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 4⁄3 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. As a result, I'm rarely on family vacation photos. Because the M-5 seems to be considered the most popular of the µ 4⁄3 cameras, I wanted to compare it 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 delays 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 how the autofocus worked compared to my D5100.
Many 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 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 4⁄3 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 on the EP-3, the controls for ISO, apertures, and shutter speed are done via the menu and a small thumbwheel on the camera's back. 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. To me, Using an LCD to verify focus is frustrating. To see the tiny print on the LCD, I either have to carry around a pair of reading glasses or 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 µ4/3 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 4⁄3 camera will produce a similar view as a 90mm lens on a DSLR1. This also means the lenses for µ 4⁄3 cameras can be tiny compared to DSLR lenses.
Chris lent me an 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 4⁄3 adapter. Manual focusing with the Canon 135mm was too challenging using the LCD alone. I may have to budget for all new lenses. 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 4⁄3 system, this lens will be on my shortlist. It's an excellent prime for portraits. The bokeh at 1.8 and 2.8 was pleasing.
I'm not a street photographer, so the 14 and 17mm lenses (28mm and 34mm at 35mm equivalent) are less appealing. I didn't use them at all. The 9-18mm (18-36mm at 35mm equivalent) lens isn't the widest µ 4⁄3 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 4⁄3 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.
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.