My Move To Mirrorless Cameras from DSLR's

Hi and thank you for dropping by, as a note to bride and grooms reading this, it is more of a blog post for photographers but feel free to enjoy the photos and ignore my ramblings.

UPDATE: Added some new photos from recent shoots. 

So, the photographers amongst you have probably found this because you are curious about the mirrorless Olympus EM1 camera system and possibly asking yourself if they are good enough to be used by professional wedding photographers? Well, spoiler alert, in my opinion yes they most definitely are! I am speaking with an increasing number of wedding photographers that are considering moving to a mirrorless system but are not sure if its feasible. I have included the answers below to the most common questions. Please accept my apology, this is going be quite wordy. All is not lost though, there will be some photos to accompany the endless paragraphs.

Wedding photo using olmypus EM1

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Pre wedding shoot using EM1

Pre wedding shoot throwing leaves

So to start, some background about me and my journey from Nikon to Canon and onto Olympus. I started shooting full-time and professionally eight years ago and had always used Nikon bodies which ended with me buying a D4, fast primes, 2.8 zooms and numerous SB900 flashes. So why did I move to Canon? Simple really, I wanted a smaller, lighter and more cost effective camera and Nikon did not have a body to match my needs (this is pre D750, in fact if the D750 was available at this time, I probably wouldn't have moved to Canon) so I decided to move over to the 5D3.

Don't get me wrong, the D4 is an incredible camera and the low light capabilities are simply incredible but I always had in the back of my mind that it was just ever so slightly over kill for the way I photograph weddings. Kind of a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. The Canon 5D3 proved to be a great replacement for the D4 and suited my shooting style and wants from a camera pretty much perfectly, as this was mainly about weight saving I shot primes 95% of the time. The lens lineup I used was the Sigma 35mm 1.4 (amazing lens!!), 50mm 1.4, 85mm 1.8 and the 135mm f2 (incredible portrait lens).

Asian wedding photography

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pre wedding shooting the Olympus EM1

Bridal portrait using ice light

So all was good in the world of Chris, great camera and fantastic glass, that was until..................................I started investigating this new fangled technology that went under the guise of mirrorless!!

Please bear in mind I am not a professional reviewer and I have no affiliation to Olympus or any other manufacturer for that matter, the following is just my personal opinions having used the EM1’s for 2 winter weddings and a pre wedding shoot.

I absolutely love what I do, photographing weddings ticks all the boxes for me but if there was one thing I could change, it would be the weight and bulk of the equipment I have to use. Although being happy with the Canon, it was still kind of a bulky setup, this is when I first decided to try out an Olympus EM1. Partly to see what all the fuss was about and partly hoping that I wouldn't like it and could continue teasing mirrorless shooters about their ‘toy cameras’. Well it turned out to be a bit of a revelation to be honest!! I didn't just like the EM1, it appeared to be pretty much my perfect camera! I say pretty much as nothing is perfect and I will cover this later on. Just to note the only mirrorless I had used before the EM1 was the Fuji X100 and the EVF was horrible, laggy and dark. The EM1 was bright, fast and a world away from what I had used in the past.

At this point its probably a good idea to quickly run through the MFT format and how it affects aperture and focal length. A 42.5mm F1.2 MFT lens will give the following in 35mm equivalent, 85mm and F2.4. So you can see the focal length and aperture are doubled however the F number can be a little confusing. That 42.5mm 1.2 MFT lens will have a 35mm equiv. focal length of 85mm, the 35mm equiv. depth of field would be 2.4 but the light gathering capability is f1.2. So you have a lens that sucks in allot of light but you don't have the super shallow depth of field normally associated with shooting at F1.2 for example, more on this in the questions below. 

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bride and groom sat on a bech by lake

bride and groom covered in leaves

Bride and groom with lanterns

My Current Setup

Two EM1’s

Both gripped updated with the latest V4.0 firmware

Voigtlander Nokton 17.5mm F0.95

The build quality is stunning and optics to match. Its manual focus but with focus peaking it makes it very easy to get tack sharp images.

Olympus 12-40mm F2.8

The bread and butter 24-70 (equiv.) for allot of wedding photographers. Very sharp and weatherproof

Panasonic 35-100mm F2.8

The bread and butter 70-200 (equiv.) for allot of wedding photographers. Very sharp and weatherproof

Panasonic 42.5mm F1.2

Possibly the best portrait lens for MFT at the moment in my opinion. Its a little heavier most MFT lenses but balances well with the gripped EM1. The bokeh and sharpness of this lens has to be seen to be believed. Another awesome portrait lens is the Olympus 75mm 1.8 although with the crop factor its nearer a 150mm in 35mm equiv. so a little long for a go to lens.

