In Decline

CIPA (Camera & Imaging Products Association, Japan) published their latest statistics yesterday. It goes to show how ever deeper the decline of Japanese camera industry is. One person asked me why I care, we can go on shooting as usual? Sure, our cameras keep on working, both of us are not really affected.

Still there are consequences. The first is of course inside camera industry. Smaller and diminishing market cuts R&D. Product development slows down, life span of cameras grow longer. We are heading back to old days when 10 years was not much for a camera. Smaller market makes it less interesting and some companies will leave. Most Japanese camera brands come from minor divisions inside bigger companies or concerns. Nikon is an exception, 98% of it´s profit (per end of 2013) comes from their camera division. The other two divisions are small and the other one of them is almost as much negative as the other is positive. Nikon has so far been succesfull at cutting costs with lesser sales. Nikon also is a wealthy company after several good years, it will not be the one to fall first. But some will when the big boss says that enough is enough, losing money in camera business is over now.

Next in chain is price. Camera prices will go up because smart phones have eaten the market for cheap ones. It is better to make less with higher profit. This has already started as both the average price and positioning of new cameras climb higher.

Then there are camera magazines and camera stores. There will be less readers, less buyers. The days when every high school girl had a Canon EOS DSLR are over. There will be far less newcomers. Photography is on it´s way back to be a specialist hobby. All the others just go happily snapping with their smart phones. There will also be less advertising. I would say the days of printed camera magazines are over very soon. Specialty stores in bigger cities will live on, others not.

The 12 year boom of photography is over! The good thing might be that from now on people discuss more about photographs than cameras. Actually that will not happen, there will always be more camera enthusiasts than hobby photographers, but maybe the craziest hype finally settles down.

-p-

This graph shows CIPA camera shipments to the whole World and Europe for January-February compared to same period a year ago (red line). Total contains all digital cameras. Graph for Finland is my estimate based on discussions, and it shows shipments to dealers during the same period when compared to last year.

This graph shows CIPA camera shipments to the whole World and Europe for January-February compared to same period a year ago (red line). Total contains all digital cameras. Graph for Finland is my estimate based on discussions, and it shows shipments to dealers during the same period when compared to last year.

Importing blog entries from my old site to this new site

I have imported old posts into this new Journal. While doing it, I deleted some posts from the oldest end.  I felt they had a point only at the moment of posting and were outdated by now. This may disrupt the continuum in posts so that some posts may now feel like needing something which was said earlier but missing now. Well, that´s how it is now.

The other reason for deleting stuff was that importing texts was automatic but I had to import EVERY photo manually. You may call me lazy...

-p-

Market shares for system cameras in Finland?

While you can see continuously several sites and blogs posting on camera market shares for various parts of the world, have you ever seen one for Finland? Of course Finland is in the niche of niche but I live here and am interested in things going on here.

Actually, what got this post started was a post on mirrorless camera sales being around 10% of all system camera sales in Europe and USA at the end of 2013. Sadly I didn´t bookmark it and now could´t find it any more. I remembered it to be at 43rumors.com but their search engine didn´t give me back the result I looked for... Anyway, for a long time mirrorless sales have been at a considerably higher relative level in Finland. But how high is it?

Contacting People

As there are no statistics available I had to pick up my phone and start making calls. My target group was industry insiders at companies importing cameras and at major dealerships selling those. In Finland importers are also the ones who sell stuff to dealers. They get their own market share figures for each month from Gfk Finland, which is responsible of collecting the information and keeping statistics. But they only get their own figures, so the actual market shares for various brands are not directly available.

Last week was the school holiday week, which obviously was the reason I could not reach everyone I wanted. There are still some calls un-replied but even then I have gotten the picture clear enough. Finland is a small country which keeps market shares fluctuating month to month and my aim was not to get it up to single percent accuracy. Also most people are not willing to give their numbers exactly or at all. I needed to distill some of it out from plenty of general talk. But you know, when one person says this and their worst competitor says that and a couple of others in the know say so, it all becomes pretty obvious.

The Figures

These are the Official pekkapotka.com Market Share Numbers for Finland in the category of System Cameras right now:

1. Canon 32%

1. Nikon 32%

3. Olympus 21%

4. Sony 8%

5. All the others together 7%

(Note: 1) System camera = a camera with interchangeable lenses. 2) Percentages are not to be read as absolutely accurate, they are my best compromise to add up to 100. 3) Figures are for the number of cameras not value. 4) I couldn´t come up with reasonable numbers for brands combined under "the others", that´s why I did not pick any brand separate from that group )

It´s a tie between Canon and Nikon right now. The one having the latest model is usually leading, and both are losing their market shares because of declining DSLR sales in Finland. Which leads us to where I started from: the share of mirrorless is growing "fast". It is definitely over one third but not yet 40% of all system camera sales in Finland. I would say 35% is very close to the actual situation right now:

1. DSLR 65%

2. Mirrorless system cameras 35%

Actually, these two sets of numbers don´t add upp as nicely as I would like to have it. Either Canon and Nikon have smaller market shares than shown above or mirrorless cameras have a bigger one.

Please Do Not

Was it this way or that way, I can already hear cries and shouting: Foul! Blasphemy! Fan boy!... ;-) But no, I am not far off.

Please don´t write a comment if you have nothing else to say than: I dont´t believe it! / It can´t be so! / You must be wrong! As you can see, I wrote those opinions already here... Other comments are wellcome, of course. Like: the Finns are such techno geeks... ;-)

Please Do

Anyone having actual numbers for December and January and wanting to share them to make my numbers more accurate, please contact me by phone or email. I would like to update those as needed. I will not publish anything in any way not agreed on.

-p-

Choosing papers: Arches Aquarelle Rag

Besides "real" photographic  images I like to make prints which have a certain graphics style look to them. For the last couple of years I have printed them mostly on Canson Infinity BFK Rives. It is a very high quality matte paper. I have written about it earlier here. With more and more images printed I have realised that I am more and more working with two different kinds of images. The other ones have some depth in perspective and the other ones form actually a surface. The subject matter for the latter ones is not always a surface. It is more about the way I feel the image should look like and then tweak it accordingly.

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These two images are an obvious example of the basic difference. Now, writing about printing materials is sort of frustrating because I really can´t show the results seen on print in the internet. Anyway, the upper image is of the style I want to make pop out from the paper. BFK Rives is a great material here because it lets the image breath. There is no surface that hinders any qualities of the image from coming out nor prevents your eye from going into the image. You get the colors and perspective. (As a side note, I like to have little contradicting things in my images, like seen also in this image with sensing the depth). At the same time there is an exquisite feel of the material with BFK Rives. It is both a visual thing and something that you feel when you hold the print in your hands. When I started to print on Canson Infinity papers my first choice of matte paper was their Rag Photographique because of it´s superb clarity and sharpness. But then, after a while I started to feel it as too clean and fell for the sublety of BFK Rives.

But now, these gritty and grungy surfaces of mine have also started to feel as too clean on BFK Rives. I grew to want to have a material which has the opposite property: I wanted a sort of oneness for the material and the image. Instead of popping out, the image should cling into the material. I had seen a few images printed on Canson Infinity Arches Aquarelle Rag by various photographers and had very good feeling about it. I tested it and found it to work just like it should.

Canson Infinity Arches Aquarelle Rag

This material has a definite surface. When you look at any image printed on it, you can´t avoid noticing the surface. It is so textured. As the name implies this material has it´s origin as a watercolor paper, which is also used for gouache, pen and ink, acrylics, calligraphy etc. The original Arches Aquarelle is a traditional fine art material just like the original BFK Rives is. It is also mould-made and fullfills all modern museum and longevity standards. This version of Arches Aquarelle, which is sold under Canson Infinity brand, is naturally coated for both pigment and dye printing. Don´t get mixed with these two separate Aquarelle products. More on technical aspects at manufacturer´s site

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These four lines of text are four separate images. In reality they are enlargements from a 3 cm wide area on print. From top: Canson Infinity Arches Aquarelle, BFK Rives, Rag Photographique and Hahnemuhle PhotoRag. The last one is the material I used for many years before finding Canson Infinity papers. As you can see there is no smearing nor any other "watercolor" effects with Canson Infinity Arches Aquarelle Rag. With strong contrasts it is just as crisp as other premium matte papers, only texture comes out already here.

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The same four papers in same order, and again this crop is 3 cm wide on print. As seen, Canson Infinity Rag Photographique (third from top) is the sharpest one showing tight, crisp grain/noise pattern from the original image file. None of this noise can be seen with unaided eye, quite remarkable. Canson Infinity BFK Rives (second from top) is more subtle, sharp but not as edgy. In reality, just looking at prints, part of subtlety comes of course from BFK Rives having a slight texture and being not as bright white. PhotoRag is a bit mushier in comparison, both here and seen normally. When you now look at the textured Canson Infinity Arches Aquarelle on top, I hope you can understand what I meant by writing above about material and image becoming one. 

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The only difference between these two images is the angle of light. They show an 8 cm wide area of the surface of Canson Infinity Arches Aquarelle. This why it is practically impossible to show here what an image printed on this paper actually looks and feels like. It is a multitude of feelings depending also on light. That´s why the quality of viewing light becomes so important with textured materials. Something to remember especially when having an exhibition... Yes, this crop is from the bottom edge of the image above. Look at that gold shining through grit and dirt! Only on print, only on print!

-p-

Tempted by the Sony A7r

Yes, because of some irrational lust, full 35mm sensor size keeps tempting me! I know I don´t need it but...

