The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II: The “more compact” pro camera from Olympus!

 

Suppose you love compactness and portability but you want a pro level camera model that can withstand an intensive use even under adverse conditions, what would be the more sensitive choice today? The answer is simple: the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II. This model is part of an entire eco-system of different optics and accessories that will fulfill almost every specific photo tasks that any photographers “on the run” will ask for.

The Olympus pro range of products is now including two current version of the E-M1 which are the E-M1 Mark II and the E-M1X. The last one and newest model is integrating permanently the vertical power grip compare to the optionality of the one offered for the Mark II previous model. But the two cameras share the same MFT 20MP sensor and most of the function abilities although the E-M1X take advantage of some latest technical novelties or upgrades.

In 2017 the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II was introduced as an significative improvement of the original E-M1 by replacing the 16MP MFT sensor with the newest 20MP one. The autofocus functionality has been also upgraded. The video capability of the model has been enhanced. The LCD has been transformed to the tilted variation to a fully articulated screen.

At the time of the outcome of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, some reviewers have questioned its large size and its higher price tag. But as time past this perception is changing at a fast rate and more and more the size dimension of the Mark II appears now more as an average pro camera model.

The late Nikon F4S: A modern “Pro” 
design back in 1988 of the film era.

Over time professional photographers have always appreciated a camera design that will fall literally in their hand and have equally appreciated a more simple rounded ergonomic device that feels secure, confortable and robust on a long intensive use.  At the time of its introduction the newest autofocus Nikon F4S was representing a similar evolution in term of ergonomics compare the previous F, F2 and F3 series. The modular aspect of the model as for the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II was cleverly designed for a complete integration of the each additional modules.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is the second interpretation issued from the manufacturer of an especially constructed professionally oriented digital ILC (Interchangeable Lens Camera) for the M4/3 format sensor. It incorporate the newest 20MP image captor (sensor) for a finer definition and  higher overall performances. I have never really try to evaluate a camera model on specific statistical characteristics. In place I better prefer to regard it as an whole package. As a photographic tool you need something that will be coherent and flexible for your everyday use.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is not a pocket camera. It can be seen as the antithesis of the Olympus Pen series. It is a more pro oriented compact option and system (coupled with the intended lenses and accessories). It remains a camera made to be hold in your hand on a full time base. In that sense it stays a unique product from the entire M4/3 ILC Olympus line-up. A bit like a beefier Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with a permanent hand grip.

The simplicity of design of the OM-D E-M1 Mark II is considerably emphases by the integrated hand grip that prevent the doublement of controls required with an add-on optional hand grip such as the combo seen on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II. After a general setting of the camera many function buttons can be ignored to facilite the picture shooting. At that point complexity doesn’t mean necessarily complication. And this can be said also for the menu versus the direct access to the principal parameters option on the LCD screen. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is a very configurable camera but you dont need to apprenhed every single option offered by the manufacturer.

You can add the optional (vertical) power holder grip HLD-9 that will double the power autonomy of the OM-D E-M1 Mark II and give you a better vertical prehension of the camera for portrait framing type shooting. The Olympus HLD-9  keeps you access to all the essential control dials and functions of the camera. With larger and bigger lenses it can help you to get a better balance and a more secure way of handling the combo. Lastly the Olympus HLD-9 let you manage a three battery pack rotation (one into the camera, one into the grip and one spear) that extend your power autonomy during longer assignment.

The OM-D E-M1 Mark II is a very sturdy model and very well protected against adverse contextual conditions such as rain, snow, freeze. It give a good sense of confidence to use the camera without the normal restrictions and open access to more delicate photo situations. The viewfinder and the LCD black screen are first class devices and even for people wearing glasses, the EVF is fully usable for seing the whole picture and technical information attached. Control buttons and dials are well manner and dont require too much contorsion and can be assimilated intuitively especially for previous Olympus users. The same can be said for the optional grip.

If you  like to adjust your focus point manually, the OM-D E-M1 Mark II electronic viewfinder (EVF) will help you in that task beautifully with its clarity and its definition finesse. Couple with one of the Olympus Pro series lenses and their Clutch Manual Focus mechanism, the combination is a winner. “Defocus” creative experiments are a delight to do with this model.

The left thumb cavity (located on the bottom right side of it) to facilitate the opening of the reverse LCD screen is a real special ergonomictouch. I discovered it simply by touch intuition but it became an instant reflex if I want review a picture without reversing permanently the LCD screen (Open out then folding it!). By the way the massive right thumb grip rest (on the upper right edge of the back of the canera body) is simply very practical and secure. In all the body molding configuration of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II reflect that a deep care has been done for a design and its manufacturing that cover the ergonomic needs of a (pro) photographer.

Getting the OM-D E-M1 Mark II alive (On) is fast and accurate. You can stay pro-active and produce spontaneous imagery at will without bothering long delay of awakening from the camera. The EVF eye detection is efficient even if you are wearing glasses. You will have a good sense of your picture exposure and be able to apply exposure correction factor on the spot be roughly evaluate its effect through the EVF.

The shutter release button is very smooth and the OM-D E-M1 Mark II is a very discrete camera considering the sound level of it. It is perfectly suitable for shooting situations that require almost silence presence from the photographer. You can also operate the camera with the touch screen functionalities which can be practical for more static subjects (reproduction, macro. portraits, etc). The exposure and focus settings can be memorized by pressing with your thumb the appropriate push buttons rightly located on the upper right side of the back of the camera body. The same easiness of use can be said about most of the control dials and push buttons of the OM-D E-M1 Mark II although you have to get use of the Olympus way of actuating the camera (the famous classical On/Off lever).

You wont be deceived by the overwhelming availability to customize the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II to all your specific photographic needs. Many of us will simply scratch a fraction of its whole potential as it is the case for several digital camera today models.

Because the OM-D E-M1 Mark II is a bigger camera than the OM-D E-M5 Mark II for example you will feel more secure when who are manipulating it and particularly when you are holding it with one hand. In that sense Olympus has designed this model for a professional intensive level of use in mind.  And that explain also the “superior” level of selling price of the camera the will be amortized by its everyday tasks performed.

And what about the famous Olympus interface? As usual the menu contain is very rich of different possibilities and will ask to invest a good amount of time on the side of the learning curve especially if you want to configure the camera outside the manufacturer default settings.

For still photography the autofocus system is fast and reliable. Follow-up action photography with greater subjects can be done in confidence for the focus tracking. As I have said in previous posts to properly photograph”on-pick” moving subjects may ask you a certain amount of preparation on your part. Exposure and focus preset are still a good way for doing this kind of task.

