Olympus PEN Dramatic Tone

As you might have guessed from the previous post, I’ve been messing around with an Olympus EPL5 lately, having sold my EPL3 earlier in the year. What I really missed was the ‘Dramatic Tone’ art filter, which is proving useful in dragging some useful images out of an otherwise overcast few days (it’s quite useful when used on video too).

A walk up on the downland on a dull day – the filter really pulls detail out of flat cloud and the pseudo ‘HDR’ effect can produce a subtle infra red effect.

It’s not great for every scene, but when the light is just right – mixed overcast when normal photography produces flat uninteresting images – this can produce some intriguing results.  These are all straight JPEGs (plus a Raw file as a backup), toned in DXO filmpack.

Sometimes the results are a real surprise – this looked nothing like this to the naked eye, but through the viewfinder (or LCD) the effects can be judged quite accurately. A real transformation of reality!

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Shot a few minutes earlier that the first shot – and completely different.

These are shot using the monochrome filter, the colour version produces results which look too artificial for my taste. You could of course argue that these look artificial – however years ago I used to work for hours in a wet darkroom to produce similar effects and it never occurred to me that I was doing any ‘unethical’ post processing. Maybe our negative attitude to computer/camera based post-processing is that the results weren’t produced by traditional darkroom skills? Whatever the reason, the results are good enough for me not to worry about it any more!

In some circumstances the images just look like a lightly dodged/burned print :-

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This result was more predictable – the cloud forms were visible to the naked eye and all it needed was something interesting in silhouette.

And on other occasions the dodge/burn effect is less than subtle…

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This one is possibly looks too over-processed!

So, whatever your attitude to post-processing images – thanks for looking and hope you like them.

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Olympus VF4 Viewfinder Review

I’ve liked Olympus cameras for many years – from my very first ‘proper’ camera, an OM-1n through Trips, OM2s, an E400, an E620, an EPL3 and now an EPL5. The EPL5 is a great upgrade to the EPL3 but I’ve never been a fan of ‘arms length’ LCD camera operation, so it’s not quite ‘perfect’. Adding a viewfinder to the PEN EPL5 seemed like a good idea so I took the plunge and ordered a VF4 a week ago – and I’m very glad I did. This is a high resolution Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) – not an Optical Viewfinder (OVF) as you might think by looking at it from the back.

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The EPL5 PEN, kit 14-42mm lens and the shiny new VF4 – it appears bigger on this picture that it really is….

Firstly, an upgrade of the camera’s firmware from 1.1 to 1.2 was required – it just won’t work without it. This is done through the Oly ‘Viewer 2’ software and is pretty easy as long as you’re patient and leave the camera to update itself. The process takes around 5 minutes. You can check the firmware installed in your camera via the menu system.

After that’s done, just slide the viewfinder into the accessory port on the top of the camera and off you go. It’s worth pointing out that EVFs on the PENs take over the hot shoe – so no use of the supplied flash unit while it’s attached. This may be a problem to some, but as I never use flash it’s fine for me personally.

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The VF4 from the rear – the button is the EVF/LCD switch. The two blue circles are probably the eye sensor – not used on the EPL5  unfortunately.

The only controls are a button on the back – this switches between the LCD and the EVF, and an eyesight diopter adjustment on the right. If you’ve got a top of the range PEN there is an eye sensor which switches between LCD and EVF automatically, but on the EPL5 you’ll need to use this button. There is also a lock button on the lower left which secures the viewfinder – a nice touch as losing this rather expensive accessory would be a tragedy!

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The diopter correction wheel – this is quite stiff so won’t move accidentally.

It adds some bulk to the smallish EPL5 but not that much and seems nicely in proportion. To provide a bit of extra versatility it will also pivot at it’s front to allow the eyepiece to swing vertically through 90 degrees (and all positions in-between), which means you can compose landscape shots as if you were using an old Twin Lens Reflex camera, peering down into the viewfinder from above – very nice.

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The EVF in the vertical position. There’s a ‘push/click’ type catch which keeps it in place when ‘closed’ in the horizontal position.

What you see in the viewfinder is the ‘active’ central portion of the LCD – i.e. the strips of shooting information either side of the image on the LCD are either pushed into the image area or not reproduced e.g. the touch screen icon. The image is large, bright and detailed (2.3 million pixels) and doesn’t ‘smear’ when it’s moved – in fact it appears about as wide as a Canon 60d’s viewfinder but taller due to the 4/3 aspect ratio of the camera (the 60D is 3:2 so wider). It can’t quite match an Olympus OM system viewfinder, but it’s not too far off!

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The unlock button on the left side.

However the really – and I mean really – big improvement when shooting is when using manual focus lenses. To achieve critical focus the ‘focus magnify’ button is used to enlarge a portion of the image while focussing. On the LCD this is OK, but the LCD image is relatively small at arm’s length. On the EVF however it’s huge – and so much easier to get perfect focus.

It’s very like using MF lenses on a film SLR and so instantly familiar and comfortable – a real pleasure to use and a massive change in how useable the camera is. This is probably going to remain permanently attached!

So, if you’re thinking of getting one, especially if you shoot using MF lenses, I’d heartily recommend one.

Thanks for looking!

Pull Processing Agfaphoto APX100

Forgetting to set the ISO dial on a 35mm camera when changing rolls is something everyone does now and again, and if you’re over or under exposing by a stop or so with print film it’s not that serious as the exposure latitude is so great. However, I recently went from shooting Adox CMS 20 at 12 ASA to a roll of APX100 and forgot to set the ISO dial, overexposing by three stops. The early start and the extra glass of wine the night before might have had something to do with it…..

I’ve done push processing before – exposing 400 ISO film at 1600 ISO and over developed to compensate, but never the opposite – I’d always just use a slower film or an ND filter, so this was going to be interesting.

Standard dev time is 9 minutes in stock Ilford IDll developer, and the general rule is to subtract one minute for each stop of over exposure. So, 6 mins in IDll followed by normal stop/fix yielded this :-

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Not bad at all – the images were slightly thin but perfectly useable (I probably wouldn’t have noticed if I wasn’t looking for something). The grain is still very fine – this is the weather-vane. These are scanned on a Plustek 7500 at around 35Mb.

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The shadows have suffered a bit, but as I was going to throw this roll away I’m very pleased with the results! This is the sign nailed to the right hand side of the entrance.

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APX100 is a relatively modern film so can handle this sort or treatment. Whether the older emulsions would react as well is worth a test one day, but until then if you make the same mistake, try to process it – it may not be that bad!

When it’s possible to get useable images from badly overexposed, underexposed or even very outdated film it makes me appreciate what an amazingly flexible medium this is.

Hope you find this useful, thanks for looking!

Ever Wondered What Happens If…

 

If you try one of those ‘Art Effects’ in video? Here’s an example – shot on an Olympus Epl5, ‘Dramatic Tone’ (monochrome) effect applied to HD video on a moderately windy day at Knowlton monument.

Shot purely as a test, this isn’t too bad at all – but it needs some work. The inter-frame flicker is a bit distracting – this is fixable with some processor intensive post processing which I haven’t had the patience to try yet. This is the same ‘in camera’ effect which was used here https://28mmf2.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/a-bit-more-in-camera-processing/,and it does tend to be a bit jittery during stills composure so it’s not too unexpected. Also applying the filter slows down the frame capture rate which doesn’t help.

The final edit is two, five minute videos compressed to one minute for vimeo upload – hope you like them.

I really must get back to doing some stills soon!

60 Minutes Compressed into One

Last weekend’s storm in the UK provided some great opportunities to shoot more of a timelapse video, currently in progress at the Knowlton historical monument.

 

 

The day before the St Jude storm the wind really picked up – perfect weather for timelapse as things are happening so quickly only short sequences are required to show the passage of time. Rather than 12 minute segments, 3 to 5 minutes were all that were required. These are compressed to one minute and stitched together, all very productive apart from blowing the tripod over!

St Jude is the Patron Saint of lost causes (or souls) – as the sequence fades to night maybe there’s something in that…

So here’s 60 minutes of ‘real time’ footage, which has been compressed to 15 minutes of final video, then further compressed to 1 minute for Vimeo upload.

All shot on a Canon 60D and a Sigma 10-20mm lens at the 10mm setting, f8.

Hope you like this – thanks for looking!