Michael Rammell

What to do about the Olympus Problem

Musings, PhotographyMichael Rammell13 Comments

“Micro Four Thirds is Dead” proclaimed Tony Northrup. Truth be told I haven’t watched the video and I probably won’t, because I’m done with talking about cameras. But I just had to say something on this subject. Never-the-less, for those that haven’t seen the video causing all this uproar in the Olympus communities, here it is:

My take? Micro Four Thirds is not dead. But it certainly is in a critical condition, no thanks to Olympus.

Hear me out…

In all of the Olympus Facebook groups, forums and communities that I am a part of I hear nothing but positivity when it comes to OM-D’s. Olympus photographers absolutely adore their cameras and so they should! Lightweight and compact with brilliant image quality. So why then, does someone like Tony Northrup declare Micro Four Thirds as a dead format? Why is it that everyone else in the photography industry seems to look at Micro Four Thirds as the red-headed stepchild or the wannabe digital camera brand? I loved my OM-D and defended Micro Four Third on a regular basis.

The Micro Four Thirds technology and sensor standard is actually pretty good! Sure, it has its limitations, as do all sensors, but if you ask me the issue lies with Olympus as a company - not the actual technology itself. Now, typically when we speak about Micro Four Thirds as a standard, we should be taking Panasonic along for the discussion too, but in all honesty ‘despite’ their Lumix range also utilising MFT, they’ve built an amazing reputation in the world of digital video which is still looked upon incredibly positively. They differentiated their primary use of the MFT Format and weren’t really ever playing the same game as Olympus. I think they get a pass here. Olympus however, do not.

Allow me to be pragmatic for a second…

From the outside looking in, that is; through the eyes of non-Olympus, Panasonic and Micro FourThirds users, it’s hard to see the attraction and lure of Micro Four Thirds for stills photography. Really, it is! Sure, its a small and lightweight system, but so is the Sony a7 series*. (Cue Uproar and arguments about how that isn’t true). *I agree - The Sony Alpha system isn’t as small, or as lightweight as what an OM-D offers and yes, I fully acknowledge that the lenses are massive and often and heavier than traditional DSLR lenses, but the thing is, Sony says the advantage of their system is lightweight and portability and so many people believe it. That’s a fact. Like it or not. Any camera brand can shout about lightweight enough and make it appear true. Consumers will believe what they hear and see in ads!

In this day and age; that being the age of fake news and tribes gathering themselves around their favoured brands and vehemently denying facts that don’t suit their belief (Olympus users are guilty of this too), if someone like Sony use these things as strap-lines in their marketing and enough people believe it, then the perception becomes the reality. (You could say the same for German cars and their apparent reputation for being reliable).

So, what we end up with is a market where people look at Sony, look at Olympus and see two systems; both small and lightweight (apparently), but one packing a Full Frame sensor. Combine that with the even more common perception that “Full Frame is for Pro’s” and we’re left with the common belief that the Sony surely, must be ‘the better camera to go for?’. Hence the reason Sony is currently killing it in the camera market and almost single-handedly set in motion arguably the largest disruption in the camera market since demise of film.

Why blame Olympus?

I work in IT and recently took on a new job. I moved from a monster of a Corporate to an Agile company. I don’t foresee the Corporate even existing in 10 years time, whereas my new company have recognised that disruptors can come from anywhere at any time and so they are seeking to be the disruptor. As David S Rose said; “Any company designed for success in the 20th century is doomed to failure in the 21st”. Loosely, David is talking about how a company can become inflexible and how their product-to-market lifecycle often becomes so long that in the middle of their next big development cycle, some other company comes in and smashes it out of the park with something else that makes their efforts totally obsolete. Like my previous corporate monster company.

Well, I see a lot of this same behaviour in Olympus. Not only in their awfully slow R&D cycles which are akin to companies pre-2000’s, but also the fact that even when they do release a new camera, it’s merely iterative and often in response to something from a year ago, meaning they play catchup.

You could argue that the iterative improvements and firmware updates massively improve the OM-D’s…but even on paper, do they really, even then, stack up against the competition in terms of performance? No. Olympus identified a need for a high performance yet compact camera and delivered it via Micro Four Thirds, but now the market has swung back toward wanting larger sensors again, as it always did. Whether this is driven by consumers or by manufacturers doesn’t really matter. Olympus are catering for their market, not the camera market in its entirety. This may well explain the partisan view of Micro Four Thirds and why those ‘in the circle’ love Olympus and those outside it scoff at the format.

