“Some people live as though they are already dead. There are people moving around us who are consumed by their past, terrified of their future, and stuck in their anger and jealousy. They are not alive; they are just walking corpses.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh, You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment
Start of another day
When I wrote my last article I had four different cameras in the house, and they all worked. I had gotten them for use in different situations and I started thinking about how I would choose which camera to take and use depending on where I went or what I was photographing. It was then that I seriously realized that I had a lot of duplicative capability and that I was going a lot less.
After sweating through some buyer’s remorse about my last acquisition, the Olympus E-PL5 and its’ kit lens along with the Panasonic 20 mm f/1.7 lens, I decided to return them. The quality of the K-5 images was better than that of the E-PL5, while the E-PL5 was smaller with only slightly poorer ergonomics; but, do I really need both? I finally decided that they were too similar and that I don’t need both. Having a smaller camera was not going to increase my productivity.
Thinking some more about the future, I decided to reduce down to one camera and then see if I need another. I have said for a long time that I thought that I would prefer to have one camera that I knew well, and I decided now is the time. I sold my Canon S95 pocket camera along with my Fuji X100 (gulp). I now only have one camera in the house, my oldest, the most versatile, now discontinued, Pentax K-5. Since it was my best general purpose camera in terms of ergonomics, usability, and image quality, I decided to use it for everything … whatever that is. And that is the root of my problem. What am I going to be taking pictures of? I have no single preferred style or type of photography so I will just use the K-5 and direct my energies towards developing my vision, rather than researching and getting different cameras in hopes that another camera will open up opportunities.
All of this just goes to show that I seem to have lost my way when it comes to photography. Those who have followed my blog will recognize that I have wondered around a circle and arrived back to almost where I was years ago … at least camera wise. I hope that this turning away from camera worship will help me to find my way in photography. I hope to learn, and find, what it is I prefer to photograph. I hope to simplify my photography and concentrate on deciding what I wish to achieve, and then build from there. Maybe if I eliminate all the chaff and dust I will find the kernel and then I can plant it and let it grow. I would like to find my muse and then feed it and nurture it before I decide what my next camera will be.
I have been testing my new Olympus E-PL5 … yes I plan to keep it. My hope was that it would turn out to be a versatile, small camera that I could more easily take with me no matter where I went, and I think that will be the case. All of these pictures were taken with the E-PL5 as raw files using two different lenses … the Olympus 14 – 42 mm f/3.5 – 5.6 II R zoom lens and the Panasonic 20 mm f/1.7 prime lens. They were then developed using Adobe Lightroom 4.3.
Initially I had some concerns about the 14 – 42 mm kit lens that came with the camera, but it is turning out to be better than I initially thought … it just takes a little more work in LR4 and learning how to work with it. The above picture of the Plum Creek train layout (one of four layouts) was taken with the kit lens at the widest end of the zoom … 14 mm, ISO of 1600, f/3.5, and 1/60 sec. As with most of my pictures, you can click on it to see it several sizes larger.
The above picture of Misty was taken with the 20 mm prime lens at ISO of 200, f/1.8, and 1/80 sec. It was then cropped a bit. At the point of focus, close to the eye, the camera with the 20 mm lens has a lot of detail or resolution, even at the widest aperture of the lens. This also gives a pleasing out-of-focus in the distance.
The above picture of this morning’s sky was taken with the 20 mm lens at ISO of 200, f/1.7, and 1/60 sec. It has also been cropped and massaged in LR4 quite a bit. I’m finding that the 16 MP files of this new sensor hold up quite well for a micro 4/3 size sensor when under going extensive development in LR4.
The above picture was taken using the kit lens at a setting of 42 mm (max zoom) at ISO of 200, f/7.1, 1/80 sec. The above image is an approximate 100% crop of the original. I’m showing this image to demonstrate the details of the file. At the maximum zoom end of the lens the image is a little softer and requires a little more adjustment to contrast, clarity, sharpness, etc. but is still quite good for a micro 4/3 camera while using an inexpensive zoom lens.
The above picture is the softest of this lot. It was taken hand-held (as were all of these pictures) at an ISO of 5000, 28 mm, f/4.7, and 1/30 sec. Since I had set the ISO at 5000 and was at the widest aperture of the lens for that zoom, the shutter speed was down to 1/30 sec. which is a little slower than I like, even when using the image stabilization of the camera, but I think the softness of this image is primarily due to the high ISO except for the blur of the moving train.
