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Which Olympus PEN for someone who cares about usability?

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by rparmar, Feb 5, 2012.

  1. rparmar

    rparmar Mu-43 Top Veteran

    639
    Jun 14, 2011
    Limerick, Ireland
    I have the Olympus PEN E-P1 and it's OK as a backup to my Pentax, especially considering I got it for a song. I am wondering if there is a better camera for me, since I want to use a viewfinder and this forces a new purchase. So far I have been unimpressed with the models that have come after, since they seem to be either missing key features or too expensive for me. But I could be wrong and so ask for the help of those more knowledgeable than I!

    I shoot mostly in Av and so need direct access to aperture, exposure compensation and ISO. That's very basic, but my E-P1 does not let me assign ISO to one of the soft buttons. I have learned to live with using the OK menu for this, but it's not ideal, since OK has other functions.

    It would be great to use a flash trigger and viewfinder at the same time, though I think no model manages this. So, OK, another compromise.

    I use legacy lenses and need quick access to the focus magnification. The E-P1 ties this in with info screen selection, which is a PITA. This bugs me a lot.

    IBIS is essential, since I work in available light a good amount of the time. This is why I am only considering Olympus. Reports indicate the IBIS on the E-PM1 is broken, so that one's out of the running. Any other models I should eliminate?

    I don't care about extraneous "features" like touch screens and don't need to have the most recent model, unless it really makes photography better. Faster burst rates and AF mean nothing to me.

    P.S. I am posting this on three forums out of curiosity, to see where I get the best info.
     
  2. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    A lot of this stuff was fixed on later models -- both the P2 and P3 should work nicely for you as far as interface/handling with twin dials, customizable d-pad that can be set to ISO, dedicated magnification button, etc.

    PM1's IBIS seems to have some kind of QC problem, because mine is fine, so that's case-by-case. But it doesn't have enough controls for you, at all.

    Now I should note that the E-P3 has a built in flash that can do wireless with the Olympus big flashes or you could optically slave one. That means you can use a viewfinder and a full flash setup with it if you want. The EPL2 can also do this, but the EP2 cannot. On the other hand you lose a control dial with the PL2.
     
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  3. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    First have you ever used the Super Control Panel option on the E-P1 (it's on all Olympus PENs for that matter). It really makes access to stuff significantly easier.

    Second I use an E-PM1 and I set what comes default as the video button to focus assit magnify and it works out great. The thumbwheel is aperture if I am using a native lens and the top most edge activates exposure compensation (useful when using legacy glass). I came from a G2 which is very user friendly when it comes to buttons and handling and I find the E-PM1 to be quite good. The E-PL3 would be the same except the E-PM1 was a whole lot cheaper.

    As to whether or not its right for you...drop by a shop and try one out. Now, you could always look at one of the Panasonic mini DSLR style cameras. Built-in flash, built-in EVF, articulating screens, equivalent IQ, still quite small and INHO some of the best handling of the m43 cameras. Might be worth considering.
     
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  4. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Texas
    Since you have not made a purchase...OM-D EM-5 :biggrin:
     
  5. rparmar

    rparmar Mu-43 Top Veteran

    639
    Jun 14, 2011
    Limerick, Ireland
    Thanks for such prompt replies! I must admit all these models get confusing. And no, I don't have a store I can drop by. Living in Ireland I buy all my gear sight-unseen, on a very small budget, so I need to get things right!

    Are you saying all this is on the E-P2? That might work for me. There's no way I can spend £549 on an E-P3 plus £179 on an VF-2. A Pentax K-5 provides far more value for the same amount of money!

    Just so you know, I got my E-P1 for £140 and that's about what I think it's worth. I am not a big spender!

    OK, it doesn't look like it. But if the IBIS actually works that is one less mark against it. I am trying to remember which forum had the review saying otherwise. Again, returns are a pain for me, so I need to buy gear I can depend on!

    Thanks for this info. I would not be buying all new flash kit however, and optical trigger is not ideal in my use cases. But I can live without this as the majority of my work is natural light.

    Yes, that's how I'd set ISO with the OK button. Unfortunately getting into and out of focus zoom also uses this button so it's easy to screw up in the heat of a shoot. However, if I had a dedicated button for the zoom that would help. The downside is that anything done on the rosette and with the horrible rotating wheel is very error prone. (Curse you, Canon!)

    Is this standard on other models?

    OK, so this means the top rosette point? Is this a toggle or can one just hold it down. (EDIT: must be a toggle.)

    But no IBIS, which is absolutely essential to me. Getting two extra stops of stability rocks for my event work. I do not like using flash and this approach gains me gigs and respect from performers.
     
  6. rparmar

    rparmar Mu-43 Top Veteran

    639
    Jun 14, 2011
    Limerick, Ireland
    I'd pay up to £400 for one!

    :biggrin:
     
  7. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    The E-PM1 you can reprogram that button, the E-PL3 and E-P3 have a dedicated zoom button on the back so it ends up be functionally the same. The exposure compensation is a toggle ta the upper point of the thumb wheel. FWIW the thumbwheel on the E-PM1 (and I assume the E-PL3) is much nicer than the one on my E-P1 (not so loose and easy to turn accidentally).

    As to IBIS I can see why you would want it. I don't have any issues wit the IBIS on my E-PM1 but if that were a cancern the E-P3 would I suspect be a bit better choice. That said the E-PM1 has a faster burst rate and AFAIK has the same IQ just in a much smaller package (and no touch screen).
     
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  8. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Actually, the E-P1 does have a dedicated ISO button, and all PEN cameras let you customize at least 2 out of 3 arrow pad buttons to functions of your choice such as ISO, WB, Metering Mode, etc. I always set the lower button to ISO and the right button to WB, as this is the way I remember them from my DSLRs. I thought his was the default setup on the E-1 from what I had remembered, but I'll have to dig it out to refresh my memory.

    Since you are looking for an affordable camera besides just being high in usability, that probably rules out the E-P3 or the rumored OMD (which may also replace your Pentax rather than complement it). So instead I will suggest the E-PL2.

    The E-PL2 easily bests both the E-P1 and E-P2 in almost every way except that it lacks one control dial. That means that you press the dial up to access the second function on the same dial, rather than being able to assign a separate dial for each (ie, like aperture and shutter). This is a minor drawback ibn comparison to the advantages of the E-PL2 such as double the LCD resolution, much sharper images, faster AF, faster response, larger grip, etc. The only other advantage the E-P1/2 have is a level guage. As far as the missing control dial, the E-PL2 mostly makes up for that in better buttons, including a dedicated Close-Up button and more customizable buttons including the big red Record button which can be assigned to useful functions such as back-button AF.

    Of course, the E-P3 has all the best aspects of both the E-P2 and the E-PL2, plus even more custom buttons (including a handy one by the shutter release), touch screen (useful for choosing focus point), and even faster AF. It has the best usability of all current models. But the E-PL2 is much cheaper and does come close.
     
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  9. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    ???

    Aperture in on the vertical dial.
    Exposure compensation is on the button next to the shutter button.
    ISO is on the control dial.

    You do not need a menu at all.
     
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  10. applemint

    applemint Mu-43 Veteran

    345
    Jan 24, 2012
    Just for info - the E-P2 body only is at Park Cameras for £199 which might be of interest given your small budget? (However I don't think there are many improvements over the E-P1). Also not sure what they charge for delivery to Ireland - I assume you would be converting euros to pounds and they make work against you or in your favour price wise?
    Olympus E-P2 Black Body - Only £199.00 - Park Cameras Online

    As for the E-Pm1 - comments on here suggest the IBIS issue may no longer be present on more recent production models? Of course what model you get will depend on how 'fresh' the stock is wherever you buy from, so I guess it's still a gamble on whether or not your model has the issue.
     
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  11. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Yup, you said it. This totally confused me too. The dual-turnwheel system of the E-P1, E-P2, and E-P3 most closely resembles the pro-grade E-3 and E-5, and can be set up the exact same way. Ironically, it beats a majority of DSLRs for control, especially in combination with the Super Control Panel. It wasn't until the newer PENs that they changed the default assignments of the arrow pad buttons to not include ISO and WB...a decision I still can't wrap my head around. However, this is only a temporary problem which is easily resolved the first time you start up the camera and set it up.
     
