Comet Leonard and meteor from Australia

Written by Gary on January 4th, 2022

Comet Leonard (C/2021 A1) has been creating quite a buzz in the Southern Hemisphere as a “Christmas comet” for 2021.  It had been a nice comet for those in the Northern Hemisphere in early December 2021.

Unfortunately it was a bit too dim for people to see with the naked eye unless in a dark sky area and even then it can be difficult making binoculars are useful adjunct.

Nevertheless, for astrophotographers it has been a fantastic comet which brightened in December 2021 and developed a lovely long tail and a greenish head due to short-lived dicarbon molecules being generated by UV light.

For a comet of this brightness close to the sun, astrophotographers had to wait until it was far enough from the sun so that twilight effects reduced sky glow and they had to seek a relatively dark sky region so light pollution effects were minimal, while timing it so the moonlight would not interfere and one had a clear night relatively free of clouds.

To get the best imagery, the camera needed to be mounted on some tracking device to allow longer exposure times without star trails, and the best would then take many such images and stack them in post-processing software to reduce the image noise.

Here is one of my single shot images tracked for a 20sec exposure which also happened to capture a nearby meteor.

Comet Leonard

This image was shot on 29th December 2021 with a Sony a7RIV camera with a Samyang 85mm f/1.4 lens at f/1.4 ISO 3200, uncropped and post-processed in OnOnePhotoRAW 2022.

Comet Leonard is a long period comet with an orbit which takes 80,000 years.

It was discovered in January 2021 and had its closest approach to Earth was on 12th Dec 2021 at 34.9 million km then it made a close approach to Venus of only 4.2 million km. It had its closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) on 3rd Jan 2022.

More information about comets in my wikipedia.

 

Camp ground etiquette

Written by Gary on December 10th, 2021

Most people want to go camping to get away, engage with nature, get as good as sleep as possible and have minimal problems.

Many enjoy their time away from other people while others like to take the opportunity to connect with other campers.

Here are some important general principles to consider to help you and others have a more enjoyable and stress-free experience.

It should not need emphasizing but one should be aware of, and comply with the rules of the camp ground.

LEAVE NO TRACE

see https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles

clean up after yourself

avoid fire scars

do not contaminate waterways with toileting or non-biodegradable soaps

ensure you choose your site carefully so there is no need to dig trenches

RESPECT others

Ensure your fun is not adversely impacting others.

Minimise noise (especially at night)

don’t get drunk

  • you are more likely to become loud and aggressive
  • you are more likely to injure yourself or others (eg. falling into a fire or not doing safety checks with gas BBQs)
  • your sleep will be adversely affected and you are much more likely to snore loudly

turn off loud music at a reasonable time

do not use power generators when others are around (these are banned at many sites)

do not use chainsaws near camp sites

do not use noisy dirt bikes near camp sites

moderate your childrens behavior

don’t take dogs that tend to bark a lot

Respect their privacy

do not walk into other camper’s sites without their consent unless it is an emergency to help them

ensure you tell your kids not to walk or ride bikes into other occupied camp sites and this includes care using torches at night such as looking for wombats and tell them not to ask for food from other campers – these can create difficulties

ensure your pets are not straying into other tent sites

don’t have your car headlights aimed at their tent

give others space

many prefer to sleep naked – it’s your responsibility as parents to keep your kids away from them and let them enjoy being at one with nature and as long as they are doing this discretely they should be allowed to do so without people making a fuss of it. Remember it is illegal in Australia to publish intimate photos of other people in public places without their consent if they take offense to it.

remember it is illegal in Australia to use drones within 30m of other people, at night, over populous areas such as beaches and they are illegal in National Parks without a permit.

Respect their assumed rights

most camp grounds have a first in, first served policy such as those who arrive first get to choose their camp site first, and many doing so also reserve sites for their friends or family – these people should do so in a reasonable manner

obviously do not commit criminal offences such as theft. Some campers do leave chairs or table on vacant sites to reserve them.

If there are pit toilets, leave the seat down to reduce the flies.

