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New gear announcements – Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III, new Canon pro lenses and the Photonicz One – an amazingly powerful and versatile portable studio type LED flash which may revolutionize lighting

Friday, September 1st, 2017

Well it’s been a big week in photography!

Canon announced  4 new very expensive pro lenses which are essentially redesigns with some extra features (eg. macro for the tilt-shift and IS for the 85mm) and, importantly, improved optics to allow for the new high resolution full frame dSLRs as well as a budget mirrorless camera and a revised twin macro flash:

Yesterday, Olympus announced their upgrade to the entry level Micro Four Thirds mirrorless Olympus OM-D E-M10 now in mark III which adds some nice features including better IS, simpler operations and perhaps importantly for some, 4K video.

There are also strong rumours Olympus will also soon announce 3 new PRO level weathersealed prime lens – 12mm f/1.2, 17mm f/1.2 and 45mm f/1.2 and a zoom lens.

Some people still gripe that Olympus has still not added radio wireless TTL flash capability, but if you have been reading my blog posts, this technology is no longer necessary built into the camera system as 3rd party manufacturers such as Cactus and Godox have created far more versatile cross-platform radio remote TTL flash solutions.

Panasonic also announced their promised v2 firmware upgrade for their flag ship Panasonic GH-5 Micro Four Thirds camera which adds some incredible video capabilities such as Professional 400Mbit ALL-I intraframe codec for 10bit 4K 4:2:2 which is said to be incredibly cinematic, with flawless image quality and colour, and “Open Gate” High Resolution Anamorphic Mode (4992 x 3744) which uses the entire sensor with a recording resolution of 18MP instead of the usual 8MP of 4K Ultra HD and thus allows 10K footage in post when used with a 2x anamorphic lens, plus Hybrid Log Gamma and some AF improvements and bug fixes. This should make videographers salivate!

The PHOTONICZ ONE portable studio light

But now onto something which on paper looks to be a truly revolutionary development in photographic lighting solutions – the just announced PHOTONICZ ONE battery operated LED studio light with an industry standard Bowens S mount for lighting accessories and touch screen interface as well as a remote smartphone control interface.

Why is this so revolutionary?

Up until now all studio flash systems of similar designs use flash bulbs and require capacitors to be charged up before firing hence they have a recycle time, and the flash duration is generally dependent upon the flash output power setting for a given unit.

The PHOTONICZ ONE however does away with a flash bulb and instead uses an incredibly powerful LED light source capable of 2500Ws power output (the powerful Godox AD600 only gives 600Ws, although you can combine two to get to 1200Ws). The light color should be accurate as it is stated to have light color rendering index of 95+ across the entire power output range. Of course,  it’s firmware can be updated via  USB port.

But wait, there is MUCH MORE REVOLUTION promised such as:

  • weathersealed (no bulb makes it easier to weatherseal) made using aircraft grade aluminum
  • more compact
    • only 12.5 x 12 x 9 cm for the main body (or 4.9 x  4.7 x 3.5 inches) and 1.5 kg / 3.3 lbs
  • can deliver thousands of full power flashes on a single battery charge (uses V-Lock battery system which can also power other accessories)
  • wirelessly sync to your camera from up to a kilometer away (requires a brand-specific remote trigger RRP $US299 each or $US150ea during Kickstarter campaign)
  • InstaCharge – Zero recycle time
    • from my recent tests, the Godox AD600 needs to drop to 1/32nd output to keep up with a 15fps burst from my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, this new light can do this at FULL OUTPUT – THAT IS REVOLUTIONARY INDEED!
  • Extremely short flash duration down to 1/50,000th sec!
    • this will be amazing for those shooting fast moving subjects such as bullets bursting balloons, etc
    • the Godox AD600 will only get to around 1/10000th sec (at 1/256th output) and some AC-powered Godox studio lights can get down to 1/28,000th sec.
  • TrueSync – Native camera compatibility
    • the brand-specific remote transmitters will adjust the flash duration dynamically to the needs of your camera system, enabling communication with most Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, Fuji, Panasonic, Olympus, Hasselblad, and PhaseOne cameras.
  • HSSPro – Next Gen High Speed Sync
    • perfectly sync with the camera’s shutter at up to 1/32,000th of a second (not sure what this means as most brand cameras with electronic shutters to these speeds do not allow flash sync at this speeds – but maybe this is coming with global shutters)
  • TruTTL – Actual TTL metering
    • once upon a time, back in the 1970′s, Olympus introduced an amazing flash TTL system that was true TTL DURING the exposure – the Olympus OM-2 film SLR was truly revolutionary, but then, along came digital sensors and that system could no longer be used, and ever since we have had to put up with annoying pre-flashes so the camera system could calculate how much output the flash should send.
    • BUT NOW, we are back to the good old days – NO PRE-FLASH for TTL! I am not sure how this works but that is the promise!
  • TrueBracket – Flash bracket multiple exposures
    • allows shooters to bracket exposure with the strobe output rather than shutter speed, aperture, or ISO alone, which means no lag between exposures for crisp HDRs and much reduced post processing for images where you combine multiple bracketing approaches.
  • VariSpeed – Variable flash output
    • VariSpeed can extend the flash duration, effectively contributing more artificial light to your exposure (remember, after all we are using LED which can be a continuous light source). This effectively raises the output equivalent to levels impossible to achieve with traditional technology.
  • VariShape & VariPattern
    • customize light shape and emission patterns – not sure how useful this is from a small light source but who knows?
  • No more blown or broken flash bulbs!

