How much better is E-PL1 with VF2?

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by FloridaPhil, Apr 24, 2012.

  1. FloridaPhil

    FloridaPhil Mu-43 Rookie

    Apr 22, 2012
    Sarasota, FL
    Hi all,

    New member, first posting.

    I recently picked up an E-PL1 with wide and telephoto zoom kit at Costco and have been pretty pleased with it. Until today.

    I went birdwatching and was incredibly frustrated with the camera. Several things did not work well:-

    1. Not having a viewfinder made it very difficult to point the camera accurately and it was tiring on the arms too, not to mention the fact that I had to keep putting my glasses on to see the screen! Age is a PITA.

    2. Even in shade, it was very difficult to see birds among the bushes on the LCD screen, even when I knew where to look. There seems to be a lack of both brightness and resolution.

    3. Autofocus was only good as an approximation. I have the camera set up with MF by default with back button AF. The autofocus would invariably focus either in front or behind the bird. By the time I had MF, the bird had moved.

    4. I found the in-camera LCD zoom function (for fine focus adjustment) to be almost useless since it STARTS at x7. At the long end of the telephoto zoom at 150mm (300mm 35mm equivalent) that works out to 2,100mm - making it impossible to track a bird when it moved - which of course they do all the time.

    It seemed I was working VERY hard to get the shots I did, while the guys around me just seemed to point and click on their (mostly) Canon DSLR's.

    I have heard good things about the VF-2 viewfinder and was wondering if it would at least help with items 1 and 2. What I don't know is how much a VF-2 would help reduce the frustration of items 3 and 4.

    Even if I add a VF2, maybe I'm trying to use a hammer to drill a hole?

    All advice and comments appreciated.


  2. supermaxv

    supermaxv Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 20, 2011
    Yes, it sounds like the VF-2 will help with 1 & 2 and possibly 4. Have you enabled a smaller AF area with your E-PL1 to help you better nail focus?
  3. FloridaPhil

    FloridaPhil Mu-43 Rookie

    Apr 22, 2012
    Sarasota, FL
    Yes. Center zone only. Problem is, at much more than about 15ft, the zone is too large and focus is normally locked on foreground foliage.

    I guess what I'm getting at is this - am I better to move to a different system for this kind of photography? In addition to my earlier comments, I notice that there are precious few fast zoom telephoto lenses - and I haven't seen any primes yet at all. Wonder if those are 'on the way'.
  4. ill_dawg

    ill_dawg Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 26, 2010
    Another problem might be the zoom. Is it the old 4/3 one with the adapter, or the newer native u43 version? My pl1 came with the old one, and the autofocus is less than spectacular. If birding is your thing, and you didn't care about other older 4/3 lenses, it might be worth selling the long zoom and adapter to pick up the newer version. The vf2 is great, and will make your life a lot easier, but better autofocus will help a lot with catching things that don't stay still for long.

    Sent from my HTC Desire Z using Tapatalk 2
  5. FloridaPhil

    FloridaPhil Mu-43 Rookie

    Apr 22, 2012
    Sarasota, FL
    I am pretty sure it's the newer lens - it's an m.zuiko 40-150mm f4-5.6.

    Funny you say that about the 4/3 lenses - one of the options I was considering was the 4/3 70-300mm with adapter. Maybe I need to rethink that too! I'm not too bothered about having to use MF - I just need to be able to see to do it.
  6. rparmar

    rparmar Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 14, 2011
    Limerick, Ireland
    A viewfinder will help with some of these factors, plus being able to zoom in the viewfinder will give you an advantage on getting precise focus over the DSLRs. Of course this doesn't help for a moving target but will help where the subject is relatively still and behind grass, tree branches or other items that interfere with AF. But you will need to focus manually.

    For BIF the tracking in a good DSLR is simply superior. Right tool for the job and all that.
  7. Spuff

    Spuff Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 5, 2010
    Berkshire, UK.
    You can make the focus zone smaller than that. Simply press the magnifying glass button and you will get a very tiny focus point (which you can move about). It can still be difficult to aim the focus point through foliage gaps to what you want to focus on though.
  8. FloridaPhil

    FloridaPhil Mu-43 Rookie

    Apr 22, 2012
    Sarasota, FL
    I like the idea of 'spot focusing' but on my camera, pressing the magnifier just takes me to the x7 magnification screen, which as I said before, gives me the ridiculous 2100mm equivalent image on the screen.

    Are you sure that's a feature on the E-PL1?
  9. songs2001

    songs2001 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 8, 2011
    I have the VF3 and EPL1 it's still pretty hard to track birds in flight with it. Not sure if it's because of the lack of the eye cup, it was still pretty hard to see in the bright sun.

