Category Archives: F2.8

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!

 

 

A Tale of 2 Cameras!

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had a chance to get some use out of my Canon 60D and 70-200mm Canon L lens, and my Sony NEX3.  Once again I’m very pleased with both.  Yes, each can have certain limitations, but when used with this in mind they work out quite well.

First up – my Canon 60D with 70-200mm L lens.  The 60D is a great combination of features, speed, and image quality and is my workhorse.  Both of the occasions were outdoors, and with plenty of mid-day sunlight.  My 70-200 L lens is the F4 model.  For it’s size it’s light, and it will lock on focus very quickly.  Compared to my Tamron 70-200 F2.8 the L lens is much easier to spend a couple of hours with.  If you haven’t used a larger lens like the Tamron 70-200 2.8 you’d be surprised at how the weight will begin to fatigue you after a while.  I needed the lighter weight of the Canon L lens to chase around the grand kids that day.

In this image you can see how nicely the background is blurred, but the subject is in focus.  This is an example of a shallow depth of field.  To get this effect I did a couple of things.  First, I used a large aperture (small number), in this case F4.  The further increase the effect, I stood back from my subject and zoomed in to 200mm.  The result is a very shallow depth of field, or in other words, a very limited area both in front of and behind the subject that is in focus.
I really like this shot.  You can see how much fun this kid is having.  And the background is in focus just enough to know that he’s on a bike path near the water.
Both of the images above were made with just the available light, no flash.  The sky was slightly overcast otherwise I would have had trouble with deep shadows across faces and very flat contrasty light.  I suppose that if I had carried my flash that day I could have tried to use it for fill, meaning to soften the shadows.  For the portrait, I instead looked for a nice evenly shaded spot and positioned my subject with her back to the brightest part of the sky (it was still somewhat overcast).  I was also careful to make sure there were no streaks of sunlight sneaking in to cause problems.  The only thing I would have used flash for here would have been to add a catch-light to the eyes.

I had an opportunity to go up to our local mountains the other day, and I needed to travel lite.  But, I also wanted good image quality.  My Sony NEX3 met those requirements nicely.  I’ve talked about it before, but I’ll mention a couple of features that I really like again.  Size and quality are first.  The physical size of the camera is perfect (at least for me) when I want to travel lite.  While it’s a little larger than most point and shoot camera’s, it’s small enough for me to take on extended hikes or when I just want something smaller than my larger DSLR.  Second is image quality.  The sensor in this camera is an APS-C, the same size as the one in my DSLR.  The quality of the images are great, and to my eye better than what I could get out of the smaller point and shoot camera.  Here are a few images from my quick trip to the mountains near Lake Arrowhead.

You can see in this photo that I was not making this image during the golden hour.  It was just about mid-day, with the sun almost straight overhead.  But I wanted to take a few pictures so I started looking around.  That’s when I noticed how the leaves of this little oak tree were glowing, back lit by that mid-day sunlight.  Such a contrast from the darker greens of the rest of the foliage in shade.  Just to have a little fun, I positioned myself so the sun would peek between the branches of an overhead pine tree.  I kicked the aperture to F16 to create the star burst.
Here is a closer look at the wonderfully back lit oak leaves.  They really pop against the blue sky background.
I liked this scene because of all of the texture, and 2 interesting groups of trees.  With the harsh mid-day sun there was quite a bit of contrast.  I switched the NEX3 to HDR mode, and it quickly took multiple shots and combined them to bring out detail in the shadow and highlights.  I took the in-camera HDR image, and combined it with the original single exposure as metered by the camera.  Using Photomatix I created this image.  Personally, I really like this method because it allows me to make photos all day.  While I could easily have gotten carried away with the HDR, I tried to keep it realistic.  If you decide to try HDR yourself be sure to do what works for you!  If you share your work online, there’s bound to be a critic out there that doesn’t care for one of your images.  That’s ok, to each his own.  Just be sure that you are pleased and don’t worry about the critics.
That’s it for now!  Happy shooting!
** Thanks again Andy!!