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Olympus Pen...perception vs reality

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by dixeyk, Mar 1, 2011.

  1. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    I have noticed for quite some time that Olympus Pen cameras are seen as somehow inferior to their Panasonic brethren. I have an EPL-1 and for me it's a nice little camera. It does what I want it to do. When I was first thinking about getting into m43 I took a long look at the Panasonic GF1. In fact I came very close to buying one but I found that IBIS, the VF-2 (as I like to use legacy lenses) and the terrific picture quality in JPEG were big selling points for the EPL-1 and I went with the Olympus. I think the Panasonic GF1 is a very cool camera but it just wasn't for me.

    Now, since then it seems as though the Panasonic's have become the choice of folks that want a "serious" camera. Excuse me for being a bit bewildered but when did that happen and why? Granted the Panasonic look the part. I think they are quite attractive but where it counts (the images it produces) the Olympus and Panasonic are on a par with one another. In fact, i would argue that the JPEGs from the Olympus look better and the RAWs looks very VERY similar. The Panasonic's have better video. The Olympus however does a respectable job with video though and with the right lens (try it with a 50/1.4 Super Takumar) it can look pretty darned good. The Panasonic (if its like my previous Panasonic cameras) likely has a very good UI and well laid out controls. I recently had the opportunity to play with an M8 and it had it's own UI quirks and oddities. I figure each brand has their way of doing things and once you figure it out it's no longer an issue. Then again I drove a Fiat when I was younger so I have a high tolerance for "weird" control schemes.

    To me the two camera lines represent very different design philosophies. I can see how each would appeal to a different sort of user. Each has it's strengths and weaknesses. For the Panasonic it's great Ui and controls, lovely industrial design and outstanding video (rivaling the big DSLRs). For the Olympus it's IBIS, great JPEG output (I'd say their JPEG engine is without peer) and the best EVF in the VF2. I didn't mention the fine Panasonic lenses because lenses are interchangeable between bodies. What I don't get is why the Olympus is somehow a less serious camera. Last time I checked it doesn't get delivered by clown car and make farty noises when you snap a picture. What gives?
    • Like Like x 8
  2. mauve

    mauve Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 9, 2010
    Paris, France
    2 words : art filters.

    For some twisted people with narrow minds, no serious camera can have such a 'toy-ish' feature.

    But you are right to point both brand address different consumer segments. I love my e-p1 for the control of b&w imaging ; vastly superior to what the gf-1 offers IMHO, with embedded colour filters and tints output.

  3. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    I think Oly pens are seen in pretty much the same light as the Panasonic GF1 and now the GF2. There are a slightly different sets of strengths and weaknesses, but they're both capable of pretty much the same excellent images. I've had an epl1, an ep2, and a gf1. I didn't like the epl1 because of the buttons-only interface. Other than that (how did you enjoy the play Mrs. Lincoln...), I thought it was an excellent camera. The ep2 has a great interface, as does the GF1. The EP2 produces generally nicer jpegs, which doesn't matter to me, and has IBIS, which occasionally does, a little bit. The GF1's primary advantage is its just a quicker operating camera. The Olympus cams, at least pre-epl2 (which I understand is quicker) just take their time going about their business. A little slower to AF, a little bit more shutter lag, a little bit more blackout time on the screen and it just doesn't feel like as immediate a camera as the GF1. Which is why I ended up keeping only the gf1 when I added a GH2. But that only matters for certain types of shots - shots I happen to like taking. But for most landscapes, city scenes, portraits, etc, the Olympus was more that fast enough.

    The GH2 is a different story - it really takes m43 to a new level both in terms of high iso and AF speed. In a body style I don't love but has its advantages. But I'm sure future Oly pen models and Pany GFs will be there too. In terms of the pen-style cameras, though, I don't think there's a qualitative difference between the two - just slightly different strengths and weaknesses...

    • Like Like x 2
  4. BrianK

    BrianK Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 20, 2011
    Lansing MI
    Hmm, Im really really new but I really dont get that feeling at all, as a total M43 newbie coming from the "canikon" ranks, here is the perception I have.

    ( and when one is on the canikon camp, other brands are not even on the radar it seems )

    My Broad Sweeping Statements are.

    Basically the m43 guts are the same with minor quirks/differences in each brand.

