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Another nail in the coffin of Canon/Nikon relative duopoly – Cactus introduces cross-platform radio remote TTL flash system

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

Since the 1960′s, Canon and Nikon have enjoyed a relative duopoly in the world of system cameras, especially amongst professional photographers.

In the late 1980′s, Canon took the lead with their totally redesigned lens mount system allowing fast AF, and it is only in the last decade or so that Nikon has again taken the lead with their even better AF tracking and metering technologies.

But as Olympus has shown with their Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera, the advantages of the Canon and Nikon dSLR systems are rapidly being lost to ever improving technological advances, especially with sensors, AF and mirrorless systems which, particularly in the case of Micro Four Thirds, offer adequate image quality (often better edge to edge image sharpness) , smaller, lighter, less expensive kits more suited to our travel and hiking needs, more accurate and often faster AF, faster burst speeds with accurate continuous AF, much better image stabilisation, hand holdable super telephoto reach as well as better run and gun hand holdable 4K video.

Part of the successful marketing strategy of Canon and Nikon is keeping their users loyal to their brand – once they have invested into their system, much like Apple users, they are generally too heavily invested to swap brands or even to use other brands with different user interfaces or incompatibilities.

If you had, or wanted to use Canon lenses to their full capability, you had to buy Canon dSLRs, likewise for Nikon.

If you had a Canon system, you had to buy Canon-specific flash systems if you want TTL or remote radio TTL flash – likewise for Nikon.

Canon dSLR owners could use other lenses, even Nikon lenses but with sacrifice of fast AF.

Nikon dSLR owners could not use non-Nikon mount lenses due to a physical design issue – the distance from sensor to lens mount is too long.

Enter the new world of cross-platform utility

My last blog post espoused the potential utility of using Sony full frame mirrorless cameras with a Sigma MC-11 adapter which at last provides fast AF with most Canon EF mount lenses on Sony cameras, but in particular, the Sigma branded ones.

This allows photographers increased choice – they could get a mirrorless full frame camera with a different sensor characteristics plus sensor based image stabilisation and face AF for their Canon lenses with better feature sets at the same price as the entry level Canon 6D dSLR- seeing that Canon has not shown interest in creating such a camera.

Now, Cactus has massively increased cross-platform utility by announcing a free firmware upgrade to their Cactus V6 II radio remote control flash system, which allows Canon, Nikon or Olympus flashes to be used with most other brand cameras with either on-camera TTL or remote radio cross-TTL capability!

This is awesome, but wait, there’s more, the Cactus V6 II x-TTL also allows:

  • remote control of flash unit output, even below 1/128th level for ultra short, motion-stopping shots
  • automatic zoom level control of flashes
  • Super FP or HSS mode (but Pentax and Sony cameras need a brand-specific flash for this to work)
  • Power Sync mode to allow a faster flash sync without losing flash output as occurs in Super FP/HSS mode
  • two unique new flash exposure modes:
    • Flash Compensate – store a desired flash exposure that will automatically adjust according to changes in camera settings.
    • Flash Power Lock – lock flash power output after a desired TTL exposure is achieved, for consistency in repeat shooting.

See my wikipedia page for more information of remote control of flashes.

 And, of course, this also also fantastic news for Micro Four Thirds users who can now have radio TTL flash on their Olympus and Panasonic cameras – even with Canon flashes!

Value adding to your lens collection – can a Sony a7 II + Sigma MC-11 bring new life to your Canon lenses without breaking your bank?

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Choosing a new camera can really value add to your existing lenses and give them a new life.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Micro Four Thirds camera adds extra dimensions to your Micro Four Thirds kit by giving them even better image stabilisation, awesome C-AF at 18 fps burst rates with Pro-Capture option and the option of 50mp HiRes mode (albeit requiring a tripod and static scene).

Many of us have a collection of Canon pro lenses and an old Canon dSLR camera which needs updating to value add to these lenses – but which camera?

Sure, you could adapt them onto your Micro Four Thirds cameras but these Canon lenses are not optimised for CDAF, so you need an expensive Metabones adapter to get reasonable AF – and the capability will vary with each lens – some, such as the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro and one of my favorites, the Canon EF 135mm F2L lens will just not AF with a Metabones adapter – whether a straight adapter or a 0.71x focal reducer adapter.

You could buy a cropped sensor Canon dSLR, but unless you are into sports where the Canon 7D Mark II will be useful, the full frame lenses are just too big and poorly suited to cropped sensor dSLRs and Canon don’t make many pro quality lenses designed especially for their cropped sensor cameras.

If you have the money, the obvious choice are the superb Canon 1DX Mark II or the Canon 5D Mark IV but these are likely to break your bank at around $AU5000.

You see money is everything for most of us, if money was not an issue, we would probably buy a variety of best of breed cameras such as:

  • Hasselblad or Phase One medium format for landscapes and studio work
  • Nikon D5 or Canon 1DX with massive, expensive lenses such as a 600mm f/4 for sports or wildlife
  • Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II for everyday use and compact, light travel

But money is an issue for most of us, and so in the Canon full frame dSLRs at the entry level end we have the outdated Canon 6D or Canon 5D Mark III dSLRs, but although these will get you the full frame shallow depth of field and high ISO capabilities, these are not suited to sports, have an old sensor which has less dynamic range capability at base ISO than even the E-M1 Mark II, and in the case of the 6D in particular, has crippled functionality such as a shutter speed only to 1/4000th sec.

Can we do better at an affordable price? – Enter the Sony a7II

The Sony a7 mark II combined with the relatively new and affordable  Sigma MC-11 Canon EF lens adapter may well be a better option than the similarly priced older canon 6D IF you can live with a few major issues:

  • variable AF functionality depending upon the lens but unlike using the much more expensive Metabones adapter, the Sigma MC-11 adapter works really well with the Canon EF 135mm f/2L, so well, that it has made me consider the Sony a7II as a reasonable option! The Canon 50mm f/1.8 II works, but every time you turn the camera off and then on, the lens freezes, so you have to partly dismount the lens and mount, then turn camera back on to re-gain AF functionality.
  • terrible ergonomics – I am not sure what happened to all those Minolta camera engineers when Sony took them over, but, the Sony cameras are certainly not designed with the photographer in mind – if you think the Olympus menu system is confused and convoluted, Sony is worse, and with sometimes very strange  design options, and worse, the constant need to dig into the menu system for simple things such as switching from back button AF to half shutter AF modes, and unlike the Olympus, navigating the panel display settings is very clunky, plus for some reason, the EVF looks blurry even after adjusting the diopter, and countless other annoyances such as no button to switch from EVF to screen manually – yep, you guessed it – another deep dive into the menu system – if you can remember which screen its on! Plus, unlike Olympus, there is no context-sensitive help on the menus or the Scene modes (you just get a sometimes obscure icon).
  • did I mention terrible ergonomics?
  • did I mention the really loud shutter? – unlike Olympus, there is no silent mode – but at least your subjects can hear you taking the shot from 10m away!
  • cannot yet use Canon flashes in TTL mode – but they work fine in manual mode – thankfully, Sony got rid of the proprietary non-industry standard Minolta hotshoe! PS. the Cactus radio wireless TTL flash system is being updated in 2017 to allow Canon and Olympus flashes to work on Sony cameras and other brand cameras including Olympus cameras with full TTL remote radio wireless flash – but Sony and Pentax cameras currently require brand-specific flashes for HSS mode. AWESOME!
  • is not supplied with an external battery charger – what the??? You charge the battery via USB cable with battery in the camera – not very useful if tyou want to use the camera while the battery is charging! You can apparently buy one with a spare battery for about $100

What benefits does the Sony a7 II have over the similarly priced Canon 6D?

