4,000 meters is an unrecognized altitude threshold within the United States. However, it is as well known where the metric system is used, as 14,000 feet is known in the US. This page is dedicated to climbing those peaks in Colorado that rise above 4,000 meters (13,123 feet)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Near Perfection! The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Paired with the New Panasonic LUMIX G VARIO 12-35mm/F2.8 X Series Lens



The Olympus E-M5 Combined with the New Lumix 12-35 f2.8 X Lens

Sorry this post has been so long in coming. But I really wanted to get out there and use this camera in the “real” world for my “real” uses. My intent is not to do a technical review of this camera and lens. If you want to read a full-on review of this camera and lens and their capabilities; there are many online. Just Google them.

One review in particular is ironically appropriate and can be found here: http://www.photographyblog.com/articles/head_to_head_review_olympus_om-d_e-m5_v_nikon_d7000/. This review compares the OM-D E-M5 to the Nikon D7000. Both cameras that I currently own and use.

Since purchasing the combination of the Olympus E-M5 and the Lumix 12-35 f2.8 lens I have had a chance to use this camera in many settings from family/friends gatherings to the summit of 14,000 plus Colorado mountains. This camera/lens combo is truly the photographic tool that I have waited for…well…for ever. It gives up very little in terms of image quality (if anything really) and provides the flexibility, customization, and control in a tiny very solid, weather-sealed magnesium-alloy body. This camera and lens are built as well as any camera I have owned including the Nikon D300, D80, D7000. In terms of construction the Olympus and Lumix are equal.

The Lumix lens construction is superb. It is rock solid. There is nothing loose or wobbly. The zoom action is (and I have never written this about anything) truly smooth as butter. It is the finest overall lens (construction, image quality) that I have owned. Compared to its optical peer the Nikkor 17-55 f2.8, the Lumix is more solid, better built, better optically and a third the size. Let me state that again. A third the size!

Am I gushing….Sure maybe a little. But credit where credit is due. To have this well a constructed camera/lens with the functionality it delivers is a dream come true. Is this tool perfect? Well no. But almost. The biggest knock I have against the camera is the colossally stupidly engineered on/off switch. What possessed an engineer in Japan to design the switch the way they did, after succeeding so well with the rest of the camera, I may never know.

EM5 Switch_Snapseed

The E-M5 On/Off Switch, Colossally Stupid

I really am a much bigger fan of the on/off switch on or near the shutter release. Oh well. There has also been a lot of bashing of the small size of the controls making it difficult for “people with large hands” or gloved hands to operate the camera. Well here is a news break…the entire camera is SMALL. That’s the idea! You can’t make a small camera with big buttons. I can operate the camera just fine. I guess I must have “normal” sized hands. The controls may be hard to operate with gloves on but uhh…isn't everything harder to do with your hands when you are wearing gloves. Its hard to blow my nose when I am wearing gloves and I have a big nose.

While climbing a mountain at over 14,000 feet last Saturday with gloves on I found the switches hard to operate but all of the control wheels like Exposure Comp, and Program Override easy to use. If you have “big hands” you may be better off with a Hasselblad. If you want something tiny and lightweight get the E-M5 and deal with the controls. Its no big deal. Really. Except for the stupid on/off switch.

Real World

Lets have a look at some real world imaging with this camera. After I buy a new camera I usually look for that first “Whoa” shot. The first picture that you look at from a new camera/lens and it simply has beautiful depth, color, detail etc. and you realize that you have a winner.

The first “Whoa” shot with the E-M5 and the Lumix 12-35 was this image captured high in the La Sal Mountains of Utah.


La Sal Mountains, Utah, July 2012

This small jpg really does not do this picture justice. But it is truly incredible in person. There is a wonderful depth to this image that goes beyond just having sharp detail from foreground to background. The lighting, detail, contrast, color, and rendition all play together to make an image that draws me in and leads my eye from the boulder in front to the high, far-away saddle in the background.


Close-up Of Pine, La Sal Mountains, Utah, July 2012

A little closer up shows the “macro” (not really) performance of this lens. This image really illustrates the silky smooth and pleasant bokeh that the Lumix 12-35 f2.8 can deliver. The depth of field that is reduced in the 4/3rds format (due to the smaller physical sensor size) is still completely acceptable in this close-up.

The hits kept coming with this camera/lens duo.


Edge Of The Forest, Golden Gate Park Colorado, August 2012

Again, the detail, ambiance, and rendition of this image is incredible. This image, when printed (approx.) 13” X 19”, has a depth and dimensionality that pulls the viewer deep into this scene. There is a fine quality to the trees near the right of this image even where the light begins to fall off where and the detail leads the viewer ever further into this forest.


Sunset Near Red Feather Lakes Colorado, September 2012

Dynamic range? The image above shows plenty! The very bright setting sun and the very dark shadows of the pine trees in the left foreground, all captured with plenty of detail. No blown highlights or blocked-up shadows when exposed properly. Again with the rendering that pulls the viewer all the way into this image. The ability to view the histogram “live” is probably my very favorite thing about cameras with electronic view finders. Its seems pretty damn stupid to look at the histogram after you shoot.

For something that isn’t a landscape…


Cessna 195 and Chrome, Rocky Mountain Airport Colorado, August 2012

I like to see how shiny chrome is rendered by a camera/lens combo. Here again the image has a warmth, depth of reality, and quality that makes you believe that you are really looking at, and could even touch, the chrome in the image.

So What This All Mean?

This is not a gear review at all but perhaps more of a description of the Gestalt of the camera/ lens tool and its photographic products. As I said a above, there are tons of excellent detailed reviews of both the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the Lumix 12-35 f2.8 X lens. This duo is not the best photographic tool ever made. But it is pretty damn good. Real damn good actually. Also considering the magnesium alloy, weather sealed body/weather sealed lens and the completely and satisfyingly solid and mostly well laid out controls, this camera kit is astoundingly well balanced and truly great.

I really don’t like to haul big heavy gear around. In town it’s a hassle and uncomfortable. While mountain climbing its actually quite logistically and physically challenging…at least for me. One can not go light into the mountains when they are starting with 5 or 6 pounds of camera gear.

The logic here is quite simple. I can now get insane image quality, control, flexibility, ruggedness, and photographic fun in a package that is less than half the weight and size of my Nikon (or similar non-4/3rds camera). Additionally, I get:

  • Live histogram-check
  • Electronic viewfinder that can display tons of additional info-check
  • A really pleasingly styled camera-check
  • Access to a huge array of very high quality lenses from multiple manufacturers-check
  • A tool that finally fits my needs nearly perfectly-check
  • The only camera with in-body 5-axis image stabilization-check
  • Tiltable rear screen-check
  • Touch screen control-check
  • Fast response 4.5 – 9 frames per second depending on modes-check
  • It does hi-def movies but I don’t care-check
  • A blast to use-check

Unless you are wedded to a larger system format, or even if you are, but still need some added flexibility from 4/3rds, then this camera/lens combination will give you astounding results. It is not perfect. Nothing is. But it is one of the best designs and balanced compromises of technology, usability, and quality out there today.