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Moving from Nikon to Olympus


Dallas

I never thought the day would come when I would once again be without a Nikon camera in my kit. There was a brief period between 2001 and 2004 when I shot with Canon EOS but then I returned to my Nikon roots in late 2005 with the purchase of a D70. It wasn’t long before all my EOS kit was traded in for more Nikon lenses and flashes. I was happy again.

 

In 2009 I bought a brand new Nikon D700 and up until 2 days ago I had used that camera almost exclusively for all my professional assignments. Product launches, conferences, product photography, plus of course the wildlife and cultural safaris I’ve been organising all saw the bulletproof Nikon D700 getting used. It never failed me, except for the one time I stupidly broke off the battery compartment door by accident.

 

Photographers are mostly restless creatures. We like to keep pace with technology and having the latest hardware is always something to get enthused about, but since the release of the D700 I have remained very unenthused by anything new that Nikon has brought to market. The D800 with an eye-watering 36 million pixels flies in the face of everything I believe in when it comes to making photography easier, so that model never made it to me. It didn’t help that so many users were reporting serious issues with auto-focus either. The D600 followed as the next FX model and, well, the less said about it the better as far as I’m concerned. A product bellyflop if ever there was one. As we all know a few weeks ago they brought out the Nikon Df, a deliciously sexy looking camera with a price-tag that can only leave one wondering if the brains trust at Nikon HQ have been ingesting some kind of psychotropic substance.

 

The D4 and D3s would have been good for me, but as a regular Joe trying to scratch out a living in sub-Saharan Africa, they remain as financially elusive as buying a new F-type Jaguar.

 

So I got restless and frustrated that Nikon wasn’t bringing out anything I considered a worthy successor to the D700. I also got to the point where I looked at each subsequent Nikon DSLR release and thought to myself, “apart from the sensor, what’s really new here?”. The answer was a deafening nothing. The basic camera remained the same. Heavy, fundamentally mechanical and in some ways fraught with impracticalities when it comes to getting yourself into awkward positions to take photos. I began to look at alternative camera brands.

 

The one that caught my eye was the then new Olympus micro four thirds sensored, retro styled OM-D E-M5. I had previously owned two other Oly m43 bodies in the form of the original Pen E-P1 and E-P2 that I enjoyed using very much, but they couldn’t compete with my D700’s IQ. Eventually I sold them, however the thing that stayed with me about those Oly Pen cameras was just how awesome it was to put them in a little shoulder bag and walk around knowing that I wasn’t going to draw a lot of attention, especially compared to the bag I had to lug around whenever I took my Nikon anywhere.

 

One fine day I found myself visiting a local electronics store and they had an OM-D E-M5 in their display cabinet. I asked the sales person if I could give it a closer look. It didn’t take long for me to know I wanted one. My initial impression was that this was a very robust feeling camera. It had a heft to it that left you with little doubt that it was probably worth the somewhat equivalently hefty price tag. I was intrigued and typically I later became fixated on it, exploring online reviews about the camera with every spare moment. That led me to discover that the OM-D E-M5 was making a lot of very high profile photographers very excited about its capabilities.

 

A few months prior to this I had acquired a second Nikon D700 that had hardly seen any use and with the restlessness for something new growing bigger each day I thought “screw it” and I ended up selling that D700 to get the money to buy this Olympus OM-D E-M5.

 

For a guy who doesn’t usually take risks, this was a big one. I still remember thinking to myself that I must have been crazy to sell a top flight Nikon D700 to buy such a small camera, yet whenever I used the E-M5 I just connected with it on a level that I had never connected with any Nikon DSLR. I loved the touch screen at the back and I loved the fact that wherever I took the camera nobody ever looked at me twice, except to occasionally ask me why I was still shooting with a film camera. In some ways it felt liberating and in others it felt like I was cheating on my wife (entirely metaphorically speaking that is).

 

I bought the E-M5 in August of 2012 and I have loved using it ever since. I own 6 lenses for it at this time and there’s very little it can’t do. On our recent month long safari through South Africa’s Western Cape, Namibia and Botswana I used it 95% of the time while the Nikon D700 sat heavily in my ThinkTank roller case. Looking through the images I took on safari I couldn’t help but wonder why on earth I had sweated bricks dragging a nearly 20kg ThinkTank roller case from Durban to Cape Town on a plane when all I was using on that trip fit perfectly in the ThinkTank Retrospective 5 shoulder bag. My wife’s handbag is bigger than that. The only time I used the D700 with purpose was in Etosha for some wildlife shots using the Sigma 120-300/2.8 OS and then once in Botswana for birds. I think it gave me a dirty look when I did eventually pick it up.

 

While we were on that safari Olympus released a new OM-D body in the form of the E-M1. I remember sitting bolt upright in my hotel bed while I was reading the press release on my iPad. I wanted it right there and then. It addressed every minor shortcoming of the E-M5 (focus tracking being the main bugbear) and it added some other useful features too, not least of which is built-in wifi. Since its release it has been making a lot of photographers very happy. Why shouldn’t I be one of them?

