Sunday, September 13, 2020

A new (Olympus) pen

A few weeks ago, I was looking at my poorly Nikon DSLR and wondering if I really needed to replace it based on the sort of photos I take. 

In the comments, a couple of people suggested I ought to look at an Olympus Pen. Reading reviews, the range appeared to score well for image quality and flexibility. The suggestion in the reviews was that this is a DSLR for compact camera user. I don't have a problem with that. As I said in my original post, I'm no specialist photographer, I just like taking photos. 

I also like interesting things that are a little under the radar. A Citroen Berlingo (2nd series) is a fantastic car for example, but you never see it advertised. They are just popular with those who know how good they are, and when you learn, you understand. 

An SLR for compact users will be an anathema to many "proper" photographers, but I had a look on eBay and found a few to chose from. In the end, £60 bought me an E-PL1 that had taken 572 photos and seemed in perfect nick, along with charger and lens.

Another look and the PL1 is the noddy camera of the range, but if this ever bothers me, bodies can be picked up for under £40, including a red one which appeals quite a bit. 

Anyway, first impressions are good. The camera feels solid. The shutter makes a nice noise. The lens has to be unlocked and extended before use, and it's a bit ugly when not shut up. That's as bad as it gets so far. 

Of course I've taken some photos. You can click on these for the full-size version. 

My railcar in the garden. 

While I was out there, a dragon in need of a repaint:


A home-grown pomegranate: 

An aeroplane at Bekonscot on a sunny day:

And a few minutes later, a couple of trains:

All of these were taken with the camera on auto. I had tried some model shots in the booth, but the results weren't impressive. Not bad, just not what I needed. However, stick the camera in aperture mode and the dial on F22, read the instructions to set the ISO to 100 and things look a lot better. 

The Lego train is 12cm long, not that dissimilar in size to this:

No need for stacking there for most uses.The focus lock seemed to work well too. 

At the moment, this feels good. OK, the lens is ugly and composing on the back LCD screen isn't ideal in bright light - but then that's an issue with a compact and trying to gawp through a viewfinder too. The video mode is going to take some figuring out as efforts so far have seen it record when I didn't want it to and not when I do. That's just pressing buttons in the right order. I'm sure if I read the manual again, I'll get it. 

Thanks to those who suggested the Pen. It seems like a good move. The Nikon is currently with them for investigation, but I've hung on to the lens in case I don't have the body back. It's sale will then go towards a zoom for the Olympus.


Nick Brad said...

Would you and your fair readers advise getting one of these for my 13 y/o daughter who has just discovered a love for photography after starting a course at school?

Up until now, her only experience has been phone cameras, but her birthday is coming up in January and I have no clue when it comes to cameras, so i don't know what I should be looking for or what to avoid.

Colin said...

Hi Nick Brad
The answer depends on what your daughter wants to photograph and what she wants to do with her photographs. You can only take photographs if you're carrying your camera so if her interest is in candid or social photography then a small camera that's easy to carry and doesn't need its own case makes sense so you could upgrade from a phone to a Compact Camera. On the other hand, a whole new side of photography is what you can do after you've taken the photo so her interest might lie in digital manipulation as in Photoshop and its ilk.

On the other hand, a DSLR (digital single lens reflex camera) like Phil's will take magazine quality photographs but if your daughter will mainly be displaying and sharing her work online then that quality of image might be unnecessary and the money could go on a Bridge Camera with a more versatile lens, such as the LUMIX DMC-FZ72. I've been hugely impressed with my FZ72 and I see one on ebay for £99.

Bridge cameras, as the name implies, occupy the middle ground between Compacts and DSLRs.

On the things to avoid question, I would say that if your daughter just wants to take photos then auto-focus and auto all the rest of it is fine, but if she want to really get into photography then she'll need a camera with a manual focus in addition to autofocus and a viewfinder. Even the best autofocus can be defeated by some subjects and while many cameras just have an LCD screen instead of a viewfinder they are prone to glare in direct sunshine.

M said...

Congratulations on the new camera, enjoy. I like the comparison with the Berlingo, they have an elegance that comes from being right for the job.

The beauty of these is that the body has no mirror to fit in so it can be shallow from lens mount back to the sensor. That allows for cheap adaptors to fit a wonderful range of old slr and range finder lenses while still focussing to infinity.

Switching from your SLR to this format means that the same focal length will give you a slightly more telephoto effect because the sensor is smaller.

Those kit zooms are quite good but you can get some basic prime lenses for very little money which will be pin sharp. A set of extension tubes for maybe £10-12 will allow you to focus as close as you need.

Anonymous said...

For learning the technical skills of getting a good picture in as many situations a possible I would day that a viewfinder and the easy manipulation of controls was essential.This camera does not offer either.

For learning to compose photos in easy conditions this camera is absolutely fine.

Phil Parker said...

M - Good point about the extension tubes. It's so long ago since I used then I'd forgotten. Now I'm remembering the happy days of buying a fantastic set of bellows for my Zenith (£13)then discovering that were too good for model work but opened up a world of macro photography.

Anonymous - I@d agree that if you want to learn the technical skills, a DSLR is the way to go. However, if you just want to take nice photos, the world has moved on and even a mobile phone will do the job. Technology has de-skilled much of the photographers art.