What have we done? Where have all the insects gone? Is this the beginning of the end?

Written by Gary on March 24th, 2018

I live in southern parts of Australia, and if you live here or traveled here in summer – you will only be too aware that our environment is filled with insects, so numerous that they are often very annoying – particularly when it comes to our famous bush flies which do what they can to get to the tears of our eyes to get enough protein so they can produce eggs, and to our mosquitoes – although thankfully down here away from the tropics they do not spread malaria or dengue fever.

Nearly all houses have insect screens to allow the evening summer breezes to cool them while keeping the mosquitoes out.

And, we would hardly ever think of going to a BBQ, picnic, hiking trip, or a camping trip without taking a personal insect repellent spray, or burn some insect repellent nearby.

If you are driving home on country roads at night in spring or summer, you can generally guarantee your windscreen and front of car will have thousands of dead bugs caked on by the end of your trip.

In fact, the bush flies are so annoying in summer, I try to do all my outside activities before December and after March as much as possible.

It was only March 2016, when we had a plague of mosquitoes in Melbourne.

This is what has characterized my experience with insects for all of my life. Sure, some years are “worse” for flies that other years – but you could always guarantee they will be there as soon as the sun comes up and worse when the humidity rose.


I have a cat, and cats like to go outdoors at night whenever it takes their fancy and then come in, and as anyone who has had a cat without a cat door will know, this necessitates getting up dozens of times every night to let her out and let her in. Now my cat doesn’t go prowling as I have built structures to keep her contained – so, yes environmentalists, cats are bad for our native species, but I keep mine under control – after all she is a Russian Blue and I can’t afford to have her roaming.

For the whole of this spring, summer and even now into autumn, I have been able to leave the door open all evening until midnight each night – with the lights on in the house, no insect repellents or screens.

I have yet to be bitten by a mosquito and the total numbers of insects around the lights inside the house I would be lucky to count on one hand at the end of the night – not much fun for my huntsman spider!

I have been going for evening walks down to my local national park where there is a river in a valley and I have walked at dusk, well after sunset along the river wearing shorts and tee shirt – no insect repellent – still not bothered by even one mosquito!

I do a lot of nature walks looking for photographic opportunities and normally wear wrap around sunglasses to keep the flies away from my eyes – this year, hardly a fly has bothered to annoy me.

So far it seems the Australian bull ants in the national park have not been affected – but perhaps most of the other species have and perhaps the beautiful birds there, the blue wrens and their friends will soon run out of their food supply and struggle to survive.

Is it just me getting old and I can’t see them anymore and can’t feel them? Whatever, it is, my empirical observations are certainly not scientifically robust enough to cause alarm in themselves.

However, it does seem that we are in the midst of a massive long term decline in insect numbers globally – and its not just the bees!


We have heard in the media reports of world wide bee deaths over the past few years, but the reports of the general massive decline and presumably mass extinctions of many species of insects worldwide have not really been prominent.

In 2012, A major survey of threats to insect life by the Zoological Society of London, published in 2012, concluded that many insect populations worldwide are in severe decline, limiting food supplies for larger animals and affecting ecosystem services like pollination. In Europe and the United States, researchers have documented declines in wild and managed bee populations of 30 to 40 percent and more due to so-called colony collapse disorder. Other insect species, such as the monarch butterfly, also have experienced sharp declines.


In 2014, a German study showed average summer biomass of insects in a German nature reserve regions has steadily decreased from 1.6 kilograms (3.5 pounds) per trap in 1989 to just 300 grams (10.6 ounces) in 2014!

The Guardian Oct 2017 report on the German study.

A report on ScienceMag.org in May 2017 commenting on “Where are all the insects gone?”

This photographer reported dramatic decline in his experience in US.

This year entomologists in Australia have raised concerns of a dramatic drop in insect numbers in many parts of Australia including Sydney.

The Australian published concerns last week and published this quote:

“Dave Goulson, professor of biology at Sussex University, says: “Insects make up about two-thirds of all life on Earth but there’s been some kind of horrific decline… We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon. If we lose the insects, then everything is going to collapse.”

Perhaps the end of the world won’t be marked by a bang, but by silence. A long exhalation. A slide into quiet.”

Listen to a podcast on ABC radio here, broadcast this week!

Should we worry?

Hell no, how awesome would it be to enjoy outdoor summer activities without those annoying pests!

Of course we don’t need to worry, we still have Facebook, cosmetics, selfie-sticks and there is always new exciting tech things to come out such as those google home things that can automatically control your house and take your insect screens down because you won’t be needing them anymore.

And thankfully, now the insect diet option is out, most of us would be happy not having to fry crickets and grass hoppers for a feed. Remember, insects were meant to be our saving grace to provide our main source of protein in the next 50 years as the human population reaches its peak and food supplies, in particular, protein supplies, become increasingly scarce and unable to feed the multitudes.

Seriously though, humans need biodiversity and a food chain.

Insects are a key part of our ecology:

  • 70% of all animal species are insects
  • many insects pollinate our plants (sorry vegetarians, you won’t be getting your veges, and sorry, for those who like meat, because most of our meat sources eat grains and grasses, so eventually, these sources will be affected too) Some 80% of wild plants rely on insects for pollination;
  • many insects control the numbers of other insects so we have less potential for plagues
  • many insects have the critical role of breaking down our wastes so they can be returned to the soil faster
  • 60% of birds rely on insects as a food source
  • many fish rely on insects as a food source
  • amphibians rely on insects as a food source – loss of amphibians will result in increased algae-infested waters and reduced food for fish
  • so most of the animal world’s survival and flowering plant’s survival is dependent upon a plentiful biodiversity of insects
  • humans may yet come to rely on insects as a food source

But surely it is just a temporary blip in numbers and all will be well?

This all depends upon the causes but the charts from the Germans seem to suggest a long trend down towards extinction a persistent 75% decline over a quarter of a century is no laughing matter!

What has caused the insect decline?

Most flying insects have very short adult flying life spans – often only a week or two, or even shorter, although female mosquitoes live around two months – their numbers are thus totally dependent upon their ability to reproduce – perhaps this is a clue as to why it seems the bull ants are not affected (yet) – they have a much longer life span of around 1 to 2 years.

Entomologists have yet to pinpoint one specific cause but it seems a number of possibilities exist:

1. Insecticides – in particular, neonicotinoids

  • these are water soluble and often used to coat seeds which then may wash off onto the ground and into streams after rains, or can be blown off in windy conditions and contaminate other flowers such as nearby canola fields, or are taken up in vacuoles by the plant and expressed in flowers and leaves killing pollinators and insects which suck on the plant, and then also when the flowers fall onto the ground – the insects which eat the fallen flowers
  • at the seedling stage, canola crops are vulnerable to red legged earth mite and a number of similar or related pests such as blue oat mite and lucerne flea, hence many farmers resort to “an insecticide seed dressing” – the amount of insecticide coating one seed apparently could kill 80,000 bees!
  • In Victoria, a canola crop is usually sown in late autumn or early winter into moist soil and the seeds covered with a light amount of soil – heavy rains soon after sowing may theoretically wash some insecticide into streams, while the canola flowers in September just in time for pollinating insects to be at their peak numbers and potential for further toxin damage
  • these take about a month to break down in sunlight, but can take several years if there is no sunlight as in heavy soil
  • unfortunately, they have not been banned as yet in Australian agriculture, although have been banned in other countries, and I note the recent increase in canola fields in the regions which provide run off to my national park stream – could there be a direct link?

2. Changing climatic and seasonal patterns which disrupt their life cycle

  • rapid switches of extremes of weather can play havoc with insect life cycles

3. Fly swats – only kidding these are NOT the cause – who owns these nowadays anyway?

4. Insect infections such as viruses

5. Loss of habitat

5. Air pollution

see more on wikipedia.

and the future? what future?

And, in the words of the Moody Blues …. To Our Children’s Children, Children …… I am sorry, we may have failed you in more ways than just vertebrate extinctions (oh yes, this week the last male white rhino died – unless that was fake news – but I haven’t seen any of those around here so maybe its real), global pollution, resource exhaustion, inter-generational debt, climate change, a return to the pre-antibiotic era of no chemotherapy, no transplants and much reduced surgical options, perhaps nuclear war, and perhaps now have contributed to a critical extinction process of the insect world.

Genesis 1:27:

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Luckily we were not made in the image of Aries or Satan – because then the creatures of the earth would be in real trouble!

We almost created this scenario back in the 1950’s with DDT, prompting Rachel Carson to write her famous provocative book The Silent Spring which helped cease usage of the lethal toxin – but it seems we have not thought things through very well and our Seven Deadly Sins as led us to our future – you reap what you sow – and perhaps soon there will be no point even sowing because there may not be any seeds produced.
silent spring

Insects evolved over 450 million years ago during the Devonian period when forests started to spread across the earth, and they have survived every major extinction event since then – but they perhaps have met their match with humanity, although as a group, they are diverse enough to survive even our mismanagement. It is likely, that as the earth becomes inhospitable to most life forms, new extremely hardy, insecticide and radiation resistant life forms will evolve to replace them.

Biology 101 on species population growth cycles does predict global human population will soon peak and then start to die off from around 2040 or so when resources start to become scarce, particularly in the severely over-populated regions. But will this “adjustment” to the human footprint come too late to save planet Earth from ending up like Mars but with radioactive, toxic oceans?

Could there be a common explanation for why human fertility has fallen as well? A controversial French study suggested male fertility is apparently falling by 2% per annum and sperm quality has fallen by 50% in just 18 years from 1977 to 1995 . A meta-analysis of 61 papers published in the BMJ in 1992 suggested that sperm counts had fallen by half in the preceding 50 years. In another French study, sperm counts fell by 32% between 1989 and 2005 while the proportion of properly formed sperm fell from 61% to 53%. See The Economist report.

Time to forget reality TV and GET REAL!

Hopefully nature will fight back – but it will need our help!

Australian native long legged fly

This dainty little metallic blue and green Australian fly is the long legged fly (Austrosciapus connexus) – which is mainly found along the east coast of Australia, Adelaide and Perth but not in southern Victoria or Tasmania. I took this shot in the Sydney Botanical Gardens hand held with Olympus mZD 60mm f/2.8 macro lens.








The new Sony a7III compared to the Sony a7RIII and Sony a9

Written by Gary on March 2nd, 2018

Sony has just announced a brilliant new full frame mirrorless camera – the Sony a7III which is a massive upgrade to the earlier a7II model and is a cross between a budget-level version of the Sony a9 and the high resolution Sony a7RIII, both of which are much more expensive.

All of these cameras are roughly the same size and weight (around 670g) and all are partly weathersealed – recent tests show the a7RIII is not sealed on the bottom so don’t let water pool under it!

All of these have a 5 axis sensor based image stabilisation system, although this has been significantly improved in the newer models.

All have the same flash sync of 1/250th sec and the proprietary modernised Sony flash hotshoe.

The feature set of the new Sony a7III make it almost perfect for wedding photographers as it gives sufficient image quality, the full frame shallow depth of field capabilities, class leading Eye AF capability and AF region coverage (far better than any dSLR), and very good high ISO performance, while the addition of the 2nd SD card slot provides professionals with their much desired image backup system in case of card failure, and very good video performance.

Compared to the Sony a7RIII, the a7II is much more affordable, has better AF coverage, slightly better burst performance but the compromise is 24mp instead of 42mp, a lower resolution EVF, and no pixel shift mode.


It is likely they will all suffer the same star eating noise reduction issues, so Milky Way fans need to assess this issue.

As usual, the links below take you to my wikipedia pages where you can get more information and links.

Quick comparison of Sony cameras:

Sony a7II Sony a7III Sony a7RIII Sony a9
Price $AU1795 $US1999 / $AU2999 $US3499 / $AU4899 $US4500 / $AU6745
Sensor 24mp 24mp 42mp 24mp
Sensor 24mp 24mp 42mp 24mp
dynamic range ISO 100  13.9EV  13.8EV (12.4EV uncompressed RAW in burst mode – 12bit)  14EV  12.6EV
dynamic range ISO 640  11.8EV  13.4EV due to dual gain design  13.1EV due to dual gain design  12.4EV
AF 25CDAF, 117PDAF (all clustered in central area), some EyeAF, AF only half as fast as the others and C-AF is problematic 425CDAF, 693PDAF, 93% coverage, superb EyeAF in C-AF 425CDAF, 399PDAF, 68% coverage, great EyeAF in C-AF 425CDAF, 693PDAF, 93% coverage, superb EyeAF in C-AF
comments older battery, poor battery life; no 4K video; 1080HD only to 60p 50Mbps; only USB 2.0 not USB-C; IBIS not as good; no electronic silent mode; high ISO not as good; LCD screen not touch sensitive; EVF not as good; only one SD card slot; older styling and menu system; joystick; AF in magnified focus mode; touch AF; AF-On button; 2.3mdot EVF; USB-C 3.1; red night mode; Pixel shift mode; 3.7mdot EVF; 4K video; 1080HD 120p 100mbps; USB 3.1; touch screen only selects AF point; 3.7mdot EVF; best sports functions; joystick; 4K video; 1080HD 120p 100mbps; AF-On button; “AF Area Registration”, dynamic range not as good as a7RII;

It would appear this is a fantastic upgrade to the Sony a7II and at that price point with its feature set should be a very popular camera indeed and should cover most needs.

