Have I bought the wrong camera? or Do you shoot kids with E-PL1?

mushmorok

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Hi guys,

first of all I as many others am quite new to photography. I even kinda hated it, as my spouse always insists on taking pictures here and there and repeatedly taking shots until she gets the desired results. This changed last year when I decided to buy her a new camera (to replace the old P&S one) - not to complicated (read - DSLR), compact, but still producing good quality photos. This is how I entered the world of m43 cameras. In order to be able to understand the reviews I started reading for things like aperture, f-stops, crop size etc. (Things I'm still learning :)
To make the long story short - I've decided on the E-PL1. So far so good. Did my spouse liked it? - initially yes, but this later turned into, I would say, pure "hate" and this is mainly due to the fact that she is constantly trying to take pictures of our toddler (16months old) indoors, which I think is one of the hardest conditions for taking photos with any camera. Of course she could use the built-in flash, but this does not produce results better the P&S.

So my question is can this camera handle this type of situations and with what lenses? I really started to like this camera and don't want to "throw it away". I've read allot and I'm still hoping that a Panasonic 20mm lenses will fix that "problem" to a good extent, but I'm not willing to cash out just to try them out.

If some of you have similar experience in these type of situations, please share - how do you handle it - do you use specific lenses, do you use flash or just use different camera?

10x

P.S. Of course I'm quite aware of the fact that a huge factor for the poor quality of the photos in these conditions is actually the photographer behind the camera :)
 

Fred49

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m4/3 an kids

I have an EP2
20mm is far better than the kit lens for kids photos, but less than ideal.
The AF is still quite slow and i get a lot of missed photos.
I wouldnt change my setup yet, but in the future after maybe 1 or 2 generations ill upgrade my EP2 when m4/3 has made significant improvement for AF.
 

Hyubie

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Hi mushmurok,

I have an E-PL1. 98% of my pictures are of my 2 toddlers (5 and 4), and the remaining 2% are test shots. :biggrin:

Anyway, you have a very good camera in your hands, but we face the same problem - how to photograph kids, especially indoors. I have a DSLR kit before I got the E-PL1, but even with that I still have a lot of bad blurry pictures. The best indoor shots I had with the DSLR were taken with f/1.8 and still with a flash - though I used a flash diffuser.

There are many factors I'm sure you will hear, but for me it boils down to the lens. The E-PL1 kit lens is fine when taking pictures outdoors, but indoors, even when the sun is streaming through our windows, I still found the pictures very noisy. Maybe your wife and I even shared the same initial feelings towards the camera. When I got the Olympus 17mm (which I got because even though it is slower than the 20mm, it was way cheaper), I started to get waaaayy better pictures - some I would even personally say spectacular.

Tripods don't work for me, I don't like too much noise in the pics (thus high ISO is usually not an option), and good thing E-PL1 has an in-body stabilization. So yes - getting a faster lens would solve a big part of your problem.
 

bilzmale

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The kit lenses for :43: are not (optically) fast as they have apertures that start around 3.5 and go up to perhaps 5.6. The Panasonic you mention has an aperture of 1.7. These are called f numbers and go in a sequence where each step halves the light coming into the camera. The 'full' f stop sequence is:

1.0 >> 1.4 >> 2.0 >> 2.8 >> 4.0 >> 5.6 >> 8.0 >> 11.0 >> 16.0 >> 11.0

I digital cameras the f stops are infinitely variable but you may recognise the sequence from graduations on old film lenses.

So from 1.7 to 3.5 is roughly 2 full stops so the light is (1/2 x 1/2) or 1/4 at the 3.5 range compared to the 1.7. To expose correctly the camera has to lengthen the shutter speed to let enough light in and you get problems with movement leading to blurry photos. Using our figures above, the shutter speed has to be 4 times as long, going from say 1/120th of a second to 1/30th of a second which is stretching the limits of experienced snappers even with image stabilisation. Now if you zoom in to say a f number of 5.6 this is a stop and a bit more than f 3.5 and the shutter speed goes down to about 1/10 of a second.

The answer: You need a faster lens like the 20mm f 1.7 you mention costing $300-$400 but you have no zoom.