Speaking of Sony, a year and half ago I tried Sony NEX 7. The files were nice but there was not much more to it. I did not even write about it. Half a year ago, in May, I wrote about my reality check with Nikon D800E. Now I am going to write about Sony A7R.

My blog on Nikon D800E and EM-5 turned out to be quite controversial, as expected. Maybe I wrote badly or maybe some people got so agitated that they didn´t understand what they read? I never said that Olympus E-M5 has better sensor specs than Nikon D800E. On the contrary. But really, what I wrote about was about my needs for a camera. Even it was intolerable for many Nikonians. Some wrote that comparisons based on somebody´s needs are stupid. All tests should be objective. Sure. Dream on.

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So, here we go again, Sony reflected through my usage of Olympus OM-D…

I had Sony´s brand new A7R with Sony´s brand new, Zeiss branded, FE 55mm F1.8 lens for a day. Both were 0.9 pre-production samples. I must say it´s a beautiful tool for pure photography. Now, Nikon had this long teaser campaign for their new DSLR, the Nikon Df. They used the saying "pure photography" to describe it. What an utter BS! In my mind Nikon did Hasselblad Lunars with Df. An ordinary DSLR coated into a fancy cupcake of dials everywhere. Confusing, not pure.

But Sony A7R (or Alpha 7R) is pure, it is very simplistic by design, an easy to use tool. It has all the dials and buttons you need and nothing else. It has the same great sensor as Nikon D800E and according to DxOMark.com these two have the best image quality measurements there are for any FF size digital camera. Unlike many others, I think what DxOMark shows has it absolutely right. But, mind you, it only shows what it shows, nothing else. And don´t read the scores, compare the measurements.

You really can´t compare D800E and A7R objectively as cameras because they are so different. They are suited for completely different needs. While their DxOMark scores are equal, these cameras best each other easily in so many ways. One of the biggest drawback with D800E for me was size and weight. With A7R this drawback has vanished. Body by body it has practically the same size as Olympus OM-Ds have.

This comparison of OM-D E-M1 and Sony A7r is from Camerasize.com

This comparison of OM-D E-M1 and Sony A7r is from Camerasize.com

While camera bodies are almost equal by size and weight, lenses are not. Olympus´ mFT sensor requires much smaller lenses than Sony´s 35mm sensor. If we think only about the optics (the actual lens elements) inside the lens, mFT optics needs merely 1/8 of the volume (and weight) of similar 35mm optics. Lens barrels with mechanics evens it out slightly but the reality is that the more lenses you have the bigger and heavier will your Sony bag become compared to your Olympus bag. Already the FE 55mm F1.8 lens is markedly longer than e.g. M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 lens.

That´s why I would like to have my Sony just with two lenses, a 35mm lens and an 85 mm lens. There is already a Sonnar type, Zeiss branded, FE 35mm F2.8 lens for A7R but no information about when there will be a lens at roughly 85mm (or maybe slightly longer) focal length. Thinking about lens speeds F2.8 would be very suitable for me for a 35mm lens, but the 85mm lens should be preferably twice as fast.

Sony A7R in practise

If we start "practise" with E-M1 and A7R as measured by DxOMark.com, it is easy to see that A7R is better by roughly two stops or maybe slightly less. E-M1 at ISO 200 and A7R at ISO 800 are roughly equal. That´s pretty much what can be seen also when RAW images are opened in Lightroom 5.3 (RC). At ISOs 100-200 the A7R has by far the better image quality than can be had from E-M1. And that range is the only area where I am interested in in A7R. Actually A7R loses compared to OM-Ds when it is forced (because of dim light) into high ISOs. Namely, OM-Ds can stay at ISO 200 for handheld shots up to the situation where A7R is forced to go up to 3200 (EM-5) or 6400 (E-M1) with same field of view and depth of field in each image. Crazy? No, tried and true, and and actually a quite conservative statement in the benefit of A7R.

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The screenshot above from Lightroom Grid view shows my ability (or lack of it) for sharp images at 1/60 seconds with A7R and 55mm lens. Green thumbnails show sharp images and red ones are shaken. Doesn´t look promising. With E-M1 I can have an almost all green field at 1/6 seconds with the same field of view. There are three possible explanations for so many shaken images with A7R. The first being of course me. The other ones are A7R´s mushy shutter button and noisy shutter. Actually there was only two things I did not actually like in A7R, the first being the shutter button which has no feel to it. You just have to press and press and then somewhere along the way it releases the shutter. Also it was very difficult to find the point where to raise the button up for another shot while keeping the same auto-settings. The shutter is very noisy and it sounds like some spring-loaded mechanism going on. I don´t mind the noise but maybe the shutter in this pre-production body was not up to final standard? This remains to be seen. The result for me was that 1/125 seconds is the slowest shutter speed I can comfortably use with A7R and 55mm lens. With the dim light conditions here in Finland during winter months there would not be too many shooting situations for me with the A7R. If I was looking for better handheld image quality than what I can have from E-M1, that is.

