Sunday, December 29, 2019

Update on scanning color negatives

Happy New Year and Best Wishes for 2020!

My wife and I were in Seoul, Korea a few weeks ago and, of course, I took some photos. I was only in Korea once before back in 1997 so I decided yesterday and today to go to my archived, big 64-bit scan files of Korea color negatives and use Vuescan to make tiffs, do some preparation and improvement of those files, and then I imported them into Lightroom. It reminded me how much variation there is in the quality of color negative scans that I have done over the years. These were all developed in Tokyo and the developing was excellent because Japanese, as usual, take great care. The negatives did not have any small scratches or other imperfections that I have run into pretty often scanning color negatives that I processed at various places in the U.S. and Europe over the decades, even though they were in plastic film sleeves. The worst are 2 batches of rolls (hundreds of photos) I had developed in Perugia, Italy and later in Paris, France when we spent 4 months traveling in Europe in 2001 (Greece, Italy, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, England). Probably bad/old chemicals, maybe improper development time/temperature, scratches, emulsion flaws, chemical spots, etc. Those take tons of work in Photoshop trying to repair them. In contrast the ones I worked on since yesterday which were developed here in Japan required very little work.

Still, I would much prefer even a jpeg from my 2002 5mp Minolta D7i than a color negative scan. Looks better too and easier to work with. :-)

Part 1: Scanning Torture (or Learning to Love Your Digital Camera)

Part 2: Over 10,000 35mm slides and negatives scanned!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

DxO: Sony A900 FF vs Olympus E-M10II m4/3 sensors

I have been using m4/3 since April 2012. For the types of things I mostly photograph and the way I do it the smaller size and lower weight of all the gear is very welcome. The Sony sensors in the Olympus bodies are quite good and, for me, I am pretty happy with them. I was just curious on this late afternoon in Japan while drinking an Asahi Super Dry beer how my Olympus bodies compare to FF from not so long back. I looked at the Olympus E-M10II vs. Sony A900. Take a look. Of course, current FF and APS-C is even better, but I was pretty happy with the sensor in even my A700 a few years ago and the A900 is a lot better. The E-M10II beats the A700 by quite a bit and is even better than the A900. Amazing progress.

Click on the images below to see them larger.

As you will notice in the 4 graphs, the A900 and E-M10II are pretty much equal in 3 of the graphs, but the E-M10II has much more dynamic range in the dynamic range graph. Also the E-M10II goes to a higher ISO. Although current FF and APS-C is even better I am pretty satisfied having gear the size/weight of m4/3 with an even better sensor than the FF one in the A900. I have read claims, but haven't checked, that the current 20mp sensors in the Olympus PEN-F and the Panasonic GX8 are a bit better than the 16mp.

Of course, some people want bigger gear. Certainly, if I worked in a studio or transported my gear around by car and then at a destination didn't venture far away for long then bigger/heavier gear would be okay, maybe even preferable. Not only do I travel and then spend many hours per day wandering around on foot, but even when I am not traveling I usually walk around for hours per day with my camera. In more familiar areas that I have wandered in before I usually just put a prime lens on the body and also remove the detachable grip. Usually I will have either the 20mm f1.7, 25mm f1.8, 45mm f1.8, or 14mm f2.5 on the camera in those cases.

Sony 28mm f2.8 attached and Panasonic 14mm f2.5 attached.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Olympus OM-D E-M10II + 14-42mm EZ vs. Panasonic Lumix LX100

Executive Summary

My analysis covers things I think are important that no reviews that I have seen discuss.  I don't bother writing about the obvious things that have already been said in reviews or what someone can see just by looking at the body photos (control layout, etc.) or specs.

I started my investigation and comparison of the LX100 and E-M10II + 14-42mm EZ because I wanted an additional camera much like the LX100.  At first I thought the LX100 was the one, but then I discovered the following LX100 negatives (negatives for me anyway):
  • no built-in flash
  • poor auto ISO implementation
  • very slow electronic zoom
I still thought from time to time that I would get one though.  Then I discovered that the E-M10II with 14-42mm EZ was almost the same size as the LX100, fixed all those problems above, used a full m4/3 16mp sensor instead of the LX100 cropped 12mp sensor, had fast, good AF, great IBIS, it's an ILC, etc.  Of course, the fly in the ointment was the LX100 10.9-34mm f1.7-2.8 lens which is pretty fast.  So, doing the same sort of analysis I did for the Canon G15 a few years ago I decided to examine that issue some more.

For anyone who is interested, here is my 2013 Canon G15 write-up:

And a later 2014 write-up about the Canon G16:

Anyway, after converting the LX100 lens to m4/3 terms it is a 12-37.5mm f1.9-3.1 lens vs. the 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 for Olympus.  Then looking at the sensors I could see that the Olympus sensor is bigger (225 sq mm vs 180 sq mm) and better and that makes up more of the gap between the apertures of the 2 lenses.  And then to top it off the LX100 is only 12mp and the E-M10II is 16mp.  So, there you are!

Click on the images below to see them larger. 

The Details

This may or may not be interesting to anyone else, but I had some notes for my own evaluation purposes so I will use them as the basis for this post. Since the Panasonic LX100 came out I thought it was interesting and thought I might get one. After more investigation though my interest level dropped some, but for quite some time I still considered it. I realize that for many people a fixed lens camera such as the LX100 that is too big to easily carry in a pocket (like a Sony RX100III/IV or even smaller cameras), yet less flexible than an m4/3 ILC is not of much interest. Obviously, some people are interested in these sorts of cameras (and the Fuji X100S/T, etc.) though. For just having something reasonably small yet pretty capable and ergonomic to carry around with me most of the time I thought an LX100 might be the one.

The LX100 crops 12mp from an m4/3 sensor using 180 sq mm and has a crop factor of 2.2. A full m4/3 sensor is 225 sq mm and has a crop factor of 2 and with m4/3 bodies they give you 16mp (GX8 is 20mp). In the shops I realized that my Olympus E-M10II + 14-42mm EZ pancake zoom is almost the same size as the LX100. The LX100 shoulders are a bit higher, but the E-M10II EVF hump sticks up a few millimeter compared to the LX100. But, the E-M10II has a built-in flash and the LX100 doesn't. The missing built-in flash is a big negative for me for the way I would use this sort of camera. The E-M10 is the same size as the E-M10II so the comments apply to it too.

The LX100 auto ISO is either broken or Panasonic made a very strange design decision about it. The LX100 has very poor auto ISO, IMO. You can't set anything and rather than try to keep the shutter speed above 1/FF-equivalent-focal-length it will use very slow shutter speeds while trying to maintain the lowest ISO. You can then just hope that the IS works well enough, your hands are steady enough, and there is absolutely no subject movement. Most cameras which allow no control over the auto ISO will do the more reasonable thing and try to keep the shutter speed above 1/FF-equivalent-focal-length. The LX100 review on says this:

The Auto ISO behavior also feels a little simplistic by modern standards, with the standard Auto mode favouring the use of shutter speeds between 1/4 and 1/8th of a second, over raising the camera's sensitivity. And, while it's true that the camera's very good stabilization will allow you to get usable shots of static subjects at those shutter speeds, it's not terribly useful for moving subjects. The Intelligent ISO mode does slightly better, attempting to assess the degree of movement in the scene before choosing a suitable shutter speed threshold, but I don't like the way it only tells you the ISO it's selected after you've taken your shot.

