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The Photography show 2017

On Sunday I went to this year’s Photography show; this 4-day event runs from Saturday 18th to Tuesday 21st March at the Birmingham NEC. Like previous years, I visited the show with my friend Richard Brown; the only difference is that he drove this year as I no longer have a car. Richard has already written his report of the show and this can be read here.

Although there wasn’t a lot of new equipment to see this year (my local LCE stores do stock a lot of photographic gear between them) I was very interested in seeing a number of photographers, manufacturers and suppliers this year.

We left Lincoln at about 07:15 and as the traffic was quite light we arrived just after 09:00, we had a similar drive time back too. Unfortunately, the public are not allowed in until 10:00 so we had to order a quite expensive coffee at Starbucks to help with the wait. After the coffee, we joined the hoards as we ventured into the staging area. Whilst here I picked up my show guide and shortly afterwards a large 5 second countdown started on the a big screen we were allowed in when it reached zero.

What follows are the parts of the show that was of most interest to me.

The Olympus stand was at the top of my list and the first stand I ventured towards once we were allowed in. I picked up my complimentary show copy of the Olympus Magazine and then had a quick look around the stand. I noticed that all the reps were present; I know most of them by name now: Lewis, Dave, Jez, Claire and Aiden who I haven’t seen for a while since his promotion. I also checked out the dedicated talks that would be held at their stand. There were 4 scheduled for the day from Tesni Ward, Steve Gosling, Damian McGillyCuddy and finally Gavin Hoey. Although I missed Steve and Damian this year I did manage to attend Tesni’s and Gavin’s presentations.

Whilst at the stand I played with the other OM-D and PEN models and have to say that for a second cheaper body I would prefer the E-M1 (Mark 1) over of the other OMD or PEN models. The best choice would be a second OM-D E-M1 Mark II but these are the most expensive Olympus cameras now; maybe I’ll be lucky enough to win one from this month’s Olympus Competition as featured in the magazine – I can hope.

The other items of interest were the two new flash units, the FL-900 Speedlight and the STF-8 Macro Flash unit. I didn’t get much time with the STF-8, but this is a very well designed unit, simple to control and can be part of the Olympus optical RC system. The FL-900 whist being a weather sealed unit that has a metal foot and gaskets for the weather sealing. This very light (no pun intended) unit has a very small display, what I do find confusing though is why it costs £550! This is more expensive than Canon’s 600EX II-RT* and Nikon’s SB5000 (both flagship Speedlights) and these have both radio and optical RC modes over the Olympus optical only RC mode!

*The Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT is usually £539 but currently has an £80 cashback offer bringing this down to £459. The Nikon SB5000 is currently £499.

I see the STF-8 in my future but I don’t think I can justify the £550 for the FL-900 unit, not when I can get a Nissin i60A TTL radio controlled unit for only £239 and a radio trigger for £80. Two flashes and a trigger are only £8 more than the FL-900. However, whilst the FL-900 is weather sealed, the i60A units are not. All of the flashguns mentioned have similar guide numbers so that’s not a deciding factor.

Tesni Ward’s presentation featured an excellent collection of photographs mostly from her Mountain Hare project. The images were all amazing and the character for each of the different hares shone through and were sometimes very amusing. Tesni also showed some of her other work too (videos and photos), these were also amazing; the video of the snakes and story behind them was very intriguing. Initially I was slightly worried that the presentation would be similar to the one we saw at Marwell Zoo but was that was quickly dispelled within a few minutes. I cannot wait until May when I will be taking part on one of Tesni’s workshops.

