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Found 49 results

  1. Olympus South Africa has very kindly loaned me a new Olympus E-M1X for my safari starting next Monday, along with a 300mm f/4.0 PRO. I have to say ... this camera is way bigger than I thought it would be. It hearkens me back to my days of running around with a Nikon D2H. This is it next to my original E-M1. You can't really tell the depth of the grip from this image, but rest assured, it's considerably deeper than my camera. I will be writing a field diary during the course of the safari and posting it here on Fotozones, so if you are thinking of getting an E-M1X I will impart all my feelings and impressions on the machine as I use it on safari.
  2. Olympus South Africa very kindly loaned me an E-M1X for my recent Photo Safari to Sabi Sabi and while I only had a few days before leaving on the trip to become accustomed to the camera, I did manage to produce some great images (by my standards) while using it in conjunction with the Olympus 300mm f/4.0 PRO. The first thing that struck me about this camera when taking it out of the box is the sheer size of it. It is huge. If you’ve been using Micro Four Thirds bodies to get away from the bulk of traditional DSLR’s then you will not want this camera. I was quite shocked at its size initially, especially when compared to my gripped E-M1 (original) which I have been shooting since 2014. The Nikon D5 is only 15mm bigger in terms of depth, height and width all around, so for a small sensor camera to be so close in size to a flagship 35mm camera begs some serious questioning of the makers. Side-by-side view of the E-M1X and the original E-M1 with its grip So why did Olympus make this camera so big? When you begin handling it the answer falls into place. It’s designed for sports and action photographers who are used to the speed and heft of cameras like the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS 1D series. That’s the user market Olympus are targeting with this machine. It feels substantial in the hands and the ergonomics are such that if you’re used to a bigger camera, moving across to the E-M1X will be much easier for you to adapt to, especially since the Olympus is so highly customisable that you could easily set it up to pretty much emulate the ergonomics of your big DSLR. Well, maybe not the Canons which often require simultaneous button presses to activate certain things, but most certainly it would be easy for a Nikon shooter to make the change. Not much in it, dimension wise, is there? So we now have a giant MFT camera that feels like a Nikon D5. Why didn’t they do what Panasonic has done and make a bigger sensor too? Good question. Why stick with MFT sensors if you want to attract the sports and wildlife shooters of the world? This is where the concept of MFT begins to make sense. The main advantage to be had when shooting this small format as opposed to 35mm is that MFT lenses are comparatively diminutive. For example, on my safari I packed in the Olympus 300/4.0 PRO as well as my older 50-200/2.8-3.5 SWD and a third un-gripped body with the Olympus 12-100/4.0 PRO. I also had the Pan/Leica 8-18mm lens in my bag because I wanted to make some photos of the lodge while I was there. Those items I took as a carry on in the ThinkTank Airport Advantage roller and while the bag was not exactly light once my laptop and other peripherals were in it (about 15kg total), had I wanted a similar focal range shooting a 35mm system, I would have had to pack a 600mm f/4.0, 200-400mm f/4.0 and a regular camera with professional wide angle and ultra-zoom lenses. There is no way you could take that as a carry on with 35mm, so you’d have to bring a hard case and pay for the extra baggage. You then also have the added stress of wondering if your precious gear will make it to its destination. Having been in this exact situation many times before moving across to MFT from Nikon 35mm I know exactly what the challenges of travelling with large lenses and heavy gear are. This is the gear I took on the safari in the ThinkTank Airport Advantage. Conversely travelling with MFT is easy. Even with the giant E-M1X body, the space and weight savings of the incredible Olympus PRO and Panasonic/Leica lenses is a Godsend. Also consider the not-so-insignificant overhead of having to bring along a support system for your big 35mm glass because I doubt you’re going to want to hand hold a 600/4.0 lens if you’re going on a photography trip where such a lens is wanted. You’ll also need to pack a monopod and probably a gimbal head too. MFT systems like Olympus don’t require any support other than your hand, even when shooting the 300mm f/4 PRO. The IBIS and lens IS combine incredibly well. Given its considerable girth, for the E-M1X to make sense as a photographic tool that is intended to win over 35mm users it also needs to have some other things going for it. It will need to have seriously fast and accurate auto-focus, plus it will need to offer decent image quality in low light. This is where things get interesting. Read on! Auto Focus I’m not a back-button focus photographer. I can understand the principle behind this method and I have tried it a few times, but I have been using single point AF-S for so long that trying to change that deeply ingrained behaviour is really hard for me. I’ve also never set up any of the cameras I have ever owned to work in AF-C mode with any degree of success, so I tend to stab at the shutter button rapidly to keep slow moving things in focus (it’s very rarely that I will find myself photographing fast moving subjects). This method has worked for me for quite a long time now. So when I started reading the autofocus section in the E-M1X manual (which itself is a gargantuan 680-odd pages long in just English alone!) I was staggered by the array of setup options for the AF system of the E-M1X. I simply didn’t have enough time before my safari to comprehend all the options it offers, let alone try them out in practical situations. As mentioned I always set up AF to use a single point in AF-S mode and I recompose once I see the green dot. I don’t use the grouped points, so for me learning something as sophisticated as the AF system on the E-M1X is going to require a specific set of applications, which currently I don’t have in my work. For people who shoot birds in flight, aviation, motorsport and fast action sports such as soccer, ice-hockey and the like, this is probably going to be a winner, especially since they have built in subject recognition for certain things like cars, trains and planes. Apparently these subjects will be added to in firmware as they build up better data on new ones. I can imagine that leopard detection might be a thing in the future. One feature that I didn’t try but thought was interesting is the Len Focus Range. This setup allows you to define the distances that the AF system should work in. It basically allows you to tell the camera not to focus on objects that are a certain distance away from you. For example, if you are shooting a sport like boxing or ice hockey, you could set this up to avoid focusing on the ropes and/or plexiglass between you and what you’re trying to shoot. Some lenses will have these limits built in, but with the E-M1X you can specify exactly how many metres you want to work within. Another thing I liked about the X is that you can assign the Home position for the single AF point to be in a different position when shooting in the portrait orientation. This is really handy for events when I find myself having to shift the AF point between shooting people at a podium and then switching to the audience in landscape orientation. Very nice feature. What I can tell you about the AF system as I used it, is that it’s reassuringly lightning quick and accurate for the wildlife subjects I was photographing. There’s no hunting unless you miss a contrast point, like all cameras I have ever tried. Focus is almost instantaneous, even when subjects are not so close. In summary, I don’t think that anybody coming from 35mm will be disappointed with the AF capability of the E-M1X. If anything they might be pleasantly surprised given the sheer array of options available to control how the system works. Wildebeest in the misty morning, no problem with auto focus here in spite of the grass Using my "repeated stabbing" AF technique I managed to get a moderately sharp image, but I reckon had I used the camera's AF-S mode here the shot would have been better. Speed One of the biggest advances Olympus made with this camera is the CPU speed. This is a very fast camera in terms of how quickly it processes and reads off data from the sensor. It’s so fast that you can do sensor shift high resolution images handheld. I didn’t really try this out properly, plus Lightroom can’t read the resulting .ORI files so the handful of shots I did take with this mode active, I have to process in Olympus Workspace, which I am completely new to. Sorry! As such I can’t formulate an opinion right now on how useful it is based on such a small sample of images, but what I can say is that on stationary subjects I think it can work quite well. I’d love to try it out in studio doing product photography, but I think there might be some issues syncing it with studio strobes. Getting back to the intended sports user of this camera, there is the not-so-insignificant Pro Capture mode to consider as a lure for the photographers who want to simplify their lives and get great action every time. Basically with the mode active the camera writes continuously to the buffer while you are holding the shutter button halfway down. As soon as your critical capture moment arrives you trip the shutter and the camera will record whatever it has currently in the buffer to the card(s). This is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel really, especially if you have the patience to sit with your finger on the trigger waiting for a bird to take flight. You