Those of you who read my blog regularly surely have noticed a complete lack of new posts. When I started this exercise I was unemployed and returning to school to complete my undergraduate degree. I found that a) I had a lot of interesting new things to blog about and b) I had a lot of free time with which to do it. That all changed when I graduated last fall and found a new job with Ryobi in Anderson, SC. Since then I have been incredibly busy and what free time I have has been mostly devoted to spending quality time with my family.
Meanwhile, my blog has soldiered on quietly on its own averaging about 300-500 views a day. My most popular posts by far are my DSLR Bokeh Tutorial and Shooting Manual Lenses on Pentax DSLRs tutorial. It is interesting how popular my DSLR Bokeh Tutorial has become. A simple Google search for “DSLR bokeh” shows my blog post as the #1 hit with several blogs that link to my post following. I guess there are a lot of people interested in learning more about this photographic technique.
My various Pentax lens and hardware tests are also quite popular. That is what brings me back to the blog to write this post. As of yesterday I no longer own a Pentax DSLR.
While I loved my K10D, I really wanted to upgrade my photographic experience. I’m not a professional photographer so I don’t have a need for blindingly fast AF, machine gun-like burst frame rates or six figure ISO settings. What I need is a camera that is easy to carry so that I will have it when I want it, that does not get in the way of my creativity and that delivers the type of images and quality I want.
When the current crop of micro 4/3 cameras first came out I was immediately drawn to the Olympus E-P1 and the Panasonic GF1. What attracted me the most was the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 “pancake” lens that works on either of these cameras. I have often said that lenses are more important than cameras when it comes to making good pictures and the 20mm Lumix hits the perfect sweet spot of focal length (40mm equiv), speed (f/1.7), image quality (sharp as a tack), and size (1″ x 2 3/8″).
So, I decided to take the plunge and sold my Pentax kit to fund the purchase of an Olympus E-P1 (PEN) + Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 lens (shown above). The choice of the PEN was pretty simple. It has in-body IS. I have grown spoiled by the combination of a fast aperture and slow hand held shutter speeds. The only way to get IS with a prime lens like the Lumix is to have it inside the camera. The GF1 relies on lens based IS so the PEN was the clear winner.
I also preferred the PEN’s dual rear control wheel design over the GF1’s single click-to-change-modes multi-function wheel. I typically shoot in aperture priority mode (A) and I like to have the ability to quickly adjust the aperture and the exposure compensation with separate wheels. In my tests with the GF1 I found I was always losing a few seconds examining the LCD to determine which setting I was adjusting. With the PEN the adjustments come more naturally.
I’m sure I would have grown accustomed to the GF1’s controls but the in-body IS of the PEN clinched the deal. Even in my camera store tests of the two cameras I found I consistently got more clear shots from the PEN than the GF1. IS is even more critical in my opinion when shooting at arm’s length than it is when holding a DSLR up to your eye and bracing your arms against your body. Sure you can always boost the ISO to get a faster shutter speed but many times I prefer a slower shutter speed to capture more of a sense of motion.
In comparing the other Olympus micro 4/3 options I excluded the E-P2 on price (I didn’t feel the need for the EVF port) and the E-PL1 due to its less user friendly interface. In the end, I managed to find a steal on an E-P1 kit with the 14-42mm zoom lens and picked up the Panasonic lens plus a black leather-look applique (to give my PEN that extra retro look and feel while cutting down a bit on the bling of the stainless body)- all for less than the best price I could find for the GF1 kit with only the 20mm lens.
I have only had the PEN for a few days but I can already tell it is everything I hoped it would be and more. It will take me a while to get my muscle memory used to the new control layout and to “see” the way the camera does. However, I am already finding that the PEN is very easy to use and requires far less shot-to-shot exposure adjustment than my K10D did. Also, its diminutive size (compared to my K10D kit) means that I find it much easier to carry it around with me. Overall camera performance is on par with my K10D and image quality is slightly better, though the PEN seems to have a little less dynamic range.
I will continue to explore the PEN over the coming weeks and start sharing my photos, thoughts, experience, tips, tricks, etc. Please stay tuned, as they say.