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Wednesday, 09 December 2009


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Nice writing Mr. Hickey. I've also figured out after coming to grips with all the menus and settings that the digital pen is a perfect street camera. I solved the problem that buttons can accidently be pushed inside your pocket by turning the four way controller to "off". And if want to change ISO, WB....to press "OK". For this it is important to make a change in the normal menu by pressing "INFO" to become access to the, i call "advanced menu". This change is saved also after turning off the camera. Since I individualized my Pen in this style i very seldom have trouble with accidential pushes. I often shoot street with the oly pancake and the viewfinder, display turned off. I also have to thank you for your tipp to lay AF onto the AEL Button. P.S.: I often think that prominent reviewers in online and webmagz didn't really do their jobs with oly menus ;). I can say by coming to grips with the pen it's nearly perfect. Again thanks for your report. A pleasure to read.
Nicely XebastYan.

Eamon, that central part of the LCD for focusing whould still be pretty large. What you want was implemented on Olympus C-5050. But the part with the enlargement was about as big as the nail on my pinky. In other words, useless.

Because, as many others have noted, the cameras controls are very easy to inadvertently adjust. Olympus could solve this with a sliding lock switch that disables all the buttons and wheels. If anyone has a solution for this that I overlooked, I'd be grateful to hear it.

Locking things into place with electrical tape probably wouldn't work, would it? (I'm pretty serious, actually.) It's the roller control that's the main problem, yes? And you use that control constantly, yes?

I have high hopes for this camera for taking pictures of young domestic hominids, but not being able to leave it on in my coat pocket is a kind of anti-selling point.

I have used Leicas for years and Cosina Voitlander over the last 8 or so mainly for street work.
I gave up film and bought 2 Sony A900s plus Zeiss lenses for my other work and bought a PEN e-P1 in August just to cary around instead of the Ricoh GX100, preferring fixed as opposed to zoom for the street.
I love the PEN and have switched my 4 way switch off but also use like Eamon pre-focussed.
I find the GX100, GRD and PEN all give images which have a film like (High ISO colour neg) quality to them and sometimes I prefer them to the blisteringly unforgiving A900s.
It is a shame they did not put a port for the EVF on the E-P1 and just a tip.. On the GX100, and PEN I have an elastic band keeping the separate viewfinders in place and as a bonus I think people look at them and dismiss me as poor and the cameras as old with no value.
The perfect Leica M set for me was 21/35/90 so we need a 9 or 10mm and a fast 45/50.

I like "Avenue A at 11th St." Seems a fitting photograph for this discusssion.

Nice honest review here, but this camera seems to be more flawed than Tiger Woods.

And it's despicable that Olympus releases an updated version less than a year later, the E-P2. Shady business.

I've been using my new Lumix GF1 for less than a week and I've found many of the same issues. In particular, I'm annoyed by the lack of any kind of zone focusing assistance, as I've been using that more and more with my LX3. That said, the autofocus on the GF1 is very snappy -- but with my street work I still prefer pre-focusing and zone focusing.

There's another thing that's annoying about the GF1 (and I suppose I should keep this for a GF1 post, but it seems that conversations about the GF1 and the E-P1 have a high degree of overlap). The dials are way too stiff. In order to turn the primary mode dial I have to change my left hand grip and make a concerted effort with the fingers on my right hand. This takes time and attention away from shooting, and I always end up moving the drive mode switch accidentally. Ditto the thumb wheel; it's so hard to turn that half the time I end up clicking and turning (which changes the function) instead of just turning.

This is ironic, because my biggest handling complaint about the GF1's little brother (the LX3) is that the mode dial turns too easily! Every time I take it out of my pocket I have to reset the dial!

(All that said, I still like the GF1 -- but I'm hoping for a Firmware update that will include zone focusing indicators.)

I've liked the example pictures you posted in this series, and I'm not normally that big a fan of street photography. So that's pleasant.

And I like this TOP-style kind of review -- a discussion of how a particular tool works for a particular photographer. I pick up useful tips from the articles (and often the comments), and I don't mind reading how OTHER people do things even if I'm not going to adopt those techniques.

And, tangentially related, sort-of triggered by the ways I like the photos in these articles -- Mike, I'd love to see an article on how different lenses "draw" differently, illustrated carefully. Not an attempt at a scientific study, but some clear careful examples, with some discussion. I believe in the concept, but it's out at the fuzzy fringes of my understanding. Using adapters, the lens could be made the only variable in the examples.

Kirk Tuck has some useful comments about the EP-2 here. He manages to make them without mentioning Tiger Woods, which makes them doubly useful.

In fact I wonder if my 410 with pancake is not more suited for street shooting. After all pre-focusing is only a second best solution.

Quick focus and possibly clear framing is of the essence for capturing the decisive moment. The E-P1 is only marginally more portable, and not really less obtrusive.

So in my view the latter should be seen more as a social camera, than a street shooter.

Another workaround that I use with a 28 eq. MF legacy lens is hyperfocal. That of course avoids completely the focus lag issue.

First, re: the various questions from the previous post about why I separate autofocus from the shutter release.

Because it puts an end to tyranny. The tyranny of enduring your AF system picking up the wrong target or of waiting for it to be satisfied before it gives permission for your shutter to trip.

Seriously, except for subjects that are actively moving foreward or back, most photo situations need to be focused only once. But you may want to trip the shutter several times as facial expressions or light quality or subject interaction changes over time. If AF is mandatory, as it is when it's yoked to the shutter release, you have to wait for it every time you trip the shutter. And, every time, you have to make sure it doesn't pick the wrong target.

I want AF to be there if I choose to use it when it's time to focus or re-focus -- for example, when my portrait subject, who I just took 4 shots of as she was leaning back, now leans forward and I want to take 3 more at that position. I want AF to be there to re-focus, but I want it to be my servant not my master -- to focus the one time I need it to, then go away for the next 3 shots. If your camera allows it, try separating the two operations (as they were separated for the first 150 years of photography). It only takes about two minutes to realize how great it is.

Second, commenting on myself: "...which means you have to endure the 2.7 second delay when you yank it out to get that fleeting shot of Elvis ducking into a taxi on West 57th Street. If anyone has a solution for this that I overlooked, I'd be grateful to hear it."

This morning I figured out the obvious answer: catch Elvis at 56th St., so I have a whole block to get the camera turned on. I am still really an amateur at this.


Eamon, that central part of the LCD for focusing whould still be pretty large. What you want was implemented on Olympus C-5050. But the part with the enlargement was about as big as the nail on my pinky. In other words, useless.

I've used similar systems on several cameras from different brands and often found it workable. It's not perfect, to be sure, but I'd like it as an option.

So carrying the comments over to the ep-2, i suppose there isn't much point using a voigt optical finder instead of the evf despite its lag huh..

I just find it incomprehensible that the photographers at Olympus(and not just Olympus)can't or won't 'get it' about street shooting. They have resurrected the Pen name but not the Pen spirit. Two point seven seconds to turn on! Yikes! That said, I applaud Eamon for working around most of the limitations. His photos speak to his success.

On another note I see that 'avenue A at 11th st.' includes both public transportation and a child in the same photo. I hope the police don't go after him as both a terrorist threat and pedophile.
Pity that in our hyper-vigilant society it's getting harder to take great shots like that.

Hey guys, hate to say this, but all these street shooter problems you're frustrated over were solved years ago . . by Leica. Those solutions still exist. And in cheaper form than Leica and probably cheaper form than EP-1 or 2.

Film and scan, my friends, film and scan. There is no better street look. Your problems solved. And total control.

I first tried taking AF off the shutter button when using a friend's Canon 5D -- he had it set that way, and I decided to work with it rather than try to find where it was controlled in the menus. (Mind you, I wasn't horribly opposed to it in the first place; I'd done 25 years of manual focus before I got my first AF SLR, so the idea of deciding when to focus made sense to me.)

Meanwhile, he found the menu option to set up my Nikon D200 that way, and at the end of the weekend when we swapped back, I left it that way :-).

I normally leave my camera (D700 now) set for AF activation only with the thumb button on the back, and in continuous AF mode. Thus I can get continuous by just holding it down, or single-shot by pressing and releasing, or use the same as last shot by doing nothing, or manual focus by turning the lens barrel. The only problem is, I sometimes forget I don't get AF assist from either the camera or the flash in continuous mode, and I forget that's why I'm not getting it (doesn't come up often enough to keep me reminded; needs something like outdoors at night to make the assist crucial).

Hate to say this Jeff, but film processing is expensive. (I've shot hundreds of rolls.) Or if you do it yourself very time consuming. Scanning is even more time consuming, not to mention touching out all the dust spots from developing.

Dear Eamon,

I just checked it, and my EP-1 takes only 1 second to go from full-off to fully functional, including the dust-removal routine.

