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Monday, January 31, 2011

iZuiko and XZ-1: More Impressions...


6mm, f/1.8, 1/60s, ISO800, -0.3ev

Another round of getting the mileage out of this little pocket rocket... Mostly put to the test were the focus accuracy and low light performance.

For a compact camera to have very shallow DoF, focus accuracy could be a problem. The comparative real-estate for the measurements might be much smaller than a DSLR; thus, might exhibit some frustration to get pin-point accuracy, more so due to the larger sensor area of the CDAF system. I am not to comment further on this, because I just felt it that way. Maybe some other guys can elaborate more; I might be incorrect on this, though.

6mm, f/1.8, 1/20s, ISO400, -0.3ev

I found focusing to be hit and miss, and I must confess I used a lot of lock & pan technique. Well, a good thing the 11-point AF navigation was made quite easy to control, more akin to a DSLR. I might have to adjust my shooting style by playing with the 4-way navigation pad to get higher AF accuracy rate.

As for low light shooting at higher ISO, I wouldn't dare to go past 800 with the XZ-1. It's just a hunch, mostly coming from the Canon S90 experience. I limit at 800 with that pocket darling. So far, the image looks promising indeed. Upon quick check using Olympus Studio, the Noise Filter setting was defaulted at Standard (it is not possible to change the strength in-camera).

Since I have the FL-20 lying around since my C-750UZ days, I gave the flash a shot. And, boy did it do wonders!!

Some new findings so far:
  • Navigating the AF was much easier than thought; the left keypad have direct access to the 11-AF points, and consecutive pressing the Info button have direct access to the AF modes (there are 5: auto, macro, supermacro, tracking and manual)
  • For low light, I think it's more user friendly to use P-mode rather than A-mode. The ISO speed control was more practical where the XZ-1 would put aperture at the brightest exposure.
  • While the FL-20 was attached to the camera, the built-in flash can be accessed. But, it didn't fire while the FL-20 did. So much for E-330 multi-flash capability. The XZ-1 didn't dance the tune.
  • The XZ-1 would retain the setting for a particular shooting mode after selecting a different mode with different settings. Once the previous mode was reselected, the settings would be reset to the previous mode.

More shots in various conditions, mostly indoors.

*** NOTE ***: All shots were in RAW, and post-processed in-camera for the desired effects (Natural, Monotone, Art Filters, Cropping, Aspect Ratio, Sharpening, etc.)

Just loved how the reflection worked out...

What's going on here?

Hanging on...

Siesta time!!

Monotone with Green Filter. The tones were just beautiful

IS test. 24mm (56mm equiv.) at 1/40s. About 2.5 stops, so far so good.

Where's the bottle?

Learning all the alphabets

Where's the bottle, in pinhole

Good night @ ISO400

Sunday, January 30, 2011

iZuiko and XZ-1: It was raining and...


No doubt the XZ-1 is a STAR performer!
6mm (14mm equiv.), f/1.8, 1/50s, ISO200 (focusing distance 15cm)

I have the XZ-1 ready for some shots!! Well, since the XZ-1 is not an E-5 that can withstand all the rain and thunderstorm, I was stuck at home for the morning shoot.

Well, at least there's something in the garden...

Most of the shots were in macro modes, and all in RAW for in-camera processing for my desired Art Filter.

From my short stint shooting the boring garden subjects, I discovered the finer points about the XZ-1.

  • In super macro mode, the ISO was locked at 200, and only available at 6mm
  • In Art Filter mode, there's no way to manipulate the "love triangle" (aperture-shutter-sensitivity)
  • The AF during idle was in tracking mode, meaning as long as the focus was not locked by the half-shutter press, the AF was working on the subject
  • The AF was fast and crisp to lock focus
  • The AE ESP metering was very good, to the extent that I am at awe
  • Backlight metering was very good
  • The ISO button was not far from quick control, if set right in the INFO. A click on the OK button highlighted the ISO.

Just love the texture and diffraction
6mm, f/1.8, 1/20s, ISO200

Tie the lens cap right away!!

Super macro mode wide open was tack sharp
6mm, f/2.8, 1/40s, ISO800, -0.3ev

The backlight was tamed by the great AE system (ESP)
6mm, f/1.8, 1/60s, ISO100 (Focus distance 31cm)

Max zoom for the compression effect
24mm (56mm equiv.), f/2.5, 1/40s, ISO200

Just love the shades
6mm, f/2.5, 1/50s, ISO800, -0.3ev

iZuiko and XZ-1: First Impressions


Off he went with my credit card
6mm (14mm equiv.), f/1.8, 1/50s, ISO200

I got a text message last Friday from my dealer, "your XZ-1 is here!"

I was on leave that day, and my daughter got a flu bug; thus, I didn't have the time to pick it up. And actually to go all the way to KL on a Friday is like suicide because of the traffic mayhem.

So, I only managed to get it yesterday. Yes, the ordeal of having to wait an extra day was a bit tough for me, but my family is always first!

A quick drive on the NPE on a Saturday, and I here I was at Leo's Ampang Park. The XZ-1 was there, waiting for its master to claim it!

