Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Olympus 60mm F2.8 Macro Lens (for Micro Four Thirds cameras)

Once upon a time I wanted to try some macro photography. I bought the Olympus macro converter for the Olympus 45mm lens I already had. This is a great combination, I would recommend it for any beginner or anyone who'd like to get more out of their Olympus 45mm lens.

A couple of years passed and I found myself enjoying macro or close up photography more and more. Finally my wife did the kindest thing this past Christmas 2018, she gifted me the Olympus 60mm macro lens. Since then I have rarely removed it from my camera (Panasonic Lumix GX80).

In January, I started with the 60mm lens. Initially I found it a bit tricky because the weather was so gloomy and the lens itself is a little different sue to the focus limiting lever, more on this later. I have progressed as the weather has improved, now I feel like telling my story and tips for using this wonderful lens.


The lens itself
It is made of quality plastic with a metal mount. Olympus say it is splash proof, I haven't tested this but I presume it means it'll be fine with some light rain. It is a long thin design, this is ideal for macro as the lens is less likely to obscure the subject.

There is a special lever on the side of the lens, something you don't normally see. These are the lever positions:
1:1
0.19 to 0.4m
0.19 to infinity
0.4 to infinity

There is also a window with a gauge on the top showing the current setting.

Olympus 60mm F2.8 macro lens mounted on the Panasonic Lumix GX80

The purpose of the focus limit setting is to assist with auto-focus. It limits the auto-focus to a range, this makes it faster. This is important for a macro lens like this because the focusing range is unusually long. The gauge only shows the setting when you power on the camera. But of course the focus limiting lever can be changed even when the camera is powered off.

A lens cap is included but no lens hood. So far I have not had any need for one.


General photography
The 60mm is a macro lens but don't let that stop you from taking other photos with it too. It is a telephoto focal length, 60mm on Micro Four Thirds equates to 120mm in 35mm film terms. This works well for portraits. However, I have found it useful for shots of flowers, plants and other nature subjects. The field of view is tight but generally that is not an issue, just step further away from your subject.

In the botanical gardens I visit there are sometimes squirrels and having the ability to quickly change from macro to a long shot is very handy. It is the same for shots of flowers or photos with some context to them.

Tulips taken in context with the Olympus 60mm at f4

Before with my 45mm lens with macro converter, I had to pause and unscrew the converter to take a normal shot. It isn't a massive problem but it slowed me and sometimes I put my thumb on the converter lens by mistake adding a rather annoying smudge to it. The 60mm is definitely a step up from the 45mm + converter combo in convenience.

Ok, I must admit I can't get wide shots with the 60mm, it is tight, but there are always compromises.

The widest aperture is F2.8, not class leading for low light but still good enough if you don't have an alternative.

On the downside I would say the auto-focus of the 60mm is not as fast as the latest lenses. Mostly this is not an issue and certainly it isn't slow, it is just not lightning fast. The limiter lever helps but you must remember to change it. Often I forget and wonder why I can't focus!


Macro
True macro is 1:1 reproduction, this 60mm lens can do this. Having 1:1 means you can get very close, your subject will fill the frame, you will see all the details. For insects and plants it is ideal. It opens up a whole new world but it does require some patience to get good results.

Olympus 60mm macro at F8

Macro photography is tricky. The slightest movement of the camera and the focus will change and your photo will be out of focus. Also, you are so close to your subject the depth of field is so shallow that it is difficult to have very much of your subject in focus if you use the f2.8 (wide open). You must close down your aperture (increase the f-stop) but this means you need more light, on a sunny day that is ok but otherwise you may consider using flash or another light source.

Macro is a balancing trick. Pros seem to always use flash. I am not a Pro and I am not that comfortable with flash yet. My solution is to wait for the sun. With sunshine it is possible to get great macro shots. I often shoot macro at f5.6 or f8 when I can. Bright and interesting photographs are definitely possible. Be mindful of where the sun is, change your angle to get a shot without shadow from you, the lens or camera.

To help with stability you may use a tripod. In your house that is fine but when walking around outside, I am not a fan and I try to avoid tripods as much as possible as they are extra bulk to carry and fiddle about with.

My camera is the Panasonic GX80, it has 5-axis stabilisation built-in, it works very well with the 60mm lens. Most of my photos are handheld. Of course you can improve the stability by using techniques such as holding the camera against your body or stretching it out into the camera strap. Experiment and see what suits you best. In my case it varies.

For 1:1 macro I set the camera to manual focus. Don't leave it on auto because when you point it at a macro subject the auto-focus will hunt and drive you mad.

I suggest Aperture Priority mode. I found this best as often I want to change the f-stop. I have my ISO limit set so I don't worry about it.

Once you set your camera to A and manual focus, it is best to save your settings to a custom position. This is useful, you can quickly switch between macro and standard photography by turning your mode dial. Here's a good video on using the Custom Mode:

Once you have that set up set the lens lever forward to 1:1. Do not use the manual focus collar. Instead change focus by moving the camera in and out, closer or further from your subject. Parts of the image will come into focus. If you have focus peaking on it will help you know when to press the shutter. Sometimes pressing the shutter makes enough of a movement to blur your shot. If that happens to you, try the camera's silent mode, that's the electronic shutter and makes taking a shot very gentile. 

Set to 1:1, move the camera in and out until you get focus

I've also used the 4K Photo mode of my GX80. This is on all recent Panasonic cameras and it helps you capture the moment. With insects I've found it especially helpful. For example, use 4K S/S, position yourself, move in and out to get focus on a flower you've seen a bee on, when you see the bee in shot press the shutter button. Move in and out to try to get focus on the bee while it buzzes around. Hopefully you'll capture at least one or two moments. When you review the 4K Photo mini-video, you can extract the frames where the bee was in focus. It has focus peaking so it's easy to do.

Olympus 60mm macro at F5.6

The competition
The Olympus 60m macro is not a cheap lens but thankfully some shops have deals on this lens because it has been available for a few years now. There are cheaper alternatives to the 60mm. There are Olympus and Panasonic 30mm macro lenses available. I find the Panasonic 30mm especially attractive as it is often very reasonable and it has in dual image stabilisation, so it works in unison with the GX80 and similar cameras. I haven't used these 30mm lenses myself but I have see positive reviews of both. One thing to keep in mind with 30mm and macro is that you must get closer to your subject than if you were using the 60mm lens. If you are photographing insects this could be an important reason to spend the extra and get Olympus 60mm. Also, I have found the extra reach of the 60mm has been helpful to avoid shadows falling on the subject, from myself or elsewhere. The upside of the 30mm macro is that it is smaller and 30mm will be a much more versatile focal length if it is the only lens with you. It might be a more practical option especially as the 30mm price is often low (USD 300 approx.).

There is also the Panasonic 45mm macro lens. I have no first hand experience but from the reviews I have seen the Olympus 60mm is a better choice and it is cheaper.

Here is a video comparing all four of these macro lenses.
https://youtu.be/LSb9oSeEGII


Olympus macro converter
If you already own the Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens, I think the Olympus macro converter is worth a look. I have used it extensively. It is not a true 1:1 macro but it does get you very close, for flower shots it is perfect even with auto-focus. The macro converter costs around USD 100, if you already have the 45mm lens then this might be a good option for you. The following is an article I wrote specifically on the macro converter.



Extension tubes
This is the cheapest option for macro photography. I have the Meike extension tubes and they work ok. I say "ok" because it is always more work to get a good photo with extension tubes. But it is fun to play around with tubes and all the lenses you have. I have a Panasonic 35-100mm f4-5.6. with the extension tubes it works as a pretty good macro. But like I say, it takes longer, you must experiment to get a good shot.


Conclusion
I believe the Olympus 60mm is the best macro option for Micro Four Thirds. I enjoy using it because the results are excellent. This is the best way to get really close and even enter another world. It isn't cheap but on the other hand it is not super expensive either. It is well positioned for what it is. Do remember that it is a specialist lens so consider how much you like macro, maybe one of the 30mm alternatives would suit you better. However, from my experience in can assure you that you will not regret buying the Olympus 60mm macro lens.

If you'd like to see some more photos please visit my Instagram page here:
https://www.instagram.com/mgversion1/


Disclaimer
I have not received any remuneration for this blog article. This is just my opinion, nothing more. I take no responsibility for your choice or decisions. I am just trying to help here, that is all.








Friday, 23 November 2018

Excel - There are too many records to complete this operation

In Excel I was working with a pivot table. The following message popped up:
"There are too many records to complete this operation."



Solution
Click Analyze (or Options in Excel 2010)
Click Fields, Items & Sets
Click Solve Order

If you have something listed, it is probably causing the problem. Delete it, then try working with your pivot table again, all should be well.



NOTE: I've tested this with Excel 2013 but it should work the same way with other versions.



Sunday, 4 November 2018

Nokia 8 - The Underrated Flagship

I have been using the Nokia 8 for more than three months and I would like to share some of my thoughts and experience with this smartphone, as I truly feel it is underrated in many ways.


Background
HMD Global started selling Nokia branded phones in 2017. In September of that year they launched their first flagship, the Nokia 8. It had the latest internals, Ziess branded cameras, a premium metal body, innovative internal cooling system, QHD screen, 4k selfie video, Ozo surround audio recording and pure Android. The initial asking price was reasonable too, around the GBP 500 mark in the UK for example.

Here is a link listing the specs in full:
https://www.gsmarena.com/nokia_8-8522.php


Reviews
Despite the solid specs the reviews I saw on YouTube were mostly subdued. My impression in general was that the Nokia 8 was seen as moderate, not exciting. Perhaps because at the time 18:9 screens were all the rage and the Nokia 8 has the more traditional 16:9 screen with large top and bottom bezels. The bezels were criticised by reviewers but it interesting to note that at the same time Apple released the iPhone 8 with similar bezels and few complained about those.

