison Re-Do – Leica X2, Fuji X100, Olympus E-M5 and Sony NEX-7

Ok guys here you go. A bandwidth busting set of full size images from four different hot mirrorless cameras. This time the cameras were all set on a solid surface before shooting so there is zero chance of hand shake or motion blur. You can click on any image for a full size file converted from RAW. Things to note. All cameras were set at f/4. All cameras used their own metering to expose and meter the scene. I converted from RAW and applied ZERO sharpening and changed nothing, so what you see if what came from each camera as covered by Adobe Camera Raw. Also, this was in full, harsh, mid day AZ sun. The light did not change during this 5-10 minute test.

To be honest, the fastest focusing camera here is the E-M5. This is followed by the X100 and X2 which are tied for AF speed and the NEX-7 is the slowest of the bunch for AF (with the Zeiss 24) though it is still very good. All cameras have fast and acceptable AF. Take a look at the files below and leave a comment with your thoughts.

Enjoy!

OK, 1st the Leica X2 – base ISO –  No possibility of camera shake – f/4. Price as tested – $1995

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Now the Fuji X100 at f/4 – base ISO – Price $1199 for silver$1699 for black set

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The Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Olympus 17 2.8 – Base ISO – F/4 – Price as tested $1299

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Sony NEX-7 and Zeiss 24 – Base ISO – f/4 – Price as tested – $2300

Jun 012012
 

Look what popped into my house. The Black Special Edition Fuji X100!

I could not resist. I went ahead and ordered a black X100 kit. Partly because I love all black, partly because I really do like the X100 quite a bit and partly because i wanted to see how it is with the new firmware, which I have not yet experienced. I also wanted to see how it stands up next to the new Leica X2. I made a video showing me taking it out of the box and I have to say it is much sexier in person that it is in photos. MUCH better looking than the X-Pro 1 IMO. Sleeker, smaller, and even more stealthy. Yes, this black kit is $500 more than the standard X100 but still $400 less than a Leica X2.

The SE kit has the extra though and when you pick up one of these kits you also get a black full case that strips down to a half case, and it fits very well. You get a filter for your lens and a lens hood and adapter. These are all extras that you would have to buy for your standard X100 so in reality, buying this black kit sets you back an extra $250 or so just to have all black and a limited edition set. This is Fuji milking the X100 much like Leica milks their models. If it works for Leica, why not Fuji?

In any case upon taking it all out and looking it over I have to say it is amazingly gorgeous and much nicer looking than the silver, but this is my opinion. The case is quality, the camera feels a little bit more sturdy than an X2 and as for focus speed? Well, I updated the FW to the latest and greatest and have to say it is much much faster than it used to be. MUCH more responsive than the X-Pro 1 and 35 1.4. The whole menu system is fast as well. So far so good.

Check out the video of the black X100 below to witness its sexiness :)

So my house is loaded with cameras and I feel a bit overwhelmed but am happy as can be as I love it! I also just received a Sony A57 and a couple of lenses and just had to return the D800 which put out some amazing files (more on this one soon). But today, right now, I am in the mini mode of the X2 and X100. Seeing that the X2 is new I was curious to see if the X100 could still match it in all aspects. So this weekend I will be doing some shooting with the X100, X2, NEX-7 and OM-D. I attached the Olympus 17mm 2.8 to the OM-D to see how it would do and it’s doing mighty fine on the new Olympus. Giving me the same 35mm view as the X2 and X100.

The facts are that today, in 2012, all of these cameras are REALLY great at image quality. The ones we choose to work with are all down to our hearts and preferences. It is getting to the point where digital has matured that any something like an OM-D or X100 could last us for MANY MANY years.

In any case, I am doing this comparison all weekend but here is a quick sample from the X100, X2 and OM-D. All at f/4, all with a 35mm equiv lens.

UPDATE – THE COMPARISON WAS RE-DONE AND IS NOW POSTED HERE. THANK YOU!

May 312012
 

Crazy Comparison! The Olympus OM-D E-M5 vs Nikon D800 vs Leica X2 for High ISO

I know, I know..I have been having way too much fun lately with all of these comparisons, new cameras, new lenses and reviews. So much here to do but I still like to do these “just for fun” side by sides. Stuck at home all morning I thought..”wouldn’t it be amazing if the OM-D E-M5 could even come close to the full frame D800 or APS-C Leica X2 for higher ISO performance”? I have been shooting the OM-D when I can and have been marveling at how far Micro 4/3 have come in regards to higher ISO performance. The PEN models are OK up to 1600 but even then it can get a bit mottled and mushy at times.

The Nikon D800 is a full frame marvel with all of the latest tech and of course, gorgeous IQ. I have not had the time to concentrate fully on the D800 but what I have shot so far with it and the Zeiss 35 1.4 has been some of the nicest and richest files I have had through my computer to date. I will have a short write-up and “my thoughts” of the D800 soon and even though I am not a DSLR shooter anymore, I find the D800 to put out beautiful quality. It’s basically like a medium format camera IMO.

But I will save that for another day. Right now I just wanted to post some high ISO samples from the D800, Leica X2 and OM-D E-M5, with the D800 and Olympus using a 50mm lens (or equiv). The little Olympus does not do better than the D800 of course nor does it even do as well BUT it is not too far off! The X2 is of course using its built in 24 2.8 which is a 35 equiv, but this is not a sharpness, detail or bokeh test – it is a noise test. So let us take a look..

First, the simple image of my vacuum cleaner in my living room

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and the crops are below, each one has the text embedded to tell you what it is but first set up is at ISO 3200

The D800 is smoother and cleaner but the OM-D is not doing so bad here at all for being a much smaller sensor. Lens used on the D800 is the Nikon 50 1.4 and the OM-D has the Panasonic 25 1.4 – all shot at f/2

Here is what gets me scratching my head. In my review of the X2 I have found that anytime you shoot at ISO 3200, even if you convert the RAW and use ZERO Noise Reduction you still get details smearing. This does not happen at ISO 6400 or 12,500, only 3200. You can see the X2 crop below is smeared and blurred from in camera NR that is even applied to the RAW file when you do not want it there.

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now let’s take a look at ISO 6400

These are crops from direct RAW files. No editing, no NR, no enhancements. Just opened the RAW files in Adobe Camera Raw and cropped.

and here is the X2 at 6400 and as you can see, no smearing of details. You can also see the way the Leica renders the yellow differently than the others. The Leica will also have more DOF here so just look at the noise, which is what this test is about.

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How about 12,800?

The OM-D starts to get noisier here but this is 12,800. The D800 is also much noisier here but they aren’t as far off as I would have thought.

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OK, dare I even try ISO 25,600 on the OM-D?

First of all I have to say that this was done as a “just for fun” Crazy Comparison, and it is indeed crazy as the D800 is known as a full frame masterpiece with great low light capabilities (though I believe the 5DIII is better in this area). Still, a full frame technological super force against a little micro 4/3 camera, who in the past had a rep for awful low light performance..well..that is pretty crazy. While the OM-D did not meet or beat the D800 here it came damn close, and to me that is impressive. I have to say that the more I shoot the OM-D E-M5 the more I love it. It really is the BEST Micro 4/3 to come along to date. I have not really heard from anyone who has bought one and disliked it.

As for the X2, it also has a larger sensor than the OM-D but it appears it performed about the same noise wise though you can clearly see the Leica color signature coming through. Again, all were RAW files with ZERO NR added. Not sure what is happening with that X2 ISO 3200 noise but it is smearing at that ISO even though I took away any and all NR. I can state that I really am enjoying the Leica X2 AND the OM-D. The D800 is not for me but if you are a DSLR guy, it is the real deal.

