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which camera should I take into consideration after a stolen E-PL1?

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by mesmerized, Jun 18, 2012.

  1. mesmerized

    mesmerized Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 18, 2012
    Dear Users!

    I'm a newbie here and I'll frankly admit that my knowledge of photography isn't very broad. Currently I'm in China and my Olympus E-PL1 (yes, I'm an Olympus fan) was stolen a month ago along with my PC... I lost lots of pictures (thousands, as a matter of fact) and I need to buy a new camera since I'm going to stay here for a while. What I'm most interested in is taking pics of people and Chinese architecture... plus some landscapes. I know that kit lenses aren't equipped with large zoom but I don't really care about that. What I need is a good micro 4/3 camera with a large sensor that could give me a shallow depth of field... I don't want a camera that's going to interfere with taken pictures (like NX11 supposedly, which has a lot of noise reduction on the software level... nonetheless it does have a large sensor, doesn't it...) I don't take RAW pics, I need good quality JPGs with vivid colors. Sometimes I had a feeling that my E-PL1 took...hmm...how shall I put it...dreary pics but maybe I'm wrong.

    Anyway, should I go for the same model or something newer? Can I really get a shallow depth of field with a micro 4/3 system camera?

    Appreciate your advice!

    May the Force be with you.
  2. hkpzee

    hkpzee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 5, 2011
    Hong Kong
    All M4/3 cameras have the same sensor size (maybe with the exception of the GH2 if you want to get technical). So, was the sensor of your E-PL1 big enough for you?

    How shallow a DOF do you want? It would be difficult to achieve really shallow DOF look with any M4/3 camera + a kit lens. You need faster aperture or longer focal length to do that, so on top of the new camera body, you will probably need to invest in some lenses to achieve the type of shots that you are seeking.

    Besides, M4/3 comes in all sizes and shapes these days, so unless you can be more specific in sharing with us what you like, and don't like about your E-PL1, if would be difficult to give you any advice on what camera model to purchase.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. mesmerized

    mesmerized Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 18, 2012
    thanks hpkzee,

    ok, here we go... what I liked/disliked about my E-PL1

    + its great looks... this old-fashioned retro style body
    + it was pretty good in low-light environment
    + solid body
    + good grip
    + built-in stabilization
    + detailed pics
    + I didn't notice any software-forced noise reduction
    + the price

    - it was a bit sluggish to my taste
    - no in-built viewfinder (but that's not such a big deal to me)
    - small zoom (but I'm fully aware of the fact that micro 4/3 cameras are like that)
    - a bit dreary colors in the neutral settings (but maybe I'm just being picky here, maybe they simply can't be more vivid and the color rendition is good enough)

    I'm willing to invest some money in a better lens... I'm just not sure if I can buy any in China... I guess I could just buy a body first. I know that some people achieve pretty shallow depth of field with their E-P(L) series cameras... I'd go for a Sony NEX-5N due to its large sensor but the camera is not balanced well enough and I can't really grab it with a lot of confidence.

    PS. Lumix GF2 is inexpensive too, GF3 only slightly more expensive but looks terrible and I suppose it's more... amateurish...

    PS2. Can I use Lumix G 14mm/2.5 lens in E-series Olympus cameras? Is it a good lens to take pics of people and get some shallow depth of field effects? How about Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 G?
  4. hkpzee

    hkpzee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 5, 2011
    Hong Kong
    Based on the likes/dislikes you have set out above, here are some of my thoughts:
    - If IBIS (in-body image stabilization) is important to you, you have to go with Olympus, since Panasonic m4/3 cameras don't have IBIS;
    - Among the Olympus m4/3 cameras, I believe the E-PL1 and E-PL2 have the best grips (I personally don't like the button controls of the E-PL1 and prefer the E-PL2 ergonomic-wise);
    - If you shoot strictly SOOC JPEGs, I was told that E-PL1 is the sharpest of all Olympus m4/3 cameras because of the weakest AA filter (I personally don't mind that slight difference);
    - Another factor that turned me away from the E-PL1 was the slow focusing speed. In terms of AF speed, the 3rd generation PENs or the new O-MD E-M5 are lightning fast. The E-PL2 AF speed is somewhere between the E-PL1 and the 3rd gen PENs.
    - Auto White Balance of 3rd generation PENs work better than the previous 2 generations.

    There are too many things to list, and the above are just a few highlights of the different Olympus m4/3 cameras. At the end of the day, you will have to check out each of the camera online or at a local store (depends on availability also, I guess) to decide which design you like best.

    Regarding the colors in neutral settings, you can actually customize it to increase contrast, saturation, etc. to your liking...

    In terms of lenses, the 20/1.7 is a great lens to start with. It will give you decent subject separation if used wide open, but the Oly 45/1.8 will give you shallower DOF (the focal length will limit its versatility vs. the 20/1.7 though). You might want to get a 40-150 or the 14-150 as well to cover a wide zoom range.

    Overall, there are just so many choices of camera bodies and lenses available out there, it is difficult to tell you what you should get, but starting with the above should give you good coverage for your time in China...

    BTW, whereabout in China are you located? If there is no m4/3 gears available at your location, you can always swing by HK to pick them up! Good luck!
  5. jyc860923

    jyc860923 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 28, 2012
    Shenyang, China
    I'd recommend the epl2 with 25 1.4 and 45 1.8.

    and since I'm Chinese, as every Chinese does, know there's a website taobao.com, on which you can buy anything, everything in very good price. I sold my p14 2.5 and Oly 14-42II there.
  6. mesmerized

    mesmerized Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 18, 2012
    Thanks folks. I don't know why but EPL2 is more expensive than EP2... I know taobao.com, thanks! :) ) Any other cameras that I should take into consideration?

    I'm not sure if IBIS is so important... does it really make any difference?

    PS. I'm up north in Taiyuan 'cause I'm not exactly on speaking terms with those huge "zhang lang" that live in the south (cockroaches) Hong Kong is far away...
  7. littleMT

    littleMT Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 8, 2012
    Lucille Sanchez

    I have a Sony A65, Canon 40d, Canon T2i, and I'll put the output of my E-PL1
    against any of them.

    Both of my E-PL1's take good quality JPGs with very vivid colors...

    for example:

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    dreary pics and E-PL1 don't belong in the same sentence.
    • Like Like x 11
  8. mesmerized

    mesmerized Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 18, 2012
    oh my fudging god... these pics are AMAZING! especially the last one! how did you take them? I can't believe they were taken with the kit lens... they weren't, were they?
  9. littleMT

    littleMT Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 8, 2012
    Lucille Sanchez
    the two nightshots were taken with the panny 20mm, the undisputed champion of pitch darkness night shots, gathering the stars...

    the other two were taken with the panny 14mm, my dayshot go to lens, the E-PL1 set to vivid, that last picture of my Camaro, was shot at the mysterious Abo ancient ruins, in the high desert of New Mexico... Rain was threatening for this outing, but it never did rain, though the clouds carried a storm... and the land cried for water.....
    • Like Like x 3
  10. mesmerized

    mesmerized Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 18, 2012
    thanks for your answer

    well, the thing is that I can't afford to get two lenses... and I won't even try to pretend that I know a lot about what each lens is good for... what are those pancake lenses usually used for? 14mm and 20mm? what are their advantages and disadvantages? the only thing I know is that the brighter the lens, the better the pics and shallower depth of field...

    I need to decide which camera I'm going to buy within the next few days... I'm going to buy a body + a good lens but I'm still not sure if Olympus E-PL1/E-P2/E-PL2 should be the one. I don't have enough money to go for the third gen but maybe there're some good Lumix cameras out there that can achieve even better results then PENs.

    I don't know why but E-PL2 is more expensive than E-P2... in fact it should be the other way round, I suppose.

    Thank you all for helping me out here!!!
  11. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    First off m43 sensors fall into 2 camps. There are the 12mp sensors that are in the Olympus EP/PL and PM seroes as well as the Panasonic GF and G1/G2. Then there is the 16mp sensor in the Olympus E-M5, Panasonic GH1, GH2, G3 and GX1. Practically speaking all the 12mp sensors give near identical IQ and the 16mp sensors are all really close to one another.

