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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas came early: Olympus E-1 + Zuiko 50 ED F2 Macro

For the last 2 years I've embarked on a "vintage digital" hobby. That is to say, purchasing and shooting with the top-shelf DSLRs of yesteryear which are no longer considered competitive or relevant vis-a-vis modern digital bodies (or perhaps I should even say current year models considering how rapid body turnover is nowadays, with SONY as a case in point).

Last year for Christmas I bought myself an EOS 1D MK IIn body for a bargain price which had been heavily used but shoots (and still shoots) great. It clocks in at around 8.1 megapixels, and I've actually managed to get a few images accepted at Shutterstock; so it can still hold its own. The build quality is gorgeous (full magnesium weather-sealed body), and it's well-balanced like a precision firearm. This is actually my primary vintage-digital snapshooter. I actually prefer the images from this camera over more modern crop cameras such as the T3i or SL1. Image-wise, I will always prefer images from the 5D classic though. It was magic when I first bought it, and is still magical. Anyhow, today's post is about Olympus E-1, so I'll write and post images from the EOS 1D MK IIn some other time.

====Olympus E-1====

I browse all the major used camera sites--KEH, Adorama, resellers on Amazon--from time to time just for fun. Sometimes I'll buy stuff, such as the 1D MK IIn last year.

One day I ran across an Olympus E-1 body selling for a little less than $60. There were actually a dozen E-1 bodies, with condition ranging from torn-to-crap to very good. I snagged the very good copy as this year's Christmas present to myself. After I checked the shutter count (almost 400,000 shots!), it's obvious this baby got used, probably by a pro, but the exterior body was in superb condition. I figure that if I can clock about 6,000 shots before the camera goes kaput, that'll have been a penny a shot, which is still a bargain in my book.

In hand, it's just a marvelous camera. Total magnesium body, great haptics, and solid mechanical switches, dials, and controls. Olympus back in 2000 sought to make a new breed of digital camera to compete with Canon and Nikon. You can tell that they put everything they had into this camera. I was ecstatic to pick up something which originally costed $1699 at release for pennies on the dollar. Build quality on modern cameras are just not of this grade, unless you spend $5,000-8,000 on the top-end stuff; but I'd rather spend that on a budget car for my kids.

The shutter is silent and the balance of the body actually lends itself to shooting at low shutter speeds even though it does not have image stabilization built in. I'll have to make a video about this later to show you. 

Those who have been spoiled by the technology of recent years--AF microadjustment, 60 to 160 discrete focus points, live view, etc.--may not like how primitive this camera may seem. Olympus did not have a professional grade focus system in place that could rival Canon or Nikon in 2000. So there are only 3 AF points: left, right, and center. On top of that, they are not visible at all in the viewfinder, so you have to get used to "feeling" where the focus point is. Given that, I have not found the lack of multiple focus points to be that great of a hindrance. I've manually set the camera to shot center point AF only, and then utilize the focus-and-recompose method of shooting. 

The miniscule rear LCD screen is useless for checking focus accuracy, lighting, or anything else. However, even the technologically superior 5D classic's LCD didn't do much better. With this generation of DSLRs, you just had to do the best you could in camera and then check all these things when you uploaded the flash cards to your computer. While the E-1 will miss focus every so often, I find that taking a few extra "safety shots" solves the problem. 

It's only 5 megapixels, but like the 1D MK IIn, every single pixel is a quality pixel. Camera makers back then weren't just pumping up the pixels every 6 months to impress the soccer moms and dads; every pixel had relevance. 

===Zuiko 50 ED F2 Macro===

Now that I had the E-1 body in hand, I needed some good glass to go with it. I had seen some pretty impressive street photography done with the Zuiko 50 ED F2 Macro, but $500 new on Amazon was a little steep. Fortunately, I was able to get a like-new copy used for about 1/2 that. It absolutely sings as a portrait lense.

With the release of the EM-1, old Zuiko 4/3 glass is once again becoming relevant, and I expect used prices to gradually rise (as has been the case with ALT lenses since mirrorless bodies became more competitive and numerous). There is still some very good Zuiko 4/3 glass out there that can occasionally be had for a bargain, but right now I think I'll just keep the 50 F2 mated to the E-1 as an everyday portrait shooter. 

And now for a few pictures!

The E-1 + 50 F2 is not the quickest, but can acquire focus in about one second. There will some hunting from time-to-time. The best method is to get some separation between the subject and the background, and most of your shots will be in focus. So far it's been marvelous for candid shots. Plus the equivalent 100mm distance allows me to be across the room and hence not influence my subjects as much.

As you can see with this last one, the center focus point of course focused smack dab on the nutcracker's nose, which was ostensibly in the center. I tried a couple pictures toggling either the left or right focus points and could not get the eyes in focus. That said, for distances a little further than this, focus acquisition works just fine, and F2 can tolerate a bit of shift with no problems or loss of sharpness.

This was shot at ISO 100, F2, 1/10 handheld in a dark restaurant with no off-camera strobe. If I had planned the shot and told the subjects to stay still, I'm certain I could've gotten results just as sharp as an outdoor shot. 

*I no longer post full-resolution images, as they tend to get pirated and put on other sites. However, I will say that I've already made some 8 x 10 prints with these images and they turned out superb. I could probably go at least twice as large before I'd see any artifacts. You don't actually need tons of megapixels, you need quality megapixels.

===Final Thoughts===

While there have been some very attractive deals on Thanskgiving, Black Friday, and as we get nearer to Christmas, such as the LF1, Olympus mini PENs, etc., I still felt the ~$250 I spent was well worth it. While those modern bodies have alot of cutting-edge functions, they often lack in haptics, build quality, and other areas. From my handling of them in stores, they just aren't made to last. World-class quality, even from a decade ago, is still world-class quality. Right now I'm enjoying these vintage digital bodies like fine wine. If I can shoot these bodies for another 5-10 years, I'll be able to get the top-end bodies of today for pennies on the dollar once again in another 10 years. 

Merry Christmas from Mastering Microstock, and happy shooting!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

R.I.P. Robin Williams (July 21, 1951 - August 11, 2014)

We will all miss Robin Williams. I grew up watching Mork & Mindy on an old, curved black & white 14" TV and have since seen almost all of this movies. Renaissance Man is one of my favorite. He had incredible range for any kind of comedy or acting, and tragically we never be able to see anything new from him again. We'll miss you, Captain.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Some notes to self

Some notes to self:

1) Macro photography:
 a) Leave IS turned off
 b) Use a ring flash adapter with manual flash set to full power
 c) Focus manually

2) Palace photography in Asia:
 a) EF 17-40 on 1.6 crop-cam yields to most natural-looking pictures

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mastering Microstock hits $3,000 milestone!

Just passed the 3K mark with this image. Deep thanks from Mastering Microstock to all of you who support my photography. In the word of the now-defunct Lucky Oliver, "Keep 'em coming!" so that I can continue to blog about photography.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Poor Man's Pancake: Industar 50/2 3.5

This is one of the best-kept secrets in the M42 manual focus field. Instead of spending $300-400 on the Canon nifty-fifty 1.4, I probably should've picked up one of these years ago when I started shooting digital. I acquired this solid aluminum gem a few months on Ebay from a Ukrainian seller for about $35 total. I am still looking into getting another one in case this one gets crushed or dropped by accident. As you can tell from my previous posting in which this lense was mated with my GF3, the colors and bokkeh are spetacular and it is sharp wide open.

It stays on my T1i almost permanently, as the metal dial is wonderful for candid video. Most of these sold on Ebay come without lense covers, but this is easily solved. I bought a camcorder adapter ring and lense cap for the front. You just can't build quality like this anymore; even the plastic 50 from Canon will set you back $80, which is more than double the cost of this lense.

If I had a T3i with the flip-out LCD, this would be the perfect low-profile street cam. The Industar makes the rebel look like a non-threatening bridge camera.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

GF3 + M42 adapter + Industar 50/2 3.5

Here are some sample shots from my favorite new street cam and one of my favorite M42 lens. The Industar 50/2 3.5 is probably one of the best-kept secrets among manual focus aficionados. The Industars are clones of the Zeiss Tessars and the stock lens for the Industar bodies produced in the Soviet Union. They are remarkably lightweight and sharp wide open. They are also some of the smallest lenses out there. If you want a pancake prime for cheap, you can't get much better than the Industar 50/2 3.5. Shipping from the Ukraine will probably cost just as much as the lens, but considering how popular manual focus has become with the release of micro 4/3 cameras, SONY NEXs, and almost everyone's try at mirrorless cams, costs are just going to go up in the years to come. I have a nice set of M42 Takumar primes that I bought for about $20 each including shipping. Nowadays on Ebay some of these are selling for between $50-100, and that's just for the lens. Heck, I think I'll probably order another Industar from the Ukraine as a back-up. They shoot great on Canons as well.

The GF3 processing engine tends to be pretty faithful in reproducing real world colors and is wonderful in not blowing out highlights.

Interchangeable Lens Camera in the palm of your hand: GF3

Here are some photos showing the difference in size between a DSLR and mirrorless camera. The 5D is pretty much a 2-handed affair no matter how you cut it. The GF3 fits in the palm of your hand. I have it with a EF 50 F1.4 here, which bulks it up a little, but with a Panasonic pancake prime (which I don't have yet) it is absolutely Lilliputian in size.

Both are great cameras. The 5D is a pro for low light and vivid, almost 3-dimensional images. The GF3 is wonderful for incredibly light, discrete shooting.

Panasonic GF3

I received the Panasonic GF3 for Christmas 2011 and have taken an immediate liking to it. It does not have near the image quality of my 5D or even my Rebel. The Micro 4/3 sensor on the GF3 cannot compete with APS-C sensors and noise is evident in shadows even at the base ISO 160.

However, all of this is beside the point. What this wonderful little camera does is bring back the days of snapshot heaven. My very first digital camera was a Nikon Coolpix 3100 which I took everywhere with me. It fit in my pocket and I literally broke the camera by shooting some 65,000 frames on it. I love shooting with my Canons, and would never replace them with another brand for my microstock business, but I don't always want to lug around several pounds of weight with me. So they mostly stay in their bags except for when I do my studio, landscape, and architecture shots. However, the GF3 is so incredibly light that I can just sling it around my shoulder and barely notice it all. It's incredibly snappy like a P&S, but also takes interchangeable lenses--including those of almost every other camera maker both past and present. Shown below is the GF3 fitted with a EF 50 F1.4 via a Fotodiox adapter with stepless aperture adjustment. I also have an M42 adapter which is equally a joy to use with this tiny mirrorless camera. Stay tuned for some sample photos.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Steve Jobs: 1955-2011

Apple computer's homepage recently changed due to the passing of the much respected and beloved Steven Paul Jobs on October 5, 2011. I, like many others, feel Mr. Job's passing deeply even though I have not purchased any Apple products in recent years. Perhaps the way in which he changed the face of computing, telecommunications, and digital entertainment makes most people feel like they have a personal connection with him even if they have never met him.

My first experience with an Apple product was the IIc, which was a slim-downed version of the original Apple II, and was prescient of today's laptop in terms of it's portability and fold-down briefcase handle on the back. Indeed, I spent many a day of my childhood riding my Huffy bike to friends' houses with the IIc preciously tucked between towels in my school backpack so we could play some of the best games ever created (even by today's standards).

Steve Jobs is what we should all aspire to be as people, as Americans. Like a modern Horatio Algers story, Steve came from nothing and left, in his own words, a "dent in the universe." He refused to settle for anything less but the achievement of his dreams, and vehemently encouraged others to do so as well. I will endeavor to "stay hungry, stay foolish."

Mr. Jobs, you are now in iHeaven. Thank you for your contributions. Rest in Peace.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

For Sale: NEW Canon PIXMA IP3500 Digital Photo Inkjet Printer

I have a NEW Canon PIXMA IP3500 Digital Photo Inkjet Printer for sale on Ebay:

It's new in the box and has a buy it now option. Better act quick, because my stuff is going fast nowadays!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

SOLD: NEW Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS Lens, No Reserve!!

SOLD! To a happy buyer for $179.99. Thank you for bidding! I have a NEW Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS Lens for sale with no reserve on Ebay.

