Jonathan Fleming's Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘gear

Gordy’s Camera Strap: Love it

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Call me weird, but I pretty much never use camera straps. Whether on a photo walk or a paid gig, carrying a point and shoot or my dslr, what’s most often keeping the camera at my side is the death grip I keep on it. I don’t know what it is, but I feel like they just get in my way.

But my goodness do I love this new “Gordy Strap” I just got in the mail for my Fuji x100. It’s a highly-durable, simply-beautiful, hand-made leather strap. This wrist strap that I got is just one of the many different kinds of customizable products available at Gordy’s website. I just might need one for my dslr now. Hmmm.

www.gordyscamerastraps.com

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Images: Nikon D700 | Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G

Written by Jonathan

November 26, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Review: Think Tank Retrospective 5 Camera Bag

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Fuji X100 | 1/125 sec, f/2.2, ISO 2000

The Think Tank Retrospective 5 bag: Photographer tested, Shiba approved.  Ever since I started regularly heading out with smaller, lighter gear like my EPL2, X100, and even Nikon FM, I’ve been yearning for an appropriate bag. I have a “carry everything bag” already,  so what I need here is a bag that will carry just what I need for a particular outing. The requirements were pretty simple: durable, comfortable, portable yet efficient, and most importantly, inconspicuous.

I realized something about the design of this bag while eating dinner at a restaurant over the weekend. A family with baby in tow sat down at the table next to us, and I noticed that the father had a bag that looked just like mine, only a bit bigger and with cartoon designs all over it…and it was filled with diapers. But hey, that’s nothing to be ashamed about! Like a good diaper bag, the Retrospective 5 has a very minimalist but efficient design.

Made of highly durable cotton canvas and available in Pinestone (mine) or Black, you certainly wouldn’t confuse it for a diaper bag, but you wouldn’t necessarily think it was a camera bag either, and that’s what I love most about the Retrospective 5. I carry it around with me everywhere, so the last thing I want is for it to scream “I have thousands of dollars of camera gear in me!” According to Think Tank, the minimalist design was intentional in order to help photographers inconspicuously blend into different environments.


Fuji X100 | 1/480 sec, f/2, ISO 200

Under the main flap there’s a clear pocket for your business card along with a really cool hook-and-loop strip system equipped with what Think Tank calls “sound silencers.” Again, the design of the bag is purposefully minimal and inconspicuous, so how inconspicuous is opening a hook-and-loop strip sealed bag in a quiet environment? Not very.

The image on the left shows one of the hook-and-loop strips in “silent mode.” In this configuration, the flap just falls over the bag instead of attaching at the strip, and hence makes no noise. This is how I leave the bag most of the time. On the far right the strip is active, and noisy. =)


Olympus E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | 1/50 sec, f/1.7, ISO 400

The strap is awesome. The strips of highly grippy rubber (feels like silicone) along the strap’s padding are extremely effective at keeping the  strap from sliding, allowing me to  hang the bag on the edge of my shoulder and move around with confidence while the bag stays put. Thoughtful little details like this add up to make this bag great.

On the left is an included, seam-sealed rain cover. It covers the entire bag with the exception of the straps to protect your gear in the rain. You can see it deployed here.


Fuji X100 | 1/40 sec, f/2, ISO 1000

Even though the Retrospective 5 was designed with rangefinder or micro 4/3 systems in mind, it will still happily carry a big DSLR (though your shoulder may not be quite as happy).  In the bag above is a D700 with Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G mounted (that’s a big chunk of glass), and in the side pocket a Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G, stacked on top of a Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens. There’s still plenty of room to the left of the 50mm, so a bigger lens could definitely take its place. I could mount my 24-120mm f/4 VRII and put it in the bag with my 70-300 VR and have a really wide range in a very small bag.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 35mm f1.4G | 1/30 sec, f/2, ISO 400

This is my most common setup when I head out onto the street, walk the dog, or for travel. In one compartment is my Fuji X100, and in the other, my Olympus EPL2 with Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 mounted, effectively giving me a wide and a telephoto in two cameras. This setup is extremely light. The bag also comes with plenty of removable compartments that allow you to customize the interior any way you like. Think Tank says it can easily take a Micro 4/3 system with 3-6 lenses plus accessories. I believe it!


Olympus E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 |  1/20 sec, f/1.7, ISO 400

See that front pocket in the image above? It’s expandable, so much so in fact that it can swallow my D700 body with ease:


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 35mm f1.4G | 1/30 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400

Of course, it has no problem carrying my X100 all by itself. If I want to travel as light as possible, I just slip the one camera in the bag, and the rest of the bag easily holds chargers, batteries, and other accessories.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 35mm f1.4G | 1/50 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400

Finally, a removable carry handle. Sounds simple, but it’s extremely convenient in practice.

This post doesn’t even cover every single feature, just my favorite ones. There are many little purpose-made pockets and compartments in the bag that I didn’t mention here, but the bottom line is that if you’re a micro 4/3 or rangefinder system user, or even a DSLR user who wants a more compact and inconspicuous solution for carrying a camera and one or two lenses, the Retrospective 5 is a great choice.

Fujifilm Finepix X100: First Impression

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Olympus PEN E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7

Well, I guess it was inevitable. The X100 has been calling my name ever since it was announced. Since its release, I’ve seen some mixed feelings about the camera in reviews, but somehow I felt that I understood the design concept behind the camera well enough to realize that it would match my style and make a great addition to my gear bag.


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/125 sec, f/2, ISO 200

Right now the X100 is out of stock everywhere and very hard to acquire.  Some are being sold on Craigslist, Ebay, and Amazon with significant markups. I just happened to be browsing B&H’s website one morning and what?! In stock!? Ordered with no hesitation, and only minutes after I placed the order, stock was dry. Snagged it. Yes!

This post is a first impression in the strictest sense. I’ve barely started using this thing as I only just received it two days ago. So far, I’ve used it in the house to take snaps of Suki, and took it downtown last night to meet the wife for dinner after work.


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/60 sec, f/2, ISO 800

The first thing I do when I start shooting with a new camera is see what kind of image processing power it has on its own, so all images in this post are out-of-camera JPEGs, all shot aperture priority with Auto ISO and Auto Dynamic Range set on the camera. It’s a sort of “whatchu got, X100?” test.

The ground-breaking, highlight feature of the X100 is obviously its Hybrid Viewfinder, which I tell you truthfully, is so stinking fantastic. I’ve never shot with a rangefinder-style camera before, so the parallax error at close distances seemed pretty weird at first. Fortunately, the bright line frame moves in the finder to correct for parallax, and switching from the optical viewfinder to the electronic viewfinder easily eliminates the issue when you need to get in close.

The video below that I took with my iPhone does no justice to how bright and wonderful the OVF really is, but it does give you an idea of what its like to see the shooting info and bright lines displayed, what its like switching between OVF and EVF view, and how pleasantly silent the shutter is:

No blackout when hitting the shutter release. Yesssss.

There’s another video here that’s even crummier but adds more info on the display, including grid lines, a histogram, a focus scale, and an electronic level, among other things. Hopefully I can manage better videos in upcoming reviews.


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/60 sec, f/2, ISO 640


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/50 sec, f/2, ISO 3200

High ISO images are looking good on this camera. Still see some nice details on Suki’s fur with little image noise in the shot above, taken under dim lamp light at ISO3200.


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/640 sec, f/2, ISO 400

Image quality is extremely good, but you knew that already if you’ve read other reviews about the X100.  I love the lens as well. It’s sharp, vignetting is minimal even wide open, and the 35mm full-frame equivalent view is a great focal length for shooting in a wide variety of situations, especially in city streets. The camera feels very similar in size to my E-PL2, but the X100 produces very visibly better image quality, largely due to its bigger APS-C sized sensor.


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/150 sec, f/2, ISO 400

The leaf-shutter built into the lens is deadly silent. Coupled with the old-school design of the camera, no one notices you using it (unless they’re a fellow gear-geek). You can slip right up behind someone and just snap away.


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/950 sec, f/8, ISO 400


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/210 sec, f/8, ISO 200


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/850 sec, f/8, ISO 800


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/1,600 sec, f/8, ISO 800

The X100 features a few “film simulation” modes. The one used for the image above is Velvia, which seems a little over the top to me. I think the preset pushes blacks down a little too hard, which is something I can do myself in post, thank you very much. The rest of the images in this post are taken using Provia, which is the standard film simulation mode for the camera.


