Real Reasons Why The Camera Market Is Shrinking

It is a hot topic now, with the rumors circulating the closure of Olympus business, and the ambiguous Bloomberg reporting Olympus CEO "backtracking" his comments on the possibility of Olympus imaging unit being on sale (which has been DEBUNKED by the way, go here), I thought it would be a good opportunity to dive into the reasons why the overall camera market is declining. We can easily point the blame solely to the existence of smartphones, but that is not the only reason. I admit smartphone camera improving drastically over the years with the convenience of only carrying one device to do it all, there seems to be less reason to pick up a dedicated camera. I acknowledge that smartphones played a huge contributing factor to the shrinkage of the camera market overall, but in this article I want to explore several other valid reasons why less and less people are buying cameras. 

If you prefer to look at an Asian guy with small eyes (yes I received several of this comment, racist much people? I thought we are in 2019 and this is behind us. But nope....) with larger than average sized body talk on and on about this topic, I made this video for you. 


REASON 1 - CAMERA HAS HIT SUFFICIENCY

Let's face it, there is not much to do with camera development left. I am not saying we have the perfect camera now, there are still kinks to work out there and here, there is always room for improvement. However, take a deep look at any camera released in the past 5 years, they are certainly more than good enough to tackle any challenging photography task thrown at it and deliver satisfactory results. The consumers will keep on driving demand for bigger, better, larger products. More megapixels, more dynamic range, cleaner high ISO images, the demand is never-ending and the chase will not stop, and honestly has become meaningless. Those who do REAL photography has no issue using a 50 year old camera and still produce work of art. The cameras we have today are sufficient for our use, our greed is killing the camera market. 

I give you two examples. A successful local Malaysian wedding photographer, who has been in the wedding photography industry shooting for more than 10 years. Guess what camera is he using in 2019 to shoot wedding professionally? A Nikon D700. Yeap, that dinosaur D700, first generation full frame DSLR from Nikon. He is not using the latest D850, or the Z7, he is still making fantastic work of art with his old D700, being bruised and battered over the years, been in and out of Nikon service repairs. His clients were always happy with his delivery, and this same photographer was one of the first few who inspired me to pick up wedding photography. Be real guys, are you seriously going to deliver 61MP image files to your wedding client? Do you need ISO1,000,000 to shoot a wedding? Anything as high as ISO3200 or 6400 with the use of quality F1.4 or F1.8 optics, and creative flash boost can cover almost any scenario, delivering beautiful images that can be printed large still. 

Another example, a maternity, newborn and family portrait photographer, also a close friend who is based in Kuala Lumpur. If you have seen her images you will be blown away. She uses a Canon 5D Mark II now, actively for her shoots, and she is fully booked until next year. If these two highly successful professional photographers who regularly shoot in challenging situations with cameras that are 10 years old and still able to thrive in their business, why can't we be happy with any cameras that have come out newer than those two?

More megapixels do not make you a better photographer. Better dynamic range and cleaner high ISO images won't elevate your photography. At first when everyone started buying cameras, there were some inadequacies, as the digital camera development was progressing, but it has come to a level where the cameras are better than 99% of the photographers out there. Those who bought cameras a few years ago have less and less reasons to upgrade their cameras, hence the sales are declining drastically. 



REASON 2 - INTEREST IN PHOTOGRAPHY IS DYING

Collectively in the world, it is quite obvious that the interest in photography is slowing down drastically over the years. 

There was a time when cameras have become so accessible, entry level DSLR going for mere few hundred dollars, everyone jumped on the bandwagon quickly. A lot of people bought cameras not because they were interested in photography or wanted to get wet in the world of photography, they simply joined the cool club of owning a camera. Peer pressure is an effective tool to drive sales. There was a time almost EVERYONE has a camera. 

What happens when the bandwagon is full? There is only so much new camera users the brands can target. 

There are generally (simplified) two categories of camera users - group 1: photographers and group 2: camera users. 

In group 1, the photographers use the camera for photography purposes. They work their craft, they want to shoot, they want to pursue art and creativity. They aim to do story-telling with their photography, they shoot with passion and clear purpose. They have no issue with self-driving themselves to go out and shoot, and they will continue to shoot even when the world is ending. 

On the other hand, in group 2, the camera users are of a different breed of species altogether. These camera users bought cameras because photography seems like fun. The excitement in the beginning was real, everything was new, discovering a whole new world of photography was indeed thrilling.  However, there was never any genuine interest in photography, they shoot because everyone else is shooting. Fear of losing out is real. They have a camera dangling around their neck because that was what everyone else was doing.  Guess what happens when the excitement wears out, after half a year, after a year or two, when there was nothing left new to find out? if there is no inner desire to shoot, if photography is not a true passion, the interest in using the camera fades away very quickly. This is the hard truth - not everyone who has a camera is a photographer. 

A photographer stands the test of time - after all your friends have quit photography and left you, if you still hold on boldly, clinging into your passion, then you belong to group 1. Else, camera users in group 2 becomes the main reason why the camera sales are declining, because  they simply give up photography, they simply give up the camera. Is that not happening to the majority to camera users around you over the years?

REASON 3 - SOCIAL MEDIA CHANGED THE LANDSCAPE OF PHOTOGRAPHY

Social media has changed the content of photography over the years, and shifted how the crowd perceive photography, resulting in cameras being irrelevant in this modern digital age. 

Let's take a few steps back, in the older days, how does a photographer get noticed or recognized for his art and talent? You get published, you get exhibited. Find an art gallery, do a real physical photography exhibition with prints, and you are seen as a successful photographer. Now in this digital age, all photographers can exhibit, you don't need an art gallery, you don't need to work with a curator, or editors, you bypass all that, from your social media platform you can reach thousands, or possibly millions if you play your card right (I obviously played mine wrong, I failed to grow my Instagram, and even my YouTube and Facebook have sad number of followings). My point is, the way people see, value and interact with photography have changed drastically, and this was because of the dominance of social media in our lives. 

Here comes a big problem, social media promotes the culture of me, me, me and me. Photography has never been about the photographer (so literally), photography is about the photographer shooting the world around them. Hence the lens was pointed outward from the shooter not inward. Take a look at your Facebook friends, the Instagram accounts that you follow, any celebrities or "influencers", the content published online was ALL about themselves and the lives that they live. Is it not the food that they eat, the places they travel to, the parties they are at, the dress that they wear, the cat or dog cute poses or that amazing car that they just bought? Photography, which was a genuinely powerful tool of art and documentation has been vilified and reduced to mere selfie tools. Photography has become  selfish, self-centric adventure and is losing the core meaning of why the camera was invented in the first place. 

You don't need 61MP for your selfie photographs, you don't need ISO100,000 to shoot that slice of cake, and certainly you don't need a super-telephoto 600mm lens to shoot your Siamese cat licking her paws. The relevance of having a camera is eroding away so quickly, now that the purpose of photography has shifted so much. There is no longer a need for a camera to do the "modern photography" for social media. 

REASON 4 - PHOTOGRAPHY IS STAGNANT

Photography as an art has remained stagnant for a long time, and is not evolving. 

Take other art forms - any art forms - fashion, music, TV/Film, writing, each and every one has evolved and changed so much over time.   We don't wear the same cloths as our previous generation did in their 80s, we don't listen to the same music on radio as it was played in the 50s, movie and TV have changed so much, we can clearly see how much art has evolved over the years. However this cannot be said for photography. 

Look at the legends  Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon, Martin Parr and Ansel Adams, they redefined what photography was during their age. They reshaped the history of photography. They challenged the norm, they dared to push boundaries, they went the distance and provoked what was deemed right. They were visionaries and they successfully made photography truly meaningful. In stark contrast, today all we do are merely imitating what has been done before over and over again, a million times. What's new today? Look at the Instagram feed - sunrise, sunsets, long exposure photography, portraits of beautiful lady, more model shots, these are good photography yes, but they have been done to death and there is nothing new anymore. I don't see anything truly thought provoking and revolutionary from the work of today's photographers. 

Photography is an art form, but people do not see it that way, not today in 2019 in the digital age. Therefore, it was not a surprise that the camera sales are declining, because the appreciation for true photography is significantly dying. To be fair, this critique is also valid for myself, and I am writing this article as reminder to myself not to stay complacent with my craft and dare to challenge myself, take a risk or two, to elevate my photography. I hope you are taking this in a positive manner. 

So what can we all do collectively to fight the dying camera market?

Honestly, there really is nothing much we can do at this point. It is very difficult to predict the future of photography. 

For me, I will ask myself why I picked up the camera in the first place? Why did I fall in love with photography? Where did the passion come from? Remember the excitement of shooting something for the first time, and that excitement can be reignited. Go back to basics, find the core of photography, and continue to push further and shoot more. After all, there is no photography without the active use of cameras. 

We can do our part, to improve ourselves, be better photographers, be true to ourselves, then we can be the inspiration for others to follow. I am sure together, we can bring the joy and true meaning of photography back to this world. 

Shutter therapy lives on. 


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5 Features Olympus Quietly Removed

There are some interesting features that Olympus had in their older OM-D cameras which have been removed from their newer releases. We have no idea why these features were removed or changed from the current line-up of camera iterations but my guess is the lack of popularity among Olympus users. None of these features made any major changes or affected the shooting process, so image quality and camera performance wise were not compromised even in the slightest bit. However, I do find a few of these features to be helpful in some situations, so I want to explore and discuss them in this article. I also made a video, because, why not, YouTube is all the rage now. 


1. MOVIE + PHOTO MODE
In cameras older than E-M1 Mark II, there is a movie + photo mode. When the video is being recorded, the camera can capture an image in RAW when you press the shutter button. The video recording is paused momentarily to allow the image to be shot, and after the capture the video then resumes recording. You will lose about 2-3 seconds of video recording time. I find that this can be the perfect method for me to show some video tutorials on photography - for example how I compose my images, or what I look for when I am doing street photography. You get the first person, or shall I more accurately say, camera's view. You see the video footage as I see my camera screen framing my images, before I press the shutter button, and after. You see my images being taken in real time. Unfortunately this feature is not available in E-M1 Mark II or any camera newer than that. 

2. SMART DISABLING OF AUTO EVF SWITCH
In the original OM-D E-M5 (2012) when Olympus first included an EVF in their Micro Four Thirds camera, some users gave a feedback that when the LCD screen is used to review images, since the screen was touch operable, when the finger went too near the EVF, the auto switch will disable the LCD screen. The interruptions, and LCD screen blackouts was annoying, and counter-intuitive considering Olympus camera was one of the first few to have a touch screen! Olympus then fixed this issue in E-M1 which was released about a year later, and the quick fix was a very smart move. To disable the EVF auto switch, all you have to do is to pull out the tilt screen a little, and as you place your finger near the EVF, the sensor won't trigger the blackout of LCD screen. It took other brands many more generations of camera making to figure this out and implement it, but Olympus had it down in the second OM-D camera they made. Quite impressive if you ask me. For some strange reasons, they removed this in the newer cameras! E-M5 Mark III does not have this smart EVF disable feature, when the LCD screen is swiveled out, the Auto EVF is still fully functional. E-M1 Mark II, which originally had the smart disable, had this feature removed after the Firmware 3.0 update! Olympus, bring this back please. 



3. HAND-HELD STARLIGHT MODE (SCENE MDOES)
One of the rarely used features in OM-D and PEN cameras, the Starlight Hand-Held mode, found in the scenes mode, can be helpful in high ISO shooting. If you subject is perfectly still, using this mode, the camera takes 8 images and composited them to reduce high ISO noise, all done with just one press of a shutter button, fully automated with minimal effort. While I don't use this method a lot, I would like to have it, just in case extremely high ISO is unavoidable and the situation is right. The hand-held starlight mode is taken out, together with ALL other scene modes in both E-M1 Mark II and E-M1X. Thankfully we still have this in E-M5 Mark III. 

4. ISO CAPPED AT 6400
I personally have not much issue with this particular one, but this seems to bother quite a few people, as I found out from my video comments recently. Before E-M1 Mark II, the auto ISO was uncapped, meaning we can set it as high as 25,600 (upper limit), and let the camera decide to go as high as the limit, if needed. However, in E-M1 Mark II, E-M1X and now the E-M5 Mark III, the high Auto ISO upper limit is restricted to 6400 only. For some reasons this drove a lot of people nuts, throwing complains to me (please guys, I can't magically make changes to the cameras, I don't have that kind of power. Venting your frustrations on the camera TO ME won't make your cameras better. Maybe it makes you feel better, but please, how does it make me feel, when SO MANY people complain about the things they don't like about their cameras to me? I am only human and there is only so much negativity I can absorb. Please be more  understanding I beg you). 

5. MYSET/CUSTOM MODE NERFED 
This happens in E-M5 Mark III specifically only. Previously, Olympus allows at least 4 different Myset settings in OM-D cameras, and the mysets can be assigned to dedicated C settings on the mode dials, ressigned to i-Auto and Art Filter modes, or directly accessed by a press of a customized  Function "Fn" button. I am not sure why Olympus removed all this altogether, remaining with only ONE C mode on the mode dial.  You cannot use any of the Fn buttons to access the saved mysets, or reassigning any other modes on the mode dial to do so. I hope I am wrong, and I wish there are ways to cycle through the different saved Myset preset modes through the C mode on the mode dial. If someone has a solution, I would like to hear them and update this post accordingly.

What are your thoughts on the features that are removed and nerfed in the newer Olympus OM-D cameras? Do let me know!


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Robin Wong's OM-D Cheat Sheet - Updated 2019 Version

Coinciding with the arrival of Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III to the market soon, I am releasing the improved and updated version of my OM-D Cheat Sheet. This was a refresh for my original Cheat Sheet which I have created and published in 2014 (click here). Nothing much has changed ever since, and the core of the recommended settings and suggestions remain unchanged over the years. Olympus did some minor tweaks on their menu system, they have not reworked it and those shooting Olympus since the earlier OM-D camera models should find the menu system in the latest cameras quite familiar to navigate through. Nonetheless, the original Cheat Sheet was my most popular blog article to date and I have received tonnes of request to update it. So here it is, finally!

I also made a video version on YouTube!


Some important disclaimers first:
1) These are my recommended settings, but there is no one universal fixed best camera setting for all cameras. We customize the camera for different shooting scenarios. When I shoot a wedding, the camera settings will  be different than when I use it to shoot birds. If I am shooting portraits, certainly the same setting will not be the same when I am doing astrophotography. 
2) There is no right and wrong, just recommendations. I will explain my choices of the settings I suggested, but feel free to disagree with me and choose the settings that work best for your own shooting. We do different photography and we are different people. 
3) This is not a complete guide or "how to" use an Olympus camera. I am not going through every single settings and functions on the camera, this is not that kind of tutorial or getting started kind of article/video. I am merely sharing how I set up my camera from scratch. 
4) I am skipping flash settings and movie recording settings, because flash is a different topic, and I am a noob when it comes to video. You won't want my recommendations, trust me. 
5) Everything shared here reflects my own opinion, and they are not recommendations from Olympus. 


With that out of the way, let's begin! The order of the list of settings are based on the sequence of the camera menu of the latest Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III.  Some locations of the settings may vary slightly in different OM-D cameras. 

Bear in mind this OM-D Cheat Sheet is updated for current OM-D models, such as E-M1X, E-M1 Mark II, E-M5 Mark III and E-M10 Mark III. If you are using older OM-D models such as E-M1 Original, E-M5 Mark II and E-M10 Mark II, you may refer to my older OM-D Cheat Sheet here (click). 

1) TURN OFF DIGITAL TELE CONVERTER
Starting off at menu tab 1 (camera symbol), I do not change anything here but may I remind you firmly to turn the digital teleonverter off. If you have this turned on, you are using digital zoom, which effectively reduces the overall resolution of your image. For example, instead of getting a full 20MP image from the camera, you only get 5 MP, and that can appear much worse than the image quality from your smartphone. 

Menu --> Camera tab 1 --> Digital Teleconverter --> OFF

2) ANTI-SHOCK SETTING "0 SEC"
Anti-shock prevents shutter vibration issues caused by movement of physical mechanical shutter. This problem is amplified with smaller and lighter camera bodies, which are less effective to dampen vibrations. Set the delay setting to "0 Sec" so we don't have any lag while shooting. Also, in case you are wondering, the Anti-Shock is Electronic First Curtain Shutter.

Menu --> Camera tab 2 --> Anti-Shock/Silent --> 0 Sec

For E-M5 Mark III, you cannot turn off the Anti-Shock, it is permanently enabled for all images shot at shutter speeds of 1/320 sec or slower. For all other OM-D cameras, you have to enable it in the menu.

CORRECTION (Updated 16 November 2019): There is Anti-Shock setting in E-M5 Mark III but it is disabled by default and deeply hidden in the menu. To enable Anti-Shock for E-M5 Mark III, go to Menu --> Gear Tab --> D1 --> Burst/Timer Icons Settings --> CHECK the Anti-Shock option. 


3) DEFAULT AF MODE S-AF
I admit this may be subjective depending on what photography you do, some may prefer to use C-AF if they do a lot of sports shooting or anything that moves a lot. Also, those using plenty of manual lenses may want to have the focusing mode at M. However, I do mostly people  and events shooting, so my default mode for AF would be Single AF mode. I will change this as necessary, but I want the confidence of knowing that S-AF is the default, it is by far the most reliable and fail-proof AF method on any Olympus cameras. 

Menu --> Gear Tab --> A1 --> AF Mode --> S-AF
Alternatively can be accessed directly at Super Control Panel

4) AF AREA POINTER ON2 FOR CLUSTER AREA AF
For sports shooting, or even moving animals (or vehicles) having the cluster area AF can be beneficial, leaving the C-AF tracking full time on for the camera to handle, and all I have to do is to ensure my subject is within the frame and composition as intended. The OM-D camera is intelligent enough to find and follow the subject tightly. I have used this cluster AF (you need to enable ALL focusing points in AF area selection) shooting tennis tournaments, racing cars and even MMA fights/Muay Thai and the OM-D nails the shots with extremely high keepers. 

Menu --> Gear Tab --> A2 --> AF Area Pointer --> ON2
(To enable to cluster AF, your AF selection must be turned to ALL AREA.  Also, for E-M10 Mark III, you have cluster AF area but it is not applicable for C-AF). 

5) AF TARGETING PAD ON
This is an extremely convenient feature to have turned on. With AF Targeting Pad On, while shooting through EVF, you can use the LCD screen as a track pad. Tracing your finger on it can quickly change the focusing point, allowing for precise AF. For E-M1X user, you may find the joystick AF more suitable for you, but I somehow still prefer using the AF Targeting Pad over the joystick, it works more efficiently. Well, choose whichever works for you.

Menu --> Gear Tab -- A2 --> AF Targeting Pad -- ON
(You can double tap the LCD screen while shooting through the EVF to enable and disable the AF Targeting Pad,  for those of you with larger nose, having trouble rubbing the screen). 

6) AF ILLUMINATOR OFF
The AF assist beam is one of the most annoying thing that can be shooting out of the camera, especially in super dark environment. The OM-D cameras work so well in low light, we don't need the AF beam, so please turn it off!

Menu --> Gear Tab --> A3 --> AF Illuminator OFF

7) FACE PRIORITY AF OFF
I never trusted the face detect AF on any camera. Let me be crystal clear - I am NOT saying Olympus face detect AF is not good. It works well, but I just don't like it and I don't use it. Serious wedding and portrait shooters have no issues quickly navigating the focusing points around manually to ensure pin-point sharp AF on people's face. The face detect (on any camera) to me is a gimmick and I'd not have it interfere with my AF operation. 

Menu --> Gear Tab --> A3 --> Face Priority --> OFF

8) SET ISO SHORTCUT TO ANY OF THE SHORTCUT BUTTONS
This is not applicable to E-M1X and E-M5 Mark III. For E-M1 Mark II (my main camera now) I'd assign the ISO/WB shortcut to the video record button (red button) so I can call up the setting by the press of the button. There is a dedicated ISO shortcut at the arrow key pad of E-M10 Mark III, so you may access the ISO directly from there. 

Menu --> Gear Tab --> B --> Button Functions --> Assign ISO/WB to any of the Fn buttons

9) FN LEVER FUNCTION OFF
The Fn Lever 1/2 is a convenient feature that allows multiple possible quick switching of functions, eg movie/stills or AF/MF. It can also be remapped as the power on/off switch, which will be covered in item 10 next. However, I find that the Fn Lever tend to accidentally switch positions while being in the camera bag, which can be frustrating when I am doing something critical, missing crucial shots as I turned on the camera to the wrong fn lever position. I recommend this to be switched off, but you can decide what works for you. 

Menu --> Gear Tab --> B --> Fn Lever --> OFF
(Not applicable to E-M10 Mark III)

10) FN LEVER AS POWER ON/OFF (OPTIONAL)
A lot of people complained about the awkward position of the power on/off switch on some OM-D cameras being away from the reach within the fingers of the right hand when using the camera single-handedly. Some may not know that you can remap the power on/off switch of the camera to the Fn Lever switch.  If you are a single hand operator, you may find having the power switch closer to your right hand beneficial to your shooting process in the field. This is only applicable for E-M1 Mark II, E-M1X and E-M5 Mark III. 

Menu --> Gear Tab --> B --> Fn Lever/Power Lever -->  Power 1 (or whichever option works for you)

11)  ANTI-FLICKER 50HZ (MALAYSIA)
Shooting under artificial light can cause flickers to be shown on screen (electrical interference), and having the right setting in Anti-Flicker can ensure a smoother and less headache/nausea inducing experience shooting through the EVF or LCD screen. Find out which setting works in your country (there are only two settings, 50Hz or 60Hz, in Malaysia, it is 50Hz). 

Menu --> Gear Tab --> C1 --> Flicker Reduction -> 50Hz/60Hz (depending on countries)

12) ANTI-FLICKER SHOOTING (USE WHEN NEEDED)
This setting helps when dealing with LED screens or projections that are flickering when very high shutter speed is used. Typically, under such conditions, we experience banding (uneven color and exposure appearing in lines across the screen). Anti-Flicker can significantly reduce this. Do not switch this on all the time, as the setting will cause slight lag to the shutter release. 

Menu --> Gear Tab --> C1 --> Anti-Flicker --> ON when necessary

13) IMAGE STABILIZER S-IS 1
There are multiple modes of Image Stabilizer settings. OFF, clearly means the IS is disabled, S-IS Auto means one or  more of the 5-Axis IS will be disabled as decided by the camera, while S-IS 2 and S-IS 3 will disable horizontal or vertical axis to produce smoother panning results. I personally will stick the IS setting to S-IS 1, which enables ALL 5-Axis IS at all times. 

