Teaser

Been playing with a new lens – and so far I’ve been very impressed and it’s made me reconsider my camera system. I’ll put up a full report in the next week or two. Here are a couple of photos to whet your appetite.

 

Back lit bully. Frida modelling for a lens test.

 

Bully blast off! Frida helping test the auto focus capabilities of a new lens.

 

Both shots were taken with the Canon 6d, which continues to amaze me with its picture quality, and converted to monochrome in AlienSkin’s Exposure 4.

Kidding About

Kidding About by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Young kids on the Avon Walk Trail in York, Western Australia. Sony A7r with Voigtlander 35mm f2.5 Color Skopar lens mounted via a Fotodiox DLX Stretch Leica M to NEX mount adapter. Exposure: 1/200th sec, f5.6 at ISO 100.

Most morning I walk the dog along the Avon River and regular readers will have seen some of the photos I’ve taken while doing so. We walk past this garden which is home to a sheep, an alpaca and these two kids. The kids are about four times the size from when we first met them. Frida is fascinated by them as they come to the fence and prance about. They certainly aren’t scared of her. The male puts his head to the wire and Frida does the same, generally they just push but sometimes they gently but each other all while the alpaca watches on disapprovingly.

 

Gone To The Dogs

Sometimes when I read the photography forums I wonder how we managed to make pictures in the past. No auto focus, shooting film so there was no instant feedback on exposure and content, being limited to 36 exposure rolls of film rather than 128Gb memory cards, frame rates of only 3 fps rather than 11. But make photos we certainly did. Going through my Lightroom catalogue the other day I looked at this short series I shot. The assignment was to make a short photo essay of six photos using black and white film and produce six prints. The equipment used was fairly basic by todays comparison, an Olympus OM4 fitted with an autowinder, an Olympus 35-105mm lens, an Olympus 65-200mm lens, and four rolls of Ilford HP5. The film was developed in D76 and the prints were made on Ilford Multigrade RC. The images below were from scans of the actual prints.

 

Gone To The Dogs
The steward walking the dogs out to the start line. Greyhound racing at Cannington in Western Australia.

 

Gone To The Dogs
Preparing the dogs at the starting gates. Greyhound racing at Cannington in Western Australia.

 

Gone To The Dogs
They’re off chasing the electric hare. Greyhound racing at Cannington in Western Australia.

 

Gone To The Dogs
Into the final straight. Greyhound racing at Cannington in Western Australia.

 

 

Gone To The Dogs
The winners on the podium being photographed. Greyhound racing at Cannington in Western Australia.

 

Gone To The Dogs
The punters watch the action on screens in side the bar. Greyhound racing at Cannington in Western Australia.

 

 

I won’t say any more because I feel I’m in danger of becoming the photographic equivalent of:

 

Olympus EM-10 Redux

 

It's Wet
It’s been raining – a lot! Most unusual for the Wheatbelt.

 

Well here I am back with another look at the EM-10 now I’ve had it in my possession for a month. First I’d like to thank reader Mike Hendren who set me straight about the bracketing feature. Thanks to him I’ve found that if you go into the HDR function then you can find lots of bracketing features. The camera is capable of in camera HDR and it processes the images as a jpg. The camera shoots a burst of four shots each with a different exposure and you have a choice of two settings for the output – one is more “dramatic” than the other.

 

Marwick's Barn
Marwick’s Barn, a large stone and timber structure with a high-pitched iron roof was built in the 1870s. Single exposure with just a little sharpening in Lightroom.

 

 

Marwick's Barn
In camera HDR from Olympus EM-10 using the “dramatic” setting.

Not a lot of difference really, just a flatter image. Scrolling past the in camera processing you can choose to bracket your exposures and then process the images on your computer. You have a choice of 3, 5 or 7 frames at -/+ 2 stops,  3 and 5 frames at -/+ 3 stops.  The picture below was 3 5 frames at -/+ stops and processed in Lightroom and HDR Efex Pro 2.

 

Marwick's Barn
Using the HDR bracketing function of the EM-10 to make 5 exposures -/+2 stops and then process in Google’s HDR Efex Pro.

