Olympus Stylus 1 – A lot of camera .. without the weight

Let’s make it clear from the start that this is not an in-depth technical review; rather a series of first impressions based on 2 field trips. Having said that; is there a better way of finding out if a camera will do what you want?

I’ve used Nikon cameras for many years and have no quibbles about the image quality or the ease of use of their DSLR cameras, BUT I am tired of lugging around 15kg of camera gear (2 bodies+ 3 lenses) every time I go away.
The idea of a bridge camera has become more and more appealing as the quality has steadily improved and the focal range of the lenses has got longer and longer.
I realise a compact will not give same image quality or scope for enlargement as my DSLRs but the appeal of a lightweight camera is huge and I was sure there must be something out there that would combine a light weight with decent images.

A shortlist of 2 – bigger sensor or bigger zoom?

After a lot of research I narrowed my shortlist down to 2 cameras – the Sony Cyber Shot RX10 and the Olympus Stylus 1.
The Sony has a larger sensor and does offer slightly better image quality but Olympus has a greater zoom range – up to 300mm compared to the Sony’s 200mm.

As I take mostly wildlife images I wanted the greater zoom; even though I know that the Sony’s bigger sensor will give great scope for cropping or enlarging.
The fact that the Sony is almost twice the price was also not an insignificant factor in my decision making process.

The Stylus 1 has a zoom range from 28mm-300mm. There are bridge cameras out there that boast a zoom that extends to 1000mm but from all I have been able to discover, even those from big names like Canon & Nikon do not rate very highly in reviews when it comes to image quality.
Also, and this is a biggie for me, the Olympus Stylus 1 has an electronic viewfinder Most bridge cameras only offer an LCD screen, they do not have an optical/electronic viewfinder. For me this is essential.
What good is a camera that can zoom to 600mm or 1000mm if you cannot hold it steady? Believe me, it is almost impossible to hold a camera steady enough to use a 600mm zoom when using a rear LCD screen. Added to which LCD screens are almost impossible to view clearly in bright sunlight, making it very tough to accurately compose a photograph le viagra sur internet.

So, I took the plunge and bought myself an Olympus Stylus 1.

Olympus Stylus 1 beside a Nikon D7100 + 70-200mm zoom

Olympus Stylus 1 featuring a 28-300mm zoom beside a Nikon D7100 + 70-200mm zoom

As soon as I got it out of the box I was impressed with the quality feel of the camera. Even though it is small, it feels substantial and well built when compared to most bridge cameras.

I looked in vain for a user manual, eventually discovering that the only one provided was a downloadable PDF file. This was disappointing.
Once I had downloaded this PDF manual there was further disappointment when it became apparent that the manual was far from comprehensive and did little more than listing the various menu options without giving any real explanation of of what particular settings would do.
At least when I contacted Olympus support they promptly sent me a printed version of the manual. It contained no additional information but at least it was something I could carry around with me.
Olympus support were also very helpful when I encountered problems updating the camera’s firmware, responding very promptly to my queries.

On the road in Australia and South Africa

To put my new Olympus through its paces I planned to take it with me on a trip to Australia’s High Country and then, assuming all went well on that trip, I wanted to take it with me on a hiking train in South Africa’s iMfolozi National Park.

High Country Australia

On the High Country trip it performed impeccably, although I did notice that the electronic viewfinder did momentarily freeze after a shot whilst the camera was writing the file to the SD card. This meant that for that brief time I could not see anything through the viewfinder. I though that this might be because I was using a card with a fairly slow write speed (45mbps). *** See note below
When I used the camera in burst mode the ‘freeze’ lasted a little longer and even when I was panning to keep the subject in frame, when the viewfinder unfroze, the subject was often nowhere near where I was aiming. Irritating.

Over the course of 3 weeks I used the Stylus 1 as much as I could, often taking the same shot with the Olympus as I was taking with my Nikon, so that I could compare the images.

Bucking whipcrack

Bucking whipcrack

Brumbie roundup

Brumbie roundup

Chasing a brumbie

Chasing a brumbie

ice-framed

Mungo National Park

Mungo National Park

Kangaroos

Kangaroos

Functions buttons can be customised

A neat feature on the Stylus 1 is that there are 2 programmable function buttons -one on the front and one on the rear.
I programmed the front one to switch between single shot/burst modes and the one on the rear to switch on the 2x digital zoom feature.

Auto ISO limitations

One niggle that baffled me was that although the Stylus 1 has an Auto ISO setting, and you are able to set high and low parameters for the ISO, it cannot be used in conjunction with the M (Manual) setting.
On my DSLRs I like to use the ISO as my variable when I am shooting in Manual mode, allowing me to determine both Shutter speed and Aperture.
On the Stylus 1 I could not do this and I cannot really see any reason why this should be the case. But it is, currently at least.

I have to say it was a pleasure carrying this little camera around and, even better, I was very happy with the quality of the photographs I took.

A Leap of Faith

Encouraged by this I decided to take the plunge and take the Olympus as my only camera for a 5 day hiking trail in South Africa’s iMfolozi National Park.
On this trip we’d be carrying all our gear with us in backpacks (approx 20kg) and I really didn’t want the weight of a DSLR and lenses as well.

Having completed the hike, I’m pleased to report that I was pretty happy with my decision. The Stylus 1 performed excellently.

Buffalo in white umfolozi river

Buffalo in white umfolozi river

Hippos at St Lucia

Hippos at St Lucia

Hadeda Ibis

Hadeda Ibis

Giraffe drinking

Giraffe drinking

Excellent Battery Life

I took a spare battery with me, but never needed it. The battery life was good enough that it still showed as full after 5 days and 500 images.

The zoom range of 28mm-300mm proved just about perfect for the circumstances, although a bit too short for any decent bird photography.

Small niggles

Apart from the – already mentioned – issue of the viewfinder freezing, the only other things that caused a slight problem were

(i) the delay between switching the camera on and it being ready to use.
The delay was only about 2-3 seconds (Basically the time it takes for the lens to pop out and then to get the zoom extended to 300mm.) but there were a couple of occasions where even this short delay caused me to miss a shot.
Now that I am more confident about the camera’s battery life I can overcome this problem by leaving it switched on.

(ii) Because the camera is so small and I have large hands I did occasionally find that my thumb was hitting the control dial on the back of the camera and bringing up a menu in the viewfinder. A simple touch on the shutter release was enough to clear the menu from the screen and it didn’t cause any real problems.

Even more so than in Australia, I appreciated the camera’s light weight and ease of use and it will definitely be accompanying me on future trips where keeping the weight down is a priority.

Many more features still to be discovered

The Olympus Stylus 1 has a lot of features that I haven’t used yet:

  • It has various pre-programmed scene settings and a selection of ‘art’ settings
  • It offers the capability for you to create a collage of images as you shoot them
  • It has a flip out rear LCD screen that I have not yet flipped out, other than to check that it does indeed flip out.

There are probably a lot more that I haven’t even noticed yet and I’m sure that I’ll discover them in due course.

Just to summarise, here is a list of the things I liked and the things I didn’t.

What I like

  • size & weight
  • zoom range
  • it shoots RAW
  • image quality
  • constant maximum aperture of f2.8 throughout zoom range
  • good WB – I found the Auto WB to be much more accurate than on my Nikons and needing far less adjustment
  • controls are well placed
  • 2 progammable function buttons
  • build quality
  • burst mode
  • battery life
  • Olympus service – they responded promptly to my queries – and sent me a printed copy of the manual very quickly when I asked.

What I don’t like

  • can’t use auto ISO in Manual (M) mode
  • the electronic viewfinder freezes momentarily whilst the camera writes images to the card. I though this might be because I was using a slow card but it happens even with a 95mbps card. *** See note below
  • Following on from the above, when shooting in burst mode I have to pan with the subject and hope that I have kept it in frame. Once the camera has finished writing the shots to the card the subject is often nowhere near the place I was aiming.
  • Aperture does not go beyond f8. This was not a problem in reality but I guess for some people it might be.
  • The manual – it only comes as a downloadable PDF and it is so poorly written that anyone not familiar with general camera functions would struggle to get going.

I’m sure that as I use this lovely little camera more and more I will learn how to use it better but for now I am very content to have found an ideal travel camera.

*** Note on EVF ‘Freeze’ – Since writing this review I have learnt that the ‘freeze’ that so irritated me was caused by having the camera set to show a 2 second playback of images shot. I have now turned the playback ‘off’ and the problem has gone. So simple. As I said above, I am still learning all the ins & outs of this camera.

Technical Stuff

For those of you that like that sort of thing, here are a few of the specifications:

  • 1/1.7″ CMOS sensor
  • 12 megapixels
  • Electronic viewfinder with eye sensor – shuts off the rear LCD when you put your eye to the viewfinder – neat.
  • 3.0″ TFT colour display – touch screen
  • Equivalent to 28mm-300mm on a 35mm camera with constant f2.8 max aperture
  • TTL metering system
  • Shutter speeds 1/2000 – – 60 sec
  • ISO sensitivity – 100-12800
  • Weight 402g / 14oz – including battery and memory card

More reviews

If you’d like to read some more technical reviews of the Olympus Stylus 1, then here are a few of the ones I looked at:

imaging-resource.com – http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/olympus-stylus-1/olympus-stylus-1A.HTM

whatdigitalcamera.com – http://www.whatdigitalcamera.com/reviews/compact-cameras/olympus-stylus-1-review

photographyblog.com – http://www.photographyblog.com/reviews/olympus_stylus_1_review/

digitalcamerareview.com – http://www.digitalcamerareview.com/camerareview/olympus-stylus-1-review/

pcmag.com – http://uk.pcmag.com/olympus-stylus-1/261/review/olympus-stylus-1

digitalversus.com – http://www.digitalversus.com/digital-camera/olympus-stylus-1-p17543/test.html

cameralabs.com – http://www.cameralabs.com/reviews/Olympus_STYLUS_1/

Zebras

Zebras: Undoubtedly one of the most photographed, and photogenic, of Africa’s wild animals.
Zebra sightings are always a safari highlght

Cape Mountain ZebrasCape Mountain Zebras - coloured pencilZebras - Masai Mara, KenyaZebras - Masai Mara, Kenya - charcoalZebras - Masai Mara, Kenya - coloured pencilZebras - Masai Mara, Kenya - da vinciZebras - Masai Mara, Kenya - liquid linesZebras - Masai Mara, Kenya - obscurityZebra approach - charcoalZebra approach - da vinciZebras - Serengeti, TanzaniaA word in your earA word in your ear - charcoalA word in your ear - liquid linesZebras - Timbavati -Zebras - Timbavati - charcoalZebras - Timbavati - da vinciZebras - Timbavati - obscurity

 

 

 

AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR – a classic updated

For some years now the first lens that goes into my camera bag when I’m loading up for a safari has been my 300mm f4 telephoto.

Sure, it may not be as versatile as a zoom lens but the image quality more than makes up for that.
I’ve got so used to this lens that I’m not even tempted to splash out £4,000 on the f2.8 version. Yes it has more features, and that extra f-stop, but it is also a lot heavier.

But now Nikon have given me a dilemma. They have announced an updated version of the 300mm f4. By Nikon’s measurements the new FX-format 300mm f/4 is 30% shorter and 1.5 lbs lighter than its predecessor, thanks to the use of a Phase Fresnel design. It also now boasts image stabilization  – claiming an impressive four and a half stops in image stabilization.

AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR

AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR

The Nikon website certainly makes it sound appealing –  AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR

It’s early days yet, and I haven’t yet managed to get my hands on one of these new beauties but I am eagerly awaiting the moment when I can.

