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A family safari with Wilderness Safaris

Nature close to Camp Pell

My private passion is to photograph animals in they natural environment. In 2017 and 2019 I had the opportunity to visit several camps from Wilderness Safaris in Zimbabwe and Botswana. I learned that there is no better place to have a safari and photograph any kind of African wild animals. The experience to see those animals close and observe their behavior in their natural environment was so intense that I always wished to bring also my wife and son to Africa to give them the opportunity to experience this by themself. Finally this year I became 50 years and decided to invest my money for a trip to Botswana, instead of having a party with friends and family. Therefore we booked a lovely trip to the Okavango Delta and the Linyanti region.

A family safari with Wilderness Safaris

What is different when on a safari with your family?

Traveling with family is different to the experience I had on my first two trips. I was a bit nervous how my 13 year old son response that the day starts quite early. In addition in camps you have only limited access to the internet, which is nowadays essential for teenagers. Anyhow we had an unbelievable nice week in camps. My son was not complaining at all. Getting up early and having no access to the world wide web was not a problem at all. Real life experience you are getting in Africa on a Safari has incomparable more value. Also for a teenager. Let me share briefly our experience.

Camp Pelo

Pelo means heart. The name is related to the shape of the island which is located in the Jao concession. After a long 20 hour trip from Germany we finally arrived around 3 p.m. On the air strip and a guide picked us up bring us to the camp. The way to the camp was already mind blowing. We met some giraffes and buffalos. Shortly before we arrived the boat station we also saw painted dogs, one endangered animal. This happened only 15 minutes after we landed in the bush. What could you wish more, when you are on a safari? On our short boat drive to Pelo we already saw a lot of different birds.

Mokoro drive is one of the best way to discover nature on a safari

Arrival in Camp Pelo

Finally we arrived in the camp, where we were welcomed by Abo the camp manager. After a delicious welcome drink and a short camp rule introduction we went to our rooms. There we had a short time to refresh and relax before  a delicious dinner has been served. My son and my wide have been more than impressed about the location. Accommodation and the kindness o the camp stuff was mind blowing. 

Even though this is already my third time that I have been in Botswana the sunsets are still unbelievable beautiful. The colors you see when the sun is settings are so different to what you see in Europe. This alone is already worth the trip. But it doesn’t end here. Even the nights are so different. No light pollution, means that you also can see much more stars than in a country like Germany. In addition the sound at night is also an experience by itself. Frogs and hippos are quite active at night. My wife liked the frog sound so much, that we have recorded it. We use it now as ring tone on our phones. Anytime someone is calling us, we remember the lovely time we had here in Pelo.

Sunset in Camp Pelo

The second day in Pelo

The next day was a mixture between a game drives and a boat cruises. Unbelievable how many different species you see in this environment. As Pelo is a camp surrounded by water, it is a paradise for bird, hippos and crocodiles. In Germany you are lucky when you see a sea eagle once in your lifetime, but here in the Okavango delta we saw 5 African fish eagles within an hour. Not to forget my favorite bird the kingfisher. This species is of course also present in the Okavango delta. Beside the pied, striped and great kingfisher I have been lucky to photograph the malachite kingfisher as he was taking off from a reed branch. 

Kingfisher taken on Safari taking of reed

As we were already leaving Pelo the morning after, the camp prepared a surprise for us at dinner. Instead of having it at the common dinner space, we had it on a fire place with a traditional African barbecue and a lovely goodbye song presented by the camp employees. A very special time came to an end, but we had two more camps to experience.

Camp Tube Tree

 Our second camp was Tuba Tree, which is in the Wilderness Safaris classification a classic camp and therefore the camp and also the rooms are bigger. Flight time from Pelo to Tubu Tree is only 5 minutes.

However as water hasn’t reached the camp yet the vegetation was dryer. Tubu Tree is famous for its Leopards and we were looking forward to meet them. However on the first day we haven’t been lucky. Anyhow we had great sightings like elephants, bataleur eagles, zebras and a group of young male lions, who were relaxing in the shadow. The view from our rooms has been also fantastic as the balcony was directed in western direction and the wildlife was just passing the camp directly in front of you. Means we in the lunch breaks we were also able to watch the wildlife directly from our rooms. In case a refreshment is needed also from our outdoor shower.

