Moving Toward Mirrorless Camera

It’s inevitable that a mirrorless camera is in my future. I shot with Nikon film cameras for 15 years. Then I moved to Canon for digital SLRs and have been happy for 16 years. Will I make a brand shift when I go to mirrorless?

The nice folks at Olympus were kind enough to send me an OM-D E-M1 Mark II to test. (Thanks to Gary Farber at Hunt’s Camera & Video for your help!) This camera retails at $1,699 with a 20.4 megapixel sensor and 15 frames per second shooting. Check, check, and check on price, file size, and shooting speed.

There were some other features that were intriguing. The camera can shoot 60 frames per second is silent mode which would be amazing for birds. It has in-camera focus stacking and in-camera time lapse. Both of these are important to me.

I’ve used the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II for a week and here are my initial impressions. (Check back tomorrow for more.)

  • Weight — Let’s get that out of the way first. I thought there would be more difference.
    • 4.9 lbs OM-D E-M1 Mark II with 300mm lens & 1.4x teleconverter
    • 4.9 lbs Canon 5D Mark IV with 300mm lens & 1.4x teleconverter
    • 4.7 lbs Canon Rebel T6i with 300mm lens & 1.4x teleconverter
  • Size — Smaller than my DSLR camera by an inch.
    • 5-inches wide by 2.25-inches deep on the Olympus
    • 6-inches wide by 3-inches deep on the Canon 5D Mark IV
    • 5-inches wide by 3.25-inches deep on the Canon Rebel T6i

Set-up — I wasn’t looking forward to this step. I’ve taught photography for 25-years and know Canon and Nikon cameras well. The Canon R was intuitive right out of the box. Sony, Olympus, and Fuji tend to put things in different places and call them by different names.

The OM-D E-M1 forced me to go to the user’s manual. I was able to get the camera set to my liking with the help of the manual. Dials and Fn buttons have to do double duty since the camera body is smaller.

Once I got the camera set-up to my liking, the features I needed were easy to reach and adjust. ISO, exposure adjustment, focus points were at my finger tips and I could shoot.

But — What about the picture quality? So far, I’m impressed.

Check back tomorrow for more about this camera and the OM-D M1X. Once again, thanks to Gary Farber at Hunt’s Photo & Video for your help with this loaner.

Confusion About Fixed F/stop Lens

A friend emailed: Hi Kathy. I have a question and I can’t find an answer on the Internet. I am looking at a lens with a fixed aperture of f4. What I’m wondering is how do you get more depth of field with a fixed aperture? People are singing praise for this lens and report it is on their camera all the time. But I’m wondering how it would do for landscape where you would want everything in focus. Or if you were focusing on a closer object and had mountains in the background. Any thoughts? Thanks

The Canon 16-35mm f/4 lens has f/stops from f/4 to f/22

My Answer: A fixed f/4 lens might have an aperture range from f/4 to f/22.  You’d use the f/4 to blur backgrounds and the f/22 for landscapes.  The lens has lots of f/stops and not just one.

A “fixed” lens doesn’t change the f/stop as you zoom the lens.  In the Canon 16-35mm lens, zoom back to 16mm and you can use f/4.  Zoom out to 35mm and you can still use f/4.

A “variable f/stop lens” would change the f/stop as you zoom.  In the Canon 18-55mm lens, zoom back to 18mm and you can use f/3.5.  Zoom out to 55mm and you can only go to f/5.6.  The f/3.5 is no longer available. 

Traditionally, “fixed” f/stop lenses give crisper and clearer photos.  Fixed f/stop lenses are usually more expensive and better made.  I think that’s the reason they give a better photo. 

Extreme Macro Photography

Blue Milkweed bloom measuring an inch across with thrips inside.

The image above was captured with a MOVO EXT-C5 Reverse Auto-focus macro lens adapter. The adapter lets you attach your lens to your camera backwards. This turns any lens into a super heavy-duty macro lens.

Here’s the MOVO EXT-C5 with a Canon 24mm lens in the middle. Notice that the part of the 24mm lens that usually connects with the camera is now facing away from the camera.

While the MOVO EXT was fun to play with there are drawbacks. Depth-of-field is extremely narrow even at f/22. Camera shake ruins most images even when the camera is mounted on a sturdy tripod.

An alternative is adding an extension tube and/or close-up filter to your existing lens.

Canon 500D Close-up lens is no longer available unless you buy them used. I’m currently using the Marumi DHG Achromat Macro +3 that gives the same quality. Then add a 24mm Extension Tube or a 12mm Extension Tube for added magnification.

I’ve used the items above for years when I wanted to photograph something up-close. I find the extension tubes, close-up lens, or combination a lot easier to use than the MOVO EXT.

Chrysanthemum reflecting in a small glass bead. Extension tube and close-up lens.
Same set-up with the MOVO EXT. Despite a lot of effort I could not get the main glass bead in focus.

Here’s a link to my old blog with a better explanation about a close-up lens.

Texture Slider in Adobe

In May of this year, Adobe gave us the Texture slider. You can find this in Adobe’s Lightroom Classic or Adobe Camera Raw.

The Texture slider enhances or reduces texture in a photo. Texture would be bird feathers, animal fur, tree bark, alligator skin, stucco, etc. The Texture slider does not enhance details in our nice blurry backgrounds. The Texture slider is a game changer on certain photos.

