Switching to Canon

Hi all. After doing a lot of research, reading reviews and talking to folks, I purchased the Canon 5D Mark III and the 24-70 f/2.8 L II. Over the years I have used cameras from a lot of manufacturers, and the Canon is by far the best.

The photo above was one of the first pictures I took with the camera. I don’t really know much about the camera yet, so I took a quick picture of Nancy and bounced the flash off the wall to give it a better look than pointing the flash straight at her. I could have filled the shadow side a bit if I’d used a reflector, but I’m pretty happy with the results for not really knowing how to work the camera.

Those who’ve been following my blog know that I’d been using Olympus OM-D since December and may be wondering why I switched. Well, the Olympus is a great system and has a lot going for it. It’s light. The body is small, and the lenses are super sharp. Even with all that, I still wasn’t totally happy.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been shooting for a long time and think traditionally, but I really like bodies that have a lot of buttons on them. I’m not opposed to menus, but if I want to change something like white balance quickly, I prefer to push a button rather than go into a menu. The OM-D has buttons, but they were a little small and hard for me to push.

This may seem silly, but I prefer the 3:2 format of a traditional DSLR over the 4:3 format of a lot of cameras. The Olympus can be setup to shoot in 3:2 format, but it’s a cropped picture and not a native format. I prefer it to be native.

The biggest reason thing was the way Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop handled the Olympus RAW files. There are documented reports showing how the Olympus Viewer 2 software handles RAW files better than Adobe, so what I was doing was using Viewer 2 to convert my RAW files to TIFF then working on those in Lightroom. I could have edited the RAWs directly in Lightroom, but I wanted the best quality possible, and that meant using Viewer. For me, that extra step added too much time to my workflow.


Max with Flash Direct on Camera
Max with Flash Direct on Camera

The photo on the left of my dog Max was one of the first I took using the 600EX-RT. I don’t normally like to shoot straight on with a flash, but I didn’t have a good surface to bounce light off of. Plus, Max constantly moves around, so I snapped the photo while I had the opportunity.

So, after talking things over with Nancy, we decided to sell the OM-D gear and go back to a more traditional DSLR. At this point I had no system and was free to go with any brand camera I wanted. I looked at the Nikon D800 & the D800E but read that some had focusing and oil issues, and didn’t want to a chance with that. Plus, I liked a lot of the features the Canon offered.

Some of the things that were important to me was back button focus. This is huge and something I really like. If you have a Canon and haven’t used it, give it a try. Most Canons EOS cameras can do it. I also wanted high ISO capabilities, and the 5D is awesome in this regard. Other important factors I thought about was lens selection, manufacturer support and availability of third party accessories. Canon is great for all of these.

I started simple with just the body, one lens and one flash so I can see how the camera works and decide what gear I should get next, and while I haven’t figured everything out, I absolutely love the gear so far.

If you’re thinking of getting a camera or have any questions about the 5D Mark III or any other Canon gear, drop me a line. I’d love to share what I know.

Import EXIF Data into TIFF Files Created in Olympus Viewer 2

Folks have been talking on Google Plus about converting Olympus OM-D E-M5 RAW files, and after some testing, they came to the conclusion that files converted using the Olympus Viewer 2 software look better than those converted using Adobe Lightroom 4. Rob Knight created an informative YouTube video comparing the differences and another YouTube video showing his workflow in Viewer 2 to make that happen.

I use Windows and he uses a Mac, but both versions work about the same. However, my workflow is a little different, so I thought I’d explain it below. I only use Viewer 2 to do the initial conversion from RAW to TIFF, which I then edit in Lightroom. Because I’m not using Viewer 2 to cull my files convert all of them. While in the “browse screen,” I select all the files and click the RAW button up top.

Olympus Viewer 2 Browse Screen
Olympus Viewer 2 Browse Screen

This brings up the RAW Development screen where adjustments are made using the adjustment panel on the right. The only adjustments I do in Viewer 2 are white balance, noise reduction (I actually turn it off and make sure V2 doesn’t do any) and then distortion control and vignetting. I do everything else in Lightroom.

Adjustments are made to the files that are selected (not checked off, but selected) in the “browser” section at the bottom. If one file is selected, adjustments will only be done on that single file. If multiple files are selected, all those files will get the same adjustment. The check box is for exporting files. If a file has a check mark, it will be exported. If it doesn’t, it won’t, even if adjustments have been made to the file.

Olympus Viewer 2 Raw Development Screen
Olympus Viewer 2 Raw Development Screen

Once all those adjustments are made, choose the save button up top, which brings up the “saveall” screen. We could export with 8 bit files and include the EXIF data, but RAW files contain more than 8 bits of data, so we’d be throwing some of the info away. Choosing 16 bits keeps the most amount of data possible. Unfortunately, there’s no option to keep the EXIF data when using 16 bit, but there’s a workaround for that. EXIF data is important because it includes information like shutter speed, aperture and more.

Olympus Viewer 2 Raw Save All Screen
Olympus Viewer 2 Raw Save All Screen

After exporting the files to TIFF format, I use ExifTool by Phil Harvey, which will take the EXIF info in the ORF Raw files and import it into the TIFF files. It comes in both Windows and Mac versions. The Windows version is a single, standalone file that I copied into a folder that’s located in my Windows path. I wanted to be able to run the program directly from the command prompt without having to change directories, so I created the batch file below and named it goex, short for Go EXIF. The period at the end of the last line is required.

@echo off
cd “D:\Users\Mark D. Hall\Desktop\%1”
@echo on
exiftool -tagsfromfile %%d%%f.orf -all:all -overwrite_original -r -ext tif .

For this to work, the ORF RAW files and recently exported TIFF files must be in the same directory. Then, I open Command Prompt and then type “goex 100olymp” or whatever the name of the directory is where the files are stored. I usually save mine onto the Desktop when I import them from the memory card. The good thing about this batch file is that you can have nested folders, and the program will work on all directories under the one you specify.

Going into detail about how paths and batch files work is more than I get get into into this post, plus I don’t really know how to explain it, but there’s a lot of information available on the net. If you have any questions about how to get ExifTool working, the developer is super responsive and very helpful.

Micro Four Thirds Prime Lenses

I recently read a great blog post by Rob Knight where he talked about Micro 4/3 camera lenses and which ones work best for him. After reading that I started thinking. I participate in the Olympus OM-D Fan Page and Micro Four Thirds community pages on Google+, and it seems like the many Micro 4/3 owners prefer to use prime lenses rather than zooms, which is the opposite of traditional DSLR users, who, I think, prefer zoom lenses. At least this is what it seems like to me after talking to photographers from both camps. I rarely hear a traditional DSLR user talking about primes. Why is that? I think it has to do with price, weight and size.

There are some good Micro 4/3 zooms like the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 kit lens. It’s sharp, water resistant and has a handy macro mode, but it can have limited depth of field and be a little slow in low light. In situations where a faster lens is needed, a prime can’t be beat. Also very popular is the Olympus 75-300, which is actually being redesigned, with a new model coming soon. While these are great zooms, it still seems that many users are shifting back to primes.

When I had my full size DSLR equipment, I used all zoom lenses, but now that I have the Olympus OM-D E-M5, I, too, am focusing on primes. The first one I bought was the Olympus 45 f/1.8, which I great reviews and is relatively inexpensive, plus it only weighs 4 ounces, compared to a traditional DSLR 50mm f/1.8 lens that can weigh over 6 1/2 ounces and be quite a bit bigger. A traditional DSLR 50mm f/1.4, which is the lens that many people go with, weighs around 10 ounces, 6 ounces more than the Olympus. And that’s just one lens. If someone carries 3 or 4 lenses, that can be quite a bit of extra weight when using a traditional DSLR. If weight is a concern, a Micro 4/3 camera is something to look at.