Menu --> Gear Tab --> C2 --> Image Stabilizer --> S-IS 1

14) LIVE SUPER CONTROL PANEL ON
Except for latest cameras E-M1X and E-M5 Mark III, the live super control panel is turned off. Super control panel is a convenient way to have all important settings laid out in a single page for quick adjustments, or simply a glance for inspection to make sure nothing too crazy is happening. At that one page we get important info like RAW/JPEG, AF mode, WB setting, Metering mode, etc. I would highly suggest having this set as a default, instead of Live Control. 

Menu --> Gear Tab --> D1 --> Control Settings --> PASM --> Live Super Control Panel (CHECK)

15) LIVE VIEW BOOST OFF 
For some unexplained reasons, live view boost is turned ON for most Olympus cameras during M manual mode shooting. E-M5 Mark III is the exception (I am not too sure about E-M1X, I don't have one to verify). When live view boost is turned on, we lose the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) advantage, meaning the exposure setting changes (shutter speed, ISO, aperture) won't  be simulated live on LCD screen/EVF. This is counter-productive to what a mirrorless system has to offer - especially when shooting full manual, I want to be able to have live preview of my exposure changes before click the shutter button. Hence I highly recommend disabling this right from the start, and only dive into the menu to enable it when you need it. 

Menu --> Gear Tab --> D2 --> Live View Boost --> Manual Shooting --> OFF
(E-M5 Mark III has this OFF on default). 

DISPLAY GRID (OPTIONAL)
To assist in framing, there are a few grip patterns to choose from. I personally would enable the typical overused rule of thirds grid, sometimes. 

Menu --> Gear Tab --> D3 --> Grid Settings --> Displayed Grid --> Choose as desired

16) AF CONFIRMATION BEEP OFF
Please turn off that annoying AF beep! I know a lot of people are addicted to hearing the "teet-teet" sound, or are psychologically dependent on that to be assured of locking AF successfully. The OM-D locks AF reliably and we don't need the beep to tell us it worked! 

Menu --> Gear Tab --> D4 --> First Item (icon of sound wave) --> OFF

17) NOISE FILTER OFF
If you shoot JPEG, do pay attention to the Noise Filter settings. My best recommendation is to turn it off, giving you the best detail capture in the image without the excessive smearing of digital processing to artificially get rid of noise. I do not mind the presence of some noise, I just want my image to look natural, not like an oil-painting.  I also understand if you are allergic to high ISO noise, that a slight sight of the noise grain can cause your eyes to bleed, then you may crank up the noise filter. 

Menu --> Gear Tab --> E1 --> Noise Filter --> OFF

18) NOISE REDUCTION AUTO
Nosie reduction is actually dark frame subtraction method, an effective technique to get rid of hot pixels, not noise. While hot pixels appears very similarly to what high ISO noise is, they are very different altogether. Hot pixels happen when long exposure is used (typically shutter speed slower than 1 second) and the image sensor heats up, causing some pixels to become "hot pixels". The position of the hot pixels are fixed, hence the pattern can be easily identified by capturing a dark frame. The camera then uses this information to get rid of the hot pixel. You may read more about Dark Frame Subtraction here (click). I'd leave this to Auto, and let the camera switch this on automatically when needed. 

Menu --> Gear Tab --> E1 --> Noise Reduction --> Auto

DO NOT TURN IT ON at full time, your camera will take two images each time you click the shutter button, and this will slow down the camera significantly, delaying your shot to shot time. 

19) ENABLE LSF FOR JPEG
LSF, Large Super Fine is the best compression setting for Olympus JPEG. I don't know why Olympus likes to keep this hidden. For cameras older than E-M1X, the highest default available select-able JPEG setting is LF (Large Fine). You need to dive deep into the menu to find and turn this on. Then you can quickly find it again and select it from the super control panel. 

Menu --> Gear Tab --> G --> SET (first tab) --> LSF
(The LSF is already available by default on E-M1X and E-M5 Mark III)

20) WHITE BALANCE KEEP WARM COLOR OFF
This is an option for white balance when shooting in very warm lighting condition (eg tungsten/candlelight), the camera may either tries the hardest to neutralize the warm cast, or keep the warm cast. I prefer my colors to be more neutral, with more flattering skin tones which usually look worse with destructive warm light, but I admit this is a personal choice, and you may choose which works for you. 

Menu --> Gear Tab --> G --> Keep Warm Color --> OFF
(this can also be accessed quickly from Super Control Panel's WB setting). 

21) RECORD VIEW OFF
I need speed and efficiency when I operate the camera, so I always keep my record view (preview/playback) OFF. I know chimping is fun and important but that quick half a second preview of an image I have just shot may block my view from what is happening in front of me currently. In event/wedding/street photography, that half second can either make or break your shot. Being ever ready with no interruptions, even from that instant playback after each shot, can save lives.   

Menu --> Wrench Tab --> Rec View --> OFF

FROM THE SUPER CONTROL PANEL
Go to the live view LCD screen, press OK. 

22) PICTURE MODE NATURAL
This is another subjective suggestion. I deal with a lot of people/human portraits so skin tone is very important to me. I find that Natural picture mode gives me the best looking skin tone. I would avoid using 1-enhance or vivid modes, these will oversaturate the images, rendering very ugly/fake looking skin tones. You may select white mode works for you. If you ask for my recommendation, Natural it is. 

23) SHARPNESS, CONTRAST, SATURATION = 0
I find that the camera at Picture mode NATURAL produces just the right amount of contrast/sharpness/saturation levels, and of course this is applicable only if you shoot JPEG. I shoot RAW mostly, so these settings were adjusted to 0 by default, for preview purposes only when I am inspecting the images I have shot. If you are shooting exclusively JPEG, you may want to dial back the sharpness setting, as the Olympus JPEG files are usually oversharpened and you may find some artifacts in the files. 

24) GRADATION NORMAL
Gradation, when set to Auto, is "shadow adjust", with the camera artificially lifting the brightness in the shadow region of the images. This will amplify high ISO noise especially if your image has a lot of dark regions, hence I recommend it to be set to NORMAL> 

 25) ASPECT RATIO 4:3
Shooting in RAW, all the aspect ratio setting makes  no difference. If you shoot in JPEG, the 4:3 will ensure you maximize the use of the entire image sensor.  Anything else (3:2, 16:9, etc) will be a crop from the original 4:3. 

That's all I have to share in this Cheat Sheet!

I hope the recommended settings are useful, and they should get you started with your OM-D. Go out and shoot more, experiment with the camera, know it inside out, and you may tweak the camera to your own personalized use. 

Happy shooting everyone!


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5 Small Improvements Olympus Made in E-M5 Mark III

I managed to get my hands on a loaner E-M5 Mark III again from Olympus Malaysia, and I intend to shoot a bit more with the camera, and do a few more videos on YouTube. I made one exploring a few things that Olympus quietly changed in the camera which I believe no one has mentioned about yet. These minor changes may not be gamechangers and are certainly not worth making a big fuss about, but I do welcome any small incremental improvements, especially on menu and operational side of things. 


1) ANTI SHOCK IS NOW AUTOMATED
1) ANTI SHOCK IS HIDDEN (CORRECTED)
Shutter vibration is a real issue, any camera with moving physical shutter mechanism will induce shutter shock to a certain degree. The smaller build and lighter weight of E-M5 Mark III amplifies this issue, having less weight and bulk to dampen the vibration caused by shutter movement. An effective method to mitigate shutter vibration is to enable anti-shock on Olympus cameras. Anti-shock is the option to use electronic first curtain shutter, meaning that the opening of shutter involves no physical shutter movement, and the image sensor "turned on" digitally, hence successfully preventing any possible vibration caused by the shutter. Previously in any Olympus camera, this is an optional setting that can be switched on and off.

However in E-M5 Mark III, the Anti-Shock setting is now permanently turned on, hence any image taken at shutter speeds of 1/320 sec or slower will be shot with Anti-Shock (electronic first curtain shutter). Anything faster than 1/320 sec, E-M5 Mark III employs the normal shutter mechanism. This makes perfect sense because at 1/320 sec or faster shutter speeds, there should not be any vibration recorded in the image.

CORRECTION (Updated 16 November 2019): There is Anti-Shock setting in E-M5 Mark III but it is disabled by default. To enable Anti-Shock for E-M5 Mark III, go to Menu --> Gear Tab --> D1 --> Burst/Timer Icons Settings --> CHECK the Anti-Shock option. 

2) LIVE SUPER CONTROL PANEL IS ON BY DEFAULT
Super control panel is one of the best things in an Olympus camera, allowing quick adjustments of important settings, all laid out neatly within a single page. For some unexplained reasons, Olympus hid the option of Live Super Control Panel which is off by default. For most Olympus cameras, you need to dive deep into the menu system to turn it on. For E-M5 Mark III (and E-M1X), the Live Super Control Panel is now turned on by default, and can be called up by pressing the OK button while shooting via the Live View on LCD screen or EVF. 

