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Tuesday, 08 December 2009

Comments

Recently, the more I read about this camera, the less I wanted it. Now, because of your post, I'd really like to make some photos with it, I'd really like to try, even though I'm part of OVF-or-die crowd :)

Happiness minutes, how brilliantly to the point. Even the dpreview review of the EP1, a unashamedly technical treatise, wanted to go there:

The last paragraph of the conclusion was titled "The head says no, the heart says go"

and follows,

"It's easy to come up with a list of reasons not to buy one;" so... "the biggest question I'm left with looking at that list is why don't I want to give this one back?"

Because you seek happiness minutes over focus speed perhaps? Don't fight it.

Do you find it a problem that the live histogram covers part of the picture?

It seems to me that the 'gestalt' of digital captures heavily depends on postprocessing.
Now the question only is whether the cameras got better or whether more in-camera postprocessing has been implimented.

if camera manufacturers would be more innovative, this whole wheeling could be done with one. see my idea on my blog: one-wheel manual exposure

yes, the histogram and a display that reflects the real image would help a lot, too.

might extend my idea with a two-wheel control, where one sets either aperture or exposure time, the other does the rest.

Love my E-P1. However, if you want to maximize your happiness minutes then skip Oly's slow AF and use the Panasonic 20mm 1.7. Those who have done so (I cannot afford it just yet) call the combination just short of heaven.

Mike,

I suggest you create a separate page with your "Camera Review Policy", which should contain the standard disclaimer that the cameras reviews on this website are not exhaustive technical reviews, are based on highly personal and subjective preferences from the perspective of an actual photographer, etc. etc.

I would also include a note saying that all pictures have been edited, UNLESS noted that the pictures are out-of-camera JPEGs.

I appreciate why these notes are included in each review, but it is a little boring and a significant distraction from the review itself. I would just include a link to the policy at the END of each review.

Best regards,
Adam

P.S. "Moonstruck Diner" is absolutely beautiful.

I *really* like Moonstruck Diner.

JC

@ Dwight

>Do you find it a problem that the >live histogram covers part of the picture?

It's a tradeoff. The illustration I posted doesn't show it very well, but the histo is semi-transparent, so it doesn't completely obscure the scene. Still, it is an obstruction to some extent. For me, the cost/benefit trade is worth it, but I can certainly imagine for others it wouldn't be.

Have any of you - owners of E-P1 - got also a Bessa L? For me, the Bessa is "short of heaven", a perfect point-and-shoot camera with excellent portability. Can E-P1 be a digital equivalent of Bessa?

So, how many happiness minutes were gained? Or we find that out in part III?

Dear Folks,

I do find the overlaid histogram annoying. Usually I leave it off. I like the way it works better on my Fuji S100. There, it pops up when I push the exposure compensation button and disappears when I let go. I guess I'm going to have to actually sit down and read the manual and see if I can set up the function button so that I can turn the histogram on and off more easily. Most of the time, I want a blank screen except for exposure information.

It's probably because my mainstay film cameras are mostly manual focus and I've only used a handful of autofocus cameras (both film and digital), but I'm not bothered at all by the focusing speed on this camera. I just checked it with both the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 and the Olympus 14-42 mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom under both bright and dim light. In the very worst case situation, focusing from extreme near to extreme far distance, it did take somewhere between a second and a second and half, but most of the time it took about half a second to focus. That's fast enough for me.

I'm sure there are many cameras out there that do immensely better. I'm just wondering a little bit if this isn't a lot like people complaining about the noise/grain levels in various modern digital cameras because they're only as good as what they would've gotten with 4 x 5 sheet film and not as good as 11 x 14 sheet film.

Yes, yes, yes, I can come up with circumstances where super-fast focusing matters. Same way I can come up with circumstances where grainless ISO 10,000 would matter. I'm not saying it's not useful; I am starting to think, though, that people are exaggerating its general import.


~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
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Ctein,
I distinctly got the sense that the "web wisdom" had exaggerated the E-P1's alleged slowness of focusing. It's not superfast, but once I tried it for myself I thought, oh, well, that's not so bad.

Mike

@ Tim F,

Are you saying that the 20/1.7 mounted on the E-P1 results in a noticeably faster AF performance? Would it rival the GF1 + 20/1.7?

@ grubernd: if camera manufacturers would be more innovative, this whole wheeling could be done with one. see my idea on my blog: one-wheel manual exposure.

Good idea. Pentax nearly do this with the K20D. The right thumb presses the +/- button, the right forefinger rolls the front control wheel. There is no live histogram but on digital preview (takes a photo but doesn't save it unless asked) I can quickly get a histogram and I am familiar enough with it to closely estimate corrections. I dunno if other DSLRs do a similar thing.

Wasn't it an Olympus OM series camera that had a backlight button as well as a compensation dial? Pressing it gave an extra stop and a half exposure for backlit subjects. Quick to use, and close enough adjustment for most subjects. Better than missing the shot fiddling with the compensation dial (lift/press, turn, etc) or getting a hopelessly underexposed shot.

Mike, Ctein, I can only second your statements about the focussing speed of the EP1. I tried it 2 days borrowed from a friend and for me it is fast enough. It is symptomatic however that people suggest using this or that lens in order to improve focussing speed, where the OP doens't even hint at any concerns in that direction.

"It's not superfast, but once I tried it for myself I thought, oh, well, that's not so bad."

I was at B&H a couple of days ago (Peter Turnley gives Good Talk) and tried out both the GF1 and E-P1 a couple of minutes apart. I noticed a substantial improvement in AF in the Panasonic.

What surprised me was that I liked the G1 even more. With lens on, the body is really not much bigger than the GF1 or E-P1, but the grip is superior, the built-in electronic viewfinder is really good (and useful), and the AF is as good as the GF1's ... and at $640 with lens kit it's $260 less than the GF1. (Another way of looking at it is that for $140 more than the GF1 you get the G1, the 20/1.7 and the kit zoom.)

I'd been looking for a small and portable camera and thought the GF1 or E-P1 would be ideal for me, but the G1 plus lens is about half the weight of the equivalent Nikon D90, and with lens on it is only slightly bigger than the GF1 (albeit not pocketable). For my needs I can see a G1 (or GH1 without the megazoom) in my future.

@ mike,

The more serious problem, IMHO, is the AF system's reliability in low light / low edge-contrast situations.

Not only does it have trouble acquiring AF lock (struggling to come up with a clean lock while hunting back and forth), it will often focus on the background instead of the main subject, which makes little sense, as the main subject is usually closer.

I have noticed that this tends to occur if the main subject does not have strong edge contrast (often, someone's face just does not have enough edge contrast compared to a man-made object with distinct edges in the background). But the thing is that Panasonic's AF has all this figured out. In the same situations where the E-P1 struggles, my G1 nails the focus perfectly every time.

Mike and Ctein -

Before I had a GF1, I was pretty happy with the E-P1, and I would agree with you that the slower focusing is not a non-starter. But going back to the E-P1 after using the GF1 makes the E-P1 seem a lot more sluggish.

I have two grandsons who never stop moving except when they're asleep. I probably have 5 or 10 times the success at getting useable photos of them with the GF1 than with the E-P1.

So, in my opinion, it does make a difference for general photography. If most of your photography is of a static subject, or if you prefocus, etc. Then the focusing speed is not an issue at all.

Ed

What a great camera review. (I know it's not over, but it's already great.) To learn how one photographer sets up a camera--and adapts to it--in pursuit of a passion, tells me so much that "technical" reviews can't or won't, whether or not the pursuit is successful. And when the story is this well told, obviously a great deal of words aren't needed to convey that information.

The pitfall with this kind of review, for me, is getting so enamored of the reviewer's experience that I forget that my own needs may be different.

Nice shots, by the way.

I haven't handled the E-P1, though it intrigues me, but I agree that AF speed is merely one of several issues that can get in the way of getting the shot, and in many situations not the most critical (see Imaging Resource's S90 review). If AF is indeed the E-P1's weakest link, then Hickey, Ctein, and Johnston is an impressive weight of opinion in favor of it's adequacy in this respect, which in turn implies good things about performance in other respects.

"Would it rival the GF1 + 20/1.7?"

Nope, it doesn't. I just tried, and when I switched the 17mm and the 20mm on the E-P1, I thought I noticed the 20mm focusing just a hair faster. But both lenses focus considerably faster on the GF1, with the 20mm beating the 17mm on that camera.

Mike

"...the built-in electronic viewfinder is really good (and useful)"

Indoors, yes, because it brightens the scene. Not so much outdoors.

Mike

An aside on focus speed; any auto focus is faster than me manually, so it's all good.

As to info on the display, are there any cameras that have no info, nothing but what the lens sees? On my small Canons, I can remove a lot, but there is still a lot of "stuff" on the screen.

Bron ( early adopter of AF, as I have focus issues.) :-)

"But going back to the E-P1 after using the GF1 makes the E-P1 seem a lot more sluggish."

Oh yes, there's no question the focusing on the GF1 is superior. Markedly so.

I've been amazed how quickly the GF1 focuses in extremely dim light, and how it locks on to fairly textureless subjects. I can point it at a blank white wall and it will grab focus right away.

Mike

Great review, stylish and lively. Forgive my ignorance, but why is separating the AF from the shutter release the first thing you do with any camera? What's an example of a situation in which autofocus would be a burden?

There are many situations where you want to pre-focus the camera and use the same focus point for several pictures. If the shutter button focuses, then you lose the locked focus after each shot. Worse, you have to wait for the camera to focus every time you hit the button.

"There are many situations where you want to pre-focus the camera and use the same focus point for several pictures."

I never really thought about separating the autofocus function from the shutter button, but I'd like to try it. Does anybody know if I can do it with the G1 or GF1?

(Why do they keep saying "RTFM" to me?)

...OK, in the custom menu, if you set AF/AE lock to AF, and the AF/AE LOCK HOLD to On, then the AF lock button will hold the focus through several pictures until you press it again. (Or until the camera is turned off.)

Can also be helpful for faster operation, doing "zone focus", if you have the depth of field for it.

... Come to think of it, this also makes it easier to prefocus on a developing situation, since you no longer have to carefully keep the shutter button half-pressed, trying not to fully press it prematurely.

Love that "Moonstruck" pic! Aptly illustrates E-P1's use as a tool, aside from being a stylish gadget.

@ Eolake

I really like the AF lock on the G1 because when AF is not locked by the AF/AE button you can still use the shutter button to focus -- the best of both worlds.

@ Eamon

Great review. Wonderful diner photo.

As to info on the display, are there any cameras that have no info, nothing but what the lens sees?

Bron, both E-P1 and E-P2 can do that. You just press the Info button several times until you cycle to the setting. :-)

...OK, in the custom menu, if you set AF/AE lock to AF, and the AF/AE LOCK HOLD to On, then the AF lock button will hold the focus through several pictures until you press it again. (Or until the camera is turned off.)

Or until you start reviewing the photos.

Anyway, in the custom menu, you have to switch AEL/AFL to Mode 3 in S-AF, which will give you AE lock when the shutter is half pressed, while AEL/AFL button will serve as S-AF. You might also want to switch Fn and AEL/AFL buttons.

Ssssshoot. I should have thought of this yesterday when I was playing with E-P1 in the zoo and got irritated when it didn't want to lock on a low contrast subject because every half-press activated the autofocus.

The reason the E-P1 with the Panny 20mm is such a great combination is because the Oly has the best IQ and the Panny has the best micro 4/3 lens. Why settle for less? Why have skies that are not blue? And the great free present inside is the Olympus image stabilization, which adds two more stops to that beautiful lens, something the Panasonic simply cannot do.

Thank you, Eamon, for a nice review that summarizes the general warm feeling that comes with using this camera. I am currently using the EP-1 with Panny 20mm lens. I use the same command dial setup, as well as the focus technique. I've been using "program" mode mostly and I don't really know why other than it has just worked for me, but I can see now that I need to start using aperture priority to experience tighter control over this lens. The histogram will be another tool I'll have to start using. Maybe this is beginner digital photography, but could you lend some insight as far as what you look for in the histogram? Finally, perhaps you do this, but do try setting your Fn button to dof "preview". When you press the Fn button, you'll get a very nice noise-reduced rendition of your final image while you are still composing it. Not that I mind "wasting film" by just trying the shot, but using the button in this way allows more adjustments in less time. Using my EP-1 with a bit of a trial-and-error approach, this technique has helped a lot toward squeezing the best shot in the quickest moment.
Again, thank you for your work so far, I look forward to the next installment!

Eolake,
This is just one man's opinion, but the way I like to use the GF1 is to use the "AF/AE Lock" button to lock exposure, and keep the focus in the shutter button. What I usually do in difficult situations is to get exposure right first, then focus, recompose, and shoot. Sounds a bit involved but quick and effective in practice, at least for me.

Mike

Mike,
That sounds effective, yes.
Me, I find that unlike focus, I can almost always leave exposure to modern matrix-metering.

I got so interested in the pre-focusing subject that I expanded on it here.

The reason the E-P1 with the Panny 20mm is such a great combination is because the Oly has the best IQ and the Panny has the best micro 4/3 lens. Why settle for less?

To reduce size as much as possible, several m4/3 lenses are designed with some distortion uncorrected. The distortion (geometric and chromatic) is only corrected in the software. I read somewhere that Olympus doesn't apply this correction to Panasonic lenses and v/v. If that is true, that's a big reason not to mix lens/body brands. But surely if m4/3 is to be fully compatible, Oly and Pana should correct all m4/3 lenses.

Dear Shep,

Neither the Panasonic 20mm nor the Olympus 14-42mm lenses show much distortion at all. The 20mm shows no lateral chromatic aberration, the 14-42 has only slight LCA.

So, there is little for software to correct.

Furthermore, programs like Adobe Camera RAW (which can work with JPEGs as well as RAW, BTW) have no trouble correcting both distortion and LCA. I'm sure other RAW converters can do the same. And, if you set it up as a preset that you can apply en masse to your photos, it doesn't even take much of your time.

There are many people online who want to make a big deal out of residual lens aberrations, software corrections, and mixing and matching makes.

Pay them no mind. The have run out of mountains and insist upon peering too closely at molehills.

pax / Ctein

P.S. Oops, ACR doesn't correct for distortion; that's in Photoshop/Elements proper. My mistake.

Probably didn't remember because I'm not seeing enough distortion with either lens to worry about.

pax / Ctein

Seems nice camera. I want to buy one camera on this christmas for my wife. I think this camera would be the best gift.

Thanks very much for your comments re. lens distortion software, Ctein. It sounds like it's not a major issue with present lenses. Good.

But there is an important long-term issue here. m4/3 should become fully compatible between different manufacturers. I personally think that software correction of distortion is an excellent new way to make a lens smaller, lighter, and perhaps cheaper too. Eventually it will give us lenses with even less distortion than, say the Olympus 12-60mm, which has cleverly-suppressed but still visible distortion at 12 mm. This will be even more important we anticipate truly wide m4/3 lenses (12mm and less).

It's not good enough, at least for this photographer, to say "well, don't worry, you can fix it in RAW if you are that fussy". I, for one, am not geeky enough to want to fuss with RAW. I rejoice in the fine JPEG's that Olympus produces. I am, however, plenty geeky enough to notice geometric distortion in wide-angle shots (mine are often architectural, which reveal it mercilessly). There is no reason why software for other manufacturer's lenses cannot be incorporated into each m4/3 camera.

While we can use RAW workarounds for now, I seek a brighter future. The potential in m4/3 is to make it all simpler as well as better!

Enjoy.

Dear Shep,

I suspect our posts crossed in cyberspace-- it appears that, unknown to me, ACR is correcting for distortion and LCA automatically, and it apparently has no problem with 'cross platform' lens/body combinations, for RAW files, anyway.

So, no extra workflow. Woohoo!

ACR can process JPEGs, but I don't know if it automatically corrects for this stuff. I don't normally make JPEGs. I should give this a try...

Why do you use JPEG, BTW? You can bulk process RAW with default settings, and it doesn't do anything but eat up CPU time while you're off getting a nice cuppa. RAW gets you 2 stops more exposure range, at least!

If it's a money thing, ACR comes in Photoshop Elements, too-- you don't have to sell out for insanely-priced full Photoshop.

pax / Ctein

pax / Ctein

P.S. Dear Shep,

OK ran the test. ACR does not automatically correct distortion in JPEGs, only in RAW files.

Dunno what other RAW converters would do.

pax / Ctein

I am happy with the purchase of my E-p1. This is a good camera for the price. It is simple to use and takes clear, crisp pictures. Also, the battery life is good. And the price makes it affordable to take good pictures.

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