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Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Review

Is The Sequel Any Good?!

Cameras come and cameras go. It’s a cycle that every manufacturer repeats every few years. As a professional photographer, I naturally keep my eyes open for new and better tools and as a reviewer of camera equipment for my blog and also various magazines over the years, I naturally get to use and review a lot of equipment from a lot of the main brands in our industry.

The new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II fitted with the HLD-8 Power Battery Grip. February 05, 2015. Photo: © Edmond Terakopian

The new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II fitted with the HLD-8 Power Battery Grip. February 05, 2015. Photo: © Edmond Terakopian

So, how do I know if a camera is any good? Well, one sure way is at the end of the test, when I box away the camera to send back. If at this stage I feel bad and want to hold on to the camera, that gut feeling says it all. As I boxed away the OM-D E-M5 Mark II last night and begun taping up the box, I really wished I could keep it!

The new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. The two grips, the HLD-8 Power Battery Grip. February 05, 2015. Photo: © Edmond Terakopian

The new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. The two grips, the HLD-8 Power Battery Grip. February 05, 2015. Photo: © Edmond Terakopian

Although I never used Olympus in the days of film, I always really fancied the OM3Ti; to the point that even now, once in a while I’ll look them up on eBay! When Olympus launched the first PEN, the E-P1, my interest in the company’s cameras was re-invigorated. Since, I’ve owned and use various PEN cameras, the most recent being the brilliant E-P5. When I saw the first OM-D, the E-M5, I did rather like it and when I saw the E-M1, I did rather love it. It was a camera that just felt perfect from the second I picked it up and since has become my most used camera system, putting my Canon DSLR and Leica M setups in early and part time retirement. I’ve been using the new E-M5 Mark II for exactly two weeks now. My first outing with it was a video shoot of an anti ivory demonstration at the Chinese Embassy, which will be used in the feature length documentary, The Last Animals. Having played with the camera the evening before, it gave me such confidence in it’s abilities that I was happy to take it on a real and important assignment the next day. Although I brought a Canon 5D MkIII as a backup, just in case, the little Olympus worked faultlessly and perfectly, allowing me to shoot the entire demo with it. The camera’s ergonomics and menu system are very well designed. Not having a manual for the two weeks meant having to figure everything out by exploration and I’m happy to say that everything just came together nicely, all because of a well thought out camera, by designers and engineers who clearly understand photography and photographers.

A rare Ferrari 288 GTO  built in 1985 with only 883 miles on the clock. It is valued at £2,000,000 and available from H.R. Owen in South Kensington, London. Image shot on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II, using the multi shot sensor shift facility, creating a 40 megapixel image. January 30, 2015. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

A rare Ferrari 288 GTO built in 1985 with only 883 miles on the clock. It is valued at £2,000,000 and available from H.R. Owen in South Kensington, London. Image shot on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II, using the multi shot sensor shift facility, creating a 40 megapixel image. January 30, 2015. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

One of the highlight aspects of the E-M5 Mark II is it’s new high resolution mode; the resolution is boosted from it’s normal 16mp to a whopping 40mp. It does this by taking eight images, shifting the sensor for each shot and combining them into a 40mp jpeg, all in a matter of seconds. As the camera can fire up to 11 shots in the silent continuous mode (more of this later), the actual picture can be taken in under or around a second, so long exposure’s aren’t needed.

A rare Ferrari 288 GTO  built in 1985 with only 883 miles on the clock. It is valued at £2,000,000 and available from H.R. Owen in South Kensington, London. Image shot on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II, using the multi shot sensor shift facility, creating a 40 megapixel image. January 30, 2015. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

A rare Ferrari 288 GTO built in 1985 with only 883 miles on the clock. It is valued at £2,000,000 and available from H.R. Owen in South Kensington, London. Image shot on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II, using the multi shot sensor shift facility, creating a 40 megapixel image. January 30, 2015. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

A detail crop; A rare Ferrari 288 GTO  built in 1985 with only 883 miles on the clock. It is valued at £2,000,000 and available from H.R. Owen in South Kensington, London. Image shot on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II, using the multi shot sensor shift facility, creating a 40 megapixel image. January 30, 2015. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

A detail crop; A rare Ferrari 288 GTO built in 1985 with only 883 miles on the clock. It is valued at £2,000,000 and available from H.R. Owen in South Kensington, London. Image shot on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II, using the multi shot sensor shift facility, creating a 40 megapixel image. January 30, 2015. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

The processing of the eight images then takes a couple of seconds. A tripod is a must and your subject needs to be still, but I can see a lot of creative uses of this with moving subjects! The results are astonishing though. An image dimension of 7296 x 5472 takes things into the higher end of medium format territory. The results are pin sharp, full of detail and tonal range. Whilst this wasn’t a feature I was enamoured by when I first found out about it, having used it, it has really blown my mind!

Taxi Rank, Paddington Station, London. Image shot on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II, using the multi shot sensor shift facility, creating a 40 megapixel image. February 01, 2015. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Taxi Rank, Paddington Station, London. Image shot on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II, using the multi shot sensor shift facility, creating a 40 megapixel image. February 01, 2015. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

To download a full resolution file of the above image and see for yourself, follow THIS LINK. The other huge feature of the E-M5 Mark II is an updated and even more capable 5-axis in camera stabiliser. In a nutshell, every axis of movement is stabilised, meaning hand held shot are possible at very slow shutter speeds for pin sharp photographs. With practice I found I can shoot hand held at down to almost a one second exposure.