In honesty I think your wife might be better with a quality point and shoot with a fast lens like the Panny LX5, Olympus XZ1, Canon S95 or my own choice the Samsung EX1/TL500. These are all in the $400-$500 price range and all have a useful zoom range.
 

mushmorok

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Thank you for the quick replies,

The AF is still quite slow and i get a lot of missed photos.
- indeed I have no hopes for a faster AF whatever the setup (maybe only through FW update someday ... )


There are many factors I'm sure you will hear, but for me it boils down to the lens.
exactly - that was one of the reasons I've turned my eyes on the m43, not on some let's say hi-end P&S - you cannot have good results with one and the same lenses in different conditions. So I still have high hopes for the lumix 20mm, but in the meanwhile I'll try and experiment with the flash diffuser idea that you gave me

Has someone tried something like this:
Puffer - Pop-Up Flash Diffuser - Flash Diffusers
or this DIY diffuser:
Gary Fong flash diffuser available for Olympus E-PL1 [Page 1]: Micro Four Thirds Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review
 

mushmorok

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So from 1.7 to 3.5 is roughly 2 full stops so the light is (1/2 x 1/2) or 1/4 at the 3.5 range compared to the 1.7. To expose correctly the camera has to lengthen the shutter speed to let enough light in and you get problems with movement leading to blurry photos. Using our figures above, the shutter speed has to be 4 times as long, going from say 1/120th of a second to 1/30th of a second which is stretching the limits of experienced snappers even with image stabilisation. Now if you zoom in to say a f number of 5.6 this is a stop and a bit more than f 3.5 and the shutter speed goes down to about 1/10 of a second.
Thank you for the detailed math - I knew the relation between exposure, shutter speed and aperture, but never really understood how "big" exactly is the difference between these two lenses. So if I understood correctly the panasonic 20mm is roughly 4 times faster in one and same conditions compared to the kit lenses (when they are not zoomed)

In honesty I think your wife might be better with a quality point and shoot with a fast lens like the Panny LX5, Olympus XZ1, Canon S95 or my own choice the Samsung EX1/TL500. These are all in the $400-$500 price range and all have a useful zoom range.
And you think this because the setup will be much simpler (i.e. no need to change lenses) or because for the same price range one will get better results under the above commented conditions?
 

WT21

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Everything other folks have posted is spot on. I would only add:

A DSLR with a good built-i flash and a reasonably fast prime is still going to get more keepers than m43, but there will still be missed shots.

Also, try taking more video. I have far more video of my kids when they were younger. You also get their little voices and noises, which you'll never hear again after they've grown. When they're older, in fact, you don't want to hear what they say many times!

Video alleviates much of the issue of blurring and flash and staying in the frame.

Just a thought/alternate approach.
 

mushmorok

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Also, try taking more video. I have far more video of my kids when they were younger. You also get their little voices and noises, which you'll never hear again after they've grown. When they're older, in fact, you don't want to hear what they say many times!

Video alleviates much of the issue of blurring and flash and staying in the frame.

Just a thought/alternate approach.
Never had thought of it from that angle :) Do you shoot at HD or SD quality and what type of AF are you using - I really hate the C-AF mode as it goes out of focus from time to time
 

dixeyk

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I have an EPL-1 with the Panasonic 20/1.7 and I regularly shoot pictures of my 7 year old and THE most squirrely little dog you have ever seen (often in available light). I miss some shots but I also get quite a few.

Oh yeah, and the quality of the 20/1.7 is pretty spectacular.
 

Hyubie

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I am not sure if they already have flash diffusers for the E-PL1, but personally I think Gary Fong products are overpriced. :) I've used something from Korea on eBay, and it works. Sometimes, I just even use a white calling card or a plain A4 paper - anything, really - to sort of bounce the light.
 

bilzmale

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Further to my 'maths' yes that's how I understand it. Concerning the P&S it is not necessarily simpler but is definitely more friendly to use and carry, they also have HD video except the EX1 which is SD.

In this post the first and last shots are with the EX1 (cost $320) and the middle shot is GH1 and 100-300mm (cost well over $1000) - mind you I couldn't get that shot with the EX1.
 

jalex

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You could buy an external flash and "bounce" the light for more natural looking flash photos. You shouldn't miss too many shots that way, just make sure you buy an external flash that recycles fast enough (in my opinion, don't buy the Olympus FL 36R - it's a good size for the epl1 but doesn't recycle fast enough - tried it twice and sent back both times).

Also, have you tried using flash and holding the onboard flash in an upright position so it bounces? Works pretty well if your ceilings aren't too high. You might have to play around with ISO and flash compensation when you bounce the flash but I bet you'll find you'll get more keepers. A lot of times I'll set the ISO to 800 (so the background isn't so underexposed when I use flash, then I'll bounce the onboard flash by holding it up, sometimes have to up the flash compensation.

Also, I second the recommendation for the Panasonic 20mm f1.7!
 

LisaO

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If the 20mm 1.7 doesn't do it for you the M4/3 camera might not be the best for what you need to do. One option is a DSLR with a 35 or 50mm 1.8 or 2.0 lens. As both the shutter and the lens are faster in focusing and wide f stop than the slower zooms. Another option the new Olympus XZ-1 fast lens even when zoomed. Probably not what you wanted to hear but perhaps what you need.
 

mauve

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To make the long story short - I've decided on the E-PL1. So far so good. Did my spouse liked it? - initially yes, but this later turned into, I would say, pure "hate" and this is mainly due to the fact that she is constantly trying to take pictures of our toddler (16months old) indoors, which I think is one of the hardest conditions for taking photos with any camera. Of course she could use the built-in flash, but this does not produce results better the P&S.

So my question is can this camera handle this type of situations and with what lenses? I really started to like this camera and don't want to "throw it away". I've read allot and I'm still hoping that a Panasonic 20mm lenses will fix that "problem" to a good extent, but I'm not willing to cash out just to try them out.

If some of you have similar experience in these type of situations, please share - how do you handle it - do you use specific lenses, do you use flash or just use different camera?
To answer the question in the title, you obviously didn't make a mistake, because the e-pl1 introduced you to the wonders of 'serious' photography. Quite an achievement !

The 20 might be a partial solution to your problem. At least, *you* would make beautiful pictures with it, because you obviously like the camera and the 20 is a master at available light photography. It opens up a realm of possibilities you don't even dream of. But it's expensive, and to use it at the fullest, you need to teach yourself the basics of image making, and how to set up your gear. In short, don't expect to snap the lens on the body and shoot around. I'm confident that you're ready to make that effort for yourself, and ready to accept to lose 9 shots out of 10 for the benefit of that last perfectly nailed image you'll be making with it.

Trouble is, if your wife is less technology inclined that you are, and if she already complains about the camera, there's little hope this would sway her mind. We are all different. My wife for instance is a trained video editor (although she doesn't work in that field anymore), and she loves to make films and take pictures. But while she's certainly more technology proficient than I am, she absolutely doesn't want to bother with that anymore. And while I swear by MF lenses and M (or A in the least) camera mode, she wants all-auto metering and AF. I don't mind a bit of weight for a quality bonus, and she favors the smallest possible package. So she has on unlimited loan my Lx2 provided I can borrow it now and then, and she's perfectly happy with that jewel camera. To each his/her own.

In your wife's case, there is no cheap solution. An entry level DSLR would exhibit the same issues because of a slow (aperture related appreciation, 'slow' being f# > 3.5) kit zoom and feeble built in flash, and a very good compact with a fast lens is also expensive but the lens will never be fast enough, and indoor flash pictures will have that special 'rabbit on collision course in the car's headlights' style. To keep on with e-pl1, I'd suggest a better external flash, with head movements and amenities to hold a diffuser. In short, a more professional-looking lighting. Something like a FL-36 [edit : I didn't knew that it had a slow cycle before writing this, and I don't have one - there are maybe better options, but I don't do much flash photography myself]. It's expensive too, but at least, pictures will be sharp.

Just to entice you more toward the 20 for yourself :

My nephew (and my wife) :
<table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/hp4bA0BXVW1GsLrbOdWacA?feat=embedwebsite">
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"288" width="288" /></a></td></tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">De <a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/manuel.viet0/OLYMPUSEP1?feat=embedwebsite">OLYMPUS E-P1</a></td></tr></table>

My niece :
<table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/Sxz_fIMsvlkvyR_iF_TQFA?feat=embedwebsite">
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"288" width="219" /></a></td></tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">De <a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/manuel.viet0/OLYMPUSEP1?feat=embedwebsite">OLYMPUS E-P1</a></td></tr></table>

The daughter of a friend shot in a barely lit church :
<a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/ILFyAXqEO7WwgAxMOtM34k_K0idZpBemuLrbgSR1INQ?feat=embedwebsite">
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"288" width="216" /></a>

same day, other kid :
<a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/eF51b0qJkwKWOREJ7u8IIU_K0idZpBemuLrbgSR1INQ?feat=embedwebsite">
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"288" width="216" /></a>
 

ZephyrZ33

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I have an EPL-1 with the Panasonic 20/1.7 and I regularly shoot pictures of my 7 year old and THE most squirrely little dog you have ever seen (often in available light). I miss some shots but I also get quite a few.
Oh yeah, and the quality of the 20/1.7 is pretty spectacular.
+1 on the 20mm.

I miss a few shots of my little nephews and nieces too, but not nearly as many when hunting with the kit lens.

The results are worth it when you nail it. Especially when they're glowing faces are amplified by the smooth bokeh in the background. (something I find nearly impossible to achieve with my kit lens)
 

cbrock

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The Nissin Di466 is supposedly a great flash, but I have yet to see any complete reviews for the m43 cameras, although all of the ones out there say it's great for the money. They are known as a good quality brand. It comes with a diffuser built in and tilt so you can bounce it off the ceiling. It is also $60 less than the Oly FL36 flash which gets you the same thing almost.

I think I just talked myself into buying it.
 

WT21

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Never had thought of it from that angle :) Do you shoot at HD or SD quality and what type of AF are you using - I really hate the C-AF mode as it goes out of focus from time to time
When my kids were younger, most of my shots were with a Canon SD300 then SD800, so AF was not an option (focus fixed during filming). It was also all SD. I prefer my HD now though, though my kids are a bit older. Still, we do lots of action videos (just did some sledding videos last month). When outdoors, put you m43 camera in P mode, and the aperture will close down so depth of field will cover over focus sins (and I'd shut off CAF).

One camera that you might consider (??) is the Sony A33 or A55 -- fantastic continuous AF, and interchangeable lenses. Although, it may have a overheating issue in video, which might negate what I just said about video, so perhaps never mind on that one.

Others in these replies have also given good tips on flash and lens use. Kids grow up too fast to muck around, though. Try a bunch of approaches, and get what you can while they are young. The small investment in equipment is worth it. You can always try to get back to London (or wherever) for a trip, but you can't make your kids toddlers again.
 

LisaO

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Big Flash on M4/3 is sort of an oxymoron. On camera flash in general is generally very ugly. Babies and small children are best off in natural light or well controlled off camera flash in the hands of someone who knows how to light.
 

dixeyk

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Shot with the EPL-1+20/1.7 in available light

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View attachment 158683

...and this was when the dog decided to attack the camera. Considering he was moving pretty quickly in low light and the shallow DOF it's not that bad.

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shoturtle

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indoor kids shots of them running around is really hard for even a dslr with a big aperture lens if the light is not that great. A flash is really what you need for that kind of shooting.

Something like the new nissin di466 for the m4/3 would do a nice job with the epl-1 and you can go off camera with it also. Or if you want something more powerful, the metz 50 AF-1 is a more versatile flash.

I shoot a high iso canon, and for indoor shooting with action, there is no other way to get great results without a flash. Even at 3200iso that is very clean with f1.4 lenses they are to slow to get great results of movement.

For static shots, lock the iso to 800 on the epl-1 and you will get cleaner and better results with something like the panasonic 20mm 1.7 at f2-2.8
 
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