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

Written by Gary on November 24th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upgrade to a better zoom lens:

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

The most used lens  – the standard zoom:

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

The next most popular zoom – the telephoto zoom:

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

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

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

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

Now a few specialist lenses:

A pancake lens for social events:

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

A weathersealed macro lens:

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

A fisheye lens:

The super telephoto lens:

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

I hope this has given you a good overview!

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

 

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

Written by Gary on November 23rd, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is the upgrade worth it to you?

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Gary on November 8th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Why salt water and cameras don’t mix! A dead Sony a7Sii tear down by LensRentals

Written by Gary on November 8th, 2017

We all love the beach and getting down close to the waves for those epic long exposure seascapes with our ND filters on, and even I, with my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark I suffered the indignity of having an unexpected wave land on top of the camera whilst taking a shot several years ago, and a year later whilst crossing a stream, slipped on the rocks and even submerged it for a split second – fortunately, of all the camera manufacturers, the Olympus OM-D weathersealing is well known for how good it is compared with its peers.

Luckily, perhaps, I have not had any issues with this camera despite these events as well as many times when it was absolutely soaked in heavy rain conditions in the Korean mountains.

Nevertheless, despite its awesome weathersealing, I would not recommend stress testing it with salt water (even salt spray), nor submerging it, and even in wet conditions, you need to follow the advice from Olympus – ensure all covers are in place including the hotshoe cover.

No matter how weathersealed the camera, there is also the other big beach enemy – grains of sand finding their way under the focus ring and zoom ring – not even the superb Olympus weathersealed lenses are immune to this!

LensRentals has just posted a blog of what can happen inside a camera exposed to salt water – in this case the very expensive, supposedly weathersealed Sony a7SII which was returned to them dead, and the tear down of the camera shows how severe the salt damage was despite minimal signs on the outside, and why camera repairers will never repair them.

It seems the culprits may have been incomplete weathersealing around the battery door and the entire bottom of the camera, and, in addition, the camera strap lugs, dials, viewfinder and hotshoe are not fully weathersealed.

If failure does not happen immediately due to the volume of water leak, it is likely to happen over the next 6 weeks as corrosion ensues.

Check out their blog post here.

If you want tips of now to look after your camera – see my wiki page here.

If you really love your seascapes, perhaps take a cheaper or older camera instead, just in case the worst happens!

 

Melbourne Zombie Walk 2017 with the Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2

Written by Gary on November 4th, 2017

Although the crowds seemed smaller at this evolving event promoted by the City of Melbourne and the Brain Foundation, today’s Melbourne Zombie Walk 2017 was a fun family day out for all, although somehow I did get a bit sunburnt in the chilly breeze!

Here is a selection of available light portraits achieved through careful placement of my subjects with respect to the best light and background compositions, and then it was up to the zombies to do their bit and they were awesome as usual – far more colourful than Melbourne’s Derby Day – although I am sure I would have been even more sunburnt there!

These were all taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark I Micro Four Thirds camera with Olympus micro ZD 25mm f/1.2 PRO lens, mostly at f/1.2, no flash used, post-processed in Lightroom only.

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

Until next year!

 

Dynamic range comparison Olympus vs Canon 5D Mark IV vs Sony a7II vs Sony a7RIII vs Nikon D850 full frame cameras

Written by Gary on October 28th, 2017

There is a logical belief that full frame cameras provide substantially wider dynamic range than cropped sensor cameras such as the Micro Four Thirds cameras.

I stumbled upon this testing chart today and was blown away by the lack of difference at ISO levels above 200 when comparing the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera with these full frame cameras.

Way back in 2007, there was a dramatic difference – the Olympus Four Thirds dSLRs were handicapped with poorly performing Panasonic sensors which had substantially worse dynamic range than the 1.3x crop APS-H sensor in the pro dSLR, the Canon 1D Mark III which I had bought at the time to supplement the deficiencies of my Four Thirds system.

BUT, times have changed, and the dynamic range performance of the current models in the chart below are much improved over the Canon 1D Mark III, and surprisingly similar at ISO values over 200.

At ISO 50-100, the current full frame cameras do perform substantially better, but this difference is largely gone by ISO 250 – this is quite a revelation to me, particularly as I shoot 90% of my Olympus images at ISO 200-400, and generally shoot my Sony a7II at higher than that when shooting hand held in available light, but it would seem I am not gaining any substantial dynamic range in doing so!

Here is the link to the charts from Photons To Photos if you wish to play with them yourself.

ADDENDUM: adjustment for Olympus ISO variance issue.

As the stated ISO on Olympus cameras measures around 0.7EV LESS than those on Canon, Nikon and Sony full frame cameras (as per the Photons to Photos measurement and DxOMark measurements, and my real life testing), I have made a new chart which adjusts the Olympus E-M1 Mark II results to allow for this which pushes the line to the left a little and creates a little more difference in the dynamic range at a given ISO equivalence:

The dynamic range at ISO 400 or over on ANY of these full frame cameras is LESS than the dynamic range of the Olympus E-M1 Mark II when this is shot at its in-camera stated ISO levels of 100-200.

If you want substantially wider dynamic range on the full frame cameras you need to be shooting at ISO 100 – and this will probably mean tripod territory for many full frame situations given the aperture is likely to be smaller to gain the desired depth of field with slower shutter speeds, and their systems will not have the same image stabilisation capabilities as the Olympus camera.

The Olympus E-M1 Mark II with Olympus 17mm f/1.2 lens at ISO 200 can be hand held at much lower light levels than a Nikon D850 with a 35mm f/1.4 lens at f/2.4 and ISO 100!!

 

 

Should you buy the new Olympus m.Zuiko 17mm f/1.2 PRO lens?

Written by Gary on October 27th, 2017

Whilst I am a big fan of buying the new Olympus m.Zuiko 45mm f/1.2 lens, I must say I am a bit ambivalent about the new Olympus m.Zuiko 17mm f/1.2 PRO lens at that price.

That is not to say this lens is not worth buying, and that it is not an amazing lens which will produce fantastic imagery with its lovely bokeh (if you are focusing closer enough to demonstrate it that is), and for some photographers it will be a great buy even at the asking price because it addresses their needs very nicely indeed.

There are two main issues as I see it.

  1. if you really need shallow depth of field at this field of view, then a full frame camera with a high quality 35mm f/1.4 lens might be a better bet, because this lens is only going to give you depth of field equivalent to f/2.4 on a full frame 35mm lens, and unlike the case with the 25mm or 45mm lenses, this means your subject does have to be quite close – your wedding group shot probably won’t cut it for you with this lens if you want to isolate them from the background – but it will be fantastic for an environmental portrait or for street photography.
  2. if you don’t need the shallow depth of field, then perhaps the Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens will suffice for your needs.

 

But, that said, it does have some very useful utility:

  1. low light work – night or indoors available light work, or stitched panorama Milky Way astroscapes
    • the combination of reasonable depth of field at f/1.2 and the awesome image stabiliser in the Olympus cameras means you will be able to take some low light imagery better than a Canon or Nikon full frame dSLR with a big heavy 35mm f/1.4 lens.
  2. street photography or environmental portraits where you want to have some subject isolation
  3. other relatively close subjects where you wish to blur the background
  4. and, of course, it will work very nicely as a travel lens, if you don’t need the zoom.

 

Let’s compare it with options for full frame 35mm f/1.4 lenses:

Olympus 17mm f/1.2 (with Olympus E-M1 II) Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II Sony 35mm f/1.4 ZA
lens price $US1199 $US899 $US1799 $US1600
weathersealing excellent no v.good v.good
lens weight 390g 665g 760g 630g
filter 62mm 67mm 72mm 72mm
close focus 0.2m 0.3m 0.28m 0.3m
length 87mm 94mm + adapter 106mm 112mm
comments nice bokeh, MF clutch, 5.5EV IS, Eye AF, ProCapture BUT 1.5EV less DOF control some onion ring bokeh, moderate lat CA, 1.8EV vignetting, Eye AF, 5.5EV IS on Sony only no IS, not optimised for CDAF Eye AF, 5.5EV IS, 1.7EV vignetting, AF issues stopped down

Summary:

For the price of 1.5EV less depth of field control compared to the full frame options, there are a LOT of benefits – smaller, lighter, less burden, closer focus and the best image stabilisation system out there as well as pretty cool closest eye AF technology, not to mention the very handy Pro-Capture mode if you are into creative wide angle sports photography and the ability to shoot at 18fps or even 60fps.

The Sony a7RIII with a Sony 35mm f/1.4 lens does give some advantages such as the shallower DOF, higher resolution images and the even better Eye AF technology, but it is much more expensive, heavier, less fun, and there are concerns of its AF system when the aperture is stopped down.

 

Why you should buy the new Olympus m.Zuiko 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens, and some alternatives

Written by Gary on October 26th, 2017

The reviewers testing the newly announced Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens are extremely impressed with the imagery it produces – sharp across the frame wide open at f/1.2 with minimal optical flaws and beautiful smooth “feathered” bokeh with a perfect wide open depth of field for most portraits.

It will be expensive at $US1199, which is a similar price as the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 but far more expensive, larger and heavier than the lovely, cute consumer level Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.8 lens.

Nikon and Canon full frame dSLR users will not be that impressed as it will not give as shallow a depth of field as their 85mm f/1.4 lenses (or in Canon’s case, their ultra expensive, very heavy, difficult to use and slowly focusing Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 lens), but not everything is about the most shallow depth of field one can get – there is far more than that which is important for most photography including portraiture – accurate eye AF, no camera shake, the right amount of depth of field for your subject, the bokeh quality, weathersealing, ergonomics, weight, size, cost, etc, etc.

If you look on websites such as 500px.com and check out the best portraiture – most of the professionals are using their full frame 85mm lenses at around f/2.4-2.8 to achieve sufficient depth of field – and the Olympus 45mm f/1.2 wide open will give this amount perfectly at f/1.2.

NB. each of the links on my blog posts will take you to my wikipedia which will give more details and links to reviews – unlike nearly all other photography websites these days, the links do NOT send you to online retail sites to annoy you and waste your time just so I can get paid another 10c, so please feel free to make the most of them – I write all this content for your benefit, so please use it.

The advantages over the Canon and Nikon dSLR options are:

  • probably better edge to edge sharpness with less flaws wide open – need to await testing
  • much better close focus – 0.5m (compared to 0.85m for the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4  and Sigma, and 0.95m for the Canon 85mm f/1.2)
  • 5-5.5EV image stabilisation (the Canon and Nikon dSLRs still do not have IS built in, however, Canon have just released a 85mm f/1.4 lens with 4EV optical IS )
  • a generally higher degree of weathersealing – good enough you could pour a bottle of water on it without worrying
  • manual focus clutch and lens function button
  • closest Eye AF for far more accurate and easier to autofocus on your subject’s nearest eye (Sony a7R III and Sony a9 however do offer an even better eye AF tracking system, while the Nikon D750 and D850 do have some Eye AF capabilities in the centre of the field)
  • a better run and gun movie mode experience thanks to better Live View AF with Movie image stabilisation
  • a much smaller and lighter system – the lens is only 410g and 85mm long with a 62mm filter, compared to a full frame Canon EF 85mm f/1.4 which is twice as heavy at 950g, and uses a very large, more expensive 77mm filter, and we have not factored in camera weight and size
  • price: $US1199 vs $US1599 for the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4 IS or Nikon 85mm f/1.4G, and $US1849 for the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II, while the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is $US1999 and a Canon 5D Mark IV, Nikon D850 or Sony a7RIII is around $US3299
  • benefits of the Olympus mirrorless system – eg. electronic viewfinder with its many benefits (eg. Live Histogram), Pro-Capture mode to avoid missing action shots, electronic burst rates of 18fps with AF and 60fps without AF, HiRes mode with minimal moire, etc

Advantages of Canon and Nikon full frame dSLRs with 85mm f/1.4 lenses:

  • ability to get more creative with even shallower depth of field
  • marginally more dynamic range and high ISO performance (but for a given depth of field, the ISO performance should be similar as one can use 2 EV lower ISO on the Olympus for the same exposure)
  • optical viewfinder
  • higher resolution single shot options (eg. 42mp)
  • access to professional camera repair and rental services

Summary:

An Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.2 lens will cost $US3199, and weigh 984g while a full frame Canikon dSLR with 85mm f/1.4 IS lens will cost $4899 and weigh twice as much at around 2kg!

