Observations on the Olympus EM5-2 during a rainy day at #SXSW in Austin, Texas.

checklist: Read manual. Set function buttons. Go through the menu and customize. Attach battery grip. Attach Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 X lens. Go downtown and check out the street life at #SXSW.

A light mist was falling when I left my car over near the Treaty Oak just a block from the Whole Foods store at Sixth and Lamar. There was a Ziploc bag stuffed into my back pocket. I figured I'd use it if there was a downpour. The Olympus EM5/2 felt familiar. Hanging by your side it's easy to forget that you're not just towing around one of your older EM-5s. I was wearing a baggy, old sweatshirt and my left arm rested over my camera and lens, keeping them dry; for the most part.

Sixth Street was the place to be in Austin today. There were thousands of people walking up and down the closed off street. I concentrated on evaluating the focusing speed in S-AF along with the accuracy. Yeah. It's perfect. Don't worry about it. An hour into the walk and the light mist turned into a steady rain. Nobody ran for cover. It was 60+ degrees out. Nobody was going to freeze. The EM5/2 didn't stop working.

Pull the EM5/2 up to your eye with your finger already on the shutter button and the camera is ready for action. Let go of the button and then touch it again and you are in focus. Every shot gets pre-chimped so I can't really say that the camera is incredibly accurate or inaccurate when it comes to exposure but I sure didn't feel the need to ride the exposure comp button much. The camera was set to SF Jpeg and that's fine with me on this camera. No big changes needed in post to get where we need to go.

The street today was all about hip-hop. People were passing out CDs and posters. One young person tried to hand me a CD and I demurred. He looked me in the eye and said, "Hey man, take a chance. It's really good stuff. If you don't like it you can just throw it away. Give a listen." That worked for me and I took it gratefully. Played it one the way home and liked it. Getting too far into your comfort rut can rob you of stuff you might never even have known about.

I'd write a bunch of stuff about the camera but it would be boring. The camera just flat out worked exactly as an expensive, mature product should. It nailed focus and exposure and made files that I liked without much effort on my part. And yes, the Image Stabilization is everything Olympus says. It's epic. If you make a lot of money you should buy one of these cameras even if you have one of everything else. Fuck the attitude that you only do full frame or you only do Fuji or whatever. This is all about easy shooting and nailing it every time. Everyone needs at least one camera like that. Right?

Back to Sixth Street. All the bands come from all over the place and they are frantic to be in front someone; anyone. They've got signs and CDs and posters and push cards and all the stuff. They seem like photographers on the web, always so anxious to sell a workshop or an action or something. I guess it's the same in every field.

At one point I did a quick survey of cameras in the crowd. What are the young kids using? What's the egalitarian camera of choice? Yeah. It's a Canon Rebel. Not a Nikon. Not an M4:3 system and definitely not a Fuji. In two hours I saw hundreds of Canon Rebels and Canon 5D-somethings. The next most popular camera represented (not kidding!!!) was Leica digital rangefinders. M9s and M8.2s. Then me and my Olympus. Oh my God it's a Canon Rebel world....

This year there were no photographers hanging around the edges. The participants were also the photographers. Everyone carried. Everyone shot. And guess what? They mostly shot video. No old men with long zooms. Not even me. No guys with fishing vests. No guys with three cameras swinging around their necks. That's over. That's gone.

The crazy people? Not the musicians or the fans or the photographers? No, it was the Texans who came to protest the black helicopter alien crazy communist new world order socialist obama secret plan to take away all of "our" weapons. There was a small contingent of people, rallying around a flag that had an image of an AR-15 assault rifle on it and the legend, "Come and Take it!" emblazoned in white on a field of black. If you are a Glock carrying gun nut you have my sympathy because you might be crazy but don't post any gun-toter drivel on the blog. I guarantee I'll just moderate the crap out of it.

