A blast from the past II: revisiting the Olympus OM-D E-M5

Of all the cameras that I’ve reviewed in the past, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 will always have a special place in my heart. It seems appropriate to follow the previous revisitation of the very first E-1 by revisiting the E-M5. The E-M5 was a game-changer for the mirrorless interchangeable camera world, pushing the boundaries for capabilities and setting high standards for other mirrorless manufacturers to follow. It’s been 6 years since the release of the E-M5 and I want to explore the significance of the E-M5’s role in changing the perception towards mirrorless cameras as a serious tool. I spent a day with the E-M5 for my shutter therapy and all the images shown are fresh out of the trusty, old E-M5.

MT also reviewed the original E-M5 some time back, here, and wrote about how it was a game changer for him professionally at the time, here.

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Firmware 2.0 for the Olympus E-M1 Mark II

Olympus has announced firmware upgrades for their OM-D E-M1 Mark II, E-M5 Mark II and PEN-F cameras. Olympus Malaysia provided me with the early version of Firmware 2.0 for my E-M1 Mark II about a week ago and I’ve had some time to test it out. There are no major changes but there are small yet relevant improvements that can make a difference. In this article, I explore the improvements that firmware 2.0 brings to the E-M1 Mark II, and how it affects my photography.

Olympus has made the following feature additions or enhancements to the E-M1 Mark II via the firmware upgrade:
– Smaller AF target area for both Single-AF and Continuous-AF
– Focus Stacking compatibility for M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4 PRO lens
– Indication of 1 to 1 magnification view on image reviews
– Improved buffer of Pro Capture Mode to 35 pre-burst frames from previously 14 frames only.
– In camera fisheye lens distortion correction (de-fishing)
– New Flicker Scan Aid function allows for easier removal of flickering when using electronic shutter.
– New Art Filter added: Bleach Bypass

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Review: the Panasonic Leica 12mm f1.4 ASPH for Micro Four Thirds

Here’s another one to add to the glut of high grade, fast aperture, Micro Four Thirds, prime lens reviews: the Panasonic Leica Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH lens. At first, I decided not to review this lens mostly because I prefer to work with longer focal lengths. Also, the Panasonic 12mm F1.4 lens has been around since 2016 and there are already several reviews available. The lens has been sitting in my camera bag for a while now, as I went along shooting on the streets. I’ve used it for certain shots – out of curiosity or when I needed a wide angle lens. Eventually, I’d used it enough that it made sense to review it – if for nothing else, but the sake of completeness.

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Review: The 2018 Olympus E-PL9

Olympus has just launched a new addition to their PEN line-up, the E-PL9. I had the opportunity to shoot a review unit for about a week before the launch. Looking at the compact form factor, stylish design and inclusion of a selfie screen, the E-PL9 is clearly targeted towards the entry level market – particularly smartphone users who need better image output and performance but are not keen on carrying larger and heavier DSLR cameras. However, there is no shortage of entry level system cameras now, both from the mirrorless and DSLR camps. In this E-PL9 review, I explore the capabilities of the small PEN camera that allows it to stand out from the crowd, as well as the compromises that were made to keep the compact form factor. [Read more…]

Review: the 2018 Panasonic Lumix G9

When it comes to Micro Four Thirds, Panasonic is well respected for their expertise in video while Olympus for photography. This is especially true for the flagship cameras such as Panasonic GH5 and Olympus E-M1 Mark II. Therefore, when Panasonic launched their new Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 recently, it seemed like they were targeting the photography crowd, considering the very similar photography specific features the G9 has in comparison to the E-M1 Mark II.  In this article, I explore the stills shooting capabilities of the Panasonic G9.

As always, this is an independent review and neither Ming Thein nor I are associated with Panasonic Malaysia. The Panasonic G9 and several Panasonic lenses were on loan and have been returned at the time of writing this review. This is a user experience review, and my opinion may be subjective. I was not able to test all features of the camera and shall only focus on the highlights of the G9. I am not adequately equipped to do a video review for this camera. All images shown here were shot in RAW,  except the sequential burst shots which were shot in JPEG (for my sanity). The RAW files were converted to DNG directly via Adobe DNG Converter and post-processed in Capture One Pro.

You may find all the primary images (and a few extra samples) online on Google Photos here. 

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Street photography with the Olympus ZD 17mm f1.2 PRO – an addendum to the review

Some of you who read the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 PRO lens review here, must be wondering why there were no street photography images, since the 35mm equivalent is a classic focal length for street photography and it is widely known that I do love shooting on the streets. The culprit was bad weather, thanks to a spell of rain over the last couple of week combined with overcast skies. Lighting is crucial for all photography and with cloudy weather I would have had flat, uninteresting and dull looking images. Fortunately, I did have a little time left with the Olympus 17mm F1.2 lens before returning it to Olympus, so I went out to do some street shooting when the weather cleared. This article shall be an extension to the Olympus 17mm F1.2 review, with more sample images shot with the lens.

