Wednesday 10 November 2021

First Days with the G9


Panasonic G9, Olympus m.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 PRO

So far the G9 has been a pretty raging success for me. I’m over 1000 shots in on it in 5 days of ownership. That’s compared to 450 in the first week with the Z5, 440 for the E-M5.2 and 1000 for the E-M1.2. We'll see where I am by next Thursday, but it's likely to exceed the E-M1.2 count by a bit.

The image above is from a spot I've been meaning to revisit for a long time, it's a great view of downtown Toronto and the last time I shot there was in 2007 if I recall correctly, I was shooting with the Pentax K10D and Pentax DA 16-45/4 which I sold off in early 2008 to get my first D300. This is from Boradview Avenue about mid-way between Danforth Ave and Gerrard Ave, looking southwest towards the CN tower. It's really one of the best angles to shoot the city from, and since you're looking over the Don Valley but the DVP is mostly invisible from here, there's nothing really to distract the eye. I've driven by here a number of times recently and have been meaning to stop and get the shot. Last night I was finally able to do so and I'm glad I did. While I'm just not that interested in Cityscape work anymore, I do like to dabble in it occasionally.

The G9 worked very well for this. It's got a couple nice features for long-exposure work, specifically it counts down the remaining exposure on the display both when making the exposure (for exposures longer than 1 second) and while doing the dark-frame subtraction (aka Long Exposure Noise Reduction), which means you are never staring at the camera wondering when your camera will be responding again. The fact that it can be set to take bracket sets as a burst is nice as well, I've always preferred this as it makes getting good matching bracket frames much easier and it's something I've found lacking on a lot of recent Mirrorless Cameras including both the E-M5.2 and the Z5 (I'm sure there's probably some hidden setting I'm missing on the E-M5.2, but the Z5 simply didn't do this, and the Nikon DSLR's did).

Overall, the G9's ergonomics are just dead on, it's like a combination of all the ergonomic high points of the Z5 and E-M1.2 in one body, with a couple improvements of its own. Having a 3 position AF/MF switch under my thumb is excellent and beats the 2x2 switch on the E-M1.2 (which is more flexible as you can choose what it does, but flexibility doesn't add anything for me here because I use that for AF mode switching), plus a joystick like the Z5, but I can also get the touch AF control like the E-M1.2 if I want it. AF is as far as I can tell generally more configurable than the E-M1.2, although I do lose the ability to set a custom focus range limiter like the E-M1.2 can. It's more flexible than the Z5 because you can assign specific modes to buttons (which none of the Z's can).

Oddly, this is the first camera I've owned since the NEX-7 that won't let me re-assign the record button. That's not too big an issue here as it's located in a convenient but reasonably out of the way spot and there are so many other configurable control points (19 in all counting buttons, touch buttons and assigning joystick and 4-way actions) that I'm not losing anything by having a few buttons dedicated to specific functions (the WB, ISO and Exp Comp buttons are also dedicated functions)

Friday 5 November 2021

Z9 is Here and it's awesome. I bought a different '9' instead


Sony A7II, ZA FE 16-35/4 OSS

The Nikon Z9 got announced last week and frankly, it's utterly amazing. Not only did it come in cheaper than expected ($1000USD less than the Sony A1, $500USD less than the Canon R3), but it's clearly a class leader in many respects. Not everywhere, but in enough places that Nikon's got a clear winner here. Interestingly it becomes the first performance-oriented camera to completely drop the mechanical shutter in favour of its extremely fast (3.7ms or 1/270th) electronic shutter.

Would I buy one? Nope. It's too big (integrated grip) and too heavy (1350g) for my uses. But it is amazing and has some features I really want to see come down the line, especially the dual-tilt LCD setup which should become standard on the Z7III and Z5II (the Z6III should get flip/twist as it's the 'video' body of the 3 lower-end FX Z's)

Does this have any impact on my gear choices? Not really. 

With regards to gear, I've been struggling. I've really liked the results I was getting with my Partner's A7II and the ZA 16-35/4 I picked up for it last month, but I still struggle with the LCD setup and ergonomics, as well as the speed of the body. Pretty much the same complaints I had when it was my body, and when I had my first A7II. Nice body overall and still very competent, but not as well suited for my style of working as I'd like.

I've been on the lookout for a while for another E-M1 Mark II body, but haven't seen anything crop up. However I've seen a few Panasonic G9's crop up for good prices. The G9 is pretty much Panasonic's take on the E-M1 Mark II. It's a little more capable in some areas (better video, better EVF and astonishingly, even more configurable) and a little less in others (inferior AF-C, not quite sealed as well, IBIS is not as effective as Olympus's market-leading system)

As I was sitting on a bunch Henry's store credit, I grabbed a G9 when one popped up yesterday (they go quick) and am going to give it a good try-out. It's got all I want in terms of ergonomics, is compatible with my m43 lenses and gets me some very nice automation as well. I'm looking forward to seeing what it can deliver, I've not owned a G series newer than the G3, and not owned a Panasonic since the GX7 (I did quite like the GX7). This kind of puts a stake in chasing the dragon for a bit I hope, I'm going to be on m43 for a while yet. 

In terms of lenses, I might just look at the 8-18/50-200 pair to round out my kit. I'd already been considering the 50-200 over the Oly 40-150 Pro, but the latter just makes more sense for an Oly shooter because of Pro Capture and the focus stacking features. Likewise the PanaLeica lenses make more sense on the G9 for DFD and DualIS (the 50-200 is an IS lens, unlike the 40-150Pro).

Interestingly, the G9 is actually larger than the A7II, on par in size with the Z5, and the handling is quite similar as well overall. The biggest difference is the G9's EVF optics are not as good as the Z5's, although the panel itself is on par. I can see distortion in the corners with the G9 due to the somewhat over-magnified display (0.83x to the Z5's 0.80x). It is a much nicer EVF than the E-M1 Mark II has, I'd call it my second favourite after the Nikon Z's.

Handling on the G9 is excellent, ergonomically it's very close to the Z5, but it's got WAY more configurability than the somewhat limited Z5 and the rear switch above the LCD is dedicated to AF (which I will use) rather than a Video/Stills switch (which I won't use).  

The G9 becomes the first mirrorless body I've had with a settings LCD on top. It's not something I missed in my transition from DSLR to Mirrorless, we'll see if I find it useful on the G9. 

Initial testing is good. The AF is as fast as I've ever seen (the G9's weakness is fast AF-C, which I don't really do, even then it should be as good as the Z5 and better than the A7II, AF-S is insanely fast from initial playing). I've setup a basic config, but I will be tweaking it before I get my C1/2/3 fully setup for long-term use. 

One thing I really like is the included charger is a USB Charger. Hallelujah! It does seem VERY slow to charge, but the fact I can readily run it in the truck as well as charging the camera directly off USB makes for a big win. I picked up a second battery, an actual Panasonic one, so I should be good for battery life as the batteries are relatively large capacity. I've heard that the new and higher capacity S5 battery might work in the G9 as well, but would need a different charger. Might check that out if I have any issues with battery life, but I'm not expecting to. I've generally done fine on the E-M5II with 2 1st party BLN-1's, or 1 st party and 2 3rd party ones and the BLN-1 is much lower capacity than the BLF19 the G9 uses (1220mAh for the BLN-1 vs 1860mAh for the BLF19). The G9 has a thirstier EVF and LCD, but 50% more capacity and a proper power-saver mode should offset that.

With regards to the Sony stuff I picked up last month, the 70-300 will stay with the A7II for my partner, the 16-35/4 I'm undecided on, it could go to fund an m43 wide or tele, or I might just hold onto it for now. For the two m43 lenses I traded in towards the 70-300, well I'll miss both, but they weren't all that well suited to my working style. I may re-acquire them in the future if I manage to stick with m43 though, the 45 is dirt cheap and the 75 should continue to come down in price for a while.

Wednesday 27 October 2021

It's Announcement Week


E-M5.2, 12-40 Pro

Sony kicked things off last week with the A7IV, a significant update of their aging A7III. It gets the new body design from the A7SIII, the new processor platform, CFE-A support on slot 1, lossless RAW compression, all the new AF algorithms from the A1 and a new and promising 33MP sensor, but also gets a 25% price increase (to $2500USD/$3200CAD) and it's now limited to 6fps or lower in Uncompressed or Lossless Compressed RAW (the A7III did 10fps in Uncompressed, but didn't offer Lossless). Oh, and a flip/twist LCD. The sensor readout speed stays the same, so AF is not on the level of the A9 or A1 series, but it has a real touch UI, not the spec-sheet only touch of the A7III, and the UI responsiveness is increased to be actually comparable to a Nikon or Canon body.

I'm ambivalent on this. On paper it's perfect for my uses as it's very much the sort of balanced camera that I like, not too much MP, but enough to be a boost over 24MP, enough speed and the flip/twist LCD. The problem is I can now get a good high-MP camera for the same or less money and with current card prices, extra MP isn't really a downside. At the previous model's intro pricing this would have been a winner, but I just struggle to justify the price jump for a body that actually has more tradeoffs compared to the higher-end bodies than its predecessor did, even if the A7IV is a big upgrade over the aging A7III.

OMDS and Panasonic had big events advertised for today, both of which underwhelmed. OMDS announced they're dropping the Olympus branding in favour of OM System, a new slogan and a lot of clear focus on adventure photography. It's very clear where they're going and it's the right focus. But no lens announcements and only vague words about the upcoming 'wow' body that they've been hinting at in interviews.

Panasonic did even less. They had the 20th anniversary of the Lumix brand, a few weasel words about the GH6, but no announcement and a bunch more that basically come out as 'L is our future, we'll support m43 for video as long as it sells, forget m43 stills from Panasonic'. Not really surprising that pretty much every stills-focused Lumix Ambassador seems to have dropped either their Ambassadorship or their use of the Lumix system as a whole. 

There were also some lens announcements. Tokina announced that they will now sell rebadged Viltrox lenses in E mount too, and their pricing is saner (only slightly more than Viltrox this time) and Samyang dropped their AF 12/2 in Fuji X mount. 

Nikon's big day is tomorrow. Expected is the Z9, a new FTZII adapter addressing at least some of the complaints about the current one, plus 2 lenses and a development announcement for a third. The lenses expected are an f4 standard zoom (probably the 24-105 S on the roadmap), the 100-400 S and the announcement is expected to be the 400/2.8 S. This is a critical announcement for Nikon, their previous Z releases have all been very competent cameras, but have been overshadowed by their competition, even if they actually compare much better in the field than they do on paper. The Z9 is Nikon's first real attempt at making a body that truly is a world-beater and it needs to deliver. Nikon also needs to continue to build out the lens line, particularly at the long end where they remain weakest. 

As for me, how does this affect things? I honestly don't know right now. I frankly like the Nikon body options better than what I can get for the same budget from Sony, but I like the Sony lens options better in general (the 24-70/4 being the big exception right now). I can't help but think that the Techart TZE-01 might be the real solution here, letting me use E mount lenses (Samyang excepted) on Z. Get one, a Z body and just use a mix of E and Z lenses until Z catches up.

Tuesday 19 October 2021

Out for a Hike


Sony A7II, ZA 16-35/4

I got out Sunday for some hiking with the new lenses. Didn't really get what I was looking for as the section of the Credit River I was hiking was mostly surrounded by Cedars rather than deciduous trees with fall colour, but the light was interesting and while it held I did get some nice shots of the river.

The shot above demonstrates two things I do like about the Sony A7/A7R MkII's. The dynamic range and the Smooth Reflections App. Yes, this shot was taken in broad daylight at f11 and ISO 100 with only a polarizer. It's an 84-shot in camera stack using the Smooth Reflections app that Sony offered on the first two generations of FE Alpha bodies and sadly discarded on the newer bodies (these apps are also on the A6300 and A6500, I'm not sure about the A6000). With the Oly's I would not have been able to retain as much detail in the clouds while also keeping detail in the water in the foreground, and I would have been stuck using an ND filter where I could get away with just a polarizer on the Sony (that said, on a current Sony body I'd have been stuck with the ND filter as well).

Overall in terms of package size, the A7II/16-35 package is actually pretty reasonable in size. I didn't find it too big or heavy for hiking. It's definitely bigger than the Oly setup, but not too big. Same goes for the A7II/70-300 combo which I found much better to carry than the Z5/70-300E combo, unsurprising since the Tamron 70-300 is 135g lighter than and marginally smaller than the 70-300E alone, and I needed to add an FTZ to the 70-300E to use on the Z5, which made the 70-300E/FTZ package almost 30mm longer and another 135g heavier compared to the Tamron 70-300E. That's worth 1/3 stop penalty at the long end and no lens IS for me, at least on an IBIS-capable body. 

Nikon really does need to round out its telephoto options on Z mount and it's not just the exotics that are missing. Actually, if Nikon could just get Tamron to release their FE lenses in Z it would go a long way to improving things. The telephoto trio in particular would be great in Z (70-300 f4.5-6.3, 70-180/2.8 and 150-500) although the 28-75 and 17-28 would probably interest some for their size/weight advantages while maintaining f2.8.

One thing that did drive me nuts however is classic Sony bad UI design. The Smooth Reflections app locks out BBAF, but if you don't have Shutter AF enabled and you do have the AF mode set to S-AF, you literally cannot focus while using the app. I lost a couple shots (and this one is web-size only) due to AF issues from this. I'll have to use the app in manual focus mode (which is an App setting and cannot be changed from the Fn button). Frankly, this is just one of many cases where it's clear that the firmware developers were not photographers but rather were building menus from a spec sheet. All the bits are there, they just conflict with each other and provide the world's least helpful error messages (aka the 'Invalid Operation' button issue, where one button on my A33 gave that error if pressed while the image quality is set to RAW) 

Saturday 16 October 2021

Some Changes


Sony A7II, Zeiss ZA FE 4/16-35 OSS

As you can probably guess from the image above, I picked up a new lens, and a Sony lens at that.

In fact I've bought two. One is the 16-35/4 OSS, the other is the Tamron 70-300 f4.5-6.3 in FE mount.

I've let some gear go as well. The E-M1 is gone, as are the 45/1.8 and 75/1.8 in m43 mount. The E-M1 was really only needed if I was going to run a 2-body m43 kit, and with those lenses gone I didn't have as much of a need for that. The 45 I let go because I barely used it at all. It's a REALLY good lens, but for the way I shoot the 12-40 at 40mm simply works better. The 75 I used as a faster alternative to the 40-150 f4-5.6R, but while the results were amazing, I always found it either too long, too short or too limited in MFD. All 3 of these went to get the Tamron 70-300, which is one half of a 2 lens Sony hiking kit.

The other lens is the Zeiss 16-35/4. I'd originally planned on getting the Tamron 17-28/2.8, but I was able to get a much better deal on the 16-35 and when working with only two lenses that 28-35mm range will give me more flexibility than f2.8 will for what I do. Biggest downside is the 16-35mm is 72mm filters while the 17-28 takes 67mm filters like the 70-300. I'm shooting these on my partner's A7II for now (actually, I expect she'll get the 70-300 long-term to replace her current telephoto, a Canon 75-300 on an adapter, I'll likely switch eventually to a 70-200/4)

For now, I'm not getting out of Micro 4/3rds. I've still got the E-M5II and 3 lenses, the 12-40/2.8 (which I love), the 17/18 (my webcam lens, also a nice street lens) and the 40-150R (the plastic fantastic of consumer telezooms).

As to why Sony, well there's two reasons.

1. My Partner already shoots it. We can share gear and for now I can just use her body, while she can use my lenses when we're out together.

2. All sorts of neat stuff available. Sigma's I series lenses, Sony's G compact primes, Samyang and Viltrox AF lenses, TTArtisans and 7Artisans manual lenses, etc. 

I do like the Nikon bodies in my price range better, but the Sony ecosystem just works better for me right now. Of course, I could just get an AF adapter and use the Sony lenses on a Z6 or Z7 in the future. Who knows? It's not like I've settled on a body for myself in E mount yet, although it's basically down to an A7III or an A7RII at this point. 

Monday 11 October 2021

More GAS Struggles


Nikon Z5, 50mm f1.8G

It’s times like this that I kind of wish I’d kept the Z5 even when I went all-in on m43. That would have given me an easy-out for my current GAS struggles, just get something for the Z5 and shoot it for a while. 

