Josh Ginter goes to Vancouver: Day 2 →

May 27, 2015 |

Josh Ginter and family continue their May Long Weekend trip to Vancouver. Plenty of cool stuff, including a trip to the Vancouver Aquarium and a U2 concert.

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Olympus vs Panasonic: the devil you know

May 26, 2015

As I was working on the previous link post to Tyson Robichaud’s excellent review of the Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Micro Four Thirds lens, there was something that caught my eye:

Due to what I can only assume to be some amazing optical engineering, I’ve seen next to no chromatic aberration, even when shot wide open. In areas of extreme contrast by way of a subject being backlit, there can be a very, very slight shift, but it is as well controlled as I’ve seen on a lens, especially one this fast.

The Nocticron is no doubt an optically superb lens, but the real reason Tyson didn’t see barely any trace of chromatic aberration (CA) with it is that Panasonic cameras automatically correct CA when using Panasonic lenses. Since he used a Panasonic GX7 camera to review the lens, any possible CA artifacts or fringing would have been automatically corrected in camera and gone by the time he opened his RAW files in Lightroom, Photoshop and/or Adobe Camera Raw.

Now, in general, this sounds like a great reason to prefer Panasonic cameras but before you rush to sell all your Olympus gear, remember that all in-camera corrections inevitably result in some loss in resolution, and this one cannot be disabled. Unless you use a special RAW converter which bypasses the CA correction feature, you won’t be able to see the real optical properties of the lens.

To be fair, you will rarely ever need to do so, especially with a lens as good as the Nocticron, which is more than sharp enough to make up for any potential resolution losses caused by the CA correction. Still, I’m not a fan of this Panasonic “feature” at all. I always prefer to make any corrections myself, and only when I actually need to, as opposed to having them imposed upon me by the camera manufacturer. This is partly why in general, I have a strong preference for Olympus over Panasonic when it comes to camera bodies.

Why, then, am I looking at a Panasonic lens?

The devil you know

The general consensus on the Internet, probably inherited from the DSLR world, seems to be that you’re better off using lenses from the same manufacturer as your camera, i.e: Panasonic bodies work better with Panasonic lenses and Olympus bodies work better with Olympus lenses.

Playa de la Barceloneta, in Barcelona. Picture taken with the Panasonic 20mm pancake lens on an Olympus E-M10.

There are several facts that appear to support that claim. For example, high-end Panasonic lenses usually have image stabilization technology built-in to make up for the fact that Panasonic cameras usually don’t have in-body image stabilization (IBIS).1 Olympus lenses, on the other hand, are all non-stabilized because most Olympus cameras do have IBIS.

A Patio in Barcelona. This image had traces of chromatic aberration visible on the table in the foreground, which were easily corrected in Lightroom. Picture taken with the Panasonic 20mm pancake lens on an Olympus E-M10.

In my opinion though, the situation is not as simple. I agree that owners of Panasonic camera bodies have very good reasons — like the aforementioned lack of IBIS — to stick to Panasonic lenses, but owners of Olympus bodies can use both Panasonic and Olympus lenses without any issues — they simply won’t be using the IS technology of the Panasonic lenses, but since Olympus’s own IBIS technology is clearly superior that doesn’t really matter. And considering I’m not a fan of some of the other Panasonic “features” like the automatic CA correction, I’d say Olympus bodies actually work better with both Olympus and Panasonic lenses.

Metrópolis Building and Gran Vía at Night, Madrid. Advanced features of Olympus bodies, like Live Composite Mode, work flawlessly with Panasonic lenses. Picture taken with the Panasonic 20mm pancake lens on an Olympus E-M10.

Of course, these are just my two cents, and your mileage may vary. For example, I hardly ever shoot any video with my camera, and Panasonic cameras are admittedly superior when it comes to video.

That said, for taking still pictures the combination of an Olympus body with all kinds of lenses gives you, I believe, the best of both worlds. I own an Olympus OM-D E-M10 camera and five lenses — four, if we don’t count the kit zoom. Two of those are Panasonic lenses: the Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens, which I absolutely love, and the amazing Panasonic Leica Summilux 25mm f/1.4, which is arguably the closest kin to the Nocticron as far as character and rendering go.

Miriam and me. This image had traces of chromatic aberration visible on the utensils towards the left side and also in the background. Both were easily corrected in Lightroom. Picture taken with the Leica 25mm lens on an Olympus E-M10.

I love my Panasonic lenses and their unique properties. The 20mm pancake is super sharp and compact, perfect to take with you anywhere, while the 25mm Leica has given me some of my favorite images since I’ve owned my E-M10 and the more I use it, the more I like it. It really is capable of greatness.

My friend Pedro. I love how his eyes pop out in this one. Picture taken with the Leica 25mm lens on an Olympus E-M10.

Together with my other two Olympus lenses — the 17mm and 45mm f/1.8 primes — these Panasonic jewels make for a super high-quality kit that remains small, light and versatile. I have owned both lenses for close to a year and have shot with them extensively, for both personal and professional purposes. In all those months, not once have I had a serious problem with CA when using them on my Olympus body. CA is admittedly present sometimes, but it’s always easy to correct in post, taking no more than a couple seconds to fix.

