still no fortune, though
Following on from last October’s triumph, I have another photo featured in the official Olympus Magazine.
It’s a bit like back when I was something like 10 years old, I had a letter published in “Look & Learn”. Only then I got a badge and a box of coloured pencils or something. Now all I get is to bask in the glory.
I’m pleased to report that a photo of mine was selected for publication in monthly OLYMPUS magazine published by Bright Publishing on behalf of Olympus Europe.
I didn’t submit the photo directly, it was actually discovered by magazine staff on Flickr. The interesting thing about this photo is that technically, and in forum pixel-peeping terms, it is awful. It is taken at aperture f/22, and absolute no-no for a four-thirds sensor camera, according to the “experts”. And yet, it seems to work.
whispers from Mt Olympus
in GAS , Tuesday, August 20, 2013
It’s remarkable how much this strange hobby / profession of photography is dominated by equipment when in theory it should be about creativity. Such a huge amount of time and energy spent obsessing about rumours of new gear, arguing about it when it is released, buying it (on credit), discarding it soon after for the next new thing, and yet the actual impact on the presumed end result - photographs - is actually minor if not zero. That new Wonderblitz X-Pro-1000 Titanium with its 30 Megapixels will show AWESOME sharpness and DOF at pixel level… but actually, nobody cares except the owner. Not even even other photographers, less they feel insecure with their 29 Mpix X-Pro-999. And for everybody else who might be persuaded to look, well it’s still a pretty dull photo of a cat. The whole subculture just seems to be an extended, extreme form of retail therapy. And therapy of some kind seems to be desperately needed by the denizens of the rumour site, 43rumors.com, which just leaked photos of the long promised miracle machine from Olympus which will merge the (big, heavy) four thirds system with the (small, light, but a bit limited) micro four thirds system. The comments on those posts could provide material for at least several psychology PhDs.
Which is a very long-winded way of getting to the point of what is, in fact a post about gear. It’s really a pity that this partial information has been leaked, devoid of any context or presentation from Olympus. The camera looks quite interesting, although the design seems crippled by a brief to make it look “retro”. I guess retro sells, but I’m not convinced it is a good idea in this case. This rumoured OM-D E-M1 looks too big for micro four thirds lenses, and too small for four thirds lenses. All in all it looks like what the French describe as a “usine a gaz” - a gasworks. A bunch of components loosely held together with knobs and dials seemingly at random all over the place. The silky smooth, mould-breaking ergonomics of Olympus’ fabulous E-1 are a distant memory these days. But anyway, it still deserves to be presented as the manufacturer intended, not by some sleazy rumour mongerer, out to snare clicks on his adverts.
But these days I’m only really tempted by gear that can help me make photography significantly better or easier. By better I mean that it opens up opportunities, not that it provides 2 squillion megapixels on the head of a pin, and AWESOME IQ at ISO 3245643000. One of the key features of my Olympus E-5 is the rugged, fully orientable swivel screen, which lets me make otherwise near-impossible compositions. The new camera, apparently, loses that feature. Of course it adds all sorts of check-list features, like HD video - which, c’mon, NOBODY really uses, and other fluff.
One of my favourite photos from Iceland, and one that would have been pretty mudh impossible without the unique (at that time) swivel screen / live view combination of the Olympus E-3
More and more I’m finding that new gear releases just make me value what I already own more. And that photographers who I actually admire would be bored to tears, or just baffled, by this post.
Old is the new New
For a variety of reasons, the other day I decided to bring my Olympus E-400 out of retirement and give it an outing.
I’ve hardly used it since I bought the E-3 in 2010, but before then it got quite heavy use - it still carries the scars. Ironically, the E-400 was described by Amateur Photographer back then as the “digital OM”. At 385g I think it’s lighter than the OM-D. In terms of dimensions it isn’t far from the E-P1/2/3 series. It was by some margin the smallest DSLR on the market, and caused quite a stir by reverting to the “old SLR” style body without a huge protruding grip. Nevertheless it is comfortable to carry, and with the two lightweight kit lenses that came with it - which certainly are not “lightweight” in terms of optical quality - it was, and perhaps still is, a killer travel camera. Another thing which is quite a big deal to some is that it was the last Olympus camera with a Kodak sensor, albeit a different architecture to the one in the E-1.
For some reason, possibly limited sensor supplies, the E-400 was not sold in the USA. In any case it was quite quickly replaced by the Live View-enabled E-410, with a Panasonic sensor, itself soon retired in favour of a very similar E-420, and finally the Walmart Special E-450. Olympus never seemed entirely sure who to market the E-4xx series at. Of course the E-400 has its drawbacks, and many would place the allegedly “dim, narrow” optical viewfinder high on the list. Well everybody is entitled to their opinion, but I find the viewfinder quite pleasant, especially with the optional magnifying eyepiece. Frankly, in many situations it is nicer to use than the Electronic EVF-2 for the Pen series.
The old 3 point AF module has its limitations, but even so, it is fast and precise, and perfectly ok for the “focus and recompose” method. Basically as a walk-around, relatively discrete camera it still does the job. It doesn’t handle all that well with bigger lenses - the dedicated 14-45 and 40-150 are fine of course, so is the 50mm f/2, and at a push the 14-54 or 11-22, but anything heavier is uncomfortable. Of course the camera isn’t weatherproof, although it doesn’t seem to mind the odd drop of rain.
All this is a lengthy preamble to a few photos I took today on a lunchtime wander, with the 50mm macro. Actually I wanted to see how it would stack up to the Ricoh GRD in macro mode. The Ricoh is great, potentially, but actually quite awkward to focus in many macro situations. But that comparison will have to wait. I was also stimulated by Pekka Pokta’s review of the new m.Zuiko 60mm macro, which he doesn’t seem to find significantly better than the 50mm. The next step will be to try the 50mm on the E-P3, to see how it compares with E-400. I suspect the veteran might put up a good fight.
Fungi. Olympus E-400, Zuiko 50mm f/2, processed in Iridient RAW Developer
Odyssey. Olympus E-400, Zuiko 50mm f/2, processed in Iridient RAW Developer
Some plant. Olympus E-400, Zuiko 50mm f/2, processed in Iridient RAW Developer
The deficiencies in these photos are entirely down to poor technique, insipid composition and lack of creativity. They have nothing to do with the camera, and no “improvement” in resolution, dynamic range, or - at a stretch, low-light noise - would make any substantive difference. I would doubtless have made largely the same photos with a brand new state of the art Nikon D800, although my arms and shoulders would have ached more. I might have done something more interesting with the fungi using the E-5, with its Live View and orientable screen, but their we’re looking at handling improvements (which the aforementioned Nikon completely lacks), not pixel-peeping features. I’m not saying that older cameras like the E-400 don’t have their limitations, of course they do. But my opinion, and experience, is that these have very little impact on the final result, in the general case. So does this mean I don’t lust after new gear? Of course not. But perhas it brings me a step closer to discriminating between photography and retail therapy. And there’s more long lasting satisfaction in the former.
a bit of birding…
A couple of shots of Great Crested Grebes taking the offspring out for a ride on Lago di Lugano.
three’s a crowd!
Both taken with the 50-200 SWD lens on Olympus E-5. And cropped a bit.