There are times, rare as they may be, that I do wonder what the hell I am doing carrying around all my gear. I have two pro Nikon bodies and all the lenses up to a 200mm prime lens. As you could imagine, it’s heavy, there is lots of it and of course it isn’t exactly discreet, especially when you are in an area that may not be all that savoury. I’m not the only one who feels this way. Working at Camera Electronic in Perth I have spoken with a number of photographers who are looking for a smaller, more compact camera that performs to a similar standard as the standard DSLR’s.
A couple of Singapore trips ago I decided that although I had to have all my gear with me – I was there to work after all – that I would only take my Nikon gear out whilst on assignment. Taking a leaf out of one of my favourite photographers Chase Jarvis‘ book, I challenged myself to use what I had to achieve what I wanted. Enter the Olympus EPL-1. I must say the results were surprising.
Firstly, I need to mention for those “tech-heads” out there that when I trialled the EPL-1 it was on the verge of being superseded. It has since been replaced by the EPL-2. This is not a bad thing, because I have played with the EPL-2 since its release and I can now also tell you what has improved. I am a chick so I am not going to bore people with “specs and techs” – I just want to get to the fun stuff about using them!! This being said though there are a couple of things that I think need to be mentioned. The EPL-1 and 2 are both members of the micro four-thirds (MFT) family. Basically, MFT cameras were designed to offer an “in-between” option to the larger DSLR cameras and the smaller compact cameras, something that still had detachable lenses, and therefore offering more flexibility, but was more along the size of a compact camera. If you wish to know more about the advantages and disadvantages of MFT there are a lot of articles scattered across the web.
One of the first major things I noticed in comparison to my D700 was that the EPL-1 fitted very nicely with all of it’s lenses and accessories in my Lowepro Passport Sling bag (mica in colour – very important!!). There was still plenty of room for all the other “stuff” that I seem to carry. And boy was it light! I don’t think I swapped my bag to the other shoulder once.
When it came to taking photos, one thing I didn’t like on the EPL-1 was the shutter delay. It was slow and you seemed to have to wait for ever for it to take the photo – something akin to the older compacts. Upon testing the EPL-2, this is something that seems to have been corrected and it is not just a little quicker but heaps quicker with virtually no shutter delay. This makes the camera a good option for someone who might not be as stable with their hands or have some weakness in their fingers or those that are simply impatient…..I will leave you to work out which category I fit in!
I was very happy the RAW files and the low-light shooting. It did take me some time to figure out how to change the files from JPG to RAW. The menu options weren’t always intuitive and not having the manual or access to the internet didn’t help. The menu appears to be unchanged in the EPL-2 but like any new “toy” I am sure it would be something that you would get used to. The exposure meter was actually part of the image so when you aim the camera you can see on the screen that it is too dark and when you make your manual adjustments the screen/scene gets lighter to show how the image is going to look. So instead of having an exposure bar to meter from you meter from the whole image which was very cool.
My favourite lens was the 17mm pancake lens. I pretty much used it for most of the shooting, however the long lens came in handy as well. The long lens however had a minimum f-stop of 4 and it was variable so it was a bit limiting in some situations.
My overall verdict was that it was a very nice camera to use. The one thing that really annoyed me about the EPL-1, the shutter delay, appears to have been corrected in the new model. The photos were easy to download and process. As expected there was some digital noise at the higher ISO’s and longer exposures – it was certainly no D700 in that respect – but I certainly wasn’t unhappy with the image quality. I have actually included some of the shots taken below. The camera was light and it made for a perfect low-key “people watching” camera. Price wise, very reasonable. Especially with the conveniences that it offers.
I am certainly happy to take any more-in-depth questions about the testing so please feel free to email me!