The search for the ultimate landscape and astrophotography wide angle lens – could the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM be the answer?

Written by Gary on October 14th, 2017

Milky Way astroscapes have become incredibly popular, but if you want lovely star shapes, the lens has to be able to handle coma and astigmatism aberrations really well as well as providing a nice wide aperture to allow as much light in as possible, and have minimal vignetting which, although it can easily be corrected in post-processing, does introduce image noise into the edges.

Landscape photographers on the other hand need:

  • sharp edge to edge image quality with minimal barrel or pincushion distortion
  • excellent flare control
  • ability to create beautiful sunstars (preferably 11 blades, but 9 or even 7 blades can be useful – avoid even number blades)
  • ability to attach ND gradient and polarising filters – most zoom lenses wider than 16mm in full frame terms do not have filter threads but you can buy 3rd partyl expensive solutions
  • preferably weathersealed
  • and some may want tilt-shift to better achieve sharp focus from foreground to background – but that is out of scope for this post

Traditionally, both of the above genres have been addressed through full frame cameras (these have lower image noise at high ISO, and generally wider dynamic range than smaller sensors), and the Sony a7R in particular has been popular (BUT NO MORE for astro work after Sony destroyed its star imaging capabilities with its new firmware which “eats stars” – this applies to nearly all current Sony cameras in Bulb mode and some even in timed long exposure modes longer than 4 secs).

Let’s start at Micro Four Thirds options:

Olympus OM-D cameras and the pro lenses have a critical advantage of portability, weathersealing and better long exposure modes (eg. Live Times and Live Composite), ability to do automatic in-camera keystone correction or focus stacking, and faster burst rates, and they have a very usable image quality up to ISO 1600 and perhaps ISO 3200.

They also have the best image stabilisation such that the E-M1 II can be used hand held with care for 8 sec long exposures hand held for reasonable Milky Way astroscapes when used with the unique Olympus micro ZD 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens, and of course could be used hand held for long exposure waterfall or beach shots with a wide angle lens where one cannot use a tripod or does not wish to carry it.

The cons include, more image noise at higher ISO, slightly less dynamic range, and the only options for higher resolution images than 24 mpixel is to either use panoramic stitching, or the Olympus HiRes 50mp mode but this requires a tripod and a static scene.

One of my Olympus mZD f/1.8 fisheye astroscapes:


Lens selection options:

  • Olympus mZD 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens
    •  great for Milky Way shots (one can de-fish with software) and great for creative work but not great for general landscape work
  • Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 lens
    • fantastic weathersealed lens, very usable for astro and landscapes, BUT the f/2.8 aperture is a bit limiting on a cropped sensor for astro work, and there is no filter thread although you can purchase large 3rd party sliding filter adapters for landscape work
  • Panasonic 12mm f/1.4 lens
    • great pro lens for both astrophotography (although there is some coma) and landscapes but the 24mm full frame equivalent field of view may be limiting and one may need to resort to panorama stitiching
  • hopefully someone makes a great 7-10mm wide aperture lens for astro work (Olympus have filed a patent for a 5-20mm f/2.8-2.8 lens in 2015 as well as a 12mm f/1.0 lens and the Laowa 7.5mm f/2 MF lens is not great for astro work)

Full frame options:

There are a multitude of options, so I am just going to have a look at the most favored options.

The newly released Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM looks to have taken over as the king of high image quality versatile wide angle zooms.

It has returned the highest DxO Mark scoring for a wide angle zoom, it is smaller with much less vignetting, coma and star distortion than the Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8L III but lack’s the Canon’s mechanical MF ring with its infinity marking, when used with a slide in filter holder, there will be vignetting at 16mm but should settle by 17mm; while sharp at f/2.8 edge to edge, optically is best at f/8-11, while sunstars are best at f/16 – perhaps one of the best lenses for sunstars, helped by the excellent flare control.

