My EPM1 Review

Discussion in 'Featured Tests and Reviews' started by WT21, Dec 1, 2011.

  1. WT21

    WT21 m43 Boom-a-rang Subscribing Member

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    The EPM1 is the first camera that has moved me in the same way like the EP1 did two years ago. So, I sold the EP1 and now I have the EPM1 as my walk-around, and the EPL2 for long and legacy lenses.

    One of the best things about the EPM1? It only cost me $440 with the kit lens (so, the body really only cost $300) leaving me with enough money to afford what is now my favorite lens on the EPM1, bar none: the PL25/1.4.

    [​IMG]

    I find the EPM1 is phenomenal for wide angle lenses, up to my PL25 and even my PL45 (which has IS). I didn't think the body size would matter that much for compactness, but it does. The EPM1 fits much more easily into a coat pocket than either the EPL2 or the EP1 did. So, I use it with only a wrist strap, and it travels in my jacket pocket. I think I’ll need some sort of belt pouch when the warmer weather returns.
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    The thing that blows me away about this camera is that the EPM1 + the PL25 pretty much replaces almost everything I could do with my old 5D classic + 50mm lens. The DOF is equivalent to shooting 50mm 2.8 on full frame, which is plenty shallow. It gives a very nice 3D pop, yet it all fits in the palm of my hand and looks really sexy (by the way, it's a metal body. Not plastic).

    (a 5D in your hand!)
    [​IMG]

    Menu System/Lack of Buttons
    “No buttons? Then it’s not for me!” That’s what I thought at first, until I got to try one, and then bought one. Trying is believing!

    I find the menu system really quite nice. Hit the menu button, and you can choose the PASM setting, or go into SETUP for Oly's very detailed, very flexible menus (side note: I've read many knocks on Oly's menus. Since trying the G3, I can say that Oly seems logically laid out!).

    Since I'm mainly an 'A' priority shooter, I don't need to do this much. If you do switch amongst PASM a lot, it’s still straight forward, and the menu system remembers where you were last, so it’s easy: hit menu, then up or down key to switch between P, A, S or M.

    Regarding the circular ring around the four way controller: Oly has redesigned it, and my finger holds it much better than the EP1 or EPL2 (can't remember from my brief time with the EP3), but I find the ring, which I usually don't like on most cameras, is quite useable.

    Another benefit: I can drop the camera into iAuto in a couple of clicks (menu, then iAuto), and loan it to my wife, and there are no settings she can accidentally bump, because there are so few external buttons. This happened all the time with my EP1 and EPL2, where she kept changing shutter speeds, EV, ISO etc. accidentally. One day, she shot everything on F/16! The EPM1 is much more bullet-proof.

    [​IMG]

    I have set the direct video record button to AEL. I don't do a lot of video, so it's not a loss for me. If I did do a lot of video, and if I wanted an AEL button, I think I would like this camera less, though you can easily switch to video mode through the menu button, and I’ve heard many video shooters say shooting in movie mode (as opposed to direct video access button) is better because you have more control over settings. Also, my wife said she kept hitting movie record button accidentally on my EPL2. The EPM1 tucks the movie record button mostly out of the way, because your thumb wants to be on the rubber grip, not on the record button.

    [​IMG]

    Another great use of the video record button is during playback. I've programmed the video record button to do instant picture delete. Press it, and the picture disappears without a prompt. The button is out of the way, and hard to hit accidentally (it's actually on a little sloping angle that tucks it well out of accidental reach). It makes for the easiest way to review and delete pictures of any m43 camera I've tried (having now tried EP1, EP3, EPL2, EPM1 and G3). This is very handy.

    One negative on the lack of buttons. I have no place for MF assist. So, for me, the EPM1 is about using native lenses or legacy lenses with the VF2, but using MF assist isn't really workable in my current configuration. But for legacy lenses, I mostly use my EPL2 for the IBIS, anyway.

