Note: I know there has been a year long gap in posts on my blog. It was unfortunately unavoidable. But, I'm back and I'll make a sincere attempt to post at least three stories a month in the future. Thanks for all the support.
Introduction of the Four-Thirds camera system allowed Olympus and Panasonic to create high quality interchangeable lens camera systems that are much smaller and much lighter than traditional Full Frame and APS-C DSLRs. The Micro Four-Thirds cameras reduce the size and weight even further, with no loss of image quality. The smaller sensor in the M-Four-Thirds cameras results in a so called lens "crop factor" of 2X, as apposed to 1.5X with my D300 (ASP-C camera). Therefore the 14-42mm kit lens delivers an angle of view equivelent to a 28mm-84mm lens on a 35mm camera.
The desire to cut weight, and save my poor back, led me to explore the Micro 4/3rds system and I ended up going with the Olympus PEN E-PL2 and the 14-42mm kit lens. The PEN delivers 12 mega-pixel images of a quality indistinguishable to me from my D300, The body weighs only 12-7/8 oz. and the lens add only 5-1/2 oz., My D300 body alone weighs in at 29 oz. (almost 2lbs). As you can see below the Olympus is much smaller than a DSLR.
To Round out the kit I added a Panasonic Lumix 20mm f1.7 pancake lens (3-1/2 oz.), yep the Panasonic uses the same Micro Four-Thirds lens mount, and an Oly 40-150mm (6.7oz.) for a complete package weight of only 28-1/2 oz. (1-3/4 lbs). Thats right the whole kits weighs less than the D300 body alone! I carry it all in an unpadded Duluthpack #100 Double Shell Bag That brings the weight of the entire package, incuding bag, to less than 4lbs.
So, how well does the PEN system work for me? So far very nicely. I was able to take system with me on a trip to Mid-Ohio and used it exclusively. I also to it with me on a visit to Belle Isle Park in the City of Detroit. Despite some limitations I was quite happy with the results.
The image at the top of the page is a shot of the William McKinley gravesite in Canton, Ohio. Shot with the 14-42mm lens set at 21mm and an ISO 0f 200 I was qute happy with the results.Image quality is excelent up to 400 ISO and quite nice at 800. Anything above gets awfully noisy but can be used in a pinch. Below is a photo inside the Canton Stark Museum and a small 100% blowup to show the noise. The photo was shot with the 14-42mm lens at 800 ISO as you can see the noisy is noticable but for my purposes acceptable, especially for online presentation.
The visit to Belle Isle yield some very nice images as well. These pictures were taken with the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 at 200 ISO.
So what is the bottom line? This camera won't replace my D300, but I think I'll be finding myself carrying the Oly more and more often. There are a number of pros and cons. The thing I miss the most from my DSLR is a viewfinder. There is an add-on available but it is way overpriced at $200+. Despite the price I will probably eventually buy one.
- Extremely light weight
- Extremely high image quality, especially at 200 & 400 ISO
- 12 mega-pixels are more than enough.
- Small package fits in a small bag for a very easy day of carrying
- Noise at 800 is acceptable, at 1600 not so good
- Viewfinder is high cost extra
- Not a lot of lenses available yet
- Build quality is good but not at a pro level
My recommendation is that if you want a lightweight system camera for short trips or long days walking aroung the city take a close look at the Micro Four-Thirds system. It is reasonably priced and the number of lenses and accessories for it is growing.
Below is my Duluthpack bag with body, three lenses and ThinkTank Peewee Pixel Pocket Rocket. Lots of room in the front pockets for phone, wallrt, etc. Since the bag is not padded I have the lenses in neoprene pouches.
Come back later in the month for some more adventures in photography.
© 2011 Tim Marks