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Tip of the Month

Switch to Olympus!

Update - Check out Switching to Olympus Part 2 for more info on
ProCapture and on AF


Mary and I have become advocates. Enthusiastic endorsers. Major fans. In fact, I've never been excited about camera gear before, but both of us are now. We switched to the Olympus mirrorless micro 4/3rds system in December, and we never looked back.

This image is cropped, with the Tiger probably 30 yards away, shot with
the 300mm and 1.4X. No question - there is detail here!

A little history

I started my photography life while still in middle school, beginning with a Canon SLR. I stayed with Canon until I met Mary, and at that point I suggested she buy Nikon, as Canon was abandoing their FD lens system for the new EOS lenses, which, in the beginning, were poor. Mary bought Nikon, and soon after, I switched, too.

Eventually, we grew extremely displeased with Nikon's pro services, repair, and unreliability for locking exposure, and we returned to Canon, as their Image Stabilization finally was mastered and Canon became the leader, in our view. We stayed with Canon for nearly twenty years, and I thought I'd see my photo life end with that system.

That didn't happen. Last fall, September 2018, Mary and I had a chance to test some Olympus equipment on a two month loan that we extended for another month. Honestly, we only agreed to the test out of idle curiosity, and we had no intention at that time of switching systems. A Yellowstone Photo Tour was coming up, and since we've shot Yellowstone for over thirty years, we felt we could afford to take the chance with new equipment. If we were unhappy, we figured we wouldn't miss much. That week-long test was so encouraging that we took the gear to Kenya, Rwanda, and Chile for those photo tours, and after those shoots, we were convinced.

Check out the prices -

Olympus Official Store

Olympus- New Cameras & Lenses are Here! Shop Now

Here are the Reasons Why

Size and Weight: The cameras are smaller. They are not tiny, nor awkward to use, just smaller and lighter. Because the sensor of the 4/3rds system is only about 1/4 the size of a D SLR, lens magnification is increased, effectively doubling whatever the focal length is. A relatively small 300mm f4 lens becomes, in the D SLR equivalent, a 600mm f4 lens.

Every focal length is doubled, so the kit we're using is quite a bit smaller and lighter than what we'd have been carrying with our old system. Here's an example -

My Canon 800mm mounted on a 1DX Mark II weighed 15 pounds.
My Olympus 300mm witha 1.4X, mounted on Olympus OM D E Mark II, weighs 5!
And, I have 840mm of equivalent focal length!

Recently we returned from northern India where we were photographing Snow Leopards. On our past trips, I'd hire a porter for Mary and I to lug our heavy gear. This year, we could carry our own, and enjoyed more independence doing so.

lFor travel, we can get almost all of our gear into one carry-on bag. We use two bags so that we can pad cameras and lenses, but we could probably squeeze everything we needed into one carry-on roll-on bag. Here's what I'm taking to Arizona in a few days, and all of this fits into my GuraGear Bataflae camera backpack:

1 OM D E Mark II Camera - mounted to a 12-100mm f2.8 lens
1 OM D E Mark II Camera - mounted to a 40-150mm f4 lens

1 OM D E M1X Camera - mounted to a 300 f4 lens
2 1.4X tele-converters
1 7-14mm f2.8 wide-angle zoom lens
1 60mm 1:1 macro lens
1 hotshoe flash
1 Macro Twin-light flash system

Mary's backpack is similar, minus 1 Mark II body.
Let me repeat - all of this fits easily into our Bataflae bags, and all three of my cameras have lenses mounted and ready to go. Imagine trying to do that with a traditional D SLR! The pack, fully outfitted, weighs 16.5 pounds - just 1.5 pounds more than my Canon 800 with the camera body!

The weight would be the same if I mounted the 1.4X tele-converters, in which case my range of focal lengths would cover

840mm f5.6 (camera attached)
112-420mm f4 (camera attached)
24-200 f2.8 (camera attached)
14-28mm f2.8
120mm macro

Worried about camera weight for a bush flight in Alaska, or Botswana, or Quantas in Australia? We're not, not anymore.


We're using two different cameras, Olympus's previous flagship camera, the OM D E Mark II, and their new flagship, the OM D E M1X. I don't think we've ever had as much fun with any camera. Both are packed with features, and we haven't even begun to explore all the possibilities, but here's the features we use, and love. I'm sure we'll be adding to this list as the summer continues.

Electronic Viewfinder - What we see through our viewfinder, or on the LCD monitor, is what we're going to get. We don't have to finesse exposures, metering on a particular area or middle tone, but instead, we just adjust the settings until the image looks good in the viewfinder. That's assisted, too, by a real-time histogram that can be displayed.

That Histogram - with non-mirrorless cameras, you can check your image's histogram after the shot's been made, but not as you're making the exposure. You don't have to do that with the Olympus mirrorless cameras! We don't always turn this feature (the live histogram) on, but if we want to be sure we're not clipping, or if we want to push our exposure to the right, we can verify what we're doing with the histogram. This is a huge advantage over checking a histogram afterwards, because if you're looking at a LCD screen and not looking through your viewfinder, you can miss shots. Believe me, I've seen it happen multiple times with folks.

ProCapture - How many times have you missed the action simply because your reaction time, or the unavoidable mechanical delay of the camera, was too slow? We don't miss many of those shots anymore, and here's why:

Striped Kingfisher - ProCapture. The other photographer who shot this missed the bird - but did get the branch. With ProCapture I have the entire series.

