« Traffic Spikes and the Streets of Berlin | Main | The E-P1: Not Exactly What You Want? »

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Comments

I'm a happy Panasonic G1 user and I must confess that a VF of some sort is essential for me.

One compromise would be to offer an optional EVF that sits on the hotshoe. There is at least one other such camera on the market.

That way, everybody could be satisfied with the ep-1

OT: Whatcha got growing in the garden?

An OVF on a fixed lens is fine (Sigma DP-x). TTL OVF (DSLR) is obviously fine. But an OVF just doesn't seem like the right solution for a camera like this. They're all about (electronic) live view off the sensor. LCD, articulating LCD, EVF, or any other variation on LV you can think of.

Maybe Canon or Nikon or someone else will release an APS-C fixed lens "compact" with an OVF mated to the lens.

"OT: Whatcha got growing in the garden?"

So far, spinach, carrots, leeks, onions, three kinds of lettuce, broccoli, bush beans, cucumbers, and a squash plant that is failing to thrive (which is like planting a dandelion and having it die on you).

I'm not a talented gardener, and I got these things going very late this year. It's just that I've been meaning to build this thing for three years or so, and every year I wait too long (because it's cold and unpleasant in the late winter and I don't want to be outside doing carpentry) and then I don't do it at all. This year I figured I'd just build the darn thing and then at least I'd be ready for next year. As far as this year's crop, I joke that I'll probably get about 8 salads out of it, each of which will have cost $30.

Mike

dang it, you're right. i'll just cross olympus off my list then...*grumble*

is anyone likely to make fixed prime lens aps-c cameras, aside from sigma? maybe pentax, nikon, canon, ricoh?

The E-P1 is a clear example of building a camera that tries to please everyone. We all should realise by now that's impossible. Personally, I'd be happy with an optical VF with grid lines (like a rangefinder), and many others would to. But many more wouldn't.

Leica is a company that has concentrated on trying to please as few people as possible. As such, they've succeeded, but the admission price for those few, happy people is high.

When Olympus releases the E-P2 (with a VF, going by the comments Olympus's Akira Watanabe made), I can guarantee the bitcherati will be out in full force again. When this happens, please point everyone to today's post, Mike.

Thanks for the lucid post Mike. I feel like the internet has been awash in hand-wringing and dismay over the EP-1. The Olympus forums over at DPReview (and pretty much any other photography site) are simply filthy with people with no hands-on time with the camera decrying it, vs. people vigorously defending it with an equally ludicrous lack of hands-on time. Almost makes me want to give up the internet for a while, until someone flicks on the lights and the crazies scuttle back under the fridge.

Here's a question you haven't answered yet, and it's one that really shouldn't require hands-on time with an actual EP-1 to be able to land an answer. Would you be content with a DMD that lacked an OVF?

Frankly, I would.

I'm trying to come to terms with back-panel LCDs but it's not going well. My aging eyes just focus a lot better at one meter, but my arms aren't that long. (And I'm already quite incapable of drinking coffee, so there's no use trying to evolve longer ones.) I'd settle for a decent EVF; I might even settle for a bad one.

Hi Mike,

I think a lot of the teeth-gnashing is probably really about the lack of any kind of eye-level focussing aid for manual focus, particularly with respect to using.

You make a case, but it's not as simple as sports car vs. semi. The lack of *some* viewfinder may make a sports-car sized camera handle as slowly as a truck. Also, sports cars come in different sizes -- both a Mazda Miata and a Porsche 911 are sports cars, but have very different capabilities.

Somewhere, there has to be a sweet spot where you have *all* of the critical elements -- a compact camera with a viewfinder (probably electronic) that will take zooms, feature IS and AF, ect. The G1 is very close, though admittedly doesn't have the Oly's cachet. The K7 might be close, but I'd have to get my hands on the camera to know for sure.

When it comes to the DMD, the original was the M3 - and the G1 occupies something like the volume of an M3, although the bits are distributed differently. It is lighter than an M3. The Oly is actually smaller than the M3, which suggests to me that it might be just a little bit *too* small -- a real DMD camera isn't necessarily pocketable, IMHO, although I'm not (yet) on the International DMD Standards Committee. (I urge you to support my candidacy.)

We also need to make a point about lenses -- on a real DMD, they will be relatively compact, but not necessarily tiny. I think both the G1 and Oly lenses meet this standard, but no Nikon or Canon or Sony lenses do, with the possible exception of some manual Zeiss primes. Pentax does meet the standard, I think, with its line of pancake lenses and some fairly compact zooms. The point being that some people have suggested that now that Panasonic and Oly have made a point about the DMD market, the big boys are bound to jump in. Except the big boys don't have the lenses; even their primes are big and chunky.

Bottom line for me: I think a revised DMD standard should specify a viewfinder of some sort. (And before too many years pass, I think most viewfinders will be electronic -- there are too many advantages, like the ability to zoom for highly critical focus, and the ability to boost in low light -- for them not to be adopted.)

Mike,

You forgot ashes in the hair. Your points are valid, but at the same time, for the 5% or less that I want and use some kind of viewfinder, there are valid counter points.

If the machine is fast, relative, and the display can be shut off in use; but I don't think we know that yet.

Still curious about the streets of Berlin.

It's not that I hate EVF, no, it's just that I can't and don't want to shoot with arms extended. I want the additional stability I gain when pressing camera close against the face. That's what I want. I want that tunnel vision that blacks out everything else but the scene. Screen on the back of the camera can't provide that. I'm cool with EVF as long as I can look through it, instead of looking at it.

I don't understand why people are so hellbent on this thing being the digital Leica CL they all wish for. It isn't. There was nothing that said it was going to be and this whole fury over the lack of an optical viewfinder is a joke. If Olympus wanted to cover all available lenses for micro 4/3 then the viewfinder would have to go from 14-400mm....I don't want to consider the size let alone the price of adding something like that to this camera.

But all of this does show one thing still boiling in the camera community. The people want optical viewfinders, and the people want their low priced digital rangefinder.

'Just try imagining it—what is it you want? How would it work?'

