Using the Olympus EP-1: Part 1

Walking the Dog

Key: R20101003-164938

A few observations on the Olympus EP-1 vs the Panasonic GH-1:

Most of the online reviews mention the poor contrast detect AF performance relative to the Panasonic m4/3’s cameras.  Today I updated to the latest Olympus firmware (1.4 if you want to know).  It helps a little, but to my sense, the camera still lags noticeably the Panasonic series in AF speed.  With the GH-1 and my 20mm f1.7 I feel like I can follow active children, quickly get an AF lock on a face and most of the time get the shot.  With the EP-1 it just seems a step behind, and I have some blurry frames to show for it.  I bought the camera body fully knowing and expecting this based on the reports.  This is more of a contemplative picture taking machine.  If you are not in a hurry the AF performance seems perfectly fine, and always locks.  If I’m not trying to follow a moving target it doesn’t disappoint at all.

Another thing that was widely criticized is the lo-res LCD on the back.  Compared to the Panny, the LCD does feel a little second-rate.  However, in use I find the screen to be perfectly acceptable for framing, and it is usable even in bright sunlight.  I can tell that I will miss a viewfinder occasionally, but I don’t plan to purchase a clip on one.

Picturing the Dog

Key: R20101003-165046

The build is sturdy, shiny metal, with good heft, but I was disappointed to see a very flimsy plastic fake chrome door covering the ports and also some unnecessary faux chrome trim on the upper part of the camera.  Overall though, it feels like it might be able to take a decent knock or two. Physically, it seems bigger than I thought it would be.  With the 20mm pancake it makes a fun walk around camera, but you need a jacket or cargo short pocket to fit it.

The EP-1 has a certain simplicity to the controls that is refreshing, although in contrast the menu system is more complex than for the GH-1.  I’m still learning the Olympus menu system.  Right now, some things seem more fiddly on one camera and other things more fiddly on the other.

No strong opinion yet on the metering.  Auto white balance might be a tad better than the GH-1, but I need to run through quite a few more frames before I can say this definitively.

I haven’t found any of the Oly “Art Filters” very useful. On the GH-1 which has “Film Modes” I actually do use a couple of those from time to time, particularly the B&W ones.

The EP-1 shutter sound is louder.

The strap lugs are placed in such a way that the strap interferes somewhat annoyingly with the operation of the shutter button.  I may end up removing the shoulder strap and replacing it with a simple wrist strap using the lug on the camera side opposite the shutter.

More observations when I have logged some more time with the camera.

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