Digital Black & White Photography

Since the invention of modern photograph black and white representation have played a key role into the evolution of the medium. For sure color reddition have been preferred over time for its own added pictural information that eventually partly if not almost completely submerge the black and white (B&W) image reproduction. But suffise to mention that still today color processing is using multi layers of B&W sensitive areas with added applied color to the get the final result.

But the real question for the photographic enthousiasms of this world is that black and white stays a pertinent way of recording and later diffuse an image output? Because the digital media photo output is now so cheap and easy to obtain that  can be very simple to skip the choice between color and B&W reedition and rely in post-processing to make your final decision. So why working in B&W during your picture taking session? Is it redondant? Yes and no because even if it is true that the post treatment possibilities offer the final choice it remains impossible to modifie certains basic photo parameters after the fact like your picture taken position (angle of view) or the moment of the exposure. Those critical element depend on the initial selection done on the very premises of the subject.

I wont argue here the virtues of every way of doing photography because in fact they are all justified by the creativity involved in every different processes experimented by the auteur. My point is the following. With contemporary digital camera there is a big new window opened for the B&W photographs in a way that you can actually previsualize your result on screen before the final picture taking action. And that the most interesting aspect of it. No more imperfect (at the most) polaroid tests on the spot to rely. What you over your back screen or electronic viewfinder or your external screen is the “real” visual output. And the technical advancement give a capital advantage to work your B&W output right on the spot something ever dreamed during the traditional film photography era.

Doing black and white pictures
As for many others picture reproduction techniques doing B&W photography have its own requirements and limitations. A beautiful color scene doesn’t always be translated in a magnificent B&W picture. Sometimes yes sometimes definitively not. Because in part of the fact that the color palette offer psychological contrast (between the colors) that BW gray scale is not able to reproduce totally or simply not at all. So different gray patches will blend each other and the final results will be dull and the image information will be difficult to decode. So as you can presume contrast is a key point in B&W photography.

As for any photographic processes the exposure (the light levels distribution) is another critical aspect to consider. Because your own eye has a very larger dynamic light perception between the highlight and the lowlight it has been always a challenge to produce image captor that can be able to mimic human eye perception. Today our recent image sensor have revolutionized that frontier limitation at a point never dreamed a few decades ago. But still the exposure factor is another key to faithfully master in order to get the full palette of gray tonal you need. On the opposite side you can always redirect you exposure setting to discriminate voluntary part of the gray scale you don’t want to register as for example in creating silhouette subjects.

Toning voluntary or not B&W photograph is not a new feature in photography. In the past during the film photography era many paper supports were generating different white tonal renditions from cool to warm as for paper chemical developers that were able to “tint” the silver oxide of the black and gray areas of the picture. Those possibilities have been incorporated in the inboard camera image processors or/and the post processing image applications. It is up to you to decide to register an already (tone) altered image or to wait et the post processing stage of it.

B&W photography enhance graphic value by concentring the attention of the looker on the lines, on the forms and the texture of the subject. Tridimensional perception in B&W depends greatly of the composition of your picture. It rely also on the previous visual experiences of the people who will look at it. So selecting, positioning and exposing your main subject are important tasks to fulfill in the creation of a B&W image that will show impact and got a story to tell. Foreground and background will contribute to let the eye to prior focusing on the first glimpse then to voyage over all the picture but they can also play as a distraction of the main message of your picture.

The expression of your main living subject will create a major impact to the first perception of the image because as human we will be attracted especially in B&W by the “face” of the subject. So interaction between the photographer and its model or subject is basically what we apprehend at first. Eyes, mouth and facial expression may be the most difficult photographic aspects to master a spontaneous or not portrait.

(Partial B&W photography and special effects)
Another interest optional feature present in some digital photographic camera is the possibility to remove the entire color palette in profit of only one selected. In that way we create a kind of B&W picture with added color. These studies can be interesting if you carefully compose your image and most important don’t forget to still focus on the impact and story of the subject. An array of different “special” and easy photographic effects is now available in digital photography. The danger is that you can distract your auditoire from the main subject as many people can simply skip it.

Finally I cannot emphasizes more the importance to explor
e
the medium. Your (documented) research will help you to raffine your quest of a better picture that will suit your own visual expression. Because at the end B&W photography is just another way to communicate your perception of your living surrounding.

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L’Olympus M.Zuiko Premium 45mm F1.8: la modestie du talent




Une des plus belles optiques avec laquelle j’ai pu travailler professionnellement durant mes années argentiques était l’objectif Leica Summicron 90mm F2.8. Compact avec un angle juste assez discriminant ce chef d’oeuvre d’outil photographique était vraiment un charme créatif pour son utilisateur. Je n’ai retrouvé cette magie visuelle que beaucoup plus tard en adoptant l’Olympus M.Zuiko Premium 45mm F1.8 pour le format numérique MFT (M4/3).

L’Olympus M.Zuiko Premium 45mm F1.8 est un petit téléobjectif discriminant doté d’un angle de champs visuel de 27 degrés. Petit en dimension et très léger grâce à sa construction en composite, il s’agit pourtant d’une optique de définition supérieure offrant des résultats détaillés sans aberration apparente. Sa nouvelle grande soeur ayant une ouverture maximale de F1.2 lui fait maintenant ombrage mais pour les adeptes de la street photography le 45mm F1.8 reste sans rival et d’une discrétion exemplaire. C’est l’antithèse de la photographe intimidante.

Un des aspects les plus intéressants de l’Olympus M.Zuiko Premium 45mm F1.8 est sa grande vivacité peu importe le modèle de boitier M4/3 auquel il est couplé. La mise au point automatique reste efficace même dans des conditions d’éclairage plus difficiles. On regrette simplement qu’il soit pas doté de l’option de mise au point manuelle sur la bague de focalisation du point comme son grand frère (45mm F1.2). Mais c’est peut-être le compromis à faire pour son tarif réduit et sa conception plus ancienne. Vous pouvez choisir la fonction de mise au point automatique avec l’option manuelle de votre appareil si vous désirez accéder facilement à cette fonctionnalité particulière.

