A first holiday to Athens

Written by Gary on November 24th, 2018

I had mixed reports of Athens as a holiday destination – it seems the city polarises people – some hate it, some find it just a bearable necessity as an interim destination to the Greek isles, but very few said they liked it.

So I left Australia with relatively low expectations, perhaps a good way to be and I was given a sense of fear of utilising the train services as pick pocketers are rife – and this proved to be the case for most of my colleagues who dared catch the trains – most lost their wallets or purses.

But my experience of Athens was very different.

I loved the place!

I walked around everywhere and at any time – I walked at midnight taking photos and although I was a little careful of where I went at that time, I never felt I was in danger, and the streets were always clean.

The locals I found were friendly and helpful, one just needed to be careful in the markets for the usual enemies of the tourists – those pretending to sell bracelets, etc in an attempt to get close to you to pick pocket you – a phenomenon in the European cities for centuries.

Here are a few pics of my walks:

I used the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with the holy trinity of zoomsOlympus 7-14mm f/2.8, Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 and the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 and I used nearly every focal length this range afforded me and some were shot using hand held HDR bracketing.

Athens looking north from Areopagus Hill over the Ancient Agora, Temple of Hephaestus and the Bibliotheque d’Hadrien – 3 shot hand held HDR:


Sunrise at the Odeon of Herodes, 3 shot hand held HDR:


Temple of Zeus reflected in a mirror at dusk from a rooftap bar:


Bargain Athenian real estate in the old city:


I do love dilapidated buildings:


Not everyone in Greece apparently loves the EU and so want the Brexit approach – not sure how that will work for them:


Expensive Athenian apartment with a view of the Acropolis:


Quaint shop in the old town at dawn:


Two churches (Church of the Holy Apostles and Church of St Marina) and the National Observatory of Athens – 3 shot hand held HDR:


And, of course, I have to have a pic of the Acropolis with tourists – the number one tourist attraction in Greece:


But one is not enough, so here is another in twilight from a roof top open air restaurant:


Church of St Marina in Thissio as viewed from Areopagus Hill:


The guards at parliament house:



For the whole of this trip, I never once needed to reach into my bag for my shallow depth of field lenses, so taking a heavy, expensive full frame camera on overseas travel is likely to be overkill for most of us, and for me, Micro Four Thirds offers the best travel kit, and if one does need portrait shallow DOF, they can take a small 20mm f/1.7 pancake or a small 45mm f/1.8 lens as I did – I just did not need them. Nearly all of my images were at f/5.6 to gain adequate DOF which equates to f/11 in full frame cameras – so why take along heavy, expensive full frame lenses?

See the next few posts of my Greek island travels.



Santorini where even a novice can come away with beautiful photos

Written by Gary on November 24th, 2018

Santorini is one of those amazing places rich in aesthetic beauty where almost anyone can take a great photo.

This extremely popular tourist Greek island is somewhat sheltered from the economics of mainland Greece because of the tourism it generates, however, be warned, at the end of Daylight Saving (end of October), the “tourist season” ends and much of the shops, restaurants, hotels, ferries and many of the flights STOP until next tourist season starts in May.

I found this out the hard way having purchased Golden Star ferry tickets from Santorini to Crete online through Direct Ferries several months earlier, and despite receiving an email 2 weeks prior to the ferry trip advising to download and print out the boarding pass, when I took the taxi to the port on the Saturday night (the night before Daylight Savings ended), I was greeted with an empty port and no ferry – no responses from the ferry company which was not contactable, and eventually the online retailer, Direct Ferries was able to be contacted on an international call and the response was a vague, sometimes the Greek ferry companies don’t tell them when the change schedules or cancel ferries – but at least they refunded me my fare – little consolation for having to pay an extra night’s accommodation, lose a day of rental car use and then pay for flights to Athens then to Crete (there are no direct flights between the islands). I have still not had any explanations from either company.

The other main issue on the island is that the water supply is NOT potable as there are no running rivers or dams, and as I understand it, the water is pumped up from underground reserves but these are not drinkable.

But enough of the issues, Santorini is a place in which to relax, enjoy the Mediterranean sun and explore.

I used the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with the holy trinity of zoomsOlympus 7-14mm f/2.8, Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 and the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 and I used nearly every focal length this range afforded me and some were shot using hand held HDR bracketing and in addition, I did get a brief chance to use my Olympus 8mm f/1.8 fisheye hoping to catch the last of the Milky Way core at dusk but alas there was too much light pollution.

I won’t post too many pics as there are millions of pics of Santorini online already.

The afternoon we arrived on a flight from Athens, a storm came through with torrential rain – apparently the first significant rains there in many months – and these were to stop flights landing until well into the evening with a number of flights turned back to Athens runway awaiting the weather to lift. I donned my wet weather hiking gear and my trusty rain proof OM-D camera with my favorite rain lens (thanks to its long lens hood which protects the front glass from rain drops) – the Olympus micro ZD 40-150mm f/2.8.


Our lovely De Sol resort was not looking that appealing for a swim!


However, the next few days we were there, Santorini was back to its sunny self (these three were 3 shot HDR images showing the volcano from the aptly named Volcano View Hotel):



A Santorini blog would not be complete without a sunset pic or two!


Dusk from the Volcano View Hotel using the fisheye lens:


This was the last night the hotel was open for the season.


Classic streetscapes of Fira:





We booked a sunset restaurant in Oia which is a rebuilt town on the tip of the island some 10km away from Fira, so we decided to spend the afternoon walking there, and one of the first stops was Skaros:


In this image you can see Oia in the distance and this should have given us a warning that we may be time pressured to get there by sunset, but my colleagues decided to take a 45min or so side adventure and climb this little hill called Skaros Rock with its challenging vertical cliff faces as that seems the thing to do on these trips!


Skaros Rock was a fortress from medieval times as it provided protection for the small fortified town of Skaros from the pirates. The first Duke of Naxos Marco Sanudo gave Santorini to the Venetian, Giacomo Barozzi in the year of 1207 who built the original castle, known as ‘Epano Kastro’ (Upper castle in Greek) or ‘La Roka’. At the top of the rock hung a large bell, to warn inhabitants of imminent pirate raids. The town was damaged a number of times by earthquakes associated with eruptions and the Venetian noble families that lived there decided to leave after the eruptions of 1707 to 1711. The rich Roman Catholics who had once lived there had moved to the town of Fira, abandoning the castle for a lower flatter level with access to the sea. By 1836, Skaros had been abandoned for many years. Now, Skaros Rock is totally uninhabited with the exception of a small church, the Chapel of Agios Ioannis Apokefalistheis, on its north side.

A sketch of how Skaros Rock was in the Venetian times:


This small church below is on the south side of the rock:


Yes, eventually they made it to the top!


Back on our little afternoon hike to Oia, and it soon became evident that it would be challenging to get there by sunset and it became a mini Amazing Race as we risked our ankles running down the stony paths of the hills and then risking heart attacks climbing the next one as quickly as possible (thank goodness it was not mid-summer and hot!), and alas it was the end of the tourist season, the usual interval cafes for drinks were closed for the season:


At the last hill there was a lovely church over-looking Oia, but it was still some distance to walk to our restaurant at the tip:


More churches as we almost ran through Oia looking for our restaurant. Oia was devastated by an earthquake in 1956 and re-built to strict heritage aesthetic standards.


But then the cameras had to go away to get through the crowds watching the sunset and then make our way down a thousand steps with a multitude of donkey dropping land mines which were increasingly difficult to see in the fading light, and yes, we got to the restaurant a little late for our sunset shots but still, it was a lovely seafood meal and the beer was much appreciated!

In addition, the inexpensive Santorini bus service can take you to some nice beaches and an archaeologic site from some 3000 yrs ago when the Minoans and Myceneans were living on the island before the volcano erupted and covered the towns in thick ash as with Pompeii, although it seems most were able to evacuate Santorini before the eruption.

At no stage did I reach for my shallow depth of field lenses – hence, there is little benefit in carrying heavier, more expensive full frame gear – in my mind, the Micro Four Thirds kit is THE PERFECT travel kit!


Chania, a little jewel of a city in Crete

Written by Gary on November 22nd, 2018

Chania is the 2nd largest city of Crete and to me, and thanks to its lovely old Venetian port and quaint ancient alley ways in the old town, it is far more aesthetic and charming than either the largest city, Heraklion, or the 3rd largest, Rethymnos.

It not only has its own airport but also has the advantage of relative proximity to Crete’s gorges – Samaria Gorge and Agia Irini Gorge, as well as Crete’s most famous beaches such as Balos Beach and Elafonísi Beach – although coming from Australia’s bountiful amazing beaches, they don’t really impress me much considering how much effort one has to make to get to Balos beach – but still if one is enjoying the lovely Mediterranean summer then they are a welcome relief.

If you want pics of these beaches, just search online and you will find millions I am sure.

But for now, here are some of what I found to be charming in Chania in addition to the lovely friendly Cretan people and their many seaside restaurants.

I used the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with the holy trinity of zoomsOlympus 7-14mm f/2.8, Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 and the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 and I used nearly every focal length this range afforded me and some were shot using hand held HDR bracketing.

At no stage in the whole of my trip to Greece did I reach into my bag for my wide aperture shallow depth of field lenses – this is why heavy, big, expensive full frame cameras are needed for travel – you rarely need to shoot shallow DOF because you want to capture the scene and the context – most of my imagery was shot at f/5.6 which, in full frame DOF terms is f/11 – so why carry a big full frame f/1.4 prime or even f/2.8 zoom lens around and risk it getting stolen or damaged, or breaking your back?

The old Venetian port and the lighthouse and fort:


Hand held 3 bracketed manual HDR:


The port restaurants and hotels – most of which close at the end of tourist season in the 1st week of November, these were taken just after sunrise before the crowds arrived and before they closed for winter:



The quaint, colorful houses and shops in the old town:


Hand held 3 bracketed manual HDR:




And to finish this post, a long night exposure of the port:


Chania was certainly one of my favorite places in Greece, but I could imagine it could get quite busy and hot during the summer tourist season – for me – the end of the season suited me just fine as I sat back enjoying some local seafood and local wines in the gentle evening breezes!

Although it took a bit of getting use to the local tradition of being plied with free desserts (when you have already over ordered and not quite feeling ready for desserts) and their local jet fuel – raki to scull at the end of the meal – although some restaurants had better versions, and one restaurant even offered the local mastika liqueur which was quite nice – this is flavoured by gum from the mastic tree which is native to the Mediterranean region and which is also used to make chewing gum.




The ancient Palace of Knossos in Crete and the quaint village of Archanes

Written by Gary on November 10th, 2018

The “Palace” of Knossos is an ancient archeological site of perhaps the 1st and oldest “city” in Europe, and now Greece’s 2nd most popular tourist site after the Acropolis.

The “palace” was discovered by Arthur Evans (after Minos Kalokairinos had discovered the site in 1878) who began excavating the site in 1900 and who then devoted his life to “restoring” and protecting the site from weather erosion as it had been the first time it had been exposed to weather in some 3,500 years.

Evans named the civilisation that built it, the “Minoans” after King Minos of Greek mythology.

It appears likely the “palace” was actually a necropolis and a ceremonial temple.

The site is only a 20-30min drive south of Heraklion and was 1st occupied around 7000 BC during the neolithic period and before the use of ceramic pottery, and 4000 yrs before the Bronze Age, and 5000 yrs before the 1st “palace” was built around 2000 BC.

This period presumably informs Homer’s accounts of the ancient Greek world and its mythology.

The first “palace” suffered major damage by earthquakes over the first 500 yrs and was continually restored and redeveloped although the original parts were not removed. The initial writing was Cretan hieroglyphic but this was replaced by Linear A writing when the “new palace” was built after major damage by an earthquake which destroyed most other temples in Crete at the time.

Around 1450BC, a major earthquake again destroyed all the temples and towns in Crete, but the New Palace was not so severely damaged that it had to be replaced, but rather, the damaged areas were rebuilt into the “final palace”, albeit with inferior materials and gypsum. It was during this period that Linear B writing was introduced, presumably by Myceneans, which was to become the early Greek language.

This “final palace” was again destroyed perhaps around 1325-1300 BC, but the fire preserved a large number of clay tablets  and sealings were baked and preserved by the fire. The site appears to have been occupied nearly continuously up until 5th century AD.