 

Last week I decided that I was going to take another risk. I put my remaining Nikon D700 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens up for sale. While I was doing that I checked out the shutter count on both cameras. The D700 had done just shy of 30,000 frames in almost 5 years. The OM-D had done over 18,000 frames in 15 months. Those numbers translate into 1200 shots a month with the OM-D versus 500 shots a month with the D700. More than double with Olympus. Any misgivings I had had up until that discovery flew right out the window because here was the bald faced truth in numbers that even the most inventive of statisticians could not argue with.

 

A couple of days ago that D700 of mine went to a new home and yesterday so did the Nikon 24-70/2.8 (my most used Nikon lens). For the first time in nearly a decade I do not own a Nikon camera. I have since placed an order for the E-M1, the Olympus 12-40/2.8 and also the Olympus 75-300mm which I have been hearing very good things about. I will use it as a walk around 150-600mm equivalent until I get the 40-150/2.8 Oly next year. That will bring the total number of lenses I have for m43 up to 9, all of which can fit into a very small bag and which cost way less than the equivalent lenses for the F mount.

 

Many people are asking me why I didn’t just hang onto my D700 and wait for Nikon to bring out something that would fit more with my needs. Some of them even call me crazy and shake their heads. I don’t care. The thing is I’ve been waiting for Nikon to bring out this mythical D700 replacement for many years. It ain’t happening. What has happened while I was waiting for Nikon to produce something that meant something to me though is that I have had a mind shift when it comes to what I need to work as a photographer. I don’t need the hassle of a big heavy system of bodies and lenses, nor do I need to “look the part” of being a pro photographer. It’s a pain having to drag heavy gear around with you all the time. All I need is the knowledge that the equipment I am using is capable of performing and right now I am very happy with the performance of the OM-D system and Olympus’ m43 lenses. They make me want to take my camera everywhere and that’s something I just haven’t ever wanted to do with my D700.

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I'm in a similar but not quite identical boat as Dallas. About a year ago, I bought in to the Olympus system. One of the reasons is that I noticed I was picking up my Nikon gear less and less except for action/sports shooting. When thinking of doing other types of shooting, I caught myself saying "ah, screw it, it's just too heavy and conspicuous". So, the gear sat on the shelf.

 

In buying the Olympus gear, I knew there would be limitations and compromises. I also knew from research and a trial run via rental, that with the exception of action/sports photography, the Olympus gear would be more than sufficient for my needs. Now, I don't hesitate to pick up the gear. If you look at most of my recent posts (with the exception of the Spirit Bear photo) you'll see that they were taken with the smaller, lighter gear and in some difficult circumstances. 

 

There's a good deal of truth in the old saying that the best camera is the one you have with you. Richard

 

 

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Dallas' post resonates with me. I am beginning to wonder whether the D700 will ever be replaced and why not. Is it because the D700 was under-priced at launch?

 

I think there's an element of truth in that. The D700 is, I venture, the most successful DSLR that Nikon has ever made. It's the most sought after DSLR I have ever encountered, except for maybe the Canon 5DII. Maybe they didn't make enough profit out of it and it probably hurt the sales of the D3 at the time, which might explain why they brought out the D3S and never put that sensor into a D700 like body. It would definitely have killed demand for a D3S.  

 

Whatever their reasons for not upgrading the D700 to something that appeals to a very broad spectrum of photographers remains something that only they can answer. In the meanwhile they bleed customers like me to companies like Olympus and Fujifilm. Heads should roll at Nikon, because I think they have truly lost their way in spite of the successes of the D3 years. 

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Guest bjornthun

Posted

I think there's an element of truth in that. The D700 is, I venture, the most successful DSLR that Nikon has ever made. It's the most sought after DSLR I have ever encountered, except for maybe the Canon 5DII. Maybe they didn't make enough profit out of it and it probably hurt the sales of the D3 at the time, which might explain why they brought out the D3S and never put that sensor into a D700 like body. It would definitely have killed demand for a D3S.  

 

Whatever their reasons for not upgrading the D700 to something that appeals to a very broad spectrum of photographers remains something that only they can answer. In the meanwhile they bleed customers like me to companies like Olympus and Fujifilm. Heads should roll at Nikon, because I think they have truly lost their way in spite of the successes of the D3 years. 

If the D700 hurt the D3 sales, isn't that an indication that many, even professionals don't want cameras as big as a D3, D3s or D4, but still want a high quality camera body? Why doesn't Nikon want to cater to the needs of that market?

 

The more I know about the Nikon system and their lenses and camera modes, the more I ask myself what plans and ideas Nikon has for the future. I'm starting to think that they may be misguided. I have my quibbles with Nikon's lens line and Nikon's priorities there.

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Dallas,

 

You and others here have helped me with some critical thinking on my next move which will likely parallel yours. I'm moving toward an E-M1 system but still struggling somewhat with my personal choices. I'm sure the 12-40mm will be my main lens and my only reservation on whether or not to let it push out similar focal length primes is on how easy that combo will be to manage for all-day travel. Since this is my first experience with the OM-D system, will I have just a miniature pendulum on a rope around my neck or will this be somewhat of a more grippable in-the-hand tool. Time will tell, but excited about the possibilities.

 

Thank you for your sharing your journey.