I really enjoyed Gavin Hoey’s presentation, he showed what’s involved when you are given a short brief that (in this case) and how this can require 3 separate shoots involving the Fire Brigade. There were also a liberal sprinkling of tips, do’s and don’ts in there too. I must say that I recognised a lot of them and I am guilty of some of the don’ts mentioned. Gavin’s images were also excellent and it was nice to see how they look when printed which is not something you always have the experience of. I also want to finish by saying that Gavin is one of the nicest people I have ever met and an excellent teacher, thanks Gavin if you are reading this. 🙂

Nikon stand:
Richard and I briefly visited the Nikon stand where you could get a picture of you (and friends if wanted) holding up of one of Nikon’s “I AM …….” signs – I think that this marketing idea is a bit tired now but if you like Nikon I suppose it’s nice. I also picked up a Nikon D5 fitted with a 14-24mm lens, whoa! this is a heavy beast, heavier than I thought it would be. It’s at times like this that I am glad I moved to the Olympus OM-D range, I simply have no desire to carry around such a heavy camera/lens combo anymore. I also much prefer the sound of the Olympus shutter over the large “clacking” sound that the Nikon made. I think the OM-D E-M1 Mark II has the nicest sounding shutter around at the moment!

Canon Stand:
Although Canon probably had the largest presence at the show especially as they had their own video booth too, was a vendor I had no interest in seeing as they had nothing new to show. Both Richard and I walked past them many times; obviously, we were in a minority as there were loads of people in and around this area.

As another one of the MFT (Micro Four Thirds) manufacturers I’m always interested in what Panasonic are up to and I had a chance to try out their full range of interchangeable lens cameras as well as the new FZ2000. Top of my list was the GH5 and Panasonic they had plenty to play with. Similar to the previous GH models, the GH5 looks like a mini-DSLR with its ample grip, central EVF and top mounted controls. The grip of the GH5 has changed slightly from the one of the GH3/GH4, although I have never used a GH4 I have owned a GH3 in the past.
The GH5 has a few features over the GH4 but as most of these are around video there wasn’t much to see. I also had a go with the Leica 42.5mm f1.2 lens on a GX8 and that is a seriously nice lens. I felt that the focusing on the GX8 seemed to be quite slow and has that focusing system that has to go past the point of focus and then back again.

The main attraction for both Richard and I at the Fujifilm stand (more so Richard) was medium-format GFX50S camera, although this is smaller than a “traditional” medium-format it is larger than 35mm “full-frame”.

I had a quick go with the GFX50S and was instantly surprised how light the camera was (even with a lens and battery). The focusing speed could do with a boost though – it reminded me of early X-T1 AF performance prior to the improvements that came with the firmware updates. Overall though I was impressed. I think a lot of users who were going to get a Nikon D5 or Canon 1DX/1DX II might go for one of these as the cost difference isn’t that great; £6,200 for the body and £2,200 for the standard zoom lens. However, I don’t personally see one of these in my future.

Like Canon, the Sony stand was by passed as they don’t have much new stuff that interests me. Don’t get me wrong, they (like Tamron and Sigma) have impressive new glass to show off but I don’t see a Sony 35mm full-frame mirrorless camera on my horizon. Sony also seem to be ignoring their APS sensor sized cameras as far as lenses go; I’m not sure why but they seem to have gone back to their old habits where new cameras come out very regularly but lens growth is almost non-existent. I suspect that new cameras are easier/cheaper to design and all of their lens technology and know-how is focused on the much larger and more expensive full-frame mirror-less cameras.

Sigma and Tamron:
I also did not visit the Sigma and Tamron booths and although they both have impressive new glass to show this is either for Sony, Nikon or Canon mounts. Although both Tamron and Sigma do agree that mirrorless cameras could offer them growth, if it isn’t for Sony there isn’t much to see. Sigma do have a few boring MFT lenses but Tamron have none.

NiSi Filters:
After a lot of searching I found the NiSi Filters booth and I was surprised at their presence at the show. Not only did we have (nearly) all their products on display they also had some “NiSi Ambassadors” present too. Each ambassador would do a talk and presentation at the stand from time to time explaining not only why they use NiSi filters but also how they got the shot when showing their very impressive images.

I was particularly interested in meeting up with Phil Norton who is not only one of NiSi ambassadors and also a distributer in the UK too. I have sent a few emails to Phil enquiring about the filters and their use with and OM-D camera and lenses and found him very helpful. Phil also uses the OM-D cameras and lenses so can offer very useful tips. Unfortunately, it seems that everyone wanted to talk to Phil too so I only managed to get 5 minutes of his time. We spoke about the system and he was going to show me the adapter for the Olympus 7-14mm f2.8 PRO lens but couldn’t get to it at the time as his bag was next to another ambassador who presenting. Phil’s personal adapter was not being sold at the show so was the only one there. I suggested coming back to see his presentation later and then see the adapter then. Although I did get back to see Phil’s presentation and spectacular images he was talking to more people straight after his talk and I gave up trying to see Phil again.


Although I already have an X-Rite i1 Display Pro calibration device I did go and see them as the rubber on the outside of mu device has gone very “tacky”. I did try (many months prior to the show) get in contact with them regarding this but got no reply. Their reaction to the tacky-ness issue at the show clearly shows that this is a known problem, they were apologetic in the fact that no-one replied to my email and then logged the issue again on their site on my behalf. I’ll have to wait and see if anything comes of this beyond the standard email confirmation message I received. They did say that I would probably end up with a replacement device – hope springs eternal.

Other Vendors:
I had a good look around and the accessory space is alive and well, a lot of vendors were there showing off and selling luxury camera bags and (very expensive) camera straps each numbering into the hundreds of pounds but they will match your Leica camera nicely.

My favourite bag was being shown at the Olympus stand and is (currently?) only available with the EM-1 Mark II camera as a show offer promotion. The bag made by Gillis has an indigenous design and looks the part too, I want one and I suspect that some users who got the bag at the show might sell them on eBay later. Failing that I think that they will be available at some point a few weeks or months from now. The bag has an RRP of £299 – but it’s worth every penny!

In addition to all of the camera and accessory manufacturers at the show we also had London Camera Exchange (LCE), Calumet and Camera World too. Whilst some of the offers at the show were nothing special (i.e. £5 off a £75 battery) there were also some fantastic deals to be had too. I went with the purpose of picking up the Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm f4 IS PRO lens and a Peak Design wrist strap. I went straight to the LCE stand and surveyed the Olympus offers page on one of their glass cabinets, the lens was being sold with a £500 discount! Soon after I had an LCE bag with my 300mm lens in there – colour me happy! LCE had the best deal for this lens as Camera World were only offering a £200 discount. I could not see any Olympus gear at the Calumet Stand although I did get my Peak Design wrist strap from them.

Wrap Up
I had a great day at the show, good company, met up with some fantastic people/photographers, got hold of the lens I wanted and might get my tacky i1 Display Pro device sorted out too. The only thing I didn’t like was the food – over-priced and not very good either. I’ll certainly come next year and bring my own food, at least that way I’ll gets something I like and not be fleeced.


Lincoln Photo Show 2016

Today’s the day of the annual London Camera Exchange (LCE) Lincoln’s Photo show at the Lincoln Drill Hall on Free Schhool Lane and runs from 11am – 4pm, entry is as usual free

This year it is on a Sunday (previous years were the Wednesday nearest the 5th November – so a bit earlier in the year too); LCE promises a great day out for everyone from the keen beginner to the seasoned pro. They have stands packed with products, advice and demos from the likes of:

  • Olympus
  • Canon
  • Sony
  • Nikon
  • Sigma
  • Panasonicv
  • Fuji
  • Tamron

Along with a wealth of accessories from:

  • Manfrotto
  • Metz
  • Lastolite
  • Hoya
  • Tenba
  • Hahnel

This year LCE have three guest speakers, each giving an hours presentation on their work and how they achieve the results they get:

11.45am – 12.45pm
Gavin Hoey – Portrait photographer and photoshop master, Gavin gives a unique presentation using Olympus cameras and “smoke and mirrors” to create photography like you’ve never seen before.

