Month: October 2013

Super Sharp 60mm

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Lichen and rock. Captured with a 60mm Macro lens on an Olympus EM5
Lichen and rock. Captured with a 60mm Macro lens on an Olympus EM5

I think I have mentioned previously that I recently purchased a 60mm Olympus Macro lens for use with my EM5. At that time I hadn’t had the opportunity to use it but I finally put the lens through its paces during my visit to Acadia National Park in the US. Here are my thoughts having now it used it for a number of days.

First off I should say that although I have a number of prime lenses, I have historically tended to use zoom lenses. I think this is because they are better suited to shooting on a tripod (which I do a lot being a Landscape Photographer), as you tend to place the tripod first and then use the zoom to fine tune the composition. With a prime you find yourself moving the camera and your position constantly to refine the composition. The benefit to this is that you feel you are engaging much more intensely with the subject matter. It’s a different way of shooting that I actually find more rewarding.

The 60mm lens is quite long in terms of focal length as its equivalent to a 120mm lens on a full frame camera. This results in a very shallow depth of field, even when you stop down. It does however allow you to maintain a nice working distance to your subject. If you are unfamiliar with using a macro lens of this focal length I think there is a tendency to move too close to the subject initially, unless you are doing serious close-ups. In the image you see at the top of this post I would estimate I am around 4 feet from the subject.

On the side of the lens there is a switch which allows you to set the focus distance to the subject. The options are 0.19m-infinity, 0.19m-0.4m, 0.4m-infinity or 1:1. The idea of the first three is that you can set the working distance and helps prevent the camera hunting around to focus. At first I thought this would be a bit of a pain but it isn’t and the focus speed isn’t bad at all.

The 1:1 focusing that I mentioned above works slightly differently to the other options. When this is selected you can move in really close to your subject and achieve a 1:1 magnification. With this option you don’t focus the camera with the shutter but move the camera backwards and forwards. The depth of field even when stopped down is wafer thin due to the long focal length and close working distances. If you are going to do any close up work I strongly suggest purchasing a focussing rack such as the one mentioned in my panoramic kit in a previous blog. This will allow you to move the camera to focus.

In case you are not familiar with Macro lenses, they can be used at distances up to infinity. I would say this particular lens would also make an amazingly good portrait lens. I had a lot of fun using this lens in the woodlands of Acadia to pick out trees. The focal length was good but it was also nice not to have to think about it. By removing the zoom aspect of composition it somehow simplified my working but at the same time made me think more.

So, in terms of operation I thought this lens was great. It provided much more flexibility than I had expected. As for results, this lens is exceptional. It is so sharp and renders such detail as to be breathtaking. OK, that’s hard for me to quantify and prove but I would say this is the sharpest lens I have, even sharper than the 45mm (but it’s only marginal).

I will look to post some further example images in the near future, both close up and distance.

I hope you like the image.

The LWP Loves America

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Fall colours in Acadia National Park. Captured on an Olympus OMD EM5 camera with Panasonic 14-45 lens.
Fall colours in Acadia National Park. Captured on an Olympus OMD EM5 camera with Panasonic 14-45 lens.

Firstly an apology for not having posted anything for a couple of weeks now. This is because I have been away in America; Acadia National Park in Maine to be precise. This is my second trip of the year to the States and I have to declare that I love America. I love the larger than life culture, the people and most of all the impressive and varied landscapes.

I’m still a bit jetlagged (well a lot actually) so I am just posting the apology above and one of the images from my trip.

I hope you enjoy.

Lightweight Panoramic Set-up

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120 degree panoramic stitch from 7 files shot on an OMD
120 degree panoramic stitch from 7 files shot on an OMD. Click to view larger.

Not too long ago I related how I had been struggling with the small size of my Olympus OMD EM5 when using it on a tripod. My solution to this had been to buy the two part grip and also to use an L-bracket from Novoflex. The Novoflex bracket wasn’t required to solve the size issue but was the solution to another problem of how to shoot stitched panoramic images with the camera positioned vertically. If you didn’t read the original blog you can find it here.

What I didn’t say in the original article is that I had even considering buying a Nikon D800E together with some lenses. Not a decision I would take lightly, as I am after all the Lightweight Photographer. I therefore decided to try an extended period of working with the Olympus on a tripod. This weekend past I had my opportunity to do just that. Here is what I found.

Firstly I need to share my decision. I won’t be buying the Nikon or any other DSLR for that matter. The OMD EM5 was a joy to work with on tripod using my new setup. Despite the Nikon D800E being a wonderful camera, there are some aspects to the camera that make me think it’s a backward step.

The new found size of the Olympus with the grip attached made it perfect for tripod work. Not only that, I found it very easy to work with and the L-bracket was perfect for quickly shifting the camera to a vertical orientation. If you are interested in shooting panoramic images but don’t yet have a head, then I really recommend you get one of these

Finally, I want to reveal my new panoramic set up for single row shooting and stitching.

New Panoramic set up
New Panoramic set up

As you can see, this uses my Novoflex L-bracket attached by the Novoflex Q-Mount plate. The Q-mount has then been attached to a Macro focus rack which is used to move the camera for focussing in macro work. Instead, here it allows me to position the camera lens on the nodal point so that I can easily create a stitch.

The cost of this setup – Novoflex L-bracket £69, Q-Mount £49, Focus Rack £7.30 – yes less £8 from Amazon (here is the link). I will also reveal that I have an even cheaper option for an L-bracket which is only £20, but I am waiting for that to arrive before I get peoples hopes up.

So, does it work? Yes it does and is much easier to work with than my larger and heavier panoramic head. I was able to carry this set up around all day (10 miles on day 1 and 8 miles on day 2). The only difficulty I had is in finding the nodal point. I needed to have worked this out prior to venturing out but because the focus rack only arrived when I was leaving the house I couldn’t and needed to guess instead. Trial and error seems to suggest the Nodal point for the micro 43 lenses is pretty much at the front element but that might not always be true. Once I have some time I will work it out properly and can then use the scale on the bracket and rack to find it quickly in the field.

As for the image above, this comprises 7 vertical shots using the 14-45mm lens at 14mm. It also swings through about 120 degrees. When stitched it gives a 17” x 54” print at 300dpi. If I drop the resolution to 250dpi and resize the image slightly then I believe a 35” high panoramic will be possible even if you press your nose to the image.

The stitching aspect of this image was done using Photoshop CS5 and there was very little distortion. I now need to spend some time working with Hugin to see what is possible as I took quite a few sequences with ultra wide angle lenses, as well as having the camera angled down.

The OMD EM5 has superb image quality and this set up allows me to make the most of it.