Why the Olympus E-M5?

Why did I decide to buy an Olympus E-M5?

Let me back up a little.

Well, several factors came into play for me. I had switched from my beloved Pentax K20D with several nice high quality lenses I owned a little over a year ago with my 1st m4/3 Panasonic G1. Along with a Panasonic G 20mm f/1.7 ASPH followed by the purchase of the Olympus M Zuiko 14/42mm ED MkI, then followed by the Panasonic G 14mm f/2.5 ASPH. These my only native lenses. But, I also owned several Leica M mount lenses for my Leica M5 (which I no longer own). I had a very nice Voigtlander 24mm f/4 SnapShot, a Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 Nokton SC, and a Voigtlander 50mm f/1.1 Nokton, followed by a Carl Zeiss ZM 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar T*, all really great manual lenses on my G1. But, my film cameras have changed over the last year to find “My Perfect Film Camera”, I tried the beautiful Contax G1 Auto Focus interchangeable lens  rangefinder with a Carl Zeiss 45mm f/2, but the AF was too slow. AS time passed, I had collected a few Nikkor branded lenses to use on my Panasonic G1, Namely a 24mm f/2.8 AiS, 55mm f/3.5 micro ,and a 135mm f/2.8 Q, I researched different Nikon film bodies I could use both Non-Ai, and Ai/Ais lenses with, since I owned both. I bought a very clean (almost Demo) Nikon FE, one of 4 non Nikon “F” models that took all the Nikkor lenses Nikon ever made (Except the G series which has no f/stop ring).

As time passed, I was needing a camera that had cleaner from ISO 1000 and up. I found myself using ISO speeds as high as 1600 for my Micro Photography, and the Panasonic G1 was not cutting it. I thought about the G2, but, that was not a big improvement over the G1. I wanted a SLR style m4/3, and I did not want an add on viewfinder that Olympus offered for their Pen Series.  So, I waited, and Panasonic introduced the G3, with a great new 16mp senor that can deliver clean files up to ISO 2500 to my taste.  Many Panasonic G3 users gladly go as high as ISO 5000 with great results. It is a very capable sensor indeed.

Some of the things I was noticing with using my manual focus manual lenses, is that I was not getting 100% sharp images. It might my age have a role (I am 58 at this writing), but, whatever it may be, I wanted (needed) a camera with built-in image stabilization, and, Panasonic had non in their line up. (Although, they do have a patent for one). from about 4 months ago, the rumors of an SLR style “Pro” Olympus m4/3 with a built-in EVF was it’s way. And the rumors had said it was styled after their last OM series film camera, the OM4Ti. Well, I think I was reading about my future m4/3 camera, and since I had owned an Olympus OM1n, OM2S, and an OM4 in the 1980’s, I was exited to say the least. As more and more leaked images emerged, it obvious that Olympus had indeed designed this new camera after the OM styling. And, gave this new higher quality line the “OM-D” designation. The E-M5, being the 1st in this new line.

Among some of the “New” feature were:

  • A Touch Screen that use a “static” based activation, like the iPhone. Not Pressure based activation.
  • A LCD with 610k resolution that tilts up and down
  • A new 5 axis on-board sensor image stabilization unit.
  • A new 16mp sensor that has a tested 13.2 step Dynamic Range (Previous Pens have an step11 range).
  • Clean ISO up to ISO 3200 that is very usable, very good ISO 6400, and an extended ISO to 25,600.
  • An available 2 stage grip, with an optional power grip attachment. The 1st in the Olympus digital lineup.
  • A new 1.44mp EVF that has 100% coverage.
  • The first weather sealed m4/3.
  • An available 12-50mm weather sealed kit lens.
  • A weather sealed attachable mini flash.
  • A great OM Retro look

So, for me, I liked:

  • A new 5 axis on-board sensor image stabilization unit.
  • Clean ISO up to ISO 3200 that is very usable, very good ISO 6400, and an extended ISO to 25,600.
  • An available 2 stage grip, with an optional power grip attachment. The 1st in the Olympus digital lineup.
  • A new 1.44mp EVF that has 100% coverage.

These are the main points I wanted in a new  m4/3 camera. And the OM-D E-M5 is to date, the best m4/3 camera in built quality and  Image Quality!

That’s why I chose the new Olympus OM-D E-M5.