Scrap the interchangeable lenses. They just confuse me anyway. I just want a Hexar AF with digital sensor. The sensor can be aps-c or 4/3 or something else moderately large, and the lens can be a 2.8, but I'd like it stay near the 35mm angle of view. 40 would do too. IS would be nice, but not necessary. Same VF as the Hexar AF.

I'd pay $2000 if it was all nicely implemented, although at that price I can just wait for the prices to drop on used M8s.

I'm not asking for much, but I know that the not-much I'm asking for would have a very limited appeal.

I guess the main concern is using the LCD outdoors. I would have liked a Sony-style tilt-up/down screen, which would help adjust for glare and provide waist-level framing.

Or another solution, for those who insist on shooting in bright sunlight: Just don't do that!

Here iis a ink to a video where Gary Knight of the VII agency shows how to use a 35mm Leica brightline OVF with the G10 set for a 35mm view. I've been using it this way and the tiny VF on the G10 cannot compare.

http://www.usa.canon.com/dlc/controller?act=GetArticleAct&articleID=2726

If the E-P1 works better with the 17mm lens and my finder or Olympus', then it will be the partner to my M8 and a great camera for street shooting.

I don't care about flash or zoom lenses.

Anybody ever use a medium-format camera with waist-level viewfinder? How about a 4x5 view camera? Some of us have and we understand the benefit of actually seeing the image on the focus screen with TWO eyes.

For those people who hold cameras way out at arms length, PLEASE get your eyeglass subscription updated.

My compiments on the square foot garden. It is a handsome piece of carpentry. What did you use for the bottom? ch

There ya go Mike: an E-P1 with three lovely, fast, compact primes lenses and an OVF. The ability to use a zoom is more of a compromise than being able to use a trio of crisp prime lenses with an optical viewfinder, it seems to me anyway. If someone absolutely requires a zoom lens they're probably not much of a connoisseur, and in that case, there's a glut of zoom point 'n' shoots on the market. The E-P1 would just not be the camera for them.

"It's not that I hate EVF, no, it's just that I can't and don't want to shoot with arms extended. I want the additional stability I gain when pressing camera close against the face. That's what I want."

They make cameras for that.

Mike

"Still curious about the streets of Berlin."

It's coming. It's in and I'm working on it, but it's quite long and I have some other things to do this afternoon. It will be posted tonight or tomorrow.

Mike

For anyone with decent eyesight, it ought not to be a great issue, and I hope Olympus sell shedloads of the EP-1.
I really admire them for taking the risk of making something different.

For those of us with less than perfect eyeballs, the rear screen experience just isn't quite as much fun, and given the cost of opting into a whole new interchangeable lens system, I'm going to wait.
Whoever develops a camera like this with a small workable clip-on EVF will likely get my business.
And I suspect I won't have to wait all that long.

"What did you use for the bottom?"

Half-inch plywood, with a quarter-inch hole per square foot, which is what the book recommends. Evidently it doesn't need much drainage, as the soil is so friable that excess moisture evaporates.

Mike

First, regarding an optical viewfinder and a zoom, please see the Contax G2 and it's 35-70 F3.5-5.6 VARIO-SONNAR.

But second, I really can understand the fuss over the lack of a view finder on the EP-1. I would never even consider purchasing one because of the lack. I have other issues with the camera, but that one is for me the showstopper. It does not need to be optical - I believe that Olympus has used an eye view EVF in other smaller cameras - but there has to be some other way of using the camera than at arms length.

When I use my A590, the screen is off unless I'm actively reviewing & deleting shots. For shooting, I refuse to chimp. It's a small thing, but I do believe it helps my shooting be somewhat less bletcherous than it can otherwise be... ;)

In the end, I am not the EP-1's market. Slow primes, no shallow DOF due to short focal lengths used by the small sensor, no view finder, no film (oops, that is rather "teh point", eh?) and so on. For those it fits, it's probably going to be a very nice camera. But I'll keep waiting for something that makes me want to give up my Speed Graphics, my Canon FTb-N or my Kiev 4a with it's handful of beautiful prewar CZJ lenses. All of the digital makers have a long way to go before they will even come close.

You're wrong!
My tiny, little bitty pocket Minolta Xt had an excellent, clear zoom finder with enough eye relief that I could see it with my glasses on. It showed about 85% of the captured image, but of course it was designed that way -- it could have showed more if they wanted it to.
This E-P1 was as stupid design as the Canon 7 (which lacked a built-in accessory shoe)!
Where was Maitani when they needed him?

The lack of an OVF is not a killer in my view. The killer is that without the OVF the camera should either have really good autofocus or a means to effectively zone focus or a high-res LCD that allows for accurate manual focusing. The jury is out on whether the EP-1 has those attributes which offset the lack of an OVF.

"You're wrong!
My tiny, little bitty pocket Minolta Xt had an excellent, clear zoom finder with enough eye relief that I could see it with my glasses on. It showed about 85% of the captured image"

Wilhelm,
Er, have you forgotten the raison d'etre of the E-P1? Larger sensor, remember? The Xt had a tiny sensor, hence a tiny zoom. It's a fair bet that the zoom on the E-P1 is as small as Olympus can reasonably make it.

Mike

"Garment-rending..."

Mike, you are a gem!

65 year old shooter-can't see close or well in bright light. I want a smaller camera than the G1. I don't much care about the cameras we used to have. That's history. I can live without video although that probably has little effect on the size. Others have weighed in on reasons for an eye level viewfinder so I won't repeat them; I just wanted to put my vote in for an EVF.

"In the end, I am not the EP-1's market."

Here's the key statement - the EP-1 is not an enthusiast/hardcore/professional/technologist camera, as much as we all pined and lusted over it for months. As per Mr. Watanabi's comments, they're aiming at compact camera users who are put off by the complexity & size of a DSLR. People who are: a) already used to using a camera away from their face, and; b) are happy doing their post-processing work in-camera via art filters and the like. Features like the hot shoe OVF and even the 17mm lens are nods towards the interested hardcore crowd (along with the level of control offered), but this is a mainstream, consumer-based camera.

Seems like Olympus was paying attention to what Nintendo just did a few years ago with the Wii.