Shooting Video

This stabiliser also works in the video mode and in this aspect, pushes the camera to be one of the most able video shooting stills cameras around. It frees the user up to shooting so much more hand held shots. In my short film Taxi Driver, I shot the majority of shots completely hand held. Something I would never do with a DSLR, even with a stabilised lens.

Some of the shots in the film were done by attaching the camera and a mic, onto the windscreen of the taxi or to the bonnet, using a Delkin Fat Ghecko vehicle mount. This triple suction mount worked perfectly, but on it’s own offers no means of stabilisation. Considering how much a diesel London Taxi vibrates and the state of the bumpy roads in some parts of town, the smooth results just blew me away. The stabiliser is both extremely capable and extremely freeing, allowing you to shoot and create, without worrying about steadycams or a tripod. In fact, the only scenes I used a tripod and monopod were for the interview in the cafe and a few shots of a taxi rank. The rest of the seven hour shoot was freehand! By adding a grip (either the HLD-8 or HLD-8 Power Battery Grip) one also adds a headphone socket. This is essential for being able to monitor what the microphone is picking up and really makes this camera an even better video shooter. Thankfully, the audio gain level (along with ISO, aperture, shutter speed and headphone volume) can be changed using the silent touch screen during video shooting. Brilliant!

The new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. Picture shows the all important headphone socket, now part of the optional (and essential) grip, the HLD-8G and HLD8 Battery Power Grip (shown), February 05, 2015. Photo: © Edmond Terakopian

The new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. Picture shows the all important headphone socket, now part of the optional (and essential) grip, the HLD-8G and HLD8 Battery Power Grip (shown), February 05, 2015. Photo: © Edmond Terakopian

Thankfully, we now have variable frame rates, meaning that 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p and 24p can be used for full 1080p HD video. The video file itself is very beefy! ALL‑I has a data rate of 77Mbps. IPB gives the following data rates in the following quality setting: SF: ~52Mbps, F: ~30Mbps, N: ~18Mbps. Having shot the majority of the two films in ALL-I at 77Mbps, I can say that the detail holds up extremely well, rendering both highlight and shadow detail properly, allowing for proper grading. It also pushes the camera’s data rate into one the BBC with their stringent guidelines should approve of. Another very handy feature is various levels of slow motion (and speeded up footage) available in camera. I have made good use of the slow motion and am very pleased with the results. You can see this in action in my London Taxi film mentioned earlier.

The new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II fitted with the HLD-8 Power Battery Grip and Rode Steroe VideoMic X. February 05, 2015. Photo: © Edmond Terakopian

The new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II fitted with the HLD-8 Power Battery Grip and Rode Steroe VideoMic X. February 05, 2015. Photo: © Edmond Terakopian

On the audio front, the camera has the all important audio limiter, meaning loud sounds or a raise in volume won’t blow the audio and make it useless. The audio is also recorded at 16 bit, 48Hz, Wave Format Base, meaning it’s actually of better than CD quality and not compressed. Naturally there is an on screen audio meter during shooting. Although the camera has built in stereo microphones, it also comes with the essential mic socket, and during filming my Rode VideoMic Pro and Rode Stereo VideoMic X found themselves at home and recording great audio. Other Goodies The flip out, articulated screen is a great bonus which allows various camera angles to be used with ease. One thing I found I was going a lot was flipping it so the screen was hidden from view and the camera resembled a film camera. This is great as it’ll stop the chimping photographer, make them concentrate on the scene and not the camera back and as a result save on battery power. During the interview scene in London Taxi, I was shooting multicam, and the screen allowed me to tilt it on the wide camera, meaning I could keep an eye on it and on the one in my hand; very handy indeed. Another very handy aspect for me was the practically silent shutter. It can barely be heard and on the street, it should be completely inaudible. Need to take pictures in a monastery of monks who have taken a vows of silence? Not a problem as there is also a completely silent electronic shutter mode. And yes, I do mean silent. Completely. Zero sound. It’s absolutely astonishing to put the camera into silent continuous and know one’s shooting 11 frames per second, in absolute, total and complete silence! In normal mode, the barely audible shutter mode means in continuous mode, the count drops by a frame to 10fps.

London Taxi driver Terry Bradford. January 31, 2015. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

London Taxi, St Paul’s Cathedral. January 31, 2015. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The built in WiFi remains from the previous cameras and married to the Olympus O.I. Share app on iOS means you can download jpegs (I always shoot RAW and medium jpeg for just this reason) and also have full, wireless remote camera control. This naturally opens up huge possibilities and also allows quick sharing of images on social media (just check out my Instagram!) or for sending a quick image to a client for approval or a newspaper for publication. As a very important bonus, the battery system is the same as the previous OM-Ds and PENs; this means that when travelling, one needs one type of charger and one set of batteries. It’s this type of uniformity that endears a brand to the photographer and really helps on assignment. Final Thoughts So, is everything perfect? So far, I have had nothing but praise for this camera; I almost have nothing but praise for this camera. The only thing that bugs me, is the rear function button, labelled Fn1. It’s just too small and flat and is next to a lever which juts out too much, adding to it’s difficult use. In normal function button use, this isn’t an issue and works perfectly well when holding the camera away from the face and accessing the menus, but there are some photographers, myself included, who prefer back button focus, so assign all AF use to the back button. Whilst it’s usable, it’s not comfortable and not as tactile as it should be. So if you’re one of the breed who likes to back button focus, you will be annoyed. However, I like this camera so much that I will try and find a way to attach something to this button to make it stand out a few millimetres.

