Monday, February 27, 2017

Shooting ALYA WTA Malaysian Open 2017 With Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO Lens

It was a working Saturday for me, with a basic photography workshop conducted by me (if there is any chance the attendee of that workshop is visiting this page, thanks, and welcome!) and I was attending a friend's wedding in the evening, and that effectively left me only Sunday for shutter therapy. I wanted to do something differently, and Van suggested that we shoot an on-going ALYA WTA Malaysian Open at TPC, Kuala Lumpur, which was an official WTA tennis tournament. Being a tennis fan myself, and having the possibilities to try out my own Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II for sports shooting, I thought why not?

The gear on the table

Surely, it was a Sunday, so the gang met up and took it slow, starting with overpriced coffee and filling our stomachs with good food, before we went under the gruesome grilling Malaysia sun for the rest of the afternoon. We went to a nice cafe, The Good Batch suggested by Robert and we had our brunch there, which was not too far from where the tennis tournament was. I had poached eggs and slices of salmon with some fancy dressing and like all ordinary Asians we spent way too much time photographing our food before we ate them.


Flat White

This plate is called Norwegian. 

Sim's big breakfast platter with Robert's sexy looking OM-10

So why use E-M10 Mark II for tennis shooting?

Well, basically all the E-M1 Mark II cameras are out of the office at this moment, loaned to our dealers, photographers and media people. Also, I would like to challenge the popular perception that you need to use high end photography equipment to be able to shoot good sports photographs. You know, like the 1DX Mark II and D5, or at least the 7D Mark II or D500, and anything less, especially most camera options from the mirrorless are less superior and will not be able to sufficiently perform in serious sports photography. The main reason DSLR has an advantage is the use of phase-detect autofocus, which allows much better continuous focusing capabilities than contrast detect AF in most mirrorless cameras. Of course, there are exceptions, higher end mirrorless cameras such as Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, Fujifilm X-T2 and Sony A6500 all have built in phase detect AF system for better continuous AF performance. 

If you are a professional sports photographer, or earning money directly from sports and action photography, you should probably know what you are doing and have your own set of cameras and lenses. You have your own expectations when it comes to gear performance. However, how many of us are actually sports photographers? Like many of the readers who come to this blog, I myself, am a photo-enthusiast, not a professional photographer, and I rarely do shoot sports.Why should I be spending that much money for pure camera performance that I rarely need? Is it true that lower level DSLR or mirrorless cameras will not be able to deliver good enough results, even for the purpose of shooting just for the fun of shooting? How bad can modern cameras be that, after years and years of technological improvement, are there really bad cameras out there these days?

Therefore, I decided not to use E-M1 Mark II (ok ok, it was not available, I was making excuses, heh), or E-M1, and stayed with my humble E-M10 Mark II. E-M10 Mark II, E-M5 Mark II and PEN-F were criticized for not having good enough continuous focusing, and some websites can be cruel in pointing this out. I chose the M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens and tested the performance of this combo the whole Sunday afternoon, and I got sun-burnt for that. 

Weapon of choice for the day, Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens






Dalila Jakupović

Anna Kalinskaya

Anna Kalinskaya






Before I write down my thoughts and observations from this shoot, let me clarify that I am not a sports shooter, and I do not have enough experience to give meaningful advice for professional sports photography. I shall not pretend that I can do sports photography, and my conclusion is only based on this short 4 hours shooting session. I am writing from a photography enthusiast's point of view, someone who frequently shoots street photography (and sometimes landscape, portraits and insect macro) but would love to in rare occasions shoot sports, using own, available tools. Therefore, this blog entry is composed to explore the possibilities of using my E-M10 Mark II, as a hobbyist, and show what kind of photographs this camera can take in real life, sports events.

Here are the technical information from this particular tennis shooting session:
Aperture Priority - Set to the widest, F2.8 when using 40-150mm F2.8 lens alone, and F4 when using the MC-14 teleconverter.
ISO 200 when under direct harsh, sunlight, and when it got cloudy much later in the afternoon, ISO400 to maintain fast enough shutter speed.
Single-AF mode, with focusing point fixed at the center.
Burst Sequential continuous shooting, initially I used 11 frames per second (electronic shutter) and after seeing some strange distortion I used 8.5 frames per second (mechanical shutter)
Metering was set to Evaluative/Pattern with exposure compensation dialed down at -0.7 or -1.0 EV
I shot everything in RAW, came home with about 3500 images from a 4 hours shooting
I used the ECG-3 external grip on E-M10 Mark II at all time (MUST HAVE!!!)

I did not use Continuous AF, because, obviously, it will not do well enough to track the fast moving tennis players. However, most people underestimated the blazing speed of Single-AF, and the focusing can be locked on almost instantaneously when you half-press the shutter button. Taking advantage of this blistering speed (you got to use this to understand, just half-press and then quickly shoot), I can still get away with very high hit rate when I was shooting subjects in motion. I am not saying that this is good enough to substitute true potential of Continuous AF, I agree Continuous AF is needed for professionals to get the best possible shot. As I mentioned, I am not a professional, and honestly, that Single AF worked wonderfully well that I am able to show all these photographs taken in this blog entry!

The shooting with the E-M10 Mark II and 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens was a revelation. People often complained that using the Electronic Viewfinder, there would be some lag between what is seen through EVF and real life. I experienced no such thing. I could effectively followed the actions and movements of the tennis players, quickly composed and executed my shots, with no noticeable delays. The shutter lag was minimal, and the camera reacted to my press of shutter button almost instantaneously. I performed short bursts (I did not hold down the shutter button for too long, maybe just for 2-3 seconds at one time), and everything went well efficiently. The camera operation was speedy and smooth, and I did not observe any issues at all during the shoot.

The biggest drawback of E-M10 Mark II, is probably the limited burst sequential shooting speed of 8.5 frames per second mechanical shutter. I tried using the 11 frames per second electronic shutter but got away with some weird distortions and warping. 8.5 frames per second is just not fast enough, and how I wish I had the 18 frames per second of E-M1 Mark II, or even 60 frames per second when shooting with Single-AF! It was no easy task to capture the tennis ball "sticking" on the tennis racket, or within the same frame as the tennis player. Once the burst of 8.5 frames per second started, I could only pray that one of the frames will successfully capture that perfect pose, or decisive shot.

Another technical limitation of E-M10 Mark II worth mentioning, is the maximum mechanical shutter speed of 1/4000sec. Under bright tropical sun, it was not fast enough to balance the exposure if I want to shoot with the widest aperture at F2.8, and I found that 1/8000sec is just nice. I did get some overexposed image, but still recoverable via RAW processing.


Tereza Martincova

Tereza Martincova

Tereza Martincova

Tereza Martincova

Su Jeong Jang

Su Jeong Jang

Su Jeong Jang

Su Jeong Jang

Tereza Martincova

Tereza Martincova

Tereza Martincova

Su Jeong Jang


Now the big question: Am I happy with these shots I took at the Malaysian Open? Absolutely yes.

In fact the E-M10 Mark II performed above my expectations, and that could probably be also due to the amazing telephoto lens M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO. I managed to shoot many in-focus, perfectly sharp, action shots of the tennis players in action. I acknowledge that E-M10 Mark II is NOT the best camera for sports photography, we have established (in my extensive E-M1 Mark II review) that the new E-M1 Mark II is superior and has greater prowess for sports photography. That does not mean if you use lower level cameras you should feel inadequate or less confident in getting the shots. For hobbysts, you do not have a client and why do you worry or beat yourself up if you do not get the shots? Just go out and shoot and have more faith in your camera! Believe in yourself and you never know, these shots from less powerful cameras can actually be more meaningful to you at the end of the day, because you put more effort in them and you do your best to maximize the camera's potential!

One extremely important factor that ensures the success of sports photography, is to understand the game. I was a tennis player (I stopped playing about 8 years ago) and I followed the ATP and WTA tour updates religiously. Knowing the mechanics of the game can help you strategize your shots better. For example, most of time, before executing a backhand or forehand, the player will take a short pause (footing is extremely important) before taking a swing, and that momentary pause is the cue to lock my single-AF, before machine-gunning my shots subsequently. Predicting the movements of the players will also aid in anticipation on where the framing will be.

