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July 19, 2017

The ultimate small μFT bag?

Here it is: compact, good-looking and well-made, capable of holding any μFT body and almost any two μFT lenses (there are just four exceptions, lenses too big to fit in: two by Olympus and two by Panasonic). DNA 8 is the name of this small wonder.

There is a catch, though. The bag offers padding on five sides (including the bottom) but not on the sixth (top). I would prefer to have that fixed.

Tenba's own BYOB 9 (Bring Your Own Bag) is a bag insert compatible with the DNA 8. And, yes, it does have a padded top. As soon as I get it, I'll give it a try, and we will see how the combination works. Am I being nickel-and-dimed?

It took some tricky CSS coding, but the μFT Lens List now runs the count of lenses it knows about.

Olympus E-M1, MZD 12-40/2.8, hot-shoe and bounced slave flash

July 16, 2017

It is this time of the year again: I need a camera bag. Another one. This one will be for my High Grade Travel Kit, which includes the E-M1 Mk.II (574 g) and two lenses: MZD 12-100/4.0 Pro (561g) and Leica 8-18/2.8-4.0 (315g), plus a spare battery (74 g) and the mini-flash (51g). The carry-on weight thus becomes a manageable 1575g (3½lb), plus the bag itself.

(The E-PM2 backup body travels in checked-in luggage.)

After some research on the B&H site, I found the smallest bag which may, but not necessarily will accomodate my outfit: the Tenba DNA 8. We will see later this week how it works.

My μFT Lens List has been seriously updated. Unfortunately, all new lenses are in the Manual category. I would even say "very manual": not just lacking AF, but not even able to (1) identify themselves, or (2) pass aperture data to the camera, or (3) step down the aperture just before firing the shutter. Welcome to the 1950's!

July 13, 2017

I never thought that playing around with that Godox flash will be so much fun. I simply can't put the stupid thing away, and the eneloop batteries, recharged a few days ago, just wouldn't die.

So last night I wrote another part (hopefully, the last one) for my TT350o report; this time about using it as an optical slave. That's where this picture comes from.

By the way, I've seen this flash on Amazon yesterday, selling at $75. The world is going crazy.

Another selling plug. Sooner or later you will want to have a nice, printed copy of your camera's manual. Try our British friends at camera-manual.com — they will be happy to do it at $20 or so apiece, including the spiral-bound option (which I really recommend). This takes about a week, including shipping to the States, which is not so bad.

They did two manuals for me last February, and after five months of use I must say it was a quality job, worth a solid recommendation.

Olympus E-M1 II, MZD 12-100/4.0 Pro at 80 mm
Other details — see the flash report

July 11, 2017

Picture of the week: local (?) craft, Maryland Eastern Shore. A few years ago, visiting an antique store in Grasonville, MD, my wife and I bought a small cabinet with this painting on the door. Norman Rockwell comes to mind. The only thing we were able to establish about it, was when it was made: around 1920, probably around here.

The just-finished Godox TT350o flash report is not only about that piece of hardware: I ended up investigating some aspects of the Olympus TTL flash metering system. Learned more about it, too.

And what about the flash itself? In short: a very good piece of equipment, which also happens to be cheap (price-wise only). I'm glad I bought it; a real find. Everybody should have one. Or two.

Olympus E-M1 II, MZD 12-100/4.0 Pro at 41 mm
A.Pr. (±0EV): 1/8s at F/4, ISO 800, Ref.WB
Postprocessed in PSP X9

July 3, 2017

So, here is Godox, the brood of Godzilla... oops! While Godox is a great name for a Japanese horror movie monster, it really is a Chinese company, making (mostly) radio-controlled flashes.

As I rarely, if ever, use flash, and never used a radio-controlled system, I wasn't aware of company's existence, until The Day My Flash Died (see June 30). It looks like they have earned some reputation, mostly among remote flash users.

Most importantly, the Olympus-compatible version of their TT350 unit, just released, sells at $84. The Olympus FL-600R, a successor and functional equivalent of my dead FL-36 is selling at $250. Same features, same Guide Number of 35 (m, ISO 100), three times the price.

The flash arrived yesterday. Make and finish are impeccable (looks better live than in pictures). Compatibility with Olympus TTL (pre-flash) and FP (fast shutter) modes seems to be full. 100 frames shot, no problems yet.

The Godox TT350o page I'm setting up now is, so far, a mere placeholder. I will keep adding to it bits an pieces. hoping that it will evolve into a full article one day.

Pictured: the Godox TT350o, mounted on the E-M1 with MZD 75/1.8 and matching thumbscrew hood by JJC.

Olympus E-M1 Mk.II, MZD 12-40/2.8 @29 mm
A.Pr. (-1.0 EV): 1/2 s at F/5.6, ISO 800, Reference WB

Showing an image alone in a Web browser (without the rest of the HTML page) seems like something simple and trivial, right? Wrong! Some browsers still don't get it right, after twenty years. In Best Browsers for Viewing Pictures I'm comparing seven major Windows browsers from this angle, and also giving a plug for my general-use favorite,

June 30, 2017

Another Picture of the Week: this guy, just learning how to fly, lived in my patio for two days, supervised by his parents. I was able to go outside only after they left.

