Saturday, 28 April 2012

OM-D arrives and is instant good fun

Spot the OM-D
Keeping this blog running requires a fairly steady stream of pictures and some will know I dabble with photography alongside my various other interests.

The pictures that make it to the blog are from a mixture of sources from fancy DSLRs, an occasional film shot, some iPhone (the London shots this week are from the iPhone) and various point and shoot clickers.

I suppose my real preference is still cameras with viewfinders, having learned to take pictures using an Olympus film camera and even to develop the snaps in a dark room with smelly chemicals and contact strips.

So when the renaissance of the Olympus OM series was announced a short time ago, I thought I'd better take a look. It's obviously not as highly specified as the latest Nikons and Canons, with its smaller sensor and so on, but for a lot of purposes that misses the point.

What is great about it is that it provides a small form factor DSLR like experience, even if it doesn't have a proper mirror system inside - instead using electronics to create the viewfinder image.

I've not had time to have a proper play yet, but I'm already intrigued with the possibilities. It comes with a pretty reasonable 12-50mm lens (which is 24-100mm in 35mm speak). The lens is also light weight but well built, achieved by keeping the aperture in the range f3.5-f6.3).

I haven't even set up the 'RAW' mode yet, so here's a quick 'through the window' shot as a test.
The fun is also to be able to use my other micro 4/3 lenses with it - which are from my Lumix camera and give me some tiny but wide aperture primes - a 14mm f2.5 and a 20mm f1.8.

And then there's the little adapter I have which lets me clip old-school Olympus OM Zuiko lenses onto the camera as well.

Because of the 2:1 ratio of their focal length on a 4/3, I wondered if this would be very useful, but I can already say it is. The old lenses are generally quite small (thats the Olympus way) but open up some interesting options, like my old 55mm f1.2 and my £10 50mm f1.8. I have quite a few of these lenses and the camera breathes new life into them.
A quick few tests with some of them has shown some interesting factors.

Firstly, they each look good through the viewfinder. The aperture controls work, but instead of the view getting darker as I stop down, the electronic viewfinder compensates, so the brightness of the view is maintained - its so good I initially thought the stop down aperture was broken.
Then the focal lengths of these old lenses could create wobble. However, they all get an instant upgrade when used on the OM-D, because it has in-camera stabilisation. I'm sure a tripod could help, but it's fun to use these old lenses at wide apertures and let the camera's 'insane for film' type ASA take some of the strain.

And there's a sort of 'look' with the pictures from some of the lenses, which is still somehow analogue in the world of high definition electronically operated lenses. They are still manual focus and manual aperture, but it somehow brings the camera back to the basics.
But don't get me wrong, there's a lot of technology in the little OM-D. It's one of the few occasions where I've thought I might actually need to read the manual. I've even downloaded it, because the one in the box is only the starter guide.

So that might be my suggestion to Olympus for the next model. Perhaps they should have an 'analogue shooter' mode that is very simple alongside all of the fancy touch screen spot focusing stuff?
I know this camera isn't as well specified as the new D800 from Nikon, for example, but it certainly has the potential to be a lot of fun.

I'll try it out properly next week when I'm on the road.


RFM said...


Pat said...

Those photos certainly look alive.