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Found 45 results

  1. A few weeks back I wrote a short piece about how I was having a serious bout of GAS after discovering a new Panasonic Leica 8-18mm lens sitting in a local electronics store. At the time I managed to resist the overwhelming urge to purchase the lens because they didn’t have pricing for it. And I also didn’t really have the kind of money lying around that I could justify such a purchase with. It’s not a cheap lens. So it stayed in the store. It turns out that the lens was a demo unit on consignment to the retailer from Panasonic South Africa and not a stock item (Panasonic stuff is like hen’s teeth here in SA). I wrote to the local agents and asked if I could borrow it for a couple of weeks to write a review. They agreed and the result is this review. Who's It For? Where can I begin? If you are interested in this lens I am sure that you have already gone through all the typical reviews that you will find from the usual suspects on the internet. You know, the guys who’s job it is to review lenses and tell you all about the specs, how sharp it is, what they think is wrong with it, even though hardly any of them have ever worked a day in their lives as actual photographers using these tools. Then, at the end of the review they ask you to buy the lens using their links so that they can get commission on the sale. That’s their job, I guess, but I’m not one of them. I’m reviewing this lens based on what it can do for my photography business. Nothing else. If it’s rubbish I will say it’s rubbish. If I bought it myself then you’ll know it’s worth having. Those of you who follow me here on Fotozones will know that I work full time as a professional photographer doing various types of work and over the past 5 months that work has included a lot of real estate photography. This is a genre of work that I really enjoy. I have been using an Olympus E-M1 body and Olympus 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 lens. My methods for shooting RE are a little different to your typical RE photographer in that I don’t use flash and I simply refuse to work in the abortion of logic that is called Photoshop. Everything I do is processed in Lightroom using a 3 frame HDR bracket, a bunch of presets and an eyes-on visual inspection of each shot I present to my client. The only batch work I do comes at export time. My images are used on the internet and not for print. Yes, I could spend a lot more time getting a better result by following the methods of those who use multiple ambient and flash exposures and then spend an inordinate amount of time in Photoshop painting in masks and a myriad of other tricky things. But if I followed that sort of workflow I would not be able to do the same volume of work I am doing for the kind of money I am getting paid per property. It just wouldn’t work out. So, I have created a workflow that sees me in and out of a moderately sized 3-4 bedroomed home in under 30 minutes. I know what compositions are typically needed for RE photography, so the thing that takes me the most time on location is leveling my camera (assuming the client has prepared their home for the shoot and I don’t have to move much of their stuff around). The leveling is done using the built-in levels on the Olympus E-M1 and the bracketing is done automatically, requiring a single shutter press - a great feature of the E-M1 cameras I use. On average I deliver about 25 edited images per property and I shoot sometimes up to 5 properties a day. On the editing side of things I probably spend as much time per property as I do on shooting, so I have been on a quest to reduce this time overhead as much as I can. My RE editing process comprises selecting the three frames I need to blend in the Lr HDR program, running through a few presets, such as correcting converging verticals and with the Olympus 9-18mm fixing the somewhat noticeable barrel distortion seen when shooting at 9mm. I have also found that while the 9-18mm lens is plenty sharp enough, when I am shooting towards bright light sources such as windows, I get quite a bit of blooming around the window frames using my shooting method. If I was using flash and Ps masks to blend in layers this wouldn’t be an issue, but the time that would take isn’t an option for me on these jobs. I need to reduce the amount of time I spend doing the editing, which is, I suppose, really all about fixing up these 9-18mm lens “issues”. All the wide angle zoom lenses that I have ever owned and used (and there have been quite a few of them) have had their own little idiosyncrasies. When I first started shooting property I had the Nikon D200 and Sigma 15-30mm, which was a pretty good lens, but you needed to work on the warm colour that the lens had. Later I used the Nikon D700 with that same lens, which was eventually replaced with the Sigma 12-24mm FX frame lens, an insanely wide beast but one that required a great deal of care when composing. It wasn’t really good for interiors at 12mm because of the amount of crazy distortion on the edges you could make a tiny room look like an auditorium, so I would have to zoom in to about 16mm to make things look normal(ish). When I moved to micro four thirds there were only 2 options for wide angle lenses offering more than a 100˚ angle of view. There was the impossible (for me) to find Panasonic 7-14mm f/4, which had a lot of bad reviews and didn’t do well with light sources at all, or there was the lens I have been using, the Olympus 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6. For a time I did have the Olympus 7-14mm f/4.0 in 4/3 mount used via the MMF adapter, but that thing was just as big as a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, so not really practical as an RE lens (if, like me, you moved to MFT to get away from the bulk). When Olympus brought out their 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO I thought my prayers had been answered, but as you would have read on my review of that lens, it just can’t handle the type of work I wanted to use it for. The flare caused by that massive front element is a major problem and would drive any RE photographer insane. Also, there is something about the way it compresses scene edges that just looks very unnatural to me, so I passed on it. That has left me with the diminutive Olympus 9-18mm as my only interior lens and to be honest, apart from the window bloom and barrel distortion which can be fixed it’s perfectly fine. And small. Enter the Panasonic Leica 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0 Vario-Elmarit lens. As I mentioned in my previous article, this is one really nicely designed and constructed wide angle lens. It is significantly bigger than the 9-18mm Oly though, especially when the hood is attached, so that’s not a plus in my book. When I am working on these RE jobs I carry all my camera gear in the smallish ThinkTank TurnStyle 10. The size of my gear for work purposes is very important to me. I put both the lenses on my product table to show you the difference in size. This is the 8-18mm on my E-M1 without the grip And here's the 9-18mm on the same body. In that bag I have one Olympus E-M1 body (sans grip) with an L-plate, the Panasonic GM1 and its 12-32mm lens, plus my Samyang 7.5mm fisheye, which I use when I find myself in really tiny bathrooms (I straighten the fisheye in Lr using the profile provided). My back-up body is the Olympus Pen E-PL5 and also in the bag are my spare batteries and a small power bank for my iPhone (running google Maps for most of the day does tend to run your device’s power down). When I first mounted the 8-18mm to the E-M1 it didn’t fit in the bag, so I had to re-configure it a little, resulting in the removal of the GM1. Once I did that it has become an easy fit and I also have the 9-18mm now on the Pen body, just in case. In the 2 weeks that I have been using the 8-18mm I have photographed over 20 properties with it. The first one I did I was very interested to notice that the metering on the E-M1 coupled with this lens was definitely giving me darker images than I get with the 9-18mm using the same bracketing sequence. I’d say it was about a stop darker and especially noticeable where I had bright windows in my compositions. Not a biggie, but interesting nonetheless. What was more immediately noticeable though was that the blooming around the windows was nowhere near as dramatic as is the case with the Olympus 9-18mm. With the Oly I tend to use a negative clarity to try and make it look a bit more flattering, but with the Leica that isn’t needed at all. There is still some blooming, but it doesn’t require anywhere near the same kind of attention my Olympus lens needs. In fact, the 8-18mm makes mincemeat of the 9-18mm where that is concerned. And there, already, is more than enough of a reason for me to upgrade to it. Not having to deal with the windows in post on my RE shoots saves me a ton of processing time and headaches. A typical scene I am faced with in my job as an RE photographer. This one was a 3 frame bracket, each a stop apart, blended in Lightroom, no flash at all. I'll take this result all day! Some exteriors of the higher end homes I shot in August/September 2018. But what about other applications? I’ve had the 9-18mm for a long time. It was one of the first lenses I bought after I made the switch from Nikon and I have made some of my most memorable landscape images with that lens, particularly in Namibia when we were on safari there in 2013. I have the LEE Seven5 filter set and an adapter ring so that I can use it on the 9-18mm. This is another problem with the Olympus 7-14mm 2.8 PRO. If you want to use it to make landscapes with any kind of filter system you have to buy some ridiculous after market apparatus to put any kind of filters on the lens, since it has no filter thread. Not the case with the Panny 8-18mm. You can take off the hood and the lens body acts as a kind of shroud for the front element (which does move in and out, but never beyond the tip of the body). This means that all I have to do to use my LEE Filters is buy a 67mm adapter for the holder. Presto. I will have a better landscape lens, designed by Leica. Unfortunately I didn’t get enough time with the lens to be able to do any meaningful landscape photography, but I did take it down to the beach one overcast day. Below are a few samples of that outing. As a walk-around lens for street photography I think the Olympus 9-18mm is much better. It’s a lot smaller and as such is much less conspicuous, not to mention easier to carry in a small bag along with a normal perspective lens. How much of a difference does that extra 1mm make on a MFT frame? If you’re an outdoor shooter you won’t notice it, but if you’re like me and you’re shooting interiors then the extra 7˚ on the wide end can make your life a little easier, especially if you don’t have a fisheye lens for those really tiny bathrooms. Or kitchens. Shot at 8mm Shot at 9mm Sharpness As far as sharpness is concerned I don’t really see a big difference between the two. Obviously the Leica designed optics of the 8-18mm will be better at micro-contrast and as mentioned before the coatings are more flare resistant than the 9-18mm, which does mean that you have to do less work in editing. You should be able to get the same results from either lens in most applications, the notable exception being my primary need of real estate photography. I’m sure that the propellor heads at the main techie sites will have done some kind of measuring that will allow you to compare the differences. I have no interest in that stuff, so it plays no part in my review process. Honestly, I don’t think anybody even makes an unsharp lens anymore, so why bother with such banality. Cost Considerations The main consideration for a person who is considering buying a wide angle lens for their MFT system is usually cost versus benefit. Looking at the price difference between these two items the Panasonic is nearly double the price of the Olympus, so it should offer a lot more. Does it? Yes, it is much better made and it has the Leica pedigree, so that can, to a degree justify the $450 extra you’ll have to fork over to own this lens. In my case the savings in editing time totally justify the not insignificant outlay. And I really like the look and feel of this lens enough to say, screw it, I will have it, one way or another. However, if you’re traveling to somewhere distant and size / weight is a factor, you should think about the Olympus 9-18mm instead. Bottom Line You won’t be disappointed with the 8-18mm. Unless you’re a propellor head looking for something to nit pick over. Or you have size constraints. I give this lens full marks. View full article
  2. A few weeks back I wrote a short piece about how I was having a serious bout of GAS after discovering a new Panasonic Leica 8-18mm lens sitting in a local electronics store. At the time I managed to resist the overwhelming urge to purchase the lens because they didn’t have pricing for it. And I also didn’t really have the kind of money lying around that I could justify such a purchase with. It’s not a cheap lens. So it stayed in the store. It turns out that the lens was a demo unit on consignment to the retailer from Panasonic South Africa and not a stock item (Panasonic stuff is like hen’s teeth here in SA). I wrote to the local agents and asked if I could borrow it for a couple of weeks to write a review. They agreed and the result is this review. Who's It For? Where can I begin? If you are interested in this lens I am sure that you have already gone through all the typical reviews that you will find from the usual suspects on the internet. You know, the guys who’s job it is to review lenses and tell you all about the specs, how sharp it is, what they think is wrong with it, even though hardly any of them have ever worked a day in their lives as actual photographers using these tools. Then, at the end of the review they ask you to buy the lens using their links so that they can get commission on the sale. That’s their job, I guess, but I’m not one of them. I’m reviewing this lens based on what it can do for my photography business. Nothing else. If it’s rubbish I will say it’s rubbish. If I bought it myself then you’ll know it’s worth having. Those of you who follow me here on Fotozones will know that I work full time as a professional photographer doing various types of work and over the past 5 months that work has included a lot of real estate photography. This is a genre of work that I really enjoy. I have been using an Olympus E-M1 body and Olympus 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 lens. My methods for shooting RE are a little different to your typical RE photographer in that I don’t use flash and I simply refuse to work in the abortion of logic that is called Photoshop. Everything I do is processed in Lightroom using a 3 frame HDR bracket, a bunch of presets and an eyes-on visual inspection of each shot I present to my client. The only batch work I do comes at export time. My images are used on the internet and not for print. Yes, I could spend a lot more time getting a better result by following the methods of those who use multiple ambient and flash exposures and then spend an inordinate amount of time in Photoshop painting in masks and a myriad of other tricky things. But if I followed that sort of workflow I would not be able to do the same volume of work I am doing for the kind of money I am getting paid per property. It just wouldn’t work out. So, I have created a workflow that sees me in and out of a moderately sized 3-4 bedroomed home in under 30 minutes. I know what compositions are typically needed for RE photography, so the thing that takes me the most time on location is leveling my camera (assuming the client has prepared their home for the shoot and I don’t have to move much of their stuff around). The leveling is done using the built-in levels on the Olympus E-M1 and the bracketing is done automatically, requiring a single shutter press - a great feature of the E-M1 cameras I use. On average I deliver about 25 edited images per property and I shoot sometimes up to 5 properties a day. On the editing side of things I probably spend as much time per property as I do on shooting, so I have been on a quest to reduce this time overhead as much as I can. My RE editing process comprises selecting the three frames I need to blend in the Lr HDR program, running through a few presets, such as correcting converging verticals and with the Olympus 9-18mm fixing the somewhat noticeable barrel distortion seen when shooting at 9mm. I have also found that while the 9-18mm lens is plenty sharp enough, when I am shooting towards bright light sources such as