Olympus is playing catchup again and all that most of us Olympus owners can legitimately argue is that our cameras are ‘Lightweight and portable’ or we resort to talking about how “it’s really all about preference at the end of the day” or, as I’ve seen so many times, we dismiss the fact that anyone may ever print larger than A4 and say that anything bigger than Micro Four Thirds is a waste.

Really? These are the best arguments we have to offer on behalf of Micro Four Thirds?

Us Micro Four Thirds owners are dismissive and have little in our arsenal to argue with. Sure, there are flaws in those other systems, but it often does help those fans of other cameras that their cameras can often track focus better, have a higher resolution or have better low light performance. Let’s be honest.

One camera to rule them all? Not any more.

That’s not the only issue though, whilst other camera manufacturers, much like manufacturers of cars, golf clubs, bicycles, computers, hell, even mobile network providers, have learnt to differentiate their products by purpose and have expanded their product range to play in as wide a market as possible, Olympus continues to confuse consumers by differentiating the OM-D range on price alone and appear to be pigeon-holing themselves as ‘That Micro Four Thirds Camera company’, rather than ‘that awesome camera company’.

Olympus has done nothing to encourage photographers to choose an OM-D over anything else on the market. They’ve not really even done anything to encourage existing Olympus owners to opt for an E-M5 over an E-M1? Is the E-M5 really just a poor man’s E-M1? If that’s the case, their effectively telling us that they really want us to buy the E-M1 and that the E-M5 is the compromising mid-range model that merely exists to occupy a set price-point.

Why not give the E-M5 a purpose and value proposition all of its own? (I'll come to this again, shortly)

At no point have Olympus put out an advert that speaks specifically and directly to a wedding photographer and said: “Hey, this OM-D E-M1ii can solve this problem”. Their best effort so far in this sense was to gun for the sports market, with much of the hype around the OM-D E-M1ii being about speed, accuracy and focusing. But even then, that was largely about playing catchup. Not many people really sat up and took notice. Again, to illustrate my point about disruptors and Olympus’ own slow R&D cycle, it was only months later that Sony released the A9 and all gazes were once again diverted towards the Full Frame Mirrorless market.

The right tools for the job

It used to be, in the days of Canon and Nikon’s utter dominance, that their camera ranges were linear. Both in terms of features, performance and price. Do you want the best camera for any job? Well, that would have been the range-topping Canon 1Dx or the Nikon D5 then, right?

This is absolutely no longer the case. However, Olympus continues to operate this model: As the feature-set increases, so does the price.

In the last few years or so the mainstream camera manufacturers have moved towards a focussed model approach. That being that you opt for a specific camera for a specific purpose.

Do you want Resolution? Then take a look at a Canon 5Dsr, a Nikon D850, a Sony A7Riii or the Fuji GFX then (I know, Fuji, right?!). Simple. Can Olympus compete here in this space? No! Market lost, Instantly. What does Olympus offer? A high res mode that can only be used in specific scenarios. That’s just not going to cut it.

Do you want low light? Great! Take a look a the Sony A7s, Canon try their best with the 5Div and Nikon offer us the D750. Can Olympus compete in the low-light game? No. Again, market opportunity lost!

What about the speed and accuracy of focusing? This is where it gets interesting, as this is an area that Olympus has tried to leverage for the EM-1. The problem is though, as good as it is, it still doesn’t stack up to the Sony A9, Canon 7Dii or 1Dx or the Nikon D5 or D500. Can Olympus compete in the speed game? At best, they can try, but they’re not genuine contenders right now. Argue all you like, but how many Olympus’s do we see pitch-side at The Olympics or top-end sports?

Olympus have become like a certain red and white, North London Football club - consistently aiming for ‘above average’ and ‘aspiring’ to 4th place, but never truly looking to be number 1. As Ricky Bobby said in Talladega Nights: “if you ain’t first, you’re last”.

So, where is it exactly that Olympus do win vs their competitors?