I'm fine with the LCD in principle. But the reality is nobody makes one that is viewable in bright light (requires too much power apparently). For me, alas, that may be the deal breaker on the E-P1. If it had a pop-out viewing hood and/or a tilt screen, it might be a useful outdoor camera.

But, isn't this just the first in a series?

It looks like it's been designed to appeal to the broadest possible audience. I'd guess that later models will have much of what is (supposedly) missing now.

Well, it's not everyday that I disagree with you. In fact, today must be a first :)

If I may, you may be ever-so-slightly disingenuous. What many people lament is the lack of VF. Whether O or E, who cares.

You do make an excellent case about the almost-uselessness of the OVF solution (I remember being irritated by the zoom appearing in the G7's) - *but* it remains that Oly could have, I'm sure, added *some* EVF, no matter how bad or how small.

Because (and a friend mocks me mercilessly about this) while I am a strong supporter of LCD framing and shooting (and better yet, articulated LCD framing and shooting :)), it remains that, in many a case, I was saved by the VF, and would never have gotten the shot with the screen.

Even the best, 900K-pixel LCD will not suffice at all times - and the 230K one fitted to the EP1 does not sound too promising on that respect.

As mentioned before, there's a 90% chance I will get the EP1, because I have been dreaming of a DMD for years, and this is the closest there's been, by far (my G1 is still too bulky for my taste... so no EP2 would work either.) But I will regret Oly's decision to not include some sort of EVF, even at the expense of a couple of 1/16" in size.

I am actually very, very excited about the EP1. I am equally worried about some shooting conditions I regularly encounter and will be at a loss to overcome given that decision.

(And don't worry about the $30 salads. It's the normal price for organic :))

I really don't think most of the complaints are about the missing OVF. They're about the missing eye-level VF. And I don't think asking for some sort of VF beyond the rear LCD in a $750 camera is that unreasonable.

Hopefully the next model will fix that with a good EVF (and not be too much larger).

@Ted

Bingo. The jury is still out. No one has spent enough time with release level hardware and firmware to have any idea of how the camera actually behaves. Perhaps its time we all shut up for a while until there's some real world experience with the bugger.

I assume the back LCD is fixed and not like to rotatable one of the Panasonic G-1 on the Olympus E-3. That in my mind is as unfortunate as not having some capacity for an electronic viewfinder (such as the Ricoh GX-100 or 200.

Thanks Mike for attempting to foster a sense of rationality about this madness we share. =)

For most (not all) shooting, I prefer EVF to OVF. Why? 100% view, WYSIWYG sensor readout, auto brightness compensation and auto magnification for manual focusing. In effect, it's "live view" at eye level, with a sun shade. All that, and a size and weight advantage as well. Is that enough to offset the digital vs. analog issues? Often it is.

The Lumix FZ8 was my introduction to the advantages of EVF. I'm still getting to know the G1, but already my tendency is to use it instead of a current C or N DSLR. In many of my shooting situations, G1 handling and image quality are as good if not better.

If SEEING with reasonable precision and GETTING the shot are the criteria, a well done EVF offers advantages as well as limitations. The limitations are likely to be addressed in time. Meanwhile, we have the compelling benefit of that most useful 100% view.

I described the ideal camera: http://doonster.blogspot.com/2009/06/ideal-camera.html
Someone just has to build it.

Mike, the viewfinder on the Minolta Xt was an independent optical finder (38-105mm equiv), which had nothing to do with the size of the lens or the sensor. It was tiny, and could easily be incorporated into the Olympus with virtually no increase in size or weight.
Incidentally, I compared the E-P1 measurements with my Leica CL. The CL body is the same width, 1/5" taller, but 1/6" thinner than the Olympus. It definitaly is NOT pocketable.

Ken wrote:
"Anybody ever use a medium-format camera with waist-level viewfinder? "

Yup and a digicam with an articulating LCD that is wonderful for doing the same thing. But if you shoot the E-P1 like that, you'll get a lot of pictures of your feet.

Personally, I haven't noticed a lot of furor over the lack of an OVF specifically. I've noticed a lot of hand-wringing over the fact that it only has a fixed LCD. Some people want OVF, some want EVF, some (like me) want an articulating LCD. If the lenses I want became available and there was no sign of an articulating LCD version coming, I'd probably live with the fixed LCD. But I'd wait a while to see what happens first. I rarely use the OVF on my digicam - it's inaccurate, small, and the LCD is just better (I only resort to the OVF in bright sunlight) - but at the same time, I rarely shoot with the LCD parallel to the camera body.

All this cheering and griping just shows how much a large sensor, small camera is desired (needed?). I can't remember any recent product coming out to this much furor.

I haven't tried it myself, but Uwe Steinmueller has a fun little description about how he's using the Hoodman viewfinder as a "pseudo EVF" with cameras lacking an OVF, see

http://www.outbackphoto.com/CONTENT_2007_01/section_gear_cameras_2009/20090507_Viewfinder/index.html

It seems a tad awkward to me (2 pieces of gear, Hoodman is somewhat large), but it probably works well in practice.

Well, one advantage of the E-P1 is to look enough like a little tourist digicam that we might not get harassed as much as with a big black DSLR. Just like number one on your list of 14 ways to photograph in public.

"Bitcherati"

I love it. That said though, it makes me wonder if the demand for a low-cost digital rangefinder extends beyond the small (albeit vocal) minority that posts on the various forums.

Mike
Thank you for your post. I have been trying to explain your point to the dpr users without much success
I , as for one , don't think of what you call a DMD with zooms , but with a few single focal lenghts . Give me a 24,40mm and 85mm lenses ( in 35mm equivalent) in a 4/3 format and with the external OVF and that's all what I would need for a carry everywhere camera
the only thing that puzzles me is that some report that , outside the absence of correction for parallax, the viewfinder for the 17mm does not seem to indicate the actual field of view , even at normal distances
Harold

Besides having their zoom lenses for this model, Olympus should provide a series of good primes that could be sold as sets with their appropriate clip-on OVFs. Two such lenses could share one mutual OVF (eg 14 and 17, 22 and 26, 37 and 45)with the use of frame lines. Then zoom people could use their LCDs and the rest of us would still have our cakes to eat.
It would also be helpful to reduce the size of the optical viewfinder. This first one is unnecessarily large -- Rich

Colin knows that 'they' want a digital CL. Matt wants a digital Hexar. I want a digital Ikon. That's a market, but obviously we all want them to be either better implemented/cheaper/both than an M8.