    If you didn't like the colors on the E-PL1 they aren't going to be substantially different on any of the other Olymous cameras. That said, I think you can take a look around the forum and see lots of examples from members (like littleMT) of very sharp images with gorgeous color by Olympus cameras. I have heard IQ from Olympus described as many things but "dreary" isn't one of them. Given that a majority of the m43 cameras use exactly the same sensor I suspect the biggest improvement will be getting better lenses. Now, sluggish is another matter...the E-PL1's UI and controls are an acquired taste and quite frankly I have never been a huge fan of them. I prefer the E-P1/2 and PL2/3 handling to the E-PL1 but that is just my personal opinion. If you have definitely ruled out another E-PL1 and given the cameras you are mentioned I should think an E-PL2 would be a good place to start looking.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. The "good" lens (wide aperture prime) that will give you the shallowest depth of field is the Olympus 45mm F1.8. This is intended for portraits, ie taking pictures of people. At this focal length (90mm equiv when referenced to 35mm film lenses), there is less distortion of a subjects face than when taken close up with a wider angle lens.

    From what you have described as your needs (architecture, landscapes, people), you may as well get the best deal in an Olympus body available, including the 14-42 kit lens. Use this lens for landscapes and architecture. Add the Olympus 45mm F1.8, for taking pictures of people and objects that have a shallow depth of field.

    As the others have suggested, an Olympus will suit you better because of the really good jpeg output. Experiment with the various settings to get colours that please your eye.

    If you can manage a good deal on an E-PM1, E-PL3 or E-P3, spend the bit extra over the previous generation. The big difference is in focus speed, they are WAY faster than the E-PL1. There are other advantages, but that is the main one.
  13. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Nope, the E-PL2 should be more expensive than the E-P2. :)  The output is much sharper, the high-ISO performance is much better, the LCD is twice the resolution, and the operating speed (response time, AF speed, etc.) is much faster. The only thing the E-P2 has better than the E-PL2 is a magnesium alloy body (as opposed to aluminum in the E-PL2) and an extra control dial. Speaking of control dials though, the single control dial of the E-PL2 is a huge upgrade from the button-centric E-PL1 with no dials! If you use manual lenses, then the Lite series has a big advantage over the original PEN series (E-P1 and E-P2) with the magnifier button. If you're a pixel peeper then the Lite series has a big advantage in sharper images and full lens resolution capture through a weak AA filter.

    The E-PL2 is basically the E-PL1 done right. No limits on shutter speed, remote compatibility, an actual turn dial (though a thumbwheel would have been nicer, oh well), a full 3" screen (10% larger) with twice the resolution, and... in my opinion... much cleaner styling.

    The E-P2 and E-P1 were the most stylish PENs made, but they were kind of design prototypes and the more practical designs of the E-PL1/E-PL2 were then added to them to create the E-P3. That's why the E-P3 has the top-plate of the E-PL2 with the built-in Flash Commander (unfortunately, it lost the stylish recessed mode dial) and new button types like the Magnifier, along with the thumbwheel of the E-P2 and the high-res LCD of the E-PL2. Basically, the best of both lines. All the new cameras (E-P3, E-PL3, E-PM1, and E-M5) all have the same fine detail capture and weak AA filter as the pro-grade E-5 DSLR, just like the E-PL2 had.

    My suggestion would be to get the E-PL2 along with the VF-2 (you did say you wanted a viewfinder, didn't you? The VF-2 is about the best you can get next to the one on the new E-M5 body - but the VF-2 has the advantage that it can be mounted on ANY Olympus PEN body... except the E-P1. Heck it can even mount on the new Leica X2). Then add either the m.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 or the Leica 25mm f/1.4 Summilux if you can afford it. The 25mm Summilux is more of a general-purpose focal length, while the 45mm/1.8 is more of a portrait focal length. Optionally, if you want something that's quite general purpose but also very compact, try the Lumix 20mm f/1.7. It runs around the same price as the m.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8, but will give you a focal length closer to the expensive Summilux... but in the most compact form of all the above.

    You asked what the advantage is of the pancake lenses... (Lumix 14mm f/2.5, m.Zuiko 17mm f/2.8, and Lumix 20mm f/1.7). Size is the advantage of those lenses. Quality and lens speed is generally the compromise for that size, but the Lumix 20mm f/1.7 has the least compromise in that regard.

