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 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 4⁄3 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.
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 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, 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 4⁄3 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 when compared to DSLR lenses.
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 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 4⁄3 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 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.
- I'm oversimplifying this but hopefully you get the point. ?