All things considered, I am pleased with the camera as long as I use it appropriately. I need to try to keep the ISO below 5000 and I need to use the zoom lens to achieve the composition needed. I have primarily used prime lenses lately and cropped to achieve my composition so I need to remember to do that with my primes, but not with my zoom lenses if I wish to achieve the best image quality. Even with those caveats, I think that the above images demonstrate that I still have a reasonable degree of latitude while using this camera as a jacket pocket camera for walking, traveling, or for when I desire to carry a more discreet smaller camera.
Years ago I had different Olympus PEN cameras and liked them very much when traveling. I managed to own, at one time or the other, the Olympus E-P1, the E-PL2, and then the E-P3 camera. I found that the PEN cameras were lightweight, small, and worked well with prime lenses when traveling in Ireland and Tunisia, but I eventually replaced them to increase the quality of my images. I decided that the image quality (IQ) of the micro 4/3 system just wasn’t what I desired, especially at higher ISOs, so I replaced my Olympus E-P3 with a Fuji X100.
This year, Olympus came out with a new version of the PEN series, the E-PL5. It has the same Sony sensor and processor that they use in the more expensive OM-D E-M5 camera. That new 16 MP sensor has shown in reviews to have far better IQ than the older 12 MP sensors that were in my previous PEN cameras. Based on the reported quality of that sensor, I decided to try an Olympus PEN camera again. The question: “Is it now good enough to replace my Fuji X100 and my Canon S95 cameras?” According to the literature, the IQ of the E-PL5 is almost as good as the X100 and the camera is smaller and lighter and has a wide choice of good lenses available for it. The E-PL5 is larger but has far superior IQ than my Canon S95, and thus the E-PL5 fits nicely in between the two cameras that I have. My Canon S95 is a very small pocket camera but I have stopped carrying it due to its’ relatively poor IQ.
If warranted, my intentions would be to use the E-PL5, mostly with the Panasonic 20 mm lens, as my jacket pocket camera and when I want a more discreet camera than my Pentax K-5. I would miss the hybrid viewfinder of the X100 but the tilt-able LCD of the E-PL5 would probably compensate for it. It also has the advantage of being able to use it to take pictures down low to the ground. I have a very stiff back and can’t bend down low like I use to so I expect this to be a very useful feature. The E-PL5 would also enable me to take occasional movies for insertion into my video shows. I also imagine that I would use the E-PL5 when traveling, especially when flying when I keep the weight as light as possible.
In order to check it out, I ordered the E-PL5 with the 14 – 42 mm zoom lens. I doubted that the kit lens would be useable from my perspective but since they include it for only $50 more than the body alone I got it. So far I have only used the E-PL5 with the 14 – 42 mm zoom lens and I don’t like the lens. It is a little too large for my use (carry in a jacket pocket), is too slow for low light photography, and is not sharp enough to allow for significant cropping. The pictures at the top illustrate the limits of sharpness and low light capabilities for an optimum aperture and zoom for the lens. These pictures were all taken hand-held with no flash at the 20 mm zoom range, ISO = 5000, f/4.0, and 1/25 or 1/40 sec. I was surprised at the low noise levels at this high of an ISO … they cleaned up reasonably well using LR4 on the raw files of such a small sensor. This shows that the sensor and processor of this latest PEN camera are far superior to the earlier ones. My biggest complaint is the lack of sharpness at all zoom ranges, and this is due to the lens. I have the Panasonic 20 mm lens on order and I’ll let you know how the E-PL5 performs with it when I get it. There are newer and better lenses available for the micro 4/3 system but they are more expensive and larger.
I love my Fuji X100 and it would be a difficult decision to sell it if I decide to keep the E-PL5. I definitely wouldn’t sell it if I didn’t have the Pentax K-5. While I have had problems in the past carrying the weight of the K-5 with heavy lenses, I am managing it now and I have enjoyed its excellent IQ and other features. My K-5 will remain as my go-to, preferred camera when its’ quality and features are desired and I can handle the weight and size.
Basically I am still a conflicted photographer. I enjoy photography but find that I really have no particular style or preferred subject. If I did, my camera of choice would be an easier decision. I have always believed that having and using just one camera would be preferable for me. Since I don’t have a particular preference in type of photography, and since I have had various physical limitations that have changed over the years, I have tried different cameras with the hope of finding “the one” for me. What I have found is that there doesn’t seem to be “one camera”; therefore, I’m hoping to use the K-5 as my preferred camera and something like the E-PL5 as my discreet carry with me camera when among people.
I believe that my camera capabilities exceed my capabilities and that I need to focus more on getting out and about and taking pictures. I still need to practice and try more things and I’m hoping that having the small E-PL5 with a prime lens on it in my jacket pocket or a small bag will enable me to do that. Some may think that I have taken two steps forward and then one back with this latest choice of camera, but I’m going for more portability with a more discreet choice as part of my plan to be a better opportunistic photographer. As Ming Thein would say, I’m going more for sufficiency than quality.
I’m getting closer to finding the kinds of photographs I prefer to make. One approach I have taken to find the style I like has been to go back through older pictures that I took and then to crop and develop them differently. I took the above picture while traveling in Ireland, but it didn’t look like this at first. I took the picture through a heavily tinted van window as we drove along. I used a 20 mm prime lens on an Olympus E-PL2 camera. The original picture included more details in the foreground including a fence, gate, grass, weeds, and rocks. As taken, it wasn’t a very good picture, but fortunately, I had taken it as a raw file and thus I had a lot of room to recover this version using LR4. In this version I have cropped out all the extraneous stuff in the foreground and then converted it to B&W to eliminate all the weird colors.
The above is one of my favorite pictures in my new frame of mind. I like B&W since it helps to reduce the picture down to the essentials. In this case it is a scene of two riders along the shore on a breezy cool day with frequent showers.
In the coming days I’ll share a few more of my reworked scenes from Ireland, but I like the above best. My real challenge now is to go out and make new pictures that I really like. It was relatively easy to find simple pleasing scenes in Ireland. It is a lot harder to find uncluttered scenes close to home here in Hanover, PA.
I decided to keep the Pentax K-5 and I sold all of my remaining micro 4/3 gear: the Panasonic Lumix G3 along with the Panasonic 100 – 300 mm, 45 – 175 mm, 14 – 42 mm, 14 mm, and 20 mm lenses. I had sold all of my Olympus micro 4/3 cameras & lenses earlier. For a while (I hope a long while) I am going to be using my K-5 and my Fuji X100 cameras. In the final decision, the better ergonomics and speed and IQ of the K-5 trumped the lighter weight of the micro 4/3 system.
I plan to keep and use my X100 for inside buildings, low-light events, walking the street, and lightweight travel by airplane … situations where the equivalent fixed 35 mm focal length is sufficient and/or less weight is necessary. I primarily plan to use my K-5 for wildlife, during bad weather, car trips, and other (haven’t decided) uses. The other uses depend upon which lenses I get and whether I have to carry the camera far or for a long time.
The above picture of the Killdeer was taken last evening at a focal length of 300 (effective 450) mm at an ISO of 1600, f/8, 1/400 sec. I ended up cropping the picture quite a bit and I really could have used the effective 600 mm lens that I sold, but I have decided to stick with the maximum effective 450 mm focal length of the Pentax lens that I have. In addition to the Pentax 55 – 300 mm lens, I also have the weather resistant 18 – 55 mm lens.
I plan on taking some lower light pictures with the 18 – 55 mm lens before I decide on whether I need some additional lenses. One major advantage of the Pentax system is the availability of nice small, lightweight, prime lenses. At the moment I am somewhat conflicted whether I need additional lenses for the K-5. I prefer to use one camera and as few lenses as I can, and the K-5 could serve that desire except for the weight issue. I am still afraid that I will have problems with carrying and holding the K-5 with its heavier lenses, and that is why I have and intend to keep a Fuji X100.
I prefer to use the X100 if I’m walking for a long time. If I didn’t have the X100 I could reduce the weight of the K-5 system by putting a prime lens on it, but it would still be around twice as heavy as the X100. The X100 is also a better system when I’m among people and wish to be a little more discreet … and I just love that camera and the hybrid viewfinder. For now I tend to leave the 55 – 300 mm lens on the K-5 and use the X100 if I need a shorter focal length, unless there is a chance of rain. By working that way, I can grab either camera quickly to shoot. I can carry both in a bag but haven’t so far. I just pick up one or the other camera depending on what I expect to be shooting and go bag-less while walking.
On Memorial Day we had some entertainment from Ray Owen, a Grammy nominated singer/songwriter and national recording artist. He performed by singing and playing songs from the past, many popular during our previous wars going way back to the Revolution & Civil War.
I’m primarily showing this picture of Ray since it was part of an experiment to see if I could use the Panasonic G3 with the 45 – 175 mm, f/4 – f/5.6 lens in the Omni Auditorium. I have often wished for a longer focal length when taking pictures of events there, but have refrained from using this lens since it isn’t very fast. I normally use my 20 mm, f/1.7 lens since the lighting is very poor.
