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photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

New Camera!

you can never have too many

in Olympus E-System , Wednesday, September 22, 2010

So I cracked. It’s mainly his fault, but also the ongoing stress of carrying large camera bags through airports and on planes, not to mention on my back, has been getting to me.

This, coupled with a really irresistible price for an Olympus E-P2 with EVF, finally made be think, well, why not ? I can always sell it, quite conceivably at a profit, if I don’t like it.

So far, I’m quite impressed. It was pretty easy to work out how to get to grips with it, since it’s the 4th Olympus digital camera I’ve owned, and the menu logic (or lack thereof) is pretty consistent.

I’m not totally taken with the collapsible 14-45mm lens, especially the “collapsible” bit. It’s just one more thing to get in the way of getting the shot. I’m also quite surprised how loud the shutter is. And I hate, but really hate, the stupid green light around the power button. This camera is supposed to be discrete FFS!! At least Ricoh provided a firmware update to disable the similar light on the GRD2. I can only hope that Olympus will do the same.

As for image quality, well it’s pretty much what I expected. So far I haven’t done any back to back comparisons, but I can’t imagine they will contradict what everybody else says - it’s a bit better than the E-3. I can’t use Aperture for RAW processing, as it doesn’t support the camera, so I’ve returned to Iridient Raw Developer without much regret.

Certainly it is an eminently portable camera, and the kit lens seems quite nice.  I’m not going to add anything else until I get more used to it.  The EVF is ok, I suppose. Apparently it’s the best anybody has ever seen, which is nice, but honestly it can’t hold a candle to the E-3’s 100% OVF.  But it gets the job done.

e-pl2-1.jpg

Early morning grab shot with the E-P2

 

Olympus: F**k off, honourable customer

Customer Service at its finest

in General Rants , Friday, September 17, 2010

It seems that the Olympus E-Club has been shutdown. There are no links to it any more, except the “Who is a Pro” thing you can find somewhere. On the old E-Club page, registrations are disabled, and there is no login, just this:

“Dear customer,

we apologize but this service is currently not available.

Thank you for your understanding
Your OLYMPUS Membership Team”

What, pray, My Olympus Membership Team, am I supposed to understand ? (that “Team” bit is a dead giveaway that they’re Germans, by the way. Germans LOVE teams.)

I think I’m supposed to understand you couldn’t find your arsehole with both hands and a flashlight. Or indeed with a fabulous Olympus endoscope.

jap-guy-with-camera.jpg

There IS still a “Customer Login”, on various European pages, and it accepts my password, and it has my address, but all the serial numbers I have registered are completely gone.

This goes beyond clueless, beyond incompetent. Olympus has always been absolutely hopeless on the web site front, but they’ve really plumbed the depths now.

Unbelievable.

 

 

 

Son of XPan

Another walk on the wide side

in Hasselblad XPan , Tuesday, September 14, 2010

And on the third day…

the postman delivered a large box, which contained a much smaller dark blue box, which contained lots of other boxes of different sizes, which when opened and their contents put together, looked something like this:

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An absolutely pristine, practically unused Hasselblad XPan II! And what’s more, acquired at a scarcely believable price from Mifsuds in Devon, England. These cameras go for insane prices on EBay, way more than could ever be justified, but I got it for less than the original RRP.

I’m currently running a quick test roll through it (not that there’s anything quick about film these days), so fingers crossed.

One slightly weird thing: when the power is off, the exposure counter LCD stays on. It didn’t do that on the XPan I. Still, I don’t suppose an LCD drains much power…

 

Return from the Northern Wasteland

Some travel notes

in Travel , Wednesday, September 08, 2010

So, a couple of weeks ago I got back from Svalbard.  First of all, I want to take the opportunity to thank the 11 people I shared a small, yacht-shaped space with for 14 days for making it such an unforgettable experience. If you ever want to see Svalbard properly, your first port of call needs to be Mark Van Den Weg’s Jonathan Adventure Sailing. Don’t leave home without it.

Although photography was a big part of this trip, for me it wasn’t absolutely vital. Nevertheless, it was a considerable blow when, due to brain fade on my part, my XPan stopped working after 3 days. Even though I also had the Olympus and a full set of lenses, I’m finding more and more that “real” photography for happens on film through a wide screen viewfinder. Although I brought back over 6000 digital images, I’m finding it quite hard to get enthusiastic about them.

I have a total of 120 frames from the XPan, a few of which are interesting, but unfortunately the first few days were not really interesting from a photographic perspective. Here’s one of them:

xpan_svalbard06_14.jpg

This example is one of the few taken on Provia 400X. I haven’t really used this before, but it does seem quite similar to Provia 400F, in that it is a little washed out and the shadows seem to lack some density. It is also quite coarse grained compared to to, say Velvia 100F, and there’s quite a lot (relatively speaking) of chroma noise in the scans. However, for handheld use (as this was), when the light is fading, it’s pretty useful. Otherwise I used Ektachrome E100G, on Tim Parkin’s recommendation, and although I haven’t done any high resolution scans of it yet, I’m quite impressed, especially by its dynamic range and neutrality. I’ve got more than enough left over to carry on experimenting ...

Of course, the XPan isn’t much use for wildlife close-ups, or at least not when said wildlife is large, aggressive, and / or timid.  For those shots the Olympus E-3 together with the 50-200mm lens and 2x teleconverter worked fairly well. My traveling companions had various equipment from the usual suspects (no Sony though), and although the heavy artillery on Canon 1Ds and Nikon D700s looks impressive and can give sensational results, it really looks cumbersome and clumsy. The only camera that really made me slightly envious was the Pentax K7, but as far as lenses are concerned, my feeling is Olympus still has nothing to fear from the competition.

Actually there was very little camera talk. Hardly any at all, and when there was, it was invariably somebody asking for help with an uncooperative widget or advice on a setting or two. Absolutely zero “my camera beats your camera” talk, which was very, very refreshing.

But I’m getting increasingly fed up with carrying heavy gear on planes and everywhere else, and I’m seriously looking into something like an Olympus E-P2. I’m not sure how this would work out for long zoom wildlife shots - for that kind of thing I think the balance of a DSLR body helps a lot, but otherwise, well the sheer weight advantage is a strong argument.

My LowePro Photo Trekker Pro bag finally gave up on this trip as well, with a terminal main compartment zip failure. It’s been going that way for several years. One of my companion’s LowePro bags suffered a similar, but even more terminal fate (at least I managed to patch mine up enough to get it home), and my general opinion of LowePro is therefore not good. Their bags are too heavy, often poorly designed, and way over-rated. I won’t be buying another one.

But Svalbard wasn’t about gear, or even photography. It was about experiencing close up one the most remote-yet-accessible and pristine locations in the Northern Hemisphere. And Polar Bears. And Polar Beers.

More photos will follow at some point.