Two weeks ago, Olympus “Visionary” Jay Dickman spoke at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and this week Olympus sent the photojournalism sequence a shipment of the PEN EP-2 as well as the PEN EP-L1. This is an exciting development as the EP-2 was Olympus’ first Micro Four-Thirds camera to have an electronic viewfinder (EVF). The original PEN lacked this feature, which I felt made it somewhat superfluous–a glorified point-and-shoot. Now, with an EVF, the EP-2 is much more interesting (the EP-L1 can accept the same accessory viewfinder).
My “favorite” camera of late has been the Panasonic G1, which was actually the first of the Micro Four-Thirds cameras to come out. I’ve posted many images over the past year and a half with that camera, and have loved its EVF, but the EP-2’s accessory viewfinder is the first I’ve seen that tops the G1. And that, folks, is an accomplishment.
I’ll have more to say after I experiment with this machine in the coming days.
My biggest beef is the lack of a more precise focus point. When you find yourself shooting, say, between a closer object with a narrow opening but you want to focus behind that you simply cannot with this camera. Heck, I was in the back of a room trying to photograph a guy speaking to a room of seated people and half the time it focused on the seated people’s head despite that being the bottom of the focus area. (This may just be a limitation of contrast focus, that it currently has trouble focusing on such a fine point that they had to make the focus area relatively large?) So the focus is very finicky but hopefully it will continue to evolve beyond little problems like this. How is it on the G1?
The focus on Olympus’ PEN series is, in the words of Michael Reichmann, lethargic. (So far, I would agree with all of Reichmann’s criticisms and praises for the camera.)
Originally, Olympus claimed that this problem would be solved by improving the firmware of the lenses, but I believe it’s the autofocus system within the PEN body itself.
Coming from the Panasonic Lumix G1, it is an adjustment. The contrast-detection focusing on that camera feels almost as fast as a standard SLR using phase-detection autofocus, and it is worlds beyond its Olympus counterpart. Sorry, Olympus, but it’s true.
That said, the Olympus bodies have some interesting advantages, foremost being that the image stabilization is built into the body. I am also impressed at the quality of the EP-2’s accessory electronic viewfinder. Before looking through it, I thought that the G1 (and GH1) had the best EVF’s. Then again, I have not yet seen a Lumix G2 (recently announced) to see if the EVF has evolved–I would think that it has.
I find myself pondering if the lack of a precise spot focus is due to the contrast-detect AF and possibly the need for a steady point of reference to detect the contrast. Maybe it’s not such a concern and I’m just not very familiar with the technology.
Also bothering me about the focus on the Olympus is the need to focus in/out/in every time. This is one area a professional SLR is vastly superior to the point I’m wondering if Contrast AF will ever be able to match its accuracy.
I think you’re being too hard on the idea of contrast-detect AF, rather than Olympus’ implementation of it. Panasonic’s AF is very responsive. Also, have you tried their firmware 1.1? It is supposed to reduce the lethargy exhibited by the PEN’s autofocus.
I’ve got that latest 1.4 update and I really haven’t had the chance to try it outdoors. (Can you tell why?)
Maybe I came off as too harsh. I’ll experiment a bit more with the new firmware and see how things go.