BTW, as I stated in my OM-D review..if you buy one I highly recommend the grip and a decent lens (12mm, 14mm, 20, 25, 45) as the glass makes all the difference in the world.

May 312012
 

Saving an Olympus OM-D E-M5 file part 2: BLOWN highlight recovery.

About a week or two ago I published a post showing how robust a file from the Olympus E-M5 can be if you underexpose it. It was easily brought back with the hidden shadow detail coming right back and though it did have a little bit of noise, it was pretty cool how easy it was to bring back a file that would usually be thought of as un-salvagable with the earlier micro 4/3 bodies. Many e-mail and said “no way you can do that with an overexposed file”! I assumed  they were right as it is much harder to bring back details that have been blown out by extreme overexposure. I can’t even bring back detail in my M9 files when I blow them out, so I figured there would be no way to do so with an Olympus Micro 4/3 E-M5 file.

I found a shot that was extremely over exposed and all I did was open the raw file and pull back the exposure slider all the way to the left. The results are below…not bad! Not perfect, but not bad!

click the images for larger versions

…and one more version below that a reader converted form my RAW file by using a beta version of a new RAW converter called Photo Ninja. Seems to have worked quite well as now you can see details in the mountains as well. That smudge in the upper right-ish side is a smudge on my car windshield. But looking at the before and after is pretty remarkable.

Them ore I use the little OM-D the more I am impressed with it. I have found nothing negative to say about the camera and there is a reason there is now a 1-3 month wait for it at dealers. I also found that the 25 1.4 Panasonic lens is AMAZING on the OM-D. Better than it was on the E-P3. There is no more “rattlesnake” sound and the focus is super quick and the lens is crazy sharp, even wide open. It is now THE lens that is plastered to my OM-D. I prefer it to the Voigtlander 25 0.95 and it’s less than half t he cost. I plan on doing an update on this lens once I get some decent shots to show with it on the OM-D.

A in cam B&W with the OM-D and 25 1.4 – my dog hates to model these days so he always turns his head away when he sees a camera

Anyway, happy Thursday to all! Just wanted to post this for those who are still thinking about the OM-D E-M5.

Steve

May 302012
 

Leica X2, Sony NEX-7 and Olympus OM-D – One more quick comparison! Sharpness, color and DOF

Just thought I would post one more comparison between these three cameras while I could. Basically, this is just to show what will come out of each camera in the same light, same moment, same aperture. Each camera was shot at its base ISO of either 100 or 200 and the matrix/evaluative style metering was used on each camera so it could choose its own exposure. Just wanted to show what comes out in regards to sharpness, depth of field and color. DOF will be different on the Olympus as I am using a 25mm lens on a 2X crop sensor. Still, what you see is what you get. X2 and NEX-7 will give a 35mm equivalent and the 25 on the OM-D a 50mm Equivalent.

Each image was resized down to OM-D size of 16MP. So the Sony was resized from its native 24MP to 16. You can click on any image for the full size file, processed from RAW.

May 172012
 

To celebrate the release of the new Olympus OM-D I thought I’d take everyone for a trip down memory lane with a selection of snaps from my precious Olympus OM2n with the Zuiko MC 50mm f1.8 lens For those who haven’t had the pleasure of handling the OM2n, it’s a gem of a camera.

The OM philosophy was (and now is again) (in my own words) to create a high quality, beautifully engineered, precision photographic instrument with sharp quality optics in a compact size. The OM2n is certainly that.

The OM2n runs on a small watch type battery which lasts for years – this powers the (fairly accurate) meter and enables Aperture Priority operation, It’s widely available and isn’t one of the more sought out versions of the single digit OM series,That honour lies with the OM3Ti which is a fully mechanical camera and as rare as hens teeth!

The most advanced version is the OM4 and OM4Ti, these feature a revolutionary multi spot metering system which was and is highly regarded.

What I love about this camera is the fact that it looks superb and feels superb, strolling around the streets of London with it in my hand and around my neck, winding the film crank, and hearing the satisfying trip of the shutter, it attracts a lot of attention, it oozes class and sophistication, something Leicaman thinks is exclusive to him, but us Olympians know better!

The optics are also readily available, check out http://www.ffordes.co.uk who are brilliant when it comes to used camera equipment at bargain prices. I just love the Zuiko lenses, they’re small, compact, beautifully made and are a joy to use and focus smoothly, and most importantly produce crisp, contrasty pin sharp results (if you have decent eye sight as they’re all manual focus).

Well, if you’re used to Auto focussed fast DSLR’s with tunnel like viewfinders, or Micro 4/3rds compacts, or even Range Finders with quirky focussing – you’ll be surprised and pleased with using and playing with the OM series, with the HUGE bright View Finder (the only 35mm sized camera I’ve ever seen or used with a larger brighter Finder than this huge one on the OM is the peerless VF on the Contax Aria) the SLR design, and i’m going to get a LOT of flak for this, is better than a Range Finder design for making photographs and visualising – as you see what the lens see’s! (my personal opinions, so feel free to disagree).

For those purchasing the OM-D who have never used a classic OM – they’re affordable and worth investing in! You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the beauty and bright view finder, and for those complaining that Micro 4/3 cannot get you the shallow depth of field an APS-C or full Frame gives you, well, the 35mm Film is larger than either, so you’ll get as much shallow depth as you like!

Anyway, is the OM series worth getting in this day and age? Yes it is, as for the price of a cheap digital compact you can possess a beautifully made SLR with tack sharp lenses, which will serve you for many decades to come.

Anubis, the British Museum, OM2n 50mm @f1.8. Fuji Neopan 400.

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Kid at the Beach, OM2n 50mm f1.8  Agfa Precisa 100

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Coffee Break. Fuji Neopan 400 50mm Zuiko f1.8

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Kids At the Beach, 50mm f1.8 Agfa Precisa 100

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My Nephew Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Fuji Neopan 400

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Street vendor and Donkey in a Sarai Alamgir slum, Punjab, 2009. (this is either the 28mm or 50mm) Agfa Precisa 100 followed by a village girl 50mm Zuiko f1.8 Agfa Precisa

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Three is Company. Sheep under the full moon at dusk, Brecon Beacons. Kodak tri X 400, hand held. 50mm Zuiko f1.8 (cropped)

May 062012
 

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Digital Camera Review by Steve Huff

Micro 4/3 finally matures..for real.

Well here we are in May of 2012 and Olympus has now released a new line of Micro 4/3 cameras,  fittingly called the “OM-D”, which is actually a homage to the little “OM” of the film world.  The OM series has sort of a cult following and for good reason. Those little film cameras were so good, so small and so solid that even today many are still in use. The original OM series film cameras are highly recommended if you want to get into some low cost film shooting.

My original Olympus OM-1 that belonged to me for many years – was a GREAT camera and the 50 1.4 that I shot with it was also very good..and cheap! I think I paid $125 for the entire set.

But as for today in this digital world the 1st camera in this new OM-D line is called the E-M5, and the specs and details of this camera looked amazing when it was announced by Olympus. Everything that was missing from the already great E-P3 (my review here) was now included in the E-M5. A built in EVF, weather sealing, tillable LCD screen, better video quality without any jello effect, improved high ISO quality, a new button and control layout and even an optional grip that can not only be used as an additional handgrip with extra dials and buttons (which are nice and solid) but you can also add on an extra battery pack to the grip if you want more stamina. It all seemed so perfect… but I was wondering if the camera would live up to the hype, because they rarely do. I mean, this E-M5 has been hyped and marketed like mad so does it live up to all of  the hoopla?

