The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III and rumors that Olympus may sell its imaging division

Written by Gary on November 12th, 2019

Yesterday, the internet was hit with a rumor that Olympus may be selling its imaging division within the next 12 months – I do not have any contacts with Olympus and I do not know if this rumor has any truth in it or not.

ALL camera manufacturers have been hit hard by the sustained downturn in camera sales and we are in the midst of a major change of dSLRs to mirrorless full-frame which is unsettling buyers everywhere.

Personally, I would dearly hope they they don’t sell it off as Olympus have shown the photography world that not only are they among the leading innovators in camera technologies, but their OM-D line of cameras have been built with the photographer in mind – they are small, light, compact yet highly customizable, fully featured cameras that are not only stylish and ergonomic to handle but are fun to use.

No other camera manufacturer has been able to design cameras with all of these qualities in one camera.

It started off in 2012 with the original OM-D, the Olympus E-M5 which truly revolutionised the mirrorless camera world and made mirrorless cameras a viable option because for the first time, they were able to combine all the following features into a fun camera:

  • awesome weathersealing, so good, that you could pour a bottle of water over it and not worry
  • great retro styling
  • small enough to fit in a jacket pocket with a pancake lens
  • high image quality – the 16mp sensor was a massive improvement over the previous 12mp sensors, and not because of the increase in pixel numbers, but its dynamic range and high ISO performance was much improved
  • the fastest, most accurate AF system then on the market for relatively still subjects, and they were the first to include closest eye AF detection which was a god-send
  • their incredible innovative class leading 5 axis in body sensor shift image stabilization system which would work even with legacy lenses
  • an electronic viewfinder that was at last good enough for most people not to miss their optical viewfinders
  • a flip out touch sensitive rear screen which could be used to select the AF point and immediately take the shot
  • a fast 9fps mechanical shutter burst rate which rates well with the pro sports dSLRs of the day, albeit with AF locked
  • flash sync to 1/250th sec
  • unique innovate night modes such as Timed Bulb and Timed Live modes where you can do well past the usual timed limit of 30secs as with most other cameras, and in addition you can see the image “developing”, while the Live Boost allows easier visualisation of stars, etc.
  • a range of lovely small prime lenses which were a pleasure to travel with and yet provided adequate shallow depth of field for most purposes, excellent sharpness and combined with the IBIS, excellent hand holdable low light performance of static subjects as well as hand holdable infrared photography using very dark R72 filters
  • wonderful ergonomics of its extremely customisable buttons and dual dial control system
  • image stabilised magnified view for accurate manual focus
  • unique innovative Live Histogram so you can better analyse your exposure setting BEFORE you take the shot
  • an adequate image stabilised video mode of 1080 30p which was the standard at that time
  • an of course the ultrasonic sensor dust removal system which Olympus pioneered
  • optional battery holder grip for when you need longer battery life or a better grip to hold heavier lenses
  • optional underwater housings
  • and don’t forget, IT WAS FUN to use!

 

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

The 2nd version of the E-M5 in 2015 was a substantial evolutionary improvement over the original which updated various components and added a few extras such as swivel out fully articulating screen, Live Composite mode for stacking night images, 64mp HiRes pixel shift mode, improved video codec and image stabilisation, 1/16,000th sec electronic shutter which could do bursts to 11fps, mechanical shutter to 1/8000th sec, electronic first-curtain shutter mode, improved EVF, autoHDR, keystone correction, colour creator, focus peaking, and WiFi remote control with smartphone apps BUT this was still missing two important features PDAF for AF of fast moving subjects, and 4K video.

The new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

With the 3rd incarnation, the Olympus OM-D E-M5III, Olympus has essentially completed the package of what any photographer could really want in a light, compact, Micro Four Thirds camera by adding in most of the sports and video features of the pro Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark II which I so love.

The 20mp sensor is the same as in the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark II and has 121 all cross point PDAF which allows excellent subject tracking at up to 10fps (6fps mechanical) and can do Pro capture mode whereby 14 full RAW frames can be captured BEFORE the shutter is fully released thereby allowing capture of unexpected action before human reaction lag time.

The AntiFlicker mode makes capture in indoor lighting so much better while the EVF has been further improved to 2.36mdots.

Video now allows Cinema 4K 24p as well as 24-120p 1080 FullHD video to create Slo-Mo videos, all with minimal Rolling Shutter thanks to a fast sensor readout.

The even smaller size and lighter weight when combined with the swivel out selfie mode rear screen, the awesome image stabilisation and a light wide angle lens such as a 12mm f/2.0 creates perhaps THE BEST selfie vlogging tool for walks short of using a drone. This little outfit should fit into most jacket pockets!

When you need to use larger lenses then just add on the optional grip for better ergonomics.

This makes it one of the best family / travel / enthusiast cameras available.

But what about the rumor?

Rumors such as these would scare off most people from buying into the system, BUT this is a unique system and it is comprehensive and there is also Panasonic which has stated it is committed to this system earlier this year despite themselves also entering the full frame market.

No other system can offer such small, light, high quality telephoto lenses, for example, I love using the Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO zoom which covers 80-300mm in full frame terms – but I would not be wanting to carry around a weathersealed, high quality 80-300mm full frame lens on my hikes or travels!

If the rumor is true and Olympus sells off its highly valuable imaging division, and likely buyers may be Sony, Samsung or Panasonic given they would be the main ones large enough to take on such a system.

Whilst I am not a fan of how Samsung or Sony have designed their cameras in the past, Sony at least is the leading sensor manufacturer and may incorporate Olympus ergonomics into the range of future cameras, while maintaining a Micro Four Thirds presence to to provide a truly compact option. Sony have always seemed to value compact cameras, but unfortunately, their APS-C and full frame cameras, whilst being compact, have had to use large, heavy lenses – Micro Four Thirds may just add that extra capability of smaller lenses that they have always been chasing.

Perhaps the only real stumbling block for Sony is the different flash systems, but in the current world, these differences have been overcome by users choosing universal flash systems such as Godox and Cactus, so users will probably not feel this incompatibility is as serious as it seems.

Would Samsung venture back into the camera market again after its failed NX series venture and in a world where there are declining camera sales? I think not.

Would Panasonic acquire the Olympus gear to value add to their Micro Four Thirds system? This would make a lot of sense as the Panasonic cameras tend to target videographers while Olympus has targeted still photographers, so the two camera styles could co-exist, and it would be an opportunity for Panasonic to at last make the two brands fully compatible (eg. DFD AF working with Olympus lenses, Dual IS working with both brand lenses, aperture controls on lenses working with Olympus cameras).

The worst case scenario is that Olympus ends their imaging division and can’t find a buyer, and then Panasonic decides to also give up on Micro Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds is no more. This would seem an unlikely scenario, as at the very least I would think there would be enterprising Chinese companies out their willing to take on the Micro Four Thirds system if the price was right.

I just hope whatever happens, the style and functionality of the current Olympus OM-D cameras is continued by whoever takes this on, but hopefully, Olympus in their 100th anniversary would not be giving up now.