  • mirrorless – camera is smaller and lighter, 600g vs 770g
  • EVF instead of OVF means you can hold the camera to your eye for Live View including movies, plus, if you are like me and require reading glasses, you can get away without them by using the EVF for everything including diving into the menu
  • manual focus magnification with focus peaking in the viewfinder – fantastic for Tilt-Shift lenses which are otherwise difficult to focus
  • ability to use native Sony lenses as well as Leica M lenses – probably not a big deal unless you really want to invest in an essentially flawed design system -in my opinion, Sony made a mistake in designing the E-Mount sensor to lens flange distance so short and the mount diameter so narrow – sure it makes the cameras smaller, but that doesn’t help much on full frame as the lenses are gigantic, and furthermore, it cripples image quality with wide aperture, wide angle lenses and cripples the capabilities of a sensor based image stabilisation system – hence the Sony Steady shot IS is no match for the Olympus system, and according to the laws of physics is unlikely to ever be!
  • 24mp newer sensor with much better dynamic range compared to the old 2012 model 20mp sensor of the 6D
  • shutter speed to 1/8000th sec not just 1/4000th sec
  • 5 axis sensor based image stabiliser that works on all lenses (gives about 2EV benefit but requires compatible OIS lens for greatest benefit) vs NO sensor based IS on the 6D – or any Canon dSLR for that matter!
  • 117 PDAF autofocus points compared to 11 on the 6D which are all crowded in the centre
  • face detection AF even when used with Canon lenses – vs face detection only in Live View mode
  • eye detect AF with compatible lenses (not currently with the Canon lenses unless they are made by Sigma)
  • 1200 zone metering instead of 63 zone dual layer metering
  • flash sync 1/250th sec vs 1/180th sec – although my tests with Canon and Olympus flashes, the Sony a7ii only syncs fully at 1/200th sec – perhaps you need a Sony flash for 1/250th sec sync
  • 1.23m dot tilting LCD vs 1mdot fixed LCD (unfortunately, neither offer touch screen)
  • 1080HD 60p video vs 1080HD 30p
  • more accurate AF and much less need for AF microadjustment as the PDAF sensors are on the main sensor not located elsewhere and hence need calibration

Benefits of the Canon 6D over the Sony a7II:

  • similar interface to other Canon dSLRs, albeit a little crippled compared to its more expensive models
  • optical viewfinder for those who value such things
  • better batter life as no EVF
  • more reliable AF with Canon lenses but you are restricted to those 11 points in the centre, and you don’t get face detect AF through the viewfinder let alone eye detection AF
  • ability to use Canon flashes in TTL mode although the Cactus radio wireless TTL flash system is being updated in 2017 to allow Canon and Olympus flashes to work on Sony cameras with full TTL remote radio wireless flash – but apparently they can’t get HSS mode working at this stage!

Conclusion:

In the end, you need to work out which is best for you and the style of photography you do – both solutions are a long way from being ideal – they are both budget compromises – which compromise works for you – only you can tell!

For me, having an image stabilised Canon 135mm f/2L lens with face detect AF and ability to do Live View manual focus magnification with focus peaking in the viewfinder while using Canon Tilt-Shift lenses on the Sony with a better dynamic range and 1/8000th sec shutter for sunny days makes this a compelling choice for me if I were to purchase one of the two.

 

 

Canon announce a new mirrorless camera – the Canon EOS M6 – essentially an M5 without EVF

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Canon have just announced a curiously named budget mirrorless camera – the M6 which is a cut down version of the M5 as there is no viewfinder built-in – but at least it is optional (a non-tilting 2.36Mdot EVF-DC2) – in a similar manner to the Olympus PEN series.

It is similar to the Canon EOS M5 but without the EVF, and instead offers flip up self LCD screen, and an additional dial on the top plate to make it more ergonomic.

Like the M5, it offers an “electronic version of 5 axis image stabilisation in combination with lens OIS” – BUT this only works in video mode and should not be confused with the sensor shift 5 axis image stabilisation offered by Olympus, Panasonic, Sony, and Pentax.

It will be available April 2017.

Specs:

  • 24mp APS-C sensor
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF with Phase-detection on sensor
  • 7fps (9fps with AF lock)
  • shutter speeds 30sec to 1/4000th sec
  • flash sync 1/200th sec
  • exposure compensation limited to ±3 EV
  • AE bracketing limited to ±2 EV
  • built in flash GN 5m at ISO 100
  • DIGIC 7 Image Processor
  • 5 axis electronic IS which will work with lens based optical IS – “Combination IS system” BUT only works in video mode
  • 1080HD 60p video 35mbps (24mbps at 24p)
  • stereo mic
  • 3″ 1mDot TFT touch screen tilts up 180deg and down 45deg
  • smartphone remote control via Bluetooth
  • WiFi, NFC
  • USB 2.0
  • SD card slot
  • NOT weathersealed
  • Canon EF-M lens mount
  • 343 g (0.76 lb / 12.10 oz)
  • 112 x 68 x 45 mm (4.41 x 2.68 x 1.77″)
  • RRP $US780 body only

They are then offering this with either a EF-M 15-45mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM lens or a EF-M 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM lens – both disappointingly f/6.3 lenses but presumably designed to be as compact as possible for an APS-C camera.

It seems Canon is still struggling to catch up with the technology offered by its peers such as the far more affordable Panasonic GX850/GX800 which also has a selfie mode with flip up screen and in addition has 4K video not just 1080HD video, or the Panasonic GX85/80 with built-in EVF, 5 axis IS, 4K video and weathersealing.

More information on the Canon EOS-M mirrorless cameras and lenses on my wiki page.

Canon, I am still waiting for true sensor-based 5 axis image stabilisation, and preferably in a mirrorless full frame camera!!!

Can’t afford a mirrorless camera? Here is a brief guide to the budget dSLRs in Jan 2017.

Friday, January 27th, 2017

In 2017, the mirrorless interchangeable cameras such as Micro Four Thirds (eg. Olympus or Panasonic – see my previous post on budget mirrorless cameras) are probably the best suited for most people in terms of size of camera and lenses, weatherproofing, image stabilisation, hand held video capabilities, versatility, image quality, more fun and value for money.

However, the most affordable versions of these tend to be too compact and lack too many features, and for those on a strict budget who need better ergonomics and can do without weathersealing and the many features that mirrorless offer (eg magnified manual focus in viewfinder, image review in viewfinder without need for reading glasses, live histograms, focus peaking, etc.), they may have to resort to entry level cropped sensor dSLRs with their cut down features.

The sad fact is that both Canon and Nikon have largely failed to offer high quality dedicated lenses for these dSLRs so that users can grow into the system without having to resort to large, heavy, expensive full frame lenses to address their growth needs. Enthusiast photographers will generally quickly migrate to more expensive full frame dSLRs to make the most of these full frame lenses – but this is a path to financial pain as well as backache, and they will not be able to use their cropped sensor lenses on these full frame cameras without having to resort to a cropped view mode.

Unlike mirrorless cameras, if you want to shoot video, you have to put the mirror up and use the rear LCD screen – you won’t be able to see anything through the viewfinder. In addition, very few lenses for dSLRs are optimised for video work – exceptions are those with stepping autofocus motors (marked as “STM” on Canon lenses).

Canon cropped sensor dSLRs can use dedicated cropped sensor lenses (“EF-S”) or larger full frame lenses (“EF”).

Nikon cropped sensor dSLRs can use dedicated cropped sensor lenses (“DX”) or larger full frame Nikon F mount lenses.

All have rather dark, cropped view Pentamirror viewfinders rather than the brighter, 100% coverage of the more expensive dSLR pentaprisms.

Canon budget dSLRs:

All have 1.6x cropped sensors, optical viewfinder with 95% image coverage, 1080HD 24/25/30p video, flash sync 1/200th sec, longest timed shutter speed of 30sec, built-in flash, scene modes including Scene Intelligent Auto, ±5 exposure compensation, 3frames AE bracketing up to ±2EV, Face Detection AF but only fast in Live View with mirror up,  USB 2.0, single SD card slot, limited spread of AF points across the frame and minimal button customisations.

None have weathersealing, built-in sensor based image stabilisation or 4K video.

The older models up to and including the 700D (rebel T5i), and the smaller cheaper models all have similar outdated 18mp sensors 1st introduced with the Canon EOS 550D (rebel T2i) – ie. the sensors are old 2010 level technologies – a lot has happened since then!

The newer 24mp sensor is still not as good for high ISO and dynamic range as the Sony sensors found in Nikon, Pentax, Olympus and Sony bodies.

