Thursday, October 18, 2012

The camera Olympus should have made

Plumbago Lab
Max with Plumbago blooms
About a week ago a NEX-5N arrived at the house with just the stock 18-55mm kit zoom. Today I finally received a Fotodiox OM-NEX lens adapter so that I could use my OM lenses with my NEX-5N. In order to use my manual focus OM film-era lenses with the 5N and the adapter I had to enable Release w/o Lens under Menu | Setup. I then selected Peaking Level of High and a Peaking Color of Red in the Setup menu. And then I went back to shooting raw.

Unless the subject is colored red, focus peaking works a treat with the 5N. This is the one feature above all others I would have liked Olympus to have added to its digital cameras, especially the Pens. I managed, after a fashion, to learn how to manually focus my OMs with my Pens (E-P2, E-PL1 and E-PL2), but it was a slow process. With the 5N focus peaking system, correct focus is absolute and certain, and for me at least a lot faster.

I've also noticed another feature I appreciate on the 5N, and that's its minimal lag when pressing the shutter release. For all practical purposes the 5N's shutter release is just as fast as the OM-4T's shutter release. Between the rapid manual focus and the quick shutter release, I finally have a digital back I can use with my OM film lenses. Right now I'm using the 1.4/50mm and 2.8/28mm, and usually stopped down one to two stops. Focus peaking allows me to quickly focus regardless of the composition or the aperture, no matter where my point of focus is located. With focus peaking I don't have to select an autofocus point in advance or touch a screen to select a focus point. With focus peaking I see instantly across the entire field what's in focus and what isn't. It may sound counter-intuitive, but with focus peaking my manual focusing is a lot more fluid and easier than any autofocus system I've used to date.
Fading Glow
If only Olympus had put an APS-C sensor in an OM-class body and given that to their OM users. Lord knows I would have bought at least one.

When I first purchased the 5N I had no intention of duplicating what I already have with my Pens. I just wanted a better way to use my OM lenses. I have all the focal lengths I really want or need in the Pen system. But I've had a chance to use the 5N with its focus peaking and I'm no longer quite so sure anymore about what I'll do with either the Pens or the Nexies.

The problem with leaving the Pens is the lack of equivalent quality lenses for the Nexies. I've grown to prefer the smaller, faster, lighter primes in the µ4:3rds system. I also know from my current experience that the Sony 18-55mm kit zoom is demonstrably inferior to the Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42mm kit zoom, and as a consequence have no real desire to invest in more Sony zooms. The Sony menu system, while certainly prettier than the Olympus menu system, is maddening in its own way when you have to go digging for features. Neither Olympus nor Sony builds a good menu system, but they are tolerable and get the job done.

But still and all the IQ of the 5N easily matches or exceeds anything the Pens can produce, can match or exceed the ISO range, and has focus peaking, a key feature I've been truly waiting for for some time. While Kirk Tuck may write glowingly of the NEX 7, I believe I may instead purchase a copy of the NEX 6 simply because I love what the Sony 5N's 16MP sensor can produce.

If I do nothing else with the 5N except use it as a digital back for my OM lenses, I consider the cost of the 5N to be money well spent.