Both cameras can use an electronic shutter. When using the E-M10II electronic shutter (silent shutter), A mode, and auto ISO the behavior of auto ISO changes from the proper way that it uses when using the mechanical shutter to something closer to the brain dead Panasonic way. However, rather than going down to 1/4 or 1/8 second I have never seen the E-M10II go below 1/20 before raising the ISO. For longer lenses that can still be a problem in dimmer conditions (or when using small apertures), but with the 14-42mm it is almost always fine. When using the camera with this lens I usually leave it on the silent shutter. No wear and tear and also totally silent.

The LX100 electronic zoom mechanism is amazingly slow, very annoyingly slow. Much slower than my Canon G16 and S95 and every other electronic zoom camera I have tried. The E-M10II allows the zoom to be set for fast, normal, and slow. In addition, you can set it separately for still photos and videos. The slow setting is like the Panasonic setting. I haven't found any way to change the Panasonic zoom speed. I keep my Olympus set to fast for still photos.

The LX100's 10.9-34mm f1.7-2.8 lens in m4/3 equivalent terms is 12-37.5mm f1.9-3.1 (for dof and light gathering purposes).  When you then consider that the LX100 sensor is not as good as the E-M10II sensor then with regards to noise the LX100 is more like a 12-37.5mm f2.7-4.3 at higher ISO and 12-37.5mm f3.8-6.2 at low ISO.  Maybe this makes it clearer why I consider the Olympus 14-42mm EZ f3.5-5.6 lens to, effectively, not be so different than the LX100 lens.  And then the icing on the cake is that the Olympus gives you 16mp instead of the LX100's 12mp.

Panasonic LX100 10.9-34mm f1.7-2.8 in m4/3 equivalent terms:
12-37.5mm f1.9-3.1 (for dof and light gathering purposes)
12-37.5mm f2.7-4.3 (for high ISO purposes)
12-37.5mm f3.8-6.2 (for low ISO purposes)

14-42mm EZ f3.5-5.6

For the overlapping focal lengths we have this:

14mm:  Panasonic f2.3 (f3.2 for high ISO, f4.6 for low ISO) vs. Olympus f3.5
20mm: Panasonic f2.8 (f3.9 for high ISO, f5.6 for low ISO) vs. Olympus f4.1
37.5mm: Panasonic f3.1 (f4.3 for high ISO, f6.2 for low ISO) vs. Olympus f5.5

So, for example, let's say in a somewhat low light situation:

Panasonic 20mm:  ISO 400, f2.8, 1/30
Olympus 20mm:    ISO 800, f4.1, 1/30

But, the Olympus at ISO 800 has less noise than the Panasonic at ISO 400.  Also, the E-M10II has great IBIS and it can be used with any lens you mount on it.

The LX100 at 20mm is f2.8 (for high ISO f3.9 and for low ISO f5.6) and the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 pancake at 20mm is f1.7. :-)

As for DOF, well for both of these they are not a good choice for getting very shallow DOF. You can do it if you know what you are doing in a limited cases though. Of course, the E-M10II has the advantage that you can attach a 45mm f1.8, 42.5mm f1.2, etc. to get a much faster lens and also much less DOF. The Panasonic lens is permanently attached.

Panasonic uses lossy raw file compression. The raw file is usually about 15mb with an embedded 1920x1440 jpeg for a 12mp raw. Olympus uses lossless raw file compression and the raw file is usually about 15mb with an embedded 3200x2400 jpeg for a 16mp raw. Huh? Why is the Panasonic raw with a smaller jpeg, using lossy compression, and only 12mp the same size as the Olympus raw with a bigger jpeg, using lossless compression, and 16mp?

One thing I like about the E-M10II and E-M10 is that they, unlike the LX100, are modular. Add the inexpensive grips and they are bigger and have improved ergonomics (especially nice for somewhat larger lenses). Take the grip off and it is small and lighter. Also, of course, you can use many different lenses rather than being stuck with one. It means that with the 14-42mm EZ and no grip the size is about the same as the LX100 so no need to have yet another camera, batteries, charger, etc.

I see that at B&H the current LX100 price is $698. The E-M10II + 14-42mm EZ is $749. The E-M10II body is $599 and the E-M10 body is $549. The Olympus 14-42mm EZ is $199. Since the 14-42mm EZ is usually sold as part of a kit though it can be found for less than $199.

After reading reviews of the LX100 lens it seems to be a pretty good lens, but not great. Much the same as I have read about the 14-42mm EZ. I have been using the 14-42mm EZ myself though and know that it is pretty good. I have no complaints.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Electronic shutter: advantages and disadvantages

I got an Olympus OM-D E-M10II a couple of days ago and have been checking it out.  Today I tried out the new electronic shutter.  My E-M10 and E-M5 don't have it so it was my first time to use one.  I know that the E-M5II has it and some Panasonic bodies also have it though.  Here are important points concerning an electronic shutter:

  • totally silent
  • no shutter shock (Olympus has anti-shock 0 for mechanical shutters also)
  • no mechanical wear and tear
  • higher shutter speeds possible
  • can cause banding when there is fluorescent lighting
  • can cause rolling shutter problem for rapidly moving subjects
  • Panasonic GH4 and some other Panasonic bodies switch to 10-bits with electronic shutter, but 12-bits for mechanical shutter -- Olympus uses 12-bits for both electronic and mechanical shutter
Actually, I am sort of neutral on the totally silent advantage.  For my shooting, the OM-D mechanical shutters seem quiet enough.  I see that people who shoot theater and similar things would really welcome totally silent operation though.  So much easier and cheaper than using one of those camera blimps.  For street photography I have never seen where total silence was important.  I have done a lot of it over the years using DSLRs that were much noisier than my E-M10 and E-M5 and had absolutely no problems.  Also, on the street there is usually enough ambient noise that almost no one hears a shutter, especially the quiet one in the E-M5.  I suppose upskirt photographers though highly value a totally silent shutter, but is m4/3 really the best choice for that type of photography anyway? :-)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bought a Canon G16 to replace my G15

About 1.5 years ago I posted about my new Canon G15:

Last week I bought a Canon G16 so I thought I would post a bit about it too.

I really didn't need to change from the G15 to G16, but speed up of AF/reduced lag time and the slightly better sensor along with the pretty good price for the G16 here in Japan got me to get it.  Also, for the last couple of months I had started checking to see if there was anything out there to replace my G15 since things move on since it came out in 2012.  Then when I also saw what came out at Photokina I just didn't see anything that was compelling enough.  That left the G16 with it's small, but interesting updates.  It was much like when I bought the G15 last year.  I looked at everything and for my uses decided that the G15 while not ideal was the best compromise. Recently I again examined all the options and ended up deciding that the G16 was the best compromise for me.

After carrying the G16 around here in Sapporo for the last few days I definitely notice the speed up and that is welcome.  The G15 was reported to be faster than the G12 (there was no G13 or G14) and now the G16 is even faster. I was generally satisfied with the speed of the G15, but that is in comparison to other digicams.  Now the G16 is definitely faster so that focus and lag are closer to using a DSLR. For this sort of camera and the way I use it the speed up is welcome and adequate.

The G16 has a new BSI 1/1.7" sensor that is a bit better than the G15 sensor.  Nothing dramatic, but still welcome. On a forum someone showed full-size raw conversions using ACR.  One was at ISO 80 and it was a wide dynamic range, highly detailed photo that looked quite good. He also showed an ISO 12,800 photo in very low light.  I was frankly surprised at how good it looked considering the very high ISO and the small sensor.  The photo didn't have lots of fine detail to look at such as hair, but the tight, small noise and no banding made me realize that in some situations that this was an ISO that I could use on the G16.  Probably better than I remember ISO 1600 or 3200 on APS-C just a few years ago.  The new sensor and the excellent state of raw conversion software these days really is rather surprising.  The highest ISO photos I have ever shot are ISO 6400 with the Sony A700, Canon 60D, and Olympus E-M5.  With the fast G16 lens though I doubt if I would hardly ever find any need to go above ISO 1600.

Just to get an idea of how the new BSI 1/1.7" sensor does compared to the 1" sensor in the Sony RX100 and BSI 1" sensor in the Sony RX100III (probably about the same as the Canon G7X) here are a couple of DxO measurement charts.  As you can see, the differences are there, but aren't that large.  By the way, what does DxO mean when they say some of the RX100III data points are smoothed?  It seems that the tech is improved at a faster rate for smaller sensors.


I have no idea if there will be a G17 or what it will be. With the G7X it seems likely that it will have a 1" sensor.  Another possibility that sort of sounds attractive to me is if they just have another incremental improvement of the 1/1.7" sensor and manage to speed up the lens by half a stop.  The G16 has a fov 28-140mm f1.8-2.8, but the G17 could have a fov 28-140mm f1.5-2.4.  I don't know if they could do that, but considering the rather surprising fov 24-100mm f1.8-2.8 for the 1" sensor in the G7X then it seems like it may be possible.  The G7X uses a lot of software correction of the lens so that is another thing that the smaller 1/1.7" sensor might need less of.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Over 10,000 35mm slides and negatives scanned!

This is part 2.  Part 1 is here:

Scanning Torture (or Learning to Love Your Digital Camera)

This morning I am about to pack up the film scanner after 3.5 months of concentrated, tedious work.  I am still shaking my head in sort of disbelief that I actually did all of this. :-)

I scanned 6729 35mm slides and negatives during this 3.5 months and that is in addition to the approximately 3500 that I scanned from 1998 to this year.  Over 10,000 in total.  Unless I find another cache of my old photos hiding in a box somewhere then I think I won't be doing any more film scanning.  Hurray! :-)   As I said earlier, of these 10,000+ scans I have only prepared about 1600 and that goes back all the way to 1998.  I have about 468gb of raw 16-bit RGBI scan files (each file is 50-84mb).  Since they are raw files they can't be used directly.  Each one must be used as input to Vuescan which then can create a normal tiff file.  I did it this way because it is much faster and flexible to scan to a raw output file instead of each scan creating a more or less ready to work on tiff output file.  It means using lots of disk space though.  A prepared 8-bit compressed tiff file is usually more like 15-20mb.  When I prepare the file I just save it as an 8-bit tiff instead of 16-bit.  In most cases, I think these scanned 35mm slides and negatives don't have enough useful data to warrant 16-bit.  I still have the raw scan files so if I need to I can go back and create a 16-bit tiff file.

This exercise made me realize how from the early 1970s when I got my first SLR until my last roll of film in early 2002 I probably only shot 15,000 frames or less.  On this scanning mission I loosened my criteria for what to scan much more than all the earlier times because I wanted to just be done with it.  I scanned lots and lots of stuff that were just snapshots of old friends and family.  Also, I scanned anything that was sort of documentary and nostalgic from years gone by.  Many of those photos seem quite interesting now whereas 30 or 40 years ago they were just rather ordinary photos.  I also discovered many very good photos that for some reason I had overlooked or chose not to scan on earlier scan sessions.  In the last ~13 years of using digital I have shot about 58,000 photos.  What a difference compared to the ~15,000 in the previous ~30 years.

After all this scanning work it would be horrifying to lose the files so I have backed up the 468gb to a 3tb external hard disk, a 2tb portable external hard disk, a 1.5tb portable external hard disk, and another 1.5tb portable external hard disk. :-) I also tried to back it up to a 500gb portable external hard disk, but it turns out that the disk capacity is only 465gb for use so it wouldn't all fit.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Scanning Torture (or Learning to Love Your Digital Camera)

Over the last 3 months I have been scanning a bunch more of my old 35mm slides and negatives using my Minolta Dimage Scan Elite F-2900 film scanner and Vuescan scanning software. It produces a 10mp image. From 1998 until a few months ago I had little by little scanned about 3500 slides/negatives. During the last 3 months of concentrated effort I have scanned an additional 6400+. I expect to do a few more over the coming weeks so the total from when I first started in about 1998 will be about 10,000. If you don't have a lot of experience scanning film (nothing like scanning prints) then you probably don't really know how much work it is to do the scan and then do all the preparation of the resulting file. The second part that is the preparation of the scan file is mostly left to be done. Out of the close to 10,000 scans I have done over the years I have only prepared about 1600.

In my experience the order of satisfying scans are, best to worst:

1. B&W negatives
2. Color slides
3. Color negatives

The most satisfying scans are of B&W negatives. You don't get the benefit of the automatic dust/scratch fixer that uses the infrared channel with B&W film though so they are a lot of work to fix up, but you don't have to be concerned about color. Getting very good color from a scan, especially a color negative scan, is difficult. Also, with B&W negatives you usually don't get the muddy/ugly/blotchy shadow areas that you often get with color negatives. Kodachrome slide scans are worse than scans of E-6 slides (Fujichrome, Ektachrome) and you can't use the infrared channel to get automatic fixing of dust/scratches. Color negatives are the worst. The dark areas are often muddy/ugly/blotchy and the whole image is grainier, but not good looking sharp grain like with B&W negatives. It is a blotchy, ugly grain with color negatives. The film base color (depending on film it is various shades of orange or pink) makes getting good color a real chore. Even when selecting the proper film type in Vuescan the result is not usually as good as with color slide scans. And even color slide scans often don't have color that is as good as the actual slide. By the way, I have a few C-41 B&W negatives (Ilford XP2) and they also don't scan so great. No color issues, but the grain is like the color negatives and the shadows are muddy/blotchy.

Back during the late 1990s there were people on the internet claiming that color negative film scanned much better than color slide film. I don't recall all that was claimed, but I think it had to do with lower Dmax or something like that.  I started shooting more color print film then because I expected that I would want to scan it later. I sure regret that. I suppose that is what you get when you listen to the internet "experts" who think they know the theory without having real experience. :-) This is the film I have been scanning:

B&W negatives:
Kodak Plus-X ASA 125
Kodak Tri-X ASA 400
Fuji Neopan 400 ASA 400
Ilford XP2 ASA 400 (C-41 process)

Color slides:
Kodachrome II ASA 25
Kodachrome X ASA 64
Kodachrome 25 ASA 25
Kodachrome 64 ASA 64
Kodachrome 200 ASA 200
Ektachrome X ASA 64
High Speed Ektachrome ASA 160
Ektachrome Elite 100 ASA 100
Ektachrome Elite 400 ASA 400
Fujichrome Velvia ASA 50
Fujichrome 100 ASA 100
Fujichrome 400 ASA 400
Fujichrome Sensia 100 ASA 100
Fujichrome Sensia 400 ASA 400
GAF 500 ASA 500 (I used only one roll of this for some indoor photos during Christmas 1974)

Color negatives:
various Kodak, Fuji, and Agfa films ranging from ASA 80 to 400

Okay, after all of the above I will finally get to my main point. :-) The quality of the raw files from the 10mp tiny sensor in my Canon S95 are so much better in every way. Although some may say the dynamic range is less, maybe a lot less, than color negative film I have found that in practical terms it is much better. As long as you are scanning to convert the analog film to a digital file then the result, in my experience, is less usable dynamic range than what I can get by shooting in raw with a tiny sensor digital. I can shoot for the highlights and bring up the shadows with the digital and still get better results than scanning color negatives. The color is also so much better it isn't even worth comparing. The noise/grain is also so much better it isn't worth comparing. The S95 at ISO 1600 or 3200 is probably better than scanning ASA 100 color negative film. Actually, even jpegs are better too. Another actually: my old 5mp Minolta D7i is better. I would much rather have a 5mp jpeg from the D7i than a 10mp scan of a color negative (also a color slide). Oh, the 10mp file from the scanner probably has no more than 5mp of real, useful data in it for most color negative scans since they are pretty noisy/grainy. The Scan Elite is a pretty good film scanner (cost me $1085 several years ago) and Vuescan gets even more out of it. I always scan using multi-sampling to reduce noise a bit more. A different scanner in some cases might be marginally better, but not much. It is just the limitations of converting analog film to digital.

This post isn't meant as a complaint. It is just meant to remind us how much better digital is than 35mm film converted to digital. Not just a bit better, a whole lot better. Even a digicam is so much better. (Of course, a digicam's handling isn't anywhere near as good as a nice 35mm SLR and you have less control of dof, but those aren't the things I am talking about.)

I use Vuescan to create RGBI 64-bit raw scan files.  The result is a 10mp raw file (4000x2688 pixels) that is about 84mb uncompressed.  I did a bunch of scans before I realized that I had forgotten to select the compress raw option.  With raw file compression the file sizes are generally 50-60mb.  I have about 420gb of raw scan files right now.  Someday, little by little, I will run Vuescan again using the raw file as input and create an output tiff file.  Then use Photoshop to work on, clean up, etc. and finally import it into Lightroom. This is something that will take years, but can be done without access to the slides/negatives or scanner -- I can do it anywhere.  It is a lot of work and is not interesting to do at all.  I have done that for about 1600 of the files so far and have imported them into Lightroom.  I have close to 10,000 raw scan files and I doubt if I will ever prepare all of them, but whenever I have nothing to do I can do a few more.

The actual scanning time when using a dedicated film scanner is the trivial part.  The preparation for scanning (getting everything together, examining them with a 10x loupe on a lightbox, trying to determine whether I already have scanned this image years ago, selecting, taking negatives out of the plastic pages, cleaning, inserting in the holder, trying to get them properly lined up in the holder, scanning, and then taking out of the holder, putting the strip back in the page, etc.) is what takes so much time.  The easiest to scan though are color slides by a very wide margin.  Dealing with strips of negatives is a real pain in the butt.  Some are curled a bit so hard to get properly lined up in the holder and also even if you want to scan only one you have to load all of the frames in the strip. Selecting film to scan using the loupe and lightbox is much easier with slides than negatives too.

Happy New Year and Best Wishes for 2014!

Over 10,000 35mm slides and negatives scanned! -- Part 2

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bali, Indonesia

I have been wanting to go to Bali, Indonesia for years and recently since I found myself with some free time here in Japan I decided to just get up and go.  It was a good trip.  Here is a short trip report:

I have created a new Bali, Indonesia photo gallery on my website so please take a look if you are interested:

Friday, April 19, 2013

Canon G15 vs. Canon G1X

I just checked on DxO comparing the G15 and G1X (large sensor):

G1X:  about 2 stops better than G15 for noise and at higher ISOs about 1 2/3 stops better for dynamic range, but at lower ISOs the dynamic range is the same and at the lowest ISO the G15 is better

The G15 has a fast 28-140mm f1.8-2.8 and the G1X has a slow 28-112mm f2.8-5.8, so at the wide end the G15 is 1 1/3 stops faster and at the long end it is 2 1/6 stops faster.  In other words, especially as you start using the longer end of the zoom range the G15 will be using ISOs that are 2 stops lower than the G1X.  So, compare G15 ISO 200 to G1X ISO 800, G15 ISO 400 to G1X ISO 1600, etc.

The G1X is much bigger and heavier so for my uses of the camera it was not really in the running.  It was interesting to take a look at the G15 vs. G1X results on DxO though.  That G15 fast lens really makes a huge difference.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Canon G15: Some thoughts on my new camera

For the last 1.5 years I have been using a Canon S95 with it's 28-105mm f2-4.9 lens and it has been pretty good as a carry everywhere camera, but I really missed not having a VF for use sometimes.  Before the S95 I used a Canon A590IS, A540, and A70 as my carry everywhere cameras.  Back when I bought the S95 I looked for digicams that had a VF, but there were very few.  The G12 had one, but it was too big/heavy and the lens was slow.  The S95 is small and has a faster lens, but no VF.
Last week in Osaka I had the chance to look at a Canon G15 several times and then on Friday I ordered one on Amazon Japan.  It arrived on Saturday, less than 23 hours after I ordered it -- and this was with the free shipping option.  Here are a few of the improvements of the G15 compared to the previous model, the G12, that caught my eye:

1.  Smaller size and lower weight.
2.  New 12.1mp sensor with better noise and better dynamic range than the G12's 10mp sensor.
3.  A 28-140mm f1.8-2.8 lens replaces the G12's 28-140mm f2.8-4.5 lens.
4.  A 3" 922,000 pixel LCD replaces the G12's 2.8" 461,000 pixel LCD.
5.  The OVF is a bit better.  I think Canon claims 85% coverage now and the G12 was a bit less.
6.  Faster AF and faster operation.

The G15 noise and dynamic range is better than the G12 so that is a nice improvement and that along with the much faster lens helps the IQ a lot since lower ISOs are used.

The G12 had an articulating LCD, but the G15 does not.  I am rather happy about this change because I rarely use the tilt/swivel LCD of my other cameras and for a carry everywhere camera I value the size/weight savings much more than the tilt/swivel convenience for the rare times I would use it on this sort of camera.

It is the better sensor mated with a much faster lens that really got my attention since I wondered how it would compare to a larger sensor camera mated with similar effective focal length zoom lenses.  Before buying I investigated on DxO by comparing the G15 sensor to the Canon G12, Sony RX100, Sony A700, Sony A100, Canon 50D, Canon 40D, Nikon D300/D300s, and Canon 5D.  I chose these DSLRs to compare to because they all have bigger sensors and similar megapixels.  Also, just a few years ago I would have been thrilled for a digicam that could get close to those cameras.  I have owned the Sony A700, Sony A100, Canon 60D, Canon 30D, Canon 300D, and KM 7D.  Currently I am using an Olympus E-M5 and Panasonic G3.