The result of my experiment is that it worked, but barely. The pictures may be suitable for printing in machine copied flyers, etc. but they are awfully noisy and a little soft when reviewed closely. All of the pictures were taken at the widest aperture which depended upon the amount of zoom, and at an ISO of 3200. ISO of 3200 is my working limit with the G3, and only if I take the pictures in raw format and do a lot of “cleaning” in LR4. Since this lens is soft at the largest apertures, especially at the zoom extremes, I doubt that I will be using it much under the above conditions.
As mentioned in the previous posting, I have ordered a Fuji X100 camera. It is due to be delivered today, so I’m now looking forward to trying it out. If I use it to take pictures in the Omni Auditorium, I’ll have to get up close due to the fixed 35 mm (e) focal length, but I’m positive the image quality will be a big improvement. Hopefully, if the ergonomics are suitable, my next series of articles will be showing my trials as I learn how to use the X100 … not an easy process according to what many are saying on the web, but well worth it in the end.
The above is a picture of ducklings wading in Plum Creek. I used my Panasonic G3 with the 100 – 300 mm lens. This picture was taken at the 300 mm focal length (which on the G3 equates to an effective 600 mm) while hand holding it. I’m showing this as an example of one end of my photography … wildlife pictures taken with a long focal length lens.
At the other extreme, I often take pictures with my 14 mm lens, which is the widest lens that I have. Since some of you have been interested in the status of our porch construction, I’m using pictures of the porch to illustrate that extreme of my photography.
These pictures are a few days old. They have since seeded and spread straw over the bare area. We are now waiting for the final power washing, a bit of painting, and installation of the ceiling light.
I used my Olympus E-P3 with the Panasonic 14 mm lens for the porch pictures. That combination is my favorite walk-about photography set-up since it is my smallest, discreet combination. It is a very good camera/lens combo for landscape and street scenes with good lighting … and I even sometimes use it when shooting inside in not so well-lit rooms; but I often switch to my 20 mm lens since it is faster and handles low light settings better.
As I have stated in earlier posts, I have had problems with accidentally punching buttons and changing my settings on the G3; but, after researching alternatives, I have decided to continue using my G3 with my long lenses. When I use the longer lenses I tend to carry & hold the camera by the lens with my left hand and don’t end up changing settings as frequently as I do with shorter lenses. That leaves me with the decision as to what works best for me when using shorter focal length lenses.
I have decided that I would rather look for a better walk-about camera/lens combo that can also handle low light situations better than the E-P3. I would also prefer having an integral view finder rather than having to rely upon using the LCD to compose pictures, especially in bright sun light. I have thus reduced the alternatives down to a few cameras with APS size sensors (for better low light, high ISO shots) which have built-in view finders, and which are discreet in size but easy to hold and handle with dials for changing settings. Oh, I forgot to add, and that are cheaper than a Leica M9!
The following are three pictures I made while traveling in West Virginia last week with my brother. The first one was taken at the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the other two were taken in Braxton County.
I used my Panasonic G3 with the Panasonic 20 mm lens. I have a love-hate relationship with that camera. I love the small size, low weight, and picture quality, but hate the handling of the camera.
Those of you who have followed my blog have seen me go from my Pentax DSLR cameras to my Olympus and Panasonic micro 4/3 cameras. As my physical problems progressed due primarily to arthritis, I found it advantageous to sell my heavy DSLR cameras and switch to lighter micro 4/3 cameras. As I acquired lighter cameras they also got smaller, and to a point I really like the smaller cameras since it is easier to pack and carry them especially while flying. The downside is that as they got smaller, the ergonomics became worse. The buttons and the space for my hand got smaller and I have found that I have been accidentally pushing the buttons on the G3 and thus changing the camera settings. Sometimes I realized the changes and corrected them before I took the pictures and other times I didn’t realize that there was a problem until after I got home and looked at the pictures on the computer.
Because of the poor ergonomics with the G3 I have investigated other cameras. Since I take the majority of my pictures with a single prime lens, I have thought about getting something like the Fujifilm X100 or maybe the X-Pro1 with one lens, but that is an expensive route to take and I would be lens-limited if I ever need a different focal length.
I’m also looking into getting a small light-weight DSLR … maybe the new Nikon D3200 or the D5100. Both of these DSLRs are lighter than any of my old Pentax DSLRs and they might be suitable for a large percentage of my pictures while using the Nikkor 35 mm f/1.8 DX lens which is quite small and light in weight.
Some other alternatives are to wait and hope that a new micro 4/3 camera will be made that has better ergonomics. Another alternative is to make-do with what I have and maybe learn to hold the G3 differently.