Another addition to the Leica DG 8-18/2.8-4.0 Lens Report — a part on vignetting. I wasn't planning to do that (fixed in software, chapter closed), but there is more to it than meets the eye.

And another: how well is lens distortion corrected in viewfinder image? Now we know: to the same degree as in camera-generated JPEGs. Quite impressive, considering that the camera has to do it 120 times per second.

My old FL-36 flash unit, working just fine with OM-D cameras, died: the plastic ring, securing the foot to the hot shoe, broke in half. Making it from a better composite would have cost Olympus five cents more; from metal, perhaps ten cents.

As I don't like the price tags on current Olympus units, I've ordered one made by (or for) Godox, just released in the Olympus/Panasonic version. We will see how that works.

Olympus E-M1, MZD 75-300/4.8-6.3 at 215 mm
A.Pr. (-.7 EV): 1/400s at F/6.2, ISO 1600, 5300K
Postprocessed in PSP X9

June 28, 2017

New article: Olympus Pen E Cameras — a brief compendium of basic information on all thirteen models released since 2009 in three distinct tiers: E-P, E-PL, and E-PM.

Now, is it possible that, with the last year's arrival of the (very attractive and not much bigger) Pen F, this line lost the reason to exist? (After 2013, we've seen only two releases.)

More additions and touch-ups to the Leica DG 8-18/2.8-4.0 Lens Report — new sections on chromatic aberration and effective focal length.

Picture of the Week: Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (what an ugly name for a pretty place!) near Grasonville, MD.

Olympus E-M1 with MZD 12-40/F2.8 Pro #40mm
Panorama Scene Mode (0 EV) — 1/640 s at F/7.1, ISO 200, WB Auto, Vivid Picture Mode
Ten frames (16 MP each), stitched with Microsoft ICE, postprocessed in PSP X9

The soft, brighter patches in the sky are an artifact of image stitching, showing up when the sky has an azimuthal gradient. MS ICE usually handles these easily, but not this time.

June 25, 2017

The Leica DG 8-18/2.8-4.0 Lens Report took more time than I expected.

First of all, two large sets of image samples: Crofton Lake and Bookshelf, then more digging into the matter of geometric distortion, expanding that section a lot and moving it from the sample page into the report itself.

Can you imagine that this lens (at 8mm) creates images with distortion of -8%? Then the in-camera processing will reduce it to -1.6%, and then, an optional function in postprocessing may bring it to zero (not always!). Very ingenious, and freeing some of the design variables allows for better handling of other aberrations.

The lens itself is quite amazing — the same league as the premium Olympus Pro-series glass. I'm just unable to tell at this moment if it is a tad behind or a tad ahead, or dead even. I may have to do a three-sided comparison involving both the 12-40 and 12-100 Pro zooms, all at 14 mm, using the 80-MP High Res mode.

Shot with: Olympus E-M1, MZD 75/1.8
A.Pr. (-.3 EV): 1/80s at F/4, ISO 400, Auto WB

June 21, 2017

Just out: Image Samples: Crofton Lake — the first piece dealing with the new Leica DG 8-18/2.8-4.0 Vario-Elmarit from Panasonic.

Late night update: I've just added a small section on geometric distortion to the lens article. It turns out that there are two functions to alleviate that problem.

  • One runs in the camera but it does not affect the raw data (being used only for real-time image preview and JPEG generation); this means that it has to be available from Olympus Viewer, where it stays hidden.
  • The second function is accessible from the Olympus Viewer only; it can be deactivated or tweaked.

This is a fascinating, but also controversial, topic. I hope to revisit it soon in a more civilized manner.

June 20, 2017

Oh, yes. This is one good lens. I've spent a better part of the afternoon with it, and I can already tell it delivers.

The first image samples I've put my hands on (at 8 mm), show no improvement in detail between F/2.8 and F/4 when viewed 1:1 pixel scale, center and corners. In a lesser lens we would see a a difference. (After switching to 2:1 or 3:1 magnification, I could see some. Still, a very promising first impression.)

I've checked that by switching between images while preserving magnification and position, which is a quite efficient technique of detecting differences between almost-identical images, used in astronomy until quite recently.

So, now I'm sitting on the first batch of image samples from the Leica DG 8-18/2.8-4.0 lens and my E-M1 II; I should have at least some posted by tomorrow.

In the meantime, briefly: well made (like the MZD 75/1.8, a bit larger), smooth controls, composite outer barrel, locking lens hood. Corners not affected by a 4.5 mm thick filter ring. Length unchanged by zooming or focusing. AF as expected (checked also on the E-M5 and E-PM2). More tomorrow.

Olympus E-M1 II, Leica DG 8-18/2.8-4.0 lens @8 mm
A.Pr. (-.7 EV): 1/3200s at F/2.8, ISO 200, WB 5300K
[full size]

June 16, 2017

What you see at the right is a composite of eight frames, differing only in shutter/aperture combination used. This was a three-in-one project.

First, I needed image samples showing the performance of the MZD 75/1.8 over the full aperture range.

Second, I wanted to show, in one picture, how DoF changes with aperture, for my Depth of Field article, to enliven it a bit.

Third, I badly needed to restock from some of my favorite microbreweries.

Technical Data:

  • From Flying Dog: Raging Bitch Belgian IPA and Bloodline Blood Orange IPA (not too orange, not too IPA, just right).
  • From Heavy Seas: Tropi Cannon Citrus IPA (a bit fruitier than the other, but not overdone).
  • From Duclaw in Maryland — the Sweet Baby Jesus Toffee Porter, one of my all-time favorites.

All of them worth trying, camera optional.

Olympus E-M1 II, MZD 75/1.8
A.Pr. (-.3 EV): 1/10s to 13s at F/2.0 to F/22, ISO 400
Reference WB, tripod, available light

I was quite excited about the Lumix G Leica DG Vario-Elmarit Professional Lens, 8-18mm, F2.8-4.0 Asph. (what a catchy name!) and a bit disappointed when it failed to materialize in the end of May. Last Wednesday, however, B&H already had the lens in stock, and I hope to have some image samples posted and analyzed over the weekend.

Update: The UPS truck came exactly during my two-hour trip to the office. They left a nice note saying they will try again on the next weekday, which probably means Monday. That day, however, I have to be out of home for another three hours, so probably I won't see the lens either. If UPS persists, I have a 50/50 or better chance on Tuesday — not bad for express shipping.

June 13, 2017

Taking a break from the E-M1 II, I did what I've been doing every two years or so since year 2000 — updating my Depth of Field article.

This year's new topic is Pixel-Peeper's DoF, with the CoC diameter (a measure of acceptable unsharpness) set to just 2 pixels (or rather pixel pitch units). For a 20MP μFT sensor this is .0067 mm or 10 wavelengths of deep-red light. Compare this to .015 mm, traditionally used. Which of these two values makes sense?

Well, they both do. With a computer screen, we have two viewing models: the classic, full-image one, and another, with screen being a viewport, moving around the image in higher magnification, zooming in and out again. The second model is more demanding in terms of both DoF and lens performance. Pixel-peeping is going mainstream.

Another DoF development: my Doffy application for Windows, capable of generating DoF tables as HTML pages, is now packaged, documented, and can be downloaded.

Picture of the Week: my wife's best friends.

Olympus E-M1, MZD 12-40/2.8 Pro at 40 mm
A.Pr. (-.3 EV): 1/125s at F/5.0, WB 5300K

June 7, 2017

Picture of the Week: the Golden Gate Bridge; that's how it looked in the Nineties, at least.

Customizing the E-M1 Mk.II — done! At least the first, rough version.

At 224 kB of handwritten, tight HTML, this is now the largest document at this site, and I'm still expecting it to grow. Importantly, over a month spent working on it, I learned (and un-learned) quite a few things about this camera.

My new, customized control layout is, I think, better after some tweaks, and it can be now installed from a downloadable file.

At the same time I've updated the E-M1 II Cheat Sheet to stay in tune with the article.

Minolta XD-5, lens unknown
Kodachrome 64, scanned to 6MP, postprocessed in PSP X9

June 1, 2017

News from Japan: the Camera Journal Press Club awarded its two (out of four) Camera Grand Prix awards, Camera of the Year and Readers Award, to the E-M1 Mk.II, while the MZD 12-100/4.0 Pro lens got the Lens of the Year title. The fourth trophy, Editors Award went to Nikon D500.

I'm posting Olympus Art Filters, Part 2, showing examples of these filters applied to a landscape. Nothing impressive (maybe with one exception) and quite unpredictable. Expect Part 3 in 2025 or so.

Customizing the E-M1 Mk.II is steadily progressing, about 70% done — measured by number of topics (or menu options).

Olympus E-M1 Mk.II with MZD 12-100/4.0 Pro @50mm
A.Pr. (-.3 EV): 1/500 s at F/7.1, ISO 200
RGB conversion: Olympus Viewer with Key Line II filter
Additional postprocessing in Paint Shop Pro X9

May 27, 2017

I just had a closer look at the Olympus Art Filters. They did not change much since the last time I looked, back in 2009.

The Olympus Art Filters project (Part 1) consisted of two steps. First, I did a shot of my laptop desk, using it to generate 14 additional images, one for each filter.

The second step was the same, but the shot was strongly de-focused. Basically, I was photographing bokeh. This went through the filters again, to produce a series of wallpapers.

This is a random process, with quite unpredictable results. 20% or so of the resulting images are keepers, the rest goes to trash.

Olympus E-M1 Mk.II with MZD 12-40/2.8 Pro @26mm
Program, matrix metering (-1.0 EV): 1/5 s at F/2.8, ISO 400
Dramatic Tone filter applied in-camera

May 23, 2017

Some serious progress, again, on the E-M1 Mk.II customization article. Most notably, the part on re-assigning all those buttons and wheels is done.

