Olympus OM-D camera secrets – Ten hidden menu tricks to make life easier

Written by Gary on December 25th, 2017

One of the most frequently questions I get asked is HOW DO YOU SET THIS OPTION? I CAN’T FIND IT ANYWHERE!

All of the Olympus OM-D and PEN cameras are incredibly customisable, and whilst this makes them very versatile, the down side is that this requires more menu options and this, compounded with the ever increasing number of functions available has resulted in the menu system become complex and often non-intuitive to navigate, partly thanks to largely sticking to an historic menu structure – although it still beats the Sony menus.

The title is a bit of a misnomer – none of these are actually hidden in the invisible sense – they are just often hard to find, and often to achieve a single goal requires delving into different parts of the menu system. Some do become disabled in certain modes but that is a different story.

Thankfully, with the Olympus E-M1 Mark II, Olympus have changed the menus a little to avoid the need to have to scroll through each sub menu to hunt for an item.

Tip 1: activate the Live Super Control Panel (SCP)

The Live Super Control Panel (Live SCP) is my favorite go to interface for changing picture taking settings quickly.

This is made possible by ensuring cogwheel menu D1, Control Settings, P/A/S/M has the Live SCP checked and Live Control unchecked.

When in either P/A/S/M mode on the top dial, pressing the OK button in normal picture taking mode will bring up the SCP interface (as long as flash RC Mode in camera 2 menu is turned OFF in which case the RC Mode screen will display and you need to press INFO button to display the SCP screen).

Whilst you could have Live SCP checked for the other modes (iAUTO and ART), it makes more sense to use the other options, Live Guide, and Art Menu respectively, for these modes.

Tip 2: simplify the interface by removing rarely used function options

There can be a multitude of function options to trawl through, so here is how you can reduce them.

The “Drive” setting:

Delve into the cogwheel menu D1 and open up the drive/self timer settings section where you can check or uncheck various drive options you would like displayed in the drive setting options.

My preference is to nearly always use electronic 1st shutter mode (the diamond modes) as this will not adversely affect your images (although some suggest there are artefacts when shooting in LED lighting), and for shutter speeds slower than 1/320th second it will eliminate the mechanical shutter-induced sensor shake which may result in images being less sharp than they could be. There are times when I may use a full silent electronic shutter, so I would leave this option in for usual drive and for burst rates (which are for faster burst rates) but perhaps not for the self-timer modes.

Thus I would deactivate the following options:

  • normal low burst (just leave the diamond and silent L burst active)
  • normal self-timer for 2sec, 12sec and custom
  • silent self-timer for 2sec, 12sec and custom (it would be rare to need a silent mode on a tripod with a self timer – but you may have a use for these, I can’t think of any as the HiRes mode has its own built-in self timer option)

The “Picture mode” setting:

The Picture Mode is used to vary how the jpeg output is rendered and impacts on how the camera meters the exposure, perhaps the white balance, and can impact on the AF speed depending upon the select level of contrast.

If you shoot RAW mode, then this setting is mainly to help you pre-visualise and in some situations help AF and exposure, as the RAW files can be used to create these styles in Olympus Viewer on your computer.

You can set the Picture mode for the next photo via the Live SCP or via the main camera menu which allows you to also customise each of the Picture Modes.

You can decide which of these Picture Modes are visibly available in the options by going to cogwheel menu D1 and open up the Picture Mode section

Historically, the main picture modes most photographers used here are:

  • Vivid – this is my preferred mode as it adds more contrast to enable slightly faster AF function
  • Natural – I’m not sure I have much use for this
  • Portrait – I might use this if I am going to share a portrait jpeg before I get back to my computer
  • Muted – I’m not sure I have much use for this
  • Monochrome – this is handy if one wishes to previsualise use of filters in B&W work, or for infrared photography using an IR filter, and by eliminating the B G color channels, the auto exposure is less likely to blow out the red channel

i-Enhance is designed to maximise dynamic range in the captured jpeg, while e-Portrait adds further “flattering” portrait look to your jpgs – you may wish to uncheck these and exclude them for simplicity, but use them if it suits your style.

“Custom” Picture Mode allows you to effectively create your own extra setting while using any of the above Picture Modes with a custom contrast, gradation, etc. This could allow you to quickly change from one version of a Picture Mode to another (eg. you could effectively have two “Vivid” modes each with different saturation levels).

Color Creator style is quite unique to Olympus and allows you to have more extensive control over the “white balance”, color rendering, saturation, contrast curve, etc BUT remember it does mean you cannot select a White Balance option while this is active.

With the E-M1 Mark II, Olympus has added in all the ART filters to the Picture Mode option IN ADDITION to being able to select these via the “ART” mode on the PASM dial. If you rarely use these then by all means, you could uncheck these from the list of options BUT be aware, that doing so also removes them from the ART mode options (but not from ART bracketing).

Tip 3: optimise magnified focus functions

Occasionally, autofocus is difficult, fails, or keeps focusing on a different subject, and in these situations, you need to resort to manual focus, and for accurate manual focus, it pays to activate the magnified view screen, or at least have focus peaking active.

As an aside, if not using a tripod, then ensuring image stabiliser is ON is greatly beneficial.

I prefer to allocate one of the function buttons to the task of activating magnified view (you could let the camera do it automatically when it detects you moving the MF ring, but I find this problematic as it switches off too quickly).

