Olympus E-PL2 and a bunch of lenses

More than once already we happened to spook various people when we showed up with big DSLR and started to take pictures around. In particular ORNL supercomputers pictures triggered such a reaction where we were basically walked out of the supercomputer room and it took quite an effort to get back in.

With that in mind we started to look for a smaller, but still versatile and light-sensitive camera. We already have a few point and shoots and even with CHDK they leave a lot to be desired.

This is when I remembered about micro 4/3 format, those cameras have much smaller form factor, yet sport sensor with a crop factor of 2 which is still pretty respectable. The sensors are usually 12 megapixels which is not too high.

After researching somewhat I decided to go with Olympus cameras as they have in-camera stabilization system which is pretty useful (I remember from my early attempts with Sony Alpha 100). The latest compact model they had was E-PL2. It has the same sensor as the previous models, but software is still tuned some more and the results are better due to this apparently. Earlier E-P2 while more advanced is also more bulky too which was an important factor.

Prices were pretty tolerable too, we got E-PL2 with a kit 12-42/F3.5-5.6 lens for about $470.

Olympus E-PL2

Olympus E-PL2 back
Back of the camera with a pretty big display.

We played with it a little bit and decided that such a size would work for us, so we started to look for some lenses. This is where we discovered that all the good lenses were costing just like if they were for a bigger cameras...

Good thing is that lenses are cross-compatible between other micro 4/3 cameras, because Panasonic Lumix system had a great wide-angle lens 7-14/F4 which is 14mm in 35mm equivalent - pretty wide! The price is about $900, though.

Lumix 7-14/F4 and E-PL2
Lumix 7-14/4 mounted on Olympus E-PL2 body.

The pictures from this lens are very-very good, so those turned out to be money well-spent. (for some examples see almost all in-door pictures in this Versailles report: Paris, Versailles part 2).

Olympus 14-42, 40-150 and Lumix 20/1.7
Some more of the lenses we've got.
On the very right is the kit 14-42, also a pretty good lens, though we rarely use it now.
In the middle is pancake Lumix 20/1.7 which is also pretty good. This one we got for $370
And on the left is Olympus 40-150 which is 300mm in 35mm equivalent, pretty respectable and the quality is not so bad as I feared it might be. Here is an example from a rabbit hunt. $230, though it would be cheaper as a part of Olympus double-kit.

All of the above easily fits into Ksusha's purse along with other stuff she needs which is very convenient as she has it with her on almost every occasion now.

Other notes:

  • Noise level is tolerable to about ISO 800, 1600 is very noisy already. Still this is a lot better than P&S cameras.
  • Movie mode is only 720p capable and there is no way to shoot continuous videos for more than about 10 minutes. I did not think that was going to be a problem, but it turned to be.
  • Small camera with a very wide lens turned out to be very convenient in a lot of tourist photography and does not seem to unnerve people too much, at least yet.
  • The battery life is much shorter than we are used to with DSLRs. So we've also got a couple of aftermarket batteries which seem to be working well so far.
  • There is of course no mirror and the contrast-focus is somewhat slow. Manual focus is also pretty strange. But for a lot of static scenes this is still fine.

We bought all of this somewhere at the start of the June 2011, so got a bit of usage now and are mostly happy with this system as a complementary one to our big Canon DSLRs.

I am also looking for a compact but sturdy tripod now too, though have not found anything yet.