– This review is based on personal experiences
– I’m not a ‘tech’ guy
– This review is based on inspiration
– The E-M1 Has got a ‘CP’ sticker on the bottom
– This is personal

“Throw yourself a challenge with subjects that cannot communicate. Your best bet would be having a camera in hand that will capture the moments”

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PERSONAL NOTE

My Passion for nature and wildlife photography derived and instilled by my wife who is a Conservation Biologist. I find peace in the forest and it gives me much inspiration in my daily job in the advertising world. Documenting wildlife in the Malaysian jungles is a labour of love – and with this passion, I would like to present the beauty of Malaysia to the world to admire. This time with boots on the ground…running!

I’ve always been a guy driven by passion and i believe that if you’re passionate about it, it will build you. Thank you Olympus Malaysia for believing in me – your support to my wildlife endeavours is truly immaculate. 

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THE ‘PERSONAL’ CHALLENGE

I’ve been photographing with the 300mm f2.8 for a while now. Since the days of the E-3 & then much more with the E-5. Most of the images produced from my wildlife escapades were either from one of the two DSLR’s. Of course, my setup will include either of the two camera body, the 300mm f/2.8 and the EC-20 2x Teleconverter (EC 2x TC). This setup has proven effective many times.

Personal because I’ve not been shooting much wildlife, stricken with advertising works. I was also delayed the chance of obtaining this gear before the end of 2013 when all my wildlife adventures completed with minimal resources  (http://fullcirclepix.com/blog/?p=1149). The upside to this (in which i smile upon now – since it was my birthday – don’t ask) is with the beginning of a new year, translates to the beginning of new challenges. And for this year, I’m going to seek wildlife i’ve either never seen or never photographed well.

To throw another curve ball into this equation… This is my first time using the E-M1 with the 300mm f/2.8! Only possible with the MMF-3. Since birds are abundant and also present in common areas, they posed as the best subjects. Hence, I’ve travelled to highlands & lowlands… in Borneo & central Malaysia. I set out on a journey personal to me & with new gear.

I’m a city boy that love the outdoors : )

With many ‘aaarrrrggghhh!!!’ setbacks in the past with 4/3 setups while deep in the jungles. I could only wonder if the Micro 4/3 + MMF-3 + 300mm f/2.8 could perform to my standards of wildlife photography. At first thought, If i have less of the ‘aaarrrrggghhh!!!’ moments, i’m a winner and the gear on my back is my trophy.

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My personal challenge is to set out and photograph some of the most colourful birds in Malaysia. Yet keeping the images simple to a sense that they could be used for advertising and editorial purposes.

You may have guessed it – this review is based on personal experiences, and the pain we go through when given the opportunity to visually document the best of nature and wildlife here is not easy.

Many bird photographers photograph birds as a collection – i do it to present wildlife behaviour.

Mental note: we preserve

WHY  WILDLIFE + THIS SETUP

It’s simple. Malaysia is situated on the equator with tropical climate all year round. Malaysia is one of 17 countries in the world with mega-biodiversity. The forests here is dense with vegetation, making it rough to venture trough, the weather is unpredictable (when away from technology / the ‘experienced’ indigenous and guide) and wildlife is not only tough to spot, even harder to photograph – they are fast, shy, and unpredictable.

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Much research is needed to get the best of wildlife, with perseverance, patients, a good team (all with the same traits) the images here was possible.

The 300mm f2.8 when mounted onto the E-System or the Micro Four Thirds System automatically converts to 600mm f/2.8. When the 2x TC is added on, the entire system translates to 1200mm f/5.7. Perfect for a ‘light’ wildlife photography setup.

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MY JOURNEY

My Journey took me to a couple of states – with my own money, time away from personal deadlines, short adventures that would give my insurance agent a brain aneurism (please don’t tell him).The first couple of days within Kuala Lumpur were used in nearby places to get familiar with the camera setup. I’ve earned my Gitzo 5 series tripod + Wimberley 2 head earlier in 2013 and this is the best time to utilise it to the fullest.

To have embarked on this journey is simply and only that i have a passion – driven with much hope that the E-M1 + 300mm f/2.8 + EC 2x + MMF-3 (my setup) would give me better pictures than i had with 4/3 Systems before.

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THE SETUP

– Gitzo 5 series
– Wimberley Head II + Plate
– Olympus EM-1 + HLD-7 vertical grip
– 300mm f/2.8
– MMF-3
– EC-20
– Macbook Pro
– Sandisk 32G
– Time
– some money
– Some Stamina,
– A hell lot of patients
– Experienced guide
– More miles on your car then ever in a week
– Wife that loves you regardless 

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300mm f/2.8 + EC 2x 

Here’s a bunch of gear i’ve used numerous times before with much satisfaction, i’ve had numerous ‘down’ moments. Faced in low light situations, for instance in the early mornings and late in the evenings when there were numerous flocks of Plain-Pouched Hornbills on migration path between the borders of Thailand & Malaysia (only witnessed deep in the jungles). Or flock of Cattle Egrets swooping into communal roosting areas.  This phenomenons in its fullest majesty are least documented.

300mm f/2.8 + EC 2x will give you the (monster) range 1200mm f/5.7 – Awesome!!! The focusing speed did not suffice for fast moving wildlife, furthermore, there wildlife here rather stay in dark & shady areas. Since we’re on the equator and the sun is super hot / hard on midday (slap forehead) (even humans rather take shade).

On a separate note, in other occasions, tigers have leaped out of our way, elephants rolling downhill like thunder (forget your gear – get out!…alive)

So I’ve missed some shots in the past and i venture into 2014 hoping the best in my images.

