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My Olympus M4/3 Dilemma

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by Dave Jenkins, Jun 12, 2012.

  1. Dave Jenkins

    Dave Jenkins Mu-43 Veteran

    I’ve been using the Olympus E-PL1 for nearly two years now, and I still can’t get used to it. My difficulties are truly almost enough to drive me back to using film in an OM-1 or 2. I’ve been saving up for an OM-D, but now I’m not so sure that’s the way to go.

    Here are the things I hate:

    1. Menus. I hate, hate, hate the menus. It seems like whenever I touch the wrong button (which I seem to do most of the time) I have to dig through the menu system to find some obscure thing I did wrong. The information about how to correct it often seems even more obscure. The menus in Canon’s D-series cameras are worlds simpler to use, and while they’re not analog, they are a lot closer to it.

    2. Buttons. I hate having to fiddle around with the buttons to set the camera up for a shot. This whole way of doing things is so slooow. I long for the days of analog, when it was just aperture, shutter speed, and focus, all done with simple, easy-to-find-and-use controls. Can’t anyone other than Leica make a compact digital camera with simple controls?

    3. The EVF. I have read that the Olympus VF-2 is the best of the electronic viewfinders and that the OMD is even better. I hope so, because I find the view through my Canon 5D better in every way than the VF-2. Kirk Tuck speaks highly about “pre-chimping,” but it just doesn’t seem to work that way for me.

    4. General inconvenience. It seems that every time I pick up the camera it’s set wrong for what I want to do with it. So I have to fuss with the menus for a while before I can make the photo (assuming my subject is still there).

    In the same vein, when I want to use the EVF, I usually find it’s set to display the LCD, and when I want to use the LCD it’s usually set to the EVF.

    Also, I’m constantly nudging the EVF with my glasses and tipping it up when I don’t want it tipped up. Nothing major, maybe, but just one more thing. . .

    So, do I like anything about the camera?

    Yes. 1. I love, love, love the size and weight. And not only are the E-Pen bodies small and light, the lenses are also small and light. After carrying a 5D and three zooms to Israel two years ago, I resolved that I would never again burden myself with that kind of weight.

    I could switch to a Canon Rebel, which is also small and light (though not as much), but then I’m stuck with big, heavy lenses again. Same with the Sony NEX system.

    2. The image quality. Maybe not as good as the 5D, but very, very good. The files look great in the large format coffee-table books I do.

    3. The out-of-camera jpegs. If I meter carefully I can avoid the extra nuisance step of converting RAW files to jpegs. And the Oly jpegs are great, as many have remarked.

    I’m in a quandary. I find the E-PL1 slow and inconvenient to use, but I need small and light. I still have OM film bodies and a few lenses. Should I go back to them? Should I just learn to live with the weight of my Canon system? Is the OM-D the solution to my problems? What to do, what to do, what to do?
    • Like Like x 5
  2. KS11

    KS11 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 31, 2011
    Busan/Hong Kong
    Actually very good points about camera usage, I use my OM and Pen F film cameras more than my ep3 nowadays. Different philosophy and totally different styles of setting up the shot and composition.
  3. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010

    Well the E-PL1 is the most button centric of the m43 cameras. My GH2 (introduced 2 years ago) is as simple to use as my DSLRs ever were. I have a clickable thumbwheel to change aperture and exposure compensation. The EVF is almost as roomy as the one on the 5D although it's not an OVF that's for sure, then again I can't magnify the view on an OVF.

    Could the E-M5 be the answer? It's a heck of a camera.
  4. dcassat

    dcassat Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 16, 2011
    I get it ...

    I'm sure anyone who has used the OLY can understand the frustrations that you voice here. I have an old Minolta x700 at home and occasionally am reminded how much simpler the device was to operate.

    But it's not a camera, it's a mechanical and processing device in one. Computers have improved and complicated our lives considerably.

    The trick is to devise a system that takes all of the many things that you do and streamlines the processes to accommodate the machine. If this is all stuff you've heard and tried then perhaps another camera and interface would be better.

    The Menus:
    I have an E-PL2 and use the Super Control Panel
    I use MYSET and have mysets for people, landscapes and brackets

    The process:
    -I shoot manual mode for landscapes and aperture priority for people
    -I start EVERY session by selecting the MYSET for the situation, without this I simply would go mad setting up the camera before each session.
    - If I'm confronted with a high DR situation I select the MYSET for bracket

    The shot:
    After MYSET is selected, I aim the camera at the subject and spin the dial to set the exposure by adjusting the shutter speed, using the histogram. I double check the aperture which is usually set at 5.6 for landscapes to start. ISO is almost always 200 for landscape as it's on a tripod in lower light.