What’s the stand out factor, feature, on-paper spec or Unique Selling Point that makes would-be owners say “Man, I need that Olympus over camera x, y, z”? Which of those cameras from the lists above will an Olympus OM-D E-M1ii genuinely cause a photographer to choose the Micro Four Thirds option instead?

None.

Never has the old adage ‘Jack of all trades’ been more appropriate. That leads us back that argument about how the OM-D is small and lightweight. And that’s not terribly exciting, is it? Is that really all Olympus has to offer?

What’s the solution?

The Austin Mini. Originally produced in 1959. The aim was to be small and light. Remind you of a certain camera company? Regardless of whether you like Mini or not, today you can buy about 6 different variants of the mini; the ‘standard’ mini, the coupe, a soft-top, the club man and even a bloody 4x version! (This analogy is actually scarily appropriate!) The point is, the original Mini that was unleashed to the world is/was a totally different Mini from what we see today.

When modern Mini, as a company, saw found that 2 in every 5 cars sold in the UK was an SUV (or at least a larger vehicle, higher off the ground, akin to a 4x4), they got in on the game and made a model to take a slice of that pie. They leveraged the brand they had. The market went in one direction, Mini followed. They’re doing very well for themselves! If Mini had stubbornly stuck to their original ethos and refused to expand their range, I’m sure they’d still be a tidy little car company today. But ‘aspiring’ and ‘tidy little car company’ are oxymoron’s.

So why is Olympus not doing the same? Why are they so slow to react? Panasonic have just done it to great acclaim and they haven’t even officially released the S-Series yet. Sony saw that Canon and Nikon had a strangle hold on the camera market with their DSLR’s. All they really did was remove a mirror and launch the world’s first Full Frame Mirrorless Camera. It was heralded as revolutionary, when really, all they actually did was step to one side and use a different lane. They didn’t innovate! But they changed the game. Why? Because it omitted a mirror! Laugh all you want; but the big two have finally reacted as well and have launched their rather pitiful full frame mirrorless offerings.

Again, laugh all you want, but we all know that Canon and Nikon die-hards will sooner opt for something from their favoured brand than ‘step down’ to Olympus.

Olympus, without focus and by refusing to react quickly, are shrinking and missing their opportunities to pounce on a market that is in choppy water for the first time in decades. People don’t change camera systems often, but when they do, they usually go big. Olympus are missing a trick by not expanding their range or at least compelling people to look at the OM-D for a specific purpose.

An OM-D for this, an OM-D for that.

Here’s what I think Olympus really need to do; they need to at least start by looking at their cameras as tools that each have a different target market, rather than simply making a camera platform and then adding and removing parts to meet certain price points.

The fact is that with the smaller size sensor, you can’t make a single camera to rule them all. If you could, it would have been done far more successfully with a larger sensor already. The fact is we’re still in a time where the number of pixels vs the size of pixels requires some compromise. So heres what Olympus need to do (for starters):

The PEN-F

Make it the consumer camera that is customisable. Different coloured grips, accessories, cases and all that jazz. Make it the fun camera. The one that can be made so unique that you’ll find it hard to come by another photographer with the same-looking PEN-F as you! With it’s lack of dials (vs an OM-D) It’s optimised for full and semi-auto modes. So this camera, ultimately, is your point and shoot. It’s your street photography camera. It’s the camera that slots into your bag and takes up the smallest amount of space.

Price-wise? Depends on your level of customisation at the point of ordering.

The OM-D E-M10 range

This is your basic interchangeable OM-D. Naturally, it would remain the cheapest of the bunch, but why else would you buy it instead of an E-M5? Well, how about this camera has a songle card slot and is aimed at ametuers? Why not put a 35mm f/1.8 on it as part of the package Ideal as a cheap and cheerful point and shoot to compete in the Canon G7 and Sony A6000 space. Give it 4k if you like, a fully articulating touch screen, WiFi and make it an awesome Vlogging camera.

It’s ability to track subjects for stills photography needn’t be amazing, but that’s the job of the other cameras in the range;

The OM-D EM-5 range

The video camera of the OM-D’s. Give it the perfect number of pixels optimised for 4k video. Design a battery grip that connects to a range of external recorders. Give it a fully articulating screen for pieces-to-camera. Allow it to shoot fully ungraded, S-Log video. Hire the guys at Panasonic that made their Lumix’s so darn good and make the E-M5 better!

