Olympus OM-D E-M1.1 – the editorial photographer's workhorse

February 15, 2020

I wanted to share my rationale behind my decision to buy the Olympus OM-D E-M1.1 several years ago.

The E-M1 replaced my D300. It has OK video, a tilting touchscreen, wifi, good AF, and is lighter and more compact, so it was more likely to come with me. That of course is offset by the lenses I attach to it but I think it’s well worth the IQ. Combined with fast primes for stage shots/ bar gigs and portraits, meant I have a relatively compact kit.


First of all, I prefer to keep costs down by buying a model after the latest version has been released. That late in the game, there was lots of information available about the strengths/weaknesses of the E-M1 and so I was able to quickly make an informed decision.


Features

I have shot a number of gigs with a wide range of cameras over the years. I am a professional writer and use my camera to illustrate my articles. While the OM-D coped admirably at the time, there is more of a push today to produce videos for social media, so that has to be taken into account when the time comes to upgrade later this year.

But since I moved back to South Africa my needs have changed. Due to the high crime rate, street shooting is not an option and I have switched to becoming more of a travel/wildlife photog.


The E-M1 ticks those boxes.

Handling

I quite like the feel of the Em1 as it is closer in size and weight to the OM2, my first SLR. This was a major influence on my buying decision for a camera that would replace my Nikon D300, the camera that stayed at home. Compared to the X-T1 – which I shot in the store alongside the Em1 – the OMD gives the impression that it was designed for pro use. From the moment I picked it up I was able to take control of the aperture and shutter speed, WB and ISO without taking my eye from the viewfinder; just like the D300. With the X-T1 I had to look away from the EVF to check my settings and change them when necessary. Which is fine for certain types of photography but not for the way I shoot. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of analogue-style controls 


Secondly, I could easily locate the buttons which enhanced the overall handling compared to the XT1 which, had I purchased it, I would have also have bought something like Sugru putty to modify the Fuji’s buttons so I could find them by touch with my eye to the EVF. Which is kinda silly, to say the least. 


The E-M1 also felt good in my hands without an added grip, which is what I needed to make the XT1 comfortable to hold without my pinky finger slipping off the edge. That said, I will be adding a battery grip to the EM1 in the not too distant future.


Battery life

Battery life is important to me. If you run out of power you may as well not be at the gig. I have had a flat spare once (somewhere in the West Bank with no access to power) and never again. So, I fully intend to buy the grip this year with two extra batteries. I will carry the third spare in a zippered pouch of my Kata “Reflex C” strap, making it 4 in total. Kata hailed from Jerusalem, Israel, and was an innovative camera bag manufacturer with many high end products, before being bought by Manfrotto. I also have their R101 backpack, which is unique in design and meets my needs for a compact and rugged bag to take on assignment.


Lenses


This was my third biggest purchase motivator. In my experience as an editorial photographer I only needed a superzoom and one or two fast primes to cover every gig, street demo & conference, hence my lens choices:

  • Olympus 12-100/4
  • PL 15/1.7
  • Sig 56/1.4 

My reasoning was to cover all focal lengths with a high-IQ zoom and only then get fixed focal-lengths for low light and portraiture, rather than the F2.8 zooms, which wouldn’t offset the M43’s poor high-ISO performance by much.


DoF

The smaller APSC sensor has the advantage of a deeper DOF ensuring a higher percentage of in-focus images which is important when shooting reportage/documentary. 

Purim, in Measharim, Jerusalem

October 3, 2015

Residents of the Jerusalem suburb of Measharim, in Israel, are known for their hostility towards strangers; particularly if they are not religious and not modestly dressed. However, on the festival of purim, even Measharim lets its guard down and visitors are welcome, with everyone joining in in the festivities.

\In Measharim on Purim, Jerusalem, Israel

Dancing in the street

In Measharim on Purim, Jerusalem, Israel

A Charedi familiy watches the festival from the comfort of their balcony

In Measharim on Purim, Jerusalem, Israel

We followed the old rabbi (walking away from the camera) as he made his way through the city handing out sweets and blessings to small shildren.

DSC01569

In Measharim on Purim, Jerusalem, Israel

Street portrait

In Measharim on Purim, Jerusalem, Israel

Until next year, farewell and purim sameach

Ode to the Sony NEX-7

October 3, 2015

It’s been a few months since I parted company with my Sony NEX-7, a camera that I had grown to love over the year I owned it. Unfortunately unemployment and the need to pay the rent took precedence and I was forced to sell all my gear. The only reason I still have a Fuji X100 is because the ad I placed generated the least interest.

Sunset, northern Israel border

The N7 became a favourite of mine thanks to it’s great IQ and handling. The battery life too was a plus, even though it came nowhere near to DSLR levels, it sure beat most mirrorless cameras and I never ran out of power when on the street or travelling.

1st shot

During that year I only shot her with a single lens – the original Sigma DN 30/2.8 which proved to be more than adequate perhaps some 80% of the time. The other 20% was an exercise in frustration, and I had many missed images. I’ve since learnt that both the N7 and the Sig were to blame. Not an ideal combo; and perhaps I would have had better luck with the Sony 35mm and maybe even the Zeiss 16-70/4 but – again – due to my lack of work I wasn’t able to invest in new lenses. Also Sony kit is pretty scarce where I live.

Now that I’m on the verge of employment I’m starting to think about some new gear. I wont buy right away; but I can say it will be Sony, have WiFi, use a lens that goes as wide as 24mm, and macro and portrait capabilities would be nice too.

Article: In Search of MY Five-Figure Bicycle

August 24, 2014

In Search of MY Five-Figure Bicycle

http://blogs.bicycling.com/blogs/everydayrider/in-search-of-my-five-figure-bicycle?cid=socBL_20140823_30334526

An interesting read, though it should be said I’m looking more at a four-figure bicycle.

Buying my NEX(t) system, or not?

June 18, 2014

I have found my experiences of travel (primarily) and photography (secondarily) much more fulfilling when i have had fewer things to keep track of. I prefer to focus on my trip — basically I don’t want to let switching lenses and switching bodies and fumbling with bags and gear get in the way of what should really be a transformative, eye-opening experience.

Which, for the main part is the reasoning behind my decision to sell most of my camera gear. 

Replacing my G9 (so far) is the Fuji X20. It has very fast AF, but poor IQ over ISO 100 and a short battery life. Shorter than the G9 which is saying something. Im thinking this needs to be replaced by the Sony RX-100. What else is there?

Replacing the D300 is a far harder task. I used it the other night to shoot the formal shots at a wedding (I was called in to help at the last minute as the photographer was running late). Nothing else would have sufficed.

Mirrorless is the way to go, I guess, but only the OMD (on paper) probably keeps up in terms of AF, overall handling and IQ – with the right glass. Still, that’s another system and that may mean I leave it at home more often than not which is the primary reason to replace the D300. 

I’ve not yet tried the Olympus cameras, but I have examined two other systems:

Panasonic Lumix G3: decent IQ, good AF, EVF, but has a clunky feel, slow operation when using the menus, and a piss-poor battery life. Really bad. 

Sony NEX-7: decent IQ, great handling, easy to shoot one-handed with eye up to the EVF, great battery life, odd and slow AF (perhaps the Sigma 30/2.8 lens I have been using is part of that problem. Dunno.

So what are the deciding factors for me:

Lenses: In terms of lens availability here in Israel, M43 trumps the rest. Sony glass is hard to find so that may be what tips me in favour of M43 systems. 

IQ and autofocus: My feeling is that IQ and AF are covered by the majority of medium-level M43 systems, 

EVF + slim form factor: the jury is still out there

Battery life: the jury is still out there 

Mt Meron in Winter

February 9, 2014

From Tzfat to Tel Aviv

 

 

Tsfat; sunset in the snow

December 15, 2013

Tsfat - Sunset in the snow

Just as the sun went down the lights came on, glowing orange in the snow, bathing Tzfat in a magical kaballah-esque light

Snow comes to Tsfat

December 13, 2013

The Sculpture Garden Museum, Tsfat

DSC_7409_658

Morning Prayer

October 23, 2013

Morning Prayer

Morning Prayer, Tiberius, Sea of Gallilee

 

Grinder

October 13, 2013

Grinder

A favourite apartment block in central Tel Aviv