Finally a leopard

At the second day in Tubu Tree we have been a bit luckier. As our guide Delta found some fresh leopard tracks and in addition other animals made a lot of warning signal to their companions, that we were sure a leopard must be somewhere. Even though it is not easy to find them. At this time of the year the gras is high and the animals camouflage is hiding them perfectly. After a while we have been successful and finally saw our first leopard on this trip. 

Leopard in high gras

Then it was time for the sundowner, which is the ending of each afternoon game drive. Means you are getting your favorite drink in the middle of nowhere to enjoy the African sunset. After a busy day with a lot of interesting sights we were heading back to the camp already in the dark and got a surprise as we were approaching our camp. We just passed the electric fence which should keep the elephants away from camp, as we met the mother of the leopard we met in the afternoon. She obviously was leaving the camp. We learned that she actually gave birth to the leopard we met in the afternoon in the public bathroom of Tubu Tree. My son, my wife and myself were very exited as she just past our vehicle so close that it would have been possible to touch her. 

Camp Duma Tau

Last stop of our week in Botswana was Duma Tau. This camp is classified as premium camp. Compared to the other two camps this is a complete different level. Not only in terms of rooms and available space, but also in terms of service. Anything is top level and unexpected in a location like this. However we missed the lu with a view, which was for us the highlight in the other camps. This is the toilet in the public area which gives you a direct view into the wild while being on the toilet. Never had such a relaxing time on a toilet before.

 Taking care about my son

Our guide See immediately caught our son, by asking him to be his assistant and sit beside him in the first row. Not that the other guide doesn’t cared about our son, but I immediately recognized that See has a special connection to children and especially our son. Maybe this come due to life experience he had so far. Grown up in a community in the bush, he was in a so called „Eco camp“ as he was 7 years old and decided to be a guide due to the experience he made in that camp. During our stay we always felt this passion and as said the special connection to children. He always involved my son in the thinks happening and even though my son had only three years English lessons in school he was motivated to communicate with See. 

Hippo relaxing in the sunset

Wildlife in Duma Tau

In terms of nature Duma Tau, which is in the Linyanti regions, is quite different to what you see in the Okavango Delta. The landscape is totally different and therefore wildlife behaviour is also different. Even though the types of wildlife you can see is very similar to what we have seen in Tubu Tree. Lions, leopards and elephants are the big one, but also bird life is tremendously impressive. 

Highlight in Duma Tau is that this camp is located directly on an elephant trail, which is used to cross the river. Therefore it is very likely that you can observe from your room elephants crossing the river and if you are lucky you can experience how those elegant animals are going through the camp. 

Conclusion

We had an unforgettable week, which we can remember our whole life. Everything went, thanks to the perfect organization from Wilderness Safaris, without any problem. Experiencing wildlife in their natural environment is only interesting for me as photographer, but also for my wife and my son. We learn so much about the wildlife and nature in Africa and will miss the friendly stuff and guide in camps. We recommend everybody to have this experience once in a lifetime.

My experience on my first trip

As said this was already my third trip to Botswana. In case you would like to know how it felt the first time you can read this in my Blogpost “Shot trip to the big five”.

Firmware updates in future still for free?

close up shot of keys on a red surface

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.

Sunset in Botswana kündigt das Ende kostenloser Firmware Updates bei digitalen Kameras an.

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.

Über den kostenlosen Firmware Updates digitaler Kameras ziehen sich düstere Wolken zusammen

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.

Following might be interesting for you as well

In my blog post “Has the term focal length become obsolete” I share my thoughts about the terminology focal length.

AF customization with the OM System OM-1

The AF performance of the OM-1 has been, compared to its predecessor, dramatically improved. Why and which techology improvements are responsible for the improvement you can find in my blog post “OM System OM-1 AI detection AF“. However you are able to even improve your auto focus performance when us the AF customization with the OM System OM-1

Options for AF customization with the OM System OM-1

Depending on the subject your are shooting, four settings improve your AF performance.

  1. Use your own AF field settings
  2. Adjust C-AF sensitivity
  3. C-AF centre priority
  4. AF home settings

The above mentioned point do have an influence in the auto focus performance. Therefore you should have a look on them. It is important to know, which settings is helpful in which situation.

