Blizzcon 2017 Thoughts

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World of Warcraft Classic — I’m really surprised they announced this since all the Vanilla WoW kids seemed to have given up a while ago. Once Legion came out most WoW players on the bandwagon stopped caring about Nostalrius since all they wanted was content and the guys who were on the bandwagon just for the hell of it weren’t going to play to begin with. The small fringe groups of Vanilla WoW fans stopped playing WoW altogether or moved onto another private server. Even the ones pushing for Vanilla WoW servers in my group of friends stopped talking about it well over a year ago and they were never really into WoW to begin with. Blizzard didn’t really talk much about this and based on what they said I’m sure it is a fair bit off. Just to be clear I’m all for this I just prefer new content. Everyone looks back at these expansions with rose tinted glasses but every single expansion had its shares of pros and cons. I’ll for sure give it a try when it comes out.

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World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth — I was a little sceptical and still am about this. Anyone who’s been following BlizzCon for a while can tell you the whole “Bringing the War Back to Warcraft” line is a bit cursed. The last time we heard it we got Cataclysm which had its ups but also had a lot of downs and Warlords of Draenor which mostly had downs but some ups. I blame Blizzard for WoD. Not WoDs fault it didn’t have any content and garrisons were a bad idea for the same reasons they didn’t end up putting player housing in Vanilla way back. I’m just saying I’m sceptical of Battle for Azeroth. A really good opening cinematic that got my heart pumping isn’t enough for me to be satisfied. All the following coverage just kind of looked ok to me. Legion has been awesome and I think we will look back at it as one of the best expansions. Compared to that this looks lukewarm so far. That being said I am really liking what they are doing with the amulets which are pretty much replacing our artifact weapons. I still think artifact weapons are far more interesting but I understand the reasoning for cutting down 2 to 4 weapons into one amulet. Even though you lose a lot of epic flavour with it. Little quality of life improvements like this are nice, just the overall epic scale doesn’t seem to be there.

P.S. Only 3 new sub-races per faction? Still no Red Orcs?…sloppy Blizz, sloppy…Upright orcs though, so thanks for that.

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Diablo — ?

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Starcraft 2 — If you’re a consistent fan of the RTS genre or Just Starcraft in general then there seemed to be some good updates to the game. Blizzard is adding in the expected quality of life improvements and it seems to be more accessible to new players. It also looks like they are making the base game free to play which is pretty cool. None of this will get me playing but I can see returning players and new players going back to the game over this.

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Hearthstone — I personally quit Hearthstone a few months back to focus on Magic The Gathering and their upcoming Online CCG. Nothing against Hearthstone, just my TCG/CCG interests are taken up by Magic The Gathering.  I told myself Knights of The Frozen Throne will be my last Hearthstone expansions for the foreseeable future and with Kobolds and Catacombs…that statement hasn’t changed. Lol, that being said I will come back to Hearthstone to play the new single player “Dungeon Run” content. It is this contained adventure where you don’t even have to build a deck till you enter. You don’t have to worry about buying anything and you just have a good time playing. Pick a class, get some cards and build your deck as you play through the Dungeon Run. I see it a lot like you’re a new player in World of Warcraft and you are entering your first dungeon. You always find new solid upgrades as you go through. Great addition to Hearthstone to keep players like me coming back. What do I think of the new Kobolds and Catacombs expansion? My feelings are /shrug ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ couldn’t care less.

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Overwatch — Man what a surprise from my least favourite Blizzard game. I mean it still is my least favourite Blizzard game even though Blizzard seems to want you to hate Diablo the most. But damn does it look good. I don’t like Overwatch from a fundamental gameplay level. I find it remedial compared to almost every other shooter on the market. Which is exactly why it’s popular. You can be trash and still be useful and improve quickly simply by paying attention a little more. I mean I get why people like it. Everything from Blizzcon 2017 makes me get it even more. I mean how cool were some of those maps and the Reinhardt cinematic? I don’t even like the game but that cinematic got me thinking of getting a Reinhardt tattoo. The new hero Moira is a really interesting take on a healer. Her style and gameplay look really fun. She comes off as a more skill capped healer when compared to others like Lucio and Mercy. Cant go AFK and get MVP on Moira. The new Blizzard World map looks amazing. They said that in the world of Overwatch that Blizzard exists but in that universe they naturally have nothing to do with Overwatch itself. So Blizzard World is an Overwatch map but is themed after the other Blizzard games. Might be hard to follow but it’s a great addition regardless. Not bad Overwatch, not bad. Might just have to pop in the disk again sometime.

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Heroes of the Storm — Another surprising turn of events. I have been kind of done with Heroes of the Storm for a few months now but Blizzcon won me back. A whole bunch of new interesting hero’s like Honzo and Alexstrasza, reworks and quality of life improvements. Fine Blizzard fine. It seems I haven’t paid you enough through this game so I’ll give you some more over the coming months. The single thing that got me the most interested was their new ranking system. Its a new take on their current MMR system but instead of wins and loses counting for a large part of your MMR they seem to be focusing more on you and the hero you pick. If you play a difficult hero and play that hero well and also win you will jump up higher in your MMR. Same goes for if you play an easier hero and don’t perform well and lose, you will go down further in MMR. So winning and losing still matters but you can still move up in MMR as long as you are performing the best you can. They also showed how this leads to much fewer matches you need to play to get placed where you belong. This isn’t the exact numbers but it was something like 240 matches down to 190 matches with the new ranked system. They also said that number should go down further after its officially implemented in December.

Blizzcon 2017 MVP — Overwatch followed closely in 2nd by Heroes of the Storm.

Blizzcon 2017 Loser — Diablo (I mean really. Surprised?)

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Albion Online: A Beautiful Game Stuck In Development Hell

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I heard of Albion online near the end of the MMO boom. You know when there was a new MMO getting announced/released at what felt like every other week. I want to say that was around 2013 when MMO hype was still big and games were being announced but the overall MMO player base was starting to fall off. When I first took a look at Albion Online I wasn’t impressed or interested. It wasn’t my kind of game. I thought it was cool how they wanted to launch on multiple platforms, iPad, android tablets and PC. The idea of a fully featured MMO on the go as much as at home was an intriguing idea for me. All that being said the crafting/gathering/grinding nature of the game was a huge turn-off. Those were all the things I hated to do in most the MMOs I played. The more appealing selling points for me about Albion Online were the PvP, world explanation, and death penalties.

Albion Online is a fairly hardcore game to today standards wrapped up in a simple to get into package. After trying it out almost 2 years ago with their founder’s pack and testing the game out over its extensive alpha and betas, I think it’s in a bad spot. I think the developers are so afraid to let this game fail that they will inevitably make it fail. The game was never going to be big. It was made to be a niche title. Competing with Eve Online more than say World of Warcraft. After almost 2 years of “beta testing” and even longer of alpha testing, they are starting to lose their dedicated niche fans. This is a game I feel has been “ready” for at least a year now and they are still talking about 1 to 2 more wipes before release. They say this is the “final beta” but seeing as we have been in beta for easily a year to 2 years now that doesn’t mean much.

Their beta patches for updating the game could all have been nice content patches after the game should have come out over a year ago. Instead, they keep patching content into a beta that isn’t being played anymore since everyone is waiting for release. A release I feel will be too little too late. I thought this was just me but even most of the apologists on the subreddit have turned. Any post they make on their site is followed by a good number of people complaining about the wipes and release. The common consensus from everyone is to wait for the game to come out. On the subreddit, there is always someone asking if they should start playing and it is always followed by someone explaining there will be wipes and to wait for the release. I’ve been watching this for well over a year now. The whole time feeling the games been ready.

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All that out of the way here’s what I think about the game as is. Overall it’s pretty great. Goes to show how much I’ve changed over the years that I find this kind of game fun now. But I’m not sure if I find it to actually be fun or if it’s a really good interactive checklist. It has that World of Warcraft effect to it where there’s always something else to do. Like World of Warcraft use to be in some ways everything you end up doing on Albion Online ends up being a grind. There’s always another tier or node to grind and if you don’t want to do that there’s another weapon or armor piece you can be more proficient in. All of it ends up being something tedious in some way or another but it doesn’t feel like a waste of time. The game is designed around these aspects, the more you do these things the “stronger” or a better way to putting it here is more “useful” your character will be.

The best players have the best gear. The best gear doesn’t drop from dungeons in this game they are crafted. To wear the best gear you have to be proficient at all the previous tiers of that type of gear or weapon. (Cloth, Leather, Plate and Staffs, Maces, Shields etc.) To make the best gear you have to grind material and level your profession. They really mean it when they say player driven.

The game has a large emphasis on group content. Mainly group PVP. Even the PVE content in this game can have PVP happen since the dungeons are not instanced and tagged players can be attacked by other players depending on the zone they’re in. The top players with the best gear, guilds, and coordination battle it out with other guilds at end game. Death in this game means you drop everything. I mean everything. So you better be ready to lose all your gear and inventory you are carrying if you die. They have made changes here and there to different zones and locations to cater to more casual players. Regardless at the top end, it’s still loot the dead. This is part of the risk-reward of the game and what makes it difficult. You can go deep into questionable areas but if you die you have to get back to your body within a time frame or you lose everything. Think about it like yours always playing Hardcore mode on Diablo. The difference being your character still exists and any progress you made on that character is still there. Just now all your gear and inventory has dropped out in the world somewhere and you kind of start back at hypothetical level 1. This is mainly due to how your classes work in Albion Online.

