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Old Sep 5, 2010, 1:19 PM   #1
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Default EPL1 1st impressions

While I wait for my EPL1 replacement, I'm playing with the unit I received a couple of days ago. Overall my experience has been a positive one. However, coming from the EP1 I must say that the smaller LCD is really disappointing to say the least. Had Olympus improved its resolution, it would not be so bad but having the same resolution as the EP1/EP2 but smaller is a real negative to me (especially considering that it has no EVF - built-in, that is). I feel like I'm holding my old 3 MP Canon P&S. I also liked the buttons on the EP1 better, particularly the larger shutter release. The flash is weak and images are under exposed. So, to compensate, I turned on the EXP+FLASH feature so that the extra exposure compensation is added to the flash output AND I increase the flash output by +0.7. When I bought the EP1, it was body only since I already had the Pana lenses from my G1 kit, so I never had a chance to actually hold and use the Oly 14-42mm. It feels cheap compared to the Lumix 14-45mm. I understand that the mount on the EP1 kit lens is metal but the mount is not what makes this lens feel cheap. It's its construction. The collapsible concept is interesting but very irritating. If I don't collapse the lens, it's a bit too long and feels fragile. if I collapse, every time I turn the camera ON I get that error message saying that the lens is "locked". I'm sure over time I'll remember to unlock the lens first. I can see why Oly designed it like this...once the lens is unlocked (set to 14mm), it becomes longer than the Lumix 14-45, even though it has a shorter range. The three-tier design makes the front element look and feel fragile and awkward to store so the solution was to collapse it.

The good thing is, the lens is sharp and produces great images. If I hadn't pay just $456 for the camera (with the lens), I'd buy the body only and use the Lumix 14-45mm (which BTW, AF much faster than the Oly kit lens) and the Lumix 20mm instead.

Setting the focus point to a smaller one seems to speed AF a bit but unfortunately its use interferes with all other settings. For instance, you can't change the exposure (or anything else for that matter) without exiting from it first. So, it's a good thing to have for crucial focusing but not at all times.

I also like the live "shadow/highlight" feature as it gives me a good idea of which areas are under and most importantly over exposed before I take the shot so I can adjust the exposure compensation accordingly (or choose an area where the exposure is ideal, lock it and then shoot).

Dynamic range is excellent and so is low light performance (no surprises here as these two items have been heavily discussed here and on other forums).

I think the EPL1 + Lumix 20mm will be a good compact combo. However, it looses the zoom but hey, 3x wont get you very far anyway!

Overall, the EPL1 has a lot of potential. It's definitely smaller than the EP1 but
the smaller (low res) LCD is a big minus for me. In bright daylight, it's almost impossible to see anything through it. Many shots I took the subject was chopped at various degrees because I could not really see (and properly frame) what I was shooting. At the same time, having the IB flash gives the EPL1 an extra boost over its predecessors. The grip is slightly larger, making it easier to hold the camera. However, when you attach the 45-200mm lens, then the camera feels unbalanced to me. AF remains somewhat of an issue but now I know it has to do with the Zuiko lens and not the camera. The EPL1 focuses very fast with the Lumix 14-45mm (just like the EP1 did).
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Old Sep 5, 2010, 1:40 PM   #2
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The LCD is why I bought a VF-2 within hours of opening the box on my E-PL1, although I probably would have bought the eyelevel finder even if the back LCD had been twice or three times the resolution it is....I just prefer shooting with the camera up to my eye. I do most of my reviewing and all of my shooting with the VF-2. Reviewing outdoors in broad daylight using the VF-2 is a snap and the resolution is excellent.

The E-PL1 and 20 is, very compact. The 14-42 is very nice. The one weakness I see in my unit is some softness on the left-hand side of the image at 42mm and wide open f5.6...probably a decentering issue that's pretty much gone by f8.
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Old Sep 5, 2010, 2:09 PM   #3
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Regarding LCD: it is always very difficult to go from a larger one to a smaller one.

Regarding left-side softness: if you look at shoturtle's watch macros, the left side is so soft that they look like out of focus. I first noticed such a thing on a cheap Ativa (rebranded Toshiba) HD camera, I never thought the same thing could happen on a lens that cost 3x of an entire camera.
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Old Sep 5, 2010, 2:24 PM   #4
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I see the same type thing with my Olympus kit 40-150 f4-5.6 that came with my E520...to the point I find myself always leaving it at home in favor of my 70-300 Zuiko. Today I took the 40-150 out with my E-PL1 and, again, saw this in a few random images. Most are really sharp, but there's enough randomness in it that I think today was the last I will deal with that lens.