Canon EOS 1300D (Rebel T6):

  • this is the older, 2013, basic model with 18mp sensor, Digic 4+ image processor, 9 AF points, 3″ fixed 920Kdot LCD screen, shutter to 1/4000th sec, mono mic, no mic port
  • popup flash has GN of 9.2m at ISO 100
  • burst rate 3fps
  • AF is very slow in Live View or movie mode
  • 485 g (1.07 lb / 17.11 oz)), 129 x 101 x 78 mm (5.08 x 3.98 x 3.07″)
  • remote control via optional RC-6 cable or WiFi
  • built-in WiFi + NFC but compatible with Eye-Fi SD cards to transfer images wirelessly
  • in Jan 2017, body with basic 3x zoom kit lens will cost $AU433 after cash back from Canon

Canon EOS 100D (Rebel SL1):

  • this is the compact 2016 model with 18mp sensor, Digic 5 image processor, 9 AF points, 3″ fixed 1mdot LCD touch screen, shutter to 1/4000th sec, mono mic and a mic port
  • popup flash has GN of 9.4m at ISO 100
  • burst rate 4fps
  • basic 63 zone metering system
  • AF is very slow in Live View or movie mode
  • 407 g (0.90 lb / 14.36 oz), 117 x 91 x 69 mm (4.61 x 3.58 x 2.72″)
  • remote control via optional RC-6 cable
  • no built-in WiFi but compatible with Eye-Fi SD cards to transfer images wirelessly
  • in Jan 2017, body only will cost $AU399 after cash back from Canon, perhaps a good option is the kit with the EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens for $490 after cash back

Canon EOS 750D (Rebel T6i /Kiss X6i):

  • this is the larger 2015 model with 24mp sensor, Digic 6 image processor, 19 AF all cross type points (same as 70D), 3″ articulated 1mdot LCD touch screen, shutter to 1/4000th sec, stereo mic and a mic port
  • popup flash has GN of 12m at ISO 100
  • burst rate 5fps
  • new 7560 pixel RGB + IR metering sensor for more accurate metering
  • new Hybrid CMOS AF III uses sensor-based phase detection points for increased focus speed and accuracy in live view (this is different to the Dual Pixel AF sensor found on the more expensive 70D and 7D II)
  • Eye sensor for use with optical viewfinder
  • Flicker detection
  • 555 g (1.22 lb / 19.58 oz) / 132 x 101 x 78 mm (5.2 x 3.98 x 3.07″)
  • remote control via optional RC-6 cable or smartphone via WiFi
  • built-in WiFi + NFC
  • issues include:
    • poor subject tracking and face detection AF unless you use Live View
    • limited AF point coverage across the frame (mainly just in the centre – so problematic for portraits, etc away from the centre)
    • limited dynamic range
    • no exposure compensation in manual mode with auto ISO
    • auto ISO uses the 1/focal length as longest shutter speed to use, cannot program this
    • poor battery life compared with more expensive dSLRs
    • no ability to microadjust AF for each lens leading to possible inaccurate AF in all shots
  • in Jan 2017, body only will cost $AU755 after cash back from Canon

Canon EOS 760D (Rebel T6s /Kiss X6s):

  • as for 750D but $30 dearer and adds:
    • LCD information display on top plate
    • Quick control dial on rear but awkward to use for some
    • Servo AF in live view, which lets you track moving subjects when shooting in live view
  • competes with the Nikon D5500

Nikon budget dSLRs:

All have 1.5x cropped sensors, optical viewfinder with 95% image coverage, 1080HD 24/25/30/60p video, flash sync 1/200th sec, longest timed shutter speed of 30sec, built-in flash, ±5 exposure compensation, 3frames AE bracketing up to ±2EV, Face Detection AF but only fast in Live View with mirror up,  USB 2.0, single SD card slot, limited spread of AF points across the frame and minimal button customisations.

None have weathersealing, built-in sensor based image stabilisation, PDAF in Live View, or 4K video.

Nikon D3400:

  • this is the compact 2016 model with 24mp sensor, Expeed 4 image processor, 11 AF points, 3″ fixed 920Kdot LCD screen, shutter to 1/4000th sec, mono mic but no mic port and no timelapse recording
  • popup flash has GN of 12m at ISO 100
  • burst rate 5fps
  • AF is very slow in Live View or movie mode
  • battery life 3x longer than the above Canon models
  • 395 g (0.87 lb / 13.93 oz) / 124 x 98 x 76 mm (4.88 x 3.86 x 2.99″)
  • remote control via optional  cable or smartphone via Bluetooth
  • Bluetooth Snapbridge only no built-in WiFi
  • in Jan 2017, body only will cost $AU535

Nikon D5500:

  • this is the compact 2016 model with 24mp sensor, Expeed 4 image processor, 39 AF points incl. 9 cross-type, 3.2″ articulated 1mdot LCD touch screen, shutter to 1/4000th sec, stereo mic, mic port
  • popup flash has GN of 12m at ISO 100
  • 17 mm eyepoint
  • burst rate 5fps
  • Multi-CAM 4800DX autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection
  • 3D color matrix metering II (type G, E, and D lenses)
  • 3D subject tracking
  • no anti-alias filter and thus can give marginally more image detail than the above Canon models
  • no AE bracketing
  • AF is very slow in Live View or movie mode
  • battery life 2x longer than the above Canon models
  • Optional GP-1/GP-1A GPS module
  • 465 g (1.03 lb / 16.40 oz) / 124 x 97 x 70 mm (4.88 x 3.82 x 2.76″)
  • remote control via optional  MC-DC2 cable or WiFi via WR-1/WR-R10
  • Wifi
  • in Jan 2017, body only will cost $AU825

Nikon D5600:

  • as for D5500 but $70 dearer, half the battery life,  AE bracketing, Bluetooth,  NFC, timelapse recording, exposure metering using 2016-pixel RGB sensor

Conclusion:

The Nikon dSLRs have better sensors than the Canon in terms of dynamic range and perhaps more detail without the anti-alias filter, plus they have better subject tracking, better battery life and the video mode can capture 60 frames per second not just 24/25/30p.

The Canon dSLRs with sensor-based phase detection points have better Live View AF and all the Canons can use a much wider range of legacy lenses (eg. you can adapt a Nikon lens in manual focus only onto a Canon dSLR but you cannot use a Canon lens on a Nikon dSLR due to its long sensor to lens mount distance).

There are more expensive versions of these dSLRs which add weathersealing and improved autofocus as well as pentaprisms instead of the dark pentamirrors, but then, you probably would be better off buying a mirrorless camera such as an Olympus OM-D E-M1 or Panasonic GX85/80.

DxOMark releases sensor tests of the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark II – comparable to Canon 6D and 5D Mark III

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

DxOMark has just announced the results of their sensor tests of the new Micro Four Thirds flagship camera – the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and for a cropped sensor it performs superbly and remarkably, the overall sensor image quality score is comparable to the new Nikon D500 cropped sensor dSLR and the Canon 6D and Canon 5D Mark III full frame dSLRs!

Now that is a pretty good achievement indeed and further lessens the need for a big, heavy, expensive dSLR kit, especially when there is far more to the camera than just the sensor – it’s feature set just blows the Canon 6D and 5D Mark III dSLRs away with its in-built 5.5EV image stabiliser that works on all lenses and even becomes 6.5EV effectiveness with the Olympus OIS lenses, its 50mp sensor shift HiRes mode, ability to accurately focus on the subject’s closest eye no matter where they are in the frame, up to 60fps burst rate, up to 1/32,000th sec shutter, Live Composite mode for night imagery, 4K video with awesome image stabilisation, and much more.

How did it score?

Overall score of 80 beats the E-M1 mark I’s score of 73, and almost matches the Nikon D500′s score of 84 (wins on dynamic range but similar image noise), and is comparable to the Canon 6D score of 82 and the Canon 5D Mark III’s score of 81 – the Canons winning on image noise but losing significantly on dynamic range – see side by side comparisons on DxOMark here.

First the bad news – the ISO issue.

For some reason, perhaps a marketing con, Olympus appears to have incorrectly assigned the ISO levels as the measured ISO as per DxOMark tests is consistently just over 1EV lower than stated.

For most people this will not be an issue, but if one is using manual exposure settings from another camera, or from an external light meter, then users may need to make an adjustment, and if one is comparing image quality at same ISO settings between brands, this needs to be factored in – as they have on DxOMark’s analysis which take this issue into account.

Strangely, the LOW extended ISO setting of ISO 64 was measured at ISO 83 which was the same measurement for the base ISO setting of 200!! This suggests there is NO real benefit of using the LOW setting at all!

This has tended to be an issue with most Olympus digital cameras including the E-M1 mark I but to a lesser extent.

But there is a lot of good news!

