new photo blog

i started this blog in 2006, and it's shifted along with my interests through the years. it's been witness to a lot of learning for me...

still, i feel that i need a home for my photography -- so from now on, i'll be posting my pictures on the journal on my reworked website. if you like my photos, you might decide to follow me there!

my first post is here -- check it out!

as for this blog, i'm not sure what will happen. i don't think i'm willing to let it go, and certainly i'll keep it as an archive, but i need some time to figure it out.

for those of you that pop in from time to time, thanks for the visits and encouragement.


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

olympus OM-D E-M1, castle leslie, and me

imagine my surprise when i got a email asking me if i was willing to try out olympus' new flagship camera, the OM-D E-M1, in ireland, no less.

um, yes, i am, i answered.
obviously.

so i joined a group of other photographers, and our hosts from polargold and olympus at castle leslie in monaghan county, a gorgeous, fascinating, eccentric, and, it seems, famous home.

new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis

as we were rode the bus (or coach, if you're irish) from the airport to the castle, i noted sadly that it was too bad that it was raining -- how would we ever manage to test the cameras properly in the rain?!? maria göckner (from polargold) smiled -- we'll give you rain coats. the camera will be fine. and that, it was -- it's dust, splash and freezeproof, you see. already this was going against my preconceptions of what using a camera was like.

i'm not a gear freak, so i won't/can't get into the technical details of this camera. there are many excellent reviews of the E-M1, so read up.

i received my little camera bag which held a camera, and two lenses. yes, little. this camera, with the two lenses they gave me, is small. is that a good thing? i'm just as impressed by large, intimidating DSLRs as the next gal, and like it when people trust that i can do a good job because of my large camera, but, in all honesty, bulky, heavy cameras will soon be a thing of the past, which is good news. i obsessively carry my canon 6D and a couple of lenses everywhere (and i do mean everywhere). trudging to the supermarket, chauffeuring around my daughter, my camera's always with me. i feel naked without it, but the weight is taking its toll on my spine. i compared these two bodies in my hands. the E-M1 was significantly smaller and lighter than my already somewhat small 6D, yet felt substantial and secure in my grip.

the controls seemed intimidating at first, but as the day progressed, i found that a lot of them were intuitive, and there were often multiple ways to get to the same setting, as in a dial or via the menu. i'm certain that after a few days of reconnecting my synapses, i'd be very comfortable maneuvering around my favorite functions.  the viewfinder was clear and bright, even for my terrible eyesight.

as we ventured out into the garden towards glaslough (the green lake) i started shooting random things -- a flower, leaves, and the like. my first shot was a thrill -- that focus was fast! and the image was so sharp! so the autofocusing system is a 'Dual Fast AF: Phase Detection / Contrast Detection Focus' which, for me, means that i get the bit i want in focus, fast, and for sure. selecting the focus point was easy, and the camera responded with no fuss. it just got it.

new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis
new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis

we did some fast shooting with the help of two grand horses and their skilled masters, as they galloped through the water and jumped a couple of hurdles. (sorry for the inept equestrian terminology -- i'm clueless). with some suggestions as to settings from olympus' staff, the camera responded beautifully.

new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis

one of the riders had a birthday, so she had a visitor with a cake... new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis

i attempted a flower shot with a macro lens loan, and i'm very happy with this hand-held, breezy-weather shot.

new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis

we then gathered in a library to test out the camera's live time function. what trickery is this, olympus? this is truly magical. with this nifty function, you can take a long-exposure while seeing the results slowly appear on the LCD! i mean, this is true sorcery. imagine not having to calculate f-stop adjustments for your ND filter. just start shooting, and when it looks good, well, stop. we tested it out by light painting around photographers/victims.

new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis

drool.

next up was tea. lovely cake-accompanied tea.  this is a picture of the cups and saucers after the tea, because i had little patience to shoot before the tea, you see.

new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis

next up, the models!

three portraits of rosie three portraits of rosie three portraits of rosie

rosie stood outside in the soft light and posed with her fashionable outfit, in front of a flash and light setup... but i don't do fashion photography. instead, i asked rosie if she could possibly kneel (i'm so short) so i could get a head shot in my favorite angle, and she obliged. anyone with any silly camera could have captured a gorgeous photo of her... i managed to get these, which, straight out of the camera, were near-perfect.

