Tag Archives: olympus

Olympus: Oops! They Did It Again

I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news but once again Olympus has released a broken camera — the E-M5 II. I discovered from my own testing that the sensor has the same long exposure noise issue that made me return the flagship E-M1. Don’t Olympus read the internet? Do they even listen to their customers?

Looks like the original OMD E-M5 is still the m43 camera to beat if you are into landscape photography. And with that I have canceled my order for the 25mm f/1.8 lens. I can’t see myself investing in Olympus equipment anymore if they keep on releasing broken cameras. 

Be warned. 

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Olympus Stylus 1

A few months ago I joined the Asia-Oceania Olympus Grand Prix photography contest. There were two categories: landscape and camera effects. The latter requires that you use the built-in camera effects in your shot and this is where I won the Stylus 1. You can find the winning entries here.

To be honest, I did not expect much from a point-and-shoot camera. I have read the specifications of the Stylus 1 and among the many features I was most curious about the lens. It has a 28-300mm constant f/2.8 full frame equivalent. This kind of lens is unheard of. You can’t find a lens with this specification anywhere. Not even in the CaNikon world. This feature alone got me really excited. It would be the perfect travel camera if it performed well.

As soon as the camera arrived, I immediately tested it using whatever charge is left in the factory-sealed battery. The first thing that caught my attention was the aperture ring in the lens. This is absolutely awesome. It feels like shooting with my Nikon FM3A film camera with AiS lens again. Heck, this is even better than the overhyped Nikon Df’s very clumsy implementation of the aperture adjustment dial. I was over the moon! Hey, it’s got an electronic viewfinder too that rivals the size and quality of my high-end E-M5. This camera is big in features and it still fits inside my jacket pocket!

It took me a few days to seriously test my camera. My day job was getting in the way of fun LOL! When I finally managed to go out during lunch break I walked around the city to capture some shots. Let’s have a look at how this tiny camera performed …

Note that the images I’m presenting here are all JPEG shots straight from the camera with absolutely no editing done. No cropping even. I just had to rotate the portrait oriented shots in Snapseed though because my iPad (which I’m using to type this) does not recognise the rotation info. They were also shot completely handheld. Click on the images for a larger view.

Low light shooting is the main weakness of P&S cameras due to their small sensors. It made sense for me to try shooting inside the church that was close to my office to see how this thing performs.

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That’s ISO 800 at f/2.8. I really like how it handled the colours, the highlights and shadows. It’s quite sharp too.

After work, I took some evening shots on the way home:

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This camera is the perfect travel companion so I brought it during our recent trip to the Snowy Mountains and Victoria. Here are some of the shots that I took.

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I especially like the way it handled the backlit shots. I could not see any posterisation or nasty abrupt highlight clipping at all. The gradiation is very smooth. Note the absence of flare as well.

Let’s see how it does bokehlicious shots:

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It’s not a bird photographer’s wet dreams but for a casual snap I quite like it.

Overall, it’s a really nice camera. I dare say that if I were to travel for a few months and bring just one camera and one lens, I will seriously consider this over my full frame Nikon or any other camera. The 28-300mm f/2.8 is just too convenient to leave behind. The built in wifi allows me to remotely control the camera and transfer the photos directly to my iphone for easy sharing to social media. It is what a travel camera should be. Good thing that it’s small so I really don’t have to make that decision. I can bring it anytime anywhere together with my other bulky cameras. It’s a no-brainer.

The Stylus 1 isn’t perfect though. Autofocus starts to hunt in low light. Being an electronic zoom lens, it’s not precise. It’s just like any other P&S with jerky , “gappy” zoom movements. Other than that, I can’t fault this camera at all.

Would I recommend that you get one? At $699, you must think hard if you really need that big of a zoom range because this camera is quite sharp even at full zoom and wide open at f/2.8. For that price, you can get a decent m43 camera kit or even an entry level APS-C DSLR. Remember that there is no way you can get a 300mm f/2.8 lens, more so a zoom, at $700. That’s just not possible, at the moment, outside of the Stylus 1. I’m just very lucky to have gotten this camera for FREE.

