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photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Northern Lights

Obscured by clouds

in Olympus E-System , Saturday, February 25, 2012

Well after 8 days in Iceland I have maintained my perfect record of Aurora Borealis dodging. It has rained, snowed, and in between there has even been the odd patch of light illuminating iconic photo opportunities to which we have been delivered by our tireless guide, DanĂ­el Bergmann. This has been my second ever group photo tour. I don’t usually find that I can really photograph in a group, especially with people I don’t know, but this time Marissa, Leslie, Ed, Patrick, Shane and Peter have made it a real pleasure.

I don’t know yet if I got any good photos, but my first experience with the Olympus E-5 has been pretty positive. There are a few things that I think the E-3 does better, but that might just be down to familiarity.

Hvitserkur, straight out of camera, with a nice big raindrop waiting to be edited out

We have a few more hours of potential photographing around the Reykjanes peninsula, but anyway, I think there already a few shots in the tin.

 

Olympus E-5

No, not E-M5

in Olympus E-System , Friday, February 17, 2012

I’ve got a new camera. The last few weeks have seen huge excitement over the Fuji X-Pro, or whatever it’s called, and massive forum troll versus zombies wars about Olympus’ amazing new Digital OM - except that it’s not an OM. It’s a micro Four Thirds camera with a viewfinder bolted on top. Then again the Olympus PENs aren’t PENs either. But what I’ve just bought has no identity crisis. Neither does it invite much gear envy. It’s a 12 megapixel, dreadfully noisy, overpriced dead-end, brick-heavy thing called an Olympus E-5. A minor upgrade to the Olympus E-3 I already own. Or is it?

Well so far, yes and no. From the few real world side by side comparisons I’ve done, the image quality is not a huge leap forward. It seems a bit better, but I doubt a casual viewer would notice. On the other hand, the handling is much better, due to the much larger screen, which makes the widely praised Live View mode of the E-3 much better. Manual focus, on a tripod, with the E-5 in Live View is a very pleasant experience, and this has a potentially major positive influence on the creative process - and hence “image quality” in a less restricted sense.

The E-5 feels a little different to hold due to the modified rear grip, and although as far as I know the shutter is the same, it seems to have a different sound, although still pretty quiet - although not E-1 quiet. One thing I don’t like is the disappearence of the IS button. And really, such a customisable camera could really use two function buttons. If Ricoh can fit 2 on the GRD4, surely room could be found for 2 on the huge E-5 body.

But all this is od news. The camera has been on sale for over a year! I’m probably about the last person to ever buy one new.

I’ll probably post some carefully controlled side by side comparison images at some point - not “tests”, but photos I’d actually consider keeping. Just in case anybody’s still interested…

 

Oh dear, Olympus….

just a pointless rant

in General Rants , Friday, November 11, 2011

I’m not completely unaware of the current misfortunes of the Olympus Optical Co. That the company is being steered into the abyss by a bunch of arrogant management jerks is no great surprise - that’s one thing that there’s no shortage of.  If anything it might serve to at least tone down some of the more unpleasant aspects of Japanese culture, such as the pathetic obessession with “loss of face”. But never mind all that. What I’m find really disturbing is the general level of idiocy revealed on the various interweb fora, where people (I use the word reservedly) are practically foaming at the mouth in outrage at Olympus and of course Olympus cameras (I really am starting to believe that, yes, most people in the world ARE more stupid than me, at least on the evidence I see). 

But it does sort of make me wonder if maybe I need to think about changing camera systems.  But not for long. I am worried that Olympus will go out of business, which is certainly possible, but not because I’ll lose face because I’ve got an Olympus (actually the logo is taped over. Has been for years. Helps avoid idiot conversations), but because the ONLY company making a reasonably large-sensor camera with a 4:3 aspect ratio might stop doing so. And then what ? Yep, only choice will be the mindless apeing of the 35mm frame, a ratio which only came about by happenstance in the first place.  Well, maybe Panasonic will carry on, or buy Olympus, who knows.

I’m finding I take more and more vertical format shots, without really being conscious of this. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t in “35mm format” - it’s too narrow.  Without Olympus, the next step above compacts is, er, the Pentax 645D, which I’d love to own, but is way above my pay grade.