this camera detects faces, and also is able to automatically determine the closest or farthest of the two eyes to focus. i set my camera to the closest, and it repeatedly focused on the farthest.  that was puzzling, but it happened to me only, so maybe it was me. i set it to face detection only, and it nailed the nearest eye.

new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis

january posed inside, with a large softbox and plenty of ambient light. we cranked up the ISO for this exercise. after i got home, i did scrutinize the RAW files, and i must say i'm spoiled with my 6D's image quality. still, this did well compared to some 7D files i recently edited.

the camera's 5-axis image stabilization compensates for motion blur in any direction. that should get several stops' advantage when shooting in low light.

a range of nifty picture styles are available for the JPG file, which can be changed in-camera.  this is great to share captures and ideas with clients on site, and some of them were quite beautiful. i played a bit with them but ultimately shot without them, as i like to tinker with my images on my computer anyway.

i liked two other features, which may sound gimmicky but definitely are not.

the swiveling LCD is very important to me since i like to shoot with unusual points of view.  my camera does not have one, so i'm often face-down on the ground shooting from a low angle.  with this camera, i could actually get through a day with clean clothes. i also like the idea of discreetly looking down at a waist-high camera while shooting candids of people. i think this would help me get some street portraits that i'm too timid to take.

another cool feature is the touch screen, as in: i compose the frame and touch the screen at the point where i want to focus, and it focuses and shoots! this would be perfect for those unusual angles.

after all that, we got to have a rest and freshen up in our rooms before dinner. yes, this was MY room. helen slept here. each room at the castle is different, and mine was the blue room, with large bay windows, authentic furnishings, heirlooms, a fireplace, and paintings... and, you know -- even the bathroom had a fireplace and paintings.

new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis

after a delicious dinner at hogwarts -- er, i mean the dining room, we went outside for more light painting in front of the castle entrance, then turned in our cameras (sniff) and finally gathered at the bar.  this was great, because the photographers that i met are talented and knowledgeable.  we discussed our impressions of the day, checked out each others' portfolios on various tablets, traded stories and experiences, and finally stumbled towards our rooms for a well-deserved rest.

new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis new olympus EM1 at castle leslie helen sotiriadis

i didn't try video, or the wifi, tablet/smartphone control, or other features that others may find important. i was curious about features that are important to the way i shoot today.  still, other functions that i didn't try might help me expand in my interests -- for instance, the built-in interval shooting for time lapse.... i'm always enjoying viewing time lapse videos....

the next day i wandered around with my own camera. i haven't even looked through those images yet, so i need some time to prepare them.

i adore the gear i already own -- shooting with my canons is a joy -- but if i had the means to buy a second system, i would seriously want to buy an E-M1.  if i was just starting fresh, i would be facing a sweet, sweet dilemma.

thanks again to everyone who made this experience possible. i met fascinating people, had great fun, gathered memories, and captured images i like.

my final, edited pictures can be viewed altogether in this set.

©2013 helen sotiriadis

9 comments:

  1. What a great trip you had. Surely the days of flapping mirrors and huge camera bodies are reaching their end, I certainly balked at the idea of getting a full frame Nikon even after a lifetime of using their 35mm cameras. I am so grateful that they messed about with the pricing of the D800 on it's launch, I nearly had a cheque for all my ready cash written. This Olympus certainly seems to have some magical tricks in it's repertoire that the heavy dslrs do not have.

    They say that the best camera is the one you have with you and this Olympus would certainly have more chance of being with me...

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  2. Great opportunity, well described. Which two lenses did you use? How did you get the bedroom shots so straight? More Olympus magic?

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    1. hi rodney! i mostly used the 12-40mm f/2.8 lens, but i also had the 75mm f/1.8 which i used for rosie's portraits.

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    2. Thanks Helen. The 75mm f/1.8 certainly produced beautiful separation of the subject from the b/g!

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    3. Oh, I just looked at the price of the 12-40 f/2.8 lens. They gave you two very nice lenses to play with, didn't they? :)

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  4. Look what you've done !!! - Now I want one... Badly ! :-D

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