I’m currently fighting off an attempt by my brain to argue that I should get rid of the Oly kit and go all-in on Sony. The reason being that I can get so much interesting stuff for Sony cameras. This of course ignores the reality that I already have the basics of a solid m43 kit and I’d be starting almost from scratch with Sony (I can borrow lenses from my partner, who has a basic Sony A7II kit)

What would Sony bring me?

1. Commonality with my Partner’s kit. She can borrow my glass, in a pinch I can borrow hers.

2. Better suited for adapting my solid selection of film lenses. I still have 24mm, 28mm, 2x35mm, 2x50mm, 55mm Macro, 105mm, 2x135mm, 200mm and 300mm options. 

3. WIDE selection of available lenses. E/FE mount is the best supported mount today, especially for inexpensive primes, both manual and AF.

4. High-MP single-shot options. 36MP+

5. Fast AF if I get newer bodies (mkIII+)

What would it cost me?

1. Flip/Twist LCD. None of the bodies I’d be looking at would have anything other than a tilt LCD.

2. Multi-shot capabilities. If I get a MKIII body, I lose any in-body multishot capability. If I got an A7R, A7RII or A7II I’d at least have the Smooth Reflections app, which is actually better than Oly’s E-M1.3-only equivalent (LiveND). But going with the older body costs me the AF and handling improvements.

3. Lens selection. I currently have 5 m43 lenses covering 24mm-e to 300mm-e, and only one is at all weak (my little 40-150 f4-5.6R). While I still have gaps, it’s a pretty solid lens selection overall. I’d be starting from almost-scratch with AF lenses in any other mount. 

One challenge is I know I just don’t love using primes when hiking. I get by, but I do prefer using compact, high-quality zooms like the m.Zuiko 12-40 f2.8 Pro. That lens is simply the hardest lens to replace in my kit and the biggest draw for remaining in m43. It’s quite literally why I sold the Z5 (which in hindsight might have been as big a mistake as selling the E-M1.2 was)

With regards to my other lenses, I’ve never quite gelled with the 75/1.8, it’s an amazing bit of glass but it doesn’t focus close enough and the focal length always seems either too long or too short. I continue to use it solely because it’s f1.8 and on m43 that matters a lot when I’m in darker areas of the forest, so it replaces the more flexible 40-150R due to that extra 2-3 stops of speed needed to make up for the noise limits of  the m43 kit.

The 17/1.8 is pretty much just a webcam lens for me. I do use it when walking around in the city, but that’s generally it. The 45/1.8 is something I just don’t use much, the length makes it a people/street lens for me and I barely every do that these days. At its current cost, it’s a keeper for sure, but it’s not something I’m really needing either. I bought it as much because I found the 105mm too long too often on the Z5 as anything else. 

The gripping hand here is that Z6’s and Z7’s are comparatively cheap on the used market right now. As bodies, they will work well for me based on my experience with the Z5. The challenge there is glass, it’s very good, but doesn’t really feed my cheap/fun glass addiction the way Sony can. 

What do I really want? A Z7 with FE lens selection, flip-twist screen and Oly software…

Saturday 9 October 2021

GAS - The Gear Nut’s Bane


E-M5.2, m.Zuiko 17/1.8

With fall well along now, I find myself suffering from a bout of GAS, aka Gear Acquisition Syndrome.

This has been the general bane of my existence for years. No matter what I have, I always want something different. I’ve often referred to my particular brand of GAS as ‘Chasing the Dragon’, because I keep switching systems to get something ‘Better’, which has led to an almost endless round of Nikon->m43->Sony->Nikon switching, with Fuji and Pentax stuffed in there occasionally.

The challenge for me is that each system fits me adequately, but not perfectly and each brings something to the table.

Olympus/m43 brings small, good selection of options, good ergonomics and really good IBIS (good enough for me to find it useful)

Nikon brings great ergonomics and IQ, but somewhat limited selection and a lack of customizability (speaking Z here, I’m not going back to DSLR’s). Oh and great EVF’s for the money.

Sony brings selection. All the cool/odd/cheap lenses, the best 3rd party support, etc. 

Plus my partner shoots Sony these days, and still has some m43. My small film kit is also Nikon (all manual focus stuff).

I’ve not bought any gear in months, since I got the E-M1 in late June. That’s something of a record for me when I’ve actually been shooting, and I have at least at the beginning and end of that period. I did take some time off from serious shooting though, as I discussed in my last post. 

The challenge now is I keep looking at all the neat stuff available for E mount, and find myself wanting another Sony. However I also remember some of the frustrations I’d be dealing with, especially with screen articulation (tilt only), which is an area where I’ve simply become so accustomed to increased flexibility that I’d have issues giving it up. I probably would have kept the Z5 if it had been flip/twist or even dual-tilt (and it looks like the Z9 will be dual-tilt like the Fuji’s, hopefully that will come down to the lower end Z’s as they refresh)

I think I will be getting another body soon. But I’m going to try and do the right thing and get another m43 body, ideally an E-M1.2/3, but I might try a G9 as an alternative, the pricing is really good on them right now, enough so that it could outweigh the software features that Oly would give me by going E-M1.2/3 

I still really do feel an attraction to shooting Full Frame though. Not sure how that will play out long term. But I could see also buying a cheap Z7 at some point just to play with. They seem to be dropping nicely in price. While I definitely am attracted to the Sony system, I’m just not that interested in the bodies that I could realistically get at the moment.

Friday 24 September 2021

The End of the Break


E-M5.2, 12-40 Pro

I pretty much took July and August off as a break, even stopping uploads to Flickr from the Archives for much of this period. 

There were a few reasons for this. Part of it was just general burnout. I hermited up in general over this period, as I just didn't want to go anywhere or deal with people.

The Forester had to be on limited use for a month of it while I waited for my 100k km service appointment, as it had a really bad rattle going on around 1500rpm and I did not want to risk pushing it, plus I did not want to go over 100k without getting the service and I had to wait over 3 weeks for the nearest appointment at the shop. Turned out the rattle was the minor 'Subaru Rattle' that I expected, ie a loose heatshield, but the alternative was potentially major. 

The weather also sucked, I do not like really humid hot weather and it was exactly that for this period.

Once the Forester got cleared, I ended up with a new blocker, namely I'd decided that after 6.5 years the Forester was just no longer the right vehicle for me, so I traded it in on a new vehicle and one that's much more adventure focused, namely a 4WD Crew Cab pickup with an offroad package, which I picked Sept 1st.

I'd looked hard at modifying the Forester for Overlanding-type usage and while doable, it just would require too much money and too many compromises to get what I wanted, and I would make the Forester's two biggest weaknesses worse, namely the lack of power when pushed and the seating/cargo tradeoffs (the Fozzie hauls stuff or people, not both). As I don't daily drive to work anymore, the fuel efficiency of the Forester is less of an benefit and it's relatively high maintenance costs were going to get worse as I passed 100,000km and started to look at really expensive service intervals every 20k, instead of just moderately expensive service intervals every 20k.

That ended up taking me through the end of August with no outings since late July.

E-M5.2, 12-40 Pro

I did kick off September with a bang, with an 800km road trip up to Barry's Bay, then west on 60 and 169 to Bala, south-west to the 400 and home. Did a decent amount of photography but only a bit of hiking as it was really the first adventure with the Big White Truck. The truck photo is from Highway 62 near Maple Leaf, ON. The truck did very well, averaging 9.7L/100km and with 200km of range left over from a full tank. I did fill up mid trip to be safe, but with less than 80L of fuel burn on a 98L tank, that was well within my range, which it would not have been with the Subaru, which would have burned 60L or so of fuel on the same trip on a 60L tank. While I've got some great mileage from the Forester (6.5L/100KM is quite achievable on road trips in Southern Ontario), it did much worse in the hilly Highlands and Northern Ontario as that 2.5L engine just wheezed on the uphills. I'd occasionally outright run out of power, with the pedal floored on a steeper climb at highway speed even running light. The BWT doesn't even blink, unsurprising with the far more powerful 5.3L V8. And if I ever need more power, the BWT has a ton of aftermarket that can add significant power, while the Subaru's limited aftermarket can't add any real power to the 2.5L engine, it's pretty much at its limit now (Subaru's Turbo 2.0 and 2.4 can be tuned, but the non-Turbo 2.5 can't really)

Since then, I also did a Saturday Morning meander along the Lakefront Trail on the shore of Lake Erie, as part of a road trip to Tillsonburg to visit family. The top photo is from the harbour at Port Burwell, the end of that meander.

