As many photos as you want but no flash!

Meg and I visited to the Aardman exhibition in Melbourne. The staff were very keen to tell us to "photograph as much as we want, but no flash". 

The catch was, of course, the light. The room was very dark, with "mood" (read contrasty) light employed on the models and sets. I shot wide at or near wide open (F1.8-2.8) at ISO 800-1600 and often -1 to -1 1/2 exp comp. I wonder how all of the mobile phones fared?

Some personalities above and below, some of the sets.

The figures ranged in size from a few inches, to almost a  foot tall and the pirate ship model was six foot tall and eight foot long!

The figure behind the wheel is about 20cm tall and the ship is complete from stem to stern.

The figure behind the wheel is about 20cm tall and the ship is complete from stem to stern.

Above miss-exposure is an example of the ability modern digital cameras have to retrieve information from their shadows and why you should always lean that way when in doubt. Lost highlights are often gone, but shadows hold on, although it is often at the expense of image noise. The OMD cameras were ahead of their time at production and are still holding their own today. I especially appreciate their black spot "film grain" noise, that holds detail better than more destructive colour noise. 

In the above image (also retrieved from the dark), the first crop has a small amount of colour noise reduction to remove the (rare) "fruit tingles" noise. The second has +60 luminance noise reduction and +50 detail. In large prints, the slight loss of detail is often irrelevant and can be re applied with localised clarity with the brush tool. Having said that, the noise often smooths away in printing, so a lower noise setting of +30 would do. I don't mind a bit of grain myself.

It is best to get where you want in as few steps as possible (all processing is destructive to the original file), so weigh up extra manipulations against doing and undoing in different ways, if one process, less heavily applied will do the job.

unsettled and indulgent

Some people are never happy.

Looking at me here.

I stopped the pro side of my photography, because I felt it was simply a waste of my creative energy, gear and time for little reward. I did not charge enough by choice, but it was more the lack of creative input that I found wasteful. I usually had to comply with fairly strict constraints, which is how the commercial world works, but not how I work best. The other frustration was not being able to share my images.

The best images (by far) that I do are the un staged ones, basically I am a found things/people photographer and always will be. The "umbrella" brief of end product needed, do it how it comes to you, not the stand here, we have a shape that needs recording style definitely suits as my stage and sport work proved. I think the school in particular will most likely find that anyone with a camera of above average specs will be able to supply the posed shots. It is in the difficult light, moving action area I excelled, which is why I was so effective on the junior campus, when left to watch and observe, capturing the "decisive moment".

I must confess, that without work coming in, however inconvenient it became balancing my permanent and very tolerant day job, my image making has hit an inactivity wall. It is winter here, which should be my happy hunting ground, but not so much.

Maybe, as my style has developed and my tastes changes, there is simply not as much that stimulates me to photograph? Maybe a major gear culling coming.

As part of a "Spark Joy" trend I have been on lately it has been tempting to sell everything that does not give my a feeling of satisfaction personally, but is only owned because I think I (may) need it. I remember thinking that a likely image I would be taking for the school was a wide shot from the balcony of their chapel, so I always kept a 12mm handy. That shot eventuated, I took it and it worked well. I also remember thinking I kept that lens for just that pre visualised image and that was one of the very few the focal length was used for.

The tele zoom creates a different problem. I have tended to not use my other prime telephoto lenses, even though I know they are superior in some ways (bokeh and DOF control). When ever I have used them I have been reminded how good they are and how each has a character that shows through, while the zoom just feels like a very competent tool. I can tell just by looking which of the primes was used. The combination of focal length, contrast and bokeh each (25/45/75) renders is apart of their utility. The zoom, as all zooms do, makes the choice less intuitive. It is harder to apply the character of a lens that has differing traits at the flick of a zoom ring.

The quality of this image has both smoother bokeh (at f2.8) than the tele zoom and more bite than the standard zoom. A beautiful combination. The small size of the lens also helped with the "drop in", casual portrait situation.

The quality of this image has both smoother bokeh (at f2.8) than the tele zoom and more bite than the standard zoom. A beautiful combination. The small size of the lens also helped with the "drop in", casual portrait situation.