The OM – DIGITAL – Same classic looks with that special old school charm

**NOTE:  for reference you can see my Olympus E-P2 and E-P3 reviews.**

Well…

I have been using the E-M5 for over 3 weeks now and have found the camera to be an absolute joy to use. Micro 4/3 has now really matured and Olympus has answered many of our concerns, needs, and wants and seriously, I am not sure how much better the Micro 4/3 format can get but keep in mind, this is still Micro 4/3 and will not give you the depth of field or richness of an APS-C or full frame sensor.

OM-D TIP! BEFORE YOU SHOOT THE OM-D E-M5 I recommend to TURN OFF the warm color setting in the picture IQ menu! Otherwise your images will all have funky warm colors! Many of the JPEGS in this review were shot with the warm color set to ON. I prefer it set to OFF..

This review will go over the usability, speed, ISO, image quality, lenses and just about everything that has to do with real world use of the E-M5. This is not going to be a tech head scientific review as anyone who knows me will know that I do not test cameras in that fashion. If I did, this would be a rather boring review.  I prefer to focus on the way we use the cameras – the way they handle, the controls, the joy of use. Does it inspire you to get out an take pictures? Will it put a big fat warm smile on your face? Will the image quality be really good and satisfy our needs?

THESE are the things I like to look for.

Also note, 75% of the images in this review, just like my E-P3 review, have been shot as JPEGS. So what you see here are mainly images that came right out of the camera. Olympus has usually been great with JPEGS and at the time I started writing this there was no real RAW support for the OM-D just yet. RAW support did become available after I was 3/4 of the way done with this so you will see some RAW shots here in this review as well. All images are marked either as JPEG or RAW.

So with all of that said..let’s get started!

Olympus E-M5 and the Olympus 12mm f/2  – A man and his wolf – OOC JPEG

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Sexy thing that E-M5 …Weather and Splash proof. It can take rain and cold but do not dunk it in water :)

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Is the E-M5 a Game Changer?

So right up front…is the Olympus OM-D E-M5  a game changer in the world of digital mirror less cameras? Well, not really. Sure it has a great body, great controls, and it has all of the stuff we wanted to see but at the end of the day there is nothing really revolutionary about it. It doesn’t have any magic fairy dust sprinkled inside nor does it have anything amazingly special. The image quality is pretty much on par with other Micro 4/3 cameras.

Basically, it is a souped up and hot rodded E-P3 that beats any Micro 4/3 to date in regards to usability and fun factor. There has been no Micro 4/3 to come before this that I liked better so while it might not be an overall game changer it is a game changer in the M4/3 world!

The PEN series has always been super fun to shoot. I loved and still love the E-P3 though it’s high ISO performance is lacking a bit. ISO 1600 was and is about the max you want to go to when shooting the E-P3. The E-M5 can shoot ISO 3200 and be fine and even 6400 can be used if you need it, even in low light (and yes, this guy can focus fast in almost any light). The ISO improvement in real world scenarios has been improved without any doubt. When you add in the other new features and the new 5-Axis IS then it is a no brainer to go for an E-M5 if you want a M4/3 camera today. It appears Olympus just lowered the price of the E-P3 to $799 which now makes it about $300 less than the E-M5 kit but the E-M5 is well worth the extra $300 just for all of the improvements (EVF, 5-Axis IS, swivel LCD, new sensor and better low light, better video, etc). I have spoken to some OM-D owners who said they would pay double for this camera just because it does so much right. That right there says quite a bit.

In many ways, shooting this little camera has reminded me of the Nikon V1 (see my review of the V1 here). The speed, accuracy, and lack of any problems or quirks was refreshing. The way it should be when we plunk down our hard earned cash for a new camera. What I mean by that is that if I spend $2500 or more on a digital camera setup and it gives me hassles, issues, missed shots or can’t do what I need it to do then to me, it is worthless. If a camera can be responsive, do things it is designed to do without hassles and give me output that I can live with then all is good. The E-M5 is one of these cameras where ALL IS GOOD.

The OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic 25 1.4 – WHAT A COMBO!!

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But it is Micro 4/3, the sensor is too small!

Many have this complaint about the M4/3 format and some shooters always will I guess. I hear it all the time. “The sensor is too small, it limits my depth of field”. Well, that used to be true but not today..well, sort of. With lenses like the newer 25 1.4, 45 1.8, and upcoming 75 1.8 even those who crave shallow DOF will have little to complain about. NO, you will not get the full frame super creamy DOF look but you can get nice results with the right lenses. Even with the new Voigtlander 25 0.95 and 17 0.95 it gets even better (if you are looking for a unique look, more on that below). This camera no longer has all of those limitations many associate with Micro 4/3.

Why? Well, because it has a fantastic sensor and when you add those amazing lenses it does just about anything you need it to do.

The Olympus 17 2.8 is a bit softer on the OM-D than the other lenses, but i is also the cheapest and offers a 35mm view

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The 75 1.8 is sharp and with great color, fast AF and nice video performance – a little pricey at $899 but if this focal length is your thing..a steal.

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The Voigtlander 17 0.95 up close – from RAW

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The new 16MP sensor – It’s good :)

Have no fear! The new 16MP sensor in the E-M5 is a nice improvement over the E-P3 sensor, again, mainly in the area of ISO. The files are nice, the color has the typical Olympus quality and yes, the overall quality is there. The files are also bitingly sharp if need be. I have had no complaints with the new sensor and many suspect it is the same one that is in the Panasonic G3. This has not been confirmed though and there are those who say it is not. Me, I do not know the truth but I do know I really like this sensor and I have mainly been shooting in JEPG for the bulk of this review!

I do know that this new 16MP sensor (new to Olympus) is capable of very large prints and sharp output so in reality, this is as good as most people will need for their everyday photography, actually, even better. I have said it before but it’s all about the lenses and now you can have your choice between many quality lenses.

Check out the amazing detail at f/4 with the 17mm – from RAW – YOU MUST click image for larger view and full crop!

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Check out the following images with 100% crops embedded  – click them for larger views and true crop – from RAW

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This one was at f/4 – from RAW

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With the 25 1.4 from Panasonic

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The Specs of the OM-D E-M5 – What Olympus says and What I say. 

Here are the specs and features of the camera, or at least what Olympus has to say about it…followed by my thoughts

Intuitively Designed Electronic Viewfinder

What Olympus Says: The OLYMPUS E-M5 is the first Olympus interchangeable-lens camera to incorporate a 120fps refresh rate, high definition electronic viewfinder with an eye sensor to seamlessly switch the display between the tilting 3.0″ touch screen OLED and the electronic viewfinder for ease-of-use. It features a 100% field of view, maximum 1.15x magnification, and an eye point of 18mm for fatigue-free viewing. Camera setting information, such as shutter speed, is displayed at the bottom of the viewfinder so photographers can concentrate on framing shots and take full advantage of an EVF’s ability to display the effects of various exposure adjustments and Art Filter effects – all without having to take the eye away from the viewfinder.

What I say: Well, the VF is great. No complaints. It seems to be crisp and clear and when you put your eye to the EVF it automatically switches on. Again, no complaints. In real use it works just fine. It is basically their newer VF-2 but since the camera is better in low light with less noise, the EVF has less noise than you would have found if using the VF-2 on the E-P3. No complaints. The EVF switches formats to whatever you switch to: 3:2, 4:3, 1:1, etc.