More information about Knossos can be found here:

Before you go to Knossos, it would be well worth your while going to the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion which will have many artefacts as well as a model reconstruction of the site.

My brief tour of Knossos:

The Knossos site is quite exposed and hot on a sunny day – bring a hat, sunscreen and water in summer!

The site covers about 150,000 square feet (14,000 square meters) and will take you an hour or so to explore, depending upon how many people are there and how interested you are in the site.



A section of a fresco:




A nearby olive tree grove – note that nearly every tree in Crete is painted white – apparently this has a very long history and it is a ritual performed before summer using a mixture of copper and slaked lime which primarily is designed to reduce fungal and bacterial disease, but also has some arguable aesthetic appeal.


The village of Archanes

Once you have finished at Knossos, I would recommend a short drive further into the the hills to a lovely quaint village for a traditional Cretan lunch and an explore of the back streets – the village of Archanes.






Handheld HDR:




I used the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with the holy trinity of zoomsOlympus 7-14mm f/2.8, Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 and the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 and I used nearly every focal length this range afforded me and some were shot using hand held HDR bracketing.

Once you have had lunch and explored the village, head to the most beautiful city on Crete, the old Venetian port of Chania, but perhaps on the way stop for a coffee in the next biggest city, the old Venetian port of Rethymnos with its many lively cafes along the port:


Oh, and don’t forget, there are many speed cameras on the highway, all thankfully preceded by two warning signs before the camera (which is almost impossible to see at night), but inexplicably, there always seems to be a 60kph limit sign immediately just before the camera to make you even more paranoid – I am not sure the locals obey the brief 60kph limit sections but it seemed prudent to do so.

The great news for those renting a car in Crete is that you don’t have to worry about kangaroos jumping in front of your car – there were goats, but these were mainly on the slower roads and one had plenty of time to avoid them, you do however have to worry about cars overtaking on double lines which seems to be a marker to encourage overtaking instead of stopping it, if you straddle the far right lane marking you should be fine.


An afternoon walk down the lovely Agia Irini Gorge in south-west Crete

Written by Gary on November 7th, 2018

The most popular gorge in Crete to hike down is the Samaria Gorge which is a very testing down-hill hike dropping some 1250m in elevation and giving one’s knees a real work out, and to get to the gorge you really need to go via a tour bus as there is no easy way to get back to a rental car as one usually takes a ferry from the port at the end of the hike.

Unfortunately for me, or perhaps fortunately for my knees, the gorge was closed the week I arrived (it is closed from 31st Oct through to end of April), and I decided to look for another gorge, and the 2nd most favorite gorge in Crete is the much easier and shorter Agia Irini Gorge (Φαράγγι Αγίας Ειρήνης).

Although not as dramatic, the Agia Irini Gorge has some advantages over the Samaria Gorge:

  • it is open all year round (Samaria closes 30th Oct and in inclement weather)
  • there are much fewer hikers
  • you can use your rental car to access it without need for a ferry trip to the north coast
  • it is much less steep and more knee friendly
  • it is shorter and with less than half the elevation drop, it is more suitable for families with children
  • can be completed in half the time with the option of walking it both directions in the same day

During the Ottoman era, rebels had their dens at the location of “Polla Spitakia” and in 1866, 1,000 women and children escaped from the Ottomans through this gorge!

Getting to the gorge

It is a much easier gorge to access as you can take your rental car and drive 1hr or so from Chania and park at the cafe at the northern (highest end).

Of course, if you are a fitness fanatic or crazy, or you want to prepare for the Samaria Gorge, you could park at the bottom and walk UP the gorge and then walk back down it to your car.

For those leaving their car at the northern end, once you have completed the thirsty 3.5hr walk and had a meal in the little tavern, the Taverna Oasis, at the southern end, the tavern owners will call a taxi to take you back on a 25min drive back to your car for around 35 euro (best find some fellow walkers to share the costs!).

There are buses, but I understand the bus from Chania arrives at the northern end at 1445hrs (having left Chania at 1345hrs – but there is also a 8.45 am bus from Chania which will get you there by 9.45am, and, on Mon-Sat, there is also a 5am bus which gets you there at 6am).

You might elect to get a taxi or a 1.5-2hr 7km walk along the road in the hot sun to Sougia where you could stay the night (there is a 7am bus Mon-Sat) or catch the 1230hrs or 1815hrs bus back to the gorge entrance or to Chania.

As in many such places in Greece, remember to bring some small change – it will cost 2 Euro per person and this goes towards the upkeep of the gorge.

A few safety issues to consider

I would avoid walking the gorge if there have been rains over the previous few days or rain is forecast on the day of the walk – the one small area where there was moisture on the boulders, they were extremely slippery and even with care resulted in slips – not great for your camera gear when it crashes onto boulders (or falling on your head or twisting your ankle)! And a lot of water in the narrow gorge would make it extremely dangerous.

The gorge is a fairly remote environment with limited mobile phone access, so take due care, especially if you are going solo and late in the day when there may not be any more walkers to assist you if you do injure your ankle or worse.

While no where near as onerous a walk as the Samaria Gorge, it is still quite a rough walk on loose stones and rocks with around 500m descent over 7.5km and so you should really wear good hiking boots to cope with the rocks (although you can get by with good runners but your feet will not thank you).

If you have a dodgy knee, then consider taking hiking poles for all those steps down, and especially if you are considering doing the return hike, although it is no where near as tough on your knees as the very steep 2km initial section of the Samaria Gorge (they even apparently have donkeys on hand to cart you at Samaria as many run into problems!).

Thankfully, unlike Australia, there are NO venomous snakes that kill you as Hercules allegedly eradicated these from Crete!

Avoid the need to rush the walk by ensuring you start early enough to avoid night fall and missing the tavern being open and taxi or bus access for the return to your car – at the end of daylight savings on Oct 28th, the sun sets around 5.30pm, and the bus leaves Sougia around 6.15pm (it is a 1.5-2hr further walk down to Sougia and the bus takes about 45min to get you back to your car at the southern entrance of the gorge).

It is unlikely you will get lost in the daylight as the gorge is very well marked with red paint on boulders, and, for the most part, a clear path, often with wooden fence rails, and each kilometer segment has a marking pole and most have toilets and possibly potable water (personally, I would bring a bottle of water).

In summer, wear a hat and sunscreen and perhaps take a 2nd bottle of water.

Don’t be stupid and try dangerous selfie shots on the edge of the cliffs.

What camera kit did I take?

The smallest, lightest, most versatile, sharpest, weathersealed kit available as the gorge is very challenging to photograph with its extremely steep and tall cliffs along with a very high contrast on a sunny day.

I took the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with the holy trinity of zoomsOlympus 7-14mm f/2.8, Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 and the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 and I used nearly every focal length this range afforded me as well as hand held HDR bracketing and in the dark depths of the gorge, I had to resort to some rather long hand held exposures – thankfully, the E-M1 addressed both of these issues without me needing to take along a tripod.

I would NOT have been able to achieve the above versatility and image quality in the same weight had I used my full frame kit (these I left back home in Australia as Micro Four Thirds is currently so much more suited to travel than any current full frame system – particularly when I love to shoot at 300mm equivalent focal lengths).

Would anyone have noticed or cared whether or not I carried twice as much gear and took the photos with a full frame camera instead?

I think not! Long live Micro Four Thirds!

Here are some pics of the gorge

It was at the end of October so some fall foliage was appearing and I really wanted to capture the lovely yellow foliage backlit by the sun as much as possible.

These are displayed in the order in which they were taken to help you get a better sense of the gorge.

The walk was a lovely, peaceful walk with only a dozen or so other walkers to break the peace. The air had a scent of sage, while pines, plane trees and cypresses provided some shade from the early afternoon sun. If you are after the wild flowers, they are apparently best in Spring before May.





The gorge meets with another small gorge, the “Fygou Gorge”, which was the escape exit for the rebels from the gorge to the area of Omalos.


An unexpected orthodox Christian shrine half way down the gorge.



A supply room built into the cliff face:


Perhaps remnants of the mythological beasts landing on the edge of a distant cliff, nevertheless a good reason to have the 300mm telephoto lens – the tall pine tree gives some scale to the image:


And a HDR from 3 bracketed exposures hand held:


The tree is alive with hands – another HDR image!














Another hand held HDR image:


I hope you enjoyed my little tour through this lovely gorge, albeit without any water in the stream, but at least it will either inspire you to take a trip there and enjoy the ambience, or, allow you to be like most tourists and speed walk through the gorge in half the time and not notice it’s beauty and ambience.

I just don’t get why so many people go to all the trouble to travel to a part of the world they have never been to and then rush through the journey part so they can get to the boring end, but I guess each has their own priorities in life, and if stopping to sniff the roses is not one of them, who am I to judge?

In retrospect, I would have preferred to have had an earlier start to the day and had time to go to the apparently cute seaside village of Sougia with its small pebble beach and the nearby ancient site of Lippos which is the location of a temple of Asclepius, who was a healer of the ancient Greek world. Healers built the famous healing sanctuary of Asclepius in Kos and the sanctuary at Epidaurus. It is also possible to catch a ferry from Sougia to the other southern coast beaches such as Paleochora.





Panasonic announce their new full frame mirrorless camera system – the Lumix S with Leica L mount

Written by Gary on September 26th, 2018

Just in case photographers were thinking of switching systems with the new full frame mirrorless camera systems being announced by Canon and Nikon to join the likes of Sony and also Fujifilm’s almost affordable medium format system, Panasonic have finally jumped in with a formal announcement of their new system.

The details are indeed sketchy at present, but they do promise to offer the professional videographers what Canon and Nikon have both failed to deliver thus far.

Lumix S

Two full frame mirrorless cameras

The Panasonic S1R with 47mp and the Panasonic S with 24mp – nicely named so that users can recognise the choice similarities with the other brands (eg. Sony a7III and Sony a7RIII).

Unlike Canon and Nikon’s announcement, Panasonic is looking to address the professional’s video needs right from the start with:

  • World’s first support for 4K 60p/50p video recording in a full-frame mirrorless camera
  • Dual IS – come on Canon, pick your game up!
  • Dual card slots – both Canon and Nikon have failed on this one and memory cards do fail and this is a potentially big issue for professionals who cannot accept failure!
  • Rugged triaxial tilting LCD screen
  • 100% weathersealed – this has been an issue with the current Sony cameras
  • deep learning AI
  • fast flash sync speed and high speed shutter
  • an even better EVF – perhaps their 4.4m dot 0.8x magnification EVF they created for the Leica SL
  • DFD CDAF autofocus – this may be a weakness
  • larger size and thus presumably better ergonomics than the Sony and Nikon cameras which is important given that full frame lenses tend to be big and heavy

The lenses

As expected, their lens line up will take some time to develop but they at least seem to be starting with a sensible trio – 50mm f/1.4 prime, 24-105mm standard zoom and a 70-200mm telephoto zoom with at least 7 more due by 2020.

They do have a couple of advantages over Canon and Nikon when it comes to native lenses designed for mirrorless cameras:

1. there are already some superb, albeit extremely expensive Leica SL lenses available (8 to date) which will be fully compatible apparently.

2. Leica, Panasonic and Sigma have joined in a Leica L mount alliance which should mean a more rapid capability to develop native lenses.

3. Unlike the Canon option which is not compatible with their Canon EOS M system, the mount is also compatible with APS-C cameras such as the Leica TL series and presumably Sigma and Panasonic bodies may be built in cropped sensor in the future – although I must admit I am not sure why anyone would want them when they have Micro Four Thirds.

There is a potential optical performance advantage for wide angle lenses over Sony (46mm diameter) in that the Leica L mount has a slightly wider lens mount diameter (51.6mm) which should allow more effective lens design. The Canon mount is 54mm diameter and the Nikon Z mount is 55mm diameter. Thus the Leica L mount may be an ideal compromise.