can’t miss the shot. Unless you’re like me and you get tired of waiting and the bird chuckles at you as you put down the camera just before it flies away. I'll settle for stationary birds On the subject of Pro Capture, this mode is set by changing the drive mode in Super Control Panel (SCP). However, the thing is you may (like me) forget to switch this back to a regular drive mode after failing to record the wretched lilac breasted roller taking off, and then at your next sighting you will end up with dozens of images of a stationary buffalo. Or worse still, you’ll be wanting to shoot a sequence of something happening, but after you accidentally trigger Pro Capture you will have to wait for the camera to write its buffer onto your card. If you have a not-so-fast card like me this could be a few seconds, followed by several more trying to remember where to switch off the Pro Capture mode. Ideally I’d love to be able to have Pro Capture activate by holding down a custom function button together with the shutter button. A Fn button on the PRO lenses would be an ideal setup for this pretty cool feature. While I had the E-M1X I couldn’t see a way of being able to assign that particular feature to any of the custom function buttons, so hopefully Olympus’ engineers will read this criticism and work out a way of doing it in future firmware upgrades. I did manage to set up a quick switch between normal and Pro Capture by using the Custom Modes, but that requires remembering to change modes between sightings. Duh. Regarding Custom Modes there are four of these that are assignable to the PASM dial, so if your memory is better than mine you can set up each custom mode for a different type of shooting simply by changing the mode. However, you’re going to have to have a Gary Kasparov like mind because the sheer number of custom settings on a camera like the E-M1X is mind-boggling. There are pages and pages and more pages of custom settings in the menus and if you’re not used to the way Olympus does menus, you’re either going to go stir crazy or require a lot of patience (and batteries) to get the better of it all. It’s not insurmountable though and experienced Olympus users will probably be able to set up their custom modes quite easily after a few weeks with the camera in the field. One thing I really liked about the X is that there is a Custom Menu area where you can save up to 5 pages of menu items that you regularly need to access. Storing an item in there is as simple as pressing the Record video button while the item is selected in the menu. That’s a very big plus for me and goes a long way towards personalising the Olympus menu system. Stabilisation The IBIS and lens IS combine in the E-M1X to create an extraordinary amount of stabilisation. I was using the 300/4.0 PRO on this body almost exclusively for the duration of our 7 days in Sabi Sabi and occasionally I would shoot birds sitting on nearby branches. When I do my focus and recompose technique the subject does what I can only describe as a “moonwalk” glide from one part of the frame to the other. There is absolutely no camera shake at all handheld, which when you consider that you are using a 4.1˚ angle of view is bonkers! Olympus claim a 6 stop advantage in handheld photography and I have no doubt that this is true. Given my sloppy technique this is yet another Godsend to make my images look much better than they should. Stabilisation with long lenses is incredible. Battery Battery life was pretty decent. The camera comes with two batteries and typically I only exhausted about 50% of the one each day. Granted I don’t shoot as much as everybody else. On this safari I took a total of 1726 images with the E-M1X, averaging 288 per day. So, assuming I were to exhaust both batteries in a day I would be able to shoot over 1000 frames before having to recharge them. However, it is also possible to charge the camera via USB-C, so if you did get trigger happy enough to shoot that many in a day on safari, you could recharge from a power bank between sightings. Or just buy more batteries. Low Light Right, this is where the rubber hits the road as far as getting 35mm power-users interested in switching to MFT. I’ll say it at the outset, I was disappointed in the low light performance of the E-M1X sensor. For starters, it doesn’t seem possible to be able to set Auto-ISO to go above 6400 on the X. None of the expanded ranges are available when using the auto mode while shooting RAW, which I think is just silly. This is how I shoot these days. I always use Auto-ISO. On the original E-M1 I sometimes let this go as high as 12800 and while the images may appear grainy they have a certain film-like charm to them. You can’t do that on the X. You have to set ISO 12800 or above manually. As far as graininess goes, 6400 on the E-M1X is very grainy and there is also a major loss of colour fidelity. To be honest I was expecting much better performance from the sensor at high ISO, so for me this is a deal