It wasn’t that long ago (March) when I returned from a trip to the US having visited Death Valley and San Francisco. At the time I was raving about what a great travel camera the Panasonic GX1 makes and that in my opinion it’s probably the best travel camera. Well, I have just spent the last week in France (visiting my daughter who lives there) and I’m going to revise my opinion.
The GX1 is still a great travel camera but it has now been knocked off the top spot. The Olympus OMD EM5 is now the best travel camera in my opinion. It is just as discrete as the GX1 but the image quality it definitely superior, as is the low light performance and it has some other great features. If I had this camera and a 14-45mm lens, I would travel happily in the knowledge that I would be able to capture some great images. In fact, over the past week I didn’t use my 9-18 lens at all and only used the 45-200 lens on a couple of occasions.
During my trip I was able to shoot very freely in locations where larger cameras were being frowned upon because people found them obtrusive; the inside of churches and cathedrals spring to mind immediately as one example. The low light performance of the camera also allowed it to cope well with the low light levels and the image stabilisation in the camera is superb. Outdoors the camera was equally able to handle the bright conditions and produce amazing image quality. All this is on top of the great depth of field you can achieve with Micro 43 cameras and a body that isn’t much larger than the GX1 but is built like a tank.
The shot above was captured during a visit to a nearby coastal town. The images from the OMD RAW files seem to convert very nicely to black and white and give a feel of very fine grained film. When viewed up close the image quality reminds me a little of Kodak TMax100 film which was one of my favourites.
When I did this particular conversion using Nik Silver Efex Pro I thought the image reminded me of an old style (film) black and white image so I enhanced this a little further by using “clumsy” dodging and burning. Notice there is a slight halo around the lighthouse to help give this feel. This is similar to the dodging and burning that would have been in the done in the darkroom as it would have been difficult to align the effect with the lighthouse. I could easily have achieved a perfect dodge/burn effect on the lighthouse in Photoshop but I thought this halo effect help suggest an image from a time that has now passed.
If you are interested in the full conversion from colour and how it was achieved I will be putting together a fact sheet over the next week or two and make this available for free download.
I won’t bore you with the details but all of my free time (including that I use for blogging) has vanished, at least for the short term. I am actually putting this blog together whilst trying to eat some lunch. Yesterday however I was fortunate to have a day out on a photography course designed to allow you to try out a camera – the Olympus OMD.
This Olympus Experience Day was put together by Olympus with pro landscape photographer Steve Gosling. I like Steve’s work a lot and having been on his “Business of Photography” course some years back so very interested in attending this day. The course was held at the RHS gardens in Harrogate and whilst not my usual subject matter I found a few things to shoot and try out the camera. What I thought was good (other than the exceptional value of the day) was that I had an OMD to myself for the entire day.
At the start of the day there was a short session to help delegates understand how to use the camera followed by a questions wrap up at the end. In between Steve spent time with each person individually to answer any questions they may have. I think this is a great way to allow people to try before you buy and I wish more manufacturers would follow the model (other than Hasselblad and Phase One as I can’t afford their hardware). It was also a great day with an experienced pro photographer and opportunity to draw on his experience and thinking.
Now you know I was impressed by the day, what about the camera.
I really like this camera, but to be honest I didn’t expect to at the start of the day. I had read some horror stories about the poor menu system which is something I have experienced before with my NEX5. I actually found the OMD’s menus quite logical and was able to set up the camera relatively quickly. It was certainly much better in my opinion than the NEX5 (when first launched).
I tried the camera with the 12-50 Olympus lens, my 14-45 Panasonic lens and my 45mm Olympus lens. It handled extremely well with all and felt very solid in the hands. I wasn’t however that impressed with the 12-50 lens other than a very nice macro function it offered.
To me, the most important aspect of a camera is how it handles and the image quality produced. I have to say, this is an exceptionally well made camera which feels very durable. The image quality is also very impressive for a Micro 43. Much of the day I was shooting at ISO400 or ISO800, something I would avoid with my GX1. The image above was captured inside a potting shed at ISO800 and my 45mm lens hand held. It’s very sharp with no camera shake and is very clean in terms of noise. In fact I can’t believe how clean the images from this camera are. I will have no issues submitting ISO800 images to stock libraries and believe me; I am very picky about this.
So will I buy one of these cameras? I would certainly like to. The only thing stopping me is that I have just sold my Canon 9500 printer with a view to upgrading to A2, so that’s my current priority. I may therefore need to stick with my trusty GX1’s for a while longer.