There is opportunity to continue to undercut the full frame cameras which seem to be going up in price each year to levels far too high for most families and enthusiasts and hence there is a market for such amazingly good cameras as these OM-Ds, as long as the price is right and there is reassurance that the Micro Four Thirds system will remain viable.

 

Venice re-visited with a tilt-shift lens

Written by Gary on October 21st, 2019

Venice has to be my most favorite city to stroll around and photograph – once you escape the crowds or explore it outside of the busy periods.

There is no denying its visual appeal, practically no matter where you walk, you can find photographic subjects – and this is perhaps the problem with Venice – there is so much it is overwhelming in quantity of imagery that it is often taken for granted.

Why does a unique city like Venice even exist?

Who in their right minds would build a city on a swamp land which floods the city frequently every time a king tide comes in.

It seems the story begins around 800AD borne out of necessity to escape the barbarian hordes on horseback invading Italy from the north as a result of the fall of the Roman Empire several centuries earlier.

Horses and swamps are not a great mix, but the early Venetians had a massive problem – fish to eat and water all around but no fresh potable water to drink. The clever Venetians designed an amazing solution – to build self-filtering wells in the centre of campi (squares) so the rainwater could be directed via gutters into an underground area of sand which filtered the water but prevented the water mixing with sea water by having the massive underground pits lined with clay. The filtered water would then pass through “pozzali” (bricks) and into the well pipe from which it could be extracted by authorized citizens who prevented it from becoming soiled, and kept it locked to secure it.  The surface area of the campi collecting rainwater equated to around 10% of the city’s surface area and each inhabitant had a right to around 6L of water per day.

These wells were critical to the success of the developing city, and when rain water was inadequate, from 1386, they were filled by water brought by boat from the mainland. The “acquaroli” who brought the water by boat also took the rubbish back to the mainland.

In 1609, a water channel was built to bring water from the Brenta River to Moranzani to reduce the distance of boat transport of the water.

NB. If the following images do not display in correct aspect ratio for your device, click on them an open them in a new browser tab. Unless specified, most of these images were taken using the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro lens – although slightly longer and heavier than one would like for travel, it is easily my most favorite travel lens which allows me to find vignettes and get past the crowds. There is no equivalent lens in the full frame market which can match the range and quality of this lens and this value adds to my Micro Four Thirds cameras significantly.

One of the hundreds of now dis-used wells with their secured tops in place.

In 1884, an underground water pipeline was completed which was the beginning of the end of the wells which had become difficult to maintain and were inadequate for the needs of the population.

One of the first wells to be removed, was the one in San Marco as this is the lowest part of the city and most prone to flooding, the well was perhaps most at risk and indeed it was frequently spoiled, and with the new pipeline opening, a fountain was created in the piazza.
The above photo was taken with a tilt shift lens with 3 bracketed exposures to allow the beautiful clouds at dawn to be rendered.
Doge’s Palace and San Marco at dawn. Taken with a tilt shift lens with 3 bracketed exposures.
The original bridges in Venice were made of timber and were relatively flat to allow horses and carriages to cross, while the city itself was made largely of timber creating a major fire risk. It is for this reason that a decision was made to ban the industry of glass making from the city and instead transplant it to the nearby island of Murano where the trade secrets were regarded with critical importance such that those workers were never allowed to leave Venice. They were well compensated for this although it did not totally prevent their skills escaping to northern Europe.
Packing up the wares for the day and hanging out the washing in Murano – a must visit island along with Burano – fantastic places to escape the crowds of Venice proper and explore the colorful villages where the houses are each brightly colored apparently to assist the fishermen finding their homes.
It is a fairly leisurely life for many of the locals on Murano.
Strolling around Murano….
Murano
The island of Burano is known for its textile industry and laces, but like most of Venice, it also has its leaning towers as depicted here as a tourist walks past in the reflection.
Burano
Umbrella vendor in Burano.
A canal in Burano
Venice conservatory region.
Interior of Chiesa di San Vidal
Many “aesthetic” towns have a uniform building code to create the appeal such as on the Greek islands most obvious on Santorini, but I love Venice because each building is different, and yet they all belong.
A gondolier awaiting business.
Even powered boats look cool in Venice.
Tourists strolling in the afternoon sun past a church of which I have forgotten the name. Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 lens with keystone correction.
A slow day for this salesman.
Chiesa di San Giacomo di Rialto
A lone tourist trying to find her way out of the maze of dead end walk-ways. Although this design was probably necessary, I can imagine how much easier it would have made for the locals to trap any invading force of foot soldiers.
I do love the ancient urban grunge, would Tintoretto, the Mannerist painter love it too?
Note the buildings are numbered and these numbers are not restricted to a given street as in most other cities but they apply to a region of Venice. This makes using Google maps even more difficult as the locals may juts use the address 2905 San Marco, and that will not be located by Google. Even if you do find your location on Google maps, the GPS is often inaccurate whilst you are in the more narrow lane-ways as it struggles to reach the satellites.
surely he could not resist such beauty?
and through each secret tunnel there is more … far more…
even the modern day artists have had a go at creating their own textures only to see it decay away into yet another form of beauty
and one could not write about Venice without mentioning the famed Venetian masks – the festivals which have caused so much grief to the law makers over the years as the masks were used to hide many nefarious or otherwise activities!
perhaps the feature of love the most is the retention of the lovely old street lamps whether they be stand alone as with this one, or the lovely ones attached to the walls of the many narrow lane-ways. This one is near arsenal which was once the greatest industrial centre in the world, building war ships and which was the main employment in Venice at the time.
a 3 shot bracketed exposures using a tilt-shift lens for perspective control to capture the lovely lamps in San Marco at dawn with the morning storm clouds starting to recede to make way for yet another day’s onslaught of tourist crowds.
water bottles at the ready for the start of a new day
and the tourists wake up and start to explore this awesome place they call Venice – another 3 shot bracketed exposure with the tilt shift lens.
many of who will come to see the ornate San Marco church.
and commence their walks until the day is no more

When one walks an average of 10km a day around these cities on holiday travels, a small, light, compact camera kit such as the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 mark III would allow a lot less back strain than carrying a Sony with the massive, heavy Canon TS-E 17mm tilt shift as I did on some days (it did end up being left in the room most days!).

 

A winter’s morning in Melbourne with the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 tilt shift lens on a Sony a7II

Written by Gary on July 28th, 2019

Last weekend I had time for a short walk in Melbourne’s mid-winter sunshine and I decided to bring along my Sony a7II with Canon TSE 17mm f/4 tilt shift lens.

I shot most of these at f/8 or f/10 hand held and with the shift position optimised for the height of the buildings while trying to keep the camera level. I used the zebra mode to manually focus although given the aperture and wide depth of field this was not going to be critical.

Some of the images I decided to shoot in continuous 3 shot AE bracketing mode in case I decided to create a HDR in Affinity Photo, although most of these were mainly processed to B&W in OnOne Photo RAW 2019.

You can click on these to open up a much larger version.

