Thanks to the nice folks at Olympus and Hunt’s Photo & Video I got to test the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and a 300mm lens with a 1.4x extender. My regular camera is a Canon 1DX with the Canon 300mm f/4 and a 1.4x extender.
So what would happen if I shot the cameras side-by-side?
I went to my friend Lee Hoy‘s house in Ft. Davis Texas. Lee had some hummingbird feeders that were pretty active thanks to fall migration. Hummingbirds were buzzing the feeders like crazy.
My test was to set both cameras on the most fancy fast focusing settings. Lee knows Olympus so he double-checked all my setting on that camera. I know Canon so had everything set on that camera.
Both cameras were set to f/7.1, aperture priority, at ISO 500, continuous auto-focus, and rapid release.
I picked-up one camera and fired. Then I put it down and picked-up the next camera. This went on for a little over an hour. Canon then Olympus then Canon then Olympus until I was exhausted.
In the end, I took 267 photos with the Olympus and 159 with the Canon. The Olympus has a higher frames-per-second rate so there will be more photos to edit. More opportunities to capture the precise moment of action, too. That’s the plan anyway.
Both cameras held and maintained focus on the hummingbirds. I was pleased to see that the Olympus kept-up with the Canon. Both cameras also failed to focus on a hummingbird about the same rate usually thanks to operator error.
Winner? Not one over the other. They Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II held in there against the Canon 1D X Mark II. That should be good news for any bird photographers looking to buy the Olympus system.
Norway was amazing. It’s a pretty easy flight over to Oslo. Then you have to overnight in Oslo and take two flights up to Leknes. It’s above the Arctic Circle so takes some time to get there. Luckily, the Norwegians run a super-efficient air travel system and all the flights were right on time.
The Oslo airport, by the way, is quiet. There are large halls typical of any airport. People are quiet with their voices in low tones. Conveyor belts and people movers are quiet. Overhead announcements are quiet. It was so amazing.
The Lofoten Islands form a peninsula that goes out into the Norwegian Sea. There’s a road system connecting the larger islands so travel is quick and efficient. Our hotels were near Hamnoy, Leknes, and Svolvaer. All the hotels were rorbuer-style or styled like a fishing cottage community. Little red houses clustered around the rocky shoreline. Made for great photos. The little fishing cottages had two bedrooms, a shared bathroom, with a living room and kitchen. Very cozy as long as you don’t mind sharing a bathroom. One hotel had two bedrooms in one house and each bedroom had a private bathroom. That was my favorite arrangement because we had private bath but still shared a living room and kitchen.
During the day we tooled around the area photographing towering mountains over crystal clear water. The little villages were usually filled with real fishing cottages with boats, nets, buoys, etc. That meant we always had something to photograph from a grand landscape to tiny details. We went to an old whaling village that’s now a UNESCO site. Lots of neat stuff from the late 1800’s and early 1900s plus museums all in a tiny village setting. I went nuts photographing the general store with all the old tins, advertisements, and cash register.
At night we shot based on the aurora activity. Our first night out was pretty good. It was especially nice since we didn’t have to leave the rorbuer to shoot. We just walked across the parking lot and stood on the rocky shoreline. Everyone got great photos of the aurora that night and worked on their skills. We had a visible aurora in the middle of the trip but activity wasn’t predicted until after 11:00pm. Several people decided to stay back at the rorbuer but the rest of us loaded in the van and headed off to a wide, sandy beach. We had great aurora activity and got to play with reflection of the lights in the ocean. Our third chance at the aurora was our best night. Predictions were for spectacular lights and they began right about twilight. I saw them on my way to dinner and had ants in my pants the whole time we were eating. After dinner we drove to a nearby beach and stayed for several hours. It’s amazing how you don’t get tired when green lights are waving across the sky. Our guides said it was one of the best nights they’ve seen. We quit shooting about 2:00am and that was because batteries were dead and cards were full.
Temperature the entire trip were in the 30-degree to 70-degree range. We had rain on our last day as we drove to the airport. I wore my down coat as an outer layer almost all the time. Longjohns as a base layer and then pants and a long-sleeved shirt as a middle layer. I only wore gloves at night when we were shooting the aurora.
Food was amazing. I thought it would be gross things or super bland stuff. The fish wasn’t fishy tasting. The meat, pork, and lamp the others had looked really nice and tender. We had plenty of root vegetables with familiar carrots and potatoes. Breakfast was the basic European buffet of sliced meats, cheese, fruit, eggs, and breads. The breads were all hardy, whole-grain that I added fresh butter and jam to. The coffee was weak but we learned to make strong coffee in our rooms.
A full-frame sensor camera has a sensor that is 35mm on the longest side. A cropped sensor camera (APS-C) has a sensor that is smaller. A four-thirds sensor is even smaller at 17.5mm on the longest side.
Those smaller sensors give us what is called a crop factor. An image on a full-frame camera looks the same as if the image was taken with a film camera. Take the same photo with a APS-C camera and the image would appear to be cropped. Take the same photos with a four-thirds sensor and the image would appear more cropped.
That cropping is 1.5x on a Nikon and 1.6x on a Canon camera. The cropping is 2x on an Olympus or other four-thirds sensor camera.
Using that 2x magnification, a 300mm lens is now a 600mm lens. Add a teleconverter on that 300mm lens and you have a 420mm lens. Put that lens on a four-thirds camera and it is now equal to 840mm on a full-frame sensor camera.
Below are three different cameras all with a 300mm lens with 1.4x extender for 420mm from the same location.
The full frame is photographed with 420mm. The cropped is photographed with the same lens but because the sensor is smaller the lens is equal to a 672mm lens. The four-thirds sensor is magnified even more for a lens equal to an 840mm lens. (As was pointed out in an earlier post, all the camera set-ups weigh roughly 4.9 pounds but the view with the four-thirds is equal to a much heavier camera with lens.)
So the advantage of a four-thirds sensor camera is our subject appears bigger when using a telephoto lens with a lighter camera.
I was curious if the quality would be acceptable since the sensor was smaller.
“Expert” opinion has been that the smaller the sensor the worse the quality. I think the fine engineering put into APS-C cameras like the Canon 7D Mark II and Nikon 500 really put an end to that thinking. My brief tests with the Olympus OM-D EM1 Mark ii shows this four-thirds sensor can stand up with the best.
As usual, give me your thoughts. It’s always fun to read your experiences. Thanks again to Hunt’s Photo and Video and the folks at Olympus for making this test possible.
It’s a great time to be a photographer! Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, Fuji, and Sony are pushing the engineering envelope. Each company gives us something new to keep ahead of their competition. We benefit, as photographers, with great new gadgets and features.
Problem is, though, there is no camera with every amazing feature. We have to settle on the features that are important to our shooting. My important features are not going to be the same as your important features. We each have to find the machine that works for us.
I’m testing the Olympus OM-D E-M1 ii and OM-D M1X for a month.
Each of these camera bodies has interesting features that I might use in regular shooting.
Here’s my opinion and some test results:
Focus stacking – This is nice! I’ve done focus stacking with software and love the results. Focus stacking in the camera, though, is something I’ve wanted to try for a long time.
Both the OM-D E-M1 ii and OM-D M1X gave amazing results.
Below are the individual pieces of the stacked morning glory.
Below are the individual pieces of the stacked dayflower shown above.
Lessons learned when working with both cameras. (1) Be sure to click OK to each option in the set-up process. There are several steps. (2) Confirm you’re in Focus Stacking by looking for the BRKT icon at the top of the view finder. (3) Turn off RAW/Jpg since this causes the camera to work extra and takes longer to process the finished picture. (4) The finished picture is a large Jpg. (5) In-camera focus stacking is lens dependent. Doesn’t work with every lens.
Below is a photo of a gemstone loaned to me by a friend.
The individual photos that made up the above image are show below.
There’s a bit to learn with Olympus focus stacking but it’s pretty easy. The camera settings include how many photos to take and focus differential. A large subject like the ruby needs a wider differential.
Silent shooting – This is a nice feature and on the Olympus it’s really silent. I’ve used this at two weddings during the vow exchange. There’s no sound from the camera. Beware though — This is a great way to fire off 50 shots without knowing it. Heck of a time deleting those buggers.
HDR – The cameras do this. In-camera HDR has become standard these days.
Handheld High Res – use f/2.8 to f/8 and fire off 16 shots. Gives tons of DOF. I tried in the office and worked well. I’ll post more results once I get out in a grand landscape. Stay tuned!
Keystone Composition – like using a tilt-shift lens. Adjust the foreground or background to move forward or backward. Straighten the sides from left to right. Worked well in the office but I need to test on a grand landscape. Watch this space.
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I love the view through a DSLR viewfinder. There’s something about the ground-glass screen that makes me happy. Glass and mirrors reflect a glorious image to my eye and my brain gets excited.
The view through an electronic viewfinder is less thrilling. It reminds me of putting one eye up to a tiny, tiny television. That’s a poor quality television, too.
I’m testing the Olympus M1X and OM-D E-M1ii. Both have electronic viewfinders as well as viewing on the back LCD panel.
