Berries to and fro

Zuleikha took some of the berries to school – and brought them back. And I took a photo of them last night, this time using a grid on my beauty dish (instead of the sock). So the light is a bit tighter and harder, and you can clearly see the falloff in the background:

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Berries, after being taken to school, and back. Olympus E-520 with 14-42mm lens at 42mm, f/6.3. Studio strobe with gridded beauty dish.

Like Laurence commented on my last blog post, spending 200 Euro on some light will have more impact on your photos than the newest camera or lens. Especially at home, at night.

Thanks for viewing.

Berries, with a strobe

As regular readers of this blog will know by now, I’ve decided to use my older DSLR – and only that – for a whole month again. But of course it would be unfair to use it only with ambient light. First, the two zoom lenses it came with are of a variable aperture type (f/3.5 to 5.6 and f/4 to 5.6), and so they have a huge disadvantage when compared with my fixed focal length “prime” lenses which I normally use on my mirror-free “Pen” camera (they have maximum apertures of f/2.5, f/1.4 and f/1.8). Second, even with these I use flash indoors quite often, since it simply gives much better colours than whatever “available” room light there might be. So last evening I took a shot of some berries which Mitchie bought, using my studio strobe with a beauty dish attached to its front:

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Berries. Olympus E-520 with 14-42mm lens at 42mm, studio strobe.

To give you an idea of what that “strobe” (= flash) looks like, here it is, taken with “uncorrected” room light:

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Studio strobe with beauty dish. Olympus E-520 with 14-42mm lens at 21mm. ISO400 with +0.5EV correction during the raw conversion with Olympus Viewer 3.

That’s a Simock E300 strobe with a Jinbei 20″ beauty dish attached which also comes with some nice add-ons like a grid and a “sock” which you see here. The strobe itself can be bought as a kit with a light stand and a 36″ Octabox for around €200, which is an incredible value for the money (cheaper than most on-camera TTL flashes, and much more powerful than those, also giving nicer and softer light). Dangling from behind the flash you also see a Yongnuo CTR-301P radio remote which I use for triggering, and which is also cheap and works flawlessly since years. Highly recommended stuff if you’re on a budget and still want good light.

Oh, and because someone asked on Flickr: yes, I’ve tried one of those berries by now, and yes, they taste really nice.

Thanks for reading.

Happy Independence Day to all Americans!

Qotd comes from Roger Cicala of LensRentals, who explained:

“(For those of you who aren’t American, the 4th of July is when we celebrate our Independence by getting sunburned, making burnt offerings of animal parts in our backyards, and then eating said offerings. During the entire day, we drink massive quantities of American beer and once it gets dark we shoot off massive quantities of Chinese fireworks. All too often, the results of mixing alcohol and explosives prove that Darwin was correct — but hey, that’s what celebrating is all about, right?)”

Hehe, awesome. Thanks for a good laugh, Roger!

Update, later in the evening: And here’s a candle for you folks:

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Tea light and alarm clock. Olympus E-520 and 40-150mm lens at 58mm.

I love that lens. And tho I have an adapter for it, I still should get the same one with a Micro Four Thirds mount for my “Pen”. Best value in the whole business IMHO.

Thanks for viewing.

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.