Flash system
For flash aid, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II rely on external unit either on-camera mount or completely none-solidaire devices(a small emergency flash unit FL-LM3 is furnished with the camera model). Connectivity can be done through infrared or radio communication or even by using a traditional but obsolete PC cord.  TTL flash option has been part of the Olympus system since the introduction of the analog OM-2 series and so the expertise and reliability are firmly established. Some Olympus flash units (FL-900R, FL-700R WR) are protected from adverse weather conditions and can be used under usually impractical flash photo contexts.

The picture output of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is absolutely impressive. Both colours and Black & White images can be produced flawlessly without compromise. The JPEG rendering is fully usable. The finesse of the details obtained by the combine in-board sensor and immediately post-treatment engine is remarquable if you respect the basic photo techniques required to get first class results. The camera is giving its best when fixed focal lenses and “pro” zooms are coupled with it.

Black and White Photography
The love to produce black and white pictures has been partly revived with the introduction of the electronic viewfinders that are allowing us to appreciate on place (and also with the LCD viewing screen) the B&W picture results. No exception for the OM-D E-M1 Mark II that is offering you the Monochrome option with some more grainy variations (Art filters). In all the quality of the B&W image outputs is a strong asset of the Mark II.

 

 

Art Filters are creative!

This is one of the most intriguing feature included into the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II capabilities (as for other Olympus models). There are a great number of these image art bias with variations depending which you are selecting. I gradually discovered some of them (Key Line, Partial Color, Soft Focus, Dramatic Tone, Sepia, etc) and began to use them occasionally with success. Each of these filters is proposing a different palette of colors or tonal effects alongside with specific alterations of the picture rendering. After the initial experimentation, you became able to predict their different bias in different photographic taking situations.

We have to remember that over the history of photography, past and present picture taking and registering techniques had and still have particular bias that are interpreting the subject. You can compare the Art filters option as a modern digital way to do the same today but with a far more versatility and easiest to produce it.

Keystone compensation
The Keystone compensation functionality is another fine in-camera image post-process that allow vertical and horizontal line corrections as we do optically with specialized tilt-and shift lenses. This application can generate pictures for architectural and still-life purposes that withstand the exigences of humain interpretation of the subject (subjective linear mind auto-corrections). The effect of the Keystone compensation can be controlled directly on the camera LCD screen or into the electronic viewfinder (EVF). On an average image magnification scale (X5-X7) its output quality impact seems to be very minimalist.

The more you will play with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, the more you will discover its flexibility to withstand many different shooting situations. Many interesting techniques and in-board functionalities will expand your creativity and offer you better opportunities to try something different.

Final thoughts
On a personal note, I love to work with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II because it is a pro “compact” camera that you can rely on in (almost) every circonstances. If you couple it with an Olympus M.Zuiko Pro lens, you will obtain a perfect combination of quality of construction and image output. As an independent (freelance) or a self-entrepreneur photographer, the Olympus system can be a winning solution. What is the decisive factor for choosing the Olympus OM-D E-M1Mark II as a professional camera model? In many ways it can be resume to its compact portability (enhanced by by the superb Olympus pro lens series). The complete Olympus pro eco-system is perfectly suiting that particular task to be light, versatile, creative and highly competent in photography.

Some additional notes about the MFT system compare to bigger image sensor formats (APS-C, 24X36mm)

Some people may ask me why I am always coming back to MFT image format system. As you may have already noticed, I had the chance to own briefly and test recent Fujifilm products such as the X-H1 model along with some “pro” Fujinon lenses. First I must say that they are excellent, well built, easy to use products that deliver awesome image results. My only drawback is the size dimensions and weight of their products which are way over what I can endure myself for a day long assignment. And this is also for this reason that I have already discarded the 24X36mm image sensor option too.

Choosing the Olympus OM-D E-M1X make no sense in my book except if you intend to use it with larger or longer lenses, and be able to use some kind of handling assistance like a tripod or a monopod for example. So as a sport or nature camera, yes, the OM-D E-M1X can fit the bill but for a mobile photographer it is a big weighty burden…

(First Published in April 2017, Revised in May 2019)

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Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Pro

The Olympus M. Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO is not part of a very successful Olympus MFT story  especialy considering its extended versatility and its reduce size compare to the DSLR 24X36mm sensor format equivalents. Furthermore the same statement can be proclaimed for many M4/3 format photo equipment products.

 

For sure there is still a strong resistance to the introduction of the M4/3 format from the so-call professional intelligentsia. The picture quality argument has been served ad nauseam to reject any more compact option. But time is passing by and moreover people are adopting MFT and APS-C formats. The new state regarding photography and its popularity is intimacy related to its fast, versatile and portable ability. Big DSLR dont seem to follow that path so extinction seems not far away for them.

The Olympus 40-150mm F2.8 PRO stays a massive lens by MFT compact standards. But it replace at least two DSLR Pro lenses, i.e. the traditional 70-200mm zoom and the powerful 300mm telephoto, both with maximum aperture of F2.8. So the trade-off is still at the advantage of the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Pro. It prevent also the necessity of changing lenses or to operate with two different camera bodies.

Using big telephoto zoom lenses increase the unbalance tendency between the optic and the camera. That fact can be critical if you need a correct handling especially if you are panning the action not only for the effect but simply to follow the subject. Fatigue can be a highly distractive factor that will affect your ability and motivation to produce pictures. You can enhance your handling by adding an additional grip or vertical power grip on the camera. If you adopt a more static position, a fix support like a monopod or a tripod will be a great help for stabilisation and a more careful picture cropping. In fact the nature and the context of your subject will characterize your working methodology.

With such a Pro lens model with a larger maximum aperture of F2.8 the photograph will select most of the time a fairly large lens opening often between F2.8 and 5.6. Those aperture opening will narrowed the deep-of-field phenomena and privilege the main subject. Focus can be critical at that point and autofocus or prefocus have to be set carefully. Your picture waste may also increase accordingly. That is part of the experiment. Many photojournalists  may prefer to work with DSLR 24X36mm sensor format classic equipment. I am always impressed to see those boxes full of photojournalists with identical equipment in major sports events. They often reproduce the same picture without any search of originality. This is another specie of photographs in danger of obsolescence.

As a Pro lens the Olympus 40-150mm F2.8 is getting a superior quality of construction. The zoom and focusing rings are larger and will turn nicely with a simulated friction similar to old-fashioned lenses. The click-on manual option (Clutch Manual Focus) available on the focus ring is a very secure and fast way of selecting between auto or manual possibilities. By selecting the manual focusing only position you over rule the autofocus fonction and get a better focusing ring resistance similar to the previous manual focusing lenses. It replicate what is already present to the Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 Pro lens which is often the companion optic chosen by many. As for all the Olympus other M4/3lenses, no aperture ring are offer on that model assuming that it will done by one of the dials of the camera.

