Tech Talk - Moreno Tagliapietra

Tech Talk

A recent photo

"Storm", Glen Island Park, New Rochelle, NY

Olympus E-M5 II, 12-40mm f/2.8, 24mm eq, f/5.6, 1/160sec, ISO800

Shot in a 65mph gust front

My System

Amateur photography (people who photograph out of love for the art) is a personal matter and I am not going to tell anyone what to buy or how to work. What I can do is share my choices of gear and techniques and the reasons why they work for me.

My Camera System

- 2 x Olympus E-M5 Mark II bodies

- Olympus 9-18mm f/3.5-5.6 lens

- Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 lens

- Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro lens

- Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 lens

- Olympus MC-14 teleconverter lens

- Panasonic 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 lens

- Panasonic 35-100mm f/4-5.6 lens

- Panasonic 100-300mm f/4-5.6 lens

- Nikon P7800 camera

Why M43?

The way I see it, cameras and lenses are the tools that allow me to turn my vision into compelling prints. They must be able to do so while staying out of the way of my creativity and being priced within my budget. So far, the M43 system is giving me the best balance of IQ, portability, features, cost and fun. Its ergonomic qualities and very effective image stabilization let me leave my tripods at home most of the time. Together with the other higher-end Olympus and Panasonic M43 bodies, the E-M5 II is a masterpiece of electronics and electro-mechanical  miniaturization without sacrificing its handling. There is a bounty of features and well placed external controls. The camera is weatherized and can handle everything I through at it. While I strongly admire the E-M1 II, I currently consider it over-engineered for my use and do not intend to purchase it, reserving my money for upgrading my lenses.

The very high quality Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 and 40-150mm f/2.8 lenses are my workhorses. With the MC-14 teleconverter, it's an equivalent zoom range of 24 to 420mm f/4. I purchased the two minuscule but good Panasonic slower lenses for when I need maximum portability but I find that I use them very little. Working with the two f/2.8 Pro lenses is extremely satisfying. Like any other introduction of a new technology, there has been resistance to the acceptance of the M43 system. Its evolution and growing sales figures (also among professionals) notwithstanding, there are still people calling this gear a bunch of toys, maliciously and not. Working for a day with the setup mentioned above without preconceptions would certainly change their mind. Most of the pictures on this website were taken with 4/3 and M43 gear (most of the others with Pentax APS-C).

Real-Life Shortcomings of M43

Larger sensors offer higher resolution and dynamic range, and lower noise at high ISO settings. In real life, even after cropping my native 16Mp low ISO files down to, let's say, 12Mp, I can resize my captures with Perfect Resize or Photoshop CC Preserve Details 2.0 with no visible loss of print quality up to 24x36", which is as large as I go. With very high contrast subjects, I use realistic HDR but it is quite rare for the need to arise. When shooting wide landscapes that I could be asked to print very large, I take a two-frame panorama which gives me a 26Mp file. I typically work at a maximum ISO setting of 1600. Developing my captures in DxO PhotoLab with Prime noise reduction, the shadow noise is low enough for impeccable 17x25" prints. Also, people have no problem with some technical limitations due to low light conditions and other difficult subjects.

My Go-anywhere Nikon P7800

The Nikon P7800 is slow in writing to memory even if, with a fast card, it's better than what the reviews state (about 1sec for Raw + jpeg captures). Otherwise, this is a truly excellent small camera with a good sensor and an even better 28-200mm lens. The EVF is functional and the feature set is extensive. I regularly use the fully articulated LCD for shots low to the ground and above my head. I push the ISO setting up to 800 and process the captures in DxO PhotoLab with Prime noise reduction for good 12x16" prints. At ISO100 I can print up to 17x25".

Processing Software

I shoot Raw + jpeg with the jpeg settings to their minimum and develop both in Camera Raw (I can always quickly improve the jpegs even with the excellent Olympus jpeg engine). I convert my high ISO Raw files in DxO PhotoLab whose Prime noise reduction offers truly excellent results. I then process the images in Photoshop CC with the additional use of Photomatix for HDR, MS ICE for panoramas and now, with the recent firmware upgrade, with the E-M5 II in-body focus stacking.


I print at home with an Epson P800 up to 17x25" and use a friend's 24" Epson printer for 24x36" enlargements. I mostly print on art papers and canvas. I find the P800 to be a great printer with its limited footprint and ability to handle 3" core rolls for long landscapes up to 17 inches by 10 feet.

About Photography

If anyone or anything promises something like "photography made easy", run for your life. Photography is a demanding art form which today is using some complex technology. Nevertheless, mastering this technology is easier than improving one's creativity and learning the mechanisms of human visual perception. Creativity grows by watching and listening to master photographers and painters, and from relentless experimentation. Human visual perception is something that needs to be studied in order to process images that work well with the idiosyncrasies of our eye-brain visual system.

Mastering camera gear mostly comes down to learning how to set it up to capture well exposed, sharp pictures. Creativity is the ability to see and evaluate compelling subjects, light quality and direction, composition and perspective, sharpness, color, brightness, contrast, etc., especially how the camera sensor will record them (pre-visualization). Understanding human visual perception is learning how people's eyes collect light and how the brain processes the resulting electric signals and constructs a mind image.

Human Visual Perception

When it comes to vision, people and digital sensors work quite differently. Sensors are monoscopic and linear - twice the amount of light equals twice the amount of signal -. People's eyes are stereoscopic and non linear - light sensitivity drops with increasing brightness and color sensitivity the other way around -. They explore a scene more like a video camera by jumping around from one point of interest to the next with only a 5 degree central angle of view in sharp focus but with a dynamic range much wider than any digital camera. Everything else is peripheral vision good for seeing shapes and movement.

The signal from the eyes reaches the brain where it is deconstructed into its basic components such as color, contrast, saturation, sharpness, etc. Each component is analyzed and recognized by different areas of the brain and then a final image is assembled in the occipital cortex. This analysis and interpretation process is strongly influenced by many personal factors such as intelligence, education, life experience, familiarity with the subject, mood, etc. To make things even more complex, we witness the outside world with all our senses and a print is typically a poor testimonial of the entire physical and emotional experience. I converted completely from film to digital in 2004 because of the post-processing power  of the latter. After the capture, Photoshop allows me to render the final image as close as possible to my memory of the original scene.

Sources of Learning

I read a lot but found Michael Freedman's three books "The Photographer's Eye", "The Photographer's Mind" and "The Photographer's Vision" particularly informative and inspirational. 

Martin Evening's "Adobe Photoshop (CC) for Photographers" is my go-to guide for the software.

I consult and daily. Like many others, their forums host some amazingly hilarious comments from their readers.

A very exhaustive article on digital photography vs human vision is found here: