Podcast 20 – An Interview with Damien Lovegrove

We’re back once again with another superb, open and insightful interview with another leading photographer. Today our guest is UK based photographer, trainer, teacher and writer; Damien Lovegrove

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I was keen to find a guest who had ‘been there, done that’ – someone with plenty of experience who could speak with conviction about the photography industry today. Recently, we’ve had discussions in the Ready Steady Pro Facebook community about how the industry seems to have changed in recent years, so I thought what better way to find out for sure than to have someone of Damien’s calibre and experience on the show.

Damien started his life with cameras (in a professional sense) by going to work for the BBC as a trainee camera operator, before working his way up. As you’ll hear in this interview Damien went on to leave the BBC, start an incredibly successful wedding photography business, which ran for 10 years before Damien conciously, and intentionally decided to change direction in order to get weekends and time back in his life. Damien bought a business consultant on board to aid in the change of career from photographer, to writer, to trainer.

Michael Says:

“I first came across Damien many years ago, when i first got into photography myself. In the UK, unlike the US & Australia, we don’t really have many ‘big names’ when it comes to well-known photographers. We have a few, but not many. Well, of the few we do have Damien almost certainly is one of them. I found Damien’s teaching style to be very accessible and easy to take on board, but Damien also shows with his work that he has conviction in what he teaches. Damien is a photographer who has ‘been there and done that’ and as a result was someone I knew would be an excellent guest for the show. I’m really pleased that Damien has agreed to join me to discuss his career share with us some of the things he knows…”

Damien speaks openly about having multiple, passive revenue streams and so much more. This interview is a real-must listen!

As well as all of the wisdom and knowledge shared, Damien was also very generous and shared a discount code offering all RSP listeners 50% off all videos on his website (see the link below).

You really do need to have your notepad to hand, because the gems are dropped thick and fast in this episode!

Links to most of what is mentioned in this episode can be found below in the ‘Show Notes’ section

Sit back and enjoy this episode of Ready, Steady Pro! Click the link below to listen / download the podcast.


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This weeks Topic

  • Changing Careers
  • Passive Revenue Streams
  • Relationship with FujiFilm
  • Wedding Photography is a retail business

Today’s Little Gems

50% off all videos in Damien’s shop. Just enter ‘readysteady’ at the checkout.
Note: This is a one-time-use voucher and can be redeemed against one checkout transaction. If you would like to purchase multiple videos please purchase them at the same time using this voucher code to receive your 50% discount


Show Notes / Links


This weeks Hosts

Michael Rammell
Damien Lovegrove

How To Create A Black & White Smart Collection In Adobe Lightroom

Have you been nominated for the Black and White challenge? You know the one: someone posts a Black & White photograph to a Social Media site and then they nominate you to then post one black and white photograph each day for 5 days? You have? Excellent! Then this may help you out with that challenge.

Did you know you can actually setup a Smart Collection in Lightroom so you can view all of your Black and White photographs in one, neat collection? This will make finding all your best Black and White’s far easier and participating in this great little challenge so much more fun.

If you’re at home or in a place where you can watch a video, then check this out. If not just continue past the video for the instructions laid out with screen grabs:

(Be sure to share links to your 5 Black & White Photographs below!)

So there you go –  a Smart Collection showing just the mono photos in your library! Have a go.

Why not share a link to some of your very own Black and White photographs below in the comments.

RSP London Photowalk – Saturday 26th October

Meeting Location: Leadenhall Market
Date: Sunday 26th October 2014
Meeting Time: 12:00 noon onwards
Price: Free
Facebook Event: http://on.fb.me/1D7m3Wk

LONDON Photowalk

Details

You know the drill by now. I’m returning to my favourite city (and I’ve been to a fair few!) to photograph the sites, sounds and oddities of one of Europe’s most cosmopolitan cities. The melting pots of culture that is London!

You, the camera and the big city and of course the company of some incredibly talented other photographers. What could be better?

Also, I’m not sure if you noticed, but you’ll be charged a grand total of £0 for this event. Come on! Come and meet fellow photographers and have some fun.

The Route

  1. Meeting at Leadenhall Market at 12:00 we’ll start with the usual meet and greet.
    1. The nearest tube Stops are probably Monument, Bank, Tower Hill or Aldgate depending on your direction of travel
  2. We’ll stay at Leadenhall for a short while, even though the area will be relatively quiet on a Sunday.
  3. A few minutes from Leadenhall are some fantastic building such as ‘The Gherkin’ and other impressive architecture.
  4. From the Market Area we’ll head East towards the Tower of London, where they currently have the installation of thousands of ceramic poppies on display (more information here)
  5. After a short while we’ll then head back West, walking adjacent to the River towards London Bridge, where we’ll cross over to the South of the River.
  6. This will leave us in view of The Shard and just a stones throw from Borough Market, where depending on the time may well be our first stop for refreshments at Brew Wharf (very close to Borough Market. If the pace has been fast and the group want to continue, we may carry on and stop elsewhere for drinks a short while further into the route
  7. After a short break we’ll head towards Shakespeare’s Globe and the Millennium Bridge, where we will cross over to once again find ourselves North of the River
  8. At the North end of the Millennium Bridge we’ll be able to get some post card shots of St Paul’s Cathedral.
  9. If by the time we are at St. Paul’s and we haven’t stopped we can head towards the Blackfriar – a very well known pub just north of Blackfriars Bridge. From here we can head south over the bridge.
  10. From here we’ll be able to walk past / through the OXO tower building along the river.
  11. We’re now heading towards South Bank, and a little further on from that will the London Eye.
  12. The walk will most likely end here, but if we find we’ve marched and people want to continue I have an extended route I can take you, including Big Ben Downing Street, Horse Guards, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, China Town, Covent Garden, and much more. But this extended route is possibly not for the feint of heart 🙂

What Can you Learn?

Everything or Nothing. It’s up to you. Come along for fun or come along to learn – this is a free event for all skill levels. If you would like to learn the art of approaching strangers for street portraits there will be an opportunity to learn from me the way I am successfully able to make portraits time and time again.

Alternatively, if Candid street photography is your thing I can help you look for moments, stories, faces and of course – the light!

Whatever your reason for coming along, there will be something for everyone. Fun guaranteed!

I look forward to seeing you on Saturday 26th October 2014

Confirm your attendance

Come and join the Ready Steady Pro Facebook Community and use the Facebook Event to stay up to date with the details of the event.

Looking forward to meeting you and making some great photographs!

Thanks / Michael

The Olympus OM-D E-M5: 10 Months Later

Originally featured over on Michael Rammell’s blog, @ www.michaelrammell.com


All relationships start out with a honeymoon period where you can easily, and often unconsciously, forgive all those annoyances: not squeezing the toothpaste from the end of the tube, not putting the toilet seat down or the eye cup constantly falling off… That’s right. Now my honeymoon period with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is over I wanted to give another review with a bit more of a harsh and honest light being shone on this camera.

The initial review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 was posted back in February 2014. That ‘review’ was a first impressions type post about my immediate thoughts having used the camera for a few weeks. Naturally I was excited to have my hands on a new camera. In general I was very impressed with the E-M5. In fact, that’s an understatement: I went out and bought my own after only a few weeks of having the loan camera from OlympusUK. At the time of that review there were a few quirks that sort of bothered me and upon reflection my initial excitement may have paved over those quirks a little. So I’m not going to hold back in this review. I’ll tell you about the good, the bad and the ugly. No holes barred.

One thing I would like to say before I begin though is that most of the issues are physical things, some of them practical things, but almost none of the issues I’m about to point out with the E-M5 are related to picture quality or the ability of the camera to produce photographs. Let me be clear in that respect: the E-M5 is a stunning camera. I talk more about the picture-making ability of the camera more towards the end of the post, but for now, here are my updated thoughts on the E-M5. The review starts off as a bit of a rant, but becomes more positive, so stick with me until the bitter end:

The Eye Cup (Olympus EP-10)

The first issue with the OM-D E-M5 is the eye cup. The reason I point this out first is because it was the first thing to go wrong. In fact there are two issue with the eye cup:

  1. It doesn’t offer enough shade to the EVF and it isn’t comfortable enough when pressed up against your face.
  2. It always falls off the camera when you take it out of the bag or even if you’re just carrying it over your shoulder. I’ll admit it took about 3 months for it to fall off for the first time, but once it was off there was no stopping it. The little piece of rubber spent more time in the bottom of my bag than it did on my camera!

So, the first of the two issues is that the eyecup just isn’t sufficient in terms of offering you shade enough to comfortably look into the viewfinder, particularly in strong light. It’s acceptable in most conditions, but in London on a sunny day I found myself having to sometimes use my left hand to actually provide additional shade. A baseball cap would have also done the trick, however I don’t look good in hats!

Secondly, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve put the camera up to my eye only to realise that the eyecup is nowhere to be found! Most of the time it had fallen off into my bag and was recovered, but on one occasion I was shooting a birthday party for a client and after packing my gear away I had to go back to search for it in the last place I remember seeing it. I found it, thankfully.

Now this may not seem like such a big deal to many, but the fact that the official replacements retail at around £25 from most places seems absurd to me. (this is for an EP-11 replacement. I’ll come to that in a minute). The fact also that it comes off of the camera so easily is crazy! You only have to look in the Olympus groups on Facebook to know that Olympus users are purchasing cheaper alternatives from Ebay in packs of 3 or 5 and using them as some sort of consumable.

Call me a fool but I’m not one to purchase cheap alternatives for a camera that I’ve spent good money on, so I personally took the plunge and purchased the EP-11 from Park Cameras. Part of the reasoning for this was that I was leading a photowalk in London on a sunny Saturday and the eye cup that comes with the E-M5 came off again but this time it broke (one of the parts that helps the eye cup clip (poorly) onto the E-M5 snapped). I used the E-M5 for much of that day without an eye cup. When we were near to Park Cameras I popped in and picked one up.

What I would say about the EP-11 that I bought though is that it’s solid, doesn’t come off and offers all the shade the factory eyecup should have offered. My advice here would be to start shipping the E-M5 with the much improved EP-11 and discontinue the EP-10. It’s problematic. You’ll have to go into a store to see why, or have a look on Google Image Search for the EP-11 to see the difference. I’ve included some shots of the EP-11 on the E-M5 right here:

(Click to enlarge)

 

The price of the replacement eyecup conveniently brings me to my next gripe:

The Lack Of Lens Hoods

Okay, so this issue isn’t actually an issue with the E-M5 as such, but it deserves a mention as I’ve spent a fair amount of money on lens hoods already, when really, given that the flange distance between the sensor and the rear element of the lens is much shorter than a DSLR, the E-M5 is quite susceptible to sun flare if you’re shooting towards the sun. The official Olympus LH-40B Lens hood for the 45mm f/1.8 for example costs £29.99! (it’s only a 7th of the price of the 45mm lens itself!) Again, like a fool in need I did actually purchase that official Olympus lens hood on the same day I picked up the replacement eyecup from Park Cameras.

(Click to enlarge)

For my 17mm f/1.8 however I picked up a lens hood from Amazon from popular cheap replica camera accessory maker JJC. I was a little reluctant as I genuinely didn’t want to ruin the actual aesthetics of the E-M5. Call me vein, but it is a marvellous looking camera and I didn’t want to put something nasty and tacky on the end of the lens. However, I was pleasantly surprised: the JJC lens hood that I purchased for a grand total of £6 is actually all-metal and has a brilliant screw mechanism that you hand tighten onto the end of the 17mm f/1.8. It actually looks better than the official Olympus lens hood. It’s superb!

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My plea here to Olympus would be to suggest that lens hoods are either included with the lenses (given that on an MFT camera they actually are more necessary than on most other cameras) or, alternatively at very least make them reasonably priced thus encouraging us to at least purchase a genuine Olympus Hood instead of looking to other companies. Lowering the price of the lens hoods may actually make Olympus more money.

I understand that the Pro lenses coming out (following the splendid 12-40 f/2.8 Pro) will have lens hoods included. Smart move Olympus, but please extend the same courtesy to the rest of the M.Zuiko lenses!

Button Size, Feel and Position

Generally speaking I’m happy with the number of buttons, their positioning and the quality of them, however, a couple of the buttons could have been more intelligently thought about to make them easier to use.

I’ve turned off the review photograph option meaning that I don’t get to see the photograph I just made automatically appear on the back of the LCD for a few seconds just after I’ve pressed the shutter. It stops me chimping and lets me continue shooting (it also saves battery). However, when I’m leading a photo walk of 5 – 15 people at one time it’s often handy to press that play button to then show others the back of my camera to demonstrate what I have just photographed. However, I find the pressing of the play button to be an adventure all in itself. It’s in the correct position – I’m happy with that – but actually pushing the button can be a challenge as the screen and the play button are so close together and the button is in a sort of crease if you like, meaning you really have to give the button a poke to get it to work. I am often found pressing it a few times before my photographs actually appear on screen.

Looking at the new EM-10 that Olympus released this year it looks as though Olympus have spotted this (or received feedback from their groups) and made amends with the release of their entry-level OM-D offering. That’s a good thing. A great thing in fact! But it would be nice for the play button to easier to press on the EM-5. It’s not a deal breaker, just a minor inconvenience. I would imagine it would be a nightmare when wearing thick gloves!

The next buttons I would pick fault with on the E-M5 are the directional buttons. Again, for me personally their positioning is fine. However, they’re a bit spongy. A bit soft. Rather than ‘clicky’ buttons they seem too soft under the finger to me. I’m being very pedantic here and I’ll be honest the only reason I realised I was harbouring a little frustration with these buttons was after using an E-M1 for a short while on a photo shoot. Which I’ll talk about shortly. I’m sometimes not sure if I’ve pressed it as I don’t get a reassuring click when I press it. Again, I’m being very, very picky here.

The mode dial does not feature a dial lock, meaning it’s easily knocked from Manual to Bulb or something different. This has been a frustration for me. The E-M1 fixes this. The E-M5 should have it too. Lets lock that mode dial into Manual mode!

The Battery Life

A problem not just with the EM-5, but with mirrorless cameras from other brands too. The battery life is like that of an iPhone: if you don’t use it it’s not awful. However, like me if you’re out all day making photographs you’re going to need some spare batteries. A few weeks back I was in London for the day only for the camera to flash the horrid ‘Camera Low On Battery’ warning sign after about 450 frames. (again, pretty much not looking at the screen). Having used DSLR’s for so long the low battery indicator is something I’ve only really ever seen a handful of times in the past few years! However, because mirrorless cameras have the EVF you need to remember that it is effectively a tiny LCD screen, so with a DSLR you’re looking through a mirror, which requires no power. This is not the case with the E-M5 and other mirrorless cameras.

One of the things I’ve done to preserve battery even more is to have the EVF auto-switch off and the live-view LCD off at all times, meaning my LCD doesn’t display anything at all unless I press play, an option button or go into a menu. The EVF is also switched off until the moment I bring the camera up to my eye. The EVF is responsive enough so that by the time it’s up at my eye it’s on and showing me the screen (I love that about the E-M5). The idea with all of this is that unless I have the camera up to my face to make a photograph it’s not doing anything.

In summary the battery life is just not good enough yet. Again, Olympus batteries are expensive, but unlike with the lens hood and the eyecup I have gone elsewhere in the market to source my spares. With the Olympus official battery being in the region of £50 and other brands being £10 it made sense to me to go for something else, particularly seeing how often I would need to change batteries.

I would reiterate though that other manufacturers mirrorless offerings are also failing on this as well. DSLR’s solved their battery issues a long time ago: I can make 1,500 shots on my Canon before needing to change batteries.

Also, the more you use the camera the better you’ll get at preserving battery: you’ll spend less time in the menus and reviewing photographs and more time shooting.

The Electronic Viewfinder

The EVF is wonderful. There is no doubt. It’s refresh rate is sublime so you simply do not get any of that lag that you had with some of the earlier mirrorless cameras from other manufacturers. What I particularly love about the viewfinder is the information overlay you can have – the live histogram, live shadow and highlight clipping and more. And of course the what you see is what you get feel. It just makes sense. Going back to a DSLR pentaprism viewfinder now feels odd to me! But, again, having seen the viewfinder in the X-T1 from Fuji and the Olympus EM-1 I am left with EVFE – Electronic View Finder Envy! I do love the EVF on the EM-5, it’s excellent, but compared to the E-M1 I feel very much like that’s how it should be. It’s perhaps a little unfair of me to say that I prefer the EVF of another camera and mention that in this review, but the reason I have to mention this is because the EVF in the E-M5 just isn’t quite as good as those others. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, in fact it’s excellent. But this is reason I am going against what I said in my initial review of the E-M5 and will be upgrading to the E-M1 in a few weeks time from now. (Again, we’ll come to the E-M1 in the summary)

The In-Body 5-axis Stabilisation

The stabilisation in the Olympus was what sealed the deal for me. It pushed me from ‘Mmmmm’ to ‘Oh Wow’. Nothing has changed. The stabilisation in this camera is immense. You may have heard others mentioning the stabilisation before, but you have to feel it and see it to believe it.

