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Potsdam and the Sanssouci Palace of Frederick the Great

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

Whilst in Berlin, one should make sure they take the 45 minute or so train to nearby Potsdam and then a longish walk or taxi / bus to the Sanssouci Palace (Schloss Sanssouci) and its gardens.

Entry to the gardens themselves is via coin donation, but if you wish to book a time to see inside the palace, you need to go to the ticket centre where you may wish to purchase the option of being allowed to photograph the interior (but not publish the photos) – in retrospect, one probably does not need to photograph the interior unless you have a special interest.

Unfortunately, the Neues Palace was not open the day we went, and we were running short of time, only having an afternoon there.

It is a gorgeous way to spend a gentle summer’s day walking through the extensive gardens and then back to the Potsdam train station, stopping by the old church and then grabbing a lovely dinner at the cafe on the corner.

Unless specified otherwise, these were all shot with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Micro Four Thirds camera with Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 pro lens

Sansouci

This one was shot with the Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 pro lens

Sansouci

If only the statues and gargoyles could talk – what a history they have seen!

Sansouci

Sansouci

No, it’s not Napoleon but Frederick The Great:
Sansouci

Sansouci

A young lady posing on the steps of Orangerieschloss as a jogger passes by:

Sansouci

Sansouci

And if you like to people watch, the wonderful ambience and lovely angles of the sun make for some nice imagery if you are in the right frame of mind to look for them.

Sansouci

Sansouci

Sansouci

A beautiful image of a father taking his son for a walk:

Sansouci

When you walk back to the station there is an awesome old church (Friedenskirche) one can explore:

My friend Luigi posing for me.

Did I mention how lucky the northern Europeans are with their gentle angled summer sun in contrast to our high, harsh midday sun – when the sun is out in Berlin, beautiful sunlit images are easy!

Sansouci

A spy in the church with their iPhone:

Sansouci

My traveling band:

Sansouci

At the end of the day, dinner at the local Weiner Cafe on the corner of the Square with a view to the Potsdam Brandeburg Tor is a wonderful way to complete the afternoon. The main issue here is that the men’s urinals are obviously designed for tall Germans requiring tip toes for the height challenged!

Potsdam Brandenburg Tor:

Potsdam Brandenburg Tor

Weiner Cafe and Beer Garden:

Weiner Cafe

Berlin’s mixed architecture

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Berlin is a city of rapid change, dilapidated old communist styled austere buildings are rapidly being demolished to make way for modern developments – much to the chagrin and protests of locals, while 19th century buildings destroyed in WWII are still being re-built such as the palace near the Berlin Dome and the Kaiser Wilhelm Church.

Don’t forget to bring a rain coat, it does seem to rain often there and it is frequently very overcast – and I was there in late June – I did get absolutely drenched one day, but fortunately I was wearing quick dry shirt and shorts which had to be wrung out before I could allow myself entry back into the hotel in Potsdam Platz – I stayed at the Scandic Hotel which was very serviceable, clean and convenient with very friendly and efficient staff – only a hundred metres or so to train stations with their very regular train services (every 3-5 minutes or so) or the Berlin Mall shopping centre.

If you have not been to Berlin, here is a brief taste:

First we need to cross CheckPoint Charlie to get to the former East Berlin – this guy is just busking there posing as an American Soldier:

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin

The rebuilding of the Kaiser Wilhelm Church in West Berlin:

Berlin

Communist styled Berlin Philharmonic Centre in Potsdam Platz:

Berlin

The TV Tower which the East Germans built to dominate the city, but ironically, in their effort to marginalise the churches and religion, if you are lucky like me, in certain sunlight, their tower reflects a cross for miles which is said to be the Pope’s revenge:

Berlin

St Thomas Church:

Berlin

Berlin

A slice of the old Berlin Wall in Potsdam Platz taken with the Olympus mZD 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens:

Berlin

The rebuilt Berlin Dome church:

Berlin

The wonderful old buildings in Berlin’s Museum Island – some lovely art galleries and the history of Germany museum, all well worth seeing – buy a Museum Pass and you get 3 days to access them for free – but don’t buy it on the weekend as they are nearly all closed on Mondays:

Berlin

Outside Alte Nationalgalerie with its late 19th century and 20th century art works:

Berlin

Outside Bode Museum with its older art works – mainly religious works from 17th century and earlier:

Berlin

The Amazon with Nefertiti which is housed in this Neues Museum, next door to the Pergamon Museum:

Berlin

East Berlin was known as the capital of Spies, and today there are thousands of them:

Berlin

Unlike Paris, you don’t really need to dress up in Berlin, the tourists and locals dress very casually, so these two caught my eye, and there is something about this cool guy that reminds me of a young Bruce Willis:

Berlin

Don’t forget to head down towards East Side Gallery area, as there are some great little spots on the way such as this dilapidated building:

Berlin

And a riverside bohemian bar which I am sure would be closed down due to safety concerns elsewhere, but it was a cool spot to have a beer:

Berlin

Last, but certainly, not least, one can’t forget the great Brandenburg Gate or Brandenburg Tor which has a fascinating history relating to Napoleon’s invasion of Berlin and his desire to take the horse statues back to Paris:

Berlin

Berlin

Postcards from Berlin: reflecting upon the holocaust

Friday, July 14th, 2017

My little trip to Berlin wouldn’t be complete without taking time out to reflect on how men can behave so inhumanely and yet we still have not learn’t the lessons of where fear takes us to the dark side of absolutes and persecution.

Here are a few of my take on the horrors of the holocaust in World War II – the memorial to the Murdered Jews in Berlin is a must see just to spend some time reflecting and to read the many stories.

Berlin

Berlin

Berlin

And, don’t forget the Jewish Museum and walking on these metal anonymous faces:

Berlin

Despite the sadness, Berlin is a wonderful, friendly city to visit which reminds me of my home town of Melbourne – perhaps it is the grunge and graffiti.

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

Is this the biggest documented Amanita farinacea (Australian Flour Lepidella) mushroom – cap of 30cm diameter?

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

It’s Autumn in Australia and mushroom time.

I stumbled upon an amazing white mushroom in a Eucalypt forest at altitude around 800m on Mt Macedon in Victoria after the rains which was so big and white with a veil of delicate frills all around blowing in the wind and white drops on the ground nearby (hence the Flour in its name)  that it looked like it was artificial and someone had just dropped a can of white paint on to it!

As I understand it, all species of Amanita mushrooms have white gills underneath, and most are poisonous – these ones are not likely to be fatal, unlike the Death Cap (Amanita phalloides) with its amanitin toxins which destroy the liver in a few days.

Amanita Farinacea

The gigantic Amanita farinacea mushroom was adjacent a massive Eucalypt tree – I placed my iPhone 6s for reference and although I did not have a ruler, the cap of it measured at least 30cm in diameter – this species is usually said to grow to 10cm diameter.

A few days later, I found a more juvenile specimen some 10 meters away which stood some 6″ tall and perhaps 4-5″ in diameter:

Amanita Farinacea

Both of the above were taken in low light at dusk, hand held with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Micro Four Thirds camera and Panasonic Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens for Four Thirds, the first image shot at f/2.8, ISO 800 and 1/20th sec while the second image was shot at f/5.6, ISO 800 and 1/30th sec.

Some more common poisonous Amanita mushrooms:

Everyone’s favorite fairy tale fantasy mushroom – the colorful, warty, Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) from an oak forest:

Amanita

Olympus OM–D E-M1 II with Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens at f/1.8, ISO 200 and 1/100th sec.

The Fly Agaric is likely to cause delirium, hallucinations and possibly coma and seizures within 2hrs of ingestion – if someone was stupid enough to try eating one.

and presumably a related couple in a pine forest:

Amanita

The above was taken in very low light under dense pine forest canopy hiding adjacent to a fallen tree trunk, taken hand held with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Micro Four Thirds camera and Panasonic Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens for Four Thirds – f/2.5, ISO 500, 1/10th sec – thanks to the awesome image stabilizer in the E-M1 II.

And, who can resist some fall foliage?

foliage

The above was taken in very low light at dusk under a canopy of trees, taken hand held with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Micro Four Thirds camera and Panasonic Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens for Four Thirds – f/1.4, ISO 200, 1/15th sec – again, thanks to the awesome image stabilizer in the E-M1 II.

 

 

Sony A7II full frame with Canon EF 50mm f/1.8ii vs Olympus OM-D with PanaLeica D 25mm f/1.4 lens – real world comparison images

Monday, May 1st, 2017

These two lenses give a similar field of view – that of the “Standard lens” or 50mm in full frame terms.

I have posted similar DOF and background blurring comparisons for full frame 85mm f/1.8 vs Olympus 45mm f/1.8 and also full frame 85mm f/1.8 vs Olympus 75mm f/1.8 taken twice as far away.

This blog post is to demonstrate the slightly shallower depth of field (DOF) and more background blurring that a full frame camera can attain over a Micro Four Thirds camera – but does it make the image more aesthetic, and is the difference really worth losing all the fantastic benefits of Micro Four Thirds – smaller, lighter, less expensive kit, easier to take traveling, to social events and hiking, better weathersealing, better image stabilisation, touch screen AF, closest eye AF, more fun and versatility, and the list goes on.

Only you can decide if you really need to go shallower DOF – and of course on both cameras you can get even more shallow DOF – the full frame allows use of 50mm f/1.4 lenses (and even a Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L), while on the Olympus OM-D, you can use the wonderful superb Olympus micro ZD 25mm f/1.2 lens, and if you want, you can go to f/0.95 lenses but currently only in manual focus.

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens is known as the plastic fantastic – perhaps one of the worst build quality of any modern AF lens, and a cheap price to match but it has reasonable optics – although, not the sharpest tool in the shed wide open, and has lots of vignetting on the Sony a7II, plus lots of coma aberration and the bokeh is quite busy and often annoying – but this comparison is just to show DOF and degree of background blurring at f/1.8. When used with the Sigma MC-11 EF-Sony lens adapter, you do get fairly fast AF but no Eye AF, BUT it is very frustrating to use as you must re-mount the lens every time the camera is turned off or goes to sleep, and sometimes AF is a very slow stuttering experience. For some reason, the Sony a7II under-exposes this lens at f/1.8 but not at f/2.8 – very strange indeed!

On a full frame camera such as the Sony A7II mirrorless camera, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 ii provides the user with a further 1.3 stops of shallow depth of field options when compared to an Olympus OM-D E-M1 II with the old, now discontinued, Panasonic leica D 25mm f/1.4 Four Thirds lens but will this really matter for most people and will the many benefits of the Olympus system outweigh the DOF benefits of the full frame system?

Note that this Four Thirds lens is one of the few that is compatible with CDAF, but for some reasons, AF is stutteringly slow on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark I but works fine on the mark II camera. This lens was replaced with a smaller, lighter, less expensive Micro Four Thirds version. Neither are weathersealed but the new Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2 lens is.

Real world lens tests:

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

The Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 lens is first then the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens, both taken from same camera position:

lenses

lenses

Note that the severe mechanical vignetting of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens on the Sony a7 II is causing much more annoying “cat’s eye” shaped bokeh near the edges – note the sky highlights, as well as much darker corners. In addition, the longer aspect ratio of the full frame system makes it harder to exclude distracting skies in portrait orientation than it is with the wider Micro Four Thirds 4:3 aspect ratio – another reason I prefer Micro Four Thirds for portraiture.

lenses

lenses

lenses

lenses

The greater blurring capability of the full frame is well demonstrated here but the near out of focus leaves on the right are far more annoying with their distracting bokeh compared to the less blurred but less distracting bokeh of the Panasonic image.

lenses

lenses

When the focus point is farther away, the difference of the degree of background blurring becomes less between the lenses – as demonstrated with my previous posts.

lenses

lenses

For this image, the 25mm lens gives adequate subject isolation and background blurring, and I think it has much nicer bokeh, plus if you look at the highlight area of the statues’ head, the cheap and nasty 50mm lens has much more flare, softer, less contrasty imagery – that’s one of the resons why you may want to pay more for a higher quality lens!

lenses

lenses

Again the 25mm gives adequate background blurring and it is less busy – look at the branches of the birch – but this bokeh issue is not a full frame versus MFT issue but a lens design issue.

lenses

lenses

The larger out of focus circles of the 50mm are actually much more distracting and annoying – sometimes the more background blurring is actually worse for aesthetics!

lenses

lenses

Again the 25mm gives adequate background blurring and it is much less busy with nicer bokeh.

lenses

lenses

lenses

lenses

This closer image of grapes, looks nicer with the 50mm lens to my eye as the much larger out of focus bubbles make it less busy.

lenses

lenses

lenses

lenses

The 50mm lens here is giving too much background blurring making it hard to work out what is in the background which can work against the aesthetics by making the viewer work too hard – of course, the 50mm could have been closed down to f/2.8 to address this.

lenses

lenses

The bridge looks busier on the 50mm lens – the 25mm to my eye is giving nicer bokeh and sufficient background blurring.

Moral of the story:

Just buying into a full frame system does not guarantee you nicer looking, shallower depth of field, more aesthetic bokeh – you do need to choose your lens carefully, and lens design is always a trade off between wide open sharpness vs wide open bokeh:

The superbly sharp, big, heavy, expensive, Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens has busy, distracting bokeh – sort of defeats the purpose of having a shallow DOF lens.

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L lens has buttery smooth bokeh but is soft (not that sharp) wide open with lots of aberrations.

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 lens is soft wide open with lots of aberrations and often busy bokeh but at least it is relatively small and inexpensive.

The Sony FE CZ 55mm f/1.8 ZA is sharp across the frame, relatively compact but has busy onion ring bokeh and costs $AU1150.

The Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA has nice bokeh and is sharp in the centre wide open but is soft half way to edges and will set you back $AU2250!

See also my comparison table of the high end 50mm AF lenses for a Sony full frame.

And here we have the full frame conundrum – which is the lens that suits your needs best and can you afford the cost and weight?

If you are going to have stop it down to f/1.8 or more for adequate image quality or depth of field, then perhaps you are not really gaining much over an Olympus 25mm f/1.2  lens which is weathersealed, compact, relatively light, has almost zero aberrations and minimal distortion, probably better edge-to-edge sharpness wide open, can focus twice as close, has a lovely manual focus clutch, and has by far the best image stabilisation of 5EV 5 axis IS when used with Olympus OM-D cameras, which also allow fast, accurate AF almost anywhere in the frame (not just near the middle and which can be activated rapidly by using the touch screen or even the touch of the Live View screen on a wifi tethered smartphone) and with ability to accurately AF on the closest eye – just awesome! And that’s not all – on the E-M1II you get continuous AF at 18fps and silent shutter, not to mention the unique Olympus Live Composite mode for doing star trails, car headlights, etc at night, and for static scenes with tripod, the ability to shoot 50mp Hi Res shots.

ps… I didn’t do this comparison with the Olympus 25mm f/1.2  lens as I don’t own one ….. yet! :)

In the end, do you really need the extra shallow DOF that full frame affords when you are giving up so much to have it?

The intricacies and complexity of lens design – interview with designer of the Olympus 25mm f/1.2 lens

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

If you can get past the Google translate issues, it is worth having a read of this interview with Olympus lens designer published on DC.Watch.

Olympus is embarking on a series of high performance “PRO” level metal, weathersealed, f/1.2 prime Micro Zuiko Digital (micro ZD) lenses with MF clutches, capable of withstanding professional “abuse” for Micro Four Thirds, now that the system has matured and many of the cameras have 1/8000th sec shutter speeds to allow f/1.2 in bright conditions without having to resort to use of ND filters or polarisers.

The following is my summary adopted from this interview.

Lens design is always a compromise!

F/1.2 was chosen instead of a wider aperture in order to keep the lens size down, AF speed fast and cost down – all of which are important for users.

The larger the lens elements, the slower the AF response as it takes more effort from the AF motors to move them.

The current f/1.8 “PREMIUM” range of lenses (17mm, 25mm, 45mm, and 75mm) were optimised for Olympus PEN camera users, but these lenses are not weathersealed.

The Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2 lens has a an amazing lens design of 19 elements in 14 groups including 1 Super ED lens, 2 ED lenses, 3 HR Lenses, 1 E-HR lens and 1 Aspherical lens with 1 small lens element (the 5th group lens) being used for fast AF that can be moved with high frequency and precision, yet be silent. It uses a retrofocus design in which the front 3 groups produce a negative power which reduce achromatism while the rear groups produce a positive power with the master lens being in front of the AF lens. As aberration fluctuates as the AF lens moves, these variations in aberrations are reduced by increasing the number of lens elements and then controlled by multiple correction lens in the rear groups which also add back in some spherical aberration to improve bokeh and also form a sound barrier to the moving lens helping to create a silent AF system

Design principles included:

  • fast, silent AF optimised for CDAF and PDAF and satisfy the Olympus MSC standard (Movie and Still Compatible)
  • weathersealed
  • robust
  • MF clutch mechanism
  • optimising MTF at low frequency and edge-to-edge high frequency detail to provide contrast and aesthetics, particularly with portraits
  • aim for twice the MTF accuracy of a 35mm full frame lens
  • maintain the shape of Newton rings (An interference fringe of light which is generated when a lens having the opposite curve is superimposed on a certain lens) as constant as possible
  • optimising the quality of blur (bokeh) with aim for blur to “bleed slowly” but maintain resolution
    • use of a front aspherical lens to reduce incoming light to zero spherical aberration
    • adding a lens element to restore some spherical aberration at the expense of some high frequency MTF resolution
  • eliminate coma aberration – avoid use of lenses which sharply bend light as these introduce too much coma aberration – hence the need to use many lens elements to gradually modify the light rays
  • minimise all other aberrations such as distortion to reduce the extent of jpeg in-camera corrections needed but where needed, optical characteristic data corresponding to the aperture value, focus position, and zoom position is sent from the lens to the camera body and corrected by image processing.

