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Found 182 results

  1. Note: This thread will contain a series of entries about the Fotozones Wildlife Safari 2019, including images, impressions of the gear I used and anecdotes about the safari itself. I wrote some of it while on safari, but had to stop as my laptop just wasn't up to the task of proper editing, so I am now doing the editing at home and will add my favourite shots as I go. Please feel free to ask questions about the trip and the gear in this thread. I've been in Johannesburg the past two days welcoming our 2019 Safarians, including @GrahamWelland, @CarreraS and @rbeesonjr. Yesterday we rented a minivan and drove about 90 minutes away from the airport hotel to the Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary. This is the home of "The Lion Whisperer" (Kevin) who campaigns tirelessly against the practise of captive lion breeding and canned lion hunting. There's a lot behind the story of how he came to have all these lions in his care, as well as 4 black leopards and a small group of spotted and striped hyenas, but I won't get into that right now. I took along the Olympus E-M1X and 12-100/4 as well as the Olympus 300/4. So far, what I am seeing I am liking. A lot. That 300mm lens is just phenomenal. So much reach and so sharp, yet in such a small package. If you're a birder using MFT or you need a lens for distant wildlife as well as some sports, this is for you. The image below was shot from behind a chainlink fence. This particular lion was quite menacing and twice he charged the fence towards us, which then set off a roaring frenzy between him, his brother and a group of white lions in the next enclosure who thought he was charging them. It was incredible to hear! Today we head off on our flight to Skukuza and the first official game drive of the 2019 safari. We are all very excited to get there!
  2. 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.
  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. View full article
  4. 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.
  5. I just got word that Olympus has updated the firmware in the E-M1 Mk II and this sees it now getting a lot more of the features that the E-M1X has, including improved AF, expanded ISO range (down to ISO 64) as well as some other stuff that I didn't even know these cameras could do. Here's Robin Wong to run through some of the details.
  6. Luc de Schepper

    Volvo

    This Volvo XC40 in retro Amazon Blue is a 190hp Auto, a car that gets you in no-time in Zen-mode. Very comfortable and relaxing but not the drivers car our previous one (a Mazda CX3) was. I loved to rev the smooth and spirited Mazda's 2-litre non-turbo engine, the Volvo has so much turbo-assisted torque it mostly runs below 2.500rpm. And still the Volvo uses a lot more fuel than the Mazda. All that comfort and safety comes at a price, a lot of weight.
  7. My favourite telephoto lens for the MFT system is this one. I find that the optics are better than the newer 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens (not that that lens is bad, it just isn't as good bokeh wise as this one). The tripod mount is removable and when you take this off as well as the somewhat large hood, it fits into a moderately sized camera bag without much fuss, which gives you a very versatile wedding lens that has a smaller form factor than the typical 70-200mm f/2.8 for 35mm systems. If you also can find the Olympus 1.4x teleconverter for this you will get an extra 40% magnification and as far as I am concerned there is no noticeable loss in image quality. Not the most heroic looker when fully zoomed (the barrel extends), but when IQ is more important to you than what a lens looks like, this one will make you very happy as an MFT shooter (using a dual AF system camera body like the E-M1).
  8. Over December and January I had the opportunity to use a demo sample of the new addition to the M.Zuiko PRO family of lenses, namely the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO. This is less of a review and more of a collection of my impressions and opinions of this lens, where I am basing my observations purely on some recreational photography I managed to do over the holiday period. Ideally I would have liked to do some proper work with the lens, unfortunately much of the country is in deep slumber over this period of time, so work didn’t really happen for me while I had the lens with me. Anyway, I did get out with it a few times so this is what I found out about it. Design & Handling We all know that this lens is the newest addition to the micro four thirds stable of ultra-wide zoom lenses, (the same angles of view as a Nikon 14-24mm lens on an FX body) but unlike the previous 7-14mm options from both Panasonic and Olympus (the latter in 4/3rds mount), this one has a bright f/2.8 maximum aperture throughout the zoom range. It’s also quite large as a result of this increase in the aperture and while it’s much smaller than the older 4/3rds 7-14mm f/4, it is still bigger and heavier than the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO. It totally dwarfs the diminutive Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6, which is currently my go-to wide angle lens for the m43 system. The build quality of the 7-14 is fantastic and follows the same conventions as the rest of the PRO range. Sleek, fully metal everywhere and truly indicative of manufacturing excellence. The only design issue I have with it is that it also uses the MF/AF clutch system, which has caught out many an Olympus photographer when its accidentally switched to MF. Fortunately the new firmware on most OM-D models lets you turn that off. Panasonic body users will not be so lucky, so they will need to proceed with caution. I suppose another design issue to talk about is that you won’t be able to use screw-in filters with this lens, but this is something that we see on all ultra-wide zoom lenses these days - none of them have this. I do recall seeing somewhere recently that either LEE or Cokin have developed a filter holder that you can put on the Nikon 14-24/2.8, so maybe they might look into doing something for this lens. To be honest though, I am not so sure that you will get good results with such a system and resin filters, especially at the extreme wide end of the zoom. There’s bound to be some serious optical diffraction unless they make the filters really thin. In The Field Like all the modern Olympus glass this one is sharp like a razor blade even at the maximum aperture. I shot with it stopped down a bit and also at the widest 2.8 aperture and honestly, there’s not a lot of difference to talk about. If you’re coming from consumer grade glass for your system you’ll see the difference immediately. That’s what you’re paying for with a lens like this. That said, sharpness isn’t everything. We need to look at some of the other characteristics of the lens optics and decide whether or not this is the right lens for us. Obviously each photographer who is thinking about this guy might have different needs for it, so what I am going to do is share how I used it during the time I had it and point out what I think are the good and bad points. I had hoped to use it indoors for some architectural work, but as mentioned that part of my business wasn’t active at all during the time I had it. Let’s take a look at some photos: One of the first things I did with this lens is climb up onto the roof of my garage and see how wide it looks at 7mm because we have a fairly impressive view from our house. This is what the lens saw at 7mm. Something I noticed on many of the earlier 7-14mm reviews posted when the lens first came out was that the wide angles looked weird to me, almost like they weren’t quite wide and had been squashed somehow. After puzzling this out in my mind I came to the conclusion that it is the 4:3 aspect ratio that was messing with my head. Because I use my OM-D’s permanently in 3:2 mode the images I got didn’t seem to have that sense of “compressed expansion” I saw on other reviews. They looked proper wide. So apart from the width of the viewing angle the next thing you will notice about the shot above is that there are three very strong flare dots dead in the middle of the frame. You will also notice that the sun is pretty high in the sky and not in the frame. In the next shot shown below, taken from the same position, but turned roughly 90˚to the left and tilting the camera to