There's just enough 'cheapness" in lightweight kit lenses that I think there's always going to be a lot of variability in quality level from unit to unit. I think Panasonic does a better quality control job than Olympus with their more economical optics. For a tele option, taking into consideration price and build/optical quality, the 45-200 Panasonic has a lot going for it.
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Old Sep 5, 2010, 3:47 PM   #5
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Greg, I can definitely see why you bought the EVF for the EPL1. That small low res LCD is really pathetic considering that the cheap Panasonic ZS6/ZS7 P&S have a much nicer one. I need to use the camera a lot more before deciding whether it's a keeper or not. I might just keep my G1, which I really like, and the 20mm.

I don't quite understand the softness issue with some lenses. There's got to be a pattern of some sort. Either a particular aperture range or FL or something that makes the resulting softness repeatable, no?!
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Old Sep 5, 2010, 4:05 PM   #6
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So far my EPL1 + 14-42 kit has been very random. Some shots are perfect but some are soft and out of focus. Still I don't regret for what I can achieve (even randomly) for $450, but it does make me reluctant to invest more money into an EVF and the panny 45-200 etc. until I'm sure it was the kit lens not the camera itself doing random things.
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Old Sep 5, 2010, 4:51 PM   #7
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with the panny lenses I have, I really have not had the random issues that the kit lens seem to have or the olympus 35mm 3.5 I have. The panny lenses seem to be more accurate with AF then the oly form my personal observation. But that randomness that you are having does not to happen as much with my lens, but I did trade in the plastic kit for the metal non kit. So there may be a bit of a difference between the 2 lenses I guess.
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Old Sep 5, 2010, 4:53 PM   #8
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also there was an update with the 35mm 3.5 macro. So it fix some of the focus issues I had when I shot the original macro sample of the watch.
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Last edited by shoturtle; Sep 5, 2010 at 5:00 PM.
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Old Sep 5, 2010, 8:10 PM   #9
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Regarding metal and plastic lenses: Shoturtle, are there two versions of kit lenses, one is metal and one is plastic? Does the EP2 come with a metal one? I remember I read somewhere but I cannot find those info again at this moment.
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Old Sep 5, 2010, 10:13 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tullio View Post
Greg, I can definitely see why you bought the EVF for the EPL1. That small low res LCD is really pathetic considering that the cheap Panasonic ZS6/ZS7 P&S have a much nicer one. I need to use the camera a lot more before deciding whether it's a keeper or not. I might just keep my G1, which I really like, and the 20mm.

I don't quite understand the softness issue with some lenses. There's got to be a pattern of some sort. Either a particular aperture range or FL or something that makes the resulting softness repeatable, no?!
I still have my Panasonic TZ5, which was the first TZ model to up the back LCD resolution from the original 230,000 pixels (current E-PL1 sreen), to around 470,000 or so. I know it's something over twice the resolution. Unfortunately, many of the images, especially anything over ISO 200-400 or so, are less worth writing home about.

The kit lens issue is all about cost and design compromises that are accepted in order to keep the smallness and prices down as much as possible. I have owned two copies of the 14-42 kit lens for Olympus DSLR's and neither has had the issue wide open at 42mm I have seen with this little tiny micro lens. DPReview clearly notes the softness issue of the micro 14-42 kit lens at 42mm, they called their test unit dramatically soft at 42mm and f5.6 in their review of the lens..

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/OlympusEP1/page22.asp

At most focal lengths and apertures you could not ask for a sharper lens though. I captured this image yesterday at the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco, Texas at f11, zoomed to 34mm and could not have asked for better sharpness..



I will just certainly avoid f5.6 at 42mm going forward when across the board sharpness is needed when using this lens and should be OK. For certain applications, the issue might not be so bad since the center of the image is sharp enough.

Further up the food chain, you hear few to no complaints about lenses like the 14-150 or 9-18 micro lenses, which are obviously being built to higher tollerances, with the also obviously higher price tag. The smallness factor alone is not what hurts the 14-42....it's the smallness factor and engineering the lens (down) to fall into the small price tag that did it. Any other Digital Zuiko I own is sharp as a tack. The HG lenses like the 12-60 and 50-200 SWD's from wide open, but bigger than I want to use on this E-PL1, and a lens like the 70-300 only has to be stopped down maybe 1/3 stop to be excellent across the range.

The problem with the 70-300 is not the large size as far as usage goes...after using an E30 and 50-200 SWD, the E-PL1 and 70-300 combination is light as a feather, but my chances of getting a lens like the 70-300 into certain venues is a certain "no way" due to the length of it at the minimum-sized 70mm focal length, and it just gets longer from there.

Last edited by Greg Chappell; Sep 5, 2010 at 10:48 PM.
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