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  1. 10 points
    Street photography is one of those genres that is highly debated. Some want to put it up on a high pedestal and proclaim it restricted to a highly curated set of parameters, while others want it to be anything that is taken out in the streets. I, for one, am not a big fan of strict labels for this kind of thing. For me, street photography is about capturing the essence of a place or location that tells a story and gets you to feel what it is like, or what the people there are like. These are fleeting moments that could change in a matter of minutes or over years. Nikon D700, 1/125, f/7.1, ISO 320 @ 28mm I'd like to share some of my thoughts about my approach to street photography. We'll cover the other photographers that influence my perceptions, how I go about shooting subjects and we'll talk about how I shoot from gear to camera settings. Nikon D700, 1/800, f/4.5, ISO 500 @ 28mm Major Influences I take a lot of influences for shooting from various photographers. This list encompass the top three, but by no means are the only ones. One of my all time favorite photographers is Jay Maisel. He is a commercial and street photographer based out of NYC. I agree with a lot of his philosophies regarding shooting. KelbyOne has a three video series that are actual walk along shooting sessions with Jay, 2 in NYC and one in the streets of Paris. Well worth at least a monthly subscription. Nikon Df, 1/500, f/4, ISO 100 @ 50mm Fan Ho is a street photographer that shows a lot of work from Hong Kong. The work a I appreciate the most from him is his 1970's/1980's images. His work shows what is possible if you learn the area you are shooting in and have patience to allow a scene to develop. It is not all about run and gun. Sometimes you have to wait for the scene to work itself out. Just do a web search and there is a lot of his work out there for you to discover. Nikon Df, 1/500, f/4, ISO 100 @ 50mm Of course, if you said who is the most famous street photographer the majority of people are going to say Henri Cartier-Bresson. I do in fact like his images and from his work, I appreciate the inclusion of environmental components long with the expressions of the people he captured. Nikon D700, 1/400, f/5.6, ISO 800 @ 260mm Shooting Philosophy What draws me to street photography is the "realness" of it. By that, I mean that I like to capture the majority of my street photography images without the subject caring that I am there. That is not the same as being covert about it. I don't sneak or skulk about trying to get images of people or situations without them knowing about it. Olympus EM5, 1/50, f/1.8, ISO 2000 @ 17mm I always have my camera out in plain site on my Black Rapid strap. I want everyone to know that I am out there taking pictures. I feel this puts people at ease. They are also more apt to tell you up front if they don't want to be photographed and you'll avoid some angry people later on down the road. While we are on the subject of angry people, there is an old saying, "go out to make pictures, not friends". While this might seem confrontational, it really is not. What it means is go out and make pictures, do what you set out to do. It's OK if you make friends along the way, but that should not be the goal. Olympus EM5, 1/1600, f/7.1, ISO 200 @ 19mm 99% of the time, if people see you taking their picture, they are going to be indifferent about it. There are those 1% that might be curious about what you are doing or are not happy about it. There are very few situations where your personal safety or the safety of the group you are in is worth a confrontation. If deleting the image, buying someone a beer or backing off will defuse the situation, it is best to do so. As with most things in life, you want to be out shooting street photography with confidence. Go out there and shoot like you have a purpose and a mission. If it looks like you are there for a reason, most people will not question what you are doing. If you show a hesitance or try and sneak pictures then people might get the perception that you are up to no good. Don't give them a reason to doubt you or think that you have a nefarious agenda. Fuji X-E1, 1/50, f/4, ISO 1600 @ 35mm Subject matter is something very personal and different for a lot of people. I like and practice a philosophy I heard articulated by Jay Maisel, which is "go out open and empty". This means going out not necessarily with a subject or objective in mind. Instead, I go out with a vision to find something that interests me and maybe I have not seen before I captured before. I think that this type of philosophy also drives my gear requirements. A lot of time, the shot I want coalesces in front of you and you have but seconds from the time you realize what is about to happen till the time to capture the image. I don't stage shots either, I capture whatever happens. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against setting up a shot - it is just not what I prefer to do. I have been known to request portraits if I think a person is interesting and want to approach them. Again, as above, ask politely and be honest about what you are wanting to do. Most people would be happy to oblige you in your request, other times they will say no. Remember to respect the person and their space. You never know, you could run into that person in the future and they could grant you a portrait of them at that time. Gear Just about any camera can be used for street photography - but the caveat to that is this - it depends on how you shoot. I'm going to speak only to how I shoot street and the capabilities that I require for me. This is my personal preference and how I have the most success and pleasure. Fuji X-E1, 1/50, f/2, ISO 800 @ 35mm The most important factors for me in a street camera is fast operation and auto focus capability. When talking about fast operation, I mean that the camera can be turned on or awoke from sleep mode and be ready to shoot by the time the camera gets from its resting position on the sling strap to my eye. One of the things that turned me away from the Fuji X series of cameras was the amount of time it would take and reliability of turning on and waking from sleep those cameras. I had an X-E1 and there was a lot to love about that camera. Operation speed left me wanting and I lost quite a few opportunities for great shots because the camera took too long to either turn on or wake from sleep. One question you might be thinking, why not leave the camera on all the time? Short answer, battery life. With the early Fuji X cameras, battery life as not stellar, so I thought that turning off during a shooting lull would help. Not really. Allowing the camera to go to sleep was almost worse sometimes as I often had situations where the camera would not wake on half press or would take up to 2 to 3 seconds at times to show an image in the viewfinder. Olympus EM5, 1/100, f/5, ISO 2000 @ 100mm Auto focus speed and accuracy is also another top requirement. I am not one to zone focus and will only prefocus when I have to, and sometimes prefocusing is not an option. This is another area where the Fuji X failed me on several occasions. I had issues with the focus speed and at times the hunting from the CDAF system would not lock on fast enough. I will say, though that the Fuji X cameras are improving every iteration and the X-E2, X-T1 cameras are leaps and bounds better than the X-E1. I'm even experimenting with some zone focusing techniques with a Fuji X100. You never know - I may be a convert some day. Nikon Df, 1/1600, f/4, ISO 400 @ 90mm Right now, my weapons of choice for street shooting are 2 sets of kit. The first being the Nikon Df with a set of three primes - Nikon 24/2.8, 50/1.8D, and a Tamron 90/2.8. The Nikon Df is an extremely misunderstood camera and I invite anyone to really dig into getting to know it. There is a lot there and a whole lot more to love than to hate once you give it a chance. The Nikon Df is the smallest FX camera that Nikon makes. Partnered with some good primes and you have yourself a really great street shooting rig. The AF performance is great and you have a lot of control of DOF with the FX size sensor. Not to mention that you have the dynamic range and picture controls of the flagship Nikon D4 on the inside and you can see the appeal. Being a DSLR, the camera wakes from sleep or from powered off almost instantly. Olympus EM5, 1/500, f/5.7, ISO 200 @ 156mm The second kit was actually a surprise to me. I went in to the camera store one day to look to possibly pick up a Fuji X-T1 or an X100s, but ended up walking out with an Olympus OMD EM5. I, like a lot of people, was running on old information from the very first micro four thirds cameras. Yes, the sensor is smaller and you have all the differences in the shooting experience that come with it. However, Olympus has done something special with the OMD series. The wake from sleep and power on times are greatly improved over what I saw from Fuji and my past experiences with the X-E1. The AF performance is phenomenal as well, at least for the single servo AF. It is as fast if not faster than some of the DSLRs out there. I experience minimal hunting. Partner this camera body with a killer set of fast prime lenses and you have a very capable kit. My favorites are the Olympus 17/1.8 and 45/1.8 Settings Settings are probably more of interest to people than my gear selection. Let's talk about what settings I use and in which situations. These discussions will not be specific to the gear I've listed above. They are more to the situation you would be shooting in. Focus mode is AF-S. Single point, lock it in, get the shot. Every now and again, I might throw it into continuous AF, but that is very rare. Nikon D50, 1/80, f/5.6, ISO 200 @ 60mm WB is set to auto, unless I know I am going into a situation where the color cast is something I know will be extreme, then I will set it manually. RAW or JPG? Majority of the time, I'm shooting JPG. The JPG engines in modern cameras are actually pretty great, considering. I will shift over to RAW if there is a scene that I know I will need to do some extensive post processing on. Olympus EM5, 1/80, f/2.2, ISO 800 In normal, everyday "good" lighting I'm shooting in aperture priority mode. I do this because I want to have control over the depth of field of the shot. I then let the camera do the rest of the heavy lifting. In order to do this, you'll need to be in sync with your cameras metering system and know how it will see a scene. You might need to use exposure compensation or switch to manual if you run into a situation like extreme back lighting or the scenes dynamic range is more than your camera is capable of handling. For ISO, I'm shooting in auto ISO, keeping the base as slow as possible (low being ISO 50 to 200, depending on your camera). I keep the minimum shutter speed around 1/60 and the maximum ISO between 3200 and 6400 (again depending on gear). Shooting during the day is a pretty standard affair, if you thin about it as, exposure wise, it is going to be a pretty decent light to run in. The good thing about the auto ISO in this situation is going to be those times when you might step inside or need to shoot in the shadows, it can compensate for you without you needing to sacrifice your aperture setting. Olympus EM5, 1/640, f/2.8, ISO 100 Where things can get interesting is when we are wanting to shoot either dusk/dawn times or at night. Most metro areas are decently lit considering, but the light sources can trick even the best of metering systems sometimes. You also have the fact that the metering systems want to go for an 18% gray as the normal exposure - this can make the scene more exposed than you probably want. The best way, I have found for me, to control all of this is to shoot in manual. I shoot with as wide an aperture as I possibly can and still have a sufficiently large DOF, keep the shutter speed fast enough that I can still hand hold the shot for a sharp image and a clean enough ISO for a pleasing exposure. A lot of these exposures average out to be something along the lines of f/4, ISO 1600 and 1/60 shutter speed. Olympus EM5, 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 200 @ 150mm For the setup, you can either put the camera in aperture priority mode and take some test shots, riding the exposure compensation until you see what you like - then set manual accordingly. When doing this test, try and find a scene that looks like a typical one that you will be shooting. This will give you a good ballpark to run from. If you have been shooting for a while, you might be able to get to where you need to be from manual from a few test shots. However you do it is completely up to you and no way is wrong, just different. Nikon D700, 1/250, f/4.5, ISO 400 @ 85mm If you find that you need to shoot at slower shutter speeds (lets say less than 1/60), and don't want to bring a tripod along you have options. Some cameras/lenses have image stabilization. Don't be afraid to use it. Just remember that image stabilizers help reduce camera shake from you holding the camera and it has no affect on freezing action. Shutter speed will control that. Another technique is to use poles or street signs to stabilize yourself. I hope that you found this post helpful. While I don't expect anyone to adopt what I do in total, there may be times when some of these techniques I use might come in handy or help someone get a step into doing street photography for themselves.
  2. 6 points
    My Epson V700 Photo has scanned its last neg. I had bought it after my Nikon Coolscan 8000ED stopped working and Nikon couldn't supply parts to fix it. As expensive as the Nikon was, and as affordable the Epson was, neither ever managed to consistently deliver edge-to-edge grain-focused scans - the only way to get that with the Nikon was by sandwiching the neg between glass in a glassed carrier, but even anti-Newton ring glass still produced those image-destroying interference artefacts. Lately I became aware that the graphic arts people are using LED light panels (like the illumination panels of monitor screens) as a cold backlight source for tracing and the like. They're cheap (A4 size around $20) and the light is consistent and even, and with the panels also being perfectly flat it was a no-brainer to pop one onto my copy stand and use the Sigma sd Quattro-H with 70/2.8 macro lens as the "scanner". I know this technique is nothing new, but previous contraptions of earlier times generally used globes in a lightbox arrangement which were never perfectly even, and the heat the lights generated would encourage film to warp and curl uncontrollably if not under glass (and therefore subject to Newton rings). I'm sure that others have done what I did here, but I thought it might be worthy of mentioning anyway. Anyhow, the setting up of my new "scanner" couldn't have been simpler - just mounting the camera on the copy stand as usual and plugging in the LED panel was all that it took, and I was away and scanning negs far quicker than I have ever done. I used the glassless plastic neg carriers that came with the Epson to hold the film, but should I ever get film that won't lie flat I still have the solid metal neg carriers from my Durst 1200 to keep things flat. What no neg scanner I have used has ever provided has been an ability to manually focus on the neg, or had an adjustable aperture to stop down and increase depth of field should the neg still be a bit bowed. This setup fixes those two things perfectly. What also came to light was something I had suspected for a long time - that the Epson certainly wouldn't have any lenses that could be described as first class, and the barrel distortion evident when flicking back and forth between the two clearly confirms that suspicion. As for working - well what a treat it was to get scanned negs that had crisp, sharp grain uniformly over the whole image. Recently I had taken a shot with my now defunct Pentacon Six and was disappointed that the scanned neg just didn't look sharp - I blamed my incorrect focusing or maybe slightly shaky triggering - but I wasn't at all pleased with the shot because of that softness. So I decided to compare the Epson scan with the new method, and below are the whole images in reduced size, along with two 100% sections. The results speak for themselves, I hardly need to indicate which was the Epson (first) and which the Sigma (second). Note the evenness of the grain in the Sigma scan as compared to the mush of the Epson, which clearly missed focus in its attempt. I have now copied over 60 negs and absolutely every one has been perfectly sharp corner to corner. I've never had that reliability from a scanner. ...and the setup: These 6x6cm negs deliver cropped square files of around 17MP/100MB in size, which of course is pixel-for-pixel with the Sigma, no softening interpolation as from any Bayer or X-Trans sensor being necessary. Blowing them up they easily make 24"x24" with no pixelation visible, and still hold together well at 30"x30".
  3. 6 points
    I have been going to a little island in the pacific coast of Mexico for the last few years, recently I was there for my 6th time, one of the most fascinating aspects - for me at least - is the very dark sky one is able to enjoy at night, and I specifically choose dates close to the new moon dates, to avoid the moon hindering the star gazing experience. While shooting the milky was my initial fascination, at this time of the year it is only visible close to sunrise, very low on the horizon, so the opportunity to get a decent shot is limited. My eyesight is not particularly good for star gazing, and my night vision is also not particularly good, so using he camera to discover things I can not see without aid has fascinated me since I started with digital photography. During this trip I tried a tracker - a device that moves the camera at the same speed as the earth rotates - allowing the use of long lenses and long exposures keeping the stars in a steady position relative to the camera. The tracker has to be properly aligned with regards to the rotation of the earth, this translates into three adjustments: 1. The tripod where the tracker will be mounted has to be perfectly horizontal. 2. The tracker has an elevation adjustment which has to match the latitude of the location where you are taking the photos. 3. The tracker has to point towards polaris, the north star. Once the tracker is aligned the camera is mounted on a tripod head that is installed on the tracker rotating head, the camera then has to be pointed toward the object you are interested in and a number of long exposures can be taken. Before continuing describing all the caveats of the process - and perhaps bore you to death with all petty details - here is the final result of my attempt to capture Orion. 1. Tripod and tracker alignment Before going on the trip I did try aligning the tracker in my backyard, a rather impossible task as I was not able to see the north star given all the light pollution from the city, but using my mobile phone and a sky map application I got it pointed towards the right direction, adjusted elevation to the 21° 44' latitude, the tracker has a rather imprecise scale, but I "fined tuned" it with the mobile app, this initial attempt gave me exposures with a 150mm lens of only 5 seconds before the stars started to trail... hmm rather mediocre. On my next attempt I used a bubble level to make sure the tripod base was horizontal, adding this step and my rather rudimentary alignment with the mobile phones pointed towards the north star gave me good exposures for 15 seconds, much better ! Then a business trip, bad weather, and a bad cold put the practicing on pause for a couple of months, I just said, please do not forget to bring the level to the island. And what did I forgot on my trip? You guessed it, the level. One more thing I did was to tie some 2kgs weight to the bottom of the tripod. At the island, with beautiful dark skies, no clouds and little wind, the north star is clearly visible, even with my poor eyesight, but surprise! When doing the alignment one has to look through a scope that is mounted on the tracker and then it is not only the north star that is visible but a number of faint stars, 5 or 6 in the field of view. Oh, and the view is reversed, so I had to concentrate and make the inverse movements to what I was seeing. Still I could not tell which one was polaris. Lucky for me I wasn't not alone. A number of enthusiasts of the night skies came along and some of them have green laser pointers. I asked for help and one of them pointed their laser towards polaris as I adjusted the tracker. OK! Tighten the screws and do not breath too hard to avoid disturbing the adjustment which obviously was disturbed, but at least then I knew how to get it back to the proper adjustment without to much fuss. Before all this I borrowed (yet more help from the team) a mobile phone with a bubble level app and got the tripod horizontal, with a heavy rock tied to the center post 2. Lens focus to infinity I had with me the 70-300 zoom which wide open at 300mm is only f5.6 and not very sharp, another alternative was my 85mm lens using f2.8. One of the guys lent me a 80-200 f2.8 zoom and I gladly used it, mounted it on the tracker using the tripod mount from the lens, which gave it a nice weight balance. Focus was done manually in live view using Venus as it was the brightest dot in the sky. 3.Mounting and aligning the camera If pointing to a bright object such as Orion, it is not a complicated matter, only requires some patience as the tracker and camera alignment will have to be done multiple times until everything is just right. Some test shots at 5 seconds, then 10, then 30 seconds showed the alignment was good and no star trailing was evident. 4. Exposure The 80-200mm zoom was set to an aperture of f/4, this gave some added sharpness and reduced coma. I set the camera to 30 seconds ISO 800, then proceeded to take 20 similar exposures. Zooming in on the camera LCD I was able to clearly see the Orion nebula. I (and all the spectators) was delighted with the results. So during the shot I had help to level the tripod, point the tracker and borrowed a lens. If I were alone then this wouldn't have been possible. One more thing, humidity was a problem as there was condensation on the lens which had to be wiped every few shots. This probably caused the glare in the bright stars. 5. Processing The images are fed to a program called DeepSkyStacker. It takes a few minutes to complete the alignment and stacking. The levels adjustments are rather unique and obtaining usable results takes some patience. Here is how the stacked image looks - somewhat cropped - but is a 32 bit TIF, so there is a lot of information in the file. For comparison sake here is 100% crop of a single NEF file, with some curves adjustment. So, there you have it! If you are still reading, thanks so much, I hope you enjoyed it. My shopping list: a 300mm PF lens, a couple of right angle viewfinders, a laser pointer. Finding dark locations, preferably not involving a 4 hr boat trip, are also in my "to-do" list. Good weather is also key to success.
  4. 5 points
    On Saturday I returned home from the first of our two photographic safaris for 2014. On these safaris I find myself transplanted both physically and mentally to places where all the dusty mundane aspects of my life are rinsed off for a short while and a sort of creative breathing begins in my brain. I see things that would otherwise escape me in my regular life. This particularly long-awaited photographic exploration of the Chobe and Zambezi rivers at the junction of four African countries was no exception. I not only saw animals, I saw light, colour, shape and the relationships that exist between all these things too. It was a trip I will not easily forget, but it was also a trip where I learned a very valuable lesson about being better prepared for unforeseen eventualities. Let me explain. The apron view from international departures boarding gate at OR Tambo airport Johannesburg We arrived in the town of Livingstone, Zambia from Johannesburg after our flight had been delayed by well over an hour due to heavy congestion at OR Tambo airport. For me it was the first time I had left South Africa by plane, so I was a little unsure of the procedure for clearing customs and passport control on the other side. Fortunately I was with lots of seasoned travellers, so I wasn’t as stressed as I might have been were I travelling on my own. Unfortunately the stress levels weren’t at the low end of the scale for very long. At the luggage collection carousel I saw a black duffel bag that looked almost exactly like mine come through and I almost picked it up before I noticed that it had a logo on the side and was slightly different to mine in other parts. I carried on waiting for my bag to appear. As the number of bags going around on the conveyor began thinning out there was still no sign of my own black duffel bag but the one that looked just like it was still going around and around with no one to collect it. Gradually it began to dawn on me what had happened. Somebody who was in a rush to meet whoever was waiting for them in Zambia had obviously picked up my bag in error and gone off to wherever they were going with the wrong bag. What a disaster. With a heavy feeling in my heart I eventually had no option but to go to the airline luggage services desk with the other person’s bag and explain what I thought had happened. I filled out a form and the person there said that if the other person came to collect their bag and brought mine back they would get in touch with me. At this point everyone was waiting for me in the transfer bus outside the Livingstone airport. I emerged with only my camera bag sans battery chargers which I had stupidly transferred out of the camera bag and into the checked luggage after arriving in Johannesburg so that I could lighten my carry-on load. The only clothing I had was the pair of jeans and T-shirt I was wearing. It was pretty hot in Livingstone. My mind began racing. I was determined not to let this disaster get to me, so I just kept repeating a mantra in my head that my bag was on its way back to the airport and that it would get to me safely at some point soon. This was extremely hard for me to do given my pre-disposition to expecting the worst, especially since we were on our way out of Zambia and into Botswana. Getting the bag to me on a houseboat in the middle of nowhere was not going to be an easy chore for whoever got saddled with the job. And of course there was no way of knowing for sure that the person who had picked up my bag was also staying in Zambia. They could have been in transit to anywhere. I also didn’t have roaming on my cellphone. Nor had I bothered to put a label on my bag. I mean, what were the odds of a calamity like this happening to me? Later that day while we were on our way to our lodge on the Chobe river with Gerhard “Guts” Swanepoel (who owns the amazing photographic boat we were about to spend two days exploring the Chobe National park with), his phone rang. He handed it to me and on the other side was a woman who was apologising profusely for having taken my bag in error. She said she had been calling every lodge in Livingstone to see if there was a Dallas Dahms staying there so that she could return the bag to me personally (the airline luggage tag fortunately had my name printed on it). Eventually she gave up and took it back to the airport where the person who I had reported it missing to gave her Guts’ phone number. John, Gerry, Christina and Mi-anne on board the Pangolin photographic boat - note the swivel seats and adjustable arms with gimbal heads attached I eventually got it back the following evening, but it wasn’t all plain sailing. The authorities didn’t want to give the bag to the person who Guts had sent to collect it because obviously he didn’t have the paperwork with him. I did and I was 100km away and in a different country. It doesn’t get much more complicated than that, but fortunately we were with people who can make things happen. I am eternally indebted to Guts Swanepoel of Pangolin Safaris for his help in rescuing my entire Wild Waterways Safari. Without that bag I would have been as miserable as a sobbing orphan, not so much because of the clothing that I didn’t have, but because I would only be able to use my cameras for as long as the batteries held out. Of course I have not (yet) convinced everyone on our safaris to adopt Olympus cameras, so nobody else had chargers I could use. It only took one boat ride with Pangolin for me to realise that not doing any photography in this amazing place would be akin to the worst kind of torture imaginable. I would rather have gone home early than see the things we saw and not be able to photograph them. Click the images to view them enlarged. A cormorant silhouette against the drama of a Botswana sunset A lilac breasted roller poses for us in beautiful light Male waterbucks sparring for dominance So the lesson learned here is quite simple: never, ever pack your camera chargers in your checked luggage. Also, make sure you take at least one change of clothing with you in your camera bag if possible. And, switch on roaming so that if you have to be reached you can be reached by people who need to reach you. Going off the grid does have a romantic appeal, but the practicalities of everyday life in this day and age means that you really do need to keep in touch wherever you can. My hero Gerhard "Guts" Swanepoel poses next to his Unimog.
  5. 4 points
    I've got a long love affair with the original rangefinder cameras (Leica M4-P & M6) and the now digital rangefinder style cameras (Fujifilm X-E2, X-E2S & X-E3). I don't know if it is due of the fact that their viewfinder is located off center (meaning not in the same optical axe of the picture taking lens). But that peculiar camera body design seems to stimulate my creativity and my motivation to brought the camera in places and at moments that I will have a tendency to ignore. The Fujifilm X-E3 is the fourth version of a popular model design that many photographers like to bring with them as their main camera or at least as their back up camera body that happens to becoming eventually their most used. The X-E3 is using the same 24MP image sensor that the X-T2 and the X-T20 have. So the picture quality is at par of the two last mentioned models. One of the thing which most interesting when you are using a rangefinder style digital camera is the fact that they are less noticeable, less protuberant, less intrusive in front of the subject.. This characteristic to be more discrete is always appreciated by the spontaneous photographer on the street, during a travel and even when you taking a candid portrait of a person (The camera seems to be less "serious"). Many people were tempted to make the comparaison with the Fujifilm X100F which a compact APS-C digital camera doted with a similar fixed lens of 23mm. If you combine the Xf23mm F2.0 lens with the Fujifilm X-E3 the two cameras will give the same angle of view. But the Fujifilm X100F is more a (large) pocket camera while the Fujifilm X-E3 is an interchangeable lens model that have a more standard dimension. Fujifilm X-E3 w/ Fujinon XF55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS Most people will talk in length about the good or the bad handling of a camera model. It is always a very personal and intuitive impression at the end. Ergonomics are designed by technicians that are biased by their own physical and cultural differences. All this has been said one thing that I have experimented with the Fujifilm X-E3 is its fine ergonomic in terms of the camera body and lens combination and I am surprise how good and easy it is still true even when you are using a larger zoom lens such as the Fujinon XF55-200 F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS. As a travel or street photographer I fully appreciate this ability. About the tiny Fujifilm EF-X8 electronic flash which is included with the furnished camera accessories I was skeptical of its practical use but I have found it very easy to bring with me and positioning on the X-E3 (You can leave it at rest on the Fujifilm X-E3 camera at its down off-position). Dont forget that the EF-X8 is using the battery pack power of your camera. As a fill-flash and as an emergency flash unit are may be the two best tasks of the EF-X8. For a more extended use of an electronic flash it is better to couple an external unit doted with its own power management. Window back lightning interior ambiant light exposed Using a fill-in flash can be one of the most rewarding thing to do with interior photography with subject that are backlighted during the daylight period. The color temperature is similar between the ambiant natural light and the electronic flash output and the only big task is to choose an interesting exposure balance between the two in preserving or not the shadows or even simply voluntarily underexposure the ambiant (effect often use in fashion photography). Using the Fujifilm F-X8 as a fill-in flash Small in-board camera flashes are a very handy solution but they are located usually too near the taking lens and often interfering with the lens hood that you have to remove to prevent incomplete flash coverage. The Fujifilm EF-X8 give a more elevated flash reflector position. You just have to push it in its down position if you want to shut its power off. Officially the Fujifilm X-E3 is a less "sporty" camera model than let's say the X-T series models such as the X-T20 or the X-T2 or even the X-H1. The off-center viewfinder may create a small different perspective between you naked eye and the image recorded by the taking lens but if your concentrate your attention to your viewfinder it wont be noticeable. So spontaneous photography stay a strong opportunity. As for most of the Fujifilm X-series camera models, the controls of the photo basic parameters are designed in a similar fashion way as it is used to be for the traditional analog (film) cameras. Shutter speed, lens aperture, exposure correction and focusing options including manual adjustment can be selected with direct dials or control rings. The others parameters have to be adjusted through push buttons, touch screen options or using the versatile joystick located beside the rear screen. All these functionality controls need to be learn before really be able to master them without hesitation. Using the Quick menu (Q) and reprogramming certains function controls can facilitate the handling of the Fujifilm X-E3. Most of the menu option presentations are easy to understand and interact but some functionalities may need more time and essaies to get the habit. There is a lot of autofocusing modes at your disposal that can tailored your shooting workflow. The all-"AUTO" option (lever next to the shutter speed dial) is a good idea for emergency snapshot without disturbing your already programed setting. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is fine detailed with all the (configurable) information you need and got an auto-rotation presentation very useful for vertical framing. In some specific situations the image on the EVF will be more contrasting making more difficult to evaluate low and highlights. For people who are wearing glasses like me the eye relief is more limit and will ask you to pay more attention to the corner of your framing composition of your subject. The back and none-orientable live screen (LVF) give you a better reviewing rendition of your picture facilitating a deeper image analysis. The side location of the Fujifilm X-E3 electronic viewfinder may give you a better viewing confort compare to the centered viewfinders of the X-T series models. The instant picture review is easier and the reviewing (Play) push button is located on the bottom right side of the LVF. In all the Fujifilm X-E3 is a very convenient camera model that respond correctly to the compact size device but without sacrificing too much better handling compare to the larger DSLR model type. If you are already an owner of other Fujifilm X-series models you will fully enjoy that the X-E3 is using the same battery packs and external electronic flashes without forgetting that it is part of the same optical lens mount system. The Fujifilm X-E3 doesn't have an in-(camera)body-image-stabilization system (IBIS) and will rely on your ability to set and handle the camera to avoid generating blurry from the photographer's movement. Of course you can couple a lens with an optical image stabilization (OIS) that will help you to prevent that phenomena and further permit you to select lower shutter speed in low light situations or simply to get a smaller lens aperture (for increasing the deep of field). As a loosely rule of thumb, no stabilization is available with focal fix lenses (except for the new XF80mm F2.8 OIS Macro and the XF200mm F2 OIS) and it is the contrary with zoom lenses (with some noticeable exceptions such as the XF16-55mm F2.8 Pro). At this day the Fujifilm X-H1 is the only X-Series model equipped with an IBIS. What I am appreciated the most of the Fujifilm X-E3 is its compactness and its very discrete status in regard of other people ressent when they are facing the camera. It is what can call not only a user-friendly camera but also a subject-friendly photo device. Combined with a short fixe focal or short zoom lens, the X-E3 appears to be part of the family. It is not perceive as an agressive intruder of our life compare to the look with the DSLRs. So the interaction between the photographer and the subject is very different and much more positive. If you like Black & White photography you will adore to work with the Fujifilm X-E3. This lovely camera model offers you a choice of two monochrome reddition, standard Monochrome and Acros, with 3 different filtering variations, Yellow, Red or Green. So you can literally transform the X-E3 as a Monochrome camera without further expensive investment. (This remark is also good for the other Fujifilm models). Is it sufficient to simply have a good camera device that can deliver not only nice, well exposed and focused pictures but which is also a creative tool fun to use and to bring with you? Sure there will always be more performing camera models now and in the future and that is inevitable in this race for better human crafting. But in the mean time we have not to forget that the most interesting and rewarding think is to do photography. In a sense the Fujifilm X-E3 fulfill nicely the task of proximity photography essential in close urban situations or in interior contexts. The Fujifilm X-E3 is a compact photo companion that is not only a competent tool but is also an inspired creative device.
  6. 4 points
    "Loyal" won line honours, beating the old record by nearly five hours, and travelling the 628 nautical miles (1,163km) in one day, 13 hours, 31 minutes and 20 seconds (a sea voyage on a sailing ship between the two cities in the 19th Century took anything from two to three weeks). Tasmania turned on typically unpredictable Hobart weather for the winner - 15°C, steady rain and dull, grey overcast even though it's the middle of summer. Two days earlier it was clear skies and mid-30's C (90's F). The stern of the winner: From the other end, with the public turning out in raincoats and umbrellas to gawk: Note the state of the two Rolex stickers on the bow - that boat must have been cutting a fearsome bow wave to rip them up like that. And then a reminder of why Tasmania is one of the best places on Earth to live - this is the Tasmanian Premier and his family after they walked right past me as I was photographing the boat, being all but ignored by everyone else, with no security, not even a sole policeman, just heading off to the food stalls as many of the other spectators were doing: Just to show the indifference to having the leader of the State amongst them, that's him in the background (in his checked shirt with half-rolled sleeves, hands in pockets), just above the sail boom of the winner by the yellow stepladder, on his own, just checking out the boats: I can't imagine too many other places where this sort of thing would be allowed to happen as a matter of course. I took both the X-T1 with a 100-400 lens and the X-T2 which I alternated the 90/2, 23/4 and 10-24. The lenses not in use I kept in my rain jacket's pockets, and the cameras slung bandoleer-style, one on each hip. Everything got wet to some degree (I was a bit more careful with the two non-WR lenses), but nothing ceased to function and I'm positive this is about as wet conditions that I'd ever spend two hours in the open with the cameras at any time, and they performed perfectly.
  7. 4 points
    I've been looking for a small, handy, versatile tripod for table-top macro shots and ad hoc supports for snapshots. I really like the idea of Novoflex BasicBall, but its legs are too long for my need and its recessed 1/4" thread makes this otherwise very open system rather closed. Recently I found an accessory kit called DADO made by Manfrotto. The kit consists of a red ball with multiple threads, three double-sided bolts and three black 7.5cm rods with threads on both ends. This is a smaller kit, and Manfrotto offers a larger kit with additional three bolts and three rods. The moment I learned that all threads are of the industry standard 3/8", I figured that this could be the core of the tripod system I wanted. Here are the parts I gathered: From left to right: Sunwayphoto FB-28 ballhead; a red ball, black rods and double-sided bolts from DADO; RRS 3/8" stainless steel studs and RRS hard rubber feet for Gitzo Series 1 compatible tripods. And here is how I assemble them: You can make it lower: There is no thread directing perpendicular to the ground however you attach three rods, and thus the ballhead will always be a bit oblique. But I haven't found any problem in actual usage. Rather, the oblque mount can be advantageous when the tripod is, for example, put against the wall for long exposure, because the movement of FB-28 ballhead is limited to exactly 90 degrees sideways: Finally the kit can be disassembled and fit into a small soft case for a point & shoot camera (the red ball stays attached to the ballhead): This tripod is very solid. Hope you enjoy this humble article.
  8. 3 points
    On Saturday I was commissioned to photograph a Ford CSI event (corporate social involvement) and it had quite a profound effect on me. I'd like to share some photos and a few words about the event with you. Those of you familiar with the policies of apartheid that South Africa was governed under during the 20th century will know that different race groups were required to live in their own areas. All around the city of Durban are townships comprising black people, Indian people and people of mixed races. To the immediate south of where I live is a densely populated Indian area called Chatsworth, and a little further south of that is an area called Welbedacht, which borders on the largest black township in Durban, namely Umlazi. Welbedacht is particularly known for being an area of significant unrest in times of political strife (usually around election times). Welbedacht is the area highlighted above. In spite of the dangers, in Chatsworth a group of Ford ST fans get together on a regular basis to feed people who live in an area of Welbedacht. They do this of their own personal accord, not through any organised body or religious group. This Saturday a group of around 20 of them got in their cars and vans and drove through to a part of the area where they set up a feeding station. They had massive pots of breyani, cool drinks and crisps to hand out to the people. Ford South Africa sent along a small crew of people, including me, to document what was going on. We arrived at the Chatsworth stadium at about 1pm where we rendezvoused with the members of the club. There were some interviews done, photos taken, and then we headed off to Welbedacht. A line up of some of the souped up ST hot hatches. Some of the food. On the way to the area selected for the feeding. When the kids saw us coming they got really excited. A somewhat unruly line formed quickly! There was a little bit of desperation to get refreshments from some folks. But it eventually calmed down. Some of the younger ones enjoyed being interviewed for the camera. And there was general satisfaction all around. With all the strife going on in the world today, it is good to know that there are still awesome humans out there who will give to others from their hearts. If we could all give a little bit without expecting anything back in return I think we'd all be a lot happier.
