The “Q” … My First Experience with a Leica

The Leica Q has been on my wish list since I first read about it when it was announced on June 10, 2015.  Why?  Well first, it’s made by the renowned German camera maker, Leica, plus it has a full frame sensor, fast Leica Summilux lens, excellent EVF, and for me the image stabilization is important.  I kept trying to get the same general features but at a lower cost by using different cameras, and I thought maybe the Ricoh GR would scratch that itch since it had the 28mm lens and an excellent APS-C sensor.  It didn’t.  In the end, I think it came down to the fact that I had never used a Leica and I just wanted to … Continue reading “The “Q” … My First Experience with a Leica”

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Update: Exposing Olympus OM-D E-M10 (and E-M1/E-M5II) Myths – HDR and the EVF

Note:  There are a couple of great books available from The Friedman Archives that cover all of the features in great detail for both the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and E-M5II
Olympus OM-D E-M10 (and E-M1/E-M5II) Feature Clarifications: HDR and EVF settings.
Okay, there are a couple of myths floating around the Internet that are bothering me. In the last couple of days, I’ve read blog posts (and reviews) that either neglected to mention or complained about what they “perceived” as problems with these OM-D cameras.
Myth #1: The E-M10 is not good for HDR work. I disagree because Olympus gets it. Bracketing and HDR really are separate issues. We bracket to ensure we get a correct exposure. We use HDR to expand dynamic range of an image. So Oly has separated these two features. And while Bracketing does limit the number and range of options, the HDR setting is great, allowing up to 5 exposures with 3 EV spacing and 7 exposures with 2 EV. Plus, it automatically puts the Drive Mode to Continuous H. Nice!: -)
Myth #2: Some seem to have an issue with using flash, generally in a studio. Sometimes, it’s necessary to use high shutter speeds and/or small apertures to make sure you get a dark background. Normally, the EVF tries to show you what your image will look like with your current camera settings, so in this case you get a very dark (or black) view in the EVF, making it impossible to frame and focus. To avoid this and have your EVF behave like an OVF (i. e., show you what’s in front of the camera unadjusted for settings), just turn Live View Boost (Custom Menu D) “ON”. And “voila”, problem solved. Maybe even create a flash preset with this setting (and others, of course).
Now, go take some pictures!: -)
UPDATE:   Readers +Paul Amyes and +Eric Lawson  offered this idea:  Set one of your buttons to DOF Preview and it will accomplish the same thing as turning Live View Boost ON.  My guess is that it temporarily does just that when you press the button, giving you an OVF like look at your scene.

Using the Bracket Pro App with Sony’s Nex-6, 5R, and 5T

The original version of this post has been getting lots of attention, lately, so I decided to update it with the full information from my ebook (coauthored with Gary Friedman) about the Sony Nex-6/5R/5T.  The book is available at The Friedman Archives.  (If you’re not shooting one of these three cameras, then you’ll still find books about virtually every Sony Alpha and Nex camera produced in the last few years.)

This is actually quite an unusual camera application.  For years, we’ve had the capability to automatically bracket exposure in our cameras, and initially, this was designed (in the days of film) to help make sure we got a correct exposure since changes were much more difficult (impossible with color slides) to make after the fact.  Not like today’s digital files that give us much more latitude to make corrections.  Then, just a few years ago, HDR (high dynamic range) became popular and we began to demand that our cameras give us at least 3 bracketed images and up to +/- 3.0 EV between each image.
Now, with “Bracket Pro”, bracketing takes on a whole new meaning: the camera keeps the exposure for each image the same, but changes either shutter speed, aperture, focus distance, or flash on/off.  In the case of shutter, aperture, or focus, the camera shoots three images with different settings.  With flash bracketing, it shoots two images: one with flash off and one with flash on.

Let me reiterate … this is not an HDR function, and the camera saves all of the images for you, with no in-camera merging.

So, what’s the big deal?  Well, let’s take a look at each of these four functions and talk about what they can do for you.  But first, if you are not intimately familiar with shutter speed and aperture, and how they relate to each other, depth of field, and exposure, then please do a quick review.
These are all easy to invoke by selecting: Menu → Application → Bracket Pro → (and then either) BRK Tv, BRK Av, BRK FOCUS, or BRK (flash symbol).  Most likely, the first thing you will see is a warning.  For instance, if you are in Program Mode and select BRK Av (aperture bracketing), the camera screen will say “Unavailable in this shooting mode” and that it will automatically switch to Aperture Priority while in BRK Av.  So just select “OK” and keep going.  The display and controls for BRK Av and BRK Tv are very similar.
With Tv (shutter) or Av (aperture) bracketing, you can modify the size of the steps with the Control Wheel from 0.3 to 3.0 (Av) and 0.3 to 5.0 (Tv).  In these two bracketing modes, the Control Dial functions as it would in either Aperture or Shutter Priority by changing that setting.  In Flash Bracketing, the Control Dial and Wheel do nothing, and in Focus Bracketing, the Control Wheel selects between 3 distance settings from Narrow to Wide, while the Control Dial operates according to whatever camera Mode you are in.
Shutter Speed Bracketing
Sometimes, we want to freeze action … like in sports, when we try to catch athletes in action but still show them in sharp crisp detail, with no blur from their motion.  On the other hand, there are times that we prefer to blur the motion, like when shooting a busy street at night or the flowing water of a waterfall.  There, we typically go for a slow shutter speed to show the movement of the cars by blurring their lights into streaks.
Sometimes, we’re just not sure what might work best and may not have the luxury to stick around and take multiple shots.  So, set the Bracket Pro app to Shutter Bracketing.  The first thing to understand is that this app requires Shutter Priority, so you will set the primary shutter speed with the Control Dial and use the Control Wheel to select the range of f/stops between each shot.  Here, what you need to know is that the NEX-5R will automatically put the camera in Shutter Priority regardless of your set mode, BUT the NEX-6 will just tell you to switch to Shutter Priority (a function of having a physical mode dial as opposed to the “soft” mode dial on the 5R.)
I also recommend setting ISO to Auto unless you need a specific ISO for the planned photo.  The reason is that when you take the shot the camera will use the shutter speeds as set by you and then attempt to get correct exposures by varying the aperture and ISO, IF in Auto.  So this just allows you to use a wider range of shutter speeds and still get correct exposures.
So, once you’ve got Bracket Pro running and you’ve selected Tv, you are presented with a screen that can be confusing at first.  Refer now to the photo at the top, the first screen after selecting Tv. On the left you see the three shutter speeds, with #1 showing your primary shutter speed selected by the Control Dial.  On the right is the range, and in this case it is set to 2.0.  And there in the lower middle is “The Graph”.  Across the bottom (left to right), you’ll see the complete range of available shutter speeds and the left side represents apertures from wide open (bottom) to the smallest available (top).  The orange rectangle seems to reflect the available range of exposures.  As you adjust the primary (#1) shutter speed with the Control Dial, the orange square moves left and right accordingly.  The width of the orange square corresponds to the selected range.
Now, the important part.  To insure that all three exposures are correct, you must adjust the settings so that points #3 and #2 do not touch the top and bottom edges of the orange square.  If #3 goes to the top, then that image will be over-exposed, and if #2 touches the bottom, that image will be under-exposed.  This happens because you are asking the camera to exceed the available ranges of aperture and ISO.
So, you’re all set up.  All that’s left is to compose the shot and press the shutter button.  The camera will fire off three shots, varying the shutter speeds according to your settings, while “attempting” to correctly expose by also changing the aperture and ISO as necessary.
The downside with Shutter Bracketing is due to those changing apertures and ISO settings.  For instance, if you’re going for a shallow depth of field, it may not be there in all three shots.  Likewise, using Auto ISO you may end up with one or more images with unacceptable noise levels.  Those are just some of the tradeoffs to keep in mind when using this function.
Aperture Bracketing
This function operates almost identically to Shutter Speed Bracketing with one obvious difference – it brackets the aperture to give you different depths of field in each of three images.  It also attempts to maintain a proper exposure for all three images and is thus not suitable for HDR work.
Focus Bracketing
This is the part of this app that makes the least sense to me.  The available adjustments are very vague (Wide, Narrow, or something in between) and the results were consistently unpredictable, at least for me.
Generally, it takes one image at your selected focus point, another at some “other” focus point, and then an image that is completely defocused.  (Frankly, I get plenty of poorly focused images without this kind of help.☺)
I called Sony technical support about this one, and they weren’t much help either.  Although, that was where I found out about why one of the images was never in focus … by design!
Flash Bracketing

This very simply takes two images, one with flash and one without flash.  Once selected, you only have to be sure to either pop-up the flash (on the NEX-6) or attach an external flash and turn it on.

