Practice makes competent. Plus some Sunday observations.

I don't believe anything I read on the web or hear from other photographers about cameras. If I did I would be walking around with a Nikon D3 or a Canon 5dmk2 and some giant zoom lenses. Okay. That's a bit of hyperbole. There are a few people out there who are pretty good at making the right case for the right camera but we don't always see eye to eye because there are so many factors besides sharpness and noise to consider.

Most of my friends think I'm crazy for getting rid of all the Nikon, Kodak and Fuji stuff and moving back to the Olympus cameras. And given the parameters that they think are vital they might be right for them. But after my first full week with my Olympus stuff I'm more and more certain that I made the right choice for me. And here's the kicker: I didn't make my choices based on the great reviews given the e620 and e30 Olympus cameras. Didn't give that part much thought. The lenses were half of the decision making process but the other half was pure romance. I'd just never gotten over my largely illogical but sincere and quixotic attraction for the e1 cameras. The e1 with the battery attachment always fit my hand better than anything I'd ever used and the darn things worked.

I'd let my brain be swayed by logical arguments into turning against the e1's when the megapixel wars started to heat up. "The AA filter is too strong!" everyone said, "You'll never get any sharp detail with an e1!" Then, in true herd fashion all the photographers I know decided that the only way to shoot was in raw. It must be raw to be professional. And it was obvious that the buffer in the e1 was just too slow. Gotta have the speed. The next thing was the enormous amount of time it took for Olympus to get the next professional camera out onto the market. "They just can't compete in the professional section of the market!"

Well. I bought the e30 camera last week so I could give the art directors who care a real 12 megapixel file without any explanations. And I bought some cool lenses so I'd be ready for wide ranging jobs like the three or four annual reports we do each year. But I really did it so I could keep shooting my own stuff with the e1's.

When you buy a new system, or return to an old system, it's vital to go out and burn it in. Shoot two or three hundred shots a day until your mind and your hands remember where the controls are and just how far you can go before you start burning out detail or blocking up shadows. I think the eye-hand-mind-camera interface is important to your success as an image maker. Much more so than which camera or lens you use. When I took a class with Gary Winograd back at UT in the 1970's he suggested that we take our Leica rangefinders with us to the movies, to dinner and anywhere else we were headed and practice setting the controls without even looking at the camera. We got to know how many shutter detent clicks it took to go from 1/500th of a second o 1/15th of a second in the dark. Most of us could load a Leica in the dark. For many of us a Leica M3 or M2 was our only camera and we knew just by the sound what our shutter speed was set at.

So much of the auditory and tactile references have been obliterated by new camera design. How do you count detent clicks when changing the shutter speed is done with a button and a spinny dial? Sure you an see the display in the dark but the whole idea is to be able to set it without bringing the camera to your eye or into your subjects consciousness until the moment you need it.

I knew that I'd forgotten so much of the e1 feel so after lunch today I went total photo geek. It's 105(f) here today so I put on the Khaki shorts and my rugged walking sandals. I rummaged thru the closet to find my white Columbia shirt that's made out of the really thin fabric that blocks UV and wicks away sweat. And I grabbed my rickety old Panama hat that's been sat on by several different assistants. Drank a big glass of water and headed downtown.

Nothing much happens in downtown Austin in the middle of a Sunday afternoon in the dead of Summer. The street people were out but there wasn't anyone to panhandle from. They were heading to the shelters. Heading to the library. Heading for new shade. No tourist on the streets. A few insane natives sitting at the outdoor tables at some of the restaurants on 2nd street. Car fumes and reflected heat from acres of black top swirling around them. Desperately trying to read the paper with salt sweat burning their eyes......

And then there was me. Walking down the sidewalk with an Olympus e1 fitted with a 50mm f2 macro lens. This wasn't a "looking for adventure" type of afternoon excursion. It was a "dial it in" afternoon. How well does the spot meter track the actual exposure? Where does the sharpening work best? How wide an aperture can you shoot with and still get sharp images? How well does the auto white balance work? what tricks it?

The beauty of a simple camera with straightforward menu selections is that once you've set the parameters you've come to trust there's very little reason to fire up the "menu" switch again. The ISO, WB, Compensation, and meter settings are all accessible via dedicated buttons.

I found some rotating doors on an old government building that I'd never seen before. I might actually get some images for my "industrial decay" portfolios. I found a painted sign (Joseph's) that just saw the light of day after decades of seclusion behind another building. I think the file I've posted is perfect in all regards. I shot stuff inside an old parking garage at ISO 400 and I'll be damned if I can find the noise I'm supposed to be tripping over.

Here's my quicky assessment after four quality hours in the Texas sun: The 50mm Macro lens is really great. I'm building a small altar for it in my studio. I put the camera down an hour or so ago and I already miss it. I'm so pleased with the files. The camera, even with the battery attachment, has a demur and stealthy feel. Especially with the smaller lens. My experience today makes me wistful. Here's why. I think Olympus made the perfect digital camera and nobody "got it." When I tried to explain why I got rid of my D700 i fumbled around with the foibles of a value system in a culture that doesn't really believe that inanimate objects can contain energy and intention. I blurted out that I didn't like the D700 because it didn't have a soul. And I really believe it with the same intensity that Shinto priests believe that all of nature, the rocks and all, have spirit. The D700 is the ultimate camera for a technologist because it "measures" well and tests well, and for some people it performs well.
It always vexed me. The monitor was indifferent to my need for consistency. Change ambient light, change monitor rendering. The files were always technically perfect and lifeless. Which may say more about me than the camera.

The opposite is true for the e1 and in fact for the e system in general. There are so many technical "gotcha's". The screens on the back are small and low resolution. The files are "plagued" with a new malady called, "low per pixel sharpness!". And to most reviewers all but the latest Olympus cameras are saddled with more ugly noise than all the early heavy metal music pumped through giant speakers in the back of a teenager's car. But. But. These cameras have soul. They connect with your hand and your heart.

I'll understand if you don't think this is rational. It's certainly not measurable. But none the less it's how I view the whole deal. Do I wish that Olympus cameras had great flash performance like the Nikons? You bet. Do I wish they had the high ISO noise profile of the Canon full frame cameras? You bet. But they've got at least two things going in their favor: They have wonderful lenses (and very rational focal lengths). And they have soul, energy and spirit. ( I wonder if this is easier to explain in Japanese?)


I had coffee the other day with an old friend and he was talking about the Will Crockett, "Kill it and Bill it" philosophy. In a nutshell it goes something like this: With a good light meter, good work habits and well profiled cameras and assorted support gear you should be able to nail your images in Jpeg such that they need NO adjustment or post processing. No butt time. No layers and layers of adjustment and plug in massage.

I think he's right. Sure, if I was photographing the landing of Alien Beings in quickly changing light at Opray's wedding on assignment for National Geographic Magazine I'd probably hedge my bets and shoot in Raw. But for most of the stuff we shoot SHQ or highest quality Jpeg seems to be pretty fabulous. After hearing about this I've embraced it as a bit of a challenge and I'm getting a lot more careful about using and assessing my incident meter as well as shooting tests while tethered so I can have a much better idea of what the screen on the back of the camera is telling me as related to the image on the calibrated studio monitor. Even if I revert to shooting RAW I'd like to think that the practice will make the raw conversion process quicker and more effective. And even in raw lack of perfect exposure exacts a penalty. Always.

In a roundabout way I consider highest res Jpeg the "real" professional's format. Anyone can shoot sloppy raw and fix stuff. In a way it's like the old slide film versus negative film argument. The lab was the raw converter for the negative film. Interesting that the newest cameras give an unequalled amount of feedback, information and control and yet we feel constrained to hedge our bets even more. Where is the sense of challenge? Of mastery? Ultimately, where is the sense of control?

Finally, I've been reading a lot of books from my Publisher, Amherst Media. Most of the books I've read through lately are squarely aimed at portrait and wedding photographers. And when I first started going through them I was a bit dismissive about the information because we always saw ourselves as somehow more sophisticated if we shot advertising and corporate that the guys who did weddings and portraits. Fat chance. The one thing that comes thru loud and clear is the fact that there aren't any dilettantes in this group of writer/photographers. To their credit they see their business as a business and they have mastered the most important part. Not the purchasing and testing of new equipment. They've learned how to market and sell.

I learned something brilliant in nearly every copy I read. Cliff Hollenbeck's book was superb. It pays to read what other parts of our industry are doing. Just as many ASMP and other editorial photographers have discovered this decade: There's money in weddings and babies.

MARKETING NOTE: If you like the blog take a moment to check out my second book over on Amazon. I feel like it's the bastard stepchild. We named it, Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Studio Photography, because many of the lighting techniques were done in the studio or with studio lights. That's led a number of potential readers to bypass it because they don't have studios or they have perception that they'll need a studio to use the techniques. But, in fact, the theories and practicals are absolutely universal, and the book is full of good info about lighting in general. Maybe just go to the page and read the reviews......get your library to order a copy.

Finally, If you didn't find today's entry particularly scintillating or relevant, or you find it downright bizarre just remember I've spent most of the day walking around in the heat. The temperature may have addled my brain cells. Have a great week.