Dramatic Clouds At Sunset, London. February 05, 2015. Photo: © Edmond Terakopian

Dramatic Clouds At Sunset, London. February 05, 2015. Photo: © Edmond Terakopian

Well, as I mentioned at the beginning, I don’t want to return this test camera back to Olympus; I like it that much. One thing is for sure, a couple of E-M5 Mark II cameras will definitely be joining my bag as soon as they are available. My E-M1 cameras are extremely capable (and will be even better with the new firmware bring faster continuous AF, I’m sure) but for video, the E-M5 Mark II has raised the bar tremendously. For me, it’s a must have camera…..so yes, the sequel is much better! Links: Here’s my Flickr Album with E-M5 MarkII images; this will be updated, so do keep an eye on it.

Addendum

My black Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II camera and M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8 lens. April 29, 2015. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

My black Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II camera and M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8 lens. April 29, 2015. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

A few months on and I’ve got myself a pair of E-M5 Mark II cameras. As I’ve already mentioned, it’s a great camera. In fact, I have an assignment tomorrow and I’ll only be shooting on these; shall leave the E-M1 cameras at home. One thing however has changed since my review; the back “Function 1” button. Olympus have clearly been listening to the feedback and seem to have completely changed the button’s mechanics. It’s no longer hard to press and feels much better. The design isn’t ideal as the lever juts out too much, but with the button being softer to the touch and with much more feel, back button focusing is actually achievable comfortably. I’ve set up both my cameras with back button focus enabled. Top marks to Olympus for making this small yet significant change since the sample camera I had for my initial review.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 MarkII Video

“London Taxi”

A short film shot on the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II camera. The film was shot using two cameras and the following Olympus M.Zuiko lenses: 9mm f8 (Body Cap Lens), 12mm f2, 12-40mm f2.8PRO, 25mm f1.8, 45mm f1.8 and 75mm f1.8.

The new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II fitted with the HLD-8 Power Battery Grip and Rode Steroe VideoMic X. February 05, 2015. Photo: © Edmond Terakopian

The new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II fitted with the HLD-8 Power Battery Grip and Rode Steroe VideoMic X. February 05, 2015. Photo: © Edmond Terakopian

Addendum:

I have since made a shorter edit with a different grade of London Taxi (above) and it’s called, Taxi Driver:

Ambient audio was recorded on camera using a Rode Stereo VideoMic X. Audio was also recorded using an Olympus LS-100 with it’s internal microphones for ambient sounds and also hooked up via XLR to a Rode NTG3 for other atmospheric recordings. A Rode Lavalier microphone was used for for the interviews, attached to the Olymps LS-100 via it’s XLR input. All of the microphone mounts and windjammers used (apart from the one on the Stereo VideoMic X) were by Rycote.

The Olympus LS-100 audio recorder and Rode NTG3 microphone.. February 05, 2015. Photo: © Edmond Terakopian

The Olympus LS-100 audio recorder and Rode NTG3 microphone.. February 05, 2015. Photo: © Edmond Terakopian

The majority of shots were hand held, using the camera’s built in stabilisation system to keep the shots steady. For the shots where the camera was attached to the taxi, a Delkin Fat Gheko camera mount was used. A Manfrotto tripod and video monopod was also used for the interview and cab rank scenes.
Editing was done on an Apple Mac Pro and FCP X, using Eizo CG-276 monitors and monitoring audio on Event Opals. Asset management and image processing were done on Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

The new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. The two grips, the HLD-8 Power Battery Grip. February 05, 2015. Photo: © Edmond Terakopian

The new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. The two grips, the HLD-8 Power Battery Grip. February 05, 2015. Photo: © Edmond Terakopian

Testing The New Olympus 25mm f1.8 Lens

Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 25mm 1:1.8 Test

The new Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 25mm 1:1.8 lens.  Photographed attached to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera.  January 28, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian   *Please forgive the particles of sand on the equipment!!*

The new Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 25mm 1:1.8 lens. Photographed attached to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera. January 28, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian
*Please forgive the particles of sand on the equipment!!*

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 has fast become one of my favourite cameras. One of my favourite focal lengths, especially for street photography and environmental portraits is 50mm and I felt that the Olympus m4/3 lens lineup was missing this. I was delighted to find though that this lens was going to be announced soon and Olympus UK kindly lent me the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm f1.8 lens to shoot my Los Angeles trip with. I’ve therefore been shooting with this lens since the 5th of January, for creating real pictures. Those who are familiar with my tests know that I don’t do the scientific breakdown or photograph brick walls; I take equipment on real assignments and shoots.