DSLR manufacturers have in the past tried to implement in-body stabilisation, but without any great degree of success. Olympus have however worked their magic and put together a stabilisation system that doesn’t just work, I’d say it’s as effective as the IS in my Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS USM II (£1,600 worth of lens!).

But the benefits of in-body stabilisation don’t stop there. Of course, having this feature built into the body, rather than into the lens, means that the lenses themselves need only contain glass and any focussing motors. Which means they can be tiny (really tiny!) light weight and left to do just one job: let light through the glass with as little distortion and refraction as possible. Olympus lenses win here time and time again. Thanks largely in part to the stabilisation. I can’t fault Olympus at all when it comes to lenses for the O-MD’s. Wonderful.

Lack of Focus Peaking

Again, another feature that I wish the E-M5 had is focus peaking. It may seem odd to some to need focus peaking with auto focussing lenses (that also happen to focus rocket-fast!) But, there are so many incredible lenses available for Micro Four Thirds and not all of them from Panasonic or Olympus. You can also use a wonderful series of mounts and adaptors, but as is often the case with these things you can often lose the auto focus feature. With a DSLR and someone not so seasoned in auto focussing this may be an issue, but if there was focus peaking on the EM-5 you would be able to attach a stellar piece of glass and use manual focus to ensure perfect, tac-sharp crispness.

I spent some time with Neil Buchan-Grant in early June and Neil uses a selection of older lenses (including some amazing Leica lenses) that do not feature auto focus. With focus peaking on his E-M1 that just isn’t an issue though. In fact, it revolutionises manual focus entirely! It’s a shame it doesn’t feature on the E-M5.

I’m very hopeful it will be delivered in a Firmware update.

Focus Tracking

Focus tracking is average at best, but fine in good light. As I mentioned in my initial review the E-M5 contains only contrast detect, not phase detect, meaning it looks for the contrast in a scene. Maybe I’m asking for too much from this little camera, but I would love it if the focus tracking were just that little bit better, whether that means the inclusion of phase detect I don’t know, but it would certainly go someway to plugging that now awkward gap between the E-M10 and E-M5. The E-M10 seems a capable camera, featuring many things the E-M5 does not, almost diminishing the value of the E-M5 somewhat. Then again, the E-M5 features some things that a photographer such as myself is more concerned about (weather resistance, 5 axis stabilisation). The 3 models of camera do sit nicely in a podium formation (1st: E-M1. 2nd E-M5 and 3rd: EM-10) but there are some blurring of the lines between the three cameras.

Enough of the negatives

Okay, so I’ve been pretty harsh on Olympus and the E-M5 so far, but don’t get me wrong I still adore this camera. It’s still my go to camera for most of what I shoot. That’s probably why I’ve been so critical of it. I want it to be better.

As you may have realised I haven’t really said much about the ability of the camera to make photographs in terms of the quality it’s capable of producing, but that’s mainly because I can’t fault it. Sure, the ISO is fine up to 3200 and beyond that it’s a bit of a stretch in low light conditions, but really, the files I am getting out of my E-M5 are wonderful. It’s often why I prefer to pick it up instead of the Canon. When it comes to post-processing at the end of a shoot I enjoy looking at the Olympus files much more!

Let’s talk about the technical side of things in more detail:

White Balance

With my Canon DSLR it was pretty decent at picking the correct white balance if set to auto. It’s something I did occasionally. However, if I was shooting a wedding or a portrait the AWB on the Canon 7D would sometimes be a little off the mark and choose a balance that would make the scene either rather blue or a little too warm. Whilst this isn’t really a massive issue as it can ‘Just be fixed in Photoshop’ as people like to say; it all adds time to the post processing work flow. With the E-M5 I’ve only had it off of Auto White Balance a a couple of times. It really does nail white balance 99% of the time. I don’t know what voodoo Olympus have done here, but it works better than any other system I’ve used. If you’re thinking of picking up an E-M5 rest assured white balance issues are basically a thing of the past.

Tolerant Files

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t know what it is about the files that come out of the Olympus Cameras, but they’re superb! I’ve found that they can really take a beating in Lightroom. Not that I over-process (I don’t think) but the files don’t suffer from halo’s, they can take the highlights being reduced dramatically and the shadows being given a little boost without much or any damage to the pixels at all. It seems to me that Olympus truly have found a balance between the quality of the pixels and the number of pixels with their MFT sensors.

Sharp As Hell

One thing I’ve also realised with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is that I’m able to produce photographs sharper than I ever have from a DSLR. I know this is as much to do with the lenses, but with the 45mm and the 17mm (both f/1.8) they’re incredibly sharp

Responsiveness

Again, something I was a bit concerned about when people started talking seriously about mirrorless cameras for the first time a couple of years back was how that you were forced to slow down with your shooting. With some of the Fuji’s in particular. With the Olympus it’s not a problem. The dials all spin and rotate to infinity (they’ll keep spinning and spinning) and the auto focus is incredible. I don’t feel limited, restricted or let down by how fast this camera responds at all. Now, that said slowing down can be a valuable reminder of what you’re doing, but for me I’m more concerned about missing a shot.

The only negative to speak of here is that I have found if you’re going from one extreme to the other, such as reducing shutter speed from 1/2000th to 1/80th (perhaps you’ve gone from outside to inside); rapidly rolling the dials is perfectly possible, but the on-screen reading of shutter speed is a step behind it seems. This sounds odd, so I’ll try to explain: with a Canon DSLR you can spin the wheels and dials in any direction to change the settings: aperture, ISO & shutter etc. The moment that wheel or dial rotates and clicks into the next position the corresponding setting in the Viewfinder has changed – further more no matter how fast you change settings you can see them changing instantly.

With the Olympus, if you scroll quickly you’ll find that you can go from 1/2000th to 1/500th and not see the shutter speeds in between as the camera doesn’t seem to update as quickly.

This is a minor thing, but I would just like these settings to change a bit more promptly, in-time with the clicks of the dials I’m spinning. This is me being hyper critical.

Build Quality

Something I was really impressed with first time round when I first wrote a review of this camera was the build quality. Part of me worries a little that something may eventually start to wear or tear, but so far, after heavy use in different conditions I can honestly say it is still built incredibly well.

If you’ve read my first review, or even part of it, you’ll notice that the first thing I mentioned was the build quality and that was because I was so impressed with it. Olympus have done a marvellous job of making the E-M5 feel solid and well built.

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Even today, after extensive use the camera doesn’t feel like something is about to fall off and non of the colour is wearing from any part of the camera. To give you an idea of the use I’m getting from the E-M5: I take it everywhere with me: every day to work in my bag everywhere at weekends in the camera bag or in the kids changing bag, 2 trips to Boston and back, and a number of times on the beach – sometimes hot, sometimes cold, wet and windy.

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The build quality scores a full 10 out of 10. Well done Olymus.

Black and Whites

One thing I’d like to give a special mention to is the black and white photographs I’m producing with the E-M5. I’ve already spoken about how tolerant the files are in post processing, but the files go to a whole new level in black and white. This somewhat is a repeat of the comment about the tolerance of the files, but I find the range between the blacks and the whites to be greater than what I have been used to with the Canon DSLR’s. LightRoom in particular really allows me to push and pull the files to the extremes of the blacks and whites without the subtle shades and tones in between suffering. ‘Silky’ is probably the most appropriate word that comes to mind to describe the black and whites you can produce from the E-M5.

Low Light Focussing

This has been an absolutely amazing surprise for me. Since owning the E-M5 I’ve had it with me at each and every wedding I’ve photographed. At first I would only pick it up for the odd shot here and there, but as I realised more and more just how capable a camera it was, it started filling in for the Canon at certain parts of the day. For example I find it far better for the preparation shots: it’s quieter, less intimidating and fast auto focus isn’t always required. Further more, balancing the internal ambient room lighting with bright and natural window light is all done as it happens through the Electronic Viewfinder. I find I have a higher keeper rate but more importantly I am am able to achieve the look I want quicker. However, I wouldn’t say at the moment that it is a contender for the church, owing to the fact I may have to stand far back, shoot in awkward and changing light conditions: the constant aperture tele focal lenses (constant f/2.8 for example) just aren’t here yet.  Long story short the E-M5 and Canon DSLR formed a wonderful tag team. One of the things it excels at and beats the Canon DSLR at is achieving focus in low and awkward light conditions, specifically during the first dance; if the couple have booked a DJ with strobes and coloured lights, or the venue is very poorly lit, I found that the E-M5 was somehow able to achieve focus more promptly than the Canon. I used the 17mm and the 45mm f/1.8 primes, so there was no hunting back and forth at all, unlike with the Canon.

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Again, the prep shots in the morning in good light – that was something I truly expected the E-M5 to excel at. I knew what it was all about in those conditions, but to find it actually solved a long-standing problem (for me anyway) with focussing when the guests were throwing their shapes was a real bonus.

Street Photography

Finally, I can’t review the E-M5 without talking about it as a street photography camera, after all that’s what i do mostly. Again it scores full marks here. It’s not intimidating, it’s not obvious and I don’t look like a photographer. So, when it comes to making street portraits I genuinely believe there are shots and situations I can capture that perhaps I wouldn’t if I were carrying a DSLR around with me.

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Having said that, Mirrorless cameras like this haven’t always been the order of the day among street photographers. It’s not to suggest that a DSLR is not capable of street photography, because clearly it is. It’s all about preference really.

Secondly though, the practical element is of course the size and weight. I’m still carrying around a big bag (the Think Tank Retrospective 30) filled with all sort of stuff, but really the E-M5 and Lenses take up hardly any of that space.

Summary

I’m still loving the E-M5. As I said at the top of this blog I love it more now I’ve had it for some time. I’ve become very used to it. It’s so customisable that it really isn’t much different from what I was used to with Canon DSLR’s in terms of button and dial layout etc. Sure, it has it’s limitations: It’s not amazing at tracking moving subjects, but is an improvement on a DSLR when used in low and challenging light conditions because it achieves focus faster and more accurately.

One of the biggest advantages though that the E-M5 and the Olympus range of cameras has though is two-fold: the in-body image stabilisation is simply amazing. It means that any lens you mount to the E-M5 is stabilised, which is a feature not to be overlooked.

In addition, because of the stabilisation being built into the body of the camera it removes the need to have all those motors and complex bearings inside the lenses themselves, meaning they truly can be tiny. So when people talk about moving over to Mirrorless, or picking up a mirrorless as their travel and lightweight option, really Olympus is the brand to go for on that front. There are other Mirrorless cameras available of course from the likes of Fuji, Sony and Panasonic, but the lenses for those cameras are huge, (comparatively) so it really does undermine the idea that they are tiny little cameras. The Olympus wins on size for sure.

I hear it so often that the Olympus is a ‘Solid Little Camera’. Whilst that is 100% true, that phrase makes you think it’s not a serious camera, because it’s ‘Little’. Well, I’ll tell you right now that the Olympus is most definitely serious. It isn’t small, it’s tidy, neat and compact. The technology of this camera and it’s ability to make amazing still photographs totally defies it’s size.

For now, I still have my Canon DSLR and as Tony Northrup has recently talked about, the only reason I can’t really drop it at the moment is because of my beloved 70-200mm f/2.8 II IS USM. But that’s more about the lens than the camera body. The DSLR still wins for action and wildlife or subjects of a fast moving nature. But, Olympus have (at the time of writing this) just released the long-awaited 40-150 f/2.8 (effectively an 80-300mm). If that’s as good as it’s supposed to be then an E-M1 and one of those bad boys may well be on the Christmas list as a replacement for the DSLR. I have written to Olympus and asked for that combination of camera and lens on loan. We’ll see what happens.

The only question then would be “What to do with all these CF cards?

The Best Way To Improve Your Photography. Period.

There is no magic bullet when it comes to learning photography. Practise, reading and studying are all ways you can improve your craft and become a better photographer.

However, if you ask me there is one, single sure fire way you can dramatically and quickly improve your photography: Critique.

This applies to every photographer, no matter how raw or how advanced you are. As I’ve always said: “You can’t learn everything through your own experiences”.

Feedback from an Artisan

In early June I spent a day with Neil Buchan-Grant. A student of photography – a real craftsman with an eye for detail. After the interview Neil and I went out with the cameras and talked about all things photography and later, over dinner Neil was kind enough to cast his eye over my street photography portfolio. I urged Neil to be honest, harsh and not to hold back and tell me what he really thought of my work.

Whilst Neil was (I believe) very kind and diplomatic to me he did offer some honest feedback. It stung! Neil wasn’t horrible about my work at all, but with apparent ease he pointed out many things that were wrong with a number of the photographs and offered ways in which the photographs could be easily improved with a little post-processing alone. Following Neil’s feedback all that was wrong with my photographs became clear to me!

I just thought “Damn!”, but more than anything it made me determined to go out and make better photographs next time based on the feedback I was given.

I feel like I’ve come a long way photographically so I was gutted to hear the flaws in my work being highlighted. I personally love my own street photography work, my portraits in particular. Whilst that may sound vein, it is of course because I was there. I remember the moments I made those photographs and the moments that were behind them. I am emotionally invested in my work. Neil is not. So, with a fresh and unbiased pair of eyes Neil was able to offer so much value to my photographs because he is skilled, practised and honest. All components needed to make successful photographs.

My Guide to Critique

Although I already knew and appreciated the value of harsh, honest and open minded critique, I hadn’t really had a session with a photographer who’s work I adored like I do Neil’s. So on that drive home from Winchester I thought a lot about the process of critique and the benefits it holds. This blog post is borne out of that experience and these are my views on critique…

Seek Critique from a Photographer you Respect and Whose Work You Admire

The first thing I would suggest, if you don’t already, is to start making use of bookmarks in your browser, or at least use a notepad: make a list (or a folder of bookmarks) of all of those photographers you respect. By this, I mean photographers whose blogs you read and content you like. If you like their perspective on photography and that photographer resonates with you, great. But also, ensure you truly admire their work. Critique can sometimes be given excellently by people who aren’t necessarily the greatest of photographers themselves, but knowing that the person who is critiquing your photographs can actually produce the level of work you aspire to, goes a long way to giving their feedback some conviction.

So, like the person, enjoy their work, seek their feedback. Keep in mind though that you shouldn’t expect a response from everyone you approach. Be prepared for that.

Positive Feedback is Half as Valuable as Constructive Criticism

Be selective about where you choose to seek critique. Places such as Flickr, in my opinion, are wonderful places to get eyes on your photographs and people are very willing to also drop kind comments on your photographs too. However, kind comments are not always what you want. “Well done!”, “Great Shot!”, “Love This!” don’t offer any real value other than to let you know that the person in question likes the photograph you’ve posted. You don’t know why they like it. It is nice to get a pat on the back for the work you produce, sure, but instead why not look for the feedback where people point out what is wrong with the photograph in a constructive and helpful manner. Only then will you learn what you need to improve upon.

I’m not suggesting you seek out negativity, but just look to gain something more than confirmation that someone likes the photograph you’ve uploaded.

Take it on Board

It’s one thing to seek the feedback and then get it, but another to actually implement changes based on that feedback, or be conscious of what you’re doing when you’re next on a shoot. Rather than just seeking critique, actually take the critique on board. Consider what it is that person has pointed out or told you and then consider whether you want to implement a change, or research a method of how to improve that weakness in your photographic skill set.

Basically, listen to the critique and then apply it to improve. It sounds simple, but without this element the whole critique process falls down. What’s the point in listening if you’re not going to use what you’ve been told?

Have an Open Mind

Furthering the idea of taking the critique on board, you also have to have an open mind when seeking critique. Obviously, you’re not always going to agree with what people have to say, even if it is valid. Stubbornness can sometimes be a good thing, but other times it’s a good idea to listen to what others have to say with an open mind. If you’re not prepared to listen to the feedback of others, you’re not going to learn.

If you do decide that the way you’ve shot or processed an image is better or preferable to what someone says in a comment, that’s fine, but still give some thought to what the other person is saying, at least. After all, they have taken the time to write their thoughts down for your benefit. It would be courtesy to consider what they’re saying.

Be Selective

Taking one step back to the subject of stubbornness: sometimes, you may get critique, and it may well be very valid and fair, but you may still not agree with it. Your photographs are your work, you blood, sweat and tears. You have invested in making your photographs with your energy, early mornings and late nights – You do have the right to be single minded about your work and continue pushing on with a style of your own, even if others don’t agree. I’m not giving you the green light to ignore everyone’s critique, but I am saying you can leave the door open to sometimes not agree with someone’s feedback: perhaps that person’s feedback is based on their own preferences and styles. Maybe I’m repeating my previous point, but again remember people are taking time to offer feedback. They’re doing you the favour.

Don’t Take It Personally

We all know that when sitting behind a keyboard people are more bold and will often say things they may not say if they were sitting across a table from you. People can be more ballsy and more blunt. Perhaps more than they would ever be in the real world when talking face to face.

But that can be a good thing…

Having that filter removed is a double-edged sword: it may invite trolls – those people who are just rude and offer criticism (not critique), These people you can choose to ignore. But, having no filter as such also allows certain people to come along and offer feedback in a harsh and honest way – which whilst it may sting a little will certainly offer lots of value.

Ignore The Negative Comments (Trolls)

Further to the above of not taking it personally – even from the trolls. It’s in some people’s nature to jump on board and slate your work. Let them do it. Just ignore the comments and don’t get involved, otherwise you’ll just end up arguing with someone who is well versed at over-the-internet debates. Remember that your aim was to seek helpful, constructive and honest feedback – not spend your time getting involved in debates with people on the other side of the planet whose work you’ve never seen and are unlikely to ever meet.

So be ready to take the rough with the smooth!

Your Style & Approach Will Evolve Over Time

Some people are at different stages in their relationship with photography. Others may have just started, whilst others may have been around the block a few times so to speak. So when someone suggests that a selective colour version of your photograph may look great, don’t judge them. They may not know they’re committing a faux pas. Remember, that in the same way your photography style has evolved and your knowledge has grown – everyone else is on the same path as well.

If you’re not putting your work out there for critique because you think you’re not good enough yet, or because you’re not ready to do so, then when will you be ready? My answer to that would be never! The sooner you seek critique and start actioning it, the faster you’ll develop. Don’t wait until you’re better. Go and get better!

Think about a band or a musician you’re a fan of: over the years how have their albums changed? Their breakthrough album may have sounded ‘fresh’ and new at the time, but a few albums and a few years later I’m sure you’ll agree that their later work is more polished and has a larger production, making their earlier work maybe sound a little more ‘raw’. Well, it’s the same with us photographers and creatives.

Fashions, Trends and Style

Over the decades trends have changed. At the moment we’re apparently in the age of filters and effects. This point I’m making here is not a direct attack on filters and effects, but remember: just because it’s fashionable and popular, doesn’t mean you have to do it too. In fact, as I’ve said before being different is just as important as being the best (if not more important). So be wary if you decide to take part in fashions and trends. My advice would be to stick to what you enjoy doing and the way you like doing it, improving along the way.

Harsh and Honest Critique is the Best Critique

Don’t always seek validation from those you admire, but instead seek to please yourself

This may sound contradictory to what I said earlier, but there is a difference between seeking validation and seeking critique: yes, you should approach those whose work you admire for critique, but be careful not to get into the habit of just producing work to please those people. These people should be the ones helping you to define a style, carve out an approach and polish your products so to speak, but they’re not the people you need to make happy. If you shoot weddings, portraits, pets or any sort of photography where you have a client: it’s those people you need to make happy. It’s those people who need to love your work. Whilst they may appreciate the straight horizon and defined jaw lines, they may not necessarily care about a little bit of noise, or the bokeh or the extreme, fine details that the photographers you show your work to will point out.

Clients and photographers are very different audiences…which brings me to my next point:

Remember Who your Audience Is When It Comes To Your Photography

I’ve written about this subject already in a previous blog post. I want to urge you to remember who you’re shooting for. Are you shooting for clients, yourself or for other photographers? You need to know this and keep this in mind as it will impact the work you’re producing.

If you’re shooting for yourself it can be whatever you want. All that work has to do is please you.

If you’re shooting for other photographers then the chances are you’re going to be looking at producing the most technically perfect pictures you can.

If you’re shooting for clients however, then it’s a different game – Now you’re looking to make photographs that they’ll enjoy and as I mentioned before: they’re going to appreciate different aspects of a photograph to both you and other photographers. To a client the photographs are almost always about the moments, the expressions and the people. Not the technical elements.

Giving Critique As Well As Receiving Critique

Ghandi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Well, i would say that you should also give the critique you wish to receive.

Giving critique is also valuable. Stop to look at photographs. Inspect them. Don’t necessarily search for flaws, but instead look for what works in that photograph, look for the successful elements, the things that make the average photograph a great photograph. Then, tell the photographer who posted that picture what it is you love about it. Sure, mention the halo, or the aberration, or the wonky horizon, but be sure to be positive with your critique, be honest and be helpful. Don’t just beat people down. Be courteous.

What do you think?

No matter where you are with your photography I’m sure you’ve had someone criticise your work (not critique). When was the last time you received solid critique from a fellow photographer? Did you action or change anything as a result of that critique? Did that improve your photography.

I would love to hear your critique experiences – share them below.

Measuring Success and your Meaning of it

The dictionary definition of success is:

“The accomplishment of an aim or purpose”

 

Success will be defined differently by different people. Of course as the dictionary definition says it’s about accomplishing an aim or a purpose. So, to further define our own success we have to determine what our aims are and what our purpose is, right?

I would go out on a limb and say that when most people talk about being successful, they’re referring to making lots of money, or at least a ‘decent’ amount by their standards. Some people would say that it’s not all about money and more about happiness.

So if we’re not all agreed on the definition of success, how do we measure it?

happiness

Many different successes in life

Okay, so if we’re going to view success as achieving something; a goal or a target, then one may say that in life you can have many different goals and targets. For example, get grades, get house, get car, find wife, have kids. They’re all various successes someone could have. But if someone achieves all those things where does that leave them? Does that mean they’ve achieved everything in life? Is that person successful?

I would argue it’s also a lot about how you go about your success and how happy your successes makes you. In fact I’d go as far as to say that happiness and fulfillment are measures of success that should not be forgotten about.

Different views of ‘Success’

Success, if you ask me, is an opinion. It’s a feeling. Sure If you want to measure success by how much money you’re making then perhaps it’s easier: you can set a target and work towards that amount. Success could be a target of £100,000 per year.

But success could also be in the way that you make your money, rather than just actually making it. Success will vary on grand scales for people. Perhaps you’ll have succeeded when your photography business pays your bills? Success for someone else could be as simple as earning enough from shooting weddings this year so that they can buy that 5D MkIII or Nikon D4s. To others though, success may be actually making some money from photography for a start.

Success will be determined by what is important to us in life, the stage of life we’re at and what we value most.

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Success will change as our aims and purposes change

I think my definition of success and as such happiness has evolved over the years. It initially was a materialistic measure, which I think children and young people are too often taught in school, sometimes at home and all too often by television. I started working in IT at a young age and there was one particular person I looked up to who was very materialistic at the time. Because I looked up to him in the early days I somewhat inherited his narrow view of success (in my opinion). At a very young age I was earning a good amount of money. I mortgaged my own house with my own money at just 22 years old. But that didn’t make me happy at all.

When I found photography I became more and more interested in spending time making photographs, sharing, discussing and experiencing photography and all it has to offer.

When I met my wife I was more interested in getting to know her and find out all about her and growing with her as a person. We experienced a lot together (and still are).

When I had children, I was mostly interested in spending time with them and making the best possible family I could. Photography was and still is a huge part of my life and I’m very distracted by it at all times. I say that I am distracted by it because at times life is about more than photography, it’s about all of those other things that I am now learning are part of what I’m calling my success.

As new things have come into my life and priorities have changed I’ve always found that the one component needed for me to make those new things fit and work in my life to a point where I can truly enjoy them, rather than make them feel like work, is TIME.

My own Definition of Happiness

I think my definition of happiness is having time and being in control of it. Making money, in whatever way that is, is a vehicle to buying time as far as I’m concerned. Obviously, having a hobby for photography like I do offers me an avenue to explore in terms of combining that and making the money I need to buy time. BUT, in the last few years I’ve realised that the finite amount of time I have in a day, or a week was being overly allocated to photography and taken away from my wife and children.

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I think having a balance of time, control and money is my definition of happiness. Having time to explore what I come across in life and take opportunities, having control of that time so I can do things when I want to do them, and having enough money to be able to afford all of that.

Time, for me is the most important thing, but time is dependant on other things. (Control and Money). That’s my ‘formula’ so far.

Whilst some people will still consider money to be their measure of success, others will insist that money doesn’t matter at all and that’s absolutely fine. In my opinion money is necessary, but it’s a small part that enables the other components that I define as success. Unfortunately being a photographer, whether professional or a hobbyist isn’t the cheapest of passions to pursue when you compare it to say playing Squash or running. So again, you do need money to enable you to pursue what makes you happy. (if your passion isn’t free of course)

What does any of this have to do with photography?

You may be asking why on earth I am talking about this subject on a photography blog? Well, I want to get you thinking about why you’re doing this in the first place? Why are you trying to make money from photography? What does it offer you that your day job or current pursuit doesn’t? The point is that we sometimes forget why we’re doing things when we become obsessed with them and I know full well how addictive photography can be.

Closing Question

So, now that I’ve shared my thoughts on what I call success, what does ‘Success’ look like to you? It doesn’t have to be the same as me. Success to some can be financial security, or travelling the world and of course earning money is a necessary part of those things.

What is success to you?

