The Future Is Now

Over the last few months I have been sharing about some of the features that I have found interesting with the Olympus m4/3s system. To me personally the remote control of flash and the wireless control of the camera are exciting, not necessarily in the form that they’re in now but in what they herald for the future. I know I talk a lot about the old days but I think its important to know where we have come from in order to understand the potential of modern equipment. I am as I keep saying a very promiscuous photographer – I rarely stick to any genre for long and photograph what gives me pleasure and interest.  At the moment I’m taking photos of the wildlife we find in our garden to document it because my wife has joined gardens for wildlife and because I’m lazy and like taking photos close to home, The following are just some photos of birds that can be found in the garden.

Pink and Grey Galah
Pink and Grey Galah or Eolophus roseicapilla, the most common Australian cockatoo.

 

Noisy Miner Bird
The appropriately named the noisy miner bird, Manorina melanocephala leachi, is a vocal species with a large range of songs, calls, scoldings and alarms, and almost constant vocalizations particularly from young birds.

With the modern technology we have at our disposal taking these pics was straight forward. When we look at the work of pioneer ornithological photographer Eric Hosking and see the amount of kit he had to set up to take similar types of photos it is quite staggering. Examples of Hosking’s work can be seen here.

Eric Hoskins pioneer ornithological photographer and possibly the worlds first professional wildlife photographer.

Now an EM-10, a telephoto zoom, a couple of flash lights and an iPad takes the place of a van load of stuff. I decided to put the kit to the test and then Mother Nature sank my plans. Here in the island paradise of Tasmania we are in the middle of what is laughingly called summer. The last few days it has been sheeting down and blowing a gale. In fact the weather has been so bad that 120mm rain fell overnight and this morning on my daily perambulation I had to wear a fleece and a soft shell water proof. As you can imagine the local wildlife isn’t too keen at putting in an appearance and I doubt that any equipment setup outside would last long. So in place of the local wildlife you’ve got me showing you how to do a hi-tech selfie. My wife would probably say that there is no difference as I’m pretty feral!

OK having done this what have I learnt? Well first of all using WiFi and the RC function uses power like a trust fund baby spends money. Setting up is easy but the amount of control offered by the Olympus Image Share App is very basic. You can control the exposure but you can’t get access to the Olympus Super Control Panel and that means that you still have to access the camera itself if you want to change your lighting ratios or switch from TTL to manual or vice versa. Although the camera is connected to the iPad via WiFi you still have to physically touch the screen to trigger the camera. So in future what would I like to see, well to start I’d like to have access to the SCP via the app so I’ve got more control over the camera and lights. Secondly I’d like to have more options to trigger the camera. At the moment I can’t use the ioShutter™ as my Olympus cameras have a proprietary connection to allow the use of a remote cable, so I’d certainly welcome either Olympus or the makers of ioShutter to make a remote that allows me to trigger the camera via sound or with a light trigger. I really think that we’re just at the very start of connectivity when it comes to cameras. Back in August 2012 I wrote about shooting using my Canon EOS5d tethered via a USB cable to a laptop and using Lightroom. Now I can do the same and more but wirelessly using a mobile phone or tablet. I hoping that in 2 or 3 years time we’ll see the functions I’ve talked about here.

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.