My wish list for Micro Four Thirds in 2018

Written by Gary on January 6th, 2018

ps.. as usual, the links below take you to my wiki pages for more information – NOT to annoying online retail sites as with most other blogs!

The Micro Four Thirds system has come a long way since its introduction in 2008 with the Panasonic G1 and soon after the very popular Panasonic GH-1 which changed the video world.

A major advance was the introduction of the Olympus OM-D series starting with the Olympus E-M5 in early 2012 which brought together most of the missing elements:

  • weathersealing
  • a nice built in electronic viewfinder
  • 5 axis sensor based image stabilisation
  • a new sensor with much higher image quality to satisfy the needs of most people
  • a tilting rear touch screen which could be used to rapidly AF on a given selected subject and then immediately take the photo
  • the 1st camera to be able to automatically AF on the subject’s closest eye
  • the fastest and most accurate AF for static subjects available
  • a range of lovely compact, wide aperture high quality prime lenses

Then in 2016, this was taken a major step forward with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II which addressed the main concerns with the E-M5’s poor AF of moving subjects and added a vast range of new functionality – particularly to address sports and wildlife photography, further improved image quality, added an improved and very nice hand held 4K video capability, and a range of weathersealed wide aperture prime lenses as well as the holy trinity f/2.8 zoom lenses plus the much loved and unique 12-100mm f/4 pro-level travel lens.

Incompatibility issues which I wish Olympus and Panasonic would resolve:

Whilst I can understand that creating incompatibilities is a way for companies to hold their user base to ransom and force them to continue to buy their products only, this is extremely frustrating for users and does take away from the system experience and may turn many away.

This is what they need to resolve:

  • Olympus or Panasonic cameras able to used Sync IS / Dual IS on any Olympus or Panasonic lens with optical IS – currently if you mix systems you have to choose sensor based IS or optical IS and you miss out on the combined capability.
  • Panasonic cameras able to use Olympus lenses with their DFD technology for faster AF – this appears to just need updating of the camera firmware with Olympus lens data
  • Olympus cameras able to use the aperture ring on the Panasonic lenses which have it
  • Olympus Pro-Capture mode able to use Panasonic lenses
  • Ananda Sim has reminded me of two other variances:
    • the UV cutoff filters on the sensors differ such that Olympus cameras allow more UV and hence display more purple fringing when used with certain Panasonic lenses than is evident on Panasonic cameras with these lenses – see this article by Alan Forster.
    • Olympus cameras manage the lens diaphragm differently during live view as to Panasonic cameras – this can create noise lens use (as with the Panasonic Leica DG 25mm f/1.4 lens) or possibly reduced burst rates with Panasonic lenses.

Firmware improvements to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II:

Here are some of my wishes:

  • a more intuitive way to dial in distances for the in-camera focus limit settings – can’t we just select closest distance, then point the camera at the closest object we want, lock focus and it is recorded, likewise with the most distant setting?
  • add option for artificial shutter noise so subject knows when you have taken the shot
  • faster start up time
  • make the autoISO more powerful by adding ability to set the auto ISO default slowest shutter speed to (image stabilisation effectiveness in EV / focal length) x user EV setting
    • the Olympus default is 1/focal length which doesn’t allow the user to utilise the image stabilisation capabilities to its full effect and doesn’t even take into account the 2x crop factor effect
    • having a user EV setting as a user variable allows the user to take control of how much they trust the IS and their hand holding skills
  • add a AF region of perhaps 15 to give a larger region – the jump from all areas down to 9 is too large a jump
  • further improve AF speed with legacy Four Thirds lenses
  • add a 3rd option, “last viewed” to the cogs:H1:Card Slot Settings:Playback Slot so that one does not have to dig deep into the menu to keep your playback slot preference
  • playback zoom should have an option to view the RAW file rather than a small jpeg if only a single card is used for RAW+jpeg – this is problematic at zoom 7x or more when you want to verify sharpness if the card you are viewing does not have a large jpeg stored (eg. you are only shooting in RAW mode)
  • add an option to adjust the time to return to normal view when MF Assist is automatically activated and you stop rotating MF ring – currently it is too short for my liking and does not give enough time to to assess focus accuracy hence I assign a button for this.

New cameras in 2018:

I do not anticipate Olympus will be replacing the E-M1 Mark II any time soon – it took them 3 years to update the Mark I version – so that would put a replacement in late 2019.

The Olympus Pen F is now 2 years old and due for an update.

PLEASE Olympus, add PDAF capability (or at least Panasonic’s DFD technology) to ALL next model OM-D and PEN cameras so all users can have a better user experience trying to focus on moving subjects – restricting this capability to the E-M1’s is counter-productive to marketing of the system and turns potential buyers away and across to Panasonic, Sony or, heaven forbid, a cheap and nasty dSLR.

I think as a minimum they should aim to ensure the Pen F Mark II and E-M5 Mark III both have PDAF technology.

From the Panasonic stable, their awesome new Panasonic G9 is still yet to hit our shores and will give the Olympus E-M1 Mark II a run for its money although we are yet to see how well its DFD will compare with the Olympus PDAF when using the lenses such as the Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 for sports.

The Panasonic GH-5 is also not likely to be replaced in 2018 as it was only released in early 2017.

I would like to see a Micro Four Thirds camera similar to the Sony A7S II in that it has much improved high ISO capability at the expense of fewer pixels – the rumored Panasonic GH5 S will probably be this camera!

New lenses for 2018:

2017 was the year of the f/1.2 weathersealed Olympus primes of which the 17mm and 45mm will finally be available this month hopefully:

 

#1. a weathersealed, wider aperture version of the awesome Olympus 75mm f/1.8

  • given that Olympus as created f/1.2 versions of the 17mm, 25mm and 45mm f/1.8 lenses, it makes sense that a telephoto prime is next on their list – I would be very happy with a 60mm f/1.2 and perhaps a 100mm f/1.4

#2. a weathersealed wide aperture 200mm lens which is smaller and lighter than the Panasonic version

  • I was excited to hear Panasonic announce its 200mm f/2.8 lens as I have wanted one for sports and the loss of 1 stop and a little image quality when adding a 1.4x teleconverter to the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 lens is not ideal.
  • HOWEVER, I was not happy that at over 1.2kg, it weighed about the same as my awesome Olympus 300mm f/4 and cost even more!
  • If Canon and Nikon can create a full frame 200mm f/2.8 lens that weighs only 765g, surely Olympus can get their version to well under 1kg!

#3. a weathersealed wide aperture ultra wide lens with minimal coma for Milky Way astroscapes

  • currently I use the fantastic little Olympus mZD 8mm f/1.8 fisheye for my astroscapes as the ultra wide angle allows longer exposure times without noticeable star trailing and the f/1.8 aperture allows lower ISO.
  • however, a 7mm or 8mm f/1.2 or f/1.4 lens which is not a fisheye will please many people in the very popular genre of Milky Way astroscapes as long as there is minimal aberrations wide open – full frame users have 14mm f/2.4 lenses to play with – it would be nice to have something similar in function for Micro Four Thirds but it would need a reasonable pricing – hence even if this was a manual focus lens to save costs that would be fine.

