A Classic – Olympus E-1 with Zuiko Digital 14-54 F2.8-3.5

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL E-1 with Zuiko Digital 14-54mm F2.8-3.5

I have purchased recently a used Olympus E-1 together with the Zuiko Digital 14-54 2-8-3.5 zoom lens. This camera and lens combo is 12 years old, technically outdated and boasts an archaic 5 megapixel CCD sensor that is easily outperformed by smartphone cameras (at least on paper when comparing megapixel numbers). So why did I buy it? To put it simple, it is a camera classics bundled with a top notch pro lens (that I adapt on my Olympus OM-D E-M1) that is very well-built and a joy to use.

- Introduced in 2003
- First camera that uses the Four Thirds System lens mount and imaging system
- 5 megapixel CCD
- Good dynamic range and exposure
- Magnesium-alloy body
- Environmental sealing (splash proof)
- "Supersonic Wave Filter" dust reduction system cleans CCD at each camera start-up (dust is shaken off the CCD)
- USB 2.0 and Firewire connectivity
- Continuous shooting 3 frames per second up to 12 frames

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I like camera gear and the E-1 is a hell of a well-built camera. It was the first introduced Four Thirds camera made by Olympus in 2003, so it is the ancestor of all Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds cameras. It is made for pro photographers, weather sealed and built like a tank. Many people say you can use it to hit a nail in the wall and still use it afterwards. I did not try it yet though. When you take it in your hands you just get a smile in your face. The E-1 fits perfectly and feels perfectly in your fingers. As I said in one of my earlier posts, the way how you take a photo and the camera in use is almost as important and enjoyable as the photo itself.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Are 5 megapixel still sufficient for today’s photography?  I certainly don’t want to compare it with my Olympus E-M1. There are 10 years of further development between them. Nowadays I prefer mirrorless to DSLR cameras (Why there is still the need for a slapping mirror when we have live view in modern cameras?)  and 16 to 5 megapixel.  But that doesn’t mean I always need 16 megapixel of image quality. Most of the time I look at my pictures on my PC monitor or load them up to Flickr (or other photo community sites). Here 5 megapixel are more than enough. And these 5 megapixel are really sharp. I use Rawtherapee to get the best results out of the RAWs. Regarding printing DIN A3 or 40x30cm picture size gives you still very nice quality. If we talk about high iso, you can go as high as iso 800 without regretting it. That is not too bad at all. I always try to keep isos as low as possible and look out for sufficient light.

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The bundled Olympus Zuiko 14-54 FT lens is a pro lens and very sturdy, weather sealed and well-built as well.  I use it with an MMF-2 adapter (Four Thirds to Micro Four Thirds) on my Olympus OM-D E-M1. Compared to the new highly regarded Micro Four Thirds Olympus M.Zuiko Pro 12-40 2.8 there is not much to complain about. In the extrem corners at F2.8 it is a tad softer  but stopped down to F4 it is very hard to tell them apart. At the short end you might miss the 2mm wide angle of the M.Zuiko on the other hand you get additional 14mm at the long end – very nice for portraits. It is optically well corrected, very flare resistent, sharp all over the place and has a nice minimum focus distance of 0.22m. All in all it is a very versatile lens of a pro like quality – my new walk around lens on my E-M1 when I don’t want to use my prime lenses.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So if you enjoy perfect ergonomics and build quality, nice image colors and you are tired of the megapixel race why not getting an old (cheap) camera classics? You can still have fun with it and feel like a pro photographer with a tank like photo machine. It is highly recommended!

Olympus Photo Event On Teufelsberg

Olympus invited me to a photo event and workshop on the Teufelsberg. Teufelsberg is a hill (90m height) in Berlin Grunewald. On top of it there are the remains of a former US listening station that was closed after the the end of the cold war. Nowadays many artists use this place.

