I'm looking for a new camera system, something for family vacations or road trips. I want something smaller and lighter than my Nikon D5100, but also interchangeable lenses. To me, that means one of the compact system interchangeable lens (ILC aka mirror-less) cameras such as the Sony NEX system, the Fujifilm X system, or the micro-four-thirds system. I tend to hang on to my tech longer than most of my friends. I bought a Nikon D40 in 2006 and didn't upgrade until 2013 when I purchased a used D5100 on eBay. I want a compact system that will suffice for just as long. I could buy a point-n-shoot, but I would miss being able to choose lenses and having control over aperture and shutter speed etc. I think in the back of my mind I'm not committed to the DSLR format. In five years, I've bought only three lenses, and none are so expensive that I couldn't dump the system and start over.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 + M.Zuiko ED 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 EZ @ 50mm , ISO 1250 , 1/125s , ƒ/8

Over the summer I rented the Fujifilm X-E1 and last week I borrowed my friend's Olympus PEN EP-3.

I like both cameras, but each had faults. The Fujifilm X-E1 had a slow (electronic viewfinder), and auto-focus (AF) and the Olympus PEN EP-3 had no EVF. The Fujifilm X-E1, however, convinced me that the CSC format could produce excellent results. I also loved the retro film camera look and feel of some of the cameras.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 + M.Zuiko ED 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 EZ @ 50mm , ISO 1600 , 1/125s , ƒ/8

Before my friend offered to loan me his EP-3 I had ordered a rental, the Olympus OM-D EM-5, from Lensrentals along with the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 lens. I had the weekend to try what is considered the high-end of Olympus line. Of course, Olympus announced an update to the EM-5, the Olympus OM-D EM-1, so I was testing out the deprecated technology.

This article isn't a review1. It's more my thought and impressions on the Olympus OM-D EM-5. The camera is about the same size as the EP-3. The EVF worked better than I expected. The EVF in the Fujifilm X-E1 felt quite slow and couldn't keep up with the fast movement of the camera for tracking running kids, flying birds etc. The Olympus OM-D EM-5 tracked well. I didn't notice any lag. Setting the camera up was quite easy. It's quite light. Battery life isn't quite up to the level I expected. It's a lot worse than the Nikon. After just one day of shooting, about 100 images, the battery was exhausted. I can easily get three to four full days of shooting out of my Nikon D5100's battery. Perhaps the EM-1 is better.

The images below give you a decent idea of what to expect from the EM-5. Since the D5100 has an APS-C sensor with a 1.5 crop factor and the EM-5 has a micro four-thirds sensor with a crop factor of 2.0 I used my AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 G lens, to create a near similar comparison, I set the 12-50 mm lens to 26mm. This means that both cameras were shooting at the 35mm equivalent of 52mm. Both cameras were set to ISO 200 and f/8 in aperture priority mode. I couldn't see much of a difference between these two images (other than the slightly different crop). The Olympus OM-D EM-5 pictures seem to have more contrast, and the colours are more vivid, but this may be some setting that I overlooked or the slightly different aperture. The EM-5 felt tiny in my hand. I missed having a grip to hold the camera one-handed.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 + M.Zuiko ED 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 EZ @ 26mm , ISO 200 , 1100 s at ƒ/5.6

The Nikon with the AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G at f/6.3.

20 October 2013 – Nikon D5100 + AF-S Nikkor 35 mm f/1.8 G @ f/6.3, ISO 200

The Olympus M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 is a macro lens. I shot the spider at f/10 to provide enough DOF to capture the spider in focus. Once turned on, the lens locks in at 43mm. It's straightforward to use, and I love the results.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 + M.Zuiko ED 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 EZ @ 43mm , ISO 200 , 1250 s at ƒ/10

Given that Sony, Fuji and Olympus announced new cameras and lenses this month, I have a lot of choices. PhotoPlus Expo is coming up, and I may have an opportunity to try out the new Sony A7, the Olympus OM-D EM-1 and the Fuji X-E2. I am very excited about the X-E2. Early reports are that Fuji has fixed the problems exhibited by the X-E1. If so, then my decision will be even harder. The results from these CSC cameras makes me wonder if I can replace my DSLR altogether.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Olympus OM-D E-M5 + M.Zuiko ED 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 EZ @ 50mm , ISO 1600 , 1125 s at ƒ/6.3
Olympus OM-D E-M5 + M.Zuiko ED 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 EZ @ 12mm , ISO 1000 , 160 s at ƒ/11

  1. Robin Wong has written about the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3. ?

This is not a review. I don’t know how to review cameras and I won’t pretend to. What follows is my impression of the Olympus PEN EP-3 and an assortment of µ 43 lenses loaned to me by Chris Boraski. I mentioned to Chris that I would be renting the Olympus OM-D EM-5 and 12-50mm lens and he offered to loan me his kit to compare. I want a small but capable camera to take on vacations. The Nikon is just too big and intimidating for my family to manage and as a result, I'm rarely on family vacation photos. Because the M-5 seems to be considered the most popular of the µ 43 cameras I wanted to compare with the Fujifilm X-E1 that I rented while on vacation earlier this year.

My first impression is that the EP-3’s autofocus exhibited none of the annoying delay I experienced with the Fujifilm X-E1. I had read a bit online that compact systems cameras (aka. mirror-less) suffer from auto-focus issues. In the case of the Fujifilm X-E1 that’s true but with the EP-3 I didn’t notice any difference in the way the autofocus worked compared to my D5100.

Olympus PEN E-P3 + M.Zuiko 45mm f1.8 @ 45mm, ISO 200, 1640 sec at f/1.8

A lot of camera gearheads talk sensor size as though it was the main thing that matters when choosing a camera. There is this STUPID snobbery about “full frame” sensors ( 35mm ) that just infuriates me. 35mm format sensors are smaller than medium format sensors so does that mean that DSLRs produce shitting images? Of course not! My Nikon D5100 has an APS-C sized sensor and I am happy with the results. The sensor in the µ 43 format is small than APS-C but that does not seem to have affected the quality of the images.

It took me a minute or two to familiarize myself with the camera menus. I didn’t read the manual. Most of my shooting was done in aperture priority mode. Unlike, the Fujifilm X camera, the EP-3 controls for ISO, apertures, and shutter speed are done via the menu and a small thumbwheel on the back of the camera. I prefer the “manual” knobs on the Fujifilm X cameras.

One of the challenges I have with the EP-3 is the lack of a viewfinder. I’m 46 years old. Without reading glasses it is challenging to read the labels on … almost everything. Using an LCD to verify focus is an exercise in frustration. I either have to carry around a pair of reading glasses or I hold the LCD at a distance from my body. This makes it very difficult to reduce camera shake when shooting handheld. Any camera I buy will need a viewfinder. The Fujifilm X-Pro 1, Fujifilm X-E1 and Olympus OM-D EM-1 have either optical or electronic viewfinders.

The µ 43 format has a crop factor of 2 compared to the APS-C sensor in my D5100. This means, simply, that a 45mm lens on a µ 43 camera will produce a similar view as a 90mm lens on a DSLR1. This also means the lenses for µ 43 cameras can be tiny when compared to DSLR lenses.

Olympus PEN E-P3 + M.Zuiko 45mm f1.8 @ 45mm, ISO 200, 180 sec at f/1.8

Chris lent me a Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f1.8, his Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/2.8 Lens, his Panasonic Lumix 14mm f/2.5 G Aspherical Lens, and his [Olympus M ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6] wide-angle zoom.

He also loaned me a Canon 135 mm lens with a µ 43 adapter. Manual focusing with the Canon 135mm was too challenging using the LCD alone. I may have to budget for all new lens. Using my Nikkor lenses with an adapter would be frustrating.

I haven’t spent much time with the lenses but the 45mm (90mm in 35mm equivalent) is my favourite. If I choose to buy a µ 43 system this lens will be on my short list. It’s an awesome prime for portraits. The bokeh at 1.8 and 2.8 was good.

I’m not a street photographer so the 14 and 17mm lenses (28mm and 34mm at 35mm equivalent) are less appealing to me. I didn’t use them at all. The 9-18mm (18-36mm at 35mm equivalent) lens isn’t the widest µ 43 lens but does a good job for landscape photography. It’s still wider than the AF-S Nikkor 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 VR (27-82mm at 35mm equivalent) lens that I use for most of my landscape photography with my D5100. The Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0 is the widest µ 43 lens. Sigma makes an 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM FLD AF Ultra Wide Zoom Lens for APS-C sized sensors that provide 12-24mm coverage in the 35mm equivalent.

Olympus PEN E-P3 + M.Zuiko 45mm f1.8 @ 45mm, ISO 200, 180 sec at f/1.8

I'm looking forward to the weekend. The OM-D M5 will arrive on Friday and I'll get a chance to try the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 ED M.Zuiko EZ lens and camera. My expectations are high after using the PEN EP-3.


  1. I'm oversimplifying this but hopefully you get the point. ?

I rented a Fujifilm X-E1 and Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS to play around with during a recent family vacation to Sandbridge in Virginia Beach. Although I was disappointed in the camera I did capture decent images for the few days I had the X-E1. Read my review after taking a look at some of the images I captured with this camera and lens combination.

The following have been lightly processed in Adobe Lightroom; auto tone, some cropping, and auto levelling. The first two images are very similar but one is an HDR from three bracket images combined in Photomatix Pro.

Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 18mm, ISO 200, 1/850s at f/.8
Rodanthe Beach, Outerbanks, Rodanthe, North Carolina – Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 24.3mm, ISO 200, 1/480s at f/11 © Khürt Williams
Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 24.3mm, ISO 200, 1/480s at f/11

My brother-in-law took this portrait of me with my wife and kids. I wanted to capture some sunset images from the nearby nature preserve. I was concerned that I wouldn't make it to the preserve in time. I handed the camera to my brother-in-law. He still shoots his DSLR in full auto mode.

Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 37.4mm, ISO 640, 1/60s at f/5.6

I found it challenging to photograph the flying gulls. It was difficult to track the birds using the electronic viewfinder. It's easily done with the optical viewfinder of my Nikon D5100 but I found it quite challenging with the Fujifilm X-E1.

Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 55mm, ISO 200, 1/160s at f/8
Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 55mm, ISO 200, 1/400s at f/4

The X-E1 has a panorama mode. In this mode, I held the shutter down while panning slowly from right or left. It took several tries but I felt I got the hang of it.

Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 18mm, ISO 200, 1/600s at f/8
Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 55mm, ISO 200, 1/500s at f/7.1

I love this photo!

Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 52.7mm, ISO 200, 1/750s at f/8
Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 55mm, 190 sec at f/22, ISO 200
Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 18mm, 1140 sec at f/22, ISO 200
Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS
Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 55mm , ISO 200 , 1/550s , ƒ/8
Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 18mm , ISO 200 , 1/450s , ƒ/9
Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS
Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS
Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 55mm, ISO 200 , 160 sec at ƒ/4
Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 55mm , ISO 200 , 1/300s , ƒ/4
Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 55mm, ISO 200 , 1/450s at ƒ/4
Fujifilm X-E1 + Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 55mm , ISO 200 , 1/250s , ƒ/4