The monumental push-pull lens hood is included with the Olympus 40-150mm F2.8 Pro. Operating the mechanism may require some study and practices from your part. I have worked freely with or without the lens hood (if it was possible to do so without compromising my picture quality). The Olympus 40-150mm F2.8 Pro is also doted of an already tripod/monopod accessory mount that can be rotate for horizontal or vertical shooting. The making of this piece appears to be very well designed and constructed. My suggestion is to kept it permanently on the lens and simply rotate it aside when you are handholding the lens. The Olympus 40-150mm F2.8 Pro lens got the weather protection which qualify the optic for an extended use in most adverse conditions. It allows you also to fully clean the lens.

Contrary of the usual mystic regarding the use of those big Pro lenses could require from the photograph an effort in preparation and during their specific manipulation. Shooting at will may expose you to some disappointment in view of the final results. With try and experience you will master the care and the limit of these pro telephoto lenses such as the Olympus 40-150mm F2.8 Pro. In-board camera stabilization may partially help you but the fundamentals stay the same such as selecting a higher shutter speed and follow (panning) your subject. If possible an external support such as a monopod or a tripod can help you a lot (and prevent fatigue!).

The Olympus 40-150mm F2.8 Pro can be a very fine portrait lens and many beautiful examples presented over the Web illustrate that fact. It can be also an interesting “abstraction” lens that allows many defocusing experimentations. Working with relatives short distances (for this type of lenses) will narrow the deep-of-field for bokey effect. Sport and nature photography appear to be the most spontaneous themes of preference for what the Olympus 40-150mm F2.8 Pro has been first designed et manufactured. And many users have already demonstrate the rightful of this perception. As I have already said at the beginning of this post, this telephoto zoom pro lens is in fact more versatile into a smaller package. In many ways it respond to the standards imposed in almost any photojournalistic situations.

Finally here is a short note regarding the high selling prices of many of those “pro” lenses. Usually these professional intended optics are produced in smaller quantity with higher cost material and for a limited distribution. Therefore their price tags are positioned at a selling point more difficult to reach for many of us (including obviously myself!). But if you consider the added durability of these models and their constant value over time, you will often discover that they simply follow the inflation rate over the years and the decades. It is up to you to invest yourself in that kind of higher expense.

The Olympus M. Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Pro lens is a very fine, constant, versatile, workhorse optic that is reliable into various conditions of uses. It is part of the traditional duo along with the Olympus M. Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro and also with the T(h)ree family if combined with the Olympus 7-14mm Pro. All these pro lenses will form a very competent equipment when teamed with OM-D bodies like the E-M1 and E-M5 or even the E-M10 series.

A complete Pro system

Olympus is very serious about its Pro line of lenses involvement and offer a complete line-up of fine, fast and sturdy optics with the M. Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8, 12-40mm F2.8, 12-100mm F4.0 IS, 40-150mm f2.8, Fisheye 8mm F1.8, 25mm F1.2, 45mm F1.2 and 300mm F4.0 IS. Combined with the OM-D E-M1 series, an independent professional photographer will find a very competent and compact eco-system that will sustain most of its need.

(First Published in September 2017, Revised in May 2019)

The Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro is not a new product but for many photographers, it is still a great favorite zoom lens considering its versatility, its quality image output and even its reduce size compare to its sibling into the 24X36mm sensor format (24-70mm F2.8, I won’t argue about the equivalent F-stop and its annoying debate).

True to say it is not a tiny or a pancake lens but for its focal length range it is a good compact optic especially if you combine it with a standard size MFT camera model. We know already many of the big advantages of using aa Olympus Pro series lens. Better construction, larger controls and grip, better quality selected glasses, constant aperture (most of the time), weather resistant (WR) protection, etc. But the Pro lenses are also larger, heavier and… more expensive. Usually their variable focal length latitude is narrowed compare to the standard Olympus zoom series counterparts. I am not a big fan of larger size lenses that can be intimidating for your subject by their lack of discretion. The only added credibility you can expect from other people when using this type (pro) of lenses usually came from persons without real knowledge of photography (especially press credential personal!).

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The Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro is in fact an average zoom lens with a weight of 382g and a physical length of 84mm at its smallest setting. Its constant maximum aperture of F/2.8 is an usual standard for this kind of “pro” product.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro is an impressive piece of glasses in particular if you apply the compactness standards of the m4/3 format. To properly use it you may need a camera model with a greater potential handle grip to be able to use it with confidence and comfort. But I must add that the lens is still usable without add-on grip. As a “Pro” design lens its primary destination is without a doubt the Olympus OM-D E-M1 (in both variations). With the OM-D E-M5 (original & Mark II) the optional vertical power grip will help you  in certain situations like in studio or for action shooting assignments. That can be said also when you are using the OM-D E-M10 (original, Mark II & III).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe feeling of the 12-40mm F/2.8 lens reveals its high class all weather construction especially if you compare it with the kit zoom lenses such as the M.Zuiko 12-50mm or the diminutive M.Zuiko 14-42mm. Control rings for zooming and focusing are fairly larger and can be easily distinctive by the touch. On the spot manual focusing operation is possible by pulling the focus ring very conveniently (Manual Focus Clutch). We also appreciate that the lens hood is part of the included accessory packaged with the lens.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the big advantage of the M.Zuiko 12-40mm F/2.8 is surely its focal length variation starting with a real wide setting of 12mm (84 degrees of angle of view) up to an extended narrowed angle of view ( 30 degrees) at 40mm.You can consider as a short telephoto. At that point you get a magnification ratio of 1.5X compare to your naked eye. The Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Pro should be an excellent complement to the M.Zuiko 12-40mm F/2.8.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike I have said earlier the bigger dimensions of “Pro” lenses can sometimes generating intimidating reactions from spontaneous subjects. It is a price to pay and you may have to earn the confidence of the people you want to photograph prior to the shooting itself. Even the non-initiated person in photography will be aware of the “pro” level of your photo taking device.

The performance of the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm lens is on the upper lever flirting with the stellar performances seen on the prime (focal fix) lenses. It is a good substitute product to the 12mm, the 17mm, the 25mm and the 45mm prime lenses although all theses lens models offer a significant larger maximum aperture (F1.2, 1.8, 2.0) which support a better depth of field control.

The extended focal range of the M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro qualify it as a good urban and traveler optic to keep at hand more than on your case. And yes, it can be a good action lens.

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If you are looking for a basic “pro” zoom lens, the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro will be a strong contender to fulfill the task. And the image results will speak by themselves.

(First Published in December 2016, Revised in May 2019)

The Olympus Pen-F

The love of rangefinder style camera

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Olympus Pen-F / M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 Premium

It is true to say that I always have a special crush for any rangefinder style film or digital camera. It has and still represents the traditional way of seeing a (real) compact camera in my sense. All those models are usually fun to work with and can generate very original photo material. When Olympus had introduced the Pen-F I was charmed by the look of the product and now I began to discover its special abilities as a strong but funny photo device to experiment. The Olympus Pen-F has its own standards and cannot be assimilated or compare to other D-SLR style (or centered viewfinder) models.

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There is that modern camera style debate regarding SLR versus rangefinder categories that you can translate today by the choice of on-axis and off-axis (from the taking lens) viewfinder. Moreover rangefinder style cameras tend to be assimilated to compact and discrete devices nor that DSLR style camera have been associated as the center element of a complete and extended photographic system which is using longer telephoto and wider lenses and faster motorized advance film options.

The best illustrations of those two “schools” are present in all major line of mirrorless products available from Fujifilm, Olympus or Panasonic cameras and lenses. It replicate in this digital era the same pattern observed in the past with the Leica film camera offer with the M and the R lines.

With Olympus you can choose between the Pen and the OM-D lines. Accordingly their Premium and standard zoom lenses fit perfectly with the Pen models and their larger zoom and Pro lenses combine well with the OM-D series.

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Olympus EP3 / M.Zuiko 14-42mm R

During the past decade I have the chance to use both Olympus series models including the earlier EP models with the add-on viewfinder (a bit similar to the ancient Leica film I-G series). You can refer with my previous blog-notes on these models such as the EP-3 or the OM-D E-M5 (first version) or the most recent ones concerning the OM-D E-M5 Mark II and the OM-D E-M1 Mark II.

 

Both rangefinder and SLR styles have their own advantages. OM-D E-M1 and OM-D E-M5 are really all-weather devices with enhanced grips useful when combined with bigger faster lenses or external bigger flash units. The battery autonomy is greater and the viewfinder in the case of the E-M1 Mark II is clearly more confortable with its wider view. For many assignation works the OM-D series will get my preference. But for urban, travel or everyday spontaneous subjects the Olympus Pen-F is a perfect on-hand camera.

The Olympus Pen-F

Doing on the spot photography with the Olympus Pen-F is unbeatable because of its compactness and its own discretion. On travel and urban surrounding it is a strong advantage. And the Olympus Pen-F is far less intimidating regarding people or animal (domestic) photography. Using the silent mode option (electronic shutter) represent another strong advantage of the Pen-F if you are facing more quiet or calm conditions and subjects.

It is already said that the Olympus Pen-F replicates many aspects of the ancient rangefinder film cameras. But in that sense the past ergonomic solutions of the analog film era may also apply to the actual digital devices. On the Olympus Pen-F some traditional dial functionalities have been transformed such as the On/Off interrupter that simulate the traditional film rewind knob and the front special effect dial which is recalling the old slow shutter speed selector of the time. You can also use the traditional screw-in shutter release cable as a remote trigger unit.

The Olympus Pen-F is a slim and compact camera. Its “Pavé” design (like a slender decorative brick size) will dictate a less confortable and secure sense of handling. In three words there is “no protuberant grip” to rely and the use of a wrist or shoulder strap seem to be an obligation for the everyday user. There is also the possibility to add the Olympus ECG-4 optional grip. The slim design of the Pen-F is especially suitable for the combine use of the small Olympus (or Panasonic) fix or variable focal lenses. Examples of these fine optics are the Olympus M.Zuiko lenses such as the 12mm F2.0, the17mm F1.8, the 25mm F1.8 and the 45mm F1.8 lenses or the 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 zoom as an all-around optic. A lot of bigger lenses are fully compatible with the Pen-F but the handling of the camera will suffer a bit accordantly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAExcept for the On/Off interrupter all the important dials and function buttons are located on the back & front of the Olympus Pen-F right hand side. This disposition facilities greatly the right hand control of the camera and liberate your left hand for a better handling of the taking lens especially in regard of the manual focusing (and zooming if available) option. As usual for Olympus cameras many functionalities may be directly available after prior setting (via menu interface) of the control knobs and push buttons. Most manufacturer default setting are logical and nicely presented although it may be altered at will in regard of your specific requirements.

EVF / Back live screen

The “look through” electronic viewfinder (EVF) will give a well definite picture with a very short time lag not really noticeable if you are concentrate on your subject. As usual the more high contrast rendering compare to the final image output registered has to be considered.  The Live/Review back screen is also very well definite and can be relied as a good reviewing tool.  It has also the great versatility of pivoting in almost every way.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInterface and Quick menu

Olympus interfaces are by tradition very extended and complete but the numerous accesses to the different setting options can be confusing and will ask you to invest on the learning curve of the menu. Many default setting are excellent and can be use right from the start. Furthermore the quick menu mode synthetize the most important factors usually chosen for the camera setting. There are also the Custom modes setting (C1; C2; C3; C4) that are very handy for the photographer who want to switch on the spot to a complete different setting. My suggestion is to experiment gradually the Olympus Pen-F and get use to its multi-possibilities. On a short note I have found that in many cases the multiple way (by going through the menu or the quick mode or even the direct dials and function buttons) of doing the same adjustment can be a bit confusing.

As for many other Olympus models, it is suggested to bring an extra battery considering the limited autonomy of the BLN-1 battery pack. Shooting by using only the EVF can extend significantly the life of your battery pack charge.  You just have to reverse the LCD screen to use this option.

Flash options

No in-board flash has been incorporated to the Pen-F. A small external Olympus FM-LM3 optional flash is included with the camera package and can be used as an emergency fill-in flash or as a commander unit of a multi external Olympus flashes arrangement. Otherwise you can rely on a more powerful and versatile unit such as the Olympus FL-600R that is powered by its own 4 size AA batteries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAImage Output 

By using the 20MP image captor similar to the OM-D E-M1 Mark II or to the Panasonic Lumix GX8 the image quality has been optimized on the Olympus Pen-F. The extra resolution compared to the previous 16MP sensor will give an additional marge of manoeuvre for post treatment ability with a less visible lost of definition. In some case like monochrome picture taken on high ISO setting the difference can be notably appreciated.

If monochrome represents most of your photo projects the Olympus Pen-F (like many Olympus M4/3 format models) will fulfil your tasks very nicely.

The Pen-F offers you a lot of different pre-program color configurations plus the possibility to create your own color bias and record it into its different custom menu. Using the Art filter options is another way to experiment different picture renderings.  In that sense there are no real limitations for the photographer creativity. The whole M4/3 format digital system has reached a great maturity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAction photography with the Olympus Pen-F ?