breaker. Since the camera is intended to compete against the likes of the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS 1D series (where higher ISO is a forte), it sadly falls well short in this area. Having said that, I think that if you buy this camera and invest some time in learning how to deal with the grain and colour issues in post production you could probably get some very good results. Shot at ISO 6400, you can see the grain in the background, plus there has been a general loss of colour saturation. But then in good light you'll get rewarded. Gorgeous colours from the Olympus. No adjustments in post. Cool Things I Liked The sound of the mechanical shutter is really soft. It’s a lot quieter than my old E-M1 and if you are in the business of shooting in quiet places (churches, meetings, etc) you may not even have to switch to electronic shutter and risk the rolling effects thereof. It’s nice and quiet. I really appreciated the built in GPS and weather sensor on the E-M1X. This camera will tell you what the barometric pressure, altitude and ambient temperature was on every shot you take. I wish Lightroom would pick up those EXIF fields, alas you have to use the Olympus Workspace software to read them. A Couple Of Nit Picks There are a couple of things that I didn’t like, most notably there is no loop for a grip strap in the base of the camera so you would have to put a plate onto there to accommodate one (I used the Peak Design Clutch with its little plate). That seems like a daft omission to me because the moment you have to put a plate on the grip you lose the comfort of shooting with it in portrait mode. I was also a bit disappointed with the EVF. The refresh rate and colour was all good, but it just seemed to lack a bit of bite. The EVF on my old original E-M1 seems sharper to my eyes, which is a little weird. I did try adjusting the diopter a few times, but it didn’t seem to improve things. It could have been a contrast setting in the menus that I missed? The one thing I really don’t like (and I have expressed my dislike of this before) is the flip out LCD screen. This is something video producers want, but as a stills photographer I truly don’t want this as it’s a very weak point of the camera just waiting to snap off in the right circumstances. I much prefer the tilting screen of the original OM-D’s. Olympus should make it an option for this kind of premium camera: which type of LCD screen would you prefer, Mr. Customer? Conclusion I wish that I could have kept the camera for just a little bit longer as there are many other areas I would have liked to explore its performance in, especially my daily bread and butter work of property and product photography. Alas, they are in short supply around here so it had to go back post haste. My overall impression is that it is quite an impressive machine. It offers the photographer a lot of very cool features, excellent customisability and ergonomics. It is a specialist camera, however, and as such I think that the intended market for it is going to be a hard nut for Olympus to crack, especially given its lack of high ISO performance, which is something the sports photographers demand. If you’re a day shooter or you shoot action in well lit arenas then the advances this machine brings in terms of auto-focus and customisability, plus the sheer plethora of outstanding MFT lenses available for the system makes it a very attractive option, especially for those who travel a lot for photography. You get the ruggedness, heft and weather proofing of a pro body and the lightness and compactness of much smaller lenses. For me personally I would love one, after all I got more keepers on this most recent safari than in all the 10 years of safaris preceding it, but… there is the matter of that not-so-insignificant $3000 price tag to consider. With the recent firmware upgrade to the E-M1 Mk II now bringing its feature set closer to that of the X, it is going to be much harder for Olympus to pitch this camera at the wider market and existing MFT users with that price tag. If it were closer to $2000 I might be a lot more interested in buying one. My final advice? If you want the very best camera that MFT can currently offer you for stability, video features, ruggedness, crazy feature set and customisability, get the E-M1X. If you are expecting par performance with a 35mm pro camera for low light, rather save $1500, wait for the sensor technology to improve and get the E-M1 Mk II for now. View full article