The sun rises over Los Angeles, California, USA. January 13, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The sun rises over Los Angeles, California, USA. January 13, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Andrea Feczko (American TV Presenter and digital content creator. www.andreafeczko.com), plays volleyball on Venice Beach. LA, USA. January 14, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Andrea Feczko (American TV Presenter and digital content creator. http://www.andreafeczko.com), plays volleyball on Venice Beach. LA, USA. January 14, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Andrea Feczko (American TV Presenter and digital content creator. www.andreafeczko.com), on Santa Monica beach. LA, USA. January 14, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Andrea Feczko (American TV Presenter and digital content creator. http://www.andreafeczko.com), on Santa Monica beach. LA, USA. January 14, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Andrea Feczko (American TV Presenter and digital content creator. www.andreafeczko.com), on Santa Monica beach. LA, USA. January 14, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Andrea Feczko (American TV Presenter and digital content creator. http://www.andreafeczko.com), on Santa Monica beach. LA, USA. January 14, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Andrea Feczko (American TV Presenter and digital content creator. www.andreafeczko.com), on Santa Monica beach at sunset. LA, USA. January 14, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Andrea Feczko (American TV Presenter and digital content creator. http://www.andreafeczko.com), on Santa Monica beach at sunset. LA, USA. January 14, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Andrea Feczko (American TV Presenter and digital content creator. www.andreafeczko.com), at the funfair on Santa Monica pier in the evening. LA, USA. January 14, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Andrea Feczko (American TV Presenter and digital content creator. http://www.andreafeczko.com), at the funfair on Santa Monica pier in the evening. LA, USA. January 14, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

For those not familiar with the m4/3 (Micro Four Thirds) system, the 25mm lens gives an equivalent of 50mm at a relatively fast aperture of f1.8. Married with the astonishingly great 5-axis stabiliser in the E-M1, this means that hand held extreme low light photography is very possible. At f1.8 one also gets lovely separation of subject from the background. I shot with the lens solidly whilst on a trip to Los Angeles and day in, day out, it performed perfectly.

Andrea Feczko (American TV Presenter and digital content creator - www.andreafeczko.com), at the lavish Thompson Beverly Hills Hotel, LA, USA. January 14, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Andrea Feczko (American TV Presenter and digital content creator – http://www.andreafeczko.com), at the lavish Thompson Beverly Hills Hotel, LA, USA. January 14, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Andrea Feczko (American TV Presenter and digital content creator - www.andreafeczko.com), at the lavish Thompson Beverly Hills Hotel, LA, USA. January 14, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Andrea Feczko (American TV Presenter and digital content creator – http://www.andreafeczko.com), at the lavish Thompson Beverly Hills Hotel, LA, USA. January 14, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Visitors at the Chinese Theatre forecourt featuring handprints, footprints and signatures of iconic celebrities. The young visitors check out the Harry Potter imprints. Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, California. January 16, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Visitors at the Chinese Theatre forecourt featuring handprints, footprints and signatures of iconic celebrities. The young visitors check out the Harry Potter imprints. Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, California. January 16, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Cartoon characters interact with the tourists. Walk of fame, Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, California. January 16, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Cartoon characters interact with the tourists. Walk of fame, Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, California. January 16, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Very fast (and silent) to focus, pin sharp, accurate colour and tonal rendition and great element coating, meaning that shooting into the sun is not a problem. Being part of the M.Zuiko Premium range means it’s extremely well built. As you can see from the product photography, it’s also tiny and only weighs 137g. With two Aspherical elements and a close focusing distance of only 0.25cm, it has fast become my standard lens on my E-M1. I won’t hesitate in recommending this lens; it’s fast, crisp, small and extremely capable.

To see more photographs taken with the Olympus 25mm f1.8 lens, please visit my Flickr set.

LA Fashion District, downtown Los Angeles, California, USA. January 17, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

LA Fashion District, downtown Los Angeles, California, USA. January 17, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Bob's Big Boy in Burbank is a burger restaurant where every Friday night, classic car enthusiasts gather to show off their classic restored cars and hotrods. Los Angeles, California, USA. January 17, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank is a burger restaurant where every Friday night, classic car enthusiasts gather to show off their classic restored cars and hotrods. Los Angeles, California, USA. January 17, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Bob's Big Boy in Burbank is a burger restaurant where every Friday night, classic car enthusiasts gather to show off their classic restored cars and hotrods. Los Angeles, California, USA. January 17, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank is a burger restaurant where every Friday night, classic car enthusiasts gather to show off their classic restored cars and hotrods. Los Angeles, California, USA. January 17, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Bob's Big Boy in Burbank is a burger restaurant where every Friday night, classic car enthusiasts gather to show off their classic restored cars and hotrods. Los Angeles, California, USA. January 17, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank is a burger restaurant where every Friday night, classic car enthusiasts gather to show off their classic restored cars and hotrods. Los Angeles, California, USA. January 17, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 South Grand Avenue in Downtown of Los Angeles, California, is the fourth hall of the Los Angeles Music Centre and was designed by Frank Gehry. January 17, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 South Grand Avenue in Downtown of Los Angeles, California, is the fourth hall of the Los Angeles Music Centre and was designed by Frank Gehry. January 17, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The new Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 25mm 1:1.8 lens.  Photographed next to the 45mm lens for size comparison.  January 28, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian   *Please forgive the particles of sand on the equipment!!*

The new Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 25mm 1:1.8 lens. Photographed next to the 45mm lens for size comparison. January 28, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian
*Please forgive the particles of sand on the equipment!!*

The new Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 25mm 1:1.8 lens.  January 28, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian   *Please forgive the particles of sand on the equipment!!*