Also many reviewers were not happy with the Nokia 8's camera performance. The camera software at launch was basic and uninspired.

At that time there was one review I watched, from Dmir Frank, that was more positive in general, here is a link:
https://youtu.be/O1Pl_J7dydU
That particular reviewer tends to look at the overall package and perhaps that's why he saw potential where others did not.


Bargain
In the summer of 2018 I bought the Nokia 8 for CHF 333 (approx. USD 330, EUR 300, GBP 250). That is a big discount on the original asking price. Basically I got a flagship for the cost of a midrange phone.


Handling
After three months I can sum up the Nokia 8 as, excellent. Of course it might not be for you, smartphones are very personal but here is my experience based on my subjective needs.

When you pick up the Nokia 8 it feels right. It is not a big phone but it isn't small either. The edges of the phone are curved and the phone body is thin, made of a premium metal. These factors definitely contribute to the feel of the in-hand feel. It is well built, the metal back rather than the currently more popular glass, gives the phone a more reliable, 'Nokia' quality.


Case
I prefer to protect my smartphone so I bought a Dux Ducis leather flip case. It looked great and had a nice feel. However, there were two problems with this case: 
1) there was plastic covering the power and volume buttons, making it difficult to use. You had to really push hard to use the buttons. 
2) the case allows for you to stand your phone to watch movies in landscape but it kept slipping. For these two reasons I do not recommend the Dux Ducis flip case.

Next I bought a simple back case, the Mattes Plastik Softcase. It has cut-outs for the buttons and fits the Nokia 8 perfectly. What's more, it does not add much to the size and feel of the phone. The texture is nice too, it is silky but still grippy. I am really happy with this case.

Nokia 8 with Mattes Plastik Softcase and neoprene pouch

The Nokia 8 power and volume buttons in the Mattes Plastik Softcase

It is just a back case though, I don't like screen protectors so I decided for some added protection to get a neoprene pouch. I bought a cheap one off eBay, I asked for the one to fit the Samsung Note 4. It's big enough to fit my Nokia 8 and plastic case. In total this solution was a little cheaper than the Dux Ducis case so it just goes to show that the best solutions don't have to cost extra. Well, in my case I did waste my money on the Dux Ducis case though :-(


Screen
The screen is beautiful. The picture is crisp and bright under nearly all conditions. The auto-brightness works well. At 5.3" it is a good size and with the classic 16:9 ratio YouTube videos fill the screen.


Navigation
The bottom bezel has the navigation keys and home button that doubles as the fingerprint reader. I like this, the buttons do not take any space on the screen. The fingerprint reader is a bit of a narrow shape, it takes a bit of getting used to but it is fast. Having it on the front means you can unlock the phone without having to pick it up.


Battery
The battery lasts me all day. I often have 30 or even 40% left at the end of the day. Of course this varies, if I use YouTube a lot, it will drain faster. The Nokia 8 will fast charge with the supplied charger. I have been impressed with how fast it charges, after just a few minutes you are up from 20 to a more usable 40% for example.


Software
The software is plain Android, no extras apart from the camera app. There are no bells or whistles, the software just works. I thought I might miss some advanced features but I don't, it feels fresh. Security updates come every month, this gives some peace of mind when we hear about so many exploits. 

It is not part of the Android One programme. However, HMD have been good with updates so far, at least another year of updates should hit my Nokia 8.


Cameras
I don't take many photos with my smartphone but when I have, I have no complaints. The Nokia 8 does a good job. The live bokeh mode works surprisingly well for example.

Nokia 8 Live Bokeh photo example


The Bothie mode, called Dual-sight is fun to use. You can take photos using front and back cameras at once. The selfie front facing camera is 13 mega-pixels and has auto-focus. The video is where I feel the Nokia 8 shines because it has 4k back and front. The back camera has OIS which does a pretty good job of smoothing out the action. The audio is exceptional due to the surround sound recording from three mics. You can even choose the mic you want to use, for selfies use only the front facing mic, for example.

In the reviews from 2017 often the Nokia 8 camera app was criticized. Thankfully it has since been updated and is way better. Manual control is now included. I have also used OpenCamera, it works well with the Nokia 8.


Down-points
The bezels are large. There is no notification light, meaning you must turn the phone on to check for notifications. This doesn't bother me too much as I have a Gear S3 smart watch so I see notifications there. But still, it would've been better if there was a notification light.


Conclusion
I really enjoy using the Nokia 8. It is a solid phone. It has a headphone jack, expandable memory, an excellent screen, smooth performance, clean software that is updated regularly and it feels great to hold it. All these factors plus the price I paid mean that I feel it was the best choice. I highly recommend the Nokia 8. In more general terms I would recommend when looking for a new smartphone, take a look at last year's flagships, there may be a bargain to be had.


Disclaimer
These are all my own views. No one paid me and I am just writing this article in case it helps others. If you don't agree or had a different experience, that's OK. Feel free to write in the comments below.