If what they say is true and it works out, then this technology could radically change the lighting industry as we know it!

This is an exciting possibility for location photographers and for high-speed photographers wanting super short flash duration.

See their Kickstarter campaign for more details. Early bird gets you one unit with V-Lock power supply (but no battery) for $US749 plus add $US150 for each transmitter you need.

14.4V V-Lock lithium ion batteries will cost you around $AU 330-425 depending upon capacity.

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

Monday, May 1st, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real world lens tests:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moral of the story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another nail in the coffin of Canon/Nikon relative duopoly – Cactus introduces cross-platform radio remote TTL flash system

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

Since the 1960′s, Canon and Nikon have enjoyed a relative duopoly in the world of system cameras, especially amongst professional photographers.

In the late 1980′s, Canon took the lead with their totally redesigned lens mount system allowing fast AF, and it is only in the last decade or so that Nikon has again taken the lead with their even better AF tracking and metering technologies.

But as Olympus has shown with their Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera, the advantages of the Canon and Nikon dSLR systems are rapidly being lost to ever improving technological advances, especially with sensors, AF and mirrorless systems which, particularly in the case of Micro Four Thirds, offer adequate image quality (often better edge to edge image sharpness) , smaller, lighter, less expensive kits more suited to our travel and hiking needs, more accurate and often faster AF, faster burst speeds with accurate continuous AF, much better image stabilisation, hand holdable super telephoto reach as well as better run and gun hand holdable 4K video.

Part of the successful marketing strategy of Canon and Nikon is keeping their users loyal to their brand – once they have invested into their system, much like Apple users, they are generally too heavily invested to swap brands or even to use other brands with different user interfaces or incompatibilities.

If you had, or wanted to use Canon lenses to their full capability, you had to buy Canon dSLRs, likewise for Nikon.

If you had a Canon system, you had to buy Canon-specific flash systems if you want TTL or remote radio TTL flash – likewise for Nikon.

Canon dSLR owners could use other lenses, even Nikon lenses but with sacrifice of fast AF.

Nikon dSLR owners could not use non-Nikon mount lenses due to a physical design issue – the distance from sensor to lens mount is too long.

Enter the new world of cross-platform utility

My last blog post espoused the potential utility of using Sony full frame mirrorless cameras with a Sigma MC-11 adapter which at last provides fast AF with most Canon EF mount lenses on Sony cameras, but in particular, the Sigma branded ones.

This allows photographers increased choice – they could get a mirrorless full frame camera with a different sensor characteristics plus sensor based image stabilisation and face AF for their Canon lenses with better feature sets at the same price as the entry level Canon 6D dSLR- seeing that Canon has not shown interest in creating such a camera.

Now, Cactus has massively increased cross-platform utility by announcing a free firmware upgrade to their Cactus V6 II radio remote control flash system, which allows Canon, Nikon or Olympus flashes to be used with most other brand cameras with either on-camera TTL or remote radio cross-TTL capability!

This is awesome, but wait, there’s more, the Cactus V6 II x-TTL also allows:

  • remote control of flash unit output, even below 1/128th level for ultra short, motion-stopping shots
  • automatic zoom level control of flashes
  • Super FP or HSS mode (but Pentax and Sony cameras need a brand-specific flash for this to work)
  • Power Sync mode to allow a faster flash sync without losing flash output as occurs in Super FP/HSS mode
  • two unique new flash exposure modes:
    • Flash Compensate – store a desired flash exposure that will automatically adjust according to changes in camera settings.
    • Flash Power Lock – lock flash power output after a desired TTL exposure is achieved, for consistency in repeat shooting.

See my wikipedia page for more information of remote control of flashes.

 And, of course, this also also fantastic news for Micro Four Thirds users who can now have radio TTL flash on their Olympus and Panasonic cameras – even with Canon flashes!

Affordable compact mirrorless cameras for the parent wanting to capture their child or pet

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Most parents, even if they are not photographers, want a camera that is easy to use and will capture high quality photos of their kids as they grow up – and as good as smartphones are, they can really suck with poor image quality in low light, and often have trouble capturing the moment, not to mention, lack the option of having a bounce flash for nice light.

