My Thoughts Olympus E-PL1

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by usayit, Jul 3, 2010.

  1. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I have a G1 purchased used as a trial of the m4/3rd system used with m-mount lenses. My thoughts on the G1 are posted here:

    http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/...-my-thoughts-panasonic-g1-w-manual-glass.html

    I was convinced that I liked it enough that it would be a useful companion. I spent quite a bit of time comparing between the GF1, E-P2, E-P1, and E-PL1.

    The GF1 was immediately off the list once I got a look through its EVF... it doesn't even come close to that of the G1 I already owned. For those who adapt lenses, the Panasonics are at a distinct disadvantage since they don't have in body image stabilization. For the same reason, the E-P1 was also off the list because it doesn't even have the option. For those who don't care for the EVF, the E-P1 can be had for a very good price these days.

    The E-P2 had a better build and feel but I just couldn't get over the effort it took to bring up magnification. The E-PL1 has a dedicated button which makes it much easier. As also mentioned, the E-PL1 has the latest processing and weaker AA filter. Some of the samples on various sites (imaging-resource.com for example) showed a noticeable improvement especially at the corners.

    For those reasons, I ended up going with the E-PL1 + EVF. The EVF is very difficult to find separately. I checked with BH, Adorama, and a handful of local camera stores for stock and they were all out. I ended up finding it at a place that most wouldn't think to look... a computer store .. microcenter.com (it is a local store for me) Yes... The E-PL1 + EVF costs about the same as the packaged E-P2 deal. So if build is of the upmost importance, please consider the E-P2 packages offered from Olympus. If budget is a concern (no EVF needed too), then consider the wonderful budget prices on new old stock E-P1s.

    Here are some of my thoughts. Please note, I've only had the camera for about 1.5 weeks taken during an annual trip to bring my son to see his grandparents and great grandparent. I haven't done any serious shooting with it .. really just mostly snapshots. Unless mentioned, the photos are minimally processed.

    * Size comparison of the G1 versus E-PL1. The E-PL1 body is more compact and lightweight but at the expense of build quality. The grip is surprisingly comfortable and more substantial than the E-P2/E-P1. I do miss the dial on the G1 grip that allows for quick exposure adjustment. The E-P2 definitely has a better build quality and button layout. It feels more substantial than the E-PL1 and noticeably heavier than the E-PL1. The camera + kit lens itself is so light that I almost don't notice it around my shoulder. It was interesting that my M8 + 2 lens kit felt almost the same weight even though I knew I had an extra camera+ lens in there.

    My sorry attempt at a size comparison to some of my other cameras. Because of the wide angle (LX3), it might be difficult to tell the exact size (doh! oh well). The E-PL1 body is about the size of the Canon G11. The VF-2 EVF is attached to show the extra height:

    [​IMG]

    Closer comparison between the G1 and E-PL1 in terms of body thickness:

    [​IMG]

    * The E-PL1 has very comfortable grip. NIcely sized between the G1's bigger grip and the smallish one on the E-P1 and E-P2.

    * The E-PL1 doesn't have the articulated rear LCD screen that is found on my G1. Something I am willing to sacrifice for the smaller size.

    * Autofocus on the E-PL1 is definitely slower and chases. Even with the Olympus 14-42mm lens on the G1, the G1 is faster locking AF and more responsive shutter. Panasonic's improvements to AF is really impressive and no doubt a reason why Lumix m4/3rd cameras took an early lead in sales.

    * As far as i can tell, the kit lens is the same as the E-P2 except with the plastic mount. Its very light weight and a good performer for a kit lens.

    Sample of a processed photo from kit lens:

    [​IMG]

    * In body IS is really nice to have with manual focus lenses especially considering the 2x crop factor. You have to set the focal length on the body to match the lens which can slow things down but you get used to it pretty quickly. This was one of the primary reasons for choosing an Olympus camera.

    Samples with an old 1950s vintage Leica 135mm Elmar (Processed; WB, Saturation)
    [​IMG]

    * E-PL1 seems to maintain corner to corner sharpness a bit better than the G1. From the samples I've seen online, the E-PL1 also seems to have a slight improvement over the E-P2 brother which is a bit strange. Supposedly, the E-PL1 has an updated image processor and weaker AA filter than the E-P2. Perhaps it is true. At ISO 1600, the E-PL1 seems to beat out the G1 and my Panasonic LX3.

    ISO 1250 with Kit lens
    [​IMG]

    ISO 1600 with 35mm f/2.5
    [​IMG]

    ISO 1600 with 35mm f/2.5, Purposely Under Exposed.
    [​IMG]

    ISO 3200 (sorry horrible photo) with Kit lens. You can see the noise and drop in quality is apparent. Olympus marks ISO3200 as "Extended". My guess is that they don't really recommend using it unless absolutely necessary.