 

Best Regards,

Roger

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Dallas I've seen very nice photos with your OM-D and I can follow your thinking. In spring 2012 I bought a D800 and had 5 months of troubles until I got a working one. This certainly didn't help me to get enthusiastic about the new camera. The D800 I've got now is very good but I just don't feel like using it.

Then in autumn 2012 I bought the Fuji X-E1 and have used it for more than 99% of my photos since. I'm not ready to sell my Nikon gear and always think that there will be occasions to use the big gun. But it hardly ever happens. The Fuji is always with me and that's what counts. 

For now I keep my D800 but this may be my last DSLR for a long time. I always kept my FM-2 for so I might keep the D800 as well  ;)

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I can empathise with the whole sentiment in Dallas' post, and there's no need to write at length of the similarities to my path in extracting myself from the DSLR mindset. My "second D700" came by way of the D600 I bought after I sold the D3s because its weight and bulk had become so wearying that I was using the X-Pro1 all the time instead. The return to the d600 was only a guilt thing in that I thought my clients would expect to see a big, black Nikon in may hands rather than something that looked like an old film camera.


Well that saga is history, after an all -in brawl with Nikon to refund me for their attempt to offload one of their old-stock dirty sensor D600 models onto me, the door to DSLR is firmly shut for me now. The salient point is that I was wrong in what I assumed - not one of my clients has ever said anything about me using the Fuji, something I should have paid more heed to. In fact no-one's even commented when I pull a little DP3 Merrill out and start using that. If ever there was something that looked like an amateur P&S camera, the DP Merrills are it.

 

So I've come to the conclusion that we are too forum-driven in this business, and confuse the opinions and comments of members of special interest forums with what happens in the real world. We get defensive and enter arguments over things that the real world doesn't even pay a passing thought to, and base too much of what we do and what equipment we feel we should have according to the weight of opinion expressed by people most of us do not know personally and probably will never meet, either.

 

To that end the most specific forum I'll get involved with in the future is something like FotoZones, where the subject parameter is broad. The schtick one gets when commenting unfavourably in a forum that's brand-specific like NikonGear is really out of proportion to the original comment made, and is both relentless and unpleasant. These are two things I no longer need in the naturally reducing time I have left to enjoy both my life and my passion for photography.

Edited by Alan
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We get defensive and enter arguments over things that the real world doesn't even pay a passing thought to

Very true, and I have been thinking along similar lines.  Our interests here are shared, and we benefit from the variety of views and experience here, but these things are not important in the great scheme of things.  And yet for some reason we sometimes get personal, take offence, express ourselves in ways which are sometimes aggressive and unfriendly.  My early New Year resolution is to avoid personal negativity on these sites.

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The EM-1 is very tempting.  Continuous tracking AF is a big deal for me.  Thing is, I really enjoy using the D800 and the results I get, but it is heavy, and so are the lenses I like to use.  This is not an easy decision, and will not be made until 2014.

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Guest Steve060758

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I can relate to this. Although my avatar has me holding the D300, I've also migrated to the OM-D full time. I sold my D7000, D300 and Fuji XE-1 and moved to Olympus (OM-D EM-5) full time. I have the 17mm 1.8, Panasonic 25mm 1.4, 45mm 1.8, saving up for the 75mm 1.8, 12-50 mm kit and the 40-150mm consumer zoom and I couldn't be happier. Next summer I'll get the EM-1.

 

The quality of the images is excellent, the size and weight of the camera is great, and the lens choice is great. Micro 4/3's is a mature system in every way.

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The EM-1 is very tempting.  Continuous tracking AF is a big deal for me.  Thing is, I really enjoy using the D800 and the results I get, but it is heavy, and so are the lenses I like to use.  This is not an easy decision, and will not be made until 2014.

 

Well, I should hopefully have my E-M1 in a couple of weeks. They are waiting for the shipment to clear customs here. When it arrives I will be sure to keep everybody up to date with how it goes as my main camera. I'm also going to look into some of the 4/3rds glass for safaris, although I might have a problem acquiring those - they are not cheap! In the meantime I have also ordered the new 75-300 consumer zoom which has been getting very good reviews. My first safari was done with the Nikon 70-300 VR and I have heard that this Olympus lens is better than it. So we shall see... 

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Well, I should hopefully have my E-M1 in a couple of weeks. ... 

 

Looks like I am one step ahead of you on this Dallas.  I gave up buying an E-M1 for personal reasons but managed to borrow one from my brother who said that he will not need it for some time.   ;)

 

The E-M1 is not perfect mind you.  I have to use manual focus when shooting out from inside an aircraft as CDAF will not work properly.  But it is lithe and fast and a joy to use with the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 as well as the Panny 12-35-100mm f/2.8 zooms.  

 

The E-M1 is a great camera and if Nikon is ever going to make a mirrorless camera, the E-M1 is the benchmark against which it should measure any mirrorless initiative.  The controls and my ability to change camera settings without taking my eyes off the viewfinder is I would say even better than the D700/D800 which I have essentially mastered though continuous use.