It beats the Micro Four Thirds cameras such as the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and the Panasonic G9 on some features (Eye AF, AF coverage, full frame IQ and shallow DOF capability, and EVF), but the Micro Four Thirds cameras beat it in terms of burst rate (the Olympus can get to 18fps and even 60fps), feature set (eg. Pro Capture mode, HiRes mode, Live Composite, etc) , image stabilisation, swivel screen, and most importantly, weight, size and price of the lenses.

A quick comparison of Sony lenses vs Micro Four Thirds lenses:

Sony FE 24-105mm f/4G OSS:

  • this is $AU2029 and weighs 663g, uses a large 77mm filter
  • the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 doesn’t give as much reach and loses 1EV in shallow DOF but comes in at $AU798, uses 62mm filters and weighs almost half as much at 382g

Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G:

  • this is $AU2598 and weighs 565g
  • the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 comes in at $AU1394, and weighs slightly less

Sony FE PZ 28-135mm F/4 G OSS

  • this is $AU3068 and weighs 1215g, but to be fair, it is built as a Cine lens
  • the Olympus 12-100mm f/4 OIS is $AU1540 and is 561g and gives much more reach of 200mm in full frame terms, making it a great travel lens, but loses 2EV of shallow DOF capability, however, at half the weight and price this may not be a bad compromise for most people who can resort to prime lenses for shallower DOF if needed.

Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens

  • this is $AU3648, weighs 1395g
  • the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 is less than half the price and weight but only gets to 300mm not 400mm
  • the Panasonic 50-200mm f/2.8-4.0 OIS is less than half the price and weight

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 G

  • this is $AU2799 and weighs 820g, and is perhaps the most important lens to match with the a7III’s Eye AF capability
  • the Olympus 45mm f/1.2 is $AU1588 and weighs half as much at 410g but you do lose 1.5EV in shallow DOF capability, although, for most situations, the shallow DOF of the Olympus lens suffices and is perfect for head and shoulder portraits. Whilst the Sony has the better tracking of subject’s eye, the Olympus is probably better at selecting the all important closest eye.

And there is nothing yet to match the Olympus 300mm f/4 with its 600mm full frame reach, although Sony appears to be working on a lens with that reach, but one can expect it will be 2-4x more expensive and much heavier than the Olympus lens.

If you need the features of Sony full frame and you don’t mind the weight, size and at least twice the cost of the lenses, then the Sony 7III may be the camera for you, but for most people, the Micro Four Thirds solution will be the better, more enjoyable option.


Panasonic’s new Leica DG 50-200mm f/2.8-4.0 OIS lens compared with Olympus 40-150mm and Canon 100-400mm lenses

Written by Gary on February 28th, 2018

When I was using Four Thirds dSLRs, the Olympus mZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 lens was one of my favorite lenses, and had many advantages over anything that Canon or Nikon made for full frame dSLRs in that field of view (100-400mm in full frame terms) at that time BUT it was still intimidating in size when extended.

This lens is still a beautiful lens but now with Micro Four Thirds, it is a touch too big and the AF is not well optimised, especially if you are not using an Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark II to shoot with.

In Sept 2014, Olympus introduced a Micro Four Thirds version albeit with less telephoto reach, the very versatile, excellent, Olympus microZD 40-150mm f/2.8 lens which I thought I would not like but it has become one of my most used lenses – particularly great for shooting in the rain with its nice long lens hood to protect the front glass. If you need more reach, it can be mated with the 1.4x teleconverter to get to 200mm f/4.0.

Now, Panasonic has created their version with similar zoom range to the old Four Thirds lens.

Panasonic 50-200mm

Let’s see how they compare:

Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 Panasonic 50-200mm f/2.8-4.0 OIS Olympus ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II
Price $US1499 $US1699 $US1199 $US2000
Weight with tripod collar on 0.88kg 0.66kg but no tripod collar 1.1kg 1.6kg
Size 160mm does not extend on zooming or focus 132mm but extends on zooming 157mm but extends on zooming 193mm but extends on zooming
Filter size 72mm 67mm 67mm 77mm
image stabilisation 5EV with IBIS 6.5EV Dual IS with Panasonic cameras, 5EV with Olympus 5EV with IBIS 4EV OIS only
close focus 0.7m giving minimum subject field of 60 x 80mm 0.75m 1.2m 1m giving minimum subject field of 77 x 115 mm
diaphragm blades 9 rounded 9 rounded 9 rounded 9 rounded
comments Lens Fn button; dual linear voice coil motors; 1.4xTC; slower AF on Panasonic cameras;  1.4x and 2.0x TC Needs adapter for MFT; Slower AF; 1.4x and 2.0x TC; discontinued; Only for Canon cameras (Sony mirrorless via adapter); Not optimised for CDAF; 1.4x and 2.0x TC; Flourite glass; optional high resolution camera bodies available.

