Improve Your Macro Photography with Micro Four Thirds Cameras

Improve Your Macro Photography with Micro Four Thirds Cameras

The world of macro photography has been an interest for me ever since I got my first camera. That camera was a little Casio point and shoot that was maybe 2 or 3 megapixels. I was out shooting that first day with it and noticed on the mode dial a little flower icon and thought I’d set it to that and go shoot some flowers. I was several feet back from some Clematis (yes, I remember the exact flower) and the camera would not focus. After some trial and error I realized I needed to be closer to get focus…a LOT closer. I had accidentally discovered macro mode! Since then, it has been a wonderful journey down the road of the minuscule where I explore the “rarely seen” subjects. Here I will be discussing macro photography with the Olympus line of micro four thirds cameras and lenses and why that system is well suited for this genre. What exactly is micro four thirds? Micro four thirds (or MFT) is a standard developed by several camera manufacturers with an emphasis on slim design (via the removal of the mirror and prism found in dSLRs) and lens design based upon a purely digital platform. Another one of the ways this slim form factor is achieved is through its smaller sensor. This smaller sensor is roughly half the size of a full frame camera’s sensor (full frame being the equivalent of 35mm film – so imagine a sensor about 1/2 the size of that) and thus requires much less space inside the camera body. This smaller sensor is what we call a...
Leverage Multiple Camera Platforms with Adapters

Leverage Multiple Camera Platforms with Adapters

Recently, I completed a shoot for an article written by our own Alex Huff for 500px’s ISO blog. For it, I returned to my trusty old 5D Mark II and an even older lens: a Nikon 100mm f/2.8 AiS lens that’s at least 30 years old. For me, the results were well past what I’d expected from the setup. To marry that Nikon lens to my 5D Mark II, I used this Nikon G lens to Canon adapter. I added a lens hood I own to the setup to avoid some glare I was getting off an overhead light and this is what it looked like: As I said, the results were well past what I’d expected. Turns out, that lens was superb on my 5D and the shot of model Xela Gaerlan (below) that ended up on the blog is one of my favorites. Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve used a Nikon lens on my 5D. In fact, I wrote about this a couple of years ago. Moreover, I’ve also written in the past about using multiple lens types on Micro 4/3 cameras too. When I looked at my shooting kit now, however, I felt like it was time to visit the topic once more, especially given how much the adapter market has evolved. I own a 5D Mark II and a Sony a7S. When it comes to lenses, however, I own one Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens (which I never use) and five Nikon-mount lenses. I had a Canon 24–70 at some point, but it’s lying at the bottom of the San Francisco Bay near the...
Shooting at Night with the Panasonic GH4

Shooting at Night with the Panasonic GH4

The Panasonic GH4 is an amazing little camera. I’ve been putting it through its paces from the moment I got my hands on one, and just like any gearhead, have been reading practically every review and comment about it on the internet. What can I say? It’s an addiction. I confess. One thing that stood out to me in all the signal and noise out there was that this camera isn’t a great performer at high ISO. My initial quick tests bore that out; at ISO 800, the footage is pretty noisy and by 1600, it’s unusable for a lot of work. But what I wanted to know was something a bit more subtle. I wanted to know if I could shoot at night, in a place like San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, and still walk away with usable footage? See, what a lot of people don’t get is that “low light” and “high ISO” aren’t synonymous. Just because you don’t have bright daylight doesn’t mean you have to force your camera into stratospheric ISOs. There’s more than one way to skin this particular cat and so, with my GH4 and some bits and bobs, I set out to find out if I could get the footage I wanted. Here’s the gear list: Panasonic GH4 Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8, Nikon-mount Voigtlander 17.5mm f/0.95 Metabones Nikon G to Micro Four Thirds Speedbooster Video tripod and head The video is below, but before you watch it, here are a few notes to keep in mind so you know what to expect… The video is shot at 4K, 24p. ISO was kept between 200 and 400 for...
The Bokeh Effect: How Sensor Size Affects Background Blur

The Bokeh Effect: How Sensor Size Affects Background Blur

Of all the things that photographers argue about in our secret monthly meetings, sensor size and its impact on our work is perhaps one of the most heated topics that can come up. From the true “bigger is better” snobs (“Sensors? Bah! 8X10 film is where it’s at!”) to the ones who prize portability above all (“Micro-Four-Thirds rules!”), the debate between advocates of MFT, APS-C, and full-frame sensors often reaches religious fervor. Contentious topics related to sensor size include resolution, high-ISO performance, and dynamic range, but the quality and characteristic of bokeh, or out-of-focus backgrounds, is perhaps the most fiercely contentious. While there’s no contest that the bigger sensors can clearly produce much smoother and, well, blurier (not a word, I know), it’s also an unfair statement that the smaller sensors like the ones in Olympus and Panasonic Micro-Four-Thirds cameras can’t produce good bokeh. The Prerequisites Now, before you get into this article, if you have questions about what crop sensors are, how they work, etc., you want to read a few of these articles: Tip of the Week: Understanding Sensor Crop Factors, Part 1 Transitioning from Point-and-Shoot to DSLR: Understanding Full Frame vs Crop Frame Sensors Best Wide Angle for a Crop Sensor Camera These articles will give you a good understanding of what crop sensors are, and what using a crop sensor camera implies, for the most part. In this article, we’re going to drill down to one specific thing. We will take a look at just how the size of your camera’s sensor affects the bokeh characteristics of your image. To do this, we devised a pretty...
Sample Images: Benefits of Shooting Olympus and Four Thirds/Micro Four Thirds

Sample Images: Benefits of Shooting Olympus and Four Thirds/Micro Four Thirds

Mirrorless cameras and the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) system are gaining in popularity. From Panasonic’s GH3 to the Blackmagic, more and more cameras are coming out in MFT mount. Olympus originally pioneered the Four Thirds system and, along with Panasonic, announced a new Micro Four Thirds standard in 2008. This new system increased in quality while decreasing in bulk. Olympus Micro Four Thirds Cameras and Lens Variety Olympus carries three main breeds of camera: Digital SLR, OM-D, and the Pen. Their DSLRs are Four Thirds Mount and the OM-D and Pens are Micro Four Thirds. While Four Thirds and MFT lenses cannot be used interchangeably, what is nice about  MFT is that it aims to be a universal mounting system for mirrorless cameras. There are several brands outside of Olympus that make MFT lenses that mount well on the OM-D and Pen cameras. This opens up your lens experimentation options. For instance, while manual-focus only, the Voigtlander Nokton 25mm and 17.5mm lenses for MFT open up to a very wide 0.95 f/stop, a rare feature. You can also use extremely low-profile pancake lenses, such as the Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 for MFT. For reach, there is the Panasonic 45-200mm Mega Optical Image Stabilization lens or Olympus’ own fast 75mm  f/1.8, whose 9-blade diaphragm produces excellent bokeh. If you are into experimenting with many lenses at once without being married to 1 particular brand and without killing yourself trying to carry them all, then give the MFT system a shot. Keep in mind when choosing your MFT lens that MFT sensors have a crop factor of 2.0 (as opposed to...