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Total newb needs advice

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by snapbug, Jan 1, 2012.

  1. snapbug

    snapbug Mu-43 Rookie

    24
    Jan 1, 2012
    Seattle
    So, I have read and read and read until my brain is likely to explode. I have read the differences between the various models Olympus makes in this class, and just can't figure out what I need. Let me explain:

    I'm basically a point-and-shoot newb. I have a camera that would make most of you laugh. But it will let me shoot nearly everything on manual, so for the last six months, that's what I've been doing. I'm using auto focus, because the manual focus on my camera might as well not exist, and auto white balance, but I'm adjusting the shutter, the aperture and the ISO for every shot. And I like it! The camera has, like most point-and-shoots, a simple extending zoom lens.

    I have never used a DSLR. I am completely self-taught in all of this. I'm having tons of fun, though, and running into situations where my camera simply isn't up to snuff anymore. I need a camera that will allow me to shoot in lower light, and to experiment with different lenses, depths of field, etc. But I also run a cycling blog, and I do a ton of riding and travelling, so my friends' suggestions about DSLRs never thrilled me: too much camera. Too heavy. Honestly, if I could, I'd get a vintage 35mm camera, if it could somehow shoot to digital :). I want something small and light, with interchangeable lenses, that will let me control as much as I want for each picture.

    That led me to the Micro 4/3 cameras. The Olympus appeals to me visually more than the Panasonic, and I like the idea of image stabilization being built into the camera, so that I can use all sorts of lenses with it (as I understand it). But what I don't know is... which one to buy.

    I don't want a camera that's so rooted in tech-bang wizardry that I have to burrow into menus to change settings because it's built to be totally auto. I may be a newb, but I'm learning. I want a camera that feels like I'm driving. I want a camera that appeals to my heart, that's fun to use, and that can grow with me as I learn to use RAW, learn about different lenses and what they can do... and I know if I walk into a camera store with all this, they'll just try to sell me the hottest, latest thing, whether it's the best thing for me or not.

    As to what I like to photograph... everything. People, landscapes, pets, bikes... you name it.

    So, perhaps I'm not ready to be here, but I think I am. Any advice?
     
  2. MajorMagee

    MajorMagee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2011
    Dayton, OH
    Let's start with the obvious question. What's your budget?
     
  3. snapbug

    snapbug Mu-43 Rookie

    24
    Jan 1, 2012
    Seattle
    Sorry, the one thing I forgot! Assuming I sell the bike I have listed on eBay right now... about $1000.
     
  4. zerotiu

    zerotiu Mu-43 Veteran

    222
    Sep 13, 2011
    Indonesia-Singapore
    "I don't want a camera that's so rooted in tech-bang wizardry that I have to burrow into menus to change settings because it's built to be totally auto."

    maybe..EPL2 / EP3? or EPL3? EPL3 has less button than EP3..
     
  5. spatulaboy

    spatulaboy I'm not really here

    Jul 13, 2011
    North Carolina
    Vin
    To be honest, most m4/3 cameras are very beginner friendly, so I don't think you need to worry about getting in over your head. On the contrary you might want to plan ahead and look for more advanced features, by the way you describe your new found photographic enthusiasm!

    You should plan your budget for lens purchases though.
     
  6. derick

    derick Mu-43 Regular

    62
    Dec 13, 2011
    I'd say get the EP3. Menus etc. are all customizable and you can make it as auto or manual as you like. And it will fit comfortably in the pocket of a cycling jersey - I haven't taken mine on a ride yet, but plan to as soon as I am back in sunny California.

    Actually maybe you shouldn't trust me on this - I lost a Pentax ME Super off a bike in Paris and a Sony p/s out of my jersey pocket on the way to Alpe d'Huez - of all the rides - halfway up the switchbacks and I stopped to take a shot and realized it was gone :(

    But I love my EP3.
     
  7. snapbug

    snapbug Mu-43 Rookie

    24
    Jan 1, 2012
    Seattle
    Fortunately, I ride an upright transport vintage bike, so no jersey pockets ;). You can visit me here: rideblog | a wee blog about bikes. There's a photo blog there, too, under Snapbugblog, but I suspect you all would not find it very exciting (except possibly that the photos are as good as they are, considering my camera!).