Edited by Larry

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Seems to be a growing club of dslr expatriates, and I will be joining that club soon.  My poor neglected low-mileage D3s has been sitting in a bag, unused these many months.  I'd been using Sony NEX gear, which started the decline of dslr use for me.  Have now switched to Fuji X gear, and don't see a good reason to keep the D3s around now.  My newest Fuji, an X-E2 should arrive in two days, after which I will be putting the D3s up for sale.  Dallas, I can relate to the unease you felt about parting with your D700.  I'm finding it strangely difficult to pull the trigger and let go of the D3s, but can hardly justify that amount of $$ sitting in unused gear.

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Just resist the urge (as I failed to do) in panicking with all the negativity that will be directed your way into actually thinking that getting rid of the house brick was a bad move and that you have to have a viable Nikon outfit in the house to justify the tag of "photographer", or some such nonsense.

 

My failure to resist saw that whole bloody D600 saga unfold, the brawl I had with Nikon to refund me the kit price when they failed to get the sensor clean and insisted that replacing the "shutter plate" was all they were obliged to do in meeting my purchase of a "new" camera. I'll be smarting over that for a while yet, because while I got the refund (less the $80 in postage it cost me for returning the camera twice, which they chose not to refund), I'm going to lose heavily on the two other zoom lenses I bought to make the outfit viable (18-35 & 70-300 to go with the kit's 24-85), as there was nothing wrong with them, they're almost unused and as I never really had the chance to fill out the registration they're being sold at 25% off with a 12 month warranty to some fortunate Nikon owner. They're useless to me as I don't have a Nikon that will run these lenses (the F4 won't talk to a G lens), and I'll never buy Nikon again, no matter what magic they might introduce in the future.


As has been noted before and I agree - I'm a vindictive bastard, to the point that I'll make my point even though it may hurt me. It's been a lifelong curse, but in the absence of the ability to physically harm those who may wrong me, I do my best to make them regret they'd ever messed with me anyway through other means.

 

Which is also why this further precis of the D600 debacle appears here yet again. :P:D .

 

Meanwhile I'm getting close to two years of Fuji X-Pro1 ownership, I'm still loving that camera, also loving what the Sigma DP Merrills are doing for me, and hell would freeze over before a new but clackity 1950's technology SLR form of digital camera ever makes it into my hands again, especially one with Nikon on the prism. My F4 can stay, though, because that's from a time when Nikon had the right idea about both the equipment they made and the relationship they had with their customers.

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I think the DSLR will still have a place for many, but it's kind of like the medium format cameras of the last century vs the 35mm cameras, except now we're down a size or two and we're not that compromised on image quality for the smaller format.

 

The only areas that the Nikon system could outperform my Olympus system was in TTL flash use and tracking moving subjects. The latter area has now been caught up and I reckon once I get a little more used to the Oly TTL flash I will be able to work with it easily enough. 

 

I still have a bunch of Nikon F mount lenses around that I will hold onto for a while, because they will always find new homes easily enough and I won't take that much of a hit on them, but the D700 body I had to let go of now because in a few months time I think it will have depreciated even more in value. Besides, if I ever really need to get another Nikon I can, easily enough. 

 

I just got back from my morning kettlebell training class and while I was doing the snatches and presses I was thinking, "Hey, my right shoulder doesn't hurt anymore." A pleasant side effect of not having carried the D700 and the big lenses anywhere since about July. 

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Same thing happened (unhappened?) to my back - with a DSLR, associated lenses and tripod all hooked up to or in the backpack, I was continuously in pain in the small of my back which went on for about 7 years, and I never could work out why.

 

When replaced with Fuji cameras, lenses in LowePro Tech vest, Gitzo CF tripod in slung bag, within a couple of months there no back pain whatsoever. A real relief after so many years of suffering. Anyone who has had chronic lower back pain will attest to the word "suffering" being apt.

Edited by Alan

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Guest Colin-M

Posted

One thing that has made me cautious about moving away from DSLRs so far has been the apparently more limited options on telephotos. I don't generally use zooms and most of the Sony & Olympus Prime teles I've seen so far have had a very high price tag against them.

 

So I was interested in Dallas's comment about getting the Olympus 75-300mm. This would be twice the reach of the Nikon 300m I currently have, but I wasn't sure about the f6.7 aperture at the long end. Can those of you who know how this will fit in with m4/3 cameras (plus stabilisation) tell me what sort of results we could expect in practice with this lens?

And can you allow for people who don't have access to the bright SA sun too! ;)

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Guest bjornthun

Posted (edited)

One thing that has made me cautious about moving away from DSLRs so far has been the apparently more limited options on telephotos. I don't generally use zooms and most of the Sony & Olympus Prime teles I've seen so far have had a very high price tag against them.

So I was interested in Dallas's comment about getting the Olympus 75-300mm. This would be twice the reach of the Nikon 300m I currently have, but I wasn't sure about the f6.7 aperture at the long end. Can those of you who know how this will fit in with m4/3 cameras (plus stabilisation) tell me what sort of results we could expect in practice with this lens?

And can you allow for people who don't have access to the bright SA sun too! ;)

I still hold on to my Nikon, and the telephoto end is one of the reasons for that. Which Nikon 300mm are you talking about?

There is still nothing in the m43 system that I think could replace my Nikon 300/4.

Edited by bjornthun

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Colin, I will have my new Oly kit sometime next week, so will let you know about the performance of that lens. I have ordered it based on very good reviews from trusted sources, both online and personal.

