Monday, April 27, 2015

An Eye-Opening Experience & The Power Of Olympus

Ever since I got the Sony A7II, I have been using it almost exclusively, apart from my trip to UAE where it made sense to pack a MFT kit due to its small size, versatility and auto-focus (Will be covered in a different post. The pictures are ready). To be honest, I was having too much fun playing with the A7II and both the Zeiss and the legacy lenses while ignoring my Olympus kit, to the extent that I decided one day to sell all of my MFT kit and only keep the Sony with the single autofocus lens that I own. And indeed I put my MFT kit for sale, only to decline the first few offers I received. I just didn't have the courage to do it. But I kept using the Sony.

Last weekend, I went on a trip with my family to the Red Sea coast. Initially, I planned to take the A7II along with the Canon 55 f/1.2 and the 200L f/2.8. But later, I decided against that due to the size of the combo, and packed the E-M1 and the 75 f/1.8 instead in an attempt to re-familiarize myself with MFT. I chose to travel with a single lens which is quite long (150mm) compared to the 55mm lenses I have been using during the earlier weeks. It turned out to be the best decision I have taken.

At first, I was taken back from the tight perspective offered by a 150mm equivalent lens, which astonished me quite frankly. I was used to the 45/75/90mm combo on MFT and always felt at home with such long lenses. It turns out that using 55mm lenses exclusively for a few weeks changed my baseline references quite a bit. Thankfully, after the first few shots, I started seeing in 150mm once again. And ever since, I can pre-visualize the shot before I even got the camera out of the bag. It was also quite freeing not having lens choices to think or worry about. Just. One. Prime. Lens. In my recent outings I used to pick a couple of lenses for any single outing. I forgot how liberating it is to stick with just a single prime lens. No zoom. No options. You start to get creative trying to fit full body length shots, head-shots, landscapes, macros, etc… with just one lens.

Let me share with you some of the joys that returned to me when I used this combo after a long time of shooting the A7II exclusively:
  • Incredibly quick and accurate auto-focus. Every. Time.
  • Focus point can be moved using direction arrows (without pressing any other buttons first) or using the touch-screen.
  • Focuses automatically on the near eye. Why can’t all cameras do that???
  • Lens quality is superb (crazy sharpness & creamy background rendering).
  • The close focusing distance of the 75 f/1.8 is commendable. Check the ant photo and the birds photos. For a 150mm equivalent lens, a min. focusing distance of 84 cm is brilliant.
  • Focus tracking now really works with MFT lenses after firmware v3 update, and at 9 fps no less. Even though the 75 f/1.8 is not the fastest focusing MFT lens, I was able to shoot my daughter running towards me in bursts of 60 images, with just the last few images OOF when she came too close to the camera. Also check the bird photos shown later. All of them were shot using focus tracking and the center focusing area.
  • In Body Image Stabilization helped me a lot. I have taken several shots at f/1.8, IS 6400 and 1/15 sec shutter speed. And all of them came out perfectly sharp.
  • The Olympus files are the most malleable files I had the pleasure of working with in ACR (as long as you stay clear from blown out highlights). The shadows recovery slider works wonders to the photos, as opposed to the Canon or the Sony A7II files for example where the shadows sliders doesn't seem to do a lot.
  • The E-M1 is still the best handling camera I have ever used. Just the perfect size and button layout. It only needs a third dial ring around the direction buttons to change ISO directly like the A7II.

I had immense fun shooting portraits of my daughters and the surrounding scenery. I also shot lots of short clips to make a short video of the trip. The built-in image stabilization worked beautifully when shooting hand-held, as if I was using a Steady Cam. The main niggle that frustrated me is the focus-by-wire when shooting videos. I never succeeded in pulling focus between two objects smoothly, since it depends on the speed or rotating the focus ring. If I pull focus slowly, I could turn the focusing ring 360-degrees twice to pull focus from one object to the other. If I pull focus quickly, I could snap the focus between the two objects in just a quarter turn, and probably over shoot my focus point. It was reaaally frustrating.

In summary: I am very glad I took the Oly on this trip, I will be using it more often from now on, and I will always take one lens with me at any given time (unless it is a paid job of course). Have fun, and enjoy what you own to the max.

Now I will leave you with a few photos of some crazy tiny birds that were fighting over some bread crumbs. These birds had no issues coming very close to where we were sitting or even picking up the crumbs from our hands.


The 200L is back
First outing with the Sony A7 II and the Zeiss 55 f/1.8
Canon FL 55mm f/1.2 + Sony A7II
Fast 50mm Shoot Out: MFT vs FF (or why I bought the Sony A7II and a single FE lens)
Long Term Review: Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8
Packing A Small Do-It-All Kit For Travel

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