Saturday, 23 April 2011

Autographing with the PEN

After looking and thinking, then looking and thinking some more, I finally gave in and bought myself an Oympus PEN E-PL1.

For those who don’t yet know what a PEN is, it is an Interchangeable Lens Camera (Mirrorless). Several names have been suggested for this genre of cameras, from EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens) to hybrid (i.e. a blend between the DSLR and the fixed lens point and shoot cameras) to MILC. DP Review recently asked forum participants to suggest names.

My background in digital cameras starts in the year 2000 (I shot film rangefinder and SLR previously) and covers the Nikon 775, Olympus C-750uz, Kodak P880, Kodak V705 fixed lens cameras and the Olympus E-330, E-510 and E-620 DSLRs.

The E-PL1 is definitely a new beginning – it has the bigger sensor and shallower Depth of Field commonly associated with DSLRs (this has a crop factor of 2x) and yet, it has been aimed and primed for Point and Shoot activity – aim and frame using the back LCD screen, iAuto (intelligent Auto mode of operation) with full P A S M controls. Unlike the Sony NEX competitor line, it even has an external hotshoe for TTL flash.

I am seriously watching pennies, so I decided to wait for the E-PL1 to age sufficiently to the extent that it has become an outgoing model, with resultant price discounts. And for the E-System to PEN system (oh, alright, Four Thirds to Micro Four Thirds system) lens adaptor to come within penning pinching reach.

I wondered about accepting the standard, Mark 1, kit lens. And I declined.

So, good friend Gerhard wants to see me for a walk around his neighbourhood (he’s sporting a Panasonic FZ-35) and I bring the PEN with my E-System 14-42mm Mark 2 kit lens.

The experience of shooting is quite, quite different. It is indeed a blend of my hands stretched forward technique from my Kodak V705 style with frequent pauses for adjustment à la DSLR style. Having continuing experience shooting both types camera, habits and instinct kick in without explicit concentration. That’s a nice feeling. Also nice feelings is the right hand grip of the PEN and that confident, baritoned thud of the focal plane shutter.

Instead of raising the DSLR to the eye, aiming with the optical viewfinder, clicking, then lowering the DSLR, chimping, setting Exposure Compensation, rinse and repeat, with the PEN, you aim using LiveView, potentially assess the scene and apply Exposure Compensation BEFORE you click. With sufficient rendering quality and clarity of observation, the rinse and repeat frequency is reduced and you get your shot faster and more reliably. Of course, if the LCD screen gets blinded or lags in display for fast action, hectic work, this would be an issue. It wasn’t today.

I’m used to the Olympus DSLR Vivid, Natural, Muted image style choices – the PEN has a new one – i-Enhance. I used it, above.

On the other hand, with this next one, I used the RAW and increased the saturation in Picasa on a gently, gently basis.

I thought this flower below was just gorgeous.

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