    The EP3 is gorgeous and looks intriguing, but I wondered, after watching some video of it in use, if I'd really find the touch screen worth the money? I generally compose shots carefully, not take them quickly. My impression was that it was perfect for street photography, but I wasn't certain of an advantage otherwise. I don't think super fast bursts are going to be my forte, either, so I'm not as concerned about that.

    Does it have an advantage over one of the cheaper models, aside from the touch screen? Cheaper model = more lenses for me, since my budget is pretty set. I'm prepared to play around with an EP3 with one of the kit lenses for a while, though, if it's a better camera for me.
     
  8. RnR

    RnR Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    Hasse
    Go for a second hand E-PL2 - plenty of money left over for lenses. Especially if you go old skool glass.
     
  9. zerotiu

    zerotiu Mu-43 Veteran

    222
    Sep 13, 2011
    Indonesia-Singapore
    your photos are good and interesting. They are not a 'new guy with point n shoot camera' results!

    EP3 advantages over the lower model (image results is basically the same):
    - touchscreen. The first time I use touch to select focus points, WOW! It's mega handy! haha
    - more buttons = better (but it doesn't matter. Really, sometimes P mode create better results)
    - flash?
    - looks. I use mine for street photography, retro looks helps a lot.
     
  10. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    First, I love your Blog. It's lovely and reminds me that I need to get out and rode more than I have been recently. I live in Whatcom County and your images remind me of how lovely the world can be just a few steps off the beaten path (literally).

    Second, if you come form the point and shoot world and want to try out m43, like manual controls and don't want to spend a wad of cash I'd suggest you look for a nice used E-PL1 or E-PL2 (our for sale area has them quite frequently). They can be shot on full auto if need be, have a built-in flash, take great images and has all the manual control you could ever want. My preferences run toward the E-PL2 over the E-PL1 as I like having a control dial as opposed to buttons. I also find the E-PL1 FUTT BUGLY (but that's just my opinion).

    They are both terrific cameras and even better bargains. If you're anting to buy new then I'd suggest an E-PM1. It's point and shoot small with all the other inherited goodness of the other PEN cameras. It is a bit sparse on buttons but easily customizable and doesn't require much menu diving.

    Kevin
     
  11. steve16823

    steve16823 Mu-43 Regular

    181
    Sep 26, 2011
    Brookfield, IL
    You have a really good eye for composition. Based on a quick browse of your blog, I doubt the extra features on the E-P3 would be worth the $$$ for you, especially coming from your Point-and-shoot because any micro-4/3 camera is going to open up a whole new world of techniques to experiment with. My $1000 shopping list:

    Olympus "Factory-Demo" E-PL2 w/ 14-42 lens $369 (Digital Camera Store | Cameras for Sale) Cameta is highly reputable and the 'factory-demo' units they get should be like new.

    Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 (about $340 from various places or find one used for less, although the lens is so popular used prices can approach new prices).

    The remaining $300? Put it in the bank! After you get comfortable with the E-PL2 and lenses, you'll have a better idea where you want to go. Maybe a 45mm f/1.8, maybe a 9-18mm, maybe some old manual focus glass or an FL-36R to play with some light.

    Best of luck, and whatever you end up purchasing, I look forward to seeing the images you create!
     
  12. snapbug

    snapbug Mu-43 Rookie

    24
    Jan 1, 2012
    Seattle
    Great advice so far, thanks!

    And thanks for the blog and picture compliments. I feel like I just sort of fell into the photography as a byproduct of the blog. I was taking pictures with my old point-and-shoot, and they were often ruined by the camera's inability to take anything resembling a focused shot in low light on any setting (it was an ultra-cheap one). So I "upgraded" to my current camera, with the idea that it might be fun to shoot manually. The second I started, I was hooked. Then I noticed that folks were writing in to ask me what camera and lenses I was using. I figured this meant I was taking pretty decent photos, so I kept working to get better. Then I hit the camera's wall.

