The new Canon EOS R6 – a full frame Olympus OM-D E-M1 III on steroids?

Written by Gary on July 11th, 2020

Back in 2007 to address the deficiencies of my Olympus E510 budget travel dSLR, I bought a pro sports dSLR – the 1.3x crop sensor Canon 1D Mark III supposedly acclaimed for its fast burst mode shooting and subject tracking AF. This camera was built like a tank, but its acclaimed AF system also tanked – issues with the mirror box and AF accuracy plagued this model.

All I really wanted from Canon is a well weathersealed camera with accurate eye AF and effective sensor-shift image stabilisation with an adequate sensor, nice compact and light ergonomics, good build quality.

The ONLY cameras in the subsequent decade to offer these simple requirements were the Olympus OM-D series – first the E-M5 Mark I and then I upgraded to each of the E-M1 models with their built-in grip and PDAF for fast moving subjects.

Meanwhile Canon slept, and slept and eventually they decided it was time to jump into a full frame mirrorless system but their first cameras were far from what I required as outlined above.

NOW, their Canon EOS R6 and their far more expensive R5 camera announced this week FINALLY have the features I have been wanting but which only Olympus and then Sony have provided.

The photography media world has been busy writing the obituary for the Micro Four Thirds but these cameras along with the lovely new Canon RF lenses are just as likely to spell the end of the Canon EF dSLR and Nikon F dSLR systems as unlike Micro Four Thirds, they offer very few benefits over the Canon RF system – mainly only the optical viewfinder and better battery life.

For the full specs and other details of these cameras see my wikipedia pages.

The Canon R6 as an E-M1 Mark III on steroids?

The Canon R6 is essentially a larger, heavier full frame version of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III in terms of its shooting and video capabilities.

Similarities between the two:

  • excellent weathersealing (E-M1 is IPX1-rated and probably better than the R6)
  • excellent sensor-shift image stabilisation (6+ EV)
  • excellent Eye AF subject tracking although the Canon would appear to have the better system with wider frame coverage and ability to track animals as well.
  • excellent ergonomics (although the Canon is a bit big and heavy for my liking being almost 20% heavier)
  • full swivel rear touch screen (although R6 has twice the resolution)
  • 20mp sensor
  • improved rolling shutter (but will the Canon R6 be as good as the Olympus – this is important for allowing electronic shutter and video to be useful and this has many other roll on effects as well)
  • fast mechanical shutter burst rates with AF (10fps for E-m1 vs 12fps for R6)
  • fast electronic shutter burst rates with AF (18fps for E-m1 vs 20fps for R6)
  • mechanical shutter to 1/8000th sec
  • pro-rated shutter durability (E-M1 is rated to 400,000 actuations)
  • reasonably fast flash sync (1/250th sec for E-m1 vs 1/200th sec for R6)
  • 4K video (only 30p on the E-M1 while the R6 can get to 60p with 1.07x crop)
  • 1080HD video to 120p
  • excellent video image stabilsation and AF tracking (the lower weight of the E-M1 makes it far better for selfie hand held vlogging though)
  • zebra exposure warnings
  • USB-C charging
  • Bluetooth and WiFi, microHDMI ports
  • webcam software
  • Dual SD card slots
  • PASM dial instead of a top LCD panel
  • rear joystick controller
  • ability to shoot in AF with Canon EF lenses via adapters
  • optional additional battery grips for portrait aspect holding
  • and many more similar features

Specific advantages of the Canon R6:

  • full frame sensor allows
  • 2 stops shallower DOF but only if you use lenses with wider apertures such as the f/1.2 lenses and some of these are VERY expensive!
  • probably 2 stops better high ISO performance for moving subjects as long as you don’t need to stop down to attain sufficient DOF
  • 14 bit files instead of 12 bit gives marginally better image quality
  • 4K 60p mode
  • higher resolution EVF (3.69mdot vs 2.3mdot on the E-M1)
  • AF covers almost 100% of frame while the E-M1 covers around 80%
  • bigger camera may better suit those with large hands
  • ability to output 10-bit HDR HEIF files for stills and video
  • option of closing the mechanical shutter to reduce dust when changing lenses but this then exposes the fragile shutter to damage
  • both SD card slots are UHS-II (the E-M1, only one slot is UHS-II)
  • a new post-processing “portrait lighting” and “background clarity” AI processing option similar to that found on smartphones, although these are probably better applied in computer post-processing.
  • option of purchasing a higher resolution camera – the Canon R5
  • a brighter future – the Canon RF is likely to rule the camera world along with Sony while Olympus has already announced it will sell off its imaging division and this places future product developments at substantial risk even with Panasonic still around.

Advantages of the Olympus E-M1 mark III:

  • smaller and lighter (20% lighter)
  • more affordable (the R6 costs 50% more! $US2499 for the R6 vs $US1699 for the E-M1 III)
  • more affordable and greater variety of premium quality native lenses
  • twice the telephoto reach for a given size lens (although Canon has attempted to address this with their two new 600mm and 800mm f/11 spotting scope-like diffraction optics lenses which we will have to see how well they work but they are likely to lack the quality and versatility of the Olympus 300mm f/4 lens especially in low light, but at least they are cheap!)
  • ability to take a 400mm telephoto reach lens to commercial sports events (many events limit focal length to 200mm so the 2x crop factor of the E-M1 becomes a major advantage here!)
  • 15fps mechanical shutter burst mode with fixed focus
  • 60fps electronic shutter burst rate with fixed focus
  • 1/32,000th sec electronic shutter
  • ProCapture mode to ensure shots are captured despite human reaction time
  • Improved AF accuracy by having an in-built focus range limiter which can be used on any compatible lens and allows the user to instruct the camera to ignore subjects closer or further than the set range – this means no more accidental locking on spectators in the background
  • sensor-shift Hi-Res modes 50mp hand held and 80mp tripod versions with much reduced moire artefacts
  • hand held multi-shot Live ND filter effect mode
  • Live keystone correction
  • Unique night modes such as Live Composite and Live Timed
  • Starry AF mode
  • the best sensor dust removal system available (although the R6 has the option of closing the mechanical shutter to reduce dust when changing lenses but this then exposes the fragile shutter to damage)
  • 2×2 settings mode switch
  • better exposure compensation, bracketing options (R6 only has 3 stops compensation while the E-M1 does 5 stops)
  • better battery life (CIPA 420 shots compared with 380 on the R6)

Conclusion:

The Canon R5 is certainly the camera that many of us have been waiting for Canon to produce for over 10 years but it does come at a high price point of $US2499 which will put it out of reach for many, particularly if that want to maximise its potential by using the new awesome Canon RF glass such as:

  • Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM $US2699 and weighs 1.2kg!
  • Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM $US2299 and weighs 950g
  • Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM $US2699 and weighs 1070g
  • Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM $US2299 and weighs 900g

As you can see above, if you really want to go the pro full frame premium route it is going to cost you a LOT of money to get those 2 stops of DOF and higher ISO performance compared to Micro Four Thirds, not to mention it will be big and heavy!

In comparison, Micro Four Thirds gives up that 2 stop DOF advantage but you can get:

  • Olympus 45mm f/1.2 $US1299 and weighs 410g
  • Olympus 25mm f/1.2 $US1299 and weighs 410g
  • Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 $US1349 and weighs 760g and gain 50% more telephoto reach
  • Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 $US999 and 382g

The Canon RF lens kit as above will cost $US9,999 and weigh 4.1kg excl. camera.

The Olympus lens kit as above will cost $US4,999 and weigh 2kg excl. camera.

The Canon RF lenses will thus cost TWICE as much and be TWICE as heavy while the R6 is 50% more pricey then the E-M1 III and 20% heavier – the choice is yours – do you want to break your bank and your back and get that ultra shallow DOF and high ISO performance or settle for the Olympus and get greater hand holdable telephoto reach as a bonus plus a range of extra functionality as outlined above?

This price and weight difference is further exaggerated if you start considering super telephoto lenses at 600mm full frame reach or more.

Yes, you can get the new Canon RF 600mm and 800mm f/11 lenses, but when I shoot with the Olympus 300mm f/4 lens I am usually using ISO 400 in good light to get sufficient shutter speed for action, if I were to shoot with the Canon 600mm f/11 I would need ISO 3200 (3 stops higher) – if the light drops, you will quickly be getting up to very high ISO levels on the Canon! Furthermore, I suspect the image quality of these lenses will not match that of the Olympus 300mm which is one of the highest quality lenses Olympus has ever made and you do lose 1 stop DOF with those f/11 lenses.

 

 

Micro Four Thirds is not dead

Written by Gary on July 6th, 2020

Whilst it does appear Olympus has exited the photography business by selling off its Olympus Imaging Division to JIP which has a dubious track record for such ventures and the quality of their products, there are many reasons why I believe Micro Four Thirds will continue on for many years yet.

Micro Four Thirds sensor size is the perfect fit for most photographers in terms of size, weight, image quality and perhaps now more than ever in a global recession, potential to be produced at much lower price points than full frame equivalents.

There are many other manufacturers with a significant interest in Micro Four Thirds, not the least of which is Panasonic, given that Micro Four Thirds sensor size is optimum for most videography, particularly that the size allows it to have much reduced rolling shutter compared with most full frame sensors, and the cameras and lenses can be made much lighter for hand held vlogging.

Sharp is making a 8K Micro Four Thirds video-centric camera while drone manufacturers such as DJI will always go to MFTs before full frame.

Olympus cameras and lenses are likely to be available for some time yet and they have indeed released an updated lens roadmap that seems to support this. Nevertheless, I am not that convinced that the medium to longer term future of Olympus “JIP” manufactured gear will be up to enthusiast or pro standards as we have been used to with Olympus.

In the mean time I am in Covid lockdown with limited photographic opportunities outdoors, so here is one from last week with my favourite walk-around combo of Olympus OM-D E-M1 II with Olympus micro ZD 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro lens:

backlit leaf

This lens is not my go to lens for lovely bokeh (I prefer the Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 for this), but still the bokeh here is lovely indeed.

 

Did sensor dependencies strangle Olympus?

Written by Gary on June 27th, 2020

These are further thoughts to my previous blog on Olympus selling off their Imaging Division and their Micro Four Thirds camera and lens business.

As outlined in the previous post there are many factors which have conspired to make Olympus cameras a loss making business over the past few years, but there is one that I thought should be elaborated upon – sensors.

Sensor technology has always been a weak point for Olympus cameras, particularly in comparison to full frame sensors.

Part of this is that the sensor being a lot smaller, for the same number of pixels, will need to have smaller pixels and with equivalent sensor design technology this means lower high ISO performance and image noise which the media constantly harp on about.

For me, I shoot 99% of my imagery below ISO 800 so it is a mute point.

Nothing grows under a big tree

A major stumbling block for Olympus though is that despite all of its wonderful innovation and class leading technologies and lenses, Olympus does not make sensors.

Ever since Kodak went under, it has always relied upon its direct competitors. In the Four Thirds and early Micro Four Thirds period it was Panasonic sensors, and there was always a perception that it seemed Panasonic kept the best sensors for themselves and delayed the offerings to Olympus.

This presumably created a rift between the two companies and Olympus moved over to Sony sensors which are the class leading sensors also used by Nikon. In return, Olympus gave its class leading sensor image stabilisation technology to Sony which helped paved the way for Sony’s mirrorless success.

The problem is that, whilst Sony has been rapidly improving its own sensors, we have not seen a new sensor designed for Micro Four Thirds for quite a few years, indeed, the recent E-M1 Mark III has the same sensor as the previous model which was a substantive disappointment to the market.

One could ask, why didn’t Sony offer Olympus the same sensor as in their class leading 61mp Sony a7RIV full frame camera but at a quarter of the size and a quarter of the cost?

After all, it would have given Olympus a 15mp sensor (plenty enough for sports) but with the same high ISO performance and high dynamic range of the a7RIV, and being a quarter of the size they could have dramatically reduced the rolling shutter issue that plagues most full frame sensors (except the unique Sony a9 series).

Or, they could have provided a 20mp version of that technology with slightly lower high ISO performance.

But instead, Olympus had to stay with their old sensor which is fine up to ISO 3200-6400 but that is it. Olympus made the most of this sensor and it is adequate for the far majority of photography, but it does allow the market to perpetuate negativity which has overwhelmed the many unique benefits Olympus cameras do bring to the photographer.

Now of course, it may have been a decision made by Olympus as they had too many older sensors and instead of using these in the entry level cameras and buy new ones for their high end cameras they stuck with old sensors in them – short term economics vs long term market decline due to poor reputation – I don’t think Olympus would have done this.

I have seen this type of competitive dependency cripple or destroy many companies, a key example is how Microsoft has impacted most of its competitors – for instance the Borland’s superb programming tool Delphi was innovative and far superior to anything Microsoft produced in the 1990s, yet it was always dependent upon Microsoft’s changes to Windows and so there was always a delay in rolling out updates to manage the new features. But it didn’t stop their, Microsoft then poached the key programmers and set about creating a new language, C# and programming tool thanks to the ex-Borland wizard.

This is another reason why Nikon in particular will face an uphill battle to compete with Sony now that Sony has such a stronghold on the mirrorless arena. In the beginning Sony needed to be nice and non-threatening, but now the world has changed, Sony is a leader in cameras and lenses in their own right, profits will be hard fought and being nice to other companies just may not be the way of the future.

Sony is already signalling a form of price arrogance to the market – each of their cameras have been introduced at even higher price points – their Sony a7RIV sells for $AU5600 RRP just so you can get your hands on their latest AF technology, whether or not you actually need 61mp. Their 24mp Sony a9II sports camera comes in at a whopping $AU7478 RRP. Plus just try and afford any of their full frame telephoto lenses capable of working reasonably well on an a7RIV resolution – their Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 which comes in at a whopping $AU4098 RRP and is almost twice as heavy.

If you want the best, you are going to have to pay for it dearly – that is what happens when competition is destroyed.

I took the “best” out today for some macro work as there was no wind, arrived at my destination and swapped in an extension tube for my 90mm tilt shift lens and despite care a large dust particle became stuck on my sensor ending my excursion prematurely as I didn’t bring my sensor cleaning kit as I would never have needed it with my Olympus – but the Sony is renown for needing a sensor clean before each shoot. People just don’t realise how good the Olympus cameras are and that is a pity because their future is now with a company that may not tolerate losses.

Canon do make their own sensors and although they have struggled to keep up with Sony’s technology in particular with respect to dynamic range, they are probably big enough to manage this.

 

Olympus Imaging sold off – my thoughts

Written by Gary on June 26th, 2020

Olympus announced this week they have sold off their Olympus Imaging Division to Japan Industrial Partners (JIP) after 3 consecutive loss-making years.

See the MOU of the transfer here.

“Olympus considers that, by carving-out the Imaging business and by operating the business with JIP, the Imaging business’s corporate structure may become more compact, efficient and agile and it is the most appropriate way to realize its self-sustainable and continuous growth and to bring values to the users of our products as well as our employees working in the Imaging business. “

This is extremely sad for me as Olympus has been one of the main companies that has been inspirational and innovative in the industry for many decades. I have bought many of their products from the OM-1 and OM-2n SLRs of the 1970s, through to digital bridge cameras such as the C-8080 and then Four Thirds dSLRs and finally through to their awesome Micro Four Thirds gear.

It is however not surprising!

The camera industry has taken a massive hit in declining sales over the last decade and it is not just in the entry level products which smartphones have cannibalised, but also in the higher end as photography as a profession has become a lot more difficult to be profitable in such a competitive world which has essentially devalued the worth of photographers due to the sheer accessibility now of photography for the masses.

A quote from July 2019:

“Macquarie Group’s Thong, who has been covering Canon, Nikon and other Japanese companies since 2002, said that photocopiers have been a cash cow for Canon, protecting it from industry changes. Other camera makers like Olympus and Konica Minolta have similar B2B bulwarks, allowing them to continue their camera businesses almost as a hobby.

But for Nikon, Thong said the evaporating camera market is a bigger threat, in part because it failed to embrace video early on. “

The Olympus Imaging Division just became too expensive of a hobby for Olympus and it seems just had to be sold off to keep the main company profitable.

Whilst Micro Four Thirds has some unique qualities which make the system perfect for many people and indeed it probably still is the best system for vlogging whilst walking, it has been squeezed from both ends of the camera technology spectrums as full frame cameras have become smaller and less expensive and even some of the full frame lenses have been produced to be nearly as compact and similarly priced.

It would seem that Olympus even in 2019 was worried that it could no longer support a loss-making venture and perhaps the Covid pandemic, Panasonic’s move into full frame, and ongoing media negativity impacting sales which were the straw which broke the camels’ back for Olympus.

Ironically, Olympus continues to be the best camera seller in Japan and perhaps the Japanese government will be reluctant to see this fail.

We will have to await what the new owner will do with the Imaging Division and patents. It is unlikely they will tolerate an ongoing loss-making business venture so what would be likely is a major restructuring and probably a significant revision of its products.

They aim to still release the Olympus micro ZD 150-400mm f/4.5 TC1.25x IS Pro lens given that the R&D costs have already been spent. It would be interesting to see how this would sell – there may be a lot of wildlife photographers just dying to get their hands on such a lens given it will probably be the last of this quality and capability. A full frame equivalent at that aperture would be prohibitively expensive and heavy.

This lens which was displayed in 2019 has full frame equivalent base focal range of 300-800mm, and in addition, a built-in 1.25x teleconverter can be activated which increases its reach to 1000mm f/5.6. Coupled with the Olympus micro ZD 2x Teleconverter MC-20, the lens becomes a 750-2000mm f/11 in full frame terms. This is all with an industry leading 7.5 stop image stabilisation system.

The newly announced Canon RF Diffractive Optics technology super telephoto lenses whilst relatively compact, only give 600mm f/11 or 800mm f/11.

Hopefully they can create a price competitive E-M1 mark IV for 2022 with a new sensor and further improved AI AF tracking – neither of which would require significant internal R&D or re-tooling.

The reality is they will probably focus more on making a price competitive E-M5 or E-M10 or whatever they see as their potential mass income earners.

There is a history of these scenarios still working out reasonably well for consumers such as IBM selling off Lenovo computers and Google sold Motorola to Lenovo whereas other scenarios have resulted in the new owner just stripping out any value. We will have to wait and see.

What will the mean to existing Micro Four Thirds users?

Many will be angry and upset that they feel they may be forced to sell their gear at a loss and buy into another system, but it does not need to be that way for most.

The cameras and lenses are likely to be fully functional for at least the next 5 years, hence why, when I was worried with the pandemic this may happen, in March I actually bought a further Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III because that is such a wonderful camera that has unique capabilities not found in any other camera with lovely ergonomics and the best weathersealing and image stabilisation you can get.

I am sure I will probably not even notice there is a new owner to the Olympus Imaging Division as I have all the cameras and lenses in the system I need – just like I do for the Bronica SQ medium format film system and the Mamiya C330 Twin Lens medium format film system.

I don’t really need a company to be ongoing to keep photographing with these and I am sure the new owner will keep availability of parts and if they do continue to create great cameras and lenses then that just value adds to my gear.

In the interim, I have been slowly building up a full frame system to compliment my Micro Four Thirds gear but I do worry about the day I will be forced to take my full frame gear with me when I hike or travel – the weight and cost burden is too excessive.

I hope that Micro Four Thirds continues as a system – Panasonic and third party manufacturers already play a role here (Panasonic has recently released the G90, 10-25mm f/1.7 and 25mm f/1.4 mark II lens, and just yesterday the G100) while Black Magic Design and the drone manufacturers will almost surely keep it going from their perspective.

Even if Micro Four Thirds comes to an end and our cameras become unusable from old age, we will probably still be able to adapt our lenses, especially the superbly sharp telephoto lenses onto the Nikon Z mirrorless full frame system when they come out with a 80mp camera it could be used as a 2x crop 20mp camera for your Micro Four Thirds lenses …. if only Nikon can survive …

Is this just the start and will other manufacturers be forced to sell?

We are living in very unique and trying times with the Covid pandemic seriously impacting multitudes of industries and a recession is coming and it may be with us for several years.

This will create enormous pressures on camera manufacturers who are already struggling in the declining and competitive market.

Severely reducing costs will be imperative for survival.

This is likely to severely impact R&D and thus we may see a substantive slowing of new innovations being brought to the market.

Loss of innovative competition such as that from Olympus will further reduce the imperative to be innovative.

It may be that only the electronic company giants of Sony, Panasonic and Canon will survive as major players in the new world with the remainder having niche roles if any. This would not be in the interests of consumers, but the next decade may be tougher than usual for businesses and consumers.

We are living in a new world, there are worse things happening

The loss of any camera manufacturer severely impacts diversity, competition, downward pressure on prices and benefits for the consumer, and Olympus will be missed, especially their ability to subsidise the wonderful R&D innovations they have been renown for.

We are living in times where there are far more important problems we face and which have been exposed by this pandemic – equality for all, the need for a massive change in cultural attitudes, tolerance and respect.

And perhaps more importantly, the apparent incessant drive towards a form of idiocracy and apparent lack of basic understanding and knowledge in those who drive policy.

Sometimes I think as a photographer this should be documented, but having documented the aftermath of a massive devastating bushfire many years ago, I found I, let alone others, never wanted to re-visit that imagery and that perhaps it is better just to get on and look at the positives in life.

 

The new Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III – a smaller, more affordable E-M1X

Written by Gary on February 14th, 2020

Olympus has just announced their upgrade to their Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, a camera which I love so much for its ergonomics, size and feature set that I much prefer to take it with me rather than a full frame dSLR or mirrorless (and I have several of these).

The E-M1X is a great camera too but I don’t need its extra size and built-in grip, nor it’s price point.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III then is a great upgrade as it incorporates most of the features of the E-M1X and adds a couple of new ones, all in essentially the same camera body to maintain similar muscle memory when using both cameras (it is backwardly compatible with the Mark II accessory grip, the HLD-9 although it doesn’t have a toggle).

Some of us were disappointed it didn’t get a new sensor or an upgrade to the EVF as with its peers, however, by not doing this, Olympus has managed to add in lots of extras but keep the price down, and for most of us a better sensor or EVF is not going to make or break our photography.

Features it inherits from the E-M1X

  • the best IBIS out there – 7EV (7.5EV with a compatible OIS lens) means you can hand hold for many seconds without camera shake so you don’t need to carry a heavy, cumbersome and limiting tripod, you get far better video hand held so you don’t need to use heavy, expensive and complicated stabilisation rigs, and it allows Olympus to create novel uses such as Hand Held multi-image Hi Res 50mp mode.
  • hand held 50mp High Res mode with 25mp or 50mp JPEG output options (plus 50mp RAW) which unlike a 61mp Sony a7RIV means you can shoot 20mp most of the time to make your life more enjoyable, and resort to High Res only when you want to, and this HiRes will have much less moire artefacts than the Sony. PLUS, you get the multi-shot advantage of a noise reduction effect up to 2.0EV of ISO sensitivity which essentially negates the advantage of full frame sensors – but as long as your subject is static. Not compatible with flash.
  • tripod mode 80mp High Res mode now offers 25mp, 50mp or 80mp JPEG output options (plus 80mp RAW) and is compatible with flash but flash sync requires shutter speeds of 1/50th sec or slower as it uses the electronic shutter.
  • Live ND filter effect mode which allows you to create a blurry moving water image without needing a tripod or ND filters and gives you an extra very handy tool to play with whilst reducing image noise and options of ND2 (1 step) to ND32 (5 steps) effect.
  • higher rated shutter mechanism now at 400,000 actuations
  • new customizable ‘My Menu’ tab to give you better control over the menu system
  • custom AF target grouping – eg. you can select an 11×3 region in addition to standard 5pt, 9pt, and 25pt groups
  • 8 way joystick controller to make selecting your AF point much easier and it can go diagonally to make this faster and the new option of AF target loop setting is also added, which users can select either stops the AF target at the edge of the screen or moves it to the opposite edge.
  • USB-C port with in-camera battery charging – this is now standard in most new cameras and allows one to bring along a power bank if needed on those camping trips instead of lots of batteries. Note it does not charge the battery inside an attached HLD-9 grip. Olympus recommends the Anker PowerPort III mini or Anker PowerCore +26800 PD power bank.
  • extensive, IPX1-rated weather sealing building further upon the superb weathersealing of the Mark II
  • the new sensor coating and 30,000Hz ultrasonic shake system which further reduces sensor dust issues – Olympus has been a leader in this technology (in contrast, the Sony cameras are renown for sensor dust issues to the extent that pros generally advise cleaning before each shoot!)
  • 120p 1080HD High Speed movie mode for Slo-Mo movies

PLUS, adds a few new features

  • new TruePic IX image processor which allows
    • new and improved Face/Eye AF algorithm which gives improved ability to detect smaller faces and eyes, and maintains detection when faces are side on or eyes are looking downwards and improves maintenance of C-AF on the face during video shooting – see here.
    • Starry Sky AF mode (2 modes: Tripod Accuracy Priority, which takes around 10 seconds, and Hand holdable Speed Priority, which takes 2-3 seconds)
  • Face Selection mode with a few options to allow you to select a face amongst a number of faces such as touching the detected face on the rear screen
  • new display panel option in addition to the much loved Super Control Panel
  • redesigned PASM dial with extra 4th custom setting and BULB is now included at the expensive of iAUTO and ART Filter options, PLUS, you can now choose to automatically save your current settings to a custom mode when you move off that custom mode – this should be extremely useful indeed! And unlike the Sony a7RIV, you don’t need 3 fingers to rotate the PASM dial as the lock button does not need to be held down as you rotate the dial.
  • ability to turn off EVF switching when LCD screen is articulated outwards
  • slight redesign of button layout – MENU and INFO buttons moved, Fn1 button renamed ISO
  • further improved built-in grip.

And of course it retains the awesome E-M1 II features

  • silent electronic shutter with minimal rolling shutter artefact to 18fps with C-AF and 60fps without, and shutter speeds to 1/32,000th sec – none of the Sony full frame cameras have this capability other than the a9 series.
  • 121 cross-type PDAF points giving 75% vertical coverage and 80% horizontal coverage with AF low light limit -6EV support with f/1.2 lenses
  • minimal rolling shutter artefact in video mode – only the Sony a9 series match this in the full frame cameras
  • anti-flicker shooting and Flicker Scan to avoid issues with artificial light
  • mechanical shutter to 10fps with AF and 15fps without (the new Sony a7RIV only has 10fps and that is with 12bit compressed RAW not uncompressed RAW which drops it down to 6fps).
  • in-camera focus limiter to avoid the AF locking onto near or far objects such as spectators, and this works on all AF Micro Four Thirds lenses (this is another unique to Olympus function)
  • Pro-Capture mode which allows you to set your focus where your action will be, half-press your shutter button while awaiting the decisive moment then when this happens and you press the shutter, you get the preceding frames at full RAW quality to ensure your natural reaction lag time didn’t cause you to miss the shot.
  • focus bracketing and in-camera focus stacking of 3-15 images (the Sony a7RIV does not have either!)
  • Live Composite, Live BULB, Live TIMED night modes – and these are now more quickly accessible thanks to Bulb being put on the PASM dial
  • UHD 4K/30p video at 102Mbps and DCI Cinema 4K 24p at up to 237Mbps
  • M-IS1 movie stabilisation mode – multi motion IS by Image sensor shift and electronic image stabilizer
  • OM-Log400 for video
  • in camera automatic HDR modes in addition to HDR bracketing
  • Intervalometer for creating time lapse movies
  • A very usable touch screen – you can touch a subject and camera will instantly AF on it and take a shot (The Sony cameras only allow the AF part) and other touch functions
  • A fully articulating swivel rear screen for maximum versatility (many cameras including the Sony’s only have a tilt screen which is always exposed – it cannot be rotated inwards for protection)
  • two front buttons for extra usability such as rapid custom WB, DOF preview, etc. (the Sony cameras do not have this)
  • lovely size and ergonomics making it almost perfect to allow your photography to be fun and more enjoyable and not a burden in terms of weight or size
  • In-body Fisheye Compensation which converts fisheye images to normal rectilinear images
  • In-body Live keystone correction
  • Wifi and smartphone remote shooting and tethering
  • Support for Olympus Workspace new USB RAW Data Edit
  • Olympus 2.4GHz radio wireless flash (in addition to the older optical remote flash system) – requires FC-WR Commander and Olympus FL-700WR flash or later WR models, or older flash models paired with a FR-WR Receiver.
  • same BLH-1 battery
  • great selection of high quality lenses which are shorter than full frame lenses in the telephoto range for the same telephoto field of view reach.
  • relatively affordable at $US1799

But there are some features of the EM-1X that didn’t make it

  • the obvious one is the built-in vertical grip with dual battery holder and a 2nd 8-way AF joystick
  • the unique E-M1X Field Sensor System which sports an integrated GPS module (GLONASS and QZSS) along with an electronic compass, manometer, temperature sensor, and acceleration sensor
  • dual fast UHS-II SD card slots – only one slot is UHS-II
  • dual image processors
  • Intelligent Subject Detection AF algorithm which detects motorbikes, trains or cars and presumably in a later firmware, other specific types of subjects
  • the integrated heat pipe helps to dissipate heat from the imaging components to benefit recording video and shooting sequential stills in hot temperatures.

Final thoughts

The addition of these features builds upon what is already a great, fun, versatile camera that will not break your back or your bank as a full frame camera is likely to do.

Almost no-one really needs more than 20mp (unless they are doing a lot of cropping) and higher resolution imagery just adds to your hatred of post-processing as your software gets really slow and frustrating to use, and your TIFF files become enormous (0.5Gb just for a 61mp Sony a7RIV when saved as a single layer Affinity software format!).

More pixels is extremely unlikely to make or break your image and 99% will end up downsized to 2mp for the web anyway.

Full frame cameras do allow greater capability of super narrow depth of field options but in general the shallow DOF of the Micro Four Thirds f/1.2 prime lenses are perfect for most situations.

Full frame cameras do allow one to shoot at much higher ISO for moving subjects with better image quality but few of us need to resort to ISO greater than 3200 and if you do, the light quality is likely to be not that aesthetic and you probably should be providing additional lighting.

In short, no other camera offers a comparable combination of size, price, excellent IS, video AF performance, electronic rolling shutter performance, shutter life, weather sealing, usable high-res mode and shooting rate, not to mention the many unique Olympus functionalities to add to your photographic tool kit.

See more info on my wikipedia page

Or you can go straight to the Olympus news release for the source information (pdf) or more details on this web page and their full specs are on this page.

 

Happy New Year – my picks for Best cameras of 2019

Written by Gary on January 1st, 2020

2019 was the year that most of the major camera manufacturers (except Fujifilm and Olympus) finally decided it was time to enter the full frame mirrorless market – although Canon and Nikon’s offerings were not the best cameras around for many reasons, at least it was a start for them as they build up their lens catalogues optimised for mirrorless systems.

Here are my choices for Best cameras of 2019 in no particular order:

Fujifilm GFX 100S

I have chosen this  camera because it has essentially done to mirrorless medium format what the Olympus OM-D E-M5 did for mirrorless cameras in 2012 bring together all the main key features most would want in a camera – nice viewfinder, nice image quality, weathersealing, fast AF, and sensor shift image stabilisation.

The Fujifilm GFX 100S has done a similar feat by being the first medium format mirrorless camera to have all these features and if has a 100 megapixel sensor for those that apparently need such high resolution, and perhaps most importantly, achieves this at a very competitive price point for medium format digital cameras at around $US10,000, albeit still far to expensive for most of us.

Now I can’t see myself ever buying this due to the cost and also the weight of the large, heavy and expensive lenses, but for the professional who needs this, it is indeed ground breaking.

 

Sony a7RIV full frame camera

When the Sony a7R Mark IV was first announced I had serious doubts as the the wisdom of its 61 megapixel sensor, and, the excessive numbers of pixels is both its strength and its weakness.

That said, I have warmed to it as now, being the 4th generation of these ground breaking industry leading full frame mirrorless cameras, Sony has finally evolved it to address many (but not all) of my concerns and it has evolved more into the ergonomics, weight and size of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark II which I so love and which makes that camera so much fun to use.