After testing some shots and applying the screen protector, the deal was done. Yippeee...

I got the camera quite late in the day; only managed to snap a few shots. But my first impression was "just" excellent. I was expecting excellent, but... here's why!

  • I am startled at how the lens cap is shoved off its position at startup (need to tie it up real quick, or you might lose it) :: 1- point
  • The handling is excellent, as the camera and lens has the perfect balance (considering the lens is pretty huge!) :: 5+ points
  • The tactile response is reminisce Canon S90, though the ring cannot do zooming :: 2- points
  • The lens is awesome! :: 20+ points
  • The Jpeg is awesome! :: 10+ points
  • In-camera editing as in the E-5 :: 10+ points
  • There's no AEL/AFL button, but not a big deal to me considering I am super casual with a compact camera :: 5- points
  • The Auto ISO tend to stick to ISO200, even when the shutter is below the typical human freezing motion speed of 1/30s; this is super unacceptable for a compact camera!!! :: 20- points
  • There's a menu function to attach the TCON-17; half-yippeeee, because I only have the WCON-07!! (Aaaarrrrggghhh.. just checked my adapter won't fit the XZ-1 thread!!) 2- points
  • Well, the rest are as I expected coming from a compact camera
A few more shots that I managed to capture... more to come soon!

*** NOTE *** :: Lens equivalence is depicted in 4/3 format (in which I am very familiar with).

A 1cm macro shot of the typical TV remote
This is much better than the S90

Mind-boggling-sharpness low light shot at low ISO
6mm (14mm equiv.), f/1.8, 1/13s, ISO200

Notice the thin DoF,
even at wide open it can miss a few centimeters of pan-lock focus parallax error
12.9mm (25mm equiv.), f2.0, 1/13s, ISO200, -0.3ev

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Zuiko and a Little Planet

Little Planets.

This is the first Little Planet shot,
and the nadir point is covered with pure clone stampings.

I came across this type of photography a couple of years ago. And, though I was intrigued by the techniques to achieve such creative output, I never put the time and effort to learn how to do it.

Somehow, out of the blue, today I took the plunge from zero to hero!

It's a good thing that has a group dedicated to this art. All I did was read through the threads and learned the techniques rather quickly. It did help having an ultrawide angle lens like the Zuiko Digital ED7-14mm F4.0 to assist in getting high quality 360-degree panorama with the least stitching. In fact, I only needed 7 to 8 frames for 52-45 degrees coverage per shot (in portrait orientation), and 2 frames for the nadir point (this is the point where I stood).

As advised by the group, I downloaded the freeware software "Hugin Panorama Stitcher". This software is really very good. The stitching is near flawless as I had a tough time identifying the stitch borders in the panorama pictures.

The software is rather straight forward. It starts with the Panorama Stitcher screen with the "Assistant" tab as the main controller. This tab has a 3-step process to stitch the panorama. It is quick simple as the first step is to 1.) Load Images (where the Lens parameters are very important to ensure the least distortion and error to the image output), and secondly to 2.) Align (where the software automatically scan the images and stitch them into place).

Next is to transform the normal panorama scene into radial that is called Little Planet. On the Hugin "Fast Panorama Preview" window, there's a tab called "Projection" and select "Stereographic". Next, there's a tab called "Move/Drag" and change the "Pitch" parameter to 90 and leave the other two parameters 0. Then click "Apply". The image immediately transforms into a planet, a very small planet. Just slide the zoom applicator and the image will enlarge. Crop to taste.

Finally, 3.) Create Panorama (great output controls which includes TIFF/JPEG and also HDR processing).

Wham... I was hit with the problem. Just look at the picture below!

This is the result just after stitching, and the heptagon is clearly seen.

Wow!! That's a big hole!!

How did that happen?

Well, I forgot that the nadir point, i.e. the point I was standing was not in the picture. Thus, the heptagon was so revealing in the picture!! Definitely not what I wanted! Well, to cure that, I simply cloned the road. Not a very elegant solution, I would say. But, it worked none the least.

The image below is the one with the nadir point shot taken (2 frames, in fact).

A refined planet with nadir points using actual frames,
and cloned my feet off the picture

To compare, I did another Little Planet. This one used 8-frames for the 360-degree panorama plus 2-frames for the nadir point. I find this image is much finer in reproduction as it has more frames to construct the planet.

Oh ya!! As I was using Dramatic Tone Art Filter for these shots, I didn't activate the HDR feature in Hugin during stitching. I find the E-5 effect much to my liking.

But I prefer the first image in this blog, as the picture is biased to my house and enlarged it in comparison to the rest of the neighborhood.

At last, I have my own Little Planet at home!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Olympus XZ-1 Cometh....


Woohooo!!!! Finally, my dream camera has arrived.

Last Sunday I was told by one of Olympus sales rep that the XZ-1 was already in the office; albeit being the pre-production units. I was elated to say the least. Then, Olympus announced it yesterday, and I quickly asked if there's a test unit available. Sadly, all units are now in the nationwide roadshow; and I have to wait if there's a unit available. So, my comments for the XZ-1 will be highly hypothetical combined with real experience of using the LX-3 and S90 compacts.

