Creativity in an Ocean of Tech

I’m just back from the April edition of Photoshop World #PSW in Atlanta Georgia.  This was my fourth Photoshop World and I heard some very different messages from what I have heard in the past.  Posting what I was hearing to Google Plus engendered some “interesting” replies, some positive, some highly negative, and that, in addition to the pushing by my shooting buddy Isabel, has prompted the writing of this article.

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Photography is, or can be, very technical.  As a founder of a camera club, I constantly hear about concerns for what settings were used for a particular shot.  As an educator, I am frequently asked, what the right aperture or shutter speed is for a particular situation.  As a reviewer of photography and video products, I am asked which is better, or best.

I’ve struggled with this for a long time.  I can teach technique or explain the physics of light or help people “get” the exposure triangle, but I have been troubled by the tech-centricity of what I see in our photographic world.  Manufacturers assault us with techno-babble, megapixels, focus zones, patterns and rates.  All interesting I suppose and perhaps helpful in a purchase decision but not really relevant to your execution of your craft.

I heard very clearly from photographers and educators that I respect a great deal that basically settings don’t matter.  In a one on one, an internationally respected photographer bluntly told me that studying someone else’s EXIF was more harm than good.  These messages fly in the face of what many say, and I see educators placing a lot of emphasis on these things, and yet their students are not coming away less frustrated or as better photographers.  If all this stuff is so important, why are these aspiring photographers so unhappy?

When I look at the work that inspired me, and the photographers that created these images, I don’t see the settings, I see the final art.  Sharp or soft focus, deep or shallow depth of field, motion blur or not, all these things go to create the story, the character and the emotion of the photograph.  I don’t know what settings Eisenstadt used to make the photograph of the skating waiter from Switzerland, and in the end, they don’t matter.  What matters is the story that the photograph tells about the time, the place and the culture.  When the world gasped at Steve McCurry’s photograph of the Afghan girl as shown on the cover of National Geographic, no one cared about the exposure data.  (It’s not published but I am pretty sure it was shot on Kodachrome 64).  What captured the eye was the story, or the framework for the story the viewer created for him or herself based on the facial expression.

Let me make this clear.  Settings matter in so far as they assist you to take a sharp, well-exposed picture.  But having done this for over forty years, you and I know that there are lots of exposure options that will get us a well-exposed picture.  We also know that getting  important subjects sharp is not all that hard, it’s been done for well over a century.  Those are table stakes.  You don’t get to play the game without them.  A friend of mine does online mentoring.  One of his exercises forces the student to put the camera in Full Auto or Program mode.  Lots of his students feel like their hands are tied.  At first.  My friend Gabriel jokes that the P stands for Photographer.  It doesn’t but I suspect that in the minds of the manufacturer’s rep it stands for “decent Picture”.  Creativity is not forged in knowing your settings or your EXIF, it is only forged in experimentation, in spending time seeing as opposed to playing with dials and buttons.

In my composition classes, I teach the principles of composition.  We all know at least one, typically the Rule of Thirds.  It’s not a rule because it’s unenforceable, but it is a framework to start from and when all else fails, if you use it, at least your composition has a chance of being interesting.  I find it fascinating when I hear so called educators tell folks who are working to develop their compositional eye, that the rules are there to be broken, so go so far as to add only when you understand the rules can you break them but the general message is that these artistic guides are really worthless and that unfocused rebellion makes for better images.  This is, as you might expect, a crock of poop.

Composition rules will not create your compositional eye.  You won’t learn to see solely by following the rules of composition, but they will help you to get away from plopping everything dead centre and you may in fact find that the rules help you build compositions that foster your creative mien rather than restrain it.

There’s a big difference between taking a picture and making a photograph, as much as the difference between scribbling with a pencil on a napkin and painting oil on canvas.  The difference is what Canadian great Freeman Patterson calls “Seeing”.  Others refer to the process as perceiving.  I don’t care what you call it, that is considerably less relevant than that you do it.  I’ve made photographs where viewers have said “but is that what was really there?”  My answer is “that’s what I saw”.  The two are not necessarily the same thing.  A made photograph has emotion, a framework, a story.  It’s not just visual, you can smell the waves or the flowers, you can hear the wind in the trees, you can feel the sunlight on your face.  I read of an impressionist painter who said he painted music.  And for him, he did.

When I see, I see the potential for finished work, not just what is in the viewfinder.  While I work hard to get things right in camera, I choose to include the digital darkroom as an integral part of my creative process.  The digital darkroom is not where I correct mistakes, although I have done so, it’s really where I complete the image.  Just like you, I’ve encountered people who call the digital darkroom dishonest or fake.  Photoshopping is now a verb, rarely used in positive context, yet if you are really embracing creative experimentation, it’s another tool in your creative arsenal.  I’ve been part of conversations where I hear work described as having been “Nik’d” meaning unduly processed in the Nik suite.  I like the Nik tools but they aren’t an end in themselves, they’re just a tool and when they are applied the same way to every picture, they aren’t helping.  That’s not creative it’s brute repetition.  Now some would argue that “it’s workflow”.  I don’t see this since by their nature, every image is its own, so how could the same post processing apply to everything the same?   As a creative person, do you reduce every picture you take to effectively hitting it with the same stupid Instagram treatment?

Creativity is colour, and lines and shadows.  It’s perspective and perception.  A razor sharp picture of a statue seen from the standing position is evidence, not art.  If all you see is that sharp statue at eye level, feel free to take a picture of it, but that’s not making a photograph.

Great photographs aren’t great because of shutter speed, or aperture, or ISO or lens or camera.  Those are all just tools and can be used well or poorly by the tool holder.  A great photograph is made.  It answers questions.  I have taken thousands of pictures and so have you where you look at them and go “uh huh, nice, um why did I take this?”  We have to agree to ask the questions up front before banging out 12 frames per second.  Why am I pressing the shutter?  What story do I want to remember?  What story would I like viewers to see?  What message am I trying to send?  What’s the relevance of this moment?  Why does it matter?  Who cares or will care about the subject?

To grow as photographers we need to be able to answer these questions and many more.  And, contrary to the proselytizers of “community” and “social” and a bunch of similar and ultimately meaningless buzzwords, the only answer that really matters is your own.  If you are out there trying to make photographs to please others, sorry kiddo, you’re doing it wrong.  If you feel sick to your stomach because you haven’t posted anything to the social network du jour, stop making yourself sick.  Vivian Maier is now recognized as one of the greatest street photographers of the last century.  She made photographs for her pleasure first and only.  We would never have seen them at all had someone else not discovered them after her passing and had a “oh wow” moment.  She never wanted to “share” or “post”  She was the most honest kind of artist, the kind that doesn’t care what someone else thinks.  Would she be pleased to learn how much her work has done for viewers?  I have no idea. My guess is that it wouldn’t matter all that much to her.

So let’s suppose that growing as an artist and enhancing your craft is important to you.  What do you do?   Look at other photographer’s work.  Examine what you like and don’t like.  You’re right.  Learn to see by asking yourself every day what exactly you see.  You’ll be thrilled to learn that you see much more than what is there.  Stop chasing the daily theme on the social network and being driven to post on some bogatz community where the end in mind is not to foster art but to sell you something.  Don’t get hung up on settings and EXIF and the latest gewgaw.  Ask the hard questions before you press the shutter.  BUT PRESS THE SHUTTER.  And the only way that really works is if you always have a camera with you.  Certainly to take pictures, but sometimes to step across the line, and to make a photograph.

If there’s no emotional commotion, it’s not a photograph.

Episode 90 – The Photo Video Guy Podcast

Nikon announces a replacement to the existing 18-300 DX
Nikon releases a new short film shot entirely on the D4s
Nikon may actually have a replacement shortly for the much loved D300s. It will be called the D9300 and that’s all that’s known at present
Nikon 1 J4 has new sensor, better AF and Wifi
Canon has announced a firmware upgrade for the C500 using Intel Iris Pro Graphics
Canon announces cine lenses at NAB. 17-120/T2.95 with digital drive handgrip and the HJ18ex7.6B portable HD zoom for broadcast applications
Canon has acknowledged an issue with cold weather autofocus problems with the 1Dx and 1Dc
Canon acknowledges issue with noisy focus rings on 24-70/2.8 L II USM lenses
Canon announces two new compact pro camcorders, the XF205 and XF200 with a 20x optical zoom. Both record in MXF and MP4 and will be available in July
Olympus updates firmware on OM-D E-M1 to include anti shock electronic first curtain, to be used at shutter speeds below 1/320
Mockups of the allegedly forthcoming OM-D OM-G are out. Thought this was April Fools but might not be
Olympus being sued for $273M by Japanese banks
Apple patents a bayonet style lens mount
Leica announces a $5K credit towards the Leica S
DXOmark says the Sigma 18-200 OS is the best superzoom for your crop sensor Canon
Sigma’s 50/1.4 ART lens is available and reviews love it best $949
Transcend has announced U3 cards suited for 4K video capture
Sony has announced the A7S with 4:2:2 4K video, 12MP great low light, 50MBPS
Adobe announces Lightroom Mobile and Lightroom 5.4


Episode 89 – The Photo Video Guy Podcast

RED Epic Dragon sets a record on DxOmark with a score of 101
Canon #1 in DSLR / ILC sales 11 years in a row
Fortune ranks Canon as one of the world’s most admired companies
Canon updates firmware for the 6D
Nikon has issued unsecured straight bonds
The D4s is now shipping with limited stock
Nikon wins a 14.5M settlement from Sigma for patent infringement around VR
Nikon getting into the video training business, but you’ve seen this content before.
Nikon announces the 1 V3, fastest camera on the market and two lenses 70-300/4.5-5.6 and 10-30/3.5-5.6. And a spring loaded lens cap.??? No viewfinder, uses micro SD cards
Nikon D4s has issues with some Lexar 400x and 1000x cards
Nikon is expected to release the 1 J4 shortly
Nikon updates firmware for the D4
Nikon officially announces it will replace defective D600 cameras with a replacement D600 or “equivalent”
China has ordered Nikon to stop selling the D600
DxO Optics update adds support to the D4s
Rumours start for Nikon D800s
Leica will officially announce the T type 701 on April 24th. Interchangeable lens with APS-C sensor between M and X series
French fashion brand Colette has a Hello Kitty and a Playboy edition of the Leica C. Hell has now frozen over
Fujifilm X-E2 not revolutionary but very positively evolutionary
Initial looks at the Fujifilm X-T1 say good camera but the usual fawning and sucking is absent
Panasonic announces the Leica DG Summilux 15/1.7 for m43 about $600
Panasonic has announced price and availability for the DMC-GH4. The body will cost $1699 and the bolt on video interface will sell for $1999
Sony has firmware updates for the A7 and A7r on March 19th
500px has put their Prime selling service into play. Photos sell for a flat rate of $250 for unlimited use and the photographer gets 70%. Listings are exclusive
Getty and Flickr partnership is over
Calumet Photographic files for chapter bankruptcy, closes all US stores
NTSB Judge strikes down FAA suit against photographer for using a drone camera.
Red Giant is now offering their software on a subscription basis instead of as license purchases
Hungarian law now bans photos taken without consent – be careful on your vacation

REVIEW : The Phantom II Vision

Drone helicopters with cameras are the “in” thing, so when Chris Atkinson of Henry’s Newmarket asked if I would like to do an evaluation and review of the Phantom II Vision, I jumped at the chance.

It’s Wicked Cool

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So what is a Phantom II Vision?  It is a four rotor radio controlled helicopter with an attached servo driven camera.

The four rotor system with two pairs of rotors spinning in opposite directions to each other makes for a very stable “rotating wing” architecture.  Traditional dual rotor helicopters are difficult to fly well, whereas the four rotor or “quadcopter” design can be flown by those who are not pilots or without days of practice and multiple crashes.  Radio controlled means you fly it wirelessly via a pair of joysticks.  I will refrain from joystick competency jokes here, suffice to say that the joysticks are not overly sensitive but also that they have real linear control, not just full on and full off.  Have a servo driven camera means you can control the camera tilt and operation remotely, in this case from an IOS or Android based mobile device over a closed WiFi network.

There are kid’s quadcopters you can purchase that you can fly in the house.  The Phantom II Vision is not one of them.  With rotor guards installed it’s about 18 inches diagonally and it moves fast, so unless you want a busted copter or busted home furnishings, this is an outdoor only tool.


What’s in the Kit

When you open the box, there is a black container holding Quick Start cards that are very easy to understand.  Things that can fly, can also fall out of the sky, so READ the fine manual before you get started.  As you unbox, you will find the quadcopter itself, and four sets of rotors.  The Phantom II only uses two sets of rotors so the inclusion of the second set is recognition that buyers may not read the documentation fully and will break rotors.  The rotors are designed to break on impact so people, pets and other things don’t get ruined by spinning blades.  You will also find a very sizeable battery, an international charger, the radio controller, a Range Extender, a mount for your smartphone and assorted cables and screws.  The documentation is very clear and easy to understand, but you do have to read it to set the Phantom II up properly.  The documentation varies on whether or not a Micro SD card is present.  The main docs say nothing but others say that there is a 4GB card in the box with the quadcopter.  Mine was already installed in the camera body.

Getting It Together

Follow the instructions.  Seriously.  There are two pairs of blades, one pair with a black cone and one pair with a silver cone that the docs refer to as black and grey.  The black coned blades go on the black tipped motors and the silver coned blades go on the grey tipped motors.  They screw on and are self tightening due to the thread direction.  It’s a simple and very smart system.

While you are reading and building, charge the main battery.  Out of the box it showed two bars and it took a couple of hours to bring it to four bars.  Fifteen minutes of flying knocked it back to two bars.  The Range Extender is not an optional thing, so the name could be a bit of a misnomer.  This is one place where the kit gaps a bit.  The only way to charge the Range Extender is via USB so you will need a powered USB outlet to charge this unit.  I plugged it into the computer USB port and it charged up fine.

You will need to mount the Range Extender to the frame of the transmitting radio, and also mount the smartphone holder to the frame as well.  The kit includes a reversible slot/Philips head screwdriver as well as numerous well labeled screw bags.

If you do add the optional rotor guards, and you REALLY should, unless you want to be replacing blades a lot if you have a bad landing, and you likely will, you will need a metric Allen key set to remove some existing screws and replace them with the longer screws that came with the rotor guards.  My kit did not have the Allen key, which is a buyer gap, but perhaps being a demo it was missing.  Fortunately, I have multiple Allen key sets in the house as I keep misplacing them so this was not an issue.

Installing the memory card is pretty straight forward.  Push the card into the slot until it latches.  You have to press into the little depression that’s provided to seat the card properly.  Press again and it will pop out enough to remove.  Note that the slot is in the back of the camera and while the edges are white, the slot itself is black and I started to put a card in, when one was already installed, so look closely in brighter light if you are not sure.

You will also want to head over to the DJI website and pull down the latest user’s manual, software for your computer and check your system firmware.  This is the same as one would do for any other camera.  There are versions of software to run on both Windows and Mac OS X.

The Camera

This is one of the really great things about the Phantom II Vision.  There are lots of quadcopters out there but most of them require that you own a POV camera or buy one at the same time and then figure out how to mount it up.  The camera on the quadcopter is on a tilting mount and can be controlled by your smartphone via a free app over the quadcopters unique WiFi SSID.  Documentation is a bit skint but it is quick enough to figure out.  Being able to change the tilt at 150 feet up is really very cool.  The lens is not dissimilar to the ultra wide pseudo fisheye we see in the GoPro.  Edges bend, it’s part of the charm, and there is no zoom in capability so you won’t be using this as your own NSA spy drone.  Having the camera built into the unit and remote controllable in the mount is a real win for folks in general and definitely a win for those people who don’t want to spend a lot of time futzing around.

The camera is designed for video first of course, but does 14MP stills in addition to a variety of video resolutions.  I was pleased to see three quality levels for JPEG as well as the ability to capture in RAW DNG format.  Adobe already has a lens profile for the Phantom Vision II that corrects for the bends caused by the near fisheye lens.

The Phantom II also has integrated shock mounts between the body and the camera.  This really helps reduce the jello effect a rigid mount camera will experience.  I was surprised by the high quality of the video considering I had done nothing at all from a stabilization point of view.

There is an optional adapter that allows you to attach 46mm screw on filters if you wish to do so.


Flying the Phantom II Vision

The documentation is decent, although somewhat incomplete when it comes to flying the Phantom II.  You get enough information to put the unit into the air and get it back on the ground, but beyond that, you’re pretty much on your own.

I would strongly emphasis the impact of the wind conditions on whether you fly or not.  The Phantom II is very lightweight.  Despite a smooth body and the advantage of four rotors, wind will still impact the quadcopter.  If you put it up on a day with much more than 3km an hour wind, you will have to be compensating for wind drift.  The controller does not have trim controls to allow you to set a compensation for the wind, so watching what you are doing and where the quadcopter is going is very important.

The left joystick controls altitude with forward for up and backward for down.  Moving the stick left or right rotates the craft on its axis.  The right joystick controls flight direction.  Move it up for forward, back for backward, right to slide right and left to slide left.

Once on the ground, you move both sticks to the inside bottom position to shutdown the rotors.  Obviously, one should not shut down the rotors until the quadcopter is landed safely unless you want to see what a brick falling out of the sky looks like.

The cool thing about the built-in GPS is that when you fly the copter, it uses the GPS to maintain its position when you aren’t touching the joysticks.  Wind is hard to fly in with regular copters and while I did find the wind today had visible effect, I never lost control and the copter never got blown way off its hover.  I have a regular RC helicopter that gets blown all over the sky by the slightest breeze, the Phantom II is incredibly stable.

The second day I was out flying, I met a fellow who had a Blade quad copter.  He noted that he had lost it due to a flyaway and other owners blame this on interference because many of these crafts use the popular and overcrowded 2.4GHz band.  The Phantom II uses the 5.8GHz band which is much less crowded and less prone to interference.

Communications distance is rated at 300m.  If the Phantom II loses communication for a period of time, it enters failsafe mode.  If it has a GPS lock (6 satellites) it initiates a Return Home profile that flies it back to it’s takeoff point.  Remember it doesn’t know about buildings, poles, hydro wires so this reminds you to fly your unit in an unobstructed area.  If the copter cannot maintain a GPS lock it initiates a safe descent mode.  Hopefully that’s not out over water, or a highway.

As you’ll see from the images, the Phantom II is white.  It does have indicator LEDs, but after some distance they become hard to see.  When I was flying the unit the day I wrote this paragraph it was heavy white overcast and I lost the copter in the sky more than once.  Looking down from the camera view, I saw a vast field of white snow and ice, not a ton of help but with a slow rotation, I got my bearings and used the pseudo radar on the app to fly the copter back into view.

I mentioned in the overview that the Phantom II is really an outdoor only craft.  If you push the throttle to the stops, the craft will max out at about 35 m/s, which means it’s out of range in less than 10 seconds.  Altitude increases max out at 10m/s, down is much faster given the helping hand of gravity.

Lifting off is very easy and the general flying does not take long to get the hang of.  DJI includes a Pilot’s Handbook that coaches you through flight manoeuvres to build skill.  Even landing is not hard, but I strongly encourage you to learn to flare the copter out about a foot up and then gently lower it to the ground by pulling back on the altitude stick.  Once done, hold the stick all the way back for about 3s to shut down the motors.

DJI claims about 25 minutes flight time on a full charge and my own tests support their numbers.  On my last day of testing, it was -12 Celsius and my iPhone shut down from the cold before the Phantom II did.

Here’s a quick video showing what the footage from the camera looks like.  It was shot at 1080p30 on a very blustery day.  There’s a fair bit of bouncing around happening, but it’s impressive at how stable the Phantom II remained even when being buffeted by winds double the maximum recommended 5 km/hr.


The Remote App

The application that let’s you see through the camera lens from the ground and also take stills and video runs on either IOS or Android.  It connects via WiFi to the Phantom II itself. There is no security on this network, so ostensibly, someone else with the app could try to connect to the quadcopter, although I think it is limited to a single connection.

Once connected you get a reminder overlay of what the controls do.  Unlike other quadcopters, you do not fly the copter from your smartphone, you only control the camera.  Since the camera is servo mounted, this is more useful that it may seem, plus the joysticks give more granular control of the craft instead of using the accelerometer built in to your smartphone.

On IOS, the sliders are really up and down buttons, a tap per change, rather than a continuous sliding scale. This is not a big deal since you don’t want to constantly be sending instructions over WiFi outdoors if you would like any kind of reasonable control time.  For me, this is the biggest drawback.  I started my first test with over 40% battery in my iPhone 5 and after 15 minutes or so, it shutdown.  Now it was darn cold on that day, and I failed to shutdown other applications that were running in the background but the app seemed to be very demanding of power on my iPhone even though it is not doing all that much.

In addition to the stepped tilt control, you can put the quadcopter camera into a mode where the pitch and yaw of your smartphone causes the camera to tilt and rotate to match  your actions.  This is cool, but I think I would need a lot more video game skill to be able to do this, fly the copter and not crash into anything all at once.

You can use the app to download your stills and video from the Micro SD card to your smartphone but speedy it isn’t and it does eat up battery on both sides.  Better to pull the card out and load the files into your computer using a card reader.

You can make all your settings for the camera in the app itself.  There are controls for video quality, still quality, ISO, White Balance and the like.

Plainly the camera is there for video first.  Shooting at 1080p30 produces really excellent video, and you can run it all the way up to 1080i60 if you think you will be doing any slow-motion work in your edit.

The major downside of using your smartphone is that the screen gets washed out in the sunlight.  The first day was bright harsh sun and it wasn’t bad.  The second day was heavy overcast and the screen was nearly unusable.  You might need to make a cardboard hood to ensure that you can see your phone.

The app also provides you with a near real-time view from the camera, as well as distance, battery charge, artificial horizon and pseudo radar that indicates the position of the controller and the quadcopter.


The Phantom II Vision kit retails for $1,319.99 with pretty much everything you need to go.  Considering that there is a really good POV camera in the kit that is remotely controllable, this is a pretty decent value as plain old quadcopters sell in the $800 range.

Of course I would suggest some accessories.   You are going to want to get a car charger since you likely won’t be flying this in your back yard.  You may even want a spare battery. And while the camera comes with two spare pairs of blades, you definitely want to order a couple of extra pair of each, and I cannot recommend the blade guards strongly enough.  If your touchdown point will be asphalt you might want to order up a spare set of landing gear.  The gear is lightweight and a bit springy by design and a bad landing on hard ground could break it.  There are extra shock mounts in the box for the camera mount, and you can buy more if needed.

I really like the Phantom II Vision.  I know I could get a plain old Phantom II and a gimbal mount kit to use my existing GoPro with the quadcopter, but this is just so simple and straightforward and I don’t have to worry about different vendor apps and interoperability and other concerns.

DJI also has a pretty decent user community, and there are already kits out to bring a Phantom I up to spec and I’ve seen some third party mods on radio controllers and such.  A strong community behind a product like this is critical and the DJI family is already proven.  More to the point, they also do pro-grade aerial cameras, so the expertise developed in this space naturally flows down to the consumer Phantom II Vision.

If you love the idea of flying your own POV camera, with minimum hassle on an easy to fly platform, the Phantom II Vision is the choice for you.  Thanks again to Chris Atkinson at Henry’s for the opportunity to use a unit for this review.  You can see the Phantom online at Henry’s here.

Announcing One To One Training – Portrait, Couples and Executive Photography

I am very pleased to announce a new training offering from The Photo Video Guy.

Now available are one to one training classes over a four week period on a variety of topics.  Classes are held live in Newmarket Ontario.  The attendee must have his or her own camera and suitable lens.  Professional grade studio flash, modifiers and continuous light options will be provided for the course.  Here are the first three courses.

Portrait Photography

This program introduces the attendee to the key principles in successful portrait photography.  The attendee will learn;

1.  How to use Lighting to creative effect, including effective light placement, use of reflectors and use of scrims as well as the “Peter Hurley Look” as invented by industry leading headshot photographer Peter Hurley.

2.  How to pose a variety of subjects, men, women, children and babies using proven posing techniques.

3.  How to interact with your subjects to make them feel comfortable and deliver great expressions for great images.

4.  Editing the portraits, including proven techniques to help your subjects feel great about their portraits.

The class is taught by Ross Chevalier, the Photo Video Guy, a former professional and professionally trained photography.  Contact to sign up and for more information.

Couples Photography

This program introduces the attendee to the key principles in successful couples photography, suitable for casual portraits and engagement portraits.  The attendee will learn;

1.  How to use Lighting to creative effect, including effective light placement, use of reflectors and how to light two subjects properly so as not to create inappropriate shadows or discomfort for the viewer

2.  How to pose couples for diverse outcomes, casual, engagement, recommitment.

3.  How to interact with your subjects to make them feel comfortable and deliver great expressions for great images.

4.  Editing the portraits, including proven techniques to help your couples feel great about their portraits.

The class is taught by Ross Chevalier, the Photo Video Guy, a former professional and professionally trained photography.  Contact to sign up and for more information.

Executive Portraits

This program introduces the attendee to the key principles in successful executive image-making, suitable for web sites, annual reports, and business documentation.  The attendee will learn;

1.  How to use Lighting to creative effect, including effective light placement, use of reflectors and how to light the business leader to convey different moods and communicate different messages

2.  How to pose the business leader to show leadership, poise, openness and negotiating power.

3.  How to lead the executive to deliver great expressions for great images in a compressed time period.

4.  Editing the images, including proven techniques to reinforce the message of the containing documents or web sites.

The class is taught by Ross Chevalier, the Photo Video Guy, a former professional and professionally trained photography.  Contact to sign up and for more information.

REVIEW : The Olympus OM-D E-M1

On New Year’s Day 2013 I did a short review of the then new OM-D E-M5 and to paraphrase a pop song, I liked it.  When Olympus announced the advent of the E-M1, a more professional and feature rich option, I was interested and with great thanks to Chris Atkinson of Henry’s Newmarket, I have now completed my review of the camera and a variety of lenses for it.  How did it fare?  Read on gentle friends, read on…. Continue reading

There’s no doubt that the advent of mirror less cameras has been massively successful.  Except in North America where the numbers are upside down compared to the rest of the world.  I don’t know why this is, but it is and the mirror less explosion has not happened on this continent.  Yet.  The OM-D E-M1 could be the first camera to really tip the scales.

What Do People Have Against Mirrorless?

When I talk to other photographers about their next camera, invariably they tell me it will be a DSLR.  When I ask why it comes down to a few consistent reasons.  Let’s explore them and get them out of the way.

  • Choice of Lenses – Major line DSLR providers have lots of lenses to choose from, and this is augmented by third parties.  And despite significant enhancements in high ISO performance, fast lenses are still in demand.  So to are fast primes, even moreso than faster zooms lenses.  There’s a strong perception that mirror less doesn’t have the lens choice yet.  This is true in general but when you look at the lenses I assembled for the review, the only thing missing are the monster fast long lenses and the super fast primes.  You may be ok without them, depending upon your work.
  • Has a Viewfinder – Many folks who have looked at mirror less as an alternative to DSLR cameras cite the lack of an eye level viewfinder as a major stop sign.  Or there is a very significant added cost to include a clip on EVF.  This is a partially valid argument, although I would say that today’s top line mirror less cameras all have very good viewfinders to supplement the rear LCD panel.
  • Looks like a more Professional Camera – Ok, how do you argue with subjective assertions.    If the camera is a tool of the artist, who cares what it looks like, but I confess that if I am shooting somewhere with the Hasselblad or I’ve dragged the Sinar somewhere into the field, I am given space by other photographers because I must therefore be a more professional photographer.  I also have found the opposite is true.  I street shoot with the Leica because it doesn’t look like a big pro camera and is therefore less intimidating.
  • I Want High Quality Images – this is a plain error since in many cases the sensor in a mirror less is IDENTICAL to the sensor in a DSLR.  There are multiple scenarios where the sensor in a Sony NEX is the same sensor as in a Nikon DSLR.  I do hear this misunderstanding fostered in camera stores by representatives who are either driven by margin/spiff or would not be able to find their own buttocks with both hands.
  • Too Many Too Small Buttons – I have had this complaint myself about Japanese cars for years.  I have a mixed Russian / Highlander heritage.  I am a large and somewhat clumsy person and while my hands are not enormous, they require XL sized gloves.  I feel this way about a lot of mirror less cameras myself.  I need something to hang on to that is easy to work with.

Which leads me to the OM-D lineup.  They look like DSLRs.  Just smaller.  The M43 lenses are also smaller, so you can carry more of them without needing a chiropractor.  The smaller sensor does have more depth of field at a given aperture so the mechanics of focus speed are less demanding.  But at the same time, the performance of the sensors is extraordinarily good.  As part of my testing I shot at an Auto Show at ISO 3200 for the entire event.  The image quality was easily as good as, and often better, than DSLR cameras with a body price close to that of the E-M1.  So if one were to consider a mirror less as his or her next camera, instead of a DSLR, is the OM-D E-M1 a fit?

Yes it very likely is.

The OM-D E-M1 I evaluated for this review was part of a complete kit.  It included the body, the 12-40/2.8 short zoom, the battery grip, the FL-360 flash, the 60mm Macro, the 17/1.8 prime, the 45/1.8 prime, the 14-150/4-5.6 do everything lens, and the 9-18/4-5.6 wide angle zoom.  If that sounds like a complete kit, it’s pretty darn close to one, although my perfect pack looks subtly different.  I will come back to that.

The Body

The E-M1 looks and handles like a DSLR.  My large hands held the camera just fine, but smaller hands found it easy to grip and easy to use as well.  The control layout is intelligent with a nice amalgam of analog style dials with an assortment of programmable buttons.

Looking down on the top on the left is what would have been the film rewind on an Olympus OM-1.  In this case it is a pair of buttons, one for focus type selection / metering mode and the other for drive mode / self timer / HDR setting.  Below this to the right is a lever that turns the camera on and off.  This is the first big improvement over the E-M5.  Buttons are easy to use and while you must be looking through the viewfinder or at the rear panel to make a selection, while turning dials, acclimatization is quick.  Then there is the “pentaprism” which of course is not a prism at all simply a bulbous DSLR like housing on which sits the hot shoe and a coupling for other accessories like a stereo microphone.  The shoe accepts any shoe mount flash but has pinouts for Olympus’ own TTL connections. Immediately to the right of the prism is the mode dial, offering the usual PASM, intelligent Auto, a couple of scene modes and a video mode.  Easy to use and understand.  I get why there are Scene modes for marketing purposes but I don’t understand why they take up space on a mode dial on a camera designed for people who will likely be shooting RAW.  To the right the grip starts to protrude and from front to back there is the shutter release with an adjustment ring around it whose function varies depending on mode, a contrast button that produces a Levels style layout in the viewfinder, the start stop button for video and a rear adjustment wheel similar in function to the one encircling the shutter release.

Top Deck

Top Deck

Observing from the front, there is a programmable button and a depth of field preview for the shooter’s right hand, and a lens release button on camera front left.  There is also a real PC sync port under a screw on cap to use with older style cable only flashguns.


On the right side is the single door that give access to the SD card slot.  My tests involved the use of a Sandisk Extreme Pro 32GB card and I had no issues at all.

On the left side are covered ports for an external microphone, USB connector and micro HDMI out.  The covers are all semisoft plastic that click positively in place.  It should be noted that you will have to rotate the LCD a bit to easily open these covers.

Before going on gentle reader, you will note none of my frustration with badly placed strap lugs.  This is because while OIympus also favours the triangle shaped strap rings, someone actually must have tried the camera with a strap connected because they are well placed to not get in the way of the photographer.  This alone makes the OM-D preferable to most every other camera I have reviewed in recent months.  Nikon and Sony particularly need to get their thumbs out and go look at how Olympus did the job right.

The rear of the camera looks like most any other DSLR you’ve ever seen.  Upper left is a button to control the selection of the EVF/LCD, then the EVF viewfinder itself and its diopter adjuster.  The LCD is large and very bright and can be angled down or up, but not swung out.  To the right of the EVF is an AE Lock / AF Lock button with a two position switch.  I set it for back button focus as I do on my regular cameras and it did as it should.  Upper right is a programmable Function button Fn1 that I never had cause to use.  On the right side of the back is the four way rocker switch with the Set button in the middle.  There is an Info button above and a Menu and Play button positioned below.  Near the button edge is the differently colour coded Trash button.  All the buttons are small but sufficiently large to use and have enough throw that you know when you are using them without having to take your eye away and look.


The bottom plate as an all metal tripod screw socket in standard ¼ – 20, the primary battery container and a multi pin connector with a cover that is removed when you wish to add the external battery grip.  The external battery grip HLD-7 has space for a second battery, and replicates the adjustment wheels and shutter release from the top deck.  There are also two programmable buttons on the rear of the grip.  I set mine up for back button focus and AE lock.  The grip adds size and weight but in my mind makes the camera that much easier to handle.  While I could certainly use the E-M1 without a grip, I would be adding one in short order if I did not get one with the body.  The lower part of the grip is much wider than ostensibly needed but this ridge turns into a wonderful finger grip when shooting in portrait orientation.  I added an Arca-Swiss style dual dovetail plate to the bottom of the grip so I could use it with my Really Right Stuff clamps.

The Lenses



The 12-40 f/2.8

This is a really nice little lens, and in keeping with M43 metrics it is like a 28-80/F2.8 in the full frame world.  It is very wide, much more so than the other lenses I evaluated, primarily in order to deliver the practical maximum aperture of f/2.8  The lens has a programmable L-Fn function button that I never used, then a very smooth and pleasantly stiff zoom ring.  This zoom does not creep.  In front of this is the manual focus ring.  You pull the ring towards you to engage the manual focus which reveals a mostly useless set of distance markers.  Don’t forget to push the ring forward to engage AF or you may find yourself happily shooting out of focus images if you are not paying attention.  The lens is priced at $999.99 typically although it is available at a bundled price with the body.  While this seems somewhat expensive, consider that both Nikon and Canon have lenses in similar focal length and aperture ranges at higher prices.  The lens is very good, very sharp and there was no startling distortion to be found with it.  I expect that this is the first lens that will go with most E-M1 bodies.  It takes a 62mm filter and includes a scalloped lens hood. Olympus says that the lens is dust / splash and freeze proof.

Olympus 12-40/2.8 12mm

Olympus 12-40/2.8 12mm

Olympus 12-40/2.8 40mm

Olympus 12-40/2.8 40mm

The 60mm f/2.8 Macro

This is a very odd little lens.  It is quite long and has a rotary switch on the barrel.  The switch is used to control the range of focus.  The default is from 0.19m to Infinity but other options exist for 0.4m to Infinity and 0.19m to 0.4m to prevent excessive hunting in macro work.  There is also a spring setting that does something internally to allow for 1:1 life size that then returns to the 0.14m – 0.4m range.  The maximum aperture is f/2.8 and I really liked the sharpness of the lens and negligible vignetting and distortion.  35mm full frame equivalent is 120mm offering very good standoff distance for macro work.  The lens takes a 46mm filter and is fitted for a bayonet mount lens hood.  The hood is extra and herein lies one of my major gripes with the Olympus glass.  Manufacturers make hoods because they are necessary.  Leaving the hoods out of the box is just nickel and diming customers and most photo retailers who stock the lenses fail to stock the hoods making them hard to get and stupidly overpriced.  Olympus says that the lens is dust and splash proof.  The lens sells for $499.99 typically.  Olympus hoods range in price from $34.99 to $79.99 so Olympus is clearly following the major vendor customer ripoff model.

Olympus 60mm Macro #2

Olympus 60mm Macro #2

Olympus 60mm Macro #1

Olympus 60mm Macro #1

The 9-18mm f/4-5.6 Zoom

I shot this lens extensively at the car show.  It is small, very light and the zoom action is smooth and fast.  What could make it better?  A faster maximum aperture.  This thing would kill at f/2.8 but that would drive the cost up.  With a 35mm full frame equivalence of 18 – 36mm this fits the slot that Nikon and Canon fill with their 16-35 zooms.  This one is slower but also ¼ the weight.  There is noticeable barrel distortion at 9mm at the edges but nothing that is not expected when pushing the limits of an ultra wide.  The construction is less robust than the first two lenses I discussed and there is no mention of this lens being anything proof.  The barrel feels like a cheap plastic even though it houses ED glass.   It also incorporates that odd lens lock where you have to unlock and extend the lens before it can be used.  This lens dates from the EP family of cameras and is probably due for a refresh.  It takes a 52mm filter and a bayonet mount hood that it of course does not come with.  Typical sell price for the lens is $749.99 similar to what one might pay for a similar focal length for a DSLR.

Olympus 9-18mm #1

Olympus 9-18mm #1

The 14-150mm f/4 – 5.6

I have looked at the OM-D for travel.  I wanted something lighter and smaller than my Canon 1D Mk IV or 1Dx but with a great all in one walk around lens.  Canon does a 28-300 that is sharp but enormous and heavy.  I have shot the 14-150 a lot, as it has been around for some time.  I used to use one on my Lumix GF1 back when I still owned that camera.  For a single walk around lens it’s perfect.  Yes there is barrel distortion at the wide end and pincushion distortion at the telephoto end, and yes the barrel is all cheap plastic but it is lightweight, compact and very sharp.  I can correct the distortions in Lightroom and at a typical sell price of $629.99 this is a great choice.  The hood is bayonet mount and separate and sells for $34.99   Filter size is 58mm

Olympus 14-150mm

Olympus 14-150mm

The 17mm f/1.8

Since this is just like a 35/1.8 you might guess this would be my street lens of choice and you’d be right.  After all the go to lens on the Leica M240 is a 35/2.  Construction is metal, manual focus is silky smooth and the lens is so small that it is completely pocketable.  It takes a 46mm filter and of course doesn’t include a hood which is metal and sells separately for $62.99  You can typically find the lens itself selling for $499.99 which is again pretty close to what you would pay for a similar full frame lens.  Being a prime, the design is simple and its nice and sharp.  Couple that with the next lens and you have a really nice kit…

Olympus 17mm

Olympus 17mm

The 45mm f/1.8

Okay get past the fact that this one looks a bit odd and think of a 90/1.8 in full frame.  Now imagine that fitting in a smaller pocket and needing only a 37mm filter.  If you are thinking something along the size of a 50mm Leica M lens, you are on track.  Light, optically fast, tack sharp, it’s a great little portrait lens with wonderful out of focus highlights (the completely abused bokeh) shallow depth of field wide open and negligible distortion.  The lens sells for usually around $399.99 and the hood is about another $40.  So it’s a bit less than a comparable 85/1.8 in full frame.

Olympus 45mm

Olympus 45mm

The FL-600R Flash

The OM-D comes with a little tiny slip on flash, probably so they can say it comes with a flash.  The guide number is so low and the tube so small, that using it as a flash should constitute emergency measures.  What it is good for is remotely controlling an external TTL flash.  Hence the FL-600R.  It has a guide number of 36, so similar in power to a Nikon SB-910.  Remote control of the flash involved a menu setting on the camera and a single setting on the flash.  It is line of sight control of course so you’ll have to experiment with angles and positioning if you are not Joe McNally.  Mr. McNally of course could make line of sight work across the arc of the sun.  Neither of us is Joe McNally.  That said it works really well and is so easy to get going that there is no reason you would not carry this with you all the time to use as a little fill flash kicker.  The unit sells for around $299.99. Unfortunately there are not a lot of third party TTL flash choices for Olympus.

Off Camera Remote Flash

Off Camera Remote Flash


Ok, so how does it work in the real world.  Candidly it’s freaking great.  If I did not have a ton of cash invested in other gear and if this thing had very fast primes my bank account would be in peril.  Yes it is that good.

The viewfinder is bright and easy to see, with a good and flexible level of information display.  This is the first time I have really used the flip up rear display and with its 1M pixels, the images were very sharp and easy to see.  I found it very simple to shoot low to the ground or over the heads of a crowd using this display and the different shutter buttons on the battery grip.  As I was using the 9-18 for these shots, depth of field was solid and I was able to get shots I would otherwise have not achieved.

A 16MP sensor of M43 size is more than adequate for my needs.  Images had good contrast, didn’t block up and were very well exposed.  I forced the auto white balance into horrible conditions and it did a very good job considering the varying sources and colour temperatures of the different lights present.  As I was shooting in low light and at high ISO I was hoping for higher shutter speeds, but sometimes this would not work out.  If I work at it, I can shoot the 1Dx with a 14mm down to 1/20 of second without microshake being evident.  I routinely shot the E-M1 at 1/15 of a second.  The 5 axis in body stabilization is really that good.

Off Camera Flash

I carried the FL-600R around with me and managed it using only the little pop on flash.  I was able to get it to fire the remote more than 80% of the time in a large hall with lots of specular lighting.  Exposures were very good given the lack of reflecting backgrounds, a situation where TTL usually blows out completely.  Battery life is ok but I would be really worried about the first impact that the flash takes as it feels cheaply constructed.  My Metz units have been called upon too many times to prove that gravity works and they still do.  I don’t think that the FL-600R would survive day to day work.  Given how good Canon and Nikon have made their Speedlight systems, Olympus needs to up its game here.

Changing lenses is fast as you would expect and I only got hung up by the locking mechanism on the 9-18 twice.  All other lenses were very responsive and I was overall pleased with the image quality across the board.


Using the menu system takes some work if you are coming off another body.  Menu layout is inconsistent with some pages being limited to screen length and others rolling over.   Naming conventions in menus is quite good and you can mostly find what you are looking for.  Of course I have zero use for all the Art filter crap or JPEG scenes so if there was a way to make those vanish completely in favour of simpler menus I would be all over that.

Video Performance

The video is very good.  It’s not Sony A7 good but it is very good nonetheless.  Having the separate start stop is critical and AF in video does work decent enough, albeit with too much hunting for my like.  The focusing helicoids in the lenses are very steep so micro manual focus is challenging.  Perhaps a Zeiss Touit would be a better choice for serious video.

I do like that you can jack in a decent stereo mic into the hotshoe, and that there is a proper high impedance mic input on the body but for a camera of this cost, there should be a headphone jack.  Nothing destroys great video faster than crap audio and you need to be able to monitor the audio if you are recording in camera.  Yes you can buy an outboard device for audio but that defeats the purpose of an all in one device.

High ISO Performance

As I have already mentioned, I shot a lot of images at ISO 3200 and was very pleased with the originals.  That was about the threshold for images that I would use for HDR though as that process always seems to find every element of noise and light it up.  As I often do, I have a series of shots of Sondra here from ISO 200 to ISO 25600 so you can decide for yourself where the system starts to fall apart.


If you use two batteries, you have to remove the battery grip to get at the one inside the body.  I would rather that they follow the Canon model where attaching the grip moves both batteries into the grip so you can swap them out without having to disassemble the camera.  Sounds like a bit of nitpicking but it is so.

Olympus includes only starter paper documentation, with the useful stuff on a CD.  The last three computers I have purchased have not had a CD/DVD drive.  Stop being cheap asses and put ALL the manuals on a memory stick and put it in the box.  Finding Olympus documentation on the Internet is more a pain in the ass than it should be.  The documentation when found is not very well written and is very lightweight on details.  Lens documentation, particularly for the macro needs work to become useful.

Both zooms are showing their age and need a refresh to better construction.  For the prices being charged, the barrels need to be metal and they need to be dust and splash proof if Olympus wants the OM-D to be taken seriously.  A camera that is well sealed is less useful if the lenses are not.  I understand why Olympus would not want to create segregation in their M43 line between Pro and Consumer grade lenses, but seriously, get over yourselves.  Canon and Nikon have already paved that road.

I love the wide range of bracketing options but don’t like that the steps max out at +-1 EV. I would much rather have fewer exposures at wider EV variants.  Seriously what do I need 7 shots at ⅓ EV intervals for when the sensor is as good as it is.  This is “feature for the sake of marketing”, not feature for the sake of value.  I would also like to be able to manipulate bracketing without having to dive so deep into the menu system.

The OM-D E-M1 is the top of the line camera, definitely a prosumer device so why do I have to go into menus to simply change the ISO?  If there was a dial to do this, then plainly I missed it.  Yes I know I could program a button, but why should I have to?

And if it is a prosumer device, could less CPU be wasted by dumping all the Art filter crap and in camera HDR that no serious photographer is ever going to use?  Scene mode?  Really?  RAW Rules guys, did you miss the memo?

Conclusions and Would I Buy?

The OM-D E-M1 is the best mirror less camera I have ever used.  It fits my hands, is very fast to shoot, is intuitive and produces great quality images.  There are lots of Olympus lenses, and a wide variety from other providers in the Micro Four Thirds consortium.  There are no super telephotos, and really fast primes don’t exist.  Yet.  M43 is farthest along in mirror less and while Sony is doing good work, the E-M1 is a much better camera to me than the A7 I recently evaluated and has magnitudes of more glass available.

I don’t need or want all the JPEG centric crap built into the camera and in my perfect world there would be a menu option to disable useless (to me) junk.  I don’t think I am Mr. Super Photographer, I simply shoot only in RAW and prefer to manage my artistic work in post not in some JPEG that tosses away 70% of the data being captured by the oh so good sensor.

If I were in the market for something smaller and with very fast AF and interchangeable lenses, I would be putting Mr. American Express on the counter for the EM-1.  As it stands, I have my Leica for when I want unobtrusive and I’m not so sanguine about duplicating all my Canon glass.  And I do want that fast glass and long fast telephoto option, mostly because I have it today.  The high ISO performance is definitely good.  Not as good perhaps as the 1Dx, but more than needed for most anything I do with regularity.

