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

Monday, September 11th, 2017

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

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

forest

forest

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

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

Sony A7II full frame with Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 vs Olympus OM-D with Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens – real world comparison images

Monday, April 24th, 2017

In an earlier blog post, I compared the Sony A7II full frame with Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 vs Olympus OM-D with Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens in terms of how they render the background wide open at f/1.8 at approximately the SAME subject distance and approximately the same field of view. The full frame kit allows 2 stops more shallow depth of field, but for most situations, the ability to blur the background with the 45mm lens is adequate, and it does so at a much smaller size.

In this post, I tackle the photographic problem slightly differently as I tried to maintain the same subject magnification by shooting the 75mm lens twice as far away from the subject as the Canon EF 85mm lens as the 2x crop factor of Micro Four Thirds means the Olympus 75mm lens actually has the field of view of a 150mm lens in full frame terms.

These are two of the sharpest wide aperture “consumer” lenses from each manufacturer – unfortunately, neither are weather-sealed.

Thus when shooting both lenses wide open at f/1.8 at same subject magnification as outlined, one can expect for the Olympus 75mm lens, the background field of view will be narrower and more compressed (which I prefer as most Australian forest backgrounds tend to be busy, chaotic and distracting, and one can better avoid having distracting bright skies in the frame, so less background for me is better, even though it is not as blurry).

Had I shot with the background at infinity, the DOF calculations indicate that the background would be just as blurry, but when the background is quite close to the subject as in these images, the full frame does give more blurry images – but at times too blurry (although this can be addressed by stopping the aperture down but then may need to increase ISO by 2 EV if you cannot afford to have a slower shutter speed, and then the benefits of full frame are largely lost).

One big difference between the two is the far better close up magnification obtainable with the Olympus mZD 75mm lens as both have close focus of around 0.85m but the Olympus does this with twice the telephoto effect giving twice the macro.

In addition, I feel the Olympus OM-D cameras render the greens in a more pleasing way than the Sony a7II, and of course, the Olympus camera has a 4:3 aspect ratio which I think works better for portraits, while the Sony has the old, historic, narrow 3:2 ratio.

The Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 lens is a highly regarded “portrait” lens, often regarded as one of the best Canon lenses which is not a Pro L lens. It is sharp but does have some CA issues wide open. When used with the Sigma MC-11 EF-Sony lens adapter, you do get fairly fast AF but no Eye AF.

On a full frame camera such as the Sony A7II mirrorless camera, the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 provides the user with shallow depth of field options when compared to the slightly smaller (58mm filter vs 58mm filter), lighter (305g vs 400g) Olympus micro ZD 75mm f/1.8 lens but will this really matter for most people and will the many benefits of the Olympus system outweigh the DOF benefits of the full frame system?

The Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens is regarded as one of the best lenses ever made optically and is one of my all time favorite lenses for people photography and also shallow DOF work on Olympus cameras. Unlike the 85mm lens it is optimised for mirrorless cameras and their CDAF system and thus you can have fairly fast, accurate face detection autofocus on the subject’s closest eye (if they are not moving much), which is an awesome feature indeed – this is not possible with the Canon lens.

The Olympus lens has 5EV image stabilisation thanks to the Olympus OM-D E-M1, while the Canon lens gains around 2-3 EV IS thanks to the Sony a7II (it would have none if used on a Canon dSLR).

Real world lens tests:

Let’s have a look at some images straight from camera (just resized for web viewing) with both lenses at f/1.8 as I walked around an oak forest yesterday, not really looking for great shots, but shots to show difference in depth of field and image quality between the two systems when taken from the same camera position.

The Olympus is first then the Canon, all taken at f/1.8, base ISO, with auto WB unless specified, and none had any filters applied to the lenses – both had lens hoods attached:

lenses

lenses

lenses

lenses

lenses

lenses

I much prefer the Olympus version of the above two, gives better context and I personally find the bokeh of the Canon one a bit annoying because we have lost the definition of the trees too much leaving distracting vertical lines.

lenses

The above was taken with “Shady” white balance.

lenses

lenses

lenses

The following two show that if the subject distance is substantially less than the background distance, then the degree of background blurring becomes more similar with the two lenses.

lenses

lenses

The following two were taken not with the same imagery, but I have added them anyway.

The Olympus  was with WB set to “Shady” but came out too warm – I should have taken a custom WB with a grey target to get the best rendition here.

lenses

lenses

The foreground bokeh of this last Canon EF 85mm lens image is very distracting and busy and in fact is so annoying I would be forced to crop it out.