In the cogwheel menu B, you will find the Buttons item – choose a desired button (I usually use Fn2) and set it to Magnify.

Then you just press the allocated button once to bring up the magnify region (use the arrow keys to move this around) and press it again to enter magnify mode (use the top dial to change the degree of magnification), adjust focus then either take the shot or exit Magnify mode by pressing OK button.

There are some useful settings which can assist you further in this mode:

  • cogwheel menu C2: Half Way Rls With IS = ON
    • this will ensure the image stabiliser will be activated whenever the magnify screen is displayed, or the shutter release button is half pressed, this makes it MUCH easier to visualise your manual focus accuracy
  • cogwheel menu A3 MF Assist:
    • Magnify = ON (magnify screen automatically activated when MF ring moved but turns off only a short time after you stop turning the MF ring – hence I like my dedicated button for magnify to help me when MF is more difficult or I want to use LV Close Up mode 2)
    • Peaking = ON (focus peaking will automatically be activated when MF ring moved even if not in magnify mode (ie. Magnify = OFF)
  • cogwheel menu D2, LV Close Up Settings:
    • LV Close Up Mode:
      • LV Close Up Mode 1 will close the magnify screen when shutter button is half pressed
      • LV Close Up Mode 2 is my preferred option as this will activate S-AF while still in magnify mode even in MF mode allowing more precise AF when the AF is activated (either the shutter button half press or the allocated AFL button if you have set “back button AF” using cogwheel A1 menu, AEL/AFL to M3) – NB. does not work if magnify screen was brought up automatically – only works when magnify screen is activated manually with a button.
    • Live View Boost = ON will allow your viewfinder to be optimised for brightness when in magnified mode
  • cogwheel menu D3, peaking settings – can make the focus peaking easier to visualise by changing its color, etc.

Tip 4: create a “back button” autofocus lock mode:

Frequently, you may wish to use the camera’s AF to gain focus but then wait before you take the shot, but if you do this in the usual default mode, half pressing the shutter button to take the shot will result in the camera again trying to lock autofocus immediately before the shot and this could delay the shot or make you lose focus if your subject is moving, etc.

Professional photographers have long addressed this issue by re-allocating AF from the half-press shutter to a rear function button – hence the “back button” focus.

This is very easily achieved on Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras by putting the camera into MF mode (NOT the lens MF clutch which is available on some Olympus lenses) and then pressing your allocated function button to request the camera to activate AF temporarily.

BUT for this to work you need to:

  • set cogwheel A1 menu, AEL/AFL to M3 – I usually have this set to S1/C2/M3, so that in S-AF mode, the half-press shutter button activates S-AF as per usual, and in C-AF mode, the half-press shutter button activates C-AF as per usual, and in MF mode the AFL/AEL function is required to activate S-AF, AND,
  • allocate a rear function button to AEL/AFL – this is done via cogwheel B1 menu Buttons – I usually allocate the button which has AEL/AFL marked on it (on the original E-M5 there was no such button and the closest was Fn1 button)

Tip 5: Generate the desired size jpegs for those documents you need to “scan”:

99% of the time I just shoot RAW files and I use Lightroom or some other software to generate the jpegs.

But sometimes you just need to get it done quickly without post-processing, or the material you are shooting does not require the extra size overheads of RAW files or large jpegs, for example, if you just need to photograph a hundred documents and they only need to be 1200 pixels wide, then you can change your File size and quality to just a small jpeg with normal compression – but how do you do this?

Simple, just delve into the menu system again:

  • cogwheel menu G: first icon setting which is the jpeg quality for each of the 4 jepg custom settings where for each setting you allocate a size (large, medium, small) and a compression quality  which affects file size in Mb and the degree of compression artefacts (Super Fin, Fine, Normal, Basic).
  • cogwheel menu G:pixel count setting which allows you to allocate how many pixels for each of the medium and small size jpegs.

Then when you go to camera 1 menu and choose the File size and quality (these are icons), you will have a choice of the 4 jpeg options you have set above with or without a RAW file.

Don’t forget that whenever you are not using RAW files, you need to pay particular attention to the Picture Mode setting and white balance setting if these will be important for your output.

Be aware though that if you don’t include a large jpeg as one of the file types (eg. only shoot RAW or shoot with a small jpeg only), you will have a highly compressed image to zoom in on during playback which makes it hard to assess critical focus at 10-14x zoom until you get back to the computer – or you go to the trouble of creating an in-camera RAW edit to a large LF jpeg.

Tip 6: Display highlight/shadow warning and Live Histogram in Live View

Whether you are shooting in manual exposure mode or an auto exposure mode, it is very handy to be able to see if any of the highlights in areas where you want details will be blown out with the selected exposure BEFORE you take the shot so you can adjust the exposure more efficiently than is possible with any current dSLR.

Severely underexposed regions will have blue blinkies while blown highlights will have red blinkies.

To enable this, you must first ensure the extremely hard to find menu item for this is activated:

  • cogwheel menu D1, Info Settings:LV Info:Custom 1 or 2: check the Highlights and Shadow option AND the Live Histogram option
  • NOTE: you can set the exposure parameters for this display in case you want a more conservative warning such as setting the highlight warning to display for a channel value of greater than 245 rather than the maximum value of 255 – see cogwheel D3, Histogram settings

Now when you are composing your shot, just use the INFO button to toggle through the displays until it displays the Live Histogram which will also display the shadow/highlight blinkies as well as Live Histogram for the area covered by the selected AF region which is displayed as green in the Live Histogram – very handy indeed!