So here are ten boys, girls and grizzled old guys who look like they've been eating their stockpiled MREs for months, wearing the latest fashion rifles, in some cases complete with scopes, in a crowd of thousands in order to prove some insane political point.

I shot a few debates between sane people and the gun people. Then the rain really picked up and I walked the mile and a half back to my car and headed home. Whatever you need to know about how the Olympus OMD em-5/2 shoots normal images on the street is right here in the photographs. Coming up next will be a bunch of stuff about video. If you are a video hater you might want to read something else for a while... we're going to pound on the video here with this camera.

Hey! We re-instituted the full feed. RSS-iness Too many people complained. But I figured out another issue with the feeder readers, I now have no idea how many people actually read the blog on any given day because if they aren't coming to blogger to read it their numbers don't get counted. That makes me think my readership has done a hard plateau. Hope that's not true and I don't know how to work around that so I just give up. Read it here or read it there. Just read it. And remember to post a fricking comment from time to time. That way I'll at least know that there are some warm bodies clicking away at the keyboard. Sorry for all the display ads and links. We'll try to do something about that.... Many more images below....


Paul said...

You've got me half way convinced to get the EM5-2, although it's strictly want, not need.

I'd love to see a set of street portraits from your walks around town to compare to the more formal ones on your other site. I keep going back there over and over.

Seems like 'protest' overlaps with 'intimidation' but maybe that's just me. I have a hard time imagining that many of the hunters in Texas think those protests are a good idea.

Kirk Tuck said...

Perfectly happy with hunters. And I also have some soviet SS6 AA missiles mounted on the top of my house to defer black helicopters but I draw the line at bringing semi-automatic weapons to a music festival.

Kevin said...

Nice writing as usual.
We seem to be collecting the same cameras. It's more compact and confusing than the GH4, I think I'll have to disable that pesky HDR button as it gets hit to often coming out of the bag, but I kinda liked using it recently in Tobago.
The wake-up time is a bit slow too.
My D810 still has its place, the GR still makes nicer landscapes when the focal length is right, but this IS a nice camera for sure. I quite enjoyed using it with the Panasonic 45-150mm for casual birding too.

Ray M said...

Kirk said I should post so he knows I'm out here. OK, here goes.

KT sez: "don't post any gun-toter drivel on the blog. ..."

A church I used to attend opened a new building and had an Open House today and I attended. I talked with lots of good Christian people I didn't know from Adam and more than a few of them were concerned with the government taking their religious rights away. Sound familiar?

Some people are just paranoid and combative. Seriously folks, nobody really wants to take your guns away or take Christ out of Christmas. Relax.

Excellent photos and text, sir. Good job as usual.

Anonymous said...

I am loving my EM-5 II. Finally, a camera that is as good as I thought it would be.

Not sure if it is the 0 anti-shock setting or improved stabilization or sensor but I am so happy with the shots I am getting.

My EM-5's and Fuji will be staying in the closet for awhile.

PS Awesome post,Kirk. Goes well with your photos.

Anonymous said...

"No old men with long zooms. Not even me. No guys with fishing vests. No guys with three cameras swinging around their necks. That's over. That's gone."

From your lips to God's ears!

Anonymous said...

I'm a big music fan and would love to come over from the UK one year for this. Would definitely be alarmed by the guns though. We don't have that here.

As for the photos, they look great. The expressions on the 3 fellas debating with the gun guy is brilliant (the leather jacket pink sunglasses one).

Have shot olympus ooc jpegs for years now and love the way they render normal colour for faces etc naturally, but really make bright colours zing (quite noticeable in those last 3 images).

Also that shot up top is very nifty. Certainly captures the moment.

The one thing that's held me back from buying an omd? I want a great weathersealed normal prime to go with it. (couldn't they refresh one of the 25s, or the classic 20mm pancake?).

Anyway, thanks for the pictures.

Gary said...