Each lens renders images differently even though I have tried to control subject magnification – both have nice bokeh in most cases, but you do get quite different images – sometimes in favor of the Olympus (thanks to double the background compression), sometimes in favor of the Canon 85mm (thanks to more blurring of a nearby background).

There is no “RIGHT” camera / lens combination that will suit every image – you as the photography have the decision to make as to which tool is needed – assuming you have the tools with you.

But in the end, if you had not seen the full frame imagery, most would be very happy with the degree of background blurring of the Olympus lens – it has how you use it that will determine the success of your photography.

Here is what the Olympus 75mm lens can achieve in outdoor available light portraiture:

portrait

Can Micro Four Thirds cameras do portraiture well?

Monday, December 26th, 2016

I often get asked this question as many people are told that you need a full frame camera to do portraiture to get adequately shallow depth of field and nice bokeh blurred backgrounds.

This might apply if you are shooting wide angle lenses but once you hit standard focal lengths and longer, Micro Four Thirds cameras are very adequate indeed – IF you are using a wide aperture lens such as the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7, Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2, Olympus 25mm f/1.8, Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2, Olympus 45mm f/1.8, Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 or even the Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 when used at 135-150mm.

A world famous portrait photographer, Sean Archer started off with Micro Four Thirds, and was encouraged to migrate to full frame dSLR which he did, but he is now back using Micro Four Thirds and the Olympus 45mm and 75mm f/1.8 lenses.

I have blogged before of Sean’s beautiful work here.

The Olympus OM-D cameras offer a few major advantages over full frame dSLRs for portraiture:

  • image stabilisation with prime lenses allowing you to shoot at slower shutter speeds such as in low light or with fill in flash
  • more compact and light – you are more likely to take it with you and not intimidate your subjects
  • near silent – great for ceremonies, concerts, and anywhere else where a noisy dSLR is not welcome
  • closest eye detection AF for superbly sharp autofocus on the closest eye one of the most desirable features of a portrait (although not 100% reliable but much better than a dSLR, and your subject’s eye does not need to be near the centre of the image as with a dSLR AF point)

There are some downsides compared with a full frame dSLR:

  • AF is not so good for moving subjects unless you get a Panasonic G85 or Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark II
  • the near silent shutter can work against you if shooting models – they can’t hear when you have got the shot
  • the cameras don’t look as big and heavy to be “professional” – never-mind, just carry a few with battery grips attached and external flashes
  • less able to gain shallow DOF with wide angle lenses
  • less able to gain super shallow “arty” DOF – don’t worry, most professionals won’t use this for  portraiture as you don’t get the ear to nose in focus which is what is desirable for most portraits
  • ability to use standard f/2.8 zoom lenses for adequate shallow DOF portraits (the Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 won’t give you the shallow DOF you want)

My favourite lens for portraiture is the Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8:

Here are some examples from a workshop I ran on a sunny day outdoors without reflectors or flashes to show that you don’t need a full frame dSLR to get beautiful imagery.
75mm

75mm

75mm

75mm

please say yes

You can see more outdoor sunny day portraits of mine using this lens at this blog post.

One can use the Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8:

Olympus lens

The Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.8 makes for a nice light, compact portrait lens:

Zombies shot outdoor with an off-camera Orbis Ring Flash attached to an Olympus flash with a orange filter on:

zombie guy

retro zombie

For social events, I love the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake:

Camera, lens and bounce flash kit all fit in a couple of coat pockets!

Here the camera automatically focused on the closest face which is well to the left of what the AF points on most dSLRs would be able to detect, but not an issue with a mirrorless camera!

For Olympus users, they may prefer the larger and newer Olympus 25mm f/1.8 lens with faster AF, or, if you have the money, the very expensive but superb Olympus 25mm f/1.2 lens.

DOF
see more of these here.

With Micro Four Thirds, there is a large range of lenses, but if you want shallow depth of field, you do need to choose a wide aperture lens such as f/1.2 – f/1.8 or f/2.8 if focal length is longer than 135mm.

 

The Bachelorette – a little photo story from an available light portrait workshop yesterday using the Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

I rarely shoot portraits and so when an opportunity came up for an outdoor available light workshop yesterday on an afternoon in the harsh Australian sun when only crazy people shoot portraits, I just had to attend.

The Australian sun in spring and summer is high in the sky casting dark shadows on eyes and is not easy to work with – most fashion photographers shooting outdoors would only shoot in the early morning or late afternoon to catch a more flattering sun angle or just the glow from the sky after the sun has set.

Why do workshops?