1pm – 2pm
Joe Cornish – One of Britain’s most experienced landscape photographers, Joe will present his work on the most amazing landscapes in the world, sharing advice and techniques acquired in years of experience using Sony equipment such as A7RII and G Master lenses.

2.15pm – 3.15pm
Bertie Gregory – 23 years old and travels the world for National Geographic creating amazing films for the National Geographic Channel using Canon equipment including the Eos 1DX MKII. Examples of Bertie’s work can be found at natgeo.com/wildlife

All presentations are free and will run within the main hall along with exhibitions from a group of local camera clubs.

LCE also promise special show only offers and great part exchange deals – I’m not sure what these are so we’ll have to wait and see.

If there’s anything of interest I might post my thoughts and my highlights.

I (like LCE) hope to see you there too!

LCE Photo and Optics Show 2015


Two weeks on Wednesday is this year’s London Camera Exchange’s Photo and Optics show. I have been attending the show for the last few years now and it gets bigger and better every year, it’s a testament to the hard work that’s put into this by the LCE staff not only in Lincoln but further afield too.

This year looks to be no different, it looks like Olympus will have the biggest presence at the show which is good for me and Damian McGillicuddy is back again doing two events at the show; the events will also be better as the stage at the back of the hall is where they will be held. This was the only criticism I have from last year’s show, the event area wasn’t situated in the best place; I’m glad to see that my view were heard and acted upon – thanks Dave.

As well as Olympus we will have Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Panasonic, Lastolite and many many more, you can find more details about the show by clicking here. LCE will also have many show offers on for the day so bring your wallet and speak nicely to the bank manager.

I am really looking forward to the show and I hope to see you at the event 🙂

Off to The Photography Show 2015 today

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

OM-D E-M5 MkII - Front

After many leaks over the last few weeks, Olympus have finally announced the replacement to the then revolutionary first digital OM camera – the E-M5, this is called the E-M5 MarkII. This helps keep the divisions between the three OM-D cameras.

Whilst a few of the features are simple updates that were first seen in the OM-D E-M1 and the OM-D E-M10, there is a whole lot more to this camera including a few firsts for the mirror-less market.

It is no secret that I didn’t like the E-M5, I always thought that it was too small, the controls had no logic to them and the buttons on the camera were really spongy. Olympus have fixed the issue and the new buttons are a lot better, the controls are now very similar to the E-M1 that I own and include the mode dial push-button lock, as well as the 1-2 position toggle switch. The two control dials and Fn buttons are very similar to the ones on the E-M1 including the location of the On/Off switch just to the right of the faux pentaprism.

The front grip and rear thumb rest have been redesigned and look like they will allow a firmer and more secure hold of the camera, they have even re-posiitoned the camera strap lugs to make them more useful when a strap is attached.

OM-D E-M5 MkII - Top

The camera still uses the same battery as the E-M1 and the older E-M5 and yeah I like the fact that the battery and memory card compartments are separate.

Video enhancements
The camera now supports many frame rates including 1080/60pp and has a reasonable high 77Mbs throughput, the support for All-I rounds it out nicely. The slightly improved 5 axis image stabiliser can be used during video recording as can focus peaking. This camera puts to shame many of the DSLR cameras on the market today.

One addition I am very happy to see is a fully adjustable vari-angle rear screen – like the Panasonic G/GH series, this is still a touch screen too (Sony take note!). The camera also gains a microphone socket; a headphone socket is absent from the camera but fit the optional HLD-8G grip and then you have one, this allows you to set and monitor the audio whilst recording. It’s nice touches like this that I like Olympus for.

OM-D E-M5 MkII - Back

Olympus have removed the accessory port under the hot-shoe.