Classes in Albion Online are decided based on your gear. They come in multiple tiers and the aspects of the gear decide what abilities you have on your bar. For instance, if you want to tank you would equip the plate armor pieces and equip a sword and shield. The nice thing about this is nothing is stopping you from mixing and matching. Making says a “Battle Mage” with plate gear and then equipping a staff. Maybe even go with an even more complex hybrid build. I’ve seen all kinds of combinations in the game with varying degrees of success.

I think graphically, design and art wise the game look’s beautiful. An excellent example of simplicity is key. I’ve played much more graphic intensive games with far more detail come off as bland and boring. With Albion Online the colors are strong and the world looks alive. Each zone type is distinct and has its own flavor to it. The artwork on the loading screens and across their site just has something refreshing about it. “Whimsical” would be a good word to describe it.

Overall it’s a great game with lots of potential but I can’t recommend it. I think its a great game but due to the lack of the developers not understanding the needs of the community I feel it may have a short-lived release. Like most the players on the subreddit, I have to say don’t bother till it’s out. At this point that might be never or too late. This is the kind of game that lives off its dedicated players and those are exactly the people they are losing every day they keep the game in beta. I enjoy the game but I do not support the choices of the company and a lot of the changes they are making. It also begs the question how will they handle things when the game does come out one day? Only time will tell…a lot of time it seems.

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Overwatch : The Game I Hate To Love

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Let me start off by saying I don’t like Overwatch.

At least I didn’t at first when I tried it during beta and early release. I felt it was lacking in content, game types, maps, and substance. On top of all that I feel it cost too much for what is offered. A few well made cinematic’s don’t hide the fact that all the maps in the game are basically hallways designed to force high combat situations. You can call it the Call of Duty effect. Forced encounters with high combat interactions in short to medium bursts over a short match time. New/bad players don’t ever feel useless or bad thus making them have less chance of getting frustrated and quitting the game. Also allowing good players to still do well but still get caught here and there due to just bad luck and counter picking. This is in a nutshell what kept Call of Duty on top of the shooter market for so long while games like Battlefield and Halo have taken secondary niche markets.

I find the popularity of Overwatch to be surprising since gamers are constantly asking for more difficult games but the most popular games on the market are usually for much more casual audiences. Regardless of the philosophy of gaming, is Overwatch fun? As of writing this review and basing it on only the game itself I find it to be an amazingly fun toy. Yes, you have read right. If Battlefield 1 was tactical training with high-pressure BB guns and Halo 5 was paintball than Overwatch would be a bunch of kids in the park with nerf guns. Does that mean it’s not fun? Hell no. It’s a blast. I’m just saying don’t take it so seriously. I have friends on PC talking about team builds, strategy and going up and down in ranks but still doing poorly. On the other hand, I have friends in the top 500 who have prestiged multiple times telling me it’s not that big a deal.

Overwatch has become my “main game” now. When I want to play something seriously or just mess around for a bit, Overwatch is where I go. It plays to a lot of different play styles due to the multiple hero setups and the quick action packed matches. If I don’t feel like focusing and just want to hang out with friends I’ll play something like Mercy or Lucio, maybe Bastion and just sit in a corner and crack jokes. If I really feel like playing I’ll play Reinhardt, Tracer or Soldier. Regardless of how well I’m doing and how I’m feeling at the time, I feel I just like joking around and yelling on mic with friends.

Who you play with will make a big difference. I’m not talking about winning, I’m talking about enjoying. A big part of the reason I didn’t enjoy Overwatch at first is due to the friends I was playing with. They were very try hard and took a very casual game too seriously. They would go on about team composition and timing certain abilities but still consistently lost or had trouble moving up in rank. Having played far more complex and competitive shooters through the years I noticed our losses were more due to bad fundamental skills rather than game knowledge. A lack of communication, not knowing when to push off the advantage, not knowing when to back off the disadvantages and simple things like don’t just funnel in one at a time when their whole teams up. Even when it comes to team composition, just because a composition is strong in the meta doesn’t mean it’s always going to work or be used to its full potential based on who’s playing what. Play around the person, not the hero.

I felt the game was too casual for my taste to play alone and I was only ever getting frustrated playing with friends. I’m not saying I’m the next MLG champ at Overwatch but I know my fundamental with shooters. Regardless of how simple the game and what the meta might be the fundamentals are the most important thing in any shooting game. This is made even more clear when another group of my friends bought me Overwatch as a joke on PS4 for Christmas. All of them that didn’t have PS4s at this point got PS4s for Christmas and Overwatch was the game they decided on over Call of Duty, Battlefield and Titanfall simply because they knew I didn’t like it. A bunch of them already had Overwatch and have now prestiged multiple times. But I and the new PS4 owners went in fresh. They insisted that I would enjoy the game more with them. They were right.

Not only do I have a great time playing with them but I’ve met other friends through playing as well. On top of that, we’re winning more. Why is this? Because they have a strong understanding of the fundamentals of shooting games. We barely have to say when to push and when to back since they are aware of what’s going on. In the moment’s someone does say anything everyone reacts on reflex to what’s said and act accordingly. Sure we still lose our share of games but it’s pretty good for pissing in the wind with half your team drunk off the minds or eating while playing.

