Photobag diet | One year of mirrorless wedding photography
A diet in the photobag | One year of weddings with an Olympus OM-D
There always were rumors about cameras offering image quality as large DSLRs though being much smaller and lighter. The keyword is 'mirrorless' also called EVIL (as for 'electronic viewfinder interchangeable lens'). The idea is to reduce size and weight by abondoning mirror and optical viewfinder of the old DSLRs. And while now one or the other fellow out there slowly comes to unpacking his new OM-D and marvelling at the many features, my first OM-D has already mastered 1 year of weddings as main camera.
One year OM-D, that means ...
24 of them exclusively with OM-Ds
16.4 kg less weight (equipment, not me)
2 feet suffering much less
The decision "Never again DSLR!"
It all began in May, 2012, one day before my flight to Ireland where I was booked to photograph the wedding of Caitriona and Paudie Barry in beautiful County Clare. With me Of course the big camera backpack with DSLR equipment. Since that would have reliably blown the baggage allowance of AerLingus, the backpack was smuggled through the check-in as as hand luggage with the usual "Oh this weighs practically nothing"- smile. That I had also packed an OM-D with it did carry no weight - even literally.
Driving from Dublin to the west coast I found me using the OM-D snapping shots easily and one-handed and unusually relaxed. Same thing the evening on the rocky coast of Doolin and later during the one or another pint of Smithwick's in the pub in Fisher Street it did it's job well and completely unexcited.
The sensor format was not new to me - for years I'm privately using an Olympus PEN. Also Panasonic makes compatible cameras, and many other manufacturers do lenses and accessories (including Voigtlander, Sigma and even Leica). So I was familiar with the lenses on my PEN E-P3 (including the 45mm 1.8 and the 12mm 2.0) and had already blogged about that:
> "Two Girls and the PEN - a mirrorless photoshoot"
> "Forest Secrets - two brides in the woods"
But the first baptism of fire for the OM-D was the wedding itself. During the Irish getting-ready the little Olympus played out the benefits of it's compactness. Here the bride's mother, six siblings and their partners, three bridesmaids and an endless number of little girls were treated more or less simultaneously by 3 stylists. A bustle between teacups, farm dog, champagne and full Irish Breaktfast and on top wonderful nasty mixed light. With a 70-200 on Spyder holster the family's chinaware would have been in danger more than once.
The rest of the day was very similiar and beneath the 2 DSLR bodies good 30% of all pictures were taken with the small OM-D.
First conclusion ...
That camera is fast.
Assuming you have not too thick fingers and you've activated the legendary Olympus "Super Control Panel" in the somewhat confused German translation of the menu and also taught all wheels and knobs to work as desired, operation is a fine thing . I really like the size. And with the optional battery grip it's even better - the camera will 'stick' to your hand.
I remember electronic viewfinder from older bridge cameras and don't like them. Actually the OM-D's viewfinder is sharp and fast. Having Auto-Play set in the viewfinder and thus being able to check the recorded image without taking the eye away from the viewfinder is awesome. It is also comfortable to see the effects of exposure already in advance. It saves you from guesswork and the usual surprises of exposure and makes post production much easier.
Speaking of post-production .... The work in Lightroom is easy as soon as you've done some finetuning to achieve the wonderful colours the OM-D offers in standard JPGs. Headroom in the lights, only moderate noise in the shadows and surprisingly good overall quality, even at high ISOs. Now I'm not a 'Pixelpeeper', but even they have a lot of fun if you can believe the innumerable tests on the net.
As third camera (especially for the inconspicuous quieter parts) my OM-D was with me the next months shooting many other weddings.
I soon disabled the touchscreen and the proximity-sensor for the viewfinder. Without question, focussing and triggering the shutter by just touching the big screenis fully brilliant. But somehow I often accidentally moved the focus area with my nose and thus missed one or the other shot in the hustle and bustle of a reportage. And I just prefere swiching between viewfinder and screen by hand. But this is certainly just a matter of taste.
By now it's clear ...
Also the S-AF is fast. VERY fast.
The C-AF is not. Not at all. However, I also virtually never used it before.
But the image stabilization is a awesome(!).
In July I received the 75mm 1.8 and that was crucial. The only thing missing to switch completely to mft was a second body. That one came in August 2012 making the changeover complete. The big DSLRs stay in the closet ever since ... I think so ... I haven't opened it for months... ;-)
Instead over 20kg I'm now carrying less than 6kg. And still I have everything I need on a wedding - 2 Bodies (1 backup separately), 7 primes (Fullfram eqiv. reaching vom 15mm fisheye to 150mm telephoto), 2 flashes (with the great Olympus remote flash system and being waterproof - a good thing for my ring shots) and a lot of odds and ends being useful occasionally, all together in a Think Tank Photo Retrospective 7.
Do I miss anything? Not really!
The picture quality is great, even at high ISO noise is still only little worry in practice. Sharpness and details are - especially with the top lenses - impressive. And did I already say that the image stabilization is awesome? ;-)
Even in video mode by the way!
My OM-Ds by now have shot weddings all across Europe - many of them in the Rhine-Main area of course, but also across the country, from the Uckermark down to Swabia, in Andalusia, France and Switzerland, Scotland and more than once in Ireland. And planning for 2014 has just begun...