Recently there have been a lot of complains directed toward new releases and launches of cameras, and I would like to share my thoughts and harsh opinion on camera truths. I think the obsession for technical perfection and the chase for drastic numerical increment of specification numbers is quite an endless and frankly pointless pursuit. The cameras have been around for a long, long time and strangely people are getting more and more dissatisfied even though the innovation in camera making has progressed far beyond what was made possible decades ago. There were claims about camera companies "not listening to customers" and some new cameras are "dead on arrival". I think we do need to slow down a little bit and truly look at ourselves, not just easily pointing our fingers at camera manufacturers. 


1) THERE IS NO PERFECT CAMERA

There is no point chasing perfection. There will never be a perfect camera, people will never be truly happy with what they have, and they will continue to complain. Cameras are improving and they have gotten so much better in the last 10 years, in comparison to the previous half century. The numbers in camera specifications - megapixel count, high ISO capabilities, dynamic range, AF speed, buffer depth, burst sequential shooting speed, etc - the numbers will continue to change and increase and there is no end to this. What you think is the best today will be superseded tomorrow and this cycle will keep turning and repeating, when will it stop if you want the latest and the greatest all the time?

 Camera is not a gadget - people often just want the best of the best, if we want more and more from the camera, we are missing the point of photography in the first place. If you are a professional photographer, the tools that we have today are more than sufficient to get any photography job done, if there are cases where you think the cameras fall short, I'd think it is the photographer's (most cameras are better than photographers these days). There are truly amazing photography work in the past decades that were shot in less powerful and capable cameras. How did they do it? They did not complain that their camera was not good enough, they did not have 100MP, they did not have 5-Axis IS, no blazing fast C-AF, no super high dynamic range capable image sensors, they just went and made photography happen. 

Do we need the camera to be perfect? No. Because there are no perfect photographers. We cannot even fully utilize the capabilities of what we are given today!

2) NO BAD CAMERAS, ONLY BAD PHOTOGRAPHERS

Any cameras released in recent times are good enough. We have reached the point of camera sufficiency, I don't believe there is truly any bad cameras. We have a lot of choices, and that is a good thing, we can choose the gear that works for us and our specific photography needs. Even the lowest level camera, such as the entry level Olympus PEN E-PL8/9/10 can deliver great results, having fast AF and decent overall camera performance. It will not be able to compete with the latest and greatest out there but do you really need the greatest and latest? Why is the camera not good enough? 

I have seen many newcomers to photography believing that just because they don't have the better equipment, they cannot perform as well as their other friends who have superior cameras and lenses.They also believe that they should upgrade their cameras to be able to achieve better photography results, at least to match what their peers are doing. Here is the plain and simple truth - you don't have to break the bank to enjoy photography. If you are an enthusiast or hobbyist, you should allocate a suitable budget that will not cause you any financial strain - photography should empower you, not drown you. Buy the camera and lenses that you can afford, and trust me, they are good enough. What you have now, is good enough and you should be focusing on improving your craft, and learn new skills than worry about what your camera can or cannot do. 

If you think that your photography is not good enough, it is not because your camera is not good enough. There are no bad cameras, only bad photographers. 

3) LENSES MATTER MORE THAN CAMERAS

Lenses allow you to achieve specific photography objectives. If you don't have the right lens to get the job done, you won't accomplish the desired results. For example, if you want to shoot birds from a distance, being stuck with an ultra wide angle won't bring the birds any closer to the camera. Similarly, not having a dedicated macro lens means you won't be able to get sufficient magnification to fill your frame with the tiny little bug you are trying to shoot. Many photographers emphasized on camera performance but often failed to put enough thought on the lenses they own. 