The IBIS is amazing and from what I have heard so far from E-M1 users it has gotten even better. If you are shooting stationary objects apparently you can get down to previously unheard of slow shutter speeds and still get sharp images.

This lens will be a stop gap for me until the 40-150/2.8 comes out next year. Rumoured price for that one is said to be around the $1200 mark.

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Guest bjornthun

Posted

43rumors says that the 40-150/2.8 comes in second half of 2014 and that the ultra wide pro zoom will come in 2015. They rank this rumour FT5. There has been a delay.

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Guest Colin-M

Posted

I still hold on to my Nikon, and the telephoto end is one of the reasons for that. Which Nikon 300mm are you talking about?

There is still nothing in the m43 system that I think could replace my Nikon 300/4.

Hi bjornthun, yes it's the 300mm f4 AF-S

The Sony & Olympus tele alternatives are more in the price league of the f2.8 version (and I'm sure they're very good, but would make moving from Nikon financially painful)

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Guest Colin-M

Posted

The IBIS is amazing and from what I have heard so far from E-M1 users it has gotten even better. If you are shooting stationary objects apparently you can get down to previously unheard of slow shutter speeds and still get sharp images.

.

That's good Dallas.

 

I had in-camera stabilisation a few years ago with Minolta and was very happy with it. By comparison, the only Nikon lens I have with VR is the 105mm - not really the ideal candidate (though it has helped me take some sharp concert pictures at very low shutter speeds).

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Guest bjornthun

Posted

Hi bjornthun, yes it's the 300mm f4 AF-S

The Sony & Olympus tele alternatives are more in the price league of the f2.8 version (and I'm sure they're very good, but would make moving from Nikon financially painful)

It's the same one that I have. I think it would be great if Sigma introduced the 150/2.8 macro for m43, since it's good and more in the same leage as a 300/4 regarding price. A 150/2.8 would be great for carrying with you, and you get the shutter speeds of a 300/2.8 on 35mm format.

Btw. Sigma is rumored to have designed the Oly 75/1.8, so maybe... :)

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Seems to be a growing club of dslr expatriates, and I will be joining that club soon.

 

I have joined the club much earlier last year when i sold my d700 to fund the EM-5. As a hobbyist, the decision to switch gear is easy,  more so to when it involves one's shoulder. My usual travel lens with the d700 are the 24-70mm, 50/1.8, and 70-300mm VRii, thus a more lighter gear is utmost important for me. 

 

After i returned from my last year USA trip bringing along my EM-5 with Oly 12/2 & 45/1.8 and the pana 25/1.4, the camera did not disappoint me and  was very happy with my present set up, thus i sold my nikon 85/1.4 and 24-70/2.8.

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Kind of how I felt after we did the Namibia trip this year. The E-M5 lapped it all up. :) 

 

Now if they would just send me my new kit (E-M1 + 12-40/2.8 + 75-300) I could get busy making more material for FZ. There's been some delay in the shipment clearances here. Hopefully I will have them this week. 

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      Durban recently hosted its 10th annual Durban International Blues Festival at the lively Zack’s Wilson’s Wharf venue on the Bay. I’ve been fortunate enough to photograph the Fender evening on a few occasions, but this year it was extra special because my son and his Rock Academy band were one of the acts. They played 2 numbers on the night, namely “House Of The Rising Sun” by the Animals and “Before You Accuse Me” by Eric Clapton (I think he wrote it?). Very proud moment for me. Sometimes I find myself living vicariously… not such a bad thing coz I sure as hell wouldn’t ever have the nerve to get up on a stage in front of a lot of people and entertain them. No sir. I gots me some issues with stage confidence.
       
      I love photographing bands and performers though. Over the years I have accumulated quite a few images of artists who played on various stages. I’d love to put on an exhibition of these works someday. Photographing live music is not easy, but I have managed to perfect my own method which sort of comes naturally to me. A lot of photographers struggle with things like metering methods, colour balance, auto focus and whatever else the camera battles with when left to its own devices. I’ve come to know my cameras over the years, wringing the best out of them wherever possible and recently with my move to the Olympus micro four thirds system I find I am just getting better and better shots as the technology improves. The things I lean on are the new fast lenses that the smaller m43 format has brought us, in particular the Olympus 75mm f/1.8, the ability to shoot at high ISO and get a usable image and image stabilisation. Without those three elements you’re going to be in for a lot of disappointment as far as shot quality goes (and I’m seeing that evident in the work of others who cover the same events I do).
       
      That said, there’s also a lot to be said for personal experience. I recently discovered something that the Olympus cameras do that kind of makes low light photography a lot easier. On the Olympus bodies you’ll find this thing called a Shadow Spot Meter. I accidentally activated this while on safari recently while we were photographing this pack of stinky hyenas at Sabi Sabi. It was night time and the only lights we had on the scene were the spotlights that the trackers use. I usually auto float my ISO values between 100 and 8000 on the Olympus E-M1 but I couldn’t understand why I was getting decent exposures at low ISO values of 400 and sometimes even 200 in such dim conditions. It didn’t make sense to me, yet there I was looking at these great shots on the back of the camera and zoomed in at pixel level I had hardly any noise. So I tried using that metering method on the stage at this years festival and it worked well there too. Yes, the rest of the scene goes quite dark, but your subject gets just the right amount of exposure if you’re looking for that low key, moody look. Just so happens that I like that. A lot. See if you can pick out which of these shots got the shadow spot treatment.
       

