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The Olympus E-M5 goes searching for some British sun on the south west coast of England

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

My 1st adventures roaming south-west England in my hire car were dominated by an unusually wet and cloudy British summer, and thus when the forecast suggested there would be sun for a day that month – but only in the Swanage region of the south coast, I decided to head down there and get some lovely much needed UV light.

Here are a few of my iPad processed shots taken with the Olympus E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera.

Here I pushed the E-M5 almost to its hand held long exposure limits again to capture the flowing water at Durdle Door using a Hoya R72 infrared filter and hand held 1/6th second exposure with the Olympus 12mm lens which had some vignetting and toning added using Phototoaster on the iPad:

 

Durdle Door IR long exposure hand held

another infrared photo with lots of Phototoaster processing for fun on the iPad, this time of Corfe Castle ruins:

Corfe Castle IR

and another one of Corfe Castle but this time with a polariser filter, and no IR filter but processed in Phototoaster to add some atmosphere to this wonderful site – what would have been a great little castle in its day until the Parliamentarians spent 6 months destroying it with gunpowder:

Corfe Castle

oh… and I promised a little British sun at the beach:

Durdle Door coast

False color infrared photography with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Last week I went on a road trip to outback Australia to play with my new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera and primarily used it with the lovely but moderately expensive Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 12mm f/2.0 lens.

In my last post, I showed how the E-M5 makes B&W infrared photography easy.

This post is to demonstrate a limited false color tehnique if all you have is Lightroom.

Normally to get a false colour infrared image from infrared RAW file, one would swap the red and blue channels, but unfortunately, Adobe Lightroom does not have this functionality.

In this image I have used Lightroom to adjust White Balance to the far left (blue) and then adjust the tint then correct the exposure as we are no longer relying only on the red channel as I did in the B&W IR shots.

Silverton, near Broken Hill in outback NSW, Australia:

False color IR Silverton

ISO 200, 12mm lens at f/2.0, 1/13th sec hand held.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 makes hand held infrared photography easier

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Last week I went on a road trip to outback Australia to play with my new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera and primarily used it with the lovely but moderately expensive Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 12mm f/2.0 lens.

I love infrared photography and use a Hoya R72 infrared filter as my main IR filter.

This article is NOT about using a modified camera with IR blocking filter removed but an E-M5 straight from the retailer.

Unfortunately, using an optical viewfinder as on dSLRs makes hand held use almost impossible as the filter is so dark there is little that can be seen through it unless pointed at the brightest of scenes.

Furthermore, the reduction in light requires either long exposures or high ISO, even with wide aperture f/2.0 lenses.

I was just able to achieve reasonable hand held IR shots with my Panasonic GH-1 combined with the Panasonic Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens at f/1.4 in bright sunlight, but the amazing E-M5 takes IR even further thanks to its built-in image stabilisation system, and much better image quality at high ISO.

Hand held infrared with the E-M5 becomes a fun enjoyable experience as long as you have a relatively bright scene, a Hoya R72 filter and a f/2.8 or wider aperture lens.

So let’s see what can be done in the bright sun in outback Australia with its blue skies (although unfortunately, few trees to show off the Wood’s effects):

IR Silverton Hotel
This is essentially straight from the camera (although cropped in Lightroom a touch).

Shot details: Olympus 12mm f/2.0 lens at f/2.8 with ISO 400 and shutter 1/8th sec hand held.

Broken Hill sculptures at sunset:

IR Broken Hill sculptures at sunset

The above shot was with Olympus 12mm f/2.0 lens at f/2.8 with ISO 400 and shutter 1/6th sec hand held and was processed in Lightoom with split toning to provide the sunset tones instead of B&W.

Shearing shed on shores of the fossilised 18,000 year dry Lake Mungo:

IR shearing shed on shores of the fossilised 18,000 year dry Lake Mungo

The above shot is my favorite, and one of the few times during the week that there was actually some clouds in the sky.

It was shot with Olympus 12mm f/2.0 lens at f/4 with ISO 400 and shutter 1/5th sec hand held and was processed in Lightoom with split toning to provide the sepia-like toning instead of B&W.

Setting up the Olympus E-M5 for B&W IR shots straight from the camera:

  • set Picture Mode to Monotone with Contrast +2 (I like contrasty IR shots), and B&W filter to Red. Of course you can play with these further and add Pict. Tone of Sepia instead of Neutral.
  • set ISO to 200-400 for sunny scenes
  • set exposure mode to aperture priority and choose a wide aperture to give a fast enough shutter speed (remember the 12mm lens on the E-M5 you could use even down to half a second with care hand held!) but sufficient depth of field (eg. f/2.8)
  • ensure IS is set to IS1
  • adjust exposure compensation so that you minimise blown out highlights as these tend to create hot spots from IR flare within the lens (I often use minus 0.5 to minus 0.7)
  • place the IR filter on the lens
  • you can easily compose and autofocus even with the IR filter in place – just awesome!

Another example of digital infrared – cloudy vs sunny

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

Just before leaving the farmhouse in the previous post, I decided to go back to the car and get my digital infrared setup – in this case, the Canon 1DMIII, Olympus OM 21mm lens, tripod & Hoya R72 filter.

First an initial shot without the IR filter:

normal colour photo

Yep, it’s a nice old farmhouse, but the lighting had changed and it was now overcast and so as a color image it is a nice documentary image but not much more of merit.

Let’s see how it looks in IR, firstly under cloud cover and I guessed an exposure of 30secs, f/5.6 at ISO 100 which on checking the RGB histogram was pretty much spot on.

Image white balance using Lightroom, levels adjusted in PS and cropped.

cloudy IR

As you can see we have a nice Wood’s IR effect with grass and leaves becoming almost white while the blue sky is almost black. The long exposure resulted in motion effects of the clouds.

Just before I packed up, the sun came out and so I quickly guessed this one at f/8, 20secs which resulted in a fairly accurate exposure on RGB histogram. Processed as for previous image.

sunlit IR

Personally, I like the sunlit image as the sunlight has created more local contrasts which adds to the image.

more digital infrared here

Digital infrared – Olympus E510 + ZD 50mm macro

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Just to prove you don’t need an expensive camera like the Canon 1DMIII in my last post, or a IR-modified camera to do digital infrared photography, this post is to show you that the Olympus dSLRs have some advantages over other un-modified dSLRs.

IR beach

As with the Canon 1DMIII and other current un-modified dSLRs, the strong IR blocking filter means you will need to use a tripod and long exposure times which can be an advantage as mentioned in the previous post.

I chose the Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro lens for this IR beach shot as it has a 52mm filter thread and thus I can use an inexpensive 52mm Hoya R72 filter on this lens and via a 49-52mm step up ring, on the Olympus OM wide angle lenses (On the Canon and the Olympus, I can use the 21mm, 24mm and 28mm lenses all with 49mm threads).

Another reason I used this lens is that its wide aperture combined with Olympus’ unique Live Boost live preview means I can compose and autofocus in bright sunlight, and indeed, you can actually see enough in the optical viewfinder to compose in bright sunlight.

It also has the advantage I don’t have to manually close down the aperture as with the OM lenses.

Otherwise, the technique is similar to that I posted for the Canon 1DMIII.

Here is another shot with sepia toning:

sepia IR

To get this shot, I used a very compact cheap tripod in the water so it is not as steady as the previous one, and to top it off just after the shot was completed, a wave splashed over my E510, but incredibly, after a bit of a rushed shake and clean down, it kept working and has done so ever since (fingers crossed).

Digital infrared – Canon with Olympus OM 21mm lens

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Following from my previous post on use of the OM 21mm f/3.5 lens with my Canon 1DMIII, I thought I should show what can be done with this combination, a tripod and a Hoya R72 filter.

IR coast

This lens on a Canon 1DMIII 1.3x crop sensor gives an angle of view of about 28mm in 35mm terms and its 49mm filter thread means you won’t go bankrupt buying large IR filters.

How do you create images like this?

As my Canon 1DMIII (like all current unmodified dSLRs) has a strong IR blocking filter, exposures in bright sunlight with a R72 filter requires long exposures such as 20sec at f/8, 100ISO.

This long exposure can be a blessing and a curse – it makes it tough in windy conditions to avoid camera movement, but it allows smooth water effects on moving water and blurred motion in leaves, while in street scenes, moving people magically disappear from your photo simplifying your image.

The IR filter is opaque to visible light so you need to compose and manually focus BEFORE placing the filter on, then adjust the focus to the IR point on the lens barrel to correct for IR light.

Note that if you use an f/2-2.8 lens on an Olympus dSLR camera in Live View with Live Boost ON, you can actually compose in bright sunlight but Canon do not have a Live Boost functionality so Live Preview is useless.

The next problem is that Canon’s light meter will not meter at such low light inputs so you need to resort to trial and error manual exposure, checking the red channel on the RGB histogram to determine the correct exposure.

Make sure you shoot in RAW mode for best post-processing results.

I then use a self-timer even on the tripod to reduce camera shake although for a 20sec exposure it probably is not needed.

Finally you get to play with the RAW files and there are a multitude of ways you can tackle this, in this image I adjusted levels then converted to B&W with a sepia toning.

Note that with digital infrared, the sky and water come out almost black, while leaves, and in this case green sea kelp come out almost white. Experiment with different lenses at different apertures as many will give central hot spots with IR, especially large aperture lenses.

Having this as an extra bow in your options enables you to try different things when all else is less than inspiring.

More of my digital infrared images are here.

More information on infrared photography can be found .

Olympus OM 21mm lens on Canon 1DMIII

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

One of the biggest problems with the Canon 1DMIII is that there is very limited wide angle options for its 1.3x crop with no dedicated lenses for it.

Of course, it was designed as an action/sports camera, not a wide angle camera.

My budget does not extend to a EF 16-24mm MII lens and I don’t want a fisheye, and I want to use it also for infrared photography with a nice small Hoya R72 filter (large versions of these can cost about $A300, so a nice small 49mm or 52mm filter thread doesn’t stretch your budget so much).

My solution is to use the Olympus OM 21mm f/3.5 lens and an AF-confirm OM-to-EOS adapter.
You do need to use manual focus and the aperture must be manually stopped down, but you do get very good results such as this one from an art installation in Melbourne yesterday:

Melbourne

Note, there was no polariser or other filter used here and just some exposure adjustment in RAW development as unfortunately, the playback image on the Canon LCD is NOT representative of the jpeg it produces (unlike the Olympus E510 where its jpegs straight from the camera look great and similar to its LCD playback – with Canon, I find you really should shoot RAW and post-process).

More images of this combination, including infrared can be found here.

Information on Olympus OM lenses can be found here, and information on wide angle lenses here.

Have I mentioned Melbourne’s a great place? Just don’t tell anyone, we don’t want it to change too much!

lessons of the Olympus C-8080WZ

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

The Olympus C-8080WZ “prosumer” digital camera was released in 2004 and totally changed my approach to photography and taught me some valuable lessons of digital technology.

some of my photos with the C-8080WZ:

I am writing this blog in mid 2008 because Olympus and Panasonic have just announced their new Four Thirds Micro system which may create some very innovative products but these are likely to be evolutions of the technology of the C-8080WZ albeit with much advanced functionality and hopefully overcoming the C-8080′s shortcomings.

The C-8080 was arguably the best 8 megapixel prosumer camera of 2004-2005 with one of the best lenses ever seen on a non-dSLR prosumer digital camera.

I used it as my main travel camera to France (see my photos of France in 2005 here) where I was able to take night time photos of Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower with the camera OUTSIDE the wire fence and I was able to compose and focus using the flip out live LCD, something I could not have achieved other than by luck using the dSLRs of the day:


ga_F_Paris_P8295328

I even managed to get a reasonable photo of a very dim comet LINEAR T7 in a region affected by light pollution, by using a teleconverter adapter on it and attaching it to a motor driven telescope mount:


ga_CometLINEART7_2040521_P5210263

I still have my C-8080 but for 99% of my photography, I now use digital SLRs and I reserve the C8080 for when I need silent photography and/or movie mode such as at my daughter’s cello concerts.

As good as dSLRs are, they are still audibly noisy mainly due to their mirror moving out of the way for the exposure.

The Four Thirds Micro system promises to change that as it does not have a mirror but will function more like the C-8080 but with interchangeable lenses.

I loved my C-8080, it was so versatile and with such good image quality for a prosumer as long as you used it appropriately (eg. at ISO 50-100 and for relatively short exposures), that I fell in love with photography again after all my film years and their frustrations.

I even used it to start exploring digital infrared photography although the lens was not optimised for IR light and tended to give a central hot spot as do many dSLR lenses.


ga_IR_Gumtree_P9101442

BUT there was also several big frustrations with the C-8080:

  • the very slow RAW file write time of 13secs per image
  • the inability to visualise the image during this write time
  • an AF system that had major problems focusing on low contrast subjects, in particular, faces – it would always seem to prefer to focus on a more contrasty background than on my subject’s eyes
  • even worse, was the poor manual focus override capability, in particular, the difficulty in determining when a subject was in focus using manual focus
  • the relatively small LCD, although of “normal” size for the time
  • dodgy stepped zoom function operated by a lever on the camera

Even worse was the realisation that a lot of money was paid for this camera and its wonderful lens, and yet, in only two years or so, the rapid growth in technology would make the camera body relatively redundant and practically worthless, along with the lens.

Despite their wait in hope, Olympus C-8080 fans hoping for an upgrade to address its shortcomings were disappointed that Olympus seemed to put its energies instead into either dSLRs (although this was a great thing to do) and cheaper styled non-dSLRs. Now their wishes may be partly realised with the Micro system.

So how do these lessons apply to the new Four Thirds Micro system?

Well firstly, it separates your investment into camera bodies which depreciate rapidly (often within 3 years), from lenses which should remain functional for many years to come as long as the camera system remains available and updated. This is great news, because as serious photographers, we value our lenses and hopefully we will buy the best we can afford and now we can hope they will grow with our technology.

Secondly, with the new technological advances, many of the C8080′s shortcomings have been overcome or can be expected to be overcome such as:

  • slow RAW write time – this is now a non-issue
  • image noise – using the much larger sensor of the Four Thirds, image noise has been dramatically reduced, and can be expected to further be reduced as technology improves
  • manual focus accuracy – this has already been much improved in the magnified Live Preview modes of current dSLRs and this technology can be expected to be applied to the new cameras
  • dodgy zoom function – zoom will now be available on the lens itself, although I suspect some Micro system lenses may allow zoom to be controlled via the camera
  • small LCD – LCDs are now averaging about 3″ in size and we could expect high resolution as with Nikon dSLR LCDs

But there are a few areas that still need to be proved to be solved:

  • AF on faces – the new cameras will still be using the contrast detection method of the C8080 instead of the proven speed of dSLR AF, but hopefully the technology has improved enough that AF on faces is now reliable (face recognition algorithms may be of help here, although I’m not a big fan of this mode)
  • general AF – contrast detection AF in Live Preview mode of current dSLRs is still quite slow and requires a very steady camera and subject, it will be interesting to see how rapid this is improved, or perhaps supplemented by optical rangefinder type viewfinders
    • I suspect, we will need to use new 11 pin lenses instead of current 9 pin lenses to achieve optimum speed with this contrast detection AF
  • the loss of optical SLR viewfinder – many people will be happy to use the rear LCD to compose and focus as they do with point and shoot cameras, but a lot of us still like to hold the camera to our eyes and reduce camera shake for most of our photography – will the electronic viewfinders (EVF) be good enough and will they produce optical viewfinders (similar to Leica rangefinders) and if so, how will they link the view with the lens focal length and allow for parallax error
    • OGAWA: “Practical use of liveview has been considerably improved with the E-420, and if we continue improving that system, we anticipate it will be possible to use it at a level without significant problems. Technical development continues to advance. However, if one asks whether it is currently on a level with current SLRs, it’s not there yet, no. We want to develop M4/3 over a long span of time, so please take things on a bit more of a long-term view.”
  • It will be interesting times indeed as new camera bodies and Micro system lenses are rolled out, and hopefully providing us with relatively cheap bodies which we can afford to depreciate rapidly, whilst giving us new possibilities of interchangeable lens photography as mentioned in my previous blog of the new Four Thirds Micro system

    The new Micro system is destined to mothball my C-8080 for good, such is life for digital cameras.