Category Archives: Gear

Why I purchased the Olympus OM-D E-M1

Up until this week, I carried the Canon 5D Mark 3 and Canon 7D cameras in my camera bag, along with the Canon 24-105, Canon EF-S 10-22 and 70-200 lens.

This week I replaced the 7D and EF-S 10-22 lens with the Olympus OM-D EM –  1  Micro Four-Thirds camera plus the Olympus M Zuiko 14-40 lens.

Why did I do this?

Main reason was to reduce the weight of the gear I carry.  I usually carry two cameras with two different lenses to photograph various items.  I carry both on a harness set up for two cameras.  Recent events impacting my physical strength has made me rethink all the gear I carry.  I felt I needed to reduce weight and the Micro Four Thirds Cameras seems to be a possible solution.

Several photographers whom I highly respect are currently using the Olympus OM E-M1.  So I decided to lease one from .  I then used the camera to photograph some of my favorite subjects.  This was not a scientific analysis.  It also wasn’t a comparison of the 7D or 5D vs the E-M1.  It was simply a study to see if using this camera would meet the quality expectations I have and support my shooting style.


1) The negatives
The user interface to the camera takes some time to figure out and get used to.  The manual is not written in proper English so it takes some to figure out how to set up the camera for your required configuration.  For example you can place the lens into manual focus mode by pulling the focusing ring on the lens.  Finding documentation on how to get out of manual focus mode took a Google search.

Also this camera is not for low light situations.  At over 4000 ISO images become unacceptably grainy.  This is the same as the 7D.  Where the 5D is far superior in low lighting.

White balance is not always perfect and needs adjustment in Lightroom.  Here I am spoiled by the 5D M3 which gets white balance correct almost always.

2) The Positives

Light weight. Smaller and easy to handle with equivalent performance to a 7D.

Speed.  6.5 frames per second.  Superfast response for Auto focus in various conditions.

Comfort.  The body feel comfortable in the palm of my hand.  Easy to carry around all day.

Quality of images.  Very happy with the image quality.  The Auto Exposure needs to be compensated but am happy with the results.  Here are a few images.

Support for HDR.  Built-in bracketing to support HDR is really nice but wish the bracketing was 1 stop instead of 2 and 3 stops.

Build-in WiFi.  Really nice to have a seamless link between my camera and my IPad to transfer images.

Immediate results shown through the viewfinder.  A great feature of the Micro-Two Thirds Cameras is that they are mirrorless.  This means that your viewfinder is actually a LCD display.  This opens up all sorts of possibilities to the camera designers in Japan.  The coolest thing is being able to see through the viewfinder the result of the capture and the ability to immediately make adjustments to get the image you want.  This capability is what took me over the top to spend the money.


I purchased the camera from Hunts Photo and Video.  As I have said in the past, they know how to treat people properly.  They continue to really support the amateur photographer community something that is becoming harder to find in this web-based world.  (I just wish they had a better website…)

So now I am a hybrid user.  Canon for my high quality shoots, off camera flash photographs and in places where the full frame capabilities is needed.  Olympus for my walk around photography.  And both with the Canon and the 70-200 lens on a harness with the Olympus camera and the 12-40 (24-80) lens for walk around shoots.

So there it is.  A new tool in my bag.  I now have something I can easily carry around on day trips with the performance of a DSLR. It is a great camera.

Foot Notes

Products mentioned in this blog post.  (Links are sponsored with Amazon so click and buy something from Amazon so I can afford to pay for this camera!)

Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOS with 1080p Full-HD Video Mode Digital SLR Camera (Body)

Canon EOS 7D 18 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3-Inch LCD (Body Only)

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Zoom Lens – White Box (New) (Bulk Packaging)

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras

Olympus M Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro Interchangeable Lens

Acratech GP Ballhead – A review

I’ve been shopping for a new ballhead for some time. My first ballhead was the Manfrotto 488RC4.  It is a nice ballhead but heavy; weighing in at 22 3/4 oz.  I quickly replaced it with the lighter (14 7/8 oz) Manfrotto 486RC2.  I’ve used this head for several years.  This was a trade-off of weight vs functionality.  I’ve always missed the bubble level on the 488RC4 ball head and the scale for panoramas but it was good enough.