Superior Image Quality

What Olympus Says: The Olympus E-M5 uses a 16.1 megapixel High-Speed Live MOS Sensor offering improved performance and exceptional clarity and speed in all aspects of image capture. Olympus’ TruePic VI image-processing engine dramatically improves image quality in low-light environments. The camera’s sensor allows for a maximum ISO of 25,600, and the dynamic range has been expanded for more faithful color reproduction

What I say: WOW, I was impressed by the high ISO performance of this camera. It is a big leap up from the E-P3 so BRAVO to Olympus. The camera will still not give you X-Pro 1 ISO performance but up to 3200 ISO it is VERY usable and actually very close to the X-Pro. I recommend to turn OFF Noise Reduction. Dynamic Range does indeed seem to be better as I have not had any issues with blown highlights. Overall, the image quality of this camera is damn good. Again, the best M 4/3 quality I have seen to date.

Panasonic 8mm Fisheye on the OM-D

Unprecedented 5-Axis Image Stabilization

What Olympus says: The Olympus E-M5 is distinguished by the world’s first 5-axis image-stabilization mechanism capable of reducing the effects of camera motion and image blur from five directions on stills and video, even including motion blur caused by the photographer walking or running. Previous IS mechanisms compensated for camera shake by addressing only two kinds of movement along the vertical and horizontal axis. However, camera shake can actually be caused by five different kinds of movement: horizontal shift, vertical shift, rotary motion, as well as the yaw and pitch. While some technology has attempted to correct for camera blur by building the Image Stabilization mechanism into the lens, the Olympus E-M5 IS mechanism is incorporated into the camera body itself so that all lenses mounted on the body can take advantage of this sophisticated technology, whether shooting stills or HD video.

What I say: I LOVE this 5-Axis IS. Simply put, I have never seen IS in a camera as good as this. Video almost seems “steady cam-ish”. For images it works just as good. Again, BRAVO to Olympus for this as it is another 1st that Olympus brought in. Remember when Olympus designed and created the dust shaker? Now almost everyone uses some form of automated dust remover.

Blazing Speed

What Olympus says: Focus and shoot faster with record-breaking autofocus speed and imaging processing. The Olympus E-M5 employs the FAST (Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology) AF system, introduced in the PEN E-P3, but with even greater speed. The 16Mp Live MOS chip drives image data off the sensor at a blazing 240 frames-per-second, a 2x speed increase in Continuous Autofocus, with reduced image blackout enabling photographers to track fast action. Maximum frame rates in sequential shooting have also increased more than 2x with a max frame rate of 9fps in Single AF. A new 3D tracking AF system can follow the subject through the X-, Y- and Z-axes to dramatically improve focus on moving subjects.

What I say: The AF is faster than any mirror less camera I have shot with to date…in fact, faster than just about any camera I have shot with.

Creative Freedom

What Olympus says: The Olympus E-M5 features a 3.0″ tilting OLED touch-screen to enable photographers to get up high or down low for any shot. The touchscreen interface offers intuitive focus and release of the shutter and review and enlargement of images in playback with the touch of a finger. The Live Bulb feature updates the Live View image on the OLED screen at pre-set intervals during long exposures and enables the user to preview continually unfolding action such as fireworks or waterfalls and adjust the exposure time accordingly while capturing the image at the desired moment. An innovative new interface, EVF Creative Control, produces a tone curve overlay on the viewfinder screen to enable separate adjustment of highlight and shadow brightness, white balance, magnification and aspect ratio can also be manipulated via the EVF.

What I say: The tilting LCD is very useful. I often wished Olympus would put this onto the PEN series and now they did, but on this OM-D. I have used this much like I would shoot a hasselblad kit, at my waist and looking down at the LCD. Works great. The controls on the OM-D are good but I do have one complaint though. The buttons on the back are way small. For example the play button is so small, those with large fingers may have trouble. My fingers are small and I sometimes have problems with the smaller buttons on the back.

Powerful Portability and Rugged Durability

What Olympus says: The striking, iconic design of the Olympus E-M5 is more than just looks; its magnesium alloy body is rugged enough to stand up to severe environmental conditions like heavy rain and blowing sand. The Olympus E-M5 employs internal seals extensively and, when the optional M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50 mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ lens is attached, this combination delivers an integrated dustproof and splashproof camera system. The electronic viewfinder section of the body is also made of magnesium alloy to ensure durability, and the FL-LM2 Electronic Flash that ships with the camera features the same dustproof and splashproof construction

What I say: Again, BRAVO to Olympus! The fuji guys are not going to like me for  this one but I tell it like it is…the Olympus build quality is fantastic and with the weather sealing beats the Fuji build. When you add the 1st part of the external grip the camera feels really solid and comfortable. It feels like a camera well worth the $999 price. Then again, adding the grip will add $299 so you do have to add that to the cost if you want that solid comfy feel I speak of.

The OM-D E-M5 and 12mm at f/2

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The OM-D and Voigtlander 17 0.95

Compatible with All Micro Four Thirds-Compliant Lenses

What Olympus says: The Olympus E-M5 is compatible with all Micro Four Thirds-compliant lenses, including two lenses that Olympus will introduce later this year: the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75mm f/1.8 and the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm f/2.8 macro. The 75mm lens is a high-quality metal design with fast aperture settings for portraits and indoor sports shooting, while the dustproof and splashproof 60mm lens features 1:1 macro and a closest shooting distance of just 7.5 inches

What I say: YES! I am so looking forward to the 75 1.8 as I have heard it is going to be awesome. The metal build and quality construction will make it a popular lens. The 60 macro is also a welcome addition. Yes, Micro 4/3 has matured and it is finally an AWESOME choice if you are looking for a new system that is QUALITY. The 12mm, 25 from Panaosnic, the Voigtlanders, the 45 1.8 and upcoming 60 2.8 macro and 75 1.8 lenses really show that this format is here to stay. Even the cheap zooms such as the Panasonic 45-200 are fantastic, and CHEAP!

Cross Process Art Filter – Olympus 75 1.8 at f/4 – OOC JPEG. Click it for larger!

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The Olympus OM-D and 17 0.95 at f/4

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The Olympus OM-D E-M5 and t he 45 1.8 at 1.8 – OOC JPEG at night.

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My 1st impressions after Delivery of the camera. 

So after all of the hype..after all of the excitement and after all of the waiting for this camera to be released I finally had one come in thanks to Robert Jagitsch (e-mail him here) who managed to get me one the first week after the cameras were shipping, so THANKS Robert! When the package arrived it came along with the 12mm f/2, 45 1.8 and the grip. I am so glad I bought the grip though as it makes the camera feel SO much better as I feel it is a bit on the small side without it.

So with the grip attached and the battery charged I went out to snap a few quick snaps to see how the camera performed. I mean, I was excited to see if it lived up to the hype after all.

When I turned it on in my kitchen I heard a whirling purr..a sound that reminded me of a sea shell humming in my ear. What was this? I assumed it was for the new 5-Axis IS so I turned it off and it was still there! Hmmmm.

The only time it turns off is when you shoot video, and then the camera is silent. You can hear this sound in my 1st look video I posted to youtube…but keep in mind it sounds louder in the video due to it being right up to my microphone.