Tempting? You decide.

Drive by Shooting

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As promised, I am posting the photographs I have captured during my recent long drive to Snowy Mountains. It was  a one of a kind photoshoot “session” since nothing was ever planned at all. I didn’t know what to expect in each location; in fact the word “location” does not mean much at all because I barely stayed in one spot. It was more of whatever-comes-my-way type of thing. These shots were taken literally along the shoulder road.

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It was very challenging. Firstly, because setting up a tripod was impractical when a “session” lasts for a couple of minutes. Five clicks and away I went. Secondly, there was not much that can be used as a foreground element therefore subjects were typically several hundreds of meters or even kilometers away. Thirdly, since I had no time to set up my gear, filters became too cumbersome so I had to pick the right light conditions.

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Think about it for a minute. Low light, distant subjects, no tripod. Now you know why I practically dumped my Nikon D700 in favor of the small Olympus E-P3.

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I only have two lenses for my E-P3, the 17/2.8 pancake and the 40-150/4-5.6 plastic tele zoom. To be honest, I never needed anything more. The 35mm equivalent focal length of the pancake lens was wide enough for just about anything and the plastic tele was long enough for landscape shots. What I liked about my E-P3 was the fact that it is so light and it has built-in stabilization. And because it is a 43rds format, at f5.6 I basically get the equivalent depth of field as a full frame camera shooting at f11 at the same field of view. Instant two stops of light advantage!!! With image stabilization, I never needed a tripod! How good is that?!

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The images above were all captured by the plastic tele. I think it is sharp enough even wide open (f5.6) at the long end. I shoot it at f8 when I can just to get that extra ooomph. Here’s another one captured by the same lens:

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During those instances when I got the chance to rest and shoot properly on location, the 17mm pancake became very handy. The weather was also quite weird in that it would suddenly rain for a few minutes and then it stops. The E-P3 and 17mm combo was small enough to put inside my jacket’s pocket during a downpour.

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Here’s another shot captured by the pancake lens:

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And this is from the cabin where we stayed:

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I learned a very important lesson in this trip: Do not sacrifice fun for photography. In fact, photography should always be fun. If your equipment is a hindrance, then look for something else. Just because it’s more expensive does not mean it’s the best for every situation. Never underestimate the power of a compact camera. Even a point-and-shoot or an iPhone is good enough if you know where to point it.

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Before I end this post, please allow me to show you a few more of my E-P3 shots:

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By the way, all the photos here were shot in JPEG. I didn’t want to miss the best JPG rendition in the industry that I only get from Olympus.

Until next time! 🙂

Snowy Pilgrimage 2012 Update

I thought I would be able to update my blog throughout the course of the snowy trip. It turned out to be the most different among the trips I had. Not only did I lose access to the internet most of the week but the type of subjects and shooting opportunities were very different as well. There were no planned shots at all. I just aimed and shot whenever I got the chance. It was a run-and-gun type thing.

I brought my D700 with me because of the larger buttons that are easier to press in the cold. I also managed to bring my Olympus E-P3 by accident because it was inside my work bag together with my laptop. As it turned out, the E-P3 became my most valuable camera while the D700 stayed inside the car trunk!!! I would say that this trip was like a test drive of the E-P3.

For the mean time, here’s a shot I took with my iPhone in East Jindabyne:


I will post photos and stories when I get back to Brisbane tomorrow after a 12-hour drive.

— from my iPhone

Olympus E-P3 Review

This review has long been overdue and I think it may no longer be relevant especially that the E-M5/OM-D has been released. I mean what’s the point of reviewing old technology? Nevertheless, I’ll try to write about this camera in terms of my own experiences.

Just a bit of background about my other cameras. I have a Nikon D700 which I use for portraiture and event photography. I also have a Pentax K5 which I use for landscape and travel. I still shoot film and I absolutely love my Nikon FM3A and FE2 cameras. My iPhone 4G is for almost everything: events, candids, landscape, travel, basically anything that interests me.