Tip 7: capture better fireworks images by using Live Composite mode

New Year’s Eve is coming and that means firework displays – the Live Composite mode can provide a unique way to capture night images as you determine the base exposure for the ambient environment while the camera adds each subsequent firework to your image – also works well for star trails and car head light trails.

Unfortunately, there is no really intuitive way to use Live Composite – although it is easy once you are aware of how to find it and how to set the exposures. Of course, you will need a tripod for this mode.

You access Live Composite by adjusting shutter speed – take it past the 60 secs (oh, yes, Olympus is the ONLY camera brand that has a timed 60sec exposure – all others stop at 30secs then you need to resort to a cumbersome BULB mode and they don’t have a Live BULB or Live Timed to make this easier either – this is another reason why many night photographers love Olympus cameras) and you get BULB, then Live Timed, then Live Composite.

The first shot will become your base exposure according to the ISO and aperture you have set, while the exposure duration for each image including the base exposure is set in a hidden menu:

  • cogwheel E menu: Composite Settings – this is your exposure duration

The camera will keep taking repeat exposures until you terminate it by pressing the shutter button again once you are happy with the image on the screen BUT only new brighter parts of each subsequent image get added to the original image – this helps to avoid the base ambient regions from becoming over-exposed with a long exposure.

For more information see my wiki page.

Tip 8: E-M1 Mark II users only: set a focus range limiter within the camera

Many lenses have a focus range setting which allows you to speed up the acquisition of autofocus by not allowing the lens to travel the full range of focus, and this can also ensure the camera does not focus on a foreground or background object depending on the situation and focus limiter option.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II takes this a massive step further by becoming the ONLY camera to allow you to dial in a closest focus AND a distant focus on any compatible lens. You get to specify the range from zero to infinity with 0.1m precision!

This can be incredibly useful – imagine trying to use AF on fish swimming behind glass and the camera always locking focus on the glass instead of the much more difficult moving fish – now you have a method whereby you can tell the camera to ignore anything closer than 0.5m for instance, and ignore anything further away than 1.5m – now that is way cool indeed!

Likewise at sports events you can adjust it so that it does not focus on the background or foreground spectators.

This will work in both S-AF and C-AF modes.

First of all you need to work out what your focus range should be:

  • option 1: guess it (eg. 10-50m)
  • option 2: use the camera to calculate the distance:
    • ensure your AF limiters are turned OFF
    • set AF mode to Preset MF and press INFO then you can AF on whatever spots you like and it will give you the distance read out on screen with 0.1m precision – memorise these distances.
    • don’t forget to put the AF mode back to S-AF or C-AF.

Next, you need to set the distances in the AF Limiter option via the hidden menu item:

  • cogwheel A1 menu, AF Limiter
    • you get to set up to 3 preset ranges – just dial in the near and far distance in meters and make sure you leave the menu with it turned ON to one of the settings and you are done!

See more information on my wiki page here.

Tip 9: View finder is too dark shooting indoor flash – turn on Live View BOOST!

The default setting for your viewfinder display is an almost WYSIWYG simulation of the end jpeg image output – fantastic for pre-visualisation of what you are wanting to achieve and for roughly assessing exposure.

BUT start shooting in low light or indoors with flash units in manual exposure mode to ensure ambient light is very under-exposed so it does not affect your image and suddenly you can’t see much as the viewfinder is only displaying what the ambient exposure will look like – and that is DARK!

Fortunately, Olympus has kindly added a Live View BOOST function which essentially is designed to provide a bright viewfinder image whatever your exposure is as long as the scene is not extremely dark and beyond the limits of the Live Boost gain.

In fact with the latest cameras they have added a 2nd Live Boost option designed for extremely dark conditions but this is not so easy to use as it adds a LONG viewfinder refresh lag time – so if you are re-composing or trying to focus – this must be done very slowly! I usually prefer Live Boost 1 for my astro shots due to the much faster viewfinder refresh rate.

Now where is that Live Boost function and how do I enable it?

Well it is pretty easy once you know where to look:

  • cogwheel D menu, Live View Boost
    • on the early cameras such as the Four Thirds dSLRs, and the E-M5, you only had one option On/Off
    • in the later cameras, you can set this value to Off/1/2 depending upon which mode you are in
    • you will probably want it off for “Others” and “Live Composite”, and ON for “Bulb/Time” and temporarily for “Manual shooting” – I generally shoot all my flash photos in Manual exposure as the shutter speed can be used to determine how bright the ambient scene is displayed on the final image, and the aperture for how shallow the depth of field will be. If using manual mode in brighter light, I would set Live Boost to OFF.

One big downside to using Live Boost is you no longer get to see the ambient exposure nor any Picture Mode effects, but at least you can see your subject in darker rooms better if you don’t have modelling lamps.

Tip 10: Set up your own custom modes

Prior to the E-M1 Mark II, the Olympus cameras allow you to save your current settings as one of four custom user defined modes called MySet, which although not to hard to find in the menu – setting them is via the camera 1 menu Reset/Myset you just have to make sure you hit OK enough times to lock them in to a particular MySet.

