Category Archives: 70-200mm

60D vs E-M5 at an Airshow

This post is about a real world comparison between my Canon 60D and Olympus OMD E-M5 at the LA Count Airshow. My little review is not scientific nor is it heavy in the technical specifications of each camera. It is just my experience between these different types of camera and how they performed for me at a fast action event.

I was really looking forward to this airshow.  When I found out they were offering special photographer access (for a price) I jumped at the chance.  Having a very limited crowd of like minded photographers and access to all of the plane on the field for sunrise was not something I was going to pass up.

A couple of days before the event, I started getting my camera gear organized.  I made up my mind that I was going to bring both my Canon 60D DSLR and my Olympus E-M5 Mirrorless to this event.  It was immediately apparent that the 60D with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 and 200-500mm lenses were going to get heavy.   My E-M5,  45-200mm Panasonic, and 17mm f/1.8 Olympus lenses were beautiful, sleek, and  lightweight in comparison.

There was a good reason to bring my beast of a DSLR and it’s large lenses along.The last airshow I attended, I brought just one camera, the E-M5.  I did manage to get some decent shots, but my keeper rate was low.  Continuous autofocus/tracking performance was poor to say the least.  There is a work around, and for me that was to use just one center focus point, set the camera to single shot autofocus and the full 9 frames per second.  I’d pan along the path of a plane and when the time was right, I’d press the shutter for several frames.  I’d usually get one, maybe two frames clear and in focus if I was lucky.  The E-M5 is lightning fast when locking on with the single point autofocus, so even with a moving target you stand a chance of getting a frame or two in focus.

Cable Airshow, Olympus OM-D E-M5
Cable Airshow, Olympus OM-D E-M5
One of the things that caught my attention for the LA County Airshow was the Blue Angels were going to perform.  For loud, fast paced action in the air I don’t think it gets much better.  In addition to the Blue Angels there were a number of other types of planes including some of my favorite WWII warbirds.  This was going to be a great place to use both cameras.

The morning started off with wandering around the static displays, and my using the E-M5 on a tripod.  I really enjoyed how quick, light, and easy to maneuver this combination was.  Unfortunately I had to carry around my boat anchor of a camera bag (stuffed with the Canon gear).  For this type of shooting (objects that don’t move) the E-M5 was perfectly suited.  I went back and forth between single exposures and multi exposures for HDR.

Blue Angel #7, Sunrise
Olympus E-M5 with Panasonic 45-200mm lens. HDR image.

When the action started, I continued to use my E-M5.  I really wanted to test it and see if everything I had read online about it’s poor tracking autofocus performance was true.  I have to admit that very early on I became discouraged.  Even with some of the slower moving aircraft, the E-M5 would miss, and completely loose focus, hunting back and forth, struggling to find the subject again.

Olympus E-M5, Out of Focus

This is what it looks like when I got my 60D and 200-500mm Tamron lens out.  The 60D was set to AI-Servo (continuous autofocus):

A4 Skyhawks, Canon 60D
Canon 60D, 200-500mm Tamron Lens

As the airshow progressed, I used the E-M5 less and less.  It was just too frustrating to keep missing shots.  The 60D on the other hand would lock on to the planes quickly, and as long as I tracked along smoothly, it would stay locked on.  I think the only real problems were related to my technique, and the wind.  It was very windy that day, and my Tamron 200-500mm lens with lens hood is quite large.   When the wind would gust and I was pointed vertically following a plane, I would actually bet bounced around and pushed off track.  It was annoying but not a show stopper!

There was a time not too long ago that I thought about selling the 60D and related gear.  I really don’t enjoy lugging it around.  There have been times when after a long day of shooting the weight of it starts taking the fun out of what ever event I was participating in.  So far, I’ve been able to use my E-M5 for every other type of photography I’ve attempted.    Unfortunately it isn’t suited to fast action.  Yes, I know this has been discussed on various forums, but I’m a funny guy.  I need to see for myself whether the chatter is legitimate, or folks not really knowing what they are doing and blaming the equipment.  In this case, they were right.

