My thoughts on Olympus
I joined the Olympus bandwagon in 2020 beginning just before the Covid Pandemic. Earlier, I had been a canon user and my kit included 7d, 1dm4, 100mm IS macro, 18-200, 10-20, 100-400, 800/5.6 and I have also rented the 1dxm2, 200-400 f4 on numerous occasions. Point is I have used the best of the canon gear so I understand its limitations and advantages. My genre of photography is wildlife with a special interest in birds.
In February 2020 I decided to take the plunge into Olympus. I started with the em1.2, 60mm macro and 300/4 and quickly added the 40-150/2.8 as well. My current kit is em1.3, em1x, 150-400, 12-200, 45/1.8, 20/1.8, 60mm macro, 40-150, 1.4xtc, 2x tc. That’s a lot of kit in such a short time!!!! That’s because after using the system, I have started to believe in it and feel its ok to invest more in it. The reasons for my shifting to Olympus are laid out in this blog https://glimpsesofnature.net/why-i-went-micro-4-3-system/
Of late there has been a lot of discussion amongst the Olympus users about where the system is going, what we can do about it and what creative peripherals is doing and should do. The group has formed its own website www.olympususers.com and also started the artburt exhibit. However, most oly users remain on whatsapp and we are finding less traction on the telegram group and the website. Be that as it may.
Here are my thoughts on the matter about what needs to be improved. Basically there are three areas in India that spend the biggest buck, Wedding, Fashion and Wildlife. Street and landscape isn’t so big in India just yet.
Wedding photography is dominated by the full frame guys and fast lenses especially sony. Generally we see sony FF like a7m3 or canon 5dm4 etc and fast lenses like 70-200/2.8, 85/1.8 etc. We also see a lot of video being done on dslr rather than on dedicated video cameras. Olympus is seriously handicapped in this genre. Light tends to be low so ISO’s are high. You need fast lenses with creamy bokeh. I feel there is no good way for Olympus to break into this because even if they came up with a great sensor that’s equivalent in noise to a FF body (impossible I think), they would still need equivalently fast lenses with requisite creamy bokeh. So something like a 20-100 f/1.2 or something is the minimum needed and I just don’t think that will be feasible. Also, nobody wants to take a chance during weddings, it happens once in a lifetime (hopefully). Since wedding photography budgets are quite high, I don’t think cost of equipment would be a constraint. The photographer would rather get the best stuff and charge the client accordingly. Also, the video on the Olympus system is not so great at the moment, Panasonic is much preferred here and Blackmagic is also good. But without 8k video, vlog, 120fps 4k and maybe inbuilt nd filters, I think Olympus wont be able to catch up. I think a dedicated vlogging camera with just basic functionality and tiny form factor like air may be interesting.
The only person I know who has been successful at wedding photography with m43 system is Mital patel. His work can be seen at https://www.mitalpatel.in/weddings
Olympus colors, especially skin tones, are actually quite good. Olympus also has the fast lenses that could be of use like 45/1.2 etc but it still needs a fast zoom lens equivalent to the 70-200/2.8 which is widely used by fashion photographers. I find however that Olympus lacks the flash system that is most needed for fashion photographers. Most Olympus users are using third party flashes. A better section for flash photography including in body control are definitely needed. I find the color accuracy superior to canon at least and given that studio environment is highly controlled, some headway might be possible in this space. You would need a couple more lenses and some work in the lighting area but its possible. Given that fashion photographers usually work on a budget, the compactness, IBIS and lower cost of the OMD system would actually be an advantage I think. The Highres mode means that taking images for blowing up on large scale is possible. These aspects may be highlighted .
Product Photography/Brochure Shoots
Product photography or brochure shoots is one area that I think Olympus would excel in. The possibility to stack images in camera and also out of camera means product photography will achieve a depth of field that’s been hitherto impossible so far. This area should certainly be explored. The inclusion of art filters and various modes means that you can get an interesting output straight from the camera without having to spends hours in processing. Basically the shoot can be conceptualized and deployed while shooting.
Many workplaces especially in manufacturing are dark and would probably not allow external lights etc. Its here that Olympus IBIS would be of great value and the weatherproof nature of the gear means that workplace photography could be done even in wet and hostile environments and from angles that were impossible so far.