#4. the already planned Panasonic 50-200mm f/2.8-4 OIS lens

  • back in the days of Four Thirds, I loved the imagery and capabilities of my Olympus ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 lens BUT it was big, and even bigger when extended out during zooming, and the AF is not up to scratch when used with Micro Four Thirds lenses, thus I now use the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 lens as perhaps my most used general purpose lens now – the Panasonic version will not entice me but will address the needs of Panasonic users who can’t use the Olympus lens to its fullest – no DFD and no Sync IS on Panasonic cameras.

#5. more pro level super telephoto lenses

  • one of the key benefits of Micro Four Thirds over full frame is portability and hand holdability with telephoto lenses and the cost-benefits of this improved telephoto reach means less backache, neck strain, far less hip pocket expenses and more easy airline travel.
  • the Olympus 300mm f/4  was a fantastic first step and the Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 will also provide a valuable option
  • Olympus has filed patents for other lenses such as:
    • Olympus 300-500mm f/2.8-4.0
    • Olympus 400mm f/4
    • Olympus 400mm f/5.6
    • Olympus 500mm f/4

#6.  a telephoto macro lens

  • currently, the longest macro is the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro
  • I would expect at some stage Olympus will produce a longer macro for nature work such as a weathersealed, light, 100mm f/4 macro

Improved cross-platform radio TTL remote flash capabilities

2017 was a ground breaking year in radio TTL remote flash in the photographic world – not just for Micro Four Thirds users.

Cactus introduced various firmware updates to the Cactus V6II transceivers which allowed most camera brands to have radio TTL remote control with optional high speed sync, remote zoom control, and remote manual flash output of Canon, Nikon, or Olympus/Panasonic flashes. In 2018, this firmware should extend to Canon and Nikon cameras, then hopefully they can amalgamate the firmwares to avoid the need of changing firmware when you use a different camera brand, and then they can work on fixing all the bugs.

Godox also introduced their cross-platform Godox X1 transceivers allowing most camera brands to have radio TTL remote control with optional high speed sync, remote zoom control, and remote manual flash output of Godox speedlights and portable battery powered studio lights, or other brand flashes if used with a Godox receiver. I expect they will release a PRO version of their X1 transmitter designed for Micro Four Thirds in 2018.

We no longer have to wait for Olympus and Panasonic to develop radio TTL flash capability – we have it already via Cactus or Godox – and even better that what individual camera companies such as Canon or Nikon are providing in that it is cross-platform – brilliant if you use more than one camera system as I do!

 

 

 

A seed fallen on stony ground

Written by Gary on December 28th, 2017

 

flower

An isolated wild daisy on stony ground survives against all odds – but will it survive the coming summer sun?

Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 at f/6.3, ISO 200, 1/80th sec hand held.

 

Unraveling the wonders of the Olympus OM-D viewfinder and rear screen options

Written by Gary on December 27th, 2017

The Olympus OM-D cameras are truly amazing in the sheer number of ways they can be used depending upon how you like to shoot, but they can be very confusing.

Last post, was about 10 “hidden” menu tips, this post is to look at the viewfinder and rear LCD screen usage which can be just as confusing – but extremely capable once you work out which settings work best for you.

The default style – automatic eye detect viewfinder switching mode:

The OM-D cameras, like most mirrorless cameras,  have a rear sensor which detects a close object – usually your eye trying to look into the viewfinder, and when it does so, the EVF is activated while the rear screen display is deactivated.

When you move your eye away, the reverse happens and what displays on the rear screen depends on how you last set the monitor button – either the live view image, or the Super Control Panel.

Automatic Eye detect EVF switching is turned ON/OFF by either holding down the monitor button for 2 secs, or by going into the cogwheel menu I EVF Auto Switch.

The new “Quick Sleep” setting:

EVF Auto Switch = ON is the ONLY mode in which the new “Quick Sleep” setting (in cogwheel menu J2) actually functions. This was introduced with the E-M5 Mark II and E-M1 Mark II. It allows you to set the time for the EVF or rear screen to turn off (the Backlit LCD setting – 3, 5 or 8 secs or Power Off – 3 sec to 1 minute), if this is enabled, then taking your eye away from the EVF will activate the rear display. If the rear display was set for Super Control Panel, then it will be deactivated once the duration of the Backlit LCD setting is reached, and no user actions, and you then need to half press the shutter to re-activate it again. This Quick Sleep mode is indicated by a green ECO  at top right of the Super Control Panel, and is said to more than double your battery life – at the cost of some frustrations. If the rear display was set to Live View, the Quick Sleep function is not enabled.

For cameras with a swivel, flip out screen such as the E-M1 Mark II:

The functions change if you flip the rear screen out into selfie position, the Quick Sleep and the EVF autoswitch functions become disabled and,  if you have selfie assist mode enabled (cogwheel menu D3), the screen displays the Live View appropriately mirrored, a custom self-timer icon to allow you to quickly tap this to turn it on or off, and displays a camera icon so you can just tap that, then compose yourself until the self-timer activates the shutter. This is pretty much essential for a selfie as the shutter button is really hard to press while holding the camera in selfie position.

Things change again if you swivel it so it faces you  – the automatic eye detect viewfinder function remains disabled, you can’t view the EVF (unless you manually set EVF autoswitching to OFF) however, the Quick Sleep function keeps working as above.

If you then flip the screen so that it faces the camera with EVF autoswitching on, the rear screen is disabled and the EVF is activated when you put your eye next to it, and deactivated when you take your eye away – however, if you have Quick Sleep = ON, and you take your eye away from the EVF for longer than the Backlit LCD setting duration, then you will need to half press the shutter button to wake up the EVF, if you like this mode, I would turn Quick Sleep to OFF.

And then there are the cool Touch Screen picture taking functions.

First, ensure the touch screen setting turned on (cogwheel J1 menu).

Use the screen to set AF on a selected subject +/- take a shot – you can toggle the touch icon on the Live View screen into one of 3 settings:

  • touch set to OFF (except to change this icon again)
  • AF only – touch an area and AF will be activated on that region (can adjust size of that region using a touch zoom control on the right of the screen)
  • AF then take the shot – touch a subject on the screen when AF is achieved, shutter is released and a shot is taken – all usually within a split second.

Or, use the screen as an AF targeting pad:

  • set AF Targeting pad = ON (in cogwheel A2 menu)
  • the screen is automatically put into each with AF targeting pad  function with AF only touch mode in Live View mode or a “deactivated” screen with AF targeting functionality in EVF active mode
  • if the rear LCD screen is facing you flat against the camera, then, when you view the EVF, you can move your finger on the “deactivated” rear LCD and this will move the AF point around in the EVF – unfortunately, your nose touching the screen will move the AF region too!
  • if the rear LCD is flipped out and swiveled to face you but away from your nose, the EVF is deactivated if EVF Autoswitching is ON, so you must either use the Live View on the rear screen and move the AF point around on it, or turn EVF Autoswitching OFF before swiveling the screen then you can use the monitor button to activate the EVF with the rear screen just being used as an AF targeting pad.