I'm on Vacation next week, so Fall Colour is on the menu. Not sure where yet, I have a couple destinations I want to hit over the week, including one I was always hesitant to go to with the Forester due to the rough dirt road.

On the Photography Gear side, little has changed. I'm still using the E-M5.2 as my primary, mostly with the 12-40 Pro, and the E-M1 as a backup/long-lens body. Still want an E-M1.2 or E-M1.3, a 40-150 Pro and some wide option (probably the new 8-25/4), but those are mostly long-term plans, the current kit works well enough for now and Oly has one new lens coming that I want to see before I decide my priorities, a new 40-150/4 Pro.

Expect to see some Overland-related content here as I go forward, the journey is as much of the fun as the images I come back with and I now have a vehicle that can be setup to take me to places that were inaccessible with the Forester, at least running Solo as I so often do.

Tuesday 29 June 2021

Nikon Z fc - Neo Retro from Nikon


Fujifilm X-T2, XC 35mm f2

Nikon just announced the Z50II Z fc

What is it? Most of the expected Z50II updates in a classic UI body.

At first glance, Nikon seems to mostly have listened to the complaints about the Df's absolutely atrocious integration of the classic and modern UI. This body clearly prioritizes the classic UI for most things.

It also fixes a couple complaints I had with the Z50, namely the poor choice of a USB Micro-B connector (now USB-C with PD like all the other Z's except the Z50) and the tilting LCD is replaced by a proper flip/twist LCD. It also gets a completely new feature, you can now update firmware via Snapbridge, which is nice. Now give us settings and Picture Controls that way Nikon...

Still uses the EN-EL25 battery, which is unique to the Z DX bodies, no wired remote support at all (less of an issue in a world with Snapbridge, in-camera interval shooting and tap shutter, but still annoying) and the SD card slot is with the battery.

Some AF updates come as well, derived from the Z6II/Z7II, but otherwise this is a Z50II in FA clothing. And yes, I say FA clothing very intentionally. In UI terms this is an FA, it uses the same sort of mode control the FA did (where the mode switch controls which dials are active). I kind of dig that, it's enough different from Fuji's style of UI (which is very Pentax/Contax in terms of how modes are selected) to not be a copy, while hewing close to a classic Nikon, even if a slightly obscure one.

There's a bolt-on grip, but I'm going to strongly suggest avoiding it and waiting for the Smallrig option instead. The grip is clearly undersized and is not Arca-swiss compatible.

Kits are the 16-50 and a new FX 28/2.8 SE, which is the upcoming Z 28/2.8 with some very Series E cosmetics tacked on top. Same price add, and we now have pricing on the 28/2.8 ($300USD, right where I was expecting it to be). Sadly Nikon has not released a date when the 28 will be available separately (just 'in the fall')

We also got a development announcement for the Z 18-140 DX, which is about the least needed lens right now on the roadmap. 

To be honest, this is a really nice little camera that was an utter waste of resources for Nikon. They need a high-end DX camera FAR more than this, they need to get needed lenses out the door far more than this camera (or the 18-140 DX) and they just trolled all the Z5 owners with the 28SE, as getting that will require flipping a Z fc for the next few months (which I expect is actually going to happen, I suspect Nikon will be quite happy with sales on the Z fc + 28 kit while the market is going to end up with a bunch of Z fc's being sold body-only as a result)

So Nikon - Bravo on the design, but the product planning needs some real work. Ain't nobody in Z right now that wants this release more than what you've already announced development of (namely the two compact primes and the Z9). 

Oh, and Canon just dropped their 15-35/4. They now have a full f4 trio for the hiker, plus a working 3 lens 15-500mm combo, all native. Where's yours Nikon? 

Thursday 24 June 2021

Third Time's a Charm


Olympus E-M1, Panasonic G Vario 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 OIS

I burned my remaining Henry's store credit yesterday to pick up another E-M1. This is the third I've owned, matching the D300 for the digital body I've owned the most copies of (the image above is from my first E-M1 in 2015)

I've owned many more bodies twice, including the Pentax *ist DS, the Nikon D7100, D800 and IIRC the D3200, as well as the NEX-7, one of the NEX-5R or 5N (I've owned 3 NEX-5's, but not sure if I had 2 of the 5R or 2 of the 5N), A7II and Olympus E-M5II

Why did I pick it up? To minimize lens changes while I'm hiking. I noticed I kept losing shots when I needed a telephoto lens on the E-M5II and I had the 12-40 mounted, but I kept swapping to get wide/closeup shots with the 12-40. This will let me leave the 75 or the 40-150 on the E-M1 and the 12-40 on the E-M5II while hiking. This is the one spot where the Z5/E-M5II combo worked better than a single body with a full set of lenses. This will probably become the 40-150 Pro on the E-M1 and the 12-40 on the E-M5II. Long term goal on the lens setup is probably the 8-25/4 as the wide and the 40-150 Pro as the tele option, with the 12-40 covering the middle if needed.

Why the E-M1? I know the body, know it will deliver a better long-lens experience than the E-M5II, it uses the same batteries as the E-M5II and it's cheap. I fully intend on getting a newer 20MP body eventually, at which point I'll probably demote the E-M1 to webcam usage (which is where it will spend most of the time anyways, it'll come off Webcam duty only when I need it)

The main downside to the E-M1 is the tilt screen. Yeah, it's one reason I sold the Z5, but with the E-M1 I'm not limited to using certain lenses only with that body, I can swap between the two bodies as needed since they have identical lens compatibility.

There's a few other issues of course, the E-M1 lacks the level of control over the EVF/LCD switching the E-M5II has and I use that a lot, the control layout isn't quite the same (that's more an issue for the E-M5II, the E-M1 layout is better) and there's no way to fast-sleep the E-M1 (the E-M5II can sort-of do it when the LCD is turned in and the EVF is set to activate on the eye sensor)

Sunday 13 June 2021

m.Zuiko 45mm f1.8 - Whoa!


Olympus E-M5 Mark II, m.Zuiko 45mm f1.8

For some reason I've never owned this lens before, despite having been in and out of the m43 system on and off for over 12 years. It's long been known as a cheap and excellent portrait lens for m43 users.

I had to run a minor errand this morning and decided to walk with the 3 f1.8's. This was mostly to really try out the 17 and 45, I had the 75 along just in case but shot mostly with the 17 on my way out and entirely with the 45 on my way back. 

The 17 is just like I remembered it, a good but not exceptional lens in terms of sharpness and pop, but nice out of focus rendering, good colour and excellent handling. It'll do for a nice walkaround lens, but I'll definitely want a 25 or the 15/1.7 long-term for a serious shooting lens. It really reminds me of the 35/2 AI in a lot of ways, except with more pleasant rendering.

The 45 is nowhere near as nicely built as the 17. It's mostly plastic, lacks the MF clutch and uses the awkwardly small 37mm filter size, instead of the more common 46mm of the 17 & 25. Oh, and the MFD is a disappointing 0.5m, on the poor side for the focal length as 0.45m is more common for 45-55mm lenses. It is truly tiny, but you pay for that in a couple ways. Now 0.5m MFD is actually good by 85-90mm standards, so in terms of usage it's less bad than it initially sounds, but if the lens was a little bigger and had 46mm filters and say a 0.35m MFD it would be amazing.

On the flip side? It's sharp. I mean really sharp. I was blown away by the level of detail in the flower shot above. And that's at minimum focus distance, where most lenses of this type are at their weakest. The colour is good as well, and the backgrounds render very nicely.

I'm very much digging this little gem. I will however get a 37mm to 46mm step-up ring so I can have consistent filters across my small primes. But I see this lens getting a lot of use around town. 

The best part? It's so small that it can just be tossed in a pocket along with a battery when I'm out shooting with the 17mm. I could totally see eventually getting one of the Laowa UWA's (7.5mm or 10mm) for an ultra-compact and tiny 3 lens kit that fits in a small belt pouch or large pocket when paired with an E-M5 series body. 

