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Why I am with OM SYSTEM by Jo Stenersen

In the three years before switching to the OM SYSTEM, I used a different brand that have a crop sensor in their cameras. For ten years before that, I used a 35mm format system, shooting as a professional nature and outdoors photographer. While small sensor systems have evolved a great deal over the years when it comes to high ISO and dynamic range – making them now fully capable of professional wildlife photography – the brand I was using didn’t have the optimum autofocus and telephoto lens selection that I needed. I became aware that the OM SYSTEM had some impressive innovation, so I researched online and discovered that highly skilled photographers like Kai Jensen, Jari Peltomäki and Brooke Bartleson use the gear with incredible results in similar conditions to those that I typically work in.

E-M1 Mark III • M.Zuiko 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 • 42mm • 1/160sec • F5.4 • ISO320

My dissatisfaction with the gear I was previously using, coupled with the manufacturers’ seeming lack of interest in genuine nature photography, felt demotivating. With most of their content captured in parks and zoos, it was hard to relate to, so I decided to test other brands to see if I could find something that would motivate me and serve my needs better. I wanted to stay with a compact yet powerful system, so OM SYSTEM was top of my list, and I soon discovered that they focus heavily on true nature and wildlife photography. The more I learned, the more I was convinced that this might be the system for me. I started out testing the OM-D E-M1 Mark III and a selection of the M.Zuiko PRO lenses and was genuinely amazed by the first impression. My hopes and expectations were high, but I was still blown away by how great it was! After just a few days of testing, I knew this system had everything I was looking for, and more!

What first caught my attention was how fast and reliable the autofocus was. When I opened the files on my computer, I was struck by the sharpness, and after loading some images shot at high ISO into Lightroom, I sighed with relief. There was, of course, some noise at higher ISOs like 6,400 and 12,800, but this was very fine-grained, with details very well preserved and colour noise more or less non-existent. The rugged build quality and the weather-sealing was a tremendously attractive factor for me too, being based in Norway, and functions like Starry AF and Live Composite are almost unbelievable! These technologies have brought back joy in areas that I haven’t felt inspired in a long time. They make it so easy to capture those night-time scenes with spot-on focus at the stars, with no overexposed highlights, no matter how long your shutter speed is! I am also a massive fan of the built-in ND filter when photographing moving water. It is so comfortable to work with, and it produces excellent results. The technology in these cameras is just incredible – it helps simplify my workflow so much!

I shoot video, and both the OM-D E-M1 Mark III and the E-M1X have autofocus that makes my ‘run and gun’ style shooting much less challenging since the focus just works without any trouble. I don’t need the heavy gimbal anymore either thanks to the excellent image stabilisation, plus the LOG files are really easy to work with. In just a few months, I genuinely feel like I have found the perfect match for me, and it feels great working with a brand that will help me become an even better and more creative photographer.

It’s a well-known fact that capturing wildlife can be very unpredictable, and at times, challenging. The Bird Detection function with eye focus is really unique. I’m amazed by how well it works, and it has already helped me get shots that I probably would have missed, many times. The fun thing is that it works with small animals like squirrels and badgers, too! You wait and wait for an animal or bird to move, and when it suddenly does, you’re too slow pressing the release button, and all you get is a photo of a tail at best! With Pro Capture, this problem is no longer a problem and it’s easily one of the system's features that I treasure most.

Badgers are a real favourite of mine to photograph – I just love them! Behind my house, I’ve built a photo hide where a family of badgers shows up every night. I had almost all imaginable photos of them except one: a razor-sharp and very close-up portrait of a badger looking into the camera late at night. On a determined evening, I had my camera ready, but no badgers showed up. It got darker and darker, then suddenly the female and her three cubs turned up, but the light was really poor. I had to set my E-M1X at 12,800 ISO with a shutter speed as slow as 1/80s. That’s a challenging shutter time when shooting at 400mm, even with the M.Zuiko 150-400mm F4.5 PRO. Finally, one of the badgers came forth, raised its head, and I met its eyes through the viewfinder. I had to lift my camera and shoot handheld to get the composition I wanted. Focus locked on instantly, and I pressed the shutter. I crossed my fingers, hoping this would be the shot I was looking for. And it was thanks to the image stabilisation that the picture was sharp! After pulling the noise level down in Topaz DeNoise, I was relieved to see that the shot was crisp, sharp and with no noise. I was so happy!

Exif: OM-D E-M1X, M.Zuiko 150-400mm F.4.5 PRO, F4.5, 1/80s, ISO12,800

When photographing wildlife, I try to portray the animal as an individual, showing a glimpse of their personality and characteristics. My advice for others looking to go out shooting nature and wildlife photography is to always check that all your batteries are fully charged and packed and that you have enough memory cards. Also, do not forget to bring a good lens cloth. Plan for having to spend longer in the field than you might expect, as stress and lack of time will never help you get great images. Grab an extra bottle of water and a chocolate bar to keep you hydrated, and your energy up. And finally, be prepared! Keep your camera at hand at all times, and always check your settings, so if the light changes you don’t have to fiddle around with them when an opportunity presents itself. Things can happen fast, and you may lose the shot trying to set the right exposure values. I favour shooting from a low angle. By doing this, you will get more depth and a nice framing for your subject with blurred-out vegetation in the foreground. Shooting from the same level as your subject’s eyes is an easy way to make your images look even better.

Go-to camera and lens combinations:

  • Wildlife photography: OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-400mm F4.5 TC 1.25x IS PRO.
  • Bird photography: OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO + MC-14 or MC20.
  • Outdoor macro photography: OM-D E-M1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro.
  • Landscape photography: OM-D E-M1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 8-25mm F4 PRO.

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