Brilliant image quality at low ISOs

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As an example of the brilliant quality available from this combination is this image. It is shot the lens wide open, @ f/1.8, ISO 100. RAW file was opened in Lightroom 5.3 (RC) and has my normal tweaks. Crops from center and farthest upper right corner are 100%. Sharpness and contrast drop only for an amazingly tiny area in the corner. Very impressive.

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Caravan shot is @ f/4.0, ISO 100. With f/4.0 depth of field does not really cover the caravan and shutter speed was already 1/80 seconds. Tripod anyone?

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This Sonnar type design gives a very smooth and peaceful bokeh. Here @ f/2.2. Single highlight spots are almost perfect circles.

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At the the other side of this retrofocus design is quite visible longitudinal chromatic aberration always when you go for shallow DOF. Magenta fringes in front of focusing point and green ones behind it. It is correctable with the Defringe tool in Lightroom. This was the only negative thing I saw coming from the lens.

In hand

I liked shooting with A7R in general. I said above that there were two details I did not like and the first one was shutter button. The other was placement of +/- esposure compensation dial. To rotate it I needed to change the position of my right hand. That´s not how it should be. The two dials and AF-lock button were perfect. The camera and lens were nice to carry with wrist strap. The balance and weight are great. Viewfinder is very good but E-M1 has slightly better: bigger, sharper (ocular lenses!) and I can see the corners with my varifocal glasses at one sight. I had big concern about exposure accuracy with A7R. I am so used to Olympus´ blinkies and the exact exposure determination which they make possible. Now it was back to histogram and judging EVF again. Mostly my corrections were in the range of 0EV to 1EV with some ranging from -1.3EV to 1.7EV. I was really surprised to see how evenly I managed to get it. Very small exposure compensations were needed in Lightroom. This shows how good and nicely balanced the EVF in A7R is. 

The A7R has has very little grip surface, almost all of camera is bare metal. This is because of getting heat out of sensor and the small camera. A7R is on the cramped side to be used with gloves on, EM-1 is far better with gloves. Without gloves metal surface feels quite cold here at a few degrees above freezing point. Right hand finger tips are all the time in touch with metal if the camera is carried with wrist strap. A quick fix with duct tape helps there.

More on details of this camera can be read for example at dpreview.com.

All in all

I wanted to love A7R, and it is still quite tempting, but I simply need my depth of field. No image stabilization and bigger sensor leads into a lot higher ISOs than I am now using with E-M1. Down the drain goes the benefits of bigger sensor. I have said that mFT sensor size with Olympus 5-axis IBIS and the most exact exposure determination in the world makes the Golden Compromise (TM). At least it is so for me. Now, here... Perhaps I should move somewhere where the sun is always shining and light is plenty. I spent all my professional career with large and medium format cameras and huge tripods. I am not moving back there. So, let´s see. I will re-visit the A7R when they have a production body and production FE 35mm F2.8 lens. Maybe it is summer and more light by then...

-p-

E-M1 with M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro: The First Session

I did last week my first shooting trip with Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro lens which both were production samples. The body is mine and the lens was a loaner from Olympus. I have now checked my images briefly and the real opinion on this combination in practice starts to gain shape in my mind. 

Before I left I did some test shots against my Zuiko D. 12-60mm F2.8-4 and M.Zuiko 17mm F1.7 lenses. The aim was just to check that I have no lemon in my hands and to know that everything works properly. The first impression on these lenses was that 12-40mm zoom is better that 17mm lens at all available apertures. The two zooms are quite close to each other but it also is obvious that they behave somewhat differently. The older zoom seemed to have slightly better resolution but the new one, 12-40mm, produced better contrast rendition. Surprisingly the biggest difference in favor of 12-40mm zoom was at 40mm focal length.

17mm, f/5.6, ISO 200

17mm, f/5.6, ISO 200

Now looking at my images I think pretty much the same. Images opened and tweaked in Lightroom 5.2 have very good contrast rendition and give absolutely beautiful, IMO, images. There are a few things with Adobe´s preliminary, as they call it, conversion for E-M1 where I lay a question mark. That´s why I am not going any deeper into image quality before Adobe´s final conversion is available.

In my mind the present way of doing it at Olympus is absolutely right. What you actually see as "sharpness" in an image is the resolution and contrast at 20-30 lpm. That´s where the new zoom is better than the older one. What you will see in some tests are MTF measurements at 40-60 lpm where the older zoom might be slightly better. 