I know which system I would like to be carrying around in a portrait shoot, and I would have almost enough money spare to have a backup camera body!

In the past a big factor in favor of Canon and Nikon was the ability to have radio remote TTL flash, but this has now been addressed by the Godox system for Olympus users, and soon Cactus will have their system working for Olympus as well.

One could go down the Sony a7RIII or Sony a9 mirrorless full frame path with an 85mm f/1.4 lens which would have a number of advantages over the Canon or Nikon dSLR options including amazingly good Eye AF tracking and built-in 5.5EV IS, but this again will be far more expensive (the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens is $US1799, or the much cheaper Sigma 85mm f/1.4 ART which is $US1199 but unfortunately is not weathersealed) and heavier than the Olympus kit.

At the end of the day, the Olympus kit will deliver for most purposes, and be much more fun and less burden, and a tired, stressed photographer is not going to be capturing the best portraits!

 

Olympus announce their new 17mm f/1.2 and 45mm f/1.2 PRO lenses with feathered bokeh design

Written by Gary on October 26th, 2017

Olympus have just officially announced two new f/1.2 M.Zuiko PRO prime lenses to join the very nice Olympus 25mm f/1.2 pro.

The new 17mm f/1.2 and 45mm f/1.2 PRO lenses are of similar build, size and weight as the 25mm lens with all three lenses offering superb weathersealing, manual focus clutch, Lens Fn button, lovely smooth bokeh, superb image quality, silent, fast and accurate AF, same price point of $US1199, and importantly, the same filter thread size of 62mm.

17mm

The 17mm f/1.2 lens is designed for feathered bokeh with the design approach which gives attractive bokeh without any of the light loss causes by the use of apodization filters in Fujifilm’s APD or Sony’s STF lenses. To achieve this it uses 15 elements in 11 groups including 1 Super ED, 3 ED, 1 ED-DSA, 1 EDA, 1 Super HR, 1 aspherical – a unique ED-DSA element, which has dual aspherical lenses formed from soft and hard-to-work extra low dispersion glass. They claim to be the only company currently able to do this.

See my wiki page here for full specs and links to reviews as they are announced.

45mm

The 45mm f/1.2 is also designed for feathered smooth bokeh and its depth of field wide open is perfect for proving the desirable ear to nose depth of field for portraits. It uses 14 elements in 10 groups including 1 ED, 4 HR, 1 aspherical – three optimally placed and bonded lens elements, including one ED lens, which compensate for typical problems on wide-aperture lenses like out-of-focus color bleeding (axial chromatic aberration) and peripheral color bleeding (magnification chromatic aberration).

See my wiki page here for full specs and links to reviews as they are announced.

In addition, Sigma has also announced their Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN lens for Micro Four Thirds, details of which can be found on my wiki page here.

 

Sony a7R III announced – will it trump the new Nikon D850 dSLR? Features side by side

Written by Gary on October 25th, 2017

Sony have just announced their new flagship high resolution mirrorless full frame camera – the Sony a7R III.

The camera and sensor are much the same as it’s predecessor, but almost every area has been substantially improved with Sony addressing most of the weaknesses to such an extent that it may limit the sales of its sports/wildlife mirrorless camera, the new Sony a9, and may well convert many potential Nikon D850 dSLR buyers over to the Sony mirrorless world.