I’ve been a real champion of the Clarity slider since that tool was introduced by Adobe. Almost all my processing began with Clarity slider to 20, Vibrance to 20, and Saturation to 20. “Go to CVS first” was the line we used in class.

The Clarity slider, though, worked on details and textures throughout the image. Minor details in the blurry background were often enhanced.

Texture slider only works on textures. It’s a pretty smart tool that can really bring out key details in our photos.

The Texture slider is also available under the Adjustment Brush tool. This allows us to enhance or reduce the texture in one area of a photo.

Pretty neat tool. Give it a try. I’m sure you will like it and find many uses for the Texture slider.

Green violetear or Lesser violetear with the Texture slider blown up to 100%
Same photo as above with the Clarity slider blown up to 100%. Notice how the
background at top right has more detail. Not as soft as the image processed with
the Texture slider.
Same as above with no Clarify or Texture slider. Nice soft background thanks to
a shallow f/stop. We don’t want to mess with that background during processing.

Texture on the left image. Clarity on the right image.

SD or CF Cards

Wayne sent me an email asking if his next card should be a SD or a CF. Good question!

Here’s my reply:

I visited the Sandisk site to see what they are currently offering.

–CF Cards by Sandisk: 256 GB with 160 MB/s. 128 GB with 120 MB/s

–SD cards by Sandisk: 256 GB with 150 MB/s. 128 GB with 300 MB/s (That’s fast!!)

— CFast 2.0 by Sandisk: 512 BG with 450 MB/s (Wow doggie!!)

Background Information — In the beginning of the digital photography age we had Compact Flash cards, Standard Definition cards, and some other cards that have fallen by the wayside.

Compact Flash cards, or CF cards, were for the big, new digital cameras, like the 10D and D100 made by Canon and Nikon. Standard Definition cards, or SD cards, were for the tiny point-and-shoot cameras. Tiny cameras needed tiny cards.

Then camera like the Canon Rebel came out with SD slots. Eventually, the larger digital SLR cameras came out with SD slot and a CF slot. The Canon 6D is a larger digital SLR and it only takes the smaller SD cards.

What we have today is a choice. SD cards are just as fast as CF cards. Then CFast 2.0 are on the market with reasonable prices.

Canon wrote on their site that they are not abandoning the CF cards because so many pros use them.  Good to know.

How fast of a card do you need? Do the math. Photo size x burst rate is the basic formula. 24MB raw file x 7 frames per second = 168 MB per second. That’s your starting point.

Ask also “how often do you hold the button down for 7 fps?” If the answer is often, then get a fast card. If the answer is never, then speed is not an issue when buying cards.

Sequence of an aplomado falcon in flight. We need fast card and fast “frames per second” to capture the action.

One last thing if you’re still with me. Buffer is also an issue. Look through your viewfinder on your camera. Push the shutter button half-way down. Look at the number is the bottom right corner or along the right side. The number might be 3 or 6 or 19 or 56. That number is how many photos the camera’s buffer (internal memory) can hold before the dreaded BUSY signal pops up and the camera stops firing. The buffer is based on the size of the photos you’re taking such as RAW or fine JPG. Bigger the photos the less photos that will fit in the buffer.

The buffer will hold 3 photos on this camera.

Bird Photography: Flash & No Flash

It always amazes me how much impact the flash can have on photos of birds in the forest.

Palm tanager; with a flash Costa Rica; Sarapiqui
Palm tanager; with no flash; Costa Rica; Sarapiqui

Both were photographed with the following settings: Aperture Priority, F/8, 1/400 sec shutter speed, ISO 800, Canon 580 flash, 100-400mm lens.

The flash is set to TTL and high-speed.

HDR or Use the Shadow & Highlight Slider

I used to hear photographers say they didn’t like the look of HDR (high dynamic range) photos.  Software progressed and it got to where an HDR photo was perfectly natural.  We got a photo that looked like what we saw with our eyes versus a cartoonish image.

Things continue to progress in the photo processing world.  Today, the Shadow and Highlight sliders in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom are doing what HDR used to do.

Below you see two images taken in the historic district of Sibiu, Romania.  One is HDR — a blend of seven images using Nik by DxO.  The other is straight out of the camera with the highlights properly exposed.  Can you see any difference?

Sibiu, Romania, historic center.
This is the HDR image.  Seven exposures blended together in Nik HDR Efex Pro by DxO.

Sibiu, Romania, historic center.
This image was captured in the camera.  The exposure was set for the bright area at the top or 2-stops under-exposed.  

Sibiu, Romania, historic center.
Here’s the above image before processing.  Two-stops under-exposed so the highlight were fine but the shadows appear to be worthless.

Sibiu blog postKAC
This is a screen grab of the image being processed.  Notice that the Highlight slider is moved to the left to tone down the tower and sky.  The Shadow slider is moved all the way to the right to bring out the details in the shadows.    I’m using HDR less and less thanks to these great tools in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom.

HDR made from seven images                      processing as above

 

HDR made from seven images                      processing as above

Give this concept a try next time you find yourself photographing a contrasty scene.  Get the highlights perfectly exposed.  Then bring out the shadows later with the Shadow slider in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom.

Have you tried this already?  Success?