    The focus point is double checked and I click the shutter.

    Honestly, I thought I would have to send my camera back. Until I devised A SYSTEM to accommodate the issues I was having it was just always hard. The myth seems to be that manual mode is somehow more difficult or more cumbersome but actually it involves fewer steps.

    I understand your issue and maybe you need to look at the Panasonic menus, they are somewhat more straight-forward.

    Good luck in your decision.
  5. Dave, do you use the Super Control Panel? It took me nearly 2 years to find it, and has helped....a bit. But, like you, I don't enjoy the button pushing.As Dixeyk says, the E-PL1 is one of the worst in that regard.
    I would suggest trying the E-M5, and seeing if you like it. I played with one briefly at a tradeshow, and adjusting the EV and aperture (I shoot mostly in aperture mode) was very easy using the 2 scroll dials on top. I understand also that you can turn the LCD off altogether, which I would love. I'm really looking forward to getting the E-M5 or similar in a year or so.
    I can't comment on whether you should go back to your film cameras, my film cameras weren't exactly SLRs. But I would hate to go back to the ongoing expense and delays of using film.

  6. ean10775

    ean10775 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 31, 2011
    Cleveland, Ohio

    I too feel your pain with the E-PL1, but like you, have kept it around because of the files it produces. In response to your frustrations:

    1. Menus. The smaller the camera the fewer direct buttons it can have without getting to cramped. As such, most smaller cameras are menu-centric. The OM-D may have more direct control but like all Olympus models its still a menu-driven camera. If you haven't been using the Super Control Panel on your E-PL1, try it - it makes a huge difference.

    2. Buttons. The OM-D has dual control wheels so there are more settings that can be changed (aperture and shutter speed for example if you are shooting manually) simultaneously without resorting to buttons

    3. The EVF. An EVF can't compare to an OVF and short of the Sony EVFs, the VF-2 is as good as it gets at the moment in my opinion. If you are disappointed by that, I'm guessing you'll still be disappointed by the EVF on the OM-D. I believe that the camera has an eye sensor though so turning it on/off shouldn't be problematic as you mentioned it was on the E-PL1

    4. General inconvenience. I tend to shoot in Av mode with Auto ISO and Auto WB (unless I'm indoors using incandescent lighting). This minimizes the chance the the settings will be somewhere other than where I want them to be. That said if you want to control those things all manually, I can see how changing everything individually on the E-PL1 can get frustrating. Again, the Super Control Panel is your best bet.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. CUB

    CUB Guest

    First, may I congratulate you on your success and the exquisitely high standard of your work.

    I share your dislike of menus, buttons etc., and have a very similar opinion of my Panasonic G3. As a former OM-1 and OM-2 user I like the look of the OM-D very much, but its menus are even more impenetrable than the G3's.

    Unfortunately, I don't think Micro Four Thirds is aimed at users like us. I like the reasonably good image quality, small size, lightness and relatively low cost (excluding the OM-D E-M5!) but using the unnecessarily complex interface detracts considerably from the m4/3 experience. Give me simple, classic controls every time.

    My answer to the conundrum: I kept my Leica M outfit, still shooting film, and my full frame Nikon DSLR. Meanwhile I saved hard for an M9 body.

    I still use m4/3 gear when I need a smaller, lighter, more versatile outfit for short trips away from home, but for everything else I use full frame digital or film.
  8. mowog6000

    mowog6000 Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 2, 2012
    Oregon City Oregon
    Pat bailey
    Since I shoot legacy lenses on my EPL-1 I don't seem to have the problems you seem to have, I just set the ISO(just like picking what film you want) and set it on aperture and set the f stop, focus and shoot away just like having a film camera.
    My only complaint was with the movie button which I quickly disabled after buying it. I also have the VF-2 and have no problems with and I too wear glasses it frames the picture and allows me to get a critical focus so what else do I need? I'm using it as I would a film camera and only mess with menus when I want to change film(ISO)

    This is why I got it to be able to replicate the film cameras I used to love but have the digital format.I recommended the EPL-1 to a friend who got a refurb for $119 and he has a lot of legacy lenses from his old days and he is jazzed to say the least.
  9. Spuff

    Spuff Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 5, 2010
    Berkshire, UK.
    I almost never have to go into the deep menus when I'm on a session.
    Every control I might want to adjust is displayed within one button press. Why would you need to often visit the deep menus to adjust settings within a session?

