Category Archives: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO

2612 – Lonely Stranger

I’m back to the new zoom. The macro lens is gone, the battery grip for the OM-D E-M5 was sold immediately, but the E-M5 itself still waits for someone offering a reasonable price. Obviously the market is flooded by all those who, like me, upgrade to the E-M1, and used E-M5s with lower shutter counts sell for 20 to 30 Euro below of what I ask.

I may slightly go down with the price next week, but I’m not in a hurry 🙂

Of course I could also keep the E-M5 as backup body, but then, that’s what the Panasonic LX5 is for. I am no professional, I don’t have to honor any contracts, my only need is for one image to post per day.

The Song of the Day is “Lonely Stranger” from the Eric Clapton album “Unplugged”. Hear it on YouTube.

2610 – Your Heart Is As Black As Night

It’s not black, it was not deep night, there’s a lot of blue and purple in this image, anyway, it all does not count. It’s the music that forced the title upon me 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Your Heart Is As Black As Night“. I have two versions of it, and although Melody Gardot’s version is perfectly OK, it can’t stand against the one by Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart from their album “Don’t Explain”. Hear it on YouTube.

2609 – The Hardest Button To Button

You frequently read that Olympus cameras have a terribly confusing user interface and menu system. You also read that they are crazily customizable. In a way both are true and one is the cause of the other. Mostly 🙂

Let me explain it for the E-M1. It works the same for all Olympus cameras, but the E-M1 has the most buttons of all.

You customize the functionality under “Menu > Cogwheel > Button/Dial/Lever”. There you can customize the dial functions for each of the P/A/S/M modes, change dial directions and customize the new lever, that was introduced with the E-P5. You can also change the mode dial functions for “iAUTO” and “ART” to instead choose one of the four “Myset” presets, and finally you can change the meaning of almost all buttons. That’s what we look at now.

The E-M1 has two function buttons “Fn1” and “Fn2”, a red (Record) button, two buttons on the front, right of the lens mount, conveniently reachable with the fingers of the hand holding the grip, there is an AEL/AFL button, some lenses like the 12-40/2.8 and the 12-50 also have a button on the lens, and if you have the battery grip, you get two extra buttons.

All of these buttons can be changed to quite a number of functions, all of the buttons are essentially equal, their labels are nothing but suggestions. I’ll call them the fully programmable buttons.

There are two more buttons on the left shoulder, on the knob with the power-on switch. One of them is for HDR and one for AF modes. They can be changed by switching the lever, under the condition that the lever is set to one specific of its five modes. Let’s forget the lever though. I still have not figured out what to do with it. I’ll tell you as soon as I know 😛

Let’s look at the fully programmable buttons. You can dedicate them to exposure compensation, ISO, white balance, AEL/AFL, record, stop down (preview), one-touch white balance, home position of AF point, peaking, magnify, changing to “Myset 1/2/3/4”, and a lot of other functions, but interestingly enough you can’t directly program a button to change aspect ratios.

Aspect ratios are only available as a sub-function of the “Multi Function” button. If you press the Multi Function button and hold it, you can use a wheel to change between the functions clustered under “Multi Function”. If you press it normally without holding it, it presents the “current” function, that is the function that you’ve chosen when press/holding Multi Function the last time. In other words: Multi Function “remembers” the function last chosen, even if the camera is switched off, and the “current” function is also saved to “Myset” presets.

Fine, you ask, but what button is the “Multi Function” button? Well, of course any fully programmable button that you program it to 🙂

Thus I have set aspect ratio selection as “current” function of “Multi Function”, and on my camera “Multi Function” is programmed to be the relatively prominent red button.

So far we have touched the concept of “Myset” presets, but without deeper explanation. Basically you can capture the current camera state in any of four “Myset” slots. This includes the complete customization. Of course you don’t want the buttons to have completely different functions in different Mysets. That would be confusing and slow you down while shooting.

In my opinion the best way to configure your camera is, to first completely ignore the Mysets. Configure the fully programmable buttons as you like. Try things out, use the camera for a few days, make adaptions. After some time you will have a configuration that you like. This will be what I call the “Basic Configuration”. Save it to “Myset 1”.

Before saving a configuration, make sure that you choose sensible values for ISO, aperture and or shutter speed in the P/A/S/M modes. Remember: everything will be saved. Thus when you ever recall “Myset 1” and you have the mode wheel in position “A”, the aperture value will be reset to the saved value. Same for ISO, white balance, aspect ratio, picture mode, just everything.

You save to Mysets using “Menu > Camera1 > Reset/Myset”. There you have five menu entries, “Reset” and “Myset 1” through “Myset 4”. “Reset” can be chosen to reset the camera, either “basic” functions only, or “full”, meaning everything but date and copyright settings. The lines of the Mysets will either show “No Data” (nothing stored in that position) or “Set”. Initially all Mysets will have “No Data”.

If you move the cursor to “Myset 1” and press right, you can either “Set” or “Reset”. With the up/down arrows you can toggle between the two, with “Menu” you go one menu level back, with “OK” you choose an option. “Set” saves the camera’s current state to that “Myset”, “Reset” deletes the recorded data of that “Myset”. In both cases you get asked before the actual change happens, in both cases you can back out with “Menu”.

Back one menu level higher (in “Menu > Camera1 > Reset/Myset”), if you see “Set” in the line of a Myset, you can just use “OK” to recall those settings.

It’s easy to confuse what is save and what is recall, because in both cases you see the text “Set” and in both cases you activate it with “OK”. In one case you “set” the camera to saved settings, in the other case you “set” the “Myset” to remember the current state. Just remember that saving to a Myset happens one menu level deeper than recalling. Btw, saving to a certain “Myset” also switches to that “Myset”.

OK, now you should have a Basic Configuration in “Myset 1”. Just to make sure, recall it and then immediately set “Myset 2” to that configuration. Now both Mysets have the same state. From there you can customize “Myset 2”. Make any changes you like and save to “Myset 2” again.

Currently I use only two “Mysets”. On the E-M5 I have used three, one of them for HDR, but on the E-M1 that’s sufficiently convenient with the dedicated HDR button. Thus I’ve set “Myset 1” to my “normal” shooting settings (A-f5.6, S-1/15s, ISO Auto 200-3200, WB Auto, Picture mode color/normal). “Myset 2” is the same, but with ISO Auto 200-6400 and Picture mode monochrome/orange filter. Another typical use for a Myset would be to save an ideal configuration for shooting with manual focus legacy lenses. I don’t do that, two Mysets are enough for me.

The only other difference between the two Mysets is, that in “Myset 1” I have configured “Fn2” to temporarily switch to “Myset 2”, and in “Myset 2” I have configured the same button to switch to “Myset 1”. Switching is temporary in the sense that the camera automatically switches back when you press the button agin, turn the mode dial or even turn the camera off.

This is also a source of confusion. Remember: upon turning on, the camera is always in the “Myset” that you’ve chosen the last time via the menu. I’ve stumbled upon it, because suddenly the camera was always in B/W after turning it on. Well, I had activated “Myset 2”, my B/W mode, via the menu, then switched to “Myset 1” and color via “Fn2”, and then I had turned the camera off. The switch to “Myset 1” had been temporarily, thus after turning it back on, the camera was still in “Myset 2”.

That’s about it. It is an incredibly flexible system and it’s easy to use and configure, once you understand the logic behind it. Just make sure you take the time to find your “Basic Configuration” first, and only then you customize with Mysets. Also make sure to always know what Myset is active before saving something. If you don’t know, change to a Myset with a known configuration, for me that’s “Myset 1”, the Basic Configuration.

Cool? Confusing? Crazy? Tell me 😀

The Song of the Day is “The Hardest Button To Button” from the classic 2003 White Stripes album “Elephant”. Hear it on YouTube.

2608 – This Wheel’s On Fire

The Giant Ferris Wheel in Vienna (red in the background of this image) was erected to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Franz Josef I in 1897. It is at the entrance of Wurstelprater, the traditional amusement park in Vienna’s second district.

The area has recently been renovated, which was accompanied by a political scandal, but to be honest, I think the result is quite OK. Slightly Las Vegas (not on this image), but I don’t see how that could be wrong for an amusement park.

The Song of the Day is “This Wheel’s On Fire” from The Band’s final concert “The Last Waltz”. Hear it on YouTube.

2607 – Keep It

OK, everyone’s advice is to keep this lens and I’ll … keep it. My momentary impulse would have been to sell it, but that’s mostly due to the darkness of the season. I admit I may be extremely happy with this lens in summer, on day-trips down to the sea or whatever.

My decision is helped by the fact that the lens will very likely keep its value, and if I change my mind in a year, I will still be able to sell it without a loss. At the moment I don’t suffer hardship, thus I can afford to keep the lens although I may not use it that much. Does that make sense?

The Song of the Day is “Keep It” from the Dexys Midnight Runners debut album “Searching For The Young Soul Rebels”. Hear it on YouTube.

2606 – Cold Moments

As I said in the last post, I am still thinking about selling my 12-40/2.8 lens, but let’s forget that for a while, let’s look at what it can do while I still have it.

A few days ago I’ve taken some extreme images shot directly into the rising sun. Did the lens flare? Well, it did, and depending on the exact position of the sun in the frame, it did more or less so. In today’s image it did not, and I’d say this lens does not flare worse than any of my primes. I’d say that’s quite an achievement for a zoom.

By the way, this image may be sunny, but it was windy and cold while I took it. It’s time for mittens again. Oh, and: the OM-D E-M1 is perfectly usable with mittens on. No problem at all and much better than the E-M5.

The Song of the Day is “Cold Moments” from Paul Weller’s 2008 album “22 Dreams”. Hear it on YouTube.

2605 – Think About It

Remember, I recently bought the Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera with its kit lens, the new 12-40/2.8 PRO, a lens that costs 990€ separately. As part of the kit it cost me 700€, thus I could easily sell it on, maybe even with a profit. Should I?

I admit, I think about it. Not for the profit, but more so because it is big and heavy (compared to my primes), overlaps with three of my lenses, the 12/2.0, 17/1.8 and at least partially with the 9-18/4, and although it is an excellent lens, it is not better than any of these primes.

It also overlaps with the Panasonic Leica 25/1.4. Yes, I’ve had that lens and sold it, but guess what, I miss the Panaleica and consider buying it again.

It is weather-sealed. OK, I didn’t miss that in my primes.

It focuses very near, nearer than any of my primes. I like that and I may miss it.

It is extremely well built, definitely the most solid lens that I’ve ever had.

It is beautiful.

The Song of the Day is “Think About It”, an outtake from the 1977 Fleetwood Mac album “Rumours”. Hear it on YouTube.

2604 – It’s A Fire II

Remember my failure to take images of a gorgeous sunset? Well, I may be stupid, but I’m not stupid all the time 🙂

On the next day the evening sky before sunset was looking exactly like the day before, only this time I was prepared – and so was my camera. The OM-D E-M1 has a dedicated button for switching to HDR mode. In that mode the camera takes a fast, bracketed burst and then automatically merges the images. As a result you get just one JPEG and one RAW, that’s it.

I’m not exactly sure whether the RAW file is really the result of a merge, or if that is only true for the JPEG, but I suppose it is. Sure, the E-M1 has plenty of dynamic range, but even after applying an extreme curve I can get good detail out of the darkest shadow, much better than from any other camera so far. Thus, yes, I think the RAW is merged as well. It looks a bit different from the JPEG, but that seems to be mostly due to the defaults of Lightroom.

OK: it’s not. The manual says: “In the case of HDR1 and HDR2, the HDR-processed image will be saved as a JPEG file. When the image quality mode is set to [RAW], the image is recorded in RAW+JPEG. The only image recorded in RAW is the image with suitable exposure.“. Seems like dynamic range is that good 🙂

The Song of the Day is again “It’s A Fire” from the 1994 Portishead album “Dummy”. Hear it on YouTube.

2603 – It’s A Fire I

We had a pretty sunny week in Carinthia, and morning after morning I was annoyed by my failure to rise early and go down to take a few sunrise images.

One day I managed to get out early enough, only to find a completely blank sky. Isn’t that stupid, I thought? All those days with great morning skies, and then, when finally I’m ready, the sky is not.

Anticipating a boring and colorless sunrise from behind the mountains, I decided to at least see how the landscape around Faaker See, one of the nearest lakes, looks in morning light.

So I stood there on a hill, looking over the lake, seeing mists rise from cool water into icy air, and I found the view boring. OK, from somewhere behind the mountains the sun would come out, but I had the feeling that there was not much to be expected.

And I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong!

Of course I could have looked up on my phone where exactly the sun would rise, but because I was in a hurry to get to work, I had not. I did not have much choice regarding my vista anyway. I stood in the one place that was near enough and where I could stop the car. Regardless of where the sun would come out, I’d have to accept it.

When it happened, I was surprised. I had not expected the sun to rise exactly behind the lake and the mist, and of course this made all the difference in the world.

By the way, some of the images that I made were taken at 1/8000 s. The OM-D E-M5 only went to 1/4000 s, so that’s one of the goodies of my new camera.

The Song of the Day is “It’s A Fire” from the 1994 Portishead album “Dummy”. Hear it on YouTube.

2602 – New Star In The Sky

I’ve taken this image after the sun had vanished behind the mountains, and then, without thinking, I just went home.

Hmm … clear, cold day, these clouds, I mean, every idiot would have recognized that we were in for a spectacular sundown. And so it was. I arrived at home, was busy for a few minutes with one of the computers, and when I looked up, the sky was in flames like I’ve not yet seen this year.

You see, always running around with a camera is a good idea, but without using your brain it all comes to nothing. Oh well, sunsets are overrated anyway 😀

The Song of the Day is “New Star In The Sky” from the 1998 Air album “Moon Safari”. Hear it on YouTube.