BE KIND but don’t be intrusive

offer help but understand some will prefer to not accept it at that time

a hello is not necessarily an invitation to dinner – that should be an explicit invite made to you

BE PATIENT and TOLERANT

some campers will snore loudly and its usually not their fault (unless they got drunk) – be prepared and bring your ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones

avoid getting upset, agitated or aggressive but do make polite communication of reasonable requests of others if their behaviour is impacting others

be tolerant of transient non-sexual nudity – surfers getting in and out of their wetsuits, people getting changed discretely outside their cramped tents, people discretely having a pee in the bush.

DO NOT FEED WILDLIFE including birds

this is generally bad for their health and tends to make them aggressive to people at meal times when they don’t get food

SEE MY WIKI for HEAPS of camping, hiking and photography information

 

Escaping Melbourne’s winter blues to sunny Echuca

Written by Gary on May 29th, 2021

Melbourne is well known for its propensity to have 4 seasons in one day, especially in Summer when it can be blistering hot 45DegC with strong north winds and then within an hour much cooler with strong southerly winds thanks to its geographical position which exposes it to frequent cold fronts from the Southern Ocean or from around Antarctica.

But in Winter, it can generally be relied upon to be cool to cold thanks to its latitude of around 38deg South and sitting south of the Great Dividing Range.

Fortunately for Melbournians it is only a 2.5 hour drive north over the Great Dividing Range to Echuca on the Murray River which may give a very different winter experience with sunny days and temperatures a few degrees warmer than Melbourne (although colder nights thanks to being inland and away from coastal maritime moderating influences).

Echuca was an important inland port on the Murray River in the late 19th and early 20th centuries after it was founded by Henry Hopwood in 1853 when punts and a pontoon bridge made it the only means of crossing the Murray and Campaspe Rivers. In 1855 Major Thomas Mitchell purchased allotment in 612 High St on which he built a hotel.

In 1864, Echuca became an increasingly important inland port when the Melbourne-Echuca railroad was completed allowing paddle steamers to transport wool from Darling & Murrumbidgee Rivers as far north as almost the Queensland border to Melbourne where it was then exported overseas.

In the 1870’s Echuca’s paddle steamer and red gum timber industries flourished to make it the largest inland port in Australia and second only to Melbourne as a port. Eventually though, the success of the railroad was to adversely impact the paddle steamer industries.

After a severe drought in 1914 which left most of the Murray River as a series of pools, work began in the 1920’s to construct dams and weirs along the river to better control flows and allow the steamers to run consistently.

Today, Echuca is mainly a tourist attraction with its historic port, historic paddle steamers, house boats, golf courses, nearby wineries, and being adjacent to the largest red gum Eucalypt forest in the world – one can drive a 4WD alongs its tracks (when not flooded) for some 380km including the adjacent Barmah forest to its north-east and the Gunbower National Park along the Murray to it west which have popular dispersed camping locations.

dispersed campsite along the Murray River with spray painted cricket stumps on a tree

Above is my photo of the beautiful red gums at a dispersed camp site along the Murray River in Gunbower National Park – note the spray painted cricket stumps for campers to enjoy a game of cricket.

If camping in the forest, you should not camp under branches of these trees, especially in Summer or Autumn after a drought as some of these trees tend to drop their branches suddenly and without warning and this can be lethal. Branches 10-30cm in diameter are more prone to fall and often have no signs of structural weakness and hence are very difficult to predict the risk.

One should also be aware that in the warmer months, especially after floods or heavy rains, mosquitoes can be problematic and these may transmit various viruses such as Murray Valley Encephalitis virus, Barmah Forest virus, and Ross River virus.

More information and links relating to Echuca can be found on my wikipedia here.

 

2P tents for warm and cold nights in 2021

Written by Gary on April 22nd, 2021

Most people camping solo will prefer the extra space of a two person (2P) tent at a mild cost in weight when compared to a very restrictive one person (1P) tent.

These will be much more livable, especially when it is raining and you need to wait a few hours for it to stop,  allows you to have your backpack stowed more securely and of course, they are just big enough for a cosy night for 2 people.

There are many, many 2P tents available.

Budget entry level ones may be very inadequate in providing a safe waterproof shelter and may be too bulky and heavy to carry, so in this blog I have concentrated on the medium to higher end price bracket dual wall tents which should withstand a decent downpour and strong winds and keep you warm and dry while providing adequate ventilation options to minimise internal condensation which would otherwise make you wet and cold.