More seriously, I think the idea's great. I am beginning to think this sort of camera is more 'appropriate' for social documentary work today than a film rf, but the (pre-production) samples on dpreview are isappointing. I would seriously consider a kit with the prime if I were convinced it was a good lens.

Mike

The Minolta XT could take pretty decent pictures if you respected its limitations (I was happy with these shots I got out of it a few years ago at the Monterey Concours http://richardsona.zenfolio.com/p861305156 ). But I strongly disagree with Willhelm about its viewfinder: it was crap. The LCD (very small by today's standards) was the only way to really do things. I only resorted to the OVF when sunlight washed out the LCD, which happened frequently on that Monterey shoot.

But the XT, like many of the other examples given above, was a camera with a fixed lens, albeit a zoom. This makes designing an OVF somewhat reasonable. But for an interchangeable-lens camera, it's basically impossible, as the designer has no way of really predicting what lenses will go onto it. This is especially true of the open Micro 4/3 system, since Olympus doesn't even know/own the lens roadmap.

And while it's easy to extoll the benefits of viewfinder held up to the eye, let's not forget the benefits that come in many situations from holding the camera away from the face:
- Better engagement with your human subject
- Often the ability to be less obtrusive about taking the photo, or when you're taking it
- Ability to see things off in the periphery and respond

All this will be a moot point in 3-4 years anyway, given that LCDs are on a trajectory similar to Moore's law for CPUs: tiny, super high-density LCDs with low latency and excellent color accuracy will provide a good enough facsimile of optical that it will free up the design constraints.

Hi Mike,

If you want to know just how BIG and EXPENSIVE a "zoomable" external finder can be, check out the Linhof 45 Multifocus Viewfinder currently at B&H for $1,850! Granted, this viewer is made for 4x5 and anything similar for the E-P1 would be smaller, but by how much? Would it be small enough to be useful without getting in the way of image making? Thank you, but I'll stick with CV finders...

I have written this before, but I'll say it again. I used to rail against a lack of a viewfinder, too. I wanted the Fuji F10 sooo badly, I bought it anyway.

I don't miss one at all.

Buy one, and go out and take some pictures.

Sheesh.

After 35 years of SLR, then DSLR use I am probably biased towards a specific kind of viewfinder.

However, the occasional use of my wife's D-Lux 4 has clearly shown that composing on a high quality LCD screen can be fun and help experiment a lot. It helps breaking with the rut. Also, sometimes you can take pictures where brandishing a DSLR would be inappropriate. I am so pleased indeed that I might buy one for myself.

Unfortunately, in highly lit environments the LCD gets dark enough you cannot see details, forcing you to look past the camera to check for essential elements such as facial expressions. Sometimes the screen becomes so muddy I can only guess where the borders of the picture might be. It then becomes impossible to compose.

For me this alone makes the LCD-only cameras not more than a welcome addition to the traditional designs, something one can use for fun now and then. I wouldn't leave home with just that camera in my bag.

For those who claim you can't get shallow DOF from the 4/3 sensor, I ask you "Have you shot with a 4/3 camera?"!
There is hardly a real difference between 4/3 and larger sensors. I have made plenty of images that have shallow DOF, even with "slow" lenses with f/2.8 apertures.
It's really nothing to be worried about.

Agreed that an OVF on this thing would end up being terrible. Think G10-OVF terrible. But why not an optional shoe-mount EVF? Ricoh managed it in the GX100 and GX200. An EVF, although not ideal, would probably have been the best solution given the design constraints for those wanting a close-to-the-eye composing method. As ridiculous as the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the missing viewfinder is, let's not swing the pendulum so far to the other extreme as to ridicule everybody who prefers the viewfinder shooting style.

Interesting to note that Olympus exec Akira Watanabe has already mentioned that an EVF will be in the next Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera. Apparently they already knew people would want a viewfinder of some sort and the E-P1 is just the beginning.

I find it interseting B&H photo is listing the EP1 as a Digital Rangefinder, putting it on the same isle (online) with the M8 / M8.2
and its not listed on the DSLR page...properly the EP1 is neither a DSLR nor a rangefinder..but i am sure most people will associate it with DSLR more likely than a leica M8?

I used to have an Olympus Pen Ft. Replaced it with OM1 system. The Ft had a sideways flipping mirror which did away with the pentaprism bulk but allowed zoom lenses (had one of those too). Why can't a similat mirror be done on a digital? Olympus must have tried. The only think I can think of is that the small mirror may not have delivered a bright enough image? Any thoughts from anyone on this.

Mike, perhaps your next post should explain that f1.4 lenses and pants pocket size don't go together either. I think alot of people don't get that. Oh, and on the pants pocket size thing, a Leica with a fast prime is not pants pocket size either.

I have a look on the zoom Canon 10 (which many of you own or test). Is that "useless" tiny zoom OVF deal with this zoom issue somehow? Not total satisfactory but if the camera know what lens on it, it can do something. Not for 400mm :-) or macro (as any rangefinder cannot) but for most street photography 28-80 is a range doable (and much less e.g. only 28 35 40 50 for many). A zoom OVF that knows the lens or can it set to certain range would be nice.

The other option to avoid too many OVF on hot shoe if one have a few primes. I placed a deposit for a VF from Cosina with multiple settings (you got similar one from Russia and Leica). The key question is whether this camera can easy set to certain settings that fit with this kind of view finder (the cosina has setting for m8/RD1/... but this camera is of 2x factors). If one use zoom lens, one has to easy set to certain typical and equivalent mm (28 35 50 ...) on it for using this kind of OVF.

If it cannot do one (built in zoom OVF), I really hope that it can do the others. After all, unlike digicam (and as reviewed in this aspect by Reid), an changeable lens camera shall be easiler to deal with this problem from design.

You can charge quite a bit for such kind of OVF as well. I have budgeted the OVF from Cosine about US$200 less than this camera!

Is it possible the costs and complexities of manufacturing a rangefinder viewfinder one of the reasons they're not being provided?
Also, its quite possible that camera designers are now young enough to have never used a rangefinder and think its an anachronism, like a crank starter on a car.

Mike:

CameraQuest is taking pre-orders for a Voigtlander Zoom OVF with a 15-35 equivalent range:

http://www.cameraquest.com/voigt_1535_vf.htm

So it is possible. But pricey.

And it would probably look like a strange mutant growth on the E-P1.

In any case, I'll be ordering the 17mm kit as soon as it's financially prudent for me to do so.

As far as the viewscreen versus OVF versus EVF debate goes, I'm finding with the Ricoh that I'm using the screen for shooting more and more - when I first started using the camera I used the EVF almost exclusively. The fact that the Ricoh EVF can be tilted up is a huge advantage - when I do use the EVF that's often the reason.

And the fact that the Ricoh screen and EVF can be set to display just a simple "rule of thirds" grid is great - I've set it as the default. The ability to set a compositional grid is a great advantage of screen or EVF based cameras.

Steve

I'm in the "I must have an optical viewfinder" camp. That doesn't mean I have a problem with the EP-1: it looks to be a great concept for a camera. I hope the reality matches what I've seen of it so far and I hope Olympus sells shed-loads of them.

None of which changes my mind about an optical viewfinder. That's a preference of mine. I doubt it will be met in the world of interchangable-lens micro-4/3rds, as an integrated optical finder that could cope with all possible lenses, including zooms, including really long ones, would be pretty much impossible.

But I don't think it's too much to hope for an optical finder on a camera with a fixed zoom lens (like the one on my Olympus Stylus zoom: at best adequate but it is adequate, and the lens never blocks the finder). If someone makes one of those they might also make one with a fast fixed prime for the tiny market segment my wants represent. Something like my Olympus Stylus Epic (a digital equivalent of the Konica Hexar would be really great, but perhaps too much to hope for).

Olympus is making digital Pens, so I don't think its out-of-bounds to hope they might also make a ditital Stylus or two, some day.

...Mike

Mike with so much comment, discussion and dissagreement it can only signal that this is probably going to be a milestone camera, as it goes outside the accepted norms.

As an artist we were taught to squint our eyes to remove the detail and look at the larger shapes, tones and lines in an artwork. This is something that I love about my large format cameras. Being able to get back from the image, contemplate it, squint at it, and work on the composition. This is surely a benifit of this type of camera. As I get older and my eyes get worse, I benifit with my images as I am concentrating on the form more. Whenever I put my DSLR on a tripod I switch on live view, and I am in for a treat.

Another interesting assumption is that you have to hold the camera at arms length to use it. In reality you can hold it anywhere you can see the back. Or not. Just pointing it in the right direction can be equalily as useful. You can frame up the image, and then not look at the screen, but at the subject and wait for your decisive moment. Being able to hold the camera anywhere is one of the main benifits of this type of camera. Why did live view evolve so quickly if it isn't used as a feature. Holding a camera to your eye is actually a limiting belief, and would be challenged by many photography educators.

> Keeps the durn rabbits out, too.

And the poor gophers too, no doubt.

I remember the Olympus XA's VF and his telemeter...
On the Contax T3 the OVF was great!
On the Contax TVS digital, it was...ok!(...Never use the LCD...)
On the G9/G10 it's worse...I use a Voigtlander 28/35 VF which is great! I mean...You can really SEE through it!
Contax! Come back!
Con-tax-Con-tax-Con-tax...

I agree with Ted. I bought a Sigma DP1 for travel and find I use it all the time with an OVF and by zone focusing. I was thinking of adding a DP2 (if they ever get to Oz). But if I could use a prime with OVF on an EP-1 and also carry a zoom using LCD- I could easily live with that compromise.

You know all this talk about the new Olympus is quite funny. Reading a lot of the comments made on the forums you'd either think it was the photo equivalent of the messiah or the anti-Christ such is the emotional response. Everyone it seems has become an expert on camera design overnight. I recall an episode of the Simpsons where Homer gets to design the car of his dream complete with copious cup holders and fins and it's a disaster.

Olympus aren't stupid. They'll have done numerous market surveys before they put pen to paper (excuse the pun), and consequently they'll have made what they feel are the design compromises to hit their target market. I can say with some certainty that the target market for this camera is not the people bitching about it on the various forums. This camera is aimed far and square at a hip young market who don't want an SLR, but they want something better than a compact. I think its aimed definitely at the under 30 iPod toting technorati with disposable income. They have no preconceptions as to what a camera should or shouldn't be, they just want something that looks good, is fun to use, and produces great results.

The biggest problem is that for many photo enthusiasts this camera was the "great white hope" to use a boxing metaphor. What Olympus is trying to do is shoe horn themselves into a new market niche not produce a camera that will deliver the hopes and aspirations of middle aged male photo obsessives (I count myself in that description).

Thank you, Mike. The vehemence of some of the E-P1 disparagement startled me. Most puzzling were those who insistently ignored its flexibility and potential as a platform, essentially expressing disappointment that it is not an all-in-one solution out of box. There's even an undercurrent of resentment that 4/3 sensors continue to be smaller than APSC or full frame sensors. Something pathological going on?

Here is a real live pocketable interchangeable lens system(!), with dSLR-level IQ(!), RAW(!), in-body IS(!), responsive(!), can use most lenses from just about every significant manual system(!) (including lenses that will zone focus just fine, old school; for the kit lenses, zone focus theoretically could be implemented in firmware), ditto for any shoe mountable finder.

That's simply amazing!

Just a few months ago it was a coup to stuff anti-shake into a body the size of the E620. Now it's hardly worth mentioning in an even smaller body? I can't keep up.

Even the price is offensive to some. For all the features and versatility in such a small package, in a pioneering foray at an iffy market niche, I think the price is a pleasant surprise.

I'm not sure if it's my dream digital platform yet, but it seems wonderously close already. Amazing!

"the viewfinder on the Minolta Xt was an independent optical finder (38-105mm equiv), which had nothing to do with the size of the lens or the sensor."

