The Olympus OMD-EM1 goes to Spain by Neil Buchan-Grant


The Olympus OMD-EM1 goes to Spain

by Neil Buchan-Grant

I have a few pictures I thought your readers may like to see, taken over two trips to Spain and Italy this year. These were all shot with the Olympus OMD EM1 camera, lenses specified below. I am still using the Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH, currently on the Sony A7, but in general I find the OMD to be the camera I reach for first.

The first visit was to the village of Vejer de la Frontera near Seville in Spain. This hilltop pueblo blanco remains quite unspoilt compared to the towns on the costas further east. I was there to shoot the Feria, a 5 day-long party with fairgrounds, displays of prize cattle, equestrian displays, flamenco dancing, live music and many hospitality tents where everyone is welcome. Vejer is a special place anyone who wants to experience the real Spain should have on their list.

My second trip was to Venice where I and the professional landscape photographer Steve Gosling, ran a workshop for 9 students who came from all over Europe to learn about landscape and people photography. Steve concentrated mostly on the landscape and architecture and I focussed on the street photography and model portraits. This was an Olympus sponsored workshop so most of the students were using OMD cameras. It was a punishing schedule as Steve was up at the crack of dawn and the day would finish quite late, often followed by communal food and drinks!

Andalusia Spain – Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 (at f2.8 23mm) This shot was made with the aid of a polarising filter in the village of Vejer de la Frontera near Seville. Its a traditional village but this is one of their newer buildings.


Andalusia Spain – Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 (at f4 12mm) This is Canos de Meca beach, which is about 15 minutes from Vejer de la Frontera, also made with a polarising filter.


Andalusia Spain – Pana-Leica DG25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) This chap was visiting the Vejer annual ‘Feria’ a post easter spring celebration which combines music and dance with horse and bull displays.


Andalusia Spain – Pana-Leica DG25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) The Paul Newman of cats! in the back street of Vejer de la Frontera


Venice Italy – Olympus 45mm 1.8 (at 1.8) Professional model and television presenter Chiara Sgarbossa wearing her own Venetian mask, maintains her composure as she is surrounded by hoards of tourists during our shoot in Piazza San Marco.


Venice Italy – Olympus 75mm 1.8 (at f1.8 1/30s handheld ISO 2000) A romantic moment caught at around midnight in the dimly lit Piazza San Marco


Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4, 1/8000 with 3 stop ND) This shot was made through the window of a Vaparetto water bus stop.


Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) Model and 3rd year law student Ira Lothiriel is captured in the basement of an old venetian house with natural light spilling in from the canal.


Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) Model Chiara Sgarbossa was laughing because the gondoliers below the bridge we were shooting on were serenading her. She handled their advances with movie star charm!


Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) This charismatic lady was looking around the superb Irving Penn exhibition at Palazzo Grassi. The large windows in here were covered in white muslin making huge softboxes!


Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) Ira Lothiriel in one of the sun-drenched squares, lit with a reflector.


Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) Chiara Sgarbossa lit with a reflector


Venice Italy – Olympus 75mm 1.8 (at f1.8) A wedding shoot in Piazza San Marco and a generous model/bride


Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 (at f2.8 40mm) On old lady taking some shade near Piazza San Marco as others are served iced tea.


Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 (at f2.8 12mm) This man was seen in Piazza San Marco at 5.30am, an Italian you’d think, but no, he was a Londoner killing time until his flight home that day.


Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) This man was very keen to help me scout for locations to shoot in. Nothing to do with the beautiful model that I was with of course!..:)


Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f3.2) This Chihuahua was wary of my lens!


Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) Model Chiara Sgarbossa shot in a Venice alleyway, with the help of a reflector


Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) Ira Lothiriel posing on one of the many bridges that span the back streets of Venice


Neil Buchan-Grant
British Travel Press Photographer of the Year


  1. All the photos have that unmistakable ‘Neil Buchan-Grant’ signature and as a consequence are really enjoyable and thought provoking — that and the vicarious thrill one gets from watching a great photographer, using the world’s best equipment, creating pictures we’d all love to make but never will.

  2. I am the proud owner of an EM1 and EP5 after selling my monstrous Canon full frame outfit. Photography has came back to life for me. Tremendous set up from Olympus with stunning image quality and diversity. Amazing shots Neil, love them all

  3. Question is… could you do this series just as well with the Fuji Xt1? With the same ease and pleasure of use? And using Fuji glass? [bit of a stretch there..maybe] ? TG

  4. These are excellent shots Neil. Most of them especially the b&w photos have real Leica look. Well done.

  5. My own personal journey has been a love, hate love one with M43. Shots like these make me happy i stuck with my EM5’s. They deserve more respect than I gave them, but now have it (6d Canon could not out do them in real use!).