Drm 2011 11 07 0012713

Steppin’ out… actually taken with my Ricoh GR, not an Olympus

Actually for selfish reasons I sort of hope Olympus does go down the plughole. Then the lemmings will rush to buy Nikons or whatever and even fewer people will be shooting 4:3, and I’ll have less competition. Not that I’m competing.

 

 

revisiting RAW

Yet more options….

in Apple Aperture , Monday, October 31, 2011

Prompted by a series of posts by Mitch Alland, I decided it might be interesting to take another look at a RAW processor I’d not seriously considered in the past, Raw Photo Processor, or RPP.  RPP is not your usual run of the mill RAW processor.  It concerns itself only with the initial steps of translating the RAW file into a finished photo, and, unlike others (the author claims - I’m not 100% convinced), recalculates from the raw data for each applied edit.  It works a bit differently from a user interface perspective too, foregoing sliders for direct numeric input, and in most cases refreshing the preview only on demand. However, it isn’t as hard to use as it seems on first glimpse.

Mitch Alland reports that “it’s been a revelation because RPP does a much better job in raw development than Aperture: it simply produces better resolution and better color”. So it seems worth taking it for a spin.

Here’s a comparison of a file output from Aperture at default settings (above) and from RPP, with a contrast curve applied in Photoshop, below:

Snapz Pro XSnap001

As you can see, the white balance is significantly different. I’m not sure which is “right”. The RPP version is very neutral, but I couldn’t say for sure if the Aperture (actually, in camera) version is capturing an accurate cast. RPP white balance works well on Auto, or Custom, but In Camera is a bit strange.

As for detail, well, yes, I’d say that RPP visibly delivers a touch more, but it’s not going to be noticeable to the average audience.

RPP also delivers more image. On this Olympus E-P2 shot, Aperture outputs a 4032 by 2034 pixel image -which is to Olympus’s specifications. RPP recovers more, providing 4090 by 3078. I believe the “extra” pixels have something to do with calibration, but apparently they do contain usable image data.

The big difference between basic RPP and basic Aperture processing, disregarding white balance, is Aperture’s Boost slider. Basically, RPP delivers a file with Boost set to 0. According to Apple, Boost applies a camera-specific contrast curve directly after RAW demosaicing. It is actually remarkable what a difference it makes - this, effectively, is the “look” or magic sauce of a RAW converter. Of course it’s a subjective judgement as to whether this is a good thing or not.  RPP gives you the best shot it can at providing you with the basic ingredients, and it’s then up to you to make the most of these in subsequent post-processing, be it in Photoshop, Aperture, Lightroom, or whatever.

It’s difficult to make a quick judgment on the real-world merits of RPP, but using it gives you a clearer idea of what’s really going on behind the smoke and mirrors, and potentially it might just give you a quality edge.  In any case it’s a useful tool to have. And it’s free - although donations are appreciated.

 

m.zuiko 45mm f1.8

a bundle of fun

in Olympus E-System , Friday, October 28, 2011

One of my favourite-ever lenses was the Canon FD 135mm f2.0.  This fast telephoto would let me pluck a detail out a scene, beautifully sharp, with the fore- and background smoothly blending into a creamy smooth bokeh. And it had great contrast. And I gave it away, with most of my Canon FD gear, to the daughter of a friend who wanted to study photography but had no way of affording the gear. 

I never really found anything to compare to that lens, but now maybe I have: the Olympus m.Zuiko 45mm f1.8, which has the added advantage of being almost absurdly low-priced.  Mine arrived today. And here’s a sample of what I’ve found it can do.

Drm 2011 10 28 A282560

Stray leaf. Olympus E-P2 with m.Zuiko 45mm f1.8, wide open

So far I’ve found that the E-P2 tends to underexpose by 1/3 to 2/3rds of a stop with this lens compared to the 14-45mm. But that’s not much of a problem.

This is a fun lens to use, much more so in my opinion that the highly-rated Lumix 20mm. It is light, but well built, with a large, well damped focus ring. It looks gorgeous. And the results are pretty much guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. This is a must-have lens for and Micro Four Thirds camera owner. And an absolute bargain.  I’ll post some more examples soon.

 
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