  9. 3 points
    Michael Erlewine is a long time member and contributor to the material found on Fotozones. 1. Tell us about your journey in photography. Where did you begin and where do you think you might end up? In 1956 my father, who was an amateur photographer loaned me one of his cameras for a six-week journey around the country with kids my age in several school buses. The camera was a Kodak Retina 2a, along with a light meter, some close-up lenses, and a small tripod. I was shooting 35mm slide film. When I came back from the trip and Dad had the rolls of film developed, he was shocked at how good they were. So, that was the beginning. I was 14 years old. I was trained as a naturalist, a herpetologist, specializing in salamanders and was very active in that until late in my teens. That also required some field-guide type of photography. I have had cameras most of my life, including early (and current) video cameras, 4K, etc. I see photography as an attempt to capture impressions. I have run a meditation center where we live since the 1980s and somewhat early-on I mixed what is called Insight Meditation with my photography, so the process of taking photos is more important to me than the resulting photos. 2. Your close-up work appears to be very technically challenging. What has been the most complex project you have done in terms of input? I once photographed 33,000 concert rock posters for a project. It took a couple of years. I built my own vacuum table and light setup, etc. Otherwise, most of my work is still life, close-up (not macro), and requires a fair amount of patience, since I sometimes stack 150 images into a single photo. I live in mid-Michigan on the edge of the Manistee National Forest, some 900,000 acres of woods, etc. We have cold winters, so I split my time being outside in the summer, but inside during most of the winter. I have a small studio in my home and a large studio about one block from where I live. 3. Of all the cameras you have used, including film, which is your favourite and why? That would be the Nikon D810, because of its low ISO of 64 and fairly-usable LiveView. I have never even used the Optical Viewfinder, except to check that it works. I specialize in APO (apochromatic) lenses, lenses that are highly corrected for the various aberrations. I also do a considerable amount of my work on technical cameras, my Nikon D810 mounted on the Cambo Actus, a small technical camera with most of the various movements, like tilt/shift and swing. I have a good-sized collection of industrial lenses, like the Printing Nikkors, Noct Nikkor, various special enlarger lenses, and the like. I also have a new Hasselblad X1d mini Medium-Format camera that looks like it is going to produce very good images, so I am working with that. 4. What gear do you recommend for somebody who perhaps would like to do macro/close up photography but isn’t able to afford the specialist exotic lenses and bellows setups? Those on a budget might do well by getting something like the Nikon 7100/7200 camera (a small DSLR) and a lens like the Micro-Nikkor 105mm VR or Micro-Nikkor 60mm lenses. I very much believe good equipment is a big help, so I am not going to tell you to just use any old camera, tripod, head, or lenses. Own something that you are proud of and that can produce really excellent images. In my opinion, that really helps. 5. What is the best piece of photographic advice you ever received that you can pass on? Follow your own sensitivities as far as creating photographic impressions. Do something that pleases you, rather than for others. Plus, post-processing usually demands more time than taking the photos. I have a number of free books, articles, and videos on photography, which are available here. Here is the best advice I know of: The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins came up with a concept that struck me as true. He even made up his own word to describe it, “inscape.” Inscape was to Hopkins an insight into the eternal or beautiful, literally the way or sign of the beautiful. Let me explain. I look forward to my trips out into the fields and woods. They offer me a chance to get my head together, to relax from the day-to-day grind of running a business and generally to relax a bit. This is not to say that just going outside and walking in nature means that I am instantly relaxed. That usually takes time. It is the same with taking photos. In the first ten minutes of a morning shoot I often don’t see all that much to photograph. This too takes time, time for me to slow down, open up, and ‘see’, to let the natural beauty all around me in. It could be that I am still filled with all the workaday-world thoughts, the things I have to do, problems, and what-have-you. It takes time for my mind to relax and let go of its constant chatter. This endless worry and thinking affects my photography. And here is where the word ‘inscape’ comes in. As I get out there and wander through the fields or wherever, I gradually start to slow down and gradually I begin to see things that are beautiful, scenes that I might actually want to photograph. Slowly my view of the natural world around me starts to open up again and I begin to view things differently. I begin to ‘see’. It takes time and usually does not happen all at once. This little pattern of leaves over here or the way the light comes through the forest canopy, grabs me just a little bit, and the chatter of my mind begins to pause and slows. As I continue to walk along, some little thing or scene appears beautiful to me; I am touched by it, however lightly at first. I gradually get distracted from my daily distractions and begin to center. I wake up. These little moments are ‘inscapes’, ways out of my mundane world of distractions and into the beauty of nature or, more accurately, back into the state of my own mind or being. As I take my time, I am able to see the beauty in things once again, and what I am seeing suddenly seems worth photographing. Like most of us, I photograph what catches my interest, what I find beautiful or worthy in the world around me. These inscapes are signals that catch my attention, and they flag me down on my busy way forward to nowhere-in-particular. These moments and signs are how I stop going nowhere, and manage to almost miraculously arrive somewhere once again, perhaps only at my own peace of mind. This is one of the functions of the beautiful, to catch us in the turmoil of life, flag us down, and induce us to pull over and take a moment of rest. Time out. These moments of inscape are different on different days, and different for different people. They represent the clues or signs that catch our attention and show us the way into the beauty of the natural world, actually into the beauty of our own mind. Another way of saying this might be: what is beauty actually? What happens when we see something beautiful? Beauty is not simply somewhere out there in nature waiting to be found, but always here within us, locked within us, we who are seeing this nature, we who can now see the beautiful. Beauty breaks down the rush of the everyday world and opens our heart a wee bit, making us vulnerable again, open to experience and input. Through natural beauty we go inside and experience the inner beauty of things, which is none other than our own inner beauty. That is what beauty is for, to be touched on, seen, so that we find once again the beauty within our own hearts that we may have lost through the distractions of our daily life. We look outside in nature to see in here, to see into our own heart once again. We can be sensitive to beauty in our photography. I would hate to tell you how many photographs I have of this or that butterfly or critter that are perfectly good photographs, but are empty of magic or meaning. They are well lit, well composed, and have everything that makes a good photograph except that ‘magic’ that keys or excites me. Instead, they are ‘pictures’ of a butterfly, but they have not captured any essence of anything. They might as well be in a field guide – snapshots in time with no meaning and for no one. The reason for this, so I tell myself, is because they just happened to be there, photographic opportunities. I saw them and I took a photograph, but at the time they did not instill or strike any particular beauty in me. This, to me, is what I call “gotcha” photography, taking a photo because I can, not because I saw beauty in it or was moved to do so. There was no inscape moment, no moment of vision – snapshots only. I find that it is really worth paying attention to what strikes me as beautiful or meaningful and photographing that, rather than just photographing the Grand Canyon because it is there or I am there. A lasting photograph, in my opinion, requires more of me than that, by definition. It has to mean something to me and, for that to happen, I need to actually be moved or inspired. Photographs that have special meaning for me usually have some form of inscape into a special moment that inspires me to capture the scene in a photo. We can wander for miles looking for something to photograph, chasing down this or that butterfly or animal… searching. Or, we can slow down and let nature herself show us the signs, the inscapes through which we can relax and begin to ‘see’ naturally and photographically once again. We can listen to our own intuition. This process of inscape, of insight into the sublime in nature (the sublime within ourselves) I find to be the key to good photography and to creating photographs that are real keepers, at least in my mind. If we don’t touch our own inner self in our work, we touch no one at all, but when we are touched by a moment, I find that others also feel this. Touch one, touch all.
  10. 3 points
    One of the biggest hurdles that emerging professional photographers need to clear is that of getting a proper online presence, specifically by having and managing their own website on their own domain name. So often these days I see photographers using Facebook pages or public gallery services like 500px to showcase their work and sell their services. Or even worse, those “free” Wix sites. While there’s nothing wrong with having a Facebook page for sharing your stuff and engaging social media, do you really want to be sending your clients to Facebook or some other company’s free website to see your best work? When you get your own website you are doing two things at the same time. Firstly you are showing that you are professional enough to have your own domain name. This inspires confidence in would be customers. Secondly, if you do it right you are giving yourself the opportunity of finding customers by means of organic web searches. I have never paid to advertise my photography business anywhere. 100% of my clients have come from Google searches where specific keywords for the specialised work I do have put me on page 1 of the search results. You won’t ever see any individual Facebook pages popping up on page 1 of Google when you search for “Durban event photographers”. Also, sending prospective customers to a Facebook page (with all its other distractions) will not get you into the upper echelons of the market you are trying to capture. While I have a Facebook page for all my online activities (and there are a few of them) I have never received a single shred of business from any of them directly. They are there more to serve as a communications channel for those websites than anything else. I get all my photography business from my personal website that runs on WordPress. Your photography website should be an extension of your brand, or a portal to discovering what it is you do, how you do it and why you do it. It is there as a digital brochure for you to showcase those things. However, just having a website is not the only thing you should be focusing on when it comes to marketing yourself. That is an entirely different animal altogether and the website plays only one part of your marketing mix. If you think about the sheer number of photographers in any given geographic area and the fact that probably less than 1% of people ever look at page 2 of Google’s search results, you will need to do some other marketing or a LOT of work to get on page 1 of Google. It’s not impossible, but it doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t rely on this as your only calling card, but at the same time don’t think that having a Wix site or a Facebook page is going to win the hearts and minds of your prospective customers. It won’t. You still need to be able to send customers to a slick, well laid out website that will show those potential customers what you can do for them. Getting your own website can be a daunting task at first because it involves a lot of talk about things that initially make no sense. You’ll will hear words like “content management system”, “SEO”, “bandwidth”, “disk quota”, “cloud server”, etc, and not knowing what those things are could send you down the path towards being seriously ripped off by unscrupulous web developers. Happens all the time. My approach to working with people who need websites has always been one of complete transparency. I go to great lengths to ensure that my customers understand everything about their sites, the way they should be using email to avoid the spam traps and also how they should be presenting their work. These days you can have your own slick looking website up and running in a matter of minutes and at a much lower cost than you would ever have believed possible. None of the WordPress sites I have helped people create in the past couple of years have cost them more than $300 including hosting and domain name for a whole year. Many of them are even cheaper than that if you need less hand holding and can do your own configurations. Over the next few months I will share some of my secrets to having a great website and getting yourself on page one for the things that matter to your business. If you Google “durban event photographer” or “durban product photographer” you will see where my site pitches (www.dallasdahms.com). These articles will give you a proper grounding in getting yourself aux fait with everything related to your own site, from choosing a domain name to hosting, optimising your content for search, getting your images to display at their best and proper content management using the systems I have used myself over the years. Keep a lookout for those.
  11. 3 points
    I get asked by other photographers quite often for a quick overview of the big differences between the Micro Four Thirds (m43) system and the DSLR systems such as Canon and Nikon, or basically what they should be looking to purchase if they decided to make the switch from larger format cameras to smaller formats and keep the same functionality they already have. There’s a lot of information available out there on the internet, but it takes a lot of time to read through it all and it’s made all the more difficult if you don’t know anything at all about the m43 system or what to investigate. So I have put together this rough guide series to shed some light on what products stand out in each respective area of interest. It’s by no means exhaustive, but it should give you a good indication of what to investigate further if you’re serious about moving to, or adding this format to your photography gear. The first in this series deals with the “Holy Trinity” type zoom lens options, namely wide angles, general purpose and telephotos. These are my own opinions based on research I have done myself and supported wherever possible by personal experiences of the items. Best Wide Angle Zoom Lens Options Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0 Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 Olympus 7-14mm f/4.0 (four thirds) Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO (not available yet) I only had a very brief exposure to the Panasonic 7-14mm lens when I was first getting back into the m43 system about 2.5 years ago. I had just bought a Panasonic GF-1 for a good price from a store that was clearing all their Panasonic m43 inventory and their asking price for the lens was around $500 at that time. I put it on my GF-1 and took a few shots around the store, but it felt very unbalanced on such a small camera and I thought, geez, for $500 I could buy a nice DSLR lens that I didn’t already have, so I passed. Little did I realise that the actual price of the lens was closer to $1200, so in hindsight I should have zapped it up. I ended up getting the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6, which is a much, much smaller lens. It’s collapsible too, so if you’re limited for weight you really can’t ask for more. I find that it’s a nice sharp lens and performs really well in landscapes. Obviously it’s not nearly as wide as the 7-14mm options, but it does well in its range (similar view to 18-35mm FX lenses). I used this lens extensively on our safari to Namibia in 2013 and was really pleased with all the results I got shooting those harsh desert landscapes. The lens has held up quite well in the cosmetics department too, having accompanied me on many photo excursions for work and play since I got it. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to buy the older Olympus 7-14mm f/4.0 lens that was originally designed for use on the Olympus DSLR’s. If you mate it with an MMF adapter you can use it on the OM-D’s with varying degrees of autofocus compatibility. It’s terrible on the E-M5 (hunts like crazy) but it works decidedly better on the E-M1, which has the necessary phase detection AF sensors on the imager itself. Image quality wise it’s very, very good, but it’s also very, very expensive at $1800. It has full weather sealing so if you’re using it on the E-M1 with the MMF-3 adapter you will have a weatherproof solution. The downside is that it’s very large and therefore it doesn’t balance well on an E-M1 without the HLD-7 grip, which defeats the purpose of having a smaller kit (this lens is of similar proportions to the Sigma 12-24mm FX lens). Big and heavy, the Olympus 7-14mm f/4 is an expensive option but well worth the money The final option is the announced, but only available in 2015 all new Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens. This will be one of the siblings making up the Holy Trinity of Olympus pro zoom lenses and if the already existing 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens is any indication of the quality we can expect, I think it is most likely going to be the one to get, mainly because of its native mount to the m43 system. If you can’t wait for that one to arrive then you would probably do well to get the Olympus 9-18mm lens as its by far the cheapest option. You could always sell it once the PRO lens arrives. I will keep mine as a lightweight option. Best General Purpose Zoom Lens OptionsPanasonic 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Olympus 12-35mm f/2.0 (four thirds) There are three pro spec lenses here to chose from on my list above, but there are also a myriad of consumer grade kit lenses available from both Panasonic and Olympus, including many variations of the 14-42mm. I haven’t used many of them but there is one consumer grade standout lens and that is the one in my list here, the now discontinued Panasonic 14-45mm. This one is really very good and prior to my getting the 12-40mm it was my go to lens for the E-M5. I still use it sometimes, especially if I am doing work in a dodgy location where the possibility of being liberated of my gear is relatively high. At least the loss of this lens as opposed to the PRO version would be easier to bear. The Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens is something else. This is a beautiful piece of glass from Olympus. Well finished, wonderful optics and extremely fast focusing on the OM-D bodies I have. I rate it as being better than the Nikon 24-70/2.8 I used to own and that’s saying something because as anyone who has used the Nikkor knows, it’s a serious optic too. However, to get the best out of the Nikkor you have to stop it down to at least f/4. The Olympus lens is sharp right from f/2.8. I don’t know too much about the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 but it was on the market long before the Oly arrived. Reports I have read from many users are all positive about this one, so if you can get one to try you should definitely do that. An advantage to this lens is of course that it has built in image stabilisation, so if you have chosen a Panasonic body instead of an Olympus one for your m43 system this will be stabilised whereas the Oly lenses won’t, since Olympus bodies have image stabilisers on the sensor, thus making any lens you mount on the camera stabilised. Olympus 14-35mm f/2.0 - one of the fastest zoom lenses with a constant aperture. The final stand out lens is again a four thirds lens that you can use on the E-M1 with an MMF adapter. I have not used one, but stop and take another look at the figures on this lens. The constant maximum aperture is f/2.0. That’s right, it’s a whole stop faster than any of the other pro lenses! At $2300 it’s certainly not a cheap option, but if you want a fast zoom lens they don’t get much faster than this. Downside is of course the physical size, so unless you have a true need for the speed of the lens you’re better off with the native mount options. Best Telephoto Zoom Lens Options Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 (four thirds) Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO (not available yet) Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 (four thirds) Olympus 90-250mm f/2.8 (four thirds) One of the biggest advantages of a small sensor like m43 is that telephoto lenses are typically much smaller than their DSLR counterparts, yet offer just as tight an angle of view. It surprises me that more birders haven’t adopted m43 as a system because there is such a wonderful array of both exotic and practical telephoto lenses available. Not only that, with adapters you can put any lens on the camera and capture the best central part of the optics of that lens with an m43 size sensor. Obviously you will need to be quick on the manual focus, but with slower moving subjects and focus peaking functionality (not to mention the IBIS on Olympus cameras) you have a field of view that is typically half of what you’re seeing on an FX camera. The ultimate safari lens! The 90-250mm f/2.8 offers an angle of view equal to a 180-500mm lens on FX format. If your primary interest in the m43 system is to get a good telephoto lens for longer reach, like wildlife or sports, you’re probably going to want to look at the four thirds range where there are a number of options that will truly knock your socks off (and lighten your wallet). The one stand-out lens that I would love to use is the 90-250mm f/2.8. In FX terms it gives you a 180-500mm angle of view, with the constant f/2.8 aperture. I cannot think of a more useful range for wildlife safaris than that. At $6k it’s not going to be within everyone’s reach, but when compared to the Nikon and Canon 200-400mm f/4 options and their respective costs it starts to look a lot more interesting. The Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 is a very capable, compact telephoto option for m43 I have the Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 which offers the FX equivalent of a 100-400mm lens. It’s a lot cheaper than the 90-250mm and it’s also a much faster optic than the Canon 100-400mm and the Nikon 80-400mm. Having owned the Canon 100-400mm IS when I first got into digital photography I can say in all honestly that this Olympus lens beats the pants of that Canon, by a long way. It’s sharper, has great contrast and colour too. I haven’t ever used the Nikon 80-400mm lenses so I can’t draw a comparison with it. Obviously the main advantage on the Oly is the faster aperture at the long end, which is a whole stop and a third brighter than the Canon/Nikon options, but there is also another advantage in that it is much cheaper at only $1200 compared to the $2800 asking price for the new Nikkor. It is also fully weather sealed and the hood has a hatch that slides open so you can use your polariser or variable ND filters easily. It’s the lens I am going to be using on safari this year. Panasonic haven’t really developed much in the longer telephoto area, however they were the first to introduce a pro spec shorter range telephoto in the form of the 35-100mm f/2.8. This is your general purpose telephoto lens similar to the 70-200mm f/2.8 FX lens that is mostly used by wedding photographers. User reports on this lens are all mostly very positive and at $1200 it’s an attractive option. There’s another 35-100mm lens that will blow your hair back and that is the Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 for the four thirds mount. Yes, that’s right, it’s an f/2.0 optic, constant throughout the zoom range. I have handled this lens briefly as a colleague of mine owns one, plus I have seen some of his images shot with it. On the E-M1 this lens is jaw-droppingly good. I can’t even begin to describe how sharp and punchy it is. It will set you back around $2500 but if you can get one and you don’t mind the size of it, you will not be disappointed with what it can do. Highly recommended! Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 is a lens to die for! The last lens to mention in this first instalment of the Rough Guide series is the announced, but as yet not available Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO. This will be the one I buy, mainly because it will be affordable and also it’s a native m43 mount, so no adapter is needed. It will autofocus with the CDAF system on the E-M1 so I will be able to shoot at 10 frames per second with it. Not really required, but nice to have. The expected street price is said to be around $1300. These are the top end lens options open to those who are thinking about adopting the m43 system. As mentioned at the start of the article there are other cheaper options too, so if you’re put off by the prices of some of these lenses, do have a look at the other options too. As a final note I should add that there are at least three Olympus adapters available to mate the older 4/3rds lenses to the m43 mount. These are the MMF1, MMF2 and MMF3. They all do the same thing and there is no difference in auto focus performance between them, but only the MMF3 has the weather sealing, so if that's an important feature for you to have then you ought to opt for it. It's slightly more expensive than the others at $160. Panasonic also make an adapter that does the same thing, the DMW-MA1 and it's much cheaper at a shade over $100. Not sure if that one is weather sealed. There is no glass in these adapters so image quality is exactly the same on m43 as it is on 4/3. In the next edition of this series I will have a look at the prime lenses for the system. If you're thinking about buying any of these items please consider starting your shopping at our affiliate retailers by using any of the links to their shops found at the bottom of the page. This will be most appreciated.
  12. 3 points
    In an earlier post of photos taken with a Fuji X100, the megapixel question came up, and as this is something I've been spending a lot of time contemplating recently, I thought maybe a discussion thread was worth opening up on the subject, principally concerning the D800 and alternative approaches, or indeed needs. As some might know, owing to the improbably large files I've been generating over the past few years with multi-row stitched and focus-stacked panoramas, at the end of last year I bought a latest upspec PC, (12 cores @ 4.3GHz through 64GB RAM & SSD) which just, and I emphasize just, made working these panos taken with a D3s (i.e. 12MP files) practical. The biggest pano involved 240ºx160º field of view and comprised some 625 individual photographs, some focus stacked with up to 11 steps. It was the image that prodded me into upgrading the computer, because processing on my previous 8-core 2.66 GHz 12GB RAM machine had been impossibly slow. But the D3s has some drawbacks: it is heavy to carry, and on the Nodal Ninja Ultimate panoramic head it is imperative to use the mirror up function with at least a slow 2-count pause before releasing the shutter. There is no room in one of these sequences for even one vibration-affected frame. In a photo with moving objects and less than still air, the slowness of operation thus caused can become a real problem (this shot took 29 minutes to take, moving as quickly as I could). Of course with a slow taking sequence things like a sunrise (or sunset) become something that must be planned and prejudged exactly to even work, as the earth's rotation cannot be put on pause. I think there were close to 300 shots in this sunrise, and that it worked at all still leaves me slack-jawed (took about 12 minutes to expose moving top left to bottom right, along with a three hour return hike the evening before to work everything out so the pre-dawn setup wouldn't be guesswork): Now enter Nikon's release of the D800E. On the face of it the extra resolution & modified anti-alias filtering was oh-so appealing (though I'm not sure why, as the human eye doesn't have a 100% function), along with the draw card of its 14+ stop dynamic range. I was on the cusp of ordering one, but delayed to allow production to bed in, and this delay let the misgivings I had filed into the "do not think about" basket bubble to the surface. My supplier's attempt to interest me in a wide-angle attachment for my Fuji X100 led me on to investigate the new Fuji Pro X1, sweetened by Fuji's promise of a Leica M mount adapter, along with a plethora of 3rd party adapters for umpteen other lens mounts. So I took more interest in my X100 and tried to envision how a mirrorless rangefinder camera with a hybrid viewfinder might fit into the scheme of my "serious" photographic work. Yesterday I set up the X100 on the Nodal Ninja pano head in the backyard and did a really rough 360º spherical set of exposures (74 all-up). Focus stacking is not an option with this camera given that any "manual" focusing involves turning a focusing ring which in turn has the AF motor moving the lens, which is jerky and after-thought style stupid. However a manual focus legacy lens will not have this drawback on a Pro X1. Getting to the point of all this now was that taking the pano was simply lightning fast compared with the mirror-up~...wait~....release of the D3s. Triggered with a good old-fashioned screw-in type cable release, the only problem was not vibration (zero) but rather knowing that the camera had taken the exposure at all, the shutter being so quiet. The X1 will be louder, and this is not a bad thing in this instance. Or alternatively the sonic fake shutter sound could be set in the menu, of course. All 74 shots were completed in 5 minutes flat, including a couple of pregnant pauses where I wondered whether the shutter had gone off at all, and also fiddling with the pano head to adjust for the vertical rows. The desire for the D800E was teetering... So to image assembly - the X100 takes 12.2MP size files. The computer had no problem with this, but the end file size was still a tad over 2GB. So the 16MP Pro X1 using a similar focal length will have one of these spherical panos using a 23mm lens in at around 2.75GB, and for a D800E we're looking at around 6.6GB by simple multiplication - but probably not all that much larger if a 23mm lens was used as the sensor covers more real estate with each shot. However this is getting ridiculous for something to be printed out at a maximum of 24" high @ 288ppi, or worse, made into a quicktime pano tour web-size movie of around 1MB. Even a 44" high print would probably be over-serviced. Have you ever tried to sell a 44"x 8' print? Very small market for this. Tiny, even. As small as the print is large. If I were trying to enlarge a single frame to 34"x24" perhaps the D800E would make sense, but fact is that I rarely do this, and even when I have the D3s files have posed no real problems getting there. Sure, they might not hold up as well under inspection-glass scrutiny, but at a viewing distance of a couple of feet or more, no problems whatsoever. Even though using the same focal length might result in fewer photos needed overall with the D800E, if focus stacking each shot was part of the equation there would be the need to process these full-size D800E files, so a stack of 12 would involve churning around roughly 2.4GB of info in the form of Tiff files. A pano involving stacks from 1" to infinity would be a nightmare, but this is something I'm working on at the moment. Even though there'll be more individual stacks involved, the ~100MB Tiffs from a 16MP camera will be a lot more machine friendly than doing this with 36MP files. Same goes for HDR stacks. The backyard shot below started out at 27771 pixels wide, hammered down to 1389px if expanded by clicking on the forum thumbnail further hammered down to that shown here, so forget about judging image detail & sharpness, just take my word that both are here in spades on the original (the DR is, however, very evident, and yes, I'll paint the shed one day, after I repaint the roof and everything else that a 132 year old house needs in ongoing maintenance ): I had made a lo-res *.mov "tour" file of this but the website refused to upload it (format incompatible?) so the smudge bottom & top won't make sense, but the tripod is what's stretched along the bottom, and I didn't bother with either "nodal" shots to cover the tripod over or the zenith circle either. Edit: I'll also add this 100% section (click on it to see at it's 1000px width) to back what I said about resolution and to give perhaps a better idea of just how big this image is at its native resolution, the dam & post gives the position of this away with regard to the rest of the picture (remember, this is from a 12.2MP camera): Now the Pro X1 has allegedly got the best sensor ever seen in an APS-C format, and given the way that the X100 handled this rough & ready 360º shot covering deep shadow to straight into the sun (no planning at all, only the most cursory exposure reading & setting), I'd have no fear that the Pro X1 will be more than capable of even better. So I'll probably order one next week. Also the 23mm lens on the X100 is too wide for panos with minimal distortion (crop factors are meaningless here outside of the number of shots required, 23mm is 23mm which causes almost unacceptable anamorphic distortion in panos - or horizontal compression, to put it another way) - 35mm is my preferred focal length as a balance between anamorphic distortion and sheer numbers of photos required to cover the real estate, and thus also the end file size. So in fact we're talking even bigger unsampled end file sizes anyway... the first photograph at the top was taken with a 50mm lens to completely wipe out anamorphic distortion, which helps account for the huge number of shots required (aside from the stacking involved). Of course the smaller APS-C sensor on the Pro X1 will require even more shots to cover the same real estate were I to use a 50mm lens, and were I to contemplate a 4/3rds camera, even moreso again. So assuming a 35mm lens will be the best compromise, I have a 35/1.4 AI-s which I bought brand new at end 2010 and will fit a Pro X1 via adapter, and I possibly will nevertheless also contemplate the Fuji's "standard" 35/1.4 as well for those AF-type shots away from the pano head. Whatever, the D800E would appear to be off my shopping list now as being less practical for this sort of thing. Swings and roundabouts, nothing's ever simple, is it? Link to discussion
  13. 2 points
    Cape Town is different. While it sits at the toe of the African continent, visitors to this city might be forgiven for thinking that they have arrived somewhere else entirely. It doesn’t look very African and despite many attempts to make it seem more like an African city, you might easily mistake it for a lesser known part of Europe on arrival because wherever you go you will hear foreign languages being spoken. There's also these looming mountains everywhere making it look like it could be the Alps. Even the climate is different to the rest of Africa’s. They actually have discernible seasons in Cape Town, unlike my province where there is only Summer and Summer Light. In Cape Town the winters are cold, wet, windy and miserable and the summers are hot and dry. Very dry. I was amused to learn that they don’t have electrical thunderstorms in Cape Town, so when those folks come to other parts of Africa and they hear thunderclaps they think that Armageddon has begun and they need to seek out the nearest bomb shelter. But as quirky as it is, Cape Town is certainly high on the wish list for many because it really does have a lot to offer its visitors. My wife, like many South Africans, had never been to Cape Town. You may ask why? Well, for starters, it’s not around the corner from the most populated regions of South Africa. For us it’s a 3400km round trip by road. This puts it out of the “weekend getaway” zone if you want to drive because it’ll take you at least 2 days driving each way. Flying is an option, but it’s not cheap as it presents other logistical expenses, such as car hire and transfers to our local airport. In many cases once you have factored in all the expenses it becomes more attractive for the average South African to take a 10 day packaged holiday to places like Thailand or Mauritius than to visit Cape Town. This is not an exaggeration and it’s precisely what many people end up doing. When we first met in 1989 my wife Nikki and I weren’t allowed to travel overseas because of the travel ban on South Africans under the apartheid state. We were born into a generation that does not qualify for ancestral citizenships as our families have been here since before WW1, so destinations like the UK and most of Europe were not possible. We were allowed into some countries, like the USA and Canada, but the costs of getting there were largely prohibitive for the average young person, so we tended to not travel at all. We decided to start a family which after the fall of apartheid in 1994 and the removal of travel restrictions meant that we had no money for such luxuries as world travel anyway. We spent the next 3 decades rearing 2 boys and chasing our tails financially. When we did go away on holidays they were always to nearby places and often these trips had to be co-ordinated with school holidays and available leave days for Nikki. Not that easy. Now that the boys are grown up and mostly independent, I was determined to get her to Cape Town, so I started planning early in 2019 for just how I was going to do this. My original plan had been to do the coastal drive, stopping overnight along the way and making the most of it by poking our heads into the many towns that make up the “Garden Route” (one of the very few areas of the country that I have yet to see). That idea wasn’t met with much enthusiasm, especially after our mechanic, her cousin, started relaying to us the dangers of driving through the Eastern Cape town of Umtata. I’ll be honest, even I was put off after he described what it was like. These tales of horror matched with similar ones I read on a local 4x4 community forum. The general consensus is to avoid Umtata and the N2 road between it and East London at all costs. The problems there range from poor road conditions, to drunken pedestrians, cattle in the road and of course the inept and inexcusably shocking driving by long range taxi bus drivers. I definitely didn’t want to spend 4 days of holiday time being stressed out behind the wheel (or stressing out Nikki), so I started looking at the costs of flights to Cape Town and car rental. South African Airways has a budget airline called Mango. If you’ve ever travelled here you’ll see their bright orange aircraft at all the major airports. The prices of tickets weren’t too bad when compared to the cost of fuel for my aged Hyundai Tucson and road tolls, so it definitely made more sense to fly and then rent a cheap car instead of driving. Ultimately I did just that and booked us tickets for the last week of November, which is kind of the end of spring here, beginning of summer. Accommodation was taken care of by Airbnb. We were going to spend 2 nights in Gordon’s Bay, which is a small town on the eastern side of False Bay about 50km from Cape Town where we would visit my aunt and cousins, and then another 5 nights in the Cape Town City Bowl, practically at the foot of Table Mountain. About 2 weeks before we were scheduled to travel news reports began to emerge on the impending collapse of South African Airways. Like all the other state-owned enterprises in this country, SAA has been ruined by kleptocracy of the worst order. Total corruption within the upper echelons of the company has meant that they are unable to pay their workforce on time, nor offer them any kind of inflation combatting increases in wages. The workers had had enough and the week before we were supposed to travel a crippling strike by ground staff began, causing the prompt cancellation of all SAA flights internationally and domestically. Needless to say I was properly panicked and began thinking of alternatives. There are a number of independent airlines in the country, but given the demand for flights, it seemed impossible that they would be able to pick up the slack left by the national carrier in the wake of the strike. For some reason that I am still not entirely certain of, but can only ascribe to divine providence, Mango, despite being a subsidiary of SAA, wasn’t affected by the strike at all and all their flights remained on track. We left Durban on a Saturday morning as planned and arrived in Cape Town 2 hours later. Sure beats a 2 day drive! When you leave the Cape Town International airport by road you can either head West towards the city or East towards Somerset West. Sounds kooky, doesn’t it? But that’s just Cape Town for you. Up until the advent of satellite navigation I have had terrible trouble orienting myself in the city. I had always just assumed that Table Mountain faced south, but this is totally wrong. It faces North-West, which is why you can stand on the shores of Blouberg in the north and get the iconic image of Table Mountain with Lion’s Head and Devil’s Peak on either side of it. Locals will always tell you to use the mountains as landmarks to avoid getting lost, but it doesn’t help when they look different from different angles. Table Mountain doesn’t look very table-like until you are looking at it from the North, so approaching the city from the East can be a little disconcerting if your sense of direction is already bamboozled by Somerset West signs sending you east! The other big difference with Cape Town is that they are effectively 2 hours behind us as far as daylight goes, yet they’re in the same time zone as the rest of the country. This is great in summer because as the sun only sets around 9pm it gives you a lot more time in the evenings to do things if you work a normal 9 hour day. Get home at about 5pm, head out to the beach and you still have 4-5 hours of good light to do whatever catches your fancy. It does totally mess with our East Coast heads though. On the first evening we were visiting with my family in Gordon’s Bay I asked Nikki if she knew what the time was (she doesn’t wear a watch). She said it must be about 6pm. I told her it was 8.30pm and after the shock wore off she became immediately super hungry because we hadn’t eaten much that afternoon! So around an hour or so later after bidding family good night, we went in search of a take-away joint for something to eat. The usual chain outlets like KFC and Steers all seemed to be closed, but fortunately we found a place called Zebro’s open (barely!) and went in to place an order. It was here that we discovered the famous Cape Town “Gatsby” sandwich. Now I use the term “sandwich” loosely because it is essentially a very long baguette filled with strips of grilled chicken, various sauces and other fillings including “slap chips” (french fries if you have no idea what that is). And it’s cheap as chips too! They had two options on their menu board, regular and large. Nikki was initially going to order a chicken burger and have one of these on the side, but then we asked them how big the regular one is. A person working in the grilling area picked up this bread roll that looked about as long as a golf club and showed it to us. Ooohhhh…we said in unison! We ordered one regular and took it back to our little Airbnb apartment. It was delicious, but even between us we couldn’t finish it, or even get close. Early the next morning we went in search of breakfast and took a stroll along the Gordon’s Bay beach. A very pleasant scene! Right next to Gordon’s Bay you will find the Strand, which is the Germanic word for beach. It was here that I felt most like I was at home on the East Coast. The area is typically “beachy” with a long strip of high rise apartment buildings, hotels, restaurants and of course a promenade upon which you will find scores of people enjoying the sunset by eating ice cream and drinking wine. It is definitely more relaxing and enjoyable to watch the sun set over the sea than to have to get up before dawn and watch it rising. People also tend to look at you funny if you drink beer or wine at sunrise. The Strand really captured my heart and if we ever relocate to the Western Cape I think this is probably where I would like to set up. I can picture myself living in a beachfront apartment and enjoying the sunset from a sea facing window on a daily basis. Having grown up next to the Indian Ocean I am at my calmest when I can look at a body of water often. Living inland definitely isn’t for me. Neighbouring Gordon’s Bay is very quaint, but seems a little sleepy in comparison to The Strand. On the Sunday my aunt took us on an outing to Willem Van Der Stel’s Vergelegen Estate in Somerset West where we walked around the amazing gardens there. It is typically Cape Dutch in the architecture. On the estate are some enormous camphor trees that were planted there by the Governor in the very early 1700’s. These were proclaimed as national monuments in 1942. After our family visit was over we ventured West towards the city. Our Airbnb was a wonderful modern loft apartment in Upper Buitenkant Street and from the sofa we could watch the cableway making its way up Table Mountain. It was the perfect location for our unplanned daily outings. There are some “must see” things in Cape Town, even if they are very touristy and you find yourself wondering what on earth brought you there. The first place we headed for was the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. Basically the city of Cape Town has commercialised parts of the quayside and turned them into a large shopping mall with an abundance of restaurants. There are masses and masses of them catering for every taste. The drawback to this development (which happened in the mid 1980’s) is that there are scores of tourists everywhere. We even saw Russian sailors in uniform roaming around the space, shopping bags in hand. The next day we did the peninsula, driving from Hout Bay, through the iconic Chapman's Peak Drive, to Cape Point and then on and around the False Bay side, taking in Simon's town, Fish Hoek and then on to Muizenberg Beach. This is a very pleasant drive, especially the Chapman's Peak section (which you now have to pay to drive through as it takes a lot of work to maintain it). Hout Bay is very scenic, definitely a place photographers should visit at either end of the day for great light and subject matter. You'll encounter seals swimming in the small harbour too. Going through the actual Chapman's Peak Drive we encountered a few groups of local kamikaze cyclists who tore through the bends like they were being chased by the beast of the Abyss. I couldn't help but think that if any of them were a tad late on the brakes or miscalculated a bend they would most certainly come to a sticky end. We also came across a couple of more sedate British touring cyclists at one of the many lookout points who offered to take our picture with the Hout Bay starting point in the background. Chapman's Peak Drive is a marvel of engineering and definitely a must do if you visit Cape town. Once we had wound our way through "Chappies" as it's affectionately known by the locals, we pressed on towards Cape Point, which is the southernmost point of the city (not the continent - that honour belongs to Cape Agulhas, which is about 170km away). The only other time I had been here was on our epic 2013 Namaqualand To Namibia Safari. On that day I didn't get to the top because a squall came through just as we were getting close and this forced us to beat a hasty retreat to the car. It's not a short walk from the car park to the lighthouse at the top and there are many steps to climb. Poor Nikki got about 50m from the top and her legs gave up. She should have ridden up in the funicular. However, having missed it the first time, I wasn't going to do the same again given the perfect weather this time, so I left her to recuperate in the shade of a bush while I went up to the top. I'm glad I did because the view from up there is spectacular, although not all that easy to photograph well. There are a couple of penguin colonies in the Cape Town area. We had heard about one of them near Simon's town, so as this was on the way back we decided to stop off and have a look. Apparently we were in the wrong place because we didn't see the boardwalks or fences that have been erected to stop this colony from invading the local residential properties. I also heard that you have to pay to see them and nobody asked us for any money, so we just snapped away. Our final stop on this long, but very interesting drive was at Muizenberg Beach, famous for its bright coloured beach huts seen in travel brochures the world over. To be honest, Muizenberg is stuck in the mid-20th century. The beachfront looks very jaded and while the huts are certainly an interesting feature, the rest of the place is desperately in need of an update. Unless you absolutely have to visit those huts I'd not bother with this stop. The really absolute must do on a trip to Cape Town is of course the ride up the cableway to the top of Table Mountain. I had been up here once before in 1983 with my Dad and my brother while my Mom waited at the bottom. There was no way she was going to get into those cable baskets. In those days they were pretty scary as they were mostly open cages. Thankfully the new ones are quite fancy and they rotate as you make the trip. For me the scariest part is just before you get into the dock at the top and you find yourself looking over the other side of the edge of Table Mountain, realising just how high above the ground you are! Fortunately Nikki's sister had talked her into going up via text messages because she doesn't like heights and having been stuck midway on a zipline at a company outing a few years ago, the thought of hanging out in mid air doesn't appeal to her much at all. She is glad she did though, because once you're up there the scene below is breath taking. We had many other adventures and outings over the week we were there, including walks in the CBD of the city, which is something we can't do in our home town anymore for fear of being mugged. On the whole we felt very safe, but there were some bad elements around. One morning as we walked from our loft to The Castle Of Good Hope (about 1.5km away) we were accosted by a young white youth looking for money. As we always do with beggars back home we just ignored him. On the way back we saw somebody passed out on the pavement with his backside hanging out of his pants. Walking past him I recognised it was the same guy from earlier. He must have obviously got somebody to give him some money so that he could get his fix. It's such a sad thing to bear witness to but this misery is found all over the world. One of the outings I had intended to do, but then decided against was the visit to Robben Island. Apparently it's a 4 hour tour of the island, plus of course the ferry ride on choppy waters. As a South African I don't really need to be reminded of the injustices of apartheid - we live with them every day. Maybe one day I will take the trip across the water, but on this occasion I was content to see the silhouette of Table Mountain, Devil's Peak and Lion's Head from up the coast at Bloubergstrand. Before we knew it our time in this beautiful city had come to an end. The trip has definitely left an impression on us and we are itching to go again, next time with the whole family. Photography gear notes: all images were made with an Olympus E-M1 (2013 model) and Olympus 12-100mm f/4.0 PRO lens. This is an excellent travel kit, giving you great versatility and outstanding image quality.