The most popular questions I have received over the years would be what lens to buy or upgrade to next. If you are asking me what lens to get next, that simply means you are not sure of what you are doing, and it won't matter what lens you upgrade to, that won't make a difference. The best solution is to continue to use the kit lens, fully explore photography and maximize the potential of the kit lens while doing that. After a while, you will realize what you want more from the kit lens, the limitations will help you discover yourself, what you want to do with your own photography and in turn help you make a better decision on what lens to buy next. There is no short and quick answer to what lens is best for you, you have to find that out on your own. 

4) CAMERAS ARE UNIVERSALLY THE SAME

The basics of how the camera works is the same and has not changed for a very long time. The exposure triangle - ISO, shutter speed and aperture remain similar in ALL cameras, across all brands, at all levels from pro grade cameras to entry level cameras. It is like driving a car - the gear, steering wheel, brakes, signals, are all the same. Learning the driving language is very important, it is universal, red light at the traffic junction means stop, green means go, you just have to know this there is no escaping it. 

The biggest mistake I see a lot of newcomers to photography (and a lot of self-claimed pro, I boldly add) is not making enough effort or spending time to truly understand how the camera works and master the fundamentals of photography, before moving on to the more advanced photography shooting. 

There is no shortcut in photography. 

Many people want to skip the boring part - the basics. They just want to do the fun part, the advanced level of photography. Some of these so called "artists" would blanket their shooting mistakes and sloppiness by saying something as silly as "blur is art". Blur is blur, there is no excuse for your mistake, you cannot fool others and confuse them with your artistic statement. If your blur is intended to enhance your photography people will be able to see that, and you don't have to justify your mistakes. Not being able to use your camera to its full potential and truly control it shows what kind of a photographer you are. Don't skip the fundamentals. Learn it. Embrace it. You cannot learn to run before you are able to walk. 

5) THE CAMERA CANNOT READ YOUR MIND

You are the master, you are in control and the camera is your slave. I often observe the complete opposite. 

Whenever the camera does not give a satisfactory result, the camera is to be blamed as if the camera knew what was happening. Wrong white balance? The camera is lousy it cannot give accurate colors. Wrongly exposed images, with severe over or under exposure? Oh it is the camera's poor metering capability, not being able to calculate the available ambient light accurately. Missed your focus, did not nail that shot in perfect, tack sharp focus? The camera AF system is too slow, not efficient enough. The camera is always blamed as if the camera knows what you want and can read your mind. 

The camera is a piece of equipment, used by the photographer. You have to tell the camera what you want. if your image is overexposed, don't blame the camera, go and balance the exposure by whatever means necessary, you can do it by easily turning the exposure compensation dial. The camera gave you the wrong color, fix it! Focusing is not as simple as pressing the shutter button, understanding how the camera works and telling the camera exactly what you have in mind (something as simple as moving the focusing point to the intended target area to be in focus) can get you your desired results. The camera's job is to capture exactly what is presented, and if the camera fail to do that, it is often the photographer's problem. 

I do hope this simple sharing on some harsh photography and camera truths can benefit those who are new to photography, and seriously guys, stop complaining about cameras and start shooting. 

Life is too short to be unhappy with what we own, why not leave a legacy behind with an incredible body of photography work? That is a life goal worth chasing for, not camera perfection. 

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Olympus launched a new PRO lens, the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-45mm F4 PRO together with their new flagship camera, OM-D E-M1 Mark III. The new 12-45mm PRO is the smallest lens in the Olympus M.Zuiko PRO lens line-up, has a constant aperture opening of F4 and is fully weather-sealed. I have had this lens for over a week, and have been shooting with the lens in various photography scenarios. I personally believe the new 12-45mm PRO being a compact PRO lens reflects the true ideologies of Micro Four Thirds system. I am sharing my experience using the lens with a new series of fresh photographs in this review article. 

For those of you who prefer to watch a video instead of reading a 1500 words article, here is a YouTube video I have made for this lens review. 

