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Regardless if you use natural light or strobes for your portraits, you'll probably like the Westcott Omega Reflector Kit.

Sophie Natural Light Portrait Indoor window light portrait with the Omega reflector providing the fill light. Photos by Derrick Story.

For this portrait of Sophie, I used the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 zoom lens, f/2.8, 1/250th, ISO 1600, -2.0 EV. Main light (on the photographer's right) is from the north window at my studio, and the fill light is provided by the Omega reflector.

full-reflector-omega Omega reflector suspended from a DIY frame made of PVC pipe.

When fully expanded, the Omega measures a substantial 38″ x 45″, which is a versatile size for most portrait shoots. It has multiple surfaces to help you control both color and intensity. And what's really unique, the center "window" can be opened, allowing you to shoot through the reflector if you wish.

The collapsable Westcott Omega Reflector Kit is available for $119 at B&H Photo.

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Back button focus - reprogramming a function button to handle focusing duties instead of a partial press on the shutter button - is particularly helpful for portrait shoots. I can set the focus on the eyes, then recompose and shoot without losing my focus point. I don't have to focus again until either I or the subject move.

e-m5-ii-illustration.jpg

It's easy to set up on an Olympus OM-D once you know where to go. The steps here are for the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II, but they also can be used for other models.

gear-menu-a.jpg

  • Press the Menu button and navigate to Gear-A (AF/MF)
  • Go to AF Mode and select S-AF - Press OK
  • Check that Full-time AF is Off
  • Go to AEL/AFL, click on S-AF, and select mode3, Click OK, Click Menu (See illustration to find S-AF)
  • Navigate to Gear-B (Button/Dial/Lever), Press OK
  • Click on Button Function
  • Click on Fn1 and select AEL/AFL, Click OK, Click Menu, Click Menu

Now, when you press Fn1, the camera focuses. Pressing the shutter button half way locks in the exposure. If you're using the Olympus vertical grip, also Program B-Fn1 to AEL/AFL. That gives you back button focus in the vertical position too.

Once my portrait shoot is over, I go back to AEL/AFL in Gear-A, click on S-AF, and select mode1. This is my normal way of shooting, using a half press on the shutter button to focus the camera. The Fn1 button then becomes exposure lock.

If you use back button focus often, you may want to program the 1/2 Lever on the E-M5 Mark II or the EM-1 (see illustration, the lever is right next to the Fn1 button). Position 1 could be normal half-press of the shutter button for focusing, and position 2 can be programmed for back button focus. That way you could change focusing modes quickly.

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I've started using the 2X digital zoom function on all of my Olympus OM-D cameras. By doing so, I am able to use a fast prime lens, such as the fabulous Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f1.8 at wide apertures, then double its magnification without losing any light gathering power.

In the field, this means that I can work at an effective focal length of 90mms or 180mms at f/1.8. The question is, how much am I giving up by using the 2X digital zoom?

digital-zoom-comparison Side by side comparison of the RAW file at 45mm (left) and the Jpeg at 90mm (2X digital zoom) on the right. Images opened in ACR 8.8 with no adjustments.

For my real world test, I shot in RAW+Jpeg with the Jpeg mode set to Super Fine on an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the 45mm lens set to f/2.2. I was able to keep the ISO at a reasonable 800, and I used +1 exposure compensation, giving me a shutter speed of 1/100th.

The RAW file dimensions are 3456 x 4608 with a file size of 15.31 MBs. The Jpeg has the same 3456 x 4608 measurements, and weighs in at 5.16 MBs. I opened both images in ACR 8.8 on a 15" MacBook Pro with Retina Display and captured these screen shots.

raw-file-400-percent.jpg RAW file at 400 percent.

jpeg-file-200-percent.jpg Super Fine Jpeg with 2X digital zoom at 200 percent.

Bottom Line

The 2X digital zoom fares well against its RAW file companion. The RAW file has not been processed, so it has more to offer in post production. The Jpeg can be published as is without further work.

I've set a function button on all of my OM-D cameras to toggle the digital zoom on and off. By doing so, I can shoot more with my prime lenses, knowing that I can zoom in without having to change the glass.