Some “4 season” tents are really only optimised for alpine and snow conditions for which they are fantastic but tend to lack sufficient ventilation options for use on warm nights unless you fully open the doors and risk bugs and more uninvited guests.

Many 2P tents have a mostly mesh inner “canopy” part and these are fantastic when there are warm nights, especially if you wish to take the fly off and stare at the wonderful dark Milky Way skies and count the falling stars. They will generally be lighter and still keep you dry when it rains assuming you have the fly on.

However, when the temperatures drop below 10degC, you may prefer an inner canopy made mostly of nylon fabric to reduce wind chill over your face and body, but still have dual layer large doorways which give you the option of fantastic cross-ventilation in mesh only mode on warm nights, or any degree of mesh vs nylon fabric to allow versatile adjustment of cross-ventilation to optimise temperature control and mitigation of internal condensation.

If you want to understand more about condensation in tents, see my wiki page here.

I have thus created a comparison table of a selection of 4 such tents, each have their pros and cons and you will need to decide what is important to you.

 

Comparison of four quality 2P tents

feature Sea to Summit Telos TR2 PLUS MacPac Apollo Mont Dragonfly Exped Orion II
price on sale $AU879 $AU349 on sale
$AU999 $AU1199
season usage 3+ season 3-4 season 4 season and still great in summer 4 season and still good in summer although consider Extreme version with silnylon UV fly
best for.. ultralight hiking in warm or cool areas tough design great for 2x schoolkids or car camping; alpine hiking; very spacious all purpose tent; tall people; 1-2 adults hiking; unprotected sites eg. Iceland, alpine base camps; high rain/wind cool-cold climate areas; car camping for those with bad backs
weight 1.7kg 2.8kg 2.5kg 3.2kg
packed size 13 x 13 x 48cm 56 x 21cm 44x18cm + 45cm poles 42 x 16cm
storm / wind proofing ?good very good excellent excellent
livability in prolonged rain 1P dubious, inner space the smallest; OK excellent as spacious, waterproof floor and zip ceiling vents excellent thanks to large vestibules and doors
set up in rain without inner getting wet yes no yes with footprint? yes
pole attachment clipped via tunnel sleeve clipped via tunnel sleeve
poles 8.5 and 9.0mm 8.5mm T6 9.6mm DAC 9mm DAC
colours green or grey blue with white inner green with yellow inner red or green with yellow inner
inner tent 20D nylon with mesh ceiling vent and mesh upper part of doors 40D all nylon 20D all nylon (15D on 2020 model) 30D all nylon
floor 30D 8000mm floor 70D 10,000mm 70D, 25,000mm 70D 10,000mm
fly 15D silPeU 1200mm with apex vent silPU 1500mm with above door overhang vents 30D sil PU 2000mm with above door vents which align with inner vents which can allow nice bird hide capability 40D PU 1500mm with above door overhang vents (Extreme has SilNylon)
inner height 105cm 115cm? 110cm 125cm
internal width 109 to 134cm 130cm 140cm 130cm
internal length 215cm 210cm 220cm 215cm
internal area 2.62sqm 2.86 sq.m 3.08sq.m 2.7sq.m
vestibule width 75cm ?75cm 77cm 95cm
vestibule area 1.6sq.m 1.8sq.m   2.3sq.m
ingress/egress good good good excellent
door size   100x100x88cm (approx)    
dual layer door NO, 2/3rds nylon, upper 1/3rd mesh full, rolls up to non-wind end full rolls up to centre of tent full, rolls up to centre of tent
door position triangular base at end triangular starts at non-wind end central triangular base at end central D doors
door rain protection with fly open OK if pegged out OK if pegged out but need to bring a clamp to do so as no peg hole on the door that opens seems good but only if pegged out, no protection if folded back very good as deep vestibule overhang
ridge pole upward concave to give extra height to doors NONE std convex convex to ground
ability to open wind end vestibule yes, entire fly can be opened at each end and left attached in middle for fast closure if rain comes yes but no tie back so need to bring a clamp yes also has part way peg holes no, unless remove ridge pole and use guy ropes
fully nylon sealed inner dust proof mode NO yes yes yes
zippable open inner vents only upper part doors? only doors doors and ceiling vents – all dual nylon/mesh only doors
can set up without fly yes and can also have fly attached in middle and ready to apply yes yes yes but more difficult and need guy ropes
can set up with fly only yes and can be used as Hangout sun shade mode with trekking poles to elevate one end no ?possibly with footprint yes, easy
extra features Hangout mode; fly can stay on in middle only; pack comes in 3 parts for sharing and also doubles as tent pockets and diffused holder for ceiling lamps; tough design for kids with proven durability to last over 20 years of hiking; poles pass through inner tent’s tunnel attachment which can wear out over many years and does prevent setting up with fly only; use as a bird hide; has most waterproof floor and the strongest poles which double cross; gear loft; 3 ceiling carabiners; extra height for tall people; large doors; hybrid tunnel design with ridge pole to ground; gear loft;
other versions mesh version: $AU849 3P version Polaris NB. 2020 version only has 15D nylon inner; 2021 version has 20D; Extreme version has UV protected silnylon fly but gets saggy and takes longer to dry when wet; Orion III is a 3P version;

My MacPac Apollo review:

I personally own the MacPac Apollo for my car camping and have found it to be a fantastic tent for the price and it has survived gale force winds and prolonged chains of thunderstorms but it is a little heavy for solo hiking as it is primarily designed to withstand the stresses of school kids hiking with it for which it is a great choice.

It sets up very easily – just thread the two poles through the inner canopy tunnel sleeves then slot the ends into the canopy corner tags. Place the fly over the top securing it to the poles via the velcro tabs then peg it out.

My main relatively minor criticisms of it are:

  1. the door overhangs could be wider to reduce rain spray when you have the vestibules unzipped – personally I prefer the addition of a ridge pole as with the other tents here.

2. the vestibules are not designed to be fully opened one is designed to remain pegged which is probably good for school kids to increase stability if unattended in the wind, but requires you to bring a clamp if you wish to have it kept completely open.

3. there is no true ceiling vents, but the cross-ventilation available by keeping the top part of each door open as mesh is a reasonable compromise.

4. as the poles thread through the tunnel sleeves of the inner canopy, it cannot be set up as a fly only option or set up with fly first in the rain.

Summary

Any of these tents in the table would be great for hiking especially when the weights are shared between two people, although the Exped Orion II is getting a touch heavy and for a little extra weight, I think I would prefer the Exped Orion III 3P tent for its extra height and livability and particularly if I was car camping or I was a tall person.

If I was hiking solo, the Sea to Summit Telos TR2 PLUS would be high on my list given its versatility and lighter weight but unlike the others it cannot be “fully” sealed from dust and sand blowing around in a gale, and it is not really a full 4 season tent.

Perhaps my personal preference of the four for all round versatility and livability, especially if I am mainly car camping, or hiking in the colder months or in alpine areas, the Mont Dragonfly is winning me over and after getting inside one, I think the ceiling vents could allow it to be a handy bird hide even in the rain and of course it does have the most waterproofed flooring of all four of these tents.

If you are on a budget, the MacPac Apollo is a great option for two hikers or for car camping.

See more of my camping tips on my wikipedia.

 

Portable power for on location and for camping

Written by Gary on February 28th, 2021

It is now easier than ever to have power available for your devices on location or if you are camping remotely.

For most people, a system based on a LiFePO4 lithium battery will be the easiest, lightest (around half the weight), charge 3-4x faster, more stable voltage outputs when discharged to lower levels and are least expensive option in the long term as these batteries have 5-10x more recharge cycles and are able to go down to much lower levels without harm to the battery than much heavier lead acid based batteries.

Lead acid cranking batteries are designed to be fully charged most of the time and to run at high under-bonnet temperatures and if allowed to run flat will dramatically shorten their life span.

Deep cycle lead acid batteries are designed to regular discharge to around 50% but are not designed for cranking. These were the traditional “second battery” option but are not being superceded by LiFePO4 batteries for this purpose.

LiFePO4 batteries do not tolerate high temperatures over 50degC (thus not suitable for use under the bonnet), nor sub-zero temperatures and generally do not like to be continuously trickle charged but allow much better life spans when regularly discharged deeply (5-10x the recycles of a lead acid battery).

