E-M 10 Mark IV, what a confusing name convention for the lineup of cameras in Olympus. When Olympus sold off its imaging unit, I decided to read-up on its lineup and and models history, almost paying the company the last respect. Those reading led me to inquire for a unit of the latest E-M 10 Mark IV from a local shop in Kuala lumpur. There are two reasons for this :
a. Almost nobody took a deep look of the E-M 10 Mark IV in 2021 whether in blogs or in youtube. It is as people are just interested to get a copy of it during the launch, write something surface level about it and left it. There are no users that used it beyond the first few months?.
b. I am curious, if this was the last camera you know you will produce before your dept is sold off, what would you do. This angle of thought, a fun conjecture, would take hold of my thoughts and I concluded that it would be worth exploring with an actual unit. I do own a PEN-F, arguably the most beautiful Olympus digital camera albeit designed with a cheap plastic battery door. (The only other camera with such a contrasting build and even worse quality battery door is the Nikon CoolpixA)
How was the camera? I must concur it is the most basic digital camera I have seen since the Leica TL. There are 3 large dials that controls the mode, the aperture / shutter and the mode. The body reminds me of the Olympus film cameras that was produced before digital took over but in a much better build and heft (yes, those film cameras like om-10, om-20, om-30 produced by cosinas are more similar to this camera than the venerable OM-1, but E-M10 Mark IV has a borderline assuring quality that makes you second guess its position of an entry level OMD)
Overall the camera size and weight is just beautiful. Something that you will bring out and replace your Iphone. Thats about the best line of argument you can use to justify buying such a camera. M43 doesn’t have the DOF creativity that FF grants you, inferior lowlight quality output and there are better options out there like the new Fujifilm XE4 that is also entry level and minimalism approach. Fujifilm however is a company that sells presets as upgrades and I totally abhor such direction.
The video on this camera is far better than those from the Sony A6400 in terms of rolling shutter effect and that moves it above the entry level value. Locally I noticed that Olympus gears are being dumped by many hobbyist as they freaked out on Olympus exit news and if you ever wanted camera you can bring anywhere and yet have the option to change lens without bringing out a gunny sack, this is the time.
In my previous blogs, I have shared on my decision to downsize my gears count, stop reading reviews and pursue the count reduction approach. I have never met a person that has more items and stayed happy, but I have met many that have minimal or singular items and extremely happy with it. If you were happy with A, you would not have bought B or C for that matter. A simplistic view of our desire mapped by kindergarten maths.
I am now down to the revered D3, 645Z and this E-M 10 Mark IV. A distinct use for each of them. On a final note, the biggest con I found on this camera, is the focusing is still contrast based and the AF touch focus is too big to be of any use. Perhaps Olympus still has that stubborn echo chamber team in place.
For some inspirational use and images taken by this camera, I found this flickr user to be exceptional. You can see his gallery of images taken on E-M10 Mark Iv.
I must admit, I have been flirting with this idea for a very long time for my digital preferences. It has been around 2 months now ever since I started my One Camera One Lens restriction on using the film camera for a year. The idea is not entirely new as other people including the popular blogger Eric Kim advocated similar discipline.
You can check out some of the videos here, released on a weekly and bi-weekly interval, ads free and non-sponsored.
Covid-19 threw a big spanner on my plans as travelling even between district is now prohibited in Malaysia as part of the conditional movement restriction order. So with not much opportunity to finish up the 36 shots a week and while immensely enjoying the peace of mind with this approach I looked at my existing digital gears and wondered whats the point of keeping all the gears. If anything after a year, I am probably so sold on this restrictive approach that I wouldn’t ever need them.
I took this discipline one step further and of today, I sold off my favourite EOS-R, Panasonic G9 and dozen of native lenses that worked on them. I kept the films few bodies that can work with exceptional lenses still in my dry box like the Otus 55 and several M mount lenses.
The result? A massive decluttering. Not only is the dry box having spare space, I realize all the spare items that was needed to support the existence of those items are not needed too. I ended up with 4 extra bags, 8 filters no longer needed (should have given it free with the lenses) and the same detoxifying effect on my mind.
I don’t need to think which camera to bring out when I need to shoot. When I need the film experience, 50F2 planar + Contarex. When I need the digital, BAM, here take this medium format camera and this lens.
