Like a Moth to a Flame …

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 has been in and out of my camera bag a few times, now.  Like the proverbial Moth to the Flame, I seem to be irresistibly drawn to the small but powerful Olympus.  I loved the Sony A-7RM2 and Leica Q, but they were just a bit pricey for my “enthusiast’s” budget.  And while the Fujifilm X-T1 and X100T are awesome cameras, they just don’t completely satisfy my desires.  (Although I must admit that I’m keeping a very close eye on the new X-T2.  :-))

Why the E-M1?

So what is it?  Why does the E-M1 seem to be (for me) the camera that most meets my needs? Continue reading “Like a Moth to a Flame …”

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E-M1 Firmware 2.0 Brings Live Composite Feature

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 came with a feature found on no other OM-D camera (or possibly any other camera), and that feature was called Live Composite.  It’s a way of “sort of” doing time lapse photography, but with each successive image added to all the previous images, much like using the Lighten Blending mode to merge layers in Photoshop.  Now, FW 2.0 brings this great function to the E-M1.

With this first image, I used Live Composite with the overall exposure set to underexpose by a couple of stops.  Then, I just slowly added soft light to the parts I wanted to brighten, all the while watching the image develop in real time on the LCD.

To use Live Composite (LC), you have to go to Manual and pass through all of the slow shutter speeds, past Live Time and Bulb.  Once you’re in LC, you’ll be able to adjust your shutter speed by pressing the Menu Button to access that menu.  However, before you go to LC, I suggest doing some test shots in manual to determine your base or starting exposure.  Once this is set and you begin the LC exposure, the dark areas won’t increase in brightness, only parts of the image that are brighter will be added, and only up to the set exposure.  I know this is a little confusing, but as soon as you use it once or twice, it will become very clear.  One other tip … you should use a tripod for this.

In the above photo, the image on the left shows the result after 22 exposures (46 seconds), while the right one shows after 49 exposures. The only increase in brightness is from light painting that I did with a flashlight. This also shows the display you will see on your camera, showing total elapsed time, your set shutter speed and number of exposures, plus a histogram to help you judge the correct (desired) exposure.

Live Composite should be a great tool for capturing star trails or car light trails. Or, how about getting that smooth look on flowing water or fast moving clouds. I think it’s perfect for light painting, too, but just use your imagination to come up with lots of new applications and then be sure and share your ideas with the rest of us.

This is a very brief introduction, but I go into more detail in an ebook I’ve written, a comprehensive guide to Firmware Update Version 2.0 for the Olympus OM-D E-M1.  It’s now available for FREE download at The Friedman Archives.  If you’d like to get it, please send an email request to Gary Friedman.

Light Painting is Easy with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 (E-M5 and E-M10, too)

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 (and E-M5, E-M10) were made for Light Painting.  They give you a feature not found on any other camera that I know of, and that is Live Bulb / Live Time.  Using either of these allows you to watch your image develop in Real Time (almost like developing prints in a dark room back in the “good old days”).  And then you can end the exposure when you think it looks right.

Light Painting is not only easy but a lot of fun and it can yield some unique images for you.  Basically it entails setting up in a relatively dark location so you can use a longer shutter setting, long enough to give you time to selectively illuminate your subject to achieve your desired result.
I won’t go into details here because I wrote about it twice last year.  First using the Fujifilm X100, and later with the Olympus PEN E-PL1.  I not only talk just a little about technique but point you to some great websites about it, too.

The beauty of using this technique with the OM-D is centered in two features known as Live Bulb and Live Time.  (The settings for these two are found in Custom Menu E.)  In a nutshell, these two functions tell the camera to periodically update the live view on the LCD monitor, allowing you to track the exposure in “almost” real time.  Then when it looks right … you end it.
The menu settings allow you set the desired interval for the camera to update the live view, but keep in mind the number of updates is limited.  So you need to space them out to make sure it will cover your needed exposure time.  Also the higher the ISO, the lower the number of allowed updates.

My favorite of the two modes is Live Time for one simple reason.  It lets you start the exposure with a simple press of the shutter button and then end it the same way.  With Live Bulb, you must hold the shutter button down (or use a cable remote with locking ability) for the entire time.

