Testing The New Olympus E30 Camera - Taylor Swift and the COC

    Two days ago in the middle of a raging blizzard a bike courrier with icicles literally hanging from his beard showed up at my door with the new E30 camera from Olympus. I felt kinda guilty he was out in that weather on a mountain bike just to drop a camera off.

    Part of the review I'm preparing for this camera involved shooting the Canadian Opera Company's production of Rusalka - almost 4 hours of low light torture testing at high ISO. And just a little while later, with no time to learn the camera's idiosyncrocies, there I was in the media section at the Four Seasons Centre with the manual in my lap trying to play catch up before the curtain came up

    Here are a couple photos from the production.


    Richard Paul Fink as the Water Gnome, with nymphs Teiya Kasahara, Lisa Dimaria, and Erin Fisher



    Michael Schade as the Prince

    Julie Makerov as Rusalka


    And yesterday I was shooting recording star Taylor Swift at MuchMusic. Both were done exclusively on the E30.

    After the near debacle of Caty Perry's drive-by photo op last month, the Much staff were back on their game for this appearance. And Taylor's people really had a handle on things as well.

    She seems like a nice kid - still a teenager and already the highest selling recording artist on the planet - very down to earth, no attitude at all.

    The paparrazi were out in force. About half a dozen of them. One guy I talked to had been trailing her all day from the moment she landed at the airport to every promo appearance she was making.


    The photos were done in a smallish TV studio, and unfortunately I got squeezed to the side - had a 50/50 chance as to which way she would be facing for the interview and picked the wrong one (doh! :)

    But she was nice enough to stand and pose during a commercial break so I did get a few that weren't in profile.

    At 100 percent her eyes are really red, and they look a little puffy. I think she was having trouble with her contacts as she was really squinting under the brights lights in the studio.


    I'm finding the E30's focusing a little squirrely at times. Different from the E3's, which is a surprise as the focusing modules in both cameras are supposed to be the same. I think the E30 has been tweaked a little, the actual focusing spot has been tightened slightly, and it make take some time to adjust to it.
    But everything I have done has been on assignment so it hasn't been possible to directly compare the two side by side in the same lighting.
    In five and a half months with the E3 I've racked up nearly 50,000 exposures, so I'm pretty well versed on how that camera behaves in similiar circumstances. There is something different about the E30's 11 point focusing, just not sure what it is.

    The good news is the image quality is just outstanding. High ISO performance at 1600 ISO beats the E3 hands down. There is a tiny bit more noise, but the noise is much less digital, more film-like than the E3.

    Sharpness at high ISO also seems improved, and banding has been seriously stifled on the E30. The lighting was very dim throughout the opera, but a couple shots were really under-exposed when I got sloppy with the spot meter. While I put the spot right on the target, I forgot that the minus 2.5 exp.comp applied trying to shoot the scene in matrix mode was still on. Thus they were very dark. Bringing these frames up in curves from a minus 2.5 stop exposure reveals only very slight banding. I know from experience that none of these frames would have been recoverable from the E3.

    The results have excellent sharpness and detail, there is a slight green bias to the colour output, but bear in mind that everything I've shot so far has been under artificial lighting, in the case of the opera with mixed tungsten and daylight colour temperature light sources. And the MuchMusic studio lighting has a well known green bias anyway, so I'm not reading anything into it.

    If the E3 had come out with this sensor it would have lit critics up to a much greater degree. It really does look like a leap upwards from the E3/E520/E420 output so far.

    But this is only based on about 1800 exposures, so there may be gremlins yet to be discovered. So far I'm very pleased with the E30.

    This weekend I'll be shooting WinterCity festivities (four hours shooting in the dark freezing my butt off - oh joy), then more press work and a dance performance next week. So most of what I'll be shooting with the camera will be at the extreme end of the performance envelope. Should be a good test.

    BTW: with all the E3 componentry inside it people are naturally comparing the E30 to that camera. Every photo comparison features those two side by side. But I think it really is a natural evolution of the E510 and in the hand it does feel like the 'tweener' camera in the lineup. If the pricing only reflected this it would all fall into place.

    The above photos were shot with the Digital Zuiko 50-200mm 2.8 lens. This lens is unique, and I think Olympus should be shouting about it. I talk to the Reuters and Getty guys about the 50-200mm all the time. They'd love the kind of versatility it brings. Yesterday the top celeb shooter in the city was asking about it again.
    You tell people who shoot what they do that this compact lens starts as an L quality 200mm 2.8 and goes all the way to 400mm at just 3.5, and their mouths drop open.