    If one refuses to shoot raw and only jpg then they should go Olympus, if they shoot raw then it does not matter just pick a team.
    Mmmm pretty blue Oly : )

    Image stabilization see statement #1 Oly in body Pany in Lens.

    Video is awesome on all models, awesomer/awesomest on the GH1 and GH2.

    All m43 users are in on the secret that mirror-less rocks.

    All m43 users would like a bit less noise at higher ISO's

    All m43 users would like a bit more Native Primes.

    M43 native lenses can be pricey.

    Red dots either outrage you or make you laugh.

    The lack of a GH2 review at DPReview saddens the world.

    I want art filters on my G2 dammit. :mad: 

    Im sure there is more, but so far I get the impression that both teams are well respected.

    Your mileage may vary. : )

    • Like Like x 11
  5. icase81

    icase81 Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 22, 2011
    Philly, PA
    The one thing I'd like in a Pen is an integrated EVF. My $200 Sony P&S has one, why shouldn't my $500 Interchangeable lens. Sure, I can put the VF-2 on, but then I lose the ability to run an external flash in the shoe. I like the form factor of the G10. I might pick one up because the bodies can be had for < $300 brand new. I don't even care if the EVF is B&W, I just like the idea that when its bright and sunny out, I know I will have no issues seeing the image.

    I just somehow like the Olympus name better than 'Panasonic' despite knowing that the glass is Leica. Its an unfounded opinion, but I think VCR when I think Panasonic, not camera.

    So yeah, thats my 2 cents. I just wish someone would make a newer/better m4/3 sensor that was better at high ISO.
  6. shoturtle

    shoturtle &nbsp;

    Oct 15, 2010
    The pen's are great travel camera. But since they do not have the classic dslr sharp, it does seem that some think it is not a pro as the panny's. But ability wise, it can do everything that the bigger camera does. The panny are better HD camera's, the pen's are better high iso camera. The gh2 is a completely different level of m4/3. You really can not beat it for video. And the exclusive sensor it uses it excellent for photography at high iso.
  7. ZephyrZ33

    ZephyrZ33 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 18, 2010
    Southern California
    Technical details aside...

    My theory is that Oly's availability makes it more of the crossover consumer camera. I have never seen a GF-1 being sold outside of an online vendor, so you have to know about m4-3rds to consider it.

    Another factor is brand and product recognition. Plenty of people recognize the "PEN" moniker from Oly's film days so it seems safe and familiar if you're afraid of change. A couple years ago, you'd have to be tech saavy to know that both Olympus and Panasonic offer a new format using the same sensor.

    For someone who is well informed with the spectrum of m43rd bodies it doesn't matter, but given these factors, it's safe to assume that at one point, the proportion of "serious" to "casual" shooters leaned towards "serious" with the GF-1.

    Until they offer a prime lens (like the 20mm) as a kit with the EP-L series camera, I'm going to give the nod to Panasonic for having the more "serious" option. However, being on this board, we should all know better... it's the shooter's preference.
  8. pictor

    pictor Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 17, 2010
    One of the biggest advantages of the E-PL1, which I own, is its great EVF. This EVF changes everything. The E-PL1 is good to hold and I like its button layout, which I can operate blindly without putting the camera away from my eyes. In order to change the aperture, I just have to count the clicks and I am there. In my opinion this is easier to do with buttons than with a fiddly dial. The great EVF of the E-PL1 makes it a joy to photograph with manual focus lenses, too, because of its very usable resolution.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Mellow

    Mellow Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2010
    Florida or Idaho
    I'll probably get flamed for writing this, but I think part of it has to do with the fact that Panny users are more 'passionate' about their gear than Oly users. By this I mean that they tend to criticize the competition more and refuse to accept flaws in their own system.

    (NEX users, by the way, are a lot like Panny users.)

    As an owner of BOTH systems I feel I'm somewhat unbiased and can make such an outrageous claim. I do read this and other m43 forums, and it seems like Olympus cameras take a lot more heat than Panny cameras. Go search on Oly 14-42 kit lens for example and you'll find it described in very unflattering terms. And it's actually quite a good little lens.

