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Architecture camera-lens kit for travel to Europe

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

I am off for a conference trip to Rome, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Amsterdam in October this year, and am deciding on which cameras and lenses to take with me – after all it s a long way from Australia to change my mind.

I am mainly interested in photography of urban architecture, streetscapes, and cultural activities, and if I can get to more rural settings perhaps some nice landscape work.

I will be wanting to travel as LIGHT as I can but still have high image quality and versatility.

A clear IN for the trip are the following:

  • Panasonic GH-1 Micro Four Thirds camera
  • 10x zoom lens (the excellent Lumix 14-140mm) for general purpose use
  • Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 Four Thirds lens with M43 adapter as my main walk around lens and for low light (unfortunately, I do not have the much smaller and lighter Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens)
  • OM 135mm f/2.8 with OM adapter for indoor conference use / videos from the back of the theatre – its a nice combo – just set MF, WB, manual exposure and you are ready to record all that good information you would otherwise forget.
  • small tripod
  • no-name inexpensive backpack

Now what will I do for those tallish buildings in cramped spaces so I don’t have to angle the camera upwards and create convergence distortion?

I thus compared my Canon 1D MIII with the Canon 17mm tilt-shift lens at maximum shift upwards in portrait mode with my GH-1 in 16:9 aspect ratio with Olympus Four Thirds 7-14mm lenswould I miss the tilt shift lens that I love so much?

Interestingly, using both cameras at the same subject distance and parallel to the subject, the 7-14mm lens at 7mm provided almost the same height coverage to the top of the subject, but with much more bottom coverage and a little more width coverage.

Thus, the GH-1 with 7-14mm lens will give me similar angle of view to top of a building but with a lot more crop options – for instance,  I could crop the bottom 1/3rd off to match the the same image crop as the Canon on full shift and end up with an 8mp image vs a 10mp image on the Canon – not a great deal of loss.

The other advantages of the 7-14mm lens is that I can choose 4:3, 3;2 or 16:9 image aspect ratios, use it for video work, or use it on my Olympus E510 and gain autofocus and image stabilisation to allow 1/2sec-1/4sec hand held shots for motion effects.

But the obvious main advantage of the GH-1 with 7-14mm lens is that the combination is 1kg lighter, it is smaller, the battery charger is SO much smaller, and the kit is cheaper to replace in the event of a loss or breakage.

Now, my conclusion may well have been different had I owned a Canon 5D MII full frame high resolution body instead of a 1.3x crop 10mp Canon 1D MIII, although the weight and insurance would still be major issues.

So, that settles it very convincingly, my 2nd camera kit will be the Olympus E510 with 7-14mm lens and 50mm f/2.0 macro – these are what I shot with for the far majority of my photos on my Italy holiday in 2007 with and it was an awesome combination – see here.

That leaves me with one last question, can I afford to take my beloved Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD lens as well for those special shallow DOF, beautiful bokeh shots (although the 25mm f/1.4 and 50mm f/2.0 lens will give some good options for this but without the telephoto reach)?

Note: for an even more compact and lighter, cheaper system, one could use the Panasonic Micro Four Thirds 7-14mm lens instead of the Olympus Four Thirds version but of course, it could not be used on an E510 body – having said that, if  had that lens, I would be wanting to buy an Olympus E-P2 to take instead of the E510!

The acid test is – can I fit the kit with a 1.3kg laptop in the 5kg carry-on cabin baggage limit?

This is the beauty of the Micro Four Thirds System – you get to take more equipment within the weight limit, although my ideal system of currently available gear for travel would be:

  • Panasonic GH-1 with 10x zoom 14-140mm kit lens
  • Olympus E-P2 with EVF and Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens
  • Panasonic 7-14mm lens if doing urban work or Olympus 9-18mm lens if doing landscapes
  • perhaps the Olympus 50mm f/2.0 macro for Four Thirds while we wait for Olympus to make a Micro Four Thirds version
  • Cokin ND gradient filter with adapter for the 14-140mm and 9-18mm lens

Such a system gives you high quality photos with focal length range in 35mm terms of 14-280mm as well as low light capabilities of an image stabilised 40mm lens (in 35mm terms) at f/1.7 light capturing capability, plus you get the BEST quality HD video available on dSLR systems courtesy of the new firmware hack for the GH-1.

Some would add the Lumix 45-200mm lens, but personally, I wish they would make a compact, high quality, Micro Four Thirds 200mm f/2.8 lens (preferably image stabilised), or if they must do zoom, then a compact 100-200mm f/2.8-4.0 (please, not another f/5.6 lens!).

Electrically-coupled tilt-shift adapter for Four Thirds lenses onto Micro Four Thirds cameras – now I’m getting really excited!

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Anyone who follows my blogs will know that I am in love with the Micro Four Thirds camera system and I also love using tilt shift lenses – I own some very expensive Canon professional tilt shift lenses such as 17mm, 45mm and 90mm TS-E lenses.

Unfortunately, these tilt shift lenses are cumbersome to use on Canon dSLRs as you MUST use live view manual focus assist to ensure accurate manual focus, and doing this necessitates activating the clunky dSLR live view function which requires moving the mirror up then dropping it down prior to taking the photo.

I can use these tilt shift lenses on my Micro Four Thirds cameras and get MUCH easier manual focus control but the 2x crop factor effectively converts these into 34mm, 90mm and 180mm tilt shift lenses (although I can go a touch wider using 16:9 on the GH-1) – which can be very handy to compliment my Canon 1D MIII which effectively uses these at 1.3x crop giving 22mm, 59mm and 117mm tilt shift lenses.

See some of my demo photos using the Canon TS-E 90mm on my GH-1 here – it is awesome for close up work!

You can also get tilt or shift adapters which enable this function for a wide range of legacy 35mm lenses, but the 2x crop limits how wide you can go – perhaps the widest rectilinear  lens for 35mm cameras is 14mm and this then becomes a 28mm tilt shift lens – very nice but still limiting.

Now, a Japanese company, Hino (see translated page), has come to the rescue and will be releasing this year, a tilt-shift adapter for Micro Four Thirds which will give us incredible power – it will be electrically coupled and thus allow any Four Thirds lens to be used with full aperture control, EXIF data and if AF-compatible, you even get contrast-detect AF – imagine how cool that would be with the new touch screen Panasonic cameras such as the G2 – you could put an Olympus ZD 9-18mm lens on it and zoom out to 9mm giving an 18mm tilt-shift capability, then touch the the LCD at the subject area you want in focus and voila - fast touch screen tilt shift AF not previously possible on ANY system let alone at 18mm angle of view!! The main issue with such an adapter is that the small image circle of Four Thirds lenses will limit how much one can tilt or shift, but at least you should get enough that it will be very handy! The other limitation is they appear not to recommend using lenses heavier than 500g so that will exclude the Olympus ZD 7-14mm lens unfortunately – unless used with care.

If this is not enough, it is likely that Olympus will be producing a totally different type of adapter – an adapter for Olympus OM lenses which will enable them to be used at their native field of view on a Micro Four Thirds camera via a 0.5x wide converter, which will mean the light gathering power will be improved by 2 stops, but that is not all – the adapter will give all these lenses auto focus capability!

If you want dreamy shots, then the new Nokton 50mm f/0.95 Micro Four Thirds lens at $US750 may take your fancy!

If you want to try 3D images – check out Loreo 3D lens for Micro Four Thirds.

So hopefully you will be able to see now how I visualised the potential for this Micro Four Thirds system when it was introduced, and why I was an early adopter – the system is designed for fun, creativity and to be the camera you will bring with you – the best camera that you can have is the one you are willing to take!

And this is only just the start – just wait until they really get going with some technological advances – it will leave the mirror-based dSLR systems for dead within 5-10 years – and these dinosaur dSLRs will have advantages in a few niche areas only.

At last, a tilt adapter for Micro Four Thirds – make almost any legacy lens into a tilt lens!

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

In June last year I wrote a blog post suggesting the Micro Four Thirds system could become the ultimate tilt-shift system as its lens to sensor distance is short enough that a tilt-shift lens adapter could theoretically be made which would convert any legacy 35mm lens into a tilt shift lens, and you would get the fastest manual focus capability thanks to the mirror less live view.

Now at last, a tilt adapter has been made available for MFT from Adriano Lolli – see here. The tilt can be rotated 360 degrees, and at zero tilt, focus at infinity is still possible.


Forget your expensive Lens Baby lenses, or the extremely expensive Canon or Nikon tilt-shift lenses, if all you need is tilt and not shift, then this relatively inexpensive adapter will convert your existing legacy lenses into tilt lenses for you, and of course, if you have Olympus MFT cameras, you also have image stabilisation to boot!

This adapter should be one very popular adapter for macrophotography and creative work – it seems at present he has versions for Nikon, Contax-Yashica, Leica R, Contarex, and Olympus OM.

It would seem the adapter is not yet available but presumably one could order one?

Perhaps he has a shift adapter on the way as well?

He has a full catalogue here (pdf) – look for item #3107 – current price in 2010 is 136Euro.

I was notified of this adapter by one of my readers who knew I was interested in such things – his source was actually the 43rumors.com website so I add this note to give credit and to remind Four Thirds users of this excellent resource.

Some rumours posted on this site suggest to me:

  • Panasonic may create a new Four Thirds dSLR with a hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder system – perhaps EVF when mirror is up, and using their fast contrast detect AF algorithms found in their MFT cameras?
  • Olympus may announce a E-P3 in 1st half of 2010 with an in-built EVF – now that would be a very nice evolution of the E-P2!
  • new Panasonic sensor coming early 2010 with better high ISO noise and dynamic range – well that’s pretty logical – they wouldn’t do a Canon with their G10 and make it worse now would they?

Panasonic GH-1 with Canon EOS, Lensbaby and Olympus OM lenses

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Still waiting on my Panasonic Four Thirds to Micro Four Thirds adapter, but I do have a Canon EOS to MFT adapter, and an Olympus OM to Canon EOS adapter, so I thought I would post a few pics of the various combinations – actual photos taken with the combos will come soon.

The Micro Four Thirds system is the ONLY system other than Canon EOS which can use Canon EOS lenses, although as there is no aperture control on these lenses you can only use them at wide open aperture, and in manual focus at 2x crop.

The Four Thirds system would require a 5.5mm adapter to allow infinity focus with Canon EOS and such a thin adapter is not able to be made, so for the time being, you can only get Micro Four Thirds adapters to allow EOS lenses.

A cool example, is using the brilliant new, and very expensive, Canon 17mm TS-E tilt-shift lens. This lens obviously is 17mm on a full frame dSLR, and becomes 22mm on my Canon 1DMIII, but having the GH-1, adds to its versatility by allowing it to be used as a 34mm tilt shift lens and with HD video capability.

17mm TSE

The Canon EOS 90mm f/2.8 TS-E tilt shift lens becomes 180mm focal length field of view and has potential uses for portraiture and macro work where one wishes to selectively focus on a subject by tilting the focal plane and giving nice bokeh.

90mm TSE

The LensBaby Composer with its movable central sharp region surrounded by blur in EOS mount works very nicely indeed and allows you to simplify your videos by blurring out unwanted distractions.


Now, the nice compact Olympus OM prime lenses such as the OM 21mm f/3.5 which becomes a nice 42mm street photography lens.


I won’t bore you with the other nice OM options such as OM 50mm f/3.5 macro, OM 100mm f/2.8, OM 200mm f/4, but just for fun, here is the GH-1 with the Olympus OM 300mm f/4.5. Now, this becomes a 600mm field of view and should give good results at f/5.6. BUT, in addition, you can use 2x digital zoom in HD video mode to give 1200mm field of view – you might be wanting a tripod for this focal length reach though!

OM 300mm

While it may be most efficient to have just a EOS to MFT and a FT to MFT adapter, then use adapters for other systems which mate with EOS or FT, a more stable method is to just use one adapter in the train, and new adapters are appearing all the time for Micro Four Thirds such as Leica M, and just recently, Cosina have announced Nikon F and Pentax K adapters.

The Micro Four Thirds system is THE MOST ADAPTABLE digital camera system available because of its short lens flange to sensor distance – its just so versatile, and with the absence of the mirror, we should be getting a range of bodies with different designs and functions – I would love a silent electronic shutter version, and an infrared-enabled version in addition to the cool retro design of the Olympus E-P1.

John Foster has posted his tests of Olympus OM lenses on the Olympus E-P1 here – these should be similar to results on the GH-1.

If you want to see more images of MFT cameras using rangefinder lenses, see here.

For example, Panasonic G1 with M42 adapter, macro bellows, and Pentax Super-Multi-Coated Macro-Takumar 50/4:
Panasonic G1 with M42 adapter, macro bellows, and Pentax Super-Multi-Coated Macro-Takumar 50/4

This is one exciting system, I can’t wait until we get some more HD lenses, or at least a contrast-detect 50mm f/2.0 macro lens for nice portraits with AF.

Oh, and did I mention how much FUN this system is?

The new Canon 17mm tilt shift lens on a Canon 1DMIII

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

I had the opportunity to have a play with the very expensive ($A3500) and heavy, unique Canon EF TS-E 17mm tilt shift lens yesterday – albeit, on my 1.3x crop Canon 1DMIII.

Although in essence it presumably gives an angle of view of 17×1.3 = 22mm on the Canon 1DMIII, it’s shift capabilities allows one to gain some nice images without having to resort to convergence correction in Photoshop.

The 17mm f/4 TS-E tilt shift has an unprotected protuberant front element which means filters are not possible and it does not come with a lens hood, which would have been nice – at least to protect accidentally hitting the front element while walking.

17mm TS-E

So let’s have a look at what it’s shift functionality can achieve:

Firstly, let’s look at the results we get using it as a normal wide angle lens to capture Melbourne’s Etihad football stadium – although many of the building lines are not truly vertical due to the round shape of the stadium, the necessity of angling the camera upwards creates distortion. This distortion can be corrected in PS but at loss of detail and loss of pixels from cropping.

usual convergence style

usual convergence style

Now, without any shift still, but this time keeping the camera sensor perpendicular to the ground to ensure vertical lines remain vertical. Now lines are vertical, but you don’t get to see much of the stadium.

vertical lines no shift

vertical lines no shift

NOW, we get to see the beauty of the shift lens, keeping the camera positioned as for the above shot we can now elevate the lens using the shift knob until we get the top of the roof in. As we have kept the sensor perpendicular to the ground, the vertical lines remain vertical.

lens shifted upwards

lens shifted upwards

And just to show how much we could get in if we shift fully downwards with camera still in same position, you can see how useful this technique could be for creating 3 overlapping images for stitching into a panoramic image.

lens shifted down

lens shifted down

I have purchased an EOS to Micro Four Thirds adapter and am looking forward to using this lens on my new Panasonic GH-1 when it finally arrives – I have some uses for having a 34mm equivalent tilt lens using the GH-1′s HD video with external microphone.

Now to wait for an EOS to Four Thirds adapter so I can use this on my Olympus E510 as well and have it as an image stabilised 34mm tilt shift lens!

Olympus have not yet made any tilt-shift lenses for their digital systems – perhaps they have an even better plan – tilting the sensor to make all lenses into tilt lenses, or with Micro Four Thirds, it would be easy to make a tilt-shift adapter so nearly all lenses become tilt-shift lenses?

See my blog on this here.

Micro Four Thirds – the ultimate compact tilt/shift digital?

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

The new Micro Four Thirds (MFT) system is quite unique in that the lens flange to sensor distance has been shortened considerably by removing the mirror.

Not only does this mean one will NEVER to need worry about doing mirror lock up to reduce camera vibrations, but it means a spacing adapter is needed to mount traditional 35mm format lenses.

NOW, requiring a spacing adapter means, that, in theory, it should not be hard for someone to engineer this adapter to be a tilt/shift adapter which could thus convert EVERY 35mm format lens ever made into an image stabilised tilt-shift lens when used in this manner, albeit with a 2x sensor crop factor, so a 21mm OM lens will in effect become a 42mm tilt-shift lens, and a 50mm macro lens becomes a 100mm macro tilt shift lens.

For image stabilisation, you would need an appropriate Olympus body of course.

And, you can take HD video using the Panasonic GH-1.

The smaller sensor is ideal here as it is much smaller than the image circle of a 35mm format lens, and thus when that lens is tilted or shifted, it will still cover the sensor area.

You could even potentially use such an adapter to tilt shift Four Thirds lenses such as the ZD 7-14mm lens, but their smaller image circle may limit this application.

See ideas for such an adapter here.

Some are considering taking this further and making adapters for view camera systems, but then it would not be compact, and a full frame dSLR might make more sense for such large cumbersome systems.

Until such an adapter is made, we still have a few tilt-shift options NOW:

  • traditional tilt-shift lenses made for 35mm SLRs via adapters already available:
    • Canon EOS TS-E 17mm, 24mm, 45mm and 90mm lenses via EOS-MFT adapter BUT these must be used wide open aperture as they do not have aperture rings – so great for emphasising subjects and blurring out distractions but not so good for maximising DOF
    • Nikon F tilt shift lenses via Nikon F to EOS or Nikon F to Four Thirds adapter – can control aperture as they have an aperture ring
    • Olympus OM 24mm and 35mm shift lenses via OM to Four thirds adapter – can control aperture but no tilt mechanism, only shift
  • lens baby soft focus lenses in either Canon EOS or Nikon F mounts via adapters as above, although this is not a true tilt-shift lens
  • the Zoerk system – tilt/swing or panoramic shift adapters to allow medium format (eg. Mamiya, Hasselblad, Pentax6x7) or preferably enlarger lenses (eg. 80mm f/4 APO Rodagon) to be mounted on various SLR adapters including Nikon F, Canon EF, Olympus OM, Mamiya 645, Hasselblad, Pentax 645, T2, etc so you could use these on Four Thirds or MFT bodies via the appropriate adapters, but the Zoerk system is not cheap! More info here.

More portrait fun with Canon 90mm TS-E tilt-shift lens and Canon 1DMIII

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Following from my previous blog on tilt-shift portraits, I have added a couple of more portraits to show what it can do.

Click on the images to see an enlarged version.

The first is an outdoors Australian bush 1920′s style portrait and this is actually a crop of the original but no PS effects applied:


The second was one I took to demonstrate the tilt-shift lens and again has not been modified in PS:


Canon launches 2 new tilt-shift lenses 17mm and revamped 24mm

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Canon has responded to Nikon’s push into higher quality tilt shift lenses with two new lenses announced today.

A remarkable 17mm f/4 TS-E tilt shift but with protuberant front element which means filters are not possible. Maybe at last I will have a wide angle for my Canon 1DMIII that I will love!

17mm TS-E

A revamped 24mm f/3.5 II tilt shift which accepts an 82mm filter.

24mm TS-E

More information on perspective control (tilt-shift) lenses here.

These come after Canon introduced a revamped EF 24mm f/1.4L II lens late in 2008 which hopefully will provide the resolution required for the 21mp full frame cameras. Of course this one is not a tilt-shift lens but does have a nice wide f/1.4 aperture for narrower depth of field and low light conditions.

24mm f/1.4L

Fun with tilt-shift lenses – the Canon EF 90mm TSE for portraits

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Many of my blogs tend to espouse the advantages of Olympus over Canon or Nikon dSLRs, so here is one to try to bring back some balance.

After all, each camera system has their strengths and weaknesses and I use whatever tool best suits my purposes irrespective of brand and what I have brought with me.

For those that are not aware, I have an extensive 35mm film outfit (Olympus OM primarily, with a Contax thrown in), an extensive Bronica SQAi 6×6 medium format film outfit with most of the lenses, a Mamiya C330f TLR medium format film camera with a couple of lenses, a Olympus E510, E330 dSLR with various lenses, and a Canon 1DMIII with various lenses.