I discovered that the noise and dynamic range of the G15 is better than the G12 (as claimed).  Here are the other results:

Sony RX100:  about 1 1/3 stops better than G15 for noise and dynamic range
Sony A100:  about 1 1/2 stops better than G15 for noise and worse for dynamic range
Canon 50D/40D:  about 2 stops better than G15 for noise and dynamic range
Sony A700:  about 2 stops better than G15 for noise and 1 stop for dynamic range
Nikon D300/D300s:  about 2 stops better than G15 for noise and 1 stop for dynamic range
Canon 5D:  about 3 stops better than G15 for noise and dynamic range

Okay, with all of that info then consider the following cameras/lenses:

Sony RX100 + 28-100mm f1.8-4.9
Canon 50D/40D + Canon 17-85mm f3.5-5.6 IS
Sony A700/A100 + Sony 18-70mm f3.5-5.6 or Sigma 18-125mm f3.5-5.6
Nikon D300/D300s + Nikon 18-105mm f3.5-5.6 VR
Canon 5D + Canon 28-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS

The G15's 28-140mm f1.8-2.8 lens at 100mm is probably about f2.5 or f2.8, so about 1 2/3 to 2 stops faster than the RX100 and the G15 noise and dynamic range is only about 1 1/3 stops worse.

The G15's 28-140mm f1.8-2.8 lens is 2 stops faster than the Canon 17-85mm, Sony 18-70mm/Sigma 18-125mm, and Nikon 18-105mm lenses and the G15 noise and dynamic range is also about 2 stops worse than the A700/50D/40D.

The G15's 28-140mm f1.8-2.8 lens is 2 stops faster than the Canon 28-135mm lens and the G15 noise and dynamic range is about 3 stops worse than the 5D.

The point of all of this is that it is pretty impressive that the combination of the new 12.1mp sensor plus the new, fast lens tests similar to the A700/50D/40D with similar focal length lenses.  Of course, I am not saying that the G15 will get exactly the same results as a A700/50D/40D.  Also, the G15 is a very different type of camera.  I just thought these comparisons were interesting.  I also looked at the dpreview raw comparison with various cameras and it seemed to show pretty much what DxO shows.
As an example, the G15 with its fast lens can use ISO 400 when the Canon 40D/50D, Nikon D300/D300s, and Sony A700 must use ISO 1600 and so on.

For a carry everywhere camera when I am out and about going through normal life I want something that is all self-contained (lens, flash, lens cover) and that is small and flat enough that I can put it in a jacket pocket or cargo shorts pocket.  The G15 is small enough, but it is rather heavy so I will have to see whether that heavy lump in a pocket works out okay.  At the moment I have the neck strap on it and have been carrying it around that way hanging from my neck.  I don't like that for normal life though.

By the way, a word about the OVF.  This isn't a TTL viewfinder so it isn't possible to have a 100% or close to 100% view.  For that you will need a high end DSLR or you can use the G15's LCD which does have a 100% view.  The G15's OVF is sufficient for my purposes since it always shows a bit more than you will get rather than less than you will get.  If they tried for something close to 100% then the parallax alone would cause the view to be a bit wrong much of the time and the cost of such an OVF would probably be very high.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Nepal photos online

I have created a new Nepal photo gallery on my website so please take a look if you are interested:

I traveled in Nepal for a month in November/December, but it has taken me a bit of time to get some of my photos ready because I bought a new computer and then there was Christmas and New Years. It was my first time to go to Nepal so it was cool to see many new places, meet some new people, and take photographs in a new place!

In Nepal I went to Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur, Nuwakot, Bandipur, Pokhara, Sauraha, and Chitwan National Park. I spent 2 weeks traveling with 5 people from Australia and Scotland and 2.5 weeks on my own. They were a great group of people!

Among other things, we went on a 2-day, 1-night whitewater rafting trip on the Seti River in Nepal and at night we set up tents next to the river and spent the night. In the deep, black sky the stars were glorious! I had planned to go on a trek somewhere for about a week, but then I got quite sick for 10 days, lost lots of weight, and even after I finally started feeling better I was weak so I ended up not doing any trekking. I did go on a couple of 7 hour hikes (one in the hills outside Bandipur to a little village called Ramkot and one at Chitwan National Park through the jungle). Even though I was sick for 10 days (even during the rafting trip) I still did a lot and didn't sit around in a hotel room somewhere. I didn't want to miss anything. I just didn't enjoy it as much as I would have if I had been well. For example, in Pokhara before sunrise we climbed to the top of Sarangkot to watch the sunrise and the first rays hitting the Annapurna range of the Himalayas. Beautiful!

Here is a panorama of the Annapurna Range of the Himalaya Mountains at sunrise in Nepal taken from the top of Sarangkot:

I ended up spending more time in Kathmandu than I had expected because I was recovering from illness. Also, the airline canceled my flight home so I had to stay an additional 3 days until another flight from Kathmandu to Kunming to Shanghai to Honolulu was available. The extra time in Kathmandu gave me the chance to do more street life photography there though!

This is what I took with me:

Olympus E-M5 + 3 batteries + charger
Panasonic G3 + battery + charger (backup body)
Olympus 14-150mm f4-5.6 + UV filter + polarizer filter + lens hood
Olympus 9-18mm f4-5.6 + UV filter + lens hood
Panasonic 14mm f2.5 + UV filter + lens hood
Panasonic 20mm f1.7 + UV filter
Olympus FL-300R flash + 2 nimh AAA batteries
Canon S95 digicam + battery + charger

Friday, January 4, 2013

Olympus OM-D E-M5 very slow wakeup

I use an Olympus OM-D E-M5 for street stuff and it is pretty good, but there is one thing that really, really annoys me about it.

The E-M5 is slow, much slower than a DSLR, to wake-up from sleep or when you turn it on. In my street photography I sometimes miss shots because the camera is waking up very leisurely. When possible I do my best to anticipate when I might want to take a shot and start the wake-up process, but sometimes things happen very quickly and by the time the camera is finally ready the moment has passed. In most ways the E-M5 is fast and very responsive, like a DSLR, but in this area it is like a digicam. Even if a DSLR was as slow as the E-M5 it would still have an advantage because while you are waiting for the camera to be ready to shoot you could still look through the OVF, do quick framing, adjust zoom, and then shoot as soon as the camera is ready. With the E-M5 you can't even do the quick framing and adjust zoom while you are waiting and waiting and waiting for the camera to wake-up.

Since the E-M5 does not have an OVF it uses battery power pretty fast.  If you set it to never sleep then the camera is ready all the time, but the battery will run down fast.  Also, the sensor and EVF will be on all the time even during the long periods when you are walking around watching for a potential shot.  The sensor will be heating up and getting noisier.

I just got back from a month in Nepal and there were a few times when I almost threw my E-M5 against a brick wall when I missed a sudden photo opportunity while the camera took its sweet time waking up.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Annapurna Range of the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal

I spent a month in Nepal and got back earlier this month.  Interesting trip!

I am busy working through my Nepal photos in Lightoom. I made a first cut and now I am preparing those for my website. When that is done I will make another cut and then after that another one. Usually I have 3 cuts and then sometimes after that I remove a few more or add one or two. Anyway, I have the same dilemma I always have. I put them on my website to serve two purposes that sometimes overlap, but sometimes diverge. I want to put the photos I like the best while at the same time try to put photos that are fairly representative of most of the places I went and saw in the particular country.

I recall in 1993 when I got back from 10 weeks on a camping safari in Africa my manager at work asked me to put on a slide show for people in the department and give a talk. Sounded sort of fun. He and his wife had a small wedding photography business on the side so he knew something about photography. Several days later he stopped by my office and asked me how it was going. I had decided to limit it to one slide tray so maybe people wouldn't get too bored, but I was having a bit of a problem going through all the slides and deciding what to include. Without even thinking about it he told me that, of course, I should pick the "best" photos. The trip was 10 weeks going through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, and Kenya. Saw many things, went many places, met many people, saw all kinds of animals. I asked him that if it turned out that I decided that out of all the photos I took the best 140 slides were all of one elephant taken over a period of 30 minutes in Botswana should I fill the slide tray with those photos and ignore every other place, thing, animal, and person I photographed. He turned on a dime and said no I shouldn't choose the best photos, but choose a good selection that represented all or most of the trip. lol Of course, I was exactly where I was before he tried to "help" me. lol

This is a panorama of the Annapurna Range of the Himalaya Mountains at sunrise in Nepal taken from the top of Sarangkot.

Here is a larger version of the panorama:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

B&W People

I have created another B&W photo album of people photos and this one is named B&W People. If you feel like taking a look then you can see it here:

The photos are from various places: Italy, Greece, Thailand, Austria, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Jordan, Cambodia, Israel, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Laos, Ecuador, Kenya, Malawi, France, England, Morocco, Netherlands, Germany, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and the U.S.A. (Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, California). Hope I didn't forget any. lol

Friday, October 26, 2012

I will use m4/3 in Nepal

I will soon find out how well the m4/3 gear works for travel.  A couple of days ago I bought plane tickets to go to Nepal for a month and will leave on 11/6.  I hope the new gear meets expectations.  To get an idea of the size difference take a look at these 2 travel camera bags:

The small one on the left is the one that I expect to take with me to Nepal and the one on the right is the one I have been using for the last few years for several trips (Egypt, Guatemala, Vietnam, Mexico, etc.).  Several years ago it took me awhile of looking around for a camera bag that had sufficient interior space while not being overly big on the outside.  Most camera bags have way too much thick padding that I don't need for my uses that causes the bags to be very bulky.  I just want something that has a bit of padding and interior dividers to prevent lenses and bodies from knocking together.  Actually, I would like something more like that bag, but smaller, for my m4/3 travel bag but I haven't found one.  The one I have will work though.  It is the bag I bought in 2002 to use with my Minolta D7i.

I put the following in the bigger bag when I took it on travels:

Sony A700 + 2 batteries + charger
Sony 18-250mm f3.5-6.3 + UV filter + polarizer filter + lens hood
Sony 11-18mm f4.5-5.6 + UV filter + lens hood
Sigma 24mm f2.8 + UV filter + lens hood
Minolta 50mm f1.7 + UV filter
Sony F36AM flash + 4 AA nimh batteries
several CF memory cards
several SD memory cards
lens cleaning kit

I also carried the following separate from the camera bag:

Sony A100 + battery (backup body)
Canon A590IS digicam + 2 AA nimh batteries
AA nimh battery charger

This is what I expect to put in the bag for Nepal:

Olympus E-M5 + 3 batteries + charger
Olympus 14-150mm f4-5.6 + UV filter + polarizer filter + lens hood
Olympus 9-18mm f4-5.6 + UV filter + lens hood
Panasonic 14mm f2.5 + UV filter + lens hood
Panasonic 20mm f1.7 + UV filter
Olympus FL-300R flash + 2 nimh AAA batteries
several SD memory cards
lens cleaning kit

I will also carry the following separate from the camera bag:

Panasonic G3 + battery + charger (backup body)
Canon S95 digicam + battery + charger

You can see the size difference.  I would estimate that the new gear is about 1/3 the weight.  Of course, I don't carry the camera bag around with me when I am out and about.  I just carry a subset of the stuff with me.  This is also where the smaller/lighter gear will be nice since that subset of gear I have with me almost all the time.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

B&W West Papua New Guinea photos

I have created a new B&W photo album of some of my photos from West Papua New Guinea that I took when I was trekking there in 1995. Please take a look if you are interested.

By the way, I have a trip report that I wrote in 1995 right after getting home from this most amazing trip:

Digital is cheap compared to film

Not including various digicams, these are the digital cameras I have owned since 2002 (camera: buy date buy price, sell date sell price):

Minolta D7i: 2002/5 $1000, 2004/4 $400
Canon 300D: 2003/10 $900, 2006/5 $400 (should have sold it earlier for more money, but KM 7D was a lemon so kept this one too)
KM 7D: 2005/2 $1500, 2006/9 $1500 (2 KM 7D bodies, 1st an unfixable lemon, KM replaced, 2nd also an unfixable lemon, Sony finally gave me full refund)
Canon 30D: 2006/9 $1180, 2008/7 $650
Sony A100: 2007/1 $640, not sold, maybe unsellable?
Sony A700: 2008/2 $1230, not sold, maybe unsellable?
Canon 60D: 2010/11 $930, 2012/7 $670
Panasonic G3: 2012/4
Olympus E-M5: 2012/5

Except for KM and Sony my experience is that digital cameras are very cheap compared to film cameras. I buy them, use them, and then sell them. All my photos are pretty much free. I recall that in 1993 on a trip I used 100 rolls of 36-exposure slide film and the film + processing + taxes was about $1500 ($2392 in 2012 dollars). Also, think about how big/heavy 100 rolls of film is compared to a couple of SD cards!

Keeping all these digital files safe requires some effort and somehow I have lost a couple of dozen photos that I have taken since 2000, but most I still have. After I die though they will probably all disappear. Or maybe much earlier if I don't keep up with transferring them to new media. Oh well.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

B&W Japan

I have made a new photo album called B&W Japan that has some of my black & white photos of Japan from 1985 to 2012. Please take a look if your are interested:

I have lived in Japan several times over the years and also have traveled there many times.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

B&W Hawaii

I have made a new photo album called B&W Hawaii. The photos are larger than the ones in my other albums. I used LR 4.1 to process all of them and that is very nice because I can easily go back and make a slight tweak or undo something and also I can export a new version of a different size.

I used a new version of the JAlbum Chameleon skin. For those of you who are not familiar with JAlbum it is a photo album generator. There are many skins you can select and the skins usually have many configuration options. I am using an older version of JAlbum so not the current version. The Chameleon skin has a ton of configuration options and you can change the color schemes also. The new version of the skin has a few nice features.

By the way, I again decided not to use Flash.  JAlbum has some Flash skins and I also looked at the album creation function of LR 4.1.  I didn't much like them.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Catching Flies

In Honolulu at the Barnes & Noble bookstore this man fell asleep in the afternoon. He performs a service in return for having a free place to sleep: he catches flies in his mouth. The employees and other customers thank him. :-)

Pooped Japanese

Pooped Japanese in a hotel lobby. They probably arrived in the morning and the jet lag means they ran out of steam in the afternoon so sack out in the lobby. :-) I see this *every* day. :-)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Big Wave

At Waikiki a few days ago.

Watching for the Big Wave

Bracing for the Big Wave

The Big Wave

Aftermath of the Big Wave

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Boys on the beach in Waikiki

Photos from yesterday afternoon at the beach in Waikiki.  The Joy of Childhood. :-)

Adjust Olympus OM-D E-M5 jpeg settings to get better EVF

One big problem with an EVF is that the dynamic range is inadequate so in contrasty situations you will often get blocked up shadows and/or blown out highlights so you can't see the whole scene.  If you shoot raw there are things that can be done to improve the situation a lot though.  I have made several adjustments to the jpeg settings of my E-M5 (since I don't care about jpegs) so that the EVF display will have more dynamic range.  I have my E-M5 set to the following:

1. Picture Style set to Portrait.
2. Contrast set to minimum.
3. Saturation set to minimum.
4. Gradation set to Auto.

Something else I do with my Olympus E-M5 is use the Gradation control. The Gradation control is a curves tool that has 4 settings: Low Key, High Key, Normal, and Auto. Setting it to Low Key further reduces contrast. This is what it says in the manual about the Auto setting:

Divides the image into detailed regions and adjusts the brightness separately for each region. This is effective for images with areas of large contrast in which the whites appear too bright or the blacks appear too dark.

Rather than use the Low Key setting I have mine set to Auto.

I also set Saturation to the minimum. This helps a tiny bit in reducing blowouts in the EVF and also makes the histogram and highlight/shadows blinkies a bit more accurate reflection of what is in the raw file.

Since I shoot raw I don't care what the settings do to a jpeg, I just want the EVF to be as useful as possible.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

More about the Olympus OM-D E-M5

People that know me know that for years I have valued smaller/lighter as long as I didn't have to give up much with regards to flexibility and performance (the kinds of performance that I care about, not the types such as FPS that I don't). When I travel I want to keep things reasonably light and small since I spend lots of time each day walking around, often in hot and humid places, and also must keep gear security in mind. At one time I had hoped the NEX 7 might fit the bill, but the more I looked at it and read about it the more I realized that for my uses it was not the one for me. Then the Olympus OM-D E-M5 was announced and even though I was not at all taken by the retro looks the specs looked very interesting. In April I bought a Panasonic Lumix G3 in Tokyo along with 2 lenses to try out m4/3 and then in May I bought the E-M5, 4 more lenses, a flash (ordered the flash in May and still waiting for delivery :( ), several filters, a Minolta MC/MD lens adapter for my old Minolta MC 50mm f1.4, and an A-mount adapter for my old Sigma 90mm f2.8 macro. This is what I have now:

Olympus E-M5 body
Panasonic G3 body
Olympus 14-150mm f4-5.6
Olympus 9-18mm f4-5.6
Panasonic 20mm f1.7
Panasonic 14mm f2.5
Panasonic 45-200mm f4-5.6
Panasonic 14-42mm f3.5-5.6

Although the ergonomics, particularly for me using my left eye, are not ideal and could be improved, other aspects of the camera and system were so attractive that I decided to get the new gear. After a few weeks of light use so far I am coming to terms with the ergonomics and I hope that they will not interfere when I need to shoot fast. I decided against the 2-part extra grip ($300) because although the top part helps some aspects of the ergonomics it actually hurts a bit one other aspect. It also adds size/weight/cost.

Here is an example of my backpack travel camera kit for several trips and it is typical (this is what I used in Egypt for a month in 2009):

Sony A700 + 2 batteries + charger
Sony A100 + battery (backup body)
Sony 18-250mm f3.5-6.3 + UV filter + polarizer filter + lens hood
Sony 11-18mm f4.5-5.6 + UV filter + lens hood
Sigma 24mm f2.8 + UV filter + lens hood
Minolta 50mm f1.7 + UV filter
Sony F36AM flash + 4 AA nimh batteries
Canon A590IS digicam + 2 AA nimh batteries
AA nimh battery charger
several CF and SD memory cards
lens cleaning kit
card reader
netbook + 500gb ehd

This is what I expect to use on my next trip:

Olympus E-M5 + battery + charger
Panasonic G3 + battery + charger (backup body)
Olympus 14-150mm f4-5.6 + UV filter + polarizer filter + lens hood
Olympus 9-18mm f4-5.6 + UV filter + lens hood
Panasonic 14mm f2.5 + UV filter + lens hood
Panasonic 20mm f1.7 + UV filter
Olympus FL-300R flash + 2 nimh AA batteries
Canon S95 digicam + battery + charger
AA nimh battery charger
several SD memory cards
lens cleaning kit
netbook + 500gb ehd

The size/weight is unbelievably less!

The EVF is pretty good. To improve the DR I set it to portrait mode and minimum contrast. When I look at a contrasty scene I can see quite a large difference using these settings compared to using the default settings. I shoot raw so I don't care about the jpeg settings. On dpreview several people who own both the E-M5 and NEX 7 have reported that they prefer the E-M5 EVF. I have never compared the 2 side-by-side so I can't really comment about that.

The IBIS seems to work very well.

I have been impressed by the IQ. Not what I would have expected from m4/3. Down near the bottom in the Output Quality section there is a table that shows the quality of various print sizes/ISOs for the E-M5, Nikon D7000, Canon 7D, etc. The E-M5 matches those two cameras:

I have my fingers crossed that all this new gear will work out okay for my travel. If it does then I really hope that Olympus (or Panasonic) comes out with a new m4/3 body later that has all the good stuff I like, but with better ergonomics.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 poor ergonomics

I have had the E-M5 for a bit over 3 weeks and after using it my overall conclusion is the same as it was when I first examined it in Tokyo on 3/31. So many wonderful points, I really like the size/weight of the lenses/camera compared to all the DSLRs/FSLRs I have been using for many years, quite happy with the IQ, S-AF is fast and accurate, but the ergonomics are rather poor compared to what could have been done even without making the camera larger. Olympus chose to make it look like a very small 40 year old film SLR and then shrunk that to make it even smaller and added a tilt rear screen and lots of controls that the larger film SLR didn't have. The NEX 7 is as small or smaller, but has a larger sensor, tilt screen, and builtin flash yet the controls, grip, and EVF are in better positions and are not so small. I am not saying the NEX 7 ergonomics are ideal, but it shows how much better Olympus could do while keeping the size the same. The following is a post I made 2.5 months ago on a forum. I was in Japan for 6 months and in Tokyo at that time for a few months so I had many opportunities to handle the E-M5.