    Which lenses would be good starters with an EPL2? What about if I went with the EP3 (I don't know yet what will seduce me in the store, and I don't want to go touch them until I have the money. I know where that can lead...)? Which kit lens would I look at? The 17mm or the 14-44mm? I really don't even know what the difference is between the two. Because I've never had to think about lenses, it's wide open to me. I understand the aperture settings (f1.8 or 2.0) will make a lens better in lower light, but what about the mm and the relative speeds? How do I figure that stuff out?

    I'm learning so much with this. It's a HUGE learning curve, but it's tons of fun, so I'm happy enough to learn more.
     
  13. snapbug

    snapbug Mu-43 Rookie

    24
    Jan 1, 2012
    Seattle
    Steve, that's super helpful! Thanks! I'm now going to be biting my nails until the darn bike sells... I've got 8 days left on the auction, and lots of interest (it's a rare bike), but you never know with eBay. It's always touch-and-go. I want to sell it NOW :).
     
  14. steve16823

    steve16823 Mu-43 Regular

    181
    Sep 26, 2011
    Brookfield, IL
    This is simplified, but here's a start.

    The aperture settings effect two things:

    1) the amount of light that comes through the lens, such that a lens with a large aperture (f1.8 or 2.0 to use your example) will allow you to take photos with less light. You can also let more light in by lengthening the shutter speed, at the expense of blurring the image due to motion of the camera and/or subject.

    2) The amount of the image that is in focus (depth of field), such that a large aperture lens will allow you to have LESS of the image in focus so that you can isolate subject elements from the background with the plane of focus.

    Although not quite a sharp or as fast (wide aperture) as the 20mm f/1.7 the 17mm f/2.8 is a respectable lens but I doubt you'll find one with an E-PL2 in stock anywhere. Perhaps an E-P2 but those are getting pretty hard to find. In my opinion, the extra $$$ for the 20mm is worth it for the extra 1.5 f-stops in aperture.

    You may or may not have figured out yet that an F-stop is a doubling of the amount of light, so that an extra f-stop will allow you to half your shutter speed to achieve the same exposure.

    The focal length of the lens (the number in millimeters!) determines your field of view. The shorter the focal length, the wider the field of view.
     
  15. snapbug

    snapbug Mu-43 Rookie

    24
    Jan 1, 2012
    Seattle
    Thanks, Steve. That does help, though I'm still finding depth of field hard to wrap my head around. I think I'll have to SEE the difference for myself to really understand. I totally get the f-stop thing. My current camera has an aperture range of 3.4-8.0, which I understand is not bad for a sub $200 point-and-shoot. The ISO range sounds good for a compact, up to 1600, but I get noise at anything over 200, and even 200 is dicey, so I have to shoot everything in 80-100, which means wide open apertures and slow shutter speeds. Yes, I have a tripod. It's a tiny one, pocket-sized, but it works wonderfully for what it is. I just learned how to hold the camera more securely with both hands, as well. But with all that, the limits are really starting to bother me. I can't always whip out a tripod and set it up, particularly if I'm photographing birds along the trail, which are a perennial blog favorite. My hands aren't particularly steady due to nerve damage in my shoulders and back, so I'm just ending up with a lot of shaky photos.

    More than that, though, I'm bothered by the inability of the camera to accurately capture colors and light at the extreme ends of its tiny range. I'm so sick of washed-out, dark gray blackberry bushes in every shot that I swear I now see the real thing in shades of gray as I'm riding (my head composes a shot and thinks: nope, gray blackberries again. Those things EAT light). I'm also sick of anything brightly lit turning into a white zone with no detail. Because I can't shoot in RAW, I can't correct much when I get home. I'm relatively comfy with Photoshop, and I love to post-process, so I think I'll really enjoy working with RAW images. I'd also love to be able to play with things like HDR, though I'm not as in love with that technique as some folks seem to be. But when I was shooting in Ireland, or even in my local farmland, I kept thinking: there's got to be a way to get skies that aren't washed-out with land that isn't too dark. Seems like there are moments when a little HDR capability would come in handy. I understand I can bracket photos with these cameras, so I'd like to try that.

    I live in Washington, so I must get better low light performance :). I keep hearing that the Panasonic 20mm is the one to go with for this, to start out.

    And I love the idea of getting to use some vintage glass, eventually. I'm riding a 43 year-old bike, for heaven's sake! I love me some vintage.
     
  16. zerotiu

    zerotiu Mu-43 Veteran

    222
    Sep 13, 2011
    Indonesia-Singapore
    I've posted this before. I think it's very helpful for those who are still new :
    APS-C VS Full Frame
    Although I wrote about sensor size but you can understand the relation between aperture, field of view, focal length, etc.
    I hope it helps.
     
  17. M4/3

    M4/3 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    713
    Sep 24, 2011
    Brand new E-PL1's with the sharp 14-42mm kit lens are being offered at give away prices like $279 even from authorized Olympus dealers like J&R electronics:
    Olympus PEN E-PL1 12 MP Four Thirds Camera Body with 14-42mm Lens Kit - Black in Point and Shoot Digital Cameras | JR.com

    Then you'd have a bunch of money left over for faster prime len's if you wanted some, plus the very handy VF-2 electronic viewfinder ($200 at Cameta camera: Olympus PEN VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder for Micro Four Thirds (Black) works on PEN Series Cameras with Accessory Ports as an Eye Level EVF Viewfinder

    The gearheads here are kind of embarrassed to suggest the E-PL1 because it's not Dodge Hemi fast to focus, but it's out of the camera jpegs are slightly better than any other Pen and the VF-2 viewfinder gives you terrific resolution for accurate manual focusing.
     
  18. snapbug

    snapbug Mu-43 Rookie

    24
    Jan 1, 2012
    Seattle
    Zerotiu, that was helpful, though I'm still not quite getting it. I've got to try it out and experience it, I think. I'm no "gearhead," as M4/3 puts it :).

    Is there a huge difference, other than the focusing speed, between the 1 and 2? I don't require a lightning fast focus, but I wouldn't want to be dragging my feet, so to speak. I do need to take the occasional photo of my son playing baseball, for instance, or my cat (has anyone else noticed that cats are never, ever fully still? Or is that just me?). If it would make the difference there, I'd pay for a faster camera. I've never really used a viewfinder, as all my cameras for the last ten years have been point-and-shoot lcd screen beauties. I'm not sure I'd miss one, though it would be fun to try one out. But if it means missing the shot of my son hitting that first homerun... how would the focusing speed influence that sort of thing?
     
  19. zerotiu

    zerotiu Mu-43 Veteran

    222
    Sep 13, 2011
    Indonesia-Singapore
    yes..there is huge difference if you talk about EPL1 focusing speed. If you want the fastest AF speed. 3rd Generation PENs are the best. EP3-EPL3-EPM1. You know, fairly cheap body+lens combination with that AF speed only can be achieved with expensive lens in DSLR world. So that's also the reason why I switched to m43.

    and..hmm..if you like to take cat photos, I think you have to be more patient if you use EPL2. Although it can't be judged that way. AF speed is not the main thing but for some moment, it helps a lot to have super mega flash gordon AF speed :)

    Cat bonus I shot last week :
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  20. snapbug

    snapbug Mu-43 Rookie

    24
    Jan 1, 2012
    Seattle
    The cat photos rock! I've been poking around in the galleries, and all my favorite shots so far, I scroll down... and there's a tag for an EP3. I may have a problem here :). There's a feel I'm looking to achieve, and that camera seems to nail it. I haven't seen many 2-series photos yet (haven't dug in far enough, I think), but maybe it would, too. I don't think I'll go to an EP1 at this point: the technology is changing so rapidly, and I'm sure I would wonder what I was missing all the time. If I stay with a 2-series or 3, then I'll know I'm reasonably close to the most current stuff. I say this knowing the EP4 is due out anytime, and will probably come with some amazing new feature I haven't even thought of yet.

    I'm sacrificing all new technological gear to get this camera. No smartphone, no new iPod, none of that. This is a huge financial investment for me (I'm a teacher). So I don't want to be second-guessing it in a few months when it's baseball season again, or when the cat does something adorable.

    I wish my bike would sell faster, magically. There's an EP3 with Panny 20mm on my local CL for $700. However, I have 8 days left on my auction and no guarantee that this round will produce a sale (fingers are triple-crossed though), and that deal won't last, I suspect. Though you never know. Must wait for cash... MUST. WAIT. FOR. CASH.