How much battery storage will you need?

Most campers will want around 100-120Ah LiFePO4 battery as a nice compromise for weight, price and capacity. These batteries weigh 10-14kg depending on model and quality and a good one can be had for around $AU750-1000.

Take care purchasing cheap LiFePO4 batteries as they may have quality and longevity issues, lack of water/dust sealing, as well as requiring brand-specific chargers and may not be able to be used in parallel configuration with other batteries (although most people will not need this).

Suggested batteries in Australia:

Perhaps the best way to understand this is to convert everything into Watts and Watt-hours rather than Amps and Amp-hours as the latter are dependent upon the voltage of the system.

No of Watts power usage = Amps per hour x Voltage

No of Watt-hour capacity = Amp-Hours capacity x Voltage

Thus to calculate how much capacity you need in a 12V battery you will need to determine:

  • how much you want the battery to get exhausted to before re-charging (with lead acid batteries this is probably around 50% of capacity, but with LiFePO4 batteries you may accept something like 20% of capacity)
  • how often and how much you can re-charge the battery (see below)
  • the total number of watt-hours your devices will use in that period between recharges

Some examples of use needs:

A modern 36L car fridge such as a Dometic Waeco CFX3 35 which is full of items already at 4degC and with lid closed properly and minimal lid opening times will generally run at 12W or so (1amp per hour at 12V).

Thus to run such a fridge, you need 24 amp-hours a day or around 288 watt-hours, and thus a 100 amp-hour LiFePO4 12V battery should last you a few days without re-charging.

If you need to run a 240V AC sine wave inverter to power a device, use the watts (a laptop or a single electric blanket may run at around 65W on AC) and then covert to amp-hours at 12V by dividing the watts x hours of use by 12V.

What about power banks for smartphones?

These are very handy devices and they are much smaller than 12V car batteries, but they are 5V systems so to compare with a 12V battery, their amp-hour capacity of these should be converted to watt-hours.

In addition, they usually have a maximum output of 2.1A at 5V USB (10.5W).

Portable power banks for smartphones are often rated at 10000 or more milliAmp-hours capacity or 10Ah at 5V which would give 50 Watt-hours capacity. The equivalent power capacity in a 12V battery would be a 4Ah 12V battery.

Furthermore, many of the capacity ratings on these power banks are erroneous and misleading and often stated as “theoretical capacity”.

Some however, are designed for use as a cranking battery for starting a car and come with clamps to do so which can be very handy indeed!

The battery box:

A battery box is a very useful housing for your battery as it not only protects it from damage which may cause it to explode, and minimises chances of its terminals being short-circuited, but it allows for convenient charging inputs and power outlets such as cigarette lighter and USB outputs, as well as providing an indicator of the current voltage of the battery which is a very approximate indicator of capacity remaining.

Most battery boxes come with bi-directional 50A Anderson plugs.

Some come with 175A Anderson plugs for starting your car HOWEVER, these will NOT work with LiFePO4 batteries or Deep Cycle lead acid batteries – neither of which are designed for use as cranking batteries!

Make sure it is well built with ergonomic and strong handles.

Examples include:

HardKorr Battery Box

But what about all-in-one Power Stations?

A “Power station” is a very convenient option as it houses the battery, the charger, the outputs and inputs and often includes a built-in AC sine wave inverter and AC 240V outlets.

The most common problem with these are that the battery is often only around 25-50Ah and the chargers tend to be lowly rated around 5A which will mean it will take overnight to charge it on AC power and there may be no option for faster charging when you need it.

Examples include:

  • Companion Rover lithium 40AH Power Station
  • Hyundai 1000W / 2000W max LiFePO4 Lithium Power Station AC/DC
  • Sunovo SPS500

Companion 40Ah Power Station

How do I know how much battery charge is left?

This is referred to as State of Charge or SOC.

The default method is by looking at the battery voltage and making a very rough guess – unfortunately, a small change of 0.1V may equate to a large change in battery charge of perhaps up to 20-30%.