Image noise:

Image noise is significantly improved over the mark I with an almost 1EV improvement, and other tests of the mark II also show an incredible result with thermal sensor noise at long exposures.

That said, predictably, image noise still falls 1-1.5EV short of the image noise on contemporary full frame cameras, but for most of us, the level of image noise is not really an issue unless we need to shoot above ISO 1600 which is quite rare (>90% of my shooting is at ISO 200-400).

Shooting at high ISO levels even on full frame cameras is not a great idea unless you really need to as not only do you get increased image noise but, more importantly, you lose dynamic range – for the Canon 6D and 5D Mark III you lose 1 EV dynamic range at ISO 1600 compared to ISO 200, and these cameras have limited dynamic range to start with.

The only time the full frame image noise really has a substantial advantage is in some types of shooting moving subjects in low light or in Milky Way astroscapes.

If you need a certain amount of depth of field in your low light images, then, the full frame noise advantage may be nullified as the E-M1 can resort to 2 stops wider aperture to achieve that depth of field and this means 2 stops lower ISO.

If your subject is static, the E-M1 Mark II wins again thanks to its far better image stabilisation and electronic shutter capabilities.

Dynamic range:

Dynamic range is the ability to capture are large range of scene brightness levels, the greater the dynamic range, the less likely you will get blown highlights in which you lose image detail totally and which cannot be readily addressed in post processing.

In many respects, dynamic range is more important than high ISO image noise because it will affect every image you take no matter what ISO.

At ISO settings of 200-400, the E-M1 mark I had better dynamic range than the Canon 6D and Canon 5D Mark III, and now the E-M1 Mark II extends that gap a little so that it is 1EV better than the 5D Mark III and 0.6EV better than the Canon 6D and 0.4EV better than the newer, and very expensive, Canon 5DS / 5DSR full frame dSLRs!

New full frame cameras such as the Canon 5D Mark IV and Nikon D750 generally have a better dynamic range than E-M1 Mark II.

Conclusion:

Keep your ISO at 200-400 and be happy that your sensor image quality will surpass even a Canon 6D, 5D Mark III, and in HiRes mode will presumably better the 50mp Canon 5DS / 5DSR.

 

 

 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 II vs peer PDAF capable cropped sensor cameras for sports and wildlife

Saturday, November 5th, 2016

This blog post is an on-paper comparison of the feature sets of these cropped sensor cameras, particularly looking at sports/wildlife capabilities but also the range of lenses.

When comparing a smaller 2x crop sensor such as the Olympus has with these APS-C 1.5x or 1.6x crop sensors, you can expect high ISO noise to be perhaps 0.5 EV better on the APS-C, while shallow depth of field potential is likely to be 1 stop better with the APS-C size sensor assuming similar aperture lenses of similar field of view.

On the other hand, the Olympus sensor size allows for shorter lenses and greater telephoto reach for similar size lens, and the laws of physics means there should be opportunity for less optical aberrations from edge to edge as aberrations generally increase exponentially from distance from the centre.

Taking all this into account, the image quality of these cameras should be reasonably comparable and largely dependent upon which lens is being used, accuracy of focus and how much camera shake there is – and on all these point, Olympus tends to be a winner, and Olympus is a clear winner when it comes to the availability of an enormous range of dedicated fast CDAF optimised, silent lenses designed for the sensor.

Olympus E-M1 II vs Canon 7D II:

First, let’s look out how well the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Micro Four Thirds camera compares with Canon’s flagship APS-C 1.6x cropped sensor sports dSLR, their Canon 7D Mark II.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Canon 7D Mark II
Price at Amazon.com $US2000 body + $US2499 for 300mm f/4 IS lens = $US4500 $US1499+$US1999 for 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens = $US3499 but it is only f/5.6 at 400mm and images will not be as sharp and you only get 4EV not 6.5EV of IS
sensor 20mp 2x crop 20mp APS-C 1.6x crop
Weight 574g body + 1270g lens = 1.8kg
910g + 1.64kg for 100-400mm lens =2.55kg
Size 134 x 91 x 67 mm body + 93mm x 227mm lens
149 x 112 x 78 mm body + 193mm long lens which extends on zooming
image stabilisation sensor based 5 axis 5EV + 6.5EV Sync IS lens 4 EV OIS in stills, no sensor IS
Shutter speed range 60sec -1/8000th (1/32,000th electronic)
30sec-1/8000th
Flash x-sync 1/250th sec, slow sync, 19 output levels manual
1/250th, slow sync
radio TTL remote flash No
Canon, Profoto, Bowens, Godox, PocketWizard, etc
Viewfinder 2.35mdot EVF, eye sensor auto switching, 120fps, 6ms reaction time, 21mm eyepoint, 0.74x magnification, minimal blackout in burst mode
optical, 0.63x magnification, mm eyepoint, minimal blackout in burst mode; not usable when mirror locked up such as in vibration reduction shooting, Live View, and in video shooting
LCD screen 1mdot articulating touch screen, AF Targeting Pad feature
1mdot, fixed NOT touch sensitive
video awesome image stabilisation 4K 24/30p 236Mbps Cinema 4K quality mjpeg; 4:2:2 uncompressed video directly from the HDMI port, lenses optimised for video work
no 4K video; 1080/60p but HDMI out is only 1080 8bit, lenses not optimised for live view or video work
Burst rate 18fps with C-AF x 77RAW or 60fps with S-AF in electronic mode x 48 RAW; 10fps C-AF mechanical shutter x 148 RAW;
10fps with C-AF, max 31 RAW
Top panel dual dial + 2×2 system Yes No
AF 121pt Dual Pixel cross type CDAF/PDAF, closest eye detection AF, all working video mode including subject tracking
65 cross type PDAF with limited coverage, plus on sensor dual pixel for live view mode, face detect AF only in live view mode and no closest eye detect AF; no subject tracking in live view; 1 central point is dual cross;
Hi-Res mode Yes, 50mp/25mp jpeg, 80mp RAW
No
Live BULB, Live TIME, Live Composite, 60sec timed, Live Boost EVF Yes No
Dual card slots 2 x SD (1 is UHS-II)
1 x CF, 1 x SD, no UHS-II
Auto HDR, Auto focus stacking, Keystone compensation Yes No
Pro service support just building infrastructure Advanced, mature pro service
AF fisheye lenses several including the unique Olympus mZD f/1.8 fisheye NONE – only full frame or 3rd party MF lenses
“14-28mm” pro lens 7-14mm (14-28mm) f/2.8, 534g, 106mm long, 0.2m close focus, no filter, MF clutch, $US1299  EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 not a pro lens, no STM, no IS and only 16mm at wide end
“24-70mm” pro lens 12-40mm (24-80mm) f/2.8, 382g, 84mm long, 0.2m close focus, 62mm filter, MF clutch, $US740 or 12-100mm (24-200mm) f/4 IS PRO
 EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS but not STM
“70-200mm” pro lens 40-150mm (80-300mm) f/2.8, 760g, 160mm long, 0.7m close focus, 72mm filter, MF clutch, $US1399, opt. 1.4x converter  EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM but this is not a pro lens
“50mm” pro standard prime lens Oly 25mm f/1.2  EF 35mm f/1.4L, EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM but this is really a 38mm eq. lens and not a pro lens
cropped sensor dedicated AF lenses more than 40  mainly consumer type EF-S lenses
CDAF and video optimised lenses more than 40  4 EF-S STM lenses
cropped sensor dedicated AF super telephoto lenses at least 300mm in full frame terms 300mm f/2.8, 300mm f/4 OIS, 90-250mm f/2.8, 40-150mm f/2.8, 150mm f/2.0, 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5, Pan. 100-400mm, numerous 300mm zooms (note 2x crop factor) EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM
full frame fast AF super telephoto lenses at least 300mm in full frame terms nil EF 70-200mm f/2.8 or f/4 IS, EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6; EF 200mm f/2.8, EF 200mm f/2, EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS II, EF 200-400mm f/4 IS with extender, EF 300mm f/4 IS, EF 300mm f/2.8 IS, EF 400mm f/5.6, EF 400mm f/4 DO IS, EF 400mm f/2.8 IS, EF 500mm f/4 IS, EF 600mm f/4 IS, EF 800mm f/5.6 IS

The lack of pro quality compact EF-S dedicated lenses for the Canon is partly made up thanks to access to the large range of pro EF full frame lenses, but these are unnecessarily large, heavy and expensive for a cropped sensor dSLR, but if you also own a full frame Canon dSLR then you will accept this compromise.

The Canon EF 400mm f/4L DO IS lens is heavy, expensive, not quite as sharp as the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 but much more compact and less expensive, and given it has IS and the bigger, cheaper Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L doesn’t, this is the lens I initially chose to compare with the Olympus 300mm f/4 to get IS and the 600mm equivalent field of view. The Canon lens is very sharp wide open, although a little softer at f/5.6-8 and does give the Canon 7D II combo perhaps 0.5 EV ISO advantage over the Olympus but at a big cost in money and weight. The Canon lens uses drop in filters and has close focus to 3.3m and perhaps 4EV OIS whereas the Olympus lens is at least as sharp, just over half the weight, much lower price, less intrusive, has silent AF optimised for video and CDAF, uses normal 77mm filters, has close focus of just 1.4m and 6.5 EV of Dual IS so you know which combo I would prefer!

The cheaper Canon alternative is the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L which lists at $US1179 on Amazon and weighs the same as the Olympus lens at 1.25kg, but is substantially longer at 257mm and of course it has no image stabilisation at all.

Perhaps a more exciting Canon alternative is the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens which lists at $US1999 which does have a 4EV OIS and weighs 1.64kg and focuses as close as 1m, but is a little soft at 400mm wide open at f/5.6 and needs to be stopped down to f/8 to get anywhere near the level of sharpness as the Olympus wide open at f/4.

Unless you need radio TTL remote flash or you have a stack of pro Canon lenses, the Olympus E-M1 II easily beats the aging Canon 7D II on nearly every parameter – although C-AF Tracking may still beat the Olympus.

E-M1 II vs Fijifilm XT-2:

Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Fujifilm XT-2
Price at Amazon.com $US2000 body + $US2499 for 300mm f/4 IS lens = $US4500 $US1899+$US1699 for Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 OIS WR lens, but optically will not be anywhere near as good as the Olympus prime as it is much softer at the telephoto ends even stopped down and no close focus limiter switch = $US3599 
sensor 20mp 2x crop 24mp APS-C 1.5x crop
Weight 574g body + 1270g lens = 1.8kg
507g + 1375g for lens =1.9kg
Size 134 x 91 x 67 mm body + 93mm x 227mm lens
133 x 92 x 49 mm body + 95mm x 211mm lens
image stabilisation sensor based 5 axis 5EV + 6.5EV Sync IS lens 4 EV OIS in stills, no sensor IS
Shutter speed range 60sec -1/8000th (1/32,000th electronic)
30sec-1/8000th, (1/32,000th electronic)
Flash x-sync 1/250th sec, slow sync, 19 output levels manual
1/250th, slow sync
radio TTL remote flash No
No
Viewfinder 2.35mdot EVF, eye sensor auto switching, refresh 120fps, 6ms reaction time, 21mm eyepoint, 0.74x magnification, minimal blackout in burst mode
2.35mdot EVF, 0.77x magnification, significant viewfinder blackout in burst mode above 5fps, refresh 60fps (100fps with battery grip)
LCD screen 1mdot articulating touch screen, AF Targeting Pad feature
1mdot, 3-way tilting NOT touch sensitive
video awesome image stabilisation 4K 24/30p 236Mbps Cinema 4K quality mjpeg; 4:2:2 uncompressed video directly from the HDMI port, lenses optimised for video work
4K video; 1080; F-Log Gamma
Burst rate 18fps with C-AF x 77RAW or 60fps with S-AF in electronic mode x 48 RAW; 10fps C-AF mechanical shutter x 148 RAW;
14fps electronic but rolling shutter may be problematic; 8fps mechanical (11fps with battery grip), max  30 compressed RAW at 8fps
Top panel dual dial + 2×2 system Yes No
AF 121pt Dual Pixel cross type CDAF/PDAF, closest eye detection AF, all working video mode including subject tracking
 325 pt Hybrid PDAF but C-AF may not be up to pro sports yet
Hi-Res mode Yes, 50mp/25mp jpeg, 80mp RAW
No
Live BULB, Live TIME, Live Composite, 60sec timed, Live Boost EVF Yes No
Dual card slots 2 x SD (1 is UHS-II)
Two UHS-II SD Slots
Auto HDR, Auto focus stacking, Keystone compensation Yes No
Pro service support just building infrastructure minimal
AF fisheye lenses several including the unique Olympus mZD f/1.8 fisheye NONE – only 3rd party MF lenses
“14-28mm” pro lens 7-14mm (14-28mm) f/2.8, 534g, 106mm long, 0.2m close focus, no filter, MF clutch, $US1299 XF 10-24mm f4 no IS and only 15mm at wide end
“24-70mm” pro lens 12-40mm (24-80mm) f/2.8, 382g, 84mm long, 0.2m close focus, 62mm filter, MF clutch, $US740 or 12-100mm (24-200mm) f/4 IS PRO
Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R OIS WR
“70-200mm” pro lens 40-150mm (80-300mm) f/2.8, 760g, 160mm long, 0.7m close focus, 72mm filter, MF clutch, $US1399, opt. 1.4x converter Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR
“50mm” pro standard prime lens Oly 25mm f/1.2 XF 35mm f/1.4 or  f2 (NB. also the lovely XF 56mm f1.2)
cropped sensor dedicated AF lenses more than 40 about 15
CDAF and video optimised lenses more than 40 about 15
cropped sensor dedicated AF super telephoto lenses at least 300mm in full frame terms 300mm f/2.8, 300mm f/4 OIS, 90-250mm f/2.8, 40-150mm f/2.8, 150mm f/2.0, 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 , Pan. 100-400mm, numerous 300mm zooms, (note 2x crop factor)
 Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 OIS WR
other AE bracketing only ±2 not ±5; need to buy and use the battery grip to get faster burst, and faster AF as well as faster EVF refresh rate which is half that of the Olympus by default.

It will be interesting to see how the high ISO and C-AF performance compares with these cameras, I suspect Fuji will win the high ISO and the Olympus will win the sports shooting capabilities.

The sharpness at 600mm equivalent focal length (ie. 400mm at f/5.6) on the Fujifilm XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR is very soft compared to the Olympus 300mm f/4, ePhotozine’s tests show the Fuji’s centre is about 2100LW/PH and edge is 1400LW/PH compared to the Olympus which is around 2700LW/PH at centre and at edge, and these both hit around 3100LW/PH stopping down to f/5.6 while the Fuji lens struggles to get to 2500 by f/11 and the edge is still only around 1700! The Fuji lens is optically more comparable to the Panasonic 100-400mm lens but the Panasonic lens gives even more telephoto reach of 800m on the E-M1 II.

Another peer camera is the Sony a6500 which is a APS-C 1.5x crop mirrorless camera which like the E-M1 II has fast on sensor PDAF autofocus, 5 axis image stabilisation (although allegedly not as effective as on the Olympus), 4K video, nice EVF, and touch screen, is smaller but not as weatherproof, lacks the ergonomics and pro features of the E-M1 II for example, shutter only goes to 1/4000th sec, only one SD card slot and, like the small battery is on the bottom, at max burst of 11fps, live view is disabled (as with the Fuji) . The a6500 size and smaller grip will make holding larger lenses much more uncomfortable than with the E-M1 II.

 

Ouch $A2799 for the new amazing Olympus OM-D E-M1 II is it worth it? Could it beat the new Canon 1DX Mark II for sports and wildlife?

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Australian Olympus Micro Four Thirds users in unison launched a universal angst and frustration when Olympus Australia finally announced their RRP for the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II mirrorless pro sports camera – $AU2799 for the body only puts it at well over twice the price of its predecessor which may place it beyond the Olympus faithful’s wallet, but given how much it has improved in almost every aspect, it may really be worth the $US2000 RRP and perhaps even the inflated $A2799 price tag.

So let’s do a comparison with the leading sports pro dSLR super telephoto birding kits to see how it fares:

I own the Olympus OM-D E-M1 original version, the Olympus mZD 300mm f/4 and the Canon 1D Mark III pro dSLR sports camera – but thankfully not a 600mm f/4 lens.

So here I am going to compare the E-M1 II with Olympus mZD 300mm f/4 OIS lens with a Canon 1DX II with a Canon EF 600mm f/4 IS II L lens which will give the same telephoto field of view for birding but is 3 times heavier and almost 4 x the price.

One could have chosen a Nikon D5 and Nikkor 600mm f/4 lens but you would come to much the same conclusions.

Birders using full frame dSLRs usually shoot at around 600mm f/5.6-f/8 at ISO 800 and shutter speed around 1/2000th sec with the sun low on the horizon. The Olympus kit offers this telephoto reach and depth of field at 300mm f/4 and thus to achieve a shutter speed of 1/2000th sec in the same light, they only need ISO 200-400 and at this ISO you won’t notice any significant noise difference, even if the Canon was shooting at same ISO, and if you were shooting jpegs only, the Olympus jpeg engine historically has given wider dynamic range.

The photo output in both cases will be 20mp images, low ISO noise, similar depth of field and field of view, and similar lovely bokeh but what a difference in price and weight as well as size!

Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Canon 1DX Mark II
Price at Amazon.com $US2000 body + $US2499 for 300mm lens = $US4500 $US5999+$US11499 = $US17500
sensor 20mp 2x crop 20mp full frame
Weight 574g body + 1270g lens = 1.8kg
1530g + 3.9kg=6.3kg +heavy tripod and Wimberley tripod head!
Size 134 x 91 x 67 mm body + 93mm x 227mm lens
158 x 168 x 83mm body + 168 x 448mm
image stabilisation sensor based 5 axis 5EV + 6.5EV Sync IS lens 4 EV OIS in stills, no sensor IS
Shutter speed range 60sec -1/8000th (1/32,000th electronic)
30sec-1/8000th
Flash x-sync 1/250th sec, slow sync, 19 output levels manual
1/250th, slow sync
radio TTL remote flash No
Canon, Profoto, Bowens, Godox, PocketWizard, etc
Viewfinder 2.35mdot EVF, eye sensor auto switching, 120fps, 6ms reaction time, 21mm eyepoint, 0.74x magnification, minimal blackout in burst mode
optical, 0.76x magnification, 20mm eyepoint, minimal blackout in burst mode; not usable when mirror locked up such as in vibration reduction shooting, Live View, and in video shooting
LCD screen 1mdot articulating touch screen, AF Targeting Pad feature
1.6mdot, fixed touch sensitive, can select AF point
video awesome image stabilisation 4K 24/30p 236Mbps Cinema 4K quality mjpeg; 4:2:2 uncompressed video directly from the HDMI port, lenses optimised for video work
1.34x crop 4K/60P mjpeg video and full frame 1080/120p but HDMI out is only 1080 8bit 4:2:2, lenses not optimised for live view or video work
Burst rate 18fps with C-AF x 77RAW or 60fps with S-AF in electronic mode x 48 RAW; 10fps C-AF mechanical shutter x 148 RAW;
14fps with C-AF, 16fps with S-AF and mirror lock up, max, 81 RAW+jpeg or 170 RAW
Top panel dual dial + 2×2 system Yes No
AF 121pt Dual Pixel cross type CDAF/PDAF, closest eye detection AF, all working video mode including subject tracking
61pt PDAF with only 41 cross type sensors and limited coverage, plus on sensor dual pixel for live view mode, face detect AF only in live view mode and no closest eye detect AF; no subject tracking in live view; 5 central points are dual cross;
Hi-Res mode Yes, 50mp/25mp jpeg, 80mp RAW
No
Live BULB, Live TIME, Live Composite, 60sec timed, Live Boost EVF Yes No
Dual card slots 2 x SD
2 x CF
Auto HDR, Auto focus stacking, Keystone compensation Yes No
 Pro service support  just building infrastructure  Advanced, mature pro service
“14-28mm” pro lens 7-14mm (14-28mm) f/2.8, 534g, 106mm long, 0.2m close focus, no filter, MF clutch, $US1299 EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III does not go as wide, is heavier, does not have image stabilisation, and is more expensive at $US2349
“24-70mm” pro lens 12-40mm (24-80mm) f/2.8, 382g, 84mm long, 0.2m close focus, 62mm filter, MF clutch, $US740 EF 24-70mm f/2.8 IS II L gives 2 stops shallower DOF but no eye detect AF, and IS not as good, plus it is heavier, more expensive at $US1749
“70-200mm” pro lens 40-150mm (80-300mm) f/2.8, 760g, 160mm long, 0.7m close focus, 72mm filter, MF clutch, $US1399, opt. 1.4x converter EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS L II gives 2 stops shallower DOF but not the 300mm reach, and no eye detect AF, and IS not as good, plus it is heavier, more expensive at $US2000
“50mm” standard prime lens Oly 25mm f/1.2 EF 50mm f/1.2L or 1.4 or f/1.8 lenses give up to 2 stops shallower DOF but poorer image quality, not as sharp across the frame, more optical aberrations, and no eye detect AF, and no image stabilisation

The advantages of the Canon are:

  • it is able to achieve perhaps 1 stop better high ISO noise and a shallower depth of field of perhaps 1 – 2 stops depending on lens, HOWEVER, for birding you need f/5.6-8 for adequate DOF at 600mm and this can be achieved at f/4 on the Olympus 300mm which negates any advantage in high ISO performance or DOF of the Canon for this use.
  • there is a reliable worldwide mature Canon pro service infrastructure which Olympus is really only starting to build
  • radio TTL remote flash is supported by Canon and third party lighting companies, none of which have supported Olympus as yet, although PocketWizards have developed a Panasonic solution so surely an Olympus solution is not far off. That said, many pros do not use TTL flash as it gives too variable a result – whether it is Canon, Nikon or Olympus.
  • the Canon 1D X is built like a tank and has a massive battery
  • optical viewfinder – some people love it, but I must say I am very happy with new tech EVFs
  • proven iTR AF tracking technology (although not as good as Nikon 3D tracking) – we will have to see if the Olympus can match or surpass it
  • the target pro audience is likely to already have a large selection of pro dSLR gear and migrating to Olympus is a big step
  • 2x teleconverter available as well as the 1.4x which Olympus also has.
  • greater ultra-wide options such as the 17mm TS-E tilt-shift lens, such wide angle tilt shift is not yet possible on the Olympus, even if use a focal reducer adapter combined with the Canon 17mm TS-E you can get a 24mm TS-E full frame tilt shift equivalent effect on the Olympus, but not a 17mm tilt shift effect.
  • greater extreme shallow DOF options such as 24mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.2, 85mm f/1.2, 135mm f/2, and 200mm f/2
  • faster mechanical shutter burst rate with AF tracking 14fps vs 10fps on the Olympus – although the Olympus can go to 18fps in electronic mode which the Canon can’t do, and the Olympus can hit 60fps in fixed AF and electronic shutter mode.

The advantages of the Olympus are:

  • far lighter and more compact – 1/3rd the weight, able to take in cabin luggage on flights, will not break your back and neck carrying it, far more versatile when hand held, much more responsive when walking with the big lens, just stop, compose, focus and shoot – no need to worry about getting lens out of carry bag, setting up tripod, etc and subject is gone.
    • the Olympus 300mm and camera kit weigh not much more than the Canon 1DX body alone!!!
  • one quarter the price – wow, even at $AU2700 you are getting a LOT of value for the price, and if you worry about availability of timely service – you can buy 4 of them for almost the same price!
  • built-in sensor based 5-axis 5EV image stabilisation works on EVERY lens you use, even in video
  • no need to do clunky, time consuming mirror lockup to reduce camera shake
  • faster burst rates – even a crazy 60fps in electronic mode!
  • truly silent AF and burst mode – ideal for those classical music events, ballet, weddings, etc – no mirror slap, no shutter noise
  • 3x more crosstype PDAF autofocus points available in viewfinder mode
  • better spread of AF points across the frame in viewfinder mode 80% coverage
  • in-camera AF limiter as well as the lens based focus limiters to speed up focus acquisition
  • AF system more accurate (does not need microcalibration for each lens) and works better with wide aperture lenses
  • closest eye detection AF for sharper focused portraits
  • “Pro Capture” mode which automatically starts taking images before you fully depress shutter to ensure you don’t miss the shot
  • far better image stabilised video quality with 4K uncompressed HDMI out not just 1080 and 4K mode is not a crop of the sensor as with Canon’s 1.34x crop which will impact wide angle shots
  • 50mp HiRes sensor-shift mode for static subjects
  • smaller, less expensive lenses, usually with better optics across the frame – it will be interesting to see how these two super telephoto lenses compare optically – I suspect the Olympus may well win!
  • very handy long exposure modes such as Live Timed, Live Composite, etc
  • automatic focus stacking mode
  • in camera live keystone correction
  • Wifi built in with remote control by smartphones as well as WiFi tethering – WiFi is expensive optional extra on the Canon
  • articulating LCD screen for easier low angle, high angle shots or for video work
  • the lovely benefits of EVF – live histogram, highlight/shadow warnings, live boost, zebra focus, wysiwyg exposure/tones, ability to review images without having to use your reading glasses, magnified view manual focus, can use the EVF during video taking mode – the Canon forces you to do mirror lock up and use the rear screen.
  • can use almost any lens ever made and have them image stabilised – it will even autofocus Canon EF lenses via a Metabones adapter (albeit much slower than Olympus lenses), and you have the option of using a focal reducer adapter for further versatility.
  • far more fun without the weight!