Shooting against the light is a frequent cause of chromatic aberration, but even in extreme cases like the second image here, they’re always easy to correct. Both pictures taken with the Leica 25mm lens on an Olympus E-M10.

Bottom line

Unless shooting the best possible video is important to you, there are few reasons today to recommend a Panasonic body over some of the excellent Olympus OM-D offerings, particularly if you’re interested in exploring lenses from all manufacturers — and you really should be.

Similarly, if you own an Olympus body, there are few reasons to limit yourself to Olympus glass only, as great as it may be. If you have been avoiding some of the excellent Panasonic lenses for fear of not being able to use them to their full potential, fear not.

Finally, the Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 may well be the single best piece of glass for the Micro Four Thirds system, and not only on Panasonic bodies. It will perform admirably regardless of which camera brand you own. Whether you need it though, or whether it is a good fit for you, is an entirely different matter.

  1. With the exception of, coincidentally, the Panasonic GX7.

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The Ghost Army of WWII that Duped Hitler →

May 26, 2015 |

Messy Nessy Chic:

Using dummy tanks, cannons, jeeps and trucks, fake aircrafts, phony radio transmissions and special effects, this small group of American soldiers pretended to be two divisions of up to 30,000 allied troops moving in for the attack, when in actual fact, the real attack (with real tanks and artillery) was going to take place miles away.

Surely though, a few inflatable tanks and trucks couldn’t fool Hitler and his army in their final stand?

But the Ghost Army was so much more than that.

Super cool story.

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Ben Brooks reviews the Fuji X100T →

May 26, 2015 |

What a fantastic review by Ben Brooks. Over the past year, Ben gradually reduced his photography gear down to what ultimately worked best for him:

I am now all in on the X100T and what I can tell you right now is that it is a wonderful camera. I truly love it. My plan isn’t to make any hard and fast decisions over whether this was a smart move for another 5-6 months. With a one year roll up on shooting with just one focal length.

However, what I can tell you right now is that this is one of the best cameras I have ever owned, and it is quickly becoming my favorite camera I have ever owned.

I love how he went through the discovery process, and I also love how he kept an open mind all the way through. The Fuji X100T looks like an amazing camera and if I were in the market for a 35mm equivalent fixed-lens camera, it would be a total no-brainer.

NOTE: As of publication time, this piece was still behind the Brooks Review paywall. You’ll be able to read it by following the link above, but please consider signing up to become a member and support Ben’s work.

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Stephen Fry meets Jony Ive →

May 26, 2015 |

Everyone’s favorite Mycroft, Stephen Fry, recently met Jony Ive in Cupertino. Among other things, they visited the construction site of Apple’s new spaceship campus and talked about Ive’s recent promotion to Chief Design Officer within the company:

When I catch up with Ive alone, I ask him why he has seemingly relinquished the two departments that had been so successfully under his control. “Well, I’m still in charge of both,” he says, “I am called Chief Design Officer. Having Alan and Richard in place frees me up from some of the administrative and management work which isn’t … which isn’t …”

“Which isn’t what you were put on this planet to do?”

“Exactly. Those two are as good as it gets. Richard was lead on the iPhone from the start. He saw it all the way through from prototypes to the first model we released. Alan has a genius for human interface design. So much of the Apple Watch’s operating system came from him. With those two in place I can …”

I could feel him avoiding the phrase “blue sky thinking”… think more freely?”


Sounds like the right kind of promotion for Ive.

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Tyson Robichaud reviews the Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Micro Four Thirds lens →

May 26, 2015 |

Over the weekend, Tyson Robichaud reviewed the Leica Nocticron, one of the best-rated lenses for the Micro Four Thirds system:

What is there to say, really. This is the best lens that I have shot for the micro 4/3 system. Any lens this fast is going to have a challenging depth of field to work within. While it exhibits an 85mm equivalent field of view, it still has the same DOF as any other 42.5mm f/1.2 lens would have. Instead of trying to put it into terms of a portrait focal length, look at it as a standard f/1.2 lens. This lens, while cropping to a narrower field of view, has roughly the same shallow DOF capabilities as say the Canon 50mm f/1.2 L lens does, nearly.

That’s interesting. I never thought about its DOF in terms of comparing it with that of a 50mm f/1.2 lens, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Tyson’s review is excellent, as always.

However, and let’s be honest for a moment here, this is a very expensive piece of gear. $1,500 is clearly pushing the limits of what can be considered reasonable for the Micro Four Thirds system. It’s actually entirely in Full-Frame ballpark, with some of the best Canon L lenses coming in at well under that price point. The Full-Frame Canon 6D and Nikon D610 cameras are both under that price point as well. Simply put, for the Nocticron to be worth $1,500 despite being coupled with a smaller sensor, it’s not enough for it be good. Heck, it’s not enough for it to be great, either. There’s plenty of great Micro Four Thirds glass already, nearly all of which is considerably more affordable than this lens. No, for the Nocticron to make sense, it needs to be simply outstanding. It needs to be breathtaking.

