Monday, 24 December 2012

I have had my Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the 12-50 mm kit lens for about 3 weeks now and I am constantly amazed by this piece of kit. It seemed expensive at the time but the image quality is excellent, heaps better than the Olympus Pen E-P5, and the 12-50 mm kit lens is very useful being weather proof, macro (approximately half life-size) and going to a respectable 24 mm full-frame equivalent.

Here is a photo from the kit lens in macro mode, hand-held and at a distance of approximately 0.3 m (or 1 foot in the old language).

Cuttagee Beach jpg

This image is larger than real life even at this modest image size. Macro mode sets the zoom to a fixed focal length of 43 mm. The fold out LCD made this close to ground shot very easy and it was still clear enough in full-sun to frame the image. Quite surprised.

Travelling with the Olympus OM-D and the 12-50mm kit lens seems like an almost perfect holiday combination and gives incredible image quality for the size and cost.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Olympus OM-D and Olympus 12-50mm First Impressions Review

Not an early adopter as I was with the Olympus E-P1 and E-P3, I have finally managed to get around to buying an Olympus OM-D E-P5 with the 12-50mm zoom. I was originally going to get the body only but the price difference between the body and 12-50mm kit price wasn't great, so thought it may be useful to have a weather-proof lens.

Initial impressions were mixed but it didn't take long to realise that good things do come in small packages and the benefits of the OM-D are quite deceptive.

The fold out LCD is brilliant and I love the EVF - nice, large and bright. It is taking a little while to get use to the controls. I like the positive nature of the on-off switch, but I am less warm about the location of the switch. I guess I have to get use to it. The size and location of the playback and Fn1 buttons is poor but I will get use to it. The lack of labelling on the control buttons is odd but understandable - I have reassigned most of the buttons to suit my needs anyway. In general the controls are more positive than on the E-P1 and E-P3 and the off-set location of the two control wheels took a little while to get use to. Overall-  a lovely body and great to use.

The 12-50mm lens was a real surprise. It has had some poor reviews and I am less than excited about the f/6.3 aperture at the wrong end. The lens cannot even manage to maintain f/3.5 at 14mm and is a poor f/5.1 at 25mm. This really isn't good enough. The lens should be a half a stop faster across the entire range.

The macro function works really well, I have no issues with sharpness or distortion and the 12mm to 50mm range is excellent. In practice, I haven't found the f/6.3 aperture to be a problem and the lens seems quite sharp and excellent for a low-cost kit zoom. Build quality of the lens is excellent other than the slightly noisy and course geared feel of the manual zoom. Other than the aperture, that is the only time I feel the lens has been built to a price. It would have been nice to have a variable speed to the power zoom, or at least two speeds. I find it a bit slow to go from one end to the other but it would be good for video work. No problems with vignetting or general image quality.

It is taking me a little while to get use to the camera. My first real play was with some low-light work and I haven't been using the Olympus E-P3 much for that as I have not been satisfied with noise control or colour balance for long exposures. Neither are a problem for the OM-D. In fact, low light performance seems better than my Nikon D90 in all respects other than one and that is hot and stuck pixels for long exposures. It isn't bad, but forgetting that when left on sequential shooting, the Olympus doesn't apply dark-frame noise control, there is a little bit of an issue there but it isn't bad. While I never have to bother about it with my Nikon D90, the Olympus E-P1 and E-P3 would result is totally unusable images with the E-P3 slightly worse (in when it became an issue). I was shooting 30 and 40 second images and all were usable. I would be having serious problems at 8 seconds with the E-P3 without the dark-frame noise reduction.

Overall, this is a winner of a camera. Now for some foul weather to test the weather sealing!

Here are some pics...

12mm 1/60s, f/7.1 and ISO1250 (a mistake as I left the camera on auto ISO)

12mm 8 seconds, f/16, ISO200 with a 4-stop (ND16) ND filter. Looks like there is a reflection off the ND filter in that one.

14mm 30 seconds, f/16 and ISO200 with a 1-stop (ND2) filter.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Two Cameras - What to use? What to buy?

I have two camera systems, a Nikon DX system based around a Nikon D90 and an Olympus MFT system based around an Olympus Pen E-P5. I use both cameras but in different ways.

If I am after the best quality image, especially in difficult situations, the hands-down winner is the Nikon D90. It does a wonderful job in low light and especially with my Nikkor 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 zoom. It is a great combination which gives me good quality, a relatively compact kit and good low-light performance.

If I want a bit of fun and don't want to be dragged down by bulky gear (and the Nikon isn't that bulky), then I pick up the Olympus E-P3. The Olympus is the right size, has some nice fast glass to go with it (like the Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95, Olympus 12mm f/2 and 45mm f/1.8 lenses). There is also the lovely little Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5. The Olympus has in-body stabilisation and metering through the lens which doesn't require any electrical contacts on the lens itself so you can generally get correctly metered readings with almost any adapted lens.

It is; however, a love hate relationship with the Olympus. Some areas the camera just isn't up to it. The Olympus E-P3 replaces my earlier E-P1 and is a couple of steps forward and a big leap backwards. Issues with autofocus have been solved with a focus assist lamp, better lenses and better in-camera AF workings. In fact, the autofocus is very good indeed. Where it took a big leap backwards was with colour balance. The original E-P1 was pretty much right almost all the time (maybe somewhat warm under tungsten lighting but that's about it). The E-P3 colour balance is really quite poor; often too blue or too green. Worse still, it doesn't clean up nicely with the 'auto' function in Adobe Camera RAW.

Despite this, I have more fun with the Olympus and use it a lot - probably more so than the Nikon these days.

It is coming up to a time when I am considering upgrading camera bodies. For the Nikon it was going to be the D7000 but I am now thinking the D600 may be the way to go. It will work nicely as a 24mm full-frame camera and I have some full-frame lenses. The lens I use the most on the Nikon D90 is a DX lens - the 10-24mm zoom and it does very nicely as a great wide angle lens. But wait, the D600 can be used as a 10.5mp cropped sensor camera and 10.5mp is quite sufficient (and not much of a drop from 12mp). Problem solved.

For the Olympus, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 gives me a camera with a far better sensor and low light abilities that are better than the D90 and almost a match for the D7000. It is cheap enough and weather proofed. The matching weather proofed 12-50mm lens is an average performer but it does give a "macro" image down to an area of 48 x 36mm (Olympus I believe calls this 1:2 which it would be if the camera had a 35mm full-frame sensor). The flip out LCD would be nice too.

I am in no rush and I would be interested to see if Olympus announce something that is more "semi-professional" but I am guessing that the pending Four Thirds replacement of the E-5 will put that hold for another year.

I cannot end a post without adding a pic, so here is one in Sydney's Hyde Park taken with the Olympus E-P3 and Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 set to around f/1.4 - taken at night of course...

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Samyang 7.5mm fisheye

It has been quite a while since I have added anything to my blog - yep, I am still alive and taking photos - maybe not at quite the same rate.

My latest acquisition is a Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5mm fisheye for my Olympus MFT cameras. It is a lovely little lens and well scaled to the Olympus E-P3.

The proof is always in the photographs and here are a couple...

The first is a fairly standard street scene, the second, I am up close to some flowers. The crimson waratah flowers are about 15cm (6") each. There is a spiral staircase that tapers to look like a rocket and the top-right corner shows part of a dome that is overhead. On the left, an arch takes on an s-shape. Quite interest.

The lens is easy to use but is is manual focus and requires stop-down metering. Neither of these are issues with the fisheye on the Olympus Pen. For focusing, just set to an aperture of f/5.6 or more and focus about midway between the infinity marking and the 0.8m mark and all will be fine. Of course, a depth of field marking for say f/5.6 and f/11 would have been nice and also very easily engraved on the dress rim next to the focus scale. The Olympus Pen cameras work perfectly with stop-down metering and require no fancy electronic connections or menu settings. Just use aperture priority or manual exposure and away you go.

In conclusion, the Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 is a joy to use, and loads of fun. Outstanding value for the $299 including express courier postage.

Monday, 9 April 2012

What is the best time to photograph?

Most people starting out in seaside photography with any real intent favour either the pre-dawn to sunrise period or the sunset to last light period. Certainly my most dramatic shots are from those time periods.

After a while, it all gets too easy and it is just photography by numbers and it is good to try a bit at those times generally deemed to be less suitable. Yesterday, with storm clouds moving overhead I grabbed my camera and strolled down to the beach. The accompanying photo was taken just before 3pm, almost 3 hours before sunset.

Haywards Beach, Bermagui - taken with an Olympus E-P3 with Olympus 12mm f/2 and 2-stop soft grad.

What happened to March?

I try to post something every month but seem to have missed March.

Well on the very last day of March, I did something I hadn't done before - a bit of light painting with lit steel wool.

I organised a late afternoon/night shoot at Little Bay which is a quiet beach in the Eastern Suburbs that few people seem to know about. After the sun went down, the real fun began. This is a group exercise with one or more people required for the light-works. It was fun and very effective.

Nikon D90 and 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR set to 18mm. Set to f/8 at ISO200 for 26 seconds.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Black and White or Colour?

Sometimes I take a picture and it truly amazes me. Compositionally, this image is a bit flawed as it was a grab shot but the most interesting thing of it is the colour, or lack of it.

This photo is in colour but looks like a sepia toned black and white image. The colour is essentially that out of the camera and it was just a brief moment in time after sunrise where this 'monochromatic' shot came into being...

Taken with an Olympus E-P3 and Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Olympus OM-D - interesting

The Olympus OM-D certainly seems an interesting camera. I am not 100% certain that I like the faux SLR styling from a practical point but it certainly ticks a number of boxes for me. A mix of controls not unlike a film camera with more modern stuff on the back, a fold out OLED display - similar to the one on the E-P3 (which is outstandingly good), an integrated EVF, a tough alloy body and a weather sealed body to go with the lenses.

Olympus OM-D on Facebook

Pity I won't be flush with cash.

The other thing of interest would be the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 which would go nicely with my E-P3. That would give me a fast 150mm equivalent lens with autofocus which would be ideal for one of the jobs I have up my sleeve.

Guess I better start saving.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Olympus E-P3 vs Nikon D90 (just for fun)

I have two main camera bodies at the moment, the Olympus E-P3 and the Nikon D90. I use the two cameras in slightly different ways with the Olympus being my light, go anywhere camera, particularly useful when I am travelling or need to be discrete. The Nikon gets first choice when shooting ultra-wide and also very long.

Then Nikon also gets the nod for really low light work although coupling the Olympus to the fabulous Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 or even the new Olympus 12mm f/2 and Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lenses, combined with the lovely OLED display and convenient manual focus controls (particularly with the Olympus 12mm lens), the Olympus is a joy to use.

Overall, the Nikon still wins on image quality and generally less work is required during post processing. The Olympus is definitely the fun camera.

Over the past week I have used both cameras in similar circumstances, and here are some of the results.

Olympus E-P3 and Olympus 12mm f/2

And now for one from the Nikon D90 and Nikkor 10-24mm zoom

Of course it is a bit unfair to compare any of these images as the lighting was quite different in each and there are evening and morning shots too.

Despite the camera and the lens, if you know the limitations of your kit, you can work to get great results. Obviously some things can be more difficult with some combinations of camera and lens but that is where your imagination can take over.