Plugged In: Focus on the details, not getting every shot

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Potpourris are popular around the holidays, and that’s what we have for you this week, a potpourri of holiday photographic thoughts and bargains.

As the holidays approach, it’s worth remembering that we should be selective as we take our family and travel photos. You don’t want to miss the actual experience by spending too much time randomly taking photos, rather than interacting meaningfully with your family and surroundings. Although we make, share and treasure our photographic memories of family events, the photos are not the experience itself, but only the physical memories of it.

Two recent studies published in the academic journal Psychology Science strongly suggest that hurrying through an activity while taking a lot of general photos actually impairs a photographer’s later memory of the event. In those studies, people passing through a museum who did not take photographs of the artwork on exhibit had better recall of their experience than those who spent most of their time hurriedly photographing each and every piece. (You can buy books that probably do this better.)

However, when photographers “zoomed in” on the artwork and took careful photos of specific details, then their overall experience and memory of the entire exhibit improved rather than deteriorated.

The takeaway seems to reinforce the common-sense notion that becoming mentally involved and interactive when photographing your subject exercises your brain and helps memory and cognition. More random photography that only minimally engages your brain may be detrimental to not only your immediate experience of the event, but even your memories of it.

Holiday bargains

Although “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” are gone, some even better bargains have surfaced, perhaps due to reportedly weak sales. Olympus has been particularly aggressive, offering exceptionally good deals on select cameras and lenses immediately before Christmas. Although Olympus’ online store,, has the widest selection, and also offer many of the same deeply discounted packages that include current high-end camera models.

Of the Olympus cameras on sale, two models are particularly interesting, the E-PL5 and the OM-D E-M5. I suspect both will be supplanted by somewhat updated models in the next several months and that this Christmas sale is an inventory clearance. These are both excellent cameras that are more than good enough.

The E-M5 was the “camera of the year” in 2012 at many professional camera review sites, while the E-PL5 was recently nominated as the best entry-level, serious camera of 2013. The E-M5 is a more traditional sort of camera, with a good eye-level viewfinder. It’s weather-resistant when used with the weather-sealed, 12- to 50-mm kit zoom lens, a purchase option in this Olympus sale.

Both the E-PL5 and E-M5 use 16-megapixel sensors and image-processing chips comparable to those in Olympus’ most recent professional-grade models, the E-P5 and OM-D E-M1. As a result, the image quality of the older models is virtually identical to the newest prograde cameras.

In the E-PL5 kits, Olympus has not only priced the E-PL5 at its lowest point ever, but also includes without additional charge both the standard 14- to 42-mm kit zoom lens, plus Olympus’ 40- to 150-mm telephoto zoom lens. Although consumer-grade lenses, both zooms are small and light, with surprisingly good image quality if you close the lens aperture down by one or two “stops” from maximum brightness.

Along with the free telephoto zoom lens, Olympus offers stackable discounts of $200 each off the costs of several excellent Olympus lenses purchased at the same time as a qualifying camera, including the supersharp 75-mm f/1.8 telephoto prime lens and their 12-mm, f/2, ultrawide-angle prime lens. Two wide-angle-to-normal zoom lenses also qualify for stacked discounts. A stackable discount means you will receive $200 immediately deducted from the price of each additional qualifying lens bought at the same time as the camera. This is one of the best bargains that I’ve seen in quite awhile. E-M5 kits, which start at $899, also qualify for the stackable $200 per lens discount.

If you’re shopping for a student or someone new to serious compact cameras, then the E-PL5 kit makes the most sense. An E-M5 would better suit an already-serious photographer who needs a weather-sealed, compact-system camera.

Why mirrorless cameras? In the U.S., though not elsewhere, traditional digital SLR cameras with moving mirrors still outsell more modern compact-system cameras, like the E-PL5 or E-M5. That’s true even though compact-system cameras, by deleting the bulk and cost of a moving mirror, often produce better images with smaller, less-expensive cameras and lenses. The best electronic viewfinders are now better than most traditional viewfinders.

Image courtesy of The Sony A7r and Canon T4i.

Image courtesy of The Sony A7r and Canon T4i.

Big, black and bulky is no longer synonymous with better image quality and serious cameras. Sony’s recent full-frame A7 series, shown in this week’s illustration 1, nicely proves the point. The pictured A7r is noticeably less bulky than Canon’s T4i, typical of consumer-grade dSLR cameras, even though the Sony A7r includes a top-end, 36-megapixel, full-frame sensor that is more than 2.5 times larger than the less-capable APS-C sensor in the Canon. The size difference is obvious even in our to-scale illustration. Which would you rather carry, a light and compact full-frame camera or a bulky APS-C camera with a much smaller sensor?

  • Legal evidence: Last week, I encouraged readers to make better use of digital photography when legal situations might arise. Since that article was submitted, I’ve seen the point reinforced in three different personal injury cases where digital photographs were key to reaching good settlements. If in doubt, and if you or a friend can reasonably do so, take a lot of photos. Their value may become apparent only years later when some factual circumstance is questioned.
  • Around Town: This week’s free Fine Art Friday event at 6 p.m. at the Kenai Fine Arts Center, 816 Cook Ave. in Old Town Kenai, is holiday music. It is free and open to the public, with refreshments provided.

Local attorney Joe Kashi received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT and his law degree from Georgetown University. Many of his technology and photography articles can be accessed through his website,


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