This photograph of the Bob Bullock Museum was taken with a
Sony RX10, not the Olympus OMD EM-5 covered in this
Today's assignment was to go to a nearby city, to a business that refurbishes equipment associated with the production of semiconductors, and to make images of people working with computer controlled lathes, CNC mills, custom parts design and manufacture and a bit of old fashion machining. As I expected the working area was large, loud, productive and well illuminated by fluorescent light banks located up in the high ceiling but comprised of many different kinds and brands of fluorescent tubes.
The people were wonderful and to a tech geek like me the processes and resulting products were interesting and visually compelling. I tried my best to translate them to the intended audience by making sure my shots were well composed, interesting and technically proficient.
I arrived on site at 7 am in the morning, after a 42 minute drive through the pre-rush hour rush hour traffic and got right to work. The advertising agency involved had given me a shot list and I used it as a starting point. Once I covered their "must have" images I started to look for fun and interesting people, machines and details to make the project even more fun for me. I mean, I'm a guy who can get excited about a well implemented wiring harness so a building full of drill bits and grinders is like Disney Land.
For the first part of the day I used a Nikon D610. I had the D810 in the case but today I considered it nothing but back-up. There was no reason to shoot the larger raw files and, in any case, the D610 is a better available light file generator. I leaned heavily on the Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 lens ( amazingly sharp!!) along with the 85mm f1.8 G, the 60mm f2.8 macro, and the 24-85mm f3.5-4.5 G lens. I shot building exteriors with the 25-50mm f4 ais lens and I shot super wide shots of the manufacturing floor with the Rokinon 14mm f2.8. (I may not even correct for the curvature since the images look so cool...).
But after my first lunch ever at an In and Out Burger I came back and changed direction entirely. I'd done the list. Now I was out to over deliver and get creative. I stuck the Nikon stuff back into the Think Tank Airport Security case (original version) and grabbed the brand new, bright silver, Olympus EM-5.2 off the front seat of my car. I never intended to shoot with the power pixie camera, it wasn't part of the pre-production list but it looked so damn cute and competent at 6am this morning that it practically begged to come along for the ride today. You know, in case I saw something really cool on the way to the shoot or on the way back.
I didn't pack any paraphernalia to go along with the the second EM-5.2 body I've bought and paid for this week. I had the battery grip attached but no extra, extra batteries in my pocket and the only lens I had for the camera was the wonderful, Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 I've been using on the black EM-5.2 body this past week. Only that equipment and a 16 gigabyte SD card.
After having used the Nikon camera all morning I was immediately reminded of just how much more fun it is to use an EVF enabled photographic tool. I love the constant, instant, beautifully rendered feedback that EVF gives me. Before I even click the shutter button I am confident about the color and the exposure of the image I'm about to take. I was bolstered today with the knowledge that I can process the raw files in PhotoShop CC.
I used the camera on the side arm set-up of my Gitzo G2220 tripod so I could take photographs of clumps and piles and pyramids of tiny, fabricated parts from directly overhead.
When I write these columns there's generally one thing that jumps out at me during the course of a shooting session that I want to share. Today's take-away is the multi-shot, high res image feature of the camera. I figured that the parts weren't moving around (or at least they shouldn't be), the camera was on a secure tripod and my interest level was pretty high so I went for it instead of breaking out the heavy Nikon iron.
Setting the control is really easy. You go into the same menu area as the drive speed setting and the self-timer settings. At the very end of the list is a box with a bunch of small squares in it. That's the high-res mode. There are further sub-menus that allow one to set delays to the process if using electronic flash but today we were all LED and we didn't need no stinkin' delays. I looked at the perfect pre-chimped image and fired away.
At first I didn't get sharp results. I got a bit of double image but I know instantly it was because I was triggering the camera with my huge, shaky fingers and there is no provision to set a delay between the button push and the initiation of the eight shot process. I wish there was. But I quickly decided that it was a mechanical issue and that the only good resolution might be to download the dreaded wi-fi software. Which I did. And it worked. I could trigger the camera with my phone instead of physically touching it. From that point on every shot was perfectly rendered. But I will say that I hedged in one regard; I used the Jpeg setting instead of the raw setting because I knew for a fact that I could do conversions in the Adobe Raw Converter or in PhotoShop CC but I wasn't sure that extended to special features and I wanted to be able to deliver these images along with the normal images to my client.
