Another of my regular posts highlighting fantastic photography which photographers post on 500px.com
Click on the images to go to their source on 500px.com.
Another of my regular posts highlighting fantastic photography which photographers post on 500px.com
Click on the images to go to their source on 500px.com.
Following on from the footsteps of the brilliant camera of 2012 – the Olympus E-M5, we now have a range of amazing cameras to build on it’s success to address nearly every need.
I am not a fan of cameras without viewfinders but the GM-1 has changed the face of the shirt pocket camera genre – previously ruled by the excellent Sony RX 100 II.
The GM-1 is a Micro Four Thirds camera and thus not only does it have interchangeable lenses unlike the fixed lens on the Sony, but it’s sensor is MUCH larger meaning higher quality images and more shallow depth of field is possible for when you want to blur the background.
It came with a new very compact 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH MegaOIS kit lens and a silent electronic shutter and certainly has the compact size to suit most people who just want a camera for their purse or pocket to take anywhere.
EOSHD.com placed it 2nd to the Canon 5D Mark III for HD video in its league 3 category of cameras for HD video work!
Like any tiny camera it has its compromises, in particular, no viewfinder, poor flash capabilities and ergonomic issues due to small size – but they are the price you pay for tiny size.
Image courtesy of dpreview.com.
This built upon the E-M5 and improved almost every aspect including the EVF and the world’s best image stabiliser, and added phase detect AF to provide much improved AF tracking of moving subjects and much needed fast AF support for the superb range of Four Thirds lenses.
Not only that but it became one of the 1st cameras of its type to have WiFi with NFC and allow smartphones to not only have images transferred easily but remotely control the camera, view the live image on the phone and even select an AF subject. Very handy indeed.
The image stabiliser is so good that eoshd.com voted it as the BEST camera for hand held video without resorting to a large image stabilisation rig.
It may be entry level in price but what a great camera – even better than the E-M5 with loads of new features including many on the E-M1 but also a built-in flash which will please many. The missing features will not be of great importance to the buyers of this camera – lack of weathersealing, only 3 axis IS instead of 5 axis IS, and a few other features.
The Fuji X-T1 is in many ways similar to the Olympus E-M1. It does have a larger sensor so can give marginally better image quality and potentially 1 stop shallower depth of field, plus you get to see the main camera settings by looking at the dials. But critically it lacks the great image stabiliser, the range of lenses and flash sync, shutter speed range, BULB modes are not as good while the lenses are much bigger and heavier.
This is an incredible camera in that it has the most amazing video features for a camera in the price range, plus it has high end still photography features although unfortunately there is no sensor-based image stabiliser.
At an expected price of under $2000, you get 4K HD video, uncompressed video out, up to 96fps 1080p slo-mo variable rate video with very high image quality (200Mbps) and an optional accessory port add on which takes it to another level altogether.
As a stills camera, it is weathersealed, has awesome EVF, shutter to 1/8000th sec, Bulb to 60 minutes, 12fps burst (7fps with AF tracking), silent shutter mode, flash sync to 1/250th sec even for external flashes, eye detect AF as with Olympus cameras, smartphone WiFi remote control, and more!
Sony is threatening to change the photographic world with their full frame mirrorless cameras which they introduced in 2013.
Unfortunately, the 36mp model, the Sony A7R has not lived up to expectations as it is plagued with shutter issues and one really needs to use it on a tripod to make the most of it.
The 24mp Sony A7 on the other hand seems to be a much more useful camera, although both lack built-in image stabiliser which would make use of legacy lenses much more attractive while dedicated new AF lenses are rolled out.
I would really like to see Olympus bring out a full frame mirrorless with their 5-axis image stabiliser and given their collaborations with Sony it may eventuate.
Both Canon and Nikon were conspicuously absent in dpreview.com’s readers’ votes for cameras of the year for 2013 – even Pentax K-3 won the dSLR section which Canon and Nikon practically own!
