• Bag Review – 247 Medium Holster is a Little Workhorse


    I have been testing the 247 Medium Holster bag for a couple weeks now and it certainly seems to be a very capable bag when you just need to grab your camera body and couple lenses for an afternoon of shooting.  Actually, it’s quite fun to carry on a street shooting adventure or even to a baseball game.

    I loaded up my 247 Medium Holster with my Olympus PEN-F and these lenses, 75-300mm, 60mm Macro, great short distance lens for sports, the 17mm prime and the Body Cap Fisheye.  I was set for a few instances and still had some room in the back zipper to hold paperwork and things like that.


    The outside of the 247 is very tough outer shell material, which felt good but was still tough to stand up to the streets or whatever I threw at it.  It can be worn across the chest or on the shoulder with its removable strap.  I also liked the side clips, which spin so the strap wouldn’t tangle.

    Another feature is the attached weather protection that comes out from the bottom of the bag and is always there if you happen to be caught in a rainstorm, nice feature.  Another couple features which I liked was the SD card holder and the front pockets were good for a lens cloth and lens pen which are always necessities to take along.

    The main compartment was well lined and padded and easy to find items with its orange color material.

    Overall I really liked the 247 Medium Holster for a quick bag to hit the streets with.  I would have liked to see a small sleeve for a water bottle.  That would be a nice addition.  I would recommend the bag to all those looking for a nice bag that won’t break the bank but can hold your micro four-thirds equipment and keep it safe.

    IMG_0796                     IMG_0786

  • Introducing the New Olympus PEN-F

    ©2015 Jamie A. MacDonald

    For the last three months I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to shoot with the new Olympus PEN-F. It is such a fantastic addition to the PEN line and it’s focused directly at the Street Photographer. The new PEN-F model gets its name from the original PEN-F introduced back in 1963 which sold over 500,000 units in its lifespan.  I am very excited today to finally start talking about all the wonderful features combined with such great technology. This blog post is not going to be comparing high ISO shots to those of other brand cameras or looking at how a certain lens functions with the new PEN. It will talk about my shooting experiences in multiple conditions on the streets of 4 major cities in the US, all of which have a great street photography vibe. This camera was able to adapt to each scenario and my intentions are to illustrate that through words, video and more importantly, the images I produced with the new camera. If you want a high tech review version you may have to look elsewhere because this camera to me is all about “feel” when I am in the streets and how it captures my creativity. It’s a camera that helps you understand the passion behind image making.  Hold on and fasten your seat belts, because here we go…

    To start, you will find some great information in a video I did with fellow Olympus Trailblazer, Jamie MacDonald. After spending considerable time with the camera I asked Jamie if he wouldn’t mind doing a video type interview exploring the camera from A to Z. He captured that discussion on video and mixed in some images to give you a feel of how the camera operates in the streets. I would ask that you watch this and then come back to my blog to further explore the images I created with the PEN-F.

    When I first received the camera the timing couldn’t have been better because over that next 6 weeks I was going to be in New York twice, San Francisco, Chicago and of course my hometown, Detroit. I was more than excited to get out into the streets and work with it in as many conditions as possible. I shot over 2,000 images in this time frame and used every feature I could find on the camera. I documented all of my personal Monochrome and Color Profile Control settings by taking images with my iPhone and naming them after famous street photographers from New York City. You will see images and those settings below in my galleries. It was almost like eating an elephant, where do I start? I knew I needed to try every feature on the camera and I approached everything from a street photographer’s mind set.

    A couple images with the new PEN-F compared with one of the original film cameras that debuted in the 1960’s.  (click on image to enlarge)

    ©2015 Jamie A. MacDonald                    ©2015 Jamie A. MacDonald

    The Features

    Now that you have the back story on how I used the new PEN-F, let’s talk about some basics concerning the features. The 20 megapixel sensor was a surprising addition and I felt more comfortable letting my Auto ISO run up to a max of 8,000 at times while using the M.Zuiko prime lenses. I only used the primes from Olympus during my shooting. I never used zoom or PRO lenses from the Olympus catalog, but of course you can. The camera body was well balanced and felt very solid to the initial touch. It uses the same 5 axis stabilization as in the O-MD E-M5 Mark II which is second to none.  The outer casing was all black and sported a new exposure compensation wheel on the top right side which I loved to use. Very noticeable is the “sleekness” of the outer body seeing that there are no visible screws to be seen.  I can only imagine how much work this was for the engineers to hide the screws and give it this look.  Unlike the PEN models of the past this had an electronic view finder that was simply amazing and the eyepiece is located on the left side of the body. I was so happy about this because when I am shooting I like to keep both eyes on the street and now my right eye can be on the viewfinder and my left can be surveying the streets ahead. It was definitely one of my favorite features. Overall though, my top feature that I fell in love with was the dial on the front of the camera that allowed me to select Monochrome and Color Profiles. This is what makes this camera different than anything I ever shot with. Post processing, outside of a few crops, was nonexistent for two reasons. One is I did not have a RAW converter yet and most of everything I captured was the look I wanted before I began to shoot because of the customization through the Color and Monochrome Profiles.