Now, this isn’t a PS4 vs Xbox One vs PC thing. This is a don’t take a fun toy too seriously thing. Overwatch is a blast but a lot of people need to accept it’s a very simple casual game at its foundation. Unless you really believe you will be the next MLG pro just have fun and enjoy the game. This kind of extends to all games actually. Overall I really like Overwatch now. I still don’t agree with a lot of what it offers and I do think it cost too much for what they are offering. But if that means we don’t have to pay for future DLC then I’ll live with it. As a game, it’s fun regardless of play style and drunkness. If you have been on the fence regardless of what platform you are on I recommend Overwatch. Even more so if you have chill friends to play with. I won’t be giving Overwatch a rating out of 5 as I would normally do since if I were to break the game down as I do with other games it would end up having a pretty low rating. I feel that would be a bit counter-productive to Overwatch’s overall philosophy. So instead I’ll give it 2 thumbs up and a glass of rum and coke.

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Battlerite Review (Early Access)

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Battlerite is a MOBA/ARTS game similar to games like League of Legends and Dota 2 but is very much it’s own beast entirely. Unlike most MOBAs Battlerite has no lanes or minions. There’s no throne or nexus to capture or destroy. It’s a straight arena brawler. Your team vs the other team and last team standing wins. It takes place over 3 rounds and best out of 3 wins the match. The match ups are between either 2v2 or 3v3 and don’t take much longer than 10 mins to finish a 3 round match. You play as one of a handful but growing number of heroes per match with distinct plays styles, looks and synergies. Like every game that comes out now there are skins for your weapons, armor, mounts and all that you can earn from chests. The chests are completely random but some chests give you better chances but cost more. Stop me if you herd all this before. I honestly hate this system but it’s clearly here to stay so might as well get use to it. Oh and before we move on you can get icons and poses from these chests as well and all of these things are strictly cosmetic. So they say but we all know if you paint it red and put flames on it , it will go faster. So you be the judge.

For the most part the game seems to be balanced. There are sure some heroes you see more often that seem to do better than others. I think that has a lot to do with the newness of the game and people still figuring out how to play it. From what I’ve seen everything has some kind of counter and skill is a big component as well. The game doesn’t hold your hand and make you feel like your helping out and doing a lot when all your doing is shooting down a hallway over and over again. I’m looking at you Overwatch. If you suck the game makes it clear. I have been on the receiving end of these beat downs many times now on Battlerite and on a few occasions handed them out myself. The thing is I don’t feel regret or that I wasted my time when I lose. I feel I deserved it. I feel like I learned from it and I’ll do better next time. Maybe this is because the game is still new in general and new to me as well but I feel it has a lot to do with the games design and enjoyment. That being said when I win it’s all skill all day #gg #mlglyfe #protwitchstream #dothedew #doritosxpcode.

It will take some getting use to even for people who are use to playing games like Dota 2, it may look similar but it plays much faster. I would even say its very arcade like in that sense and the controls are different. Actually after me and my friend played Battlerite some other friends wanted to play Heros of the Storm and the controls felt alien. I would say Im more use to the MOBA style controls but playing Battlerite and then jumping back over felt like everything was flipped. It also felt very slow. Battlerite is a much more fast paced game with more skills to use than Dota style games. So when I got back on Heros of the Storm I felt like I was just sitting there waiting for stuff to get off cool down.

If you are going to play this I recommend playing it with friends. It’s really a completely different experience to play with some one else you know. I had this game for a while now and the first time I played it I played alone and didn’t really care for it. It was cool but I wasn’t able to reach the “wow” moment you get when you play a great game for the first time. It had all the trappings but it couldn’t hook me. That is until my friend got access to it during their free weekend and talked me into playing. That’s when the “wow” moment hit both of us and I saw how great the game is. If you don’t have friends I recommend you find some first otherwise skip it or look for a guild of some sort. The Dark Hearts Gang is my personal gaming guild that’s open to all. I’ll throw a link at the bottom of this article if you’re interested in joining.

The game costs about $20 give or take but I feel I see it on sale often. During the free weekend event my friend got me to play with him they discounted it down to about $15. Regardless of the price I feel it is worth getting if you are into PVP games of this style.

Overall I think this games a hit and can be a huge hit with the right recognition. It’s worth the price if you ask me and will only continue to grow and gain more content over time. It’s all PVP though so if that’s not your thing than this isn’t going to change your mind. But if PVP is your thing there isn’t really anything else like this on the market except the game Battlerite is based off of, Bloodline Champions. (Made by the same company actually if you were wondering why they seemed so similar.) If you have read my other reviews you will know I usually give the game a rating out of 5 around this point. I don’t feel right giving a rating to a game that’s still this early on development. So instead I’ll give it a strong recommendation. Battlerite is awesome and it just might be the best PVP I played this year.

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Panasonic Lumix 25mm 1.7 Lens Review

Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the Olympus 17mm f1.8 Unedited

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Shot on the OMD E-M5 Mark II with the Olympus 17mm f1.8 Unedited

I have been using the 17mm (34mm equivalent) Olympus 1.8 with my EM-5II and have been enjoying it. I said this on a few other articles about how versatile the 35mm focal length is but there is something about the 50mm focal length that is special. It is the go to focal length for most people. I would call it the most popular overall focal length of all time. As a street photographer I find myself having a hard time trying to pick between the two. After getting both I would say the 35mm gets more use from me and is what I find to be my preference for street shooting. That being said I would always have my 50mm with me at all times when shooting. I feel when you need a 50mm you really need a 50mm.

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Shot on the OMD E-M5 Mark II with the Panasonic Lumix 25mm f1.8 edited In Lightroom

Build:

The build isn’t the best. You cant expect features like weather sealing and full metal construction here for a lens that costs so little. (It does have a metal mount just in case you were wondering) That being said I have felt much worse which cost much more. The build of this lens isn’t very different from the Olympus 25mm 1.8, but that lens is about $200 more. Having owned that lens I would say the Panasonic Lumix 25mm 1.7 is equal in build quality if not slitty better. It opens up 0.1 more which isn’t huge but counts for something and also comes with a lens hood like the Olympus 25mm.

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Shot on the OMD E-M5 Mark II with the Panasonic Lumix 25mm f1.8 edited In Lightroom

Price:

The Panasonic Lumix 25mm 1.7 is an excellent value for what you get. Honestly just for the price alone I would recommend it. 50mm is a focal length I find is a must. When you need 50mm its difficult to find an alternative for it. That being said you might not be in love with the focal length. Why drop a crap load of cash on something you like but isn’t a must for you? This lens validates a really nice sweet spot when it comes price and function.

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Shot on the OMD E-M5 Mark II with the Panasonic Lumix 25mm f1.8 edited in Lightroom

Image Quality:

The lens is beautiful. Solid sharp images with lots of bokeh if you want it. I find it to be a little softer than my 17mm Olympus when it comes to street photography but there is a lot of movement and timing to account for in street photography. Also the Olympus 17mm is a solid $200 to $300 more. I would expect it to be a little better here and there but it isn’t by much. I would say it comes more down to preference here than anything else when I compare the two focal lengths. That being said I feel the value alone kind of validates this lens.

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Shot on the OMD E-M5 Mark II with the Panasonic Lumix 25mm f1.8 edited In Lightroom

Overall:

If you already have a 50mm and you are happy with it than you are not missing out, but if you don’t than I would have to recommend this lens for your Micro Four Thirds system. Especially if you are a street photographer. I have linked a gallery below of my visit to the Toronto Aquarium which I went to just to test out this lens. There should also be a link to some street photography I did that same day. I hope this article helped, feel free to link this to your friends and read some of my other articles also linked bellow.

Panasonic Lumix 25mm 1.7 Street Photogrpahy Examples

Panasonic Lumix 25mm 1.7 Color Examples

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OM-D E-M5 Mark II Review

Olympus 17mm 1.8 Lens Review

35mm vs 50mm Photography Comparison

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Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the Olympus 17mm f1.8 edited in Lightroom

If you are reading this you are most likely one of a few people, the first being someone looking for their first lens. Another being some one who has either a 35mm or a 50mm and wanted to see what its like to be on the other side. Maybe you are looking for a single prime to take on vacation. Lastly and most likely you might just be one of those gross creepy street photographers like myself. Whoever you might be, I hope I can help you out a little here.

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Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with thePanasonic Lumix 25mm f1.8 edited in Lightroom

I am a former exclusive member of team 50mm. I still love the focal length and it is still probably my favourite overall focal length. That being said the 35mm focal length is damn good too. I was never really a fan till now where I forced myself to get it and use it. I herd up until this point from other street photographers and other photographers in general about how great the 35mm focal length is. How its the perfect all around focal length and how its great for traveling. If there was any one lens to do it all it should be the 35mm. I believed it, I just never got the chance. I felt the 50mm was pretty much the same thing but I was able to get more shallow depth of field with the trade off of not having as wide a shot. Truly that is what the 50mm is and it is great for that. That is part of why it is considered “Standard”. The 35mm on the other hand comes off as much more “normal”. (See what I did there? No? Don’t worry about it.) A better way I would put it is that the 35mm comes off a lot more natural. I feel it covers more ground. Gives you more options including a little bokeh.