The ideal would be:

 Pen F  17mm* (best for up to the eye manual focus, something I have been working towards, the silent shutter is good for close quarters, has the best meter when given a wide area to calibrate and the higher pixel count allows for more cropping).                                                        OMD  25mm (set up for AF macro/portrait work).                                                                       OMD  45mm (set up for AF portrait work).                                                                                        OMD  75mm (set up for AF street candid portraits).                                                                                  This one would also be used with the 75-300 if needed.

* I have a second 45mm that would go with this if I only took the Pen and the Pen mini could take the 17mm also making up a two camera kit again and adding two batteries of endurance. Or maybe a 14 or 12mm for the little mini or just it's 14-42?

The idea is to have (while they last), matched lens and camera set ups. No lens changing*, no changing of camera set ups, just work a camera's settings as best suits the lens and intended application.

I would then sell my two pro zooms with matching filter sets, netting enough to take a trip and keep the 14-42 and 75-300 lenses just in case (my day trip and zoo lenses), or just keep them for landscapes.

One of my constant frustrations with (any) cameras is the multi mode nature of them that often has to change to suit a lens change. In a nut shell, I hate using zooms, but I hate even more changing lenses. It is a luxury, but not a ridiculous ask to have a camera/lens pairing and is surely one of the benefits of the small Olympus cameras. This was very common in the early days of documentary photography until bulky cameras and zooms became the norm, but even then the pro shooter often used a two camera rig.

On a personal note, I also find zooms distracting to use. Putting a camera to my eye with a fixed lens is a priceless working habit, even expectation, that choosing a "floating" focal length on a zoom steals away. You may think that you will never have the perfect framing tool with a prime lens, but actually, unless you have time to think, you will never have the perfect framing tool with a zoom. Putting the camera to the eye and adjusting framing with what (you eventually know) you are going to see is faster than making framing choices between the raising/zooming and shooting points. Some people say they can do it, but not I. Yes you can pre choose your focal length, but then you miss out on the smaller, faster, application specific option.

Would I miss the zooms? The bokeh on the tele I can occasionally find problematic, the smoothness and bokeh, but lower micro contrast of the 12-40 is pleasant, but lacks the bite I am used to from the primes and their weight and size is less than ideal (my biggest prime is smaller than the smaller of the two). Another thing to ponder is, the two budget zooms I have (14-42/75-300) are very nearly as good at middle, or landscape apertures, so why lug the monsters for the odd landscape that the primes can do as well or better with the cheap zooms as support as needed? Who could honestly tell which lens I used?  Ctein is on record as saying, that after some field testing, the standard kit lens is fine for his needs, that is to say he would not take it off the camera for another lens, so it would well do me also.

OK quality from a "junk" lens.

OK quality from a "junk" lens.

What would I achieve in real terms?

The holy grail of a 1 bag kit.

Less maintenance from finger prints and dust.

Always ready and no dual role gear.

A commitment to style, ignoring extreme looks in my images.  

No waste. I hate having things I do not use.

* Almost all of my minor lens accidents have involved lens changes or lenses loose from cameras. From dropping a discarded lens into a bag onto another lens (ouch!), caps coming off, dropping bits, putting finger prints on rear surfaces while changing or having them end face up in a bag with keys etc somehow finding their way to them. These things happen, but with me tend to only happen to lenses not on cameras. I do not use lens caps etc, only back caps, but even then, I have lost some protective filters and things always slow down.

still working well

After a pretty lazy autumn, I have started to get out in winter. First stop, the Cataphract Gorge, in (yes in) Launceston. My old stomping ground. Using the technique I tested early this year (now that I can set up my landscape kit without having to have the bulk of it ready for work), I very easily grabbed a few images the other morning. I must admit to loosing the light too soon, but in a packed hour, managed a few keepers.

Pen F 40-150 12 second exposure. A 6 stop ND filter was fitted.

Pen F 40-150 12 second exposure. A 6 stop ND filter was fitted.

Taken a few minutes before, in less brilliant light.

Taken a few minutes before, in less brilliant light.

and a quick mono conversion.

and a quick mono conversion.

