Olympus E-P1 with Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 lens

Olympus E-P1 with Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 lens

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.

4 Responses to “PEN”

  1. 1

    I’ve been thinking for a while to do exactly the same: sell my Samsung GX10 (too big and heavy)and buy a m4/3 (especially the e-p1, now that it is so inexpensive).
    So far, do you find the lack of OVF and the (allegedly) low resolution screen limiting? Do you plan to use Pentax lenses with an adapter?
    I very much look forward to read your further impressions with the camera.

  2. 2
    mark giles:


    I still have my K-X with the kit lenses; I really like it’s low light capabilities, solid menus, build quality. Really good IQ (image quality.) And that great range of legacy lenses with Shake Reduction always available.

    However, I now also have a Panasonic DMC-G2, with the 14-42. I thought long and hard about Olympus; perhaps your readers who are trying to decide between the 4/3 choices might like to hear my impressions, then yours.

    I do not like having the (Panasonic) OIS in the lens; the Pentax spoiled me. There is some great old glass out there from Zuiko: compact, extremely high build quality. But no OIS unless it’s in the camera. Point to Olympus.Their new lenses are reportedly also very very good.

    But, I’m an older guy, had eye surgery. Selling point #1: the Panasonic EVF (electronic viewfinder for our newbie friends) is really useful for the older orbs: particularly in brightness. It even seems to be pretty accurate for color and exposure.

    A 2nd selling point: the articulating screen with a cool touch-to-fire option. Highlight the subject, “click.” I can do multiple shots with differing depths of field in an instant.

    3rd sales point: this model has a physical (as well as touch screen) control for almost all functions. Once you learn them, the hands-on experience, a tactile one, becomes second nature.

    I should note that Pana has introduced the G3, which gains a 16MP sensor, a cool “expanded telephoto” (not digitally bloated pixels, it retains the same sharpness). Your 200mm becomes an 800mm. Alas, only works in video. G3 is somewhat smaller than G2, but loses the extra physical controls. The price is very favorable.

    I will say the G2 does not quite match the Pentax, which has a very slight advantage in color reproduction, and most noticeably less noise at high ISO numbers. Pan is OK at 800, where the Pentax is without visible noise. Pentax is really useable (to my eye) at 3200, which is pretty impressive at the price point. The Pana is also a perfect size and wait; this is where 4/3 format really pays off.

    And that’s it; over to you.

  3. 3

    Hello just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few
    of the pictures aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.

    I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both
    show the same results.

  4. 4

    Yes, I cancelled my Flickr account and that broke links to any photos I had hosted there. My apologies.

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