Small manufactures like Fuji, OM Digital Solutions and Panasonic offers since a while free firmware updates for their flagship models. Those firmware updates doesn’t fix bugs only but add also new functionalities. Whether this will be the case in future or not I would like to discuss in this small blog post. I mean firmware updates which add new functionality. Bug fix updates are not discussed here.
Reasons for free firmware updates
The small companies do have a difficult situation compared to the big three. Limited R&D capacities limit also the capabilities to bring new hardware in the same frequencies as the bigger ones. In case a company is not able to introduce new hardware, those companies are not mentioned in the medias. This ends in less brand awareness. Therefore those companies make less revenue which ends again in less R&D resources. Sounds like a vicious circle One possibility to break this vicious circle are firmware updates, which add new functionalities. As this is “only” software, R&D need less resources. In addition customers are happier. The firmware adds value to their camera. In the mean time those firmware updates are already sales arguments. That is the reason that big companies are offering such kind of updates as well. Nikon just recently published a functional firmware update for their Z9.
Reasons against firmware updates for free
Not only hardware development needs resources in R&D. Also the development of firmware needs manpower. Despite this firmware will be tested and ties therefore R&D capabilities. Through firmware for free the companies cannot make revenue. Therefore the ongoing hardware sales has to finance the development. In addition the parallel firmware development disturbs the development of new hardware. In most of the cases the same developers are involved. As the market is decreasing also the numbers of sold cameras is decreasing. Therefore prices of hardware increases. Customer will buy less often a new hardware. In addition the innovation steps between each hardware generation are getting smaller. This decrease the interest in new hardware on customers side in addition. The differences between the owned and the new camera are to small.
How does the future look like?
As above described firmware updates for free do have tow sided of a coin. In fact companies do get more brand awareness, but also tie R&D resources. Those are urgently needed to develop new hardware. This potentially delays new hardware this is needed urgently. But new hardware brings higher margins than hardware which is already on the market for a longer time. In addition we all know that the camera market is shrinking. Therefore it will be more and more difficult to generate revenue for all manufacturers. Therefore we will see in near future a destructive competition. Brands will either disappear or bought by other brands. Even though that Nikon recently publishes a functional firmware update for its Z9, this was already mentioned at the launch of the Z9. Already know some of the brands offers only for their flagship model those functional updates.
I’m sure we will see very soon market adaptions. Therefore functional firmware updates will be only available for sales. Even more likely we will also see in the flagship models the strategy to bring new hardware to add new functionality as we do already see in the cheaper models. Sony already do have this strategy and other manufacture will follow soon or later. Otherwise the companies are not able to generate revenue with dropping numbers. Even thought firmware updates prolong the live span of camera hardware, but the companies are earning less revenue. I’m sure this is a very controversial opinion and I’m curious what you think about this. Leave a comment with your thoughts. I’m looking forward to an active and respectful discussion.
Normally in photography one tries to separate an object from the background with the help of the smallest possible depth of field. This helps to reduce the viewer’s gaze to draw attention to the important part of the picture. However there are situations in which the depth of field is too small and needs to be expanded. This is mostly necessary when you make macros and you are very close to the object. For this purpose, many cameras from OM Digital Solutions provide focus bracketing and focus stacking. How these two functions work and what differentiates them I want to show you here.
The differences between focus stacking and focus bracketing
In case you are using a camera of the OM-D series focus bracketing and focus stacking differentiate in the following two points.
With focus stacking you can shot not more than 15 images, whereas in case of focus bracketing you can shot up to 999 images.
With focus stacking you are getting a JPEG file, which is stacked out of the different images and each single shot in addition in RAW/JEPG. In case of focus bracketing you just get the single images and not a final stacked one. Those images can be used for stacking in a dedicated software afterwards.
Both methods are suitable to expand the depth of field of your images. Focus stacking is easier to use, as the result can be viewed directly in-camera. In addition, the camera shows you a small frame, which indicates the area which will be lost after the images are stacked. Focus bracketing does make sense in case the number of images available in focus stacking is not enough.
Last but not least it is important to know, that Fokus bracketing can be used with all Micro Four Thirds, which have autofocus functionality. Whereas focus stacking is usable only with compatible lenses. Which of the lense are compatible depends on the camera you are using and is also changing from time to time. Therefore please have a look at the OM Digitalsolutions Q&A website if needed.
In “camera menu 2” you find the entry “Bracketing”. Select it, navigate to “Focus BKT” and open it with the right key on the keypad.
Select “Focus stacking” to activate focus stacking or select “off” in case you would use focus bracketing instead.
