Monday, September 15, 2014

Multiple Olympus Announcements: M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO Lens, OM-D E-M1 Silver and Firmware Upgrade 2.0

It is that exciting time of the year again, with Photokina happening, and all camera manufacturers pushing out new products and making huge announcements. Today, Olympus has officially announced 3 important updates to their Micro Four Thirds system range:

1) The highly anticipated M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO Lens
2) OM-D E-M1 Firmware 2.0 (available for both current E-M1 Black and the new Silver version)
3) OM-D E-M1 Silver

This is perhaps the only image that I have with ALL 3 new items combined: E-M1 Silver (already comes with Version 2.0 Firmware) and the M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Pro lens

Olympus OM-D cameras have been highly successful, and well received by many professional photographers and photo-enthusiasts (much like myself) alike. Even awarded E-M1 the "Product of the Year 2013", and E-M1 has garnered praises from prominent photography bloggers such as Steve Huff and Michael Johnston (TOP). Since the introduction of the OM-D, Olympus has been targeting more serious photographers, mainly professional photographers and serious hobbyists who shoot in demanding and challenging situations, requiring a reliable camera system that will deliver the results. In this continuous effort, Olympus has placed their focus in developing the PRO range of M.Zuiko lenses, with the release of the M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 lens and now, the newly launched M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens, a professionally built telephoto zoom lens to match the earlier standard wide zoom lens. In addition to that, the E-M1 has a major firmware upgrade, adding plenty of useful features, adding value to E-M1 users. 


I think one of the most popular questions I have received from many Olympus users I have met both through my blog and in real life, was "when is the 40-150mm Pro lens coming?"

It is officially launched now, and finally, the Olympus M.Zuiko lens has a professional long zoom lens! Whether you like to use a telephoto zoom lens or not, you cannot deny the fact that the lenses in this category from all manufacturers are highly popular amongst the users, you will surely notice plenty of wedding photographers, photo-journalists and even portrait photographers using the lenses such as Canon and Nikon 70-200mm F2.8. Why is the lens in this range so important? Three reasons: 1) that long reach (300mm in 35mm format, which is quite respectable and versatile in many shooting conditions), allowing you to go near, 2) Constant wide aperture of F2.8, both capable of shooting in less than ideal lighting condition as well as ability to render shallow depth of field, amplified by the telephoto range (the longer the focal length the shallower the depth of field) and 3) telephoto tight compression effect, giving great flexibility to isolate subjects and minimize background clutter in composition (great for portraits). 

Here are some key specifications of the M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens:

1) Smallest and Lightest Pro Telephoto-zoom lens
The Olympus 40-150mm Pro lens weighs about half of the equivalent F2.8 lenses from other manufacturers, which is quite a significant difference (Canon and Nikon 70-200mm F2.8 lenses weigh about 1.5Kg, and Olympus Size and weight do matter, and many photographers these days treasure the option of not having to break their shoulder and back while shooting. 

1) Fully Weather Sealed
Splashproof, Dustproof and Freezeproof, to complement the E-M1's weather sealing. 

2) Designed with advanced, sophisticated optics to deliver impressive image quality
The 40-150mm has 5 ED (Extra Low Dispersion) elements, one super ED lens, one EDA (extra low dispersion aspherical) lens and one HR (high refractive index and dispersion) lens. I have not had the chance to test the lens yet, but I am expecting the image quality to amaze me. Quick comparison on the MTF charts, it clearly indicated that the new M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens has sharpness surpassing even the legendary Four Thirds Zuiko 150mm F2 (little Tuna) lens!

3) World's first Dual Voice Coil Motor (VCM) Focusing Mechanism, for super fast AutoFocus
Focusing is extremely crucial especially for longer lenses, and the use of Dual VCM ensures smooth and quick focusing, maintaining Olympus' claim of world's fastest AF even with this new lens. 

4) Great Close-Up Shooting Capability, almost pseudo macro
The minimum focusing distance of this lens is about 50cm from the front end of the lens to the subject, which is actually quite impressive, considering most 70-200mm lenses only can focus to about 1.2 to 1.5m closest. Olympus 40-150mm Pro lens has maximum magnification of 0.42x, which is almost half of a true macro lens. 

