Why you should buy the new Olympus m.Zuiko 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens, and some alternatives

Written by Gary on October 26th, 2017

The reviewers testing the newly announced Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens are extremely impressed with the imagery it produces – sharp across the frame wide open at f/1.2 with minimal optical flaws and beautiful smooth “feathered” bokeh with a perfect wide open depth of field for most portraits.

It will be expensive at $US1199, which is a similar price as the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 but far more expensive, larger and heavier than the lovely, cute consumer level Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.8 lens.

Nikon and Canon full frame dSLR users will not be that impressed as it will not give as shallow a depth of field as their 85mm f/1.4 lenses (or in Canon’s case, their ultra expensive, very heavy, difficult to use and slowly focusing Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 lens), but not everything is about the most shallow depth of field one can get – there is far more than that which is important for most photography including portraiture – accurate eye AF, no camera shake, the right amount of depth of field for your subject, the bokeh quality, weathersealing, ergonomics, weight, size, cost, etc, etc.

If you look on websites such as 500px.com and check out the best portraiture – most of the professionals are using their full frame 85mm lenses at around f/2.4-2.8 to achieve sufficient depth of field – and the Olympus 45mm f/1.2 wide open will give this amount perfectly at f/1.2.

NB. each of the links on my blog posts will take you to my wikipedia which will give more details and links to reviews – unlike nearly all other photography websites these days, the links do NOT send you to online retail sites to annoy you and waste your time just so I can get paid another 10c, so please feel free to make the most of them – I write all this content for your benefit, so please use it.

The advantages over the Canon and Nikon dSLR options are:

  • probably better edge to edge sharpness with less flaws wide open – need to await testing
  • much better close focus – 0.5m (compared to 0.85m for the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4  and Sigma, and 0.95m for the Canon 85mm f/1.2)
  • 5-5.5EV image stabilisation (the Canon and Nikon dSLRs still do not have IS built in, however, Canon have just released a 85mm f/1.4 lens with 4EV optical IS )
  • a generally higher degree of weathersealing – good enough you could pour a bottle of water on it without worrying
  • manual focus clutch and lens function button
  • closest Eye AF for far more accurate and easier to autofocus on your subject’s nearest eye (Sony a7R III and Sony a9 however do offer an even better eye AF tracking system, while the Nikon D750 and D850 do have some Eye AF capabilities in the centre of the field)
  • a better run and gun movie mode experience thanks to better Live View AF with Movie image stabilisation
  • a much smaller and lighter system – the lens is only 410g and 85mm long with a 62mm filter, compared to a full frame Canon EF 85mm f/1.4 which is twice as heavy at 950g, and uses a very large, more expensive 77mm filter, and we have not factored in camera weight and size
  • price: $US1199 vs $US1599 for the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4 IS or Nikon 85mm f/1.4G, and $US1849 for the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II, while the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is $US1999 and a Canon 5D Mark IV, Nikon D850 or Sony a7RIII is around $US3299
  • benefits of the Olympus mirrorless system – eg. electronic viewfinder with its many benefits (eg. Live Histogram), Pro-Capture mode to avoid missing action shots, electronic burst rates of 18fps with AF and 60fps without AF, HiRes mode with minimal moire, etc

Advantages of Canon and Nikon full frame dSLRs with 85mm f/1.4 lenses:

  • ability to get more creative with even shallower depth of field
  • marginally more dynamic range and high ISO performance (but for a given depth of field, the ISO performance should be similar as one can use 2 EV lower ISO on the Olympus for the same exposure)
  • optical viewfinder
  • higher resolution single shot options (eg. 42mp)
  • access to professional camera repair and rental services

Summary:

An Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.2 lens will cost $US3199, and weigh 984g while a full frame Canikon dSLR with 85mm f/1.4 IS lens will cost $4899 and weigh twice as much at around 2kg!

I know which system I would like to be carrying around in a portrait shoot, and I would have almost enough money spare to have a backup camera body!

