Has the term focal length become obsolete?

Bild der weißen Olympus PEN E-P7

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In analogue times, the world was still simple. If you disregard medium format cameras, which were only affordable for professional photographers these days, there were only 35mm format cameras available. All focal lengths were easy comparable. Nowadays, however, there are several formats available. Besides the 35mm format APS-C and Micro Four Thirds are available, which are showing a different angle of view with the same focal length due to different sensor sizes. To make matters worse, the APS-C cameras also have slightly different sizes. With Canon, APS-C is 22.3 × 14.9 mm2 and 23.5 × 15.6mm2, which sounds little but makes a difference in the recorded angle of view.

Since customers were used to the focal length specifications in 35mm format in analogue times, at the beginning of the digital age camera manufacturers converted the focal lengths of other sensor formats to 35mm using the so-called crop factor. This helped the user to understand which angle of view he could record with the lens. The approach certainly made sense at the beginning because the entire target group of manufacturers were used to the focal length information from the analogue cameras and it was, therefore, easier to sell new products. Nowadays this is no longer the case, as the younger generation did not grow up with the 35mm format. So I notice again and again that I look into questioning eyes when I talk about crop factor and try to explain that the lens with a focal length of 25mm in Micro Four Thirds format records the same angle of view (section) as a 50mm lens in 35mm. After all, the lens says, mostly very prominently, 25mm and not 50mm.

Why don’t we use the angle of view?

In the specifications of the lenses, the manufacturers always specify the angle of view, which is identical to 47 ° for a 25mm in Micro Four Thirds format and for a 50mm in 35mm format. In case the manufacturers would write the angle of view on the lenses instead of the focal length, a comparison would again be possible without any conversion. Even newcomers would understand that the two lenses can be used for the same purpose. For the experts among us, this might be hard in the beginning. Who has the angle of view for each lens in mind, but that is only a matter of time, especially if the corresponding angle of view instead of the focal length is printed on each lens, it would soon be easy for us to have the angle of view ready.

Conclusion

I am aware that this is only a theoretical game of thought. Current practice is too deeply rooted for that. Manufacturers who use 35mm image sensors, in particular, have a strong interest in having this sensor size as a reference. This strengthens their position as the holy grail of image quality. Thought by the end-user, however, it makes perfect sense to use the angle of view, because all lenses would be directly comparable. A conversion of focal lengths would not be necessary. Yes, maybe not for those of you who are well versed, but for those of you who are new to photography and have no idea about all of this, it will be easier.

Your opinion is asked

I am looking forward to discussing the topic with you. So leave a comment with your perspective or opinion. I look forward to a factual discussion with you.

Customise your AF points

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, but you can increase your AF hitting rate in case you are using customised AF points. You can adjust them like follows

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.

5 Tips to increase battery life

Even so, the modern mirrorless systems nowadays have a decent battery lifetime, that gets you through the day, it can be yours that you get into situations where you must be economical with the remaining energy. I would like to give you a few tips and hand that will enable you to continue working as long as possible.

Tip 1
Use the display not the viewfinder!

Even though the back display of your camera is much bigger than the display in your electronic viewfinder, it needs much less energy. This sounds weird but is logical. The viewfinder has much more pixel and as switching pixels needs energy the viewfinder needs more energy. Besides, the refresh rate of the viewfinder is much higher than the one at the back display. This needs also more energy.

Tip 2
Reduce display brightness!

Once you are using the back display you could optimise the setting. By reducing the brightness of the display you can save additional energy and extend battery life.

Tip 3
Switch of image stabilisation!

Olympus OM-D camera does have fantastic image stabilisation, but to be able to correct movements it needs energy. In case your battery life is at the end you have to decide whether you would still use the image stabilisation or not, but you can shoot some more images.

Tip 4
Switch off Autofocus!

Even though that manual focus in a modern camera is realised by electro motors, you are able to save energy in case you switch off the autofocus. Especially when you are shooting slow-moving object as you just have to set the focus once. The autofocus on the other side is moving the motor every time you half-press the release button. Alternatively, you could use the back button focus method, which uses the AEL/AFL button to activate focus.

Tip 5
Keep your batteries warm!

The capacity of batteries highly depends on the temperature. Working in cold conditions the battery life is much shorter than usual. Therefore I have always one battery close to my body to keep it warm, mostly in my pocket. In case the battery in-camera is dying I can use the one in my pocket.