    [​IMG]

    * E-PL1 color is more pleasing than the G1 out of camera with a preference that seems to cater to the typical consumer shooter upping the contrast and saturation. It took me by surprise at first but it is adjustable in camera and RAW shooters shouldn't be concern.


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    * It took a while but I figured out how to use the "Custom Reset" function to switch between settings that I prefer to use when using manual focus adapted lenses and when using native AF lenses. Unfortunately, there isn't a fast way to do this via a button.
    Settings for Manual lenses: Average Center which matches my R-D1 and M8 with a Spot AEL function assigned to the easy to reach FN button. Right next to the FN button is a dedicated magnification button which is a must for critical focus on manual lenses. This dedicated magnification button isn't available on the E-P2 and was a show stopper for me. The E-P2 requires several button presses to bring up magnification and the required buttons are hard to reach. This was a show stopper for me and the E-P2.
    - MF
    - Average center
    - AEL set to half press of shutter button
    - FN button set to AEL spot
    - REC button is set to Movie one touch record.
    - Magnification button is set to on and 7x magnification.
    - RLS priority ON
    Settings for Autofocus: Pretty much default settings except FN is assigned again to AEL spot and the REC button allows for quick AF switching to all focus points and just the center.
    * S-AF with RLS priority OFF
    * Evaluative Exposure metering
    - FN button set to AEL spot
    - Home AF focus point set to center
    - AF focus point set to All.
    - REC button is set to AF point toggle between all focus points and center only.

    * Found a bug in the Camera's AF point toggle. I have the REC button assigned to toggle between all focus points and center. The feature works just as long as you make sure all AF points are activated prior to turning the camera off. If you leave only the center point activated and turn off the camera, the camera no longer toggles between all points and center point AF. As a work around, I press the left button on the back of the camera and reactivate all points. This re-enables the toggle. I'll probably send an email to Olympus.

    * The E-PL1 also has a "My Mode" feature that functions similar to the "Custom reset"
    function. Unfortunately, its only activated when the assigned button is actively pressed which pretty much makes it unusable. This is a definite screwup in UI design. I hope Olympus would fix the problem in firmware as it would provide the single button switching between the settings I require for native AF and adapted MF lenses.

    * The G1's shutter is noticeably more responsive than the E-PL1. Its no where close to the shutter lag experienced with P&S cameras but coming from a Leica M8 and a Canon 1DMII it can be a little disconcerting.

    * Recording was ok but limited to 2GB files. Sometimes AF would chase during recording. You can zoom during recording and it also works with my adapted manual focus lenses. The 2GB limit and AF will limit this camera to clips and not a replacement to a nice camcorder or video enabled SLR like those from the latest Canons.

    * Button layout is definitely inspired from Olympus P&S line. It doesn't have the dials of the E-P2. This might be a problem for some advanced users but given the target market, I don't think this will be a problem. My wife who has a Stylus Tough P&S found the controls very familiar once switch to SCN mode. Makes for a camera I can easily hand off to her to shoot without having to switch a bunch of settings for easier use.

    * Just like the G1, the viewfinder blanks out and shows the previous frame even while in continuous mode. Add on top the slower shutter response and slower AF, this is definitely not the camera to shoot sports. IMO, this is a key area to improve if the m4/3rd cameras are to compete with the reigning DSLRs.

    * I miss the automatic EVF activation when you bring the camera to your face...... a la G1.

    * I wish the camera would turn off automatically when the kit lens is locked.

    * The EVF can come off easily. I plan on using a lens cap retainer to tie it to the camera just in case it is knocked off.

    * I wish the on and off button was a slide switch like the Lumix LX3. It allows for quick on/off operation without having to look at the camera's power LED indicator.

    * 40.5mm filter thread size for the kit lens ??

    * Macro with the Kit lens.... Don't bother. I hear the Panasonic / Leica 45mm ELmarit Macro f/2.8 is a wonderful performer. I'd have to see if my fav camera shop will lend me one.

    * Because of the 4/3rd format, there is no doubt in-camera processing to counter the distortions with wide angle focal lengths from native m4/3rd lenses.... Neither Olympus nor Panasonic deny it. I have to say it isn't something that one would notice unless specifically told. In this photo, I took at the widest focal length with the lens pointed upwards into the fountain structure. Without processing, you'd see distortion but as you can see, it is handled fairly well and not too obvious

    [​IMG]



    I've had it for a little over a week now.. so far I'm pretty happy with it. It did take a bit of effort to determine which settings (including reassignment of buttons) were required to work manual lenses seamlessly then figured out that I can store the settings for later recall. The EVF (VF-2) is just as capable as that of the G1. It makes a nice, compact, lightweight, second camera but it is far from perfect. AF for example is slow and tends to hunt..... Never the less, it is a keeper for me and I can't wait to get more opportunities to be more creative with the E-PL1.


