Journeying through photography

m43

Excuse me sir, you can’t take pictures here

If you’ve read any of the other posts on the blog you will know I’ve a growing like for the smaller mirror less cameras which really do pack good quality images without the need to have a large body and correspondingly large lens. While in London with the Secret Photography Group  I took my D7000 as well as my Olympus EP1, and Olympus EPM1, but spent the whole day using the EPM1 primarily with EP1 as a second body. The D7000 never came out of my bag.

537378_10151335744366791_572359816_nYeah, I was a bit nervous that the resulting images wouldn’t hold up to my companions, but to be honest I shouldn’t have worried. They look just as dandy. What did amuse me though was when one my fellow photographers got accosted by some security guards around Canary Wharf asking them if the were doing any professional work, while I sailed by.

The biggest drawback with the current crop of smaller bodies is the lack of a view finder, which having used DSLRs for the last 6 years or so is the only thing I’m missing. I especially missed it at the weekend with the bright sunshine, but that can  be solved by using the VF-1. The VF-1 works well with the 20mm and 14mm Panasonic lenses I have, but because it is optical, it provides no additional information from the camera. This means you have to rely on the annoying focus beep , that I normally turn off, in order to know when to take the shot. The real problem comes with the Olympus 45mm (which is just great by the way) because you just can’t reliably frame the shot on the VF-1. I’m going to have to investigate one of three options, the VF-2, VF-3 or EM-5.

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All you can eat with Micro Four Thirds? With the right combination of kit you certainly can with no serious compromises.


Doing the street

This weekend just gone I spent a pleasant day in the company of a few members of the Secret Photography Group (shh it’s a secret) trying some street photography in London. It was an opportunity to try the Olympus 45mm on the E-PM1 body, which turned out to be a great pairing. The 45mm is really very good wide open, although a  lot of the shots were taken with it stopped down to f4 because of the surprising amount of sun that day. If you know the weather lately in the UK you will be aware we have been experiencing quite a bit of snow and rain, more so than we have in recent years at this time of year.

546135_10151335744561791_1641319650_nStreet photography is an interesting branch of photography requiring the photographer to put themselves in uncomfortable situations, but the rewards do out way the fear. I’ve only done a bit in the past, and I’d forgotten how much fun it is when you get into the zone. It can be quite un-nerving approaching strangers and just snapping away at them, but generally you will find that most people will do one of a number of things, smile or frown at the weird person taking their picture.

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For me, the more interesting people are the people that either react in a way where they don’t want their picture taken, like the guy above, or just continue on oblivious to what has happened.

All towns seem to have their collection of characters that are worth capturing, but London being so large has a generally much more diverse collection of these characters. I’m sure there must be a character per square foot figure for every place on earth, and London must be right up there with the best of them.

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There is something about street that lends itself to B&W images. They just seem to evoke a feeling which is diluted by colour. I think this tends to come from the surroundings being full of advertising rather than other subjects which normally have a much more diluted range of colours, not to say that the colours in other settings aren’t as bright, but they number of colours do tend to be more constrained.

383039_10151335744336791_1718576058_nSomething else that struck me with the images having spent some time reading about artistic techniques is the rhythm in tones in the images that work, but more on that another time.


Olympus EP-1 as a Black & white Camera

I promised last time to talk about how I shoot with the Olympus EP-1. I bought the EP-1 at the beginning of last year as stocks of it in the UK where being sold off.

The drive for a smaller camera came about from not wanting to carry my DSLR when going out, but still wanting a good quality camera. I looked into compacts, but couldn’t get away from the poor quality of the images in varying light and started to sway towards the Canon G12. The G12 wasn’t a bad camera, but it just felt like a brick in my hands. It was at this point that I started to look at the micro four thirds cameras and the Samsung NX100. The NX100 although a nice camera was easy to dismiss purely on the availability of lenses (or lack of), which left the micro four third cameras.

