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New Pens for motorsports?

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by Caroline, Jul 29, 2011.

  1. Caroline

    Caroline Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 4, 2010
    Hello all,

    It's been a while since I visited this forum so apologies for being away for so long ;-) but since hearing about the new line of Pens I have been seriously considering upgrading either to the EP-3 or the EPL-3 to give me a camera system that I can use for motorsports, which is one of my main subjects.

    FWIW I have got some decent motorsport shots with the EP-1, mostly by using it in manual focus mode, but aside from slow AF / having to focus manually, what I find most awkward in using this camera for sports is the blackout between shots and the lack of an EVF. Thus as a result I am still lugging about several kgs worth of Canon DSLR and lenses when I shoot motorsports (which is one of my main subjects). On the other hand for all other subjects the Pen is the camera of choice due to its small form factor and light weight, which I would ideally like to take into my motorsports shooting too.

    So, I am wondering if anyone has yet used an EP-3 for motorsports (or other fast moving sport) and if so whether the issues of shot-to-shot time / blackout and AF (particularly in continuous mode) have been sorted out enough to make it a viable replacement for my Canon 40D and heavy lens collection? Also how responsive is the EVF (which I would certainly buy with an EP-3/EPL-3)? I am used to an optical viewfinder for shooting these sorts of subjects, so really would like something that is not too far off that experience if possible. Also I'm unsure about the EP-3's touch screen and feel I would probably make more use of the EPL-3's tilting screen, which is why I am considering both, but aside from having fewer art filters and the flash is detachable, are there any other significant differences between the EP-3 and EPL-3 that might make the EPL-3 less suitable for the sort of photography I want to do?

    Also as a slight aside, does anyone know whether the EP-3 focuses as fast with the original Pen kit lens? The reason I ask is because I'm not sure whether to buy a kit with the new 14-42 lens and try to offload the Mk I version I have, or whether to go for a kit with the 17mm lens instead, or a body-only. The new camera would be in addition to the EP-1, which as it was one of the first ones in the UK has at least some "collectable" value, so I don't intend to sell it.

    Any advice appreciated,

  2. songs2001

    songs2001 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 8, 2011
    The EPL3 has faster FPS than the EP3 5 vs 3.
  3. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    The new kit lens (Mk IIr) is optimized to focus as fast as possible, and I gather the second gen lens (Mk II) has a firmware update for the same. The original kit lens will be slower, but by how muchI have no idea.

    As for the 17mm, I found that it was rather sluggish with focusing in general.
  4. WT21

    WT21 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
  5. Caroline

    Caroline Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 4, 2010
    Well, Jacobs in New Oxford St in London had the EP-3 in stock today (is this the first in the UK?), so I went in after work to have a play :smile:

    First thing I noticed is how solid and well made it feels - the mode dial has a proper "engineered" feel about it, really positive in use with a definite "click" when you move it - much more so than the E-P1's mode dial. The tiny little popup flash also felt remarkably solid and much less likely to get damaged than I had expected - though I think if you left it popped up and caught it on something hard it would be quite easy to bend the struts that hold it in position, which might prevent the popup mechanism working correctly, so I think I would still be very careful to pop it back down as soon as I'd finished using it. It seemed to pack a fair punch for its truly diminutive size though - obviously not as much as a proper external flash but for such a tiny little thing it looked like it would work well for fill and low light situations. I'd be very interested to compare it to the external flash that comes with the E-PL3 and E-PM1 before making a final decision though.

    The camera really is pretty quick to focus - I asked them to get out a Canon 60D (the nearest thing to my 40D in Canon's current range) to compare with and to be honest I really didn't think there was much, if any, difference in focusing speed at least not in one shot mode. It really is DSLR speed. I didn't really get a chance to test the continuous focus properly as there wasn't a suitable subject (your average snail probably moves faster than the traffic in the horrendous congestion of central London! :wink:) but when I did enable it, it didn't (subjectively) seem to slow the camera down too much. However as I say I haven't tried it in anger on the sorts of subjects I know a medium to high end DSLR excels at so it's hard to tell from the short time I had with it today.

    What WAS different however was what the camera chose to focus on - here it can be obvious how different the focusing algorithms are. For example when I focused on a lens box inside the glass topped counter, the 60D always locked onto the writing on the box whereas the Pen locked onto the scratches in the glass on the counter surface. This happened consistently so I assume it is down to the way the two cameras decided to focus and not not due to rogue reflections etc. that happened to get in the way of one camera but not the other.

    I also tried the VF-2 on the camera and was pleasantly surprised. Not owning a Pen with the accessory port I really didn't know what to expect and when I've used cameras with EVFs before they have usually been horrible: slow, flickery, grainy / noisy in low light and nowhere near fast or reactive enough to follow a fast moving object like a racing car. This one however seemed pretty good - not of course like an optical finder, and there was some flicker as I moved it around, but considering this was in lowish, artificial light I thought it was certainly liveable-with. Again nothing real world to test it with, so I may well see if I can rent it before I buy, but I would not be surprised if it were good enough for most sports shooting.

    I also tried the touch screen focus and for most subjects it seemed incredibly easy and intuitive to use, and probably more useful than I would have expected. I can see it being really great for macro especially in the field where subjects such as insects and flowers have a habit of not staying still for the camera! However I can imagine just tracking the thing you want in focus, touching the screen to focus and shoot, and there's your picture, perfectly in focus :thumbup: I can't see it being as useful for sports though as I think it would be impossible to pan and touch-focus at the same time, and also with the EVF on the camera the touch screen switches off altogether, so we are back to classic tracking AF in this case.

    The only slightly disappointing thing - with all the hype about the EP-3's AF I suppose I was expecting near-perfection! - was that there was in some cases a small tendency to "hunt" in lower light levels, but this also happened with the Canon too, and I don't think to any lesser extent than the Pen. It wasn't also that awful second or two while the camera runs the gamut from minimum to maximum focus that you get with the earlier Pen and most compact cameras either - the focus oscillations lasted less than half a second and were within a very short distance of the "real" focusing point - so at least on this brief acquaintance I am certainly inclined to believe most of the hype about the focusing system. It remains to be seen how good the continuous AF would be for something like motorsports, and I am also waiting until the E-PL3 comes out before making a final decision, but I definitely think a third-generation Pen will be in my camera bag before long :biggrin:
    • Like Like x 1
  6. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Big question for me is how the new PENS fare in Continuous & Continuous Tracking autofocus...
  7. nishendu

    nishendu Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 21, 2010
    Dallas TX
    My question is not if it is fast to focus, but are the images any sharper than EP2? That has been the only problem I have had; camera appears to have it's own mind as far as focus goes. If I wait long enough and try couple of different shots, it often gives me good results, but not as often as I would like. My old Nikon does that much better. I may decide to buy EP 3 but do I need a new 14-42 kit lens?
  8. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    I was just looking at some images shot with a GF2 (and a few with an E-PL2) of snowmobiles doing jumps. I would imagine that the new PENs at the very least should be able to do as well. I have used both version I and II of the 14-42 Olympus kit lens and the 14-42 II is significantly faster. It doesn't focus as close but it IS faster. Whether or not it would be fast enough for something like motorsports is another question altogether. No clue.
  9. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    Is the focus set to single point? I have found that it speeds up focusing quite a bit.
  10. Sammyboy

    Sammyboy m43 Pro

    Oct 26, 2010
    Steeler Country
  11. WT21

    WT21 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    They should be sharper in that the EPL1, 2 and EP3 all have a toned down AA filter, compared to the EP1 and 2, so there will be some additional sharpness because of that. It's noticeable in 100% crops, and perhaps (or presumably) it would also help micro-contrast a bit.
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