Photography, in terms of its role in our lives can be categorized into (3) three categories. You are either a professional photographers and makes a living in photography 100% (you would need whatever number of bodies and lenses needed for your job and this article would be moot), semi-commercial work of which you could de-clutter and like me, you could be someone who just enjoys photography passionately.
For us, hobbyists that enjoy photography and not so much about collecting gears, having a discipline of going out and producing amazing images while connecting with the community is the ultimate objective. It is what feed our addiction, shutter therapy and the sense of being part of something much bigger in purpose than the routine lives we see daily that are deeply driven by commercial motivation.
Now, here is the thing. I brought those lenses and gears to a contact of mine, Jeff Speaker and told him, “Here i am taking my 1 camera 1 lens further, take these and give me an evaluation” . Having a conversation with Jeff and the difficult situation the camera industry is in (Nikon Malaysia just closed its door), I am am prepared to a reasonable value and have no illusion about their worth being used. This means I would convert all these gears and lenses in my digital inventory into 1 Camera 1 lens.
Jeff came back with a trade in proposal instead. The big but in this trade-in scenario is that I was prepared to just use my existing Pentax 645Z as I still have 2 good lenses with it and it would be contradictory to my goal and direction to acquire more gears. The 645Z I had is the one tool that I would bring out when I need absolute quality and assurance in getting the images I want. I even brought it out to two overseas trip and no regrets on the weight. You can see some of my japan images, a friend I met-up in Tokyo and my wife in Khao Yai sunflowers farm.
Jeff’s proposal however make sense and I brooded over it for 2 days and agreed to it. He has a pristine used Fujifilm GFX50s and a 45mm F2.8 lens traded in by a customer for Leica or something. Bottom line, two bodies, dozen of lenses including some manual ones that I used with the EOS-R gone, a GFX + 45mm in. It dawned upon me, I am now left with just medium format cameras, the 645Z and the GFX50s and in a few months I might reduce them to One altogether when the 52 weeks is over or treat the other as a backup camera given that the sensor is the same Sony 50mp.
Would I have been happy having downsized to just the 645Z?, you bet. The GFX50s brings me closer to my current habit of packing 1 Cam 1 Lens and having no subscription to Photoshop I was eager to just use the Film simulation (cringe worthy but a lot of joy on the similar approach in my film camera experience)
Look, I understand Medium format is expensive. I am totally advocating that anyone reading my blog here, if you have a decent camera since 2015, it is probably sufficient for all your use. The entire idea behind #jointherestriction is to move away from reading reviews of new camera gears, click baits in youtubes by influencers that peddles “this camera is the best camera yet”, instead go out and shoot. Spend on experience.
We are in the Era of disposable images and where lifecycle of digital cameras is just 1.5 years and that shiniest object you have in your hands that is worth 10k today is worth 2k tomorrow. Any investor would tell you, that is the worst investment ever. Buy used cameras for your upgrades and spend the extra funds on education, travel and props setup. If you are looking into Medium format digital, the 645D, 645Z and Fujifilm 50s is now available in the used market at prices lower than the latest Full Frame.
Medium format totally works for me. If you are looking for reasons on settling for one, here are my reasons.
I love the tonality and quality it produces. The current sensor is just 0.79 bigger than the FF sensor but the results are significant. Images shot have better depth rendition, this is an overused term that can easily be explained. Just take a picture with your phone and at the largest aperture take a picture of say a cup. Notice the background blurring just 2-3 meters away compared to 10 meters are the same, the is absolutely no “transition” of depth between those distances. This is something IPhone’s fake rendition will never solve, neither will Huawai or any of those simulated depth regardless of who sold their soul and publish misleading youtubes on such features, they look absolutely fake and almost like a cut-out board.
Larger sensors allows much smoother transitions between distances. I am not referring to bokeh here but the depth rendition. This is also where i feel that plenty of test images you read on dpreview are totally missing the point by shooting on objects in similar focal plane.
