To escape the cold and dark of the UK November I recently spent an enjoyable long weekend in Seville in Spain's Andalusia region. I thought this would be a great opportunity to try out the Olympus micro four-thirds camera and lenses I acquired earlier this year for the times when travelling small and light is a priority.
I normally use the bigger Nikon DSLR camera bodies and lenses and when I first got the Olympus OM-D E-M10 mkII earlier this year it seemed like a bit of a toy in comparison. I do like the retro styling of the silver and black Olympus OM-D bodies- I think they look very stylish.
Camerasize.com have a really useful tool for comparing different bodies/lens combos- you can see the size difference here:
For this trip I used the E-M10 mkII in conjunction with the Olympus 12-40 f/2.8 standard zoom and the tiny Olympus 40-150 f/4-5.6R telephoto zoom. With the 2x crop factor compared to 35mm 'full frame' sensors, this would give me an effective focal length range of 24-300mm across the two lenses and the ability to take a variety of images- see below.
This was a very comfortable set-up to carry around all day and we did a LOT of walking during our time in Seville. I don't really do street/city/travel photography- I just wanted to capture a flavour of the city via a mixture of styles and content. Reflections and symmetry seemed to become a bit of a theme! I'm fairly happy with the results, the misgivings being down to my own skill rather than the camera lacking anything. I would have liked to have spent some time on night shots but this was primarily a trip with a partner and the photography came second. (It is not very romantic going out for an evening with tripods and photography gear!)
So weight and comfort aside, what else was good about 'Little Oly'? Well, a few of the things I love about these mirror-less cameras are:
1) Electronic viewfinders (EVF)
2) In-Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS).
3) Silent electronic shutter
I really appreciated these features in the dimly lit churches and building interiors. It was much more discreet and image-wise, I think it did a better job than my Nikon would have done, despite narrower dynamic range and smaller sensor size, as I was able to get consistently sharp images with the IBIS.
The ability to see in camera what the exposure looks like before pushing the shutter release is fantastic in tricky lighting. I've noticed that my keeper rate with the Olympus is much higher as a result. The only times I referred to the screen was to make sure the images were sharp when using slow shutter speeds.
With the help of IBIS I was able to obtain consistent results at 1/25 second. Going lower than that and it was a bit more hit and miss. However with a bit of practice and improved technique I think as low as 1/5 might be OK. Compared to the lens based VR (vibration reduction) that I use with Nikon, the Olympus system seems much more reliable and delivers more consistent results. These shutter speeds combined with the fairly fast aperture of f/2.8 meant I was able to keep the ISO to relatively low levels.
Also, it was also nice to have a truly silent shutter in the churches. I have found that even when using the Nikon bodies in 'quiet' mode, the shutter noise is still very noticeable.
Looking at the different images captured during this short trip I am very pleased with the results from the Olympus system. I think for this sort of trip ie. city break shooting mainly static subjects, this setup works really well and I didn't miss my bigger gear. However when it comes to my normal subjects, fast moving aircraft and wildlife, I don't think I'll be switching completely to a mirror-less set-up just yet, mainly due to the auto-focus limitations and EVF blackout. As the technology improves and with new flagship cameras like the new Olympus E-M1 mkII being launched, it may be something I look at further down the line.
Here are a few other images from the weekend....