I have compared them with the latest and greatest Canon L lens of the same field of view range, and you can see that the Micro Four Thirds lenses are much smaller, lighter, more affordable, and focus closer while their wider aperture and better image stabilisation negates most of the benefits of Full Frame cameras over Micro Four Thirds.

The links above will take you to my wikipedia where you will find more information and links to reviews.

These are all high grade, weathersealed lenses designed for the outdoors.

Do your neck, back and wallet a favor and you will have far more fun with similar image quality with the Micro Four Thirds combinations.

I regularly hike for 2 hours holding the Olympus 40-150mm on a E-M1 camera in my hand the whole time without excessive tiredness – the same could not be said for the Canon full frame option.

If you have a Panasonic camera, go for the Panasonic lens as you will get faster AF and slightly better IS.

If you have an Olympus camera, go for the Olympus 40-150mm, or, if you don’t need E-M1 II features such as Pro-Capture, then the Panasonic should also perform very well if you need the extra reach.

Of course, if you have a Canon dSLR you are stuck having to fork out for the Canon lens and finding a way of carrying it around. Squeezing it under your cabin luggage weight limits on airlines will be challenging, plus they won’t let you into sporting events as most have focal length limits of 200mm for the sports fans.


Don’t cross the Rubicon – camp along the Rubicon Valley instead

Written by Gary on February 19th, 2018

This weekend I had a wonderful camping trip to Victoria’s little known but lovely Rubicon Valley on the Rubicon River – presumably named after the famous Rubicon River that formed the boundary between the Roman province of Cisalpine Gaul to the north-west and Italy proper (controlled directly by Rome and its allies) to the south.

First a bit of history about the “Crossing of the Rubicon” by Julius Caesar.

This is from Wikipedia and links are to Wikipedia:

“Governors of Roman provinces were appointed promagistrates with imperium (roughly, “right to command”) in one or more provinces. The governor then served as the general of the Roman army within the territory they ruled. Roman law specified that only the elected magistrates (consuls and praetors) could hold imperium within Italy. Any promagistrate who entered Italy at the head of his troops forfeited his imperium and was therefore no longer legally allowed to command troops.

Exercising imperium when forbidden by the law was a capital offence. Furthermore, obeying the commands of a general who did not legally possess imperium was a capital offence. If a general entered Italy in command of an army, both the general and his soldiers became outlaws and were automatically condemned to death. Generals were thus obliged to disband their armies before entering Italy.

In January of 49BC, Caesar brought the 13th legion across the river, which the Roman government considered insurrection, treason, and a declaration of war on the Roman Senate. According to some authors, he is said to have uttered the phrase “alea iacta est“—the die is cast—as his army marched through the shallow river. Today, the phrase “crossing the Rubicon” is an idiom that means to pass a point of no return.

This led to war with Rome and Caesar’s subsequent victory in Caesar’s Civil War ensured that he would never be punished for the infraction, and ultimately led him to becoming dictator for life.

Back to Victoria’s Rubicon River:

The guides to the camping grounds advise that when traveling by car from Melbourne – Don’t Cross The Rubicon – turn right immediately before the crossing and this bitumen road will take you to the first camping area – Kendall’s camp ground, and from then on, it is a gravel road, to nearby Boy’s camp ground and then to the much smaller Tin Cup camp ground which is just past lower hydroelectric power station.

From wikipedia:

“The Rubicon River rises from the Great Dividing Range below the Blue Range east of Buxton, and flows northwest, fueled by runoff from the Blue and Cerberean Ranges, joined by the Royston River and one minor tributary, before reaching its confluence with the Goulburn River, west of the town of Thornton. The river descends 693 metres (2,274 ft) over its 26-kilometre (16 mi) course.”

The camp grounds lie along the river on the lower valley and the only facilities are drop toilets – no water (other than the very cold river water which may become turbid with silt briefly after discharges from the power stations increase the flow rate) or showers.

Nevertheless, the local tall Eucalypt forests with tall tree ferns make for a lovely backdrop and ambience which is made all the better by the fast flowing generally shallow river flowing over rounded boulders along its course and beautiful dark clear skies at night, albeit in the Sydney to Melbourne flight path directly overhead.

These camp grounds are lovely, free camp areas and great little spots to gather around the camp fire at night and star gaze on a summer evening (if you are rugged up, the Winter Milky Way is even more stunning!), and during the day, watch out for kookaburras, the odd black cockatoo, and various other native birds.