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E-M1

I’m a DSLR guy… I’ve utilise the E-PL5 & The PEN & did a whole bunch of EM-5 reviews in 2013 (http://www.youtube.com/user/jitspics/videos) . To my opinion, no other M4/3 camera feels more like a DSLR like the EM-1. Compared to the E-5 this setup on my tripod setup is was much lighter. With the ZD300mm f2. 8 lens leans forward and difficult to balance unless you’re willing to take a risk (pulling your entire system closer to the back for ultimate best balance – risking your camera & lens to fall off while readjusting or transporting from location to location) fortunately, the Wimberley Head 2 has a safety feature to curb this disaster. Kudos to the Singapore suppliers (thats another story)

I’m a DSLR guy… Perhaps i may turn into an occasional DSLR guy.

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PERFORMANCE

These are my main concerns while shooting. At most times, i would shoot in manual mode, at times with manual focusing. Since i’m gunning for clean shots that could be used for advertising purposes, my main concentration is as listed below.

WB: Auto
ISO: Varies from Low – 1600
Sharpness: +1
Metering: Spot
Aperture Priority (when applicable): f2.8 or f5.7
Burst Mode: High
File Setting: RAW + LSF
IS: off

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ISO

Working on a low ISO is like a mantra to me. The simple reason is to reduce any grain. I always want to get sharp images with a sense of emotions combine with elements of natural lighting and animal behaviour. This is devious. Since most wildlife here are active during the mornings and evenings. Getting tact sharp images is a challenge. Animals tend to hang about in the shade & thick foliage most of the time mainly to be able to dart away from predators. 

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TACT SHARP &/Vs. GRAIN

“is a compromise as at most times, it’s the moment i want to capture.”

At ISO800 and above, i’d find the grain not to be a little uncomfortable for my liking compared to the DSLR Systems. Grain is more apparent due to the massive depth in shadowy backgrounds. Compared to the E-Systems – there are significant improvements which is to my admiration.

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FOCUSING SPEED

I’ve had many ‘aaarrrrggghhh!!!’ moments in the past with the DSLR + 300mm f2.8 + EC 2x TC. With renewed hope i ventured with this system and found myself in a similar situation My setup performs well in well lit conditions. At times, i find the focus hunting which cost me a few ‘misfired’ frames. I’ve also come to realise that might be a lag in the shutter. Wildlife and small birds are very fast and precision is key – i’ve missed a few shots. Furthermore, i find the auto focus with ZD lenses seem even more tricky in low light.

Note: check firmware updates.

 “it dims my spirits – but i’m all about ‘stomping’ the shot!”

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THE ‘KILLA’ ATTRACTION

After much to do with shooting and one presentation already completed. There was wave of attraction to this setup which puzzled me in different ways all throughout every shoot. This puzzling attraction become more apparent when i was ‘chimping’ from a set of images that almost set me slipped off a cliff! – it’s the astounding details that has captured my attention!!!

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IN SUMMARY – PERSONAL HIGHLIGHTS 

– 16MP Four Thirds
– Twin control Dials
– ‘5-axis’ IS
– Up to 10fps continuous shooting
– 3” touchscreen LCD + tilts
– Dust, Splash and freeze-proof
– 81 Focus Points
– Light Weight
– Rugged Looking & DSLR feel
– Lightest wildlife camera setup (since i’m not a buff guy) (Handheld shots is possible)
– Super fast AF (Hopefully improves in future when used with ZD Lenses)
– Large Arsenal of Lenses
– Worry free shooting – Display in live view
– Excellent image quality! Details Galore!!!

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FINAL THOUGHT

I’m over the moon / impressed and itching to get out there for more shots – with this monster! (gotta head back to my advertising job though – yeah I’m in tough spot)

CREDITS:

Videos by: Ravinder Kaur & EPL5 (coming soon)
Tour guide: http://naturecore.blogspot.com/
CHEERS!: Olympus Malaysia – https://www.facebook.com/olympusmalaysia

More on me:
www.facebook.com/sanjitpaal.singh
www.facebook.com/Fullcirclepixcom?ref=hl

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Dedicated to Timothy McVey – your admiration to my works inspires me to push limits further & beyond as you once said “you’ll never know the end, till you cross the line”. Cheers brotha!’

 

5 responses to “THE MONSTER… E-M1 + 300mm f/2.8”

  1. jeevi says:

    I have just read through you views,excellent photgraphs.i am a birder.

  2. benji says:

    Stunning pictures.

  3. Gordon Seifert says:

    Wonderful photos! Your passion shows through them.

  4. Manuel Santamaria says:

    Finally find someone with my same setup…I also use much this whole zd 300 2.8 + ec-20 + OMD EM1 and I’m frustrated with this combination, I explain it:
    ,
    Many times when I am focusing on a bird, an object, etc and is in a place with lots of light, blades of the diaphragm of the lens it makes noise and starts to close and open continuously.
    Sometimes removed this bug when I turn off and turn on again the camera and sometimes not.
    There is another user of our same settings in England which happens the same.

    Have you ever had this bug?

    On the approach of the M1 with this configuration, I am angry too, because although focuses much more faster than previous cameras m4/3, does not reach the speed or the performance of the E-5.

    Explain you my experience with the M1 and the settings that both have:

    In conditions of good natural light, the first movement of the lens focusing (approximation) I would say that is more rapid even that the E5, but in the second movement of approach (fixed focus) almost always gives steps for tuning and this makes that whole approach is less rapid and effective than in the E5, which almost always sets the focus to the first time and no doubt both.

    In situations of low natural light (objects in the shade – twilight or sunset) the E5 focuses much more fast and without hesitation.

    I look forward your reply, thank you

  5. Jacob says:

    Fantastic briding photos.
    The 300 is a dream but a $7000 o my, it way over my budget…

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