It is actually harder to produce high quality lenses for m43 like Olympus and Panasonic than to produce one for the Full Frame cameras. If you put in a FF lens into a m43 camera you will notice it does not produce the same excellent results you see on the FF camera when you pixel peep, unless the lens is of exceptional quality. This is why M43 system is at a huge disadvantage. They need to produce exceptionally high resolution resolving lenses while keeping the price low because consumers always compare them to FF. When you view mobile phone photos at 100%, you see the pixel quality are mostly junk but when you view m43 images, they look similar to those you see on FF, this is by no means an easy achievement by the m43 to appease the consumer’s expectations. You can check out the LPM measurements on micro four third lenses like those pro series, they often have to resolve “double” what is expected of a FF.
Now what has that got to do with Medium format? The opposite is true, you don’t really need a very high quality lens to fit the needs of the large sensor to produce very high image quality. The 645Z 75 F2.8 is crazy sharp and beautiful contrast yet it only cost USD 700, the results easily rivals a Summilux costing USD 7000 or more.
Image Pop Quality
This is an observable quality that is closely related to Depth rendition. Often we hear magical stories on how lenses produces images that just pops. Its pretty hilarious if you try to nail down the reasons behind them, personally I feel often it’s just the use of wide aperture and the contrasting colors between the subject and the background but some of my own images, I could not fit that narrative while still being awed by the results.
As an asian, my hands are not as large as my western friends, but holding a medium format camera just works for me. The 645Z in particular has such wonderful grip and buttons placed perfectly that I don’t need to spend any time looking at menus. The Fujifilm GFX50s grip is superb and I love the simple physical buttons that I could find and use quickly. In a way I am a sucker for ergonomics, that is also the reason why my other 2 late cameras that I sold was the EOS-R and the G9, both are the best in its class for ergonomics in my opinion.
Bigger absolutely works for me, but not when it is as big as say a 67 Mamiya Rz or Pentax 67 both which i once owned and I felt had terrible ergonomics.
What if you don’t need a medium format camera?
I have done some of my best albums on both film and digital on FF and proud of some that I did on the m43. Did I mentioned I used to have tons of gears and been cutting down ever since until now. So you won’t miss anything, whatever you have now whether it is FF, m43, APSC, digital or film you could go out there and produce amazing images and you should be doing just that.
The day i stopped my Photoshop subscriptions, stopped reading any new gears reviews and lenses comparison, I found myself thinking more about the next theme, the location, the opportunities of creating art. Art that consist of outdoor and actual location, non-studio that captures not just the model or people in them but a real scene.
During this week I managed to wake up early and visit this road between two house. The owner took the opportunity to plant plenty of flowers at this road though legally, it doesn’t belongs to either side of the house. From such irrational need for plants and the risk of being removed by the local council, fate saw it fit to get them captured by yours truly.
Without Photoshop healing brush and clone tools, I didn’t bother to remove the pipes and dead petals from the images, since i was shooting film (you don’t need a film camera, just use what you have, if you really need one, just buy one and stick with it). When I sat down and look at the image, I began to appreciate the fact that they were there, those pesky objects, elements, but they are as authentic as nature is. It is what it is, minus Trump.
I envy anyone that is not staying in Malaysia. I envy everyone who has a camera and yet not living where the equator lines crosses. Do you know that in equatorial countries, our light quality totally sucks most of the time? When you have the spotlight shining directly on top of you most of the time, you get terrible light and for someone like me who enjoys available light and natural outdoor.
Don’t even start me on the flowers, BougainVillea is all you get, they are beautiful no doubt but the all year summer weather means the lack of other seasonal flowers and the trees here are either green or dead. D E A D, dead.
One thing we do have going for us here are gigantic green leaves. It’s either rain or sunshine dear, so these plants grows and grows, I won’t be surprised if they are sewn as dresses for the uber sexy theme shoot.
I am digressing. This is my 4th installation of one camera one lens, truth be told, its one focal length, the 45mm f2 planar masquerading as 50mm. Why did Zeiss created the Contarex 50m F2 that is actually closer to 45mm and the same formula migrated to 50mm f2 modern planar on the M mount? I have no idea and you don’t need to google this up because it will lead to GAS and there is no such thing as the final buy.
Overall I am very happy the results I am having so far. The lack of need to edit photos, heck i don’t even need to chimp. Editing took me like 2 minutes and that is because of the exporting folder workflow I have.