A cheap digital SLR camera will do a good job of moving subjects but these cameras and lenses are too big for hand bags and are not able to automatically autofocus on a child’s face and lack the many features we now take for granted in mirrorless cameras. Nevertheless they could be a cheaper option for some. For example, Canon 100D with 40mm f/2.8 STM lens will cost around $AU490 after cash back and then you can throw it away and get a mirrorless when you can afford it.

Mirrorless cameras offer smaller size and are quierter, less intrusive while allowing a range of features not available on dSLRs – unfortunately they do tend to struggle with focusing on moving subjects unless they have PDAF technology (the larger OM-D E-M1 or Sony mirrorless) or DFD technology such as the latest Panasonic cameras.

All cameras will struggle to focus on strongly backlit subjects (sunny window behind your subject) or low contrast subjects such as black cats in dim lighting.

The falling Australian dollar has made camera gear more expensive in Australia which makes finding a good camera and good low light lens for under $AU1000 challenging – don’t forget to consider buying second hand on Ebay!

The main requirements:

  • affordable – around $AU1000 for camera and lens
  • compact – should fit in a ladies hand bag
  • high quality images – thus a reasonably big sensor is needed – Micro Four Thirds gives this while still allowing compact camera and lens
  • fast, accurate autofocus on the child’s face – now this is where things can get difficult in low light and with a moving child
  • ability to touch the rear screen and rapidly have the camera focus on that area and take the photo
  • smartphone WiFi connectivity to allow instant uploads to the net via the smartphone
  • image stabilised 1080HD video capability
  • a low light lens to allow better images indoors with or without a flash

The Olympus options:

I love Olympus cameras, particularly the OM-D series (as I prefer to use a viewfinder rather than the rear screen), but the Pen series may be very adequate and more compact for the casual parent photographer who is happy to just use the rear screen and not have a view finder.

None of the Olympus models at this price point have PDAF capabilities so will not be able to track a subject with autofocus, but their autofocus is so fast you can usually get away without this as long as the subject is not moving too quickly.

Then you would need to select a nice low light lens which will allow better images in low light indoors, and for this, I would look at the Olympus m.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8 ($AU431) (or Olympus m.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 ($AU509) if you want a wide view or Olympus m.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 ($AU382) if you want a closer view). If you have lots of money then the Olympus m.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 lens will be even better but this will set you back around $AU1600 for the lens alone!

The Panasonic options:

The latest Panasonic cameras are very nice as they have Panasonics DFD autofocus technology which should allow faster autofocus on moving subjects.

  • Panasonic Lumix DC-GX850 $AU649 with kit zoom lens – coming in Feb 2017, has 4K video, selfie mode with flip up screen and hands free modes (face shutter, buddy shutter, Jump snap) as well as Background Control features makes it a nicer camera for the parent than the Olympus options but you do lose the viewfinder, hotshoe for a flash and the built-in image stabiliser.
  • Panasonic Lumix GX85 $AU 980 with kit zoom lens – awesome camera, similar to the GX850 but you also get the viewfinder, flash hotshoe and image stabilisation built in.
  • Panasonic GF8 – $AU579 with kit zoom lens -  older model with similar capabilities to the GX850 but no 4K video

You will then need a Panasonic low light lens such as the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 II pancake lens ($AU378)Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 lens ($AU288) or Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 lens ($AU790) if you just want one zoom lens and don’t mind it being a bit bigger. The autofocus is not quite as fast on the pancake lens but its compact size makes carrying in a handbag easier.

The high end mirrorless options:

For those where size and money are not an issue, here are a few options which will allow even faster autofocus and shallower depth of field with a range of other benefits:

Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark I ($AU1150) or the much more expensive, new E-M1 mark II version ($AU2750) coupled with the Olympus m.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 lens ($AU1600).

Sony a7II full frame mirrorless ($AU1900) with Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA lens ($AU1150), but this route will take you down a path of financial pain – their full frame mirrorless lenses are very expensive!

Conclusion:

If you have the money and don’t mind the larger size and lack of selfie features, go for the Panasonic GX85 and buy a low light lens and a bounce flash to sit on the camera for when the light is dim and not so nice.

If the GX85 is too expensive, and you want to use bounce flash, go for the Olympus OM-D E-M10 mark II with an Olympus 25mm f/1.8 lens.

If you can’t see yourself using a bounce flash, the lighter, smaller, cheaper, Panasonic GX850 with its selfie features combined with a Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 II pancake lens  or for faster AF but larger size, Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 lens, the would make a great compact combination.