Own AF field settings

Beside the default AF field settings the user is able to define his / her own presets. Beside size and form you can also define the step size. The step size influence how fast you are able to move the AF fields with in the image area. Therefore this value influences the speed how fast you can react while you are photographing. You can define your AF fields as follows.

Screenshot Om-1 to show where to define the AF Target mode settings

1 Open the menu and navigate in the green AF menu to page 5 and select ” AF Target Mode Settings”

Screenshot of OM-1 menu to show where you can set up the Market mode settings

2 Press “OK” and select C1. Use the right key to open the settings menu.

Screenshot OM-1 menu to show how to make the AF customization

3 Adjust the field size to your needs with the forefinger and thumb wheel. Changing the step size is possible by pressing the “Info” button.

screenshot of OM-1 menu to show how to activate the custom AF target modes

4 Confirm with “OK” button. Press again the “OK” button to activate your settings.

Which settings are useful for the AF customization with the OM System OM-1?

How are those settings helpful to increase the AF performance? Quite simple, it helps the AF algorithm to find the focus when you are using only a part of the image area for focusing. For example when you are shooting birds in flights. Most properly in this case only the upper area is relevant for the AF. When you use in this case AF field which are covering the hole width but only half of the height, then you support the AF.

A second option, is to use only a single AF point. This is helpful when you are shooting small details, like you find in macro images. In addition a single AF point is also helpful when you capture birds in tries.

In case you would like to follow a step by step tutorial you also find this on my Youtube channel here:

Adjust C-AF sensitivity

If you use continuous auto focus you can define how sensitive the AF algorithm. In this case sensitivity means the reaction speed of the AF in case of changes in the image. Adjust the C-AF sensitivity as follows.

Screenshot of OM-1 menu to show where to finde C-AF sensitivity

1 Open the menu and navigate in the green AF menu to page three. Select C-AF sensitivity.

Screenshot of OM-1 menu for C-AF sensitivity settings options

2 Press “OK” and adjust the sensitivity between -2 and +2. Thereby shortens a high value and increases a low value the reaction time.

When do I use which sensitivity?

You use a high value of +1 or even +2 in case you are shooting object with fast changes. For example when you photograph a squirrel. Those small animals are moving quite fast and you never know what happens in the next second. Also the auto focus must be able to adapt fast in such kind of situation.

squirell in a tree


You use a low value of -1 or even -2 in case the auto focus should not be disturbed by changes. One example would be soccer. The camera should focus on the player you have selected, even though another player is running through your image. Same is true in case you are shooting birds in flight, which are partly covered by tries.

C-AF center priority

Especially when you use bigger AF fields the C-AF center priority is a topic. It defines which AF fields are used for focusing. Is the C-AF center priority activated the center AF field is prioritized. This means the camera use only other fields, if changes happens in more than one of the other fields. In case you would like to set AF center priority do following.

Screenshot of OM-1 menu to localize C-AF Center priority

1 Open the menu and navigate in the green AF menu to page 3 and select “C-AF center priority”.

Screenshot of OM-1 menu to show options for center priority

2 Confirm with “OK” and selcht select the AF preset which should use the C-AF center priority.

In which case is the C-AF center priority helpful?

The C-AF center priority helps to avoid that the algorithm uses the border fields to often. This helps you in case your are not sure that you are able to follow an object. Thus you are not able to keep it in the center of your chosen AF fields

AF home settings

In case you fast moving object speed is important. So you are able to react fast. In this case AF home settings is helpful. In case you would like to use the AF home settings do following.

Screenshot of OM-1 menu to show how to set-up Multi selector settings

1 Open the menu and navigate in the yellow gear menu to page 1. Select “Multi Selector Setting”

Screenshot of OM-1 menu

2 Press “OK” and select “Center Button”

Screenshot of OM-1 menu

3 Press “OK” again and select “HP” Confirm with “OK”.

Now the camera is coming back to the standard settings, once you press the multi selector button. In case you don’t like the standard settings you can change them as follows.