Setting Up the Olympus OM-D E-M1 – My Way

This is a rewrite of an earlier post I did months ago about setting up the Olympus OM-D E-M5.

I’ve updated the section on the Arrow Pad settings to reflect how I’ve changed the Lever settings.

The menus of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 provide a deep, but fairly well organized hierarchy of almost all of the functions and settings that can be changed on this camera, and there are many. Some of you may feel that it is too complicated, but I think this complexity is what allows us the ability and freedom to customize this camera to our own personal taste, and that is where much of its power derives.  So while it may take a while to figure out exactly how to set it up to your liking, it’s worth the effort.

I won’t go into all of the available settings, but will cover mainly just the ones that affect the various, customizable buttons that make using the E-M1 a bit easier and faster.  So here are the buttons with my settings and reasoning for it.  It’s been said many times that “opinions are like noses” and everybody has one, so I’d be amazed if any of you set your camera exactly like I set mine … these are just a few of the possibilities.  (Speaking of which, how about one of you math whizzes telling us how many permutations/possibilities there are with six buttons and about 22 available settings for each one.  🙂  Okay, while we wait for the answer to my pop math quiz, let’s get started.

Fn1 Button = [—]HP.  I generally keep my focus set for single target AF since I prefer to choose what I want to focus on instead of letting the camera do it.  Of course, sometimes I need to move this AF point around and this setting gives me an easy way to get it back to center.  (Assuming that Custom Menu A -> [—] Set Home, is set to Single Target AF.)  If I mount an adapted lens that has only MF, then I repurpose this button to Peaking.

Fn2 Button = RAW.  Most of the time, I shoot in RAW.  However, there are some camera settings that require a JPG setting, like Monochrome for instance.  So with this button setting, I can quickly switch from RAW to RAW+JPG and back.

Movie Button = Myset 3.  Okay, this could be any of the Mysets, but #3 just happens to be my HDR preset.  A few of the other HDR settings this will bring up for me are Aperture priority, ISO 200,  RAW, and Continuous H.  I know, it’s so easy to get HDR settings from the front of the dial over the On/Off switch, but it doesn’t automatically change your shooting mode, quality, or ISO from whatever they may be set on.  One very nice thing that you E-M5 shooters will appreciate is that this is a toggle switch so you don’t have to hold it down while taking the shots.

AEL/AFL Button = AEL/AFL.  Imagine that … a button that actually does what it says it will do!  🙂  I like this because in an AF mode, it acts as an AEL button and locks the exposure.  If you’re in MF, pressing it will temporarily turn on S-AF and then revert right back to MF as soon as you release it.  This is commonly known as “Back Button Focus” and can be a very nice way to shoot, even better than S-AF+MF IMHO.

Front Buttons on the right side of the lens:
Top Button = Multi Function.  By pressing and holding this button while turning either the Rear Dial or the Front Dial, you can cycle through four different settings:  Highlight and Shadow Control, Color Creator, Magnify, and Image Aspect.  I like this setting for a couple of reasons.  First, the Highlight and Shadow Control can’t be found anywhere else.  Second, when I mount an adapted MF only lens, this gives me easy access to Magnify as a focusing aid.  The other two settings are nice but are also available on the Super Control Panel.

Bottom Button = Digital Tele-converter.  This setting gives you a 2X magnification of the actual image as long as you have JPG or RAW+JPG set.  With just RAW, you will see the magnification in the display, but the recorded file will be normal.  And while the tele-converter function works pretty well (almost as good as OnOne’s Perfect Resize), I actually prefer to use it as a MF assist function since it only gives 2X instead of the minimum of 5X with normal Focus Assist.