    This is really Olympus's true strength, and the major reason I stick with them. Their lens lineup is the most logical of all DSLR manufacturers, and the quality level is superior in most focal lengths to the competition.

    One day Olympus will wake up to the fact that they are Japan's Leica and start marketing their DSLR's properly.



    All photos copyright Torontowide.com. All Rights Reserve
    Source URL: http://giantstepstalk.blogspot.com/2009_01_01_archive.html
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Canadian Opera Company: Fidelio


    I had the chance to shoot the dress rehearsal of the Canadian Opera Company's production of Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio, last night.
    Fidelio is the story of the passionate Leonore who disguises herself as a young man to work at the prison where her husband is unjustly incarcerated.
    Emboldened by her profound love, she struggles to save him from execution by the tyrannical prison governor.
    Ludwig van Beethoven’s score is a magnificent celebration of the power of love and the strength of the human spirit.

    Below are a few stills from the production.


    Canadian Soprano Adrianne Pieczonka, hailed on concert stages around the world for the beauty and tone of her voice, plays the cross-dressing Fidelio. Jon Villars, seen above in Pieczonka's embrace, sang the part at the dress rehearsal but after a very public disagreement with the conductor was replaced by Icelandic Tenor Jon Ketillsson and Richard Margison for the rest of the run.



    Former COC ensemble member Gidon Saks is just electric as the evil scheming prison warden Don Pizarro lighting up every scene with remarkable energy and acting prowess.



    Newfoundlander Adam Luther plays the hapless Jaquino, who pines for Marzelline, played by fellow Canadian Virginia Hatfield. Marzelline meanwhile, only has eyes for Fidelio not realising the person she is infatuated with is a woman who has disguised herself as a man to gain entry to the prison.



    Swedish bass Mats Algrem (seated above) plays well off Gidon Saks as Rocco, the warden's underling.

    Fidelio runs from Jan. 24 - Feb. 24 at the Four Seasons Centre. It is sung in German with English SurTitles.

    Photographed with the Olympus E3 with 50-200mm 2.8 Digitial Zuiko lens.
    All photos copyright Torontowide.com. All rights reserved.

    Source URL: http://giantstepstalk.blogspot.com/2009_01_01_archive.html
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Canadian Opera Company Announcement


    Against a snowy backdrop at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre in The Four Seasons Centre, the COC dropped a bit of a surprise announcement into their 2009-2010 Season unveiling when General Director Alexander Neef introduced the company's new Musical Director, Conductor Johannes Debus.

    Apparently Debus's time at the helm of the COC Orchestra during War And Peace was a great experience for all involved, to the point where Neef decided to cut short the process of Musical Director selection, expected to take up to two years, and offered the position to Debus immediately.

    "Finding a music director has been my priority from the moment I was appointed General Director. It’s a crucial position for a company with an orchestra and chorus of such a high calibre and one that has been without a musical leader for over a year," said Alexander Neef. "Watching Johannes throughout War and Peace, I realised that we not only had a remarkable talent here, but one who has truly exceptional chemistry with the performers. I decided to act quickly instead of putting the company through a long wait without a musical leader. Johannes’s background and training is without parallel, and he has a very rare rapport with the musicians and the whole company. We have caught him on the verge of a great career and we are lucky that he was able to make himself available as soon as next season."

    It's a bold move that ensures that Debus, who would have been near the top of the selection committee’s picks anyway, is not committed to other projects that might have hindered his availability for the top slot.

    And it seemed a popular decision with the crowd of subscribers at the press conference who applauded the announcement heartily (there were even a couple Bravos thrown in) in a warm welcome to the company.

    And Mr. Debus seemed equally pleased to be in Toronto, at the helm of an excellent orchestra, playing in one of the most highly regarded halls in the world.

    "I cannot tell you how delighted and honoured I am to be appointed as the Music Director of the Canadian Opera Company," said Mr. Debus. "The two months last fall in Toronto and my experiences with everyone at the COC have been so positive that I felt at home immediately. War and Peace was such a wonderful production and the orchestra and chorus so fine that I am sure the next few years will exceed even my highest expectations. I can’t wait to get started!"



    As for the coming season next year, there are some really exciting developments not the least of which is the inclusion of Puccinni's Madama Butterfly, a production potentially so popular the COC has double cast it in order to do twice the number of performances, and the return of Robert Lepage to the COC stage.