The amount of images you would like to take is selectable in “Amount of images” In case you have selected focus stacking you can select up to 15 images. Otherwise, up to 99 images are possible.
In addition, you can define the focus difference between every single shot.
Which value to be selected depends on the object, aperture and focal length. Therefore you could not tell which is the best fitting one. Best you start with the standard value 5 and change it in case you see issues in the final image. As a starting point, I determine the distance between the focus points when using the M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm F2.8 Macro on the closest focus distance
Distance of focus points on the object
In case you would like to use an external Flash you can choose the time your flash needs to recharge in the flash charging time.
As focus stacking is using the silent shutter, the flash is deactivated. In case you would like to use the flash you have to activate it in the camera2 menu under “Antishock / silent”.
Finally, a small animation of images that were taken with different sharpness settings.
After merging the single images the final result looks like this. Compared to the normal image the depth of field is increased.
In case you do have any comments please leave them below.
The E-M1X and the E-M1 Mark III do have already a lot of AF layout presets, which are usable in many different situations. Customize your AF points to increase your AF hitting rate. You can adjust them like follows
Customise your AF points in the menu
1 In the gear menu select A2 “Target Mode Settings” and open the menu with the arrow right key.
2 You can program and save up to four AF field presets.
3 To be able to select those presets you have to activate them under “Mode Settings”.
You also can watch the following film, which shows step by step how to program your AF fields.
In my article “My experience with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4.0 PRO” I showed you already the 8-25mm lens and how flexible you can utilise it. In my holidays I have been in the Alps and visited the Almbachklamm nearby Berchtesgaden. I planned to use the E-M1 Mark III only with one lens. As the Almbach Gorge (Almbackklamm) is very narrow I decided to go with the 8-25mm F4 lens.
The Almbach Gorge
The Gorge is not far away from Berchtesgaden and close to the B305 in the direction of Salzburg. It belongs to the little village Marktschellenberg. At the entrance is the last working pebble mill, which is still producing marble balls with water power (title image). The gorge is 3km long and ends with the Theresienklause, a dam which was utilised to transport wood through it. The way back is again through the gorge or via the Etterberg and the church of pilgrimage “Maria Heimsuchung”. We left the gorge at half of the way and went directly to the Ettenberg. In case you would like to know more about the route you will find it here.
The gorge, the natural territory for the E-M1 Mark III and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4 PRO lens
As mentioned earlier the E-M1 Mark III and the 8-25mm lens is the perfect combination for such a trip. The gorge is at least up to the half very narrow and a wide-angle lens is needed. In addition, there are a lot of motifs, which are a bit farer away. Means that the zoom area of the lens will be completely used. Right at the beginning, there is a small ravine. You can reach via a little bridge and therefore a nice easy motif.
The images already show how useful the zoom range of the lens is. It shows how it can be utilised to create your image. Also the E-M1 Mark III is the fitting camera for such a hike. With the built-in LiveND filter you can make long time exposures. A physical ND filter is not needed. Thanks to the image stabilization you can realize these images without a tripod. You. can leave it at home and save weight.
Many claims that zoom lenses are only used in their extreme focal lengths. In this case 8mm or 25mm. However, this hike showed something else. I also used the focal lengths between the extremes, depending on how the composition of the picture required it. The picture of the church, for example, was made with 18mm. The picture of the watercourse was taken with 14mm.
As already indicated in the headline, the decision to take the M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4 PRO with me on the hike was, in retrospect, exactly the right one. The lens covered exactly what was needed with the focal length range. But the E-M1 Mark III was also able to show its strengths to the full. In particular, the image stabilization in combination with the built-in LiveND filters was very helpful in realizing images that would normally only have been possible with a tripod and physical filters. So I only had one camera with one lens with me. I could leave the tripod and ND filter at home. This saved a lot of weight, which would otherwise have burdened me on the hike.
When using a function like continuous shooting mode, ProCapture or Focus Bracketing you get very fast a lot of images. The SD card gets filled up very fast and not every image is needed. The normal way to delete single images is very time consuming and therefore not helpful. Cameras from the E-M1 series have fortunately do have a fast selection of images to easily select many images in a short time.
How fast selection of images work
1. Press the replay button to see the images on the SD card
2. Use the thumbwheel to switch from the single image view to the thumbnail view.
3. Select the first image, which you would like to select. Press and hold the movie record button.
4. Rotate either the forefinger wheel or thumbwheel to select the other images. You can select up to 200 images.
As soon as you have selected the images you can either delete or mark them as protected or share them with OI.share.