L’Olympus M.Zuiko Premium 45mm F1.8 est une des principales raisons qui a provoqué mon adhésion au format M4/3. À l’époque j’expérimentais ce nouveau format de capteur avec un modèle Olympus EP-3 et son objectif-zoom de base 14-42mm mais c’est le 45mm F1.8 qui a révélé le véritable potentiel de cette catégorie de capteur numérique. Les résultats obtenus en terme d’imagerie était tout simplement d’une classe à part d’ou cette similitude avec le Leica Summicron 90mm f2.8 de l’ère argentique.

Mais jusqu’à quel point peut-on considérer ce 45mm F1.8 comme un objectif de tous les jours et comme la “normale” du photographe à l’imagerie discriminatoire. Car il s’agit bien de cela c’est à dire d’utiliser l’Olympus 45mm F1.8 comme l’outil optique sélecteur par excellence idéal sur le terrain bien que son angle de champs réduit le rend moins malléable en recherche contextuel et oblige son utilisateur à compresser son sujet sur des éléments restreints. Mais il s’agit bien là d’un choix ou d’une démarche purement artistique ou esthétique. Et cela participe à la signature de l’auteur tout comme tout autre objectif de votre choix.


Action, portrait, architecture et bien d’autres sujets sont à la portée de l’Olympus M.Zuiko Premium 45mm F1.8. Il n’y a qu’à prendre son appareil et déclencher. On revient toujours à l’Olympus 45mm F1.8 malgré toutes les infidélités j’en suis le premier témoin!

 

L’Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 Premium: l’autre objectif normal

Bien sûr tous et chacun connaissent le consensus habituel qui définie la longueur focale “normale de tout format d’image par sa diagonale de son plan-surface d’enregistrement. Le plus connu est célèbre et se retrouve dans l’ancien format-film 35mm (24 X 36mm) avec les objectifs de 50mm bien que le résultat de son véritable calcul se situerait plutôt autour de 43mm. Cette même règle s’appliquant aux autres formats cette dite longueur focale “normale” peut varier beaucoup.

De fait avec un angle de champs d’environ 45 degrés ou un peu plus, les objectifs “normaux” sont souvent perçus comme un peu trop discriminants et c’est pourquoi se sont développé une autre catégorie d’objectifs souvent qualifiés de semi-grand-angle avec un arc visuel de plus ou moins 65 degrés. Leur effet d’éloignement des sujets par rapport à notre vision personnelle n’est pas très prononcé et  règle générale les distorsions engendrées par leur compression d’image restent modestes sinon imperceptible.

Au cours de la petite histoire de la photographie moderne plusieurs auteurs, reporters ou voyagistes ont privilégié cette autre distance focale normale comme avec les objectifs de 35mm dans le format 24 X 36mm parfois même s’aventurant avec des longueurs focales de 40mm surtout présent chez les appareils compacts mono-objectifs non-interchangeables. Plus près de nous plusieurs adeptes du 35mm film se rappellerons entre autres des Leica Summicron 35mm F2.0 ou des Nikon Nikkor AI(S) 35mm F2.8 comme des optiques de base très versatiles.

Aujourd’hui avec le développement prononcé et universel des objectifs-zoom les autres objectifs de longueur focale unique ou fixe ont pris un peu d’ombrage mais on assiste depuis une décennie à leur retour en force chez certains manufacturiers et plus particulièrement chez les systèmes compacts d’appellation “sans-miroir”. C’est ainsi que chez Olympus, format de capteur MFT,on a développé toute une série d’objectifs nommés Premium et maintenant de la série “Pro” qui correspondent bien aux longueurs focales prisés par les amateurs de focales fixes. Parmi ceux-ci il y a ce 17mm F1.8 accompagné maintenant par son grand frère plus récent dit professionnel le 17mm F1.2.

L’Olympus M.Zuiko Premium 17mm F1.8 peut être le compagnon idéal d’un appareil compact comme les modèles OM-D E-M5 Mark II ou encore le Pen-F. Son champs visuel de 65 degrés correspond à un rendu visuel comparable à la zone de netteté de l’oeil humain même si notre champs visuel total est bien entendu beaucoup plus étendue. Ce 17mm F1.8 est compact et relativement léger. Sa mise au point peut être automatique ou manuelle à la volée puisque que la bague d’ajustement du point focal possède deux positions commodes et directement accessibles. Sa construction très métallisée est sérieuse mais l’objectif n’est pas qualifié officiellement par le fabricant de résistant aux intempéries.

L’Olympus M.Zuiko Premium 17mm F1.8 fait partie de cette catégorie d’optiques que j’aime nommer contextuel, i.e. en prise direct et à proximité du sujet. On retrouve dans cette famille d’autres longueurs focales comme les 12mm, 15mm, 20mm, 25mm ou encore les 42,5mm et 45mm, tous adaptés au format MFT, M4/3. Mais le 17mm a cet atout supplémentaire d’être véritablement un objectif “vadrouille” qui peut ramasser ou traiter à peu près n’importe lequel sujet spontanément. Et ce n’est pas un objectif intimidant, donc il est à l’aise en toute situation. C’est aussi l’objectif du reporter et du voyageur mais également du documentaliste puisqu’il respecte bien les proportions du sujet avec comme seule exception les gros-plans ou sujets rapprochés.

Parce que L’Olympus M.Zuiko Premium 17mm F1.8 n’est pas un objectif-zoom il exigera de la part du chorégraphe-photographe-auteur une plus grande disponibilité de mouvement en vue d’obtenir l’assurance d’un cadrage ou d’une composition adéquate pour son utilisateur et d’optimiser la qualité du résultat anticipé. Il en est ainsi de la plupart des objectifs à focales fixes bien entendu. Cependant ces objectifs de longueurs focales invariables sont des outils qui procurent une qualité d’image supérieure à bien des points de vue que les objectifs-zoom. Ils sont moins exigeants et plus linéaires pour les logiciels correctifs embarqués dans les appareils photos actuels. La correction moins grande induit ici une plus grande finesse de définition de l’image ce qui contribue à un post-traitement beaucoup moins destructeur même dans la situation d’un recadrage prononcé.

 

Peut-être découvrirez-vous que cet Olympus M.Zuiko Premium 17mm F1.8 est la seule optique que vous avez vraiment besoin ou encore la plus utilisée ou utilisable. Dans tous les cas ce 17mm saura bien remplir son mandat et deviendra un compagnon ou une compagne bien apprécié(e) n’en doutez pas!

The Olympus M.Zuiko ED 60mm F2.8 Macro: Doing more than macro in M4/3 format.

It may be the most curious looking lens of the entire Olympus optical line up for M4/3 format camera. Strange may be also another epitheth to describe it. Its physical aspect with its non-obvious function dials are giving to the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 60mm F2.8 Macro lens a more confidential reputation based for a good part to its specialized first task intended i.e. macrophotography.

Close focusing photography has been always of a great interest for me as for many of us. Subjects in that field are infinite with various points of view. On a purely documentary side doing macro photography was at first on the scientific priority but very early on following the first spreading of the new medium we have seen beautiful artistic black and white and later on colourful macrophotographic pictures. We may qualify them as the prelude of abstract photography.

 

Although many fine lenses designed for more general purpose can produce very fine close focusing pictures camera and lens manufacturers had soon beging to offer specific macro lenses calculated mostly to cope the flat field exigence of reproduction purpose. That trend has been observed throughout the technical evolution of the photographic equipment. Today macro lenses are current part of many photo arsenal of photographers around the world.

Into the M4/3 format lenses you can rely on different models part of the Olympus and Panasonic line-up. All of them are exceptional contenders of their own. Normal focal ones such as the 30mm length are more suited to be versatile as macro and everyday lenses. Long focal counterparts such as 45mm and 60mm may represent a more powerful alternative for doing very small and near object or better tool for studio and reproduction works.

The Olympus M.Zuiko ED 60mm F2.8 Macro represent a very interesting lens with close focusing ability at first and unprecedented characteristics such as its longer focal length and its all-weather construction. With an angle of view of 20 degrees it surpass many short telephoto for portrait work. Even with a maximum aperture of F2.8 it can be use for action photography in normal daylight condition. Of course close focusing can be its primary advantage combined by the fact that its longer focal length prevent most of its potential obstruction of light on the close subject.

Maybe the most spectacular part of the Olympus 60mm Macro is its oddly aspect if you compare it with others lens designs. But in the past many macro lenses had and still have that kind of visual aspect. I have to concede that it is not the most discrete optic I have ever used.

As for most telephoto macro lenses the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 60mm F2.8 Macro is a very creative tool and versatile because of its close focusing ability. If you accept the fix focal length factor you will find many ways to produce very original pictures that emphasize your main subject. As usual telephoto lenses can be also very competent for doing landscape or urbanscape photography with their dramatizing compression of many subjects in one frame.

The Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro lens is a small optic which is part a the traditional M4/3 format line of prime lenses. With a focal length of 60mm it is magnification factor of 2.4X compare to a standard lens (25mm) with an angle of view of 20 degrees which is qualified the optic for portrait or for small telephoto work. At 185g it is also a very light package easy to bring with you as an extra lens but you have to pay more attention to your stability in use since it is not possible to count on its own weight inertia (like bigger telephoto counterparts), In that case the camera stabilisation option is a welcome feature.

Manual focusing can be performed nicely through its large and very smooth focusing ring. Using the 60mm with the OM-D E-M5 II and its EVF (Electronic ViewFinder) is easy and the image is clear and accurate in most photographic situations. Focusing speed is surprisely responsive for this type of (macro) optic and it qualify the 60mm Macro lens for all other subjects associated with the use of a medium telephoto.  And yes the use of the limiter dial can save you time (and picture opportunities!) if it is applied in the good working context. The reproduction ratio scale is an amusing gadget also.

Typical third-party screw-in (46mm) metal lens hood
for telephoto. (Always check for trace of vignetting)

There is always that annoying discussion about the utility of using a lens hood with the 60mm since Olympus does not provide one with the lens (which is also very annoying…) My answer is simple: if you can afford to buy and bring one dont prevent yourself to do so. I have found the Olympus official lens hood to be a clever design (like the one that came right from the box for the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm F.2.8 Pro model !) but you may consider some third party options less pricy and less bulk
y available through the Web. Essentially lens hoods are preventing some lens internal reflections (flare) especially when you are pointing in direction of punctual light sources.

The Olympus M.Zuiko ED 60mm F2.8 Macro is a very fine lens as it is intended to be. We are reaching pro level image results. Picture are crisp and rightly detailed. Colours are accurate and follow the Olympus expected bias without any adaptation compare to the other lenses of the Olympus line up. Out of focus areas are pleasant even considering the moderate maximum aperture of the lens.
The macro ability of this 60mm is flawless and enhanced by the longer focal length that reduce the risk of interfering with the subject light.

In bref it is fair to consider the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 60mm F2.8 Macro lens as an all-around medium telephoto optic with very handy macro possibilities but also nice other abilities such as for spontaneous photography, portrait or even action subject.

 

Green light for the Panasonic Lumix G85 (G80)

The Panasonic Lumix G85: the genius with modesty!

 

 

Selecting a Panasonic product will be the natural alternative in M4/3 format. Over the previous years I had the chance to own some of their most recent models such as the GX7, GM5 and GX85 that I have found equally competent products into their respective speciality field. And many reviewers have been impressed by the D-SLR like mirrorless Lumix G7. The Panasonic approach in designing cameras and lenses remind a lot the Leica way. Pure lines, basic controls, low profile presentation have been appreciated among spontaneous photographers for travel, street or casual portrait shooting.  Furthermore many Panasonic Lumix products are lightweight. It is true to add that the initial physical touch of their products seems to feel less robust than some similar competitor models but after the initial impression this perception tend to be forgotten in profit of the confort and the ergonomic of the Lumix products.

The Panasonic Lumix G85 is a D-SLR like mirrorless camera with practical virtues like a very secure handling (grip) along with control dials and fonction buttons that are easily reachable. Adding the optional power grip (DMW-BGG1) will simply give a longer battery life autonomy and a superior hand prehension when using larger lenses of external flashes.

Some aspects of the Lumix G85 have to be consider as inherent characteristics in parallel of the price point value of the model. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) for instance which very precise and handy for manual focusing is still more contrasty than the actual picture registered so appreciation can be falsely done. The LCD screen is a lot more accurate in that matter. The refresh rate frequency of the EVF is  on average and seems to slow down a bit in low light condition.