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Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the Olympus 17mm f1.8 edited in Lightroom

So which is better? Well I say both. Im sure thats not what you want to hear so ill go into detail. The 35mm is a swiss army knife, a jack of all trades. It does it all and it does it well. The 50mm on the other hand can be a little fancy. It just makes the subject look nice. You cant go as wide sure but on the other hand you don’t have to go as close to the subject. Its just at the curve where portrait lenses start so it can double as a portrait lens too. Sure the 35mm can do most of this but you can really make some models uncomfortable with how close you need to get.

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Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with thePanasonic Lumix 25mm f1.8 edited in Lightroom

Lets look at it this way. The 35mm is a grey suit and the 50mm is a black suit. This might be going over a lot of heads now since I’m going into fashion territory here but it is openly considered a grey or charcoal suit is much more versatile to wear than a black one. You can mix and match with a grey suit a lot easier than you can with a black one. You can wear a grey (charcoal) suit to a funeral or to a party and not look out of place. All that being said, damn does a black suit just look good. Not as versatile, no. The question is does it need to be? It just looks so good that, who cares? So which suit should you buy? For travel get yourself the 35mm grey suit. It will do everything you need it to do and it will do it well. For your first lens? Either one works here. If you plan to take more portraits and such the 50mm black suit. Maybe more into landscapes? Then go with the 35mm grey suit. If you have a 35mm grey suit and you are looking at that 50mm black suit don’t worry you are not missing out. Same goes the other way around. That being said I think all men should have a black suit and a grey suit. To my street photographers. Same deal. You can go either way and be happy but again I think all men should have a black suit and a grey suit.

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OM-D E-M5 Mark II Review

Olympus 17mm 1.8 Lens Review

Olympus 17mm 1.8 Lens Review

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Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the 35mm f2.8 Canon FD Lens using High Res Shot UnEdited

I got this lens quite last minute before my trip to Cuba. Actually I got it about an hour before leaving to the airport. Before this I had the olympus 25mm 1.8 lens that I got with my OM-D E-M5 Mark II a few days earlier. I love the 50mm focal length but I just didn’t like the build and the continuous wire focus ring on the 25mm. I also felt it overall lacked in build for its price. The image quality was great and the auto focus was on point, but I like to have the option for solid manual focus and I want a solid build. So last minute I went and returned the 25mm for the 17mm and I’m very happy for it.

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Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the 17mm f1.8 edited in Lightroom

The 35mm (actually 34mm with this lens but close enough) focal length you get with the 17mm Olympus is quite something. I was a bit skeptical before this about it since I’m overall on team 50mm. Since using the 35mm I have to say I find myself playing on both teams now. It gives crips solid shots at about 4.0 and up and you can also get some beautiful bokeh in if you stop it down a bit. You should see some samples here and linked bellow is my Instagram where you should be able to see more. The focus ring is great too, if you pull back on it, it will lock into place and switch to manual focus. Its not actually manual focus, its still focus by wire. It just simulates old school manual focus and it does it extremely well. You wont have the same speed you would with pulling the focus ring around like you would with say a vintage lens but its pretty close and its as good as it will ever get for focus by wire.

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Shot on the iPhone 6s Plus

The overall build is prefect. Small, solid metal/quality plastic construction all around. It felt heavier than the larger 25mm I had before, if not more dense. I was never worried about breaking it in use and when I would bump it into things it seemed to bump back just as hard. Ill be honest I hate using neck straps and rarely do but it was simply too hot in Cuba for me to carry my backpack around which means my Peak Design Capture Clip couldn’t be used. If you read/herd my review on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II you would understand I didn’t overall like the grip even though I’m use to it now. So I had to use a strap and let me tell you did my camera and lens take a beating. I would get up from a tables and the lens and camera go smashing nose first into the edge of the table. They would both shrugging it off like it was nothing. I expect this kind of solidarity coming from the OM-D E-M5 Mark II which was build for it but not the lens. Simply put I was impressed at how well it can take a beating.

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Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the 17mm f1.8

In conclusion I would say it was worth every penny. When I got it I thought I would return it if I didn’t like it. (Same with the OM-D E-M5 Mark II) In the end I couldn’t let either of them go. The only thing that would make this lens perfect in my eyes is if it had weather sealing. Cant have it all I guess. If you are looking at this lens I highly recommend it and if you are thinking about this vs his brother the 25mm, I still highly recommend this over that. Now thats not a 35mm vs 50mm thing thats this particular 17mm vs that particular 25mm thing. If you want to see my comparison and thoughts on the 35mm focal length vs the 50mm focal length check the links bellow. I cant say more good things about this lens from a general use standpoint and a street photographer standpoint.

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OM-D E-M5 Mark II Review

OM-D E-M5 Mark II Review

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Shot on the Sony A6000 edited in Lightroom

I have been using the OM-D E-M5 Mark II extensively for about 2 weeks now. I got it just before going on my trip to Cuba expecting to test it out on the trip. In short I am very happy with this camera but its not perfect. So lets start there with the cons.