Here are some important disclaimers first. I am an Olympus Visionary, an ambassador to the Olympus brand. I do not own this lens, the 12-45mm PRO was a loaner from Olympus Malaysia and will be returned to them after review purposes. My review is subjective and there will be no technical tests, data or charts/graphs shown in this article. Instead this is a user experience based review, I am sharing my thoughts and opinion based on my shooting experience using the 12-45mm PRO lens. All images were shot with either the new E-M1 Mark III or my own E-M5 Mark III. All images were post-processed with minor corrections (straightening, minor crop, exposure and white balance adjustments) using either Olympus Workspace for E-M1 Mark III images, and Capture One Pro 20 for E-M5 Mark III. 

For full resolution images, you may go to the online album here (click), all with full EXIF data intact.

Let's get the obvious question out of the way - why did Olympus make another standard zoom lens when they already have the amazing existing standard zoom PRO lenses such as the 12-40mm F2.8 PRO and 12-100mm F4 IS PRO? The redundancy is obvious and a lot of people are questioning the overlap when it comes to focal lengths coverage, do we need another standard zoom lens? Outside of the Olympus family, we also have some good alternatives from the Panasonic camp. 

I personally think having more choices is not a bad thing. While the existing 12-40mm and 12-100mm PRO lenses are not monstrously huge in size, they are not exactly small and truly compact either. To match smaller Olympus camera bodies such as E-M10 Mark III and E-M5 Mark III, the new smaller, lighter and more compact design of 12-45mm F4 PRO is a better suited lens. If the goal is to truly keep the footprint as minimal as possible, the 12-45mm surely accomplishes this goal. Does the optical performance live up to expectation of a true PRO lens? This is what I want to find out in this review article. 





Here is the specifications of the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-45mm F4 PRO lens in a glance:

1) PRO GRADE LENS BUILD
The 12-45mm is a PRO grade lens, hence it has metal body construction, which is well built, similar in quality with any other Olympus PRO lenses. 

2) FULL WEATHER SEALING
The lens is fully weather sealed against dust, splash and freezing down to minus 10 degrees Celsius. 

3) OPTICAL CONSTRUCTION
12-45mm has quite an elaborate optical design, featuring 12 elements in 9 groups. The lens design includes 2 HR lenses, 1 DSA lens, 1 Super HR lens, 2 Aspherical lenses, 2 ED lenses. 

4) MINIMUM FOCUSING DISTANCE
The closest focusing distance is 12 cm at the wide-angle end and 23 cm at the telephoto end. Capture a range of 69.2 x 52 mm at a maximum image magnification of 0.5x (35mm equivalent) across the entire zoom range.

5) COMPACT BUILD
The lens takes 58mm filter thread and weighs only 254g, making this the lightest and smallest PRO lens from Olympus. 

For full product specification, please visit the official product page here (click). 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Excellent built & handling
Holding the lens in hand for the first time, it was difficult to believe this was a PRO lens because of how small and how light the lens is. At the same time, the lens feels solid in hand, having metal construction adds to the premium feel, and there are no creaky or moving parts, the lens feels like one solid item. Fitting the lens onto a smaller camera such as my own E-M5 Mark III, the lens matches the smaller camera build perfectly. The lens is not being too small, there is still a significant part to hold with the left hand for added stability, unlike the much smaller prime lenses. Handling with this lens is almost perfect, there really is nothing bad to say about build quality, ergonomics and handling. Shooting using the 12-45mm PRO for long hours was comfortable and I did not run into any noticeable issues. It was a lens that you can leave on the camera and the lens does everything very well. 

No internal zoom, but front element does not rotate
The zooming mechanism feels really smooth, the lens does extend out quite a bit, there is no internal zoom. That is to be expected since this lens is also the lowest priced PRO lens from Olympus. The good news is, the front element of the lens does not rotate during zooming from wide to tele so polarizing filter users will be happy with this. 

