Category Archives: Micro 4/3’s

My New Pocket Rocket

Catchy title, isn’t it! I’m referring to my Sony RX100. Technically it’s a point and shoot camera, but that’s a good thing, really!

You may be wondering why I got myself a point and shoot (P&S) when I have so many other choices. That’s because I’m always on the the hunt for a small camera with excellent image quality.  After doing quite a bit of research, I picked the Sony RX100.  Yes, this is the original.  There are 2 revisions to this model on the market.  As nice as these newer versions are, they come with a hefty price tag and I decided that I really didn’t need the additional features.  Some of these features seem like gimmicks and marketing ploys, and I probably wouldn’t use them.  My primary “must haves” were excellent image quality, shoot in RAW, and it had to fit in my pocket.  The RX100 does all of this, and more.

Before I share a few examples let me say that this little P&S is not a DSLR replacement much less a M43 (micro 4/3rd’s) replacement.  As good as it is, it does have its limitations.  One of the things that makes it so good and also the reason it won’t replace my other cameras (like my Canon 60D or Olympus E-M5) is it’s sensor.  The little RX100 comes with a 1″ sensor.  This is much, much larger than what typically comes in a P&S camera.  The 1″ sensor is also much smaller than the sensor in either my 60D or E-M5.  The other thing that makes the RX100 so good is it’s Carl Zeiss lens.  It’s fast (f1.8 on the wide end) and provides excellent image quality with very little color fringing or chromatic aberration (so far).  It also has an image stabilizer and can shoot up to 10 frames per second.

I probably won’t try to use my RX100 at an air show for fast moving air planes.  The long end of the lenses zoom range is only 100mm, and while it can shoot 10 frames per second, it doesn’t have a view finder, either electronic or optical.  It would be very difficult to track and shoot the planes as they quickly pass by using just the screen on the back of the camera.  And if I did manage to grab a shot or 2 the planes would look like little dots.  I would however take it along for photos of the static displays of aircraft on the ground, or in an air museum.

The main reason I got the RX100 was for those times when I don’t want to bring anything that wouldn’t fit in my pocket.  There are times when even my trusty Olympus E-P3 or E-M5 can be bulky (in comparison the RX100).  I’ve been on a quest to shrink my photo gear footprint for a while now.  Since I got the RX100 and used it alongside my E-M5 I think I’m pretty close to where I want to be.  So much so that I’m even thinking of selling a couple of my other cameras.  I’ll keep the Canon 60D and big lenses mostly for air shows, the E-M5 for just about anything else, and now the RX100 as a backup or primary camera when I want to go very fast and light.

There are a lot of P&S cameras on the market.  Some are ok, like the Canon S90 to S120.  Nikon and Fuji also have some very good P&S cameras.  I’m sold on the RX100 mainly because of the image quality and other reasons I already mentioned above.  This obviously isn’t a scientific review, just my thoughts and reasoning for picking up this great little camera.  Here are some examples:

The images above with the exception of RAW conversion and resizing were not “enhanced” in any other way.

That’s it for now, there will be more to follow in future posts as I’m able to spend more time with the RX100. Until next time, Happy Shooting!

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!

 

 

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!