Wilhelm,
What I'm trying to tell you is that it does. If the lens is big, it blocks the view from the finder. As in, gets in the way. Try this. Take a normal sized lens, like a compact zoom, and just hold it up in front of your Xt as if it were the Xt's lens. Then look through the Xt finder on some wide setting. I'll bet that part of the view through the viewfinder will be obscured by the lens.

Mike

For me the analogy is canoe design rather than sailboat design -- "same difference" as we used to say in the Sixties.

When I went searching for the "perfect" cedar strip/canvas canoe (and builder) several years ago, I knew EXACTLY what I wanted. That was the optimum blend of maneuverability and speed. Carrying capacity was secondary -- good if I could get it, but a feature to be sacrificed if not. And ultimate straight line tracking could be sacrificed as well.

As much as I admire the late Bill Mason (the Ansel of canoeing,) I found the boat made by Will Ruch, based on a Peterborough design, to fit the bill, rather than Mason's beloved Prospector. Were I doing long trips and paddling seriously big water, the Prospector would be the choice.

Those who gnash their teeth over what the E-P1 is NOT either completely miss what it IS or can't discern what they truly need.

William, I second that. If the Contax G2 can do it with a sull size, ...err 35mm film sensor, then I can be done. The problem that I have with arms length framing is trying to hold the darn thing still for the shot and being able to see anything in sun light. I think tha the Panasonic G1 is a better solution and that Olympus was just trying to leverage off of its history with the retro thing. If retro is good, why don't we all go back to film?

I think people miss the point of this camera. It is "Point and Shoot with interchangeable lenses and larger sensor". Do you really ever see anyone (average) use the viewfinder on their point and shoot?
I agree for many uses that a viewfinder would be great, but that is not this camera. That is the E-P2 or some such, which might be more of a smaller SLR (like the G1), that some of you seem to want.
I agree with Ted Johnson that what matters, in absence of viewfinder, is a really good screen, and it seems like it is lacking, at least compared to some of the latest SLRs with 900k screens.
I think some people get confused with "not a good camera" and "not a good camera for me". Others, though, clearly get that they might need to wait for "their" camera to come along. And if the E-P1 does well, then you will have a much better chance of variants coming along. If we attack it, then we may never get the better version.
I for one would buy one, if not for lack of money, to replace my unsatisfying G9 as a hiking/keep in the car camera. That, and I also want to go full frame. I think that the middle ground of APS-C cameras might eventually give way to "Full Frame" and m4/3s type cameras, each more dedicated to a task with less in the middle.

I don't get why people are acting like the 17mm viewfinder Olympus is offering is the only one that will work- the camera offers a 3:2 mode, and as far as I know the shoe is entirely standard. It'll take every single accessory viewfinder of every type and quality made for 135 film cameras, from an old Leica VIDOM to a Voigtlander 40mm finder (perfect for the 20/1.7 Panasonic is supposedly coming out with, or what would be my choice, an adapted RF 21mm with a depth of field scale, probably Voigtlander's own) to that big, clunky wide angle finder Leica brought out with the Wide-Angle Tri-Elmar.

There's probably even some in the standard 4:3 from 645 cameras and the offered 1:1 from 6x6.

Ensuring accurate focus? Prefocus, either by scale on an adapted lens or on the screen before shooting.

Mike, I rather think you may be seeing proof-positive for a constant theme of yours, namely how internet-lurking camera gearheads always complain about the absence of some familiar, old and "essential" feature when a whole new camera design concept is staring them in the face.

I plead guilty, but committed said offense knowingly and willingly.

The terms of the debate over the design adequacy of EP-1 and its ilk were set a while back by your very usefully outlining the specs for a hypothetical decisive moment digital (DMD) camera. This forum was primed to evaluate this latest Olympus offering by that standard. 35mm view/rangefinder equipped cameras have set the standard for film decisive moment cameras... The reasons for this are well known, but at the risk of repetition, the the clear uninterrupted view through the built in or accessory eye-level viewfinder and the total immersion in the moment/scene that it provides can't be beat (so far) for the purpose of taking decisive moment shots. This we know.

There may well be other future designs that offer the same fluidity of capturing the decisive moment, but can you blame us for being skeptical of the new Olympus design's ability to offer the same advantages given what we have thus far learned so far through long years of experience with Leica CLs, M6s and the like versus our experience with arm's length LCD viewfinders?

(Robert Doisneau and his Rolleiflex decisive moment pictures notwithstanding?)

"The picture above is a quick shot taken with a D700 and 28mm of the view through a Leica M7 .58 viewfinder."

Sure makes me appreciate the view through my Ikon ZM with a CV 35/1.4 attached. Not to mention the extra few thousand dollars saved :).

As William Barnett-Lewis reminds us, the Contax G2 did indeed include a 35-70 zoom in its lens line-up. I know, because I once had one. The G2's unique viewfinder zoomed in and out smoothly as the lens was rotated through its range. And as far as I remember, the lens didn't appear in the OVF. I realize 35-70 isn't much of a zoom, but I wonder whether, with a little ingenuity, a longer zoom couldn't be made to work with a digital camera equipped with an OVF of similar design.

I agree, Mike. Once you trace the development paths and the ancestors of the E-P1, an optical viewfinder was never going to be an option. That characteristic hit many evolutionary dead-ends in the genus cameralis obscurata digitalis; just look at the tiny useless things in some of the late Canon compacts. Anyone used their appendix lately? Thought not.

I suppose the E-P1 is the lovechild of the Panasonic G1 and the Sigma DP1, and it came out with it's father's brains and it's mother's figure. Another reproduction might have seen a different result, though: a small compact with a prime, with an EVF but....no screen.

I've been thinking about this since the G1's appearance. If the EVF can do everything the LCD can do, you don't *need* the LCD. Now, I know the EVF of the G1 requires more physical depth than the E-P1 body allows, so how about mounting it vertically on a rotating part of the body? Think the Coolpix 900...but with an EVF and not the lens. Heck...you could make it removable. You could tether it. You could mount it in a pair of goggles, a HUD, a retina implant...

Optical viewfinders are clear, simple, unimpeded, bright, and natural. But in a populist digital world they are as dead as a dodo.

Once the camera designers decide to provide LCD screen as the only way to compose, then they must use the best LCD panel available (this is US$749 body!). The LCD screen in E-P1 is fixed and very low 230k dot resolution. Could it be better? Go to YouTube and search:
“AMOLED(WB1000) vs TFT LCD(IXUS 990IS)”.

How many really new solutions (as opposed to repacking of yesterday technologies) can you name in E-P1?

Nikon P5100 (and I assume the current P6000) have an optical viewfinder that zooms with the lens, all in a compact and feature-laden digital compact, complete with flash.

Can't believe how obtrusive that 35mm lens is on the M7. I appreciate that the "real life" view will be better than the D700 shot but imagine having to cope with a large part of the scene being blanked out by a lens! That looks to me like something approaching 20% of the field of view.

That would really hack me off. I'd get fed up having to keep swinging the camera down and to the right just to make sure there wasn't something there that shouldn't be. You guys must really love your Leicas to put up with that.

By comparison, looking at a scene through an LCD screen on the back of the Olympus seems like a great idea!

OVF, EVF, TTL, LCD,

GOI, OTT , please stop.

POETS ?
(Post Off Early Tomorrow's Saturday)

"Anybody ever use a medium-format camera with waist-level viewfinder? How about a 4x5 view camera? Some of us have and we understand the benefit of actually seeing the image on the focus screen with TWO eyes."

Yes, i have, and the two eye is better than one i would i guess, agree with.

It is important to remember though the difference between 4x5 inches of ground glass, and a small LCD. And, at least on the WLF's of medium format cameras they came with a light shielding hood.

The view camera ground glass screen is the absolute if you are on a tripod. I do enjoy though, sometime using a camera i have with a live-view flipable LCD, on a tripod, with a little hand held magnifying hood. But that does not come close to view camera experience.

Also, with the exception of the TLR's both 4x5 and medium format (non-rangefinder that is) were/are primarily used on a tripod.
And, when i used a 4x5 or 8x10, i covered my head with a dark cloth.

The medium format film systems had interchangable finders, including prism ones, "sports" ones etc, for handheld use.

The TLR's I use/used all also had a "action" feature. That was a partial fold down of the focusing hood, that would reveal a small square hole to aim through and you would zone focus. Another thing some had was, that when you would partially collapse the focusing hood, the screen would be reflected in a small mirror viewed through a hole (holding the camera at eye level)which allowed eye level use with focusing.

4x5 cameras when very common, even handheld, (Speed Graphic, etc...) had OVF's or chimney finders.

I agree with Mike, that obviously, this type of camera cannot/would not have a built in OVF. And, unlike the "classic" period" of film medium format (though the zoom did arrive in the late 80's) and for 4x5, 8x10; the zoom was not there to complicate matters.

I personally am not upset at all that there is no EVF. If i want something like this, I can simply wait until the small, interchangable lense camera with an EVF, that I like the other features of, and lenses of, comes along :)

"If the EVF can do everything the LCD can do, you don't *need* the LCD."

I have wondered if any company will ever have the marketing moxie to try this.

One of the benefits of a good EVF, is full access to all menu features, and image review, with the camera up to the eye.
It can be relatively easy to do if the thing has good button design, etc. I have used my Fuji s6000 like that on occasion.

That again though, somewhat of a niche camera, for professionals or "advanced" amateurs. Those who do post-processing, as opposed to the in-camera after shot processing for instance. Without an LCD screen, in-camera image alteration would ergonomically speaking, not be very relaxing, nor could it be a process shared with another person.

But yes, an EVF only camera would be very attractive to me for handheld use.

This was argued to death when the first digital point-n-shoots sans optical viewfinder were announced. The market spoke and viewfinders are pretty well gone.

If the EP-1 is considered to be a grown-up point-n-shoot rather than a baby DSLR the choice of no optical viewfinder becomes obvious. If your correspondents go one step further, list the available alternatives to the EP-1 and say why they are better then we would have a more interesting conversation.

Here is how you can make the camera of your dreams.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FWv21EgRZU
$400 blender is not optional!

Gosh, after all this OVF/EVF furore wouldn't it be amusing if Olympus post a press release today sheepishly admitting they forgot to show off the E-P1's EVF hot shoe accessory which will be available to pre-order immediately...

That said, it would still be "wrong" somehow I'm sure... ;)

@Mike Fewster: The Pen FT's innovative but atrocious Porro Mirror finder with the sideways flipping mirror made its reappearance already in Olympus's digital line, on the E-300/E-330 bodies as well as the Panasonic DMC-L1 and Leica Digilux 3. The E-500 also had a more conventional configuration of the same design. All were rightly condemned for small size and dimness.

About those DP Review samples, I have to agree. The 17mm seems to have identical performance as the 25/2.8; soft, with significant red/cyan aberrations. Then again, it's $230 stand-alone (probably should be $199.)

Curiously, the 17mm samples at LensTip.com are much improved. Sharpened and processed to remove CA? A better lens sample? I don't know, but I hope those are more representative of the final product.

"Nikon P5100 (and I assume the current P6000) have an optical viewfinder that zooms with the lens, all in a compact and feature-laden digital compact, complete with flash."

ronin,
I don't mean to pick on you personally, but some people just aren't getting this. Again: the P6000 has a 1/1.72" sensor. It's 7.4 x 5.55mm in size. The WHOLE POINT of Micro 4/3 is that it has a DSLR-sized sensor in a compact camera body. The 4/3 sensor in the E-P1 is 18 x 13.5mm. Thus, the lens on the 4/3 camera has to cover very nearly SIX TIMES the area of the tiny sensor in the P6000. This will equate to much better low-light, high-ISO performance and close-to-DSLR imaging performance, which is what we want. But it also requires lenses--especially zoom lenses--to be much larger in order to cover the larger sensor.

Once you have to put a large lens on a compact, non-TTL viewfinder camera, you run into problems, in that it's difficult to get the lens out of the way of the finder image. You can do this with small, compact primes, of the sort that have mostly been preferred on film rangefinders, and this is exactly what Olympus has given us with the new 17mm: a small, fast, compact prime with a matching optical viewfinder. But once you put a zoom on such a camera, an optical viewfinder becomes impractical. Not only does the finder have to zoom (and, by the way, I doubt very much that most photographers would be happy with the tiny, severely restricted P6000 viewfinder if it were in a premium camera), but you have to site it such that, when the lens (and thus the finder) are on a wide-angle setting, you don't see the lens in the viewfinder. That's not possible. On a compact camera, you're dealing with a series of trade-offs. You can only make the zoom lens but so small; you can only make the viewfinder so big; you can only put the viewfinder so far away from the lens. What works for tiny sensors doesn't work for larger, DSLR-sized sensors. It's simply one of the trade-offs we have to accept in order to get the much better imaging performance of the larger sensor in a compact, digicam-style, non-SLR camera.

Mike

"If retro is good, why don't we all go back to film?"

Some of us are! Why not see what you can buy for the price of the E-P1 kit. And then take a wild guess what that same purchase will be worth in 24 months.

And don't give me that "film has ongoing costs that digital doesn't" nonsense as that only works for the first camera in the bag. All additional digital camera purchases front-load the "film costs" regardless of how many pictures you shoot through it. When you buy a second or third digital camera you aren't doubling or tripling the number of keeper pictures. The number of keeper pictures remains about the same, but your imbedded costs have increased substantially.

But the film/digital argument is for another day. Most of us buy new cameras because we want to--not because we have to. If we have to, we're buying that which gives us a specific return-on-investment, not what looks cool.

Thank you Mike! Your "Finding the view..." is very inspirational!
About the zooms... We often forget those accessories named shoes, very useful to walking forward and walking back for framing, avoiding to wonder about the variable aperture and with a fast aperture prime lens. But the more important point is that there are different kind of photographers. Zooms are great to a lot of people and of course it's good bussines for the photo market, but a creative minory prefer good old prime lenses; I have often carried my Leica in a pocket and a OVF in the other and I have composed, studied and "felt" the photo looking through the OVF alone, without the camera! The OVF in an autofocus camera is perfect, a clean and creative tool. In my personal and subjective opinion the E-P1 with the 17(34)mm is a better camera than the Lumix/Leica or the Sigma; and Leica lenses via the adapter ring are a wonderful option. Manual lenses...? It is a plus!
Thank you again, Mike, And thanks to T.O.P.

Juan Carlos Villegas

There's just no hope, is there? Perhaps all this controversy, however "...misguided", is good publicity. Which would be nice, because Olympus did not go to all this trouble, and target this price point, for a one-off. That's right, kids, unless the E-P1 is a sales disaster, there are more variants, lenses and accessories coming.

They did the sensible thing and hedged their bets in an unknown niche by appealing to both the luxury P&S market and "enthusiast" markets. And I don't know how Panasonic and Olympus managed to avoid market collision as much as they did, but they did.

Derek, when even the world's primary source and promoter of AMOLED's, a manufacturing powerhouse, is forced to put a $400 price tag on a point and shoot, I doubt that a smaller, downstream mfr can give you AMOLED *and* SLR-class stabilized sensor and lens mount in a US$749 body. Not today.

I'll reserve judgement until I see RAW files, but so far, to my surprise, the high ISO jpegs impress while the low ISO samples disappoint.

" '"If the EVF can do everything the LCD can do, you don't *need* the LCD.'

I have wondered if any company will ever have the marketing moxie to try this."

Doubtful in any mainstream camera, since you wouldn't easily be able to show others pictures, or casually chimp and change settings yourself. There would have to be an off-setting benefit to not having a screen at all. And low end screens are relatively cheap, so price probably isn't a good enough reason. Perhaps some very low end cameras might go this route...

In reply to: "Mike, perhaps your next post should explain that f1.4 lenses and pants pocket size don't go together either"

I didn't think "pants pocket" was a goal for this camera. I'd never carry it (or any other camera) in pants pockets to begin with, but at best, it's pocketable only with the 35/2.8, certainly not the zoom. (Why'd they bother with the zoom if ther requirement is to fit in pants pockets ?) Anyway, I'd be plenty happy with a camera this sized:

http://www.rokkorfiles.com/7SII.htm

In fact, that's exactly the camera I loved carrying everywhere that I'm looking to replicate with something like the E-P1.

"Anybody ever use a medium-format camera with waist-level viewfinder? How about a 4x5 view camera? Some of us have and we understand the benefit of actually seeing the image on the focus screen with TWO eyes."

both of those involve some means of blocking out unwanted light, either a hood or dark cloth. i'm still wondering why digicams don't have built-in hoods...

For me the shutter lag of the E-P1 will be a more important factor than the viewfinder when I am making a purchasing decision. This is the achilles heel of all compact digital cameras when it comes to the 'decisive moment'.

I was going to write an 'Ah, but what about the Contax G2' comment, but I see I've been beaten to it...

The legitimate controversy isn't about the lack of an optical viewfinder, it's been about the lack of a full-function eye-level viewfinder -- one that would work indoors or out.

People determined to like the E-P 1 are saying that the this isn't necessary and that the back-panel LCD will be all they need. People determined to dislike the E-P 1 say the back LCD alone won't cut it.

Who's right? I don't have access to an E-P 1, but to test the theory, I tried using my Panasonic G1 today via the back LCD only, for some simple family shots outdoors on a cloudy-bright day.

Overall, it was nearly hopeless. I could barely make out basic framing in the LCD at all -- and that was taking advantage of the G1's ability to angle the LCD away from the glare via its tilt/swivel mount, a feature the E-P 1 doesn't have. Manual focusing was impossible, and taking advantage of trick features such as movable focus points was very, very difficult.

Unless the E-P 1's LCD is drastically, dramatically brighter than the G1's... and none of the previewers have made such a comment... I think it'll be at least as disadvantaged.

The add-on optical finder actually strikes me as a pretty good gimmick -- it'll appeal to the sort of traditionalist who likes using single-focal-length lenses, and it does add some utility to the camera. But even traditionalists will want to see the exposure readouts occasionally, and they're more likely than most to want to use manual-focus lenses via adapters -- so they'll be struggling with the LCD like everyone else.

But of course these criticisms apply only to to using the camera in daylight. And let's face it, the primary purpose of the E-P 1 is to make its owner look cool at parties -- an environment where the LCD will work fine.

The comments to this entry are closed.