I love each for different reasons, although I must admit, the 35mm film cameras are not getting much use at all as I prefer to use MF film if I am going to the trouble and cost of using film then scanning it, especially now that Kodak has stopped making their HIE infrared film.

So back to this blog where I thought I would demonstrate another beautiful Canon lens – the EF90mm TSE tilt shift – which I dearly love for artistic portraiture in particular. The effects may not be to everyone’s liking, but that doesn’t bother me – I like them and that’s all that matters.

Some may say you can recreate these in Photoshop – but you can’t – PS allows you to selectively blur, but you don’t get the same bokeh or quality of the out of focus highlights, and to get a selective plane of focus, you would need extreme depth of field in the initial image.

So let’s have a look at a couple of portraits I did for fun and experimentation to see what this EF 90mm TSE lens can do WITHOUT Photoshop:

Jess 1

Note in the above image, that by rotating the lens and tilting it, I have selected the plane of focus to pass through her left eye and her hair with all else being out of focus.

jess 2

Again, I have selected a plane of focus to pass through her right hand and her left eye with all else being out of focus creating the nice out of focus highlights on her shawl.

You can click on the above to see the images larger on my web photo album.

I have a prior blog showing similar effects using the Canon EF 45mm TSE tilt shift lens.

Of course, you can do this on your Nikon dSLR as Nikon have revamped their tilt shift lenses with improved models although very expensive.

Thus far, neither Sony, Pentax nor Olympus have tilt shift lenses in their line up – although you can buy the 3rd party option of Lensbaby lenses which provide some control, and of course, you can use the Nikon tilt-shift lenses or even Olympus OM shift lenses on Olympus although the 2x crop factor will modify their utility.

A critical aspect of using the rather complicated tilt functionality is having a camera with Live Preview where you can magnify the part of the image you want to be sharp and ensuring it is indeed in focus and then without moving the camera (you can’t just focus then recompose), take the shot.

Tilt shift lenses are a lot of fun, but require patience and experimentation.

If I had the money, I would have strongly considered buying the new Nikon 45mm tilt shift lens as then I could use it as a 90mm lens on my Olympus cameras and as a 60mm lens on my Canon 1DMIII – perhaps one day I will get the new Nikon 24mm ED tilt-shift lens if my wife lets me sell her car :)

Unfortunately, unlike Nikon lenses, Canon lenses cannot be used on other brands.

More information on perspective control lenses here..

Fun with tilt shift lenses I – the Canon EF 45mm TSE

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

Yesterday I decided to go for a short drive in the country-side and I found a fantastic 100 yr old rusting, dilapidated, farmhouse.
I was only there a few minutes when a 4″x5″ large format photographer on a group photo excursion arrived with the farmer who kindly allowed him onto his farm to photograph this building, and they kindly allowed me in as well.

We had a brief initial discussion and quite naturally he scoffed at my 35mm format tilt shift lens and he set about taking several photos each requiring considerable time to not only adjust exposure, focus but also the tilt and shift of his lens.

I would love to see what he achieved as 4″x5″ negatives produce beautiful large images full of detail which is not possible with current digital cameras.

I couldn’t resist the irony as I quickly made a few adjustments to mine and took this “snap” of him – purposely making him the focus and blurring the building – this is one of the benefits of the tilt-shift lens – you can alter the plane of focus – including rotating the tilt of the lens as I have done here:

tilt effect

I have added a bit of vignetting in Lightoom and converted to monotone in PS but no selective blurring or sharpening in PS was used. That’s his massive backpack he uses to carry his large format equipment – part of the price to pay for getting the best image quality.

Now to demonstrate another of the uses for this lens – by using shift, not only can we avoid converging lines by being able to keep the camera sensor plane parallel to the subject plane, but we can avoid self-portraits when photographing reflecting surfaces such as windows.

self-portrait window

Now with a bit of shift, we can get:

shift lens

For more tilt shift photos see here for my main index of Canon images by lens