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Value adding to your lens collection – can a Sony a7 II + Sigma MC-11 bring new life to your Canon lenses without breaking your bank?

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Choosing a new camera can really value add to your existing lenses and give them a new life.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Micro Four Thirds camera adds extra dimensions to your Micro Four Thirds kit by giving them even better image stabilisation, awesome C-AF at 18 fps burst rates with Pro-Capture option and the option of 50mp HiRes mode (albeit requiring a tripod and static scene).

Many of us have a collection of Canon pro lenses and an old Canon dSLR camera which needs updating to value add to these lenses – but which camera?

Sure, you could adapt them onto your Micro Four Thirds cameras but these Canon lenses are not optimised for CDAF, so you need an expensive Metabones adapter to get reasonable AF – and the capability will vary with each lens – some, such as the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro and one of my favorites, the Canon EF 135mm F2L lens will just not AF with a Metabones adapter – whether a straight adapter or a 0.71x focal reducer adapter.

You could buy a cropped sensor Canon dSLR, but unless you are into sports where the Canon 7D Mark II will be useful, the full frame lenses are just too big and poorly suited to cropped sensor dSLRs and Canon don’t make many pro quality lenses designed especially for their cropped sensor cameras.

If you have the money, the obvious choice are the superb Canon 1DX Mark II or the Canon 5D Mark IV but these are likely to break your bank at around $AU5000.

You see money is everything for most of us, if money was not an issue, we would probably buy a variety of best of breed cameras such as:

  • Hasselblad or Phase One medium format for landscapes and studio work
  • Nikon D5 or Canon 1DX with massive, expensive lenses such as a 600mm f/4 for sports or wildlife
  • Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II for everyday use and compact, light travel

But money is an issue for most of us, and so in the Canon full frame dSLRs at the entry level end we have the outdated Canon 6D or Canon 5D Mark III dSLRs, but although these will get you the full frame shallow depth of field and high ISO capabilities, these are not suited to sports, have an old sensor which has less dynamic range capability at base ISO than even the E-M1 Mark II, and in the case of the 6D in particular, has crippled functionality such as a shutter speed only to 1/4000th sec.

Can we do better at an affordable price? – Enter the Sony a7II

The Sony a7 mark II combined with the relatively new and affordable  Sigma MC-11 Canon EF lens adapter may well be a better option than the similarly priced older canon 6D IF you can live with a few major issues:

  • variable AF functionality depending upon the lens but unlike using the much more expensive Metabones adapter, the Sigma MC-11 adapter works really well with the Canon EF 135mm f/2L, so well, that it has made me consider the Sony a7II as a reasonable option! The Canon 50mm f/1.8 II works, but every time you turn the camera off and then on, the lens freezes, so you have to partly dismount the lens and mount, then turn camera back on to re-gain AF functionality.
  • terrible ergonomics – I am not sure what happened to all those Minolta camera engineers when Sony took them over, but, the Sony cameras are certainly not designed with the photographer in mind – if you think the Olympus menu system is confused and convoluted, Sony is worse, and with sometimes very strange  design options, and worse, the constant need to dig into the menu system for simple things such as switching from back button AF to half shutter AF modes, and unlike the Olympus, navigating the panel display settings is very clunky, plus for some reason, the EVF looks blurry even after adjusting the diopter, and countless other annoyances such as no button to switch from EVF to screen manually – yep, you guessed it – another deep dive into the menu system – if you can remember which screen its on! Plus, unlike Olympus, there is no context-sensitive help on the menus or the Scene modes (you just get a sometimes obscure icon).
  • did I mention terrible ergonomics?
  • did I mention the really loud shutter? – unlike Olympus, there is no silent mode – but at least your subjects can hear you taking the shot from 10m away!
  • cannot yet use Canon flashes in TTL mode – but they work fine in manual mode – thankfully, Sony got rid of the proprietary non-industry standard Minolta hotshoe! PS. the Cactus radio wireless TTL flash system is being updated in 2017 to allow Canon and Olympus flashes to work on Sony cameras and other brand cameras including Olympus cameras with full TTL remote radio wireless flash – but Sony and Pentax cameras currently require brand-specific flashes for HSS mode. AWESOME!
  • is not supplied with an external battery charger – what the??? You charge the battery via USB cable with battery in the camera – not very useful if tyou want to use the camera while the battery is charging! You can apparently buy one with a spare battery for about $100

What benefits does the Sony a7 II have over the similarly priced Canon 6D?

  • mirrorless – camera is smaller and lighter, 600g vs 770g
  • EVF instead of OVF means you can hold the camera to your eye for Live View including movies, plus, if you are like me and require reading glasses, you can get away without them by using the EVF for everything including diving into the menu
  • manual focus magnification with focus peaking in the viewfinder – fantastic for Tilt-Shift lenses which are otherwise difficult to focus
  • ability to use native Sony lenses as well as Leica M lenses – probably not a big deal unless you really want to invest in an essentially flawed design system -in my opinion, Sony made a mistake in designing the E-Mount sensor to lens flange distance so short and the mount diameter so narrow – sure it makes the cameras smaller, but that doesn’t help much on full frame as the lenses are gigantic, and furthermore, it cripples image quality with wide aperture, wide angle lenses and cripples the capabilities of a sensor based image stabilisation system – hence the Sony Steady shot IS is no match for the Olympus system, and according to the laws of physics is unlikely to ever be!
  • 24mp newer sensor with much better dynamic range compared to the old 2012 model 20mp sensor of the 6D
  • shutter speed to 1/8000th sec not just 1/4000th sec
  • 5 axis sensor based image stabiliser that works on all lenses (gives about 2EV benefit but requires compatible OIS lens for greatest benefit) vs NO sensor based IS on the 6D – or any Canon dSLR for that matter!
  • 117 PDAF autofocus points compared to 11 on the 6D which are all crowded in the centre
  • face detection AF even when used with Canon lenses – vs face detection only in Live View mode
  • eye detect AF with compatible lenses (not currently with the Canon lenses unless they are made by Sigma)
  • 1200 zone metering instead of 63 zone dual layer metering
  • flash sync 1/250th sec vs 1/180th sec – although my tests with Canon and Olympus flashes, the Sony a7ii only syncs fully at 1/200th sec – perhaps you need a Sony flash for 1/250th sec sync
  • 1.23m dot tilting LCD vs 1mdot fixed LCD (unfortunately, neither offer touch screen)
  • 1080HD 60p video vs 1080HD 30p
  • more accurate AF and much less need for AF microadjustment as the PDAF sensors are on the main sensor not located elsewhere and hence need calibration

Benefits of the Canon 6D over the Sony a7II:

  • similar interface to other Canon dSLRs, albeit a little crippled compared to its more expensive models
  • optical viewfinder for those who value such things
  • better batter life as no EVF
  • more reliable AF with Canon lenses but you are restricted to those 11 points in the centre, and you don’t get face detect AF through the viewfinder let alone eye detection AF
  • ability to use Canon flashes in TTL mode although the Cactus radio wireless TTL flash system is being updated in 2017 to allow Canon and Olympus flashes to work on Sony cameras with full TTL remote radio wireless flash – but apparently they can’t get HSS mode working at this stage!

