Olympus PEN E-P3 + M.Zuiko 45mm f1.8

Posted on Tuesday, 15th October 2013 2:00 PM EDT

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. ?

One thought on “Olympus PEN E-P3 + M.Zuiko 45mm f1.8”

  1. A few weeks ago I drove up the Rock Brook at the other end of town to try my hand at long exposure photography. I enjoyed the experience and I got good results with my ND filter. With the recent rains over the weekend, I thought it would be great to go back.

    To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.Elliott Erwitt

    I’ve read a lot about the “mirror-less” cameras from Olympus, Panasonic, Sony, and Fuji. Over the last few years, I’ve rented the Olympus OM-D E-M10 and OM-D EM-5 Camera, the Fuji X-E1 and borrowed the Olympus PEN EP-3 Camera from a friend.
    But recently Fuji introduced the X-T1. The accolades keep pouring in. I’ve seen very little negative written about the Fuji X-T1 and the camera and the X system in general, have been well received by amateurs and professionals alike.
      X-T1  @ 10mm  , ISO 200  , 6s  , ƒ/16  by Khürt L. Williams  on 26 May, 2014 
    Many reviews have been written about the Fuji X-T1 by Frank Doorhof, Ken Rockwell, Photo Shelter and others so this won’t be a review. Those other reviewers will do a better job than I could. However, I want to document my experiences using the camera and one of the Fuji X lenses.
      X-T1  @ 10mm  , ISO 200  , 18s  , ƒ/16  by Khürt L. Williams  on 26 May, 2014 
    Almost all of my camera rentals are from lensrentals.com. The prices are reasonable — they even include an Amazon Prime typing shipping option — and they are flexible. Since my wife and I both work, I find it more convenient to have packages held at the FedEx Office Print & Ship Center near my office. I never miss a packed delivery and I can just stop by on my home in the afternoon and pick up my rental. When the equipment is ready to be returned I can easily drop it off at the same facility on my way to work in the morning.
    Because I prefer outdoor photography I chose to rent the Fuji X-T1 and Fujinon XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS wide-angle lens. It is a 15-36mm f/6 in 35mm full frame format. I planned on going back to the Rock Brook for some long exposure photography. I added the Tiffen 72mm Variable ND Filter to my rental. The rental included a camera bag, the battery and charger, and the Fuji EF-X8 Shoe-Mount Flash. I did not use the Fuji EF-X8 Shoe-Mount Flash.
      X-T1  @ 10mm  , ISO 200  , 15s  , ƒ/16  by Khürt L. Williams  on 26 May, 2014 
    I had read that the X-T1 is well constructed and the reviews were correct. The X-T1 felt solid in my hands; like the Pentax P3 film camera, I bought in college. The camera body and dials and knobs are made of metal. My eyes were drawn to the control knobs on the top of the camera. The controls were easy to find. I did not have to hunt around in on-screen menus like I do with my Nikon. I found myself quickly changing aperture, ISO, and shutter speed while composing my shot.
    I found the focus ring on the X-T1 to be smooth. I normally don’t trust myself to manually focus on my subjects. I’ve had two eye surgeries and sometimes I feel my vision isn’t “just right”. But the ease of using the manual focus ring and the Focus Peak mode boosted my confidence. I used auto-focus only a few times during my shoot. The Digital Split Image focus mode reminds me of the split image focused on my Pentax P3 film camera but I preferred the focus peaking mode.
    While I didn’t use the auto-focus mode enough to form a strong opinion, I didn’t experience any of the expected delays bringing subjects into sharp focus. The auto-focus mode on the X-T1 feels improved over my experience with the X-E1.
      X-T1  @ 10mm  , ISO 200  , 15s  , ƒ/16  by Khürt L. Williams  on 26 May, 2014 
    Besides outdoor photography, I am also a fan of HDR photography. The X-T1 has several auto-bracketing functions but for HDR I use only Auto Exposure bracketing. My Nikon D5100 has AE bracketing as well but I am constantly annoyed that I have to trigger the shutter for each shot. Not with the X-T1. One press of the shutter captures 3 shots of the same scene at different exposures.
      X-T1  @ 10mm  , ISO 200  , 14s  , ƒ/16  by Khürt L. Williams  on 26 May, 2014 
    But where the Fuji X-T1 really blew me away was with the Camera Remote. Last year, I started using an Eye-Fi mobi card to capture and send JPG images from my Nikon D5100 to my iPad or iPhone. I could then do some slight processing before sharing the images to my blog or Facebook. It’s a form of instant photography. However, I’ve often wished I could use my iPad or iPhone to control my Nikon. The Fuji Camera Remote does that.
    The X-T1 has a built-in wireless access point. I was able with to connect my iPhone1 to the X-T1 and control every aspect of the camera. I adjust the focus, aperture, the ISO, the shutter speed, the shooting mode etc. I used the Camera Remote to set The X-T1 up for long exposure and HDR photography. With this setup, camera shake is nearly eliminated. This is important for long exposure and HDR photography. Even a breeze can ruin an image.
    I have a bird feeder set up in my backyard but my 85mm f/1.8 can’t get me close enough to the birds. I would have loved to setup up the Fuji X-T1 on a tripod with the Fuji XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS and patiently sit in my living room monitoring for some interest bird action shots. Of course, if I had known the X-T1 could do this I would have rented two lenses. The wide-angle isn’t ideal for this scenario.
    One of the cool things about the Camera Remote is that it also did wireless transfers of the photos to my iPhone or iPad. I set the X-T1 to transfer photos to my iPad so I could check that I had captured what I wanted. Some of the images were uploaded to Facebook right from the middle of the Rock Brook. How cool is that!
      X-T1  @ 24mm  , ISO 200  , 18s  , ƒ/16  by Khürt L. Williams  on 26 May, 2014 
    Another possibility is that I could attend the independence day fireworks events, capturing photos, sending them to my iPhone and sharing them quickly on Facebook or uploading to Flickr etc. Or I can shoot and download selected images to my iPad for post-processing and later share.
    It wasn’t until I came home and downloaded the images to Adobe Lightroom that I realised that the Camera Remote app used the GPS on my iPhone to embed geolocation data into each image. WTF! For me, this is a manual process in Lightroom; assuming I remember to do so.
    For me, the Fuji X-T1 is the near-perfect digital camera. I love the look and feel of the camera. The all metal body and knobs remind me of the built-to-last cameras of my youth. The focus peaking manual focus and smooth focus ring of the lenses make me feel confident that my photos will be in focus. The Camera Remote feature duplicates and surpasses the features of the Eye-Fi Mobi card and opens up new photographic possibilities for me.

    I often listen to music on my bluetooth headset when I’m out shooting. ?

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