In addition Sigma is discontinuing their SA mount camera system which did not sell well, and will be offering two Leica L mount adapters:

  • Sigma SA mount to Leica L mount
  • Canon EF mount to Leica L mount

The widest range of camera sensors

The other advantage that users of this system will have is that they have a much wider range of sensors to choose from:

  • traditional sensors in either 24mp or 47mp resolutions
  • 8K video sensor camera from Panasonic in time for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020
  • Leica monochrome sensor
  • Sigma Foveon sensor (Sigma has announced a full frame Foveon sensor L mount camera is coming in 2019)
  • and perhaps if Olympus joined the alliance it might bring Sony sensors into the system
  • perhaps BlackMagic will join the alliance with their videography cameras

My thoughts

This system may prove to be successful, especially if the alliance is expanded further, and given Panasonic’s excellent past record in videography capabilities with their extremely popular Micro Four Thirds cameras such as the Panasonic GH5, one can expect videographers will love these new cameras as well and will be able to have a choice of sensor sizes with presumably similar user interfaces.

Time will tell how well Panasonic can address the needs of still photographers with these new cameras, and whether they can compete with Sony’s Eye AF tracking for portraiture and will they rely on their current DFD AF technology or add in sensor based PDAF technology to allow faster action AF tracking.

I will update my wiki page with further details as they come through.

The next question remaining is – What will Olympus do?

Should Olympus join the ranks of full frame mirrorless, and if so, who should they join forces with in terms of compatible lens mount – Panasonic, their Micro Four Thirds and Four Thirds partners, or should they join with Sony or even Fujifilm?

There is a very valid argument that they should just stick with and concentrate on making their awesome Micro Four Thirds system even better – which I am sure they will continue to do, as will Panasonic.


Canon joins the full frame mirrorless camera fray with their Canon EOS R – some thoughts

Written by Gary on September 5th, 2018

Finally, Canon have been dragged into the full frame mirrorless world kicking and screaming – but what have they given us and will it be competitive?

The short answer based on specs and promo videos is that they have created a fantastic portrait and people photography camera – as long as you are not into action or sports – you will have to wait for their pro version to come for that!

Their approach to this Canon EOS R and their initial RF mount lenses is quite different to that of Nikon with their new Nikon R system.

Nikon’s approach seemed to be one of uncertainty – perhaps they did not want to take away from their pro dSLR system, perhaps they did not have enough self-belief in their mirrorless technology – but their initial lens offerings were certainly not aimed at enticing the pros into the system, but perhaps just to stem the tide of enthusiasts and pros moving from Nikon to Sony.

Canon’s approach was very different – sure, they had to develop a new lens mount, just like everyone else has done, but they have essentially created a mirrorless version of their Canon 5D Mark IV with a number of important improvements, some wonderful pro lenses and not one but three EF lens adapters to entice current Canon users to buy into this new RF system – including a rear filter drop in for those with ultra wide lenses or the Canon TS-E 17mm f/5 tilt-shift lens – this may be a godsend to many Canon landscape and architect photographers.

The new Canon EOS R

The camera is clearly priced to compete with the Sony A7III and the new Nikon Z6 – both of which are marginally cheaper, and in some aspects better.

Let’s be clear, this is not a sports camera, unlike the Olympus E-M1 II which can do 18fps with C-AF, or the Sony’s which can do 20fps, this Canon EOS R can only hit 5fps with C-AF, and only 3fps with tracking on.

Despite all the lead time, Canon has failed to release it with a silent electronic burst mode – they say this will come in a later firmware update – suggesting that perhaps Nikon’s announcement of the Z system has rushed their timeline.

A massive disappointment to me as someone with lots of pro Canon lenses such as the tilt-shift lenses which would be awesome on this camera is the failure of Canon to add a sensor based image stabilization system which has now become the de facto standard of modern cameras – but it seems Canon has staunchly refused to add to any of their cameras – sure, for people photography you can avoid it by using higher ISO, but IS allows those prime lenses to be used far more creatively hand held by dragging the shutter – so for me it is almost a deal breaker.

I was pleasantly surprised by Nikon adding sensor based IS to the Z cameras despite never having used this technology in prior cameras – perhaps Canon has not developed it or just is being stubborn, in which case it could end up being a significant factor against them.

Like Nikon they failed to address another need of the professionals – dual memory card slots – perhaps this will come in their pro version.

The new RF lenses.

Unlike Nikon’s new Z mount lenses which are somewhat underwhelming, the new Canon lenses are impressive – especially if you are a people photographer.

For portraits, Canon easily trumps the Nikon Z cameras as well as ANY dSLR available, not only with their DualPixel AF and Eye AF capability (we are yet to see how well this works compared to the Sony but at least it has this feature), but also with two awesome, albeit large, heavy and expensive lenses:

  • Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L
    • in their promo material, Canon announced this was the world’s 1st constant f/2.0 standard zoom lens – well they should have added full frame zoom lens because Olympus beat them many years ago with their brilliant 14-35mm f/2.0 and 35-100mm f/2.0 “Super Pro” lenses
    • nevertheless, this could be a ground breaking lens which brings the Canon pros into the RF fold – if they don’t mind carrying another 1.4kg expensive lens ($US2,999)
    • I can see it would be fantastic for the wedding and fashion photographer – just a pity the camera only has one memory card slot and no image stabilisation
  • Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM
    • almost 1kg and priced at $US2,299, this lens promises to be a far better portrait lens than it’s EF predecessor thanks to the far better AF including Eye AF and better optical design, plus the new controller ring

The other lenses are somewhat run of the mill expected lenses – a 24-105mm f/4 kit lens with IS and a small 35mmf/1.8 IS macro lens which would be great for street photography except it is not weathersealed, so a pain when you bump into that person eating an icecream!

There are two interesting features on this initial lens line up to ponder:

  • Canon has created a novel user interface – the customizable control ring on each lens which could be programmed to control aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc.
  • The mix of AF systems:
    • the larger lenses use USM – albeit it seems in a fast, quieter version “Nano USM” (at least the 24-105mm uses this) – but how well will these fair with Eye AF and subject tracking compared to a stepping motor?
    • the 35mm f/1.8 lens uses a stepping motor as on nearly every other lens designed for mirrorless cameras

As usual, I will post specs and links to reviews on my wiki when they become available.

It is exciting times indeed, but I wonder if all this full frame hype may in a few years be taken over by medium format hype – after all, if everyone has a full frame you might want to be better than them and get a sensor that is 2.5x larger so it must be better right?

Well Fuji is bringing down the price of medium format rapidly, and looks like they might have a 50mp mirrorless on the market for the price of only 2-3 entry level full frame mirrorless cameras.

Meanwhile, I will stick to my compact, light, fun Micro Four Thirds system and watch how this all plays out.

When shooting well lit scenes with the pro lenses, you will have trouble discerning any differences in image quality on a 1m print taken with either a 20mp Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II or a Canon 5D Mark IV at twice the weight and price – don’t believe me – check out this Youtube video that tests this and even compromises the Olympus output by cropping it further to 3:2.

Next up into the full frame mirrorless arena is likely to be Panasonic – presumably sporting a Leica SL mount (given that they make the Leica full frame mirrorless cameras already) – why would Panasonic do this? Primarily to allow 8K video for the Olympic Games in Japan and at this stage there is no cropped sensor capable of 8K video.


Micro Four Thirds in a full frame mirrorless world

Written by Gary on August 25th, 2018

2018 will be remembered as the year the big guns finally got serious about full frame mirrorless cameras and their attempt to pull back some of the enormous influence Sony has propagated in this area over the past few years.

This week, Nikon finally unveiled their new Nikon Z system which will take them into the future thanks to their new lens mount – but it will be a tough time for the multitude of existing Nikon dSLR users who will have to decide when to give up their legacy lens system and when to make their move into native Nikon S lenses which will perform much better on this new system of the future.

We can expect Canon to follow suit later this year or perhaps early next year.

And of course we already have Fujifilm and Hasselblad medium format mirrorless systems.

Many Canikon fan boys are likely to suggest this may be the end of Micro Four Thirds, but I am very comfortable this will not be the case, and let me tell you why.

NB. These links below mainly take you to my wiki pages for more information, they do not take you to online camera retailers.

1. Micro Four Thirds allows smaller and lighter lenses

This is particularly true when it comes to telephotos.

Size and weight make a BIG difference to your photography gear.

Heavy lenses mean you either carry less lenses when you hike, travel or fly, or risk back injury, fatigue or having to put your gear in check in luggage with likely loss.

Very few photographers can do their best work or feel inspired if they arrive at their destination fatigued from carrying a big load, or indeed just hand holding a heavy telephoto for an hour.

This means photographers will enjoy their work and travels more if their kit is light and small, and this will translate into better imagery with more creativity – as well as mean you are more likely to bring your gear with you.

2. The difference in image quality is NOT important for 99% of use.

Yes, full frame cameras will probably always offer slightly better high ISO quality, more shallow depth of field options, a greater color depth, more dynamic range and better highlight roll off when you pixel peep.

99% of photographers create imagery primarily for display on computers and for the internet rather than bothering with creating exhibition grade large prints (in which case medium format might be even better than full frame).

There are far more issues that change how your imagery is viewed (difference between monitors, prints, post-processing, colour management, etc) which will affect your images more than the sensor differences in ISO noise and color depth and sensor size is probably not critical even when it comes to large prints – as Apple has shown with their iPhone road size bill boards.

Pixel count too becomes largely redundant as most computer images are no greater than 8mp, furthermore, when shooting moving subjects such as sports, birds, etc, the subject movement even with fast shutter speeds results in image detail levels of perhaps only 10mp even if you have an 80 mp sensor. So all those 45mp images with massive file sizes taking up all that computer hard disk space and backup drives, while slowing down your post-processing are, for many cases, a waste of time and money.

Let’s look at a few scenarios:

Travel and street photography

  • most of the time you want everything in focus – the old full frame film street photographers generally used f/8 on their lenses to achieve adequate depth of field (and also lens sharpness is optimised at this aperture on their lenses)
  • you want to avoid changing lenses as this risks dust on the sensor, and opportunities for dropping your gear or having it stolen.
  • in the Micro Four Thirds world, you can choose an Olympus OM-D E-M1 II camera mated with an Olympus micro ZD 12-100mm f/4 OIS lens to give you class leading, weathersealed, highest optical image quality for an 8x zoom lens covering 24-200mm in full frame terms which will be much more compact and lighter than any full frame version. The image stabilisation at the wide angle even allows shutter speeds of many seconds hand held which is incredible and means you can gain low light or blurred water imagery without a tripod which is impossible with any other current system. This also provides one of the best image stabilisation if not THE best for video work. Will full frame kits achieve this level of image stabilisation – possibly, but they do have larger sensors to move and larger, heavier lens elements to contend with which will generally give MFTs the advantage.
  • Another example is the very compact 3x zoom f/1.7-2.8 lens travel camera – the new Panasonic LX100II which uses a MFTs sized sensor to achieve high image quality in a very small camera.
  • not only does MFT have the size and weight advantage here, but by being able to use f/4 for the depth of field required, they can use an ISO 2 stops less which removes nearly every advantage of full frame sensors.

Wildlife and sports photography:

  • if you need the BEST image quality, shallowest DOF then the dSLR with a $10,000 4kg super telephoto is the way to go
  • BUT for most of us, Micro Four Thirds offer twice the telephoto reach for the same size lens as for full frame cameras, and this means half the weight, size and often cost and more fun.
  • At the end of the day viewers do NOT CARE if an image is taken with a MFT sensor or a full frame sensor, in this genre, content is king and being there with a kit capoable of getting the shot by a photographer with skill and creativity will trump sensor size every time.
  • Take a look at this wonderful image which is being used to promote the current Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year for 2018 and not only appearing on the website promo material but also featured on illuminated bill boards in Adelaide – it was taken with the ground breaking but now very old 16mp Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera with the awesome, versatile Olympus micro ZD 40-150mm f/2.8 lens – no-one cares it was not taken with a full frame camera!

Australian National Geographic finalist

Portrait photography:

There are a few key elements that most photographers want from their camera gear for their portraiture:

  • precise depth of field to allow just enough to be adequately sharp from ear to tip of nose while blurring the background and foreground areas – in full frame terms this usually means an aperture of f/2.0-f/2.8 (wider apertures give too shallow a DOF for portraits but may be of use for full length body shots or for “creative” art imagery of faces where perhaps only the eyes are in focus)
    • in MFTs, the Olympus micro ZD 45mm f/1.2 provides this perfect level of depth of field wide open
    • perhaps the biggest issue for MFT for professionals is that you cannot achieve this level of DOF control with MFT zoom lenses while full frame users can use their 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses for this, but for the rest of us, we can avoid these heavy expensive lenses and use smaller prime lenses to achieve in shallower DOF.
    • the future though is for AI to post-process images automatically to provide even shallower DOF which will make the need for full frame more redundant – this is what the smart phone companies have started to do.
    • in studio work where backgrounds are controlled, professionals will often resort to f/8 on a full frame to ensure the highest image quality and in this regard, even the Olympus 12-100mm f/4 will suffice.
  • fast, accurate AF of the CLOSEST eye
    • this is one of the reasons mirrorless is FAR better than dSLRs
    • Sony leads in this technology which was initially introduced by Olympus – unfortunately the new Nikon Z cameras do not have this yet, and NO dSLR has this technology – some have face recognition such as the Nikon D850 but its not the same!
    • When I browse 500px and similar galleries I am constantly amazed how many otherwise good portraits are ruined because the dSLRs / photographer has failed to achieve sharp focus on the closest eye which detracts from the image significantly!

You don’t have to believe me – just check out Sean Archer’s work – he is perhaps THE BEST KNOWN PORTRAIT photographer on the net over the past several years and nearly all his works were created using Olympus OM-D gear. Someone convinced him to go full frame dSLR for a while but he soon gave that up and went back to his Olympus gear because it achieves the above better.

Sean Archer

Selfie or vlogger photography:

  • if you want to do a selfie, a small, light camera and lens makes this far more comfortable so MFTs is always going to have an advantage over full frame cameras
  • more importantly, the rear LCD screen needs to swivel so you can see what you are shooting – the new Nikon Z cameras do not have this.
  • the Panasonic GH-5 is still one of the most favored cameras for doing vlogging.


There is no doubt the new full frame mirrorless cameras will seduce many photographers – much as a status symbol more than for any other reason – although pros will prefer to be able to use their f/2.8 full frame holy trinity zoom lenses and they need the Canon and Nikon pro backup services which are not there to any close extent by Olympus or Panasonic.

In my mind, Micro Four Thirds has a sufficient base to not only survive but I believe will only get stronger, especially when those who migrate to full frame mirrorless systems realise that they probably don’t really need to carry all that gear around and can achieve most of their imagery with a smaller, lighter, and less expensive kit.

That said, there are a few areas where full frame currently does have advantages but these will reduce and perhaps disappear for all practical purposes as sensor technologies continue to improve and AI post-processing addresses DOF and image noise issues.

The big question is whether Olympus should join the fray and create a full frame mirrorless system as well.

I personally would like this as for the few times I want to use full frame, I could use the same ergonomics and user interface as I am used to with the Olympus OM-D cameras.

Having multiple interfaces by using different brands does adversely impact your photography, and I really dislike having to get my Sony a7II full frame mirrorless out to shoot – so it rarely comes out – and it may go the same way as my Canon 1D Mark III dSLR – sit in the closet as a remnant of a past age.



Australia’s drought – time to help the farmers out – photographers maybe it is a time for a trip to the rural regions?

Written by Gary on August 25th, 2018

Australian farmers generally have a hard time of surviving in many areas, and climate change has made this increasingly difficult as long droughts seem to become more common, and along with those come grassfires and bushfires, and the occasional massive floods to really make life hard.

Many towns in NSW are now running extremely low on even town water for the occupants let alone water for the farms.

courtesy BOM

The above shows the vast areas of south-eastern Australia with the lowest rainfalls for a 7 month period which not only highlights the drought issue but the risk of major fires as we head towards another hot, dry summer.

16 month drought, courtsey of BOM

Looking over even 16 months, we still see lowest levels on record in most of these areas.

The above are courtesy of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

Perhaps photographers can help a little – by touring these areas to not only capture and highlight the drought, but bring much needed money into these communities – and for posterity document historic features which may become destroyed in bushfires – an ever present risk in Australia which results in substantial losses of our heritage nearly every year.

PS. bring your own water!


Wow! Nikon has indeed created a compelling mirrorless full frame system – the new Nikon Z6 and Z7 cameras

Written by Gary on August 24th, 2018

We have been waiting a long, long time for Nikon to finally release a full frame mirrorless camera.

They were well behind the ball game compared to Sony and doubts were being raised as to if they could be competitive given the 5 year head start they have given Sony.

This new Nikon Z system will not be a Sony killer yet – but perhaps in 5 yrs time when the system starts to mature, it may be.

From the specs announced today by Nikon, they have learned from the Sony design mistakes and not only created a competitive camera but a system design which is likely to outperform the Sony for ultra-wide angle lenses thanks to its more sensible lens mount design.

Nikon Z6

Essentially the Nikon Z6 and Z7 are much the same as the Sony a7III and Sony a7RIII cameras but with a larger lens mount diameter which will allow improved edge image quality, especially with ultra-wide angle lenses with more future proofing, and better ergonomics including larger grips – and a far better menu system. The Z6 offers potentially better video thanks to its 10-bit HDMI compressed video out feed, 12 stop dynamic range N-log flat video profile and 1080/120p as well as the now usual 4K 30p mode.

These cameras are not revolutionary, but they will be another nail in the coffin for dSLRs which will increasingly struggle to compete with the many advantages of mirrorless, and the ability of mirrorless technology to further rapidly evolve and surpass dSLR.

These cameras have many advantages over their dSLR counterparts – the Nikon D750 and D850 – particularly in terms of the image stabilisation, the lovely EVF technology with limited blackout, much improved AF coverage across the frame, improved video capabilities, as well as the size and weight is much reduced – and they will be able to use the next generation Nikon lenses as well as almost any other legacy system lens ever made.

But there will be many questions to be answered over the forthcoming weeks on how well do the specs actually perform in real life when compared to the Sony cameras – especially the areas where Nikon has not proven its technology – the 5 axis sensor based image stabilisation is new for Nikon as well as the Dual IS capability and Nikon is not exactly known for its fast autofocus in Live View mode so it will be interesting to see how well it performs for eye detection AF and continuous AF, especially with the legacy Nikon F mount lenses which are not optimised for CDAF technologies.

Nikon have taken the best features from various cameras (such as the 5EV 5 axis sensor based IS which Olympus first introduced in the OM-D series, the top LCD screen from Fujifilm, menu system, weathersealing, batteries, etc from their D850) and created two awesome cameras on paper EXCEPT ONLY ONE XQD memory card slot – this may be their Achilles heel for the pros – I am not sure what the designers were thinking here!

Other potential issues:

Another feature they did not include which is common on many other cameras is Touch Pad AF to allow selection of the AF point.

The two front function buttons are almost impossible to access while gripping the camera.

Subject tracking AF is more clunky and slower to access than the 3D Tracking on Nikon dSLRs – and a big negative is that they do NOT have no Eye AF like the Sony or Olympus.

Rear screen does not swivel so not great for selfies of vloggers.

AF Assist light is an annoying green on-camera light and for some reason does not seem to activate an on-camera flash AF Assist beam.

No pixel shifting to give higher resolution images as with the Olympus cameras.

Limited buffer for burst mode – seems restricted to 16 RAW images which is quite poor if this is confirmed on production models.

Appears to have significant rolling shutter issues in electronic shutter mode.

4K video is only 24/25/30p, not 60p, but you can do 120p in 1080 mode. The Panasonic GH5 will still be king for video for most vloggers as not only does it do 60p 4K and 180p 1080HD, it is optimised for video, has two SD card slots, has a swivel LCD and a massive line up of native video and C-AF optimised lenses.

However, given the initial line up of mainly f/1.8 lenses, I suspect Nikon are targeting these cameras at enthusiasts rather than the pros at this stage, and we could then expect a pro level camera to be announced in 2020 once the trinity of f/2.8 zoom lenses are available.

Using legacy Nikon F mount lenses on these cameras is a significant compromise when compared to a native optimised lens (as has occurred with Sony, Olympus, Canon EOS-M – most of these lenses do not have modern fast stepping motors but the older USM motors designed for dSLR technology):

  • the lenses will probably be bigger as they have not been able to be optimised for the short flange distance
  • it will require the lens adapter which can become a weak point for weather issues and for movement/electronic contacts issues
  • you will lose your 5EV 5 axis image stabilisation effectiveness as you will only get 3 axis IS
  • even if they introduced Eye detect AF, this is unlikely to work on these lenses
  • continuous AF tracking will not work as well as it does on a dSLR – you will need a native lens to get this level of C-AF.

So if you are shooting moving subjects with Nikon F mount lenses, you would be well advised to stick to the dSLR for this purpose.

One other thing that did surprise me is that their planned super expensive NOCT lens, the 58mm f/0.95 is said to be manual focus only – this would be quite disappointing if it cannot be made to leverage the main advantage of mirrorless by having fast, accurate Eye detect AF which is so critical for such a shallow DOF lens.

Would I buy one?

Not at the moment (although if I were a Nikon shooter, it MIGHT make sense to change over now while you can still get good re-sale value on your Nikon F mount lenses, and if you are getting into full frame photography and you really like Nikon and can put up with the issues, then the Nikon Z system will be future-proof for you).

These two introductory cameras suggest Nikon is just dipping their toes in the water to test the feedback from the photography community – the design is far more future proof than the Sony design but these two cameras lack critical features for pros, vloggers, portrait, wedding and sports photographers (yep doesn’t leave much does it?) – but all these issues can be resolved with future camera and lens releases – assuming Nikon survives financially – if they don’t address the above issues soon and users now realise their Nikon F kits have a limited life, the release of this system may have a paradoxical effect and see their customers and potential new ones jumping ship to Sony or Canon – or even to Micro Four Thirds when they realise they probably don’t really need full frame for 99% of their pics.

Perhaps the best utility of these cameras as announced thus far will be for landscape, architecture or Milky Way astroscape photography where use of adapted lenses will not be an issue.

The Sony a7III and Sony a7RIII, for all their ergonomic foibles and lens mount design issues provide 3 critical functionalities not YET available with these Nikon Z cameras:

  • wide variety of native lenses to maximise the benefits of this technology (legacy Nikon F lenses can be used but with limited functionality and responsiveness)
  • awesome Eye AF – the Eye AF on the Sony cameras is perhaps THE prime reason I would buy one (it is even better than the Olympus version and Olympus was the first to bring it out)
  • dual card slots – a big deal breaker for critical work and for pros – memory cards do fail unexpectedly, and have a backup will save your butt – this is a big mistake by Nikon on their introductory cameras!

The fact there is no Eye AF and no native 85mm f/1.4 lens to make the most of it means the Sony will be FAR better for portrait / fashion / wedding photographers – and given their announced timeline, it doesn’t look like this will be changing at least until 2021.

The fact that there are no native telephoto lenses on the timeline means that the Sony will be a far better mirrorless option for sports and wildlife at least until 2021.

See my Wiki page for comparison table with the Sony cameras and with the Nikon D750/D850 as well as more details and reviews as they come in.

What about the other manufacturers?

Now to see what Canon comes up with and will they be able to be competitive – at least they have had a few years with their EOS M mirrorless system and their DualPixel AF sensors have given great Live View AF – but they still have to develop the sensor based image stabilisation, fast Eye detection AF, improved dynamic range sensors and a range of STM full frame lenses in their new mount to be competitive.

Now would be a fantastic time for Canon and Nikon to work together to share this new Z mount and end all this proprietary mount nonsense – no longer will Canon users be able to adapt Nikon Z mount lenses onto their cameras unless they do this – but of course, that is not the way most competitive companies work (apart from Panasonic and Olympus who should be praised for agreeing to unify their Micro Four Thirds mount – if only we had a near-open full frame mount standard as well!).

As good as these cameras are they still need larger, heavier lenses than Micro Four Thirds, so for me there will always be a place for the Olympus OM-D range of cameras and lenses, but perhaps Canon may tempt me to add a full frame mirrorless camera to my kit to replace my Sony a7 II which I am not a big fan of, and which I rarely use because I hate the ergonomics and the size of the Sigma EF 35mm f/1.4 lens just kills me.

Professional photographers may wish to further distance their “quality” from the hordes of full frame “photographers”, and jump ship to medium format mirrorless cameras such as the Fujifilm GFX or Hasselblad X systems – especially if they are mainly doing studio or landscape work.