Sunday, 30 October 2022

First Real Outing with the OM-1


OM-1, 12-40 f2.8 Pro mkII

First off, I didn’t realize that I actually bought my OM-1 on OM System Day, OMDS’s apparently annual celebration of the OM System on October 27th. Just a neat coincidence.

One of the things that made me seriously reconsider sticking with Sony was Nick Page’s recent musings about his experience with his A7RIV’s robustness in difficult conditions, as well as quality of life items. He’s currently testing out an EOS R5 system as his A7RIV is pretty much dead from sealing-related failures and he doesn’t see a major upgrade on this aspect for the A7RV. Given I never quite trusted the Sony body in this aspect, I tend to agree with him here and I also wonder if in the back of my mind a lack of trust in the robustness of the body was been an inhibitor for me in getting out more with the A7RIV. Nick noted that for all the pre-release content for the A7RV, there was a serious lack of Landscape shooters involved in the launch and postulated that this group had increasingly left the A7R series behind because of a lack of robustness in the field.

Getting back to my actual shooting, I shot around 350 shots yesterday with the OM-1, all over Eastern Ontario. Got both a sunrise and sunset, I do like fall and winter for making that practical without noon naps. Sunrise was in Cobourg and Sunset near Portland, ON on Big Rideau Lake. The shot above was on Highway 2A east of Cobourg as I made my way towards the Bay of Quinte and the Loyalist Parkway. 

I tested out LiveND mode, got High-Res (regular, not Hand-Held), HDR and AE bracketing all sorted the way I wanted and just played with the camera a fair bit. Overall the first impressions were decidedly positive, with minimal fighting of the camera once I figured out that LiveND mode required the camera to be set to M mode (in true Olympus fashion, it told me clearly I was in the wrong Shooting Mode, but skipped the ‘set to M mode’ info I needed). I do wish that bracketing modes could stack with computational modes though, especially High-Res, as I do want to bracket those when possible.

LiveND works very well on a tripod, but is not really a handheld mode right now unless you have a 12-100IS, because you NEED SyncIS to be able to viably handhold these exposures. The IBIS is really good on the OM-1, but it’s not ‘reliable 2S exposure’ good without SyncIS. Note SyncIS is the linked IBIS+Lens IS mode available on mostOlympus IS lenses (pretty much any Oly/OMDS IS lens except the 100-400), however there’s only one wider lens with IS, the 12-100, all the others currently are long telephotos. The other thing I found with LiveND is the results don’t HDR stack well, although I suspect that’s a Lightroom limitation more than anything else, it’s not handling in-frame blur well.

The other modes worked as expected. I was happy to figure out that AE bracketing was burst by default (what I prefer), which makes bracketing wildly easier than on the A7RIV. Push a button, get the burst. Hold down the button to change settings. That beats the already good Sony experience of selecting a drive mode (from the approximately 672 drive modes available, on Sony practically everything is a drive mode), drilling down if you want to change the settings, then confirming and shooting. The Sony experience is better than it sounds, the OM-1 is literally press a button and shoot, allowing me to switch back and forth instantly. I had no idea life could be this good (I don’t think that was possibly on my older bodies, aside from maybe the E-M1.2 which I had only briefly). The E-M5.2 let me select HDR this way, but not AE IIRC, although I could just have never figured it out.

I’ve actually assigned specific buttons to each of the 4 main functions I use (AE bracketing, HDR, High-Res and LiveND). Two are on the front (HDR and LiveND) and two on the top (AE Bracketing on the +/- button, as I put Exposure Comp on a dial for AE modes, HR on the Movie button which I essentially never use). 

The much hyped Menu update both is and isn’t a big deal. It’s cleaner for sure and super easy to navigate, but the excessive use of obtuse iconography to reduce the need to localize, the often lousy descriptions and the lack of any real touch integration all rankle a bit. I haven’t found the 1 fish/3 fish setting yet…. It’s pretty, but some language improvements and adding real touch integration would be nice. On the flip side the command dials are really well integrated, which makes using the menu extremely fast once you figure out that the front dial pages though categories and the back dial between tabs in each category.

Otherwise I really do like the camera overall. I would have swapped Delete/Play and Menu/Monitor though, the left side of the body is over-supplied with buttons that I’d like the option of triggering one-handed. 

