It has been a few weeks since I've been out practicing my street photography skills, so when I had the chance to use a Olympus OMD EM-5 with a 17mm lens I headed to Royal Windsor for a lazy Sunday morning walk. Over breakfast I had a quick look over the camera and I couldn't believe how well built and light the Olympus was. After enjoying the breakfast in Patisserie Valerie, Royal Windsor with my family, we donned our hats and coats, then braced ourselves for the cold and windy weather. I had my Canon 60d with the Canon EF 24-105mm f4 IS USM lens on and my son had his Canon 1000d and Canon EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-f5./6 kit lens. As this was going to be my first chance to use a Mirrorless set up, I put my 60d away and set about 3 hours of street photography.
Walking up and down the streets of Windsor, there were no end of opportunity for candids, plus being in Windsor every tourist has a camera, so you don't look out of place. With loads of outdoor cafés it would have been a good chance to capture some moments between couples, alas the weather was too cold and most people were taking cover inside.
I used the time between shots and I accustomed myself to the menu, once I'd had the basic buttons under my spell I was able to change the settings (shutter speed, aperture and ISO) in manual mode. The touch screen was handy but it changed my settings without me knowing, which must of been my fault. I didn't find the electronic view finder a problem, mostly I used the flip screen to compose and take my photographs. This enabled easy hip, low shots and in my option for street, these angles create better view points rather than always being at eye level.
Time for another coffee, well a take away coffee. This was the time to test the low light and it wasn't bad, the files did contain noise, but it was acceptable. When it came to processing the photographs took a bit of luminance noise reduction in Lightroom 4, a positive when pushing pixels around.
While stirring the latte, I took the photo below at hip height using the flip screen. The camera settings were ISO 1000 - 17mm - f4.5 - 1/400th. The photograph was a little under exposed, given I'd been using this camera for an hour and I couldn't remember the buttons to changed the settings. Perhaps you know, while taking street photographs you can't stand there banging around because you lose the moment. Sometimes it pays to just take the photo and enjoy it rather than having the perfect settings. Putting the lid back on my Latte I glanced at the screen and I was very happy with the results.
Three hours had flown past and my understanding wife was beginning to fade, so it was time to head back to the car. Last chance for a gem, so I stopped two gents who looked the part, I ask them for a couple pics and they were happy to oblige. Quickly moving them to a better background I took a series of 5 pics. Below in my opinion is the best of the series taken in manual mode. It was wet, windy and cold, both guys were great. If they see this post, can I say thank you, I forgot to give them a business card.
With the exciting morning over its time to sum up ,on the plus side the flip screen, not so intimidating for the candid streets, it's lite weight, focusing speed on the centre spot was good, menu functioned worked well, changing the shutter speed, f-stop & ISO were good in manual, face detection, the smooth zoom for videoing, easy menu and I didn't find the EVF a problem. When processing the files within Lightroom 4, the files were more forgiving than my normal Canon Raw files. I don't have the answer why, mainly because it's far too scientific for me. If you have the answer, please leave it in the comment section below.
On the negative side and there wasn't many, the Olympus in my hands was too small even with the battery grip, the function buttons were also too small (not the shutter or modes dials), the touch screen moved my settings, the swipe screen was slow, I lost the lens cap in my pockets and the price.
In summary I'm not hooked after 3 hours perhaps mostly due to the form factor and my big hands, if I can't use the Olympus because of the size, it will become an expensive paper weight. I enjoyed using the camera and it stood up to a test of street photography and looked the part, having to think about my photography was refreshing. There were more positives than negatives and in the 3 hours if your looking for a higher end Mirrorless camera for street photography with retro looks this camera is for you. At the moment I would put the £899 towards a new Canon 7d mk2 or a Canon L lens for use in my sports, wildlife and aviation photography. As I'm already invested in Canon I'd buy a Canon EF 40mm f2.8 prime and remove my battery grip to reduce the intimidation and I would have £749 change.
In the hands of the pro-photography you can see the top quality photographs you can produce and if you what to view some stunning photographs using the Olympus EM-1 head over to Neil Buchan-Grant blog shooting in New York.
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