No manual focus clutch and lens fn-button
I was however not happy with the exclusion of manual focus clutch, which was a norm for all Olympus PRO lenses (except 8mm F1.8 Fisheye), and also there is no customise-able Function Fn button. I think it was not difficult to have these two features built in the lens, since a lot of smaller prime lenses from Olympus such as 12mm F2 and 17mm F1.8 have the manual focusing clutch, which does benefit manual focus shooters having the ability to quickly switch to manual focus as well as the focus distance scale on the lens. Also the lens body has enough space to fit a lens function button, which can come in handy to assigned a specific lens and focusing dedicated function, say a focus limiter feature. I guess the decision to exclude these two features is to fully differentiate the 12-45mm from the 12-40mm and 12-100mm PRO lenses. 

E-M1 Mark III, ƒ/4, 1/25, 45mm, ISO400

Crop from previous image

E-M5 Mark III, ƒ/4, 1/250, 45mm, ISO200

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E-M5 Mark III,  ƒ/5.6, 1/50, 36mm, ISO200

E-M1 Mark III, f/4, 1/1250, 19mm, ISO200

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E-M5 Mark III, ƒ/4, 1/60, 19mm, ISO200

LENS IMAGE QUALITY

Take note that images were shot with the new E-M1 Mark III and my own E-M5 Mark III. Also full size resolution images are available for your pixel peeping pleasure here in my online album (click)

Sharpness is excellent
The sharpness of the lens is impressive. In fact, the sharpness output reminds me of using the highly respected 12-100mm F4 PRO lens, if you put images shot with the new 12-45mm vs the existing 12-100mm at equivalent focal lengths, I may not be able to tell apart which images were shot with each lens. The optical performance from the new 12-45mm is nothing short of superb, being sharp wide open at F4, from edge to edge of the frame, and even the corners are very sharp. The lens is already so sharp wide open there really is no need to stop down any further, which is important because F4 is not exactly that bright already as a wide open aperture. The lens is also super sharp consistently across the zoom range, from wide angle 12mm all the way to the longest telephoto end at 45mm. I see no drop in sharpness at any focal length. The images exhibit high amount of contrast, and that adds a lot of depth to the images shot, rendering very true to life results. 

I have reasons to believe that the 12-45mm F4 PRO maybe a little sharper than the 12-40mm F2.8 PRO, but I need to verify this with a more extensive test. I do plan to do one soon in near future to see if the new 12-45mm surpasses the amazing performance of the 12-40mm F2.8 PRO, which is a staple workhorse lens for many professional Olympus shooters over the years. In fact the sharpness of the 12-45mm PRO lens comes close to prime lenses from Olympus such as the 45mm F1.8 and 25mm F1.8 lenses, and that is saying a lot since the 12-45mm PRO is a zoom lens!

Technical lens flaw control is good
I do not notice any distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting or corner softness. I believe Olympus adopts digital and software correction to mitigate some of the technical lens flaw issues. It is a fairly common practice among all camera manufacturers to correct distortion and purple fringing to a certain extent, and these can be automatically done in camera for JPEG files, and the information is stored in the RAW files that can be extracted by any post-processing software. To me, it does not matter of Olympus uses software correction or not, I am more interested in the final outcome of the images, and I observe that the flaws are well controlled. That is all that matters. Next, there is also very low traces of flare or ghosting issues when shooting against strong source of light. Olympus has upped their game when it comes to lens coating, recently their lenses exhibit less and less flare. 

E-M1 Mark III,  ƒ/5.6, 1/125, 12mm, ISO200

E-M1 Mark III, ƒ/5.6, 1/160, 12mm, ISO200

E-M5 Mark III,  ƒ/4, 1/640, 13mm, ISO200

E-M5 Mark III, ƒ/5.6, 1/25, 12mm, ISO200

E-M1 Mark III, ƒ/5, 1, 12mm, ISO64

E-M1 Mark III,  ƒ/14, 5s, 12mm, ISO200

E-M1 Mark III, ƒ/5.6, 1/80, 12mm, ISO200

CLOSE UP SHOOTING

Like all other Olympus PRO lenses, the 12-45mm F4 PRO excels when it comes to close up shooting. Olympus claimed the lens is able to achieve maximum magnification of about 0.5x equivalent at the closest focusing distance to the subject. Having the ability to go close to the subject can open up more versatility and photography opportunities using the 12-45mm PRO lens. 