Reading glass user’s mode – EVF only, no glasses needed

One of the reasons I now hate using dSLRs is that you use the viewfinder without glasses, but to set most of the menu items or review the playback image on the rear screen, you need to put your reading glasses on – if you do a lot of chimping (viewing the shots you take), this gets extremely frustrating, and you will probably accidentally break your glasses juggling them around, and heaven forbid if you forget your glasses – it practically becomes inoperable.

One of the reasons I love the Olympus OM-D is that I can set it up so I don’t need to use reading glasses at all!

On cameras with a swivel screen:

Single step: Just swivel the rear screen so it faces the camera, you can even leave EVF autoswitching to ON to conserve power. That’s it!

Wait, there’s more – if I want to use selfie mode – which I rarely do, I just flip out the screen into selfie position and if selfie assist is enabled as above, it works in full selfie mode. I just have to tap the camera icon to take the shot.

On cameras with a tilting screen:

Step 1. Turn the EVF auto switching to OFF (as outlined above).

Step 2. Press the monitor button to display the Live View and Record View in the EVF (the Super Control Panel automatically goes to the EVF when you hit OK in Live View mode)

Step 3. Press the monitor button to redirect the menu or playback image to the EVF each time this is needed.

Now EVERYTHING you do can be seen in the EVF – live view when you are taking the shot with shadow highlight blinkies, live histogram or dual electronic level gauges (don’t forget you can calibrate the levels via a menu option) as desired, the immediate shot temporary playback, the Super Control Panel if you hit the OK button, the full menu system if you hit the menu button and of course, the playback image with full magnified view functionality when you hit the playback button.

HEAVEN indeed!

AND, you can still use the rear screen as an AF targeting pad as above.

Oh, and a warning, viewing playback images and menus etc through the EVF is a bit weird to other people – especially if you have the lens pointed at them while doing so – be mindful of this and aim the lens at the ground so you don’t get an angry guy hitting you – because you won’t be seeing them coming!

4 main modes on how your Live View displays the image

The default mode – almost WYSIWYG:

The default live view mode in essence displays what the final shot should look like with all the current settings including white balance, exposure, Picture style or Art filter BUT not DOF preview (unless this is activated separately).

Live Boost 1 mode:

This is a basic view with the image brightness optimised for viewing, but Picture Style and Art Filters are displayed.

This is fantastic for situations where you will be under-exposing the ambient light substantially such as in flash photography or perhaps astro work.

Live boost 2 mode:

This is for really dark scenes such as astro work, but it really requires tripod and slow focusing or composing as the viewfinder refresh time is VERY LONG!

This function was added to the E-M1 and is available in subsequent models.

Simulated optical view or S-OVF:

This is designed to provide a view more closely resembling an optical viewfinder albeit with brightness optimised for viewing and only works with the EVF not the rear screen.

It is similar to the Live Boost 1 mode but Picture styles and Art Filters are NOT displayed and AWB keep warm color seems to be active.

This mode can be activated by adding this function to a button.

This function was added to the E-M1 in Nov 2015 and is available in subsequent models.

Saving battery life:

Mirrorless cameras by their nature use more battery than a dSLR which have an optical viewfinder and potentially rarely needs to use a Live View or LCD screen.

Having the rear screen folded towards the camera with EVF autoswitching ON means that there is little if any power drain from the rear screen while the EVF is powered off as soon as you take your eye away.

There has been a lot of debate as to which uses the more power – the rear screen or the EVF – I don’t think anyone can give an exact answer – please contact me on FB if you have tested it reliably.

I touched on one new method to save battery life on the latest OM-D cameras – the Quick Sleep setting which is designed to kick in within seconds of inactivity.

A re-cap of the Quick Sleep function:

  • ONLY works when EVF autoswitching = ON, AND, either:
    • rear screen displays Super Control Panel, OR
    • rear screen is facing the camera
  • it does NOT work when rear screen displays the Live View
  • may double your battery life but at a cost of some frustration as you may need to keep hitting the shutter release button to wake it up
  • only available on Olympus OM-D cameras models starting from the E-M5 Mark II and E-M1 Mark II

 

The cameras also have other settings which can save your battery life:

  • cogwheel menu J2: Backlit LCD – sets the time after which inactivity results in the rear screen dimming – 8 secs is reasonable.
  • cogwheel menu J2: Sleep – sets the time after which inactivity results in the camera going to sleep requiring half press shutter to waken. I would set this to around 1 minute.
  • cogwheel menu J2: Auto Power Off – sets the time after which inactivity results in the camera turning off, requiring the On/Off switch to be turned off then On to re-activate the camera. I would set this to about 5 minutes.
  • cogwheel  menu A2: AF illuminator – turn this OFF – reduces distracting lights from the camera as well as saving battery
  • wrench menu: monitor brightness – this can be turned down if you really need to and you are mainly using it indoors or at night, but usually best left at default middle setting.
  • wrench menu: Rec View – this is how long an image is display immediately after you have taken it – I shorten this to 0.5sec so I just get a glimpse of it and it doesn’t mean I have to keep hitting the shutter release to reduce “viewfinder blackout”

Don’t forget to turn the WiFi off after connecting to a smartphone.

Personally, I don’t really rely on the Sleep settings, I usually just have the habit of turning the camera off when I’m not using it – but the Auto Power Off is essential as I often accidentally turn it on or forget to turn it off.

Make sure you always have a spare charged battery!!!

 

More tips on my wiki pages.

 

 

Olympus OM-D camera secrets – Ten hidden menu tricks to make life easier

Written by Gary on December 25th, 2017

One of the most frequently questions I get asked is HOW DO YOU SET THIS OPTION? I CAN’T FIND IT ANYWHERE!

All of the Olympus OM-D and PEN cameras are incredibly customisable, and whilst this makes them very versatile, the down side is that this requires more menu options and this, compounded with the ever increasing number of functions available has resulted in the menu system become complex and often non-intuitive to navigate, partly thanks to largely sticking to an historic menu structure – although it still beats the Sony menus.

The title is a bit of a misnomer – none of these are actually hidden in the invisible sense – they are just often hard to find, and often to achieve a single goal requires delving into different parts of the menu system. Some do become disabled in certain modes but that is a different story.

Thankfully, with the Olympus E-M1 Mark II, Olympus have changed the menus a little to avoid the need to have to scroll through each sub menu to hunt for an item.

Tip 1: activate the Live Super Control Panel (SCP)

The Live Super Control Panel (Live SCP) is my favorite go to interface for changing picture taking settings quickly.

This is made possible by ensuring cogwheel menu D1, Control Settings, P/A/S/M has the Live SCP checked and Live Control unchecked.

When in either P/A/S/M mode on the top dial, pressing the OK button in normal picture taking mode will bring up the SCP interface (as long as flash RC Mode in camera 2 menu is turned OFF in which case the RC Mode screen will display and you need to press INFO button to display the SCP screen).

Whilst you could have Live SCP checked for the other modes (iAUTO and ART), it makes more sense to use the other options, Live Guide, and Art Menu respectively, for these modes.