    That's not to say all the other lenses are large. The m.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 and m.Zuiko 12mm f/2 are both styled after rangefinder lenses and while not as flat in profile as the pancake lenses they do have a narrow build with overall low bulk. The Summilux is the largest of all the lenses mentioned by far... but it's also the fastest. The f/1.4 aperture will give you an advantage for shooting in low light, but will also help to obtain the shallow DOF (more bokeh, or out-of-focus areas) which you wanted. However, the m.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 will actually produce shallower DOF due to its longer focal length and only a half-stop slower aperture... but not if you're framing the same scene.
  14. mesmerized

    mesmerized Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 18, 2012
    Wow, thank you all for devoting your time and giving me so many detailed answers. Appreciate that a lot.

    I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "not if you're framing the same scene"

    I think I need to clarify one thing. I'm not going to take portraits of people who will pose. I want to take pictures of people I come across on the street or in a park while they're practicing gong fu etc. So... they're not going to sit and wait till I take a picture. Maybe I have a bad understanding of what a portrait is. I also want to take close-ups... people's faces for instance.

    This is the way I understand it:

    A) focal length less than 21mm = extremely wide angle, good for architecture
    B) 21mm-35mm = wide angle, good for landscapes
    C) 35mm-70 mm = standard, good for street and documentary (I'm not sure way, but it doesn't really matter I suppose)
    D) over 70mm - good for portraits?

    OK, to sum up the choice of lens:

    1. Lumix 14mm f/2.5 - about 800CNY
    2. m.Zuiko 17mm f/2.8 - about 1200CNY
    3. Lumix 20mm f/1.7 - about 2400CNY
    4. m.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 - about 2400CNY
    5. Leica 25mm f/1.4 Summilux - way too expensive
    6. m.Zuiko 12mm f/2 - way too expensive

    I guess the list contains all the lenses mentioned so far. Now... E-PL1 costs about 2100CNY with the kit lens. E-PL2 costs about 3000CNY (just the body) I don't have enough money to get a VF

    The issue at stake here is pretty simple. I don't have enough money to buy two lenses right now and I have to decide whether I should get:

    A) E-PL1 + kit lens + Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 (I don't think I can get just an E-PL1 body)
    B) E-PL2 body + 2 lenses (for instance Lumix 14mm f2/5 and possibly Zuiko 45mm f/1.8) which is going to be the most expensive option
    C) E-PL2 + kit lens + Lumix 20mm f/1.7 OR Zuiko 45mm f/1.8
    D) I was also wondering if Lumix GX1 is worth being taken into consideration or a camera with an in-built viewfinder

    I've found this opinion about the 20mm lens:

    my least favorite is the 20mm. i almost never use it. its either too wide, or too tight for most of the things i want to shoot. its never "just right" ... it is pretty good in all respects, i just dont care for it in comparison to my other lenses

    Due to my budget constraints I'll have to choose a versatile lens... I really liked the pics taken by littleMT. One of my doubts is... can I use a portrait-oriented lens to take pics of objects if I want to get a shallow depth of field?
  15. littleMT

    littleMT Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 8, 2012
    Lucille Sanchez

    shot with the 45mm f/1.8 and the E-Pl1.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
  16. hkpzee

    hkpzee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 5, 2011
    Hong Kong
    I would still think your best option, given your budget constraints, is either an E-PL1 or E-PL2 + kit lens + either the 20/1.7 or the 45/1.8. The pros/cons of both camera bodies have been well discussed already. As for the lens choice, whether it's the 20/1.7 or the 45/1.8, you can only decide for yourself. Have you looked at the image threads for the respective lenses on this site? They might give you a better idea of which lens suits you better.
  17. mesmerized

    mesmerized Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 18, 2012
    I'll probably go for the one which is more versatile. And that's what I'd like you to tell me. I have almost decided what to do, just need a bit of reassurance.

    1. Is Lumix 14mm f/2.5 going to be a better lens than the kit one?
    2. Which lens is more versatile/multipurpose? Lumix 20mm f/1.7 or m.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8

  18. hkpzee

    hkpzee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 5, 2011
    Hong Kong
    Since I have never used the 14/2.5, I am not really qualified to comment on this lens, but I believe you won't find it any better than the kit lens, except for its more compact size.