Brew a cup of coffee, sit down and enjoy the rest of the images in the 4th week of September + 1 week of October with music .
Full set of images available here for the 4th week of September / 1st week of October
Since the last week of August, I have committed on using 1 Camera and 1 Lens by restricting myself to stop reading reviews, gears launches and instead just go out and shoot. You don’t need a film camera, any DLSR, m43 or mirrorless camera produced in the last 7 years will do fine.
I met a snag in the 1st roll itself, the Contarex Bullseye 50 f2 planar was showing back-focusing issues and I barely could get half the images in focus. As a result I had to find a 2nd body to try the lens on and confirmed that the first body which looks super new was faulty, there is something wrong with the mirror.
Do enjoy the images you can find them in the youtube here and a flickr link.
The first 2 out of 52 weeks
In these 2 weeks, I was sorting out issues from the missing spool (basically this film camera needed a spool to take in the film and the sellers omitted them) and backfocus issues. I visited a cafe with a friend Xiao Bai who works as an Interior Designer in Puchong to visit a new Cafe that have some japanese vibes.
I love the large window that the cafe use and most of the images is focused on that.
The 3/52 week
My friend Carol Lim, who is a top sales in the banking industry took the risk of betting against the weather and we drove 1 hour to a spot not far from Kuala Lumpur to do the shoot.
Although there isn’t any dramatic and sunset light, I felt the soft and low-moody ambiance gives the images a comfortable feeling of peace.
The year was 1958. The competitions were fierce. It is a take no prisoner stage, where every camera manufacturer did their best to produce the most reliable, most advance and beautiful 35mm film camera of all time.
The over engineered Leica M3 was released 4 years ago, the undisputed champion. There was no sensor war, no dynamic range, no fps, what can you possibly produce that can have an edge in engineering to offer the consumers?
Zeiss held a pep talk with the company, the engineers in particular needed to hear one. Something is cooking at the land of the rising sun and it is not going to be merciful when it arrives. How about we throw everything we can and create a camera that no man has ever imagined neither will the competitors ever be able to produce?
Zeiss created the Contarex Bullseye.
As history records the aftermath, the most beautiful camera in the world which was supposed to be engineered to a level of perfection that it needed no after service nor care, did not fare well commercially. It was more expensive than the Leica M3 and a year later in 1959, Japan sent its Nikon F into the world, obliterating M3 and every other rangefinder in existence.
This blog doesn’t promote GAS and I have been pondering on which camera to use for my 52 weeks project of One camera, One lens, I decided to pay homage to the Zeiss engineers effort and ideals and use this camera for this task. The fallout of this camera was so bad it literally killed the company.
The engineers lost passion and never produced anything significant in terms of camera bodies. The company went downhill after that. While this is not the absolute truth of exactly what happened, it is my narration based on the timeline and understanding of engineers in companies.
Why film? Why not just use the 645z and use that instead for the 52 weeks project? The reason is simply because of restrictions. Film development is still affordable here in Malaysia, we are looking at USD 4 for development and includes scanning. While they exist and the limits of 36 shots per roll is appealing for my objectives, this seems like a good direction.
The other reason is that I have decided to remove Photoshop and Lightroom from my workflow for this 52 weeks project. That is me showing the finger to this commercial company for their lethargic products and these subscriptions and megapixels marketing noises. Did you know that they parked their sales in IRELAND and you had to contact customer service to stop your subscription? No thanks.
Thus my 52 weeks begin. Come join the restriction, pick 1 camera, any camera, 1 lens and focus on photographing things that moves you, not the likes or public.
Here are some updated photos I took of the camera itself, it is a real beauty though that divine shell comes with a heavy history and cost.
One of the unique craftsmanship seen on this camera is that it has no light seals to be found anywhere, in fact the only foam you can find is at the mount near the focusing screen where it has slight contact with the mirror as it flips up.
The mechanism of flipping the mirror is not the ordinary design that we find in the dslrs or slrs of the golden age of film cameras. It looks and feel complex, whether this complexity translates to anything superior is pure conjecture.
Maybe some of you are like me, tired of reading reviews, tired of seeing SquareSpace ads, tired of looking for inspiration and instead landed on yet another YouTuber’s clueless images.