  14. 2 points
    Olympus South Africa very kindly loaned me an E-M1X for my recent Photo Safari to Sabi Sabi and while I only had a few days before leaving on the trip to become accustomed to the camera, I did manage to produce some great images (by my standards) while using it in conjunction with the Olympus 300mm f/4.0 PRO. The first thing that struck me about this camera when taking it out of the box is the sheer size of it. It is huge. If you’ve been using Micro Four Thirds bodies to get away from the bulk of traditional DSLR’s then you will not want this camera. I was quite shocked at its size initially, especially when compared to my gripped E-M1 (original) which I have been shooting since 2014. The Nikon D5 is only 15mm bigger in terms of depth, height and width all around, so for a small sensor camera to be so close in size to a flagship 35mm camera begs some serious questioning of the makers. Side-by-side view of the E-M1X and the original E-M1 with its grip So why did Olympus make this camera so big? When you begin handling it the answer falls into place. It’s designed for sports and action photographers who are used to the speed and heft of cameras like the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS 1D series. That’s the user market Olympus are targeting with this machine. It feels substantial in the hands and the ergonomics are such that if you’re used to a bigger camera, moving across to the E-M1X will be much easier for you to adapt to, especially since the Olympus is so highly customisable that you could easily set it up to pretty much emulate the ergonomics of your big DSLR. Well, maybe not the Canons which often require simultaneous button presses to activate certain things, but most certainly it would be easy for a Nikon shooter to make the change. Not much in it, dimension wise, is there? So we now have a giant MFT camera that feels like a Nikon D5. Why didn’t they do what Panasonic has done and make a bigger sensor too? Good question. Why stick with MFT sensors if you want to attract the sports and wildlife shooters of the world? This is where the concept of MFT begins to make sense. The main advantage to be had when shooting this small format as opposed to 35mm is that MFT lenses are comparatively diminutive. For example, on my safari I packed in the Olympus 300/4.0 PRO as well as my older 50-200/2.8-3.5 SWD and a third un-gripped body with the Olympus 12-100/4.0 PRO. I also had the Pan/Leica 8-18mm lens in my bag because I wanted to make some photos of the lodge while I was there. Those items I took as a carry on in the ThinkTank Airport Advantage roller and while the bag was not exactly light once my laptop and other peripherals were in it (about 15kg total), had I wanted a similar focal range shooting a 35mm system, I would have had to pack a 600mm f/4.0, 200-400mm f/4.0 and a regular camera with professional wide angle and ultra-zoom lenses. There is no way you could take that as a carry on with 35mm, so you’d have to bring a hard case and pay for the extra baggage. You then also have the added stress of wondering if your precious gear will make it to its destination. Having been in this exact situation many times before moving across to MFT from Nikon 35mm I know exactly what the challenges of travelling with large lenses and heavy gear are. This is the gear I took on the safari in the ThinkTank Airport Advantage. Conversely travelling with MFT is easy. Even with the giant E-M1X body, the space and weight savings of the incredible Olympus PRO and Panasonic/Leica lenses is a Godsend. Also consider the additional overhead of having to bring along a support system for your big 35mm glass because I doubt you’re going to want to hand hold a 600/4.0 lens if you’re going on a photography trip where such a lens is wanted. You’ll also need to pack a monopod and probably a gimbal head too. MFT systems like Olympus don’t require any support other than your hand, even when shooting the 300mm f/4 PRO. The IBIS and lens IS combine incredibly well. Given its considerable girth, for the E-M1X to make sense as a photographic tool that is intended to win over 35mm users it also needs to have some other things going for it. It will need to have seriously fast and accurate auto-focus, plus it will need to offer decent image quality in low light. This is where things get interesting. Read on! Auto Focus I’m not a back-button focus photographer. I can understand the principle behind this method and I have tried it a few times, but I have been using single point AF-S for so long that trying to change that deeply ingrained behaviour is really hard for me. I’ve also never set up any of the cameras I have ever owned to work in AF-C mode with any degree of success, so I tend to stab at the shutter button rapidly to keep slow moving things in focus (it’s very rarely that I will find myself photographing fast moving subjects). This method has worked for me for quite a long time now. So when I started reading the autofocus section in the E-M1X manual (which itself is a gargantuan 680-odd pages long in just English alone!) I was staggered by the array of setup options for the AF system of the E-M1X. I simply didn’t have enough time before my safari to comprehend all the options it offers, let alone try them out in practical situations. As mentioned I always set up AF to use a single point in AF-S mode and I recompose once I see the green dot. I don’t use the grouped points, so for me learning something as sophisticated as the AF system on the E-M1X is going to require a specific set of applications, which currently I don’t have in my work. For people who shoot birds in flight, aviation, motorsport and fast action sports such as soccer, ice-hockey and the like, this is probably going to be a winner, especially since they have built in subject recognition for certain things like cars, trains and planes. Apparently these subjects will be added to in firmware as they build up better data on new ones. I can imagine that leopard detection might be a thing in the future. One feature that I didn’t try but thought was interesting is the Len Focus Range. This setup allows you to define the distances that the AF system should work in. It basically allows you to tell the camera not to focus on objects that are a certain distance away from you. For example, if you are shooting a sport like boxing or ice hockey, you could set this up to avoid focusing on the ropes and/or plexiglass between you and what you’re trying to shoot. Some lenses will have these limits built in, but with the E-M1X you can specify exactly how many metres you want to work within. Another thing I liked about the X is that you can assign the Home position for the single AF point to be in a different position when shooting in the portrait orientation. This is really handy for events when I find myself having to shift the AF point between shooting people at a podium and then switching to the audience in landscape orientation. Very nice feature. What I can tell you about the AF system as I used it, is that it’s reassuringly lightning quick and accurate for the wildlife subjects I was photographing. There’s no hunting unless you miss a contrast point, like all cameras I have ever tried. Focus is almost instantaneous, even when subjects are not so close. In summary, I don’t think that anybody coming from 35mm will be disappointed with the AF capability of the E-M1X. If anything they might be pleasantly surprised given the sheer array of options available to control how the system works. Wildebeest in the misty morning, no problem with auto focus here in spite of the grass Using my "repeated stabbing" AF technique I managed to get a moderately sharp image, but I reckon had I used the camera's AF-S mode here the shot would have been better. Speed One of the biggest advances Olympus made with this camera is the CPU speed. This is a very fast camera in terms of how quickly it processes and reads off data from the sensor. It’s so fast that you can do sensor shift high resolution images handheld. I didn’t really try this out properly, plus Lightroom can’t read the resulting .ORI files so the handful of shots I did take with this mode active, I have to process in Olympus Workspace, which I am completely new to. Sorry! As such I can’t formulate an opinion right now on how useful it is based on such a small sample of images, but what I can say is that on stationary subjects I think it can work quite well. I’d love to try it out in studio doing product photography, but I think there might be some issues syncing it with studio strobes. Getting back to the intended sports user of this camera, there is the not-so-insignificant Pro Capture mode to consider as a lure for the photographers who want to simplify their lives and get great action every time. Basically with the mode active the camera writes continuously to the buffer while you are holding the shutter button halfway down. As soon as your critical capture moment arrives you trip the shutter and the camera will record whatever it has currently in the buffer to the card(s). This is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel really, especially if you have the patience to sit with your finger on the trigger waiting for a bird to take flight. You can’t miss the shot. Unless you’re like me and you get tired of waiting and the bird chuckles at you as you put down the camera just before it flies away. I'll settle for stationary birds On the subject of Pro Capture, this mode is set by changing the drive mode in Super Control Panel (SCP). However, the thing is you may (like me) forget to switch this back to a regular drive mode after failing to record the wretched lilac breasted roller taking off, and then at your next sighting you will end up with dozens of images of a stationary buffalo. Or worse still, you’ll be wanting to shoot a sequence of something happening, but after you accidentally trigger Pro Capture you will have to wait for the camera to write its buffer onto your card. If you have a not-so-fast card like me this could be a few seconds, followed by several more trying to remember where to switch off the Pro Capture mode. Ideally I’d love to be able to have Pro Capture activate by holding down a custom function button together with the shutter button. A Fn button on the PRO lenses would be an ideal setup for this pretty cool feature. While I had the E-M1X I couldn’t see a way of being able to assign that particular feature to any of the custom function buttons, so hopefully Olympus’ engineers will read this criticism and work out a way of doing it in future firmware upgrades. I did manage to set up a quick switch between normal and Pro Capture by using the Custom Modes, but that requires remembering to change modes between sightings. Duh. Regarding Custom Modes there are four of these that are assignable to the PASM dial, so if your memory is better than mine you can set up each custom mode for a different type of shooting simply by changing the mode. However, you’re going to have to have a Gary Kasparov like mind because the sheer number of custom settings on a camera like the E-M1X is mind-boggling. There are pages and pages and more pages of custom settings in the menus and if you’re not used to the way Olympus does menus, you’re either going to go stir crazy or require a lot of patience (and batteries) to get the better of it all. It’s not insurmountable though and experienced Olympus users will probably be able to set up their custom modes quite easily after a few weeks with the camera in the field. One thing I really liked about the X is that there is a Custom Menu area where you can save up to 5 pages of menu items that you regularly need to access. Storing an item in there is as simple as pressing the Record video button while the item is selected in the menu. That’s a very big plus for me and goes a long way towards personalising the Olympus menu system. Stabilisation The IBIS and lens IS combine in the E-M1X to create an extraordinary amount of stabilisation. I was using the 300/4.0 PRO on this body almost exclusively for the duration of our 7 days in Sabi Sabi and occasionally I would shoot birds sitting on nearby branches. When I do my focus and recompose technique the subject does what I can only describe as a “moonwalk” glide from one part of the frame to the other. There is absolutely no camera shake at all handheld, which when you consider that you are using a 4.1˚ angle of view is bonkers! Olympus claim a 6 stop advantage in handheld photography and I have no doubt that this is true. Given my sloppy technique this is yet another Godsend to make my images look much better than they should. Stabilisation with long lenses is incredible. Battery Battery life was pretty decent. The camera comes with two batteries and typically I only exhausted about 50% of the one each day. Granted I don’t shoot as much as everybody else. On this safari I took a total of 1726 images with the E-M1X, averaging 288 per day. So, assuming I were to exhaust both batteries in a day I would be able to shoot over 1000 frames before having to recharge them. However, it is also possible to charge the camera via USB-C, so if you did get trigger happy enough to shoot that many in a day on safari, you could recharge from a power bank between sightings. Or just buy more batteries. Low Light Right, this is where the rubber hits the road as far as getting 35mm power-users interested in switching to MFT. I’ll say it at the outset, I was disappointed in the low light performance of the E-M1X sensor. For starters, it doesn’t seem possible to be able to set Auto-ISO to go above 6400 on the X. None of the expanded ranges are available when using the auto mode while shooting RAW, which I think is just silly. This is how I shoot these days. I always use Auto-ISO. On the original E-M1 I sometimes let this go as high as 12800 and while the images may appear grainy they have a certain film-like charm to them. You can’t do that on the X. You have to set ISO 12800 or above manually. As far as graininess goes, 6400 on the E-M1X is very grainy and there is also a major loss of colour fidelity. To be honest I was expecting much better performance from the sensor at high ISO, so for me this is a deal breaker. Since the camera is intended to compete against the likes of the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS 1D series (where higher ISO is a forte), it sadly falls well short in this area. Having said that, I think that if you buy this camera and invest some time in learning how to deal with the grain and colour issues in post production you could probably get some very good results. Shot at ISO 6400, you can see the grain in the background, plus there has been a general loss of colour saturation. But then in good light you'll get rewarded. Gorgeous colours from the Olympus. No adjustments in post. Cool Things I Liked The sound of the mechanical shutter is really soft. It’s a lot quieter than my old E-M1 and if you are in the business of shooting in quiet places (churches, meetings, etc) you may not even have to switch to electronic shutter and risk the rolling effects thereof. It’s nice and quiet. I really appreciated the built in GPS and weather sensor on the E-M1X. This camera will tell you what the barometric pressure, altitude and ambient temperature was on every shot you take. I wish Lightroom would pick up those EXIF fields, alas you have to use the Olympus Workspace software to read them. A Couple Of Nit Picks There are a couple of things that I didn’t like, most notably there is no loop for a grip strap in the base of the camera so you would have to put a plate onto there to accommodate one (I used the Peak Design Clutch with its little plate). That seems like a daft omission to me because the moment you have to put a plate on the grip you lose the comfort of shooting with it in portrait mode. I was also a bit disappointed with the EVF. The refresh rate and colour was all good, but it just seemed to lack a bit of bite. The EVF on my old original E-M1 seems sharper to my eyes, which is a little weird. I did try adjusting the diopter a few times, but it didn’t seem to improve things. It could have been a contrast setting in the menus that I missed? The one thing I really don’t like (and I have expressed my dislike of this before) is the flip out LCD screen. This is something video producers want, but as a stills photographer I truly don’t want this as it’s a very weak point of the camera just waiting to snap off in the right circumstances. I much prefer the tilting screen of the original OM-D’s. Olympus should make it an option for this kind of premium camera: which type of LCD screen would you prefer, Mr. Customer? Conclusion I wish that I could have kept the camera for just a little bit longer as there are many other areas I would have liked to explore its performance in, especially my daily bread and butter work of property and product photography. Alas, they are in short supply around here so it had to go back post haste. My overall impression is that it is quite an impressive machine. It offers the photographer a lot of very cool features, excellent customisability and ergonomics. It is a specialist camera, however, and as such I think that the intended market for it is going to be a hard nut for Olympus to crack, especially given its lack of high ISO performance, which is something the sports photographers demand. If you’re a day shooter or you shoot action in well lit arenas then the advances this machine brings in terms of auto-focus and customisability, plus the sheer plethora of outstanding MFT lenses available for the system makes it a very attractive option, especially for those who travel a lot for photography. You get the ruggedness, heft and weather proofing of a pro body and the lightness and compactness of much smaller lenses. For me personally I would love one, after all I got more keepers on this most recent safari than in all the 10 years of safaris preceding it, but… there is the matter of that eye-watering $3000 price tag to consider. With the recent firmware upgrade to the E-M1 Mk II now bringing its feature set closer to that of the X, it is going to be much harder for Olympus to pitch this camera at the wider market and existing MFT users with that price tag. If it were closer to $2000 I might be a lot more interested in buying one. My final advice? If you want the very best camera that MFT can currently offer you for stability, video features, ruggedness, crazy feature set and customisability, get the E-M1X. If you are expecting par performance with a 35mm pro camera for low light, rather save $1500, wait for the sensor technology to improve and get the E-M1 Mk II for now.
  15. 2 points
    For those interested in migrating Apple Aperture libraries to Capture One I created this video that illustrates the process and details what metadata and organizational structure is migrated into Capture One. Here are some notes I made while testing this process over and over again in preparation to make the video. What Aperture Library information is imported into the Capture One Catalog Image files are imported into Capture One by reference Aperture Color Labels import correctly to Capture One Color Labels AA Color Labels – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, gray CO Color Labels – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, purple NOTE: AA purple translates to CO pink, AA gray translates to CO purple AA Duplicate Versions become CO Variants All keywords and IPTC metadata come over (flattened due to an Aperture deficiency) All ratings come over What Aperture Library information is NOT imported into the Capture One Catalog Flags – suggest filtering for flagged images in AA and add special keyword Custom Metadata – Move custom metadata field information to standard IPTC fields Keyword Structure – Aperture keyword field does support nested keywords Image Stacks – Capture One only stacks variants of the same image (Versions) – I recommend making an album of each stack if you want to preserve it. Aperture albums are imported as Capture One albums. Books, Slideshows, Light Tables, Web Journals, Web Pages Organization of Aperture Libraries vs Capture One User Collections CO creates a top level Group (Folder) with the name of the AA Library that was imported All AA organization structure is imported and placed within this top level CO Group Aperture Projects become Capture One Projects Aperture Folders become Capture One Groups (Folders) Aperture Albums become Capture One Albums Aperture nested Folders become Capture One nested Groups CO creates an Album in each imported Project containing all images from corresponding AA Project How do Aperture and Capture One Differ Aperture associates images with Projects Capture One associates images with Albums Aperture Versions can reside in different Albums Capture One Variants are kept together in all Albums AA Stacks are not retained in CO does not have an equivalent CO Stacks can only stack all of the variants of a single image Selecting a Folder in Aperture WILL display all the images it contains Selecting a Group in Capture One will NOT display all the images it contains How are Aperture and Capture One Similar Selecting a Project displays all the images in all the Albums it contains Capture One Projects cannot contain other Projects Changing Inspector / Tool Tab panels does NOT change browser/viewer Full Disclosure: I am a Capture One affiliate. I earn a small referral fee if you use my affiliate link to purchase subscriptions, licenses, style packs and bundles.
  16. 2 points
    Over December and January I had the opportunity to use a demo sample of the new addition to the M.Zuiko PRO family of lenses, namely the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO. This is less of a review and more of a collection of my impressions and opinions of this lens, where I am basing my observations purely on some recreational photography I managed to do over the holiday period. Ideally I would have liked to do some proper work with the lens, unfortunately much of the country is in deep slumber over this period of time, so work didn’t really happen for me while I had the lens with me. Anyway, I did get out with it a few times so this is what I found out about it. Design & Handling We all know that this lens is the newest addition to the micro four thirds stable of ultra-wide zoom lenses, (the same angles of view as a Nikon 14-24mm lens on an FX body) but unlike the previous 7-14mm options from both Panasonic and Olympus (the latter in 4/3rds mount), this one has a bright f/2.8 maximum aperture throughout the zoom range. It’s also quite large as a result of this increase in the aperture and while it’s much smaller than the older 4/3rds 7-14mm f/4, it is still bigger and heavier than the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO. It totally dwarfs the diminutive Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6, which is currently my go-to wide angle lens for the m43 system. The build quality of the 7-14 is fantastic and follows the same conventions as the rest of the PRO range. Sleek, fully metal everywhere and truly indicative of manufacturing excellence. The only design issue I have with it is that it also uses the MF/AF clutch system, which has caught out many an Olympus photographer when its accidentally switched to MF. Fortunately the new firmware on most OM-D models lets you turn that off. Panasonic body users will not be so lucky, so they will need to proceed with caution. I suppose another design issue to talk about is that you won’t be able to use screw-in filters with this lens, but this is something that we see on all ultra-wide zoom lenses these days - none of them have this. I do recall seeing somewhere recently that either LEE or Cokin have developed a filter holder that you can put on the Nikon 14-24/2.8, so maybe they might look into doing something for this lens. To be honest though, I am not so sure that you will get good results with such a system and resin filters, especially at the extreme wide end of the zoom. There’s bound to be some serious optical diffraction unless they make the filters really thin. In The Field Like all the modern Olympus glass this one is sharp like a razor blade even at the maximum aperture. I shot with it stopped down a bit and also at the widest 2.8 aperture and honestly, there’s not a lot of difference to talk about. If you’re coming from consumer grade glass for your system you’ll see the difference immediately. That’s what you’re paying for with a lens like this. That said, sharpness isn’t everything. We need to look at some of the other characteristics of the lens optics and decide whether or not this is the right lens for us. Obviously each photographer who is thinking about this guy might have different needs for it, so what I am going to do is share how I used it during the time I had it and point out what I think are the good and bad points. I had hoped to use it indoors for some architectural work, but as mentioned that part of my business wasn’t active at all during the time I had it. Let’s take a look at some photos: One of the first things I did with this lens is climb up onto the roof of my garage and see how wide it looks at 7mm because we have a fairly impressive view from our house. This is what the lens saw at 7mm. Something I noticed on many of the earlier 7-14mm reviews posted when the lens first came out was that the wide angles looked weird to me, almost like they weren’t quite wide and had been squashed somehow. After puzzling this out in my mind I came to the conclusion that it is the 4:3 aspect ratio that was messing with my head. Because I use my OM-D’s permanently in 3:2 mode the images I got didn’t seem to have that sense of “compressed expansion” I saw on other reviews. They looked proper wide. So apart from the width of the viewing angle the next thing you will notice about the shot above is that there are three very strong flare dots dead in the middle of the frame. You will also notice that the sun is pretty high in the sky and not in the frame. In the next shot shown below, taken from the same position, but turned roughly 90˚to the left and tilting the camera to portrait orientation, you will see seven flare ghosts running into the frame at an angle. Also take note of the shadow lengths on my driveway. It was almost high noon. This is a bit of a problem for this lens. It flares very easily, even when the sun isn’t in the frame but where strong light hits the front element directly. I picked this up in many of the shots I took, indoors and outdoors. I am by no means an optical engineer, but there is something else I am seeing happening with this lens in that situation that makes me think that maybe Olympus have tried to correct more for the side effects of the flare than worry too much about the typical element ghosting we see in flare situations. Normally with lens flare the first thing that happens is you lose contrast. No so with this lens. The images retain a terrific amount of punch and colour doesn’t seem to be degraded at all. A few days later I took the 7-14mm down to the beach for a short stroll to see what I could find. If you look at the two shots above you will get to see the difference in the angle of view between 7mm and 14mm. Also notice that the perspective you get changes dramatically from one end to the other and this can make for some interesting creative effects given the right foreground / background subject relationships. I would love to have used this lens in a live concert where I could get right behind the singer and show the crowd in the background. In these two shots I have tried to illustrate the exaggerated perspective of the 7mm end, as well as show how the flare issue is more apparent in the first shot, but not in the second. Towards the end of December one of my cousins’ son was Christened at a local church and in-between shooting the actual event I managed to grab a few shots to illustrate how useful an extreme wide angle can be to show the inside of an expansive space. You can really get some interesting looks with this view. however, take note that the window light has once again caused the lens to flare, even indoors. The actual Christening (this is an Anglican Church) took place in a small vestibule near the entrance and using the wide part of the lens again I got some shots showing pretty much the entire room while I stood in the doorway. As far as distortion goes I didn’t find anything too objectionable in the bricks, but the head of the lady in the bottom right has been stretched ET style. That’s something you can’t get away from with rectilinear wide angle lenses like this. You’ll get it on every ultra-wide angle lens. Avoid putting people near the edges and the problem goes away. This next shot I took on 2 January at a gorge not too far from where I live (about 30-40kms by road). You can’t really appreciate the width of the shot but my intention was to try and show as much of the surroundings as possible without plunging headlong down the 70m or so to the bottom! This is one of the last images I took with the lens and it was just after an actual job I did a couple of weeks ago involving the Natal Sharks rugby team who were doing a signing session at a shopping mall. This shot gives you a good indication of how things get stretched with this lens design. You can fit a lot into the frame but don’t expect it to look “normal”. Here is the world famous Moses Mabhida football stadium. It’s probably one of the finest sports stadia in the world and has been host to many international matches, including the FIFA 2010 World Cup Semi Final. This isn’t my finest shot ever, but again you can see where a lens like this can come in useful. Also note that again we have flare spots appearing in the frame. The last shot I have to show you here is taken shooting directly into the morning sun and here you see a different sort of flare problem in the top right of the frame. A talented Photoshop user will easily get rid of these annoying ghosts, but I thought I would show you what happens when you shoot into the sun with the 7-14mm, seeing as I already showed you what happens when you don’t shoot into the sun. I don’t think it’s that bad. Overal Impression So that’s a look at the performance of the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO in the field. It’s certainly capable of producing fine results, but you will need to be constantly aware of the flare, even when shooting indoors with a bright light source in your frame. This might be an issue that precludes it from being used as an architectural lens, particularly for interiors where dealing with bright lights from windows is a constant. I think that a less extreme lens like the Olympus 12mm f/2.0 would be a better option. I do sometimes use the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 for that type of work and I have not had any issues with flare. It would be nice to get wider than 9mm for interiors, but it’s not essential. In another thread on Fotozones we were discussing this very thing and I personally would have no problems with Olympus developing a slower, wider fixed focal length lens that I could use for this kind of work. Something like an 8mm f/4.0 rectilinear lens would be a lot smaller than this enormous 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO and might actually work better for architectural photography since most of it is done on a tripod anyway. Also, consider that when shooting architecture you’re seldom going to need f/2.8. So for me the 7-14mm is not likely to find its way into my working kit any time soon. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have one, but everything I buy these days has to have a practical and measurably positive impact on my business as a photographer and unfortunately a lens this expensive falls squarely into the “nice-to-have” category. I don’t need it as much as I want it.
  17. 2 points
    Two Monday’s ago a fortnight of digital agony began as I set about upgrading the Fotozones software. Usually the software upgrades run smoothly, but in this instance it was anything but smooth. More like a ride on one of those amusement park gravity modifying apparatuses. I am told it is because I didn’t upgrade for such a long time that I ran into problems. Because of previous issues with early upgrades I guess I am averse to major changes, so upgrading software isn’t something I rush into these days. My bad. Anyway, that episode of digital nausea has passed so today I thought I would take some time out for myself to go and play with a new, old camera I got recently, but because of all the software dramas of the past fortnight, has sat on my desk looking expectantly at me like a rescue puppy might. The camera in question is the late 2013 Panasonic GM1 and 12-32mm kit lens. This is a Micro Four Thirds camera. As those of you who follow my writings and videos will already know, I recently sold the Canon 200D I got last year. I don’t have any pressing need to make more videos, but browsing through the classifieds on a local forum I saw an Olympus E-PL5 up for sale at a really keen price. I decided to get it because I actually like the Pen cameras and that model has a flip up selfie screen that would come in quite handy if I wanted to make more videos. So I got it. The cost was less than $100, but it didn’t come with a lens, so I was on the lookout for something I could use for it. I had my eyes open for the Olympus 14-42mm EZ kit lens, which isn’t found used that often. In casual conversation about my lens quest my buddy Peter mentioned to me that he was selling his Panasonic GM1 with the Panasonic 12-32mm kit lens. I wanted the lens only, but Peter made me a really good price on the body too, so I couldn’t pass it up. There went another $180 or so. I should mention that I was still up from the sale of the 200D though. What follows isn’t a review, so don’t expect any in-depth analysis, just some thoughts on cameras in general and how I got along with this particular one on my first outing with it. The GM1 is a really small camera. I mean, it’s ridiculously tiny. If I am out and about on a less than balmy day it will go into a jacket pocket without any issue. Today wasn’t exactly jacket weather, as you will see from the photos, so I put it into a larger bag (the ThinkTank Turn style 10) with some other camera stuff, just in case a Pulitzer Prize winning news moment presented itself to me, you know. I’m of the firm opinion that almost all cameras made since 2013 are good cameras. If you can’t get a great result out of a camera made after that year there can only be one (or more) of 3 factors at play. One, you have a terrible lens; two, you have terrible technique; three, somewhere along the line the camera you bought was dropped and the innards are not operating as they should. The sensors we have been getting in most cameras made after 2013 are brilliant capturing devices. You just need to know what you’re doing with them to get a good result. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the future for camera testing outfits like Dpreview and various others who play in measurement based camera appraisal systems are probably superfluous to all but perhaps a handful of very discerning photographers these days. The attractiveness of cameras is, I think, going to come down to just how well you can integrate yourself with the way they work, not whether or not they have 18 stops of dynamic range or can blast off 100 frames in a second, or shoot at ISO values that exceed the bank balances of the average Monte Carlo resident. So, getting a good result out of your post 2013 camera is highly dependent on coming to know that camera and working with it on a regular basis. Like in my case I have been using the Olympus E-M1’s since I got my first one in late 2013 (about the time the GM1 got announced) and after nearly 5 years of professional and personal use I don’t even have to think much about it’s operation. I switch it on and if I need to make changes I know instantly where to make them. The once confusing Olympus menu system is second nature to me now. The only things I have to think about, settings-wise, are the advanced features that I have used maybe once or twice, such as the Live Time long exposure thing, or anything to do with JPG settings (which I never use). I’ve only ever owned one other Panasonic camera, the GF1, which I liked, but ended up selling because at the time I had 2 Olympus Pen cameras that I thought were just a bit easier for me to work with. Whilst Panasonic and Olympus share the same Micro Four Thirds lens mount, their approach to operating the camera itself is very different. Kind of like the differences you’d find between Windows and macOS. They both do the same thing, just differently. The Panasonic interface is, I think, very intuitive and easy to learn unlike the Olympus, which admittedly took me a while to get used to coming from Nikon. That said, I do find some things on the GM1 a bit of a fiddle. Like this morning I was trying to change the aperture (in A mode), but kept changing the exposure compensation instead. Turns out that you need to press the command dial button for compensation again to toggle it off (there is only one dial on this tiny little camera). On the Olympus Pens it’s a similar process, just slightly different. You have to press the same button, but you can program the camera to move either the aperture value or the exposure compensation when turning the dial after that button is pressed. The GM1 doesn’t have that level of customisability so if you have burned a neural pathway into your brain from using your Olympus MFT camera a certain way, getting used to a Panasonic like the GM1 might test you a little. Fortunately it’s not an insurmountable hurdle. A bit of practice will make new neural pathways. Without an EVF I found using the rear LCD in this morning’s bright conditions not too difficult. The one thing I do struggle with is the amount of icons that Panasonic show on this LCD screen. Unlike the Olympus method of putting them along the side of the LCD screen, Panasonic have most of them along the top, which together with the row on the bottom can make the screen seem very crowded. It is easy to turn the top row off though by toggling the Info button, which leaves you with the bare bones of exposure settings on the bottom. I think I will be getitng along quite nicely with the world's littlest MFT camera, in spite of the differences between it and my Olympus stable. That they use the same lenses makes it a perfect black sheep cousin. Different, but lovable all the same. Here’s some of the shots from this morning's outing. All with the 12-32mm lens, processed in Lr 7.2. I'm usually showing you photos of my city from the piers we have, so today here's a shot from the North looking towards a couple of the many we have. This is the designated fisherman's pier. It's usually inhabited by subsistence fishermen who spend most of the day (and night) with their lines in the water. There is a space between the sand and the promenade that the city is trying to keep healthy with indigenous dune vegetation we get around these parts. The beachcombers are always out there, scouring the sand for buried treasure. The promenade is modeled on Rio's famous Copacabana beach. You are allowed to ride anything on wheels along there (except for motorcycles and cars). There is an outfit that offers Segway tours. Lazy! This is one of many outdoor gyms that have sprung up around the city in the past few years. I don't know how effective those machines are, but they certainly do seem to keep the users happy. After the beachfront I took a slow drive back home, stopping off at the marina. It was low tide, so I walked out a bit. Shooting almost into the sun here, so not the best result. These tug boats appear to be chasing this Greek tanker out of the bay! Four shot panorama of what was once a vibrant watering hole, but is now sadly neglected by the city's denizens. This was where my younger son played at the Durban Blues Festival.
  18. 2 points
    It occurred to me, as I was sitting ponderously at my desk recently, that while I have had the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens for over a year, I have still not written a review of it. Considering the absolutely top-notch quality of this general purpose lens it’s something of a massive oversight and I do apologise to the Olympus users who visit this site in search of insights into the gear I am using that I haven’t yet posted my “official” opinion of it. Better late than never, so here goes! The Futile Argument Of Equivalence OK, so most of the world’s photographers who are interested in micro four thirds will already know that this is a general purpose zoom lens for the system that covers the most commonly used angles of view, from moderate wide angle to moderate telephoto. Those using the 135 system will obtain a similar angle of view from a 24-80mm lens. Those using APS-C sensor systems like Fujifilm will be more familiar with the 18-55mm lens for this view. Those lenses all give a similar view but the larger sensors will give you a shorter depth of field when used at the widest apertures. Some arguments point to a 2 stop difference between 35mm systems and m43 systems, so the proponents of larger sensors will insist on stating that the 12-40mm f/2.8 m43 lens is only equivalent to a 24-80mm f/5.6 lens on that larger system. Anybody who knows anything about photographic exposure will quickly debunk this assertion because aperture controls not only depth of field but also exposure. You will get the same exposure under the same lighting conditions by using either an 24-70/2.8 or 12-40/2.8 lens. A 24-80mm f/5.6 lens cannot shoot at f/2.8 therefore it cannot be considered “equivalent” to a lens with an f/2.8 maximum aperture. The only characteristics it would share with such a lens are the depth of field seen when each is at its widest aperture. The equivalence theory goes out the window when you look at the comparative shutter speeds that would be required by each lens to make the same photo at their respective maximum apertures. The f/5.6 lens will need a four times slower (2 stops) shutter speed to make the exposure. Consider the f/2.8 lens showing a shutter speed of 1/30 second at f/2.8. The “equivalent” f/5.6 lens will need 1/8 second to make the same shot under the same light. Not so equivalent after all, is it? So, the only difference in the images these two f/2.8 lenses will create will be evident in the depth of field between them. The smaller lens will have more of it and the bigger lens will have less of it. How much less? Not really that noticeable when you are standing quite far away from the final image, be it printed or displayed on a screen. If you have a 24-70/2.8 lens stop it down to f/5.6 and look at what happens when you press the depth of field preview button. Right, so we’ve got that out of the way and hopefully put to bed the silly notion that we are looking at a 24-80mm f/5.6 lens in this review. We’re not. It’s a 12-40mm lens and it's f/2.8 all day long. The Cosmetics, Build Quality & Features When I first opened the black box that transported this lens safely into my hands it became very evident that Olympus have gone the whole hog with not only packaging presentation, but also the design of this lens. It’s solid. It’s bold in black. It has milled ridges on the focus and zoom rings, no rubber bands. It comes with a lens hood! There is a felt pouch for storage too. The lens cap has a new design and has a metal ring around it. There is a designated function button on the barrel that can be programmed to accept any number of Olympus custom functions. I can’t really find a function that is lens specific other than enabling the digital 2x teleconverter, so that’s what mine is set to. The logo and designation on the barrel appear to be engraved, not printed. It looks and feels like a lens that might have been made in an age when craftsmanship was something camera manufacturers all aspired to. Very handsome indeed. The 12-40mm is the first of Olympus’ PRO line of lenses. It’s weather sealed, so you can use it in a downpour (please don’t pour water on it like some crazy people have been doing to test this - it’s not waterproof, it’s weatherproof and there is a difference). There is one thing about this lens’ design that almost saw me sending it back before I had a chance to properly use it. When I put it on my E-M1 it was stone dead in the auto focus department. I checked the contacts on the camera and the lens. No dirt, no grease. I put it on the E-M5. Same thing. The cameras both acknowledged the presence of the lens and I could adjust apertures, meter properly and take shots, but I just couldn’t get it to auto focus. Despondently I packed in back into its sexy little box and wondered if I had made a mistake buying into the brand, because this was surely the lens I would be using the most. If it had an out of box failure how could this be a good thing? A few hours of stewing in my own juices passed. I took it out again, put it back on the camera. Same deal. No auto focus. I think I must have repeated this at least three times, hoping, praying that there would be a different outcome (yes, I have been called insane by others many times). Eventually I thought it might be a good idea to read the inserted paper manual thing that came in the box (this was a first for me). Lo and behold, my problem became apparent immediately. No, it wasn’t insanity. The lens was shipped in manual focus mode! There is a clutch mechanism built into the focus ring that slides it between the two modes. In MF mode you will see a distance scale printed on the barrel. Bloody hell, Olympus! I can’t but imagine the number of people who have been caught out by this and sent back perfectly normal lenses thinking they were broken. I know of at least two other FZ members who encountered the same thing and told me about it. Anyway… how does it handle everyday use? Auto Focus Performance Once I had finished berating myself for not being properly thorough with my lens inspection the first time around, I set about testing the auto focus. Well, to say that I am impressed with the speed of autofocus would be an acute understatement. This is probably one of the fastest focusing lenses I have ever used. It can shift focus from infinity to 20cm away in a split second. And it is very, very accurate. Continuous autofocus is pretty decent too although in honesty I don’t use this mode because the AF-S is so fast to acquire focus that all I do is repeat press the shutter button and it locks on immediately (I don’t use the AF-on method if you were wondering). I very seldom find myself using this lens for the kind of stills photography that requires tracking of moving subjects so I haven’t got a lot to say about that in this review. I have made one or two videos using the AF-C mode and it works perfectly well. Sharpness My wife hates this lens. She already cringes and rolls her eyes when she sees me pointing a camera in her direction but now when she sees this lens coming she throws in a few choice verbs to her protestations against having her photo taken. It’s a very sharp lens and my better half is on the other side of 40, so I am constantly compelled to use negative clarity in processing if I ever manage to get her to sit for a portrait. Prior to moving to the m43 system I was using a Nikon D700 with the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 as my main combo for a variety of professional jobs. I loved that combo to bits because it made my job so easy. It didn’t miss a beat. I never thought I would ever part with that lens and I often referred to it as the best zoom lens I had ever used. And then along came this Olympus lens. It had very big shoes to fill, but I will tell you this: in spite of its comparatively diminutive size, I find it is a better lens all around than the Nikkor. This is a strong statement to make and I can hear the collective gasps from users of that Nikkor ready to pounce on me and demand proof as they point to various charts and other scientific data, all of which rolls off my back as easily as water off a duck’s rear end. I’ll say it again; for me the Olympus 12-40mm is a much better lens than the Nikkor 24-70mm. The Nikkor I found a bit soft at f/2.8, while the Oly is sharp everywhere. I can’t tell any difference in sharpness from the widest aperture all the way through to f/14 (which is where I usually use it in studio product photography). It’s decidedly faster to focus than the Nikkor and there is the small matter of size to consider. The Nikkor positively dwarfs the Oly. I think you could fit the Oly into the lens hood on the Nikkor. The proof of the pudding as far as performance goes is in the eating and I have had over a year of yummy photographs in a multitude of situations to keep me extremely satisfied with this lens. In fact, I am so satisfied with it, that it has kept me from even looking at the faster prime lenses that are available for m43, such as Olympus’ 12mm f/2.0 and the 17mm f/1.8. This lens just works for me and apart from possibly getting shorter depth of field with the primes, I see no advantages in having them for the kind of work I find myself doing. Changing lenses would just slow me down on a job, besides, compared to what I was using, the size of this lens is insignificant for a full day’s shoot. Others may prefer the primes and I am by no means saying that this lens is better than them, just that it is so good that I can’t imagine the primes being anything more than a hassle for me to use. Flare, Distortion and Other Stumbling Blocks This will be the shortest part of my review. I can’t make any negative comment about this lens with respect to any of the things that would usually cause a prospective buyer to think twice about a lens purchase. Nothing in my day-to-day professional use of this lens for over a year has presented itself as a problem. I’ve used it at corporate events, live shows, family gatherings, product photography, headshots, reportage, etc. It just does it all well. Conclusion As I mentioned in the beginning of my review, the only negative thing I have to say about this lens is that the AF/MF clutch mechanism can catch you out. It’s done it to me a few times already, to the point where now I am acutely aware of it should I suddenly find myself wondering what happened to the snappy AF. It’s pretty easy to shift too, so hopefully if Olympus’ designers are ever going to update the lens they will make sure to either stiffen this mechanism up a little or at least revert to using a traditional switch. Personally I have no use for manual focus so if they excluded it completely it wouldn’t be a problem for me. The other option is the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 which comes with built-in stabilisation, but I don’t have any experience with that lens so I can’t make any comment on how it compares to this one. I have read good things about the Panny so I think Panny users would probably be better off with it than the Oly purely because of the stabiliser on the lens. If you are an Olympus user and you are looking for the best general purpose zoom lens for your system you will not be disappointed with this one. It ticks all my boxes and I must give it a 5 star rating. It is the best general purpose zoom lens I have ever used. Here are some samples from my year of use. Click to enlarge. Shooting directly into the sun - images used in a brochure for the light post manufacturer Not quite direct sun but shot through a window of my house Depth of field at close range is short enough for me. Subject isolation and bokeh is pretty good. Image shot for a client's corporate profile photo. Shot for a website project I just finished recently. Shots for DAAD at a local university (they recruit foreign students to study in Germany). Handheld night shot at the AIMS Congress farewell dinner at the Moses Mabhida stadium. Product shot in studio at f/14. Diffraction limits? Christmas in Africa - I even use it for personal work.
