Month: May 2014

Friday image No.021

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Offshore Wind Farm
Offshore Wind Farm

Firstly I am going to start with an apology. Last week there was no Friday Image and some readers may have found me slower to respond. This is because my mother is in hospital (and has been for a few weeks). I have been trying to work around this but it is having an impact on my productivity. Being self employed I need to put my business next after my family. I hope you will understand and bear with me whilst I work through this.

Now to the image which was shot with the Olympus EM5 and the Panasonic 45-150 lens. This wind farm is quite far out to sea and I had to use the 45-150 at its farthest reach. I also used quite a wide aperture to keep the shutter speed up (I was hand holding) and add the feeling of depth to the image. I am very impressed with the lens performance given the extreme focal length and the conversion which was done using Nik Silver Efex is exactly what I had visualised at the time I took the shot. It’s great when something works out for you.

Have a great weekend everyone.

It’s Light That Matters

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Light at sea. Olympus EM5
Light at sea. Olympus EM5

You will no doubt have heard the advice before, but it’s too easy to forget. We shouldn’t be taking photographs of objects but of the light. It’s the light that illuminates the object, that makes it attractive, captivating or simply ugly. You need to take control of the light to create a great image, but if you can’t, you need to select a subject to suit the light.

I recently went for a walk up Black Combe which rises some 600m from the sea. I was expecting some great landscape views but nothing caught my eye because the light was wrong. Where the light was right is out to sea where there was no shape of form to speak of, just wonderful shafts of light breaking through the cloud. It reminded me of a painting.

So remember, it’s the light that’s critical to great photography.

Just Thinking of Summer

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Dreamy summer effects with Nik Color Efex Pro.
Dreamy summer effects with Nik Color Efex Pro.

I was thinking of summer whilst looking through my archive and came across a rather drab looking picture of flowers in a field. Looks a lot better after I had a play around in Nik Color Efex.

I was editing this and noticed

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Olympus EM5 image shot with Olympus 45mm lens
Olympus EM5 image shot with Olympus 45mm lens

After I published the Friday Image No 20 I decided to review my Olympus EM5 shots. I had taken a few of the same location with the extremely sharp Olympus 45mm prime. You can see one particular example above.

What I noticed, that took me completely by surprise, is that I can see traces of noise in the EM5 image which isn’t present in the GM1 shot when viewed at 100% magnification. I have always been impressed by the EM5 images and just how clean the images are, but the GM1 appears to surpass this when both cameras are used at their base ISO.

Olympus EM5 image at 100%. ISO200 with some processing applied in Nik.
Olympus EM5 image at 100%. ISO200 with some processing applied in Nik.

 

Panasonic GM1 at 100%. ISO200 with similar processing in Nik to the EM5 sample. Notice also the different colour handling of the two systems. I need to profile both of these cameras.
Panasonic GM1 at 100%. ISO200 with similar processing in Nik to the EM5 sample. Notice also the different colour handling of the two systems. I need to profile both of these cameras.

If you are wondering why I find this so important, it’s because this noise becomes amplified in post processing, especially when enhancing images with structure and dynamic contrast tools. The less noise is present, the higher the quality of the finished image and the less noticeable any image artefacts are.

Friday image No.020

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Not a Landscape Image - Captured on a Panasonic GM1 with 12-32mm lens
Not a Landscape Image – Captured on a Panasonic GM1 with 12-32mm lens

I have been working on a book which discusses how to improve your photography and which takes a different approach to the more usual “instruction manual” format. On reviewing the draft my Editor helpfully commented that perhaps I should drag myself out of my Landscape comfort zone and sample some of my own medicine. So this week’s image is in response to his suggestion.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Panasonic GM1 First Thoughts – part 2

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GM1 paired with the Olympus 9-18mm lens
GM1 paired with the Olympus 9-18mm lens

In my previous post I looked at the size of the GM1 in comparison to the LX7. In this post I will look at my thoughts around image quality. Right up front I should say that this camera is in another league when compared to the LX7, but then you would expect it to be. And to be entirely fair to the LX7, I have been producing some very detailed and high quality A2 prints from it recently.

In the following image you can see a shot of cracked paintwork which was captured on the GM1 with the 12-32mm kit lens at 18mm with the ISO set to ISO 125 which is the expanded ISO, base ISO being 200. It’s very difficult for you to see the image quality in this other than perhaps the colour rendition.

2014-05-10 RWhalley_GM1_2014_05_1000351

The next image shows the central part of the frame zoomed to 100% magnification.

Image section at 100% magnification
Image section at 100% magnification

This is an exceptionally sharp lens and camera combination and I would put it on a par with the Olympus EM5 paired with the Panasonic 14-45mm lens (which is excellent). What I have noticed though is that the lens starts to soften in the corners as can be seen in the next shot.

Corner section of the image at 100% magnification
Corner section of the image at 100% magnification

This softening isn’t too bad but you can also see some light fall off. I was finding that when shooting something near to me I was needing to stop down to about f/6.3 in order to bring the corner sharpness up to a level where I could add additional sharpening later. Being fair to the 12-32mm lens, it is an excellent performer and is never going to compare with the likes of the Olympus 25mm or 45mm primes. If you are shooting more distant subjects or those that don’t demand exceptional corner sharpness, it is ideal.

What is also noticeable about the images above is he colour rendition in the GM1. I have found the images on a par with the Olympus EM1. The RAW files are a pleasure to work with and I seem to be able to achieve great results.

Now one area I don’t usually like is shooting at higher ISO. If I have to push my camera to anything over ISO 400 I start to fret that I am losing image quality. So occasions where I have to shoot handheld in low light are something that I hate. Take a look at the following image where I had to shoot at ISO800.

 

Low light image shot handheld at ISO800. Processing in Nik Silver Efex Pro
Low light image shot handheld at ISO800. Processing in Nik Silver Efex Pro

Now take a look at a section of the unprocessed image at 100% magnification.

Section of the image at 100% magnification prior to processing.
Section of the image at 100% magnification prior to processing.

I have applied a very small amount of noise reduction to the image but it’s hardly noticeable. The low light performance appears to be on a par with or even slightly better than my Olympus EM5, something that surprised me as Panasonic have always produced images that are noisier than their Olympus competition. I would certainly have no problems printing this image at A2.

One odd thing that I noticed about the camera when shooting in low light was that it performed better with the 12-32mm lens than any of my primes. Neither the lens nor the body have any form of image stabiliser but I could consistently shoot clearer images. Use the 25mm and the shake would be very evident. I can’t explain that one.

In summary, put a good lens on this camera and it really performs in terms of image quality. And if you only have the 12-32 lens, it’s still a good performer if you are not ultra fussy about corner sharpness or know how to overcome this. It really is a superb quality pocket camera.


As someone has kindly pointed out since I made this post, the 12-32 lens is stabilised, so that sorts out my confusion. I even have to admit to having looked at the front of the lens to see if I could see OIS and I completely missed it. Time for new glasses I think.

 

Panasonic GM1 First Thoughts

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As regular readers will know, I recently splashed out on the purchase of a Panasonic GM1 camera. If you are not familiar with the GM1, it is possibly the smallest Micro 43 system camera that you can buy. My thinking was that I would use it as a backup to my main Olympus EM5, a lightweight travel camera, possibly pairing it with my GX1 infrared or as a replacement for my LX7 compact camera. The LX7 is a lovely camera and I really enjoy using it but there are times when I want better quality and a higher pixel count than its 10Mpixel sensor will give me. If the GM1 is a nice pocket camera it might replace the LX7.

So, I have been using the GM1 for a couple of weeks now and am starting to get a feel for how its specification translates into real life shooting. I know quite a few of you are keen for me to share my experience (as you keep writing to me) so here we go. First off, let’s compare the size of the GM1 to the LX7 which is a compact camera and which fits quite nicely into my pocket.

The GM1 that I purchased came with a 12-32mm f/3.5 – 5.6 lens. The neat thing about this lens is that is collapses down when not in use. This makes the lens and camera together roughly the same depth as the LX7 which also has a lens that retracts. Here you can see the two cameras side by side from above with UV filters in place. Notice the depth of the GM1 body (which is on the left) is less than the LX7 although the lens is deeper.

GM1 and LX7 side by side. GM1 is on the left
GM1 and LX7 side by side. GM1 is on the left

When viewed from the front you can see the GM1 is actually smaller than the LX7 both in terms of width and height.

GM1 and LX7 side by side. GM1 is on the left
GM1 and LX7 side by side. GM1 is on the left

This is even clearer to see when the camera is viewed from the rear (GM1 is on the left). Despite this reduction in size the screen area is the same size as the LX7. I know this as I fitted a screen protector from the LX7 to the GM1.

GM1 and LX7 side by side. GM1 is on the left
GM1 and LX7 side by side. GM1 is on the left

Once both cameras have their lenses extended for use they are still roughly the same size.

GM1 and LX7 side by side. GM1 is on the left
GM1 and LX7 side by side. GM1 is on the left

One aspect of the GM1 that some users may find annoying is that there is no hotshoe to fix an external viewfinder to so you are limited to the screen display. Personally I haven’t found this an issue and the screen has been easy to see even in quite bright conditions.

What I really like about the GM1 is that ability to attach other high quality Micro 43 lenses to the body. Here you can see the Olympus 45mm prime in place.

GM1 with an Olympus 45mm prime
GM1 with an Olympus 45mm prime

And also the Olympus 17mm Pancake lens.

GM1 with an Olympus 17mm prime
GM1 with an Olympus 17mm prime

With the pancake lens in place the camera is a very small package that fits easily into your pocket.

But size isn’t everything, even with small cameras. You need to know how the camera handles. So far I have tried the GM1 with the 12-32mm kit lens, Olympus 9-18mm wide angle, the primes you see above, the Olympus 25mm and Olympus 60mm macro lens. The 60mm macro lens is actually quite large and is possibly where the camera starts to feel unbalanced but is still perfectly usable. Using the camera with the 12-32 is very enjoyable and is probably the ideal partner for it.

In conclusion, this camera is a good substitute for my LX7 in terms of size although the 12-32 lens (equivalent to 24-64mm) is less flexible than the LX7 which has a 24-90mm equivalent lens.

In my next post I will look at the quality of the GM1 in comparison to the LX7.

Friday image No.019

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Brickwork captured with the Olympus 25mm lens on an Olympus OMD EM5.
Brickwork captured with the Olympus 25mm lens on an Olympus OMD EM5.

Following my last post where I was sharing my first experiences of the Olympus 25mm lens, I thought I would share another image. I shot quite a few images that I would class as “texture” but I found this brickwork particularly fascinating. The salt crystals corroding the bricks make a great pattern and the lens performed very well. Not only is it relatively free from distortion with corner to corner sharpness, it seems to resolve an amazing amount of detail.

Take a look at this section magnified to 100%. Make sure you click the image to see it properly.

 

A 100% close up of a section of the wall shows just how much detail this lens can capture.
A 100% close up of a section of the wall shows just how much detail this lens can capture.

Have a great weekend everyone.

New Lens for the EM5

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Sharp detail across the entire image. The new Olympus 25mm lens with the Olympus EM5.
Sharp detail across the entire image. The new Olympus 25mm lens with the Olympus EM5.

Along with my recent purchase of a Panasonic Lumix GM1, I also picked up an Olympus 25mm prime lens. This weekend I had my first opportunity to use it properly.

My first general impression is that the lens is well constructed and feels to have a nice level of quality. It’s nice to see that Olympus have decided to include a lens hood, which is of the bayonet type so it can also be reversed on the lens for carrying. The lens diameter is 46mm which again is in line with some of the other prime lenses. This is good news in that I won’t need to buy more filter accessories.

All these points are nice, but what really counts is the quality of the image. Lots of people reading this will want lovely creamy smooth backgrounds which can be easily thrown out of focus using a large aperture. The lens certainly doesn’t disappoint here but I won’t be discussing that in this post. What’s really important to me with respect to image quality is corner sharpness.

I have a real pet hate at the moment as I think too many lens manufacturers are creating lenses that are soft in the corner. Certainly a lens of this focal length and design should be sharp into the corners and it is. What’s very nice is that you don’t need to stop down very far to achieve excellent sharpness across the entire image.

The image you see above was only f/4.0 and that was only necessary because I seemed incapable of holding the camera parallel to the wall. The working distance was quite close and the lens so sharp that a small variation in camera movement were picked up. I am being very fussy though.

Overall, the lens was a joy to use and the results excellent. It has made me realise that I now value lens performance and image quality as my top priority. I will most likely streamline my equipment further as a result of this realisation.

Friday image No.018

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The Gherkin, London. Olympus EM5 with Panasonic 45-150mm lens.
The Gherkin, London. Olympus EM5 with Panasonic 45-150mm lens.

This is another of my images from last week’s London trip. For those of you not familiar with the skyline, the large domed building is the Gherkin. And the building in front of it covered in ducting and cranes is Lloyds of London which I’m sure must be pretty well known around the world (if you are into Insurance).

This image was captured on my Olympus EM5 with Panasonic 45-150mm lens (it’s a cracking lens and quite compact). I hope to start posting a few images from my GM1 next week – early indications are very impressive.

Have a great weekend everyone.