    Between the 20/1.7 and the 45/1.8, I personally find the 20/1.7 to be much more versatile, especially in indoor lowlight situations. Having said that, I don't use the 20/1.7 anymore since I got the 25/1.4 (out of your budget though), as the 25/1.4 focuses a lot faster than the 20/1.7. I find the 45/1.8 FL to be to too limiting for my general use. At the end of the day, as I've said many times already, this preference is totally personal, as you should know, since you've already quoted someone else who loathed this lens...

    IMHO, you can't go wrong with either the 20/1.7 or the 45/1.8 as part of your kit, since they are both great lenses...
  19. mesmerized

    mesmerized Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 18, 2012
    I guess I'm definitely going to get this lens... Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 The pics taken by littleMT are really impressive. I suppose that this lens is going to be suitable for landscapes only but maybe I can use it to take pics of architecture and street life. I certainly hope so.

    EDIT: however... 14mm and 20mm is really close... and as you've said 20mm might be more versatile.
  20. The 14mm pancake, while wonderful, isn't a big step up from the kit lenses in quality or speed. It's main advantage is size. In general use, you won't get a shallow depth of field with this lens.

    Example: Panasonic 14mm F2.5 (covered market, daytime)
    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/57916968@N08/7406194182/" title="P4162586 by tomnewstead, on Flickr">
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
    "1024" height="576" alt="P4162586"></a>

    The 20mm pancake is also small, and is considered to be in the "normal" lens length. As I understand it, 35-50mm were considered "normal" lenses for 35mm film, because they give a similar field of view to what we see through the eye. So 17-25mm lenses on micro four thirds can be considered "normal". The 20mm would, in my opinion, be your best choice as a single fast lens, and will give you the ability to achieve some shallow depth of focus.

    Example: Panasonic 20mm F1.7 (Outdoor food centre, night-time)
    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/57916968@N08/7406205886/" title="P4152475 by tomnewstead, on Flickr">
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
    "1024" height="768" alt="P4152475"></a>

    Example: Panasonic 20mm F1.7 (outdoor restaurant, night-time)
    [​IMG]"768" height="1024" alt="P6013218"></a>[/IMG]

    The 45/1.8 lens from Olympus is not as compact as the pancakes, and is a specialty lens. It will give you the best perspective for portraiture of the 3 lenses we are discussing, and the shallowest depth of field.

    Example: Olympus 45mm F1.8 (Outdoor restaurant, night-time)
    [​IMG]"768" height="1024" alt="P5113112"></a>[/IMG]

    Example: Olympus 45mm F1.8 (Outdoor restaurant, night-time)
    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/57916968@N08/7406341456/" title="P5113109 by tomnewstead, on Flickr">
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
    "1024" height="768" alt="P5113109"></a>

    All these photos were taken in low light conditions, which is where you need a "fast" lens. They are also taken at the widest aperture, to help you understand the depth of field you can achieve with each lens.
    If it helps, this is the process I have been through, since buying the E-PL1 as a step up from a point & shoot:
    - E-PL1, kit lens. Big step up, but rapidly got frustrated with low light conditions and trying to use the LCD screen in bright light.
    -added the Panasonic 20/1.7 and the VF-2 viewfinder.
    -used legacy lenses, but find they defeat the size advantage of the format
    -bought the Olympus 45/1.8 as soon as it was released, because I enjoyed a similar length amongst my legacy lenses.
    -a friend offered to buy my kit zoom, and I happily replaced it with the Panasonic 14/2.5
    In practice, I use the 20/1.7 the most. It is the lens I choose if I don't know what to expect, but only want to carry one lens.
    I choose the 45/1.8 if I expect to take images of people, especially in the evening. Both images of my son were taken across the same table at dinner (different evenings), I did have to push my chair back to frame the image with the 45/1.8 though. Do you see how my son's head looks large in the image taken with the 20/1.7? This is the perspective affect that you get rid of with a portrait lens. He actually has very wide shoulders....I also personally enjoy the 45/1.8 for street photography, but you can use the kit zoom for that focal length.
    The 14/2.5 I use if I need a wide-angle: it's so small that I can usually find space for it in my pocket. Same will go for the 20/1.7 for you. If you have the kit lens on the camera, the 20/1.7 should fit in your pocket.

    Cheers, Tom
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