Screenshot of OM-1 menu

1 Open the menu and navigate in the green AF menu to page 5. Select “Set Home”

Screenshot of OM-1 menu

2 Press “OK” and define which AF field and which position you would like to have as home settings.

For all of you, who prefer to have a short move showing how to do the settings I also Lada a small movie on my YouTube channel.

E-M1 Mark III und E-M1X

You don’t have an OM-1 and would like to know how those settings are done for E-M1 Mark III or E-M1X? Then you find a small instruction in my blog post “Customize your AF points

USB-RAW processing in OM Workspace useful?

OM Workspace is a RAW file developer, which is for Olympus / OM System camera owners for free. Ist can be downloaded from the OM Digitalsolution website. As it is the OM Digitalsolutions own software it will be renewed on every product launch. Therefore the first one supporting RAW files of a new camera. Beside the possibility to use the computer processor it offers also to utilize the camera processor to process the RAW files. In forums and the social networks it is heavily discussed whether it makes sense to use the USB-RAW processing capabilities or not. With this short article I would like to help.

OM-1 product image

What is USB-RAW Processing in OM Workspace?

A in camera processor has different tasks than a processor in a computer. Therefore concept and design is fundamental different. A camera processor is optimized for the task needed in a camera. Means that the usage of a camera should be possible, without any delay, at all times. For this task the camera processors has special areas, which are optimized for image processing. This means that a camera processor can make image processing much faster than a ordinary computer processor. A ordinary computer processor is optimized for general usage. This is the reason why OM Workspace offers you the option to utilize the camera processor for RAW image development

How can I use USB-RAW Processing?

Preconditions to use USB-RAW processing is that you have installed OM Workspace and have one compatible camera (E-M1 Mark III; E-M1 Mark II, E-M1X und die OM-1) connected via USB to your computer. It is important that you are using the same camera for processing as you have used for taking the images. Also important is that you set the camera mode to “RAW/Control” . In addition it is important that the camera is connected directly to the computer and no hub is used.

After you have startet the software you can activate USB-RAW processing in the icon bar

screenshot how to activate USB-RAW processing in OM Workspace

Or in case you prefer to uses USB-RAW processing all the time you can make the setting also in the option menu.

where the USB-RAW procession option is located in the settings

Now OM Workspace is able to utilize the camera processor to develop your images..

When does it make sense to use USB-RAW processing?

In case you are using the newest version of apple computers, like the Mac Studio, which do have massive computer power, it only makes sense to use USB-RAW processing, if you would get the same image quality as you are getting from in camera JEPG images. For all other scenarios, the development with the camera processor, which is as said optimized for images processing, will be much faster than processing the images with your computer. I do have a MacBook Pro from 2018, the development with the camera processor is 10x faster as with the Intel processor. In case you would like to judge the advantage in your case, make a simple test. I would be happy when you would share your experience down in the comments.

OM System OM-1 introduced

Now it is official. One year ago announce The OM System OM-1 is officially introduced. With the OM-1 OM Digitalsolutions fading the Olympus ear out and introduce not only an impressive camera but also a new product naming. Exactly at the 50th anniversary of the OM-1, the digital grandson is introduced to the market. As in the seventies is also the digital version of the OM-1 compared to cameras, which offers a similar performance, small and lightweight. Nevertheless, it is equipped with technical possibilities, which are so far not available in the market.

Kingfisher taken with the OM-1

Lightning fast time machine

Pro Capture has been introduced together with the E-M1 Mark II back in 2016 and supports you as a photographer shifting back in time. While pressing the release button halfway down, the camera already records images and saves them in buffer storage. As soon as you fully press the button down this buffer storage will be stored on your SD card. This supports you to shoot unforeseeable incidents easier than without Pro Capture.
The OM-1 brings this function to a totally new level. With up to 120 images per second, you are able to record finer details of movement which enable you to catch the perfect moment. At this speed, the camera focuses and makes the exposure metering with the first image and keeps it with the following. In case the subject you would like to capture is moving towards or away from you, the camera should adjust focus and exposure in between. Also in this mode, the OM-1 sets new standards. The OM-1 offers 50 frames per second. This speed is unmatched by any camera on the market. This enables you to shoot any small detail in movement. Of course, you have these speeds also in the normal sequential shooting mode as well.