Spontaneous photography as street or urban or travel subjects are well deserved by the Pen-F as everybody seem to agree easily but that perception differs a lot when you are speaking of action or sport photography. Many just points out a restricted ability of the camera to properly autofocus on moving subjects. Moving (often erratic) targets present a challenge to all autofocusing system and there are only a very limited camera models that can properly answer that demand like the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II. So in the case of the Pen-F action photography is not the ideal situation to use it… but it can be done by setting for example a pre-focus area on manual position. For sure anticipation is fully required to do so but it got the advantage to more carefully plan our final picture composition. So with certain restrictions and more skill asked from the photographer part the Pen-F can fulfil the bill. At the end the Olympus Pen-F can be rightly assimilated as a perfect second very compact camera on hand for the sporty photographer.

In brief the Olympus Pen-F may represent the summit of their Pen series evolution simply by the fact that it reunite the slim design with the electronic viewfinder (EVF) like the ancient rangefinder film cameras. The Olympus Pen-F is complete in its features and performs very competently with the latest 20MP image captor. Although I did not intent to use the video aspect of the model the Olympus Pen-F is a very competent and compact still digital camera. Because of the compact size of the camera and the lenses that suit this volume (like the 12mm, 17mm, 25mm or 45mm) the Olympus Pen-F is very easy to bring all-around with you and is a very fine picture generator. It can fulfil many different photo projects on an everyday basis.  Its 20MP image sensor will give very high quality output at the same level of the “Pro” OM-D E-M1 Mark II.

The versatility of the Olympus Pen-F is on the side of its compactness: easy to bring, reach, show, shoot and share.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPost-scriptum on the Olympus Pen-F

There are many lens-body combinations available with the Olympus Pen-F.  For sure the best image quality results will be obtained by using the Premium (prime) and Pro series lenses. But you can also explore a more modest approach with small zoom lenses such as the Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R lens model that is very affordable, compact, versatile and will give very good pictures. It can be a small lens that facilities greatly spontaneous photography practice.

Since my introduction to the M4/3 format with the Olympus EP-3 I have selected the M.Zuiko 14-42mm II R lens as an ever ready “everyday” on hand optic on several occasions without being deceptive by its output. It represents a king of normal trans-standard zoom lens. Its major flaw remains its very small maximum aperture and it is difficult to really extract your subject from its surrounding by using a shallow deep-of-field. But on the other hand it can be a fantastic contextual lens that will allow you to compose beautiful urban scape for example.

(If you are looking to buy the Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42mm II R you will often get the best deal when you combine it with the purchase of a camera body.)

First published in April 2017, Revised in May 2019.

What about the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II ?

Don’t trow away your small pots!

Yes it is a very pertinent question in particular with the introduction of the newest pro graded Olympus OM-D E-M1X. We don’t know the manufacturer future planning concerning the still available Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II but some could be thinking in vue the recent price decrease of the Mark II that Olympus could be in the process to phase out the inventory of the E-M1 Mark II. True or not I think there is a place for the two models involved.

Let me trace a parallel with two ex-pro analog cameras of a less recent time. Nikon use to offer pro F series modular cameras from the original model F to the autofocus F4 which was a very clever choice for photographers who want to have the flexibility of compactness and the option of adding a sport motorized vertical grip. Later on the manufacturer choose to offer the F5 monobloc model that use the same principle design and handling that we are seing today with the new Olympus OM-D E-M1X.  Although I fully agree about the robustness and the “sport and nature” nature of the ergonomic of the E-M1X, it is certainly not what we can call a compact package.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II / M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Pro

So what about the OM-D E-M1 Mark II? In my book it is still a very competent pro photo device. For photographers on the run, for travel, for reproduction and macro works, for discrete application, etc, the Mark II fills the bill perfectly. If you are a user of small fix focal length lenses, the OM-D E-M1 Mark II represent a logic combo difficult to beat into the MFT planet but I must add that it is not a “pocket” camera obviously (Olympus have already various other models to fulfill that task). My humble advice to new E-M1X owners: don’t sell out your E-M1 Mark II (if you have one) and preserve it as a back-up or as an alternative camera for other different picture taking situations.

Even in 2019, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is filling the gap between the specialized “sport and news” E-M1X model and the rest smaller Olympus mirrorless models. And it is a “pro” photo device designed to withstand adverse conditions and intensive use.

We have reached a certain “plateau” in the development of the digital photo equipment and the manufacturers tend to diversify their offer in specific different amateur and professional directions. Because of its specialized clientele, many new camera models will be more expensive compare to the ones introduced during the previous “flash” era of artificial mass photo consumer market. Now we are entering into a more mature one in which most photographers are more carefully considering their buying options before committing into a camera  or lens model or an entire photo system.

If you like to do photography and you are looking for a proved compact pro option, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II may still be one of the finest offer over the market.

Five years ago Olympus introduced the first OM-D E-M1

With the new official entries of Nikon and forcoming Canon into the professional mirrorless world  in the next months (end of 2018 or beginning of 2019), many reviewers were anticipating the apparition of big camera body assorted with mammouth lenses which will contradicte the very essence of the mirrorless camera evolution. In fact the newest rumors feed by the concerned Nikon and Canon confirm this very fact.

When I have learned that Mike Johnston of the famous “The Online Photographer” web site have decided to renew with the Panasonic GX8 model I was not overlay surprised. The present “plateau” of the mirrorless evolution seem to temperate most of the recent past enthusiasm of the photo passionates on the web.  In fact the excitement is shifting from the equipment mania to the pleasure to do photography with always exciting products.

Why speaking of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 (original version) in 2018? Five years after its official introduction in 2013, the OM-D E-M1 has been surpassed technically in many ways by more recent models such as the E-M5 Mark II and others Mark II versions of the E-M10 and E-M1. But productivity (or creativity) has not a direct link with the technical performances of the camera model. Proof of that has been demonstrated over times by many renowned photographers. The fact is you are better to master the use of your camera instead to exchange it for a more recent model because the learning curve of the novelty can differ you to produce satisfactory and repetitive image output.

The evolution of hardware is not a guaranty of evolution of the essence of photography as a visual art of expression. And we are not speaking of a “coming back” (like saying “things were better in the past”) but more likely a choice between devices, techniques and outputs that suit our expectations. In saying that last remark I don’t want to prevent also the manufacturers to poursuit their research to innovation which is always a good thing to do in my sense as long they can preserve in their line-up the models that are still in demand (that is another debate…).