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Micro Four Thirds and wedding photography

There is a perception that the use of large DSLR cameras with gargantuan lenses equals professional wedding photography; I beg to differ. I have been shooting weddings for several years using Micro Four Thirds exclusively and have found it to be sufficient in delivering results. In fact, there are distinct benefits in using the Micro Four Thirds system for wedding photography, which I will discuss in this article.

I’ve used varying combinations of OM-D cameras and lenses, with my current setup being: the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and E-M10 Mark II with M.Zuiko lenses 12-40mm F2.8, 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8 lenses. I also use an external flash when necessary. Typically, wedding photographers require super fast autofocus to capture fleeting moments, comfortable handling for all day shooting and running around, and most importantly good, high quality image output. This basically means clean high ISO images, sufficient dynamic range is harsh light and the ability to render shallow depths of field for effective subject isolation. Mirrorless interchangeable lens camera systems have come a long way, and have improved to a point where they can adequately fulfill all these needs.

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Macro redux: Getting lost in the insect world

When I want an escape from the world, I simply pick up my macro gear and indulge in some insect macro photography. I find the process to be both physically and mentally challenging and lose my myself quite easily in the tiny world of bugs. The little creatures often hide in the most unexpected places that require me to flex and stretch my body in impossible ways while holding the camera and the flash steady. The mind must be entirely focused on getting the shot and doing it quickly because insects do not stay still for very long. All kinds of calculations and considerations come to play, as you juggle between lighting, getting closer for better magnification, ensuring critically sharp focus and not to forget, composition! There is just so much the mind and body needs to coordinate and execute to achieve one simple insect macro shot. In that brief moment, I find myself entering a different universe where only getting the shot matters to me.

For today’s set of images, I hiked the trails of the Bukit Gasing Forest Park to find the critters. Half of the fun was in the hunt for the bugs. All the images shown in this article were shot with Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro lens. I used the FL-50R flash off camera. If you have questions about my technique, I’ve shared those in detail in a previous article here.

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Review: the Panasonic DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60 f2.8-4

Olympus and Panasonic have been releasing increasingly similar and overlapping lenses as the Micro Four Thirds system matures. More options and choice can definitely be seen as an advantage. Early this year, in January, Panasonic released the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 zoom lens. The other competitors for a similar zoom lens are: the Panasonic 12-35mm F2.8 and Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 at about the same price as the new 12-60mm F2.8-4. For a premium, you can have the Olympus 12-100mm F4, and at the lower end there is the Panasonic 12-60mm F3.5-5.6. There is no shortage of standard zoom lenses. Therefore in this review, I shall explore the capabilities of the Panasonic 12-60mm F2.8-4 and discuss how this lens stands out from the rest of the crowd. [Read more…]

Review: the 2017 Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 45mm f1.2 PRO

With the Micro Four Thirds lens collection now no longer lacking good, affordable zoom and prime options, Olympus has shifted their focus to making premium large aperture prime lenses. In addition to the existing M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO lens, Olympus just announced two new PRO lenses: the 17mm F1.2 and the 45mm F1.2. Special thanks to Olympus Malaysia for the M.Zuiko 45mm F1.2 PRO loan unit for this review. I’ve had one full day to shoot with the lens on the streets and behind the scenes of a Chinese Opera.

The highlights of the Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F1.2 PRO lens are:

  • Designed to be optimally balanced between delivering excellent resolution and producing beautiful “feathered” bokeh.
  • Complex lens construction consisting 14 Elements in 10 Groups with 1 ED lens, 4 HR lenses, 1 aspherical lens
  • Full weather sealing (splash and dust proof)
  • Minimum focusing distance of 0.5 meter and maximum magnification of 0.1x
  • LF-n button (customize-able function button on lens), manual focus clutch mechanism, takes 62mm filters and weighs about 410g

You can find the full technical specifications on the official product page.

In case some of you aren’t aware yet, I left my Olympus employment in April. So neither MT nor I are affiliated to Olympus in any way and this is an independent review. The Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F1.2 PRO lens and OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera body were provided on loan by Olympus Malaysia strictly for review purposes only. This is an experience based review and is likely to be subjective. All images were shot in RAW and post-processed in Capture One Pro version 10.2. For higher resolution images with full EXIF data intact, kindly view the images in the online gallery here.

Read on for the rest of the review. [Read more…]