The Lumix G85 interface is reasonnabely intuitive et front forward as for the Quick Menu option. Controls dials and buttons are well located meanly on the right side of the camera and are configurable. The side door memory card access is also a nice touch. The LCD touch screen facilite the access to interesting fonctionnalities. Pivoting LCD screen is another practical option for videographers, macro photographers and photographers who like to simply protect and shut down the screen. As usual the custom camera configuration (C1, C2) allow you to program complex combinations and keep it for future frequent uses. Wifi interactions are also present with the Lumix G85 when you are using the appropriate Panasonic application for mobiles and tablets.


Small but fully appreciated attentions from Panasonic and the Lumix G85 are certainly the side door access to the memory card and the extra battery pack furnished free of charge with the vertical grip BGG-1 as for the lens hood which is also part of the whole package.

In-board flash option is another advantage if you want an easy fill-in light directly available. The Lumix can also manage an external flash in order to get a more powerful and versatile unit.

About the kit lens (Lumix G Vario12-60mm F3.5-5.6 Power OIS)
And dont prevent yourself to choose the Panasonic Lumix G85 kit that include the Lumix G Vario 12-60mm lens Power O.I.S. For the difference of selling price it is a steal. Although the Lumix 12-60mm is not particularly a fast lens it is a very versatile optic to carry all around. Its focal length equivalence in 35mm film format is 24-120mm which represent a very handy choice of angles of view and the G Vario 12-60mm can easily replace at least 2 or 3 prime lenses such as the 12mm, 15mm, 20mm, 25mm and 42.5mm but we must add with the expense of a much smaller maximum aperture. The imagery results from the 12-60mm will surprise you considering the dollars you have spent to get it.





Premium picture output on the spot!
Yes I am particularly pleased by the standard output issued from the Panasonic Lumix G85 both in colour and Black & White. And I must admit that I u
se almost exclusively Jpeg files over the RAW entertained option. It is a matter of personal choice to get fast and exploitable results to edit and share.
Exposure metering by the Panasonic Lumix G85 will give you a clear picture rendering but as usual I prefer to underexpose as far as minus 1 EV to get more profound colours and better details into the highlight areas. In doing so especially with JPEG files you will get a more useful chance to correct your exposure when you are editing your pictures. It follows the old slide film rule of metering your highlight and then correct your lowlight areas.

After working with the new Olympus E-M1 II for a few weeks I did received my new Panasonic Lumix G85 and right from the start everything was falling in place. I can get pleasant and prévisibles colour rendering and most important B&W pictures were again very impressive and comparable to Fujifilm rendering which I consider as one of the highest level standard in mirrorless camera offer.

Furthermore the Panasonic Lumix G85 is a bit less heavier body and that factor adds a lot to its duration confort especially if you carry most of the time the camera with one hand (to be ready to photograph on the spot…)

Another secret is the better interaction of the automatic white balance option of the Lumix G85 especially with mixed sources of domestic interior lightning and in particular with the new LED. In those cases the Olympus E-M1 II was really struggling to get a natural and balanced result. Automatic exposure accuracy of the Lumix G85 is asking less use of the manual exposure correction dial maybe because of its more general metering pattern nature.

Automatic focusing of the Lumix G85 is snappy and repetitive. The only exception will occur when you are facing low contrast subject with low light condition and even under those circonstances the Lumix G85 manage to do its focus eventually most of time. The continuous autofocus option may also struggle when you have a subject that tend to produce space erratic movements and as a result the system may shift from a subject to another. (In my sense you cannot call this “hunting the subject”) As usual manual pre-focusing techniques may a good alternative option for action photography.

A strong advantage of the Panasonic Lumix G85 is certainly its all-weather resistant construction that allows you to work in many adverse conditions without compromises and fear. It can sustain rain, freeze, snow but you have to remind you to combine its body with a lens that have the same ability like the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-60mm F3.5-5.6 OIS. Working with a AW camera such as the Lumix G85 is giving you the ability to bring the camera whatever is the environmental condition and in doing so it opens a lot a photographic possibilities neglected by others.

 

Green Light for the Panasonic Lumix G85

 


High ISO 3200 is very exploitable but you will loose some fine subject details…


At the end the Panasonic Lumix G85 is by far a more paisible instrument for the casual and expert photographer. It is a simpler package that give you fast and pleasant output with less fussy reconfiguration of the medium. It encourage you to bring the camera and experiment on the field by taking pictures. Photography has to be fun and rewarding and the Lumix G15 is perfectly adapted for that task. Dont prevent yourself to enjoy it.

Haro on the Panasonic Lumix G85 (G80)

The Holy Classical Lens: The Olympus M. Zuiko 25mm F1.8

During the so-call 35mm film era we use to call it the “normal” lens. The one optic that came almost the facto with any camera model … and the most economical one too! If you are looking through it (via you viewfinder) it respect roughly our eye sight for the proportion of the subject. So it was and still is a very previsible lens. Parts of the Olympus fine lens line-up there are two versions of this normal lens: the M. Zuiko 25mm F1.8 and the Pro 25mm F1.2 the latter has been introduced lately. Their angle of view are similar (47 degrees for the F1.8 version) but the big differences are mainly their specific construction and their respective maximum aperture available. If you are planning to use your 25mm very extendedly in adverse external condition or for many studio mandates it can be wise to privilege the F1.2 Pro version. But for a more casual use the basic F1.8 will do the job without any losing quality expense. This is the version that I will briefly review.

Legendary Belgian World Champion Eddy Merckx at the finish
line of the 1974 Montreal World Cycling Championships.
This shot was done only with anticipation and has succeeded !

( Photo Daniel Marchand)

A “normal” lens on sports assignment !!!

 
Typical 1974 Photo Press Release of the photo finish lane
( Picture source from Cycling Week Web site )



Memories: Some years ago (let say few decades) my first 35mm SLR camera (a modest Argus Cosina STL1000) was coupled with the economical standard Cosinon 50mm F1.7 lens, a package available for 249 $CAN which was a lot of money from a yesterday point of view. And I remember “covering” the World Cycling Championship in Montreal in 1974 with a few black & white rolls of film and this minimal combination of camera and lens. The results of that improvised assignment had just convinced me to poursuit my photographic dream of a career which finally happened about ten years after. And that story along many others is proving the great versatility of a so-call normal focal fixed lens such as the 25mm in M4/3 format.

