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Hands on testing of the Godox AD 600B for radio remote TTL mobile studio flash, high sync and pushed sync on Olympus OM-D cameras – even works in conjunction with Cactus V6 II system!

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

Godox has created a dream come true for many Micro Four Thirds users with Olympus OM-D or Panasonic mirrorless cameras – not only do we now have access to a radio remote TTL flash system but it is easy to use, seems reliable and you can get an amazing very powerful battery operated studio flash with Bowens S mount – the Godox Wistro AD600 / 600B which remotely supports TTL exposures as well as high speed sync (Super FP flash mode in Olympus nomenclature) for flash at all shutter speeds to 1/8000th second (with mechanical shutter).

The instruction manual for the Godox X1TO remote TTL flash trigger can be downloaded here and that for the Godox AD 600B downloaded here.

AD600

 

First the hard bit – upgrading the firmware of the AD600 unit for Olympus TTL capability:

The AD600 does not come with Olympus/Panasonic radio TTL compatibility by default thus you need to upgrade the firmware, nor does it come with a USB cable – but most of us have plenty lying around – you just need to find one that fits the AD 600 USB port.

Next you need to download the Godox firmware updater software from the Godox download web page, as well as the correct firmware for your flash model, noting the G1 install procedure instructions.

You then need to extract the software installation files from  the .rar format for both the updater software and the firmware file – you can use a program such as 7-zip to do this.

Then you run the setup for the updater software installer, however, on the latest versions of Windows 10, BEFORE you can install the USB driver correctly, you may need to Disable Signed Driver Enforcement – see instructions for doing so here. Then you must reboot the computer and then install the software by running setup.exe of the updater software and hopefully all will install properly.

Next you need to TURN OFF the Godox Remote Controller AND DISCHARGE ANY POWER buffered in the AD 600 unit by REMOVING the BATTERY then press OFF/ON Button for 2 seconds BEFORE YOU ATTACH USB cable to computer – otherwise I am guessing you can fry your computer.

If your device driver installed correctly, when you attach the USB cable to the computer, it should be recognised.

Now run the Updater Software and click on the bottom left button to select English.

If you are running a high resolution display, you will not see the bottom buttons which makes life harder – in this case change your display resolution to 1920 x 1080 temporarily so you can use the software better.

Now it becomes obvious that you first press the top left button called Select File and then you need to find the firmware file you downloaded and extracted which has the file extension .fri.

Then you press the top middle button to Connect to the flash unit – if this fails, either your USB cable is not the right one or is faulty, or, you didn’t install the USB drivers due to the issue above.

If the flash is detected then you are ready to upgrade the firmware by pressing the Upgrade button – of course, you do NOT want to disconnect the unit until this is complete!

Configuring the AD600B flash for radio wireless TTL flash:

Connect the lithium ion battery (after you have charged it up which takes 4hrs).

Plug in the globe (many use gloves to avoid skin oils contacting the glass but its not as critical as with halogen globes) – or plug in the optional very useful H600B remote head and the globe plugged into that instead.

Turn the flash unit ON using the On/Off button.

Press the “Z” top middle button on the flash unit to activate the WiFi mode (other options on toggling are Manual mode or optical remote TTL Canon/Nikon).

Ensure the channel is on the desired one (usually Channel 1 by default – press and hold GR/CH button then use the dial to change it).

Ensure the Group is the desired one (usually Group A by default – toggle through the groups by pressing the Gr/Ch button).

The flash should now be able to be fully remotely controlled from your X1 remote controller which sits on your camera hotshoe.

Using your X1T-O remote controller:

You need to purchase the Olympus version which is the X1T-O model (can be used on any Micro Four Thirds camera including Panasonic).

X1

Install two AA batteries then attach it to the camera hotshoe.

Turn the camera on, and I generally set the camera’s PASM dial to Manual so I can choose shutter speed (to control ambient exposures) and the aperture (to control depth of field) and generally set ISO to base ISO of 200.

Ensure the camera’s flash mode is set RC = OFF (RC is for optical remote control which we are NOT using) and to Fill-in flash or similar so that a signal will be sent to the hotshoe. Note , you don’t activate Super FP in the camera – the remote control will do this for you!!!

Turn the  X1 on using the switch on the side, and decide which mode you want to use for the other switch – normal or HSS (Super FP mode) – unless you are shooting in bright sun and need a fast shutter speed to allow a wide aperture, use the normal mode.

Check the LCD screen on the X1 to ensure the channel corresponds with that on your flash unit and use the rear dial to go to the Group – you can then use the mode button to choose TTL  or Manual Flash Output control.

By default, turning on the X1 will activate the flash’s controls automatically (if your channel and group are correct) and so the LED modelling light will be turned on (you will need to go to the flash unit to turn this off manually).

Now the fun part – it just works!

The X1 remote specs indicate you should be able to control the flash up to 100m away – assuming you have no nasty water pipes, etc in the way which block radio signals.

Change your shutter speed to give a desired ambient exposure for a given aperture and ISO.

Take the shot and hopefully it will all work as if you are using a normal Olympus remote flash but without the annoying optical pre-flash signals and with far more flash output and remote distance capability.

HOWEVER, an important point – the camera’s flash settings such as flash exposure compensation and FP mode are IGNORED by the X1 – to set a flash exposure compensation, select the flash group on the X1 then, assuming the flash mode is set to TTL (use the mode button for this),  press GR button then the dial to change flash exposure compensation and then GR button again to save it. As mentioned above, if you want to use FP mode, slide the side switch to H mode.

Now for some advanced stuff – over-powering the sun:

On the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark I and Mark II, you can flash sync up to 1/250th sec in normal mode – the camera won’t let you go faster than that shutter speed unless either:

  • you set the X1 to HSS mode (but this dramatically reduces the maximum output of the flash as shutter speed gets faster), OR,
  • use what I will call “push-sync” (similar to the Cactus Power Sync or Pocket Wizard Hypersync mode) you still use the X1 in normal mode, but trick the camera into firing flash at faster shutter speeds without FP mode by placing a single flash pin hotshoe adapter between the camera hotshoe and the X1 (or connect to the X1 via a PC sync cable) in which case you lose TTL capability but my tests show you can now fully sync at 1/320th sec, and even get to 1/500th sec with some loss of flash effect (black band) on the top 1/3rd of the image – but this could be usable for some compositions in outdoor shots and allow you to over-power the sun.

Using an on-camera flash as well:

If you attach an Olympus TTL flash onto the X1′s hotshoe, unfortunately, the X1′s hotshoe is only a single pin type and NOT a TTL pass through (unlike the cactus V6 II remotes which do have TTL passthrough) and thus the ONLY control over the flash via the camera is triggering the flash.

The flash unit acts like it is connected via a PC sync cable – no auto TTL, no auto zoom control, no RC master capability.

If the X1 switch is turned OFF, then the flash does not fire at all.

If the X1 is switched ON and set to HSS mode, the flash will fire, but at shutter speeds above 1/250th sec, it will not sync properly as the flash HSS mode will not be activated – at 1/320th sec with an Olympus FL-50R flash only 1/3rd of the top of the image receives flash which is the opposite to usual over sync speeds and thus unusable.

The good news is that if the X1 is set to normal mode (not HSS), you can just use the flash in “AUTO” mode (you must manually dial in the ISO, aperture and exposure compensation as well as zoom position), or in Manual mode where you just dial in the manual flash output and the zoom position.

One man band hand held Octabox outdoor portrait shooting:

The Godox AD600B can be mounted to any Bowens S mount studio light accessory (there is a locking device to ensure they don’t fall off) such as the 43″ Godox Umbrella style Octabox softbox for nicely diffused portrait lighting, and usually these are mounted on a lighting stand.

However, the AD600/600B has a wonderful trick in that you can remove the flash bulb, plug in a remote head (the AD-H600B), plug the flash bulb into the remote head and mount your softbox to the remote head.

remote head

This allows you to carry the heavy part , the AD600 itself with battery, in a specially designed shoulder strap case (the Godox PB-600 should case/carry bag), or perhaps in a backpack, hand hold the AD-H600B with softbox attached in one hand and shoot with your light Olympus camera in your other hand.

Tiring – yes, but at least it is possible, and you may be able to overpower the sun!

Need more power? Just buy a 2nd AD600B and attach a 1200Ws AD-H1200 remote head with a 1200Ws bulb and you have twice the output from the one remote flash head!

And of course, you can add other radio remote slave units:

There are a range of other X1 compatible Godox flash units which can be used in the same or in different flash groups (each group will have the same exposure setting).

If the AD600B is too big for you, then you can still get to a Bowen S mount lighting system via the Godox AD-B2 twin head which allows you to use either:

  • power it with either one or two Godox AD-200 units plugged directly into it
  • use either one or two Godox AD 200 flah bulbs, or one Godox AD 360 bulb (which is a little more powerful than just using one AD 200 bulb)

If that is too big, then the very popular Godox Wistro AD360 with separate lithium ion power pack gives you plenty of power in a more speedlight styling although too heavy for on-camera use.

360

 

For additional remote slaves, there are the pocket sized but powerful Godox AD 200 units, or you can go the traditional speedlight route with a variety of Godox on-camera style TTL flash units – some of which are cross-platform for on-camera use on a variety of camera brands.

AD200

Godox also make a range of AC powered studio lights with various capabilities and also the AR-400 hybrid ring flash/LED.

But why stop there – you can even add a Cactus V6II radio remote flash system into the mix!

Now I am really going crazy!!!

Stacking a Godox transmitter on top of a Cactus V6 II transceiver really does work amazingly well to give you TWO SYSTEMS at the same time!

First, insert a Cactus V6 II radio remote controller onto the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera’s hotshoe.

Insert a Godox X1 TO radio remote transmitter onto the hotshoe of the Cactus V6 II and turn it on.

Turn on the camera, and half-press shutter while turning on the Cactus V6 II transceiver to transmitter mode, it should then AUTO-DETECT BOTH the camera AND the Godox X1 as being Olympus TTL devices – now we are cooking indeed!

Ensure the Cactus and the Godox are set to DIFFERENT CHANNELS (and any slave devices for each are set to the appropriate channels to match).

NOW, you can use the Cactus V6 to control your Cactus V6 II compatible transceivers or flash units (and when the firmware upgrade comes this month hopefully, we are promised Olympus TTL compatibility of remote flashes – even Canon/Nikon flashes – until then we have to use manual power control only but there is HSS functionality) PLUS you still get TTL remote control of your Godox mediated slaves including the AD600B!!

Furthermore, if you set the Cactus V6II mode to Normal-HSS so it can automatically use either, the X1 switch of HSS or normal will control the Cactus and the camera as to whether to use HSS or not! Now that is very cool indeed.

I have tested this with a Cactus controlled remote Olympus FL-600R flash in manual output control at the same time as remote controlled AD600B in TTL mode and it seems to work very nicely, even in HSS/FP mode.

This should then allow 8 groups of flashes to be remotely controlled from your camera at up to 100m away, with each group having their own power output setting, and once the Cactus firmware is available – all with TTL and HSS functionality, even if they are Canon or Nikon flash units (just need a cactus V6 II transceiver for them).

If you have a Sony A7 II full frame mirrorless camera as well – just buy the Sony versions of the transmitters to go on the camera and all should be well.

Likewise for your Canon, Nikon or Fuji cameras (although for these you only need a special Godox transmitter as the Cactus V6 II will fit all except Sony).

Enter the new world of cross-platform radio remote TTL flash compatibility!

For more information on the Godox and Cactus systems see:

 

 

Sth Australia – Port Noarlunga and Port Willunga

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Continuing on from my quick rental car trip to South Australia, starting in Adelaide, I then decided to stay a couple of nights on the lovely beaches of Port Noarlunga and to use this as a base to explore the Fleurieu Peninisula further south as a day trip – although one could spend a lot of time exploring this region and the nearby Adelaide Hills which I didn’t get time to explore.

When I arrived at Port Noarlunga on the Saturday afternoon I was surprised by the car parks all being taken, and it was only when I went down to the beach I discovered South Australias annual surf life saving club championships were being held there all weekend. This proved to be an opportune time to test my new Olympus OM-D E-M1 with the Olympus ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD lens for continuous autofocus in burst mode, and it did better than I expected, although I am sure not as good as could be achieved with the new Micro Four Thirds lens – the Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8. To get the most out of shooting sports with this camera you need to have the camera’s settings optimised for continuous AF (C-AF) – see here.

 

Port Noarlunga:

Port Noarlunga

Surfer guy getting ready for the surf canoe race, seems fashion for the year is pink crop tops:

Port Noarlunga

Port Noarlunga jetty – 1/4sec long exposure in bright sunlight using the ND400 10x neutral density filter hand held with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 lens:

Port Noarlunga

Port Willunga:

Port Willunga’s cliff caves dug out many years ago to store boats:

Port Willunga

The remnants of the old jetty at Port Willunga at sunset, hand held with Olympus OM-D E-M1, 12-40mm f/2.8 lens and a Cokin gradient filter:

Port Willunga

Port Willunga

There are many places near Port Noarlunga which I did not get time to explore including:

  • Maslin Beach – Australia’s 1st official nude beach
  • Mclaren Vale wine region
  • Onkaparinga National Park with its many walks which follow the Onkaparinga River

My brief exploration of the Fleurieu Peninisula is in my next post.

a lunar interlude – shortest lunar eclipse in 500yrs – and our last blood moon for 3 years

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

Last night (4th April 2015) we witnessed our last total lunar eclipse for the next 3 years and apparently the shortest in the past 500 years.

Shooting a total lunar eclipse at totality is challenging however there are are nice features on the Olympus OM-D cameras which do help such as:

  • continuous live view – no need to always be resorting to mirror lock up as on a dSLR
  • magnified live view to allow accurate focus which is actually quite difficult near totality
  • relatively cheap and high quality telephoto reach with the Olympus ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD lens with Olympus EC-20 2x teleconverter
  • reasonable ISO performance at ISO 1600

So here are a couple of mine from last night taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 with Olympus ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD lens with Olympus EC-20 2x teleconverter to give 800mm focal length (in 35mm full frame terms), on a tripod with IS turned off, but with 12 sec self timer ON to reduce camera shake. Both taken at f/7, 1/2 sec, ISO 1600 and have had some cropping done but minimal processing in Lightroom.

Some cloud over the 1st one:

eclipse

eclipse

Finally Olympus enticed me to buy the Olympus OM-D E-M1 – thanks to some unbelievable post-Xmas price reductions

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Micro Four Thirds camera is the flagship of the Olympus camera line up – but until now, I have resisted buying it and have been happy with my awesome OM-D E-M5 camera.

I had not been that excited by the E-M1 for a number of reasons:

  • it is too big for MY liking
    • the E-M5 was the perfect size for me – able to fit in a jacket pocket with a pancake lens, and able to handle larger lenses well with the 1st stage of the HLD-6 grip.
    • the E-M1 is wider and much the same otherwise as the E-M5 with the HLD-6 grip in place which makes it too big to get into most pockets, plus it is a touch heavier.
  • unlike the E-M5, one handed operation is more difficult – it is really a 2 hands camera
    • you need your left hand to turn it ON and OFF as that switch is now located to the left side of the top panel – impossible to reach with your right thumb
    • the AFL/AEL button is now further from your right hand so if you are using it one-handed, your thumb needs to stretch more – and I use this button a LOT
  • it was too expensive at $US1599 for the body
  • the button positions were very different to my E-M5 which makes using both concurrently annoyingly confusing
  • long exposure thermal noise is substantially worse than with the E-M5
  • most of my photography is with still subjects so I really did not need the C-AF and PDAF – although it would be nice to get AF back with my many Four Thirds lenses
  • most of the other improvements do not really make my photography better except for niche areas – although there are quite a few

Likewise, as nice as the Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens is, it was not really exciting me as:

  • the Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens is rather big and heavy for Micro Four Thirds (although much smaller and lighter than a dSLR or Sony equivalent)
    • it is the same length (84mm) but lighter (382g  vs  460g) than the Panasonic 14-140mm lens
  • 62mm filter thread is larger than most other MFT lenses – but at least is the same as my Panasonic Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 and my Panasonic 14-140mm lens
    • to use my Metz ring flash, I will need a step down ring 62-58mm and this will cause a little vignetting in the corners
  • it is known to break at the mount if dropped -perhaps that is a sacrificial  design feature to allow easy repairs
  • I already have 12mm f/2.0, 20mm f/1.7, and 45mm f/1.8 lenses – all of which are individually smaller and lighter, with better low light performance than the zoom lens and perhaps better optical image quality – but none are weathersealed!

But then DigiDirect changed my mind overnight!

But when DigiDirect advertised the Olympus OM-D E-M1 with Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens for a ridiculously low $AU1373 when the $AU is worth only 81 US cents, and the usual price for the combination is well over $AU2000, I just had to buy it as I was getting the camera for $AU800 (they were selling the E-M1 body only for a low $AU878 and the 12-40mm f/2.8 lens by itself reduced from $AU899 to $AU719), and the lens for only $AU537.

ps. they are selling the E-M5 for a ridiculously cheap $AU449 – that is one awesome camera and at that price is amazing value – assuming you don’t need PDAF, C-AF, WiFi.

Some other reasons to buy:

At this price I was willing to overlook the flaws with both the camera and the lens, and there were some other almost compelling reasons for the purchase:

  • the rumours of the features of the forthcoming E-M5 replacement camera due in Feb 2015 were not exciting me as I don’t really need 40mp capability, but I would like PDAF for my Four Thirds lenses which have been relegated to my cupboard for too long – and alas it is looking as though the E-M5 mark II will not be getting PDAF.
  • it is unlikely an E-M1 mark II will be coming in the next 12 months
  • with the poor $AU, future imports are likely to be priced substantially higher
  • I really do want PDAF and C-AF tracking that sort of works
  • I love using flash outdoors so the boost in flash sync to 1/250th sec with external flashes and the built-in PC sync outlet will make my life easier
  • the Live Composite mode sounds like something I would like to experiment with, and as I do not use Photoshop, I can’t readily achieve this effect myself in software with only Lightroom
  • the sensor based image stabiliser is even better than on my E-M5 and I do like to push hand held limits of shutter speed
  • the improved EVF allows one to see down to magnitude 6 stars instead of only magnitude 3-4 stars (with a 25mm f/1.4 lens and Live Boost = ON) which makes astrophotography and low light work that much easier
  • the WiFi smartphone control and image transfer could be quite useful
  • as I shoot a lot of manual focus with legacy lenses, the addition of focus peaking will make a great addition to magnified view mode
  • I discovered on my snow trip last year, and in the Xmas party photo booth shoot I did last week that I really do need a quality zoom lens, and better still that it is weatherproof
  • I get an extra BLN-1 battery and charger and these sell for a silly $AU90-100 for each of these  – so I figure I am paying only $600 for the camera :)

 What about other cameras instead?

Well, I did look at a few.

Canon 7D Mark II:

  • nice dSLR and would work well with my Canon L lenses
  • but I don’t do much sports photography and I do have the Canon 1D Mark III
  • and I need reading glasses to operate it just as with any other dSLR – with mirrorless cameras I don’t need to take my eye from the camera for the far majority of functions – unless I need to delve into the menu system which is rare during a shoot.
  • the future is mirrorless
  • it can’t do closest eye AF – and I have grown to love this accurate AF without need from AF microadjustments which plague all dSLRs
  • I have had enough of carrying around those heavy lenses

Sony A7ii:

  • now this does interest me as it is not only full frame mirrorless but has sensor based IS, albeit not as effective as the E-M1
  • it is not yet available and when it does come, it is likely to be $AU1798 body only, then I would have to buy Sony lenses or resort to using my heavy Canon lenses in slow AF or MF mode – neither excite me – great pics perhaps but not much fun

Sony A7R:

  • full frame 36mp mirrorless
  • but really need to use this on a tripod otherwise one is wasting all those megapixels and just clogging up your hard drive
  • and again, I would have to buy Sony lenses or resort to using my heavy Canon lenses in slow AF or MF mode – neither excite me – great pics perhaps but not much fun

Sony A7S:

  • full frame 12mp mirrorless
  • no sensor based IS so not interested
  • would give me perhaps 2 stops better high ISO but has its own issues and again, I would have to buy Sony lenses or resort to using my heavy Canon lenses in slow AF or MF mode – neither excite me – great pics perhaps but not much fun
  • I would get better resolution images from the E-M1 and have much more fun
  • might be great for videographers or those really serious about astro scapes (night landscapes with the Milky Way – although I am growing a touch tired of seeing these)

Fuji XT-1:

  • a nice cropped sensor mirrorless and expensive but no sensor based IS and I would have to buy Fuji lenses so not interested

Panasonic LX-100:

  • Micro Four Thirds sized sensor in a petite camera with some awesome features:
    • lovely 3x zoom 24-75mm (in 35mm full frame equivalent) f/1.8-2.8 OIS zoom with 3cm close focus is perfect for most travel needs
    • built-in EVF
    • nice dials for aperture, shutter speed, etc
    • multi-aspect sensor
    • flash sync at all speeds thanks to leaf shutter
    • 40fps electronic shutter mode (to 1/16,000th sec)  and 11.9fps mechanical shutter
    • 4K video
    • fast AF, focus peaking, eye detection AF, etc
    • WiFi smartphone control
  • but for me it was a touch too small and had no tilt LCD and no touch screen and at around ~$AU900 was a touch expensive, although maybe worth it for many given its great feature set

So now I have an E-M1:

  • first step was to update firmware as this will rest most of your settings, so you may as well get in done first
  • next set date and time
  • then to configure it the way I like it:
    • cogs A:
      • AEL/AFL set to S1:C2:M3
        MF assist = OFF
        AF illuminator = OFF
    • cogs B: buttons/dial/lever:
      • Fn1 = peaking
      • Fn2 = magnify (to keep similar settings with E-M5)
      • REC = keystone
      • right button = ISO (to keep similar settings with E-M5)
      • down button = WB (to keep similar settings with E-M5)
      • rear buttons = direct mode so I reduce the chance I accidentally change the AF region position
    • cogs D: display:
      • Control Settings: PASM = Live SCP on, Live Control = OFF (I love the Super Control Panel)
      • Info Settings: Playback Info: histogram and highlight/shadow ON
      • Info Settings: LV Info: histogram, level gauge and highlight/shadow ON
      • histogram settings: Highlight = 245 (to avoid blown highlights when shooting ETTR metering)
    • cogs E: exposure:
      • Noise Filter = LOW (or OFF)
      • Antishock = 0 sec to enable electronic 1st shutter
    • cogs G: color/WB:
      • Keep warm color = OFF
      • Flash WB = OFF
  • this means that the other functions are accessible via:
    • front buttons:
      • one-touch custom WB
      • depth of field preview
    • 2×2 switch = 1:
      • top left control, front button drive/self timer/ HDR modes
      • top left control, rear button – exposure meter modes / focus modes
      • front dial: exposure compensation (or aperture if in Manual mode and no action in iAuto)
      • rear dial: aperture or shutter depending on exposure mode (no action in iAuto)
    • 2×2 switch = 2:
      • top left control, front button bracketing modes / bracket actions
      • top left control, rear button – flash exposure compensation / flash modes
      • front dial: ISO
      • rear dial: WB
  • more here

In conclusion…

Despite the above, I have been extremely impressed with the capabilities of the E-M1 thus far – the C-AF tracking actually works fairly well in good light and with a contrasty subject, while I can do hand held photos of stars with my 25mm f/1.4 lens at ISO 3200, 1/4 sec and get lots of stars – I doubt any other camera could achieve that without a tripod.

The focus peaking, 2×2 switch, extra buttons (such as custom WB, DOF preview) and remote control via iPhone is fantastic.

Furthermore, my old Olympus FL-50 flash which would only sync at 1/160th sec on my E-M5 now can sync at 1/250th second – very handy indeed when you need every bit of power and shutter speed for those outdoor shots.

Better still, when used with external “manual” flashes such as with my Canon 580 EX II, I get FULL SYNC without need for FSS or Super FP modes with full frame coverage of flash up to 1/500thsec, and can even push it to 1/840th sec with only ~20% of the top of frame not lit by the flash – now that is incredible for outdoor flash – better than my Canon 1D Mark III even with HiSync using PocketWizard technology!!

I have 2 little disappointments:

  • when using a Four Thirds lens with CDAF optimisation such as my lovely Panasonic Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens, the E-M1 insists on using PDAF and not CDAF (CDAF worked quite well on my E-M5 with this lens).
  • whilst the camera allows +/- 5EV exposure compensation, in manual exposure mode, it only displays +/- 3EV exposure metering – this is annoying when using spot metering on a white or black target.

Overall, I am very happy indeed!!!

If high quality video is more important to you:

Andrew Reid of EOSHD.com chose his 5 best video cams of 2014 which are:

  • Used Canon 1D C
  • Sony A7S & Atomos Shogun combo
  • Panasonic GH4
  • Samsung NX1
  • Nikon D750
  • honorable mentions:
    • Panasonic LX100

 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 gains a few new capabilities in a firmware update

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Firmware update v2.0 for the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is said to give the following:

8 new functions:

  • Tethered Shooting for studio photography via the new Olympus Capture Software.
  • Live Composite mode for star-trail photography as with the E-M10
  • Keystone Compensation (digital shift) to correct vertical distortion
  • 2 New Art Filters: Vintage and Partial Color
  • Aperture Lock function has been added to Aperture Preview
  • Panning Shot shooting mode has been added to SCN mode
  • Old Film effect has been added to movie effect
  • New Photo Story mode features: Zoom In/Out and Layout framing options. Save (complete partway through), Temporary Save, and Resume functions

16 operability improvements:

  • EVF image display time lag reduced to 16 milliseconds (when frame rate setting is set to high speed)
  • Multiple simultaneous settings now available in Live Guide
  • Exposure compensation (±3 EV) is now available in HDR 1/HDR2 shooting
  • A function has been added to cancel Color Creator and return to the original Picture Mode by pressing the MENU button when using Color Creator function.
  • Movie Tele-converter can now be used simultaneously when Art Filter is set to Picture Mode.
  • AF function for each frame was added to Custom Self Timer. In Drive Mode’s Custom Self Timer settings, you can now press the INFO button to change settings.
  • MF Assist is now supported in magnified frame position.
  • 3x has been added to high resolution magnified Live View.
  • The Peaking display frame rate has been improved.
  • Electronic zoom speed setting function was added. An icon appears on the LCD monitor when using an Olympus electronic zoom lens.
  • When the arrow pad is set to Direct function, the Underwater/Underwater macro functions can be used with the left and down button on the arrow pad.
  • Double tap is now supported in touch operations on the Super Control Panel.
  • The level gauge and histogram can now be displayed during magnified frame display. The Touch Off icon was added to magnified frame display.
  • A function was added so that shooting information recorded in HDR1/HDR2 can be viewed in the playback screen.
  • Information on composited number of shots for images recorded with Live Composite was added (Can be checked in Olympus Viewer3).
  • When the BKT button is held down, the BKT menu now appears.

Much has been rumoured of the firmware update adding 4K video capability but this did not eventuate in this update – perhaps in a subsequent one if we are lucky!

5 awesome cameras for 2014 – E-M1, E-M10, GM-1, GH-4 and Fuji X-T1

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Following on from the footsteps of the brilliant camera of 2012 – the Olympus E-M5, we now have a range of amazing cameras to build on it’s success to address nearly every need.

Firstly the Panasonic GM-1.

I am not a fan of cameras without viewfinders but the GM-1 has changed the face of the shirt pocket camera genre – previously ruled by the excellent Sony RX 100 II.

The GM-1 is a Micro Four Thirds camera and thus not only does it have interchangeable lenses unlike the fixed lens on the Sony, but it’s sensor is MUCH larger meaning higher quality images and more shallow depth of field is possible for when you want to blur the background.

It came with a new very compact 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH MegaOIS kit lens and a silent electronic shutter and certainly has the compact size to suit most people who just want a camera for their purse or pocket to take anywhere.

EOSHD.com placed it 2nd to the Canon 5D Mark III for HD video in its league 3 category of cameras for HD video work!

Like any tiny camera it has its compromises, in particular, no viewfinder, poor flash capabilities and ergonomic issues due to small size – but they are the price you pay for tiny size.

Then came the photographic product of the year for 2013 – the superb Olympus E-M1.

E-m1

Image courtesy of dpreview.com.

This built upon the E-M5 and improved almost every aspect including the EVF and the world’s best image stabiliser, and added phase detect AF to provide much improved AF tracking of moving subjects and much needed fast AF support for the superb range of Four Thirds lenses.

Not only that but it became one of the 1st cameras of its type to have WiFi with NFC and allow smartphones to not only have images transferred easily but remotely control the camera, view the live image on the phone and even select an AF subject. Very handy indeed.

The image stabiliser is so good that eoshd.com voted it as the BEST camera for hand held video without resorting to a large image stabilisation rig.

Olympus then followed this up with the “entry level” Olympus E-M10.

It may be entry level in price but what a great camera – even better than the E-M5 with loads of new features including many on the E-M1 but also a built-in flash which will please many. The missing features will not be of great importance to the buyers of this camera – lack of weathersealing, only 3 axis IS instead of 5 axis IS, and a few other features.

Not to be outdone, Fuji stepped up to the plate with their well received Fuji X-T1.

The Fuji X-T1 is in many ways similar to the Olympus E-M1. It does have a larger sensor so can give marginally better image quality and potentially 1 stop shallower depth of field, plus you get to see the main camera settings by looking at the dials. But critically it lacks the great image stabiliser, the range of lenses and flash sync, shutter speed range, BULB modes are not as good while the lenses are much bigger and heavier.

Today, we have the announcement of the Panasonic GH-4.

This is an incredible camera in that it has the most amazing video features for a camera in the price range, plus it has high end still photography features although unfortunately there is no sensor-based image stabiliser.

At an expected price of under $2000, you get 4K HD video, uncompressed video out, up to 96fps 1080p slo-mo variable rate  video with very high image quality (200Mbps) and an optional accessory port add on which takes it to another level altogether.

As a stills camera, it is weathersealed, has awesome EVF, shutter to 1/8000th sec, Bulb to 60 minutes,  12fps burst (7fps with AF tracking), silent shutter mode, flash sync to 1/250th sec even for external flashes, eye detect AF as with Olympus cameras, smartphone WiFi remote control, and more!

GH-4 with YAGHE video accessory

Sony has started something big too.

Sony is threatening to change the photographic world with their full frame mirrorless cameras which they introduced in 2013.

Unfortunately, the 36mp model, the Sony A7R has not lived up to expectations as it is plagued with shutter issues and one really needs to use it on a tripod to make the most of it.

The 24mp Sony A7 on the other hand seems to be a much more useful camera, although both lack built-in image stabiliser which would make use of legacy lenses much more attractive while dedicated new AF lenses are rolled out.

I would really like to see Olympus bring out a full frame mirrorless with their 5-axis image stabiliser and given their collaborations with Sony it may eventuate.

But what has happened to Canon and Nikon?

Both Canon and Nikon were conspicuously absent in dpreview.com’s readers’ votes for cameras of the year for 2013 – even Pentax K-3 won the dSLR section which Canon and Nikon practically own!

Canon and Nikon must be planning something big because they have not been producing any exciting cameras for a while.

Their dSLRs are just conservative evolutions of their usual dSLRs not able to take advantage of the technologic advantages and functions available with mirrorless systems.

Nikon tried to go retro to piggyback on the retro success of the Olympus OMD cameras but came up with an expensive, dysfunctional camera – the Nikon Df dSLR.

Canon’s top of the range APS-C dSLR is still their ageing Canon 7D, although they did introduce a 70D with dual AF for live view.

Both Canon and Nikon are sitting on their 2012 technology full frame dSLRs – the Nikon D800/D600/D4 and Canon 5D Mark III / 1D X (other than the Nikon D610 which is just a fix of the problematic D600).

Canon’s mirrorless system, the EOS-M does not appear to be going anywhere – given the autofocus of the EOS-M was so terrible. Why haven’t they brought out a more capable camera? The answer may well be that they don’t care because Americans love BIG cameras so they are just going to sell cheap dinosaur dSLR products to Americans and bide their time until they come up with a killer product.

Meanwhile the rest of us have realised we can get practically the same results with more fun, better image stabilisation, better hand held video, less backache, and more space in our travel bags by buying Micro Four Thirds.

When wisdom matures – the Olympus E-M1 by Khen Lim

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

E-M1

Every now and then, something comes along that redefines the direction life is headed. In recent years, two appliances took responsibility in transforming society at large. They were smartphones and tablets. Both represented milestones that mark the change in the way we stay connected. They were, however, no less significant than the Internet or the World Wide Web itself but more relevantly, we could look at innovations like online social media networking, chat conferencing and even something as mundane today as text messaging. All of these have reshaped the way we run our lives.

With changes like these, there are winners. And where there are winners, they are also losers. Those who exploited the opportunity to ride on the crest of a life-changing wave are often remembered as the ones who were daring enough, creative enough and disruptive enough to ring in the changes that would take the world in a completely different direction. The losers are invariably those who not only resist the change but were adamant that the changes were unnecessary, untenable and/or unjustifiable. They would go down in historical annals as those who failed to understand the inevitability of a brand new vision.

When mirrorless system cameras became a reality back in 2009, it’s doubt that there were people who truly believed that there would be anything to seriously rival the pretensions of a competitive pro-grade DSLR camera. Short of any of the ‘penultimate’ full-frame variants, we’re looking more at a very capable and well-equipped APS-C DSLR instead. The introduction of the Pen range more or less convinced many that Olympus had probably and quietly given the pro category a miss. As for Panasonic, the Lumix range would likely go as close as a prosumer with an eye towards video finesse. From the other mirrorless camps, there was nothing very exciting other than Sony threatening to release a full-frame version sometime in the near future. In other words there wasn’t much to threaten the traditional DSLR stalwarts. Until now.

If you have suspected that the OM-D E-M5 could be the start of something very exciting, you couldn’t be more right – the E-M1 lays proof that Olympus has decided to challenge the status quo but on its own ground. Unlike anything we’ve seen before, this is one camera that could never be ignored.

Read more of this extensive article by Khen Lim

My take on the new Olympus E-M1 Micro Four Thirds camera

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

I own the Olympus C8080, E330, E510, Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro, ZD 50-200mm SWD, ZD 7-14mm f/4, Canon 1D Mark III with various L lenses and now really only use the wonderful Olympus E-M5 with it’s lovely Micro Four Thirds prime lenses such as the 12mm, 20mm, 45mm and 75mm.

The following then is my take based on published “reviews” of the E-M1 and my experience with it at the Digital Photography Show in Melbourne this weekend.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is a very important evolutionary camera for Olympus, and it indeed has many impressive features, the combination of which are not available in any other camera at any price.

E-M1

It finally provides an upgrade pathway for many of us who have the superb Olympus and Panasonic Leica D Four Thirds lenses such as the Olympus ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5, Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro, the PanaLeica 25mm f/1.4, the ZD 7-14mm f/4, and if you are lucky enough to have the other Super pro lenses such as the 35-100mm f/2.0, the 150mm f/2.0, the 90-250mm f/2.8 and 300mm f/2.8, then all the more reason to be thinking this is your lucky day!

It is so important because it finally addresses the C-AF performance limitations of Micro Four Thirds cameras by adding DUAL FAST AF courtesy of phase detect AF sites onto the new Sony sensor, it markedly improves C-AF tracking performance for Micro Four Thirds lenses and all AF performance for Four Thirds lenses.

Users coming from dSLR systems will be blown away by how fast and accurate the S-AF is for slow moving or stationery subjects, even in low light, and you have the unique option of accurate AF on a subject’s closest eye almost anywhere in the frame. They will not be over-whelmed by the comparatively slower C-AF tracking performance on the E-M1, but for mirrorless camera users, at least now they have a usable C-AF option, and they have usable, fairly fast AF with Four Thirds lenses.

No C-AF tracking system yet in production is perfect, nor are they simple to optimise for the end user. Even my very expensive ($4500) Canon 1D Mark III dSLR designed for sports with C-AF tracking was only good for around 40-50% of shots and it was very complex to optimise for various scenarios. The E-M1 is a big step forward for Olympus but is far from perfect as far as C-AF tracking goes. In good light it may be adequate for many situations – further real photography testing will be needed to decide how good it really is.

Furthermore, C-AF tracking is not needed for most of us – remember no-one had good C-AF tracking before Canon introduced it in the early 1990′s so pro sports photographers until then used manual focus and still achieved some amazing images.

Thus it may be a compelling buy for existing Four Thirds users, although some will complain it has no optical viewfinder, but the new electronic viewfinder is superb and the many things it can do should outweigh the loss of optical viewfinder.

The E-M1 takes what is best in both the E-M5 and the E-P5 cameras, then upgrades many of those features such that it provides significantly improved:

  • build quality and ergonomics
  • weather-proofing and now freeze proofing – one reviewer placed his E-M1 under a hot shower for 10 minutes in a pool of 1cm water while it was on with no ill effect – Canon or Nikon pro users would not be so confident with their dSLRs!
  • improved image quality such that for most real world photography, the benefits of the 5-axis IS and new sensor without an AA filter and the new image processing engine (TruePic VII) means that image quality up to ISO 6400 is good enough to be comparable to new full frame dSLRs such as the more expensive and heavier Nikon D600 – see Ming Thein’s blog post where he compares the two – the D600 gives more dynamic range, but the E-M1 gives better color and microcontrast in the out of camera jpegs.
  • lovely large viewfinder with faster refresh, greater resolution and more accurate colours, and with Adaptive Brightness Technology
  • buffer has been increased so that the E-M1 can now shoot 51 RAW shots in burst mode at 6.5fps and 41 RAW at 10fps  (compare this with only 14 at 5.5fps on the Nikon D600)
  • the burst rate has been improved – you now get C-AF at 6.5 fps and non tracked single AF at 10 fps (compared to 5.5fps max on the Nikon D600)
  • all AF is even faster (C-AF said to be similar to C-AF on the E-5 or the new Canon 70D dSLR although C-AF tracking is still faster on the latest dSLRs, single AF of stationary subjects is faster and more accurate on the E-M1 than on any dSLR)
    • note though there is no AF during video mode for lenses that are not CD-AF compatible (eg. most Four Thirds lenses)
  • the 5-axis image stabiliser has been further improved allowing hand held shots at 1.3secs on wide angle lenses, and no need for large cumbersome stabilising rigs for movie shooting while walking
  • automatic hand held HDR images for those too lazy to carry a tripod and do HDR properly (you need a tripod for dSLRs)
  • ability to microcalibrate AF for Four Thirds lenses
  • lens-specific optimisation of jpegs to correct for aberrations and moire and optimise fine detail via the Fine Detail II technology
  • jpeg sharpening is mainly applied to in-focus regions only leaving your lovely background bokeh buttery smooth :)
  • very useful new unique Color Creator control – fantastic for live in-camera B&W tonal visualisation – and great for in-camera “grading”  before you start taking videos
  • very useful remote control via your smartphone and WiFi connection to the camera – you can see the image live and touch your phone’s screen to select AF and rapidly AF and take the shot as well as setting most image parameters you need to select.
  • additional Art Filter “Diorama portrait” – adds asymmetrical left or right defocusing effect for nice blurred portraits whilst keeping the eye sharp

The combination of features from the E-M5 and E-P5 means that in most other areas it beats even the full frame dSLRs such as the Nikon D600 such as:

  • wider range of shutter speeds 60sec – 1/8000th sec (30 sec to 1/4000th sec on D600)
  • unique to Olympus Timed BULB and Live BULB modes
  • flash sync 1/320th sec (1/200th sec on D600)
  • the amazing face detection AF system where it will accurately AF on the nearest eye of your subject if you wish – no matter where it is in the frame – sure beats trying to lock AF then recompose, or moving AF selection points around the screen!
  • the “24-80mm f/2.8 lens” (12-40mm actual) combined with the E-M1 is half the weight and probably almost have the price of the full frame version, not to mention the forthcoming 40-150mm f/2.8 lens!
  • extremely customisable button layout – you can re-program almost any button AND you get a 2×2 switch which rapidly changes the function of various buttons depending on how you have programmed it.
  • in video mode and Live View mode (which is the only option on the E-M1 anyway), you can hold the camera to your eye for better stability, or use the tiltable touch screen
  • ability to use almost any lens and have them image stabilised, and use focus peaking or image stabilised magnified view to assist in fast, accurate, manual focus
  • ability to use Nikon, Canon and other lenses image stabilised via a Metabones Turbo 0.7x adapter which gives 1 extra stop of aperture for even better low light performance and shallower DOF
  • ability to use many full frame lenses and have them converted as tilt or shift lenses via adapters and have them image stabilised
  • much quieter and less intrusive, less intimidating
  • no need for mirror lock up to reduce camera vibrations in high magnification work
  • no need for AF calibration with each Micro Four Thirds lens as is required for dSLRs
  • generally better edge-to-edge image sharpness

Now, to be fair, full frame dSLRs such as a Nikon D600 do have some important advantages over the E-M1 (although not many!):

  • shallower depth of field options, particular for standard zoom lenses and wide angle prime lenses
  • marginally better image quality in terms of dynamic range and high ISO performance
  • optical viewfinder (can be an advantage in some situations)
  • better C-AF tracking (although over time, this could be expected to be addressed by further improved technology in Micro Four Thirds)
  • radio wireless TTL flash via PocketWizards (hopefully Pocket Wizards will add Olympus to their system soon)
  • 24p 1080 HD video mode (not sure why Olympus did not add this mode given that serious videographers love it)
  • access to specialist lenses designed for the system (eg. wide angle shift lenses – although you can use a Canon 17mm TSE tilt shift lens with a 0.7x Metabones Turbo to give a 24mm field of view tilt shift lens which is the widest available for Nikon anyway )
  • the cameras and lenses are bigger which makes you look more professional
  • for pros, there will always be better access to service, rentals, etc

There is now even less reasons to go Canon or Nikon or full frame, particularly as this camera is so small and versatile with features neither of these options can do .

Importantly for existing E-M5 users, it uses the same battery, although perhaps frustratingly, the controls are in different positions (and generally better positions)  which may make it confusing using both cameras together.

This camera does NOT replace the excellent E-M5 cameras, but adds incremental improvements to it in nearly every aspect, plus adds true AF support for Four Thirds lenses.

The E-M5 still offers great value buying as it will be sufficient for most people who don’t care about Four Thirds lenses and who don’t care about C-AF.

Price in Australia for body only seems to be around $A1595 compared to $US1399, and you can get the E-M1 bundled with the excellent 12-40mm f/2.8 lens for around $A2399 from what I understand, and this represents a decent discount on buying each item separately, plus Olympus Australia are likely to throw in 2 years warranty plus an option of a free MMF-3 adapter or HLD-7 vertical grip.

Check out this little video to see how cool the image stabiliser and Creative Colour functionalities are:

 

At last – Olympus formerly announces the new OM-D E-M1 pro Micro Four Thirds / Four Thirds camera

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

See the Olympus website announcement here.

 

E-M1 front

E-M1

This awesome camera represents the first Micro Four Thirds camera that is capable of fast phase detection AF using Four Thirds lenses (via an adapter) and is said to have continuous AF with subject tracking at least as fast as with dSLRs when using either Four Thirds or Micro Four Thirds lenses.

It won’t be cheap, but then it will have a multitude of very nice capabilities and features which will have many photographers drooling.

Olympus will also be offering it as a kit with their very nice 12-40mm f/2.8 weatherproofed Pro lens which will be half the price and almost a 1/3rd of the weight of similar lenses for full frame dSLRs, although of course you will lose 1-2 stops of depth of field control – but you do gain 5 axis 5 stop image stabilisation and closest eye face detection AF almost anyway in the frame courtesy of these new Olympus cameras which for many will be far more important.

See also my wikipedia page on the E-M1 here and on the 12-40mm f/2.8 lens here.

 

 

oops – the new Olympus OMD E-M1 high end Micro Four Thirds camera has been leaked

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Check out the video link from 43rumors.com and you will see the E-M1 in action – link now removed after instruction to Engadget from Olympus.

For those who do own the superb Four Thirds lenses, this camera will at last allow them to capture images with a sensor that will extract the most from these awesome lenses with fast AF, plus give them the benefits of mirrorless live view shooting such as eye detect AF, 9fps burst rates, and 5 axis image stabiliser, which they have been missing in the Olympus Four Thirds dSLR system

  • of course some will gripe that there is no optical viewfinder but the quality and many benefits of the EVF should well and truly make up for this
  • will it be good enough to shoot birds in flight with continuous AF – we will have to see!

Full WiFi connectivity so you can see the Live View image on your smartphone or tablet and use it like the rear LCD screen on the camera – touch an area and it takes the shot (presumably AF on that subject first) then uploads the image almost instantly to the device in high resolution. PLUS you can change most settings including exposure mode right from your tablet.

Very cool indeed!

Nice hand grip to allow better ergonomics for larger lenses – I am going to love that – no need to buy the extra battery grip – unless you need portrait mode a lot.

Nice control layout, the 5-axis IS and for the first time in a Micro Four Thirds camera – fast AF with legacy Four Thirds lenses even those not optimised for CDAF thanks to the hybrid phase detect and contrast detect AF capable sensor – even using the current MMF-3 Four Thirds adapter.

And of course, it is weatherproof and now freeze proof to 14degF.

I will be looking forward to this new model, just hope it is not too expensive.

PS. the video link has now been taken down, so here are my predictions of the specs for this exciting new camera.