 

Panasonic GH5 announced – specs for 4K video appear awesome and 5 axis image stabilisation at last

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Whilst Panasonic has given some specs of its next flagship Micro Four Thirds camera, the Panasonic GH-5, the company formally announced the final specs this am at CES 2017, and impressive specs they are if you are into videography!

Panasonic has for some years now been focusing primarily on video capabilities rather than flash or still photography for their mirrorless cameras, and particularly with their GH series which have been very popular amongst videographers despite the 2x crop factor of the sensor.

Their current model, the Panasonic GH4 was one of the first to incorporate 4K video.

Panasonic retained the same GH4 battery for the GH5, and say the GH5 will be shipped in March-April 2017 and have priced it at $US1995 body only which is the same as the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II.

Now the GH5 raises the bar to a completely new level by adding in:

  • 20mp sensor without low pass filter for greater image detail
  • new Venus 10 engine which is said to give 2 stops better high ISO image quality thanks to new High Precision Multi Process NR and even better DFD AF tracking thanks to 480 fps drive speed and the time for measuring the distance to the subject is 6x faster, while factoring the distance into in-plane or in-depth is 2x faster
    • ultra-high-speed AF of approximately 0.05 sec
    • By analyzing every single frame precisely, it achieves a maximum 200% higher precision frame detection with minimum motion detection error for higher tracking tolerance against moving subjects
    • “Multi-pixel Luminance Generation renders clear, sharp images by referring to a 9x larger area of pixel information during the de-mosaic process for precise detail reproduction”
  • a lovely new electronic viewfinder with 3.68 million dots
  • 2 SD card slots, each capable of using UHS-II cards and supporting U3 class cards as well as V60 class cards for 60mb/s read/write
  • SD cards are hot swappable – if recording video, one fills then can automatically keep recording to the 2nd card and while that is happening, eject and replace the 1st card so recording can then continue unlimited when the 2nd card is full!
  • on sensor CDAF  autofocus points substantially increased to 225 points but still no PDAF points as they are relying upon their DFD technology
  • at last a 5 axis sensor based image stabilisation system similar to Olympus, and more recently Sony and Pentax, and this will work in Dual IS 2.0 with lenses with optical image stabilisation which includes most Panasonic lenses (Dual IS is presumably not compatible with Olympus lenses – you only get the sensor IS).
  • mechanical shutter burst mode increased to 9fps with continuous AF or 12 fps without C-AF
  • USB 3.1 USB-C type port
  • full sized type A HDMI port
  • 5Ghz 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2 for smartphone remote control and transfer of GPS data, etc
  • new XLR audio hotshoe adapter powered through the hotshoe to give Phantom power to external mics and manual audio level controls
  • the GH4′s 4K 30fps Photo mode has been taken up a notch to 4K 8mp 60fps or 6K 18mp 30fps photo modes (upscaled 6000×3000 pixel 2:1 aspect ratio)
  • the 4K video has been given an enormous boost in quality options as well as features:
    • uses the full sensor so no longer a further crop
    • movie length is now unlimited
    • no longer requires external HDMI output – the GH5 will record internally ( although the really high end 4K modes will require HDMI output)
    • internal recording 4K 4:2:0 8bit 150mbps 60p/50p
    • internal recording 4K 4:2:2 10bit 150mbps 30p/24p
    • internal recording 4K 8bit 100mbps 30p/24p
    • firmware updates will provide even higher HDMI modes such as 400Mbit ALL-I codec for 4K (10bit 4:2:2)
    • Anamorphic 4K mode
  • 1080HD can now do up to 180fps to give 7.5x slow-mo effect if desired
    • firmware updates will provide 10bit in 1080p mode and 200Mbit ALL-I codec for 1080p (10bit 4:2:2)
  • choose between MOV, MP4, AVCHD Progressive and AVCHD formats at a variety of frame rates
  • ‘Cinelike D’ and ‘Cinelike V’ as well as ‘Like 709’ for compatibility with HDTV
  • control over the highlight response rolloff (Knee point and Knee Slope)
  • unlike Sony, Panasonic requires that if you want V-LOGL and VLogL View Assist Function, you need to purchase this as an additional option for $US99
  • embeds SMPTE-compliant Time Code either in Rec Run or Free Run count-up method
  • dramatically reduced rolling shutter skew
  • display now also shows Gain and Shutter Angles, waveform or vectorscope monitor display and luminance level settings for 10-bit video
  • new rear AF point toggle
  • new rear dial
  • new built-in microphone that helps cancel out camera noise
  • can now use autoISO in manual exposure mode with exposure compensation set, and can assign slowest shutter speed for use in other modes
  • Post Focus enables users to select the specific focus point even after shooting – particularly helpful in situations like macro shooting where severe focusing is required. In addition
  • Focus Stacking

Compared to the similarly priced Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II:

Pros

  • far better video capabilities, especially now that it also has the sensor based image stabilisation and the high end 4K modes (but then it also beats current Sony, Nikon and Canon cameras for video features as well and at much lower price points)
  • far better electronic viewfinder
  • GH5 can do flash sync to 1/2000th sec  with electronic 1st curtain shutter which might be very handy!!
  • Post Focus mode – user can select focus point after the shots were taken
  • similar sensor
  • both the SD card slots are UHS-II whereas the Olympus only has one which can use UHS-II
  • both weathersealed and freeze proof

Cons:

  • no PDAF points as it relies on DFD technology although this only works with Panasonic Micro Four thirds lenses
  • the Olympus is far better looking aesthetically with its retro styling
  • no Dual IS with Olympus OIS lenses such as the brilliant Olympus 300mm f/4  (but then the Olympus does not have Dual IS with Panasonic lenses)
  • still photography features generally not as good as the Olympus, for example:
    • 20mp RAW burst rate is only 9fps with C-AF and 12fps without C-AF (Olympus can do 18fps with C-AF and 60fps without C-AF) – although the GH5 can do 8mp 60fps and 18mp 30fps in the 4K and 6K Photo Modes respectively
    • the Olympus PDAF points allow faster AF of moving subjects with both Olympus and Panasonic lenses whereas the GH5 only works with Panasonic lenses
    • Olympus has a range of still photo techniques eg. HiRes 50mp mode, Live Composite mode for night shots, 20mp RAW Pro Capture mode (GH5 can do this pre-capture burst but only in the 18mp 6K jpeg Photo Mode), etc
    • Olympus has arguably better jpeg colours
    • although it has face detect AF, it doesn’t do closest eye detect AF as does the Olympus
    • electronic shutter only goes to 1/16000th sec not 1/32000th sec

For more information on the GH5 and updates as well as links to reviews see my wiki page.

At last, radio TTL remote flash coming to Micro Four Thirds – PocketWizard FlexTT5 for Panasonic

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

One area where Micro Four Thirds users have been seriously neglected is in radio TTL remote flash capability.

Micro Four Thirds users have had to settle for either light-based line-of-sight TTL remote flash, or non-TTL radio remote flash.

A big player in third party radio TTL remote flash technology is PocketWizard who have had their FlexTT5 units available in either Canon, Nikon or Sony versions for several years now.

This week PocketWizard have announced a Micro Four Thirds version – albeit at this stage only compatible with Panasonic GH4 camera in combination with either a Panasonic DMW-FL360L or DMW-FL580L flash but will support radio remote HSS TTL as well as normal remote radio TTL mode and their proprietary Hypersync non-TTL mode.

These units thankfully are firmware upgradeable, and they do intend adding support for other cameras and flashes, and there is no physical reason why this could not be extended to Olympus cameras and flashes given they use the same hotshoe pins (although Olympus has an additional power supply pin now which would be ignored by this units without issue) and essentially the same TTL technologies.

The units will cost $US186 per unit or $US299 for a pair (you need one for the camera and a receiver for the flash).

 

 

Which super telephoto lens for Micro Four Thirds? The Olympus 300mm f/4 vs Panasonic 100-400mm

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

Now that a few lens testing websites have had time to review the new super telephoto lenses for Micro Four Thirds, I thought it might be an opportune time to give some pros and cons of each.

The average consumer would be tempted to buy the least expensive zooms which cover the most range, such as the 10x 14-140mm zooms and the 4x super zooms such as the 75-300mm consumer lenses.

There is nothing wrong with doing this but one must be aware that there is no free lunch in photography – something has got to give, and in these lenses, it is image quality at the telephoto end, and the low aperture resulting in poorer capability for low light conditions, need for higher ISO, slower AF.

Panasonic has just introduced a high level 4x super telephoto zoom lens, the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH which is a great lens given it is so small to reach 800mm field of view in full frame terms, while the 4x zoom is very versatile.

The lens is well built, weathersealed, has optical image stabilisation compatible with Panasonic’s Dual IS, 9 rounded aperture blades,  close focus to 1.3m is superb, high speed silent AF motors compatible with 240fps CDAF, focus limiter, zoom lock, sliding lens hood, and all this coming in at just under 1kg.

With the Olympus mZD 300mm f/4, Olympus decided to take a different approach and went for a very high end, optically superb (the sharpest lens they have ever made and that is saying something as Olympus make great lenses!), weatherproof lens but instead of going for a zoom lens, went for optical quality of a fixed focal length 300mm f/4 OIS lens, compatible with their 1.4x teleconverter.

Remember that 300mm on Olympus OM-D cameras or Panasonic cameras gives the same field of view as a 600mm lens on a full frame camera.

What do I want from a super telephoto lens?