  12. applemint

    applemint Mu-43 Veteran

    345
    Jan 24, 2012
    Except here (UK) the E-PL2 and kit lens (new) is actually more expensive than the E-PM1 as Olympus UK and Ireland are offering £50 cashback on the E-PM1 and E-P3 kits (but not on body only). http://pen.sales-promotions.com/

    So for £300 after cashback you can get an E-Pm1 with kit lens which is exactly the same price as the E-pl2 body only at Park Cameras (who seem to be one of the few places selling it body only). One store (Cameraworld) had the E-Pl2 with kit lens for £250 but they seem to be sold out and the next cheapest price is £350 with kit lens at Jacobs cameras - ie: same price as the E-Pm1 but actually £50 more in practice as there is no cashback on that model.

    Crazy, I know. :biggrin:

    (Obviously the kit lens can just be sold if not required effectively reducing the price even further.)

    Secondhand though I am not sure about, although looking at recent sales on ebay you are looking at anything from £180 to £350 - quite a variation in prices!
    pl2 | eBay UK
     
  13. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Actually, I did consider the possibility of the E-PM1 being at a similar price point, but suggested the E-PL2 instead because it seems the OP had external controls high on the list. The E-PM1 performs at least as good or better in almost every other way but that. :)
    For what it's worth though, I actually think the super-accurate AWB is in itself a good reason to choose it over the E-PL2.
     
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  14. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    I tend to agree...the improved WB, better speed and convenient size made the E-PM1 more attractive to me than the E-PL2. I was initially concerned about the lack of controls on the E-PM1 but much to my surprise it has really been a non issue for me. What controls it does have are for whatever reason just enough for what I need. The ability to set the magnify to the vide button was key for me.
     
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  15. applemint

    applemint Mu-43 Veteran

    345
    Jan 24, 2012
    Yes, good point. Also, as retailers here seem to be gradually clearing what is left of E-PL2 stock, there is also the chance that the OP may be able to pick up a new E-PL2 at a bargain price over the next few weeks by keeping an eye on prices.
     
  16. timallenphoto

    timallenphoto Mu-43 Veteran

    266
    May 20, 2011
    Kent, England
    I'm with Ned on this. I just swapped my E-P1 for E-PL2 and it fixes almost every issue I had. For reference I managed to get a brand new one with kit lens for £280, and a friend is giving me £200 for my old Pen and kit lens. For £80 upgrade fee it's a steal. If you want usability don't go near PL3 or PM1!
     
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  17. rparmar

    rparmar Mu-43 Top Veteran

    639
    Jun 14, 2011
    Limerick, Ireland
    My bad! :rolleyes:

    What I really meant to say was: I would like the ability to programme the function button to ISO. You cannot do this on the E-P1. Or/also: I would like the ability to control ISO with one of the dials. You also cannot do this on the E-P1.

    Why? Because I find the rosette/wheel error prone in a pressure situation. Far too easy to hit or trigger something you don't want. I prefer the usability of a dedicated button. In fact I'd be happy turning off the rosette/wheel entirely and just using it as a big OK button.

    However, I have now downgraded this preference.
     
  18. rparmar

    rparmar Mu-43 Top Veteran

    639
    Jun 14, 2011
    Limerick, Ireland
    This is a quote from the dpreview of the E-PL3:

    "In playback mode the magnification buttons serve to zoom in and out of captured images, but in record mode the right-hand button can also be used to zoom into the live view display to check fine focus. It's really useful if you shoot with manual focus lenses at all, but its operation is a little perverse; you can't simply press it once to magnify the display (as you would on most other cameras), but instead have to press it once to change display mode and select your point of interest, then again to zoom in."

    Is this true? Is this also the same with the E-PM1 or other models? This would drive me nuts, just as pressing multiple times to shift modes on the E-P1 drives me crazy.
     
  19. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Technically this is indeed the way it works, but this description makes it sound totaly weird - which it is not. It's as simple as this - if you want to focus in the center you simply tap the button twice. If you want to move the focus point you move it first then hit the button. How else would you expect to zoom in on anything but the center of the frame?
     
  20. rparmar

    rparmar Mu-43 Top Veteran

    639
    Jun 14, 2011
    Limerick, Ireland
    I think I've got it! You are right, the description is confusing and/or confused.

    So, the E-PL2 and E-PL3 have dedicated magnify buttons while you can customize the video record button to do the same on the E-PM1. What about the E-P2?

    You mentioned that the E-PM1 has improved AF speed, WB and other performance issues. Would this also apply to the E-PL3?