Robin Wong: New Olympus OM-D E-M1 at high ISOs

All I can say is: WOW, OMG.

I never thought that m4/3 system could be so good at high ISOs. And do check out that handheld shot with a 1.6 sec shutter speed. It really gives you idea how good the 5-axis IS is in this camera. And it works with every lens. Just stunning.

Robin Wong’s blog post is here.

A quick tele zoom test

Took my old trusty (not yet rusty) Olympus E-P1 (yes, that first generation digital PEN) outdoors and fixed Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45-200mm F4-5.6 MEGA OIS (oh man, what a name!) zoom lens on it. This was just to see how I will behave with a zoom lens.

I was shooting at our yard and guess what I noticed after a short session? Well, the normal thing I notice every time I am using zoom lenses. I will use almost exclusively far ends of the zooms. So, in this case 45mm or 200mm. Actually this time it was 95% 200mm. I was shooting different types of subjects and I just was zooming in to the 200mm (400mm equivalent). Couldn’t help. A 200mm prime lens could have done the job (at least 95% of it). I wasn’t utilizing zoom’s versatility.

So, it really seems (still) that I am a prime lens guy. This was a very short test of course but it will give me something to think of. I have been pondering to purchase Fujinon 55-200mm zoom for my Fuji X-Pro1 but why should I do that if I am going to use only the 200mm end after all. No point to get a zoom lens for that. Fuji does not offer any tele primes at the moment (there is 60/2.4 Macro but I have had it earlier and I felt that the focus speed was too slow).

I have for my X-Pro1 the Asahi Pentax Super-Takumar 135mm F3.5 lens (about 200mm equiv.) but it is manual focus only and frankly too long lens to hand-hold. Remember that X-Pro1 does not have any in-body IS.

I would be happy with something like 150-200mm equivalent focal length. But this needs more pondering because this may need rethinking of my camera system choices. I am not sure if I am ready for that…

In the end two shots at 200mm (400mm equiv.) with the E-P1 and Pana 45-200mm zoom. I am quite pleased to them.

KWH Pipe A home between trunks

Low angle fun

Olympus OM-D has two great features for low angle shooting. First of all it has a tilting LCD screen which is very handy when shooting low or high angle shots. Secondly, you can trigger the shutter by using LCD screen’s touch function. Just touch the subject you want to focus on in the screen and the camera triggers the shutter immediately. There is also an option to only select a focus point by touching. In that case you trigger the shutter in normal way by pushing the shutter button.

I took the shot below using these nice features. The camera was on the floor beside me and I used the touch screen to trigger the shutter. Tiitus didn’t even know that I was taking some photos. Really fantastic!


It seems that life is never simple enough. At least when it comes to camera gear. I am now using m4/3 system (Olympus OM-D and several prime lenses) as my camera system. It is very fantastic camera but I still feel something is missing from the user experience. Or should I say I’m having too much stuff for the proper user experience. I highly recommend to read Jesse’s blog. He is a fellow photographer and blogger pondering the same kind of things and now he has found a solution which seems to work for him.

I have some fantastic m4/3 lenses (e.g. M.ZUIKO 45/1.8 and 75/1.8). But I’m still frustrated every time when I have to change lenses. I am never just picking the camera up and shooting. It seems I really need a camera which liberates me from this. Something simple and beautiful. It does not have to be a all round system. I do not need that kind of a camera. I need a camera which will make think. But after I have picked the camera up. At the moment I am thinking too much for the right lens choices before I am even touching the camera.

Maybe Fuji X100S would be that kind of a camera? A liberating one. When browsing through my Flickr set for X100 shots I realized how versatile that beauty really is. From great close-ups to nice landscapes. And everything in between. Just with that 35mm focal length.

Another tempting option would be Sony RX1 but it is really expensive. Should I say fortunately very expensive because I have said in many blog posts that full frame is not my thing.

Well I know some people will say that I will be missing longer focal lengths if I choose X100S. That may well be true. Solution for that would be a zoom lens camera like Sony RX100. But then I would be frustrated in zooming back and forth. It is similar thing for the user experience as is the lens changing thing. For longer focal length maybe the new Sigma DP3M (with a 75mm equivalent lens) would be an option. I know, I know. I just sold my DP2M. But anyways. Just a suggestion for myself. Check out these DP3M sample photos.

Summarizing this it seems that I would like to simplify my camera gear through most complicated ponderings. Nothing new in that actually. Still looking to the future open-minded as Herkko does in the shot below.


Just a short post about the AF speed of different lenses in m4/3 system. As I stated earlier the current generation of Olympus M.ZUIKO lenses are blazingly fast to achieve the focus. The situation is not the same with Panasonic lenses, unfortunately. My Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH lens has quite mediocre AF when used with Olympus OM-D body. Huge difference when compared to M.ZUIKOs and there is also quite much focus hunting too. The shot below was taken in reasonable indoor lighting (due my standards) with Lumix 20/1.7. M.ZUIKOs will focus instantaneously in those conditions having no hunting at all. Lumix 20/1.7 was instead hunting a lot. Not good. I am now thinking to get M.ZUIKO 17/1.8 lens to replace the Lumix. Many reviews report that the 17/1.8 has a really fast AF and has also more pleasing bokeh than 20/1.7.