Accessory Flash
Like its predecessor and the E-M1, the new E-M5II does not have a built-in flash which given the fact that the E-M10 does is rather strange, I guess Olympus wanted to maintain the sleek lines from the previous OM-1 cameras. However instead of supplying the clip-on flash that comes with the EM-1 and EM-5 a more powerful and better featured FL-LM3 flash is now part of the standard kit. This flash not only has the ability to bounce but it can rotate too and is therefore a much better and useful flash to have.

As the accessory port is no more, Olympus had to find a way of powering the new flash so an extra pin has been added to the hot-shoe making the flash incompatible with any other Olympus camera. Interestingly the pin layout is now identical to Canon’s so any Canon E-TTL lead can be used to take the flash off camera.

1/8000 shutter and 1/16,000 electronic shutter
The camera has had it’s top shutter speed increased to 1/8000 sec just like the E-M1 and also has an electronic shutter that can go as fast as 1/16,000 sec. the electronic shutter is totally silent, the E-M5II also has a new silent drive mode which switches off all of the audible sounds. Rob Pugh is going to love this for weddings and it will be a good street shooting camera too.

Built-in WiFi
I didn’t realise this but the original E-M5 did not have WiFi so adding this ensures that the entire OM-D range now have WiFi and hence the ability to be wirelessly remote controlled; the WiFo also enables the transfer of images too.

40MP exposure mode
I have saved the best for last. The camera has an improved 5-axis sensor stabiliser and one of the features of this is that it can be moved a pixel at time up and down to take multiple shots and combine them into 40MP image; this is substantially higher than the native 16MP resolution of the micro-four-thirds sensor. You can have not only a 40MP JPG but you can have RAW versions too. Because the camera is taking multiple shots the feature is only suitable for static subject matter and you really need to be using a tripod but this is amazing technology – watch the Camera Store TV video as they demonstrate the feature.

Pricing and availability
The OM-D E-M5 is being released at £899 body only and two lens kits are being offered , one with the 12-50mm lens and one with the 12-40mm f2.8 lens. All kits and bodies are available in Black and Silver. The camera should be available in early March and there is a pre-order offer on that gets you a free Olympus messenger bag and free 5 1/2 year warranty if you pre-order before 1st March.

My thoughts
I have not handled the E-M5 yet and it seems that I’ll have to wait a few weeks before they are available in the UK. It may be that I have to wait until this year’s Photography Show at the NEC in mid-March before I can handle one.

From what I can gather from the videos, photos and documentation and previews out there this is very desirable camera and it has a lot of features that are not present on my E-M1, however my E-M1 still has a better focusing system and a faster frames per second rate. I also like the native size of the E-M1, the new E-M5II may still need a grip to work nicely in my hands – this is where physically handling the camera is needed to see if the size of this camera is just right for me. I could see me adding the new OM-D (most likely in silver) to my kit as a second body, I would like a better video camera and the 40MP feature would be fun to use.

The jury is still out on the image quality for RAW photographs and we now await Abode to update Lightroom.

I have one problem and this is one that Olympus need to fix and that is the price, the body is now the same price as the E-M1 body (at least in LCE it is), so when it comes to getting my second body I will have a tough time making a decision.

Details and Reviews
You can find more detail at the UK Olympus site: http://www.olympus.co.uk/site/en/c/cameras/om_d_system_cameras/om_d/e_m5_mark_ii/index.html

DPReview already have the first look preview that can be read here: http://www.dpreview.com/previews/olympus-om-d-e-m5-ii

And there is a lot of information out there at all of the other sites too – it looks like Olympus know how to treat their pros as well as the review sites.

Olympus also announced a new PRO fisheye lens, a firmware update for my E-M1 as well as a few other nice items. Hopefully I’ll write a post about them in a few days time.