The new Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 25mm 1:1.8 lens. January 28, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian
*Please forgive the particles of sand on the equipment!!*

The new Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 25mm 1:1.8 lens.  Shown with supplied lens hood attached.  January 28, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian   *Please forgive the particles of sand on the equipment!!*

The new Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 25mm 1:1.8 lens. Shown with supplied lens hood attached. January 28, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian
*Please forgive the particles of sand on the equipment!!*

The new Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 25mm 1:1.8 lens.  Photographed attached to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera.  January 28, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian   *Please forgive the particles of sand on the equipment!!*

The new Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 25mm 1:1.8 lens. Photographed attached to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera. January 28, 2014. Photo: Edmond Terakopian
*Please forgive the particles of sand on the equipment!!*

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Review

Hands On Review Of The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Camera

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 with the new Olympus M4/3 12-40mm f2.8 zoom and grip. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 with the new Olympus M4/3 12-40mm f2.8 zoom and grip. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

The E-M1 was about to join a list of cameras which had made an impression on me from the moment I had picked them up; the Nikon FE, FM, FE2, FM2, F3. The Canon T90, 5D MkIII, 1D MkII, MkIII (after the sub mirror fix), Mk IV and 1DX, Leica R6.2 and every single Leica M camera from film to digital, but excluding the M5, M8 and M8.2.

I was sitting in the airport terminal, waiting for our plane to Ireland. That’s when I first saw the 16MP Olympus OM-D E-M1 in the flesh. The second I held the camera, it just felt right. It was solid like no other micro four thirds camera I’d used, more like a pro DSLR. The ergonomics were right; the grip was the perfect size and the buttons just fell to hand perfectly. It definitely felt right. I knew then I was in for a treat. The little Olympus had joined a very exclusive list of cameras that conveyed a feeling upon first touch.

Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot witht he Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens.  Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian    *jpeg image processed in Aperture and Silver Efex Pro 2*

Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot witht he Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian *jpeg image processed in Aperture and Silver Efex Pro 2*

Olympus had arranged for a few photographers and trade journalists to fly off to Ireland’s lovely Castle Leslie and spend seven to eight hours with the camera. Various scenarios were arranged to give us the opportunity to try out the camera’s various functions and also to put Olympus’ Micro Four Thirds and older Four Thirds lenses (which are compatible and also AF, using an adapter) to use. Everything from models, lighting (flash and continuous tungsten), galloping horses, dark and dingy situations and an amazing light drawing artist were all at hand, as was the beautiful surroundings of the castle itself. I have to say that the event was organised and executed perfectly.

Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the new Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens. Lit with a portable Pro Photo studio flash triggered wirelessly. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the new Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens. Lit with a portable Pro Photo studio flash triggered wirelessly. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

We were each given a camera bag with the E-M1, grip and brand new Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 Pro lens (in 35mm terms, this becomes a 24-80mm f2.8 – we were in fact the first photographers worldwide, outside of Olympus staff to use this lens), a second lens (in my case a 12mm f2.0) and a flash (which I didn’t get a chance to try). We were split into three groups and within the groups we had access to all other micro four thirds lenses, including the simply brilliant 45mm and 75mm f1.8 lenses. We also had the knowledgeable Florian from Olympus Germany on hand to help with any technical questions.

A horse and rider gallop through a lake. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the Olympus 75mm f1.8 lens.  Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian    *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

A horse and rider gallop through a lake. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the Olympus 75mm f1.8 lens. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 with a Four Thirds Olympus 300mm f2.8 lens, attached with an adapter.  This combination was used to take the photograph below. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 with a Four Thirds Olympus 300mm f2.8 lens, attached with an adapter. This combination was used to take the photograph below. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian

A horse and rider gallop through a lake. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the Olympus 300mm f2.8 Four Thirds lens (effectively a 600mm f2.8).  Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian    *jpeg image processed in Aperture and Silver Efex Pro 2*

A horse and rider gallop through a lake. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the Olympus 300mm f2.8 Four Thirds lens (effectively a 600mm f2.8). Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian *jpeg image processed in Aperture and Silver Efex Pro 2*

One lens not yet available, but a mock up of which I saw, was a 40-150mm f2.8 Pro lens (80-300mm f2.8 equivalent). With this addition to the system, I feel the E-M1 is ready for most things and could well be the news photographer’s perfect kit. Two E-M1 bodies, the 12-40mm and 40-150mm, all roughly pack into the same area as a traditional pro DSLR and 24-70mm f2.8 lens would take. It would also probably be lighter and roughly cost around the same.

The E-M1 In Use

Having spent around eight hours with the camera, I can definitely give my impressions of it, but it’s not long enough to be able to run a full test. Hopefully I shall do this in the future. As I mentioned in my intro, the camera just feels right as soon as you pick it up. Several photographers made the same comment and we were all surprised that we all said the same thing, using identical words! The design has obviously been really well thought out and tried out too.

Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the Olympus 75mm f1.8 lens.  Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian    *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the Olympus 75mm f1.8 lens. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

Although there was no time to read through a manual, the camera’s buttons and menu system are easy enough to figure out and after a little fumbling, one gets very used to it. I’m a big fan of having buttons and dials for major operational features and as a result of incorporating these, the camera is easy and quick to operate. The rear LCD is extremely crisp; a high res, bright and touch capable screen that also flips up or down. Very handy indeed.

Portrait of a model. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot witht he Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens.  Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian    *jpeg image processed in Aperture and Silver Efex Pro 2*

Portrait of a model. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot witht he Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian *jpeg image processed in Aperture and Silver Efex Pro 2*

Being a micro four thirds camera, it doesn’t have a mirror box, so it’s not an SLR. This means that the camera is much smaller (around half the size of a pro DSLR) and lighter. This in turn means the lenses are also much smaller and lighter too, even the fast f1.8 offerings. Being a Leica M photographer small is something I appreciate in my cameras and lenses; well, the Olympus lenses are even smaller than Leica M optics.

A floating bubble with the reflection of a glass roof. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot   Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian    *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

A floating bubble with the reflection of a glass roof. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

Not having a mirrorbox naturally means no optical viewfinder, but Olympus have incorporated the very best EVF on the market (electronic viewfinder) into the camera. It’s bright, sharp, fast (no streaking or smearing) and supremely sensitive in the dark – it’s practically night vision. I’ve been using EVF’s since my Leica Digilux 2, then on my Olympus PEN E-P2. I now have an EVF for my Leica M (Type 240) and nothing I have used or tested before comes close to just how good the E-M1 and it’s built in EVF work. If you’re a sceptic, definitely pop to a shop and try it out when the camera is  available from October 2013.

A closeup of a flower, shot with the macro function of the new Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot   Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian    *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

A closeup of a flower, shot with the macro function of the new Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

The EVF allowed me to work in normal portrait conditions, in the bright sun, in a practically black, darkened library and also tracking galloping horses coming straight at me and also across from me. It worked flawlessly. During the day’s shooting, I didn’t once feel an optical finder would have helped me make better pictures.

Ghosts in the library. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with Live Time mode (bulb but with updated view of the long exposure, shown on the rear screen as the image develops), using the new Olympus 12mm-40mm f2.8 lens.  Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian    *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

Ghosts in the library. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with Live Time mode (bulb but with updated view of the long exposure, shown on the rear screen as the image develops), using the new Olympus 12mm-40mm f2.8 lens. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

The speed of the drive is also very impressive; 10fps, falling to 6.5fps for continuous AF. The buffer is also huge, allowing 50 raw files to be buffered whilst writing to card.

Auto Focus

Ok, this really is surprising. The speed and accuracy of focus felt on par with my Canon 1DX. I haven’t done side by side testing, but the speed of the AF using Micro Four Thirds lenses really does astonish. No sooner have you touched the shutter button that the subject pops into perfect focus. I found this both is single and continuous mode.

The camera uses a dual AF system, combining phase detection and contrast AF, switching between the two depending on the lens in use.

Portrait of a model. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot witht he Olympus 75mm f1.8 lens.  Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian    *jpeg image processed in Aperture and Silver Efex Pro 2*

Portrait of a model. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot witht he Olympus 75mm f1.8 lens. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian *jpeg image processed in Aperture and Silver Efex Pro 2*

Being old school, I very much tend to choose my AF point and work. A professional portrait photographer who was at hand convinced me to try the face detection, with eye detection during a portrait shoot. Very reluctantly, I did, as I don’t believe in gimmicks. Well, it’s no gimmick and works perfectly! The camera picked the face of the model and focused on the eyes. Shooting at f1.8 on the 45mm and also 75mm lenses, the results were spot on, pin sharp.

ISO and Low Light

The ISO also impresses, topping out at 25,600 ISO and giving clean and crisp results. The low light operation also has the immense benefit of the camera’s built in 5-axis image stabiliser. Being built into the camera means that every lens can be stabilised. The system works tremendously well, both in stills and in video mode.

Detail Crop: ISO 6400. Portrait of a model. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens.  Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian    *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

Detail Crop: ISO 6400. Portrait of a model. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

ISO 6400. Portrait of a model. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens.  Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian    *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

ISO 6400. Portrait of a model. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

Detail Crop: ISO 12,800. Portrait of a model. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens.  Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian    *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

Detail Crop: ISO 12,800. Portrait of a model. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

ISO 12,800. Portrait of a model. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens.  Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian    *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

ISO 12,800. Portrait of a model. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

Detail Crop: ISO 25,600. Portrait of a model. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens.  Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian    *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

Detail Crop: ISO 25,600. Portrait of a model. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

ISO 25,600. Portrait of a model. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens.  Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian    *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

ISO 25,600. Portrait of a model. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Test Shot with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian *jpeg image processed in Aperture*

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Test Shot with the new Olympus 12mm-40mm f2.8 lens. The 5 axis image stabilisation has kept this 1/5th of a second shot pin sharp.  Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian    *RAW image processed in Olympus Viewer 3 and Aperture*

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Test Shot with the new Olympus 12mm-40mm f2.8 lens. The 5 axis image stabilisation has kept this 1/5th of a second shot pin sharp. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: ©Edmond Terakopian *RAW image processed in Olympus Viewer 3 and Aperture*

Video

Alas, this is the area where the camera could do more. Positively, the 5-axis stabiliser makes this the most suitable stills camera in the world for shooting video on. Stabilising, smooth clips are to hand. Another boon is the E-M1 has a built in mic socket. Sadly, the negatives are too many at this stage. No headphone socket. As far as I could see, no way to monitor manual audio whilst shooting (I may be wrong as time was limited). The huge omission though, and one which I hope with firmware upgrades can be changed, is that the camera only shoots in 30P in full 1080P HD. I really don’t understand why 24P and 25P were not included. Judging by the size of the buffer and processing power, I would guess that 50P and higher should have also been possible, allowing beautiful slow motion to be shot with the camera.