Tip 2: simplify the interface by removing rarely used function options

There can be a multitude of function options to trawl through, so here is how you can reduce them.

The “Drive” setting:

Delve into the cogwheel menu D1 and open up the drive/self timer settings section where you can check or uncheck various drive options you would like displayed in the drive setting options.

My preference is to nearly always use electronic 1st shutter mode (the diamond modes) as this will not adversely affect your images (although some suggest there are artefacts when shooting in LED lighting), and for shutter speeds slower than 1/320th second it will eliminate the mechanical shutter-induced sensor shake which may result in images being less sharp than they could be. There are times when I may use a full silent electronic shutter, so I would leave this option in for usual drive and for burst rates (which are for faster burst rates) but perhaps not for the self-timer modes.

Thus I would deactivate the following options:

  • normal low burst (just leave the diamond and silent L burst active)
  • normal self-timer for 2sec, 12sec and custom
  • silent self-timer for 2sec, 12sec and custom (it would be rare to need a silent mode on a tripod with a self timer – but you may have a use for these, I can’t think of any as the HiRes mode has its own built-in self timer option)

The “Picture mode” setting:

The Picture Mode is used to vary how the jpeg output is rendered and impacts on how the camera meters the exposure, perhaps the white balance, and can impact on the AF speed depending upon the select level of contrast.

If you shoot RAW mode, then this setting is mainly to help you pre-visualise and in some situations help AF and exposure, as the RAW files can be used to create these styles in Olympus Viewer on your computer.

You can set the Picture mode for the next photo via the Live SCP or via the main camera menu which allows you to also customise each of the Picture Modes.

You can decide which of these Picture Modes are visibly available in the options by going to cogwheel menu D1 and open up the Picture Mode section

Historically, the main picture modes most photographers used here are:

  • Vivid – this is my preferred mode as it adds more contrast to enable slightly faster AF function
  • Natural – I’m not sure I have much use for this
  • Portrait – I might use this if I am going to share a portrait jpeg before I get back to my computer
  • Muted – I’m not sure I have much use for this
  • Monochrome – this is handy if one wishes to previsualise use of filters in B&W work, or for infrared photography using an IR filter, and by eliminating the B G color channels, the auto exposure is less likely to blow out the red channel

i-Enhance is designed to maximise dynamic range in the captured jpeg, while e-Portrait adds further “flattering” portrait look to your jpgs – you may wish to uncheck these and exclude them for simplicity, but use them if it suits your style.

“Custom” Picture Mode allows you to effectively create your own extra setting while using any of the above Picture Modes with a custom contrast, gradation, etc. This could allow you to quickly change from one version of a Picture Mode to another (eg. you could effectively have two “Vivid” modes each with different saturation levels).

Color Creator style is quite unique to Olympus and allows you to have more extensive control over the “white balance”, color rendering, saturation, contrast curve, etc BUT remember it does mean you cannot select a White Balance option while this is active.

With the E-M1 Mark II, Olympus has added in all the ART filters to the Picture Mode option IN ADDITION to being able to select these via the “ART” mode on the PASM dial. If you rarely use these then by all means, you could uncheck these from the list of options BUT be aware, that doing so also removes them from the ART mode options (but not from ART bracketing).

Tip 3: optimise magnified focus functions

Occasionally, autofocus is difficult, fails, or keeps focusing on a different subject, and in these situations, you need to resort to manual focus, and for accurate manual focus, it pays to activate the magnified view screen, or at least have focus peaking active.

As an aside, if not using a tripod, then ensuring image stabiliser is ON is greatly beneficial.

I prefer to allocate one of the function buttons to the task of activating magnified view (you could let the camera do it automatically when it detects you moving the MF ring, but I find this problematic as it switches off too quickly).

In the cogwheel menu B, you will find the Buttons item – choose a desired button (I usually use Fn2) and set it to Magnify.

Then you just press the allocated button once to bring up the magnify region (use the arrow keys to move this around) and press it again to enter magnify mode (use the top dial to change the degree of magnification), adjust focus then either take the shot or exit Magnify mode by pressing OK button.

There are some useful settings which can assist you further in this mode:

  • cogwheel menu C2: Half Way Rls With IS = ON
    • this will ensure the image stabiliser will be activated whenever the magnify screen is displayed, or the shutter release button is half pressed, this makes it MUCH easier to visualise your manual focus accuracy
  • cogwheel menu A3 MF Assist:
    • Magnify = ON (magnify screen automatically activated when MF ring moved but turns off only a short time after you stop turning the MF ring – hence I like my dedicated button for magnify to help me when MF is more difficult or I want to use LV Close Up mode 2)
    • Peaking = ON (focus peaking will automatically be activated when MF ring moved even if not in magnify mode (ie. Magnify = OFF)
  • cogwheel menu D2, LV Close Up Settings:
    • LV Close Up Mode:
      • LV Close Up Mode 1 will close the magnify screen when shutter button is half pressed
      • LV Close Up Mode 2 is my preferred option as this will activate S-AF while still in magnify mode even in MF mode allowing more precise AF when the AF is activated (either the shutter button half press or the allocated AFL button if you have set “back button AF” using cogwheel A1 menu, AEL/AFL to M3) – NB. does not work if magnify screen was brought up automatically – only works when magnify screen is activated manually with a button.
    • Live View Boost = ON will allow your viewfinder to be optimised for brightness when in magnified mode
  • cogwheel menu D3, peaking settings – can make the focus peaking easier to visualise by changing its color, etc.

Tip 4: create a “back button” autofocus lock mode:

Frequently, you may wish to use the camera’s AF to gain focus but then wait before you take the shot, but if you do this in the usual default mode, half pressing the shutter button to take the shot will result in the camera again trying to lock autofocus immediately before the shot and this could delay the shot or make you lose focus if your subject is moving, etc.

Professional photographers have long addressed this issue by re-allocating AF from the half-press shutter to a rear function button – hence the “back button” focus.

This is very easily achieved on Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras by putting the camera into MF mode (NOT the lens MF clutch which is available on some Olympus lenses) and then pressing your allocated function button to request the camera to activate AF temporarily.

BUT for this to work you need to:

  • set cogwheel A1 menu, AEL/AFL to M3 – I usually have this set to S1/C2/M3, so that in S-AF mode, the half-press shutter button activates S-AF as per usual, and in C-AF mode, the half-press shutter button activates C-AF as per usual, and in MF mode the AFL/AEL function is required to activate S-AF, AND,
  • allocate a rear function button to AEL/AFL – this is done via cogwheel B1 menu Buttons – I usually allocate the button which has AEL/AFL marked on it (on the original E-M5 there was no such button and the closest was Fn1 button)

Tip 5: Generate the desired size jpegs for those documents you need to “scan”:

99% of the time I just shoot RAW files and I use Lightroom or some other software to generate the jpegs.

But sometimes you just need to get it done quickly without post-processing, or the material you are shooting does not require the extra size overheads of RAW files or large jpegs, for example, if you just need to photograph a hundred documents and they only need to be 1200 pixels wide, then you can change your File size and quality to just a small jpeg with normal compression – but how do you do this?

Simple, just delve into the menu system again:

  • cogwheel menu G: first icon setting which is the jpeg quality for each of the 4 jepg custom settings where for each setting you allocate a size (large, medium, small) and a compression quality  which affects file size in Mb and the degree of compression artefacts (Super Fin, Fine, Normal, Basic).
  • cogwheel menu G:pixel count setting which allows you to allocate how many pixels for each of the medium and small size jpegs.

Then when you go to camera 1 menu and choose the File size and quality (these are icons), you will have a choice of the 4 jpeg options you have set above with or without a RAW file.

Don’t forget that whenever you are not using RAW files, you need to pay particular attention to the Picture Mode setting and white balance setting if these will be important for your output.

Be aware though that if you don’t include a large jpeg as one of the file types (eg. only shoot RAW or shoot with a small jpeg only), you will have a highly compressed image to zoom in on during playback which makes it hard to assess critical focus at 10-14x zoom until you get back to the computer – or you go to the trouble of creating an in-camera RAW edit to a large LF jpeg.

Tip 6: Display highlight/shadow warning and Live Histogram in Live View

Whether you are shooting in manual exposure mode or an auto exposure mode, it is very handy to be able to see if any of the highlights in areas where you want details will be blown out with the selected exposure BEFORE you take the shot so you can adjust the exposure more efficiently than is possible with any current dSLR.

Severely underexposed regions will have blue blinkies while blown highlights will have red blinkies.

To enable this, you must first ensure the extremely hard to find menu item for this is activated:

  • cogwheel menu D1, Info Settings:LV Info:Custom 1 or 2: check the Highlights and Shadow option AND the Live Histogram option
  • NOTE: you can set the exposure parameters for this display in case you want a more conservative warning such as setting the highlight warning to display for a channel value of greater than 245 rather than the maximum value of 255 – see cogwheel D3, Histogram settings

Now when you are composing your shot, just use the INFO button to toggle through the displays until it displays the Live Histogram which will also display the shadow/highlight blinkies as well as Live Histogram for the area covered by the selected AF region which is displayed as green in the Live Histogram – very handy indeed!

Tip 7: capture better fireworks images by using Live Composite mode

New Year’s Eve is coming and that means firework displays – the Live Composite mode can provide a unique way to capture night images as you determine the base exposure for the ambient environment while the camera adds each subsequent firework to your image – also works well for star trails and car head light trails.

Unfortunately, there is no really intuitive way to use Live Composite – although it is easy once you are aware of how to find it and how to set the exposures. Of course, you will need a tripod for this mode.

You access Live Composite by adjusting shutter speed – take it past the 60 secs (oh, yes, Olympus is the ONLY camera brand that has a timed 60sec exposure – all others stop at 30secs then you need to resort to a cumbersome BULB mode and they don’t have a Live BULB or Live Timed to make this easier either – this is another reason why many night photographers love Olympus cameras) and you get BULB, then Live Timed, then Live Composite.

The first shot will become your base exposure according to the ISO and aperture you have set, while the exposure duration for each image including the base exposure is set in a hidden menu:

  • cogwheel E menu: Composite Settings – this is your exposure duration

The camera will keep taking repeat exposures until you terminate it by pressing the shutter button again once you are happy with the image on the screen BUT only new brighter parts of each subsequent image get added to the original image – this helps to avoid the base ambient regions from becoming over-exposed with a long exposure.

For more information see my wiki page.

Tip 8: E-M1 Mark II users only: set a focus range limiter within the camera

Many lenses have a focus range setting which allows you to speed up the acquisition of autofocus by not allowing the lens to travel the full range of focus, and this can also ensure the camera does not focus on a foreground or background object depending on the situation and focus limiter option.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II takes this a massive step further by becoming the ONLY camera to allow you to dial in a closest focus AND a distant focus on any compatible lens. You get to specify the range from zero to infinity with 0.1m precision!

This can be incredibly useful – imagine trying to use AF on fish swimming behind glass and the camera always locking focus on the glass instead of the much more difficult moving fish – now you have a method whereby you can tell the camera to ignore anything closer than 0.5m for instance, and ignore anything further away than 1.5m – now that is way cool indeed!

Likewise at sports events you can adjust it so that it does not focus on the background or foreground spectators.

This will work in both S-AF and C-AF modes.

First of all you need to work out what your focus range should be:

  • option 1: guess it (eg. 10-50m)
  • option 2: use the camera to calculate the distance:
    • ensure your AF limiters are turned OFF
    • set AF mode to Preset MF and press INFO then you can AF on whatever spots you like and it will give you the distance read out on screen with 0.1m precision – memorise these distances.
    • don’t forget to put the AF mode back to S-AF or C-AF.

Next, you need to set the distances in the AF Limiter option via the hidden menu item:

  • cogwheel A1 menu, AF Limiter
    • you get to set up to 3 preset ranges – just dial in the near and far distance in meters and make sure you leave the menu with it turned ON to one of the settings and you are done!

See more information on my wiki page here.

Tip 9: View finder is too dark shooting indoor flash – turn on Live View BOOST!

The default setting for your viewfinder display is an almost WYSIWYG simulation of the end jpeg image output – fantastic for pre-visualisation of what you are wanting to achieve and for roughly assessing exposure.

BUT start shooting in low light or indoors with flash units in manual exposure mode to ensure ambient light is very under-exposed so it does not affect your image and suddenly you can’t see much as the viewfinder is only displaying what the ambient exposure will look like – and that is DARK!

Fortunately, Olympus has kindly added a Live View BOOST function which essentially is designed to provide a bright viewfinder image whatever your exposure is as long as the scene is not extremely dark and beyond the limits of the Live Boost gain.

In fact with the latest cameras they have added a 2nd Live Boost option designed for extremely dark conditions but this is not so easy to use as it adds a LONG viewfinder refresh lag time – so if you are re-composing or trying to focus – this must be done very slowly! I usually prefer Live Boost 1 for my astro shots due to the much faster viewfinder refresh rate.

Now where is that Live Boost function and how do I enable it?

Well it is pretty easy once you know where to look:

  • cogwheel D menu, Live View Boost
    • on the early cameras such as the Four Thirds dSLRs, and the E-M5, you only had one option On/Off
    • in the later cameras, you can set this value to Off/1/2 depending upon which mode you are in
    • you will probably want it off for “Others” and “Live Composite”, and ON for “Bulb/Time” and temporarily for “Manual shooting” – I generally shoot all my flash photos in Manual exposure as the shutter speed can be used to determine how bright the ambient scene is displayed on the final image, and the aperture for how shallow the depth of field will be. If using manual mode in brighter light, I would set Live Boost to OFF.

One big downside to using Live Boost is you no longer get to see the ambient exposure nor any Picture Mode effects, but at least you can see your subject in darker rooms better if you don’t have modelling lamps.

Tip 10: Set up your own custom modes

Prior to the E-M1 Mark II, the Olympus cameras allow you to save your current settings as one of four custom user defined modes called MySet, which although not to hard to find in the menu – setting them is via the camera 1 menu Reset/Myset you just have to make sure you hit OK enough times to lock them in to a particular MySet.