Here are my reasons why this is perhaps the best camera under $5000 in 2019:

  • finally has a large enough grip to be comfortable to hold
  • finally has improved weathersealing which has been a weakness in previous a7 cameras
  • has further improved AF to be the best available except for the Sony a9 models. It even adds animal eye AF and it’s human eye tracking AF is the best you can get.
  • the AF region covers most of the frame (87% thanks to the 567 PDAF points and 425 CDAF points) which is a substantial improvement upon the a7RIII but still not quite as good as the a9 series.
  • a class leading awesome 5.76 million dot viewfinder
  • further improved sensor shift image stabilisation (IBIS) which is now rated at 5.5 EV which is catching up to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II
  • USB-C in-camera charging and improved image transfer when tethered
  • dual UHS-II SD card slots
  • a reasonable sports burst mode of 10fps mechanical shutter for up to 68 shots at compressed RAW and with the extra telephoto reach of APS-C mode makes it a usable wildlife and sports camera
  • high ISO performance, dynamic range and color has not been hit too hard despite the 61mp, and these are only slightly less than the 42mp a7RIII thanks to a newer technology sensor
  • adds anti-flicker mode and an intervalometer at last.
  • pixel shift Hi Res mode now allows massive 16 shot 240mp images albeit on tripod (unfortunately not hand held as with the Olympus OM-D E-M1X), as well as a 4 shot mode like the a7RIII.
  • an extremely useful 26mp APS-C 1.5x crop mode
  • reasonable video specs with Eye tracking AF in movie mode and a new MultiFunction hot shoe which allows a new digital audio interface delivers the high-quality sound recording (better specs than the a9 series which, although has far better rolling shutter, Sony didn’t give them the other video features)
  • essentially the same control layout as the Sony a9II making it easier to use both.
  • matches nicely with some relatively affordable excellent lenses such as the Samyang 45mm f/1.8 (albeit with soft corners), Samyang 85mm f/1.4, Sigma 35mm F1.2 DG DN Art , Sigma 105mm F1.4 Art , as well as some awesome Sony lenses – Sony 24 F1.4 GM , Sony 135 F1.8 GM, Sony 90mm F2.8 Macro, while in APS-C mode for sports and wildlife, photographers may find the Sony 100-400 F4.5-5.6 GM and Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS well suited. See this blog for more details on lenses sharp enough for the a7RIV.

In short, it is a number of cameras in one and this is what makes it attractive in addition to most of the usability issues being addressed:

  • the highest resolution full frame camera currently available and this allows important versatility with cropping and “digital zoom” – your 85mm f/1.4 lens can also double as a 135mm f/2 lens which means less weight and lenses to carry around!
  • the best high resolution camera currently available for under $5000 – far better than the Canon 5DS dSLRs and better than any of the 42-45mp full frame cameras
  • the best APS-C camera – in APS-C mode, its feature set, in particular, the IBIS, ergonomics and AF capabilities beat any APS-C camera out there.
  • a reasonable video camera – especially with the Eye AF tracking now working in movie mode. Up to 120p slo-mo in 1080HD and 4K 30p but only to 100Mbps.

Despite this, it is still has some issues and is missing important features, but perhaps these will come in the a7RV in 2021, such as:

  • sensor dust is a major issue with the Sony cameras despite using an Olympus style ultrasonic dust removal system – perhaps they need to add firmware upgrade to do the Canon R solution of closing the mechanical shutter when the camera powers off to protect the sensor when changing lenses.
  • the rear screen is almost useless, subject to damage, low resolution, the touch capabilities are very restricted and it still only tilts rather than being a lovely articulated swivel screen like the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II.
  • sensor read out is slow causing rolling shutter issues and thus Sony have perhaps wisely not bothered adding electronic shutter burst modes for sports so it does not have burst rates to match the Sony a9 series nor the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II which can do 18fps with C-AF and 60fps with locked AF, nor does it have the very handy Pro-Capture mode.
  • camera has limited use during write of a burst
  • the menu system is still terrible to navigate although the addition of My Menu quick access does improve this.
  • AF is problematic in low light when using a small aperture despite having a wide aperture f/1.4 lens (as with flash photography) – even setting Live View Display to OFF and theoretically preventing the camera from closing down the aperture during AF doesn’t fully address this.
  • No focus bracketing or focus stacking unlike the Olympus OM-D’s
  • No in-camera HDR processing but then you probably want to do this on your super computer.
  • the WiFi connectivity is still not that easy to use
  • connecting to a phone to acquire GPS coordinates is a pain and drains a lot of battery and generally to be avoided
  • still “eats” stars due to spatial filtering as with the Sony a7riii and Sony a7iii although for most this is not a significant issue.
  • video features are no where near class leading, but Sony is presumably reserving this for their forthcoming Sony a7SIII
  • the high pixel density makes diffraction problematic if you also need small apertures for adequate depth of field, the image detail starts falling off at f/5.6-8 which could be an issue for landscape photographers.
  • most of the time those extra pixels are just wasting your storage space and your precious processing time increasing your frustrations – to get the full resolution, you need no camera shake, accurate focus, no subject blur, low ISO and a lens capable of matching that resolution, of which there are only a few, and as mentioned above, shooting at a relatively wide aperture to avoid diffraction issues, furthermore, all those pixels are still going to be wasted most of the time as 99% will probably just be displayed as web images at 4mpixels at best!
  • there is no downsampled resized full frame lossless image mode to reduce the file sizes – a 60mp compressed RAW file, when opened in Affinity photo and saved in the Affinity photo file format to save your edits results in an enormous file almost 0.5GB in size!!!

Sony a9II

The Sony a9II is clearly the best sports or wildlife full frame mirrorless camera currently available thanks to the awesome sensor with its fast sensor readout, minimal rolling shutter, minimal viewfinder blackout, class leading AF tracking and fast burst rates.

Sony have added a gigabit wired LAN port but have not given it the video capabilities it deserves, and at 24mp sensor there is limited room for cropping or telephoto reach so you will need those extra large, heavy and very expensive super telephoto lenses.

But it’s price puts it out of most enthusiasts reach of $US4500.

Panasonic S1H

Panasonic joined the full frame mirrorless race in 2019 with its S1 and S1R stills cameras, but perhaps it is there S1H video optimised camera that will be its biggest seller being the 1st 6K 24p full frame camera and the 1st to offer 10-bit 4K 60p recording.

At $US4000 this clearly targets the pro videographer.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 III

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is arguably the best video selfie vlogging camera for use when walking and hand held selfie vlogging thanks to its awesome AF, IBIS, compact, light format and, importantly the articulating rear screen which allows you to see what you are vlogging in selfie mode.

It is also arguably the best compact, light travel and all purpose camera with its great combination of feature set and the enormous range of native lenses available, many of which are very compact and ideal for travel.

Importantly, Olympus added in most of the great sports features of the Olympus OM-D E-M1II including its sensor with its PDAF points which is what takes the E-M5 to the next level.

Some final comments

2019 was also the year that Panasonic added some really great firmware features to most of their older cameras, including the Panasonic G9 which essentially inherited many of the great GH-5 video features and made the Panasonic G9 an even better Micro Four Thirds camera.

We will have to wait for 2020 to see if Canon and Nikon bring out full frame mirrorless cameras with a more rounded feature set.

I suspect the forthcoming Sony a7IV in 2020 could be an amazing camera with most of the a7RIV’s features but without the excessive pixel count, and in all probability, it won’t get the lovely EVF in order to keep the price down.

Whilst Fujifilm do have some nice cameras and lenses for their APS cameras, most lack IBIS and I think the Sony a7RIV is now heads and shoulders above the APS-C crowd given its versatility to also be a full frame camera as well as a 26mp APS-C camera.

The Sony a7RIV 61mp sensor is approaching the pixel density of current Micro Four Thirds cameras and thus one could reasonably expect that the improved high ISO performance in that camera should be possible next year in a Micro Four Thirds sensor – currently there is a 1-2 EV difference which has been regarded as one of MFT’s weaknesses which along with the reduced ability to achieve ultra shallow DOF should both be addressed in the next couple of years with AI technologies.

This would mean that most people would be far more comfortable and better off owning smaller lighter, less expensive Micro Four Third systems than having to carry around bulky, heavy full frame lenses.

 

Awesome portraiture can be done with ANY camera – you don’t have to spend megabucks!

Written by Gary on December 27th, 2019

This post is inspired by some wonderful portraiture I found today on the web by a Russian photographer, Rustam Rakhimov Рахимов Рустам and I will show some of his works which appear to me to rely on aspects generally unrelated to the camera itself for their success – in particular, his wonderful understanding and control of light as well as a creative mind and the use of foreground materials.

Obviously to achieve imagery such as this you need some studio lights of the appropriate types and a makeup artist, but neither are beyond your capabilities if this styling is something that inspires you to go beyond the millions of boring FB and IG portraits.

So before you rush out and spend your hard earned cash on a fancy expensive new camera, consider if what you really need is something else such as lighting – but note that these results will take quite a bit of practice, experience and knowledge to achieve! That’s why a good professional photographer is worth paying if you want great results consistently.


Hopefully, these will inspire you to experiment more with light, shadows, chiaroscuro, gels, camera angles and use of out of focus foreground objects.

 

My picks for a travel camera kit in the post-Xmas 2019 sales

Written by Gary on December 26th, 2019

Buying into a new camera system for 2020 is quite confusing as each system has compromises, and their own issues.

Disclaimer: I am not paid or offered incentives from ANY camera or lens manufacturer or retailer, I don’t have advertising on my site or send you to online retailers. I personally use a range of systems including Olympus OM-D cameras, Olympus and Panasonic pro lenses, Sony full frame cameras, Canon pro dSLRs and pro lenses to match as well as a range of 35mm and medium format film systems. These are my thoughts from my travel experiences, you may have different priorities to me.

2019 was the year that all the major brands finally committed to mirrorless camera systems which will eventually consign older dSLR mirrored cameras to a niche market.

Hence the following places emphasis on mirrorless cameras which will be the future of most photographers. Having said this, if you are budget challenged then you may be able to pick up an older dSLR full frame kit at a more affordable price than the newer mirrorless alternatives – HOWEVER, I would personally avoid the cropped sensor dSLRs from Canon or Nikon.

Whilst many of the new full frame mirrorless cameras are quite small and compact, they tend to be very expensive and their lenses are too large, heavy and expensive for travel, particularly if you are traveling to regions where a conspicuous camera kit may make you a target for attack and theft.

The new Canon mirrorless cameras still do not have sensor shift image stabilisation and lack pro features, and, along with the new Nikon mirrorless cameras, these systems lack a good range of lens choices, especially lenses for travel.

The Sony full frame cameras tend to be too small for their purpose and are uncomfortable to use and lack the fun and ergonomics of Micro Four Thirds.

Furthermore, whilst, cameras such as the new Sony a7RIV with its 61megapixels and awesome AF capabilities make it a great camera in terms of image quality, to achieve this image quality you need to shoot a fast shutter speed at low ISO and only a handful of super expensive, heavy lenses are capable of delivering the resolution to match the sensor – see THIS BLOG WHICH TESTS LENSES for the 61mp sensor.

My suggested requirements for a travel camera kit

The camera kit, including lenses should:

  • be relatively affordable as risk of loss or damage is high (yes that excludes Leica!)
  • be relatively small, light and discrete and easily carried on aircraft cabin luggage with weight limits of 5kg.
  • have acceptable image quality and offer something more than your smartphone such as faster, more reliable AF, ability to use without needing your reading glasses, ability to shoot wide angle (eg. 24mm in full frame terms), at least short telephoto (eg. at least 150mm in full frame terms), ability to handle low light scenes hand held (MUST have sensor shift image stabiliser, adequate high ISO performance to ISO 3200 and at least 16 megapixels)
  • be ergonomic and comfortable to hold for hours whilst walking without resorting to camera straps.
  • be able to send images via WiFi to smartphone for uploading to internet without need for using a computer.
  • have a viewfinder so you can see what you are shooting even in bright sunlight, and this also allows you to hold the camera more steady in low light.
  • must have a nice selection of quality native lenses (this excludes most APS-C sensor sized cameras apart from Fujifilm)
  • preferably be weathersealed so you can shoot in the rain or not have it damaged by accidental water leaks in your bag, and if that gelati or pigeon droppings hits your camera you can just wash it off with a bottle of water.
  • preferably have a good sensor dust prevention mechanism – Olympus has the best ultrasonic system as they invented it, Panasonic has borrowed the system from Olympus, Canon R has a automatic shutter closure when camera is turned off which is promising, Sony and Nikon Z cameras have the worst issues according to Tony Northrup and the Sony cameras really need to have the sensor cleaned before each shoot!
  • preferably have an articulated screen so you can shoot selfies or selfie videos while walking.

My preferred kits if you have the money

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

This is the only camera which fulfills all of the above and is a joy to carry and use even with larger, heavier, pro quality weathersealed lenses.

It is so feature rich that there are very few features that are missing from this camera and the larger battery allows better battery life, while the two SD cards gives you options of backing up SD cards on the run or shooting to both cards simultaneously for security against card loss or corruption.

Discounted price is currently around $AU1870 body only.

This could be mated with lenses such as:

  • Olympus micro ZD 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO for the ultimate in telephoto zoom versatility and image quality (I would leave the bulky lens hood off unless you expect to shoot in the rain, and I would remove the tripod mount to reduce bulk and weight). I often use this as my ONLY lens for walk-around, knowing I can use my iPhone for wider field of view shots, or I might add in a compact, light lens such as a 12mm f/2 or if I am thinking of capturing ultra-wide images, I will take the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 lens but there is also a nice Panasonic 8-18mm or the awesome 10-25mm f/1.7 lens.
  • Olympus micro ZD 12-100mm f/4 OIS PRO for a smaller, lighter, one lens option with awesome image stabilisation of 6.5 stops allowing many seconds of hand holdable exposures at the 12mm end. You may wish to mate this with a compact wide aperture lens for moving subjects in low light or for use at night or indoor social events such as an Olympus 25mm f/1.8 or 45mm f/1.8 lens.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

This has most of the capabilities of the E-M1 Mark II, and adds in 5x SLO-MO video in a smaller, more compact camera making it THE BEST SELFIE VLOGGING CAMERA when combined with a small, compact wide angle lens.

Discounted price is currently around $AU1615 body only.

The main issue with the camera is that it is TOO SMALL for comfortably holding larger, heavier lenses such as the PRO weathersealed lenses, HOWEVER, this can be easily addressed by adding in the optional grip although availability at this time may be problematic.

But the small, compact size when mated with a small pancake lens does allow this camera to fit into a jacket pocket for even more discrete walk about use in high risk places or just in pubs, etc.

This could be mated with lenses such as:

  • Olympus 12-200mm lens has a super zoom range in a compact, light, weathersealed lens is more a priority than the sharpest image quality (it is not the sharpest lens at 200mm, but then you are getting an amazing telephoto zoom reach in such a small, light lens!
  • Olympus “consumer” prime lenses if not buying the grip, although these are not weathersealed, eg. Olympus 12mm f/2.0, Olympus 17mm f/1.8, Olympus 25mm f/1.8, Olympus 45mm f/1.8 and perhaps the superb Olympus 75mm f/1.8 if you are want blurred, less complicated backgrounds for your portraits, or just need a brilliant short telephoto lens for low light.
  • any of the lenses as for the E-M1 II IF you buy the optional grip.

Alternatives include the Panasonic G9 (an excellent, larger, less expensive camera which lacks PDAF AF and instead uses the less effective DFD technology which only works with Panasonic lenses but worth considering and is better value than the cheaper Panasonic GX9) and perhaps the Sony a7III (but this requires larger, heavier, expensive lenses and has poor ergonomics requiring a grip), or a Fuji system (most do not have sensor shift IS apart from the XH-1 and the lenses are expensive).

My suggestion for those on a budget:

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

This is a similarly sized camera to the E-M5 III but lacks many of its features including PDAF for focus on fast moving subjects, the articulating swivel rear screen for selfies, weathersealing, and the image stabilisation is not as effective while the sensor is only 16mp not 20mp, shutter only to 1/4000th sec instead of 1/8000th sec, and there is no HiRes mode, but it does have a built-in pop-up flash instead of the separate bundled flash.

Despite these issues, it is great value and you can get a TWIN lens kit (standard zoom and telephoto zoom) with the lovely low light Olympus 25mm f/1.8 lens thrown in for free at a great discounted total kit price of only $AU799 which is pretty awesome when you consider the 25mm lens itself normally sells for $AU399 and will give a boost to this kit’s low light, and portrait capabilities.

Panasonic G7

The Panasonic G7 is also available in a twin lens kit and available for a discounted $AU755 after EFTpos gift card redemption. It has the advantage over the E-M10 of having DFD AF which is better for fast moving subjects than the CDAF only technology on the E-M10, but you don’t get the extra low light portrait lens thrown in and it doesn’t have sensor-shift image stabilisation.

Alternatives

Most of the alternatives at this price point have significant deficiencies such as EVF issues, poor flash sync speed, and lack of sensor-shift image stabilisation (Sony a6100, Fujifilm X-A7).

More camera suggestions:

See my wikipedia page for further options on what camera to buy this Xmas.

 

Blog is back up and running

Written by Gary on December 23rd, 2019

The automatic WordPress and Jetpack plugin upgrades crippled the blog post causing 403 Forbidden access errors whenever users attempted to click on a link to another blog page or image.

I have tracked this down to the Jetpack v8.0 plugin and all seems well again after de-activating it.

 

Dubrovnik, and the Olympus E-M1 II plus a Sony with 17mm tilt shift

Written by Gary on November 22nd, 2019

Dubrovnik, at the southernmost region of Croatia, has rapidly become one of the leading tourism destinations, thanks in no small part to it being a key feature in the Game of Thrones series which highlighted this old fortified walled port city.

Indeed the thousands of tourists who arrive every day by cruise ships (except Sundays I believe) have adversely impacted the enjoyment of the city itself during the day but obviously are bringing much needed tourism money to the region.

Dubrovnik is not accessible by rail, and my preferred option is a flight to the nearby airport from one of the main European cities, and then a taxi or Uber to your accommodation (or if you choose the Old City to stay, to one of the Gates such as Pile Gate and then you need to walk a short distance – although depending upon how wisely you chose, you may have many steps).

I loved my time there which thankfully was in shoulder season in September and not too hot and not too cold, but still it was over-crowded during the day time. I took advantage of their local seafood cuisine, especially the calamari, for the evening meals.

I personally prefer Venice for its variety of photographic subjects, but if you are wanting to swim, enjoy the Mediterranean sun in your bathers or go fishing, then Dubrovnik wins hands down.

Here are a selection of images from the Old Town.

The inevitable local vendor – This was shot with the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens at 150mm (300mm FF eq) to get past the crowds and isolate the subject.
Sony a7II with Canon TSE 17mm tilt shift lens, 3 shot hand held HDR – not easy to get without the crowds!
Sony a7II with Canon TSE 17mm tilt shift lens, 3 shot hand held HDR
This is one of the reasons why I absolutely love Micro Four Thirds and the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II for travel! This was shot with the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens which is perhaps the biggest lens I would comfortably walk around with for a couple of hours and it was shot from a dark alley way in the Old City at dusk handheld at 1/25th second and a full frame equivalent focal length of 220mm at ISO 400 and f/2.8 which gives just the right amount of depth of field. There is NO EQUIVALENT option in the full frame cameras that is this size, covering up to 300mm and with this optical quality.
Unlike Venice where cats are scarce and dogs are the favored pets, Dubrovnik’s Old City has quite a few cats and this one liked to sit at the Pile Gate and get pats from the tourists. mpus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens at 82mm f/2.8.
There are many bars even within the Old City, and this is one of the few on the outside of the wall sitting on the rocks above the sea. It would be a nice spot to have a beer … except everyone else seems to have the same idea!
Overlooking the port of the Old Town. Olympus 12-40mm lens at 24mm.
Don’t forget to get outside the wall, as nearby, there are bars on beaches with kayak hire and options for a nice dip in the water – the water is generally warmest in September although the days are getting cooler.
Exploring the back alley areas does get you to some interesting photographic subjects.
The adjacent fort makes for a nice view of the Old City before sunset.