windows, I get quite a bit of blooming around the window frames using my shooting method. If I was using flash and Ps masks to blend in layers this wouldn’t be an issue, but the time that would take isn’t an option for me on these jobs. I need to reduce the amount of time I spend doing the editing, which is, I suppose, really all about fixing up these 9-18mm lens “issues”. All the wide angle zoom lenses that I have ever owned and used (and there have been quite a few of them) have had their own little idiosyncrasies. When I first started shooting property I had the Nikon D200 and Sigma 15-30mm, which was a pretty good lens, but you needed to work on the warm colour that the lens had. Later I used the Nikon D700 with that same lens, which was eventually replaced with the Sigma 12-24mm FX frame lens, an insanely wide beast but one that required a great deal of care when composing. It wasn’t really good for interiors at 12mm because of the amount of crazy distortion on the edges you could make a tiny room look like an auditorium, so I would have to zoom in to about 16mm to make things look normal(ish). When I moved to micro four thirds there were only 2 options for wide angle lenses offering more than a 100˚ angle of view. There was the impossible (for me) to find Panasonic 7-14mm f/4, which had a lot of bad reviews and didn’t do well with light sources at all, or there was the lens I have been using, the Olympus 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6. For a time I did have the Olympus 7-14mm f/4.0 in 4/3 mount used via the MMF adapter, but that thing was just as big as a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, so not really practical as an RE lens (if, like me, you moved to MFT to get away from the bulk). When Olympus brought out their 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO I thought my prayers had been answered, but as you would have read on my review of that lens, it just can’t handle the type of work I wanted to use it for. The flare caused by that massive front element is a major problem and would drive any RE photographer insane. Also, there is something about the way it compresses scene edges that just looks very unnatural to me, so I passed on it. That has left me with the diminutive Olympus 9-18mm as my only interior lens and to be honest, apart from the window bloom and barrel distortion which can be fixed it’s perfectly fine. And small. Enter the Panasonic Leica 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0 Vario-Elmarit lens. As I mentioned in my previous article, this is one really nicely designed and constructed wide angle lens. It is significantly bigger than the 9-18mm Oly though, especially when the hood is attached, so that’s not a plus in my book. When I am working on these RE jobs I carry all my camera gear in the smallish ThinkTank TurnStyle 10. The size of my gear for work purposes is very important to me. I put both the lenses on my product table to show you the difference in size. This is the 8-18mm on my E-M1 without the grip And here's the 9-18mm on the same body. In that bag I have one Olympus E-M1 body (sans grip) with an L-plate, the Panasonic GM1 and its 12-32mm lens, plus my Samyang 7.5mm fisheye, which I use when I find myself in really tiny bathrooms (I straighten the fisheye in Lr using the profile provided). My back-up body is the Olympus Pen E-PL5 and also in the bag are my spare batteries and a small power bank for my iPhone (running google Maps for most of the day does tend to run your device’s power down). When I first mounted the 8-18mm to the E-M1 it didn’t fit in the bag, so I had to re-configure it a little, resulting in the removal of the GM1. Once I did that it has become an easy fit and I also have the 9-18mm now on the Pen body, just in case. In the 2 weeks that I have been using the 8-18mm I have photographed over 20 properties with it. The first one I did I was very interested to notice that the metering on the E-M1 coupled with this lens was definitely giving me darker images than I get with the 9-18mm using the same bracketing sequence. I’d say it was about a stop darker and especially noticeable where I had bright windows in my compositions. Not a biggie, but interesting nonetheless. What was more immediately noticeable though was that the blooming around the windows was nowhere near as dramatic as is the case with the Olympus 9-18mm. With the Oly I tend to use a negative clarity to try and make it look a bit more flattering, but with the Leica that isn’t needed at all. There is still some blooming, but it doesn’t require anywhere near the same kind of attention my Olympus lens needs. In fact, the 8-18mm makes mincemeat of the 9-18mm where that is concerned. And there, already, is more than enough of a reason for me to upgrade to it. Not having to deal with the windows in post on my RE shoots saves me a ton of processing time and headaches. A typical scene I am faced with in my job as an RE photographer. This one was a 3 frame bracket, each a stop apart, blended in Lightroom, no flash at all. I'll take this result all day! Some exteriors of the higher end homes I shot in August/September 2018. But what about other applications? I’ve had the 9-18mm for a long time. It was one of the first lenses I bought after I made the switch from Nikon and I have made some of my most memorable landscape images with that lens, particularly in Namibia when we were on safari there in 2013. I have the LEE Seven5 filter set and an adapter ring so that I can use it on the 9-18mm. This is another problem with the Olympus 7-14mm 2.8 PRO. If you want to use it to make landscapes with any kind of filter system you have to buy some ridiculous after market apparatus to put any kind of filters on the lens, since it has no filter thread. Not the case with the Panny 8-18mm. You can take off the hood and the lens body acts as a kind of shroud for the front element (which does move in and out, but never beyond the tip of the body). This means that all I have to do to use my LEE Filters is buy a 67mm adapter for the holder. Presto. I will have a better landscape lens, designed by Leica. Unfortunately I didn’t get enough time with the lens to be able to do any meaningful landscape photography, but I did take it down to the beach one overcast day. Below are a few samples of that outing. As a walk-around lens for street photography I think the Olympus 9-18mm is much better. It’s a lot smaller and as such is much less conspicuous, not to mention easier to carry in a small bag along with a normal perspective lens. How much of a difference does that extra 1mm make on a MFT frame? If you’re an outdoor shooter you won’t notice it, but if you’re like me and you’re shooting interiors then the extra 7˚ on the wide end can make your life a little easier, especially if you don’t have a fisheye lens for those really tiny bathrooms. Or kitchens. Shot at 8mm Shot at 9mm Sharpness As far as sharpness is concerned I don’t really see a big difference between the two. Obviously the Leica designed optics of the 8-18mm will be better at micro-contrast and as mentioned before the coatings are more flare resistant than the 9-18mm, which does mean that you have to do less work in editing. You should be able to get the same results from either lens in most applications, the notable exception being my primary need of real estate photography. I’m sure that the propellor heads at the main techie sites will have done some kind of measuring that will allow you to compare the differences. I have no interest in that stuff, so it plays no part in my review process. Honestly, I don’t think anybody even makes an unsharp lens anymore, so why bother with such banality. Cost Considerations The main consideration for a person who is considering buying a wide angle lens for their MFT system is usually cost versus benefit. Looking at the price difference between these two items the Panasonic is nearly double the price of the Olympus, so it should offer a lot more. Does it? Yes, it is much better made and it has the Leica pedigree, so that can, to a degree justify the $450 extra you’ll have to fork over to own this lens. In my case the savings in editing time totally justify the not insignificant outlay. And I really like the look and feel of this lens enough to say, screw it, I will have it, one way or another. However, if you’re traveling to somewhere distant and size / weight is a factor, you should think about the Olympus 9-18mm instead. Bottom Line You won’t be disappointed with the 8-18mm. Unless you’re a propellor head looking for something to nit pick over. Or you have size constraints. I give this lens full marks.
  3. Two Monday’s ago a fortnight of digital agony began as I set about upgrading the Fotozones software. Usually the software upgrades run smoothly, but in this instance it was anything but smooth. More like a ride on one of those amusement park gravity modifying apparatuses. I am told it is because I didn’t upgrade for such a long time that I ran into problems. Because of previous issues with early upgrades I guess I am averse to major changes, so upgrading software isn’t something I rush into these days. My bad. Anyway, that episode of digital nausea has passed so today I thought I would take some time out for myself to go and play with a new, old camera I got recently, but because of all the software dramas of the past fortnight, has sat on my desk looking expectantly at me like a rescue puppy might. The camera in question is the late 2013 Panasonic GM1 and 12-32mm kit lens. This is a Micro Four Thirds camera. As those of you who follow my writings and videos will already know, I recently sold the Canon 200D I got last year. I don’t have any pressing need to make more videos, but browsing through the classifieds on a local forum I saw an Olympus E-PL5 up for sale at a really keen price. I decided to get it because I actually like the Pen cameras and that model has a flip up selfie screen that would come in quite handy if I wanted to make more videos. So I got it. The cost was less than $100, but it didn’t come with a lens, so I was on the lookout for something I could use for it. I had my eyes open for the Olympus 14-42mm EZ kit lens, which isn’t found used that often. In casual conversation about my lens quest my buddy Peter mentioned to me that he was selling his Panasonic GM1 with the Panasonic 12-32mm kit lens. I wanted the lens only, but Peter made me a really good price on the body too, so I couldn’t pass it up. There went another $180 or so. I should mention that I was still up from the sale of the 200D though. What follows isn’t a review, so don’t expect any in-depth analysis, just some thoughts on cameras in general and how I got along with this particular one on my first outing with it. The GM1 is a really small camera. I mean, it’s ridiculously tiny. If I am out and about on a less than balmy day it will go into a jacket pocket without any issue. Today wasn’t exactly jacket weather, as you will see from the photos, so I put it into a larger bag (the ThinkTank Turn style 10) with some other camera stuff, just in case a Pulitzer Prize winning news moment presented itself to me, you know. I’m of the firm opinion that almost all cameras made since 2013 are good cameras. If you can’t get a great result out of a camera made after that year there can only be one (or more) of 3 factors at play. One, you have a terrible lens; two, you have terrible technique; three, somewhere along the line the camera you bought was dropped and the innards are not operating as they should. The sensors we have been getting in most cameras made after 2013 are brilliant capturing devices. You just need to know what you’re doing with them to get a good result. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the future for camera testing outfits like Dpreview and various others who play in measurement based camera appraisal systems are probably superfluous to all but perhaps a handful of very discerning photographers these days. The attractiveness of cameras is, I think, going to come down to just how well you can integrate yourself with the way they work, not whether or not they have 18 stops of dynamic range or can blast off 100 frames in a second, or shoot at ISO values that exceed the bank balances of the average Monte Carlo resident. So, getting a good result out of your post 2013 camera is highly dependent on coming to know that camera and working with it on a regular basis. Like in my case I have been using the Olympus E-M1’s since I got my first one in late 2013 (about the time the GM1 got announced) and after nearly 5 years of professional and personal use I don’t even have to think much about it’s operation. I switch it on and if I need to make changes I know instantly where to make them. The once confusing Olympus menu system is second nature to me now. The only things I have to think about, settings-wise, are the advanced features that I have used maybe once or twice, such as the Live Time long exposure thing, or anything to do with JPG settings (which I never use). I’ve only ever owned one other Panasonic camera, the GF1, which I liked, but ended up selling because at the time I had 2 Olympus Pen cameras that I thought were just a bit easier for me to work with. Whilst Panasonic and Olympus share the same Micro Four Thirds lens mount, their approach to operating the camera itself is very different. Kind of like the differences you’d find between Windows and macOS. They both do the same thing, just differently. The Panasonic interface is, I think, very intuitive and easy to learn unlike the Olympus, which admittedly took me a while to get used to coming from Nikon. That said, I do find some things on the GM1 a bit of a fiddle. Like this morning I was trying to change the aperture (in A mode), but kept changing the exposure compensation instead. Turns out that you need to press the command dial button for compensation again to toggle it off (there is only one dial on this tiny little camera). On the Olympus Pens it’s a similar process, just slightly different. You have to press the same button, but you can program the camera to move either the aperture value or the exposure compensation when turning the dial after that button is pressed. The GM1 doesn’t have that level of customisability so if you have burned a neural pathway into your brain from using your Olympus MFT camera a certain way, getting used to a Panasonic like the GM1 might test you a little. Fortunately it’s not an insurmountable hurdle. A bit of practice will make new neural pathways. Without an EVF I found using the rear LCD in this morning’s bright conditions not too difficult. The one thing I do struggle with is the amount of icons that Panasonic show on this LCD screen. Unlike the Olympus method of putting them along the side of the LCD screen, Panasonic have most of them along the top, which together with the row on the bottom can make the screen seem very crowded. It is easy to turn the top row off though by toggling the Info button, which leaves you with the bare bones of exposure settings on the bottom. I think I will be getitng along quite nicely with the world's littlest MFT camera, in spite of the differences between it and my Olympus stable. That they use the same lenses makes it a perfect black sheep cousin. Different, but lovable all the same. Here’s some of the shots from this morning's outing. All with the 12-32mm lens, processed in Lr 7.2. I'm usually showing you photos of my city from the piers we have, so today here's a shot from the North looking towards a couple of the many we have. This is the designated fisherman's pier. It's usually inhabited by subsistence fishermen who spend most of the day (and night) with their lines in the water. There is a space between the sand and the promenade that the city is trying to keep healthy with indigenous dune vegetation we get around these parts. The beachcombers are always out there, scouring the sand for buried treasure. The promenade is modeled on Rio's famous Copacabana beach. You are allowed to ride anything on wheels along there (except for motorcycles and cars). There is an outfit that offers Segway tours. Lazy! This is one of many outdoor gyms that have sprung up around the city in the past few years. I don't know how effective those machines are, but they certainly do seem to keep the users happy. After the beachfront I took a slow drive back home, stopping off at the marina. It was low tide, so I walked out a bit. Shooting almost into the sun here, so not the best result. These tug boats appear to be chasing this Greek tanker out of the bay! Four shot panorama of what was once a vibrant watering hole, but is now sadly neglected by the city's denizens. This was where my younger son played at the Durban Blues Festival.