  3. Olympus South Africa very kindly loaned me an E-M1X for my recent Photo Safari to Sabi Sabi and while I only had a few days before leaving on the trip to become accustomed to the camera, I did manage to produce some great images (by my standards) while using it in conjunction with the Olympus 300mm f/4.0 PRO. The first thing that struck me about this camera when taking it out of the box is the sheer size of it. It is huge. If you’ve been using Micro Four Thirds bodies to get away from the bulk of traditional DSLR’s then you will not want this camera. I was quite shocked at its size initially, especially when compared to my gripped E-M1 (original) which I have been shooting since 2014. The Nikon D5 is only 15mm bigger in terms of depth, height and width all around, so for a small sensor camera to be so close in size to a flagship 35mm camera begs some serious questioning of the makers. Side-by-side view of the E-M1X and the original E-M1 with its grip So why did Olympus make this camera so big? When you begin handling it the answer falls into place. It’s designed for sports and action photographers who are used to the speed and heft of cameras like the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS 1D series. That’s the user market Olympus are targeting with this machine. It feels substantial in the hands and the ergonomics are such that if you’re used to a bigger camera, moving across to the E-M1X will be much easier for you to adapt to, especially since the Olympus is so highly customisable that you could easily set it up to pretty much emulate the ergonomics of your big DSLR. Well, maybe not the Canons which often require simultaneous button presses to activate certain things, but most certainly it would be easy for a Nikon shooter to make the change. Not much in it, dimension wise, is there? So we now have a giant MFT camera that feels like a Nikon D5. Why didn’t they do what Panasonic has done and make a bigger sensor too? Good question. Why stick with MFT sensors if you want to attract the sports and wildlife shooters of the world? This is where the concept of MFT begins to make sense. The main advantage to be had when shooting this small format as opposed to 35mm is that MFT lenses are comparatively diminutive. For example, on my safari I packed in the Olympus 300/4.0 PRO as well as my older 50-200/2.8-3.5 SWD and a third un-gripped body with the Olympus 12-100/4.0 PRO. I also had the Pan/Leica 8-18mm lens in my bag because I wanted to make some photos of the lodge while I was there. Those items I took as a carry on in the ThinkTank Airport Advantage roller and while the bag was not exactly light once my laptop and other peripherals were in it (about 15kg total), had I wanted a similar focal range shooting a 35mm system, I would have had to pack a 600mm f/4.0, 200-400mm f/4.0 and a regular camera with professional wide angle and ultra-zoom lenses. There is no way you could take that as a carry on with 35mm, so you’d have to bring a hard case and pay for the extra baggage. You then also have the added stress of wondering if your precious gear will make it to its destination. Having been in this exact situation many times before moving across to MFT from Nikon 35mm I know exactly what the challenges of travelling with large lenses and heavy gear are. This is the gear I took on the safari in the ThinkTank Airport Advantage. Conversely travelling with MFT is easy. Even with the giant E-M1X body, the space and weight savings of the incredible Olympus PRO and Panasonic/Leica lenses is a Godsend. Also consider the not-so-insignificant overhead of having to bring along a support system for your big 35mm glass because I doubt you’re going to want to hand hold a 600/4.0 lens if you’re going on a photography trip where such a lens is wanted. You’ll also need to pack a monopod and probably a gimbal head too. MFT systems like Olympus don’t require any support other than your hand, even when shooting the 300mm f/4 PRO. The IBIS and lens IS combine incredibly well. Given its considerable girth, for the E-M1X to make sense as a photographic tool that is intended to win over 35mm users it also needs to have some other things going for it. It will need to have seriously fast and accurate auto-focus, plus it will need to offer decent image quality in low light. This is where things get interesting. Read on! Auto Focus I’m not a back-button focus photographer. I can understand the principle behind this method and I have tried it a few times, but I have been using single point AF-S for so long that trying to change that deeply ingrained behaviour is really hard for me. I’ve also never set up any of the cameras I have ever owned to work in AF-C mode with any degree of success, so I tend to stab at the shutter button rapidly to keep slow moving things in focus (it’s very rarely that I will find myself photographing fast moving subjects). This method has worked for me for quite a long time now. So when I started reading the autofocus section in the E-M1X manual (which itself is a gargantuan 680-odd pages long in just English alone!) I was staggered by the array of setup options for the AF system of the E-M1X. I simply didn’t have enough time before my safari to comprehend all the options it offers, let alone try them out in practical situations. As mentioned I always set up AF to use a single point in AF-S mode and I recompose once I see the green dot. I don’t use the grouped points, so for me learning something as sophisticated as the AF system on the E-M1X is going to require a specific set of applications, which currently I don’t have in my work. For people who shoot birds in flight, aviation, motorsport and fast action sports such as soccer, ice-hockey and the like, this is probably going to be a winner, especially since they have built in subject recognition for certain things like cars, trains and planes. Apparently these subjects will be added to in firmware as they build up better data on new ones. I can imagine that leopard detection might be a thing in the future. One feature that I didn’t try but thought was interesting is the Len Focus Range. This setup allows you to define the distances that the AF system should work in. It basically allows you to tell the camera not to focus on objects that are a certain distance away from you. For example, if you are shooting a sport like boxing or ice hockey, you could set this up to avoid focusing on the ropes and/or plexiglass between you and what you’re trying to shoot. Some lenses will have these limits built in, but with the E-M1X you can specify exactly how many metres you want to work within. Another thing I liked about the X is that you can assign the Home position for the single AF point to be in a different position when shooting in the portrait orientation. This is really handy for events when I find myself having to shift the AF point between shooting people at a podium and then switching to the audience in landscape orientation. Very nice feature. What I can tell you about the AF system as I used it, is that it’s reassuringly lightning quick and accurate for the wildlife subjects I was photographing. There’s no hunting unless you miss a contrast point, like all cameras I have ever tried. Focus is almost instantaneous, even when subjects are not so close. In summary, I don’t think that anybody coming from 35mm will be disappointed with the AF capability of the E-M1X. If anything they might be pleasantly surprised given the sheer array of options available to control how the system works. Wildebeest in the misty morning, no problem with auto focus here in spite of the grass Using my "repeated stabbing" AF technique I managed to get a moderately sharp image, but I reckon had I used the camera's AF-S mode here the shot would have been better. Speed One of the biggest advances Olympus made with this camera is the CPU speed. This is a very fast camera in terms of how quickly it processes and reads off data from the sensor. It’s so fast that you can do sensor shift high resolution images handheld. I didn’t really try this out properly, plus Lightroom can’t read the resulting .ORI files so the handful of shots I did take with this mode active, I have to process in Olympus Workspace, which I am completely new to. Sorry! As such I can’t formulate an opinion right now on how useful it is based on such a small sample of images, but what I can say is that on stationary subjects I think it can work quite well. I’d love to try it out in studio doing product photography, but I think there might be some issues syncing it with studio strobes. Getting back to the intended sports user of this camera, there is the not-so-insignificant Pro Capture mode to consider as a lure for the photographers who want to simplify their lives and get great action every time. Basically with the mode active the camera writes continuously to the buffer while you are holding the shutter button halfway down. As soon as your critical capture moment arrives you trip the shutter and the camera will record whatever it has currently in the buffer to the card(s). This is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel really, especially if you have the patience to sit with your finger on the trigger waiting for a bird to take flight. You can’t miss the shot. Unless you’re like me and you get tired of waiting and the bird chuckles at you as you put down the camera just before it flies away. I'll settle for stationary birds On the subject of Pro Capture, this mode is set by changing the drive mode in Super Control Panel (SCP). However, the thing is you may (like me) forget to switch this back to a regular drive mode after failing to record the wretched lilac breasted roller taking off, and then at your next sighting you will end up with dozens of images of a stationary buffalo. Or worse still, you’ll be wanting to shoot a sequence of something happening, but after you accidentally trigger Pro Capture you will have to wait for the camera to write its buffer onto your card. If you have a not-so-fast card like me this could be a few seconds, followed by several more trying to remember where to switch off the Pro Capture mode. Ideally I’d love to be able to have Pro Capture activate by holding down a custom function button together with the shutter button. A Fn button on the PRO lenses would be an ideal setup for this pretty cool feature. While I had the E-M1X I couldn’t see a way of being able to assign that particular feature to any of the custom function buttons, so hopefully Olympus’ engineers will read this criticism and work out a way of doing it in future firmware upgrades. I did manage to set up a quick switch between normal and Pro Capture by using the Custom Modes, but that requires remembering to change modes between sightings. Duh. Regarding Custom Modes there are four of these that are assignable to the PASM dial, so if your memory is better than mine you can set up each custom mode for a different type of shooting simply by changing the mode. However, you’re going to have to have a Gary Kasparov like mind because the sheer number of custom settings on a camera like the E-M1X is mind-boggling. There are pages and pages and more pages of custom settings in the menus and if you’re not used to the way Olympus does menus, you’re either going to go stir crazy or require a lot of patience (and batteries) to get the better of it all. It’s not insurmountable though and experienced Olympus users will probably be able to set up their custom modes quite easily after a few weeks with the camera in the field. One thing I really liked about the X is that there is a Custom Menu area where you can save up to 5 pages of menu items that you regularly need to access. Storing an item in there is as simple as pressing the Record video button while the item is selected in the menu. That’s a very big plus for me and goes a long way towards personalising the Olympus menu system. Stabilisation The IBIS and lens IS combine in the E-M1X to create an extraordinary amount of stabilisation. I was using the 300/4.0 PRO on this body almost exclusively for the duration of our 7 days in Sabi Sabi and occasionally I would shoot birds sitting on nearby branches. When I do my focus and recompose technique the subject does what I can only describe as a “moonwalk” glide from one part of the frame to the other. There is absolutely no camera shake at all handheld, which when you consider that you are using a 4.1˚ angle of view is bonkers! Olympus claim a 6 stop advantage in handheld photography and I have no doubt that this is true. Given my sloppy technique this is yet another Godsend to make my images look much better than they should. Stabilisation with long lenses is incredible. Battery Battery life was pretty decent. The camera comes with two batteries and typically I only exhausted about 50% of the one each day. Granted I don’t shoot as much as everybody else. On this safari I took a total of 1726 images with the E-M1X, averaging 288 per day. So, assuming I were to exhaust both batteries in a day I would be able to shoot over 1000 frames before having to recharge them. However, it is also possible to charge the camera via USB-C, so if you did get trigger happy enough to shoot that many in a day on safari, you could recharge from a power bank between sightings. Or just buy more batteries. Low Light Right, this is where the rubber hits the road as far as getting 35mm power-users interested in switching to MFT. I’ll say it at the outset, I was disappointed in the low light performance of the E-M1X sensor. For starters, it doesn’t seem possible to be able to set Auto-ISO to go above 6400 on the X. None of the expanded ranges are available when using the auto mode while shooting RAW, which I think is just silly. This is how I shoot these days. I always use Auto-ISO. On the original E-M1 I sometimes let this go as high as 12800 and while the images may appear grainy they have a certain film-like charm to them. You can’t do that on the X. You have to set ISO 12800 or above manually. As far as graininess goes, 6400 on the E-M1X is very grainy and there is also a major loss of colour fidelity. To be honest I was expecting much better performance from the sensor at high ISO, so for me this is a deal breaker. Since the camera is intended to compete against the likes of the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS 1D series (where higher ISO is a forte), it sadly falls well short in this area. Having said that, I think that if you buy this camera and invest some time in learning how to deal with the grain and colour issues in post production you could probably get some very good results. Shot at ISO 6400, you can see the grain in the background, plus there has been a general loss of colour saturation. But then in good light you'll get rewarded. Gorgeous colours from the Olympus. No adjustments in post. Cool Things I Liked The sound of the mechanical shutter is really soft. It’s a lot quieter than my old E-M1 and if you are in the business of shooting in quiet places (churches, meetings, etc) you may not even have to switch to electronic shutter and risk the rolling effects thereof. It’s nice and quiet. I really appreciated the built in GPS and weather sensor on the E-M1X. This camera will tell you what the barometric pressure, altitude and ambient temperature was on every shot you take. I wish Lightroom would pick up those EXIF fields, alas you have to use the Olympus Workspace software to