Being able to go close is one factor, but Olympus still maintains the incredible sharpness at such close distance shots. Some other lenses from other manufacturers struggle to maintain image quality when it comes to close up shooting, the image output quickly disintegrates and came out soft, losing critical fine details. I am glad that Olympus pays close attention in making sure that their lenses perform well even dealing with macro shooting. 

I find that the lens does very well for product shooting as well, and the 0.5x equivalent magnification is sufficient in most situations, and if you need more extreme magnification then you should be looking for a dedicated macro lens instead, such as the Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro. 

E-M5 Mark III,  ƒ/8, 1/20, 45mm, ISO200

 E-M5 Mark III,  ƒ/5.6, 1/50, 42mm, ISO200

E-M5 Mark III,  ƒ/6.3, 1/50, 45mm, ISO200

E-M5 Mark III,  ƒ/6.3, 1/25, 45mm, ISO200

E-M5 Mark III,  ƒ/9, 1/40, 45mm, ISO640

E-M1 Mark III,  ƒ/4, 1/125, 45mm, ISO200

E-M1 Mark III, ƒ/4, 1/100, 45mm, ISO200

BOKEH QUALITY

Since the lens has the maximum aperture opening of F4, do not expect miracles when it comes to shallow depth of field rendering from the Olympus 12-45mm F4 PRO lens. If you are able to get close enough to the subject, for example doing a tight close up headshot of a human, the F4 is still sufficient to blur off the background and isolate your subject. I managed to do this for some of my portrait of strangers shots. 

The lens renders beautiful bokeh. The out of focus area came out soft, creamy and buttery smooth, with no hint of harshness. I think the out of focus rendering is smoother than what was achieved with the 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lens (again, this was unverified without side by side comparison, I am claiming this based on experience). 

E-M5 Mark III, ƒ/4, 1/50, 45mm, ISO200

Crop from previous image

 E-M5 Mark III, ƒ/4, 1/80, 35mm, ISO200

E-M5 Mark III, ƒ/4, 1/160, 35mm, ISO200

E-M5 Mark III, ƒ/4, 1/250, 45mm, ISO200

Where does the new Olympus M.Zuiko 12-45mm PRO fit?

If you already own the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lens, there really is no reason to get the new 12-45mm PRO lens. The 12-40mm lens has a critical advantage - F2.8 bright aperture, that is one full stop advantage of brightness, allowing better light gathering when shooting in low light, and the F2.8 can also achieve shallower depth of field for more effective subject isolation if needed. I don't see how the 12-40mm lens will fare worse, it is larger in build and heavier, and if you use E-M1 Mark III, E-M1 Mark II the 12-40mm should balance very well with these cameras. 

If you are coming from the kit lens 14-42mm F3.5-5.6, or the old 12-50mm EZ F3.5-6.3, then the new 12-45mm F4 PRO is a huge step up. Not only you gain a better build quality lens, the optical quality of the 12-45mm is a significant upgrade, producing much sharper results and better image quality overall. The difference in terms of image quality is immediately obvious, and the 12-45mm outperforms any kit lens options. The fact that the 12-45mm F4 PRO is constructed to be so light and compact makes it a better upgrade option for smaller Olympus camera bodies, such as PEN or OM-D E-M10 owners. I also think that the 12-45mm PRO matches my E-M5 Mark III perfectly, and should have been released together with the E-M5 Mark III as a kit!

If you have the 12-100mm F4 IS PRO lens, then I don't see the need to get the 12-45mm PRO either, unless you want a smaller lens to match your other smaller camera bodies. The 12-100mm F4 PRO lens is better than the 12-45mm in every regard except having larger size and heavier weight. The 12-100mm has a longer reach all the way to 200mm equivalent focal length, which makes it a truly versatile one lens to do it all option. The built in image stabilisation on the lens, enabling 5-Axis Sync IS on compatible OM-D bodies is an added bonus too. 

E-M5 Mark III,  ƒ/5, 1/640, 45mm, ISO200

E-M5 Mark III,  ƒ/5, 1/200, 45mm, ISO200

 E-M5 Mark III, ƒ/5.6, 1/250, 25mm, ISO200

 E-M1 Mark III, ƒ/4, 1/400, 45mm, ISO400

E-M5 Mark III, ƒ/4, 1/30, 45mm, ISO200

CONCLUSION

Like all other Olympus PRO lenses, it is difficult to find anything negative to write about the 12-45mm PRO lens. Besides not having manual focus clutch and lens fn button, which are not dealbreakers honestly, there is nothing but glowingly positive remarks I can give to the 12-45mm PRO lens. The optical design is stellar, producing incredibly sharp images consistently throughout all zoom range, sharp from corner to corner, and also rendering great amount of micro contrast. The technical flaws of the lens are well controlled, with no noticeable problems such as chromatic aberration, distortion or vignetting. The lens is well built, having metal construction body and is fully weather-sealed. The close up shooting is very good, delivering sharp images, and the bokeh quality is just beautiful. While a lot of people may question the need for another standard zoom lens from Olympus, I think we have a killer alternative in the line-up, and why would you deny such a great lens?

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For those in Malaysia, you can pre-order Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III directly from Olympus Malaysia here (click). 

Edit 12/2/20 - 6.15pm: Correction on specification of EVF - EVF has 0.74x magnification, not 0.83x as previously mentioned. 

Olympus has just announced the much anticipated OM-D E-M1 Mark III, a direct successor to their E-M1 Mark II which was released in 2016. The new E-M1 Mark III has a new Truepic IX image processing engine, porting over useful shooting features from the E-M1X such as hand-held high res shot 50MP and Live ND shooting, while also featuring a few new features such as starry sky AF and reworked eye/face tracking AF. I have been shooting with a review unit loaned from Olympus Malaysia for about 2 weeks and I am sharing my full review of E-M1 Mark III with plenty of image samples in this blog entry. I have also made a video review, for those who prefer to watch than read. 


SD cards are important, without them there is no way for the camera to work - you can press the shutter button but no image is recorded. It is important to get compatible, optimized cards for best camera speed and performance, and also take care of the card so it does not get damaged too easily. Some of the tips I am sharing in this blog entry are applicable to any memory cards used on any camera bodies. However, since I am a monogamist Olympus shooter, I will be speaking from my experience shooting with OM-D cameras using specifically SD cards only. 


TIP 1: DO NOT USE SLOW CARDS
Olympus OM-D cameras (as well as any new, modern, not too low tiered camera) are extremely fast - the camera can capture up to 60 frames per second in full RAW file using silent shutter, and 15 frames per second in mechanical shutter. Olympus E-M1X, E-M1 Mark II and E-M5 Mark III support UHS-II (ultra high speed II) SD cards up to 250MB/s read and write, allowing the camera buffer to clear almost instantaneously, even when shooting in high burst mode.  Refer to the video comparison between a UHS-1 slow SD card and a high speed UHS-II card. The speed difference is night and day. Be sure to check the maximum speed that your camera can support, there is no point buying UHS-II card for an older camera that does not support the speed, say an Olympus E-M5 original. Nevertheless, a faster card enables the camera to perform optimally, not just for faster burst sequential shooting but also general shot to shot response and overall smoothness of camera operation. Why get one of the fastest cameras in the market if you are doing to cripple it with a slow SD card?

TIP 2: BUY MORE SPARES
SD card is not expensive. Photography can be an expensive hobby, and there are ways to save some precious cash but you definitely should not cheap out on SD cards. SD card is such a thin, small, fragile piece of plastic that can break easily by usual wear and tear. For someone as clumsy as myself (I am not the worst I believe) a little mishandling can destroy the SD card unintentionally. It is wise to have more back up than necessary. Also, it is common to hear SD cards being corrupted for no apparent reason, and if you have enough spares, you have less to worry about. 

TIP 3: FORMAT OR ERASE ALL?
All cameras generally have two options to delete the images - erase all or format card. Formatting a card will wipe the entire card empty, leaving it fresh and at a clean slate. On the other hand, erase all option will only delete the image and video files specifically, and leaving any other non-related files, if stored inside the card, intact. We will explore why this is important in TIP 4. For common practice, if you use the same SD card for the same device consistently, without switching the card to other devices, it is safe to perform erase all. However, if you always use one SD card in multiple devices, especially using different brand and model cameras, the different devices will write different file formats and folders into the same card, increasing risk of bugs, corrupted files and ultimately card failure. Therefore, if you switch SD cards often between devices, it is advisable to format the card each and every time you insert into a new device to prevent corruption or file clashes. 

TIP 4: LEAVE CONTACT INFORMATION INSIDE 
If you choose the erase all option, this tip is applicable. I am sure you have heard of many wonderful stories about lost gear and how the camera and precious SD cards with important images found their way back to the owner, thanks to the good Samaritans. In case of gear being lost, it is a lot easier to track the owner if contact information is provided, and one way to do that is to insert a text file into the SD card with name and contact details (if you are uncomfortable with leaving your address or phone number for privacy reasons, I am sure a PO Box or email would suffice). This could save the other party some serious CSI grunt work to find you. 

TIP 5: PROTECT YOUR SD CARDS
SD cards are fragile little things, so protection is crucial. Do not use a hard case that is too rigid even from the inside, I have friends who use both metal and plastic hard cases that crushed the SD cards stored inside due to too much pressure applied. Also, do not opt for soft pouches or carrying cases that offer no protection at all, the SD cards can be easily bent and broken (refer to video). I would recommend a hard case from the outside with good soft padding for impact absorption from the inside to prevent crushing under pressure.


TIP 6: STORE SPARE SD CARDS IN WALLET
We cannot prevent ourselves from forgetting, it has happened to me, to my professional photographer friends and the best of us - we are only human. It is not about trying not to forget, that is a bad way to prepare for an emergency, instead we should find a viable, fail proof alternative solution. I propose carrying an SD card inside your wallet at all times, as your wallet is something that you carry with you everywhere. Also, there are wallet designs with slots to store SD cards, it is commonly available (at least here in departmental stores of KL, Malaysia). 

TIP 7: LEAVE SD CARD DOOR OPEN
I must thank Tobias and some other blog readers who suggested this - leaving the SD card door on the camera open when the card is taken out is a good move. When we see the door is still open, we are reminded that the SD card is not inserted, hence minimizing the chance of not bringing  SD cards out. A simple, and useful hack indeed. 

Do you have other tips on SD cards to share? I am sure you do, and I would love to hear them!


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Olympus followed up the game-changer E-M5 by releasing their first mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera targeted toward the professional and serious enthusiast market - OM-D E-M1 in 2013.  Scrutinizing the paper specifications, nothing much have changed, the core of the two cameras were rather similar - same 16MP resolution Micro Four Thirds sized image sensor, 5-Axis image stabilization built in, weather sealing, built in electronic viewfinder and the claim of having the fastest AF at that time. However, those who have used the E-M1 extensively would testify that the E-M1 was a more refined camera and certainly better suited for professional and more heavy duty use. E-M1 was the camera that successfully convinced me to switch from DSLR to mirrorless camp, and since then I have always believed that mirrorless is the future. 