I am almost reluctant to post this because I know from my years on dpreview that there are always some people who think anything that is not a glowing opinion of the product/company that they happen to currently like is an assault on their manhood, worth as a human being, ethics, morals, religion, mother, wife, or child. :) I have something about the E-M5 that I am not too happy about, but please be assured that this is not meant as a personal insult to any of you. We are just talking about an inanimate object, a tool, albeit one that most of us have some interest in. Let's please all try to remember that. :)

After trying out the E-M5 yesterday and discovering that the ergonomics were less than I had hoped for, particularly since I use my left eye, I decided to go back to Shinjuku today to try it again. I spent a fair amount of time holding it and checking to see how it felt with it up to my eye and using the control dials, tiny top buttons, and the 2 tiny rear buttons at the top while my eye was to the EVF. Hmmm, I guess I will say that it is barely acceptable. Of course, in other ways the E-M5 is the sort of camera with the small lenses that I have really been hoping for so that influences my evaluation. Oh, and I don't have large hands (not small either). If I didn't want something like this so much I might put it on the other side of the acceptability line.

As it is, barring anything important that comes up in reviews or user reports I am still thinking I will get one later. The feel of it in my hand and the usability of controls while up to my eye though is definitely the biggest negative point. One might say that one must expect compromised ergonomics in such a small body (it is small), but that ignores the fact that the Panasonic G3 is as small and it feels better to me and the NEX 7 is smaller and it is wonderful. Of the MILCs that have a built-in EVF I would personally rate the feel and access to my most used controls while looking through the EVF with my left eye in this order:

1. NEX 7, Panasonic Lumix GH2
2. Panasonic Lumix G3
3. Nikon V1
4. Olympus E-M5

Using my right eye I would rate them in the same order. The GH2 is bigger and heavier than the NEX 7 so it isn't really fair to also put it in the #1 spot since it has the advantage of the bigger body for controls.

The E-M5 ergonomics suffer a lot because Olympus tried so hard to make it look retro and look like the old OM-1 film SLR. Yes, I know that many people like this look. Actually, Olympus made it smaller/lighter than the OM-1:

OM-1: 510g, 136 x 83 x 50mm
E-M5: 425g, 122 x 89 x 43mm
NEX 7: 353g, 120 x 67 x 43mm

Then with that reduced size they added all the controls that digital cameras need, but film cameras didn't (LCD, control wheels, buttons). And since they wanted it to look as much as possible like a smaller version of the OM-1 they put the EVF directly above the lens and in the center of the body so that it looked like an old pentaprism OVF. Well, once they put the EVF there in the center rather than offset then that meant they had even less space to cram all the controls. Definitely a form over function design. It has the retro look and that is clearly important and a selling point for many people. No disagreement from me there. Olympus, like all companies, makes products in order to sell them and they are probably right that this compromised, retro design will sell well and maybe better than a less compromised, modern design. I can't fault them for that. All I can do is offer my subjective opinion that they went too far trying to do it all: smaller than OM-1, more controls crammed onto the smaller camera than the OM-1, and putting that big EVF hump right in the middle so that there was even less space for the controls. Oh well, it is what it is.

Although there are reasons why I am not interested in the NEX 7 (big lenses, few lenses, no IBIS, slower AF) I couldn't help but be so impressed holding it right after the E-M5. Smaller size and lighter weight, but the hand hold is great, the EVF is over on the left so that it works well for people using the right eye and for people using their left eye, controls on the right side are not so cramped and small and since people who use their left eye have their face moved over to use the EVF there is no problem with using those controls. Sony still manages to get a bigger sensor (1.5x), a tilt LCD, an EVF, and a flash into the smaller/lighter body. Something more like this body with the E-M5 sensor, IBIS, and m4/3 mount would be fantastic, IMO. Even if the E-M5 EVF hump was moved to the left (even just 5mm would help) it would give more space for the controls, more space for your face, and more space for your thumb. If they did that then make the hump smaller and smooth too like the V1 since the camera would no longer look like an old OM-1 anyway. Sounds like a nice Olympus additional body. :)

By the way, I also tried using my forefinger instead of my thumb to work the rear control dial. You can do it, but then you have to take your finger off the shutter button. That is fine for many people and many types of photography. For me though it would mean missed shots. I often find myself making a quick adjustment using my thumb while at the same time my finger is ready to press the shutter release. For many people who use their left eye though using the index finger will help. Using the thumb isn't impossible though, just sort of uncomfortable and cramped.

I recommend that anyone who has any doubts at all about the ergonomics that you spend time holding it and using it before buying. Some people will be fine with it, but for some they will think Olympus just went too far.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jamestown Settlement

A blacksmith at Jamestown Settlement.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Colonial Williamsburg

For the last 6 days we have been in Williamsburg, Virginia so I was able to visit Colonial Williamsburg (original capital of Virginia founded in 1632), Jamestown (first English settlement in the New World in 1607), and Yorktown (where the last major battle of the Revolutionary War occurred and English General Lord Cornwallis surrendered to American General George Washington and French General Comte de Rochambeau). Here is a young woman cooking in a traditional Colonial era farm kitchen.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

We visited Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, Virginia today while on our road trip. For those who don't know American history this small country community was where the Civil War (aka War Between the States) ended in 1865.  Union General Ulysses S. Grant accepted the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee here inside the McLean house.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sunrise over Michigan

Photos out my airplane window over Michigan early Monday morning.  This was on my long flight from Tokyo to Detroit.  Had a 2-hour layover and then flew to Austin.

Just before sunrise:
 After sunrise and flying low over Detroit:
 You can tell from my seat position that I wasn't in first class. lol

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Glad I didn't make photography a career

The only time I ever gave photography as a career much thought was when I was in high school in 1975. Within a short time while still in high school though I decided I would keep photography as a hobby since I didn't want to spoil the fun by turning it into a job, I wasn't so interested in dealing with the business side of things, the money didn't look so hot, etc. All I can say is that over the years I more and more realized how smart a kid I was back then. emoticon - smile I am thrilled I kept it as a much loved avocation. For work I decided on something that I enjoyed tremendously, exercised my brain, that opened up many interesting opportunities, and that was much more financially rewarding. That has given me much more freedom to enjoy photography and travel (my other love).

Me with Lani people in West Papua New Guinea in 1995

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tokyo Gate Bridge and Rainbow Bridge

On Saturday with friends I walked across the new Gate Bridge that crosses Tokyo Bay. The bridge opened just in February. It is 1600 meters one way and when we got to the other side we walked back. This is a photo I took before we got on the bridge.
This is a photo of the Rainbow Bridge that also crosses Tokyo Bay. We walked across it from Obaiba on Saturday and I took this photo. I also walked across it in 1996. This bridge opened in 1993. I remember back in the early 1990s when I lived in Tokyo that it was under construction.

Here is a photo I took of the Rainbow Bridge under construction in 1991:

Saturday, May 12, 2012

More People hanging around in Tokyo

Sister and brother all alone in Shinjuku
Big tree growing at a Y-intersection in Bunkyo-ku
There is something about riding the subway that just makes one so sleepy

Thursday, May 10, 2012

People hanging around in Tokyo

Some photos around Ginza a few days ago taken with my Canon S95.

Trying to figure out which ticket to buy at the subway station
Lovely young lady engrossed in her iphone in front of a handbag shop

Dad and son sitting on the curb -- almost surely waiting for Mom
"Oh my, that is so hilarious!  I love friends who can crack me up."
Having a very bad day in Shinjuku
He lives a life of intensity