Canon and Nikon must be planning something big because they have not been producing any exciting cameras for a while.
Their dSLRs are just conservative evolutions of their usual dSLRs not able to take advantage of the technologic advantages and functions available with mirrorless systems.
Nikon tried to go retro to piggyback on the retro success of the Olympus OMD cameras but came up with an expensive, dysfunctional camera – the Nikon Df dSLR.
Canon’s top of the range APS-C dSLR is still their ageing Canon 7D, although they did introduce a 70D with dual AF for live view.
Both Canon and Nikon are sitting on their 2012 technology full frame dSLRs – the Nikon D800/D600/D4 and Canon 5D Mark III / 1D X (other than the Nikon D610 which is just a fix of the problematic D600).
Canon’s mirrorless system, the EOS-M does not appear to be going anywhere – given the autofocus of the EOS-M was so terrible. Why haven’t they brought out a more capable camera? The answer may well be that they don’t care because Americans love BIG cameras so they are just going to sell cheap dinosaur dSLR products to Americans and bide their time until they come up with a killer product.
Meanwhile the rest of us have realised we can get practically the same results with more fun, better image stabilisation, better hand held video, less backache, and more space in our travel bags by buying Micro Four Thirds.
Bloomberg reports that Olympus at long last is expecting their camera unit to return to profitability next year.
Olympus is no 1 in the global medical endoscope business and this business leverages off the technologic advances of the camera division, and thus the camera business is important to Olympus.
Olympus camera division has struggled, and despite the global financial crisis, the well-documented internal issues, the rise of smartphones adversely impacting the compact digital point and shoot camera market, Olympus has persisted and come up with big winners with their Olympus OM-D Micro Four Thirds cameras and the lovely lenses they have created for them.
Olympus has said it expects to sell 660,000 units of mirrorless cameras in the year ending March 2014.
Olympus shares almost doubled in value in 2013 as presumably investors could now see a light at the end of the tunnel, and again Olympus has produced world leading cameras which are challenging competitors such as Fuji, Sony, Canon and Nikon to lift their game and be innovative as well.
For many 35mm full frame photographers, a wide aperture 85mm lens is the preferred tool for portraiture as the focal length allows a natural perspective without distorting facial features whilst still allowing the photographer to be close enough to interact well with the subject. Furthermore, the wider the aperture of the portrait lens means there are more options for creating shallow depth of field to ensure the subject is emphasized whilst the background is thrown into a nice blur – hopefully with nice bokeh qualities.
When it comes to shallow depth of field capabilities, Canon dSLR users reign supreme as they have access to the very expensive and heavy Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II lens – the only f/1.2 85mm lens currently manufactured.
However, all is not what it seems.
As superb as this lens is, there is one huge draw back – the autofocus is very slow and combined with the extremely shallow depth of field, this lens can be very challenging to use well wide open.
Canon users then are at a quandary, as their only other Canon autofocus 85mm lens is the excellent consumer grade Canon EF 85mm f/1.8, but this lens suffers from significant purple fringing wide open.
Nikon users don’t have access to a 85mm f/1.2 lens but they do have a good Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G lens (the 1995 D version lens was designed for film cameras and was not great on digital cameras), so perhaps they have a better compromise than Canon users.
Sony full frame dSLR users are in a similar situation to Nikon users as they have the Sony Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* lens but AF can be slow and at $1700 it is not cheap.
All dSLR lenses using phase detect AF need microcalibration of AF and this is particularly important with shallow depth of field images.
In addition, the above users have access to 3rd party lenses such as the excellent Sigma 85mm f/1.4 lens although AF speed and accuracy can be an issue. For those on a budget, the Samyang/Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 manual focus lens may fit their needs.
Cropped sensor dSLR users can resort to their 50mm prime lenses although they will have less ability to gain shallow depth of field.
Extreme shallow depth of field is not usually the prime requirement, and most portraits can be shot at 85mm f/2.4-2.8 on a full frame camera and get potentially even better results wide open as most portraits are best if at least the area from the subject’s ear to tip of nose is in focus.