If HDR is your bag then I think you have a definite idea of how you want your photos to look and will choose to blend the images in software on your computer. However, the function could be just the ticket if you’re a confirmed jpg shooter. Speaking of bracketing and jpgs,  then the Art Filter bracketing may prove to be a boon if you ever feel a little indecisive about how you want an image to look. You can choose as many of the filters as you like, but bear in mind that you will need a bit of patience while you wait for the buffer to be cleared.

 

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I must say that I’m pretty impressed with the robustness of the files the EM-10 produces, they hold up to post processing very well.

Albion
Detail of a vintage car radiator grill. Avon Tce, York, Western Australia. ORF processed in Lightroom and then in the desktop version of Snapseed.
Curly
Curly wire on a fence post. Focusing the Color-Heliar 75mm f2.5 wide open using focus peaking.Raw file processed using Lightroom and Snapseed.
Two's Company
Two horses kept on a property on the banks of the Avon River in York, Western Australia. Shooting with a 35mm Color-Skopar lens wide at f4 with focus peaking. Raw file processed using Lightroom and Snapseed.

 

Ceramic Flock
Sheep garden ornaments. Color-Heliar 75mm f2.5 wide open focused with focus peaking on the new Olympus EM-10. Raw file processed using Lightroom and Viveza 2.

Noise, both colour and luminance, seem very well controlled as this shot Diego my cockatiel shows.

Diego
High ISO noise test. Diego my cockatiel at ISO 6400. No noise reduction applied.
Diego's beak
High ISO noise test. Diego my cockatiel at ISO 6400. Close up of Diego’s beak to show noise.

 

Olympus has always had a good track record when it came to metering systems. The OM 3 and 4 introduced multi-spot reading with shadow and highlight priority, which made them very popular with adherents of the Zone System pioneered by Ansel Adams. The Om 40 saw the introduction of ESP metering which meters from several areas of the image and it is a more sophisticated version of this using 324 areas is present in the EM-10. Spot metering,  high light and shadow spot metering are also present, but multi-spot metering is not present. The metering is very accurate and backlit subjects don’t fool it into under exposing.

Razor Sharp
The ESP multizone metering handled this well with good detail being maintained in both the shadows and the highlights. Straight out of camera jpg.

A few readers asked questions about the capabilities of the camera. Several wanted to know whether the EM-10 was suited to BIF. Sorry the only biff I know about is jujitsu and aikido. Seriously I don’t have a lens long enough to attempt birds in flight, and when I try with my 40-150 they certainly take flight but can only be seen as tiny specks. I do have a sequence of Frida, my English Bull Terrier, doing a “bully run” .

 

Bully Run
Twelve frame sequence on low continuous shooting of my dog running towards me using the 40-150mm zoom. On some of the frames the focus tracking lost focus but then quickly reacquired.

I mentioned in the previous part of the review that I had used the EM-10’s pop up flash to act as a controller for off camera flash and several people asked how I did this. Well the video below should answer that question.

Another reader asked about using the inbuilt WiFi function. This is the first camera I have used with this function and I have to say I think it is really great. I used my iPad and it was brilliant to use it as a gigantic screen to aid with composition and focusing. The only downsides are that it uses up the camera battery real quick and you can’t use to in movie mode.

 

So, as I’ve got to know the camera have my feelings changed? Well I have to say when I first picked it up I felt that the camera felt unnecessarily complicated and frustrating to use. Four weeks on I have to say that we’re starting to establish a relationship, I’ve largely set the camera up so I don’t have to do much menu diving which means I can just get on and shoot. The metering is reliable and the files are great, so for still photography I think the EM-10 has the makings of good camera. As for video, well I’m still out to lunch on that one. As I said at the beginning of this entry it has been very wet here and so I’ve not had enough time to get out and shoot anything. I’m hoping to get out in the next week or two and shoot a small project with it, so when that is ready I’ll post my thoughts about it. Stay tuned for the next thrilling instalment.