As more and faster primes with weather sealing become available, and perhaps an update of the 14-150, this camera becomes more and more attractive.  Back in the days of film, the OM-1 and OM-2 were physically smaller than their peers.  They made excellent images with the right driver behind the lens.  The OM-D lineup is smaller than today’s DSLRs but just for yucks, I pulled out my venerable (and still perfectly functional) Minolta XD-11.  Taking the size of the lenses out of the equation, the OM-D is not much smaller than the XD-11 which for its time was a standard sized SLR.  Today’s “pro” DSLRs are considerably larger than their film counterparts.  It’s not about the size, it’s about what you can do with it, and the Olympus OM-D E-M1 brings you all the tools you need.  And if getting what you want involves carrying a couple of bodies and a load of lenses all day, your spine will thank you for the OM-D, even if your chiropractor does not.

Specifications (Courtesy Olympus) – lifted right from their website


With the new 16 MP Live MOS Sensor, the OM-D E-M1 automatically switches between Contrast Detection AF or Phase Detection AF to deliver blazing fast autofocus speed – no matter which Olympus Zuiko lens you use. All of our lenses — from our super-quiet MSC Micro Four-Thirds lenses to our renowned SWD Four Thirds lenses work seamlessly and to their full potential when paired with the OM-D E-M1. Features such as Focus Peaking and Magnified Focus Assist let you use your favorite OM lens with the appropriate adapter for beautiful results.

AF system

High-speed imager AF (Contrast detection / On-Chip Phase-difference detection)

*For complete compatibility and full AF performance with our super quiet MSC Micro Four-Thirds and SWD Four -Thirds lenses.

Focus mode

Single AF (S-AF) / Continuous AF (C-AF) / Manual Focus (MF) / S-AF + MF / AF tracking (C-AF + TR)

  • Full-time AF
  • Available
  • Magnified frame AF
  • Selectable from over 800 AF points

Enlarged view check by magnify button (available with old lenses*)

Magnification x5, x7, x10(Default), x14 selectable

* lenses without data communication

Face detection AF / Eye detection AF

Available / Available

Eye Detection AF mode: Off / Nearer-eye priority / Right-eye priority / Left-eye priority

Focusing point / Focusing point
selection mode

81-area multiple AF (Contrast detection AF), 37-area multiple AF (Phase-difference detection AF)

All target, Group target area (3×3-area),

Single target(Standard Target Size/Small Target Size)

AF illuminator


Manual focus assist
* Customize function

Live view image is magnified when the focus ring is rotated. (at S-AF+MF or MF mode)

Peaking function

Available (White edge type, Black edge type)

AF tracking



The OM-D E-M1 has a 1/8000 second high-speed mechanical shutter, allowing you to freeze quick-moving action without blurring. Use prime lenses at their maximum aperture to capture beautifully defocused background images in bright daylight.

Shutter type

Computerized focal-plane, high-speed, mechanical shutter

Shutter speed

1/8000 – 60 sec. (1/3, 1/2, or 1EV steps selectable)

Bulb/Time: default setting 8min. (1/2/4/8/15/20/25/30 min. selectable)


High-speed sequential shooting as fast as 10fps can be accomplished when using the Tracking AF (C-AF + Tr), which works in tandem with the Autofocus to follow your subject. 6fps in C-AF.

Sequential shooting  maximum speed[Sequential shooting H mode]* 10.0 fps * in case of “I.S. Off”* including AF tracking (C-AF + TR)* Focus and exposure are fixed at the values for the first shot.[Sequential shooting L mode] 6.5 fps* in case of “I.S. OFF”.* including C-AF* When using the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 EZ, M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-40mm f2.8PRO.Max. recordable pictures

[RAW] Max. 50 frames (in seq. shooting L), Max.41 frames (in seq. shooting H)

on sequential shooting *

[JPEG] Max. Card Full frames (in seq. shooting L), Max. 95 frames ( in seq. shooting H)

* When using the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 EZ.

* With TOSHIBA SDHC UHS-I card, based on Olympus in-house measurement conditions.


Operation time: 12 sec., 2 sec.,custom (Waiting time 1-30sec.,Shooting interval 0.5/1/2/3sec.,Number of shots 1-10)



For photographers who prefer composing their shots using an eye-level viewfinder, the OM-D E-M1 will be a revelation. The new, interactive high-definition EVF features a 2.36 million dot resolution, an impressive 1.48x magnification, 29ms image display lag, eye sensor for automatic switching between the EVF and monitor and intuitive functionality for real-time viewing of any shooting situation.

Product Type

Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens system camera


SD Memory Card*1 (SDHC, SDXC, UHS-I , compatible, Eye-Fi Card compatible*2 )

*1: Class 6 or higher is recommended for Movie shooting.

*2: Not compatible with Endless mode.

Lens mount

Micro Four Thirds Mount


The OM-D E-M1 is built around the Micro Four Thirds standard, making it smaller, lighter and more portable.
Pack light and pack more lenses on your important photo outings. Shoot all day without lugging around a heavy, outdated system.


130.4mm (W)× 93.5mm (H) × 63.1mm (D)

5.1″ (W) x 3.7″ (H) x 2.5″ (D)

[CIPA guideline compliant, excluding protrusions]


[CIPA guideline compliant,
with BLN-1 battery and Memory card]

Approx. 497g/17.5oz(1.1lbs)

[body only]

Approx. 443g/15.6oz(0.98lbs)


Outer Material


Inner Frame

Magnesium Alloy


Rain or snow, mud or dust – the E-M1 is ready for whatever mother nature can throw at it. Its rugged design expands your field of photography to any place on earth.





Splash proof




-10 ~ +40℃ (operation) / -20 ~ +60℃ (storage)

+14 ~ +104 °F


30 – 90% (operation) / 10 – 90% (storage)

-4 ~ +140 °F


The new, interactive high-definition EVF features a 2.36 million dot resolution, an impressive 1.48x magnification, 29ms image display lag time, eye sensor for automatic switching between the EVF and monitor and intuitive functionality for real-time viewing of any shooting situation.

Finder typeEye-level electronic viewfinder, approx. 2.36M-dot resolutionField of view / Viewfinder magnificationApprox. 100% / Approx. 1.30x*1 - 1.48x*2 (-1m-1, 50mm lens, Infinity)*1: at Finder Style 1, 2 (aspect 4:3)*2: at Finder Style 3 (aspect 4:3)Image Display Lag Time29 milli seconds

Eye point / Diopter adjustment range

Approx. 21mm (-1m-1, Distance from rear lens surface) / -4 ~ +2m-1


Available with Live Preview function button

Displayed Grid

Off / Normal Grid / Golden Grid / Scale / Diagonal / Movie Grid selectable

Level Gauge

2-axis level gauge; horizontal /vertical

One Touch Tele-Converter

2x magnification

Finder Style

Selectable from 3 types

Brightness / Color temperature control



Optional eyecup EP-13 is available.


Its tilting, touch screen display makes focusing, choosing AF points, releasing the shutter, swiping through images in playback and changing settings effortless.

Screen size

3.0-inch / 7.6-cm

Monitor type

Tilt Touch Wide LCD with approx. 1037K dots resolution

*8: Approx.1037k dots, Touch control in electrostatic capacitance Type

Touch control

Touch shutter release, Touch enlargement, Touch Live Guide, AF area selection, AF area enlargement, Frame advance/backward, Enlargement playback, Touch Super Control Panel, Touch Art Filter menu,Wi-Fi function

Tilting angle

Upward tilting angle: up to 80 degrees / Downward tilting angle: up to 50 degrees

Brightness / Color temperature control

±7 levels / ±7 levels

Color tone select

Vivid / Natural


Live view

Approx. 100% field of view,

Exposure compensation preview, WB adjustment preview,

Gradation auto preview, Face detection preview (up to 8 faces),

Grid line, Histogram, Magnification display (x5/x7/x10/x14), Normal, Highlight & Shadow, Level Gauge, Off


Image Sensor type

Field of view

Approx. 100%

Display Mode

Normal Mode, Histogram Mode, Level gauge, Highlight and shadow, Off

Magnification Ratio

x5, x7, x10 (Default), x14

Monitor information

Aperture value, Shutter speed, Auto Bracket, AE Lock, AF mode, IS, Shooting Mode, Battery Check, Myset, Internal Temperature Warning, Face / Eye Detection, Histogram, Number of storable still pictures, Record mode, ISO, Sequential shooting, Self-timer, White Balance, Metering Mode, AF confirmation mark, Exposure Compensation Value, Spot metering Area Flash Mode, Flash Status, Flash intensity Control, Super FP, Focal length, Tone control, Eye-Fi condition, Digital teleconverter, Battery check

Display of Face Detection

Max 8 frames of face detection can be displayed.

Live View Close Up Mode

Available at HDR1 and HDR2 shooting





32 Olympus Lenses and 57 lenses from all Four Thirds
consortium members

Optional Battery Grip

HLD-7 Battery and Grip

Grip Strap


Underwater Housing



Flash intensity control method

TTL Auto, Auto*, Manual, super FP*(FP-TTL AUTO, FP-MANUAL)

* Available on the external flash

Bundled flash*

TTL flash,GN=7(ISO100・m) / GN=10 (ISO200・m)

* Attach it on the hot shoe and connect it to the accessory port 2. Available on FL-LM1/2.

Flash mode

Flash Auto, Redeye, Fill-in, Flash Off, Red-eye Slow sync.(1st curtain), Slow sync.(1st curtain), Slow sync.(2nd curtain), Manual 1/1 FULL 1/64

Synchronization speed

1/320sec. or less*

* It depends on flash models or flash mode

FL-LM1/2: 1/320 sec., Other: 1/250 sec.,

Super FP: 1/125-1/8000 sec.

Flash intensity control

Up to ±3 EV in 0.3, 0.5, 1 EV steps selectable

Compatible external flash

FL-50R, FL-36R, FL-20, FL-14, FL-300R, FL-600R

Colour Temperature


External Flash control mode

TTL Auto, Auto, Manual, FP-TTL-AUTO, FP-MANUAL


Wireless flash transmission channel settings enable selection of the flash/no flash for groups of multiple flash units. In addition, it allows TTL auto, auto and manual models to be set; offers a bounce and swivel head; and flash coverage is automatically adjusted in several steps to correspond to the image area when zooming.

Compatible external flash

FL-50R, FL-36R, FL-300R, FL-600R

Control method

Triggered and controlled by built-in flash

(Olympus Wireless RC Flash system compatible)

External Flash intensity type

TTL Auto, Auto, Manual, FP-TTL-AUTO, FP-MANUAL

Channel No.

4 channels

Group No.

4 groups (External flash 3 groups + a bundled flash*)

* Available on FL-LM1/2 / FL-600R




With the new 16 MP Live MOS Sensor, the OM-D E-M1 automatically switches between Contrast Detection AF or Phase Detection AF to deliver blazing fast autofocus speed – no matter which Olympus Zuiko lens you use. All of our lenses — from our super-quiet MSC Micro Four-Thirds lenses to our renowned SWD Four Thirds lenses work seamlessly and to their full potential when paired with the OM-D E-M1.

Product type

4/3 Live MOS Sensor

Number of pixels / Aspect ratio

Number of effective pixels: Approx. 16.3 million pixels

Total number of pixels: Approx. 16.8 million pixels

Aspect ratio: 1.33 (4:3)

Dust reduction

Supersonic Wave Filter (dust reduction system for image sensor)

Filter array

Primary color filter (RGB)

*Uses information communicated from the lens such as aperture setting and optical characteristics to optimize the final image.

Image Processor

TruePic™ VII


The OM-D E-M1 is equipped with the world’s first 5-Axis image stabilization system with IS-Auto. 5-Axis IS compensates for vertical,
horizontal and rotational camera shake that conventional 2-axis systems could not. 5-Axis IS is built into the camera body to ensure stabilization with all lenses and makes stable movie recording possible.

System Type

Built-in (Image sensor shift type for movie & still, 5-axis* image stabilization)

* yaw/pitch/vertical shift/horizontal shift/rolling


4 modes (S-I.S.AUTO,S-I.S.1, S-I.S.2, S-I.S.3), OFF

IS for finder image

Available (by half-pressing the shutter button or enlargeing operation)

Focal length setting


Lens IS Mode


Available manual focal length setting

Input focal length : 8, 10, 12, 15,16, 18, 21, 24, 28, 30, 35, 40, 48, 50, 55, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 100, 105, 120, 135, 150, 180, 200, 210, 250, 300, 350, 400, 500, 600, 800, 1000

Stabilization performance

4 EV steps*

* Based on CIPA measurement conditions.

Shutter speed range

60 – 1/8000 sec. (Not available when Bulb and Time is selected.)


The E-M1 provides DSLR quality in low light photos with an increased ISO sensitivity to 25,600.

Metering system

Digital ESP metering (324-area multi pattern metering), Center weighted average metering, Spot metering, Spot metering with highlight control, Spot metering with shadow control

(TTL Image sensor metering)

Metering range

EV -2 – 20 (at normal temperature, 17mm f2.8, ISO 100)

Exposure mode

i Auto, P: Program AE (Program shift can be performed), A: Aperture priority AE, S: Shutter priority AE, M: Manual, Bulb, Time, Scene select AE, Art Filter, Underwater wide / macro*

* Selectable from menu as a function on Fn-1/Rec button

Scene select AE

Portrait, e-Portrait, Landscape, Landscape + Portrait, Sport, Night, Night + Portrait, Children, High Key, Low Key, DIS mode, Macro, Nature Macro, Candle, Sunset, Documents, Panorama, Fireworks, Beach & Snow, Fisheye Conv., Wide Conv., Macro Conv., 3D*

*3D lens(H-FT012 by Panasonic) only, still only

ISO sensitivity

Auto: ISO LOW (approx. 100) – 25600 (customizable, default ISO LOW – 1600)
Manual: ISO LOW (approx. 100) – 25600 in 1/3 or 1 EV ISO steps

Exposure compensation

±5 EV in 1/3, 1/2, 1 EV steps selectable

AE lock

Locked at 1st release of shutter button (can be set to Fn1/Rec button)

Metering standard value adjustment

1/6 EV step, +/- 1EV range


at High ISO setting

Off, Low, Standard, High


at Slow shutter speed

Off, On, Auto

On : effective when shutter speed is slower than 1 sec.

Auto : effective when shutter speed is slower than 4 sec. (at ISO 200 or higher) or 8 sec. (at lower than ISO200)


Recording format

DCF, DPOF compatible / Exif, PRINT Image Matching III,
MPO compatible

File format

RAW (12-bit lossless compression), JPEG, RAW+JPEG, MPO(3D still)

Recording image size

[RAW] 4608 x 3456 pixels

[JPEG] 4608 x 3456 pixels – 640 x 480 pixels

File size

RAW: 4608(H)x3456(V) (approx. 1/1.5 lossless compressed) Approx. 17MB

Set1(LF): 4608(H)x3456(V) (1/4 compressed) Approx. 7.5MB

Set2(LN): 4608(H)x3456(V) (1/8 compressed) Approx. 3.5MB

Set3(MN): 2560(H)x1920(V) (1/8 compressed) Approx. 1.1MB

Set4(SN): 1280(H)x980(V) (1/8 compressed) Approx. 0.4MB”




Take control of your OM-D E-M1, without touching it! Using the O.I. Share app, you can preview your composition, choose the AF point and release the shutter; perfect for tripod or portrait shooting.

GPS function

Availabe (Aquire the position information from smartphone with GPS function)

Wireless shooting function

iAUTO, P, A, S, M, live valve / time support. Aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation, ISO speed, WB, continuous shooting setting possible.


Remote live view, remote REC VIEW, wireless touch AF shutter, Shutter timer (countdown with sound), remote power OFF

Image Share Function

Reserve the picture which will be transferred to smartphone. (Max 4 smart device connections) can transfer image; (except MPO) PEG, only MOV.

Smart & Easy Connection

Smart & Easy connection by QR code.




The new Color Creator feature lets you adjust Hue and Chroma right in the EVF and preview the effect in “real time”


i-Enhance, Vivid, Natural, Muted, Portrait, Monotone, Custom, e-Portarait, Color Creator, Art Filters


Auto, Normal, High Key, Low Key [except Art Flters]

Adjustment parameter

4 levels (Auto, Normal, High key, Low key)

Filter effect (B&W filter)

Neutral, Yellow, Orange, Red, Green for Monotone

Picture tone

Neutral, Sepia, Blue, Purple, Green for Monotone


HDR art photos can easily be captured with 12EV wide-range bracketing shooting.

HDR(Auto composite)HDR1,HDR2* Available with P, A, S and M mode.* Takes 4 pictures at different exposures composite into a high contrast image.Bracketing for HDR post-process3 or 5 frames in 2.0/3.0EV steps selectable, 7 frames in 2.0EV steps selectable.* HDR picture can not be made by this function.* HDR function can be called by Fn-button.


Using Art Filter Bracketing when you can’t make up your mind about shooting a filter. Generate multiple pictures with Art Filters with a single shot and then view them as a slideshow.

Exposure bracketing

2, 3 or 5 frames in 0.3/0.7/1.0EV steps selectable, 7 frames in 0.3/0.7EV steps selectable

ISO bracketing

3 frames in 0.3/0.7/1.0EV steps selectable

White balance bracketing

3 frames in 2, 4, 6 steps selectable in each A-B/G-M axis.

Flash bracketing

3 frames in 0.3/0.7/1.0EV step selectable

Art Filter bracketing

i-Enhance, Vivid, Natural, Muted, Portrait, Monotone, Custom, Art Filters selectable


Twelve in-camera Art Filters are enhanced by new filter variations, art effects and bracketing. You can use Art Filters in all shooting modes as well as filming 1080 HD movies.

Mode (Variation / Effect)

Pop Art (I, II / a.b.c.d.e)

Soft Focus ( – / c.e)

Pale & Light Color (I, II / a.b.c.d)

Light Tone ( – / d)

Grainy Film (I, II / b.c.d.f.g)

Pin Hole (I, II, III / d.)

Diorama ( – / d.)

Cross Proscess (I, II / b.c.d.)

Gentle Sepia ( – / a.b.c.d.)

Dramatic Tone (I / b.c.d.e) (II / b.c.d.e.f.g)

Key Line (I, II / a.b.c.d.e.)

WaterColor (I, II / a.c.d.)

Art Effect

a. Soft Focus Effect

b. Pin-Hole Effect

c. White Edge Effect

d. Frame Effect

e. Star Light Effect

f. Defocus Effect

g. B&W Effect (Yellow, Orange, Red, Green)

h. Picture Tone (Sepia, Blue, Purple, Green)


With Photo Story, users can shoot a normal, everyday scene from multiple viewpoints and combine them into one image. Simply turning the mode dial to “Photo Story”, you’ll be provided with different formats to choose from, and everyday occurrences will become memorable scenes.


Standard II,Ⅱ,Ⅲ,Ⅳ/a, b, c, d, e/A, B, C, D

Frame Effect


a. White Frame

b. White Frame & White Edge Effect

c. Black Frame

d. White Frame & Pin Hole Effect

Aspect Window/Pattern

A. 4:3/2Frames

B. 4:3/3Frames

C. 1:1/2Frames

D. 1:1/3Frames

E. 1:1/4 Frames

F. 16:9/5 Frames


Interval Shooting

1-999 frames, Interval time 1sec-24hours, Time lapse movies


Number of picture / Function

2 frames / Auto gain, Exposing on Recorded picture(RAW)



2-axis (vertical and horizontal)





Aspect Ratio

4:3(Default) / 3:2 / 16:9 / 1:1 / 3:4


RAW: Aspect ratio is recorded as Exif data, JPEG: JPEG image is produced based on the aspect ratio


White balance mode

Auto WB, 7 Preset WBs, 2 Capture WBs, Custom WB(Kelvin setting)

White balance compensation

±7 steps in each A-B/G-M axis * Except for Custom WB

Preset white balance

7 preset WBs (3000K – 7500K)

- Sunny(5300K), Shadow(7500K), Cloudy(6000K), Incandescent(3000K), Fluorescent(4000K), Underwater, WB Flash(5500K)

CWB (Kelvin setting)

1 setting can be registered at Kelvin temperature, 2000K to 14000K.

Capture white balance

2 custom settings can be registered


Colour matrix

sRGB, Adobe RGB


Shoot up to 29 minutes of 1080 30p HD video and stereo sound in either .MOV or .AVI formats. A Direct HD Movie Button switches you from still to movie mode with just the press of a button.

Recording format

MOV(MPEG-4AVC/H.264) , AVI(Motion JPEG)

Movie Mode


Full HD: 1920(H)x1080(V),  30p(29.97 Recording

24Mbps(Fine) / 16Mbps Normal) : Aspect 16:9

HD: 1280(H)x720(V),  30p(29.97 Recording

12Mbps(Fine) / 8Mbps Normal) : Aspect 16:9

[AVI Motion JPEG]

HD: 1280(H)x720(V), 30fps *20, Aspect 16:9

SD: 640(H)x480(V), 30fps *20, Aspect 4:3

*20 : Except for some of the Art Filters

Maximum Recording Time


Full HD : Approx. 29min(Normal) / Approx. 22min(Fine)

HD : Approx. 29min(Normal) / Approx. 29min(Fine)


HD : Approx. 7min*21 / SD : Approx. 14min*21

*21 : Except for some of the Art Filters

Movie Function

Movie Effect* : One shot echo / Multi echo / Art fade *Default ON


Art Filter Movie, Aperture priority Movie, Shutter Priority Movie, Manual Shooting Movie

Movie Tele-converter

×4* Avairable on Movie effect mode

TimeLapse Movie

Available AVI Motion JPEG  1280×720,10fps)

IS for Movie

Built in (Image sensor shift type image stabilization)

M-IS.ON,off, Panasonic OIS lens priority

AE Lock


Exposure control – Movie

P: Program AE, A: Aperture priority AE, S: Shutter speed priority AE, M: Manual, Art Filter

* S mode and M mode: Shutter speed is limited in less than 1/30 sec.

Compression ratio

Motion-JPEG Format: 1/12(HD), 1/8(SD)

File size

MOV Format: Max 4GB

Motion-JPEG Format: Max 2GB


Recording format

Wave Format (Stereo linear PCM/16-bit, Sampling frequency 48kHz)



Microphone function

Wind Noise Reduction, Recording Volume

Audio dubbing possible for still pictures (up to 30 sec.)

Maximum Recording Time

Picture with Sound: 30sec.