5) Quick Retractable Hood Mechanism
The Lens Hood (which comes together with the lens, you do not have to buy it separately, and I am hearing a few Haleluias already) has a special mechanism, where you do not have to remove it from the retracted position and then reattach it. You can instead immediately push it out to the extended position. This may not be something revolutionary or life-changing, but hey, that one quick smooth step of readying the lens for action will save you a few seconds of precious shooting time, giving you a headstart to grab that fast happening moments. Every second lost equals to missed moments. 

6) New Teleconverter MC-14, 1.4x extension
There is a new teleconverter built specifically for 40-150mm F2.8 pro lens, allowing extra 1.4x extension, to the maximum of 420mm (in 35mm format) at longest telephoto range. You will lose one stop of exposure, and the maximum 420mm will be at F4 the widest. Based on the MTF charts, the image quality from the use of the lens in combination with this new teleconveter is sharp, with minimal image quality loss. 



Olympus officially releases the new Firmware 2.0 for the Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera. Olympus is probably the only camera manufacturer to introduce such a major upgrade to the camera firmware, not just fixing bugs or having minor improvements, but adding a handful of useful features, adding function-ability to the already amazing E-M1. This refresh of firmware will surely breathe new life to the E-M1!

So what is new in the Firmware 2.0?

1) Electronic Viewfinder has improved display lag time of 0.016sec
Previously, the E-M1's electronic viewfinder has display lag time of 0.029sec, which was already excellent in most shooting conditions, and I did not detect even the slightest hint of lag in all my shooting sessions. It was indeed a great news to know that it has been improved further. 

2) Olympus Capture, new tethered shooting capability added
One of the feedback that I have received when I was doing the E-M1 review (from my blog readwrs of course) was the absence of tethred shooting capability in the E-M1. With the firmware 2.0 upgrade, tethred shooting is now possible. You will need to install Olympus Capture software, downloadable from Olympus site, and compatible with both Mac and PC. The E-M1 will be connected to the computer via USB 2.0 cable, and then you can control the camera remotely from the connected computer, via the Olympus Capture software. You can control almost everything, the main shooting parameters (shutter speed, aperture, ISO), focusing area, or even an option to do manual focus, Furthermore, if you are using Olympus Wireless Flash system, you can control the flash units through the Olympus Capture too, providing quite a complete studio tethered shooting setup. You can transfer both RAW or/and JPEG files from the camera to the computer, which was rather speedy (thankfully Olympus images files are not that huge). I am no expert in studio photography, and I have not done tethered shooting before this, so I will refrain from adding my own comments for now. 

3) Keystone Compensation
Perspective distortion is a common flaw in wide angle photography especially shooting from ground level, looking up to tall buildings, and the resulting image would be the building looking as if it was falling back away from you. Lines were slanted and not as straight as they should be. Honestly, I have very little issues with perspective distortion, I quite like the impression of the exaggerated lines and distorted image, somehow. I acknowledge that this is not a norm of preference by most photographers, especially landscape and architectural shooters, and there are a few solutions to counter this problem, usually using a tilt-shift lens, or applying digital perspective correction in post-processing, digitally. Now in the new Firmware upgrade 2.0 for E-M1, perspective distortion can be corrected in camera, being done LIVE while shooting, and you can see your correction adjustments as you shoot. This new feature is called Keystone Compensation, which should benefit many wide angle shooters.  Due to the correction being done digitally, being processed in camera, the image will only be saved as JPEG, and the image resolution remains at 16MP (loss pixels are then being extra-polated). 

Olympus in camera Keystone Compensation

4) New Art Filters: Vintage and Partial Color
The new art filters which were being introduced in Olympus PEN E-PL7 recently are also included in E-M1's Firmware 2.0 upgrade. Since I have blogged about the two new Art Filters, kindly visit my review for E-PL7 to find out more about these two new art filters, Vintage and Partial Color. I foresee Vintage (three different types) will be a favourite among many photographers. 

5) Other Features/Additions
Live Composite (introduced in E-M10), New Photo-Story templates, New Panning Scene Mode, New "Old Film Effect" for video recording and improved Olympus O.I Share (WiFi connectivity) functions. 


Why was Silver Version of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 being introduced? The answer was simple, all the silver models of Olympus cameras, from PEN and OM-D series were doing well, and received quite a huge demand. In fact, I have also been asked why was there no Silver version for E-M1 from time to time. 