portrait orientation, you will see seven flare ghosts running into the frame at an angle. Also take note of the shadow lengths on my driveway. It was almost high noon. This is a bit of a problem for this lens. It flares very easily, even when the sun isn’t in the frame but where strong light hits the front element directly. I picked this up in many of the shots I took, indoors and outdoors. I am by no means an optical engineer, but there is something else I am seeing happening with this lens in that situation that makes me think that maybe Olympus have tried to correct more for the side effects of the flare than worry too much about the typical element ghosting we see in flare situations. Normally with lens flare the first thing that happens is you lose contrast. No so with this lens. The images retain a terrific amount of punch and colour doesn’t seem to be degraded at all. A few days later I took the 7-14mm down to the beach for a short stroll to see what I could find. If you look at the two shots above you will get to see the difference in the angle of view between 7mm and 14mm. Also notice that the perspective you get changes dramatically from one end to the other and this can make for some interesting creative effects given the right foreground / background subject relationships. I would love to have used this lens in a live concert where I could get right behind the singer and show the crowd in the background. In these two shots I have tried to illustrate the exaggerated perspective of the 7mm end, as well as show how the flare issue is more apparent in the first shot, but not in the second. Towards the end of December one of my cousins’ son was Christened at a local church and in-between shooting the actual event I managed to grab a few shots to illustrate how useful an extreme wide angle can be to show the inside of an expansive space. You can really get some interesting looks with this view. however, take note that the window light has once again caused the lens to flare, even indoors. The actual Christening (this is an Anglican Church) took place in a small vestibule near the entrance and using the wide part of the lens again I got some shots showing pretty much the entire room while I stood in the doorway. As far as distortion goes I didn’t find anything too objectionable in the bricks, but the head of the lady in the bottom right has been stretched ET style. That’s something you can’t get away from with rectilinear wide angle lenses like this. You’ll get it on every ultra-wide angle lens. Avoid putting people near the edges and the problem goes away. This next shot I took on 2 January at a gorge not too far from where I live (about 30-40kms by road). You can’t really appreciate the width of the shot but my intention was to try and show as much of the surroundings as possible without plunging headlong down the 70m or so to the bottom! This is one of the last images I took with the lens and it was just after an actual job I did a couple of weeks ago involving the Natal Sharks rugby team who were doing a signing session at a shopping mall. This shot gives you a good indication of how things get stretched with this lens design. You can fit a lot into the frame but don’t expect it to look “normal”. Here is the world famous Moses Mabhida football stadium. It’s probably one of the finest sports stadia in the world and has been host to many international matches, including the FIFA 2010 World Cup Semi Final. This isn’t my finest shot ever, but again you can see where a lens like this can come in useful. Also note that again we have flare spots appearing in the frame. The last shot I have to show you here is taken shooting directly into the morning sun and here you see a different sort of flare problem in the top right of the frame. A talented Photoshop user will easily get rid of these annoying ghosts, but I thought I would show you what happens when you shoot into the sun with the 7-14mm, seeing as I already showed you what happens when you don’t shoot into the sun. I don’t think it’s that bad. Overal Impression So that’s a look at the performance of the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO in the field. It’s certainly capable of producing fine results, but you will need to be constantly aware of the flare, even when shooting indoors with a bright light source in your frame. This might be an issue that precludes it from being used as an architectural lens, particularly for interiors where dealing with bright lights from windows is a constant. I think that a less extreme lens like the Olympus 12mm f/2.0 would be a better option. I do sometimes use the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 for that type of work and I have not had any issues with flare. It would be nice to get wider than 9mm for interiors, but it’s not essential. In another thread on Fotozones we were discussing this very thing and I personally would have no problems with Olympus developing a slower, wider fixed focal length lens that I could use for this kind of work. Something like an 8mm f/4.0 rectilinear lens would be a lot smaller than this enormous 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO and might actually work better for architectural photography since most of it is done on a tripod anyway. Also, consider that when shooting architecture you’re seldom going to need f/2.8. So for me the 7-14mm is not likely to find its way into my working kit any time soon. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have one, but everything I buy these days has to have a practical and measurably positive impact on my business as a photographer and unfortunately a lens this expensive falls squarely into the “nice-to-have” category. I don’t need it as much as I want it.
  9. A few weeks ago "AirVenture 2018" better known as Oshkosh took place in where else, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. 2018 marks my 11th consecutive year in a row to visit and photograph this monumental event. The scale and scope of this event is hard to imagine unless you have visited it in person. For the over week-long event, over 600,000 visitors, 5,000 volunteers, 10,000 aircraft arrivals, almost 20,000 aircraft operations, almost 3,000 show planes and over 40,000 campers in 12,000 sites on the airport. For me, it is one of the few airshows I attend and photograph, so it always takes a few days to re-learn my airshow photography techniques. I tend to want shots a bit different than some of the other airshow photographers seek out, and I also like to push the envelope in my post-processing for some different looks. I am pleased to present a sample of the 5500 photos I took during my week in Oshkosh. My eleventh trip to the event also marked my very first air-to-air photography experience. Please take a look and see what you think, constructive comments are always welcome. I will continue to add photos as I continue to process photos. Saturday morning marked a monumental event in my modest photography life. I was able to take a flight in a 1940s Vultee BT-13 trainer along with another Vultee BT-13. I occupied the rear seat (including strapping on a parachute) in the BT-13 named "Lucky 13" piloted by Hunter Reiley. All I asked was "please do not humble me" as I just want to take photos and not lose my camera (and a very light breakfast!). Hunter was very smooth and gentle with me, and I think we captured some great photos of his friend Kelly's BT-13. E-M1 mkII and Olympus 12-100 Pro
  10. Dallas inspired me to show some of what can be done with a mirrorless camera and aviation photography. I have been taking aviation photos for years with my Micro 4/3 cameras, but getting the fast-moving jets and sufficient prop-blur on the propeller-driven aircraft has been a real challenge. With the recent advances and firmware updates on the Olympus E-M1, I was finally able to capture what I think are worthwhile photos, at least for me. All of these shots were taken with the E-M1 "classic" in 2015 and 2016. Airshow season for 2017 is just starting, and I am anxious to see what I can do with my E-M1 mkII. This is an F-16 "Viper" making a hard break immediately after take off, E-M1 with Olympus 300mm f4.0
  11. This is a Black-capped Chickadee seeking shelter in the apple tree in our Minnesota backyard. These little guys are always fun to watch and always seem happy. This one ducked into the apple tree for safety, likely after seeing me point my E-M1 mk11 and 300mm f4.0 his direction, shot at ISO 1600.