There are many many wildlife enthusiasts in India and all of them are spending and are willing to spend big bucks. Olympus has some inherent advantages in this field. The system is compact, weather proof, comparatively cheaper. Depth of field is higher and this is not a bad thing for wildlife. Olympus already has 4 absolutely stellar lenses for wildlife and these are the 150-400, 300/4, 40-150/2.8, 60mm macro. I have the above 4 lenses and they are absolutely brilliant. The 100-400 is also not too bad and is quite affordable. I don’t have the 100-400 and wasn’t able to review it but its supposed to be good. The lenses are the most important part of the setup but bodies are equally important. Current Olympus bodies are quite old i.e. circa 2016. The industry has moved on since then and Olympus needs to catch up very fast. Noise is an integral part of the sensor size so there is probably a limit to how much it can be improved. The moment you improve the noise profile of an m43 sensor, the noise profile of a FF has also proportionally improved. As long as you can end up with the noise profile of a n-1 FF, it should be fine. Modern software are amazing at noise removal. The 60mm macro is an incredibly sharp lens. The in-body stacking makes it amazing. The 150-400 is an incredible incredible lens and is potentially a major game changer for Olympus. Its every wildlife photographers dream lens. I feel an Olympus em1m3+100-400 vs sony a7.3+200-600 is probably the area many wildlifers are stuck. If Olympus can decisively prove the prevalence of the Olympus combination over the sony, it would go a long way in convincing new wildlife enthusiasts to invest in a m43 vs a sony. The Nikon 200-500 I don’t think is in the reckoning.
What I would like to see from OMD.
- 24-30 mp sensor with 1-2 stops better noise and 2 stops better dynamic range and deeper buffer. Much better EVF and screen. I think the next body will be make or break for OMD and they should just put everything in it. I don’t mean just features and art filters, but core things like AI subject tracking, better noise and DR, EVF, maybe 3-4 processors, two being dedicated for AF etc.
- Much better autofocus system. The current autofocus is just not sufficient. Some AF point options also could be added. Actually, even a simple data sheet on how the AF works, how sensitivity works, whether EVF refresh rate has an impact, whether IS has an impact and does IS overload the processor so its not available for AF should be put out by OMD. A simple AF data sheet covering these points will go a long way in addressing the frustration with the current AF system. While users have come to a conclusion about the settings to use, this is a result of trial and error and not facts. See https://glimpsesofnature.net/olympus-af-settings-for-static-objects/ and https://glimpsesofnature.net/olympus-bif-settings/
The AF settings is something which is really bothering wildlife users.
- Dedicated vlog camera which is very compact. Most people don’t need the sheer ruggedness of a gopro for everyday use but since Olympus lenses are so compact, a tiny selfie/vlog camera would be great. With like a flip screen and selfie light or something. Only auto, no bells and whistles.
- Some more options in the camera setup especially ranges of ISO and shutter-speed and priorities. Like you should be able to set a range of shutter speed say 1/400-1/800 depending on focal length of the lens, it will change shutter speed or ISO.
- Distance and DOF readout in the viewfinder.
- Better software: The Olympus workspace is trash and Olympus shouldn’t bother pursuing it. Nobody uses legacy software anyways. Everyone is on LR ,PS, C1, DXO etc. What Olympus should focus on is a) plugin for LR, DXO etc to demosaic/de-bayer the images correctly. The current versions of LR and PS and C1 have a lot of variations in how they display and interpret the files. Olympus absolutely needs a better engine to help these software’s to interpret the Olympus files. 2) plugin for lens corrections maybe tying up with dxo. 3) noise correction plugin or something. Again, noise is seen very differently by different software and there is no consistency in how its tackled. Raw therapee is doing some interesting work in this regard. Maybe an option to apply noise reduction to raw at a basic level might be useful. Software is super super important …A sinple Oly software that can take your .orf files, do some basic noise correction based on user inputs and outputs a .dng or.psd file is sufficient.
- In body stacking that will produce RAW files.
- Better flash offerings at affordable rates.
- Better discounts for India. India is a very price conscious market. Most people would go for brand like Sony, Nikon, Canon if its at a similar price point.
- More and better targeted user outreach, touch and feel sessions, Olympus visionaries, exhibitions etc. Maybe Olympus owned and operated equipment rentals. Better YouTube videos. The current YouTube videos are just rehashing stuff like functions and how to use featurettes. This stuff is already there on YouTube by Peter Forsgard, Robin Wong and many others. There should be in-use videos especially comparisons say between sony 7m3 and 200-600 vs Olympus em1m3+100-400.
- Dedicated compact camera and lenses for domestic subject photography like of babies, kids, parties etc and integration of Instagram and Facebook within the camera so it can be instantly uploaded.
- Be market leader rather than try to catch up.
24th April 2021