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 first version was a great effort from Olympus to seduce the professional market  (or part of it) to migrate to the M4/3 or MFT image captor format. The success of their OM-D E-M5 model was so good that some very serious photographers already start to use it on a professional level  for studio purpose, wedding and photo-reportages. Sure the E-M5 was not a camera model that was initially designed to sustain the intensive work pression in those fields and Olympus wisely extended its line up to offer a more rugged device. When I saw first the E-M1 I was impress by the solid feel of the model compare to my OM-D E-M5 that I was using at that time. It remind me the same feeling I have experimented with previous film professional models such as Nikon F3 HP or Leica R4 or even Olympus OM-2.

By the MFT standards of the moment (circa 2013-2014) the Olympus OM-D E-M1 was a bigger camera compare to the previous Pen series and the original E-M5. Sure everybody has understood the technical constraints to built a “Pro” oriented model with weather seal and stronger dials and others operational mechanisms needed to do so. But the fact remains that it was a bigger photo device in dimension and heavier to hold. However direct comparaison with APS-C competitor equivalents such as the Nikon D7100 prove the compactness of the Olympus package (OM-D E-M1 body + HLD-7 vertical grip). Moreover it appears more equilibrated when you combine the E-M1 with the M.Zuiko Pro lenses as for the 12-40mm & 40-150mm F2.8 for example. On a long term it create two design tendencies between the Premium lenses and the “Pro” series which were obviously bigger by design nature. Later in 2014 Olympus has completed its OM-D offer by adding the amateur E-M10 model into its line-up (entry level – intermediate – pro).

The original E-M1 camera was an impressive step ahead from the first E-M5. Better ergonomics were certainly a good part of it as for a clearer electronic viewfinder (EVF) with more eye relief. Because of its permanent right hand grip (oppose to the optional OM-D E-M5 one) the camera body stay firmly on hand in a very confortable and secure way plus the fact you are gaining more space for the different control buttons and dials of the device. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 interface is very complete and it can be personalized at will if you care to do so. Many specific direct functionalities are already configured into the E-M1 but permutations are possible if you invest time and interest to learn from the camera. Tutorials are available over the Web to help you to master the model. No serious photo gear reviewers have really contested the ability of Olympus to design and produce a “pro” camera. Since the venue of the OM camera series back in the nineteen-seventies they had developed a more compact signature alongside with electronic innovations and the actual OM-D series inherit a lot of that thinking.

The original Olympus OM-D E-M1 won’t surprise the new user with its pseudo SLR architecture positioning the EVF at the same axis of the optical taking lens.So it gives you a very predictable camera especially when you are doing action photography including news, travel, urban or even sport. If you are working with a small Premium lens or a regular M.Zuiko one you may find that the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is a fairly compact camera assuming you don’t add the optional HLD-7 vertical grip (even if it is still more compact that many D-SLRs with vertical grip). But it is not as discrete compare to a “rangefinder” style model like those offered into the Pen series and it won’t definitively fit in your pocket even the largest one.

Many features were imported from the original OM-D E-M5 to accommodate the E-M1 users. If you are familiar with the Olympus complex interface way you should be able to mastermind most of the critical operations in a rapid pace. Newcomers to Olympus OM-D products have to invest time and intellect to learn the multiple options of the camera. At first don’t be confuse and rely on the short OK menu option to get to the principal parameters of the E-M1.

If you stay in the comparaison with the first Olympus OM-D E-M5 it is easy to notice the added robustness of construction of the “pro” E-M1 including, the body, the function buttons or dials. You feel more confident to use the E-M1 in adverse conditions alongside with a lens that got the same feature of resistance. On still photographic point of view, the original Olympus OM-D E-M1 can stand even today high quality standard image results. Video is another story but as usual I am not really concern since I don’t produce any.

The electronic viewfinder (EVF) can be qualified within the good average of today (2018) standard. It is not outstanding compare to the replacement version of the OM-D E-M1 Mark II. The eye relief is good also but on the limit for eyeglasses wearers like me to be able to see the entire picture at glance. There is a subtle light greenish viewing cast that can be detected but other than that you can rely on the EVF to get a good appreciation of your final result registered on the native picture file.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is very fast to wake up after the camera put itself on standby which preserve your battery pack. You won’t be able to totally shut down the LCD viewing screen on the back if you want to use only the EVF (with the eye detection on) because it remains a kind of very dark blue screen. Since you cannot pivot back the LCD screen like the Mark II the battery pack endurance will be affected in some way. The tilting back screen stay a nice option for retro-macro-waist level-crowd level work.

The optional HLD-7 vertical grip is an intelligent add-on for the Olympus OM-D E-M1. For people that are producing critical vertical framing like in portrait, sport, nature the accessory will give a better handling and an extended battery life (along the possibility to change the exhausted one on the grip first in a 3-pack rotation). (Small trick: by removing the battery pack from the HLD-7 grip the combo will be a bit less heavier). Finally you have to be aware that the function buttons and dials as the shutter release button may be activated inadvertently if you don’t lock the grip controls.

Flash system rely on the Olympus ou dedicated third-party flashlight devices beginning with the very diminutive unit furnished with the camera that can serves as an emergency unit for fill flash or command   unit in a multi-flash arrangement. I am not really fund to use a direct flash on camera that literally kill the light ambiance and is often unpredictable. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 can deliver you very decent image results up to ISO 1600 which in my sense is mostly sufficient in many low-light situations.  For sure in that case a faster lens (with a larger maximum aperture such as F1.8-1.7-1.4-1.2) will be strongly appreciated. Since the beginning of the M4/3 format, many independent flash manufacturers have decided to extend their flash system possibilities offered for the Olympus and Panasonic cameras.

A standard lens or a transtandard zoom lens for the E-M1 is a very personal choice. On many publication you will see most of the time the combination of the E-M1 coupled with the M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro which is mimicking the Pro D-SLR usual kit (Body + 24-70mm F2.8 lens for the 24X36mm image sensor format. Since the M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro is a bigger and relatively heavier zoom lens the HLD-7 vertical grip may be required to get a better balance between the camera body and the lens. Some reviewers have proposed more modest lenses such as the M.Zuiko 14-42mm (basic) or 12-50mm (Splash-proof) zoom lenses or a Premium lens such as a 25mm or 17mm F1.8. These optics are smaller and lighter than the Pro ones but often in a less quality construction and sometimes with less optical quality. At the end it remains that the combination of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera body with the M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro lens appears to be the most appropriate one except for the compactness factor.

Five years ago the Olympus OM-D E-M1 introduction confirmed the serious of Olympus into its involvement in MFT format. Moreover the forwarding presentation of their M.Zuiko Pro lenses has offered a complete new alternative for professionals that are looking for a serious MFT system available.

 

L’Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro: le passe-partout du baladeur sérieux.