    I did have a go a big SLR and I did like how the buttons were more numerous and more spaced out. But the EPL1 doesn't really bother me.
  10. tonyjuliano

    tonyjuliano Mu-43 Regular

    Let me try to address your concerns...

    This is from someone who absolutely hated thier prior experience with the EP2 several years ago, and swore off all of m/43 as a result.

    1. Menus. I too hate wading through menus, but fear not. With the amount of dials and buttons that can be customized, along with the programmable mysets and super control panel, you hardly ever will go into the menus.

    2. Buttons. This camera can be set up just like on old-time film camera. Front dial for shutter speed or exposure comp, rear for aperture. Good stuff.

    3. The EVF. As good as the EVF's have gotten (and the one on the O-MD is pretty good), they will never approach a good optical viewfinder.

    4. General inconvenience. Mysets, mysets, mysets - once you get them initially set up, its all gravy.

    forget the LCD for composing (unless your shooting overhead or down low), just use the great VF.

    The VF, as you know, on the E-M5 is built in, I also hated that articulating VF2.

    The size of the E-m5 is awesome for me, obviously compact, but not too small, and I have huge hands.

    Canon Rebels are huge in comparison.

    Image quality is not quite up top the level of my 5DMKII, but is very close to my older 5D. High ISO is a huge improvement from the EP2.

    OLY jpegs are good, but I shoot mostly raw.

    The OM-D is a MUCH different animal than your EPL-1, in almost every respect, believe me.
  11. Mikefellh

    Mikefellh Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 7, 2012
    Toronto, Canada
    Not me...I love the fact the camera is so customizable, compared to some others out there. I get frustrated when another brand forces me to use the settings chosen by the company (they don't give you the option of changing a particular setting). As well Oly's menu system has been rated best by pro reviewers.

    Maybe this video will help you:
    [ame=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxFFkZot24I]An In-Depth Look at the Olympus Pen Camera System with Wireless Flash - YouTube[/ame]

    Like others already said here, I use my MySets are starting points when doing a shoot, so I know all the settings are at a particular default setting...I have my studio settings, my outdoor settings, my indoor settings, my low light settings, etc.

    I think of what situation I will be in, and choose the MySet I had programmed with those settings. I can then change whatever setting I want/need for the particular situation, because I know I can always go back to a particular state and start over next time; I don't need to worry that I've changed some obscure setting that I've forgotten about, because the MySets have my defaults programmed into them.

    In the film days of course you'd do this by changing films (or popping on a filter).

    Other than the MySet menu, and of course the Card Format menu, I rarely go into the menus, because most of the menus are how the camera is configured, like which way the wheels will turn, whether the screen will show the shot I just took and for how many seconds, things you will only set ONCE.

    For everything else, that's what the Super Control Panel is for...everything on one screen.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. the.growler

    the.growler Mu-43 Regular

    With all due respect for the good advice offered in this thread, is a new camera, a new custom setting or a "Super Control Panel" really the answer to Mr. Jenkins' dilemma? He misses the simplicity of just taking pictures without having to worry about an infinite range of controls and settings. There's nothing wrong with that. We convince ourselves that we have to master every new technical advance, and the most obscure details, or we can't call ourselves "real" photographers. I don't believe that to be true.

    @ Dave Jenkins: If you don't like digging through the menus of your camera or pressing buttons, don't do it. Set your camera on "Auto", go take pictures that you enjoy and tell the "perfection police" to go to hell. It's your camera, it's your art, it's your life. An image that you enjoy taking but which falls short of technical perfection is a darned sight better than no image at all. A camera that sits on a shelf because you don't enjoy using is worse than having no camera at all. And if you still don't enjoy using your E-PL1, sell it, get something simpler, and don't look back. You don't have to worry about impressing us.

    Just my two cents.
    • Like Like x 4
  13. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    Honestly, it's a rare day when I feel the need to adjust more than 4 parameters: Aperture, Shutter, and/or Exposure comp and ISO. And usually it's either Aperture or Shutter priority, and the E-M5 does a fair job at auto-ISO. Two dials, one button, done. Take picture. Select either the 'clever' autofocus system of your choosing, or set center button AF (second button you need) and voila.
  14. hkpzee

    hkpzee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 5, 2011
    Hong Kong
    Others have given some great advices on how to make an Olympus m4/3 camera more user friendly, so I don't have much to add about that. I also agree that fiddling with the button controls of the E-PL1 could be rather frustrating at times. After switching to an E-P3, and now the E-M5, I have a lot less complaints about user-friendliness.

