Wednesday 23 October 2019

What Do I Need To Care About?

Dusk at Big Chute 
Spillway at Big Chute

E-M1,  m.Zuiko 12-50 EZ

So if I'm going to take a badly needed break from obsessing about what camera I'm shooting, where and what do I need to spend some time considering?

First up is shooting technique.

There's some areas I really need to work on, starting with the use of filters. If I'm going to continue concentrating on landscape and wilderness work I need to up my filter game. I generally do not shoot with any filtration, aside from the occasional polarizer use. The first step here is to invest in some ND filters, and eventually a set of ND grads.

As I'm also doing a fair bit of detail/macro work while I'm out in the bush, I need to step up my game there. That means mostly improving my lighting work, which I've started on by getting an actual (almost) modern flash, the Olympus FL-36R, allowing me to do off camera flash to light small details. That also means getting (and carrying) a proper macro lens, probably the Sigma 150/2.8 in 4/3rds mount. Focus stacking is something I need to work on here as well, which means getting and learning Helicon Focus.

Third is using the tripod more. I've added a small Sirui Arca-Swiss ballhead to my Manfrotto 290 legs, which are small & light and ideally suited to use with my small Olympus bodies. I need to get L-brackets, a Platypod and heads for the Platypod & my larger Manfrotto 055XProB so I can get more flexibility. The Platypod is key, as I really like low-angle work and that will solve my biggest issues working down low which right now involves putting the camera on the ground or lots of crouching (an issue for a guy who already has bad knees)

Fourth is bags. I need two of them, initially I need a day hiking bag. This needs to have enough space for my basic kit as planned, some food, a camelback water pouch and assorted gear bits. I need this pretty quickly. Longer-term I need a larger pack for overnighting. That will form the basis of a overnight hiking kit so I can get further away from the car. Of course then I'll need a tent, sleeping bag, cooking kit & incidentals. The first bag needs to be photography-centric while I expect the second one will be a hiking pack with a camera insert.

I'm hoping to do more hiking & even some camping next year, so I'll likely steadily invest in the necessary gear for that to be done comfortably.

Sunday 20 October 2019

What Next?

Above the Rapids 
Above the Oxtongue Rapids

E-M1, m.Zuiko 12-50 EZ

So if I'm going to do the smart thing and stick with m43, what does that mean for planned gear acquisitions? My current kit covers the basics, but I'm regularly bouncing off its limits these days.

An E-M1.2 or E-M5III is in my future. Probably the E-M1.2 unless the E-M5III price crashes as a used E-M1.2 gets me more of what I need than the E-M5III (most notably in terms of battery life) and will cost me less.



50-200 f2.8-3.5 SWD
12-40/2.8 Pro

Nice to have:

EC14 and EC20 TC's
Sigma 150 macro
Leica 8-18 f2.8-4
Assorted primes for everyday use (7.5mm Laowa, Oly 12/2, PL 15/1.7, P42.5/1.7, Oly 75/1.8)
12-100/4 Pro, PL 100-400

Assorted other gear


ND filters. REALLY need a good set of ND's (4, 6, 8 & 10 stop)

Nice to have
ND Grads, better quality Polarizers, Better quality holder. Staying with 84/85mm setup for now as I have some Cokin kit around and the holders are decent even if the filters are trash.
Platypod (really neat near ground level/mountable tripod) with the accessory kit
2-ish Arca Swiss-compatible ballheads. Thinking a midsize Sirui for the Platypod and going all-out on an Acratech for my Manfrotto 055XPRO4 legs.

Where am I going to concentrate?

ND Filter(s)
12-40 Pro
Platypod/Sirui head

in pretty much that order, the other stuff is more long-distance dreaming. A body maybe next year.

Saturday 19 October 2019

A Breath of Reality

Fall Pasture 
Farm on Golden Beach Rd, west of Bracebridge

E-M1, m.Zuiko 12-50 EZ

For all the systems angst I've been having lately, it doesn't mean much in the field.

I got up to the Muskokas yesterday for some fall colours. 15 hours of driving and shooting later I came home with a lot of images, around 750 on the E-M1 and another 100 or so with the E-M5II. Usually things are more balanced but I was working with subject matter that best suited the 12-50 rather than the 9-18. I normally have the 9-18 basically glued to the E-M5II, while any other lenses end up on the E-M1, and that means if the other lenses are mostly used, the E-M1 gets all the work. Spent the day with the 12-50 EZ mostly welded to the E-M1 and most of the other shots were with the 40-150R on the E-M1.

While I was out, I noticed 2 real gaps in my system, and only one was body side. The first was I really do need a better telephoto than the 40-150R. It's a great little lens, but it's only 150 at the long end, is f5.6 at the long end and focuses fairly slowly. I ran into all 3 as issues yesterday trying to shoot Chipmunks & Squirrels in the woods. The second was AF performance in low light/low contrast situations. The E-M1 + 40-150R combo struggled to lock on at times. These are two separate issues, as the former kept driving me to ISO6400, while the latter caused lost shots from misfocus or failure to lock.

In both cases the first solution is to get a 50-200 SWD. It's longer (400mm equivalent before TC), supports TC's (1.4 for 280mm at f4.5 effective, 2x for 400mm at f7 effective, both at 200mm), focuses faster than the 40-150R and gives more light for the AF system to work with. I already have the weather-sealed adapter (MMF-3) so I'm good overall. The second issue would also be helped by getting an E-M1.2 or E-M5III to get cross-type PDAF instead of the line type that the E-M1 has. In neither case do I need a non-m43 solution.

I also could really have used a stop or two more on the 12-50 EZ as well, but that didn't result in lost shots, unlike the 40-150R.

On the drive back, I spent some time thinking. I can spend money Chasing the Dragon again, or I can just buy glass that solves the problems in question. I know there's good reason why I keep coming back to m43 (and also what draws me to Fuji) and I need to run with it rather than chasing capabilities in other systems that don't actually solve needs I have. I can't justify going full frame, and if I don't I'm pretty much stuck with m43 or Fuji, and as much as I do like Fuji, m43 covers my needs a touch better (and definitely for less money).

Sunday 13 October 2019

The Last Frame

The Last Stop

Fujifilm X-T1, XF 23mm f2 WR

This was the last image I ever took with the X-T1, less than 12 hours later it would be gone from my kit.

This is one of the rare cases where I sold on a camera I very much liked, and got along with very well. And I sold it for a somewhat unusual reason, the need for one specific lens, a compact UWA zoom. Oly's 9-18 was made almost exactly for my needs (I just wish it was 8mm on the wide end and sealed).

I really like the Fuji system today. The Fujicron's are brilliant, the bodies are well sorted and the rest of the lens lineup works with a couple exceptions.

The exceptions are:

1. The XC 50-230 is about twice the cost it should be. Decent lens, should be $200USD retail not double that.

2. No consumer UWA, the 10-24/4 is great (but needs a WR update) but spendy, the 8-16 is even better, but even spendier. There should be a compact XC 12-24 or 10-18 for around $400 (like the Nikkor 10-20VR DX in F mount).

3. No consumer fast prime. Again, as great as the Fujicrons are, the guy buying an X-A or X-Tx00 body is looking for a $200 fast prime like the Panasonic 25/1.7, the Nikkor 35/1.8DX or the Canon 22/2. I think if Fuji shrank the 35/1.4 to a 35/1.8 design and rehoused it in plastic it would be perfect. It doesn't need to be as small as the 35/2, or sealed, or as well built, or as fast to focus. Just cheap & decent. 

Aside from that Fuji does still need to fill the gaps. They need an 80-300 to pair with the 16-80, they need a 135 prime and a 300/4 prime quickly, and a 200-600 zoom for the wildlife guys who need more reach than the 100-400 delivers.  But those are mostly lenses I'd not buy anytime soon.

In another note, the second last X-T1 pic I posted was one of two of my images to hit explore today. Very happy with that, I've never had 2 images in Explore on the same day before. I'm up to 12 images in Explore for the year, 2 less than my previous record from over a decade ago.

I've also been thinking seriously about what's driving my system angst. The reality is aside from a couple edge cases around telephoto performance, the m43 system I have now delivers very well, and frankly even if the E-M5III turns out to be underwhelming, at the likely cost of it I'd be better off just getting an E-M1.2 off the used market to replace the E-M1. After some research I'm also convinced that getting a 4/3rds 50-200SWD will also alleviate a lot of my challenges in this area, at a fairly low cost. They aren't repairable, but you can buy 4-5 of them for the cost of a PL50-200 and TC's are cheap and superb for these.

The other thing that seems to be driving my system angst is having something to play with old glass on as m43 is not really a great adaptation platform unless you really like manual focus telephotos (which I'm not exactly big on, being a wide guy mostly). Not sure I really want to invest in that even if I do like old glass. I think I need to hold off there unless I trip over the right deal on a 2nd gen A7 or A7R or maybe a D800. But that would be a toy, not a primary camera, much like my FE is today (and frankly, my D300 is the same, a toy for occasional use). Alternatively I might just get another Fuji and a Speedbooster. I do love the X-T series, the pricing is right (an X-T2 costs about the same as a D800 or A7II) and that would give me FF equivalence when using the Speedbooster, and APS-C reach using my current adapters. Might even justify eventually getting the Fujicron set, but nothing much more for a secondary system.

Friday 11 October 2019

A Lovely View

First Signs of Fall

E-M1, m.Zuiko 12-50

So I'm still suffering from some system angst. Don't get me wrong, for the most part the m43 kit is working quite well for me.

The challenge is really how long will that remain the case.

Nikon's now announced their first APS-C mirrorless body, the Z50. It's solidly mid-range but does add a couple higher-end bits like dual control wheels and the kit zoom is impressively tiny. Not 14-42 EZ tiny, but respectably close.

The specs have also leaked on next weeks E-M5 III announcement, and they fail to impress. It really looks like Olympus stuffed the E-M1II's now 3 year old sensor and processor into an E-M10III body with weather sealing and a bit bigger EVF. The UI honestly looks like something of a downgrade over the mkII, the EVF is smaller, the battery is smaller and there's really no capability evolution based on what's known now. No Live ND or Handheld Highres. Unless there's a real surprise next week on items not in the spec list leak I just don't see what I'd get out of getting this body. And since this would be the body I'd otherwise be looking at as an eventual replacement for my current E-M1, that brings up the question of what do I replace the E-M1 with.

I spent some time in a camera store today looking over my options. Frankly, a DSLR is just out, I'm not interested in the large body and heavy weight. Sony has nothing I'd be happy with short of the very spendy A7RIV. I was quite pleasantly surprised by how nice the EOS RP handles, a pity that there's no small & compact lenses in the system at all. the EOS M stuff is a dead end, and I don't like the handling that much.  I already know I like the handling on the Fuji and Nikon mirrorless bodies but Fuji has a couple gaps in their lens line and Nikon basically doesn't have a lens line in APS-C. That will change, but not quick enough for this cycle.

I came home with the conclusion that regardless of how things are going with Oly's body development, there's nothing better out there for my needs. I could see a return in the future to Fuji or maybe Nikon, depending on how things evolve there. frankly if Fuji brings a WR UWA to match the 16-80, it would be pretty much all set for me.