  1. excellent optical image quality at the super telephoto focal length
  2. wide aperture to allow faster AF, shallower depth of field, better subject isolation, and lower ISO
  3. fast, accurate autofocus with focus limiters
  4. weatherproofing because these lenses are likely to be used outdoors in all conditions
  5. if it can be compact enough for comfortable hand held use, then an effective image stabiliser
  6. removable tripod mount (no need to carry extra weight if not planning on using a tripod)

So how did these lenses compare optically at 300mm focal length?

For this I found one website which has compared them all, so these charts are courtesy of ePhotozine which is an great lens testing site, worth a visit.

Resolutions at 300mm:

Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II
Panasonic 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6: results are better than the Olympus 75-300mm II and you get 0.5 extra stop aperture, but still not excellent sharpness at 300mm
Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4.0-f/6.3
Olympus mZD 300mm f/4.0

Chromatic aberration at 300mm:

Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II
Panasonic 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6: results are better than the Olympus 75-300mm II especially towards the edges
Panasonic 100-400mm f/4.0-f/6.3
Olympus 300mm f/4.0: superb results, especially at f/5.6 where it is incredibly sharp and with low CA!
Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II Panasonic 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Panasonic 100-400mm f/4.0-f/6.3 Olympus 300mm f/4.0
Price $US499 $US549 $US1799 $US2499
Weight 430g 520g 985g 1270g
Size 116mm 126mm 83 x 172mm 93 x 227mm
Filter size 58mm 67mm 72mm 77mm
distortion at 300mm 0.25% pincushion 0.8% pincushion almost zero 0.2% barrel
close focus 0.9m at 75mm 1.5m 1.3m 1.4m
optical image stabilisation no OIS 3-4EV OIS ?5EV OIS with Panasonic 6EV OIS with Olympus

Conclusion:

You get what you pay for!

The budget 4x super zooms are great as light, compact, travel lenses but performance at 300mm is only fair, while the slow aperture will limit low light use. Of the two, the Panasonic 100-300mm gives sharper images and wider aperture at 300mm with only a little more weight and size.

The Panasonic 100-400mm is much more expensive and more than 50% bigger and heavier than these but you get more reach and better image quality and better image stabilisation and autofocus speed, making it a great, versatile lens.

The superb, but very expensive Olympus mZD 300m f/4.0 is just an amazing lens in every aspect, easily beating the above on image quality and image stabilisation as well as weatherproofing, and although it is not as versatile as the zoom lenses in terms of zoom, the f/4.0 aperture really makes a BIG difference in low light capability, subject separation, ability to use lower ISO for sports, and will probably allow faster AF. It is a much sharper lens and with faster AF than the Canon EF 300mmf/4L IS lens which only has 2EV image stabilisation and does not give the same reach even if used on a Canon 7D dSLR.

In addition, it is compatible with the Olympus 1.4x teleconverter to give the equivalent field of view of a 840mm lens on a full frame camera whilst allowing this to be hand held and used at f/5.6 (although it would probably be even sharper at f/8).

The Olympus lens is so good I just had to have a play with one, so here are some samples:

bokeh test

Above – a handheld bokeh test and to show how narrow the depth of field is at f/4 – this is a walking path and focus point is around 4m.

moon

Above – hand held shot of the moon through thin cloud – focus was very fast, IS awesome, resolution superb, no purple fringing anywhere – fantastic indeed!

crop moon

Above is a crop of the moon shot showing all the craters.

sports

Above is a hand held shot of sports under lights at f/4.0, ISO 2000, RAW file with post-processing to crop by about 1/3rd, add vignetting, and a edgy tonal structure. Unfortunately a 300mm lens is too long to be allowed into most commercial sports stadiums for commercial image licensing reasons, but as you can see, if you don’t have these issues, it can give awesome results indeed.

The AF technique I used for the sports shot was S-AF, central group of 9 AF points active, Release Priority OFF, burst mode on High, then just fired away (no half-press shutter as is usual to lock AF as in these scenarios just a straight shutter press usually gives better results as S-AF is so fast as long as contrast and light is reasonable).

The lens balances nicely on an Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera, such that carrying it in the hand for 1-1.5hrs was not a problem as total weight with camera but without the tripod mount comes to 1.8kg – easily passes for carry on cabin luggage in an airplane.

When reviewing images on the LCD screen, I was amazed by how sharp they were, even magnifying to 14x did not show the softness I usually see in many other lenses.

Hand held shots at 1/25th sec are very sharp as long as you hold it steady – quite amazing for 600mm field of view!

For commercial sports venues, I would really love Olympus to give us a great 200mm f/2.8 weathersealed lens which we can take into the venue – perhaps this will be their next fixed focal length telephoto! Here’s hoping.

Start saving up!!!