  12. @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.
  13. Note: unfortunately the original images used in this article were lost during a software upgrade. Those of you following my (sometimes daily) musings will already know that I was selected to photograph the 47th ICANN international meeting which was held here in Durban, South Africa last week. It was a pretty hectic affair with something like 50 breakaway sessions happening every day, not to mention the bits in between, such as VIP breakfasts, lunch meetings, social gatherings and gala dinners. I was often needed in two places at once, so I had to move around quickly. Fortunately I had my wits about me and I had planned my equipment use well, so I was prepared for just about everything. The only thing I wasn't prepared for was the rain that happened at the gala dinner event which was held outdoors at our marine park. It never rains in Durban in July, except when you don't want it to. I found myself up at the top of the dolphinarium with a very heavy ThinkTank Airport Security roller, faffing around with my gear, not entirely sure which body and lens to use, whether I should be shooting the dolphin show or testing the weather-proofing on the D700 to photograph the ICANN participants watching the show in the rain. More on that later in this piece. Gear-wise I brought along three bodies for this job. I had my old trusty Nikon D700, a newish Nikon D3100 and of course the sexy little Olympus OM-D E-M5. Lenses for the Nikons included the Nikon 24-70/2.8, Sigma 12-24mm and 70-200/2.8. For the Olympus I brought with me the 9-18mm Olympus, 14-45mm Panasonic, the ridiculously sharp 75/1.8 and the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye. I had flashes for all three bodies, SB-900 on the D700, SB-800 on the D3100 and the FL-600R on the Olympus. Basically there are three main things that an event photographer needs to capture: 1) the venue 2) the people 3) the interactions Four days is a lot of time to cover those three areas, but the thing is, the organisers needed images immediately for use on social media platforms (such is the fast paced nature of our modern lives) so there was literally no time to do much editing. I had each camera set up to shoot both RAW and large JPG files so that if I needed to I could pull off a JPG at short notice. The trouble with that idea was that I would still need to re-size the JPG because a large one would be too large for media requirement and would simply slow things down too much. I suppose I should have set the JPG to be smaller in camera. What I ended up doing was importing the RAW files to Lightroom and I left my laptop with the ICANN media liaison, showed her how to white flag or reject any of the files as they were being imported (in Lightroom you simply use the P and X key to pick or reject an image from the import). This worked very well and once the process was done all I had to do was set an export recipe and hit the button. We dropped the small JPG's onto a thumb drive and the ICANN staff were then able to use them immediately. I found that using the OM-D with the 75/1.8 lens gave me the best low light results. I am quite comfortable shooting that combo at ISO 3200 and leaving the aperture wide open at f/1.8. This almost always results in a shutter speed of well over 1/500s which combined with the in-body image stabilisation system (IBIS) produces very good results. Some minor toning and noise reduction applied during the Lightroom import and you've got a winner. The D700 with Nikkor 24-70/2.8 didn't fare as well in the same conditions. Bear in mind that there is no image stabilisation with that combo, plus the 24-70/2.8 I don't find quite so sharp wide open, so I limit myself to shooting it at f/4 maximum. That's a full two and one third of a stop slower than the other combo. A lot of light in anyone's book. I used the D700 and 24-70/2.8 with the SB-900 when I needed to take photos of award winners or I could get decent ambient light. That didn't happen so often, so I found myself wishing that I had a 2nd OM-D with perhaps a 17/1.8, or even better, a Fujifilm X100s. The evening of the gala dinner was held at the uShaka Marine World down at the southern point of the city. Clouds had been gathering all day and at around 5pm the first few drops began falling. It was a slight drizzle at first, but then it really began bucketing down (see the top corners of this shot). I literally had nowhere to go, so I ended up shooting the dolphin show from right up at the top of the little stadium, where it was at least dry and I could keep an eye on my ThinkTank Airport Security case. I gotta say, that rolling case was a Godsend on this event. I rolled it everywhere with me and was able to gain easy access to my gear most of the time. The only downside was when I needed to put the raincoat on. I just couldn't figure it out and eventually gave up. I should have practised that before I took the case on a job. As most of the activities at the gala were taking place outdoors, things got chaotic very quickly. Almost a thousand people were crammed under the main marquee getting their dinner and I had nowhere to put my bag down without it getting soaked or trampled on, so I squeezed off a few high angle reference shots and made my way home after that. My feet felt like they were going to literally explode inside my shoes - I had been on them the entire day and it was pushing 10pm.
  14. I see no image degradation with this combo at all. In my honest opinion, this lens and 1.4x TC outshines the newer 40-150mm 2.8 PRO with its own TC by a long way.
  15. In this vlog episode we chat about using the legacy 4/3 lenses from the Olympus DSLR era on the mirrorless Olympus OM-D E-M1 (original) camera bodies. We also demonstrate the auto focus speed of the 50-200mm (with a 1.4x TC) in an outdoor situation. Jump directly to the AF speed demo at 16:00. If you have suggestions for future vlog episodes please let us have them in the comments.