My do all easy camera is my nikon v2 with a 10-100 lens - Hate it because it's good enough for everything I need so I can no longer rationalize owning the rest of my cameras as necessary -- just pleasurable (and that should be enough!)
Nice photos.
BTW, I live in Canada and the photos of the guns in the crowd is surreal.

Latitudes Staff said...


Every now and again there is a Kirk-post that rings through like the old ones used to a couple a years ago. You remember that period when you just got so burned out on the negie-comments. Something happened after that period that just kinda took the fire out of a lot of your posts-fatigue maybe?

Anyway, I'm out here, commenting and reading at the original VSL and my views should show up in the counter.

And I read and check the blog daily because every so often, the old Kirk rears his mighty head and lets lose. I may wait longer between posts for that to happen, but it's still well worth the wait--and maybe even more satisfying because of the wait.

Great post today.

John Driggers
Adelaide, South Australia

Anonymous said...

"This year there were no photographers hanging around the edges. The participants were also the photographers. Everyone carried. Everyone shot. And guess what? They mostly shot video. No old men with long zooms. Not even me. No guys with fishing vests. No guys with three cameras swinging around their necks. That's over. That's gone."

Maybe they're gone from SXSW, but the guys in fishing vests and multiple dSLRs are alive and well elsewhere.

To me that sounds like a sign of the natural cycle of events moving forward. SXSW has been co-opted a good while ago and apparently reached the point where the mainstream audience no longer cares about it, and the only people interested in it are the hipsters participating it. Hence mostly the crowd itself carrying cameras and shooting each other.

Like many other such happenings, the SXSW started a long time ago as an indie music festival or something similar, it grew in popularity among the indie music circles, then expanded, peaked, and then the slow but inevitable downhill started as it got co-opted by the flocks of geeks and hipsters, followed by the salespeople, and finally by the single agenda crazies. Which apparently happened this year.
Gradually the mainstream loses interest, the guys with the fishing vests disappear, and the people attending are mostly shooting each others. So far mostly with cameras, fortunately.

Perhaps there will be an equally big crowd next year, but usually the events themselves start losing their sex appeal way before the crowds disappear. Generally speaking.

If there was some bigger sea change behind the case of disappearing fishing vests, the most popular camera among the crowd wouldn't be a Canon Rebel, would it.
Well, that's my take of it, anyway.

Nick Davis said...

As a European, those pictures of people toting guns make me feel decidedly uncomfortable. At a music festival?! As ever very interesting post, Kirk and one of the reasons I recommend this blog to everyone I meet.

Michael Matthews said...

That's one grim-looking celebration. Thanks for the final shot. It restores hope.

William Beebe said...

I've never been to SXSW, but my daughter traveled there three times while she was attending FSU between 2007 to 2011 (when she graduated). She was a student worker at the Student Life Cinema (SLC) and they went to SXSW as a group to scope out movies to book. When she was there all she talked about were movies (obviously) and music. One year she told me that the hotel rooms were so over-booked that six of them stayed in one room. She got the couch. She thought it was all really cool (I would have too at her age).

She didn't start to complain about the dying for "the real reasons for SXSW" until 2011, but by then she was graduating in May, so it was a moot point with her. But she felt rather sad at all the changes...

Corwin Black said...

I wondered if I should post (as Im one of those gun crazy.. Europeans.. yea, some of us can have guns still, thank god).

To Nick Davis..

..given your country prohibited carrying any firearms (even longer knives) I understand why you are worried by seeing guns out in real world.

Also I would recommend to check your country crime rates before ban and after. You might encounter very nasty shock. Plus its not going to be better.

I understand that point of view (being disturbed by seeing guns) to certain degree, cause guns at music festival are just weird (it looks simply wrong I think).

I mean, one thing is concealed carry guns and another is flashing your assault rifle for pretty much no good reason. It makes gun owners look bad and stupid..

EM5-MK2 looks great tho. :) Nice thing for hunting without killing.

Anonymous said...