Indeed, if one is shooting low light portraits, or using fill in flash with a slowish shutter speed without a tripod, then image stabilisation becomes very important and none of the Canon or Nikon options offer image stabilisation.
Furthermore, the most critical technical part of taking the shot is often ensuring that the closest eye of the subject is the sharpest part of the image. This can be very difficult to achieve with dSLRs using shallow depth of field.
This week, Panasonic and Fuji have officially announced 2 new premium portrait lenses for their mirrorless cameras.
Designed for the 1.5x crop Fuji X mirrorless system and gives an equivalent to a 85mm f/1.8 lens in field of view and depth of field terms on a full frame camera.
This lens is well built, relatively affordable at $US999, and it should be a very popular option for Fuji users.
However, there is no image stabilisation, AF of Fuji cameras still lags behind Micro Four Thirds cameras, and closest focus is 0.7m which may be limiting for some uses.
A very expensive lens designed for Micro Four Thirds (which are 2x crop cameras) and thus gives an equivalent to a 85mm f/2.4 lens in field of view and depth of field terms on a full frame camera.
It has “Power OIS” optical stabilisation built-in, and Olympus users also have the option of using sensor-based image stabilisation.
Close focus is 0.5m.
Surprisingly it is a touch bigger, and heavier than the Fujinon lens, but perhaps it will have less vignetting.
This lens should be available from march 2014 at £1,399.
Given the advantages of image stabilisation, edge-to-edge sharpness, closest eye detection AF and generally quieter, smaller, less intrusive gear, my personal preference is for an Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera such as the Olympus OM-D E-M1 or E-M5 combined with either the 42.5mm f/1.2 lens if you can afford it, or the much smaller, less expensive Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.8 lens. Having said that, I do most of my portraits with the superb Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens but this may be too long a focal length for many people.
Edmondo Senatore is an Italian photographer who has been photographing since he attended a school of graphic design as a teenager back in the days of the film SLR.
Here are some of his wonderful images you can see on his 500px.com website using Micro Four Thirds, enjoy:
Taken with Olympus PEN E-PL5 Micro Four Thirds camera.
Taken with Olympus E-M5 with Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens.
Taken with Olympus PEN E-PL5 Micro Four Thirds camera and Panasonic 7-14mm f/4 lens at 8mm f/7.1.
Taken with Olympus PEN E-PL5 Micro Four Thirds camera and Pansonic 12-35mm f/2.8 lens at 12mm f/5.6.
I was asked if I would do a review of the Kitvision iPhone 5 / 5S lens pack.
Now I a must admit I am not a big fan of iPhone photography as the image quality and capabilities are no where near what my Micro Four Thirds gear can achieve, and I take my Olympus E-M5 with me nearly everywhere including to parties, so I do not have great need of using my iPhone 5 as a camera.
Nevertheless, not everyone is as lucky as I am to own a Micro Four Thirds camera and a few of their lovely little lenses, so I decided to agree to testing these 2 iPhone lens attachments out, just to see what they could do.
iPhone 5/5S case with a screw on part for the lenses to attach to
Assembling it is very straight forward, and this is how the telephoto lens looks with iPhone mounted on the tripod:
and the tiny little fisheye lens:
This seems to be a well built lens made of metal, comes with lens caps but no lens hood.
The field of view provided is approximately the same as a 300mm lens of a 35mm full frame camera or a 150mm lens on a Micro Four Thirds camera.
The lens can be rapidly attached or unattached to the iPhone, and when not in use, it is small enough for your pocket.
There is no optical zoom built-in but it does have a manual focus ring which requires two hands to turn – one to hold the lens so it doesn’t unscrew from the iPhone and the other to gain approximate manual focus. Fortunately, the iPhone autofocus will attempt to gain exact focus as long as you have manually focussed to within the capability of the AF range.
