Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Sunset on an OM-D EM-5 MkII

In my last post I pondered the oft quoted 'best camera is the one you have with you' line of reasoning in relation to using my Samsung Galaxy S3 to take sunset photos. My argument (and I'm sticking to it), is that unfortunately the 'best' camera is often the one you don't have with you, and you have to settle for second (or third) best.

Blaketown Tiphead Sunset. Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII with Zuiko 12-50mm EZ. F6.3 @ 1/320th. ISO 400
Why do we spend large amounts of money on camera bodies and lenses? Why do we (some of us at least) agonize over different systems, kit configurations and accessories? Even if we aren't hung up on image quality to the extent of 'pixel peeping', why is it that many of our photography decisions have to do with technical considerations like noise, sensor size or chromatic aberration?

From Cobden to Blaketown. OM-D E-M5 MkII with 12-50mm EZ. F6.3 @1/200th. ISO 400
Maybe it's because in this digital age, these are the things that are more easily quantifiable? Let's not talk about composition, or subject matter, or story telling - these are far too subjective and ephemeral topics. Much easier to compare low-light images, sensor formats or lens characteristics. With all the agonizing over IQ or individual sensor pixel density (is that a real thing?), it's a wonder we have any time for actual picture making at all!?

Cobden Breakwater Sunset. OM-D E-M5 MkII with 12-50mm EZ. F6.3 @1/400th. ISO 400.
Or maybe, just maybe, these things really are important? And by that I mean individually important. Subjectively important. Important to me. Let me explain what I mean...

Photography is a visual medium. We are visual artists. We like to be visually creative. And so, just like a painter who chooses their paints carefully, we  - as artists - like to choose our tools carefully too. I've heard people say that some photographers spend too much time worrying about the gear and that painters never get together and talk about the brushes they use. Really? I guess these people have never spent much time with painters? All the artists I know have their favorite brands of paint/brushes/paper/canvas that they swear by (and that they have sometimes taken years of trial and error to perfect). So much so that they will almost refuse to use anything else. Does it mean that they can't paint with something else? No, of course not. But does it also mean that they should just paint with anything because surely anything will do?

Grey River Sunset. Olympus OM-D EM-5 MkII with Zuiko 12-50mm. F6.3 @ 1/20th sec. ISO 400
As a photographer, I have my own set of criteria for how I want my 'tools' to perform. I know the level of noise that I am comfortable with at certain ISO's. I have a sensor size and megapixel number that I am happy with, and certain tolerances within which I want my lenses to perform. I've come to these quality decisions from years of trial and error with different systems and configurations, to the point where I now have a set of expectations of how I want my images to turn out with the tools I've chosen. When I use tools that I know will produce an image inferior to my set of (subjective) criteria, then I feel a slight disappointment at the final result. Even if only from a qualitative standpoint.

Freedom Campers, Cobden. OM-D E-M5 MkII with 12-50 EZ. F6.3 @ 1 sec.(hand held) ISO 800
Let me be very clear  - my criteria for acceptable IQ is NOT your criteria. You must find you own. The trouble comes with photographers who try to force their own set of criteria onto others, as if it was some kind of law. "You must have a full frame sensor or you're not a real photographer. You must have at least 40 megapixels or you're not a real photographer. Your images must all be noise free at ISO 640,000  or your camera's no good" - blah, blah, blah....

Kingsgate Hotel at Sunset. OM-D EM-5 MkII. F6.3 @ 1/6th sec. ISO 800
I'd like to end by saying that my image criteria isn't set in stone. It's a fluid, evolving and changing thing - and technology plays a large part in this. A few years ago I couldn't have conceived of hand-holding a sharp image at 1 second. But thanks to the OM-D EM-5 MkII , I can. I was also a full-frame snob for a very long time (yes, one of those). But not anymore. I am also finding that the older I get, the less things like noise and megapixels seem to matter.

And yet they do matter. And I know that they matter when I use my smartphone as a camera and am somewhat unhappy with the results. In a way that I am not unhappy with the results I get from my OM-D EM-5 MkII.


  1. Gorgeous pics Wayne, i do love the colour tones through the images, especially the Kingsgate hotel and Grey River images.

  2. Thanks Hayden. Gotta love those Olympus colours, especially processed in ACDSee Ultimate 9. Nails the oranges in a way that other RAW converters (i.e. Lightroom) don't.


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