Cons:

The Grip

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Shot on the iPhone 6s Plus

I didn’t like the grip right form the start. My hand is larger than most and it was just too uncomfortable for me. I never felt confident holding it like I do with other cameras like my Sony A6000. Due to the size and weight of it I found it to dig into my ring finger most the time, kind of between the side of my nail and the next closest knuckle. I was always worried about dropping it randomly so to make up for that I would hold it more often in my left hand while cupping it from under with the lens. I also found myself mistakenly clicking the button located on the front of the camera. Im not sure what it would be assigned to on a stock camera since one of the first things I did when I got it was go in and change all the buttons to my liking. I had to key bind it to nothing for a while since I couldn’t find a use for it, it would mess with my shots when I click it by mistake or hand it over to a friend. Whenever I would hand it to a friend I can see them also click it by mistake every time. Now all this being said after about 3 days of handling and use I got use to it. My hands have naturally adapted to the weight and grip of the camera. I don’t notice it anymore. I feel I am nitpicking a bit with this flaw. To be honest I like the camera quite a bit and most of these flaws may come off as nitpicks.

The Menus

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Shot on the iPhone 6s Plus

Don’t let me get started on these menus, simply put…they suck. I don’t know who signed off on this but I have made better wireframe layouts for menus in my sleep. I feel the best way they could have went about it is increase separation. Which is how I feel most companies handle their menus. If an item cant be placed into a category, simply give it its own dedicated one. What Olympus here seems to be trying to do is lower the amount of clutter but combining things here and there. It looks like there is less clutter but what ends up happening is features you would need fast access to are then hidden away within other menus. One excuse that can be given is this camera has crazy amounts of customization and in the process of that the menus can be “complicated”. I know “complicated” and this is just “messy”. I doubt this will happen but maybe Olympus will come out with a software fix for this.

Micro Four Thirds and 16MP

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Shot on the iPhone 6s Plus

This is one of the things I was worried about when getting this camera. This is my first M4/3 camera having only used the Panasonic GH4 before this at an event just to try out. I felt it was excellent for video but I didn’t know what to really expect for photography. With my A6000 which is a APS-C sized sensor at 1.5 crop I would find myself with a lack of light at times. Ending up having to fiddle with the settings and make compromises to my shot to make it work. I also saw 16MP to possibly be a problem due to not allowing me to print larger or crop further. My worry about the lack of light was not that big a deal. It handled really well in dimly lit situations as good if not better than my A6000. If you don’t pixel peep at the individual grains it would give you very solid images in low light. The 16MP on the other hand has been a bit to work around. I feel I am more carful with my shots when taking them to make up for the megapixel size so I don’t have to crop into the shot later. Its not a deal break or huge for me. The way I shoot allows me a lot of wiggle room for things like this but it would be a much bigger problem for others. If you expect to do large prints or be cropping in post a lot I would have to say Micro Four Thirds is not for you. (Only exception being is if you are a product photographer and you plan to take advantage of “High Res Shot”. If its not moving it will look brilliant with a 4K shot in the end.)

Little Bits of Annoyance

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Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the 17mm f1.8 lightly edited in Lightroom

I wont state all my little annoyances here but there is one that stands out to me and I’m going to talk about here at the end of the Cons mainly because it is maybe the smallest problem the camera has but it is my biggest personal annoyance. Now I do understand that this con might mean nothing to you but coming from a design and media background it makes me wonder if they even bothered testing the camera out properly before release it. Now my little problem with this camera is Focus Peaking turning off when I switch to manual through the lens or when using a vintage lens. Yes you are probably asking yourself, “Do people really still manually focus in photography?”…Yes they do. Magnification and Focus Peaking work as manual focus aids to allow you to manually focus on your subject more accurately and faster. It may not be as fast as todays auto focus but I still find it to overall more reliable. Even though I find auto focus to be getting better and better every year.

All that out of the way, Why? Why does this feature that exist as a manual focus aid get turned off automatically when switching to manual though the lens or when using vintage lenses. It works fine when I flip my AF to MF switch but it just loses it mind when any combination of this is done. My A6000 doesn’t do that. This is what makes me think no one tested this out in development enough. This would have been one of the first things I tried if I was working on this camera. It is one of the first things I tried when I got it. I may be coming off as being really pissed about this and its kind of true. I feel the Devil is in the details and its such a simple detail that should not have been overlooked. Now there is a work around for this and its not to bad. You can set one of the Function Buttons on the camera as a Focus Peaking on/off button. So when the camera decides to turn it off on its own you just click that button to turn it on again. The button I personally use and recommend is the small round button located on the front of the camera when your ring finger or middle finger meets the grip. The same button I talked about above when we went over the grip. I like this spot a lot since its easy to get to and miss clicking it wont change any setting thats would effect the end result. Its simply a toggle for focus peaking. If its on and you need it, great. If its off and you need it just click the button once.