  4. Two Monday’s ago a fortnight of digital agony began as I set about upgrading the Fotozones software. Usually the software upgrades run smoothly, but in this instance it was anything but smooth. More like a ride on one of those amusement park gravity modifying apparatuses. I am told it is because I didn’t upgrade for such a long time that I ran into problems. Because of previous issues with early upgrades I guess I am averse to major changes, so upgrading software isn’t something I rush into these days. My bad. Anyway, that episode of digital nausea has passed so today I thought I would take some time out for myself to go and play with a new, old camera I got recently, but because of all the software dramas of the past fortnight, has sat on my desk looking expectantly at me like a rescue puppy might. The camera in question is the late 2013 Panasonic GM1 and 12-32mm kit lens. This is a Micro Four Thirds camera. As those of you who follow my writings and videos will already know, I recently sold the Canon 200D I got last year. I don’t have any pressing need to make more videos, but browsing through the classifieds on a local forum I saw an Olympus E-PL5 up for sale at a really keen price. I decided to get it because I actually like the Pen cameras and that model has a flip up selfie screen that would come in quite handy if I wanted to make more videos. So I got it. The cost was less than $100, but it didn’t come with a lens, so I was on the lookout for something I could use for it. I had my eyes open for the Olympus 14-42mm EZ kit lens, which isn’t found used that often. In casual conversation about my lens quest my buddy Peter mentioned to me that he was selling his Panasonic GM1 with the Panasonic 12-32mm kit lens. I wanted the lens only, but Peter made me a really good price on the body too, so I couldn’t pass it up. There went another $180 or so. I should mention that I was still up from the sale of the 200D though. What follows isn’t a review, so don’t expect any in-depth analysis, just some thoughts on cameras in general and how I got along with this particular one on my first outing with it. The GM1 is a really small camera. I mean, it’s ridiculously tiny. If I am out and about on a less than balmy day it will go into a jacket pocket without any issue. Today wasn’t exactly jacket weather, as you will see from the photos, so I put it into a larger bag (the ThinkTank Turn style 10) with some other camera stuff, just in case a Pulitzer Prize winning news moment presented itself to me, you know. I’m of the firm opinion that almost all cameras made since 2013 are good cameras. If you can’t get a great result out of a camera made after that year there can only be one (or more) of 3 factors at play. One, you have a terrible lens; two, you have terrible technique; three, somewhere along the line the camera you bought was dropped and the innards are not operating as they should. The sensors we have been getting in most cameras made after 2013 are brilliant capturing devices. You just need to know what you’re doing with them to get a good result. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the future for camera testing outfits like Dpreview and various others who play in measurement based camera appraisal systems are probably superfluous to all but perhaps a handful of very discerning photographers these days. The attractiveness of cameras is, I think, going to come down to just how well you can integrate yourself with the way they work, not whether or not they have 18 stops of dynamic range or can blast off 100 frames in a second, or shoot at ISO values that exceed the bank balances of the average Monte Carlo resident. So, getting a good result out of your post 2013 camera is highly dependent on coming to know that camera and working with it on a regular basis. Like in my case I have been using the Olympus E-M1’s since I got my first one in late 2013 (about the time the GM1 got announced) and after nearly 5 years of professional and personal use I don’t even have to think much about it’s operation. I switch it on and if I need to make changes I know instantly where to make them. The once confusing Olympus menu system is second nature to me now. The only things I have to think about, settings-wise, are the advanced features that I have used maybe once or twice, such as the Live Time long exposure thing, or anything to do with JPG settings (which I never use). I’ve only ever owned one other Panasonic camera, the GF1, which I liked, but ended up selling because at the time I had 2 Olympus Pen cameras that I thought were just a bit easier for me to work with. Whilst Panasonic and Olympus share the same Micro Four Thirds lens mount, their approach to operating the camera itself is very different. Kind of like the differences you’d find between Windows and macOS. They both do the same thing, just differently. The Panasonic interface is, I think, very intuitive and easy to learn unlike the Olympus, which admittedly took me a while to get used to coming from Nikon. That said, I do find some things on the GM1 a bit of a fiddle. Like this morning I was trying to change the aperture (in A mode), but kept changing the exposure compensation instead. Turns out that you need to press the command dial button for compensation again to toggle it off (there is only one dial on this tiny little camera). On the Olympus Pens it’s a similar process, just slightly different. You have to press the same button, but you can program the camera to move either the aperture value or the exposure compensation when turning the dial after that button is pressed. The GM1 doesn’t have that level of customisability so if you have burned a neural pathway into your brain from using your Olympus MFT camera a certain way, getting used to a Panasonic like the GM1 might test you a little. Fortunately it’s not an insurmountable hurdle. A bit of practice will make new neural pathways. Without an EVF I found using the rear LCD in this morning’s bright conditions not too difficult. The one thing I do struggle with is the amount of icons that Panasonic show on this LCD screen. Unlike the Olympus method of putting them along the side of the LCD screen, Panasonic have most of them along the top, which together with the row on the bottom can make the screen seem very crowded. It is easy to turn the top row off though by toggling the Info button, which leaves you with the bare bones of exposure settings on the bottom. I think I will be getitng along quite nicely with the world's littlest MFT camera, in spite of the differences between it and my Olympus stable. That they use the same lenses makes it a perfect black sheep cousin. Different, but lovable all the same. Here’s some of the shots from this morning's outing. All with the 12-32mm lens, processed in Lr 7.2. I'm usually showing you photos of my city from the piers we have, so today here's a shot from the North looking towards a couple of the many we have. This is the designated fisherman's pier. It's usually inhabited by subsistence fishermen who spend most of the day (and night) with their lines in the water. There is a space between the sand and the promenade that the city is trying to keep healthy with indigenous dune vegetation we get around these parts. The beachcombers are always out there, scouring the sand for buried treasure. The promenade is modeled on Rio's famous Copacabana beach. You are allowed to ride anything on wheels along there (except for motorcycles and cars). There is an outfit that offers Segway tours. Lazy! This is one of many outdoor gyms that have sprung up around the city in the past few years. I don't know how effective those machines are, but they certainly do seem to keep the users happy. After the beachfront I took a slow drive back home, stopping off at the marina. It was low tide, so I walked out a bit. Shooting almost into the sun here, so not the best result. These tug boats appear to be chasing this Greek tanker out of the bay! Four shot panorama of what was once a vibrant watering hole, but is now sadly neglected by the city's denizens. This was where my younger son played at the Durban Blues Festival.
  5. @Joe Edelman posted a video on his first 6 months shooting with Olympus after switching from Nikon. He makes many of the same conclusions I did 5 years ago.
  6. Dallas

    New To The Family

    About a week ago I sold that Canon 200D DSLR that I obtained in a little deal for a vintage lens last year and had planned on using the money to purchase some lighting for my real estate gig, specifically the Godox AD200. As it turns out Godox don't make an Olympus compatible trigger for that flash, so that plan went to pot. Then I thought, you know what? I don't need to do RE work with a flash, it will just cause me a big processing headache and the HDR work I am doing now is more than good enough for the price I am getting. I saw a 2nd hand Olymps Pen E-PL5 going for a song together with the 14-42mm kit lens for roughly $140. I didn't want or need the lens so I made an offer of $75 for the body which the owner accepted and it arrived yesterday. The day after I bought the Pen my friend Peter told me he wanted to sell his Panasonic GM1 with the highly rated 12-32mm lens @Luc de Schepper reviewed here on FZ. I wanted the lens but Peter didn't want to split the kit up so I got them both. Wow, that is one tiny little MFT camera but it's actually fantastic. So, now I am back to 4 MFT bodies and I still have some leftovers from the sale of the Canon (which I am putting towards the software upgrade here on FZ). I'll write (or vlog) a more in depth post about these two cameras and why I decided to get them in the next week or so.
  7. Dallas

    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?
  8. 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
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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!
  12. 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
  13. 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. View full article
  14. I get asked by other photographers quite often for a quick overview of the big differences between the Micro Four Thirds (m43) system and the DSLR systems such as Canon and Nikon, or basically what they should be looking to purchase if they decided to make the switch from larger format cameras to smaller formats and keep the same functionality they already have. There’s a lot of information available out there on the internet, but it takes a lot of time to read through it all and it’s made all the more difficult if you don’t know anything at all about the m43 system or what to investigate. So I have put together this rough guide series to shed some light on what products stand out in each respective area of interest. It’s by no means exhaustive, but it should give you a good indication of what to investigate further if you’re serious about moving to, or adding this format to your photography gear. The first in this series deals with the “Holy Trinity” type zoom lens options, namely wide angles, general purpose and telephotos. These are my own opinions based on research I have done myself and supported wherever possible by personal experiences of the items. Best Wide Angle Zoom Lens Options Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0 Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 Olympus 7-14mm f/4.0 (four thirds) Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO (not available yet) I only had a very brief exposure to the Panasonic 7-14mm lens when I was first getting back into the m43 system about 2.5 years ago. I had just bought a Panasonic GF-1 for a good price from a store that was clearing all their Panasonic m43 inventory and their asking price for the lens was around $500 at that time. I put it on my GF-1 and took a few shots around the store, but it felt very unbalanced on such a small camera and I thought, geez, for $500 I could buy a nice DSLR lens that I didn’t already have, so I passed. Little did I realise that the actual price of the lens was closer to $1200, so in hindsight I should have zapped it up. I ended up getting the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6, which is a much, much smaller lens. It’s collapsible too, so if you’re limited for weight you really can’t ask for more. I find that it’s a nice sharp lens and performs really well in landscapes. Obviously it’s not nearly as wide as the 7-14mm options, but it does well in its range (similar view to 18-35mm FX lenses). I used this lens extensively on our safari to Namibia in 2013 and was really pleased with all the results I got shooting those harsh desert landscapes. The lens has held up quite well in the cosmetics department too, having accompanied me on many photo excursions for work and play since I got it. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to buy the older Olympus 7-14mm f/4.0 lens that was originally designed for use on the Olympus DSLR’s. If you mate it with an MMF adapter you can use it on the OM-D’s with varying degrees of autofocus compatibility. It’s terrible on the E-M5 (hunts like crazy) but it works decidedly better on the E-M1, which has the necessary phase detection AF sensors on the imager itself. Image quality wise it’s very, very good, but it’s also very, very expensive at $1800. It has full weather sealing so if you’re using it on the E-M1 with the MMF-3 adapter you will have a weatherproof solution. The downside is that it’s very large and therefore it doesn’t balance well on an E-M1 without the HLD-7 grip, which defeats the purpose of having a smaller kit (this lens is of similar proportions to the Sigma 12-24mm FX lens). Big and heavy, the Olympus 7-14mm f/4 is an expensive option but well worth the money The final option is the announced, but only available in 2015 all new Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens. This will be one of the siblings making up the Holy Trinity of Olympus pro zoom lenses and if the already existing 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens is any indication of the quality we can expect, I think it is most likely going to be the one to get, mainly because of its native mount to the m43 system. If you can’t wait for that one to arrive then you would probably do well to get the Olympus 9-18mm lens as its by far the cheapest option. You could always sell it once the PRO lens arrives. I will keep mine as a lightweight option. Best General Purpose Zoom Lens OptionsPanasonic 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Olympus 12-35mm f/2.0 (four thirds) There are three pro spec lenses here to chose from on my list above, but there are also a myriad of consumer grade kit lenses available from both Panasonic and Olympus, including many variations of the 14-42mm. I haven’t used many of them but there is one consumer grade standout lens and that is the one in my list here, the now discontinued Panasonic 14-45mm. This one is really very good and prior to my getting the 12-40mm it was my go to lens for the E-M5. I still use it sometimes, especially if I am doing work in a dodgy location where the possibility of being liberated of my gear is relatively high. At least the loss of this lens as opposed to the PRO version would be easier to bear. The Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens is something else. This is a beautiful piece of glass from Olympus. Well finished, wonderful optics and extremely fast focusing on the OM-D bodies I have. I rate it as being better than the Nikon 24-70/2.8 I used to own and that’s saying something because as anyone who has used the Nikkor knows, it’s a serious optic too. However, to get the best out of the Nikkor you have to stop it down to at least f/4. The Olympus lens is sharp right from f/2.8. I don’t know too much about the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 but it was on the market long before the Oly arrived. Reports I have read from many users are all positive about this one, so if you can get one to try you should definitely do that. An advantage to this lens is of course that it has built in image stabilisation, so if you have chosen a Panasonic body instead of an Olympus one for your m43 system this will be stabilised whereas the Oly lenses won’t, since Olympus bodies have image stabilisers on the sensor, thus making any lens you mount on the camera stabilised. Olympus 14-35mm f/2.0 - one of the fastest zoom lenses with a constant aperture. The final stand out lens is again a four thirds lens that you can use on the E-M1 with an MMF adapter. I have not used one, but stop and take another look at the figures on this lens. The constant maximum aperture is f/2.0. That’s right, it’s a whole stop faster than any of the other pro lenses! At $2300 it’s certainly not a cheap option, but if you want a fast zoom lens they don’t get much faster than this. Downside is of course the physical size, so unless you have a true need for the speed of the lens you’re better off with the native mount options. Best Telephoto Zoom Lens Options Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 (four thirds) Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO (not available yet) Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 (four thirds) Olympus 90-250mm f/2.8 (four thirds) One of the biggest advantages of a small sensor like m43 is that telephoto lenses are typically much smaller than their DSLR counterparts, yet offer just as tight an angle of view. It surprises me that more birders haven’t adopted m43 as a system because there is such a wonderful array of both exotic and practical telephoto lenses available. Not only that, with adapters you can put any lens on the camera and capture the best central part of the optics of that lens with an m43 size sensor. Obviously you will need to be quick on the manual focus, but with slower moving subjects and focus peaking functionality (not to mention the IBIS on Olympus cameras) you have a field of view that is typically half of what you’re seeing on an FX camera. The ultimate safari lens! The 90-250mm f/2.8 offers an angle of view equal to a 180-500mm lens on FX format. If your primary interest in the m43 system is to get a good telephoto lens for longer reach, like wildlife or sports, you’re probably going to want to look at the four thirds range where there are a number of options that will truly knock your socks off (and lighten your wallet). The one stand-out lens that I would love to use is the 90-250mm f/2.8. In FX terms it gives you a 180-500mm angle of view, with the constant f/2.8 aperture. I cannot think of a more useful range for wildlife safaris than that. At $6k it’s not going to be within everyone’s reach, but when compared to the Nikon and Canon 200-400mm f/4 options and their respective costs it starts to look a lot more interesting. The Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 is a very capable, compact telephoto option for m43 I have the Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 which offers the FX equivalent of a 100-400mm lens. It’s a lot cheaper than the 90-250mm and it’s also a much faster optic than the Canon 100-400mm and the Nikon 80-400mm. Having owned the Canon 100-400mm IS when I first got into digital photography I can say in all honestly that this Olympus lens beats the pants of that Canon, by a long way. It’s sharper, has great contrast and colour too. I haven’t ever used the Nikon 80-400mm lenses so I can’t draw a comparison with it. Obviously the main advantage on the Oly is the faster aperture at the long end, which is a whole stop and a third brighter than the Canon/Nikon options, but there is also another advantage in that it is much cheaper at only $1200 compared to the $2800 asking price for the new Nikkor. It is also fully weather sealed and the hood has a hatch that slides open so you can use your polariser or variable ND filters easily. It’s the lens I am going to be using on safari this year. Panasonic haven’t really developed much in the longer telephoto area, however they were the first to introduce a pro spec shorter range telephoto in the form of the 35-100mm f/2.8. This is your general purpose telephoto lens similar to the 70-200mm f/2.8 FX lens that is mostly used by wedding photographers. User reports on this lens are all mostly very positive and at $1200 it’s an attractive option. There’s another 35-100mm lens that will blow your hair back and that is the Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 for the four thirds mount. Yes, that’s right, it’s an f/2.0 optic, constant throughout the zoom range. I have handled this lens briefly as a colleague of mine owns one, plus I have seen some of his images shot with it. On the E-M1 this lens is jaw-droppingly good. I can’t even begin to describe how sharp and punchy it is. It will set you back around $2500 but if you can get one and you don’t mind the size of it, you will not be disappointed with what it can do. Highly recommended! Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 is a lens to die for! The last lens to mention in this first instalment of the Rough Guide series is the announced, but as yet not available Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO. This will be the one I buy, mainly because it will be affordable and also it’s a native m43 mount, so no adapter is needed. It will autofocus with the CDAF system on the E-M1 so I will be able to shoot at 10 frames per second with it. Not really required, but nice to have. The expected street price is said to be around $1300. These are the top end lens options open to those who are thinking about adopting the m43 system. As mentioned at the start of the article there are other cheaper options too, so if you’re put off by the prices of some of these lenses, do have a look at the other options too. As a final note I should add that there are at least three Olympus adapters available to mate the older 4/3rds lenses to the m43 mount. These are the MMF1, MMF2 and MMF3. They all do the same thing and there is no difference in auto focus performance between them, but only the MMF3 has the weather sealing, so if that's an important feature for you to have then you ought to opt for it. It's slightly more expensive than the others at $160. Panasonic also make an adapter that does the same thing, the DMW-MA1 and it's much cheaper at a shade over $100. Not sure if that one is weather sealed. There is no glass in these adapters so image quality is exactly the same on m43 as it is on 4/3. In the next edition of this series I will have a look at the prime lenses for the system. If you're thinking about buying any of these items please consider starting your shopping at our affiliate retailers by using any of the links to their shops found at the bottom of the page. This will be most appreciated.