For critical work, I'll probably stick with RAW only. But for my street shooting, photojournalism, and event photography, I'm loving the 2X option. In fact, in these shots, I like the Jpegs better.

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This week on The Digital Story Photography Podcast: Essential Tools for Event Photography, 5 Additional Things to Do with a 50MP Camera, ACR 8.8 New Camera Support (but not Lightroom) - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Weekly Update - Ten New Cameras Supported by ACR 8.8 -

  • Casio EX-ZR3500
  • Canon EOS 750D (Rebel T6i, Kiss X8i)
  • Canon EOS 760D (Rebel T6s, Kiss 8000D)
  • Fujifilm X-A2
  • Fujifilm XQ2
  • Hasselblad Stellar II
  • Nikon D5500
  • Olympus OM-D E-M5 II
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF7
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 (DMC-TZ70, DMC-TZ71)
(Source: DP Review)

In other news... "Ricoh reveals pixel-shifting high-resolution mode: Coming soon to a camera near you?" Unlike Olympus' approach, which grabs 8 frames and uses a half-pixel shift between two groups of four to interpolate additional pixels, Ricoh's method uses just four shots, to bring the four pixels of each Bayer color filter array cell into alignment with each other. The resulting file has the same number of pixels as conventional shots, but each pixel contains full, uninterpolated RGB data. (Source: Imaging-Resource)

cheese-at-the-festival.jpg

Story #1 - Essential Tools for Event Photography - Whether you're getting ready to shoot a wedding, trade show, or birthday party, these tools will help you capture better images while increasing your enjoyment. I'll explain each of these in the second feature of today's show.

  • A professional wide to moderate zoom. The constant aperture f/2.8 zoom that covers roughly from 24-70mms is a workhorse for the event photographer.
  • A fast portrait lens. I prefer a f/1.8 or f/2.0 85, 90, or 100mm prime lens to complement my zoom.
  • A lightweight flash modifier. I always carry at least one Rouge FlashBender to help me tame the light coming off my strobe.
  • Battery grip. Even when I shoot mirrorless, I keep a battery grip on the camera. This allows me to shoot the entire day without changing batteries, which usually occurs at the worst time possible.
  • A skilled assistant. Have an extra set of hands to manage the shot list, set up group shots, keep an eye on an activity not yet ready to photograph, and serve as a second shooter when needed is a blessing beyond description.

Story #2 - 5 Additional Things to Do with a 50 MP Camera - Yes, there are the obvious choices such as landscape and product photography with a new Canon 5DS R. But what about...

  • Start a business shooting life size portraits.
  • Become the first indoor sports photographer that only uses a 50mm lens.
  • Advertise yourself as a billboard photographer by shooting the first 50 MP selfie, then putting it on a billboard.
  • After the next holiday, send a 50MP RAW file attachment to a family member with a 5-year-old Dell with the caption, "Can you believe what Aunt Jenny revealed at the party?"
  • Rent your 50MP camera to other photographers who can't afford one, then use the money to buy stock in 4TB drives.

Story #3 - From the Screening Room - Black-and-White Project: Creating a Dramatic Landscape with Lightroom and Photoshop with Chris Orwig

You can watch Chris in action by visiting the TDS Screening Room at lynda.com. While you're there, you can start your 7 day free trial to watch all of Chris' movies, plus every other title in the library (including over 20 by yours truly).

Virtual Camera Club News

News from Red River Paper: Have you made your archive 6 prints yet for 2015? The best backup system in the world is high quality prints properly stored. I recommend that photographers do a print run of their best twice a year. Here's why.

Thanks to everyone who recently reviewed the TDS Podcast in iTunes!

BTW: If you're ordering through B&H or Amazon, please click on the respective ad tile under the Products header in the box half way down the 2nd column on thedigitalstory.com. That helps support the site.

Download the Show

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (35 minutes). You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

lynda.com - Learn lighting, portraiture, Photoshop skills, and more from expert-taught videos at lynda.com/thedigitalstory.

Red River Paper -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

SizzlPix! - High resolution output for your photography. You've never seen your imagery look so good. SizzlPix.com. SizzlPix! now is qualified for PayPal "Bill Me Later," No payments, No interest for up to 6 months, which means, have your SizzlPix! now, and pay nothing until May!

