Thursday, April 30, 2015

Midwest Photo Exchange​ Print The Street Exhibition News

Hello everyone!

A while back I had submitted an image to my favorite camera store's "Print The Street" photo contest.

Happily, they have accepted my entry and it will be part of a gallery exhibition on May 8, 2015 in their Learning Studio space.  The address for that is 3286 North High Street in Clintonville. OH.

The exhibition will be from 5pm to 7pm.

I invite you all to come out and see not only my image,but the other images that will be there from other photographers selected for show.  There will also be top prize awards, which should be announced sometime next week.

This is my first exhibition like this and it is exciting for me, so if you could come out and show your support for the fine photographers, that would be much appreciated.  The image they are using is attached to this post.

If you plan on going, I recommend car pooling as parking can be tricky in that area.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Refreshed Post - Do I Really Need A New Camera?

This post was originally published almost 5 years ago.   Thought, it is relevant again today and could do with an update.

I get asked a lot about what camera bodies to buy or someone is wanting to upgrade their current camera or lenses and wants to know what model they should upgrade into. A lot of times this is unnecessary and people get caught up in the new model acquisition syndrome.
The following are a few things to think about before spending money on that new camera body/lens as the money might be spent better elsewhere or perhaps SAVED!

  • Have I outgrown my current camera?
    This is the first thing that you should consider. What limitations does the current gear have? What is it not allowing me to do or how is it holding me back?

    First, do not get caught up in having the newest and best. I still shoot using a Nikon D300. Yes, it does have some limitations for my professional work(I'll get into those in a bit), but I have used this camera for so long I know what it is capable of and not.
    You must think, “What am I primarily going to shoot?” and “What is my budget?”
    This comes down to NEED versus WANT. We would all want the very best camera, but that must be tempered with the very best camera WE CAN AFFORD. We'd all love to have an exotic sports car, but that is not always the best choice monetarily, situationally.
    If you have kids, then what is required from your camera is not the same as one might need for doing landscapes and macro photography. There may even be some attributes of a lesser camera or lens that can not be found in a higher end model(such as a higher speed x-sync of the off camera flash – my old D50 has a max speed of 1/500, while my D300 has only 1/250).

    So, think hard, how is your camera body limiting you? Not good enough low light performance, not enough frames per second in burst mode? Slow focusing? Need an in camera focus motor(for you Nikonians out there)?  Are you looking to go smaller and lighter, a mirrorless camera may be a good fit for you.

  • New body versus new lenses
    One of the major concerns is that a person needs better low light performance. This can be achieved in many different ways:
  • Faster glass – get a prime or zoom lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or faster. While this will give you a lot more light coming into the sensor, it also gives you more creative freedom as well. Do you love those images where the subject is in focus, but the background is blurred? Larger apertures are in your future. The good thing is, this option can be as expensive or cheap as you are willing to pay. The big two(Nikon and Canon) offer 50mm f/1.8 primes for ~$100, and other options in the wide to medium prime range for ~$400 and under. Mirroless cameras from Olympus/Panasonic/Fuji also have great value/performance primes out there.  Getting into zooms will cost you a little more, but don't be afraid to explore the used market. If you find a quality seller, you can get a steal on a used lens for sometimes 30%-70% off the new price.
  • Better ISO performance through post processing.
    Shooting at higher ISO causes digital noise to be introduced into the images you take. This is most prevalent with today's movern sensors at around ISO 3200 and above. However, all is not lost as there are a lot of noise reduction plug ins for Photoshop products(their full CS product as well as Elements). Even Lightroom can do a decent job at reducing noise.  These products have an almost magical behind-the-scenes algorithm that can help to reduce the sensor noise. I've been using Topaz Denoise for quite some time and absolutely love it. You can read about it here:
    The cost of this plugin is under $100.
    A lot of people are afraid of flash – because they don't understand it, which is human nature. However, there are a lot of great benefits to flash. I won't get into all that here, but you can learn more than most at just the following sites:

    Flash adds extra light to your scene and can also give you the added benefit of freezing motion! Generally, shooting the flash directly from the how shoe or camera at a subject does not give you a flattering light. The above links will explain that and how to get around all that.
    This option is getting into a lot more money, but the possibilities you'll have in image making have just ramped up. If you learn to use even a basic, off camera manual flash kit – the potential for your image quality to improve increases exponentially.