Whilst staying there for a couple of nights, it is worth having a look at the following:

  • fly fishing for trout in the Rubicon or Goulburn Rivers
    • there is a nearby fly fishing centre and also a trout farm but there are many spots where you can try your hand along the Rubicon River.
  • historic Rubicon aqueduct tramway walking trail
    • this is a lovely walk in the tall Eucalypt forests at an elevation of some 2500 feet walking along a flat old tramway path alongside an open aqueduct which has fast flowing water from the Rubicon Dam and also from the Royston Dam as both feed the small hydroelectric system
    • there are 3 ways the walk can be done:
      • short, flat, easy 2hr 7km return walk from Royston Power Station to Rubicon Dam
        • this is perhaps the nicest section of the walks
        • IF the gated road off the Royston River Rd is open, you can drive your car down to Royston Power Station, otherwise you will have to park your car on Royston River Rd and walk down to the power station then walk back up on return – this is probably an extra 1-2km each way and adds more time to the walk.
      • long, mostly flat, 5hr 17km  circuit walk
        • park your car at the junction of Le Bruns Rd and Royston River Road
        • ascend southwards along the gravel Royston River Road for 2km to a gated road on the right – walk down this road, descending to Royston Power Station
        • optionally do the above short walk
        • complete the circuit by walking northwards from Royston Power Station along the tramway to the Winch House at the northern end where you get nice views to the north, and then take Le Bruns Rd back to your car
      • hard walk requires ~450m ascent and steep descent

        • this starts at Rubicon power station near the camp grounds and passes Rubicon Falls and Rubicon Falls Power Station and requires an ascent of some 450m up to the Royston Power Station, then, optionally, you can do the walk to Rubicon Dam and back to Royston Power Station.
        • return back northwards from Royston Power Station along the tramway to the Winch House at the northern end where you get nice views to the north BUT you then have to descend 1.3km at a 1 in 3 gradient which will challenge your knees and ankles!
  • Cicada Nature Trail circuit
    • 2hr, 6.5km gently undulating good walking path with occasional short steeper sections which links the Boys Camp Ground, Kendalls camp ground and Jungai camp, and crosses the river so that you get to walk on both sides of the river.
    • a lovely walk to do before breakfast in summer while you wait for your fellow campers to wake up!
  • Snobb’s Creek waterfall
    • a quite impressive little waterfall some 6km off the main road at Snobbs Creek – mostly gravel – make sure you do the 100m left walk down the steps to the falls as these are far more impressive than the lazy 25m right walk section
    • water flows fast over the waterfall and there is a steel viewing platform which tends to shake a bit if others are walking on it so long exposures will have to wait – optimum shutter speed for these falls is probably around 1/8th second – so best to use a camera with a great image stabiliser such as the Olympus OM-D cameras to avoid having to use a restrictive tripod and a wide angle lens such as 12mm in Micro Four Thirds format (24mm in full frame format).
  • Moura Lookout
    • not far from Snobb’s Creek waterfall is a turn off on a 4WD track which takes you to Moura Lookout and then back to Rubicon Valley
    • we needed a chainsaw to get past a newly fallen Eucalypt and a bit of back strain!

Now for some pics:

Early morning on the Cicada Circuit:




Royston Power Station to Rubicon Dam aqueduct trail:


Royston power station



Trestle bridge for tramway – this one is not able to be crossed as severely damaged.


Rubicon Dam wall

Snobb’s Creek waterfall (handheld with the Olympus Om-D E-M1 and 12mm lens):


Eildon Dam from Moura Lookout looking north-east:


You could potentially camp at this site as there is a clearing for a fire BUT judging from the many dead tall trees evidently suffering at the hands of lightning strikes – perhaps this is not the best place to be is a thunderstorm!


Amazing new camera sensor from Panasonic – 8K 60p, 36mp, global shutter, Organic-Photoconductive-Film CMOS Image Sensor

Written by Gary on February 14th, 2018

43rumors.com has just reported on a new announcement by Panasonic that it has developed a new 8K, 36mp, global shutter, Organic-Photoconductive-Film CMOS Image Sensor with some fascinating features which may change how we use the camera, and hopefully will be incorporated in their next Micro Four Thirds cameras – perhaps the Panasonic GH6?

