Technology is moving along at a rapid rate: twenty years ago, SmartPhones didn’t exist (thankfully), and only five years before that I knew no one with a mobile phone at all; laptops were things I saw in Hollywood movies. Hell, thirty years ago the internet didn’t even exist in my world. But the thing is, technology isn’t moving fast enough, for me at least, and that is the conundrum I’ve found myself in, and why I haven’t taken many pictures for the last few months: I’ve started to see the problems with my technology.
I adopted the micro-four thirds system championed by Panasonic and Olympus about five years ago. Traipsing around Kyrgyzstan with my heavy Canon 7D was the last, and that wasn’t even a full-frame camera. I only took one lens with me as I hated having to lug around additional lenses. For the same space that singular camera occupied, I now carry my current Olympus and three lenses. Weight is no longer my enemy! And yet . . .
When out taking moon-shots a few days ago for the eclipse, this is where the smaller sensor doesn’t quite make it: very low light situations where noise quickly creeps in. I am waiting patiently for the upgrades to Olympus/OM Solutions but they haven’t released anything exciting for a few years. There are rumours of a new 41 megapixel micro-four thirds sensor patented by Sony in 2019, so improvements are clearly possible. For the most part though, my little camera does great, and I can swap out lenses quickly and carry all my gear without breaking my back or my bank balance.
But here are a few shots with my Olympus for the Eclipse. When the moon is in full light, you can see a nice crisp photo, the craters clearly visible. However, when you get towards the lower light red-moon, the details are less clear. A slower shutter-speed and higher ISO is needed to even capture the minimal light on offer. The two images show a good contrast: the left a 1/160th f/6.7 using a 600mm lens at ISO 200. The right was used the same lens and f-stop but vastly decreasing the speed to 0.6 seconds at booting up the ISO to 800.
Geeking a little, we’re saying that the ISO had a two-stop difference (200x2 to 400 x2 to 800) and the shutter speed had a massive six-stop difference (1/160 x 2 = 1/80, 1/80x2 = 1/40, 1/40*2 = 1/20, 1/20x2 = 1/10, 1/10x2 = 1/5, 1/5x2 = 2/5 or roughly 0.4 seconds) . . . so we experienced a drop in light of 8 stops (8.5 really) from a full moon. What I could have done is change up the setting, drop shutter speed further, increase the ISO more, but the moon does blur quickly (moves faster than you think!). The alternative for my camera would be to have a 600m lens that had, instead of a f-stop of f/6.7, an f-stop of 0.36. And yup, that doesn’t exist.
Note: this blog is bought to you courtesy of my friend, Cameron, that sponsored me with the tea and biscuit sustenance necessary for the cold night moon shots :-)
I’ve been taking photographs for years and bounced around various cameras, with many a point-and-shoot, super-zooms and interchangeable lens cameras. I started the foray into more serious photography with a Canon 7D, then after a few years of breaking my neck, ‘downgraded’ to an Olympus Micro-Four-Thirds EM5 Mark II. After years of studying, learning and writing about all topics other than photography, I figured I should probably start. And if I can help others avoid the same pitfalls I’ve made, then all the better!
What I love about the Olympus In changing down a camera, I lost a two mega-pixels. However, I gained lightness, portability and the use of neck back. The second in that list, portability, is the real boon – I travelled a great deal before COVID, and having a small camera I could whip out and use, making all the usual changes any of my SLR brethren could make, was so good it was indecent. As a friend commented whilst photographing orcas in Argentina, ‘so you can do all the things I can with my Nikon D4, with that? Then why the hell am I carrying around all this weight?’
EM5 Mark II But there is a Mark III, available, right? Yes, but the list of upgrades from one to the next, for me at least didn’t sanction the upgrade. The Mark II does perfectly well, and has a few features I adore which I’ll detail in future posts. The four-thirds sensor to which they have become wedded is not as good as a full-frame camera (offered on the D4, Sony etc), but neither does it come with the same price-tag or weight. The body of the Sony Alpha A7’s themselves aren’t that dissimilar in size, yet the lenses add considerable weight. You avoid that with a micro-four-thirds, as even the lenses are smaller.
Why Olympus ending matters The Japanese company are, first and foremost, innovators. Their existence is being first-to-market. They didn’t get it right first time, but they tended to nudge the market along a little. They were building touchscreen, full articulating LCD screens for cameras whilst Canon were still half-asleep. The four-thirds sensor to which they have become wedded was perhaps part of their downfall, yet it offered all the things I enjoy about photography.
Topics for the coming months: the lenses I have, why I bought those as opposed to others; the benefits of Olympus EM5 Mark II; my favourite shots; key learnings from lectures and books; and general photographs. Let me know if you’re keen for another topic!
Some leafy shots below with my new LAOWA MFT 50mm 2X Lens. Loving a bit of macro photography!