Off to The Photography Show 2015 today

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Thanks to a day off work both Richard and I are off to Birmingham’s NEC today to see this year’s Photography show. Thankfully Lincoln is not too far from the NEC and so it’s only a 1.5 to 2 hour drive depending upon traffic. We both really enjoyed the show last year and although we won’t be going to the Superstage this year (last year we saw Joe McNally) there is still a lot to see.

This is the third day of the four day event and whilst many of the bargains will have been sold there will still be some good deals on gear – I am taking a list of a few times that I have been looking at – nothing exciting just a battery to two for my E-M1 and a new camera bag. Now that I shoot with an Olympus I will be heading straight for the Olympus stand so that I can book myself on one or two of their events running all day. I hope to see Aiden from Olympus there along with a few of the Olympus affiliated photographers such as Damian McGillicuddy and Rob Pugh as well.

However, just visiting the Olympus stand would mean that I will miss all of the other things happening on the day so I will visit many other locations to see what they offer and hopefully try out some of the more exotic gear too.

Canon
Canon have a few new items that will be on show including their new 50MP cameras the 5DS and 5DSR, these will be very similar to the 5D Mark III so beyond the handling I’m not sure what I will get from that. If we are allowed to take a few pictures on our own cards it might be worth it to see what a 50MP picture looks like. I also hope to have a go with the EOS M3 mirrorless camera too, I’m interested in how this handles and how good the add-on EVF is. The new 11-24mm f4 lens will most likely be there and I want to see how wide this is on a 35mm full-frame camera.

Colour Confidence
These guys are distributers for many companies in the Uk such as DXO and X-rite, they are also running some seminars during the day including one with Frank Doorhof who I wanted to see last year but his showing clashed with other ones during the day. I have one of his books and videos I really like watching him, I enjoy his style of teaching and this will be the first time I will see him Live.

Leica
I do not get a chance to play with Leica gear very often so certainly be heading there. Although I am curious to see what the Leica T is like I do know that Richard is very interested in everything that they have to offer; after all he does have a couple of Leica M series cameras.

Nikon
There isn’t much from Nikon that I have not seen, the new D7200 will be very similar to the D7100 but how good is the expanded buffer? I have yet to see the Nikon 1 V3 camera and again I’m interested in how this handles too. Finally a play with the big boys the D810 and D4s with big lenses is needed to remind me of how heavy they are – you cannot argue with the image quality of the D810 but you are going to have to carry a large DSLR with heavy f2.8 or better glass to get the most out of it.

Olympus
Thanks to a chance meeting with Adain about a month ago and my local LCE stocking it, there isn’t much to see that I have not had a go with yet. Whilst the OM-D E-M5 Mark II will be the big news of the show along with the 14-150mm Mark II lens it would be nice to see the add-on “dot-view” viewfinder in action – I have a few questions about this. As I said earlier Olympus are running many events during the day and I would like to see some of these whilst I am there.

Panasonic
I have yet to play with the GH4 but this will handle similarly to to the GH3 but a go would be nice I would also like to see and play with the 42.5mm f1.2 lens and if they have it the cheaper f1.7 lens too. I am interested in getting the Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f1.8 lens so want to see if this is better.

Sony
They were not present last year which was a shame but they will be here this year. The only items of interest for me are the new Sony A7 MarkII and some of the new glass that is coming out. I want to see how good the focus and IBIS (In Body Image Stabilisation) are too.

What Else?
I could go on and on but there is so much to see more than I can detail here. The best idea is to visit the Photography Show’s website here and see who else is there and what else is happening.

Solar Eclipse

As almost everybody in the UK knows as well as a good proportion of the world, on Friday 20th March at around 09:30 we had a Solar Eclipse of the Sun. This is where the juxtaposition of the moon places it directly between the Sun and the Earth therefore blocking out almost all or some of the sun depending on your location on the planet at that time. In Lincoln where I live we were never predicted to get a total eclipse and the best we would see would be around 80 to 90%; the more North you were, the greater the eclipse would be.

