5 MONTHS WITH OM-D – COUNTLESS ZOO VISITS, 5 BAVARIAN FORESTS, RUSSIA AND THAILAND

Yesterday it was 5 months after I decided to change photo equipment Nikon (D810, D610, 300mm f2.8 etc.) for MILC Olympus series OM-D. Exactly in September last year I chose TOP model by Olympus, OM-D E-M1 Mark II + Olympus battery grip HLD-9 and for the beginning, following lenses and accessories:

  • Olympus M.ZUIKO 300mm f4 PRO
  • Olympus M.ZUIKO 40-150mm f2.8 PRO
  • Olympus M.ZUIKO 7-14mm f2.8 PRO
  • Olympus 1.4x teleconverter MC-14
  • Olympus flash FL-900R
  • Olympus remote control RM-CB2
  • Olympus viewfinder EE-1
  • 4x Olympus battery BLH-1

After I have chosen an equivalent to my previous equipment, firstly, I started to look for a convenient bag pack, because Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW black was way too spacious, thanks to the compactness of OM-D. Eventually, I have decided to get Lowepro Whistler 450AW, about which I have been writing in this article and here I have uploaded a video, why I have chosen this product and what can be fit inside.

So, I guess that is all for the beginning... You can read here about the whole procedure of the transition and then my rating after 1,5 months in this article.
 

And what is OMD like after approximately half a year, about 20 Czech zoos visits, 5 Bavarian Forests, trip to Russia and expedition to rainforests of Thailand?

First things first... I would only like to remind, that all of the opinions and information stated in this article are fully my point of view on this equipment and I do not force anyone to think the same. Everyone can make their own opinion and in case you want to try out equipment by Olympus for about a week, feel free to contact me. Nonetheless, we are not going argue because I dared to buy different brand than "Škoda" :-)
 
Technical processing, resistance, grip and using comfort:
 

Since it is the top model by Olympus, it is obvious, that the technical processing should be exquisite. And yes, it is really like that. I always chose equipment according to these criteria, because I take photos of animals and nature, therefore the camera often ends up lying on the grass, it rains on it, and also, I am in places with high humidity levels or in places of high temperatures. And under every of these conditions I demand only one thing, so that it would work… During the past 5 months I have shot more than 55000 photos with OMD (of which 23000 from Thailand during 16 days). So, after such a good run, I can say that nothing has gone wrong so far, nothing fell into pieces, broke down, stopped working or simply act up. Notwithstanding, there are two things that I found annoying about OM-D in the beginnings. Respectively, one still annoys me till today but I have already managed to solve the second one...

  • The first thing that I find pretty unhandy is the switching of MF and AF on the circle around lens. Countlessly I have accidentally switched from AF to MF during taking photos and then it took several seconds to realise, why the “darn” OMD doesn’t want to focus. :) Fortunately, after some examinations I have found out that this feature can be turned off, so that by switching the circle, the AF will not turn off by itself. Instead, you can set the switching between MF and AF to some Fn (functional) button on the body and then switch between the modes at will.
  • Secondly, although it is a trifle, I feel like the design of lens hood for lens 40-150mm f2.8 PRO is pretty unhandy as well. It is “integrated” into the lens and the mechanism, which holds it in the out/inside position, is pretty bad and the hood does not adhere much.  Personally, I wear the camera on a strap by Peak Design close to my right hip and if I wear it with this lens, within few moments the hood is extended or in worst case scenario, it falls down. Since the mechanism that holds the hood on the lens is made of countless small springs and small particles, I am really curious when it will fall down and shatter into million pieces. Well, as for now it sticks together, so we will see.

At first, I did not like the grip (without battery grip), body is compact of course, small and my hands large. After buying BG, my attitude has changed and now I am satisfied. Perfectly fits into my hand, I manage to reach all of the functional buttons and also, even with a 300mm lens, it can be carried on two fingers.

