Category Archives: Camera RAW

Olympus E-M1 Test Drive

Thanks to a very thoughtful Father’s Day gift from my Son, I received an Olympus E-M1 from Borrow Lenses for 3 days.

Disclaimerthis is not a scientific review of the E-M1.  There are plenty of those available online.  This is rather my personal opinion and experience.  Some of the photos posted are untouched and others are worked quite a bit.

I already have an Olympus E-M5 and several M4/3 lenses, and am very happy with them.  The E-M1 came as a body only, and that worked out perfectly, allowing me to use my own favorite lenses for this test drive.

In case you’re wondering, here’s a short list of the lenses that I have for my E-M5:

  • Olympus 17mm f/1.8
  • Olympus 45mm f/1.8
  • Panasonic 45-200mm
  • Rokinon 7.5mm fisheye

Here are a couple of comparison shots of the E-M1 and my E-M5. You can see the size difference and some of the additional controls on the E-M1.

The only problem I had with this wonderful gift was figuring out how to make the best use of it.  Since I’m not much of a street scene shooter, I took wandering-around-town-taking-random-shots off of the list.  There were no air shows or drag races going on, and with some very ugly, hazy days, there wasn’t much hope of catching a grand landscape (at least in my area).

My solutions were backyard shots of my dogs playing (gotta try some kind of action), and touring a couple of air museums.  Neither of these options would press the E-M1 to its limits, but it would allow me to see how well it handled in some everyday situations.

First up, backyard action with the dogs.  I have 2 Cairn Terriers, and 1 Chihuahua mix, and they love to play in the water.  I set the E-M1 and Panasonic 45-200mm lens up with C-AF (continuous auto focus), but wasn’t having a lot of luck with it.  Sometimes it would work and adjust focus as expected, then it would be off, lost and hunting (little dogs move fast).  But I did stick with it and got several keepers.    It was late afternoon during this time, and the light was bright and harsh.  Here are some of the settings I used:

  • Aperture Priority
  • ISO – 200
  • 1/2000 sec.
  • f/5.6
  • RAW

Next up – Air Museums.  There was certainly no action to be had at an air museum, but I thought it would be interesting to see how the E-M1 handled in low light.  I purposely did not use a flash and  instead put the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens on the E-M1.  This seemed like a good combination.  The 17mm f/1.8 lens is fast enough to work in low light conditions and I’ve been very pleased with quality of images created with it.

Actually, I visited 2 air museums with the E-M1.  The first was Yanks Air Museum in Chino California, and the second was the Palm Springs Air Museum.  Both are very nice facilities with some fantastic examples of  aircraft.  Yanks has some great WWII warbirds including an F6F-5 Hellcat with an interesting paint job.  It also has some great modern aircraft including an F-14 Tomcat, F-15A Eagle, and an F-18 from the Blue Angels.

The second air museum was the Palm Springs Air Museum.  This turned out to be a show case for a nice variety of planes.  One of the highlights for me was being able to go inside of the B-17G “Miss Angela”.  The Docent was very knowledgable and shared some interesting facts about the B-17 and the men that flew them.  I am in awe of what those brave crews went through on a daily basis in order to win the war.  As for the E-M1, I bumped up the ISO from 640 to 1250 to handle the very low light inside the B-17 and it worked perfectly!

Here are some of the settings I used for the air museums:

  • Aperture Priority
  • ISO – 640 to 1250 (depending on location)
  • Shutter speed varied from 1/15 to 1/100 sec.
  • F-Stop varied from f/2.8 to f/8 depending on location.
  • RAW

One detail I noticed while reviewing the results of my air museum visit was that I forgot to change the auto focus mode on the E-M1.  Seems that in my haste to start shooting, I left it on C-AF (from my dogs in the backyard session the day before).  The nice thing is that this error on my part didn’t seem to create any problems.  The camera would lock on the focus without a hitch, even in the low light.

Overall my impressions of the E-M1 are good.  It’s a little larger than my E-M5, but not so large as to be a burden when carrying it around all day.  The controls are laid out nicely and it has a few additional buttons that E-M5 does not.

I noticed in some online forums that the Olympus menu system isn’t a favorite, with claims that it’s not intuitive and is overly complicated.  I suppose this is true when you first start trying to figure it out.  I didn’t really have a problem with it, but to be fair, I have some experience with the menu system,  going back to the Olympus E-P3.  It can be a bit confusing but there are some good resources out there to help you through that.  Here’s a place to start if you want some help setting up the E-M1 – PhotolisticLife

Just for fun, I tried the canned HDR feature, and didn’t find it to be anything special.  It reminded me of a similar feature in my old Sony NEX3.  The camera takes several exposures and combines them, then it gives you a .jpeg.  Personally I’d rather just bracket the exposures myself and do the HDR work on the computer.

There was one difference between the E-M1 and my E-M5 that I did like,  the quality of the electronic viewfinder (EVF).  Maybe it’s just my eyes getting old, but the EVF seemed much more clear and bright than the one on my E-M5.

As I get ready to pack the E-M1 back in its box and return it to Borrow Lenses, it was a pleasure to be able to use this camera. Unfortunately, it’s about twice the price of an E-M5 (or the new E-M10).  And the bottom line for me is that it wasn’t fantastically advanced enough over my E-M5 to warrant the expense of purchasing one.  Yes, I did like it and enjoyed using it, but not enough to buy one outright.  If I wanted it bad enough, I’d have to sell off some of my other gear to finance it, and right now I’m not in a hurry to do that.

That’s it for this post.  Until next time – Happy Shooting!

 

 

Imperial Beach, Before and After

Imperial Beach on Superbowl Sunday was fantastic.  The sunset wasn’t especially colorful, but the cloud formations were amazing!

I used my Olympus EM-5  with Rokinon 7.5mm fisheye lens mounted on a tripod.  In order to make sure there was absolutely no camera shake created by me pressing the shutter, I used the 2 second timer.

In case you’re interested, these are of the settings I used:

  • Aperture Priority
  • Format – RAW
  • ISO – 200
  • Aperture – f/11
  • Shutter Speed – 1/60th
  • Exposure Compensation – +0.3

Here’s what I got:
Imperial Beach, After

The out of camera results aren’t bad, but if anything perhaps a little dull.  And yes, I do recognize that there is some distortion, but I’m ok with that. This is a fisheye image after all.  I’ve mentioned it in some of my other on-line forum posts and I’ll say it here – I like the fisheye effect. I don’t use it all the time, and think that limited use is probably better than too much. But, there are times when a scene seems just perfect for it, and this was one of those times!

I’m not going to go into great detail on the adjustments that I made. There are plenty of excellent tutorials on-line for that. This is more of a high fly-over. In Adobe Photoshop RAW, I bumped up the Clarity setting. To my eye, this has the effect of tweaking the midrange tones. After that I did some work in Photoshop. Not much, but I did adjust the levels a bit. To finish it I bumped up the color saturation, cropped it a little from the bottom, and added a vignette .  This is the result:

Imperial Beach, After

The changes are subtle and simple, but lately I like that. I used to be much more into HDR images, but I’ve backed that off a lot.  As much fun as it was to make a series of images into something really grungy, I think I’ve gotten that out of my system. Just like using the fisheye sparingly, I’m going to keep HDR as a technique, a tool that I can use when the time is right.

That’s it for now.  Until next time – Happy Shooting!

Baseball Action

I had a chance to go to my friend’s son’s baseball tournament yesterday.  It was in the middle of the day and quite warm out, with a nice breeze.

Going to these games is a treat for me.  Having given up on professional baseball with all of the commercialization and high prices, I prefer this level of the game.  The kids on these teams really love the game and while some are exceptionally good, most seem to give it all they have.  I find it refreshing.

One of the other reasons I like these games are the photo opportunities.  There can be a lot of action, and I really enjoy trying to capture it.  Here’s an example:

Diving to 1st

Lately, I’ve been trying to keep an eye on the action around the field.  While there certainly is a lot of action at home plate, there are other things going on around the bases.  In the shot above, I was able to capture this player diving back to 1st from a long lead, just before the pitcher threw the ball to the 1st baseman.

Here’s a sequence of shots that I was able to grab when a player tried to steal 2nd:

Stealing 2nd, 1

Stealing 2nd, 2

Stealing 2nd, 3

All of the shots above were taken with my Canon 60D, and Tamron 200-500mm lens.  My settings were Aperture Priority mode, f/6.3, ISO 400, 1/1600th sec., and -0.3 on the exposure compensation.   The camera was set to AI Servo and to 5.5 fps.  All images are from RAW files, converted to .jpeg format using Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop.

I really enjoyed watching the game, and getting in some photography at the same time.  If you know someone who has a kid playing on a team, check it out.  You may enjoy the game and even get a few good shots.  If you do, be sure to share them with the parents!

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