Weird Combos for an Austin Summer Day. The Olympus EM-5 and an Ancient Olympus 150mm f4 Pen FT half frame lens.

Austin can be a really fun town when things slow down in the Summer. There is a whole series of Lakes around Austin including one which runs right through the center of downtown and is part of the Colorado River system. I'd just gotten a second Olympus OMD EM5 camera last week and in a fit of eccentricity I decided to put an ancient lens on the front of it and go out in the hottest part of the day for a walk. The lens is one I have written about before, it's the 150mm f4 made for the Olympus half frame film cameras from four or five decades ago. 

The lens is slender and compact and fabricated totally from metal. There is nothing particularly impressive about its exterior design or finish. I had done some test shooting with the lens back when I owned a Panasonic GH2 and an Olympus EP-2 and either my technique at the time was flawed or the lens and the sensors of the day did not play well together. It seemed at the time to be lower contrast than modern lenses and less sharp. I don't know what I expected when I took it out last week but life is full of surprises. 

Sprinkled through this post are an assortment of shots from the lens and the EM5. As I was out walking for fun I did not bring along a tripod so all of these shots are handheld. Most are shot either wide open or one stop down. Several are two stops down from wide open. I set the camera for "vivid" and shot on automatic in the "A" mode. 

It's rare that I shoot with longer lenses but I am a fan of compression so I guess I should try it more often and work on my proficiency. Lady Bird Lake (formerly "Town Lake") was a "target rich" environment for a person with an agile camera and long lens. There are some niggles to working with the lens but for the most part I find it to be a good performer. As I began my walk I had not yet figured out how to magnify the preview image for fine focusing. I finally realized I could apply that feature to a function button. After than my keepers (at least for sharp focus) went up. 

One benefit of Olympus's implementation of IBIS is the ability to stabilize the preview image which really helps when the field of view narrows down. I used the IBIS for every shot. 

The lens is actually pretty sharp but wide open and near wide open it does suffer from some magenta or purple fringing and a bit of chromatic aberration. Fortunately these are both easy to fix in Lightroom. The lens was a much better performer on the EM5 than in previous generations of cameras. I also used this lens recently for a dress rehearsal of Tommy at the Zach Theatre recently and it was there that I first realized that it really was a good (with caveats) lens. 

It crested 100 degrees on this shooting day so everything was pretty much shot around water. The image just above, with the beautiful, red canoe is underneath the old Lamar Boulevard bridge. After a longish paddle from the boat docks people use the shadow of the bridge to cool down and take a break. They also crawl up on the arching pillars and jump into the water. Spotters help the jumpers navigate so they don't end up hitting a paddle boarder or canoe-ist. 

Jumpers on the Lamar Blvd. Bridge.

Jumping from a rope spring in the tributary that runs from Barton Springs into Lady Bird Lake. 

In the spillway just under Barton Springs Pool. 

The ubiquitous phone. Under the Barton Springs Rd. Bridge.

There was a big crowd at the Barton Creek Spillway. 

It's interesting to be self-employed in the Summer in Austin. There is so much inertia to just give up on commerce and join in the three month long vacation that so many people seem to be on. I try to skirt work as much as possible by limiting my marketing and just accepting work that comes in "over the transom." At some point the cash flow slows down to a trickle and I realize that I live in an expensive town and then economic self-preservation kicks in and I get back to business. 

But a little part of me always imagines how wonderful it would be if I could spend the whole Summer just swimming, walking, napping and eating Frontera Fundido tacos at TacoDeli. All with a little camera over one shoulder.  

When I wake up happy from a Summer nap I always have the idea that work is over rated.


Anonymous said...

These shots are great! Lovely rendering from these lenses. It makes me wonder if the unintended consequence of optimising lenses for testing by websites has left us with optics which are flexible and precise but which lack any character.

While this means that we get lenses that are useful for a wide range of styles there is a bit of a 'clinical' feel to modern optics. My adapted Pentax lenses have limitations but also some great colours and 'nice' rendering.

I'm also wondering when we'll see a weathersealed 25mm lens (why Olympus didn't do this for their latest one I have no idea).

Eitherwhichway, it looks like you're having fun with the EM5 and that's coming through in the photos you're taking.


Anonymous said...

(Those 2 under the bridge shots are some of the best things I've seen on this blog)