Some links I found worthwile…

I had mentioned Mike Johnston’s question about opinions regarding the Olympus OM-D E-M1 already; now he asks the same from owners of the Fuji X-T1. Mike has both but wants to keep only one; it will be interesting to see his choice (and to read about the reasons for whatever choice he will make).

And Thom Hogan also tries to find an answer on the question which of the better mirror-free cameras to choose, and for whom. Interesting.

Paul Liu describes his experiences about changing from a Canon 7D to an Olympus OM-D E-M10 on Steve Huff’s page, and he has very nice photos there as well.

Pekka Potka tried a Sony A7R again, and still doesn’t see much of a difference between it and his Olympus OM-D E-M1.

Lindsay Dobson invites everyone who’s interested to take part in an Olympus Proteges program; you’ll get an E-M10 to keep, so I applied. I chose the class with Damian ‘The Big Dog’ McGillyCuddy tho. Let’s see if I have what she calls ‘the X factor’ 😉

Update from July 7th: I haven’t read the terms and conditions before applying – I don’t qualify since I’m not a resident of the United Kingdom. Too bad…

PhotographyLife welcomes Sharif aka Alpha Whiskey Photography, and he shows beautiful photos indeed, well worth a look. Much better than only to read about cameras all of the time IMHO.

And Reinhard from Pen and Tell shows an impressive video of a Cello player which he made with two E-M10 cameras. You can read about it on their page or watch the video on Youtube as well, which I recommend (it’s bigger there). Astonishing what you can achieve with cameras for 600€ (plus a few heavy and expensive Four Thirds lenses of course) 😉

Ok, that’s it for this lunch break… more perhaps later, should I find anything else.

Thanks for reading.

My DSLR, long

So today I had the longer 40-150mm “kit zoom” lens on my DSLR, but I didn’t have time to take too many photos. Therefore, I’ll show you one from today and one older one again:

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Leaves. Olympus E-520 and 40-150mm lens at 150mm.

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Arno, June 2013. Olympus E-520 and 40-150mm lens at 150mm.

In that second one you see how you can blur the background on closer distances to your subject. The first one above is a bit “busy”, but you can also see how thin the depth of field really is – one of those leaves is really sharp.

Also a really nice lens, and for the price as good as unbeatable. A long zoom like this is really recommended if you want to concentrate onto a single subject, and leave as much as possible out of the frame. Or to blur it into oblivion like in picture #2.

Now I have to find some even nicer light, maybe at those golden or blue hours of the days. Oh well, maybe on the weekend which lays ahead.

Thanks for reading.

My DSLR, wide

After reading Kirk Tuck’s take on an older Canon T3i / 600D I had decided to use my 2009 Olympus E-520 double zoom kit for this month. So before I say anything about it, let me show you a photo I took this morning:

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Corolla 2002. Olympus E-520 with 14-42mm lens at 14mm.

First impression / learning effect: I had to take this photo twice, the second time with an exposure compensation of -0.3EV. While I would have seen that even before taking a similar shot with the electronic viewfinder of my “Pen” camera, your typical mirrored DSLR with its optical viewfinder doesn’t show you any over- or underexposure warnings beforehand, so you have to “chimp” (= check on the rear display) after taking a picture, correct, and try again. So a modern mirrorless (or “mirror free”) camera is much faster and more secure in this regard – you take the shot and you’ll know that you’ve got it, and walk away.

Second impression / learning effect: I also used a custom white balance after reading about it on Kirk’s site (again, thanks for that as well, friend) a while ago. It really gives you a boost in overall quality if you do this before taking a shot, since you don’t have to boost the blue channel (and with it, the noise) afterwards to get a neutral grey. This, and the use of my tripod here falls under the category of “shot discipline” like Ming Thein uses to call it, and it’s highly recommended by me as well.

Third impression / learning effect: this lens at 14mm on this camera front focuses a bit. While I had the middle focus point on the car’s light, the license plate is actually sharper (also not ‘critically sharp’ as some call it, but good enough for this demonstration). My E-520 camera cannot correct the phase autofocus like you could with an E-620 or E-30, so for future work at close distances and with the lens wide open, this should be remembered, and possibly worked around with using contrast AF with ‘live view’ on the rear display for static scenes like here. It’s far less critical for greater distances like in landscape / cityscape shots like this one (from 2011):

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Genova, as seen in the morning from the Youth Hostel. Olympus E-520 with 14-42mm lens at 14mm. Cropped 16:10 in post production.