Sure, it needs to be a capable still camera, but let’s be sure people know that still’s are it’s secondary function, as is often acknowledged with many of the Lumix cameras.

The OM-D E-M1 range

3 variants: low light version, resolution version and then a model designed specifically for and totally optimised for sports, wildlife and action (optimise resolution for best buffer speeds and focus tracking). In all three of these models lets forget about video. Much the opposite to the E-M5, let’s make no bones about it; videographers; this camera is not for you.

These E-M1’s will then have appeal to those that have a specific need. Landscape and Portrait photographers will have their OM-D’s with massive resolutions. Wedding photographers and those needing low-light will have their OM-D with great high-ISO capabilities and those needing an E-M1 for sports and action will get a system that can track as good as any Full Frame DSLR.

Let’s make it clear what each camera is for. You never know, you may well start sellng more cameras!

Summary

So, after Joe Edelman recently interviewed Aki Murata and discussed the current state of play, we received a commitment to Micro Four Thirds Development and an acknowledgement that Full Frame is wanted by the market, but that Olympus “[…]use our resources only on micro four-thirds, instead of developing a new system”.

Seems to me that Olympus were setup for success in the 20th century…

If Olympus aren’t shouting about their intention to develop, innovate and expand their systems, then chances are, much like most inflexible corporations, it’s because it’s either a) not already in their plans, b) because the company are moving in a different direction to the market or c) because it will simply take them so long to get there that when they arrive, they’ll be right where they are now: behind again and not relevant to what the market is asking for.

So, whilst those of you that celebrated and were happy to hear of the commitment to MFT in favour of the development of another system, I would posit this; your joy in Olympus' commitment to Micro Four Thirds serves only your own short term, selfish need for the format to be vindicated and validated. It serves your own need perfectly as it helps you to warrant your own purchasing decision in Micro Four Thirds.

As someone who genuinely loved my OM-D cameras, but found they simply were not as capable of delivering on the job as others available on the market, I tell you now that It is simply not in the interest of photography, the camera industry and certainly not in Olympus’ own interest to paint themselves into a corner. Which is what this commitment signals

The continued self-congratulatory high fives are simply celebrations of stagnation. Whether this is Olympus’ own choice as a company or because they are simply not setup for further innovation remains to be seen.

But right now, the writing is starting to appear on the wall, long-time fellow evangelists for Micro Four Thirds - Panasonic - have listened to the market and are reacting. Canon and Nikon (arguably more gigantic ships that are harder to steer in a new direction) have jumped into Full Frame mirrorless, and Sony continue to raise the on-paper specs of their cameras at such a rate that even the most dynamic of competitors are struggling. Where does that leave Olympus?

I’ll tell you: they have an old-fashioned business model and structure, a rapidly decreasing value proposition in a camera market that has clearly signalled that the new benchmark, standard sensor size is going to be 35mm digital / Full Frame.

Tony Northrup says “Micro Four Thirds is dead”. That’s clearly a headline to grab attention and get views. That I think we can all agree on. However, I think the discussion about turning off the life support machine is being had right now.

Closing question for debate:

So I would flip the debate and ask all those that were so pleased to hear that Olympus have no near-to-midterm plan to launch a Full Frame camera a single question: Why would Olympus committing to Full Frame be a bad thing?




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High ISO - Don't believe the hype

Audio, Photography, TipsMichael Rammell1 Comment

Prefer to listen? Subscribe in iTunes and Stitcher to get this epsiode, or just use the audio player below. Be sure to subscribe!

ISO seems to be a feature of every camera's spec sheet that gets most of the attention these days. All people seem to care about is a camera's ability to shoot in low light!

Now, if you know me and follow my blog you'll agree that I make it pretty clear that I'm a big fan of Olympus' OM-D Micro Four Thirds system. You could then, be forgiven for making the assumption that today's post is going to be all about taking a defensive stance on the ability of Olympus OM-D's and their ability to shoot at high ISO's in low light...you'd be wrong!

I'm not here today to do that at all, but instead, I want to talk about ISO whilst being totally agnostic of camera systems. My reason for wanting to talk about ISO, specifically though, is to clarify what it is and when it should be used. I also want to talk to you about what ISO is NOT.

