Sunday 28 July 2019

E-M5 II at 1000

Stopping for Lunch 
 E-M5 II, m.Zuiko 40-150 f4-5.6 R

So 5 days of ownership , and I'm already over 1000 shots on the E-M5 II

Why so many, so quickly? The X-T1 took around 3 weeks to get to that shot count, and it climbed relatively fast.

The answer is that I've had the chance to do 4 serious photowalks since I acquired the E-M5 II on Monday, three of those were urban, and I came home with my usual 150 or so shots from 2-3 hours of walking. The last one was a park/nature walk and it was a dream day for bug shooting, which tends to end up driving a high shot count (they can be difficult little buggers to shoot, pun intended, and I tend to end up taking 4-5 shots per bug to ensure I get something usable). I just got home from that one after almost 6 hours of walking with a little over 500 images to go through. Note I also got 2 good photowalks in last weekend with the X-T1 prior to trading it in, so it went out with 2100 shots on the clock, which is better than most of the bodies I've had in the last few years (and exceeds all the other Fuji's I've owned, combined).

Now usually exceeding 1000 shots would mean that a camera had passed the Equivocation zone (stage 2 of my 3 Stages of Camera Ownership) but I'm not sure with the E-M5 II, it's half in Comfort and half in New Toy, with no Equivocation. The reality is that it definitely has its weaknesses (AF-C performance is somewhere in the bad joke territory, battery life is low, menus are way too complex) but like the X-T1, those weaknesses generally have little effect on my actual shooting. I got comfortable with using it remarkably quickly, and it actually has gotten out of my way, which is not something I remember the E-M5 or E-M1 doing, although I suspect if I set up the E-M1 like I have the E-M5II setup that it would be more transparent. I've learned a few things about camera setup in the 4 years since I sold the E-M1.

So far the E-M5 II is working very well for me. It helps that all 3 of my lenses are working well, with the 25/1.7 in particular showing its strengths as a close-in lens compared to the XF 23/2 (which was at its weakest close in and wide open). The 40-150R has also proven yet again that it's just shockingly good for its unbelievably low cost (remember, this is a $150 slow kit zoom lens, bought new). All three lenses I own are incredible bargains for their performance. The 25/1.7 is definitely growing on me even though it's the weakest of the three optically, it's just a nice all-round performance with pleasant rendering even if it isn't as sharp as the other 25's in m43 mount.

I definitely don't have a full working kit yet, but I can see a straight path to one now, and for an investment I'm a lot more comfortable with. Next steps look like the 9-18 and a mid-range zoom (likely either another 12-50EZ or the Panasonic 12-60)

Saturday 27 July 2019

Progress Report - 2019 Goals

Curls of Doom 
X-T1, XC 16-50 OIS II

Where am I at in terms of Goals?

For Goal 1, 365 high quality images, I'm solidly on track to succeed at that, at about 200 images right now.

For Goal 2, Raise my average views to 1500, I'd actually succeeded at that until Flickr's Month of Hell. It looks like they have re-jiggered the view counter after all their troubles, so I'm resetting that goal to 1,000 views a day as Flickr has reduced the miscounting of their algorithm (it used to be you'd see 2 views on the daily total for every view recorded on an image, now it's not quite 1:1).

For Goal 3, I'm still 0 for 6 new locations. Looking to fix that over the back half of the year. I've some time off coming soon, so I hope to knock 1-2 of these off during that.

And for the volume goal, I'm now at 3,600 shots of a goal of 7220, leaving me to get another 3600 shots or so. I think that's quite achievable as long as I can stay shooting steadily. I'm more than on track to exceed last year's volume of 5491 images, which is a good fallback.

Friday 26 July 2019

So What Changed?

Taking a Walk

E-M5, m.Zuiko 12-50 EZ

The last couple times I've taken a serious look at m43, I went elsewhere.

So why am I back now?

For the longest time the issue was simple, I liked m43 as a pure digital system, but I was shooting film and digital and wanted one single system. I never really achieved that, but I also effectively quit shooting film over the last 2 years. So that problem was off the table. That really clears me to concentrate on a single system.

