Photographic Ennui.

 It's been one of those days. Promised checks that remain elusive, phone calls unanswered, plans in a state of uncertainty. There is a weight that comes upon you gradually as you move through the business of photography. It's the inertia of the boulder that keeps rolling down the mountain.

The real contest is to generate enough optimism and energy to wake up every day and push the boulder back up the mountain.

"The struggle itself [...] is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."  Albert Camus

From The Myth of Sisyphus  -Albert Camus.

Another blow to the survival of film...

I just saw a press release from FujiFilm that says they have decided to stop making movie film. They state that they will still make film for still photography. For now. I guess it was inevitable. Kodak and Fuji are not charities.


But if you are anxious to jump in and shoot till the very last roll is gone you might be interested in this:


Olympus Announce a new Pen, A new Compact and several new lenses. It's official.

Let's start out with the camera that many, many frugal yet demanding Olympus fans have been waiting for since the introduction of the OMD EM-5, the PEN version.

The Olympus EPL-5

All of the information in this particular blog comes directly from a press release issued by Olympus USA.  All images and information are used with the permission of Olympus.

Let's cut right to the chase: The new Olympus Pen OMD EPL-5 uses exactly same sensor and is said to deliver exactly the same image quality as the recent, blockbuster OMD EM5 camera. That alone should drive sales of this camera like nothing else. The maximum ISO setting is an amazing 25,600. Most of us will be quite happy to shoot at 3200 ISO and get the kind of low noise performance we've seen in the flagship model. To focus at the scary edges of darkness the camera is bundled with an AF illuminator and accessory FL-LM1 flash, which will add to the low light performance.

This camera has a few other cool upgrades in addition to the sensor performance. Of course it uses a touch screen and the same instantaneous shutter triggering Touch AF Shutter function technology we've already seen. At to this a more than 2X increase in frame rate of 8fps in Single AF mode.  The screen on the back is a 460,000 dot LCD and has an Anti-Fingerprint coating. According to the press release the screen is bright enough to allow composing even in harsh, midday light. (I wonder if the light in a Texas Summer counts...).

The camera allows for shooting in 1080i, full HD and includes two cool things. 1. A movie teleconverter that magnifies the image up to 4x with NO image deterioration (make sense since the actual sensor is 8X the number of dots one ends up with in 2K video).  And, 2. There is a fade effect that allows one to transition between art filters without having to stop or pause shooting.

There's some nonsense about being able to share images on your (anti) social networks wirelessly but I ignored most of that paragraph since the concept is only of interest to died in the wool hipsters...

The estimated street price is $650 and the folks at Olympus indicated that the camera will start shipping in October.  Check over at DPReview for a complete page of specifications.

My short list of specs is:

-16 megapixel super sensor, ala OMD EM5. Very, very cool.
-Improved video functionality.
-very fast 8 fps performance in S-AF
-Fast action touch shutter on the touch screen.
-Usable with the (almost mandatory) VF-2 EVF

Available, I'm sure, in all the usual colors.

If you were mostly interested in the OMD EM-5 for the low light performance and better dynamic range of its breakthrough Sony sensor here's a way to get exactly the same performance for about half the price----and in a form factor that people seem to like very well.

click on any of these to enlarge.


Olympus also upgraded their mini Pen camera. The new offering is small, cute and potent. They are calling it the Olympus PEN E-PM2.

Pen E-PM2

I'm not going to go into too much detail about this camera since I think the majority of my readers are interested in cameras that are aimed more at hobbyists and professionals but this one also has the Promethean sensor of the micro gods; the OMD EM5 sensor and, according to Olympus has the exact same image quality of its bigger and more expensive brethren. Not only that but it's also the only one available in this delightful red...  A you a real image quality purist? Not a camera snob? Maybe this one is for you....

But wait, there's more...

It wouldn't be a full on product introduction without another camera introduction. The designers in the compact camera bullpen at Olympus have repackaged and upgraded the Stylus XZ-1 and unveiled a new product called, the Stylus XZ-2 iHS which they say, "Takes the compact camera category to the E-Treme."  Right.

I could discuss this camera at length but it would be easier and more comprehensive if I just went ahead and copied the existing press release...

CENTER VALLEY, Pa., September 17, 2012Olympus pushes the compact digital camera to a new X-treme with the introduction of the Olympus STYLUS XZ-2, its game-changing, flagship high-performance point-and-shoot. The STYLUS XZ-2 is a hybrid that combines optical brilliance, the manual controls of a DSLR and the unbeatable convenience of a lightweight compact in a body every imaging enthusiast should love. Inheriting the 4x optical / 4x Digital zoom iZUIKO® DIGITAL f1.8-2.5 large-diameter lens found on its predecessor, the award-winning Olympus XZ-1®, the Olympus STYLUS XZ-2 builds on its low-light performance with new features: the world's first hybrid control ring, customizing controls so ambitious photographers easily capture the shot; a new fast, touch-sensitive tilt screen; the powerful TruePic VI image processor; Full HD movie recording and FlashAir® compatibility to share images immediately on social networks.

