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Micro Four Thirds Discuss the newly announced Micro Four Thirds addition to the Four Thirds system family here.

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Old 7th July 2011
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This Changes Everything

Tuesday 5th July was not a life changing day for me but it was certainly opinion changing, a true watershed in terms of my photographic beliefs. I had an invitation to an Olympus event in London, promoting the new Pen E-P3 and 12mm and 45mm lenses in particular. Iíve always been receptive to the concept of the Pen and indeed have an E-PL1, but have until now regarded it as an alternative to my E-3 when a small, light camera was preferable, not a replacement. Indeed, I prefer the E-3 for its speed of use and handling unless going lightweight is absolutely paramount.

I bought a photo magazine to read on the train and inside was an account of a Peruvian trek by a wedding pro who took her Nikon D700 and a couple of lenses. She found the weight too much to bear on her neck and shoulders and the camera spent most the time in her pack, only coming out at rest stops. Her phone became her main camera; if only sheíd taken a Pen! I suppose that was a good omen for the event that was to follow.

To be honest the specs of the E-P3 had left me a little unimpressed, no built in EVF, no articulated screen, just a theoretical improvement in focus speed, a tweaked sensor and a rather gimmicky touch screen. Plus a (to me) continued over-reliance on thumb wheels and dials, which I find difficult on small cameras because I suffer from Parkinsonís. I was excited about the two new primes, though, a 12mm f2 and a 45mm f1.8.

Upon my arrival Ian placed his E-P3 complete with 12mm in my hands and I monopolized it for the whole event. Initially I found the controls awkward, as I expected, but as the evening wore on I started to adapt, which was a pleasant surprise. The dial around the 4 way button cluster remained a difficulty but the thumbwheel (for which I had the most use) proved remarkably positive.

The optional larger grip made a big difference for me, too, and there was no denying the quality of the screen. I had previously looked through the shoe mounted EVF on several occasions but this was the most extended use I had of it and after a while I simply stopped being conscious that it was an electronic and not an optical finder, in a way I never have with the Panasonic G1 (which I also have). The ability to hinge the finder vertically negated some of the disappointment over the lack of an articulating screen. The overall build quality of the camera and lens was superb and I became quite attached to the combination during my relatively short time with it.

What really sold it to me as a viable alternative to the E-3 (or E-5 for that matter) was the improvement in focusing speed. Weíve all experienced ďimprovementsĒ from manufacturers, including Olympus it has to be said, which turn out to be rather incremental with little real impact on performance. This is different, a game changer. Up until now Iíve viewed the Pen as best suited to static subjects but limited for action shots. Not anymore, itís game on!

Faster focusing was an obvious improvement to look for but what I hadnít appreciated was the contribution that a touch screen can make to the overall speed of capturing an image. Itís all very well having rapid AF but what if your focus point needs changing? With the touch screen you simply, well, touch where in the image you want to focus, with the added bonus that this can also be enabled to release the shutter. Whilst this may be a recipe for camera shake in some situations, there will be many occasions when it proves the difference between nailing the shot and almost getting it.

All these positive changes in the Penís performance only increase the impatience for the answer to a fundamental and often asked question; when are we going to get a larger body with integral EVF? This is often seen as the key to making larger FT lenses, particularly the Pro and SHG ranges, usable on MFT. The answer, Iíve concluded, is we might not.

My reason for this conclusion is that we have now had, or about to get, a total of eight incarnations of the Pen. All are broadly similar in shape, size and style. Olympus has not once shown any inclination to stray from this form to incorporate an integral EVF and doing so would undermine the whole concept of the Pen. Forget any ideas that an EVF can somehow be squeezed into the existing body, it canít, and can we realistically envisage Olympus building a bigger Pen when the whole ethos is to be smaller?

If Iím right that leaves two possible scenarios; Olympus intends to continue supporting the Pro and Top Pro FT lenses with a pro spec FT body or the only option to use these lenses will be on a Pen. I realize the second option Iíve suggested would result in outrage, howls of anguish and much hand wringing, but wait.

I briefly mentioned earlier that the optional grip made a big difference to me. Now think about it, whatís the main difference between holding a Pen with a large lens and an E-5 with the same lens? The flippant answer is about two pounds in weight but what Iím alluding to is the grip. If you are holding the camera correctly it is only the right hand which comes into contact with the E-5 at the time of taking a picture, holding the grip and releasing the shutter. The left hand is supporting the lens. Why couldnít an even larger optional grip, akin to the proportions of that on the E-5, be fitted to a Pen for large lens use?

