Monday, September 24, 2012

Product Photography

With the autumn coming in the UK, it is starting to get cold and wet.  With some time on my hands, I tried some product photography at home.  What better than photographing my photographic equipment?  This is my attempt at product photography and it proved much more difficult than I first thought.  My early attempts were just not good enough with harsh lighting and burnt out reflections.  I had to experiment a little before the images came out in my vision.

The first photo here is all my Olympus micro four third gears.  They were lit with a Nikon SB26 with a shoot through umbrella left of camera with a large white reflector on the right.  I shot it on my wooden floor to add texture to the image.  Post processing using Capture One involved reducing saturation, increasing contrast and adding -2EV vignette around the frame.  I quite like the outcome.

I also shot a couple of my Canon lenses using very similar lighting.  This time, instead of using a reflector, I had a gridded Canon 540EZ on the right to fill in shadow.  Using my Olympus 45mm F1.8 on my E-PM1 to reduce the DOF, I was able to blur out the background quite well.  These are the results.

Canon 17-40mm F4 L USM

Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS USM
What have I learnt?  The objects you photograph must be immaculately cleaned before the shoot.  Looking at my photo at 100% will show up so much dirt and dust, it is unbelievable!  I am looking to experiment with product photography more this winter when I am not shooting portraits outdoor.  These are nice images, but they are hardly creative.  How to make the images stand out?  That is what I will try to work on.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Small Is Beautiful - Olympus E-PM1

I think I've found my ideal travel camera.  I am referring to the Olympus E-PM1, a MFT camera.  I had the E-PL1 before which is a great camera, but it bigger size, poor LCD screen and slow focus speed bugged me.  That is where the E-PM1 comes in.  It is smaller and have fast and quite focus.  In good light, it is as fast as my Canon USM lenses. While the kit lenses are good, I love prime lens and the bokeh they produce.

At the weekend, I purchased the Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens and promptly grabbed some test photos during a photo shoot in The City of London.  I was shooting with my Canon EOS 550D with 85mm f1.8 USM lens.  This is a photo taken with the E-PM1 with 45mm f1.8 lens.  I like the sharpness of the image and how the background is rendered.

E-PM1 with 45mm f1.8, 400 ISO, 1/200s @ f2
Under close examination, noise is slightly higher in the shadow area than the Canon 550D, but I am still very happy with its performance.  I can see myself going everywhere with this camera.  I just need to get hold of a Panasonic 20mm f1.7 pancake lens to go with it and I have the ultimate travel camera for me.

What I will say though the E-PM1 is not as good as my Canon 550D under close examination.  Noise in the shadow area is worse and there was less detail in the hair when viewed at 100%.  It will not be my first choice for photo shoots, but for all other occasions, it will be more than adequate.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

A Fabulous Day Out Shooting in London with Olympus E-PM1

Sunday 9th September was the last day of the London 2012 Paralympic.  I spent a day shooting the marathon and the streets around central London.  I decided small and light was the order of the day and I used my Olympus E-PM1 with 14-42mm and 40-150mm lenses only.  The E-PM1 with the two MSC (Motion Still Compatible) lenses are recent purchases.  It solved a couple major short comings, slow focus speed and dim LCD screen in bright day light, of the E-PL1 I had before.  Interestingly, the E-PL1 with MSC lens do not focus any faster.

Women's wheelchair race
First off the continuous focus of the MFT cameras are still very poor despite the fast focus speed.  The camera just can not keep up with a marathon runner.  It does not help the LCD freezes and exposure locked once you start shooting.  In the end I prefocused the camera and set it to shoot at continuous high speed at 5FPS and panned the camera blind.  I got some good photos after some practice.  In conclusion, sports photography is no place for MFT cameras.  Working within their limitations, you can still get some good results.  What Olympus and Panasonic need to do is to produce cameras that can continuous focus and the LCD screen do not freeze while shooting.  Unless they do that, they will never displace DSLRs.

Truck carrying photographers

Within the limits of the camera, I shot with both the 14-42mm and 40-150mm lenses to see what they can do.  I also decided early on to try to get some photos of the crowd to get some ideas of the atmosphere and try out some art filters built into the camera.  Here are a few photos taken with the camera and lenses combinations.

I was also interested to see what the bokeh is like from the 40-150mm lens.  I am happy to say it is sort of OK if you shoot at 150mm wide open.  It is never going to be wonderful but it is acceptable and does better than I thought.  Here are a couple of photos showing how the out of focus is rendered.

After shooting the marathon, I had a walk around London to the various events been held there.  Here are a few photos taken during the walk.  Some of the photos were taken using the art filters.  All the photos were taken as jpeg straight from camera without any post processing.

Overall, I am very happy with the results I got.  This is be my light weight camera outfit of choice now.  I am looking forward to trying out a 45mm f1.8 lens in future as I've read very good reports.

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