My 1st look video on the OM-D E-M5

So after I started shooting with the camera the sound disappeared. It is not noticeable when you are out shooting so it is not an issue. I have to say that after my 1st couple of days with the camera it felt like an E-P3 with an improved sensor, an EVF and nice handling. I liked it and after shooting it side by side with a Fuji X-Pro 1, I personally preferred using the OM-D to the Fuji. Why? Because quirky cameras frustrate the hell out of me, especially when you spend well over $2000 on them. So usability was high with the Olympus but I wondered if the IQ would hold up to the Fuji because this is where the Fuji struts it’s stuff’. (See my X-Pro 1 review HERE)

Overall, I was happy with the OM-D E-M5 though I felt it was on the small side without the grip. I also found the buttons on the back were a bit small, especially the playback button. Even my little thumb seemed to big for it.

All in all I was impressed with the OM-D E-M5 when it first arrived. It is pretty much what I expected and my 1st snaps looked really good though I knew that the IQ would not really match the X-Pro 1 I had shot for the few weeks prior. With that said, the IQ is really good and will satisfy most peoples needs very well. In fact, some who shoot this camera will rave about how amazing the image quality is. Now that I think about it again…in the right hands this camera could produce gorgeous results (I have seen it).

In regards to handling, this camera feels really good in the hand but without the grip feels a but too small. Almost like a mini camera. In my opinion, you need the grip for this one to feel good in your hand. With the grip it comes into its own. Also, button placement is really good. The dials on the top are solid and we have one for changing the aperture.shutter speed and one for EV. They are solid, and click into place nicely. The buttons on the back are a little small though, but not a deal breaker.

The OM-D with the fantastic Voigtlander 25 0.95 wide open. Again, this lens is sharp, contrasty and renders beautifully on the OM-D. I prefer it slightly to the new 17 f/0.95. When shooting at a distance the rendering is gorgeous .Up close it can get a bit creamy dreamy but the shot below shows what it can do. This is an OOC JPEG, click it for larger.

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The 25 1.4 from Panasonic/Leica  – The best lens for this camera, period!

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The Voigtlander 17mm  f/4 – OOC JPEG

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The Panasonic 25 1.4 wide open

What Micro 4/3 has going for it..THE GLASS!

Well what is a camera system without GREAT glass? Not much, and even Sony has been getting a bunch of complaints about the lack of good lenses for their NEX system. People used to complain about M4/3 as well, until the last year or so when Panasonic came out with the SUPERB 25 1.4 and Olympus released the 12 ands 45, which I feel are two of the best M4/3 lenses available and they are beautiful to look at as well though I feel they should also be made in black for those of us who do not like black bodies and silver lenses.

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Voigtlander Super Fast Nokton Lenses for Micro 4/3. The 17 and 25mm f/0.95

We also now have others in the M4/3 glass game – Sigma and even Voigtlander are now making lenses for this format and that is a good thing. I picked up the Voigtlander 17 and 25 f/0.95 super fast lenses to test with the OM-D and have sort of mixed feelings on them. They are beautifully made and have the Leica M glass kind of feel. Focusing is smooth, and the lenses are all metal and solid. The only issue is that they are large and heavy! If you got into this system to stay small and light then these lenses throw all of  that out of the window..then again, even with the 25 0.95 on this is still s much smaller setup than a DSLR with fat lens.

After shooting with them for a few days they started to feel really good on the body with the grip attached (I do not have the battery part of the grip on, only the grip) and it looked pretty bad ass..just big. I think I prefer the Panasonic 25 1.4 to the Voigtlander though. It is sharper and has a more “Leica-Like” rendering. The Voigtlanders are nice but render a bit flat, which is how I usually find Voigtlander glass.

Another thing is that these two lenses both have that signature “Voigtlander” look that I just spoke of so if you like that rendering then you will love these lenses. If you dislike this look, you will NOT like these lenses. Also note that these are not coded or chipped so when you shoot with them yo will NOT be able to see what lens you used or for aperture info in the EXIF. Kind of like shooting film so if you want to remember, you have to log it.

Shooting them in manual focus (they are NOT auto focus) is easy and quick and even without peaking I shot the images below without magnification or any help. You can easily manually focus just using the EVF. See some samples below from these two lenses. Yes, the EVF and LCD are good enough to nail focus without any assistance, at least they are for me.

One unique feature of the 17 is that you can configure it to have aperture clicks or set it to be clickless if you want to use it for cine or video. THIS is a nice feature and it is easy to switch using a dial above the aperture dial. VERY nice feature. Gives us a choice.

So bottom line on these lenses? If you don’t mind the size, they are really good for this format and better than plopping on a $6k Leica lens with a shoddy adapter as I feel Leica glass is best used on a Leica M body, period. They are full frame lenses and only when used on a full frame camera will you see the true beauty of the them. So to save some cash, if you want to buy a new fast lens for your M4/3 body, try out one of these Voigtlanders. They provide the build quality, silky feel and weight of Leica glass for a fraction of the cost and on a crop sensor, you really do not miss out on IQ.

The 1st three images are from the 25 f/0.95 Nokton – click for larger – OOC JPEG

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Another OOC JPEG but shot with the “Toy Art Filter” which gave it that old school look

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and one in square format..OOC JPEG

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The next three are from the 17 f/0.95 -1st 2 are  OOC JPEGS, the dog was converted with Alien Skin 4

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The fun little SLR Magic 11mm 1.4 Toy Lens

This little $169 lens is fun. I have not shot it since I did my review of it a while back but it is a blast when shooting in square format. It is not sharp, it vignettes and it has a very dreamy “holga-like” look but this is what makes the lens. I like it and am glad I pulled it back out to shoot on the OM-D E-M5. Again, no issues with focusing this manual focus lens and it could be fun to shoot if you want to do some creative styled portraits even.

All are OOC JPEGS shot in 1:1 mode with the SLR Magic lens

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OMD TIP: Turn off face detection and just focus on what YOU want to focus on. Sometimes it will miss or focus on another part of the face. It can be set to focus on eyes specifically but I suggest turning it off and shooting without it. 

The Olympus 12mm f/2 and 45 1.8 – superb glass

These two lenses are sharp and have no real issues of distortion or vignetting. They give a more “perfect” rendering than the others but have less character as well. If you want a modern look with sharp images, great color and minimal distortions this is where to look. They are also really small and light compared to the Voigtlander beasts. To me, these lenses are some of the best of what the Micro 4/3 world has to offer. The 12mm is a bit on the pricy side but is made form metal and has the manual focus snap feature. It is a GREAT street lens.

The 12mm is great for interior and natural light as the f/2 aperture opens it up nicely – OOC JPEG – My mom making lunch

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The 12mm will give you a wide 24mm equivalent – great for quick grab shots or group portraits – AWB did not nail this but got close!

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Great bite and contrast even at f/2

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The 45 1.8 at night – JPEG

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The Olympus 17 1.8 Lens rocks as well! The Color!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The 5-Axis IS and the  HD video quality of the OM-D E-M5 

When Olympus started marketing the E-M5 they were touting this new revolutionary 5-Axis IS and how it will give you the best results yet for hand holding in low light. What I did not realize is how awesome it would be to use for video when shooting with movie compatible lenses like the 12mm and 45mm. WOW. When shooting with the 12mm it is almost like you have the camera attached to a steadicam!

Not only does the 5-Axis IS compensate for yaw and pitch, but also for horizontal shift, vertical shift and rolling motion. This does wonders for macro shooting.

The video quality is also so much better than it was with the E-P3 and  there is NO jello effect! Check out the video sample I made below to show the quality of the video this camera puts out. Amazing. I also enjoy my NEX-7 for video but it always overheats after 5-6 minutes which frustrates me on many occasions. The OM-D has not overheated on me at all yet. Hope it doesn’t.