As for your concern regarding VSL readership through RSS feeds; it is still there even if you cannot get the count.
As long as the subject relates to photography I am on board, whereas I deliberately skip personal/family navel gazing - by any blogger.

milldave said...

I have read your blog almost since the very beginning but rarely comment, mainly because I like to be informed; I'm the guy sitting at the street cafe and watching the world go by.
We're of similar age, so I value your experience, skills and style of writing.
Together with Mike Johnston and a certain Mike Chisholm, you scratch the itch that has existed since the demise of the quality photo magazines that I avidly read from the 70's to the turn of the last century.
I, too, live in Canada, but having worked in many parts of the world,find that guns are nothing new (despite being a Brit).
What is more disturbing to me is the polarization of society worldwide, where there is no room for discussion and debate is not encouraged; you're either in or out!
Thanks for sharing so much with us, the readership is very lucky to have you and long may it be so.

Hugh said...

Bad manners bringing firearms to an event like that.

People with bad manners shouldn't be allowed weapons.

... and I had my first rifle at the age of four.

Eric said...

Another warm-bodied regular reader, letting you know I'm here (despite my RSS reader's best efforts).

Good images, excellent writing -- both, as per usual here. I hope you realize, though, that you were shooting with a camera and lens which each have good weather sealing (so, you could have just left the ziplock bag at home).

As for the gal toting the AK-47, though, she'll definitely have more rain issues than you. Meanwhile, I'll agree that SXSW is an odd place for a political statement along the lines of public carry of semi-auto rifles. One of the hazards of living in Austin, though, has to be that the surrounding state leaks in on occasion.

Alex said...

Fishing vests forever!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your insights! Enjoy reading your thoughts on your cameras and what's going on with you. Just another anonymous reader expressing his gratitude the blog you run.

Anonymous said...

We've got the gun nuts up here in Michigan....you can take a weapon into any building EXCEPT for the State Capital, where all of the nutty republicans live. The legislature is going to take care of a loop hole in the current law that allows guns to be a carried into schools by passing an amendment that bans such a act, but in turn, you will soon be able to take a CONCEALED weapon into any Michigan school. Crazy.

Mark Farrelly said...

Hi Kirk,

I receive your blog post every day in my email, I'm not even sure this you are going to receive this comment.
I'm a photographer of 22 yrs from Australia. I enjoy reading your blog although, I don't have time always to read all the whole thing, where do you find the time to write so much? i enjoy the real world camera reviews, and also the real world on the job situations of being a photographer, its nice to know that across the other side of the world you are experiencing similar situations being a pro photographer and how you deal with every day issues.
I'm not sure what the protest was about, but we don't have guns here in Australia, thats not totally true but the average person doesn't have one, we need to be a farmer or something like that, our gun controls a very strict. i would be shit scared to be around all those people with guns. I have travelled extensively, but never to USA, if thats how people are allowed to walk around, I'm not come either.
Thanks for your blog, I enjoy it.


Anonymous said...

Kirk, just to make your day our mayor of city of Toronto, Canada -(John Tory)has spent the last 4 days in Austin watching SXSW and he wants to import some of your music and ideas to Toronto for North by Northeast(NXNE) music festival here in June. It was that good!!!

I am your blog fan and an Olympus enthusiast (E-5 and E-M1 & small lens collection)

Mike Rosiak said...

I wonder if I've missed the best years of SXSW?

The Philadelphia Folk Festival scene can look equally as bizarre, plus I don't need to scrape up airfare to go there. It's a 20 minute country drive from my house.

Re traffic: I hit your blog a minimum of once a day. Don't always leave a comment, but I always leave informed. Yours, and TOP. I really like good writing, good thinking, and topics that are more people than cameras.

Anonymous said...