  19. 2 points
    From the beginning of my fascination with photography, one genre has stood out for me as being the most important of them all. That is photojournalism. I have a small collection of hard cover books by various publishers where the main subject is the history of our world as seen through the lens of the photojournalist. I can look at the images in these books for hours on end, not because the subjects are particularly interesting on their own, but because the moments in time that the images were taken are like windows into history that I wasn’t a part of. For the most part these historical images that have held my attention are seen in black and white, which as we all know was the prevailing medium of photography right up until just after I was born in the late 1960’s. Growing up at this particular junction of photographic sea change in many ways defined my perception of photography as being one where B&W belonged to the past and colour to the present. So when I look at black and white photographs I immediately associate them with what happened before I was born. Anything in colour I associate with having happened during the course of my own life. It becomes very curious to me therefore, to see images photographed up to over 160 years ago being presented in fairly accurate, modern day colour. How is this even possible? Through the process of colorization! Colourising black and white images isn’t exactly new. In the early days of photography colour was often literally painted onto the prints by artists, but as the technology involved in photographic processing has improved, it is now possible for artists to add colour to old monochromatic images using layers in Photoshop. It is for the most part still a pain staking process when done manually, but there have also been advances made in colorization mapping where algorithms determine colour replacement values for certain tones of black and white. This has allowed old WW2 footage to be recompiled into colour as seen in documentary series such as “World War II In Colour”, currently on Netflix. However, algorithmically colourised WW2 footage aside, the brilliant manual colorization of some of history’s most iconic B&W news images, as well as images of historical personalities, both revered and infamous, presented in the form of a new hard cover book entitled “Retrographic” by publishers Carpet Bombing Culture, offers us a compelling and modern window into a history we have always only seen in monochrome. I recently received a copy of the book from the publishers for review and I have been utterly engrossed in this material over the past few days. The author, Michael D. Carroll has curated some truly astonishing colorization works by several contributors, but not only has he done that, he has also written fascinating histories to accompany these photographs. Some examples of the captivating stories I have read thus far are those surrounding Colonel Custer and his famous “last stand” against the allied native Americans led by Sitting Bull (including an alternative account of the Colonel’s demise by one of the Indians who was there); the story of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the hanging of John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators; Butch Cassidy’s story as well as that of Calamity Jane, and the sordid demise of Oscar Wilde. In all there are 120 colorized photographs spread out over 192 pages of immersive historical moments in this collection. Some of the more famous images include those of the VJ Day kiss in Times Square (which is on the cover of the book), the Hindenburg disaster, raising the flag at Iwo Jima, Dorothea Lange’s famous image of the “Migrant Mother” at the start of the Great Depression, but for me the most striking colorized image in the entire book is that of the chilling suicide of the Vietnamese Monk setting himself alight, as captured in a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph by Malcolm Browne. The colorization by major contributor to the book, Matt Loughrey is so authentic that it looks more 1990’s than 1960’s. Photographed by Malcolm Browne in Saigon, Vietnam on June 11th 1963, image courtesy of Associated Press. Colourised by Matt Loughrey Photographed on February 19th 1945 by Joe Rosenthal courtesy of Associated Press Colourised by Matt Loughrey If you are interested in colorization of old photographs, or even if you are interested in the history of the last century and a half, this book will make a fantastic early Christmas present to yourself. I highly recommend getting it from your favourite book store.
  20. 2 points
    ThinkTank have released what I think is probably the perfect roller for the photographer who needs to travel by air with a decent amount of kit on any kind of photography excursion. As many of my readers over the years will already know, one of the biggest problems I have had since I began hosting photo safaris, is picking a suitable means of travelling with my gear on local flights. In the past I have used both the other (older) ThinkTank Airport rollers, namely the International and the Security. Both have their own strengths as conveyors of equipment, but for the most part they are also part of the problem in that they weigh a fair amount before you have even put any gear in them. These days the airlines are getting stricter with the carry on luggage limits and most of them in South Africa limit you to 7 or 8 kilos in a single carry on item for economy class seats. There is no way I would be able to get away with dragging the Airport Security V2.0 onboard a local flight as hand luggage these days. It’s a wonderful case to keep your gear safe in, but it’s not the most inconspicuous, mainly because of its size. When the cabin crew who man the gangways and plane doors see you bringing it onboard they will most definitely stop you and ask you to sky check it. The Airport International is a bit smaller than the Security, but it is still big enough to attract unwanted attention from the cabin crew. In preparation for this year’s Ultimate Big 5 Safari I was in a bit of a quandary when it came to deciding which bag I should use. On the two previous safaris I used the ThinkTank Retrospective 50 which swallows up an incredible amount of gear, including my 13” MacBook Pro and a bunch of other things like chargers, hard drives and power supplies. I like that bag a lot, but it is a bit large to carry around casually and I also had an issue a few years ago in getting it to fit in the overhead of a small plane. When fully loaded it also doesn’t easily go under the seat in front of you. My favourite and most used camera bag is the ThinkTank Retrospective 7. It can carry both of my Olympus E-M1 bodies, the Oly 50-200mm (without hood and tripod mount) and a bunch of other items I would want on the safari. However, the pouch on the rear of that bag is designed for iPads and isn’t big enough to fit my 13” laptop. Despite this I had pretty much decided that this was going to be my bag because I could always carry the laptop in its Thule case as a personal item and/or put it into that rear slip long side up. Then ThinkTank announced the Airport Advantage about 2 weeks prior to my departure. Just by looking at photos of it and watching the video on their website I knew that this would be the perfect case for me to take on safari this year. About a week or so later it arrived at my door via courier and boy was I happy to meet it! The Airport Advantage is a lot lighter and more importantly slighter in stature than the other ThinkTank Airport rollers, which means that when you look at it, it doesn’t attract any unwanted cabin crew attention. Yet this roller, in spite of this diminished appearance, possesses some sort of TARDIS-like magical power because it swallows up a lot of stuff, including some very large lenses which people coming on our safaris here in Southern African have been known to bring with them. Configuration Options Like all bags with padded dividers there are a lot of configuration options for the interior of this roller. You get a decent amount of dividers with the case too, as well as a raincoat (more about the raincoat later). The three-part telescopic handle only runs about halfway down the spine of the case so the bottom section has enough depth to accommodate the largest of DSLR’s, including gripped ones, with their big lenses attached. Typically on our safaris we find most of our guests bring two camera bodies, one main telephoto lens (the 200-400mm seems to be the most popular lens), a 70-200/2.8 and a wide angle like the 14-24/2.8, a flash, teleconverters and maybe one or two smaller lenses. So I took the opportunity on this most recent safari to see how this kind of kit would fit into the Airport Advantage. Below are some photos showing exactly how it handled a Nikon D4 with 200-400mm f/4 attached, as well as a D3s with the new 300mm f/4 PF with a 2x TC and the 70-200/2.8 on the side. I also put a Canon 7D Mk II with a 300mm f/2.8 and its hood un-reversed in there. You can see for yourself how easily it accommodates these large items and how much room is left over for other things. For my gear I had more than enough space to carry not only my 13” MacBook Pro (there’s a sleeve on the front for that), but 2 Olympus E-M1’s, the Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD, Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO, Olympus 75/1.8, Sigma 19/2.8 & 60/2.8, 2x battery chargers, 2x external hard drives, lots of cables, a back-up card reader and a whole bunch of other items like extra batteries. I even had a dedicated space for my Peak Design Slide and Leash straps. It really is quite an incredible roller! With everything packed I weighed it on the bathroom scale and it came in at around 10kgs, which is still over the official carry-on limit, but the thing is because it’s so compact it doesn’t look like a heavy bag and nobody raised an eyebrow at all on my 2 domestic flights this time around. Features While it is a truly amazing roller, there are one or two things about the Advantage that I think could be improved on. Raincoat Firstly the raincoat, like all other bag raincoats I have ever tried to use in a hurry, simply eludes me. We were out on a game drive and it started to rain, so I tried to cover it up but nothing seemed to fit logically. Eventually I just gave up and left it lying on top of the case as we made our way back to the camp. They really ought to coat these cases in something more water resistant than nylon. Maybe a lining inside the nylon would be better? Pockets The other thing that I would like to have had is an external pocket to put my travel documents in. There is a zippered recess just underneath where you can put your business cards, but it isn’t deep enough to hold much more than a passport, and even that is a bit of a wiggle to get in on its own. I think that they could put a pouch on the flap of the laptop compartment which would then make this the absolute perfect safari travel roller. Unlike the other Airport rollers I have used where there is a stretchy sleeve on the front for putting your laptop in, only to have it fall out if you’re not careful, the Advantage has a proper sleeve with a velcro flap. The sleeve doesn’t have any padding though, so if you’re going to travel with your laptop in there it’s a good idea to have some extra protection for your hardware. I use the Thule semi-hard shell for my MacBook and it survived not only a couple of hours in the overhead bins of the planes I went on, but also 12 hours of road transit between Johannesburg and the Sabi Sands. I was careful to make sure that no other bags were placed on top of it though. Handles There are handles on three sides of the Advantage which makes hoisting it into overhead bins quite easy. I like the design of the handle on the bottom of the case which also doubles as its balancing feet. A nice touch. The other top quality finish is the telescopic handle. This feels very well made. I have wondered though why ThinkTank opted to use a dual shaft handle instead of a single one on this roller. I think it may have been a better design to use a single telescopic shaft that is housed on the outside of the back instead of two shafts that use up space on the inside of the case. Perhaps v2.0 will see some of these refinements? Tripod Attachment If you are travelling with a tripod it is possible to strap one onto the side of the Advantage and Think Tank supply removable straps for you to use with the loops on the bag. Personally I always put my tripod in my checked luggage so I doubt I would use this, unless I was using the roller on a local shoot and needed to take a tripod with. Lockable Unlike the big brother Airport Security, this roller doesn’t have a built-in TSA lock but it is possible to lock it from the zipper with your own luggage lock. I have a cheap combination lock which I have no doubt any thief could probably gnaw off in a matter of seconds, but I suppose it’s better than nothing if your bag might be unattended for a short while. Wheels The wheels are super smooth to run and I put those to the test properly when I had to literally sprint through OR Tambo airport to board my flight home on time. I think Wayde Van Niekerk better watch out - this old dude can shift his molecules quickly when he needs to! Conclusion In spite of my few little nitpicks and improvement suggestions, this is by far the most useful travelling case I have ever used for my camera gear. For people coming on our safaris it’s just about all you will need to bring out not only your essential camera gear but also a fair amount of accessories and of course your computer too. I highly recommend getting one to simplify your travels with cameras. If you would like to support Fotozones please use the link below to order your Airport Advantage. A percentage of each sale is paid to us in commission AND you will also get a free gift from ThinkTank when placing your order using this link. ORDER YOUR AIRPORT ADVANTAGE HERE
  21. 2 points
    My hometown: Mannheim Mannheim is a city in the southwestern part of Germany, the third-largest in the German state of Baden-Württemberg after Stuttgart and Karlsruhe. Mannheim is among the twenty largest cities in Germany, with a 2015 population of approximately 305,000 inhabitants. The city is at the centre of the larger densely populated Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region which has a population of 2,400,000 and is Germany's eighth-largest metropolitan region. Mannheim is located at the confluence of the Rhine and the Neckar in the northwestern corner of Baden-Württemberg. Mannheim is unusual among German cities in that its streets and avenues are laid out in a grid pattern, leading to its nickname "die Quadratestadt" ("city of the squares"). The Past The name of the city was first recorded as Mannenheim in a legal transaction in 766, surviving in a twelfth-century copy in the Codex Laureshamensis from Lorsch Abbey. It was completely destroyed a number of times in history. The latest major destruction happened during WWII. Air raids on Mannheim almost completely destroyed the city during the Second World War. Since Mannheim was an important industrial centre for Nazi Germany, Mannheim was heavily damaged during aerial bombing by the R.A.F. and the U.S. Air Force. In addition to bombing the important factories, the R.A.F. razed the city center of Mannheim with nighttime area bombing. Some sources state that the first deliberate "terror bombing" of German civilians by the R.A.F. occurred at Mannheim on December 16, 1940. It was comparable to the destructions of Dresden and Hamburg although much less prominent. But there where great periods of wealth and art and importance as well. The National Theatre Mannheim was founded in 1779 and is the oldest "Stage" in Germany. In 1782 the premier of Die Räuber, written by Friedrich Schiller, was shown. Mozart spend quite some time in Mannheim. Important inventions were made in Mannheim ... Karl Drais built the first two-wheeled draisine in 1817. Karl Benz drove the first automobile on the streets of Mannheim in 1886. At his workshop in Mannheim he produced a lightweight three-wheeled vehicle powered by a single cylinder petrol/gasoline-fueled engine, first shown in public during 1886. This powered tricycle subsequently came to be widely regarded as the first automobile/motor car powered by an internal-combustion engine. Karl's wife Bertha Benz undertook the world’s first road trip by automobile from Mannheim to Pforzheim in August 1888. The Lanz Bulldog, a popular tractor with a rugged, simple Diesel engine was introduced in 1921. Karl Benz developed the world's first compact diesel-powered car at the Benz & Cie. motor works in Mannheim during 1923, Julius Hatry built the world's first rocket plane in 1929 and so on and so forth ... Not to forget the Mannheim Boy Sepp Herberger, coach of the German national soccer team 1936–1964 ("The Miracle of Bern", world champion with his team in 1954). Below image was taken years ago and gives an impression how the city looked before WWII ... not a lot of buildings survived WWII but this is a lovely place that I really like. Presenting it in IR was sort of a natural choice considering that the image represents the past ... The Present I love my hometown ... really! Being on the road a lot I never felt the urge to move and live in other cities. But well ... the city planners are a bunch of idiots. Although I understand to a certain extent that bringing back functionality to a destroyed city is more important than having nice buildings it is rather questionnable why they still follow the approach of "ugly first". Most of the people living somewhere elese refer to Mannheim as one of the ugliest cities they know, but then again most of them only know it from the train station or short business stays. And I have to admit that it's hard to argue against it. You have to live here to know the nice places and there are plenty but very well hidden. Below image is taken for this challenge from a 212.8 metre high concrete telecommunication tower with an observation deck at ~130m. It was a dull day which perfectly matches the impression of Mannheim that many people have. Actually Mannheim is only the bottom ~60% of the image. The white bridge is crossing the river Rhine with the city of Ludwigshafen on the other side. The hills on the horizon belong to the palatinate which is one of the most beautiful forest areas I know. In the middle of the forest are plenty of castle ruins to visit, good food and weird people that are fun to talk to (if you understand the local accent). The Mood and the People The original plan was to go out and do some street photography to capture the people living here but having extremely low temperatures (down to -10 which we are absoultely no used to) resulted in everybody (including me) staying home. Mannheim folks are mostly working class people. Honest, direct, helpful, rough and never ever false... just don't be rude or arrogant to them. Being so results in problems which is absolutely fair if you ask me. Friends of mine moved from Munich to Mannheim and in their first weeks they were stunned how people handle each other. I remember that she was amazed that people actually helped her getting the baby buggy in and out of the trains. She was used to being shouted at in similar situations in Munich . We do have a mosque in Mannheim for at least 20 years and it never was a real problem (if you don't count the usual few idiots that just can't deal with other cultures). In the meantime Berlin is the capital of Doner Kebap but I remember times where people in Turkey told everybody that you get the best one in Mannheim... and so on ... and so forth ... the people here are just great ... I am really sorry that I don't have a decent people photograph but in a way the photograph below (posted before, sorry) pretty much sums it all up. It's an industrial environment, no glamour or glitter, no fancy stuff, very few hipsters, no obviously nice and sweet places ... but if you dig deeper you find the honest and down to earth beauty of it everywhere. I know photographers who make wonderful images of a lovely Mannheim but well ... the above images are more on the honest side of it ...
  22. 2 points
    Rick Waldroup has been a member of Fotozones since practically the beginning of the original site in 2006. Over the years his photos of American street life shown on FZ have constantly fascinated us. We ask Rick 5 questions about photography and his life in this craft. 1. Tell us how you first got interested in and then later involved in photography as a professional. I was about 8 years old in the early 1960's when I received as a gift, a Kodak Instamatic type of camera. I started taking pictures of my friends and my family. I found myself wandering around my small town taking photos of people, buildings, parks, whatever I could find to photograph. I never gave much thought about why I was taking photos of such mundane scenes, it just seemed like the right thing to do. A few years later, an art teacher gave me a copy of The Americans by Robert Frank, and suddenly, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. That led to shooting for school / college newspapers and eventually shooting professionally for several newspapers in the Dallas area. In the 1980's I abruptly made a career move and started shooting architectural photography. I did this for over 20 years. I later shifted back to photojournalism and documentary / street work and that makes up the vast majority of my photography today. 2. We’ve seen your amazing work in photojournalism shown on Fotozones, what other genres of photography interest you (of any) and why? I mostly admire and follow street and documentary photographers, but I also have a deep respect and a certain fascination with personal art photography or performance art photography. Loretta Lux, Cindy Sherman, and Marie Cosindas are very inspirational to me, just to name a few. 3. The personal project work that you’ve shown us in the past is always interesting. Tell us a bit about the project process and how you work through and decide undertaking a project. I’m personally interested to know if you go out and shoot for your projects specifically or if you file work you have done into projects retro-actively? I find I am at my best when I am shooting for a particular job or project. I am focused, in tune, and usually on target as to what I want to achieve. I also find that I seem to find a deep sense of release when a project is over. At times I go out shooting with a particular project in mind, but I also hit the streets and simply shoot. what I find. I shoot multiple projects at a time. For myself, I find that this type of approach to photography is what keeps me going because my success rate or keeper rate is low, which is as it should be. "We'll Meet Again" is project that I have been working on for several years. This type of project is long-term as I do not go out and specifically shoot for it. It is a series of street portraits which is very different from my normal street photography. I find strange, unusual looking, and eccentric characters to shoot and this project involves me actually interacting with the subjects, something I almost never, ever do with my street and documentary work. "Dream City." This is another project that I would go out and specifically shoot photos for it. Being shot almost exclusively in downtown Dallas, Dream City was my attempt to capture the slightly surreal, sometimes dreamy images that can occur in everyday life in a thriving downtown area. For this particular project, I purchased a Holga lens for my digital camera and I also used a home-made set of diffusion filters to achieve the certain atmosphere that I was looking for." "Riding the Rails." Shot between August of 2008 and August 2009, Riding the Rails documents my travels on commuter trains in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. The goal of the project was to capture images of people who ride the trains and who also frequent the various trains stations. I purchased a particular camera to shoot the photos- a Ricoh GRD II. A very discrete but excellent point-and-shoot camera that proved to be perfect for the project. Almost all of the photos were shot with the GRD. This is the type of project that I go out and specifically search for scenes to shoot. 4. We’ve seen you move from being a Nikon man to a micro four thirds shooter and now back to Nikon again. What prompted the reversal and how have you found it impacting your work (if at all)? After decades of shooting professional Nikon cameras and lenses, in 2009 I decided to make the change to the micro 4/3 system. My first camera was the Panasonic GF-1 with the beautiful 20mm 1.7 lens. I was shifting away from carrying extremely heavy Nikon gear to a lighter platform with an amazing set of lenses at a very affordable cost. For the next 8 years I shot micro 4/3 cameras and lenses professionally and also for my personal work and for the most part, I loved the system. However, when the Nikon Df came out I remember visiting a local camera store and taking a look at the camera and I immediately thought that this might finally be the digital camera I have been looking for all these years. I finally changed systems just a couple of months ago. I do not know how to explain it, but I went back to my roots. I have found the Df to perform brilliantly in low light situations - something I shoot quite a bit of. It is much smaller and lighter than my last professional Nikon cameras, the D2H and D2x. I have assembled a great set of prime lenses and a couple of excellent zooms for documentary work. I am having a blast. 5. With all the changes in the technology of photography, how do you see things playing out in the next 10 years? Despite my latest fling with the past, I see the photography world constantly moving, shifting and above all, constantly inspiring people to share their images world wide. Cell phone photography is the ultimate future, until that future is replaced it does not matter. We are all connected.
  23. 2 points
    FZ: Tell us your story about photography - how did you come to be interested and then fully immersed in it? AL: I’ve always been fascinated by photography. I remember early on, my parents had an old Polaroid 600 camera that they would let me use from time to time. Couldn’t really afford more than that at the time. Fast forward a few years and I start looking for creative outlets. I couldn’t draw, paint or really - do anything artistic... at least that is what I thought. I all but gave up on anything creative. I was just documenting life with a Sony DSC-P51 point and shoot. I then met and started dating my soon to be wife. During one of our “getting to know you” dates, she asked what kind of interests I had. I mentioned photography and offered to show her some of what I had saved on the computer. I didn’t think much of it, but she really liked a lot of the images she saw and encouraged me to take it more seriously. I had the opportunity to get a good deal on a Nikon N90s and 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 lens with SB-22 speed light. A pro photographer in my area was getting rid of some of her gear and sold the whole lot back in early 2000’s for $100. OK...I’m going to take this seriously! And I used that kit for quite a while. Saving up what I could, learning as much as I could from books and other photographers. Then in 2005, I had just enough to upgrade my camera. A brand new Nikon D50. For a short time I used the old Nikon 35-70 from the N90s. Not satisfied with the range of the lens, I spent a little more and was able to finally afford a Tamron 28-200mm f/3.8-5.6. And for a few years I shot that kit everywhere. On vacations, our pets, family events. Loving the instant feedback. My learning curve increased almost overnight. I was learning more and more everyday about photography, gear, people….it was great. I wanted something faster, and took the recommendation of many and purchased a used Nikon 50mm f/1.8D. Fast forward 2008. I’m honing my skills, getting better and confident enough to share my work outside of showing them to my wife. A co-worker talks to me about how expensive it is for senior pictures and wished there was an alternative. It spurred me to think about getting into the profession. I analysed everything, did the research and in an effort to provide the people in my area a lower cost alternative for portraits, I start my business, Best Light Photographic LLC in June 2008. Having studied many famous photographers, I took the name from a W. Eugene Smith quote, paraphrased “What is the best light? Any light that is available!” From there I got jobs, enhanced the portfolio...but made the classic mistake. I tried to be everything for everyone. I was a jack of all trades, but never had the time to master any of them. Hell, I started out as the “available light” portrait guy. Struggled on some jobs because I didn’t know understand the importance and need for getting that little SB-22 off the camera or diffused. I still had a lot to learn. With the support of my family, I pushed through and learned what I needed to learn to be successful. I enhanced my knowledge not only of the gear I would need, but of the shooting techniques, people skills, business acumen. Still going strong on the business front. Have some returning corporate clients, shoot lots of sports and events. Get some portrait work mainly during the senior school seasons. I’m actively looking for more creative ways of using photography….always moving forward, forever learning! FZ: What are the most important lessons you have learned in photography? AL: Everyone has something to teach you No matter how experienced or inexperienced a person may seem - everyone has a story to tell and a way of doing things that we can learn from. I never dismiss anyone. Even if everything they do ends up not being successful, you have the opportunity to see what mistakes they made and use that as a learning tool for yourself. As the old saying goes, we learn more from the failures than the successes. What I like as a photographer is not always going to align with what the client/viewer likes I learned quite early on that what I find as an excellent image does not always fall in line with the expectations of the client or viewer. It taught me that photography really is art and art as a subjective thing is something that we all will have a different perspective on. Doesn’t mean one person is right or wrong, just different. Don’t try to be everything to everyone (jack of all trades master of none) I tried to shoot everything under the sun when I first started out. In a way it helped me weed out those things I like to shoot from those I didn’t. The nasty side effect being, though - I stretched too thin my capabilities and often over promised and under delivered. I was decent, but not good or great. Love for the art was lost in the mindset of I have to produce and make this successful without actually defining what success was, or better yet...having a poorly formulated definition. At first, success was defined as “was I getting paid”. I retooled my thinking into, “I need to produce a product that not only does the viewer/client like...but am I proud of what I’m producing. If I put out a quality product, the jobs will come. I’m only limited by my imagination Technical perfection is something that we all can achieve. The limit is not in the gear we use or the technology. The limit is what I can imagine. Nothing is out of the realm of possibility. If I can think it, I can create it! Go Out Open and Empty and Visual Pushups - Jay Maisel Jay Maisel is probably one of my favorite street photographers producing today. I first heard about Jay when I had a KelbyOne membership and started looking around the courses for street photography videos. The courses were not about gear, exposure settings but about theory, mindset, attitude. Just all kinds of wisdom bombs, if you will. For certain jobs, I have a set plan of what I want to get, usually at the direction of a client or art director. When shooting for me, for pleasure, I remember Jay’s quote - “go out open and empty”. In a nutshell, if you go out with a preconceived notion of what you want to get - let’s say it is a bicyclist going down the street - you would spend all your time looking for that and missing out on the 20 other great things that are going on. Let the flow of the world around you pull you into a direction and capture what is given to you. Another great one from Jay, is something I still do to this day. I never leave the house without a camera of some kind. I do my daily “visual pushups”. I exercise my brain to think photographically all the time. This way I do not get stale or complacent. I credit visual pushups and street photography for enhancing my professional photography because they both have been great tools in helping me learn to read people and situations. Have anticipation for when something might happen greatly increases your chances of getting a shot not only in the street, but at an event, during a wedding or reception. I wrote a blog post about my thoughts on Jay Maisel. More in depth reading can be done at the link below if you are interested. http://bestlightphoto.blogspot.com/2013/07/words-of-wisdom-from-jay-maisel.html Develop a thick skin No one likes to be told that they suck, their work is garbage. Sometimes it is, other times it may just be misunderstood or underappreciated. No matter!! Push through the nay sayers. Use their criticism to analyse your work, enhance it….make it better...make it even more different. Only through the continual evolution of your craft and artistic vision do you grow. FZ: If you could travel anywhere tomorrow as a photojournalist to cover a story for National Geographic where would you go and why? AL: Japan. I’ve always had a pull toward the far east. Even from an early age, I would watch the Kung Fu Theater on USA channel. PBS would play Seven Samurai and other Kurosawa films. I started my formal martial arts training at the age of 10. I studied Hapkido, Shotokan, and Judo. Digging deeper into the cultures, I studied Buddism, Taoism, Zen, Chinese, Japanese and Korean culture. I always seemed to have a pull there, but never had the opportunity to go and experience it first hand. I’d love to go there and just experience the cultures from the big cities like Tokyo, to the smaller villages in the more remote prefectures. Not only would it be a great opportunity to take some great images, but I would be immersed into a culture that I know very well, but not intimately. FZ: You’ve used a lot of different camera equipment since we have known you on FZ, tell us about your favourite and least favourite gear experiences. I don’t think that I’ve had a lot of very bad experiences. Every system I’ve used has had their strengths and weaknesses and deciding between them was very difficult. If I had to pick, I’d say the most disappointing experience was with the early Fuji X system. I absolutely loved the image quality and the analog control systems. The overall system speed, auto focus speed and system quirks had me move away from it into the Micro Four Thirds camp. My favorite experiences have come from my Nikon systems. My most favorite camera of all time is the Nikon Df. It just fits my personal shooting style and ethos very well. It has a wide range of capabilities of accepting lenses from all generations of Nikon glass. Followed closely behind the Df, is the olympus PEN-F. Having used many Micro Four Thirds cameras in a personal and professional manner, the PEN-F reminds me of a mirrorless version of my Nikon Df. Most recently, I have been finding the joys in using manual focus lenses in Nikon F mount on both the Df and adapted to the Olympus PEN-F. FZ: If you could pick 5 different photos from your work to be the only ones in your portfolio, which would you chose? AL: Brian Shaw - Strongman. In the sports area, this image of one of the top Strongmen in the world, Brian Shaw, is one of my favorites. You see the power, the determination and the perceived ease at which this man dead lifted this tremendous weight. Warrior Painter. This was a spec piece, with very specific requirements from the client. This work allowed me to use my own creativity to show an artist and their personality. This is how I prefer to shoot portraits. Not just a well lit image of the subject, but showing a part of them and their personality in the finished product. The Wedding Kiss. 50 years ago, this couple married and decided to renew their vows. I was honored that they asked me to shoot their ceremony. The church gave great opportunity to use it’s colorful background to make the couples kiss memorable. The framing, lighting...everything just comes together so well. The couple loved this shot and is now living in their home as a large canvas. Zombie. A local, annual event the Zombie Walk Columbus allows those who are interested in dressing up and walking the streets as a zombie the opportunity to do so. The event collects money and canned food for donation to a local food pantry. This image captivates me as we have the out of focus foreground element with the ominous zombie having spotted me in the background. Dog In The Middle. What I think an interesting street photography shot should be. I like the monochrome conversion, the out of focus renderings as well as the depth of this image. The dog is the star, but would not be as interesting, IMHO, if the group was not encircling him.
  24. 2 points
    In this new series of articles Fotoozones poses 5 personal photography questions to some of our more well known members and contributors. In our first instalment the questions are put to one of the most popular members on our site, namely Alan Lesheim (aka @Alan7140). Question 1. Why did you pick photography as a profession? It was always going to be – I can't recall ever seriously wanting to do anything else. My mother wanted me to be a doctor, my father (who was an A-Grade motor mechanic) expressed a preference for me to become a ladies' hairdresser. I guess that paying for my mother's weekly hairdresser visits in the heyday of complex 1950's & 60's permed and bouffed-up beehives led him to conclude this to be a certain way of gaining great wealth. The conditions imposed on me to obtain their reluctant consent to my photography preference (after first trying to scare me off by offering me as a free assistant to the photographer who had his studio next to my Father's service station during my summer holidays at age 15) were that I was to achieve passes in all my subjects to qualify for the various scholarships that would be necessary to pay the fees to complete both 12th year graduation at school and then to qualify for entry to, and pay the fees for the three year tertiary course in photography at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (now renamed RMIT University). I think they thought I'd fail to meet those conditions, and also that they didn't want me to change my mind mid-stream and become what my Father referred to disparagingly as a “professional student”. The fact that I'm now at the tail end of a 46-year full-time involvement in photography is my polite middle finger extended to them for their lack of confidence in my resolve, I guess, along with my undying gratitude that they stuck to their word and never tried to talk me out of it or interfere after the decision was affirmed. Question 2. If you could go back in time to photograph one historic event what would you choose and why? Easy question for me to answer: the trial and execution of Jesus Christ. The connotations and repercussions of what accurate colour photographs of that event would have would make anything else that comes to mind trivial by comparison for the effect it might have on Western Civilisation. My bet is that in the very least there'd be a lot of artists repainting blonde hair very dark brown/black, white skin a lot, lot darker and blue eyes brown, aside from anything else that may eventuate. Question 3. Who's work in photography has influenced your style the most? This is a difficult one for me to answer, but in all honesty I have to say that there is no-one in particular that comes to mind. While there are many photographers whose work I greatly admire, to say that their work has consciously influenced the way I take photographs now would be inaccurate. I've always pretty much done my own thing, which has over the years most definitely cost me in monetary terms, but if “Photographer” is the way I define myself, then I really do just take photographs the way I see fit, and not by deliberately amalgamating styles or techniques of others to do so. That said, I can list the following photographers who I admire most: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Helmut Newton, Ansel Adams, Matthew Brady, Sally Mann, Carol Jerrems, Wolfgang Sievers, Diane Arbus, Jock Sturgess – these were the names that immediately came to mind, so I'll run with those. Probably most notable with this list is that there is no-one in that lot who is known primarily for working in colour, nor anyone who is currently at the peak of their working life (most being deceased), and that most worked large format. Read that perhaps as a disapproval of the volumes of pumped-up colour digital crap we are bombarded with daily these days if you will, for my ongoing disdain for the banal way digital as a rule renders B&W, and the approach many people now take to photographing in B&W, which is often just an originally-intended colour shot with the colour removed. I suppose I also really like and identify with the way these listed people saw the world, the way they went about recording and interpreting that through photographs, and their in-general disregard for photography as being a money-making device, but rather as being a means of expression. If that is defined as an “influence”, well that's also fine by me. Sure they all also made a living from photography, but I'd hazard that the photos they took that pleased them (and their followers) were mostly not taken with making money as being the primary objective. I guess that's been my approach as well, then, and while I'm not in the same league as these people artistically, my original motive for taking photographs was also never primarily the making of money, although that has figured large overall as it is also been my business by default. In fact it's true to point out that when I have photographed with income as a primary goal, I've usually been disappointed both from a personal satisfaction point of view and in the results obtained. Obviously, then, as a career photographer, I've endured a lot of dissatisfaction and disappointment! I can't think of any advertisement, wedding, event or other commissioned job that has left me anywhere near as satisfied as have done almost any of the myriad photos I have taken over the years that I either dreamt up or stumbled upon in my own time, and then taken in my own way for no-one other than myself as the primary audience. Walhalla, Victoria, Cemetery, 1973, Hasselblad 500C/M, Carl Zeiss 50/4 Lens. Lake Eildon, Victoria, 1983 drought. Nagaoka 5x4 Field Camera, Schneider 210/9 G-Claron Process Lens. Growling Swallet, Florentine Valley, Tasmania, 2011. Nikon D3s, 50/1.8 lens. 615 photographs in multi-row, stitched panorama, final print 8 feet long x 42" high. Elizabeth Debicki, Actor, scouting a film location , J Ward, disused Willow Court Mental Asylum, New Norfolk,Tasmania. 2015. Fuji X-T1, 56/1.2 lens. Gordon Dam, Tasmania, 2016 drought, Fuji X-T1, 100-400/4.5-5.6 lens. Question 4. Where do you see professional photography in 10 years time? I have a history of picking this sort of thing accurately (I remember describing tethered studio photography linked direct to pre-press output to my boss in 1974), but equally I have had an uncanny knack of completely failing to get in on the ground floor myself before everyone else jumped on the band wagon (the huge amounts of money usually needed to do so in the early stages being perhaps a prominent player, here). For what it's worth, then, my pick for 10 years hence will have VR as being a prime driver of the business, with a completely separate and much, much smaller parallel field running gallery-type, boutique level stills-photography-as-art-collectibles businesses, accompanied by a dedicated band of amateurs trying to crack the fields in any way they can. Whatever is left will probably have been consumed by whatever the Internet has evolved into. VR, I think, will eventually completely upend the advertising, news, wedding, portrait and fashion photography world in a way that hasn't upset the apple cart since.... well.... photography itself did. Question 5. What advice would you give somebody starting out a career in photography today? Quit and become a ladies' hairdresser. Or, failing that, get heavy and involved with VR now, and adopt advancements early. Footnote: I asked Alan to provide a selfie so that we can see the man behind the answers. He did so in fine style!
  25. 2 points
    Warning! On Fotozones we’re more interested in what we do with our camera gear, but it is also interesting to readers to know what gear works for us professional photographers and how we use it in the field. This is one of those types of posts. Looking back over the past 4 years of my dabbling with the micro four thirds system, I have used many different lenses from at least 4 different manufacturers, as well as no fewer than 8 different bodies for the system (Olympus PEN models E-P1, E-P2, E-PM2, Panasonic GF-1, Olympus OM-D models E-M5, E-M1, E-M10, E-M5 Mk II). I had a system burgeoning with different lenses and bodies, but at the beginning of this year I rationalised and got rid of a LOT of stuff. Here’s what I kept and what I have found works best for me as a professional photographer. Bodies Undoubtedly the very best body for m43 that I have had the opportunity to use so far has been the Olympus OM-D E-M1. It just seems to be able to do everything I throw at it and it produces amazing files that I have yet to find wanting in any way. I’ve shot with it up to 12,800 ISO in barely lit rooms and have been quite happy with the quality of the shots I got. Other photographers might disagree, but I don’t shoot for other photographers so their validation of what I use in my job is superfluous to my output. Apart from an issue with the rear command dial not making proper contact when adjustments are made I have had no other problems with my E-M1. The recent firmware upgrade to version 4.0 brought some new features that have improved the E-M1 in many respects, including the silent shutter and the 4K time lapse video mode. It’s a great photographic tool and the Mk II that we are all looking forward to perhaps later this year or in early 2017 has very big shoes to fill. Panasonic bodies remain a problem for me to get hold of in South Africa mainly because they are no longer officially represented here, so I haven’t tried too many of them. We have to import them ourselves and that comes with a lot of risk, particularly since there is no product support. If your camera needs fixing you have to send it back to where you got it from and that could be very expensive. I have recently been working with a videographer who has a GH-4 body and it certainly looks like a very capable camera, especially for 4K video. It has a lot of features for video that the Olympus E-M1 doesn’t have, most notable being the ability to use focus peaking while filming. When you’re shooting video professionally manual focus is a must, so that feature alone is worth the sticker price for a GH-4. I don’t know that I would buy one for stills, but I am sure it is a decent performer there too. Lenses My Wide Angle Lens Of all the wide angle lenses I have tried for the m43 system the one that I have kept and still continue to use is the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6. This tiny collapsible lens is the same size as the early 14-42mm kit lenses found on many m43 combo deals but it’s got a better build. There is also one of those funky rectangular lens hoods available for it (LH-55B). I bought one but I seldom use it because most of the time I am using this lens indoors for property photography. When I am using it outdoors for landscape photography I would probably have a drop in filter kit on the lens (LEE Seven5 or Cokin) which means the lens hood doesn’t fit into the system. Another thing is that the hood can’t be reversed on the lens because of its shape, so while it may look cool it isn’t very practical. That said it’s small enough to slip into a camera bag pocket without causing a storage issue. I keep it handy, just in case. The other wide angle lenses I’ve used include the new Olympus 7-14/2.8 PRO, the older Olympus 7-14/4.0 (4/3 mount) and very briefly the Panasonic 7-14/4.0. All of them are too big for m43 and in my opinion they don’t bring that significant an improvement in image quality to be worth carrying around. The 9-18mm is tiny in comparison and offers a decently wide enough angle of view to work for me. I’d rather carry less weight than have an extra few degrees of viewing angle offered by the 7-14mm options. I also find the exaggerated perspective of the 7mm focal length to be unnatural on m43. It’s very hard to compose a scene with it. My favourite little wide angle lens is still the amazing Samyang 7.5/3.5 fisheye. I always have this lens in my camera bag. It’s about the same size as the 9-18mm, purely manual focus, but very, very sharp and contrasty, not to mention well built. Used on a mirrorless camera in A mode I haven’t had any issues with exposure at all - the cameras always seems to be able to get it right. I set the aperture ring to about 5.6 or 8.0, set the focus to infinity and everything from about 20cm to the end of the world is in focus. It opens up a lot of creative options for me. On a recent wedding I put it on an E-M1, put that on a tripod, folded it up to use like a monopod and circled the wedding dance floor while filming. I didn’t have to focus it and the footage turned out great. I did try the new Olympus 8/1.8 PRO lens, and while it is an amazing piece of glass it is very expensive compared to the $300 Samyang (I think it comes in at about $1k). It’s also much bigger and heavier than the Samyang. My General Purpose Lens There is only one lens that fits for me and its the Olympus 12-40/2.8 PRO. I can’t extoll the benefits of this lens enough. It’s ridiculously fast to auto focus, is sharp as scalpels when used wide open, has great bokeh and is also weatherproof. What more could I want? I use this guy for a lot of stuff I do, including events, PJ, portraits, interior and product work too (it focuses really close and has better bokeh than the Panasonic/Leica 45/2.8 Macro I used to own). I love this lens! It actually stopped me from getting the Olympus 12/2.0 because at 12mm it’s just as good as that Olympus premium prime lens. I don’t need more aperture for wide angle work, so while the 12/2.0 is very good indeed, it is also very expensive and doesn’t do anything else besides 12mm. My money was better spent on this lens. Telephoto Lenses The best lens in my bag that is classed as a tele is the Olympus 75/1.8 ED. Nothing is better than this lens for low light work where I have some distance between me and my subject. I use it a lot for podium speakers at events and where I want to isolate a subject from the background. I don’t use it a lot at 1.8 because the depth of field is too shallow, but at 2.0 it shines. While I haven’t used it a lot for portrait work, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work. I would just need to get further away from the subject for framing given the narrow angle of view. The perspective is closer to the classic 85mm portrait lens used on 35mm systems, but it has the angle of view of a 150mm lens on that system. My other telephoto lens is one that has been sitting in my cupboard unused for over 18 months, but which I hauled out recently and put back into service. I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner. It’s the Olympus 50-200/2.8-3.5 SWD (4/3 mount). It’s got the same angle of view as a Canon 100-400 lens, but it has the benefit of a larger aperture than the Canon and it is much smaller too. Without the lens hood and tripod mount it is just as nimble as the new 40-150/2.8 PRO. Upside is you can pick it up really cheap on the used market; downside is that it can only be used on the E-M1 with the PDAF sensors driving it. The SWD version works very nicely on an E-M1. I’ve been very happy with the results from this lens and will be using it much more from now on. The big plus is that it offers a wonderful range in a small package. It has excellent bokeh, much better than the sharp but nervous 40-150/2.8 PRO. Flash The Olympus FL-600R has all the remote, bounce, tilt capability of a top of the line Nikon or Canon flash unit but comes in a much smaller package. I have 2 of them that I take with me on event shoots. I use a bounce card with them in manual mode and I have had good results. I don’t use the Olympus TTL modes because they can produce quite erratic exposures when the flash is bounced. One really good feature of this unit is that it has a built-in LED light for video. It’s pretty powerful too. Working with the FL-600R can be a bit tricky if you aren’t familiar with the setup, but I suppose that’s true for any system speed light, isn’t it? And that is all I use on any shoots these days. 5 lenses, two E-M1 bodies. I get coverage all the way from fisheye up to what 35mm system users call a 400mm lens. The best part for me is that all of this gear, including the 2 flash units fits into my ThinkTank Retrospective 7 messenger bag and isn’t all that heavy.
  26. 2 points
    The island of Borneo is essentially divided into two parts – Sabah, which is Malaysian Borneo and Sarawak, which is Indonesian. In addition, the tiny nation of Brunei is squeezed into 5000 square km on the West Coast of the island. The Danum Valley Conservation Area is approximately 400 sq kilometres of virgin rainforest located on the eastern side of Sabah. The most common way of getting to the area is on a 2 and half hour drive from Lahad Datu and the only place to stay is at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge (BRL). I have been meaning to do a write-up on the place because it really was sensational and should be on your list. The Lodge: We stayed in a “deluxe” room, because we wanted a view over the river. It was worth waking early (5.45am to 6.00am) and keeping a close eye out on what is happening outside. Every morning we did this, we saw amazing stuff. No dressing up required for meals, it is a very chilled place. It is barefoot or socks only in the dining / bar area (to keep shoes & thongs, which are likely covered in mud, out). We got a private guide and it was definitely worth it. You are in control of whatever you want to see or do and when you do it. Yes, they have a plan and undirected they will follow it, but you can vary it (including time and location etc) and you certainly then control how long you do, or don’t, stay watching some particular thing / animal. If there are things you especially want to see (e.g. birds) they will focus on that. Similarly if there is something you don’t want to see (e.g. tarantula) they will avoid it! They have great, great, food at the lodge! A huge selection of both western & Malaysian. I am sure we actually put on weight despite the amount of walking. Our room was basic, but fine. There is no air conditioning, but it really is cool enough with the smart room design & fans etc. They advise you to keep the lights off if you are not there, which we did, and had no problems with bugs in the room. The lounge / dining area is pretty fancy by comparison. You could take a small umbrella to use when trekking instead of putting on a rain jacket or poncho. They have big umbrellas in each room for getting to and from the lodge area. Some kind of dry bag could be good to take walking to put bino’s or camera gear in if it rains, because when it rains, it really rains! Take a torch for night walks We swam in the river – a great swimming hole is a short walk away from the lodges. We did not see anyone else swimming, but they encourage you to do it, so it is not an issue (and we will swim anywhere). When the river is higher they give you the option of going tubing down it. There are lots of bugs, so insect repellent is a must. We only saw one leech the entire time we were there, but we also only had rain on one afternoon. It would be a very different story if it had been raining more often. We were strict about always wearing leech socks (with insect repellent sprayed around the top) when we went out, so I know this helped. Other people there either did not wear leech socks at all, or only sometimes and they sometimes got leeches and sometimes not. Trekking: We were there five days. We spoke to people who were leaving after 2 (what they had booked for, not because they didn’t like it) who said they were happy to go as they either didn’t see a lot, or had seen what they were after (I assume Orangutan). I would have happily stayed longer. The longer we were there, the more we did, the more we saw. On this theme, if you are up for it, try and get out early (say a 6.00am or 6.30am start). Not only is it cooler, but the animals are more active. You have a chance of seeing the last of the nocturnal animals going home and you see all of the day one’s starting their day and looking for food etc. A typical day is a morning walk, which is the long one, starting anywhere from 6.00am to 8.30am and getting back anywhere from around 10.30am (if you are out early) to 11.30am – so, a 3 to 4 hour walk. Follow this with lunch, a chill out, swim, reading etc and then out for another walk at 3.30pm. The afternoon walk gets you back around 5.30pm. We also did one night walk (sensational) and one night drive (we did not see much) – but I would recommend doing both. We were going to do another night drive or walk, but got caught up doing other stuff with the guides back at the lodge. The walking tracks run the gamut of boardwalk to rutted dirt and, if the guides spot something special, “off road” you go. There is a fantastic canopy walk and there are swing bridges over the rivers – scary if you are that way inclined. Sturdy shoes will give you a better experience. If it rains, they better be water proof. Some of the wildlife: Orangutan... Spiderhunter.. Grey Racer.. Crested Fireback
  27. 2 points
    Mongo was sort of lucky enough to be one of the first to get one of these in Australia. He has had it now for about a month. There is good and bad about it but mainly good (now that is). Mongo purchased it from an authorised Nikon dealer for $1700 Australian Dollars which is a very good price. AF Issues Initially, Mongo had considerable trouble with the lens. The AF seem to go “to sleep” at times and would not work unless you woke it by manually turing the focus ring or turning the camera on and off. Not really what you need when trying to catch wildlife (particularly birds in flight), sports action, aviation etc. These are the things this lens was surely designed for. The other problem Mongo noticed was that the lens seemed very slow to acquire focus on moving objects. The lens was relatively OK on stationary objects (apart from falling asleep as described above). This mystery was largely solved in two steps. First, having the “sleep issue” “fixed” with the firmware update. Secondly, by using the most appropriate VR mode. Unfortunately, Mongo had to work out the do’s and don’ts of VR on this lens largely by himself and the odd rare comment he could find on the net as the lens was still reactively new and few people had used it. It seems that “normal” mode reduced the the AF speed whereas, “sports” mode seems to have far less affect on AF speed. Unfortunately, the lens does not come with a real explanatory booklet - it only has a single open-out sheet. Mongo is all for cost saving to be able to provide this lens cheaply to customers but some information should not be skimped on. VR When you look through the viewfinder and engage “normal” VR mode, the effect is dramatic ! the movement is almost completely halted in a way Mongo has not previously experienced with other Nikon VR lenses. The claim that his lens’ VR is the best to date is probably well founded. However, as with any fast car or precision tool, you must know how to use it to get any good out of it. Mongo has determined that, “normal” mode is best used when handholding the lens and focusing on stationary objects. “Spots” mode VR should be used in all other instances including on a monopod, panning etc. Some of this information is in the instruction sheet but not all of it an not enough to have worked this out effectively in Mongo’s opinion. The combination of the above two steps have now brought the lens to a reasonable standard and one that Mongo is happy enough with and could, potentially, be very pleased with subject to further testing. However, all indications so far are that there is a little more that can be extracted from this lens and that should bring it to the that level of satisfaction. Quality Control Typically, Nikon realised the lens (in Mongo’s view) half baked and poorly tested - if at all. Untypically, Nikon came out within weeks of the lens being sold to admit there were AF issues and had a firmware update to rectify it. See: http://nikonrumors.com/2015/10/06/some-nikkor-200-500mm-f5-6e-ed-vr-lenses-have-af-issue-must-be-sent-back-to-nikon-for-service.aspx/#more-98465 So, Mongo was not wrong when he had earlier complained to Nikon that the lens had AF issues. It should be noted that Mongo noticed the problem within the first few hours of using the lens. One would have to ask how Nikon could not have notice this problem if it had carried out any credible testing. Again, as Mongo has previously stated, this should never have happened and Nikon needs to get its act together about properly testing its products before subjecting the public to them and expecting the public to be its test guinea pigs. If it does so, it may keep more of its customers and regain a lot of lost respect. If you buy a lens with a serial number greater than 2008365, the issue should already have been rectified. So, in the scheme of things, the problem was caught relatively early after the lens’ release. Build Quality & Features Mongo could go on at some length about this but it is easier to summarise it extremely good and excellent value for the money. It is solid, well built and well finished, movements are very precise (not sloppy) and no lens creep. Also, the foot on this lens is not like the 300 f4 AFS. It is , In Mongo’s opinion, it is very solid and well designed for this lens’ needs. In short, you will not have the need or urge to go out and buy an after market foot with possibly one exception. Most of us use the arca swiss attachment system and this lens does not have that feature. That is unfortunate as the foot is big enough and solid enough to have machined that profile into it. Mongo assumes this has not been done due to possible patent issues. Nonetheless, you can buy a short arca swiss plate/rail and attach it to the lens’ existing foot without any concerns. Image Quality What would you expect to get for this money in this zoom range? Well, you would have to think that it has to be at least as good as Tamron and Sigma offerings or there would be no point in making it. Mongo has only tried the Tamorn 150-600mm and found it to be a respectably good lens. He has not tried the Sigmas (although he managed to get a look at them and handle them as well as see some images from them). From that small amount of largely indirect knowledge, it seems they too are very good performers. Mongo’s analysis of the MTF charts lead him to believe that the Nikon is most closely aligned to the Sigma Sport. It would be unfair for Mongo (in these circumstances) to attempt to draw some comparison between the various lenses. So, he will comment on the Nikon more directly. The image quality is surprisingly good, indeed, very good. Even wide open at f5.6, the lens delivers sharp images with good contrast. As a habit , Mongo now largely shoots at f5.6, f6.3 and f7.1 averaging f6.3 most of the time. Even so, he finds that you may need to stop down a little more but largely for extra DOF and not for want of sharpness. This lens is small enough to fool you into forgetting it is 500mm and that you may be too close to the subject unless you add more DOF. Funny but you never seem to forget this when lugging the 600mm f4 around. It is something you will get used to quickly when using the 200-500mm. Having owned and used a Nikon 200-400 f4 VR for a few years, Mongo can say he can not tell the difference in the image quality produced by both lenses. If there is any, it could not justify 4 times the price and more than 30% more weight. The extra stop is not enough to faze Mongo either. Teleconverters Mongo must admit that, due to the other initial issues to try and get the lens right, there has been some delay in testing the teleconverters properly. Mongo had an initial try with the teleconverters before the lens was firmware updated and calibrated. Therefore, those old results are not reliable. Nonetheless, Mongo can tell you that the 1.4EII. 1.7EII and 20EIII all work with this lens although, not necessarily the AF. To break those results down, on the D800E, you get AF with the 1.4EII only but you can manually focus the other converters and the shutter releases and it all works etc. On the D4s, you get AF with the 1.4EII and the 1.7EII (which is very surprising becuase the latter combo is f9.3 wide open i.e more than f8 and theoretically the AF should not be capable of working …..but it does !). Neither body auto focus with the 20EIII. The images Mongo got from all these combos were all good to very good but read further below. While having the firmware update carried out on the lens, Mongo also asked that it also be calibrated (together with calibration of his D4s and D800E). Since getting the gear back about 10days ago, Mongo has been flat out trying to AF fine tune the lens to the camera bodies. At present , despite all having been calibrated and theoretically no AF fine tune should be needed, Mongo has found that the D800E and the lens are best at +4 AF fine tune. Accordingly, Mongo will have to calibrate each of the teleconverters with the lens and redo all the test with them. It may well be that he will get even better results than before the lens was firmware updated and calibrated. This remains to be seen. Commentary There is a thread in this forum started on 4 August. There is much speculation in it because the lens was not really around at that time to gain a real impression and feel for it. Mongo hopes his thread (here) helps clarify some of the lens’ mystery. Certainly, if Mongo were ever to go on one of those safaris he reads about, he would not hesitate to take this lens. Conclusion Nikon 200-500mm f5.6E ED VR is clearly aimed at the Tamron and Sigma competitors and despite its unfortunate troubled birth, it will make a serious indent into their market share of this approximate zoom range. Mongo would now recommend this lens. a quick sample image (view large): D800E , 200-500 @500mm, f6.3, 1/800th, ISO 2000, -0.3EV, +4 AF fine tune, monopod
  28. 2 points
    When you’re shooting product photography or other stuff in studio being able to see what you’ve just shot in the program you are actually going to edit your image in is a huge help to efficiency by taking away a lot of the to and fro between camera, card reader and computer. I used to shoot tethered in Lightroom with Nikon D700, so when I moved to Olympus it was something I missed having quite a lot. I am still not sure why Adobe don’t offer tethering for camera brands other than Nikon and Canon, but with the free Olympus Capture (OC) app it actually doesn’t matter anymore because as an Olympus E-M1 shooter you actually get much more control by using their app than you would from using Lightroom directly. I’m going to walk you through some of the features of the Olympus Capture app and explain how I use it to shoot tethered. Getting It Working The setup of the system is very simple. All you do once you have the USB cable plugged into the camera is open the app. The app will tell you whether or not you have a camera attached and whether the camera is in the tethered shooting mode. To put the E-M1 in the tethered shooting mode you need to go into the E-M1’s custom menu D and right at the bottom of that category you will find an item called USB mode. Set that to the icon that looks like a camera connected to a PC and you should be good to go. You’ll know its working when you see the live view of the E-M1 on your PC/Mac screen. There are some in-app options you can adjust that will give you control over where the images are going to be stored, either on the camera or immediately transferred to a location on the computer. This has some interesting implications that I will get to a bit later. You can change the file names too if you wish. There are also some display settings you may wish to adjust, such as if you are using multiple monitors you can display the app full screen in a designated monitor. It’s unlikely that I am going to install a larger monitor on a set, but the option is there if I want to. Actually, what I would probably do if I was shooting portraits and wanted the sitter to see their shot while they are on set and immediately after it has been taken is mirror the MacBook screen to my Apple TV and put that somewhere near the camera. A bit of a palava to set up, but it can be very helpful in directing people if they can see the frame you’re about to shoot before you shoot it. Setting up olympus Capture is a lot easier than getting the wifi to work on the Olympus Image Share app! The Graphical User Interface When it’s opened OC brings up 4 distinct windows and this is where I think there are some issues with the design. There are two small windows and 2 large windows. The two large windows are dedicated to the live view and the camera controls. In default arrangement they are as shown in the screenshot below, with the settings on the right and the large live view on the left. You can re-size the live view window but you can’t re-size the setting window. screenshot showing the system when it first connects - note the two small floating windows for Rec View and Histogram The other two windows are a live histogram and a Rec view window. The histogram window I have no use for when shooting tethered for a flash lit set because it’s displaying what it sees before the flashes fire, which makes it fairly useless in that situation. I keep it closed. I suppose if you are working with ambient lighting it would be useful if you are using it for exposure assistance, but to my mind if you’re already seeing the image on the monitor in live view you don’t really need the histogram. That’s really there to help you more when using smaller camera LCD’s that can be visually misleading at times. The other window is the view of the recorded images that you have taken while tethered. Now, I might be doing something wrong, but I can’t seem to get this window to display anything. It just says “Waiting For Request” before, during and after taking a shot. Must be a bug. There is a button on the settings window that lets you toggle the live view window on and off, but if you have the Rec view window open it is always on top of the live view window. It never disappears unless you close it entirely. Ideally I would like to be able to toggle between the live view and the recorded shots by pressing a single key and then also be able to scroll through recorded shots using the arrow keys. Hopefully a future update will address this. However, having said this, the software actually interfaces quite nicely with Lightroom by using a little trick that kind of makes sense to the way Olympus have designed the window layout between the controls and the live view. When you are setting up where to store the images that you take with OC, you can specify an Auto Import folder for Lightroom. If you have Lightroom open at the same time you can use that live view toggle button in OC to see what’s going on in Lightroom while you are still shooting. Toggle it on for your live view, toggle it off for the Lightroom captured view. This is extremely nifty design because you can resize the Lightroom side panels to be the same size as the OC camera settings window and it almost looks like it is a part of the Lightroom interface. I have the OC window on the top while I am shooting and I can toggle between the live view and whatever has been imported to Lightroom (in either develop or library mode). If I want to go into Lightroom fully I just click on the window and it sends the OC window behind and I am looking at Lightroom only. I use a hot corner in OS X to swing between open apps if I want to get back to OC. This is how I am using the app now and it works well for me like this. screenshot showing the Olympus Capture settings window with Live View Off and Lightroom in the background The import process to Lightroom takes about 10 seconds on my 2012 MacBook Pro, so it’s not unbearably slow. I’ve seen workshop videos where well known photographers who shoot tethered are waiting about the same time for their shots to appear in Lightroom or whatever they are using. Camera Controls Window Super Control Panel Just like most Olympus cameras, even going back to the now discontinued E-series, the Super Control Panel (SCP) in Olympus Capture gives you an at-a-glance grid view of all your current settings on the camera. From here you can check and change shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, white balance compensation, picture mode (a camera profile), flash mode (for the onboard flash), flash power, focus mode, drive mode (single frame, burst, etc), metering mode, face recognition, image stabiliser mode and file capture mode (RAW, JPG, etc). There is also a slider for exposure compensation that you can drag between +5 and -5 EV. To change any of the values all you do is click on the relevant block and a pop-up window showing all the options available appears. Click on the value you want and it adjusts the camera for you. Simple! There is one thing it apparently can’t do and that is to change the shooting mode from whatever you have it set to on the camera (eg. manual, aperture priority, etc). Most of the time I would be using manual mode when shooting tethered, so it’s not too big a deal. RC Mode (flash) The RC mode refers to the remote control of Olympus’ flash system. Having come from Nikon’s CLS which works extremely well, I was quite surprised to learn that Olympus had also been using this system of controlling remote flashes for quite some time, in fact the E-3 even had it in place. The basic concept is the same as Nikon CLS. You place a flash on the camera and it can be set up to act as a commander to control other flashes that are set up as slaves. It’s possible to control 3 groups of flashes on a common channel from the commander and set each of them to act in a certain way. For instance, if you want to fire them under manual power (recommended), TTL or A mode, you can specify this in the RC menu on the camera. The little clip on flashes that come with the OM-D and PEN series cameras can also act as the commander for the Olympus FL-series hotshoe flashes, so when I am shooting something that doesn’t require my A/C powered strobes I grab my two FL-600R’s, set them into RC mode and play with their settings from the camera. With OC you get the same RC controls in the camera settings window on the app, so you can literally set up an unlimited bunch of FL-series flashes on a set and control everything from the computer you have tethered to your E-M1. You don’t have to go and change the power settings on the flashes yourself. You’re in complete control of everything from the computer. The FL-600R flashes may be small, but they have just as much, if not more functionality than much more expensive flashes from Canon and Nikon, including swivel, bounce and zoom heads, optical slaves built-in, LED video light and full manual controls. The only thing they don’t have is a sync port so if you’re going to use them like a strobist would (with Pocket Wizards) you may need to get an accessory hotshoe device that does have a sync port. These are available really cheap from Chinese manufacturers online. I will write an article about the FL-600R one of these days. It’s on a to-do list I have hidden away. Focusing Manually Via PC Something you gain control of with the Olympus Capture app that I never saw in Lightroom’s tethering options is manual focus of micro four thirds lenses. Yes, that’s right, you click on little left and right arrows in the interface and the computer tells the lens to focus in small, medium or large increments. It also works with 4/3rds lenses on an MMF adapter. Pretty cool to manually focus a lens without actually touching it and this would definitely be helpful for critical focus when creating stacks, for example. Activating the manual focus mode is as simple as selecting the focus mode in the Super Control Panel on the app, just like you would do it on the camera, then clicking on those focus shift buttons. Changing back to any of the other focusing modes is just as simple. You can enlarge the live view on the app to show only the area that is being focused on, which is quite handy, but… the live view is grainy, even when shown in the highest resolution mode. Don’t expect to see the same quality view you get using the camera’s LCD or EVF in magnified mode. screenshot of the magnified view - not the prettiest, but it is an enlargement of a very small area of the image Changing the focus point on the live view took me a while to figure out. You would think that using the arrow keys on the keyboard would be the most obvious way to do this, but whoever wrote the software had other ideas. To change the focus point you need to click the active point in the live view window and drag it to where you want to focus. Or you double click the place you want to focus on and it goes there instantly, but in the magnified view. A little quirky, but I can live with it. Live View Window As I mentioned earlier on in the GUI section of this guide, the live view window takes up the bulk of the screen real estate when the OC app is running. You can toggle it on and off but if you have the other two smaller windows switched on, they are always visible on top of the live view window. I find this quite annoying so I have them permanently switched off. The live view window is primarily used for framing, and making sure you have your set properly lit if you are using continuous light sources. There are some other features of the live view window that bear mentioning, so I will go through them here. Grid Display Clicking on this button displays a grid that you can customise in a myriad of different ways. This is particularly useful for compositional aids such as the rule of thirds, but you can also add other lines for more complex grids when you need them. You can choose the colour of each grid line and you can also choose whether to have them dotted or solid, horizontal or vertical. It’s possible to delete individual grid lines or drag them to different points on the axis. Where this comes in extremely handy is for shooting ranges of products that have to be framed and lined up exactly the same each time. Sure, you can lock down your tripod on a dolly (which I do) but there’s no guarantee that you won’t accidentally knock it off position when you’re moving around in studio. The customised grid lines are a silent blessing in this regard. Highlights & Shadow Warnings Pretty self-explanatory. You can toggle these on and off, but you can also specify thresholds in brightness values in the apps display settings menu. Aspect Ratio You have a choice of shooting in 5 different aspect ratios with OC. 4:3 (native), 16:9, 3:2, 1:1 and 3:4. The button on the live view window toggles between the ratios by masking off corresponding parts of the sensor’s view. It doesn’t re-size or re-sample the image at all. A point to take note of here is that if you are creating Olympus RAW files, the aspect ratio you’re shooting in is carried into Lightroom and displayed that way in both Library and Develop modes. However, as soon as you engage the crop tool you will see your full 4:3 native capture with white frames around where the recorded aspect ratio is. I find this particularly useful when I am shooting un-tethered as I have my E-M1 set up to shoot in 3:2 ratio. If while editing an image in Lightroom I find that I wish I had left a little headroom or footroom I can immediately find some by opening up the crop tool. It’s a hidden gem of a feature that micro four thirds has and it’s saved my ass many times. For tethered shooting I do the same thing, set the ratio to 3:2 (which is the most popular ratio for printing and general use). If I need to reclaim some ground I crop in Lightroom. Auto Focus Target This button is used to toggle between the various auto focus targets available on an E-M1. You can toggle visibility with this, but you can also set which of the target types you’d like to use. I normally have my camera set to use the small single AF targets, but you can choose the larger rectangles or grouped targets, or the whole array if you want. One Touch White Balance I’m kind of confused about the usefulness of this whole “one touch” white balance thing. If I understand it correctly (which is potentially a dangerous proposition), you take a RAW photograph with the camera and then select a grey point on the RAW file to set your white balance and then store that in one of 4 “one touch WB” settings. You would then apply that white balance across other images in the camera by selecting one of the 4 settings from the Super Control Panel when shooting. The OC live view window lets you do the same thing but to be honest I just don’t mess around with white balance that much. If I notice it is off in editing I use the eye-dropper tool in Lightroom to select a target and work from there. If there’s no neutral grey area in the shot I use the sliders. Anyway, it’s there for those of you who want to work that way. Level Gauge Display This button handily displays the level of the camera on top of the live view, so you can use it to make certain of being dead level on jobs that require it. Rotate Display As the name implies, if you would like to rotate the live view display by 90˚ or 180˚ use this button. This would help if you were using a second monitor to assist a person who is sitting for a portrait and you had the live view on that monitor. Or maybe you just like a slanted view of life in general? This would be useful then. Boost (Live View) Let’s just say that you’re shooting in Manual mode on a flash lit set and you are seeing things really dark in the live view (which will be the case if you are shooting at your flash sync speed to eradicate all the ambient light). Clicking this button will boost the live view so that you see what the camera thinks the scene should look like if it was correctly exposed. Micro four thirds cameras do this. They have the light meters built into the sensor which is why you can mount just about any lens from any maker on the camera with an adapter, stick it in aperture priority mode and without the camera even knowing what aperture you have selected, it will give you a pretty good exposure. I use the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye lens this way and I have never had a poor exposure from that lens. The exposure compensation indicator of the camera settings window in the app will show you that you are under exposing by X amount of stops based on the ambient light, but if you’re shooting flash that becomes irrelevant. Having this boost facility simply lets you see what’s going on in the scene and it’s very, very useful. I have this set to on all the time, unless I am working out where to place lights and need to use the modelling lights to see more or less where the reflections are going to be. It’s a simple toggle between the boost and the actual view. screenshot of the unboosted live view - note the compensation slider shows we are 3 stops under exposed with these settings screenshot showing what happens when you have Live View Boost on Preview We all know what the depth of field preview button does on a camera. It shows you how much of your image is going to be in focus when shooting at a given aperture. The preview button on the OC app does the same thing and when it’s used in conjunction with the aforementioned Boost button, you will get a very good idea of just how much of your scene is going to be in focus before you have even taken the shot, without the screen going dark (like it does on cameras with optical view finders). A handy feature. LV Close Up Mode This button will toggle you between the full scene and wherever your selected focus point is centered on. It doesn’t give you the ability to scale the view like you do on the E-M1 itself, but you can pan around the enlarged view with the cursor by clicking and dragging. It’s very helpful to determine critical focus on a point of the item being photographed, especially if you are stacking or you want a particular point to be more in focus than other points (jewellery, for example). Why Shoot Tethered? Tethering has many advantages in a photography production environment. It allows you to exercise exact control over the camera’s settings and having the image in the computer immediately lets you, the photographer, get to see what you’ve produced almost instantly. I like to use tethering in situations where I have to be exact with lighting and also where I am shooting multitudes of the same item. This is usually the case in high volume product photography which I dabble in from time to time. I’ve also used tethering in high volume portraiture before. I was once asked to shoot an entire company’s staff of about 250 people in one day for profile photos they were going to use on Yammer. Shooting directly into Lightroom on that job was quite handy because I could show the person their portrait on a bigger screen immediately. You pick up on errors much easier with this method, especially since I find myself suffering increasingly with presbyopia as I get older. Not seeing lipstick on ladies teeth by looking at the little LCD screen on a camera is a sure-fire way of giving yourself more work to do in Photoshop later. Same goes for discovering just how visible fingerprints are on shiny surfaces like jewellery. I’m really happy with the release of Olympus Capture. Discovering how easy it is to bring your output from OC directly into Lightroom while still shooting was the last swipe of the eraser against advantages the DSLR once held for me. I can now do everything I need to do with the OM-D system without constraints. If you have any questions about shooting tethered with the E-M1 and Olympus Capture please pop them in the comments section below the article and I will do my best to answer you. A quickly edited shot made in the course of writing this guide to Olympus Capture. I could probably have stacked a few images together to get more depth of field, but this was shot mainly to illustrate how I got to the lighting I wanted in a few shots just by using tethered shooting and physically holding a diffused Olympus FL-600R flash in different positions (the shots seen in the grid screen shot above the final image). I used two of these flashes with a small light tent for this shot and fired them in RC mode with manual settings selected from Olympus Capture. If I had had to rely on the rear LCD it would have taken me a lot longer because you literally don't always see the big picture that way and I would have had to put the second flash down with every shot and review. This was literally shot in a few minutes without putting it down.