In the past a big factor in favor of Canon and Nikon was the ability to have radio remote TTL flash, but this has now been addressed by the Godox system for Olympus users, and soon Cactus will have their system working for Olympus as well.

One could go down the Sony a7RIII or Sony a9 mirrorless full frame path with an 85mm f/1.4 lens which would have a number of advantages over the Canon or Nikon dSLR options including amazingly good Eye AF tracking and built-in 5.5EV IS, but this again will be far more expensive (the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens is $US1799, or the much cheaper Sigma 85mm f/1.4 ART which is $US1199 but unfortunately is not weathersealed) and heavier than the Olympus kit.

At the end of the day, the Olympus kit will deliver for most purposes, and be much more fun and less burden, and a tired, stressed photographer is not going to be capturing the best portraits!

 

Olympus announce their new 17mm f/1.2 and 45mm f/1.2 PRO lenses with feathered bokeh design

Written by Gary on October 26th, 2017

Olympus have just officially announced two new f/1.2 M.Zuiko PRO prime lenses to join the very nice Olympus 25mm f/1.2 pro.

The new 17mm f/1.2 and 45mm f/1.2 PRO lenses are of similar build, size and weight as the 25mm lens with all three lenses offering superb weathersealing, manual focus clutch, Lens Fn button, lovely smooth bokeh, superb image quality, silent, fast and accurate AF, same price point of $US1199, and importantly, the same filter thread size of 62mm.

17mm

The 17mm f/1.2 lens is designed for feathered bokeh with the design approach which gives attractive bokeh without any of the light loss causes by the use of apodization filters in Fujifilm’s APD or Sony’s STF lenses. To achieve this it uses 15 elements in 11 groups including 1 Super ED, 3 ED, 1 ED-DSA, 1 EDA, 1 Super HR, 1 aspherical – a unique ED-DSA element, which has dual aspherical lenses formed from soft and hard-to-work extra low dispersion glass. They claim to be the only company currently able to do this.

See my wiki page here for full specs and links to reviews as they are announced.

45mm

The 45mm f/1.2 is also designed for feathered smooth bokeh and its depth of field wide open is perfect for proving the desirable ear to nose depth of field for portraits. It uses 14 elements in 10 groups including 1 ED, 4 HR, 1 aspherical – three optimally placed and bonded lens elements, including one ED lens, which compensate for typical problems on wide-aperture lenses like out-of-focus color bleeding (axial chromatic aberration) and peripheral color bleeding (magnification chromatic aberration).

See my wiki page here for full specs and links to reviews as they are announced.

In addition, Sigma has also announced their Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN lens for Micro Four Thirds, details of which can be found on my wiki page here.

 

Sony a7R III announced – will it trump the new Nikon D850 dSLR? Features side by side

Written by Gary on October 25th, 2017

Sony have just announced their new flagship high resolution mirrorless full frame camera – the Sony a7R III.

The camera and sensor are much the same as it’s predecessor, but almost every area has been substantially improved with Sony addressing most of the weaknesses to such an extent that it may limit the sales of its sports/wildlife mirrorless camera, the new Sony a9, and may well convert many potential Nikon D850 dSLR buyers over to the Sony mirrorless world.

The main improvements over the Sony a7R II:

  • same sensor but 1EV more dynamic range at low ISO due to a gapless on-chip lens design and anti-reflective sensor coating and improved circuitry and processing
  • processes images 1.8 times faster
  • adds 425 CDAF points instead of 25, giving 68% of frame coverage instead of 45% coverage
  • AF twice as fast and extends to low light of -3EV
  • “Additional improvements in focusing flexibility include AF availability in Focus Magnifier mode, focal-plane phase-detection AF support when using A-mount lenses, an ‘AF On’ button, a multi-selector or ‘joystick’ for moving focusing points quickly, flexible touch focus functionality and much more,”
  • IBIS improved to “5.5EV”
  • 10fps burst rate instead of only 5fps in either mechanical or silent electronic mode but need to drop to 8fps for continuous live view
  • better mirror shock handling and better shutter shock handling
  • improved EVF and rear screen
  • adds “Pixel Shift Multi Shooting” similar to HiRes mode of Olympus OM-D cameras but delivering 4 pixel shifted RAW images covering 169mp which outputs to a single 42mp RAW with better colour fidelity and texture reproduction than a single shot (ie. much less moire)
  • adds the a9’s touchscreen focus point control and multi-selector joystick on the back of the body in place of the button-style directional pad as well as anti-flicker ability, a 2nd card slot
  • 120fps 1080 HD mode
  • USB 3.1
  • larger grip and battery 2.2x longer lasting (same as the Sony a9 full frame mirrorless camera)

