Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Musings on the new Olympus Pen-F

Advertising for the new Olympus Pen F
The new Olympus Pen-F starts shipping this month (here in New Zealand) and, not surprisingly, it's creating a lot of internet buzz. Breaking away from the more consumer oriented Pen series cameras, Olympus have created the Pen-F to appeal to the more 'enthusiast' end of the camera market. Yeah - you and me :-)

As someone who loves the early Olympus Pen film cameras (aesthetically speaking at least), this new 'digital' Pen is indeed very enticing. I'll admit that if a large bucket of cash landed in my lap this month, the first thing I'd do (after paying off the mortgage and all that other boring stuff), is go out and get the Pen-F. In a heartbeat. Why?

Well, for a start, the internet buzz and early reviews of this camera coming in from the USA has been overwhelmingly positive. It's a superbly made, fantastic looking (let's not deny it) Olympus Pen with a built-in OLED electronic viewfinder (finally for a Pen camera), 20 megapixel sensor with the amazing 5 axis image stabilisation that we've come to know and love.

Top View of the new Pen-F
As you can see from the top-down view, the new Pen also places many of the cameras more important functions (like exposure correction) on the outside of the camera for quick access. All advertising for the camera so far has centred around street shooting, and the Pen-F certainly gives off a strong street-shooters vibe (a-la Fuji's cameras).

I'm not a street shooter though, so why else would I be interested in the Pen-F? Well, for a start, I am looking for a back-up camera for my EM-5 MkII, and so a small, light, and fully featured camera like the Pen-F would be just the ticket as a second body. I'm writing this blog post while off work for a week with a torn disc in my back. While not camera related, this nevertheless makes me ever more aware of my ageing body (I'm approaching 50!) and desire to cut down on the gear that I carry. Just a year ago I was a firm believer in the 'bigger is better' (heavier is better) approach to photography. But that was before the EM-5 MkII changed all that. Now I'm even loathed to put an external grip on my cameras, whereas when I was a DSLR shooter it was the first accessory I purchased.

So a small, light (relatively) and fully-featured compact Pen body like the Pen-F would be just the ticket as a back-up/second body combination with the EM-5 MkII. In reality, I'll probably end up getting a second hand Panasonic G 'something' or earlier consumer line Pen, since the bucket full of cash probably won't eventuate :-(

Olympus Pen-F in all black
Why bang-on about the Pen-F at all then, since I'm not likely to get one? Well, one feature excites me above all others on the new Pen-F, that I'm hoping I will get to have eventually on the EM-5 MkII. And that's the new colour modes, controlled on the Pen-F by that funky dial on the front of the camera.

With this new dial on the Pen-F, you can get to some very cool new monochrome and colour presets. There are three in each, with a 'normal, Tri-X style and infrared mode' in the monochrome set (each with varying levels of grain selectable) - while the colour sets give a 'chrome' look to jpegs (again similar to the Fuji film simulations that people love). This is VERY cool, and very exciting. And I hope that it's just a firmware tweak so that these settings will eventually be available as an upgrade for the EM-5 MkII? Please Olympus.....

Olympus look to have another stellar product in the Pen-F. A recent interview with Japanese executives from the camera division seemed to indicate that the Pen-F is a 'test' camera for them. A toe-in-the-water for a higher class of enthusiast-level Pen cameras. If it sells well (and I think that it will, despite it's initial high asking price), then we may well see more of this style of fully-featured Pen down the track. I certainly hope so.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Olympus OMD EM5 MkII Abstract Landscapes

A photographer friend of mine (Hi Stew) and I went out shooting last evening to grab a sunset along the Coast Road.

Unfortunately, it didn't really eventuate - even though the night before (and the one after) were fantastic! Murphey's Law in practise once again :-(

17 Mile Beach Sunset. Olympus OMD EM5 MkII with Zuiko 12-50mm f3.5/6.3. F4.5 @ 80th sec. ISO 500
It never got better than the image above, with fairly flat lighting, but still some elements of colour. Whenever I'm presented with these conditions I think of two things; black & white and ICM (Intentional Camera Movement).

Olympus OMD EM5 MkII with 9mm Fisheye bodycap lens. F8 125th sec at ISO 1600
So I tried the black and white first, although there isn't a lot of contrast in the scene to really make black and white work. It's OK, but not great.

The light, what there was of it, was fading fast - perfect conditions for the long shutter speeds required for ICM photographs. But if you want to 'intentionally' blur your images with an Olympus mirrorless, then you need to turn the Image Stabilisation OFF first - it really is that good.

Olympus OMD EM5 MkII with 12-50mm EZ lens. F16 @  0.8secs, ISO 200
I aslo turned Auto ISO to OFF, setting the camera at its lowest ISO of 200 (for longer exposures). I then began to move the camera around as I exposed - effectivley 'painting with light' with the camera as the paintbrush. There are an infinite number of ways of moving the camera, so the results are practicaly limitless - and a whole lot of fun.

Olympus OMD EM5 MkII with 12-50mm EZ lens. F16 @ 2.5secs, ISO 200
With some colour still in the sky, the exposures weren't too long - only about 2 to 3 seconds. This is long enough to get some movement, but short enough to still retain a lot of the detail in the image. The result is a mysterious lansdcape that is obviously blurred, but still very readable as a landscape picture.

Olympus OMD Em5 MkII with 12-500mm EZ lens. F11 @ 3.5secs, ISO 200
The longer the exposure, the less landscapy the images are - and the more abstract they become. I'm a huge art  lover, and one of my favourite artists is Turner. His abstract expressionist paintings have always inspired me, and I strive for that look and feel in my ICM images.

Olympus OMD EM5 MkII with 12-50mm EZ. F16 @ 5secs. ISO 200.
ICM is a lot of fun and can really create some strikingly beautiful images. Granted, they may be more like paintings than traditional photographs - but therein lies the joy of experimentation.

Olympus OM-D EM-5 MkII with Zuiko 12-50mm EZ. F11 @ 8secs, ISO 200
Next time you're faced with a landscape that isn't quite doing it for you in terms of light and drama, think about slowing down your camera and trying some ICM (Intentional Camera Movement). It can be very counter-intuative at first - especially if you're used to shooting landscapes on a tripod. But once you start seeing the results on the lcd screen, and realise how liberating it can be to intentionally shoot for blur, then I think you'll be hooked on the technique. Enjoy!