The technique is startlingly simple. Place the camera, set to the pre set C1, on the tripod (very light tripod that is). Compose and touch the screen where you want focus. Two seconds later, the silent and perfectly inert shutter fires, delivering a very sharp image. How much has my life changed in the recent past from the bad old days of wrestling long lenses on SLR cameras? More than I care to think. I NEVER managed to fully settle a 5D down with a 200mm or longer lens, no matter how heavy the tripod or how clever the tricks I used.

Pen F 40-150

Pen F 40-150

After the stream, I visited a little spot in the scrub on the way back to the car park.

A little crop of the above image (lower right) using normal 20mp resolution.

A little crop of the above image (lower right) using normal 20mp resolution.

All with moderate Lightroom processing from RAW.

Pretty happy with that. I just need to get out more.

Time

I have time on my hands. It is cold. Cold but extraordinary, clear and brilliant. The voice in my head is telling me to go out and make the most of it, except the master voice that says stay inside and be with your dogs (where I would go, they cannot come). Our Jack is 14 and burdened with maladies. He has bad hips, little or no hearing and two replacement knees. What he teaches me is life can be full of "best things ever" like walks or trips to friends or it can be spent quietly, just enjoying "the now" of it all. 

Each day is as is, no pressure, just appreciate.

Strangely, "Time" by Hans Zimmer and "The Days" by Ludovico Einaudi played consecutively on random, cementing my mood.

Insurmountable problem

As you probably well know, I have strong feeling s about bokeh (or Boke Aji) and it's best application with my various lenses.

Yesterday I used the Pen F and 12-40 for some street images and re discovered why I usually do not use that kit, that way.

Both of the images were taken at 14mm with focus fixed at a little over 1m (nothing between 1 and 5 meters, so it's hard to tell), f7.1 (thats about 28mm and f13 on a full frame!) and there was enough light to guarantee a reasonably fast shutter speed. The focus drop off is so fast with this lens, that even subjects slightly out of focus are soft. After using the 17mm for a while now, this is really off putting. I know that at f2.8 the 17mm will give me a gradual and acceptable focus transition. It gives me confidence and allows me to take images that would otherwise push the camera impossibly. It looks as though I have two lenses at the extreme ends of the range when it comes to focus draw.

The issue may be incorrect barrel markings on the lens, and the markings are a lot sparser than the 17mm's, but even so, the drop off is severe, but nice for portraits.  

This snap of a dejected Jack as we were leaving is at f2.8 (af lock on) and 35mm. Pleasantly the DOF looks to be from a bigger camera, but his eyes are a little out and three previous images were unusable. 

This snap of a dejected Jack as we were leaving is at f2.8 (af lock on) and 35mm. Pleasantly the DOF looks to be from a bigger camera, but his eyes are a little out and three previous images were unusable. 

Another taken at f7.1 and 38mm (f13 and 75mm full frame). The subject was about a meter away and the image is not cropped. The foreground and background leaves are all slightly out of focus. The ones in the middle where focus landed are nice and sharp. Not crazy 75mm sharp, but smooth sharp*.

Another taken at f7.1 and 38mm (f13 and 75mm full frame). The subject was about a meter away and the image is not cropped. The foreground and background leaves are all slightly out of focus. The ones in the middle where focus landed are nice and sharp. Not crazy 75mm sharp, but smooth sharp*.

Is this a problem?

It is something to aware of and explains why I have had a luke warm reaction to lens. Between very unforgiving focus drop off and a pleasant but not biting sharpness in it's sweet zone, the lens can frustrate. I am intending to use it for landscapes, as a second to my 40-150, that will get a lot more work and should be able to work well enough with it, but for street, I cannot be bothered with better options (17mm and 14-42 kit) available.

On the bright side, Olympus have been able to supply a f2.8 pro lens on a larger sensor look, and real f2.8 benefits at the same time.

*Another thing to ponder is the sharpness types Olympus have offered in their range.

The pro zoom has a smoothness that is ideal for it's type, giving both the lens and the camera the benefit of it's rendering. The 17mm is more "gritty" sharp and simply clear, using lots of micro contrast to (possibly) help it's bokeh and to suit it's street subject matter. The 75mm is just razor sharp with great drop off for portraits.