Something's wrong if yours is taking over 2-1/2 seconds.

pax / Ctein

Re: the manual focus via a central window. On the Lumix G1 which I use and very much like I would like to see the same capability. I think its size and position should be user adjustable. I also think it may be feasible to make the focus area semi-transparent to allow a glimpse of the scene's changes while you focus. Perhaps the degree of tranparency can be user adjustable. It is often better to get the shot at the right time than at the "best" focus and you can only do that if you can see the whole scene.

I'm just getting used to my GF1 - using the LCD while pondering whether or not to get the EVF.

Actually I think I could live with the LCD (shame its not movable though), but I'm frustrated by the fact that to see the LCD optimally, I need to use my computer glasses, not my normal glasses, which leads to various compromises and extra hassle.

So I wonder - is it technically possible to provide an electronic diopter adjustment to an LCD display? (i.e. so that the display would appear sharp to my eyes regardless of which glasses I was wearing (or not wearing at all). If so, I think this would be a real winner for anyone with eyesight problems.



@ Ctein

I just checked it, and my EP-1 takes only 1 second to go from full-off to fully functional

Maybe a definitional issue? My time is for power-on to first shot. I timed it by using this online stop watch:


I power on at "0" (the stop watch very slightly delays at "0" to compensate for reaction time) and immediately press the shutter release, then read the time in the resulting image. Did many iterations, although, now, come to think of it, I can't remember the focus mode. The lens can be set not to cycle the focus to infinity on power off/on, which it should be for this test. I don't have an E-P1 any more, so if someone else can double-check. Would hate to have published the wrong figure.

Interesting read, Eamon. Re: zone focusing, my panasonic LX-1 has the best implemented scale that I've seen, in that it shows the depth of field on the scale. It is fairly quick to set focus with this scale, including hyperfocal distance. Why all camera makers don't put a distance scale in the display is beyond me.

I seem to have gotten a particularly good sample of EP1 and lenses, as it rarely misses focus and is able to focus in lower light than I would usually shoot. I have tried to reproduce some of the behaviors reported on the web, including shutter-induced shake with the kit zoom, and I just can't get it to happen.

As for the EVF, I might use it sometimes if I had it, but I'd be self-conscious about that tumor growing out of the top of the camera. The optical finder that comes with the 17mm, incidentally, works better with the Panny 20mm (the frame lines are close to perfect at a moderate distance).

Dear Eamon,

Ahhh, that would be consistent with what I see.

I don't think it's an especially useful measure, though. I don't hold the camera up to my face and THEN press the on button. I do that as soon as I pick up the camera. By the time I have it at eye level, the display is live.

As others have reported (I haven't experimented) one can reconfigure the camera to avoid the worst-case focus time I reported elsewhere. In which case you'd probably have around a half-second lag from pressing the shutter to getting a photo.

Unfortunately, such shutter lags have been common every since film cameras started going auto-everything 20 years ago. It used to be that we'd say a camera with a shutter lag of longer than 125 msec was not acceptable for serious work, and the really particular folks used a rangefinder to get it into the 50msec range.

Nowadays, 250 msec is considered "excellent."


Maybe we can get the fetishists to start screaming about shutter lag instead of noise/ ISO or pixel count? One could hope.

If you really need insignificant lag times, I'm afraid Jeff Glass is right (even though he is totally wrong about the cost and ease)-- nothing beats a manual Leica film rangefinder. 'Course the rest of your workflow goes all to hell, but that's the price...

pax / Ctein

For me, the pen looks like a really nice tool, one I have been waiting for for quite some time. For me, the possibility to use old lenses on it makes it an affordable alternative to my heayvyweight DSLR (for exactly the kind of shots you pointed out). I will really have to take a closer look and try it out myself. Thanks for this hands on review, best, flo.

Thanks for a great review/introduction/advice.
Just couple of small comments. One big reason for the 'shutter delay' in EP-1 is the process it goes through when making an exposure. It starts with shutter open and live view on. When shutter button is pressed for exposure, it closes the shutter, prepares the sensor for image capture, and then opens (and closes) the shutter for exposure. This delay is exactly the same whether separate optical viewfinder is used, or whether one composes over the top of the camera like you suggested. The camera cannot tell whether you look at the LCD or over the top (or through the finder). It may 'feel' like it is more responsive with the viewfinder because you don't see the delay but it is still exactly the same. The custom function that shuts the LCD just cuts the backlight. The live view is still on, and shutter is still open. Like you said, the delay is not significant. But it needs a complete redesign of the concept before it can be eliminated, and using a separate finder (I have both 28 and 50) unfortunately does not make it go away.

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