Saturday 12 June 2021

I Did It Again

Olympus E-M5 Mark II, m.Zuiko 17mm f1.8

After a lot of serious thought and plenty of hemming and hawing, I've broken through my analysis paralysis and made a decision.

The Z5 is gone, Olympus it is for the foreseeable future. Knowing me, it's not going to be permanent, but I'd love to finally stick to a system.

There's two basic reasons for the decision.

1. Flip/Twist LCD. I like low-angle shooting. I like shooting portrait orientation on a tripod. The LCD setup on the E-M5II is just WAY better for both of these than the Z5 because the Z's all lack more than one axis of LCD articulation.

2. The 12-40 Pro. This lens is just so bloody good. And the Z 24-50 was always kind of frustrating because it was good, but got in my way at the same time. The key difference isn't aperture, but close focus. The 12-40 Pro is extremely good at close focus, with 0.2m MFD and the crop factor effectively doubling the magnification in 'fill the frame' terms. The Z 24-50 is not terrible with a 0.34m MFD, but it could not even come close to the 12-40 Pro in close focus.

The end result is that more and more I would just grab the E-M5II when leaving the house. I'd barely shot a frame on the Z5 in two weeks and as of right now I've shot 2100 frames in 6 weeks with the E-M5II and 3300 in 14 weeks with the Z5. That really shows just how much more I'm using the E-M5II than I was the Z5.

 Don't get me wrong, I still think the Z5's a great camera, and it's definitely a better low-light & long lens camera than the E-M5II. But I'm more a wide angle guy and the Z5's advantages (better AF, better sensor, better EVF) are less useful to me than the E-M5's advantages (better LCD articulation, better normal zoom, better IBIS)

So I traded in the Z5/24-50 kit, FTZ, 50/1.8G and 70-300E and came home with a 40-150 f4-5.6 R, 17/1.8, 45/1.8 and 75/1.8. That gives me a basic tele zoom for good light that I know performs well (it's copy #3 at least for me, maybe #4), and a fast and compact AF 35mm equivalent (the 17/1.8), I've owned it before and while it's not amazing, it's quite compact. 

The other two lenses I've not owned before, but they give me a truly tiny 90mm equivalent and a nicely sized and extremely good performing 150mm equivalent, both with f1.8. Both have long been on the list of m43 lenses I've wanted to own. 

I will need a second body though, the AF-C of the E-M5II is just not usable. That will no doubt be an E-M1 Mark II or III. An UWA is also needed, as is the 40-150 f2.8 Pro. And I'll probably pick up a fast normal as well.

But for now I have two really usable 2-lens kits with the E-M5II. The 12-40 can pair with the 75 very well, and the 17 & 45 pair well. One for really light carry, one for serious work. And the 40-150 can be thrown in the bag whenever I want a little long-lens coverage. 

Plus the 17 can stay on the E-M5II when using it as a webcam, so when I have that second body I can have a kit ready to go while still having the webcam hooked up.

Friday 11 June 2021

More Toys for Micro 4/3rds

Nikon Z5, 50mm f1.8 G

Laowa announced an updated version of their 7.5mm f2 UWA for m43 today. The main change is this is now a fully coupled lens with electronic aperture control and a linked focus ring (so focus ring movement can trigger focus assists like peaking or magnification). It's still manual focus, still 46mm filter threads, close focus is 0.12m and it now has 5 aperture blades (vs 7 on the older versions).

Laowa joined the m43 consortium a while ago and that lets them do fully-integrated lenses. This is the third one from them, after the 50/2.8 Macro and the 10/2 UWA. Of course they've done uncoupled manual lenses before, including two variations of the 7.5mm (the standard and an ultralight one for drone use) and those continue in the line.

 It's good to see more functionality coming here. Laowa's one of the most innovative lens manufacturers today, specializing in UWA's and macro's, although they're starting to branch out into general fast primes. They are also offering something that's been really lacking in m43 since day one, which is primes wider than 12mm (24mm-e). As a bonus their stuff is small, optically good and has unusually excellent close focus. 

It's no secret I'm very fond of my Laowa 15mm f4 Macro in F mount, and this really is the m43 equivalent, just without the 1:1 magnification. I can live without that for a much smaller lens and 46mm filters.

The size of this lens makes it an absolutely amazing small wide option for the E-M5, E-M10 or Pen shooter and it's practical on the regular E-M1's, although I'd expect a lens this small would be somewhat hilarious to use on the E-M1X.

Between this and the new 8-25 PRO, it's been a killer week for m43 wide shooters. It's great to see some movement in a system that has had so little action in terms of new gear over the last few years. 

I'd love one of these for my E-M5II

Wednesday 9 June 2021

Effective Magnification - What is it?


Olympus E-M5 Mark II, m.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 Pro

OMDS announced the 8-25/4 Pro today, alongside the E-P7. The body is pretty much an E-M10 Mark IV stuffed inside a Pen body, with the neat color/mono switch from the Pen-F added. Small, inexpensive and really adjustable JPEG profiles, but aside from being dual dial (why it's an E-P body instead of an E-PL body) there's nothing particularly stand-out. Asia/EU only though, but that's the real market for these.

The 8-25 however is the real standout. CDN pricing is a bit better than I expected at $1399 (I was expecting $1449). It's a collapsing lens, which is unexpected. Good close focus performance, which was expected, what looks like excellent flare performance and a really solid range. 72mm filter size is also outstanding, it's the smallest filter thread on a zoom this wide and also allows shared filters between the 40-150 Pro and the 8-25, which is a really nice bonus. Unlike some makers (Nikon, cough, cough) Oly seems to be trying to minimize the filter size options, with the Pro lenses mostly using 62mm or 72mm filters (the outliers are the compact 12-45 which is 58mm like many of the non-Pro line and the 150-400 which takes 95mm filters, plus the 7-14 and 8mm fisheye which do not allow screw-in filters due to front element shape) 

The press release however talks about the 0.42x effective magnification at 25mm and MFD, which has the internet up in arms as that's not the real magnification of the lens (which is 0.21x, and is actually in the tech specs for the lens). This complaint is technically correct, but useless for folks who are not doing the very few types of photography where knowing the reproduction ratio is key. For most photographers doing close-up work, including myself, the key aspect is filling the frame, and for that effective magnification allows you to readily compare with Full Frame, which has become everybody's standard point for comparison.

I've actually found this very useful, especially with my 55mm Micro-Nikkor, which does 1:2 macro (0.5x), and is much more useful on m43 for macro work than on FF, where working distance for a given framing is very limited. You effectively get more working distance for a given framing from m43 with a lens of a given actual magnification, which makes the 1:2 macros much more useful on m43 than on FF. 

For comparison, at 1:1  magnification on my Z5, the new Nikkor Z MC 50mm has 16cm working distance, the Z MC 105mm has 31cm working distance and at the same composition the Micro-Nikkor 55mm has 24cm working distance on m43. Going from 16cm to 24cm for the same composition is a big gain in working distance which is a major benefit when doing macro work.

Sunday 6 June 2021

A Few Thoughts

Fujifilm X-T2, 7Artisans 12mm f2.8

Processed the last few X-T2 images in my backlog today. There's still some to be posted, but the Fuji stuff is pretty close to being done, wrapping up my latest adventure with that system. Still have 2 X-T1 images to post, but I processed the last X-T1 images weeks ago.

I still do feel affection for the system, it's a solid choice but not for me for landscape work. I just don't get along with the colour science. Not enough deep blue. REALLY nice B&W output though, Fuji is probably my favourite for B&W tones out of the box. I still do think it's odd I can't get Provia colour from the camera made by Provia's maker and which includes a 'Provia' setting (which looks nothing like Provia btw)

At this point I've taken almost 1400 images with the E-M5 Mark II that replaced the Fuji stuff, that's in about 5 weeks with some hiking involved. That's reasonable, especially since I'm basically shooting with one lens welded on, namely the 12-40 f2.8 Pro. 

