Zooming in: A great little telephoto lens for outdoor pix

Morro Bay sandspit, shot with Olympus 40-150mm micro four-thirds telephoto lens.
Morro Bay sandspit, shot with Olympus 40-150mm micro four-thirds telephoto lens.

Always seeking to lighten my load when hiking, backpacking or just traveling in general, I switched cameras from Panasonic Lumix (several over the years) to an Olympus OM-D E-M5 several years ago. The little Olympus is a mirrorless micro four thirds compact SLR that rivals full-size SLRs when it comes to image quality, and certainly beats them when it comes to weight. Although I loved my Lumix, I had a bad habit of breaking them, and was looking for something lightweight with interchangeable lenses.

Nearly two years later, I’m enjoying the Olympus, even though it’s not the most user-friendly camera in the world. I kind of don’t have the patience for all the dweeby programmable functions, so I end up mostly using the automatic settings. So far, I’m very pleased with the image quality and love the weather sealing (anticipating the next kayak dumping). It takes great landscape shots. The problem was the 12-50mm kit lens that came with the camera was just not enough magnification for wildlife and other outdoor subjects. Olympus with telephoto

Luckily, Santa/domestic partner gifted me with a kickin’ Olympus 40-150-mm telephoto for Christmas, and now that I’ve had several months to play with it, I’m very happy. The equivalent of 80-300mm in a 35mm, this little Olympus 40-150mm is small but mighty.

 

 

Pelican taken from a kayak on Morro Bay. Exposure 1/800 sec., f/8; ISO 200.
Pelican taken from a kayak on Morro Bay. Exposure: 1/800 sec., f/8, ISO 200.

The lens is fast and brings wildlife in close, capturing sharp images, and, at a compact 6.7 ounces, is super lightweight. I still can’t fit it in my pocket, like I could the Lumix, but I often keep it around my neck or slung across my shoulder, with very little added weight.

Not long after I got the camera, I bought a wide-angle 17mm Olympus pancake lens, which is great for landscapes, but doesn’t do much for zooming in on distant objects. I do love the landscape images I get with this wide-angle lens:

Cayucos pier, captured with Olympus 40-150mm micro four-thirds telephoto lens.
Cayucos pier, captured with Olympus 17mm micro four-thirds pancake lens. Exposure 1/640 sec., f/11, ISO 200.

Once I got the  little 40-150mm telephoto, it was time to start zooming in. I started with finches in my backyard:

Finches at feeder, taken from across the yard with the Olympic 40-150mm telephoto. Exposure: 1/450 sec., f 5.6, ISO 640.
Taken from across the yard with the Olympus 40-150mm telephoto. Exposure: 1/450 sec., f 5.6, ISO 640.

Then it was on to the Rose Parade:

Good detail of Rose Parade float.
Up close and personal Rose Parade float. Exposure: 1/640 sec., f/8, ISO 200.
Pretty sharp image of float.
Pretty sharp image of Disney Frozen float. Exposure: 1/500, f/8, ISO 200.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and I don't know who else, on L.A.'s float.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and I don’t know who else, on L.A.’s float. Exposure: 1/640 sec., f/9, ISO 200.
I think this was the always colorful and creative Trader Joe's float.
I think this was the always colorful and creative Trader Joe’s float. Exposure: 1/500 sec., f/8, ISO 200.

All in all, the Olympus OM-D M-5 is a great camera for shooting in the outdoors, and adding a compact telephoto lens provides sharp images without breaking (the compact) budget.

Is Olympus EM-5 the perfect outdoors camera?

View of the Alabama Hills and White Mountains taken with new Olympus E-M5.
View of the Alabama Hills and White Mountains taken with new Olympus E-M5.

My hunt for a new camera for outdoor pursuits ended recently when I (and my bank account) broke down and bought an Olympus EM-5 mirrorless camera. I’ve had it a few weeks now, and the switch from a point-and-shoot camera to one with interchangeable lenses has been eye-opening, to say the least.

Camera outsideI wanted to step up in image quality without sacrificing too much in weight and size, so decided mirrorless cameras were the way to go. Their sensors are smaller than those in DSLRs, and in a downsized body, but much bigger than those in compact cameras. And size matters when it comes to sensors and image quality. For all you camera tech geek wannabes, here’s a good explanation on micro four-thirds technology.

After a few weeks of research on sites like Digital Photography Review, I was frankly driving myself nuts. I narrowed it down to the Olympus OM-D cameras, and what eventually sealed the deal for me (along with a no-tax special at Samy’s Camera) was the EM-5’s splash- , dust- and freeze-proof weather sealing. My previous cameras have always managed to attract whatever environment they’re in — sand, water, dirt, dog hair — so I figured the extra bucks were worth it. We shall see.

So far, I’m very happy with the EM-5, but I haven’t ventured much beyond the automatic setting. I’ve played a bit with exposure compensation and the art filters, but I have a lot of studying to do on all the camera’s functions.

Mountains above Bishop Creek, using Olympus EM-5's diorama art filter setting.
Mountains above Bishop Creek, using Olympus EM-5’s diorama art filter setting.

My one rap on Olympus is the totally lame owner’s manual that came with the EM-5. The functioning of this camera isn’t exactly intuitive, a complaint I’d read about. Luckily an online FAQ from Olympus is providing some answers.

Camera bagThe Olympus came with a 12-50 mm telephoto, so I knew my old habit of shoving my camera in a pocket would be a thing of the past. Luckily REI was having a 20% off sale, so I picked up a fabulous new camera sling from Lowepro that worked out great on a recent trip to the Eastern Sierra.

 

 

 

 

Bag pocketThe sling has a zipped camera chamber that provides easy accessibility. And there are plenty of pockets for extra lenses, keys, wallet, water, etc. I was even able to fit the water bladder from my Camelback in the top of the pack.

Below are some more shots with the new Olympus from a recent trip we took to the Eastern Sierra right after Memorial Day:

Gardisky Lake, near Yosemite National Park, in early June.
Gardisky Lake, near Yosemite National Park, in early June.
Old cabin on Pine Creek Road, using the EM-5's sepia art filter.
Old cabin on Pine Creek Road, using the EM-5’s sepia art filter. A bit under-exposed.
Blue waiting patiently while her companions fly-fish at Bishop Creek.
Blue waiting patiently while her companions fly-fish at Bishop Creek.
Heading back south on Interstate 395.
Heading back south on Interstate 395.

Shameless self-promotion for “Take A Hike L.A.”

Book cover:frontWell, somebody’s gotta do it.

If you’re a hiker in the L.A. area and totally bored on a Monday night, stop by Distant Lands travel bookstore in Pasadena tonight at 7:30 p.m. for a talk and slideshow by yours truly on Moon Handbooks’ “Take A Hike Los Angeles.” Hey, the digital version is cheaper….I didn’t realize that!

Anyway, it’s 86 hikes within two hours of the City of Angles and I know you’ll enjoy it cuz it’s a super high, high quality guidebook with lots of great info and fab photos.

End of self-promotion. Enjoy!