4 Yongnuo YN568EXII

All used in manual mode

1 Metz 44 AF-1

TTL flash for on camera use

1 Nissin i40

TTL flash for on camera use

5 YN 622’s

Triggers used to fire the Yongnuo flashes

2 Godox AD360’s

I love this flashes! Amazing power in a very small package, the battery life is also fantastic.

1 LED strip light

Before moving to the EM1, I used LED’s but not all that much. Now I have the benefit of an EVF, I am using them allot more. Going back to an earlier point, being able to see the shot as it will look before you press the shutter is brilliant, saves time with trial and error and pretty much eliminates the need to chimp 

Wedding car rolls royce driving down the road

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Bride and groom by christmas tree

Wedding shoes

What do I like about the Olympus EM1?

* Size and weight - its tiny and weighs a fraction of my old DSLR setups! It has alleviated that feeling of having run a marathon the day after shooting a a 14 hour wedding.

* Cost - The Olympus MFT system is more cost effective than its DSLR cousins.

* EVF - This had been the biggest change for me and the largest plus point I think. Seeing the image as it will look before you press the shutter is very powerful. It has reignited my creativity and already I am having ideas for shoots that wouldn't have occurred to me whilst shooting with a DSLR. WYSIWYG, What You See Is What You Get 

* IBIS, having 4-5 stop stabilisation for any lens I put on the EM1 is fantastic. Any lens new or old, it will benefit from the stabilisation.

* Focus points - There a ton of them! Well 81 to be precise. They spread pretty much all the way across the screen, fast and accurate. Being able to resize the individual points and then clusters is also a massive plus.

* EVF Information - I always used to use the highlight blinkies in playback when shooting Nikon and Canon. With the EM1 I can now see the shadow and highlight blinkies in real time whilst composing the photo! Another feature is being able to zoom in like you can in Liveview with DSLR’s but again whilst composing the image through the viewfinder, this makes precise focus very easy in any situation.

* Focus Peaking - I have never considered a manual focus lens before for weddings but focus peaking has changed all that. Even shooting with the Voigtlander Nokton 17.5mm at f1.0 is a breeze.

* Live comp - Kind of like a bulb mode but after the initial exposure it will only add new light in the frame, i.e. fireworks, sparklers or a torch. I am looking forward to shooting more in the coming months with this feature mainly for nighttime portraits. I shot a test photo using this last week (below) to see how it worked, its not the best photo in the world but it gave me a better idea of settings.

Test shot using 20 second exposures over a period of 2hr45min. The tree appears blurry as I used flash during and at the end of the exposure, a schoolboy error to be honest. 

star trails shot with EM1 live comp mode

* Silent shutter - Pretty self explanatory :)

* Splash proof - Its not often we have to work in the rain as wedding photographers but good to know you can be out in all weather including sub zero if you are brave enough.

* Tilting screen - This is the first camera I have owned with a tilt screen and to be honest I didn't think I would use it but as time goes on I find myself using it more and more.

* Firmware updates - Olympus have released a few firmware updates for the Em1 so far and not just bug fixes but adding feature sets, the most recent included silent shooting, 1/16000th shutter speed, focus stacking and focus bracketing. Great to see a manufacturer doing this rather than re badging the existing camera, adding the extra features and then putting it on sale.

Bridal preparation

bride and groom sat in chair

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asian bride and groom walking

page boy standing by doorway

Onto the questions!!!

The first question I have when I tell photographers I use EM1’s is, ‘aren't they rubbish in low light?’ Well yes and no, if you shoot and think of them as a DSLR, the results will obviously not be as clean as a DSLR but the EM1 has a great trick up it sleeve, In Body Image Stabilisation or IBIS! My thought process on this was simple, when do I actually HAVE to shoot at higher ISO’s throughout a wedding day? The answer for me was services held in a church, this is really the only part of the day where we as photographers cannot control the light i.e. flashes or hot lights. Then if you break it down from there, the only part of a church service where the people are moving is when the bride walks down the aisle. In short, we can use slower shutter speeds as 99% of the service will have your subjects standing or sitting perfectly still. This is where the IBIS comes into its own, because it is in body, any lens I attach to the EM1 will have 5 axis stabilisation which means I can shoot down to crazy slow shutter speeds with pin sharpness and keeping my ISO very low. I can easily take photos at 200mm (35mm equiv) around 1/30th Second!

