PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux


Olympus E-M1 Review

The mirrorless electronic-viewfinder camera architecture is only the third major redesign of the camera in its 200-year history, recently foretold by industry observers to replace the dominant SLR architecture from the 1960s. There can be no doubt that we are in the process of transitioning to the new architecture now, especially with the current generation of electronic-viewfinder cameras like the E-M1. The short version is just this: the E-M1 is a really big deal.


Sometimes it’s better to practice than write

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: I haven’t written anything here in a long time.  It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say, but that I’ve been unusually satisfied just doing other things, shooting, among other things.

For most of the intervening time, I have simply been putting mileage on my M9 and the same kit of M lenses I’ve held onto for the last 3 years. Once I found this kit, or this kit found me, I had no desire to keep testing and reviewing more so the reporting ground to a halt.  Needs change though, and there may be more to write about again.

Look at me, I’m care-free!

In a way, writing was a great way to get rid of the unsatisfactory baggage accumulated along the way. Have I been baggage free, then? No. I’ve failed to report just how unsatisfactory the D800 has been for me.

The D800 is the most amazing camera that I just don’t want to use, and I’m still its owner only because of fear that I might need it. Its sensor is so awesomely good that it has rebuffed several cases of egregious pilot error, who needs to expose properly when you can fix 3-stop errors (either way) in post? The downside is that it’s a heavy, fat and ugly beast with only the lenses to match (including ZFs, in my present opinion).

The last lens I mentioned on this site, only with a hint, was the new Sigma 2.8/180mm OS Macro which exemplifies what I've come to dislike with the DSLR. In short it's a beast, I think it’s the biggest lens I’ve handled yet. I found it to be sharp, stopped down, but with the same dull micro-contrast I’ve come to associate with Sigma lenses (fairly or unfairly, OK, don't flame me) so I just didn’t care to finish writing the review.

Look at the 100MP right next to it!

Writing can do more than vent frustrations with a lens or camera, though, it can also be a way to infect others with particular enthusiasm for the same.

There is some of that to go around lately: I’ve jumped on the m4/3 bandwagon and am loving it! How could I not, after Olympus executed precisely what I asked for in this post from 2010 and then provided a terrific answer to this other post from 2011?  Right, I could not avoid it.

Adopting this third system has taught me a lot:

  1. That auto-focus is not completely hopeless, in fact it can be wonderfully implemented and actually deliver the goods for once.  Contrast AF is the right way to do AF, especially with clever eye-priority algorithms, and it isn't slow at all.
  2. That I am in fact happy to give up the OVF for the unique benefits that EVFs provide.  Being able to visualize dynamic range limits directly while framing is a great way to do ETTR.
  3. That adapted lenses from other systems are good (fun, even!) for idle experiments but next to useless in practice.  It was a romantic notion to which I held for a long time, in absence of experience, and which I discarded almost immediately after trying it.  I occasionally find a use for it, but it's rare.

Some of these combinations are laughable.

In the short time since this picture was taken I’ve already added 3 more lenses, at least; I’m addicted to the gratification of excellent and inexpensive m.Zuiko glass now. Just earlier today I compared the new 1.8/25mm Zuiko and the 2/50mm Planar through aperture series, and couldn’t find much to fault in the Zuiko except: tad lower contrast, some field curvature.

I think I am finally getting to see the flaws in m4/3 but it’s taken months of continuous use, far longer than it took for me to fall out completely with the D800.

I’ll probably be writing about the m.Zuiko lenses eventually.


Filed under: m4/3, Nikon, Personal 4 Comments

Writing about…

On the left, for scale: the 100MP.

Filed under: Lenses 4 Comments

55mm Distagon, Concisely Explained

Even though there is still very little information available on this lens, I believe I just read in a web forum what is the definitive meaning of it.  This lens, and the new family to come with it, is the answer to the Leica S system.

There are a few tests published online that compare the D800 to the S2 (Ming Thein's is excellent, and free to view) and every one of them ends with "but the D800 doesn't have as good lenses".  This lens puts an end to that.

I can't wait to get more information.  More than a vague comment.

Also: I hope this isn't the industrial design they're going with.

- Olivier

Filed under: Lenses, Zeiss 11 Comments

Carl Zeiss 2/25 Distagon T* Review

The newly-redesigned, faster version of the 25mm Distagon is a power tool for reportage. With a higher asking price come improved handling and nearly flawless performance at near and middle distances. The new 25mm ZF.2 is more than a viable alternative for the big systems’ fast lenses of similar focal length, it just might be the preferred choice.


Beans spilled?

In this article on the very exciting new Schneider lenses for m43, is this passage:

"The lens fits all Panasonic and Olympus m43 cameras. It also fits some Leica models when using an adapter provided by the manufacturer. Contrary to some reports in international forums and on photo websites, an adaptation to Sony’s E-Mount is not planned."

quote from NikonRumors

 What Leica models would that be?  No Leica camera that I'm aware of could mount m43 lenses.


Filed under: Leica, Rumor No Comments

One Tiny Little Rumor

I doubt that there will be much excitement on the Internet over this rumor, but NikonRumor mentions a new Nikon patent for a 135mm f/1.8 VR lens.  Some ruminations after the jump...

Filed under: Lenses, Nikon Continue reading

A Lytro and a Biogon

These two are like night and day, foresight and hindsight.  Hindsight looks to the past and shoots 20/20; foresight not so much.  The Lytro is my daughter's camera and we'll be putting mileage on it soon.

On to the subject of the 21mm Biogon ZM.  Here's a pair of samples for the Biogon, and this time the links point to full-res files ( warning: 20MB jpegs) because they're intended for maximum pixel-peeping:


They're really very good.  They're also shot at f/8.  My first surprise was that the lens isn't anything special when shot at f/2.8, or even f/4 sometimes, the Distagon does better.

My second surprise is that, due to an accident of the shipper, I got to see a silver version of this lens in addition to the black one I have above.  The aperture ring on the silver lens was terrible - it was stiff and I could barely feel the detents.  I was really afraid my black copy would be the same, but thankfully it feels like a real Zeiss ZM.

More to come later.



Leica 75mm Summarit-M Review

The 75mm Summarit-M has garnered an unusual volume of praise compared to the other Summarit-M lenses, with many gushing reviewers equating its performance to that of the powerful 75mm Summicron ASPH. Although the truth of this lens is not likely to line up with such expectations, its chief virtue is still clear: this lens makes some very popular 2-lens and 3-lens outfits much more affordable. It is also clear that M photographers have adopted the lens as the new standard short-telephoto.


More Stuff On the Way