Luckily, that appears to be exactly the case.

As outstanding as the Nocticron is though, it’s also clearly a specialty lens aimed at professionals. I’d love to own such a lens but don’t think I would ever actually buy it for myself, if only because it’s not even close to being a good fit for the rest of my Micro Four Thirds setup.

Before I would even entertain the idea of spending that kind of money on a Micro Four Thirds lens, I would need to upgrade my camera body to something more substantial, like the E-M1. And since I already own a remarkably good lens in this focal length — the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 — I would need to get rid of that one, too. Not to mention the many, many ways I can think of to spend $1,500 that would result in ultimately better pictures than those the Nocticron would allow me to take.

For that kind of money I could pretty much buy an entire indoor studio from scratch. I could get really nice lights, flashes and reflectors that would enable me to work a scene just the way I want to, and create some truly remarkable images as a result that I just wouldn’t be able to get from the Nocticron alone.

Now, I’m of course not saying this will apply to you in the same way it applies to me. Not even close. If you really want this lens or all that’s left to complete your setup is an outstanding 85mm equivalent portrait lens, by all means go for it. It is a truly remarkable piece of glass.

Having super nice gear is always great, and the Nocticron in particular is about as nice as gear comes this days. It’s also the kind of purchase you never really regret making, because you do get what you pay for. If I’m being honest with myself though, it’s just really not the best use for my money, at least at this particular point in time.

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The Most Photographed Generation Will Have No Pictures in 10 Years →

May 22, 2015 |

Mike Yost:

2025. You just found that DVD you had in that drawer you couldn’t remember which one it was. Along with 9 old cell phones that no longer will work with today’s new technology. Your 3 inch by 3 inch cube computer no longer has a DVD drive since in 2015 they were totally phased out. Your 3rd grandchild is sitting on your knee and asks to see pictures of their Mom- and all you have to show them is this piece of round plastic that is pretty much worthless. Not to mention dusty and scratched from all those old cellphones moving around every time you opened that drawer. And since Instagram had been merged with another company, and they started charging, you let that go 8 years ago.

It’s scary, I agree. As much as cloud technology and backup software have improved over the years, making actual prints of your photos will always remain the only 100% backwards-compatible format.

It’s also incredibly satisfying to make prints of your own images, to give them physical form. It somehow makes them more real. It makes them endure.

It totally makes them matter more.

Via CJ Chilvers’s excellent email newsletter, which you should already be reading.

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Richard Prince Selling Other People’s Instagram Shots Without Permission for $100K →

May 21, 2015 |

Michael Zhang, writing at Peta Pixel:

Artist Richard Prince is notorious in the art world for taking other people’s work, “appropriating” them as his own with various changes, and then selling them for large amounts of dough. His latest endeavor is once again raising eyebrows: Prince is selling other people’s Instagram photos for up to $100,000 each.

In a gallery exhibition titled “New Portraits,” which ran at the Gagosian Gallery in NYC from September through October 2014, Prince displayed 38 portraits featuring photos taken from his Instagram feeds — other people’s images, and without permission.

It’s things like this that make me wish I had a “Jackass of the Year” award to give away.

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Shawn Blanc on Apple Watch: Just Smart Enough →

May 21, 2015 |

Shawn Blanc:

Apple Watch fits, appropriately, right between a smartphone and a dumb watch. Apple Watch is certainly more feature-rich and “connected” than my analog watches ever were, yet it’s not anywhere near an “iPhone 2.0” type of product.

In other words, Apple Watch is just powerful enough to be useful and fun, but not so powerful that it’s distracting or frustrating.

I still think it’s early to be making predictions about the future of Apple Watch, but I like Shawn’s first impressions and I do hope he’s right in the long term.

Many people keep thinking Apple Watch will become more and more like a mini iPhone in the future, but I actually don’t think that would be desirable at all. Things like cellular networking and more independence from the phone sound great in theory, but I believe the whole point of the Watch is precisely to not become just an iPhone on your wrist.

The right long-term goal for the Watch should not be to move the annoyances from your pocket to your wrist but rather, to do away with them entirely and for that, Apple Watch will need to remain unapologetically “just smart enough”.

There’s nothing wrong with being “just smart enough”, and it’s not just about what’s technologically feasible today vs. a few years from now. The reason for keeping Apple Watch’s feature set limited in relation to the iPhone’s should not be one of technical limitations, but of purpose. Just because technology allows you to create something doesn’t mean that you should, or that it is the right call.

Historically, having devices that were too smart was never a problem, until it became one with the iPhone. Having the Watch follow the same pattern would be a huge mistake if you ask me.

Still, it’s early days. We’ll have to wait and see how it goes, but every day I’m getting more and more excited about the Watch, which is something I hadn’t anticipated. I just hope Apple doesn’t get blinded by their desire to innovate, to the point where they end up ruining what could potentially be one of the greatest products they’ve ever created.

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