Street Photography: an old genre’

ImageAll Photographs are from my Nikon FE with a Nikon 24mm f/2.8 AiS and Fuji Neopan 400 developed in Rodinal 1:50 at 20c

Many of us have seen photographers whip out their camera and snag a candid photo of someone walking by, or doing something that somehow records a slice of life. It could be an expression, a hand gestures, or a combination of things that got their attention. The thing about street photography is that it requires a bit of boldness, and a constant eye for what is going on around you. Your camera [must] be ready instantly to take a photograph, and the settings you use are your choice. Many Street Photographers use “Aperture Priority” mode to control “Depth of Focus” (DOF here after), and a higher ISO to allow a fast shutter speed under most conditions. You will encounter sunlight, open shade, deeper and shaded areas where people are milling around. ISO 400 is favorite among many film photographers, and ISO 400 can be very useful as long as your camera has shutter speeds to at least 1/2000s. In a bright area, shooting at f/11 with a wide angle lens mounted, and a shutter speed between 1/500s – 1/1500s in not uncommon at ISO 400… But, many readings will be around 1/125 -1/500s. And in the shade, open up to f/8, this will still give an action stopping shutter speed of 1/125 – 1/250. If you go below 1/125, you risk a little motion blur. Which could work also.

The history of Street Photography goes back to Henri Cartier  Bresson (Many call the Father of Street Photography), from around 1940’s or so. A French man, who, as a child had an interest in Photography and also sketching. He dabbled with  4×3 camera .  When he was 19 in 1927, he entered a private art school to learn Classical French Painting. Although he learned the art of painting, he was moved by the Photographic Realism movement of his time. The Photography Revolution began, “Crush tradition.. Photograph things as they are”. By 1930’s, after a few life’s experiences, Henri, returned to the Photographic Surrealism movement, he became inspired by a photograph taken by Martin Munkacsi, of 3 naked African Children caught in a near silhouette.   Henri said after this photo, “The only thing which completely was an amazement to me and brought me to photography was the work of Munkacsi. When I saw the photograph of Munkacsi of the black kids running in a wave I couldn’t believe such a thing could be caught with the camera. I said damn it, I took my camera and went out into the street”. (Quote from Wikipedia)

From that day on, he took photography seriously. He finely understood that Photography could fix eternity in an instant. Picking a Leica with a 50mm lens, he took the next several years working along side Martin. As time passed, he was a reporter for WWII, and had many excellent photos that where published all the world. HCB also worked with other media companies, and his work was becoming recognized. By 1952, HCB had achieved international recognition, and published a book. Images à la sauvette”, the English Title was “The Divisive Moment” which came from a 17th Century Cardinal de Retz…”Il n’y a rien dans ce monde qui n’ait un moment decisif” (“There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment”). Cartier-Bresson applied this to his photographic style. He said: “Photographier: c’est dans un même instant et en une fraction de seconde reconnaître un fait et l’organisation rigoureuse de formes perçues visuellement qui expriment et signifient ce fait” (“Photography is simultaneously and instantaneously the recognition of a fact and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that express and signify that fact”) (Quote from Wikipedia).

A quote from HCB about the difference between Painting and Photography...”Photography is not like painting,” Cartier-Bresson told the Washington Post in 1957. “There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative,” he said. “Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever”. (Quote from Wikipedia). I think this quote sums it nicely, you have an instant to react and capture the moment, if you miss, it’s gone forever.

I have to be candid with you about this “Decisive Moment”. By the time you react to a situation, it is gone!  You have to “read the scene ahead of time”, and try to predict what may happen in the next few seconds. I’d say that most of our best photos, are a surprise to use when we see what we [really] captured. My 1st photo in this article was a surprise to me, because when I was ready to take it (just a millisecond in response time), the man on the right was looking at me!, Not to the right. But, the less than 1 second response time was not fast enough. (and I was using a Nikon FE in Aperture mode, Focus was preset for 5′-INF). So, the moral of this  story is that you keep taking photographs. You are bound by the odds that by the more you try to get that “Divisive Moment”, the more keepers you will have. Even, if, the moment is a tad late.

The E-M5 can can make a great Street Camera. The AF is super fast, and the  added aid of the touch scene to use as a shutter release along with the focus point [you] want in focus is a big plus for candid street photography. And, add, that the E-M5 can follow focus with Face Detection on… is a double plus. I guess I should mention the 9fps is available to you can get you more keepers… I recommend short bursts though.

Different laws are in effect in different countries, so, make sure you know the laws in area for photographing people in public places. I do not recommend, and it is illegal in all countries, taking candid photos ON PRIVATE property.. (That is, without permission from the owner) that is, you are physically standing on private property while taking candid photos of others on private property. That is trespassing.  (An Outside Mall is Private Property, In the USA, this is Strip Malls and Malls that build their own little shopping quadrants with 2 or 3 private roadways that cut through it) Public Property is property that is owned by the Town or City or State or Government. Malls, (indoor and outdoor), Parking Lots, are Private Property with public access, just as other Privately owned bushiness’s are.

Keep Downtown, and on city streets and you should remain hassle free, photographically speaking on your day out.. mostly… they’re always a few over aggressive officers looking for trouble, where non exists. Always Nod to an officer when you see them, and don’t try to be stealthy. Wear casual cloths, that don’t scream “Hoodlum or “Drug Addict”.

Have fun, and remember to be friendly and meet a few new people while you are at it.

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