The question is, what am I going to do about it?  For now, nothing.  I did think about selling the Canon gear to fund purchasing the newer Olympus E-M1.  The E-M1 is supposed to have fixed the focusing issue by utilizing a hybrid system including both Contrast Detection and  Phase Detection auto focus.  The reports on the photography forums have been generally favorable.

Maybe I’ll believe them this time!  In the meantime, here are a few more photos from the airshow:

P-51C, Take Off
Red Tail P-51C, Canon 60D & Tamron 200-500mm Lens
B-25 Mitchell
B-25 Mitchell, Canon 60D & Tamron 200-500mm Lens
Blue Angel 5, Take Off
Blue Angel 5, Take Off Canon 60D & Tamron 200-500mm Lens
High Speed Pass, Blue Angels
High Speed Pass, Blue Angels, Canon 60D & Tamron 200-500mm Lens
Blue Angels, Breakaway
Blue Angels, Breakaway Canon 60D & Tamron 200-500mm Lens

Hopefully my dilemma and comparison has helped answer some questions you may have had.  If nothing else, you may want to keep your beast of a DSLR if you enjoy fast action photography.  Or if you don’t want to keep it, you may want to check out the Olympus OMD E-M1.

That’s it for now, until next time – Happy Shooting!

 

 

 

 

Mono Lake

Mono Lake is a very interesting place.  Not only because of it’s unique ecosystem, but also because it’s one of my “happy places”.  I find myself daydreaming about the many visits I’ve been able to make over the years, and the numerous photo opportunities I’ve been presented.

Big Clouds, Mono Lake

It seems that I’m looking back more and more to those quiet and serene places I’ve visited in the Eastern Sierra.  As my job becomes more demanding and tedious, I look forward to each opportunity to get away and pay another visit to Mono Lake.  Once I’m there, I also try and make it a point to slow down and breath it all in.  This may sound silly to some, but I want to have a clear mind and really attempt to feel the spirit of this wonderful place.

While I consider Mono Lake to be almost sacred ground, there are others that may not share my feelings.  It’s true that if you visit Mono Lake during the middle of the day, you may come away disappointed.  There are no trees to offer shade, and it can get hot.  And there are the flies.  Yes, lots of flies.  These black flies inhabit the shoreline of Mono Lake in uncountable numbers, turning the ground black.  The interesting thing about the flies (called Alkali Fly) is that they are not your typical house fly, and will rarely ever land on people.  And finally, some will be put off by the smell.  Mono Lake is more salty than the ocean, and does have a unique odor.

I don’t want to turn this post into a science lesson.  If you’d like to learn more, click on this link –  Mono Lake.

Getting back to the fluffy stuff, I just love walking along the shoreline of the South Tufa State Reserve.  While I do love getting up in the dark and arriving before sunrise, I was privileged to see some amazing sunsets.  This happened last year, late in September.  The sky kept changing, becoming more colorful with each passing moment.  Just when it seemed like the show was over, the colors changed from various shades of red to a warm golden sheen.

Mono Lake Sunset

For those that can’t get out of bed for sunrise, and for others that may not be able to make the trip for sunset, there are other options.  While mid-day sun doesn’t usually provide the best light, you aren’t completely out of luck.  The trick is to keep an eye on the sky.  I’ve had plenty of mid-day to late afternoon photo ops, but I always wait until there is some sort of action in the sky.

What kind of action?  Storm clouds.  Luckily during the summer months the chances for afternoon thunderstorms increase.  There’s an old saying, “bad weather, great photos”.  I’m not sure who said that, but I find it to be true.  I’m not talking about gray, drab rain clouds that fill the sky and have not character or features.  I’m talking about big, bold, billowing thunderheads, reaching thousands of feet into the air!  The kind of clouds that make you feel small and insignificant in comparison.