Olympus got a lot right in the E-M1, and they did not do so by beating the competition in any specific manner. The E-M1 was not the best in any aspect of a camera, it does not have the highest Megapixel count, not the best C-AF tracking for sports, not the best low light shooting camera and certainly pales in comparison to full frame cameras when it comes to dynamic range. However, why was E-M1 such a popular camera and became so successful? DPReview crowned the E-M1 their two most prestigious awards in 2013 - The Best Camera Of The Year as well as The Product Of The Year. Olympus must have done something right, though they did not particularly excel in any singular aspect of a camera capability. 

The answer - Olympus managed to strike a balance, and paid attention to every single aspect of the camera. The camera may not be the best at anything, but it does everything very well. The 16MP image sensor won't beat a full frame image sensor, but it comes very close to APS-C DSLR performance. The AF was shockingly fast and accurate, and Olympus managed to include some interesting features such as 5-Axis Image Stabilization (which was improved from the E-M5). While the E-M1 was a mirrorless camera, Olympus did not skimp the handling part, they gave the E-M1 a beefy hand-holding gripping area, and those who have held the E-M1 knew that Olympus made sure the ergonomics of the camera was well made. The electronic viewfinder was bright, large and lag-free, certainly a peek into the future of possibilities when it comes to mirrorless camera imaging. 

What made me switch over from my old DSLRs to E-M1? 

I was using the Olympus DSLR E-5 and E-520 for photography jobs (I was freelancing) as well as personal shutter therapy sessions. The E-M1 came along with EVF that matches the LCD screen in color and contrast. The color was visibly different between the LCD and EVF in the previous E-M5, and Olympus managed to fixed this quickly. The EVF was further improved - increased in magnification, refresh rate and resolution. Having the superior what you see is what you get advatage of live exposure simulation, or as Kirk Tuck put it - pre-chimping (you see the results before you press the shutter button), it was indeed revolutionary for my photography, at least for my own shooting. The AF was miles ahead in terms of speed and accuracy in comparison to many cameras available in the market that that time, and certainly was better than my DSLRs. I knew I had to make the switch. 

I have been shooting with the E-M1 and a plethora of Micro Four Thirds lenses for many years, before I finally made the switch to E-M1 Mark II. Mind you, all these happened even before I joined the Olympus Visionary program. 

I truly believe that the E-M1 was the first real professional mirrorless camera in the market. It certainly checked all the right boxes, and when Olympus designed the camera they had professional photographers in their mind, making sure they final product is a balanced camera that can perform well in any given shooting environment. It has served me well for many years, doing countless photography jobs and many many more personal shoots. I could not have been happier to make the jump to the OM-D camp when I did. 

Olympus did many things right with the E-M1. They introduced the venerable M.Zuiko 12-40mm PRO which was their first PRO lens to match the E-M1, a worthy standard zoom lens that was well constructed, sharp optically, fast in AF and weather-sealed. Olympus also listened to customer feedback and quickly fixed many issues that were found in the predecessor E-M5. I would go as far as to say that the E-M1 was what the E-M5 was supposed to be, and it was a more refined version. 

The continuous support from Olympus by releasing Firmware Upgrades was commendable for the E-M1 camera. Over the four iterations of Firmware updates, Olympus has not only fixed the bugs/errors but made significant improvements when it comes to real practical shooting. They managed to increase the burst sequential shooting with continuous AF from the limit of 6.5FPS to 9FPS, that was an almost 50% increase of performance. They also added many features into the camera, such as better movie recording modes (audio level control, more frame rate options eg 24p, 25p), live composite, focus bracketing and stacking, silent shutter, S-OVF, new Art Filters, and many more. 

Today the E-M1 stays in my camera bag as a fail-proof back up for my main workhorse, E-M1 Mark II. Truthfully, even now in 2020, I can still confidently take out the E-M1 with no hesitation and I know I will be able to deliver satisfactory shots to my clients. The E-M1 was genuinely a camera that shows Olympus DNA, and I am glad Olympus continued that in the E-M1 Mark II, and hopefully in their future iterations. 

I am sure many of you have used, and still use the E-M1. Share your experience using your E-M1!


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