Olympus OM-D EM1-II User Review

Olympus OM-D EM1-II : The best Olympus M43 camera yet

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Review Image

Recently I decided to take the plunge and buy Olympus’s “Pro” focussed high-end micro four third (M43) mirrorless camera, the Olympus OM-D EM1-II, a camera that promises to set new standards for the micro four third system as a whole and a logical companion for my clutch of M.Zuiko “Pro” Zoom lenses (ie 12-10mm f4) and larger M.Zuiko prime lenses (ie M.Zuiko 75mm f1.8).

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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As an owner of the OM-D EM5-II the EM1-II didn’t hold too many surprises, I knew it was a very good camera anyway as every on-line review bar none heaped praise upon it but the £1800 (ish) price tag meant it was a serious investement.

So worth it?

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yeap, every penny. The OM-D EM1-II has easily lived up to its growing reputation, its  a fast, responsive, wonderfully handling pseudo “mini” high-end DSLR that proves once and for all that mirrorless CSC’s and in particular Olympus’s M43 system can more than hold their own against very stiff competition from the likes of thee Nikon D500, the Canon 7D-II and Fuji X-T2.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The new 20mp M43 sensor is a definate improvement on the 16mp unit in my EM5-II offering a tad bit more obvious resolution and I’d say maybe a 1/3 stop high-ISO improvement, while the EVF is joy to use, and to say the EM1-II is a speed demon is a bit of an understatement.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The slightly bigger body and more pronounced hand-grip of the EM1-II over my EM5-II 5 means its a far better balanced camera when paired with my M.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 and M.Zuiko 12-100mm f4 lenses. The larger body also allows for better button placement which in turn aids handling.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To say the EM1-II is feature rich and posses a highly configurably interface is another understatement, I defy anyone not to be able to set the camera up to suit their personal preferences.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The presence of a new higher capacity battery is a another great upgrade that users will greatly appreciate.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Features like in-camera HDR, High-Res capture, 4K video and a host of in-camera filter selections simply add to the cameras overall appeal.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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So any moans?

Yes a couple. I’d still prefer a more resolute EVF (the new Panasonic GH5 has set the standard here). Equally the articulated rear screen could also probably do with a resolution upgrade.

Also personally I’d love to see built-in GPS / tagging as well as a small built-in flash although in fairness the supplied detachable small tilting and swivelling flash unit is pretty good.

And yes Olympus seem to relish on producing unbelievably long complicated menus, which means the camera requires a fair bit of  intial effort in order to set it up as one wishes.

But lets be frank the moans are hardly deal breakers are they?

All in all the new Olympus OM-D EM1-II is a cracking camera, well deserving of it “Pro” tag and although not cheap, personally I don’t consider it hugely over priced.

Should  EM1 users upgrade?

Well I reckon that depends on two factors, namely what lenses do you own and if you have a requirement for the EM1-II’s amazing shooting speed and AF performance. If you have M43 telephoto lenses especially the likes of the M.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8n and M.Zuiko 300mm f4 and shoot sport or wildlife the EM1-II is a logical step up.

So there you have it, the Olympus OM-D EM1-II, Olympus’s best micro four third camera yet.

Mark Baynham (May 2017)

 

Fujifilm X70 Compact goes to Valencia

FujiFilm X70 user review

Fujifilm X70 Review Image

For Christmas I headed off to Valencia in seach of some sun, blue skies and tapas. For the trip my main camera was the Olympus OM-D EM5 II paired with my newly purchased M.Zuiko 12-100mm f4 Pro Travel-Zoom but I decided to supplement the EM5 II with my Fujifilm X70 compact (plus a 21mm wide lens adaptor).

Now Fuji’s tiny 16mp APS-C 28mm f2.8 fixed prime equipped Trans “X” compact is a great carry anytime option but its semi wide 28mm (equivilent) lens (or ultre wide 21mm equivilent adaptor) is not everyone’s cup of tea so can it deliver the goods?

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Well yes and no.

To be used as the one and only camera on a small break can be challenge, sure you can capture wide vista’s or impromptu street captures but for those distant candid captures is of no use whatsoever.

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The X70 low light high-ISO performance JPEG performance is excellent so whilst RAW images can be processed nicely in Lightroom in many ways the Fuji X70 is best left in JPEG for 80% of the time.