3) LIVE VIEW BOOST IS OFF BY DEFAULT DURING MANUAL SHOOTING
Yet another one of weird decisions by Olympus in most of their previous cameras, the Live View Boost is turned ON by default when Manual shooting mode is engaged. When the Live View Boost is turned on, you lose the advantage of WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) while shooting. Typically, when live view boost is turned off, when we adjust the ISO, aperture or shutter speed, the exposure changes are simulated live on the LCD screen or EVF, allowing us to have live preview of the exposure as we shoot. This allows us to get the best exposure setting possible, preventing over or underexposed shots. Olympus disables this, for no apparent useful reasons, for most of their cameras. Thankfully in E-M5 Mark III, they had the sense to have the Live View Boost switched OFF by default when shooting manual. 



4) LSF JPEG SETTING IS NOT HIDDEN ANYMORE
For all Olympus digital cameras since the beginning of time, they have taken great measures to hide their best possible JPEG compression setting, which is the LSF (Large Super Fine) setting. To enable it, you need to dive deeeeeeeep into the menu to find it. In the current new cameras, E-M1X and also now the E-M5 Mark III, LSF is no longer hidden. It can be accessed as an option for JPEG quality directly from the super control panel. 

5) NEW "B" MODE FOR BULB, LIVE TIME & LIVE COMPOSITE
Olympus introduced a new item in their mode dial, a "B" mode which has the 3 settings Bulb, Live Time and Live Composite shifted there in a dedicated slot. Previously, to activate Bulb, Live Time and Live Composite mode, you need to turn the camera to M (Manual), then scroll the shutter speed dial to the slowest 60 seconds setting and then turn it further to reach Bulb and subsequent settings. This was quite troublesome and honestly, not a very convenient way to activating some of the most useful and advanced features in Olympus cameras. Olympus knew this, and they made a quick workaround in E-M10 Mark III and E-PL9, shifting the Live Composite mode to AP photo mode (Advanced Photo). For E-M1X and now the E-M5 Mark III, Bulb, Live Time and Live Composite modes can be accessed directly from the dedicated B mode on the mode dial. I wish this is the same for all other Olympus cameras from now onward. 

Another change worth mentioning, which I have noted in my earlier review article/video of the E-M5 Mark III, is the removal of the "Fn" buttons. In all previous Olympus cameras, there are Fn labels, marking Function Buttons which can be customized to feature shortcuts. The labels all over the camera would be Fn1, Fn2, Fn3, and so on. This may not be a huge thing, but taking out the Fn labels resulted in a cleaner, more simplistic design and I love the less cluttered look of the buttons without the labels. Minimalist is the way to go, a cleaner and leaner look is surely more modern and sleek looking. At the same time, you don't  lose anything, you can still fully customize all the buttons and reassign their functions to whatever other features you prefer. 

I do appreciate the small efforts Olympus did to improve their cameras, but hey, I also believe they should rework their entire menu system and utilize more touch operated controls for quicker access and more simplistic use of the camera. I really wish they have included the MyMenu option from E-M1X, but I guess I can only dream for now. 

What do you guys think of the small changes made in the E-M5 Mark III?


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Shooting Live Music With Olympus OM-D

Last weekend I was privileged to be shooting Bihzhu, a dear friend performing in her own live mini concert show "Bihzhu: In Bloom", and I thought why not use this opportunity to share my experience and some tips on shooting live music using Olympus OM-D System? Typically in stage shows, the lighting is often far from deal and dealing with low light shooting, use of ISO6400 and above is unavoidable. Most people would hesitate and doubt the capabilities of Olympus OM-D or any Micro Four Thirds camera, having smaller image sensor, having to raise the ISO numbers. I am here to tell you that the camera is good enough and the Olympus OM-D performed admirably throughout the shoot. 

Special thanks to Bihzhu and band. Do check out their awesome music!

Of course, I also made a video about how to shoot live music on YouTube, since YouTube is all the rage now.


The stage was set up outdoors, with LED lights not shining on the performers directly, with plenty of back and side directional lighting. There was no bright white or warm light to neutralize the skin tones, so I was dealing constantly with shifting heavy color casts of blue, yellow, red, purple, green, you name it, all colors being destructive to what we normally consider ideal for stage photography. Nonetheless, my job was merely to document the event and capture the performance as true to what it was on stage, so I was not too concerned about color accuracy.

My gear set up was rather simplistic. I was using my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with M.Zuiko PRO lenses, 7-14mm, 17mm, 25mm, 45mm and 40-150mm. The 40-150mm f2.8 PRO was the most used lens of the night, followed by 45mm F1.2 PRO.  All the other lenses were rarely used and stayed in the bag just in case.