    Olympus has also chosen a different path in m43 than Panasonic, emphasizing size and not pure IQ, and to some it equates to poorer quality. This difference is most clear when you compare the UWA or long telephoto offerings of both manufacturers--the Oly's tend to be much smaller, lighter, but slightly poorer optically. Yet I'd argue that this emphasis is exactly what made m43 popular in the first place, and distinguished it from its bulkier DLSR competition. But that's another discussion for another thread!
    • Like Like x 3
  10. icase81

    icase81 Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 22, 2011
    Philly, PA
    Agreed. I'd like to see some lower priced lenses. I am not a pro photographer by any means, but I enjoy taking photos. I really don't have it in my budget to buy an $800 lens to take UWA shots, esp when the camera itself costs only $400. Its a hobby, not a profession.

    I was under the impression u4/3 was supposed to be a lower cost alternative and a bridge to a full DSLR. If theres no difference in price and features other than size, why would I not just buy a full sized DSLR that has a larger sensor and better performance?

    All of the videos on Oly's youtube page show a middle aged soccer mom using the camera. This is not the market that wants a $300 accessories and $800 lenses. They'd pick up a $100-200 lens, and if its not perfect optically they dont' care because they don't do much/any editing. They might crop the photo or do some red eye correction. Thats it.

    Maybe I'm crazy though. I replaced my "high end" Sony point and shoot with an EVF but fixed lens, not because I was displeased with the performance or size, but because I wanted interchangeable lenses.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. shoturtle

    shoturtle &nbsp;

    Oct 15, 2010
    I actually would agree with your assessment. The whole pen this is about portability. With good quality. The panny is a bigger product in general. So the big lenses are not a big deal if you are mounting them to the g and gh camera. But a 100-300 on a gf is a bit awkward to handle.
  12. daimos

    daimos Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 23, 2010
    i think because of web reviews that favor the 20mm lens, people jumped in, and the lens with a panasonic body is the cheapest way to get it.
  13. shoturtle

    shoturtle &nbsp;

    Oct 15, 2010
    that is true also, the 20 1.7 was pricey when it first came out, so getting the gf-1 was the cheapest way of getting it.

    But the 14-42 vs the 14-45 test, show that the oly lens was actually optically better, but both were poor. But with m43 the correction made both of them equal.
  14. icase81

    icase81 Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 22, 2011
    Philly, PA
    In the end though, if you showed an image taken with a 'poor' lens next to an image taken with a 'good' lens, 98 out of 100 people couldn't tell you which was which. People often forget we tend to show these images off at 2-3mp resolutions on the web to people. They also often get horribly JPG compressed if you're uploading to facebook or the like. An AMAZING lens just isn't going to show up that much better than an average lense.
  15. shoturtle

    shoturtle &nbsp;

    Oct 15, 2010
    yeah, most people will not be able to tell with the social network site. Flickr and photobucket lets you post higher res photo. So you do not need to crop 100% to see the imperfections of the lenses.

    Think the m4/3 thing has 2 branches, a compact system for dslr owner to travel light with, with the flexibility of different lenses. And a system that is almost as fancy as a full dslr, just slightly smaller.
  16. WT21

    WT21 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    No Offense -- but this thread is the kind of discussion that drove me from DPR. "Panny is Better!" "No, Oly is!" and the requisite "most people" or "those types of users" over generalizations (such as "Panny users take their gear more seriously" or "most users can't tell the difference")

    It would be sad to see this kind of us-vs-them discussion propagate here. mu-43 has been an oasis largely from that. So, I have to ask -- why bring this kind of rhetoric here? DPR is already a forum for folks who want to angle that way. Just my opinion, of course.

    Having said that, I wouldn't mind a camera that makes farty noises when I take pictures (in reference to the first post). I bet I'd get some more naturally laughing folks when doing portraits!
    • Like Like x 3
  17. shoturtle

    shoturtle &nbsp;

    Oct 15, 2010
    each has their pros and cons, it comes down to what you are looking for in you mu4/3. panny and oly each does certain things better. And it comes down to the user to decided what their needs are, and which one fits better. No winner or loser here.
  18. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010

    I hadn't meant the thread to be a this is better than that thread (I thought I was pretty straight forward abut saying that in the OP). I too am a refuge from DPReview. I am genuinely curious as to why Panasonic's are considered more "serious". The reality is they are both very capable cameras. I would go for the farty noises if I could adjust the volume and tone to suit. :eek: 
    • Like Like x 1
  19. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    That's true. I had forgotten about that. The same seems to be true of the 14/2.5 right now.
  20. pdh

    pdh Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 6, 2010
    perhaps we could start a thread about why mu-43 is a better forum than dpr.
    • Like Like x 2
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