    The IBIS Issue
    The EPM1 IBIS issue is truly an issue on my camera. IBIS 1 (Auto), or IBIS 2 (vertical) degrades picture quality. IBIS 3 (horizontal) less so. So I leave IBIS off. With the PL25, getting a good shutter speed has not been an issue. My PL45 has OIS, and the 14mm doesn't often need IS (because of the f/2.5 and wide angle nature). If I were a kit lens shooter, though, trying to get indoor shots at 42mm at f/5.6, this would be a big issue for me. I've also assigned my 14-150 to my EPL2, which has good IBIS, though I might rebuy a used Panny 45-200 or the newer X 45-175, to get OIS.

    One other item of note: if you shut off IBIS, the EPM1 fires burst shots at 5.5fps! (vs. 4.1 with IBIS on)

    Ergonomics
    This camera is far more hold-able than I had first thought from seeing the reviews. Many reviewers bemoaned lack of grip (I think they were just reading their clip-board check list: “IBIS – yes. Grip – no. ISO 256,000 – no”, etc.) I never planned on getting one until I happened to hold a floor model at Best Buy. The rubberized thumb rest (see picture above) on the back is brilliant. I could possibly consider a Freniac grip, but I've got a white camera, and I'm not sure if he does one in white. But if you are used to holding compacts at all, the EPM1 is actually easier to hold, though it's not really a one-handed camera. One hand under the lens, the other using the rubber thumb rest. I did put on a wrist strap very quickly, though, as I shoot one handed from time to time (e.g. low to the ground shots), and it's a little tenuous one-handed. After the first few minutes out of the box, I knew this needed a strap. One odd thing -- Oly doesn't include a wrist strap. For a camera this small? A neck strap is really overkill, IMO.

    Some reviewers have noted the screen is too small. I agree with that in principal, but I've never wanted to look at the backs of cameras that much anyway, and when you think about the physical shape of the device and the 4:3 sensor, you realize there wasn't much choice for the screen size. Oly actually made great use of what they did have, using the black spaces on either side of the image for the menu items, so the picture doesn't get cluttered up with icons. I just returned a G3 that cluttered up the image to some extent and a NEX 5n, where over half the screen is cluttered in icons (“I think there’s an actual photo image in there somewhere"). This screen size is a physical limitation that Oly turned into a positive.

    [​IMG]

    I have a VF2 that I purchased to use with my EPL2. When I’m indoors, I prefer using a viewfinder for stability. As a joke, I tacked it on the EPM1. I was really surprised. The VF2 works very nicely with this camera. I was worried it might look clownish, top heavy, or just have silly ergonomics. Turns out it doesn’t look that bad, and ergo-wise, is very useable. This may sound strange, but my breath often fogs up the LCD on my EPL2 when using the VF2. It doesn't on the EPM1. I think the screen is just small enough to stay out of the path of my breath (I use my right eye when using the VF2).

    [​IMG]

    Last ergo comment: Shutter release. I saw a lot of talk about the Gariz soft release buttons. My EP1 and EPL2 could really benefit from one of those. But IMO, the EPM1 shutter release is both raised up nicely, and already quite responsive. With my EP1 and EPL2, I had to push the button flush or below the trim ring around the button. The EPM1 shutter triggers before the button recesses, making it very easy to trigger. Very nice. My only thought is that this body is so small that the shutter has to be adding some kind of camera shake (though the shutter sound is actually pretty understated and pleasing, albeit not silent). The EPM1 body would greatly benefit from an electronic, global shutter.

    Image Quality
    I won’t comment too much on image quality at high ISO. We’re all here at mu-43, and we know from the DXO hounds that we have a supposedly sad-sack sensor, especially in the Oly. This past week, I had a G3, a NEX and the EPM1. My tests confirmed what I already knew. At ISO1600, the G3 is one stop ahead of the EPM1, and the NEX is one stop ahead of the G3. I would say that the NEX (in terms of noise) is just a hair behind my old 5D (I no longer have the 5D, so I was going by some shots that were not entirely comparable). But having said that, I’m still pretty pleased with the EPM1.