Conclusion:

In the end, you need to work out which is best for you and the style of photography you do – both solutions are a long way from being ideal – they are both budget compromises – which compromise works for you – only you can tell!

For me, having an image stabilised Canon 135mm f/2L lens with face detect AF and ability to do Live View manual focus magnification with focus peaking in the viewfinder while using Canon Tilt-Shift lenses on the Sony with a better dynamic range and 1/8000th sec shutter for sunny days makes this a compelling choice for me if I were to purchase one of the two.

 

 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 II vs peer PDAF capable cropped sensor cameras for sports and wildlife

Saturday, November 5th, 2016

This blog post is an on-paper comparison of the feature sets of these cropped sensor cameras, particularly looking at sports/wildlife capabilities but also the range of lenses.

When comparing a smaller 2x crop sensor such as the Olympus has with these APS-C 1.5x or 1.6x crop sensors, you can expect high ISO noise to be perhaps 0.5 EV better on the APS-C, while shallow depth of field potential is likely to be 1 stop better with the APS-C size sensor assuming similar aperture lenses of similar field of view.

On the other hand, the Olympus sensor size allows for shorter lenses and greater telephoto reach for similar size lens, and the laws of physics means there should be opportunity for less optical aberrations from edge to edge as aberrations generally increase exponentially from distance from the centre.

Taking all this into account, the image quality of these cameras should be reasonably comparable and largely dependent upon which lens is being used, accuracy of focus and how much camera shake there is – and on all these point, Olympus tends to be a winner, and Olympus is a clear winner when it comes to the availability of an enormous range of dedicated fast CDAF optimised, silent lenses designed for the sensor.

Olympus E-M1 II vs Canon 7D II:

First, let’s look out how well the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Micro Four Thirds camera compares with Canon’s flagship APS-C 1.6x cropped sensor sports dSLR, their Canon 7D Mark II.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Canon 7D Mark II
Price at Amazon.com $US2000 body + $US2499 for 300mm f/4 IS lens = $US4500 $US1499+$US1999 for 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens = $US3499 but it is only f/5.6 at 400mm and images will not be as sharp and you only get 4EV not 6.5EV of IS
sensor 20mp 2x crop 20mp APS-C 1.6x crop
Weight 574g body + 1270g lens = 1.8kg
910g + 1.64kg for 100-400mm lens =2.55kg
Size 134 x 91 x 67 mm body + 93mm x 227mm lens
149 x 112 x 78 mm body + 193mm long lens which extends on zooming
image stabilisation sensor based 5 axis 5EV + 6.5EV Sync IS lens 4 EV OIS in stills, no sensor IS
Shutter speed range 60sec -1/8000th (1/32,000th electronic)
30sec-1/8000th
Flash x-sync 1/250th sec, slow sync, 19 output levels manual
1/250th, slow sync
radio TTL remote flash No
Canon, Profoto, Bowens, Godox, PocketWizard, etc
Viewfinder 2.35mdot EVF, eye sensor auto switching, 120fps, 6ms reaction time, 21mm eyepoint, 0.74x magnification, minimal blackout in burst mode
optical, 0.63x magnification, mm eyepoint, minimal blackout in burst mode; not usable when mirror locked up such as in vibration reduction shooting, Live View, and in video shooting
LCD screen 1mdot articulating touch screen, AF Targeting Pad feature
1mdot, fixed NOT touch sensitive
video awesome image stabilisation 4K 24/30p 236Mbps Cinema 4K quality mjpeg; 4:2:2 uncompressed video directly from the HDMI port, lenses optimised for video work
no 4K video; 1080/60p but HDMI out is only 1080 8bit, lenses not optimised for live view or video work
Burst rate 18fps with C-AF x 77RAW or 60fps with S-AF in electronic mode x 48 RAW; 10fps C-AF mechanical shutter x 148 RAW;
10fps with C-AF, max 31 RAW
Top panel dual dial + 2×2 system Yes No
AF 121pt Dual Pixel cross type CDAF/PDAF, closest eye detection AF, all working video mode including subject tracking
65 cross type PDAF with limited coverage, plus on sensor dual pixel for live view mode, face detect AF only in live view mode and no closest eye detect AF; no subject tracking in live view; 1 central point is dual cross;
Hi-Res mode Yes, 50mp/25mp jpeg, 80mp RAW
No
Live BULB, Live TIME, Live Composite, 60sec timed, Live Boost EVF Yes No
Dual card slots 2 x SD (1 is UHS-II)
1 x CF, 1 x SD, no UHS-II
Auto HDR, Auto focus stacking, Keystone compensation Yes No
Pro service support just building infrastructure Advanced, mature pro service
AF fisheye lenses several including the unique Olympus mZD f/1.8 fisheye NONE – only full frame or 3rd party MF lenses
“14-28mm” pro lens 7-14mm (14-28mm) f/2.8, 534g, 106mm long, 0.2m close focus, no filter, MF clutch, $US1299  EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 not a pro lens, no STM, no IS and only 16mm at wide end
“24-70mm” pro lens 12-40mm (24-80mm) f/2.8, 382g, 84mm long, 0.2m close focus, 62mm filter, MF clutch, $US740 or 12-100mm (24-200mm) f/4 IS PRO
 EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS but not STM
“70-200mm” pro lens 40-150mm (80-300mm) f/2.8, 760g, 160mm long, 0.7m close focus, 72mm filter, MF clutch, $US1399, opt. 1.4x converter  EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM but this is not a pro lens
“50mm” pro standard prime lens Oly 25mm f/1.2  EF 35mm f/1.4L, EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM but this is really a 38mm eq. lens and not a pro lens
cropped sensor dedicated AF lenses more than 40  mainly consumer type EF-S lenses
CDAF and video optimised lenses more than 40  4 EF-S STM lenses
cropped sensor dedicated AF super telephoto lenses at least 300mm in full frame terms 300mm f/2.8, 300mm f/4 OIS, 90-250mm f/2.8, 40-150mm f/2.8, 150mm f/2.0, 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5, Pan. 100-400mm, numerous 300mm zooms (note 2x crop factor) EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM
full frame fast AF super telephoto lenses at least 300mm in full frame terms nil EF 70-200mm f/2.8 or f/4 IS, EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6; EF 200mm f/2.8, EF 200mm f/2, EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS II, EF 200-400mm f/4 IS with extender, EF 300mm f/4 IS, EF 300mm f/2.8 IS, EF 400mm f/5.6, EF 400mm f/4 DO IS, EF 400mm f/2.8 IS, EF 500mm f/4 IS, EF 600mm f/4 IS, EF 800mm f/5.6 IS

The lack of pro quality compact EF-S dedicated lenses for the Canon is partly made up thanks to access to the large range of pro EF full frame lenses, but these are unnecessarily large, heavy and expensive for a cropped sensor dSLR, but if you also own a full frame Canon dSLR then you will accept this compromise.