Movie: depend on Movie Recording Time



Information (shooting)

Battery information, Shooting mode, Shutter speed, Aperture value, Exposure compensation value, ISO sensitivity,Exposure compensation indicator, Exposure indicator, Flash intensity compensation indicator, Date, Auto BKT setting, NR setting, WB, WB compensation value, Record mode, Flash Status, Record mode, Image size, Drive mode, Flash intensity compensation value, Metering mode, Recordable still image number, Focusing mode, AF frame, Colour space, Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation, Internal Temperature Warning Gradation, IS activating mode, Face detection, My Mode, Multi Exposure, Aspect Ratio, Super FP


Information (shooting)

Battery information, Shooting mode, Shutter speed, Aperture value, Exposure compensation value, ISO sensitivity,Exposure compensation indicator, Exposure indicator, Flash intensity compensation indicator, Date, Auto BKT setting, NR setting, WB, Record mode, Flash Status, Image size, Drive mode, Flash intensity compensation value, Metering mode, Recordable still image number, Focusing mode, AF frame, Internal Temperature Warning, IS activating mode, Face detection, My Mode, Multi Exposure, Aspect Ratio


Setting Menu

Color saturation, Color image, Brightness, Blur Background, Express Motion, Shooting Tips


Playback mode

Single-frame, Information display, Index display (4/9/25/100 frames), Calendar, Enlargement (2x – 14x), Movie (with sound, FF/REW/Pause), Picture rotation (auto), Slideshow *(with BGM/BGM+Sound/Sound)

* Slideshow : Still/Movie/Still+Movie, When a camera is connected to HDTV with HDMI cable, 2 new slideshow effect can be selectable.(Still) 1 BGM replaceable. Auto angle correction

Information display

Histogram (independent luminance / RGB available), Highlight/Shadow point warning, AF frame, Photographic information, OFF



34 languages selectable:

English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Russian, Czech, Dutch, Danish, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Croat, Slovenian, Hungarian, Greek, Slovakian, Turkish, Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Rumanian, Indonesian, Malay, Thai


My mode

4 settings recordable / Available on allocating to mode dial.


Editing function

RAW development, Gradation auto, Monochrome, Sepia, Red-eye fix, Saturation, Resize (1280×960, 640×480, 320×240), Trimming, Aspect, e-Portrait, Image Overlay, Postrecording

RAW picture editing

RAW development based on settings of the camera(including Art Filter,ART-BKT)

Detail edit acceptable. (Preview, Memory of 2 setting, re-development)

JPEG editing

Shadow adjustment, Red-eye fix, Cropping, Aspect, Black&White, Sepia, Saturation, Resize, e-portrait

Image Overlay

Up to 3 RAW images

Erasing function

Single frame, All, Selected frames (from Index)

Protect function

Single frame, Selected frames, Release protect (Single/All selected)



USB/AV/Remote controller connector

Dedicated multi-connector [USB: USB2.0 Hi-Speed, Video: NTSC/PAL selectable, Optional Remote cable RM-UC1 can be used.]

HDMI connector

Micro HDMI (Type-D)

Flash attachment

Hot shoe

Accessory Port 2

Dedicated multi-connector [Available for VF-2/VF-3/VF-4, SEMA-1, MAL-1 and PP-1.]

Wireless LAN

MIC. Input Jack

φ 3.5 stereo mini jack

PC interface

USB2.0 Hi-Speed

TV interface

HDMI (HD/Stereo Sound), VIDEO-OUT(SD/Mono Sound)




BLN-1 Li-ion battery (included)

Power battery holder

AC adaptor

Sleep mode

Available (1/3/5 min. off selectable)

Number of recordable pictures

Approx. 350 shots [IS ON, CIPA test standard]

(with BLN-1 and TOSHIBA super high-speed Class 6 SDHC 4GB card)


Box contents

Body, Li-ion battery BLN-1, Li-ion battery charger BCN-1, FL-LM2 Flash, USB cable, Shoulder strap, OLYMPUS Viewer 3 (CD-ROM), Instruction manual, Warranty card

Episode 88 – The Photo Video Guy Podcast

Nikon Interview at CP+, China most important emerging market, Americas bad for mirror less, smartphones are opportunity, DSLRs still best in low light, Df is not a failure, 3rd party lenses not a threat, no answer on D300s replacement, 4K video plan exists perhaps in the Nikon 1,
Nikon D4s is official, and it’s a slightly updated D4.
Nikon updates firmware on AW1
Nikon releases new RAW software Capture NX-D
Nikon announces the QuickDraw strap developed in conjunction with BlackRapid
Nikon has issued a worldwide technical service bulletin offering replacement of the shutter assembly on D600s at no cost and regardless of warranty status
Canon initiating share buyback
Canon EF-s 24mm STM expected this summer
Canon 1Dx dominates World Press Photo List
Canon to replace Pixma Pro 1, 10 and 100?
Canon updates firmware again for Cine cameras, announces RC-V100 remote control and coming dual pixel AF upgrade for the C300 in May
Canon is considering reducing the number of point and shoot cameras in its range.
Confirmed that Canon will not make the EOS-M2 available in North America
Sigma ART 50/1.4 for Canon coming in April
Fuji updates firmware for X series
Adobe Camera Raw 8.4 has Fujifilm profiles
Leica announces silver version of the X Vario. $2850
Leica to release a 100th Anniversary commerative set with the Leica S only $34,500


Solving Microshake blurring with Piccure

How many times have you made a shot, checked the LCD on the back of the camera, and thought you had “it”?  Then you get home, upload the RAW files from the card to the computer, pop the image open in your editor and WAAAH! it’s not tack sharp.  Oh it’s there and it’s not bad, but you can see the subtle blurring that comes from microshake.  Well now you can fix this with a plugin called Piccure.

Continue reading

I first looked at Piccure in the fall of 2013 and my first experiment went badly because I didn’t follow the instructions.  The manufacturer’s representative, a real class guy called Lui, wrote me to point this out and when I used the software as documented it was very good, certainly comparable and in some cases superior to Photoshop’s own shake reduction.  But I was critical of the plugin because I don’t use JPEGs much at all (ok nearly never) and at that time Piccure required the sRGB colour space.  They listened and a new update just came out that brings support for multiple colour spaces including my preferred ProPhoto RGB.

If you have used shake reduction before, you may not have experienced that at high resolution and in high gamut colour spaces that the math involved is very intensive.  Quick it is not.  There are also posts suggesting that you can cure microshake with aggressive sharpening.  Perhaps, but not well.

With Piccure, you open your image in Lightroom or Photoshop and then use the plugin.  This opens the original as a copy and starts the inspection and rebuild process.  Remember that I said to be patient.  The math involved is very demanding and depending on your CPU it can take some time.  In the end, the result is most often worth it.

Piccure is designed to resolve microshake.  That said, you as the user have a great deal of latitude as to how much shake correction to apply.  It is very much a one by one experiment with no one size fits all answer.  I have inserted two images in this article, the first a 7 step HDR where the camera was mounted on a Manfrotto magic arm for a macro shot.  There was microshake involved purely from vibration in the room, given the less than optimal mounting platform.  The second is the same image adjusted in Piccure at one step more aggressive correction than the micro setting.  I used this explicitly to give readers a sense of the power in Piccure.  More aggressive settings on images that are already very sharp, can produce a crunchy effect similar to an aggressive high-pass sharpening, but without the glopping effect and haloing that aggressive sharpening delivers.

OM-D E-M1 7 Step 32 Bit HDR

OM-D E-M1 7 Step 32 Bit HDR



Looking closely, you can see the effect of the micro shaking.  The image is just a bit soft.  At this point no adjustments have been made at all, this is the TIFF output from HDRsoft’s 32 Bit HDR processing only.  As there were no lens corrections in Lightroom for the camera – lens combination, no corrections were provided prior to the application of the HDR process.  Ghost elimination was turned on in the software.

OM-D E-M1 7 Step 32 Bit HDR after Piccure processing

OM-D E-M1 7 Step 32 Bit HDR after Piccure processing


Even in these 72dpi JPEG exports from Lightroom, the quality improvement is significantly visible.  This was as noted using the shake correction at one level up from Micro, probably more than I would normally use.  I chose this setting to give you a better sense of why Piccure is nothing like trying to fix shake with sharpening algorithms.  There is a dimensionality and texture restored that is what the dying rose looked like under the lights.  You can also see none of the contrast overload or halo effect found with heavy sharpening, or high pass filter based enhancements.

One reader asked why I would suggest buying a plugin when Photoshop CC can be had on subscription so low priced and incorporates camera shake correction.  It’s a fair question, and I would say for the same reason one buys any other plugin.  It’s probable that the work of any plugin can be done in Photoshop, with sufficient time, expertise and practice.  A great plugin can accelerate the achievement of the artistic goal, giving you the artist more time behind the lens.

I have come around completely on Piccure.  Being able to send it images in ProPhoto RGB colour space right from RAW or a very big TIFF resolves my single major stop gate.  My take is that if you want the best images you can get, without the softening of microshake (long lens bird photographers, this may be you!) Piccure is a fast and cost effective solution.  It is designed to do one thing, and does it extraordinarily well.

The folks at Piccure have been really professional to work with and have welcomed me into their beta program.  I hear great things are coming in Version 2 and look forward to sharing that information with The Photo Video Guy readers when I can.

The folks at Piccure have offered a special deal where The Photo Video Guy subscribers can get a discount on the plugin by purchasing through our link and using coupon code photovideo2014.  Click the logo below to buy your own license.

Making Better HDR Images

HDR or High Dynamic Range has taken a beating over the last couple of years, and sometimes rightly so, not because the concept is bad, but because too often the execution is so over the top and screams fakerooni.  In this article I look at the benefits that HDR can bring and explore the output from Photomatix Pro 5, Nik HDR Efex Pro 2, Photoshop Merge to 32 Bit HDR and HDRsoft’s 32 Bit Merge alternatives. Continue reading

HDR images don’t have to look overcooked.  HDR can be subtle.  Before we get there, let’s explore what the original point of all this was.

High Dynamic Range – Origins

A long time ago, Ansel Adams defined the Zone System.  The principal was to use multiple meter readings to determine the dynamic range of an image to be made, to maximize the exposure and then to work in processing and printing to get the widest possible dynamic range.  The Zone System measured from Zone 0 to Zone 10, effectively 11 stops of exposure, although many implementations exist and range does vary.

When digital cameras, particularly digital SLRs came out, the sensors were limited to between 5 and 6 stops of dynamic range, after which content either fell into unrecoverable blacks or blown out whites.  This is very much less of a problem today, than it used to be as we see sensors with 11 and even 12 stops of native dynamic range.  So what digital photographers would do would be to make multiple exposures of the same subject, using the evaluative metering system and then consciously choosing to under and over expose the subsequent shots.  The premise was that the wider range of exposures made, the more content would be there for the next step.

That next step was quite a doozy.  Using predominantly Photoshop layers, each image would be imported into its own layer, then layer masks would be created where different parts of the different images would be combined to create a single final image with much wider dynamic range than any one of the shots.

The premise was that if the evaluative meter gave you 18% grey, then a -2 EV underexposure would put whatever the base reading considered to be white, into middle grey, pulling more data out of the highlight areas and keeping them from blowing out.  Then a +3EV overexposure would be made to pull the blacks up nearly to middle grey getting more detail into the shadows area that under normal conditions would be black.   These under and over exposures would render much of the image either dumped into the blacks or blown out completely, hence the need for masks and layers.

Automation in Capture

Camera manufacturers had long known of the practice of bracketing, the idea to make multiple exposures of the same scene at different EV levels to help the photographer shooting film to compensate for excessive white like snow, or excessive black like a night shot, being pushed towards middle grey by the internal meter that measures reflective light.  In the days of film, cameras had manually operated exposure compensation dials.  It was an easy step for manufacturers to write subroutines for the computers in the digital cameras to shoot a sequence and have the exposure compensation adjusted automatically.

Nikon really took this to heart offering 3, 5, and 7 shot brackets at full stop intervals.  The thought was that the more exposures over a wider range would provide more fodder for the HDR process.  Sadly, misinformation and missing documentation convinced legions of photographers that they needed more shots than they may have actually required but at very small exposure increments.  Shooting a 7 shot bracket at 0.3EV (⅓) stop increments is a lot of data.  Better to shoot a 3 shot bracket at full stop increments.  You end up with the same dynamic range but in fewer shots and therefore with faster processing.

A decent enough rule of thumb if you want to get the extended dynamic range that the film masters got, is to do what they did.  Autobracketing typically requires the same EV variance to the plus and to the minus, so this is where additional frames can help.  With the quality of sensors in the last couple of years, bracketing with anything less than a full stop difference, isn’t really helping you much.

And now of course, you don’t have to make your own layers and your own masks.  There is software to do that for you.  In this article I look at four options and offer my opinion where each best fits.  The software options I look at are Photoshop Merge to HDR 32 Bit, HDRsoft’s 32 Bit HDR, Photomatix Pro and Nik HDR Efex Pro 2.

Before getting into software, it’s also important to note that photographic HDR is less high dynamic range these days and more a processing effect.  Traditional HDR involves mapping the tones in the histogram to extend the dynamic range.  The processing that many people equate with HDR is really a series of effects comprising multiple programmatically created adjustments that extend beyond exposure to include noise, sharpening, softening, saturation, clarity, structure, blend modes and numerous other options.

The overcooked HDRs that some love and some hate place more emphasis on the effect side of the equation than on the tone mapping side.  HDRsoft, the company that makes Photomatix Pro calls this Fusion, so that’s as good a name as any.

The Software

Photomatix Pro V5 and HDR Efex Pro 2 are 16 bit editors that offer a wide range of presets going from the subtle to the nauseating.  Like any preset, they are a place to start in your image processing, and rarely an end in themselves.  Followers of Trey Ratcliff have come to recognize the Photomatix look, and indeed until the release of V5 of their software, subtle was really not in the vocabulary.  The current version is a significant improvement in usability, image quality and flexibility.  I commend the company for the work in the upgrade and if I was driven towards effects oriented HDR, this would be my choice.

When I started doing HDR, I tried the older versions of Photomatix, but never really liked the output, so I went with Nik’s HDR Efex Pro, and later Pro 2, before Google bought Nik and made the bundled suite so darn affordable.  HDR Efex Pro 2 has definitely been a go to for landscapes, automobiles and other wide scoped themes where I wanted a blend of subtlety and effect.  I still like it today, and you cannot beat the price.  That said, Google has not offered a major revision since taking over Nik, and the offering is losing its competitive edge.

Last year, maybe the year prior, I learned of the merge to 32 bit HDR option in Photoshop.  I had never been really nuts about the Photoshop HDR options until I learned about this from Matt Kloskowski at Photoshop World.  By choosing 32 bit mode, with the only other checkmark being ghost reduction, I could have Photoshop do the layer masking work and send the image back to Lightroom without further manipulation.  Then I would have this single image with massive embedded dynamic range and I could use the Lightroom sliders of Highlights and Shadows to real advantage.  Until recently, this has been my go to for true dynamic range expansion.  When Photoshop was updated to CC, the process became a bit more confusing, but I believe that with the latest update Adobe has restored the former simplicity.  Shooting cathedral interiors, or flowers or jewellery, really anything with lots of fine detail benefits from the dynamic range extension without the “effects” look.

When I bought the upgrade to Photomatix 5, I purchased the Pro bundle which included a Photoshop Plugin and the 32 bit HDR option in addition to the Lightroom plugin.  This new implementation of a 32 bit plugin is stunningly good, and while it takes about as much time to complete as the Photoshop option, you never have to roundtrip to Photoshop and back, with everything happening (ostensibly) in Lightroom.  There is no edit window, no settings are required, you simply Export with Preset and in a couple of minutes the image comes back to you with extended dynamic range.  At first glance, you might think that you give up a lot of control in this model, but that’s not true.  The control is in the Lightroom sliders and functions that you already know.

Best Practice for Better HDR

The trick to wide dynamic range is to get images well outside the boundaries of the generic camera.  Let’s say your camera has a dynamic range of 6 stops.  By doing a 3 shot bracket at +2EV and -2EV you will effectively have a 10 stop dynamic range.  If you go farther down and farther up to include +3EV and -3EV, you get to 12 stops.  You can see then that doing ⅓ or ½ stop increments is kind of pointless and even +1EV and -1EV brackets only extend your range by two stops.  Now sometimes, the light that’s available simply won’t allow for the massive exposure shifts.  If the light is low and you try for a 3 stop push, you could end up with subject movement, even when your camera is on a tripod.  If the light is super bright, even the lowest ISO and smallest f stop may not allow a high enough shutter speed to give you a 3 stop underexposure.  These are probably more exceptions than the rule, particularly the underexposure option, but keep the idea in mind.

Example Images and Processing

In this series of images, I used the same three originals, and exported them to the four different HDR approaches.  I took the most neutral selections in Photomatix Pro and Nik HDR Efex Pro 2, and just accepted the 32 bit round trips from Photoshop and HDRsoft.  All images were then edited in Lightroom for Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks, Clarity and Vibrance.  No other corrections were done.  Once the Lightroom edits were complete, the images were sharpened in Nik Sharpener Pro 3 (Output Sharpening – Web) and then passed through Nik Dfine for noise reduction.

Photomatix Pro 5 Natural

The goal here was a simple HDR process to lift the shadows and put some detail into the highlights.  Photomatix has been best known for the HDR look.  I really am very impressed with version 5 of the software.  Despite being shot at ISO 2500, the images combined nicely and were not made excessively noisy in the HDR process.  The Natural look is a default preset and I changed nothing in its settings to produce this output.  There is good colour rendition overall and a good representation of the shadow detail in the grill without it looking overcooked.

Photomatix Natural Final

Photomatix Pro 5 Natural

Nik HDR Efex Pro 2

This is the Default outcome from running the images into Nik.  I found the original return too warm and had already cooled it down, before I realized I was doing so.  It looks nice now and this is the only time where any edit change was done, other than as noted in the précis for this section.  Note the increased shadow detail in the grill.

Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 Default Final

Photoshop Merge to 32 Bit HDR

This is what I would have typically gotten from Photoshop’s 32 bit HDR mode out of Photoshop CC.  It’s clean and sharp with really good tonal range.  The returned image offers a ton of dynamic range so I could pull more detail out of the shadows in the grill and spoiler without compromising the rest of the image.  That’s the real advantage of the 32 bit  models.  The image you get back is still mostly RAW but with extended dynamic range.

Berlinetta PS 32 HDR

Berlinetta PS 32 HDR

HDRsoft 32 Bit

This is the HDRsoft version of what Photoshop CC does so well, with a simpler process and fewer clicks.  There is still all that uninterrupted dynamic range available to play with.  As in the PS version, I did nothing to the image except what was noted above.  It’s a very natural look and doesn’t scream out “I’m an HDR”

Berlinetta HDRSoft 32 Final

The situation to make the captures was far from ideal but is indicative of the types of scenarios we can run into.  In this case, I was in the basement of a convention centre with really horrible light and colour temperatures all over the place.  The lighting was not particularly bright so the ISO was set to 2500 on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 I brought with me as part of its evaluation review.  I used the Olympus 9-18 zoom which gives a full frame equivalent of 18-35mm   It’s optically pretty slow so the shutter speeds were longer, than I would have gotten had I been shooting my usual 1Dx and 16-35/2.8.  There were no Lens Corrections for the combination in Lightroom, so you see what the lens produced without any optical corrections applied.  I am grateful to the folks at Ferrari Maserati of Ontario for allowing me to place my tripod inside the rope to make the images.

A Great Car, A Great Couple

Last night, #Bryan Weiss and I ventured into the throngs at the Canadian Auto Show at Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre.  Lots of nice cars of course, but this post is about a couple and the car that they showed.  It’s a stunningly beautiful 1939 Lincoln Zephyr. Continue reading

Bryan and I were doing what we usually do, quietly and respectfully making images of cars that appealed to us.  As in past years, we seem to enjoy the exotics and the classics most of all and on entering the Cruise Nationals area, I came upon this wonderful Lincoln Zephyr, restored by Mr. Dave Jolly.

I had made a number of images and had been bracketing exposures because this was my first time shooting Olympus’ OM-D E-M1 as part of a forthcoming review.  The thought had occurred to me to also do some HDR because let’s face it, the lighting at Auto Shows is usually horrible, very contrasty, with harsh shadows and because I recently purchased V5 of Photomatix Pro.  Photomatix has not been my favourite HDR tool.  I tend more to Nik’s HDR Efex Pro 2 or the 32 bit HDR option in Photoshop.  Some initial tests with some shots from Camp 30 impressed me greatly.  Be sure that Photomatix is still capable of that overblown, over saturated, over ghosted, overdone HDR it is so well-known for.  Fortunately, there are other and better options, including a much improved 32 bit implementation.  But that’s for a different article.

For the course of our evening, dealers, and owners as well as the cleaning professionals had been incredibly gracious, letting us set our small carbon fibre tripods inside the ropes and walls to obtain unobscured shots.  I thank everyone who made my image making more successful, and specifically thank Dave Jolly as you’ll see and the very nice fellow from Grand Touring Automobiles who allowed me to get an unobstructed shot of the interior of the beautiful Silver Wraith.  Bryan did meet one grumpy sort and neither of us will post photos of his metal flake pickup that does not evoke the wonderful history of the real truck.

Which brings me back to the wonderful Mr. Dave Jolly and his lovely wife.  Mr. Jolly opened up his Lincoln so I could grab a shot of the lovingly restored interior.  He didn’t have to do that.  I was actually moving on when he offered.  Mr. Jolly and his wife also spent time with me telling the story of the restoration, correcting my own misunderstandings and errors of knowledge and were just wonderful folks.  I mentioned that I was sorry to see that the Zephyr had not won first prize as it absolutely turns on the Wayback machine.  The paint is as close to what was available in 1939 that Mr. Jolly could discover.  The duotone is not what would have come from the factory, but does nothing to prevent you from taking a trip back in time.  This is a pre-war, post-depression vehicle, of a time when Lincolns were scarcer and very high end.  It has great character with its warship prow and immensely long and elegant tail.

Mr. Jolly has done a beautiful job.  You cannot see in the photos the six inches of steel all around the coachwork bottom that Mr. Jolly had to create and bend to replace the corroded original body.  It would be tempting when doing a car like this to go for a brighter colour, perhaps with out of time metal-flake, but Mr. Jolly went with a colour that resonates and replicates the time when these cars ruled our roads.

I saw many cars that I really liked at the show, from current Ferraris, the aforementioned Wraith, the Aston Martin Vanquish, and my long dreamed for Charger R/T 440 Magnum in that electric purple long gone and never replicated.  That said, the car that inspired me most was the beautiful Lincoln Zephyr.

The images here are all HDRs done in Photomatix Pro V5 after basic editing in Lightroom.  The camera was the Olympus OM-D E-M1 with the Olympus 9-18mm wide zoom.  ISO was 1600 to allow for the low light.  Exposures were a bracket of 3 frames +- 1 EV.  I used a slightly modified Enhance 2 preset in Photomatix Pro for the external shots, and a more ethereal custom setting for the interior to enhance the sense of ghosts.  All shots were sharpened in Nik Sharpener Pro and then adjusted for noise in Nik Dfine.