  15. I get asked by other photographers quite often for a quick overview of the big differences between the Micro Four Thirds (m43) system and the DSLR systems such as Canon and Nikon, or basically what they should be looking to purchase if they decided to make the switch from larger format cameras to smaller formats and keep the same functionality they already have. There’s a lot of information available out there on the internet, but it takes a lot of time to read through it all and it’s made all the more difficult if you don’t know anything at all about the m43 system or what to investigate. So I have put together this rough guide series to shed some light on what products stand out in each respective area of interest. It’s by no means exhaustive, but it should give you a good indication of what to investigate further if you’re serious about moving to, or adding this format to your photography gear. The first in this series deals with the “Holy Trinity” type zoom lens options, namely wide angles, general purpose and telephotos. These are my own opinions based on research I have done myself and supported wherever possible by personal experiences of the items. Best Wide Angle Zoom Lens Options Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0 Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 Olympus 7-14mm f/4.0 (four thirds) Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO (not available yet) I only had a very brief exposure to the Panasonic 7-14mm lens when I was first getting back into the m43 system about 2.5 years ago. I had just bought a Panasonic GF-1 for a good price from a store that was clearing all their Panasonic m43 inventory and their asking price for the lens was around $500 at that time. I put it on my GF-1 and took a few shots around the store, but it felt very unbalanced on such a small camera and I thought, geez, for $500 I could buy a nice DSLR lens that I didn’t already have, so I passed. Little did I realise that the actual price of the lens was closer to $1200, so in hindsight I should have zapped it up. I ended up getting the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6, which is a much, much smaller lens. It’s collapsible too, so if you’re limited for weight you really can’t ask for more. I find that it’s a nice sharp lens and performs really well in landscapes. Obviously it’s not nearly as wide as the 7-14mm options, but it does well in its range (similar view to 18-35mm FX lenses). I used this lens extensively on our safari to Namibia in 2013 and was really pleased with all the results I got shooting those harsh desert landscapes. The lens has held up quite well in the cosmetics department too, having accompanied me on many photo excursions for work and play since I got it. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to buy the older Olympus 7-14mm f/4.0 lens that was originally designed for use on the Olympus DSLR’s. If you mate it with an MMF adapter you can use it on the OM-D’s with varying degrees of autofocus compatibility. It’s terrible on the E-M5 (hunts like crazy) but it works decidedly better on the E-M1, which has the necessary phase detection AF sensors on the imager itself. Image quality wise it’s very, very good, but it’s also very, very expensive at $1800. It has full weather sealing so if you’re using it on the E-M1 with the MMF-3 adapter you will have a weatherproof solution. The downside is that it’s very large and therefore it doesn’t balance well on an E-M1 without the HLD-7 grip, which defeats the purpose of having a smaller kit (this lens is of similar proportions to the Sigma 12-24mm FX lens). Big and heavy, the Olympus 7-14mm f/4 is an expensive option but well worth the money The final option is the announced, but only available in 2015 all new Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens. This will be one of the siblings making up the Holy Trinity of Olympus pro zoom lenses and if the already existing 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens is any indication of the quality we can expect, I think it is most likely going to be the one to get, mainly because of its native mount to the m43 system. If you can’t wait for that one to arrive then you would probably do well to get the Olympus 9-18mm lens as its by far the cheapest option. You could always sell it once the PRO lens arrives. I will keep mine as a lightweight option. Best General Purpose Zoom Lens OptionsPanasonic 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Olympus 12-35mm f/2.0 (four thirds) There are three pro spec lenses here to chose from on my list above, but there are also a myriad of consumer grade kit lenses available from both Panasonic and Olympus, including many variations of the 14-42mm. I haven’t used many of them but there is one consumer grade standout lens and that is the one in my list here, the now discontinued Panasonic 14-45mm. This one is really very good and prior to my getting the 12-40mm it was my go to lens for the E-M5. I still use it sometimes, especially if I am doing work in a dodgy location where the possibility of being liberated of my gear is relatively high. At least the loss of this lens as opposed to the PRO version would be easier to bear. The Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens is something else. This is a beautiful piece of glass from Olympus. Well finished, wonderful optics and extremely fast focusing on the OM-D bodies I have. I rate it as being better than the Nikon 24-70/2.8 I used to own and that’s saying something because as anyone who has used the Nikkor knows, it’s a serious optic too. However, to get the best out of the Nikkor you have to stop it down to at least f/4. The Olympus lens is sharp right from f/2.8. I don’t know too much about the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 but it was on the market long before the Oly arrived. Reports I have read from many users are all positive about this one, so if you can get one to try you should definitely do that. An advantage to this lens is of course that it has built in image stabilisation, so if you have chosen a Panasonic body instead of an Olympus one for your m43 system this will be stabilised whereas the Oly lenses won’t, since Olympus bodies have image stabilisers on the sensor, thus making any lens you mount on the camera stabilised. Olympus 14-35mm f/2.0 - one of the fastest zoom lenses with a constant aperture. The final stand out lens is again a four thirds lens that you can use on the E-M1 with an MMF adapter. I have not used one, but stop and take another look at the figures on this lens. The constant maximum aperture is f/2.0. That’s right, it’s a whole stop faster than any of the other pro lenses! At $2300 it’s certainly not a cheap option, but if you want a fast zoom lens they don’t get much faster than this. Downside is of course the physical size, so unless you have a true need for the speed of the lens you’re better off with the native mount options. Best Telephoto Zoom Lens Options Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 (four thirds) Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO (not available yet) Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 (four thirds) Olympus 90-250mm f/2.8 (four thirds) One of the biggest advantages of a small sensor like m43 is that telephoto lenses are typically much smaller than their DSLR counterparts, yet offer just as tight an angle of view. It surprises me that more birders haven’t adopted m43 as a system because there is such a wonderful array of both exotic and practical telephoto lenses available. Not only that, with adapters you can put any lens on the camera and capture the best central part of the optics of that lens with an m43 size sensor. Obviously you will need to be quick on the manual focus, but with slower moving subjects and focus peaking functionality (not to mention the IBIS on Olympus cameras) you have a field of view that is typically half of what you’re seeing on an FX camera. The ultimate safari lens! The 90-250mm f/2.8 offers an angle of view equal to a 180-500mm lens on FX format. If your primary interest in the m43 system is to get a good telephoto lens for longer reach, like wildlife or sports, you’re probably going to want to look at the four thirds range where there are a number of options that will truly knock your socks off (and lighten your wallet). The one stand-out lens that I would love to use is the 90-250mm f/2.8. In FX terms it gives you a 180-500mm angle of view, with the constant f/2.8 aperture. I cannot think of a more useful range for wildlife safaris than that. At $6k it’s not going to be within everyone’s reach, but when compared to the Nikon and Canon 200-400mm f/4 options and their respective costs it starts to look a lot more interesting. The Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 is a very capable, compact telephoto option for m43 I have the Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 which offers the FX equivalent of a 100-400mm lens. It’s a lot cheaper than the 90-250mm and it’s also a much faster optic than the Canon 100-400mm and the Nikon 80-400mm. Having owned the Canon 100-400mm IS when I first got into digital photography I can say in all honestly that this Olympus lens beats the pants of that Canon, by a long way. It’s sharper, has great contrast and colour too. I haven’t ever used the Nikon 80-400mm lenses so I can’t draw a comparison with it. Obviously the main advantage on the Oly is the faster aperture at the long end, which is a whole stop and a third brighter than the Canon/Nikon options, but there is also another advantage in that it is much cheaper at only $1200 compared to the $2800 asking price for the new Nikkor. It is also fully weather sealed and the hood has a hatch that slides open so you can use your polariser or variable ND filters easily. It’s the lens I am going to be using on safari this year. Panasonic haven’t really developed much in the longer telephoto area, however they were the first to introduce a pro spec shorter range telephoto in the form of the 35-100mm f/2.8. This is your general purpose telephoto lens similar to the 70-200mm f/2.8 FX lens that is mostly used by wedding photographers. User reports on this lens are all mostly very positive and at $1200 it’s an attractive option. There’s another 35-100mm lens that will blow your hair back and that is the Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 for the four thirds mount. Yes, that’s right, it’s an f/2.0 optic, constant throughout the zoom range. I have handled this lens briefly as a colleague of mine owns one, plus I have seen some of his images shot with it. On the E-M1 this lens is jaw-droppingly good. I can’t even begin to describe how sharp and punchy it is. It will set you back around $2500 but if you can get one and you don’t mind the size of it, you will not be disappointed with what it can do. Highly recommended! Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 is a lens to die for! The last lens to mention in this first instalment of the Rough Guide series is the announced, but as yet not available Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO. This will be the one I buy, mainly because it will be affordable and also it’s a native m43 mount, so no adapter is needed. It will autofocus with the CDAF system on the E-M1 so I will be able to shoot at 10 frames per second with it. Not really required, but nice to have. The expected street price is said to be around $1300. These are the top end lens options open to those who are thinking about adopting the m43 system. As mentioned at the start of the article there are other cheaper options too, so if you’re put off by the prices of some of these lenses, do have a look at the other options too. As a final note I should add that there are at least three Olympus adapters available to mate the older 4/3rds lenses to the m43 mount. These are the MMF1, MMF2 and MMF3. They all do the same thing and there is no difference in auto focus performance between them, but only the MMF3 has the weather sealing, so if that's an important feature for you to have then you ought to opt for it. It's slightly more expensive than the others at $160. Panasonic also make an adapter that does the same thing, the DMW-MA1 and it's much cheaper at a shade over $100. Not sure if that one is weather sealed. There is no glass in these adapters so image quality is exactly the same on m43 as it is on 4/3. In the next edition of this series I will have a look at the prime lenses for the system. If you're thinking about buying any of these items please consider starting your shopping at our affiliate retailers by using any of the links to their shops found at the bottom of the page. This will be most appreciated. View full article
  16. crowecg

    A new addition to the 4/3 family

    Another new toy to tempt micro 4/3 shooters and possibly a challenge to the high end go-pros. http://petapixel.com/2015/04/13/blackmagics-new-micro-cinema-camera-can-shoot-1080p-raw-from-a-drone/
  17. Luc de Schepper

    At the Library with MicroFourThirds

    One of the reasons I've bought a Micro Four Thirds camera plus some lenses is the fast primes mostly perform excellent already wide-open and focus very fast. Also the small size and almost silent sound of the shutter allows me to shoot discreetly in public spaces. This series was shot with an Olympus E-M10 plus Olympus 45mm f1.8. f1.8 iso 320 f2 iso 500 f1.8 iso 200 f2 iso 400
  18. This legendary lens also performs admirably well on an Olympus camera. Because of the smaller sensor it effectively becomes a long - 210mm f2.5 - telephoto lens. 1. f4 2. f4
  19. 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. View full article
  20. The first in this series of articles dealt with the better zoom lenses that are available for the micro four thirds system. That article was warmly received by many of our FZ members as well as guests who commented on it on other websites. This edition of the series deals with the prime lenses available for m43 and what your best options are if you’re looking to build up a system of m43 kit. As I said in the zoom lens article, this is based to some degree on my personal experiences with many of the lenses, but for some of the options I am only going on what I have researched by scouring over many online reviews (trust me, I thoroughly research everything I’m interested in). I’ll split the options up into three main segments, namely wide angle (7mm - 20mm), general purpose (25mm - 30mm) and telephoto (above 30mm). These are of course micro four thirds focal lengths. If you want to know the equivalent 135 system angle of view you simply double the m43 focal length number and you’ll find the lens focal length that most closely matches the angle of view in 135. Example; a 25mm m43 lens has an equivalent angle of view to a 50mm on the larger 135 system. It is NOT an equivalent focal length, just an equivalent angle of view. 25mm is 25mm on any camera system. Wide Angles To Consider Getting 7.5mm f/3.5 Samyang Fisheye ($300) 8mm f/3.5 Panasonic Fisheye ($640) 12mm f/2.0 Olympus ($800) 14mm f/2.5 Panasonic ($300) 15mm f/1.7 Panasonic/Leica Summilux ($600) 17mm f/1.8 Olympus ($500) 17.5mm f/0.95 Voigtlander Nokton ($1150) 19mm f/2.8 Sigma DN “Art” ($200) 20mm f/1.7 Panasonic ($430) Looking at the list above you can see that there’s more than just a clutch of options available if wide angles are your thing. You’ve got all the way from the 180˚ fisheye options to the moderately wide 20mm fast option from Panasonic. Which one(s) do you chose? Regular readers will already know that I have the Samyang 7.5mm Fisheye and I absolutely love this little lens. It’s super sharp everywhere, well built and it also has a manual aperture ring, which is not something you see much of these days. The downside to this lens is that it’s manual focus and there is no information about aperture passed to the camera, which means that you have to meter manually or trust the camera’s guesswork based on what it sees through the lens. I only shoot with it in A mode and somehow both my OM-D cameras get the exposure spot on. Most of the time. Because of the fact that its a fisheye lens and you’re shooting on a smaller format, the manual focus aspect hardly ever comes into play. I usually set the aperture for f/5.6 and focus at infinity. Nearly everything is in focus with that setting. The other native m43 fisheye option is the Panasonic 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye. I don’t know much about this lens other than if I want one I will have to import it myself and that it costs more than double the price of the Samyang ($300 versus $640) and also that it has autofocus. The question I guess I have to ask is whether or not getting auto focus is worth more than double the price? The answer for me is a resounding no. Not when you hardly need to focus the Samyang. I don’t think the Panasonic would be all that much better in terms of sharpness either, so my choice is obvious: save the money and get the Samyang. They also sell this exact same lens under the Rokinon brand. Moving to the more moderate wide angles you will find the Olympus 12mm f/2.0 which is the same as your 24mm lenses on the big sensor DLSR cameras. This particular lens gets excellent reviews everywhere. It’s considered one of the lenses to get for m43, so I’m definitely keen on getting my grubby paws on one at some point. I just have to find the $800 asking price!The next step up the line is the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 which is also considered a great lens by many. The strong point of this guy is that its so tiny, probably not much bigger than the size of a Nikkor rear lens cap. I’m not a big fan of the 28mm equivalent angle of view, so it’s not high on my GAS list. Creep up just a millimetre and we find the recently introduced Panasonic/Leica 15mm f/1.7 Summilux. As with everything Leica puts their name on, you can be assured of top quality optical design. This lens has a very fast maximum aperture so you’ll be able to get wonderfully short depth of field with it, and as with most m43 lenses it’s usable wide open, which is more than can be said for a lot of bigger format lenses of similar aperture. It’s on my GAS list, purely because of this fast aperture, which is something I would find very useful for low light work where a wide aperture is needed.As we get closer to the “normal” angle of view we find the Olympus 17mm f/1.8, which is a lens I wish I had, but then when it’s compared with other lenses that offer a similar specification my desire to charge ahead and buy it finds itself under the gearbox clutch: motor spinning but no drive to the wheels. Why is this? Well, it comes down to two things, I guess. Firstly there’s the price aspect of that lens. It’s not cheap at $500. Especially when you take a look at the alternative Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 that can be had for $430 (often discounted to much less in online deals). In researching these two lenses you will often read reports from users that the Panny is considered noticeably sharper when wide open and has better bokeh. Secondly there’s the issue of auto focus speed. The Olympus is hands down much faster to focus than the Panny. The only reason I would want either of these lenses is for use in very low light, so that I could shoot them wide open and be assured of a sharp result, yet I can’t have my cake and eat it, because the Panny, while considered the better lens wide open, doesn’t have the auto focus performance that you’d need when you’re shooting in low light. So you’ve got the sharpness need covered in the inferior focusing Panny, and you’ve got the AF speed covered in the more expensive and slightly less sharp Oly. Is the superior sharpness worth more to me than the superior auto focus speed? I can’t have both, so I haven’t made a decision on which lens to get yet. In all likelihood if I was to find a good deal on either of them I would probably spring the dough. But it would have to be a really good deal. Like half price good. Stuck inbetween the two lenses above is the seldom mentioned Sigma 19mm f/2.8 Art. Sigma recently updated this lens to being a part of its “Art” line. If you’ve seen any of the new Sigma’s you’ll know they ain’t messing about when it comes to quality. I have on loan the older plastic finished version of this lens, which is optically the same and I’ll be honest with you, this is a great lens which if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s maximum aperture is only 2.8 would make me forget all about the other two mentioned in the previous paragraphs. It’s very sharp wide open and it also has wonderful bokeh, so for street photography in decent light it’s a superb option and I can highly recommend getting one. Best attribute? It’s only $200, even less if you catch the rebates currently on offer from some stockists in the US. Highly recommended for m43. The one lens I am unlikely to ever get because of its price and the fact that it is manual focus is the über fast $1150 Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95. Reviewers of this lens sing its praises very highly, but for me the size, weight and price, coupled with the fact that it’s manual focus make it an unlikely bedfellow for my OM-D cameras. That, and the fact that getting one locally would be darn near impossible unless I import it myself. Put another way, the lens may be exotic, but it doesn’t have enough charm to seduce me.So as you can see, there are a few options open for wide angle prime lenses for m43. It basically comes down to how wide you want to shoot and how wide you want to open your wallet. Standard Lenses 25mm f/0.95 Voitländer Nokton ($1000) 25mm f/1.4 Panasonic/Leica Summilux ($600) 25mm f/1.8 Olympus ($400) 30mm f/2.8 Sigma Art ($200) If you’re a standard lens shooter on the 135 system then you’re probably going to be familiar with the venerable 50mm fast lens that has been around since Pa fell off the bus. For micro four thirds there are 4 lenses with a similar angle of view to choose from. I’m not a standard lens shooter, but I guess if I was to chose between the four listed above I would need to make a case for whether the increased maximum aperture on the Pan/Leica is worth a 50% price premium over the Olympus, or a 200% premium over the Sigma 30mm option. For me personally the Voigtländer Nokton falls into the same “unobtainium” category as the 17.5mm Nokton. It may be a great fast lens, but without autofocus and its big price tag it doesn’t ring my bell. It’s hard to make a special case for any of them because they are all good lenses, so it definitely comes down to how much light you think you’re going to need from your standard view lens. If you want bokeh you get the Pan/Leica or Voigtländer. If you want to save money but not skimp on image quality you get the Sigma. If you want Goldilocks you get the Olympus. I have the sigma 30mm on loan too and it’s OK, but as mentioned it doesn’t offer an angle of view that I find easy to work with, so I am struggling a little to get my creative eye into it. It is sharp enough at f/2.8 though and definitely worth the very low asking price. Telephoto Lenses 42.5mm f/0.95 Voigtländer Nokton ($1,000) 42.5mm f/1.2 Panasonic/Leica Nocticron ($1,500) 45mm f/1.8 Olympus ($280) 45mm f/2.8 Panasonic/Leica Macro-Elmarit ($900) 60mm f/2.8 Olympus ED Macro ($450) 75mm f/1.8 Olympus ED ($900) 150mm f/2.0 Olympus (four thirds) ($2,500) 300mm f/2.8 Olympus (four thirds) ($6,500) Telephotos are what gets most people interested in photography and for m43 there is an abundance of prime lenses to choose from. The first lens on the list above is the über fast Voitlander 42.5mm f/0.95. As with the other two Voigtlander lenses its a manual focus job, so if you’re planning on using this lens, you’ll need to practise your technique using the visual aids on your EVF to get focus nailed, especially if shot wide open. I personally wouldn’t go for something this expensive that didn’t have auto focus, but then I have become a slave to the trappings of technology. Hopefully not everyone has become as lazy as me! Recently Panasonic and Leica once again collaborated on a lens design that saw the birth of the highly acclaimed 42.5mm Nocticron, a lens with a price tag that makes the “unobtainium” Voigtländer Nokton seem like a bargain in comparison. So far what I’m reading online is that it’s one of those lenses us low pay grade bumpkins are going to salivate over until we mortgage the house, sell the dogs, or engage in illicit dealings to get our hands on it. In other words an extremely desirable item. If you can afford it and you want the very best image quality m43 can offer you to make portraits with, this is something you’ll want to investigate. I do hope that other manufacturers look at this spec and offer a cheaper alternative. The sublime Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 is the same angle of view and aperture, but it only costs 2/3rds of the price. That lens has a lot of photographers rushing to the Fuji system, so m43 needs to get a handle on the pricing of its equivalent offerings if it is to remain a viable option. For the rest of us mere mortals there is another option, the very capable Olympus 45mm f/1.8. I have this lens and got it based on the high praise it got from many users all over the web. The auto focus is Usain Bolt like, it offers excellent sharpness wide open and it’s a diminutive lens, weighing only 116g. When its on my OM-D it looks almost like a cotton reel attached to the camera its so tiny. The image quality is awesome too and the best part is that its one of the great bargains of the m43 system. It’ll only lighten your wallet by $280. It’s a great lens for portraits, but also other stuff done at that angle of view.The other option for m43 at this focal length is the Panasonic/Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit. I have this lens too and it’s wonderful. Sharp, optically stabilised for those using Panasonic bodies without in-body stabilisation, and it also has one of those groovy rectangular lens hoods (which incidentally also perfectly fits the Sigma 19mm). The only thing about this lens that I don’t like is that it focuses slowly. The other thing that tends to throw potential buyers off is the fact that it is not cheap at $900. Is it a good macro lens? For me it’s great, but macro isn’t my area of interest, so I can’t really give you an informed opinion on that aspect. Some reviewers love it for macro, while others have panned it. Can’t please everyone I guess. The m43 macro lens that has made photographers stand up and yodel its praises is the newish Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro. Every review I have read about it says the same thing: it’s sublime. Some reviewers have even gone so far as to say that it’s the best macro lens they have ever used. I can imagine that with the 20˚ angle of view it offers it will be ideal for insect close-ups. It’s also half the price of the Pan/Leica 45mm. Definitely on my GAS list even though I’m not really a macro shooter. If there is a lens for m43 that you absolutely have to have, it is the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 ED. This all metal, stubby little fella produces some of the sharpest images I have ever seen and throws the argument that you can’t get shallow depth of field with a small sensor right in the trashcan. I have reviewed this lens before and could extoll its virtues all day if given the opportunity, but suffice to say that if you’re intent on spending $900 on a lens, this is a very good way to do it. You’ll get the equivalent angle of view of a 150mm lens on a 135 system camera, with a huge aperture, but you’ll only be carrying a fraction of the weight. For low light jobs such as stage work and indoor sports, this lens totally rocks. It has a great working distance for tight portraits too.The next two lenses I’m going to discuss are legacy four thirds mounts from Olympus. Both of them have earned their reputations as being some of the very best optics you can buy. The Olympus 150mm f/2.0 is a heavy little fellow at 1.465kg but it offers the popular angle of view of 8.2˚ which is the same as that of a 300mm lens on your “full frame” systems. The difference is that you’re getting a full stop’s worth of extra light with this lens. What can you do with it? Take a look at this Flickr search for images shot with it. Impressive! If I was going to spend $2500 on a telephoto lens I think I would definitely consider this one, especially if you partner it with a 2x teleconverter. You would have the equivalent of a 600mm f/4. Possibly not good for birds in flight - I have not ever used an Olympus four thirds teleconverter - but for stationary subjects that you can’t approach easily, this could definitely be a short solution to a long problem. The other four thirds option is the Olympus 300mm f/2.8. This is every bit as big as a 300mm 2.8 from all the other big name makers. The compelling difference with this $6500 beast is that the 4.1˚ angle of view is the same as that of a 600mm lens for bigger 135 system, except that you’re gathering double the light with your f/2.8 maximum aperture as opposed to the f/4.0 maximum aperture lenses made for the larger systems. Combine that with the in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) on the Olympus E-M1 and you’ve got yourself an unbeatable telephoto lens for that angle of view. Personally I’m only likely to get a lens like this when somebody offers me one at a ridiculously low price. So these are most of the highly recommended prime lenses for micro four thirds. There are a few I didn't include, but only because I know nothing about them. As you can see, apart from the absence of tilt-shift lenses, m43 offers a nice variety of top class options from a number of manufacturers and that list is getting longer all the time. If you have any experience with shooting the lenses I have mentioned but do not have first hand experience with, please do add your opinions of them to this articles in the comments section. In the next Rough Guide Series instalment I will have a look at some of the various bodies currently on offer to m43 users.
  21. The first in this series of articles dealt with the better zoom lenses that are available for the micro four thirds system. That article was warmly received by many of our FZ members as well as guests who commented on it on other websites. This edition of the series deals with the prime lenses available for m43 and what your best options are if you’re looking to build up a system of m43 kit. As I said in the zoom lens article, this is based to some degree on my personal experiences with many of the lenses, but for some of the options I am only going on what I have researched by scouring over many online reviews (trust me, I thoroughly research everything I’m interested in). I’ll split the options up into three main segments, namely wide angle (7mm - 20mm), general purpose (25mm - 30mm) and telephoto (above 30mm). These are of course micro four thirds focal lengths. If you want to know the equivalent 135 system angle of view you simply double the m43 focal length number and you’ll find the lens focal length that most closely matches the angle of view in 135. Example; a 25mm m43 lens has an equivalent angle of view to a 50mm on the larger 135 system. It is NOT an equivalent focal length, just an equivalent angle of view. 25mm is 25mm on any camera system. Wide Angles To Consider Getting 7.5mm f/3.5 Samyang Fisheye ($300) 8mm f/3.5 Panasonic Fisheye ($640) 12mm f/2.0 Olympus ($800) 14mm f/2.5 Panasonic ($300) 15mm f/1.7 Panasonic/Leica Summilux ($600) 17mm f/1.8 Olympus ($500) 17.5mm f/0.95 Voigtlander Nokton ($1150) 19mm f/2.8 Sigma DN “Art” ($200) 20mm f/1.7 Panasonic ($430) Looking at the list above you can see that there’s more than just a clutch of options available if wide angles are your thing. You’ve got all the way from the 180˚ fisheye options to the moderately wide 20mm fast option from Panasonic. Which one(s) do you chose? Regular readers will already know that I have the Samyang 7.5mm Fisheye and I absolutely love this little lens. It’s super sharp everywhere, well built and it also has a manual aperture ring, which is not something you see much of these days. The downside to this lens is that it’s manual focus and there is no information about aperture passed to the camera, which means that you have to meter manually or trust the camera’s guesswork based on what it sees through the lens. I only shoot with it in A mode and somehow both my OM-D cameras get the exposure spot on. Most of the time. Because of the fact that its a fisheye lens and you’re shooting on a smaller format, the manual focus aspect hardly ever comes into play. I usually set the aperture for f/5.6 and focus at infinity. Nearly everything is in focus with that setting. The other native m43 fisheye option is the Panasonic 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye. I don’t know much about this lens other than if I want one I will have to import it myself and that it costs more than double the price of the Samyang ($300 versus $640) and also that it has autofocus. The question I guess I have to ask is whether or not getting auto focus is worth more than double the price? The answer for me is a resounding no. Not when you hardly need to focus the Samyang. I don’t think the Panasonic would be all that much better in terms of sharpness either, so my choice is obvious: save the money and get the Samyang. They also sell this exact same lens under the Rokinon brand. Moving to the more moderate wide angles you will find the Olympus 12mm f/2.0 which is the same as your 24mm lenses on the big sensor DLSR cameras. This particular lens gets excellent reviews everywhere. It’s considered one of the lenses to get for m43, so I’m definitely keen on getting my grubby paws on one at some point. I just have to find the $800 asking price!The next step up the line is the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 which is also considered a great lens by many. The strong point of this guy is that its so tiny, probably not much bigger than the size of a Nikkor rear lens cap. I’m not a big fan of the 28mm equivalent angle of view, so it’s not high on my GAS list. Creep up just a millimetre and we find the recently introduced Panasonic/Leica 15mm f/1.7 Summilux. As with everything Leica puts their name on, you can be assured of top quality optical design. This lens has a very fast maximum aperture so you’ll be able to get wonderfully short depth of field with it, and as with most m43 lenses it’s usable wide open, which is more than can be said for a lot of bigger format lenses of similar aperture. It’s on my GAS list, purely because of this fast aperture, which is something I would find very useful for low light work where a wide aperture is needed.As we get closer to the “normal” angle of view we find the Olympus 17mm f/1.8, which is a lens I wish I had, but then when it’s compared with other lenses that offer a similar specification my desire to charge ahead and buy it finds itself under the gearbox clutch: motor spinning but no drive to the wheels. Why is this? Well, it comes down to two things, I guess. Firstly there’s the price aspect of that lens. It’s not cheap at $500. Especially when you take a look at the alternative Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 that can be had for $430 (often discounted to much less in online deals). In researching these two lenses you will often read reports from users that the Panny is considered noticeably sharper when wide open and has better bokeh. Secondly there’s the issue of auto focus speed. The Olympus is hands down much faster to focus than the Panny. The only reason I would want either of these lenses is for use in very low light, so that I could shoot them wide open and be assured of a sharp result, yet I can’t have my cake and eat it, because the Panny, while considered the better lens wide open, doesn’t have the auto focus performance that you’d need when you’re shooting in low light. So you’ve got the sharpness need covered in the inferior focusing Panny, and you’ve got the AF speed covered in the more expensive and slightly less sharp Oly. Is the superior sharpness worth more to me than the superior auto focus speed? I can’t have both, so I haven’t made a decision on which lens to get yet. In all likelihood if I was to find a good deal on either of them I would probably spring the dough. But it would have to be a really good deal. Like half price good. Stuck inbetween the two lenses above is the seldom mentioned Sigma 19mm f/2.8 Art. Sigma recently updated this lens to being a part of its “Art” line. If