Card performance is excellent, I was never waiting unlike on the A7RIV, although file sizes are also about 1/4 of the A7RIV sizes which simplifies things and makes my high-end UHS-1 cards more viable and largely eliminates the need for UHS-II cards unless you are shooting high-end video or action/wildlife. There probably will be a 128GB UHS-II V90 card in my future at some point though, just to make 4K video and 50fps continuous modes viable.

The OM-1 EVF is remarkably better than the A7RIV, despite the specs being almost identical. Chalk that up to Sony’s generally poor EVF implementations, they almost always end up with the worst results from a given panel. However it’s not blackout free unless you are using the high-speed drive modes (20+fps), even with electronic shutter enabled there’s blackout at low drive speeds.

Other little things: The grip is a nicer shape than the A7RIV, I still prefer the left-side lens release of Nikon/Canon/m43 over the right lower release of E, X and K mounts. The selectable lock for the mode dial is nice, I still don’t like the left-side power switch that dates back to the film OM’s, but Quick Sleep makes up for that, I just don’t have to flip the power switch anywhere near as much on the OM-1 as I did on older bodies (aside from the E-M1.2 which had Quick Sleep too). Battery is huge (both physically and in capacity) and charges fast on USB-C PD so long as your adapter does 27+W, that almost makes up for no included charger. It’s  nice to have flip/twist back. I still need to sort my focus assist setup. Probably going to drop the HDR mode for peaking on a button. I still don’t know why OMDS just doesn’t allow you to have Peaking always on when in MF mode rather than tying it to a button or focus ring movement.

Thursday, 27 October 2022

And I’m Back, with a switch

Olympus OM-1, m.Zuiko 12-40 Pro f2.8 II

This year has been pretty dead for me in terms of shooting, not because of a lack of desire, but a combo of too busy with work (I was pretty much flat out from May onwards), high gas prices, actively RC flying in my rare free time (the field is close, good landscapes are not) and just a general desire to hole up at home rather than go out. 

That said, I did get out a couple times and got a small selection of good shots. 

I’ve got my brain going off on gear again as well. I do miss a lot from the m43 system, especially the 12-40 Pro, the IBIS and the automation, LiveND especially. I do really like the A7RIV, but the two real gaps in the Sony lens lineup are a compact and close focusing 24-xx zoom and a good 70-200/4 options. There are alternative solutions though, the Tamron 70-180/2.8 can mostly replace a 70-200/4 in terms of size, weight and cost. But there’s only one small 24-xx option and that’s the thoroughly mediocre and ancient ZA 24-70/4.

Sony just launched the A7RV and Oly the OM-5. Both are fairly minor updates on paper, mostly processing and firmware improvements. Both kind of interest me, but one is WAY too expensive and the other really could only be a second body for me. 

The other aspect is something I touched on in my last post some months ago. Most of my best work has been on the Oly kit. The exception really is that one set of shots from Algonquin last February, and I could have done that with an OM-1. I simply don't really take advantage of the A7RIV's true power beyond the Dynamic Range, and I miss the OM systems quality of life features. 

In looking over my work over the last few years, and especially since February, I'm just not taking advantage of the A7RIV's insane megapixels, and while the AF is really nice, otherwise it's merely good.

So it went into the store, along with 3 of my lenses (18/2.8, 28-60 and 70-300) and an OM-1/12.40II kit came home instead. I really regretted selling off the E-M1.2 in March 2021 and this gets me back to where I was then, just with a lot more capable body and a mildly improved lens (the Mk2 12-40 has better sealing, better coatings and 50fps AF support). 

The initial take is the ergonomics are something I missed as well. The A7RIV was the best Sony I've shot with, but the OM-1 is significantly nicer in the hand. The EVF is better as well, somewhat surprising since it's the same basic hardware. AF is something I'll need to get a handle on as it works differently from either the A7RIV or the older Oly's I've used. IQ is very good, not FF good, but the files are way less crunchy than the E-M1.2, let alone the G9 or the 16MP m43 bodies.

Oh, and I have the 12-40 back. That alone is worth it, I've missed this lens a shocking amount over the last 8 months. The combination of compact, well built and crazy good close focus make it the single best normal zoom I've used over the years. 


