Olympus OM-D challenge: Fear and loathing in Las Vegas

Every year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas there’s a veritable feast of tech to get our teeth into. But this year, beyond the glitzy lights and manufacturers’ bold claims for their latest products, we were invited to really put things to the test in an out-of-town ultimate camera test.

So we retreated from the formalities of the conference centres and left Las Vegas for the desert. Olympus had invited us to follow photographer Damian McGillicuddy to Death Valley on a shoot to test the OM-D E-M1, and ever the adventurous types, we couldn’t refuse.

The plot

Particularly as McGillicuddy’s recent obsession with Vegas-themed films - from Con Air to The Hangover as well as the recent series Breaking Bad - had inspired a fun concept. And when that testing process involves the mock murder of the Olympus UK marketing boss at the hands - or, more accurately, shovel - of our play-along American model, who are we to refuse?

There are a number of ways to see if a product can live up to a maker’s claims. And the more real-world and the more fun that process is, the better in our books. And heck, we were in Las Vegas, the state that serves up an extra dollop of freedom on the side of its already hedonistic image.

The kit

McGillicuddy uses the OM-D E-M1 because he says it produces great images but is also much lighter and easier to take jet-setting than his traditional kit. He reckons he can get two bodies, a selection of  prime lenses and two or three flashguns in a single carry-on bag - which makes life much easier without compromising the final result.

There is that lingering question these days about whether a compact system camera can be considered a professional photographic tool. His answer to that is yes: the small size, weather-sealing, great pictures and articulating screen all being primary features. And believe us, the dust out in the desert is not to be underestimated. But with the metal 17mm f/1.8 prime lens firmly fixed to the front of the E-M1 that was no problem for the camera.

The shots

With CES formalities out of the way, we set off beyond the mountains, model in tow, to test out the compact system camera. Death Valley lies about a two-hour drive from of Las Vegas to the south, or it would have been two hours if we had not been pulled over by a handlebar-moustached state trooper for being a bit too eager on the gas. A slap on the wrists, speeding ticket in pocket, cheeky Taco Bell burrito picked up in Pahrump - no, really, it’s a genuine place - and we scouted out a location in the salt flats.

Even working at the lowest point in America the camera worked perfectly through wind-blown dust clouds and warm winter sun. Flashes set up for dramatic effect, McGillicuddy set to work using the tilt-angle screen for waist-level shooting. We’ve rarely seen a pro use live view in this way, but it goes to show even in the Las Vegas sun that the screen is up to the challenge.

In parts two and three of our Olympus OM-D challenge we reveal additional behind-the-scenes secrets on how the shots taken were achieved in our tale.

READ: OM-D challenge part 2 | OM-D challenge part 3

If you think this all sounds like a lot of fun - because it was - then to find out more about how you can join events and master classes and see the Olympus range in action, visit: www.olympus-imagespace.co.uk

The competition

In the process of this shoot we got to experience some forthcoming Olympus kit. And after waiting for a number of weeks, we can lift the lid on the Olympus OM-D E-M10 compact system camera.

And, lucky readers, your chance to win one along with an additional 45mm prime lens. And there are some runners-up Olympus camera prizes. It's free to enter, all you have to do is follow our three part story to find out the answers to the competition question. It's open until the end play 28 February 2014.

READ: Win an Olympus OM-D E-M10

Image copyright Damian McGillicuddy www.damianmcgillicuddy.com