  16. In this vlog episode we chat about using the legacy 4/3 lenses from the Olympus DSLR era on the mirrorless Olympus OM-D E-M1 (original) camera bodies. We also demonstrate the auto focus speed of the 50-200mm (with a 1.4x TC) in an outdoor situation. Jump directly to the AF speed demo at 16:00. If you have suggestions for future vlog episodes please let us have them in the comments. View full article
  17. Last year I co-led an epic, month long Photographers.travel safari from Cape Town all the way up through Namibia, to the border of Angola and then a little bit into North-Western Botswana for good measure, before heading back to Cape Town via Namibia. We did this road trip in two vehicles with 8 guests (all Nikongear.com members) and covered some 8500km (5300mi) in total. It was by far the longest road trip I have ever done. It was gruelling at times because of the state of some dirt roads we had to use, but it was well worth it because it also saw me shooting more photographs in that month long period than I have ever taken before, and getting my best results too. I made a lot of discoveries on that safari. The most significant being that it was the beginning of the end of my love affair with the DSLR. When I got back from Namibia and began looking through my photos I had a whole new appreciation for my little Olympus OM-D E-M5 and what I could accomplish with it. I also noticed that I had done about 95% of my picture taking on safari with the Oly and not my supposedly superior Nikon D700. It wasn’t long afterwards that I began selling off my Nikon kit. I’m now a full micro four thirds convert as a direct result of my discoveries on safari. This article is an insight as to how that trip helped shape this transformation in my approach and the gear I now use to get the images I want. A little background first. I live in Durban, the third largest city of South Africa. It’s located on the East Coast of the country, about 1600km (1000mi) from Cape Town. My business partner and I started putting together photo safaris in 2009 and we’ve been doing it ever since, making new friends from around the world every year. Last year we decided to do a trip that started in Cape Town and went all the way up into Namibia and the Kavango region of Botswana. The easiest way for me to get to Cape Town is to take a local flight. It’s about 2 hours flying time and because the two cities are of similar size (over 3.5 million people each) there are numerous flights between them every day. The planes used are typically jet-engined Airbus or Boeings, so you’ll have overhead bins for hand luggage. The airline I was on for this trip had a checked baggage restriction of 20kgs (44lbs) and hand luggage limits of 7kg (15.4lbs). I had a big problem in that my hand luggage made up of all my camera gear, laptop and other valuables weighed about the same as my suitcase, just under 20kg. It was all packed into a ThinkTank Airport Security roller that looks like a suitcase and while it was technically OK to use as a carry-on in terms of its size, the weight was definitely going to be an issue if the ground staff decided to take a closer look at it. I’ve done this flying with camera gear thing enough times before and while I have gotten away with really heavy carry-ons in the past, I can’t begin to explain the stresses you go through during check-in. What if they don’t let you carry it on? What if there’s no room in the overhead bin by the time you get to your seat? What if there’s no overhead bin? The paranoia doesn’t abate. This time I got to Cape Town OK but of all the trips I’d made in the past, this one was by far the most stressful as far as gear goes and I was beginning to think that if I am going to keep on doing these photo safaris, I was going to need lighter gear. So eventually the safari got underway in Cape Town amidst some horrific Cape winter weather. Cape Town has a wet and windy winter climate, which is the complete opposite of what I am used to in Durban where our winters are dry and mild. A lot of the activities we had planned on doing got scuppered because of the weather, so we had to console ourselves with lots of wine tasting. Photographically it’s a bit boring sitting around a table watching people sample wine (especially if your interest in it runs parallel with mine, which I must confess is not very high at all), but a lot of the places we visited in Stellenbosch and Klein Constantia had some interesting historical buildings so I often found myself wandering around wine cellars, taking shots of old oak barrels and even some of the vats they use to produce the stuff. (click on the images to view them larger) The one thing I began to become aware of was that I hadn’t used my Nikon D700 at all yet on the trip, despite having some choice lenses to use with it. I had brought with me a little ThinkTank Retrospective 5 bag and inside it I had my E-M5 and 6 lenses, covering from fisheye up to 175mm (which is 350mm in “big camera” speak). It was light and inconspicuous, whereas my fellow travelers were all lugging monster DSLR’s and large bags around with them wherever we went. To the casual observer I might not have been a part of the same group, because trust me, a lot of people got a case of the Tom Cat curiosities whenever they saw this small army of DSLR users coming! After enduring a few days of the Cape Town winter weather at its worst (apparently it even snowed on Table Mountain while we were there) we headed North towards Namaqualand, which is famed for its wide open plains of wild spring flowers. It was here that I discovered another massive benefit to using the Olympus E-M5. I didn’t have to crawl on my belly to get level with the flowers when composing a shot. I simply angled up my LCD, sussed out what was going on with the composition and then tapped the screen to take the shot. We spent a few days in Namaqualand going from farm to farm photographing the wild flowers before we made our first border crossing of the trip into Namibia and the enormously vacant landscapes it offers. This was what I had been longing for. This was where I was hoping to make some magical images! Namibia is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s hard to describe the solitude of these massive, ancient and inhospitable landscapes. It’s as if the earth has a dried up patch on its skin, on which nothing appears to flourish. The moment you cross over the border from South Africa the geology changes dramatically. Our first stop was the Fish River Canyon, which is the second largest canyon in the world (behind Grand Canyon, USA). Photographically it’s difficult to capture the awe of this place. You need to explore it from many different locations and the best times for photography would be in the evenings, so you’d want to give yourself a couple of days to scout a good location and then take your shots. This makes it a bit of a challenge because during the day there’s not much else to photograph in the area, so you end up spending a lot of time doing nothing in camp, which is not exactly thrilling. We got there towards evening on the first day, so we did get some nice sunset images of the canyon. We revisited it the following morning at dawn, but I didn’t find it as interesting as the previous evening (photographically that is). The evening is definitely the better time for canyon photography as the rocks take on wonderful hues in the soft, dusty sunsets. Once again I found myself using the Olympus while the Nikon D700 slept in the big rolling camera bag. Onward into the desert proper we went after the canyon, our next stop being Sossussvlei which is where you find the enormous red sand dunes of the Namib desert, the oldest in the world. This rapidly becomes landscape photography heaven as you have the dunes coming into contact with the Naukluft mountains. We had three days in this amazing landscape. It was winter but it was still unbearably hot during the day, with temperatures easily climbing over the 40C (104F) mark. My objective here was to put my recently acquired LEE Filters Seven5 system to the test in the field. For those of you unfamiliar with this system it’s basically the same as the regular LEE filters drop in filter system except that it’s been made smaller for use on mirrorless cameras like the Olympus OM-D series. To put it as succinctly as possible, I just adore the images I got out of the E-M5 using those ND Grad LEE Filters. They are a must have item for anyone interested in landscape photography. After our time in the dunes came what has to be the most mentally demanding drive I have ever undertaken. Going from Sossussvlei to Swakopmund along the badly corrugated dirt roads was something that drove home just how desolate this place is. Roadworks departments might take years to get these roads re-graded. The actual distance isn’t that far, about 350km (217mi) but because you have to drive so slowly it takes between 5 and 6 hours to get there. If you’re not careful your vehicle might end up shearing a wheel right off its axle. This happens with disturbing regularity on this road. Swakopmund is a sleepy little seaside town seemingly stuck in the early 20th century. Most of the buildings and architecture date from the time when South West Africa (as Namibia used to be known) was a German colony. German is still widely spoken here, in fact together with Afrikaans it’s the most commonly encountered language. Mornings are usually damp and misty as the cool air coming in off the Atlantic mixes with the hot and dry air of the desert often creating thick fog. We were there for three nights and each morning was the same; overcast and moist, gradually clearing towards lunch time. Apparently it’s like this most of the time. Thankfully it was considerably cooler than Sossussvlei (about 16C daytime high)! Photographically it is very interesting and well worth the visit. We spent some time in the town itself, getting the vehicles checked out after the horrendous drive there, plus we also went a little South to Walvis Bay to photograph the large flamingo colonies found there. Typical building found in swakopmund. Note the grey sky. The dunes surrounding Swakopmund are fascinating and were the highlight of our stay in Swakopmund. It’s hard to believe that anything can survive in them yet on a couple of guided tours we were introduced to some of the creatures who do just that. From snakes to spiders and chameleons, they all somehow get by. It was in these harsh desert conditions that I came to realise my days of lugging around a DSLR were almost over. Lying in my hotel room in Swakopmund one night I read online (with unbridled enthusiasm I’ll add) Olympus’ announcement of the E-M1. It addressed all the shortcomings of the E-M5, particularly where auto focus tracking is concerned. But it wasn’t so much that announcement that drove home this realisation, it was watching my guests and safari business partner lying on their bellies in the desert taking photos of a chameleon with their faces mashed against the view finder that truly drove home the sheer inadequacy of the DSLR design for me. In the midst of all the technological advances we have made over the past few years, major companies are still asking camera users to contort their bodies in order to frame a shot using old mechanical interfaces (mirrors and prisms). Moments before I took this shot I had been sitting next to these guests, also shooting the chameleon, but instead of taking the somewhat impractical measures of lying down in the sand, I had merely hunkered down, tilted my LCD upwards and once again used the touch screen of the E-M5 to make a series of super sharp, perfectly exposed images of the reptile zapping a grub at 9 frames a second. I could check the images immediately without the interference of the desert glare using the EVF. That was it. It was all I needed to convince me that the move to mirrorless was the way forward. We spent another 2 weeks in Namibia, moving from Swakopmund to Caprivi. Along the way I found yet another shooting situation where the E-M5 refused to accept the label of “inferior instrument” from its older DSLR cousins. In Damaraland there is a village of Himba people who live their lives according to their tribal traditions. We got to go inside one of the Himba women’s huts where she demonstrated to us how they bathe themselves using smoke. There we all were, 10 of us photographers crammed into this little hut where the only light coming in was via the short front entrance. Nobody else seemed to be taking photographs in the gloom. I was right next to the Himba lady and with the incredible Olympus 75mm f/1.8 ED lens I was able to make some awesome images of her ritual at high ISO. Photography is a wonderful craft and a great pastime. It’s evolved dramatically over the years and it’s continuing to evolve as new technologies are incorporated into camera designs. Since December my mirrorless m43 system has become the only system I use, both professionally and for my personal needs. All the Nikon stuff is gone. I have added an E-M1 body, Olympus 12-40/2.8 PRO, Olympus 45/1.8, Olympus 7-14/4 (4/3rds mount with MMF2), Olympus 50-200/2.8-3.5 (4/3rds) and a couple of Olympus FL-600R flash units. I’m ready for just about anything the world can show me, but the most important change hasn’t been so much about the new gear itself, it’s been about how the new gear has allowed me to rekindle my love for photography. It makes me want to take it everywhere because its so easy to take a bunch of lenses and accessories wherever I go in a small camera bag without any fuss at all. It’s all I have wanted for years. The next big challenge I will put my m43 gear through are the two group photo safaris we’re doing later this year. We’re heading back to Botswana again on the first safari, this time to the Chobe region where big game and birdlife are the primary subjects. I’ll be using the Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 for that one as well as hopefully the new 40-150/2.8 PRO if it is out by then. We’ll stay on a houseboat for 5 days and then also spend some time on land in Chobe before heading to Victoria Falls for some action and more water based adventure photography. That trip is in September and there is still one suite left for a couple sharing if there is interest amongst readers (full information here). Then the following month we head to Sabi Sabi for our annual Ultimate Big 5 Safari, which is to be honest, the best introduction to Africa and it’s wildlife you could ever hope for. You get closer to the Big 5 than you’ll get anywhere else and the photo opportunities are ridiculous. It will certainly be a great test of the long lenses that are available for the E-M1. Maybe we’ll see some of you there too?
  18. Dallas

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    I discovered a feature of the software I didn't know existed before and have implemented it in the page footer of all posts where tags are in use. So, for example, having tagged this post with Nikon and Olympus, readers should see shortcut links to several posts with the same tags in the footer. Enjoy!
  19. A couple of people have asked me to make a video about some of the more advanced features of the Olympus Flash system. In this video I take a very quick look at a few of the features I find most useful. If you have any questions about the video, the flash or Olympus in general, please post them in the comments and I will do my best to help you.
  20. A couple of people have asked me to make a video about some of the more advanced features of the Olympus Flash system. In this video I take a very quick look at a few of the features I find most useful. If you have any questions about the video, the flash or Olympus in general, please post them in the comments and I will do my best to help you. View full article
  21. 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.