  6. Hi Neil,

    Some wonderful excellent photo’s you have made. I was lucky to join the Olympus Venice workshop myself. Thanks for running an excellent workshop together with Steve Gosling. You and Steve really took the time to answer all the questions to us participants and helped out with practical hands on in the field. I really enjoyed every bit of it. I do have one Critical not; Somebody told me “I think you should only ever show your best work to anyone and especially online” That I don’t understand why you send in photo number 15, the man in the red suit. Look at pavement right under. It looks horrible. I know you tried to delete your own shadow, because I was there when you edited it in Photoshop. It looks bad. I remember you had another one of the man in the red suit at San Marc’s square right under the pillars, that one was much better!

    Regards, Chris

    • Hej Chris – I had to look twice to see what you meant – i don’t think it is so noticeable unless you knew what to look for – as you did, but once you point it out it is pretty obvious. Bad photographer, Neil! No biscuit! 🙂

      ps – love the first one. And the rest.

  7. some excellent shots, excellent technical quality
    I think some also do not deserve to be here, it is better to trim down the collection
    Of course, probably for you all are perfect as they bring moments back in the memory, but for general viewing public not all are so intriguing.
    Still, those that are great, like 1st one, cat, first model picture are truly great.

  8. I’ve seen many beautiful pictures with EM1, I hope you will make testing the newest EM10 shooting close up model like these, thanks

  9. Great shots, Neil. The use of the reflector made a big difference in those shots. Venice offers so many opportunities . . . I too have an EM-1 with just about all the lenses Olympus offers for the Micro 4/3 camera. I don’t have any problem with noise in my shots . well above ISO400. You captured the right smiles and expressions and mood in these shots. What do you think of the Pano 42.5 f1.2?

    • cheers Ken
      the 42.5 is a great lens, I mean a really great lens! but I can’t afford one now and the Oly 45 is so good I’m not sure I will ever buy one. but if money were no object, yes I’d love one!

  10. Beautiful photography subjects, love them all, must be careful with to bright surfaces and when using reflector as some of them have almost lost the subtle color.

  11. Your images helped me to convince a friend that M4/3 is a very viable documentary format, with the right lenses. Excellent and inspiring! Thanks for sharing.

  12. Wonderful work. Just curious…if you had to carry just one lens and choose between the 12-40 and the 25, which would it be. Okay, you could throw in the 75 as well.

    • cheers Jim
      I’d probably take the 25 if I was hoping to shoot people or at night, and the 12-40 if it was more general travel stuff, but the beauty of this kit is it all fits in a small bag so I usually take both! the 75 is really a specialist kind of lens, wonderful quality but of less use than the others to me for the type of stuff I do…

  13. Love the pictures.You can tell professional as they weed out the poorer pics,and only publish the best. Can someone tell me why the blown up pictures are so clear and sharp on my 27″ monitor when others like Steve Huff Leica C pics blown up look soft and without contrast. This often is the case where pics taken with Leica lenses often look out of focus.This is not a criticism, but would like to know if the parameters of the pictures submitted are different or is this a true reflection of the actual quality of the pics submitted.

  14. Especially love the first one for its composition but must say that the Chihuahua shot falls into the ‘Priceless’ category! Great pictures all around!

    • cheers Melu, The dog was a tad constipated and had been rooted to the spot in the familiar ‘doing the business’ crouch for at least a minute. He bared his teeth and growled a bit when I approached but he was too distracted with his predicament to actually move!..:) poor thing!

  15. Wonderful photographs. I have the humble Panasonic GF6 which takes very decent pictures. Micro four thirds should be around for a long time.

  16. Great work, A’Neil. A fantastic exhibit of portraiture of all types and lovely moments …. Your comfort with subjects is clear…

  17. really cool shots, but as Italian I guess that the title should be revised 🙂

  18. brilliant … great pictures .. I am also finding the OMD EM1 is my first choice camera …. 5Dii i too big in comparison .. often take out the EM1 and M9 .. i like the Chihuahua …

  19. Beautiful diverse set of Pictures – I like both, the model shots as well as the Lady in the coffee and in the Museum …

  20. Brilliant! Especially love the profile (face mostly covered by the hat) shot of Chiara by the Venice canal.

    Best regards

  21. This is some on the best work I have seen with the EM-1…Though it must have been difficult in such a boring location and with all of those ugly subjects. Kidding aside, it makes me regret abondoning m4/3. I started with the EP-1 and ended with the EM-5. I absolutely loved the CV glass- esp the 17.5/0.95 and the Oly 60 macro. But I have found similar sanctuary with the Nokton 58/1.4 and my Df.

    You have made the PANL 25 intriguing. Not hard to understand for most I’m sure. But, I had that lens and could never get comfortable with it. Ultimately I abondoned the system for Leica M8 and M6 and the Nikon Df. I try not to look back. You can only shoot so many formats. Nevertheless, you presentation has left me reminiscent. Thank you for that.

    • Neil is consistent and has shown work equal to this on these very pages in the past. He is a master and shows that the E-M1 is indeed just as capable of “pro” results as any camera out there regardless of sensor size.