    Given your frustrations with the control and menu of the E-PL1, it think it is definitely worth giving the E-M5 a try before giving up completely on the m4/3 system. While the EVF of the E-M5 has the same resolution as the VF-2, I find the EVF on the E-M5 more useful than the VF-2 on other PENs due to the better noise control of the E-M5 in low light. Images from the EVF are simply less noisy in low light, making it much easier to manual focus than when using the VF-2. Other than that, if you like good old OM film cameras, put the E-M5 in M mode, using the 2 dials on top, and it pretty much functions like a film camera, doesn't it?
  15. Mikefellh

    Mikefellh Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 7, 2012
    Toronto, Canada
    Well, I photographed with film for 30 years...it's never been a "you push the button, we do the rest" as Kodak's Brownie slogan suggests, at least for me. It was sampling different films, choosing different print paper, different temperatures of developer, etc. it was far more complicated than it is today. Digital can remember settings and recreate them once you have changed them, which MySet is all about.

    But in addition to using Auto you can also turn off parts of the menu like all the gears, and the HDMI menu, but that means you are stuck using what the camera chooses...that's like being stuck with the same "film" for every shoot, whether indoor or outdoor.

    I was an early adopter to digital, getting my first taste back in 1988...the cameras back then had no menus, no configuration. The only choice was whether the flash was switched on or off. Everything else has been decided by the manufacturer when the camera was designed. I wouldn't want to go back to those days, although there are still cameras like that:
    [ame="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZTQ60EBRDo&feature=youtube_gdata_player"]IKEA PS: Jesper Kouthoofd - YouTube[/ame]
  16. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    The OM-D is likely a very effective and very expensive solution to your problem. You might try looking at the Pana G2 body, if you're not dead set on Oly and IBIS. It's very cheap nowadays and I think it'll resolve a lot of your frustrations.
    • Like Like x 1
  17. littleMT

    littleMT Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 8, 2012
    Lucille Sanchez
    I dunno, I got used to the E-PL1 in around 3 days, though I am still learning about some controls, but I still don't find it frustrating, it has been very easy in fact.
    • Like Like x 1
  18. youry

    youry Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 9, 2010
    Winston Salem, NC
    No doubt that digital cameras have tons of buttons and menu choices but imagine how much time you'd lose with your film camera if you had to change the film to suits best a particular shot. I remember in the old days having cameras without a light meter and having to guess all parameters. By the time I was ready to shoot my subject was long gone.
  19. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    >>Can’t anyone other than Leica make a compact digital camera with simple controls?<<

    Fujifilm X-Pro1 comes to mind. While it has menus if one chooses, the basic controls are old school (aperture on the lens, shutter speed on top of the camera body). They've had teething troubles but they seem to be onto something. At a price, of course. Less expensive than Leica but 'way more than an OMD.

    The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is:

    13% (18.5 mm) narrower and 10% (7.8 mm) taller than FujiFilm X-Pro1,
    1% (0.6 mm) thinner than FujiFilm X-Pro1,
    and weighs 11% (50 grams) less than FujiFilm X-Pro1 [450 g] (*inc. batteries and memory card).

    (courtesy of Compare camera dimensions side by side)

    Of course the size of the lenses is in line with the size of the camera body.

    Neither the OMD nor the Fuji can compete mm for mm with the wonderful size of the E-PL1. Too bad Olympus didn't follow through with the original PEN-FT design and have the aperture on the lenses and the shutter speed on the body - but of course that would have totally bollixed up the 4/3rds standard.

    I've been toying with the idea of the Fuji; selling off some of my Nikon gear would fund a considerable amount of such a move, I believe.

    I agree that the controls of the E-PL1 are not optimal, and I have one or two other kvetches about the camera; however I have yet to even see an OMD, let alone test one. I'm glad that the camera has been such a success for Olympus, but I sure wish that they would get caught up on product production.

    For me the Fuji X100 is another possibility; the Panasonic 20mm (40mm equiv) is pretty much the only lens I've been using on the Pen, and the lens on the X100 is 23mm (35mm equiv); the controls on the Fuji are where we...ummm..."experienced" photographers are used to seeing them:biggrin:.

    Keep us posted on what you decide; I'm really leaning on the X100 but would like at least to see an OMD before making the move.


  20. ean10775

    ean10775 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 31, 2011
    Cleveland, Ohio
    I too was going to suggest to the OP that if analog controls were preferable an X100 or an X-Pro 1 would be other options. However, as mentioned, the X-Pro 1 is considerably more expensive and my experience with the X100 was disappointing - I wanted it to work like my OM-1 but with a fixed 35mm lens, but I found it cramped and fiddly.
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