you’ve seen any of the new Sigma’s you’ll know they ain’t messing about when it comes to quality. I have on loan the older plastic finished version of this lens, which is optically the same and I’ll be honest with you, this is a great lens which if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s maximum aperture is only 2.8 would make me forget all about the other two mentioned in the previous paragraphs. It’s very sharp wide open and it also has wonderful bokeh, so for street photography in decent light it’s a superb option and I can highly recommend getting one. Best attribute? It’s only $200, even less if you catch the rebates currently on offer from some stockists in the US. Highly recommended for m43. The one lens I am unlikely to ever get because of its price and the fact that it is manual focus is the über fast $1150 Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95. Reviewers of this lens sing its praises very highly, but for me the size, weight and price, coupled with the fact that it’s manual focus make it an unlikely bedfellow for my OM-D cameras. That, and the fact that getting one locally would be darn near impossible unless I import it myself. Put another way, the lens may be exotic, but it doesn’t have enough charm to seduce me.So as you can see, there are a few options open for wide angle prime lenses for m43. It basically comes down to how wide you want to shoot and how wide you want to open your wallet. Standard Lenses 25mm f/0.95 Voitländer Nokton ($1000) 25mm f/1.4 Panasonic/Leica Summilux ($600) 25mm f/1.8 Olympus ($400) 30mm f/2.8 Sigma Art ($200) If you’re a standard lens shooter on the 135 system then you’re probably going to be familiar with the venerable 50mm fast lens that has been around since Pa fell off the bus. For micro four thirds there are 4 lenses with a similar angle of view to choose from. I’m not a standard lens shooter, but I guess if I was to chose between the four listed above I would need to make a case for whether the increased maximum aperture on the Pan/Leica is worth a 50% price premium over the Olympus, or a 200% premium over the Sigma 30mm option. For me personally the Voigtländer Nokton falls into the same “unobtainium” category as the 17.5mm Nokton. It may be a great fast lens, but without autofocus and its big price tag it doesn’t ring my bell. It’s hard to make a special case for any of them because they are all good lenses, so it definitely comes down to how much light you think you’re going to need from your standard view lens. If you want bokeh you get the Pan/Leica or Voigtländer. If you want to save money but not skimp on image quality you get the Sigma. If you want Goldilocks you get the Olympus. I have the sigma 30mm on loan too and it’s OK, but as mentioned it doesn’t offer an angle of view that I find easy to work with, so I am struggling a little to get my creative eye into it. It is sharp enough at f/2.8 though and definitely worth the very low asking price. Telephoto Lenses 42.5mm f/0.95 Voigtländer Nokton ($1,000) 42.5mm f/1.2 Panasonic/Leica Nocticron ($1,500) 45mm f/1.8 Olympus ($280) 45mm f/2.8 Panasonic/Leica Macro-Elmarit ($900) 60mm f/2.8 Olympus ED Macro ($450) 75mm f/1.8 Olympus ED ($900) 150mm f/2.0 Olympus (four thirds) ($2,500) 300mm f/2.8 Olympus (four thirds) ($6,500) Telephotos are what gets most people interested in photography and for m43 there is an abundance of prime lenses to choose from. The first lens on the list above is the über fast Voitlander 42.5mm f/0.95. As with the other two Voigtlander lenses its a manual focus job, so if you’re planning on using this lens, you’ll need to practise your technique using the visual aids on your EVF to get focus nailed, especially if shot wide open. I personally wouldn’t go for something this expensive that didn’t have auto focus, but then I have become a slave to the trappings of technology. Hopefully not everyone has become as lazy as me! Recently Panasonic and Leica once again collaborated on a lens design that saw the birth of the highly acclaimed 42.5mm Nocticron, a lens with a price tag that makes the “unobtainium” Voigtländer Nokton seem like a bargain in comparison. So far what I’m reading online is that it’s one of those lenses us low pay grade bumpkins are going to salivate over until we mortgage the house, sell the dogs, or engage in illicit dealings to get our hands on it. In other words an extremely desirable item. If you can afford it and you want the very best image quality m43 can offer you to make portraits with, this is something you’ll want to investigate. I do hope that other manufacturers look at this spec and offer a cheaper alternative. The sublime Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 is the same angle of view and aperture, but it only costs 2/3rds of the price. That lens has a lot of photographers rushing to the Fuji system, so m43 needs to get a handle on the pricing of its equivalent offerings if it is to remain a viable option. For the rest of us mere mortals there is another option, the very capable Olympus 45mm f/1.8. I have this lens and got it based on the high praise it got from many users all over the web. The auto focus is Usain Bolt like, it offers excellent sharpness wide open and it’s a diminutive lens, weighing only 116g. When its on my OM-D it looks almost like a cotton reel attached to the camera its so tiny. The image quality is awesome too and the best part is that its one of the great bargains of the m43 system. It’ll only lighten your wallet by $280. It’s a great lens for portraits, but also other stuff done at that angle of view.The other option for m43 at this focal length is the Panasonic/Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit. I have this lens too and it’s wonderful. Sharp, optically stabilised for those using Panasonic bodies without in-body stabilisation, and it also has one of those groovy rectangular lens hoods (which incidentally also perfectly fits the Sigma 19mm). The only thing about this lens that I don’t like is that it focuses slowly. The other thing that tends to throw potential buyers off is the fact that it is not cheap at $900. Is it a good macro lens? For me it’s great, but macro isn’t my area of interest, so I can’t really give you an informed opinion on that aspect. Some reviewers love it for macro, while others have panned it. Can’t please everyone I guess. The m43 macro lens that has made photographers stand up and yodel its praises is the newish Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro. Every review I have read about it says the same thing: it’s sublime. Some reviewers have even gone so far as to say that it’s the best macro lens they have ever used. I can imagine that with the 20˚ angle of view it offers it will be ideal for insect close-ups. It’s also half the price of the Pan/Leica 45mm. Definitely on my GAS list even though I’m not really a macro shooter. If there is a lens for m43 that you absolutely have to have, it is the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 ED. This all metal, stubby little fella produces some of the sharpest images I have ever seen and throws the argument that you can’t get shallow depth of field with a small sensor right in the trashcan. I have reviewed this lens before and could extoll its virtues all day if given the opportunity, but suffice to say that if you’re intent on spending $900 on a lens, this is a very good way to do it. You’ll get the equivalent angle of view of a 150mm lens on a 135 system camera, with a huge aperture, but you’ll only be carrying a fraction of the weight. For low light jobs such as stage work and indoor sports, this lens totally rocks. It has a great working distance for tight portraits too.The next two lenses I’m going to discuss are legacy four thirds mounts from Olympus. Both of them have earned their reputations as being some of the very best optics you can buy. The Olympus 150mm f/2.0 is a heavy little fellow at 1.465kg but it offers the popular angle of view of 8.2˚ which is the same as that of a 300mm lens on your “full frame” systems. The difference is that you’re getting a full stop’s worth of extra light with this lens. What can you do with it? Take a look at this Flickr search for images shot with it. Impressive! If I was going to spend $2500 on a telephoto lens I think I would definitely consider this one, especially if you partner it with a 2x teleconverter. You would have the equivalent of a 600mm f/4. Possibly not good for birds in flight - I have not ever used an Olympus four thirds teleconverter - but for stationary subjects that you can’t approach easily, this could definitely be a short solution to a long problem. The other four thirds option is the Olympus 300mm f/2.8. This is every bit as big as a 300mm 2.8 from all the other big name makers. The compelling difference with this $6500 beast is that the 4.1˚ angle of view is the same as that of a 600mm lens for bigger 135 system, except that you’re gathering double the light with your f/2.8 maximum aperture as opposed to the f/4.0 maximum aperture lenses made for the larger systems. Combine that with the in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) on the Olympus E-M1 and you’ve got yourself an unbeatable telephoto lens for that angle of view. Personally I’m only likely to get a lens like this when somebody offers me one at a ridiculously low price. So these are most of the highly recommended prime lenses for micro four thirds. There are a few I didn't include, but only because I know nothing about them. As you can see, apart from the absence of tilt-shift lenses, m43 offers a nice variety of top class options from a number of manufacturers and that list is getting longer all the time. If you have any experience with shooting the lenses I have mentioned but do not have first hand experience with, please do add your opinions of them to this articles in the comments section. In the next Rough Guide Series instalment I will have a look at some of the various bodies currently on offer to m43 users. View full article
  22. What Will I Compromise On If I Move From A DSLR to Olympus OM-D? This is a fair question. As photographers we spend a lot of time researching lenses, camera bodies and other accessories so that we can get the best possible results. In my opinion the only way to find out the truth about how something performs is to try it out yourself. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have bought a lens or a camera based on the recommendations of others only to find that I hated it. The opposite is true too, where I have bought lenses that other reviewers have pasted but I ended up loving them. OK, so not everyone can afford to drop a few thousand Dollars on every new camera or lens that comes out in the hope that it meets expectations (especially not me), but if you’re going to use a review site to form an opinion, at least make sure you check with one that delivers actual results in the form of images you can relate to. Stuff that you're going to make yourself. I have never and I will never look at scientific charts to make a decision on whether a lens or camera is going to cut it for me. I will look at photos of real subject matter and wherever possible I will go out and make photos of subjects I like to shoot, assess them and decide for myself if the gear meets my expectation. If I need the camera/lens for action photography I will look for sites where the authors show actual action shots using the equipment, or I'll borrow the lens/camera and go and do some of my own work. If I want the camera/lens to do portraiture I will look for a site that shows actual portraits taken for real world use or go and do it myself. You get the picture? If the reviewer is not showing photos like the ones you want to take, how can they make a decision on how it performs in that situation? Conjecture? Well, personally I don't go for that. Show me the shots I will probably want to take. Don't show me charts and make inferences from them. So when I first got interested in m43 I didn’t get my information from the likes of dpreview, DXO or any of those scientific sites. I went to Flickr and some other image hosting sites where there were actual photos I could look at taken with the kit I was interested in. What I found on Flickr when looking at shots taken with the OM-D system kind of floored me. Surely it couldn’t be that good? Why aren’t more people using it? I had to know more, so I got involved and what I discovered is that the so-called disadvantages of smaller sensors that are constantly being debated online didn't affect my photography at all. In my opinion the micro four thirds image quality has advanced to the place where under normal viewing conditions you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between photos taken with the big expensive DSLRs and those taken with something like the Olympus E-M1. So what was I losing out on? These are the main compromises you'll read about online. Compromise #1: Depth Of Field Is Increased (often interpreted as "you can't get shallow depth of field from a small sensor") As the camera’s sensor gets bigger while aperture stays wide open, the depth of field decreases. According to scientific calculations the m43 system is about 2 stops different in terms of d.o.f. when compared to the same photograph taken at the same focal length and perspective of the 135 system. This is explained very nicely on this page, so I won't go into it here, but If you’ve ever had a look at the effects of this on a very fast lens you’ll see that 2 stops doesn’t make an enormous difference to the out of focus areas of your frame at all. However, something to consider very seriously is that when you are shooting a very fast lens on a large sensor at wide aperture, you have to absolutely nail the focus otherwise your image is going to look soft all over. You're going to be stopping down anyway, so why not enjoy more depth of field with wider apertures and the resulting faster shutter speed in the first place? This is just the nature of the fast lens on a bigger sensor. How often do you actually find yourself shooting them wide open and nailing the focus? In my experience the phase detection autofocus systems used in these big DSLR’s are just not always accurate enough for this and unless you spend a lot of time calibrating your autofocus you’re going to run into this problem over and over again with ultra-fast lenses shot wide open - almost everything looks soft. It takes a lot of practise and technique to get it right. So, very short depth of field is not as short on m43 but this is to a large degree dependent on the shooting situation, distance to the subject and distance from the background. I have seen some amazing images shot on m43 that have very short depth of field - just go and visit Robin Wong’s blog to see what I mean. I’m totally fine with the depth of field of my fast glass on m43 - I'd rather have more depth of field at wider apertures than less. Click on the images to enlarge them. Compromise #2: The Resolution Is Lower The resolution of the current generation of m43 cameras tops out at 16MP, which is significantly less than something like the Nikon D800 and slightly less than the 22MP Canon 5DMk3. How important is this? Some photographers have genuine needs for the extremely high image resolution, like making large, highly detailed prints, whereas many others need it mainly for having the ability to zoom into a small part of an image and marvel at whatever detail they might find there. Yes, it’s cool to be able to do that, but in reality it’s not a good reason for buying camera X or lens Y. Not in my opinion anyway. Besides, if you’re shooting something like a landscape you can quite easily obtain a high resolution file by stitching several images together. I have made a conscious decision to assess images I take as an entire thing as they would be seen by a non-photographer (ie, client) and not to nit pick about micro contrast, chromatic aberrations or or how much tonality exists at a 100% crop of any given image. The only reason I zoom into an image at 100% is to check that I have got the parts I want to be in focus nice and sharp. Other than that I make my decision on image quality by looking at the whole image. If it looks great when you’re looking at the whole thing do I really care what it looks like when I am looking at a tiny part of it? No. I don’t care at all. Not everyone agrees with this approach and I dare say that if the resolution aspect is that important to you, then perhaps the micro four thirds system is not the thing that will satisfy you right now. For me 16MP is plenty. I can make good prints out of them and I can still crop away significant parts of an image with decent results. Compromise #3: High ISO Is Not As Good As DSLR I’ve seen some photos shot on cameras like the Nikon D3S and the new Nikon D4S and Df. They’re undisputed kings of the high ISO world and you can comfortably shoot them at ridiculously high ISO values over 25600 and get perfectly acceptable image quality by any standards. However, I have to say that the Olympus E-M1 is producing very acceptable images for me at ISO 12800 too. I am actually quite often startled at just how well this particular camera deals with noise at such high ISO values. This is something we couldn’t do with the E-M5, where 3200 was about as high as I liked to go. Anything higher resulted in banding and a general loss of image aesthetic. I don’t think you can really call the E-M1 high ISO images noisy so much as you can call them grainy. And in my book grain is good. It adds atmosphere to images. The grain on the E-M1 at ISO 12800 is not anything like the kind of pain I often felt from looking at images shot on certain lesser DSLR cameras at significantly lower ISO values in the past. There’s no luminance noise that shouts at me and while the graininess becomes quite visible the higher up the scale you go, it’s not affecting the sharpness of the images as much as you’d expect it to. I run a slight noise reduction preset over my images in Lightroom, just enough to drop the grain a bit without affecting fine details and I’m very happy with what I see. Convert it to black and white and you might be forgiven for thinking you’re shooting with old Kodak Tri-X pushed a few stops. Tri-X was the staple film stock used by generations of photojournalists in the 20th century