Arrow Pad = Direct Function.  I’ve set the “Arrow Pad” keys to Direct Function. The default setting for these arrow keys is to move the AF point around, but they are “hot” all the time and I kept inadvertently moving them with my thumb.  The Direct Function setting allows me to use the Right Arrow to bring up the Flash Settings menu for quick changes, and the Down Arrow to change the ISO, which I frequently use.  Also in Direct Function, the Left Arrow will activate the AF point selector so you can move the focus point around.  Lastly, the Up Arrow activates the ability to set Exposure Compensation using the arrow keys … but this is a waste for me since I always use the Front Dial for this.  There are only seven settings available for the Arrow Pad keys:  Drive, Flash, Touch Panel Lock, Electric Zoom (for lenses that support it), ISO, WB, and Exposure Compensation.


Update Feb. 19, 2014:  I forgot to talk about using the Arrow Key for ISO.  Yes, I know … this is normally easy to access by putting the Lever to Position 2 and turning the Front Dial.  However, I too often forgot to flip the Lever back up and ended up changing ISO and WB when I was wanting to change Aperture and/or Exp. Comp.  So, in Custom Menu B – Button/Dial/Lever, I’ve set Lever Function to Mode 5, which changes the focus setting between AF and MF as you flip the Lever up and down.

Oh, and one more thing … remember that all six of those buttons have the same settings available (not the Arrow Pad keys), so you can set them up any way you want to.  Lots of flexibility and choice.

There are so many settings on the E-M1 that I could expand this post to several hundred pages, but thankfully, I don’t have to.  Gary Friedman at the www.FriedmanArchives.com has put together a comprehensive manual about every feature and function on the E-M1 with lots of detailed explanations and pretty pictures, too.  If you’re interested, you’ll be able to order the book at his website.

A few photos for your viewing pleasure.  🙂

HDR with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is Much Improved

HDR image using Nik HDR Efex and 5 exposures at 2ev.

My biggest complaint with the various mirrorless cameras I’ve used over the last couple of years has been their rather anemic HDR (High Dynamic Range) capabilities.  Generally they only offered to bracket 3 or 5 images with up to about 1ev spacing.  They’ve been getting better, but now the Olympus OM-D E-M1 has raised the bar and given us extensive HDR functions.

The new E-M1 has an awesome HDR setup.  Auto HDR is there if you want, but even better are the great options for bracketing your exposures with either 3, 5, or 7 frames at 2ev, or 3 or 5 frames at 3ev. Nice!

Out of the box, the default settings are to press the HDR Button and turn the Front Dial to choose your HDR settings.  (The HDR Button is the front half of that button on the top left shoulder of the camera.)  Olympus has gone even further by having the camera automatically set the ISO to 200 and Drive to Sequential Shooting so it will take all the desired shots with a single press of the shutter button … you don’t even need to hold it down for the full sequence.

The Auto HDR offers two settings called HDR1 and HDR2, with each of those taking 4 exposures and combining them in-camera to create your HDR image.  If you’re in JPG only, you’ll just get one exposure, the HDR.  However, if you have RAW+JPG selected, you’ll get an HDR JPG and a normally exposed RAW file.

I should mention that the E-M1 also offers an AEB (auto-exposure bracketing) mode in a separate menu (Menu > Shooting Menu 2 > Bracketing), for those who really just want to bracket the exposure of their images to make sure they get the perfect one.  The options on that menu are much more limited than the HDR options.

The above image is a full HDR image, created by taking 5 exposures at 2ev spacing into Nik HDR Efex and then back through Lightroom 5.  Below are in-camera HDR images, using HDR1 and HDR2, plus a normal exposure and a copy of HDR1 edited further in Lightroom5.

For more information about HDR with the E-M1 (and E-M5II), be sure and check out Gary Friedman’s excellent and very thorough books.
Available at:  www.FriedmanArchives.com

Normal Exposure – note the blown highlights out the window
In-Camera HDR2
In-Camera HDR1
HDR1 Edited in Lightroom5.  Cut the highlights, enhanced the shadows, and added Clarity and Saturation

Setting Up the NEX-7 – Revisited

I recently read somewhere, “Photography is a disease for which there is no known cure.” ( – Author Unknown)  I know I’m afflicted by it and I sure hope it isn’t fatal . . . . . aside from my wife wanting to kill me for exceeding my photography budget! 🙂 

A couple of days ago I “reacquired” the Sony NEX-7. There’s a lot to love there:  A beautiful, black, metal body; 24 Megapixel APS-C sensor; 10 frames-per-second; Terrific EVF (Electronic ViewFinder); and the Tri-Navi control system to give you almost instant access to many of the camera’s functions.  This camera is very customizable with several buttons that can be re-configured to setup this camera to work the way you work.