Most people view a camera's high ISO capabilities in completely the wrong way, or at least - owing to the way we’ve been taught about ISO, to have a singular belief about how and when to use a higher ISO setting.

Most photographers these days appear to believe that you can simply use a higher ISO in place of good quality light, or worse still: that you can use a higher ISO in the absence of any light. 

A good quality image is made up of a good subject, great composition and good light, of course. You cannot simply substitute good light for high ISO. High ISO is not some magic bullet to make your images better!

Secondly, it would seem that photographers these days are taught, in a bid to maintain as high a quality image as possible, that you ought to keep your ISO as low as possible. And whilst this is strictly true, there are times and scenarios, such as when there is plenty of light, that you can increase your ISO with little detriment to the end result. This can be used as a means to make use of a faster shutter speed, or a lower aperture of course.

Noise is not bad! I made my point on a recent episode of Camera Aspects, with Paul Griffiths, where I said that if anything, an image that is so totally free from noise tends to resonate less with me. Further to that, in an interview that I did with David DuChemin, he spoke extensively about the 'too perfect rule', and this is something I can only completely agree with; the idea that as humans we resonate far more with imperfection. David said: "you don't see people walking up to images in galleries and then have streams of tears running down their faces because of the complete absence of noise! 'Oh wow, this image is so clean it hits me right here (hitting his heart)". 

I've no issue shooting at ISO 5,000 on my Olympus O-MD, a camera I'm happy to admit, and I'm sure we all know, is not renowned for its high ISO capabilities. I get asked all the time what post processing I use to clean up my images when I shoot at ISO 5,000. The truth is though, nearly none. My simple answer is that I take my noise reduction slider to about 15-20 in Lightroom (CC) and say no more about it. I embrace the digital grain and accept it for what it is. In a good black and white image, with strong subject engagement, it is easier to look beyond the noise. 

Robert Cappa once said; "If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough.". In the same vein, I'd say; "If you notice the noise, the image isn't good enough". 

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not lambasting a clean image. I'm not suggesting a noisy image is BETTER than a clean image, but I am saying that we shouldn't all vilify noise as some terrible thing that detracts from the quality of an image. Noise is not bad!

Now, I'm not saying you simply need to learn to ignore it, or that you absolutely have to come round to my way of thinking and learn to love a bit of noise, because there are actual techniques you can use in camera to reduce the visual impact of noise. Or, in effect, you can shoot in certain ways to make noise less apparent. And I want to touch on this a little today. I shoot using a specific technique all the time, in every scenario pretty much and I've found that it does reduce the amount of noise evident in my images, and perhaps this is why I'm asked so regularly what tools and software I use to reduce my noise. 


The first thing you ought to know, if you don't already, is that noise in a darker part of a frame is more prevalent. You will simply see more of it in the shadows than you will in brighter parts of an image. Furthermore, when you brighten an image in post processing you also make the noise more apparent too. 

To help tackle this (and generally for a better quality file anyway), I use the Expose To the Right Method.

I had actually been using this method so much by mistake but the first time I realised I was doing it and the first time I realise the benefits was when Martin Bailey release an episode on his blog about using the ETTR method. 

When people ask me what it is all about and what the benefits of exposing to the right arm I always use this analogy. It is not a perfect analogy but I think it helps to make the point so

Imagine having a white piece of paper and a black felt tip pen or marker pen try colouring the entire piece of white paper black using that marker pen you should find that given enough time and effort you will be able to cover up all of the white and make the entire page black

On the flip side, however, imagine then having a white pen pencil or crayon and trying to cover up at the black again you will find that you cannot do it as well as you did when making the white paint black some black well almost always keep the weight in places or the weight will be somewhat grey

The analogy in my mind works because if you have a white piece of paper or a bright image it is easier to darken the image. If however, you have a dark image or a black piece of paper it is somewhat harder to lighten or brighten at the image as easily as it was to darken the paper/image. 