      My boy playing a Fender Telecaster (he usually plays a Charvel, but with it being a Fender evening he was handed this job and got on with it.
       

      Their lead guitarist, Rorke.
       

      16-year-old Cyndi didn't get the memo about it being a Fender evening (nice Guild though)
       

      My buddy Reg (also a photographer) and Roland
       

      Sadly I do not know what this fellas name is. But he sure could sing them blues.
       

      Eloise, awesome vocalist and vocals tutor.
       

      My good friend and all round good guy, John.
       

      From Chicago, USA Mr. Charlie Rose, singer of the blues.
       

       

      Reg's very talented son, Rowan Stuart. Look him up on iTunes.
       

      Another multi-talented guy, Andy Turrell (former drummer for Dan Patlansky).

      View full article
    • By Dallas
      Durban recently hosted its 10th annual Durban International Blues Festival at the lively Zack’s Wilson’s Wharf venue on the Bay. I’ve been fortunate enough to photograph the Fender evening on a few occasions, but this year it was extra special because my son and his Rock Academy band were one of the acts. They played 2 numbers on the night, namely “House Of The Rising Sun” by the Animals and “Before You Accuse Me” by Eric Clapton (I think he wrote it?). Very proud moment for me. Sometimes I find myself living vicariously… not such a bad thing coz I sure as hell wouldn’t ever have the nerve to get up on a stage in front of a lot of people and entertain them. No sir. I gots me some issues with stage confidence.
       
      I love photographing bands and performers though. Over the years I have accumulated quite a few images of artists who played on various stages. I’d love to put on an exhibition of these works someday. Photographing live music is not easy, but I have managed to perfect my own method which sort of comes naturally to me. A lot of photographers struggle with things like metering methods, colour balance, auto focus and whatever else the camera battles with when left to its own devices. I’ve come to know my cameras over the years, wringing the best out of them wherever possible and recently with my move to the Olympus micro four thirds system I find I am just getting better and better shots as the technology improves. The things I lean on are the new fast lenses that the smaller m43 format has brought us, in particular the Olympus 75mm f/1.8, the ability to shoot at high ISO and get a usable image and image stabilisation. Without those three elements you’re going to be in for a lot of disappointment as far as shot quality goes (and I’m seeing that evident in the work of others who cover the same events I do).
       
      That said, there’s also a lot to be said for personal experience. I recently discovered something that the Olympus cameras do that kind of makes low light photography a lot easier. On the Olympus bodies you’ll find this thing called a Shadow Spot Meter. I accidentally activated this while on safari recently while we were photographing this pack of stinky hyenas at Sabi Sabi. It was night time and the only lights we had on the scene were the spotlights that the trackers use. I usually auto float my ISO values between 100 and 8000 on the Olympus E-M1 but I couldn’t understand why I was getting decent exposures at low ISO values of 400 and sometimes even 200 in such dim conditions. It didn’t make sense to me, yet there I was looking at these great shots on the back of the camera and zoomed in at pixel level I had hardly any noise. So I tried using that metering method on the stage at this years festival and it worked well there too. Yes, the rest of the scene goes quite dark, but your subject gets just the right amount of exposure if you’re looking for that low key, moody look. Just so happens that I like that. A lot. See if you can pick out which of these shots got the shadow spot treatment.
       

      My boy playing a Fender Telecaster (he usually plays a Charvel, but with it being a Fender evening he was handed this job and got on with it.
       

      Their lead guitarist, Rorke.
       

      16-year-old Cyndi didn't get the memo about it being a Fender evening (nice Guild though)
       

      My buddy Reg (also a photographer) and Roland
       

      Sadly I do not know what this fellas name is. But he sure could sing them blues.
       

      Eloise, awesome vocalist and vocals tutor.
       

      My good friend and all round good guy, John.
       

      From Chicago, USA Mr. Charlie Rose, singer of the blues.
       

       

      Reg's very talented son, Rowan Stuart. Look him up on iTunes.
       

      Another multi-talented guy, Andy Turrell (former drummer for Dan Patlansky).
    • By Hugh_3170
      This anticipated new model in the Olympus E-M1 line up has been released.
       
      Some links:
       
      https://www.dpreview.com/reviews/olympus-om-d-e-m1-mark-iii-initial-review
       
      https://www.olympus.com.au/product/dslr/em1mk3/index.html
       
      It will be interesting to see how this new comer stacks up against its predecessors, especially in the stills IQ department.
       
      (Meanwhile Nikon have released their new D6 - in good time for the summer Olympics in Tokyo later this year.)
    • By Dallas
      Working With Olympus FL-600R Flashes
      I’ve had two of these small, but fully functional FL-600R flashes pretty much since I started shooting with Olympus full time and have done a fair amount of work with them, including small product photography and portraiture as well as some event coverage. To follow is a basic overview of how the flashes work and also how I use them.
       
