Monday, July 31, 2017

Olympus Em-1 Mark II

My thoughts after using the EM1ii in a serious shoot, and editing the resulting images.

1) It was a lot of fun shooting with this camera:

a) the fully tilt and swing LCD makes shooting vertical images so easy - and one can set the screen at odd angles when needed to stand to one side behind and above or below the camera - all at the same time. As the camera came, screen brightness was inadequate for sunlight shooting but I quickly increased screen brightness and lo - working outdoors on a sunny day is no longer a problem - and unlike increasing brightness in previous cameras which simply gave a washed out light low contrast image - this was simply brighter and better, no image deterioration at all.

b) the camera fits my hands wonderfully, and feels very solid, and the front and back dial controls are superb.

c) the range of focal lengths covered by the 40-150 so matches my preferred focal lengths - so lens swapping is way down..

2) battery life - notwithstanding the increase in lcd brightness, the battery lasts a full shoot of a few hours. I do have a backup battery but so far have not needed it. After the sony 6000, wow...

3) EVS viewfinder.  There were comments on the net about the use of an LCD instead of an OLED - but I have no issues with the accuracy of the viewfinder, or resolution, or responsiveness - all much better than my Fuji G50S.

4) The infamous Olympus Menu system - it's extensive, but actually fairly logical and for the most part I've not had difficulty getting around and doing basic things like formatting a card and setting the camera for Raw etc. You do need to remember to press OK rather than MENU to select something - MENU backs up but doesn't necessarily select a choice.

5) the non customizable visual menu you get by pressing OK makes sense to me -= I can't mess it up by putting things in odd places which was an issue in a previous camera.

6) controls - for the most part they make sense and things respond as you'd expect them to. But not entirely - there are times for example that the front and back dials that should change shutter speed and aperture simply don't, and when the AEL lever in the 2 position should allow me to change ISO and colour balance doesn't. these are documented 'features' and there are reasons for them, but none the less it does confuse a tad. Something to be said for the Fuji controls - one for iso another for shutter and the lens sets aperture.

6) image quality - I have used a mix of high res and normal for my images and while the high res is wonderful - the normal resolution is pretty darn good - enough to produce a very high quality 17X22 with a decent white border (2-3 inches, so really a 13X18 image on 17X22 paper (which is my norm when printing on this size paper (makes framing much easier).

I did run into limits of dynamic range when shooting the Lancaster Bomber - it was indoors, but the shed doors were open so highlights were reflected from outside and much much brighter. I did two things wrong - setting the ISO to low (64) which reduces dynamic range, and for convenience I used the 50 MP jpeg for my high res images since 80 MP is awfully high.

I hope to find some combination of sharpening and size reduction of the 80 megapixel images that I can create a photoshop action for, or even a Lightroom one so that the high res images can be converted to a 50 mp image with full shadow and highlight retention, good sharpness without obvious artifacts. I haven't decided whether to do all the high res images at import, or one at a time as needed (on the assumption that the vast majority of images never get processed anyway, because a better composition, exposure, etc. was found.

7) focus bracketing. It is necessary to remember to NOT select focus stacking - something that generates a jpeg, is done internally within the camera, and is limited to 8 images and only certain Olympus lenses. Focus bracketing simply makes a series of images and you don't need to increment the focus - always a bit tricky - did I turn it far enough, too far, go far enough to focus on the back of the subject as well as the front.

Focus bracketing doesn't work in manual focus - not really surprising, but here's a catch, possibly a big issue - magnified manual focus is limited to the autofocus area, which covers 90% of the viewfinder, but not 100%. You can scroll around the screen, but not right to the edge. Doesn't seem to matter whether you set manual focus internally or using the clutch on the lens.

If you are focusing on a flat field subject - say ice, there doesn't seem to be a way to check focus right to the very bottom of the image (nearest ice). So far, the only work around is to use enough depth of field to cover this nearest part of the subject. The other option is to move the camera to manual focus, focus without magnification and turn the lens a bit further than you think necessary for the near edge, take a single image, then move to auto focus and do the bracketing - this way you'd have the x number of bracketed images plus one or two focused nearer to capture that near edge. A hassle, but at least possible.

It would be awesome  if in the focus bracketing settings you could set the first focus step to be two or three steps closer than what autofocus says you need (based on focusing near but not on the edge), or else give us magified manual focus right to the very edges of the image and have some way of preserving that setting as you switch to autofocus to do the actual blending. It would be an easy firmware upgrade to do the former.

So far, I've not come across a solution to this problem. I'll check with The Camera Store to alert me when an Olympus rep becomes available. If they don't know the answer, perhaps at least they can get in touch with Olympus in Japan to either find the answer or consider the firmware upgrade.

Is this problem limited to Olympus - hardly - a number of cameras don't do magnified manual focus right to the edges and corners. It's just that with the auto focus bracketing, it becomes more crucial.

OK, update.

IF you set the menu to manual focus, turn off magnified focus, turn on focus peaking, then through the viewfinder focus on the very edge and perhaps a bit nearer, then move the focus clutch to auto (remember the menu says you are still in manual focus, but now the BKT symbol is back in the viewfinder and when you press the shutter button, you start the bracket sequence from where you focused using focus peaking. Seems to be quite accurate and def. better than guessing if the edges are in focus and since you set the menu to manual focus, the camera doesn't try to refocus when you press the shutter button.

The next thing to check is if it's possible to set magnified manual focus off, peaking on, etc. though one of the custom settings - then I'd find it easy to move back and forth from high res, magnified focus, and normal res focus bracketing.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Elevator Trackside - Nanton

More luck than skill, we pulled into the parking lot for a local cafe and this was across some weeds, facing west and it was lunch time - the sun just past south so it could light this face. Shot with the Olympus em1ii, 40-150 mm. lens, some minor pin cushion distortion corrected in Photoshop.

Lancaster Bomber in Black And White

The museum is located about an hour south of Calgary in Nanton. The plane is painted black, and of course is old and has a lovely patina. I'm planning to revisit till I'm sure I've squeezed out all I can from this fascinating relic of WWII.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Bomber Museum Nanton

The EM1i was a delight to use in my first serious shoot with the camera. Almost all the images were made with the 40-150 and as expected, it reulted in a lot less lens swapping than I'm used to with either the Pentax 645z or the Fuji 50s. Resolution on the high res mode was great - though for convenience I opted for jpeg 50 MP. As I also opted for low ISO of 64, I'm thinking I might have short changed myself on highlight room.

I even did a 7 image focus blend (for later processing) that worked well. Switching from vertical to horizontal and back was of course painless because of the lens collar. I'd purchased the RRS L bracket but as they did warn, the L part of the bracket does interefere with full movement of the LCD screen so took it off for today. The bottom Arca bracket that contours the shape of the body of the em1ii was perfect for providing support for my little finger, right hand so I don't begrudge the extra height of the bracket and body combined.

 Is high res mode as good as the Fuji 50s? No way. Is it sufficient for the size of prints I'm making - for critical inspection - yes. I'd say that up to 20X24 prints will be fine, but not 30X40.
Is that a problem - well, I don't have a 30 inch printer (max. 17 wide is what I have). Is my wife about to let me hang a bunch of 30+ inch prints in the house - no.
So, given how much fun it is to use, how little hassle, and how it solves all of the issues I had with previous cameras, I'm so far more than prepared to accept this quality.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Weaselhead Bridge

Shot with the Rx10iii, minor cropping of skyline, darkened the green in the black and white conversion, used my browntoblack action to tone, then adjusted the sliders in blending so that the blacks were more neutral, the whites creamy but not sepia.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Begonia In Colour


Shot with the Olympus 60 macro, from about 4 inches away, hand held, ISO 5000. I even added some additional blurring to the stamens which were already a bit blurred anyway. I remember Fred Picker saying - take things the way they want to go - instead of opening shadows, make them richer an deeper, make highlights glow off the paper. It can be hard not keep detail while driving towards the limits.

Monday, July 24, 2017

40-150 f2.8 and high res mode EM1ii

Wind picked up as storm was blowing in - so we see artifacts and blurring in the high res image that isn't there with a single exposure. Again, don't compare till you click to see them at full res.

Pay attention to the amount of detail in the roof shingles, in the plant below the window, and the detail in the blind, and lack of grain in the high res image.

Of course, I don't need to persuade you, only satisfy myself. It takes a few minutes to load the 80 MP raw file, sharpen it, reduce it to a more manageable size and save it. No one, even Olympus, is trying to tell you there is a full 80 megapixels of information in these files. - more like 40 mp.

We saw the same thing with images from Foveon cameras. They had full information at every pixel and initially tried to persuade us this was equivalent to a bayer pattern sensor of 3 times the size - it wasn't - but the images were unusually good for their native size - each pixel full colour, no bayer algorithm guessing at colours and detail.

You don't get the normal aliasing moire in patterned details, noise is significantly lower, resolution is more than half again better than standard shooting mode - not bad for a minor effort on our part - using a tripod - which I'd do anyway for my landscape and industrial work, and a little delay in processing the image.

I'll set up an action in Photoshop for any high res images I'm interested in working on.

High Res Mode Test - 8-18 mm. Panasonic

Be sure to click on the images to see them at original resolution so you can compare - in the blog as is they are sig. reduced in size and you won't see the difference.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Olympus em1ii

Can you believe it - I own a Fuji 50s and am about to replace it with the Olympus - huh?

Well, it's like this - I'd always liked the idea of the small camera and even had a Panasonic gh2 that I liked very much but felt image quality lacked.

Recently with using the rx10 I was amazed at the image quality with a very small sensor and had to wonder about modern 20 mp micro four thirds.

I read mixed reviews of the high res mode - only with primes, more often than not not offering anything more than native single shot quality.

I'll be offering evidence soon but can tell you that high res with the Panasonic 8-18 and with the Olympus 40-150 are fantastic and this is going to be great.

Is with this camera is simply amazing. In single focus I have made some great shots of the dog - even indoors - which previous cameras have frankly sucked at.

Today at the off leash park I struggled mostly because as son as I lay down to get a low angle Sophie would bolt towards me and be within five feet by the time I got camera and telephoto to my eye  - hardly the cameras fault but I did have some success as she ran towards me standing so there's hope.

You might ask why buy the 40-150 2.8 when it weighs exactly the same as my canon 70-200 f4.

Well, I was using my Pentax lenses with the Fuji and this 40-150 will cover my 120, 200, and 300 and even gets close to the 75 so that's one lens instead of four.

A lot is made of lens equivalence - double both focal length and f stop to get an idea of what the lens does in full frame terms.

But remember that exposure and matching shutter speed are based on the actual f stop, not some equivalent number so my 2.8 40-150 will need half the ISO compared to my canon lens.

Still, I'd be kidding myself if I thought that even with high res mode I'd be able to print as big.

Know what -my printer only does 17X22 and my garage stores half a dozen large canvas prints -too big to hang in the house. I even bought a pack of 8.5X11 paper so I can make hand holdable prints.

is it possible this micro four thirds will disappoint? Possibly, but it will be fine for now and I'm definitely having fun. Someone who does need 40X60 inch prints can buy my 50s and be happy with it.

Back with images to support this position in the next few days.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017


Shot this with the Velvet 56 - the idea being that with an f 1.6 macro lens with flare, one could concentrate on shape and tone almost entirely. Photographed on my north facing back deck so that the soft north light (I was in the shade) would come from behind the object.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Waterton Driftwood

Sometimes there's a large selection of driftwood on the eastern shore of Middle Waterton Lake but the pickings were slim this year. I did find this interesting bug eaten stump half buried and was able to rest it against some other logs. I shot two images, one wide open to blur the background, and a second stopped down for maximum depth of field in the main subject, then blended them together.

Camera was the Fuji GFX 50S with Pentax 120 macro lens via Fotodiox Adapter.