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/850 sec, f/8, ISO 400


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/450 sec, f/8, ISO 400


Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/75 sec, f/11, ISO 800


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/950 sec, f/2, ISO 400

For the image above, taken in pretty bright afternoon light, I used the camera’s built in 3-stop ND filter to cut the light down and let me shoot the image wide open. Going to base ISO would have helped too, but hey, ISO400 was the camera’s decision, not mine. It has to do with how the X100 optimizes dynamic range.


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/550 sec, f/2, ISO 200


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/480 sec, f/8, ISO 200


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/1,000 sec, f/2, ISO 200


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/25 sec, f/2, ISO 800

As light got dimmer, shutter speeds got slower. The lens is wide enough to allow hand held shots at pretty slow shutter speeds, but with no built in stabilization, you have to be extra careful. High ISOs look great though, so I can live without it.


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm,  1/17 sec, f/2, ISO 800


Fuji Finepix X100: 23mm, 1/600 sec, f/2, ISO 400

Even in the short amount of time since I received it,  the X100 has won my heart. There’s a certain joy I get from shooting with it that’s so unique. I can’t wait to take it out for another spin, so stay tuned for more impressions!

Written by Jonathan

June 8, 2011 at 11:05 am

Lazy Weekend With the 85mm 1.4

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Nikon D700 | Nikkor AF 85mm f/1.4D

Started last weekend right with a trip to the cafe. Whoops, two posts in a row that show pictures of the same exact place! Shows you how often I go out for coffee I guess.

Since I’m shooting a wedding pretty soon, I decided to ask a favor of my cousin Josh, a New York based photographer. He was kind enough to ship some key gear out to me, including his most cherished Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D. That’s love right there.

Normally I take my E-PL2 with me for weekend errand running, but I was eager to give this 85mm a try, so along it came to Blue Bottle.

Ok, first off, I’m not used to this focal length. My mind’s eye tends to see wider, between my favorite 24mm through around 50mm.  When I use my 24mm f/1.4 or 50mm f/1.4, for instance, I can compose at either focal length in my head before I even raise the camera to my eye. I can even “see” 200mm in my head, since that’s my other frequently used focal length. When I first started shooting with the 85, however, I kept expecting it to be wider than it is.  I’d raise it to my eye and always find myself to be too close to my subject, cutting off areas I wanted to have in the frame (the top photo is an example), so I found myself taking a few steps back every time I raised the camera to my eye. Felt goofy and pretty awkward at first, hah.

It’s that guy again with the hat and the book stand! He must come here every day or something….

I can see why many dub this lens the “cream machine.” At f/1.4, wherever you put your focus point comes out sharp as anything, with everything behind it liquefying into some mighty attractive-looking bokeh. If I ever decide to buy this lens for myself, I’ll leave it at f/1.4 every time.

It’s a great lens for portraits…..of your friends making silly faces. Sorry Dez ;)

Taking a walk with Suki, I was again having a weird time with the 85.  I’m used to getting in close with wider glass when shooting her, so again I found myself raising the camera up, oops, taking a few steps back, composing again.

This thing excels out on the street. Color, contrast, sharpness…the last thing you need to worry about with this optic is whether or not it performs well.

This lens is a legend. If you think you want one, go for it! As for me, I’m not sure I need to own one right now, since I can just borrow it (heh heh).  Thank you Josh…sorry in advance if I delay a little in sending it back ;)

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Nikon D700 + Nikkor AF 85mm f/1.4D

Written by Jonathan

April 11, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Olympus PEN E-PL2: First Impression

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My entry into digital photography began with a high-end compact camera (Lumix LX3). I still have one in fact: The excellent Canon S90. I love it, but there’s no way around that tiny sensor. You have very limited control over depth of field, and detail suffers at higher ISOs in even the most advanced point and shoots. Naturally, I progressed to a DSLR, with a D700 as my main weapon of choice these days. There’s only one problem with the otherwise wonderful imaging machine that is the D700, however: It’s huge!

I’m the kind of person that carries my camera everywhere I go, and in many cases, especially if I’m going out with the purpose of photography, the D700’s mass doesn’t really bug me. On all day outings, simple trips to the store or on other errands, or just grabbing some dinner with friends, however, it can start to feel like a burdensome anchor over my shoulder after a while. I’ve been wanting something smaller for such occasions.

Ever since Micro Four Thirds cameras started appearing on the market, I’ve been pretty intrigued by the concept of a small, lightweight, large sensor (compared to a compact), interchangeable lens camera system. The technology has matured somewhat now, and these little cameras have become quite popular.  For me, the appeal is simple: compact body, DSLR-like image quality. A camera that I can grab when the size of my DSLR may not practical for a given situation, but that at the same time gives me more than my point-and-shoot does as far as image quality. Recently, I met up with a friend who let me take a look at her Panasonic GF-1. After playing with the camera for a few minutes, I was sold on the m4/3 system.

Enter the Olympus PEN E-PL2

I ordered the E-PL2 together with the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens, which gives me a 40mm full-frame equivalent angle of view through the viewfi—uh, LCD. I must say, the lens looks pretty slick on the camera’s silver body.

This little “first impression” review will cover a few of my thoughts about the camera since I received it last week. This is not a review unit. I carefully considered which camera I wanted to acquire to fill the gap between my point and shoot and my DSLR, and finally added the E-PL2 to my gear bag. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the camera continually in future blog posts.

The EPL2 is a modest update to the recently released E-PL1, a camera that seemed to bring mirrorless interchangable lens cameras to the masses by offering a model at a much lower price point than the flagship E-P2. From what I’ve read, there’s not a whole lot of difference between the E-PL2 and E-PL1. I won’t bore you with an exhaustive list, but there are some key updates that do matter to me:

One difference is the rear LCD screen. Size and resolution have been bumped up to 3 inches, 420k dots. Can’t hold a candle to the 920k dot screen on the back of my D700, but it still looks great and I have no problems using the LCD for manual focus. The AP2 port (covered by the hot shoe cover above) accepts some pretty neat accessories, most notably a high-resolution electronic viewfinder that I didn’t order just yet for myself. I’m not one of those “I must have an eye-level viewfinder or I can’t take pictures” photographers. Maybe all my iphoneography has weened me off of the concept =)

Another change is the addition of a clickable command dial around the OK button on the back of the camera. Unfortunately, this is one aspect of the camera I’m not entirely thrilled about. For such a critical control point, the command dial feels a little fiddly. Likely to make room for the larger LCD, the dial is placed very close to the edge of the camera body, making it somewhat awkward and cramped to use at times. Not a deal breaker by any means, but rather a design quirk that takes some getting used to.

The E-PL2 comes kitted with an updated standard zoom, the Olympus M. Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 MSC (Movie and Still Compatible) lens. I have a feeling I won’t be using the zoom all that much. The 20mm f/1.7 is faster, more fun to use, and is more compact.

However, the kit lens does seem to perform pretty well optically, and focuses surprisingly fast. Zoom and focus ring action, as well as internal focus mechanisms, are smooth and silent in operation, preventing lens sounds from finding their way into the audio track of your videos.

This is my first Olympus camera since my film days! I’m actually planning on purchasing the Olympus OM to m4/3 mount adapter, which will allow me to use the F. Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 (shown right) on my E-PL2. Pretty exciting to be able to use legacy lenses on this new camera.

I didn’t want to spend all day on these product shots, but here’s a quick photo of the E-PL2 between my Canon S90 and Nikon D40. The E-PL2 is certainly not pocketable like the S90 is, but its size and weight make it perfect for either a large coat pocket or small bag.  With the 20mm pancake mounted, the size and weight of the E-PL2 feels similar to that of a high-end compact like the Panasonic LX3/5 or Canon G12. I keep mine in a little messenger bag, and walking around town I can’t even tell it’s in there.

The built in pop-up can remote-command off-camera flash guns. The strobist in me is very intrigued by this feature…

A slightly fiddly command dial aside,  the E-PL2 operates very well ergonomically. The grip is comfortable, and the camera feels solid and very well made. Performance is also very snappy, making the camera a joy to use overall. Ok, enough about the camera itself. I didn’t spend all weekend staring at it, I was out taking pictures! Below are a few samples. Enjoy!