I’ll finish this post with three Youtube videos, one from The Camera Store and a couple from Jamie McDonald who is an Olympus Trailblazer in the US:

Camera Store:

Jamie McDonald’s Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II HANDS ON! (first look):

Jamie McDonald’s Menu Walkthrough:

OM-D E-M1 and Speed Lights

Some time ago (back when I was using Canon) I wrote four articles on using Canon Speedlites as well as the other items you will need, you can read these articles below:

Much of what I wrote still stands expect that as I now use an Olympus MFT camera the Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite is no longer an option (I don’t actually possess them anymore); additionally as I have continued to research the batteries and chargers there have been a few product introductions that have changed my recommendations slightly.

This article goes through what has changed and what still remains. I recommend that you read each article and then read my addendum to each article below:

Part One – Choosing a flash
The major change here is that I no longer have the Canon speedlites anymore (nor the STE3-RT transmitter) as they are 100% proprietary to the Canon EOS and PowerShot cameras.

Whilst the Micro Four Thirds systems (Olympus and Panasonic) all use the same flash technology and hence have better TTL based support from the manufacturers themselves as well as third parties it is not as extensive as the Canon system.

The Canon speedlites are built like tanks and are the device to use if you make your living using one of the EOS cameras, there are no better flashes and in situations where you need TTL. In fact you can use their flash system using a mix of Manual and TTL at the same time from one transmitter too.

Speedlite or is it Speed Light? You will see that throughout this article I will use both of these spellings and the reason is that generically a small hot-shoe mountable flash gun is called a “Speed Light”. However Canon use the term “Speedlite”. So when I am referring to the Canon flashguns I will use their spelling and when I refer to a non-Canon flashgun I will use the generic term.

The Cactus speed lights I come in nice black and white cardboard packing with contrasting red and white labels on them. Unfortunately the included accessories are quite basic, all three of them have a plastic stand and manual and the flashes also come with a case. Unusually the case has not pouch or slot to store the stand.

Cactus RF60 Flash-2

When I first handled the flash I noticed that the build quality is well below the Canon devices, there is no heft that comes with a well-built device. If you squeeze the outer casing there is definitely some give in there and the flash head rotates and tilts without having to depress a locking button. Each flash takes 4 AA batteries and the battery door is attached and seems well designed. The speed light also has various sync ports, a connector for the standard Canon battery packs as well as a ¼” 20 tripod style socket on the side. Unlike the rest of the flash housing, the tripod socket like the battery door seems to be better designed and reinforced; as this is where the most abuse is going to be given this makes sense. The flash has a guide number of 56.

Cactus v6 Wireless TX-RX-2

The transceiver comes in similar smaller packaging and also seems to be of questionable build quality, this takes two AA batteries. It has both a hot-shoe foot on the bottom as well as a hot-shoe “socket” on the top; the device has the capability to pass TTL information through itself from the hot-shoe of the camera to the hot-shoe on top of the transceiver. This is due to the fact that both the foot and shoe have multiple control pins in addition to the standard centre terminal.

Transceiver vs Transmitter – what’s the difference? A wireless transmitter can only transmit information to a flash. The transmitter can tell the flash to fire and possibly alter some of the settings such as the power output, this depends on both the capability of the flash and transmitter used. A transceiver can act as a transmitter and also as a receiver and can be controlled by another transmitter/transceiver thereby controlling the device fitted to the transceiver’s hot shoe.

The transceiver can control 4 groups of flash (using one of 16 channels) and although there is some TTL capability if used with the right camera and corresponding flash I will be using it in manual mode. Interestingly the FL50R is compatible in this way but the newer FL-600R is not.

Both the flash and transceiver have USB ports and can have their firmware updated. This is something that is really needed; whilst the main reason is to increase the number of compatible flashguns it also uploads the latest bug fixes. I did notice at times that the remote control was not functioning properly whilst testing them. The firmware updates requires a connection to the computer with a non-included USB to mini-USB cable, the computer also has to be running Windows XP or higher.

You should also note that there is no Mac support – thank you Cactus 😦 ! Fortunately I do have access to a number of Windows computers so this something I will do over the coming holiday period.