I still haven’t been able to play with one yet – they are hard to come by in the UK – but here’s a reasonably in-depth review from photographylife.com and a less in-depth one from ephotozine.com

Here’s some of the blurb from Nikon:

AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR Primary Features

  • A fixed focal length telephoto lens with a focal length of 300mm and a maximum aperture of f/4 compatible with Nikon FX-format digital SLR cameras
  • The first NIKKOR lens for which a PF (Phase Fresnel) lens element has been adopted, making it the world’s lightest*1lens of its type
  • Equipped with a SPORT VR mode for effective photography of athletes and other subjects that are moving rapidly and unpredictably in addition to a vibration reduction (VR; camera shake compensation equivalent to a 4.5-stop*2 increase in shutter speed) function
  • Adoption of a PF (Phase Fresnel) lens element, an ED lens element, and Nano Crystal Coat for superior optical performance with which chromatic aberration and ghost are suppressed
  • Capable of expression of the beautiful blur characteristics possible only with a maximum aperture of f/4
  • Equipped with an electro-magnetic aperture mechanism that enables stable auto-exposure with high-speed continuous shooting
  • Adoption of Nikon’s exclusive and highly durable fluorine coat, which effectively repels water and oils, and makes cleaning the lens easier even when it does get dirty, on the surface of the front lens element
  • *1Among 300mm fixed focal length (prime) AF lenses compatible with 35mm “full-size” format cameras available as of January 6, 2015 vente de pilule viagra. Statement based on Nikon research.
  • *2Measured in accordance with CIPA standards in NORMAL mode using an FX-format digital SLR camera.

PF (Phase Fresnel) Lens Elements

  • The PF (Phase Fresnel) lens, developed by Nikon, effectively compensates chromatic aberration utilizing the photo diffraction phenomenon*. It provides superior chromatic aberration compensation performance when combined with a normal glass lens. Compared to many general camera lenses that employ an optical system using the photorefractive phenomenon, a remarkably compact and lightweight body can be attained with less number of lens elements.

How to Be a Better Photographer

One of the things I try to do at the start of every year is to look back over the photographs I’ve taken in the previous year. I do this for 2 main reasons:
  • Firstly: I like view to them with fresh eyes and re-evaluate them to decide whether or not I think they are any good, just in case I’ve overlooked any hidden gems. After every safari I spend ages sorting through the images I have taken and deciding which ones are worthy of showing off and which are not achat pfizer viagra. After I’ve made that selection there will often be a period of months when I only look at and work with the selected photographs; simply because they are a manageable number. So when I go back and look through last year’s work I often find that images I haven’t looked at for months leap out at me; making me wonder how I overlooked them first time around. In part this is due to the fact that I’ve become so familiar with my ‘selected’ images that these ‘forgotten’ ones appear new and fresh. I also find that the intervening months allow me to appreciate alternate shots of particular subjects.
  • Secondly: I want to see how my skills are progressing. Am I still taking the same sort of photographs and making the same mistakes or have I actually learned and improved over the year.

I was in the middle of this exercise when I found an article by Jeff Carlson on Lynda.com entitled
“How to Be a Better Photographer (Hint: It’s Not Your Camera)”.
Carlson makes some very simple, but very relevant, suggestions that all of us could benefit from.

Look at your current photo library
If you want to learn how to be a better photographer, then evaluate how you see the world. Although you may end up purchasing new gear, start by looking at and thinking about your current photography.
Consider the types of photos you want to make
Just as important as evaluating what’s in your photo library is determining what’s missing. What photos do you want to make? Maybe your next step to being a better photographer is to go create the types of images that catch your eye.

A journey has a beginning and an end. You need to know where you are starting out from and where you are intending to finish. Otherwise, how will you know when you get there?
Your development as a photographer is no different. If you know the kind of images you’ve been taking and you know the kind of images you want to take then it should be possible to work out how to make that journey.

Verticals

Female Leopard - Sabi Sand, South AfricaThe Lookout - Addo NP, South AfricaMale Leopard - Sabi Sand, South AfricaMaasai overlooking Masai MaraMaasai overlooking Masai MaraBull Elephant - Timbavati, South AfricaBull Elephant - Timbavati, South AfricaWhat a view! - Masai Mara, Kenyatwinkle toesGrey HeronGrey Heron - paintedlechwe in the fogLechwe in the fog - photo paintLechwe in the fog - warm hazeAcacia - Samburu NP, Kenya, GraphicLookup Bull - Hwange NP, Zimbabwe -

Shooting raw format photos: 8 questions every beginner wants answered

Shooting raw format photos means fewer pictures on your card and more time spent editing your images. So why do nearly all pros do it?