Feature list of the new sensor:

8K, 60p, 36 mp global shutter

  • we have been waiting for an electronic global shutter for a LONG time!
  • this will eliminate rolling shutter distortions with moving subjects
  • it should allow use of electronic flash with the electronic shutter at all shutter speeds eliminating the need for power sapping HSS/Super FP flash mode at fast shutter speeds when you want to freeze motion or use flash with a wide aperture for shallow DOF in bright sunlight
  • it should allow 36mp 60fps burst modes (yes the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II can already to 60 fps RAW at 20mp and that is probably all we need but 36mp might be useful for some)
  • it should allow 8K 60p ultra high resolution video

New “In-Pixel” pixel level sensor based noise cancellation

  • presumably, this will give us lower image noise at high ISO

In-pixel gain switching technology

  • Ultra high dynamic range mode / High saturation mode
  • you will now be able to image indoors using available light without blowing the outdoor lit scenes in the window
  • skies will no longer be blown out when you need shadow detail

Voltage controlled sensitivity modulation technology

  • this is what enables the global shutter functionality apparently

Electrical ND Filter Technology

  • this allows the user to effectively “steplessly dial down” the ISO as if using any ND filter down to ND32
  • fantastic for those ultra wide angle and fisheye lenses which prevent use of external filters – now you can get those longer shutter speeds for flowing water shots with these lenses as well as negating the need to buy these filters for your other lenses

Exciting times indeed, see more details on 43Rumors.com


The Super Blue Blood Moon syzygy – lunar eclipse from Melbourne with the Olympus 300mm lens

Written by Gary on February 1st, 2018

As the much hyped syzygy of a lunar eclipse occurring during a Blue Moon (a 2nd full moon in a calendar month) at a close distance to earth (hence a “supermoon”) continues and provides us with a lovely long eclipse, it is now well past my bed time at after 1.30am so here is a quick post from around 30 minutes ago as totality had just ended:


lunar eclipse

Taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II mounted on a tripod with the Olympus mZD 300mm f/4 lens 1/15th sec, ISO 3200 at f/4, sunny WB – image has been cropped and some NR applied in LR.

12 sec delay with electronic 1st shutter to reduce camera and shutter shake.

Live Boost OFF to avoid the moon becoming too over-exposed in EVF. (For astro work without a moon, Live Boost ON is useful).

IS ON to allow magnified manual focus then I turned it off – probably don’t need to do this with the E-M1 Mark II in IS auto mode though.

I use a single spot to focus and assign Fn 2 button to magnified view then move the spot around with the arrow keys to choose some craters with details and with the IS on, the image is more steady as I focus manually.

Here are a couple of earlier shots while I was trying to dodge fast moving clouds:

Umbral totality – the red colour is in effect from a circumferential “sunset” glow around the earth as the earth’s atmosphere diffracts the longer reddish wavelengths of light as it does for our sunsets. If there was no atmosphere on earth, the moon would have been black. This image was taken at 1/10th sec f/4 and ISO 3200.

lunar eclipse

Just before umbral totality with some bluish diffraction rays of earth’s penumbra still present, this image was taken at 1/40th sec f/4 and ISO 3200 and may have had some cloud cover obscuring bottom right:

lunar eclipse

Why didn’t I drop the ISO and use a longer shutter speed?

This has to do with earth’s rotation (which is why you get star trail images with longer exposures) and also the moon’s orbit speed around earth, both of which will result in blurred craters if your shutter speed is too long for the magnification you want to achieve.

In this case I was wanting lots of magnification hence I was using a 600mm focal length lens in full frame terms and then cropping it substantially. In an ideal situation, one would want to keep the shutter speed around 1/125th sec, but even at f/4, this would require a very high ISO during umbral totality, so I compromised and went for ISO 3200 and a slower shutter speed.

Why didn’t I use the 1.4x teleconverter?

Using the teleconverter would mean I would not have to crop as much, however, it would cost me 1 stop of light and that means either doubling the exposure duration with possible movement blur, or doubling the ISO with increased noise and less dynamic range.

In my tests of with and without the teleconverter previously, there is little to be gained in this scenario in using the teleconverter, particularly, as one may need to also drop the aperture down a half stop or so to maintain the optical image clarity and thus further increasing the need to increase exposure duration or ISO – both of which you don’t want to do during totality.

Why are some of your eclipse images blurry?

The main aims of close up shots of the moon are:

  1. get as much detail as possible – get it as critically sharp as possible with no motion blur
  2. get the exposure correct
  3. and when it is not totality, get some interesting shadows on craters.

I have seen a LOT of images posted by people of the eclipse and the far majority are blurry or poorly exposed.

Photographing totality is DIFFICULT but although it is NOT a point and shoot subject, it is not rocket science either.

1. You used the wrong equipment.

Sorry guys, your iPhone or Samsung smartphone is just not going to cut it to get shots of totality with any sort of detail – UNLESS – you somehow connect it through a telescope – but this is not a simple task.

If you want sharp, close up images of totality, you need a telephoto lens of at least 400mm in full frame terms (preferably 800mm) with a wide aperture of around f/4-f/5.6.

