My camera and all but one of my lenses are from Olympus. I have nothing against any other camera brand, I just happened to travel down Panasonic Avenue and then turn left at Olympus Drive which in my case was a no exit thoroughfare.
My first interchangeable lens camera was the Panasonic GX1. It was my introduction to mirrorless cameras, also known as compact system cameras also refered to as micro four thirds cameras. It’s a confusing world! I came to like this camera format. I liked working with this more compact and lighter camera. In time I sold the GX1 and took to the critically acclaimed Olympus O-MD E-M1.
I have the current Olympus flagship model O-MD E-M1 MKII. Its quite a handful of a name. Legend has it that they were originally called M, but Leica took exception and Olympus changed the name to OM. The D stands for Digital, the E for Electronic.
Mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras differ from conventional DSLR cameras in that they use a digital display system instead of an optical mirror and optical viewfinder, which reduces weight and allows for a smaller camera body. The interchangeable lenses are also smaller and lighter making it somewhat easier to lug a camera and lens kit around for any length of time. My full camera kit weighs around 6kg including a backpack. It still feels heavy after being on my back for long periods and my camera attached to the largest lens I have, the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 lens can become uncomfortable (heavy) to hold for long periods. A comparable DSLR kit of the same items would weight much more though and require a somewhat larger backpack.
The first mirrorless camera was marketed in 2004. By 2012 major camera manufacturers, Canon, Nikon & Sony had all introduced mirrorless cameras and subsequently so have others such as Fuji. The camera market is shrinking and in 2016 the number of cameras shipped was down 81% compared to 2010. In 2010, there were 8 times more DSLRs than mirrorless. In 2016, the overall production numbers dropped for both, but they almost got even in share: 12 million DSLRs and 11 million mirrorless cameras. I guess one of the reasons for a slump in camera sales is the flood of smartphone cameras and the ever improving abilities of smartphone cameras has destroyed the compact 'point and shoot' camera market especially.
Mirrorless cameras can struggle in low light conditions due to having smaller light sensors resulting in an increase in ‘graininess’ in images taken in very low light. I have to say this can be a source of irritation for me but the EM1 MKII has noticeable improvement over my previous EM1 MKI. Fast light gathering lenses somewhat compensate as does the very impressive much lauded ‘5 axis image stabilization’ which Olympus pioneered. It provides the capability to take long sharp exposures with lower ISO’s without the need to mount the camera on a tripod. In digital photography, ISO measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. The lower the ISO number the less sensitive the camera is to light and the finer the grain. Higher ISO settings are generally used in darker situations to get faster shutter speeds. Most of my daytime and golden hour photos are taken at ISO200. The ISO range on my camera is from 60 to 25600. Personally I wouldn’t go above ISO1600 as the images would be too grainy for my liking. Hey, if you saw an alien standing on the front lawn after dark, stuff the graininess! I'd just take the picture, or more likely just take off.......fast
Olympus users are obtaining fantastic images while handholding the E-M1 MKII camera and it’s stablemates using exposures of 5 to 10 seconds and even 15 seconds. Testimony to the amazing inbuilt image stabilisation.
The Olympus O-MD series of digital mirrorless system cameras debuted with the announcement of the O-MD E-M5 in 2012. The following year saw the introduction of the new flagship camera the O-MD E-M1, which was my first Olympus camera. Olympus mirrorless cameras have been critically acclaimed and have won many awards. Most recently the E-M1 MKII won prestigious honours at the Camera Grand Prix 2017, including Camera of the Year. The recently released Olympus M.Zuiko ED 12-100mm f/4 IS PRO lens also won lens of the Year.
So what lenses do I attach to my E-M1 MKII camera? Camera manufacturers market their cameras with kit lenses. These lenses are built to a price in order to provide a competitively priced camera and lens combo. Kit lenses can produce really great photos but I do believe that there are advantages in eventually acquiring higher spec interchangeable lens. I started with a kit lens on the previous E-MI and experimented with a few other lenses along the way before settling on my current range of lenses. My first really good lens was the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens. This is such an outstanding solidly built sexy workhorse of a lens, incredibly sharp. Just look at the image below. It’s lens porn!
If I was to only have one lens then the 12-40mm would be it. I have however reluctantly sold this lens in order to sort of appease my guilt over acquiring another lens which I lusted after which I will discuss a little further on.
I followed the 12-40mm f/2.8 lens with the purchase of the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens (image below). This versatile lens is attached to my camera more often than any others. Coupled with the Olympus MC-14 x1.4 teleconverter it gives great magnification of distant objects, excellent for street and sport photography. It’s also a very good portrait lens so I guess it could be called a very good all rounder.
My next lens lens joining the family was the Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens, which unlike the 40-150mm lens, gives a very wide field of view. I really procrastinated on this one but I’m very pleased I bought it. It’s great for wide landscapes and wide dramatic skies, as well as for interior photos and ‘opening up interior space’. Its also a great street photography lens for that more expansive street view.
My only non Olympus lens but much loved lens outside of the Olympus brand is the Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2. Primarily a class leading portrait lens, it is a ‘fast’ lens with excellent light gathering ability exceling in low light situations. It’s an absolute ‘go to’ lens for portraits but also a very good street and sunset photography lens. Wide open at f/1.2 it is fantastic for isolating the subject from the background as seen in the following photo.
The Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens does beautiful separation of foreground and background and being a fast lens coupled with the Olympus in-camera image stabilisation, there is no need for a tripod for low light shots like the one below.
The Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens is also a wonderful street photography lens.
My most recent lens acquisition completing my kit is the Olympus 25mm f/1.2 PRO prime lens. This is the one I sold the 12-40mm lens for. Another fast lens great for low light photography, including portrait, street and landscape photography. Since I favour low light photography at both ends of the day, it suits my purposes. Being f/1.2 helps create beautiful ‘bokeh’ where the background is out of focus placing attention firmly on the subject in the foreground. I bought this lens in Dublin, Ireland, last year while my wife was distracted in another shop. Personally I blame one of my daughters for leading me right to said camera shop. My guilt was somewhat softened by the considerable tax free saving I made in comparison with what it would have cost me to buy back in New Zealand. It did however require me to get certification from a Justice of the Peace that the lens was in fact here in New Zealand.
I love the background separation that a lens wide open at f/1.2 can provide placing attention firmly of the subject in the foreground.
Honestly it just does a beautiful job.
I’m very content with my camera gear now, a happy little shutter button pusher, but honestly, looking at new lenses is like looking at that last glass of wine left in the bottle. The desire can be hard to resist, but resist I will. There are no state support services for those suffering from camera gear addiction. If it’s got to be, it’s up to me.