ten years of olympus camera use

Olympus E-P2 with 14-42 collapsible kit lens and VF-2 electronic viewfinder

Warning: I’m going to write a meandering post about my photography, and throw up some examples of my photography from a ten year old Olympus digital camera. These will be recent images (as in taken the day this post was written).

E-P2 top plate view

But first, this observation: There are no bad cameras anymore, only bad photographers. And it’s been that way now for quite some time, going back ten years. Funny that.

The Olympus camera I’m using in this post is my very first micro four thirds camera, the Olympus E-P2. It was Olympus’ second camera in this format, an immediate follow-on to the E-P1, both of which were introduced in 2009. I purchased my E-P2 copy Christmas of 2009 and paid full price for it, or US $1,200. I don’t normally pay full price for anything photographic, preferring either used, refurbed, or heavily discounted (which means trailing edge by quite a margin). But this time I bought the camera nearly new because I felt it was an important revolutionary step in photography, and I wanted to be a part of that. I also purchased the M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 and 17mm f/2.8 to go along with it. That 17mm has long since passed on, replaced with the 17mm f/1.8 and f/1.2 PRO, but the 45mm is still in my kit and still gets used. The E-P2 came with the original 14-42 collapsible kit lens, which was pretty good. But I replaced it with the second generation of that lens; truth be told I wish I still had the original, if for no other reason than the original had a metal mount while the later generations were plastic.

Over the years I’ve picked up a number of Olympus Pens, as well as the original OM-D E-M5. Later I picked up a Pen F, then a GH4, then a G9. Those last three in particular were heavily discounted from their original release MSRP.

So what can I say about the later generations? You can see significant improvement in the handling of the cameras, and in certain corner cases you can see significant improvement in the sensor and image processors of the cameras. But all of the cameras will take excellent photographs given enough careful forethought to composition and subject matter, even the E-P2. Over the last ten years, Olympus has made one excellent camera after another, as has Panasonic and Sony and Nikon and Canon. There are no bad cameras, only bad photographers.

If I’ve done anything wrong with my pursuit of photography it’s that I’ve purchased too much equipment for not very good reasons. Buying equipment at a discount can only carry you so far. It can be fairly argued that some of it should never have been purchased at all. If I were to sell any of it, I would sell the most recent acquisitions and keep the E-P2 and the pair of E-M5s I have.

Just for the record, the E-P2 has a modest 12MP sensor. Before you laugh, keep in mind that the highly successful Nikon D3 and D700 cameras were introduced with 12MP sensors. I will grant that the Nikons are both 35mm frame sized sensors (what the marketing people like to call “full frame” even though 35mm film cameras were for a long time labeled as miniature format). In spite of the fact that the micro four thirds sensor is only half the diagonal length of 35mm (hence the doubling of a micro four thirds focal length to compare with 35mm: i.e. my 45mm lens is the focal length equivalent of a 90mm on one of those Nikons), 12 MP is still 12MP, and with the right lens in front of the sensor and photographing in normal light (i.e. not in such dark environs you really can’t see much), you can’t tell them apart unless you know in advance which was used to make a given photograph.

My E-M5s have 16MP sensors, and the Pen F and G9 have 20MP sensors. Can I tell photos apart with those cameras? Sometimes. Do the later cameras handle much better, much faster than the E-P2? Absolutely. But the E-P2, under the right circumstances and with a photographer that understands how to handle it, will still produce excellent work. All those cameras will.

Red Miniature Hibiscus – M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8
Red Pentas – M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8
Red Drift Roses – M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8

 

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gear for the revolution – 2019

Olympus E-M5 with M.Zuiko 14-42mm EZ left, Panasonic Lumix G9 with Olympus 12-100mm PRO zoom right

A little over two years ago I wrote a post titled “gear for the revolution” as a set of suggestions about what kind of camera to use for citizen reporting. Since that time a lot of water has flowed “under the bridge” to the point where I can’t support my suggestions in that original post. Here’s what features I would suggest you consider when selecting a camera other than the one that comes with your smartphone; size, autofocus speed and accuracy, and wireless communication between your camera and your smartphone.

  • Think about size. The photo at the top shows the size difference between the original Olympus E-M5 next to the larger Panasonic G9. The size is further exaggerated between the two zooms. On the left is the Olympus 14-42mm EZ kit zoom, while the right is the Olympus 12-100mm f/4 PRO zoom. Both lenses are superb in broad daylight, and even morning and afternoon light (“blue” hour and “golden” hour, respectively), with the edge going to the PRO, as it should. And both are pretty quick to autofocus. But the Olympus with its EZ pancake zoom is far more discrete than the G9 with its 12-100mm zoom on the right. And with the E-M5 powered off, the pancake automatically collapses down to a very small size. Great for moving around quickly in a crowded situation when needs must.
  • Which leads to autofocus speed. The original E-P2 can also use the EZ kit zoom, but it’s far slower to drive the zoom’s autofocus motors than the E-M5. Keep in mind that the E-P2, introduced November 2009, was only two-and-a-half years old when the E-M5 was introduced in February 2012. Yet in those two-and-a-half years tremendous advancements had taken place between the two, not the least of which was the efficiency and speed of autofocus. Thus, if deciding which camera to own, assuming that both are used and everything else being fairly equal, I’d recommend the E-M5 hands down over the E-P2 because of the drastic improvement over autofocus speed and accuracy in the E-M5.
  • As good as the E-M5 still is, it lacks one critical feature that is available in the G9, and a number of other micro four thirds cameras from Olympus and Panasonic, such as all versions of the Olympus E-M10, the Panasonic GX85, the Olympus E-M5 Mark II, and of course the Panasonic G7, G8, and G9: wireless connectivity with either an iOS or Android app, allowing your smartphone to wirelessly transfer photos immediately from the camera to the smartphone.

There will always be many other issues to consider, not the least of which is cost. When your resources are constrained you have to make some hard choices as to what you can afford, even when considering used equipment.

Right now, for example, the best new micro four thirds camera bargain on the market is the Panasonic GX85 with a Lumix 12-32mm pancake zoom and a Lumix 45-150mm telephoto zoom. The whole kit, usually with a bag and memory card, can be had for US$490. That’s far cheaper than just about any other new camera. That camera is small, has marvelously fast and accurate autofocus, and can send photos to your smartphone of choice with the Panasonic Image App. The GX85 also has in-body image stabilization and can record 4K video (or lesser bit-rate; that keeps file sizes down and keeps from depleting the battery too quickly). It’s compact, easily transportable, pro-level image quality, and overall a great system to start with.

Of course, you can always stick with your smartphone. Nearly every mid-range Android phone as well as the Apple iPhones can record excellent stills and video. That keeps your expenses down to just having to pay for the phone and a data plan. But then you don’t get the benefits of the various focal lengths (12mm to 150mm) that the Panasonic system provides. Sometimes it’s good to have the ability to record an event from a distance with a long zoom.

Just remember, these illustrative photos were take with an iPhone 8 Plus and processed in Snapseed before being imported into my blog with the WordPress app.

E-M5 on the left powered off and the EZ zoom retracted