12mm, f/4.5, ISO 100

12mm, f/4.5, ISO 100

At 12mm focal length images opened in Lightroom are now distortion corrected while the 12-60mm zoom had noticeable barrel distortion. I have not tried M.Zuiko 12mm F2 lens head to head with 12-40mm zoom but I would say the latter is the better one at available apertures. This only underlines my opinion on said two prime lenses. While they are good and I do not hesitate to use them when needed, they are far from being extraordinary lenses. 

I had to return my loaner zoom back to Olympus. They are starting to deliver these lenses to dealers during this week.

When I get mine, I will do my final "programming" of E-M1. I am still somewhat slow with E-M1 because of my fingers tend to be looking for E-M5 buttons and this distracts a bit when shooting. I need to think while fingers should do it automatically. So, the final, natural experience is not there yet but it is forming all the time. Looking good.

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Rainy and foggy weather does not prevent from crips and sharp images. 17mm, f/4, ISO 100. Crop is 100%.

Rainy and foggy weather does not prevent from crips and sharp images. 17mm, f/4, ISO 100. Crop is 100%.

Other than that using the combination of E-M1 and 12-40mm zoom was absolutely great. They form a very balanced and capable tool. Of these two, maybe the lens is more important for me as it gives the best combination of portability, handling and optical performance for the focal length range I use most. E-M1 is in many ways an overkill for me. I need so few of it´s features. But on the other hand it surpasses E-M5 handling and performance in many areas which I find valuable.

One feature which I find outstanding is the improved stabilization.

-p-

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Handheld 1/3 seconds, 20mm, f/2.8, ISO 200

Handheld 1/3 seconds, 20mm, f/2.8, ISO 200

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With monopod 6 seconds, 14mm, f/2.8, ISO 200 

With monopod 6 seconds, 14mm, f/2.8, ISO 200 

Image stabilization E-M1 vs. E-M5

One of Olympus´ claims for the new OM-D E-M1 is better image stabilization at slower shutter speeds. Just to get an idea what´s happening I made a simple test. During this day I shot a test series four times with E-M1 and E-M5 cameras. The result is shown in the picture below.

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Some of you may remember my previous similar test when E-M5 came. This time I used M.Zuiko 75mm lens to shoot Playstation ready-LED from a few meter´s distance in a darkened room. I had 1 second as my shutter speed all the time. E-M5 had IBIS at setting 1 and E-M1 at IS-auto. I took 13 shots with both cameras, went back to write my Lightroom book, came back and did another series and so on four times. I alternated which camera to shoot first with each time. All this was to keep the situation as neutral and repeatable as possible.

From each 13 shot series I chose 10 least shaken images. I opened 100% crops of those ten images in Photoshop as layers and combined them with blending mode set as Lighten. This picture shows one crop marked as Best. It is quite sharp and it actually is quite astounding that there were some shots like at 1 second shutter speed with 75mm lens. If I had 10 equally sharp shots and combined them carefully above each other with blending mode Lighten, the image would not change at all. In reality every series had good and bad shots, that´s why there are two rows of "blobs", the more shaken shots are the larger each blob comes.

I organized my eight results in order from the best to worst. E-M1 was the best twice and E-M5 the worst three times. For me this shows that there is an improvement in E-M1´s IBIS capability with "longer" shutter speeds. Which gives me a reason to test later on what are my longest "sure" exposure times with E-M1 and my most used focal lengths.

-p-

Voigtländer Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95

Bright manual focusing lenses are always so tempting. I wanted to try the new Voigtländer 42.5mm lens for three reasons. The first being of course the quality of the lens it self wide open at f/0.95. The second was its closest focusing distance at 23 cm which combined with very shallow DOF should be interesting. And the third was focus peaking feature with Olympus VF-4 viewfinder.

The lens (and camera)

Nokton 42.5mm lens is the third lens in Voigtländer´s f/0.95 series, the two earlier ones being 17.5mm and 25mm lenses. I have written earlier of 17.5mm lens. My article is here

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I could copy here almost word to word what I wrote about mechanical quality and feel of 17.5mm lens. This one gives the same solid, well-made feeling. Focusing ring has balanced friction, which makes focusing easy and precise even with tiny changes. Aperture ring can be used either dented at half stops or dentless. The latter is best for video and the former allows also roughly quarter settings be used between dents. Noktons are made of metal and glass, they are not small or light.

I shot almost only with the combination seen above. The lens was attached to my Olympus PEN E-P5 body with VF-4 viewfinder. If only E-P5 had a proper grip, this combination would be absolutely great. Because of too little grip I carry this camera with the help of neck strap instead of my usual wrist strap. It doesn´t affect images but... Enough of that, it only is stupid when they got it right with E-P3. Why I wanted to try this combination is of course the gorgeous VF-4 viewfinder. E-P5 gives same image quality as E-M5 but VF-4 gives a better ability to focus either just by observing the viewfinder screen or with the help of focus peaking. These make a huge difference compared to E-M5.  

