Tag Archives: Cairn Terrier

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!



Masterpiece or Snapshot?

As someone who sometimes struggles with photography, I often ask myself this question – does it always have to be a Masterpiece?

Little dog on the ocean

Above – Clancey looking out of the boat on Morro Bay.  Panasonic GX-1, Olympus 14-42mm lens, settings – Automatic!

Take the image above for example.  This was a very spontaneous moment of our little dog Clancey, looking out from our rental boat on Morro Bay.  Things happen very quickly when you have 3 little dogs, especially when you introduce them to something new, like a moving boat!  I didn’t have time to both drive the boat and fiddle with camera settings, so I set my Panasonic to Auto (gasp!) and grabbed the shot.  This may come as a shock to those purists out there, but sometimes it’s ok to use Auto.

Here’s another example:

Motorhome Dogs

Olympus E-P3, settings – the exif data says f/3.5 and 1/100th sec. and Manual.

The photo above is another of those moments that come quickly, and if you want to capture the moment, you just do it.  Having all 3 dogs sit patiently together doesn’t happen often and I wanted to grab this moment in time.  Playing with camera settings and trying to get 3 high energy dogs to sit still would have been impossible.

My point to all of this is that there’s room for both Snapshot and Masterpiece.  When doing family things, like walking down the beach or going on a boat ride, I’m personally more interested in capturing the moments.  Making memories during family time is more important than creating a Masterpiece.

If you’re on a family vacation, it’s still possible to step away and try to create your Masterpiece if that’s what you want to do.  My time for “real” photography is either very early in the morning (I don’t call it “Up At Dawn Photography” for nothing), or late in the afternoon/evening.

I find this works best for me.  I’m not boring others with my fussing and fiddling with tripod, filters, and camera settings and don’t feel rushed.  It’s just me, the camera and the scene I’m trying to capture – looking at the scene from different points of view, adjusting settings, or just experimenting, it’s all good!

Here’s  a shot when I was out by myself:

Morro Strand

Morro Strand State Beach, Olympus E-P3 with Panasonic 45-200mm lens.  3 shot HDR image.

This is late afternoon/early evening on Morro Strand State Beach.  The sun was setting fast, and even though it was July, the temperature was quite cool.  It would have been uncomfortable for others, but I was so into capturing the scene, I really wasn’t aware of the weather.  I had time enough to shoot this scene with multiple exposures and slightly different points of view.  Is it a Masterpiece?  I’m sure that’s debatable, but I like it!  I’m sure that my results wouldn’t have been as good had I felt rushed.  As patient as my wonderful wife is, it would have been insensitive and selfish to subject her to these conditions.  That’s why it’s important to have the time alone, it allows me to try and be creative.

There are a few times where you can mix both Snapshots and Photography.  If you’re smart, you won’t take too much time away from the family by getting carried away with trying to create that Masterpiece.  Here’s an example:

On the beach, Montana De Oro

Above – Snapshot with my Panasonic GX-1

Montana De Oro State Park

Montana De Oro State Park.  Olympus E-P3 with Panasonic 45-200mm lens and Vari-ND filter.

The 2 images above are from our visit to Montana De Oro State Park.  This is a wonderful place full of very dramatic rocky shoreline.  You can see my audience in one of the photos.  Since I had 2 cameras with me, one of them was setup for this.  My Panasonic GX-1 had the 14-42mm lens and it worked perfectly to pull out of the bag and grab this shot.  My wife and 3 dogs were very patient while I made the image above.  I probably took longer to do this than I should have, and do feel a little guilty about it.  I really don’t like to have people waiting on me (or feel rushed).  But it turned out ok and I got 2 great shots (the 1st, a Snapshot, the 2nd a sort of Masterpiece).

While the image of the rocks and blurred water may or may not be a Masterpiece, it satisfies my creative side.  The shot of my wife and dogs has much more value to me.

To wrap this post up, I’d say to find the balance between grabbing those memories (Snapshots) and creating Masterpieces.  It’s ok to do both (even if you’re a serious photographer).  Satisfy your creative needs and make that Masterpiece but don’t forget to create some family memories too!

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

The New Camera Is Here!

This is going to be a quick post.  I just received my Panasonic GX-1 today.  So, what did I do?  I took it out of the box, charged the battery and started to play with it (that’s just how I roll)!  No manual, no instructions, just power up and go baby!  Here’s a sample:

Sullivan, Cairn Terrier

Panasonic GX-1, Panasonic 45-200mm Lens.  ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/400th sec.  Other than converting from RAW and resizing this how the photo looked out of the camera.

My 1st impression is good, I like it!  I like the feel and the fact that there are a lot of external buttons for controlling settings.  Not having to dive into complex menus is a plus!

That’s it (I told you this would be quick).  There will be more to follow as I use the GX-1 and compare it to my Olympus E-P3 and my Sony NEX3.

Until next time, Happy Shooting!