This article from Digital Camera World provides a useful starting point.  here’s a snippet to get you started.
It is also worth clicking the “How much can you really recover in RAW?” link further down the page.

So what’s its advantage over the universally popular JPEG?

The raw file, as its name suggests, stores the data from your camera’s sensor in a raw, unprocessed state. This presents a number of advantages in terms of flexibility and image quality.

Some like to think of raw files as the digital equivalent of the old-fashioned film negative. This modern “negative” stores lots of information that can then be accessed by careful craftsmanship in the “digital darkroom” – a computer loaded with a suitable editing program.

A raw file gives you all the raw data, so you can tweak settings at a later date without affecting image quality.

Sharpness settings, contrast, white balance and even exposure are some of the key things that you can alter when you get back home to the computer acheter du viagra en espagne.

Everything You Need to Know About the JPEG Image Format

One of the more common questions that new photographers ask is, how many pictures can I fit on my memory card? There are two answers to this, the easy one, which is to quote a specific number or the accurate one. The accurate answer is, there is no way of telling. The reason this answer is not often used is because explaining it can be complicated. Its complication stems from the fact that the most popular image file format used by photographers today, is of course, the JPEG, and JPEG files rarely have a fixed file size.

This blog post from the excellent Light Stalking explains all you need to know about JPEG files.

 

Elephants, Rhinos and Buffaloes

Elephant, Buffalo and Rhinoceros; 3 members of the so called Big 5.
There is nothing quite so awe inspiring as witnessing a herd of Elephants or Buffaloes in the wild. Sadly rampant poaching has taken – and continues to take – a heavy toll on Elephants and Rhinoceros and opportunities to see a Rhinoceros in its natural habitat are diminishing.

Bull Elephant - monochrome - Timbavati, South AfricaCape Buffalo - Timbavati, South AfricaElephant - Mana Pools NP, ZimbabweBuffalo bathing - Timbavati, South AfricaBuffalo - Madikwe Game reserve, South AfricaElephants crossing the Ewaso Nyiro - Samburu NP, KenyaElephants - Madikwe Game Reserve, South AfricaBlack Rhinoceros - Tanzania

The Beauty of Birds

Even though you may set out on your game drive in search of lions, leopards or other mammals it is easy to get distracted by the amazing variety of bird life found in Africa.

Grey Herons - Lake KaribaYellow Collared Lovebirds - Tarangire NP, TanzaniaMartial Eagle, Serengeti NP, TanzaniaBrown Hooded KingfisherCrowned CraneEurasian RollerGoliath HeronMalachite KingfisherRed Headed WeaverGrey Heron - Lake KaribaGrey Heron - Lake KaribaGrey Heron - Lake Kariba

Panoramas

After every safari, as I am going through my photographs, I find myself thinking about what format will best suit any given image.

Although I strive to get the composition right ‘in camera’ there are plenty of occasions when the subject doesn’t fill the frame or when the background is just not right. It’s at times like these that I experiment with different formats and there are many scenes that are at their best when viewed as a panorama.

A late afternoon bathe - Hwange NP, ZimbabweDust shower - Hwange NP, ZimbabweKafue Lechwe Ram - Swartberg Private Wildlife Reserve, South AfricaBanded Mongooses - Madikwe Game Reserve, South AfricaWhite Backed Vulture - Hwange NP, ZimbabweFischer's Lovebirds - Tarangire NP, Tanzania3 young lion cubs in search of mischief - Chobe NP, BotswanaCheetah - Hwange NP, ZimbabweCheetah - Hwange NP, ZimbabweA drink before bedtime - Mana Pools NP, ZimbabweSables at Sundown - Chobe NP, BotswanaWhen you're thirsty... - Sabi Sand, South Africa