I have to take a break for a few days: there are people willing to pay money for reciprocal square complexity metrics around Denver Airport, and I invented it (the metrics, not the airport). If you use the word "reciprocal" in a name, you can charge twice as much. "Double-double-exponential" is even better, although rare.

May 16, 2017

Last year the chipmunk who lives under my house brought home a girlfriend. Now I have two cute, blond chipmunk babies taking over the patio, ignoring my presence. What next?

New article posted: More on the E-M1 Mk.II High Res Mode, a sequel to the original High Res write-up from a few weeks ago. This one is about 80MP Super High Res images, which can be extracted from raw files only (no in-camera option).

I'm also investigating how much more detail can these larger images provide, compared to the 50MP HR ones. Don't hold your breath.

Olympus E-M1 II, MZD 75-300/4.8-6.7 @300mm
A.Pr. (0 EV): 1/400s at F/6.7, ISO 6400
Postprocessing in PSP X9

May 13, 2017

I'm back from Poland. Can you imagine we had snow there? In May? I won't even mention the packs of hungry polar bears, roaming the streets. Yeah, that's what you have to watch out for while out there.

Before leaving back for the States, I managed to have two panorama-shooting sessions with the E-M1 Mk.II. The second one used the High Res Mode. Stitching eight HRM images (80 megapixels each) into one panorama will result in an image just over 500 MP in size and 65,000 pixels wide. Wow.

Olympus E-M1 Mk.II with MZD 12-100/F4.0 Pro @50mm
Exposure: metered manual (0 EV on the sunny part) — 1/1000 s at F/7.1, ISO 200, WB 5300K
Eight High-Res frames stitched with Microsoft ICE, postprocessed in PSP X9

Yes, you've heard me right: that's half a gigapixel!!! Shot without any special gear (just an old tripod I keep in Poland for such uses), done within ten minutes or so.

The picture you see when you click on the miniature version above is not the actual ½ GP panorama; it has been scaled down to 30% (linear) size, or 45 megapixels (just 9 MB, compressed), to be more browser-friendly. To see the real thing, 65,000 pixels wide, in all its crazy-detail beauty, you have to download the image file (78 MB, see the link below), and use an image viewer (get the free FastStone now, if you don't have it, and thank me later).

The new article: Insane Panoramas (A First Cut) describes my efforts, techniques, and results of producing panoramic images from frames shot both in the standard camera resolution (applicable to all cameras) and in the Olympus High Res Mode (E-M1 Mk.II only). I still consider it a work in progress, and plan to keep adding new contents. Will keep you posted.

May 4, 2017

Picture of the Week: Manufaktura in Łódź, Poland (pronounced "woodzh"), where I am now on a family trip. This is a 19th century textile factory, converted into a modern shopping and entertainment complex.

An update to the E-M1 Mk.II customization article includes, among others, the convoluted but very useful subject of AE and AF locks.

The Mighty Midget: the tiny Lumix G II 20/1.7 lens produces images with as much detail as the MZD 12-100/4.0 PRO, as my newest image samples show.

Olympus E-620, ZD 12-60/2.8-4.0 @20 mm
A.Pr. (0 EV): 1/2500 s at F/4.0, ISO 200
Postprocessed in Paint Shop Pro X9

April 30, 2017

A new Gallery page of old pictures: Bryce Canyon, Utah, shot in 1993 on Kodachrome slide film.

After 20 years, the film was scanned in India (!) by Scan Café into 6MP JPEG files. Most of the scans were fairly bad: huge contrast, ugly grain, and more. Still, after some postprocessing they turned out quite presentable.

And yes, 6 MP is more than enough for images captured on 35-mm film.

The long-promised Customizing the E-M1 Mk.II is (slowly) progressing. The first part, dealing, among others, with Picture Modes, is already quite complete and presentable, so I am posting the work in progress, as it may already be of some use for Mk.II owners.

This will take another month or close, so please be patient. In the meantime, I will be updating the WiP version.

Minolta XD-5 with (probably) Tokina 28 mm F/2.8 lens
Kodachrome 64, scanned to 6 MP
Postprocessing: Paint Shop Pro X9 and Neat Image 7

April 23, 2017

Just posted: E-M1 Mk.II Lens Fest, Part 2, with more Mark II image samples, taken with seven MZD lenses.

While Part 1 used my traditional lakeside scene, this one was shot indoors, in a controlled environment, and presents a bookshelf. As this subject contains less of fine detail, it is easier on non-premium lenses, while still delivering lots of information, some of it quite unexpected.

As before, the main article contains links to pages with samples for individual lenses. These are still missing textual contents; I expect to have that done within another day or two.

Olympus E-M1 Mk.II, MZD 12-40/2.8 PRO @40mm
A.Pr. (0 EV): 1/5 s at F/2.8, ISO 200, Auto WB

Yet another sample collection: Real-life E-M1 Image Samples using MZD 75-300/4.8-6.7 is the source of this prairie dog picture.