    Oh.. .one more photo. E-PL1 attached to a 500mm f/4.5 Takumar (I was bored one night.. 2x crop sensor == 1000mm equiv FOV). Not too bad for a Consumer digital + old glass.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2010
  2. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    At the playground today with the family with just the kit lens, Takumar 100mm macro (used usually for portraits) and a SMC Takumar 150mm. I noticed these fellows hanging around but I didn't have my ring flash so a lot of shots were hit and miss. I had to bump up the ISO even though it was mid-day to get a good aperture and DOF. EVF attachment worked flawlessly. Just another example of what's possible with this camera:

    E-PL1 + SMC Takumar 100mm @ f/8, 1/180th (i think) macro. ISO 400. Processed WB and a tiny bit of contrast.

    [​IMG]


    Note... Kit lens with AF and autofocus mode in set to single (S-AF), the shutter was a bit more responsive than I wrote above (which was mostly continuous mode). I noticed that when focusing in either manual or with manual vintage lenses, the shutter is even more responsive.. on par with many DSLRs. Even with RLS Priority ON with continuous AF, the shutter wasn't that as responsive at all... hmm?
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2010
  3. Lipoly

    Lipoly TPF Noob!

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    Nice review and photos!
     
  4. mrcrumb

    mrcrumb TPF Noob!

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    Nice detailed review Usayit! I am trying out both the G1 and EPL1 and I found out that the G1 doesn't seem to be as clear as the EPL1. For comparison, I used both the standard 14-42 or 14-45 (for G1), zoomed all the way and then took a picture of a diamond with flash. Then after importing onto my mac, I zoomed in and the EPL1 is definitely more defined and clear.

    So this alone makes me choose the EPL1, however some of the functionality and ease of use and build quality makes me want to choose the G1.

    So do you fully recommend the EPL1 over the G1?
     
  5. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    For my needs and the way I shoot, I recommend the E-PL1 over the G1.

    The in-body IS and size alone are important enough to me. Remember, I shoot these cameras mostly with manual focus lenses from my collection so my needs are requirements can be slightly different than the typical user of these cameras. (Ex: In body IS stabilizes all my manual lenses unlike the panasonic system) Not to say that the G1 is still a great camera... the swivel LCD and slightly better (permanent and auto switching) EVF makes for a wonderful experience. In fact, I was pretty much sold on the idea of selling the G1 once the E-PL1 was in my hands... its been several weeks now and I'm still on the fence on the decision to keep or sell the G1.

    [​IMG]

    There's not much representation of m4/3rd users here.. so post questions if you have some more in this thread. Be happy to answer..


    btw.. the G1 is now discontinued so if you are shopping new, you should look at the G2.


    btw... the Olympus 9-18mm just arrived today. Woohoo..
     
  6. Newnan3

    Newnan3 TPF Noob!

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    Not trying to hijack your thread but I took all the pictures in my thread with m 4/3 camera......

    http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/people-photography/211496-scantily-clad-female-please-c-c.html

    There was a time when I had to fight the urge to trade up for a more traditional dlsr. However, when I tried to use my bro-in-laws a few year old Canon D-something a few weeks back and it felt painfully unnecessary.......It weighed a ton and the shutter actuation felt clunky.

    I have a feeling the new G2s gonna be pretty awesome.:thumbup:
     
  7. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    feel free.. I don't mind... there's so little m4/3rd content its welcoming.

    I know what you mean. I had quite the collection of high end Canon EOS gear a while back too.... then decided that the next time I carried that much weight for a photograph better be for a paid job. Continued to a massive sell off just keeping a couple zooms + 1 prime. Even then... I haven't really used them much.

    I'll have to take a look at your thread... I'm at work and the photos are blocked.
     
  8. smokinphoto

    smokinphoto TPF Noob!

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    This was amazing review.. Very detailed review with pics, specs and everything. This is where the camera really shines. Again, in exchange for convenient, physical manual controls the camera offers some high-end imaging at a below-DSLR price. Luckily for us, Olympus has actually done a pretty good job at its consumer-friendly controls in one of those "you're dumb, let us make the picture pretty for you" sort of ways. This is most evident in iAUTO mode. Instead of selecting scene types, the camera presents an almost Photoshop-style set of manually controlled slider settings. The thing is, the sliders aren't working some sort of post-processing magic, but are instead just novel terms or groupings of traditional photographic controls like ISO, shutter speed, and aperture -- without resorting to saying those scary words. For instance, "blur background" lets the user bump their bokeh (out of focus parts of an image created by a shallow depth of field) without knowing that it's actually the aperture size that's doing it. Similarly, "brightness" seems to tweak ISO, but Olympus manages to even throw in individual tweaks to highlights and shadows if you want to dive deeper.
     
  9. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    So the past week, the family was in Maine enjoying the sights. For me, family trip equates to traveling light which means an excellent opportunity to take along the E-PL1. In my kit, 9-18mm, 14-42mm, as well as the very compact SMC takumar 135mm. My focus wasn't on taking pictures (but I always do) but I still had the opportunity

    * First up... I threw the E-PL1 + 9-18mm lens on a tripod and tried the video. This is just a short clip as video isn't my thing but sure nice to have..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u13iAZpkvbE>

    I did notice the AF tends to hunt during video when object are moving. Seems from some searching that Olympus is working on improving this in firmware.

    Wind noise was caught in the built in mic. I don't have the external mic adapter which I would assume improve on this.

    * The zoom lenses work admirably for the market they are intended. Not as tack-sharp that I'm used to seeing out of primes but great never-the-less. I found myself almost using the 9-18mm most of the time.. Both of the lenses are so wonderfully compact that I ended up carrying them in pocket most of the time. No bag necessary. A few taken with the 9-18mm

    at the widest
    [​IMG]

    w/ polarizer held in front by hand.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    * The camera worked well with manual lenses with the VF-2 EVF. The SMC Takumar 135mm f/3.5 worked surprisingly well and my 2nd most used lens on the trip. For this focal length, it is an extremely compact telephoto and my much larger Takumar 200mm f/3.5 ended up staying the car most of the time. Small enough to fit in a small lens pouch on my belt. On a 2x crop camera, this becomes an equiv-FOV of 270mm! but usually also "enhancing" optical problems commonly associated with these vintage optics. In this case, I really couldn't see any problems at all. In body image stabilization came in very handy.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I little post process to boost contrast, WB, and slight brightness was applied.

    Just for kickers, I ran back to the car and threw the Takumar 500mm f/4.5 on it. If you look on the very first pic posted of Portland Head light (shot at wide 9mm), you will see a tiny spec of on the right side of the frame. Yup.. that's another lighthouse out at sea and many visitors don't even notice it. Here it is with a equiv-FOV of 1000mm

    [​IMG]

    Cleaned up a tiny bit in post as the light had degraded by the time I took the photo. The horizon ended up becoming very hazy. Not bad.

    * The VF-2 EVF worked well and was basically glued to the camera the whole time. However, it does have tendency to fall off. I ended up buying those lens cap keepers that connect a lens cap to the body of the camera but attaching it to the VF-2. It prevent loss of the expensive unit if/when it got knocked off the camera. It never happened during the trip but there were a few times that I noticed the VF-2 was wiggled loose enough to disconnect it from the camera.

    * Build quality.... well... I'm not one to baby my cameras. The E-PL1's lower build quality does show a bit. The plastic's used seemed "soft" and prone to nicks and scratches. Mine certainly experienced some "Battle" damage. I was carrying my camera like this:

    [​IMG]

    When I returned home, I ended buying a leather case (I usually don't like these) to help protect the camera in the future. So far the best design I"ve seen is from Gariz out of Korea. Its not cheap but has a loop on the bottom so I can continue to carry the camera as above, a port to allow for battery/SD card access without removal, and another tripod hole. Should arrive in about a week

    New Gariz Leather Gun Shot Case for Olympus E-PL1 - eBay (item 280551345296 end time Sep-18-10 21:09:58 PDT)

    On one occasion, I did have a bag with me. Wind tossed the opened bag over and guess what? Both lenses rolled right out falling in between some rocks. Arrrgg!! We were able to fish them out... fortunately they still work even with a hard fall and the optics survived any scratches. Eh.. whatsa a few more nicks (actually dents)?

    [​IMG]

    Still happy with the camera.... fits "my life" as if it were a P&S but still far more capable and the best camera for vintage glass.
     
  10. ChrisBeee

    ChrisBeee TPF Noob!

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    What type of adaptor do you use for older lenses?
     
  11. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I've got one in M-mount flavor from Novoflex (expensive). And about 5 cheapie adapters from "rainbowimaging" ebay seller; 3 M42 screwmount, 1 K-mount, 1 M-mount. There is a difference in quality between the adapters but so far I have not had any issues with mine.

    A middle ground would be "metabones" adapters. People seem to rave about them in another forum but I haven't jumped on board yet:

    metabones
     

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