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/4, 1/400 second, ISO200

Note that as of the writing of this post, Adobe Camera Raw does not support the E-PL2’s raw image files, so I don’t have the ability to process the raw image data from the camera in Lightroom 3 just yet. I guess it’s good that I did my recent JPEG experiment! All of these images are therefore processed in-camera. I’ve heard great things about the Olympus JPEG engine, and I must say, the E-PL2’s JPEG output does not disappoint. I love the way it renders colors, particularly blue skies:


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/3.5, 1/320 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/5.6, 1/800 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/5.6, 1/800 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/6.3, 1/1000 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/4.5, 1/500 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/6.3, 1/1000 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 14mm, f/9, 1/400 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 14mm, f/8, 1/320 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 14mm, f/10, 1/620 second, ISO200 (-0.3EV)


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/6.3, 1/1000 second, ISO200

Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 21mm, f/10, 1/400 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/5.6, 1/800 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/3.5, 1/320 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/5, 1/500 second, ISO200

Metering is very dependable, consistent, and accurate. I very rarely have to nudge the camera with any exposure compensation.

Some Closeups:


Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 42mm, f/11, 1/100 second, ISO200 (-0.3EV)


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/125 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/2500 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/500 second, ISO200 (-0.3EV)


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/250 second, ISO200 (-0.3EV)


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/125 second, ISO200 (Monotone)

ART FILTERS:

Since I’ve never really shot with an Olympus digital camera, this is my first experience with in-camera Art Filters. You could dismiss this feature as a gimmick I suppose, but I found the filters to be incredibly fun to use.

The filter effects are overlayed onto the view screen in real-time as you compose, giving you a preview of the Art Filter’s effect before you take the shot, and multiple filters can be stacked. It’s really cool!

I found myself gravitating towards the Pin Hole Filter:


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/5.6, 1/500 second, ISO200 (Pin Hole, -0.7EV)


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/25 second, ISO200 (Pin Hole)


Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 14mm, f/8, 1/400 second, ISO200 (Pin Hole, -0.3EV)


Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 27mm, f/11, 1/400 second, ISO200 (Pin Hole)


Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 14mm, f/9, 1/500 second, ISO200 (Pin Hole)


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/6.3, 1/1000 second, ISO200 (Pin Hole)


Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 14mm, f/9, 1/500 second, ISO200 (Pin Hole)


Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 14mm, f/8, 1/400 second, ISO200 (Pin Hole)


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/5.6, 1/800 second, ISO200 (Pin Hole)

Another neat Art Filter is Diorama, which gives your images that tilt-shifted, miniaturized look:


Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 14mm, f/10, 1/500 second, ISO200 (Diorama, -0.7EV)


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/3.2, 1/250 second, ISO200 (Diorama)

Perhaps my favorite would be Grainy Film. This filter gives you that high-speed, black and white film look:


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/125 second, ISO200 (Grainy Film)


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/13 second, ISO200 (Grainy Film)


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/1250 second, ISO200 (Grainy Film, -0.3EV)


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/2.8, 1/200 second, ISO200 (Grainy Film)


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/4, 1/400 second, ISO200 (Grainy Film)


Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 33mm, f/5.6, 1/100 second, ISO200 (Grainy Film)


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/5.6, 1/800 second, ISO200 (Grainy Film)


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/2.5, 1/800 second, ISO200 (Grainy Film)


Olympus EPL2 + Olympus M.14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II | 14mm, f/6.3, 1/250 second, ISO200 (Grainy Film)

I haven’t used this one that much yet, but here’s a couple snaps using the Pop Art filter, which boosts color and contrast to almost ridiculous levels:


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/125 second, ISO200 (Pop Art)


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/4000 second, ISO200 (Pop Art)


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/400 second, ISO200 (Pop Art)

One new filter that I haven’t shown here is Dramatic Tone. I have yet to take a picture using this filter that doesn’t look positively ghastly. I’ll keep trying ;)

Low Light Shooting

Over the weekend, someone asked me why I chose the E-PL2 over the Panasonic GF2, or even the highly regarded GF1. Indeed, it was the GF1 that got me hooked on the idea of a m4/3 system in the first place, so what gives? For me, there is one critical feature missing in the Panasonic GFs that is built into all of the Olympus digital Pen cameras: in-camera, sensor-shift image stabilization.

With a stabilized body, any lens you stick on the E-PL2, from a modern zoom to an old manual prime, gets the added benefit of stabilization. Combining a stabilized body, therefore, with a fast prime like the 20mm f/1.7, allows you shoot at wide apertures while using impossible-to-hand-hold shutter speeds. To get a better idea of what this can mean for low-light photography, check out some samples below, all taken hand-held. Note the shutter speeds as well as the ISO settings on each image:


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/13 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7,  1/20 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7,  1/10 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7,  1/10 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7,  1/30, second ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/13 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/13 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7,  1/10 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/4 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7,  1/8 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7,  1/20 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7,  1/20 second, ISO200

Notice that I’m hand-holding the camera at shutter speeds down to 1/4 second and getting getting clean, detailed night shots without having to boost ISO beyond base level.  I don’t expect the high ISO abilities of the E-PL2 to be anywhere near what my D700 is capable of, so the extra help I get from the sensor-shift stabilizer to keep my ISO as low as possible when hand-holding in low light is really appreciated.

Shots of Suki

Of course, no post would be complete with out some shots of Suki. The E-PL2’s continuous auto focus is not quite fast enough to keep up with Suki if she’s moving erratically, but you can still get shots of your pet with this camera.


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/6.3, 1/1000 second, ISO200

Can a fox become man’s best friend? Of course! My best friend is a fox =P


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/1000 second, ISO200

She IS a fox. =)


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/1250 second, ISO200


Olympus EPL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | f/1.7, 1/80 second, ISO200

I absolutely love this camera so far. I find the image quality to be excellent, and the size and weight are refreshing. The E-PL2 is easy to carry around all day, it’s inconspicuous, and best of all, it’s downright fun to use. I can see myself traveling with just this camera and one lens and be completely satisfied. Stay tuned for more images, and some video testing as well! I’m off to do more shooting with the E-PL2.

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Product Shots: Nikon D700 + Nikkor AFS 24mm f/1.4G | Nikkor AFS 24-120mm f/4 VR II

New Lens! Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 ATX PRO

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Nikon D90 + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 13mm f/5.6, ISO 200, 1/125 Second

Nikon D90 + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 13mm f/5.6, ISO 200, 1/125 Second

Panasonic Lumix LX3, 5.1mm f/2.0, ISO 320 1/30 Second

Panasonic Lumix LX3, 5.1mm f/2.0, ISO 320 1/30 Second

Well, after wanting an ultra wide angle zoom lens for months and months, I finally bought one today. I’ve been scouring around trying to find the sold-out-everywhere Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 ATX PRO DX lens for some time now, and until today was considering just going for the highly praised 12-24 f/4 from Tokina as it is readily stocked by many dealers. I’ve been checking back at places like B&H every morning for a few weeks (that’s how I was able to snag my hard to get AFS 35mm 1.8G), with no success in finding the 11-16 in stock. This afternoon I did a search for Tokina dealers in the San Francisco bay area, and found that there’s only ONE in San Francisco. Not expecting much, I called and asked if they had any 11-16’s, and WHAT!? One Nikon mount left!

Nikon D90 + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 11mm f/11, ISO640, 1/60 Second (cropped slightly to straighten)

Nikon D90 + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 11mm f/11, ISO640, 1/60 Second (cropped slightly to straighten)

I rushed over and picked it up without hesitation. While I was there the guy at the shop (really cool staff there) let me try a bunch of lenses while he rang up the bill. I tried the Tokina 12-24,  and while I liked that it extends out to 24mm, I was more swayed by the 1mm extra on the wide end of the 11-16 AND the 2.8 constant aperture, despite it’s very limited zoom range. I tried the very interesting (and very new) Tokina 16.5-135mm lens, as well as Nikon’s highly regarded consumer lens, the 16-85mm 3.5-5.6 VR, which I found of similar to size to the 18-70 I used to use on my D70, but it felt much heavier! I really liked the 16-85mm’s range and the fact that it has built in VR, and I may want to pick that lens up for travel when more money comes in.

But back to the important lens! My wife and I (and doggie) strolled around downtown after leaving the shop and I got to snap off a few shots before the sun went down (I really wanted to get some sunset and dusk shots but we hadn’t eaten dinner!). Initial impression is veeery favorable. I am absolutely floored at the sharpness of this Tokina, even at its widest aperture. The build quality is outstanding as well, and overall I am really excited about putting this thing to use. I’m going to bed with a huge grin on my face! More shooting tomorrow!