Olympus visionary Steffen Herbst together with Rebecca Wagner from Olympus guided the participants which were all happy PEN-F or OM-D users. After a brief explanation about the history of Teufelsberg we started happy shooting. Steffen helped the participants to understand photo techniques and explained the possibilities of the Olympus cameras. Olympus was so kind to bring along many Pro lenses to try them out. The m.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 Pro Fisheye as well as the m.Zuiko 300mm F4.0 were very popular among the photographers. The event finished with a nice dinner and many talks about cameras, the right settings and all that photo nerd stuff. All in all thumbs up to Olympus for the organization and the nice location.

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Bokeh Comparision (m.Zuiko 75/1.8, Lumix G 42.5/1.7, Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 135/3.5)

Photographers often like to speak about bokeh, the ability of a lens to render the out of focus area. Especially prime lenses with a fixed focal length and a wider maximum aperture are able to render a nice blurred background. The blur effect is mainly influenced by the aperture size, focal length, distance to the subject and distance from the subject to the background. Blurred background is especially useful in portrait photography. You can isolate your subject and kind of remove a distracting background. For many people this effect gives a photo a more professional touch. It is a look, you will never get with your handy or compact camera. Micro Four Thirds cameras, APS-C cameras or full frame cameras can give you this effect.

For Micro Four Thirds there are many high quality prime lenses to get this nice bokeh effect. If you add adapted vintage lenses, you have even more choices. I tested three lenses on my Olympus OM-D E-M1:

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Olympus m.Zuiko 75 F1.8 / Panasonic Lumix 42.5 F1.7 / Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 135 F3.5 M42

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Panasonic Lumix G 42.5mm F1.7: A nice pocketable and sharp lens. Results should be very similiar to the popular m.Zuiko 45mm F1.8.

Olympus m.Zuiko 75mm F1.8: Simply one of the best Micro Four Thirds lenses out there!

Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 135mm F3.5 adapted via M42 adapter: 40 years old vintage lens (lens design is even older), can it keep up with the modern lenses?

The first series shows you a head and shoulder portrait with background far away.

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Panasonic Lumix 42.5 F1.7
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Olympus m.Zuiko 75 F1.8
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Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 135 F3.5

In my opinion the m.Zuiko 75 wins, but just by a slight margin compared to the Sonnar 135. The aperture of the Sonnar is just F3.5 compared to F1.8 of the m.Zuiko 75 but the longer focal length reduces this disadvantage. The Lumix is still kind of busy in the background because of its shorter focal length.

The second series is a half body portrait with background far away.

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Panasonic Lumix 42.5 F1.7
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Olympus m.Zuiko 75 F1.8
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Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 135 F3.5

Still the Olympus comes out first, the Sonnar 2nd and the Lumix 3rd. In the Sonnar example I could have been closer the the subject which would have blurred the background a bit more. These photos are all taken free hand.

Let’s see in the third series, how closer background is rendered by these three lenses.

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Panasonic Lumix 42.5 F1.7
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Olympus m.Zuiko 75 F1.8
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Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 135 F3.5

Still the m.Zuiko 75 is the king closely followed by the Sonnar and the Lumix.

The last series shows the rendering capabilities when shooting half body portraits.

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Panasonic Lumix 42.5 F1.7
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Olympus m.Zuiko 75 F1.8
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Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 135 F3.5

Here we have the same picture as in the series above. The background of the m.Zuiko looks really smooth, but the Sonnar is really close. The Lumix in comparision is more busy in the back and exhibits a swirly effect that I know from my old Helios 44M 58mm F2.0 lens (a Russian Carl Zeiss Biotar clone).

So in conclusion if you want the best background rendering out of the three, the Olympus is the best lens you can get. It is costly compared to the other two but in relation to its capabilities IMHO not expensive and a beauty of a lens. A cheap Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 135 costs a lot less, has no autofocus, light gathering capabilities are not as good and you need an adapter. Just considering bokeh this lens is a very nice performer and I just like to use it for that purpose. The Lumix on the other hand has a more versatile shorter focal length, is much smaller and still it can deliver bokeh. It is not among the best but still ok.

