The Micro Four Thirds focal length modifier for square photos

I previously wrote about the true focal length modifier for Micro Four Thirds when compared to a “full frame” camera, that is a camera that mimics the size of “35mm” film (which is actually 24 x 36 mm).

But with square photos being most important for Instagram, we should be comparing Micro Four Thirds to square cameras. The most famous square cameras were the Rolleiflexes, which used 6x6cm film.

The correct Micro Four Thirds to 6×6 focal length modifier, when cropping to a square, is 4.61.

The standard lens on 6×6 cameras was 80mm, which translates to 17mm on Micro Four Thirds. Good news, Olympus makes three lenses in that exact focal length!

55mm was considered wide angle, and that translates to 12mm. Once again, we are in luck, Olympus also makes a 12mm lens! And so does Panasonic!

135mm was considered telephoto, and that translates to a 29mm lens. We are out of luck if we want a 28mm prime lens. However, the closest common Micro Four Thirds prime-lens focal length is 25mm. So this is where things get weird. Everyone thinks that the 25mm is a “normal” lens, but actually when you crop to a square, and then compare that square to how photographers used to think about things, 25mm lens is actually a telephoto focal length.

The same modifier is used for comparing f-stops. So that f/2.0 12mm prime lens, which seems like a “fast” lens, is actually equivalent to a quite “slow” 55mm f/9.3 lens on a 6×6 camera.

Even if you can afford that seemingly “super-fast” 17mm f/1.2 lens, it behaves like an 80mm 6×6 lens with the very unimpressive maximum aperture of f/5.5.

To summarize again, for square photos:

12mm = wide angle
17mm = standard
25mm = telephoto

Hello blog: photography is for Instagram

For a few months I quit being interested in photography. It seemed pointless.

Now I realize what the problem was. People are doing photography the wrong way. They have an old fashioned view of photography, involving making huge prints and hanging them on your wall. Sorry, that’s the photography of the past. Today, photography is all about Instagram.

The technical rules for Instagram are simple:

1. The square (1:1) aspect ratio it the best ratio to use for Instagram. The only ratio that makes sense. Forget about rectangular photos.
2. You don’t need a sharp lens, because the maximum size that Instagram will save a photo is 1080 pixels, and most of the time the image is only displayed at 640 pixels. Even the softest lens ever tested, the Olympus 15mm bodycap lens, is sharp enough for Instagram! The kit lens is fine.

The rules for subject matter:

Instagram is not very intellectual. If a museum curator at MoMA likes your photos, they will probably NOT do well on Instagram.

The best aspect ratio for Instagram

The best aspect ratio for photos you post to Instagram is 1:1 (square).

Now, some readers are thinking, “duh! of course!” but actually it’s not so obvious anymore now that Instagram allows you to post photos of any aspect ratio.

However, Instagram will truncate the top and bottom of portrait-oriented photos if they are longer than 4:5, and landscape-oriented will not maximize the screen real estate that Instagram makes available.

Furthermore, in thumbnail view, Instagram always crops your photos to a square which may seriously weaken the composition if it was composed for the common 3:2 aspect ratio. Your photos have to look good in thumbnail view if you want click-throughs!

So while I think that 3:2 is the best aspect ratios for photos in general, for Instagram you should go with the square!

Can shooting film help you get girls?

At the forums, a guy writes:

“Photographers” who shoot film because it’s “cool” and the “film look” adds a quality to their photos that makes up for their lack of compositional and technical skill. Mainly it seems that they shoot film because it makes them cool and get them girls.

I was all in agreement with the poster about the silly pretentiousness of people who shoot film, until I got to the part about getting girls. I mean, the whole purpose of photography is to help you get girls. If film does that better, then I want film!

If someone knows the secret of using film photography to get girls, please explain in the comments!

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For those with a poor sense of humor detector, this post is written tongue-in-cheek. And there’s a warning right under the title of the blog that you shouldn’t take anything here too seriously.

Are Micro Four Thirds lenses sharp enough?

ATMX observed this his high-res photo taken with the E-M5 II has soft corners (although exactly how soft is not specified).

There is no lens I have used that has corners as perfectly good as in the center of the photo, but if there is one lens I’ve used that comes close to perfection, it’s the lens on the Ricoh GR. Of course the Ricoh GR is a rather limited camera. You have only a single focal length (equivalent to 28mm), there’s no viewfinder, there are “only” 16 megapixels, and I also find it kind of hard get the perfect exposure (although you can use exposure bracketing).

As far as I can tell, the sharpest Micro Four Thirds lens for center-to-corner image quality is, believe it or not, the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8. I say believe it or not because most people would assume prime lenses would outperform a zoom lens, but that’s not the case here. The 12-40 is definitely sharper than the 12mm f/2.0 and the 14mm f/2.5, it’s a close call with the 17mm. I have not carefully compared the corner quality with other prime lenses that I have (25mm and 45mm), so it’s possible that one of those lenses might outperform the 12-40mm.

Even with the sharp 12-40mm, I can tell that the corners don’t quite have the same quality as the center, and I am sure that would be even more obvious if I used the high-res shot mode on the Pen-F which creates an 80MP raw file, although I have not experimented with the high-res shot mode.

It would certainly be very interesting to compare the 12-40mm with images from various full-frame systems like Canon, Nikon, Sony and even Leica, but I don’t have any of those other systems.

Even though Henri Cartier-Bresson said that sharpness is a bourgeois concept, if you are going to be doing bourgeois stuff like making really large landscape prints, then you need the sharpest lens if you want your really large bourgeois prints to be “superior” to other people’s really large bourgeois prints.

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When comparing lenses, it should always be noted that there’s a lot of sample variation, and my 12-40mm might be better or worse than someone else’s 12-40mm. I think that the 14mm f/2.5 and the 17mm f/1.8 are especially prone to sample variation and that I have a good copy of the 17mm and a bad copy of the 14mm. My opinion of my 14mm is that the quality is unacceptable for landscape photos.

Dave Beckerman’s photo blog

Best photo blog on the internet. Dave has been blogging for 20 years, before he even knew that what he was doing was called “blogging.”

There are many photographers who post their photos on the internet, but it’s very rare that any of them have anything interesting to say about their photos, and Dave has been writing interesting stuff for 20 years.

Henri Cartier-Bresson type photography is dead

Above is an example of a Henri Cartier-Bresson photo that’s widely admired and considered museum-worth Art, just because it’s such an awesome photo, even though it’s just a staircase somewhere in France and just some unknown guy riding a bicycle. And while HCB’s photos are presented as being found happenstance, for all we know HCB colluded with the guy in the photo to ride the bicycle down that street.

A photo like this today has zero chance of getting you any type of acclaim. There are thousands of people today, maybe even tens of thousands, who consider themselves “street photographers” and none of them are doing anything especially original. Back in the 1930s, only a handful of people were taking “street photos” and Bresson was the best of that very small group.

Whatever the role of photography is today as art, a single photo of an unknown person on an insignificant street in France doesn’t fit into that role.

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It’s worth noting that the photo isn’t very sharp by modern standards. Demonstrating that maybe you don’t need the world’s most expensive gear to create art. On the other hand, with so many photos on the internet, in order to stand out you probably don’t want it to look sub-par in any way, which means not having the slightest hint of unshaprness when viewed at normal web resolution.

Does the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens render unrealistic and unnatural images?

A blog post by Robin Wong reviewing the new Olympus 17mm f/1.2 lens states that the f/1.2 lens “manages to render realistic and natural looking results, something I feel is a step up from the older Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens.”

Wow, that’s quite a statement! Phrased another way, the older Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens renders images that are unrealistic and unnatural.

I find this assertion pretty dubious without some sort of comparison photos so that we can see the difference. People who praise expensive Leica lenses also say similar unverifiable things, they say the Leica lens has a special “Leica look” that you can’t get with cheaper lenses.

I think this could simply be that people are imagining that the more expensive lens produces better images because of cognitive biases. For example, scientific experiments showed that wine tasters rated the same bottle of wine as tasting better when they were told it cost more money.

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It may be pointed out that all wide-aperture lenses produce unnatural results compared to the human eye. When was the last time you ever saw “bokeh” without the aid of a camera lens? To the extent that people prefer images with “bokeh,” they are preferring the unnatural over the natural.

Bokeh (2017) the movie

I watched the movie Bokeh, but it has nothing to do with photography. Except that the guy in the movie uses an old Rolleiflex TLR to take vacation pictures in Iceland instead of a digital camera like normal tourists. I guess he’s supposed to be some kind of hipster.

The main subject of the movie is what happens when everyone in the world disappears, except for you and your beautiful blonde girlfriend, while you’re on vacation in Iceland.

But not that much actually happens. The lights never even go out, because Icelandic electrical engineering is so awesome that the power plants keep running even though there are no people around to work in them. If they had been in New York City, I am sure that the power would have stopped running in short order, and then hordes of huge rats would emerge from the subways making the streets unsafe. So I think they were pretty lucky to be in Iceland when this phenomenon happened.