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Found 255 results

  1. The Micro Four Thirds world brings another camera body to us in the shape of the Black Magic Pocket Cinema 4K. If you’re a budding videographer, or film maker, this affordable 4K camera gives you just about everything you’d ever want to create high quality video. Some of the features include: 13 stops of dynamic range, including shooting up to 25,600 ISO in 12 bit RAW 5 inch touch screen SD or CFast 2.0 card writers 120 frames per second recording in HD 60 fps recording in 4K built-in microphones (located next to the lens mount) USB-C Expansion port that lets you record directly to an external SSD hard drive Bluetooth remote control mini XLR microphone input carbon fibre body construction Of course it has to go up against the likes of the Panasonic GH-5 and Olympus EM-1 Mk II bodies, both of which offer some very handy video features as well as being excellent stills cameras, however, the kicker is that for serious videographers this camera brings a lot more video stuff to the table and it’s only going to cost $1349. Compare that to the close to $2k being asked by most retailers for the other big brothers in MFT and you’ll start to wonder if they are the right choice for your video work (assuming you are already invested in MFT lenses). Reading through the material available on the Black Magic website, the first thing I was looking for was information on stabilisation. Sadly it doesn’t look like there is any, nor is there any information on whether the BMPC4K is able to use the lens stabilizers built into certain Panasonic and Olympus lenses. It does say that the mount is “active MFT” but that could mean it only allows for lens data to be passed through during recording. There is a mention of auto focus being available on compatible lenses, but again, no clear indication as to which ones (not that AF is used much by video shooters, but it would be nice to know). So, I guess if you want to use the camera hand held, the way they have advertised it, you're going to need hands of stone, or you're going to be looking to buy a suitable gimbal. The monitor is large and bright, but it’s fixed to the back of the camera, so for vloggers and other kinds of narcissists it’s probably a non-starter. There is a shutter button for stills and according to the specs it’s going to be a 4096x2160 sized sensor in there, so a resulting 8.8MP, which is (ahem) not quite the gold standard for stills these days. Bummer. It does seem to be geared primarily towards professional video people, so my take away from the announcement is that if you’re already invested in an MFT system, you are probably going to be sticking with your Panasonic or Olympus bodies, which will do 4K video with lots of features, but also offer you 20MP stills. And stabilisation. And lots more. Oh yes, you do get access to Da Vinci Resolve Studio editing software worth $300, which looks impressive (I have downloaded the free beta and will give it a look over soon), but if you consider that you are still going to have to buy a gimbal to create your smooth cinematic footage, the deal doesn't look all that aggressive anymore. If you were getting serious about video would you buy this or would you rather buy the top end Panasonic/Olympus bodies? View full article
  2. Black Magic Pocket Cinema 4K

    The Micro Four Thirds world brings another camera body to us in the shape of the Black Magic Pocket Cinema 4K. If you’re a budding videographer, or film maker, this affordable 4K camera gives you just about everything you’d ever want to create high quality video. Some of the features include: 13 stops of dynamic range, including shooting up to 25,600 ISO in 12 bit RAW 5 inch touch screen SD or CFast 2.0 card writers 120 frames per second recording in HD 60 fps recording in 4K built-in microphones (located next to the lens mount) USB-C Expansion port that lets you record directly to an external SSD hard drive Bluetooth remote control mini XLR microphone input carbon fibre body construction Of course it has to go up against the likes of the Panasonic GH-5 and Olympus EM-1 Mk II bodies, both of which offer some very handy video features as well as being excellent stills cameras, however, the kicker is that for serious videographers this camera brings a lot more video stuff to the table and it’s only going to cost $1349. Compare that to the close to $2k being asked by most retailers for the other big brothers in MFT and you’ll start to wonder if they are the right choice for your video work (assuming you are already invested in MFT lenses). Reading through the material available on the Black Magic website, the first thing I was looking for was information on stabilisation. Sadly it doesn’t look like there is any, nor is there any information on whether the BMPC4K is able to use the lens stabilizers built into certain Panasonic and Olympus lenses. It does say that the mount is “active MFT” but that could mean it only allows for lens data to be passed through during recording. There is a mention of auto focus being available on compatible lenses, but again, no clear indication as to which ones (not that AF is used much by video shooters, but it would be nice to know). So, I guess if you want to use the camera hand held, the way they have advertised it, you're going to need hands of stone, or you're going to be looking to buy a suitable gimbal. The monitor is large and bright, but it’s fixed to the back of the camera, so for vloggers and other kinds of narcissists it’s probably a non-starter. There is a shutter button for stills and according to the specs it’s going to be a 4096x2160 sized sensor in there, so a resulting 8.8MP, which is (ahem) not quite the gold standard for stills these days. Bummer. It does seem to be geared primarily towards professional video people, so my take away from the announcement is that if you’re already invested in an MFT system, you are probably going to be sticking with your Panasonic or Olympus bodies, which will do 4K video with lots of features, but also offer you 20MP stills. And stabilisation. And lots more. Oh yes, you do get access to Da Vinci Resolve Studio editing software worth $300, which looks impressive (I have downloaded the free beta and will give it a look over soon), but if you consider that you are still going to have to buy a gimbal to create your smooth cinematic footage, the deal doesn't look all that aggressive anymore. If you were getting serious about video would you buy this or would you rather buy the top end Panasonic/Olympus bodies?
  3. I see no image degradation with this combo at all. In my honest opinion, this lens and 1.4x TC outshines the newer 40-150mm 2.8 PRO with its own TC by a long way.
  4. In this vlog episode we chat about using the legacy 4/3 lenses from the Olympus DSLR era on the mirrorless Olympus OM-D E-M1 (original) camera bodies. We also demonstrate the auto focus speed of the 50-200mm (with a 1.4x TC) in an outdoor situation. Jump directly to the AF speed demo at 16:00. If you have suggestions for future vlog episodes please let us have them in the comments.
  5. Last year I co-led an epic, month long Photographers.travel safari from Cape Town all the way up through Namibia, to the border of Angola and then a little bit into North-Western Botswana for good measure, before heading back to Cape Town via Namibia. We did this road trip in two vehicles with 8 guests (all Nikongear.com members) and covered some 8500km (5300mi) in total. It was by far the longest road trip I have ever done. It was gruelling at times because of the state of some dirt roads we had to use, but it was well worth it because it also saw me shooting more photographs in that month long period than I have ever taken before, and getting my best results too. I made a lot of discoveries on that safari. The most significant being that it was the beginning of the end of my love affair with the DSLR. When I got back from Namibia and began looking through my photos I had a whole new appreciation for my little Olympus OM-D E-M5 and what I could accomplish with it. I also noticed that I had done about 95% of my picture taking on safari with the Oly and not my supposedly superior Nikon D700. It wasn’t long afterwards that I began selling off my Nikon kit. I’m now a full micro four thirds convert as a direct result of my discoveries on safari. This article is an insight as to how that trip helped shape this transformation in my approach and the gear I now use to get the images I want. A little background first. I live in Durban, the third largest city of South Africa. It’s located on the East Coast of the country, about 1600km (1000mi) from Cape Town. My business partner and I started putting together photo safaris in 2009 and we’ve been doing it ever since, making new friends from around the world every year. Last year we decided to do a trip that started in Cape Town and went all the way up into Namibia and the Kavango region of Botswana. The easiest way for me to get to Cape Town is to take a local flight. It’s about 2 hours flying time and because the two cities are of similar size (over 3.5 million people each) there are numerous flights between them every day. The planes used are typically jet-engined Airbus or Boeings, so you’ll have overhead bins for hand luggage. The airline I was on for this trip had a checked baggage restriction of 20kgs (44lbs) and hand luggage limits of 7kg (15.4lbs). I had a big problem in that my hand luggage made up of all my camera gear, laptop and other valuables weighed about the same as my suitcase, just under 20kg. It was all packed into a ThinkTank Airport Security roller that looks like a suitcase and while it was technically OK to use as a carry-on in terms of its size, the weight was definitely going to be an issue if the ground staff decided to take a closer look at it. I’ve done this flying with camera gear thing enough times before and while I have gotten away with really heavy carry-ons in the past, I can’t begin to explain the stresses you go through during check-in. What if they don’t let you carry it on? What if there’s no room in the overhead bin by the time you get to your seat? What if there’s no overhead bin? The paranoia doesn’t abate. This time I got to Cape Town OK but of all the trips I’d made in the past, this one was by far the most stressful as far as gear goes and I was beginning to think that if I am going to keep on doing these photo safaris, I was going to need lighter gear. So eventually the safari got underway in Cape Town amidst some horrific Cape winter weather. Cape Town has a wet and windy winter climate, which is the complete opposite of what I am used to in Durban where our winters are dry and mild. A lot of the activities we had planned on doing got scuppered because of the weather, so we had to console ourselves with lots of wine tasting. Photographically it’s a bit boring sitting around a table watching people sample wine (especially if your interest in it runs parallel with mine, which I must confess is not very high at all), but a lot of the places we visited in Stellenbosch and Klein Constantia had some interesting historical buildings so I often found myself wandering around wine cellars, taking shots of old oak barrels and even some of the vats they use to produce the stuff. (click on the images to view them larger) The one thing I began to become aware of was that I hadn’t used my Nikon D700 at all yet on the trip, despite having some choice lenses to use with it. I had brought with me a little ThinkTank Retrospective 5 bag and inside it I had my E-M5 and 6 lenses, covering from fisheye up to 175mm (which is 350mm in “big camera” speak). It was light and inconspicuous, whereas my fellow travelers were all lugging monster DSLR’s and large bags around with them wherever we went. To the casual observer I might not have been a part of the same group, because trust me, a lot of people got a case of the Tom Cat curiosities whenever they saw this small army of DSLR users coming! After enduring a few days of the Cape Town winter weather at its worst (apparently it even snowed on Table Mountain while we were there) we headed North towards Namaqualand, which is famed for its wide open plains of wild spring flowers. It was here that I discovered another massive benefit to using the Olympus E-M5. I didn’t have to crawl on my belly to get level with the flowers when composing a shot. I simply angled up my LCD, sussed out what was going on with the composition and then tapped the screen to take the shot. We spent a few days in Namaqualand going from farm to farm photographing the wild flowers before we made our first border crossing of the trip into Namibia and the enormously vacant landscapes it offers. This was what I had been longing for. This was where I was hoping to make some magical images! Namibia is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s hard to describe the solitude of these massive, ancient and inhospitable landscapes. It’s as if the earth has a dried up patch on its skin, on which nothing appears to flourish. The moment you cross over the border from South Africa the geology changes dramatically. Our first stop was the Fish River Canyon, which is the second largest canyon in the world (behind Grand Canyon, USA). Photographically it’s difficult to capture the awe of this place. You need to explore it from many different locations and the best times for photography would be in the evenings, so you’d want to give yourself a couple of days to scout a good location and then take your shots. This makes it a bit of a challenge because during the day there’s not much else to photograph in the area, so you end up spending a lot of time doing nothing in camp, which is not exactly thrilling. We got there towards evening on the first day, so we did get some nice sunset images of the canyon. We revisited it the following morning at dawn, but I didn’t find it as interesting as the previous evening (photographically that is). The evening is definitely the better time for canyon photography as the rocks take on wonderful hues in the soft, dusty sunsets. Once again I found myself using the Olympus while the Nikon D700 slept in the big rolling camera bag. Onward into the desert proper we went after the canyon, our next stop being Sossussvlei which is where you find the enormous red sand dunes of the Namib desert, the oldest in the world. This rapidly becomes landscape photography heaven as you have the dunes coming into contact with the Naukluft mountains. We had three days in this amazing landscape. It was winter but it was still unbearably hot during the day, with temperatures easily climbing over the 40C (104F) mark. My objective here was to put my recently acquired LEE Filters Seven5 system to the test in the field. For those of you unfamiliar with this system it’s basically the same as the regular LEE filters drop in filter system except that it’s been made smaller for use on mirrorless cameras like the Olympus OM-D series. To put it as succinctly as possible, I just adore the images I got out of the E-M5 using those ND Grad LEE Filters. They are a must have item for anyone interested in landscape photography. After our time in the dunes came what has to be the most mentally demanding drive I have ever undertaken. Going from Sossussvlei to Swakopmund along the badly corrugated dirt roads was something that drove home just how desolate this place is. Roadworks departments might take years to get these roads re-graded. The actual distance isn’t that far, about 350km (217mi) but because you have to drive so slowly it takes between 5 and 6 hours to get there. If you’re not careful your vehicle might end up shearing a wheel right off its axle. This happens with disturbing regularity on this road. Swakopmund is a sleepy little seaside town seemingly stuck in the early 20th century. Most of the buildings and architecture date from the time when South West Africa (as Namibia used to be known) was a German colony. German is still widely spoken here, in fact together with Afrikaans it’s the most commonly encountered language. Mornings are usually damp and misty as the cool air coming in off the Atlantic mixes with the hot and dry air of the desert often creating thick fog. We were there for three nights and each morning was the same; overcast and moist, gradually clearing towards lunch time. Apparently it’s like this most of the time. Thankfully it was considerably cooler than Sossussvlei (about 16C daytime high)! Photographically it is very interesting and well worth the visit. We spent some time in the town itself, getting the vehicles checked out after the horrendous drive there, plus we also went a little South to Walvis Bay to photograph the large flamingo colonies found there. Typical building found in swakopmund. Note the grey sky. The dunes surrounding Swakopmund are fascinating and were the highlight of our stay in Swakopmund. It’s hard to believe that anything can survive in them yet on a couple of guided tours we were introduced to some of the creatures who do just that. From snakes to spiders and chameleons, they all somehow get by. It was in these harsh desert conditions that I came to realise my days of lugging around a DSLR were almost over. Lying in my hotel room in Swakopmund one night I read online (with unbridled enthusiasm I’ll add) Olympus’ announcement of the E-M1. It addressed all the shortcomings of the E-M5, particularly where auto focus tracking is concerned. But it wasn’t so much that announcement that drove home this realisation, it was watching my guests and safari business partner lying on their bellies in the desert taking photos of a chameleon with their faces mashed against the view finder that truly drove home the sheer inadequacy of the DSLR design for me. In the midst of all the technological advances we have made over the past few years, major companies are still asking camera users to contort their bodies in order to frame a shot using old mechanical interfaces (mirrors and prisms). Moments before I took this shot I had been sitting next to these guests, also shooting the chameleon, but instead of taking the somewhat impractical measures of lying down in the sand, I had merely hunkered down, tilted my LCD upwards and once again used the touch screen of the E-M5 to make a series of super sharp, perfectly exposed images of the reptile zapping a grub at 9 frames a second. I could check the images immediately without the interference of the desert glare using the EVF. That was it. It was all I needed to convince me that the move to mirrorless was the way forward. We spent another 2 weeks in Namibia, moving from Swakopmund to Caprivi. Along the way I found yet another shooting situation where the E-M5 refused to accept the label of “inferior instrument” from its older DSLR cousins. In Damaraland there is a village of Himba people who live their lives according to their tribal traditions. We got to go inside one of the Himba women’s huts where she demonstrated to us how they bathe themselves using smoke. There we all were, 10 of us photographers crammed into this little hut where the only light coming in was via the short front entrance. Nobody else seemed to be taking photographs in the gloom. I was right next to the Himba lady and with the incredible Olympus 75mm f/1.8 ED lens I was able to make some awesome images of her ritual at high ISO. Photography is a wonderful craft and a great pastime. It’s evolved dramatically over the years and it’s continuing to evolve as new technologies are incorporated into camera designs. Since December my mirrorless m43 system has become the only system I use, both professionally and for my personal needs. All the Nikon stuff is gone. I have added an E-M1 body, Olympus 12-40/2.8 PRO, Olympus 45/1.8, Olympus 7-14/4 (4/3rds mount with MMF2), Olympus 50-200/2.8-3.5 (4/3rds) and a couple of Olympus FL-600R flash units. I’m ready for just about anything the world can show me, but the most important change hasn’t been so much about the new gear itself, it’s been about how the new gear has allowed me to rekindle my love for photography. It makes me want to take it everywhere because its so easy to take a bunch of lenses and accessories wherever I go in a small camera bag without any fuss at all. It’s all I have wanted for years. The next big challenge I will put my m43 gear through are the two group photo safaris we’re doing later this year. We’re heading back to Botswana again on the first safari, this time to the Chobe region where big game and birdlife are the primary subjects. I’ll be using the Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 for that one as well as hopefully the new 40-150/2.8 PRO if it is out by then. We’ll stay on a houseboat for 5 days and then also spend some time on land in Chobe before heading to Victoria Falls for some action and more water based adventure photography. That trip is in September and there is still one suite left for a couple sharing if there is interest amongst readers (full information here). Then the following month we head to Sabi Sabi for our annual Ultimate Big 5 Safari, which is to be honest, the best introduction to Africa and it’s wildlife you could ever hope for. You get closer to the Big 5 than you’ll get anywhere else and the photo opportunities are ridiculous. It will certainly be a great test of the long lenses that are available for the E-M1. Maybe we’ll see some of you there too?
  6. I discovered a feature of the software I didn't know existed before and have implemented it in the page footer of all posts where tags are in use. So, for example, having tagged this post with Nikon and Olympus, readers should see shortcut links to several posts with the same tags in the footer. Enjoy!
  7. A couple of people have asked me to make a video about some of the more advanced features of the Olympus Flash system. In this video I take a very quick look at a few of the features I find most useful. If you have any questions about the video, the flash or Olympus in general, please post them in the comments and I will do my best to help you.
  8. Overview On paper this lens is irresistible. It weighs a mere 210g, has a power zoom motor, doesn't change size when zooming (stays under 10cm) and it can focus as close as a metre from the camera. You get an equivalent 35mm field of view that you'd get from a 90-350mm lens with incomparably larger proportions. There's also an optical stabiliser thrown in for good measure. I've made some great photographs with this lens on safari last year, but you need to work with it a bit to find its sweet spots. Let's take a deeper look. Specifications Mount: micro four thirds Focal range: 45-175mm (35mm system equivalent to 90-350mm) Maximum Apertures: f/4 - f/5.6 Minimum Aperture: f/22 Weight: 210g Length: 96mm (some sites show it as 90mm but we measured it at 96mm sans caps & hood) Width: 60mm Minimum focus: 0.9m Features: optical stabiliser, power zoom, nano coating, internal focus Price at review time: US$360 Aesthetics The undeniable strength of this lens is in its physical dimensions. It's about the same size as I remember my Leica 90mm Summicron as being. Maybe a bit fatter. It has a satin black plastic finish on the barrel and you'll find two rings on the body - a rather thick one closer to the mount for zooming and a thinner one at the lens opening for manual focus. The finish is typical of kit lenses these days, and I suppose in the light of the somewhat exquisitely made new m43 lenses from Olympus it's a bit of a let down in the build quality department. The mount is steel and the lens hood is a circular bayonet type made of plastic. Handling I like the way it feels. The power zoom works really well and like the camcorders of old you can control the speed of the zoom based on the amount of pressure you apply to the W-T lever. Zooming by wire with the zoom ring feels OK, but there isn't that same tactile response you get from a traditional zoom lens. Manually focusing this lens will test your patience. Not because it is focus by wire, but because the throw is so long. It takes a good couple of turns to bring a midfield object into focus if you are at either extreme of the focus range. But then the autofocus performance on both my OM-D and GF-1 is blisteringly quick, so that's never going to be a consideration for me. The lens hood reverses onto the body for storage which is most welcome, given Panasonic and Olympus' proclivity to provide square hoods on some other recent m43 lenses. Performance In the Field It doesn't cost all that much and I am pretty sure that a lot of m43 users who are looking to shed the weight of zoom lenses that offer a similar range on bigger cameras (including some of the options on m43) will be very happy with 210g and just under 10cm in their camera bags. Travellers will be thrilled with this option. The trouble with this lens is that it's not as sharp as I am used to seeing on even consumer zoom lenses. That's not to say that it's soft, it isn't, but it just seems to be lacking that bite I've seen on lenses like the Nikon 70-300mm VR. There's also the fact that very shallow depth of field is not a hallmark of the m43 system, so if you're stopping this lens down to f/8 when shooting it at full zoom, you're not going to get the kind of subject / background separation that you may be more accustomed to with (say) faster lenses on the 35mm system. You could work around this by choosing your background a little more carefully, although this is not always something you can do, depending on the shooting situation. I got this lioness one morning on safari last year and luckily she was lying on top of an earth mound with a clear background. In some of the other examples here I wasn't as lucky and you can see how the depth of field tends to prevent you from getting that desirable separation. So, if you are looking to get shallower d.o.f. you really shouldn't consider this lens as an option. My feeling is that Panasonic didn't produce it so much for use in stills as they did for use in video. Not being a video person I am not really in a position to offer much comment on its usefulness there. That being said, I still think you are going to have a very hard time ignoring the usefulness of such a small form factor in a telephoto zoom lens. It's what sold me on it. Optically You can see through it and it can focus on objects both close and far. There's nothing optically wrong with it that can't be fixed in post production. See, I told you we don't do science on fotozones.com when it comes to reviews. We do reality. And pictures. Observations If you are using this lens on an Olympus OM-D you're going to have to switch off the IBIS system because the lens does not have a switch that allows you to turn its own OS off. I don't know why Panasonic would have omitted this from this lens since they have such a switch on just about every other OIS lens they make. I recall also that I had to update the firmware in the GF-1 to deal with this because previously there was no way to switch it off with that body. Now you have to go into the menu system to turn it off. While it is said that you shouldn't run both the IBIS and an optical stabilisation system at the same time, I have done this in the past and can't report any noticeable problems. Conclusion I think that if you analyse your needs for a telephoto with your mirrorless system you're going to want to satisfy one of two basic needs: the need to magnify your subjects and obtain decent image quality, or the need to isolate your subject and obtain decent image quality. Unfortunately this lens can't do the latter that well, but it does the former fairly well. As a travel lens it is a very good option when combined with a shorter kit lens like the Panasonic or Olympus 14-42mm. You'll get decent image quality and a light bag, the value of which when travelling great distances cannot really be over-emphasized. I'm not going to haul it out to do portraits or anything serious, but I am going to keep it in my m43 kit bag for those times when all I want is a candid snapshot of something off in the distance. I give it 3/5 stars.