Whichever alternative I choose, I will probably keep the G3 or another micro 4/3 camera to use with my long zoom lenses since that is the only way to keep the size and weight of the long lenses down to a manageable size. My problems have driven me to learn that I can use a single prime lens for most of my travel photography and that is what has opened up the possibility of using a larger, but light-weight DSLR camera with a prime lens for the majority of my photography. The added advantage of a DSLR would be a larger sensor and better low light capability while shooting at high ISOs.
Since I prefer a smaller camera that I can easily always take with me and since I have several lenses for micro 4/3 and since I have expressed a desire to end up with one camera for the majority of my work, it seems that the logical thing is to wait and hope that someone will produce a micro 4/3 camera with a larger hand grip and better ergonomics. But being realistic, it is unlikely that I will ever find one camera that satisfies all of my desires and I will likely always have more than one camera.
I haven’t decided what to do yet but I’m sure you will be reading about it one of these days. If anyone has any recommendations relative to a light-weight but large enough camera to easily hold and use and that has good image quality in low-light situations let me know.
Those of you who have followed my blogging for a long time remember that I use to write some about climate change and the expected results because of it. I slowly stopped writing about it as more and more people finally accepted the facts about global warming.
The half of my readers who do not live in the U.S. might not realize the differences between their weather and that of the U.S. While the climate has changed and the globe has been slowly warming, many of you experienced unusually cold and snowy weather while those of us in the U.S. had the opposite.
For much of the U.S., 2012 was the year without a winter. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that not only was March the warmest on record in the U.S. (lower 48 states), but so too was the entire January-February-March period.
The average temperature across the U.S. was an incredible 8.6 degrees F above the 20th century average (half a degree warmer than the previous record from 1910). Aside from January, 2006, no month on record has surpassed its average by such a large margin. It makes me wonder what it will be like in the future.
The following is a Summary of the Climate Highlights for March as reported by NOAA:
- Record and near-record breaking temperatures dominated the eastern two-thirds of the nation and contributed to the warmest March on record for the contiguous United States, a record that dates back to 1895. The average temperature of 51.1 degrees F was 8.6 degrees F above the 20th century average for March and 0.5 degrees F warmer than the previous warmest March in 1910. Of the more than 1,400 months that have passed since the U.S. record began, only one month, January 2006, has seen a larger departure from its average temperature than March 2012.
- A persistent weather pattern during the month led to 25 states east of the Rockies having their warmest March on record. An additional 15 states had monthly temperatures ranking among their ten warmest. That same pattern brought cooler-than-average conditions to the West Coast states of Washington, Oregon, and California.
- Every state in the nation experienced a record warm daily temperature during March. According to preliminary data, there were 15,272 warm temperature records broken (7,755 daytime records, 7,517 nighttime records). Hundreds of locations across the country broke their all-time March records. There were 21 instances of the nighttime temperatures being as warm, or warmer, than the existing record daytime temperature for a given date.
- The nationally-averaged precipitation total was 2.73 inches, which is 0.33 inch above average. The Pacific Northwest and the Southern Plains were much wetter than average during March while drier-than-average conditions were observed in the interior West, Northeast, and Florida. Colorado had its driest March on record.
- According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of April 3rd, 36.8 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, a decrease from 38.7 percent at the end of February. Above-average precipitation across the Southern Plains improved long-term drought conditions across Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
- The warmer-than-average conditions across the eastern U.S. also created an environment favorable for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. According to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, there were 223 preliminary tornado reports during March, a month that averages 80 tornadoes. The majority of the tornadoes occurred during the March 2-3 outbreak across the Ohio Valley and Southeast, which caused 40 fatalities and damages exceeding 1.5 billion U.S. dollars.
- The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI), an index that tracks the highest and lowest 10 percent of extremes in temperature, precipitation, drought and tropical cyclones across the contiguous U.S., was a record 41 percent during March. The extent of extremes in warm maximum (71 percent) and warm minimum (70 percent) temperatures was at or near record levels across the nation. A record extent of extremes in both maximum and minimum temperatures covered all of the Northeast, Upper Midwest, Ohio Valley and Southeast regions during the month.
- On March 9th, a cut-off low pressure system impacted the Hawaiian Islands, bringing heavy rainfall and severe thunderstorms. A rare EF-0 tornado hit the towns of Lanikai and Kailua on Oahu, causing minor damage. A separate storm dropped a hailstone measuring 4.25 inches long, 2.25 inches tall, and 2 inches wide, the largest hailstone on record for the state.