Moving on

As of this month (end of financial year), I have decided to discontinue my active pro work. My main client is quiet at the moment, giving them the chance to fill the spot before it gets busy again.

The work has been fine, much of it fun and I have met some nice people, but the work itself has put pressures on my photography that I did not foresee.

1) Gear pressure*. My OMD EM5 cameras have continually surprised me, but I am starting to resent the use they are getting for work that few ever see and I cannot use personally. On one hand I feel the call of an EM1 mk2 upgrade and on the other, I do not want one just for work and cannot justify it/do not need it for myself. All of the hundreds of images I make get chosen for the odd publication, face book etc., but the quantities do not match the volume taken. The Pen F, one EM5, the 40-150 and 12-40 are pretty much kept in reserve for work only, but I actually wanted them for landscapes where they get little use. 

2) Storage. Some jobs can really chew up the space on my hard drives. I have maxed out a couple of drives keeping multiple copies of the original images and my drop box storage is always groaning. I like to run cleanly, but working professionally has forced a shift in my habits, well away from where I want to be, keeping a lot of so-so images just in case. Lately it has been costing me as much to buy storage/drives as I seem to be earning.

3) My interest is flagging. Rather than anticipating my next excursion or trip, I am finding myself inwardly groaning at the thought of another job and my gear sits around in "ready to go" bags, untouched unless a job is on. Please keep in mind that my income comes mostly from a part time retail job, a job that has shown amazing flexibility when needed for my photography, but it is always one sided. The proof to me came on receipt of the half yearly school magazine, filled with my images and with due credit given (a bit too much as it turns out as some of the images were not mine). It was not as fulfilling as I thought it would be. Be careful what you wish for.

4) I don't and never have liked the dynamic of working in photography for money. I would prefer to have someone love my image or purchase a print they like than have to work towards an idea that I have little or no creative input in. As a job I would much rather work to a wage, but those days are gone. I will admit to having little idea of my value photographically and one of my problems stems from not charging enough for my time, not causing resentment as such, but rather a feeling of getting behind, not ahead. 

5) I am feeling the relevance of photography wane. This goes back to the reasons I left the camera shop. The industry is tanking, going back to levels of the late 1990's where serious only photographers are buying specialist gear, the vast majority are happy with phone images, the equivalent of compact camera images of the past and don't care to see a difference. This is fine and expected. I am under no illusions that photography is loosing it's preciousness, but I like it and I want to continue doing it, I just don't see the value in doing pro work, for me anyway. My goal was never to work professionally, just to take the images I want and if that led to a job, than ok.

Yay. Free to do things my way again.

Yay. Free to do things my way again.

I feel a great sense of relief at this decision. I am still available at the junior campus of the school where my wife works for some free jobs to support her and the school. That is where it all started and where it will end.

* I fully expect my current crop of cameras to see out traditional photography for me. I would be very surprised if I buy another serious camera body as I have the quality I need (artistically and commercially), and hundreds of thousands of frames of life left in them (4 bodies), but not if they get hammered for jobs.

Analysis paralysis

I used this term a couple of posts ago and it came to mind again just now. How much time do some of us waste theorising about things to the point of in action. 

One thing that using my gear more, without the stress of working around it (yes stress, not pleasure, pleasure would be owning it or being able to use what ever you want when ever), or the time to worry about it, by working professionally, is that gear very quickly falls into the category of usable, usable with provisions or not usable.

Use it as is because it does what you expect, use it in certain situations due to it's character or limitations or don't use it, because something else at hand is better.

Collectors and hobbyists can, by choice, think too much about things. These things take on a preciousness, a life of their own based on imaginings and intellectual processes.  

Users of equipment also imbue their tools with a life and some loyalty, earned from companionship and shared experiences. Like simple, well worn jeans, they wear their scars with pride not fashion forced self consciousness.

My old EM5's are carrying a few dings, and they are sometimes so known to me they bore me, but something happened a while back. Instead of boredom equalling selling, I became content with them in a relaxed way, a surety they will serve as needed and rest until then. 

Effectively killing off new camera lust and replacing it with an impatience with new things, this thinking is much closer to contentment than the whirlwind of acquisition and resell I found myself in a few years ago. It has just dawned on me that my personal purchasing of gear has slowed to film era rates (one lens and one camera last year and less the year before).

I think this is a sign of the times. Progress of technical things has slowed in a retail sense. No longer do lines spread around the block on the launch of a new device and when one fails dismally and in large numbers, the effect is simply one of customer shift, not shock. The camera industry in particular is in for a tough future. Phones have effectively replaced the compact camera market, taking away the connection between burgeoning photographers and camera shops. Cameras are better than ever, but fewer and fewer people need what they offer as phones are perceived to be enough. 

No more the stress of what to get.

No more the stress of what to get.

How long will my old stalwarts last? How long does anything really. Probably long enough to see out photography as we know it, especially as I have decided to move on from the pro work I have been doing and use them artistically only. They will each pass as things should, after fulfilling the potential given to them from design to manufacture, not growing mould in a ward robe.

They will then deserve a place in a display cabinet as a good horse is put to pasture.

Memories of stars

One of my early influences, John Shaw once took and shared an image that had a strong effect on me. The image was of leaves on a still pond, with under exposure turning the water jet black. He likened it to stars in a night sky.

That example of exposure control and the composition stayed with me from then on. I cannot take an image like it without thinking of him, over 20 years ago.

My image is not as "stellar" (excuse the bad pun), more early landscape style like Elliot Porter maybe?

EM5 45mm

EM5 45mm

Human connection

There is nothing great about the image below. It is a focus miss, due to bumping the focus ring while on manual/zone focus, but serves as another example of the 17mm lens bokeh. It is dark and gloomy and it is poorly composed. 

There is something that caught my eye though. 

Human connection? Human mystery?

Simply put, I cannot dump it or rejoice in it, but I can share it in case it does the same for you.

EM5 17mm

EM5 17mm

The image below is another near delete. It was/is a lesson to me to not make editing decisions in the field (but maybe be more brutal when in front of the screen) and trust my feelings, not just my eyes. I have never managed to process this one successfully though.

EM5 75-300 at 75mm. A speculative flick of the wrist image.

EM5 75-300 at 75mm. A speculative flick of the wrist image.

Threes

Japanese women and girls of all ages often travel in threes. Not sure why, but maybe two is too intimate and more than three is impractical? Just guessing.

They don't practice perfect timing I am sure.

EM5 17mm

EM5 17mm

EM5 17mm

EM5 17mm

EM5 17mm

EM5 17mm

All of these images were shot on the same morning in, or going to Nara.

tourist spotting

It is rare that excessive human noise gets your attention on Japan. The little ones above managed to get the attention a fair few tourists in the back streets of Kyoto though. The little one in blue was quite raucous and pretty cheeky, bailing up knots of intrigued wanderers. Too cute. 

EM5 45mm

EM5 45mm

Princess in the glade

Kimono adorned Japanese women (and traditionally dressed men) are common in Kyoto. They come in many different forms, from the quick "hire for a day" to the professional Geisha. Somewhere in between are the harder ones to pick. They have clearly been dressed properly, but maybe for a photo shoot, a wedding or simply because they desire to put in the effort for the authentic traditional look.

This delightful discovery was probably for a self commissioned photo shoot or maybe a wedding as there were a lot of temples nearby, but it is hard to tell. She has the bearing of a Geisha, but was not engaged in traditional duties. Just out of the frame is a two person photo crew. 

Anyway, the image has a bit of a "discovered fairies in the dell" look due to the short lens I used (45mm). My wife has a much closer image thanks to the 24x zoom on her compact.   

EM5 45mm

EM5 45mm

modern classics

Something reminded me of a renaissance painting in this. I think it is the mother and boy facing the opposite direction, much like the heroic primary figure and adoring others at their feet. The irony is of course is the distracted phone users.

EM5 45mm

EM5 45mm

Maybe with a muted colour palette and a bit of heavy handed vignetting.

Textures of time

Wonderful textures provided by the wood and decaying paper. There were a lot of these posters around, all in some state of dis repair, but this one, on an overcast day after some light rain, really stood out. The slight angle distortion is from the subjects. I could have probably straightened it, but I decided to leave it alone.

EM5 45mm 

EM5 45mm 

Olympus OMD EM5 cameras, What are they good at?

I have and we all do sometimes dwell too much on what other people/things/circumstances have wrong with them. It is human nature. My wife, who is heavily embedded in wellbeing and personal growth study at the moment, will point this out to me when I stray too far from being happy (as anyone in the first world should be by default) and go down the path of problem hunting.

Using some of this thinking in the most practical way I can apply, I am going to look at what my reliable, faithful and excellent little EM5's do really well. There is always the other side of the coin like the never ending eye cup replacement stream, but I will indulge the good as it is overdue to be indulged.                                                                                                                 

This has ended up being as long as a "thoughts" essay, but oh well.

*

They are sharp. Really sharp. Sharpness that I had rarely had the pleasure of seeing** in digital until M43 and Fuji mirrorless* came along. They are sharp enough to hold their own against cameras with far bigger sensors and more expensive lenses.

The lenses don't let the side down either, even the kit lenses raised the bar. Scratch marks on polished metal, eyes of birds from massive crops, tiny branches on trees hugging the horizon on a sweeping landscape image. Results well within the happiness range of demanding and experienced image makers, even when the cameras only sported a 12mp sensor. Indeed the worst combination in the early period of the format (EP1 with it's heavy anti alias filtering and early, much maligned 17mm f2.8) could match the D700 Nikon full frame and 35mm f2 at similar enlargement sizes. It was (is) a different world of clarity that changed how we see images in the digital world.

Sometimes I smile to myself when people nit pick between two lenses in this format, because all are sharp on a level higher than we had before, so it is largely a pointless exercise in justification of choice. My 14-42 kit and 12-40 pro zooms render differently and have different specs, but I can work professionally with either. I have a pecking order in my mind, but my worst (cheapest) two lenses could get most jobs done and the actual order is not what you would expect.

To see the numbers if you need to, just go onto Lenstip or Photozone and look at the resolution numbers for the EPM1/2 or EM5 with any lens vs similar pixel count full or crop frame cameras and matching lenses. The numbers are telling.

A slightly cropped image taken with the EM5 and a "budget" tele zoom. This image matches a 16mp full frame and "L" series prime image taken a couple of years before of the same subject.

A slightly cropped image taken with the EM5 and a "budget" tele zoom. This image matches a 16mp full frame and "L" series prime image taken a couple of years before of the same subject.

Heavy crop from an image taken with the 14-42 kit lens.

Heavy crop from an image taken with the 14-42 kit lens.

They love and tame strong light. The sensor handles warm and strong light really well, never getting pushed out of their comfort zone. The smooth glow that comes from the sensor is very much like film's handling of hard highlights. Personally I reduce the exposure compensation to deepen the shadows and help control the highlights, but I have never lost a properly exposed image to blow out that was unnatural to the image and shadows recover very easily.

Some sensors add sparkle to the image even when the subject is not represented naturally, but not the EM5's. At first this frustrated me as Fuji in particular could magically make bland or dull look interesting, but this was not natural. It was not the real world. When I got my head around the ideal that the camera should not make bad look good simply by cheating, I really appreciated the controlled reality envelope the Oly's offered, even if I felt a little creatively cornered for a while.  

Running Canon, Fuji Sony and Olympus/Panasonic at the same time, really did not help. I felt I had potentially the perfect camera for any situation, when really I had no chance of getting to know any of them intimately, so I would be doomed to choosing almost at random.

A very contrasty situation that I never fear trying to capture. Very little post required. EM5 17mm

A very contrasty situation that I never fear trying to capture. Very little post required. EM5 17mm

EM5 75mm

EM5 75mm

Speaking of sparkle. When given a metallic subject the sensors ability to control the amount of sparkle and glow is really apparent. The brilliance of the final image is really up to the processing. Those deep and moody shadows, the bright highlight at the top of the pipes and the overall warmth and richness of the colours are the home play ground of the camera and something I would miss if lost. They manage to supply both Kodachrome 64 character and Fuji Velvia colours on the same file, but without some of film's short comings. I think of doing prints often when viewing files like this.

EM5 45mm 

EM5 45mm 

EM5 17mm on a system comparison morning (XE-1 23mm vs EM5 17mm). Initially the highlights were a blinding white flash point, but easily recovered until the right amount of glow was found. The Fuji looked beautiful, but I could not get back the lost highlights from the jpeg (don't ask about RAW at that time).

EM5 17mm on a system comparison morning (XE-1 23mm vs EM5 17mm). Initially the highlights were a blinding white flash point, but easily recovered until the right amount of glow was found. The Fuji looked beautiful, but I could not get back the lost highlights from the jpeg (don't ask about RAW at that time).

They convert to mono really well. Some of the charm of the film like properties the EM5's show is best displayed in their mono conversions. I would have to say, I never really meshed with Canon black and white conversions, Fuji was nice and Sony (Nex 7) was very good at mono, but I did not like other aspects of their images.

Mono with Canon became my destination when an image was beyond salvaging in colour and they always felt a little fake, like colour film images printed in black and white. With the Olympus cameras, I have been genuinely torn between mono and colour versions of so many images. The whole "mono vs colour face off" series is a direct result of this constant tug of war. I could and have contemplated fully switching to mono for my own work, but I love colour too much! I am a colour shooter who has alway respected, but never committed to black and white. I feel that both, for the first time in 30 years, are now even in my creative thinking.

EM5 75-300mm with the M2 "Basic film clean" profile applied. The print is sumptuous.

EM5 75-300mm with the M2 "Basic film clean" profile applied. The print is sumptuous.

Not specific to the EM5 camera, but a part of committing to the format is the depth of field rendering which is (in my opinion) perfect in practical terms. As you will have read here before, boke aji or bokeh is one of my areas of heightened awareness photographically (read; obsession). Bokeh means to many modern exponents "fast lenses, wide open, up close on big sensors", but it is far more than that.

True appreciation of bokeh is to understand that all but a very few fully and equally in focussed images have a component of bokeh transition (from fully focussed to partially or fully unfocussed) present. Even in small amounts, it is important to the viewer's feelings towards the photo.

It is not just how fast or loud music is, it is how it is played at all times that really counts and it is the same in photography. Anyone can max out bokeh to prove it's power, but how does it function in the real world when you need to use practical apertures?

EM5 17mm f2.8 (f5.6 on a full frame). If this image works on any level it is because of the relative clarity of the girl in the background and the dress in the foreground, but the orange case still gently dominates the composition. This is as much a characteristic of the lens used as the format, but it is so much harder with a larger sensor.

EM5 17mm f2.8 (f5.6 on a full frame). If this image works on any level it is because of the relative clarity of the girl in the background and the dress in the foreground, but the orange case still gently dominates the composition. This is as much a characteristic of the lens used as the format, but it is so much harder with a larger sensor.

Want super shallow DOF? Just do what you would do with a larger format only a tiny bit more aggressively. EM5 75mm f2 (not even wide open). Any less focus depth may not be practical.

Want super shallow DOF? Just do what you would do with a larger format only a tiny bit more aggressively. EM5 75mm f2 (not even wide open). Any less focus depth may not be practical.

I feel that every aperture I have is realistically in play. My lens arsenal provides a variety of magnifications and different renderings, which I am only now starting to really understand, but I feel fully equipped to produce the look I want, when I want.

They are clean. One hair, that should have been left alone and my own clumsiness forced a small, spot, sensor clean and one spot on an image very early on are all I have had to deal with in 5 years! No sensor cleans or servicing and 100,000+ images put through them. I am careful granted (I started in digital before sensor cleaning was a thing and have some good habits), but not obsessively so.

Finally, they are fast and stable. Shutter lag, the in camera stabiliser and auto focus are all very good. I do not miss shots because of the cameras, only my own skills. The AF has pulled off some miracle shots and the shutter lag is spot on for my own timing. I get what I see unless I stuff up. I had a bad habit early on of holding down the shutter button as I did with Canon in continuous AF, but when I stopped pushing it down too soon every thing worked brilliantly. It is stunning how often the camera grabbed onto something sharply when in touch AF mode and bumped or just fired off by mistake! Lots of sharp shoe shots.

EM5 17mm "flick of the wrist" shot with AF.

EM5 17mm "flick of the wrist" shot with AF.