    I've been a RAW shooter for 3 years, but the jpgs coming out of this EPM1, for home-and-family type shots, are very useable. Three things I mainly used RAW for: White Balance, dodging and burning, and color and contrast adjustments.

    This camera has, hands down, the best WB I've used in any camera -- compact, DLSR or CSC (and I've owned too many to list). You can actually see the camera, when you point it at a a scene lit by an incandescent light source, show at first that yellow tint, then go “oops” and all the colors correct. Magically. Why the heck can’t anyone else do this!?!? I haven’t tried it yet under florescent, but I’ll get a chance tomorrow at a local Awanas club program.

    Because of the WB improvement, I decided I might venture into more jpg shooting, but there’s still the dodging and burning issue. The iEnhance option is not perfect, but it does a pretty good job. Of course, when you artificially increase the brightness of a shadow with an Oly sensor, you get some noise, but the jpg engine here is pretty good. Yes, there's some smearing at, e.g., ISO1600, but again for family type prints, it's very acceptable. With the PL25 on, I was firing away pictures of the kids over thanksgiving weekend, without hesitation and almost no post production work. My EPL2 and EP1 files needed a lot more work.

    So, beside WB and lightening/darkening an image, my last use of RAW – color and contrast adjustments – seems to be pretty well taken care of by 1) using better lenses (I highly recommend the PL lenses), and 2) some minor tweaks in LR (mainly auto tone and some black point adjustment). I am sure I won’t come off RAW entirely. I’m too much of a control freak, and working B&W, IMO, doesn’t do so well off jpg, because you lose the color tonal control that you get in a RAW conversion, but for indoor and/or family shots, this is a nice camera in jpg mode.

    One other, random comment.
    I don't know why this matters, but I can open the battery door and swap out an SD card and the camera doesn't shut down. My EP1 and EPL2 would shut down if I tried to remove the card. Might be useful for some kinds of work. I just discovered this by accident.

    In conclusion: Two thoughts: I can't believe this thing was only $440, and I can't believe I basically have my old 5D + 50mm in the palm of my hand. Yes, it has quirks, and it might not fit everyone (kit lens shooters, maybe video shooters), but it's a fantastic second body, and for me, I think it will be my primary body, and relegate the EPL2 to second body status.

    Some sample JPG shots with the EPM1 + PL25. Straight OOC JPGs. No adjustments made in Lightroom (including that first shot, which was under incandescent lighting).

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. Jonathan F/2

    Jonathan F/2 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

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    Man, that white E-PM1 looks good! I'm tempted to sell my black E-PM1 and get a white one! :tongue:
     
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  3. Offriver

    Offriver Mu-43 Regular

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    Nice review! Beautiful setup! I love the white e-pm1 w/ the black lens & vf2 - looks awesome.
     
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  4. WT21

    WT21 m43 Boom-a-rang Subscribing Member

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    One thing I like about the white body and my old silver EP1 vs. my all-black EPL2. The VF2 is rubbing off paint on the hotshoe of the EPL2. No issue with the white or silver bodies, as there's no paint to rub off :)

    But I do think the EPM1 body in black is also super attractive, but since I had an EPL2 in black, I wanted to try a white body. Jonathan -- I see from your other post that you have the opposite: white EPL2 and black EPM1).
     
  5. starlabs

    starlabs Mu-43 Top Veteran

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    Thanks for the great user review. I've been thinking of replacing my GF2 with the EPM1. Perhaps when I get more fundage. :tongue:

    BTW I think white is actually a great color for a camera. My GF2 is white and it looks splendid. :biggrin:
     
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  6. krugorg

    krugorg Mu-43 Hall of Famer

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    Great review - it does look pretty awesome in white with the PL25 mounted!
     
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  7. Djarum

    Djarum   Super Moderator Charter Member

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    very nice review!
     
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  8. e_kjellgren

    e_kjellgren Mu-43 Regular

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    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Get a grip!
     