These cameras required you to allocate a Myset to a button to be able to use it (yes, that would be in cogwheel menu B – Buttons).

Thankfully, the E-M1 Mark II has made life so much easier:

  • the Mysets are now called Custom Modes and you now only have 3 instead of 4 but that should suffice for most people
  • setting these are now through the renamed camera 1 menu Reset / Custom Modes
  • importantly, you are now able to allocate these Custom Modes to one of the three new Custom modes on the PASM dial marked C1, C2 and C3 which makes accessing them so much faster and much more intuitive

Now I might set up custom modes as follows:

  • C1: my standard way of shooting, ISO 200, AWB, IS on auto (or 1 if using earlier cameras), Aperture priority, electronic 1st shutter, S-AF, single point AF, Live Boost OFF
  • C2: for shooting sports with C-AF, ISO 800, AWB, AF region expanded and burst mode active, Live Boost OFF
  • C3: perhaps the third mode for Milky Way astroscapes with Live Boost ON, ISO 1600, White Balance set to 3400K, IS off, self-timer set to 2 secs, manual exposure with shutter set to 20secs, RAW mode, etc.

More tips:

You can see a LOT more information on how to get the most out of your Olympus camera on my wiki here.

I would also highly recommend J. Andrzej Wrotniak ‘s excellent and exhaustive Olympus OM-D E-M1 II account of all the menu items and his suggested settings (these don’t always match my preferences but we all have different requirements and needs).

Hope you all have a safe festive season and have fun shooting.

 

 

Pro photographer and YouTube photo educator, Joe Edelman switches from Nikon to Olympus

Written by Gary on December 3rd, 2017

Joe Edelman is one of my favorite YouTube photography tutorial bloggers.

He is a professional photographer who has used Nikon gear for some 40 years, but now has just announced he has switched systems to Olympus gear – primarily, The Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark II and the pro lenses.

See his video for his explanation of why he changed systems and don’t forget to follow his YouTube channel for lots of great photography tutorials. A large part of his decision is the fun element that the smaller Olympus system brings without substantial loss of image quality – an important reason why I also prefer to use Olympus instead of my Canon or Sony full frame pro gear.

For my point of view, a critical aspect of creating photographs is you the photographer – if you are not in the mood, stressed, or overburdened by the weight or cost of your system, then no matter how good your camera gear is, your photography will suffer and lack an optimum level of inspirational creativity. We live in a modern age where modern sensors are perfectly adequate for most photographic chores and small, light, mobile, more affordable gear is often the best choice.

 

More Great Ocean Road imagery with the Olympus OM-D E-M1

Written by Gary on December 3rd, 2017

Another trip to Victoria’s beautiful Great Ocean Road and the Twelve Apostle region, this time I left my Sony full frame gear at home as it didn’t really add that much image quality over my Micro Four Thirds gear and just added weight and complexity – both of which gets in the way of my photography – and after all, the whole point of the week away was to relax and enjoy the remote rugged beauty of this coastline before summer hits.

So here are a few images taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark I camera and the holy trinity of f/2.8 Olympus zoom lenses.

sunset

Rainbow at sunset, hand held, Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/25th sec, f/5.6, no optical filters.

blue hour

Blue hour, tripod, Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 at f/8, ISO 100, 25sec.

blue hour

Blue hour, tripod, Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 at f/8, ISO 200, 50sec.

selfie

Loch Ard Gorge and the selfie – this guy jumped the fences, disregarded the warnings of the cliff might suddenly give way under the weight of a human, and walked along a narrow “path” for about an hour’s worth of shots – some like this, some with raincoat on, some with his girlfriend standing there in a rain coat.

Earlier in the day I saw other tourists (male and female) doing a similar thing at the Twelve Apostles, but totally oblivious to the fact that the top of the rock stack upon which they had managed to climb to was totally undermined by a tunnel at the peak, meaning they were only standing on about a foot thickness of rock – one day soon a tourist will fall to their death from that rock stack – it is inevitable.

Loch Ard

The awesome Loch Ard Gorge, site of a shipwreck in the 19th century where all drowned apart from a young lady passenger and a young seaman who managed to get to this beach and then the seaman managed to climb the gorge and get help. Today, it is a beautiful place for tourists to explore and relax paddling in the relatively calm waters.

Razorback

The Razorback at sunset. Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/20th sec, f/5.6, no optical filters. Cropped to 1:1.

 

 

Cactus releases firmware to allow Micro Four Thirds cameras to have radio remote TTL/HSS/remote power control and remote zoom control of Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Sigma flashes

Written by Gary on December 2nd, 2017

Cactus Imaging have just announced release of new firmware for their Cactus V6II radio transceivers which will allow Micro Four Thirds users the ability to use Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Sigma or Olympus flashes (or a Cactus RF60X flash) in remote TTL mode with Super FP/High Speed Sync capability as well as remote manual flash power output control or zoom control.

This means you just need to buy two Cactus V6II radio transceivers, install the Olympus X-TTL firmware on EACH radio transceiver, attach one to the hotshoe of your Micro Four Thirds camera, and the other to the remote flash hotshoe and hopefully most of it will self-configure by detecting which brand flash you are using.

No more annoying optical signalling between your camera and flash units!

If you are like me and have a couple of Canon 580EXII flashes lying around, these can now be used with your Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, either mounted on camera (on top of a transceiver) or remotely on a second transceiver and used with full TTL or manual control up to 100m away! I have tested it in my lounge room and it seems to function well.

Of course, you can buy a few transceivers to operate a number of remote flashes and control them all from the camera – very nice indeed!

The bad news is that for photographers with more than one brand camera, they will need to have a different firmware in the transceiver for each camera brand and the remote flash transceiver needs to have the same firmware as the camera (NOT the flash) – the exception here is if you have a Sony camera, you need the special dedicated Cactus V6IIS Sony transceiver for the camera, and a Cactus V6II for a Canon, Nikon or Olympus flash but in this case the flash transceiver must be loaded with Fuji or Sigma firmware for TTL compatibility with these flashes. Fortunately, you can install different firmware as your needs change – you are not stuck with one camera brand firmware for a Cactus V6II, but it seems that the memory inside the Cactus V6II is not sufficient to allow Cactus to create a multi-brand camera TTL firmware to avoid this issue – guess we may have to wait for the Cactus V6III for that to be possible. However, given that the Fuji and Sigma firmware works with the Sony firmware and that Cactus have indicated they had to create a substantial change to the firmware design with the recently released Pentax firmware which presumably the carried over to the Olympus firmware, once the Sony, Fuji and Sigma firmware are updated to this new change, they might be able to be made compatible with the Pentax and Olympus firmware so that a Sony with a Cactus V6IIS might be able to control a Cactus V6II with Olympus firmware attached to a Canon flash. Confusing yes, but in the end it should just work and be more simple than the current incompatibility.

 

 

Black Friday discount sales: which Micro Four Thirds lens to buy?

Written by Gary on November 24th, 2017

Following on from my last post, the Black Friday sales discounts might be enticing you to splurge out on a new Micro Four Thirds lens – but which one should you buy?

Don’t worry, unlike most other websites these days, clicking on the links below will not take you to an online retailer so I can make a few extra cents, but to my photo wiki where there is a lot more information and links to reviews, etc.

The best lens to buy depends upon a lot of things such as:

  • your budget
  • which camera system you are using?
    • Panasonic lenses work best on Panasonic cameras and Olympus lenses work best on Olympus cameras – although they are interchangeable however, you may lose some functionality, in particular, optical image stabilisation and AF speed, and perhaps some special functions such as continuous AF capability, ProCapture mode, Focus Stacking, etc.
  • what do you already own?
  • what do you like to shoot?
  • what would you like to shoot if you had the gear?

A wide aperture prime lens to really maximise your low light and DOF options:

  • Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 is one of my favorite lenses for shallow depth of field work, portraits, creative photos, etc and is incredibly sharp, but the heaviest of those in this category. I expect Olympus may bring out a Pro weathersealed version with wider aperture in the next 1-2 yrs.
  • Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.8 is a lovely little portrait lens, but if you want even shallower depth of field at this field of view, you may wish to hold off until you can afford the bigger, much more expensive, weathersealed Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.2 lens.
  • Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.8 is another lovely little lens, which is great for environmental portraits and street photography, but as with the 45mm f/1.8, you may wish to hold off until you can afford the bigger, much more expensive, weathersealed Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2 lens. If you are a Panasonic user, consider the Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 lens instead.
  • Olympus mZD 17mm f/1.8 is a nice little lens for street photographers who want a little more field of view than a 25mm, but if you want even shallower depth of field at this field of view, you may wish to hold off until you can afford the bigger, much more expensive, weathersealed Olympus mZD 17mm f/1.2 lens. If you are a Panasonic user, consider the Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 lens instead.
  • Olympus mZD 12mm f/2 is a lovely little wide angle lens, great to add into a hiking bag, or as an option if you are not wanting to take a 12-40mm zoom lens along . This is the most expensive of the non-weathersealed lenses outlined here, and probably not one that I would recommend purchasing unless you really need that field of view in such a compact size – if you are happy to have a bigger, heavier lens, then consider either a 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens instead which will be much more versatile, and weathersealed, or consider an even more specialist, and more expensive a lens which is even better for low light and astro work, while being weathersealed, the Panasonic 12mm f/1.4 lens.

Upgrade to a better zoom lens:

Professional photographers generally have the “holy trinity” of f/2.8 zooms – ultra wide angle, standard and telephoto – you can get this for Micro Four Thirds too and it is much smaller, light, less expensive, and with smaller filters to carry, but you do lose the shallow DOF options that a full frame holy trinity will get you – if shallow DOF is important, then consider a prime lens as above.

The most used lens  – the standard zoom:

  • the  Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens is a very handy lens and a significant upgrade to a budget kit lens which often comes with the camera as it adds better low light AF and shooting capabilities thanks to the f/2.8 aperture, and excellent optical quality and weathersealing.
  • Panasonic users may prefer the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 lens
  • BUT WAIT, there is another option which may mean you only have to take one lens on your travels, and this could be a big factor, particularly if you travel to areas with dust or inclement weather where changing a lens is problematic – enter the new and very popular Olympus mZD 12-100mm f/4 lens – yes there is a compromise as it is bigger and is not as good at low light as a f/2.8 lens, but it has better image stabilisation when used on compatible Olympus cameras which allow Dual IS.

