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My First Year with Olympus

Updated: Jul 20, 2021

So I took a leap. I changed from my trusted Canon brand. It had to be all or nothing for me though. I didn't want to be using two completely different systems, so could I really do it? Would I regret it?

I went with the Pro Loan option to have a trial with the Olympus system. It was, for me, a game changer. The weight difference made me feel free. Within the first week I had decided, so in I went with both feet.

We are now a year down the line. It's been a strange year with lockdowns and the country in a kind of limbo. I haven't been as far a field as I would of liked, but I have taken more photos than in any previous year. I've spent a lot of time very local as I'm lucky enough to have a small nature reserve on my doorstep. I've used and pushed my new cameras to limits I wouldn't of dared with the Canon (not saying it couldn't handle it... but could it? Really?). I have two bodies, the M1X and the M1 mkiii. I have a great spread of lenses as well, the 300mm F4 Pro being my most used for wildlife and the 40-150 f2.8 Pro sat on the mkiii almost all the time. The change was scary at first. I was worried I wouldn't get the quality I was used to, would find them weird to use after Canon, but I was so wrong to worry. The image quality is absolutely amazing and I found the cameras intuitive to use and great to shoot with.

This was one of the images on day one with the rental kit. Nothing special but the detail and image quality showed to me straight away. You don't expect to take your most amazing images the first time you use a new camera, but it was so good to see the image quality showing from day one. I got notified of my loan date just after we went into lockdown and I was worrying that I wouldn't be able to give the kit a decent test, but it made me use what was around me. Great that I've got a nature reserve less than a 10 minute walk away, but I've also got a river and a great park, so I was able to get out a lot in a completely safe and isolated way.

The whole year has been trying for so many people and I have been more than lucky because I have worked the whole year, although a furlough could of been handy from a photography point of view. We dodged Covid as well, so all in all it's been ok. The thing I did find is that I missed so much local wildlife because I always wanted to go here or there to take photos, without appreciating what I had on my doorstep. Visiting the same place day after day or weekend after weekend opened my eyes to just how much wildlife there is around me. I learnt the little hiding places of some of the wildlife, the patterns they follow each day, even what wildlife is only there at certain times of year.

We have a pair of Great Crested Grebes but only for a couple of months a year. I've found tree creepers, Chiffchaffs, Teal, Linnets, all of which I was unaware of being there. There's a pair of Roe deer that live in the reserve all year round, even in the winter when 70-80% of it is underwater.

They even pose if you ask them nicely!

My favourite type of photography is wildlife and nature, even more so early in the mornings. I love to get the sun behind the subject, silhouettes or back lit outlines.

So, the first couple of months was very much close to home. We were in full lockdown so I used my hour of exercise to walk round the nature reserve whenever I was off work. It was spring so there was so much new life everywhere I looked, from spring flowers to goslings and ducklings.

I tended to go out very early so there was nobody about and I could stretch that hour of exercise a bit...

Both the M1X and the M3 (mkiii) have articulated screens so even if you can't get all the way down you can use the screen pretty comfortably. It makes so much difference when you can get at eye level. It's something I struggle with because of joint problems, but I'm finding it so much easier now. The lockdown was much longer than anyone expected. When it first started, a couple of weeks were touted round, maybe a month, but you know how wrong that was, so I was becoming a regular at the nature reserve, seeing habits and favourite spots.

As we were getting into summer the lockdown was lifting a bit. We managed to get up to Richmond Park and down to Weymouth, both giving me different aspects of photography to push the Olympus kit.

Richmond is one of my favourite places because it's such a nice size and the deer roam so freely. We had a couple of days there to take in some sunrises and sunsets and plenty of deer.

300mm with MC14, iso 200, f/5.6, 1/160 sec.

300mm with MC14, iso 200, f/5.6, 1/160 sec.

40-150mm @ 56mm, iso 800, f/4, 1/125 sec.

40-150 with MC14, iso 200, f/4, 1/200 sec.

It was so good being out and away from normality. The M1X was faultless in every light, early morning to twilight. They say M43 doesn't handle low light... Just who are they?

Now down to Weymouth, not quite as good as Richmond for various reasons, one being the funfair right outside our window all day and half the night, that wasn't on the brochure ;-)

But, there was boats and the sea. The sun seemed to go missing too. We got some sunshine, but a lot of cloudy days with a fair few showers. It was a great chance to try out the 12-40mm 2.8 pro lens though, as this gets much less use when chasing wildlife.

Both ended up as good trips under the conditions everyone was living under. It was just good being away from normality. I worked all the way through all of the lockdowns so it seemed quite normal for me most days, apart from the empty trains. That was quite surreal! But the weeks were under the normal structure so I didn't feel it the same as some people. Summer was coming to an end and we were heading into the amazing colours of autumn, always something to look forward to when you have a camera.

Back at home and back to the nature reserve. The leaves were changing and the line up of wildlife was slowly getting smaller. I had just sold the last of my Canon gear and had just taken ownership of the M1 mkiii. I toyed with getting two M1X bodies but decided to get the M3 instead. One reason being the size. It is so small after using full frame and even the M1X. I can add the handgrip if I want to use the 300mm on it, but I tend to use it with the smaller lenses and it's become a fixture in my work bag with the 40-150 attached. The menu system is pretty much identical and the button set up isn't too different. You can always change any button functions anyway to make them the same. It's a single processor but still dual card slots and only a single battery. But, it's a tech packed every day camera and so light and small that you hardly notice it in your bag.