    Even spending ~$200 on a basic TTL hot shoe flash can make a huge difference.
    Going the off camera route can make a huge difference as well. To get started, check out and go to their “Strobist” section. They have complete 1 and 2 light kits from ~$200 - $500.
  • New body
    Ok, so none of the other options above interest you and you are feinding over a new camera. What to chose? Is the image quality hike on a more expensive camera worth it or will a newer entry level body be just as good? The best thing to do now is RESEARCH. Get out on Google, Yahoo!, Bing or whatever search engine you prefer and do comparisons of your camera versus what you want to upgrade.

    There is a lot of option out there between the 135 size sensors, APS-C and m43.  DSLR, mirrorless ILC and fixed lens ILC.
  • Marketing Hype
    Try your best to steer away from the marketing hype about sensor sizes, megapixels, etc.  Make a list of the options you really need to have.  I've used just about every camera system out there and they are all very capable - so long as you do your part to make the most of the equipment and learn how to use it to it's maximum potential.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Firmware Update Breathes New Life Into The Olympus 75-300/4.8-6.7 Zoom Lens

Firmware updates are a good thing.  They fix issues in camera or lens operation and sometimes they bring with them better performance or upgrades that give you functionality that you didn't have before.

Not too long ago, the Olympus OMD EM1 received firmware 3.0.  This firmware was to enhance the AF performance on the camera.  They touted the enhancements for the C-AF.  They should also tout the overall AF performance.
Olympus OMD EM5 - 1/640, f/6.7, ISO 200 @ 300mm
One of the things I love most about the Micro Four Thirds camera is the ability to get more reach from a smaller kit with great quality.  By greater reach, we are talking about the field of view being narrower for any given focal length when we are comparing it to the fields of view of a film or digital camera of the 135 persuasion.  Something like a Nikon D700 or Df as an example of a 135.

I had need for a lens with some longer reach, and saw some reviews about the Olympus 75-300mm and the Panasonic 100-300mm lenses.  After much review, I decided on getting the Olympus.  In field of view terms, this lens is a 150-600mm.  Add on top of that the ability with an OMD body to use the built in 2x digital teleconverter and you could have an effective 1200mm field of view.

All this goodness for around $500 used.
Olympus OMD EM5 - 1/500, F/8, ISO 200 @ 208mm
Image quality on the lens is outstanding for the price, especially under the 250mm focal length.  Even out to 300mm, it is still doing very well....but you can start seeing where the compromises needed to be made for this zoom lens.

Another slight hiccup at times was the AF lock at longer focal length, specifically beyond 200mm.  It tended to hunt a lot and could at times mis-focus.  Given the nature of the lens - it needs good light because of the slow aperture range and the mis-focusing I used it rarely.

Olympus OMD EM1 - 1/8000, f/7.1, ISO 3200 @ 3200
You know how erratic chickens are and I wanted to show another example of high ISO images with the EM1
I decided to bring it out the other day as I was heading over to some local parks and thought I'd give it a go again.  I paired it with the Olympus OMD EM5.  Then it all came back to me why I used it rarely.  It was having issues focusing again.  I'm trying to get some birds on a bird feeder at between 250 and 300mm lengths and it would mis-focus a ton.  It got to the point that I started just focusing on the rim of the feeder box and waited for birds to fly into frame.  Lighting conditions were favorable.  I was shooting in bright sunlight, around 1-2pm, no shade, plenty of contrasty subjects.

Olympus OMD EM1 - 1/2500, f/6, ISO 640 @ 187mm
Going home, I was a little disappointed.  I was getting some old lenses together to trade in for the Olympus 12-40/2.8 and thought that I might sell the 75-300 and save up for the upcoming Olympus 300/4 prime lens.

It dawned on me that I had not tried to use the 75-300 on the EM1 with the new firmware update.  I was planning on going to a local historical farm to shoot anyway, so I brought the 75-300 with me.  This was do or die time for the zoom!!

