Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Trip to Atlanta ‒ Some Camera Lessons Learned

The Travel Kit
Clockwise from the top, the M.Zuiko 40-150mm 'R', M.Zuiko 45mm, and M.Zuiko 17mm
At the center, the Olympus E-P2 with Panasonic 20mm

I traveled by Greyhound bus from Orlando to Atlanta to visit my parents over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend. I carried two pieces of luggage with me, a wheeled bag for all my spare clothing and a Kata DR-467 digital rucksack that carried my Dell notebook, my Nook Tablet, and my Olympus E-P2 with a small collection of lenses. Along with the primary devices I took chargers, spare batteries for the E-P2, and an FL-50R flash that never once came out and did nothing but waste in the rucksack. I put it in there on the irrational fear that I might need it. I never did.

The E-P2 lens collection consisted of the M.Zuiko 17mm, the Panasonic 20mm, the M.Zuiko 45mm, and the M.Zuiko 40-150mm 'R' zoom. The lenses used most to least were the 20mm, the 45mm, the 17mm, and the 40-150mm zoom, in that order. If you twisted my arm I could have whittled it down to the three primes. If you'd strung me up by my thumbs, maybe down to the 20mm and the 45mm.

The surprising realization (at least for me) is how fickle I am with regards to the 20mm vs. the 17mm. I've taken quite a few photographs with the 17mm on the E-P2. Based on my personal statistics, it's been the most used focal length on that camera, and for good reason. When mounted on the E-P2 the 17mm is diminutive, so much so that it seems to almost blend into the E-P2 body. The 20mm, by comparison, appears subjectively larger, at times much larger. But its darker color helps it to blend in as well with the black-bodied E-P2. But that's just the way it looks on the camera.

The real reason I've favored the 20mm is because the 20m 1:1.7 is nearly a stop-and-a-half faster than the 17mm 1:2.8. And that's a difference I've found quite useful. I have discovered that with the 20mm mounted I can set the E-P2 to auto-ISO mode, limited to an ISO range of 200 to 800, aperture priority mode (usually wide open to f/1.7), and be able to capture anything I care to point the camera at.

Based on experience so far, the camera has produced exposures from f/1.7, 1/8sec, at ISO 800 to f/5.6, 1/4000sec, at ISO 200. This is an EV range of (roughly) 0 to 16, or dim ambient artificial light to full sunlight on bare concrete or sand. The only limitation is autofocus, not exposure. I've gotten enough correctly exposed blurry photos to prove to myself that the E-P2 with the Panasonic lens is more than capable of properly exposing a shot with the 20mm even though at certain times it can't lock focus to save its diminutive soul.

The same holds true for the M.Zuiko 45mm. I can use the same body control settings for the 45mm with equally good effect. As much as I'd like to follow Kirk Tuck with regards to artificial lighting, I have to admit I really force myself to use my two flashes. Like I wrote earlier, the one FL-50R I carried with me sat in the rucksack the whole time, wasting space, while I was out carrying the camera and lenses in my jacket pockets where-ever I traveled around Lilburn and the general vicinity of north-east Atlanta. Broad daylight or late evening, I was always ready.

I no longer carry any adapted lenses. I'm glad I had the opportunity to try out that style of photography with the E-P2, but I've come to discover that native µ4/3rds lenses are far faster to focus with than adapted regular 4/3rds lenses, and blazingly easier to use than manual focus lenses such as the G.Zuiko 50mm 1:1.4. The 20mm is a fraction of the size and weight of the three types of 50mm lenses I currently have, and so much easier and faster to focus and use.

If there is a real limitation with the E-P2, it has to do with autofocus. Not so much the ability to lock autofocus, but the ability to quickly set an autofocus point without having to go through a menu. The E-P2 doesn't have the touch-screen-focus ability of the E-P3. After fumbling and bumbling with the camera menu to set the focus square for the umptempth time to the section of the composition where I really needed it, it suddenly dawned on me how nice it would be to just touch the section of the screen where I wanted focus to be, and oh, have the shutter trip right after. You know, like the E-P3. (face-palm)

With the E-P3 I could have had my E-P2's sensor (which I still love) along with some key features the E-P2 lacks (easier, faster autofocus plus touch-select focus point and built-in flash to remotely trip those FL-50Rs I own (another face-palm)) that would have made my style of photography (no comments from the peanut gallery) a lot easier and faster. By making the brash comment I made last year about how the E-P3 was "too little, too late", I let emotion and personal bias deprive me of a camera with key capabilities I actually needed, that in turn made it more difficult (if not impossible) to capture the kind of moments the E-P3 could have easily enabled me to capture.

So, yes. I have to eat some crow.

Regardless, the current kit with the E-P2 is still a hell of a lot of fun to use and very lightweight to carry. The only lens I might add to the mix is the M.Zuiko 12mm in place of the 17mm. It's dropped down enough in price that it makes purchasing a copy acceptable, and I can only imagine how well it would work, even in my thick-fingered clumsy hands.

Right now is an exciting point in Olympus Camera's history. No, I'm not talking about the fiduciary shenanigans of upper management. I'm talking about the rumors circulating about a Pro Pen that is supposed to be designed similarly to the OM film camera. I'm now poised to either purchase an E-P3 or the OM-D (as rumor would name it). I'm leaning heavily to put in an advanced order as soon as advanced orders are opened. If the OM-D carries all the key features the E-P3 has, even if it still has the same sensor, I'm going to buy it. And if I can't get one, I'll go ahead and pick up an E-P3 body. I've become excited about using Olympus again, more than I've been for quite some time.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Bill. I can confirm the fiddly autofocus from our E-PL1 cameras, tho once you've got it right, that sensor-based focusing is much more precise than the focus-and-recomposing on my SLR.

    Concerning lenses: since that 20mm is practically glued to my wife's camera since she got it, I'm thinking about what to get for myself. I have the 50mm macro also glued to my E-520, so 17mm would be great - if only it would be a stop or two faster...

    So I'm contemplating about a second 20mm, and even the PL 1.4 25mm lenses, tho I'd really prefer something a bit wider.

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