Watch photography with the Olympus OM-D, and thoughts on its use as a backup system

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The Maitres du Temps Chapter Two Tonneau China special edition.

For a system to be able to serve as backup, it must fulfill one important function: the ability for me to continue working with it and delivering images if my main system should fail for any reason. And it should be able to cover all genres of what I shoot, without too many workarounds or compromises. The obvious choice would of course be to buy two of the same camera, but a) where’s the fun in that, and b) sometimes it’s also useful to have a different camera system to give you other shooting options not available from your primary.

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For the past couple of months, I’ve been shooting with the Olympus OM-D for most jobs which do not require special purpose lenses (e.g. tilt shifts) or huge resolution; the Nikon D800E of course covers everything else. What I’ve found so far is that from a usability and image quality point of view, the camera has no problems delivering the goods consistently; the only exception being a peculiar lockup problem that only happens if you use the Fn1 button to zoom into an image after shooting, then hit the protect button if you’re in the screen with the zoom toggle slider on one side. Unfortunately that does seem to be part of my workflow, but I’m learning to avoid it.

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The biggest question, in my mind, was whether the system was a viable alternative to the D800E for doing watch work – rather important, given that this is the majority of what I do commercially. I acquired a Panasonic-Leica 45/2.8 Macro Elmarit (yes, a review is in the works) for this purpose. Suffice to say – the lens isn’t the limiting factor at all, it’s pretty darned awesome (and one of the better macro lenses I’ve used, actually).

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Although Olympus does have a wireless flash system (FL36R, FL50R and FL500R) which is IR-triggered like Nikon and Canon’s systems, I wasn’t about to buy another set of speedlights, and certainly not about to carry them around along with the primary system, too. Fortunately the Nikon SB900s I use have a SU4 optical slave trigger mode – with manual flash power, of course. I used this and manually set the output levels. Yes, it’s much slower than using iTTL and dialing in adjustments directly through the camera, but it works.

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All in all, as you can see from the images here, I think the results are pretty darned good – my client didn’t say anything about the file quality, or lack of it; the OM-D’s files interpolated very cleanly to 25MP and their required resolution.

Depending on what I shoot, I’ll carry the OM-D body and 12mm and 45mm macro lenses, or just the 45; the 20/1.7 rides along as a body cap. One nice thing is its ability to use the Zeiss ZF glass I’ll normally carry for my D800E via an adaptor, so I don’t even have to carry the 45 and 20mms if I’ve got the 50/2 Makro-Planar and 21/2.8 Distagon.

One note of caution – during my recent Hong Kong workshop, the camera decided to stop working in a very humid environment (light rain, probably 90-95% humidity) and didn’t come back to life again until being dried out in air conditioning and with a few blasts from a hair dryer for good measure – so they’re probably not as well weather sealed as they claim. It continued to work intermittently for a few days afterwards, with menus self-navigating (as though one of the buttons was shorted out) before working normally thereafter. Odd. MT

The Olympus OM-D in various configurations is available here from B&H and Amazon.

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Photoessay: portrait of a chef – Fergus Henderson

Perhaps best known for his use of offal, bones, tails and other normally discarded parts of the animal, chef Fergus Henderson is one of the innovators of modern cuisine. His dishes are derivatives of traditional British food, usually paired with French wines. However, perhaps the most impressive thing about him is that he’s actually an excellent trained architect (from no other institution than the AA) but one day decided he preferred food – and despite being awarded a Michelin star for St. John restaurant in 2009, he was entirely self taught as a chef and has never worked in anybody else’s kitchen.

Henderson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1996, and has since undergone deep brain stimulation therapy which supposedly has increased his mobility in the kitchen – however, watching him work it’s clear that he wields most implements with difficulty (and in some cases, it’s just too dangerous) and relies on his deputy. However, when you talk to him, it’s clear that his disability has not diminished his ability, talent or passion for food – if anything, it’s enhanced it. He’s an animated, engaging speaker with a dry sense of humor and a disarming smile. I had the honor of running a food photography class with him once; it remains one of the most inspiring experiences of my photographic career to date.

All I can say is that I have enormous respect for the man, and his bone marrow and parsley salad (which he describes in strangely architectural terms) was quite excellent, too. MT

This series shot with a Leica M9-P, 35/1.4 ASPH FLE and Leica D-Lux 5 Titanium.

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Enter the August 2012 competition: Compact Challenge – here!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the site via Paypal (mingthein2@gmail.com); Ming Thein’s Email School of Photography – learn exactly what you want to learn, when you want to learn it or our Photoshop workflow DVDs.  You can also get your gear from Amazon.com via this referral link.  Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

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Photoessay: A Swiss landscape or two

On a recent assignment in Switzerland, I had the occasional break, and the even more occasional bit of interesting weather – fog or sun, it was either 5 C or 25 C with nothing in between – so I made the most of it by doing a spot of landscape work. I was surprised to discover that the Swiss countryside in summer really does look like the postcards – intensely blue skies, emerald meadows, and lots of cows. It’s positively bucolic, but in a good way.