  9. Overview On paper this lens is irresistible. It weighs a mere 210g, has a power zoom motor, doesn't change size when zooming (stays under 10cm) and it can focus as close as a metre from the camera. You get an equivalent 35mm field of view that you'd get from a 90-350mm lens with incomparably larger proportions. There's also an optical stabiliser thrown in for good measure. I've made some great photographs with this lens on safari last year, but you need to work with it a bit to find its sweet spots. Let's take a deeper look. Specifications Mount: micro four thirds Focal range: 45-175mm (35mm system equivalent to 90-350mm) Maximum Apertures: f/4 - f/5.6 Minimum Aperture: f/22 Weight: 210g Length: 96mm (some sites show it as 90mm but we measured it at 96mm sans caps & hood) Width: 60mm Minimum focus: 0.9m Features: optical stabiliser, power zoom, nano coating, internal focus Price at review time: US$360 Aesthetics The undeniable strength of this lens is in its physical dimensions. It's about the same size as I remember my Leica 90mm Summicron as being. Maybe a bit fatter. It has a satin black plastic finish on the barrel and you'll find two rings on the body - a rather thick one closer to the mount for zooming and a thinner one at the lens opening for manual focus. The finish is typical of kit lenses these days, and I suppose in the light of the somewhat exquisitely made new m43 lenses from Olympus it's a bit of a let down in the build quality department. The mount is steel and the lens hood is a circular bayonet type made of plastic. Handling I like the way it feels. The power zoom works really well and like the camcorders of old you can control the speed of the zoom based on the amount of pressure you apply to the W-T lever. Zooming by wire with the zoom ring feels OK, but there isn't that same tactile response you get from a traditional zoom lens. Manually focusing this lens will test your patience. Not because it is focus by wire, but because the throw is so long. It takes a good couple of turns to bring a midfield object into focus if you are at either extreme of the focus range. But then the autofocus performance on both my OM-D and GF-1 is blisteringly quick, so that's never going to be a consideration for me. The lens hood reverses onto the body for storage which is most welcome, given Panasonic and Olympus' proclivity to provide square hoods on some other recent m43 lenses. Performance In the Field It doesn't cost all that much and I am pretty sure that a lot of m43 users who are looking to shed the weight of zoom lenses that offer a similar range on bigger cameras (including some of the options on m43) will be very happy with 210g and just under 10cm in their camera bags. Travellers will be thrilled with this option. The trouble with this lens is that it's not as sharp as I am used to seeing on even consumer zoom lenses. That's not to say that it's soft, it isn't, but it just seems to be lacking that bite I've seen on lenses like the Nikon 70-300mm VR. There's also the fact that very shallow depth of field is not a hallmark of the m43 system, so if you're stopping this lens down to f/8 when shooting it at full zoom, you're not going to get the kind of subject / background separation that you may be more accustomed to with (say) faster lenses on the 35mm system. You could work around this by choosing your background a little more carefully, although this is not always something you can do, depending on the shooting situation. I got this lioness one morning on safari last year and luckily she was lying on top of an earth mound with a clear background. In some of the other examples here I wasn't as lucky and you can see how the depth of field tends to prevent you from getting that desirable separation. So, if you are looking to get shallower d.o.f. you really shouldn't consider this lens as an option. My feeling is that Panasonic didn't produce it so much for use in stills as they did for use in video. Not being a video person I am not really in a position to offer much comment on its usefulness there. That being said, I still think you are going to have a very hard time ignoring the usefulness of such a small form factor in a telephoto zoom lens. It's what sold me on it. Optically You can see through it and it can focus on objects both close and far. There's nothing optically wrong with it that can't be fixed in post production. See, I told you we don't do science on fotozones.com when it comes to reviews. We do reality. And pictures. Observations If you are using this lens on an Olympus OM-D you're going to have to switch off the IBIS system because the lens does not have a switch that allows you to turn its own OS off. I don't know why Panasonic would have omitted this from this lens since they have such a switch on just about every other OIS lens they make. I recall also that I had to update the firmware in the GF-1 to deal with this because previously there was no way to switch it off with that body. Now you have to go into the menu system to turn it off. While it is said that you shouldn't run both the IBIS and an optical stabilisation system at the same time, I have done this in the past and can't report any noticeable problems. Conclusion I think that if you analyse your needs for a telephoto with your mirrorless system you're going to want to satisfy one of two basic needs: the need to magnify your subjects and obtain decent image quality, or the need to isolate your subject and obtain decent image quality. Unfortunately this lens can't do the latter that well, but it does the former fairly well. As a travel lens it is a very good option when combined with a shorter kit lens like the Panasonic or Olympus 14-42mm. You'll get decent image quality and a light bag, the value of which when travelling great distances cannot really be over-emphasized. I'm not going to haul it out to do portraits or anything serious, but I am going to keep it in my m43 kit bag for those times when all I want is a candid snapshot of something off in the distance. I give it 3/5 stars. View full article
  10. One of the coolest things about mirrorless cameras is that with an adapter you can mount and use just about any lens from other camera systems on a mirrorless body. Every m43 camera I have tried doing this on, going back to the original digital PEN models, also does a very good job of calculating exposure in A mode without even knowing what aperture you have set on the lens. This makes using non-native lenses on an m43 camera even easier. Of course you can also use the live histogram and highlight/shadow clipping warnings in other modes to get your exposure right if you prefer shooting that way. Before I made my move to m43 from Nikon I purchased a really cheap F mount adapter for G lenses from eBay so that I could mount my Nikon lenses on the Olympus E-M5. It cost me about $10 including shipping to me in South Africa which is extraordinarily cheap. At that point I only had the E-M5 body, so I didn’t have the benefit of the E-M1’s focus peaking feature when it came to focusing some of the F mount lenses I tried on the Olympus. I had to focus using the magnification method, which admittedly wasn’t ideal as it involved a few steps that weren’t always in the forefront of my mind. However, even with this somewhat hit-and-miss approach, I was quite impressed with the way some of the lenses I tried performed on the E-M5. The Sigma 120-300/2.8 OS was seemingly even sharper on the Olympus than it was on the Nikon D700. When using a Sigma 2x teleconverter coupled with that lens on the E-M5 I was able to get an effective angle of view similar to that of a 1200mm f/5.6 lens on a 135 camera. Paparazzi manna no doubt, except that the tripod support I was using for this get-up was not all that good, leaving me with no option but to use the self timer to get a sharp image. With such a small angle of view every tiny vibration felt by the camera is magnified to the point where locating anything in the EVF steady enough to focus on is a real challenge. I’d pretty much given up on the idea of using adapted lenses on my OM-D’s but the other day I was cleaning out some of the drawers in my office and I came across a clutch