 

Camera and button setting variability:

 

It is one of the things that I like about Olympus. You can set all of the buttons on the camera according to your needs (also on lenses, if they dispose of them). Initially I have appreciated it at the beginning, when I was switching from different brand and there wasn’t a tiniest problem to set all of the buttons and revolving selectors according to the previous one, so that you would familiarize with the controlling as soon as possible. I was used to things such as focusing with the button AE-L on the back of the body, setting ISO and aperture on revolving selectors next to the trigger in the mode of aperture priority (A), or displaying the water level on the camera’s display (Olympus has it in the viewfinder, thanks to being digital). Simply, you can set largely all of the buttons that you can find on the body.

This variability also applies to settings alone. For instance, if we take the photo colour interpretation (standard, nature, panorama etc.), in the menu you can set between which of these settings you would scroll in the quick menu, which will be displayed after pressing the button OK. As well as imaging settings such as quick imaging, slow, serial imaging etc. In conclusion, all of the settings lead to that if you need to change them, you only choose between the options that you have checked before, therefore re-setting the camera is substantially faster (kind of, it is an equivalent of user’s menu by rival companies, but significantly more polished up to perfection).
 

Focusing, Focus Tracking and serial imaging:

 

Focusing on OM-D and all of the lenses that I possess (see above) is more than sufficient. Its speed is utterly amazing and thanks to features such as focused area highlights directly in the viewfinder or the capability to zoom in the focused object, you always know what is focused and thereby what will be sharp. Mainly, aforementioned feature of highlighting focused areas, for example, of an animal, is priceless. On the fur you can see in red (or whatever colour you set) exactly the areas that the camera focused on. Same applies even in case of manual focusing, so you exactly know what you are focusing on and what will really be sharp.

 

Focus Tracking, is a feature, where on a continual (AF-C) and AF-S focusing, you focus on a bird sitting on a branch and in the moment, when it takes off and you keep your selected focal point, they automatically start to change according to the animal’s movement. I have tried it out several times and it works in an acceptable manner. Of course, you cannot expect that if you focus on a white seagull or heron, the camera will flawlessly monitor its movement against light sky. It always works at its finest, when the animal is contrastive to the background. Also at different equipment brands.

 

Serial imaging, respectively, its speed is at OM-D E-M1 Mark II breath-taking. Up to 60 frames/s in the mode AF-S and up to 18 frames/s in the mode AF-C. And how do I perceive this in practice? 

 
  • Concerning mode AF-S, where in connection with the ProCapture feature you can take up to 74 photos (ProCapture feature saves 14 photos during light pressure on the trigger again and again and after fully pressing it, it will save all of them + the images after pressing it) within a second or so it is great for situations, when a bird is sitting on a branch and you want to take photos of it while it takes off. To do so, you are lightly pressing the trigger to the half, the camera constantly saves 14 photos and once the bird rises from the branch, you firmly press the trigger, hold it for a second or two and on your storage, you have 14 photos before pressing the trigger and 60 photos takes during the first second. And then all you have to do is to choose the best one....
  • Of course, while photographing animals, I mainly use mode AF-C (continual focus). In this mode you can set up to 18 images/s. Indeed, it is a nice number, but in reality, it is usable only for animals, that move in the same distance from you, from one side to another. In case that the animal moves outwards and towards you, then it is a nonsense to use such a high speed, because the camera does not manage to refocus between individual photos (which is pretty logical and technically almost impossible). Thus, I lowered the image speed to 6 per second. After the time of using Olympus, I feel like it is the most usable and sufficient in any situation
 

Output quality, image stabilisation and discard:

 
I have been writing about the quality in the article after 1,5 months with OMD. Thanks to the chip size (Micro 4/3) it is obvious, that higher ISO values got to have bigger noise. And yes, it is like this… (It is not fully like this, see EDIT below). Let’s be real, it is simply the penalty for compactness, but… Thanks to chip stabilization in the camera’s body and outstanding stabilization thanks to lenses (only prime ones, for example 300mm f4 or 12-100mm f4) it is not necessary to shoot so fast times as with bodies DX or FF. There isn’t a smallest problem to take a sharp photo with focal point 600mm (crop factor is about 2x for Olympus) with the times about 1/20s from hand. Do you enjoy photographing rivulets, where if you want to achieve water “blur” you need a tripod for longer times? With the lens 7-14mm f2.8 PRO I am able to hold 1s up to 1,5s from hand with ease. The stabilization is simply perfect, I am reiterating myself, but it is simply like this. Well and let’s move on… Thanks to it I do not have to go over ISO 1000 (for example during whole expedition to Thailand). Seriously, I am not kidding… Till now I have never experienced a situation, where I would have to put it a bit higher. And honestly, if I had to choose between carrying 5kg FF with 300mm 2.8 or Olympus weighting 2,1 kg, definitely I choose Olympus… Before, all of the professional FF bodies had the resolution of 10Mpx and it also was sufficient for us. It is only a race for megapixels, super resolution etc. although, in fact, no one needs those so much… When it comes to animals, definitely not. 
 

Concerning discard (badly done photos), I think that it is slightly higher than at FF. But it is not because OMD would focus badly, but it is because of the imaging speed. If we take into account the mode AF-S for quick serial imaging and we would hold the trigger for 5 seconds, we have 300 photos. And it is evident… that we will not keep all of them. Well, depends on each person :)

 
EDIT: Noise on higher ISO values. From smarter than me, Radek Kopp, I learned what I did not know before – conversion of ISO values at Micro 4/3, DX and FF formats, so my satisfaction in this case is even bigger.
 

Quotation: " ISO is not constant for all of the systems. Between particular systems, logically, beside focal point and aperture, it is necessary to also converse ISO. A lot of photographers don’t even know this, thus they assess picture quality completely wrong. For better understanding, here is one example: MFT 1/100, f 1,4, ISO 400. APS C 1/100, f 2, ISO 800. Fullframe 1/100, f 2,8, ISO 1600. In this manner we would have to set different systems, so that we would have the same sharpness depth. And it is a significant difference. I really recommend it to those, who have the opportunity to try it by themselves in practice. Afterwards, they will also find out, that Olympus, with identical focal depth and identical resolution has lower noise that most of the competition. See also here, tests Dpreview"

 
Conclusion:
 

After these 5 months I am still satisfied. In the beginnings I have had hard time with setting the AF, also a bit with the fact, that thanks to 20Mpx I had to get used to that I cannot crop so much, if I want to have a sufficient resolution to print the image. I have also been bothered with the aperture 40-150mm and it also took time before I got used to digital viewfinder (now I take it for granted, and when I take a SLR, I miss a lot of information in the viewfinder, regardless of the impossibility to display the highlight of focused areas etc.).

 

I have taken the best out of what OMD system offers, I have learnt to take advantage of it and I have also adjusted my photographing style to smaller resolutions and higher noise on higher ISO values.

 

I would put it that way... Every system, every brand or lens or body simply have its pros and cons and one should always learn to take full advantage of its assets. The fact, that we will whine that certain model has slow AF, this small resolution, this one too large resolution and my PC does not handle it, or thousands of arguments, that the Czechs are able to have (our nation is #1 in the world in complaining about anything and in any way) very excellently, we will never achieve reasonable results... Surely, before choosing some equipment let someone more experienced give you an advice, respectively, from more experienced people and then make your own conclusion and choose what precisely fits you. It is not a best idea to follow marketing of various companies or retailers who will recommend you products that they have highest profit margin on, when you need a camera that suits you.

 

I have chosen Olympus, tested it few times and finally decided to buy it. Even the weight played its role there, because “the same” equipment by Olympus saved me 8kg on my back. And am I satisfied? Yes, I am and honestly, I do not have any desire to return back to FF. Who is supposed to carry it all... ;)? 

 

And how does it perform while taking photos? Have a look into my gallery :-) 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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