Olympus E-M5 Mark II : Part 1

Problem Statement

I was planning a trip to Germany and Italy in the summer. I had a bunch of expensive and heavy camera gear that I wanted to bring to take pictures, but the thought of carrying it all around with me sounded crazy.

I was going for a wedding so I needed normal focal length. I was also going to travel and wanted a little bit of reach and maybe some ultra wide stuff.

The most important part, though, was quality of image. I like looking back on my photos in the future and seeing where I’ve been.

Was there a solution out there that could accomplish roughly the same quality as my Nikon gear but weigh less and be cheaper?

The short answer

Yes.

The full story

I went to the store to look at the Fuji X-T1. My friend FlannelForBreakfast had bought one and traded in his Canon gear to do everything with the Fuji. While in the store I checked out the Sony, but it was almost as heavy as my Nikon and had a higher price tag. The salesman also said I should look at the Olympus. I fell in love with the Olympus almost immediately, some of the reasons are pretty silly, so bear with me.

Firstly, the E-M5ii has a fully articulating screen. This means you can turn it up so you don’t ahve the LCD in your face at all times. On digitial cameras, the LCDs are known for eating up a ton of the battery power. Hiding the LCD means better battery performance. Also, for some reason, this made the camera feel more robust.

Secondly, the camera comes in a chrome finish which makes it look like an old Olympus OM, hiding the fact that it is a digital camera. Also, I felt like this was a very cool looking color.

Thirdly, the E-M5ii is an Micro Four Thirds(MFT) mount. This means I can mount lenses made from multiple different manufacturers. When you buy a Fuji you are somewhat limited by what they offer, when you buy Sony, you have more options, but they keep changing the mount, and they don’t always develop lenses as fast. The current ecosystem of lenses for the MFT system is actually pretty diverse. Since the platform is adopted by both Olympus and Panasonic you can get some interesting combinations. For example, there is a Leica designed, Panasonic manufactured 42.5mm f1.2 lens that is just amazing.

Fourthly, the E-M5ii is weather sealed. Now, I still cover it, but it is supposed to be pretty durable. This durability is a large factor when traveling. Having a camera that can hold up to a little bit of abuse is always a good thing.

Fifthly, The E-M5ii is significantly less expensive than my Nikon. The body was just over $1000 but it is now found under $800 at times. The professional lenses all cost around $1000 compared to the Nikon lenses that are easily double that. If I lose my camera or break it, I feel less guilty knowing it costs less to replace.

Sixthly, the camera is small and light. Compared to my Nikon it is easily a third the size and probably less than half the weight. This is very handy for hiking, traveling, or just fitting into a bag. I’ve been very happy with the amount of gear that is still portable.

Lucky number seven, the camera’s pictures were close enough in quality to the Nikon that I felt I could get away with it for traveling. Now there are some cases where this isn’t the case, and I’ll get into that later, but in general, the camera took really crisp, clean pictures

To be continued. I started writing this post a while ago and while there are many more things I have to say, I decided to break it up a bit. This is only part one of many

D600 Shutter Speed

The D600 is a great camera and my first full frame camera. I’ve had it for several years now but to be honest, I haven’t taken the time to become an expert in the use of the camera. As a traditionalist I’ve used the different modes on the camera but only recently have I ventured into some of the other modes and advanced metering modes.

Over the past couple of months I’ve shot several cheerleading events. When I shoot these events I normally take the pictures and convert them quickly to JPEG for the coaches to review. I started shooting directly in JPEG fine. I could fit more pictures on the card and it seemed like camera could take them quicker. The problem was that at NCA nationals I wanted higher quality images so I wanted to shoot raw.

Things were going pretty well and I was happy with the shots I was getting until right at finals I made a terrible mistake. I switched memory cards because my card in slot 1 ran out of space. The problem was that I replaced the card with a slower memory card. Just as we were performing in Challengers cup, my camera speed went down significantly. After the performance I started to do the math.

Image Format Image Size Buffer
NEF (RAW), Lossless compressed, 12-bit 23.4 MB 22
NEF (RAW), Lossless compressed, 14-bit 29.2 MB 16
NEF (RAW), Compressed, 12-bit 20.7 MB 27
NEF (RAW), Compressed, 14-bit 25.4 MB 16
JPEG Fine Large 12.4 MB 57
JPEG Fine Medium 7.4 MB 100

If a lossless 14 bit NEF is roughly 30 megs, and my memory card has a write speed of 40 megs, you are copying less than 2 images per second. At that pace, it doesn’t matter if your camera can take 5 to 6 frames a second, if you eclipse your buffer space you will be waiting for images to copy before you can take another frame. During a 2 minute 30 second routine, getting stopped up can be a serious problem. It turns out that there are several speeds of SD cards you can buy. My original cards were 95mb/second (which actually write at about 90mb/second) my second card was only 40. I’ve rectified the problem by purchasing two more 95mb/second cards. This leads to the following math:

Image Format Pictures Copied Per second
NEF (RAW), Lossless compressed, 12-bit 3.846 images/second
NEF (RAW), Lossless compressed, 14-bit 3.082 images/second
NEF (RAW), Compressed, 12-bit 4.348 images/second
NEF (RAW), Compressed, 14-bit 3.543 images/second
JPEG Fine Large 7.258 images/second
JPEG Fine Medium 12.162 images/second

The D600 has a frames per second limit of 5.5 frames per second. What this table shows is that in order to get maximum number of frames per second with a 95 mb/second you need to shoot in JPEG.

Anyway, I hope this helps anyone who ran into my issue.

The Self Portrait Photo Assignment

I’ve been searching for pictures of myself that I really like. And while I have a couple from friends that I find rather fun:

Anyway, I don’t have enough. And I’m vein. So this leads me to a self assigned project. The Self Portrait Photo Assignment. As with any assignment there are rules. Here are the rules.

  1. Have to take the photo yourself.
  2. Can’t buy additional camera equipment for this project.
  3. Can’t buy any special clothing
  4. Final product should be 5-10 different photos that are taken under different circumstances.
  5. Photos should reflect your character.

I’m going to try to have my stuff done by December 1, 2010. Let me know if you want to join.

Update: It’s taking longer than I expected to get around to this. Not going to have it done for December 1 (tomorrow)

Post Cards Are Awesome!

I’ve long had a thing for paper. I always carry around a notebook and pen, just in case I want to write something down. One thing I’ve noticed about my notebooks is their wear pattern. The more you use a notebook the more the corners begin to dull, the more creases in the pages. This wear increases the attractiveness of the notebook. I feel that this translates to most paper products. Generally speaking, the more wear a piece of paper has the more treasured it is. For this reason post cards are valuable. Not just the image, but the process of being through the male provides the wear. What you receive on the other end is a valuable piece of paper with an image and a note from a friend.

I’m collecting post cards, and I’m going to start sending a bunch more. If I ask you for your address, please don’t expect anything grand, just a nice piece of paper with a note from a friend. I also hope you return the favor. Interesting post cards and notes will get scanned and posted to my blog with your permission.

SmugMug Regularly Scheduled Maintenance

Dear Smugmug,

I’m a user of your service, and while I’m very happy with the services provided, I started following the status update page and am a little concerned. Do you really need to have a regularly scheduled maintenance window where you can bring down your entire site? I understand that you are dealing with large quantities of data, but do sites like Google or Apple ever fully come down an regularly scheduled time? Do you not have redundancies? How safe are the images I store with you?

The constant downtime is a real concern for me and I’m considering switching back to flickr.

Zachary