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More exciting Micro Four Thirds gear from Panasonic – GX8 camera, 200-800mm eq. pro lens, post-focus technology and more

Saturday, July 18th, 2015

Micro Four Thirds is going from strength to strength as the two main companies, Olympus and Panasonic take it in turns to announce great new gear and technologies.

This week it was Panasonic’s turn.

The Panasonic Lumix GX-8 camera


image courtesy of

This is a significant upgrade to the GX-7 model and includes many of the features of the new Panasonic G7 including its 4K video features, its Starlight AF mode, Clear Retouch, and its new button which enables the user to toggle functionality of the camera controls in a similar way to the Olympus 2×2 switch.

I am liking very much that Panasonic has finally started adding sensor based image stabilisation (IBIS) to some of their cameras such as is the case with this one and the GX-7 before it. Furthermore, Panasonic is taking it further by allowing it to be used in tandem with their optical IS mechanisms in many of their lenses for even better performance, hence “Dual IS” which is similar to Sony’s approach in their A7R II. Note that and the dual IS is not available in 4K video recording.

Another nice feature is that the GX-8 is now weathersealed and although it is somewhat larger than the GX-7 it does sport a better articulating EVF with higher resolution (2.36m dots) and magnification (1.54x magnification or 0.77x in full frame terms), while the rear screen is now an articulating OLED instead of a tiltable LCD which makes the Touch Pad AF (uise the rear screen to select AF point while viewing through the EVF) and there is an added dedicated exposure compensation dial to further improve ergonomic use.

It is also the 1st Micro Four Thirds camera to boast  a 20mp sensor (up from 16mp), which Panasonic says gives 1/3rd EV more dynamic range and a faster readout, plus it has a few new image processing tricks such as

Unlike the Panasonic GH-4, one cannot use the HDMI out video to simultaneously record uncompressed video as well as record internally,  but you do get a 2.5mm mic jack, and time lapse and intervalometer features, and it uses DFD technology for fast C-AF.

It should also be compatible, via a firmware upgrade, of Panasonic’s new post-focus technology which essentially shoots 4K images at 30fps at a range of different focus points so that the user can later select which focus point they wish. It is meant to be somewhat like the Lyttro camera but we will have to see how useful this function really is.

All in all, it is a camera that ticks most of my boxes – the important ones to me being compact size (but not too small), nice EVF, IBIS, weathersealing, great image quality and fast, accurate AF but at $US1199, I suspect it won’t be exactly cheap for us in Australia.

See my wiki page for more details and links.

The Panasonic Leica DG 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 Power OIS ASPH zoom lens



image courtesy of

This lens will be to Leica’s optical standards and thus promises to be a very nice super-telephoto hand-holdable zoom lens giving 200-800mm telephoto reach in 35mm full frame terms.

It will be weathersealed, have Power OIS for effective optical image stabilisation, and fast AF thanks to the 240fps AF signal rate and compatibility with Panasonic’s DFD AF system.

A very exciting lens for the nature photographers which will compete with the forthcoming Olympus mZD 300mm f/4.0 lens for popularity – see my wiki page for more details.

The Panasonic Lumix 25mm f/1.7 lens

This is the third 25mm lens by Panasonic – the 1st was a large, heavy, extremely expensive but optically superb Leica-D 25mm f/1./4 lens for Four Thirds which I really love, and then this was replaced with the much more compact, lighter, more affordable Leica DG 25mm f/1.4 lens.

The new lens however, adds faster AF by offering the 240fps AF signal rate and compatibility with Panasonic’s DFD AF system.

Just a little gripe

One of the main powerful reasons to buy into Micro Four Thirds is that there are multiple companies contributing to the system, each bringing their own ideas and perspectives to design.

I wish they would share their technology more so that minor incompatibilities are eradicated such as Panasonic’s DFD fast C-AF technology only working with Panasonic lenses and the few Panasonic lenses with aperture rings which are only recognised by Panasonic cameras – I do like aperture rings but unfortunately Olympus has decided to ignore them.


Which lens to buy for your Olympus OM-D camera?

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

This is an extremely hard question to answer given everyone has different photographic needs and styles as well as budgets.

First, the consumer lenses:

Most newbies will tend to end up with one or two of the very good  consumer level “kit” zoom lenses as they are very well priced and affordable, especially when purchased as a kit with a camera.

All camera manufacturers offer such kits to allow the entry level budget compromised photographer an option of getting into the system.

Fortunately for Micro Four Thirds camera users, these consumer kit lenses tend to offer very good performance for the money and historically, the lenses have often outperformed their Canon and Nikon counterparts.

HOWEVER, most enthusiasts will tend to end up purchasing the higher quality “premium” or “pro” lenses and generally will cease to use these consumer grade lenses once they have an improved option.

The main issues with the consumer kit zooms are that their aperture is quite narrow – often f/3.5-6.7 at their widest aperture and this means several compromises:

  • they do not let much light in and thus will have more trouble locking autofocus in dim light and will probably require a flash to be used indoor, and will have very limited use when outdoor light levels fall unless you use a tripod.
  • the aperture is not wide enough to allow really shallow depth of field images for when you want to blur out the background (unless you are shooting macro close up subjects)
  • adding a polariser filter further darkens the already relatively low light intake, again limiting hand held options and AF locking capability in low light
  • given the consumer grade optics, best image quality is often at around f/8 instead of around f/4 with the premium and pro lenses, which further limits your options if you want the best quality shots
  • they generally are not weatherproof (important exceptions are the Olympus mZD 12-50mm lens and the Olympus m.ZD 14-150mm f/4-5.6 II)

Nevertheless, if you are shooting mainly outdoors in bright light and not needing to blur the background, these lenses make great travel companions and there are a LOT of lenses to choose from depending upon your needs.

Some things to consider are:

  • focal length range
  • size
    • in general, the more zoom, the longer and bigger the lens will be, so one has to weigh up what they can fit in their bag with what focal length range they need
    • some lenses also have the option of reducing down to a more compact size when not in use, but these can be a bit clunky to unlock and you can miss shots because you forgot to have it unlocked
  • silent autofocus for movies
  • autofocus speed – the older lenses designed around 2007-2008 tend to have slower autofocus
  • weatherproofing – only a couple of the consumer lenses are weatherproof
  • macro capability – the Olympus mZD 12-50mm lens is not only weatherproof but has very good macro capabilities

The Olympus “premium” lenses:

Olympus has marketed a middle tier of the m Zuiko Digital (mZD) lenses to the enthusiasts who want extra wide apertures either for low light work or for shallower depth of field and better ability to blur the background to emphasise your subject.

Furthermore, these are mainly “prime” lenses in that they only have one focal length and no zoom functionality which makes them easier to design for better bokeh – the aesthetic quality of the blurred background.

These lenses are generally very good optically even wide open at their f/1.8 or f/2.0 maximum apertures and are great for indoors or outdoors and perfect for portraiture, and creative arty work.

My personal favourite of these is the brilliant Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens which is fantastic for single person portraits and for creative shallow depth of field work.

If I only take 2 lenses with me, it will be this one and the Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens.

If you can’t afford the 75mm f/1.8 lens and you want a similar look and you can be happy shooting in manual focus only, then try the Rokinon/Samyang 85mm f/1.4 lens.

Other great options are:

  • Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.8 – great for street photography, parties, small group photos, etc (a more compact alternative to this lens is the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens – this lets you get your E-M10 or E-M5 camera into a jacket pocket at social events or for walking the streets at night and doing hand held night urban landscapes)
  • Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.8 – great for portraits of couples or one person, if you have plenty of cash to spare, also take a look at the Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2 lens for even shallower depth of field
  • Olympus mZD 60mm f/2.8 macro – the only “premium” lens that is weatherproofed – a must have lens if you are into macrophotography

My next tier down are:

  • Olympus mZD 12mm f/2.0 lens – this is great for hand held night urban landscapes and infrared landscapes, but if you own the Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens, you may not use this as much as you think and for my mind, it is over-priced.
  • Olympus mZD 17mm f/1.8 lens – great for street photography and groups at parties, but perhaps not as good as the 25mm f/1.8 lens, although many people absolutely love this lens – I don’t have one

The Olympus “PRO” lenses:

These are the current holy grail for many Olympus users, great lenses, relatively compact for their capabilities, well built, weatherproofed, relatively wide apertures (most are f/2.8).

The most useful of these for most people is the Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens.

It could probably replace the need for the 12mm f/2.0 lens (unless you shoot hand held at night), and the 17mm and 25mm f/1.8 lenses (although I would still like my compact Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens to provide a compact, low light option).

The choice of a second lens to match with this lens depends upon your needs and may include one or more of:

And for the nature, wildlife or sports photographer, the much anticipated Olympus mZD 300mm f/4 PRO lens is due perhaps late 2015.

In the meantime, if I am shooting the moon or need super telephoto capability, I use the Olympus ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD lens +/- EC-20 2x teleconverter which gives me up to 800mm f/7 capability in full frame terms.

Olympus has also indicated it will be working on even wider aperture prime lenses, so we can expect some f/1.2 and perhaps even f/0.95 lenses with autofocus and ability to AF on the closest eye which is one of the brilliant capabilities of Olympus cameras and much needed when using such shallow DOF cameras, and combine these with the awesome image stabilisation and your creativity can go wild!

Many, many more options:

The beauty of the Micro Four Thirds system is not only its compact, light size, the amazing Olympus image stabilisation which works on ANY lens, but it is extremely adaptable allowing one to use well over 50 lenses designed in Micro Four Thirds mounts as well as those in Four Thirds mount, but also almost any lens ever made via third party adapters which offer the following options:

  • plain adapters for manual focus of nearly any other lens ever made albeit in 2x crop field of view
  • focal reducer adapters for manual focus of nearly any other lens ever made but with a 1.4x crop field of view and a 1 stop wider aperture
    • for example, a Canon EF 135mm f/2.0 lens becomes a 100mm f/1.4 lens giving similar field of view and depth of view as a 200mm f/2.8 lens on a full frame camera
  • autofocus adapters such as the Kipon AF adapter which allows relatively fast AF using Canon EF lenses while providing aperture control
  • tilt-shift adapters which convert nearly any full frame Nikon lens into a tilt-shift lens

2 new very compact, high image quality Panasonic cameras for travel – the GM-5 and LX-100

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Panasonic have just announced 2 new cameras with Micro Four Thirds sized sensors which will be very attractive to those wanting a compact travel camera yet high image quality of a larger sensor.

The LX-100:

The LX-100 is a fixed lens camera (you cannot change the lens) but with a useful 3 x zoom and good low light capabilities and a built in viewfinder, but perhaps most interesting of all, is it has incredible 4K video capability.

This would make a perfect companion for a Micro Four Thirds camera with a 75mm f/1.8 lens!

Specs at a glance:

  • 16mp multi-aspect sensor giving 12.7mp actual at 4:3 aspect ratio
  • 11 fps (6.5 fps in C-AF) with 1/16,000th sec shutter
  • 10.9-34mm (24-75mm equiv.) F1.7-2.8 ASPH Leica lens, close focus 3cm, 9 aperture blades, aperture dial and aspect ratio selector, focus mode selector, 43mm filter thread, but no OIS nor IBIS
    • much more depth of field (DOF) control than smaller sensor cameras such as the Canon G7 X, G1 X II or Sony RX100
  • DFD AF technology to give faster AF
  • 3“ 921k dot LCD but no touch
  • 4K HD video (and 4K photo mode) at 30p, plus 1080 60p
  • electronic silent shutter mode
  • mechanical shutter is INSIDE the lens and thus allows flash sync at all mechanical shutter speeds!
  • bundled flash with support for wireless TTL flash
  • WiFi with NFC for smartphone control
  • 393g, 115 x 66 x 55mm
  • $US899

The Panasonic GM-5:

The Panasonic GM-5 is a true Micro Four Thirds camera with interchangeable lenses and replaces the GM-1, and importantly adds a built-in electronic viewfinder.

My main disappointment is the slow flash sync of only 1/50th sec but for those using this camera, they probably will not be using flash much any way.

Specs at a glance:

  • magnesium alloy body
  • 5.8fps burst
  • built-in 1,166K-dot EVF
  • hotshoe, bundled flash (GN 7m ISO 100), x-sync 1/50th sec
  • shutter to 1/16000th sec, plus Timed BULB to 60sec
  • fixed 921K dot LCD touch screen
  • 240fps AF readout, face and eye detection AF
  • WiFi smartphone control but no NFC
  • 1080 60p/24p HD video up to 24mbps
  • focus peaking
  • new “Snap Movie Mode” – can record video for short period of time (2/4/6/8 sec) as they shoot “moving photos”
  • Creative Control mode – 22 filters
  • Time Lapse Shot
  • Stop Motion Animation
  • Clear Retouch
  • silent electronic shutter mode
  • level gauge
  • Highlight/Shadow Control
  • battery life CIPA score 220
  • optional Hand Grip DMW-HGR1
  • 211 g (0.47 lb / 7.44 oz)
  • 99 x 60 x 36 mm (3.9 x 2.36 x 1.42″)
  • $US899 with G Vario 12-35mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens

At long last, the Metabones Canon EF to Micro Four Thirds Speed Booster adapter is here

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Be warned, this Metabones Speed Booster adapter is a very expensive, special niche item which will only suit some people with Micro Four Thirds cameras (there is a special “S” version or BM2 version for Olympus OM-D cameras – see below).

For someone like me who also has some great Canon pro lenses such as the 17mm tilt shift and the 135mm f/2.0, it becomes a very interesting proposition despite its price of $US599.

It will be of particular use to videographers who do not care much for autofocus anyway – see EOSHD first impressions


What can this adapter do?

  • it allows use of any Canon EF lens on your Micro Four Thirds camera with full aperture control, optical image stabilisation (if on the lens) and provides data for EXIF data store on the image
  • allows electronic manual focus – ie. turn focus ring and if camera and lens are set to do so, it will automatically activate magnified view mode
  • optional external 5V power supply
  • potential to also use other legacy lenses via adapters to Canon EF – but no aperture control, EXIF, OIS, and some lenses are NOT compatible due to rear projections potentially hitting the glass elements (eg. OM 50mm f/1.8 lens)
  • it does this with high optical quality 0.71x focal length reducing elements which:
    • reduces the 2x crop factor of Micro Four Thirds sensors to 1.4x crop factor – half way between APS-C (1.6x crop factor) and APS-H (the Canon 1D III/IV dSLRs which are 1.3x crops)
    • effectively allows 1 stop MORE light in, so your f/2.8 lens effectively becomes f/2
    • IMPROVES image quality, particularly for these full frame lenses which were mainly designed for film cameras – improved telecentricity, improved contrast, improved resolution

What can’t this adapter do?

  • does not fit on Olympus OM-D cameras as hits the protruding EVF
  • does not support Canon EF-S lenses
  • does not support autofocus
  • does not support dSLR focus confirmation – this is not supported on mirrorless cameras (eg. Dandelion chips on adapters for legacy manual focus lenses)
  • not compatible with some legacy lenses due to projecting rear mechanisms which may damage the glass elements
  • does not support in-camera lens corrections such as peripheral shading, CA and distortion


  • Canon EF 135mm f/2 L becomes 96mm f/1.4 = 200mm f/2.8 in 35mm fov and dof terms
  • Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 tilt-shift becomes 12mm f/2.8 = 24mm f/5.6 tilt shift in 35mm fov and dof terms
  • Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 becomes 60mm f/1.0 = 120mm f/2 in 35mm fov and dof terms
  • Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8 becomes 64mm f/2 = 128mm f/4 tilt shift in 35mm fov and dof terms
  • Olympus OM 100mm f/2.8 becomes 71mm f/2 = 140mm f/4 ⇒ no advantage over the mZD 75mm f/1.8 and I am not sure if it can be used without modifications

A final question though:

  • for Olympus camera users – does the adapter send the 0.71x adjusted focal length to the camera or the actual focal length – this may be very important as the in-camera image stabilisation system (IBIS) relies on the effective focal length data, and given the adapter is electronic, users will not be able to manual over-ride the focal length as they can do with legacy non-electronic adapters
  • thus will the Olympus IBIS be accurate when used with this adapter – or does Metabones need to do a firmware update to ensure this accuracy?
  • I have emailed Metabones and will post the answer as soon as I get it.

Metabones have introduced a “S” version for compatibility with the protruding EVF of the Olympus OM-D cameras

The original version does NOT mount on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 or E-M5 due to the overhanging EVF getting in the way and only barely mounts on the E-M10. Their web page now states these models are NOT supported for this adapter!

In Oct 2014, a “S” version MB_SPEF-m43-BM2 was announced with compatibility for the OM-D’s but loses the jog dial which allows aperture control when using an external power source – can still control a Canon lens aperture using the OM-D or GH cameras power.

see Metabones S adapter.

Still have not heard from Metabones regarding the IBIS potential issue above either.

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