So where does the E-P3 fit in considering that my other cameras have got everything covered? It’s the camera that replaces the iPhone when I expect to capture something worth keeping/printing where the DSLRs might seem awkward. So just like my iPhone the E-P3 is for everything.

The E-P3 is the camera I bring to work everyday, to birthday parties, to gigs/concerts, to everywhere. What I like about the camera, and m43 cameras in general, is their size. Big enough sensor to rival the image quality of DSLRs while small enough to carry everywhere without being awkward or intimidating. The camera can literally fit in my jacket’s pocket.

Last night we had dinner in a restaurant and it was very dim; just enough light to set an intimate mood. The E-P3 had no problems capturing the moment at all:


These are all unedited JPEGs shot at ISO 1600 with the kit 17mm/2.8 lens. The in-body stabilization is very effective in allowing me to shoot handheld even at 1/8s. The highlights and shadows are kept at acceptable levels. The grain doesn’t look bad at all. It actually looks like film grain which to me is pleasing. With a better set of lens such as the Panasonic 20mm/1.7, handheld shots should not be a problem in similar conditions. I could have used the pop-up flash but that would totally ruin the mood of the photo. I can’t imagine bringing my Nikon D700 in this occasion.

In good light, the E-P3 is superb. Here’s a shot of Adelaide Street in Brisbane using the plastic 40-150mm kit lens taken during mid day:


I opened the lens to f5.6. Again this is a JPG image processed in Photoshop. I like how smooth the E-P3 handles the highlights while maintaining details in the shadow areas. Some cameras are really bad at handling high contrast situations but the E-P3 managed to capture the scene quite well.

Another shot captured by the plastic 40-150mm lens at full zoom, ISO 800 at f5.6:


Camera in one hand while my other hand was trying to hold my umbrella against gusty winds. My D700 and 70-300mm lens would be almost impossible to use in this situation. Notice how the film-like grain adds character to the shot.

Here’s a different shot taken at dusk on the way home from work:


Here I used a flimsy tripod and captured multiple JPG frames for the stitched panograph. I really wished I had a wider lens. The 17mm (35mm in full frame) wasn’t wide enough even in portrait orientation and my back was already leaning against the wall.

I would say that the E-P3 is capable of handling just about any situation you throw at it.

Other features that I like in the E-P3 are the preset banks (none in my D700), fully customizable AEB (again, better than my D700), black frame subtraction to minimize hot pixels during long exposures, in-body stabilization that works, dust reduction that works and arguably THE best JPEG rendition in the industry. Autofocus with the 17mm kit lens is still hit or miss though but newer lenses are really quick. The kit lenses are really good. I have only used the 17mm, the new 14-42mm and 40-150mm plastic fantastic and they all produce very acceptable images even at their widest apertures.

Why did I choose a micro 43rds camera? I purchased the E-P1 with 17mm kit when it went on sale at 50% off. I gave it to my brother together with the 14-42mm when I won the E-P3 in a proper photography contest (proper meaning my friends didn’t vote for my photo). For me, Olympus’ implementation of the m43 format is the most logical carry everywhere camera that you could buy now. Other “compact” systems don’t make sense to me. The Sony NEX series have gigantic mediocre lenses, the Nikon 1 and Pentax Q really are just glorified point-and-shoot cameras. Of course there’s the Fuji X series but without proper zoom lenses, you could hardly call them walkabout cameras. They are also expensive, huge and have really buggy implementations. The Canon G1X looks really nice but I think it arrived too late. I won’t mind the fixed zoom lens of the G1X because I rarely change lenses even with my DSLRs. When I go out, I usually carry just one camera and one lens and concentrate on taking photographs.

With the release of the E-P3 (and the new E-M5/OM-D) together with superior lenses, Olympus has finally proven to the world that the 43rds format is here to stay. They have managed to build a stronghold in a unique position in the industry. I’m wishing them all the best.