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OLY OMs on safari (long!)

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by MexicoMik, Mar 5, 2016.

  1. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    195
    Mar 19, 2012
    I used to frequent this forum but haven't in the past couple of years. However, two days ago I returned from a 3 week photo safari in Kenya/Tanzania using OMs and I thought I'd post my choices/conclusions.


    To start with, at the time of safari planning last year, I owned a Nikon D5100 with a zoom that covered from 18-200 mm (or 27-300 mm in 35mm equivalent which I'll refer to as "35E") and an OMD EM5 with a 12 (24 in 35E), a 45 (90 in 35E) and a 14-150 (28-300 in 35E). The Nikon lens was neither wide enough or long enough to be a "taker" and neither was the Oly zoom. There was no doubt in my mind that the D5100 would be a superior weapon when simply looking at the camera capability. But, of course, there is much more to it than that in the real world....

    I thought about taking the M5 with the 12mm and buying a long zoom for the Nikon but
    first, of course was the size/weight/cost involved. Plus, I wanted zooms for both the low and high end for added flexibility. Here's a critical point: IMO, you MUST have two cameras, one with a short lens and one with a long. This ain't landscape or architectural photography and sometimes things move...FAST. One body with a couple of lenses that you intend to change is really a non-starter for this job for two big reasons. You will miss a LOT of pictures fooling around with changing lenses and it is VERY dusty. I'm talking CLOUDS of dust on many occasions, caused by the vehicles. The dust will end up in the camera. One body/changing lenses is just not practical. So that means two cameras. And two OMDs/lenses are much smaller/lighter and less expensive than buying a 600mm (35E) nikon lens. OK, to be honest, the weight while actually out taking pics is not really a big deal because you will be doing virtually all shooting from a vehicle. No company is going to allow you to get out of the vehicle/wander around taking photos in the bush; to lions/leopards,etc, "dumb tourist" and "meal" are interchangeable words. ;)

    You need something at least as wide as 24mm (35E) and as long as 600mm (35E). And really, 600mm (35E) was often a bit short! ;) So...I decided to buy an OMD M1, a Oly 12-40 2.8 Pro lens (24-80 in 35E) and an Oly 75-300 (150-600 in 35E. I put the long lens on the M1 and the short one on the M5 and fooled around with them for several months. Then, about a month ago, we departed San Antonio for 7 flights to our first destination. The flight legs were: San Antonio - Dallas, Dallas-London, London-Nairobi, Nairobi-Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro-Arusha, Arusha -Lake Manyara, Lake M to a bush dirt strip, followed by a 40 minute jeep ride to the first camp. What follows in the next paragraph are my thoughts re the cameras/lenses but I must say that there were folks in all the camps/lodges (5) where we stayed that did all the photos with an iPhone so what you "NEED" for a photo safari is really based on your own preference for picture quality/the use you will put the pics to. If you are just going to send some pics/videos via text messaging/emails, obviously the requirements/expectations are much different. Re that...many places will not have internet available and you may not be able to send anything anywhere until you get to a different camp/lodge. We mostly did NOT have internet available during the 3 week trip; it was very "occasional," with some places that were supposed to have wifi...not actually having it. Cell phone service is so expensive in Tanzania even where it IS available that tourists are advised to just turn off the phone while you are there.

    The 12-40 2.8 was an absolute joy to use, extremely quick to focus and it took tack sharp pics. It worked fine on the M5 with the camera mostly set to P mode/center-weighted metering. It's a great lens, and I don't need to say any more about it.

    The 75-300 did a nice job as well but there are some things to be aware of. It's aperture is rather slow so shutter speeds in daylight in shaded areas frequently dropped to around 1/640 at 300mm/ISO200, which is pretty much a minimum shutter speed for that focal length. But coupled with the excellent M1 image stabilization, it wasn't an issue for stationary subjects and I got some keeper shots as the sun was going down with shutter speeds dropping as low a 1/80! However, since stabilization doesn't "stop" action, motion blur can be a problem with moving objects at speeds below the "thousands" at the long end if you are not somewhat adept at panning with the subject. But generally, it wasn't an issue and in open country the shutter speed was well into the 1/1250 or higher range during the day. I set the camera to Aperture mode to use the widest lens opening at all times. One thing to be aware of is that for some reason, the 75-300 - at least the one I had - was occasionally inconsistent in sharpness. Sometimes, with two identical shots, one immediately after the other, one shot would be sharp and the other slightly soft. This happened even though lighting and all settings were unchanged on an unmoving subject. Admittedly for the most part the difference was not noticeable at the original picture size, becoming visible when zoomed in in post processing. I don't know why this occurred. But overall I was quite happy with the lens and its results ON THE M1. No, the lens won't match a Nikon DSLR with a 600mm F4 for this application but the Oly lens doesn't cost 9000+USD and weigh 11 pounds! :)

    As far as the cameras and the shooting environment, the M5 would have been unsuitable IMO with the long lens. Its image stabilization is not as effective as the M1 and it's high ISO is also a bit under the capability of the M1. I set the max ISO to 1600 for the M5 and 3200 for the M1. Also, the M1 is much easier to use as far as quick setting changes. I frequently went from center weighted to spot metering and from Single Frame AF to manual focus and back, which the M1 button placement makes easier, at least to me. Also, a CRITICAL item IMO is that the M1 has the ability to switch the camera so that it never goes to sleep. If the M5 can do that, I couldn't find it (don't get me started on Oly's menu system!) This overcomes one of the big limitations that I found with the M5 in the 4 years I have owned it - missing shots while awaiting wake-up. I promise you that a leopard can be gone out of the tree and into the bushes while the camera is waking up. No need to ask me how I know that! :) Of course, the disadvantage of leaving the camera "on" is increased battery drain. But I had 6 batts with me and two chargers and power was available at all camps, as well as in all the safari vehicles so that wasn't really an issue. The way I used the cameras, the M5 used up one battery in a day while the M1 usually used 2 and was into it's 3rd each day. But, having learned the "don't let it sleep" lesson, I got a neat leopard shot some days later with the M1/300mm as she bolted from a tree. We saw the leopard and as she moved I literally just lifted the camera up and shot by reaction. There was no "aiming" at all, just pure luck that I whipped the camera around with no aiming at all, pressing the shutter by reflex as it pointed in the general direction. If the camera had been in sleep mode it would have just been a shot of "where a leopard had been." :)

    Re battery life, I have always felt that OMD battery life was abysmal compared to an SLR but that's just a fact of having the EVF, I guess. But the main reason that the M1 went through a lot more batteries than the m5 wasn't just because of the always-on mode. The reality is that 80+% of all the pics over the three weeks were taken with the M1/long lens. IOW, if I was FORCED to go to Africa with only one camera/lens, it would be the M1/75-300. If forced, I could get by with an iPhone for the close stuff! ;) I also did some video with the M1 which also uses a lot more power. I didn't use the rear display at all for picture/video taking on either camera. I only occasionally glanced at some pics on the display as we were heading back to camp so the display saw very little use.

    I used Sanden 64GB cards in both cameras and downloaded the pics daily onto a 13" macbook Air. I did not remove the pics from the cards and, after 3 weeks, still had room for nearly 500 pics on the M1's card and nearly 3000 on the M5's. I shot only in raw.

    The ONE place I found that the M1 suffered a bit compared to using an SLR was in focusing/tracking fast-moving birds. Although I have a few decent pics of such subjects, basically it just didn't work very well for me, especially with the long lens at 300mm. It would often focus/then drop the subject/totally blur as it tried to re-focus. It didn't matter which focus mode it was in; I tried them all. An optical viewfinder/SLR focus tracking is much superior. But since flying birds wasn't a priority for me, it wasn't a big issue. And maybe if I practiced doing it a lot, I might find that it works OK but it's not as easy as it is with an SLR. So, given that flying birds isn't high on my list, If I was to go back to Africa, I'd take the same equipment, set up exactly the same way.

    In the next few days I'll try to post some pics/videos on google that folks can access. I'll try to find a couple that, when enlarged, show the slightly soft/sharp difference between two essentially identical shots taken with the 75-300.
     
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  2. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Strange that you found the E-M1 having more effective IBIS and high ISO performance than the E-M5. I didn't find such clear differences when I upgraded -I found with RAW, ISO performance was the same, as the difference in TruePic processing engine generations is rendered irrelevant.

    The factors that I did notice were improved stability due to a better handling grip (eapecially for a long heavy telephoto), 0s anti-shock and slightly sharper images due to the lack of AA filter.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2016
  3. myhl

    myhl Mu-43 Rookie

    19
    Jan 29, 2015
    Thanks for the detailed report.
    Please post photos of the trip.
     
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  4. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott Mu-43 Regular

    41
    Dec 13, 2015
    Troy, NY
    Jock Elliott
    Very interesting post.

    Two things. First, was anyone on the safari using a superzoom? I use mine all the for shooting wildlife for fun (not professionally).

    Second, with regard to battery life, you might want to try the following: Way to quadruple battery life on the Olympus OM-D EM-5

    At the end of 2015, I picked up a refurb EM5 with the 12-50 for something like 68% off the original retail price. I love the way this camera renders my sky photography, and the battery trick (actually, the display trick) really seems to work. I selected this camera/lens combo because I wanted a camera that was relatively dust and moisture resistant after my beloved FZ200 sucked up a dust particle and had to be professionally cleaned.

    Cheers, Jock
     
  5. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    195
    Mar 19, 2012
    Yes, I use the battery saving mode, and have since I bought the M5 4 years ago. Actually, despite my bitching about it, I have "adjusted" to the difference in battery life vs an SLR so it doesn't matter that much to me any more. What finally was my "DUH" moment is when I realized how much film I used to carry... Two or three (or 6) batteries is nothing compared to 10 or more rolls of 35mm film that I would have carried for the same "day" of shooting! And changing a battery is a lot quicker than reloading film! :)

    Re the difference between the m5/m1 images, Perhaps the difference WAS more to do with handling/anti shock/lack of filter, though I do have an aftermarket grip on the 5. I just assumed it was the superior stabilization at 600mm (35E) at marginal shutter speed. As far as ISO, the basic raw files when viewed on my macbook air/Apple Photos show that the M1 images at ISO 3200 are cleaner than the m5 is at 1600 with the same lens. BUT I haven't gotten home to the big computer/post processing software so perhaps that can be eliminated. Although, I have to say that in practice, depending on the subject, it usually isn't really apparent until enlarging. Curiously, I accidentally made a couple of shots on the m1 at ISO 20,000 and they looked "not awful." :) Not sure how I accidentally got the camera in that mode but it was just a couple of shots; I wondered why the shutter speed went from around 1/600 to 1/2000+ in the same lighting. :)

    Re superzoom - I'm embarrassed to admit I don't know what that is. :( Most people that we ran into were using canon or nikon SLRs with medium zooms, none of which went beyond 300mm (35E) ...or iPhones! :)

    There were some pros at one location using Nikon 600mm F4 and other SERIOUS lenses. But generally it was your basic fairly low end SLRs/lenses.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2016
  6. StefanKruse

    StefanKruse Mu-43 Veteran

    349
    Jan 28, 2015
    Denmark
    Stefan
    Why no pictures?
     
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  7. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    195
    Mar 19, 2012
    :) Well, they are all Raw/large files; there are over 2000 of them and I haven't had a chance to go through them in any detail because I am not back home at the "real" computer and won't be for another 5 days. Also, I will have to figure out how to put them on something like google drive, which I have never used. But here's a couple attached that show two shots with the 75-300 at the same exact settings (300mm, F6.7, 1/360 taken a couple of seconds apart. One is quite sharp the other is a bit soft. That happened on several occasions. Since the pics on this post are converted from Raw to reduced-size Jpeg automatically for posting, it may "dumb down" the quality so they may not look much different sharpness-wise depending on the algorithm and the computer they are viewed on.
     

    Attached Files:

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  8. Joe Smith

    Joe Smith Mu-43 Regular

    123
    Mar 6, 2016
    How did the non-sealed 75-300 handle the dust?
     
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  9. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    195
    Mar 19, 2012
    Re dust it was fine as far as I could tell. I periodically cleaned the objective but I couldn't see any obvious difference of internal dust - at least none that seemed to be any different from the start of the trip to the end. I don't think it's an issue at all for a one-time/occasional trip like this. With serious, daily use over a longer period in such conditions, it probably would become a problem at some point. To be honest, I considered the 75-300 as a "one time" use kind of thing, bought specifically for this safari. My normal photo requirements never need anything near that long so there's s fair chance it may never again be mounted on one of my cameras! :)
     
  10. bremner

    bremner Mu-43 Regular

    68
    Feb 27, 2016
    I'm officially jealous of the shot on the left :). I do see the difference. My non-expert guess would a difference in focus, since the depth of field is pretty shallow.
     
  11. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott Mu-43 Regular

    41
    Dec 13, 2015
    Troy, NY
    Jock Elliott
    A superzoom is a fixed lens camera, generally with a small sensor, and a lens that has an enormous zoom ratio. For example, my Panasonic FZ150 and FZ200 both offer 24-600mm (equivalent)

    Here's a link to some shots of bald eagles taken with a superzoom:

    Where eagles dare . . . more adventures with a superzoom

    The long range shots are at maximum optical and digital zoom, close to falling apart, but I got the eagles and there was no opportunity whatsoever to "zoom with my feet."

    Cheers, Jock
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2016
  12. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    195
    Mar 19, 2012
    "My non-expert guess would a difference in focus, since the depth of field is pretty shallow."

    Yes, I assume the second shot softness has to do with focus but in both cases, the camera did the focusing in SF mode with focus priority so that the shutter would not (or...should not) have tripped until focus was achieved.. At first I thought that maybe the camera had picked out the grass in the second photo rather than the leopard though I was very careful to set the focus square. But, in any case, to me the grass in front of the cat looks equally soft in both images. If the camera had focused on the grass, then I would expect the cat to be soft but the grass to be sharp. I have quite a few pics with similar characteristics, many of cheetahs that are out in the open with no vegetation around to possibly "grab" the focus...some sharp, others a bit soft at the same settings

    Although I have a lot of pics of various cats in the open, my favorites are those with them mostly concealed with just head/eyes discernible. It was almost impossible to get a cheetah pic like that because their normal "pose" when they are out is sitting up searching the plain for the next likely meal. Their eyesight is amazing. In one case we were watching one as she headed off, seemingly AWAY from any sort of game. The three of us were looking in her direction but well beyond her with binoculars and even our guide said, "I don't know where she's going, there's NOTHING out there." But there was a Thompsons Gazelle out there that we couldn't find with the binoculars and the result was Cheetahs:1, Gazelles:0. ;)

    Jock, Thanks for the superzoom explanation/eagle examples!
     
  13. afg08

    afg08 Mu-43 Regular

    33
    Nov 26, 2015
    My wife and I are in the very early planning stages for a trip to Africa, probably in 2017. I just bought a Panasonic 100-300 to use on a GX8 or Olympus em5ii and hope to become competent enough with the lens to use it while on the safari. I am also leaning toward a Panasonic FZ1000 super zoom with a 25-400mm lens as a second camera.
     
  14. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    195
    Mar 19, 2012
    Kenya/Tanzania was a fascinating place; my wife and I loved it, especially Tanzania. I suggest that if you have enough time, you travel to different areas as opposed to staying in one camp/lodge. That way you can see a wide variety of terrain. We stayed in 5 different locations - 3-4 days in each, all dramatically different. One day was a 5 hour drive on gravel road (the highwI also suggest you go at some point to wherever the wildebeest migration happens to be - it's hard to imagine the vastness of it. As one of our guides said, "You can see every animal found in Africa at any decent zoo in the world. But you will NEVER see anything like this (migration) anywhere else." It's the largest animal migration in the world.

    FWIW, 150 years ago, the buffalo herds in the US great plains were even larger than the african wildebeest herds. The US buffalo migration was, at that time, the largest animal migration in the world and the wildebeest migration was the 2nd. ;)

    As far as cameras/lenses, it really depends on what you want out of it photo-wise. Heck. If someone offered to give me a Nikon 600mm F4 to mount on my D5100, I still wouldn't take it due to the size/weight. I could not have been more pleased overall than I was with the combination I took and I wouldn't change it. And, as I said in my first post, there were many very happy safari-goers using iPhones and loving it. The funniest thing that we saw...or saddest, depending on how you look at it - was at the Ngorogoro crater. There was a family in one of the safari vehicles that we ran across several times that day. There was a mom and dad (I assume) in the front seats of the safari vehicle and two kids in the rear seats. I'd guess the kids were in the 8-10 year range. Every time we saw them, Mom/Dad were pointing/shooting tons of pics/listening to the guide; the kids were glued to their iPads, earbuds firmly in place. I never saw them even look up from the iPads. Oh well, we all have different priorities! :)
     
  15. mcasan

    mcasan Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 26, 2014
    Atlanta
    The wife and I did 3 weeks in Kenya in November. We each had: 2 E-M1, 12-40 Pro, 40-150 Pro, TC, and Panasonic 100-300. We had planned to take the 300 Pro but Olympus delayed the introduction to include IS in the lens. So I purchased the 100-300 as it was the best choice for a native long lens. The 40-150 is great. The Panasonic 100-300...not so much. It is soft are it heads to 300mm. As soon as we got back to the States we sold off the 100-300 lenses. The wife wanted the 300 Pro so she now has one for Valentines Day and her birthday present (in March). She is delighted with the lens.

    We are planning to shoot brown bears at Lake Clark in August and will take all Pro lenses including the 300 Pro units (I will have mine by then). I would not recommend anyone take the 100-300 on an expensive or once in a life time trip. If the purpose of the trip is nature photography, securing that equipment needs to be first priority...not whatever is left after the safari and airfare costs. But remember you can rent equipment you don't want to purchase. It may take awhile for the 300 Pro to be in rental shops.

    If I shot Panasonic bodies, I would be taking two GX8 with a PL-100-400, and something like a 35-100 G lens.

    Sorry for all who have already seen the attached shot. It was done with 40-150 Pro as a cheetah climbed the windshield to sit on the roof of the truck. If you look closely at the pupils you can see the reflection of the lens and my arm.

    eyes.
     
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  16. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Steve
    Multiple posts of those shots that trigger my flight reflex are allowed.
     
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  17. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    195
    Mar 19, 2012
    Nice cat pic! Good thing it was a cheetah as opposed to a lion! The lens/your arm might have ended up in the lion instead of in the picture! :)

    I was not aware of that 300 Pro lens; looks like a superb item (it didn't exist when I was buying gear for the safari). But I have to admit I like the flexibility of having two cameras, one with a short and one with a long zoom. OTOH, If I hd it to do over, I'd probably do just what you are considering but I might then have to have a 3rd body since the 300 pro is a fixed FL and I like having a wide zoom and a fairly long zoom as well. So I guess that would mean my m5 with the 12-40, my M1 with the 300 pro, and another (new) M1 with a 40-150 pro.

    Glad I have no plans to do it again...my checkbook couldn't handle it! :)
     
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  18. mcasan

    mcasan Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 26, 2014
    Atlanta
    The wife and I will each carry two bodies each to Alaska to shoot brown bears. On Em-1 would have the 40-150 Pro and the other E-M1 would have the 300 Pro. We each have the 1.4x TC which we can move between the 40-150 and 300 as needed. Typically the TC is on the 40-150.
     
  19. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    195
    Mar 19, 2012
    I lived in AK for 8 years and I still tell people it was the best place I ever lived!
     
  20. Holoholo55

    Holoholo55 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 13, 2014
    Honolulu, HI
    Walter
    I think it's a difference of focus point. The image on the left is pretty much focused on the animal and grass blades next to its right ear and in front of the mouth. The image on the right is focused on the patch of grass in front of the animal, and the animal is out of the DOF range. I think that's the difference. This is where manual focus is needed and the focus peaking capability of Olympus's newer cameras are helpful. Those are great shots, though. Too bad the 2nd one is slightly OOF.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2016
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