These cameras required you to allocate a Myset to a button to be able to use it (yes, that would be in cogwheel menu B – Buttons).

Thankfully, the E-M1 Mark II has made life so much easier:

  • the Mysets are now called Custom Modes and you now only have 3 instead of 4 but that should suffice for most people
  • setting these are now through the renamed camera 1 menu Reset / Custom Modes
  • importantly, you are now able to allocate these Custom Modes to one of the three new Custom modes on the PASM dial marked C1, C2 and C3 which makes accessing them so much faster and much more intuitive

Now I might set up custom modes as follows:

  • C1: my standard way of shooting, ISO 200, AWB, IS on auto (or 1 if using earlier cameras), Aperture priority, electronic 1st shutter, S-AF, single point AF, Live Boost OFF
  • C2: for shooting sports with C-AF, ISO 800, AWB, AF region expanded and burst mode active, Live Boost OFF
  • C3: perhaps the third mode for Milky Way astroscapes with Live Boost ON, ISO 1600, White Balance set to 3400K, IS off, self-timer set to 2 secs, manual exposure with shutter set to 20secs, RAW mode, etc.

More tips:

You can see a LOT more information on how to get the most out of your Olympus camera on my wiki here.

I would also highly recommend J. Andrzej Wrotniak ‘s excellent and exhaustive Olympus OM-D E-M1 II account of all the menu items and his suggested settings (these don’t always match my preferences but we all have different requirements and needs).

Hope you all have a safe festive season and have fun shooting.

 

 

Pro photographer and YouTube photo educator, Joe Edelman switches from Nikon to Olympus

Written by Gary on December 3rd, 2017

Joe Edelman is one of my favorite YouTube photography tutorial bloggers.

He is a professional photographer who has used Nikon gear for some 40 years, but now has just announced he has switched systems to Olympus gear – primarily, The Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark II and the pro lenses.

See his video for his explanation of why he changed systems and don’t forget to follow his YouTube channel for lots of great photography tutorials. A large part of his decision is the fun element that the smaller Olympus system brings without substantial loss of image quality – an important reason why I also prefer to use Olympus instead of my Canon or Sony full frame pro gear.

For my point of view, a critical aspect of creating photographs is you the photographer – if you are not in the mood, stressed, or overburdened by the weight or cost of your system, then no matter how good your camera gear is, your photography will suffer and lack an optimum level of inspirational creativity. We live in a modern age where modern sensors are perfectly adequate for most photographic chores and small, light, mobile, more affordable gear is often the best choice.

 

More Great Ocean Road imagery with the Olympus OM-D E-M1

Written by Gary on December 3rd, 2017

Another trip to Victoria’s beautiful Great Ocean Road and the Twelve Apostle region, this time I left my Sony full frame gear at home as it didn’t really add that much image quality over my Micro Four Thirds gear and just added weight and complexity – both of which gets in the way of my photography – and after all, the whole point of the week away was to relax and enjoy the remote rugged beauty of this coastline before summer hits.

So here are a few images taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark I camera and the holy trinity of f/2.8 Olympus zoom lenses.

sunset

Rainbow at sunset, hand held, Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/25th sec, f/5.6, no optical filters.

blue hour

Blue hour, tripod, Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 at f/8, ISO 100, 25sec.

blue hour

Blue hour, tripod, Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 at f/8, ISO 200, 50sec.

selfie

Loch Ard Gorge and the selfie – this guy jumped the fences, disregarded the warnings of the cliff might suddenly give way under the weight of a human, and walked along a narrow “path” for about an hour’s worth of shots – some like this, some with raincoat on, some with his girlfriend standing there in a rain coat.

Earlier in the day I saw other tourists (male and female) doing a similar thing at the Twelve Apostles, but totally oblivious to the fact that the top of the rock stack upon which they had managed to climb to was totally undermined by a tunnel at the peak, meaning they were only standing on about a foot thickness of rock – one day soon a tourist will fall to their death from that rock stack – it is inevitable.

Loch Ard

The awesome Loch Ard Gorge, site of a shipwreck in the 19th century where all drowned apart from a young lady passenger and a young seaman who managed to get to this beach and then the seaman managed to climb the gorge and get help. Today, it is a beautiful place for tourists to explore and relax paddling in the relatively calm waters.

Razorback

The Razorback at sunset. Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/20th sec, f/5.6, no optical filters. Cropped to 1:1.

 

 

Cactus releases firmware to allow Micro Four Thirds cameras to have radio remote TTL/HSS/remote power control and remote zoom control of Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Sigma flashes

Written by Gary on December 2nd, 2017

Cactus Imaging have just announced release of new firmware for their Cactus V6II radio transceivers which will allow Micro Four Thirds users the ability to use Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Sigma or Olympus flashes (or a Cactus RF60X flash) in remote TTL mode with Super FP/High Speed Sync capability as well as remote manual flash power output control or zoom control.

This means you just need to buy two Cactus V6II radio transceivers, install the Olympus X-TTL firmware on EACH radio transceiver, attach one to the hotshoe of your Micro Four Thirds camera, and the other to the remote flash hotshoe and hopefully most of it will self-configure by detecting which brand flash you are using.

No more annoying optical signalling between your camera and flash units!

If you are like me and have a couple of Canon 580EXII flashes lying around, these can now be used with your Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, either mounted on camera (on top of a transceiver) or remotely on a second transceiver and used with full TTL or manual control up to 100m away! I have tested it in my lounge room and it seems to function well.

Of course, you can buy a few transceivers to operate a number of remote flashes and control them all from the camera – very nice indeed!

The bad news is that for photographers with more than one brand camera, they will need to have a different firmware in the transceiver for each camera brand and the remote flash transceiver needs to have the same firmware as the camera (NOT the flash) – the exception here is if you have a Sony camera, you need the special dedicated Cactus V6IIS Sony transceiver for the camera, and a Cactus V6II for a Canon, Nikon or Olympus flash but in this case the flash transceiver must be loaded with Fuji or Sigma firmware for TTL compatibility with these flashes. Fortunately, you can install different firmware as your needs change – you are not stuck with one camera brand firmware for a Cactus V6II, but it seems that the memory inside the Cactus V6II is not sufficient to allow Cactus to create a multi-brand camera TTL firmware to avoid this issue – guess we may have to wait for the Cactus V6III for that to be possible. However, given that the Fuji and Sigma firmware works with the Sony firmware and that Cactus have indicated they had to create a substantial change to the firmware design with the recently released Pentax firmware which presumably the carried over to the Olympus firmware, once the Sony, Fuji and Sigma firmware are updated to this new change, they might be able to be made compatible with the Pentax and Olympus firmware so that a Sony with a Cactus V6IIS might be able to control a Cactus V6II with Olympus firmware attached to a Canon flash. Confusing yes, but in the end it should just work and be more simple than the current incompatibility.

 

 

Black Friday discount sales: which Micro Four Thirds lens to buy?

Written by Gary on November 24th, 2017

Following on from my last post, the Black Friday sales discounts might be enticing you to splurge out on a new Micro Four Thirds lens – but which one should you buy?