The Canon EF 400mm f/4L DO IS lens is heavy, expensive, not quite as sharp as the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 but much more compact and less expensive, and given it has IS and the bigger, cheaper Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L doesn’t, this is the lens I initially chose to compare with the Olympus 300mm f/4 to get IS and the 600mm equivalent field of view. The Canon lens is very sharp wide open, although a little softer at f/5.6-8 and does give the Canon 7D II combo perhaps 0.5 EV ISO advantage over the Olympus but at a big cost in money and weight. The Canon lens uses drop in filters and has close focus to 3.3m and perhaps 4EV OIS whereas the Olympus lens is at least as sharp, just over half the weight, much lower price, less intrusive, has silent AF optimised for video and CDAF, uses normal 77mm filters, has close focus of just 1.4m and 6.5 EV of Dual IS so you know which combo I would prefer!

The cheaper Canon alternative is the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L which lists at $US1179 on Amazon and weighs the same as the Olympus lens at 1.25kg, but is substantially longer at 257mm and of course it has no image stabilisation at all.

Perhaps a more exciting Canon alternative is the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens which lists at $US1999 which does have a 4EV OIS and weighs 1.64kg and focuses as close as 1m, but is a little soft at 400mm wide open at f/5.6 and needs to be stopped down to f/8 to get anywhere near the level of sharpness as the Olympus wide open at f/4.

Unless you need radio TTL remote flash or you have a stack of pro Canon lenses, the Olympus E-M1 II easily beats the aging Canon 7D II on nearly every parameter – although C-AF Tracking may still beat the Olympus.

E-M1 II vs Fijifilm XT-2:

Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Fujifilm XT-2
Price at Amazon.com $US2000 body + $US2499 for 300mm f/4 IS lens = $US4500 $US1899+$US1699 for Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 OIS WR lens, but optically will not be anywhere near as good as the Olympus prime as it is much softer at the telephoto ends even stopped down and no close focus limiter switch = $US3599 
sensor 20mp 2x crop 24mp APS-C 1.5x crop
Weight 574g body + 1270g lens = 1.8kg
507g + 1375g for lens =1.9kg
Size 134 x 91 x 67 mm body + 93mm x 227mm lens
133 x 92 x 49 mm body + 95mm x 211mm lens
image stabilisation sensor based 5 axis 5EV + 6.5EV Sync IS lens 4 EV OIS in stills, no sensor IS
Shutter speed range 60sec -1/8000th (1/32,000th electronic)
30sec-1/8000th, (1/32,000th electronic)
Flash x-sync 1/250th sec, slow sync, 19 output levels manual
1/250th, slow sync
radio TTL remote flash No
No
Viewfinder 2.35mdot EVF, eye sensor auto switching, refresh 120fps, 6ms reaction time, 21mm eyepoint, 0.74x magnification, minimal blackout in burst mode
2.35mdot EVF, 0.77x magnification, significant viewfinder blackout in burst mode above 5fps, refresh 60fps (100fps with battery grip)
LCD screen 1mdot articulating touch screen, AF Targeting Pad feature
1mdot, 3-way tilting NOT touch sensitive
video awesome image stabilisation 4K 24/30p 236Mbps Cinema 4K quality mjpeg; 4:2:2 uncompressed video directly from the HDMI port, lenses optimised for video work
4K video; 1080; F-Log Gamma
Burst rate 18fps with C-AF x 77RAW or 60fps with S-AF in electronic mode x 48 RAW; 10fps C-AF mechanical shutter x 148 RAW;
14fps electronic but rolling shutter may be problematic; 8fps mechanical (11fps with battery grip), max  30 compressed RAW at 8fps
Top panel dual dial + 2×2 system Yes No
AF 121pt Dual Pixel cross type CDAF/PDAF, closest eye detection AF, all working video mode including subject tracking
 325 pt Hybrid PDAF but C-AF may not be up to pro sports yet
Hi-Res mode Yes, 50mp/25mp jpeg, 80mp RAW
No
Live BULB, Live TIME, Live Composite, 60sec timed, Live Boost EVF Yes No
Dual card slots 2 x SD (1 is UHS-II)
Two UHS-II SD Slots
Auto HDR, Auto focus stacking, Keystone compensation Yes No
Pro service support just building infrastructure minimal
AF fisheye lenses several including the unique Olympus mZD f/1.8 fisheye NONE – only 3rd party MF lenses
“14-28mm” pro lens 7-14mm (14-28mm) f/2.8, 534g, 106mm long, 0.2m close focus, no filter, MF clutch, $US1299 XF 10-24mm f4 no IS and only 15mm at wide end
“24-70mm” pro lens 12-40mm (24-80mm) f/2.8, 382g, 84mm long, 0.2m close focus, 62mm filter, MF clutch, $US740 or 12-100mm (24-200mm) f/4 IS PRO
Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R OIS WR
“70-200mm” pro lens 40-150mm (80-300mm) f/2.8, 760g, 160mm long, 0.7m close focus, 72mm filter, MF clutch, $US1399, opt. 1.4x converter Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR
“50mm” pro standard prime lens Oly 25mm f/1.2 XF 35mm f/1.4 or  f2 (NB. also the lovely XF 56mm f1.2)
cropped sensor dedicated AF lenses more than 40 about 15
CDAF and video optimised lenses more than 40 about 15
cropped sensor dedicated AF super telephoto lenses at least 300mm in full frame terms 300mm f/2.8, 300mm f/4 OIS, 90-250mm f/2.8, 40-150mm f/2.8, 150mm f/2.0, 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 , Pan. 100-400mm, numerous 300mm zooms, (note 2x crop factor)
 Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 OIS WR
other AE bracketing only ±2 not ±5; need to buy and use the battery grip to get faster burst, and faster AF as well as faster EVF refresh rate which is half that of the Olympus by default.

It will be interesting to see how the high ISO and C-AF performance compares with these cameras, I suspect Fuji will win the high ISO and the Olympus will win the sports shooting capabilities.

The sharpness at 600mm equivalent focal length (ie. 400mm at f/5.6) on the Fujifilm XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR is very soft compared to the Olympus 300mm f/4, ePhotozine’s tests show the Fuji’s centre is about 2100LW/PH and edge is 1400LW/PH compared to the Olympus which is around 2700LW/PH at centre and at edge, and these both hit around 3100LW/PH stopping down to f/5.6 while the Fuji lens struggles to get to 2500 by f/11 and the edge is still only around 1700! The Fuji lens is optically more comparable to the Panasonic 100-400mm lens but the Panasonic lens gives even more telephoto reach of 800m on the E-M1 II.

Another peer camera is the Sony a6500 which is a APS-C 1.5x crop mirrorless camera which like the E-M1 II has fast on sensor PDAF autofocus, 5 axis image stabilisation (although allegedly not as effective as on the Olympus), 4K video, nice EVF, and touch screen, is smaller but not as weatherproof, lacks the ergonomics and pro features of the E-M1 II for example, shutter only goes to 1/4000th sec, only one SD card slot and, like the small battery is on the bottom, at max burst of 11fps, live view is disabled (as with the Fuji) . The a6500 size and smaller grip will make holding larger lenses much more uncomfortable than with the E-M1 II.

 

Ouch $A2799 for the new amazing Olympus OM-D E-M1 II is it worth it? Could it beat the new Canon 1DX Mark II for sports and wildlife?