The Canon R mirrorless has the best electronic viewfinder I’ve seen. Thanks to the folks at Canon and Hunt’s Photo & Video I got to use that camera for a month. I had no complaints about Canon’s electronic viewfinder. But, I didn’t get a chance to test this camera on action so my experience is somewhat limited.
When I got a chance to test the Olympus cameras, I adjusted the diopter for my eye prescription. The view was good but not as good as the Canon or as good as the image on the back LCD panel.
In bright sun, the electronic viewfinder is the best option. Outside in bright sun the view on the LCD panel is okay but not optimal. I also have to wear my reading classes to see the LCD so that’s a bit awkward.
Looking through the electronic view finder, there’s a moment between shots when the screen goes black. I know this happens in a DSLR also but it’s never bothered me. The screen going black in the electronic viewfinder is a bit irritating.
Rapid shooting brings a new issue. The Olympus M1X fires 18 to 60 frames per second and the OM-D E-M1ii can do the same. That’s fast and a nice reason to own one of these cameras. Yet, the view through the viewfinder is herky-jerky. The wings of the bird are up, the wings are down, the wings are up, the wings are down. There’s no view of the wings going up and down like I get through a DSLR viewfinder.
I photographed some kids running down a hill with the E-M1ii. My finger was down on the shutter button and the camera was firing like crazy. The electronic viewfinder wasn’t keeping up so I had no idea where the kids were in the frame.
To fix this, there’s a setting called Viewfinder Display Rate. Set this to “high” and the dark between frames is minimized.
The viewfinders on both cameras display a nice set of information. Several options on each camera body allow you to display different information through the electronic viewfinder including histogram. Nice tools to have as a photographer.
UPDATE TO THE ORIGINAL POST: I see that the Sony a9 advertises a “black-out free” electronic viewfinder. Pretty neat!
A lady in class mentioned that she was taking eight camera batteries on her next vacation. Eight batteries! That’s unheard of. I own two batteries for my Canon 5D Mark IV and one for my Canon 1DX. Why would this lady need eight for one camera?!
I’ve been testing the Olympus OM-D E-Mii and the OM-D E-M1X. Thanks to my testing I understood her statement wasn’t so crazy.
The battery life on these cameras is not great. A battery gets 2-3 hours of life. That’s turning the camera off and on, looking at photos on the back, taking a group of photos, putting the camera down, picking it back up, taking some more photos, setting it down, turning it off, turning it on, taking some photos, reviewing photos, etc. Two or three hours of this type of activity and the battery warning light is flashing.
For comparison, I can use a Canon 5D Mark IV battery all day without worrying. The Canon 1DX battery will last three or four days even with heavy shooting.
The E-Mii uses one battery. The more powerful E-M1X has a battery holder that uses two batteries. Luckily, both cameras use the same battery. That’s a great move, Olympus!
Each battery charges in a little over an hour. That’s not unusual for a camera battery. I charged three Olympus batteries in an evening with no problem but I was watching the charger and switching the batteries.
In real life, though, I’m dragging in at 10:00pm after a hard day of shooting and everything needs to be charged and ready to go by 5:00am. I’d find it hard to charge three batteries while sleeping.
Luckily, the batteries for these cameras are reasonably priced. A battery is $54 so it’s possible to buy some extras. The battery recharger is $59 so a photographer could have one or two more. There’s an after-market charger that claims to charge two batteries at a time. (I’ll let someone else test that item.)
Yes, there is a power grip for the OM-D E-Mii. That add weight and bulk — a reason many are using for switching to mirrorless.
Thanks to the folks at Olympus, I get to test the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and OM-D E-M1X.
Both are called “micro four-third” sensor cameras. That means the sensor is 17.4 mm on the long side by 13.0 mm on the short side. Contrast this with a “full sensor camera” that has a sensor that is 35mm on the long side by 24mm on the short side. (Notice the sensor is the same size as a 35mm piece of film.)
The advantage of a “micro four-thirds” sensor is things appear closer.
The Canon Rebel T6i has a “cropped” sensor, or 22.3 mm by 14.9 mm, so the same object appears farther away.
The Canon 5D Mark IV is a “full frame” camera with a sensor 35mm x 24mm. Objects appear much farther away.
I took each photo above from the same place. Each camera had a 300mm lens with a 1.4x tele-extender. That means I was using a 420mm lens for each photo but the subject was more or less magnified based on the sensor size.
The Olympus “four-thirds” sensor would mean a bird would be larger in my photo. The “four-thirds” sensor would mean I might not have to crop as much since the subject would already be bigger in the photo.