If you have been following my blog for the past year, I have been expressing my wowness to the Canon S90. And, to snub the Olympus PEN series suggested my angst towards the lack of real compactness; which is to have a camera that is really pocketable with a standard bright zoom lens.

Thus, I got the S90 instead of any of the PENs and loved the camera so much. At the same time, using a Canon seemed realize my inner conflict to keep this blog true to the Zuiko name. In effect, I don't post many of the S90 photos here. A rather sad thing really...

Alas, come yesterday, I am rejoicing. No more the hesitant blogger. The compact Zuiko (named as iZuiko) has finally come. Thru-the-eye-of-Zuiko will be 100% pure again.

Well, other than just praising the camera with glowy fanboyish praise, what really makes this compact tick?

To me, it boils down to the lens. Simply, it's a Zuiko. To know one is to use one.

The legendary Tatsuno quality should be inherent in this camera, I believe it carries the highest quality coating and most sublime polishing technique; to be true with the E-system Zuikos. To be fair, the S90 optics is no slouch; but, comparing the speed and length of the iZuiko, the S90 seemed to be handicapped significantly. (I have to admit that my fanboyism towards Zuikos are really apparent here). But, if you remember a few blogs back where I actually dissed the PENs and mZuikos and opted for the S90 was a real surprise even for myself.

The camera is gorgeous looking. Simply stunning. The lines exhibit the PEN influence, and the placement of the photography-critical buttons is made simple.

There are so many things to like about the XZ-1. Coming from the S90, I welcome the creative use of the lens ring as a dial to complement the rear dial. This what really made me love the S90, the handling is so tactile to the DSLR shooter.

The iZuiko Digital 6-24mm F1.8-2.5 lens

This lens is bright. With the equivalent focal length of 14-56mm in the 4/3 format, this compact has a crop factor of 2.3x. The large aperture starts at f1.8 and stays up to f2.2 at nearly 3/4 of the focal length is very impressive. Compared to the S90 lens which stepped down so fast to f2.5 at it's first 1/3 focal length, this Zuiko really shakes the boat.

Why is it so important to me? Well, most indoor shooting requires sub f2.8 aperture to hold at least ISO400 with a respectable shutter speed to maintain image sharpness. The XZ-1 excels at this for the whole focal range.

Although it is a small compact, if we think about Depth-of-Field, by using a simple conversion factor, the XZ-1 should have a similar performance as the m.Zuiko 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 on the PENs. Looking at the f1.8-2.5 and multiply with 2.3x, this lens has a DoF range of f4.1-5.8. Not bad actually, after considering its size.

High Sensitivity 1/1.63" CCD Sensor

To couple the bright lens, the XZ-1 has a large, highly sensitive 10MP CCD sensor. Why CCD? Well, I won't know for sure, since the 4/3 and m4/3 uses nMOS sensors. But, what I know is that it is huge for a compact. This bids well for low-light shooting. With the Canon S90, I have little trouble shooting at ISO800, and I believe high ISO performance will be at least similar, if not better!!

Along with the E-5, the XZ-1 shares the same digital image processor the latest TruePicV. All I have is praise for this processor. As an E-5 shooter, this little piece of sand has really milked every pixel sharpness out of the Zuiko lenses. And I can only say that XZ-1 is one lucky camera to have it with the ultra fast i.Zuiko zoom.

And, it also has 6 ART FILTERS, with the latest addition DRAMATIC TONES that is released in the E-5. Samples of this effect can be seen in my previous blog entries.

Well, I think I have said enough... Most of my observations are theoretical and comparative. In the end, it all boils down to usability. A good camera makes you want to use it. And the S90 has served me well till now. Moving on, it will be put on sale pretty soon. I know the XZ-1 is the next step forward. It's time to be a true Zuikoholic again!!!

Full Specifications: CLICK HERE

p/s: Actually, I just pre-ordered one. With the price at RM1,699, it's quite steep. But I can guarantee that it is worth it!!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Zuiko and a Happy New Year

Yes, it's 2011. A new year brings new hope.

Well, not really a good thing for me today. Coz, I am stuck in the office doing some emergency stuff.

So, while waiting for the system to settle down, I took some simple shots, and fiddle with the HDR stuff in the GIMP.

A simple two-button press to access the Exposure Bracketing mode, and set to 5 frames of 1ev steps with 5fps rapid shoot mode I am good to go. Fraap, frapp, frapp, fraappp, fraaapp.... am done!

Original Frame

High Dynamic Range Frame

Using the GIMP, I opened 3 files in layers mode, being the -2ev, 0 and +2ev exposures. With the layer masks, it was easy. Desaturate the -2ev and +2ev layers and invert the +2ev layer, and merge. A final touch of Dodge & Burn action finished the HDR job.

Well, it's not perfect though. As I didn't really take the color channel shifts and contrast loss into account in the final correction process. Maybe another time, as I am still fine-tuning my HDR techniques.

Happy New Year!!!