The shutter sound and the camera's feel give great feed back when shooting slow shutter speeds. I rarely get surprise blurry images when pushing the camera into difficult stabiliser/shutter speed territory and generally know what feels ok will be ok. The Pen F on the other hand is not as forgiving with it's less defined "slappy" shutter sound. 

Another taken like the one above, but light starved.

Another taken like the one above, but light starved.

*The Fuji cameras are not as pixel peeping sharp when comparing fine details, but have an amazing smooth clarity and glassiness, that in their own way match the results from much bigger sensors.

** The Canon 1Ds mk2, and my best primes could get me there.

top end of town

Kyoto is a funny little town. The traditional capitol of Japan through much of it's more recent history, the city has the duel burden of being the tourist mecca, or "Venice" of Japan and at the same time just being a little city out side of a bigger city (Osaka).

The images below were taken at the "top end" of town. They are at the end of the main shopping street and the entrance to the primary temple area. It is, to be honest, a bit run down up there. The massive temples and the over one kilometre of shops tend to distract, but if you look a little harder at the buildings, they have a small town "charm", usually seen in the smaller cities.

From where these are taken I could just as easily have taken temple filled parkland or shop fronts.

All EM5 and 45mm.

Really sharp

Just a look at the 75mm lenses sharpness at f1.8.

It is reassuring that the lens not only offers the equivalent reach of a 150mm on a full frame, but also this is with f1.8 speed and is this sharp wide open. Basic processing was added on import, then the blue/green camera channel push talked about in the last "thoughts" post.

This is one of the biggest benefits of M43/43 format.

I really like the 40-150 zoom for some things, but this is surely my best lens. The bokeh in particular is consistent and excellent, where the zoom can be a bit busy to the point of being a concern in some circumstances. It is often pleasant at closer distances, but at middle distances with a busy back ground can look a bit like some older Nikon teles I played with a while back showing strong cross eyed or double image (Ni-Sen from memory?) bokeh.

I remember that this is almost the same dynamic as the 70-200 f4L and 135f2L Canons. The Zoom was often on par with the prime in perceived sharpness and definitely more versatile, but the bokeh was a bit hit and miss (better on the "IS" version apparently) and it lost 2 stops, just like the Olympus combo. The big difference is in weight. The 75mm Olympus is basically the same size as the 85mm f1.8 Canon, roughly half the volume and weight of the 135mm, while the f2.8 zoom is about the same size as the 70-200 f4 and both are a lot lighter than the 70-200 f2.8 Canon, so more reach/speed for the weight/size/price. 

Unlikely

This last trip, I decided to not use a heavy kit, aiming to keep my bag flat and out of the way. Two primes (17/45) mounted on two cameras (EM5's), allowing fast and clean operation (no lens changes) and supporting clear vision. 

For the most part it worked, but of course things come up you wish you prepared better for. I have never managed a crane in flight image. In the past I have had with me lenses up to 600mm (equiv. to FF), but opportunities did not present. No big deal really as that is not my thing anyway. 

So, what happens when not one, not two, but half a dozen cranes fly over you at helpful intervals while they build their nests and you only have a 45mm lens on? Well, you have a crack. 

untitled-4200116.jpg

Heavily cropped and against a bland sky (one of only few this trip), but ok I guess. The EM5's grabbed the high contrast subject quickly and I shot without hesitation. This is important because the EM5 will acquire focus quickly, but will not track.

spontaneous

The people of Japan can get a bit of a bum wrap some times. Often they are stereo typed as emotionless, or at least prone to hiding their feelings. As I have posted before, they have a capacity to show strong and infectious emotion spontaneously.

These guys (and another out of frame) were enjoying a friends dodgy skate boarding in a shopping strip mall late in the evening. The mall was pretty empty, so they were not being incautious, but even so, the level of fun being had may have taken some foreign visitors aback. 

The Japanese are very pleasant. Their customer service is first rate, but sometimes it feels habitual, even culturally forced (it seems often that the Japanese response to most things is to smile first, which is nice, but over time can become waring). It is nice to spend enough time there to see their good natured and gentle humour show through naturally. 

At other times, they can be caught out just being themselves in another place. This girl danced her way across the street, seemingly oblivious of everyone else and those around her were typically too well mannered to be seen noticing.