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Living by Mirrorless and Jpegs

I just completed a 3-day assignment covering the Artisan Cheese Festival in Petaluma, CA. Instead of shooting with my DSLR and RAW files, I opted this year to use my Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II and shoot in Super Fine Jpeg mode. (You can read more about this setup in the article, Daring to Shoot Jpeg).

Daring to Shoot Jpeg

My Aperture library now has 1,500 new images of cheese making, classroom instruction, ballroom festivities, marketplace sales, and more. The images look fantastic, and my turnaround time for the PR agency has been the fastest ever.

The bottom line is this: if you're careful with your shooting technique and use quality gear, Jpegs from today's cameras are sharp, colorful, and professional. Event photographers don't need to be a slave to the RAW workflow. Use the best format for the situation, and dazzle your clients with the results.


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This workflow has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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New owners of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II should be happy to know that Adobe has released ACR 8.8 with RAW support for the latest Olympus mirrorless camera.

ACR-with_Em5Mk2-web.jpg

Current Bridge/ACR owners simply need to go to Help > Updates to download the new version of the software.

After a bit of testing, I'm happy to report that the RAW interpretation seems good. The software read the embedded lens profile for my Olympus 75mm f1.8 portrait lens, allowed me to apply a Camera Portrait profile, and did a nice job with all of the basic adjustments.

My guess is that Lightroom users will have to wait a bit longer for E-M5 Mark II support as Adobe is working hard to put the finishing touches on Lightroom 6.

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I began the photo shoot with the boys using the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 prime, a spectacular lens. But then we started moving around, and I needed something more versatile if I was going to keep up with these guys. So I reached for the Panasonic 35-100mm f/4.0-5.6 ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. zoom. That was a good call.

twins-and-brick-wall-web.jpg

To be honest with you, this optic defies logic. It is incredibly compact, measuring 2.19" x 1.97" and weighs less than 5 ounces. Yet it covers the equivalent of 70-200mm, and it does so with fantastic sharpness, contrast, and color.

panasonic-35-100-side

Once we found an intriguing urban alley to work, I mounted it on the Olympus E-M5 Mark II. And that Olympus/Panasonic tandem allowed me to keep up with a pair of teenagers.

I originally bought the Panasonic 35-100mm as a travel companion for my assignment in Cuba. And it performed so well there, that I've kept it in my daily camera bag. Now it's an optic that I seem to reach for daily.

Since this zoom includes optical image stabilization, it's a great choice for both Olympus (with sensor based IS) and Panasonic (optical IS only). In other words, if you have a Micro Four Thirds body, this lens will serve you well.

And at $379, it's not going to break the bank.

For more on this excellent lens, see my Field Test from Dec. 2014.


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The Panasonic 35-100mm f/4.0-5.6 ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. zoom has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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This week on The Digital Story Photography Podcast: Eye-Fi Rubbed RAW, Expensive Filters, Lowepro Reboot, Planning and Staging an Exhibition - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Weekly Update - Lowepro launches weather-proof Fastpack backpacks for traveling photographers - "Both bags include Lowepro's All Weather AW Cover, which is basically a built-in raincoat that can be untucked and pulled over the bag in a rain shower. The tablet sections feature what Lowepro calls CradleFit padding that grips and suspends the tablet so that it remains protected in the event of a drop. Using compression straps the bags are designed to also attach to the handles of rolling luggage, and both can support a tripod via straps and a mesh pocket."  (Source: DP Review)

fastpack-bp-top.jpg

In other news... Eyefi's newest Mobi Pro SD card lets you sync RAW photos - "Self-proclaimed as 'the most powerful wireless SD card ever', the Mobi Pro sets itself apart from Eyefi's lower-level Mobi cards by now allowing you to transfer RAW files to your desktop or mobile device, straight from your camera." (Source: Imaging-Resource)

Story #1 - Think of Your Filters as Very Thin Lenses - I just spent $48 for a Hoya 46mm EVO Antistatic UV(0) Filter. Why would I do such a crazy thing? Here are a few reasons:

  • Absorbs Ultraviolet Light (helping to reduce bluish cast)
  • 16-Layer Super Multi-Coating (99.8 percent light transmission )
  • EVO Antistatic Coating Repels Dust
  • Water, Stain, and Scratch-Resistant
  • Optical Glass Construction
  • One-Piece Low-Profile Filter Ring (lessens the likelihood of vignetting)
  • Front Threads for Filter Stacking

And then I add a few more...