of Canon FD lenses that have somehow survived getting the dreaded fungus that plagues lenses in the humid climate here where I live. Included in this small collection are a Canon 19mm f/3.5, Canon 28mm f/2.8, Canon 50mm f/1.8, Canon 35-70mm f/4-5.6 zoom and a Vivitar 200mm f/3.5. I thought they might be worth trying on the E-M1. Nikon adapter (left) and Canon FD adapter (right) The short (14cm), all metal body Vivitar 200/3.5 is one lens in particular that I hoped might shine on m43 and prove to be somewhat useful given it’s small size and 400mm equivalent angle of view. With that kind of narrow view and relatively fast aperture I became curious enough to send another $10 to China for an FD adapter which arrived this past Friday. Since then I’ve been having some fun with these old FD lenses. The other lens I was curious about that I never got to try out in my film days is the Canon FD 19mm f/3.5. The reason I never got to use this guy is because it only mounts on FD bodies with mirror lock-up functions. For a short while I did have a Canon F-1 that had this feature, but for some reason I never ran a film through that hefty body. In the course of my love affair with Leica M bodies I eventually sold the F-1 but kept the 19mm. This lens has an extreme design - its rear element is so close to the film plane that even with the m43 adapter a portion of it still protrudes beyond the inner throat of the adapter which makes mounting it on some m43 cameras impossible as there is not enough clearance around the sensor for the rear element to fit. Fortunately the E-M1 seems to have more room in that area than the E-M5 does and after a few nervous moments during mounting it where I thought I might destroy the E-M1’s sensor by mashing it against the back of the lens, it all clicked neatly into position and nothing broke. The 19mm view would be quite wide on a 135 camera, but it offers more of a normal view (38mm) on the m43 sensor. After all those years of waiting to try it out the image quality is nothing special, in fact it’s quite disappointing, sort of soft all around, very prone to flare and largely of devoid of the contrast we’ve come to expect from modern lenses. Lens design has certainly come a long way since this chap was a desirable item for Canon shooters back in the day. I do think one area that it might prove useful in is for video use. It offers up a lot of depth of field, so if you are shooting a general scene you can set the aperture to around f/8 and everything from 1.5m to infinity is in focus (an advantage of having hyperfocal distance markings on the lens is that you can simply move the infinity symbol to the aperture you’re using and the opposite side of the scale shows where your nearest point of focus will be for that aperture). Just as well because trying to focus it manually involves some finger gymnastics as its focusing ring is wafer thin and there are only two very small ribbed sections to grip it with. Oh well, at least I know now what it’s like. I don’t think I’ll be using it all that often. L-R: Vivitar 200/3.5, Canon 28/2.8, Canon 50/1.8 and on the E-M1 the Canon 19/3.5 (note the thin focus ring) The other lens I was keen to try is the Vivitar 200mm f/3.5. Back in the heydays of manual focus lenses Vivitar weren’t exactly known for being stellar optics, but they did have their Series 1 lenses which were quite well regarded. While being exceptionally well built, my 200mm isn’t a Series 1 lens and the optics show that. It starts getting fairly sharp at around f/8, but as with the 19mm there’s this lacklustre contrast performance to deal with. Definitely not the kick-ass, small lens I had hoped might come in handy for shooting wildlife on safari. Unsurprisingly the two better FD lenses I have are the small and light Canon 28mm f/2.8 and 50mm f/1.8 optics. Stopped down to f/4 these lenses both offer exceptional sharpness on the E-M1 and they also do pretty well in the contrast department. The Canon 50mm f/1.8 FD can be picked up for as little as $20 on eBay and when used on the m43 sensor it makes for a terrific portrait lens. The 28mm I am very impressed with as far as sharpness goes! Above and below images taken with the Vivitar 200/3.5 stopped down to about f/8 - you can see colour fringing on the royal ibis in the background below Above: the Canon 28mm f/2.8 turned out to be a good lens on the E-M1 Above: Canon 50/1.8 FD is pretty sharp and makes for a good portrait lens on micro four thirds Recently I came across this company, Fotodiox, who have developed an m43 speed booster adapter for Canon FD and Nikon G lenses named the Excell+1. According to the literature these adapters will not only provide you with an additional stop of light, but will also shorten the FD lens focal length so that they are closer to the original by a factor of 0.72x. So when you’re using the adapter on an m43 body together with a 50mm lens instead of getting the view of a 100mm lens, you’re getting a 70mm view because the built-in optics of the adapter reduces the actual focal length of a 50mm lens to 36mm. Would be cool to pick up a Canon 85mm f/1.2 and use it with one of these adapters. You’d get an aperture of f/0.something! However, those lenses still command high prices on the used market (I saw a couple going for close to $1k on eBay), so you’d probably be better off just getting the Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 native mount lenses for m43. Even so, I’d still like to try this speedbooster out on the Canon 28mm f/2.8. It would give me a very fast 41mm field of view. An interesting product for sure. At the end of the day using lenses like this on my OM-D is more about having relaxed fun than serious photography. There’s something inherently cool about putting old lenses to use again. It also slows you down some and forces you to think a bit more than usual when making a shot. I will definitely do more excursions where I only use the FD lenses. I may also just add a few more eBay bargains in the future too.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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. View full article
  14. I had some nice cloudy bright sky after a light rain fall, so I decided I might attempt to get some flower photos using the in camera, focus stacking ability of the latest Olympus cameras. Red always gives me problems, so I decided I would tackle it first. This are all five-shot, hand-held focus stacks with some work in Lightroom, F5.0 at 1:50 sec
  15. Dallas inspired me to show some of what can be done with a mirrorless camera and aviation photography. I have been taking aviation photos for years with my Micro 4/3 cameras, but getting the fast-moving jets and sufficient prop-blur on the propeller-driven aircraft has been a real challenge. With the recent advances and firmware updates on the Olympus E-M1, I was finally able to capture what I think are worthwhile photos, at least for me. All of these shots were taken with the E-M1 "classic" in 2015 and 2016. Airshow season for 2017 is just starting, and I am anxious to see what I can do with my E-M1 mkII. This is an F-16 "Viper" making a hard break immediately after take off, E-M1 with Olympus 300mm f4.0