Monday, 11 July 2022

Gear Musings

E-M1 Classic, m.Zuiko 75/1.8

Looking at shots like the above makes me second-guess my choice to go all-in on Sony.

The reality is that I would probably be completely happy with the results from a modern 20MP Oly body and 2-3 Pro lenses. IE the setup I had almost put together before I got the A7RIV.

I'd probably also be perfectly happy with a Z7 and a 14-30/4 S, 24-70/4S and 70-300E

The real challenge remains finding a paired light carry body and setup that I was happy with. The first option gives me the E-M5.3 or upcoming OM-5 as the obvious choice. It's an easy one. 

The Nikon gives me the Z50/Z fc/Z30 options. Limited lenses and of course 2 sensor sizes, but the lenses would be fine on a Z7 in DX mode.

Sony gives me the A6x00 line. Same basic problems in terms of sizing as the DX options, but WAY more lens selection. Worse EVF's and ergonomics though. 

This is a frustration to me. Especially because my brain starts pulling me in various directions even though I'm perfectly happy with the A7RIV itself and my lenses too. It's times like these I wish my brain would let me go dual-system and be happy, I'd get another X-T2 and use that as a light carry camera, shooting Fuji in the city and Sony elsewhere. 

Monday, 4 July 2022

800Km and 229 Images


A7RIV, Tamron FE 70-300
Chickory Flower along the road at Snake Creek

Yesterday was a good day. I left just after 7AM and headed eastwards on the 401. Jumped off the 401 onto the backroads midway between Belleville and Napanee, headed to Buttermilk Falls, which is a neat little spot, quite pretty, then went north on 41 to Denbigh, west on 28 to Hardwood Lake, then peeled off onto backroads and went north by north east to Killaloe on 60. West to Barry's Bay , southwest on Siberia Rd and Panineau Lake road until I met up with 62, crossed and went down Boulter Rd to McArthur's Mills where I met up with 28 again and headed west through Bancroft to Paudash, where I turned onto 118 and drove up to Tory Hill, then south on 503 to Kinmount with a brief stop at Furnace Falls, West on 45 to Hwy 35, south through Coboconk to the turnoff for 8, west to 12, south to 48 and home. Got home a little after 9pm, for a 14 hour day.

All in all, about 800Km though some of the prettiest country southeast of Algonquin Park. 

I stopped regularly for photography, with the last stop at McArthur's Mills. Furnace Falls was a washout as there were folks picnicking right where I wanted to setup and rather than bother them, I just had a break then headed onwards. Ended up with 229 shots, although most were 3 shot brackets (my standard when shooting landscape).

I also stopped to assist some stranded motorists on 503, they had a blowout and didn't know how to change a tire. Got them sorted and on their way and headed onwards. That does remind me that I do need to start putting together a recovery kit for the BWT, their situation could easily have required a pull (they were on the soft shoulder, luckily not soft enough for their car to get stuck and need a pull out).

Driving like this is a major stress relief for me, at least once I get off the major highways. There's nothing like the calm of an open road to carry my troubles away. Yesterday was mostly about this, although Photography was also part of it. I deliberately didn't do any hiking though, that's for another time.

In terms of photography, I came home with a bunch of river/wetlands shots. I do love shooting these subjects and they do well in regular daylight, at least before noon and after 3-4pm. 

I'm still thoroughly enjoying the A7RIV, the more I shoot it, the more I find it just fits. It really doesn't get in my way and aside from the LCD articulation and function lockouts when writing files, there's just not much wrong with it. And the files are amazing. I'm closing in on 3k shots on it, and it's just doing the job without complaint. 

I need to get out more, especially for golden hour shooting. The work from that Algonquin outing last February remains the absolute best work I've shot. If I want to produce more work of that level, I need to be there when the light is that good. 

Thursday, 30 June 2022

Been Away for a While


A7RIV, Tamron SP 90mm f2.8 Nikon AF

So it's been a good while since I've posted. That's because I haven't really been doing much in the way of serious photography since the end of February, a 4 month drought.

I should break that drought in the next few days, finally getting out for a photography-dedicated trip over the long weekend.

What has been going on? A little local photography and some other stuff, I'm actually up over 2500 frames on the A7RIV just from around the nieghbourhood shooting and taking pics at a few RC events.

I have already failed goal #2 for 2022 though, just have spent a lot of time hermited up this spring, there's been weeks where I didn't leave the house except for groceries. 

Overall, I'm still happy with the Sony, and short of an A1, there's really nothing on the market that would make me look elsewhere right now. 

I do expect to slowly grow my lens collection though, but I'm going to try my hardest to end 2022 shooting the A7RIV, and I think that's very achievable even with my brain's odd behaviour.

Monday, 28 February 2022

2022 Goals


Olympus E-M5II, m.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 PRO

I've not yet published a review of my 2021 Goals or a new set of goals for 2022.

First, 2021 in review.

1. Goal 1 - 10,000 frames on one camera. Miserable failure, I did 3300+ on 2 different bodies and broke 10,000 total frames, but there were too many bodies and while I shot half the year with a single body for the most part, the E-M5II, I didn't get close to it.

2. Goal 2 - Get out at least once a week with the camera. Mostly successful. I did pretty well at this until October, but I really hermited up in Nov/Dec and wasn't leaving the house much at all. When I did, the camera usually came with me.

3. Goal 3 - Post an IG post for every deliberate photography outing. This I succeeded at and I'm pretty happy with that.

For 2022 My goals will be similar. In fact I'm going to try goals 1 & 2 all over again.

1. Goal 1 - 10,000 frames on one camera. The A7RIV puts me in a much better place to achieve this. For the first time in a long time I can realistically see myself shooting the same camera in December that I did in February.

2. Goal 2 - Get out at least once a week with the camera. This is quite achievable if I don't hermit up for an extended period this year.

3. Goal 3 - Raise my posts to likes ratio to 70% or higher on Fred Miranda. I've been active there for years, but because I mostly am active in gear threads historically, until recently my post to like ratio was under 50% until recently. I'd like to get that up to 70% in 2022. That's a stretch goal (I'm at ~12400 posts and ~6400 likes right now)

Friday, 18 February 2022

Lenses and Rumours

A7RIV, SLR Magic 18mm f2.8 Cine

Picked up a couple cheap but good manual lenses this week. 

First one is the one used above, the SLR Magic 18mm f2.8 Cine. It's a compact and medium speed UWA with a low price and reasonable performance. And it takes 62mm filters, so it can use the filters I'd bought for my now-departed 12-40 Pro.

It won't win any awards, but it's also not going to generate much in the way of complaints. A thoroughly competent lens as far as I've seen so far. As such, it will be the core UWA for hiking for now.

Handling is the one thing I'll have to get used to, as a cine lens it has a declicked aperture and geared focus and aperture rings, instead of a rubber focus ring and ribbed aperture ring. That does give a more positive grip when gloved, but it's a tad rough on the fingers otherwise. I'm good with the physical handling, but I've never been a fan of declicked aperture rings even though I understand the benefits for video.

The other lens I picked up is something of a re-acqiusition. I've owned at least 3 variants of the Tamron 90mm macro before, in Adaptall-2, Nikon AF and Pentax AF forms. I bought a Nikon AF one, but the older version rather than the late screwdriver version I had last time. This will be a macro/compact telephoto for me. I know it works well for me on both FF and APS-C and expect I'll use it a lot in the coming months.

That gives me both a good hiking kit of the 18, 28-60 and 70-300 and a compact 3 prime kit of the 18, 45 and 90. With the latter I can use APS-C mode to make it an 18/28, 45/68 and 90/135 setup.

Oh, and SonyAlphaRumors just noted an interesting rumour for a refreshed A7C, with the A7RIII's 42MP sensor instead of the 24MP it currently has or the 33MP in the A7IV. That makes a lot of sense to me, the 42MP sensor is excellent and a lot of folks like it, but the only body options are both aging. Going with this sensor in the A7C refresh would both give the A7C more differentiation from the regular A7 line and give a modern option for those who like the mid-40MP sensors. It would become even better at being the hiker's landscape camera, especially if the A7RV grows in size & weight again, which I expect. This would be the perfect pairing with Sony's compact G primes, especially if they extend the line (I'd like to see an 85/2.8 or 135/2.8 and a 16-18mm option from Sony).