3 shot HDR of Melbourne Conference Centre and the Polly Woodside ship
3 shot HDR processed to give a typical color HDR effect – some like this effect, some hate it.
hmm… I am not sure this has been corrected perfectly but then I am not an architectural photographer professional.
3 shot HDR with shift hand held into the low morning sun.

The question is, would these have been better had I used the new 61mp Sony a7R IV instead of this 24mp camera – the only way you would see the difference is if I posted a small crop or the full size images and you zoomed in to pixel peep at the detail, or perhaps if I printed a very large wall print and you moved in close to view it.

If I really wanted lots of megapixels, I could have used this 17mm tilt shift on the new Fujifilm GFX 100S 102megapixel medium format camera but then this lens behaves more like a 14mm lens, and at full shift there will be some vignetting. If you want to see more on Canon tilt shift lenses on this camera system, see this Youtube review.

Hence for most of us, 20-24 megapixels is plenty!

Why didn’t I use my Olympus OM-D E-M1 II?

Unfortunately there are no shift lens options available for Micro Four Thirds that give you 17mm field of view in full frame terms, and of course this Canon lens becomes a 34mm on Micro Four Thirds, although I could use my focal length reducer adapter to get it back to around 24mm field of view.

I had hoped someone would make a Four Thirds to Micro Four Thirds adapter with shift capability so I could use my superb old Four Thirds Olympus 7-14mm f/4 Super Pro lens in this manner but even then I am not sure the image circle will allow for sufficient shift without vignetting, but this lens does allow me to go wider at 14mm full frame equivalent which may then require less shift.

I could have used my Olympus mZD 8mm f/1.8 fisheye and then de-fished it and then adjusted keystone effect and cropped, or perhaps my Olympus micro ZD 7-14mm f/2.8 would have sufficed for this purpose – but either way, I would lose pixels and potentially a little image quality by post-processing in this way.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II has in-camera keystone adjustments so much of the guess work can be removed which does allow for better compositions if you do have to resort to keystone post-processing.

 

Why a 61 megapixel camera is probably too much for you – post-processing may not be so much fun

Written by Gary on July 22nd, 2019

The megapixel race is apparently still on .. Sony has upped the ante in the full frame sector with their 61mp Sony a7R Mark IV which can also do a 16 shot sensor shift 240mp image.

Fujifilm has their new 100mp Fujifilm GFX100S medium format camera.

Whilst many professionals and enthusiasts have very valid reasons for needing such high resolution cameras, these come at a cost not only in terms of purchase price and file storage costs but also in terms of post-processing frustrations due to their massive file sizes.

The Sony a7R IV is said to have 124Mb RAW files and apparently if you shoot the 16 shot Hi Res image you will be up for a 2Gb file!

Unfortunately, they have not allowed you to have a full frame RAW file in lossless format at lower resolution so that means you are committed to shooting every one of your full frame shots at 61mp – although you do have an option for a 62Mb compressed lossy RAW file or a 24mp APS-C crop file.

Let’s see what happens to file sizes in post-processing

I recently decided to purchase Affinity Photo to play with as it has been many years since I used Photoshop and I am certainly not going to be paying Adobe in my retirement an annual subscription fee just so I can re-use my old edits.

So far I have been impressed with Affinity Photo, and perhaps will write a more detailed analysis of some very cool things it can do for your photography at some later time, in the meantime you can check out resource links and video links on my wiki page here.

I went for a walk up onto the nearby mount on the weekend, and yes it was cold, but I needed the exercise, and on my way up, I took this quick hand held shot with my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with the Olympus mZD 60mm macro lens (I decided to travel extra light!).

straight from camera

This was the image straight from camera with Olympus Natural profile, autoWB and just resized for the web using Lightroom v6.

The RAW file of this 20mp 12bit image was a lovely, easy to handle 19Mb – yes, no problem shooting off a hundred or so of these on a shoot, or shooting at 18fps at a sports event or capturing wildlife.

But after watching a video tutorial or twenty on how to play with Affinity Photo, I decided I would create some light rays and a touch of fog from the highlights of this image without adding in ready made ones.

sun rays and fog

After a bit of experimenting I came up with the above, I am not sure it really is an improvement on the original, I am feeling it is much like some music which has too many notes in it, but each to his own, some people like Rachmaninoff instead of Pink Floyd.

The point I have been labouring to get to is that this above file in Affinity Photo’s internal format in 16bit AdobeRGB is no longer 19Mb but a whopping 1GB thanks largely to its use of layers, and that is not even a complex post-processing case!

Now if my simple 19Mb image gets to 1Gb so easily, just imagine how your poor high end computer is going to strain with playing with a 61mp 124Mb file that is already almost 10x the size, let alone starting off with a 2Gb HiRes file!

There are better ways to improve your photography than just by megapixels

For some purposes you may just need the extra megapixels, but in many instances you actually will get better photos by taking a number of shots depending upon your needs such as:

  • managing high contrast scenes with HDR exposure bracketing
  • managing depth of field by using focus stacking
  • managing transient imagery such as fireworks by blending images in a similar way to Olympus Live Composite mode
  • managing high ISO noise by stacking 10-50 images to average out the noise
  • creating a panoramic stitch to give you more detail and more scene coverage
  • shooting a burst of images to ensure you have captured the correct moment

A high resolution camera such as a 61mp full frame may well give you 61mp but if there is camera shake, subject movement, marginal focus error, high ISO or use of an older lens, then those 61mp may well be wasted but you still end up with having to deal with the massive files.

At the top of my walk up the mount I was greeted by real sun rays, no Photoshopping here to add them in (but you can watch this video on how to add in God’s rays to your images using Affinity Photo if that’s your thing).

These scenes are not simply captured in one shot as the dynamic range is far too great – for this I resorted to a 3 shot hand held exposure bracket and then used Affinity Photo’s awesome HDR tools to align the 3 images and perform 32bit tone mapping and some contrast adjustments and cropping to 16:9 aspect ratio and a 249Mb image.

I ended up with the following lovely little shot (the individual single shot exposures looked terrible due to the high contrast, but combined, they now look more like how my eyes witnessed this scene):

real sun rays

You need to open this up in a separate tab by clicking on it.

 

Two new full frame mirrorless cameras – Sigma FP and the Sony a7R IV

Written by Gary on July 17th, 2019

The full frame mirrorless market place is becoming increasing difficult to decide upon which system to jump into as each offers something different but none offer everything you need – see my previous post on this.

We have Nikon’s Z system which only has entry level enthusiasts cameras at present without some of the features pros need and with a Eye detect AF that is still very immature compared to Sony as it seems to detect eyelashes instead of the iris, and a strange initial line up of lenses. A potential big advantage of the Nikon mount is that it can use almost any lens ever made including Sony FE and potentially, Canon RF – the question will be – how well will the AF work with these lenses. We now just have to wait and see what Nikon can do with their cameras and what native lenses they decide to bring out and whether they will be affordable.

Canon with their new RF mount has been introducing some ground breaking lenses which will be far more functional and optically better than their dSLR versions (in particular, the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2) but it has only introduced uninspiring entry level cameras and none have in-camera sensor shift image stabilisation which is now an expected feature in cameras.

Add to this the new medium format mirrorless camera with image stabilisation, the Fujifilm GFX100S with its “relatively” affordable 100mp medium format image quality and one can see there is pressure on the full frame camera manufacturers.

The new Sigma FP L mount camera

Last week Sigma, which has joined the L-mount alliance with Panasonic and Leica, announced a camera from left field – their pocketable Sigma FP full frame mirrorless camera which is designed to be the heart of a powerful, modular videography kit and allows Cinema RAW video output. You can read more about this interesting camera on my wikipedia page.

In addition, it is likely Sigma will be bringing out other interesting cameras in this mount such as a Foveon sensor for those Foveon fans.

Now that 3 companies are making cameras and lenses (and Sigma has a substantial arsenal of lens designs ready to go), the L-mount may become quite competitive – especially for videographers.

The new Sony a7R IV

Yesterday, Sony announced their 4th generation of the Sony a7R series, the Sony a7R IV which obviously targets professional photographers who need the highest resolution possible to allow their images to be utilised in a variety of ways by their clients through cropping of different parts for different output purposes.

The main differences over the Sony a7RIII are:

  • 61mp sensor instead of 45mp – this takes the pixel density and pixel size to that approaching Micro Four Thirds, but somehow Sony have maintained a high dynamic range of 15 stops for stills.
  • a new 5.76mdot EVF with 60 or 120fps refresh rate (the latter has lower resolution) – presumably the same as on the Panasonic S1/S1R
  • sensor pixel shift HiRes mode now produces 16 shot 240mp output images
  • improved shutter, grip and weathersealing around battery and card doors which have been an Achilles heel for the previous models
  • slightly greater PDAF coverage of 74% of the frame instead of 68%
  • advanced Real-time Tracking plus Real-time Eye AF for still image recording
  • new ‘Focus Priority’ mode allows camera to acquire AF at wide open aperture at a cost of increased shutter lag
  • Real-time Eye AF and Touch AF Tracking functionality for movie recording
  • anti-flicker mode
  • new Multi Interface Shoe™ with new digital audio interface delivers the high-quality sound recording with Sony’s new microphone and XLR microphone adapter
  • USB-C now has double transfer speed
  • both SD card slots are now UHS-II
  • 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi for improved tethering

Issues with the Sony a7R IV:

  • very large file sizes means storage issues and slower and more frustrating post-processing and one would be hard pressed to see the difference between a 45mp image and a 61mp image – you generally need to double resolution to be able to see a substantive difference.
  • what will high ISO performance be like if pixel size is now approaching that of Micro Four Thirds? 60-100mp makes sense on a medium format camera with its larger sensor – but what will be the image quality costs of such high pixel density on a full frame sensor size – we will have to await testing.
  • no option for lower resolution full frame files with lossless compression – but you can use their lossy compression files or use a 26mp APS-C cropped sensor mode
  • video features lag well behind peers and are little changed from the a7RIII with only 8bit output, the Super35mm modes are cropped more than one would like (1.6x in 24p and 1.8x in 30p) while the full width mode uses binned pixels, and no 4K 60p mode, plus rolling shutter is likely to be a major issue.
  • menu system apparently unchanged and this is in need of a change
  • seems you still can’t get your 5th finger to hold the camera which makes adding a grip more of an ergonomic necessity with larger, heavier lenses.
  • LCD is still only a tilting LCD not swivel and no good for vlogging
  • no electronic shutter faster burst modes – presumably due to slow sensor read out time as the sensor is full frame with 61mp and unlike the Sony a9 it is not a stacked sensor.

Sony has certainly upped the ante on Canon and Nikon and especially at the price point of $US3499 it will be challenging them head on and at the same time the 61mp and the 240mp HiRes mode will likely decrease the move of pros to 100mp medium format cameras.

Sony has obviously decided to leave the video capabilities to minimalistic levels given the slow sensor read out to allow for a new version of their Sony a7S series which targets videographers – but they will be having to compete with Panasonic and Sigma now for this market.

This camera will be popular for pros and gear-heads but the far majority of us do not need that resolution for all our photos and having to store all those files and have the fun taken out of your photography with the slow and frustrating post-processing experience will be a cost you have to factor in – most of us would probably be better off with a 20-24mp camera for most uses, but some without budget issues would perhaps like this camera for special uses.

As usual, I have a wiki page for the Sony a7RIV which I will update with links and resources as they arrive.

 

Upgrading to an Olympus OM-D E-M1 II from an E-M5 or E-M10

Written by Gary on July 10th, 2019

While the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Micro Four Thirds camera is getting a bit old having been announced way back in Sept 2016, the recent firmware upgrade that Olympus has kindly offered has breathed new life into it and makes it a very attractive option for those with an E-M5 Mark II or E-M10 series camera, especially if one can get it at discounted prices.

What are the main differences compared to the E-M5 series?

  • grip is built in making it bigger and with better ergonomics and build than when using an add on grip as was needed with the E-M5
  • new bigger and much longer life battery – sorry the old ones can’t be used.
  • better image quality – 20mp vs 16mp, 1 EV better high ISO noise and improved dynamic range and no low-pass filter for more detail
  • further improved image stabiliser now to 6.5EV with OIS lenses
  • much faster image processor Truepic VIII with double quad core is 3.5x faster than the Truepic VII in the E-M1 which also helps to reduce the start up time (the E-M5 II uses Truepic VII)
  • two SD card slots one of which is UHS-II compatible for even faster saving of images and video allowing faster burst rates and 4K 30p video
  • improved silent shutter – to 1/32,000th sec and 18fps or 60fps burst with much less rolling shutter and a flash sync of 1/50th sec in silent shutter mode
  • much improved AutoISO – can now use exposure compensation with it in Manual exposure mode and you can set the slowest shutter speed to use in A or P exposure modes
  • can now use the 2×2 switch as the Power On/Off switch for one handed use
  • new electronic viewfinder with faster refresh rate
  • Frame Rate Priority added to Live View Boost/On2 display
  • PASM dial now has 3 custom modes you can use BUT you no longer have Scene modes given this is meant for people who shouldn’t need to resort to these
  • automatically saves your settings to computer and restores them during firmware upgrades – and you do this manually too if you have a range of settings
  • improved HiRes mode – processor tries to reduce blur from moving subjects and now produces 50mp jpegs not 40mp
  • improved menu system
  • new AF Scan will allow users to adjust the lens scan operation settings in low-contrast environments to prevent unnecessary hunting
  • much improved video – 4K 24/30p, Cinema 4K at 237Mbps quality , much better continuous AF and image stabilisation during movies, Log profiles for better grading during editing
  • anti-flicker mode to prevent unstable exposures when shooting indoors.
  • improved Focus Stacking – from 3 to 15 shots can be selected in Focus Stacking and guide lines have been added to the shooting area
  • Support for Olympus Workspace new USB RAW Data Edit

BUT, the real benefits are in shooting moving subjects

The E-M5 series of cameras were not designed for tracking moving subjects and indeed had trouble focusing on them if they were moving too fast.