Why would one consider a Sony a7R III instead of a Nikon D850?

  • amazingly good eye AF tracking
  • far more AF points and good frame coverage (although no where near as good as 98% coverage of the Sony a9)
  • in-camera 5 axis image stabilizer which will work on most lenses and potentially give 5.5EV benefit – now that is almost as good as the Olympus system!
  • awesome video features which on paper seem to trump the Nikon D850 capabilities, but probably won’t be as good as a Panasonic GH-5 as the 4K video has been crippled to only 8bit 100Mbps IPB, not 10 bit 400Mbit All-I as with the GH-5, while for run and gun work, the image stabilisation of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II or the GH-5 would probably make these a better choice.
  • much better WiFi tethering (the Nikon only has suboptimal Bluetooth tethering)
  • Pixel Shift mode for minimal moire, improved image detail and color rendition
  • ability to have relatively fast AF with Canon EF mount lenses
  • ability to use a range of lenses not just Nikon mount lenses, and have them image stabilised
  • the many advantages of mirrorless technology

Head to head specs comparison:

The Sony a7RII and the Nikon D850 have many features which are similar, such as:

  • price – both are around $US3200
  • high resolution sensor without an anti-alias filter – 42.4mp for the Sony and 45.7mp for the Nikon
  • high dynamic range imagery
  • hotshoe, PC sync port and flash sync of 1/250th sec, with radio remote TTL and HSS options available (eg. Godox)
  • shutter speed 30sec – 1/8000th sec plus BULB
  • ISO range roughly similar
  • +/- 5EV exposure bracketing
  • silent mode
  • 4K video as well as 1080HD video, although the Sony has far more high end options and better IS and C-AF
  • dual SD card slots
  • weathersealed
  • reasonable battery life although the Nikon wins out easily here
  • Nikon has better ergonomics but the Sony has better manual focus capabilities
Sony a7R II Sony a7R III Nikon D850
in-camera IS “4EV” “5.5EV” NONE
Eye AF good excellent OK, limited area
AF points 399PDAF to -2EV/25CDAF 399PDAF to -3EV/425CDAF 153PDAF, one to -4EV/?CDAF
C-AF tracking poor excellent excellent, but POOR during Live View/Movie
metering ?1200 zone 1200 zone 180,000 RGB sensor
burst speed with C-AF 5fps 10fps 28 RAW / 76 compressed RAW 6fps 51 RAW (up to 9fps w/o CAF)
rear touch screen AF pad no Yes Yes
120fps 1080HD video no 100Mbps ?27Mbps
weight 625g 657g 1005g
special features Pixel Shift mode Focus shift mode, Native AWB; optional small, medium or large RAW modes

 

Both the Sony a7R III and the Nikon D850 are amazing cameras which will address most needs, albeit at a price and weight of the lens system. If Sony has substantially improved the ergonomics over my Sony a7II, then this evolution will be an extremely popular camera indeed, but personally, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II is much more fun and much less of a burden while being more affordable when you factor in the cost and weight of the lenses.

I am envious though of how well the Eye AF appears to work – despite Olympus introducing this technology, it would seem that Sony has substantially improved upon the tracking capability. – I am sure Olympus will be addressing this soon.