      FL-600R Features
      After previously using a couple of Nikon SB-800 and SB-900 speedlights, getting these little things was quite a shock. They are minute compared to standard speedlights from Nikon and Canon. One of them is probably about half (or less) the size of an SB-900. However, in spite of their diminutive size, they offer much the same functionality of the Nikon CLS system.
       
      The heads zoom according to the focal length of the lens you are using, they tilt and swivel too, allowing for bounce flash, plus there is also a wide angle diffraction panel built in along with a very small white bounce card (too small to be meaningful).
       
      On the back of the unit is an LCD panel showing the various settings. This also has a backlight, but it needs to be activated manually - it doesn’t turn on when the flash is activated by the camera, which I think is something they should fix in firmware. There is a rotating selector wheel with directional key pad built in.
       
      The units come in a nice nylon case and included is a plastic stand for remote use. Missing is a clip on diffuser. I’m not sure if you can buy one to fit these small units. Maybe somebody in China is making them?


      The one feature that this flash has which I haven’t encountered on any other portable unit is a built in LED for video. It can be set up to shine at various strengths from 1/1 down to 1/16 of its power. I can tell you that if you have this thing set to shine at 1/1 you are going to blind people. It’s very bright!
       
      The flash has several modes you can set it to:
       
      A mode - auto mode operates much the same as it does on any other portable flash unit. The sensor in the front of the unit reads how much light is being reflected back to it from the subject and when it thinks it has pushed out enough power it cuts itself off. It works pretty well with the OM-D cameras and provided you have it properly set up on your Super Control Panel (as fill-in flash, not Auto) you should get a decent exposure for snapshot type photos.
       
      M mode - the FL-600R has full manual mode which is good news for any strobist. You can adjust the power from 1/1 all the way down to 1/128.
       
      FP-TTL A mode - like most advanced flash units this one has the FP mode, which lets you sync flash up to the maximum shutter speed of the camera (1/8000s in the case of the OM-D range). This mode also passes full control of flash output to the camera, hence the TTL.
       
      TTL - A mode - as per above, except that you are now limiting the flash to the max sync speed of the OM-D.
       
      FP - M mode - full manual control but with the ability to sync at any shutter speed.
       
      RC mode - remote control mode lets you set up the flash so that it is completely controlled by the camera when it is standing free. This is the equivalent of Nikon’s CLS mode where you can have several flashes working in three different groups. I’ll go into more detail on this later in the article.
       
      SL - A mode - this is the slave mode combined with A mode (mentioned above). Not to be confused with RC mode, slave mode is where the unit waits to receive an optical trigger from any other flash unit and then pumps out light based on what it gets back from the sensor in the front of the unit.
       
      SL- M mode - this is your quintessential “strobist” mode where the flash uses its built int optical slave and lets the photographer decide how much power it should dump out with each burst. Nikon users will know this as SU-4 mode on their speedlights.
       
      Flash compensation is possible either from the camera or manually from the flash unit. This has a pretty wide range going from -5.0 all the way up to +5.0 stops.
      The zoom can be set to change automatically or manually from 12mm up to 42mm.
       
      The LED light can be set up to come on automatically to assist with auto focus acquisition in low light, or you can toggle it on or off manually. It’s also possible to set the strength of the light in the custom functions of the FL-600R.
       
      Just on the LED settings; it can be very confusing to set this up to operate as an AF assist light because you have to co-ordinate settings on both the speedlight and the camera. Buried deep in the Olympus menu labyrinth is a setting for AF Illuminat. You have to set this to on. Then you have to go into the FL-600R’s custom settings by holding down the OK button for 2 seconds, find the setting that reads ILL and make sure that says A. Then, once you have done those two things you need to adjust the LED settings on the back panel of the flash to the A setting too. Only then will it automatically shine the LED to assist with auto focus.
       
      And before you do this you really need to make sure that you have turned the power of the LED down to a reasonable level otherwise your subjects are going to be squinting horribly at you. Trust me on this - it’s not pretty! It’s a better idea to use the orange AF assist light of the OM-D than this thing, although that may also frustrate you as it can be distracting. I suppose once you are used to changing these settings in their respective places it isn’t as complicated as it sounds, but I have switched this “feature” off and set the flash to manually turn the LED light on or off. I find that at a lower power setting this is far less distracting to a subject and also provides enough illumination when you’re in a dark room. The downside is that when you turn it on what you’re doing suddenly becomes the centre of attention, just like shining a spotlight on a stage.
       
      Working With On Camera Flash
       
      The FL-600R compliments the OM-D cameras quite nicely. It’s well balanced and once you have decided which mode you want to use, you can get good results on a consistent basis. It’s getting to the comfort level of operation that takes a bit of getting used to. As with anything, practise makes perfect.
       
      Regular readers will know that I was a huge fan of Nikon’s iTTL metering with SB speedlights. Put one of the SB units onto any Nikon camera, stick it in iTTL and your results are going to be spot on, 99% of the time, which takes the stress out of using on-camera flash completely. While the Olympus FL-600R also offers through the lens (TTL-A) metering the results are nowhere near as consistently good as Nikon’s. I find that the exposures in TTL A mode are usually under exposed by at least a stop and they also don’t respond well to bounced flash. I get widely varying results in this mode.
       