Disclaimer: I do not work for, nor am I paid in any way, by any photography company, including Olympus and Panasonic, and any gear I test, I have bought from a retail store without any privileged discounts.

2 new premium quality super-telephoto lenses for Micro Four Thirds – Panasonic 100-400mm and Olympus 300mm f/4

Friday, January 8th, 2016

Micro Four Thirds camera users are spoilt by the rich array of wonderful lenses at their disposal – but until now there has not been any premium quality super-telephoto lens optimised for CDAF (there are Four Thirds lenses such as the superb 300mm f/2.8 which do work well with phase detect cameras such as the Olympus OM-D E-M1), and now, at last, we have been endowed with 2 great lenses coming to a camera store near you over the next 2-3 months.

Each lens has its advantages and disadvantages which will make us all spend weeks trying to decide which will be best for our needs.

These lenses although very niche in the dSLR world given they would need tripods, have a much more versatile utility in the Micro Four Thirds world ranging from wildlife, nature macrophotography, sports action, and perhaps even for concerts when silent shooting is needed from a distance.

At only around 1kg, even long distance overnight hikers would consider carrying one of these to get those shots that full frame dSLR users would need Sherpas to carry their gear.

In addition, the amount of background perspective compression can make them useful for fashion photography and other creative uses.

The class leading image stabilisation of these camera-lens combinations with lower weight and bulk make them superior to dSLR alternatives for use where tripods are not useful such as on ships to the Antarctic, while the weathersealing and freezeproof design of the Olympus lens also comes in handy!

Common features:

  • compatible with any Micro Four Thirds camera whether Olympus or Panasonic – although having the same brand as your camera can give better functionality
  • weathersealing
  • high optical quality
  • tripod mount
  • focus limiter switch
  • close focus is around 1.3-1.4m giving very useful macro performance of around 0.48x macro in full frame terms
  • optical image stabiliser which can be combined with the camera’s sensor based image stabiliser to allow even better dual system image stabilisation (but will this work on different branded cameras?)
  • relatively large and expensive for Micro Four Thirds but smaller, lighter and less expensive than a full frame lens of similar quality and field of view
  • nano coating for reduced flare and improved contrast
  • fast, silent AF capable of face detection AF and even nearest eye detection AF, and optimised for video
  • 9 rounded aperture blades

The benefits of the Panasonic lens over the Olympus lens are:

  • its a zoom lens which means it is more versatile, particularly when subjects are coming towards you as you have 200-800mm field of view in 35mm full frame terms in an easily handholdable lens and it has a zoom position lock
  • it is considerably less expensive at $US1799 vs $US2499
  • considerably lighter at 985g vs 1270g
  • considerably shorter at 172mm vs 227mm
  • 10mm thinner at 83mm vs 93mm
  • smaller, cheaper filters at 72mm vs 77mm
  • AF will be faster on Panasonic Lumix cameras than the Olympus lens thanks to compatibility with Panasonic’s DFD (Depth From Defocus) technology (presumably no difference on Olympus cameras though)

The benefits of the Olympus lens over the Panasonic lens are:

  • wider aperture at 300mm allowing 1EV lower ISO to be used as presumably lets in around twice as much light or 1 stop more light (600mm field of view in full frame terms)
  • ability to use the Olympus mZD MC-14 teleconverter which converts it to 420mm f/5.6 (840mm field of view in full frame terms)
  • the “highest resolution lens ever made by Olympus” which promises superb optical quality
  • focus limiter switch has 3 settings not just 2 and thus improved utility for nature macrophotography
  • perhaps better weathersealing with its 11 separate hermetic seals, and Olympus is renown for its wonderful weathersealing
  • Manual Focus Clutch mechanism for improved manual focus feel and rapid access
  • configurable lens function button can be used to suspend C-AF, etc
  • image stabilisation may be somewhat better, particularly as few Panasonic cameras have built-in sensor based image stabilisation and Olympus are class leaders in this technology

The Panasonic Leica DG 100-400mm f/4-6.3 Power OIS lens:


Panasonic lens

  • model H-RS100400
  • 200-800mm telephoto reach
  • 20 elements in 13 groups (1 aspherical ED lens, 1 UED lens, 2 ED lenses)
  • Power OIS image stabiliser with Dual IS compatibility
  • high speed digital signal exchange at 240 fps to comply with the high-speed, high-precision AF (Auto Focus) with DFD (Depth From Defocus) technology on LUMIX G cameras
  • focus limiter 5m to infinity
  • built in sliding lens hood
  • 171.5mm / 6.75in long but extends upon zooming
  • 83mm / 3.3in diameter
  • 985g / 34.74oz excl. lens hood, tripod mount
  • $US1799
  • see my wiki for more links and information