The next most popular zoom – the telephoto zoom:

  • what can I say, I just love my Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 lens with its extendable lens hood which makes it fantastic in the rain, and once you get past 120mm or so, you can get lovely shallow DOF portraits with it – and it is beautifully sharp! This is the lens I generally leave on my camera as I hike on day hikes (its a bit too big for overnight hikes carrying tents, etc – although I have done this but I am getting too old to carry 18kg of camping and photo gear with food and water) hoping to catch sight of some wildlife, while often still being wide enough to get a great landscape shot. You can buy this in a kit with a 1.4x teleconverter, but I generally shoot without the teleconverter on.
  • if you are really into wildlife, and particularly birds, you may want something with more reach, such as the Panasonic 100-400mm f/4-6.3 – yes it is not a f/2.8 holy trinity lens but it covers a fantastic zoom range for wildlife. If you cannot afford this, then consider the Panasonic 100-300mm mark II although it is not good in low light and does have more purple fringing.
  • if the above lenses are too big and heavy for you, you also have the choice of the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 lens, although if I was using this lens, I would personally prefer the Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 for more DOF control at the expense of zoom control.

The third of the holy trinity – the ultra-wide zoom:

Some people may rarely use such a lens, others use it very frequently – it all depends upon your style and needs.

  • for low light or creative photography, the Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 is a great weathersealed lens, BUT any lens covering such a wide field of view as 14mm in full frame terms as this lens does, means it cannot be used with standard filters – you have to buy large third party filter adapters if you wish to use filters
  • if you are into landscape work and mainly shooting at f/5.6-f/8, or street photography, then a more useful alternative may be the Panasonic 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0 lens.

Now a few specialist lenses:

A pancake lens for social events:

  • I love my Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens for this, when combined with an E-M5II or E-M10, it will fit in a large coat pocket discretely and its wide aperture allows available light work, or bounce flash work as well as allowing some night urban photography

A weathersealed macro lens:

  • the Olympus mZD 60mm f/2.8 macro lens is a lovely, light, high quality, dedicated macro lens well suited to nature macro work outdoors but more expensive than the next two budget options
  • there is also the Olympus 30mm f/3.5 macro lens which can give greater magnification and is cheaper but you need to get much closer to the subject so not as good for skittish insects which will fly away – best suited for studio macros, or where you wish to create a more environmental macro with the wider field of view showing more background.
  • on a budget, the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 kit lens is weathersealed and offers 0.36x macro which is adequate for many people and thus is a reasonable option for overnight hikers who need a light, versatile lens that can do most things (just not low light work), and is not as sharp as the Pro lenses.

A fisheye lens:

The super telephoto lens:

  • there are a lot of lenses around which give 300mm focal length (600mm reach in full frame terms), but none offer the low light capabilities and optical excellence of the superb Olympus mZD 300mm f/4 lens with its 6.5EV image stabilisation.
  • If you own a Panasonic camera and have lots of money, the newly announced Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 lens with teleconverter looks to be a big competitor to the Olympus 300mm in image quality, and has the advantage of being shorter but with less reach – perfect for sports events where a 200mm lens is the general maximum length allowed in the stadium!

Manual focus lenses:

There are a multitude of these around, often much cheaper than AF equivalents, and most can be used on these cameras either directly or via an adapter – you can see Zhongyi Mitakon’s online store for their lenses as an example – yes, sorry for linking to an online store, but this one was the most efficient link for you, alternatively most MF lenses in MFT mount are listed on my wiki page here.

I hope this has given you a good overview!

Have fun and explore – there is a list of lenses for Micro Four Thirds on my wiki here.

 

Black Friday discounts – should you upgrade to an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II? What will you gain?

Written by Gary on November 23rd, 2017

It’s Black Friday and that means many stores are having significant discounts on camera gear – even here in Australia!

That means you can get hundreds of dollars off the usual price of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and this is a very enticing prospect for many who have earlier models of OM-D cameras such as the E-M1 mark I, E-M5 Mark II, or even the one that started the amazing popularity of the OM-D’s – the E-M5 original version or indeed the budget E-M10’s – but what will you gain in upgrading?

Advantages over the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II:

  • a built-in grip making it much more ergonomic to use for larger lenses without having to add in an optional grip
  • further improved image quality – 1 stop better at high ISO, more dynamic range, 20mp
  • far better sports and moving subject capabilities:
    • ability to autofocus on moving subjects AND has excellent subject tracking in burst mode thanks to the PDAF technology on the sensor
    • substantially improved AF tweaks such as ability to set a focus range AF limiter in-camera so that foreground and background subjects are ignored by the AF algorithms
    • improved high ISO performance
    • new “Pro-Capture” mode captures up to the last 14 images prior to you pressing the shutter fully
    • 18fps full size RAW with C-AF using electronic shutter (C-AF not really possible on E-M5’s)
    • 60fps full size RAW with locked S-AF using electronic shutter instead of 11fps
    • 10fps full size RAW with C-AF using mechanical shutter (C-AF not really possible on E-M5’s but dodgy CDAF tracking at 5fps)
    • 15fps full size RAW with locked S-AF using mechanical shutter
  • further improved image stabiliser
  • better viewfinder
  • larger, longer life battery
  • better access to MySet settings (now on the dial) and can save and load to PC
  • two SD card slots, one with UHS-II  SD support for faster cards and much better burst rate and 4K video performance, the 2nd card slot is critical for pros who need a backup of the shots in case one card gets corrupted before they have backed it up!
  • improved autoISO function – new Lowest Shutter Speed Setting and can use in manual exposure mode with exposure compensation
  • improved HiRes mode
  • 4K 30p video instead of just 1080p with lovely image stabilisation which is great for run and gun videos