      If I am shooting events I opt for M mode and using a bounce card attached to the flash I shoot in full manual mode, using a shutter speed and ISO rating that will allow ambient light to bleed in at a wide(ish) aperture. I’ll set the flash to a power setting that feels right and then I will adjust aperture until I am happy with the balance between subject and the ambient. It’s a little more primitive than using TTL mode, but once you get the hang of it you will feel a lot more like a real photographer. If I’m in a rush and I don’t have time to do any tests I will most likely use A mode with a bounce card and this works fairly well too.
       

      Above is an example of using manual flash settings in manual mode on the camera. Below is an example of using A mode where shutter speed was slowed and ISO boosted to allow more ambient in. Click to enlarge.
       

       
      Working With Off Camera Flash
       
      RC Mode
      Using the FL-600R off camera is where the home strobist will begin to enjoy the flexibility of these little flashes. As with the Nikon CLS system it is possible to set up an unlimited number of flash units that can be controlled from the camera in three groups, A, B & C on a common channel. From the camera you can use the little clip on flashes that come with the OM-D (or the pop-up in the case of E-M10 and certain PEN models) to act as the commander for the FL-600R. Or you can use another FL-600R as a commander.
       
      Each group can be set to fire in any of the TTL, Auto, Manual or FP modes (TTL and M), so you can have a mix of these modes in different groups. For example, if I have a couple of the FL-600R’s on a white background I can set those to be in group A and have them firing in manual mode to keep the power on the background constant. Then I could have another FL-600R set to Auto or TTL mode on my subject in group B or C. The advantage of this is that I can control all the flashes from the Super Control Panel on the OM-D as well as adjust power settings for each group. It’s very cool.
       
      The image below is an example of the outcome of such a set up but using only one FL-600R for the background and another for the subject. Click to enlarge.
       

       
      From a practical stance this setup works quite well indoors in a smallish studio, but in larger environs or outdoors you may battle to get the remote flashes to see the commander pulses as the sensor is in the front of the unit. A workaround is to swivel the heads all the way around so that the sensor is facing the commander. This works fine in TTL and manual modes but will confuse the A mode as the flash will not be getting the proper bounce back from the subject that it uses to determine when to stop sending out power.
       
      Before I invested in a couple of sets of studio strobes I used the two little FL-600R units to produce my usual run-off-the-mill 2 light small product photography setup. If I want to do a very quick basic setup I still use the Olympus flashes in a small light tent cube I have and I am quite happy with the results using manual mode in remote control. It saves me having to set up the big lights with all the stands and softboxes, etc.
       

      Above we see a single FL-600R used to illuminate the edge of the knife. Below a second FL-600R is added to produce the main key light. Click to enlarge.
       

       
      Slave Mode
      Slave mode is different to the RC mode in that you are effectively turning the FL-600R into a dumb unit that fires only in A or M modes and is triggered whenever it sees another flash. This means it can be used in conjunction with any other kind of flash units that are firing simultaneously. Strobist stuff. I sometimes use them on clamps with spigots for setups where I might need another light attached to a part of the set that doesn’t allow for a light stand to be set up. They work well like this.
       

      Above shot shows how I sometimes use an FL-600R to light a white background (or other things) for product photos.
       
      Product Observations
       
      The problems that present themselves with small flashes come down to power. These units are fine for general snapshot type, on-camera photography, but if you are looking to light up an entire room with a single flash you’re going to have to push your ISO up or invest in a fair number of these units to make it all work. Price might be an issue with that idea as these sell for $300 each. Sure, while these units are a bit cheaper than the Nikon and Canon flashes that offer the same degree of flexibility, they are more expensive than equally capable Chinese brand flashes such as the Yongnuo’s. Granted those units will only work in manual mode and don’t offer the RC mode but therein lies most of the fun in strobism - manual mode.
       
      The only thing that these FL-600R units don’t offer is a sync port, so attaching radio triggers that only offer cable connectivity to remote units for outdoor use means you will have to invest in a hot-shoe adapter that has a sync port built in.
       
      Recycle time is pretty good. I use the GP Recycko AA cells in mine and unless I have forgotten to charge them up before a shoot, I get good recycle times. If you have an older Olympus E-series camera you will be happy to learn that this flash is fully compatible with those cameras too. I used it on both the E-3 and E-30 when I had them.
       
      Improvements I would like to see are a simpler interface with the camera and also easier controls to use on the flash itself. The custom settings don’t make a lot of sense unless you have them memorised. Olympus could also provide a much better user manual for such a complex device. Another thing that could be improved is to provide some kind of audible sound to show that the light has recycled when it is off camera. In remote mode the LED blinks when the flash is ready to fire, but this can be distracting so I would prefer to have a beep (that can also be turned off when it isn’t wanted).
       
      As mentioned at the start of this article, the FL-600R compliments the OM-D range quite nicely and gives you a lot of flexibility to get creative with bounce flash and also off-camera flash. They are very small and light so they don’t take up a lot of space in a camera bag either. If you have an OM-D and are looking for something better than the clip on flash (or pop-up in the case of the E-M10) this FL-600R should suit your needs very well. It may take a little getting used to, but once you have the hang of it you wil be able to use it quite creatively. All in all these units show that the Olympus micro four thirds system is very well fleshed out and mature. There is little you can't accomplish with it.
       
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