The reason I didn't go m43 at the beginning of the year was also simple, my options at the time were an E-M10 of some variation, or the original E-M5. Both of those options have too many compromises as a primary camera for me today. I really didn't like the E-M10III finder in fluorescent light, it actually hurt my eyes in addition to being small & squinty. The older E-M5 has enough UI issues that I'm just not willing to revisit it as a primary body, although it might do as a second body (I'd still rather have an EM-1/E-M5II or dual E-M5II mix though)

This time around both E-M1 and E-M5II's were workable options and I have no need to support a film system alongside my digital, so going back to m43 works, especially given the lens lineup advantages vs Fuji (really the primes are a wash, but mid-range zooms are a real advantage for m43)

Thursday 25 July 2019

E-M5 II - First Thoughts

Blue on Black 
E-M5 II, m.Zuiko 40-150 f4-5.6 R

1. Argh, Proprietary USB connectors and computer-based firmware updating is a terrible combination. I understand why Olympus uses an app for firmware updates, so you don't have to chase your body & lens firmware (you can update both from the app), but given my used body didn't come with the cable, and it's totally proprietary at the camera end, I can't update the firmware (and I'm on 2.1 with 4.1 as latest, with some major updates in there). And of course the cable is $30 in true camera maker style. 3rd party cable ordered from Amazon along with 2 spare batteries and a USB charger (I really do like the 2 battery+USB charge kits Amazon sells for $30CDN, had one for the X-T1 as well). Camera maker's excessive accessory markup yet again spawns a 3rd party sale. I'd pay $40 for a first-party battery, but never again will I pay $75+ for $10 worth of battery.

2. Ahh, so nice to be back to 4:3, I've never truly liked the 3:2 aspect ratio and all the Full Frame & APS-C bodies use that. 4:3 is just more comfortable to me.

3. The Sigma 19 and Oly 40-150 are little gems. The Panasonic 25mm f1.7 is merely quite good. The 25 reminds me of the Oly 17/1.8 in performance, except for less than 1/3 the cost I'm a lot more willing to accept merely good performance than I was with the 17. One thing that does amaze me is how noticeable the difference between the Sigma 19's 0.2m MFD and the Panny 25's 0.25m MFD is, despite the latter being a longer focal length. The Sigma is just much better as a close-up lens. The odd thing is the Panasonic actually has a slightly higher reproduction level (1:7.1 vs 1:7.4). It feels less close up, probably due to the difference in field of view.

4. Handling is good, not as good as the X-T1, but good enough. My main beef with the original E-M5's buttons has been solved (by replacing the 2 Fn buttons over the screen with 1 easier to find button and the mode lever). Viewfinder is close to the X-T1, but not all the way there. Same as the E-M1 finder which I did like. Handgrip is OK, the more prominent thumb rest helps offset the smaller finger grip. Lens release is back where it belongs (I never liked the Fuji/Pentax/Leica location where the DoF preview button belongs since it complicates lens changes). AF performance is good. Oly's menus suck and are WAY too complex with really poor descriptions about what it does. I still don't understand what the difference between 1 fish and 3 fish is, or even what subsystem that applies to (and yes, that's a real setting).

The touchscreen is really picky, it likes my left thumb but not my right index finger when using the Super Control Panel.

D-pad is significantly better than the X-T1's, just because you can find it by feel. Buttons on the E-M5 II are much less prone to getting unexpected setting issues than the E-M1, but you do have to watch the lever. This is marginally better than the X-T1 because only one control needs a visual check (lever vs metering switch + exp comp dial on the X-T1)

It's noticeably smaller than the X-T1, or at least feels it. Some of that is in the chunkier lenses, as both my smaller primes are wider diameter than the XF23/2, even if they are actually a tad shorter. Makes the body feel smaller in comparison.

I'm ambivalent about choosing a Flip-Twist screen over a flip-up screen. The flip-twist is good in a LOT more orientations, but flip-up is awesome for easy street shooting as it's much quicker to get into position.

I can't wait to try high-res mode. That was the key feature that had me looking at the E-M5 II over another m43 body. Having D800 class resolution for tripod work/static subjects while otherwise only needing to deal with 16MP is a great feature for somebody who shoots like I do. 90% of the time I don't need the resolution, when I do I'm on a tripod shooting static stuff. Pixel shift is perfect for this style of working.