Advantages over the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark I:

  • further improved image quality – 1 stop better at high ISO, more dynamic range, 20mp
  • substantially improved sports and moving subject capabilities:
    • improved ability to autofocus on moving subjects AND has excellent subject tracking in burst mode thanks to the substantially increased number of PDAF points on the sensor and better algorithms
    • substantially improved AF tweaks such as ability to set a focus range AF limiter in-camera so that foreground and background subjects are ignored by the AF algorithms
    • improved high ISO performance
    • new “Pro-Capture” mode captures up to the last 14 images prior to you pressing the shutter fully
    • 18fps full size RAW with C-AF using electronic shutter
    • 60fps full size RAW with locked S-AF using electronic shutter instead of 11fps
    • 10fps full size RAW with C-AF using mechanical shutter
    • 15fps full size RAW with locked S-AF using mechanical shutter
  • further improved image stabiliser
  • better viewfinder
  • larger, longer life battery
  • better access to MySet settings (now on the dial) and can save and load to PC
  • two SD card slots, one with UHS-II  SD support for faster cards and much better burst rate and 4K video performance, , the 2nd card slot is critical for pros who need a backup of the shots in case one card gets corrupted before they have backed it up!
  • improved autoISO function – new Lowest Shutter Speed Setting and can use in manual exposure mode with exposure compensation
  • HiRes mode
  • 4K 30p video instead of just 1080p with lovely image stabilisation which is great for run and gun videos

Advantages over the Olympus OM-D E-M5 original version:

  • as for the improvements over the E-M5 mark II outlined above, plus the features of the E-M5 Mark II:
    • WiFi remote control by smartphones
    • Live Boost II mode
    • swivel, articulating LCD screen
    • mechanical shutter to 1/8000th sec instead of 1/4000th sec
    • freezeproof to minus 11deg C
    • anti-shock mode using electronic first-curtain shutter to reduce shutter shock during sequential shooting
    • 2×2 switch
    • auto HDR
    • in camera keystone correction option
    • improved intervalometer
    • improved focus peaking
    • PC sync port
    • Live Composite mode
    • additional ART filters
    • colour creator picture mode control
    • HiRes mode

Is the upgrade worth it to you?

That all depends upon how often you will use the new or improved features and whether these will change your photography and give you new avenues to explore.

As a general rule, one should not spend too much on a camera as it devalues rapidly over a 5yr period, but if you are using it frequently then even $AU2000 may be a great opportunity to lash out and change your options and abilities.

It is a very versatile camera, and it has major advantages over larger more expensive dSLRs, but at the end of the day – only you can decide if the upgrade is worth it to you.

Check out my blog post on how good the AF tracking is using the superb 300mm lens at a water ski event – post is here.

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Panasonic announces new pro-level mirrorless camera to rival the E-M1 Mark II – the Panasonic G9

Written by Gary on November 8th, 2017

Panasonic has its flagship camera, the Panasonic GH-5 primarily aimed at videographers, with this new Panasonic G9 Micro Four Thirds camera, it has taken most of these features and added extra stills photography features and bundled it all into an impressive smaller, lighter camera which is also, importantly, less expensive than both the GH-5 or the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II.

Specs compared to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II:

Both cameras offer a 20mp sensor with in-camera 5 axis image stabilisation, 6.5EV Dual IS and weathersealing with sports features of fast burst rates with continuous autofocus in either mechanical shutter or electronic shutter.

The newly announced Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 OIS lens may well make a compelling reason for many to look at purchasing the G9 (I for one would love a 200mm f/2.8 OIS lens with 6.5EV IS but alas, at $US2999 that is not likely to be an option for me) – although I presume Olympus are working on a similar lens – it is just extremely frustrating for Micro Four Thirds users than Olympus and Panasonic refuse to allow cross-compatibility of their optical image stabilisation functionality, aperture ring functionality and DFD AF functionality. I can understand the commercial reasons but, seriously guys, you promised a Micro Four Thirds system – please make it completely cross-compatible!

Panasonic G9 Olympus OM-D E-M1 II
price $US1699 $US1999
electronic shutter burst rates 20mp RAW: 20fps CAF, 60fps SAF; 18mp 30fps, 8mp 60fps 20mp RAW: 18fps CAF; 60fps SAF;
mechanical shutter burst rates 9fps CAF; 12fps SAF; 10fps CAF; 15fps SAF;
EVF 3.68mDot; 120fps; 0.86x mag. 120fps, 2.36M-dot EVF; 0.74x mag
AF points 225 CDAF only; DFD CAF 121 DUAL crosstype PDAF and CDAF;
Pre-capture mode images prior to shutter release: 0.4sec of RAW files up to last 14 RAW files
4K video 30p/60p 24/30p 237Mbps
HiRes mode: 8 image 80mp 8 image 50mp
Dual card slots both are UHS-II SD card slots only one is UHS-II SD card slot
weight: 579g 574g
other features: top LCD status screen; USB charging; Dual IS and DFD CAF only with Panasonic lenses; in-camera Preset MF focus range settings; Live Composite; LiveTimed; 3 MySets on top dial; Dual IS only with Olympus OIS lenses
 

Why salt water and cameras don’t mix! A dead Sony a7Sii tear down by LensRentals

Written by Gary on November 8th, 2017

We all love the beach and getting down close to the waves for those epic long exposure seascapes with our ND filters on, and even I, with my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark I suffered the indignity of having an unexpected wave land on top of the camera whilst taking a shot several years ago, and a year later whilst crossing a stream, slipped on the rocks and even submerged it for a split second – fortunately, of all the camera manufacturers, the Olympus OM-D weathersealing is well known for how good it is compared with its peers.