The colours and image quality from the Olympus cameras and lenses are absolutely incredible. The wider lenses get much more use at this time of year. Landscapes and tree lines are everywhere just begging to be captured.

And then we were back into lockdown again. Christmas was coming and the lockdown was meant to be short again... It wasn't!

All through this time I have been lucky enough to be able to get out, whether on the way to or from work or at weekends for a walk. We are surrounded by great places all within walking distance, so daily exercise could never of been boring. The range of Olympus lenses I chose at the start has been incredible. For wildlife the 300mm f/4 prime is stunning and with the addition of the MC14 gives great reach. The 40-150mm f/2.8 is one of the best walkaround lenses I have owned. The fact it is still so useable even with the MC20 is a great bonus. You get 80-300 at f/5.6, not at all bad in reasonable light. I've loved using the 12-40 f/2.8. It's quite wide and great for landscapes and if we got dark skies would probably be pretty decent for astrophotography. The 60mm macro is right up there with the Canon 100mm L series. It's not a pro range lens, but you really wouldn't know it.

Next I had a real test for the Olympus system. We had booked up for the RHS Wisley Glow event, night time photography with no tripod. This I believe is where the Olympus really shines. The image stabilisation is out of this world. I opted for the M3 because I wanted to go light and chose the 12-40mm f/2.8.

As you can see the colours in the shots are vivid and deep. The clarity in the photos is amazing, even hand held on a cold night in November.

This one was a 1 second hand held exposure and if you are steady handed you could easily go much further. There's no blur and the detail in low light is excellent, even in the areas that aren't quite so well lit. Almost Christmas and the wildlife is getting more scarce, but the skies don't disappoint, even in December.

This was taken on the way to work on the M3 with the 40-150 attached. I loved the colours reflected in the windows and the sky was incredible. So we can't do Christmas without a little bokeh.

This brought me onto a new purchase. I grabbed a Black Friday Deal from Campkins camera shop. I got the 45mm f/1.8 prime at a steal of a price. This lens is so sharp and the bokeh is incredible. It's a pretty cheap lens in the camera world, not weather sealed but for close up or portraiture it is absolutely outstanding.

Brilliant separation and a beautifully blurred background make this lens a real keeper. I'm looking forward to trying it out more as the year goes on.

It wouldn't be Christmas without a fat old Robin and this little chap didn't disappoint, and the Blue Tit was in a playful mood so made a great subject. These were both taken on the 40-150mm attached to the M3.

The biggest test to my cameras came in January. We don't get much snow down in Surrey but this year we actually got one day of really decent snowfall, almost a blizzard, so out I went with both cameras. By the time I got to the nature reserve I was soaked through. It was getting heavier all the time. I was using the M3 to begin with and it's a good job Olympus weather sealing is as good as they say, with water dripping off the bottom of the lens while I was shooting.

I swapped cameras twice while I was out only to find my bag full of water when I got in and the cameras totally soaked. But, they didn't miss a beat, not one problem, The auto focus did struggle slightly in the really heavy snow, but you can't blame the camera. It just focuses on what is in front of it. If the snow flakes are the size of ping pong balls any camera would struggle. In an aim for clarity the battery life was poor in the freezing conditions, but from experience that is all batteries in cold weather. It's more worrying when it's a drone a couple of hundred feet in the air and the battery is going flat before your eyes...

White out!

I had my most successful social media post at the end of January too, another plus for Olympus in my opinion. Low light again, a swan this time though.

You can even see through it's nose hole, (obviously this is the biological name for it). Over four thousand likes on Instagram, I nearly fell over as this is four times anything I had ever managed before.

The end of January also bought another new lens, well, a pre owned one anyway, thanks to London Camera Exchange in Guildford who kept photographers in supplies all through lockdown with free delivery and some amazing deals. So I got the 7-14mm and wow is this lens wide. You can almost take a photo of yourself standing behind the camera.

The 7-14mm is definitely an astrophotography lens and is superb for landscape photography as well. It's not one that I would use every day probably, but is perfect to have in the bag. I can't wait to try it out on the stars when we're allowed to go away properly again. Corfu would be perfect I think :-)

Well, the snows had gone, and the ice, and spring was showing itself again. Its an amazing time of year after the short cold dark days of winter. All of a sudden colour is exploding everywhere you look.

It has been an eventful first year with Olympus, but one I have enjoyed immensely, I have found the whole Olympus experience to be so rewarding. The images I have managed to get have felt like a massive step forward for me. The quality of the images is stunning. The cameras are responsive and easy to use and they are light and great for hand carrying. The Olympus UK team have been more than helpful. All through one of the most difficult times in our lifetime they have been putting on free web lessons and tutorials, and all this while the company went through its own transition. From the loan right through to any help or feedback they have been great. So I will leave you with some recent images and a huge thank you to all of you who have managed to get this far. I hope you have enjoyed this blog and maybe it has answered some questions you may of had about Olympus camera systems. Don't be scared to change. The camera that suits your lifestyle is the one that you will get your best images on.



More blogs to follow...

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Andrea Peddle
Andrea Peddle
May 06, 2021

Stunning photos, Mark! I also shoot with Canon and have often wondered about switching to something lighter but worried about quality. You’ve definitely given me something to think about!

Andrea Peddle
Andrea Peddle
May 06, 2021
Replying to

I’m actually in Newfoundland, Canada so I'm not sure if we have a service such as this but it’s worth looking in to! Cheers.

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