Tired of chasing for likes, tired of complying to Facebook and Instagram shitty screen estate for showing images and yet limiting your reach and audience? Sometimes we only need to take a good look at the mirror and ask why.
As a hobbyist, I have clear advantage over pros and I believe there are many like me, we enjoy photography but we don’t want to drag our passion into commercial stage. This is our exclusive area, a sabbatical escape from the daily business routine in our lives.
We create images and we share them so that others would see our work, enjoy our work with the hope that people could feel what we feel, see what we see. Sometimes we reached out to seek inspirations but instead we are greeted with gear reviews, messages about the inferiority of our gears and rubbish examples that are poor value for our time.
As time goes by, the challenge of doing a 1 camera 1 lens for a year is becoming both more attractive and meaningful to me. Limitation is a catalyst for creativity and a vote of protest from my soul towards all these noise coming from Brands, social media and the lack of appreciation of good work done by fellow photographers.
I have decided to share my images in Flickr and other platforms where images gets their well deserved resolution and display without all the shackles of compression and pursue of likes.
While I have not decided on the camera to participate in this challenge, I felt a strong peaceful confirmation whenever I think of this decision. I will be sharing a set of images each week on my YouTube channel just for people to enjoy looking at them to chill for the day and if you want to see the bigger versions, a flickr link is included in the description.
Every Week, 1 Set of Images for 1 Year, done on 1 Camera + 1 Lens
Is it possible? Of course. I would argue that one have been sold way too many times the excuse that you would fare better with smaller cameras, like the Leica.
Vivian Maier shot on a Rolleiflex, a twin lens system that is so much harder to focus and looks pretty weird when you have two lenses pointing at you. Back then people knew it was a camera and there is nothing in that form that contributes to her infamous photos.
Leica rangefinders are louder than most of the Olympus, Fujis and Ricoh GRs that exist in the market and probably the largest of them all. Still we have current credible photojournalist and photographers that swears by it for street use.
The answer is really our own acceptance of what we are comfortable with. A medium format camera should not prevent you from doing street photography.
If you prefer B&W cause it has more soul or captures someone’s soul (darn are we back in the dark ages) , a medium format camera like the Pentax 645z gives you beautiful gradation and smooth tonal dof transitions.
Make your own decision. I personally had a lot of fun shooting and using a medium format camera like the Pentax 645Z for portraits and streets and I am convinced that the suitability of any camera is defined by you.
Spending many days at home with nothing but work opens up dialogues and self reflection that one could not imagine are possible.
I have not been buying any new gears for sometime now. It has been an amazing journey and like a speech given at obituary, I spend nights thinking about life, work and what exactly ticked me all these years.
I believe in slowing down, that is why i bought, sold and re-purchased several Leicas and used many film cameras. I believe in the invisible driving force of inspiration having value above a spec sheet. I do not subscribe to majority pressure or impression without having tried the tool myself, one of the reason why I still kept the Olympus PEN-F despite the reviews.
But above all else, I have always believe that having too many gears, just like having many chefs, spoils the meal, in this case, the very journey of what I wanted to experience in photography. Ironic, contradictory and a struggle that I have faced ever since my first camera in 2007.
Photography should be just like a relationship, a marriage that you undertake with your partner and watch her grow old, together, till death do us part. This was the missing commitment that I struggle to bring in to photography as a result, my collection grew and my obligation to use them becomes a distraction.
As I pondered on each and every gear I bought, the images I created with them, the friendship that I found with other photographers, models and the conversations that took place. I came to a conclusion that I could very much be able to carry out this journey that I always wanted, a transition from using whatever tools I already have, to just using ONE .
The choice of tool will be the Pentax 645Z that I left at the corner of the drybox (its too big to fit in) and all my other gears will now be in hibernation mode. I would begin to give some of them away. There will be only reduction from this point on.
I know how silly this is going to be especially bringing that medium format DSLR into every genre that I enjoy doing including Street photography but it is what it is. The soul searching is over. This beast will be that “one camera” for building muscle memory and the defining partner in bringing out all my artistic visuals into reality.
As the world recovers from Covid-19, each one of us should discover what is essential to each area of our lives. If you are into photography, it is Marie Kondo time.