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February 26, 2017

I'm still having quality time with the E-M1 Mk.II, lately trying to find some use for the Fn lever, about which I have very mixed feeling. It goes again so many user interface design principles, that it could be used in a handbook case study. Oh, well, I'll have to learn how to live with it.

In the meantime, I went back to the project started some time ago — the list of μFT lenses. Lo and behold — it is done! So far I'm limiting it to lenses with autofocus (sorry, Voigtländer!). Disregarding cosmetic updates, it now has 61 entries, mostly from Olympus and Panasonic, just three by Sigma and one from Tamron.

Have a look then at my Micro Four Thirds Lenses article; it may come handy as a reference — or just a conversation item.

Shown: cross-section of the new MZD 8 mm F/1.8 Fisheye, the next lens I want to play with. Can you imagine that just 60 years ago optics was designed (computed) by hand?
(Image by Olympus)

Interestingly, the two most expensive lenses on the old Four Thirds list were $8000 (300-800/5.6 Sigma) and $7000 (300/2.8 Olympus ZD). The μFT community seems frugal in comparison: top two prices are $2500 (Olympus MZD 300/4.0) and $1800 (Panasonic/Leica Vario-Elmar 100-400/4.0-6.3).

The good news for those who invested in that costly FT glass is that those lenses will autofocus on the E-M1 (original or Mark II) exactly like they used to on FT (phase-detection) cameras, not worse (used with the FT->μFT adapter, of course).

February 23, 2017

A neat feature of the E-M1, which I never found time to play with, is Live Monitor allowing you to check the progress of exposure being under way and stop it when you think the image is ready (i.e. got enough light). Now I want to try this out on the Mark II. To work confidently with long exposures, however, I need to know more about camera's dark noise.

This is why I spent the last two days collecting dark noise samples, scrutinizing them, preparing for presentation, and writing the report: Dark Noise in the E-M1 Mk.II. You're welcome.

While this may be of interest only to those who do (or want to do) long-exposure photography, especially at higher ISO settings, I'm happy to report that Mark II improves quite a lot in this area compared to the original E-M1 (which was not a push-over, either). Have a look.

Picture of the Week: Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. Shot from about 3.3 km (2 mi) away.

Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M1
Lens: ZD 75-300/4.8-6.7 at 300 mm
Exposure: Aperture Priority (-.7EV); 1/2500 s at F/8.0, ISO 400
Postprocessed in Corel Photo-Paint: 90% crop, curve adjustment, sharpening.

February 21, 2017

Well, I'm back. For some time at least. I'm retired now, so now I hope to have enough time to bring these pages back up to speed.

Last time I came back from a hiatus, the direct reason was the arrival of perhaps the best camera I have used so far — the mirror-less OM-D E-M1 by Olympus. I've been using it since, enjoying the experience and results.

Last December the E-M1 Mark II was released. I've been using and learning it for the last two weeks. Another good reason to emerge from inactivity.

I am now extensively testing the camera (or rather checking it up, not having any lab facilities), so expect a number of related write-ups. In the meantime, however, a quick note.

The E-M1 Mark II, shown with the new
MZD 8 mm, F/1.8 (!) full-frame fisheye lens
(Image by Olympus)

The new model looks, feels, and behaves very much like the original (which is a good thing). It could be easily dismissed as a minor upgrade of its predecessor. A closer check, however, will show that many things have been changed, and most of the changes (at least those I'm aware of) are for the better. (The others are a matter of personal taste.)

While preserving the control layout, Olympus re-sculpted the whole body (it also became a bit larger and heavier). On the other extreme, the firmware, and the new TruePic VIII imaging engine in particular, has been strongly reworked. Olympus claims significant improvements in autofocus (especially tracking), image stabilization, serial rate, and noise control at high ISO. Some of these claims I was able to verify; for others, I have to take manufacturer's word.

There are also dozens of smaller (but also appreciated) quality-of-life improvements. The mode dial, after years of my bitching, got three custom preset positions, and the menu system has been somewhat improved (even it is still quite bad).

Some of the performance and image-processing progress was made possible, as Olympus says, by more computing power aboard. Mark II runs on two processors, four cores each. Its processing capability has increased 3.5 times compared to the older model. (We don't know how this was measured, or how it compares with other cameras.)

While I am still writing a piece comparing Mark II with the original, I already went through all of camera's settings, so I'm posting the first version of my E-M1 Mk.II Setup Cheat Sheet as a possible starting point for your own custom setup. The full article, with discussion of specific parameters and rationale behind suggested values should, hopefully, follow soon.

To decide on image processing choices, I had to run a number of series of image samples, some of which may be worth showing here. The first of sample-based articles is done: E-M1 Mk.II Image Detail and Noise at Various ISO.

Here is one of sample images, shot at ISO 25,600. Click on the thumbnail to see the unaltered off-camera JPEG. Not too shabby; for conclusions see the article.

Note the shallow depth of field provided by this lens at F/4. Only the two pencil tips in the center are in focus. I already like this lens.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mk.II, MZD 12-100/4.0 ED Pro lens at 100 mm
Aperture Priority: 1/400 s at F/4.0, Auto WB
More details in the article

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Posted 2006/01/30; last updated 2017/02/23 Copyright © 2006-2017 by J. Andrzej Wrotniak