There are many methods that can be employed to view the eclipse; however, the one constant was that you should never look directly at the sun unless you had adequate eye-protection. An even safer method was to look at the sun via a projection method onto a piece of card via a pinhole device, Richard talks about one in his blog here. A good summary of the various devices that can be employed can be found in this article.

Like a large number of people I wanted to see what I could photograph, this is where having an EVF (Electronic ViewFinder) is an advantage, the screen on the EVF (or rear screen for that matter) was an electronic representation of what the sensor was seeing. This is not a true optical copy of the image which would be very dangerous especially a journey (of the light) via the optics into the pentaprism of an optical finder. That said I found it easier to use the screen on the back of the camera and have this tilted so that the camera and lens could be pointed at the eclipse whilst I looked downwards on the screen – much safer. Just to be fair to DSLR users that could do the same using live view but having a tilt-able screen of some kind (Nikon D5xxx series & D750, Canon 700D, 70D, 750D, etc.) would help; otherwise an award angle of view would be required – I disagree with people who say that a tilt-able screen should not be on a DSLR camera, I think that they are very useful particularly if you do video work.

I was using my Olympus OM-D EM-1 with the 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens. I used manual mode with a shutter speed of 1/2000 sec @ f2.8 and ISO 200 this seemed to make the view on the screen quite dark apart form the sun which regardless of the setting would always be clipped at pure white. When I was viewing the photographs on the computer in Lightroom I still had to underexpose them by about 2 stops so I should have used a higher shutter speed such as 1/8000 sec. The white balance was set to “Sunny”.

The first shot before the full-eclipse was as follows:
2015-03-20 SES-1
As you can see the moon is definitely starting to block the sun.

As I started taking shots it never seems to get more eclipsed than about 20-25%, I think that a lot of the projection methods showed more of the eclipse. I was also expecting it to get darker outside and it never seemed that it did. There was also a streak of cloud that started to drift in the wrong direction that was threatening to obscure the eclipse:
2015-03-20 SES-2

As the eclipsed progressed, sure enough the cloud carried on its journey. From an artistic point of view I do like this picture -it’s probably unlike any photograph I will ever be able to take again:
2015-03-20 SES-3

Eventually the cloud totally obscured the eclipse. Thanks to the “Exposure” slider in Lightroom I was able to see the sun through the clouds:
2015-03-20 SES-4

So not a great selection of true solar eclipse photographs but I’m quite happy with the third photograph and I’m still playing with them in Lightroom to see if I can get something really artistic.

One final point to note was that again I was using Manual exposure mode, Manual ISO and Manual white balance -something that I have never been able to do before without complete disaster so something is after a lot of time is improving. Is it the OM-D E-M1 or is it me improving? I suspect that it’s a bit of both but whatever it is I still enjoy using this camera and the more I use it and read about is capabilities (there is a LOT to learn) the better it gets. Eventually, I would love to add another OM-D to my bag as a backup.

Camera Raw 8.8 now available

Adobe have released Camera Raw 8.8 for Photoshop CS6 and Photoshop CC. DNG Converter 8.8 is provided for all Lightroom customers and Photoshop customers using versions of Photoshop older than Photoshop CS6.

The following cameras are now supported:

  • Casio EX-ZR3500
  • Canon EOS 750D (Rebel T6i, Kiss X8i) (*)
  • Canon EOS 760D (Rebel T6s, Kiss 8000D) (*)
  • Fujifilm X-A2
  • Fujifilm XQ2
  • Hasselblad Stellar II
  • Nikon D5500
  • Olympus OM-D E-M5 II
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF7
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 (DMC-TZ70, DMC-TZ71)

(*) denotes preliminary support. Camera Matching color profiles for these models will be added in a future release.

What is not known as this time is if Camera Raw 8.8 supports the High Resolution feature of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II.

As usual a whole raft of Lens Profiles have been released for the following manufacturers/mounts:

  • Canon
  • DJI
  • Leica
  • MFT – Voigtlander
  • Nikon F
  • Pentax
  • Sigma
  • Sony Alpha
  • Sony E
  • Yuneec

It’s good to see more unusual mount lenses being added to the list of lens profiles such as DJI, but who is “Yuneec”? That said, the lack of any lens profiles for Olympus’s lenses are notable by their absence!

A full list of the lens profiles can be found over at Adobe’s Lightroom Journal website.

Finally a number of bug fixes have been added to this release:

  • Fixed issue with magenta highlights when processing Canon EOS 70D raw files at some ISO settings
  • Fixed issue where vignette correction introduced banding for Voigtlander VM 21mm f/1.8 Ultron
  • Fixed vignette overcorrection at certain focus distances for Pentax FA645 MACRO 120mm F4
  • Fixed issue where vignette correction introduced banding at wider focal lengths for Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR
  • Fixed EXIF name for Zeiss OTUS 85mm f/1.4 (Canon and Nikon mount)
  • Fixed vignette overcorrection for Zeiss Distagon T 1,4_35 ZM
  • Updated lens profile to reflect firmware changes to SIGMA 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM S014

The entry over at the Lightroom Journal finishes with this statement:

Lightroom Customers –
If you’re using one of the newly supported cameras listed above, please download the DNG Converter. We’re working to add support to these cameras and they will be added in the next Lightroom release.

This will be in Lightroom 6 which should be released in March this year so in the the next couple of weeks.

For more information on Camera Raw 8.8 and links to the DNG downloads for Mac and PC please vists the Adobe’s Lightroom Journal website.

Hartsholme Park with OM-D and 1.4x Converter

When I purchased my Olympus OM-D E-M1 in November last year from the LCE Photo and Optics show I also pre-ordered the 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens and 1.4x teleconverter too. A few months later I got my 40-150mm lens and then soon after the teleconverter. What I have not really had an opportunity to do is use the lens and teleconverter combo at Hartsholme Park or any venue for that matter. I decided that this weekend I would make the effort to go to Hartsholme Park and try this out; I also invited Richard Brown and met him at our usual vantage point. Richard had his Nikon D800 and Nikkor 300mm f2.8 lens with the Nikon 1.7x teleconverter; this gave him a slight field of view edge over my combo.

As soon as I got there I noticed that we had some Grey Heron clearly visible in the trees on the central island, although the Grey Heron’s were mostly building their nests one of them in this nest had different colouring so may have been a young one:
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Every now and then the Heron would bring a twig back to their nests:
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Occasionally they would land in the wrong location and were chased off by the current occupants:
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Although the Heron are the most interesting bird around, the most common were the Black-Headed Gulls:
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Although the one above has its spring/summer plumage, there were many others in varying degrees of head colour from almost pure white to the black head of this bird. There were also a number of Herring gulls around too.

It was mostly the standard occupants of the lake, such as the Mallard Ducks, the difference is that they (like most of the birds around at this time of year) are starting to pair off:
2015-03-15-HHP-1

We had a few Canada Geese like usual:
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But they were outnumbered by the Greylag Geese, who were in flight quite a bit
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This is one of my favourites even though it isn’t perfectly in focus:
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Like the ducks and the Heron, the Greylag were starting to pair off too:
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Unusually there were quite a number of Great Crested Grebe around sharing the lake with the Greylag Geese:
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These two were performing some kind of ritual, unfortunately I didn’t have a lot of reach to get them and this was cropped quite heavily:
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Finally we had some Moorhens, Crows, Common Coots:
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And as usual, the Wood Pigeons were quite vocal and friendly too:
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Thoughts about the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 lens + 1.4 Converter:
I have a mixed reaction to this combo, anything that was relatively close (a few meters) came out nicely in focus and not soft, the colours were vibrant and very little editing or cropping was required. However anything that was far away came out not so good and this is where I had a problem; whether it was incorrect focusing or simply a factor of the subject being (too?) far away I wasn’t that pleased with the results. Not having clear sunshine behind us for more than a few minutes during the morning’s exclusion didn’t help. I think more practice is needed before I can come to any concrete conclusions though.

Did Firmware 3.0 help?
Again I’m not sure, it did seem slightly more responsive but all of the various focusing modes I tried had strengths and weaknesses. More practice is needed and there were a few things that I didn’t try that I would like to play with. Hopefully I will be able to try them out during one of my lunchtime breaks this week.

Final points to note:

  1. I tried Aperture and Shutter priority but in the end I switched to manual exposure mode as the light kept changing and the amount of exposure-compensation needed for the A and S modes varied all of the time. Having a histogram in the viewfinder certainly helped.
  2. I used GPSCam to capture the GPS coordinates via my iPhone 6+, this is still the best way to do this short of using a dedicated device such as is available for Nikon and Canon DSLR bodies.
  3. Heavy cropping of images form the OM-D cameras is not recommended as the detail goes southwards very quickly especially if you are above ISO 200 which I had to be due to the light levels during the day.
  4. I tried taking a picture of this friendly Crow that came quite close to us and all of my pictures had camera shake so not sure why that happened as the shutter speed wasn’t too slow and the IBIS is usually excellent. I think that when you use continuous AF and/or drive the amount of image stabilisation is reduced – I need to investigate this a bit more.
  5. I did get some nice shots so all in all it was a productive morning. :)

Nikon Announce D7200

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Just like the rumour sites said, today Nikon announced the D7200 which is really a slightly souped-up D7100; yes they did fix the achilles heel of the D7100 and it now has a larger buffer: 18 shot RAW 14-bit, buffer with more shots for 12-bit and JPG. There was also a banding issue with the Toshiba 24.1MP sensor so this has also been replaced with the one from the D3300/D5500 a Sony 24.2MP sensor; still no OLPF – yeah!

However that’s where the joy starts to wain as whilst we now get 1080p 60 video but only in 1.3x crop mode which is almost a crop-factor of 2 (1.95) just like my OM-D. You get a drive that can shoot at 6FPS or 7FPS in crop mode too. The focus system is slightly better as it will now focus down to -3EV but there are still only a few cross-type sensors.

Just to be brief this is NOT a Canon EOS 7D Mark II competitor, this is just a minor upgrade to the D7100 and the body is the same which at lest means the existing battery grip will fit. Maybe Nikon will actually release their fabled D300s replacement with all of the stuff that is missing from the D7200?

The overview of the features are here:

  • 24.2MP CMOS sensor with no optical low-pass filter
  • Multi-CAM 3500DX II 51-point AF system, all sensitive to -3EV
  • 2,016-pixel RGB metering sensor, used for 3D subject tracking in AF-C
  • ISO 100-25,600, with ISO 51,200 and 102,400 black and white modes
  • 6 fps continuous shooting (7 fps in 1.3x crop mode) with increased buffer depth
  • 1/8000 sec maximum shutter speed
  • 3.2″, 1.2M dot RGBW LCD display
  • 1080/60p video (1.3x crop only) with clean output over HDMI and Flat Picture Control
  • Dual SD card slots
  • Wi-Fi with NFC
  • Magnesium alloy weather-sealed body

Whilst DP-Review already have the first hands and previews up here and here, you can also read Jared Polin’s (aka FroKnowsPhoto) video overview:

I don’t know for sure when this will be available in the UK (I’m seeing March and April dates) and at what price, it will be a few hundred pounds cheaper than the Canon EOS 7D Mark II though. I’m sure that I’ll get a few emails today from the various UK re-sellers that at least give me the price.

All that said, whilst I always have a soft spot for Nikon (they did give us the excellent D3/D3s for example), I’m not seeing anything here that would cause me to switch.

Olympus Release Firmware 3.0 for OM-D E-M1

Olympus-v3.0-Poster

After talking about the OM-D E-M1 firmware v3.0 update for some time now Olympus finally released this update yesterday. Im’m not sure why this minor update required a whole major version number bump from 2.x to 3.x as there are only 2 improvements.

Although I regularly check the 43 Rumours site I was actually informed of the new firmware availability directly from Olympus UK via email which is nice. I have had these kind of updates from camera companies before but usually they are many days or weeks after the release date. Nice one Olympus :)

The (two) features of this update are as follows:

  1. AF tracking during C-AF continuous shooting in continuous shooting H mode is supported.
    Previously, in continuous shooting L mode 6.5 frames per second was possible, but now taking a maximum of 9 frames per second in continuous shooting H mode is possible. It is recommended to set C-AF Lock as standard when using C-AF.
  2. OI.Share Ver. 2.5 is supported.
    Live view display when shooting movies is possible.