Switching from winter to summer time

Every year in spring and autumn we have to switch the clock by one hour. In case you own an Olympus E-M1X, which has a built-in GPS receiver, and you have set-up the automatic time switch, all will be done automatically. If not, you have to do it by yourself. Otherwise, the time in the EXIF data is not the correct capture time. In case you use your smartphone to record GPS data the position in the EXIF data is wrong.

Set time with OI.share

In case you own an OM-D, which can be connected via WiFi with your phone, I recommend connecting it once with Olympus OI.share. If you selected synchronise time in the settings, the time will be adjusted just by that. How this works in detail you see in the movie on the left.

Adjust time manually

In case your camera is not equipped with WiFi or you don’t like to use Olympus OI.share, you have to set the time manually.

Just go to the wrench menu and change the time.

Both methods are quick, but guarantee that the capture time in the EXIF data in your image is correct. This helps you in the end not only if you synchronise GPS data of your smartphone with your camera, but helps you sorting the images as well. It helps a lot when you are searching within your images.

Utilise Tough TG-6 as GPS Tracker

Only a view system camera, like the Olympus E-M1X for example, do have a built-in GPS. Those cameras can either write the position directly into the EXIF data or record your route. In case you don’t have a system camera with built-in GPS there are several possibilities to record GPS data and write them into EXIF or record your route.
The easiest is for sure the smartphone together with the appropriate App, like OI.track from Olympus. The disadvantage is that a smartphone doesn’t survive the whole day in case you have GPS activated. As I anyhow own a TG-6, which has also a built-in GPS, as a second camera, I’m using it as a GPS tracker.

Advantages

In opposite to the smartphone, the TG-6 can be used over several days without recharging in case you only use GPS recording. Also, you could be sure, that your smartphone is used for other things. As with the smartphone, you can send GPS data to your camera and save them as EXIF data into your image.

Preparations

First, you should connect your TG to your smartphone. As soon as you have done it the time in the TG-6 will be synchronised with the time of your smartphone. When you do the same with your OM-D the time of all three devices are synchronised. This is especially important in case you would like to save the GPS data into your image EXIF data. Base on time the camera decides which GPS data is written to the fitting image.
Also, I recommend installing A-GPS data into your TG-6, then the TG-6 can find the GPS signal when you switch it on. How to do this I described in my article “….”

How to

The TG-6 (by the way the same switch is available on TG Tracker as well) has a switch to activate GPS constantly, even if the camera is switched off. In case you are using older TG cameras, you can activate GPS constantly on the menu. Once you have activated your GPS you only have to have the camera with you.

Select those tracks, which you would like to use, and wipe to the left.
Select more.
Select “share” to send track per mail or to your computer.

As soon as you finished you can download with WiFi the GPS recording with OI.share to your smartphone. OI.share is available for free on Apple App Store or Google Play. From the App, you can send them via mail or store it on your computer (in case you are using Apple devices the easiest way is AirDrop). Or you send it to your OM-D camera to save the position data in the EXIF data of each image.

Use GPS data

GPS data can be saved in different formats. The data of TG-& are .log files, which are not usable for all programs. Therefore in some cases, you have to convert them. For example, in case you would like to save it on Google maps. You can do that on the free website GPS Visualizer.

Select “Convert to GPX” and upload your TG file to the website to convert it. In case you have recorded several files, you have the possibility to select all of them. Those files will be converted into one file. Here one example on Google maps.

Taking a coffee cup at home

Even if you have no studio equipment and have to stay at home, it is possible with simple tools to shoot beautiful images. Windows are perfect light sources and with some creativity, you can even handle to hard light. But first about my image. I had the plan to shoot an espresso cup with fresh, steaming coffee. Here my result.

First I looked for a suitable window that had enough light and set up my image. A wooden board from the kitchen served as background. A piece of fabric as a black background that I found in the closet. In theory, a t-shirt, duvet, or something similar would probably work as well. Since the light through the window was too hard, I had to think of something. Since I had no alternative, I cut up sandwich bags and stuck them to the window with adhesive tape. You can see this quite well in the next picture.

On the other side, you can see a brightener that I still had at home. If you don’t have something like this at home, you can alternatively use a simple piece of white paper. Coffee is made quickly and the cup, like it, is quickly put into the image. But I quickly discovered that the steam after the fresh brewing was not strong enough to be visible in the picture. So a creative solution was needed. First I tried a match, but unfortunately, the smoke was too strong. It looked unnatural. Then my son had the idea to light a coffee bean and let it burn until it glowed. This worked very well. The advantage is that you could put the bean in peace behind the cup and the smoke lasted long enough to take a picture.