  22. If like me you came to Olympus cameras via some other brand first (in my case it was Nikon), understanding how the Olympus camera menus work can be challenging. However, once you get used to them they do make sense and now after 5 years of use I am fairly competent in using them, although sometimes I do have to remember where certain lesser used items are kept. In this series of videos I will attempt to give some insight into the way the menus work that will hopefully help other users, or potential Olympus adoptees not be so scared of all the deep menu levels and various options. I am going to try and upload as often as possible, keeping the videos to around 5 minutes each (it took me 2 hours to upload this first one!), however, if you have specific items you would like me to cover in a video, please let me know and I will prioritise them. Also let me have any other production suggestions. If you like the video please hit the thumbs up on Youtube, share it wherever you can and if you're a generous soul please consider donating to Fotozones or helping me out via Patreon.
  23. Over the years I’ve bought ridiculous numbers of lenses for many different camera systems, ranging from Nikon to Canon to Leica to Bronica and most recently the micro four thirds system. On all the systems there have been dogs, there have been stars and there have been run-of-the-mill lenses. I think I can probably count on the digits of one hand the number of lenses I have used that literally made me gasp when reviewing their drawing characteristics on LCD playback or in the computer. Up in the top 5 of my best ever experiences are lenses such as my Nikkor 24-70/2.8, the Micro-Nikkor 60/2.8 (I use the older AF-D version), a Leica 180mm f/3.5 APO-Telyt-R, the Canon 400/2.8L USM and now joining them is this remarkable little gem from Olympus, the 75/1.8. When Olympus first unleashed this lens there were gasps heard all around the online photography world. Some were saying it was the sharpest lens they had ever used and had bokeh on a par with the likes of the Nikon 200/2. Now that particular Nikkor is almost mythical when it comes to optical performance, so claims like this definitely got me excited. Especially since the lens they were waxing lyrical about is only a little longer than the standard 50/1.4 offered by most manufacturers of 35mm equipment and weighs a mere 305g. Of course 75mm on m43 offers the same field of view of a 150mm lens on the bigger format, which is pretty close to 200mm, a focal length I use a lot on my 70-200/2.8. I had to have one. This article is more an assessment of how the lens worked for me on a recent shoot than an in-depth review. I’m never going to offer any form of resolution charts or figures on articles like this - all I’m going to do is talk about how the lens fits in with my needs and expectations. Ok, so right off the bat I need to explain how I came to acquire the 75mm and how I used it on a paid assignment. Those of you who follow my posts over on Nikongear.com may have read about my purchase of a Nikon D7100 last month to use as a second body to help me cover a 3 day hotel conference here in my hometown. The intention was for me to use the D7100 with telephoto lenses such as the Sigma 70-200/2.8 and then also with the Sigma 120-300/2.8 OS later this year on the Namibia wildlife safari we’re doing. I would use my D700 with 24-70/2.8 for all the other shots. When I got the D7100 home I immediately set about seeing how it played with those two Sigma tele zooms. Well, let’s be frank about this. Either I have totally lost my ability to hold a camera steady (even on a tripod), or there was something wrong with this camera. I tried every Nikon F mount lens I own (a fair number of them) and I couldn’t get it to produce a sharp image at all. I tried calibrating, I tried faster shutter speeds, I tried manual focus, I tried everything I have learned about photography since Y2K. No dice. It wasn’t working for me, so I took it back to the store and they were going to get me a replacement to try out. The problem was I was running out of time and had to get myself ready for this conference within a few days. They didn’t get the replacement in time so I had no option but to ask them for a refund. I then used that money to purchase the Olympus 75/1.8 with its hood, as well as the HLD-6 grip for my OM-D, together with a 2nd battery. I will admit, I was a bit apprehensive going into this conference without a dedicated body for my 70-200/2.8. I would be using my D700 together with the 24-70/2.8 for the normal shots and then relying on the OM-D and the 75/1.8 for shots of speakers at the lectern as well as unassuming delegates in the audience. The apprehension soon evaporated when I got a look at the first shots taken at home with the lens set to f/1.8 and the OM-D set to ISO 3200. Good grief. Was I seeing this right? Could it be that sharp? Really?? After a couple of days of checking and re-checking wide performance in dimly lit rooms at home I felt confident that I would have no problems using the 75/1.8 on the OM-D for speaker shots, as well as whatever else might catch my eye from a distance. I felt comfortable that shooting the OM-D at 3200 would also be OK because even though it does exhibit a fair amount of noise, it’s very manageable within Lightroom’s own RAW noise controls. Having shot many conferences at this particular hotel in the past I knew what the lighting would be like too, which also eased my worried mind. Here are some examples of speaker images shot at f/1.8 and ISO 3200 on the OM-D. Here are some shots of the delegates in a pretty dim auditorium: On the first night of the event there was a "Mad Hatters" cocktail party at another hotel a few kilometres away from the conference venue. This is where the 75/1.8 really shone! Autofocus acquisition in the even dimmer lit bar was outstanding. I had to pump up ISO to 6400, but I was getting very usable shots that I could run through a noise reduction setting in Lightroom. Here’s my assessment of a few key features that photographers will be looking for in a lens review. Sharpness Oh yeah. This baby is sharp and most importantly, it’s sharp where it matters most - at the widest aperture. There’s literally no point in having a fast lens that isn’t sharp at its widest aperture. Yes, all lenses will get a bit sharper as you stop them down to a point, but the whole purpose of having a fast aperture is so that you can let more light into the camera, keep your subject sharp and smooth away the background. This lens does exactly that. At f/1.8 I’m getting stuff that is sharper than any other lens I have ever owned with an equivalently fast aperture. Bokeh It’s as smooth as I need it to be. I’m very happy with the way it renders out of focus highlights. Smaller sensors like those found in the m43 system will normally not provide you with the subject/background separation that you get from bigger sensors, such as those found on DSLR’s. The Olympus 75/1.8 does a very good job of this though, as can be seen in all these images. Build & Handling The lens is just awesomely built. The only plastic found on this lens appears to be the lens caps and the bit that secures the front element into the barrel (you know, the place with the lens nomenclature etched in white lettering). Everything else is made from high grade metals. Not even the focus ring has rubber - it’s grooves are milled! The focus ring is the smoothest you are ever likely to find on any