read them. A Couple Of Nit Picks There are a couple of things that I didn’t like, most notably there is no loop for a grip strap in the base of the camera so you would have to put a plate onto there to accommodate one (I used the Peak Design Clutch with its little plate). That seems like a daft omission to me because the moment you have to put a plate on the grip you lose the comfort of shooting with it in portrait mode. I was also a bit disappointed with the EVF. The refresh rate and colour was all good, but it just seemed to lack a bit of bite. The EVF on my old original E-M1 seems sharper to my eyes, which is a little weird. I did try adjusting the diopter a few times, but it didn’t seem to improve things. It could have been a contrast setting in the menus that I missed? The one thing I really don’t like (and I have expressed my dislike of this before) is the flip out LCD screen. This is something video producers want, but as a stills photographer I truly don’t want this as it’s a very weak point of the camera just waiting to snap off in the right circumstances. I much prefer the tilting screen of the original OM-D’s. Olympus should make it an option for this kind of premium camera: which type of LCD screen would you prefer, Mr. Customer? Conclusion I wish that I could have kept the camera for just a little bit longer as there are many other areas I would have liked to explore its performance in, especially my daily bread and butter work of property and product photography. Alas, they are in short supply around here so it had to go back post haste. My overall impression is that it is quite an impressive machine. It offers the photographer a lot of very cool features, excellent customisability and ergonomics. It is a specialist camera, however, and as such I think that the intended market for it is going to be a hard nut for Olympus to crack, especially given its lack of high ISO performance, which is something the sports photographers demand. If you’re a day shooter or you shoot action in well lit arenas then the advances this machine brings in terms of auto-focus and customisability, plus the sheer plethora of outstanding MFT lenses available for the system makes it a very attractive option, especially for those who travel a lot for photography. You get the ruggedness, heft and weather proofing of a pro body and the lightness and compactness of much smaller lenses. For me personally I would love one, after all I got more keepers on this most recent safari than in all the 10 years of safaris preceding it, but… there is the matter of that not-so-insignificant $3000 price tag to consider. With the recent firmware upgrade to the E-M1 Mk II now bringing its feature set closer to that of the X, it is going to be much harder for Olympus to pitch this camera at the wider market and existing MFT users with that price tag. If it were closer to $2000 I might be a lot more interested in buying one. My final advice? If you want the very best camera that MFT can currently offer you for stability, video features, ruggedness, crazy feature set and customisability, get the E-M1X. If you are expecting par performance with a 35mm pro camera for low light, rather save $1500, wait for the sensor technology to improve and get the E-M1 Mk II for now.
  4. 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.
  5. There is no review for this lens yet. Please feel free to post your own review (or images taken with this lens) using the comments section below. The best review received will become the stub record and the author will be credited with the record. Feel free to ask questions about the lens in the comments section, but please keep all comments on topic so as to avoid clutter. We especially invite members to share their images taken with the lens in the comments. To get notifications of new posts to this lens review record please click the "Follow" button on the same line as the title. These records will always be non-commercial and no affiliate links to sellers will be found here.
  6. 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.
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. @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.
  11. 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?
  12. 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
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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!
  16. 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
  17. 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
  18. 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.
  19. 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
  20. 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/
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. 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
  24. 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.
  25. 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
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