Part Two – Batteries
I still believe that rechargeable batteries are the way to go and at the time that the original article was written the Sanyo Eneloops were the best all-round battery out there, this is almost the case today as since writing my original article Sanyo were purchased by Panasonic.

Another advance is that we are now at the fourth generation and although it is hard to work out what has changed although previous advances did bring some benefit. My recommendation is therefore to now go for the 4th generation Panasonic Eneloops. These are sold by dozens of companies in the UK along with Amazon:


As for numbers you really need to ensure that you have a complete set x2 and if you are doing this professionally then 3 or more sets should be considered. Another thing that I didn’t point out originally is that you should keep each “set” together so that as they used and then re-charged as a set, this will help you keep tabs of which are the oldest and which batteries are newer, although the ones I recommend can be charged around 2100 times there is a point where they will not be usable and will have to be disposed of responsibly and then replaced.

Part Three – Chargers
With rechargeable batteries you naturally need to have a charger to re-charge them. When I first looked into this, the recommendation was to get an 8 slot Maha charger and while this device is still a good fit for anyone charging a large number of batteries constantly it is not the best device if you have one or more problem batteries.

Technoline BL700

A better charger is the 4-slot Technoline BC-700/BL-700 intelligent AA-AAA battery charger; the BC and BL are functionally identical but the BL device comes with a UK plug. This charger provides a lot more detail about the condition of AA and AAA rechargeable devices and give you the option to recondition them too. If you read the reviews of the charger there are many stories about rechargeable batteries being brought back form the dead. The charger is half the price of the 8 slot chargers and costs £30 to £32.

I will be getting the BC-700 or the BL-700 as my only charger for now. Anyone who chargers many batteries should go for one of the Maha chargers and one of these two for when they need them.

Part Four – External Power
As already stated the Cactus speed lights have a Canon style socket so they can use the same power-packs as the Canon flash guns. I see no point in picking the expensive Canon one as the flash is not made by Canon.

I also don’t think that I need one of these at the moment either, if I do some pro shoot where I need rapid recharging of flashes then I may decide that it is worth investing in a couple of them. The main problem is that for each flash you will need 12 batteries (8 in the power-pack and 4 in the flash itself), this will cost quite a lot to purchase and then keep charged).

Part five – Other flash accessories
Although there was no part 5 in the previous Canon based articles there is a lot of things that are needed too, these are discussed in this section.

Although I didn’t think that I needed one I now own an Sekonic L-308s external light meter, you can read my article on the Light Meter here

Sekonic L-308s

I also own a single Manfrotto ML840H Maxima LED Panel that is very useful when doing small hands-on or unboxing videos, I have had this for some time. There are no batteries to fit as this has built-in one, the light intensity is variable and it can be used as a flash if triggered via the included pc-sync port. When used as a flash the output is 4 times the normal max brightness of the constant output. The LED light can be mounted to the included hot show adapter or tripod socket as required.
Manfrotto ML840H Maxima LED Panel - front

Finally I have a growing number of other flash and lighting accessories as follows:

  • Manfrotto 5001B Nano Stand
  • Manfrotto MN026 Lite Tite Swivel Adapter
  • Frio Coldshoe Adapter V2 – now defunct as the speed lights have integral tripod sockets
  • Honl Speed Strap x2
  • Honl HP-Filter 2 Colour Correction Kit
  • Honl Filter Roll Up (case for above Filters)
  • Rogue Flashbender (Small)
  • Wescott 43″ Optical White Satin Umbrella with removable Black Cover
  • Neewer 43″ 5-in-1 Reflector (from Amazon)

I hope that this blog post/article has given you an insight into some of the lighting gear that I have chosen and some of the reasons behind those decisions.

In the future I want to write one or more articles about using the cactus speed lights and transceiver once I have used them in a real shoot. I would also like to do a short article on updating the firmware too. Let me know if you would like anything else.