With the 5-axis stabiliser, Olympus have a winning feature that elevates them over the entire competition. They need to take this seriously and update the firmware to allow for the missing frae rates. Also future models need to have headphone sockets.

There are a huge list of other features; the built in WiFi with iOS App control, and amazing live bulb mode, it’s weather sealing and expandability all add up to impress. To get a full specification list, visit this Olympus page.

Final Thoughts

I really like the Olympus PEN range and they impressed me from the start. Olympus has shown itself to be one of a small number of camera manufacturers who really innovate. I played with the first OM-D, the E-M5, which impressed. However, the E-M1 just jumps ahead, light years, over anything Olympus have produced and most cameras on the market.

A shot of me with the Olympus OM-D E-M1. Test Shot with Live Time mode (bulb but with updated view of the long exposure, shown on the rear screen as the image develops), using the new Olympus 12mm-40mm f2.8 lens. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: Damian McGillicuddy

A shot of me with the Olympus OM-D E-M1. Test Shot with Live Time mode (bulb but with updated view of the long exposure, shown on the rear screen as the image develops), using the new Olympus 12mm-40mm f2.8 lens. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland. September 10, 2013. Photo: Damian McGillicuddy

It feels right from the first time one holds it. The lenses are brilliant, the system works. Speed, accuracy, small size, unobtrusive. It’s a shame the video aspects aren’t up to scratch as the camera is pretty much perfect otherwise. With the addition of a professional service plan (Service Plus), Olympus shows it’s serious about the pro market. A few longer Micro Four Thirds lenses alongside the 40-150mm f2.8 and I think the system will be ready for most types of professional photography.

Give the camera a try. You won’t be disappointed. I for one was seriously impressed.

Visit my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Flickr Set to see more images shot with the camera.

ioSafe Rugged Portable

Tough, Tough & Tough!

ioSafe Rugged Portable at the pool. Royal Hideaway Placar, Riviera Maya, Mexico. July 12, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

ioSafe describe their Rugged Portable drive as an aircraft black box for mobile date; I must say that I agree. I’ve been using their 500Gb model for over three months now and I am very impressed. From the moment you pick it up you realise it’s no ordinary portable drive. It is solid; really solid, yet not too heavy. The case is a solid piece of aluminium covering the top and the sides, with another solid piece of metal covering the bottom. Just by knocking it you can feel that this thing is built to last and designed to take knocks. ioSafe say that it will withstand a three meter drop and is crush proof withstanding up to a ton of weight. It’s also water proof! Yes, a waterproof portable hard drive! It can withstand being immersed in up to three meters of water (salt or fresh). The titanium and SSD versions of the drive can withstand even more abuse. To top things off data recovery and a no quibble warrantee finish things off nicely.

I took this drive on assignment to Cancun. As with my G-Tech Minis, it stood up to the knocks of travel well. One thing however I would not do to any other drive out there is take it to the hotel pool. I even immersed it in the pool, threw it around underwater and knocked it about a bit. Some bubbles escaped from the interface sockets (FW800 and USB 2.0), but that was it. I was absolutely certain though that I had killed the drive! I then took the drive out, dried it up and went back to my room, where I washed it in the sink! After drying out the contacts, I plugged it into my MacBook Pro using FW800 and it started up without issue, mounting on the desktop immediately. Checking through my data, all was safe; no issues at all. I for one was absolutely stunned, shocked and in a state of disbelief.

ioSafe Rugged Portable in the pool. Royal Hideaway Placar, Riviera Maya, Mexico. July 12, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

ioSafe Rugged Portable in the pool. Royal Hideaway Placar, Riviera Maya, Mexico. July 12, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

ioSafe Rugged Portable at the pool side, dripping with water after being submerged. Royal Hideaway Placar, Riviera Maya, Mexico. July 12, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

My only wish would be for a faster drive, as the one used runs at 5400rpm. My guess is this is purely to manage heat build up, as without ventilation slots a 7200rpm would probably fail. Having said that, 5400rpm is more than adequate for backing up. Our data is important to us; for most, it is vital. Most of us work in hazardous environments from time to time and on top of this, accidents will happen even in normal surroundings. I’m so impressed by the way this little yet solid drive has worked that I will definitely become a customer of theirs. With the SSD and titanium versions offering even more protection, it comes as a no brainer for me to recommend you look at this range of Rugged Portable drives by ioSafe. Very impressive indeed. Amazon UK price this drive at under £195 which is good value in my opinion. You can find other UK stockists here.

ioSafe Rugged Portable is washed in the sink. Royal Hideaway Placar, Riviera Maya, Mexico. July 12, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The company also has a range of desktop solutions, which add fireproofing to the mix. Lastly, they are on Indiegogo crowd sourcing funds for their new Disaster proof private cloud NAS RAID box.

ioSafe Rugged Portable plugged into a MacBook Pro after being dunked int he pool. Royal Hideaway Placar, Mexico. July 12, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The Perfect Battery Accessory

Think Tank Photo DSLR Battery Holder 4 Review

Lenses, cameras, cards, computers, software and bags – all important equipment that helps us work and make great photographs. There are those little things though that can make life so much easier, especially for the photographer on the road. Enter the Think Tank Photo DSLR Battery Holder 4.

Think Tank Photo DSLR Battery Holder 4. Photographed with Canon LP-E6 (for the Canon 5D MkII, MkIII) and a set of 4 AA Batteries in one of the compartments. July 4, 2012. Photo; Edmond Terakopian

So simple it’s perfect! Designed to take four DSLR batteries, it can also hold four AA batteries in each compartment too. Naturally smaller batteries (Micro 4/3, NEX etc.) will also fit. I bought two of these, one for my Canon gear and one to house my Leica M9 batteries. They each now stay inside the relevant camera bag.

Think Tank Photo DSLR Battery Holder 4. Photographed with Canon LP-E6 (for the Canon 5D MkII, MkIII) and a set of 4 AA Batteries in one of the compartments. July 4, 2012. Photo; Edmond Terakopian

One very cool design feature is their footprint; being thin and long, they take up minimal room and can either put upright in a shoulder bag’s main compartment, or laid flat in a front pocket. Also, they fit nicely into the lid pockets on roller bags and backpacks too.

Think Tank Photo DSLR Battery Holder 4. Photographed with a set of 4 Leica batteries for the M9. July 4, 2012. Photo; Edmond Terakopian

Not a brilliantly designed lens nor a superbly engineered camera, but nonetheless, it’s an essential bit of kit and has my absolute recommendation.

If you’re in the UK, you can order them from Snapper Stuff or check out the Think Tank Photo website for details of your nearest supplier.

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 7

The Perfect Camera Bag?

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 7 shoulder bag. Shown with two Leica M cameras; L-R: Leica M9 with 50mm Noctilux ASPH and M9-P with 35mm Summilux ASPH. May 31, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

As photographers we spent our years searching for that perfect image. Any photographer who has been in the industry for any length of time has most probably spent a sizeable amount of time also searching for the perfect camera bag!

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 7 shoulder bag. Front view, showing a lightmeter in the side pocket. May 31, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Firstly, I would say that no such thing exists as “the perfect camera bag”. It’s taken me a couple of decades to come up with this conclusion. I would say though that the perfect camera bag system does exist. One type of bag simply will not work for all situations, types of equipment or types of assignment, therefore having a system of bags is the answer. I’ve been a user of Think Tank Photo bags for many years now and was so impressed with them that I even joined the design board a couple of years ago, for a year. (I hasten to add that I’ve had no input into this bag, so it is a straight forward review). I now use a system of roller bags and backpacks which allow for transportation of gear to an assignment, and then a selection of belt pouches, chest bag (the Change Up) and shoulder bags, to work from (I choose what suits the assignment best).  I choose what will suit a particular assignment as carefully as I choose my camera or video gear. This way I can work both comfortably and quickly, with the equipment not getting in the way of the job at hand.

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 7 shoulder bag. Rear view, showing a lightmeter in the side pocket. May 31, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

I’ve been actively using the Retrospective 7 on assignment for several weeks now and must say I am very, very impressed. It now houses my Leica M outfit, comprising of an M9, M9-P, 21mm Elmarit, 28mm Summicron ASPH, 35mm Summilux ASPH, 50mm Noctilux ASPH, 90mm Summarit, SF 58 flash and various accessories. The main thing with this bag though was that it was designed to take an Apple 11″ MacBook Air or iPad too, so depending on what I’m doing, I will slip the appropriate computer in the rear zipped and padded compartment.

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 7 shoulder bag. Rear view, showing an Apple 11″ MacBook Air in the rear pocket. May 31, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Like the other Retrospective Bags, it’s lightweight, unconstructed and soft, with a moving base (made up of several padded sections that move with the movement of the bag). This makes the range, and this bag too, an extremely comfortable shoulder bag to work with and work from. It also has the genius silent velcro system which comes in very handy in quite press conferences (and will suit every wedding photographer when it comes to working in a church environment).

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 7 shoulder bag. Rear view, showing an Apple iPad 3. May 31, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Although I house my rangefinder outfit in the Retrospective 7, it will also be perfect for any Micro 4/3 system by Panasonic or Olympus and the Fuji X-Pro 1 kit. It will also take smaller DSLRs (without grips), including the 5D MkIII or D800, with lenses up to the 24-70 f2.8s and smaller prime lenses. It’s an extremely versatile size and can be configured to house a wide variety of gear, including a means to edit and send pictures.

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 7 shoulder bag. Interior shot, with dividers set up specifically for a Leica M outfit. May 31, 2012. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Is it the perfect bag? Well, I’d say it’s the perfect shoulder bag and it’s now my favourite shoulder bag of all time. Highly recommended.

The Retrospective 7, along with most of that range is available in Black, Pinestone and the new Blue Slate colours. If you’re in the UK, check out SnapperStuff where you can order directly or find your local dealer. Otherwise, check out the Think Tank Photo.

Addendum: Macjim has kindly sent me this picture showing his Retrospective 7 with the Apple 13″ MacBook Air in the front pocket. I wouldn’t say it’s ideal, but appears a workable solution if needs must.