Tag - olympus

Photo Challenge #5: The Red Violin

I thought of this one yesterday after posting that Instagram snapshot of the violin headstocks at NAMM.

This goes back to 2013, when I’d just gotten my first “full frame” DSLR, the Nikon D600, and was looking for things to do with it.

Ann and I had been to a show at a small music store in in the Five Points neighborhood of East Nashville called The Fiddle House (t’s not there any more, it has since merged with the Violin Shop on Franklin Pike). While we were there, I looked up at a display of violins (just what is the difference between a fiddle and a violin, anyway?) hanging on the wall and noticed this one red-toned instrument standing out amid all the brown ones.

I got permission from the owners of the shop to come back and set up a shot that featured that one red violin. I brought a strobe with me and tried to light the thing, but all I got was glare reflecting off the varnish. I finally had to put away the flash and resort to the room lighting, with a slightly higher ISO and a MUCH longer exposure. Thank god I brought my tripod.

One more note about that Nikon D600: that was my last Nikon. It was awful. The worst designed and engineered camera I owned in nearly 40 years of using Nikons. I bought it for the trip I took to the UK in the spring of 2013 (oh, how I wish I was back there now for those endless sunsets around the Solstice!) I also carried the little Olympus camera that I’d taken when Ann and I went to Scotland in 2012; that was my ‘back up camera’ for that trip. But I discovered that I kept going to the Olympus when I got tired of lugging the Nikon around.

It wasn’t just the size and weight of the Nikon that wore me down (I got to calling it “the Anvil 600”), but there were other aspects of the camera that were problematic – not the least that I’d gotten one of the models that was so poorly manufactured that the shutter sprayed crud on the sensor, and some of my favorite shots with a deep depth of field (like f/16-22) were nearly ruined by the spots in the images.

It was not long after I returned from that trip that Olympus announced it’s Pro-line of OM-D bodies and lenses, and that’s all I’ve been shooting every since.

Not that anybody asked…

A Note About This Week’s Digest (June 4, 2014)

To the Vast Legion who read my Weekly Digest:

What you’ll be seeing this week if you follow all the links in the digest (or just scroll down from the main page of the website) is mostly photos from an event that I covered on Sunday – the inaugural iteration of the Farmers Market at the Amqui Station, recently relocated to a park in Madison – the neighborhood locals like to call “Northeast Nashville” (because, you know, EAST Nashville is now SOooo hip and trendy… ).

My weapon of choice these days, the Olympus E-M1 with battery grip, 12-40 f/2.8 lens (24-70 equivalent) and built in WiFi.

My weapon of choice these days, the Olympus E-M1 with battery grip, 12-40 f/2.8 lens (24-70 equivalent) and built in WiFi.

The camera I’m using now – Olympus OM-D E-M1 – has its own built-in WiFi transceiver, which makes it really easy to send photos from the camera to my iPhone and then up to Instagram, Facebook, or whatever. During the event I sent about a dozen images to Instagram, and tagged them with “#blog” which also sends them to this website and posts them here.

The result is not ideal – I wind up with an individual blog post for each image that I send to Instagram. That in turn sends a glut of posts to my Facebook page, to the occasional annoyance of my Legion of Followers there.

Like everything in the digital world, it all works, sorta.

What I would really like is to have a tiled window sort of thing, maybe 6 images total, where the panels rotate to display different shots (kinda like my Instagram account looks when when you view it in a desktop browser) Then all you’d have to do is look at that one window for a few seconds and you’d see a bunch of the images in that one place without any additional effort. I haven’t quite found the app, plugin, or embed yet that will do that, so I’m stuck for now with individual posts and one image to each.

There are also a couple of images that I’ve siphoned out of the “Portals of Stone” collection and posted to Instagram… I guess I’m trying to see who else in the vast reaches of that universe might like to see images of medieval stone ruins cast against a modern deep-space sky. So far the reactions are very favorable but not exactly vast. I’ll keep plugging away at it…

Thanks for subscribing….

June 4, 2014

Is This a Dumb Idea for a Camera…


…or the dumbest idea for a camera, ever?

Ming Thein offers some insights on the just announced Nkon Df – a camera that seems to blend all the disadvantages of digital photography with all the disadvantages of film photography.

I think Ming is mincing his words here.

To be honest, I really don’t quite know what to make of this camera… I’m confused. On one hand, there are very sensible engineering choices – the sensor, for instance; but on the other hand, marketing said that you have to have AF and a full digital set of controls and a retro look, so we land up having too many buttons and knobs and a bit of an F3-collided-with-a-D600 appearance to it.

I’m not mincing mine: I think this is the dumbest thing in camera design/engineering Nikon could possibly have offered.

Starting with the same dysfunctional AF array that soured me on the D600 right out of the box.

Ming talks a lot about the viewfinder. He’s talking about an optical viewfinder. But based on my experience with the Olympus EM-1 so far, I think the whole idea of the optical viewfinder is obsolete. I spent a lot of time while shooting the Barcamp on Saturday experimenting with flash settings – flash on, flash off, flash exposure plus/minus – and never had to take the camera away from my eye to make those adjustments because all the info is right in the viewfinder. I don’t think there is any optical viewfinder that puts that much info in front of your eye.

But better than that, each time I made an exposure, it would appear before my eye in the viewfinder. I could tell without ever looking at the back of the camera that I’d gotten the shot and move on to the next one. You can’t do that with an optical viewfinder, either.