The digital lens of the Olympus XZ-2 (iZUIKO f1.8-2.5 (28-112mm*), a 4x compact version of legendary ZUIKO Digital lenses, is designed for clear, high-quality photographic performance, whether set at its maximum f1.8 aperture for amazing wide-angle shots, or at f2.5 for 112mm* telephoto images. The result is expressive background defocusing and sophisticated bokeh, plus the flexibility to use short, blur-free exposure times in low light. The camera’s iHS technology and the large-aperture lens work together to deliver high-sensitivity, low noise and blazing auto-focus performance that translates to the highest image quality of any Olympus compact camera.

The newly developed 12.0 megapixel, 1/1.7" high-sensitivity back-lit CMOS sensor, working with the TruePic VI processor, the same processor used in the Olympus OM-D E-M5™ system camera, provides faster recovery time and shutter release to capture images with true-to-life colors, rich details and low noise. To complement the speed of the f1.8 lens, the camera’s low-light mode automatically adjusts the ISO sensitivity up to ISO 12,800 to take sharp, full-resolution photos in dim conditions, and an easily accessible built-in pop-up flash and AF illuminator brightens low-lit subjects, reduces red-eye and fills in dark areas.

The Olympus XZ-2 is equipped with the world's first hybrid control ring, built around the lens, which allows users to easily assign function settings to their preferences as well as switch between analog and digital operation of the ring. The digital operation provides a solid click on controls, whereas the analog operation offers a smooth, gliding feeling. When the Fn 2 lever next to the lens is placed downward, the ring around the lens switches to analog control so it can be used as a focus or a zoom ring. If the lever is placed at an angle, the ring around the lens switches to digital control to change exposure-related settings quickly and easily. This feature enables fine-tuning of the focus in macro, composition selection when shooting, and exposure adjustment all without looking away from subjects.

Basic operations and settings of the Olympus XZ-2, starting with touch controls and Live Guide, as well as a new graphic user interface will be familiar to Olympus PEN® and OM-D shooters. Instantly activate the Touch AF Shutter function to select the subject you want to focus on and activate the shutter simply by touching the swivel 3.0 inch, 920,000 dot LCD screen. The XZ-2 design is enhanced with a removable grip that offers the option for a sleek style grip, and metal is used throughout the body for a strong and sharp look.

The Olympus STYLUS XZ-2 is packed with additional technologies including DUAL IS, which combines with high-sensitivity shooting to reduce camera shake and subject blur, providing double image stabilization. HDR backlit correction captures multiple images with a single shot at different exposures and automatically merges them into one image, and Super Resolution technology expands zoom power up to eight times with minimal image degradation. iAuto mode automatically identifies up to 30 different scenes. The XZ-2 also features 11 Art Filters and 5 Art Effects that easily bring artistic visions to life.

In addition to superior still image quality, the 1080p Full HD Movie capability with stereo sound captures movies in the best quality currently available in compact cameras. Multi-Motion Movie IS image stabilization corrects for the common gradual camera shake that occurs when shooting on the move, delivering more stable, higher-quality movies. Beautiful movies can be shot even longer with a 1920 x 1080 High-Definition size and MOV/H.264 movie compression that has an excellent compatibility with computers.
The Olympus XZ-2 is also designed to make sharing your amazing images even easier. Using the smartphone connection function, simply set up a compatible Toshiba FlashAir SDHC card with an internal wireless LAN to make a Wi-Fi connection. With the Olympus Image Share smartphone application (to be released in September), easy image upload onto a smartphone via a thumbnail index, adding Art Filters to images on a smartphone, and sharing images on various social networking services is possible.

A wide range of creative and practical accessories is available to adapt the Olympus XZ-2 for specific needs, including three alternative grips in a variety of colors (red, beige and purple), a body jacket and underwater housing. There’s also a sleek, matching black LC-63A lens cap that opens and closes automatically whenever you activate the camera. To expand the camera’s versatility, the XZ-2 includes an accessory port for compatibility with a growing range of Micro Four Thirds® accessories.

*35mm equivalent.

I am so happy they added a grip to this camera as it the thin body is different enough to me to confuse my fingers when I first started using the XZ-1...

I'm sure you're exhausted by this point but we haven't even touched on the new lenses.  Yes, new lenses!

Going through by increasing focal length, there are some interesting new lenses for the Olympus Pen (and all other m4:3 standard) cameras. First off is just a cosmetic change. You can now get the very well respected 12mm f2.0 wide angle lens in......black. You'll pay more money for the privilege. The estimated street price is $1100. And while it's a very good lens that puts it into the same pricing territory as Panasonic's very, very good 7-14mm zoom lens.  But then again, I guess a large part of the fun is in the selection process.  Moving on....

The "Body Cap."