Starting kingfisher taken with the OM-1
Starting kingfisher taken with the OM-1

New intelligent autofocus system

Such speed values are only possible if your focusing system is blasting fast as well. The autofocus system of the OM-1 is based on a so-called Quad Pixel AF Technology. This technology divides each pixel into 4 sub-pixel, which can be controlled separately. Therefore it is possible to control those Subpixel diagonals, which enables the camera to realize cross-type phase-detection AF points. 100% of the sensor area is covered. Because the sensor can be read out very quickly, the data can be sent to the image processor very quickly. The new, very fast image processor Truepic X does the rest.

This new technology is also the base for improved intelligent subject detection. OM Digitalsolutions is calling it AI detection AF. The subject detection is based on machine learning and is able to detect airplanes, cars, birds also cats, and dogs. There is not only a big leap in the speed and accuracy of recognition, but also a lot has happened in terms of functionality. In the past subject detection was only available in C-AF + Tracking mode, now it is also available in S-AF and C-AF. In S-AF and C-AF the cameras show, as with C-AF + Tracking, if a subject is detected. However, in those modes, the camera only focuses on subjects, if those are within the focusing fields. Especially experienced photographers will be happy about it, as they are getting better control over this functionality.

In case you would like to know more about AI detection AF please read my short blog post “OM System OM-1 AI detection AF”

OM-1 in the forest

Image Quality

in the general opinion pixel count of sensors is equaled with resolution. The OM-1 shows, that this is not correct. Although the pixel count has not been increased, the completely newly developed sensor offers a better detail reproduction than the E-M1 Mark III. This is not surprising as the sensor is a backside illuminated sensor and has a much better noise performance than its predecessor. Most visible is this in high sensitivities, but also visible in the base sensitivities, which offer better data handling. This results in a better detail reproduction in fine structures, which is generally called resolution.

Noise performance

As already mentioned the noise performance of the OM-1 has been massively improved. The OM-1 is roughly 2 f-stops better compared to E-M1 Mark III. My personal impression is that it is even slightly better than 2 f-stops. This means that images taken with 25600 ISO do have roughly the same noise performance as images of the E-M1 Mark III at 6400 ISO. You could say that the light sensitivity has been improved by four times. If you have in mind that the sensor area of a Micro Four Thirds sensor is four times smaller than the area of a 35mm camera, you could say that the OM-1 is on the same level as a 35mm camera with a similar pixel count.

But not only noise performance has been improved compared to E-M1 Mark III, also the dynamic range is larger. Roughly 1 f-stop more dynamic range is now available. This enables you to shoot better images of a gorge, which is very bright in the background.

All in all, is the image quality improvement larger than you can expect from a new camera generation and I would say the image quality of this Micro Four Thirds camera is now on the same level as 35mm cameras.

Robin in a bush

Reliability personified

Olympus aka OM Digital Solution has been the market leader in dustproof and splashproof cameras since a long time. The OM-1 is even better. It offers an IP53 standard certification and could be used in nearly all weather conditions you can imagine. In addition, it is guaranteed that the camera works down to -10°C. However, this is only the official value as I used the camera in much lower temperatures as well. But this is not all. In addition, the OM-1 comes with a supersonic wave filter, which removes dust from the sensor. For this purpose, the OM-1 is equipped with a mechanical shutter that is specified for 400,000 releases. More than you will need as an ambitious photographer.

Everything is new

Not only sensor and processor is new developed, but also the menu has got a new design. Even more important it also goes a new structure. In my opinion, the redesign is a complete success. Functions are arranged much more logically and the layout means you only have to look to the left when searching. Once you have found the parameter you are looking for, you can see the setting that is currently being used on the right-hand side. The Super Control Panel has also been streamlined and adjusted. The result is a much simpler overview and you can make settings faster.

Conclusion

The OM SYSTEM OM-1 is a thoroughly wonderful camera. The engineers have not only taken the image quality a considerable step forward but also brought the speed of a camera into previously unimagined spheres. Anyone who still misses something here will be surprised with a completely new operating concept that is very easy to understand for owners of an OM-D and new users can learn very quickly. From my point of view, there are only small things that could be improved.