Keeping the ISO low is also possible due to the fast glass available for the olympus cameras. my 42.5mm panasonic is F1.2 (35mm equiv 85mm) and my Voigtlander Nokton 17.5mm is f/0.95 (35mm equiv 35mm). So super fast lenses and IBIS combined means that I very rarely push my ISO at all. The first time I shot the Voigtlander at f1.0 and 1/15th second, the results were staggering to say the least! I have found the IBIS gives around 4-5 stops of stabilisation.

‘You cant get a shallow depth of field with micro four thirds (MFT)’ This is simply not true, agreed it is not as shallow as full frame can potentially be but absolutely usable, again its the way you shoot more than anything else i.e. focal length, distance from subject and your chosen aperture. The super fast apertures I mentioned earlier are kind of a double edged sword. In darker environments they work amazingly well as you get the light sucking capability of a F1.2 lens but the DOF of a 2.4 lens, great! This means that more of your shots will be in focus even at f1.2 or even f1.0! When used outside though in order to give yourself the best chance of a shallow DOF you need to shoot as wide open as possible. This obviously poses an issue, shooting outside in sunshine at f1.2 as your shutter speeds will sky rocket. In this scenario if a shallow depth of field is essential, I have purchased a variable ND which can bring the shutter speeds down to a usable range.

‘Isn't the battery life really bad?’ This is one of the areas I was most surprised about. I shoot an average 2-3K photos at a wedding. Using the grip so 2 batteries in each camera, I can shoot pretty much the whole day without changing. I may need to change the batteries at the evening reception but this isn't an issue for me. It would be great to see a grip that housed one big battery though or maybe two smaller ones and the option of none in the camera itself so you didn't have to unscrew the grip when changing batteries. 

I mentioned earlier that there was no perfect camera and the olympus EM1 is no exception, it is very close to it for my shooting style and want I need from a camera system. There are however some points that I think would get it that little bit closer to perfection :)

bride and groom laughing pre wedding shoot

Asian wedding dancing

What I would like to see in the EM1’s successor;

* Illuminated buttons. The EM1 has a few features i.e. live comp that make it great for nighttime and astro photography, being able to see key buttons in the dark would be great.

* Olympus to release some fast primes, I have heard rumors this maybe in the pipeline, if so I cant wait to start using them!

* A larger battery or a grip that can house 2 batteries so that you don't have to unscrew the grip from the body to change batteries.

* A joystick to adjust the focus points around or keep the D pad but raise it from the body slightly so it is a little more pronounced and easier to find with your thumb.

* Dual SD cards, this isn't a must have but I think it would be a great addition. Having been used to dual cards for so long this was a big factor at first with me moving over completely to the EM1’s. My method for shooting single cards is to buy the very best quality cards possible, use large capacity cards so you don't ever have to take them out of the camera and import photos to the computer using a USB lead directly into the camera. My thought process is, there is probably more chance of a card being damaged, lost or stolen by continually swapping cards mid shoot than using a high quality single card.

* A memory function to remember what focus point you last used in portrait and landscape orientation, the 5D3 has this and its a really good feature for portrait/wedding photographers.

* The optional Olympus EP-13 eye cup is made from very stiff plastic, would be great to have a softer version more like a hoodman eye cup

* If you shoot with Auto ISO in aperture or shutter priority and then go into manual and turn it off, it will stay off when you go back into aperture/shutter priority. Would be good to be able to turn it off in manual but leave it on for other shooting modes. EDIT: Thank you to an Olympus user on Facebook for letting me know this is indeed possible via the menu. Menu E, the last option on the page (ISO-AUTO)

* Spot Metering to be linked the AF point rather than only the centre portion of the images.

* Have the WiFi on/off from the quick menu, I personally do not have the touchscreen active so to enable it, i have to first turn on the touchscreen function and then turn on WiFi and then the same in reverse once I finish.

* Currently when you update the firmware it erases all of your settings, this is a pain and I would think easily fixed.

* More development for off camera flash, its quite limited at the moment to say the least.

Like to see more photos? Here is a link to a pre wedding shoot I shot, the weather was against us but we didn't let that deter us.

Well thats it, my thoughts on the EM1 and my transition from DSLR’s to MFT. If you have any questions that I have not covered, please feel free to leave a comment and I will try and help.

Thanks for dropping by!