Story #2 - You Can't Beat the Price for the Fotor Image Editor - I've been playing with a lovely, smart and free image editor called Fotor. Will it replace Aperture? No way. But it does leverage Mac OS X technologies in an elegant, fun package. I discuss in this segment of the show.

Story #3 - From the Screening Room - Planning and Staging an Exhibition with Konrad Eek.

You can watch Konrad in action by visiting the TDS Screening Room at lynda.com. While you're there, you can start your 7 day free trial to watch all of Konrad's movies, plus every other title in the library (including over 20 by yours truly).

Virtual Camera Club News

The TDS Bodie/Eastern Sierra Photography Workshop is Sold Out.

News from Red River Paper: Have you made your archive 6 prints yet for 2015? The best backup system in the world is high quality prints properly stored. I recommend that photographers do a print run of their best twice a year. Here's why.

Thanks to everyone who recently reviewed the TDS Podcast in iTunes!

BTW: If you're ordering through B&H or Amazon, please click on the respective ad tile under the Products header in the box half way down the 2nd column on thedigitalstory.com. That helps support the site.

Download the Show

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (35 minutes). You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

lynda.com - Learn lighting, portraiture, Photoshop skills, and more from expert-taught videos at lynda.com/thedigitalstory.

Red River Paper -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

SizzlPix! - High resolution output for your photography. You've never seen your imagery look so good. SizzlPix.com. SizzlPix! now is qualified for PayPal "Bill Me Later," No payments, No interest for up to 6 months, which means, have your SizzlPix! now, and pay nothing until May!

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

If you don't mind having a small ad parked in the lower right corner of your screen, Fotor for Mac is a clean, easy to use, powerful, and a fun image editor.

fotor-image-adjustment.jpg

The combination of adjustment sliders, effects, borders, tilt shift control, and text tool gives most photographers to power they need to spice up a photo and send it on its way. I also like the built-in collage maker and batch processor, unexpected bonuses for free software.

Fotor draws upon Mac OS X for its RAW processing (as it does in other areas too). So if your Mac provides RAW support for a camera, so does this app.

Bottom line is this: Mac photographers looking for a free editor with lots of punch should take a look at Fotor for Mac (It's also available as a sweet iOS app).

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The good news is that the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II includes a stereo microphone jack that can be used for an audio input device of your choice. And you can use the External Grip HLD-8G to monitor the input during recording. The bad news is that the interface is somewhat noisy and you may not want to bother.

omd-em5-mkii-with-mic.jpg

I've done some informal testing using a non-powered Sony stereo mic, a powered Audio Technica clip-on device, and the built-in stereo pickups in the E-M5 Mark II itself. And after running through all of the settings, the built-in mics performed about as well as the external devices. Listen for yourself.

Audio Technica Clip-On Mic vs Built-In Pickups

I start out this video using a powered clip-on recording in mono, then switch to the onboard pickups in the E-M5 Mark II. They definitely sound different, but the amount of background hiss was about the same.

Sony Non-Powered Stereo Mic

This time around I recorded some music and just myself talking. No surprisingly, when capturing the music, background hiss wasn't really a factor. But once again, when it was just me, the hiss was noticeable.

Bottom Line

Since the video with the E-M5 Mark II is outstanding, it's worth figuring out the audio. For casual recording, I thought the onboard stereo mics worked nearly as well as low-end external units plugged in to the camera. So I can't think of a compelling reason to bring a separate mic for on-the-go video capture.

The next option is a mic with a 10db boost. These devices often have a narrow recording pattern, so they're not perfect for every situation. But they're well-designed for quick interviews and news reporting. The 10db boost helps compensate for the weak preamps in the camera.

The best audio is going to be recorded with a separate device, such as a Zoom, then substituted for the native audio in post production. For critical use, this is still the preferred method. Not everyone, however, wants to spend the extra time in editing. Just like everything else in photography, you have to figure out your priorities and go from there.

After listening to the samples, what do your ears hear?

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The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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