Enjoying the posts, Kirk, so count me as another - and continuing - blog reader. Curious as to what you will find regarding video rendering with the new Oly. I'll continue on with my Panasonics for now as they do terrific work for the projects I'm involved with.
Yeah, the ever-increasing intolerance and aggression of those wanting to impose their collective will on others is starting to scare the hell out of me. When gun toters feel it's necessary to invade - and are allowed - an otherwise peaceful gathering for the sake of making some dogmatic and twisted point, I fear the Republic has begun it's inevitable slide into the abyss.


Anonymous said...

Some really nice photos.
Regarding the guns, I first thought, are they real? - no, can't be - impossible. But they are apparently real! - that is really, really sick to bring weapons like that to a festival unless carried by security people.

Anonymous said...

"...where all of the nutty republicans live. The legislature is going to take care of a loop hole in the current law that allows..."

"I'm not sure what the protest was about..."

Ah, politics, of course.
What if that's what the nutty looking protest at SXSW was all about, after all. Plain and simple. Political intrigue to intimidate the voting public before the coming elections. A plot to make sure the other big party, in this case the democrats, will have a landslide win even in the red states. Hire a bunch of people to play the role of gun-toting nutters in a big crowd to inspire people to vote against 'those crazy republicans.'

That would kinda make sense, would it. It would make more sense than bringing an assault rifle into a crowded music and geek festival just to show off how 'badass' (and dumb) you are. It'll have the opposite effect on the audience, even if they were GOP voters, and that particular crowd mostly aren't.

Oh well, just another less than serious thought. Sometimes real life is even nuttier than any conspiracy theory or movie script. ;-)

Disclaimer: I'm neither a nutty republican nor an opinionated obamabot. :)

streetlevelphotography.com said...

So when are Apple going to start making automatic weapons?

thequietphotographer said...

I'm still regretting for not having bought that Olympus OM1 so many years ago (i went for a different system) ...never owned an olympus and still desiring to, even if not a need.
Shooting a lot of film but sometimes a small, light digital camera would be very useful.
Maybe this EM5-MK2 (an easier denomination was not possible, I guess) is the correct camera for my sporadic digital need...and for my desires :-)
PS. good pictures as always, and no, music together with guns is not for me :-)

Anonymous said...

If you carried guns like that in the streets in Canada you would be arrested for being a terrorist wanting to commit a crime. How can anyone properly debate anything when faced by someone who carries an automatic assault weapon. Who knows what they will do if you get into an argument. I would not point my camera at any of these people. They might think that you are pointing a gun at them. Looks like they want to intimidate more than anything else. Your police force seems to be outgunned by these protesters.

Craig said...


Another good post with some great photos.

As far as the Canon Rebels, not my cup 'o tea, but maybe our youth are avoiding the crushing consumer debt of their elders.

Today it seems like the big box stores and Amazon will sell us a Canon Rebel kit for less than I used to spend for a digital point & shoot six or seven years ago.

Craig C.

Eric Rose said...

Check in EVERY day. The read we are getting up here in Canuck land is that SXSW is in the midst of it's death rattle. No comments from me on guns or football as it seems American's have very strong opinions about both ;) I remember back in my newspaper days (1970's) having three SLRs around your neck was pretty standard stuff. The "vest" came later. I was doing some shooting (cameras that is) in Malaysia with a Blad. Had my 50mm, 150mm and 2 extra backs in my vest. Plus extra film, pens etc. etc. and a small flash in there too. When I got somewhere that I could rest for a bit it was nice to just take it off and know that if you had to move fast there was just one thing to grab. Beat the crap out of a camera bag. Some day I will have to tell you about dodging security forces at night in KL.

Anonymous said...

So smallish cameras are the trend these days. What about the AR-15 vs AK-47 for festival carry? Caliber of choice - capacity vs penetration? :)

Cliff R. said...

I like my Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 and Nikkor 85 1.8G on my Nikons but I sure wish they were stabilized like every lens on my dad's EM-1 (and EM-5 before that).

I wouldn't bring rifles to a music festival either but I like knowing the fact that in America you can legally and (hopefully) respectfully do so.