    It's still better than shooting with the LCD and for manual focus lenses it does make things a lot easier and I'm sure a VF2 with its higher resolution would be even better.

    I think a separate EVF is worth getting, the VF2 or VF3 will probably work on future Olympus cameras.

    If you really want to do birds in flight, the Nikon 1 series with the built in EVF is probably the best option in the mirrorless world.
  10. wlewisiii

    wlewisiii Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 16, 2011
    Hayward, WI
    Real Name:
    William Barnett-Lewis
    For cost reasons, I got a VF3 rather than the VF2. It's smaller, not quite as nice but it solves the problems inherent in a camera without a built in view finder. I find the combination excellent for the kind of artsy landscape/nature shooting I do. However, I have a feeling most of these cameras aren't going to be as good for birding unless your chasing raptors sitting on road signs watching for moving edibles :cool:

    This might be a case where an old MF tele might do you some good - stick it on aperture priority and zone prefocus the lens based on distance to the bird, then tweak the focus only if you have to?
  11. Fred S

    Fred S Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 20, 2012
    Real Name:
    Fred S
    IMO if you want to do birding a VF-2 is a must. As you probably already know this by now
    and IMO a 70-300 is also a good lens
    I use a Viltrox adapter and a 4/3 Zuiko 70-300 on my E-PL1
    I am very happy with this set up
    Works just fine.

    Here is a Robin shot from approx 15m

    Attached Files:

  12. penfan2010

    penfan2010 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 12, 2010
    NJ, USA
    I use my E-PL1 with the VF-2 and a particularly long and heavy lens (the Olympus Four Thirds 70-300 with the Panny MA-1 :43: converter). The VF-2 provides much more balance when hand-holding long lenses, and helps a lot more with tracking birds or aircraft than the LCD. No problems with contrast either, at least relative to the LCD. I would strongly recommend getting a VF-2, especially as used ones seem to be going for about $165-170 on this forum now that many members are moving to the E-M5 with built in EVF.

    That said, I still experience some of the problems you have mentioned, particularly the lens focusing a little bit ahead of the subject. I've learned to compensate by pre-focusing on a patch behind the bird I am photographing.


    I don't recall having this problem when I used this lens on my old E-500 four thirds camera, so it must have something to do with the E-PL1, Interestingly, I don't have the same problem with close up shots of insects.

    • Like Like x 1
  13. MajorMagee

    MajorMagee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2011
    Dayton, OH
  14. Minniesmum

    Minniesmum Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 2, 2012
    I have found the VF2 indispensable for manual focusing on my E-PL1. The LCD screen is useless outdoors in bright light. I may not have invested in the VF-2 if I was only doing AF with native lenses but pleased I did for my legacy glass-which I use 99% of the time.
  15. When you have zoomed in using the magnifier button, you then press the "info" button, and you can increase the magnification of the centre spot to 10x or 14x.

    Yes, you will need the VF2 to overcome many of the problems you are facing. The E-PL1 isn't really a specialist birding camera, so you are always going to have to compromise. If birding is your thing, perhaps look at a DSLR set-up.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. FloridaPhil

    FloridaPhil Mu-43 Rookie

    Apr 22, 2012
    Sarasota, FL
    Thanks for all the responses guys. I really do appreciate it.

    Since I have no plans to photograph birds in flight, I think I'll give the VF-2 a try based on what you have all said here. I know this camera is capable of getting the shots if only I can see what I'm shooting. And I can lose the eyeglasses too!

    Will let you all know how I get on with it.

    Thanks again.

  17. vvc

    vvc New to Mu-43

    Jul 9, 2012
    How'd the viewfinder work out? I'm considering getting either the vf-2 or 3. Is it as clear as an optical viewfinder, where you can see how things slightly in front of and behind come in and out of focus?
  18. Declan97

    Declan97 Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 3, 2012
    Padang, Indonesia
    I Previously I used the viewfinder on the E520 when first using EPL1 felt awkward with the method of finding a focus on the LCD screen. Due to the need to do a photo in the early afternoon, and many use the manual focus lenses, I find the electronic viewfinder 2 is worth any price. Not just a matter of habit and the way the focus but rather to how evf2 as a tool to find the focus to the tasks and functions are also to see the photos and the menu setup options
  19. Jorg.S

    Jorg.S Mu-43 Regular

    Cameta has the VF2 Refurbished on sale for the price of the VF3.
    But I would hurry as they usually don't last very long.
  20. mowog6000

    mowog6000 Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 2, 2012
    Oregon City Oregon
    Real Name:
    Pat bailey
    I bought a refurb VF2 from Cameta my only compliant was bad packaging but it came through OK. The VF2 has a diopter adjustment so I can wear my glasses and see the entire frame before I had to keep putting my glasses on and off .