Olympus EM1 vs EM5 Review

Em1 & EM5 side by side

Since my last little gear review on the OMD went down rather well with you all Alex Mustard and Alex Tattersall encouraged me to do another. This time both cameras are from the Olympus OMD family, EM1 vs EM5. I’ve done a couple of trips now on the EM5 (Red Sea & twice in Raja Ampat) so it was interesting to see if the EM1 was that much better. Again, this is just my personal opinion of the pros & cons of the two systems after having used them.

When I first got my EM5 I had to go through the little exercise of setting it up how I like it in the menus, these little cameras are so amazingly configurable that if its left set up in a funny way it can seem really hard to use. Here are some things I noticed as I took my first look at the EM1 and went through its menus…

First look – Pros & Cons:

Look & feel:
• The EM1 is bigger than the EM5 with a different feel to the grip (see above in the first picture in this post). A definite con for me as I like my gear as small as it can be but you really need to hold both to see for yourself on this. Topside I have mine on a wrist strip and can hold mine quite happily for hours by its side and thumbgrip without my hand getting tired.

Buttons:
The buttons are not the same or in the same places as the EM5, this is initially a con if you’ve had the EM5 but it’s easy enough to get used to them, I was up and running and able to do a night dive with it after only 3 day dives. There are more configurable buttons overall so that has to be a pro really for more flexibility.

• There is a dedicated HDR, self-timer, burst-mode (up to 10fps) button which I expect would come in handy for landscape photography but I didn’t use.
• The On/Off button it on the top now
• You now can program Fn1, Fn2, record, AEL/AFL, two front buttons, two dials and 2 levers which is a lot more buttons than before, I keep it simple for my own sanity and set it up in a pretty similar way to the EM5. However I expect if I owned one of these I’d eventually get all fancy and set these up to streamline lots of things out from the menus. One useful thing I did use was the little 1 & 2 lever to toggle the dials from normal exposure (fstop & shutter) dials to WB and ISO dials. This would be even more useful when using filters as you only have access to these in the quick menu on the EM5 so changing them both at once isn’t as quick and easy as this.

EM1 extra focus points

Other menus & settings:
• There are a lot more AF points, which is a pro if you’re like me and set your focus but moving it around the grid, this gives you finer control of where to place that focus of tiny critters eye.
• There are timelapse settings in the menu, I expect this would be fun to play with but I didn’t. On the EM5 I use my trusty triggertrap mobile & iphone for the timelapses but it would be useful not to have to tie up my phone for this.
• Internal wifi, this sounds really gimmicky but I can see useful practical applications for this. I downloaded the accompanying app to my iphone and although it took a while to work out how to get it working, once it was it was pretty cool. Essentially the camera creates its own wifi hotspot, you connect to that with your phone and then you can use your phone to wirelessly control your camera (similar to the GoPro3 app and those who have that know how useful this feature is). This would be useful in situations like shooting star-trails where you want to change settings without touching the camera and accidently knocking its position. I have no idea why they decided to put this feature in the playback menu though! (Actually, if any triggertrap people are reading this please can you make some sort of contraption which would mimic this without using personal hotspots on the phone, thanks).
• Focus peaking, I didn’t use it and don’t really know what this is but I heard some guys on the boat raving about it as an awesome feature on a Sony camera and noticed it in the menus.
• In camera HDR – I’m not that much of a fan but I did try this out and it didn’t look too horrible.
• Another con potentially for some people, being a newer camera the RAW files don’t work with Adobe Lightroom 4 so I had to upgrade to LR5 to be able to see them.

My thoughts after diving with it in the associated Nauitcam housing:

• As with the EM5 I had problems with the flash sync settings on the first dive, I got it working during the dive with 2nd curtain sync and the preflash knob turned up on my Inons as a stop gap until I found the setting in the menus again once I got it back on land. Like this though there is a terrible lag while the internal flash recycles. For future reference the menu to switch the internal flash to 1/64th power is go to the full power flash menu then press info to reduce it to 1/64. This is my bad for not properly setting it up before diving.
• I noticed that the max sync speed is 320 (vs only 250 on the EM5) so this is a definite pro.
• The auto focus is noticeably quicker for macro (I didn’t notice on wide angle) which is a massive plus point when photographing moving or extra tiny critters.
• The images seem sharper too.
• Unfortunately it seems more battery hungry than the EM5 so I had to change them every two dives or it would (annoyingly) run out on the third.

EM1 & EM5 Nauticam Housings (front)
EM1 & EM5 Nauticam Housings (back)

The housing:
The biggest negative point for me though was how the size increase & shape change has affected the housing design & ergonomics. The housing is now big enough (and of a different shape) that the handles are not really optional anymore, this has several unpleasant knock-on points for me.
• Firstly, I found it hard to get a comfortable grip I liked whilst pressing the shutter and supporting the housings weight. It didn’t seem comfy with my hand either inside or outside the handle.
• With the handles on, its now very tricky to get the flashes in close enough for nice lighting for Wide-Angle Macro shots which limits how small a critter you can WAM.
• Its now heavier, my wrists were beginning to ache again as they did with my subal (but much less of course). How long does one wait for that blasted pygmy seahorse to turn its little head?! Also, not so easy to lift out of the water for split shots
• The only positive point I can say about the strobe handles were that they were further apart for wide angle so my same tiny strobe arms were wider, I’ll be overcoming this on my own housing with longer arms though ;)

• Another con on the housing design was it seemed to be more fiddly to get the camera in and out. That was one thing that really impressed me on the EM5 housing, just so easy to use. There is now a red locking switch on the camera mount and a funny under-plate on the sliding in mechanism that it locks into inside the housing, this seemed to make it harder to get the thing out. Also, with the on/off switch at the top and the AEL 1&2 lever switch on the door there are more bits you have to adjust and check line up before you close the housing. It seemed much more of a palaver to me each time I needed to get the card or battery out. (addition note, if an ant falls in – don’t ask – you have to wait ages for him to emerge out from that under-plate).
• The one thing I did like was the vacuum seal. It’s a massive pro, although there there is an associated annoyance with it so I’m considering whether to get one put on my own EM5 housing. The vacuum seal essentially hooks into the leak alarm LED and gives you a visual indication that your housing is air-(and thus water)-tight. Very cool! The downside on this is that for some reason you have to reset the dastardly thing every time you open the housing with the on/off switch, so what used to be a quick change of lens & port at the front is now, change of lens & port, then turn it over, open the back, switch off & on, close the back, repressurise. WTF? Come on Nauticam, why couldn’t you just repressurise without resetting from the switch!! Other than that it’s a must have. Obviously the extra use of your leak alarm battery would wear it out quicker but batteries are much cheaper than flooded cameras. I did like how it didn’t take many pumps to get it to full pressure too, probably due to the small size of the housing.

In conclusion, I’d say it’s an amazing little camera, better than the EM5 for functions, autofocus and sharpness. Given my experiences with the housing I’d say only go for it if you have good strong wrists. For me though I’ll be sticking with my little EM5.

Many thanks to Alex Tattersall of Underwater Visions for giving me the opportunity to try it out.

If you want to see more of my EM1 images scroll to the bottom of this Raja Ampat gallery and they are all marked (EM1) in the titles.

Olympus OMD in Nauticam Housing

Photofriday – ‘High Tech’

This week’s Photo Friday entry: ’High Tech’

As a photographer the diving part of underwater photography often slips our minds, its just something we do in order to take photos in the ocean. At the end of October I went to the NEC in Birmingham for the annual dive show, I’m doing an assignment on photo essays of events for my degree so I took photos that I might not otherwise have focused on – to illustrate my trip to the show. This theme today has me reflecting on just how high tech all of our diving gear really is. We trust this gear to keep us alive at 30m under the water! Above shows dive computers that come in all different colours. They tell you all sorts of life saving info and we totally rely on them. Who here still does the tables anymore??

These, I assume, are compressors for getting the compressed air we breath into the bottle:

Stab jackets, BCDs, call them what you will they are essential for our modern diving experience in warm water. Recently the trend towards wings had been marked on our trips but I didnt see many on display at the show – not sure why.

People trying out rebreathers, I don’t expect to ever own on of these myself – until they are lighter and much less maintenance anyway.

Blast from the past – This is what they wore in the old days!

If you want to see my underwater photos from various places then check out the collection of galleries in my Reef Beasties Gallery.

To see all the other photo Friday entries (and submit your own) for ‘High Tech’ here.

Talking of high tech – Please check out my used Nikon Gear page, I’ve swapped over systems and I’m trying to raise money on my previous gear.

Going Mirrorless – Taking my Olympus OMD underwater

Olympus OMD in Nauticam Housing

Before I go too much further with my Red Sea images, I wanted to tell you a little bit about my new gear. I’m not usually a gear head but quiet a few people have been interested so I thought while it was all fresh in my mind I’d get it down here. The flow of new holiday images will resume tomorrow!

At the beginning of the year I was lucky enough to have two week use of an Olympus OMD in Raja Ampat (thanks to Alex Mustard who had his spare when my luggage didn’t make the flight). It worked well for my own needs so when I got home I started selling my nikon gear (theres still some lenses and a housing left if you’re interested) to buy into this new little system. This most recent Red Sea trip was the first trip with my very own Olympus OMD. Here I’ll list what I liked and disliked and some tips & links I found useful.

So pros & cons… urmmm.

Pros:

- Tiny & Lightweight. This is greatest point for me not only for travelling but also in the water. I can hold the rig with one hand without my arm falling off! I have RSI in my wrists so I always found the subal housing a bit much. Also, for photographing around London I can look more like a tourist (you get away with less hassle from officials with a small snappy looking camera) and it fits in my handbag. It also fits on a very small gorilla pod which also fits in my handbag :)

In the picture below you can see the size comparison between my wee little camera and the D300 subal like I used to use.

Size Comparison

- Great High ISO performance. I got up to ISO 2500 in the caves in Jackfish Alley. Here is one at ISO 1000. My D300 didnt really like to go much above 800 before the noise started to creep in. Its useful for filter shots too as they lose you one stop of light and its good to bump the ISO to maintain a decent shutter speed.

- Magic filters are so much easier now, I used to have to tape it to the back of the lens but the little Panasonic FE has a little filter slot…

Magic Filter

This photo of Yolanda Reef was taken with Magic Filter (as were many of up yet to be blogged about Schooling Snapper photos so stay tuned over the next few days). I also found the custom white balancing less of a pain in the rear.

- Video! My old camera had no video capability. I’m a pretty bad camerawoman for video but I’m sure I’ll get better with practice. Its really nice to have the option to switch to video. This is especially effective with a magic filter on (because I dont have any movie lights) or in very shallow water.

Here is 4 seconds straight from the camera. No filter, just really shallow. You can see it in HD on vimeo here.

I took a lot of little video clips with my Oly and my GoPro so after I’ve finished going through my photos I’ll see what I’ve got to show you :)

- x2 crop factor. While everyone else is going full frame crazy with D800 etc I was loving the DX crop (x1.5) factor on my D300 for macro work and holding out for a D400. Now I have x2 crop factor – even better for macro! This also means I only need one macro lens. The 60mm on my Oly is really 120mm which is somewhere between 105mm (155mm) and 60mm (90mm) for my two macro lenses for the Nikon D300. In Raja Ampat I was easily able to take Pygmy seahorses & Skeleton Shrimp with the 60mm.

- Screw thread on the macro port. Another macro plus point, I’m able to screw a subsee lens straight onto the housing without the need for an adaptor. I know what I want for Christmas! ;)

- Tiny 3.5″ dome. This is a pro & a con depending on how you look at it (see below for the con). For close focus wide angle I’m able to get my tiny camera lower & closer to things to get a different view point than before. Here is a crocodile fish I found under the boat…

- Configurable buttons & dials. This is great. You can really customise exactly what you want for each button to do if you have the patcence to go through all the menus initially. Alexs settings guide is a great place to start. I didn’t use all the same settings because I wanted to keep the video for video but many of the same. One thing to bear in mind if you are going to reduce your flashes down to 1/64th though, make sure to have your Inons set to flash only once (with no pre flash). I Spent a whole dive wondering why my flash guns (set on manual) were very dim and its because I was only getting the pre-flash power – doh! (You have to push a lock the little button on the back of the strobe to be normal position.