 

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

Monday, April 24th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real world lens tests:

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

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

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

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The above was taken with “Shady” white balance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Getting creative with dragging the shutter with 6.5EV IS and the Olympus mZD 300mm f/4 lens with birds in flight

Friday, April 7th, 2017

I was a touch bored last night as the sun set on another lovely Autumn day in Melbourne.

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I had been carrying my Olympus micro ZD 300mm f/4 lens and my Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 lens on two Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera bodies for 3 hours as a walked around some old salt pan lakes.

The sun had just set behind some dark clouds and the very skittish tiny robins were hopping along the track in front of me as I walked hungry and thirsty back to my car – always frustratingly keeping their distance well away from me – even for the 600mm super telephoto reach of this lens.

So when I came across a heron I decided to try something different – drag the shutter and see how good the E-M1 Mark II’s IS works for panning.

So here we have the same bird (I presume a heron) taking off and landing but in very different light angles as it flew 180 degrees around me.

These are NOT meant to be sharp, documentary style shots of birds in flight but something a bit more abstract and arty – and I quite like what I achieved, and the AF was fast and the Olympus image stabilisation panned very well indeed!

 

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Above was shot at 1/40th second hand held 600mm telephoto reach in full frame terms – rear feathers under the wing are still quite sharp despite the slow shutter speed and flight of the bird!

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This one was shot at 1/10th sec – the panning lines are very straight – either I panned extremely smoothly or the IS worked very well to ignore my angular pan – anyway I quite like the effect – although there does seem to be the face of a demon here – an angel in wolf’s clothing perhaps?

I suspect the vivid colours straight from the camera need a bit of subduing before it becomes wall art but it was a fun interesting little exercise – just don’t try this at home with your Canon or Nikon 600mm f/4 lens – you will do yourself an injury!

Alpine hiking and camping at Victoria’s remote Macalister Springs – The Crosscut Saw and The Terrible Hollow – part III

Monday, March 27th, 2017

See Part I for an introduction to Macalister Springs region.

See Part II for Mt Howitt in the clouds.

ps. click on images to see a larger view.

Friday morning, it was clear skies overhead with the valleys and The Terrible Hollow below filled with low cloud.

Although my sleeping bag discouraged me from waking for sunrise, I did manage to scramble up to the lookout area soon thereafter and enjoyed the magical views:


The Crosscut Saw

The Crosscut Saw and to far right, Mt Buggary, with the cloud hiding the depths of The Terrible Hollow.

After breakfast we decided to head up to The Crosscut Saw before we head home.


The Crosscut Saw

Cloud still hiding The Terrible Hollow with The Crosscut Saw on the left.


The Crosscut Saw


The Crosscut Saw

Yep, no back pack for this short trip, my light rain jacket had pockets large enough for a water bottle, and my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Micro Four Thirds camera with 12mm lens, while I was also able to borrow my friend’s 75mm lens.


The Crosscut Saw


The Crosscut Saw

Hikers walking the start of the Crosscut Saw – Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens.


The Crosscut Saw

Looking back eastwards towards The Devil’s Staircase – Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens.


Mt Spec

East aspect of Mt Speculation with Mt Buffalo in the background – Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens.


Mt Howitt

Looking south east to Mt Howitt on the left and Mt Buller on the right – Olympus mZD 12mm f/2.0 lens.

What a difference a day makes with the sun out:

  • everlasting daisies and other flowers opened
  • insects buzzing around – including small butterflies and those flies
  • the aggressive alpine ants were active
  • it became hot walking even in tee shirt and shorts with sun hat on
  • eyes became sunburnt – so busy taking photos I forgot about my sunglasses – at end of the day my eyes were red!
  • you have to drink more – that means carry more water
  • the copperhead snakes are out – we almost stepped on two basking in the sun on the walking path near Mac Springs