 

 

Other photo extracts of that day of the 
1974 Montreal World Cycling Championship.
( Photos Daniel Marchand)

(Let’s return to our regular program…)

Physically the Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8
is a small package considering its relatively large maximum aperture. This compact design will match nicely the camera dimensions of most M4/3 format models. A large focus ring is surrounding the 25mm which is a strong permanent tentation to select manually by yourself your focus point. It is really a creative prime lens, an academic optic as should add the traditional photographic teachers.

A polymer made lens hood is part of the accessories included with the lens. It is a nice addition offer with a none too much perturbing size. And it is bayonet mounted and very easy to put in or pull out.



With an angle of view of 47 degrees the Olympus 25mm F1.8 is a very confortable optic to work with. All perspective aspects of the image respect your own view of the subject. By moving yourself you can control the cropping of your picture without surprise. So it is really a pro-active tool in that sens.




No subject is out of the reach of the Olympus 25mm although it can ask to reframe in some cases when you finally edit your picture for diffusion. Very close focus subjects can be photograph with this “normal” lens. As for subjects with minimal deep of field study. And you can do portrait assuming that there is always the possibility to crop afterward the picture.




The Olympus M. 25mm F1.8 is a fine lens. The quality output of its picture results is high for its modest price compare to “pro” counterpart such as the Olympus Pro M.Zuiko 25mm f1.2 optic. Most of the time I have selected the largest apertures available ranging from F1.8 to F5.6 without suffering any lost of definition. Moreover I suspect that the lens has been primarily designed to be used within that range of apertures. Focus final selection can be easily performed by configuring the camera with the option allowing the combination of auto-manual focusing. The more you will explore your subject with it the more you will learn to appreciate its abilities.

Is the 25mm lens can be assimilated as a “one and only” lens to bring option? May be depending what type of photographer you are. For sure for contextual street photography into urban area its angle of view can be perceive a bit too much narrowed compare with the Olympus 17mm f1.8 for example. But remember that guys like Henri Cartier-Bresson have done very fine and emblematic  pictures with that angle of view (translated by the 50mm focal length in 24X36mm film format).

Finally if your are more oriented “zoomer” photographer by choice or by necessity, the Olympus 25mm F1.8 is a nice back-up lens for on-the-spot replacement and its useful maximum aperture in low light conditions or even for its smaller less intrusive size and it can be slip in your pocket.

Yes the Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 is another affordable gem part of the nice Olympus M.Zuiko line-up.

 

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II: The Caméléon Camera!

(Lastly edited May 8, 2017) (First parution November 15, 2016)

Back in 2012, Olympus has announced and preview its first OM-D  a sort of digital emulation of the classical SLR film camera series originally named OM. Apart the general aspect and dimension of the E-M5 model presented it was a complete new design very different from the other digital M4/3 Olympus line, the PEN series. Since the beginning of digital cameras as the new photographic mass media Olympus has been innovative and very productive of different concepts and model series. The Camedia and E-X series can be rightfully reckoned as one of the most serious effort to produce very effective photographic digital tools.

 

The first OM-D E-M5 declination has been a true success story among photographers and reviewers that simply salute Olympus with a very strong endorsement of the product. Furthermore the E-M5 has been also one of the first M4/3 format model really used on a professional base around the world although it was remaining more an exception and a curiosity. Olympus eventually have responded by offering a new OM-D E-M1 for a more specific pro use.

In 2015 Olympus issued the second version of the E-M5 tagged Mark II with is an upgraded product in many ways (with the exception of its menu interface presentation…!).

Rotative LCD Screen (versus Tilt-able original version): A video reminiscence imported to OM-D
The LCD screen of the EM5 Mark II is a beauty to use ether as a live “full” scale viewfinder or as a reviewing tool. As a live viewfinder (LVF) it is a better choice for evaluate exposure and color rendition of the picture. If the situation allow you to do so the LVF will be a very productive option. I am not a big fan of LVF at the beginning but more and more especially with the “mobile” device event the photographer … and the subjects are getting used to it and felt more comfortable now than by holding the camera the traditional way.

Electronic Viewfinder (EVF): Shut down (or rotate back) that LCD screen!
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is doted of a very fine Electronic ViewFinder (EVF). Fine details can be easily observed and all the infos are present (but without the automatic vertical rotation feature for the infos). Manual focusing can be done accurately through the EVF with the loupe option and dont prevent yourself to do it.
In strong lightning context the EVF may seem to be more contrasty than for low light subject. This caracteristic has been addressed from the early EVF and tend to be corrected gradually but there is still place for improvement. As for the delay between the image seen on EVF vs real-time situation. For action photography I will suggest you to stay and rely on EVF in preventing misinterpretation of the “pic” of the image or subject action.
The presence of the LVF (LCD screen viewfinder) couple with the automatic switch over option between EVF and LVF can be annoying for people who mainly EVF users. By entirely rotating back the LCD screen you will facilite the exclusive EVF use with a better battery life (at the expensive of the fast access to the LCD screen I must add…).

Enhanced Dials
One of the most noticeable difference between the original E-M5 and the new E-M5 Mark II version are the dimension and the nature of the direct control dial that are now bigger and offer better adherence. Adding the optional grip will give you the same arrangement for front handling but in vertical holding you will recover the “old” dial design which is a disappointment in my sens even if the original controls stay efficient in every way.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is a small ILC compact camera and because of that all fonction buttons and dial are accordingly cramped for this type of device. You may accidentally change setting and falsely working with a non voluntary configuration. So the best way to counteract these effects is to verify time to time all the basic information showed on the viewfinder EVF or LVF.

New “more” grip ( More proimenent front hand grip for secure and confortable handling and appreciable vertical shooting ability)
The Olympus HLD-8 grip &battery holder combination is an upgrade version of the previous HLD-6 model offered for the original E-M5. Dimensions and control dial of the grip by itself (HLD-8G) have been revised ans a earphone plug for monitoring the recorded sound has been added. Using the HLD-8 with or without the additional battery had a lot of confort to the handling of the E-M5 Mark II.

