I miss my DSLR. My wife Megan and I went to Maui for our honeymoon recently, and for the first time since I took up photography, I travelled sans DSLR. For those that are thinking about replacing a DSLR with a micro four-thirds camera, I am pointing out here the that things I miss about my 5D Mark II. Of course, you should also keep in mind that the E-PL2 is much cheaper than my DSLR was, though many points apply to a certain extent with entry level DSLRs such as the Rebel XSi, which I owned before the 5Dm2.
Things I miss:
- optical view finder – the electronic VF didn't look great in sunny Maui, and I prefer the OVF for composition regardless
- speed (autofocus, boot) – I missed several shots waiting for the camera to turn on and focus
- autofocus accuracy – lots of hunting, blown focus
- my R strap - E-PL2 doesn't sit right with this strap, but I hate having a camera around my neck for a number of reasons. The R strap is probably my favorite DSLR accessory
- low light sensitivity – limited to ISO 1600 means missing shots I could have gotten with my 5D Mark II altogether, and I'm unhappy with the amount of noise in ISO 1600 images.
- good battery life – 170 shots / charge; down from 800
- battery life indicator – seems to jump from 3 bars to 1 flashing rather than a smoothly descending percentage with an estimated number of shots remaining
- stable camera settings – focus related settings seemed to have randomly changed on a number of occasions (focus point, continuous tracking --> manual)
- the Canon menu system
- battery status indication during charge
To be fair, there are some things I'm reasonably happy with:
- automatic exposure level setting
- auto white balancing
- image quality at low ISO settings
I'm not sure that I'd recommend against getting a micro four-thirds camera, as it does deliver on its selling points of being relatively cheap, small and much higher quality than a compact camera. However, it doesn't quite live up to my (high?) expectations under these relatively tough circumstances.
Since I'm finishing up my dissertation and getting married over the next couple months, and then moving across the country immediately after that, I haven't had many opportunities to take pictures or... well, do anything other than write and plan. I did manage to get some brief procrastinating done a couple weeks ago, and this is the result.
Megan and I, along with her mom and my dad, went to the FIGGE today to choose what food to serve at our wedding and go over the details of the reception. The food was really, really good and it was tough to narrow it down.
It was a windy day in general, and extermely windy at the top of the stiars for some reason. Even with glasses on, the wind was strong enough that it was tough to read my LCD, so I just aimed in the right direction and took a few shots.
Megan and I went back to the Quad-Cities this weekend for cake testing and tux fitting. My brother and sister and their significant others were also in town, and we had a great time. This presented an opportunity to test out the Olympus E-PL2 some more. I had some issues with the camera settings changing unexpectedly, but I'm happy with the image quality.
I love Olde Towne Bakery cake. We got to try several different flavors when we went in to pick out our wedding cake. We settled on white cake with raspberry filling, chocolate cake with raspberry filling, and butter cream frosting. Mmm.
Picking a Cake
What are you up to?
Shadow is always pretty sure that anybody trying to get close to him with a camera is trying to pull a fast one and trim his nails or something. It takes probably 20 shots to get one where he's sitting sufficiently still for a non-blurry result.
Last week, I noticed that my iPad's iCal alarms were going off a few minutes early. Despite the fact that I sync my iPad to my laptop about once a week, my clock was running about 5 minutes fast. I've got an iPad 3G without a data plan, but this problem might show up on the iPad WiFI as well.
I discovered that I was able to get the correct time by going to Settings-->Cellular Data and turning Cellular Data to On. I'm not sure if it's necessary, but I clicked View Account to bring up the form to add Cellular Data, and then just dismissed it. A few seconds later, the iPad's clock changed to the proper value.
Hopefully what appears to be a syncing bug with the iPad will be addressed in iOS 4.3.
A shot of my fiancé from my first shoot with the Olympus E-PL2.
Ditching my DSLR
For a number of reasons, including wanting to free up some money, to conentrate on wedding planning, hunting for a job, and finishing my dissertation, I decided to sell my Canon 5D Mark II a few months ago. In another year or so, once I'm settled into a new city and a new job, I may get a DSLR again, but in the meantime I wanted a (relatively) cheap camera I could throw in a jacket pocket or satchel without adding too much weight to my load. Of course everybody will have different requirements for a camera, but I hope this is useful to anybody considering something a step above your average compact camera.
