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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. 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.


Image courtesy of

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 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’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.

In search for the holy grail of 85mm wide aperture portrait lenses – 2 new premium lenses announced this week – Panasonic and Fuji

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

For many 35mm full frame photographers, a wide aperture 85mm lens is the preferred tool for portraiture as the focal length allows a natural perspective without distorting facial features whilst still allowing the photographer to be close enough to interact well with the subject. Furthermore, the wider the aperture of the portrait lens means there are more options for creating shallow depth of field to ensure the subject is emphasized whilst the background is thrown into a nice blur – hopefully with nice bokeh qualities.

When it comes to shallow depth of field capabilities, Canon dSLR users reign supreme as they have access to the very expensive and heavy Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II lens – the only f/1.2 85mm lens currently manufactured.

However, all is not what it seems.

As superb as this lens is, there is one huge draw back – the autofocus is very slow and combined with the extremely shallow depth of field, this lens can be very challenging to use well wide open.

Canon users then are at a quandary, as their only other Canon autofocus 85mm lens is the excellent consumer grade Canon EF 85mm f/1.8, but this lens suffers from significant purple fringing wide open.

Nikon users don’t have access to a 85mm f/1.2 lens but they do have a good Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G lens (the 1995 D version lens was designed for film cameras and was not great on digital cameras), so perhaps they have a better compromise than Canon users.

Sony full frame dSLR users are in a similar situation to Nikon users as they have the Sony Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* lens but AF can be slow and at $1700 it is not cheap.

All dSLR lenses using phase detect AF need microcalibration of AF and this is particularly important with shallow depth of field images.

In addition, the above users have access to 3rd party lenses such as the excellent Sigma 85mm f/1.4 lens although AF speed and accuracy can be an issue. For those on a budget, the Samyang/Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 manual focus lens may fit their needs.

Cropped sensor dSLR users can resort to their 50mm prime lenses although they will have less ability to gain shallow depth of field.

What do we really need?

Extreme shallow depth of field is not usually the prime requirement, and most portraits can be shot at 85mm f/2.4-2.8 on a full frame camera and get potentially even better results wide open as most portraits are best if at least the area from the subject’s ear to tip of nose is in focus.

Indeed, if one is shooting low light portraits, or using fill in flash with a slowish shutter speed without a tripod, then image stabilisation becomes very important and none of the Canon or Nikon options offer image stabilisation.

Furthermore, the most critical technical part of taking the shot is often ensuring that the closest eye of the subject is the sharpest part of the image. This can be very difficult to achieve with dSLRs using shallow depth of field.

This is where mirrorless cameras can be the BEST tool for portraiture as they can offer:

  • sufficiently shallow depth of field
  • sufficiently out of focus backgrounds with lovely bokeh quality of the blurring
  • more depth of field wide open so you can use a faster shutter speed or lower ISO in low light if needed
  • image stabilisation to ensure excellent sharpness (Olympus cameras)
  • face detection autofocus with closest eye detection (Olympus cameras)
  • small camera and lenses to reduce the subject being intimidated and allow them to be more relaxed
  • high optical quality portrait lenses which are sharp edge to edge even wide open (full frame lenses generally lack sharpness just where you want the subject’s eyes)
  • consistently accurate autofocus (no need for microcalibrations)

This week, Panasonic and Fuji have officially announced 2 new premium portrait lenses for their mirrorless cameras.

The Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R lens:

Designed for the 1.5x crop Fuji X mirrorless system and gives an equivalent to a 85mm f/1.8 lens in field of view and depth of field terms on a full frame camera.

This lens is well built, relatively affordable at $US999, and it should be a very popular option for Fuji users.

However, there is no image stabilisation, AF of Fuji cameras still lags behind Micro Four Thirds cameras, and closest focus is 0.7m which may be limiting for some uses.

The Panasonic Leica DG 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron lens:

A very expensive lens designed for Micro Four Thirds (which are 2x crop cameras) and thus gives an equivalent to a 85mm f/2.4 lens in field of view and depth of field terms on a full frame camera.

It has “Power OIS” optical stabilisation built-in, and Olympus users also have the option of using sensor-based image stabilisation.

Close focus is 0.5m.

Surprisingly it is a touch bigger, and heavier than the Fujinon lens, but perhaps it will have less vignetting.

This lens should be available from march 2014 at £1,399.


Given the advantages of image stabilisation, edge-to-edge sharpness, closest eye detection AF and generally quieter, smaller, less intrusive gear, my personal preference is for an Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera such as the Olympus OM-D E-M1 or E-M5 combined with either the 42.5mm f/1.2 lens if you can afford it, or the much smaller, less expensive Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.8 lens. Having said that, I do most of my portraits with the superb Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens but this may be too long a focal length for many people.

For group shots at parties, you can’t go past a Micro Four Thirds camera with Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens and a bounce flash – see my recent post.

If you don’t believe me that great portraiture is possible on these cameras, check out Sean Archer’s work with Micro Four Thirds cameras – see this post, and Edmondo Senatore’s work – see this post.

Showcase: Edmondo Senatore and his wonderful imagery using Micro Four Thirds

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Edmondo Senatore is an Italian photographer who has been photographing since he attended a school of graphic design as a teenager back in the days of the film SLR.

He has used Olympus Four Thirds dSLRs, then Nikon and Canon dSLRs, and now has migrated to Micro Four Thirds and is using the wonderful Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera.

Here are some of his wonderful images you can see on his website using Micro Four Thirds, enjoy:

The beautiful queen

Taken with Olympus PEN E-PL5 Micro Four Thirds camera.


Taken with Olympus E-M5 with Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens.


Taken with Olympus PEN E-PL5 Micro Four Thirds camera and Panasonic 7-14mm f/4 lens at 8mm f/7.1.

Walking through my city

Taken with Olympus PEN E-PL5 Micro Four Thirds camera and Pansonic 12-35mm f/2.8 lens at 12mm f/5.6.


Post-Xmas sales coming up – the BEST camera kit for enthusiasts in 2014

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

I am going to concentrate on the Micro Four Thirds system because this system gives you the BEST compromises on size, weight, image quality and versatility that larger sensor cameras just can’t match.

This does not mean there is no place for larger sensor cameras – of course there is, particularly if you want a little more image quality at high ISO, more megapixels for landscapes,  even shallower depth of field, or you really need remote radio TTL flash (which has not made it to Micro Four Thirds – yet!).

First the camera:

Personally I would buy a 2nd hand Olympus OMD E-M5 – they are generally selling at significant discount and are a great value buy and offer lots of versatility and high image quality. It does NOT have phase detect AF capability so it won’t track moving subjects well and it won’t AF on moving subjects well, plus AF is very slow if you are using Four Thirds lenses, but if you can get by with these limitations, then it is a great camera, even better with half of the battery holder grip attached, and unlike the E-M1 this can be removed for even more jacket pocketability.

If you need phase detect AF for sports, Four Thirds lenses, etc, then your only current option is the 2013 camera of the year – the awesome Olympus OMD E-M1 – but it does come at a price.

Other worthwhile camera options to consider are the Panasonic GX7, Olympus E-P5, Olympus E-PL5 and the new very compact Panasonic GM-1, while videographers wil be eagerly looking forward to Panasonic’s new 4K capable camera in 2014 – the Panasonic GH4.

The cheapest new generation Micro Four Thirds camera is the Olympus E-PL5 (note the cheapest current Micro Four Thirds camera, the Olympus E-PM2 is older sensor technology but may still be a great start for beginners moving up from point and shoot cameras)

Unfortunately, for beginners, there is no camera-kit lens kit for under $400 new in Micro Four Thirds, so many end up buying a cheap entry level, often dysfunctional dSLR, which then sends them down the dSLR lens acquisition pathway until they realise that mirrorless cameras are the way of the future – not dSLRs.

Note too that not all mirrorless cameras are great system cameras like the new Micro Four Thirds cameras – I would NOT recommend the Canon EOS-M as it has a limited dedicated lens system and AF is ridiculously inadequate. The older Micro Four Thirds cameras may be worth buying but be aware they have older sensors and image quality and other capabilities are not up there with the latest cameras. The Sony NEX are nice compact cameras but their lenses are far too big and defeat the purpose of a compact system. The Samsung NX system does not seem to be going anywhere fast and is not recommended. The Fuji system is nice but expensive and has limited range of lenses.

Now the all important lenses:

Lenses are a very personal preference and much depends upon how you use the camera and your preferred subjects.

Nevertheless, most people would do well to aim for 3 “essential” lenses:

  • Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens
    • this has been an all time favorite of many photographers because it is very sharp, very compact, allows your camera to fit into a jacket pocket, is perfect for indoor party shots or walking the street at night for hand held night shots.
    • the unique benefits outweigh the disadvantages of slowish AF, some CA and rather busy bokeh
    • try and pick one up on Ebay 2nd hand if you can
    • note there is a new version (version II) with similar optics but has a metal barrel instead of plastic and thus a touch heavier – for most it will not matter which version you get.
    • if you want faster, more silent AF and don’t mind a bigger lens, then the Olympus mZD 17mm f/1.8 lens is another option.
  • Olympus micro ZD 75mm f/1.8 lens
    • this is one of the best lenses ever made in terms of optical qualities
    • it is a short telephoto equivalent to a 150mm f/3.6 in full frame terms and is fantastic for creating shallow depth of field images with beautiful blurred backgrounds thanks to its lovely smooth bokeh
    • this is fantastic for portraits or fashion shots as well as for creating aesthetically beautiful still life images in nature and close up shots
    • this lens gives me almost identical imagery as my Canon EF 135mm f/2L lens does on my Canon 1D Mark III dSLR but in a much more compact size, weight and price, and without the troublesome flare the Canon lens is renown for.
    • unfortunately it is not weatherproof
    • if you can’t afford this, the manual focus Samyang/Rokinon 84mm f/1.4 lens will provide similar shallow DOF with lovely bokeh
  • a zoom lens for day time all purpose use
    • my preference here would be the Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 lens given that it is almost waterproof, has constant f/2.8 aperture so is great for indoor shots and night shots as well as daytime use, has high optical quality and covers 24-80mm in full frame terms – however, as it is a new lens there is a short supply so availability over the next few weeks may be tight, and, like the 75mm lens, it is a bit pricey.
    • a worthwhile alternative is the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 lens, which is also very pricey and not “waterproof”
    • for most people though, any of the other kit zoom lenses will be adequate and far cheaper – just remember they are really only good for daylight hours and not for low light conditions.

Some special lenses that some may need:

  • Olympus micro ZD 60mm f/2.8 1:1 macro lens
    • this lens is one of the best macro lenses you can get and is very light, compact with fast AF which all mean it is much more enjoyable to use in the field without a tripod than most other macro systems
  • Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye lens
    • this is included as it is cheap and has great image quality but remember it is only manual focus, but is a very handy lens to have in the bag.
  • Olympus micro ZD 12mm f/2.0 lens
    • if you don’t have a 12-35 or 12-40mm f/2.8 lens, then this f/2.0 lens provides a great wide angle lens for walking around cities at night time without a tripod or for building interiors without a tripod
    • it is also very handy for landscapes and waterfalls

New lenses coming in 2014-2015 which you need to save up for:

  • Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2 lens:
    • this lens at f/1.2 will make a fantastic portrait lens and low light lens but will be expensive
  • Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 lens
    • this is going to be an awesome almost waterproof  lens covering 80-300mm telephoto in 35mm full frame terms, yet compact f/2.8
    • will be great on the E-M1 for sports, even indoor sports
  • a 200mm f/2.8 or 300mm f/4 lens
    • it is uncertain which of these will come out if any, but both will be highly sought after lenses given their relatively small form factor.

A flash:

  • a flash with bounce capabilities is important for taking aesthetic portraits indoors such as at parties or weddings
  • the Olympus FL-600R flash
    • this is my favorite flash as it is not too big (easily stored in the inside pocket of a suit jacket), is easy to use and the 4 AA batteries give it a fast recycle time so you don’t miss shots, and of course it can be used as a master or a slave for remote TTL flash set ups.
    • as a bonus, it does have a LED light for video work although I have never used mine for this.
  • if you can’t afford this, then the Olympus FL36R is a good alternative although only having 2 AA batteries means recycle time is much slower and you will be waiting on the flash to get ready for next shot.
  • as and adjunct for macro work or as a shadowless fill-in flash, take a look at the Metz mecablitz 15 MS-1 digital Slave Ring flash which will work in remote TTL mode with most camera systems (needs the firmware upgrade to work with Micro Four Thirds)


  • a polarising filter for each of the lenses is very useful, it allows wider apertures in bright daylight, gives much more colorful images in forest scenes by reducing reflections from leaves, is very handy for water or window shots, and of course can make your sky deeper blue.
  • if you do landscapes, then a square or rectangular gradient neutral density filter 0.6ND is very handy to bring out details in the sky instead of having it washed out.


Final 3 chapters of Khen Lim’s treatise on the history of the Micro FourThirds system now online

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

I have now uploaded a wiki version of the last 3 chapters of Khen’s very interesting treatise on the history of Micro FourThirds.

Chapter 7 – all the Olympus Micro Four Thirds lenses outlined

Chapter 8 – summary timeline of production of the Panasonic and Olympus cameras and lenses for Micro FourThirds.

Chapter 9 – detailed list and discussions on the other vendors joining the Micro Four Thirds system


Radio remote TTL flash for Micro Four Thirds?

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

As much as I love Micro Four Thirds, there is one area which I would really love Olympus and Panasonic to address – the lack of radio remote TTL flash capability.

Nikon and Canon users have access to this technology thanks to 3rd party products such as Pocket Wizard – unfortunately they have not come up with a Micro Four Thirds solution – although this could be potentially possible using their Canon modules given the TTL pin system is at least physically compatible.

Canon have recently added radio wireless TTL flash to their latest dSLRs and flashes in addition to infrared TTL flash.

Nikon still only have infrared TTL flash.

Olympus uses a visible light remote TTL flash system which I personally find intrusive on the subject compared to either infrared or radio, and like infrared, it requires line of sight and relatively short working distances, which are further impacted by bright sunlit conditions.

Olympus and Panasonic have added ad hoc WiFi connectivity to their latest cameras for rapid and easy connection to smartphones which allows a device such as an Apple iPad or iPhone to remotely control the camera – even displaying the live view and allowing AF selection and shutter release.

It would seem to me that if this is possible then it should also be possible to make flash units which could be connected via ad hoc WiFi network to the camera and to other such flash units, and then Olympus and Panasonic can easily add radio wireless remote TTL flash to their system.

Well here’s hoping that this is possible and soon, because this would be fantastic for strobists everywhere who would love the Micro Four Thirds system for its portability – they just need radio TTL flash, and the option of a powerful compatible off-camera flash to allow them to push their creativity.

This would open a new market for Olympus and Panasonic.

Furthermore, using WiFi means each photographer has their own unique radio network for their flashes – no more worrying about which radio channel to use and accidentally triggering or being triggered by other photographer’s setups – particularly an issue in workshops or major events.

So what about it Olympus?

Wifi based remote TTL flash please.


ps. I have been told about a hack around radio TTL system that will probably work if you don’t mind taping up your flashes – see which uses a similar technique as does RadioPopper.


Seems like I am not the only one wanting this, users have started up a Facebook petition for radio TTL flash and see also blog post on


Micro Four Thirds for portraiture – a tribute to Sean Archer’s works

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

To continue a theme, you don’t need a dSLR any more for most photography, and you will enjoy using and carrying a smaller, lighter Micro Four Thirds camera and lenses at much more affordable prices and still create great images – here is a little tribute to one of my favourite online portraiture photographers who uses the older Micro Four Thirds cameras such as the Panasonic G3  with an Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.8 lens and ambient lighting – so anyone could achieve this without having to resort to big, heavy, expensive gear. Note his portfolio is NSFW but has many more delightful portraits.








Panasonic announces their GX7 Micro Four Thirds camera – my thoughts

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

As an owner of the wonderful Olympus OM-D E-M5, the Panasonic GF-1 and a previous owner of a Panasonic GH-1, and I am actually quite excited with this new Micro Four Thirds camera from Panasonic.

GX7 rear

It is the most Olympus-like of all the Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras to date which pleases me as I am mainly a photographer not a videographer.

For the 1st time in a Panasonic camera, the Panasonic GX7 boasts in-camera image stabilisation plus a fast flash sync speed of 1/320th sec, and to top it off, a top shutter speed of 1/8000th sec – all designed to make it more versatile for shooting wide aperture lenses either in bright sunlight or in low light conditions (the AF is even meant to work down to -4 EV).

The body is compact and is said to feel well built with its magnesium alloy body, and at last we have a compact Micro Four Thirds body with a built-in EVF although annoyingly it does protrude from the rear which makes it that much less pocketable. In addition to a hotshoe, it even finds room for a popup flash as well as a 3″ tiltable touch screen.

The built-in EVF is a tiltable 2.3M dot field sequential LCD EVF with 0.7x magnification but rather short 17.5mm eyepoint which may be an issue for those wearing glasses. It should give excellent colour rendition but being a field sequential type EVF, it will have some tearing although it should be better than previous Panasnic EVFs.

It has a raft of lovely features for the enthusiast and beginner alike.

Fast AF for stationary subjects at least, a AF/MF switch lever, good manual focus assist options with 3 level focus peaking and PIP magnified view mode – I presume image stabilisation can be activated in this mode but no mention has been made of this as yet.

A silent electronic shutter mode which means it will be great for classical music concerts, speeches, weddings, etc where camera noise can be very intrusive.

Fast burst rate comparable to the Olympus E-M5 giving 4.2fps with AF and 9fps with single AF.

The HD video capabilities are excellent allowing 1080 HD video in either MP4 or AVCHD formats at 60p/50p/24p with the latter at a very reasonable  28Mbps video quality. There is no external mic input which may annoy the odd user most will be happy with the inbuilt stereo mic or use an external sound recorder for the best sound quality.

It has NFC and WiFi capabilities for control by smartphones which will open up new possibilities and when combined with in-camera image editing and creative filters should make a lovely travel camera indeed.

Size comes in at 402g 122.6 wide x 70.7 high x 43.3mm deep.

Perhaps the main drawback for many will be the price - at £819/$A1249 body only, it is more expensive than the Olympus E-M5.

I am expecting Olympus to be announcing a similar styled camera with built-in EVF – hopefully one that does not protrude as much, and one that will have phase contrast AF capability for faster AF with moving subjects and with the Four Thirds lenses.

In the meantime, the Panasonic GX-7 looks like it will be very attractive indeed!

Photographing the Feb 2013 lunar occultation of Jupiter from southern Australia

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Those of us who live in the southern parts of Australia may be fortunate enough to photograph this lovely celestial event which will take place about midnight on Monday 18th February 2013 in Victoria, but just after sunset in Perth.

The highest quality images of Jupiter will not be possible in Eastern states due to the event taking place very close to the north-west horizon and thus high resolution imaging will not be anywhere near as detailed as if Jupiter were high in the sky where there is less atmospheric disturbances.

Nevertheless it should be a fun and rewarding event for those who have the equipment and are prepared to do some planning.

As a minimum one would need a super telephoto lens with effective focal length of at least 600mm in 35mm full frame terms – the more the better, plus a sturdy tripod.

Those wishing to taking highly magnified images will need to attach their camera or video cam to a good telescope on a sturdy motor driven equatorial telescope, although with some hard work, a Dobsonian mounted telescope will be possible given the short exposure.

Traditionally, the best images of Jupiter are taken using a video camera attached to a telescope shooting frames at 10-60fps for up to 1 – 2 minutes (longer than 2 minutes causes blurring due to the rotation of Jupiter interfering with images), and then these images are stacked using special sofware such as Registax, then sharpened using wavelet or deconvolution technologies, then contrast is adjusted to get the final image.

The occultation of Jupiter will limit this approach as there is also the confounding movement of our moon.

Interpreting the astronomic data:

  • the moon phase will be 56% which is a touch after 1st quarter being at an angle of 97deg to the sun in relation to earth
  • the northern limits of visibility of the occultation (where it will be a grazing occultation) is an almost linear line running from near Canarvon in Western Australia, through just north of Flinders Ranges in Sth Australia, then to just north of Albury in NSW. there is no southern limit in Australia however, Hobart will not be able to witness the reapparance phase as the moon will be setting.
  • it will not be visible in any other country.
  • for Melbourne (latitude 37deg 43.7 south)
    • Jupiter will disappear behind the dark part of the moon at 12h 32:56 UTC (add 11 hours for AEDT daylight saving to give 23:32:56 local time) and will be 11 deg above the horizon at azimuth 307deg (37 deg north of true west)
    • Jupiter will reappear behind the bright part of the moon at 13h 10:01 UTC (add 11 hours for AEDT daylight saving to give 00:10:01 local time) and will be 5 deg above the horizon at azimuth 301deg (31 deg north of true west)
  • for Perth (latitude 31deg 56.4 south):
    • Jupiter will disappear behind the dark part of the moon at 11h 39:43 UTC (add 8 hours for WST to give 19:39:43 local time, ie not long after sunset) and will be 36 deg above the horizon at azimuth 344deg (74 deg north of true west)
    • Jupiter will reappear behind the bright part of the moon at 12h 45:38 UTC (add 8 hours for WST to give 20:45:38 local time) and will be 30 deg above the horizon at azimuth 327deg (57 deg north of true west)

Choose a camera, preferably a mirrorless one:

If you wish to use a camera instead, the best camera to choose would be one of the latest Micro Four Thirds cameras such as the Olympus E-M5, E-PL5 or the Panasonic GH-3 for the following reasons:

  • the pixel density is higher than on any dSLR and thus Jupiter, which has a diameter of only 0.01 arc seconds, will cover many more pixels (and thus theoretically capture more detail) on one of these cameras than on a dSLR for a given lens or telescope set up – here is the math:
    • if using a 5000mm effective focal length telescope, this will cast an image of Jupiter of only 0.9mm on the sensor
    • if you use a 36mp Nikon D800 full frame camera, Jupiter will cover 150 pixels
    • if you use an Olympus E-M5 camera, Jupiter will cover 240 pixels – that is 60% more pixels available
  • you will generally only need ISO 1600 on a 10″ Newtonian telescope to give a shutter speed of 1/600th sec at f/20, although if using a 3″ refractor telescope, you will need to be using closer to f/66 to achieve 5000mm focal length, and thus you may need ISO 6400 and shutter 1/300th sec
  • there is no mirror so you do not constantly need to be putting the camera in mirror lock up mode (not doing this will destroy your image detail by causing vibrations from the mirror)
  • they are designed for continous live view and magnified live view to assist manual focus is easier to access
  • the E-M5 can shoot at 9fps if you did want to select out the sharpest images or stack them – but you will want a remote shutter cable to avoid shaking the camera, and consider just shooting jpegs to avoid having to wait for the buffer to empty after a burst (use a fast SD memory card to optimise this)
    • hint: use TriggerTrap iPhone app and dongle connected to the E-M5, set E-M5 to Hi Drive mode, set exposure to desired shutter speed (not Bulb as suggested by TriggerTrap), and either use:
      • TriggerTrap “Cable Release” mode and hold iPhone app shutter release down for duration of burst – perhaps the easiest mode to use!
      • TriggerTrap “Timelapse” mode to duration (eg. the minimum of 13secs), and number of photos to desired number, press and release the app button and the app will control shutter release, although, as the camera’s cache is saturated, capture rate declines while the app still keeps pretending photos are being taken at the set rate.
      • works with iPhone 5 as TriggerTrap uses the headphone socket
  • they are amongst the lightest cameras which is handy when mounting on telescopes

First, the super telephoto approach:

  • sturdy tripod
  • super telephoto lens attached to camera of choice, lock the focus and change to manual focus
  • aim to compose image aesthetically in relation to horizon subjects
  • if you are lucky enough to have a few small clouds around, time it so the cloud is covering the moon and not Jupiter to better balance the contrast in brightness
  • consider 2 types of exposures (but bracket these to get the best for your set up and allow for atmospheric extinction if low altitude as they will be this time):
    • one for Jupiter itself eg. ISO 400, f/8, 1/600th sec
    • one for the Jovian moons and earthshine on the dark part of the moon: eg. ISO 400, f/8, 1 sec
  • don’t forget mirror lockup and use the self-timer to reduce camera shake

The telescope approach:

  • ensure telescope temperature has equilibrated by leaving outside for several hours to reduce poor refractive effects inside the telescope
  • if the telescope is a reflector, ensure it is accurately collimated
  • use an equatorial mount where possible and try to get reasonably accurate polar alignment – given the short exposures, precise alignment is not needed unless you are stacking many images
  • don’t forget to have the battery fully charged to drive the mount
  • decide between:
    •  prime focus (no eyepieces but lower magnification, although can use teleconverters)
    • eyepiece projection (use eyepiece and special eyepiece projection adapter for higher magnification)
    • afocal technique (use eyepiece and camera lens – useful for point and shoot cameras where the lens cannot be removed)
  • ensure focus is precise
  • consider 2 types of exposures (but bracket these to get the best for your set up and allow for atmospheric extinction if low altitude as they will be this time):
    • one for Jupiter itself eg. ISO 1600, f/20, 1/600th sec
    • one for the Jovian moons and earthshine on the dark part of the moon: eg. ISO 1600, f/22, 1 sec
  • don’t forget mirror lockup and use the self-timer to reduce camera shake
  • consider burst shots or video mode to help address issues with poor seeing conditions

Choose a location:

  • this is particularly a problematic issue with this occultation given it occurs so close to the N-W horizon
  • in Melbourne, the disappearance phase occurs when it is 11 deg above the horizon and the reappearance phase occurs when it is only 5 deg above the horizon
  • Perths viewer are much more fortunate here, as it starts at 36 deg above horizon with reappearance at 30 deg above horizon, so they should get far better images that the eastern viewers
  • so those in Melbourne would do best to find an elevated position with a clear view to the NW (the disappearance occurs at azimuth 307 deg (37 deg north of west) while the reappearance occurs at 301 deg (31 deg north of west) )
  • the good news is that light pollution is not such an important factor – it could be done in a suburban backyard if you can see the event without trees, buildings or mountains intervening.
  • determine horizon – given it will be just 5 deg above the horizon for the last phase in Victoria, Victorians may well wish to calculate how far east of a mountain they need to be so it does not hide it:
    • a top of a mountain will hide the horizon, if the viewer is within a certain range dependent upon the relative height of the object (eg. mountain or trees) above the viewer:
      •  ignoring refraction of light issues, the approximate distance in km = 3.57 x square root (height difference in metres)
      • thus for a 100m hill, the viewer should be more than 40 kilometres away if they wish to see the horizon without the hill intervening
      • for a 400m mountain, the viewer should be  more than 70km away
      • the Lerderderg State Park rises to over 500m and is NW of Melbourne and one needs to be 80km away
      • Mt Macedon at 615m height requires the viewer to be more than 90km away unless they can stand on another mountain
  • search for a site on Google maps in topography mode (so you can see heights of hills)  and use a paper triangle cut out to ensure line of site is clear of hills or mountains:
    • using A4 sheet of paper, use its width of 21cm as your East-West base, create a triangle with a north-south side of 15.8cm (for 307deg) and mark on it a 2nd hypotenuse line at the 12.6cm mark for the reapparance at 301 deg (assuming you are in Victoria)
    • hold the triangle with the right angle corner in your left hand, holding the base parallel with your screen, and the right side apex on your location.
    • the hypotenuse will then be your line of site to the occultation
    • for other locations with different azimuth readings, use N-S paper measure = E-W paper measure x tan (azimuth-270deg)
    • your selected site should also be able to be easily accessible with a telescope and on public land, and have no trees to the north west
  • lastly, the location should preferably be out of the prevailing wind on the night – in Victoria, this is usually south-westerly but may be westerly or north-westerly and occasionally south-easterly or easterly
  • potential locations near Melbourne include Mt Dandenong, Mt Macedon, south-west of Geelong, north-east of Ballarat, areas north of the Great Dividing Range.

 Then you need the weather to be kind:

  • thick cloud will obliterate your chances, as will any significant cloud on the horizon which does take a long time to move out of your way
  • strong winds will play havoc with your ability to keep the set up still
  • as it is summer, a hot day could really affect your telescope’s seeing if it is left in the hot car so give it plenty of time to equilibrate with the night air
  • seeing is likely to be poor at such low altitudes – unless you are in Western Australia, good details on the planet Jupiter will be hard to capture, you may just have to accept the outline of it’s bands.

If you plan well, practice and are lucky with the weather, you may be able to capture an image similar to this grazing occultation I took using a Canon S30 point and shoot camera through a 10″ Newtonian in 2005:



see also my wiki page on photographing occultations which also has links to data and maps for this occultation

BONUS: 2 fairly bright comets to photograph!

You may as well tackle 2 fairly bright comets if the conditions are good, you are away from light pollution and can piggyback your camera on a motor-driven equatorial mount telescope:

  • comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon
  • comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS)

Appendix – examples of Olympus E-M5 for Jupiter:

  • Olympus ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 lens with EC-20 2x teleconverter:
    • Jupiter measures only 25 pixel diameter at effective focal length in 35mm terms of 800mm f/7; tripod exposure for Jovian moons at 20deg altitude: ISO 800, f/7, 1/4sec
  • Canon FD 500mm f/8 mirror lens:
    • Jupiter measures 30 pixels; exposure for Jovian moons ISO 800, f/8, 1/4-1/8th sec; For Jupiter’s bands: 1/200th sec;
  • Maksutov 500mm f/5.6 telescope with Olympus EC-20 2x teleconverter tripod mounted:
    • Jupiter measures 75 pixels; exposure with Jupiter at 30deg altitude: ISO 800, f/11, 1/4sec for the Jovian moons (the longest without substantial star trailing effect at eq. 2000mm focal length and can use IS set at 1000mm focal length)
  • 10″ f/5.6 Newtonian prime focus plus Olympus EC-20 2x teleconverter:
    • Jupiter measures 145pixel diameter; exposure ISO 1600, 1/200th sec at effective focal length in 35mm terms of 3625mm f/14
  • 10″ f/5.6 Newtonian afocal method using Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.8 lens with 25mm eyepiece:
    • Jupiter measures ~125pixel diameter; exposure ISO 1600, 1/300th sec at effective focal length in 35mm terms of 3125mm f/12
  • 10″ f/5.6 Newtonian afocal method using Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens with a 25mm eyepiece:
    • Jupiter measures ~215pixel diameter; exposure ISO 1600, 1/100th sec at effective focal length in 35mm terms of 5375mm f/21
    • this is probably the best compromise however resolution is still very highly dependent on timing of the shot in relation to the rapidly changing seeing conditions
    • sequential shooting highly recommended to allow selection of the sharpest images
  • 10″ f/5.6 Newtonian afocal method using Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens with a 25mm eyepiece plus 2x Barlow lens:
    • Jupiter measures 430pixel diameter; exposure ISO 3200, 1/60th sec at effective focal length in 35mm terms of 10750mm f/42

Don’t forget, this event will be at about 5deg from horizon for Eastern states, so you need to adjust your exposure to allow for about 2 stops of atmospheric light extinction!

Metabones Speed Booster focal reducer lens adapters for Sony NEX, Micro Four Thirds and Fuji mirrorless cameras

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Metabones has just announced 0.71x focal reducer lens adapters which they have named “Speed Booster” for a variety of mirrorless cameras including Sony NEX, Olympus and Panasonic Micro Four Thirds, and Fuji-X.

