Category Archives: MFT

Mono Lake Drama

Mono Lake is one of my favorite places for photography.  My wife, 3 small dogs, and I make an annual trip to the Eastern Sierra for Fall colors and I always try to make the short trip to Mono Lake.  This year was no exception.

As usual, I brought along several cameras.  The lineup included my Olympus E-M5, Sony RX100, and Panasonic FZ1000.  So far the FZ1000 has seen the most use, followed closely by the RX100.  Sadly the E-M5 has seen no use (the trip isn’t over just yet).  Why the FZ1000?  Because it is the most versatile camera I have ever owned.  I used it to make photos of everything from the Alabama Hills and Eastern Sierra under nothing but moonlight, and to take quick snaps of a herd of deer passing through camp, handheld in low light.

Getting back to Mono Lake. I had a lot of fun with the FZ1000.  The clouds were really dramatic on the day of my visit.  They were so dramatic that they almost didn’t seem real.  I’m sure Mono Lake has had millions of photos made of it.  One of the things I like to do is see if I can find something different, something unique to set my photos apart.  The stormy sky was a big help with that!  The other thing I did was try out some of the different artistic modes available in the FZ1000.  I did shoot normally (RAW, aperture priority, ISO 125/200), but also made quite a few photos using the “Dramatic Black and White” mode.

Here are the results in Dramatic Black and White:

And just for fun, here are some in color (edited from the original RAW files):

I know there are some of you that are wondering if a camera like the FZ1000 is for you. Nobody can answer that question for you but you. But based on my experience using this camera, I can say with confidence that it is an amazing camera! Yes, it is considered a bridge camera (not a DSLR), and it has a 1″ sensor vs cameras with larger APS-C and M43 sensors. And one more thing, it really isn’t that small. In fact, it’s quite large compared to my E-M5. On the plus side, it is quick and easy to use. And not having to change lenses is huge! I carry it and a few other supplies in a small messenger bag. I think the image quality is excellent, and I’m able to tweak the RAW files as much (or little) as I want. Don’t count this camera out (or one like it) just because of its sensor size!

That’s it for this post, until next time Happy Shooting!

Using the GX-1 at an Air Museum

I have a Panasonic GX-1. It was purchased on a whim because of a “deal of the day” advertisement that I saw online. The deal was too good to pass up!  The GX-1 showed up in a few days and I immediately started using it.  And then, it stayed unused in a camera bag.

My thought on getting the GX-1 was as a back up camera to my Olympus E-P3.  Both of these cameras are in the same class, Micro Four Thirds (MFT) and are known as mirrorless cameras.  Neither one has an optical or electronic viewfinder and you must rely on the LCD on the back of the camera for picture taking.  While not really pocketable, they are both much smaller than my DSLR (Canon 60D), and produce very nice images.  This type of camera is generally not very good at any type of fast action photography, but do quite well for just about anything else.

I really loved my Olympus E-P3, from the moment I first picked it up.  It felt solid and has a nice retro look.  I’ve taken some very nice photos with it too!  The E-P3 is starting to show its age, especially with its older 12mp sensor.  Low light high ISO capability was not really one of its strengths.  To counter that and work within this limitation, I kept the ISO low and put the E-P3 on a tripod in low light.  The solid build has come into play for me personally.  While out hiking with the E-P3, I slipped and fell – twice!  I came away with some scrapes and bruises, and so did the E-P3.  Nothing too serious but there are a couple of battle scars on it.  Other than the pop-up flash not working very well, the rest of it is just fine.

As for the GX-1, it doesn’t have a very solid feel and is definitely not retro.  The body doesn’t look bad, it just seems like it has more plastic than the E-P3.  Both the GX-1 and E-P3 have plenty of external controls and touch screens.  I’m kind of funny in that I don’t really care for the touch screens and turned them off.  The GX-1 is a very capable camera, and has a newer 16mp sensor and better low light, high ISO performance than the E-P3, and when I used it, found that it too produced some very nice images.  The other plus of having the GX-1 is that being a MFT camera, it could use all of the lenses that I currently had for the E-P3.  I just never really warmed up to it and didn’t use it, especially after getting my Olympus E-M5.

A week or so ago, I was digging around in my camera bags and saw the GX-1.  I decided to get it out, dust it off, and give it another try.  One of the places that I enjoy walking around and using my cameras is the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino California.  It’s fairly close, and always has interesting subjects.  What better place to get re-acquainted with the GX-1!

To my surprise, I enjoyed using the GX-1 more this time than I had when I first got it.  I used my Olympus 17mm f/1.8 and 45mm f1/8 lenses and tried to capture images in a variety of conditions.  Nothing that I want to get too technical about, suffice it to say that there was quite an extreme difference in the indoor lights of the hangars and the harsh mid-day sun.  Not the most ideal shooting conditions, but very realistic.  You can’t always have an epic sunrise or sunset with deliciously warm, golden light.  Sometimes you have to work with what you have!

Here are some of the pictures from that day.  I had the GX-1 in aperture priority mode, and changed the aperture (f/stop) and ISO according to the brightness of the light.  I also set the camera to shoot RAW for the express purpose of post processing.  I know there are some that don’t like post processing, and that’s just fine for them.  Personally, I enjoy working on my photos and finding new methods for creating an image.  Sometimes it’s black and white, sometimes HDR, and other times just a few minor tweaks.  Since I don’t consider myself a journalist or documentarian, I have no problem with post processing.  But to each his own, it’s all good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m very pleased with the GX-1, it was fun to use again.  It’s fairly small and easy to carry around.  I got used to changing settings and didn’t have to fumble around too much.  The RAW files provide good quality images with plenty of pixels for me to play with in post.  I think I’m going to keep it out and use it some more!  Unfortunately it has been discontinued by the manufacturer, but is still available if you look around.  I found it on Amazon – GX-1.

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

Olympus E-M5 at an Air Show, Revisited

I first wrote about my experience with the E-M5 early last year, and was somewhat disappointed with my results.  There were some definite limitations with the E-M5 with subjects that move fast.  Although the E-M5 was marketed with blazing fast autofocus (or something to that effect), it gave me fits at the air show.  Here are a couple of the main problems I had:

  • Tracking autofocus – very poor performance.
  • Continuous autofocus – very poor performance.
  • Electronic viewfinder – goes black when shooting a burst.

While I was able to come back with a handful of successful shots from my 1st air show using the E-M5 exclusively, I had to rate the E-M5 as a dud for this type of photography.  For my next air show, I brought along my Canon 60D and associated large lenses (in addition to my E-M5).  Having the Canon was a crutch for sure, but knowing that I had a solid, proven performer took some of the stress away.  I relegated my E-M5 with static displays and used the Canon for everything in the air.

I thought it would be helpful to others to post my experience using the E-M5 on a popular photography forum, and was given some good advice (along with a couple of virtual kicks in the butt).  It seems that others have already tread this ground and were having a much higher level of success with cameras like my E-M5 (MFT – micro four thirds).  There were some settings to change, and different approaches using the E-M5 for air show photography and birds in flight (BIF).  Birds in flight are equally, if not more difficult than air planes at an air show.  Not only do they fly fast, they can be unpredictable and are very small.

With some of the forum advice in mind, I started experimenting.  One of the changes I made was re-setting the burst mode from its highest setting of 9 fps to 6 fps.  This helped with the viewfinder blacking out.  It still went black, but came back much quicker.  I also changed the autofocus points from using just the center most point to a larger center grid of 9 points.  Instead of using continuous autofocus, I kept it on single autofocus.  The E-M5 can lock on to an object very quickly, it just can’t track it very well.  When an air plane started on a fly-by, I would pan along, get the E-M5 to focus, fire off a couple of shots and continue the process until the plane moved out of range.  This approach started to work.  This isn’t to say that my keeper rate with the E-M5 is approaching that of my Canon, but it was a big improvement.

The 1st air show of the year for me happened this weekend with the LA County Air Show in Lancaster, California.  Instead of the Blue Angels (who performed last year), the Thunderbirds were the main act.  I haven’t seen the Thunderbirds in 7 years, and was excited to see them in the air again.  The actual in-air performance between the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds could be seen as similar to some, but it’s still a treat for me to see the colorful F-16’s in the air.  To be fully prepared for this event, I brought both the E-M5 and Canon 60D.

I started out using the E-M5 for the static ground shots and the Canon for air shots.  But as the show progressed and I had both cameras out, I started using the E-M5 for more and more air shots.  The Canon 60D had the reliable (but slow) 200-500 Tamron lens attached and E-M5 had the Panasonic 45-200.  I’m going to do a separate post on the 60D and its results, but it worked as expected.  The E-M5 on the other hand did much better than I had originally anticipated.  The ground shots are usually never a problem (if there is a problem, it’s more than likely operator error).  My air plane in the air shots were much better than on previous attempts.  As long as I planned a little ahead and took my time, waiting for just the right moment to press the shutter, I came away with a few good shots.  If I just grabbed the camera and tried to fire off a quick burst without much thought, my results were very poor.  I don’t blame the camera for that, it’s completely my fault.  I didn’t work within the limitations of my equipment.  This doesn’t just apply to my E-M5, but with any camera.  They all have strengths and weaknesses.  Once you’ve figured them out and work within them, you will increase your success rate!

And now for the results.  All of these images started out as RAW files and were converted to .jpeg’s.  Some were cropped and tweaked a bit in Photoshop and then resized.

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