One note of caution is advisable here.  It’s one thing to stand in awe and take pictures from a respectable distance.  I’ve done this safely many times from the South Tufa, watching and photographing the storms passing across the middle of the lake and on the far shore.  But you need to pay attention!  If the storm shifts and moves in your direction, you need to seek shelter.  Not only can you get caught in a major downpour with your camera gear, but there can be some pretty severe lightning.

Mono Lake Clouds, black and whiteNext issue – what kind of camera gear do you need?  Good question!  I’d say whatever you have will be ok.  It just depends on what you want to do.  I’ve seen (and used) everything from simple point and shoots to high end DSLR’s to View Cameras.  There’s another old saying, “F8 and be there”.  The  f-stop is up to you, but being there is very important.  You can’t take pictures if you don’t have your camera, and all the camera gear in world will do you no good if you aren’t there!

As I already mentioned, I’ve used everything from my “Precious” (little point and shoot) to a large DSLR and various accessories.  This includes a tripod.  Just remember, large cameras require large lenses and large tripods.  I’ve carried them many times down the boardwalk from the parking lot to the shoreline.  I usually don’t get too tired or sore until after the long walk back to the car.  My point is that this stuff can get heavy, so be prepared!  It may also get dirty, so you’ll need to exercise some caution in and around the sand and water.

No matter which camera (or cameras) you decide to bring, try to mix up your shots.  In addition to those eye level grab shots, don’t be afraid to get down low.  Bring a towel to kneel on, and shoot low to get a unique perspective on this fantastic landscape.  And try to remember to shoot a few vertically.  I’d also suggest that in addition to a wide angle lens that you consider something in a moderate telephoto, say 70-200mm.  You can zoom in on some of the birds that call Mono Lake home, or isolate a unique tufa formation.

Brand, make, or model don’t really matter.  This isn’t the time or place to worry about the specifications of your gear, or wishing you had something else.  Fixed lens or zoom, again it doesn’t matter.  I think this quote from Ansel Adams is appropriate – “A good photograph is knowing where to stand”.  You just need to be there.  Use what you have, and enjoy the show!

Tufa Sunset, Mono Lake

In closing, I hope you are able to pay a visit to Mono Lake.  Be sure to stop by the Visitor Center!  And if you have the time, drive over to the South Tufa and enjoy the view.  I’ll talk about another area of Mono Lake with some very unique and delicate formations called Sand Tufa.

Until next time – Happy Shooting!

 

Fun in the Backyard!

It finally seems like summer here.  It was in the middle to upper 90’s today, and will get warmer each day for the next few days.  After a good bike ride this morning, and getting some chores out of the way, I felt like taking some pictures!

Since it was so hot out, and our little dogs (Cairn Terriers – Mulligan and Sullivan) love to play in the hose water and sprinklers, I thought I’d take the camera out and see what I could do.  My wife would handle the hose and sprinkler duties, and I would man the camera.

I got my trusty Canon 60D out and put the 70-200 F4 L lens on it.  Light was not going to be problem today and F4 was plenty fast enough.  I wanted to stop the action today, so in addition to setting the camera on AI Servo focus (continuous auto focus),  I also set the ISO to 400 and opted to keep the photo format to jpg because I would be holding the shutter down and at 5.5 frames per second, the buffer would fill up fast.  This combination allowed very fast action stopping shutter speeds!

All in all it was a fun time in our backyard today!  Mulligan and Sullivan had a lot of fun, got in a little exercise, and beat the heat for a while. Here are some photos from this afternoon:

So you may be asking, what’s so special about these photos?  In short, nothing.  At least not to anyone but friends and family.  But the point of this post is for you to get out there and make the best of any situation (a hot, lazy day in this case) and make some memories.

We had a lot of fun today, and I want to be able to look back on this day using these photos and remember that!  Go ahead and substitute dogs for kids or grandkids or whatever.  Your camera doesn’t matter, making the memories is the most important thing, so get off your butt and get busy!

Until next time – Happy Shooting!