Some will notice the OM-D E-M5 does NOT have an Audio Input for an external mic but the camera aid compatible with the Olympus SEMA-1 that attaches to the hotshoe of the camera. This allows you to plug in an external mic with a mini jack (not XLR of course).

The Olympus SEMA-1 external mic adapter is compatible with the OM-D E-M5

Shooting RAW – Better than JPEG? Yep!

As you can see almost every image in this review so far has been shot using standard JPEGS. I did so because RAW support was not available yet and honestly, many people love to see what these cameras can do with standard JPEGS. But after I was about 3/4 of the way done with this review, RAW support was released from Adobe so I suggest anyone shooting the E-M5 to shoot RAW as you will get better and richer file quality than JPEG. No question.

When shooting JPEG you will get nice results, but images may be a little flatter. Shooting RAW allowed you to enhance your image by changing your settings after you shoot. The works well to bring certain things out and make your image pop more.

All images below are converted from RAW with the E-M5

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HIGH ISO Performance of the E-M5

I immediately noticed an improvement over the E-P3 when shooting low light and high ISO. NOW, FINALLY, this is usable in low light. The files stay sharp and what you see below are all samples from ISO 3200-12,800 processed from RAW with ALL NOISE REDUCTION TURNED OFF! So imagine how good these could look with a little NR.

OMD TIP: I suggest turning OFF Noise Reduction wether shooting JPEG or RAW. If RAW just dial it down using the sliders in your RAW processing software. You will get a little more noise but your file will retain the sharpness and detail as well. 

I prefer the NR off to keep sharpness and detail and ISO 3200 is still really good by M4/3 standards.

ISO 3200 – from RAW – No Noise Reduction at all – click image for larger view and full 100% crop

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ISO 6400 – same thing as above

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ISO 12,800 – same settings as the two above

Even ISO 12,800 seems usable if needed. The high ISO capability is superb and is no longer a weakness of this format.

Here are a couple of shots at ISO 3200-6400 in B&W – straight OOC JPEGS with NR turned off 100%! Shooting in this mode could yield impressive results when shooting street or when you want to add some mood to your images. I can’t believe how good ISO 3200 is now with M4/3!

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ISO 6400? No problem

AF Speed

The AF speed is about the same as it is on the E-P3 in real world use, which is really fast. Olympus says it is a bit faster though and I can’t argue as I really have had no delays or hunts at all. What is really cool is using the touch screen to touch and shoot. One touch on the back and you not only get instant focus on what you touch but the camera will then fire and take the shot. I made a video showing a comparison in low light with the Fuji X-Pro 1. If you are a Fuji X-Pro 1 user and are happy with it, I suggest you do NOT watch the video. The bottom line FACT of the matter is that the Olympus focuses MUCH faster than the X-Pro 1, especially in low light where the Fuji does indeed struggle. On the flip side, the OM-D can’t compete with the Fuji in the IQ department.

So overall I have no complaints with the AF speed of the OM-D. I did NOT try shooting fast action or sports so can not really comment on the speed of the tracking. I would guess that it would snot compete with a upper end DSLR though. Still, for M4/3, this is about as fast as it gets and it blazes past the Fuji’s and Sony offerings.

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The Art Filters -Great for fun JPEG shooting

One more thing the Olympus offers is the Art Filters that have been in every camera since the E-P1. Now we get quite a few filters but I still really only enjoy the Grainy B&W, Cross Process and sometimes the Dramatic Tone in B&W (the pic above was shot in this mode). You can access any art filter by pressing the OK button and quickly going to the picture style choices.

The Pinhole Art filter will vignette the image and richen the colors

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Grainy B&W

The included filters include soft focus, pop art, key line, dramatic tone, grainy B&W, sepia, light tone, cross process, pale and light color and pinhole. There is not much to say on these as I have talked about them in the previous pen reviews and they are basically the same.

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Compared To…

Being added May 16th-20th, come back and check!

Olympus E-M5 pros and cons

Pros

  • Small size but great feel and build
  • weather sealed and splash proof
  • Built in EVF
  • Swivel LCD
  • Much improved high ISO performance over previous PEN cameras
  • Super fast AF speed
  • Much improved HD video quality
  • 5-Axis IS works extremely well
  • Price is right at $999 for body only
  • Grip accessory makes the camera feel REALLY good
  • Has all of the same Olympus color, art filters and features
  • Touch screen LCD works amazingly well for shooting
  • There are some amazing TOP NOTCH lenses available for the system
  • Image quality is excellent as is dynamic range
  • Shoot in different aspects and EVF will show these aspects as well
Cons
  • Some buttons on the back are a bit too small
  • Slight hum when camera is on, but only heard when you are in a quiet room
  • camera can feel too small without grip
  • Grip is $299 – wish it was $199
  • Battery life is about 300 shots which is low compared to some other cameras

My Bottom Line Conclusion on the Olympus E-M5. 

So here we are at the end of this 6300 word review. The OM-D has impressed me and met all of my expectations. It seems Olympus has been getting better and better with each new release, so they have been listening to our wish lists. I have loved all of the PEN series cameras even though when I look back at the E-P1 it was seriously crippled in comparison to what we have to choose from today. The E-M5 is a serious camera with serious capabilities. When you shoot it with some of the quality glass you feel like you are shooting with a quality tool, and that is because you actually are.

I like to say that if a camera motivates you to shoot that is a huge step in the right direction. This camera motivates me to want to shoot with it, much like the little but extremely fun and useful Nikon V1 did when I reviewed it. I have not had this much FUN shooting and reviewing a camera since the E-P3 :) Yep, these camera are not only serious but fun as well! Do not confuse that with me calling it a toy as it is not, and anyone who says it is a toy is either a full frame fanatic or has never used the E-M5. Besides, cameras do not make the image, the Photographer does.

If you want something easy to shoot that can grow with you over time, the E-M5 is a great choice. It is amazingly versatile as well and it no longer has limitations of the 1st gen Micro 4/3 cameras as the sensor is now capable of great low light shots using higher ISO. The AF is blazing fast and accurate though I did have a few missed shots using the 45 1.8 where the camera focused BEHIND the subject. To be fair, the NEX-7 does this all the time with the Zeiss 24 and  the Fuji X100 and X-Pro 1 did it as well.

Even so, this camera rocks. No, it will not give you full frame quality. You will not get that Leica look nor will you have the capabilities of a Nikon D800. BUT if you want a small little well made powerhouse that does almost no wrong, the E-M5 is one of my TOP picks right now in the smaller camera/larger sensor market. In fact, I bought mine and am going to keep it to replace my E-P3 that I sold a little while ago. BTW, The handling without the grip is a bit on the small and cramped side, but with the grip it is fantastic.

If you want a small system that offers fast AF, great metering and offers just about everything you could ask for including super HD video, the best IS system of any mirror less camera to date and well, a camera that just plain works, then take a long hard look at the E-M5.

To all of those who feared M4/3 in the past, fear no more. The E-M5 is versatile, capable, fun, serious, well built and offers everything we can ask for in a take anywhere camera. BRAVO OLYMPUS! I highly recommend this one guys as I can not imagine anyone not liking it (as long as you have at least one good lens). Yes, Olympus  has paid tribute to the original OM series with the E-M5 and they did it well.