    The 60th anniversary season opens with a revival of Giacomo Puccini’s treasured masterpiece Madama Butterfly.

    A favourite amongst audiences, Madama Butterfly is the story of Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly), a young geisha who marries an American naval officer only to be deserted when he takes an American wife. Her hope for his eventual return and her longing for a lifetime together, make the opera’s tragic ending even more heartbreaking.

    The cast is led by Romanian soprano Adina Nitescu and former COC Ensemble Studio soprano Yannick-Muriel Noah as the innocent Cio-Cio-San.

    Madama Butterfly runs for 15 performances on September 26, 29, 30, October 8, 10, 14, 16, 18, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 31, and November 3, 2009 and is sung in Italian with English SURTITLES


    The fall season continues with a world premiere of visionary Canadian director Robert Lepage’s new creation of Stravinsky’s works – The Nightingale and Other Short Fables.

    Mr. Lepage returns to the COC for the first time since the 1993 award-winning production of Bluebeard’s Castle/Erwartung, considered to be "one of the COC’s finest achievements" (Opera).

    The Nightingale and Other Short Fables includes The Nightingale, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale, as well as the folk-based melodies of his darkly comic barnyard fable The Fox, and the jazz-tinged orchestral piece, Ragtime.

    This co-production with the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and Opéra national de Lyon, in collaboration with Robert Lepage’s production company Ex Machina, draws on storytelling traditions from both ancient and contemporary culture, incorporating the charm and mystery of southeast-Asian puppetry.
    Making her COC debut as the devoted Nightingale is Russian sensation, soprano Olga Peretyatko.
    Ms Peretyatko began her singing career with the Hamburg State Opera, and in 2007 was awarded the second prize at Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition. The Fisherman, is sung by German tenor Lothar Odinius, and the Emperor is sung by bass Ilya Bannik.

    The Nightingale and Other Short Fables runs October 17, 20, 22, 24, 30, and November 1, 4, 5, 2009 and is sung in Russian with English SURTITLES


    Opening the winter run is a COC revival of one of the world’s most popular operas, Georges Bizet’s Carmen.

    A tantalizing masterpiece of lyric theatre, Carmen is a tragic love story about the alluring gypsy’s seduction of a young soldier.

    Carmen is a co-production with Opéra de Montréal and San Diego Opera, and runs January 27, 30, February 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, and 27, 2010 and is sung in French with English SURTITLES


    One of Giuseppe Verdi’s penultimate operas, and considered by many to be his greatest tragedy, Otello continues the winter season.

    Based on the Shakespearean tragedy, Othello, a former slave has risen to the rank of general and has found love with his devoted wife, Desdemona. Iago, Otello’s lieutenant, plays on Otello’s main weakness, jealousy, and manipulates him causing Otello to lose everything.

    Otello runs February 3, 6, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 25 and 28, 2010 and is sung in Italian with English SURTITLES


    A revival of Richard Wagner’s haunting music drama, The Flying Dutchman opens the COC’s spring season.

    The story of a ship captain condemned by Satan to sail for eternity until he finds salvation in the unconditional love of a woman, is set to some of Wagner’s most gloriously romantic music.

    The Flying Dutchman runs April 24, 28, May 2, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 20, 2010 and is sung in German with English SURTITLES


    Continuing the spring season is a COC premiere and Canada’s first fully-staged production of Gaetano Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda.

    Based on Schiller’s play, Donizetti draws from the historical conflicts between Mary, Queen of Scots and her cousin Queen Elizabeth I.

    Maria Stuarda, a Dallas Opera production, runs May 1, 4, 10, 13, 22, 26, 28, and 30, 2010 and is sung in Italian with English SURTITLES


    The 2009/10 season closes with a new production of Mozart’s early masterpiece Idomeneo.

    Idomeneo, King of Crete, returns home following victory in the Trojan War, when a sudden and violent storm overpowers his ship. He is saved by Neptune, God of the Sea, and in exchange for his life, rashly promises to sacrifice the first mortal he meets, but, when safe on shore he is horrified to encounter his only, and much-loved son Idamante.

    Idomeneo is a co-production with Opéra national du Rhin, and runs May 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 25, 27, and 29, 2010 and is sung in Italian with English SURTITLES



    Photo copyright Torontowide.com. All rights reserved.


    Source URL: http://giantstepstalk.blogspot.com/2009_01_01_archive.html
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