It is NOT cheap! In Australia, it is selling for $AU3549 while the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L III sells for just under $AU3000, the Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G sells for under $AU2500, while the far more affordable Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 lens is almost a third of the price at under $1300!

Above image taken with Sony 16-35mm lens demonstrating the lovely sunstars, courtesy of Colby Brown.

The big issue for astrophotographers wanting to use this lens is the firmware issue of the Sony cameras “eating stars” which is extremely disappointing.

So unfortunately, that’s dedicated Sony mount lenses out of the equation for combined astro and landscape work until they fix up this issue!

Other wide angle zoom lens options for Canon or Nikon dSLRs:

  • Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD
    • better than the Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED as it is a tad sharper with less coma and much more affordable at under $AU1600
    • BUT no filter thread so you will need an adapter, only 9 blades, soft edges wide open, 3.4% barrel distortion at 15mm, and it is very heavy at 1.1kg
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM III
    • much better for astro work than its predecessors but not as good as the Sony, lots of vignetting (2.6EV) and 2.7% barrel distortion and only 9 blades, but you get a 82mm filter thread, it is fully weathersealed and lighter at 790g
  • Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
    • no filter thread, so you will need an adapter, only 9 blades, 1kg, expensive

But some want a dedicated ultra-wide angle, wide aperture astro full frame lens, and some of the best of these are:




New inspirational online monthly photography magazine – Olympus Passion

Written by Gary on September 30th, 2017

Just giving you all a heads up on a new online monthly photography digital magazine aimed at Olympus and Micro Four Thirds fans, and they approached me for a section in this month’s magazine – their 5th edition – which is out now.

Olympus Passion is available for just 2,50€ per edition, or, for an annual subscription of 20,00€ you get 4 free editions.

The magazine is nicely laid out, with almost 100 pages of great content, with almost no advertising, and contains many fantastic inspirational images from a small number of chosen photographers each edition, and this edition, I am honored that they have chosen one of my blogs comparing full frame 85mm f/1.8 imagery with Olympus 75mm f/1.8 imagery.


Olympus Passion magazine


Scorched bushfire survivors in a sea of golden yellow winter wattle with the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens

Written by Gary on September 11th, 2017

Survivors of a bushfire engulfed in a sea of golden yellow Australian wattle in late winter, heralding in our Spring.

Here are a couple of images from the weekend on one of my late winter walks amongst the recovering eucalypt forest trees in central Victoria near Melbourne taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark I with Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens.



It was such an incredibly beautiful, relaxing although at times strenuous walk in the near silence of our bush with not a soul to be seen except for the odd kookaburra, brightly coloured green and red rosellas and little wrens to keep me company.

It always amazes me the lengths people go to to travel and yet ignore the beauty in their own back yard – perhaps it is best that way, otherwise my quietude may be destroyed.


Winter insists on continuing on – some winter oaks in Australia

Written by Gary on September 3rd, 2017

Most of us in the southern parts of Australia can’t wait for Spring to kick into gear.

For those of us in Melbourne, the next few days will bring another cold polar vortex blast from the Antarctic which will bring damaging winds and snow down to 400m.

Here are a couple of images last week of my winter walks amongst the oak trees in central Victoria near Bendigo taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens.



This might be winter but unlike Europe, that does not mean there be lush green grass at the foot of the oaks – no this is Australia and it has it’s own ambience.

Will I brave the wind chill and risk of falling branches today and head out exploring – let’s see how I am feeling!



New gear announcements – Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III, new Canon pro lenses and the Photonicz One – an amazingly powerful and versatile portable studio type LED flash which may revolutionize lighting

Written by Gary on September 1st, 2017

Well it’s been a big week in photography!

Canon announced  4 new very expensive pro lenses which are essentially redesigns with some extra features (eg. macro for the tilt-shift and IS for the 85mm) and, importantly, improved optics to allow for the new high resolution full frame dSLRs as well as a budget mirrorless camera and a revised twin macro flash:

Yesterday, Olympus announced their upgrade to the entry level Micro Four Thirds mirrorless Olympus OM-D E-M10 now in mark III which adds some nice features including better IS, simpler operations and perhaps importantly for some, 4K video.