Focusing

Focusing is the critical point with this lens, naturally. Depth of field is shallow with larger apertures, especially at portrait distances and there also spherical aberration lowers contrast. You either love or hate this lens because of focusing. Not to hate it I wanted to really see what I am doing. Focus peaking in E-P5 is good but not perfect. It is the better the shorter the DOF and the higher the lens contrast is. Now contrast is not too high. So there is many times a "gray area" where you can have the image almost in focus but not just quite. I found many a time easier to focus without any focus aids. VF-4 is good enough for that. But then again when I (and my eyes) was tired, then focus peaking helped. If you are new to focusing manually, learn to focus by turning focusing ring starting from too close to "in". This is helpful because at normal shooting distances depth of field is divided into 1/3 in front of focusing point and 2/3 behind. You are always is danger to focus behind of what you aimed for.

The bad

While I would not recommend Nokton 42.5mm lens to anyone who only wants to take casual snapshots, I also do not consider it as much a specialist lens as I said about Nokton 17.5mm lens. This one is a lot easier to work with. Even so it has its ups and downs. At larger apertures there is spherical aberration which lowers contrast. But then again part of the magic of this lens comes just from the same phenomena. Sharpness stays at a perfectly good level while the image starts to glow. Also the sharpness and image stays intact up to the edges of frame. There is some vignetting which I never felt objectionable. Also there is marked distortion at shortest focusing distances. At portrait distance and beyond there is no distortion to speak about. I wouldn't buy this lens for repro work even if I did not notice distortion in real life images. Maybe the worst negative feature of this lens is longitudinal chromatic aberration.

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I took this image just to show the worst case scenario of longitudinal chromatic aberration. Lateral chromatic aberration is what you may have in the corners of image. Longitudinal is closer to the center of image and best seen close to focusing point. It is typical for high speed lenses, one example being Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 L which I have used and liked a lot.

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Above we have uncorrected image and this really is the worst I could get or saw in any of my images. Below LCA is corrected with Lightroom´s Defringe tool. I clicked on magenta/blue and green and then slightly adjusted Hue sliders. Sometimes some manual work (mostly desaturating) is needed depending on the colors on which LCA is seen. It is possibly there always but I did not find correcting it difficult when it appeared. This is not a lens I would use to shoot lots of candid shots, anyway. It keeps workload reasonable.

The good

That´s it. All negative aspects I found have been addressed. All the rest was good. How I see the usage of this lens for me is this: 1) Nature close-ups, 2) Portraits, 3) Moody street and city shots in black and white. All at aperture f/0.95 or sometimes closed down a click or two to f/1.4. If you think about using this focal length at f/2 or smaller apertures then this lens may not be the best option. This lens is actually very good at smaller apertures beyond f/2 with the above mentioned bad going away, but there are other alternatives which cost half the money, are just as good and have autofocusing. The magic happends wide open.

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Ordinary street shots belong almost (not quite for me) to the best usage area of this lens. This is shot wide open and shows the curved focal plane of this lens. Ladies to the left and right are in focus and focal plane curves almost to the lady in center.

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A 50% crop to show sharpness, slight glow and background separation. 

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Moody black and whites was something I didn´t have time to really get into yet. Later... Still, I guess this image shows the potential of this lens.

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This picture is shot with Olympus OM-D E-M1 at Ireland workshop. Again Nokton 42.5mm lens wide open. Natural light, this image doesn´t show how dark it already was.

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100% crops

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Closed down one click and 100% crop below.

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Nature close-ups are my favorite subject for this lens. This one is shot at f/1.4. Slightly closed down you can see how light blobs show the 10 blade diaphgram. I had to close down to be able to stay with the bees.

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100% crop from image above. DOF doesn´t span the length of the bee. Shutter speed is here 1/6400s (one benefit of E-P5) and even it can´t stop the wings. You can see slight LCA, which I have not corrected at all.

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Spider´s web in the morning, just before the sun dries it. Wide open.

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Some added vignetting.

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A detail of one of our apple trees.

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Backlit duotone

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Let´s end this potpourri of close-ups with this shot. I chose here a variety of what I did while trying the lens.

My opinion

Well, I guess my opinion shows in the images above. I would love to really get into those close-ups. That´s not the only thing I would love to do, though. So let´s see. Anyway, Voigtländer Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95 lens is one of the most beautiful lenses (I mean images) I have ever used. Nothing else to say.

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Except: Every proper blog needs at least one picture of the friendly dog. 

M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO hands on preview

So far I have used the new 12-40mm zoom only at Olympus workshop in Ireland and even there just for a few shots. In my previous blog there was one image shot with it. It was at 40mm focal length and at aperture f/5.6. Looks good as expected but there should be something to compare with to analyze any further. While that has to wait until I can get the lens again, here´s a couple of more images for anyone interested.

At Olympus workshop there was a station with two model shoots. I did the other one using Voigtländer Nokton 42,5mm f/0,95 lens and this one with 12-40mm zoom.