ProCapture records 14 (OM D E Mark II) or 35 frames (M1X) continuously without writing to the SD card but instead over-writes the last frame as frame 15 replaces frame 1 (or frame 36 replaces frame 1 with the M1X). It does this continously, in a loop, until you fully depress the shutter button. A bird launches from its perch and you fire. Good chance you recorded the perch and missed the bird -- at least if you're like me. With ProCapture, you'd have that last frame (the empty perch) and the entire sequence leading up to it, as the bird dips, flexes, and launches, and all the beauty of its wings as it flaps several times as it takes off.

This is an absolute game-changer. When I shot birds in Kenya using ProCapture, those with me laughingly said I was cheating! I caught images they missed, but they did have lovely, empty branches in their frame. Now just imagine the shots you've missed - Herons smashing their bills into a fish, dolphins leaping from the sea, butterflies landing on a flower, ... get the picture? No, well then you're not using ProCapture!




If you photograph action, ProCapture alone justifies switching.

Live View Boost - Do you have trouble composing or focusing in dim light? With Live View Boost, the viewfinder (or monitor's) image brightens, making it easy to see, compose, and focus. When I was shooting hummingbirds late into the evening in Costa Rica, I could barely make out the birds against the dark background, until I selected Live View Boost. Then, all was clear, and it was easy to keep shooting.

Caution, however. LVB does not reflect the actual exposure, so if you're on manual mode (as we are) and if you don't check the analog exposure scale you might be disappointed -- underexposing your shots. When we're doing flash with hummers, that's not a problem as we're setting up for manual flash. But for ambient light, it could be. Make a mistake a few times and you'll learn.

Manual Focus Assist - This feature magnifies the image about 10X when you rotate the manual focusing ring. You can instantly check for critical sharpness, and I've found this extremely useful when I'm using long lenses (840mm), macro, or when I'm shooting in dim light.

Keystone Correction - You can basically eliminate the need for a tilt/shift lens with this feature, as the image is manipulated in-camera for correction. Trees won't lean away, and tall buildings won't fall backwards.

sFlip-out LCD Monitor - Some D SLR cameras offering Live View have monitors that flip out or go flat. My Canon 80D did, but my pro model 1DX Mark II did not. Pretty infuriating. The Olympus monitors flip out, tilt, or reverse, so you can shoot ground-level without lying on your belly, or compose a selfie video as the monitor can face front, too. I love this feature.

The Common Vine snake, left, was shot in this way. I was just a foot or so away, but the open-mouth display is all threat. The snake is mildly venomous, however, but is rear-fanged.

Image Stabilization - It is the best I've ever seen. Mary has sharp shots at 1/60th second, hand-held, while using 840mm! Image stabilization is in the camera and on most lenses - giving 5 to 7 stops of freedom. Recently I purchased a gimbal-style stabilizer for video, but found it unwieldy and redundant -- the Olympus stabilization with the 12-100mm lens was just about as good. Mary's Leopard, below, illustrates the effectiveness of the IS, and the sharpness of the lens.

Mary shot this Leopard, hand-held, at 1/60th sec.
She was using the Zuiko 300mm f4 lens with a 1.4X tele-converter,
effective 840mm D SLR equivalent.
1/60th - 840mm - sharp! What can I say?

Lens Sharpness - I tested the Olympus Zuiko 300mm f4 lens against my Canon and several other lenses. I shot a lens chart about 40 yards distant. Afterwards, I cropped all of the images to the same size, so regardless if the lens chart occupied only a portion of the original frame, or the entire frame, each cropped picture looked similar. Then I shuffled the images, and checked them at 100% with ACR (Photoshop's RAW converter), and I gave each image a 1-5 star rating. The Zuiko lens was as good or better than any of my Canon lenses, and actually scored more 4-5 stars than any other lens. After doing that test, I took the Olympus on to Kenya.

Video - Both pro models offer 24 4K video, presently the highest quality in a SLR style camera. The M1X can shoot at 120fps (frames per second), which means that a one second recording becomes four seconds of playback, when played at the traditional 30fps second. This makes great SLOW MOTION movies.

Digital Tele-Converter - This feature doubles (I think) the focal length. Since its a digital conversion (not optical) I do not use this with my still shooting, but in video the results are fantastic. 4K video also crops to a larger image size, so coupled with the Digital Tele-Converter, I'm getting a lot of magnification. On our Snow Leopard trip (video), I shot very decent video of the cats that were, literally, not discernible to the naked eye. I think I was the only shooter that came away with anything -- the cats were about 1/2 mile away.

Well, that's enough for now. But I must make one last observation.

A few months back I was in southern Florida at a birding site. A boardwalk snakes through a wetland, and bird photographers nearly equalled the number of birds. Nearly everyone there had Canon or Nikon gear, and some lugged around monsterous 600mm and 800mm lenses, on tripods. A couple of folks had 100-400s, but of course they woulnd not get the same image size for their shots as the photographers with the huge glass. I saw very few mirrorless cameras.

I used to be in that big lens group, carrying big, heavy lenses and a very sturdy tripod. I can honestly say that I often thought twice about walking a trail twice, or back-tracking, because of the uncomfortable weight of the gear I was carrying. This year, I has carrying the 840mm equivalent, with a size/weight footprint no larger than a 100-400 and 5D camera, and I was using a monopod instead of a heavy tripod.

I got great shots, but I must confess, I wanted to shout out, 'Get with the program! You don't have to be killing yourself! This system works!' I didn't say anything, of course, but I do believe, very soon, a lot of other photographers are going to see the light and switch to Olympus. Mary and I are loving it.

Olympus- New Cameras & Lenses are Here! Shop Now.

Why you should travel with us

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