One item that always bothered me was location of the knob and the fact that it never felt like it was locking the camera in place.  So what I really wanted was the Manfrotto 488RC at the weight of the Manfrotto 486RC2.

I stumbled upon the Acratech GP ballhead through a web search and had a chance to play with it at Hunts Photo and Video [see below for information about a deal Gary Farber at Hunts is providing to camera club members].


Being an engineer and photographer, I love how form follows function with this device.  It is a very nice looking unit and you can see the quality of workmanship here.  Built from aircraft quality aluminum, they’ve removed extra weight by milling out what isn’t necessary and adding where strength is required.

Even when compared to Manfrotto’s newer units, this ball head really stands up.  The laser etched scale is large and legible.  There are two knobs, not one, to set tension on the ball giving better control.  The knobs are set so the will never completely unscrew and fall off.  (A bad situation for a night photographer).

What is also interesting is that the ball is exposed.  Dirt will not accumulate inside the ball head keeping it moving freely.


You can use this ball head upside down.  (That’s why the scale is written both ways).  You do this by removing the Acra-swiss compatible quick release clamp and mounting it on the bottom of the ball head.  Why would you do this?  Well now you have a self leveling head that allows you to do panoramas.

Two for the price of one so to say.  But there is a hitch, to do this requires removing and resetting a screw.  But if you need that function in a pinch, you have it.  Also they set the screw to work with a small coin or with the hex wrench provided with the ballhead. The same hex wrench you need to mount the plate.  Talking about the plate…


One annoyance is that the plate does not come with the ballhead.  Acratech provides special plates for various cameras and they need to be purchased separately.  I guess it (c) Rob DeRobertisgive them better support but after I got the ball head, I had to search out an acra-swiss compatible plate.

To learn more about how this ball head works, check out the video on their website.


I  bought the ballhead.  It gives me functionality without trade-offs.  It is a great device and something I plan to use for many years.  PS I am not affiliated with Acratech in any way, I just think this is a very nice ballhead which is under marketed and wanted everyone to learn about it.

Now about Hunt’s deal.

Of the camera shops I’ve visited in the Greater Boston area, Hunts seems the most geared up for the prosumer, camera club junkies like myself.  I think Gary Farber is a sharp marketer.  He realized that us camera club junkies have special needs.  We are more knowledgable then the standard Point and Shoot photographer but not at the level of the professional (also without the budget).  I appreciate the time that Hunts is willing to put in with us where other camera shops treat us quite poorly (at least that is my experience).  Anyway, Gary Farber (who sold me this ballhead) is offering a special for a limited time to camera club members for this ballhead.  He is taking $20 off the list price and providing free shipping.  You can contact him directly at 781-462-2332 or email at

 Other Photos


(c) Rob DeRobertis

(c) R. DeRobertis




Trip of a lifetime, Try 2

 In January, I had posted about a planned trip of a lifetime, the postponement of that trip but then the task of turning lemons into lemonade buy using that time to test the Canon 7D and 16-33mm 2.8 lens I had rented.

Well it is a few months later and the US Navy kept their promise and have rescheduled this trip. I leave this weekend to spend a few days on the left coast. I’m going to spend some more time photographing San Francisco (seeing my long lost cousin), some time in San Diego and then 24 hours on the USS Abraham Lincoln.

Since that post, I’m now the proud owner of a Canon 7D. This along with my Canon 40D, will be my tools to try to capture this once in a life time moment. The fun part was trying to pack all my gear into one carry on bag for the trip. But that’s another post.

The pondering on my drive into work today was around what I want to learn while on board the USS Abraham Lincoln. I think the biggest learning opportunity is one of management and leadership. I’ve been watching the PBS Special Series Carrier. Which gives some wonderful background but I am sure, until I experience what our sailors experience I’m distanced from their realities.

What would you want to know if you were to spend time on an Aircraft carrier?  What Pictures would you want to see captured?

The impact of the iPad on Photography

The impact of the iPad on Photography

The iPad is coming April 3th.

Many people have pondered what this new device will achieve on introduction. There are millions of posts all over the internet and in mainstream media on this subject.

I found many postings on the iPad are titled “The impact of the iPad on _____”. The blank is filled with all kinds of subjects from comic books to real estate sales to photography. So I felt this space was full, but a colleague in my day job asked my opinion and how it will impact business to business communications. That got me thinking…

Apple claims the iPad is a new category. In Steve Jobs keynote where the iPad was launched, he said as much and stated that the iPod and iPhone were launched in existing markets. The later is true, we all remember how difficult MP3 players were and how limited cell phones were until Apple arrived with an extended product (one that included delivery of content with iTunes and the App store) and they redefined the category. But is the iPad defining a new category or redefining an existing category. (Was the CD a new category or redefining the record industry). I think the iPad is not a new category. It is redefining many, many industries. Hence why there are millions of postings on such a subject.

So the question is if the iPad can replace a book or replace a photograph or replace a magazine or replace a comic book or replace a TV or replace… (the possibilities appear to be endless), how will business models change.

For me, I don’t get magazines or newspapers anymore. I get my info real time via the iPhone or laptop. I also don’t read books (I listen to them as I drive to work). Now I’m a bit on the leading edge of technology, but as much as I love Apple, I am not convinced that I need an iPad… yet. This is because the use case does not fit my life style since I have no need to replace a printed document, I’ve already done so. For others this may be different.

That said, one use I can see is using the device to show my photography to others, or to use the device to look at images in the field and from there the possibilities begin to become interesting for the iPad and photography.

Image the following possibilities:

  • You are in the field capturing a landscape and want to see the results before walking away, with the iPad you can see the full image and easily zoom in to look at detail.

  • Content providers around the globe are looking for quality images to post on their websites, do people start buying images same as they buy music and books today? Does Apple open a Photo Store?

  • You are taking pictures at a wedding and the bride’s mother has particular needs. Well, with an iPad, you can show, practically in real time, the image you just captured for approval. Going way beyond that 3” LCD on your camera.

  • You want to show your images to family, friends, and client. Instead of firing up a thick, heavy laptop with a questionable display or bringing along your desk top plus high quality monitor, all you need to carry is the 1.5 pound iPad to show images on the 9.7” diagonal screen that is 1024 x 768 @132 pixels per inch.

  • You are on a baseball field and just took a picture of someone’s child sliding into home. You can show that image to the child’s parent and make a “point of sale” transaction right on the field.

  • You just shot some video and want to preview it before moving on. Just pull out your handy iPad and you are good to go.

I think that the iPad will drive up the need for good quality photography. It will also become a critical tool in the coming years that photographers will want to carry along the iPad in their bag along with their camera and lens kit. [All you need is either an iPad Camera Connection Kit (supports USB or SD cards) or a WiFi/3G connection with your camera.]

So look out, the iPad is coming, the iPad is coming…


Last notes on my Canon 7D experience

Last notes on my Canon 7D experience:

1) The camera simply “nails” exposure. On my Canon 40D, I almost always have to adjust the exposure compensation since the camera almost never gets it right. On the 7D, it is a no brainer. The metering on this camera is a joy. The image attached to this blog shows a very difficult subject to meter. On the 40D, there is a bunch of trial and error to get it right, on the 7D, BAM: one shot and right.

2) I used the camera for the last time last night. I was asked to take pictures at a retirement party for someone I’ve worked with for over 7 years. The auto focus of the 7D with poor lighting was spot on. No issues waiting for the camera to find the subject. I’m attaching one photo not because it shows the ability of the camera but it shows the skills of another colleague at work who made this figure out
of icing and used it to top the cake!