A New OM System Macro Lens, Digital PCM Sound Recorder, and Lens Road Map

A New OM System Macro Lens, Digital PCM Sound Recorder, and Lens Road Map

OM Digital Solutions announced an update to their lens road map, and macro photographers will be excited about what's there. Plus, they have a new Linear PCM sound recorder.

I always laughed at the uninformed internet doom-sayers and fear-mongers who predicted the demise of OM Digital Solutions (OMDS) when it broke away from Olympus. Of course, negatively titled YouTube videos will attract viewers – too many negatively-minded people relish promoting others' misfortune – and more viewers mean the video maker will get paid. They were wrong, of course. That business is growing, and some fabulous new kit is coming from their stable. OMDS has been listening to what its customers want and are delivering it. Now, two new products have been announced that further cement their place in the market.

Because of the crop factor, macro has always drawn people to the Micro Four Thirds standard. Fabulous photographers like Geraint Radford and Ethan Beckler use the system. OM Systems already had two macro lenses in their armory, the 30 mm f/3.5 Macro and the much admired 60 mm f/2.8 Macro prime lenses. But until now, there were no professional macro lenses. So, they are adding a new macro lens to their line-up: the ED 90mm F3.5 Macro IS PRO.

If you don't understand macro photography, here's a quick explanation. With true macro, you capture an image where the subject is the same size as the sensor. For example, if you took a photo of a wild elephant, the image on the sensor is far smaller than the elephant itself. If you walk closer and shoot just its tusk, the image magnifies, but it is still smaller. If you moved so close that you placed a tiny rectangle of the tusk directly on the sensor, that's how a genuine 1:1 macro photograph would appear; it's an extreme close-up. (I wouldn't recommend trying this experiment; elephants are cantankerous beasts.)

Macro Image by Takehiko Sato, courtesy of OM Digital Solutions

A lot of so-called macro lenses don't produce this 1:1 magnification. They only make a half, third, or quarter-sized image, 1:2, 1:3, and 1:4, respectively.

This new telephoto lens, however, has 2 x magnification, i.e., 2:1. Consequently, it doubles the magnification of 1:1. Furthermore, and I know there is an old and very dull debate about this with plenty of discussions elsewhere, the two-times crop factor effectively doubles the magnification once more when compared with full-frame cameras. Effectively, it gives a 4:1 magnification compared to a similar lens on a full frame system.

What can we expect from this lens? Firstly, being part of the OM-System's PRO line-up, besides having the superior image quality expected of any top-end lenses, it will conform to their unrivaled IP53 splash and dustproofing. That is essential for those who head outside in any weather to capture photos.

Moreover, it will have in-lens image stabilization, which should work together with its in-body image stabilization (IBIS). With the OM-1, we can already get seven stops of image stabilization with unstabilized glass. So, it will be interesting to see how many extra stops will be added using this lens. The OM system already allows handheld in-camera focus stacking. So, this additional stabilization should give macro photographers even more versatility.

Being telephoto, one won't have to get quite as close to the subject to achieve that 1:1 or 2:1 magnification.

We can also expect the lens to have an all-metal construction unless OM-System decides to use the carbon fiber reinforced plastic of its top-of-the-line M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO. Either way, the lens will be far smaller and lighter than the equivalent lenses on other systems, ideal for macro work where compact portability is a must.

Something that we shouldn't overlook, it is also a prime telephoto lens. It will have an angle of view equivalent to 180mm on a 35mm camera. I find that an excellent focal length for some wildlife photography, abstracts, and telephoto landscapes.

With the announcement of this lens, OM System also released its new lens roadmap, detailing all its current and future models. That shows two future telephoto zooms, possibly in the 50-200 mm range, something I am looking forward to seeing.

The LS-P5 Audio Recorder

If you record video using your camera or smartphone, you will know that sound quality is more important to your audience than the picture. Try watching a video with poor sound, and you'll turn it off. However, viewers will live with a slightly poor image in most circumstances. That is where a digital recorder comes into play.

I've been using the now discontinued Olympus LS-P4, the OM SYSTEM LS-P5's predecessor, for a couple of years. It's a compact and flexible little device that gives excellent results. Recording sound alongside the video footage on my camera lifts the sound quality to a new level. Historically, high-quality sound meant bulky equipment, but now broadcast quality recording is available in a device little larger than the first two fingers of my hand. It records up to 96 kHz in 24 bits, which is better than you would get from a CD. I use my device not just when I am videoing, but it is excellent for recording interviews, giving far, far clearer results than I can achieve with my smartphone.

The LS-P5 is the latest advancement bringing new features to an already feature-packed device.

It has three microphones, and one can change recording from a wide angle to just what is directly in front of you. The microphone is very sensitive, too, recording up to 125 dB of sound pressure, meaning that you should be able to use it to record at a rock concert or a pneumatic drill without distorting. 125 dB is the beginning of the pain threshold for the human ear. It is sensitive enough to record the faintest whispers too.