Although expensive at $US599, these adapters will significantly add to the versatility of these camera systems as they will allow:

  • high image quality reduction in effective focal length and thus field of view will be closer to that of the native lens field of view – on a 1.5x crop camera such as Sony NEX, the crop factor becomes 1.09x, while on a 2x crop factor Micro Four Thirds camera, the crop factor becomes 1.42x (almost the same as a 1.3x crop APS-H Canon 1D dSLR camera)
  • effective aperture for exposure becomes 1 stop brighter, as in effect, more light is squeezed onto the sensor, in other words, it gives you 1 stop higher ISO in effect which can also mean 1 stop less noise
  • the Canon EOS adapter will allow aperture change, optical IS, EXIF data, presumably MF-ring activation of magnified view, and, on the post-2006 EF lenses, slow autofocus – an adapter which can do all this at last given that the long awaited Birger Engineering adapter that was meant to achieve these functions has not eventuated.
  • and of course, if you use a Olympus camera such as the E-M5, you will get sensor based image stabilisation to any lens – and perhaps you may not even have to dial in the focal length – we shall have to wait and see on this aspect
  • the white paper promises excellent correction of spherical aberration as well as field curvature, coma, astigmatism, distortion, and chromatic aberration. Intentionally, it has a very small amount of undercorrected spherical aberration at f/0.90 to improve the bokeh when the Speed Booster is used with ultra high speed f/1.2 objectives. Aberrations should be considerably less than with front-mounted wide adapters.
  • being a focal reducer, it increases resolution and contrast (MTF) compared with using the lens without this adapter as it should compress aberrations
  • improves telecentricity by moving the exit pupil further away and potentialy could reduce vignetting
  • improves image quality of wide aperture legacy film lenses due to improved interaction with low pass and IR filters on the camera sensor, although it appears that image quality may be worse in the corners with some lens combinations such as when using cheap 50mm prime lenses
  • physical length is reduced by 6mm on Micro Four Thirds and by 4mm on Sony NEX compared with using a normal adapter

Thus on a Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera, here are some awesome possibilities:

  • Sigma 8-16mm DX lens = image stabilised 5.6-11.2mm ultra wide angle zoom lens which is even wider than the Micro Four Thirds 7-14mm lenses but the fixed lens hood may become visible
  • Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 tilt-shift lens = image stabilised 12mm f/2.8 lens which will give the same field of view and depth of field as a 24mm f/5.6 tilt shift lens on a 35mm full frame camera, but exposure value of an f/2.8 lens image stabilised
  • Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II lens = image stabilised 17mm f/1.0 lens which will give the same field of view and depth of field as a 34mm f/2.0 lens on a 35mm full frame camera, but exposure value of an f/1.0 lens image stabilised
  • Canon 50mm f/1.2L lens = image stabilised 36mm f/0.85 lens which will give the same field of view and depth fo field as a 72mm f/1.7 lens on a 35mm full frame camera, but exposure value of an f/0.85 lens image stabilised
  • Canon 85mm f/1.2 lens = image stabilised 60mm f/0.85 lens which will give the same field of view and depth of field as a 120mm f/1.7 lens on a 35mm full frame camera, but exposure value of an f/0.85 lens image stabilised
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.4G II lens or Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 lens = image stabilised 60mm f/1.0 lens which will give the same field of view and depth of field as a 120mm f/2.0 lens on a 35mm full frame camera, but exposure value of an f/1.0 lens image stabilised
  • Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L lens = image stabilised 96mm f/1.4 lens which will give the same field of view and depth of field as a 190mm f/2.8 lens on a 35mm full frame camera, but exposure value of an f/1.4 lens image stabilised

The adapter will open up many exciting possibilities, particularly for those who already have full frame lenses.

Adapters will be available for Canon EF/EF-S, Nikon F/G/DX, Leica R, ALPA, Contarex, Contax C/Y , and Olympus OM lenses.

Note that cropped sensor lenses such as EF-S and DX can be used on Micro Four Thirds with this adapter as long as they do not have fixed lens hoods such as the Nikon DX fisheye, or the Sigma 8-16mm zoom, but the image circle is too small for use on Sony NEX size sensors.

Interestingly, I posted in Feb 2010 about a patent by Olympus for a similar type of adapter which would be a 0.5x reducer (2 f stops) for use with Olympus OM lenses, and it was hoped they would be incorporating SWD or contrast detect AF elements as well which would add fast AF to Olympus OM lenses when used on Micro Four Thirds cameras. Unfortunately, this has not seen the light of day, but perhaps this adapter from Metabones may inspire them to produce such an adapter.

See a review of the Metabones adapter by EOSHD from a video perspective here.