I have often wondered what kind of imagery I would be able to create using a different camera, so I was really excited when Olympus sent me an OMD E-M10 III to try out and write about. In this post I’ll share with you how I got on with the camera and the lenses which they sent me, some of the pictures I took and how I took them.
My first impression when the camera arrived was surprise at how small it was. It was light and comfortable to hold, with a nice retro look to it. I had worried that the menus may be challenging to navigate as a first time Olympus user, but they were straightforward, and intuitive and before long I’d found all the settings I usually use and discovered features that were new to me. I’ve never had wifi connection before, touch screens or used many of the creative features the camera has.
The camera came packaged with the M Zuiko 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 and an M Zuiko ED 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 R. I was also sent the M Zuiko premium 45mm f1.8 and the MCON P02 macro converter, which when attached to the front of either the 45mm or the 14-42mm kit lens which it also fitted on, would magnify subjects. The lenses were all small and lightweight, meaning I could take all of them out with me in a small camera bag and not be weighted down on long walks in the countryside. I did wonder how such compact lenses would perform though.
A large part of my photographic output is botanical, my first outing with the camera was to a local hillfort where I knew I would find plenty of flowers and a few butterflies to photograph. I was keen to discover whether I could create the same soft, ethereal images I like to make with this micro four thirds camera.
I shoot nearly all my work from the ground and the tilting rear screen made it much easier than looking through a view finder to compose my images. It flips out parallel to the ground and photographs can be taken by touching the screen. This feature made creating images shot through vegetation (to increase softness and bokeh) much more comfortable than lying on the ground, especially when it is wet.
By adding the MCON P02 macro converter to the front of the 45mm lens I was able to get closer to my subjects. And at f/1.8 it was possible to shoot with a very narrow depth of field. This is my favourite way to take pictures of flowers. The addition of the macro converter had a negligible effect to the weight of the camera. This meant I could spend longer amounts of time composing my shot or holding the camera at odd angles without any strain to my wrists, which can occasionally happen when using heavy gear.
I continued to experiment with this lens and converter combination in my garden. I found the camera easy to use in manual focus, which is how I usually shoot, but did find the autofocus more challenging. This could possibly be as I am not used to using it.
As someone who loves shooting wide open, and into the light, having a lens with an aperture of f/1.8 was fantastic. It really lent itself to the dreamy kind of imagery I like to create when photographing flowers. I found with the 45mm and macro converter attached, the camera was more than capable of doing this and that the areas in focus were crisp and sharp in contrast to the soft backgorunds.
In the world of nature photography flowers are rather easy, once you’ve found them, they don’t really move about a lot, and they allow you a lot of time to compose your photographs. Having found my way around the camera I wanted to take it out to shoot some insects using both auto and manual focus (my preferred shooting style).
I usually shoot insects with a 90mm macro, so I need to be quite close to my subjects. Stalking your quarry is part of the joy, but it is equally frustrating as so many shots are missed. Having a 40-150mm lens meant I could position myself further away from the subject I was photographing and therefore minimise disturbance. With a zoom lens, I was able to find a suitable location for my chosen subject and then sit and wait for the insects to appear. I found this was a much slower and more meditative approach to photographing insects.
The trade off with shooting with this zoom lens, however, was not being able to shoot at the wider apertures I tend to use. To make sure I could separate my subject from busy background vegetation, I took care to try and capture insects on tall flowers, standing in relative isolation. The longer focal length and versatility of a zoom lens however meant I was able to capture images of many more species in a trip than I would normally. When I started out, my photographs were predominantly for identifying species for recording, and whilst there may be artistic compromises, I would recommend this combination for any naturalist. As it is both light weight and compact it is easy to carry in the field all day alongside field guides and notebooks etc. I could also send images over to my phone whilst in the field and then share on recording apps such as iRecord, as well as social media.
I do wonder how the camera might perform if I was to use it remotely to capture wildlife. As it can be operated remotely from your phone via the OI Share app, so I am thinking it may be interesting to set it up on a tripod in the garden see if I might capture some of the more timid visitors.
Gulls in flight
Another of my favourite subjects for photography is birds in flight. For many years I have been capturing handheld long exposure images of the gulls flying over the river Stour. I wanted to see if could capture similar abstract wildlife images with the OM-D EM10 III.
I used the M. Zuiko 40-150mm lens for this, as it gave me the most flexible focal length for capturing the birds. Whilst they will fly close, especially if people are feeding them, I find the best shots are taken when the gulls are cruising in flight along the length of the river with dark foliage behind them. I find this kind of photography is better suited to the winter months and grey days, so it was interesting photographing birds this way on a bright day.
I’m happy with the images from this outing. There is a good combination of detail and motion blur in the pictures. To compensate for the sunlight, I stopped the camera down by -0.7 and this prevented the whites blowing out completely. I think maybe if you wanted to use this combination to take intentional camera movement (ICM) images like this it could be worth exploring using an ND filter to allow you to keep the shuter open for longer.
I also enjoy taking a lot of ICM landscapes, especially in the woods around the village and along the river. I was interested to see what kind of images I would get with the OMD E-M10 III. It took a while to get used to the movement I would need to make with the camera to “catch” parts of the image and to make them stick in focus whilst other elements blurred. This method of shooting took the most practise to get images I was happy with.
Without an ND filter (which to be fair is how I prefer to work) and shooting on bright summer days, I was taking pretty quick ICM shots. I found that the camera was really good at picking up nice movement when I rotated it as in the image above taken in some local woods. The image below, taken by the river was made using a vertical motion. I tried the process with all the lenses and was impressed with the sharpness of the lines in the images juxtaposed to the softness of the motion blur.
The image below is a blended composition of two icm images taken at the river bank, one vertical pan and one horizontal. Each of the images in the composite were taken in RAW, developed in Lightroom and then blended in Photoshop using the layer blending modes to create the final image.
There are a variety of art modes that you can shoot in, which I didn’t really use as I prefer to shoot in RAW and post process myself. I was excited, however, to see an in-camera multiple exposure setting, something I have long wanted to try out. It allows for two images to be combined and with one blending mode, and I found it tricky to produce images I liked in the local landscape. I think if I’d have shot some portraiture or architecture however, I could have taken better advantage of the function. What I did find interesting though and one of my favourite settings to play creatively with was the Live Composition mode.
This feature, found in Manual mode and in the AP settings, is designed for time-lapse, but as I didn’t have access to a firework display, I played about with it in the sitting room. I was able to build up composite images moving the camera around with the shutter button depressed, watching the image build on the rear screen. Lighter colours are overlaid onto darker areas in the image and I think this has the potential to create some interesting abstract images.
I have really enjoyed using this camera, and I have reached for it instead of my “big” camera when going out on nature walks on several occasions. Its size makes it easy to take anywhere and even with all the lenses in my bag I can head out for the day knowing I’m not going to ache from carrying it. I do wonder though, how large I can print an image taken with a 16mp sensor. I like how discrete a small camera is, and I think that could be really important for many of us that spend a lot of time out in the middle of nowhere alone, I certainly felt less vulnerable out with this camera. I think that is one of the reasons (and I never thought I’d ever write this) that I’d like to have a go at street photography with the OMD E-M 10 mIII.
I’ll leave you with a few more images I’ve taken. Many thanks to Olympus for the opportunity to explore my creativity with the OMD E-M10 III.