Don’t worry, unlike most other websites these days, clicking on the links below will not take you to an online retailer so I can make a few extra cents, but to my photo wiki where there is a lot more information and links to reviews, etc.

The best lens to buy depends upon a lot of things such as:

  • your budget
  • which camera system you are using?
    • Panasonic lenses work best on Panasonic cameras and Olympus lenses work best on Olympus cameras – although they are interchangeable however, you may lose some functionality, in particular, optical image stabilisation and AF speed, and perhaps some special functions such as continuous AF capability, ProCapture mode, Focus Stacking, etc.
  • what do you already own?
  • what do you like to shoot?
  • what would you like to shoot if you had the gear?

A wide aperture prime lens to really maximise your low light and DOF options:

  • Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 is one of my favorite lenses for shallow depth of field work, portraits, creative photos, etc and is incredibly sharp, but the heaviest of those in this category. I expect Olympus may bring out a Pro weathersealed version with wider aperture in the next 1-2 yrs.
  • Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.8 is a lovely little portrait lens, but if you want even shallower depth of field at this field of view, you may wish to hold off until you can afford the bigger, much more expensive, weathersealed Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.2 lens.
  • Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.8 is another lovely little lens, which is great for environmental portraits and street photography, but as with the 45mm f/1.8, you may wish to hold off until you can afford the bigger, much more expensive, weathersealed Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2 lens. If you are a Panasonic user, consider the Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 lens instead.
  • Olympus mZD 17mm f/1.8 is a nice little lens for street photographers who want a little more field of view than a 25mm, but if you want even shallower depth of field at this field of view, you may wish to hold off until you can afford the bigger, much more expensive, weathersealed Olympus mZD 17mm f/1.2 lens. If you are a Panasonic user, consider the Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 lens instead.
  • Olympus mZD 12mm f/2 is a lovely little wide angle lens, great to add into a hiking bag, or as an option if you are not wanting to take a 12-40mm zoom lens along . This is the most expensive of the non-weathersealed lenses outlined here, and probably not one that I would recommend purchasing unless you really need that field of view in such a compact size – if you are happy to have a bigger, heavier lens, then consider either a 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens instead which will be much more versatile, and weathersealed, or consider an even more specialist, and more expensive a lens which is even better for low light and astro work, while being weathersealed, the Panasonic 12mm f/1.4 lens.

Upgrade to a better zoom lens:

Professional photographers generally have the “holy trinity” of f/2.8 zooms – ultra wide angle, standard and telephoto – you can get this for Micro Four Thirds too and it is much smaller, light, less expensive, and with smaller filters to carry, but you do lose the shallow DOF options that a full frame holy trinity will get you – if shallow DOF is important, then consider a prime lens as above.

The most used lens  – the standard zoom:

  • the  Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens is a very handy lens and a significant upgrade to a budget kit lens which often comes with the camera as it adds better low light AF and shooting capabilities thanks to the f/2.8 aperture, and excellent optical quality and weathersealing.
  • Panasonic users may prefer the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 lens
  • BUT WAIT, there is another option which may mean you only have to take one lens on your travels, and this could be a big factor, particularly if you travel to areas with dust or inclement weather where changing a lens is problematic – enter the new and very popular Olympus mZD 12-100mm f/4 lens – yes there is a compromise as it is bigger and is not as good at low light as a f/2.8 lens, but it has better image stabilisation when used on compatible Olympus cameras which allow Dual IS.

The next most popular zoom – the telephoto zoom:

  • what can I say, I just love my Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 lens with its extendable lens hood which makes it fantastic in the rain, and once you get past 120mm or so, you can get lovely shallow DOF portraits with it – and it is beautifully sharp! This is the lens I generally leave on my camera as I hike on day hikes (its a bit too big for overnight hikes carrying tents, etc – although I have done this but I am getting too old to carry 18kg of camping and photo gear with food and water) hoping to catch sight of some wildlife, while often still being wide enough to get a great landscape shot. You can buy this in a kit with a 1.4x teleconverter, but I generally shoot without the teleconverter on.
  • if you are really into wildlife, and particularly birds, you may want something with more reach, such as the Panasonic 100-400mm f/4-6.3 – yes it is not a f/2.8 holy trinity lens but it covers a fantastic zoom range for wildlife. If you cannot afford this, then consider the Panasonic 100-300mm mark II although it is not good in low light and does have more purple fringing.
  • if the above lenses are too big and heavy for you, you also have the choice of the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 lens, although if I was using this lens, I would personally prefer the Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 for more DOF control at the expense of zoom control.

The third of the holy trinity – the ultra-wide zoom:

Some people may rarely use such a lens, others use it very frequently – it all depends upon your style and needs.

  • for low light or creative photography, the Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 is a great weathersealed lens, BUT any lens covering such a wide field of view as 14mm in full frame terms as this lens does, means it cannot be used with standard filters – you have to buy large third party filter adapters if you wish to use filters
  • if you are into landscape work and mainly shooting at f/5.6-f/8, or street photography, then a more useful alternative may be the Panasonic 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0 lens.

Now a few specialist lenses:

A pancake lens for social events:

  • I love my Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens for this, when combined with an E-M5II or E-M10, it will fit in a large coat pocket discretely and its wide aperture allows available light work, or bounce flash work as well as allowing some night urban photography

A weathersealed macro lens:

  • the Olympus mZD 60mm f/2.8 macro lens is a lovely, light, high quality, dedicated macro lens well suited to nature macro work outdoors but more expensive than the next two budget options
  • there is also the Olympus 30mm f/3.5 macro lens which can give greater magnification and is cheaper but you need to get much closer to the subject so not as good for skittish insects which will fly away – best suited for studio macros, or where you wish to create a more environmental macro with the wider field of view showing more background.
  • on a budget, the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 kit lens is weathersealed and offers 0.36x macro which is adequate for many people and thus is a reasonable option for overnight hikers who need a light, versatile lens that can do most things (just not low light work), and is not as sharp as the Pro lenses.

A fisheye lens:

The super telephoto lens:

  • there are a lot of lenses around which give 300mm focal length (600mm reach in full frame terms), but none offer the low light capabilities and optical excellence of the superb Olympus mZD 300mm f/4 lens with its 6.5EV image stabilisation.
  • If you own a Panasonic camera and have lots of money, the newly announced Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 lens with teleconverter looks to be a big competitor to the Olympus 300mm in image quality, and has the advantage of being shorter but with less reach – perfect for sports events where a 200mm lens is the general maximum length allowed in the stadium!

Manual focus lenses:

There are a multitude of these around, often much cheaper than AF equivalents, and most can be used on these cameras either directly or via an adapter – you can see Zhongyi Mitakon’s online store for their lenses as an example – yes, sorry for linking to an online store, but this one was the most efficient link for you, alternatively most MF lenses in MFT mount are listed on my wiki page here.

I hope this has given you a good overview!

Have fun and explore – there is a list of lenses for Micro Four Thirds on my wiki here.

 

Black Friday discounts – should you upgrade to an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II? What will you gain?

