7.02.2011

Another Olympus Weekend Downtown Experience. Old stuff is still the best.

So, I'm sure you know exactly what I mean when I talk about needing to get out with my camera and shoot on the weekends.  The work week can be such a drudge.  Clock in,  get to your desk and the first thing you know the asshole in the next cube starts talking about how micro four thirds sucks because you can't "get no good bokeh" and "you can only get you some good bokeh with them FF cameras" and you want to punch him in the face until you realize that you're a photographer and you don't work in an office and it was all a bad dream....  But seriously, after a week of shooting receptions and pointy-boot wearing Governors and healthcare executives it is nice to get out and shoot.

With all the hubbub about the new Olympus cameras I found my self in a consumer frenzy.  I just knew I wanted to get my hands on an EP-3 and that new 45mm 1.8 lens.  But then an unusual calmness came over me.  I sat on the floor and quietly meditated on my gear lust and then,  like a flash of lightning, I had a full fledged, new wave style epiphany!  I knew why that 45mm sounded so good.  It's because I have an even better version in my hands already.  Do you remember me talking about the old Pen F style, manual focus lenses I've been hording?  Well, there's one that I only take out of its special mahogany and gold case on special occasions.  It's the 40mm 1.4.  Yes.  two thirds of a stop faster than the new lens.  Why I'd be stepping backwards if I got the new gear.

I was so happy with this realization that I grabbed my EP2, broke the seal on the gold and mahogany box and put the 40 right onto the front of the camera and I ran into the house to announce to my wife and my dog and anyone else who would listen that I was heading downtown to shoot some cool stuff.  The dog licked herself.  My wife looked at me with that special look that said...."here we go again."

And with these positive affirmations I left on a photo adventure.  But I was sneaky.  I also brought along the 70mm f2.  Another lens that they already made and will probably make again if they are savvy enough....It's pretty awesome.

Now the first thing you've got to know is that these lenses don't auto focus and also that you are focusing and looking thru them and seeing the effects of whatever aperture you have set.  It's like having a built in, full time,  automatic depth of field button.  I think the fast lenses are pretty easy to focus but if you are a true focusing wimp you can punch the "info" button on the back of the camera until the green rectangle appears in the middle of the finder screen.  Push the center button in the middle of the control wheel and weeee, presto, you get 7X magnification for super easy and accurate focus.   

I liked this image because it's like the trick they do at the circus where they saw the pretty girl in half.  The EP-2 nailed the exposure.  The frame is as cluttered as my mind but what are you going to do?

As I strolled along in the 110 degree heat coming off the downtown blacktop I tried to find stuff that I wanted to shoot.  But I couldn't find the coffee house currently hosting the amazing goddesses that dot the Austin landscape.  I think everyone was inside, praying to the air conditioning gods today.....except for this one......

When I started out my afternoon I was a bit rusty with the Oly controls.  Too much time with those clearly laid out Canon menus....but in ten minutes or so I got the hang of it.  And then I started to find stuff I thought was funny or fun or weird.  Like the bicycle below.  Love the mirrored disco ball.  And the 40mm proved to be a good all around lens.


These people may have been visiting here from the surface of the planet Mercury (the part that faces the sun) but I just don't get the appeal of eating food outside on a brutally hot day.....right next to the street. I took a photo so I could make a little sign for my desk that would remind me not to be those people. New rule of thumb:  Outdoor dining should only occur in the temperature range of 48 to 82 degrees.  Unless you are at the beach.  That's the only exception.  You are paying for the air conditioning you might as well use it.  

Of course I'm not as sensible about dealing with the heat either.  I ducked into Cafe Medici just to grab a cappuccino so how crazy is that?  While I was photographing the cappuccino I started to get antsy to try the 70mm lens so I shot a few more images with the 40 and them pulled the 70mm out of my tiny bag.

One of the beautiful things about the EP2 is just how quiet and unobtrusive the sound of its shutter is.  I hope that they didn't "fix" that on the EP3....just to make the AF faster.  I mean afterall, if you buy the really cool Pen FT lenses you'll be spending your time manually focusing anyway.

This is image is the last one of the day done with the Zuiko Pen FT 40mm 1.4 lens.  It's not sharp enough wide open but by f2 it's pretty good.  By f2.8 it's excellent and by f4 it will give any of the new glass a good run for the money.  I hope you took my advice a couple of years ago and started snapping them up.

Dark, dark restroom.  The first shots of the day with the 70mm f2 which is sharp enough at f2 and just gets better and better.

People whine when I tell then to buy the VF-2 finder for their Pen cameras but I think they are babies.  It's part of the deal.  I couldn't imagine a real, grown up photographer using the screen on the back of the camera at arm's length. (unless the camera is on a tripod and you're shooting architecture or products.)  It's almost as stupid as using an iPhone for serious work.  

No.  It's not out of focus.  Look at the caps in the second row.  And isn't all the black space fun?

I don't think the line of Pens was introduced really to be "econo-cams" I think it was meant to continue where the half frame cameras of the 1970's left off.  And that was to provide shooters like the legendary Eugene Smith with a tool that was small, subtle,  and unassuming but which could deliver professional results.  One of the benefits of the original film Pens was the fact that a 36 exposure roll of film automatically became a 72 exposure rolls of film.  Less reloading.  Less time lost from concentrating on what's in front of the camera.  And, in a way, I think Olympus's idea of keeping the camera at 12 megapixels is an extension of that principle.  True that SD memory is dirt cheap these days but smaller file sizes also come in handy during the post processing stages.  And I don't think we're compromising quality to the degree that the forum-lurking-pixel-peeping IT boys squawk about.  If you work as a journalist or you just want to make 13 by 19 inch prints with your cameras you'll find that 12 megapixels is a sweet, sweet spot.  Better people than me were making incredible prints from the fine four megapixels in the Nikon D2h and wedding photographers were singing the praises of big-ass prints from the Canon original 1D (4 megapixels) just a few years ago.  Just ask Dennis Reggie.  His initial work the the 4 Meg 1D cameras made it okay for everyone else to jump into the pool.  Yeah, after twelve megs it's largely either high end advertising people who see and potentially want the difference, or your garden variety navel gazers who are quick to pontificate about what "the pros do!"  Which is all so much bullshit since most pros I know will use anything that works and tend to keep, and use, camera gear a lot longer than well healed amateurs.

That being said, the big argument against using micro four thirds (could they have picked a stupider name for a new standard???????) is that the sensor is too small.  And because the sensor is too small you can't do all kinds of depth of field effects with the cameras.  Like dropping the background out of focus.
But really.  You just need to the right lens and you just need to be standing in the right spot.

Here's a shot of the trees on 2nd street taken with the 70mm f2 lens.  This shot is at 2.8.  

Here's the same angle and position at f11.  Looks different to me.


On the way back to the car I thought I'd do one more of the flowers but this time I used the 70mm f2.  I seem to have gotten the background out of focus even though I was using an f-stop of somewhere between 2.8 and f4.  I also like the colors.........

Just another shot of Belinda because she dropped by the studio while I was playing with the camera.  I should get some model releases from her......just in case.

Don't fear the Pens.  Just because we used to use nothing but big complicated cameras doesn't mean the future is going to look like the past.  Everything changes.  And now, more than ever, the real issue is whether or not you showed up and shot.  Not what you shot with.  Except for iPhones.  That's silly.