Olympus also detail what happens to your camera settings too:

  • When updating the firmware from Version 1.0/1.1/1.3/1.4 to Version 3.0, the camera settings other than the AF focus adjustments are reset.
  • When updating the firmware from 2.0 / 2.1 / 2.2, the camera settings are maintained.

Although there is a kludge you can use to update the firmware via the SD card, it is a kludge so not something I recommend and this was available at the end of last week. For the sake of a few days I saw no harm in waiting for the official and recommended way of updating the firmware using the “Olympus Digital Camera Updater” software that is already on my iMac.

I was having trouble getting the software to connect to the camera initially and it was because I forgot to remove the SD card first. There are some very good instructions on using the software on the Olympus UK site and these can be obtained here.

Details on the firmware can be found on the main Olympus (UK) site here.

I will write a follow up post later if the updates provide any meaningful improvements beyond increasing the firmware version number to v3.0 on the camera.

Family Photo Shoot

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Last week was half-term week and we had the pleasure to look after my nephew Jack for the week. He was dropped off on Saturday by his Mum and Dad and collected the following weekend by his Mum (my sister – Louise). When he was here over Christmas we never managed to get any photographs of him and the ones that my Mum has are of a much younger Jack, she really wanted some more up-to-date photos of him.

So I decided to get the lights, stands and brollies out to take some professional looking portraits of Jack, with and without the dogs and as his Mum was here a few of them together – the best of which is the above photo that has been very popular on Facebook so far.

Anyone who reads my blog will know that I have used the same gear to take photos of the dogs with and without their Christmas Gear. They always like to be in on then action so here are a couple of shots of the dogs on their own taking during the shoot.

First we have Zara:
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And we cannot forget Seska too:
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The lighting setup was a simple affair; we had two Cactus RF60 speedlights and each of them were configured to fire into a reflective brolly, we had these set-up on light stands to camera-right and camera-left. They were controlled wirelessly with a V6 transmitter and adjusted to provide even lighting onto both sides of Jack’s face – a light meter allowed me to adjust the power on the lights indepdendantly until I had them providing a suitable amount of light on both sides of Jack’s face. Once this was achieved I noted the aperture and shutter speed for the ISO that I wanted to use; this was before a single photo was taken. I also had assistants (first his Mum an then my Mum) holding a silver reflector to provide a little bounced light to remove harsh shadows from under Jack’s chin.

With the shooting parameters noted I set the camera to manual, dialled in the appropriate settings (ISO 200, f3.5 and a shutter speed of 1/250 sec) and took one more test shot, Jack gave the thumbs up to proceed:
2015-02-21-JLSZ-PS-1

Jack being the age he is (9 going on 14 :) ) kept pulling faces and it was quite a challenge getting some nice photographs and occasional distraction form his mother and the dogs enabled more “non-staged” photos to be produced:
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However we also managed to get a few more poses from Jack. First we have the laid back:
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I then asked Jack to fold-his arms and look mean:
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Once he was less self-conscious I managed to get a much nicer photograph:
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Next we have, “The Thinker”:
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At this point the dogs decided that they also had to be in the picture again so jumped on Jack and we got a nice photo with no poses in sight:
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At times they were masking Jack, who struggled to keep in frame:
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Finally I persuaded Louise to join Jack and took a few of them together, all 3 of the shots in this post are nice but my favourite is the more candid one I have of them that is at the top of this post:
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I was quite happy with the results and this goes to show that the Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera paired with the awesomely sharp 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens is a powerful picture taking machine and I am frankly very pleased with the results I am getting. Whilst the general rule is that it is the photographer who takes the picture, it helps when you “connect” with the gear that you are using and using off-camera flash really helps provide the goods. My next exercise will to try out some dramatic lighting – I just need to find a willing subject.:)