P.S: I remember when I was very young and there were a few times where I’d asked for a gadget, such as a Sony Walkman, or a toy such as an Action Man. Sometimes I wouldn’t get those things. However, what my brothers and I did have in our childhood were plenty of great times: Travelling down to the Isle of White or to the Hayling Island coast in the UK. Disney Land Paris, City Breaks with my mum and Brothers, holidays to Greece, driving down to the South of France that took 2 days, camping in the garden things like that. They weren’t tangible thingsThey weren’t the gadgets or toys I asked for as a young boy. But what they were, were great times and memories. Sure, I didn’t get the Action Man or the Sony Walkman, most likely because I was a horrible child most of the time or we didn’t have the money for much of my childhood, but if I did get those toys, I wouldn’t be sitting here now saying to you that “I had the greatest Mum because she bought me the Walkman and the Action Man“.

However I am saying that I had a cool Mum because she gave me experiences and memories that I still have today. I did get other toys and gadgets of course, but I don’t know where any of those are today. However,  I still remember those great times and today they still have value to me. It’s for reasons such as this that I believe my definition of success is less materialistic and more about time to enjoy happiness.

When I’m old and grey, will I remember the Sony Walkman? Or, will I remember the time my brother got stuck in a swing in the park that was clearly too small for him at Hayling Island?

Happiness to me is more than things and stuff and money.

Podcast 16 – An Interview with David DuChemin

Episode 16 of the Ready Steady Pro Podcast brings you the first Interview since Michael has returned from his break. This week on the podcast Michael chats with the one and only David DuChemin.

David-Angkor-Horiz

If you’ve not heard of David DuChemin then you need to firstly listen to this interview, but also check him out online. David owns the amazing Craft & Vision eBook company. C&V are, in my mind, the best photography book company out there. The C&V books are not only amazingly finished and full of so much quality, but they’re usually only $5 too! David himself is a very humble and intelligent gentleman and I really enjoyed this interview.

We talk about David packing his life into a Land Rover, falling off a wall in Italy, starting all over again, starting an eBook company as a happy accident, we talk about inspiration, creativity, vision, business, his appearance on Creative Live and so much more. I can’t believe we didn’t go on for 3 hours with this chat.

There are also lots of news and announcements at the end of today’s show too, including lots of ways you can too can get involved with Ready Steady Pro such as Photographer In Focus, Photography Q&A and how you can apply to appear as a guest on the show!

It’s good to be back! So get ready for another cracking episode. Notepads to hand!

Sit back and enjoy this episode of Ready, Steady Pro! Click the link below to listen / download the podcast. You can also watch the original Google+ Hangout on YouTube (but you will miss out on all of Michael’s news & updates


View In iTunes
Click here to listen to the Podcast

The RSS Feed for this Podcast is: http://readysteadypro.libsyn.com/rss


This weeks Topic

An Interview with David DuChemin


Today’s Little Gems

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Vision Driven Photography – Creative Live
The Created Image Video Series Volume 1
Vision Mongers by David DuChemin


Show Notes / Links

Craft & Vision
SquareSpace
An Interview with David DuChemin – Original YouTube Broadcast


This weeks Hosts

Michael Rammell
David DuChemin

Podcast 15 – Gear for Photographers: What’s in our camera bags?

We’re back! Let’s get back into the swing of things with this really apt song!

It’s been far to long I know! But The Ready Steady Pro Photography Podcast is back! Episode 15 see’s us returning with a show recorded back in mind January. I was once again joined by the old guard (old as in they’ve been on the show before, not actually old) to talk about what gear we have in our bags. My guests for this episode include Rob Grimes, Lel Hurst, Neil Graham and Lee Jones.

Each of my guests today views the gear in their bags in a slightly different way and put emphasis on different items too. We talk about lenses and bodies, of course, but also other items and accessories you should have along with you on a wedding day. The subject of third party lenses comes up too when Rob touches on why he uses Sigma. I also ask my guests to talk about what items they easily could have done without when they first started and also to talk about the items they absolutely could not do without if push came to shove.

There are also lots of news and announcements at the end of today’s show too, including lots of ways you can too can get involved with Ready Steady Pro such as Photographer In Focus, Photography Q&A and how you can apply to appear as a guest on the show!

It’s good to be back! So get ready for another cracking episode. Notepads to hand!

Sit back and enjoy this episode of Ready, Steady Pro! Click the link below to listen / download the podcast.


View In iTunes
Click here to listen to the Podcast


This weeks Topic

Round Table Discussion: “What’s in our camera bags?”


Today’s Little Gems

Rob Grimes: Focal Lens Calibration Software
L
el Hurst: BoredPanda.com – Beautiful, Artistic & Fun. Check out this website
Neil Graham: SLR Lounges Complete review of Canon Lenses: Which lenses are best?
Neil Graham: Gordon Parks (found through Ted Forbes) – Check out his work
Lee Jones: Ready Steady Pro Facebook community – come along and join the Facebook community
Michael Rammell: One Camera One Lens by Paul Griffiths


Show Notes / Links

Sigma Lenses
SquareSpace


This weeks Hosts

Michael Rammell
Lee Jones
Lel Hurst
Neil Graham
Rob Grimes

Don’t Adjust Your Set

The Podcast is returning and new episodes are ready for release!

 

I’ve had numerous emails, messages on Facebook and posts to the Ready Steady Pro Community all asking the same thing: “Is my Podcast App broken?”

Don’t sweat it guys. Your Podcast app is not broken!

The last episode of the podcast, episode 14 was released on January 13th. I remember saying at the start of that episode that my newborn son was sleeping well at the time and that I didn’t want to jynx it.Well, I did just that! That first week he was sleeping wonderfully but almost immediately after that episode was released he started to wake during the night. Suffice to say we were tired! Add to that the fact we have an energetic two year old daughter too meant that my poor wife was left holding a sleepless baby and chasing after a bundle of energy.

bundle of energy

It was time for some time off! Lel Hurst perhaps put it the best way I’ve heard so far: “Michael’s been on Paternity leave”.

Well things are going smoothly again now and after plenty of time spent at home with the family It’s about time to begin podcasting again. So I’m very pleased to announce that as of Tuesday 8th April you’ll start to see one episode every week in your podcast feed!

For Episode 15 I’m really pleased to share a round table discussion that I had with Lel Hurst, Lee Jones, Rob Grimes and Neil Graham where we talked about what gear we had in our bags to shoot our niches. we discussed what gear we couldn’t live without and even what gear we could easily have not bothered buying when we started out.

So, if you’re new to the game (whether it’s weddings, portraits, sports or wildlife) I hope that this episode will have something in it for you.

Oh, and as I do with every episode I’ve got some news and some announcements that I’ll talk about a little bit both at the start and at the end of episode 15 including ways you too can get involved with Ready Steady Pro!

Stay Tuned to The podcast for photographers turning pro!

First Impressions Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5

Today on the blog, Ready Steady Pro Host Michael Rammell shares his thoughts on Olympus’ OM-D E-M5 Mirrorless Camera. This isn’t an in-depth technical review, but more a ‘thoughts so far’ review on the camera itself.

Originally featured over on Michael’s  website

It’s been two weeks now since I took receipt of the OM-D E-M5 from Olympus. Initially, the E-M5 I had was on loan from Olympus UK who were kind enough to send me a camera so that I could review it for the Ready Steady Pro Photography Podcast and Blog, which I will be doing in due course. But I’m not going to write a full review and release my video review until late March. At that point I’ll have had the camera for 5 or 6 weeks and I’ll have had ample opportunity to to put it through it’s paces fully: I’ll be playing with it at the Photography Show in early March, I’ll be out in Boston in the US in mid-March and I’ve got a day of Street Photography In London too between all that, so plenty of opportunity to really see what it can do.

Now, before I go any further and tell you about the camera itself I just want to let you know that I was personally quite skeptical about the mirrorless movement in general. Sure, the lightness and size of these cameras appealed to me, but I had serious doubts about their performance and ability and credentials before I decided whether or not I should jump on the bandwagon. My view was that they were an expensive fad almost, appealing to those people who shot film and were lured by the retro styling of cameras such as the OMD range from Olympus as the Fuji’s.

However, I’ll be clear and tell you now that I have fallen in love with the OMD in particular. At the time of writing I do still have the E-M5 on loan from Olympus UK, but it only took a week of using the loan camera before I put down the cash and bought my own, along with the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8. The pull for me, as well as the performance, as I talk about below, was also a great deal that Olympus are currently running whereby if you buy the kit E-M5 (Body + 12-50mm lens) you get afree 45mm f/1.8 and 2-stage HLD-6 Battery Grip. Those retail at a combined price of over £430 and Olympus were offering them for free. So, I jumped at the chance. (check out the deal and all the details on the Ready Steady Pro Blog)

Free HLD-6 Battery Grip and M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 Prime Lens when you purchase an OMD EM5 with 12-50 Kit.
Free HLD-6 Battery Grip and M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 Prime Lens when you purchase an OMD EM5 with 12-50 Kit.