The LS-P5 has 16 GB of internal storage, but it can be expanded up to 2 TB using a Micro SD card.

The device also has a Bluetooth connection, so you can pair it with headphones, thus allowing you to wirelessly monitor what the LS-P5 hears as it records, and it can do this up to 32 feet from the device. At the same time, the LS-P5 also can connect to its Android or iPhone app, which allows all the recorder functions to be accessible remotely.

Although very similar in looks to the LS-P4, the design difference with the LS-P5 is that instead of having a retractable USB-2 plug to attach to a computer, it has a micro-USB port for data transfer. You can also use that to charge the recorder, plus the device functions as a desktop microphone.

With two rechargeable AAA  batteries fitted, the LS-P5 has double the power capacity of the LS-P4.
The device has a line-in socket, which I use to connect an external microphone and a line-out socket that also serves as a headphone socket. The line-out socket can be used to embed the LS-P5's audio into the video.

This sound recorder is not only a piece of equipment designed to appeal to professional audiophiles. Like most cameras, it has different automatic modes, making the device easy for a novice. A new Smart Mode detects and analyses the sound in the room and sets the device up entirely automatically.

Some great videos from Gavin Hoey show more in-depth workings of the OM System LS-P5.

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12 Comments
Tom Reichner's picture

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A true 2:1 magnification ratio at a true 90mm focal length would be extremely useful, particularly for venomous snakes.

When I try to take true macro close-ups of Rattlesnake heads and/or eyes, it necessitates that I put my fingers much too close to the snake's mouth - very unsafe. But having 2:1 capability at 90mm, plus the additional "effective" decrease in the angle of view due to the smaller sensor, would make it a bit safer to get the kind of shots that I want to capture, while keeping my fingers back an extra couple of centimeters for safety's sake. The last thing I need is Rattlesnake bite, and the subsequent $80,000 USD hospital bill.

All this is just more reason to seriously consider the Olympus system.

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Ivor Rackham's picture

Wow. $80,000. I am glad I live in the UK where there is free healthcare and, more importantly, no rattlesnakes! Joking aside, do you wear gloves?

Tom Reichner's picture

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Yes, Ivor, I have snake proof gloves. They work great for handling the snakes, but are terrible to wear when trying to photograph the snakes. They are very heavy, stiff rawhide, and do not allow for the nimble finger control that is necessary to use the buttons and dials on a camera. I have thought about cutting slits in the index fingers, but then my fingers become vulnerable, especially during handling.

Healthcare here in the U.S. is free for me, because I am poor enough to qualify. But there are parameters in place, and if I need treatment for a Rattlesnake bite I am not sure that it would be covered, at least not in its entirety.

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Ivor Rackham's picture

Personally, I wouldn't be that happy getting so close to a snake, gloves or no gloves. I'll leave that to you!

Tom Reichner's picture

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I am not at all comfortable doing it either! But I want the photos so badly that I do it anyway.

The photos I really want to take are true frame-filling close-ups of the snake's eyeball. But even on a large snake, the eyes are very small, about 5 or 6 millimeters in diameter. But even if my macro lens were capable of filling the frame with those tiny eyes, I wouldn't dare to allow myself to get so close, because a deadly bite would be almost a certainty.

What I really need is the Laowa 24mm Macro Probe, capable of true 2:1 magnification ratio. Then I can get even more close up to the snake's eye but still keep my hands and fingers well back at a relatively safe distance.

The image below shows how close I am able to get to Rattlesnakes now with my 100mm macro lens. The highlighted rectangle within the image is the way I want to be able to frame the shot. Doing so will obviously require different gear and additional safety precautions.

Jan Steinman's picture

"It will have an angle of view equivalent to 300mm on a 35mm camera."

Uhm, don't you mean 180mm?

Maurice Waters's picture

Could be taking into consideration the 2:1 ratio, and the 90mm m4/3 multiplier?

Milan Svítek's picture

I think he accidentally looked up at the 150 and doubled that. Yes, the 90mm macro is a 180mm equivalent

Ivor Rackham's picture

Yes, that is exactly what I did. Thanks for spotting that. It was written while I was suffering from covid, so please forgive me! I'll ask the editors to correct it.

Ivor Rackham's picture

It's been corrected now. Thanks for spotting it.

Drazen Cavar's picture

30 mm 3.5 is brilliant already, as practically all premium primes, and pros are at least one step further... I daresay, to match image quality and an assortment of m43 lenses in a full-frame world, it is necessary to break into the gold reserves of some large country.

Ivor Rackham's picture

I don't know what the price point will be, Drazen. When it's announced, along with the other specs I'll be sure to write it up. Thanks for the comment and sorry for the slow reply.