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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  1. This is very interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to searching for extra of your fantastic post. Additionally, I’ve shared your website in my social networks

  2. Suso del Rio says:

    Hi Ming,

    I bought an OM-D a couple of months ago (fell in love with the combination of small size, tons of features and cool look) and while rediscovering the joy of photography I’m also concentrated into building a comprehensive kit around the body, for I feel M4/3 will be my choice for a long time. After surfing the web for a while I discovered your site a few days ago and I can’t stop browsing it. I can only thank you for sharing your insight and passion with all of your followers.

    After reading this post I’d like to ask you what would be for you a nice combination of lenses for landscape photography. I’d rather go for native M4/3 lenses than older formats+adapters (I’m building my system from scratch). Hiking is one of my hobbies, so I am concerned with total weight and portability. Any advice on what to buy?

    • Thanks for your compliments. Landscape means speed isn’t that important, so I’d go with the 7-14/4 and 45mm, maybe throw in the 60 macro too.

      • susodelrio says:

        Much appreciated! 45 is already in my bag, for the macro I was so far surviving with the 12/50 kit. Now’s time to decide what the next buy will be 😉

  3. Ming, thanks for posting your usual list of wonderful images.

    Even if you allegedly goofed on the 3rd last image, l’m so glad you posted it. I don’t know how to describe properly, the Panasonic 20/1.7 just can’t seem to render or produce the “personality” that Zeiss 21/2.8 has. Now I’m even more certain that picking up a 21/2.8 ZF for my D800E and E-M5 combo would be a great move.

    On the other hand, I’m uncertain how well the 85/1.4 ZF would manually focus on the D800E and E-M5 given its longer focal length and that I plan on shooting wide open most of the time. Is Live View on both cameras good enough for critical focusing in street photography and portraiture situations?

    In fact, I’ve been drooling over the B&H 5-lens kit (21/2.8, 28/2.0, 35/2.0, 50/1.4, 85/1.4) currently on sale at B&H that would completely change my photography style (from Nikon AF zooms to full manual and using MFT in conjuction with DSLR), but the same AF concern is holding me back (aside from the questionable quality of a couple of lenses in the above kit).

    • I don’t recommend the kit or the 85 for use on the D800. The good lenses are the 15, 18, 21, 25/2, 28, 35/2, 50/2 MP, 100/2 MP.

      • Good to know the Zeiss lens kit is not necessary, but could you speak to the manual focusing experience on the D800E and E-M5? Positive? Any unexpected idiosyncrasies?

        • Nope, all good. If you want critical focus on the D800, you have to use live view. The focusing screen simply doesn’t have enough snap to it – and the mirrors are not well aligned from the factory, both of mine required quite a bit of adjustment.

          On the OM-D, shoot raw and turn the jpg sharpening up – it Wong affect the raw file, but it will give you a bit if shimmer around the focal plane as you rack the lens in and out of focus.

  4. Very nice captured, like all the photos. BTW, which of the photos were captured with cz 21 and panasonic 20? And you have captured a fighter jet wingtip vortices or tail smoke on one photo.

  5. I like the pictures Ming. I haven’t seen it elsewhere on the blog but maybe you have a post where you break down the process that starts from having the impulse to make a picture and follows through to the point where you have captured a frame that you like? For me at least, the biggest challenge is having that photographic impulse but then being overwhelmed with how to recognize what is the compelling thing driving that impulse and how to compose for it (what is the right perspective, what should I include in the frame, what should I exclude, how should I use my standpoint to organize the elements so I don’t have weird intersections or shadows, etc). I think that would make for an immensely helpful article.

  6. compulady says:

    Quite a difference in physical size the 20 Panasonic and the the 21 Zeiss ZF2. You should have posted a photo of the two lenses. It’s hard to imagine that they are almost the same focal length. I should try this myself.

    I see a subject in the bottom image, the single flower.

    • I think the OP was referring to the strip of lake, mountain and sky.

      As for the 20 vs the 21…easy. The 20 is about the size of the 21’s rear cap 😛 But you have to remember that the 20 doesn’t have to be a telecentric design because of the very short back flange distance; the 21 has to be, which means an entire floating telephoto group of lenses (floating to optimize close range performance) – and it only has to cover the M43 sensor, not the full 35mm frame.

  7. Paul H. Buch says:

    Thank you for your kind reply, Ming. Appreciate it.

  8. Paul H. Buch says:

    Ming, you mentioned that any photo needs a subject. I’m afraid I can’t really spot a subject in the third last shot (at least). Besides, the photos seem to be oversharpened to me. I don’t want to offend you.

    • Guilty of the occasional abstraction – and yes, I sometimes post a dud too 😛

      Sharpening looks okay to me, though I know there have been issues with old images uploaded before about June – I host on flickr, and they changed their downsizing algorithm to include what appears to be a sharpening pass. New images reduce initial sharpening to fix that.

      • Steve Austin from Texas says:

        Ming, I just discovered your blog, and it is outstanding. I am learning much. Thank you.

        As for the “dud” photo, although the photo may not have a “subject”, I find that sometimes a photo like this represents a specific moment, memory, or mood that needs to be documented for personal purposes.

        I will be following your blog faithfully.

  9. Andrew Roman says:

    I’d like to know which adaptor are you using to connect the Zeiss 21/2.8 to Olympus OM-D? I jusy got my Olympus a few days ago, and now I’m playing with some settings.


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