  22. Great pictures with a little monster. One question – what are you doing to reduce the noise. I find my E-M1 to be noisy even at ISO 400 under not so ideal lighting conditions. Or is it because these images have been down-sampled, the noise level is minimal?

    • excuse me for chiming in. as an em1 user: take a series of shots of differing shutter speeds and find out the slowest you can go. i find i can get sharp shots at the lowest iso’s down to 1/30sec and even 1/20. or set the delay between shutter press and the taking of the shot (for static shots that is).. and don’t forget to roll your finger over the shutter button rather than pressing down on it. or use a good noise reduction software (lightroom is great).. or noise ninja .. or Dfine2. worst comes to worst.. if a rich aunt dies and leaves you money, buy the 12-40 2.8 lens which will allow you to use higher shutter speeds.

    • The best way to get the most out of the Olympus files is to do the initial processing using the Olympus Viewer 3 software bundled with the camera.

      Yes, it adds another step to one’s workflow, and no, it’s not the best program to work with as far as user interface. But it will do the absolute best job of extracting the most out of the Olympus files, since it’s mated to their sensors.


      1. Open and do your initial RAW development in Viewer 3. If you want to take things even further still in your development, save the file out as a TIFF, then…

      2. Open the TIFF in ACR and tweak basic development further…

      3. Go on to Photoshop for further refinement, customization of file.

      You can extract better results from the Olympus native RAW files doing it this way than you can by going straight into ACR or Lightroom.

  23. Shouldn’t the title be “EM1 goes to Italy”…? since there are a lot more pictures from Italy than from Spain?
    Very nice pictures indeed with great composition and framing! To be honest I wouldn’t have posted the first two. To me they are miles behind the following ones. I also agree that in some the focus is not totally accurate but that is not enough to lower the excellent quality of the pictures.

  24. Great work once again Neil. Like always you happen to come across some of the most beautiful subjects to capture across the globe. In that regards I have to say that we all make our own luck and you do it very well. You will have to request Olympus Australia to get you a ticket down South.

  25. Some great shots. My favs are no1 and the bride (even though the woman behind is a bit distracting). This shot shows so much personalty – and beauty.
    I found the Italians very open to being photographed. I too had a friendly bride happy to be photographed when I was in Verona.

  26. Lovely photos,and thank you for sharing them! Based on your experience, do you find lots of difference between the Sony A7+Leica Summilux and the OMD+Panaleica 25?

    • Thanks! Yes there’s a difference. I quite like the level of subject isolation the 25mm gives me, but to get it, you have to be quite close to your subject. The 50mm M lens allows me the same look at a greater distance to the subject. When I use the 50mm for closer portraits, I get more subject isolation. They both have a lovely bokeh which works well with out of focus highlights in particular. They are both sharp and contrasty wide open, but the M lens has the edge on IQ understandably.

      Being manual focus, I use the 50mm on the A7 only when I need that extra dramatic level of isolation and when I have plenty of time to shoot. If I’m out on the street, I normally use the 25mm on the EM1. The speed of a good AF system is a big factor when it comes to practical use

  27. I envy these nice shots. In some pics, however, the focus is slightly off the eyes. I am just saying because it happens to me frequently and I am now trying to take care of it in my shots

      • No, not jealous. Motivated to do better myself 🙂

        For the focus issue, it might just be me. But in picture 8 (Ira), the focus is on the left eye which is further away from the observer than the right eye, which (again, maybe just for me) doesn’t fell right when looking at the picture. In picture 11 (Ira in black dress), again my view tends to be drawn to the top of her dress, which is perfectly in focus, while at the same time I would want to look at her eyes, which seem to be slightly of focus – which for me creates some unpleasant tension when looking at this picture. Same is true for me with the picture with the man with the yellow shoes, although here I guess it was on purpose that the focus is on the shoes rather than on his face.

        Apart from that, lovely, adorable and stunning pics. So take my comment as “Jammern auf sehr hohem Niveau”, as we would say in German. (nitpicking)

        • Whichever photo’s are in focus or not, I recognize what cube says. When taking portraits with my 25/1.8 I have to be really careful I or my subject doesn’t change the distance. Just 2 cm/1″ is enough to shift the focus plain.

          I also experienced it when photographing two people together (the typical family shots). I have to really take care to get them on the same distance if possible. Otherwise I have to stop down (f/2.8), costing my some background blur but having both people in focus.

          Yep, life isn’t easy with the shallow DOF of Micro Four Thirds, haha.

          • Just one comment…….on you site you reframed the girl in the hat…..much, much, much better Neil, so why?

            Greets, Ed.

  28. Stunning photo’s! I have the EM1 and Sony A7s. What adapter are you using to get the 25mm lens to fit the MFT and/or Sony FE mount?

    • Hi Thanks! The Leica 25mm lens referred to in many of these pictures is the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 lens native MFT lens which needs no adaptor on the EM1. The lens I use on the Sony A7 (no pics here) is the Leica M 50mm f1.4 full frame lens

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