  16. Regular readers will know that I have been using the new Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO on various assignments (on loan periodically) since it came out. It’s a wonderful lens so I thought I would take it with me on our recent safari adventures to the Chobe National Park for the Wild Waterways Safari and Sabi Sabi for the Ultimate Big 5 Safari. Last year I used my Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 on both those trips and it was a really good lens for me in many situations. It’s bright, fairly compact and while it looks really ugly with its protruding front, it certainly delivers the goods on the image front, which is where it counts. When you compare it to the 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO it most definitely doesn’t quite look as svelte but it’s still a very good lens. Because my Olympus kit is all so lightweight I considered taking both the 50-200mm and 40-150mm (with the 1.4x TC) with me on safari, but it would have meant leaving behind a few other smaller lenses which I like to use for general purpose shots, mainly because I wouldn’t have had space in my ThinkTank Retrospective 50. Just on that bag choice, I was planning on using the new MindShiftGear Firstlight 30L backpack, but it’s just a tad too big to look inconspicuous as carry-on luggage, so I went for the Retro 50 (which I have just realised I still have to review officially!) because it swallows up just about all my gear and my laptop and I find that messenger bags are so much more practical than backpacks for use in vehicles and boats. Anyway, I digress… The 40-150mm with the 1.4x TC gives it a slightly longer focal length (210mm) than the 50-200mm. In the 135 (35mm) system you’d need to use 100-400mm lens to obtain a similar viewing angle. The older Olympus lens has the advantage of being faster in terms of aperture when its zoomed in to the max (f/3.5 vs f/4), plus if you zoom out again you get f/2.8 at 50mm whereas if you’re using the 1.4x TC on the 40-150mm you’re at f/4 constantly, regardless of zoom position. The other big difference between the two lenses is that the new lens uses all the AF-points available on the E-M1 and makes use of both the CDAF and PDAF systems too. Plus you get the full 10 frames a second burst when needed. The older lens only uses PDAF with limited points and you are limited to 6 FPS. So in the end the 50-200mm stayed behind and the new kid on the block came with me. Prior to this trip I had used the 40-150mm in a number of situations where it excelled, specifically at my niece’s wedding in April and then at a rock concert my son was involved in a short while after. So I kind of knew what to expect. However, I hadn’t ever used the lens properly on safari and I hadn’t used it with the 1.4x TC either, so I was going in blind, so to speak. My first outing with the combo was on the Chobe river where shortly after setting off in the photography boat we came across a leopard sighting. Now this is extremely rare! Sure, we get leopards aplenty on the Ultimate Big 5 safari, but the Wild Waterways trip is more about birds, elephants and other bigger mammals who hang out near the water. We weren’t expecting to see a leopard. I made a couple of mistakes with this sighting that resulted in poor images. Firstly, I should have used the Gimbal attached to my swivel seat, because even though the 40-150mm is lightweight and the focal length isn’t that long, hand-holding on a boat that is bobbing up and down in the excitement with lots of water movement being created by other boats full of excited people can totally confuse the IBIS. Not only is it trying to compensate for my movement, it has the boats movement to deal with too and the resulting stabilisation is erratic at best. Secondly, I should have used faster shutter speeds. I almost always shoot in Aperture Priority mode, allowing the Auto ISO to float between 200 and 6400 on the E-M1. This is fine in most instances, but on a moving boat, shooting handheld, I really should have opted to pick a faster shutter speed than the focal length reciprocal the E-M1 is always going to aim for. The actual focal length of this combo is 210mm, so the camera in A mode is always going to settle on speeds around the 1/200 or 1/250 mark when light levels require it to begin upping the ISO. That speed should be much faster, because the angle of view is similar to what a 135 system sees at double the focal length. So it should have been at least 1/500 or faster. The net result is that I took close to 500 frames of blurry leopard images. Yes, I did get some acceptable images when he was not moving much, but all things considered, I found myself too excited to even think about things like this. I should know better since this isn’t the first time I have been on safari, nor was it the first time I had seen a leopard. Anyway… lesson learned. Next time I go on safari I will be sure to use S mode and I won’t let my speed be any less than 1/1000. However, having said that, I did find that the degradation of image quality from the 1.4x TC was pretty significant and after that first boat ride I took it off and didn’t put it back on for the remainder of the safari, except to remind myself that I wasn’t missing out on anything. This did leave me pretty short on a lot of the sightings, but I did have my 75-300mm lens with me. Not exactly a match for the 40-150mm IQ wise, but in good light it was OK. After a few more boat rides I began to settle down with the 40-150mm. I also adopted the rear AF activation method that most wildlife photographers use and while it took a bit of getting used to, I definitely believe that my hit rate increased as a result. Before long it was off to Sabi Sabi for Ultimate Big 5, which has proven year after year to be the best wildlife safari experience for us. We didn't think we could top off last year’s trips as far as sightings went, but boy, oh boy, did we! You can see more of my shots on our Photographers.travel Flickr page. I got loads of great shots on these 2 safaris, but I do think that I got better images on last year’s trips when I was using the 50-200mm lens. Why? I have thought about this and come to the conclusion that the 40-150mm PRO, while it is an awesome lens, is only really suited for near field subjects, which makes it less than desirable as a wildlife lens. Anything more than 25m away seemes to have less “pop”. Don’t get me wrong, I am still salivating after this lens for general use, but on future safaris I would definitely choose the 50-200mm over it. I do think that the 300mm f/4 PRO will be the business for safaris though and I reckon that if Olympus were to make a 200mm f/2.8 PRO (or maybe even an f/2.0 version?) they would have my order in no time.
  17. Impressions: Olympus PEN-F

    Yes, I know...call me what you will...hypocrite, lucky, stupid, smart....whatever....I have an Olympus PEN-F in my possession. Long story short, some gear trades ended me here. Got a call yesterday from my local camera shop. PEN-F was in. Silver model. Made my way down to the store today on my lunch hour. Most of the guys that I talked to that handled the demo were impressed with it. They are mostly Sony and Fuji users in the mirrorless sector, but found the PEN-F intriguing. I've only had the thing in my hands for the last 30 minutes, so I'll just address what I can for now and get into more details later. Front Dial: I've heard from others on the internet that the front dial is sharp and cut into their hands. I'm a big guy with large hands and my fingers do not even come close to the front dial. Like the Nikon Df, the PEN-F needs to be held with a slightly different grip. I'm not going to hold it like an EM1 or a D700. Yes, the edges of the front dial have some bite to them, but nothing I would consider "sharp". However, that is a subjective matter and each person should decide that for themselves with a hands on. Grip (or lack there of): The thumb indent on the back seems adequate for me. The front is of a grippy like material. I had no issues holding the camera one handed. It will most likely be an issue with the larger lenses like the PRO lenses or the 75-300/4.8-6.7 II. My primary intention of using this camera is going to be with primes, so I don't consider that much of an issue. "Rangefinder-esque" Styling: I've never been one to prefer an "OVF hump" or side set EVF. I just require there to BE an EVF. For those that like built in EVF, this one does not disappoint. LCD Rear Screen AF Point Selection: One of the things that I envied of some of the Panasonic bodies was having the EVF be used as a way to select the AF point while looking through the EVF. We have that now and it makes for quick selection. After getting used to it, I can see where this would be great for quick changes while doing street photography. That's about all I had time to get to at the moment, and did not have a lens in which to test it outside the camera store. Aesthetically it is pleasing and I look forward to getting to know it better. More updates to this thread as I am able. I've got a 4 day sunrise to sunset event to shoot starting tomorrow, so it could be a few days before I have anything to report.