lens. It’s still a focus-by-wire lens, meaning that the focusing ring doesn’t physically engage any of the elements, it merely issues a electronic command to the lens to move the glass inside. Personally this is never something I would see myself using. Up until just a few weeks ago it was only available in the silver colour, but I believe that it is now possible to get a black version for the same money. I like the silver on my silver OM-D. Autofocus Speed On my E-M5 there’s a split second’s hesitation before autofocus engages, which after I did some testing, has more to do with the IBIS system starting up than it has anything to do with the lens. After that initialization of the IBIS the acquisition of focus on any object with sufficient detectable contrast, both near and far, is pretty much instantaneous. It’s darn near completely silent too. It was only when I had the IBIS turned off for testing that I actually heard any noise coming from the lens itself. The Controversial Hood Every lens review that you read online about this or any other Olympus lens for m43 will have the same gripes: why don’t Olympus include the lens hood when they sell us the lens? Why are the lens hoods so expensive? I’m going to break the mold a little on this issue and view the glass as half-full instead of half-empty. I bought this lens and made sure that I got the lens hood for it as well (as you can see from the product shot I took of mine right at the beginning). I had to pay quite a bit more for it, but so what? If you look at the price of the lens with its hood, you’re still well below the cost of an equivalent 35mm system lens at this quality level. Well below! I am of the opinion that the Olympus range of primes for m43 are at the same premium brand level of Leica equivalents. That seems to be the approach Olympus are taking with their range these days, and rightly so, in my opinion. It’s a class above the competition. Have you tried pricing hoods for the Elmars and Elmarits? Summilux anyone? The hood that Olympus uses on the 75/1.8 is made in China, but like the lens it is milled from high quality steel and secures to the barrel with a knurled tensioning knob, very much like those found on super telephoto lenses for 35mm systems. It’s not a bayonet fitting. I always want a hood on my lenses because I never use UV or 1A filters on the front of them. The hood acts as a degree of protection, should I ever get sloppy enough to put the front element of the lens at risk of damage. Paying a bit more for the hood for this lens didn’t bother me in the slightest. I reckon if Olympus are giving us an option of getting the lens for less than it would have cost with the hood, then that’s a plus, not a negative. My Conclusion It’s by far the most expensive lens I have purchased thus far for the m43 system, but it is also by far the best lens I have ever used on that system too. It does everything I need it to and it solved a very important problem for me when it comes to working at a distance in dim light with the small, very lightweight OM-D system. The sharpness and subject isolation is just about perfect for the kind of work I do. I believe that if the next generation of OM-D improves the high ISO performance of their sensor, as well as the AF tracking to match that of the top end 35mm systems, there will be a flood of sensible indoor photographers looking to this lens to replace a lot of the 70-200/2.8 lenses usually seen at indoor events. I certainly didn’t find myself caught short at the conference I used it on earlier this month. If you’re a m43 shooter, don’t dilly dally, just get it. If you've already got one, don't forget to rate it in our official member's ratings thread here.
  24. Over the years I’ve bought ridiculous numbers of lenses for many different camera systems, ranging from Nikon to Canon to Leica to Bronica and most recently the micro four thirds system. On all the systems there have been dogs, there have been stars and there have been run-of-the-mill lenses. I think I can probably count on the digits of one hand the number of lenses I have used that literally made me gasp when reviewing their drawing characteristics on LCD playback or in the computer. Up in the top 5 of my best ever experiences are lenses such as my Nikkor 24-70/2.8, the Micro-Nikkor 60/2.8 (I use the older AF-D version), a Leica 180mm f/3.5 APO-Telyt-R, the Canon 400/2.8L USM and now joining them is this remarkable little gem from Olympus, the 75/1.8. When Olympus first unleashed this lens there were gasps heard all around the online photography world. Some were saying it was the sharpest lens they had ever used and had bokeh on a par with the likes of the Nikon 200/2. Now that particular Nikkor is almost mythical when it comes to optical performance, so claims like this definitely got me excited. Especially since the lens they were waxing lyrical about is only a little longer than the standard 50/1.4 offered by most manufacturers of 35mm equipment and weighs a mere 305g. Of course 75mm on m43 offers the same field of view of a 150mm lens on the bigger format, which is pretty close to 200mm, a focal length I use a lot on my 70-200/2.8. I had to have one. This article is more an assessment of how the lens worked for me on a recent shoot than an in-depth review. I’m never going to offer any form of resolution charts or figures on articles like this - all I’m going to do is talk about how the lens fits in with my needs and expectations. Ok, so right off the bat I need to explain how I came to acquire the 75mm and how I used it on a paid assignment. Those of you who follow my posts over on Nikongear.com may have read about my purchase of a Nikon D7100 last month to use as a second body to help me cover a 3 day hotel conference here in my hometown. The intention was for me to use the D7100 with telephoto lenses such as the Sigma 70-200/2.8 and then also with the Sigma 120-300/2.8 OS later this year on the Namibia wildlife safari we’re doing. I would use my D700 with 24-70/2.8 for all the other shots. When I got the D7100 home I immediately set about seeing how it played with those two Sigma tele zooms. Well, let’s be frank about this. Either I have totally lost my ability to hold a camera steady (even on a tripod), or there was something wrong with this camera. I tried every Nikon F mount lens I own (a fair number of them) and I couldn’t get it to produce a sharp image at all. I tried calibrating, I tried faster shutter speeds, I tried manual focus, I tried everything I have learned about photography since Y2K. No dice. It wasn’t working for me, so I took it back to the store and they were going to get me a replacement to try out. The problem was I was running out of time and had to get myself ready for this conference within a few days. They didn’t get the replacement in time so I had no option but to ask them for a refund. I then used that money to purchase the Olympus 75/1.8 with its hood, as well as the HLD-6 grip for my OM-D, together with a 2nd battery. I will admit, I was a bit apprehensive going into this conference without a dedicated body for my 70-200/2.8. I would be using my D700 together with the 24-70/2.8 for the normal shots and then relying on the OM-D and the 75/1.8 for shots of speakers at the lectern as well as unassuming delegates in the audience. The apprehension soon evaporated when I got a look at the first shots taken at home with the lens set to f/1.8 and the OM-D set to ISO 3200. Good grief. Was I seeing this right? Could