- Optical triggered Strobes. I cannot tell you how cool I found this. You can actually take your strobes off camera underwater and slave trigger them with no other gear required. In fact when I wanted to experiment with off camera strobe I fixed the slave unit to a sync cord on one strobe(just so I could hide the strobe) and fastened it to the optic until I needed it off camera then just detach it, set it on the tripod and volia!

These sweepers I blogged yesterday were taken with an off camera strobe to light up the caves behind them:

I also experimented with off camera strobe in the wreck – those images coming up in tomorrows post.

- Really nice iAuto mode. I’m pretty lazy for topside photos. I find the auto mode be produce great photos right out of the camera.

- Takes SD memory cards. This is another pro & con. Pro because SD cards are more flexible, you can use eyefi cards etc, also a pro because I don’t need to carry an extra card reader because SD fits straight into my macbook air :) And my GoPro 2 takes SD cards. It’s a con because I had to buy all new extra memory cards because most SLRs take CF so just another added extra expense of change over with no need for CF cards anymore.

Cons:

- Only small domes. With my Subal housing I had a mini dome and a larger dome. The larger dome is useful for split shots in rougher weather. I did try a dive with the 4″ dome which has better corner sharpness than mine and was able to get this one…

In completely dead flat water in the mangroves of Raja Ampat I was able to get this one with my 3.5″ mini dome but the sea is rarely completely glass still like that:

- No lens reuse with my old system. I’m having to sell all my nikon stuff which is a pain. If you know anyone who is after some great condition Nikon lenses please give them this link: http://suzywalker.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/nikon-subal-gear-for-sale/

- Slightly slower auto focus in some cases. This is a pro & a con actually. I mentioned above that now I only use one macro lens. I think this focuses faster than my 105mm Nikon (which hunts like crazy underwater) but no where near as far as my 60mm Nikon which was alway my favourite lens.

- Not in the Adobe LR list of lens corrections. This is just weird. Both Olympus & Panasonic are missing from the lightroom list of cameras & lenses you can auto correct the distortion etc on for such instances where you’d like to de-fish your fisheye lens.

I think that’s it for the pros & cons. If I think of anymore I’ll edit the post or add them as a comment below. There are some things which are neither pro or con just different and needing a mental adjustment for. I am enjoying now shooting for a 4:3 frame and hardly ever shoot to crop for 3:2 aspect ratio. And changing from amazing viewfinder on the Subal housing to using the screen on the Nauticam (it has a view finder buts its pretty unusable on the housing) has been a bit of a stiff adjustment for macro subjects. I often find myself pointing the camera in the completely wrong place for the critter and having to mentally map the contours of the coral to find the critter on to the screen.

Here is my Equipment List for reference:

  • Olympus OMD EM5 with kit lens. Important not to buy body only because you need the little flash unit that comes with the kit.
  • Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm 1:2.8 Macro lens
  • Panasonic Lumix G Fisheye 8mm lens
  • Nauticam Housing for OMD
  • 3.5″ semi-dome port (for the FE lens)
  • Macro port 45
  • Gear ring to make the 12-50 kit lens fit inside the macro port. They do a port specially for it but its very expensive and yet another thing to carry.
  • Nauticam knob that fits in Coldshoe to attach my strobe arms too. You can get trays & handles but I wanted it without.
  • I already had the strobes (two Inon z240’s and ultralight arms)

And here is the list of useful resources for taking the Olypmus OMD underwater:

If you have any comments or questions please feel free to leave a comment below. And if you have an OMD and love it too then also comment to say why if I haven’t listed your reason! Stay tuned for more red sea pictures. Tomorrow, the Thistlegorm wreck, one of the most visually interesting wrecks I’ve ever visited.

Wildlife Safari Lens

Nikon 80-400mm VR

Wildlife Safari Lens! Today I want to feature photos taken with my 80-400mm VR Nikon Zoom lens. A list of lenses is stark and boring so I wanted to do a feature of photographs taken with some of the gear I’m selling. I’m not a commercial trader or anything like that so all the gear I have has personal reasons for buying it in the first place. In 2011 we went on an amazing trip to Namibia. I had nothing with enough reach in my lens collection at that time so I bought this one and didn’t regret it for a second. The VR is amazing, it has three settings, off (for use with a tripod), normal (for general walking about and hand holding) and active (for on the back of a moving safari truck)! Perfect for shots like these:

Hand Held walking about:

Cheetah Cub shot at 400mm on D300

Mamma shot at 400mm on D300:

Naughty Cheetah stole a camera bag shot at 220mm

Hand Held from the truck:

Backlit lion shot at 400mm on D300 (you can see the exif on pbase by clicking these images and then select “view exif” under the photo):

Mamma Lion shot at 400mm on D300:

Giraffes Kissing shot at 400mm on a D300:

Giraffe Harem shot at 200mm on D300:

Lion Play fight shot at 400mm on D300:

Zebra in the road shot at 240mm:

Elephant shot at 120mm

At the watering hole (on a tripod) shot at 46mm:

shot at 150mm:

Not going on an amazing Safari trip any time soon? No Problem there’s plenty of wildlife at home. When I first got the lens I went for a wander around a Dorset town and got this shot of cheeky gulls:

Just because I’ve personally only used this as a wildlife lens that doesn’t mean there is only one use for it. You could use it for Astronomy, Landscape, Wildlife, Portraits, Spying on your neighbours (joke) etc etc! The lens is in excellent condition for only £700 (basically new as I only used it for this one trip & a few test shots). There is not much call for such a zoomy lens in underwater photography. I hope you enjoyed my photos here. Either email me with your interest on: scubasuzy-sellingnikongear@yahoo.co.uk Or head over to the full list of gear for sale.

Nikon & Subal Gear for Sale

EDIT: this post is out of date, only showing what I’ve already sold – have moved the relevant bits to a new page

http://suzywalker.wordpress.com/selling-my-nikon-subal-gear/

· SOLD: Subal FE dome £470 + extention £100 + subal zoom gear £50
· SOLD: + tokina 10-17 FE lens £350
· SOLD: 105 port with focus knob £375
– SOLD: Nikon 105mm VR Macro lens (boxed with instructions and lens hood) £400
– SOLD:iPhone 4, Unlocked, 32GB, boxed £200
– SOLD: Nikon D300 body (boxed with 2 batteries & charger, & wired remote shutter) £300
– SOLD: Nikon D70 body & Nikon 18-70mm kit lens (unboxed with 1 battery & charger and lens hood) £200
– SOLD: Nikon 70-300mm (unboxed with lens hood) £50

- SOLD: Whole Nikon & Subal Macro underwater set up (you’d just need to acquire strobes): £2000

  • Subal Housing ND30 (Type 3) for D300
  • Nikon D300 body (boxed with leads etc, 2 batteries & charger )
  • 60mm (type 3) flat port with front & back covers
  • Nikon 60mm lens (boxed)

Photos of Gear (and I have to thank Mike for taking all these for me)!

Whats in my dive bag?

What’s in my dive bag?

Well after prompting from some of my dive peeps on twitter (@divemistress & @iarediver) I’m going to join in the #scubagearchallenge, this is a very geeky post so for those who are not interested in gear you can tune out now!

I’m not actually sure what makes most of the actual scuba gear in my bag is so I’ll list what I can remember.

Dive gear:

1 BCD (sea quest maybe?): inside the pockets are 1 SMB and 1 whistle. Attached to D rings are: 1 shaker in a little custom diver pouch (to attract my buddies attention). Also attached are several tags from old trips (Raja Ampat tags and Kittewake tags from Cayman). I have a big metal clip to attach my camera lanyard in deep waters (in shallow waters I don’t bother because I can just swim down and get it if I drop it). 1 airhorn (when I remember to put it on).

1 weight belt, my bcd has integrated weights but I dont like them. I like my weights slung low on my hips and around the front.

1 Reg/Octopus/1st stage/gauge/inflator combo (soon to be replaced with Apex Flight regs because they are super light! And a button gauge and air integration).

1 pair of Tusa Liberator fins (in blue) & 1 pair of small neoprene shoes (much lighter than booties but useless for shore diving).

1 5mm wetsuit (my 3mm one is more like 1.5 through wear & tear so I just use my 5mm everywhere now). 1 thermal rash vest. 1 4th element super thermal vest (in case 5mm isn’t enough). I have a shortie that will go over the top but I dont take that unless it’s going to be cold – in which case we probably dont go (only worn this configuration once – snorkelling with Manatees). We dont like water that anything under 25 degrees C ;)

1 mask (with prescription) – I think this is sea vision. I prefer the glass ones so you can toothpaste them. My boyfriend got a plastic one and it took 50-odd dives before it wouldn’t constantly fog.

1 stripy hairband (so my hair doesn’t float in my eyes and scare me underwater)!

2 dive computers, 1 Suunto vyper (that I put on my camera as a backup) and 1 Suunto D6i (and most recently air integration for that, new toy for the nest trip)

Custom made dive pages (to log the bits of the dives that our computers dont log) & a pen, dive certification & DAN insurance cards. Print out of last couple of dives we did.

Extras I take but never seem to use:

Two Mini Q40 torches for night diving (not very bright so they dont scare off the fish, although recently I tend to use my strobe light & take the torch in my jacket as back up).

1 flag, some strong elastic. 4th Element hood & some other brand of gloves.

1 wrench (quite large) just in case regs need tightening or something. Small bag of spare bits for regs. Allen keys of a couple of sizes.

Camera equipment:

Dry: 2 Nikon D300 bodies, 60mm lens, 105 VR lens, Tokina 10-17 FE lens, 18-200 VR (for land only), CF cards, batteries & charger. 16 (at least) enloop batteries and two chargers (for strobes). Air blower. Card reader, laptop (macbook pro) & charger & WD passport hard drive. Magic filter.

Wet: Subal ND30 housing, flat port for 60mm, 105VR port, large dome port & cover (for tokina) & extension ring. Orings for each port and housing, Oring grease and cleaning cloth. 2 Ultralight 5inch strobe arms, 4 Ultralight clamps, 4 Ultralight ball connections (2 for housing and two for strobes) 2 Inon z240 strobes (with diffusers). 1 carry handle (in pink lanyard), two sea & sea sync cords (to connect the strobes). 1 gorilla pod (for off camera strobe) with ball head attachment. One remote strobe sync cord. StiX floatation for strobe arms and a collar for my 105 port.

Spare: oring grease, dual sync cord, 2 strobe arms & 2 clamps, a three clamp (in case I want to attach a torch to my set up). Instruction books for strobe, camera, dive computer etc in case of brain malfunction. Cable ties, useful for loads of things.

Head ache tablets for when I dive on air and accidently skip breathe :(

Hmmmm… I think that’s it. All our dive gear has to fit in our bags on the plane so we have to keep it light. Add a few clothes to that list, some sunglasses & an ebook and there you go.

Tripod tribulations!

Today I’ve been trying to decide on a new tripod. I’ve owned precisely one tripod of note and that was for my compact camera. Needless to say I never had it with me when I needed it so it didn’t get used much.

Tripods for SLRs have to be much heavier (am I’m even less likely to bring it along) to cope with the weight of the camera and lens. Herein lies the issue I’m facing. It has to just heavy enough. Too heavy and I wont have it with me, not heavy enough and I’ll see my gear tumble to the ground with the first light breeze :|

With this in mind I set about finding the lightest one that can be used (allegedly) with a DSLR.

This is what I found out..

While I was looking at all the heads for tripods I found its easy to get carried away with the geekery and choose something that perhaps doesn’t fit my requirements. I started to further analyse what these actually are.

factor no1. Weight.

If I don’t have it with me I can’t use it anyway, so this is a major factor. Well I already knew this. What was harder to pin down was head & height requirements.

factor no2. height?

Well I want it to be versatile but pack up small (to fit in a small case or backpack). I found out that 4 sections in the legs are better than 3 for this purpose. Do I really need it to be as tall as me? Am I going to use it for extended periods and get back ache with a short one? Maybe. Am I going to want it to adjust really low to the ground (maybe) if so I need to be able to adjust or remove the center column.

factor no3. head usage?

Am I going do panoramas with it? Yes. So I need it to pan.  Will I be using it on uneven ground? Maybe. But, does it really need a leveler function & spirit level built in  or should I just get one of those little cheapo spirit levels for the top of my camera? Yes, I’ll do that.

So what have I decided? Well so far I’ve decided to get this one:

CT-3441SB – Traveller Carbon Fibre Tripod and CB-30C Ball Head

and perhaps the PB-70 panning base but I’m still talking with the very helpful sales staff at www.feisoluk.com about that one.