Olympus OMD EM1 - 1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 800 @ 300mm
All I can say is that I am glad I gave it a second chance.  Talk about a night and day difference.  There was no hesitation, I think I might have missed focus 2 times and I'm pretty sure it was my fault.  The lighting conditions were almost identical to the day I shot it with the EM5.  I was able to lock onto birds sitting on a fence rail jumping around and spinning about and fire away.  New life indeed!!!!!

While I can see me getting the Oly 300/4 if I need to consistently shoot at that field of view a lot more, this zoom will do just fine for the time being.

Olympus OMD EM1 - 1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 1000 @ 300mm
Some extra tips for the 75-300 shooter:
  • If you are like me and normally shoot in aperture priority mode, think about switching up to shutter priority mode for those times when you are using the 75-300.  I let the aperture ride where it needs and set the ISO to auto.  I've got no problems using the EM1 all the way up to ISO 6400
  • If you are not happy with the performance on the EM5, check it out on the EM1 and the new EM5 Mk II before giving up on it.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Lens Review

Previously, the only wide to medium zoom lens for m43 we had was the Olympus 12-50/3.5-6.3.  While a decent, versatile kit lens, it does not favor shooting in low lighting conditions based on its variable and comparatively slow aperture range.

1/1600, f/6.3, ISO 200 @ 12mm
While we do have primes that pretty much cover the range we are looking at with the 12-40/2.8, having a fast zoom is great for those times when you cannot or do not want to change lenses.
1/500, f/4, ISO 200 @ 26mm
Image Quality
Like the 40-150/2.8 PRO, I can't really find a lot of fault with the IQ at any aperture or any focal length.  You have your normal IQ drop off at f/11 and above due to diffraction, but beyond that, I find it stellar.  There is some noticeable barrel distortion at 12mm, but nothing that a run through Lightroom and the lens correction module can't handle.

The bokeh is pleasing when you are focusing up close.  Based on the sensor size we are working with anything focused on at further distances gives you lots of in focus areas.  The bokeh isn't bad, but your not going to get a lot out of focus either.

From the sample images, shot wide open and in the challenging conditions, this lens is fantastic in the IQ department.

1/320, f/4, ISO 200 @ 15mm
This thing is small when you think about what you are getting in the exposure department.  A 12-40 f/2.8 focal length,  You get a 24-80 field of view.

The zoom ring is smooth and dampened and feels every bit a pro grade lens as the name Olympus gave it implies.

The focus ring is smooth and moves from one point to the other very quickly.  I like the AF/MF clutch as well for those times when you want to quickly switch over to MF.  No menu diving and you get the added bonus of snap focusing.

1/2500, f/4, ISO 200 @ 24mm
Compared to the 12-50mm lens, this one is on the heavy side.  Compared to an APS-C or 135 equivalent f/2.8 lens, it is down right small and light.  hand holding this lens on an EM1 or EM5 with after market grip is easy.

1/2000, f/2.8, ISO 200 @ 40mm
Auto Focus Speed
Single point AF is lightning fast in all but the poorest of light.  Even in poor light, though it is slow, but tends to hit the mark.  There is some hunting, but only when the lighting is so dark it is hard to see your target with the naked eye.  At that point any camera system is going to struggle

Continuous AF
 works great!  I've not had an opportunity to see what the lens did pre firmware 3.0 on the EM1, but I've never heard of any complaints from anyone about it.  I might take some time and see how it performs on the EM5 as a comparison.

Close focusing is also another plus of this lens.  It is not macro level, but like the 40-150/2.8, you can get right up close, I believe that you can get 4cm from the front element!!

1/200, f/4, ISO 200 @ 31mm
Lens Hood
The hood is reversible and has a positive locking mechanism.  There are 2 buttons on the hood that must be pressed before the hood can be twisted for removal.  You'll not be losing this one accidentally.  It is kind of shallow, but can provide some front element protection and shading.  It is in no way as deep as the one that comes with the 40-150/2.8

1/80, f/4, ISO 640 @ 40mm
So far, just from this one day of shooting and seeing the results, I am sold on the capability of this lens.  It is sharp, handles well, everything is in a great place and the AF performance is top notch.  I'm not sure if Olympus could have made a better wide to medium telephoto zoom lens.

As much of a winner as this lens is, it is expensive when compared to other zooms in the same focal range.  However, this is a pro grade lens, while the others are not (except the Panasonic 12-35/2.8, which is a great lens in its own right).

Monday, April 13, 2015

Nikon 24-85/3.5-4.5 VR VS Olympus 12-50/3.5-6.3

Another FX versus m43 comparison.  Today, let's look at the Nikon 24-85/3.5-4.5 VR against the Olympus 12-50/3.5-6.3.

Both are "kit" lenses, in that the respective companies often bundle them with cameras.
Image © Olympus America
The 12-50 Pro list:
  • Slightly longer field of view ~100mm versus the Nikon's 85mm
  • Weather sealed
  • Electronic zoom for use in movie recording
  • Macro mode - locked at 43mm
  • Not as large in diameter and lighter than the Nikon
  • Fast AF
  • Internal zoom and focus
  • can have MF override if setup that way in camera menu
The 12-50 Con list:
  • Slower on the long end
  • Needs stopped down a bit in order to be sharp
  • No built in IS - only matters if you are going to use it on a Panasonic body
Image © Nikon USA
The 24-85 Pro list:
  • built in IS
  • Not as long as the 12-50
  • MF override without having to setup as option in camera
  • internal focusing
  • quite AF-S lens with respectable focus speed
The 24-85 Con list:
  • Having the MF focus always "on" and toward the camera body can cause accidental misfocus until you get used to it.
  • not weather sealed.
  • significant barrel distortion at the wide end(correctable in post)
  • telescopes when zooming
  • no macro mode
Nikon 24-85
Olympus 12-50
Focal Lengths

We shall not get into any equivalence debates, as I don;t much care for them.  I feel a photographer should know their gear and learn to adapt to it and use it accordingly.  These 2 lenses come close in field of view(FOV), which I shall define here for our purposes as follows:  If I am standing in the same location with each camera and lens and go from wide to telephoto, the view I see in the viewfinder is relatively the same.

Obviously, if we do the math, the Nikon lens FOV used on an FX camera is going to be 24mm to 85mm.  The Olympus OMD cameras I have need to have a 2x multiplier so going from 12mm focal length gives us a FOV of 24mm and at the long end, 50mm focal length gives us a 100mm FOV.

Pretty close except for that last 15mm.  The Olympus pulls ahead in the pure reach factor.  However, a lot of zoom lenses tend to get a little soft when they go from one extreme to the other.  Sometimes stopping the aperture down helps.
Nikon 24-85
Olympus 12-50
Image Stabilization

The Nikon has it in the lens, the Olympus relies on the camera body that it is mounted.  Both systems work great, so a wash here.  If you have a need for stabilization then you are covered.
Nikon 24-85
Olympus 12-50
Auto Focus Performance

The Olympus cameras are great AF performers in great to good light and suffer a little bit in speed when light starts to get challenging.  With that said, the Olympus 12-50 was the lens that convinced me on the m43 system over the Fuji X-T1.  It will get you there quickly and accurately.

The Nikon, even with AF-S is decent, but not the same speed as in single point AF as the 12-50.  We do need to bring up the point of continuous AF both speed and ability to lock.  as good as the S-AF is on the m43 cameras, they do still have a ways to go in the C-AF department.  They are decent when tracking a moving subject that is going in a predictable trajectory.  
Also, for perspective - AF performance is a package deal, both the camera body and the lens systems have to work together.  You can really only judge a lens on its AF performance based on its ability to keep up with the target.

Bottom line S-AF goes to the 12-50, where as C-AF goes to the 24-85.  
In real world use, I don't see the AF speed of either of these camera/lens combos holding me back.

Nikon 24-85
Olympus 12-50
Image Quality

We've done this before with the Tamron 70-300/4-5.6 VC vs Olympus 40-150/4-5.6
We are going to look at real world use and not shoot targets.  How well can the respective cameras and kit lenses compare to each other?

On the Nikon side, we will shoot with the D700 or Df and on the Olympus side, the OM-D E-M1 or E-M5.

The Olympus micro four thirds kits are not far behind.  Mirrorless gear keeps getting better and better. Fuji is improving their AF performance and the responsiveness of their cameras grows stronger with each generation.  While mirrorless might not be  an option for you right now, it is definitely a strong competitor in a camera rich environment that is still dominated here in the USA by DSLRs.