Just a word sharpness wise. It is not a scientific test but my impression is that  sharpness of these three lenses is outstanding in this battle. For short distances you can’t go wrong with either of these three. It is kind of astounding that the old Sonnar still can keep up with these two modern top notch primes.

Keep in mind that sharpness results can differ depending on the focus distance to the subject. Many lenses are very good with infinity focus but inferior when close focusing and vice versa. This fact gets ignored by many photography review sites.

So if you are on the budget and don’t need a fast aperture, the vintage Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 135 is a very nice outdoor portrait lens. The Lumix 42.5 is very versatile, has a fast aperture and nice to use indoors. The m.Zuiko is a perfect lens, I use it outdoors and indoors. I love its bokeh, fast aperture and superb sharpness right starting from F1.8, no matter if I focus infinity for really sharp landscapes or close focus for portraits. All three lenses are strongly recommended.

 

Vintage Lens Alarm: Pentax SMC Takumar 300/4 M42

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Pentax SMC Takumar 300 F4 on Olympus OM-D E-M1

Flee markets are very nice. You can find old photo gear for a bargain. I wasn’t even looking for a new lens but when I saw the Pentax Super Takumar 300/4 in the multi coated version with M42 mount for a quite reasonable price, I had to get it. Olympus just released the similar m.Zuiko Pro 300/4 which is probably the best lens for Micro Four Thirds but for my needs out of reach. Why not try a much more cheaper old vintage lens option with an M42 adapter on my camera? It certainly is not as sharp as the brand new m.Zuiko 300/4 and you have to focus manually but for occasionally use this might fit very well my pocket.

Here are some specifications:

Image format: full frame
Lens mount: M42
Optics: 5 Elements in 5 groups
Max. aperture: F4 / Min. aperture: F22
Min Focus: 550cm
Max. magnification: 0,06x
Hood: build in and slide out
Filter size: 77mm
Diam x length: 85 x 186.5 mm
Weight: 946 g
Production Years of the Super Takumar: 1965 to 1971
Production Years of the Super Multi Coated (SMC) Takumar: starting 1971

The lens is in a very nice condition, the optics look very good, no scratches, fungus or whatsoever. Mechanically this lens is a joy, focus ring is butterly smooth and in combination with focus peaking in my E-M1 easy to use. And you can handhold this beast down to 1/25 second shutter speed thanks to 5-axis image stabilization in the OM-D E-M1. Without stabilization 1/500 second is a challenge to hold therefore a tripod a must to avoid camera shake that is influencing your image sharpness.

Last weekend I could give this lens a try and took some shots of birds, flowers and landscapes in Berlin Hasenheide and the Tempelhofer Feld (former airport). At f 4.0 it is a bit on the soft side but still very usable. Once aperture is closed down a stop results sharpening up nicely. Color fringing can be a problem but in my raw converter (Rawtherapee) I can easily get rid of it. But see the photos for yourself. I have added some 100% crops.

Please keep in mind that I use this lens on Micro Four Thirds gear, where it gives me an equivalent focal length of whopping 600 mm. Using full frame cameras, sharpness results may vary a bit.

All in all this lens is a keeper for occasional birding and some drama landscape stuff.

Update 2016-04-23: Photos added of Luiseninsel Tiergarten (Monument to King Friedrich Wilhelm III. and Queen Louise, Denkmal für König Friedrich Wilhelm III. und Königin Luise)

Update 2016-05-08: This lens is fun, really nice to hold and use. So I took it with me on a travel trip to the Baltic Sea and have added some more pictures that were shot with it.

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Serra De Tramuntana

Mallorca island (Balearic Islands, Spain) is a very popular hot spot for (not only) German and English tourists seeking sunny weather and long sandy beaches. It can be so overrun by tourists that you sometimes forget you are actually in Spain. But if you avoid the travel season and prefer mountains you can quite easily find beautiful places that are not too crowded.