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  9. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

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    I have the E-PM1 and agree with all your findings. I read where you have assigned the 14-150 to your E-PL2... but I'd love to get more feedback on how it looks and works on the E-PM1.
     
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  10. WT21

    WT21 m43 Boom-a-rang Subscribing Member

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    I'm just assuming with the IBIS issues, a lack of grip, the fact that the body is small to begin with, and the slow lens (f/5.6 at the long end) that it's not the best fit, nor is the EPM1 body really for something past, say 50 or 100mm (unless maybe if the lens itself had OIS).

    Since I need two bodies (my wife keeps borrowing one of my cameras), I just assigned the longer/legacy lenses to the better IBIS. It's a worthwhile question, though. I can't say that I did any testing, and in bright light, the IBIS would be a non issue.
     
  11. Hyubie

    Hyubie Unique like everyone else

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    Very nice review, Bill. Question though - has the size of the focus area improved (decreased)? I have only used the E-PL1, and I assume the E-PL1 has the same focus area size as the E-P1.
     
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  12. WT21

    WT21 m43 Boom-a-rang Subscribing Member

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    Hi Hyubie,

    The AF area was only big on the EP1 (and maybe the EP2?) With the EPL1, all the Oly's inherited that decreased focus area.

    Even more useful, though, the newest pens (EP3, EPL3 and EPM1) have a faster processor/bigger AF brain. I noticed this on my EP3, and it's carried over into the EPM1, too. The camera is MUCH better at focusing on the subject where you focus point is on. The EP1 would always grab the brackground, the newest pens are very fast, and much more sure (though still prone to errors that all CDAF systems are prone to).

    Two thoughts:

    1) perhaps someone with an EPL1 and one of the new pens could compare/contrast?
    2) I know you have a G3. When I tried the G3 this week, i discovered their very fine AF control (I think they called it "pinpoint AF"?). That's still better than any of the new pens for "small box" AF.
     
  13. okinana

    okinana Mu-43 Veteran

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    Great review. Just recently traded for an E-PM1 black body and awaiting its arrival tomorrow. I will still have to purchase the PL 25 sometime in the future. For now the 14mm will probably my main lens for it.

    I am looking forward to it.

    Thanks for all the information.

    Any thoughts on the infamous rattlesnake sound with the PL 25?
     
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  14. WT21

    WT21 m43 Boom-a-rang Subscribing Member

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    The sound is there. It doesn't bother me. It's better in some conditions, worse in others. Better on my EPM1 than it was on my EP1. The output of the lens makes the sound disappear in my mind. That $440 price from Panny over BlackFriday weekend would have made this lens a complete no-brainer. Even at the $599 I paid for it (ouch) it's still worth it to me.
     
  15. okinana

    okinana Mu-43 Veteran

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    That price indeed was low but only if you have that amount to spare. I can only drool and dream about it for now.

    I agree with what you said about the sound getting drowned by the lens' output (I am guessing you are referring to the image quality).
     
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  16. timallenphoto

    timallenphoto Mu-43 Veteran

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    I admire your enthusiasm but I'm not sure why you're comparing it to a 5D? Surely the only thing in common is the focal length of 50mm? It's not true f1.4 and image quality is a long way behind, or am I missing something?
     