So, today I want to give a first impressions style review. My thoughts so far on this extremely tidy package and to give you a real honest opinion of what the camera can do, what it can’t do and ultimately a conclusion.

The Build Quality

The reason I want to start by talking about the build quality is because it truly was the first thing that blew me away when I took the lease camera out of the box: It’s weighty, it’s very sturdy and it’s all-metal body gives for an amazingly solid build. It is nothing short of impressive and that goes a long way to making this feel like a very serious camera, rather than just a little compact point and shoot with an EVF, which some people have often mistaken it for.

As someone who is used to shooting with a Canon 7d, which you may know also has an all-metal weather-sealed body and is built incredibly well by Canon, I was pretty much expecting something mostly plastic when I got the E-M5 out of the box. I was however pleasantly surprised to find that it feels as solid as any high-end DSLR when it’s in your hands. The only thing I can add to this – and this sounds odd, I know – is that the E-M5 doesn’t feel hollow. It feels very much like every millimeter of space inside the camera is packed with technology and that it all holds together very well.

Being a weather-resistant body though, I should have guessed that it would be well built. I guess I just didn’t know what to expect seeing as it was the first time I’d held an Olympus camera.

To be honest it’s not worth me saying too much more about the build quality because you genuinely do have to feel it to believe it, so to speak. If you’re at your local camera store or a trade show be sure to pick one of these things up. I’m sure you’ll be as impressed as I am.

Ergonomics – How does the E-M5 feel in your hands?

Now, this will be subjective depending on who is holding the camera. I know that for sure. Personally for me though, it feels superb. That solid mass in your gripped hand feels great. It’s heavy enough that you feel the quality and that weight gives it a sense of balance. So far I’ve only tried the kit 12-50mm and the ultra-lightweight (yet, all metal) 17mm f/1.8 M.Zuiko lens. This prime has hardly come off the E-M5 since I got it. When I talk about balance though I’m referring to the way the camera feels when you’re walking around with it, when you’re holding up to your face to shoot with it. For example when I’m out and about with the Canon 7d and the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 L IS USM II the camera feels extremely front heavy for obvious reasons. Add an extender to that and the feeling is amplified. Now, I know that’s not comparing apples for apples: One is a micro-four-thirds system with a compact prime and the other other is a Large DSLR with an L Class telefocal lens mounted to it, but it illustrates the point I’m trying to make. Albeit in an exaggerated manner. At the end of the day what I am saying is that it feels great.

Some may say that it’s too small and that you don’t have enough grip or body to get a decent and comfortable purchase on the camera when it’s in your hands, however you do have the optional 2-stage battery grip for the E-M5, the HLD-6. The beauty of this grip is that the 2-stage setup means if you can screw in the first part of the grip to add the desired ‘bulk’ to the front of the camera so that you have something more substantial under your finger tips. The bonus however, and I’ll admit I’m yet to experience this first hand as my grip is still in the post from Olympus, is that the second part of the grip is the dual-battery part with portrait-oriented controls. Effectively, this makes the E-M5 much closer to the feel of a DSLR. I think I may be right in saying that no other compact system has this (Fuji, Panasonic, Sony etc?)

I’m used to using my 7d with a grip because I honestly believe that it doesn’t feel quite right without it, so for me this option ticked a huge box. Although, I will probably only use the first stage of the grip for street photography. I’m going for incognito. Not obvious. I certainly will have te battery/portrait grip on it at all other times.

This is another part of the reason I’ll be doing a more full, in-depth review in the middle of March; by that time I’ll also have my 45mm f/1.8 M.Zuiko and Battery Grip to talk about.

In summary though – for me the E-M5 is a masterpiece of manufacturing from Olympus and it feels great in your hands, grip or no grip. It doesn’t bother me either way. A one word summary would be “Quality.

Pictures of the Olympus OM-D E-M5

The Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)

Honestly, the EVF and the Focusing were the only two things that were making me nervous about the E-M5 before receiving it from Olympus (we’ll come to focusing in a minute). But I’ll tell you now that the EVF is a dream to use. I find that there is hardly any lag at all, to the point where it isn’t noticeable and doesn’t have any negative impact whatsoever. It’s absolutely fine. I don’t have any other EVF experience to compare it to,  again, if you’re coming from the world of DSLR’s, like myself, I think this EVF does a great job of making it easy to adjust to.

There is no doubt though that the EVF is different if you’re used to using a mirror, but that isn’t an issue with the OMD, that’s just a trait of EVF’s in general – they are different to mirrors: after all you’re effectively looking at a tiny magnified screen, rather than a reflection.

If you’re unsure about Electronic Viewfinders and what they are and what they do – don’t worry. They’re pretty much a digital viewfinder. Think of them that way. The fact it is showing you a digital representation of what the sensor is seeing though, does offer some very distinct advantages over their mirrored cousins. For example: What you see in an Electronic Viewfinder is the end result once you’ve pressed the shutter. That’s right, when you press that shutter button what you’re seeing in the EVF is the picture you’ll end up with. It’s really cool.

Further more, with the EVF being an actual screen inside an eye cup (if you will) means manufacturers can actually overlay information on the picture and show effects in real time. For example, you can have an in-EVF histogram and you can see everything in black & white whilst you shoot. There are more features and benefits, but for me personally these are the only things I’m interested in as bonus features of using the EVF.

Focusing Speed & Accuracy

This was another one of those elephants in the room that was stopping me from pulling out my wallet and diving into the world of mirrorless: focusing was rumored to be slow on mirrorless cameras, but this was a reported issue with Fuji’s, Sony’s and Panasonic’s too. It wasn’t an OMD-Specific report. However, having been fortunate enough to have a unit on loan from Olympus for the sake of this review, it meant that I didn’t have to open my own wallet to find out what the camera was like.

Quite simply: this is not an issue with the E-M5 at all.

Olympus claim that the E-M5 has the fastest auto focusing in the world. Whilst that is a bold claim, what I wouldn’t refute is that the focusing is darn fast and very accurate, despite only having contrast auto detect. (You’ll find that most DSLR’s also have phase auto detect). Whatever Olympus have packed inside this thing to make it focus so quickly is simply wonderful.

With regards to the focus accuracy so far when I’ve used full auto focus (allowing the camera to select the focus point) it’s hit the nail on the head 9 times out of 10. I’d say that it’s no more or less accurate than a larger DSLR with both phase and contrast auto detect. It’s odd, but I can certifiably say “It just works”.

What I find though is that I’ve setup my E-M5 to be as close as possible in terms of it’s function button and control dial layouts as possible to my 7d. I haven’t the time to re-learn an entire system and I’m not keen on the idea of missing a shot and it being the fault of any camera. As a result, I also use the E-M5 in the same way I use my 7D: Single point, manually selected Auto focus point. This means I use the directional buttons to pick a point to focus on. This may be bad practice as they Olympus seems to snap-on to the correct focus point most of the time, however it’s just me and the way I like to work. In a busy scene with a lot going on or when shooting a close-up potrait, I haven’t the time or the inclination to risk having the camera focus on the tip of a nose instead of an eye.

But, this does speak to another amazing feature of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 – the customisation options are amazing. I’ll talk a little more about customisation shortly, but you’ll be pleased to know that the OM-D captures focus extremely well each and every time. This is a total non-issue.

Touch Screen

More and more cameras today are coming packed with touch screens, in fact everything today comes with a touch screen. My daughter, who is two years old always tries to select her favourite programs on Apple TV by touching the TV screen. Oh how the world has changed.

I digress.

The touch screen on the Olympus is simply fine. You can scroll through the photographs using an Apple-esque swipe motion, but it doesn’t feature a pinch to zoom gesture.

One way that Olympus have utilized the touch screen to full effect though is by implementing a touch screen focus and shutter function: You touch the area on the screen where you want the camera to focus and it quickly snaps into focus and then fires off a shot. I can’t see myself using this a great deal, at least I haven’t done so far, but my wife however loves this feature.

We went to Paris a few years back with a Sony NEX-3 and she loved it. Broke her heart when I sold it. Now she’s back in love with the Olympus because she doesn’t have to feel like a photographer and use the EVF. The quality of the display is such that it is perfectly feasible to obtain focus, compose your scene and make a photograph. So, the Touch screen gets a huge thumbs up from me personally and from my wife also.

I can see myself using the tilt feature of the screen when on the Tube in London. Looking down at the screen whilst it sits on my lap, then pressing the screen to make a photograph. I can see some benefits if truth be told. I’ll have to talk more about this when I do the full review.

But, in summary the screen is lovely and bright, refreshes incredibly quickly, is packed with detail and all sorts of customization options. Of course it also titles up and down too, which is a nice feature. It’s a great screen. Well done to Olympus!

Note: if the touch screen bothers you simply disable it in the menu.

Dials, Controls & Customisation

After only a few weeks of using the Olympus I’m at the point now where I’m very familiar with the button and dial layout. As I mentioned I use single focus points which I manually select. I’ve become accustomed to this in the same way I did on the 7d meaning I don’t have to pull away from the EVF to figure out which buttons to press, which for me is very important as I don’t want to miss a shot.

When I first received my own Olympus the aperture and shutter speed dials were already allocated as I wanted (you can swap them so that the front dial surrounding the shutter button can be aperture or shutter speed and the dial at the rear can be changed too). So, no matter what DSLR system you’re coming from you can set the dials up to be closer to what you’ve become used to on those systems.

You can also adjust the direction of the dials. Rotating clockwise will increase the shutter or aperture if you like, or, change that setting so that anti-clockwise increases them, or vice-versa.

The E-M5 also features two Function buttons (fn.1 & fn.2) and a record button for instant video. You can also re-assign the functions that these buttons activate and deactivate. I personally have ISO set to the top function button, meaning when pressed I can then quickly change my ISO using one of the dials or the directional buttons. I then have the back function button set as my White Balance button. I have left the record button as the video button.

With these settings in place I can now really quickly change all of the settings I need in order to achieve the shot I want. Just like I can with my Canon 7d.

The dials themselves seem relatively well placed and are very solid, continuing the theme of the great build quality. If you add the body grip you get an additional dial and shutter button, but this is simply a duplicate of those that are already on the body of the camera. This is a nice addition as the shutter button and the shutter speed dial (as I have mine set) are then further out on the front of the camera under your index finger. It’s a great addition. Furthermore add the second stage grip and you’ve got the same again, this time on the vertical axis.

Image Quality

Perhaps I should have touched on the image quality earlier on in this review. After all it doesn’t matter how much of a masterpiece the camera body is if it doesn’t make great photographs, right?

Well I’m personally extremely impressed with the files I’m getting out of the Olympus OM-D E-M5. I actually let Neil Graham borrow the camera for a day and he made the same observation as me – and that is that the files seem to be very forgiving in post-processing. You can really push them.

I’m personally a sucker for a black and white photograph, as you may be able to tell and to be honest the files are lovely and silky in Black and White, you can really push the blacks and the whites for a lovely high contrast monochrome finish.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing this post there are no camera profiles in LightRoom 5 for any Olympus lenses. That doesn’t matter too much as you can still take the RAW’s into LightRoom and do what you want with them, but it just means you can’t use the profile options. But, until I see a before and after with a profile enabled, I’m non-the-wiser as to what imperfections there are with the Olympus MFT lenses. I love them!

OM-D E-M5 Sample Photographs

High ISO Performance

Before making my own purchase I watched a few hours worth of YouTube videos to see what the OM-D was all about in terms of it’s ISO performance. I’d not really heard too many bad things, and the bad things I had heard were in my opinion flawed arguments as most of the time people were comparing the Olympus to top of the range DSLR’s such as the 1Dx and D4. Fine, they’re all cameras, but the bodies of the Nikon and Canon alone are upwards of £5,000. That’s like comparing a Ferrari to a tuned-track car. Sure, the Ferrari isn’t cheap and is a very capable car, but those track cars are designed specifically for what they do. As i said above when I was referring to balance (7d with 70-200 vs E-M5 with 17mm) it’s not comparing apples for apples. Why would anything that costs 8 times as much be a fair comparison?

Analogy and rant over I’ll tell you in my own words about the ISO performance: suffice to say I don’t want to talk technical and I haven’t done a side by side lab test, but from a practical perspective – I mean actually going out with the camera and shooting at high ISO’s of 3200 plus, I can say that I am extremely impressed yet again. The Micro Four Thirds sensor packed with 16megapixels. I found at ISO 3200 I still have very clean pictures. Add a little hint noise reduction in Lightroom and they come out even better. I can honestly say that coupled with a good technique, such as Exposing to the right the results are very clean.

The Price Point

I’m even more impressed with the price of the E-M5 now that I know the camera better: The outstanding build quality, the impressive customisation, the superb selection of lenses and ultimately the superb quality of files that you get as a result of all that. It’s a camera that has come down in price quite a bit since it’s launch. You can pick up a body only for a little over £500, but as I eluded to at the start of this post right now Olympus are running an offer giving you over £430 of accessories (a 45mm f/1.8 lens and the 2-stage battery grip) for free. This was a hugely deciding factor for me.

The E-M5 can only be described, in my mind, as amazingly capable, fantastically solid and great fun as well as being a perfectly feasible tool for ‘proper’ work (Portraiture, weddings etc). So, given all that it can do I’d say that the £899 I paid for it with the 12-50mm kit lense from Park Cameras was decent value. (I will say I chose to purchase from an authorized UK stockist for warranty reasons and so that I could make use of Olympus’ fully loaded deal). You can pick up an E-M5 Body only for £749 from Park, and I’ve seen it for around £650 elsewhere.

The amazing thing is that the E-M5 does pack in many of the features, but not all of them, that the E-M1 contains, yet the E-M1, body alone will set you back £1299 from Park.

So, as far as I can see if you’re looking for a extremely capable, interchangeable lens, compact camera with EVF the Olympus represents superb value. As do the lenses available. But I’ll review lenses separately to this post.

Just for fun: E-M5 shutter in slow motion

E-M5 or E-M1?

Okay, I’ll start this off by listing the things that the E-M1 has that the E-M5 does not:

  • Phase Auto Detection
  • Weather Sealing
  • WiFi
  • Mic-In
  • TruePic VII sensor (E-M5 packs a TruePic VI)
  • ISO Starts at 100 instead of 200 on the E-M5, but the next firmware release for the E-M5 is supposed to give the E-M5 access to ISO 100 as well
  • Focus Peeking
  • 81 Focus Points instead of 35
  • A higher resolution with over 1,000,000 dots instead of the 600,000 that the E-M5 has

Or you can take a look at the DPReview Side-by-side comparison tool.

Now that I’ve listed it, it does seem as though the E-M1 packs a lot that the E-M5 does not. However, note that really the only actually features it has in addition to the E-M5 are the Wi-Fi and Mic Input. Sure, I mean the auto detect is phase as well and it has focus peeking and more focus points, but to be honest, from what I can gather and from what many other blogs have said, the resulting picture quality is only marginal.

Now consider that  you’re going to have to spend out an additional £550 to get all these things that the E-M1 offers, I’m of the opinion that we arrive at the point of diminishing returns. DPReview themselves give the E-M1 an impressive 84% score. That’s Great. But the E-M5 scores an impressive 80%. Both achieved ‘Gold Awards’

4% difference between the two cameras for £550? Diminishing returns indeed if you ask me.

Furthermore if you’re convincing yourself you need the built-in Wifi – Go and buy an Eye-Fi SD card instead for the cost of £32. I don’t know about you but I can’t see the need for Wireless shooting 90% of the time, perhaps only in a studio location. For this thought the Eye-Fi is perfect and represents actual value for money.

Summary

At the end of the day if my clone and I went out to do some street photography or were at a wedding and one of us had the E-M1 and the other the E-M5 – I’m not convinced the photographs on the E-M1 would be £550 worth of better, if much better all.

This is not to say that the E-M1 is rubbish, but more a nod to how amazing the E-M5 actually is.

My verdict is that if you’re a photographer coming from the world of DSLR’s and you’re looking to dip your toes into the mirrorless waters then the E-M5 represents a great value choice. But don’t let the word value trick you into thinking ‘it’s decent for the price’, I mean value as in you’re getting a hell of a camera for the price. My inclination was to spend the £550 difference on lenses and accessories. After all you’re going to need additional batteries and if you’re used to shooting to Compact Flash you may need to go and buy a few quality SD cards too now.

That’s it. That’s my First Impressions and thoughts on the E-M5. In the coming weeks I’ll be talking much more about this camera on the blog including why having a smaller camera encourages greater creativity, how having a smaller camera enables me to shoot more than ever, I’ll have lens reviews of the 17mm and the 45mm lenses (both f1.8 M.Zuiko Micro Four Thirds lenses from Olympus. I’ll also be reviewing the HLD-6; the battery grip and then there will be a full, in-depth video review of the E-M5 too.I’m so looking to get an E-M1 from Olympus once in send back the lease E-M5 and I’ve also agreed to take a look at the PEN E-P5, which looks quite cool as well.So I hope you found this review useful, keep an ear to the ground for more E-M5 updates and be sure to subscribe to the blog for future updates too!