There are also strong rumours Olympus will also soon announce 3 new PRO level weathersealed prime lens – 12mm f/1.2, 17mm f/1.2 and 45mm f/1.2 and a zoom lens.

Some people still gripe that Olympus has still not added radio wireless TTL flash capability, but if you have been reading my blog posts, this technology is no longer necessary built into the camera system as 3rd party manufacturers such as Cactus and Godox have created far more versatile cross-platform radio remote TTL flash solutions.

Panasonic also announced their promised v2 firmware upgrade for their flag ship Panasonic GH-5 Micro Four Thirds camera which adds some incredible video capabilities such as Professional 400Mbit ALL-I intraframe codec for 10bit 4K 4:2:2 which is said to be incredibly cinematic, with flawless image quality and colour, and “Open Gate” High Resolution Anamorphic Mode (4992 x 3744) which uses the entire sensor with a recording resolution of 18MP instead of the usual 8MP of 4K Ultra HD and thus allows 10K footage in post when used with a 2x anamorphic lens, plus Hybrid Log Gamma and some AF improvements and bug fixes. This should make videographers salivate!

The PHOTONICZ ONE portable studio light

But now onto something which on paper looks to be a truly revolutionary development in photographic lighting solutions – the just announced PHOTONICZ ONE battery operated LED studio light with an industry standard Bowens S mount for lighting accessories and touch screen interface as well as a remote smartphone control interface.

Why is this so revolutionary?

Up until now all studio flash systems of similar designs use flash bulbs and require capacitors to be charged up before firing hence they have a recycle time, and the flash duration is generally dependent upon the flash output power setting for a given unit.

The PHOTONICZ ONE however does away with a flash bulb and instead uses an incredibly powerful LED light source capable of 2500Ws power output (the powerful Godox AD600 only gives 600Ws, although you can combine two to get to 1200Ws). The light color should be accurate as it is stated to have light color rendering index of 95+ across the entire power output range. Of course,  it’s firmware can be updated via  USB port.

But wait, there is MUCH MORE REVOLUTION promised such as:

  • weathersealed (no bulb makes it easier to weatherseal) made using aircraft grade aluminum
  • more compact
    • only 12.5 x 12 x 9 cm for the main body (or 4.9 x  4.7 x 3.5 inches) and 1.5 kg / 3.3 lbs
  • can deliver thousands of full power flashes on a single battery charge (uses V-Lock battery system which can also power other accessories)
  • wirelessly sync to your camera from up to a kilometer away (requires a brand-specific remote trigger RRP $US299 each or $US150ea during Kickstarter campaign)
  • InstaCharge – Zero recycle time
    • from my recent tests, the Godox AD600 needs to drop to 1/32nd output to keep up with a 15fps burst from my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, this new light can do this at FULL OUTPUT – THAT IS REVOLUTIONARY INDEED!
  • Extremely short flash duration down to 1/50,000th sec!
    • this will be amazing for those shooting fast moving subjects such as bullets bursting balloons, etc
    • the Godox AD600 will only get to around 1/10000th sec (at 1/256th output) and some AC-powered Godox studio lights can get down to 1/28,000th sec.
  • TrueSync – Native camera compatibility
    • the brand-specific remote transmitters will adjust the flash duration dynamically to the needs of your camera system, enabling communication with most Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, Fuji, Panasonic, Olympus, Hasselblad, and PhaseOne cameras.
  • HSSPro – Next Gen High Speed Sync
    • perfectly sync with the camera’s shutter at up to 1/32,000th of a second (not sure what this means as most brand cameras with electronic shutters to these speeds do not allow flash sync at this speeds – but maybe this is coming with global shutters)
  • TruTTL – Actual TTL metering
    • once upon a time, back in the 1970’s, Olympus introduced an amazing flash TTL system that was true TTL DURING the exposure – the Olympus OM-2 film SLR was truly revolutionary, but then, along came digital sensors and that system could no longer be used, and ever since we have had to put up with annoying pre-flashes so the camera system could calculate how much output the flash should send.
    • BUT NOW, we are back to the good old days – NO PRE-FLASH for TTL! I am not sure how this works but that is the promise!
  • TrueBracket – Flash bracket multiple exposures
    • allows shooters to bracket exposure with the strobe output rather than shutter speed, aperture, or ISO alone, which means no lag between exposures for crisp HDRs and much reduced post processing for images where you combine multiple bracketing approaches.
  • VariSpeed – Variable flash output
    • VariSpeed can extend the flash duration, effectively contributing more artificial light to your exposure (remember, after all we are using LED which can be a continuous light source). This effectively raises the output equivalent to levels impossible to achieve with traditional technology.
  • VariShape & VariPattern
    • customize light shape and emission patterns – not sure how useful this is from a small light source but who knows?
  • No more blown or broken flash bulbs!

If what they say is true and it works out, then this technology could radically change the lighting industry as we know it!

This is an exciting possibility for location photographers and for high-speed photographers wanting super short flash duration.

See their Kickstarter campaign for more details. Early bird gets you one unit with V-Lock power supply (but no battery) for $US749 plus add $US150 for each transmitter you need.

14.4V V-Lock lithium ion batteries will cost you around $AU 330-425 depending upon capacity.


Nikon ups the ante with its D850 full frame dSLR – but will it be enough?

Written by Gary on August 24th, 2017

Nikon makes great dSLRs, and their Nikon D850 full frame dSLR which they announced today is likely to continue on that relatively matured path, but it is hardly revolutionary although for the Nikon die hards and pros it does have some nice improvements over its highly regarded predecessor, the Nikon D810.

But in the speed stakes, it is not going to compete with the likes of a Sony a9 or Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (which is a totally different beast but far more affordable).

We are quickly running out of great reasons to pay a lot of money for full frame cameras these days, when most of their “advantages” have been addressed by smaller cameras, while the pros are looking for even larger sensor cameras to differentiate themselves from the droves of enthusiasts with full frame cameras.

There are still many who prefer an optical viewfinder over mirrorless, and for them, a big, clunky, noisy dSLR is the way to go.

The feature set that Nikon has given this does allow it to target a variety of uses – landscape and studio use with its high mp count, weddings with its full frame shallow DOF capability, and even sports with its excellent Nikon D5-like AF system although the 9fps bursts may be limiting and we are yet to see what the high ISO performance is really like, or its dynamic range for landscapes.

Major weaknesses appear to be it’s extremely sub par WiFi functionality, limited electronic shutter capabilities, lack of built-in image stabilisation and perhaps its video capability – but this will need further assessment, although preliminary comments by a respected videographer can be seen on who suggests it is much better than the Canon 5D Mark IV and looks quite good but still with many deficiencies compared to Sony, Panasonic and Olympus.

The RRP is slated to be $US3229, and it will be available next month.

What has Nikon improved over the Nikon D810?

  • more megapixels – 47.75 vs 36mp – most people won’t be able to tell the difference in image detail, as substantive differences usually need a doubling of megapixels, and there are a lot more factors which limit the image detail you get – optical quality, camera shake, etc.
    • note that, like the D810, there is no anti-alias filter on the sensor – this promises more image detail but at a cost of more moire artefacts with textures if your lens can out-resolve the sensor – so may not be so great for fashion.
  • backside-illuminated CMOS sensor (BSI sensor) for hopefully lower noise and less vignetting, while ISO range is 32-102,400.
  • improved AF and metering system – similar AF and metering as the Nikon D5:
    • 153-point AF system (up from 51pts with the D810), with 99 bring cross-type, including 15 central ones are sensitive to f/8, and with 30% more frame coverage than the D810  – but still no where near the coverage of a Sony a9 or E-M1 II which severely limits face AF and AF on subjects towards the edges.
    •  central AF point is rated as working in light as low as -4EV, with the rest still active at -3EV
    • D5’s AF module, AF modes and dedicated AF processor
    • D5’s 180,000-pixel metering system (up from 91,00-pixel in the D810) which works in concert with the AF system to give “3D tracking” and give much better subject tracking than with the D810
    •  automated system for setting an AF Fine Tune value ALTHOUGH it only calibrates the lens based on the central AF point and for a single distance, but better than nothing!
  • improved optical viewfinder
    • now gives 0.75x magnification (up from 0.70x in the D810) for brighter wider view
    • features a new condenser lens and an aspherical element in the design, and retains a reasonable (17mm) eye point
    • viewfinder shading when using different image aspect ratios to assist composition framing
  • improved burst rates and buffer capacity
    • can now shoot at 7fps (up from 5fps with the D810), and with the aid of the battery grip and EN-EL18b battery, up to 9fps (although this pales in comparison with the Sony a9 or Olympus E-M1 which can hit 15fps in mechanical shutter mode, or up to 60fps full output RAW in electronic mode)
    • buffer allows up to 51 frames of 14-bit lossless RAW capture / 170 frames of 12-bit lossless
  • can now choose various RAW files sizes:
    • 45.4mp large, 25.6mp medium and 11.4mp small
    • 20mp DX crop mode, so you can get some telephoto reach and no longer need a DX camera as well
    • in addition, can now batch process these in camera – not sure why a pro would do this, but it’s there.
  • at last a tilting more usable touch screen and it is higher resolution
    • ah, yes, it has take Nikon a long time to catch up and it still doesn’t swivel like the E-M1 II, but at least it’s a step in the right direction, and some prefer a tilting to swiveling screen.
    • it is also much higher resolution at 2359k-dot compared with 1,229k-dot in the D810
    • unlike the D5 and D500, this touch sensitivity can be used in live view mode and for navigating menus, as well as for playback mode
  • support for radio TTL remote wireless flash with the optional SB-5000 Speedlight and WR-A10 and WR-R10 accessories, but these days, one has lots of options here such as cross-platform TTL flash with Cactus, or the Godox system allowing TTL with studio lights that works on most systems and is more affordable.
  • dual card slots – SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II supported) + XQD
  • illuminated buttons to help in the dark
  • focus stacking up to 300 shots, but unlike Olympus, no built-in automated focus stacked output
  • more comfortable grip
  • improved battery capacity:
    • CIPA battery life rated at 1840 shots
  • improved video features:
    • 4K UHD MPEG-4 H.264 MOV format at 24/25/30fps without cropping edges
    • 1080 HD MPEG-4 H.264 MOV format up to 120fps for slo-mo
    • focus peaking (but not in 4K mode) and zebra stripes in video mode
    • 8K / 4K time-lapse
    • uncompressed, broadcast quality 4:2:2 8-bit 4K UHD footage HDMI out
    • ‘Attenuator’ mode for the camera’s audio capture, that rolls-off any loud noises to avoid unpleasant clipping sounds
    • Power Aperture feature that allows the camera to open and close the lens iris smoothly when in live view mode

And, the usual features one expects in such a camera in 2017:

  • mechanical shutter speed to 1/8000th sec
  • 100% optical viewfinder coverage
  • exposure compensation to ±5
  • flash sync presumably still 1/250th sec
  • weather sealing (better than the D810 thanks to no built-in flash) – albeit probably not as accomplished as the Olympus E-M1 II
  • self-timer
  • intervalometer
  • WiFi with smartphone remote control
  • Bluetooth
  • stereo mics + mic port + headphone port (mono only)
  • USB 3.0
  • orientation sensor
  • Face detect AF but not closest eye as with the Olympus E-M1 II, and only works in limited region where the AF pots are located
  • flash PC sync socket and hotshoe
  • medium weight at 1015 g (2.24 lb / 35.80 oz)
  • medium size 146 x 124 x 79 mm (5.75 x 4.88 x 3.11″)
  • must use rear LCD for Live View or Video modes (unlike mirrorless cameras which give the option of using the EVF or the screen)

What has not been addressed?

  • apparently, no 1st curtain electronic shutter in normal mode to reduce shutter shake – but how much of a problem will this be?
  • no built-in anti-moire system
  • electronic shutter silent mode only works in Live View mode and only to 6fps with AF/AE locked – no hybrid optical viewfinder yet, and no match for the Sony a9 or Olympus E-M1 II, and we need to see how the rolling shutter artefacts are controlled
  • no super short electronic shutter modes as with the Sony or Olympus
  • no built-in flash
  • no GPS
  • no Scene modes – but then this is aimed at pros who should not need a dummies guide
  • AF in Live View unlikely to match the speed of the Sony or the Olympus, no DualPixel AF as with Canon dSLRs
  • no built-in sensor based image stabilisation system – the Sony and Olympus have one which works on EVERY lens and can work in concert with proprietary lens based optical IS systems
  • unlike the Olympus, no awesome run and gun built-in IS for videos
  • no Log gamma options for high-end videographers, but does have the ‘Flat’ Picture Profile to squeeze a little extra dynamic range into its footage
  • quality of the video footage is yet to be assessed but it does seem to use pixel-binning which reduces details, and rolling shutter may be an issue.
  • the Snapbridge bluetooth tethering system is still used and has apparently not gained too many fans – let alone sending 46mp RAW files in this manner.

If the image quality is as good as they make it to be then this will be a great dSLR albeit with a few flaws.

It would seem that the image quality should be more than adequate for most purposes, the AF capabilities and 9fps burst rate adequate for most sports and wildlife situations, while the 20mp DX mode really negates the need for a DX/APS-C dSLR. Although not quite up to the D5 camera’s 12fps and possibly high ISO performance for sports/action/wildlife capabilities, the 46mp does give a lot more versatility with post-processing cropping which a 20.8mp full frame D5 or a DX dSLR wouldn’t give.

See Nikon’s announcement here.

See my wikipedia for more details and links as they arrive.


More photos from Paris and the Notre Dame cathedral in Reims

Written by Gary on August 23rd, 2017

More images from my brief interlude in Paris and Reims, all taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Micro Four Thirds camera hand held.


The morning jogger in Paris, makes me exhausted just seeing him work out so early in the morning when I am looking for a coffee to get me started.


A lone guitarist on the Seine.


One of my favourite images – Gucci man – a candid portrait.


Greg Tricker’s Lumiere Divine – Joan of Arc in Notre Dame cathedral in Reims.


Notre Dame cathedral in Reims.

The above image was taken using the Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2 PRO lens at f/1.2, 1/30th sec, ISO 200.


The unsettling “Smiling Angel” statue near the front door.


Notre Dame cathedral in Reims.

Reims was once the capital of France, and the birth place of the Frankish Empire and catholicism in France, having evolved as the main Roman trade city. Most of the French kings were crowned here up until Charles X in 1825.

Sadly it was decimated in the World Wars, and its famous Notre Dame cathedral suffering major damage in each and requiring restoration, and now it’s main claim to fame is  being in the center of the champagne wine district.

It is only around 1 hour train ride from Paris, but unlike Paris, is not over-run by tourists and there are some nice AirBnB options – just don’t expect any Uber rides or eats, and its art gallery is quite small but still worth a visit if you love art.


A midnight stroll around Paris

Written by Gary on August 20th, 2017

It’s a stiflingly hot summer’s night in Paris – 37deg C during the day and not really dropping much by midnight and with little breeze to cool the apartments – the best place to be is out on the streets having a wander and exploring without the crowds.


My quaint hotel room decorated by famous designer Christian Lacroix at Hotel Le Bellechasse adjacent to my favourite art gallery, the Musee D’Orsay in Saint Germain. The staff at this hotel were always extremely pleasant and helpful, and the room clean and quiet, and thankfully was fitted with an air conditioner. There was a lift to avoid the common struggles of staircases and luggage, and a nice buffet style breakfast if one wished to partake.

As nice as it was, the streets of Paris at midnight beckons.

And thanks to my Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Micro Four Thirds camera, there is no need for carrying cumbersome tripods, just hand held image stabilized night street photography, discrete enough to hide it if danger lurked in the dark recesses along the Seine.


But in Paris, one is never alone, lonely perhaps, but not alone.


And though it was dusk, in a city where the threat of terrorism is ever present, being able to capture this lovely fleeting candid street photography style shot of these two ladies oblivious to the world and having a laugh is what brings joy to photography – Paris is not just the old buildings and art galleries – it is the people who remind us that humanity is not all that bad.


I am guessing you don’t need me to tell you this the the famous Louvre, but here are a couple of images before they turn the lights off at midnight and evacuate the square.





I can’t write a blog post like this and not include the Eiffel Tower at dusk – oh yes, the sun sets late in Paris, and dusk is around 11pm!


Or, for that matter, romance along the Seine – they are just too iconic to ignore even for me!


Can you really protect your images posted online – AI and automated watermark removal

Written by Gary on August 19th, 2017

I have always made the assumption that if you post an image online, no matter what website, there will be ways that people can download it and then re-use it.

Some sites such as Facebook and Tumblr make it extremely easy for users to download posted images in whatever resolution they were uploaded albeit with some probably loss of quality due to the web site’s image “viewing optimisation” process.

Some websites like IG, Flickr, 500px, etc do an OK job at making it hard for users to download images, but if one really wanted to, they could use a screen capture tool, or with a tiny amount of programming knowledge gain access to the higher resolution image files through manipulation of URLs (yes apologies, I briefly did test this just to see if it can be done before I wrote this post) – although it seems most websites are now making this harder to achieve. If you are not a programmer, a search of the web can usually find third party tools to download Instagram, etc – although I am not sure why anyone would bother downloading the poorly compressed, low res IG imagery – but its not that hard to do. This does NOT mean that I condone abusing an online image site’s terms of use, I am just pointing out that it can be done and so you should assume someone will do it.

Many online image hosting websites like also offer to automatically apply an ugly watermark to your images (or you can do this yourself in Adobe Lightroom, etc before uploading them).

Google research has just posted a blog on how AI software can easily and automatically remove most watermarks effectively – see HERE for the post.

It seems that if you want to make it harder for AI to do this, you not only need to introduce randomness to the position of the watermark but a random warping of the watermark.

I guess randomly warped watermarks will come in future versions of Lightroom – but for now it seems that all your efforts with watermarking may be in vain and just makes your photos ugly.

So current state, your watermark will be easily removed thus assume once uploaded, there is a risk others could abuse your image copyright without your permission.


Can the Godox AD600B radio remote TTL battery portable flash keep up with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II at 10fps and 15fps? My test results.

Written by Gary on August 17th, 2017

As mentioned in an earlier post, the Godox system now allows radio remote TTL flash at up to 100m from the camera when used on most camera systems, including Micro Four Thirds at last!

The Godox AD600B is a Bowens S mount studio flash with attached 500 shot lithium ion battery and ability to use a remote head also with Bowens S mount lighting accessories.

This makes it a great option for location shooting, but how well will its recycle time keep up with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II rapid fire burst modes of 10fps and 15fps mechanical shutter (NB. unfortunately you can’t use the flash in electronic shutter mode rapid burst modes as sync speed is far too slow).

The short answer is extremely well IF you drop the flash output level to around 1/16th or 1/32nd of full output.