I did use my Micro-Nikkor 55/3.5 AI a bunch today, it's really nice on the E-M5 II, much more usable than on the Z5 where the working distance limits me more (in terms of filling the frame, the crop factor makes the 55 Micro at 1:2 actual magnification functionally the same as a 110 Macro at 1:1 on Full Frame)

The Z5 is coming up on 3400 shots, with 2 months more ownership. That's a solid increase since early May, but overall a lower rate than the E-M5 II so far. A lot of that is that the E-M5 II is just a better walkabout camera in most regards, with a much more flexible normal zoom, in terms of range, close focus ability and speed. 

The close focus ability is the real game changer here, it just makes the 12-40 so much more useable for around the neighbourhood shooting than the Z 24-50 is. Even the 24-70/4 S cannot match the close focus of the 12-40 Pro. 

The more flexible flip/twist LCD setup on the E-M5 II also contributes here. It makes low and odd angle shooting so much easier it's not funny, especially as I shoot a lot of portrait orientation work. If I did mostly landscape orientation the Z5's LCD would be way less limiting.

 I would love a Z5-level EVF on the Oly's. The difference in EVF quality and transparency is immense. With the Oly's you are clearly looking at an electronic display, the Z5 however just seems to show what's going on, like a regular OVF with more data. 

The Z5 also comes out ahead in terms of AF. More flexibility and more control than the E-M5 II. The one thing the E-M5 II does particularly well is handle when the scene is totally out of focus. The Z5 struggles, the E-M5 II pauses for a bit then starts racking through the focus range to try and find a subject.

A wildcard that's been thrown in on system selection for me is that Olympus/OMDS is no longer regular stock items at any major retailer. Henry's, Vistek and Downtown Camera all now treat it as Special Order. I need to figure out if I can live with that. That said, it's not like there's a lot of kit I'd be looking to add either way. 

For now, I'm going to keep tracking my usage to see if a clear winner emerges between the two cameras. If not, I'll have to make some sort of decision later this summer.

Thursday 3 June 2021

Olympus Rumours and the Other Road


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

The first images of the upcoming m.Zuiko PRO 8-25mm f4 leaked today, along with the upcoming E-P7 body (the first new body in that line in years). 

The E-P7 doesn't much interest me, although it looks competent at what it is, especially if it gets the PDAF variant of the 20MP sensor and is priced in a sane manner.

But the 8-25/4 on the other hand is extremely interesting as I pretty much am the target market for a compact UWA to normal zoom. In full-frame terms it's a 16-50mm lens, it's weather sealed, f4 across the range, reasonably compact and a 72mm filter thread.

In practical matters that means it's an extremely viable foundation for a 1-lens kit, and it matches extremely well with the 40-150 f2.8 Pro as a 2 lens kit, especially since both use 72mm filters.

I could do a lot of work successfully pairing the 8-25 with a 60 macro, 75/1.8 or the 40-150 f2.8 PRO as needed. Nikon does offer an excellent 14-30/4, but that is much larger and uses more expensive 82mm filters vs the much less expensive 72mm filters. 

While I've been expecting this lens for a while, it's been on the roadmap since last year, getting some details means that the release should be soon and that means it should be out before I truly commit one way or another to m43 or Z as my future system.

I went over the hiking kits a couple posts ago, the 8-25 would let me drop a lens from that kit, the 8-25 would be the UWA and Normal zoom and could let me leave the 12-40 at home when I'm going really light, with a 2 body kit no lens changes at all would be needed when shooting, just switch bodies as I go. I wouldn't get rid of the 12-40, but I suspect it would get a lot less use.

The real gripping hand here is light carry. With m43 the E-M5 series fills that need very well, especially if paired with the ultra-compact primes available in the system. With Z, there is no really good option. The Z50 is not as small, Z has few to no small primes available and you're dealing with a split format system. 

The reality is that as much as I like Z, m43 is a far more mature system. Unsurprising as one has been around for 13 years and the other for 3. Nikon's done an amazing job so far with Z and you can cover the gaps with F glass (at a size/weight cost), but if I pick on maturity and flexibility, m43 delivers far more, and even more if I look at size and weight alongside that. I just need to do more work to get the same level of IQ for landscape work and I lose a decent amount of high ISO capability, offset by a better availability of fast glass for more reasonable cost.

When comparing costs, for the base hiking kit, Z makes more sense for sure, even if I go dual body I'm a lot closer to completion. 

However for a full kit, the m43 can get there quicker and cheaper, as pretty much everything except the 8-25 is already available and most of it is decidedly cheaper than the Z options. 

So yep, back in analysis paralysis.....If I could just stick to a system that would be nice....

Wednesday 2 June 2021

New Toys From Nikon

Nikon Z5, Z 24-50

Today Nikon finally launched some new gear. After a long drought since last fall's Z6II & Z7II, Nikon announced both of the Macro lenses on their Z roadmap, the Nikkor MC 105mm f2.8 S VR and the Nikkor MC 50mm f2.8, which will be shipping in the next few weeks.

The 105 is looking very good. Nikon launched it at a lower price than I expected ($999USD, $100 more than the somewhat unimpressive 105VR it replaces) and delivered a lens that they are promising to deliver both excellent macro performance and excellent performance if using as a portrait lens. Still no real VR/IBIS integration though. This lens is on my wishlist for sure, I love doing macro and close focus work and often find my current options too limiting. 62mm filter size, which is somewhat annoying (Can't Nikon settle on a standard set of filter sizes? Right now it's almost one of each size in the Z lineup)

The 50 also looks good. It's $50USD more than the 60mm f2.8G it replaces, which is reasonable. Interestingly it uses 46mm filters, same as the 16-50DX. not a cheap lens, but it would be a great gap lens between the 14-30/4 S and a 70-300 for a lightweight and mobile kit. Interesting, but not a must-buy for me. I do like that it's 50mm rather than 60mm, as that gaps better (although I'd rather have 55mm or 60mm on DX).

We also got pictures and a couple specs on the 28 & 40mm Muffin lenses. Yes, they aren't pancakes. The 28 is f2.8 and the 40 is f2, the filter size is 52mm (yes!) and the mount is plastic. No pricing, optical specs or ETA beyond 'before end of 2021'. The plastic mount suggests some nice aggressive pricing on these two lenses and they're both pretty much must-haves for me. Love to see a 85/2.8 or 100/2.8 to round out a nice trio of inexpensive primes for the Z5. I don't care about plastic mounts as long as the pricepoint isn't too high. Rather trash a $200 lens than a $1k+ camera.

The 40/2 in particular goes a LONG way to addressing my biggest issue with the Z5, which is 'cheap body, expensive glass'. A Nifty 40 is perfect for this, without being too close to either the 35/1.8 S or 50/1.8 S.

Actually, that reminds me that a 55/2 Muffin would be a nice choice to round out this line as well, as it would be a great portrait lens on the Z50 while being a nice long normal that a 40/2 user might consider as well. But Nikon needs to get the 28 & 40 into stores first. They've promised a LOT for FY 2021 (30 lenses released in Z mount, do note that due to Nikon's fiscal year, their promise is for the period of April 1, 2021 through March 31, 2022, not by end of calendar year 2021)


Monday 31 May 2021

Analysis Paralysis


Nikon Z5, Z 24-50

Did another hike yesterday. It's a great activity for exercise while maintaining social distancing, you don't want other people around if you can avoid it. 11.3KM & 18,000+ steps on a moderate-rated '8km' hike. Yes, I keep getting bit by trail distance ratings being well off from reality. 

Did make a few errors, mostly prior to leaving. First off, I forgot to charge my Z5 and had 52% battery when I got to the trailhead. Big takeaway there is that I need a USB-C PD capable adapter in the car, either a small power USB power panel or a 12V car adapter widget, my current unit just isn't delivering the power necessary to charge my Z5 (or my iPhone and iPad Pro for that matter). I also forgot one charged battery for the E-M5II, and of my 2 spares there, one wasn't charged either. Luckily I caught this early enough that I could use one of my USB charging docks to half-charge the spare BLN-1 on the drive (these docks don't pull a lot of power from the USB port, so they work with my current car adapter, but they're also very slow to charge, ~4 hours to full). Finally I forgot my PD Leash wrist strap, which I really like having for security when working in places where a dropped camera would be a catastrophic loss.