Testing…Testing…123

“The Full Monty”

When I first started going out photographing the Western Australian landscape and the wild orchids found here the above kit was what I took.Three bodies, seven lenses, two flashes, flash meter, filters, cables, flash triggers, and reflectors. It is a hernia inducing load. This made proper exploration of a location near impossible and so I tended to work from the back of the car.

The Mobile Kit

When I was commissioned to write and illustrate a walking guide-book a couple of years ago I had an epiphany and decided to slim down the kit.The now discontinued Lowepro Outback 300AW offered an efficient method of carrying my equipment. Less hernia inducing than the Full Monty, but still coming in at 7Kg including filters and batteries it is anything but light weight.

The Goldilocks Kit

Coming in at under 2Kg complete with batteries, filters, microphone and assorted cables for video. This kit still gives me coverage from 24emm to 300emm with 1:1 macro and a smallish prime. All that’s missing is flash.The recent acquisition of the Olympus Zuiko m4/3 60mm f2.8 macro lens led to me having a Goldilocks moment – “Ah! Just right”. This outfit fits in a couple of Lowepro Street & Field pouches that can be carried on a shoulder strap or mounted on a belt. I’ll add the flash a bit later, but still it won’t add much weight and this means I should be able to cover more ground looking for those elusive little buggers, er I mean orchids.

So how does the new lens fare. Well first off I can’t get over the size, it’s the size and shape of a medium-sized glue stick, and about the same weight. Despite that it gives the impression of being well made and it is supposedly weather resistant.

Test Chart

The above image is the closest I get to a test chart, it is what I use to test all new lenses. I bung the camera on the tripod, set the ISO to base and shoot at every aperture using aperture priority. It tells me the lens performs well in the corners from f4 and down, that the field of focus is flat, that diffraction isn’t a major issue even at f22, and that the lens doesn’t suffer badly from chromatic aberration. So far so good. Since frequenting a certain popular photography forum I’ve ascertained that the best way to test lenses is to take pictures of cats. Tricky as I don’t own a cat. So I made do with some other animals that inhabit this house.

Diego my cockatiel with attitude.

Exposure 1/40, f4 at ISO 3200. At f4 the lens exhibits a nice fall off in sharpness and is capable of produce nice bokeh balls as evidenced by the round specular highlight. The banding in the bottom left corner is nothing to with the lens its a product of the Olympus EP-2 being crap at high ISOs.

Frida is definitely not a cat!!

Exposure 1/50th sec, f4 at ISO 3200. The lens renders very well and will make a very nice longish portrait lens.

Primarily I bought the lens for photographing orchids so I’ve managed to do a couple of flower studies to see how it does. The above rose bud shot shows just how smoothly and delicately the focus transitions from in focus to out of focus at f4.

Bougainvillea

The close up of the Bougainvillea at f8 shows the lens shows good sharpness into the corners and still has smooth out of focus areas. The bokeh is certainly nice and smooth on this lens.

Very sharp

Nice colour rendition, good levels of contrast, sharp but not clinically so. This lens is going to get some serious use this winter and coming spring and my long-suffering back is going to appreciate the lighter load that micro four thirds brings.

Very Adaptable

Olympus Pen EP-2 with 17mm f2.8 pancake lens

Not so long ago I was lucky enough to be given an Olympus Pen EP-2, it was an old superseded model, but still a very fine camera. My eyes were quickly opened up to the advantages of having a small light high quality camera with interchangeable lenses and it became, and still is, my most used camera. A little while later I was having a clear out of stuff and I “found” six “orphaned” lenses from film cameras that I no longer had. They were to me so good that I could never bring myself to part with them so I had kept them with the vague notion that one day if I ever got some surplus cash I would get a film body for them. However despite my nostalgia for film the reality is that I live a long way from any lab and I no longer wish to run a darkroom so any new found enthusiasm for film would quickly evaporate because of the inconvenience. One day while perusing a forum dedicated to M4/3 I discovered the whole subculture of using adapted lenses. My interest was piqued. There are a couple of reasons to use adapted lenses. The first and most sensible is that you do so because an equivalent focal length is not yet manufactured for your camera. The second reason is that it is just good fun to use old lenses that you already own or can get very cheaply.