Pros:

The Build

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Shot on the iPhone 6s Plus

Now this is debatable, but after a bit of thinking this over I think this may be the best built camera I have ever used, and I have used many different cameras from Canon, Nikon and Sony. Im talking about all of the A7 line and the top Canons and Nikons. I like the build of this more. Lets just say this, If I were to drop my Sony A6000 on my foot I would be worried about my A6000 maybe breaking. If I dropped my Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II on my foot, call an ambulance because I most likely need medical care. The military should have a look at this camera, because this is how you should build tanks. The weather sealing, the machining and the quality of parts is as good as it gets for a pro grade camera.

High Res Shot

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Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the 17mm f1.8

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Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the 17mm f1.8 cropped

The OM-D E-M5 Mark II has all the features you expect from mirrorless cameras, focus peaking, magnification, HDR, swivel touch screen, great amounts of customization, and wifi to name a few, but it also has great new features like High Res Shot. It allows you to take a 4K picture the only catch being be subject cant move at all. So things like people are out of the question. Like I said above, product photographers will have a great time with this. The few times I tested it out, I was very surprised by the result. It can also maybe be used for some landscape shots such as waterfalls. Since any kind of movement will blur the image you can get some really cool 4K shallow shots with this feature. I personally have not tried this but in theory it should work. Having written all this and then taking the pictures you see above I realized there is a lot of potential in using Hight Res Shot for macro photography. Just look at how much you can crop and how close you can get in the second picture.

In Body Stabilization

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Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the Canon FD 135mm f3.5 handheld from my room, edited in Lightroom

I’m not much of a video shooter anymore but the advantages that IBS brings to photography is is excellent as well. I like to use vintage lenses. I own the Canon FD 35mm, 50mm, and 135mm. On the OM-D E-M5 Mark II Micro Four Thirds  sensor these focal lengths are all doubled to 70mm, 100mm, and 270mm. These lenses are extremely adorable and shoot amazing images and video. The problem with them is being vintage they have no image stabilization and no auto focus. Now auto focus isn’t a problem with features like magnification and focus peaking but image stabilization cant be helped. When you are trying to pull focus and also shoot a stable shot there can be a lot of motion fuzz or blur in the final images. This coming from maybe slightly missing focus and the lack of stabilization. Now with the IBS in the OM-D E-M5 Mark II there are no problems at all. Sharp clear, bokehlicious images and video all around.

Micro Four Thirds

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Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the 25mm f1.8 edited on Lightroom

M4/3 might have its limitations when it comes to light and megapixels but it also has its advantages. As stated above all mm based on full frame standards are doubled. For instance the 50mm becoming a 100mm. Same goes for a lens at say 300mm, it would be an effective 600mm on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II M4/3 body. This allows you to get ridiculous range while still maintaining a smaller form factor. I have used full frame cameras with some long telephoto zooms and comparing the size and weight of some of those zooms to the M4/3 counter part is laughable. The size of some of these full frame lenses really seem to be over compensating for something.

Image Quality

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Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the 17mm f1.8 edited in Lightroom

I don’t know what Olympus is doing to get these images to look as good as they do. Maybe unicorn horns or angel tears but the images and colors that come out of the OM-D E-M5 Mark II are simply beautiful. I don’t shoot in jpg, I did when I started photography but I got off it quick after seeing what can be done with RAW shooting. That being said this is a camera I would actually consider shooting in jpg here and there. I probably still won’t because again, even though it gives out excellent images it will still look better after processing in RAW, but damn did I come close a few times to hitting jpg. The colors and sharpness are something special from this camera. Now part of it has a lot to do with the lens I used which in this case the Olympus 17mm 1.8. I picked this lens over the Olympus 25mm 1.8. If you want to know why, keep an eye out for my next post “35mm vs 50mm”. Speaking on only on the (35mm) Olympus 17mm 1.8 I have to say its an excellent lens.

This lens teamed up with the OM-D E-M5 Mark II just might be the perfect all around team. The 35mm focal length handles everything really well. For a travel combo I cant think of anything better when it comes to primes. Only thing better for an all round use combo/travel combo would be some sort of zoom with the OM-D E-M5 Mark II. Personally I really cant stand zooms for many reasons I wont state here. If you are not sure why I don’t like zooms, you are most likely new to photography, just prefer zooms over primes, (Really?) or shoot very different subject matter.(Wildlife for instance) Whatever kind of shooter you might be there is a lens combo that will work well for you and the OM-D E-M5 Mark II. For me personally its some combination of a 35mm 50mm and 100mm prime. Ill make a separate review on the 17mm 1.8 lens itself or talk about it on my podcast. Either way check the bottom of this post for links to related subjects.

Twitter – @DarksterMedia

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Olympus 17mm 1.8 Lens Review

Vain Glory – The Problem With iOS’s Biggest New MOBA

I have been playing this game the past few days now and I agree with whats being said here. That being said I think its an excellent game. I highly recommend it to any one with an iPad.