Not so with the E-M1 II, it has a multitude of features which helps the photographer capture wildlife, sports or any other moving subject much more reliably and faster than ever before in an Olympus camera, and currently is only bettered by the much bigger and much more expensive new Olympus OM-D E-M1X.

Let’s look at shutter and EVF improvements that are not on the E-M5 II:

  • EVF has faster refresh giving 60% faster response rate and virtually no blackout when following a moving subject
  • silent shutter mode allows 18fps with C-AF or an incredible 60fps with focus locked on first image (EM5II could only do 11fps) and does this with much reduced rolling shutter artefacts (see my previous blog)
  • mechanical shutter allows C-AF to 10fps and can do 15fps with focus locked on first image (E-M5 II could do 5fps with some C-AF and 11fps with locked focus)
  • much faster card writing speed and the buffer is much larger
  • you can get to 1/32,000th sec in silent mode instead of 1/16,000th sec which might be useful for freezing some subjects
  • camera does not freeze up during writing files after a burst

But the real deal is the massive AF improvements:

The biggest difference is the E-M1 series have PDAF detectors on the sensor not just CDAF detectors and these PDAF detectors work far better for moving subjects than do CDAF detectors – the E-M1 II has 121 cross-type PDAF detectors which cover 80% of each axis of the image to ensure that you have a better chance of locking onto your subject no matter where it is in the frame.

The PDAF detectors also mean far better AF performance when used with lenses from other dSLR systems such as Four Thirds (via Olympus MMF-3 adapter) or Canon EF (via AF-compatible adapters such as the Metabones adapter).

These PDAF detectors are supported by some very useful AF features, some of which are unique to the Olympus E-M1 series:

  • improved AF region options including the new 25 point region which makes birds in flight easier
  • better AF in low light – now works down to -6EV
  • new “AF Cluster Display” can display the AF points being used to track the subject in real time
  • C-AF Center Priority delivers high-precision tracking of moving subjects and sudden subject movement whereby the centre is prioritised in the Group AF target settings but if the centre cannot lock on, the surrounding points will be used
  • AF algorithms for much better subject tracking (same as the E-M1X but no AI tracking of trains, motorbikes, etc)
  • customizable C-AF tracking sensitivity allows users to choose the best setting for their subject to optimize C-AF tracking performance
  • new, unique, in-camera AF limiter to achieve faster focusing by limiting the focus range of ANY compatible lens, thus preventing time-consuming focus hunting and much more versatile than the AF limiter which is found on some lenses. You can turn this on or off easily by assigning it to one of the buttons. This is great for shooting at sports grounds where you can set it to ignore focus ranges such as the crowd on the opposite side of the ground – no other camera system can do this!
  • in-camera Preset MF lets users quickly set a focus distance when using manual focus and allows one to change rapidly from AF back to this preset MF distance – this can be turned on or off easily by assigning it to one of the buttons.
  • 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 – this is great if you are waiting for a bird to take flight, or you are shooting someone coming over the jump but you can’t see them coming until the last second.
  • C-AF+MF1 which allows users to instantly switch to MF by turning the focus ring while in C-AF for fine tuning the focus. This requires an additional firmware update to most of the PRO lenses.
  • Once you have worked out what settings work best for your subject, you can assign these to a custom setting which is rapidly accessible from the PASM dial.

Summary

Upgrading gives you an amazing new level of capabilities, particularly for shooting moving subjects and tracking them, but learning how to use these will take some time and practice.

There are a few minor downsides to upgrading:

  • it is bigger and a little heavier – but to me this is much more ergonomic when using larger lenses such as the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 which I love as my main walk-around lens.
  • it is not compatible with your old batteries or their charger so you need to buy a new spare.
  • there are no Scene modes – you will have to learn how to do these yourself!
  • you will have to get used to the new control layout and menu layout

But, these are all very minor compared to the fantastic improvements you are gaining and the E-M1 II will take your photography learning experience to new levels and provide a far more versatile tool.

Of course, you could wait for the Olympus E-M1 Mark III but that could be 2020 and is likely to be much more expensive than the current discounts one can get on the Mark II, and if you don’t need any of these features, don’t waste your money and stick with what you have got.

 

Understanding why silent shutter mode is great on some cameras but is problematic on most full frame cameras

Written by Gary on July 4th, 2019

Silent shutter mode refers to a full electronic shutter being used to take the photo on a digital camera and the mechanical shutter mechanism being disabled.

Why use silent shutter mode?

  • this mode is required for shooting movies on digital cameras
  • it allows silent shooting which may be critical in low noise environments such as a classical music concert, or wedding reception.
  • it allows faster burst rates (eg. 18fps with C-AF and 60fps with S-AF on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II)
  • it avoids excessive use of the mechanical shutter which has a limited life – most are rated at around 150,000 shots
  • it avoids shutter shock which blurs all images at shutter speeds 1/4 sec to 1/200th sec unless you use electronic first curtain shutter mode (EFCS) which is a partial electronic shutter and available on most new cameras

What are the problems with using a silent shutter mode?

  • your subject can’t hear when you take the shot
  • you may get banding when shooting in artificial light at faster shutter speeds
  • you may get distorted / slanted lines on moving subjects or if you are panning the camera – this is called rolling shutter.
  • you may have to use very slow shutter speeds when using flash otherwise only part of the image will be illuminated by the flash

Most of the problems are related to slow sensor readouts

How does a slow sensor readout cause rolling shutter?

  • a digital camera sensor must read data from each row of photosites on the sensor sequentially up or down the sensor and thus each row “sees” a potentially different scene in time
  • thus if one shoots a bus moving across the scene, the top of the bus will be imaged to one side of the image while the bottom of the bus will be imaged towards the other side of the image creating a slanting line of all the vertical lines of the bus.
  • the faster the sensor read out occurs, the more vertical is the final line in the image and the less “rolling shutter”
  • dpreview has a nice explanation here.

What are the determinants of sensor readout speed?

  • sensor readout time is determined by:
    • photosite size – larger photosites take longer to read hence a 20mp full frame sensor will be slower and with more rolling shutter than a 20mp cropped sensor camera such as Micro Four Thirds, all else being equal.
    • bit rates – a 14 bit read out takes longer than 12 bit as there is more data to collect hence some cameras revert to 12bit mode in silent shooting
    • number of megapixels – the more rows to read out, the longer it will take, this is part of the reason why high resolution full frame cameras (eg. 45mp or more) do not make great video cameras – everything is a compromise
    • engineering – some cameras (eg. Panasonic GH5) are designed to slow down the read out rate at higher ISOs to improve image noise
    • sensor design – stacked sensors generally have faster read out rates (eg. Sony a9), but these are much more complex and expensive to make

Which cameras have moderately fast sensor readouts and minimal rolling shutter?

To put this in perspective analog film movie cameras which have a rotating shutter mechanism have the equivalent of sensor readout of 5msec or 1/200th shutter speed, and this is also a similar amount when shooting with film or digital cameras in mechanical shutter mode.

Digital cameras with similar rolling shutter capabilities in electronic mode include the Arri Alexa Mini video camera, the Canon C300 II video camera, and uniquely in the still camera market, the Sony a9 with its stacked sensor design.

Cropped sensor cameras such as the Fuji XT-3, Panasonic GH-5, Olympus OM-D E-M1X and Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark II all have minimal rolling shutter thanks to a sensor read out of 20msec or faster (note the GH5 has a much slower sensor read out if shot above ISO 800).

Which cameras have slow sensor readouts and thus problematic rolling shutter?

Apart from the Sony a9, ALL full frame and medium format cameras have relatively SLOW sensor readout times of around 30msec or slower, with the Fujifilm GXF 50S medium format camera coming in at a whopping 250msec or incredibly slow 1/4 sec, the Sony a7RIII at 70msec or 1/15thsec, the Nikon Z7 and Nikon D850 at 64msec or 1/15thsec (although it can get to 1/40th sec in cropped mode), Nikon Z6 at 44msec or 1/22nd sec, Sony a7III at around 1/15th-1/30th sec.

Older cameras have slower read outs such as the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark I which had a read out time of 77msec or 1/13th sec.

I would avoid using silent shutter mode on these cameras for sports!

How can you measure your camera’s sensor read out time?

There are several ways of measuring this and perhaps this creates the variances on the measurements people quote on the internet for each camera.

The easy way is to set the camera in silent shutter mode and ensure the camera is set to allow flash in silent mode (this may be a menu setting), then take shots at different shutter speeds and the fastest shutter speed that has the full image illuminated by the flash is the read out.

Some people measure the degree of distortion of rotating vertical lines, and others use oscilloscopes.

How will this issue be fixed in the future?

In the short term, perhaps stacked sensor technologies will be more utilised as with the Sony a9 but this is complex and expensive.

In the medium term (perhaps 5-10 years), we will see sensors with “global read outs” (ie. sensor read out time difference from top to bottom of sensor will be zero) developed which address the current problems of complexity, image noise and cost. These will be game changers as these will not only eradicate rolling shutter, artificial light banding but allow flash sync at any shutter speed and be far more effective than the very limiting current high speed shutter (HSS or Super FP) modes on current cameras.

For more details, see my wiki page for links and more resources.

 

Pros and cons of using teleconverters

Written by Gary on June 29th, 2019

Most camera systems have at least two teleconverters (“TC”) – a 1.4x and a 2x power (new camera systems such as Canon R and Nikon Z are yet to develop these).

These little devices are designed to sit between the camera and the lens and contain optical lenses which magnify your image according to which strength you have.

These are also called tele-extenders – not to be confused with a macro extension tubes which have a different function – that of allowing more magnification by allowing you to focus more closely.

Benefits of teleconverters

These are light, small and relatively inexpensive (although high quality ones may set you back $500-$1000 – but this may still be cheaper than buying a more powerful lens and certainly lighter and more compact than carrying two lenses).

A 1.4x teleconverter will give you a bit more “zoom” effect, so your 200mm lens effectively becomes 1.4 x 200 = 280mm in focal length.

A 2.0x teleconverter will give you a lot more “zoom” effect, so your 200mm lens effectively becomes 2 x 200 = 400mm in focal length.

This increased magnification can also be very handy for close up macrophotography work where magnification may be important, for instance the Olympus 300mm f/4 lens when used with the Olympus MC-20 2x TC can give almost 1:1 macro in full frame terms at its close focus of just under 1.5m which is great for shooting insects without scaring them too much!

It can prevent dust entering your sensor in adverse conditions if you have two telephoto lenses which you interchange but leave the teleconverter in place.

Some teleconverters are designed so that they can be “stacked” to multiply the effect but this also multiplies the cons. Most modern ones can’t be stacked as they are designed to be used only with certain lenses and they have a protuberant inner component which prevents stacking being possible.

Cons of teleconverters

As I repeatedly state on my blog posts, EVERYTHING in photography is a compromise, in this case you get extra magnification with minimal weight and size, but there are MANY downsides to this.

  1. your aperture is reduced
    • a 1.4x TC reduced your aperture by 1.4x (ie. 1 f stop) so that your f/2.8 lens becomes f/4
    • a 2x TC reduced your aperture by 2x (ie. 2 f stops) so that your f/2.8 lens becomes f/5.6
    • this mans that you may need to increase your ISO (and lose image quality) and / or, slow down your shutter speed (and increase camera shake or subject movement blur)
  2. your image quality is reduced
    • adding extra optical elements is almost certain to degrade your image quality although the high performance modern TCs keep this to a minimum (perhaps a reduction of 5-15% with prime lenses and 15-25% with zoom lenses), but you still may in effect lose half a stop or so of sharpness, requiring you to stop your aperture down to obtain optimum sharpness at the expense of ISO or shutter speed.
    • TC’s are prone to increasing distortion, coma, astigmatism, spherical aberration and chromatic aberration, especially when mated with complex zoom lenses
    • TCs lower contrast due to adding reflective surfaces.
    • if your aperture is f/8 or smaller, diffraction issues may further reduce sharpness.
  3. your autofocus speed is likely to be reduced, especially in low light
    • the reduction in light transmission means the AF sensors will have a more difficult time, especially in low light levels
    • many dSLR PDAF cross-points either cease to function or lose their cross-point capability at f/5.6 or smaller meaning you may have to resort to only using the centre point.
  4. you may actually lose AF capability
    • some cameras (especially dSLRs) are not able to AF if the wide open aperture is smaller than f/8 and some will only be able to AF using the centre point at f/8 – this issue has largely been eradicated with mirrorless cameras
  5. its another element that may cause failure
    • the extra element may cause failure of weathersealing, failure of electronic communication between camera and lens, and extra wobble which may contribute to the above as well as causing optical misalignment issues.
  6. you may only be able to use it with certain lenses
    • most modern TC’s can only be used with certain telephoto lenses – usually the expensive “pro” lenses
  7. it may alter the biomechanical ergonomics
    • the extra distance from camera to lens may make a heavy lens feel even more heavy due to the physics of levers.

What are the alternatives?

Essentially you only have two alternatives if you need the extra magnification.

Crop your image:

Cropping your image has MANY benefits over TCs – you get to have your normal AF capability, your normal ISO and shutter speed to optimise image quality (no point using a TC to get extra magnification if the image is blurred from longer shutter speed, you couldn’t lock focus or the higher ISO impacted image quality too much).

To gain the same effect as a 1.4x TC, you will lose half of your pixels so that your 20 megapixel image becomes 10 megapixels – still plenty for most purposes. This is my preferred approach.

To gain the same effect as a 2x TC, you need to lose 75% of your pixels so that your 20 megapixel image becomes 5 megapixels – perhaps enough for some purposes – but you would probably better having a 20mp 2x cropped sensor camera in the first place instead of carrying a heavy, expensive full frame lens around and only using 25% of its image capabilities and those 25% of pixels are probably not going to be as sharp as a dedicated Micro Four Thirds lens which is optimised for such cropping.

Buy a more powerful lens:

This may actually be more cost effective than an expensive 2x teleconverter and provide at least as good a result even if the lens is not a “pro” lens.

A good example is when you try to mate a very good zoom lens such as the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 with an excellent 2x TC and you get similar results as a more powerful but lower aperture zoom lens such as the Panasonic 100-300mm f/4-5.6II lens and you may get better AF in the process. You may find that you will prefer to have both lenses rather than buy the 2x TC.

Unfortunately, buying a more powerful lens may not be possible – if you are already using the biggest, most expensive lens you can afford – then using a TC or cropping is the only options you have left, but if your big lens is a prime lens with wide aperture then you may still get superb results with a TC specifically designed to be mated with that lens.

I have a wikipedia page dedicated to teleconverters with links to teleconverters from the main camera systems HERE.

UPDATE:

Since writing this post, I discovered a great YouTube discussion by Steve Perry based on his experiences with Nikon dSLRs and super-telephotos.

He concludes that using a 20mp 1.5x cropped sensor dSLR will give better results than a 20mp full frame dSLR with a 1.4x TC when using the same lens wide open. The TC not only degrades sharpness by 5-15%, but you lose contrast, lose any ISO advantage of full frame due to the loss of 1 stop aperture, and you may lose most of your PDAF AF cross-points at f/5.6 making your AF more problematic. If you try to get sharper images by stopping down then you run into image degradation by high ISO and potentially diffraction aberrations.

There is no logical reason to assume that the above does not also extend to using a 20mp Micro Four Thirds camera vs a 20mp full frame camera with a 2x TC and a similar focal length and aperture lens.

 

The saga of lens flange distance and lens adaptability is coming to a head – an AF Sony FE lens to Nikon Z adapter – the ring to rule them all?

Written by Gary on June 21st, 2019

When Micro Four Thirds became the first mirrorless camera system, its very short 20mm sensor to lens mount distance (“lens flange distance”) allowed it to became THE MOST ADAPTABLE camera system out there.

You could get adapters for nearly any lens ever made including those made for Leica M rangefinder cameras which could not be fitted to any dSLR.

Enter Sony NEX system

Then along came Sony with their NEX / E mount cameras with a lens flange distance of 18mm which could match the Micro Four Thirds system for lens adaptability. Sigma produced their Canon EF lens MC-11 adapters with AF capability which was not really realised until the version III Sony a7’s were developed to optimally utilise the AF capabilities with this adapter.

This Canon EF adapter helped Sony in that it made up for its deficient native FE lens mount line up which takes a few years to mature from inception and which is still quite incomplete.

BUT now we have the adapter for Nikon Z system

Last year Canon, Nikon and Panasonic announced their full frame mirrorless systems and whilst Canon, Leica SL and Panasonic went for a 20mm lens flange distance (the same as Micro Four Thirds), Nikon went for an extremely short lens flange distance of 16mm.

While one would expect lens adapters for dSLR lenses to be made for both systems, this week, Techart took a lot of us by surprise in producing an ultra-thin 2mm lens adapter which will allow Sony FE lenses to work on Nikon Z cameras and provide C-AF and Eye AF functionality!

The ramifications of this adapter are considerable, especially for Nikon users who want to get into the Nikon Z system but are frustrated by the lack of native lenses.

Now they can use almost any lens ever made via adapters to the Sony FE mount added onto the new Techart TZE-01 adapter – although using multiple adapters does risk inaccuracies of lens alignment and AF due to slight degrees of mount wobble.

Obviously such an adapter is impossible for the Canon R system – these users will have to rely upon the Canon EF lens adapters which Canon have made available from the start – although there are very few Canon EF lenses optimised for mirrorless cameras.

We can expect a Canon RF lens to Nikon Z camera lens adapter in the near future too which would bring the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 and 85mm f/1.2 lenses to the Nikon Z world. We could also expect a Leica SL / Panasonic S lens to Nikon Z camera adapter.

One could even imagine Nikon making a higher resolution 60-100 megapixel Nikon Z camera and then by using a Micro Four Thirds lens to Nikon Z adapter, it could be used in 1.5-2x crop mode to utilise the superb optics of the Olympus and PanaLeica MFT lenses.

Perhaps Olympus might even consider making a Nikon Z mount style full frame camera to keep compatibility with their Micro Four Thirds lenses.

Who would have thought a year ago that the LEAST adaptable dSLR full frame camera system – the Nikon F, would be replaced by the MOST adaptable full frame mirrorless system – The Nikon Z.

As improvements in photography technology are mainly concentrating on AF performance, especially specific subject tracking and AI tracking technologies, it will be interesting indeed to see how well these will translate across platforms.

We already have cross-platform system-independent flash systems thanks to Godox and Cactus, now perhaps we are heading to a truly cross-platform lens world – and the Nikon Z camera system would be able to take the most advantage of this.

Fascinating times indeed – but it does make choice of camera system and lenses to buy into that much more complex to make sure you get the system that meets your current and future needs.

 

Portrait photographer kits compared – Fujifilm medium format vs Sony vs Canon RF

Written by Gary on June 21st, 2019

This short little blog post is a quick comparison of camera-lens kits for under $AU10,000 for the professional portrait photographer wanting a 85mm field of view lens and lots of megapixels.

Fujifilm GF 50R with 110mm f/2 lens

For THE BEST image quality under $AU10,000, this is the combo for you!

This 50mp weathersealed medium format rangefinder with a 0.79x crop factor that is not too heavy in itself mated with a very nice albeit heavy portrait lens with lovely bokeh and sharp wide open.

You can pick this kit up at the moment in Australia discounted to $AU9,850 and it will weigh 775g for the camera plus 1010g for the lens giving a total of 1.8kg. The lens gives the equivalent 35mm full frame effect of a 86mm f/1.6 lens which is perfect for portraiture.

The main downsides apart from cost and weight are that the closest focus is 0.9m, flash sync is only 1/125th sec, mechanical shutter only gets to 1/4000th sec, and the camera does not have PDAF or image stabilisation. The AF can be a bit slow and noisy compared to full frame peers and will not track the eye as well as the others in this post.

Sony a7RIII with Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM

This 45mp 35mm full frame camera is the smallest of the group and has the best Eye tracking AF and the best image stabilisation of the full frame cameras. This is the most popular combination for pros using mirrorless kits for the portraiture or fashion work.

You can pick this kit up in Australia at the moment for $AU5,290 and it will weigh 657g for the camera and 820g for the lens making it 1.5kg although for a lens of that weight you will probably need to add a camera grip as this camera is too small (see my earlier blog).

This will give you slightly narrower DOF than the Fuji 110mm and slightly closer focus at 0.85m and of course you get the IBIS, more silent and faster AF.

If you don’t need 45mp, you could save around $AU750 and get the 24mp Sony a7III instead. You could buy 3rd party lenses instead but Eye AF tracking may not be as effective.

For the budget minded, one could resort to the much older 24mp Sony a7II for $AU1450 which has image stabilisation but the Eye AF is no where as good as the version III cameras, and mate that with a Sony 85mm f/1.8 at $AU880, making the kit $AU2330.

Panasonic S full frame cameras

At present Panasonic do not have a wide aperture portrait prime lens, and you would need to resort to the Leica 90mm f/2 or Sigma ART 85mm f/1.4 and there may be compatibility issues that still need addressing as it is early days.

There are no budget level cameras as yet.

Nikon Z7 full frame camera

Nikon are yet to produce a native wide aperture portrait prime lens although a 85mm f/1.8 is due to be announced this year, but professionals will be waiting eagerly for a f/1.4 or f/1.2 pro lens.

Reports suggest that when used with the 105mm f/1.4 dSLR lens, the Eye AF focuses on the eye lashes instead of the iris – but I am sure Nikon will sort this out soon as they are early days in their technology.

There are no budget level cameras as yet.

Canon R with Canon RF 85mm f/1.2 lens

For those after the narrowest DOF, this could eventually be the killer combo when Canon releases a pro full frame mirrorless camera and by all accounts this lens is far better than the old Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 lenses for dSLRs.

This combo will be available for around $AU5,000 (lens is not yet available) and will weigh 580g for camera and 1200g for lens making it 1.6kg, and again it would benefit from a camera grip. Close focus is 0.85m.

The Canon R has reasonable Eye tracking AF but unfortunately no image stabilisation in camera or in the lens, the camera is not weathersealed and is only 30mp and does not feature the functions pros would want – hence they will be hanging out for a higher resolution professional camera, and preferably one with IBIS.

The budget entry level alternative is the Canon RP with EF adapter for $AU1775 and a legacy Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 lens for $AU500 making the budget kit $AU2225 but no weathersealing, no image stabilisation, and only 5fps burst.

Olympus OM-D E-M1II with Olympus 45mm f/1.2 lens

I have added this in here, because many will value lower cost, lower size, lower weight, better weathersealing, better image stabilisation, and faster burst rates and smaller file sizes than any of the above while the DOF is perfect for most portraiture but won’t get you quite as narrow a DOF as it equates to 90mm f/2.4 and this may not suffice for the pros for full length body shots.

This kit can be bought in Australia at present for $AU2,700 and will weigh 574g for the camera and 410g for the lens making it a nicely balanced kit at just under 1kg. The lens will also focus much closer than the above at 0.5m.

The downsides are up to 1-2EV less narrow DOF, 1-2EV worse image noise at higher ISO (although most pros prefer to shoot portraits at f/2.4 with their 85mm lenses to ensure they get nose to ear in focus, and as this is achieved at f/1.2 on the Olympus, the Olympus can shoot 2 stops lower ISO which negates much of the full frame advantage), and only 20mp 12 bit file sizes, and the Eye tracking is not quite as good as the Sony.

A Panasonic Micro Four Thirds alternative to this kit is the Panasonic G9 + Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2 lens.

A budget entry level kit into this system with image stabilisation and Eye detect AF would be the Olympus OM-D E-M10 III with tiny, light Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens which would come in well under $AU1000 but you don’t get weathersealing, AF with moving subjects and the DOF equates to 90mm f/3.6 which is a reasonable compromise for the price

A nice APS-C cropped sensor alternative is the 26mp Fujifilm X-T3 camera with a Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 R APD which gives 84mm f/1.8 equivalence and has an apodization filter to produce nicer bokeh but at a cost of 1EV light transmission. Unfortunately this kit requires an optional hand grip and will not give you image stabilisation (you would need the Fuji X-H1 camera for this but the AF is not as good and only covers 37% of the image area and it is 140g heavier). The XT-3 kit will cost you around $AU3000 on discount and will weigh 489g for the camera and 405g for the lens totaling 0.9kg.

  Fuji 50R Sony a7RIII Canon R Fuji XT-3 Olympus E-M1 II
megapixels and sensor crop 50mp, 0.79x 45mp, 1x 30mp, 1x 26mp, 1.5x 20mp, 2x
portrait lens Fuji GFX 110mm f/2 Sony FE 85mm f/1.4GM Canon RF 85mm f/1.2 Fuji 56mm f/1.2 APD Olympus 45mm f/1.2
lens DOF equivalence 35mm full frame 86mm f/1.6 85mm f/1.4 85mm f/1.2 84mm f/1.8 90mm f/2.4
kit price $AU discounted June 2019 $AU9850 $AU5290 $AU5000 $AU3000 $AU2700
kit weight 1.8kg 1.5kg+grip 1.6kg+grip 0.9kg+grip 1kg
kit weight balance camera:lens 775g:1050g 657g:820g 580g:1200g 489g:405g 574g:410g
lens length (cm)     117mm 70mm 85mm
weather sealing very good very good only lens very good excellent
image stabilisation none 4-5EV none none 5EV
closest focus 0.9m 0.85m 0.85m 0.7m 0.5m
low light image noise at f/2.4 in 35mm DOF terms better than FF FF standard FF standard but no IS FF standard as can use ISO 1 EV lower but no IS FF standard as can use ISO 2 EV lower
low light image noise at f/1.4 in 35mm DOF terms only f/1.6 possible but better than FF FF standard FF standard but no IS FF standard as ISO 1 EV lower but no IS 85mm f/1.4 DOF not possible unless focus closer
ergonomic grip ? optional extra optional extra optional extra built-in
Eye AF tracking only for stationary subjects class leading good reasonable reasonable
AF point image coverage only 117pts 68% nearly 100% 91% x 94% 80%?
Flash x-sync 1/125th sec 1/250th sec 1/200th sec 1/250th sec 1/250th sec
Burst rate with C-AF 3fps 10fps 5fps (3fps tracking!) 11fps mech; 20fps electronic 10fps mech; 18fps electronic
Swivel screen No Tilt only Yes 3 axis tilt only Yes
pro 70-200mm f/2.8 lens No Yes Coming f/4 eq. lens only f/4 eq. lens only (Four Thirds)
80-300mm travel lens No 24-240mm f/3.5-6.5 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS coming 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 Yes compact 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro
Budget entry level options none Sony a7II, Sony 85mm f/1.8 $AU2330 Canon RP, EF 85mm f/1.8 $AU2225 none with Eye AF but Fuji XE-3 has Face Detect and with Fuji 50mm f/2 comes to $AU1300 discounted E-M10III with Oly 45mm f/1.8 under $AU1000, jacket pocketable
Other features rangefinder style, 16bit large high quality files; USB-C charging; Bluetooth; 100mp camera option; mech. shutter only to 1/4000th sec; poor flash sync USB-C charging; Bluetooth; 1080 60p video; USB-C charging; Bluetooth 4K 60p video but cropped; USB-C charging; Bluetooth MF clutch, HiRes mode, unique night modes, excellent sports C-AF, in-camera focus range limiter, 3yr old model – oldest in the comparison, due for upgrade

As mentioned in previous blog posts, choice of camera is always a compromise between price, weight, size, image quality and feature set – there are no perfect cameras to suit all needs perfectly.

Oh, and here is a challenge – can you work out which camera took which portrait image – Fuji Medium Format vs Full Frame vs Fuji APS-C vs Micro Four Thirds – see here. These all have the same field of view and DOF – so the viewer can concentrate on dynamic range, etc – I must say I find it very difficult to tell them all apart. The results of viewer polls also showed that viewers were not able to consistently tell them apart either!