Anonymous said...

Too bad we don't have a well regulated way of keeping guns away from crazy people. And to the posters who probably agree with me, remember, the pictured folks probably vote in every election. Do you?

On the subject of the ubiquity of Rebels, they're not that bad and the battery lasts way longer than one subject to EVF drain does. Try an SL1 with the 24mm pancake, you might like it.

Anthony Bridges said...

Read your blog multiple times a week through a typical browser.

Recently went to NYC and tried my hand at street photography with my Fuji X100s. It can be a very sneaky, quiet camera. Not as fast focusing as my Canon 5D3 that I shoot events with. I missed some shots such as a blurry photo of an armored cop tank at a cardinal's funeral at St. Patrick Cathedral. Too paranoid to reshoot the photo at the moment. I would've photographed the gun protesters just as you did. Living in Dallas this is not too weird an occurrence.

Frank said...

I'm from Europe, and seeing those weapons on the street; carrying by civilians, this is so sick, not normal. And your president dares to say that the USA has to carry an example function to the rest of the world. Your US laws should be changed, we don't live in the 18th century no more. You Americans should be ashamed to live in such a violent country. Peace and love, man!

Laurent said...

Europeans often joke on the fact that we can easily buy a flame thrower in the US, but the import and sale of the "kinder surprises" (a chocolate egg with a little plastic toy inside) is forbidden because they are "dangerous" to the kids.

Great Post, as always!

Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Julie and I live in San Antonio. My husband is a "camera nut" and reads your blog.
You said you didn't want any "gun nuts" to comment, but I thought you would like to know the political purpose of the long gun carry protest, since there was much questioning and speculation from your readers.

Texas is one of only six states that prohibit the open carry of handguns, and there's a bill moving through the legislative session right now to change that so we can catch up to the rest of the states. Texas has relatively strict gun laws compared to Vermont, for example, and many other states.

Since it's illegal to carry handguns openly, they carry long guns in the rallies. The TX legislature only meets every other year, so these rallies have been going without incident since after the last legislative session.

The bill is very likely to pass, and then the long gun rallies will be over.

Thanks for letting me comment. I'm enjoying reading your other posts. I love seeing the great diversity of folks there on 6th street and the marketplace of ideas being exchanged. Even if I disagree with you I will always defend your right to free speech.

Charles "Rain" Black said...

Kirk, perhaps the absence of guys in vests and the long lenses was due to the weather? They may not be as confident in the weather sealing of their gear (if it has it) as you are with the EM52 and the Panny 12-35.

As a working music photographer I can say that it's becoming more problematic to cover any music event, much less something as large as SXSW. Too many restrictions are placed on the pro togs, and as you pointed out, all those people running around with Canon Rebels take a lot of photos which are used by the bands. Sure, they aren't as good as what the pros produce, but the musicians get them for free, or maybe in exchange for a CD or T-shirt.

It's an odd situation that musicians, who are very outspoken about not wanting to perform without due compensation, turn around and expect photographers to give them images pro bono. The result is fewer pros want to work something like SXSW, except the major acts, and shooting for clients for which they know they'll be paid decently.

I also suspect the real reason you bought the EM52 is to see how it performs with the old PEN lenses you like so much, right?

I applaud the fact that you present articles on the EM52 right after your reviews of the D810 and D610. It shows people that "real pros" use the tools that not only get the job done, but are enjoyable to use. That's one thing I have always liked about your blog: you include the enjoyment factor in your assessment of cameras, and aren't averse to pointing out that while one camera may be best for your commercial work, you pick up a different one when you decide to just head out and enjoy making photos.

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I may get a E-M5 MkII, but wish they came with the 12-40 as a kit. Once had the E-M5 and have been on the fence about the E-M1. Also a Fuji and Nikon shooter.

Btw, I'd rather be seen carrying some heavy Canon gear that any of the guns. It looks plain stupid...