it be that sharp? Really?? After a couple of days of checking and re-checking wide performance in dimly lit rooms at home I felt confident that I would have no problems using the 75/1.8 on the OM-D for speaker shots, as well as whatever else might catch my eye from a distance. I felt comfortable that shooting the OM-D at 3200 would also be OK because even though it does exhibit a fair amount of noise, it’s very manageable within Lightroom’s own RAW noise controls. Having shot many conferences at this particular hotel in the past I knew what the lighting would be like too, which also eased my worried mind. Here are some examples of speaker images shot at f/1.8 and ISO 3200 on the OM-D. Here are some shots of the delegates in a pretty dim auditorium: On the first night of the event there was a "Mad Hatters" cocktail party at another hotel a few kilometres away from the conference venue. This is where the 75/1.8 really shone! Autofocus acquisition in the even dimmer lit bar was outstanding. I had to pump up ISO to 6400, but I was getting very usable shots that I could run through a noise reduction setting in Lightroom. Here’s my assessment of a few key features that photographers will be looking for in a lens review. Sharpness Oh yeah. This baby is sharp and most importantly, it’s sharp where it matters most - at the widest aperture. There’s literally no point in having a fast lens that isn’t sharp at its widest aperture. Yes, all lenses will get a bit sharper as you stop them down to a point, but the whole purpose of having a fast aperture is so that you can let more light into the camera, keep your subject sharp and smooth away the background. This lens does exactly that. At f/1.8 I’m getting stuff that is sharper than any other lens I have ever owned with an equivalently fast aperture. Bokeh It’s as smooth as I need it to be. I’m very happy with the way it renders out of focus highlights. Smaller sensors like those found in the m43 system will normally not provide you with the subject/background separation that you get from bigger sensors, such as those found on DSLR’s. The Olympus 75/1.8 does a very good job of this though, as can be seen in all these images. Build & Handling The lens is just awesomely built. The only plastic found on this lens appears to be the lens caps and the bit that secures the front element into the barrel (you know, the place with the lens nomenclature etched in white lettering). Everything else is made from high grade metals. Not even the focus ring has rubber - it’s grooves are milled! The focus ring is the smoothest you are ever likely to find on any lens. It’s still a focus-by-wire lens, meaning that the focusing ring doesn’t physically engage any of the elements, it merely issues a electronic command to the lens to move the glass inside. Personally this is never something I would see myself using. Up until just a few weeks ago it was only available in the silver colour, but I believe that it is now possible to get a black version for the same money. I like the silver on my silver OM-D. Autofocus Speed On my E-M5 there’s a split second’s hesitation before autofocus engages, which after I did some testing, has more to do with the IBIS system starting up than it has anything to do with the lens. After that initialization of the IBIS the acquisition of focus on any object with sufficient detectable contrast, both near and far, is pretty much instantaneous. It’s darn near completely silent too. It was only when I had the IBIS turned off for testing that I actually heard any noise coming from the lens itself. The Controversial Hood Every lens review that you read online about this or any other Olympus lens for m43 will have the same gripes: why don’t Olympus include the lens hood when they sell us the lens? Why are the lens hoods so expensive? I’m going to break the mold a little on this issue and view the glass as half-full instead of half-empty. I bought this lens and made sure that I got the lens hood for it as well (as you can see from the product shot I took of mine right at the beginning). I had to pay quite a bit more for it, but so what? If you look at the price of the lens with its hood, you’re still well below the cost of an equivalent 35mm system lens at this quality level. Well below! I am of the opinion that the Olympus range of primes for m43 are at the same premium brand level of Leica equivalents. That seems to be the approach Olympus are taking with their range these days, and rightly so, in my opinion. It’s a class above the competition. Have you tried pricing hoods for the Elmars and Elmarits? Summilux anyone? The hood that Olympus uses on the 75/1.8 is made in China, but like the lens it is milled from high quality steel and secures to the barrel with a knurled tensioning knob, very much like those found on super telephoto lenses for 35mm systems. It’s not a bayonet fitting. I always want a hood on my lenses because I never use UV or 1A filters on the front of them. The hood acts as a degree of protection, should I ever get sloppy enough to put the front element of the lens at risk of damage. Paying a bit more for the hood for this lens didn’t bother me in the slightest. I reckon if Olympus are giving us an option of getting the lens for less than it would have cost with the hood, then that’s a plus, not a negative. My Conclusion It’s by far the most expensive lens I have purchased thus far for the m43 system, but it is also by far the best lens I have ever used on that system too. It does everything I need it to and it solved a very important problem for me when it comes to working at a distance in dim light with the small, very lightweight OM-D system. The sharpness and subject isolation is just about perfect for the kind of work I do. I believe that if the next generation of OM-D improves the high ISO performance of their sensor, as well as the AF tracking to match that of the top end 35mm systems, there will be a flood of sensible indoor photographers looking to this lens to replace a lot of the 70-200/2.8 lenses usually seen at indoor events. I certainly didn’t find myself caught short at the conference I used it on earlier this month. If you’re a m43 shooter, don’t dilly dally, just get it. If you've already got one, don't forget to rate it in our official member's ratings thread here. View full article
  25. If like me you came to Olympus cameras via some other brand first (in my case it was Nikon), understanding how the Olympus camera menus work can be challenging. However, once you get used to them they do make sense and now after 5 years of use I am fairly competent in using them, although sometimes I do have to remember where certain lesser used items are kept. In this series of videos I will attempt to give some insight into the way the menus work that will hopefully help other users, or potential Olympus adoptees not be so scared of all the deep menu levels and various options. I am going to try and upload as often as possible, keeping the videos to around 5 minutes each (it took me 2 hours to upload this first one!), however, if you have specific items you would like me to cover in a video, please let me know and I will prioritise them. Also let me have any other production suggestions. If you like the video please hit the thumbs up on Youtube, share it wherever you can and if you're a generous soul please consider donating to Fotozones or helping me out via Patreon. View full article
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