It was a hard decision as to which micro four thirds camera to buy and I was torn between the Panasonic GF2 and the EP-1. In the end it came down to the kits available at the time, either the 14-42 with the Panasonic or the 17mm pancake lens with the Olympus. The pancake lens and the EP-1 dual dials swung it for me. The dual dials on the EP-1, allows me to have aperture controlled on one dial and the shutter speed on the other. This sits well because I’ve become used to dual dials on my DSLRs.

So EP-1 in hand, what next? Well a Panasonic 20mm f1.7 of course, because although the 17mm is quite fast at f2.8, it wasn’t quite fast enough. No points to the person that suggests I should have bought the 20mm with the GF2, because I’d have only had one dial still 🙂

Anyway, my first opportunity to shoot with the EP-1 was on holiday, and I soon developed a penchant for shooting it in black and white. There is just something really nice about the EP-1 and black and white that I can’t just put my finger on. Trouble is every now and then I want a shot in colour, but it’s a real pain to have to consider that when you’re shooting away, so I now always shoot in RAW+JPEG. The JPEG is always black and white, but if I want to get a colour copy I can always go back to the RAW file and use that. It does slow the writing to card down a little bit (but not that much) but I plan to eleviate that by getting some class 10 SD cards.

So would I recommend this set-up? hell yeah, although not to Mr Blurry, but he doesn’t know what he is missing yet. The 20mm is a cracking lens coupled with the EP-1. If you want a cheap set-up, you should have a look at it or maybe one of the GF3+14mm kits floating around in the UK at the moment for £200.

Bottom line – small cameras & large sensor rock. Maybe next time we’ll talk about cheap £20 CCTV lenses on micro four thirds.


They call him Mr Blurry

Last year, I bought an Olympus EP-1 in an attempt to have a camera that was more portable than one of my Nikon DSLRs. The goal was to have a camera that I wouldn’t balk at carrying because of it’s size. The EP-1 came in a kit with the 17mm f2.8 Olympus pancake lens, which is both light and equates to a reasonable 35mm.

Quite soon after I happened across the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 which has now replaced the 17mm full time on the front of the EP-1. I have only used the Panasonic 14-42 lens I have once on a family day out, but since then I’ve switched back to the 20mm. Why have I done that? Just because the 20mm seems to be a really great lens and I’m just loving shooting it wide open! Is the 14-42 a bad lens? Nope, I just prefer the 20mm, but I’ve always been a sucker for fast primes when shot wide open.

Anyway, what’s this got to do with blur? I’ll tell you. I’ve only ever got blurry shots from the EP-1 when I’ve ignored the settings and ended up with a shutter speed of 0.8s or some other speed. If I pay attention to the settings, just like I do on my Nikon DSLRs I never get a blurry shot. But here is the thing, I have a friend who decided to look at small cameras to complement his DSLRs and eventually got round to renting an EP-2, a 14mm and a 20mm Panasonic lens set for a trip they were taking. So was he successful? Nope, most of his shots were blurry, and I’ve struggled with this – I can only assume either he was snatching the camera or ignoring the shutter speeds. Neither of which I would expect from him. The solution, rent the Nikon V1, and this time he had no blurry pictures! So unhappy with the cost of the Nikon V1, he has decided to rent a Fuji X1 – I’ve not told him yet, but it’s a brick (UPDATE: he found out).

I have a feeling he will plump for the Nikon, and I think this is probably more out of familiarity and comfort than anything else, but that is probably the most important thing with a camera – to feel comfortable using it. Me, well I’m sticking with micro four thirds, and starting to think about the 45mm f1.8 – Primes seem to be where it’s at with the m43 cameras and it fits with my self imposed rule of not buying a lens slower than f2.8 – maybe I’ll do a post on VR vs aperture.

If you want to read about his experiences, and I recommend you do, have a look here and here.

As for the picture above, this is from the EP-1 and 20mm Panasonic, shot handheld in the Natural History Museum in London. I shot it in black and white, but used the raw to recover the colour – I’ll explain about how I shoot with the EP-1 another time.