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The idea at this station was to try Pinhole Art Filter, studio flash and smoke generator. Besides this I tried also Grainy Film Art Filter without flash. Above one image with this Art Filter and 12-40mm zoom at 40mm focal length and  f/2.8.

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This Art Filter is my favourite of all Olympus Art Filters. And even it is very seldom used. The result in its graphical graininess can be quite beautiful, though, as this 100% crop shows. Of course all this can be imitated in post process also.

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I saved this image as RAW + JPEG. Here is a 100% crop of RAW file opened in Lightroom 5.2. Exposure time was 1/40s and I had IBIS off (was more involved in talking with people than minding camera settings after horses shot) which shows as slight motion blur.

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From another angle there was a good chance to try shooting against strong backlight (sun) shining through smoke. Again no helping flashlight here, 40mm focal length and f/2.8.

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I positioned the sun behind the hat. There is naturally strong overflowing of light (helped by smoke) but already the facial area keeps contrast and color quite well. According to MTF curves this zoom is at its weakest at 40mm focal length, like usual. Even then there is nothing to worry about. Contrast is excellent wide open.

This zoom is well built and it is dust, flash and freeze proof. I found it to be a nicely balanced combination with E-M1. I really hope it lives up to Olympus promises to be better than Zuiko D. 12-60mm zoom. So far nothing says against it, while there is no positive proof either. Below MTF comparison of these two lenses. Data by Olympus.

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Olympus E-M1 RAW: preview with Lightroom 5.2

Adobe published Lightroom 5.2 two days ago. It contains support also for Olympus E-M1. Adobe labels it as preliminary support. That´s because Adobe needs an actual camera body to create Lightroom (and ACR) demosaic for any camera. What we get now is made with a pre-production body. There might be some slight changes with production camera for next Lightroom (and ACR) version, but I don´t expect anything radical.

So far there are only pre-production bodies. I have never been eager to make any exact tests before production models arrive. Also I have not shot any subjects with both E-M1 and E-M5 which makes real comparison impossible. However I have roughly 1000 RAW frames from E-M1. After checking some of them I have a preliminary, to quote Adobe, opinion on E-M1 RAW.

ISO Low

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Above we have one shot saved as both JPEG and RAW. The upper one is JPEG at Olympus default settings. The other one is my version from RAW before cropping and local adjustments. They look quite different. One reason being that I prepare this kind of images to be printed on Canson Infinity Platine Fibre Rag paper which has a lot larger gamut than sRGB (on screen JPEG) and larger gamut than AdobeRGB. The other is that Olympus JPEG style is not something I actually like. I want more separation, more definition... Look at the forest, look at the lake, look at the meadow. Clouds... well something to work on. This shot was done of course with E-M1. The lens was M.Zuiko 12-40mm F/2.8 PRO @f/5.6, 40mm, 1/200s, ISO Low (LR says 100), no IBIS by accident. Let´s see 100% crops, below:

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Again the uppermost crop is from JPEG and below is a crop from my RAW version. JPEG lacks detail and is smeared (see grass) by too much noise reduction  If you look at water in JPEG version, it is smooth and noiseless, while my version has a touch grain. It gives bite to the image. I think this is as much as you can hope from a 16 MP sensor. If you need noticeably more resolution go for medium format. I could and would work on local bright and dark tones (and clouds), but it was not the point here. I am quite happy with what I see here regarding E-M1 RAW and Lightroom 5.2. Also ISO Low is nice to have to maximize definition, and I would not be worried of slightly narrower dynamic range in most situations. With E-P5 I have noticed that ISO Low is not necessarily ISO 100 but it varies between from slightly under to slightly over depending on situation. With E-M1 I have no idea of its behaviour yet.

As said the lens here was the new 12-40mm zoom. This quality (reaching corner to corner) is at the same level I am used to expect from Zuiko D. 12-60mm zoom.

ISO 1600

I had a half an hour chat with Toshiyuki Terada from Olympus last Friday. One subject was E-M1 sensor. It is a new one and it is partly (not just toppings but also on silicon level) designed by Olympus. Olympus has no photography sensor (CMOS) manufacturing (they used to make their own sensors for endoscopes) and because of this they must naturally work with their fabrication partner. Mr. Terada said that there is an improvement compared to E-M5 sensor at high ISOs. Because I have not shot such comparison tests, I have no opinion on that. On the other hand, as I have met Mr. Terada several times, I respect his person to person comments highly.

To get some kind of idea of higher ISOs, here is my first "lets see what happens" shot with E-M1.

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I have not yet shot at ISO 1600 with E-M1 on purpose. This one happened only because I was sitting at dining room table while opening E-M1 box for the first time. I attached M.Zuiko 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II lens (for C-AF tests in mind), put SD card in, played with the camera a bit, pointed the camera into kitchen, set exposure for highlights and pressed the shutter to see if the camera works. It did and auto ISO gave us this is manageably good image to see how E-M1 RAW looks like at ISO 1600 with LR5.2.

