Without those pesky kids around during the day, I can finally knock out a few longer posts that I’ve been sitting on for months. First, a post I know Billy is looking forward to: a summary of my adventures with my new camera.
To reset, I purchased an Olympus OM-D EM–10 back in May. It is the first “real” camera I have ever owned, with “real” meaning one that offers full manual control and interchangeable lenses.
In the nearly four months since the camera arrived, I’ve probably taken more pictures than I’ve taken in the past couple years combined. Part of that is just me taking pictures more often. Another part is me taking 10–15 shots for every one or two I used to take. I learned quickly to take as many shots as I could get of a particular scene and then hope that one of the dozen or so would look good when I got home and reviewed them.
Since I was starting from basically zero in my photography knowledge, I did a ton of reading in the first couple months I owned the camera. I learned about aperture sizes, shutter speeds, and ISO settings. I learned about the different modes on the camera and which one served which needs the best. I really enjoyed this part of my new hobby but admit that I don’t always retain the knowledge the best. Or rather I should say that I can’t always recall the information when I’m out shooting. “What was it I read about aperture size and shutter speed when shooting action in mid-day sun?” Because of that, I tend to lean on the Program mode of my camera, letting it pick most of the settings for me. Or I try either aperture or shutter priority modes first, then flip back to P and let the camera decide so I can compare when I get home. I’m still learning how to select the best possible setting from frame one.
And I have a bad habit of turning on my camera and beginning to shoot without checking my settings from the last time I used it. For example, on the first day of school, I took a bunch of shots of the girls and when I reviewed, they looked terrible. That’s when I realized the camera was still set up to shoot quickly in bright sunshine rather than inside in morning light. A couple tweaks and I finally got some decent shots to put in the albums.
Something else I discovered quickly was that photography can be a real money pit. Even starting with a camera that is considered a pretty fantastic combination of capabilities at a reasonable cost, you can get sucked into spending a lot of money on glass. My camera came with a basic 14–42mm kit zoom lens. It took OK pictures, but I knew I needed to upgrade. I quickly added an 40–150mm lens that would be better for snapping the girls at their sporting events.
Shortly after that I rented a 30mm prime lens that wasn’t terribly fast (f/2.8), but was awfully affordable. I really enjoyed the pictures I took in the two weeks I had it, but I ended up going with a 17mm lens I found fairly cheap on eBay. I was really interested in doing casual street photography and this focal length hit that desire just about perfectly. Again, not a super fast lens (also f/2.8), but one that seemed like a good starting point.
I shot with that lens most of the summer and began to get frustrated with some of the results I got from it. I looked long and hard at getting a much nicer Olympus prime lens, either a 25mm or 45mm f/1.8 lens. In the end, I decided to save money and buy a refurbished version of the 30mm lens I had used earlier in the summer, selling my kit lens to finance it. The new lens arrived last week and I’m anxious to get to work with it. So now I have 17mm and 30mm primes and the 40–150mm zoom. No high-end glass in there, but that’s a solid assortment for someone learning my way around photography. I’m confident that 45mm lens will join the collection at some point down the road.
But what about the photography itself? Since most of my pictures have been of the girls, I can’t share them here, of course. But, at a minimum, I’m definitely getting better pictures of them for use in future calendars, albums, and so on. Thus I’ve met my goal for making the investment.
There’s more to it than just taking pics of the kids, though. I take my camera with me just about every time we go out to do something and try to get pics of interesting buildings, signs, or people. I’m working hard to learn how to get the right focus points, frame the photo in a cool way, and so on so I’m not just taking another picture of a building that’s been photographed thousands of times. I’ve also done the obligatory Lego photo sessions, when I can use the tiny plastic toys to play around with focal points and depth of field. I never understood why there were so many pictures of Lego figures on the Internet until I got my camera. Now it makes sense!
My only disappointment is that I have not mastered the birthday photo yet. The lighting in our house has always made birthday pics tough. I’ve had two chances so far, and on both birthdays my pics have been subpar. I have a hard time getting the balance between allowing enough light into the camera and taking the photos quick enough to capture moving kids. Hopefully I can get that down soon.
I’m also trying to simply get comfortable having a camera and shooting often. There’s a certain casualness that I think good photographers have. They aren’t drawing attention to themselves when they are shooting. They can get candid pictures of people without their subjects looking posed or awkward. I still feel a little weird sometimes when I put the camera to my eye and start to capture images. That will pass in time, I’m sure.
So, bottom line, I’m happy with my investment. For a starter camera, I highly recommend the EM–10. It is soooo much smaller and lighter than the Nikon and Canon DSLRs many people start with. And when you’re trying to move up from smartphone photography, I think that is a huge deal. Is it better than a DSLR? That’s a matter of opinion and not worth arguing about. I was awfully close to buying a Nikon, after all. I’m enjoying the self-education process and look forward to my pictures getting even better. And, as a bonus, my desire to get pictures in a variety of locations has us looking at new places to go visit on weekends.
Here are a few fun pics I’ve taken over the past four months. None of them are great, but they’re something to share, I guess. I can’t wait until I can look at a scene and immediately see what the interesting photo will be rather than just snapping a weird looking tree and hoping it turns out as a keeper. One goal for the fall is to put non-kid pics like these online in some kind of gallery. When I get to that point, I’ll let you know where to look.
- For you photo gearheads out there, the EM–10 has a 2x crop factor, meaning as a 35mm equivalent, you double the values of its lenses. So the 14–42mm has a 35mm equivalent of 28–84mm. I hope I’ve confused a lot of you, because I had no idea what any of that meant four months ago. ↩