My recommended lenses for the OM-D E-M5

The Olympus 12mm f/2 – At $799 it is not cheap, but it is quality all the way. Superb lens for this camera system. This is a 24mm equivalent. (see more shots in my E-P3 review)

The Olympus 45 f/1.8 – Great for portraits and shallow depth of field. This will give you a 90mm equivalent. $399 (quick review here)

The Panasonic 14 f/2.5 – Want a less expensive wide angle prime? This one is just about as good as the 12 for MUCH less! (review here)

The Panasonic 25 f/1.4 – A Panasonic/Leica collaboration so it has to be good right? A 25 Summilux for your M4/3. $539 but worth it though the lens is larger and rattles the aperture when you are powered on. (quick review here)

The Panasonic 20 f/1.7 – The original and classic! This is a great lens and if you can find it, buy it! (review here)

The Panasonic 45-200  – (for those who want a good quality tele zoom on the cheap) (see it in use in my G2 review)

The Voigtlander 17 f/0.95 – This one is big, it is heavy, but it gives you the speed you sometimes need!

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More samples

Below you can find more snaps I shot while I was reviewing the camera. They are a mix of JPEG and RAW and with various lenses. This camera was so much fun I found myself snapping shots of almost anything :)

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May 032012
 

On the road with the Olympus OM-D

by Colin Steel – See his blog HERE

China, Part 1

Hey fellow photo travelers and camera addicts, welcome to the first of a three-part set of posts on my first trip to the Fujian coast of Southern China. This first post has two distinct themes; firstly, it focuses on my experiences on the road with the Olympus OMD, which has been very interesting, and secondly I am going to have a look at shooting pattern which is the primary reason to visit this part of China. I have had the OMD for two weeks now but this was the first chance I have had to travel with it to get to know it better in some diverse shooting situations. In some ways this was the perfect trip to try it out on as it poured of rain every day except the first and I got a chance to use it with a variety of lenses from my fave 14mm f2.5 to the 45-200 mm zoom. I also took along the new Sigma 30mm f2.8 and have a few shots and some thoughts on it as a newcomer to the M43 range.

Fujian and Pattern

The Fujian coastline is famous for its shellfish, fishing and seaweed harvesting, and all along the coast there are intricate layouts of channels and bamboo poles along the beaches and estuaries. It’s these channels, sandbanks and poles that create the much sought after patterns and all it takes is the right vantage point, some half decent light and you have hours of interesting shooting on your hands. This leads me to my first observation on the OMD and that is that I found battery life not to be so great in extended use and I reckon it would take two to three batteries to get me through a full day of travel shooting. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to source spares in time for this trip so had to stop shooting on a few occasions when the juice ran out. I don’t see the OMD as any worse than similar cameras in this class but I did use the rear screen more than I thought and had several dawn to dusk days of shooting. Just pointing this out and I will be better prepared next time. As ever on a trip like this its always wise to have a back-up, particularly if you are using a small cam system like M43 and I took along a G3 and also a little Fuji F600 P&S.

Like many coastal areas, the weather in Fujian can be unpredictable and unfortunately for most of the trip we got caught in some really wet, misty weather. This is far from a show-stopper though, it just creates a different shooting environment and you have to get on with it. I think the second shot above is a very good example of this where the misty light forced a hi-key look and I think it worked rather well.

Before we look at how the OMD and M43 lenses worked in this environment a quick word about shooting these patterns from a technique and style perspective. Photography is hugely popular in China and there is a kind of style that is expected when shooting these scenes. For example, to the Chinese mind the landscape and nature should be large and any humans small by comparison. The conventional idea is to shoot down from on high, frame your subject entering from the bottom left and work to get the pattern interesting through either using the poles, sandbanks or waves. As I have written before in a previous blog, I think these location cliche shots are incredibly important but you should try to put your own unique take on it whether that be by varying the rules a little or using the light differently. Because of the poor weather I was forced to use a high key look and its worth mentioning here that its very easy to underexpose these so keep the exposures up to the right and don’t be afraid to use a stop or more of positive compensation. On the shooting technique for these I didn’t use a tripod but instead used the pistol grip I showed in the last post and this gave me an incredibly stable hold on the OMD which was mounted with the Lumix 45-200mm. I found this to be a really neat, stable shooting set-up for this kind of landscape photography and can highly recommend it. All you have to do is remember to switch off the Lumix stabilization on the lens and let the OMD’s marvelous in-camera stabilization do its stuff. It goes without saying that you should try to stay at sensible shutter speeds for what is a pretty healthy 400mm equivalent max zoom but I had few problems at 1/250 and lower if I was careful. I can’t recommend this set up highly enough, the zoom is a cracker and I enjoyed watching my travel companions lug there pro bodies, 70-200’s and tripods up to the vantage points while I had the tough little OMD and the small M43 lenses to carry :)

Here is the OMD looking rather splendid with the pistol grip and my favorite lens the 14mm F2.5 Lumix. This shot was taken with the Lumix G3 and Sigma 30mm which I took as a back-up camera and I have to say that I found its overall performance to be not in the same league as the OMD, but more on that comparison in the next post. The Sigma lens is an ok performer and pretty sharp but I didn’t find it as useful overall as I thought it would be. At f2.8 it sits a bit uncomfortably between the much more able 20mm F1.7 and lovely 45mm F1.8 Olympus.

Going back to technique for a moment, it’s also desirable to make sure your subject doesn’t overlap the darker background areas and try to show the full reflection if possible, just good compositional basics. Incidentally, I managed to download the new Adobe Lightroom4-1 beta release which has the OMD RAW converter so I had a go at the RAW files and I have to say they looked good and stood up well to the Hi-key work although the sunset shot above didn’t need so much because the light was the best we had on the trip and I set the OMD to shade white balance for that nice glow. Here’s a slightly different angle so that you can get a better idea of the overall scene from the vantage point.

One thing to watch out for when shooting late in the day is to milk the scene to its last as just when the light was going I thought the shooting was over but I noticed the fisherman going to spread the nets and managed to get a nice pattern as he moved into the arrangement. This is pretty low light stuff at a long zoom and the OMD 45-200 combo handled it with ease.

Returning to the flat, diffuse light issue for a moment, I see a lot of comments about M43 that criticizes the lack of DoF. I have to say that I am totally bemused by this and have found that I have ‘lost’ more shots (creatively) through having too little DoF than too much. I have many shots taken with my D3 and 50 f1.4 where I have nailed the closest eye but don’t like how quickly the focus falls off on the rest of the subject. Narrow DoF is without doubt a useful technique but I find that for travel use in particular there is more advantage in the M43 sensors DoF range, so far from being a drawback, and in this lower light, it is without doubt a very distinct benefit.

In any case the shallow DoF is there anyway if your technique is right as this G3 shot with the Sigma 30mm at f 2.8 shows. This isn’t even that fast a lens but any more shallow DoF and the photo would have completely lost its sense.

I don’t want to labour the DoF topic too much, but it is my personal view that this is simply not an issue with the OMD, a good lens and decent compositional technique will give you shallow DoF if you desire it for creative effect.

Shooting Vertical

I noticed that my travel companions didn’t shoot vertically very often and it was evident in many of the local images that I looked at that horizontal view was predominant. I think you have to be careful when shooting these natural patterns that you don’t get stuck in the conventional horizontal landscape view as many of the more interesting patterns actually emerge in the vertical. As always, it’s simply good camera craft to change your angle and view frequently and I developed a reverse shooting technique for vertical shooting with the OMD and pistol grip. I found that by holding the pistol grip in my right hand I could get a very solid hold and trip the shutter button with my left index finger. It sounds a bit awkward but if you are using a pistol grip give it a try to see if it works for you.

 

I personally really like this compressed vertical look that you get when using very long telephotos. It seems to look more elegant and interesting to my eye. You can compare these two vertical shots with the ones from the same scenes in shots two and three for contrast. I don’t think either view is better but I do think they are nice variations.