Another prime lens that gets amazing reviews is the Olympus 75mm f/1.8Scott Bourne and others have said it might be the sharpest lens ever tested. It weighs less than 11 ounces, and with the crop factor, its the equivalent to a 150mm full frame lens. To compare, the Canon full frame 135mm f/2.0 weighs 26 ounces. The Canon lens gets great reviews, but it’s 2 1/2 times heavier and is a whole lot bigger.

The list goes on and on of the amazing prime lenses that Olympus and Panasonic keep coming out with. They’re small, sharp and easy to handle, plus their relatively low priced, which I think is why users are so open to using them. Because they have wide apertures, they all focus really fast. It’s easy to carry 3 or 4 small Micro 4/3 primes in a bag, but carrying that many full frame lenses would take up a lot of space and be really heavy.

I don’t see traditional DSLR equipment going away anytime soon, but I think smaller camera systems like the Micro 4/3 type are going to become increasingly popular. Everyone has different needs, and if you’re in the market for a new system, please take a moment to give one of the new cameras from Olympus or Panasonic a try. They are really amazing and take some great photos. What about you? Do you prefer primes or zooms? Do you plan on getting or trying out one of the newer, smaller cameras?

Photo Destination: New York City

To me, there is no better city to visit at Christmastime than New York City. The lights, the decorations and the busyness all combine to give one a “feel good” attitude. There’s something magical about skaters floating by at Rockefeller Center while the large tree glistens in the background.

I normally carry my camera gear in a backpack, but because this time of year is so busy with people all around, I like to travel light and brought a small, Lowepro over the shoulder bag. For gear, I went light with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 kit lens and the Olympus FL-600R flash.

Because of the 2 times crop factor, and a 35mm equivalent length of 24-100mm on a full frame camera, this is the perfect walk around lens. It’s wide enough to get expansive views or capture the height of a skyscraper and has enough telephoto length to zoom in for closeups. Plus, as with all Olympus lenses, the quality is top notch and very sharp. The one downside is that it can be a little slow if you’re in darker areas.

New York has a lot to see and do, and one of my favorite things is Central Park. During this trip, we went to The Mall, which has been photographed many times with gorgeous trees hanging over the path, and many movies have been shot here.

A lot smaller, but still very beautiful, is Bryant Park, located just west of Grand Central Terminal. It’s definitely worth a visit. In the winter you can go ice skating, and if you visit at Christmastime, small shops offering a variety of crafts and other goodies are setup throughout the park. If you go to Grand Central, be sure to visit the Whispering Arch. It’s really fun, especially with kids.

And no Christmas visit is complete without a stroll down 5th Avenue to admire the beautifully decorated shops or a stop into one of the historic and spectacular churches. If you plan to visit New York and have any questions, let me know. I will try to answer any questions you may have.

Olympus FL-600R Flash Review

I recently picked up an Olympus OM-D E-M5 and a pair of FL-600R flashes and wanted to test out their remote capabilities because I’d read that their wireless capabilities were first rate. I grabbed a Promaster 20″ soft box, a silver reflector, the awesome Olympus 45 f/1.8 and my wife, Nancy, to use as a model and began my setup. I chose the 45 f/1.8 because of its amazing sharpness and shallow depth of field, which results in some great bokeh.

I took the photos near our Christmas Tree and had a very limited amount of space to set up. I put the softbox on her right, a little above eye level and about 3 feet from her face. The great thing about the FL-600R is that all settings can be controlled from the camera, so I set the flash to full power and TTL mode.

Nancy with Softbox and Reflector
Nancy with Softbox and Reflector

For the first few pictures, one of which is shown to the left, I placed a silver reflector on her left side to fill in the shadows, but because of the tight space, only a little light bounced back onto her face, which created darker shadows than I wanted. To fix this, I placed a second FL-600R with a 6×8 softbox by Fotodiox on her left set to -1 1/3 stops and TTL mode. This resulted in the look I was going for and resulted in the photo above.

I’ve only just begun to explore the features of the OM-D and the FL-600R, but I’m looking to experiment more and try different things.