E-M1 MkII

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A midnight stroll around Paris

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

It’s a stiflingly hot summer’s night in Paris – 37deg C during the day and not really dropping much by midnight and with little breeze to cool the apartments – the best place to be is out on the streets having a wander and exploring without the crowds.

Paris

My quaint hotel room decorated by famous designer Christian Lacroix at Hotel Le Bellechasse adjacent to my favourite art gallery, the Musee D’Orsay in Saint Germain. The staff at this hotel were always extremely pleasant and helpful, and the room clean and quiet, and thankfully was fitted with an air conditioner. There was a lift to avoid the common struggles of staircases and luggage, and a nice buffet style breakfast if one wished to partake.

As nice as it was, the streets of Paris at midnight beckons.

And thanks to my Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Micro Four Thirds camera, there is no need for carrying cumbersome tripods, just hand held image stabilized night street photography, discrete enough to hide it if danger lurked in the dark recesses along the Seine.

Paris

But in Paris, one is never alone, lonely perhaps, but not alone.

Paris

And though it was dusk, in a city where the threat of terrorism is ever present, being able to capture this lovely fleeting candid street photography style shot of these two ladies oblivious to the world and having a laugh is what brings joy to photography – Paris is not just the old buildings and art galleries – it is the people who remind us that humanity is not all that bad.

Paris

I am guessing you don’t need me to tell you this the the famous Louvre, but here are a couple of images before they turn the lights off at midnight and evacuate the square.

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

I can’t write a blog post like this and not include the Eiffel Tower at dusk – oh yes, the sun sets late in Paris, and dusk is around 11pm!

Paris

Or, for that matter, romance along the Seine – they are just too iconic to ignore even for me!

Amazing multicoloured bioluminescent Ghost Fungi mushrooms at night under an auroral glow

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

I went for a bush walk in a rather remote Victorian forest today and, unexpectedly, stumbled across an isolated patch of Omphalotus Nidiformis mushrooms – the “Ghost Fungi” which give off a very dim eerie glow in the forest at night (to our naked eyes without colour vision, using only rods in the dim light, they appear white).

He they are just after sunset taken hand held with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Micro Four Thirds camera with Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2 lens (jpegs straight from camera just re-sized for web):

Ghost fungi

The above was hand held resting on my thigh at 1/4sec, f/3.5, ISO 1250.

Ghost fungi

The above was hand held resting on my boot at 1/4sec, f/2.5, ISO 640.

Ghost fungi

The above was hand held resting on my thigh at 0.6sec, f/4.5, ISO 1250.

So, hoping I was correct, I headed back into the closest town, had a quick bite, then headed back well after twilight had finished, and there they were, once my eyes had adjusted to night vision, the patch of fungi giving off their strange light.

Here are a few I shot with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark II with Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2 lens sitting on a towel as a support (jpegs straight from camera just re-sized for web – no light painting or artificial lights, and white balance for these was set to sunny day):

Ghost fungi

The above was at f/2.8 (trying to get some more DOF), ISO 1600, noise filter = LOW, long exposure NR on with an 8 minute exposure using the very handy Live Timed function (I didn’t bring a remote to activate a BULB mode – thankfully the OM-D’s don’t need one!) and shows some lovely orange as well as green, with the top left corner being the brighter night sky (perhaps 2 stops brighter) illuminated by an Aurora Australis or Southern Lights.

The still night air without a breeze to be felt allowed me to use these nice long exposures, rather than having to open the aperture up to f/1.2 and loose depth of field even more than I was losing.

I could just imagine all the local insects coming out to dance and sing under the soft light – but it was too cold for most of them tonight – which saved me getting a few bites at least!

Ghost fungi

The above was as for the previous one but f/2.0 at 4 minutes exposure.

And, finally, just for a little fun at 10pm on a winter’s night, all alone in a remote forest, a fisheye view – taken with the unique Olympus mZD 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens sitting on a towel at f/1.8, ISO 1600, 2 minutes to avoid the bright auroral sky washing out – and yes, you can tell it is looking south from the out of focus star trails making an arc around the South Celestial Pole somewhere near the centre of the image.

Ghost fungi

Camera settings for shooting these ghost fungi at night:

  • I used a 25mm lens (50mm in full frame terms) but one could go wider than this
  • getting adequate depth of field while keeping ISO low and exposure duration a minimum is a challenge without resorting to complicated post-processing focus stacking techniques – for the 25mm Olympus lens I prefer the f/2.8 setting but this required 8 minutes exposure at ISO 1600, if using an equivalent 50mm lens on full frame this would require using f/5.6, 8 minutes at ISO 6400 – so any high ISO benefit of full frame is lost.
    • if it is windy, then you will not be able to achieve nice imagery, even if you chose to shoot at f/1.2 and ISO 12800 to gain a shorter shutter speed, it may still be too long if the fungi are moving – go on a still night without wind, and suffer the pea soup fog on your drive home.
    • if you can’t shoot BULB (you didn’t buy an Olympus and you forgot your remote control), then you may need settle with f/1.8, ISO 6400 and 30secs
  • manual focus and a torch is a must – and it helps if your lens has a nice MF clutch, and your camera can do magnified view to allow you to accurately manual focus using a torch to assist
  • I chose to shoot sunny day white balance as I wanted to see what the colours were like compared to our normal visual experience of a sunny day
  • Noise filter should be set to LOW or OFF as ideally you should be removing noise in post-processing (I haven’t done this in these images – I will wait til I get a chance to process the RAW files)
  • Long exposure noise reduction should be set to Auto or ON – this does double the length of waiting for exposure to finish but it removes the thermal noise and you don’t need that!
  • I decided not to use my tripod as I wanted to be at ground level so i rested the camera on a towel
  • turn IS OFF
  • If you don’t have an Olympus camera then you will need to bring a remote trigger for your BULB mode to get past 30secs

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with 25mm f/1.2 is great for this type of photography as:

  • the image stabiliser is fantastic when using it hand held for the dusk shots
  • ISO 1600 or 3200 is usable, and that is all you really need for the night shots
  • the flip out LCD screen means you don’t have to get down level with the camera on your stomach and get real dirty or have crawlies all over you
  • the 25mm f/1.2 not only is an amazing lens which focuses twice as close as similar full frame lenses, but it has a wonderful manual focus clutch
  • accurate manual focus is easy using magnified view mode
  • noise reduction phase displays a count down so you know how long you have left
  • if your torch is getting dim, you can have the Live Timed mode automatically activate Live Boost so you can see in the dark better
  • normal timed exposures go to 60 secs not like most other cameras where you need a remote control to activate BULB mode to get past 30secs
  • Live Timed mode allows you to visualise how the image is developing (eg. every 30 secs):
    • if you stuffed something up like composition, just terminate the exposure rather than wait until your planned exposure finishes
    • you can see how the histogram and image exposure is devloping, and then terminate when desired – this is how I chose to terminate the fisheye shot – when I saw the sky was starting to blow out
    • unlike BULB mode, you can set a duration for it to last and it will self-terminate the exposure without you having to be there with a remote control – this allows you to use another camera to do something else such as take Milky Way astroscapes while you wait 16 minutes for an 8 minute exposure and 8minute dark frame.
    • you don’t need a remote control – just wait for it to time out or press the shutter button to terminate exposure.
    • you can see from 5m away what the status is – is exposure still occurring or is it in noise reduction phase when its OK to turn torches on, or is exposure complete

For more mushrooms, see my previous post

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 announce new flagship Micro Four Thirds camera – OM-D EM-1 Mark II and 2 new pro lenses

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

Olympus used Photokina to announce their new flagship professional model Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera – the E-M1 Mark II which they say improves upon the original model in nearly every aspect and leap frogs above APS-C cameras in terms of speed and value to the photographer.

I must say the specs to blow away the newly announced Canon EOS M5 mirrorless camera even if you don’t consider the amazing range of dedicated fast AF lenses available for Micro Four Thirds.

Specifications:

  • FASTER, MORE ACCURATE BURST MODE
    • 18fps full size RAW with C-AF in electronic shutter mode
    • 60fps full size RAW with locked S-AF in electronic shutter mode
    • 2x more buffer capacity
    • 3x faster internal write speed
    • 50% faster start up time from camera switch on
  • PDAF area coverage now 81% greater than in Mark I, now covers ~80% of each frame dimension, up from 60%
  • 3.3x more AF points – all 121 PDAF AF points are now cross-type and offer DUAL FAST AF with PDAF and CDAF which are used in every shooting mode.
  • new AF algorithm for much better subject tracking as well as in detecting subject from background even when background is close and of similar colour and texture
  • new “AF Cluster Display” can display the AF points being used to track the subject in real time
  • new “PRO Capture” can start capturing images as soon as you start to depress shutter and up to you depress shutter fully allowing lag free pre-capture of 14 RAW frames to reduce chance of missing a precise moment
  • new electronic viewfinder with faster 120 fps refresh rate and shorter 6msec reaction time giving crisp and smooth vision giving 60% faster response rate
  • as with Mark I, it is dustproof, splashproof and freezeproof with similar form factor
  • reliability improvements:
    • new battery compartment
    • new battery is longer lasting and charges faster
    • improved grip which is more secure and offers better handling
    • at last we get dual SD card slots and UHS compatibility
  • image quality:
    • new 20Mp live MOS sensor with low power consumption and higher speed data read out and improved dynamic range and noise performance of 1 f stop better noise
    • TruePic VIII double quad core image processor
    • re-developed image stabilisation system now gives 5 axis Sync IS at up to 6.5EV stabilisation!
    • 50/80mp HiRes shot with image blur of moving subject prevented using TruePic processor
      • should be awesome for high resolution tripod product shots or film scanning with less moire than with dSLRs
    • 4K video up to 30P and Cinema 4K at 237Mbps quality
  • optional accessories include:
    • HLD-9 / AC-5 battery holder grip with keypad for use in either landscape or portrait orientation
    • RM-CB2 remote cable
    • FL-900R weather sealed flash with GN 58 and compatible with 10fps sequential shooting
    • STF Twin Flash for macro and 1st of kind to be weathersealed
    • PT-EP14 underwater case
    • improved Olympus PRO Service
      • next day delivery replacement unit for professionals if they choose additional paid Advanced or Elite level of service in selected countries
      • default Standard Plus level of service applies to all registered users
      • video hotline to help resolve issues before sending camera to repair

New PRO lenses:

Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2 PRO

  • wide aperture standard lens for shallower depth of field and lovely bokeh as well as for low light work
  • weathersealed
  • manual focus clutch?
  • RRP $US1199?
  • see my wiki page for more details

Olympus mZD 12-100mm f/4 IS PRO

  • 1st ever travel professional grade 8.3x zoom lens covering 24-200mm in full frame terms at constant wide aperture of f/4
  • optical IS for Sync IS at up to 6.5EV IS with the E-M1 MkII
  • weathersealed
  • manual focus clutch
  • close focus to 15cm adds macro capability
  • RRP $US1299?
  • see my wiki page for more details

 

Photokina 2016 press event video

Okay, I am impressed – at last on paper – now for the reviews – I will post links to these on my wiki page as they are available.