2. You didn’t achieve critical focus.

It is very easy to not gain critical focus when you are manually focusing your telephoto lens – use Live View with image stabilisation ON, even when on a tripod, combined with magnified view or focus peaking – this is so much easier with mirrorless cameras with built-in sensor based image stabilisation.

The Olympus mZD 300mm f/4 lens I used is superb, and has a lovely manual focus clutch mechanism to allow more precise manual focus, but even with this, it takes a very slight movement of the focus ring to lose critical sharpness, and without image stabilisation to help, it is not easy – so turn the IS ON and magnify away!

3. The camera or lens shook too much.

You need a sturdy tripod out of the wind.

If using a dSLR, you should be using mirror lock up – obviously you don’t need to worry about this on mirrorless cameras.

You need to use a self timer or a remote timer to allow the camera and lens to stop vibrating after you trigger the exposure.

You need to use electronic 1st shutter in this shutter speed range to minimise shutter shake.

4. The earth moved for you.

As mentioned earlier – too long a shutter speed and you get star trailing effect which will blur the moon – better to have high ISO noise and a shorter shutter speed than subject movement blur.

The optimum longest shutter speed depends upon how magnified you will be viewing the moon in the final image – if it is a wider angle landscape shot with minimal details of the moon visible the you can get away with exposures longer than 1 second, but if you are going for the tight crop then 1/10th sec is about the longest you would want to be, and preferably faster than that.

5. Refraction of earth’s atmosphere.

If you are shooting through miles of earth’s atmosphere with a telephoto lens, there is a lot of variation on how the atmosphere bends the light each microsecond, and you can get precise manual focus one second and when you take the shot it can still be a bit blurry.

Solution, take lots of shots.

This is why the best planetary images taken from earth are down as a stack of hundreds of stills shot as a video – one gets to weed out all the blurry ones (those that look like you are looking a a plane landing on a hot tarmac down the runway – same problem, but exaggerated) and just use the sharper ones.

6. What is NOT a factor – the moon is round and depth of field is an issue for close up photos.

I have seen people talking nonsense that you need to close down your aperture to get sufficient depth of field on the moon because it is a round ball and the centre is closer to us that the edges.

OK, I agree the moon is not flat, but let’s do some maths on depth of field.

Say we are using a 1200mm telephoto lens in full frame terms and we are lucky enough to be able to use such a lens at f/4.

The moon is some 384,000km from earth and the centre is some 850km closer to us than the edges, and when we focus the lens on the moon, the DOF equations state that subjects at distances from 12km to infinity will be in “acceptable” focus – now that gives a LOT of latitude IF you have indeed focused on the moon.

Moral of this story – don’t worry about DOF, use the widest aperture your lens will give acceptable image quality – on the Olympus 300mm f/4 that is wide open at f/4, if you are using a lesser quality telephoto lens, you may need to stop it down by one stop and increase ISO by one stop.


My wish list for Micro Four Thirds in 2018

Written by Gary on January 6th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Incompatibility issues which I wish Olympus and Panasonic would resolve:

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

This is what they need to resolve:

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

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

Here are some of my wishes:

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

New cameras in 2018:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New lenses for 2018:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#5. more pro level super telephoto lenses

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

#6.  a telephoto macro lens

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

Improved cross-platform radio TTL remote flash capabilities

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

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

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

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




A seed fallen on stony ground

Written by Gary on December 28th, 2017



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

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


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

Written by Gary on December 27th, 2017

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

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

The default style – automatic eye detect viewfinder switching mode:

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

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

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

The new “Quick Sleep” setting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or, use the screen as an AF targeting pad:

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

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

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

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

On cameras with a swivel screen:

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

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

On cameras with a tilting screen:

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

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

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

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

HEAVEN indeed!

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

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

4 main modes on how your Live View displays the image

The default mode – almost WYSIWYG:

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

Live Boost 1 mode:

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

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

Live boost 2 mode:

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

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

Simulated optical view or S-OVF:

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

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

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

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

Saving battery life:

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

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

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

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

A re-cap of the Quick Sleep function:

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


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

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

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

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

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


More tips on my wiki pages.



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

Written by Gary on December 25th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “Drive” setting:

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

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

Thus I would deactivate the following options:

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

The “Picture mode” setting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip 3: optimise magnified focus functions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT for this to work you need to:

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

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

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

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

Simple, just delve into the menu system again:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information see my wiki page.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See more information on my wiki page here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip 10: Set up your own custom modes

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

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

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

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

Now I might set up custom modes as follows:

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

More tips:

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

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

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