As a result; the Expose To The Right method teaches us to somewhat slightly over exposed our image by a third or a half stop depending on the scene possibly even a. If there aren't many highlights and then in post processing, you can bring the image back down to the correct exposure. By using the expose it to the right method you are adding detail into the shadow areas of your image and you will be getting a more full and complete histogram too. So when you take your slightly over exposed image into your choice of post processing software, for example, Adobe Lightroom you can see some noise if you were shooting at a higher I SO but of course you now do not need to increase the exposure in postprocessing meaning that you will not be further enhancing or making any existing noise more evident

In fact, when you bring the exposure back down you can even see a slight reduction in the evidence noise in the shadow areas of the image because the detail is in that part of the frame

Now this is a something thing of a contentious technique especially because in the days of Phil you were often actually taught to underexpose in order to increase the saturation of the colour of the film so as you can imagine the Expose To The Right technique is somewhat at odds with the old technique of underexposing by a half a stop. I have even had discussions with relatively successful digital photography is still underexpose by a half a stop in the belief that it will further saturate their colours

However, when shooting in digital bracket if you are shooting roar of course you need not worry about saturating colours anymore because with a 14 bit more image you have something like 28 billion colours on data channels available which allow you in postprocessing to edit their saturation luminance Hugh et cetera

 As a result, I use the Expose To The Right method to cram as much data into my digital files as possible to give me more scope and flexibility when it comes to postprocessing 

You will find a level on over exposing that works for you over time there is no magic formula to suggest that in every scenario you should be one-third or a half a stop over exposed you will learn using your own intuition and experience which seems are able to handle a certain level of overexposure

The term over expose can often sound quite scary because it suggests that you are doing something wrong or exposing too much or incorrectly or a scene but remember the exposure dial inside your viewfinder is exposing for 50% grey it is taking into account the highlights and shadows in the frame and trying to find a middle ground to satisfy them both what you are doing by exposing to the right is in effect going from something like a 50% grey 60% or 70% grey. As we all know cameras are quite simple in their ability to expose so by using our own human eyes and the ETT are method we are able to more intelligently expose for this scene than the camera is able to do so

Perhaps this is why I enjoy using the Olympus OMD so much with the electronic viewfinder I am very immediately able to see how much I am exposing to the right and whether I need to pull that back a half stop or a third stop or in fact whether the scene can take more over exposing

Now your immediate thought maybe about blown out highlights and if you are exposing to the right my third or a half stop that the sky or brighter areas of your scene will be blown out and yes this is a risk and a trade off with exposing to the right however I would debate that if you are concerned about noise enough to be listening to this post all reading this blog post then you should at least give the exposed to the right method a try to reduce the impact of noise in your images and then simply instead Paul the highlights back in post processing using the highlights and all or in the case of an over exposed sky use the digital graduated filter available in Lightroom alternatively there are more advanced techniques for pulling. Pulling back blown out highlights such as Leo masks and of course brushes in Lightroom but as I always say certain parts of the frame can be blown out without any adverse effects for example if there is a small amount of sky in your frame in a corner and your subject dominates the frame then why not have a small corner of your frame blown out what is worse a very noisy image or a small amount of highlight clipping in parts of the frame

Switching to a method such as exposing to the right does and will call for a slight adjustment to your work that you do in post processing

 Four example I used to find when exposing according to my in camera exposure meter that I would often have to boost shadows boost highlights and ever so slightly increase my exposure oh are things that will contribute to increasing and enhancing the evident amount of noise in an image

 With the exposed to the right method however I am in effect working in reverse to that I now find that I am reducing my highlights pretty much leaving my shadows as they are and if anything reducing my exposure in price processing ever so slightly these if we think about the paper and pen analogy I gave earlier are all changes that do not contribute to enhancing the amount of evident noise in an image 

That is my technique for reducing the amount of noise visible in your pictures

Next up I want to talk about I SO and when to use it most people will understand that  to increase your ISO is to increase your sensors sensitivity to light which in turn will allow us to make use of a faster shutter speed and or a lower aperture with the caveat being that the higher the I SO you use the more noise will be introduced into the frame. As such by default logic would suggest and many of us are taught that we should stick to using the lowest ISO at all times where ever possible when appropriate for the scene.

Now whilst this is true…there are plenty of situations that increasing your ISO slightly or even more than just slightly will have nothing more than a minor impact on the end amount of noise at the frame. especially when paired with a technique such as exposed to the right

Four example I recently was shooting a wedding and during the evening we took the bride and groom out for some couples portraits. We were in a beautiful garden of the hotel and it was around 7:45 PM there was plenty of light and I could have shot at ISO 100 or 200 aperture F1 .8 .2 .8 and still maintains a shutter speed of around one the 50th to hundreds of a second. 