Fourth impression / learning effect: the lens isn’t bad at all, tho the out of camera jpg bends the pillar on the right in the first image a bit. But this is easily corrected with one click of your mouse in the Olympus Viewer 3 software which I used to convert the raw to a tif file (and the RawTherapee to make a jpg out of that tif; my usual and very fast workflow). It’s probably a bit better than the Panasonic 14mm/2.5 prime lens on my “Pen” camera, but this is down to personal taste and only true if you use both lenses at their optimal apertures. While the Panasonic (and the “Pen”) is definitely sharper in the middle of the frame, the corners are in my opinion a bit better on this one. For a “kit zoom” it’s an absolute bargain without any doubt, and now that I know about the front focusing issue for closer distances I can explain my initial feeling that the longer of the two always seemed sharper – and I know how to get around it. Learning about your tools is at least as important as thinking about getting better gear all of the time.

Yes, it’s only a pretty boring picture of our car. But if you look, you can actually learn a lot from these, and that’s why I keep taking such shots. When it matters, like in the second photo for instance, it’s either luck or this acquired knowledge which will save your butt. 😉

So – day one of my month-long experiment turned out to bring some Aha! effects already. What else could I ask for? Always good to ‘look over the border of your plate’ as we say here, and to reset yourself and to use your old tools with what you’ve learned over the years.

Oh, two more things (and links):

1. I love the question and the replies in this blog post from Mike Johnston’s T.O.P. page. The camera body costs three times as much as my DSLR kit, but’s also in a complete different class without any question as you can see from some of the answers. The fact that some people are moving back from cameras like a Nikon D800(E) to this one should give you something to think about.

2. Cameras are luxury tools. Kirk lately linked to the.me, which republished an article I read much earlier already on Marty’s original page. Highly recommended reading in case you’re obsessed about gear.

As always, thanks for reading.

Qotd for July 2nd, 2014

Quite contrary to yesterday’s quote:

“And the exterior styling is as exciting as a 2002 Toyota Corolla body. But, like the Corolla, it’s a reliable, and for the most part comfortable appliance and it gets you where you are going.”

Kirk Tuck about the Canon T3i / 600D, here.

Seems that Ken Rockwell was quite right with his recommendations of basic gear, which he keeps repeating since a few years. And to celebrate that rediscovered wisdom, I think I’ll use my Olympus E-520 DSLR double zoom kit for this month, and nothing else.

Oh, and before I forget it: we love our 2002 Corolla… 😉

Thanks for reading.

Qotd for July 1st, 2014

“The question for an enthusiast with a few bucks is which to choose: A 16mp X-T1 body for $1299, an Olympus 16mp E-M1 body for $1299, or go the extra $40 for a 24mp, full-frame Sony A7?”

by Bill Danby, via The Online Photographer (see the readers’ comments)

I’ve asked myself that question many times already…

(Short explanation about the reason: for my style of photography, speed isn’t the most important thing, so I could live with all of the cameras mentioned above. And if I had some more “legacy” Olympus OM glass of different focal lengths, the choice would be easy I guess)

Thanks for reading.

Tuna the ‘tweener

Sometimes when it’s raining and Tuna – our cat – cannot decide if she rather wants to be outside or to stay in, she just sits in the opened door and waits.

“She’s a ‘tweener”

I told Mitchie, who laughed and agreed. Thankfully, at 18°C you can keep that door open for a while; it’s much more difficult in winter…

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Tuna the ‘tweener

Thanks for viewing.

One small, one not so small, and a few thoughts

Two great reviews about gear small and big:

1. Laurence Kim about the new Sony RX100 III, and
2. Ming Thein about the Ricoh/Pentax 645Z

So, two interesting cameras without any doubt, the first would probably be something for one of my nephews who likes small cameras and Sony, the other one is of course of interest to anyone. But it leaves some questions, and the first one comes directly from Laurence:

“How good is good enough?”

– and for that Sony camera, he answers that for himself with:

“I’d say it’s more than good enough to use not just as my secondary camera, but as my primary camera for just about all my non-professional use.”

The second question, and about the second camera of course, is the one about price. How much are you going to or willing to spend, and how much to you have to spend for a camera? Ming writes about that Pentax MF camera:

“Granted, as relatively ‘cheap’ as the 645Z is, it is still going to be far too expensive – and too much weight – for most photographers to consider; it’s a niche product and overkill for pretty much everybody but a very small group.”

Right. With a price for the camera body being about the same as the one we paid for our used Toyota, we’re talking serious money here, and even a colleague who has a Nikon D800 (the normal, cheaper one, not the -E) told me today that as an amateur, he’s probably at the uppermost border of “investment”, and spending anything more wouldn’t make much sense – to justify that, he should make much more use of it than he actually does.

So what do you need, and how much do you have to spend for a camera, and possibly some decent lenses for it? That depends of course – a lawyer or a dentist would probably get a Leica while those of us who have a more modest income would think (or dream) about that for long.

For me? The amount I would probably spend on a camera body is maybe somewhere around €1,500 – for that, you’d get a professional µ43rds or APS-C mirrorless camera like the Olympus E-M1 or the Fuji X-T1, or you’d probably even get an entry-level “full frame” camera like the Sony A7, the Canon 6D, or the Nikon D610. Anything higher I’d consider overkill.

But is it necessary to spend even that much? Not really. An Olympus E-M10 or a Sony A-6000 or any consumer-level DSLR have almost the same image quality than their bigger and more expensive brethren, in fact the sensor of my (and Mitchie’s) E-PL5 and the OM-D E-M5 are the same. And that E-M5 was considered a game changer in µ43rds, and DPReview wrote that if you want and/or need more, you’d have to look at “full frame”, not at APS-C.

So, about €600 will get you a nice mirrorless Olympus or Sony (or Panasonic or Fuji) camera, and it would also get you some middle-of-the-road “consumer” DSLR which could be better for moving stuff (while mirrorless has other advantages).

But when lowest weight and form factor – maybe for traveling – are your thing, or if you simply demand the highest possible quality you can get today, have a look at these tests to which I linked above.

Thanks for reading.

Stronger than concrete

Taken this morning at work:

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How good to know that nature still is stronger than concrete…

Olympus E-520 with 40-150mm lens

Thanks for viewing.

That standard lens on my “Pen”

Both Kirk Tuck (on his blog) and my friend Thorsten Wieszniewski (with email) lately reminded me of my standard lens, which is a Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm/1.4 on my Olympus E-PL5 “Pen”-type camera. And to both I replied that yes, it’s gorgeous, and one of the best we have. My blog header photo shows me using it, and take this quick snapshot for instance:

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Small purple bucket. Mixed light: daylight in the foreground, flash in the background.

Noticed the bokeh from the small standby light on our TV set? Here it is at 100% for all of us (you) pixel-peepers:

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Perfectly round at f/2 which I used here, isn’t it?

It’s my go-to lens, and because I have the 50mm macro on my DSLR, this 25mm rarely leaves my mirror-free smaller camera. It’s just that good.

Thanks for reading.

Nasim’s site

Do you know the Mansurovs? Well, as a Nikon photographer you may have heard of them, others probably not. But Nasim writes maybe the best camera reviews I’ve read so far, probably together with Gordon Laing and with Imaging Resource. And like Ming Thein for instance, he’s also photographer enough to show the potential of the gear he reviews.

Today he published his review of the Fuji X-T1, a camera which I handled too briefly to write anything meaningful about it. And as always, looking at the photos in his review, it’s much more than the “nice camera” I called it. See Gordon’s and Imaging Resources takes on the X-T1 as well if you’re really interested in that camera, or in cool review sites.

Nasim mostly writes about Nikon gear, because that’s what he and his wife are using. But he also has reviews about some other stuff, like the Olympus E-M5 and E-M1, some Canon or Sony, and even a Mamiya RZ67. Plus they also have useful articles and tutorials, so they’re well worth a visit. They? Yes, several people are writing there, see them on his “About Us” page.

So, Nasim’s site is called “Photography Life“, and well worth a visit (or as in my case, even a RSS bookmark).