The Olympus mZD 300mm f/4 OIS lens:

Olympus lens

dual IS

  • 600mm field of view (840mm with MC-14 teleconverter)
  • weathersealed with 11 separate hermetic seals
  • freezeproof
  • 5-6EV optical image stabiliser and dual IS / sync IS with certain cameras
  • “highest resolution” Olympus lens ever made
  • fast, silent AF (completely silent shooting when used in electronic shutter mode)
  • Zero and Z nano coating
  • Manual Focus Clutch mechanism
  • 17 elements in 10 groups
  • close focus 1.4m giving 0.48x macro in 35mm terms
  • 3 position focus limiter: 1.4-4m, 4m to infinity and full range
  • configurable lens function button
  • 77mm filter
  • 93mm x 227mm
  • 1270g (27lbs) excl. tripod mount presumably
  • compatible with Olympus mZD MC-14 1.4x teleconverter to give 420mm f/5.6 (840mm telephoto reach in full frame terms)
  • $US2499
  • see my wiki for more links and information

Handheld video shot entirely at 840mm field of view using the Olympus 300mm plus MC14 teleconverter – amazing IS indeed!

Summary

Users will have an agonising decision to make as these are two wonderful lenses but given the price, it is likely only one will make it into your kit, so you need to decide whether you go for smaller size and zoom versatility vs larger aperture, perhaps better optics and better low light capability of the Olympus.

For those who cannot afford these, all is not lost, there are a number of enthusiast quality telephoto zooms for Micro Four Thirds which are lighter, smaller and much less expensive, but you do get what you pay for here. Examples are Olympus mZD 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 and the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4-5.6 Mega OIS.

Compared to the new Canon EF 100-400mm pro lens:

For perspective, Canon has recently introduced a superb telephoto zoom lens, the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens which could be used on a APS-C cropped sensor dSLR such as a Canon 7D to give 160-640mm OIS which places it between these lenses in capability and price with these notable features:

  • only 640mm telephoto reach (on testing it only gets to 383mm = 613mm) and this is at f/5.6 (half the light of the Olympus and much less reach than the Panasonic lens)
  • heavier at 1.64kg incl. tripod mount
  • image stabiliser is not as effective (“4EV” vs “5-6EV” for the Olympus) and not able to be used in Dual IS mode as Canon do not make sensor based IS cameras
  • weathersealing is not as good as the Olympus as only “dust and moisture sealed”
  • cumbersome bayonet style lens hood not like the sleek slide on hoods on these lenses
  • AF is not optimised for CDAF camera systems and thus not optimised for Live View, silent AF, nor video C-AF nor for face detection or eye detection AF
  • vignetting is severe while sharpness is a bit soft wide open at 400mm when tested on full frame cameras
  • similar close focus macro magnification although working distance shorter at 1m
  • less accurate AF as needs micro adjustment calibration for each camera
  • AF sensors cover less of the image frame than with mirrorless cameras
  • $US2199

Other options for Canon and Nikon dSLR users:

Canon APS-C users also have the less expensive option of the excellent 1993 designed Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L lens which comes in at 1.25kg although much longer, and only $US1249 but it is not fully weathersealed, and does not offer image stabilisation and thus really needs to be used at high ISO and on a tripod, and the close focus capability is substantially poorer with close focus only down to 3.5m. Furthermore it only has 8 straight diaphragm blades not 9 rounded blades. Nevertheless, this lens has been popular with birders. Most Canon users though would be better off with the Canon EF 100-400mm II lens outlined above.

Nikon DX users have the option of the new Nikon AF-S VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G ED lens giving 120-600mm in full frame terms but it is a touch heavier at 1.47kg w/o tripod collar, priced at $US2299 (RRP is $US2699), does not focus as close (1.75m vs 1.4m), image stabiliser not as effective at 4EV, not optimised for CDAF (see above), cheap, plasticky bayonet lens hood, and is not weathersealed.

Both Canon and Nikon cropped sensor dSLR users also have the option of the 300mm f/4 image stabilised lenses combined with a 1.4x teleconverter to give around 600mm f/5.6 telephoto reach but these lens combos weigh in at about 1.4-1.5kg and would not match the image quality nor the image stabilisation of the Olympus lens, let alone the CDAF functionality. Nikon does however have a new fresnel technology ultralight 300mm f/4 lens which is half the weight of a usual lens and comes in at 755g and $US1999, but you then need to factor in the teleconverter and potential for fresnel artefacts.

Full frame dSLR users will have to use heavy, very expensive lenses to get to this 600-800mm telephoto reach or resort to 2x teleconverters with the above 300mm f/4 lenses and try to AF with an f/8 widest aperture.

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

camera

image courtesy of http://www.imaging-resource.com

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

 

lens

image courtesy of 43rumors.com

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