Previously, getting a good exposure while light painting was a function of luck, experience, and trial and error.  Now, with the Olympus OM-D E-M5, we have a tool that can greatly shorten the learning curve and help you get the best exposure the first time.  🙂

By the way, if you’d like more about the nuts and bolts of these features (and Much more), take a look at Gary Friedman’s comprehensive new book about the Olympus OM-D E-M1, available in just a few days at The Friedman Archives, www.friedmanarchives.com

Images from the Olympus PEN E-PL1

I’ve had the little Olympus PEN E-PL1 for just over two weeks now and thought I would share some sample images.

I’m enjoying the camera a lot but find I REALLY need a viewfinder when shooting outdoors in bright light – the screen just isn’t bright enough, plus since I don’t wear glasses (and I need to) I have a hard time telling if it’s in focus or not.

What I love about the camera is that it takes high quality images up to a reasonable ISO of about 800 and still okay for some applications above that. As a habitual “tinkerer”, I also really appreciate the deep menu system that allows a high level of customizability. Lastly, at current prices – I’ve seen body only for $150 online – I think this camera is a steal, especially if you’re a micro four thirds (m43) user and can share lenses with another m43 camera. (Like the Olympus OM-D E-M5 whenever it finally gets here!)

These images were all taken with the Olympus PEN E-PL1 using the 14-42mm kit lens. They were shot at various ISO’s and some have had some processing done.

This black and white was done in Nik Silver Efex Pro.

The following two images were done with “Light Painting” … darkened room, 10 second exposure, and lighting with a flashlight.

Learning the Olympus System

Ever since ordering the Olympus OM-D E-M5 over a month ago, I’ve been waiting rather impatiently for it to ship. Unfortunately, that probably won’t be for another couple of weeks.

So in the meantime, I decided to get an Olympus PEN E-PL1 ($289 on Amazon w/lens) and begin to get familiar with Olympus’ menu system and general camera functions. In reading about both cameras, it appeared that they had similar menu setups and would make for an easy transition to the E-M5.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the E-PL1 and have been pleasantly surprised at the quality of images that can be coaxed from this little “PEN”. These images reflect a few of my favorites, so far, and have various amounts of post processing applied, from just a crop to some fairly aggressive black and white work.

All images are from the Olympus PEN E-PL1 with the 14-42mm kit lens.

ISO 1000, f/5.3, 1/40s, 37mm

ISO 200, f/8, 10 seconds, 42mm (light painting)

ISO 200, f/8, 1/1250s, 39mm, B&W processing in Nik Silver Efex Pro

ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/1500s, 42mm, cropped only

ISO 200, f/8, 10 seconds, 42mm, (light painting)

Light Painting with an Olympus PEN

Light Painting – Beretta Px4 Storm Pistol

This was another “light painting” session, this time with the Olympus E-PL1.

This is really very easy to do. I set up in a darkened room with the camera on a tripod, set manually at f/8 and 10 seconds, with the drive mode in 2 second timer. Focus was achieved with the flashlight full on and then switched to manual focus. After shutter release and the 2 second timer expired, I illuminated the subject with the flashlight, moving it around and also pointing from different directions to reduce harsh shadows.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the Olympus PEN E-PL1. With care, the image quality is very good, and sharpness is excellent even with the 14-42mm kit lens.

This image was taken in RAW, then processed and tweaked in Lightroom 4 and Nik Viveza

Light Painting with the Fujifilm X100

You’ve seen many examples of “light painting” around the web. However, I think the best I’ve seen was by Dave Black. He also wrote a great article about techniques he uses when doing this, and you can find it on the Nikon website.
What is involved with light painting is using a hand-held light source, commonly a flashlight, but it could be about anything. Essentially, you use a long exposure and then selectively light your subject with the flashlight to attain the effect you are looking for. It’s a bit of trial and error, since your metering system is mostly useless and may, therefore, take several exposures before you get a satisfactory result.
For this image of “boots”, I set up in a darkened room with my X100 on a tripod. Then, with the lights on, I set the focus and made sure it was in manual focus for the shot. Finally, with the lights off, I achieved this result with a 5 second exposure at f/8.
What’s really fun is to take a look at the RIT (Rochester Institute Technology) annual Big Shot! They’ve been doing this for quite a few years, and had over 1,000 people helping with the lighting on last year’s project. This way, they are able to add lighting to an impossibly large area for their photograph. It’s really amazing so check it out! ☺

Fujifilm FinePix X100
Lightroom 4 (beta)