In using the complete grip kit you can alternate a two batteries turn around (with one battery always full load in camera) without removing the unit .

Vertical shooting is more secure and easier. Weight and di
mension distribution between camera and lenses are better served when you are working with bigger lenses such as the “Pro” series. If you anticipate doing action or outdoor photography the extra battery autonomy will be an appreciated advantage. And it stays a relatively compact package compare to the similar D-SLR combos. Finally having an additional power unit with the extra battery can be a precious help for intensive shooting sessions.

Lot of Personnalisation … if you remember their functionalities…!
Since the event of the first OM-D (E-M5 original version), Olympus has always offer to the user  extended possibilities of camera personnalisation. Again with the E-M5 Mark II there is a lot of different setting available though the various dials and push (function) buttons present on the camera. For sure you will have to memorize all these personal setting but that can be a real advantage to fine-tune a product configured for “your” specific needs. It add speed and convenience for those who are willing to invest on learning the system.

Mini Flash (less bits and parts, marginally better height, orientable bounce and side-tilt options)
Many photo enthusiasm over the years are knowing already that Olympus has been a pioneer of TTL flash metering since the seventies especially with the original OM-2 24X36mm film camera model. Commun sense dictate the manufacturer to offer a very sophisticated dedicated flash system starting with the mini unit FL-LM3 which is part of the accessories included in the box and that can act as a master unit for controlling multi-flash (from Olympus) arrangement.
The diminutive FL-LM3 unit can be consider as a good fill-in flash option for on the spot situations. Thanks to Olympus to have simplify the attachement of the flash to a single flash  hot shoe port (no more multi-fonction bottom port) since I am not a big fan of potentially losing parts to protect these ports. The addition of the bounce and side-tilt head orientation option is another good value but you have to kept in mind the limited power of the unit. As a master remote flash indirect lightning is a welcome feature.
Olympus pro photographers on assignation like wedding, journalism even sport are considering  the flash option as a obligatory feature to compensate deficient or uneven lightning over the subject. Olympus has just release (October 2016) a new FL-900R powerful unit addressing that demand.

Vintage Flash unit arrangement using PC sync cord and camera sync port.

PC Sync Port (“The” studio vintage feature!)
A PC outlet has been added to the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. It is a past feature seen in most ancient film and traditional SLR and other camera models. For studio or flash work the use of a PC (trigger) sync outlet is inducing that you accept to use flash devices and camera/lens combination over their manual setting without relying on the automated TTL functionalities present into the E-M5 Mark II. In my sens it stays a curiosity more than a practical advantage. Yes you can still do flash photography by using a flash meter for balancing your light units but more and more professionals will prefer to rely on interface setting devices or by using the in-board camera fonctionalities.

Extensive but complex menu settings are an Olympus trademark.

Olympus Interface Presentation or “Learn your lessons!”
What can I add to the many “pro” reviewers that have already point out so many times for almost every new Olympus models that their interface presentation is hard to comprehend and assimilated. The E-M5 Mark II is not a different beast and will ask you to get use to the many aspects of the extended menu options. A quick menu option available by pressing the OK button is may be the best way to access to the fondamental parameters of the camera.

Lens combinations: Prime’s vs Pro Zoom Optic Battle: Small & Discrete Size vs Focal Versatility
By nature there is always the question of the lens choice when you decide to work with ILC (Interchangeable Lens Camera). In general the Olympus prime (fixed focal length ) lenses will give the best optical quality result. Furthermore the fixed focal lens are faster (larger maximum aperture) less bigger and heavier than the zoom lenses. For better results when you are selecting zoom lenses Olympus offer you their “Pro” line but with the expense of a more modest maximum aperture, larger dimensions, more weight and for…more $$$! These Pro lenses will appeal to photographers that are working on assignations, in rapid action photographic situations including intensive studio shooting and specific outdoor subjects. If you like to contextual photography you may prefer the prime lenses selection.

Same not the same 16MP Image Captor
Every manufacturer has its distinctive image “signature” that will translate with an overall specific color reddition, contrast, accentuation and exposure distribution identity. Yes you can alter in many ways the original bias of the camera that will invalid the first setting but it remains sometimes a very tedious exercice for non initiate peop
le like many actual camera users. The Olympus color palette is very distinctive with slight blue tonal (or cold color temperature) color imagery representation.

Zig Zag Over Dome (Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II)

Olympus B&W own interpretation
It is now a standard feature over the mirrorless camera offer to get easy access to a monochrome B&W option along with the different color palette interpretations. For those who have first learned photography by using B&W material or simply by consulting the classic B&W works of earlier photographers it always a pleasure to be able to produce monochrome imagery right from the camera and because of the EVF feature you can get the final result right from the start on screen. Another interesting direct functionality is the possibility to adjust the High and Shadow Light curves on the spot although it has certain limitations compare to post processing treatment. With strong lightning I will usually cut down the exposure by 1 to 2 EV factor (stop) to privilege the highlight detail over the shadow area. For sure it is up to each photographer to find its own setting bias.

Apple Eye taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II / M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8

About cropping
Dont prevent yourself to do extensive cropping of your original picture if the camera image sensor can maintain an acceptable photographic quality. And dont forget that it is the nature of the human sight (i.e. eye view) to select portion area of the total pano view to be able to register a partial composition of the entire picture. You can assume that the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II will deliver you pleasant result even with a pronounced crop.

OM-D E-M5 Mark II compact outfit configuration recall
 the original OM series of the film era

A discrete and versatile camera
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is a discrete compact ILC camera with its small size and smoothness of operation. Its All-Weather construction allow you to use it with more confidence in many various situations with moderely adverse conditions but dont forget to select a lens model that have the same feature. Furthermore it is common knowledge that some professional photographers are choosing the mirrorless cameras for different manners such as the overall size of the system, or the lens selection, the interface, the video possibilities, etc. The “Pro” involvement of these manufacturers like Olympus, Panasonic, Fujifilm and Sony is just proving the serious of them.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is a very modular camera with grip and power options.