Real BBAF is possible, the X-T1 can't really do that (it's configurability is quite limited in comparison) although like many things later Fuji's solve that, extended ISO's work in RAW (they don't on Fuji, rendering them useless), simpler access to card formating, and more flexible AF setup.

Overall, I still have a mild preference for the X-T1 as a body. Easier to setup and more obvious handling. But the E-M5II looks like it will do just fine

Wednesday 24 July 2019

What Did I Do?

Red on Green 
 OM-D E-M5, SMC Pentax-M 50/4 Macro

I did a bad thing. I traded in my X-T1 for something else.

Why? Not because I disliked the X-T1, I'd been getting along with it as well as I had from the get-go, I'd even found an MHG-XT grip for it.

But I also took a long hard look at the lenses I wanted for the system and the associated costs. The Fujicrons are all well and good (and both reasonably priced and excellent), but I wanted a wide zoom and the 10-24/4 is not weather sealed and a lot of cash (although excellent), I also wanted a telezoom and there really are no really great options. The 50-230 is good, but pricey for what it is, ditto the even more expensive 55-200. The high-end stuff is excellent, but out of my price range.

And Olympus sells the 40-150R for $150 new (half of what a 50-230 goes for used, for a slightly better lens) and Panasonic's 25/1.7 is a mere $200. And then there's Sigma's DN Art lenses, the f2.8 trio are $269 new each and superb, and there's a f1.4 trio as well for merely twice the price.

The question then becomes what body? I know I'd need an E-M1 or a G85 to really match the X-T1, but as a go-everywhere body an E-M5, E-M5 II, GX85 or GX7 would work very well. And I found a deal on a E-M5 II. So I traded in the Fuji stuff and came out with a E-M5 II, Sigma 19/2.8, Panasonic 25/1.7 and Olympus 40-150 f4-5.6 R

That setup covers most of my needs right out the door, and I'd really only need to add a wide (Panny 7-14/4 or Oly 9-18) which can be had for reasonable money, and a normal zoom (tons of options from reasonable to unreasonable pricing). At some point in the future a macro and/or short fast telephoto can be added.

As much as I liked the Fuji, the reality is that I wasn't going to build the system I wanted in the time I wanted. A return to m43 on the other hand allows for that.

Tuesday 23 July 2019

USB Chargers - Where Are They

Never Cross the Streams 
X-T1, XC 16-50 OIS II

There's one product I cannot figure out why camera makers aren't making.

Today all the devices I want to use in the field are now coming with USB-C. My laptop uses it for power/connectivity, my phone does, new tablets do (I'm still on older units), even the cameras themselves are now starting to show up with USB-C for connectivity and charging.

So why is the last thing in the bag without it the camera's battery charger?

Imagine if the camera came with a charger, USB-C cable and USB charge adapter, instead of charger, charger cable, USB cable, etc.

That way you could charge your batteries off a Power Bank while working with the camera unencumbered, and share 1-2 chargers between all your devices in the field. Additionally if properly implemented you could power your camera off that same USB-C cable and charge adapter/Power Bank.

Much better eh?

There's some cheap 3rd party USB chargers for most battery types, but they're slow and using old USB 2.0 with its low wattage output. Still better than nothing, but the camera makers have a chance to make a real difference in an area that's mostly ignored.

Sunday 21 July 2019

July Update

One Ant 
X-T1, Micro-Nikkor 55/3.5 AI

I've been on an unexpected 2 month break from shooting, which finally ended this weekend. Buried in work, RC flying season arrived and ate up my limited free time and a humid June/July were all factors.

The X-T1 broke 2000 shots this weekend, putting it well up on the A7II, and I'm still really enjoying it as an all-round camera. I acquired an MHG-XT Large handgrip or it which takes the handling from good to great (and is also an Arca-Swiss rail, for tripod mounting). I'd also come into an XF 18/2, but sold it on because it's just too close to the 23/2 and the 23/2's better AF and close focus wins. My everyday kit is for now the 23/2 and the Micro-Nikkor 55/3.5, which works pretty well all told. I do need a wide in the 12/14/16mm range to fill things out though.

I'm planning on making a more significant effort to get out and shooting through July & August. I need the shutter therapy and the walking.