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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Interior Photography

I've been lucky enough to get my hands on the Olympus OM-D since the end of MAY. Thanks to my lovely gf who posted it to me after pre-ordered/received it from Amazon US.

Anyway, long story short, I've been doing some interior photography to help travellers around the world getting to Sydney. After 30 or so assignments. I thought i would share my experience of how much i enjoy the experience. And perhaps, helping other fellows to understand the OM-D more as well.

Prior to this OM-D set up, I used the Nikon D700 full-frame with the 16-35mm lens. I've been a Nikon user since I first picked up a DSLR and it is still my primary work horse. More on that later. This setup is now my backup just in case something happens to my OM-D (funnily enough, a Nikon fullframe as a backup for a micro 4/3 system).

Don't get me wrong, the Nikon FX setup is magnificant and there is nothing to complain about it. If you can't get this job done, its only you that is not good enough. Though there are some benefits of using a small compact system camera that we shall discuss here. 

Most importantly, reduce the pain i've got on my shoulder If i were to go out for a long day shoot. In this particular example, walking from where I park my car to a place where I'm gonna shoot is not a fun part, especially in Sydney where street parking is the only option. So most of the time, i would park my car where ever I can find a space to park. Then walk to find the house for the shoot.

So what is the setup: 

- Olympus OM-D E-M5
- Olympus 9-18mm M.Zuiko (or whatever they call it)
- 2 x SB800 with 2 Pocket-wizards 
- The tiny flash that comes with the OM-D, just incase the 2 Pocket-wizards fail for whatever reason, i can trigger my 2 x SB800 with this puppy. 
- 20mm pancake lens (if i need to do some detail shots or simply a walk around lens when I'm in a area that I find interesting and unfamiliar with, its nice to do some shots for my personal collection as well)

Old setup 
- Nikon D700
- Nikon 16-35mm
- 2 x SB800 with 2 pocket-wizards. 

Some might be wondering what was the decision of using the 9-18mm instead of the 7-14mm from Panasonic? 

Well, for one, the Pana is much bigger, in that case, I might as well suck it up and carry my Nikon with 16-35mm. It defeat the purpose of using a smaller system to be more versatile. This is not to say the 7-14 Pana is big and heavy, its still extremely small for what it can do.  

Secondly, the 2mm on the extra wide end might not do me any good (some might disagree with me on this). IMO, this sort of photography requires the use of a wide angle lens. But, extremely wide angle is best to avoid cuz I think it pushes the boundary a little too far. You pretty much don't notice (much) the effect when you see a interior with an 9mm (18mm FX). However, you will sure notice the effect of a 7mm (14mm FX) when you look at an interior shot. We are not talking about anything else but interior photography at this point. This is only my opinion and experience after using the 14-24mm Nikon for a while. (the wonder of Nikon lenses). Its great for many many things, but you have to be very careful when it comes to photograph interiors. Viewers will notice it and things aren't in perspective anymore. So in this particular example, the 9-18mm is a better choice for me for this type of work. An added bonus is that its much cheaper than the 7-14mm :) 

Anyhow, back to the setup, I don't know what is the exact weight different but it just feels so much better to carry around. And I'm happy to report, the results coming out from the OM-D is simply very pleasing. That is if you know what the limitations are for each setup and work around it. 

For the OM-D Setup, I limit myself to not shoot over ISO 1000. Of course I can push it a little further, but around the 1000 barrier is what I consider "good" ISO to work around in term of post processing for this particular job (I shoot up to ISO 6400 for street photography with this baby)

One thing that I enjoy more with the OM-D setup beside the size and weight is the ability to render pretty close to "correct" white balance. Most of the time I do not need to do white balance adjustment where as the D700 is not as "accurate" (pardon me, the D700 auto-white balance is still amazingly good, its just that the OM-D is better in this department IMO)

Then the obvious that using Nikon Speedlites on the OM-D would require manual adjustments. Though if you been doing it a lot. You sort of know roughly the area of which setting to push for most of the typical interior ambient lights. So this is not a problem comparing to the Nikon setup.

Then it comes to the fun part that I enjoy the most:

The dual-axis Virtual Horizon. (i know the Nikon has a similar feature called Virtual Horizon but its a single axis, harder to use, take longer to activate since its a few years old camera anyway, no complain here, there is only a minority of people using this i guess).

I'm required to send it straight level photos, so what i usually do is to turn on the grid on whatever camera im using, align it with the lines on the walls, ceilings, paintings, or whatever. (the flash-shoe is always occupied so no cheap bubble level can be used either).

Anyway, with the OM-D, i've preset it to one of the presets which turns off all other info, but goes straight to the virtual horizon (which was calibrate before hand of course) once i've pressed the info button, align everything, and shoot. Its actually very accurate and fun (most importantly)

(please Olympus, give us the ability to name my preset, i'm sick of afraid to change my presets setting cuz I might forget what I've set. For now, i just have to write everything down on my iPhone notes... And the sad part is that, my few years old age Nikon can do that ...)

Well, at the end of the day, people are happy with the results, I'm happy with the results, And its such a joy to use the OM-D everywhere. Kudos to Olympus ! (for not holding back features and functionality like other certain brands :)) We all know its not like Canon is not capable to produce extremely accurate focus system, its not like Nikon is not capable to squeeze a bit bigger and better sensor to their mirror-less cameras. But hey, they have to do what they have to do to get the money to pay their engineers, workers, etc. Please don't be a hater out there, find what suits you and do the work. There would never be a perfect camera for anyone (or everyone).

The next post will be about how I love my Nikon systems for other work and I don't think I can find something else which is more versatile and capable to replace it in the future. 

Have a good day everyone.