From left to right is a 75mm Color-Heliar, a Sigma 70-210, an Olympus Zuiko 50mm, on the camer is a 35mm Color-Skopar, Olympus Zuiko 35-105, and a Tamron 28mm.

Olympus made adaptors for OM and 4/3, Panasonic for Leica R and M, and Novoflex and Voigtländer make adapters for older manual focus legacy lenses, but they are in the $200 bracket. If you look on E-Bay there are a myriad of adaptors all hailing from China and Hong Kong with prices starting at $12 AUD. So here is what to look for. For manual focus lenses the basic requirement is a rigid body and a well-built lens mount that allows infinity focus.  I would recommend either a chrome plated brass or stainless steel mount as they are more resistant to wear. Cheaper adaptors are often built deliberately to focus beyond infinity as it means tolerances do not have to be so tight. Initially this is a little disconcerting in use but you get used to it. Some of the cheaper makes can be a bit sloppy and this makes focusing accurately difficult. Forums such as Micro Four Thirds User have discussions on how to fix this quite easily, but this can be avoided by buying better quality ones such as those made by Metabones. If you believe the sales pitch by Voigtländer and Novoflex  you are risking your camera to cheap Chinese adaptors as swarf and dirt can fall onto your sensor and ruin it. The easiest thing to do is give them a wipe with a cloth and then a blast of compressed air to dislodge anything prior to mounting. In the end only you can decide on how much you want to spend, personally I took the view that this would be an experiment and I bought two $12 jobs in OM and M mount with the thought that if they were duff I could replace them and they had not cost a lot. With more modern auto focus lenses with stabilization and electronic aperture control things are a little more complicated. Firstly you will have to accept the loss of AF and IS. The cheaper adaptors also offer no control over the aperture, so the lens defaults to its widest aperture.

The Olympus Pen EP-2 with optional viewfinder and an Olympus Zuiko Om 50 mm f1.4 lens mounted via an adapter.

In day-to-day use is all this worth the hassle? Well there is no easy answer, it all depends upon whether you are prepared to accept work arounds and sometimes less than perfection. Digital capture does impose a lot of demands upon a lens as the sensor behaves very differently from film. The sensor is actually a very reflective surface and this means that modern lenses made for the digital era are multi-coated on the rear lens elements as well as the front to prevent glare. Some lenses, especially single coated ones, are also very susceptible to glare so I would definitely use a lens hood and be prepared for less than stellar images when shooting into the light. Older lenses designed for film are sharp in the centre but the edges and corners can let them down. Thankfully as of this time all the CSCs use a sensor that is smaller than 35mm film, and this means that the sensor is only using the best part of the lens. Talking of sensor size it is the crop factor of the various digital formats that causes the biggest problem for many users of adapted lenses as your wide angles cease to be wide angles.  A moderate wide-angle of 28mm becomes a short standard on APS having the same field of view as a 42 mm lens on full frame, or a long standard on M4/3 with a field of view similar to a 56mm. My favourite 35mm Color-Skopar is now a short telephoto on my EP-2, and my old Olympus Zuiko OM 35-105 ceases to be standard zoom but becomes a telephoto zoom. Voigtländer made a 12mm and 15mm lenses in either Leica screw (L39) or Leica M, but their performance on smaller formats leaves lots to be desired with most users complaining of excessive smearing in the corners. So the loss of wide angles is a problem for many, but on the other hand the multiplying effect of the smaller formats also brings many benefits. My 75mm f2.5 Color-Heliar becomes a very nice compact 150mm equivalent, and my Sigma 70-210mm becomes a very small 140-400mm equivalent. So if you are a frequent long lens user you will be very happy. Older manual lenses are also very suited to video usage because the focusing action has a long throw and is damped making it easy to get very precise manual focus. Throw in wide aperture lenses and your mirrorless camera becomes a very capable tool for giving beautiful “filmic’ footage. The biggest hurdle to using adapted lenses is manual focusing. I am at that age where my arms are not long enough to use the rear LCD screen for focusing so an electronic viewfinder that allows me to magnify the subject is a must. Thankfully the EP-2 and all the later variants can all take one. An alternative to an LCD viewer is a loupe designed to go over the rear LCD screen. The brand named one is by Hoodman  and sells in Australia for about $110, if that is a bit steep for you there are plenty of cheap Chinese knock offs for the $20 mark on E-Bay.