Landscape photography is tough without a car or sufficient time to do some hiking. Part of the time was spent outside Geneva in the very scenic Vallee du Joux, home to a number of the old watchmaking manufactures. The big body of water is the Lac du Joux, which is as still as a mirror in the early mornings, but can get quite choppy once the mid-afternoon breezes start to blow. I’m told that as idyllic as it seems in summer, it hits -20 C at times in winter, and there’s nothing to see but white. I suspect I might have some problems with the small buttons on the OM-D in that weather, though.

This was the second time I’ve used Zeiss lenses on M4/3 – I actually find the ZF2s work better than the ZMs because they’re mostly telecentric designs. The 21/2.8 is particularly good, actually – it has very refined contrast that the Panasonic 20/1.7 lacks. (You’re probably wondering why I didn’t use that lens – I can put the 21 on the D800E and the 85 on the OM-D, swap them, and have a very nicely spaced set of 21, 42, 85 and 190mm :) I still maintain that so far, the best color I’ve seen comes from Olympus bodies and Zeiss lenses…now if only they’d make some M4/3 AF glass. Preferably a fast 28mm equivalent…MT

This series was shot with an Olympus OM-D, Panasonic 20/1.7, Zeiss ZF.2 21/2.8 Distagon and ZF.2 85/1.4 Planar via adaptor.

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One of those trees that fell in the forest which we never hear about

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Visit our Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including Photoshop Workflow DVDs and customized Email School of Photography; or go mobile with the Photography Compendium for iPad. You can also get your gear from B&H and Amazon. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

Photoessay: Summer in Geneva

The sun comes out in Geneva (apparently quite rare). A quick travel series using the Olympus OM-D and 45/2.8 Macro – my backup lens while on assignment.

Enjoy! MT

As usual, all images can be clicked on for larger versions.

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Enter the August 2012 competition: Compact Challenge – here!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the site via Paypal (mingthein2@gmail.com) or via Ming Thein’s Email School of Photography – learn exactly what you want to learn, when you want to learn itYou can also get your gear from Amazon.com via this referral link.  Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

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Photoessay: Geneva monochromes with the Olympus OM-D

Some street photography from Geneva with the Olympus OM-D andy 45/2.8 Macro. I didn’t use the 45/1.8 (my choice for this kind of thing) because I was decompressing with my backup lenses after being on assignment…

Enjoy! MT

As usual, all images can be clicked on for larger versions.

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The inaugural mingthein.com photography contest closes 31 July 2012 – the more people entering, the larger the cash prize! Enter here

If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the site via Paypal (mingthein2@gmail.com) or via Ming Thein’s Email School of Photography – learn exactly what you want to learn, when you want to learn itYou can also get your gear from Amazon.com via this referral link.  Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

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Photoessay: Master Baker Daniel Jorda at the World Gourmet Summit

Master Baker Daniel Jorda is from the small neighborhood of Trinitat in Barcelona, and a third generation chef. In addition to running his own bakery, he also works with Michelin-starred chefs to produce custom breads to complement their meals; having tried them personally, I have to say that his work has the perfect balance of softness, crustiness, and flavor. Most importantly, it never seems artificial or forced – the bread is always rustic, but somehow perfectly controlled.

This short photoessay covers the class he gave at the World Gourmet Summit in Singapore a few months back. Series shot with a Leica M9-P and 35/1.4 ASPH FLE. MT

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If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the site via Paypal (mingthein2@gmail.com) or via Ming Thein’s Email School of Photography – learn exactly what you want to learn, when you want to learn it.

You can also get your gear from Amazon.com clicking through this referral link. It doesn’t cost you any more, but a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

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Photoessay: Opening night at the World Gourmet Summit 2012

From the opening night party of the World Gourmet Summit 2012, held at Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore. Non stop eating, drinking and general merriment…and one Charlie Chaplain impersonator who grabbed my camera and pointed it at himself. Shooting and eating standing up simultaneously was tough! MT

This series was shot with a Leica M9-P, 35/1.4 ASPH FLE and 50/0.95 ASPH.

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Photoessay: Polo time, part 1

From an afternoon spent at the Royal Selangor Polo Club as a guest of one of the players – one of the very few times I’ve shot sport, believe it or not. I once again come to the conclusion that I’ve got an insufficient number of millimeters, and you need rather high shutter speeds to get any sort of useable and sharp images out. Now that I’ve got a Panasonic 100-300 for my OM-D, I’ll have to try and get myself invited back again…MT

This series shot with the Nikon D700, D3100 and 28-300VR.

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Photoessay: Life in Kathmandu, part 3

The final part of my ‘life in Kathmandu’ series. Shot in mid-2011 with a Nikon D700, 24/1.4 and 85/1.4 G. I think this set really epitomizes my ‘cinematic’ style of reportage. Enjoy! MT

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Photoessay: Kathmandu with the Fuji X100

A continuation of my Streets of Kathmandu series – this time in color, and shot with a Fuji X100. Sadly, the camera with the firmware at the time was too slow for tracking street work – I resorted to either trap focusing or hyper focal. Superb colors, though. Enjoy! MT

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Visit our Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including Photoshop Workflow DVDs and customized Email School of Photography; or go mobile with the Photography Compendium for iPad. You can also get your gear from B&H and Amazon. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the reader Flickr group!

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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

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