  18. Yes, I know...call me what you will...hypocrite, lucky, stupid, smart....whatever....I have an Olympus PEN-F in my possession. Long story short, some gear trades ended me here. Got a call yesterday from my local camera shop. PEN-F was in. Silver model. Made my way down to the store today on my lunch hour. Most of the guys that I talked to that handled the demo were impressed with it. They are mostly Sony and Fuji users in the mirrorless sector, but found the PEN-F intriguing. I've only had the thing in my hands for the last 30 minutes, so I'll just address what I can for now and get into more details later. Front Dial: I've heard from others on the internet that the front dial is sharp and cut into their hands. I'm a big guy with large hands and my fingers do not even come close to the front dial. Like the Nikon Df, the PEN-F needs to be held with a slightly different grip. I'm not going to hold it like an EM1 or a D700. Yes, the edges of the front dial have some bite to them, but nothing I would consider "sharp". However, that is a subjective matter and each person should decide that for themselves with a hands on. Grip (or lack there of): The thumb indent on the back seems adequate for me. The front is of a grippy like material. I had no issues holding the camera one handed. It will most likely be an issue with the larger lenses like the PRO lenses or the 75-300/4.8-6.7 II. My primary intention of using this camera is going to be with primes, so I don't consider that much of an issue. "Rangefinder-esque" Styling: I've never been one to prefer an "OVF hump" or side set EVF. I just require there to BE an EVF. For those that like built in EVF, this one does not disappoint. LCD Rear Screen AF Point Selection: One of the things that I envied of some of the Panasonic bodies was having the EVF be used as a way to select the AF point while looking through the EVF. We have that now and it makes for quick selection. After getting used to it, I can see where this would be great for quick changes while doing street photography. That's about all I had time to get to at the moment, and did not have a lens in which to test it outside the camera store. Aesthetically it is pleasing and I look forward to getting to know it better. More updates to this thread as I am able. I've got a 4 day sunrise to sunset event to shoot starting tomorrow, so it could be a few days before I have anything to report. View full article
  19. From Ohayocon 2017. Just a few Portraits to storage your appetite for now. Olympus OMD EM 1.2 Olympus 40-150/2.8 PRO Ambient light only, no flash
  20. 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.
  21. Regular readers will know that I have been a mirrorless convert since late 2013, which is when I got my Olympus E-M1. That camera has now been on 6 safaris with me in the past couple of years, including a foot slog through the iMfolozi game reserve last year. Apart from an issue with the rear command dial not making proper contact (apparently caused by dust) it has been 100% reliable. In a few weeks time it will come with me back to Sabi Sabi for yet another safari. The Mk II version is expected sometime this year but to be honest, it will take something truly extra-ordinary to come out for me to consider upgrading. I’m not that keen on more mega-pixels and I have found the auto focus system to be quite suitable for my needs. Improvements in the menu interface would be welcome though. I suppose the EVF technology is also improved quite a bit these days, although while what’s in the E-M1 now is perfectly fine for me, I do recall that the jump from the original E-M5 to the E-M1 in terms of EVF was significant. So, camera sorted, what lenses have been the best performers for me on safari? Over the past couple of years I have used a variety of different telephoto lenses on safari. When I was first getting into the m43 system I had the Panasonic 45-175mm X series lens (90-350mm F35 angle equiv) which did well in good light. It’s probably the one m43 lens I most regret selling, especially since the lens I gave it up for, the Olympus 75-300mm really failed to impress me. The Panasonic is very small, has a motorised zoom and while it’s got decent sharpness in its focal range, it’s best feature for me is the fact that it doesn’t change length when zooming. For a lens that is less than 10cm long, it makes a very worthy travel option. However, on safari you might find yourself wanting more range on the long side. Image taken with Panasonic 45-175mm and Olympus E-M5 The Olympus 75-300mm that I mentioned certainly does give you the extra zoom range (150-600mm F35 eq) and could be considered good enough in terms of sharpness, but that slow aperture of f/6.7 at the long end just proved to be too slow, especially when light levels drop. Also, one has to understand that with such a narrow angle of view (4.1˚) you really do need good stability to get sharp photos. Even with the IBIS I often battled to hold this lens steady enough when used at 300mm. I don’t have a single photo shot with this lens that I am totally happy with. At the time I got it though it was the only game in town for m43, unless you were fortunate enough to have some legacy 4/3 telephoto glass in your back pocket, like Olympus’ 90-250/2.8 and their 300/2.8. Image with Olympus 75-300mm on Olympus E-M1 In 2014 I did manage to obtain an Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD lens which I used on both the Wild Waterways and Ultimate Big 5 safaris that year. I was very happy with the reach and the image quality from that lens. The equivalent Nikon/Canon option is the 80-400/100-400mm lenses, but those are slower by 1.5 stops when compared to the humble Olympus (which I should add is still obtainable new for around $1200). In my old Canon days I had the original 100-400mm lens and hated it immensely. I believe the new one is much, much better, as is the new Nikon 80-400mm. Those lenses are much more expensive than the Olympus. The Olympus 50-200mm didn’t come with me on safari in 2015. Instead I opted to use the Olympus 40-150/2.8 PRO with the 1.4x TC. This was a mistake. The 40-150 is very good for subjects that are close to you (like within 30m or so), but as soon as those subjects get a bit further away I found that the lens performance dropped off. The images just seemed to lose their pop for me and subjects weren’t well defined at all. Also, the bokeh of this lens is a bit nervous in my opinion whereas the 50-200mm has beautiful bokeh and is also quite good on distant subjects. This will be my main lens for safari again this year. Here are some images with that old Olympus. Not hard to see why I like it so much. New lenses I would like to try on safari include the new Olympus 300/4.0 PRO and the Panasonic 100-400mm. The Olympus continues to get rave reviews from users, but I fear that it will be simply too long to use at a place like Sabi Sabi where we get very close to our subjects. If I was interested in birds then that would be a different story. The Panasonic remains an unknown entity for safaris so hopefully soon I might be able to get one for evaluation. It certainly does have a good range for that use. Bag wise I am considering taking only my little ThinkTank Retrospective 7 this year. I have the much bigger Retro 50 which can take my laptop, but once I am there I don't want to carry such a big bag around on the vehicle so I will probably take the Retro 7 with the 2 E-M1 bodies, the 50-200/2.8-3.5 on one body with a grip and my other body with the 12-40/2.8 PRO for general purpose snapshots. If I get a demo lens from either Panasonic or Olympus to try out then I will have to take the bigger bag. One thing is for sure, I am really looking forward to being on safari again!
  22. Regular readers will know that I have been a mirrorless convert since late 2013, which is when I got my Olympus E-M1. That camera has now been on 6 safaris with me in the past couple of years, including a foot slog through the iMfolozi game reserve last year. Apart from an issue with the rear command dial not making proper contact (apparently caused by dust) it has been 100% reliable. In a few weeks time it will come with me back to Sabi Sabi for yet another safari. The Mk II version is expected sometime this year but to be honest, it will take something truly extra-ordinary to come out for me to consider upgrading. I’m not that keen on more mega-pixels and I have found the auto focus system to be quite suitable for my needs. Improvements in the menu interface would be welcome though. I suppose the EVF technology is also improved quite a bit these days, although while what’s in the E-M1 now is perfectly fine for me, I do recall that the jump from the original E-M5 to the E-M1 in terms of EVF was significant. So, camera sorted, what lenses have been the best performers for me on safari? Over the past couple of years I have used a variety of different telephoto lenses on safari. When I was first getting into the m43 system I had the Panasonic 45-175mm X series lens (90-350mm F35 angle equiv) which did well in good light. It’s probably the one m43 lens I most regret selling, especially since the lens I gave it up for, the Olympus 75-300mm really failed to impress me. The Panasonic is very small, has a motorised zoom and while it’s got decent sharpness in its focal range, it’s best feature for me is the fact that it doesn’t change length when zooming. For a lens that is less than 10cm long, it makes a very worthy travel option. However, on safari you might find yourself wanting more range on the long side. Image taken with Panasonic 45-175mm and Olympus E-M5 The Olympus 75-300mm that I mentioned certainly does give you the extra zoom range (150-600mm F35 eq) and could be considered good enough in terms of sharpness, but that slow aperture of f/6.7 at the long end just proved to be too slow, especially when light levels drop. Also, one has to understand that with such a narrow angle of view (4.1˚) you really do need good stability to get sharp photos. Even with the IBIS I often battled to hold this lens steady enough when used at 300mm. I don’t have a single photo shot with this lens that I am totally happy with. At the time I got it though it was the only game in town for m43, unless you were fortunate enough to have some legacy 4/3 telephoto glass in your back pocket, like Olympus’ 90-250/2.8 and their 300/2.8. Image with Olympus 75-300mm on Olympus E-M1 In 2014 I did manage to obtain an Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD lens which I used on both the Wild Waterways and Ultimate Big 5 safaris that year. I was very happy with the reach and the image quality from that lens. The equivalent Nikon/Canon option is the 80-400/100-400mm lenses, but those are slower by 1.5 stops when compared to the humble Olympus (which I should add is still obtainable new for around $1200). In my old Canon days I had the original 100-400mm lens and hated it immensely. I believe the new one is much, much better, as is the new Nikon 80-400mm. Those lenses are much more expensive than the Olympus. The Olympus 50-200mm didn’t come with me on safari in 2015. Instead I opted to use the Olympus 40-150/2.8 PRO with the 1.4x TC. This was a mistake. The 40-150 is very good for subjects that are close to you (like within 30m or so), but as soon as those subjects get a bit further away I found that the lens performance dropped off. The images just seemed to lose their pop for me and subjects weren’t well defined at all. Also, the bokeh of this lens is a bit nervous in my opinion whereas the 50-200mm has beautiful bokeh and is also quite good on distant subjects. This will be my main lens for safari again this year. Here are some images with that old Olympus. Not hard to see why I like it so much. New lenses I would like to try on safari include the new Olympus 300/4.0 PRO and the Panasonic 100-400mm. The Olympus continues to get rave reviews from users, but I fear that it will be simply too long to use at a place like Sabi Sabi where we get very close to our subjects. If I was interested in birds then that would be a different story. The Panasonic remains an unknown entity for safaris so hopefully soon I might be able to get one for evaluation. It certainly does have a good range for that use. Bag wise I am considering taking only my little ThinkTank Retrospective 7 this year. I have the much bigger Retro 50 which can take my laptop, but once I am there I don't want to carry such a big bag around on the vehicle so I will probably take the Retro 7 with the 2 E-M1 bodies, the 50-200/2.8-3.5 on one body with a grip and my other body with the 12-40/2.8 PRO for general purpose snapshots. If I get a demo lens from either Panasonic or Olympus to try out then I will have to take the bigger bag. One thing is for sure, I am really looking forward to being on safari again! View full article
  23. I have a spare micro 4/3 body that no longer sees service, a Panasonic GX-7. I was looking at having it converted to an IR camera by https://www.lifepixel.com/ Does anyone else have any experience with a converted Micro 4/3 body and lenses shooting IR? Which conversion do you go with, the standard IR? My goal is to have some fun and explore an area of photography I have never tried before, and the redundant body with little resale value seemed like a good choice to try?
  24. Assignment: Good Hair Day

    Yesterday I had a somewhat gruelling 7 hour shoot covering the launch of a new hair curling iron from GHD. There were two sessions each lasting about 2 hours, but there was setup and in between downtime that made up the other hours. This was probably one of the most difficult shoots I have had to do because the venue was an old warehouse that has masses of windows on both sides, which made for serious metering trickery. Now this is where the EVF of the mirrorless camera came in extremely handy. If I had been shooting this on a DSLR I would have been having to shoot and adjust, shoot and adjust. But with the EVF I adjust and shoot, adjust and shoot. There is a big difference in the outcome by reversing those tasks which makes for much easier shooting flow since you know what you're going to get before you get it. Anyway, I used 2 Olympus E-M1 bodies and 1 Olympus PEN E-PM2 body. For the morning session I had the Olympus 12-40mm on one body and the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 on the other and the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye on the PEN. Then, in the afternoon I sporadically swapped out the 12-40mm with the Sigma 19mm, but I also opted to use the older Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 on the other E-M1. OMG. That lens. I had planned on selling it, but after this shoot, which is the first time I have used it professionally, I think I will hold onto it. Honestly, the size is ridiculous, but the results are worth the weight. While I wait for fortune to smile on me so that I can get the 40-150/2.8 PRO this lens may prove to be a long term workhorse. Perfect for this kind of job. So, some photos... Some things I learned on this shoot: 1. I think I am going to switch to S mode instead of A mode. I have noticed that my cameras when in A mode will always select a shutter speed that matches the focal length. This is fine for 135 system lenses, but I am finding that even with the IBIS in the Olympus cameras, it is better to use a faster shutter speed when using telephotos. For example, when using the 35-100mm the camera will settle on a shutter speed of around 1/125. I usually have auto ISO on so it opts for the slowest shutter speed at the slowest ISO which is not always ideal. If I fix the shutter speed when using a telephoto like the 35-100 to something like 1/400 and I give myself a decent range of auto ISO (on the E-M1 I am happy to float up to 12800 for personal work, but for client work I stop at 3200) the camera will always opt for the largest aperture first before it boosts the ISO. Widest aperture is where I am always shooting with Olympus lenses so that will work fine for me. 2. Instagram is the magic juice for professional photographers these days. I have had Instagram on my phone but never knew what to do with it. I've had many photographers tell me that they are getting more and more work via Instagram. I couldn't understand why this is because you can't upload pics to Instagram from your computer, you have to use your phone. But then I discovered that it is actually possible to share your photos to Instagram from your Flickr app on your phone. So I upload to Flickr from Lightroom, share to Instagram and tag the shots I am sharing. The power of this social media tool is apparent in how hashtags are used. If you use a relevant tag to the event you are shooting anybody on Instagram can see it and they can share it on a number of other social media platforms. This is huge because the people sharing your images don't necessarily need to be friends with you. I imported a shot or two while I was in-between sessions and tagged them with #ghdplatinumsa. Suddenly I am getting people from all over the show following me and liking my images. Now my audience is larger and the potential to reach more customers is larger because everyone seems to be using Instagram. I'll post more about Instagram in another article, but for now I am re-directing my social media efforts in this direction because a decade of being on Facebook has gotten me absolutely nowhere business wise.
  25. 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.