If you win this bid, you will receive:

1) ONE Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS Lens

2) ONE front lens cap

3) ONE rear lens cap

4) ONE cardboard box with original packaging

5) ONE instruction manual

6) ONE warranty card

Happy bidding and the best of luck to you!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Editorial Time-Lapse of Dayglo Colors Building

This video is currently pending review at Pond5.
Tell me what you think.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Canon Announces Rebel T3i

Well, here's the latest warm-over from Canon:

The speed of these releases which truly don't add much new to the previous version of the camera have left me a little jaded.

The T3i has a articulated LCD and integrated wireless flash control and some other software doo-dads (video cropping) for the soccer mom/dad market. Otherwise, it's exactly the same camera as before.

What would I have liked to see?

1) Native intervalometer
2) Native HDR like on G12
3) Dual card slots
5) Microlense adjustment
6) Rotary control dial like on xxD series and above

Yes, yes, I know... Canon will never cannibalize feature sets on its higher-end DSLRs and put them in the entry-level series. Well, that's just too bad. Pentax doesn't have any problems offering even base-level nicely-specc'ed cameras. Too bad Pentax hasn't been doing at that great for the last couple of years.

The first two things on my wish list can be accomplished on the T2i thanks to the hard work of the people over at Magic Lantern. Canon could take a tip from groups like CHDK and Magic Lantern, and offer the same features in future camera firmware with a professional polish. If they did this, their cameras would have an edge over competitors and sell even better. But no, what they do is adjust the firmware to make it harder for CHDK and Magic Lantern to tweak the firmware. With the G12, they have even taken issue with people using third-party accessories; if one uses a Cybersyncs, the screen blanks out. Uh... OK... loyal customers keep coming back and buying your stuff because they can spec it out. You cut them off at the knees. Hmm, maybe they'll stop coming back?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pond5 Video

I've started submitting videos to Pond5 under the name of "editorialfootage."
Here is my most recent upload of a Houston light rail train going by.

Friday, January 21, 2011

$2000 Mark Achieved on Shutterstock

This image tipped me over the $2000 mark at Shutterstock.

A big thanks to whoever bought it. I hope you get good use out of it.

My resolution for 2011 is to reach $3000.

Thank you for your support of Mastering-Microstock!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Count Down to $2000 in earnings on Shutterstock

First of all, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year. I want to thank buyers for purchasing my photographs and making it possible for me to continue shooting. I want to thank those subscribed to my blog for not losing interest, and by increasing the visibility of images in search engines by clicking through the blogposts here.

I am now at $1995.35 in earnings on Shutterstock. When I was near $1000 last year, I could only chip away with $0.20 downloads. But now I have on-demand, video, and enhanced downloads to help me out. So the next download could very well be the magic one which puts me over!

I will post images here which help me cross the $2000 threshold. Thank you all for supporting Mastering Microstock!

Link to images for purchase:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

For Sale: Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II Inkjet Photo Printer

SOLD! For $231.50 to a very lucky Ebay buyer. Thank you all for bidding!

I got a Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II Inkjet Photo Printer recently with a Canon bundled DSLR deal. I want to sell it to you. Bidding starts at $0.99 on Ebay with $49 for shipping. If you follow the link, you could get a very nice BRAND NEW printer for Christmas for 1/3 to 1/2 the price that you pay on Amazon. I will send you the original purchase invoice on request.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Halloween Baby Pictures

Halloween is more than a month away, but I am already uploading pictures related to this creepy day. You'll find that most microstockers upload their season-related photos 3 to 6 months in advance.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My Texas Flag Image in Use

You can see my Texas Flag image in use here on this blog.

You can download it here, like many others already have.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Our "model" is picking up new fine motor movements everyday. Today, it is signalling silence. Who knows, maybe AMC theatres can use this image before showing a movie.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Typhoon in a Teacup

I took this at ISO 100, 1/8000, and F10 with a 580 EX II fired at full power. This flash is amazing.

Friday, April 30, 2010

More Baby Pictures

I've been using a new lighting technique for shooting baby pictures. This one turned one exceptionally well with nice colors and tack sharp eyes. Enjoy! BTW, I received a payout from Dreamstimes in excess of $114 yesterday.