Photographer’s Diary – Olympus Cameras

Ford GT. M. Zuiko ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO. [Photo by Jack Webster]

Ford GT. M. Zuiko ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO. [Photo by Jack Webster]

By Jack Webster

My relationship with Olympus Cameras goes back to 1978, when I used both Olympus OM-1 and OM-2 cameras to cover the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. At the time, Mario Andretti was driving for JPS Lotus and one of his sponsors, prominently displayed on the side pod of his car, was Olympus Cameras.

Their cameras and lenses were quite good back then, and were much smaller and lighter than other similar cameras that were on the market at the time. I made many excellent photos using their gear and when the opportunity came about to try their newest digital camera, the OM-D E-M1X, I jumped at the chance.

Their new digital mirrorless camera is quite interesting. Instead of requiring a separate grip with a battery pack to get a second battery in the camera for longer shooting, Olympus designed the E-M1X with the vertical grip/battery holder built into the body. Now for a micro 4/3 camera, this made the body a bit larger than other Olympus models, but frankly it fit quite comfortably into my hands and was a well-balanced package, in particular when using a larger lens like the M. Zuiko ED 300mm F4.0 IS.

By the way, Olympus is holding true to their history with their new cameras and lenses. They are much smaller and lighter than similar gear from other makers and just as I recalled from using them back in the 1970’s, their optics are superb. Since they use the Micro 4/3 system, lenses can be quite small and light. For instance, their 300mm lens gives the equivalent power of a 600mm on a full frame camera and can be easily carried around all day without feeling like your arms are going to fall off.

At Mid-Ohio for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race last week, I had the opportunity to put the Olympus gear through its paces and in most trying circumstances, as there was quite a bit of rain until finally clearing up for race day on Sunday. One of the unique features of Olympus cameras is their weatherproofing and I can attest that both their camera and lenses performed exceptionally well in the wet – nothing stopped working properly even though at times I had to dry off the exterior of the camera and lens with a towel they got so wet.

The autofocus system also performed perfectly and was able to track cars driving both toward and away from me at full speed. The autofocus was spot on, even at high shooting rates, and the light metering was perfect as well. I tried the camera on full program mode as well as aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual as well. The resulting images were excellent.

Accompanying this story are a number of images that I took at the Mid-Ohio race and the quality of the images speak for themselves. I used the Olympus OM-D E-M1X with a combination of the M. Zuiko ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO, M. Zuiko ED 40-150mm F2.8 PRO and the M. Zuiko ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO. ISO settings were anywhere from 100 to 1000, depending on lighting conditions and all the images were made hand held, without a tripod or monopod.

Overall, an excellent shooting experience with superb equipment that has all the latest technology built in, while paying tribute to the historical film cameras that make up its photographic DNA. For the serious enthusiast, definitely worth a look.

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