Matthew Kennedy said...

Makes sense to me, or maybe I too have been outside in the humid Arkansas heat to much. Great article.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy the heat, and the tranquility of summer in the city on a Sunday. I just got my 50mm a couple weeks ago and only shot one assignment with it so far. I am really impressed with it and look forward to the chance to just go out and play with it.

Lenzflair said...

Seems we have the same philosophy, you can't beat your own hands on. I have to agree that the E-1 has a certain special something the others don't. Unfortunately, it's become tired by today's standards, but it's still fun to shoot with for the sheer joy though.

I'm surprised you didn't take to the D700. I find my D300 as close to the E-1 as you can get by today's standards. It's a brilliant piece of electronics.

I don't think you're crazy; I "get it"

kirk tuck said...


I too loved the D300 and in retrospect should have just bought two of them instead of getting swept up in the D700 excitement. You are right, the D300 and the e1 are kindred spirits.

Michael said...

Excellent post! I completely agree about the "soul" ... it's why I still keep and use my E-10 and E-500 even though I primarily shoot with an E-3 these days.

Kurt Shoens said...

I'm sorry I was skeptical about your new kit a few blogs ago. You wrote about the advantages of film, then various other digital systems, then the high ISO perf of the D700, then hot lights, then the Olympus cameras. I mistook your broad interest for a search for a technical edge that would accelerate business. Since you already make great images, I thought business changes (e.g., marketing) would be more effective.

Years ago I heard a great talk from a Stanford professor entitled, "Research, Development, and Love" about the importance of the human connection with tools. Sadly that was a good 15 years ago and I can't remember the prof's name.

On the raw vs. jpeg thing, I know you're absolutely right. I don't think I've ever been able to rescue a file shot raw that I couldn't have handled in jpeg. Any file requiring heroic effort is probably garbage anyway.

Here's an experiment for a raw believer. Shoot raw, then convert to jpeg on your computer with the software that came with your camera. Use the jpegs and pretend you don't have the raw files. If you feel the need, go back and get a raw file for the exceptional cases. Keep track of how often it helps.

The last vestige of raw advantage is 16-bit depth per color. Better than 8bpc jpeg, right? I recently got a camera that claims 14-bits per color, so I've been lopping off the high order 8 bits per color to see what the remaining six bits look like. I'll have to write this up with examples and post it somewhere.

Kerry said...

The first thing that hit me about your great post was that the library was open on a Sunday! In the UK you are lucky if they bother to get off their butts and open on a weekday.

I always love your posts because you put so much into them, instead of the one liners that are on many blogs by photographers. You also covered a topic that I had been thinking about a lot of late: is there a camera that is actually capable of producing a decent photograph without masses of altering in software on the computer. The expensive software is promoted so much as completely essential to anyone who wants to get a decent shot and I was wondering what happened to the days of the camera taking the decent photo.

Keep posting!

shooter said...

As a newbie visitor to your site I have to say I'm impressed, the narrative is interesting and the image quality excellent. I have used the E1 and subsequently the e510, the quality of images I have recorded are outstanding. I to, like the idea of flying in the face of opinion, why no Nikon,Canon et al? There is a unique quality to the olympus images I have always loved, the lenses I used with the e510 were the standard kit lenses but they still performed superbly. I like you just love the system, it's refreshing to see a pro give a balanced view. I will definitely be popping back as you are bookmarked...
To see some of my work pop over to serialphotographer.co.uk most has been shot with the olympus although there are analogue shots as well as some with the ricoh gx100...



Poagao said...

Damn, now I'm thinking I should get an Olympus...but I shouldn't pay so much attention to things I read on the Internet...DOH!

Just kidding. I understand what you're saying. I loved my Canon 20D so much that when I got an opportunity to get what I saw as a 20D with a full frame sensor, the 5DII, I was very happy. To each his own. Cameras are like people in that some just seem to fit while others don't. Most people writing on the Internet seem to forget the subjective nature of this relationship and think in absolutes instead.

Mika_I said...

Your comments about raw really struck me - I've been thinking along these lines for some time. I'm relatively new to photography, only having bought my first DSLR six months ago (an E-520). At the time everyone seemed to be raving about how you have to shoot raw because it gives 'total control' over the image. I just didn't see the point - call me old-fashioned, but I always thought learning to do it right in the first place would always be preferable to sitting in front of a computer doing post processing - both in a productivity sense and in an image quality sense.

So I still shoot SHQ jpegs and have learnt a lot about getting exposure right.

strandedmike said...

I am a regular here, but this is the first time I'm posting. I totally 'get' the point about the E1 'fitting' better. Moreover, since Lenzflair and you both seem to find the D300 close enough, I'm a little surprised you found the D700 not likeable. It's probably because I have neither the D700 nor the E1, but a lowly D50 that I'm still trying to 'blindly' learn.

I'd be really interested in knowing why you felt that the D700 doesn't fit you while the E1 (or the D300) does. Try me... I'm not afraid of obscure language. :)

Timothy Gray said...

I know that feeling well, Kurt, of picking up a camera and having it just feel "right". It's a shame ergonomics is so often overlooked by the consumer, overly concerned with megapixels.

Wondering which of the two Olympus bodies you prefer, if you have a preference at this point? Both seem equally capable of producing high quality images.

kirk tuck said...

Tim, At this point (excluding the e1) I actually prefer to shoot with the older and cheaper 520. It fits my hands just right. The controls feel good and I don't have any gripes with the finder.

moresatisfyingphotos said...

I just recently discovered your work and your blog via a recommendation on Flickr. (In the Olympus E-system Community.) Although I take a different tack on the whole professional photography business model -- I prefer to teach photography for money and shoot only for pleasure -- I agree with you about feel. In my classes and through my associations with other photographers I handle a lot of different cameras. As a rule, I find many of them clumsy in my hands. My now five generations old E-500 just feels so good to me that I feel an irrational attachment to it. I know the settings, I know the controls, I know its limits. It has become a sort of old friend.

MyVintageCameras said...

Cameras are a very personal choice. Frankly I've never felt that Nikon was necessarily better than any other camera, and that includes the lenses. The real decision maker for me, was my experience with photomicrographs and comparing my results from different camera-microscope system. Making a microscope is a real test of lens quality. Hands down the Leitz-Leica system was best, but not affordable. Olympus was less expensive and better than Nikon. I'd have no problem believing the same about their cameras in general.

My husband bought a Nikon because it felt better in his large hands. One of my professional photographer friends switched to Olympus years ago. I'don't have a dog in this fight because I shoot medium format film, but If I needed to make a choice I'd go with what felt good in my hands, had the basic features that I wanted, and had optics (like Olympus) that I trust.

Robert Teague said...


One question about your new book. How much value will I, as a strictly film based photographer, get out of the book? I don't mean this question in any negative way at all. It seems like most photography books now ASSUME everyone shoots only digital. I've always enjoyed this type of photography, and would like to try it .... however, I want to use my Nikon F6.

kirk tuck said...

Robert, The second book, the one on studio lighting techniques, is largely digital/film neutral. In fact many examples in the book were done with film. The only assumption I make for people using digital is that they will be able to check their work on the LCD screen. I still shoot film but I cheat. Polaroid is expensive and hard to come by so I "preview" a lot of my MF film shots on a little point and shoot like the Canon G10.

The actual lighting techniques work regardless of the format or where you do them.

Lilianna said...

Kirk, excellent piece on your E1 and howyou connect to it!
I feel very much the same way about my e510 with the little 25mm Zuiko. The controls fall just right, the image qualities suit my needs perfectly.
Compact, light, and fast it makes a wonderful daily companion.

Bold Photography said...

Kirk - how's the soul of your new cameras? Is it too early to tell at this point?

I also think your studio lighting book is flash/continuous neutral as well - the setups can be used with either (provided you have a fire extinguisher for when the hot lights get too close to the $3 fabric....).

As far as raw/jpg, at least with Canon, I strongly prefer shooting in RAW - the in-camera JPGs, even at the highest quality settings, are of low quality, in my opinion. This comes from over 10,000 shots done in JPG, another 10k shots done with RAW+JPG, and the rest of the 110k clicks on my 40D have been done in RAW almost exclusively. I've seen this written by others, so I know I'm not *that* insane, but the in-camera JPGS from my Canon are just awful. Plus, I like having the digital 'positives'.

I've also read that the RAW converters for Olympus are worse than poo, so if you can get great JPGs out of them to begin with, that's great and it does save time in post.

That being said - I try to do as little as possible in the conversion - getting exposure and other elements right in camera really are very, very important.

Robert Teague said...

Thanks Kirk for the followup. I'll be looking for your book. I cheat a bit as well, I've got a D200 that I use for metering purposes.

Ron said...

"The files were always technically perfect and lifeless. Which may say more about me than the camera."

That comment has haunted me since I first read it a couple of days ago.

I really enjoy your descriptions of your journey back to the equipment you love. And I especially appreciate your willingness to speak the truth about what works for you, and what doesn't.

I have noticed that I am grabbing the fullframer much less and using the prosumer camera that I held onto a lot more. It's lighter, more familiar and a lot less overhead on the back end.

Keep sharing!

Anonymous said...

Great post Kirk! Love the notion about cameras having souls.

Ram said...

Good one on the E System. I would even say it is sort of an eye opener for people who buy the E system and later think it is inferior to the Nikons and Canons!

Anonymous said...

Very nice read, and I think you're spot on about the whole artistic soul of a camera compared to it's technical prowess. I bought my first dSLR this year itself & surprising almost all my friends, I selected a 4 yr old 7.5MP camera from the Four-Thirds system. I even went a step beyond the better know Olympus range & picked up the Panasonic Lumix L1.

Now I don't expect you to know what camera that is by name, it never got the sort of popularity I believe it deserves, but if you're an old Leica shooter then I would very much recommend you to look that camera up. I promise you, one look & you'll understand why I picked it up. The Leica lens, the rangefinder-ish body, the shutter speed dial (which you can hear click in the dark...) and the manual aperture rings... It truly is a one of a kind camera & feels better than a 5DMkII in my hands!

Congrats on reverting to Olympus, and I hope you find the E System enriching as you obviously once did.

Bootstrap said...

Thanks for the post.
As an E-1 owner (I have 3), I completely agree with you about the E-1 having Soul and posted, on DPReview, as much several months ago.
I do shoot 100% .ORFs but that's just a personal choice.

TomB said...

Kirk, my introduction to digital was the old Nikon 5700 later replaced by the 8800. I still believe that the 8800 was one of the finest cameras Nikon ever produced. Anyway when I chose to move to a dSLR my choices were the Nikon D300 or the Olympus E-3. I picked the E-3 primarily for the wonderfulo swing/tilt viewfinder I'd grown to love on the Nikons. I'm still convinced that it was/is the right camera for me. Yes the D300 may have marginally better high ISO noise performance but the E-3 is a phenomenal camera. It's good to hear someone else saying nice things about Olympus gear. :)


Harold said...

I found this a intriguing read since I'm a recent Olympus C-8080 owner and a believer that the photograph is no better than the photographer. Important for sure is how the camera feels and operates otherwise every shoot will be a fight. One thing that impresses me about the Oly is it's build quality, mine is like a tank.

Ultimately it comes down to whether you have the tool for the job and does that tool fit well in your hands. Of course companion to that is the ability to see a great image when you see it.

Although there are a few things that Olympus could improve in the area of dynamic range or faster recovery times; these are all things that are fixable and probably will be going forward.

Thanks for making me feel a little more secure in my choice. :-)

redskiesatnight said...

Good article, and connects with me.

There is such a herd mentality about the Canikon duopoly/RAW mantra/noise obsession that it is difficult to find any interesting blogs about PHOTOGRAPHY these days.

Good to see someone who is getting back to the joy found in the essence of it. Totally agree with all the points.

Kyle said...

lol, I'm still searching for the lost soul of my 6-years-ancient Olympus 3.2MP point-and-shoot C760... sigh, if I could have the same macro optics with a faster start-up and shoot-speed, and 'modern' megapixels, I'd think I was in Heaven... it was the camera that got me back into photography and I still think I took some of my best pics with it... just goes to show, sometimes "it's not all about the camera"... Currently, I'm dithering on the edge of the DSLR pools between Nikon and Olympus, so am loving your blog Kirk, great fun to read and technically very useful.

Joseph said...

I have read your article with great interest. I like the notion of objects having a soul. I've had two or three cars with a soul and the same is true for Olympus cameras (and probably for the E-1 more than any other, although I don't have the chance to own one). I have an E-500 and an E-30, I shoot JPEG too, never been convinced by the advantages of raw. What's nice in your article is that you bring through your pictures evidence of what you say. Regards, Joseph

Anonymous said...

Very nice read!

I can highly agree on the SOUL subject: after studying many tests, reviews and comments I ordered a Nikon D90 instead of a D300 because the image quality was said to be the same or even a little better. I tried it in the store and it felt ok. After receiving the D90 and handling it for 2 hours it just didn't feel right. I returned it and got a D300 instead which just feels great (weight could be a bit less though).

To a good extend I can also agree on the JPEG vs. RAW suggestion. However as an amateur I am just not good enough to get everything always right. So I shoot in RAW and convert everything with the standard settings and only change them for the images that "need" it - hopefully this number will shrink over the time :-)


Zoltan said...

I also have an E-1, which I refuse to part with. Honestly, some of the JPEGs out of the camera look so much like transparencies - I have not seen this from any other digital camera.

As to the supposedly strong AA filter and raw vs. JPG, when I need maximum resolution and minimum noise, I shoot raw and process with RSE. I have custom camera profile for the E-1, so I get the Olympus colours combined with maximum sharpness and detail. RSE's demosaicing algorithm and Detail Extraction slider really make the most out of the E-1's ORFs.

Keith said...

Great to see this endorsement for Olympus gear from a credible, credentialed pro. I completely agree with what you say about Oly gear having Soul. I LOVE my Olympus camera and I love the images I make with it. Tried Canon, and not only was I disappointed that it's images weren't as magnificent as the hype surrounding it, I just didn't enjoy the camera.

Godfrey DiGiorgi said...

Equipment so often gets in the way of Photography. The E-1 does not. It, and a rare few other cameras I've found over the years, simply does the job I want without distracting me.

The important thing is the photography. Good tools like this, that suit your psyche and hands, help you concentrate on that.

JP said...

Recently got the E-620, what a great camera that is - at least for me as an amateur - I love it. The 14-42, 40-150 and 70-300 are good enough lenses for me, and if I need a brighter lens I snap on the old OM 50mm 1.8 lens...

Loved the E-420 I got last year too, so small and easy to use and produces so nice pics. My son now has the E-420 and uses it well.

One camera I will never part with is the C-8080, a superb lense, superb picture quality and a superb build quality. Unfortunately a bit slow in some operations, but really has Soul. When you hold it, you immediately feel it...

I have always had Olympus as my favorite brand ever since my old OM-10 "analog" camera...

Marshall said...

On raw/jpg: Hasn't the equation on this changed somewhat thanks to programs like Lightroom that make management of raw files and batch/default application of certain settings so much easier and faster?

That said, I think there are difference between ACR processing and camera-native or OEM-software processing. Whether it's worth it, or possible, to recreate those differences in LR is a matter of personal preference, of course.

- Marshall

Stephen said...

As Zoltan said, RSE and a custom profile do wonders to E-1 raw files. Without a doubt, there is more detail in there than a JPG out of the camera ever has.

I've got a workflow with the long discontinued Rawshooter Premium all worked out, and part of the reason I've stuck with the E-1 is to stick with that workflow, tried and tested as it is.

I know that some newer cameras can have their files converted to DNG and still load up in Rawshooter, but I spent so long testing the conversion, and various plugins in Photoshop for enlarging and sharpening for specific print sizes with those 5 megapixel files, that I don't feel I have the time (or energy) to go through it all again.

I'll stick with the camera, and software workflow, that I know inside-out.

Anonymous said...

When I took a class with Gary Winograd back at UT in the 1970's

--->His name is Gary Winogrand

UncaMikey said...

Interesting post -- and I used to park in that garage. :-)

kirk tuck said...

We're both bad typers/spellers, it's actually GaRRy Winogrand.

Jerry (Boston, UK) said...

Great article and great shots. How much in-camera sharpening did you use? I use an E-1 to shoot mainly SHQ jpegs but have always had the sharpening turned right down to zero, assuming that the only 'correct' way to sharpen was later in Photoshop.

kirk tuck said...

Hey Jerry, I had the camera set to +3 on the sharpening. I really don't want to mess around a lot in Photoshop. I might shoot RAW or unsharpened Jpeg if it's an important job but I'm willing to risk it with my own stuff. So far I haven't been disappointed.

Jeff K. said...


Awesome to have you back in the Olympus Family,

I started with the E-1 when it was first introduced to the market, switched to Canon, because of the company that I was working for, and went back to the E-1 within 6 months because I wasnt happy with pic quality

Ernie said...

I pretty much did the same thing. Started with the Canon Digital Rebel which led to a Nikon D70. Nice cameras but could not compare the film like picture quality of the Oly 5060WZ. Got rid of all the Nikon stuff and settled for an Oly E520. I have the Sigma 18/50 F2.8, Sigma 10/20 F3.5, Oly 70/300, Oly 35 Macro and an Ex25 extention. Every day it's a joy using the Oly System, also traded my 5060 for a 8080. No regrets. Beautiful colors with the sensors.

Stephan said...

My E-1 is what brought me to Olympus. The talk about bad noise and megapixels is what took me to other cameras. The E-1 is lying here, unused, but so beautiful and perfect. It feels so good to hold.


Richard Lovison said...


I stumbled across your page from a link left at another site. Great blog!

I've been an Olympus user since 1974 when I bought my first OM1. I don't know if it had to do with "soul" though the system seemed right for me. One of the reasons I stayed with Olympus when eventually switching to digital was that I wasn't in a position to replace an entire lens line. I never regretted the E-1 purchase. The image and color quality, build quality and low weight were the main reasons I liked the system.

Currently I use the E-3 and have the same lenses as you except for the 50mm macro. The Vivitar Series 1 Flat Field Zoom is a substitute for it at the present - remember that lens? :) I also find myself using the 40-150mm the majority of my time when doing landscape photography and I'm also looking to purchase the 50-200mm.

Not sure I agree that the jpeg format is the "real" professional's format. Everyone's needs are different and what works for some doesn't necessarly work for others. In my case I shoot in RAW but I didn't choose this format so I can be sloppy and fix things in post processing. I agree, if the image is under or over exposed, post processing is not the answer. I just like the opportunity to take a critical look one more time at the images I've captured and make some adjustments. And it seems I can rarely get the WB exactly as I wish it to be using the auto or in-camera presets.

Anyhow, I've rambled enough. I'm glad I came across your site.

All the best,

Anonymous said...

Use what works, but don't go around saying JPEG is a pro format.
TIFF is pro. DNG is semi-pro. RAW is not pro, it is a middle format. If the finality of the immutable JPG thrills you, go for it. Don't go around saying your preference is the best just because it fits you. If a "pro" uses a lomo does that make lomo "pro" equipment? No, it just makes it that persons preference. The same effect could be achieved by shooting RAW in an expensive digi-SLR and post processing the file. This difference is workflow, a very personal thing. Good cameras have many options...

Andy Elliott said...


Great post! I have the E-3 and the E-1. When the new body comes out, I'll probably get it and trade in the E-3 but my E-1 will never be got rid of... Just too good! For those RAW shooters using ACR or LR who long for similar colours in their processed RAW files as the camera JPGs, I've made some profiles, see: http://fourthirds-user.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4132 , http://fourthirds-user.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4033 and http://fourthirds-user.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4135


kirk tuck said...

To the anonymous poster just above Andy's comment. I'm not sure you know what you're talking about. People use Jpegs professionally all the time. All the time. And not that many clients really care if you use raw or tiffs or Jpegs. But you are taking it too literally. The idea behind pushing the CONCEPT of shooting Jpeg is to push for greater focus on craft and less focus on fixing stuff in post.

My preference is always the best for me. If you don't like it you'll have to find the best for you. Good cameras have two options: Raw and Jpeg. What other options are you talking about?

Bronislaus Janulis said...

Nice images KT. And any body with "chops" knows the Art Sign points finer than any Winsor & Newton Series 7...oh, sorry....photo blog...my bad

Nice images, especially unburied ones.

Jerry (Boston, UK) said...

Hi Kirk,

I've just been reading though your earlier articles and found them extremely thought provoking, especially your views on the future of professional photography.

Over here in the UK the biggest and oldest established nationwide chain of magazine sellers (W.H. Smith) recently shut its store in my town. That was quite a shock and really made me rethink how I shoot. Everything I've done so far has been geared to magazine repro such as shooting in Adobe RGB, submitting files resized to A4 or A3 @ 300dpi and using little or no sharpening.

Maybe a change to shooting jpeg in sRGB to better suit web use and the low cost photo print suppliers who favour the sRGB colour space would be the better choice.

Which colour space do you have your Olympus cameras set to on those occasions when you shoot jpegs for clients, and does it depend on the final use, ie Adobe RGB for magazine/book repro or sRGB for web and commercial prints?

kirk tuck said...

Just a quick follow up to this blog. I've been working with all the cameras. Trying to get a tactile handle on what works and what doesn't. The files from the e30 look totally different from the other cameras. Not in a bad way, just different. The 520 that I bought as a back up to the e30 is my favorite camera in my hand. I'm not a huge person, I'm five foot eight inches tall. My hands aren't the size of catcher's mits. For me the 520 is the second most comfortable camera I've held, after the e1. That doesn't imply anything about the quality of the files......but that's another post.

Bertwin said...

Now that is funny! Two of my main reasons for buying an e410 were its small size and lack of a protruding grip. Why? I'm 6 ft 10 and have big hands, so I can't comfortably get my fingers round the grip of a d60 or 400d. The form factor of the e4x0 (and the new e620) allows me to hold it just like my old Canon a1. Oh, and I too never bothered with raw, did my basic settings in a weekend and never touched them since. I simply befriended my camera, take shots and enjoy them.

Pickwick said...

Great article! I love the 50mm f2 as well and it is probably my most used lens followed closely by the 11-22mm.

I completely agree with your comments regarding raw vs jpeg. A good friend of mine can do some great things with photoshop, but I can't bring myself to shoot only in RAW.

