Barcelona with the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro Lens: A Review

Gothic Cathedral at f/2.8

Lots of doubt had surrounded my taking the new Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro to Barcelona with me. For one, it’s a pretty heavy lens. For two, it’s a pretty large lens.

As such these aren’t problems, but large and heavy is just not part of the Micro Four-Thirds ‘gestalt’ and certainly wasn’t my idea of having a fun time shooting in a hot and humid city.

I had even bought the much smaller and lighter Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 lens to take along with me, so I could leave the 7-14mm behind and take to the streets with a lighter wide angle zoom.

Now, after four days in Barcelona, I find once again that life is full of ironies: I haven’t used the 9-18mm at all. It’s been sitting in the bag, untouched. And I haven’t used the 7-14mm wide open in the cathedral I most wanted it for, instead stopping it down for more sharpness.

Ok, moving on.

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Packing Photo Gear for Barcelona, Spain, and the French Countryside

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Just when I have the most time for and interest in photography is when I’m most limited with the gear I can take. That’s the quandary facing me now that I’m about to leave for five weeks in Europe.

Part of the trip will be spent with my family in my hometown. The other part will be a road trip from Holland via France to Barcelona, Spain, and back. I’m spending about a week driving, with stops for photography, and a week in Barcelona.

So, it’s a great time to try new gear that doesn’t get much use at home.

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Kipon EOS – MFT AF Review: New Adapter Fails the Test

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Excitement quickly replaced disappointment a few days ago as I tested the eagerly anticipated Kipon EOS to Micro Four Thirds adapter that promised us fast autofocus performance with Canon lenses on MFT cameras.

I had ordered my copy from China on eBay and got it in the mail Saturday morning. A little later, I mounted my Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II via the adapter on my Olympus OM-D E-M1 and headed out to the Hudson to give it a shot. Since the MFT system has plenty of good short glass, what I really want is to be able to use Canon’s long lenses on my MFT cameras.

At first, things looked okay. Focus wasn’t stellar, but it was acceptable at 400mm with the camera set at single AF and the large or small center point used.

Weird

But quickly weird things started happening:

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Photographing the New York Dance Parade

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There are times I love, absolutely LOVE New York City. Saturday May 16th was such a day. The 9th Annual Dance Parade held that day combined some of the best things the City has to offer: spectacle, exuberance and international and cultural diversity. Add some colors and you’ve got a great photographic opportunity.

Consider this an evergreen article. It’s written after the parade, but hopefully helpful for photographers wondering what to keep in mind when shooting this parade and similar ones in the coming years. Next year, I’ll give a heads up before the parade actually happens.

The Route

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Impressions of the Olympus OM-D EM-5 II

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The Olympus OM-D EM-5 II launched as the successor to the EM-5, a camera that boosted micro-four thirds as a serious contender to DSLRs (and stoked my interest in MFT). The EM-5 was quickly overtaken by the flagship E-M1, which was faster and more robust.

The II edition took some of the original EM-5, added a dash of the EM-1 and introduced some features not seen so far in any Olympus, most notably a high-resolution mode that delivers 40-megapixel images of static subjects and video that doesn’t suck compared to the competition.

I used a rented EM-5 II for about a week, while I was spending most of my shooting time going after bald eagles at the Hudson river with my Canon DSLR and some rented lenses, about which more in another article.

To be honest, I don’t have much to say about the new Olympus. That’s actually a good thing, because I always thought the EM-5 ‘classic’ was already pretty good. The II is better, overall.

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My only major problem with it is the same one I had with the original model, which is that it’s too small to comfortably hold. When I still had the EM-5, I quickly bought the additional grip for better handholding and I dumped that camera the moment the larger EM-1 was announced. Despite the improved grip on the II, I still think it’s too small. I assume the grip would solve that problem, as it did for the ‘classic.’

I do like the adoption of the buttons, levels and dials of the EM-1. I don’t really care about the flip-out LCD, but it doesn’t hurt either. It’s handy for selfies, which I took abundantly in the early to late nineties, before the term ‘selfie’ was born, but which I stopped taking as I matured. An idea before its time, apparently.

Image quality is basically unchanged for stills, so I have nothing to add there. I do hope that Olympus will find a way to boost resolution of its sensors to 24 mp and improve noise capabilities, as these are the key drawbacks that make me not totally embrace MFT for all my photography. I hope that will come in the EM-2 or EM-1 II.

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I’m not going to comment on the video quality, as I don’t shoot video often enough to judge it.

Now, the high resolution mode intrigued me. I tried it with various subjects and it’s awesome. If the subject and the camera are truly static and you use the shutter delay to make sure the camera does indeed become motionless, the results are great. Looking at the files at 100% blew my mind, like it did with Sony A7R or Nikon D800e images.

If you do shoot still life, food or architecture, this is a great feature to have. Unfortunately, I don’t shoot any of that on a regular basis, so I’m just hoping that Olympus will succeed in speeding up the sensor-shift so it can be used for non-static subjects.

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All in all, I can recommend the EM-5 II. It’s a neat camera, delivering both a pleasant shooting experience and clean files. Like with all 16mp MFT cameras, the image quality is a bit lacking compared to the APS-C or full-frame sensors, especially noise-wise, but in reality for most uses, the quality is enough and the small high-quality Olympus lenses produce stunning files without overburdening the user with bulky or heavy gear.

 

Adobe Lightroom does not yet support the EM-5 II files, so images were imported into Olympus Viewer and then converted to JPGs. Further adjustments were made in LR.

The EM-5 II is available at B&H (affiliate links):

 

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