Many of you may not want your camera setup exactly like I do and that’s okay. We’re all individuals and approach photography with different goals and techniques.  In fact, my settings change from time to time as my current photographic emphasis changes.  But, if you’re new to the NEX-7 or maybe just struggling with the overwhelming customization options, maybe this will help. Here’s how I have mine setup, at least for now.

First, in the Main Menu, go to Setup and about halfway down you’ll find the Function Settings. These are the settings that are accessible using the Function Button (next to the shutter button) and adjustable with the two top Control Dials and the Control Wheel (Tri-Navi Controls).
  • Function Settings 1 > Focus Settings
  • Function Settings 2 > White Balance Settings
  • Function Settings 3 > Creative Style Settings
  • Function Settings 4 > Custom Settings
  • Custom Settings 1  > DRO/Auto HDR (Having Auto HDR and Quality in Custom Settings means they are both accessible at the same place. And since I often shoot in RAW, this makes it easy to quick change to JPEG when I want to use Auto HDR.)
  • Custom Settings 2  > Quality
  • Custom Settings 3  > Picture Effect
  • Function Settings Start > Previous (this just takes me back to whatever I had last changed)
Next, with Soft Key A, go back into the Setup Menu, and select Custom Key Settings. These will change the function of several of the buttons on the back of the camera.
  • AF/MF Button > AF/MF control
  • Right Key Setting > Flash Mode
  • Soft Key B Setting > Focus Settings
  • Soft Key C Setting > Shoot Mode
  • Custom Settings > N/A unless you set Soft Key C to Custom Settings, then you will have several choice to add, here.
With this configuration, I almost never need to go into the camera’s extensive menu system to make a change while I’m shooting, which is a big deal for me since I do tend to change settings quite often.  The possibilities are so varied, that you’ll probably need to do some experimenting with different combinations to find what works best for you, but maybe this guide can give you a place to start.

Please comment and share with us how you have your NEX-7 setup – and why – so we all have the chance to learn another way of doing things.

In a recent blog post, I mentioned that I worked with Gary Friedman (www.friedmanarchives.com) to produce a comprehensive manual about the new Sony NEX-5R and NEX-6.  You can find that eBook about the Nex-6 / 5R at www.FriedmanArchives.com , plus other books about all of the Nex models including the Nex-7, the RX100/M2 and most of the Sony Alpha models.

Waiting Game – Olympus PEN E-P5 Release Delayed

I ordered the E-P5 the day it was announced from Amazon and have been waiting for almost two months … nothing yet.  Initially, Amazon showed a release date of June 21st, but then on June 21st they informed me the release had been delayed to sometime between late July and late August.  So, what does one do …… Get the E-PL5 and stick the new VF-4 external EVF on it!  🙂

The E-PL5 is a very nice little camera but I miss the control dials that are on my E-M5 and coming on the E-P5.  Image quality is of course pretty much the same as the E-M5 (same sensor) and the menus are nearly identical with just a few differences.

As for the VF-4, it is very nice!  The higher resolution is a bonus and the larger view is wonderful.  I don’t really like the look of the camera with the VF-4 sitting on top, but I much prefer a viewfinder for composing shots instead of using the rear screen, so I’ll make the sacrifice.  It looks a bit fragile and vulnerable up there, but it actually attaches very securely, by plugging into the accessory port and also the hot shoe.  Another nice feature is that it will rotate up 90 degrees, which can be a big help when composing shots with the camera close to the ground.

Hopefully, the E-P5 will show up in the next 3 or 4 weeks at which point I’ll be putting up my first impressions and images from the new camera.

Below are a few of the initial shots with the E-PL5.  The first one is an HDR from 5 images at 2EV spacing and processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro.