Old school on the E-M10

While trying tofigure out if I should splurge on a new lens for my E-M10 I re-discovered the joys of my old Nikon lenses thanks to a $16 adapter and the magic of my E-M10.

SLR lenses on mirrorless micro 4/3 cameras are an especially good marriage because of the small flange distance of the u4/3 mount, allowing for adapters without any optical components. Basically, all that is needed is a lightproof coupling that securely attaches the Nikon lens to the camera’s body with the appropriate gap. This is much more fortunate than say, trying to mount a Cannon lens (44mm flange distance) on a Nikon body (46.5mm flange distance) where the adapter needs a lens without which you can’t focus the lens to infinity. And, as you know, the more glass you add, the worse your image gets.

Now, though I’ve had Nikons since 2001, I didn’t actually spend a lot on glass. I’ve always been satisfied by the kit lenses and I the only notable glass I have are the 35mm f1.8 G and 50mm f1.8 AF-D. I also picked up a pedestrian 200m and28mm for cheap to do some macro experiments. Using manual focusing on the D40 (and F65) was not easy. A company offered a split prism focusing ground glass element, but I never got around to buying it.

One of the reasons I was excited to get the D5100 was that it had a range finder aid that helped with manual focusing. In the range finder mode the exposure meter would double as a far/near indicator indicating the read out from the selected focus sensor. Boy, the video I linked to brought back memories.

Just seeing the view through the viewfinder was a blast of nostalgia. I remember fiddling with Nikon cameras with my uncle and marveling at the little notch on the bottom of the viewfinder assembly that showed you the number from the lens’ aperture ring in the view finder itself. I can still smell that metal/grease/leather smell of those cameras.

Then, later on my uncle got a more modern camera where you COULD SEE THE F NUMBER AND SHUTTER SPEED IN A TINY DIGITAL DISPLAY IN THE VIEWFINDER just below the image viewport. I could not get over that!

And now, here we are, with the E-M10 where the viewport is an OLED display showing the actual image that will be captured. I written of my simple minded, country bumpkin awe at this marvel in a previous post. We do live in the future kids. It just kinda crept up on us.

Now, in that post I wrote of how the live view now enables us to preview not just the DOF (as the DOF lever in the F65 let us do) but also the white balance. Now, prepare to be blown away by the E-M10. The E-M10 has two features – magnification and focus peaking – that make using manual focus lenses a joy. Of the two focus peaking is probably the most useful, though it can be a bit misleading as to the other aspects of the scene.

I was very excited to use this ever since I got the camera, but I was only able to really try it out after I got the Nikon F mount adapter. I put my 50mm f1.8 on the E-M10 via the adapter. It’s not an exciting lens – I got it for about $100 new, back in the day. It’s plastic, made in China, and the manual focus ring is too light and flimsy. But it is pretty sharp wide open. You might think it’s soft, but that would be you not understanding just how thin the DOF is. On the E-M10 it has the FOV of a 100mm lens and, as a non-sequitor, looks quite elegant on the E-M10 (picture above).

I took some photos of my cat using the focus peaking feature. Focus peaking is super cool. The camera’s computer computes contrast across the image and finds regions with the highest contrast, marking them out on screen. This is dramatic when in use. On the E-M10 focus peak mode also increases the contrast of the image, making it more pleasant for me, and so I’m always startled by how washed out the real image looks like after existing focus peaking.

I took a few pictures of my cat and other things with this set up and the results are most satisfactory. Here is a 100% crop from one of the shots:

The E-M10 was operating at ISO 2500 so there is some noise, but you can see that the image itself is sharp.

The AF-D has an aperture ring (but I shoot it wide open, because otherwise what’s the point?). For G lenses, the adapter I bought has it’s own aperture ring which drives the little tab on the G lenses. You can’t tell what aperture it is but this is only a problem for record keeping – from the point of view of photography its all fine: you can check DOF and focus live and the camera will take care of shutter and ISO as you let it. You can of course also go full manual on that too.