Archive for the ‘Camera gear’ Category

Going Small – Part 3

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

It finally arrived 2 weeks ago, just before my trip to Houston. By now the Olympus OM-D has been widely reviewed and has been hailed by some as a breakthrough camera, the best of the new mirrorless offerings. Here’s what it looks like next to by Canon 5D Mark ii (image taken with my iphone camera):

It is a beauty to look at and, at 13 ounces for the body, a joy to carry. The camera is so light compared to the big boy next to it that the body plus the three lens I got to use with it together weigh less than the body of the Canon all by itself. I can carry it all day without any strain.

Much has been made of the cost of this camera, which at $999 for the body alone is pricey for a 4/3 camera. Here’s how I justified it. I needed a second camera (OK, I wanted a second camera) and I could either buy the new Canon 5D Mark iii or go for a different system. This camera with three terrific lens plus the cute little braided leather strap together cost less than the new Canon. Plus it reminded me of my first serious camera. Think I mentioned that in an earlier post.

When the camera first arrived Lightroom was not yet available for images taken with this camera so my initial shots are JPEGs. The image on the right is the first one I took. It is a JPEG, right out of the camera, no post-processing. I shot it at very low light levels, wide open. I was impressed with how sharp the image is and how well the camera captured the lighting from Bob’s iphone. I was also impressed that even with a low shutter speed there was no camera shake. Thank you, Olympus, for the internal stabilization.

Later, in Houston, I took the camera to the playground to see what I could do with playing children. My grandson was happy to oblige with a scary face. Another low light situation and another JPEG.

A few days later Lightroom made it possible to process images from the Olympus so I ungraded, changed over to RAW, which I typically shoot, and went out to the Port of Houston with my son and the Olympus 12mm lens. Here is what I found:

The Port of Houston, by the way, is the second largest port in the country and well worth a look if you’re ever in that neck of the woods. In the full size of the image above you can read every word on every sign.

So after two weeks I’m in love. The Olympus OM-D is light, stylish, and very very capable. It’s fun to shoot and so far I’m impressed with its performance.  For now I’m also keeping my Canon. For now.

Going Small – Part 2 3/4

Friday, May 4th, 2012

I stopped by my local camera store today to get the latest word on the Olympus OM-D. You will recall when last I wrote that they were saying that the silver model would be out in early to mid May. So today there is good news and bad news. The good news is that they actually have a black model that I could look at, even hold. It is lovely! The bad news is that they are now predicting delivery in early June! Apparently they have received four times the number of orders they expected. Guess I’m not the only one in love.

Going Small – Part 2 1/2

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Waiting is the hardest part. I placed my order for the Olympus OM-D in mid-February with the promise of an April 10 delivery. April 10 became April 16 and then the vague April. Some suppliers didn’t even promise a date. They just accepted preorders. Then last week word began to leak out that some had shipped. I called local camera stores and discovered that Olympus was only shipping the black body. I had ordered the silver. One camera store had received a few that had not already been paid for. Would I like a black one? They would hold it for me.

Now a camera is a piece of equipment. You buy one to produce a product, an image. You should really only care about how it works. But we all know that we buy things for many reasons, only one of which is the way it performs its job. For reasons having more to do with nostalgia than photography I had my heart set on the silver, the one that looked so much like my beloved OM-1. I decided to wait, hoping that the wait wouldn’t be long but knowing that I would not have it for my trip to Kauai.

I also did what any self respecting photographer would do: I went out to shoot with the camera I have, my trusted (if heavy) Canon 5D Mark2 and somehow managed to make some images that are quite different from others I have produced at the same site. The following were taken at the Experience Music Project at Seattle Center. Let me know what you think.

And a new take on the space needle.

An update. Rumors now predict that the silver OM-D will ship in early to mid May. Not a very difficult prediction since May starts next week. I really really really want to have it for my trip to Houston.

Going Small – Part 2

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

I am now going to reveal my obsessive side.

At this point I had three candidate cameras: Sony NEX 7, Fuji X-Pro1, and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 (don’t know why they couldn’t stop with just OM-D, but what do I know). All were designed for reasonably sophisticated shooters and claimed to rival the big boys in image quality (IQ). Problem was none of them were available to just go and look at. So I made a list of specs, decided which were most important to me and rated each of them, giving a 3 to the best with declining scores (down to 0) for each of the others. For example, sensor type: both the Sony and the Fuji use a larger APS-C sensor while the Olympus uses a micro four-thirds. In addition, the Fuji sensor is a new take on sensors and is expected to produce fabulous results. So in this category I gave Fuji a 3, Sony a 2 and Olympus a 1.

The categories I compared were: sensor type, resolution, flip-out screen, battery life, light sensitivity (ISO), speed, size, weight, flash, weather sealing, autofocus, quality and availability of lenses, image stabilization, and metering. For my purposes I was less interested in video and did not include video specs in my analysis.

Some of these categories produced clear winners. Sony is the smallest and lightest, followed by Oly and then Fuji (with total difference between heaviest and lightest 3.6 ounces). Fuji won on type of sensor but Sony has 24mp compared to 16mp for each of the others. The Olympus is the only one with weather sealing.

But there was still the matter of image quality and no real life reviews for two of the three cameras. After thinking about it I realized that I need several things to get a quality image in addition to a good sensor. I like to shoot in low light and want to be able to capture images of people in motion: street shooting, environmental portraits, and fast moving kids. So for what I wanted to be able to do I used the following to approximate IQ: availability of quality lenses, fast and accurate autofocus, image stabilization, and the ability to shoot at high ISOs. In each of those categories the 3 went to Olympus.

The final score was Olympus 26, Sony 22, and Fuji 16. My head followed my heart and I pre-ordered the Olympus. I hope to receive it in mid-April.

Now I freely admit that this system is idiosyncratic. Bob looked at the same data and ordered the Sony – with a wonderful Zeiss lens. His camera arrived last week and I have a bad case of camera envy.

Since I placed my order reviews of both the Fuji and the Olympus have started to appear. All three cameras seem to be living up to the hype but I’ll wait to do the third part of this set of posts until after mine arrives and I have a chance to try it out.

Going Small – Part 1

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

I don’t usually write about equipment but I have spent a lot of time lately comparing camera specs and reading camera reviews and a friend suggested that I share my adventure.

It all started a few months ago. I came upon a review of a new Sony mirrorless camera called the NEX 7. The reviewer raved about the image quality. Even compared it favorably to the Leica M9 (with the right lens) in spite of the smaller sensor. My interest was peaked.

Don’t get me wrong I love my Canon 5D mark 2 but I get very tired of toting it around. There’s something that’s just not that much fun about a heavy camera. I have been using it in spite of its weight because it does mostly what I want it to do and delivers an image that I can blow up to 20×30 – no problem. Until recently smaller cameras were mostly of the point and shoot variety and brought so many frustrations that my default has been the trusty – if heavy – Mark 2.

So the notion of a camera a third the size, with changeable lens, that could shoot like a Leica got my attention. I began to do my research. Just as I was about to order the NEX 7 Fujifilm announced the X-Pro1. More expensive but the specs promised a machine that would blow away full frame cameras.

That slowed me down, but not too much because neither camera was being shipped yet. Problem was there were no reviews of the Fuji. Just specs. So I set about comparing specs, trying to sort out which I cared about and which fell into the meh category.

One night I said to Bob, you know, what I really want is my old Olympus OM-1, only digital. I loved that camera. It was small, light, made wonderful images, and it just fit me. The next day – literally the very next day – Olympus started its teaser ads that led to the announcement in February of the OM-D. OMG. It looked just like my old camera. It was like running into your first boyfriend. I was in love.

But love, as we all know, can only take you so far. There is also the matter of life. I had to know if the new camera in the old body would fit my current needs.