Finally on the subject of view and framing, don’t forget to try a different crop if it fits the subject, sometimes a 16×9 crop will enhance a scene for example.

Oh, and its also worth trying some variation on the editing technique, this is very de-saturated but somehow I like it.

 

Pattern is Everywhere

Since we are on the theme of shooting pattern, it’s not only during the location shooting that you need to be aware and its worth keeping a camera with you always on these trips. This is a real benefit of the OMD, its small, discrete, fast and easy to work with in use. The only real issues I had with it were a couple of physical niggles and I will summarize those at the end. I saw the following shot while we were waiting for our driver and caught the subject passing through the shadow pattern.

I really like this kind of shot and in many ways find this more interesting than the vantage point formula takes. Incidentally, if you are using the Lightroom release I mentioned, it doesn’t complete the conversion to allow the use of plug-ins so I couldn’t get this shot out to Silvereffex pro where I think it would have looked great. I ended up using a Lightroom plug in downloaded free and it gives a rather nice de-saturated look. I liked the scene so much that I had our driver take a portrait of me which is intended to reflect my frustration with the Chinese internet censorship that prevented me from getting to my own blog or any of the other photo blogs that give me my daily fix :)

Anyway, the OMD handled all of the contrasty scenes I threw at it with aplomb and there is no doubt in my mind that the sensor is a cut above the G3, it handles higher ISO better to my eyes and the RAW files seem to have more to them. There is no science to this from me but if you want to look at the detailed testing then I guess the DP Review one will satisfy you, personally I think it might be better to try one yourself or wait for more ‘real world’ takes from Steve and others who are more interested in how the camera works in use.

OMD For Travel Summary

Lets cut to the chase, this is an absolutely outstanding travel camera, it’s weatherproofing and sealing makes it ideal for the beach, rain and humid mist that is often encountered in Asian travel situations. It is very versatile and when coupled with the excellent Lumix and Olympus lenses can cover off everything from environmental portraiture to the long-range pattern shots shown in this post. I just love the above portrait of Mr Zhang Han Zhong, who is chairman of the Hui An photographic Society and an extremely nice guy.

The OMD is also very robust and well put together, the only minor niggles I have were picked up by Robin Wong and others in early use and relate to the misting up of the EVF in damp conditions. I don’t really see that there is much Olympus could do about this and don’t consider it a design flaw as such, just try to keep water off it if you can and when it goes you obviously have to default to the rear screen. I found it helped to use a ziplock bag which I had to use in the rain as I didn’t have the weather-sealed kit lens. It also clears pretty quickly when it gets dry. On the subject of the viewfinder, be very careful with the rubber eyecup which comes loose easily and I nearly lost it a few times. I might pop a tiny spot of glue on the corner to hold it. I also took a S$7 small 7eleven umbrella with me and the OMD handles so well that I was able to hold the brolly against my shoulder and shoot at the same time. Take a white one and it can double as a diffuser or you can even shoot a flash into or through it.

I mentioned the battery life previously and it also takes a long time to charge the battery so I fully intend to get three as soon as they are available, just be aware of this if you are intending to travel with one.

Fujian Locations

In case you are thinking of making this kind of trip, the beaches shown are at Xiao Hao, Dong Bi, Sa Jiang and Qu Di. The trip I went on was with an old friend Vicky Yeow who runs her own photo travel company vickyphotographyworkshops and I can highly recommend her. Unless you are very familiar with the area you will never find the proper vantage points or interesting shooting sites, and its also critical to go at the right time for tides and so on. On the equipment front, a long zoom is essential and you may want to consider a tripod although I found my pistol grip set up and the superb stabilization in the OMD was just fine. I would suggest that the OMD Lumix 14 & 20 primes along with the 45-200 zoom and Olympus 45 make a state of the art travel set up that can take on anything.

 

Well that’s about it for this first post folks, I will be covering off more people orientated shots at different locations including the fascinating ‘Earth buildings’ in the upcoming posts and will also look more closely at the Sigma lens and some shots from the G3.

I feel I have been a bit lightweight on discussing the OMD here but I think that is simply down to the fact that it is such a good travel camera that there is really nothing to comment on other than how well it does the job when coupled with the right lenses.

I hope the somewhat unusual shooting of the pattern scenes with it have been of some interest and as ever I look forward to any comments or questions that you may have.

Until next time, safe traveling.

Colin

You can order the Olympus OM-D E-M5 at B&H Photo HERE

May 012012
 

1st Quick Look at the Voigtlander 17 and 25 f/0.95 on the OM-D

Even though I am on vacation visiting family I am still trying to get some work done! The internet connection in my moms town is awful, at about 300kbps (I have 55mbps at home) and all I have with me is a bare bones laptop with lightroom (and I normally use old school Photoshop CS) so I will keep this one short and to the point.

As many of you may know Voigtlander released a metal constructed, Leica like lens for Micro 4/3 a while ago. That lens is a 25mm f/0.95 and believe it or not, I have never even tried it. I was always a fan of the Olympus and Panasonic lenses and had mixed results with M4/3 and expensive Leica glass and shoddy adapters so I never really messed with manual glass on Micro 4/3 much. I know many do though and love it.

In any case, today while visiting my Mother in Illinois the UPS guys dropped off a box from B&H Photo that included not only the 25mm f/0.95 but also the brand new 17mm f/0.95 and yes I am in the midst of doing my OM-D E-M5 review so this is perfect!

My 1st thoughts on the lenses…WOW. The build is superb. These are heavy-duty lenses, and feel more solid than even the 50 1.1 they sell for the Leica mount. They are somewhat thin, solid, heavy-ish and look like they could last a lifetime. After shooting the incredible and highly recommended 12mm and 45mm, these feel like you are shooting with a coke can on your little Micro 4/3! But are they worth the weight? At around $1200 each, these are NOT cheap lenses. At the same  time, how much would a 35mm and 50mm Leica equivalent cost you? Seeing that Leica does not sell a 17 or 25mm lens, it’s not even possible but something like the 24 Summilux will set you back many more thousands of dollars than the Voigtlander ($6995 is the cost of the Leica), and the Voigtlander starts with an even faster aperture of  f/0.95 not 1.4.

The big question is…are these lenses up to the task? Before even shooting them I knew they would be as we are dealing with Micro 4/3, not a full frame super sensor. I always felt the Leica glass was too good for the Micro 4/3 format, so these two lenses that were made for this format should do well.

I will have much more from these two lenses as well as the 12mm, 45mm and even the little SLR Magic 11mm 1.4 in my review for the OM-D E-M5 (in about 2 weeks, after I return from Berlin on May 12th) but here are some 1st snaps I shot outside of my moms place. Literally spent 15 minutes snapping what I could just to see the character of the lenses. Also, these are all OOC JPEGS from Lightroom.

Shooting them on the OM-D was pleasant. Olympus did not put any focus peaking on the E-M5 so it is not as quick and effortless as the Sony NEX-7 when focusing manually but I assigned the fn2 button to magnify so it is quick and easy when composing with the EVF to blow up the image to where you can easily manually focus.

No processing, no editing, no cropping, nada…remember, these are just JPEGS right out of the camera. More to come!

1st some snaps from the 17mm wide open at 0.95

below: f/1.4

Next two: f/0.95

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and the 25 f/0.95 at 0.95

below: at f/1.4

and again at 0.95 – I have heard this lens was soft at 0.95 – I am not finding this to be the case. 

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