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  17. Art

    Art Mu-43 All-Pro

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    Great review. I'm loving my E-PM1. I assigned Rec button to AFL (I don't use AEL usually). I've been using this camera for 3 months now and I'm still getting excited every time I get to use it cause it's just such a joy to shoot with. I agree about AWB, no camera I've ever tried could even come close in artificial lightning w/o any presets. It really does seem like magic. I'm mostly using E-PM1 w/Panny 14mm and it feels far smaller and lighter than my E-PL2. I also love using Oly 45 with E-PM1 - super fast face detect (w/eye detect) and always perfect skin tones (mostly due to magical AWB). I was shooting portraits with Canon T1i + nifty fity last week indoors. They all came out horrid - skin is yellow brown, no WB preset was suitable. Files required substantial editing to be usable and I still was not able to adjust WB in LR to achieve pleasing enough skin tones (not even close to E-PM1 SOOC output). They required sone careful hues adjusment (not fun at all, hobby should be fun).
    Glad PL25 works out for you. It didn't for me. It's just way too bulky (3x size of Panny 20mm), heavy and noisy while AF speed is not nearly as instantenous as Panny 14. I think even if it'd be cheaper than Panny 20 I'd still prefer the pancake (I'm in m43 cause of size primarily). I do like PL25 output and bokeh though (but then Oly 45 is way better and smaller).
    My only negative about E-PM1 is that the boundled flash can't bounce unlike E-PL2's built-in flash. The IBIS is useless on E-PM1 but it's not like the competition has this feature anyway.
     
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  18. WT21

    WT21 m43 Boom-a-rang Subscribing Member

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    First off, just want to say I love your work. Visited your gallery, etc. I could get lost in there pretty easily!

    You bring up a fair point/question, but I think for my use, it's a comparison I intentionally made.

    It's replaced for my usage the 5D + 50mm 1.8 that I shot with most. I'm a 50mm FOV shooter, which is why I don't use the Fuji X100 (35mm FOV) or NEX (no fast 50 equivalent, in terms of FOV), and why I never got along with the Panny 20/1.7 much.

    IQ, as you know, is not a single score or parameter. It's a mix of variables, with some variables having meaning for certain folks, and other variables weighing heavier for other folks. For me, this combo hits most of the variables that I look for, at least out of all the combos that are currently available in any CSC.

    In my review, I think I already pointed out that the Oly sensor is about 2 stops behind NEX, which is pretty close to a 5D. So, for high ISO, it's lagging. But as I shoot mainly in brighter conditions, that's not as much an issue to me. In darker conditions, and for family/fun photos, the jpg engine and WB have improved. There is some loss of detail to NR and jpg smoothing, but if you aren't cropping much, and doing basic sized printing, you won't notice it really. I didn't notice it in full screen viewing, until I zoomed into 100% view.

    DOF wise, the 25/1.4 behaves similarly to a 50/2.8, which is pretty darn useful. I never did shoot much at 50/1.4 (when I had a 50/1.4) or even 50/1.8. I was usually at 50/2 and higher.

    The PanLeica lens renders colors and contrast very nicely. IMO, better than any other m43 lens I've tested. To the level of L glass on a 5D? No. But pretty close to my old 50/1.8 on my 5D. And pixel sharpness is fairly comparable.

    Can the EPM1 + 25/1.4 replicate the entire 5D & 50/1.8 experience? Not entirely. But I couldn't stick the 5D in my jacket pocket, either (or take movies for that matter).

    A good used 5D is about $1,000 + 50/1.8 $100 = $1,100. EPM1 (if you sell the kit lens) $300 + ~$500 for the PL25/1.4 = $800. Cheaper and smaller, and close enough for family/fun shooting. I don't do paid gigs anymore, but if I did, I would use a 5Dii + L glass (if we're talking e.g. portrait/wedding), but just for me? I'll take this little kit.

    So, for personal purposes, I think this is highly comparable to how I shot and used my 5D, and it has quenched my desire for a 5D -- which I have bought and resold over the last 3 years, thinking "I want my 5D back" then "ugh, I don't want to lug this around anymore". I can only talk about my experience and use, though. Other folks will have other needs, approaches, tendencies and desires. I hope this posting helped someone better evaluate this fine little camera.
     
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  19. WT21

    WT21 m43 Boom-a-rang Subscribing Member

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    I agree with the 14. The EPM1 + 14 can be shot easily one-handed, focuses lightning fast, and is a great combo to get funky angles/environmental shots with. If I could afford a second EPM1, I would, just to mount one with the 14 and one with the 25.
     
  20. drizek

    drizek Mu-43 Veteran

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    Wow. I just saw that first picture and I instantly thought "I want one".

    Haven't even read the review yet. I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for a good deal on one of these.
     
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