Does the multi-shot function work? Yes. Very much so. The image are exceptionally sharp and the color is perfect. It's a really 40 megapixel file. And the Panasonic lens seems to be ready to bring it.
I didn't test it on the same targets with the Nikon D810 but I've shot enough with that camera to know that the Olympus files, in this shooting situation, were at least equal to the bigger camera, if not just a bit better.
The Panasonic lens did not prove to be a weak point in the equation. It focuses down to 25 cm ( which is about, what, ten inches?) and I was able to fill the frame with little piles of small, random parts. The images, with the lens stopped down to between f7.1 and f11 are detailed and sharp from edge to edge.
I was remembering shooting raw with the Sony R1 today. The buffer was TWO raw files. Once you hit the buffer (depending on which CF card you were using) the wait time to the next frame was about seven to ten seconds. Today the EM-5.2 would shoot all the eight impressions in about a second and then compile and blend them in another two seconds. The camera was ready to shoot again before I even started to review the files.
I am so happy with the two new Olympi. The black one is so Ninja-esque while the silver version is wonderfully machine-y. But the thing that delights (at least for me) is the blend of pre-chimp EVF capability with really nice through the finder images and the ability to carry a couple of these cameras along with my favorite lenses in one small back along with the assurance that, with the exception of the high-res mode, the tripod is not longer needed because the new image stabilization is magic.
Should you buy an Olympus EM5.2 ??? Only you can say but I will tell you that the camera feels great, the IS is astounding and the high-res mode actually works. Could anything be improved? Well, the movie mode could be less soft but on a high def (non 4K TV) television in the living room it looks just about as good as anything else. The pixel peeping part of video is that one is constantly seeing it on screens (computers) that outstrip our home TVs. Nothing ever really looks sharp when you judge it at over 100%.
I'm looking at the files right now on a 27 inch, hardware corrected monitor and the still images I took today in both the 40 meg and the 16 meg modes are both really nice. Both the color, the detail and the overall tonality. The Nikon stuff looks great too. It's just not as much fun to shoot.
I drove home happy with what I saw and what I learned. It's okay to have different cameras. Some are brute force and some are poetry.
on Another Note: I wrote earlier in the week that I had received the Samsung NX-1 camera for testing. I've been swamped on a corporate video project that's now going into its third week, along with random photographic jobs like the one I wrote about above. I was uncertain that I'd have time to do the exhaustive tests on the NX-1 I wanted to do. But in my mind the still cameras are all good and the real reason to own an NX-1 would be for its reputedly great, 4K video capabilities.
With that in mind I've lent the cameras to a good friend of mine who's spent the last twenty years shooting video for companies like Ralston-Purina, Motorola, Dell and AMD. He's a consummate pro and really wants to put the camera though its paces. Once he tortures the hell out of it I'll have some preliminary reports. I can already tell you that the still jpegs from the camera are good and the overall feel, the quality of the EVF, and the menus are really good. We'll stop there until we have more hands on experience.
on Another, another Note. After years of hearing my California friends gush about In and Out Burgers I have tried them and they come up wanting. If you are an Austinite and have had burgers at Hopdoddy's, Huts, P. Terry's, or even Sullivan's you've already had vastly superior hamburgers and in most cases better French fries. Try to explain to me what I obviously missed about their charms (other than price) and if you make a compelling argument I'll try to give them another shot but for right now they are not much more than a McDonald's with fresh lettuce, decent tomatoes and a better special sauce. If this is your high water mark for a burger you need to make it to Austin and go just about anywhere except a big chain for a burger. Really.
I haven't plugged it in a while but think about buying my Novel from the Kindle Books section of Amazon.com. The story is fun, the book is fun and it makes me feel good when people go from the VSL blog and plop down a whopping $5.99 for the experience. It may not be for everyone but it is aimed squarely at our brilliant demographic... Just read it.