I spent the first half of the hike shooting both bodies, with the 70-300E on the Z5 and the 12-40PRO on the E-M5II. That mostly worked well, although to be honest I was really missing the Z5's better AF system control for some of the work I shot with the E-M5II. I did a bit of long-exposure work on the E-M5II here, and it mostly worked pretty well. The only real issue I had was one really nice shot that could have worked better if I'd bracketed it and merged the two images in post and I didn't think to do so. I took a break about halfway in at a nice shoreline rest spot and did some long-exposure work with both the E-M5II and the Z5. I did not have a re-occurrence of the issues with getting a usable display with ND filters on the Z5, I think now that it was a combination of the polarizer (I did notice both bodies displays darkened more with the polarizer than with a 10-stop ND fitted, but exposures were generally good) and the sun position (shining directly into the EVF sensor)

After the rest stop, I stuck the E-M5II in the pack and shot the rest of the hike only with the Z5 as a test. I used all 3 lenses, the Laowa 15/4 Macro, the Z 24-50 and the 70-300E. This worked generally well, but swapping lenses between the Z 24-50 and 70-300E is a pain when trying to work quickly (the 15 really doesn't suit quick work in the first place, so it's not so much of an annoyance). I really did appreciate the generally quicker control of the body, especially of the AF system. For all that there's some really valid complaints about the limited AF controls on the Z's vs the F mount bodies, they do generally do better than most comparable mirrorless bodies once you get used to the setup.

Moving between the two dissimilar interfaces in the E-M5II and Z5 is an exercise in aggravation, as the UI's are different enough and the capabilities also different enough that I have to context switch too much. The E-M5II has a lot of nice extra features, but I do have to work to access them, most are menu dives, the Z5 is a much faster body to work with and while the Super Control Menu is a lot more capable than the 'i' menu, the 'i' menu is more configurable and quicker to access. 

This shows me that I really would be better off with 2 bodies in the same mount when working in the field, not 2 dissimilar bodies. Nikon is probably the easier to do this with as all the FX Z bodies are essentially identical in UI aside from the mode dial location and presence of a top LCD. Olympus would require two E-M1.2/3 bodies to get full benefit of a similar UI between both bodies, the E-M5's have the same basic menu structure as the E-M1's, but the body control layout is quite different with the E-M1's actually being closer to the Z's in control layout.

If I was to go to a 2 similar body setup on the Z's, I basically need the 24-70S (on my list already as long as I keep the Z5) and a new body to get all the basics covered. That could be a Z6 or Z5, or I could save up a bit more and get a used Z7 and get that glorious 45MP sensor and some extra crop capability. The Z50 is a non-option here as it can't share batteries with the Z5 and the UI is just enough different to make it a less than ideal change from the Z5. 

On the Olympus side I'd need an UWA, a 40-150 Pro and eventually 2 bodies (as the E-M5II doesn't match up well to the E-M1's for UI, so the E-M5II+E-M1 combo runs into a lot of the same issues as the E-M5II+Z5 combo). That's more glass, but on the body side I can add one, get the glass, then add another body later. But here I need the glass too, and relatively quickly. Costs are the same short term (a 40-150 Pro + E-M1.2 costs the same as a used Z7, but I could get another Z5 for about the same cost as an E-M1.2) and a 9-18 or Laowa 7.5 cost on par with a 24-70/4 S.

The more I look at this, the more the Z system seems to draw ahead. As much as the computational photography extras help m43, the ones I have today really only serve to match what I can get single-shot with a Z, and the extras on the E-M1's are things that would be nice, but I don't need all that much (like ProCapture and Handheld high-res). LiveBulb is the real kicker here, but I've not used it that much at all. The long shutter limit of the earlier Z bodies (before the Z6II/Z7II) is a real annoyance, I can just use bulb, but then I need to math and hand-time. But I can do that if needed.

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Frustrations and Filters


OM-D E-M5 Mark II, m.Zuiko PRO 12-40mm f2.8

Got out yesterday for another hike, same setup as last time, mostly shooting with the Z5/70-300E and E-M5II/12-40PRO combos. I spent a little time with the Z24-50 on the Z5, but I got frustrated with it quite quickly. I was shooting in bright sunlight and wanted to use my 10 stop ND+ Polarizer, but I could not get the Z5 to give me a workable display. Ended up using the 5 stop instead, which was just barely enough. I was a little surprised, as I've used the 10 stop successfully on the Z5/24-50 combo before, but I suspect I was running into a combination of LCD auto-brightness, limited max shutter speed and LV Settings simulation. 

I didn't yet have any ND filters that fit my 12-40 Pro, so I couldn't swap that in for long-exposure work, although somewhat ironically, I got home to find that Amazon had delivered a 62mm 10 stop ND a day early. Really could have used that on the hike.

I'm using Gobe/URTH ND filters, which are a decent budget option. They do have a colour cast (regardless of advertising, all but the most pricey ND filters have colour casts), but it's a relatively easily corrected warming effect. I do want to get a high-end ND/Polarizer setup, but those are expensive enough that I want to know exactly what set I need before investing, which requires my gear setup to settle down.

That means I really do need to settle on my landscape kit. If I continue down the m43 path there I get a much more mature system, a smaller one and a lot of very useful features available right now. Plus if nothing else the bodies are a lot cheaper, especially once the Z9 ships (which should cost double what an E-M1X costs, that's the closest comparable m43 body).

If I go down the Z path, I'll be waiting for stuff and have to carry more weight, but the basics are in place today, the glass is every bit as good and I can go up to 45 or more MP right now and get a lot of flexibility in terms of cropping that way.

The real challenge is every time I go out with the E-M5II, I'm reminded how good and small the E-M1II setup was, and every time I go out with the Z5 I'm reminded how good the performance is there. But when I carry both I get annoyed at the AF of the E-M5II (seriously inferior to the Z5) and how limited the Z5 is on the tripod (seriously inferior in LCD viewing angles and multi-shot capabilities to the E-M5II)

Wednesday 19 May 2021



Panasonic G1, Super-Takumar 35mm f3.5

The last couple weeks I've been struggling with motivation again. Not to get out and shoot, but to get out and shoot with my film cameras. After a very active March & April where I shot 20-ish rolls of film, I'm just reaching for the digital bodies every time I leave the house.

Some of this is just my usual addiction to shooting flowers in the spring. I don't like doing that on film, but love it on digital, especially with the E-M5II/12-40PRO combo which is a nearly perfect setup for flower photography. Some is that I've pretty much shot everything there is close to home at least 5 times and I only really enjoy constant revisiting when shooting flowers/insects.

The challenge here is that my Film Instagram gets a lot more interest than my digital one does. I generally see 25-30 likes on the first 24 hours of posting to the film IG, and 6-7 likes on the regular IG. This is despite having 50% more followers on the regular one.

So I sort of want to chase Likes, but on the other hand forcing myself to make photographs is a prescription for even more motivation loss. If I push myself too much to make film work, I'll just end up sticking everything in the bag and leaving it alone for a while, and that while might end up being years.

That said, I think I'll just grab the F2a and 35/2 AI today, along with a spare roll of HP5+. I need to run out and get some milk at lunch and that's always a good walk for film (east on Eglinton Ave West between Allen Rd and Bathurst St)

Sunday 16 May 2021

A Little Hike


Z5, 70-300 E

So I added the Nikkor 70-300 E to my kit on Friday, which gives me a full hiking kit for the Z5, made up of the Laowa 15mm f4 Macro, the Z 24-50 kit lens and the 70-300E. That's a pretty workable kit overall.

I went out yesterday with it, although I also carried the E-M5II with the m.Zuiko Pro 12-40mm f2.8.

This combo worked pretty well, I pretty much ended up shooting with the 70-300E on the Z5 on the capture clip, and pulling the E-M5II/12-40 out of the belt pouch when I needed the wider lens or closer focus (the 12-40 is a really good near-macro). This let me avoid lens changes in the field a fair bit.

I also had the Z24-50 and a selection of filters in the pouch, and used the 24-50 for the shots I wanted an ND for, as all of my ND's are 52mm right now (I need to invest in larger ND filters). I had a Cokin P mount setup with a polarizer for the 12-40 and 70-300E (it won't work with the 15/4 even though I have the UW mount, it vignettes). I didn't use the 15/4 even though I carried it. I did go in expecting that the 15/4 wouldn't get used, I've hiked the trail before in the fall and knew what I'd be seeing.

I learned a few things from this.

1. Even though neither of my cameras is setup correctly for tripod work, not having proper screen articulation on the Z5 was more frustrating than the lack of an L bracket was on the E-M5II. The L bracket issue is also more readily addressed. I definitely had some issues shooting portrait orientation with the Z5 on the tripod (or really for any low-angle shots). 

2. AF on the Z5 is a LOT better than the E-M5II. This is not an unexpected revelation, the E-M5II is no match for the E-M1II either in terms of AF and lacks both point selection options and performance compared to either.

3. I'm getting really good at manipulating the Z5's AF system. It really does control well considering the lack of direct controls available. Now if only Drive Mode saved to the User Banks.

4. Yes, returning the E-M1II and getting the Z5 was a mistake. I'd have been a fair bit better off if I'd had the E-M1II with a 40-150 Pro instead of the Z5. But the Z5 works very well nonetheless and the Z5/70-300E combo was more achievable right now that selling the Z5 and getting an E-M1II/40-150 Pro would have been. The math here might have been different at the retail price on the 70-300E, but it's on sale now at 25% off list which really adds up.

5. I don't regret owning the Z5, even if I regret buying it. It does work very well for me regardless of whether or not the alternative would have worked better.

So what am I going to do? For now, I'll be looking to get the 24-70/4 S for the Z5, as a 24-50 replacement with better range and better weather sealing & low temperature performance, then I suspect I'll concentrate on building out the m43 kit to where it needs to be to be a complete standalone system. 

The big kicker for me now is what do I do as an UWA for the m43 stuff. Do I go with the obvious and get a 7-14/2.8 (and pay through the nose for filters and a holder), do I wait for the upcoming 8-25/4, or do I get an alternate option like the Laowa 7.5/2 or the Leica 8-18/2.8-4. This will probably be the last hurdle I solve, and it may end up with multiple options (I could readily see having the 7-14 for rough conditions and 1-2 Laowa primes for compact carry)

Thursday 13 May 2021

Z Musings


Z5, 105/2.5 AI-S

This was one of the first shots I took with the Z5, from the first day of ownership at the end of February (to be exact, shot #36)

Today, in mid-May, I've taken just over 1900 images with the Z5.

That's really not where I expected to be with it, I was expecting about 50% more.

What happened?

1. I started shooting film again in a significant way. More than 20 rolls worth so far this year, the most I've shot in all but one year since 2012. That distracted me from all my digital work.

2. I'm somewhat less than really happy with the FTZ experience. It's not the camera's fault, it's mine. I've never really got along with adapted SLR primes on mirrorless as a primary shooting setup, but I keep trying it. Need to quit doing that, it never works out like I'd planned. Not that the results aren't good, but that the shooting experience is not what I really enjoy, more from a handling perspective than anything. The longer the lens, the better here, I'm much fonder of the 105/2.5 on the FTZ than I am of say the 35/2 (which is probably my least favourite lens on the Z5, at probably my favourite focal length for general shooting. Of course, I'm starting from a bad spot since I just don't like the 35/2 AI that much in general). 

3. I got aggravated quickly by the Z 24-50's focus issues in the cold. Took a while to figure out what was going on (and Nikon Canada Support was utterly worthless in helping me out). Suffice it to say I will have an alternate solution before fall comes. That really made the first few weeks with the Z5 less of a New Toy experience and more of an intermittent frustration experience, for something I can't blame the body for.

4. I rapidly started missing the m.Zuiko PRO 12-40mm f2.8, partly because of #3, partly because it's just an amazing bit of glass. Now I have the E-M5II for it and am enjoying that, although I do not see the E-M5II as a primary body anytime soon, it really replaces the X-T1 as my occasional/light use body. I will be rounding out that setup, but I'm not sure what that really means yet. The last post covers what a full m43 setup would be for me, but the Z5 complicates things.

Now I really like the Z5 body itself. The files are amazing, the handling great and it just works. Plus it has all the extra bits I like (USB-C power/charge, wireless inc/remote functionality). It is a bit of a chonker for mirrorless, by far the biggest & heaviest one I've used, but you gain a great grip and no finger clearance issues (unlike what I experienced with the Sony's)

I took the Z5 out for a walk today while I had some time to kill near Sunnybrook, and came home with a bunch of work. Very much enjoyed it and shot mostly with the 24-50, although I did use the 15/4 as well. While I had the 105 and 200 with me, I didn't use them at all (I did mount the 200 at one point, but couldn't focus fast enough for it to matter). I came home thinking a 70-300E would have been extremely useful and probably allow for a much simpler kit than carrying 4 lenses (I'd drop both telephoto primes for the 70-300E). 

The kicker for me is what is going to be a solid rough conditions kit. I've heard good things about the sealing on the Z's, but I have zero trust for the 24-50 in any sort of challenging conditions. So I'd be buying new glass for that.

What would a Z system look like for me?

Z5, 14-30/4, 50/1.8G, 70-300E would work, I could also sub the 24-70/4S in for the 50/1.8G, the 3 zoom kit would be more flexible for hiking, but both would work (the upcoming Z 50 micro could replace the 50/1.8G as well).

In terms of primes, I'm thinking the S lenses are mostly out for me, the 20 is interesting for its absolute performance and I'm really loving what I see from the 35, but the 28 and 40 Muffin lenses are probably where it's at for me, plus the Viltrox 85mm. Alternatively I might add the other Viltrox FF lenses if they come to Z mount (they have a 24/1.8 and are doing a 35/1.8 and 50/1.8 too, but so far they're FE mount only and the 85 is the only one in multiple mounts).

I don't see any high-end lenses short term, they're just too heavy and too expensive. 

Wednesday 12 May 2021

m43 Musings


E-M1, m.Zuiko 12-50 EZ

The more I shoot with the E-M5.2, the more I'm reminded of just how flexible this little camera is. It really is a good little camera, especially when paired with a solid mid-range zoom. I think that the perfect 1 lens setup for this would be the 12-45/4 Pro, which is smaller & lighter than the 12-40/2.8 Pro I'm using this time around, but faster and better than the 12-50 EZ I used on my previous E-M5's. The 12-40 does work very well, but it's in some ways just a bit too much lens for the E-M5.2 to balance perfectly. 

If I do build my m43 kit back out, and that's looking very likely, this is what it would likely look like. 

Small kit:

E-M5.2, 9-18, 40-150R, either a 14-42 EZ or a 25/1.8

Around the city:

E-M5.2, Laowa 10/2, P14/2.5,  17/1.8, 25/1.8, 45/1.8


E-M1.2/3, wide, 12-40 Pro, 40-150 Pro, 1.4x TC?

The good news is that there's really only 3 major investments here, the E-M1.2 or 1.3, the 40-150 Pro and a backcountry wide (if I go for a zoom rather than the Laowa 7.5mm). Almost everything else can be acquired cheaply except the 9-18 and Laowa 10/2, and frankly I could get away with only one of those for a good while and they're not that big an investment in the first place.

What about the Z5? To be frank, I'm not sure. I'm leaning towards keeping it, because if I sell it I'll just buy another Full Frame body because I can't resist the idea of FF and using all that lovely classic FF glass on it, and if I do that I'll probably do something silly like sell the m43 kit like I did to get my last A7II and also to get the Z5. What I really need to decide is if I'm going to add a 70-300E to my kit so I have a fully working hiking kit with the Z5. There's an insanely good sale on that lens this month, so I could grab one on Friday and then have a Z5 hiking kit of the 15/4, 24-50 and 70-300E for now (and eventually the E-M1 kit would semi-replace it with something that's better for bad conditions). Plus the Z5 could continue as a fun lens/bad light system long-term as well as being the digital in the film bag, a role m43 simply cannot do for me. I'd probably see the Z system grow with a few M or LTM lenses.

My film kit doesn't need much, I need a better 35mm, a small 20mm, a 85/90mm and a 135mm. Oh, and the tools I need to clean up my 200/4 so it can be used on film again (it's got a stuck aperture and I only use it on digital as a result, but I really do like the lens). The lenses will get added slowly over time but I really don't need much investment in my 35mm film kit, it's pretty complete even now.