However, When I am shooting portraits my main focus and priority is on then it's about making them laugh smile and be natural. The camera can often be a barrier to helping make that happen and so I don’t want to be seen to be tinkering with my settings. It will kill the mood! Often the moment that is worth capturing will come from a funny remark or something unplanned and I need to be ready to capture that as heads go back with laughter. Or, even those more intimate moments where an unplanned gentle kiss takes place, totally unprompted: if I’m looking at my camera or tinkering with settings: I’ve missed it. 

As a result of knowing that and wanting to be ready to capture everything that may happen, I often give priority and preference to a faster shutter speed during portraits, meaning  a 50th or even 200th of the second enough for me, especially if I am to achieve a critically sharp image, so to that end and to allow me to make use of a faster shutter speed, I’ll often take my ISO up to 1,000 or more. In the case of the recent evening portraits at Dan and Lauren’s wedding, I bumped my ISO, rather ambitiously, to ISO 5000 and then made use of a shutter speed of over 2000th of a second

This is very much contradictory to what many of us have been told:  in that good light scenario I would have perfectly been able to use ISO 800 or 1000 a shutter speed of 500 of a second and maintain a relatively sharp image, however, we were all laughing a lot, having a good time and were generally very animated, so it did call for a faster shutter speed. 

If you want to take a look at the results, head on over to the accompanying blog post for this audio, where I share a few images. In that good with my OM-D, I was not in any way concerned about using ISO 5000.

Had I been inside with very little natural light then yes - perhaps I would have considered a lower ISO that was more appropriate for the situation. But given that there was plenty of light and that the sun was setting I wanted to be sure that my shutter speed was fast enough to produce sharp images. In the sample Images I’ve shared with this post you will, of course, notice a little bit of noise, however, I would argue that the noise actually adds to the atmosphere of the image. Without knowing about my Expose To The Right technique and about ISO, you could also be left wondering how there is so little noise considering I was shooting at ISO 5000. 

In post processing, the exposure of this image was actually reduced, rather that increased. So any noise you can see has not been made more visible.

Now, for someone to share an image shot at a High ISO and herald it as great isn’t new. What I'm sure we’ve all seen before on blogs, forums and new camera product releases are pictures shot at ISO 12,500 or higher with the main objective being to demonstrate how little evident noise is in the frame and all of that is fine,  but what sometimes people often overlook, is that the image itself is actually quite simply very poor. There is no or very little quality of light or the direction of the light is poor and they are instead choosing to 1st look at the technical accomplishment of the frame and our forsaking the actual emotional moment and seen itself.

As photographers and wedding photographers, in particular, it is our job not only to make a technically accomplished image of our clients but it is also our job to capture the right moments that mean something that has sentimental value to the clients. For those photographers still obsessed about gear and everything being technically perfect, there is often a disconnect between what they consider to be a good image and with a client is actually looking for. 

I assure you the client will not mind a little bit of noise if you managed to capture that perfect image of them and a husband or a great grandma from New Zealand who has flown over for their wedding who is particularly elderly. I guess what I am saying is what is worse a slightly noisy image or no image at all?

ISO is not simply the cameras ability to see in the dark it is not a night vision setting. It is as the name suggests a sensitivity option so it does not make up for a lack of light or a lack of good quality light 

It will, however, help you to capture, with your camera the light you see and envisage, creatively, with your own eyes. Our eyes have a dynamic range that our cameras simply do not.

Even if your camera can achieve relatively clean images at ISO to 12,500 or 24,600, ASK YOURSELF ‘Is there a picture worth capturing here’, even if you were able to shoot at ISO 100. High ISO does not guarantee you a better image. It does not make you a better photographer and it won’t earn you more money.

so, if you ask me, high ISO is not the be all and end all. I’m not just saying this because I shoot Olympus, because believe me if I had an issue with ISO I would follow suite like most other photographers and go pick up a Sony A9 or a Nikon D800 etc, but as I say - it won’t make me any more money and ultimately, it is highly unlikely to make my images dramatically, or even noticeably better.

High ISO. It’s the camera manufacturers way to sell you last years camera, a little bit better. Don’t believe the hype.



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What's in my bag for Street Photography?

Photography, Video, Event, Tutorials & TipsMichael RammellComment

We're just a few days away from the big photo walk and a few people have asked me what it is I will be bringing in my bag on the day.

After years of walking the streets with a camera in my hand, I've refined the contents of my bag over time, down to just a few things. If you can watch a video, I explain everything in full over on YouTube. (just hit play down below here). If however you're not in a position to watch, then scroll down a little more, I've listed the contents with links to the product details too.

Olympus OM-D E-M1: http://amzn.to/2p1voSm
Olympus OM-D E-M5: http://amzn.to/2ot3osu
Olympus 17mm f/1.8 Lens: http://amzn.to/2qboisj
JJC Metal Lens Hood for 17mm f/1.8: http://amzn.to/2osYJXb
Olympus 9mm f/8 Body Cap Lens (for fun/convenience): 
Case Logic Medium SLR Bag: http://amzn.to/2pfqCz7
Lens Cloth: http://amzn.to/2ot4dkR
Air Blower: http://amzn.to/2pfqDDx
Spare Batteries: http://amzn.to/2pwPrJQ
SD Cards: http://amzn.to/2otfAJu
iPhone Charger Battery: http://amzn.to/2qbKpyV
Water Proof Jacket: http://amzn.to/2oHgRYR

Join us - it's FREE!

If you want to join us on April 30th in London, just sign up today over on the events page



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I don't ever send SPAM and you'll only get an email once every 2 weeks or so. Here's a sample of what you'll receive every now and then If you don't like it I make it very easy to unsubscribe! Come on, join over 600 other subscribers today!

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An Interview with David DuChemin

Audio, Interview, Photography, VideoMichael RammellComment

Back in 2014, I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing the one and only David DuChemin for the now discontinued Ready Steady Pro Photography Podcast.

Now, before you go ahead and listen or watch the interview, I just want to say that David DuChemin is an absolute hero of mine. Not only is he a fantastic photographer, but his words are also incredibly thought provoking too. Whenever an email from David DuChemin lands in my inbox, I'm almost always guaranteed to spend the next couple of hours mulling over his points, comments and opinions.

He is a fantastic artist in every sense of the word and has helped me to form many of my opinions on the world of photography and the process of making a photograph too. Through books from his company Craft & Vision, he has been hugely influential in my photography education so far.

Because of all of this, and because of the high esteem in which I hold him, this could possibly be the reason I was so incredibly nervous when hosting this conversation! So, please do forgive my nerves in the early stages of this episode!

This conversation was hosted live on YouTube as a Google+ Hangout, way back when in March 2014, but that makes this conversation absolutely no less relevant today. In this episode, David and I discuss

  • Your vision matters more than gear
  • You should invest more in your creativity than you should in gear
  • The 'best' camera is the one that fits you most comfortably, rather than the camera that is fastest / biggest / etc
  • Be financially sensible. Think; "Will this purchase make my work noticeably better".
  • David's own experience with Bankruptcy.

The belief that we all need to just get on with shooting doesn't just end there though. To hear the wise words of David DuChemin, you can watch the full interview below or over on YouTube or tune into the podcast: Here's how:

  1. Stream or download iTunes or over at Stitcher Radio (you can also use the audio player below)
  2. Hit play on the YouTube video below or head on over to my YouTube channel to watch the interview

 

All I ask is that whichever your preferred method of enjoying this episode, that you leave some love for by commenting, sharing and leaving a review.

David duChemin is a world & humanitarian assignment photographer, best-selling author, digital publisher, and international workshop leader whose nomadic and adventurous life fuels his fire to create and share. Based in Victoria, Canada, when he’s home, David leads a nomadic life chasing compelling images on all 7 continents.

For all of David's work and to follow his blog, check out his website: http://davidduchemin.com/

If you're interested in the great books on offer from Craft & Vision, some of which are totally free, whilst many others are just $5, checkout the Craft & Vision website: https://craftandvision.com/



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I don't ever send SPAM and you'll only get an email once every 2 weeks or so. Here's a sample of what you'll receive every now and then If you don't like it I make it very easy to unsubscribe! Come on, join over 600 other subscribers today!

Are you a photographer in business, like me? I've put together this massively popular pricing calculator for my subscribers. Download it today for FREE