 

Victoria’s amazing Great Ocean Road seascapes

Written by Gary on October 22nd, 2017

The Great Ocean Road (“GOR”) is one of the prime tourist destinations in Australia. The long and winding road takes you past surf beaches with cool temperate rainforests and waterfalls and then onto the beautiful Twelve Apostle stretch of high cliffs constantly being eroded by the powerful waves and winds of the Southern Ocean, which caused many a ship to wreck in the first century of Victoria’s settlement.

This region is incredibly busy during school holidays, especially over summer when the locals use it to escape the heat and enjoy the surf, and even over Easter, it becomes both a prime camping destination and the host to world championship surfing event at Bell’s Beach.

My recommendation to overseas tourists wishing to experience this stretch in optimum comfort conditions with minimal traffic is to come in October:

  • very few local holiday makers and less traffic (although there are always crazy, unpredictable tourist drivers!)
  • plenty of accommodation options at lower prices
  • comfort of walks – not too hot, not too cold, delightful sunny days (at times – although it is the most cloudy and windy month), no annoying bush flies to attack your eyes as occurs from Nov-March (there are a multitude of native insects and flies but these don’t bother you) – but you do have to keep your eye out for snakes along the less walked coastal paths, and you still need to bring sun protection, warm clothes and drinking water
  • there are a multitude of Spring wildflowers out in full bloom giving a riot of yellows and purples scattered through the sand dunes and providing a lovely counterpoint to the lovely textures of the native grasses and bushes, and the wind blown gnarled small trees.
  • the midday sun is not yet too high in the sky so one can still get nice sunny day shots without waiting for the golden or blue hours

Although one can do the whole GOR in one day, it would be like trying to see 6 art galleries in Paris in one day – possible, but you will be exhausted and everything will blur into one and you will not have been able to relax, take in the scenery and ambience and escape from the main tourist sites (which thankfully have not been commercialized other than by the many tourist bus arrivals and are free to explore) and explore the less well trod paths.

At each township, you could easily spend a few days exploring, experiencing different weather conditions – after all, southern Victoria and Melbourne is famous for its rapidly changing weather.

If you have a hot sunny day, or a cold day with strong south-westerly winds, you can avoid the exposed coastal areas and explore the forests and waterfalls. On warmer days one can laze on the beach and paddle in the surf (but beware, the currents and rips are extremely dangerous, so swim only in those areas designated and patrolled by surf life guards).

If you are returning to Melbourne, consider the faster inland route which will take you through some interesting volcanic geology such as around Camperdown (and of course there are some interesting sites further west near Port Fairy and Warrnambool such as Tower Hill and Mt Eccles).

The following are some of what can be seen at the west end around Port Campbell.

These were all taken over a few days with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark I and mark II Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras with a range of lenses used – Olympus mZD 8mm f/1.8 fisheye, Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8, Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8, Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 and the amazing Olympus mZD 300mm f/4 lens. The Sony a7II stayed in the car! Click on the images to see larger versions.

My personal favorite region – the Loch Ard Gorge site:

rock stack at dusk

razorback area

razorback area

razorback area

The very narrow Razorback taken with the fisheye lens:

the Razorback

the Razorback

This one is not easily seen, hidden though bushes, and at the right tide, the waves form a waterfall between the cliff edges which is not visible by those above it who are looking east across to the Razorback:

Loch Ard Gorge walk

Loch Ard Gorge beach – a wonderful little cove, with limestone stalactites, areas of shade if one wishes to get out of the sun, and some gentle waves in which to cool your feet.

Loch Ard Gorge beach

Hidden inlets:

unknown

Even the fisheye comes in handy! This is why you shouldn’t walk closer than 5m from the cliff edge – they are unstable and there may be a tunnel underneath with not much supporting you!

unknown

And just west of Port Campbell:

The Arch:

the Arch

The Grotto:

the Grotto

the Grotto

Childers Cove – an off the track, remote location some 30 minutes drive west past Peterborough:

Childers Cove

Childers Cove

Childers Cove

 

Milky Way astroscape – Olympus OM-D with fisheye vs Sony a7II full frame with Canon TSE 17mm tilt shift lens

Written by Gary on October 22nd, 2017

Milky Way astroscapes are great fun to capture but they are one genre of photography where meticulous planning, gear selection, good fortune and substantial post-processing are required to obtain reasonable results – this is not one for a smartphone to attempt!