Olympus 12-50

Nikon 24-85

Nikon 24-85

Olympus 12-50

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tamron 90mm f/2.8 VS Olympus 45mm /1.8

Another FX versus m43 comparison.  Today, let's look at the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 against the Olympus 45mm f/1.8

Both are similar fields of view.

Image © Olympus America
The 45/1.8 Pro list:
  • Great micro contrast
  • Fast auto focus
  • small and light
  • large manual focus ring
  • sharp at all apertures
  • able to gather large amounts of light with the f/1.8 aperture
  • good depth of field control
  • close focusing
  • internal focusing
The 45/1.8 Con list:
  • prime - must zoom with your feet
  • can be tight field of view indoors
  • not a macro lens
  • not weather sealed
  • No built in IS - only matters if you are going to use it on a Panasonic body
Image © Tamron USA
The Tamron 90/2.8 Pro list:
  • 1:1 macro
  • sharp even at f/2.8
  • good manual focus ring
The Tamron 90/2.8 Con list:
  • slow to auto focus compared to other lenses in similar fields of view and focal lengths
  • not weather sealed.
  • large compared to other primes in its class
  • telescopes when focusing
  • depending on focus distance, it is not a constant f/2.8

Focal Lengths

We shall not get into any equivalence debates, as I don't much care for them.  I feel a photographer should know their gear and learn to adapt to it and use it accordingly.  These 2 lenses the same in field of view(FOV), which I shall define here for our purposes as follows:  If I am standing in the same location with each camera and lens, the view I see in the viewfinder is relatively the same.

Tamron 90/2.8
1/1000, f/2.8, ISO 100
Olympus 45/1.8
1/1000, f/2.8, ISO 100
Image Stabilization

The Nikon camera bodies do not have stabilization and neither does this lens.  You will need sufficient light to use this lens or keep your hand holding of it to 1/100 shutter speed or faster.  Tripods are also an option as well. The Olympus relies on the camera body to stabilize it, which the OMD series has.  Given the potential for 3-4 stops of extra hand holdability, the Olympus has a slight edge.

Auto Focus Performance

The Olympus cameras are great AF performers in great to good light and suffer a little bit in speed when light starts to get challenging.  With that said, the Olympus45/1.8 is one of the fastest focusing primes I've ever used.  It will get you there and in a hurry and with great accuracy.

The Tamron, well, it is a macro lens.  It is geared differently.  If AF speed is what you need, I'd recommend skipping this lens and maybe getting a Nikon 85mm f/1.4 or f/1.8.  You'll be paying more, but what you need sometimes doesn't fit into a price range.  You would then also be losing the macro focusing distance.

Now, the Tamron is noticeably slower than the Olympus.  I will say this, though, I shoot a lot of street photography and have used this lens to do so in the past.  AF performance was good enough to not leave me frustrated.

Tamron 90/2.8
1/400, f/8, ISO 100
Olympus 45/1.8
1/400, f/8, ISO 100
Image Quality

We've done this before with the Tamron 70-300/4-5.6 VC vs Olympus 40-150/4-5.6
We are going to look at real world use and not shoot targets.  How well can the respective cameras and lenses compare to each other?

On the Nikon side, we will shoot with the Df and on the Olympus side, the OM-D E-M5.

Why do I do this?  Well, lets see how the flagship sensor of the Nikon line does in comparison to the Olympus OMD EM5 camera of the Olympus line!!   Last time the OM-D E-M5 and the 40-150/4-5.6 did surprisingly well against the Df and Tamron zoom combo.

Tamron 90/2.8
1/2000, f/2.8, ISO 200
Olympus 45/1.8
1/4000, f/1.8, ISO 200
So what do we say at the end o the day?  Having the extra stop of light on the Olympus lens is great.  It affords us a similar DOF control as we would have on the Tamron.  It also gives us a lower ISO or faster shutter speeds to work with on the m43 cameras.  Again, m43 is doing quite well here against a larger sensor camera.

Tamron 90/2.8
1/640, f/4.8, ISO 200

Olympus 45/1.8
1/1250, f/1.8m ISO 200
The above 2 images are an example of how close the macro can get versus the close focusing distance of the Olympus.