Olympus is calling this one "the Body Cap" and I think it's fun and intriguing. It's a 15mm, three element, f8 lens (30mm eq. on 35mm FF). The actual designation is the BCL-15 f8.0 Body Cap Lens.  The lens is just 9mm thick and it's meant to be left on the body whenever you're just tooling around or when you've got the camera stuffed inside of some pocket or a boot or a sock.

It's basically a lens that's always in focus due to it's small aperture and short focal length. It actually seems like a perfect snapshot lens.  It can be manually focused and will focus down to 30cm's.  "A lens-protection barrier is provided  so the lens can be mounted permanently on the camera and even put in a pocket together with a camera."  No street price was given in the press release but it's sure to become a cult favorite among Lomo-ists who secretly crave a camera with more control and an infinitely better sensor...... See below for a camera mounted view of the lens.

Camera with "Body Cap."

Now here's a serious and covetable lens. The 17mm f 1.8.

But here's a lust prevention warning: The above lens is "in development" and will be available in the first half of 2013. Bummer. This is the lens that everyone I know wants right now.

When it hits the market it will be the 35mm 1.8 equivalent to get. This len on an EPL-5 camera body will be a wonderful street shooting combo, as long as they have the brains to also make it available in a nice, black finish.....

Personally? All lenses should be black. A VSL study shows that images from black lenses are 0.3275 more interesting than images from all other lens finishes.

And Finally.  The last of the Olympus introductions for Now....

Yes. It's a 60 mm f2.8 true macro. 
It's dust proof and splash proof. 
And knowing Olympus it's really, really sharp.

Since I haven't played with it anything I say about it would be total conjecture. I like using my older 60mm on the Pen cameras. It's a nice focal length. While not nearly as fast as the original Pen 60mm 1.5 I am sure this macro will be decades sharper.  We'll see. I'm sure I'll have one to test as soon as they come out.  In the meantime here's what Olympus says about it in their press release:

"""CENTER VALLEY, Pa., September 17, 2012 – Today, Olympus adds to the Micro Four Thirds family of  lenses with the release of the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm* f2.8 Macro lens, a single focal-length macro lens with a dust-splash-proof body that’s ideal for harsh weather conditions. Also joining the expansive list of Olympus® lenses is a limited edition black version of the popular M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12mm f2.0 high-grade snapshot lens and an M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f1.8 high-grade lens currently under development.

The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm f2.8 lens features excellent close-up capability with 1X** magnification and a focusing distance of 19cm. Its dust-and-splash-proof construction enables the user to shoot macro images in a wide range of conditions, including in the rain or near the water, in addition to traditional landscape and portrait photography.

To ensure the best possible imaging quality, 13 lens elements are incorporated in 10 groups of lenses within the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm f2.8 with extensive use of special glass materials such as ED (Extra-low Dispersion), HR (High Refractive index) and E-HR (Extra-High Refractive index) elements to completely eliminate the chromatic aberrations often noticeable with telephoto macro lenses. This optical design ensures consistently clear, sharp, high-contrast imaging performance.

Ideal for capturing brilliant still images and high-definition (HD) videos, the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm f2.8 employs an Olympus developed MSC (Movie & Still Compatible) autofocusing mechanism that features an inner focus system to drive quick and quiet focusing. A shooting distance and magnification indicator window enhance macro shooting control and precision.

A focus limit switch sets the focusing range to enable faster focusing. Three modes are available, including close-up (focusing distance between 19 and 40 cm), normal (focusing distance from 19 cm to infinity) and far view (focusing distance from 40 cm to infinity). The 1:1 mode shifts focusing to 1:1 with one-touch operation. Simply setting the mode according to the application makes it easy for users to shoot quickly and comfortably with various shooting styles and at a range of distances.

The optional LH-49 Lens Hood designed exclusively for the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm f2.8 blocks harmful rays of light and can be safely stored without detaching it from the lens. The lens eliminates the hassle of attaching and detaching the hood before and after every shooting session, but also providing effective protection for the lens body. The FR-2 Macro Ring enables compatibility with the RF-11 Ring Flash and the STF-22 Twin Flash Set."""

kirk's final notes.

I think Olympus will have great market success with the EPL-5. What's not to like about it? Fast, amazing image quality, small and light, usable with a mountain of lenses and who can forget those amazing colors in the jpegs?

The 60 macro will end up in just about every OMD EM5 user's bag since it's most probably going to be a great optic and it is one of the few weather resistant lenses in the line.

I hope the Body Cap Lens is cheap enough to be an impulse purchase and I'm sure someone will create a style around the look. If it's priced over $125 I'll be amazed...and amused.  Even more so if people flock to buy it.

Looks like a well done introduction. Now all we have left is to sit back and wait for the ultra-professional Pen body, the EP-5 to hit the market.  The right form factor and this time with the right sensor. When they've done that Olympus will have maximized the value of the m4:3 proposition. Well done.