First the planning:

  • location, location, location – dark skies, and preferably an interesting foreground
  • timing, timing, timing
    • need a moonless sky with Milky Way core visible
    • in southern Australia, Aug-Oct are the best times, by Nov, the core will be too low in the west at sunset
  • weather – clear skies, minimal wind, your best chances are when a high pressure system is overhead
  • use Photopills smartphone iOS app to help you out here
    • this uses augmented virtual reality to super-impose the Milky Way image on your iPhone’s camera view of a location – just remember to set the date and time!

Now the gear selection requirements:

  • camera with relatively low image noise at ISO 1600-3200
  • lens with minimal aberrations to give nice star shapes
  • if shooting single shot like me, then an ultra wide angle lens to get as much of Milky Way in as possible
  • wide aperture lens to allow enough light as possible
  • lens warmer to stop dew forming on the front of your lens and destroying your images
  • sturdy tripod

My head to head competition – Olympus vs Sony full frame

As I do not have a wide aperture, ultra wide angle full frame lens for the Sony a7II full frame mirrorless camera, this little competition is a little unfair to the Sony as the chosen lens is the superb, very heavy, bulky, ultra-expensive ($3000+) Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 tilt-shift lens.

And to compete, the wonderful Olympus OM-D E-M1II Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera with the very compact, light, unique Olympus micro ZD 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens.

The Olympus combo gives a number of advantages:

  • small, light, compact, weatherproof – great if you have to hike to a location in the dark!
  • f/1.8 aperture – 2 stops brighter than the Canon’s f/4, but then the supposed advantage of the full frame sensor’s 2 EV better high ISO noise should nullify this as one can just increase the Sony’s ISO to 2 stops higher
  • much wider field of view better captures the extent of the Milky Way, while theoretically allowing longer shutter speed as star trails should be less evident
  • much more affordable lens

Let’s first view the unprocessed images:

Click on the images to view larger versions, note there is mild green auroral glow on the horizon in the centre, while there is light pollution glow from a nearby city visible on the right side of the Olympus image.

Olympus E-M1 II f/1.8 30sec ISO 1600 Sony a7II f/4, 20sec ISO 6400
full image Oly full image Sony full image
crop of central region Oly crop Sony crop

Well, this was extremely unexpected for me!

The Sony image was taken 30 minutes after the Olympus image but both were taken when the sky was dark more than 90 minutes after sunset.

Theoretically, the Olympus image is just a fraction over 0.5 EV more exposure thanks to the 30 secs exposure allowed vs 20secs for the Sony, but the image is far brighter and with much less noise, this is partly explained by the western sky being significantly lighter in the earlier Olympus image (although not that noticeable to the naked eye) which partly explains the brightness difference, and the “brighter” stars near the horizon in the Sony image.

Both images had in-camera long exposure noise reduction enabled, white balance set to 3400K but no post-processing in Lightroom other than resize for web for the full image, and cropping for the cropped images, with both having identical LR default noise reduction settings of zero luminance and 25 for color, while sharpening was the LR default of 25.

On the cropped images, there is some star trailing on the Olympus image, so if you are really fussy about this, then you may need to restrict exposure to 20secs and perhaps use ISO 3200.

Now a final post-processed image:

As a result, I didn’t bother processing the Sony images, and here is an example of another Olympus image with some light painting with an LED torch during the exposure, which has had significant post-processing – but even this will be too dark for printing, and needs to be brightened substantially for most prints – depending upon personal taste of course.

Oly full image

If I were to use the Sony again, I would need to buy a wider, brighter lens such as a Samyang 14mm f/2.8 to keep ISO at 1600-3200, or consider doing a panoramic stitch with a longer focal length f/1.4 or f/2 lens.