For instance, for a 12V LiFePO4 battery, 13.4V may equal 99% charge, 13.3V = 90%, 13.2V = 70%, 13.1V = 40%, 13V = 30%, 12.9V = 20%, 12V = 9%

Note that you can buy in-line power usage meters with Anderson plugs on either side (eg. this 200A one) which are very useful for assessing load draw from your devices or the amount of solar charging and whilst they do display Ah, this is the total current that has passed through the unit since connected, this is NOT the residual battery capacity and they do not measure SOC!

The more accurate method is to purchase a battery capacity meter (aka coulombmeter) which connects to a shunt device which is inserted into the positive feed from the battery terminal, but most people forego the hastle of wiring these up.

Renogy 500A battery monitor with shunt

How to charge your system

240V AC power battery charging:

The most basic way to charge your LiFePO4 battery is via connection to a Lithium-capable AC charger such as a Victron IP65 15A charger.

This needs connection to a standard 240V 10A power supply (12V 15A is only 180W and thus only 0.75A on 240V power supply – this is why I suggest converting amps to watts to understand what is happening better with different voltage components) and at 15A output will take a couple of hours charging per day to cover a day’s worth of fridge use (as outlined above).

The Victron 15A charger can be set to low current mode of 4A if you become desperate and wanted to charge it via a cigarette lighter AC inverter. Car cigarette lighters are 12V and limited to 10A or 120W and thus trying to run a 15A (ie. 180W) charger will blow the fuse, hence the need to place it into 4A low current mode before connecting it.

You can buy 25A chargers to charge more rapidly but these are bigger, heavier and more expensive.

Whilst you can also use a petrol generator to output power for these chargers, these are unpopular in camp grounds and banned in many camp grounds especially those with large numbers of campers.

If you have installed an Anderson plug on the outside of your car and you can connect the internal connection to your battery, then you can charge your battery via your AC charger through this plug without need to run a cable through a window and risk rain coming inside the car.

In car, DC-DC charging via the car’s alternator:

1 hour driving with a 25A DC-DC charger will thus provide for around 1 day of fridge time (as outlined above).

This requires wiring your car up to enable a “dual-battery” system which adds cost but the benefits are enormous – you can charge your battery at 25A or even 40A depending upon the DC-DC charger you buy, and some of these chargers also can connect to solar panels to preferentially take current for the solar panel instead of the car alternator.

You cannot just connect your LiFePO4 battery to your cranking battery, as a minimum you need:

  • a 40A or larger fuse on the positive wire near your cranking battery in case of short circuit
  • a 40A or larger fuse on the positive wire between the LiFePO4 battery and the DC-DC charger and near as possible to your LiFePO4 battery in case of short circuit
  • appropriate sized wiring 6B&S or smaller 8B&S grade wiring from the cranking battery terminals to your DC-DC charger and then to your LiFePO4 battery, all carefully joined and protected from damage
  • DC-DC charger situated close to the LiFePO4 battery and which prevents the cranking battery from being drained when the car is not running and which can handle a variable voltage input, and output it at higher voltages above 14V in order to adequately charge these batteries – an example is the RedArc BCDC1225D 25A DC-DC and solar MPPT charger.
  • for cars manufactured after 2006 which have variable voltage alternators to save fuel,  you will also need to connect the charger to an ignition wire
  • the black negative wires may need grounding by connecting to the car chassis
  • for ease of use, most people will join all the power wires by utilising 50A Anderson plugs
  • optionally, if using the above Redarc charger, it’s yellow cable can be connected to the +ve on an externally mounted Anderson plug so that you can directly plug in a solar feed to the charger.

Solar panels and solar blankets:

Most people probably don’t need a solar solution if they have a DC-DC charger installed and they are not planning on camping for days on end without driving the car.

The latest solar solutions are much lighter and smaller, and one should look for panels which are waterproof, durable and have blocking diodes so that partial shade on the panels does not stop the total current outputs.

If you have a DC-DC charger with solar regulator in-built such as the Redarc above, you must not use another solar regular in the same system even if one is supplied with the panel or blanket.

If you are going to directly charge your LiFePO4 battery make sure you use a solar regulator capable of charging lithium batteries (preferably a more efficient MPPT regulator rather than the older PWM regulators).