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The fixed f2.8 28mm prime lens is an OK performer but its definately not as good optically as many of Fuji’s other Fujinon primes and shows distict corner softness.

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I did loved the rear touch screen but I wish it was fully articulated and there were plenty of times under the bright blue Spainish skies when an EVF would have been very useful.

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General AF performance is overall acceptable but not exactly what I’d call snappy especially in low light. I found the 21mm wide adaptor delivered pretty good images and the extra wide capture was a godsend at times.

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So overall the Fuji X70 put in a solid performance but to be used as the only option on a small break or to be considered a viable travel option, well that’s a big ask and I’d personally consider the X70 as a back-up option supplementing a genuine all in one travel option like a superzoom / bridge camera, a travel compact or a combination like the OMD EM5 II and the excellent M.Zuiko 12-100mm f4 “Pro” travel zoom.

Mark Baynham ( Januray 2017)

 

All in One Solution: Olympus 12-100mm f4 Pro

User Review: Olympus M.Zuiko 12-100mm f4 Pro Zoom

Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12-100mm f/4.0 IS Pro Review Image

One decisions many photographers have to make when going on breaks or holidays is what kit do I take? How many lenses do I take? Do I go “prime” or try and maybe travel with just one lens? Or maybe simply use the standard zoom or possibly something else?

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With weight and size restrictions on budget airlines exactly what kit to take becomes even more of a challenge.

Well I spent Christmas in Valencia (Spain) and this year my kit decison was easy, I’d take my Olympus OMD EM5II and my newly purchased M.Zuiko 12-100mm f4 Pro Zoom.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The M.Zuiko 12-100mm f4 is Olympus’s take on a Micro Four Third (M43) high end weather sealed all in one travel zoom that offers the 35mm equivilent of 24-200mm a useful general purpose focal range that covers most situations.

Being a M43 lens the M.Zuiko 12-100mm f4 is also far more compact that similar lenses designed for APS-C cameras with the added bonus of a constant f4 aperture throughout the focal range.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But the robust build, constant f4 aperture and lens stabilisation that works with some Olympus M43 cameras to offer up to 6 stops of stabilisation doesn’t come cheap, the “Pro” tag means this lens will set you back just over £1,000, so is it worth it?

You bet it is.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I own three other M.Zuiko “Pro” zooms ( all f2.8) and the new travel zoom easily maintains the high optical performance of its “faster” brothers.

The M.Zuiko turns out to be sharp lens throughout the focal range, distortion is minimal at both ends of the focal range and that focal range proved to be pretty much spot on. In fact I find it really difficult to find genuine fault with the M.Zuiko 12-100mm f4.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If I had one observation it would be that its quite bulky and heavy for a M43 optic. On my EM5 II it balanced just about OK but would be even better suited when paired to the slightly bigger EM1 or new EM1 II. In fact it would even go well with Panasonic’s GH4 and the new G80.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On smaller Olympus OMD bodies or even say the Olympus PEN-F I imagine the M.Zuiko 12-100mm f4 would form an unbalanced pairing.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So yes, one lens can be a viable general purpose all in one travel option if its built like the M.Zuiko 12-100mm f4 and is as optically refined as that said lens.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Olympus are to be congratulated on the new addition to its “Pro” range, a range of M43 lenses that go from strength to Strength.

Mark Baynham (Jan 2017)

User Review: Panasonic Lumix LX15

Panasonic Lumix LX15: The sensible choice

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 Review Image

Recently I decided to treat myself to a properly pocketable high end compact for although I love my trusty Panasonic LX100 and although its far from bulky I found the appeal of a really peite compact hard to resist.

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Now unlike a few years ago when choice was highly limited (really the only kids on the block was the Panasonic LX3 / 4 and Canon S80) today there are a host of 1-inch 20mp compacts from Sony, Canon and Panasonic, each with slightly different take on what to expect from a high-end compact, not to mention Fuji’s 2/3″ Trans “X” equipped X30.

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I’ve been fortunate to test all of Sony’s RX100 models up to the Mark V, the Canon G7X ( and G7X II), Canon G9X and the EVF equipped Canon G5X not to mention all of Fuji’s “X” compacts so I know what am looking for and in general terms what to expect form a potential purchase.