Unfortunately, the Sony cameras do have the “star eating” issue outlined in the previous post here.

For quick and easy single shot, then the Olympus 8mm f/1.8 fisheye is a reasonable option and one could use an old cheap, Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera (you don’t need the E-M1 II for this) – hopefully someone will bring out a 7mm f/1.4 non-fisheye lens with minimal aberrations for even better results, although if you are happy to do pano stitching , then the Panasonic 12mm f/1.4 lens is worth considering.

 

 

The search for the ultimate landscape and astrophotography wide angle lens – could the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM be the answer?

Written by Gary on October 14th, 2017

Milky Way astroscapes have become incredibly popular, but if you want lovely star shapes, the lens has to be able to handle coma and astigmatism aberrations really well as well as providing a nice wide aperture to allow as much light in as possible, and have minimal vignetting which, although it can easily be corrected in post-processing, does introduce image noise into the edges.

Landscape photographers on the other hand need:

  • sharp edge to edge image quality with minimal barrel or pincushion distortion
  • excellent flare control
  • ability to create beautiful sunstars (preferably 11 blades, but 9 or even 7 blades can be useful – avoid even number blades)
  • ability to attach ND gradient and polarising filters – most zoom lenses wider than 16mm in full frame terms do not have filter threads but you can buy 3rd partyl expensive solutions
  • preferably weathersealed
  • and some may want tilt-shift to better achieve sharp focus from foreground to background – but that is out of scope for this post

Traditionally, both of the above genres have been addressed through full frame cameras (these have lower image noise at high ISO, and generally wider dynamic range than smaller sensors), and the Sony a7R in particular has been popular (BUT NO MORE for astro work after Sony destroyed its star imaging capabilities with its new firmware which “eats stars” – this applies to nearly all current Sony cameras in Bulb mode and some even in timed long exposure modes longer than 4 secs).

Let’s start at Micro Four Thirds options:

Olympus OM-D cameras and the pro lenses have a critical advantage of portability, weathersealing and better long exposure modes (eg. Live Times and Live Composite), ability to do automatic in-camera keystone correction or focus stacking, and faster burst rates, and they have a very usable image quality up to ISO 1600 and perhaps ISO 3200.

They also have the best image stabilisation such that the E-M1 II can be used hand held with care for 8 sec long exposures hand held for reasonable Milky Way astroscapes when used with the unique Olympus micro ZD 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens, and of course could be used hand held for long exposure waterfall or beach shots with a wide angle lens where one cannot use a tripod or does not wish to carry it.

The cons include, more image noise at higher ISO, slightly less dynamic range, and the only options for higher resolution images than 24 mpixel is to either use panoramic stitching, or the Olympus HiRes 50mp mode but this requires a tripod and a static scene.

One of my Olympus mZD f/1.8 fisheye astroscapes:

astroscape

Lens selection options:

  • Olympus mZD 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens
    •  great for Milky Way shots (one can de-fish with software) and great for creative work but not great for general landscape work
  • Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 lens
    • fantastic weathersealed lens, very usable for astro and landscapes, BUT the f/2.8 aperture is a bit limiting on a cropped sensor for astro work, and there is no filter thread although you can purchase large 3rd party sliding filter adapters for landscape work
  • Panasonic 12mm f/1.4 lens
    • great pro lens for both astrophotography (although there is some coma) and landscapes but the 24mm full frame equivalent field of view may be limiting and one may need to resort to panorama stitiching
  • hopefully someone makes a great 7-10mm wide aperture lens for astro work (Olympus have filed a patent for a 5-20mm f/2.8-2.8 lens in 2015 as well as a 12mm f/1.0 lens and the Laowa 7.5mm f/2 MF lens is not great for astro work)

Full frame options:

There are a multitude of options, so I am just going to have a look at the most favored options.

The newly released Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM looks to have taken over as the king of high image quality versatile wide angle zooms.