Written by Gary on November 23rd, 2017

It’s Black Friday and that means many stores are having significant discounts on camera gear – even here in Australia!

That means you can get hundreds of dollars off the usual price of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and this is a very enticing prospect for many who have earlier models of OM-D cameras such as the E-M1 mark I, E-M5 Mark II, or even the one that started the amazing popularity of the OM-D’s – the E-M5 original version or indeed the budget E-M10’s – but what will you gain in upgrading?

Advantages over the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II:

  • a built-in grip making it much more ergonomic to use for larger lenses without having to add in an optional grip
  • further improved image quality – 1 stop better at high ISO, more dynamic range, 20mp
  • far better sports and moving subject capabilities:
    • ability to autofocus on moving subjects AND has excellent subject tracking in burst mode thanks to the PDAF technology on the sensor
    • substantially improved AF tweaks such as ability to set a focus range AF limiter in-camera so that foreground and background subjects are ignored by the AF algorithms
    • improved high ISO performance
    • new “Pro-Capture” mode captures up to the last 14 images prior to you pressing the shutter fully
    • 18fps full size RAW with C-AF using electronic shutter (C-AF not really possible on E-M5’s)
    • 60fps full size RAW with locked S-AF using electronic shutter instead of 11fps
    • 10fps full size RAW with C-AF using mechanical shutter (C-AF not really possible on E-M5’s but dodgy CDAF tracking at 5fps)
    • 15fps full size RAW with locked S-AF using mechanical shutter
  • further improved image stabiliser
  • better viewfinder
  • larger, longer life battery
  • better access to MySet settings (now on the dial) and can save and load to PC
  • two SD card slots, one with UHS-II  SD support for faster cards and much better burst rate and 4K video performance, the 2nd card slot is critical for pros who need a backup of the shots in case one card gets corrupted before they have backed it up!
  • improved autoISO function – new Lowest Shutter Speed Setting and can use in manual exposure mode with exposure compensation
  • improved HiRes mode
  • 4K 30p video instead of just 1080p with lovely image stabilisation which is great for run and gun videos

Advantages over the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark I:

  • further improved image quality – 1 stop better at high ISO, more dynamic range, 20mp
  • substantially improved sports and moving subject capabilities:
    • improved ability to autofocus on moving subjects AND has excellent subject tracking in burst mode thanks to the substantially increased number of PDAF points on the sensor and better algorithms
    • substantially improved AF tweaks such as ability to set a focus range AF limiter in-camera so that foreground and background subjects are ignored by the AF algorithms
    • improved high ISO performance
    • new “Pro-Capture” mode captures up to the last 14 images prior to you pressing the shutter fully
    • 18fps full size RAW with C-AF using electronic shutter
    • 60fps full size RAW with locked S-AF using electronic shutter instead of 11fps
    • 10fps full size RAW with C-AF using mechanical shutter
    • 15fps full size RAW with locked S-AF using mechanical shutter
  • further improved image stabiliser
  • better viewfinder
  • larger, longer life battery
  • better access to MySet settings (now on the dial) and can save and load to PC
  • two SD card slots, one with UHS-II  SD support for faster cards and much better burst rate and 4K video performance, , the 2nd card slot is critical for pros who need a backup of the shots in case one card gets corrupted before they have backed it up!
  • improved autoISO function – new Lowest Shutter Speed Setting and can use in manual exposure mode with exposure compensation
  • HiRes mode
  • 4K 30p video instead of just 1080p with lovely image stabilisation which is great for run and gun videos

Advantages over the Olympus OM-D E-M5 original version:

  • as for the improvements over the E-M5 mark II outlined above, plus the features of the E-M5 Mark II:
    • WiFi remote control by smartphones
    • Live Boost II mode
    • swivel, articulating LCD screen
    • mechanical shutter to 1/8000th sec instead of 1/4000th sec
    • freezeproof to minus 11deg C
    • anti-shock mode using electronic first-curtain shutter to reduce shutter shock during sequential shooting
    • 2×2 switch
    • auto HDR
    • in camera keystone correction option
    • improved intervalometer
    • improved focus peaking
    • PC sync port
    • Live Composite mode
    • additional ART filters
    • colour creator picture mode control
    • HiRes mode

Is the upgrade worth it to you?

That all depends upon how often you will use the new or improved features and whether these will change your photography and give you new avenues to explore.

As a general rule, one should not spend too much on a camera as it devalues rapidly over a 5yr period, but if you are using it frequently then even $AU2000 may be a great opportunity to lash out and change your options and abilities.

It is a very versatile camera, and it has major advantages over larger more expensive dSLRs, but at the end of the day – only you can decide if the upgrade is worth it to you.

Check out my blog post on how good the AF tracking is using the superb 300mm lens at a water ski event – post is here.

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Panasonic announces new pro-level mirrorless camera to rival the E-M1 Mark II – the Panasonic G9

Written by Gary on November 8th, 2017

Panasonic has its flagship camera, the Panasonic GH-5 primarily aimed at videographers, with this new Panasonic G9 Micro Four Thirds camera, it has taken most of these features and added extra stills photography features and bundled it all into an impressive smaller, lighter camera which is also, importantly, less expensive than both the GH-5 or the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II.

Specs compared to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II:

Both cameras offer a 20mp sensor with in-camera 5 axis image stabilisation, 6.5EV Dual IS and weathersealing with sports features of fast burst rates with continuous autofocus in either mechanical shutter or electronic shutter.

The newly announced Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 OIS lens may well make a compelling reason for many to look at purchasing the G9 (I for one would love a 200mm f/2.8 OIS lens with 6.5EV IS but alas, at $US2999 that is not likely to be an option for me) – although I presume Olympus are working on a similar lens – it is just extremely frustrating for Micro Four Thirds users than Olympus and Panasonic refuse to allow cross-compatibility of their optical image stabilisation functionality, aperture ring functionality and DFD AF functionality. I can understand the commercial reasons but, seriously guys, you promised a Micro Four Thirds system – please make it completely cross-compatible!

Panasonic G9 Olympus OM-D E-M1 II
price $US1699 $US1999
electronic shutter burst rates 20mp RAW: 20fps CAF, 60fps SAF; 18mp 30fps, 8mp 60fps 20mp RAW: 18fps CAF; 60fps SAF;
mechanical shutter burst rates 9fps CAF; 12fps SAF; 10fps CAF; 15fps SAF;
EVF 3.68mDot; 120fps; 0.86x mag. 120fps, 2.36M-dot EVF; 0.74x mag
AF points 225 CDAF only; DFD CAF 121 DUAL crosstype PDAF and CDAF;
Pre-capture mode images prior to shutter release: 0.4sec of RAW files up to last 14 RAW files
4K video 30p/60p 24/30p 237Mbps
HiRes mode: 8 image 80mp 8 image 50mp
Dual card slots both are UHS-II SD card slots only one is UHS-II SD card slot
weight: 579g 574g
other features: top LCD status screen; USB charging; Dual IS and DFD CAF only with Panasonic lenses; in-camera Preset MF focus range settings; Live Composite; LiveTimed; 3 MySets on top dial; Dual IS only with Olympus OIS lenses