Su Jeong Jang

Tereza Martincova
Malaysian sun can be really punishing, if you are not conditioned for extremely humid and hot weather.

Su Jeong Jang

Su Jeong Jang

Tereza Martincova


 
Van Liguthom, Sim and Me




Are there any Micro Four Thirds shooters out there, using Olympus or Panasonic cameras for sports? Do share your experience, I want to hear from you!


36 comments :

  1. Hello Mr. Wong, thank you for sharing your interesting article and spectacular shots.
    I use my E-M5 and E-M1 (+ mainly 45 and 75/1.8, 12-40 and 40-150/2.8) to shoot aikido, (aikido is not sport, but martial art :-) ). In the past I used to shoot judo.
    For me the key is "One extremely important factor that ensures the success of sports photography, is to understand the game". I was practicing judo and now I do aikido.
    I even rarely use sequential shooting ... ("why do you worry or beat yourself up if you do not get the shots?").
    Best regards, Petr Karlach

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    1. Hi Petr,
      Thanks for the kind comments! I agree with you, the most important thing is knowing the game!

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  2. Hello Robin, I have been following your blog since a few months and really enjoy your posts. I bought my E-M1 (MK I) pretty close after it was released. Most of my photography is related to shoot Basketball pics as my kids have a passion to chase the orange ball. As Basketball is an indoor sport I have to deal with various light conditions from bright to (almost..) low light. Being able to take my pictures from the side line of the field I use the Oly 40-150 2.8 pro lens, when it comes down to low light conditions I use the 45 1.8. With both lenses I can achieve very good action pics. Before I moved to E-M1 I used a Canon 7D. I was really exited when I compared the quality of indoor action pics proving that the switch from 7D to E-M1 was the right move. BR Mario

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    1. Hey Mario, Thanks for the kind compliments, and thanks for following this blog.
      I am very pleased to know that the E-M1 Mark II is performing up to your expectations! Indeed when shooting indoors the F1.8 lenses would help greatly. I am sure you have had some amazing shots!

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  3. HI Robin, as usual this is a very informative blog that honestly points out the strengths and shortcomings of the gear that you are using. I would really pleased to have shots like those. I am contemplating the F2.8 PRO for my OMD 10 II and this review has helped a great deal. Keep up the good work. Tom Walsh

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    1. Hey Tom, the 40-150mm F2.8 lens is a must have for sports photography! I am sure it will serve you well.

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  4. Hi Robin,

    I am a micro 4/3 shooter. I had the chance to start with EPL5 double kit, then i had an EP5 with 17 1.8 ( i bought this at a very cheap price) and now I have an em 10 mark II.

    I had the occasion to shoot a Volley ball game indoor using the 45 mm f1.8 and i had a lot of great shots. Being able to stay under ISO 1600 allowed me to get decent quality and sharp pictures using single autofocus. since Volley Ball is predictable in terms of focus area it wa not an issue and the camera focus almost instantly on subject. (the shutter speed was set between 1/100 to 1/400 of a second depending on the light).

    I would love the Em1 mark II but I came to micro 4/3 for size and price and quality and the price is deffinitely too high ( The fuji xt20 is less than half the price, even the xt2 is 600 lower) so thank you to talk about more modest cameras like the OMD 10 that is really a Gem of a camera.

    Eric

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    1. Hey Eric,

      I would not compare the XT20 against the E-M1 Mark II, they are two completely different cameras. X-T2 is closer to what the E-M1 Mark II can do, but then again E-M1 Mark II has many unique features (5-Axis IS, Pro Capture mode, 60 frames per second shooting, etc). It all comes down to whether you need those features, and if you do not, the E-M10 Mark II or even the E-P5 would deliver great results!

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  5. Hi Robin,
    Thanks as always for posting such informative information. Am I correct to assume that the E-M5 Mark ll which I own along with the 40-150 Pro lens would have given you similar results and that only the E-M1 and the E-M1 Mark ll would have given you more keepers?

    Also did you use a monopod like the others in your sunburned group were using in your pictures? If no, was there a reason why they did and you did not?

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    1. Hey Robert,

      E-M5 Mark II should deliver better results than E-M10 Mark II, because of the following reasons: 1/8000sec mechanical shutter speed (vs 1/4000sec), 10 fps sequential burst (vs 8.5 fps), and also the camera should be operating faster than E-M10 Mark II.

      While the 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens is smaller and lighter than competition's lenses, it is still about 880g (with tripod collar), and with the camera body, weighing over 1kg. We were out shooting under the hot sun for over 4 hours continuously, hence having a monopod took away the unnecessary strain. I did not have a monopod, and this was a one time thing (I rarely shoot sports) so I just used it hand-held all the way.

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    2. I also did not use Monopod, since I use the 40-150R :)
      Thanks to robin for lending me :)

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    3. I trust much on the 5 axis IS but having a monopod makes it easy to carry specially when you are shooting for hours.
      well explained Robin.
      -VAN

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  6. Hi Robin, great post!

    I shoot kids ice hockey in Canada with M43. I used to shoot with an Oly E-PL5 and a Panny 100-300 when my son was very small and I wasn't sure if I wanted to take pictures yet. Unlike your tennis, I have horribly dim light and had to use slow shutter speeds (1/60-1/250) and high ISO (3200-10,000). But when the kids were small I was really shooting portraits, not action. Those shutter speeds and ISO's sound horrible but with luck and decent exposure I still got many shots that made the parents very happy, even if they weren't great! Certainly not wall print material but being able to see the expression in the kids eyes blows parents away when they see them.

    Now I shoot with a GX8 and the 40-150 Pro. Still falling out of M43 good ISO range I generally need 3200-6400 to get 1/400-1/640 on the shutter. So IQ is still lacking but much better than before. Once in awhile I get a rink with good enough lighting to shoot ISO 1600 and 1/800 and the results are really good. I shot in a pro rink once (Flame's Saddledome) and the pro's have it easy; the lighting is fantastic for TV.

    Like you, I use SAF and get better results than CAF. Panny's DFD has one trick up it's sleeve called AFF. Instead of freezing focus on the first shot, it adjusts during the sequence. According to the manual it is intended to compensate small movements while shooting portraits. But the GX8 and the Oly Pro are so fast it acts like CAF. I've shot sequences of fast kids (18 yr olds called Junoir A's) skating right at me and it held solid focus on 8-12 shots in a row, no problem.

    The one thing the slow Panny lens was good for was teaching me to motion blur action. I think tennis has good opportunities for motion blur when the clouds come out, if you can stop down enough. Unlike hockey, you sbjects appear to have more of a fixed range and you seldom have to deal with the backs of thier heads. I am shooting the kids from as near as 3m to as far as 35m and movement in all directions, so motion blur is very low percentage but when I get one, it feels great! I still drop to 1/30-1/60 to get blurry shots. It's rewarding, you should give it a go!

    As far as your EM10-II vs the EM1-II and it's shooting speed, try it on tennis and see if you have the stamina to use the high FPS more than once. I can easily come home with 4,000+ shots from an hour long game with my GX8; I've dropped it to medium speed and single shot because of this. Culling the # of shots the EM1-II would create would piss me off in no-time-flat. I used Panny's 4K photo at 30 FPS once for hockey... and never again. Focus accuracy is more important than FPS to me so the hybrid AF looks appealing. I'd only use the high FPS for art (contact with a ball or something) not action where facial expression is often more important than what's going on with the sport.

    My 2-bits on sports shooting!

    Kev

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    1. I genuinely believe the content of the photographs matter more than the ultimate image quality, and shooting the games, with the ability to capture specific moments were priceless! E-PL5 with a Panasonic 100-300mm? Wow!

      You are right about the spray and pray technique giving way too many images to deal with. Nevertheless, in some shots that I seriously wanted the contact ball (ball on tennis racket, in the serve while the player is jumping mid air) that 60fps is a life saver. I was shooting at 8.5fps and I was frustrated that I could probably get 1 out of 10 trials.

      Nonetheless, I do not shoot sports, and my usual street shooting does not require such blazing fast speed.

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    2. Yep, E-PL5/100-300, indoors sounds horrible! But it's better than it sounds. And yep, contact is the only place I'd use it too... and how many contact shots does a guy want/need?

      While we are on the topic of the EM1-II, I remember you testing old Oly 4/3 lenses on the original EM1. Seen a bit of chatter on DpReview with the new EM1 and the old 300/f2.8 and claims AF is very fast with no hunting. Are you interested in breaking out those old lenses again? If the EM1-II can really give high AF performance, I'd be interested in hearing your take on it. They made some really fast tele glass for 4/3 which they've avoid with MFT, probably because of price. I'm curious how well it works.

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  8. Hi Robin, big fan. Yet another good set of pictures.

    I mainly used Olympus E-PM2 + Panasonic 45-200mm for 2016 BNP Paribas at Indian Wells, CA, USA.

    http://photography.weesan.com/2016/03/bnp-paribas.html

    I strongly agreed with you that knowing the game and the anticipation is the key for sport photography.

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    1. Those are amazing shots, well done! And from E-PM2, double wow!

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    2. Hey Robin. Thanks. I went back to the BNP Paribas Open yesterday and tried to take some tennis pictures with different subjects. The sun was very harsh; I tried to get away any shots I could. I brought the same gears as last year.

      http://photography.weesan.com/2017/03/2017-bnp-paribas-at-indian-wells-ca-usa.html

      Delete
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  10. Hi Robin, amazing pictures again and fantastic blog, paricularly relevant to my shooting..very helpful, thankyou. I have not shot action sports but have many years of shooting airshows which present similar problems in terms of C-AF. Most of my shooting was with the EPL5 with attached VF-4 View Finder and just the kit 40-150 lens, a somewhat amatuer set up, I know. Given the poor C-AF I used very short bursts of high speed shooting usually with the target moving across the screen and have had unbelievable results given that this equipment is not really designed to do this. Your tennis players are probably going in and out of the pic which would be challenging for me. I have since got the EM1 Mk 1 and a longer lens m43 75- 300 which gives over all better results ( better IBIS, longer lens and Hybrid sensor) however I am still massively impressed with my old EPL5 efforts though in truth my hand will teach for the comfort of EM1. Naturally the weather/lighting in the UK is a lottery. I found RAW a good option but also suffered the inevitable resuly of having 1500 frames to look through..all good fun. Thanks for your blog

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    1. Hey James,

      Wow, using an E-PL5 and 40-150mm lens, was quite a challenge! I agree going through massive amount of RAW files is definitely no fun, but once you have found the shots that happened perfectly (great timing, lighting, composition, etc) that feeling is priceless!

      Delete
  11. For fast sports i always predict the movements. Even the canon 1ds III i focused on the point the participants was about to go through. i use something called backbutton focus witch allows u to focus on a different button than the shutter. most cameras can stop focus on a backbutton. but only cannons uses backbutton to activate focus. Or i found that panasonic do to. Not directly, but with some workaround. Setting the camera to manual and using a fn button to activate autofocus. then u can activate focus only when u whant to. And it works great.

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    1. I think all cameras now can use the back button as AF. I tried using that and did not find it particularly useful for my style of shooting. Maybe if I shoot a lot of sports that would make a difference. The S-AF is already fast enough that it immediately locks focus and I just have to quickly re-focus if the subject moves.

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    2. I have begun to experiment with the focus put on the shutter in some situations. the focus do get better n better in new cameras. but depending on the situation. I mostly use backbutton focus still. But i found for stuff thats not fast and not comfortably slow, but more casual stuff, i do like to use s-af on the shutter to. on MFT cameras that is. My canons i still only use backbutton focus. but its nice to know other brands has backbutton by now :)

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  12. You also mentioned some strange effects using eshutter...On my first OMD EM1 mk 1 shoot, I used Electronic shutter without any real understanding of rolling shutter distortion and ruined some very precious shots of rare WW1 flying aircraft. I had propellors which looked liked bent bananas or curved scimitars. I have since researched the subject and will be sticking to mechanical shutter for fast moving shots.

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    1. Yeap. I had tennis rackets that looked like they melted into jelly in some of my electronic shutter shots!

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  13. Hi Robin,
    You mentioned that the metering was set to Evaluative/Pattern which I am assuming is the same as Digital ESP metering on my E-M5 Mark ll. Is there a reason why you didn't use center weighted instead for a fast moving sport like a tennis match?

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    1. Hey Robert,
      no particular reason, because I usually trust WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) through the live view or viewfinder and adjust the metering accordingly.

      Delete
  14. Robin,

    I've used my E-M1 and 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro lens along with the 1.4x TC to shoot my daughter's swim meets. It still suits my needs just fine. Honestly, I'm only looking for 4 or 5 great shots per event and the tracking works well for predictably moving subjects. I would love to upgrade to the Mark II for the improved tracking, bigger buffer, and the stop of better low-light performance but can't justify there price at the moment.

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  15. Good results, especially since you're a street photographer mainly. I've seen people who claim that they can shoot sports and don't do as well. Did you have fun?

    C-AF generally doesn't work on micro Four-Thirds and I've got four different bodies, but then, it wasn't all that good on the Olympus E-1 or E-5, either. However, without PDAF, I had to change my technique.

    I appreciate that the ISO sensitivity doesn't change too much with each exposure, as my Nikon D7200 did. Both Panasonic and Olympus do fairly well, despite the reported numbers probably not matching.

    I've experimented with electronic shutter for stills, but the jello effect is too distracting for anything serious. I'm glad that the E-M1 has 10fps and the GH4 has 12fps with mechanical shutters.

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  16. Robin, I think you showed that the pictures can be taken with about any ILC. The Olympus m4/3 cameras do a great job especially outdoors. The places where they have traditionally struggled has been in the indoor gyms in less than ideal lighting. You could get still shoot, as I have, with the cameras and get sellable pictures. It would take a lot of practice and good lenses, but it would still work.
    When the E-M1 Mark II came out the keeper rate skyrocketed. The CAF is not only useable, it has leveled the field, even giving the advantage to the M43 users, something many won't believe because of the stigma surrounding mirrorless.
    Take the same lenses and you get twice the 'zoom' factor to give great closeups and still keeping the shallow DOF that is expected.
    Here are pictures straight out of the camera -- no processing at all that I just posted.
    https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/59222481
    This camera is now my go to machine for sports. I believe I'll get another for my studio too. The other photographers look at it strangely with the silver lens, until they see the pictures and gasp!

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  17. Very nice work, Robin. I like that you used the EM10 2. Even with a 'lowly' EM10, we are still ahead of the good old film days. I find myself using SAF for sports with the EM5 2 and the EM1 1. Plenty of keepers. Like you not a pro sports shooter. Just an enthusiast. The final product made some parents happy, though. In addition, I always have fun sports/action shooting, even if it's only for me.
    Thanks for your articles and reviews!

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  18. In the face of all the geeks that continuously whine about how this or that camera is lousy and IF they only had such and such they would execute perfect images.
    A good tradesman doesn't blame his tools and you prove again and again: it's not what you have, it's how you use it.
    Thank you Robin for putting things in perspective and demonstrating that there are no bad camera out there (well, within reason) and even the more basic offerings from Olympus can deliver outstanding results if used with intelligence and skills.
    Your images are again proof for all those cry-babies and critics: "shut up and get a grip" :-)
    Respect

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  19. Robin,
    I always enjoy reading your blog and the tips and tricks you share. The photos are brilliant and perfectly focused!

    I recently bought an E-M10 II and have some comments about continuous AF. You might already know about this.
    I set up my fn2 (AFL/AEL) to work as AFL when focus mode is in continuous AF, and shutter release to only lock exposure and fire shutter.
    When using the EVF, I have to keep my thumb on fn2 to enable tracking while firing the shutter.
    BUT, I discovered that if you use the rear touch screen instead, one tap on the subject will enable and hold continuous AF tracking, without pressing or holding anything further to maintain tracking! Then I only need to worry about when to press the shutter release - sequential mode of course!
    I would love to find a way to do something like this with the EVF, but am still searching. The rear touchpad doesn't enable tracking 😒



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    1. A clarification on my last sentence: when using the EVF, you can only relocate the AF target using the touchpad, but you can't trigger the shutter or enable continuous AF tracking - when using the EVF

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