The main improvements over the Sony a7R II:

  • same sensor but 1EV more dynamic range at low ISO due to a gapless on-chip lens design and anti-reflective sensor coating and improved circuitry and processing
  • processes images 1.8 times faster
  • adds 425 CDAF points instead of 25, giving 68% of frame coverage instead of 45% coverage
  • AF twice as fast and extends to low light of -3EV
  • “Additional improvements in focusing flexibility include AF availability in Focus Magnifier mode, focal-plane phase-detection AF support when using A-mount lenses, an ‘AF On’ button, a multi-selector or ‘joystick’ for moving focusing points quickly, flexible touch focus functionality and much more,”
  • IBIS improved to “5.5EV”
  • 10fps burst rate instead of only 5fps in either mechanical or silent electronic mode but need to drop to 8fps for continuous live view
  • better mirror shock handling and better shutter shock handling
  • improved EVF and rear screen
  • adds “Pixel Shift Multi Shooting” similar to HiRes mode of Olympus OM-D cameras but delivering 4 pixel shifted RAW images covering 169mp which outputs to a single 42mp RAW with better colour fidelity and texture reproduction than a single shot (ie. much less moire)
  • adds the a9’s touchscreen focus point control and multi-selector joystick on the back of the body in place of the button-style directional pad as well as anti-flicker ability, a 2nd card slot
  • 120fps 1080 HD mode
  • USB 3.1
  • larger grip and battery 2.2x longer lasting (same as the Sony a9 full frame mirrorless camera)

Why would one consider a Sony a7R III instead of a Nikon D850?

  • amazingly good eye AF tracking
  • far more AF points and good frame coverage (although no where near as good as 98% coverage of the Sony a9)
  • in-camera 5 axis image stabilizer which will work on most lenses and potentially give 5.5EV benefit – now that is almost as good as the Olympus system!
  • awesome video features which on paper seem to trump the Nikon D850 capabilities, but probably won’t be as good as a Panasonic GH-5 as the 4K video has been crippled to only 8bit 100Mbps IPB, not 10 bit 400Mbit All-I as with the GH-5, while for run and gun work, the image stabilisation of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II or the GH-5 would probably make these a better choice.
  • much better WiFi tethering (the Nikon only has suboptimal Bluetooth tethering)
  • Pixel Shift mode for minimal moire, improved image detail and color rendition
  • ability to have relatively fast AF with Canon EF mount lenses
  • ability to use a range of lenses not just Nikon mount lenses, and have them image stabilised
  • the many advantages of mirrorless technology

Head to head specs comparison:

The Sony a7RII and the Nikon D850 have many features which are similar, such as:

  • price – both are around $US3200
  • high resolution sensor without an anti-alias filter – 42.4mp for the Sony and 45.7mp for the Nikon
  • high dynamic range imagery
  • hotshoe, PC sync port and flash sync of 1/250th sec, with radio remote TTL and HSS options available (eg. Godox)
  • shutter speed 30sec – 1/8000th sec plus BULB
  • ISO range roughly similar
  • +/- 5EV exposure bracketing
  • silent mode
  • 4K video as well as 1080HD video, although the Sony has far more high end options and better IS and C-AF
  • dual SD card slots
  • weathersealed
  • reasonable battery life although the Nikon wins out easily here
  • Nikon has better ergonomics but the Sony has better manual focus capabilities
Sony a7R II Sony a7R III Nikon D850
in-camera IS “4EV” “5.5EV” NONE
Eye AF good excellent OK, limited area
AF points 399PDAF to -2EV/25CDAF 399PDAF to -3EV/425CDAF 153PDAF, one to -4EV/?CDAF
C-AF tracking poor excellent excellent, but POOR during Live View/Movie
metering ?1200 zone 1200 zone 180,000 RGB sensor
burst speed with C-AF 5fps 10fps 28 RAW / 76 compressed RAW 6fps 51 RAW (up to 9fps w/o CAF)
rear touch screen AF pad no Yes Yes
120fps 1080HD video no 100Mbps ?27Mbps
weight 625g 657g 1005g
special features Pixel Shift mode Focus shift mode, Native AWB; optional small, medium or large RAW modes

 

Both the Sony a7R III and the Nikon D850 are amazing cameras which will address most needs, albeit at a price and weight of the lens system. If Sony has substantially improved the ergonomics over my Sony a7II, then this evolution will be an extremely popular camera indeed, but personally, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II is much more fun and much less of a burden while being more affordable when you factor in the cost and weight of the lenses.

I am envious though of how well the Eye AF appears to work – despite Olympus introducing this technology, it would seem that Sony has substantially improved upon the tracking capability. – I am sure Olympus will be addressing this soon.