It seems to me that some evil twin of Marshal McLuhan is now running Nikon. McLuhan wrote about seeing the future through a rear-view mirror – using new technology to do the work of the old. He wasn’t suggesting that that is necessarily a good thing – but this camera is a classic example of doing just that. It’s taking digital technology and trying to replicate the film camera experience. Jeezus, if you want a “film experience,” just get an F3 or an F100 off eBay.

And the price… almost $2,800?? That’s the same as a D800… which is possibly the finest DSLR on the market.

I’m with Ming. Totally confused.

A Tale of Two Cameras: #DSLR -v- #Micro4/3 Shootout

(Click here to cut to the chase. Otherwise, here’s some deep background:)

The Nikon v- The Olympus

Nikon -v- Olympus. Which would you rather carry? The answer may not be so obvious.

As many in my Vast Legion of Followers and Readers know by now, I have been in the midst of a migration in my camera preferences for the past half-year or so – from the “DSLR” format to a newer format called Micro 4/3rds.

I started using a DSLR with the purchase of a Nikon D100 in the summer of 2003. I selected Nikon because that’s what I’ve been using in the 35mm SLR realm since I got a Nikon F2 back in 1974.

The DSLR format has always frustrated me slightly, due to what is known as the “crop factor” with most “35mm” DSLRs – because they are not, in fact, actually “35mm.” The sensors in the early (and now most but not all) DSLRs were smaller than a typical 35mm film frame by about 1/3rd. This means that a “crop factor” of 1.5 is applied to whatever lens you’re using – so a 100mm lens on a “crop factor” camera yields a frame sized as though the lens were actually 150mm.

Since my earliest days of shooting with the Nikon F2, I have always been enamored of the perspective and ultra-wide angle afforded by a 24mm lens. But when the crop factor is applied to a 24mm on a typical DSLR, you wind up with a frame more like what you would get from a 36mm lens, which is a fairly standard wide-angle. In order to get the perspective of a 24mm on a crop-factor DLSR, you’d have to get a 16mm lens (the cropfactor is 1.5, so 1.5×16=24).

With the D100, I used a Sigma 17-35 wide-angle zoom, which at it’s shortest focal length worked out to ~26 or 27mm, which was close enough – well, no, not really. In 2006, before Ann and I went to Ireland, I got the then new Nikon D80, which offered a noticeable improvement in image quality over the prior models (particularly in low light settings) but still had the smaller sensor. With the D80 I often used a Nikon 18-200 f/3.5-5.6, which is a great all-purpose lens, but again, with the crop factor, it translates to 28-300mm. Same with the Nikon D300s that I have been shooting with since the summer of 2009. Still no 24mm without going to pricey 16mm fisheye lenses. and even then, it’s still not the same as my cherished 24mm.

There are now what are called “full frame” DSLRs, with a frame that is equal to the frame of the old 35mm film cameras, so a 24mm lens = 24mm. But the full frame models tend to be a full third more costly than the crop-factor models. I’ve never quite been able to justify the cost.

As Ann and I got close to our trip to Scotland in the fall of 2012, I started giving serious thought to buying a “full-frame” DSLR, either the older Nikon D700 – which is the essentially the same technology as my D300s in a “full frame” sensor, or the newer Nikon D800, which offers the next generation of sensor and camera technology. A used D700 I might have been able to score for well under $2K; the D800 would have set me back $3K. I wavered… and started thinking seriously about switching altogether to the new Micro 4/3 format.

I’d learned about the Micro 4/3 in the summer of 2012 by attended a seminar hosted by Will Crockett that extolled the virtues of the new “mirrorless” format.

Yes, the sensors are even smaller than the sensors in a typical DSLR. But sensor technology has come a long way in the three years since I purchased my D300s.

This is the sort of perspective you get with a 12mm lens on an M4/3 body - the equivalent of 24mm on a full-frame DSLR.

Kinloss Abbey in Scotland: The sort of perspective you get with a 12mm lens on an M4/3 body – the equivalent of 24mm on a full-frame DSLR.

M4/3 is really a whole new ball of wax. It’s greatest virtue – aside from image quality that is virtually indistinguishable from the costlier DSLRs – is the compact size and negligible weight. And there is no crop factor, only a new kind of math. To get the angle and perspective that a 24mm lens would provide on a full frame DSLR, you use a 12mm lens on an M4/3 camera body.

Long story short (hah!): for what it would have cost to take one full-frame DSLR to Scotland, I could purchase TWO Olympus OM-D EM5s, one for each of us (yes, the lenses cost more, but who’s counting?) The OMDs were perfect for the trip and we’re immensely satisfied with the images we brought back.

But there was one aspect of my photo work where I had reservations about the compact cameras and lenses: shooting live club/concert stills – where the light is dim and the action is pretty relentless. Last week I finally had a chance to borrow suitable lenses and run some (very unscientific tests) tests, and I’ve compiled the results on a separate page with circles and arrows and paragraphs on the back of each one.

Click here to see how the compact, lightweight Olympus OMD compares to a big, bulky and heavy Nikon D300 when shooting in clubs and concert halls.

If you have any comments, corrections, or feedback to offer on what you see on that page, please share them in the comments section below.


–Paul Schatzkin
February 14, 2013