March 24, 2012

M 4/3 First Impressions

This is more of a part II since Eric, a very good flickr friend, offered to lend me his Olympus PEN E-P1 on a short photo walk along Gastown, Vancouver. It was however quite short and I was not able to play a lot with the E-P1. I must say it was helpful still but this time around I have my own E-P1 and I brought along the M. Zuiko Digital 45mm f1.8. I was not planning on getting an E-P1 but just before I picked up my lenses I saw that it was on sale at Lens & Shutter for $199. So I called my contact quickly and asked if they still have stock. They were getting rid of it that's why there was a price drop.

Today was a good day and we are finally getting some sun and warm weather here in the Pacific North West. There was also a Vancouver Flickr Gang photo walk but I was unable to join because I have an appointment with the Honda dealership. So I thought of doing my own photo walk although I ended up taking more photos inside the dealership than outside.

So without further ado here are my thoughts in random order. Please note that this is mainly from a user perspective and I'm writing about this because I want to share my experiences and thoughts specially coming from a Canon 5D Mark II full frame camera. Yes, I sold it to downsize to an Olympus system.
  1. The E-P1 with the 45mm f1.8 is light and small. I simply placed it in my jacket pocket, no need for bags. I decided not to bring other lenses so I can focus on the 45mm and I also want to test how good it is for my style of shooting. The combo feels solid too, not rock solid as a D-SLR but it does not feel plasticky in my own opinion. It also looks pretty slick since the E-P1 is silver and the 45mm is silver too.
  2. Menu system is pretty straight forward. I read the first few pages of the manual and referred to the pages regarding settings that I use most often (ISO, focus points, exposure, AF, etc.). After fiddling with it last night I told myself, that's it! Maybe there's more but for what I need so far I already know how to get there. One critique I have is the menu system looks a bit cheap compared to Nikon and Canon. This could be because the LCD is only 230K dots on the E-P1 but it's not a big deal for me.
  3. Coming from D-SLR cameras like D300 and 5D the ergonomics of the smaller E-P1 needs some getting used to. I think this is something that will need some time. It's not bad since I don't have super big hands but it's small enough so it needs some adjustment period.
  4. I must say that IS is a big help. I only had IS on my Nikon 18-200mm VR back when I was still shooting with a Nikon D300. I didn't appreciate it much back then but now that I'm more experienced I think it's super fantastic that it's part of the body and not the lens. It's good to have that option all the time.
  5. Not having a View Finder is another adjustment but not a big deal. The E-M5 has the EVF built in and that will be my main camera anyway. I also think that this is just another thing that needs getting used to.
  6. I have not pushed the E-P1 yet in terms of ISO but I can see that even at ISO 400 it's noisier than the 5D. Of course I'm pixel peeping here. For web site posting and small prints ISO 400 is totally usable. But of course the high ISO performance of a full frame camera is nice to have.
  7. I wish the E-P1 had a built in flash. I don't use it all the time but it is super helpful during times of harsh lighting where you need fill light and also at night where you need some flash to light your subject.
  8. I'm totally amazed and very happy to see the quality of pictures and the most I like is the color rendition. I love the natural color output and it delivers the punch needed. Below are some snaps I took while I was at the Honda dealership. Most of them are straight out of the camera. One of the first things I noticed when I was going through my workflow is how natural the pictures look. Again, natural but still punchy. NATURAL is the picture mode I chose with Contrast, Sharpness and Saturation all set to 0. Gradation is set to NORM and noise filter is LOW. I shoot RAW so I converted the pictures below to JPG using Olympus Viewer 2 version 1.3. With Canon this is also my workflow, I convert the RAW files to JPG using Digital Photo Professional. I like that Olympus has the equivalent software for it. Photoshop is still the tool for me in terms of serious post production work but if I'm happy with the output straight out of the camera then I'm good. That means more time for me to shoot, right.
  9. I have to admit I like the C1, C2, C3 banks on the 5D Mark II. Those are very very convenient.
  10. I have not done a lot of long exposures yet and it is something that will require careful examination and making sure it's not user error but so far I can see that the small sensor of the E-P1 is limited. I still have to do more tests but if you're a Long Exposure photographer then full frame still has the advantage. I do hope that the E-M5 delivers on this regard since I like long exposures.
I think that's about it. I'll update the above or perhaps do another post when I have the E-M5 on my hands. I would like to note once again that this is from my own user experience. If you have questions please don't hesitate to ask me, I'll be happy to answer them for you.

Red on blue
M. Zuiko 45mm @f/2.8, ISO 100, SOOC
Even with dim lighting I was able to push the E-P1 to use ISO 400 with the M. Zuiko 45mm f/1.8. I had to take all shots wide open.

ISO 800, Exposure Comp +0.5
Malaysian Food at Tropika Restaurant
ISO 400, Exposure Comp +0.5


  1. Hey Eugene. Good post. I have been learning how to use the 1.8/45 also. My thought to share are that it is excellent at f5-6 ish. The other really interesting thing is that the kit lens 14-42 II R is a special piece of optical engineering. It takes excellent pictures at all FL. I have also used the M-CON lens adapter. Oly has always offered these inexpensive lens converters. You can buy a fisheye or an F-CON for about $180. I am impressed with the M, so maybe I'll throw in some of the others into the bag and be even more flexible.

  2. Thanks Dennis. That's information I really like to know. So the kit lens 14-42 II R is special piece of glass. I might give it a try one of these days.

  3. Beauty results...
    Pretty confidence with your natural look!