Unlike an Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera, there is no built-in image stabilisation so to get reasonable results, particularly in lower light conditions, you really need to shoot with it on a tripod. Nevertheless, with bit of practice on a sunny day you can get reasonable hand held shots.
In short, you need to regard this as a lomography lens – it is inexpensive, and used on a tiny iPhone sensor without image stabilisation and it is full of every optical defect you can think of.
It is reasonably sharp in the centre (although no where near as sharp as a kit lens on a Micro Four Thirds camera) but the plane of focus appears to be very curved so areas away from the sharpest focus will rapidly become blurred.
Furthermore, there is a LOT of chromatic aberration resulting in lateral color fringing, and a LOT of lens flare although the latter can be improved by creating a lens hood for it to shield the front element from incidental light.
The following shots are essentially straight from iPhone just resized in Lightroom for the web:
Handheld shot of a street busker in the shade – not super sharp but passable :
Nevertheless, for many this will be a fun lens and you may be able to gain some nice creative imagery.
This is a tiny metal lens which appears to be very well built and easily fits in a coin pocket of your trousers.
It has a convex front glass element which will need protection with the supplied lens cap when not in use.
As with the telephoto lens, this fisheye should be regarded as a creative lomography lens but you don’t need the tripod, so that makes it a fun lens to use.
There is no optical zoom and no manual focus – the iPhone’s AF should be able to address your focus needs although this can be tricky given the severe curvature of the plane of focus – you do need to ensure the iPhone AF on the part of the image you want in focus.
The field of view is said to be 160deg and it certainly appears to be around that level of ultra-wide angle fisheye.
Optically, it is no where near as sharp across the frame as a $200 or so Samyang fisheye for Micro Four Thirds, and it has a lot more chromatic aberrations but then it is a lot less expensive and much smaller.
By default, the image is that of a traditional circular fisheye lens as shown:
A larger than life size action figure:
Now if you look at the above image you will notice weird blurring occurring near the edges, so I thought I would have a look and see if it was just poor sharpness or out of focus issues.
Here is an art installation on a FLAT wall:
and using the iPhone to zoom in, you can see only the centre is sharp and this is due to severe curvature of the plane of focus:
Here is another example to prove this, another art installation on a flat wall taken from only 2-3m away:
And here are a couple more art works to show what this lens can do:
All in all, I really enjoyed using the fisheye – if the blurred lomography edges appeals then you may well find it a useful addition to your iPhone gear.
The lens kit appears to be good value, particularly for those who can’t afford a Micro Four Thirds camera, or who want something even smaller to take with them.
I am going to concentrate on the Micro Four Thirds system because this system gives you the BEST compromises on size, weight, image quality and versatility that larger sensor cameras just can’t match.
This does not mean there is no place for larger sensor cameras – of course there is, particularly if you want a little more image quality at high ISO, more megapixels for landscapes, even shallower depth of field, or you really need remote radio TTL flash (which has not made it to Micro Four Thirds – yet!).
Personally I would buy a 2nd hand Olympus OMD E-M5 – they are generally selling at significant discount and are a great value buy and offer lots of versatility and high image quality. It does NOT have phase detect AF capability so it won’t track moving subjects well and it won’t AF on moving subjects well, plus AF is very slow if you are using Four Thirds lenses, but if you can get by with these limitations, then it is a great camera, even better with half of the battery holder grip attached, and unlike the E-M1 this can be removed for even more jacket pocketability.
If you need phase detect AF for sports, Four Thirds lenses, etc, then your only current option is the 2013 camera of the year – the awesome Olympus OMD E-M1 – but it does come at a price.
Other worthwhile camera options to consider are the Panasonic GX7, Olympus E-P5, Olympus E-PL5 and the new very compact Panasonic GM-1, while videographers wil be eagerly looking forward to Panasonic’s new 4K capable camera in 2014 – the Panasonic GH4.