I prefer to spend time with the stills I take at the location, and I think this has made me a better photographer in the long run. I'm starting to shoot in Raw and jpeg, but I honestly I need fewer reasons to stare at a screen for hours on end.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kirk,

Loved your article and I have to completely agree. I too am about your size, and I bought a 510 over a year ago. It fits perfectly in my hand and is the perfect weight. I am constantly amazed at how loaded it is for being a less-expensive camera... truly a huge bang for the buck.

I too, was a professional for several years, and have also worked in two different camera stores. I have used them all, and owned most of them, and when I wasn't using medium-format, I loved my OM4-T. People make too much of having to have the biggest and "best." You could have a slew of 520s for the cost of one big Nikon or Canon.

I also agree with you about jpegs vs. raw. I've done a lot of testing with mine, and I have yet needed to go to my raw files to improve an image. The camera's processing engine does such a beautiful job of resolving the images into jpegs, that I just haven't needed raw.

But like you, having grown up in the film world, you learned to make the best image you could in your camera when you shot, as you couldn't change much later... except for some frantic pulling or pushing, and some burning and dodging, which usually didn't bail you out of an inferior image too well anyway!

I think all too many people miss the really great Olympus and Pentax cameras in falling for the marketing hype of the Nikons and Canons.

Keep up the good work!

David D. said...


Your jpg vs raw comments were just the nudge I needed This weekend's tests have convinced me that I don't need raw for 99% of my work. This was important for me as I have spent the last 4 weeks planning a DAM system based on IDimager. My editing and printing software are Lightzone and Qimage, respectively. Going to high res jpg's allows be to use the greatest benefit of Lightzone, the fact that the parametric edit instructions are buried in a jpg (filename_LZN.jpg) which is a full resolution rendering of the adjusted image. No worries about sidecar files and the the orignal JPG remains intact and untouched by the editing process. Since Qimage can print the edited LZN jpg without touching the original, I have the same result as shooting raw and using Lightroom etc. Also Lightzone's relight tools can do almost anything a raw edit tool can do and then some, like zone editing.

I think this works mainly because I am a Olympus user in my film days. When they announced the E420 with the 25mm/f2.8, I dumped my Pentax K10D and have never regretted it. In fact the 430 is so grafted to my hand, I took a pass on the E620 despite it's features....you are right feel does have it place.

Thanks for the stimulating discussion. PS I have no interest in Lightzone, but I do believe it is an underrated editing tool.


kirk tuck said...

David, the 25mm is calling my name. Should be a nice fit with the e520....thanks for the 411 on Lightzone. I'll take a look. Great to get replies.

Anonymous said...

Mr Tuck, you have just saved me allot of money! Being a novice and owning my E410 for just over a year now. I looked at a range of makes and models some did this, some did that, being a beginner and not understanding half of it I chose what felt right in my hands,after much practice have not been disappointed with the results. The next stage took me on a quest for knowledge. So, I have recently hired a photographer to teach me.
You have kindly provided me with the ammunition to defend my Oly, as the photographer who has been giving me a few lessons (without even testing the Oly himself) continually trashes it. Insisting I need to buy a Nikon D200 or D300 and their pro lenses if I am to have any true success – He proudly showed me his Nikon equipment which I viewed as large, heavy & cumbersome totally wrong for me as a female with a bad back. What puzzles me even more is that several exclamations of Wow very good photo has been known to slip out from him – how can this be when it has obviously been taken in his eyes by a piece of crap equipment? But, hey he knows what he is talking about so I should listen and take note.
If it wasn’t for stumbling across your article, a novice like myself with no experience could have been swayed by a Nikon freak to part with my Oly after saving up for Nikon equip that I don’t need, nor want. It is now obvious it’s not the Oly camera and lenses that I have invested in that needs changing – more a certain persons mentality.
Mr Tuck, thank you! I’m now also looking forward to investing in the E620.

Anonymous said...

I have an Olympus Question - am confused... this based on an E-620. When using the custom white balance setting, apparently it has no effect in RAW (right? I see no correlation.) I assume the CWB setting is only for jpegs - is this correct?

So what is the basis for the WB in RAW on this camera? When I open a RAW shot in Photoshop elements it gives the WB setting, and they vary.

Thanks for your help!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all this article reminds me. When I was in Vietnam all of us wanted Olympus cameras for their ruggedness. After years gone by I picked up a Digital SLR Oly E-500. It felt like home again!.The soul of a camera is so seldom spoken of. I upgraded a year ago to an E-510 and was pleased as all with it. I am staying "at home" with my Olympus cameras. They just feel right to me. Thanks again for your spirit within, Brent

kirk tuck said...

Just reading through this again and I'm so humbled by the number of people who logged in and posted comments. Thank you to everyone. Even the opinionated person who couldn't get his mind around the fact that professionals use Jpegs every day.....