Presently the class leader in the pockeable high-end compacts is the Sony RX100 V but then it comes with a class-leading price tag so that was off the list to start. In the end I bought the Panasonic lumix LX15 in part as a continuation of my association with the LX series ( I own the old LX3 and the current LX100).

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The LX15 is a 20mp 1-inch equipped compact with a 24-72mm f1.4-2.8 lens (brightest in class), built in flash, tilting 3″ 1040k rear touch screen, 4K video, 4K photo mode, Post Focus capture, Wi-Fi, & USB charging.

Unlike the recent RX100 models the LX15 lacks an electronic viewfinder but for me personally the presence of an EVF wasn’t absolutely essential, I wanted a small high performing compact which had reasonable ergonomics, delivered excellent images and above all wasn’t over the top when it came to price.

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And that really sums up the Panasonic LX15, I’d describe it as the pragmatic choice when it comes those seeking a high end compact.

Good Points:

The LX15 delivers excellent RAW images

Its close focus capacity ( 3cm at 24mm) is really useful for macro shots

The 24-72mm focal length is spot on for general photography

Overall image quality is first class thanks to the Leica lens

(NB the f1.4 aperture is only available at its widest setting (ie 24mm) & diffraction seems to come into play from f8)

The Post Focus feature proved surprisingly useful

There are shed loads of of scene modes & filters.

It has great 4K features

The touch screen and touch focus capacity can be a life saver

Bad Points

The camera could do with a more substantial  hand – thumb grip (I advice purchase of a wrist strap to attach to the camera)

The ergonomics and handling are not what I used to get on my old LX3 or indeed that delivered by later LX models.

There’s no built in  ND filter

The screen only tilts upwards ( good for selfies but less useful than a fully articulated screen)

JPEGS straight from camera appear a tad bit over sharpened (I’d turn any sharpening down in-camera)

JPEG high ISO performance slightly lags that from recent Sony RX100 models ( I assume Sony are employing a better performing noise reduction algorithm?)

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Conclusion:

The Panasonic LX15 is a great little camera, Fun and easy to use it delievers excellent image quality in RAW and with some care very good one’s in JPEG. The 20mp 1″sensor produces exactly the sort of quality images we have come to expect from that unit.

The cameras highlight is probably its 24-72mm  f1.4-2.8 lens, its general optical performance is first rate especially its macro capacity at 24mm.

The Post Focus feature proved unbelievable addictive and genuinely useful as did the touch screen facility.

My only real moans would be the fact that the rear screen isn’t fully articulated and that Panasonic appear to have lost the plot a bit when it comes to handling / ergonomics.

Taken overall the Panasonic is pretty much all one could want from a small pocketable compact.

Yes, the presence of an EVF would of course be preferable but then that would push up the cost.

I still think Panasonic could have done better with the overall physical set up of the camera body and they need to work on their JPEG processing engine but these are not necessary deal breaking issues.

Yes the Sony RX100 V is a “better” camera, its a real speed demon with AF performance that is in a different league to all the competition and yes is has a built in EVF but then its hugely more expensive.

If you simply must have an EVF on your compact I’d consider buying the older  Sony RX100 IV or even Mark III.

As for the likes of the Canon PowerShot G7X II and G9X in my experience the LX15 delivers superior general optical performance and is why I’d choose it over the Canon rivals.

So there you have it, the Panasonic Lumix LX15 is the pramatic and sensible option for those seeking a high-end pocketable compact.

Mark Baynham ( December 2016)

Can a camera -phone be any good?

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge : Decent phone & excellent camera.

First a confession. Previously I have never really used the camera facility on any of my android Samsung smart phones.

However I recently to a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and when I took the trouble to read some online reviews all commented on the quality of the S7’s camera which consists of a f1.7 lens in front of a 12mp dual pixel sensor.

Then I realised the phone allows RAW capture via DNG format and my attention was drawn.

So I’ve actually taken some “snaps”with the S7 Edge and I am impressed.

So in the real world can the camera module in the S7 Edge replace a “proper / real” camera ” ? Well the answer is YES in quite a few circumstances. Using free apps one can truly get very acceptable results and here’s some 2 examples to prove it.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge:

Cross Processed Flowers (Samsung Galaxy S7 ) (DD)

Norwich Cathedral (Samsung S7) (DD)

Flower (1) (Samsung Galaxy S7 ) (DD)

Its no wonder the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge won an EISA award recently.

Mark Baynham