Dans nos rêves le plus fou on fantasme tous, ou la plupart d’entre nous, d’un objectif genre “canif suisse” qui saura répondre de toutes nos exigences photographiques, que ce soit qualité optique, construction à toute épreuve, souplesse d’utilisation, légèreté (mais pas trop), grande ouverture maximale, bonne réactivité, etc, etc. Bref c’est la grande utopie recherchée à un tarif très doux. Et comble de malheur surtout pour des raisons de contraintes techniques contradictoires, un tel phénomène reste l’apanage de la science fiction quoique on ne sait jamais ce que l’avenir nous réserve!

Pour le moment seul les compromis existent et sont accessibles. C’est le cas de l’objectif Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro qui répond à certains critères souvent mentionnés par les photographes. Son champs visuel particulièrement en position grand angulaire s’échelonne de 84 à  30 degrés ce qui le rend approprié à la photo de proximité du sujet tout en préservant l’aspect contextuel entourant celui-ci. Avec une construction tout-terrain ce modèle ne craint pas son usage dans des conditions adverses. Sa plus grande ouverture de F2.8 est constante sur toute la plage des distances focales disponibles. Sa bague d’ajustement du point focal (focus) permet de permuter directement de la mise au point automatique à sa position manuelle, une caractéristique exceptionnelle pour ce type d’objectif.

Selon certains blog-spécialistes nous touchons à la perfection de l’instrument optique mais dans les faits il s’agit d’un pas vers la bonne direction. Pour un utilisateur du format MFT ayant un appareil plutôt compact, ce 12-40mm F2.8 souffre un peu d’embonpoint qui peut par exemple donner à l’ensemble appareil-objectif un look “sonyesque” surtout quand il est combiné avec un modèle Olympus de la série Pen. D’autre part l’ouverture de F2.8 demeure dans la moyenne surtout si on la compare avec les grandes ouvertures maximales offertes par les optiques de focales fixes. Enfin, disons-le, la distance focale de 40mm, la plus longue de cet objectif-zoom Pro, laisse l’utilisateur un peu sur sa faim. Et bien que je salue l’effort d’Olympus d’inclure le pare-soleil dédié à l’achat du 12-40mm F2.8 et que celui-ci remplit adéquatement son mandat, cependant il est suggéré de le retirer complètement lors de l’utilisation du flash externe pour éviter son ombre projeté.

 

Il y a donc des compromis à choisir l’Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro mais c’est le lot de tous les modèles d’objectifs. De plus avec un objectif-zoom certaines contraintes de design, de construction et de … tarif rendent impossibles de réunir en un seul contenant des exigences en ce moment irréalistes.

Ce que fait bien cet Olympus 12-40mm F2.8, il le fait particulièrement très bien. La qualité de l’image qu’il contribue à générer reste au dessus de la moyenne et cela même à sa plus courte distance focale de 12mm. L’option automatique/manuelle de mise au point “à la volée” est une bénédiction pour ceux et celles qui veulent un contrôle accru et rapide du point focal sur le terrain. Combiné avec un modèle de la série OM-D d’Olympus ou encore de la série G et GH de Panasonic l’Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 vous proposera un ensemble en dimensions et poids assez équilibré surtout si vous ajoutez la poignée d’alimentation optionnelle offerte pour ces modèles.

L’Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro est le cadreur urbain par excellence. Malgré sa dimension appréciable c’est un objectif polyvalent très bien adapté à la photo contextuelle en milieu urbain. En offrant une variance focale de 12 à 40mm qui n’est pas extrême cela reste une optique prévisible comparativement à l’Olympus 7-14mm par exemple qui est beaucoup plus difficile à appréhender sur le terrain et ayant un champs visuel atypique de celui comparable à la zone de netteté de l’oeil humain. Même avec 84 degrés les proportions du sujet sont encore assez représentatives de la vision humaine dans la mesure ou on prend soin de sa position de prise de vue et sa distance auteur-sujet. À 40mm l’objectif fait office de petite normale un peu discriminante entre le sujet principal et son environnement. Avec sa polyvalence l’objectif Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 peut-il se substituer au grand-agulaire Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm F2.0 Premium? Ce 12mm à focale fixe garde l’avantage de son faible encombrement et de sa plus grande ouverture maximale à F2.0 mais il n’est pas qualifié comme une optique résistante aux intempéries et son tarif reste élevé. Et vous retrouverez une qualité de reproduction de l’image finale qui se rapproche sinon égale celle observée par une focale fixe de la série Premium d’Olympus. Associé avec un capteur de 16MP ou de 20MP les résultats sont tous aussi intéressants.

Si vous cherchez une certaine polyvalence sans compromis excessif au niveau de la qualité des résultats, l’Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro est certainement l’option la plus souple offerte au baladeur photographe.

 

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!

Je suis en Pen…-F! : Impressions françaises sur l’Olympus PEN-F

Depuis l’an dernier, 2017, pendant laquelle j’ai publié l’un de mes blog-regards sur l’Olympus Pen-F j’ai toujours eu l’impression de ne pas avoir vraiment tout dit sur ma relation totalement subjective et affective avec ce modèle compact de format M4/3. Doté du même capteur de 20 méga-pixels que la version PRO de l’OM-D E-M1 Mark II, le PEN-F représente l’aboutissement logique de toute la série Pen d’Olympus depuis ses débuts avec le modèle EP-1. Moi-même ex-propriétaire d’une version EP-3 dotée de son viseur électronique externe, j’ai toujours considéré cette configuration à la “rangefinder” comme l’interprétation la plus juste représentant le format Micro 4\3, MFT.

L’Olympus PEN-F nous renvoie aux concepts d’appareils photos utilisés par des marques de légende comme le Leica. La similitude est frappante et les clins d’oeil faits par les designers d’Olympus sont nombreux sur le boitier. Qu’on songe à l’interrupteur d’alimentation, le ON/OFF,  ressemblant à s’y méprendre à au bouton de rembobinage de film 135. Ou encore du sélecteur d’options situé à l’avant du boitier rappelant l’ancien sélecteur de vitesses d’obturation lente des Leica série F ou G. Et que dire de la possibilité d’utiliser l’antique cable déclencheur mécanique sur le déclencheur du PEN-F. Bref c’est un véritable festival de nostalgie et de technologie à la fois.

Mais le PEN-F c’est aussi un appareil diablement sérieux et qui peut avoir ses exigences. Utilisable en tout-auto vous me dites? Peut-être mais certains pourront facilement s’y mêler les pinceaux s’ils n’y prennent pas garde. Oui c’est bien un Olympus avec toute sa complexité habituelle à commencer par son interface aux options multiples. Et de plus il est totalement ou presque reconfigurable et il s’agit de bien se rappeler tous ces changements de fonctionalités des différents sélecteurs et boutons-poussoirs.  Donc le PEN-F n’est surtout pas pour le distrait et l’explorateur inconséquent. Non Madame et Monsieur c’est un outil photographique qui demande à être respecté et profondément apprivoisé.