  29. 2 points
    Here is a quick report on the new Pentax K1 in the actual work situations I find myself in. There is good news and bad news... for me. The bad news is that it looks like I have to learn (and put up) with another camera. Part of it is that I am used to my Nikons and all of that. The other part is that, IMO, the Pentax K1 interface as not as easy to use or as well-designed as Nikon. I would send it back just to spare myself the aggravation but for the very nice results. At this point, I am just checking it out a little bit, and trying to get over holding my nose while I am at it. The color with the Pentax is crisper, brighter, more natural (almost too contrasty!) compared to the overall muddier look of my Nikon D810, now that I see them side by side. Ouch! I don’t have a ton of lenses for the K1 and the Pentax (so far anyway) is much less tolerant of odd lenses than are my Nikons bodies. If everything is equal, which it is not, then the Pentax is... doable IMO. The Pentax pixel-shift files are huge, and a real pain for my computer, not to mention their storage requirements (~ 150K each). The LCD screen on the back of the camera is very adjustable, but I won’t be using it because I need my Zacuto Z-Finder magnifier on the back for fine focus, and it is needed. This camera is very fussy with focus. On the plus side, the K1 has a fairly easy-to-use LiveView magnifier that goes up to something like 16x, which is more than I need or makes sense. The pixel-shift files take a long time to write out and you get no warning if you decide to call it a day and yank the card before the little light goes out. Don’t do it! You can stack focus with these files, but at the price of degradation of the files... a little bit. For my work, the Pentax K1 will probably be used to take single shots photos at high f/Stops like f/12-16. Yes, there is some diffraction, but I seem to get away with much smaller f/stops in pixel-shift mode with the K1 than on my Nikon D810. So, the bottom line is Uggh for learning a new camera, and one not as elegant as the D810. There are other considerations as well. Stacking K1 images, like all stacking, messes with the color and the contrast to a degree. With the K1, the pristine color is the main attraction. So far, it seems it would be better to take one-shot photos with the K1 in pixel-shift than to try and stack them. Oh yes, they stack of course, but the added contrasts, etc. may look good from a distance, but up close it looks worse than a single-shot photo, not the anyone but a pixel-peeper could tell. All stacks do, but the more pristine possibilities of the K1 in pixel-shift mode make me want to think twice before stacking. What I might want to do is combine stacked layers in Photoshop by simply copying over certain areas, instead of running the layers through the stacking software, thus avoiding the added contrast and color muddiness that stacking brings. Just a thought. Also, right now I have only a few Voigtlander lenses that have Pentax mounts. I have an adapter to Nikon and tried on the Otus 55mm and it works, etc. However, I look forward to mounting the Pentax K1 on a bellows unit and using lenses like El Nikkor 105mm APO lenses on the front standard. In short, I just have my toe in the water. Part of me wishes my Nikons could do pixel-shift, because their cameras would be a lot easier for me to use, since I already know them. But the bleeding edge never sleeps and new equipment drives me on. I am interested to see Sony’s upgrade for the A7rII and Nikons upgrade of the D810 whenever they come. Meanwhile the purity of color of the pixel-shift with the K1 and the overall result is worth checking out IMO. Photos taken with the Pentax K1, Voigtlander 90mm APO. I have included stacked images at f/9 and f/16 and one layer not-stacked, if that helps. This is all new, but the results better than I can get with Bayer interpolation. The pain of progress... learning all this. Thanks to Lloyd Chambers for doing a lot of research on this camera in his columns.
  30. 2 points
    FrankF asked if I could write up something about processing X-Trans raw files, noting that his usual adjustments for NEF files didn’t work with RAF files. Straight off, and despite much dismissive hand waving by those who would use Adobe Lightroom or Camera Raw to process their files regardless of any opinion as to the quality of the end result for X-Trans files, I can only say that I’ve tried ACR at every update until CC Rent-a Shop came into play and the results, while tinkered with substantially about the edge, were still nowhere near as good as processors using Dave Coffin’s dcraw algorithms for the X-Trans demosaic. So the following will not be for Adobe users as I don’t use LR/ACR for X-Trans. Ever. As Frank uses Photo Ninja (as do I), I’ll run through what I do to convert X-Trans raw files using that program. This is just how I use it, I'm not suggesting it is gospel. I really like the results I get this way, so I guess that's what really matters to me - your needs might vary. For whatever reason the folk at PN did individualise their program by assigning names to sliders that are not common in their effect to more conventionally consistent names in other makers’ programs. This isn’t really a problem once familiarity is gained, but can be confusing at first. Here’s the image I used as Photo Ninja presented it straight from the demosaic. I used this image because it has fine detail, the highlights are overexposed, and there are many fine and small colour gradations - plus the folder was open on the computer anyway . As a photograph it isn’t anything much, but as a taxing of the demosaic it perhaps is. The following is how I have found it best to use the controls - this might differ from any “official” instructions, but hey, whatever works.... Note that when you're working in any panel, clicking on the ◄► icon under the sliders (highlighted in screen grab below)will show the unprocessed image, releasing will show the processed image concerning that panel. After exiting one of the control panels for the overall menu, clicking on them will show the unprocessed image, releasing will show the processed image including all panels adjusted so far. So at any time you can flick back and forward between processed states without having to hunt all over the screen for a preview box to tick or un-tick. Here’s a screen grab at 100% of the image as opened, along with clipped highlight indicators: So here’s the PN controls panel as it has opened an un-worked image with default settings: Starting at the top, and the first hurdle which had me stumped for a long time when I first used this current version of PN (and which took an email to PN support to get an answer) is the “Color correction” menu. Misleading, because in it is the slider that controls what everyone else calls "Highlight recovery" but has been called “Color recovery” in PN. Further confusion is caused by the fact that its default setting is strength 100. At this setting PN will fill any blown highlights with an aggregate colour from the surrounding un-blown area, which can sometimes look awful, even taking on a solarised appearance. The Color correction panel: I have changed that default number to 50 in my prefs, which I find a better overall beginning setting for my files, but that might vary according to your shooting style. Whatever, it is something to be aware of. On the whole PN and Fuji together seem to do a good job on colour balance, but if there’s a lot of green in shot you’ll probably have to do a custom WB and knock excessive magenta compensation out of the default. I didn't mess with WB in this case, though, although it could be improved a bit I suppose. For comparison purposes I also thought a constant WB might be more useful. I would have warmed it up, although in this case the cool tone serves to locate the scene on the cusp of winter during a cold (6°C) day rather effectively. Next in the main panel is the primary adjustment menu - “Exposure and detail”. These are the settings it opened the sample image with: As can be seen, there’s a bit going on at the right of the histogram that’ll need hauling into line (clipped highlights indicated with the red line). The first thing to keep in mind is to try to work from the top down in this panel. The Illumination and Exposure offset sliders directly affect one another and should be worked in concert, keeping an eye on the highlight clipping indication in the preview image as well as watching the histogram. In this case in order to haul the highlights back it will be necessary to further reduce Exposure, then return the image to its original overall brightness with the Illumination slider. (If the image is underexposed to the left of the histogram, then the opposite movements of these two sliders will be required, and contrast increases in that case). As can be seen, the image no longer spills to the right, and the histogram light tones are a bit more centralised and the clipped highlights are recovered. The visual effect will be to have slightly flattened the contrast of the image, and as there is no need to adjust shadows as they are are not falling off the left of the histogram the Shadows and the Black sliders can be skipped and the Contrast slider gently bumped up until the shadows just start to block, and then backed off a bit. In this case enough punch was added back by shifting Contrast to +7. The final slider in this panel is the Detail slider and this must be approached with the utmost caution with X-Trans files. With Bayer files it is relatively gentle but with Fuji X it is vicious and some real artefacting can occur. I’ve found that maximum setting of +4 is all I can use before things get choppy. This slider can be used to the negative side with great effect to reduce grain noise, however, and sometimes works better than third party NR programs, or Noise Ninja itself, for that matter. Next comes the Color enhancement window. This has three presets in a drop-down menu - “Plain" (obvious as to effect), “Portrait” (which darkens/dulls green and blue but lightens/accentuates yellows and reds) and “Scenic” which saturates all colours. My default opening settings for this image: I have set my prefs to open this in Portrait mode as above, and will then use the fine-tuning sliders to alter the depth and saturation of individual colours as indicated in the colour boxes above the sliders. Select a box (green in this case) and adjust the Hue and Hue affinity sliders to bring back the brightness to the greens that the “Portrait” preset had killed a bit much. The rest of the control panels are more targeted and to be honest I rarely use them as I have other programs that do the job better. Occasionally I'll use the vignette for effect or the Chromatic aberration if processing a file taken with an older Nikon AI-s wide-angle, but the Fuji lenses really don't have any aberrations to worry about - at least none of mine do. Even the little Samyang 8mm fisheye is amazingly free or fringing. For sharpening I use Helicon Filter as a Photoshop plug-in, specifically the “sharpen fine details” slider in the sharpening panel, which usually gets best results between +15 & +25, and it has the least halo effect of any sharpener I have used. So here’s the finished processed shot And here’s a set of 100% sections of the before, the after, and one final one with +15 Helicon Filter sharpening as well. Default: Processed: Processed and Helicon Sharpen Fine Details +15: The final version here might be a bit over-sharpened for screen, but is about what I find prints best on my Epson 7800 using Innova Smooth Cotton High White and Ilford Gallerie Gold Fibre Silk. Once familiar with the program, running through these adjustments takes only a few seconds, and from that point of view it is much quicker than other dcraw-based processors I've tried (Windows - I don't use Mac). But getting quick at it does take practice, as with anything. Postscript: As always we'll be compromised by the ancient web colour space of sRGB and jpeg compression. Of course this image was processed in 16-bit Pro Photo colour space, and saved so tagged as an uncompressed TIFF, which means it probably looks a whole lot different to what you may be seeing on your monitor. One day the Web will catch up, maybe after it is done trying to be a phone app and gets back to being something worthwhile.
  31. 2 points
    I have been on record in complaining that digital killed B&W as a truly viable monochrome end-product (unless created by extremely skilled practitioners, of course), with the interpolation of Bayer sensors and the algorithms written for "removal of colour" changing what was once a guttural, organic look that film gave to a B&W image replaced with a smoothed-out "plastic" looking image with the colour removed. the tonal response was now linear, as opposed to the "S" curve response of B&W (silver halide) film. So on Saturday, with the winter sun shining and not a cloud in the sky, I tracked down a few static subjects filled with contrast and tonal gradations, packed my two Sigma Merrill Foveon cameras along with the Fuji X-T1 and my Mamiya RZ67 film camera, along with lenses for the Fuji and Mamiya that would roughly equal the AOV of the DP1 Merrill (19mm) and DP3 Merrill (50mm) with the intent of setting up a tripod and shooting the same scene with Foveon, X-Trans and T-Max in turn, just to verify that my satisfaction with the Fuji, as far as its monochrome rendition goes, wasn't just mere wishful thinking over the battle I had had in getting a B&W result that pleased me with all my previous Bayer sensor cameras. I also threw in the Sigma Merrill cameras to confirm that while they did to a degree reproduce the classic digital "plastic" look, the tonal gradation and acutance with which they did so comes as close to matching or even exceeding a print up to 20x24 from a 5x4 film negative. As I no longer have a 5x4 camera I couldn't do a direct comparison, but I was keen to affirm that the little Merrills definitely surpassed the medium format Mamiya, which a mere decade ago was still up there with the Hasselblad, Pentax 6x7 and Rollei as the standard equipment for professional use. As they say, the best laid plans...... well, don't necessarily follow suit with preconceived outcomes. While the overall expectations were partially confirmed, it was the performance of the once-professional Mamiya RZ67 and the T-Max TMY (400 ISO) film I had loaded which gave me one heck of a jolt as to just how far digital from relatively tiny APS-C-sized sensors has come, and while I was hoping to prove that film still does B&W "better", I have to concede up-front that this is no longer true, and by a surprisingly huge margin at that. I still prefer the "look" of the non-linear tonal response, but that's where it begins and ends. So my quest to find a good used Fuji GSW 690 film camera and start shooting hand-held location and street on film again died a swift and permanent death when the scans started coming off the scanner. I think I'll put the money to far better use in buying either another lens for the Fuji X-T1, or maybe even a new Sigma DP0 Quattro. Thank you all the greedy bastards on eBay who were asking way too much for a 25+ year old obsolete film camera with absolutely nothing other than a fixed lens with inbuilt mechanical shutter, a range-finder viewfinder, a place to put a roll of film, and a shutter button and a crank to expose and wind on the film. You just saved me hundreds of dollars. Much obliged. For me, aside from maybe (very) occasional use of the RZ & RB67 cameras to consume the film I still have left in the freezer, B&W film is dead. So, to the results: I still think maybe that B&W film "looks" better, but IQ-wise the difference now is so great that no matter how good it "looks", you wouldn't intentionally use it instead of digital if you owned either a Fuji X-trans or a Sigma Foveon. The Sigma is still challenged with blowing out highlights and bedevilled absolutely awful software processing support, but the Fuji is none of that - the results are superb, the dynamic range more than adequate, and the equipment itself is a joy to use. I love holding and using that camera as much as I loved holding and using my Hasselblads over a decade ago. All photos cropped to roughly the same dimensions, resized to 1600px high, so you'll have to "click up", and better still, hit the "Click here to view full size" button after clicking up, and save them to a folder on your desktop so you can flick through them to really appreciate the differences. First image (shadow/highlight detail on a mainly monochrome subject) : Mamiya RZ67, TMY (400 ISO) film, 50/4.5 lens, f/16: Sigma DP1 Merrill 19/2.8 lens, f/11 @ 100 ISO Fuji X-T1, 10-24/4 lens @19mm, f/11, @ 200 ISO Second image (shadow/highlight detail, colour differences, vegetation and image resolution): Mamiya RZ67, 50/4.5 lens, f/16 TMY Sigma DP1 Merrill, 19/2.8, f/11 @ 100 ISO Fuji X-T1, 10-24/4 @ 19mm, f/11 @ 200 ISO Third Image (separation of many different colour shades tonally, shadow/highlights, fine detail retention) Mamiya RZ67, 180/4 lens, f/16 TMY Sigma DP3 Merrill, 50/2.8 lens, f/11 100 ISO Fuji X-T1, Zeiss Touit 50/2.8M lens, f/11 @ 200 ISO Method & conclusion: I used the digital cameras at their native resolution - the Sigmas because increased ISO is purely and obviously an amplification of the signal which adds noise, and processing the top layer only of the three-stack sensor for cleanest results distorts the colour response to that of the full three-colour layers when converted to B&W as a whole. Likewise I used the Fuji at 200 ISO to completely kill any possibility of the DR function kicking in as it can at higher than 800 ISO to dramatically increase dynamic range. The object was to see if film really does still have that legendary DR advantage. (No, it doesn't! ) I used T-Max 400 film as (1) I have the most of it left in stock , and (2) I assumed that the huge area of the 6x7 format would enjoy an unfair advantage over the minuscule APS-C sensors if used with finer-grain T-Max 100. (Wrong again! ) As I have already indicated, even allowing for the fact that a scanned negative won't be as good as a directly printed one, fact is that this is the way most negatives will be put to use these days - scanned and an inkjet print - at least that most certainly is the way that my negatives would be put to use. I have absolutely no intention of resurrecting my wet darkroom for printing, even though it is still fully assembled and operational. I've done more than my time under the amber lights over several decades, so never again...... I reckon the Fuji overall blitzes the field here - combining just the right amount of "organic" look with the superb resolution of the Fujinon and Zeiss lenses. I will now stop lamenting the past and start actively pursuing B&W again without thinking that "this would be better done with film". The Sigma can't be faulted for finesse in resolution and smooth tonal transition, but it really is hobbled by the lack of software support and its propensity to blow highlights. The Mamiya - well, that's just an antique, obsolete, collectible curiosity now. From this little exercise, I will now shut up forever about the superiority of film B&W. It isn't.
  32. 2 points
    I recently got this lens and had a chance to take it out to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to test it out. Out of all the zooms for Olympus, this is the one that I had most interest in using. For the wider to medium focal lengths, the primes seem to fit the bill quite nicely. I am covering the Arnold Classic 2015 in Columbus starting March 6 and decided with the acquisition of the Olympus gear that I would try to shoot it Olympus only. I thought some readers might be interested in seeing the size of the different 135 lenses versus the m43 40-150/2.8 PRO. Please forgive the cellphone pic quality. Before shooting any major events, I always like to test out new equipment. So first outing, I tested at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. I don't do charts and pixel peeping. I do real world shooting and test the lenses based on what I can get from a final product as well as how well it handles and does it get out of the way and allow me to get the image. Keep that in mind when reading further. Please note: At the time of these sample shots, the OM-D EM-1 was still version 2.2. The zoo habitats had glassed in viewing areas, fences in some instances and they tend to be dirty and can degrade final image quality. Image Quality I can't really find a lot of fault with the IQ at any aperture or any focal length. You have your normal IQ drop off at f/11 and above due to diffraction, but beyond that, I find it stellar. The bokeh is also really nice and smooth. Even at f/2.8 it might not be as shallow as some might like, but I find that there is enough to allow for good subject separation. From the sample images below, even shot wide open and in the challenging conditions, this lens is fantastic. Nanuq and Aurora flirting 1/1600, ISO 200, f/2.8 @ 46mm Handling First impression was, it feels an lot like shooting with the Nikon 80-200/2.8. From the well dampened zoom and focus rings to the location of said rings. The zoom ring is operates smooth and is well dampened. It is a little stiffer than the 80-200, which I am able to change the focal length with one finger. The Olympus required a solid grip and turn, you definitely will not move it accidentally. Another thing coming from Nikon zooms to remember is that the wide to telephoto turns in the opposite direction of a Nikon lens. The focus ring is smooth and moves from near to infinity very quickly. If you don't tell people, they probably wouldn't realize it is a fly by wire focusing system. The AF/MF clutch is great for those times when you want to quickly switch over to MF. Menu diving not required and you get the added bonus of snap focusing. The MF ring does have hard stops at either end. Mexican Wolves playing in the snow 1/2000, ISO 200, f/2.8 @ 64mm Tripod Ring It can be removed if you don't need it and I like the ability to rotate the ring all the way around the lens, so you can get it out of the way when you are shooting with it handheld. It also feels very stable, so should be solid when used on tripods. The tripod socket is metal. Aurora the polar bear 1/1600, ISO 200, f/2.8 @ 150mm Weight This lens is on the heavy side when compared to other m43 lenses but compared to an APS-C or 135 equivalent f/2.8 lens it is down right small and light. Not so bad if you consider that this is the biggest lens for the system. Humbolt Penguins 1/1250, ISO 200, f/2.8 @ 82mm (cropped) Auto Focus Speed Single point AF is lightning fast in good light. Even in poor light, it is slow, but tends to hit the mark. There is some hunting, but only when the lighting is so dark it is hard to see your target with the naked eye. Continuous AF worked much better than expected(I've not a lot of experience shooting continuous with m43 as the single point AF has always been fast enough to get what I wanted in good light), even given shooting through glass. With the EM1 firmware at 2.2, a DSLR is still going to out focus it. 3.0 firmware, however might be a different story. A few days after the zoo trip we had a chance to test the 40-150/2.8 and the EM1 gave us even more hope. I tested shooting 9fps against cars in traffic moving toward and away from me and going across my field. In all cases, I had a 100% good focus rate. Generally, this was without the target getting obstructed. C-AF was used. I have not had a chance to check C-AF / Tracking yet. Once soccer/futbol season starts here I'll get a better handle on how the C-AF functions when the frame is crowded and when other targets cross the field of view. The S-AF is so good and quick that you can hit most sport shots just using that. For the zoo shots C-AF was used without the tracking option and it was adequate for use in non-mission critical shooting (again, with the 2.2 firmware). There were some missed sequences but given the shooting conditions I'm not sure if the misses were the lens, my lack of experience using the m43 C-AF systems, or the dirty glass I was shooting through. AF capable of keeping up with these running Mexican Wolves 1/3200, f/2.8, ISO 800 @ 150mm(heavily cropped as well) Lens Hood The lens hood can be retracted with a twist of the ring. It stays locked in the deployed position until you use the ring. There were times pulling the lens out of the bag that the hood would lock out into position. I wish there was a way to keep it locked in the back position as well. Conclusion I am sold on the capability of this lens, even after just one day of shooting. It is sharp, handles well, everything is in a great place and the S-AF performance is top notch. I really think that the C-AF performance will follow, Olympus just needs time. The quick tests we had with the 3.0 firmware were impressive and promising. I'm not sure if Olympus could have made a better lens. Shooting in cold conditions, the all metal construction can be difficult without gloves. Just make note of that.
  33. 2 points
    Interesting times we live in. We live in an age where technology far outpaces our ability to fully understand it, it’s potential and our acceptance of it. Thomas Kuhn wrote in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, that “new ideas, however well-proven and evident, are implemented only when the generations who consider them 'new' die and are replaced by generations who consider the ideas accepted and old”. Could it be some kind of neophobia, a fear of new things, that prevents us from accepting the new? Do we have too much bias towards that which we know and an inability to accept the new? Is it not possible for us to have a period of crossover or bridging of old and new? Why do we need to choose at all? I don’t think we do need to choose and we certainly should not denigrate those that choose one path over the other. Pointing out the benefits of one path over the other is a natural way of people to help determine what is the best way for them. They can all coexist. For example, being that we are all about photography, the progression of photography technology over the years. From the creation of the first image that took over 8 hours to create only to have it disappear later – we evolved to glass plates to paper one off shots to reproducible mediums like celluloid films and now into a digital sensor medium. The cameras went from the size of rooms, down to suit cases, to small boxes to now sizes capable of fitting inside a coat or pants pocket. Are we not to learn the lessons from the past like the blacksmith? A noble pursuit, but given more modern technologies like castings, CNC machinery, and target market changes, the once required craft/profession is now reduced down to a “brotherhood” of those wanting to learn. Not only did the tools for the job change, but the market changed too. As photographers, we too, must also change with the tools and the market. We all know that we need to use the best tool for the job, no matter what that might be. The trend in tools is to get smaller and more portable while still getting the same quality of output and function, if not better than the previous generations. A smaller lighter tool allows for us to use it more efficiently and for longer periods of time. Advances in technology give us the ability to use it in more efficient ways. Remember back when the masses thought it was silly to have a rear LCD? Who needed that? You didn’t have that with film, if you know what you are doing, you’ll get it right in camera and not have to worry about it. That is why we have professional photographers, right? They have the expertise to get it right. Oh….but they used Polaroid instants to check exposures too. Hmmmm... and now the arguments are, not does it have an LCD or not, but how big is it, under 3” – no thanks. Not 1k or 2k+ resolutions….laggy junk, right? Even though I can see the exposure of the scene in real time and get it right even before capturing it. Pretty cool tech to have, I might say. When you really think about it though, are we not just satisfying requests from long ago all in one tool now? No longer is there need for fear of going back to the darkroom and finding out that you left the lens cap on the rangefinder and all your exposures are black. No longer is there the fear that the off camera lighting I used was too hot or not bright enough, or the color temperature is off. We even have cameras that have hybrid optical viewfinders and EVF! Best of both worlds, useful for the times an OVF would be a better choice. I still shoot with both my DSLRs and with mirrorless offerings. I’ve also shot with film cameras and still do some, but that is mostly for economic reasons. I like shooting with my Mamiya C33, but I can’t afford the current generation of digital medium format cameras and lenses. I’m also thankful that I do not need to rely on those film cameras I used to us for work. I think I still appreciate them more for the nostalgia than anything else. Believe me, I’m not one that is about change just for the sake of change. I fight that battle quite a bit at my other job. The issue there is that they are all too eager to jump on the “new is better” bandwagon and not vet out the best solution for the job. I’ve stated many times before that we live in a time where just about any DSLR or mirrorless camera are capable of producing images that any photographer would be proud to show, heck even iPhone images have been featured on front pages of high profile newspapers. Which brings us to the marketplace. Long gone are the days of photographers having clients knock down their doors for work. When the process of capturing and processing an image took a specialized skill set now is more streamlined. Using our blacksmith as an analogy, not everyone knew how hot the coals needed to be, how best to separate metals from the stones they were in, how to temper the metals, how cool the water needed to be, when best to strike the metal, when to get it back into the fire… I think you get the idea. Same with photographers. It used to be we were the only ones that knew how to mix the chemicals, which ones to use for black and white or color. How long to keep it in the developer and the fixer, how long to agitate, how to work an enlarger. Now, the chemicals are gone and the dark room too. All replaced with electronic bits and bites. And everyone has the capacity to capture and share an image. The market is saturated with images, millions of them stored and transferred every day. With the instant gratification and low attention span culture we now live in, a lot of people are more than happy to just give their images away. They see no value in their images. Really? If there were no value in them, they wouldn’t share them at all. Of course there is value, just not as much for them as a professional photographer. Some people just love to do things, I love my work. How do you compete with that? Well, going cold calling gets your information out there, but just having great images is not enough. When photographers owned the market on getting great images, it was an easier sell. Now, there are great images out there and a lot of them for free. In order to survive, you need to find that niche in the market and also you need to figure out how to get noticed and stand out from the bunch. I’m not the only one that can create a great image, but I can provide a better skill set than most. My definition of a professional photographer is not just “I get paid for the images I create”. A professional photographer not only creates images, but can do it to specification of client need. A pro can work within a project group, can meet deadlines, has the ability to provide the agreed upon deliverables as specified, but also think outside the box and give the client options. They have to be a business person and not just a guy/gal with camera. Markets are so swift in this day and age that I cannot keep doing business the same way I did it even 7 years ago! The NY Times is using crowd sourced images from Instagram as a page 1 story! Other papers are letting their staff photographers go and getting freelancers or using services like Demotix to get images from events. Just a few years ago, I was dead set against doing video in my business model. Now, given the crave of still and motion images, it is a detriment for me to not at least start looking into it. In this day and age of popularity alone being a measure of fame and authority, it only makes sense to try and get backing of high profile partners. The best thing about all this is that there are ways of getting to where you need to be without selling your soul or cheating anyone. Again, the real test is finding what makes sense in your market and for your target demographic.
  34. 2 points
    On the three previous occasions that we have spent a week on photo safari at Little Bush Camp we have seen some pretty awesome stuff, but on this fourth occasion animal sightings got so crazy that on the last drive I dubbed it the “Magnum Opus Safari”. It was that good. I mean, not only is it a privilege to see leopards in the wild, but to see no fewer than 5 different leopards, including some cubs and a newly independent juvenile successfully hunting down a scrub hare (then playing with its food!), is really something quite remarkable. If that wasn’t enough we got to see a mother leopard in a tree with her cub eating off a fresh impala kill the mother had made the night before and then bore witness to one of the great tribulations of the bush, them losing that kill as it fell out of the tree and into the grateful jaws of a spotted hyena who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere. We had all kinds of weather on this safari too. From mild, beautiful days to incredible 42˚C heat, to wind that chased every living thing from our view, to rain and mist and then sunshine again. We saw a pack of belly-engorged hyenas fighting over the meagre remains of yet another kill stolen from a leopard. There was also a cheetah giving chase to a duiker at dusk. We sat in a river bed watching a troop of baboons playing (and procreating). There was a night-time incident between a side-striped jackal and a honey badger that we accidentally came across on one drive. Other nocturnal animals that we got to see included a civet and a bush baby. I think we also saw a caracal but I may have been delusional at that point, such was the level of excitement we had over the course of the week. Then on the final drive of our safari, while unsuccessfully trying to track another leopard, we got word on the radio that African Painted Wild Dogs had been sighted on the far eastern boundary of the reserve. What transpired next was a combination of Formula 1 meets World Rally Champs. I was in what I began calling the “Disney Seat” (aka back row) of the Land Rover and had to hold on for dear life as we sped off in that direction. It was pure adrenaline as we came across these highly endangered wild dogs and their pups. There are only something like 350 of them left in the entire Kruger National Park, so for them to have wandered onto the adjoining Sabi Sands was a true blessing. We watched the pups playing in a meadow while the adult dogs went off looking for breakfast. A few minutes later one of the adults returned to the pups, regurgitated something and they all took off at speed. We followed them (me bouncing along in the back) to where the adults were feverishly devouring an impala yearling they had taken down minutes earlier. It was a frenzy, an absolute frenzy and it took the dogs less than half an hour to demolish the entire animal! I made video a priority at great sightings on this trip. My thinking was that I stood a better chance of taking something away from the sighting if I had it on video than if I was using a series of still frames where so much more could go wrong - missed focus, missed moment, bad exposure, etc. This turned out to be a good decision because looking at some of the action stills I made, I definitely did better on the video side of things. Of course it’s in our photographic DNA to want to get great stills of a great scene, but with the video improvements we’ve seen over the past 4 years since we first started coming to Sabi Sabi, it makes a lot of sense to also explore what these new cameras are capable of video wise. I discovered that the Olympus E-M1 is great at video. It holds focus very well in challenging situations and the image stabiliser does an excellent job of keeping things steady when you aren’t using a tripod. With a good lens and a fast aperture, you’re pretty much good to go with video on the E-M1. However, in spite of the Olympus E-M1’s ability to make good HD video, I now find myself being inexorably drawn towards the Panasonic GH-4 and its 4K video engine. Yes, I know in the past I have said I have no need for 4K video and to be honest I am pretty happy with the 1080p stuff (since that’s all my current monitors will support), but the GH-4 is a giant, Godlike machine amongst videographers, so if I am going to make video a bigger part of what I do on these safaris, this would be the logical weapon of choice since it fits very well with my micro four thirds family of lenses. Damn GAS. We’ll see how this plays out, because the one thing that stands between me and the thought of becoming a video guy is that little thing that prevents me from showing you all the video right now: editing skills. That’s a giant beast to tame and I’m not quite ready to announce myself as a video shooter until I have some idea on how to handle the post aspect of production. For now though, I will share with you just a few of the many stills I am happy I got on this safari. Make sure you click them to view large versions. We’ll definitely be going back to Sabi Sabi next year for another week of this animal mayhem. Dates still have to be finalised by Pepe, but it’s looking likely to occur in late September or early October. We already have at least half the 6 available suites spoken for by returning Safarians, so if you’d like to join us all you have to do is shoot me a PM or email and I’ll send you the necessary booking forms. The juvenile leopard I am now calling Bunny Chow* takes a bite out of his well earned lunch Little Bush female and her cub eating their breakfast, moments before it dropped and the hyena below scooped it up as its own A bloody-faced hyena stops eating his stolen kill momentarily to assess whether the aggrieved Little Bush female leopard is coming after him Hyenas slather over a stolen kudu carcass Hyena silhouetted by a tracker's spotlight The sunrise in the bush The Painted African Wild dogs Satisfied Safarians! * Bunny chow is a local dish found in Durban, South Africa. It is a quarter loaf of white bread where the inner bread is scooped out and replaced with an Indian curry of your choice (not an actual bunny!). It's delicious, especially when eaten on the hood of a parked car at un-Godly hours of the night.
  35. 2 points
    This Sunday it’s the start of another Fotozones Group Safari, this time to my personal favourite safari location, Sabi Sabi for a week of great fun with photographers and other beasts. :-) Having only just recently returned from my first ever 100% mirrorless safari (the Wild Waterways Safari), I am a little better educated on what gear I need to take with me for this next adventure. This is what I’m likely to take along: The Bag: The ThinkTank Retrospective series is the ultimate camera bag for me. They are stylish, roomy, versatile and they don't scream "lots of expensive camera gear inside" when I'm on location or safari with them. I have 4 Retros and the Retrospective 50 is the biggest of them. It swallows everything I need to take with me on safari, including the cameras, lenses, computer and all the chargers and power cables! My Retro 50 on safari in Namibia while photographing the Carmine bee-eaters. Click to enlarge. Bodies: Olympus E-M1, Olympus E-M5, Olympus E-3. Now why am I thinking about adding an aged 10 megapixel DSLR to the mix when I have been all about mirrorless for the better part of the past year? Well, it’s one of the old loaner bodies I recently bought from Olympus and I am quite smitten with it. I absolutely love the colour rendering and I would also like to get to know the camera a little better before I begin using it as a teaching aid later this year (I’m starting my own little photography school here where I live), so it will come along if I can find space in the ThinkTank Retrospective 50. It's also built like a tank, so it will be good to use if we get caught in a downpour. My OM-D's are also weatherproof, but the MMF-2 adapter I have isn't, so if I need to risk getting the camera wet, I'd rather have the 50-200mm lens on this body than on the E-M1. Lenses: Wide Angle & General Purpose There is only one lens to consider for general purpose, namely the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO. It’s good for so many things, so it will definitely be in my bag. It would be great if it was a little wider, but at 24mm EQ it’s probably fine for those night time star shots we always find ourselves doing at Sabi Sabi. Maybe I’ll also take my Olympus 9-18mm for wider shots. It’s small enough to not be a bother, but there are other lenses I would like to try out too, so if space becomes a problem in the bag, this one might get left behind. Telephoto The big lens for me is the Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5. This lens worked really well with my E-M1 on the Wild Waterways Safari and I am sure it will be even better at Sabi Sabi since we’re likely to get much closer to the animals. It has the equivalent focal length of a 100-400mm 35mm system lens, but is faster by over a stop. I will also stick it on the E-3 and see if it works any better on the DSLR, since that camera is the native mount for it. It's very sharp and considering the range it offers it's also relatively small. Example above of how sharp the 50-200mm is straight out of camera. Click to view larger version. The other long lens I will take is the Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II (150-600 EQ). Those of you who read my original review of this lens will remember that I wasn’t all that thrilled with it, but after Wild Waterways I have changed my mind. It’s a really good lens for wildlife, even if it is a bit on the slow side, light wise. I’m quite surprised with how sharp it is, so where I will use it is for situations where the background of a subject is a way off in the distance and is unlikely to be a distraction, like birds with sky in the background, animals on mounds of earth, etc. These situations arise quite often in Sabi Sabi as there are many areas of undulating ground. Examples of how I would use the 75-300mm Olympus. Click to view larger version. Speciality Lenses The macro lens I will be using if opportunities present themselves is the Panasonic/Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit. I really love this lens and I am sure I will find many opportunities to use it at Sabi Sabi. The other macro option I have is the Olympus 35mm f/3.5. This is a lens I haven’t yet had a chance to try out, so I am quite keen on taking it with me. It’s extremely light, so I don’t think it will over burden the bag. My Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye lens will definitely join in the party. This tiny lens has become something of a signature lens for me. I use it on almost every shoot I do. Other Photography Kit: I’ve had this Nero Trigger for evaluation for months now and just haven’t had the chance to put it to much good use. I took it with me on Wild Waterways, but there wasn’t any opportunity to use it. With it being the start of the rainy season in the Kruger Park area there might be an opportunity to get some lightning shots if they happen off in the distance. Alternatively I will use the time lapse feature to make a few sunset time lapse movies while we have sundowners. Also coming with will be the LEE Filters Seven5 kit I used in Namibia last year. Always handy for landscapes. Tripod will be my trusty Velbon CF-435 Sherpa, which is a small carbon fibre travel tripod. On that I still have the Sunwayfoto FB-28 ballhead. This travels in my checked luggage. Computer & Storage: MacBook Pro 13” (non-retina) is my travel computer. I’ve had it for about 18 months and so far, so good. I also keep a 1TB Western Digital as a back-up drive, so every day when I am downloading the days captures to disk I get Lightroom to make a second copy to this drive. I always enjoy shooting a bit of video at Sabi Sabi, so one of the OM-D’s may be designated to take on that task. I have thought about taking the Olympus PEN E-PM2 for this but the lack of an EVF on it makes me a little hesitant. We’ll see. The ThinkTank Retrospective 50 will swallow up all of this stuff with room to spare, so once again I am not in the least bit stressed about taking all this gear as carry on for my short local flight to Johannesburg. This year we’re transferring from Johannesburg to Sabi Sabi by road, which will also reduce the stress levels a little - not because of the carry on limits, but because we won’t have to concern ourselves with getting to the airport on Monday morning in the merciless Johannesburg traffic. It also gives our safarians a chance to see a little more of the countryside on the 5 hour journey there. This is trip number 4 for us to this amazing destination and I am sure we will be returning many more times in the future. Be sure to lookout for our 2015 Group safari dates which I will publish later this month.