Luckily, perhaps, I have not had any issues with this camera despite these events as well as many times when it was absolutely soaked in heavy rain conditions in the Korean mountains.

Nevertheless, despite its awesome weathersealing, I would not recommend stress testing it with salt water (even salt spray), nor submerging it, and even in wet conditions, you need to follow the advice from Olympus – ensure all covers are in place including the hotshoe cover.

No matter how weathersealed the camera, there is also the other big beach enemy – grains of sand finding their way under the focus ring and zoom ring – not even the superb Olympus weathersealed lenses are immune to this!

LensRentals has just posted a blog of what can happen inside a camera exposed to salt water – in this case the very expensive, supposedly weathersealed Sony a7SII which was returned to them dead, and the tear down of the camera shows how severe the salt damage was despite minimal signs on the outside, and why camera repairers will never repair them.

It seems the culprits may have been incomplete weathersealing around the battery door and the entire bottom of the camera, and, in addition, the camera strap lugs, dials, viewfinder and hotshoe are not fully weathersealed.

If failure does not happen immediately due to the volume of water leak, it is likely to happen over the next 6 weeks as corrosion ensues.

Check out their blog post here.

If you want tips of now to look after your camera – see my wiki page here.

If you really love your seascapes, perhaps take a cheaper or older camera instead, just in case the worst happens!

 

Melbourne Zombie Walk 2017 with the Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2

Written by Gary on November 4th, 2017

Although the crowds seemed smaller at this evolving event promoted by the City of Melbourne and the Brain Foundation, today’s Melbourne Zombie Walk 2017 was a fun family day out for all, although somehow I did get a bit sunburnt in the chilly breeze!

Here is a selection of available light portraits achieved through careful placement of my subjects with respect to the best light and background compositions, and then it was up to the zombies to do their bit and they were awesome as usual – far more colourful than Melbourne’s Derby Day – although I am sure I would have been even more sunburnt there!

These were all taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark I Micro Four Thirds camera with Olympus micro ZD 25mm f/1.2 PRO lens, mostly at f/1.2, no flash used, post-processed in Lightroom only.

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

zombies

Until next year!

 

Dynamic range comparison Olympus vs Canon 5D Mark IV vs Sony a7II vs Sony a7RIII vs Nikon D850 full frame cameras

Written by Gary on October 28th, 2017

There is a logical belief that full frame cameras provide substantially wider dynamic range than cropped sensor cameras such as the Micro Four Thirds cameras.

I stumbled upon this testing chart today and was blown away by the lack of difference at ISO levels above 200 when comparing the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera with these full frame cameras.

Way back in 2007, there was a dramatic difference – the Olympus Four Thirds dSLRs were handicapped with poorly performing Panasonic sensors which had substantially worse dynamic range than the 1.3x crop APS-H sensor in the pro dSLR, the Canon 1D Mark III which I had bought at the time to supplement the deficiencies of my Four Thirds system.

BUT, times have changed, and the dynamic range performance of the current models in the chart below are much improved over the Canon 1D Mark III, and surprisingly similar at ISO values over 200.

At ISO 50-100, the current full frame cameras do perform substantially better, but this difference is largely gone by ISO 250 – this is quite a revelation to me, particularly as I shoot 90% of my Olympus images at ISO 200-400, and generally shoot my Sony a7II at higher than that when shooting hand held in available light, but it would seem I am not gaining any substantial dynamic range in doing so!

Here is the link to the charts from Photons To Photos if you wish to play with them yourself.

ADDENDUM: adjustment for Olympus ISO variance issue.

As the stated ISO on Olympus cameras measures around 0.7EV LESS than those on Canon, Nikon and Sony full frame cameras (as per the Photons to Photos measurement and DxOMark measurements, and my real life testing), I have made a new chart which adjusts the Olympus E-M1 Mark II results to allow for this which pushes the line to the left a little and creates a little more difference in the dynamic range at a given ISO equivalence:

The dynamic range at ISO 400 or over on ANY of these full frame cameras is LESS than the dynamic range of the Olympus E-M1 Mark II when this is shot at its in-camera stated ISO levels of 100-200.

If you want substantially wider dynamic range on the full frame cameras you need to be shooting at ISO 100 – and this will probably mean tripod territory for many full frame situations given the aperture is likely to be smaller to gain the desired depth of field with slower shutter speeds, and their systems will not have the same image stabilisation capabilities as the Olympus camera.

The Olympus E-M1 Mark II with Olympus 17mm f/1.2 lens at ISO 200 can be hand held at much lower light levels than a Nikon D850 with a 35mm f/1.4 lens at f/2.4 and ISO 100!!