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Here we have two 100% crops from above shot. They are at LR 5.2 default settings.

Do default settings show what RAW file is like? NO!!! Absolutely NOT!!! Every time we look at "RAW file" on computer screen we look at an translation of RAW file into pixel image with certain preset parameters. These crops showing these tones and sharpness and noise and all do not tell what the actual RAW file looks like. It really doesn´t look like. This shows us merely one possibility to convert this RAW file into pixel image. (And of course you see them differently from what I see. Unless you have an Eizo ColorEdge CG275W monitor calibrated yesterday and have similar (amount and direction) 5000K ambient light as I have.) That´s why you never should compare images or cameras at any default settings. You should compare them at the best settings you are able to tweak for each image or camera. So, lets tweak a bit. Not much, just slightly.

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Here I have opened up the shadows globally so that there is just and just no more real black in this image. While doing so I have also made it a bit sharper and less noisy. I like my images to have this tight, sharp, film like noise. I could go on from here but I think I have already made my point, and there are a few issues why I rather wait to see a product camera and shoot with camera settings I am sure off... However, it looks nice and the image stays perfectly well intact. Is it better that E-M5? I have no idea, yet. Actually I would expect to see real differencies only beyond ISO 3200.

Lets check the lightest area of the image.

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To get some more idea of dynamic range, lets see what we have in the highlights. The crop above shows where we were after opening the shadows. Below is what we have when I go on simply dragging highlights slider all the way to the left. Plenty of stuff there. I really can´t remember my camera settings after I had played with it some before taking this image. Anyway, looks like an underexposure to me. At the same time there was no problem with shadow detail which means this sensor should have no problems with dynamic range.

Doing tests is hell. There is one way to do it right and a million ways to fuck it. Not totally fuck it but screw it in some way. This was not a test. Looks promising even if I wasn´t doing anything properly. More later.

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More on C-AF with Olympus E-M1

Olympus Europe is organizing a three week long series of little workshops in Ireland. The theme is, of course, E-M1. Workshops are held at the beautiful Castle Leslie in Glaslough, close to border with Northern Ireland. People attending there are mostly journalists and Olympus dealers from various European countries. I visited there last Friday and Saturday in a group of some 30 people from Finland, Russia and Baltic states.

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Castle Leslie seen across the little lake. During our workshop it was a little rainy as seen here.

Continuous Focusing

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Workshops are divided into five stations. Of them most publicity in the internet blogs and forums seems to get horses in shallow water.

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A 100% detail. Olympus E-M1; M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 @f/1.8.

While horses trotting in water and plashing it high in the air is quite flashy, it is actually not too demanding for any decent C-AF. Only maybe when horses are close by and there is a veil of water in front of them.

At least for us there was no real chance to get familiar with the camera. So people got quite different results. Some had their cameras at 10 fps which means no C-AF, some had their single focus point with no C-AF lock focusing at where ever it happened to point. Some shot video, which has no PDAF at all. I would suggest being cautious with results seen in the internet.

As I luckily had previous experience, it was possible to try things differently than before. Now I used 3x3 focus group and set C-AF lock at Standard to prevent erratic focus changes. All cameras here were set at no focus lock by default. To see better how focusing behaves I shot mostly with M.Zuiko 75mm lens wide open at f/1.8. Minimal DOF shows mistakes better. Horses turned to the shore in font of people shooting and then gallopped up the hill. I asked the riders to do one especially fast one and took the series below. Shown are the last 6 frames of the series shot at 6 fps.

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These frames are inside the same second. Oh, and don´t mind my bad framing in the beginning... Below one more picture to show that they really did what I asked. Sorry horses!

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It gets all the time more difficult for the camera when the subject comes closer as the pace in change of distance gets faster. Below are 100% crops from the last four frames of the series.

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Depth of field is short, no IBIS at this fps and lots of movement in all directions as horses and riders and hands are bouncing. I think the E-M1 hit it quite satisfactorily. At least I was happy to see this result. Surely there was no retake. (They rode the hill up a few times but the other ones were taken more leisurely.)

Light Painting

Of the other stations, below is an example of Live Time.

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On the couch Michael Guthmann (from Olympus Europe, on the right) and I hard at work following the evolving Live Time exposure in our respective cameras on iPad Mini screens. When exposure was satisfactory we stopped it via iPad. This is naturally seen by "my" E-M1. Happy Birthday here is light painted for Michael´s father. Live Time gives real new possibilities to control camera, mainly others than self portraits for me. And ghosts don´t do photography.

Models 

Every workshop has models. I missed the best one because of my inteview with Toshiyuki Terada. Of the others more later.

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