More about the Olympus E-PL1 and my experience with MFT

I’d like to share what I think I missed out in my previous post about the comparison between the Panasonic GF1 and the E-PL1. Also, I’d like to share a short summary of what cameras I have been using during the couple of months I went missing from this blog early this year.

Basically, from the E-P1, I switched to the E-P2. At first, my initial impression of the E-P2’s EVF2 (external electronic viewfinder) wasn’t so impressive. Yes, up till today, it is the highest quality electronic viewfinder you can ever find on earth, no other brands can match it yet. The Panasonic GF1’s EVF really sucks badly when you compare them side by side.

But in my then E-P2 Review, I wrote that looking through the EVF is no different from watching Live View through a peep hole. In the months when I went missing from this blog, I found out that this wasn’t true! The Olympus’s EVF2 is about the ONLY thing in the world today which can make Manual Focusing of old SLR lenses, Leica M-Mount lenses, and even the C-Mount lenses on the Olympus PEN E-P2 and E-PL1 POSSIBLE!

I get as high as 10/10 hit rate in terms of nailing my focus using the EVF2 on my E-P2, even when I was using the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm F1.1 lens wide open! Using Live View to manual focus is just too time-consuming, too tedious and too slow!

Yes! The Micro Four Thirds Mount can mount almost limitless types of lenses on it via adapters! And China make most of these adapters at really affordable prices! The Micro Four Thirds System shall rock the world of photography!

I shall write more about using these various lenses in my next few posts, so stay tuned.

After switching to the E-P2, I started my indulgence into using the EVF2 to manual focus with all sorts of manual focus lenses (including old Olympus SLR OM lenses, of course). This is addictive! At the same time, I tried out the Panasonic Lumix MFT lenses.

And finally, the road led me to the E-PL1. (For buddies who have been hanging out with me, they also saw my indulgence into many other types of cameras… Leica being one of my favourites! Haha… sinful… )

An overall experience told me that for AF lenses, my favourite is the Lumix 20mm F1.7. As for MF lenses, there are quite a few I really like: the Nokton 50mm F1.1, and the C-Mount Ampex 25mm F1.4 TV lens in particular.

I prefer the look and feel of the E-P1 and E-P2, but I think the E-PL1 is currently the most practical choice for me. The E-PL1 is a more intelligent camera, produces sharper and nicer images, is smaller and lighter, and more comfortable to hold. However, I really hate the menu system. According to Olympus, this camera is supposed to be simpler and easier to use. But I find it otherwise.

Fiddly Menu in the E-PL1, CW trying hard to find out how to switch apertures. This image is captured with my iPhone.

Both CW and I were having a hard time trying to find out how to switch apertures. We, like most of you out there, don’t read menus! Haha…

And on a separate occasion, I passed the E-PL1 to another of my photo-enthusiast friend to try out, he had a hard time trying to change ISO.

What is this??? Is it just us being “too advanced” to understand the “simpler” menus in the E-PL1, or is Olympus misunderstanding what the consumers need? Sometimes in trying to make something simpler, we made it more difficult. Less is More? Simpler is Complicated? Hahaha….


Just to share some E-PL1 shots here, all with minimum tweaking, Olympus is famous for beautiful digital images straight out of camera!

A quick shot of the busy Satay Man. ISO1600, F5.6, 1/20s.

Trying out the POP UP FLASH in E-PL1 … …

Personally, I wouldn’t bother much about pop-up flashes, since all pop-up flashes in the world do not produce as pleasing results as external hotshoe flashes which can bounce. Bad lighting? I’d rather not shoot. Pop-up flashes aren’t gonna make it much better.

Shot by CW.

The E-PL1 is also perfect for hip shots:

Hip Shot of Uncle, a little post-cropping done. ISO200, F7.1, 1/250s.

Corn Salesman. Shot from hip level using Live View. Something not possible with my Leica M6 and M8. ISO200, F3.2, 1/200s.

The above images speak for themselves Olympus’s image qualities!

I imagine one day, I show my son a photograph of a morning glory and teach him what’s purple, he replies, “It’s BLUE!” And I will say, “Oops! That’s Panasonic!”

I’d rather go for the E-PL1. :p

Related Posts:

1. GF1 vs E-PL1

2. E-P2 Review

3. E-P1 Review

17 thoughts

  1. I have found your review very helpful.
    Having used Leicas for 50 years, I would really like
    to get an M9 body to use with my marvellous
    Leica lenses. but $9000 is out of my reach.

    Now for my question: Using an adapter on the
    4/3 Olympus can I get worthwhile value from
    attaching the Leica M-mount lenses?

  2. Hi Alf, Thanks!
    The used M8s are affordable now! Alternatively, I found that shooting film with my M6 and having them scanned by the labs is a breeze. It’s like money to scanning instead of an expensive full frame M9.

    On M43, the Leica lenses still give you the “Leica Qualities”, the same creamy bokeh, sharpness… but I have to say, there is existing trade-off in the full potential of the Leica lenses due to the much smaller sensor. However, for the price we are paying, and the EVF2 make it “USEABLE”… It really is Enjoyable using the Leica M lenses on the E-P2 or E-PL1!

  3. Kee Nyap

    April 12, 2010

    Hi David,

    In order to change the ISO, all you need is just to press the “Start/Ok” button in any P/A/S/M mode. Frm there, you can access to any camera settings by scrolling up/down. Very easy. Both of u tried too HARD digging into the menu…

  4. David,

    Could you post side-by-side images from the e-pl1 and gf1 with the panny 20mm 1.7? I haven’t seen this side by side comparison anywhere online and it which would reveal the true resolving power/noise levels and colors of each camera. I’d also like to see a RAW to RAW image and JPG to JPG (straight from the camera) test using the 20mm. I’m guessing the e-pl1 would shine! If possible I’d love to see this test.

    Thanks!

  5. MP,

    In my personal experience, the 20 Panny proved to produce better results on the PEN than the GF1. I’ll try to post side-by-side comparison if I get the chance to do this test. Thanks!

  6. Hi David,
    I am a happy user of the OM System since the 70s.I am also very happy with my Olympus UZ770 which I have been using since 6 years ago.As I also use camcorder quite a lot for video ,can you pls review the quality of HD video shot with E-PL1 to that of a camcorder?
    Thanks !

  7. Billy,

    I love the OM system too! The HD quality of video produced by the MFT cameras are definitely far better than the SD video of most camcorders. The technology has advanced a lot in this area having the Panasonic GH-1 video quality comparable or some say better than the Canon 5Dmk2. The 720HD video by the digital PENs have been used for commercials and short films. Here are some samples online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOuk5_rAweY&feature=player_embedded#!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0k8tV86Ycx0

    I will try to do a review on it’s video some time later… thanks for reading my blog!

  8. Hi David,

    I’m probably getting the E-PL1 after contemplating for a while. Have been following your website for a couple of weeks now.

    Just wanted to ask if you’re familiar with the performance of E-PL1 with the Four-Thirds Adapter MMF-2 and 40-150mm lens, as these two form one of the offer packages available to us in Singapore. Is it worthwhile to purchase this adapter and especially the zoom lens? Or is it more worthwhile for me to get a native m43 long zoom lens instead in terms of price-performance ratio?

    Thanks in advance!

    cheers!
    KG

  9. Hi KG,

    To be honest, AF with the 43 lenses via MMF-2 can be quite frustratingly slow and unresponsive. So expect using MF. (Do try it out yourself to confirm with what I said. What I said is based on my personal experience)

    A native m43 long zoom lens definitely outperforms the 43 lenses. The NEW 14-150 is coming.. that will be a good buy. (though the aperture is F4-5.6 and the zoom range is long.. so AF is slower than the NEW m43 9-18mm). The NEW m43 lenses only have ONE moving AF element and therefore speeds up AF real quickly. They are worth waiting.

    As for me, I choose to go for the old OM lenses and Voigtlander lenses and use MF with EVF2. Of course you can do that with the 43 lenses too. What I am saying is I have given up trying to use AF with the 43 lenses via MMF-2 adapter.

  10. Hi David,

    Thanks for the insight. I’ll wait for the m43 version of the Zuiko 40-150, or consider the Panasonic 45-200. 🙂

    Cheers!
    kg

  11. dear david,

    hello. i love your blog =)
    i am not a professional photographer but i love to take photos.
    i am thinking of changing my digital camera to a dslr but someone recommend me the pen.
    can you give me some advice? somehow i love the design of it too.
    but is it true that its image quality is comparable with an entry-level dslr?

    helps are much appreciated!
    thanks a lot! =D

  12. Yes, the image quality is similar. What happened to the PEN or the “mirror-less system” is the mirror in DSLR is removed. Digital image quality has to do with the sensor and the processor mainly. The sensor in the PEN is the same as the Olympus DSLR. On top of it, the processor is the newest, which means.. the E-P1/2/L1 all have newer processor than the last Olympus DSLR made: the E30, thus images from the PENs are even better than the E30.

  13. Thanks David for the posts according the E-PL1. I’m a total newbie in the camera area; I was debating between GF1 and E-PL1. After reading your posts, I think I’ve a better idea on that. =)
    I’ve read a lot of reviews and kinda information overloaded. Most of the people are complaining about the screen of E-PL1 and AF speed, do you find the screen is really that bad?
    If I’m ready to go for the E-PL1, is there any affordable lens suggestion to go with this guy?

    Please bare with my stupid questions, thanks a lot!

  14. Alison,

    The screen is a little smaller than E-P1/2, but colors/contrast/brightness is still good. I find it ok.

    The AF is more stubborn (not that “trigger-happy” like the GF1 or NEX), but it has a higher percentage of getting “in-focus” shots than the GF1/NEX. It’s slow in lowlight when zoomed in to 42mm for it’s kit lens especially. The way to overcome this is to focus at 14mm before zooming in. When the E-PL1 is coupled with faster lenses like the Panny 20/1.7, it does focus faster.

    The E-PL1 comes with kit 14-42mm which can do macro shots as well. Or the pancake 17/2.8 which I personally prefer the Panny 20/1.7 to this. Or the NEW 14-150mm which is an excellent travel lens, good enough for closeups on animals if you are at the zoo. But the 14-150mm’s macro magnification loses out to the 14-42mm. Other than the standard kit lenses, you can choose from the Panasonic MFT lenses, or use almost any manual focus lenses or AF 43rd lenses on it via adapters. Those are real fun!

  15. I do not get the criticisms of the menu on this model. I normally shoot with DSLRs (currently D700) and I find the system incredibly easy to use. What could be easier to change ISO, shooting mode, aperture settings or exposure comp? Its just not that cumbersome.

  16. Elaine from England

    January 22, 2011

    Hi. You have been doing great things with these cameras and answering a lot of our questions. My main question, that I can’t seem to find the answer anywhere to,is this: When you use the Panasonic 20mm pancake lens with Olympus EPL1 or EP2 – is it compatible with the Olympus EVF? I mean – the Olympus pancake is 17mm, the Panasonic pancake is 20mm. Does the EVF do all views from 17mm through to 200mm plus – including all the interim steps such as 20mm?

    A viewfinder is a must for me. I am now stuck between whether to get the EP2 or the EPL1 – I also don’t like changing aperture and shutter via menu buttons and prefer using a dial like on the EP2. So I am leaning more towards the EP2 despite slightly better picture quality on EPL1. I am also wondering if there is any way round the flash thing with the EVF mounted on EP2 – like a bolt on flash that screws into the tripod bush or something? Have you tried that? And – why the heck didn’t they just include a socket to plug a flash into via a cable – like on my Contax G1!!!!! I rarely use flash – but there are those moments where you just want a little bit of fill-in flash to keep a face exposed with a background scene.

  17. Elaine from England,

    There are two optional viewfinders for Olympus, one is VF-1, which is a optical viewfinder for it’s 17mm pancake lens. The other is Electronic Viewfinder VF-2. VF-2 works exactly like the Live View, except that you are viewing Live View through the “peep hole”, and it’s Higher Resolution than the LCD screen. So, whatever lens you mount on the camera, VF-2 works. In fact, it’s very useful for manual focusing legacy lenses without using the in-camera MF-assist magnification feature. VF-2 works with ALL lenses mounted on it.

    The G1 is after all a rangefinder, unlike the digital PEN which is totally reliant on Live View. Unfortunately, you can only use either VF-2 or hotshoe flash at one time. Some use an additional bracket to mount a LED light (Yongnuo 64) on it. For LED lights, they work independently by batteries.

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