and its ISO rating is 400. Imagine the shots the journos of the day might have been able to get if they could have shot at 12800, had the fast glass and a built-in image stabiliser on their film? So is it possible to use an E-M1 at high ISO values? Oh yes, it certainly is. But you shouldn’t expect results quite as good as those found on cameras that are known to excel at high ISO, such as the likes of the Nikon D4, etc. I’d put the high ISO aesthetic performance of the E-M1 about a stop above that of the Nikon D700 (which I used for 5 years in many a low light situation), so if you’re using that camera as a benchmark you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what the E-M1 does. It’s a whole lot better than the E-M5 too. I use the word aesthetic because while the D700 might have less noise at the same ISO values, the grain of the E-M1 just looks better to my eyes. I would never shoot the D700 at 6400 on purpose, yet I am quite happy to shoot the E-M1 at 12800 - it just looks better. Your mileage may vary depending on your tastes. Compromise #4: Auto Focus Tracking is Inferior to DSLR’s The E-M1 has made huge strides in the auto focus tracking department compared to its forerunner the E-M5. This is because they added phase detection auto focus sensors on the imager. It makes a big difference because it is now possible to get decent auto focus using the older 4/3rds lenses. When I say “decent” I’m not talking blazing fast like you’d get on a top of the line pro DSLR body with lens to match, but decent in the sense that your lens isn’t going to take forever to acquire focus. Depending on the lens you’ll experience something not unlike what you would get from the older Nikon screwdriver type auto focus lenses. I have the Olympus 7-14mm f/4 and the 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5. The 50-200mm is the lens I’d most likely be using to track objects (sports and wildlife) and it focuses really quickly for me, even in poor light. It’s snappy, but there’s a very brief adjustment (back and forth) when it first locks on. Once it does lock on, it doesn’t let go easily. Bird in flight photographers would not like this behaviour. I don’t do a lot of bird photography, so for me it’s not a deal breaker. I think it’s good enough for me to use on the types of action photography I am more in tune with, namely surfing, motor sport and land based wildlife. There are a few things you need to be aware of when it comes to autofocus performance with the E-M1. The E-M1 makes use of a dual AF system, namely phase detection and contrast detection, but it decides on its own when to switch between them based on the type of lens mounted. It’s not a user setting that can be changed. When you’re using a micro four thirds lens it will only deploy CDAF, even when its in AF-Tracking mode. The only time it uses the PDAF mode is when there is a four thirds legacy lens mounted. You will notice when it’s in this mode because the AF point layout in the EVF changes from the wide grid to a diamond type layout typically found in a DSLR. AF-Tracking performance in the CDAF is a lot better on the E-M1 than it is in the E-M5, but the only m43 telephoto lens I have been able to try this out on is the Olympus 75-300mm, which admittedly I am not all that fond of. I did use it once or twice to do surfing shots with and it worked fine in AF-Tr. I can imagine that once the PRO telephotos for m43 arrive (the 40-150/2.8 and the 300/4.0) the tracking performance will get better. TTL Flash - Compromise or Embedded Memory Confusion? I will admit to being a little less than thrilled with the way Olympus do TTL flash. It’s complicated but once you do understand how it all works, it is certainly very capable. It offers everything the Nikon CLS offers, but just in a different way. My biggest gripe is that the interface on the FL-600R flash units is fiddly. You have to contend with buttons and a dial to adjust things and getting used to it takes some time. With the Nikon CLS it was pretty much “plug and play” whereas with the Olympus flash system it’s “plug and pray that you have the correct settings on the flash AND on the camera”. Yes, you also have settings on the camera that you need to fiddle with in order to get the exposure right. I find this very counter intuitive and its especially problematic when you want to bounce flash in TTL mode during an event. I’ve had to resort to putting the flash into manual mode and adjusting the output by compensation dialling the power. Very old school. I suppose I’ve been spoiled by the new school where thinking about flash settings isn’t hard wired into my brain and Nikon iTTL became a crutch. On the plus side once you get used to the interface there isn’t much you can’t do with the Olympus flash system. For wireless use indoors it works very much the same way that Nikon CLS does and you can also control up to three groups of flashes from your OM-D using the little clip on flash as a commander. The pop-up flash on my Nikon D700 only allowed me to control 2 groups. I bought two of the FL-600R flash units and while they are diminutive compared to the likes of a Nikon SB-910, they pack a punch. If I need to produce head shots on a white background it’s an easy setup and using manual output on both the background light and key light, I have been rewarded with pretty good results. Shot with two FL-600R units, one into an umbrella and the other bounced onto the background In Conclusion As far as I can tell, what I’ve described here are the only tangible compromises I’ve encountered where a DSLR may have an advantage over the OM-D system. For me none of them were critical enough to prevent a complete switch over to OM-D from my fairly well equipped Nikon eco-system and if I am honest with myself and my readers, there are too many advantages to OM-D that cannot be reproduced on a DSLR for me to consider a DSLR as being a better option. Not for the kind of work I do anyway.
  23. What Will I Compromise On If I Move From A DSLR to Olympus OM-D? This is a fair question. As photographers we spend a lot of time researching lenses, camera bodies and other accessories so that we can get the best possible results. In my opinion the only way to find out the truth about how something performs is to try it out yourself. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have bought a lens or a camera based on the recommendations of others only to find that I hated it. The opposite is true too, where I have bought lenses that other reviewers have pasted but I ended up loving them. OK, so not everyone can afford to drop a few thousand Dollars on every new camera or lens that comes out in the hope that it meets expectations (especially not me), but if you’re going to use a review site to form an opinion, at least make sure you check with one that delivers actual results in the form of images you can relate to. Stuff that you're going to make yourself. I have never and I will never look at scientific charts to make a decision on whether a lens or camera is going to cut it for me. I will look at photos of real subject matter and wherever possible I will go out and make photos of subjects I like to shoot, assess them and decide for myself if the gear meets my expectation. If I need the camera/lens for action photography I will look for sites where the authors show actual action shots using the equipment, or I'll borrow the lens/camera and go and do some of my own work. If I want the camera/lens to do portraiture I will look for a site that shows actual portraits taken for real world use or go and do it myself. You get the picture? If the reviewer is not showing photos like the ones you want to take, how can they make a decision on how it performs in that situation? Conjecture? Well, personally I don't go for that. Show me the shots I will probably want to take. Don't show me charts and make inferences from them. So when I first got interested in m43 I didn’t get my information from the likes of dpreview, DXO or any of those scientific sites. I went to Flickr and some other image hosting sites where there were actual photos I could look at taken with the kit I was interested in. What I found on Flickr when looking at shots taken with the OM-D system kind of floored me. Surely it couldn’t be that good? Why aren’t more people using it? I had to know more, so I got involved and what I discovered is that the so-called disadvantages of smaller sensors that are constantly being debated online didn't affect my photography at all. In my opinion the micro four thirds image quality has advanced to the place where under normal viewing conditions you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between photos taken with the big expensive DSLRs and those taken with something like the Olympus E-M1. So what was I losing out on? These are the main compromises you'll read about online. Compromise #1: Depth Of Field Is Increased (often interpreted as "you can't get shallow depth of field from a small sensor") As the camera’s sensor gets bigger while aperture stays wide open, the depth of field decreases. According to scientific calculations the m43 system is about 2 stops different in terms of d.o.f. when compared to the same photograph taken at the same focal length and perspective of the 135 system. This is explained very nicely on this page, so I won't go into it here, but If you’ve ever had a look at the effects of this on a very fast lens you’ll see that 2 stops doesn’t make an enormous difference to the out of focus areas of your frame at all. However, something to consider very seriously is that when you are shooting a very fast lens on a large sensor at wide aperture, you have to absolutely nail the focus otherwise your image is going to look soft all over. You're going to be stopping down anyway, so why not enjoy more depth of field with wider apertures and the resulting faster shutter speed in the first place? This is just the nature of the fast lens on a bigger sensor. How often do you actually find yourself shooting them wide open and nailing the focus? In my experience the phase detection autofocus systems used in these big DSLR’s are just not always accurate enough for this and unless you spend a lot of time calibrating your autofocus you’re going to run into this problem over and over again with ultra-fast lenses shot wide open - almost everything looks soft. It takes a lot of practise and technique to get it right. So, very short depth of field is not as short on m43 but this is to a large degree dependent on the shooting situation, distance to the subject and distance from the background. I have seen some amazing images shot on m43 that have very short depth of field - just go and visit Robin Wong’s blog to see what I mean. I’m totally fine with the depth of field of my fast glass on m43 - I'd rather have more depth of field at wider apertures than less. Click on the images to enlarge them. Compromise #2: The Resolution Is Lower The resolution of the current generation of m43 cameras tops out at 16MP, which is significantly less than something like the Nikon D800 and slightly less than the 22MP Canon 5DMk3. How important is this? Some photographers have genuine needs for the extremely high image resolution, like making large, highly detailed prints, whereas many others need it mainly for having the ability to zoom into a small part of an image and marvel at whatever detail they might find there. Yes, it’s cool to be able to do that, but in reality it’s not a good reason for buying camera X or lens Y. Not in my opinion anyway. Besides, if you’re shooting something like a landscape you can quite easily obtain a high resolution file by stitching several images together. I have made a conscious decision to assess images I take as an entire thing as they would be seen by a non-photographer (ie, client) and not to nit pick about micro contrast, chromatic aberrations or or how much tonality exists at a 100% crop of any given image. The only reason I zoom into an image at 100% is to check that I have got the parts I want to be in focus nice and sharp. Other than that I make my decision on image quality by looking at the whole image. If it looks great when you’re looking at the whole thing do I really care what it looks like when I am looking at a tiny part of it? No. I don’t care at all. Not everyone agrees with this approach and I dare say that if the resolution aspect is that important to you, then perhaps the micro four thirds system is not the thing that will satisfy you right now. For me 16MP is plenty. I can make good prints out of them and I can still crop away significant parts of an image with decent results. Compromise #3: High ISO Is Not As Good As DSLR I’ve seen some photos shot on cameras like the Nikon D3S and the new Nikon D4S and Df. They’re undisputed kings of the high ISO world and you can comfortably shoot them at ridiculously high ISO values over 25600 and get perfectly acceptable image quality by any standards. However, I have to say that the Olympus E-M1 is producing very acceptable images for me at ISO 12800 too. I am actually quite often startled at just how well this particular camera deals with noise at such high ISO values. This is something we couldn’t do with the E-M5, where 3200 was about as high as I liked to go. Anything higher resulted in banding and a general loss of image aesthetic. I don’t think you can really call the E-M1 high ISO images noisy so much as you can call them grainy. And in my book grain is good. It adds atmosphere to images. The grain on the E-M1 at ISO 12800 is not anything like the kind of pain I often felt from looking at images shot on certain lesser DSLR cameras at significantly lower ISO values in the past. There’s no luminance noise that shouts at me and while the graininess becomes quite visible the higher up the scale you go, it’s not affecting the sharpness of the images as much as you’d expect it to. I run a slight noise reduction preset over my images in Lightroom, just enough to drop the grain a bit without affecting fine details and I’m very happy with what I see. Convert it to black and white and you might be forgiven for thinking you’re shooting with old Kodak Tri-X pushed a few stops. Tri-X was the staple film stock used by generations of photojournalists in the 20th century and its ISO rating is 400. Imagine the shots the journos of the day might have been able to get if they could have shot at 12800, had the fast glass and a built-in image stabiliser on their film? So is it possible to use an E-M1 at high ISO values? Oh yes, it certainly is. But you shouldn’t expect results quite as good as those found on cameras that are known to excel at high ISO, such as the likes of the Nikon D4, etc. I’d put the high ISO aesthetic performance of the E-M1 about a stop above that of the Nikon D700 (which I used for 5 years in many a low light situation), so if you’re using that camera as a benchmark you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what the E-M1 does. It’s a whole lot better than the E-M5 too. I use the word aesthetic because while the D700 might have less noise at the same ISO values, the grain of the E-M1 just looks better to my eyes. I would never shoot the D700 at 6400 on purpose, yet I am quite happy to shoot the E-M1 at 12800 - it just looks better. Your mileage may vary depending on your tastes. Compromise #4: Auto Focus Tracking is Inferior to DSLR’s The E-M1 has made huge strides in the auto focus tracking department compared to its forerunner the E-M5. This is because they added phase detection auto focus sensors on the imager. It makes a big difference because it is now possible to get decent auto focus using the older 4/3rds lenses. When I say “decent” I’m not talking blazing fast like you’d get on a top of the line pro DSLR body with lens to match, but decent in the sense that your lens isn’t going to take forever to acquire focus. Depending on the lens you’ll experience something not unlike what you would get from the older Nikon screwdriver type auto focus lenses. I have the Olympus 7-14mm f/4 and the 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5. The 50-200mm is the lens I’d most likely be using to track objects (sports and wildlife) and it focuses really quickly for me, even in poor light. It’s snappy, but there’s a very brief adjustment (back and forth) when it first locks on. Once it does lock on, it doesn’t let go easily. Bird in flight photographers would not like this behaviour. I don’t do a lot of bird photography, so for me it’s not a deal breaker. I think it’s good enough for me to use on the types of action photography I am more in tune with, namely surfing, motor sport and land based wildlife. There are a few things you need to be aware of when it comes to autofocus performance with the E-M1. The E-M1 makes use of a dual AF system, namely phase detection and contrast detection, but it decides on its own when to switch between them based on the type of lens mounted. It’s not a user setting that can be changed. When you’re using a micro four thirds lens it will only deploy CDAF, even when its in AF-Tracking mode. The only time it uses the PDAF mode is when there is a four thirds legacy lens mounted. You will notice when it’s in this mode because the AF point layout in the EVF changes from the wide grid to a diamond type layout typically found in a DSLR. AF-Tracking performance in the CDAF is a lot better on the E-M1 than it is in the E-M5, but the only m43 telephoto lens I have been able to try this out on is the Olympus 75-300mm, which admittedly I am not all that fond of. I did use it once or twice to do surfing shots with and it worked fine in AF-Tr. I can imagine that once the PRO telephotos for m43 arrive (the 40-150/2.8 and the 300/4.0) the tracking performance will get better. TTL Flash - Compromise or Embedded Memory Confusion? I will admit to being a little less than thrilled with the way Olympus do TTL flash. It’s complicated but once you do understand how it all works, it is certainly very capable. It offers everything the Nikon CLS offers, but just in a different way. My biggest gripe is that the interface on the FL-600R flash units is fiddly. You have to contend with buttons and a dial to adjust things and getting used to it takes some time. With the Nikon CLS it was pretty much “plug and play” whereas with the Olympus flash system it’s “plug and pray that you have the correct settings on the flash AND on the camera”. Yes, you also have settings on the camera that you need to fiddle with in order to get the exposure right. I find this very counter intuitive and its especially problematic when you want to bounce flash in TTL mode during an event. I’ve had to resort to putting the flash into manual mode and adjusting the output by compensation dialling the power. Very old school. I suppose I’ve been spoiled by the new school where thinking about flash settings isn’t hard wired into my brain and Nikon iTTL became a crutch. On the plus side once you get used to the interface there isn’t much you can’t do with the Olympus flash system. For wireless use indoors it works very much the same way that Nikon CLS does and you can also control up to three groups of flashes from your OM-D using the little clip on flash as a commander. The pop-up flash on my Nikon D700 only allowed me to control 2 groups. I bought two of the FL-600R flash units and while they are diminutive compared to the likes of a Nikon SB-910, they pack a punch. If I need to produce head shots on a white background it’s an easy setup and using manual output on both the background light and key light, I have been rewarded with pretty good results. Shot with two FL-600R units, one into an umbrella and the other bounced onto the background In Conclusion As far as I can tell, what I’ve described here are the only tangible compromises I’ve encountered where a DSLR may have an advantage over the OM-D system. For me none of them were critical enough to prevent a complete switch over to OM-D from my fairly well equipped Nikon eco-system and if I am honest with myself and my readers, there are too many advantages to OM-D that cannot be reproduced on a DSLR for me to consider a DSLR as being a better option. Not for the kind of work I do anyway. View full article
  24. Since I first got involved with using m43 cameras a few years ago I have used quite a few lenses for the system from various manufacturers. Some of them are pretty meh, but there are some others that will really surprise you. These are the 5 I reach for most often. Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye Samyang is a specialist lens manufacturer based in South Korea. Prior to learning about this fisheye lens, I had read some glowing reviews of their other lenses online, particularly the 85mm f/1.4 they produce for 135 systems. Reviews of the 7.5mm fisheye also showed a good reputation amongst users, so I decided to get one. The prices of their lenses are very reasonable when compared to OEM lenses, as well as other 3rd party manufactured ones. The 7.5mm fisheye I have chosen here is only $300. It’s very sharp and produces lovely vibrant colours on both my OM-D cameras. The only downside to the Samyang range is that they are all manual focus lenses and they have no electronics at all in the bodies. This means that you have to set aperture manually too. Focusing the 7.5mm fisheye on the OM-D’s is actually a doddle, even without the focus peaking feature of the E-M1. The depth of field is so great that if you stop the lens down to around f/5.6 or f/8 just about everything is in focus. If I leave my OM-D in aperture priority mode, somehow the camera gets the exposure right 99% of the time, so this lens has become a very firm favourite of mine. I can highly recommend getting one. Round lens in a round room. My cabin at the Sossussvlei Dune Lodge in Namibia. Panasonic Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit I picked up this lens on a bargain half price sale a couple of years ago. It’s construction is primarily plastic and polycarbonite, but it focuses very close and the optics from Leica are typically excellent. Up until the release of the Olympus 60mm macro lens, there weren’t any other options for doing macro on micro four thirds, so this lens became quite desirable amongst photographers using that system, which I think is probably why it had such a high asking price of around $900. Those prices are under pressure now and I see that both Amazon and B&H are offering it for $720. Is it worth the money? I definitely think so, but you’d be using this primarily as a macro lens. The auto focus is a bit too slow for it to do duty as a portrait lens in my opinion. Compared to the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 it’s a complete slouch, but it does have the Panasonic Optical Image Stabiliser (OIS) built in, so if you’re not shooting with an Olympus body, you have that benefit to fall back on. For some reason though, in spite of its weaknesses in the speed department I really like this lens and I use it often for product photography and when I feel the need for macro work. I’d choose the Olympus for portraiture though, simply because it has such amazing bokeh and is considerably cheaper at $310. Fried egg on a windsurfer? No, just an hors d'oeuvre at a wine tasting. Olympus 75mm f/1.8 ED What can I say about this guy that hasn’t already been said ten thousand times all over the web? If there is one lens that is an absolute must have for m43 users it’s this one. The image quality is outstanding. Bokeh is amazing, auto focus is typically Olympus swift and the build quality of this lens is all metal, right down to the manual focus ring which is smooth as silk. You’re getting a lens that is not terribly different from the size of a 50mm f/1.4 on 135 system, but which gives you a very useful 150mm equivalent field of view. For indoor sports and low light work this lens will give you many photographic rewards and leave you feeling as pleased as punch. I can’t sing it’s praises high enough. Price wise it’s not cheap at $900 sans the metal hood, but if you wanted to get an equivalent lens in 135 you’d be spending a whole lot more cash. I really didn't go to a boy band concert, but they seem to make appearances in shows everywhere these days. Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 This is a really tiny lens that collapses when not in use. It’s not much bigger than the diminutive Olympus 45/1.8 which I often call my “cotton reel” lens. It is well constructed and because it’s so small and light I always have it in my camera bag. The other option for wide angles that you currently have for m43 is the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0, which is a pretty good lens, but it’s much, much bigger and heavier than the Olympus. The difference between the 7mm and 9mm wide ends of these two lenses may be significant enough for those seeking ultra wide capability to opt for the Panny. However, you’re looking at $900 versus $560 for the smaller Oly option. Optically the Olympus is very good and while it has CA that is typical of this kind of lens, these days with software correction that shouldn’t even be a consideration for deciding on a wide angle lens. If you’re in absolute need of the extreme wide angle field of view then stitching might be an idea if 9mm isn’t quite wide enough. Naturally this will depend on the application. The hood for this lens is the LH-55B which is a largish rectangular job. While I love the look of these style of lens hoods, they aren’t very practical because they can’t reverse onto the lens when in storage. Because this one is quite a bit wider than the lens you really shouldn’t store it on the lens in your bag in case it breaks off when pulling it out of a tight compartment in your bag. It’s quite slim so what I do is store it in a side pocket of the ThinkTank Retro bags I use. It's not quite an extreme wide angle, but with some vision you can make it work for you. Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Most glamourous women have their “little black number”, which is the sexy, tight fitting dress they wear to important cocktail parties. Olympus has the 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO which in photographic terms is exactly the same thing. The lens is not only amazing to look at, it feels even better to hold. I was lucky enough to be one of the first people in South Africa to get one of them because they are in short supply here. When I did get it I was quite literally in awe of the image quality. Prior to making the switch to Olympus I had used the Nikon 24-70/2.8 as my main lens and I stated very often to many who asked that it was the best zoom lens I had ever used. If I was going to have any regrets about leaving Nikon, it would be because I wouldn’t have that lens anymore. Well, I’m pleased and relieved to say that I think the Olympus is slightly better than the Nikkor. How? It’s sharper at f/2.8 so it provides more of a usable aperture range. I would always have to stop down the Nikkor to f/4 for the sharpness I wanted, which when I was shooting the D700 would have the knock on effect of having to shoot the camera slower or boost the ISO. Being able to shoot the 12-40/2.8 wide open and get the same sharpness, perhaps even more so, is one of the great delights I have experienced since moving to m43. The 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO has a couple of sweeteners that I am happy with. One is the presence of a programmable function button on the lens body. If you find that you have run out of buttons to assign custom functions to on your OM-D, you can assign any of them to this button. I have mine set to activate the digital 2x teleconverter. The other sweetener is that you don’t have to shell out for the lens hood separately anymore. It comes bundled with the lens. Thank you for listening to your customers, Olympus! The 12-40mm f/2.8 is just a wonderful lens to work with. While I already have 10 different lenses for my micro four thirds system, there are many I haven’t yet had the chance to try out. So if you have some favourites that are not on my list, please share them with us. If you're thinking of buying one of these lenses please support Fotozones and use one of the many links in this article to buy it from Amazon.com, or the links to other merchants found on this website. It won't cost you any more but it helps me earn a small commission when you buy using a link from my site.
  25. Since I first got involved with using m43 cameras a few years ago I have used quite a few lenses for the system from various manufacturers. Some of them are pretty meh, but there are some others that will really surprise you. These are the 5 I reach for most often. Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye Samyang is a specialist lens manufacturer based in South Korea. Prior to learning about this fisheye lens, I had read some glowing reviews of their other lenses online, particularly the 85mm f/1.4 they produce for 135 systems. Reviews of the 7.5mm fisheye also showed a good reputation amongst users, so I decided to get one. The prices of their lenses are very reasonable when compared to OEM lenses, as well as other 3rd party manufactured ones. The 7.5mm fisheye I have chosen here is only $300. It’s very sharp and produces lovely vibrant colours on both my OM-D cameras. The only downside to the Samyang range is that they are all manual focus lenses and they have no electronics at all in the bodies. This means that you have to set aperture manually too. Focusing the 7.5mm fisheye on the OM-D’s is actually a doddle, even without the focus peaking feature of the E-M1. The depth of field is so great that if you stop the lens down to around f/5.6 or f/8 just about everything is in focus. If I leave my OM-D in aperture priority mode, somehow the camera gets the exposure right 99% of the time, so this lens has become a very firm favourite of mine. I can highly recommend getting one. Round lens in a round room. My cabin at the Sossussvlei Dune Lodge in Namibia. Panasonic Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit I picked up this lens on a bargain half price sale a couple of years ago. It’s construction is primarily plastic and polycarbonite, but it focuses very close and the optics from Leica are typically excellent. Up until the release of the Olympus 60mm macro lens, there weren’t any other options for doing macro on micro four thirds, so this lens became quite desirable amongst photographers using that system, which I think is probably why it had such a high asking price of around $900. Those prices are under pressure now and I see that both Amazon and B&H are offering it for $720. Is it worth the money? I definitely think so, but you’d be using this primarily as a macro lens. The auto focus is a bit too slow for it to do duty as a portrait lens in my opinion. Compared to the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 it’s a complete slouch, but it does have the Panasonic Optical Image Stabiliser (OIS) built in, so if you’re not shooting with an Olympus body, you have that benefit to fall back on. For some reason though, in spite of its weaknesses in the speed department I really like this lens and I use it often for product photography and when I feel the need for macro work. I’d choose the Olympus for portraiture though, simply because it has such amazing bokeh and is considerably cheaper at $310. Fried egg on a windsurfer? No, just an hors d'oeuvre at a wine tasting. Olympus 75mm f/1.8 ED What can I say about this guy that hasn’t already been said ten thousand times all over the web? If there is one lens that is an absolute must have for m43 users it’s this one. The image quality is outstanding. Bokeh is amazing, auto focus is typically Olympus swift and the build quality of this lens is all metal, right down to the manual focus ring which is smooth as silk. You’re getting a lens that is not terribly different from the size of a 50mm f/1.4 on 135 system, but which gives you a very useful 150mm equivalent field of view. For indoor sports and low light work this lens will give you many photographic rewards and leave you feeling as pleased as punch. I can’t sing it’s praises high enough. Price wise it’s not cheap at $900 sans the metal hood, but if you wanted to get an equivalent lens in 135 you’d be spending a whole lot more cash. I really didn't go to a boy band concert, but they seem to make appearances in shows everywhere these days. Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 This is a really tiny lens that collapses when not in use. It’s not much bigger than the diminutive Olympus 45/1.8 which I often call my “cotton reel” lens. It is well constructed and because it’s so small and light I always have it in my camera bag. The other option for wide angles that you currently have for m43 is the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0, which is a pretty good lens, but it’s much, much bigger and heavier than the Olympus. The difference between the 7mm and 9mm wide ends of these two lenses may be significant enough for those seeking ultra wide capability to opt for the Panny. However, you’re looking at $900 versus $560 for the smaller Oly option. Optically the Olympus is very good and while it has CA that is typical of this kind of lens, these days with software correction that shouldn’t even be a consideration for deciding on a wide angle lens. If you’re in absolute need of the extreme wide angle field of view then stitching might be an idea if 9mm isn’t quite wide enough. Naturally this will depend on the application. The hood for this lens is the LH-55B which is a largish rectangular job. While I love the look of these style of lens hoods, they aren’t very practical because they can’t reverse onto the lens when in storage. Because this one is quite a bit wider than the lens you really shouldn’t store it on the lens in your bag in case it breaks off when pulling it out of a tight compartment in your bag. It’s quite slim so what I do is store it in a side pocket of the ThinkTank Retro bags I use. It's not quite an extreme wide angle, but with some vision you can make it work for you. Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Most glamourous women have their “little black number”, which is the sexy, tight fitting dress they wear to important cocktail parties. Olympus has the 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO which in photographic terms is exactly the same thing. The lens is not only amazing to look at, it feels even better to hold. I was lucky enough to be one of the first people in South Africa to get one of them because they are in short supply here. When I did get it I was quite literally in awe of the image quality. Prior to making the switch to Olympus I had used the Nikon 24-70/2.8 as my main lens and I stated very often to many who asked that it was the best zoom lens I had ever used. If I was going to have any regrets about leaving Nikon, it would be because I wouldn’t have that lens anymore. Well, I’m pleased and relieved to say that I think the Olympus is slightly better than the Nikkor. How? It’s sharper at f/2.8 so it provides more of a usable aperture range. I would always have to stop down the Nikkor to f/4 for the sharpness I wanted, which when I was shooting the D700 would have the knock on effect of having to shoot the camera slower or boost the ISO. Being able to shoot the 12-40/2.8 wide open and get the same sharpness, perhaps even more so, is one of the great delights I have experienced since moving to m43. The 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO has a couple of sweeteners that I am happy with. One is the presence of a programmable function button on the lens body. If you find that you have run out of buttons to assign custom functions to on your OM-D, you can assign any of them to this button. I have mine set to activate the digital 2x teleconverter. The other sweetener is that you don’t have to shell out for the lens hood separately anymore. It comes bundled with the lens. Thank you for listening to your customers, Olympus! The 12-40mm f/2.8 is just a wonderful lens to work with. While I already have 10 different lenses for my micro four thirds system, there are many I haven’t yet had the chance to try out. So if you have some favourites that are not on my list, please share them with us. If you're thinking of buying one of these lenses please support Fotozones and use one of the many links in this article to buy it from Amazon.com, or the links to other merchants found on this website. It won't cost you any more but it helps me earn a small commission when you buy using a link from my site. View full article
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