It has returned the highest DxO Mark scoring for a wide angle zoom, it is smaller with much less vignetting, coma and star distortion than the Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8L III but lack’s the Canon’s mechanical MF ring with its infinity marking, when used with a slide in filter holder, there will be vignetting at 16mm but should settle by 17mm; while sharp at f/2.8 edge to edge, optically is best at f/8-11, while sunstars are best at f/16 – perhaps one of the best lenses for sunstars, helped by the excellent flare control.

It is NOT cheap! In Australia, it is selling for $AU3549 while the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L III sells for just under $AU3000, the Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G sells for under $AU2500, while the far more affordable Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8 lens is almost a third of the price at under $1300!

Above image taken with Sony 16-35mm lens demonstrating the lovely sunstars, courtesy of Colby Brown.

The big issue for astrophotographers wanting to use this lens is the firmware issue of the Sony cameras “eating stars” which is extremely disappointing.

So unfortunately, that’s dedicated Sony mount lenses out of the equation for combined astro and landscape work until they fix up this issue!

Other wide angle zoom lens options for Canon or Nikon dSLRs:

  • Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD
    • better than the Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED as it is a tad sharper with less coma and much more affordable at under $AU1600
    • BUT no filter thread so you will need an adapter, only 9 blades, soft edges wide open, 3.4% barrel distortion at 15mm, and it is very heavy at 1.1kg
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM III
    • much better for astro work than its predecessors but not as good as the Sony, lots of vignetting (2.6EV) and 2.7% barrel distortion and only 9 blades, but you get a 82mm filter thread, it is fully weathersealed and lighter at 790g
  • Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
    • no filter thread, so you will need an adapter, only 9 blades, 1kg, expensive

But some want a dedicated ultra-wide angle, wide aperture astro full frame lens, and some of the best of these are:

 

 

 

New inspirational online monthly photography magazine – Olympus Passion

Written by Gary on September 30th, 2017

Just giving you all a heads up on a new online monthly photography digital magazine aimed at Olympus and Micro Four Thirds fans, and they approached me for a section in this month’s magazine – their 5th edition – which is out now.

Olympus Passion is available for just 2,50€ per edition, or, for an annual subscription of 20,00€ you get 4 free editions.

The magazine is nicely laid out, with almost 100 pages of great content, with almost no advertising, and contains many fantastic inspirational images from a small number of chosen photographers each edition, and this edition, I am honored that they have chosen one of my blogs comparing full frame 85mm f/1.8 imagery with Olympus 75mm f/1.8 imagery.

 

Olympus Passion magazine

 

Scorched bushfire survivors in a sea of golden yellow winter wattle with the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens

Written by Gary on September 11th, 2017

Survivors of a bushfire engulfed in a sea of golden yellow Australian wattle in late winter, heralding in our Spring.

Here are a couple of images from the weekend on one of my late winter walks amongst the recovering eucalypt forest trees in central Victoria near Melbourne taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark I with Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lens.

forest

forest

It was such an incredibly beautiful, relaxing although at times strenuous walk in the near silence of our bush with not a soul to be seen except for the odd kookaburra, brightly coloured green and red rosellas and little wrens to keep me company.

It always amazes me the lengths people go to to travel and yet ignore the beauty in their own back yard – perhaps it is best that way, otherwise my quietude may be destroyed.

 

Winter insists on continuing on – some winter oaks in Australia

Written by Gary on September 3rd, 2017

Most of us in the southern parts of Australia can’t wait for Spring to kick into gear.

For those of us in Melbourne, the next few days will bring another cold polar vortex blast from the Antarctic which will bring damaging winds and snow down to 400m.

Here are a couple of images last week of my winter walks amongst the oak trees in central Victoria near Bendigo taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens.

oaks

oaks

This might be winter but unlike Europe, that does not mean there be lush green grass at the foot of the oaks – no this is Australia and it has it’s own ambience.

Will I brave the wind chill and risk of falling branches today and head out exploring – let’s see how I am feeling!

 

 

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

Written by Gary on 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.