My Sigma 30mm F2.8 EX DN is much faster in focusing than the Lumix 20/1.7. I think Sigma is very well acceptable even if not so fast than M.ZUIKOs. Also the focus hunting is very minimal with the Sigma. Very nice performance for so cheap lens!

All in all, some lenses are behavin', some are not.

Reasoning fulfilled?

Let’s see how my recent move to m4/3 system and Olympus OM-D has cured the problems I had with Nikon D600. I wrote about my reasoning in this blog post. Below are the questions I asked at that time and some opinions now on OM-D:

First, I was really going to suffocate in the camera menus trying to figure out endless AF possibilities and also other camera adjustments.

– Well, OM-D’s menu system is quite horrible actually. But Super Control Panel saves the situation. With OM-D I use solely single-focus AF (S-AF) so no tinkering with AF possibilities (of course if I would need continuous AF then I will have problems with OM-D). 85% happy.

Second, full frame is nice but usually I had to stop down quite much to get subjects both eyes sharp. And stopping down in low light situations means you have to use flash (which I do not like to use) or use high ISOs. It seems that APS-C sensor would be perfect for me. Nice shallow DoF but not so tricky to achieve sharp shots.

– With OM-D I achieved the above things. Very Nice. 90% happy.

Third, I hate to change lenses. I really hate that. Actually, after buying 85mm lens I was solely using it. So, it seems that I do not need an interchangeable lens camera.

– Not solved at all. m4/3 is an interchangeable lens system. I think I can live with this fact. 40% happy.

Fourth, it is a big beast. I am into smaller cameras. I really can’t understand when I will realize this. I hopefully have now realized it.

– OM-D is really small as are the lenses. 95% happy.

Mean happiness score: 77,5%

First steps in the old world

As some of you may know I have had m4/3 system before my new Olympus OM-D. I bought E-P1 almost immediately it was available in summer 2009. Fantastic image quality but not so good ISO performance or AF. Now that I am back to m4/3 system I thought to share my first impressions during the very beginning using OM-D.

First of all, OM-D is really on a different level when comparing to E-P1. And of course it should be. But that m4/3 feeling is still there. Small, lots of features, great IQ.

OM-D is very small and handy to use. Maybe even too small for some people but for me it is perfect. It is really easy to take OM-D with several lenses with you. You do not need much space and endurance to carry the whole system.

IQ seems to be top notch. I am especially happy about ISO performance. 6400 seems to be totally usable when I learn the tricks for noise reduction in Lightroom. Some people say that very little noise reduction should be used with minimal sharpening. These are the things I am testing at the moment.

That fantastic 5-axis IS increases so much the keeper number. So nice. I think my future camera bodies should always have an IS system. It is very nice to have it in the camera body because then it will be available with all lenses used.

Tilting LCD is cool to have. I use it quite a lot especially for low angle shots. Much easier to go dachshund-level than with traditional rigid screen. Touch sensitivity is also nice because you can focus and trigger the shutter by touching the screen. Quite cool for hip-level shooting using the LCD.

I already mentioned in an earlier post that AF is really fast. How fast it is depends on the lens used. Much faster with new M.ZUIKO's than older Olympus lenses or Panasonic's. But they all are in the category fast – blazingly fast with single-focus AF. All in all, I am very happy with AF performance – also in low light conditions.

Lenses. Yep, there are some superb lenses available for m4/3 system. My new M.ZUIKOs, 45/1.8 and 75/1.8 are really something. Small and very capable. 75/1.8 is metal construction and very impressive. I have to write additional post(s) about the lenses. All I say now that you can't go wrong with this system when lenses are considered.

There are also few things I do not like with OM-D. The position of the on/off switch really irritates me. It should be positioned around the shutter button. And that menu system. Just horrible. Fortunately, I do not have to visit menu often because the Super Control Panel saves the situation in 90% of cases.


One-camera approach

I have almost all time owned two or three cameras. I do not, however, have time to use all of them effectively and I am all the time pondering which one to take with me if I am going to a trip or a photo walk. Now that I have found a fantastic camera, Olympus OM-D, I have decided to have it and m4/3 system as my sole camera.

I have never had been so pleased on a camera as I am now. Perfect DoF, bokeh, and sharpness in one small package. Somebody has stated that “Save for camera bodies, spend for lenses”. Or something like that it was. I think I am going to do that way. Micro four thirds system has lots of fantastic lenses. I am very much into prime lenses as some of my readers may know. I have 20/1.7, 30/2.8, and 45/1.8 primes for m4/3 at the moment. All those are very nice small primes. But something is missing.

When I had Canon system (APS-C and FF) I had a lens which I really loved. That lens was the most difficult thing to give up when I changed to Fuji that time. The lens was Canon 200/2.8 L. I am quite much into longer focal lengths. Not so much into wide ones. For m4/3 system there is fortunately a savior for my longing for 200 mm. It is the Olympus 75/1.8. It is 150mm equivalent in 35mm format so not quite 200mm but it is the longest prime in m4/3 system. I have seen only highly praising reviews about it. It is quite expensive (829 €) but it seems to be a fantastic piece of metal and glass. Now that I sold my Sigma DP2M I will use that money to by this lens. I know I need a longer prime and here it is.

I suppose that in one year time (maybe earlier) there will be next version of OM-D camera body. I will save for that. By then I will have fantastic lenses for m4/3 system.