  36. 2 points
    As photographers we obsess about the gear we use to get the images we want, quite often going overboard in “gearing up” for photo opportunities by taking numerous lenses and other accessories with us on simple excursions where photography might not be the primary reason for the outing. All this really does is slow us down. While we’re busy thinking about what lens or body to use the brightly coloured bird flies off the branch, or the kids arrange themselves in a Cartier-Bresson like decisive moment that’ll never be seen again. I’m just as guilty of this behaviour as any other photographer is. What I’ve been looking for forever is a small, “Swiss Army Knife” like camera with a great lens and features that I can actually use and that won't leave me feeling like I have compromised too much photographically by bringing it with me. I’ve tried a few “bridge” cameras in the past but many of them frustrated me with complicated interfaces, poor imaging ability or just stupid design elements that invariably got in the way of enjoying the process of photography. Things like slow start-ups, massive size, weird button positions, lacklustre lens performance, shutter lag, not enough zoom range and so on can really put a damper on photography. Some cameras hit some of the bases, but miss many others that we as passionate photographers really want. The quest has been to try and find a camera that hits as many of the bases as possible. When it was first announced I immediately grew excited about the Olympus Stylus 1 as a possible solution to this need of mine for a great compact camera, but I wasn’t sure if the quality of the images would be quite up to the level I’d want. Then I saw Robin Wong’s review and I was like, “OK, this is the real deal. This is a camera I should be giving serious consideration to.” Olympus SA managed to get one in my hands (a pre-production model) just before we went off to our Wild Waterways Safari this September. I had originally purchased an Olympus PEN E-PM2 with a 14-42mm kit lens to use as my point & shoot for this trip, so I took it with too, but it barely got out of the bag as I fell head over heels for this little Olympus Stylus 1. You can click on these images to view an enlarged version. What Is It? Some might describe the Stylus 1 as a “bridge camera”, but because that term is often used to refer to cameras that don’t quite cut the mustard in terms of their image quality or feature set, it seems a little unfair to use it on the Stylus 1. What we have here is a fixed zoom lens camera that offers the same range as a 28-300mm f/2.8 35mm system camera. I don’t know of any other camera that gives you that kind of bright, constant aperture zoom range. The Stylus 1 has a feature set that is as fully fleshed out as most mid-ranged DSLR cameras, including wifi, a tilting touch screen, brilliant EVF, wireless flash compatibility, 3x ND filter, 1080p HD video and many other features. In fact, there’s very little you won’t be able to accomplish photographically with the Stylus 1, so I’m hesitant to call it a bridge camera. I think a new term is needed for this kind of camera. The 35mm equivalent of 300mm f/2.8 let's you get close enough to subjects without putting yourself in their faces Who Would Buy One? The current asking price is $699 which might be frowned upon since you can pick up a plastic DSLR with a couple of kit zoom lenses for less than that. In fact, even some of Olympus’ own PEN series of micro four thirds cameras with bigger sensors can be had for less money (the PEN E-PL5 with 14-42mm lens is only $599), so what’s the attraction here? It’s the lens. This camera sports an amazing, fast, constant f/2.8 i.Zuiko zoom lens. It’s not the kind of lens you will find on any other bridge camera or mirrorless system camera. If the likes of Nikon or Canon were to build a lens like this for their DSLR’s it would be immense in size and not very practical. And it’s that zoom lens practicality combined with an excellent feature set that makes this camera very attractive. It hits many of the bases photography enthusiasts need to hit. I would certainly buy one. By positioning the subject in front of a distant background you can get a lovely blurred effect in spite of the small sensor How Does It Feel In Hand? I was quite surprised at how small it is, in spite of its DSLR-like appearance. It certainly looks like a business camera and it borrows many DNA cues from its bigger OM-D cousins. You get the same tilting touch screen at the back, plus the EVF is the same big and bright one found in the OM-D E-M5. Its menu system is the same as the m43 Olympus cameras, so if you’ve ever used those you’ll be right at home figuring out how to set it up, although if you’re more used to something like the Nikon menus you might find the Olympus approach very confusing at first. There is a protruding grip on the right side of the body that my middle finger naturally curls around and around the back a similarly protruding thumb rest gives me a confident purchase on the body. It doesn’t feel like it will easily slip out of my grip. The buttons are small, but they offer a better tactility than what you’ll find on the E-M5 (who’s buttons feel somewhat “spongey” in comparison). The mode dial and command dial also feel good and click positively when moved. The one thing I don’t like is that it comes with a neck strap. I put it on the camera but took it off and replaced it with a long wrist strap instead. It handles much better that way. An interesting departure from the typical modern camera design is that instead of there being a sub-command dial on the front of the camera there is a dial around the fixed lens which does different things depending on how you have set it up. So if you’re from the era where aperture rings had to be turned to select a setting you’ll feel right at home doing that with the Stylus 1. Getting It Set Up The Way You Want The one thing Olympus users are never short on are ways to customise their cameras and the Stylus 1 doesn’t disappoint in this regard. As with the OM-D cameras most Stylus 1 buttons are customisable, albeit a little differently than the OM-D. For instance, while there are 2 Fn buttons on the camera, only the Fn1 and Rec buttons can accept a dedicated single function. The Fn2 button on the front bottom of the camera can be pressed repeatedly to toggle through whichever functions you have assigned to it in the menu. That’s quite different to the OM-D approach and it took me a while to figure it out (I’m not one of those RTFM guys as you’ve probably already figured). The other thing that threw me off on more than one occasion was that there is a lever connected to the Fn2 button. When this lever is moved to it’s other position the function of the ring around the lens changes, depending on how you have assigned it. You can get it to zoom the lens or activate the manual focus assist when you’re in MF mode. The camera I got for review had been set to activate the zoom so when I accidentally shifted this lever, I found myself zooming instead of changing apertures, which was quite perplexing, especially when I found myself trying to open aperture to f/2.8 in fading light while looking at an enormous African elephant on the banks of the Chobe river! I thought that the camera might be broken. I can’t recall how I figured it out, but it was a relief when I did. Speaking of zooming the lens, there are three ways to do this. There’s the typical T - W shifter around the shutter button, the lens ring method I mentioned above, plus there is also another T - W shifter button on the side of the lens. The latter does a much slower zoom, so is more suited for video purposes. I almost exclusively shoot in Aperture priority mode, so that's where I begin with setting up any camera. I want to be able to quickly change the aperture and also find the exposure compensation easily, so on the Stylus 1 I had the lens ring set for aperture and the command dial set for compensation. I am also a fan of the Olympus Super Control Panel, so I have that switched on in A mode too. It makes getting to all the important settings very easy. Stealth Mode Something that bugs me with many compact cameras is the use of the pseudo shutter noise. The Stylus has this too, so the first thing I did was turn it off. I discovered that without it on the camera is practically silent. There’s a barely audible click when taking a shot, so for use in places where you need to be quiet the Stylus 1 is even more silent than a Leica rangefinder. Speed Unlike the compact and bridge cameras of old, the Stylus 1 is very responsive. Turning it on is quick, about a second for the lens to emerge and become ready to shoot. Shutter lag is negligible, so for fast moving subjects you’re all set. You will also get 7 frames per second, which is better than some DSLR’s pitched at professionals these days. On the downside the maximum shutter speed is only 1/2000s, but if things get too bright for that you can engage the built-in 3x ND filter. Cool Features The Stylus 1 actually has a lot in common with the E-M5, but it also has a few of its own tricks up its sleeve. A couple of features of this camera that appeal to me are that it has a built-in 3x ND filter, plus there is this really funky virtual horizon feature graphic that shows an elliptical disk inside a circle during live view. When the disk is visible you know that the camera isn’t level, so as you change camera position you get immediate feedback on how straight you have the camera from the accelerometer. I much prefer this method of finding the levels than the standard one that shows the vertical and horizontal gauges. The touch screen is the same as that found on the OM-D cameras. It tilts up and down and you can set it to trigger a shot when touched or simply set the AF point. I can’t imagine using a camera without this feature these days. The Stylus 1 also has the same wireless flash capabilities as the OM-D cameras, except that instead of having to attach the clip on flash you get with an OM-D and PEN camera, it has a pop-up flash that serves the same function. Those readers familiar with the Nikon CLS system will find the Olympus wireless flash system does pretty much the same thing, letting you control up to three groups of remote flashes from the camera. The zoom lens has a neat cover that opens four spring leafs when the camera is turned on. On our Wild Waterways safari our guests were enamoured with this novel way of keeping the zoom lens protected. The cover screws off easily and it’s possible to use an optical 1.7x teleconverter to increase the zoom range by 70% without losing the bright f/2.8 constant aperture. I didn’t get one with the review camera so I can’t comment on how good it is optically. The Part That Matters Most - Image Quality Resolution Because it has a smaller sensor than the micro four thirds cameras, Olympus didn’t cram it chock-full of pixels. They stopped at 12 million of them. For some people who prefer to have more pixels this might be somewhat disappointing, but for me it’s fine. I’m not into pixel peeping or printing large, so this is a good enough resolution for me. Sharpness The images I took on the safari were all very sharp, even when fully zoomed in. I hardly ever stopped the aperture down beyond f/2.8 to try and shorten the depth of field, but shooting at f/4 did sharpen things up a little bit more. The lens only stops down to f/8. Lens Flare Pointing this camera into the setting sun in Botswana definitely showed up some red flare spots, so I had to play around with my angles a little to try and minimise the effect. I got some good shots from it. Above shot shows the flare spot, which I managed to alleviate below by adjusting the camera angle and a little post processing. High ISO If you’re shooting in RAW and processing the ORF files with Adobe’s ACR/Lightroom engine you’re going to pick up noise even at a lower ISO, but its not an unpleasant noise. More like grain, which on Olympus cameras looks decidedly like film like. I was floating my auto-ISO between 100-3200, but in hindsight I think that 800 is probably a better upper limit. Beyond that you’re losing detail and dynamic range that might be acceptable to some, but not for me. ISO 3200 is usable, but it isn't quite up to the same levels as you'll get on the PEN and OM-D models Conclusion The Olympus Stylus 1 is a camera that I like very much. I like the thinking behind it, which in Olympus’ own marketing terms goes like this: DSLR sophistication, compact convenience. That pretty much sums it up. You’re getting a well built, very capable camera that provides excellent IQ from its awesome lens, but is a no-fuss compact. I found myself using it a lot on our safari and I am very happy with the images it produced. If I could improve anything about it for another iteration it would be for Olympus to re-design the EVF to be a little more discrete in its appearance. With the DSLR-like prism hump you lose the ability to slip it in a shirt pocket easily. The Panasonic GX-7 tilting EVF design is a lot more practical for compactness, so if Olympus were to make a Stylus in a rangefinder type design it would most definitely be something I’d want to carry around everywhere. In its current form factor the Stylus 1 still needs a bag that is a bit bigger than the sort you’ll use with a true compact form like the Sony RX-100 for example. Whether the compact market will live long enough to see something like the Stylus 1 being re-designed remains to be seen, especially in light of Panasonic’s recently announced CM1 smartphone. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a great little camera that hits more bases than it misses, you won’t be disappointed with the Stylus 1. It will be very hard for me to send this little fella back to Olympus. Yours truly at the Victoria Falls (image taken courtesy of Pepe Jones)
  37. 2 points
    How cool it is to walk into Nikon Nordic in Oslo with Bjørn and have handed over a D4S as an NPS loaner to test and play with for two weeks! But I immediately wondered, as a current avid, dedicated D3S shooter, whether I would find the D4S compelling enough to invest $6500 US dollars in the upgrade. That's about 39000 Norwegian kroner - before VAT. Whew!! Pretty steep in any currency. I'll tell you right from the start: After a 2 week trial, I am impressed. The D4S rocks -- it is versatile, solid, reliable, customizable and has gorgeous image quality. The improvements over the D3S are useful. I want the camera. Whether I will actually buy it will take some further consideration. A D3S to D4 upgrade? No. A D4 to D4S upgrade? No. But a D3S to D4S upgrade is looking worthwhile. All arguments about size and weight have already been made a gazillion times over. So we aren't going to get into that. I'm personally very comfortable with the big D cams and had no serious ergonomic problems with the D4S other than learning the new button placements. After a couple of days some new kinesthetic neuronal tracks were laid down in the old brainpan and I was happily using all the buttons and dials. Only one button gave me some grief with a particular setting, the Sub-selector, formerly known as the AE-L button. The Sub-selector sticks out more than the old AE-L button did. That's good for distinguishing it from the AF-ON button, so I approve. But when I programmed the Sub-selector to use for selecting an AF point (via side-to-side or up-down pushing), I then kept bumping it and knocking my AF point awry. So I went back to the familiar Multi-selector method of moving an AF point. I didn't get to fully test the various settings for capturing motion in such a way as to present examples. (So little time with the D4S - so much of beautiful Norway to capture!!!) A few of us had great fun performing rat-a-tat 11-frames-per-second burst shooting while Bjørn rolled his eyes. But make no mistake -- these 11 fps are not for "spray & pray". If you are seriously shooting motion, you want this for use with the dynamic tracking capabilities of the D4S: Group AF, tracking with 9/11/21/51 point clusters and 3D tracking. Applied to a moving object, the 11fps seemed to work as advertised with auto-focus and auto-exposure keeping up. I shot a thread spool rolling across the floor several times using the new Group AF (a cluster of 5 AF points). When *I* was quick enough to lock the focus on such a small object, the camera certainly performed its role well. Yes, there were some in each sequence which were OOF, but not many. And it is hard to say whether it was me or the camera who did not keep up given that it is not so easy to keep the Group AF points on a small, fast-rolling thread spool. It would be much better to test the D4S on moving cars or skate boarders or a bouncing pupdog. If I ever get my hands on a D4S again, I will thoroughly test shooting motion sequences (I love shooting motion!!) and come back and post the test results here. Side Note: 3D tracking is useful for focus and reframe of a still subject. The focus point remains on the subject after reframing. ********************************************** D4S: Compare RAW-S vs RAW-L Files The D4S offers both a large 3280x4928px, 16Mp/14-bit, RAW-L file and a small 1640x2464px, 4Mp/12-bit, RAW-S file. Seems like Nikon hid a D2HS inside the D4S. Rawdigger has written an in-depth analysis of a RAW-S file here: http://www.rawdigger...l-raw-internals This is well worth reading to learn how to turn 16 Mp into 4 Mp. The practicalities of why one would choose to shoot a small NEF instead of a large NEF escape me just now. Seems to me like I would always choose to shoot the RAW-L size and downsize if and when needed? Wouldn't you? But there must be someone out there who needs RAW-S files. Oh well. So, anyway, my goal in this test was simply to compare an enlarged RAW-S file to a corresponding RAW-L file and to note any differences. As Bjørn put it, how much would you lose in image quality should you happen to "accidently" shoot the smaller RAW-S file for an intended large print which would normally be made from the full sized RAW-L file? Answer: Surprisingly little. For a proper comparison, I first PS enlarged the below RAW-S photo 100% (that's double the width/length) to match the RAW-L size. You will see that fine detail is slightly softened in the RAW-S enlargement crop but that no detail is completely lost. Test Subject: Dragon Gong I wanted to shoot something real and not newsprint taped to the wall. RAW-S File: 400x400px 100% Crop from 1640x2464px RAW-S Dragon Gong Photo f/16 for 1/1.3" @ ISO200 No sharpening. RAW-L File: 800x800px 100% Crop from 3280x4928px RAW-L Dragon Gong Photo f/16 for 1/1.3" @ ISO200 No sharpening. RAW-S File Enlarged: 800x800px 100% Crop from Enlarged RAW-S Dragon Gong Photo No sharpening in this crop. But I did play with some low-radius USM and also with some .5 - 1.5 High Pass Overlay. Either method gave a small bit of contrast enhancement to the enlarged photo that was pleasing when viewed an arm's length from the monitor. Of course, choice of post-enlargement sharpening or local contrast enhancements can generate passionate discussion for many pages. So let's not get into that here. The D4S as a Landscape Cam Yes, having 16 megapixels is indeed better than having 12, in my opinion. Doesn't seem like much of a leap, but I like the extra detail it provides. YMMV, of course. The D4S colours are superb - they seem nicely nuanced, but not much different from the D3S colours - that's my subjective opinion again. One might argue with the methodology of DxOMark's measurements of colour, but the results do serve for making relative comparisons - the D3S and D4S are close in colour capability. I do definitely note that the D4S increased dynamic range better handles highlights over the D3S. I'd already seen this with the Df and D600, so I knew to expect some of that with the D4S also. It may only be a 1 - 1.5 stop improvement, but you will see it. For the following Harbor photo I felt I needed higher ISO because I was balancing the cam on a bridge railing and not on tripod. Of course, everything held up very well as ISO 800 scarcely stresses the image quality of a D4S file. I admit to bluing up the sky just a tad in NX2. But it's my memory photo, so I'm OK with doing that this time. Other than that, I applied a bit of gentle contrast brightening here and there with U-points. (I did not correct for the 24 wide.) After looking at the 100% crop, maybe you can see why I'm eager to move to 16Mp over the D3S's 12Mp. Harbor at Justøy Justøy, Norway D4S + 24-70/2.8G @ 24mm f/11 for 1/80" @ ISO 800 Standard [4,0,0,1,0] Converted/edited in Capture NX2. 100% crop from preceding photo 229 x 352 pixels ******************************************** The D4S as a Sepia Landscape Cam Fellow Fotozones member Sten Rasmussen guided Bjørn and me to the Utstein Monastery, a still-standing mediaeval monastery. It was in active use while we were there for some confirmation services. We had a good time talking and shooting on the Monastery grounds. And we got to check out Sten's nifty Fuji X, too. For this study of gate, stone fence and trees using sepia tones seemed the way to go because the spring lawn was an intense lime green which - although really lovely - did detract from the idea I wanted to capture. I "cloned out" a couple of fence poles beyond the stone fence. The Photo Ninja detail slider seemed to provide just the right enhancement here. Gate in Stone Wall Utstein Monastery, Møsteroy, Norway D4S + 70-300/4.5-5.6G @ 200mm f/11 for 1/50" @ ISO 800 Monochrome[4,1,0] Sepia[3]. But I altered that slightly when editing. Converted in Capture NX2. Edited in both Photo Ninja and NX2. ***************************** The D4S as an Artcam? Well, why not. The D4S is nothing if not versatile. This photo in its final form is intended to have some of that 'graphics' look. With 16 well-designed megapixels and Expeed 4 processing, you can later push on a photo in your chosen editor for (*koff-koff*) "artistic" effect and still maintain some clarity and detail to keep the resultant art(?) "photo-like". Mirrored Landscape #1 Mirror Art Installation, Holandsdal, Norway D4S + 24-70/2.8G @ 70mm f/16 for 1/200" @ ISO 100 ************************* D4S Multiple Exposure At the Altmark Incident Memorial both British and Norwegian naval pennants were flying. Typically a pennent is flown on commissioned naval warships. Sometimes homeowners fly a pennant to indicate that they are present. Flags and pennants waving in the wind are a natural subject for multiple exposures. Norwegian Pennant #2 Altmark Incident Memorial, Jøssingfjord, Sokndal, Norway D4S + 70-300/4.5-5.6G @ 195mm 9-frame Multiple Exposure f/13 for 1/1000" @ ISO 400 ******************** D4S Trap Focus It works.
  38. 2 points
    The Etosha pan surrounds are home to a surprising amount of wildlife. As I mentioned in my previous post most of this wildlife congregates around the waterholes that have been set up to provide them with drinking water in this very dry, parched land. The water is pumped from underground by windmills, so wherever you see a windmill you'll find a pool of water with a group of animals chilling out. Well, mostly chilling out. On our second day at Namutoni a small number of us decided to do a game drive in the Hyundai H1 out to a waterhole that the group had visited the night before with an NWR game drive vehicle. They dubbed it the stinkwater hole because the place really did stink to high heaven! Yet the animals were content to drink away. On arrival at the waterhole we found this group of black-faced impala lining up along the edge, all nervously drawing in the life sustaining water. We also came across more gemsbok (Oryx), zebra and even a few rarely seen birds all having a drink. But then from seemingly out of nowhere this herd of elephants arrived. At first there were only a few, but then more and more of them arrived until the entire perimeter of the waterhole was occupied by these massive pachyderms as they tried to drink the waterhole dry. We counted 65 ellies in all. They dust themselves with sand to help chase insects and parasites away Little ones, medium ones, big ones! These two were having a wrestling match (notice how the other animals keep their distance) Male in musth Butt out! "Yo bartend, where's the ice?" When they face you like this, get nervous. Naturally while the elephants were engaging the water, nobody else dared to use the pool. If they did they got chased away. Especially by this one massive bull who was in a heavy state of musth. You can see they are in this phase of elevated testosterone production by the seeping of glands on their heads and around the groin. This particular guy made us all very nervous as he paced around the waterhole, at one point even circling the cars to intimidate us. So yes, I am a bit envious... Elephants are fascinating creatures. They can however, become very destructive and over-population is an ongoing problem in places like the Kruger National Park where they literally tear down more trees than some forestry concerns. Balancing the eco-systems in man made parks like these becomes a hotly debated topic, but that's a story for another time.
  39. 1 point
    Up on the border of Namibia and Angola on the Namibian side of the Kavango River lies the little town of Rundu. It’s not a particularly attractive looking town. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if Namibia has an armpit, you may as well slap the label on Rundu. It’s dirty, run down and it doesn’t have a whole lot of visual appeal, in spite of the presence of a very majestic river. We found ourselves passing through this little town twice on the Namibian leg of our 2013 feature safari. Fortunately we didn’t stay too long on the drive through to Botswana, stopping only for a light lunch, but on the way back we spent the night at a lodge just outside the town. As far as lodges go it wasn’t a place I will look back at with much fondness because the guide accommodation was appalling to say the least. They had just painted the two guide rooms Pepe and I were assigned, so they stank of paint fumes quite badly. The furnishings for each guide room were literally comprised of a single bed and in my case I was lucky enough to also have a single chair, but no bathroom mirror and no towel in the shower either. The glamorous life of a tour leader sometimes isn’t so glamorous at all. It wouldn’t have been so bad had the room not been infested with mosquitoes too, which with the absence of a mosquito net over the bed served to keep me awake just about the entire night. So the next day I was feeling a bit crabby and being the 29th day of an arduous 32 day road trip, all I wanted to do was get back home to my family and hometown. Photography wasn’t as high a priority for me as staying awake behind the wheel was to the next stop on our tour - a road trip of some 850km to the Waterberg mountains. After breakfast that morning we decided to spend some time at a place called the Living Museum Of The Mbunza where we would be introduced to a kind of tourist’s perspective of what village life was like for the indigenous people of the region prior to colonisation by Europeans. It was a strange little place. When we arrived there was nobody at the reception area, so we had to go and find somebody in the little village to explain that we wanted just a short tour of the museum because we had a long trip ahead of us and didn’t have time for the full 90 minute experience. Finding somebody, and then finding somebody who could speak English and understand what we were looking for was challenging in its own right, but eventually we paid the entrance fee and were ushered into the various parts of the village to see how the Mbunza lived. I’ll admit to not being a massive fan of these kinds of contrived ethnic experiences, but I did manage to get some images that I only got around to editing over a year after this safari ended! Photographically it was quite difficult because much of the village was either in shadow or harsh sunlight, so what I did with these images in Lightroom was drop the exposure by -0.67 to make the surroundings look a little less washed out, then I painted up the exposure on the villagers by a little more than that to get them to stand out a little from the darkened surroundings. I used the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom with Auto Mask switched on. I like the results. The camera was the Olympus E-M5 and the lens was the Panasonic 14-45mm kit lens. Click to enlarge. The Village Bard (something like Cacophonix in the Asterix comics) A carver. The people who run this village produce their own artworks that they sell in their curio shop. Basket weaver. A nut cracker. Ladies fishing on the banks of the Kavango River using traditional methods involving baskets.
  40. 1 point
    Last week my wife and I went on a citytrip to Marseille. We booked a cheap flight with Easyjet and an apartment on Airbnb. This city has a bad reputation of being neglected, run-down and criminal. In an objective comparison with gracious cities like Cannes and Nice our choice for a citytrip loses out by a far margin. Marseille is still mostly raw, dirty but also authentic. For sure there are some nice looking areas like the old harbour and the Corniche but most of the town looks crap. That's the reason Marseille is not very popular with tourists. This has a positive side as the people of Marseille are friendly and justly proud of their city. Public transport by tram, bus and metro is very good and cheap (buy a City Pass from the Tourist Office!) We were lucky to have sunny weather during our stay. All images shot with a Fuji X100 and processed from Jpeg Astia setting. Most areas are covered with street art and graffiti. 1. 2. 3. Some more street art. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. And an intermezzo. 9. Behind the old harbour is the district Le Panier with all kind of workshops and vintage shops. 10. 11. Near the harbour the buildings are pretty with less street art and graffiti. 12. 13. The Vieux Port (old harbour, not the place where the cruise ships moor) was destroyed during WWII but beautifully rebuilt. This place is the eye-catcher of the town and many tourists only visit this area (my advice; look beyond that). Lots of restaurants and bars along the harbour, not cheap but the quality of the food is good to excellent (my advice; also check out the back- and side-alleys for nice and cheaper restaurants). In front is a mirror pavilion designed by world famous architect Norman Foster. From the harbour ships leave for the excursions along the beautiful mediterranean shore. 14. 15. Ferry to cross the harbour, a ride only takes about 1 minute! At the hill on top of the town the basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde. 16. 17. [ The harbour is the place for strolling and giving new meaning to the phrase "walking the dog". 18. In 2013 the MuCEM (Museum of the Civilisations of Europe and the Mediterranean) was built en connected by a walking bridge to the renovated Fort Saint-Jean. On this side of the city this makes for a very nice walk along the harbour to Fort Saint-Jean, to MuCEM/Villa Méditerranée and Cathédrale de la Major. Public transport is well organised and City Passes which include free public transport can be bought from the Tourist Office near the harbour. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. The final part of this photo essay has some images shot during a boat trip to Les Calanques. This is the rocky shoreline with beautiful creeks and beaches, and of course the fantastic colour of the Mediterranean. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. I think Marseille is an excellent destination for a citytrip. It's not as overcrowded as more popular cities like Barcelona and Rome and has a lot to offer. Thanks for watching and I hope you enjoyed this post.
  41. 1 point
    If like me you came to Olympus cameras via some other brand first (in my case it was Nikon), understanding how the Olympus camera menus work can be challenging. However, once you get used to them they do make sense and now after 5 years of use I am fairly competent in using them, although sometimes I do have to remember where certain lesser used items are kept. In this series of videos I will attempt to give some insight into the way the menus work that will hopefully help other users, or potential Olympus adoptees not be so scared of all the deep menu levels and various options. I am going to try and upload as often as possible, keeping the videos to around 5 minutes each (it took me 2 hours to upload this first one!), however, if you have specific items you would like me to cover in a video, please let me know and I will prioritise them. Also let me have any other production suggestions. If you like the video please hit the thumbs up on Youtube, share it wherever you can and if you're a generous soul please consider donating to Fotozones or helping me out via Patreon.
  42. 1 point
    Over the years I’ve bought ridiculous numbers of lenses for many different camera systems, ranging from Nikon to Canon to Leica to Bronica and most recently the micro four thirds system. On all the systems there have been dogs, there have been stars and there have been run-of-the-mill lenses. I think I can probably count on the digits of one hand the number of lenses I have used that literally made me gasp when reviewing their drawing characteristics on LCD playback or in the computer. Up in the top 5 of my best ever experiences are lenses such as my Nikkor 24-70/2.8, the Micro-Nikkor 60/2.8 (I use the older AF-D version), a Leica 180mm f/3.5 APO-Telyt-R, the Canon 400/2.8L USM and now joining them is this remarkable little gem from Olympus, the 75/1.8. When Olympus first unleashed this lens there were gasps heard all around the online photography world. Some were saying it was the sharpest lens they had ever used and had bokeh on a par with the likes of the Nikon 200/2. Now that particular Nikkor is almost mythical when it comes to optical performance, so claims like this definitely got me excited. Especially since the lens they were waxing lyrical about is only a little longer than the standard 50/1.4 offered by most manufacturers of 35mm equipment and weighs a mere 305g. Of course 75mm on m43 offers the same field of view of a 150mm lens on the bigger format, which is pretty close to 200mm, a focal length I use a lot on my 70-200/2.8. I had to have one. This article is more an assessment of how the lens worked for me on a recent shoot than an in-depth review. I’m never going to offer any form of resolution charts or figures on articles like this - all I’m going to do is talk about how the lens fits in with my needs and expectations. Ok, so right off the bat I need to explain how I came to acquire the 75mm and how I used it on a paid assignment. Those of you who follow my posts over on Nikongear.com may have read about my purchase of a Nikon D7100 last month to use as a second body to help me cover a 3 day hotel conference here in my hometown. The intention was for me to use the D7100 with telephoto lenses such as the Sigma 70-200/2.8 and then also with the Sigma 120-300/2.8 OS later this year on the Namibia wildlife safari we’re doing. I would use my D700 with 24-70/2.8 for all the other shots. When I got the D7100 home I immediately set about seeing how it played with those two Sigma tele zooms. Well, let’s be frank about this. Either I have totally lost my ability to hold a camera steady (even on a tripod), or there was something wrong with this camera. I tried every Nikon F mount lens I own (a fair number of them) and I couldn’t get it to produce a sharp image at all. I tried calibrating, I tried faster shutter speeds, I tried manual focus, I tried everything I have learned about photography since Y2K. No dice. It wasn’t working for me, so I took it back to the store and they were going to get me a replacement to try out. The problem was I was running out of time and had to get myself ready for this conference within a few days. They didn’t get the replacement in time so I had no option but to ask them for a refund. I then used that money to purchase the Olympus 75/1.8 with its hood, as well as the HLD-6 grip for my OM-D, together with a 2nd battery. I will admit, I was a bit apprehensive going into this conference without a dedicated body for my 70-200/2.8. I would be using my D700 together with the 24-70/2.8 for the normal shots and then relying on the OM-D and the 75/1.8 for shots of speakers at the lectern as well as unassuming delegates in the audience. The apprehension soon evaporated when I got a look at the first shots taken at home with the lens set to f/1.8 and the OM-D set to ISO 3200. Good grief. Was I seeing this right? Could it be that sharp? Really?? After a couple of days of checking and re-checking wide performance in dimly lit rooms at home I felt confident that I would have no problems using the 75/1.8 on the OM-D for speaker shots, as well as whatever else might catch my eye from a distance. I felt comfortable that shooting the OM-D at 3200 would also be OK because even though it does exhibit a fair amount of noise, it’s very manageable within Lightroom’s own RAW noise controls. Having shot many conferences at this particular hotel in the past I knew what the lighting would be like too, which also eased my worried mind. Here are some examples of speaker images shot at f/1.8 and ISO 3200 on the OM-D. Here are some shots of the delegates in a pretty dim auditorium: On the first night of the event there was a "Mad Hatters" cocktail party at another hotel a few kilometres away from the conference venue. This is where the 75/1.8 really shone! Autofocus acquisition in the even dimmer lit bar was outstanding. I had to pump up ISO to 6400, but I was getting very usable shots that I could run through a noise reduction setting in Lightroom. Here’s my assessment of a few key features that photographers will be looking for in a lens review. Sharpness Oh yeah. This baby is sharp and most importantly, it’s sharp where it matters most - at the widest aperture. There’s literally no point in having a fast lens that isn’t sharp at its widest aperture. Yes, all lenses will get a bit sharper as you stop them down to a point, but the whole purpose of having a fast aperture is so that you can let more light into the camera, keep your subject sharp and smooth away the background. This lens does exactly that. At f/1.8 I’m getting stuff that is sharper than any other lens I have ever owned with an equivalently fast aperture. Bokeh It’s as smooth as I need it to be. I’m very happy with the way it renders out of focus highlights. Smaller sensors like those found in the m43 system will normally not provide you with the subject/background separation that you get from bigger sensors, such as those found on DSLR’s. The Olympus 75/1.8 does a very good job of this though, as can be seen in all these images. Build & Handling The lens is just awesomely built. The only plastic found on this lens appears to be the lens caps and the bit that secures the front element into the barrel (you know, the place with the lens nomenclature etched in white lettering). Everything else is made from high grade metals. Not even the focus ring has rubber - it’s grooves are milled! The focus ring is the smoothest you are ever likely to find on any lens. It’s still a focus-by-wire lens, meaning that the focusing ring doesn’t physically engage any of the elements, it merely issues a electronic command to the lens to move the glass inside. Personally this is never something I would see myself using. Up until just a few weeks ago it was only available in the silver colour, but I believe that it is now possible to get a black version for the same money. I like the silver on my silver OM-D. Autofocus Speed On my E-M5 there’s a split second’s hesitation before autofocus engages, which after I did some testing, has more to do with the IBIS system starting up than it has anything to do with the lens. After that initialization of the IBIS the acquisition of focus on any object with sufficient detectable contrast, both near and far, is pretty much instantaneous. It’s darn near completely silent too. It was only when I had the IBIS turned off for testing that I actually heard any noise coming from the lens itself. The Controversial Hood Every lens review that you read online about this or any other Olympus lens for m43 will have the same gripes: why don’t Olympus include the lens hood when they sell us the lens? Why are the lens hoods so expensive? I’m going to break the mold a little on this issue and view the glass as half-full instead of half-empty. I bought this lens and made sure that I got the lens hood for it as well (as you can see from the product shot I took of mine right at the beginning). I had to pay quite a bit more for it, but so what? If you look at the price of the lens with its hood, you’re still well below the cost of an equivalent 35mm system lens at this quality level. Well below! I am of the opinion that the Olympus range of primes for m43 are at the same premium brand level of Leica equivalents. That seems to be the approach Olympus are taking with their range these days, and rightly so, in my opinion. It’s a class above the competition. Have you tried pricing hoods for the Elmars and Elmarits? Summilux anyone? The hood that Olympus uses on the 75/1.8 is made in China, but like the lens it is milled from high quality steel and secures to the barrel with a knurled tensioning knob, very much like those found on super telephoto lenses for 35mm systems. It’s not a bayonet fitting. I always want a hood on my lenses because I never use UV or 1A filters on the front of them. The hood acts as a degree of protection, should I ever get sloppy enough to put the front element of the lens at risk of damage. Paying a bit more for the hood for this lens didn’t bother me in the slightest. I reckon if Olympus are giving us an option of getting the lens for less than it would have cost with the hood, then that’s a plus, not a negative. My Conclusion It’s by far the most expensive lens I have purchased thus far for the m43 system, but it is also by far the best lens I have ever used on that system too. It does everything I need it to and it solved a very important problem for me when it comes to working at a distance in dim light with the small, very lightweight OM-D system. The sharpness and subject isolation is just about perfect for the kind of work I do. I believe that if the next generation of OM-D improves the high ISO performance of their sensor, as well as the AF tracking to match that of the top end 35mm systems, there will be a flood of sensible indoor photographers looking to this lens to replace a lot of the 70-200/2.8 lenses usually seen at indoor events. I certainly didn’t find myself caught short at the conference I used it on earlier this month. If you’re a m43 shooter, don’t dilly dally, just get it. If you've already got one, don't forget to rate it in our official member's ratings thread here.
  43. 1 point
    These days all we seem to read about in camera reviews are things like high ISO performance and sensor size. You’ll also see constant references in some reviews to geek sites like DxO where they do some kind of hocus-pocus measurements and make proclamations about which sensor is better than the other when shot at high ISO values. Blah-blah-blah, etc. What these reviewers with lab coats on seldom actually do is get out into the real world and use the cameras they test to make actual photographs in actual testing conditions, which is something I found myself doing on Saturday night when my youngest son played his first “real” music venue gig with his Rock Academy student band. I took along my E-M1 and 4 different lenses. I had the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO, Olympus 45mm f/1.8, Olympus 75mm f/1.8 and Sigma 19mm f/2.8. When I got there and saw the small stage with very little lighting I had an “uh-oh” moment. This was going to be a very difficult gig to photograph. I would have to push the ISO on the E-M1 quite high and also shoot the lenses as fast as I could. Fortunately we were sitting right in the front of the venue (just a local pub), so I could try a bunch of things, take plenty of shots and hopefully I’d get at least a handful I could use as decent memories of this important event to keep the wife off my back. The first thing I did was turn off the orange AF assist light on the E-M1. This feature definitely helps you acquire focus in the near darkness, but it also can be quite distracting to subjects, especially if they are engaged in something more important than sitting still for their close-up. Without it the E-M1 tended to struggle a little to get focus, but like any autofocus system it was battling to detect contrast in the dark conditions. What I eventually did was adopt the tried and trusted method of using the centre AF point, find something with contrast to focus on and then re-compose my shot once in focus. It worked like a charm. I usually have the upper limit of my Auto-ISO set to 3200, but for this situation that wasn’t going to be quite enough, so I pushed it up to 6400 at the beginning of the gig and then later on I let loose and sent it all the way up to 12800. The whole of Sunday I was putting off editing the shots because I didn’t think they would be worth much to look at, but then I finally did my thing in Lightroom and boy, was I surprised and delighted with what I saw on my monitor. These last two shots show you what the 12800 ISO grain looks like at pixel level. There is no noise reduction applied to any of these images at all. In fact, apart from the B&W conversion on some of them there is no other post processing. EXIF is intact for those interested. If somebody was to say to me that the next OM-D would have a cleaner high ISO performance, I don’t think I would be all that excited about it. I’ll tell you why. The high ISO performance of the E-M1 at 6400 and 12800 is beautiful to me. Especially for this kind of photography, which I love to do more than any other. Yes, it’s noisy, but my God, it’s a beautiful noise and I would be really sad to lose it. This to me is like having Kodak Tri-X pushed a couple of stops on tap. The “noise” isn’t really noise at all. It’s just graininess and that graininess is one of the sexiest things in photography to me. I love it.
  44. 1 point
    I was going to put the following as a reply to Andrew's post, but the reply itself became a topic so I started this page. As you may be aware, I spent the greater part of my professional career restoring, preserving and/or copying historic photos - unfortunately something that never got much in the way of publicity but was highly specialised nonetheless. Despite that, to this day I still find the whole subject just as fascinating as when I started my business in 1982, and the deeper you get involved, the more it gets its claws into you. There is something truly addictive, as expertise is gained, in being able to pick up an original 19thC photograph and almost immediately knowing the process by which it was made and to within a few years of when it was made. The early years of photography was littered with different processes as photographers experimented with ways of producing that which appeared an elusive goal, namely the production of a durable, permanent, non-fading image. Unintentionally, then, this continuing experimentation meant that dating early photographs can be surprisingly accurate, far moreso than those of the 20th Century, when processes ran for decades in common use rather than the few years that typified the early years. I would have thought that after all these years, particularly since digital aids such as Photoshop appeared, that we'd have run out of photos in need of salvage, but still they land on my desk, often in far worse condition than in my earlier years just through the three-plus decades more life they've had to endure in that time. If you've ever wondered what an Ambrotype looks like out of its presentation case, I crecently had this one sent to me for image restoration some 10 years after someone else had a go at restoring the original: For those less aware, an Ambrotype consists of a collodion negative that has been underexposed, processed in a ferrous sulphate developer (which whitens the exposed image as it develops), then is either placed in a case with a backing of black velvet; or is coated on the plain side with a black japan coating (results in a reversed image); or - worst for restoring - japanned directly on the emulsion which gives a right-way around image looked at through the glass and saves the need for a cover glass. Let's call the latter a 19thC Polaroid, if you will, in much the same way as a tintype was produced on a piece of tin coated with black abd then the collodion emulsion, and processed the same way. This one had been stuck together with an adhesive coated piece of loose-weave linen, unfortunately without repairing the japanned backing on the plain side (so this image is reversed to real-life orientation). Unfortunately the drop which shattered it also destroyed the cover glass protecting the fragile, forward-looking emulsion, which was then subject to probably decades of scuffing as the cover glass was not replaced. This meant that I had to completely dismantle it, removing the linen and then the deteriorated japan: (the first time I ever did this I nearly had a nervous melt-down - it always really looks to be beyond salvation at first glance! ) .....then re-coating the back (using water-based acrylic this time, so should any future conservation be needed it is easily removed) and reassembling the shards of glass on the copy board for copying to a digital file (using an X-T1 and Zeiss Touit 50/2.8M Makro lens): With the name "Ann Cameron & family" written on the back in old handwriting, along with "Wattle Range, South Australia", it wasn't a great task at all to confirm my early guess of early-to-mid-1860's in that the father Alexander had died in 1859, and his youngest son had been born in 1858. As the son looks to be about 6 or 7 in the photo, a search of itinerant photographers in the Penola area of South Australia at that time came up with just one, Thomas J.J. Wyatt, who is documented as being a user of the Ambrotype process and as having done a photographic foray into the area surrounding his Mt Gambier base south of Penola, South Australia in 1864 and 1867. 1864 fits perfectly with the age of the kids (several of whom I have also found birth/death dates for), and as it had to have been after 1859 as Dad would certainly have been in the shot otherwise (and Mother would not be in black Widow's Weeds), 1864 is almost definitely the year and we also know for an equally high degree of certainty the name of the photographer..... So while the actual restoration of the image itself is in its early stages, I'll post a picture of it at this stage, and if it turns out as i hope I'll post the finished result when it's finished, although that is a while off. There's hours and hours of work to do yet. Perhaps the worst aspect has been rediscovering the eyes of several of the sitters, which had obviously been chemically treated to intensify the image where they had disappeared into shadow, and that either the intensifier was too strong or the image wasn't washed afterwards and the intensifier kept working - whatever, some were just fuzzy white dots with almost no detail, as is readily seen. The rest will just be hours of painstakingly removing defects without compromising the actual image any more than is completely unavoidable. Still a long way to go yet but the basics are done, and the whole image should be very presentable when finished. I'm choosing to restore the whole image rather than just that which was intended under the oval mat as it shows the itinerant "studio" common practice of nailing a dark blanket up on the side of a house as a backdrop, and using sunlight as the source. A carpet would also have been laid on the ground, although in this case the image detail is deteriorated to the point of mere suggestion and guesswork. The top of the window peeking out above the blanket helped in my decision, the cost of the extra time involved I won't pass on, but as I think this is important to show in an historical context, that's OK (there's lots of work to do in these areas yet). As a footnote, this particular part of the Cameron family are the second and third generation of the founders of the South Australian town of Penola, now one of the premier wine-growing areas of Australia (although in this era it was a pastoral area). So, knowing Cameron as the name, as I was working on the photo I noticed the double-oval shield belt clasp of the lady second from right, the familiar look of the ladies' tartan (light centre, dark borders), and the black velvet belt with single oval buckle on the girl at right and checked on my own Daguerreotype taken in the mid-late 1850's by Antoinne Claudet in his studio at 107 Regent Street, London that came into my possession in 1988 as the result of a bequest to a family named Ireland in Melbourne from a deceased relative in England. With no Internet back then, research still quickly named the subject as Julia Cameron (nee Buckley), dates being consistent within the time that Claudet had received a Royal Warrant as noted on the label on the photo (1853) and his departure from the Daguerreotype process (late 1850's/early 1860's) or ultimately his death and the studio burning down shortly afterwards in 1867, and placed the taking date within that window. There a similarity in the people, ages and dress of this Ambrotype and my Daguerreotype, to the point that I'd guess these two branches of the Cameron clan were probably known to each other, or at least aware of each others' existence. Both were very wealthy, which increases that chance exponentially. The modern sources of both these photographs, on the other hand, had no idea of the existence of each of their families. Julia Cameron, Circa 1854-60: People think I'm a bit nuts for having chosen this as a speciality in my career path, but I'm totally fascinated by it.
  45. 1 point
    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).
  46. 1 point
    The most critical component of any photo is light. Without it, you have no picture. Today, let's take a journey through my approach to how I light my subjects and scenes. I'm sure most of you have heard the story about the infamous W. Eugene Smith being asked a question about lighting at a seminar. The question from the audience was, "what light is the best light?" Smith answered, "Why, available light, of course!" There was a pause and from the crowd some muttered rumblings. Then, Smith continued with, "By that I mean any damn light that is available!" I believe that to be true as well. I don't hold someone who shoots ambient only any higher or lower on the skill level as someone who uses off camera flash. I judge a photographer by the end product they deliver. Out of necessity, most of us start out in photography with very little money. Cameras and lenses are expensive and after that money is spent, there is generally very little left for anything else. So, the first thing we learn, is how to harness the power of ambient lighting. That is followed very shortly by using constant light sources in the shooting environment. And why not? It is cheap and the majority of the time it looks decent because it is what our eyes are used to seeing. Problem? You generally have little to no control over it. Also, it has a tendency to look "average" because it is what everyone else is used to seeing. How do we make it stand out from the pack? Figure out different ways of shaping that light. For example, you can get reflectors to use as fill light sources. You can use diffusion material to cut down on the harsh midday sun. Reflector kiss generally have a diffuser as part of the unit, white bed sheets can also be employed. There is even a quote from Joe McNally that I remember, and that is, "If you want something to look interesting, don't light all of it." Sometimes less is more and, the attention to the image can be directed by what is lit and what is not. By our very nature, we tend to look at the brightest or shiniest part of an image first. Don't forget that environmental elements can be used as well. Open shade is a good place to be. There are small some structures that provide for good diffusion of sunlight. Windows in a home or building, glass arboretums are also a nice option. After we've cut our teeth on ambient light, we start seeing all these great portraits with this sculpted light, well controlled and contrasty and we think to ourselves, "self...I want to create pictures like that!" We have no clue where to start. You look at the price of flash units and studio strobes and think that it is impossible, can't be afforded and then think about giving up on the idea. Then you decide you'll check the internet and find some more info on the subject. You stumble across some place like Strobist and you are renewed! You start buying flashes, triggers, light modifiers, stands. ... you go a little crazy and but a bunch of stuff that you don't know how to use, when to use it or control it. You stick with it though, and after a while you get the hang of it. AND YOU LIGHT THE HELL OUT OF EVERYTHING. You go through a mode where you think that everything looks better bathed in light from every angle. And you love it for a while, but then it stops being fun and taking images becomes a chore, seeing up 3 or 4 lights, lighting subjects and backgrounds, getting the ratios right, the anymore just right. Out of no where it hits you. Shooting purely ambient or purely flash doesn't always have to be the case. You've backed yourself into an unnecessary and arbitrary corner. The basic point is this - shoot the best way that makes sense for your environment and subject. That means it can be flash, ambient or, dare we say it...a combination of the two together. How do we decide? Finally, we've reached the meat and potatoes of the article. Let's talk about my decision making process. The majority of the time, I go through this iteration when I am shooting portraits. One: Scope out the shooting environment and find where the best light is. Can I shoot ambient here? Two: Take an ambient light reading to see what light I'm dealing with. I take a test shot on auto and see what the camera tells me. If you have a light meter and prefer that method, do it to it. Three: What do I want to do with the background? Is it too distracting and do I want to shut it down, or is it an integral part of the shot and I want it in the image? Four: Determine if my subject is going to be over/under exposed in comparison to the background elements. Five: What kind of mood am I looking for in this shot. This will determine the user of light mods and such. Once I have all this figured out, I can determine in my head if I should add in lights and reflectors, shoot straight ambient and what I'll need to shoot the type of shot I want. For those gear obsessed, let's get into that here for a moment. After that, will do a walk through of sample images and how they were lit and with what. Truth be told, if I can shoot with the ambient light, I will as it can be much easier to get your shots without having to setup lights for each situation. If the ambient light is not cooperating or I'd rather relight the whole scene or parts of it to get the look I want - out come the flashes. Most of the time, though I'm shooting combinations of ambient and flash. Strobes - for portability, I've got 4 Nikon speed light units. The older SB are great because they offer good manual settings and have the ability to be TTL controlled. More on that later. They have good power levels and decent recycle times. For studio or more intensive work, I picked up 2 Alien Bees, the B400 units, with a Vagabond mini battery pack. Great for when you need near instant recycle times and more power than you small flash units. If you need the ultimate in a studio unit for a great price, consider looking at the Einstein units. Good price for the power and control you get. Triggers: When I knew I needed radio triggers, I wanted Pocket Wizard reliability, but not the price. I found that in the Radio Popper branded triggers. Remember above I mentioned having TTL capability in the old nikon SB units. With an add on device called an RPCube, the Radio Popper JrX Studio units can remotely control the power of the flashes from the transmitter. It uses the quench pin to control the power signal on the flash unit. Light Mods: I've been through them all and these are the ones I use 99% of the time. Shoot through umbrella, umbrella softbox, Lumiquest softboxes, grids. These generally cover all of my lighting control needs. Light Stands: I've a bunch of the standard light stands plus one c-stand with a 40 inch boom arm. This is a one light portrait in studio, one Alien Bee with an umbrella box camera left and a white reflector to camera right. The light source is very close so as to add a softer light. I picked this light mod because I wanted more contrast in the light transition from one side of the image to the other. A regular shoot through umbrella would have spilled way more light into the room than I wanted. Control here was accomplished by allowing the light to only come through the front of the umbrella. This is the same light setup as above, but with a shoot through umbrella. You can see that the light is more wrapping because the spill is registered more. I picked this sort of modifier because I wanted a more lit, high key feel to the image. This is from a child portrait shoot. This is an example of using the ambient light in combination with open shade and a reflector(camera left). Now, if the light on the image left side was too intense, we could have used a subtractor(black card) to knock down some of the reflected light. Another example of ambient sun light, open shade and a reflector. Straight ambient. The light was so good that day, when it works, use it! This is a more complicated shot. I liked the ambient light on everything but the couple(their faces were too dark). I exposed the scene for the ambient, then used a Nikon speed light to camera left with a 1/4 grid to pop light onto the faces. A cloudy day gave us a perfect diffuser for this ambient only shot. This is a portrait of a local parks and recreation director. I wanted to show one of the fields that his department maintains, but the only time available was during a very hot intense sunlit day. I exposed for the ambient background and used a Lumiquest LTP softbox to camera right to illuminate the subject, balancing the light sources. C-stand coupled with a gridded speed light above and slightly in front of the camera here gives us this interesting light. I used this to show the textures of the camera body. You can see the effects of the grid on the fabric the camera is sitting on. Notice how it looks like a spotlight, but instead of an abrupt end of the light into the dark, you get a bit of a softer transition.
  47. 1 point
    This photography excursion I’ve just returned from was originally marketed as the “Wild Waterways of Botswana Safari”, however, in geographic terms we only spent 2 nights in the town of Kasane, Botswana at the beginning of our trip. The rest of the time that we were on the Chobe and Zambezi rivers we were actually “resident” in Namibia, mainly because the Zambezi Voyager houseboat we were on is registered there and only moors on the Namibian side of the river (the Chobe river forms part of the border between Namibia and Botswana, as well as Zambia and Zimbabwe further East). When we entered no man’s land (well, no man’s water really) at the Kazungula border post from Zambia we could literally have entered any of 4 countries simply by pointing our boat in one of 4 directions. As far as border posts go, Kazungula is a total mêlée of cargo trucks, all lined up down the road as they wait to cross the river using the ferry barge. This barge can only take one truck at a time and when we arrived there Guts Swanepoel our local guide told us that the queue of trucks on the Botswana side was 11km long, so the truck drivers sometimes face a wait of up to 5 weeks just to get across the border! The authorities who walk around at the border posts don’t like you taking photos there, but I managed to sneak this one which shows the convergence of trucks on the Kazungula, Zambia side. As we were exiting Zambia we were told by our driver that one of the trucks that had just crossed over into Zambia was being sent back over to Botswana because it had some cargo that was not compliant with the paperwork. Can you imagine having had to camp out in a truck for 5 weeks at a border crossing only to be told on the other side that you can’t enter? We were very fortunate to not need the vehicle barge as we had arranged a private boat to shuttle us across the river to Botswana, so our passage through was totally hassle free. Kasane is a very small Botswanan town found on the banks of the Chobe River and very close to the Chobe National Park. We were spending 2 nights at the Kubu Lodge, which is just a little out of the main bustle of the larger central lodges found in town. It’s a decent little lodge, but what makes it a stand-out is that the food there is amazing. We enjoyed some excellent meals out on the restaurant deck. The rooms are all free-standing log cabins with hot water, electricity and a private deck. Fortunately for me they also had a curio shop in the reception area where I was able to buy a pair of zip-off trousers and a new outdoor shirt while I anxiously awaited news of my missing luggage. Part of the reason why I don’t have any photos to show of the lodge is because I was conserving battery life as much as possible for when we were on the river, otherwise I’d have had a lot more to show. So the first two days of our safari we were with Guts and his river guide “Killer” on this amazing photographic safari boat. Guts has spent an inordinate amount of money building this flat bottomed vessel specifically for photographers. It features 8 swivel seats, each of which is equipped with an articulating arm on which there is a Benro gimbal head that you can attach your lens to. The arm is also height adjustable so you can set it to exactly the level that’s comfortable for you. It’s very easy to swing out of the way too. Killer at the helm The boat photography experience was pretty awesome. Guts and Killer (I’m told these are nicknames, but I am too polite to ask how they got them) were amazing and we will most certainly be offering this trip again, possibly with more than just the 2 days in Kasane next time. Photographing wildlife from the water is very different. You are able to get much closer to big animals like hippos and elephants than would normally be the case with land based game drives. Here are some of the photos I got on the first couple of outings with the boat. Click them to view enlarged. Above: a Marabou stork gulps down a chunk of putrified dead buffalo Below: another Marabou contemplates which part of the carcass to snack on A yellow-billed stork presides over its chicks Yellow billed stork chick wishes it could fly Cleared for landing Nervous but thirsty baboons A good reason to be nervous! A couple of fish eagles found in a tree The 5-legged thing... The Chobe lends itself very much towards bird photography. There are hundreds of species of birds to be found here. As many of my readers will already know, I am not much of a bird photographer, mainly because I have yet to find the patience required to make great bird shots, but on this trip I seem to have managed a few decent ones. Most of the time I was using the Olympus OM-D E-M1 with the Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 (4/3rds) lens on an MMF-2 adapter, but as you will see in some of the shots above I also used the Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II on the E-M5, which although I initially wan’t all that thrilled with, has certainly proved itself to be quite a good performer. I have definitely warmed to it and having that 600mm equivalent reach at a very reasonable price is totally worthwhile. The one thing that will stick in my mind about this trip though is the incredible sunsets we were treated to every day on the river. They are quite simply breathtaking. Marabou stork against the setting sun In addition to the amazing boat, Guts also has a nifty Unimog off road vehicle that has been fitted with permanent beanbags at two different heights, so you can shoot either standing up or in your seat. I’m exactly 6 feet tall and it was possible for me to stand up in the vehicle without hitting my head on the roof. Because of the height of this truck its also no problem at all when you’re in the Chobe National Park at a crowded sighting because you’re high enough to shoot over the roofs of other vehicles. John and Pepe standing in the Unimog In the next instalment of this report I will talk about our experiences on the houseboat.
  48. 1 point
    I’ve become something of a specialist conference photographer in my hometown. I never intended to do this kind of work, it just sort of found its way into my life and I’ll be honest, I kind of like it. It also helps a bit that Durban is a top international conference destination so there’s work to be had, albeit somewhat seasonal (nobody wants to come here in summertime because it’s extremely hot, humid and often rainy). The first job I was contacted to quote on was a huge international radiology conference back in 2008. The organisers probably just looked up “Durban photographer” and came across my blog. I gave them a quote that got accepted and the next thing I knew I was in at the deep end. At that stage I had I had just come out of a failed business venture and had only been a full time professional for a few months. I was “testing the waters”, so to speak, of what would work for me as a professional photographer. I knew I didn’t want to shoot weddings and I knew that my skills and equipment were very far from being at a level where I could pass myself off as a commercial photographer of any worth. I also saw no financial future in trying to sell my services to ordinary customers such as aspiring models looking for TFCD shoots, nor was I about to get back into sports photography, something I had done as a part-timer years before. Sports photography had even more limited returns than aspiring models looking for portfolios. You have to have the best equipment available and you also have to have the right contacts in order to get your work published, let alone just getting accredited to shoot events. Corporate photography seemed like a good fit for me. I was presentable, punctual and above all because I had been a slave to it for 12 years (partly in marketing) I knew what makes the corporate world tick, which is not something a lot of people who go directly into a photography career can quite grasp. One big advantage I had in pitching myself at the corporate market was a lack of competition from “weekend pros”. Considering that most corporate gigs happened on weekdays, all those guys who had flooded the wedding industry with $300 packages simply couldn’t get the time off work to do these types of gigs. It also meant that I could charge pretty much what I liked (within reason) and get hired simply because there weren’t too many other guys available. A lot of pro photographers also view this type of work as being “beneath them”, which is great for me. The types of photography you get to do on a corporate job are quite varied. I’ve done everything from the cheesy social photos to properly lit portraits using umbrellas and backdrops, to also chasing people around as they do the fun things you get to do on conferences (team building events usually involve alcohol, bows and arrows, balls of fire and a bunch of other things designed to excite or embarrass staff). To cover all these bases effectively you need a mix of different skills. Here are 10 pointers for photographing conferences that I have picked up along the way: Always include the branding Without doubt the most important aspect of any corporate event is the branding. You need to make sure that you include it in as many shots as possible and I’m not talking about taking shots of just the banners and bunting that you’ll see around the room, but rather try and use it as part of the background of people mingling around it. Those types of images make managers and event organisers happy, especially marketing managers and they’re usually the ones with the biggest budgets, so make sure that you befriend them whenever possible. Click on the images to view larger. Know who the VIP’s are The last thing you want to be doing is taking lots of shots of people who are not that important in the corporate ecology. You want to target the MD’s, VP’s, keynote speakers and other bigwigs, so what I normally do is get the organisers to point them out to me at the start of an event. They especially like it when you photograph them talking to other VIP’s and always make sure you get shots of them posing together. It is a big deal for corporate guys to have a great photo of them meeting somebody important. Don’t photograph people eating There’s always food at corporate events, but when it comes out put your cameras away, sit down and get a bite to eat yourself. Nobody wants photos of people eating. What you can do is take general photos of people in the room at the tables that give the impression that there was food at the event, but don’t approach the tables and definitely don’t interrupt people eating to ask for a table photograph. That’s just poor form. Look for groups with women in them at cocktail parties My least favourite part of shooting corporate events is the cocktail party. These are part and parcel of the corporate world but its never easy to get good photos of these things, yet clients lust after images of these things to post on Facebook pages and use in company newsletters. You just have to grin and bear them, but what I have done over the years is formulate the process. People are always standing around in groups at cocktail parties. There will be groups of men, groups of women and mixed groups. I usually always target the latter two because men talking with men are almost always scowling about something and most of the time view your presence as a major annoyance. They don’t want to be photographed. However, throw a few attractive women into the frame and suddenly its a different story altogether. They’ll jostle for position and smile their faces off for you. Women in groups without men are usually receptive to being photographed, especially if there’s 4 or more of them. They appreciate the attention and will usually ask you jokingly to please photoshop their wrinkles or flatten their tummies. All I do is throw them compliments and remind them that they don’t need Photoshop - they’re beautiful without it. For some reason this always brings a smile. Take Shots Of The Venue It’s important to event organisers (ie. your clients) that they have a good record of the venues that they have chosen to hold their events in, especially the gala dinners. You need to show the decor and also try and capture the ambience and mood of the venue where you can. I always include a wide shot of the room as its filling up with people, as well as the table settings before guests arrive. Sub-contractors who do the catering and decor will love you for these shots so what I try to do is get their details at the event and then I send them a few shots at no charge. This is an invaluable network builder and a little goodwill can go a long way to your name being at the forefront of their mind should they ever be asked to recommend a photographer to their clients. Shooting Speakers Is Tough - Chose Your Moment This is always tough. Sometimes you get lucky and the organisers have positioned the lectern or stage in a way that is conducive to good shots, where you’ve got a nice background and the lighting is good. Sometimes you don’t get so lucky. I’ve been stuck in positions before where I was shooting right up the nostrils of the speaker, or I had the emergency exit signs as a background. There’s not much you can do about that other than to make the best of what you’ve got. You should never be afraid to move around the venue, but take care not to get in the way of the video cameras (there are always video cameras at big events that are used to project images of the speakers). When you’re shooting speakers you need to take a lot of shots and chose the best of them to give to your client. Peoples faces look funny when they are frozen mid-speech, so try to wait for a pause in their monologue and also wait for them to look up at the audience if they are reading from a script. Patience is the key. Essential for this kind of shot is a fast telephoto lens. I am getting my best results ever using the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 ED lens on the OM-D E-M5. It’s like a match made in heaven those two. I usually run auto-ISO up to about 3200 maximum and the shots come out great. You can’t use slow lenses and flash for this type of shot - you’ll just end up wishing you were dead. Fadi Chehadé, CEO of ICANN Bruce Fordyce, 9 time winner of the Comrades Marathon Miss South Africa 2014, Rolene Strauss Don't Forget The Audience My job when I’m shooting conferences is pretty much summed up with the phrase rock photographer Jim Marshall used to describe himself: I’m a reporter with a camera. So I need to report on the event as a whole. I need photos of the venue, the branding, the speakers and also of course the audience, without whom the event wouldn’t be occurring in the first place. There are a few audience shots I look for at conferences. There’s a wide shot taking in everything in the room, including the speaker, a shot of a person in the audience hopefully looking attentive to what’s being said, plus a shot I always try to look for now is to get behind the speaker and try to include the audience as the background. Not always easy but sometimes they make for cool images as they give a sense of participation. Professor Tim Noakes addresses AIMS Congress in Durban Get shots Of Interactions The entire premise of a conference is to get people to interact, so your images need to show as much of this as possible. I try to be the proverbial fly on the wall with those shots and to this end the diminutive nature of my kit these days helps tremendously with that. The Olympus OM-D tilting touch screen also gives me a big advantage in this regard and I often find myself using the camera at right angles to where I am pointing my body, touching the screen and getting the shot I want without the subject even being aware that they are being photographed. The Cheesy “Grip ’n Grin” Shot The dreaded handshake shots of people getting awards are my least favourite shots to make, but they’re a staple that you have to include in your service. It’s not rocket science but there are a few things you can do to ensure that you get the shot because you literally only have a few seconds to get it right and as we all know that’s all it takes for things to go wrong. Here are some tips: always use flash and compensate it down where needed if you can, do an incident metering beforehand and use manual flash settings because the TTL pre-flashes will make some people blink - alternatively use the A mode of your flash and check the distance readings it gives (most advanced flashes will show this on the LCD) always take more than one shot to help with blinkers. If its an important shot you can always transplant the faces in Photoshop afterwards. Trust me, I’ve done this before and they’ll never know! Be assertive when setting up group shots Believe it or not people who are being photographed in a group for an informal but specific purpose are actually looking to you to help them get organised. They will very seldom assemble themselves in a way that makes sense, so you need to take charge and make sure that they know you’re the expert, not them. If you stand around in front of them and try to direct proceedings from a distance they are going to be non-responsive. You need to get in amongst them, tug gently at arms or nudge shoulders if you need to. Put the short people in the front and try to be symmetrical about things in the back. Also try and bunch people together so that there are no visible gaps between shoulders as this tends to make people look isolated. This is especially the case with those people who end up standing on the edges. They’re there because they’re probably the most insecure about being photographed, so what I do is I single them out and pull them into the middle of the shot, getting those already in the middle to move outwards. The people moving to the outside want to be in the middle so they’re less likely to detach themselves from the group. This is especially the case if you have a VIP in the dead centre of proceedings. Go figure. Something I always do is count the shot down from 3 so that they know when I’m taking the shot and can smile accordingly. It doesn’t always work, but there’s nothing worse than waiting for a photographer to take the shot while you’re forcing a smile. Another tip I picked up from a fellow shooter recently is to get your subjects to say “Yes!” as you’re taking the shot. This somehow makes people’s eyes light up and smile at the same time. Combine this with the countdown method and you’ll hopefully improve your chances of getting a better shot. Conclusion Since I started doing this kind of work I’ve met some interesting people, including captains of industry, government ministers, sports stars, professional speakers, artistic performers and others. I’ve been moved to tears at talks given by exceptional key note speakers and bored to tears by people who have no idea what to do in front of a microphone. I’ve had some great clients along the way and many of them have referred me on to other people who have also commissioned me to do work for them. It’s a great way to grow your professional network. This isn’t the kind of work that appeals to most photographers, but that’s why I’ve made it my own speciality. It’s something I do with pride. My most recent event was the Association of International Marathons (AIMS) Congress last month which is where I first began using my Olympus E-M1 to Tweet images directly from the event. This is a bit of a breakthrough for me because as the world becomes more and more in tune with social media at a corporate level, offering services like this will put me ahead of the next guy when I pitch for business.
  49. 1 point
    What Will I Compromise On If I Move From A DSLR to Olympus OM-D? This is a fair question. As photographers we spend a lot of time researching lenses, camera bodies and other accessories so that we can get the best possible results. In my opinion the only way to find out the truth about how something performs is to try it out yourself. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have bought a lens or a camera based on the recommendations of others only to find that I hated it. The opposite is true too, where I have bought lenses that other reviewers have pasted but I ended up loving them. OK, so not everyone can afford to drop a few thousand Dollars on every new camera or lens that comes out in the hope that it meets expectations (especially not me), but if you’re going to use a review site to form an opinion, at least make sure you check with one that delivers actual results in the form of images you can relate to. Stuff that you're going to make yourself. I have never and I will never look at scientific charts to make a decision on whether a lens or camera is going to cut it for me. I will look at photos of real subject matter and wherever possible I will go out and make photos of subjects I like to shoot, assess them and decide for myself if the gear meets my expectation. If I need the camera/lens for action photography I will look for sites where the authors show actual action shots using the equipment, or I'll borrow the lens/camera and go and do some of my own work. If I want the camera/lens to do portraiture I will look for a site that shows actual portraits taken for real world use or go and do it myself. You get the picture? If the reviewer is not showing photos like the ones you want to take, how can they make a decision on how it performs in that situation? Conjecture? Well, personally I don't go for that. Show me the shots I will probably want to take. Don't show me charts and make inferences from them. So when I first got interested in m43 I didn’t get my information from the likes of dpreview, DXO or any of those scientific sites. I went to Flickr and some other image hosting sites where there were actual photos I could look at taken with the kit I was interested in. What I found on Flickr when looking at shots taken with the OM-D system kind of floored me. Surely it couldn’t be that good? Why aren’t more people using it? I had to know more, so I got involved and what I discovered is that the so-called disadvantages of smaller sensors that are constantly being debated online didn't affect my photography at all. In my opinion the micro four thirds image quality has advanced to the place where under normal viewing conditions you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between photos taken with the big expensive DSLRs and those taken with something like the Olympus E-M1. So what was I losing out on? These are the main compromises you'll read about online. Compromise #1: Depth Of Field Is Increased (often interpreted as "you can't get shallow depth of field from a small sensor") As the camera’s sensor gets bigger while aperture stays wide open, the depth of field decreases. According to scientific calculations the m43 system is about 2 stops different in terms of d.o.f. when compared to the same photograph taken at the same focal length and perspective of the 135 system. This is explained very nicely on this page, so I won't go into it here, but If you’ve ever had a look at the effects of this on a very fast lens you’ll see that 2 stops doesn’t make an enormous difference to the out of focus areas of your frame at all. However, something to consider very seriously is that when you are shooting a very fast lens on a large sensor at wide aperture, you have to absolutely nail the focus otherwise your image is going to look soft all over. You're going to be stopping down anyway, so why not enjoy more depth of field with wider apertures and the resulting faster shutter speed in the first place? This is just the nature of the fast lens on a bigger sensor. How often do you actually find yourself shooting them wide open and nailing the focus? In my experience the phase detection autofocus systems used in these big DSLR’s are just not always accurate enough for this and unless you spend a lot of time calibrating your autofocus you’re going to run into this problem over and over again with ultra-fast lenses shot wide open - almost everything looks soft. It takes a lot of practise and technique to get it right. So, very short depth of field is not as short on m43 but this is to a large degree dependent on the shooting situation, distance to the subject and distance from the background. I have seen some amazing images shot on m43 that have very short depth of field - just go and visit Robin Wong’s blog to see what I mean. I’m totally fine with the depth of field of my fast glass on m43 - I'd rather have more depth of field at wider apertures than less. Click on the images to enlarge them. Compromise #2: The Resolution Is Lower The resolution of the current generation of m43 cameras tops out at 16MP, which is significantly less than something like the Nikon D800 and slightly less than the 22MP Canon 5DMk3. How important is this? Some photographers have genuine needs for the extremely high image resolution, like making large, highly detailed prints, whereas many others need it mainly for having the ability to zoom into a small part of an image and marvel at whatever detail they might find there. Yes, it’s cool to be able to do that, but in reality it’s not a good reason for buying camera X or lens Y. Not in my opinion anyway. Besides, if you’re shooting something like a landscape you can quite easily obtain a high resolution file by stitching several images together. I have made a conscious decision to assess images I take as an entire thing as they would be seen by a non-photographer (ie, client) and not to nit pick about micro contrast, chromatic aberrations or or how much tonality exists at a 100% crop of any given image. The only reason I zoom into an image at 100% is to check that I have got the parts I want to be in focus nice and sharp. Other than that I make my decision on image quality by looking at the whole image. If it looks great when you’re looking at the whole thing do I really care what it looks like when I am looking at a tiny part of it? No. I don’t care at all. Not everyone agrees with this approach and I dare say that if the resolution aspect is that important to you, then perhaps the micro four thirds system is not the thing that will satisfy you right now. For me 16MP is plenty. I can make good prints out of them and I can still crop away significant parts of an image with decent results. Compromise #3: High ISO Is Not As Good As DSLR I’ve seen some photos shot on cameras like the Nikon D3S and the new Nikon D4S and Df. They’re undisputed kings of the high ISO world and you can comfortably shoot them at ridiculously high ISO values over 25600 and get perfectly acceptable image quality by any standards. However, I have to say that the Olympus E-M1 is producing very acceptable images for me at ISO 12800 too. I am actually quite often startled at just how well this particular camera deals with noise at such high ISO values. This is something we couldn’t do with the E-M5, where 3200 was about as high as I liked to go. Anything higher resulted in banding and a general loss of image aesthetic. I don’t think you can really call the E-M1 high ISO images noisy so much as you can call them grainy. And in my book grain is good. It adds atmosphere to images. The grain on the E-M1 at ISO 12800 is not anything like the kind of pain I often felt from looking at images shot on certain lesser DSLR cameras at significantly lower ISO values in the past. There’s no luminance noise that shouts at me and while the graininess becomes quite visible the higher up the scale you go, it’s not affecting the sharpness of the images as much as you’d expect it to. I run a slight noise reduction preset over my images in Lightroom, just enough to drop the grain a bit without affecting fine details and I’m very happy with what I see. Convert it to black and white and you might be forgiven for thinking you’re shooting with old Kodak Tri-X pushed a few stops. Tri-X was the staple film stock used by generations of photojournalists in the 20th century and its ISO rating is 400. Imagine the shots the journos of the day might have been able to get if they could have shot at 12800, had the fast glass and a built-in image stabiliser on their film? So is it possible to use an E-M1 at high ISO values? Oh yes, it certainly is. But you shouldn’t expect results quite as good as those found on cameras that are known to excel at high ISO, such as the likes of the Nikon D4, etc. I’d put the high ISO aesthetic performance of the E-M1 about a stop above that of the Nikon D700 (which I used for 5 years in many a low light situation), so if you’re using that camera as a benchmark you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what the E-M1 does. It’s a whole lot better than the E-M5 too. I use the word aesthetic because while the D700 might have less noise at the same ISO values, the grain of the E-M1 just looks better to my eyes. I would never shoot the D700 at 6400 on purpose, yet I am quite happy to shoot the E-M1 at 12800 - it just looks better. Your mileage may vary depending on your tastes. Compromise #4: Auto Focus Tracking is Inferior to DSLR’s The E-M1 has made huge strides in the auto focus tracking department compared to its forerunner the E-M5. This is because they added phase detection auto focus sensors on the imager. It makes a big difference because it is now possible to get decent auto focus using the older 4/3rds lenses. When I say “decent” I’m not talking blazing fast like you’d get on a top of the line pro DSLR body with lens to match, but decent in the sense that your lens isn’t going to take forever to acquire focus. Depending on the lens you’ll experience something not unlike what you would get from the older Nikon screwdriver type auto focus lenses. I have the Olympus 7-14mm f/4 and the 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5. The 50-200mm is the lens I’d most likely be using to track objects (sports and wildlife) and it focuses really quickly for me, even in poor light. It’s snappy, but there’s a very brief adjustment (back and forth) when it first locks on. Once it does lock on, it doesn’t let go easily. Bird in flight photographers would not like this behaviour. I don’t do a lot of bird photography, so for me it’s not a deal breaker. I think it’s good enough for me to use on the types of action photography I am more in tune with, namely surfing, motor sport and land based wildlife. There are a few things you need to be aware of when it comes to autofocus performance with the E-M1. The E-M1 makes use of a dual AF system, namely phase detection and contrast detection, but it decides on its own when to switch between them based on the type of lens mounted. It’s not a user setting that can be changed. When you’re using a micro four thirds lens it will only deploy CDAF, even when its in AF-Tracking mode. The only time it uses the PDAF mode is when there is a four thirds legacy lens mounted. You will notice when it’s in this mode because the AF point layout in the EVF changes from the wide grid to a diamond type layout typically found in a DSLR. AF-Tracking performance in the CDAF is a lot better on the E-M1 than it is in the E-M5, but the only m43 telephoto lens I have been able to try this out on is the Olympus 75-300mm, which admittedly I am not all that fond of. I did use it once or twice to do surfing shots with and it worked fine in AF-Tr. I can imagine that once the PRO telephotos for m43 arrive (the 40-150/2.8 and the 300/4.0) the tracking performance will get better. TTL Flash - Compromise or Embedded Memory Confusion? I will admit to being a little less than thrilled with the way Olympus do TTL flash. It’s complicated but once you do understand how it all works, it is certainly very capable. It offers everything the Nikon CLS offers, but just in a different way. My biggest gripe is that the interface on the FL-600R flash units is fiddly. You have to contend with buttons and a dial to adjust things and getting used to it takes some time. With the Nikon CLS it was pretty much “plug and play” whereas with the Olympus flash system it’s “plug and pray that you have the correct settings on the flash AND on the camera”. Yes, you also have settings on the camera that you need to fiddle with in order to get the exposure right. I find this very counter intuitive and its especially problematic when you want to bounce flash in TTL mode during an event. I’ve had to resort to putting the flash into manual mode and adjusting the output by compensation dialling the power. Very old school. I suppose I’ve been spoiled by the new school where thinking about flash settings isn’t hard wired into my brain and Nikon iTTL became a crutch. On the plus side once you get used to the interface there isn’t much you can’t do with the Olympus flash system. For wireless use indoors it works very much the same way that Nikon CLS does and you can also control up to three groups of flashes from your OM-D using the little clip on flash as a commander. The pop-up flash on my Nikon D700 only allowed me to control 2 groups. I bought two of the FL-600R flash units and while they are diminutive compared to the likes of a Nikon SB-910, they pack a punch. If I need to produce head shots on a white background it’s an easy setup and using manual output on both the background light and key light, I have been rewarded with pretty good results. Shot with two FL-600R units, one into an umbrella and the other bounced onto the background In Conclusion As far as I can tell, what I’ve described here are the only tangible compromises I’ve encountered where a DSLR may have an advantage over the OM-D system. For me none of them were critical enough to prevent a complete switch over to OM-D from my fairly well equipped Nikon eco-system and if I am honest with myself and my readers, there are too many advantages to OM-D that cannot be reproduced on a DSLR for me to consider a DSLR as being a better option. Not for the kind of work I do anyway.
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