We do not have a working review unit for M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens yet at this moment in Malaysia, so I have not have the chance to try it, and obviously my review for his highly anticipated lens will come a bit later. As for the Olympus Capture (tethered shooting), I might not be the best person to write about it considering my limited studio experience and having never used tethered shooting before. However, if you do have any questions, please do ask and I shall answer the best I can within my capacity. 

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Taking Up The Challenge: Shooting with only M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 on Olympus PEN E-PL7

Note: For those of you Olympus users coming to Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival this coming weekend, there will be free professional camera and lens cleaning services for your Olympus products! Do not miss out. 

I planned to shoot with only the kit lens this weekend, since I have been using mostly prime lenses these days in every photography sessions. The forgetful me after a long week of work did not bring home the M.Zuiko 14-42mm EZ pancake zoom lens, hence I shall be doing the kit lens only shoot some other time. When I asked myself what else I could do differently this time for my shutter therapy session, I looked at the "fringe" lenses that I have. M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 is not exactly a lens which I would use as my first choice, and I will find every excuse to use any other lenses that I have. I have explained before why I am not the classic 35mm shooter, and I will not do so again, but lets just say using the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 is quite a big challenge for me, and I am taking that challenge up today. Nope, no 45mm F1.8, no 25mm F1.8, just sticking to ONE lens for all day. 

The day started with Pudu Wet Market, and it was extra wet today, due to heavy rain during our shoot. I was with Joseph and Nik, both awesome photographers whom I have known from my active days shooting with the Sony gang. We had a coffee break, rather long one actually, until the rain tamed down a little before we continue clicking our shutters away. Thankfully the rain did gave way and we still had plenty of chance to grab some shots. I was armed with the PEN E-PL7, which unfortunately is not weather sealed. I would have worried less if I was using my own OM-D E-M5, which I decided to leave resting at home. 

I did not have any agenda or anything particular I wanted to achieve in this shooting session. Heck, I was not really doing any tests or further review for the E-PL7. This was my weekend, my only time free, and I wanted to do something for myself, and my shutter therapy has only one purpose, to make me happy!

Noodles and Seafood

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Answer Comes to Those Who Seek

A few years ago, a friend bragged about how superior his camera system was, being able to capture by continuously focusing on a flying dragonfly. No one knew how he did it, No one saw how he did it. I did not have the answer.

A few years later, the answer revealed itself to me. If you look at this image, it was not that difficult to guess how I got this Dragonfly in Flight photograph. It was so simple, so easy, that sometimes we seek answers at all the wrong places. Note that I was using Single-AF, not continuous.

Image taken with Olympus PEN E-PL7 and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens. 

Well, I could have said along the lines of "OMG the E-PL7 has improved Continuous AF that it can track flying insects!". That was the exact same thing that the friend did years ago, with his system. 

I guess those who have shot enough dragonflies will know the answer. I shall keep it open for you to guess, if you have not already known it!

Saturday, September 06, 2014

To Achieve That "Robin Wong" Look

I find it rather humorous how people can refer to certain look and feel to photographs that look "Robin Wong". Truth to be told, I have not successfully developed a distinctive photography style yet (unlike established photographers, such as Ming Thein and Steve McCurry, one look and you know those are their photos), and I am still in the process of experimentations, trying out different techniques and shooting methods, deciding what works and what do not. I believe photography is a dynamic process that require us to continue to study, dare to try out new and different approaches and push beyond our boundaries of comfort. Growth in photography takes time, and I, like everyone else am still learning. 

However, I have received so many comments here, as well as email and requests on my FB Page asking me to share my "magic settings" or post processing tricks to produce the images I always show here. No one put it better than Tom Hogan when he blogged about "There is no such thing as Magic Settings" (click here to read). I agree with Tom, there really is no special technique or settings that work universally, every scene in photography condition changes, and no matter how we optimize the camera it will never be the same being used at different locations and by different photographers who obviously have different preferences and mindset. I think it is very crucial to acknowledge that what works for me, what I do and practise in photography may not necessarily be the most suitable choice for you, or any one else. Also, there is no right and wrong, just different approaches to get to where you want to. 

Since the requests have been made multiple times, I shall share what I can in this blog entry. No I will not give you that "cheat sheet", instead I will share my thoughts and experience from my shooting background. Why I did certain things in specific manner, and the logic behind my choice of general camera control and setting. 

All images in this blog were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens. . 

Innocent Eyes