When testing I have taken the flash out of TTL mode and used Manual mode so I can see exactly what outputs will keep up.

Let’s first look at 10fps (the usual LOW burst setting on the camera):

At 1/16th output or less there were ZERO dropped frames where flash did not fire.

At higher outputs up to 1/4, there were sequences of mainly 2 (and sometimes 1, 3 or 4) consecutive frames where the flash did not fire:

At 1/16th + 0.3EV, you get 29 frames then drops 2, then 11 frames then drops 1, etc.

At 1/16th + 0.7EV, you get 14 frames then drops 2, then 5 frames then drops 2, then 6 frames then drops 2, etc.

At 1/8th output, you get 9 frames then drops 2, then 4 frames then drops 2, then 3 frames then drops 2, then 4 frames then drops 2, etc.

At 1/4 output, you get 3 frames then drops 2, then 2 frames then drops 4, then 2 frames then drops 3, then 2 frames then drops 3, etc.

At 1/2 output, you get 2 frames before dropping frames

At full output you get 1 frame before dropping frames as it does a full recycle.

Now let’s first look at 15fps (the usual HIGH burst setting on the camera):

At 1/64th +0.7EV output or less there were ZERO dropped frames where flash did not fire.

At higher outputs up to 1/8th output, there were sequences of mainly 5-6 consecutive frames where the flash did not fire:

At 1/32nd output , you get 26 frames then drops 5, then 10 frames then drops 5, etc.

At 1/16th output , you get 10-11 frames then drops 6, then 5 frames then drops 6, etc.

At 1/8th output, you get 5 frames then drops 6

At 1/4 output, you get 3 frames then drops frames

At 1/2 output, you get 2 frames before dropping frames

At full output you get 1 frame before dropping frames as it does a full recycle.


If you don’t want any dropped frames for the 1st 25 frames, use 1/16th+0.3EV output or less at 10fps, or 1/32nd output or less at 15fps.

In reality most of use just need the first 9-10 frames or so, and if this is the case then 1/16th at 15fps is fine, as is 1/8th output at 10fps.

The flash sync on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II in TTL mode or manual mode with this outfit is 1/250th sec (it can be pushed a little faster if you use PC sync only connection to the trigger and only use manual mode).

The kit will allow HSS / Super FP mode but this does drop the flash output and significantly affect the recycle times when using TTL FP mode as well as increase the risk of over-temperature protection system kicking in (at 50 full output flashes or 100 1/8th output flashes, or 150 16th output flashes) which forces the unit to recycle at 10 secs instead of a full recycle of 2.5 secs, and you should then cease firing for 10 minutes.

At 1/16th output, the t0.1 flash duration is 1/3448th sec which should be plenty short to stop most action such as a ballet dancer in a studio and at a GN of around 16m at ISO 100, you are still getting a reasonable output, so that when used at ISO 200 which is the base ISO of the Olympus cameras, you need to use f/11 with the flash at around 2m away from subject with just the standard Bowen’s 7″ reflector head in place – enough output to get it back a bit further.

Bouncing off an umbrella or shooting through a double diffused softbox at 1/16th output will give you exposures around ISO 200, f/2.8 at a flash to subject distance of around 3m, but at f/2.8, ISO 200 and 1/250th sec, you do then run into potential issues with a bright outdoor ambient lighting – in this case, use the bright outdoor ambience to backlight your subject.

At 1/32nd output, the t0.1 flash duration is 1/4651th sec which again should be plenty short to stop most action.

Of course, you could go down to 1/128th output on the remote which gives a t0.1 flash duration of only 1/8130th sec, and although the AD-600B itself allows you to manually dial in a 1/256th output setting which gives a t0.1 duration of 1/10,000th sec, this is not currently possible to use with the Godox XT1-O transmitter which will set it back to 1/128th output as lowest output.

If you need more power output at 1/16th output, buy two AD600B units and a 1200Ws bulb and the 1200Ws remote head connected to your two AD600B units.