There are questions to be answered though:

  • will the C-AF tracking be as good as the Canon – I suspect it won’t be, but maybe it is good enough
  • how usable will the electronic shutter burst modes be for moving subject – has the faster 1/60th sec electronic shutter duration with its reduced rolling shutter allowed this to avoid artifacts with faster moving subjects? It seems it may be.
  • how will high ISO noise compare at ISO 3200 – although Olympus users rarely need to go this high other than for Milky Way astroscapes and low light action scenes.

We need to wait and see, but the amazing 5 sec hand held shots which Robin Wong has published are just ridiculously good and show this Olympus camera can be used in new ways without having to resort to a tripod.

Hmmm… I think I have documented all the main issues, I have skipped what they have in common such as quality weather sealing, AF customisations, exposure compensation, bracketing, optional battery grips, etc.

Still upset about the price for a flagship pro sports camera you probably don’t need?

Only a small minority of Canon and Nikon owners  have actually bought the flagship sports dSLR, the vast majority settle for budget level models with very minimal feature sets and AF limited to just the central region.

If you don’t need the new features of the Olympus flagship model, then of course there are many great Micro Four Thirds cameras you can buy for less than half this price such as the E-M1, E-M5 mark II, or Panasonic G80/85.

To me though, it will value add to my nice Micro Four Thirds lens collection by providing much improved AF capabilities for moving subjects which has always been an issue for mirrorless cameras.

I hope Olympus will release a more affordable E-M5 Mark III with this sensor in it and the improved PDAF capabilities so those on lower budgets are not locked out of effective PDAF – granted they can get a cut down PDAF experience now with the original E-M1 but presumably at some stage this will be discontinued, and Olympus will need to compete with the likes of the Sony a6300 which does have PDAF at half the price.

Oh yes, and Canon announced a new mirrorless camera – the Canon EOS-M5

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

Apologies for the delay in posting about this camera given I have a huge collection of Canon pro gear, but in comparison to the Olympus E-M1 Mark II announcement, this camera is so under-whelming, but guess that is what we now expect from Canon.

Yep, sure, it is Canon’s best mirrorless camera but that isn’t saying much!

Oh well, here goes the specs for those die hard Canon users who think it may be useful, although on specs it probably should be better compared to the original budget level Olympus E-M10 of 2014 than a 2016 E-M1 Mark II camera as here:

Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Canon EOS M5
Price at Amazon.com  $US $US1099?
sensor 20mp 2x crop 24mp 1.6x crop
Weight 574g, weathersealed, freezeproof, WiFi remote
427g WiFi remote
Size 134 x 91 x 67 mm 115.6 x 89.2 x 60.6 mm
image stabilisation sensor based 5 axis 5EV + 6.5EV Sync IS lens 2-4 EV OIS in stills, “digital IS” in movies
Shutter speed range 60sec -1/8000th (1/32,000th electronic)
30sec-1/4000th
Flash x-sync 1/250th sec, slow sync, 19 output levels manual
1/200th, ?no slow sync, 3 levels manual
exposure compensation range and AE bracketing ±5 EV AE bracketing ±5 (2, 3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)
+/- 3EV (+/- 2EV bracketing)
EVF 2.35mdot, eye sensor auto switching, 120fps, 6ms reaction time
2.36mdot, 22mm eyepoint
LCD screen 1mdot articulating touch screen, AF Targeting Pad feature
1.6mdot, tilting touch sensitive
video awesome image stabilisation 4K 24/30p 236Mbps Cinema 4K quality; 4:2:2 uncompressed video directly from the HDMI port
1080HD
Burst rate 18fps with C-AF; 60fps with S-AF
7fps with C-AF, 9fps with S-AF to max 26 jpegs
Top panel dual dial + 2×2 system Yes No
AF  121pt Dual Pixel cross type CDAF/PDAF, closest eye detection AF
45pt Dual Pixel CDAF/PDAF, face detection
Hi-Res mode Yes, 50mp/25mp jpeg, 80mp RAW
No
Live BULB, Live TIME, Live Composite, 60sec timed, Live Boost EVF Yes No
Dual SD card slots Yes No
Auto HDR, Auto focus stacking, Keystone compensation Yes No
Number of dedicated CDAF  lenses > 40  5 EF-M STM (incl 1 macro)
“14-28mm” pro lens 7-14mm (14-28mm) f/2.8, 534g, 106mm long, 0.2m close focus, no filter, MF clutch, $US1299  EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM(18-36mm)
“24-70mm” pro lens 12-40mm (24-80mm) f/2.8, 382g, 84mm long, 0.2m close focus, 62mm filter, MF clutch, $US740  EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM(29-88mm)
“70-200mm” pro lens 40-150mm (80-200mm) f/2.8, 760g, 160mm long, 0.7m close focus, 72mm filter, MF clutch, $US1399, opt. 1.4x converter  EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM (88-320mm)
“50mm” standard prime lens 25mm (50mm) f/1.8, 136g, 41mm long, 0.24m close focus, 46mm filter, $US349 (also other options such as Oly 25mm f/1.2)  EF-M 22mm f/2 STM (no OIS!) (36mm)

Nice camera if they introduced it in 2011, but well behind the scene now.

But at least they haven’t given up on the mirrorless system like Nikon has done with their Nikon 1 system.

Keeping up with Nikon, Canon announces the Canon 1DX Mark II pro DSLR sports camera

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

Last week I blogged a short post on Nikon’s new flagship pro sports dSLR, the Nikon D5.

Pro sports/wildlife shooting is now one of the few reasons to buy a dSLR over a mirrorless camera, the other main reason is high resolution, image quality with more shallow DOF capabilities but Sony have addressed this with their Sony A7R II, and pros wanting to segregate themselves from the dSLR crowd in terms of image quality bragging rights will buy medium format cameras for this work.

Today Canon has announced its update to their flagship dSLR, the Canon 1DX Mark II which will cost around $US5999 and then if you want to use its 4K or 120fps HD video or burst rate for 170 RAW images (12secs),  you will need to shell out for some of the new CFast CF 2.0 memory cards at around $1000 each for 256Gb.

Although I own the Canon 1D Mark III pro sports dSLR and a number of pro Canon lenses, I will not be shelling out this amount of money as I am not a pro sports or wildlife photographer who can justify this – personally I am waiting for Canon to bring out a full frame mirrorless with sensor based IS and fast CDAF plus PDAF similar to the Sony A7R models, but at a reasonable price and full compatibility with the Canon system such as their flashes.

Canon 1DX Mark II specs:

  • overall design has changed little from previous 1D models which allows pros to migrate without handling issues
  • rugged, heavy (1.5kg). fully weather-sealed camera with large battery (but if use older LP-E4N battery, the burst rate drops to 12fps) with improved grip
  • shutter rated at 400,000 cycles
  • 20.2mp dual-pixel (for Live View AF) full frame sensor
  • two Dual DIGIC 6+ processors to capture 4K video and shoot continuously at up to 16 fps
  • burst rate: 14 fps with AF, and 16fps with mirror lock up  and locked focus and exposure (not sure why you would do this to get minimal extra burst rate though!)
  • native ISO of 100-51200, expandable to 409600
  • new 61-point AF system has 41 cross-type sensors and 24% larger frame coverage than the 1DX and f/8 capability on all points
  • AF sensitivity in low light has been doubled from EV -2 to EV -3 at the center AF point when the camera is set to One-Shot AF
  • improved AI Servo III+ predictive AF algorithm for better accuracy
  • optical viewfinder now has continuous red illumination of all AF points within the camera’s Intelligent Viewfinder II
  • updated metering system to 360k-pixel RGB+IR sensor which improves face detection (for metering and AF point selection) and subtract tracking
  • it seems iTR face detection in OVF mode now better detects the eye or cheek as prior models tended to focus on noses which was useless, and it better detects partly obscured faces – it is still erratic in AI-Servo mode for tracking a face but that is to be expected as it is early days in this technology
  • improved fixed LCD to 3.2″ Clear View II LCD with 1.62 million dots and now touch enabled but only for AF point selection in Live View
  • video:
    • 4K video at 60p, 30p, 25p, 24p, or 23.98p  using the M-JPEG codec (requires CF2.0 card for more than a few seconds footage)
    • 1080HD at 120p, 60p, 50p, 25p, 24p, or 23.98p
    • dual pixel sensor allows C-AF in video while touch LCD allows focus point changes
    • no native focus peaking or zebra patterns
    • no Log Gamma option
    • ‘clean’ signal out via HDMI port for 1080 only (not 4K)
    • mono mic
    • headphone jack
    • mic jack
  • new built-in GPS (with an e-compass)
  • new Digital Lens Optimizer to help correct aberrations in-camera
  • improved post-shot in-camera Raw processing
  • radio TTL remote flash as with 1DXx
  • USB 3.0 or Ethernet ports (increased from 100Mbps to 330Mbps)
  • CFast card slot (NOT compatible with CF cards!)
  • CF card slot
  • new LP-E19 lithium-ion battery CIPA rating 1210 shots
  • 1530 g (3.37 lb / 53.97 oz)
  • 158 x 168 x 83 mm (6.22 x 6.61 x 3.27″)
  • optional WiFi via Canon’s $600 WFT-E8 wireless file transmitter

A few issues:

  • longest timed shutter speed still only 30secs (like Nikon) unlike Olympus which allows 60secs which is more useful for astro work
  • flash sync only 1/250th sec (like Nikon) while Olympus has 1/320th sec
  • no electronic shutter 20fps mode like Olympus and others
  • exposure compensation dial does not work in Manual exposure mode with autoISO – need to go to menu systems!
  • Auto ISO and exposure compensation in manual mode is NOT possible in movie mode
  • still no sensor based image stabilisation
  • still no closest eye detect AF (although metering system can detect eyes and put AF point on them, but perhaps one day the Live View mode may get it)
  • Dual Pixel AF isn’t available for continuous AF in stills shooting in Live View mode but is for movies!
  • high risk of putting a memory card into the wrong slot causing damage to card or the camera
  • 4K mode is 4096 x 2160 pixels wider than 16:9 DCI 4K aspect ratio and only captures in less efficient Motion JPEG format, but perhaps this is used to allow 8.8mp frame grabs
  • continuous silent drive mode is not all that silent

 Compared to the Nikon D5:

  • faster burst rate of 14fps not 12fps
  • dual pixel sensor for improved Live View AF
  • better video
  • much less AF points – 61pts with 41 cross compared with Nikon’s 153pts including 99 cross type
  • subject tracking may not be as good as Nikon’s 3D tracking – have to wait for more tests
  • only 6 WB presets vs 12 on the Nikon (probably not important for most)
  • LCD screen not as good – 1.6m dots vs 2.4m dots and limited touch utility
  • battery life much worse – 1210 shots vs Nikon’s 3780 shots
  • heavier at 1530g vs Nikon D5′s 1415g
  • built-in GPS instead of optional add on with Nikon’s GP-1A GPS unit

My review of the Zhongyi ZY Optics Mitakon Lens Turbo focal reducer Canon EOS lens adapter version I for Micro Four Thirds cameras

Friday, February 13th, 2015

The Zhongyi Lens Turbo focal reducer is a special type of lens adapter which contains glass elements to give a 0.72x reduction in focal length AND f/ratio, and in so doing lets in 1 stop more light in exposure terms, gives a wider field of view and purportedly even gives more sharpness as it is compressing the image.

There are two main manufacturers of 0.72x focal reducersZhongyi and Metabones.

The Zhongyi Canon EOS to Micro Four Thirds adapter which I purchased on Ebay from the manufacturer for around $AU159 is much less expensive than the  $600 Metabones version as it does not have the electronic coupling, and hence, unlike the Metabones version does not allow aperture control, nor does it allow the camera to add the lens focal length and aperture to the EXIF data.

Note that the original version I adapter for Sony NEX had major optical design issues and this was corrected in version II for these cameras. This version I adapter for Micro Four Thirds cameras is the same optics as version II for Sony as I understand it and currently there is NOT a version II for Micro Four Thirds.

ZY adapter
The lack of coupling potentially has one benefit – you can be sure what focal length setting is being used for the camera’s image stabiliser algorithm – I am not sure if the Metabones adapters are telling the camera the actual lens focal length or the adjusted focal length – I suspect from EXIF I have seen on Sony adapters that it is the former, although I understand Metabones is producing a firmware update soon.

Nevertheless, the main reason I want to use such an adapter is to use wide aperture lenses at wide open aperture to gain even more shallow depth of field than is possible without it.

For instance, when combined with the Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L lens, the 0.72x factor converts the lens to 100mm f/1.4 (this will thus give the same field of view and depth of field as a 200mm f/2.8 on a full frame camera).

So not only do we get an effective 200mm f/2.8 lens in full frame terms, but when used on an OM-D camera such as an E-M5, E-M1 or E-M10 we also get:

  • awesome image stabilisation (just dial in the adjusted lens focal length)
  • awesome manual focus assistance controls including:
    • large, high quality EVF image
    • focus peaking
    • image stabilised magnified view +/- addition of focus peaking

But how well does this work?

For a more extensive range of lens tests I have published using this Lens Turbo adapter, please see my tumblr lens test blog: http://lenstest.tumblr.com/search/Zhongyi+Lens+Turbo

Let’s look at some of the shots with the Canon 135mm f/2.0L lens wide open, hand held:

Australia Day flag and roses backlit by low sun

flowers

owl

And for comparison, here is the same owl taken with an Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens which has been cropped a touch to get to roughly the same field of view, and which gives more depth of field and less background blurring:

owl with Olympus 75mm f/1.8

Well I am VERY happy with the results indeed!

Now let’s try with the cheap but lovely, Rokinon Samyang 85mm f/1.4 lens – with the adapter we get 60mm f/1.0 which equates to 120mm f/2.0 in full frame terms, and we get manual aperture control thanks to the aperture ring on the lens.

Now I have found that as could be predicted perhaps, lenses with f/1.4 apertures, especially when combined with this adapter are quite subject to internal lens flaring and ghosting when shooting into bright light sources or very exposed areas of subjects. This can be used to effect, or minimised by avoiding these circumstances.

Rokinon 85mm

and for comparison, similar scene with the Olympus 75mm f/1.8:

Olympus 75mm f/1.8

 

But it is NOT perfect!

Crops of a shot into the sun with the 85mm lens showing the ghosting (uncropped version here):

85mm

and for comparison, similar crop with the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens (uncropped version here):

75mm

There are a few minor optical issues which mainly are only visible on star images such as increased vignetting, and weird star shapes away from the centre.

Most problematic though is that whilst it appears to focus to infinity with all my Canon EOS lenses, it DOES NOT FOCUS TO INFINITY when used with lenses attached via a secondary adapter such as my Nikon mounted Rokinon, and my Olympus OM lenses.

This suggests that the adapter was made a few millimetres too thick, and there must be just enough leeway in the Canon lenses which presumably can focus past infinity so it is not an issue with these lenses but does become an issue with other lenses.

This is not a deal breaker as this really only affects astrophotography uses and it is not great for that anyway, the vast majority of my shots are within 10m and so focus at this range is not an issue.

Note that using any filters on the lens will make the flaring and ghosting MUCH worse – so either get multicoated filters or don’t use one with this combination – although you may have trouble with over-exposure in bright sunlit conditions using an f/1.4 lens without a ND or polarising filter, even if you set ISO to 100 and use shutter of 1/8000th sec.

For me, it was money well spent and it will be a fun addition to my Micro Four Thirds versatility.

More information on focal reducers on my wiki here.