What I was looking for
I have an iPhone 4, which has a pretty decent camera itself, but is lacking in certain ways. I had the following list of requirements in mind:
- Image quality approaching that of entry level DSLRs
- Relatively good high ISO performance
- Aperture priority and other manual modes
- A fast lens, with some control over depth of field
- A compact and light body and lens
Choosing the right camera
In the end, I went with the Olympus E-PL2, a micro four thirds camera. Micro four thirds cameras tend to be small, have a lot of options for compact lenses, and sensors aren't that much smaller than on an entry level DSLR. I'm pairing the E-PL2 with a Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens, and so far am very happy with the combination. I wish the E-PL2 were a little thinner and lighter, but you can't have everything.
I researched and dismissed about a dozen competitors before settling on the E-PL2:
- Canon G12: From what I understand, images get very noisy very quickly when you use ISO > 100
- Olympus XZ-1: The camera is compact, there's no need to deal with interchangeable lenses, the lens is fast and has a ~4x zoom, but image quality and low light performance were questionable. I'm sure it serves a lot of people well, but it didn't quite cut it in my mind.
- Panasonic GF2: Panasonic seems to have problems getting products they've announced onto the market. Further, early reviews have complained that the touch screen isn't very responsive. Being an iPhone user, I'm afraid this would drive me crazy. Touch screens are great in theory, but bad touch screens are considerably worse than dials or buttons.
- Panasonic GH2: The video from this camera is apparently very good, but I don't care about video and I'm not interested in the extra bulk. That said, this camera is clearly a step above the GF2 / E-PL2 with regards to image quality.
- Fuji x100: This camera looks fantastic, but $1,200 is a lot of money to drop on a camera with no support for interchangeable lenses and a fixed focal length lens. If I had more money, I might have gone with this camera.
- Sony nex-5: This is far cheaper than the Fuji x100 and has interchangeable lenses, but I wasn't impressed with the lens selection. The two kits lenses aren't as fast as I'd like, and using bulky lenses designed for DSLRs defeats the purpose of having a small camera body.
- Nikon EVIL: If Nikon had released their long-rumored mirror-less camera at a reasonable price, I would have strongly considered that. In fact, if there offering is good enough, I may not ever go back to a DSLR. I still have concerns about the size and weight of lenses though.
I fully expected to be taking a step backwards in every aspect except portability. I was pleasantly surprised to find there were a few things about the E-PL2 that I liked better than the 5D Mark II:
- I quite like the 4/3 aspect ratio, though I'll see how I feel about it when I want to make prints.
- Autofocus tracking with the electronic view finder is great. There's a feature where you do something like a focus-and-recompose, except you keep the shutter halfway depressed while you recompose. The green focus indicator will follow that object that you've focused on around the EVF and always keep it in focus. DSLRs can have similar features, but this implementation really shows off what an EVF / hybrid view finder can do.
- The EVF Histogram shows you exactly where your highlights are and makes it easy do decide whether or not you care. You know where those highlights are before you even press the shutter!
- I can now do bracketing for exposure with up to 7 shots. I never understood why Canon could not figure out how to do this in the 5D Mark II firmware.
- My laptop and desktop have build in SD card readers so I don't need to carry around a cable and reader.
It was supposed to capture the vibrant blue sky, the glow of colorful backlit poppies, and perhaps above all the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Instead, the image came out of the camera pretty dull, and for months just sat on my hard drive. Everything was just kind of grayish, the bridge was hard to make out, and the poppies didn't particularly pop. I'm trying not to stress out too much while I wait to hear back about a job interview at Google last week, so yesterday I took another shot at processing the photo.
This second attempt is much better I think, though it still pales in comparison to my memory of the view from Telegraph Hill. I hope one day to return to try again, this time with a haze filter and an extender.
Unfortunately I haven't had time to shoot much over hte last few months, and I don't anticipate that changing over the next year. So, I'm selling my gear :-( I will pick up a more portable camera though and continue to shoot as I have time.
The following gear is available on Ebay over the next 10 days: