Hayling Island with Olympus OM-DE-M1X Camera and ED 300F.4 Pro Lens
I’m a keen photographer with a huge library and over the years have owned several makes of camera equipment with a few breaks, usually due to lack of funds.
When I had to buy some photographs to illustrate my very first book, The Country Book of the Year, published in early 1980, they were so expensive that, even though I was happy with the quality of those few I did buy, I had to use my small ability as an artist to illustrate the bulk of the artwork with drawings and paintings.. Ever since I have taken my own photos, spending many hours in a darkroom like a modern-day alchemist, turning silver and rare elements into images on print and slide.
Some years and several books later I entered the world of the single lens reflex camera. Having tried and been frustrated by offerings from a number of high-profile camera makers, I was, photographically speaking, at my wits end. Fortunately, a friend, who is a skilled photographer and artist himself recommended Olympus, a highly respected manufacturer that enjoys a considerable reputation in the field of medical optical equipment as well as cameras and lenses.
In 2019 they celebrated 100 years in business and have developed an imaging format known as ‘micro four thirds’ I’m not going to try to explain the technical details, other than to say the devices that capture the image are far smaller and lighter than those in full frame cameras – a system employed by the majority of cameras makers. Being a nature and travel writer and photographer, I find this lighter weight equipment gives me peace of mind in having my full range of camera kit in my cabin baggage. As well as being light, this equipment (camera and lenses, reduces the level of human-induced shake, particularly when trying to photograph birds in flight and taking shots in poor light conditions, this is something Olympus has majored in.
Recently, I had the opportunity to check out the very latest Professional camera and lenses from Olympus – namely the OM-DE-M1X camera and ED 300 F.4 Pro lens at the RSPB’s reserve on Hayling Island. In winter it’s an excellent place for birdwatching with several thousand waders, Brent geese, egret, kingfishers and a large number of duck species recorded; and even the occasional seal.
Having arranged a short-term loan of the latest Olympus equipment, my friend Peter and I met up with a representative from Olympus. I checked the tide tables and crossed my fingers re the weather. The best laid plans ran true to form. The day dawned wet and windy. However, the tide was just right, and the Brent geese and waders were there on cue. One of my favourite waders is the turnstone, a dumpy brown and white bird in its winter plumage. It’s remarkably trusting and happy to carry on flicking over small pebbles to get at sand hoppers and tiny shore crabs while being photographed.
One of the plus features of the Micro 4/3rds system is the fact that the smaller sensor doubles the magnification of the 300mm lens to 600mm with no increase in weight. The professional specification ensures that it does not lose any of its performance, creating a combination that can be used all day. I use the Olympus OEMD 5 Mk 2 as my day to day camera, so the control layout on the M1X, though different, sports a button layout with a similar feel, and the camera controls fall easily to hand so that I needed very little instruction
In spite of the weather and, incidentally, camera and lens are both water-resistant to a remarkable degree, and the battery held its own in the cold, it was an excellent day. When the rising tide drove the waders to roost out on the small islands in the harbour, it was time for us to leave them in peace, and part with the M1X. It was quite a wrench.
Several years ago, I was lucky enough to be in the most northerly tip of arctic Norway where the turnstone breeds and Cinderella-like the males throw off their dowdy winter clothes and dress in bright plumage with lots of dazzling white and amber and brown so they can display to a population of equally elegant females. For six months each year these birds have no contact with humans, and this might well account for their seeming tameness.