Il s’en est dit beaucoup sur ces formes délicieusement “vintage” suscitant une vague d’amour et d’endossement aveugle par beaucoup de bloggeurs reconnus, respectables et toujours si connaisseurs. Oui le PEN-F ressemble à un Leica M mais de vous à moi qui suis un ancien possesseur devenu pauvre (!) de Leica M4-P et M6, l’Olympus est d’une autre planète sinon galaxie par rapport à ces archaïques télémètres couplés d’un âge révolu. Le PEN-F est issu de l’ère numérique en étant performant, versatile et éminemment fonctionnel. Son capteur surpasse en résultat tout ce que les anciennes pellicules argentiques pouvaient offrir point à la ligne. Son posemètre analyse plus finement que n’importe lequel Sekonic ou Gossen de la génération des appareils à films. Sa mise au point automatique répond à des situations où l’oeil combiné au télémètre ne pouvait être aussi efficient. Bref on laisse tomber les tomates pour se consacrer aux oranges.

Ce que j’apprécie le plus de l’Olympus PEN-F est bien sa “fausse” discrétion classique car personne n’est dupe de votre présence avec cet appareil mignon comme tout mais dont tout le monde est séduit! C’est pourquoi il devient votre meilleur ambassadeur en toutes circonstances surtout en photo urbaine ou en voyage. Et aussi le complice de nombreux sourires. Mais attention le PEN-F peut être également un vrai pro toutes catégories… enfin presque.

En prise de vue son viseur électronique est dans la bonne norme avec un zeste de surplus de contraste surtout pour les scènes ensoleillés. Son temps de réponse est faible lui permettant une bonne réactivité aux situations spontanées. Sa visée-écran est excellente pour la composition précise ou encore les travaux de reproduction. Vrai aussi qu’une visée électronique décentrée ne correspond pas vraiment aux critères demandés pour un viseur d’action et centré prévu pour l’usage des objectifs téléphoto puissants, donc journalistes sportifs s’abstenir. La position des différents sélecteurs et boutons-poussoirs répond à la logique courante pour ce type d’appareil. L’écran-viseur est tactile ou non au choix de l’utilisateur, option déjà existante chez les autres modèles de la série Pen il faut le souligner.

L’Olympus PEN-F est compact mais pas au point de glisser dans la poche de votre pantalon à moins qu’il soit cargo… Si on le combine avec un objectif de focale fixe tel les 12mm, 17mm, 25mm ou 45mm l’ensemble reste discret et relativement léger. La remarque prévaut également pour les objectifs zoom comme les 14-42mm mais au détriment d’une réduction possible de la qualité d’image obtenue et d’une ouverture maximale passablement plus petite.

Avec le PEN-F vous perdez toute inhibition à montrer votre appareil photo et vous redevenez beaucoup plus productif. Vous le tenez prêt à toute éventualité photographique et comme disent mes cousins français, vous shootez! C’est pourquoi le PEN-F est un outil créatif de première ligne toujours  paré à tout pour vous.

La tenue en main du PEN-F n’est cependant pas optimale comme à l’image des anciens télémètres couplés. c’est plutôt un appareil de poitrine (“chest device”) comme on n’en voyait plein sur ces bons vieux touristes allemands des années 1950. Heureusement il est plutôt léger surtout avec une focale fixe comme précédemment mentionné dans ce texte. On le tient pour prendre des photos et non comme certains designs de type DSLR pour exercer ses poignets et renforcer ses biceps. La protubérance frontale du sélecteur de mode d’images  peut être gênante pour certains utilisateurs, c’est dit.

Concernant la qualité et le rendu des images obtenues, l’Olympus PEN-F remplit son mandat en vous offrant des résultats détaillés et des couleurs réalistes sans trop d’accentuations agaçantes et purement commerciales. La neutralité des images en noir et blanc est exemplaire et correspond parfaitement à l’archétype attendu d’un vieux routard comme moi qui a fait son apprentissage et en partie sa carrière avec ce format (N & B) traditionnel dont la renaissance est un autre bienfait de l’ère numérique. À noter également cette possibilité de simuler directement les effets d’un filtre couleur pour le rendu monochrome.

La mise au point automatique est performante dans la plupart des situations. Il faut simplement s’assurer de l’initier dans la zone de netteté privilégiée du sujet. L’option de suivi du sujet, focus tracking, est intéressante si le mouvement reste fluide et selon un axe plutôt linéaire. La fonction “loupe” peut servir à affiner une mise au point effectuée manuellement à l’aide du viseur électronique ou de l’écran-viseur.

Pour des analyses pixel par pixel vous n’avez qu’à vous référer aux multiples ressources Internet spécialisées dans l’analyse de photos “à plat” répétées à l’infini. D’ailleurs tout au long de ma glorieuse épopée de photographe professionnel mes éditeurs se foutaient littéralement du matériel que j’utilisais et ne jugeant mon travail que sur les tirages ou transparents (diapo) présentés. Il en est ainsi dans ce monde cruel… Donc si le PEN-F vous permet de générer des images originales de qualité ayant un impact pour votre auditoire, il remplira vos exigences les plus pointues.

Quelques suggestions peut-être… Un accu BLN-1 et une carte mémoire SD supplémentaires assurément. Pour la photo au flash électronique d’appoint, le diminutif fourni avec l’appareil est par trop faible pour l’emploi à moins qu’il soit utilisé comme unité de déclenchement d’un montage multi-flashes. Privilégiez plutôt une unité autonome en énergie et puissance comme l’Olympus FL600R. La poignée amovible optionnelle ECG-4  ou ses clones a l’avantage de recentrer vers l’arrière l’orifice prévu pour le boulon du trépied et d’offrir un plateau intégré de type Arca-Swiss. Étant donné l’instabilité avérée de la version 2.0 du firmware, une mise à jour vers la nouvelle version 2.1 est fortement suggérée si vous voulez éviter la mise hors service impromptue de l’appareil.

L’Olympus PEN-F vous offre aussi les options de connectivité standard pour la tablette ou le mobile. L’interface est complète et comprend entre autres les options de prises de vues et de transferts des images en mode WiFi mais la connectivité Bluetooth est absence.

En résumé l’Olympus PEN-F est un appareil compact mignon mais sérieux qui incite à la photographie et c’est bien ce qu’on lui demande!

Blog-note on the Olympus Pen-F english version previously published in 2017.