Now, about the EVF; many of us, me included, have somehow come to regard an integral EVF as some sort of Holy Grail, but why? What could one of those do that the existing hotshoe mounted finder doesnít? Only free up the hotshoe, of course. That has limited value as fitting a large flashgun like the FL50R on the shoe of a Pen is hardly conducive to comfortable handling anyway. A better solution might be to have a secondary accessory shoe on top of the large grip I just mentioned. It wouldnít need any connectivity with the electronics of the body because the flash could be triggered wirelessly by the pop-up unit. Alternatively, a separate flash bracket could be mounted to the tripod socket on the base plate.

This is now starting to sound like a truly modular system with great flexibility. Stripped down to its basic form and fitted with a pancake lens the Pro Pen would be a small and inconspicuous go-anywhere camera. Kitted out with EVF and grip it suddenly becomes a serious alternative to a traditional DSLR for using large lenses and flash. Maybe we can have our cake and eat it!
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Old 7th July 2011
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Re: This Changes Everything

Thanks for the report John
I am convinced a EP3 and me will agree
John
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Old 7th July 2011
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Re: This Changes Everything

I certainly am open to the possibility of eventually purchasing a Pen derivative and the thought of a lighter and smaller unit for travel purposes is attractive. However I do not as present regard one as a replacement for a DSLR, as when away from home, even for a day, I regularly use and carry at least 3 or 4 lenses. The E-P3 has a weight advantage over an E5 I agree but with the VF-2 and a FT to MFT adapter it is only about 400 grams - a lot less than a couple of pounds. When you consider that my everyday long zoom lens and the 300mm alone weigh around 4kg then the weight difference is insignificant. Being so used to zoom lenses for everyday use, as we all are, being limited to a 12mm prime is going to be a difficult compromise, anything else and the weight/size saving advantage fades.

I have a very simple Samsung 8mp compact for ultra-light family use which I am never without and, although I sometimes wish for the quality of a Pen, I cannot imagine going down that route without a zoom lens, but to do so would mean it is no longer pocketable so would probably be left at home. My wife loves the Samsung and takes dozens of excellent family shots perfect for the album, she too would probably leave a Pen with zoom at home.

Olympus are getting there and the majority of photographers will eventually own and enjoy their latest Pen offerings but they have a little further to go for me.

Thank you John for excellent notes on your experience with the E-P3

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Old 7th July 2011
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Re: This Changes Everything

Nice write up John and I am pleased you are happy with it.

That being said I have held the pens and I doubt a one screw bolt on grip on the side will make that much of a difference to handling with larger FT lenses for me. Why because the height of the grip can only be the same as the height of the pen body and it is here that stability of holding is crucial.

This is the reason I prefer to use my 70-300 on the E-30 than the E-620 (without the bolt on grip) because having those last two pinkies flapping in the breeze having nothing to grip on does not aid stability (especially has my hands are getting shakier with age).

In all honesty I know my keeper rate for sharp shake free images with the 70-300mm is greater with the E-30 or E-620 with bolt on grip than it is on the E-620 small body alone, that larger grip and bulk make all the difference using a lens like the 70-300mm let alone one of the SHG monsters.

So for me I doubt the Pens alone will ever float my boat, so I'm still hoping Olympus will keep the standard FT range going as well as the Pens and time alone will tell that.
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Old 7th July 2011
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Re: This Changes Everything

Thanks John for your positive and informative report. It looks very tempting, and it's nice to see some fast fixed prime lenses coming out at last.

You ask
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zuiko View Post
Now, about the EVF; many of us, me included, have somehow come to regard an integral EVF as some sort of Holy Grail, but why?
I've tried using the Panny GF-1 with the external viewfinder, and find it a royal PITA (ergonomics-wise that is, I make no comment on quality which will improve dramatically anyway). It's fine if you are going to faff about with big lenses, adapters and maybe a tripod - the extra bit is no great hassle and being able to swivel it is a definite plus. But the reason for wanting a small body is for portability. I want a camera that will sit in a handlebar bag or jacket pocket and be ready for action. Having an external viewfinder mounted makes it a very awkward shape, and looks to me as if it is just asking for damage.

I would far rather see a smallish overall increase in dimensions to accomodate the EVF electronics. Panny seem to have been able to pack the innards into smaller and smaller bodies so I'm sure it could be done in a body that would fit nicely into a (biggish) pocket with a pancake lens. And please offer us a weathersealed version, even if it increases size & weight a little bit more.

Ciao ... John
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Old 7th July 2011
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Re: This Changes Everything

To read Johns comprehensive hands on review of this new offering from Olympus you could be forgiven for thinking that this was the answer to every photographers prayers, the Holy Grail of cameras in fact. It still begs the question, who is going to buy the thing? A body + 12mm. lens + an EVF., that will be £1600 sir, you can imagine the reaction from the other side of the counter, "How ******* much?" (insert your own expletive) all that for what is all said and done just an advanced compact. If Olympus think we are going to ditch our E3/E5 DSLRs and buy into this they are sadly deluded. As for myself I have just bought a 11-22mm SWA to go with my E3 outfit and with a bit of luck an E5 will follow in the not too distant future. Sure it will significantly increase the weight of my already quite heavy backpack but there is something strangely reassuring in the weight and build of a pro spec DSLR that just inspires confidence let alone the results it is capable of producing. Ian W.
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Old 7th July 2011
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Re: This Changes Everything

IPW - hesitate and think again and try out the Pen before you commit to following down the E5 route - I am thinking having bought the E5 and the E-PL2 for valid reasons that the E5 might have been a bit excessive. If you are into rapid action pictures then the E5 is preferred over the Pen - but in a lot of situations the Pen with a decent lens will be more than adequate - the VF-2 being mandatory.
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Old 7th July 2011
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Re: This Changes Everything

Quote:
Originally Posted by IPWheatley View Post
To read Johns comprehensive hands on review of this new offering from Olympus you could be forgiven for thinking that this was the answer to every photographers prayers, the Holy Grail of cameras in fact. It still begs the question, who is going to buy the thing? A body + 12mm. lens + an EVF., that will be £1600 sir, you can imagine the reaction from the other side of the counter, "How ******* much?" (insert your own expletive) all that for what is all said and done just an advanced compact. If Olympus think we are going to ditch our E3/E5 DSLRs and buy into this they are sadly deluded. As for myself I have just bought a 11-22mm SWA to go with my E3 outfit and with a bit of luck an E5 will follow in the not too distant future. Sure it will significantly increase the weight of my already quite heavy backpack but there is something strangely reassuring in the weight and build of a pro spec DSLR that just inspires confidence let alone the results it is capable of producing. Ian W.
Hang on! It's a personal view, not Olympus policy! Horses for courses... and in any case, some of the positives that John has identified are not specific to the 12mm lens. There is a wide range of choice now with the Pens, but yes we are still waiting for a new Olympus model that will satisfy users with larger hands and bigger and heavier lenses.

Ian
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Old 7th July 2011
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Re: This Changes Everything

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bikie John View Post
Thanks John for your positive and informative report. It looks very tempting, and it's nice to see some fast fixed prime lenses coming out at last.

You ask


I've tried using the Panny GF-1 with the external viewfinder, and find it a royal PITA (ergonomics-wise that is, I make no comment on quality which will improve dramatically anyway). It's fine if you are going to faff about with big lenses, adapters and maybe a tripod - the extra bit is no great hassle and being able to swivel it is a definite plus. But the reason for wanting a small body is for portability. I want a camera that will sit in a handlebar bag or jacket pocket and be ready for action. Having an external viewfinder mounted makes it a very awkward shape, and looks to me as if it is just asking for damage.

I would far rather see a smallish overall increase in dimensions to accomodate the EVF electronics. Panny seem to have been able to pack the innards into smaller and smaller bodies so I'm sure it could be done in a body that would fit nicely into a (biggish) pocket with a pancake lens. And please offer us a weathersealed version, even if it increases size & weight a little bit more.

Ciao ... John
The GF1 EVF is much, much inferior to the Olympys VF-2. It only has 200,000 dots, one seventh of the 1.4 million dots of the VF-2 (and the Panasonics with built-in EVFs). Do try a G-series Panasonic Lumix with a built EVF or the VF-2 on a Pen (or XZ-1) and you will see a huge difference.

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Old 7th July 2011
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Re: This Changes Everything

Quote:
Originally Posted by OlyPaul View Post
Nice write up John and I am pleased you are happy with it.

That being said I have held the pens and I doubt a one screw bolt on grip on the side will make that much of a difference to handling with larger FT lenses for me. Why because the height of the grip can only be the same as the height of the pen body and it is here that stability of holding is crucial.

This is the reason I prefer to use my 70-300 on the E-30 than the E-620 (without the bolt on grip) because having those last two pinkies flapping in the breeze having nothing to grip on does not aid stability (especially has my hands are getting shakier with age).

In all honesty I know my keeper rate for sharp shake free images with the 70-300mm is greater with the E-30 or E-620 with bolt on grip than it is on the E-620 small body alone, that larger grip and bulk make all the difference using a lens like the 70-300mm let alone one of the SHG monsters.

So for me I doubt the Pens alone will ever float my boat, so I'm still hoping Olympus will keep the standard FT range going as well as the Pens and time alone will tell that.
I'm not the best person to comment on this as I am comfortable with the E-P3 and NO grip But in all honesty I noted lots of very favourable comments about the thicker optional grip. I was quite surprised, really.

Ian
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Old 7th July 2011
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Re: This Changes Everything

I can appreciate that the advancements in the Pen range will for some reach a point where they may consider moving over to m4/3 but for others it will not. Everyone has different needs, wants...likes. I read John's comments with interest (thanks John ) and whilst I'm quite enthused about the new Pens (and m4/3rd primes) I'm not about to order one as I recently acquired the still excellent E-PL2.
I'm awaiting developments hoping that there will be a true cross over model that suits my 4/3rds lens collection a little better with Oly's famed built in weather and dust resistance

Not sure about the comment that pens are nothing more than an advanced compact my wife has the excellent Panny LX-3 'advanced compact' (lovely little camera) but I think the Pen system's quality and flexibility certainly lifts it above the advanced compact level.
Here's a couple of images taken with my E-PL2 yesterday which I think would have been difficult to capture with an advanced compact.

Mrs Fox marking her territory (our rear lawn).


Little and large (this shot was massively under exposed by yours truly but it was possible to bring it back to a half usable image).
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Old 7th July 2011
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Re: This Changes Everything

Hello Derek, Thanks for your input but its still an E5 that crave, having seen the results posted here by their owners. I have one final point to make and its aimed at John, the initiator of this post. John, you are a highly respected and very talented photographer on this forum, I have visited your website and viewed you book "The Light Fantastic" and to say that I have been mightily impressed would be an understatement. My question is, hand on heart John, do you honestly beleive that you could achieve the same very high standards if you opted to go down the route you seem to be advocating? Regards, Ian W.
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Old 7th July 2011
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Re: This Changes Everything

Here's a Pen shot that I doubt would be improved if it was taken using an E-5. Maybe the E-5 would handle better and look more impressive, but in terms of the final result, I can't see how an E-5 would better this:



That's not to say that the E-5 is inferior. I think an equally good result would be possible using an E-5 and 50mm f/2.0 macro, but I'm just pointing out that a Pen is a very capable proposition.

Oh and the lens used will be more affordable (45mm f/1.8 £300 in late summer/early autumn).

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Old 7th July 2011
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Ross the fiddler Ross the fiddler is offline
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Re: This Changes Everything

Thanks John for some good thoughts. I certainly would like a PEN to supplement my E30 (which I would also love to upgrade to an E5) but in reality, if I want to add heavier lenses on the PEN, a larger grip would help but I would miss the front wheel plus the vertical (portrait) grip. I think if a battery grip could be added to this model that has a substantial side grip (that could have the added securing with the screw) with a front wheel in it as well, it would serve much better for the larger lenses & when removed, be the lighter carry around outfit instead. I would think a double battery would be better for the large lenses too. As far as the VF-2 EVF goes, I would also like to see a solid version (non-tiltable) with a TTL hot shoe on top & if the camera body can take the mechanical strain & the EVF block is solid in its mounting onto it, I don't see an issue if used with a substantial battery & side grip in balancing the FL50R flash on it as well. That to me would be a nice modular system. Maybe this can be part of a pro version PEN with the extra buttons & connections on it that the E5 have which again can be stripped down to be a smaller, lighter package for just a few MFT lenses etc. when needed.
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Old 7th July 2011
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Re: This Changes Everything

I would not question the quality if image from E-P3 but it must be, taking everything into account, less accomplished overall than an E5. So we come back to the point of portability and as I have said before this is of little concern when it is matched to a number of FT lenses, which are mighty beasts in their own right and become even heavier with an adapter. Even if Olympus replicate the whole FT range in MFT fitting (which they are never going to do) portability is still not likely to be an issue. I am not likely to replace all my lenses with MFT even if they were available so where is the advantage in buying a Pen? However it is still on my lists of possible future purchases but someone needs to convince me, in a practical way, that it would be a good move.

I guess I may have to hire a camera, viewfinder and adapter to settle the matter but at the cost of a good meal out with wine I will need further convincing that even this option is a good bet.

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