Monday, February 25, 2013

OM-D, Bits & Pieces

Today I will talk for a bit about my recent experiences with my OMD, and I would like to start with the image you see above, this was taken during an auto-cross event that I attended last Saturday, it is a wheel of a Mitsubishi Evo wearing a slick tire as you can see, the car was stationary for a moment before starting the race.
I captured the image you see above @ 300mm equivalent with my Olympus 40-150mm f/4-5.6 lens wide-open, I like the lighting, the grooves on the brake disc and the worn out slick tire. That lens is quite sharp and incredible considering the $100 price when purchased as a kit.

I am hardly using zoom lenses anymore, I find pleasure when using a fast prime, it gives me fast shutter speeds, shallow DOF and one less thing to think about when shooting (focal length, obviously). However, I wanted to get to know my zoom lenses more, currently the Olympus 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 lens and the 40-150 tele-zoom I mentioned above, the first lens I hardly used other than for macro shots and video, and I still have to get used to it, maybe when I go to desert next time.
The 40-150 I have tried a couple of times, and I am impressed with the sharpness and contrast so far, it's no secret that I love portraits with long focal lengths, I love that background compression effect and the shallow DOF that results from the extra background magnification, so I was apprehensive I wouldn't get that with the small m4/3 sensor, but looking at the portrait shown above, I say nice, not as nice as my 200 f/2.8 on the 5D of course, but quite good, and that was 105mm (205mm eq.) @ f/5.6.
I gave it another try as you can see above, this one was taken at 62mm (124mm eq.), great colors, contrast and sharpness, so good so far except for the lousy zoom ring, which is too stiff right now, but I bet will get smoother with more mileage.
One thing to mention when shooting portraits, I almost forgot how to focus on the eye, the OMD's auto near-eye detection and focusing is simply the best invention in all of the recent cameras in my opinion, I leave it on all of the time, and I just compose and shoot, never worrying about the whereabouts of my focusing point, it immediately snaps to the nearest eye and gets it in focus no matter how shallow the DOF is, I'd say the hit rate is 85% with another 5% lost for focusing on the wrong eye.
I was using my friend's 60D with the 200mm f/2.8 the other day, and I immediately remembered how hard it was to get sharp eyes with such a combo, 320mm equivalent, no image stabilization; so the finder is wobbly, and I have to put one of the nine tiny dots on my subjects eye while I hit the shutter button, if Sony's A99 has that feature, I would consider it next time I am going back to FF, it makes life much easier.
And here's one last shot from that auto-cross event, a dandy-green handsome looking VW Beetle, I have special love for this car having owned a 1972 VW Beetle 1300.
One thing I am learning about with the OMD and the RX100, those Sony sensors doesn't give as much highlight recovery headroom as I am used to from my Canon sensors, while on the other hand they are extremely tolerant for extreme shadow pushing without showing banding or noise blotches, and in the worst cases noise shows up as fine grain that I can easily cleanup, this caused me to start under-exposing the images with very bright highlights like this shiny VW Beetle, and push the shadows later on post. That's exactly the opposite of what I was to do with Canon, where I usually exposed for the right instead, interesting, and will see how it works, Mic tells me that he's used to the same behavior from Nikon sensors.
On a different note, we went to a burger restaurant called Fuddruckers, I believe it is American, it was a lot of fun for the kids and for me, since it presented me with a new environment to take pictures of my kids in, the shot you see above is taken there, and this gave me a pleasant surprise regarding the OMD's AWB for the second time.
The first time (if you read my posts carefully) was when I used it under incandescent light at my home, for some reason the correct WB under my home lighting is around 2500 kelvin, and none of the cameras I have ever used was able to get the correct WB except for the OMD, this list includes several P&S and mobile phone cameras, the Canon G11, 550D, 60D, 5D2, 5D3, Sony RX100, Nikon D3100 and D7000. Back to the restaurant, there were lots of light sources, incandescent, CFL, flourescent and deeply colored walls, we had a deep yellow wall to the camera left, and you can see the red wall in the background, and the OMD got the WB perfectly, the image you see above is the RAW output with some blacks added and highlights reduced.
As usual, I was shooting with the Panasonic 25 f/1.4 lens, which my favorite focal length, I don't find much reason to stop-down this lens at all (unless I need more DOF, obviously), it is quite sharp at f/1.4, add that to the OMD's auto near-eye focusing, and you always get sharp eyes, the obvious benefit (which is one of the main reasons that got me thinking about MFT in the first place) is that I get a fast shutter speed and enough DOF at the same time to get the eyes in sharp focus, and a comprehensible background which is still convincingly out of focus. I was shooting wide-open @ ISO 1600 and was getting 1/125 shutter speeds that enabled me to get sharp shots of my girls.
TTL flash, finally!
I received my Olympus FL-600R finally after a long waiting period, first impressions are:
  • It's tiny, incredibly tiny, I will show it in a separate article beside Canon's 600EX behemoth.
  • It features a quite powerful continuous LED light (with variable power).
  • Head rotates 180 degrees both sides, though it is quite stiff.
  • Plastic foot with the new quick locking mechanism, not an issue if the head wasn't so stiff.
  • Touch button for power, it powers on with the camera, and turns off when I turn it off.
  • Not as powerful as a 580EX, obviously, but I was used to pushing the 580EX hard by bouncing indoors at sync speed and ISO 400.
  • Accurate TTL metering, more so than the Canon.
  • When I press the shutter, the camera hesitates for a split second before firing the shutter, TTL measurement?
  • It can act as a full featured master or a salve, and can be triggered with the OMD’s accessory flash.
The above shot was taken with the 25 f/1.4 lens (wide-open as usual) and bounce flash to camera right and a bit behind my shoulder, who said MFT can't get shallow DOF?
More to come soon.