    Profile Controls

    The Monochrome and Color Profiles on the PEN-F make all the difference to an image maker looking to emulate old film quality in their shots or develop their own style and emulsions through its customizable settings. Each Profile Control has 3 settings. The first has no presets and you can make your own here. The second and third each have a specific setting which resembles certain types of film. I will explain these in more detail below with sample images.  (click on images to enlarge)

    Color Profile Control:

    • Profile 1 is up to you. You can adjust how the colors are depicted and select the level of curves and shadows that will show in your image all from the back toggle button located below the selection wheel. By using the right and left toggles you can go through the colors or select the level of Highlights and Shadows to make your own customizable setting. These are the settings I referred to earlier in this post about taking pictures of the screen and keeping it in my notes on the iPhone.


    –Here is one of the Color samples I named Patterson.  These are highly customizable in color schemes and curves.

    IMG_9620                               IMG_9621

    • Profile 2 is Chrome Film which has rich colors.


    • Profile 3 is Chrome Film  with vivid saturation


    Monochrome Profile Control:

    • Profile 1 is up to you. Like above in Color Profile 1, the same goes for the Monochrome here. The difference being you choose the color filter and you get one more option which is the selection of a vignette. The vignette is also found on all three of the Monochrome settings.  You also get one more new feature and that is film grain.  This is not your heavy handed electronic film grain options like in other filters.  I know for a fact that Olympus went to great lengths to make this a very realistic grain and it can be added in differing levels of density.  You will be surprised in the difference this grain has and how it feels like something from the past film days.


    –Here is one Monotone sample I named Boogie.  Green filter, -3 on Vignette and -7 on both shadows and highlights

    IMG_9617               IMG_9618               IMG_9619

    • Profile 2 is a Classic Film, like a monochrome film.


    • Profile 3 is a Classic Film, like an Infrared Film.


    You also have settings like Color Selector and Art filters we all may be used to when shooting with Olympus cameras.

    Here are some images from the Art Filters settings with some of my unique tweaks in those settings.


    The Build and Quality

    As soon as you pick up the new PEN-F you will notice how well constructed and solid it feels in your hand. The button placements were right on the money for me and as previously stated I love the eye piece being on the left of the camera for how I shoot in the streets. The top controls are laid out well and the new exposure compensation wheel at the top is solid and clicks well when turned. You will notice a hole with threads in the shutter button to screw in a mechanical “plunger” cable release. In staying with some previous PEN designs the top is nearly level across the buttons and hot shoe with the bottom being ultra-cool with nothing more than the socket for a tripod plate (see comments above about no screws can be found). Smooth all the way across. It does have a fully articulating screen like the OM-D E-M5 Mark II and a solid raised portion on the back for your thumb rest. I was not able to shoot with the additional grip but would like to get one soon to see how it feels. I had no problem shooting with it though because I hand hold my camera with a wrist strap 95% of the time. The pictures below will give you an idea of what the camera looks like from many angles. They were all shot by Jamie MacDonald when we worked on the above video.



    To tell you I think the new PEN-F is a great camera for the type of photography I do would be a huge understatement. It is the best street camera I have ever used and with the new Control Profiles for Color and Monotone along with a 20 megapixel sensor, it makes the possibilities endless. If you are a street or urban type of shooter you need to check this camera out as soon as possible and if not, you will love the versatility built into this new PEN-F for many types of image making. Olympus has hit a Grand Slam in my book with this new camera and I can’t wait to continue talking about it in the weeks to come on Mirrorless Minutes and in all my social channels. Please stay tuned for more and if you liked this post please consider signing up for my email list on my home page.

    Shoot Light | Shoot Often


    ©2015 Jamie A. MacDonald





    I would like to personally thank fellow Trailblazer Jamie McDonald for all the help in making the above video and snapping some images of the camera. He has some amazing skills on this type of project and I was glad he said he helped bring my story out to everyone about this new gem from Olympus.


    Other Specs from the camera you might find interesting:

    -OLED Electronic view finder approximately 2.36M dots
    -Simulated Optical View Finder mode (OVF)
    -AF targeting pad
    -Up to 1/8000 shutter speed
    -High Res Shot equivalent to 50 megapixels (8 shots combined into a single JPEG using sensor shift)
    -Lens tagging for 3rd party lenses

  • Manfrotto Tripod Review

    Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 12.04.37 PM

    Recently I worked with my friends over at Hunt’s Photo and Video to write a review on the Manfrotto Befree Carbon Tripod.  This is a very light tripod and a real workhorse at the same time.  I tested it while traveling and locally, to give you some good insight.

    Check out the blog post here.


  • First Look Perception Tablet

    Last week I received the Perception Tablet from Think Tank Photo and had a chance to get out this weekend to give it a quick first look.  I was going to be doing some Urbex shooting in and around abandoned buildings in Detroit and this was a great bag to have for that type of shoot.  When I go out to shoot abandoned places one of my first rules is to pack as light as possible and only take the essentials.  This is not the time you are hauling more gear than needed.  With the size and weight of Micro Four Thirds gear it’s easy sometimes to pack too much because everything is small and light.  I resisted those urges and went very minimal and I was very happy I did. Below are some of my initial thoughts with pictures included of how I packed the bag.  Please read on.

    Photo by Mike Boening http://www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com

    Looking inside the bag I have my Olympus OM-D E-M1 as well as the 12-40mm Pro Lens and the 9-18mm wide angle all pulled tight into the top pouches.  These pouches held the gear very firm and were reliable while crawling over small walls or up ladders.

    Photo by Mike Boening http://www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com

    Below the top pouch system is an open area which worked very nicely for two more lenses.  These lenses were protected with my neoprene covers and fit will with two mini bottles of water below.  I like this open area for flexibility in what you might want to carry under the top pouch system.  I had a Panasonic 8mm Fisheye lens as well as a Tamron 14-150mm lens in the bottom area.

    Photo by Mike Boening http://www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com Photo by Mike Boening http://www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com

    When working in tight spaces and having to walk to your desired location it’s always nice to have your hands free.  The Tablet Backpack has a unique tripod holder that comes out from the top and the leg is held in an outside pocket.  Very nice indeed to keep all of your gear on your back.  Pictured here is the MeFoto Roadtrip Tripod.

    Photo by Mike Boening http://www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com

    Some size perspective of the Perception Tablet.  One of the features I was amazed about was how thin the bag felt even when packed with gear.  No bulging at all.

    Photo by Mike Boening http://www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com

    Here is what I carried with me today on the shoot.

    Overall I am very pleased with the quality of the bag in every way.  The durability, size and flexibility would be my top three qualities.  Two items not covered in this mini review is how a tablet might fit into the system and the included rain cover.  I wouldn’t normally take a tablet on an urban explore but they area was still unrestricted where it could have easily fit and the included rain cover is always a bonus when needed.  This bag is definitely worth checking out the next time you are looking for something to keep yourself minimal and easy to maneuver.

  • First Impressions of the Perception Pro

    After receiving the new Perception Pro from think Tank Photo I was excited about taking it on my next trip to Austin, TX.  I utilized it for my camera gear as well as carrying some items for work.  My plan was to shoot some skyline shots as well as some street shooting.  I had a separate very small bag in my luggage for the street shooting.  Needless to say I was taking more gear than I normally would so having the largest model of the Perception series was very welcomed.  This would be a good test for the new back pack.

    I will go through a few of my initial thoughts of this very versatile bag.  I have included some pictures of the packed and unpacked bag as well as the convenient pouches inside. Please read on.

    Photo by Mike Boening http://www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com

    This is looking into the bag with all the pouches full.  I have two camera bodies,

    6 lenses and a bag full of miscellaneous accessories as well as my iPhone

    holder and a small 3 legged tripod all contained within the 5 pouches.

    Photo by Mike Boening http://www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com

    A close up of the top lens pouch with a 12-40mm Pro Lens, 14-42mm EZ and

    below that the 9mm Body Cap Fisheye.

    Photo by Mike Boening http://www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com

    The top left pouch holds both the OM-D E-M1 and E-M10  The pouches and

    draw strings are fantastic.  Because mirrorless equipment is usually smaller,

    these pouches are a welcome addition to this series.

    Photo by Mike Boening http://www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com

    The one thing that would make this bag even better would be a sleeve to

    hang the bag on a rolling piece of luggage.  The waist belt is what I am using

    here but that is probably not the intended purpose because it is very low on

    the bag.  This makes your luggage a bit top heavy.

    Photo by Mike Boening http://www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com

    Photo by Mike Boening http://www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com

    A shot from inside the fully packed bag.  All the gear mentioned above plus

    some folders for work as well a MS Surface Pro 3.

    Photo by Mike Boening http://www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com

    A shot inside one of the pouches with a 9-18mm and 17mm Prime.

    Photo by Mike Boening http://www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com

    The pouch with accessory bag, iPhone holder and small tripod.

    Photo by Mike Boening http://www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com

    All of these items were packed into the Perception Pro.  The Mac is a 15″

    Retina Pro.  Amazing how useful and versatile this bag is.


    Overall my opinion is the Perception Pro is a home run for the Mirrorless Photographer. This bag can be used to hold so much mirrorless gear it’s amazing.  For those shooters who have been struggling with deep large DSLR bags, this is your answer.

    Check out all the Perception models right here.


    I recorded a short video of me packing the bag in under 16 seconds…