Solar panels output higher voltages than 12V, usually to around 22-24V. You will need to check the maximum output voltage as solar regulators have a maximum solar voltage they can take (the Redarc has a maximum 33V, other DC-DC chargers may have lower voltage limits).

As the solar panels output at higher voltages, a very approximate indicator of how many amps you will get at 12V charging your battery is the wattage rating of the panel in full sun – mostly you will be looking at 150-200W panels.

Examples include:

Some blankets can be folded, some ultrathin “panels” can be curved to fit mounting on curved roofs such as the Renogy flexible 175W which can flex to 248deg or the Kings semi-flexible 160W which can flex to 30deg.

Other issues to consider include:

  • preventing theft
  • preventing damage from people or animals walking on them
  • preventing them being blown over in the wind (obviously heavier ones may be better here)
  • connecting to your battery – bring your battery outside to charge and risk theft vs having an externally mounted Anderson plug on your vehicle

Highly recommend you install an external Anderson plug on your vehicle

Install one under the rear of your car and have the cable run into the boot of your car where it has another Anderson plug (and preferably you wire it so that the black cable is also grounded to the car chassis).

This allows for a lot of versatility and can be used as either:

  1. Connecting your solar panels to charge your main battery or your auxiliary battery
  2. Charging either battery but with an AC battery charger
  3. Running an Anderson extension cable into your tent and add a cigarette lighter output into your tent so you can run your laptop via USB-C, or charge your smartphones or other devices including USB heating pads or a 12V air heater, or even an AC inverter (just ensure the latter do not create fire risks in the tent)!

To charge your main cranking battery via this Anderson port, ensure the boot Anderson port is plugged into the Anderson port that leads to the main battery – if using solar power you will need to have a solar regulator in the system.

To charge your auxiliary battery via this Anderson port, ensure the boot Anderson plug is plugged into the Auxiliary battery. If using solar and you have a DC-DC charger in the boot which also has solar regulator functionality, then you can plug the boot Anderson plug into the “solar input Anderson plug” of the DC-DC charger.

To use the external Anderson plug to power your devices, ensure the boot Anderson plug connects to the auxiliary battery, preferably with a fuse near the battery.

You may wish to disconnect the boot Anderson plug when not in use to avoid other people hooking up to your car and draining your battery or damaging your system.

 

[SOLVD] Windows 10 Update corrupts 4Gb file then CHKDSK deletes it!

Written by Gary on September 16th, 2020

I thought I would share a little tail of woe so that I won’t repeat it and hopefully others can find a way out of a similar situation without going into a melt down!

It all started this week when my frail old Samsung Slate 7 laptop with a miserly 4Gb RAM and 120GB SSD drive (with only 10Gb free) which I dedicate only to programming, all of a sudden started really slowing down while I was in the middle of programming with a critical 4Gb password encrypted Veracrypt file open (stored on a 120Gb microSD card).

There was no indication of what was happening, no message that hey, Microsoft is enforcing a major background update to Windows 10 without telling you and it is screwing up your Windows big time not to mention making it almost totally unresponsive!

The taskbar started doing weird stuff, all attempts to open up the Task Manager to see what was going on failed. I decided to save my work and close my programming environment down just in case this was a hardware failure or a virus.

I think the first error I made at this point was to forcibly re-boot the computer.

Windows started up again and it now looked like perhaps a background update was happening and I then was asked to install driver software updates – but still no explicit message from Windows that it was indeed installing an update.

I let the system do its thing this time and waited until the activity resolved.

I went into Veracrypt to open my file and to my horror, it said it can’t read the file as it was corrupted.

Yep probably because the laptop was running so slowly when I saved it, it had not completely saved the file to the micro SD card.

No problem, been here before, I will run Mcrosoft’s CHKDSK to scan and repair the SD card – big mistake this time – it deleted my precious file!

Google sent me down a rabbit hole of further despair

I jumped onto Google to see what I could do to retrieve it from the ether and Microsoft’s site said to download and install their Windows File Recovery app from the Store – I did so, and ran it but this failed with an error which indicated the card was still corrupted.

Google search then informed me that I should do a CHKDSK again but this time with CHKDSK /f /r and this took for ever and notified me that it had found the lost files and converted them into a number of files called FILE*.CHK with folders called FOUND.xxx

It is possible the CHKDSK was actually needed to be run as I am not sure the following solution would have worked without first repairing the drive.