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Australian Olympus Micro Four Thirds users in unison launched a universal angst and frustration when Olympus Australia finally announced their RRP for the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II mirrorless pro sports camera – $AU2799 for the body only puts it at well over twice the price of its predecessor which may place it beyond the Olympus faithful’s wallet, but given how much it has improved in almost every aspect, it may really be worth the $US2000 RRP and perhaps even the inflated $A2799 price tag.

So let’s do a comparison with the leading sports pro dSLR super telephoto birding kits to see how it fares:

I own the Olympus OM-D E-M1 original version, the Olympus mZD 300mm f/4 and the Canon 1D Mark III pro dSLR sports camera – but thankfully not a 600mm f/4 lens.

So here I am going to compare the E-M1 II with Olympus mZD 300mm f/4 OIS lens with a Canon 1DX II with a Canon EF 600mm f/4 IS II L lens which will give the same telephoto field of view for birding but is 3 times heavier and almost 4 x the price.

One could have chosen a Nikon D5 and Nikkor 600mm f/4 lens but you would come to much the same conclusions.

Birders using full frame dSLRs usually shoot at around 600mm f/5.6-f/8 at ISO 800 and shutter speed around 1/2000th sec with the sun low on the horizon. The Olympus kit offers this telephoto reach and depth of field at 300mm f/4 and thus to achieve a shutter speed of 1/2000th sec in the same light, they only need ISO 200-400 and at this ISO you won’t notice any significant noise difference, even if the Canon was shooting at same ISO, and if you were shooting jpegs only, the Olympus jpeg engine historically has given wider dynamic range.

The photo output in both cases will be 20mp images, low ISO noise, similar depth of field and field of view, and similar lovely bokeh but what a difference in price and weight as well as size!

Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Canon 1DX Mark II
Price at Amazon.com $US2000 body + $US2499 for 300mm lens = $US4500 $US5999+$US11499 = $US17500
sensor 20mp 2x crop 20mp full frame
Weight 574g body + 1270g lens = 1.8kg
1530g + 3.9kg=6.3kg +heavy tripod and Wimberley tripod head!
Size 134 x 91 x 67 mm body + 93mm x 227mm lens
158 x 168 x 83mm body + 168 x 448mm
image stabilisation sensor based 5 axis 5EV + 6.5EV Sync IS lens 4 EV OIS in stills, no sensor IS
Shutter speed range 60sec -1/8000th (1/32,000th electronic)
30sec-1/8000th
Flash x-sync 1/250th sec, slow sync, 19 output levels manual
1/250th, slow sync
radio TTL remote flash No
Canon, Profoto, Bowens, Godox, PocketWizard, etc
Viewfinder 2.35mdot EVF, eye sensor auto switching, 120fps, 6ms reaction time, 21mm eyepoint, 0.74x magnification, minimal blackout in burst mode
optical, 0.76x magnification, 20mm eyepoint, minimal blackout in burst mode; not usable when mirror locked up such as in vibration reduction shooting, Live View, and in video shooting
LCD screen 1mdot articulating touch screen, AF Targeting Pad feature
1.6mdot, fixed touch sensitive, can select AF point
video awesome image stabilisation 4K 24/30p 236Mbps Cinema 4K quality mjpeg; 4:2:2 uncompressed video directly from the HDMI port, lenses optimised for video work
1.34x crop 4K/60P mjpeg video and full frame 1080/120p but HDMI out is only 1080 8bit 4:2:2, lenses not optimised for live view or video work
Burst rate 18fps with C-AF x 77RAW or 60fps with S-AF in electronic mode x 48 RAW; 10fps C-AF mechanical shutter x 148 RAW;
14fps with C-AF, 16fps with S-AF and mirror lock up, max, 81 RAW+jpeg or 170 RAW
Top panel dual dial + 2×2 system Yes No
AF 121pt Dual Pixel cross type CDAF/PDAF, closest eye detection AF, all working video mode including subject tracking
61pt PDAF with only 41 cross type sensors and limited coverage, plus on sensor dual pixel for live view mode, face detect AF only in live view mode and no closest eye detect AF; no subject tracking in live view; 5 central points are dual cross;
Hi-Res mode Yes, 50mp/25mp jpeg, 80mp RAW
No
Live BULB, Live TIME, Live Composite, 60sec timed, Live Boost EVF Yes No
Dual card slots 2 x SD
2 x CF
Auto HDR, Auto focus stacking, Keystone compensation Yes No
 Pro service support  just building infrastructure  Advanced, mature pro service
“14-28mm” pro lens 7-14mm (14-28mm) f/2.8, 534g, 106mm long, 0.2m close focus, no filter, MF clutch, $US1299 EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III does not go as wide, is heavier, does not have image stabilisation, and is more expensive at $US2349
“24-70mm” pro lens 12-40mm (24-80mm) f/2.8, 382g, 84mm long, 0.2m close focus, 62mm filter, MF clutch, $US740 EF 24-70mm f/2.8 IS II L gives 2 stops shallower DOF but no eye detect AF, and IS not as good, plus it is heavier, more expensive at $US1749
“70-200mm” pro lens 40-150mm (80-300mm) f/2.8, 760g, 160mm long, 0.7m close focus, 72mm filter, MF clutch, $US1399, opt. 1.4x converter EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS L II gives 2 stops shallower DOF but not the 300mm reach, and no eye detect AF, and IS not as good, plus it is heavier, more expensive at $US2000
“50mm” standard prime lens Oly 25mm f/1.2 EF 50mm f/1.2L or 1.4 or f/1.8 lenses give up to 2 stops shallower DOF but poorer image quality, not as sharp across the frame, more optical aberrations, and no eye detect AF, and no image stabilisation

The advantages of the Canon are:

  • it is able to achieve perhaps 1 stop better high ISO noise and a shallower depth of field of perhaps 1 – 2 stops depending on lens, HOWEVER, for birding you need f/5.6-8 for adequate DOF at 600mm and this can be achieved at f/4 on the Olympus 300mm which negates any advantage in high ISO performance or DOF of the Canon for this use.
  • there is a reliable worldwide mature Canon pro service infrastructure which Olympus is really only starting to build
  • radio TTL remote flash is supported by Canon and third party lighting companies, none of which have supported Olympus as yet, although PocketWizards have developed a Panasonic solution so surely an Olympus solution is not far off. That said, many pros do not use TTL flash as it gives too variable a result – whether it is Canon, Nikon or Olympus.
  • the Canon 1D X is built like a tank and has a massive battery
  • optical viewfinder – some people love it, but I must say I am very happy with new tech EVFs
  • proven iTR AF tracking technology (although not as good as Nikon 3D tracking) – we will have to see if the Olympus can match or surpass it
  • the target pro audience is likely to already have a large selection of pro dSLR gear and migrating to Olympus is a big step
  • 2x teleconverter available as well as the 1.4x which Olympus also has.
  • greater ultra-wide options such as the 17mm TS-E tilt-shift lens, such wide angle tilt shift is not yet possible on the Olympus, even if use a focal reducer adapter combined with the Canon 17mm TS-E you can get a 24mm TS-E full frame tilt shift equivalent effect on the Olympus, but not a 17mm tilt shift effect.
  • greater extreme shallow DOF options such as 24mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.2, 85mm f/1.2, 135mm f/2, and 200mm f/2
  • faster mechanical shutter burst rate with AF tracking 14fps vs 10fps on the Olympus – although the Olympus can go to 18fps in electronic mode which the Canon can’t do, and the Olympus can hit 60fps in fixed AF and electronic shutter mode.

The advantages of the Olympus are:

  • far lighter and more compact – 1/3rd the weight, able to take in cabin luggage on flights, will not break your back and neck carrying it, far more versatile when hand held, much more responsive when walking with the big lens, just stop, compose, focus and shoot – no need to worry about getting lens out of carry bag, setting up tripod, etc and subject is gone.
    • the Olympus 300mm and camera kit weigh not much more than the Canon 1DX body alone!!!
  • one quarter the price – wow, even at $AU2700 you are getting a LOT of value for the price, and if you worry about availability of timely service – you can buy 4 of them for almost the same price!
  • built-in sensor based 5-axis 5EV image stabilisation works on EVERY lens you use, even in video
  • no need to do clunky, time consuming mirror lockup to reduce camera shake
  • faster burst rates – even a crazy 60fps in electronic mode!
  • truly silent AF and burst mode – ideal for those classical music events, ballet, weddings, etc – no mirror slap, no shutter noise
  • 3x more crosstype PDAF autofocus points available in viewfinder mode
  • better spread of AF points across the frame in viewfinder mode 80% coverage
  • in-camera AF limiter as well as the lens based focus limiters to speed up focus acquisition
  • AF system more accurate (does not need microcalibration for each lens) and works better with wide aperture lenses
  • closest eye detection AF for sharper focused portraits
  • “Pro Capture” mode which automatically starts taking images before you fully depress shutter to ensure you don’t miss the shot
  • far better image stabilised video quality with 4K uncompressed HDMI out not just 1080 and 4K mode is not a crop of the sensor as with Canon’s 1.34x crop which will impact wide angle shots
  • 50mp HiRes sensor-shift mode for static subjects
  • smaller, less expensive lenses, usually with better optics across the frame – it will be interesting to see how these two super telephoto lenses compare optically – I suspect the Olympus may well win!
  • very handy long exposure modes such as Live Timed, Live Composite, etc
  • automatic focus stacking mode
  • in camera live keystone correction
  • Wifi built in with remote control by smartphones as well as WiFi tethering – WiFi is expensive optional extra on the Canon
  • articulating LCD screen for easier low angle, high angle shots or for video work
  • the lovely benefits of EVF – live histogram, highlight/shadow warnings, live boost, zebra focus, wysiwyg exposure/tones, ability to review images without having to use your reading glasses, magnified view manual focus, can use the EVF during video taking mode – the Canon forces you to do mirror lock up and use the rear screen.
  • can use almost any lens ever made and have them image stabilised – it will even autofocus Canon EF lenses via a Metabones adapter (albeit much slower than Olympus lenses), and you have the option of using a focal reducer adapter for further versatility.
  • far more fun without the weight!

There are questions to be answered though:

  • will the C-AF tracking be as good as the Canon – I suspect it won’t be, but maybe it is good enough
  • how usable will the electronic shutter burst modes be for moving subject – has the faster 1/60th sec electronic shutter duration with its reduced rolling shutter allowed this to avoid artifacts with faster moving subjects? It seems it may be.
  • how will high ISO noise compare at ISO 3200 – although Olympus users rarely need to go this high other than for Milky Way astroscapes and low light action scenes.

We need to wait and see, but the amazing 5 sec hand held shots which Robin Wong has published are just ridiculously good and show this Olympus camera can be used in new ways without having to resort to a tripod.

Hmmm… I think I have documented all the main issues, I have skipped what they have in common such as quality weather sealing, AF customisations, exposure compensation, bracketing, optional battery grips, etc.

Still upset about the price for a flagship pro sports camera you probably don’t need?

Only a small minority of Canon and Nikon owners  have actually bought the flagship sports dSLR, the vast majority settle for budget level models with very minimal feature sets and AF limited to just the central region.

If you don’t need the new features of the Olympus flagship model, then of course there are many great Micro Four Thirds cameras you can buy for less than half this price such as the E-M1, E-M5 mark II, or Panasonic G80/85.

To me though, it will value add to my nice Micro Four Thirds lens collection by providing much improved AF capabilities for moving subjects which has always been an issue for mirrorless cameras.

I hope Olympus will release a more affordable E-M5 Mark III with this sensor in it and the improved PDAF capabilities so those on lower budgets are not locked out of effective PDAF – granted they can get a cut down PDAF experience now with the original E-M1 but presumably at some stage this will be discontinued, and Olympus will need to compete with the likes of the Sony a6300 which does have PDAF at half the price.

Olympus Australia announce “summer rewards” – up to $329 value

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

Olympus Australia has just announced a “summer reward” for purchasers of certain Olympus camera kits from now until end of Jan 2017.

If your purchase is eligible, you can get a $150-200 prepaid visa card plus an Olympus travel accessories kit valued at $129.

Cameras include Olympus Pen F, E-M5 Mark II and E-M10 Mark II, but unfortunately no mention of the much anticipated E-M1 Mark II which should be becoming available in Dec 2016, at hopefully a reasonable price point, although the just announced $US2000 for the body may make it too expensive in Australia for the potential target audience who could get a full frame mirrorless or dSLR for a lower price – although these won’t have the functionality that the E-M1 II provides, they do have radio TTL remote flash, shallower DOF options and proven pro support levels – none of which the Olympus can deliver for the pro photographers.

post script: Olympus Australia have just announced the E-M1 Mark II will be $AU2799 for the body only – this will be too high for most Micro Four Thirds users I suspect.

Oh yes, and Canon announced a new mirrorless camera – the Canon EOS-M5

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

Apologies for the delay in posting about this camera given I have a huge collection of Canon pro gear, but in comparison to the Olympus E-M1 Mark II announcement, this camera is so under-whelming, but guess that is what we now expect from Canon.

Yep, sure, it is Canon’s best mirrorless camera but that isn’t saying much!

Oh well, here goes the specs for those die hard Canon users who think it may be useful, although on specs it probably should be better compared to the original budget level Olympus E-M10 of 2014 than a 2016 E-M1 Mark II camera as here:

Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Canon EOS M5
Price at Amazon.com  $US $US1099?
sensor 20mp 2x crop 24mp 1.6x crop
Weight 574g, weathersealed, freezeproof, WiFi remote
427g WiFi remote
Size 134 x 91 x 67 mm 115.6 x 89.2 x 60.6 mm
image stabilisation sensor based 5 axis 5EV + 6.5EV Sync IS lens 2-4 EV OIS in stills, “digital IS” in movies
Shutter speed range 60sec -1/8000th (1/32,000th electronic)
30sec-1/4000th
Flash x-sync 1/250th sec, slow sync, 19 output levels manual
1/200th, ?no slow sync, 3 levels manual
exposure compensation range and AE bracketing ±5 EV AE bracketing ±5 (2, 3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)
+/- 3EV (+/- 2EV bracketing)
EVF 2.35mdot, eye sensor auto switching, 120fps, 6ms reaction time
2.36mdot, 22mm eyepoint
LCD screen 1mdot articulating touch screen, AF Targeting Pad feature
1.6mdot, tilting touch sensitive
video awesome image stabilisation 4K 24/30p 236Mbps Cinema 4K quality; 4:2:2 uncompressed video directly from the HDMI port
1080HD
Burst rate 18fps with C-AF; 60fps with S-AF
7fps with C-AF, 9fps with S-AF to max 26 jpegs
Top panel dual dial + 2×2 system Yes No
AF  121pt Dual Pixel cross type CDAF/PDAF, closest eye detection AF
45pt Dual Pixel CDAF/PDAF, face detection
Hi-Res mode Yes, 50mp/25mp jpeg, 80mp RAW
No
Live BULB, Live TIME, Live Composite, 60sec timed, Live Boost EVF Yes No
Dual SD card slots Yes No
Auto HDR, Auto focus stacking, Keystone compensation Yes No
Number of dedicated CDAF  lenses > 40  5 EF-M STM (incl 1 macro)
“14-28mm” pro lens 7-14mm (14-28mm) f/2.8, 534g, 106mm long, 0.2m close focus, no filter, MF clutch, $US1299  EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM(18-36mm)
“24-70mm” pro lens 12-40mm (24-80mm) f/2.8, 382g, 84mm long, 0.2m close focus, 62mm filter, MF clutch, $US740  EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM(29-88mm)
“70-200mm” pro lens 40-150mm (80-200mm) f/2.8, 760g, 160mm long, 0.7m close focus, 72mm filter, MF clutch, $US1399, opt. 1.4x converter  EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM (88-320mm)
“50mm” standard prime lens 25mm (50mm) f/1.8, 136g, 41mm long, 0.24m close focus, 46mm filter, $US349 (also other options such as Oly 25mm f/1.2)  EF-M 22mm f/2 STM (no OIS!) (36mm)

Nice camera if they introduced it in 2011, but well behind the scene now.

But at least they haven’t given up on the mirrorless system like Nikon has done with their Nikon 1 system.

Olympus announce new flagship Micro Four Thirds camera – OM-D EM-1 Mark II and 2 new pro lenses

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

Olympus used Photokina to announce their new flagship professional model Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera – the E-M1 Mark II which they say improves upon the original model in nearly every aspect and leap frogs above APS-C cameras in terms of speed and value to the photographer.

I must say the specs to blow away the newly announced Canon EOS M5 mirrorless camera even if you don’t consider the amazing range of dedicated fast AF lenses available for Micro Four Thirds.

Specifications:

  • FASTER, MORE ACCURATE BURST MODE
    • 18fps full size RAW with C-AF in electronic shutter mode
    • 60fps full size RAW with locked S-AF in electronic shutter mode
    • 2x more buffer capacity
    • 3x faster internal write speed
    • 50% faster start up time from camera switch on
  • PDAF area coverage now 81% greater than in Mark I, now covers ~80% of each frame dimension, up from 60%
  • 3.3x more AF points – all 121 PDAF AF points are now cross-type and offer DUAL FAST AF with PDAF and CDAF which are used in every shooting mode.
  • new AF algorithm for much better subject tracking as well as in detecting subject from background even when background is close and of similar colour and texture
  • new “AF Cluster Display” can display the AF points being used to track the subject in real time
  • new “PRO Capture” can start capturing images as soon as you start to depress shutter and up to you depress shutter fully allowing lag free pre-capture of 14 RAW frames to reduce chance of missing a precise moment
  • new electronic viewfinder with faster 120 fps refresh rate and shorter 6msec reaction time giving crisp and smooth vision giving 60% faster response rate
  • as with Mark I, it is dustproof, splashproof and freezeproof with similar form factor
  • reliability improvements:
    • new battery compartment
    • new battery is longer lasting and charges faster
    • improved grip which is more secure and offers better handling
    • at last we get dual SD card slots and UHS compatibility
  • image quality:
    • new 20Mp live MOS sensor with low power consumption and higher speed data read out and improved dynamic range and noise performance of 1 f stop better noise
    • TruePic VIII double quad core image processor
    • re-developed image stabilisation system now gives 5 axis Sync IS at up to 6.5EV stabilisation!
    • 50/80mp HiRes shot with image blur of moving subject prevented using TruePic processor
      • should be awesome for high resolution tripod product shots or film scanning with less moire than with dSLRs
    • 4K video up to 30P and Cinema 4K at 237Mbps quality
  • optional accessories include:
    • HLD-9 / AC-5 battery holder grip with keypad for use in either landscape or portrait orientation
    • RM-CB2 remote cable
    • FL-900R weather sealed flash with GN 58 and compatible with 10fps sequential shooting
    • STF Twin Flash for macro and 1st of kind to be weathersealed
    • PT-EP14 underwater case
    • improved Olympus PRO Service
      • next day delivery replacement unit for professionals if they choose additional paid Advanced or Elite level of service in selected countries
      • default Standard Plus level of service applies to all registered users
      • video hotline to help resolve issues before sending camera to repair

New PRO lenses:

Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2 PRO

  • wide aperture standard lens for shallower depth of field and lovely bokeh as well as for low light work
  • weathersealed
  • manual focus clutch?
  • RRP $US1199?
  • see my wiki page for more details

Olympus mZD 12-100mm f/4 IS PRO

  • 1st ever travel professional grade 8.3x zoom lens covering 24-200mm in full frame terms at constant wide aperture of f/4
  • optical IS for Sync IS at up to 6.5EV IS with the E-M1 MkII
  • weathersealed
  • manual focus clutch
  • close focus to 15cm adds macro capability
  • RRP $US1299?
  • see my wiki page for more details

 

Photokina 2016 press event video

Okay, I am impressed – at last on paper – now for the reviews – I will post links to these on my wiki page as they are available.

 

Pentax evolves sensor based image stabilisation with some cool novel features

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

Pentax has just announced their 1st full frame dSLR – the Pentax K-1, a weathersealed 36mp camera with a unique cross-tilt rear LCD screen and illuminated controls to make it easier to operate and change lenses in the dark.

But what I like most is how they have made use of their sensor based image stabilisation system.

I have always been a big fan of sensor based image stabilisation and am unlikely to buy another camera without it – hence I may be waiting a long time before I buy another Canon dSLR to use my many pro lenses with!

Readers will know I love the sensor based IS on my Olympus OM-D Micro Four Thirds cameras as Olympus along with Pentax were trail blazers in this technology.

Olympus has made incredible improvements to the effectiveness of their 5 axis 5EV IS system and in the OM-D E-M5 mark II and Pen F, have added a Hi-Res mode where 8 shots are taken with slight sensor shift and then combined to create a Hi-Res 50mp image without moiré.

Pentax with their 2013 model cropped sensor dSLR, the Pentax K-3, added the capability of rotational compensation to correct for rotated horizons as well as sensor shift to act as a anti-aliasing filter to reduce moiré.

