Wednesday, March 18, 2015

More Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 - Deeper Down The Rabbit Hole

Previously, I wrote about my initial impression with the Olympus 40-150/2.8 PRO lens.  That encounter had some unique challenges, such as having to shoot through glass - but the positive side was that the lighting was great.  This write up will also encompass some of the new EM1 firmware update (3.0) as well.

The Arnold Fitness Expo was in town again March 6-8, so I made the call that I would shoot this years event with my Olympus gear.  I wanted to do this to once and for all satisfy my curiosity on just how well this Olympus gear would function in a high pressure, fast paced shooting environment.

The team sat down and we mapped out what we wanted to cover over the 3 days. 

With schedule in hand we showed up on day 1 bright and early to get a decent place in the media pit area of the main expo stage. Both the EM1 and EM5 worked extremely well with the 40-150/2.8 and various Olympus prime lenses (17/1.8 & 25/1.8) in the adequately lit stage.  We had no problems getting the images we wanted of the arm wrestling, bodybuilders and strongman competitors.  The EM1 had the latest 3.0 firmware installed and you can definitely tell a big difference in the C-AF capabilities of the camera.  The 40-150 was quick and sure and just nailed focus time after time.  We were able to shoot it at f/2.8 for the majority of the time and our ISO was floating between 200 and 640.

There were some instances where we were using C-AF, but most of the activities on stage S-AF was doing a stellar job.

Day 2 was met with venues in light less optimum than day 1.  Our first event covered was fencing.  A hotel ballroom area was converted into rooms with multiple stages for fencing matches.  In these rooms, fluorescent lights predominated and our ISO got pushed up a bit further.  Also, in some of these areas, the 40-150 was too tight of a field of view, so the primes were employed more.  There were instances where the 40-150 was utilized, but they were more supporting shots for the fencing story than the actual action shot.  Still, the 40-150 performed admirably, nailing focus again and again and with great speed.  So far, I'm not missing my Nikon setup.  All appears to be going well with the Olympus gear.  More C-AF was employed due to the erratic nature of the fencing subjects.

We also covered some some stage events on day 2, like MAS wrestling and some martial arts demonstrations.  Lighting was about the same as the ballrooms for fencing.   Performance was still there.

Day 3 takes us off the beaten path and onto the Ohio State Fairgrounds where the kids expo, cheer and dance, and equestrian events took place.

Not much more to be said about the coverage of the kids expo and the cheer and dance areas.  Lighting there was more like the main expo stage, adequate for our needs.  The cheer competitions have a lot more unpredictable movements, which caused me to work harder at keeping the C-AF locked onto a subject.  Single point C-AF did well, but I wasn't able to keep the subjects on that one point as well as I would have liked.  So, I started to employ the 9 point C-AF and started to get a lot more keepers.  The trick is, though, that the initial lock must be good.  I noticed that there were times that the initial lock on the 9 point AF box would not be on what I wanted.  I also tried C-AF with tracking, but it got lost in the sea of similar uniforms.  I noticed thought that the C-AF with tracking might be a good alternative for video as it can track a subject moving around the frame, allowing for smoother camera movements in all directions.

Where we seem to have hit a snag and found the limitations of the EM1 and the 40-150/2.8 was during the equestrian events.  The arena was indoors and lit by old sodium vapor lights.  Those lights were high up in the stadium ceiling and were bouncing off the thick arena dirt floor.  Needless to say, the color pallet was just horrible and muddy, with low contrast.  It made for a noticeable decline in AF speed and really taxed the C-AF tracking ability.  It did it's job and I can tell I still need some more trigger time learning how the EM1 tracks focus.  The real issue I had was needing to push the ISO up into the 5000 ISO range.  This is a situation where the larger sensor of the FX Nikons would probably have been a better fit for the shooting environment.

So bottom line, I only ran into one small snag and it as not something so monumental that I cannot be overcome.  The 40-150 showed that it is a definite work horse of a lens and up there with any of the other makers PRO line of lenses.

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