The cheapest new generation Micro Four Thirds camera is the Olympus E-PL5 (note the cheapest current Micro Four Thirds camera, the Olympus E-PM2 is older sensor technology but may still be a great start for beginners moving up from point and shoot cameras)
Unfortunately, for beginners, there is no camera-kit lens kit for under $400 new in Micro Four Thirds, so many end up buying a cheap entry level, often dysfunctional dSLR, which then sends them down the dSLR lens acquisition pathway until they realise that mirrorless cameras are the way of the future – not dSLRs.
Note too that not all mirrorless cameras are great system cameras like the new Micro Four Thirds cameras – I would NOT recommend the Canon EOS-M as it has a limited dedicated lens system and AF is ridiculously inadequate. The older Micro Four Thirds cameras may be worth buying but be aware they have older sensors and image quality and other capabilities are not up there with the latest cameras. The Sony NEX are nice compact cameras but their lenses are far too big and defeat the purpose of a compact system. The Samsung NX system does not seem to be going anywhere fast and is not recommended. The Fuji system is nice but expensive and has limited range of lenses.
Lenses are a very personal preference and much depends upon how you use the camera and your preferred subjects.
Nevertheless, most people would do well to aim for 3 “essential” lenses:
The Olympus micro ZD 12mm f/2.0 lens is one of my favorite Micro Four Thirds lenses, especially when used with the image stabilisation of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, and of course, the image stabilisation is even better with the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera.
It makes a fantastic night urban walk-around camera allowing hand held shots when most other cameras require tripods such as this image taken of the Temple Bar in Dublin:
It can also be used hand held with a Hoya R72 infrared filter to create infra-red images such as this outback shearing shed in Lake Mungo, NSW:
For the same reason, it also allows me to capture flowing water without a tripod such as with this image taken hand held at 1/3rd sec of Trentham waterfall yesterday:
Trentham Falls are in Victoria, Australia near the picturesque spa town of Daylesford and are fascinating as there are actually two river beds – the old river bed at the base which can be seen being eroded away under the waterfall forming a cave and the current river bed which forms the waterfall.
The current river bed at the top of the waterfall was actually formed some 5 million years ago when lava flows from a nearby volcano flowed down the ancient gully and solidified into the columns of basalt rock which can be seen forming the face of the waterfall and the surrounding gully. The old river bed has been found to have bones such as the skull of a platypus from 5 million years ago. The waterfall itself has been gradually receding upstream as the basalt columns erode and fall away. It is expected that the basalt columns to the left of the waterfall will soon fall (gaps are widening and water is increasingly seeping through it) and hence the waterfall is closed to the public for safety reasons.
Under the basalt lava of the face of the waterfall are several layers:
The valley itself is lined by columnar basalt lava rock and below this is a scree slope created from falling rocks – mainly during the ice age and glaciation of the valley with subsequent thawing some 12,000 years ago.
The top left of the waterfall shows a stream of water falling from a lower point – this was the site of an old water wheel which was excavated into the top of the waterfall.
Now back to the lens, the 24mm equivalent field of view also works well for shooting old buildings such as these:
Tourist information centre:
An old South Melbourne pub:
Hopefully one day I will acquire the lovely new Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 pro lens and then I will have a dilemma – will the extra stop of aperture of the 12mm f/2.0 be worth keeping this lens when the zoom will be even more versatile and almost waterproof, and when combined with the E-M1 allow around 2 seconds exposures hand held?
According to the latest reports based on images such as the following, it seems that comet ISON has failed to survive it’s close encounter with the sun which will be a big disappointment for those in the northern hemisphere hoping to see a bright comet next week.
Note that the brightest part of the comet is no longer the head:
However, since this image, a later image shows it is still there:
But as of 29th Nov, reports are that it has substantially faded to a magnitude of around +2.9 with suggestions that if the comet reappears it will probably be a large diffuse object without the usual dense comet head, and with a magnitude of +5 which will be a disappointment to those in the north hoping for a bright comet for Christmas.