Photography is a life long learning experience and by attending workshops you get to experience new ideas and experiment with them as well as network with like minded people. Another great benefit is that with a few people attending the costs of model and hair and make up artist time becomes more affordable for non-commercial photographers like me and this makes them attractive and a win-win scenario for all concerned.

This workshop was organised by a Melbourne professional photographer, Nelli Huié, who ran an excellent, well organised session and demonstrated several different styles and gave some great tips.

The brilliant actress / model was Kyla Nichole Nelson and the hair and makeup artist was Aneta Nabrdalik – both had their work cut out in the trying sunny conditions.

After perusing my images I decided to create a “Bachelorette” storyline (or perhaps it is more Mills and Boon?) to fit the emotive feel of some of my images I selected from the afternoon – a bit cheesy, but then so it is the reality TV show. The chosen images are partly to show the diversity of what we achieved and also show the talent of Kyla’s ability to morph from one emotion to another whilst still creating aesthetic poses with minimal direction, while I tried to position the camera for best subject and background interplay whilst juggling with exposure (mostly manual exposure mode), white balance and focus.

All images were shot hand held with a Olympus OM-D E-M1 Micro Four Thirds camera with my favourite portrait lens, the Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 with available light only – no fill-in flash. The last two images used a diffuser in bright sunlight, the others were achieved with selective placement of the model amongst trees. The 1st image foreground bokeh was generated from out of focus fellow attendees in front of me which I decided to include in the shot.

Post-processing was of RAW files in Adobe Lightroom with editing mainly of removal of blemishes and some local and overall tone edits, but no skin smoothing and no sharpening other than the default sharpen for screen on export from Lightroom. No adjustments to eyes except for some lightening of her eyes in the smiling shot.

Enjoy.. and I hope they inspire you to get out and do some workshops and experiment – look for the light, always observant of how the light falls on your subject and just as important how you choose a background and how you render it with nice bokeh.

The Bachelorette:

Please, please, say yes ….

please say yes

Yes, he said yes!

yes

Today is the day, I can’t wait til he gets here:

optimism

anticipation

Typical guy, late as usual…

late

Now I’m getting worried, he should be here…

late

How could he do this to me?

glassy eyes

I couldn’t bear to live without him

sleeping beauty

Sleeping beauty waiting for another prince to come along:

sleeping beauty

South Australia – first up – Adelaide

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

Adelaide is the capital city of the State of South Australia and is just over 1 hour’s flight from Melbourne although you also need to take into account the 30min time zone difference.

The airport is close to the CBD and it does have a reasonable bus and train public transport system (no train at airport though) although I have never used this, and of course you can pick up your rental car from the airport or from the CBD.

To me, Adelaide CBD has never been inspirational itself from a cultural, retail, culinary or photographic viewpoint, but then I am spoilt by what Melbourne has to offer.

It, along with other local areas such as Port Adelaide, does have some nice 19th century heritage sandstone buildings to check out, but more importantly, there are are great number of areas to explore by car all within a 2 hour drive such as the Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu Peninsula, Barossa Valley and Clare Valley wine regions, York Peninsula, and a multitude of beaches.

You can even enter the “outback” type remote desert regions past historic copper mining heritage town of Burra in just over 2 hrs if the weather has been dry and the gravel roads there are manageable  (see a later post on this).

There are a couple of oases where I like to chill out and take photos in the CBD – the Adelaide Botanic Gardens is lovely with a wide range of plants and lots of secret nooks and crannies to explore, and nearby, the State Art Gallery has free entry, and although is no where near the size of the NGV in Melbourne, it does have a few nice art works and often very alternative avant garde works.

First the wonderful botanic gardens

The Olympus OM-D and the lovely Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 Micro Four Thirds lens:

One of the many nooks and crannies:

secret nooks and crannies

water lily:

water lily

a great variety of interesting trees:

tree

and more water plants:

water plants

Now the Art Gallery, again with the Olympus 75mm lens:

A nailed installation by Swiss-born, Thomas Hirschhorn titled “Twin subjecter”:

twin subjecter

And my view through a sculpture of an Arthur Boyd portrait painting:

twin subjecter

Port Adelaide:

If you are returning the car at the airport and coming from the north, it is worth stopping off for refreshments and an explore around Port Adelaide, you never know what you find in this mix of industrial and heritage architecture – this was taken using the Olympus ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 lens:

street art

Victorian goldfields with the the Olympus OM-D E-M5 – part V – Waanyarra gold fields

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Stage V of my road trip takes us north east a few kilometres from the lovely gold rush town of Dunolly to a rather deserted, dry forest which was once the Waanyarra gold fields of the 1850′s – there is a short gravel road drive, first to the old cemetery (1856-1990), then to a picnic and camping area (byo water!), and then in a circuit past Morton’s old hut and then back on to the main highway.

When gold was discovered in Waanyarra in 1852, it was soon discovered that the alluvial gold nuggets were one of the purest in the world. From 1859-1888, large mining companies entered the field and displaced the individual miners who were to return in 1889 when the depression hit.

Waanyarra was a gold rush town in the 1850′s which consisted of 2 hotels, several stores, a school, and a post office which remained opened until the 1920′s – but there are few remains of any of these today, although the foundations of the Jones’ Creek School are still there – this school operated from 1857-1873 and had an average of 16 pupils. In 1877, a new school was built – the Waanyarra School No 1879, and in 1903, 65 students were being taught in one class room. There was a nearby cricket ground and picnic area. Other remnants can be found as one wanders through the bushwalks with a careful eye.

These photos were taken with the wonderful Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera.

Some shots of the mysterious Waanyarra cemetery which is well worth a wander around for a few minutes to get a sense of the history (Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens at f/1.8).

Wooden grave of Jesse Turner who died in the 1860′s aged 37yrs:

grave

Wooden graves:

grave

And this is the grave of one James McCoy who died in 1898 aged 82yrs and who chose to be buried with his mate William Horan who had died there in 1874 at age 46yrs:

grave

Happy campers at the picnic ground (Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens at f/1.8).

happy campers

BBQ

Morton’s hut was once the Welcome Inn – Morton’s Old Hotel built by the ex-convict in 1850 as a replica of his home in Ireland. The building served as a home for his family of 8, as well as a provisioning store and public bar for countless miners (Olympus mZD 12mm f/2.0 lens at f/6.3)

Morton's hut

Morton's hut

Morton's hut

Next stop… the almost ghost town of Tarnagulla….

An afternoon stroll through the Brisbane Ranges with the E-M5 and 75mm lens

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

I love this time of year in Victoria – not too hot, not too cold, not too wet, not too many bullants, no biting March flies and no bush flies to annoy you like there are in summer.

Still have yet to see a snake on my many walks in the bush this year, but I am sure they are watching me!

Here are a couple from yesterday’s impromptu bushwalk into the old gold mining regions of the Brisbane Ranges in Victoria which not too long ago was severely impacted by bushfire.

These were both taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 with the awesome Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens.

 

 

What pushes me on .. is always wondering what I will see around the next bend:

around the bend

And around one bend I came across this little fella leisurely strolling across the path and into the scrub looking for ants – I don’t think he had ever seen a human before, and he didn’t seem to notice me for a few seconds then when he did he quickly “hid” by rolling up next to a tree trunk hoping I couldn’t see him.

This is an echidna, a native Australian monotreme that lays eggs like a platypus.


echidna

Ramblings through the Australian bush with the Olympus OM-D E-M5

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

These were taken with the E-M5 with the Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens unless specified:

Forest dreams:

forest dreams

Native wild flower Hardenbergia violacea in early Spring near Castlemaine

hardenbergia

Bushfire recovery:

bushfire

Airey’s Inlet region on the Great Ocean Road:

beach

Abstract sea dragon:

sea dragon

Iris at a winery:

iris

Thysanotus native wildflower with the Olympus mZD 60mm f/2.8 macro lens – this lovely little perennial’s flowers only last 1 day:

wildflower

End of Winter in Victoria with the Olympus OM-D E-M5

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Well Spring is here, and so here are a few more shots from the past couple of weeks in rural Victoria.

Snow gums in a sea of cloud – Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens, hand held, 1/8th sec:

snow gums in a sea of cloud

Gargoyles welcoming in a super moon in Bendigo
- Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8, hand held, f/7.1, 1/160th sec, ISO 200, exposure compensation negative 1.7EV to expose for the moon and lamp, some tonal post-processing:

super moon

The lions roar at dusk in Bendigo – Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8, hand held, f/7.1, 1/125th sec, ISO 400, exposure compensation negative 2EV to expose for the lamp and reflected twilight light, some tonal post-processing:

lions

The tree of knowledge – the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 is great even into the sun

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

Following on from my earlier post demonstrating images taken on Daylesford, Victoria with the Olympus 75mm f/1.8lens, here is another from that region.

This was again shot using the lovely, light and very sharp Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens& on the Micro Four Thirds camera, the lovely little Olympus OM-D E-M5:

the tree of knowledge

tree of knowledge

This image was exposed to create a silhouette and then processed in Lightroom principally to darken and warm the clouds.

ps.. if shooting into the sun, remove any filters which may introduce internal lens flare – unless of course, you want this.