Perhaps Microsoft’s Windows File Recovery would now work – I decided not to trust it.

Time to BUY software to recover files!

This was NOT looking good so I decided it was time to buy software that purports to recover such files deleted or corrupted and spent some hours reading reviews and trying to ascertain which would suit my needs the best.

I settled upon purchasing EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro version and installed this on a different laptop then used it to scan the Micro SD card which took about 20 minutes for the Advanced Scan – thankfully it not only found those FILE*.CHK files that CHKDSK had created in hidden folders but also a “deleted” seemingly intact version of my critical file dated the previous day – it recovered this file nicely to my laptops C: drive (NOT to the same SD card as this would be problematic for other potential file recoveries!) and I am very pleased and much relieved to be able to tell you it works perfectly – Veracrypt had no trouble opening it and the embedded files all worked perfectly!

Interestingly it also found the names of presumably every file that has ever been on that SD card as it stated there was over 570Gb of them – seeing as the card was only 128Gb in size I am sure most of those older files would not be retrievable as they would almost certainly have been over-written.

Furthermore, it seems that when you open a file volume in Veracrypt and make changes to the contents and you then close the file volume, Veracrypt deletes the previous version which stays on the drive as a hidden deleted file (assuming there is sufficient space) as in my case above, and writes a totally new file. In other words Veracrypt actually makes a hidden backup for you automatically although over time this runs the risk of being over-written.

It did also allow me to recover the hidden 4Gb FILE000.CHK to my C: drive and after renaming it back to it’s original name it, the FILE000.CHK also amazingly opened in Veracrypt without a problem.

There is a free version of EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard but it only allows recovery of files up to 2Gb in size.

Some tips!

  1. Prevention is better than cure – ALWAYS back up your files and do it frequently!
    • Given my laptop resources and the slow file transfer time for a 4Gb file from the micro SD card to an external backup drive, I had become lazy and forgotten to do a backup in the last 4 weeks – Covid state of mind perhaps – don’y namke my mistake if you have important files, in my case it would have taken me 50 hours + to re-program everything I had lost – even if I could remember how I did it!
  2. Do NOT save ANYTHING to the drive which has a corrupted or deleted file until you have recovered it – doing so may prevent recovery!
    • thankfully I recognised the problem before I accidentally saved other files to the drive and it was nice it was on a SD card and not my C drive as I could install software on a different drive even a different computer and then move the SD card across.
  3. Think twice about using CHKDSK but if it does DELETE you file there is software out there such as EaseUS to recover it as long as you obey tip 2.
    • I was always dubious about these utilities but it worked beautifully and easily this time for me so this one gets a thumbs up from me and he saved me many hours of work so I am not going to begrudge the money I paid for it.

Now that I have fully backed up my micro SD card, I think it prudent to re-format it to give it a cleaner start.

Following full formatting, I ran the EaseUS again and no files were detected, so if you want to clean your drive then formatting will help get you there – presumably there may be other tools which could still recover files but at least EaseUS wont do it. Note that if you only do a Quick Format, EaseUS can still detect and recover the files!

Hope this helps someone – it certainly will help remind me what to do next time this happens – and unfortunately there will be a next time.

 

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

Written by Gary on July 11th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Similarities between the two:

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

Specific advantages of the Canon R6:

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

Advantages of the Olympus E-M1 mark III:

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Olympus lens kit as above will cost $US4,999 and weigh 2kg excl. camera and the lenses generally focus closer (eg. the 45mm focuses to 0.5m instead of 0.85m for the Canon 85mm) and they have a very useful manual focus clutch.

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

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

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

 

 

Micro Four Thirds is not dead

Written by Gary on July 6th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

backlit leaf

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

 

Did sensor dependencies strangle Olympus?

Written by Gary on June 27th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing grows under a big tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Olympus Imaging sold off – my thoughts

Written by Gary on June 26th, 2020

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

See the MOU of the transfer here.

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

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

It is however not surprising!

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

A quote from July 2019:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will the mean to existing Micro Four Thirds users?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Severely reducing costs will be imperative for survival.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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