The Serra de Tramuntana on Mallorca island (Spain) is a World Heritage Site declared by the UNESCO under the cultural landscape category. It is a mountain region in the north-west of Mallorca (Balearic Islands) with an altitude up to 1.443m (Puig Major). Besides the beautiful mountains there are very scenic mountain villages with the typical agricultural terraces and countless orange, lemon and olive trees. It is just the right spot for hiking, relaxing and going on photo safari.

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The Demolition Of Beijing’s Hutongs

Beijing is famous for the many old narrow Hutong (胡同) streets formed by closely attached Siheyuans (四合院) that are the traditional courtyard residences in Beijing and often many hundred years old.

However most of these village like living areas are replaced by new modern tall buildings. Although the living standard is much higher there, Beijing’s urbanization is the reason why it is quickly losing its cultural authenticity, typical character, charm and vibrant street life.

Many residents have lived a lifetime in these close-knit communities and are reluctant to relocate. They can’t afford to buy an apartment in these new and expensive buildings and that’s why the residents often move to the outer skirts of Beijing.

On the other side some residents may also welcome a new and modern apartment, because life in these old houses is not easy. There is no warm water, just public toilets and shower rooms, not enough heating and people are squeezed together in these old small houses.

I shot this series of photos in 2013 and 2014. The depicted area is already completely gone.

This Site Is Now SSL Secured – Thank You Letsencrypt.org

From today on this site is secured and certified via SSL. In the past it was difficult to get a certificate for your website that is accepted by your browser and you had to pay for it. Letsencrypt.org is a new certificate authority, free and relatively easy to set up. It took me 1 hour (including research) to get the certificate for my domain and set up the Apache2 webserver and my site.

2 hiccups I had to take care of: Enabling Apache2 SSL module and forwarding SSL port 443 in my router.

I am glad it is working now. 🙂

How do you see whether a website is SSL secured or not? If the address in the browser address bar starts with an https:// instead of an http://, you can feel on the safe side.

Vintage Cameras, Vintage Lenses

“Praktica”, “Carl Zeiss Jena”, “Pentacon” or “Meyer Optik Görlitz” are very well known brands in East Germany and beyond. Since I started with photography using Praktica cameras I have still a faible for it. On Berlin flee markets you can find them quite often. Carl Zeiss Jena lenses are still a nice choice as adapted vintage lenses on modern digital cameras.

Zenit is a Russian SLR model with an Helios 44m lens. The Helios lens is a Russion copy of the well known pre-war Carl Zeiss Biotar 58/2. It can produce a very special swirly bokeh.

I took a few photos of a part of my camera and lens collection to show them in this gallery. Call it camera and lens porn…

Qingdao And Laoshan Mountain

Qingdao is a Chinese city in the Shandong Province on the east coast of China. The city is famous because of its beer, sea food and German architecture buildings that are the heritage of the German colonial period in China. But it is also home of one of the biggest seaports and longest sea bridge in the world.

The Laoshan mountain is located near Qingdao and facing the yellow sea. This area is well known as sacred mountain of Taoism. It is the highest coastal mountain area in China with 1.130 meter above sea level.

For the above reasons Qingdao is well worth a visit. I went there in October 2010.

My New Home Server

Today I took a picture of my new little home server that powers this website. It is a tiny Raspberry Pi 3 that was just announced last week. Considering its size and power consumption of only 2-3 Watt and the price of just 39 Euro, this little device is really powerful. You can even use it as a full desktop replacement if you don’t need to watch video in the browser all the time. Unfortunately the video players in Linux Raspbian don’t make use of hardware support that is implemented in the graphics core of the Raspberry Pi. That’s why video is quite sluggish. Libreoffice and even complex website like Facebook or Flickr open up fast enough on this gem. I can also work on RAW files in Rawtherapee. Fascinating…