The Pentax K-1 takes the K-3 functionality further by adding:

  • 5 axis 5EV IS
  • Pixel Shift Resolution mode that increases color resolution by shooting four consecutive images with the sensor moved by one pixel – effectively canceling the Bayer color filter array and lowering noise by image averaging
  • Astrotracer system that uses the sensor’s movement to cancel-out the effect of the Earth’s rotation when taking images of stars (something it can calculate using its GPS)

Sure, these features may not be used very often but the astrotracer system could be very handy for marginally extending long exposures of comets, etc whilst minimising blurring of stars by star trailing. It won’t help astroscapes much as it will blur the landscape while keeping the stars clean – probably not that helpful there! It also won’t help with deep sky astrophotography requiring more accurate guiding of stars using an equatorial telescope mount.

Nevertheless, it is exciting to see what the camera manufacturers can come up with – perhaps we will get rear tilt-shift capabilities one day as well.

At present, there are few dedicated lenses available for the K-1 with fast AF optimised for a high resolution sensor, but in the meantime, it is optimised to make good use of legacy Pentax k-mount lenses and can shoot 15mp cropped sensor mode for using APS-C sized lenses.

The camera RRP is $US1799 which is a great price for the features but the system is very limited and early days in development.

Hopefully, Olympus and Sony are inspired to add similar functions to their cameras.

And just maybe, Canon might decide to finally jump on the sensor IS bandwagon before they become a forgotten brand other than for the sports professionals.

 

 

Keeping up with Nikon, Canon announces the Canon 1DX Mark II pro DSLR sports camera

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

Last week I blogged a short post on Nikon’s new flagship pro sports dSLR, the Nikon D5.

Pro sports/wildlife shooting is now one of the few reasons to buy a dSLR over a mirrorless camera, the other main reason is high resolution, image quality with more shallow DOF capabilities but Sony have addressed this with their Sony A7R II, and pros wanting to segregate themselves from the dSLR crowd in terms of image quality bragging rights will buy medium format cameras for this work.

Today Canon has announced its update to their flagship dSLR, the Canon 1DX Mark II which will cost around $US5999 and then if you want to use its 4K or 120fps HD video or burst rate for 170 RAW images (12secs),  you will need to shell out for some of the new CFast CF 2.0 memory cards at around $1000 each for 256Gb.

Although I own the Canon 1D Mark III pro sports dSLR and a number of pro Canon lenses, I will not be shelling out this amount of money as I am not a pro sports or wildlife photographer who can justify this – personally I am waiting for Canon to bring out a full frame mirrorless with sensor based IS and fast CDAF plus PDAF similar to the Sony A7R models, but at a reasonable price and full compatibility with the Canon system such as their flashes.

Canon 1DX Mark II specs:

  • overall design has changed little from previous 1D models which allows pros to migrate without handling issues
  • rugged, heavy (1.5kg). fully weather-sealed camera with large battery (but if use older LP-E4N battery, the burst rate drops to 12fps) with improved grip
  • shutter rated at 400,000 cycles
  • 20.2mp dual-pixel (for Live View AF) full frame sensor
  • two Dual DIGIC 6+ processors to capture 4K video and shoot continuously at up to 16 fps
  • burst rate: 14 fps with AF, and 16fps with mirror lock up  and locked focus and exposure (not sure why you would do this to get minimal extra burst rate though!)
  • native ISO of 100-51200, expandable to 409600
  • new 61-point AF system has 41 cross-type sensors and 24% larger frame coverage than the 1DX and f/8 capability on all points
  • AF sensitivity in low light has been doubled from EV -2 to EV -3 at the center AF point when the camera is set to One-Shot AF
  • improved AI Servo III+ predictive AF algorithm for better accuracy
  • optical viewfinder now has continuous red illumination of all AF points within the camera’s Intelligent Viewfinder II
  • updated metering system to 360k-pixel RGB+IR sensor which improves face detection (for metering and AF point selection) and subtract tracking
  • it seems iTR face detection in OVF mode now better detects the eye or cheek as prior models tended to focus on noses which was useless, and it better detects partly obscured faces – it is still erratic in AI-Servo mode for tracking a face but that is to be expected as it is early days in this technology
  • improved fixed LCD to 3.2″ Clear View II LCD with 1.62 million dots and now touch enabled but only for AF point selection in Live View
  • video:
    • 4K video at 60p, 30p, 25p, 24p, or 23.98p  using the M-JPEG codec (requires CF2.0 card for more than a few seconds footage)
    • 1080HD at 120p, 60p, 50p, 25p, 24p, or 23.98p
    • dual pixel sensor allows C-AF in video while touch LCD allows focus point changes
    • no native focus peaking or zebra patterns
    • no Log Gamma option
    • ‘clean’ signal out via HDMI port for 1080 only (not 4K)
    • mono mic
    • headphone jack
    • mic jack
  • new built-in GPS (with an e-compass)
  • new Digital Lens Optimizer to help correct aberrations in-camera
  • improved post-shot in-camera Raw processing
  • radio TTL remote flash as with 1DXx
  • USB 3.0 or Ethernet ports (increased from 100Mbps to 330Mbps)
  • CFast card slot (NOT compatible with CF cards!)
  • CF card slot
  • new LP-E19 lithium-ion battery CIPA rating 1210 shots
  • 1530 g (3.37 lb / 53.97 oz)
  • 158 x 168 x 83 mm (6.22 x 6.61 x 3.27″)
  • optional WiFi via Canon’s $600 WFT-E8 wireless file transmitter

A few issues:

  • longest timed shutter speed still only 30secs (like Nikon) unlike Olympus which allows 60secs which is more useful for astro work
  • flash sync only 1/250th sec (like Nikon) while Olympus has 1/320th sec
  • no electronic shutter 20fps mode like Olympus and others
  • exposure compensation dial does not work in Manual exposure mode with autoISO – need to go to menu systems!
  • Auto ISO and exposure compensation in manual mode is NOT possible in movie mode
  • still no sensor based image stabilisation
  • still no closest eye detect AF (although metering system can detect eyes and put AF point on them, but perhaps one day the Live View mode may get it)
  • Dual Pixel AF isn’t available for continuous AF in stills shooting in Live View mode but is for movies!
  • high risk of putting a memory card into the wrong slot causing damage to card or the camera
  • 4K mode is 4096 x 2160 pixels wider than 16:9 DCI 4K aspect ratio and only captures in less efficient Motion JPEG format, but perhaps this is used to allow 8.8mp frame grabs
  • continuous silent drive mode is not all that silent

 Compared to the Nikon D5:

  • faster burst rate of 14fps not 12fps
  • dual pixel sensor for improved Live View AF
  • better video
  • much less AF points – 61pts with 41 cross compared with Nikon’s 153pts including 99 cross type
  • subject tracking may not be as good as Nikon’s 3D tracking – have to wait for more tests
  • only 6 WB presets vs 12 on the Nikon (probably not important for most)
  • LCD screen not as good – 1.6m dots vs 2.4m dots and limited touch utility
  • battery life much worse – 1210 shots vs Nikon’s 3780 shots
  • heavier at 1530g vs Nikon D5′s 1415g
  • built-in GPS instead of optional add on with Nikon’s GP-1A GPS unit

Olympus goes back to the 60′s with its new Olympus Pen F Micro Four Thirds camera

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Olympus has just announced a new style of Micro Four Thirds camera which harks back to the days of their very popular interchangeable lens half frame Pen F film camera of the 1960′s.

PenF

Pen F rear

images courtesy of theverge.com

You do have to admit it does look quite nice and for the most part it is an extremely capable camera adopting most of the features of the 2015 ILC camera of the year, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II, and then adds a few plus a new sensor.

The new top left position of the EVF will attract many who have been longing for this as it allows better use of the left eye to watch the scene and avoids your nose hitting the rear LCD.

Olympus now have 3 separate camera styles in its Micro Four Thirds line up:

  • the OM-D line with its central SLR-like EVF hump on top
  • the Pen F line with a left positioned EVF
  • the Pen line with no EVF built-in but optional EVF

As an aside, sales of these Olympus mirrorless ILC cameras have surged in Japan taking Olympus to 34% of all ILC sales in Japan, well in front of Sony, Canon and Panasonic.

The new 20mp Live MOS sensor is presumably the same one as in the Panasonic GX-8 and gives marginally more pixels of dubious benefit but does seem to have better noise at high ISO than the aging but excellent 16mp in the other Olympus cameras.

The 20mp also means that the 8-shot HiRes mode of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II is now 50mp instead of 40mp.

Apart from weathersealing, a few function buttons, 2×2 switch, mic plug, and the higher magnification EVF, there appears to be little else left out from the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II.
Pen FT

ABOVE: The Olympus Pen FT film camera of the 1960′s (image courtesy of klassic-cameras) – left positioned viewfinder (and lens) but no top dials and at least you could see the shutter speed and aperture when looking down on it.

Personally, I think it looks more aesthetic than the old film camera, but for some reason, Olympus have gone overboard with top dials – the On-Off switch is now a dial on top left, they have added an exposure compensation dial which not only is unnecessary but users have reported it is hard to change requiring two digits.

If they are going down this track like Fuji, they should start supporting Panasonic’s aperture rings which they have on some of their lenses (and which are totally ignored by Olympus camera bodies to date) so that users can just look down on their camera and see the selected aperture and exposure compensation

Furthermore, their front picture mode dial, whilst looking nice appears to cause pressure on your fingers exacerbated by its rough edges – perhaps this is not so much an issue if you use the almost mandatory optional ECG-4 grip.

The camera is clearly targeting those who want to get everything processed in camera rather than shoot RAW and process on a computer which is my preference.

To this end, Olympus have added new monochrome and colour controls as well as adding a mid-tone controller to their highlight-shadow tone curve controller, so users can tweak their images and even pre-visualise these effects in the EVF, which I must admit can inspire creativity by viewing the world differently and seeing new creative options.

Olympus have also added a few other new useful features, such as:

  • spot metering can now be at the AF spot
  • can save manually inputted EXIF data for legacy lenses – very handy indeed!
  • 4 custom setting modes on the top PASM dial

And of course it has most of the great features of the E-M5 Mark II such as:

  • 5 axis image stabilisation – the best in the world
  • 77Mbps 1080/60p full HD video with awesome IS to allow steady hand held videos and focus peaking
  • fast CDAF
  • Hi Res mode
  • auto HDR mode
  • mechanical shutter to 1/8000th sec and up to 10fps
  • silent electronic shutter to 1/16,000th sec and up to 20fps
  • all those wonderful long exposure modes such as Live Composite, Live Timed, etc.
  • Live Boost and optical viewfinder simulation
  • swivel, articulating, touch  LCD screen which can be used as a AF point controller while using the EVF
  • ART filters
  • TruePic VII Image processing engine
  • WiFi with smartphone remote control
  • intervalometer – can create 4K movies
  • bundled compact tilt/swivel/bounce FL-LM3 flash (GN 9m at ISO 100)

Despite my nit-picking, it is yet another awesome Micro Four Thirds camera which will be attractive to many and take great images, although the price point of $US1199 seems a touch high for a camera such as this without weathersealing and it really does not have substantive advantages over the E-M5 Mark II other than the EVF position and being a fraction smaller.

More details and links to reviews, etc on my wiki page.

Compared to the Panasonic GX-8:

Presumably has the same sensor, and both are priced the same.

The Pen F has the following advantages:

  • better image stabilisation
  • fully articulating LCD not just tilting
  • Olympus long exposure modes, ART filters, monotone and colour creator controls
  • EVF less bulky
  • HiRes mode
  • closest eye AF
  • 81AF points not just 49
  • 1080HD video offers more modes incl. 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, and 24p plus better image stabilisation
  • lighter at 427g instead of 487g
  • smaller

The GX-8 has the following advantages:

  • higher magnification EVF which tilts up but is more bulky
  • AF burst capability better at 8fps instead of 5fps
  • perhaps better C-AF
  • 100Mbps 4K video at 30p/24p as well as 1080 60p/30p plus mic port
  • post-focus mode allows users to select different focus points after shot is taken via 4K 30fps shots
  • splashproof

Nikon introduces new full frame pro sports dSLR – the Nikon D5

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Nikon recently announced a new pro dSLR for their sports and wildlife photographers who have $US6500 to upgrade from their aging Nikon 4DS, and it adds some nice new features to get them excited.

Specs of the new Nikon D5 dSLR:

  • 20.8 mp full frame sensor
  • native ISO 100-102,400
  • 12fps burst rate
  • all-new autofocus module with 153 points, 99 of which are cross-type
  • EXPEED 5 processor
  • 4K video but this is very limited
  • touchscreen LCD
  • support for Nikon’s new radio remote TTL flash functionality (requires a radio TTL compatible flash)
  • $US6500

On paper, seems like a great camera for Nikon’s sports and wildlife photographers who will get much improved high ISO performance, better AF, some 4K video capability as well as remote radio TTL flash.

 Why carry all this weight and pay $US25,000 for a telephoto kit?

In my last post, I blogged about the wonderful new super telephoto lenses for Micro Four Thirds – the Olympus 300mm f/4 and the Panasonic 100-400mm.

You could use a Panasonic GH-4 mirrorless camera with the 100-400mm zoom and gain not only wonderful hand held telephoto reach up to 800mm in full frame terms but better 4K video quality, and this for well under $US4000 and perhaps a quarter of the weight and size as a Nikon 600mm full frame telephoto with less reach.

Alternatively, you could use an Olympus OM-D E-M1 with the 300mm f/4 lens and gain unprecedented image stabilisation capability with superb optics in a much more compact size and weight than the Nikon kit and again coming in at under $US4000.

So why then buy the Nikon outfit?

The answer is primarily, the improved capability of shooting moving subjects in very low light – a scenario where image stabilisation is of very limited utility as you need sufficiently fast shutter speed to adequately stop the moving subject – and here is where image quality at high ISO becomes a prime consideration.

The Micro Four Thirds cameras will get you to ISO 3200 with good image quality but it can be expected that the Nikon will give you at least 1, maybe 2 more stops of higher ISO for similar image quality, although we will have to await tests to see how good the Nikon really is.

The Micro Four Thirds options will be just as good and perhaps even better for many situations such as studio work, macro work, static wildlife/sports subjects and for moving subjects in good light (although the Nikon’s AF may be better, and the optical viewfinder will have advantages in this situation) and allow for far more versatility and maneuverability thanks to not being stuck with a large heavy tripod and having to carry large lenses.