Olympus EP-2 in video mode showing the Zuiko 50 mm f1.4 mounted via an adapter, a Hoodman Loupe and the Olympus SEMA external microphone.

All in all my own personal conclusion is that it has been great fun to re-visit some old lenses I’d already got and use them in different ways. Plus there is the added fun of trawling through websites such as E-Bay and Gumtree looking for cheap interesting lenses. The other thing in its favour is that if you are a little financially embarrassed and you want to explore digital photography as a hobby then using old lenses maybe just the ticket.

Frida, my Bull Terrier co-operating nicely. Olympus EP-2 with OM Zuiko 50mm f1.4 lens. Exposure 1/60 sec, f1.4 at ISO 3200 processed in Lightroom and Silver Efx Pro 2 by Google.

50!

Roy and Beryl Amyes taking Paul to be Christened 26th May 1963. Bromley, Kent, England

On Saturday 6th April 1963 I was born in Bromley, Kent, England. Fifty years later on 6th April 2013 in York Western Australia I’m celebrating my birthday. All in all looking at the two photos here I don’t think I’ve changed that much!

Paul and Frida, his faithful canine companion, out on Mt Brown in York, Western Australia on the morning of his 50th birthday.

I must say I don’t take “selfies” very often, but this morning I thought I would as it is not every day you turn 50 and I wanted to mark the occasion somehow.I’d left the house to take Frida (aka the puppy piranha) for her morning run and I’d put my Panasonic LX5 in my pocket. When the creative urge struck I thought this’ll be a piece of cake – birthday or otherwise – as I’ll just put the camera in self-portrait mode and snap away. On checking the LCD screen I saw that the shots were a dismal failure – the sky was over exposed and I was under exposed. Thankfully over the course of my fifty years I have learnt a photographic trick or two so I put the camera in manual and set a shutter and aperture combination to under expose the general scene by 2 stops. I then activated the pop up flash and set it to under expose by 1/2 a stop. The icing on the cake was getting Frida to sit with me while I took the shot. On getting home the image was fed through Lightroom and I played around with newly re-launched Nik Software Collection to make my visage suitably aged and distressed looking.

2013 already!

Happy 2013 and I hope it brings everything you wish for.

The global juggernaut that is Paul Amyes Photography is located in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia, and we don’t mind admitting that over the last couple of weeks it has been swelteringly hot here. Hot as in over 40℃ or for our non metric readers 104℉, which in anyone’s parlance is heading towards unbearable. Now photographically speaking this summer I was full of good intentions, I intended to finish off a video project and start a series of still lives and shoot some landscape. However as soon as the mercury began to soar all my good intentions evaporated and I found myself in a horrible torpid state. The boredom that the induced inactivity brought started making me irritable, very irritable. So after a verbal kick up the jacksie from my partner I went out for a walk around the block armed with a camera and just one lens. The lens is one I’ve not used very much, in fact truth be told I shouldn’t really have bought it, with the thinking that using it might help me look at the familiar in a fresh way. The resulting pictures while not “art”  did please me and hopefully be the start of more work.

Wheeler Street At Sunset
Sunflowers At Sunset

I hope where ever you are you can shake off the post-Christmas blahs and resume your passions.

A New Arrival

Here at the global headquarters of Paul Amyes Photography – cough- life has become very hectic with the arrival of Frida our new Bull Terrier pup.

Who’s a gorgeous girl?

We got her from KUPALA BULL TERRIERS in Queensland and  she has a better pedigree than the Queen Elizabeth II. We’ve had her now for 3 weeks and she has quickly made herself at home.

Caught Napping