The shutter release of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is exceptionally smooth. It is always a great pleasure to do photography with such discretion and elegance. The environnemental sealing of the camera body is another serious advantage for all condition utility of the OM-D E-M5 Mark II. I also salute the modularity of the model with or without the HLD grip combo option which is transforming the E-M5 II into a small “E-M1” of its own. Flash system is well deserved with the in-house TTL system and none-wired external flash units control via the FL-LM3 mounted unit.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is not cheap as for many Olympus products. If you are intend to keep the camera model for a short period of time you will lose a significant amount of money but on a long run (3 years +) it wort the expense. Otherwise you can wait to end-of-life deal like it has been observed in the case of the original version of the E-M5. For a professional use, you may also consider the new OM-D E-M1 Mark II option but keep in mind that it will required a significant larger budget.

If you intend to do street photography the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II alone coupled with one small prime lens will give you a very “petite” camera. In action photography the camera will behave on the average level asking from you a good preparation and a sense of anticipation. In that field (Action) it is more a pro-active than a reactive camera like the big D-SLRs.

Out-In Light (OM-D E-M5 Mark II / M. 45mm F/1.8)

About the Future of M4/3
At first you have to consider that the primary 4/3 digital format has been set in 2006 as new standard endorsed by various major photographic compagnies such as Kodak, Fujifilm , Leica among others. Two years later the original format has been evolve into the new Micro 4/3 especially designed for more compact mirrorless camera. In the battle to survive into the classical photo market the M4/3 format has been mainly supported by the combine effort of Olympus and Panasonic production. For Panasonic their strong video knowledge has been successfully  incorporated into their flagship GH4/5 models that have been adopted by many. Olympus really intend to design cameras firstly for their still photography capabilities. Both Olympus and Panasonic have developed a very fine line of interchangeable lenses in a smaller package compared to the Canon and Nikon bigger production for example. In this small mirrorless world with Fujifilm (and Canon) APS-C format and Sony so-called “full” format (ancient 24X36mm mini film size) the long term future viability of these alternatives stays on balance.

For sure the user loyalty may be part of the answer but more than that the dedication of the camera manufacturers can make the final outcome. And Olympus even considering their recent internal difficulties never really downplay their contribution. As a fan, a user and an appreciator of their line of products (both cameras and lenses) I hope they will successfully maintain their dedication for the M4/3 format for a long time.

Final Note: Since the venue of the E-M5 Mark II Olympus had also upgraded their E-M1 (Mark II) & E-M10 (Mark II) models and extended their lens offer by adding short, long and Pro lens models.

 

iPhoto Manon Paquette

 

Fix our attention on focal fixed lenses. Mix with the Fix(es)!

 

Panasonic Lumix G 42.5mm F1.7

It is a matter of fact that I have a basic tendency to privilege the focal fixed lenses over the zoom (or vari-focal) ones when it comes to qualify them as creative photographic tools. In every formats prime lenses are usually faster, often smaller, seem better built, less intrusive, nicely balanced and easier to handhold and control. The good zoom lenses and more the “Pro” ones are often bigger units with natively smaller maximum aperture but yes their respective variation of focal length represent by itself a big advantage in term of versatility and handling speed. But even considering this specific factor the focal fix lenses are still strongly alive and popular among photographers from professionals to simply amateurs.

Fujinon XF 60mm F2.4 Macro

One of a beauty of the compact format is that the most serious manufacturer players, Fujifilm, Olympus and Panasonic, have really invested on focal fixed lenses as major part of their line-up right from the start. One of the best early example was the Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm F2.0 an equivalent of the 24mm in 35mm film format. We are still waiting for a similar lens offer in APS-C format from Canon and Nikon D-SLR which represent in my sens a mesure of the non-committement from those two camera majors manufacturers for a compact format. And wide angle zoom lenses cannot be fully comparable to a good focal fix doted with a better maximum aperture.

Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8

Compaticity is another factor in favour of fixed focal lenses. Lighter and more discrete they are a serious tool for non-intimidating “on-the-spot” photography. Their larger maximum aperture give a greater latitude when you are facing low light condition. Moreover this advantage translate also by the availability of a shallow deep-of-feild that is helping you to better discriminate your principal subject from the foreground/background. With less optical distortion (or stronger in-body camera post-treatment) and less visible chromatic aberration the prime lenses will ask less post-editing treatment to get a finer picture.

And focal fixed lenses can be more spontaneous photographic tools in same case being less intrusive for the main subject as already mentioned.

Compare to the zoom optics, the focal fixed lenses will ask you more effort to apprehend your subject, prepare yourself and your equipment and take finally the picture. But the result will be very often more precise, more creative on your part and at the end more rewarding.

Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8
Panasonic Lumix G 42,5mm F1.7
Panasonic Lumix G 42.5mmF1.7
Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F1.7
Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8: the "Pro" Still Photographer …

 

 

The Panasonic Lumix GX8 in its nice silver delivery.
A more discrete black version is also available


My first impression was that GX8 fit like a glove to me. The handling, the control and the interface are easy to comprehend and you have the feeling to hold and to use a very pro oriented M4/3 format still camera.

The very confortable
and secure front grip
of the Lumix GX8

The grip factor is really one of the strongest points of the Lumix GX8 that is giving a very secure and confortable way of working with the model. Many times I have used the GX8 without bothering to put my wrist strap since I was feeling fully confident about the handling. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is large and very informative of the picture output result you can expect. Direct dial options are easy to learn and reach if needed. As usual push bottoms are handy and fast to react but can be accidently activated during shooting if you are not aware of your palm hand position. The LCD screen is also a very fine viewing tool and can be fully oriented in many ways.

The very beautiful and classical design of the Panasonic Lumix GX8 upper deck. An interesting mixture of classical presentation and modern direct dial functionality attributions

The Panasonic Lumix GX8 is a bigger camera than the previous GX7 (original). It appears as a design choice by Panasonic study board rather than a technical constraint especially with the venue of the new Lumix GX85 / GX80 (Japan GX7 Mark II) that has a significaly smaller size despite its similar features. For a full time photographer (dixit so-called pro) the dimensions of the GX8 are still smaller compare to traditional DSLR even more if you add the equivalent lenses. So it confirms in a way the “Pro” orientation of the model.

 

The tilt able electronic viewfinder (EVF) of the Panasonic 
Lumix GX8: a Chest level alternative that can preserve parallel 
vertical lines or help you for low level point of view

Is the Lumix GX8 an action camera? For spontaneous photography you can say without a doubt yes. For sport or very moving subject it cannot in any way compete with the modern DSLR that are the most advanced autofocusing system available on the market. Using the faster prime lenses will give you a more reactive GX8 in the view o my modest experiences. So doing action photography with the Lumix GX8 can be more challenging for the user. You have to rely on a more pro-active approach (Anticipation) than a reactive watching.

No in-board flash is available on the Lumix GX8. Again it seems to be a voluntary designer choice. Panasonic has often been joggling with that feature like in the case of the diminutive Lumix GM5. Without in-board a flash option you need to bring an external flash unit of some kind to perform at least fill-in flash operation. So it represents an additional device to think of but the advantage came by the fact that most of the external flash units are self-powered saving the camera own battery life. Again no in-board flash unit is reflecting a traditional “Pro” design approach.



The Panasonic Lumix GX8 is delivering beautiful image outputs. The exposure system is very accurate and you can rely on it on every operating modes offered by the GX8. Color rendering especially in the “Natural” mode is respecting the reality of the scene. The exposure direct control dial is handy.

You can produce rich black and white pictures that as always a big advantage of using a camera equipped with an EVF that is showing you on the spot the final image output prior to the picture taking.  In a strictly personal point of view using the new 20MP image captor didn’t represent a strong departure from the usual 16MP sensor used on many others M4/3 models. I am sure that the new 20MP will give some edge advantages on specific picture taking situations or in performing particular image post treatments. But for a Web diffuser like myself the difference will appear marginal at the most.

In combination with the Lumix Vario G 12-60mm lens the 
Panasonic GX8 can deliver very pleasant colours and fine details.

 

 

Using the monochrome option on the GX8 is producing 
excellent black and white results

After a few days of companionship the Panasonic Lumix GX8 had proved to be a very solid still camera. Its larger size will give you confidence to bring it everywhere on every circonstances even in bad weather. But you must remember this is not a very compact model such as the smaller Lumix GX85/80 model. Lens combination with the GX8 are better served by selecting the “Pro” lens version like the 12-35mm f2.8 and the 35-100mm f2.8 or the versatile 12-60mm.

 

As a professionally oriented model, some aspects of the Lumix GX8 such as its generous grip, the add-on external flash option, its 20MP image captor and its titl-able EVF for example will be well received for everyday and intensive photographers.

On the road with the Lumix GX8

 

Although the Panasonic Lumix GX8 is a very well crafted camera it cannot be assimilated as an impressive model such as to be the previous Lumix GX7 (first version) which had many interesting features in a more smaller package. Even considering the improvement of the image sensor this redesign won’t necessarely seduce everybody. Paradoxically Panasonic has already done better with the new GX85/80 (Japan GX7 Mark II) but with the sacrifice of the weather sealed body feature.

Now (August 2016) the current selling price of the camera combined with the Lumix Vario G 12-60mm lens is representing a better quality-price ratio for this quality level of product.


Special thanks: With the complicity of Panasonic Canada and my kindly representing contact person I was able to work with the GX8 model equipped with the newest Lumix Vario 12-60mm Power OIS lens.

The Fujinon XF 27mm F2.8: The Predictable Lens



The Fujinon XF 27mm F2.8 is one of the two official so-call “Pancake” lenses available from the Fujifilm X-Mount line-up (The other one is the Fujinon XF 18mm F2 R lens). Designed firstly to be paired with smaller APS-C ILC bodies of the X-Series such as X-M1 or X-A1/2 it never prevent many X-enthousiasms to match the model with larger camera bodies.

One of the biggest advantage of the XF 27mm is its angle of view equivalent to a 40mm in 24X36mm film or digital format. Although its maximum aperture of F2.8 remains modest it can be assimilated as an everyday lens.

 

Foggy morning







On assignation
The Fujinon XF 27mm F2.8 lens is a very small and you may be felt a bit uncomfortable at your first sight and touch with the model. It add almost no weight to the body of the camera in fact less than 80g (less than 3 ounces). It is also a very contracted design for people who are used to hold the bottom of the taking lens with the palm of their left hand to get more stability.

Using a generic lens hood (sorry no official lens hood available from Fujifilm) can help a bit for the handling.

A little winter fresh air with coffee and some literature!

Autofocus is  quick (but not fully silent on my unit). Manual focusing is accurate with good simulated travel of the ring for fine focusing. This is not a macro lens so close focusing is limited if you working with very small subjects.No aperture ring for that model and you have to rely on the adjusting dial on camera which is an option present on every model. No optical stabilization system (OIS) like the standard zoom lenses. So you have to be more aware about the shutter speed selected by the camera or by yourself. You may choose to upper your minimum shutter speed limit before increasing the ISO used by the camera (Auto ISO Setting into the menu). As already mentioned no Fujifilm dedicated lens hood is available and the filter accessory diameter is  39mm.

Through Glass Azur Montreal Subway

 

NorthernWest Light

 

                        Morning Snow Tiny Flakes

Picture quality
The color reddition of the Fujinon XF 27mm F2.8 doesn’t differ from the other lens models of the X-Mount Series. So the continuity in term of results can be observed with the others Fujinon X-Mount lenses of the Series. For sure automatic in-board calibration and correction are part of the advantages of the modern digital photography. Focus accuracy between left and right side and up and down seems to be adequate.

 

Spot Fragments


The Fujinon XF 27mm F2.8 is not really a substitute for standard zoom lenses such as the XF 18-55mm R or the XC 16-50mm that have a much larger focal length versatility and are doted with an efficient optical stabilization system (OIS). Like many fix focal prime lens it is more a creative lens that is forcing the photographer to anticipate and preselect how to manage the subject and the context of the picture to produce.

Little Face

The angle of view of the Fujinon XF 27mm F2.8 is similar of the one who can experiment with your own eyes considering only the sharp area. It results that lens rendering can be easily anticipated even without looking into the viewfinder or on the back screen of the camera.

“The Fujinon XF 27mm F2.8 is may be one of the most predictable lens of the X-Mount line-up. “