My Olympus OM-D page was becoming quite messy; I had to rearrange the sections and links, especially image sample ones. I hope it is better now.

Panasonic has announced a new μFT lens: Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18/2.8-4.0 wide zoom.

In addition to expected optical quality, what makes it so attractive is accepting front filters. Weight is also important: just 315 g.

Full specifications can be found in my μFT Lens List. The lens should be available in the US late May at about $1100.

Olympus E-M1, 75-300/4.8-6.7 @300mm
A.Pr. (-.3 EV): 1/1600 s at F/6.7, ISO 200

April 17, 2017

A new, small Gallery page: The Devil's Tower, shows pictures taken with the E-M1 and two lenses: the 12-40/2.8 PRO and the 75-300/4.8-6.7 (original, not Version II).

The former turned out to be a great landscape lens of superior quality; the latter — an affordable and carryable long telephoto, good enough (at least!) for what I'm doing.

The picture was shot handheld from a distance estimated as about 470 m (1500 ft).

This was computed as D = HF/PS. where

  • H is the assumed height of the climber (1.8 m),
  • P — his height in pixels in full-scale image (307),
  • F — the focal length (300 mm),
  • S — the pixel pitch: .00375 mm or .00334 mm for μFT, 16 or 20 MP (the former used here).

The result will be in the same units in which H is given.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 with MZD 75-300/4.8-6.7 @300mm
A.Pr. (-.3 EV): 1/500 s at F/8.0, ISO 200
Postprocessed in Paint Shop Pro X9: equalization, perspective correction, slight crop and sharpening

April 14, 2017

Greetings from Poland! Baltimore to London, then Helsinki, then Warsaw, and finally a car ride to my old home town of Łódź — rather too much for one day.

Having brought along the E-M1 II with the 12-100/4.0 PRO and 75/1.8, now I clearly see this camera is a bit heavy for me, for travel at least. A good pretext to get the Pen F when it gets updated. I tried the Pen recently and I really like it. It does 99% of things I need, and has the best controls I've seen on a digital camera yet.

Picture of the Week: Bread. The only thing I'm missing in the U.S. The first day after arrival I got three loaves at a food artisan market.

The E-M1 Mk.II in Infrared article got an update: noise removal using Neat Image. While the plugin does a very nice job, I still prefer my IR pictures with some noise, the way I get them from the Mk.II at ISO 6400 or even higher.

EM-1 Mk.II, MZD 12-100/4.0 at 75 mm
A.Pr. (.0 EV): 1/20 s at F/5.6, ISO 6400, Auto WB
Postprocessing in Paint Shop Pro X9

April 10, 2017

In a few hours I'm leaving for Poland (again!), where I'll be staying a full month. I decided to take the E-M1 Mk.II along. At first I was planning to go with just one lens, the 12-100 mm PRO, but I am very tempted to bring the 75/1.8, too, even if I never use it.

Instead of packing, I've spent most of Sunday play-working on the E-M1 Mk.II Infrared report. Yes, it's done. No surprises: the camera needs about 1000× (or 10 EV) more exposure in IR than in visible light. The results can be, however, very nice. And with the new sensor/engine combo, the amount of noise in IR images at ISO 6400 is just about right.

With a good Internet access, I will be able to keep adding stuff to these pages, so stay tuned.

EM-1 Mk.II, 12-40/2.8 PRO lens at 12 mm, Hoya R72 filter
A.Pr. (0 EV): 1/6 s at F/8, ISO 6400

April 4, 2017

Picture of the Week: No, it's not the Crofton Lake; it is somewhere in Yellowstone, almost as pretty.

The E-M1 Mk.II Lens Image Samples article was expanded. I've added three more lenses, each with its own sample page: MZD 12-50/3.5-6.3 EZ, MZD 40-150/4.0-5.6, and ZD 50/2.0 Macro.

The last one is not a μFT lens, but I treat is as such. Its AF system works just fine with both E-M1 bodies, and the resolution is one of the best around.

The main piece got a number of new side-by-side comparisons, plus some other additions and corrections.

Olympus E-M5 with MZD 12-50/3.5-6.3 @12mm
A.Pr. (-.3 EV): 1/1250 s at F/8.0, ISO 200
Equalization and slight cropping in Corel Photo-Paint

April 1, 2017

Yes, that's the Crofton Lake again. And you know what it means: every time it shows up, I have a bunch of comparative image samples to share with my fellow pixel-peepers!

While I'm not a pixel-peeper myself, some of my best friends are, and if I had a daughter, I wouldn't mind her bringing one for dinner, maybe even marrying him.

I've shot all these samples with one camera, the E-M1 Mk.II, using five different MZD lenses, all in one session. For every lens used three or four focal lengths (if it was a zoom) and a sequence of aperture values up to F/11 (higher values are rather useless because of diffraction).

The house in the middle was the principal subject, and the fence to the left of the tree trunk was the AF target, about 105 meters (just below 350 ft) away from the camera.

Olympus E-M1, MZD 12-40/3.8 PRO @40mm
A.Pr. (0 EV): 1/640 s at F/8, ISO 200, Sunny WB

Here is the main article: E-M1 Mk.II Lens Image Samples — a brief summary, comments, some comparisons, but no image samples for individual lenses. These have been packaged into five individual pages: MZD 12-40/2.8 PRO, MZD 12-100/4.0 IS PRO, MZD 14-42/3.5-5.6 EZ (Pancake), MZD 75/1.8 and MZD 75-300/4.8-6.7. You do not really have to look at these sample pages (unless you need to check a particular sample or really have nothing better to do), but the top-level piece may be a useful reading.

March 28, 2017

The image at the right is a full-scale (1:1) fragment of an HR Mode frame from the Olympus E-M1 Mk.2 camera.

I just posted a full report on the subject: Olympus E-M1 Mk.II: High Resolution Mode, so have a look. It took me a week to write it, and to shoot the image samples. Importantly, it includes some information on how this technique works.

The sample here links to the full 50MP image. One night I spent a whole hour just looking at it, mesmerized, enjoying the detail, ink texture, half-tones in the near-white paper and more. This time Olympus impressed me for real.

The whole image, viewed in the same scale, would be 4.25 times wider than your HD monitor, which makes the detail you see just astounding.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mk.II, legacy ZD 50/2.0 Macro lens
HR Mode, A.Pr. (0 EV): 1/15 s at F/8, ISO 200

This is not a technique for everyday photography. It requires a lens with great resolution, a static subject, a firm tripod and some patience. But when it works, the experience can be very rewarding, even if the results are hard to see in a print or screen display under normal conditions.

March 17, 2017

I believe this lens is not getting the appreciation it deserves: the MZD 75-300/4.8-6.7 is one of the very few long telephoto lenses for Micro Four Thirds and, in proper hands, it will deliver most enjoyable results.

To make a point, here is a new report: E-M5 Real-Life Image Samples Using the MZD 75-300.

True, you can get better results with the 300 mm F/4 IS PRO — at three times the weight, twice the size, and five times the price. This makes the 75-300 "the long tele for the rest of us".

The Panasonic 100-300/4.0-5.6 G (now in Version II) seems also attractive, with a half-stop advantage in aperture, but I believe is a tad behind optically. Still, worth a try.

Some of the same images, after post-processing, ended up in a new Gallery page: Maryland Renaissance Festival II. Have a look.

Olympus E-M5 with MZD 75-300/4.8-6.7 @300mm
A.Pr. (-.7 EV): 1/800 s at F/6.7, ISO 800
Postprocessing in Paint Shop Pro X9

March 14, 2017

Isn't this March? In Maryland? So why do I have this view from my bedroom window? And why isn't all this melting? Something is very wrong here.

My patio gate is frozen shut, so I won't be going out much the next two days or so. I am stocked, though: half a pizza, two cans of chili, five sixpacks from Duclaw. Not bad.

Olympus E-M1 Mk.II with 12-100/4.0 IS PRO lens at 75 mm
A.Pr. (0 EV): 1/3200 s at F/7.1, ISO 1600, Auto WB
Minor crop and equalization in Fast Stone

It turned out that the Noise Filtering and Sharpness... report, posted just yesterday, was very slow loading from the server, with all those images embedded. Splitting it into four parts helped.

March 13, 2017

A major effort, Noise Filtering and Sharpness in the E-M1 Mk.II is done. At last. 480 image samples and tens of hours of scrutinizing them, to find the combination of these parameters providing "best" in-camera JPEGs — from the angle of detail loss, image noise and sharpening artifacts. As your "best" may be different than mine, the samples are packaged for download, so you may inspect them and reach your own conclusions.

Picture of the Week: a morning street scene in Paris, 1981.

Camera: Minolta XD-5 with a 50/1.7 Rokkor

Kodachrome 64, scanned by ScanCafe after 33 years in storage, slightly cropped, equalized and sharpened in FastStone.

Only going through scans of my old slides and negatives, I realize how much easier is it to get technically good results with digital than it was with film.

March 11, 2017

This is Olympus Capture, running on my Windows 10 laptop, hooked to a TV. This program is very handy for tethered studio sessions; fixing a few, relatively minor, design issues would make it a champ. It is certainly way better-behaved than OI Share.

I am using Capture now for huge sets of image samples with various combinations of image parameters in the E-M1 Mk.II. (The other two cameras it works with are the older E-M1 and E-M5 Mk.II; sorry, Pen F users!)

Olympus E-M1 Mk.II with 12-100/4.0 IS PRO lens at 24 mm
A.Pr. (0 EV): 1/5 s at F/5.6, ISO 200, Auto WB
Minor crop and equalization in Fast Stone
(Shot using Olympus Capture)

Old news: The four-thirds.org site (sorry, one of the worst Web sites I've seen in a long time; navigating around it is a nightmare!) just posted the 2017 Lens Catalog. While it includes mostly Micro Four Thirds lenses, it also has a (non-Micro) Four Thirds page, with a finest-print line saying "Production of all ZUIKO DIGITAL Four Thirds lenses has been discontinued". Well, thanks for the heads-up, how else would we know?

