Thursday, December 19, 2013

A new way to explore Flickr.

I've been a Flickr user ever since the service was introduced as a small start-up in Vancouver, and was subsequently acquired by Yahoo. It is certainly one of the best sites to share and explore photos.

Every now and then, they introduce some cool features. Their latest one allows you to embed the pictures directly into your website, and explore other pictures in your stream in a very seamless manner.

This will certainly change the way I write blog posts in future.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The 5-Axis IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization)

5-Axis IBIS illustration. Image copyright by Olympus Corporation.
Olympus first introduced their 5-axis IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization) with the E-M5, and further refined it with the E-M1 (their current flagship camera).

When I purchased the E-M1, the IBIS feature was not on my "must-have" list. I purchased the camera because of its other features (weather sealed body, 10fps shooting speed, great viewfinder etc.). My understanding was that image stabilization that is done on a lens (favored by Nikon & Canon) is always better than image stabilization done in the camera body (by moving the sensor, as shown in the illustration above). I was very skeptical that this type of stabilization would give good results.

I was completely wrong.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Switch to Micro 4/3rd

My current micro 4/3 system.
Photography has become a lot more interesting for me recently, and it has to do with one tiny gem of a camera from Olympus. The rather odd sounding OM-D E-M1.

Up until now, I have shot mostly with Nikon D800 and have managed to collect some really beautiful Nikon lenses. I still love shooting with the D800, and I know its controls like the back of my hand. But it has one disadvantage that makes it impractical as an everyday camera. It is big and it is heavy.

I wanted something small and light that I could carry around with me, especially while travelling. About 2 years back, I decided to try the Olympus E-P2. It was a nice and slick camera, but its underwhelming auto-focus speed left a lot to be desired. I also tried the much revered Panasonic GF1 (which has great auto-focus speed), and even invested in the Panasonic GX1 (improvement over the GF1). I still have the GX1 and occasionally do use it, but all of these cameras fall woefully short in terms of image quality, when compared to the mighty Nikon D800.

I became very interested in the Olympus E-M5, as it was considered a game changer for the micro 4/3 system. But before I could make up my mind to buy it, rumors started circulating that Olympus was going to introduce something extraordinary. I decided to wait and see.

The OM-D E-M1 was finally announced, and it seemed to have everything that I was looking for in a smaller camera. I hit the pre-order button the moment it became available on Amazon. I was one of the early recipient of the camera, and the moment I held it in my hands, I knew I had a winner. It was exactly like a mini-version of my beloved D800.

E-M1 vs the D800
I have been using the E-M1 for more than 1 month now and it has exceeded all my expectations. I was thinking of writing one long post about all the unique features of the E-M1, but since that will be a very long post, I have decided to make separate posts highlighting some of the cool things I have been able to do with this camera.

Detailed technical review of the camera can be found at, where it earned their highest "Gold Award". My subsequent posts will be more focused on real-world use, and my personal experience with this camera.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

High Speed Flash Photography.

SB-910. Shot at 1/32th power (approximately 1/17,000th of a second)
When we need to freeze action, the shutter speed of the camera has to be high, otherwise you will end up with a blurred image. Typically for sports, a shutter speeds between 1/500th of a second to 1/1000th of a second should give very sharp images. To get these kind of shutter speeds, one or more of the following should hold true:
    1. There is plenty of available light (e.g. daytime)
    2. You have a fast lens.
    3. Your camera can shoot at high ISO without too much degradation of image quality.

In broad daylight, you should be able to get those kind of high shutter speeds even with a normal lens, and normal ISO. But once the light starts fading, then your choices are limited to managing with #2 (fast lens) and/or #3 (setting a higher ISO). It is for this reason you see sports shooters with those huge professional lenses that are designed to gather as much light as possible, and big camera bodies that are designed to shoot at high ISO speed and still give excellent image quality.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bramping (Bulb Ramping) on the Cheap.

Bulb Ramping, or "Bramping", as it is commonly called, is a technique of creating time-lapse videos by using the 'bulb' mode of the camera, and controlling each exposure using an external timer. These type of time-lapse videos tend to give very smooth transition between day and night (and vice-versa), instead of the flicker you tend to get if you leave the exposure for the camera to determine (or if you change the exposure manually).

Compare the video above (created using the 'Bramping' technique), to the one below, in which the exposure was manually increased to compensate for the rapidly changing light. The changes in exposure give the video (the one below) a very jarring effect. In fact, this was my first attempt at time-lapse during a sunset.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Light Painting with Steel Wool

Nikon D800, 30 Second exposure.
Light painting is a technique where you keep your camera's shutter open for long a period of time in a fairly dark environment, and then use some kind of light source to paint the canvas (in this case, the camera's sensor).

An interesting technique for light painting is using steel wool as a light source. Steel wool is highly flammable, and burns bright for a short duration, but its sparks can create interesting patterns.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 Zoom.

The Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 on a GX1 body.
I invested in the micro 4/3 format some time back, but never got around to taking it seriously especially since I shoot with a Nikon D800, which is an amazing camera.

I have used the Panasonic GX1 with the kit lens (14-42mm f3.5-f5.6) during my Ladakh trekking trip, but the slowness of that lens never really impressed me. It is good in daylight, but gives poor results in low light situations. I tried using prime lenses, but that becomes extremely inconvenient for trekking, where you need to travel as light as possible, and changing lenses on the side of steep trails is not an option.

Since I do lot of trekking, I wanted something comparable to the results of the D800, but without the bulk. Is that even remotely possible?.  When Panasonic announced their professional grade 12-35mm f2.8 fixed aperture lens, I was immediately interested. Could this be it?

The price of the lens was a deterrent for me. At $1,299 it is priced almost similar to a professional grade FX lens. I thought if the price ever goes below $1000, I would jump at the opportunity to own this lens. Over the last few months, Amazon dropped the price by $100 to $1,199, but it still wasn't enticing enough for me.