Honey Bee*

Honey Bee
Honey bee on a lavender flower.

Just playing around with the high-speed sync on my Olympus EM-10 and Olympus FL-600R flash gun. Lens was the Olympus Zuiko 60mm f2.8 macro and the exposure was aperture priority with high-speed flash sync 1/640 s at f/4.0 ISO 400.

* Honey Bee by Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!!!!!!!

Wood Scorpion
Cercophonius squama, commonly known as the forest scorpion or wood scorpion, is found over much of Australia. It is, however the species of scorpion found in Tasmania.

I opened the door the other morning to find this little fella sitting on the door step.  Photographed with the Olympus EM-10, Olympus Zuiko 60mm f2.8 macro and the Olympus FL-600R (which I’m currently testing and I’ll be writing about it and the Olympus and m4/3 flash system). Exposure 1/30 s at f/8.0 at ISO 3200 aperture priority mode with -1 stop FEC. No animals and more importantly me, were hurt in the making of this photograph.

A Small Surprise

The Olympus 25mm f1.8 standard lens. Small but beautifully formed. Olympus even give you a lenshood!

The other day I was sitting at my desk just idly surfing the net when a courier van pulls up and leaves a small box. Once unwrapped it revealed an even smaller box containing  the Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 25mm f1.8 lens. Now for a long time I’ve always believed that every photographer should own a fastish standard lens. In fact I also believe that if should ever find yourself in the photographic doldrums then just committing to use a standard lens for a period of 12 months will see your photography improve no end. I had one for my OM film system (and still have and use it) and I have one for my Canon EOS digital kit, but a little while back I had a dalliance with film range finder cameras and I eschewed the fast 50mm in favour of a pancake 35mm moderate wide-angle. In fact I was so smitten with the focal length that when I adopted the m4/3 system the Olympus 17mm f2.8 pancake was a must have, and if I look through my Lightroom catalogue over half the picture I’ve taken with my Pen and OMD have been with that lens. So now I’m in possession of a fast standard again.

No obvious lens distortion.

My initial impressions are that although it has a plastic body it is well made, although not as well made as say the 60mm f2.8 macro. It continues with the clean modern lines that Olympus adopted with the launch of the EM-5 and it feels well-balanced on both my EP-2 and EM-10. The other small thing that makes feel very positive about the lens is that Olympus have finally stopped being tight and are including lens hoods. The hood is hard plastic and bayonets securely on to the lens after the front cosmetic rim of the lens has been removed. Nice – a good lens should have a lens hood to get the best out of it. After a couple of days of shooting stills out and about I found that the focal length took a little adjusting to, it is a bit narrow for my tastes, but I quickly adapted and started looking for subjects that would play into its strengths.

DOF comparison 1 Olympus Zuiko 25mm f1.8 lens wide open at f1.8
DOF comparison 2 Olympus Zuiko 25mm f1.8 lens at f8
DOF comparison 3 Olympus Zuiko 25mm f1.8 lens at f22

So optically how did it fare? Very well. There is no distortion worth talking about and although shooting wide open there is some slight chromatic aberration but this disappears very quickly and by f4 it is gone. Sharpness is good with the centre of the lens performing very well wide open with some softening towards the corners again things improve quickly as you stop down, but get down past f11 and things start to soften up again as diffraction rears its ugly head. Diffraction isn’t a fault of the lens it is a problem with the size of the sensor, and all sensor and film sizes suffer from it. The lens isn’t what I would call “clinically” sharp in the way a lot of modern lenses are, it renders nicely and has a nice fall off from sharp edges to the out of focus areas. I’m not by any means a bokeh slut but this lens does render out of focus specular highlights in a very pleasing way. It made me want to go out and look for images that would give me those velvety smooth transitions.

Decentering test on the Olympus 25mm f1.8 at f1.8.
Decentering test on the Olympus 25mm f1.8 at f5.6.
Beachside Bully Run. The autofocus is quick and accurate and was able to track my dog running erratically on the beach.

The lens focuses insanely quickly on the EM-10, which is as it should be on the latest generation of m4/3 cameras and is no slouch on my first generation EP-2. The worrier of DPReview now obsess over centring and on the micro four thirds forum the hysteria regarding the Olympus 25mm is something to behold. A few people there are expecting lens perfection from this lens and unfortunately no lens is perfect. Does the lens suffer excessively from being de-centred – well according my exhaustive testing of just one sample lens the answer is no. The lens is well within acceptable and I have seen much worse on lenses that cost ten times the amount this one does. My advice is that if you spend all day shooting pictures of brick walls and sheets of newspaper right way up and upside down then blow the resulting shots up to 3 or 400 % and then worry continually that you have a bad copy, or your rate of return rate of “faulty” products is so high that the customer service people know who is on the line just from the sound of your voice then you need a new hobby, therapy or both. Life is short, hobbies are supposed to bring enjoyment and fulfilment not create endless gear angst.

White flowers with bokeh balls. Dodges Ferry, Tasmania.
Tea Strainers
Banoffee pie Banjo’s Bakery, Hobart, Tasmania.
Liberal Party Hobart, Tasmania.
Coffee Lovers Hobart, Tasmania.
On location filming at the Bellerive Yacht Club with the Olympus EM-10 and 25mm f1.8 lens.

For video the lens is a very good choice. I shot the video clip below to test the lens’ resistance to flare, how it coped with continuous focus in video, close focusing and bokeh rendition.

Now there are some lenses which are so good that people buy into the system just to have a copy of that lens. Is the Olympus 25mm one of those? The short answer is no, but that is a disservice to this lens. It is a very capable performer and I think it should be given serious consideration by anyone who is already invested in the micro four thirds system. I really must say I was pleasantly surprised at how well the 25mm performed. It’s not the fastest lens, it’s not the most expensive, nor is it the cheapest. There are other m4/3 lens that are optically superlative and there are those whose performance is less than stellar to put it mildly. The Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 25mm f1.8 lens is a “Goldilocks” lens – just right.

Ouch! Don’t headbutt the buildings – it hurts.
Blowing in the Wind Bellerive Yacht Club, Tasmania.
The SS Kosciusko part of the facade of the Waterfront Hotel in Bellerive.
Looking out over the marina at Bellerive Yacht Club.
Stool Samples Hobart, Tasmania.

Small, but…

… beautifully formed.

 

Hare Orchid
Hare Orchid, also known as the Fringed Hare Orchid, (leporella fimbriata), Bickley, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM-10 with Olympus Zuiko m4/3 60mm f2.8 macro lens. 1/20th sec, f4.5 at ISO 200.

 

The hare orchid was about 7mm  or 028 of an inch wide. Now I’ve looked for this species before but it is quite difficult to find amongst the debris of the forest floor and its colour makes it blend in with the background. I had decided to visit a friend and near where he lives is a patch of scrub between two roads that is home to this species. I thought I would n’t find anything as the I hadn’t had any luck in finding one in the previous two years and I only had an hour to search the area. After 20 minutes of bush bashing, no paths, I found something quite unexpected. A colony of crinkle leafed bunny orchids.

 

Crinkle-leafed Bunny Orchid
Crinkle-leafed Bunny Orchid (Eriochilus dilatatus), Bickley, Western Australia. Olympus EM-10, OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens. Metz 44-AF1flash. Exposure 1/180 s at f/4.0 ISO 200 in manual mode.

 

So quite delighted with the find I get down at plant level with my camera and snap off a dozen or so shots trying different apertures and flash combinations. Mindful of the time I rolled over to put my stuff back in my bag where there in front of me was the hare orchid literally under my nose.

 

It certainly does.