My μFT Lens List has been updated: it now lists (separately) MF lenses. In addition to four F/.95 Nocton lenses by Voigtländer (really: Cosina), it includes four by Kowa, a well-established Japanese company, virtually unknown outside of the industrial and medical market. Kowa lenses are not yet available at U.S. retailers.

    There are also two new AF lenses on the list, both from a Chinese company called Yi (better known as a maker of action cams). These lenses are offered with Yi's entry-level μFT camera, the M1, released a few months ago. Time will show if the μFT camera market will get a third player, which would be nice.

March 8, 2017

The end of an era. Sad news: the Popular Photography magazine just announced that their most recent (March/April) issue was the last one. Ever. Three days after I got it in the mail.

Some signs were there for the last dozen years or so: penmanship and expertise levels declining, critical opinions suppressed, and catering to the widest, mass-market audience. Everything so lukewarm, so routine. (All this in addition to general decline of printed media, of course.)

Popular Photography was born in 1937, the same year as its major competitor, Modern Photography (originally Minicam). The latter, catering to more literate and demanding audience, was a better publication (under leadership of Herbert Keppler) — I know, subscribing to both since 1981. As it often happens in a mass market, the better magazine went out of business, merging (?) into Pop Photo in 1989.

For years, the remaining bright spot was the witty, informed and educational SLR column by Mr. Keppler, who joined Popular in the merger. Unfortunately, Mr. Keppler passed away in 2008, and there was no one to fill his shoes.

Facing problems after the digital revolution, the owners found a cure: changing the name to Popular Photography & Imaging, only to revert to the original a couple of years later.

Still, Pop Photo continued to be an institution, and I enjoyed spending an evening with a new issue every month. I'm sure I am not the only one feeling sad about its demise.

Here is the shot of the last cover (home delivery version; retail runs had different covers, usually a camera). You may still be able to find this issue on a newsstand, as a keepsake.

By chance, the last issue includes a Lab Test of the Olympus E-M1 Mark II (the other featured camera is the full-frame Sony α99 II).

The E-M1 Mk.II scores very high in the Pop Photo report, earning an Excellent image quality rating (whatever that means) at ISO 64 to 800.

 

The last cover: shot from hand by a patio door, diffused daylight
Camera/Lens: E-M1 Mk.II with MZD 12-100/4.0 IS PRO at 34 mm
A.Pr. (0 EV ): 1/40 s at F/11, ISO 1600
Open Shade WB, Natural Picture mode, no adjustments, IS Auto
Equalization, cropping and sharpening in Fast Stone.

March 7, 2017

After a month spent, almost full-time, with E-M1 Mk.II, I'm — at last! — done with the first cut of its first write-up: Olympus E-M1: What's New in Mk.II. Working on it, I've learned a lot about this camera and its predecessor.

I'm afraid the full, in-depth report will take even longer, but you will see it here when it is done, or even earlier.

Picture of the Week: Eroded walls of an ancient fort in Tajikistan, not far from Afghan border (mid-Seventies)

Camera: Russian Start SLR

Lens: 58/2.0 Helios-44

Film: East-German ORWOChrom UT21 slide film, scanned by ScanCafe to 6 MP

Postprocessing: slight curve adjustment and sharpening in FastStone

March 5, 2017

Updated E-M1 Mk.II Image Detail and Noise at Various ISO — re-shot the Pencil Box sample series with default parameter settings, added more analysis and some conclusions. Now it is done (?).

Added a companion piece to the above: E-M1 Mk.II and Mk.I Compared at High ISO, and the results are not quite what I expected!

March 1, 2017

Picture of the Week: Devil's Tower, Wyoming

Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M1

Lens: MZD 12-40/2.8 ED PRO at 21 mm

Exposure: A.Pr. (-.7 EV): 1/200 s at F/6.3, ISO 200, Auto WB

Postprocessing: cropping to 16:9 and level adjustment in Fast Stone

Two more MZD lenses added to the E-M1 Mk.II IS Report: 75/1.8 and 75-300/4.8-6.7 (@300mm). With the latter lens, the IS performance is by 1 EV better on Mark II than on the original.

February 28, 2017

I've checked the IS effects of the MZD 12-40/2.8 PRO lens @40mm on the E-M1 Mk.II. Surprisingly, the results are very close to those for the 12-100/4.o IS PRO at 35 mm, dual IS of the latter notwithstanding. See the updated article.

I also updated the original E-M1 IS report, adding the 12-100/4.0 IS PRO at 100 mm. Yes, the in-lens IS seems to be helping on the older camera, but less than on the new one.

Actually, I'm quite amazed how attractive the original E-M1 still is three year after release. If you have this camera and are itching about Mark II — don't (unless you badly need one of the new features, but think twice). Instead, spend this money on one (or better two) of those wonderful, new lenses.

February 27, 2017

Today I'm posting Image Stabilization in Olympus E-M1 Mk.II, done with the MZD 12-100/4.0 IS PRO lens. No, I don't see the touted 6.5 EV handholding benefit of the dual IS system, but I do see the still most impressive IS effect of 4.3 EV.

February 26, 2017

I'm still having quality time with the E-M1 Mk.II, lately trying to find some use for the Fn lever, about which I have very mixed feeling. It goes again so many user interface design principles, that it could be used in a handbook case study. Oh, well, I'll have to learn how to live with it.

Have a look then at my Micro Four Thirds Lenses article; it may come handy as a reference — or just a conversation item.

Shown: cross-section of the new MZD 8 mm F/1.8 Fisheye, the next lens I want to play with. Can you imagine that just 60 years ago optics was designed (computed) by hand?
(Image by Olympus)

Interestingly, the two most expensive lenses on the old Four Thirds list were $8000 (300-800/5.6 Sigma) and $7000 (300/2.8 Olympus ZD). The μFT community seems frugal in comparison: top two prices are $2500 (Olympus MZD 300/4.0) and $1800 (Panasonic/Leica Vario-Elmar 100-400/4.0-6.3).

The good news for those who invested in that costly FT glass is that those lenses will autofocus on the E-M1 (original or Mark II) exactly like they used to on FT (phase-detection) cameras, not worse (used with the FT->μFT adapter, of course).

February 23, 2017

A neat feature of the E-M1, which I never found time to play with, is Live Monitor allowing you to check the progress of exposure being under way and stop it when you think the image is ready (i.e. got enough light). Now I want to try this out on the Mark II. To work confidently with long exposures, however, I need to know more about camera's dark noise.

This is why I spent the last two days collecting dark noise samples, scrutinizing them, preparing for presentation, and writing the report: Dark Noise in the E-M1 Mk.II. You're welcome.

While this may be of interest only to those who do (or want to do) long-exposure photography, especially at higher ISO settings, I'm happy to report that Mark II improves quite a lot in this area compared to the original E-M1 (which was not a push-over, either). Have a look.

Picture of the Week: Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. Shot from about 3.3 km (2 mi) away.

Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M1
Lens: ZD 75-300/4.8-6.7 @300mm
Exposure: A.Pr. (-.7EV); 1/2500 s at F/8.0, ISO 400
Postprocessed in Corel Photo-Paint: 90% crop, curve adjustment, sharpening.

February 21, 2017

Well, I'm back. For some time at least. I'm retired now, so now I hope to have enough time to bring these pages back up to speed.

Last time I came back from a hiatus, the direct reason was the arrival of perhaps the best camera I have used so far — the mirror-less OM-D E-M1 by Olympus. I've been using it since, enjoying the experience and results.

Last December the E-M1 Mark II was released. I've been using and learning it for the last two weeks. Another good reason to emerge from inactivity.

I am now extensively testing the camera (or rather checking it up, not having any lab facilities), so expect a number of related write-ups. In the meantime, however, a quick note.

The E-M1 Mark II, shown with the new
MZD 8 mm, F/1.8 (!) full-frame fisheye lens
(Image by Olympus)

The new model looks, feels, and behaves very much like the original (which is a good thing). It could be easily dismissed as a minor upgrade of its predecessor. A closer check, however, will show that many things have been changed, and most of the changes (at least those I'm aware of) are for the better. (The others are a matter of personal taste.)

While preserving the control layout, Olympus re-sculpted the whole body (it also became a bit larger and heavier). On the other extreme, the firmware, and the new TruePic VIII imaging engine in particular, has been strongly reworked. Olympus claims significant improvements in autofocus (especially tracking), image stabilization, serial rate, and noise control at high ISO. Some of these claims I was able to verify; for others, I have to take manufacturer's word.

There are also dozens of smaller (but also appreciated) quality-of-life improvements. The mode dial, after years of my bitching, got three custom preset positions, and the menu system has been somewhat improved (even if it is still quite bad).

Some of the performance and image-processing progress was made possible, as Olympus says, by more computing power aboard. Mark II runs on two processors, four cores each. Its processing capability has increased 3.5 times compared to the older model. (We don't know how this was measured, or how it compares with other cameras.)

While I am still writing a piece comparing Mark II with the original, I already went through all of camera's settings, so I'm posting the first version of my E-M1 Mk.II Setup Cheat Sheet as a possible starting point for your own custom setup. The full article, with discussion of specific parameters and rationale behind suggested values should, hopefully, follow soon.

To decide on image processing choices, I had to run a number of series of image samples, some of which may be worth showing here. The first of sample-based articles is done: E-M1 Mk.II Image Detail and Noise at Various ISO.

Here is one of sample images, shot at ISO 25,600. Click on the thumbnail to see the unaltered off-camera JPEG. Not too shabby; for conclusions see the article.

Note the shallow depth of field provided by this lens at F/1.8. Only the two pencil tips in the center are in focus. I like this lens.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mk.II with MZD 75/1.8 ED lens
A.Pr.: 1/800 s at F/1.8, Auto WB


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