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The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Review

Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 EZ lens

Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 EZ lens


You want a quick summary of what I think about the Olympus OM-D E-M10? For most users, it’s the best camera you can get for general purpose photography. It does everything quickly and smoothly and has all the features you’ll ever need in a camera. The micro 4/3 format strikes the perfect balance between size and image quality. It also has a boat load of lenses, the most of any mirrorless system.

Do you want a more detailed review? Please continue reading.

I like to start by thanking Charles from Olympus for letting me use the camera for an extended period. I shot this camera on many occasions and have even blogged about it couple of times (here and here), several months ago. If you read those early posts, you know that I often shot the E-M10 alongside my Fujifilm X100S that I purchased around the same time.

By almost every measure, the Olympus E-M10 is superior to the Fuji X100S. It focuses faster, the EVF works better, it’s more flexible and it has interchangeable lenses. I’ll give the Fuji the edge for high ISO quality and it’s probably a bit sharper. However, I’m splitting hairs here. For most people, you won’t notice a difference. Color wise, they both have their advantages. The reality is, however, for most users, the features and capability of the Olympus E-M10 will out weigh the slight advantage in X100S image quality.

So why am I shooting the Fuji X100S more these days than the Olympus? It has nothing to do with the capabilities of the camera, actually. The OM-D E-M10 is like the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. Over the years, Honda and Toyota have honed their best-selling cars so much, that they’ve perfected the family sedan. There isn’t much that’s objectionable about them.

Soho Lounge, 6th Street - Austin, Texas

Soho Lounge, 6th Street – Austin, Texas

On the Ledge, 6th Street - Austin, Texas

On the Ledge, 6th Street – Austin, Texas

In many ways, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 is like those perfected family sedans. You can’t go wrong buying those sedans or the E-M10. Understand though, that I shoot enough photos on practical cameras that I like to play with something different from time to time. The Accord and Camry are fine cars but their near state of perfection are, well, sort of boring.

That’s why other companies make quirky less practical cars, like the retro inspired VW Beetle or the Fiat 500. Using a practicality yardstick, the Japanese sedans will do most things better, but for a certain driver, the slightly impractical European cars are more fun. That’s the way I view the Fuji X100S. It’s quirky and a pain in the neck, at times. But that’s part of it’s charm. For most people, who aren’t camera nerds like me, I strongly recommend the E-M10. No doubt about it.

I bet you’re looking at those DSLRs aren’t you?

Like most people looking to step up into serious cameras, I’m sure you’ve been enticed by those inexpensive Canon Rebel watchamacallits or the Nikon D3xxx cameras. You certainly get a lot of bang for the buck out of those cameras. They also take great pictures, no question about it. But, I would strongly consider not getting them.

The Olympus E-M10 is going to be little more expensive, so if you’re on a really tight budget, it may not work for you. But, I can almost guarantee, if you’re like most people, you will enjoy the Olympus a heck of a lot more.

First, the performance of the E-M10 is more in line with mid-level DSLRs. It shoots pictures faster and it focuses quicker the the inexpensive DSLRs. But here’s the most important thing. The E-M10 is a lot smaller than even those entry-level DSLRs. I know so many people who end up not carrying their DSLRs because these cameras are cumbersome. They are bulky and they get in the way.

What good is a camera that you don’t want to use? Even my serious photography friends that all have DSLRs are starting to move to the smaller mirrorless cameras. While the DSLRs might be hanging on to sales, especially here in the United States, it’s inevitable that mirrorless cameras will supplant them. The relentlessly changing computer technology assures that these mirrorless cameras advance quicker than the comparably old tech DSLRs.

Do you want to take vacation videos along with those still photos? Keep in mind that most DSLRs don’t autofocus very well when in video mode. There are rare exceptions like the Canon 70D, but most DSLRs and casual home video don’t mix.

Jungles at Japan Nite, SXSW 2014 - Austin, Texas

Jungles at Japan Nite, SXSW 2014 – Austin, Texas

Mothercoat at Japan Nite, SXSW 2014 - Austin, Texas

Mothercoat at Japan Nite, SXSW 2014 – Austin, Texas

But aren’t DSLRs faster?

If you’re a serious sports shooter, the top end DSLRs still have the edge, in general, over mirrorless cameras. I’m talking about Professional DSLRs here that cost upward of $6000. But even this is changing rapidly. As for the Olympus E-M10, I’d say the casual weekend Soccer shooter should do fine. Certainly as well as an entry-level DSLR, probably better. For sports with more predictable movement, the Olympus will do an excellent job.

For random movements of a young child, which can be challenging to shoot with any camera, the E-M10 will do at least as well as an entry to mid-level DSLR. The fast focusing and the 8 frames per second makes it superior.

Sponge Bob Watches, Rodeo Austin - Austin, Texas

Sponge Bob Watches, Rodeo Austin – Austin, Texas

The Design

Olympus E-M10 Details
Olympus E-M10 Details
Olympus E-M10 Details
Olympus E-M10 Details

The Olympus E-M10 is the entry-level model of the OM-D line. It uses the same micro 4/3 sized sensor and mount as the entire OM-D line as well as the Pen line of cameras. It shares a family resemblance to the bigger and older E-M5 as well as the Stylus 1 super zoom. The angular black lines are part of the current Olympus design language — it works well to distinguish the brand from the other cameras. It’s not retro like Fujifilm and it’s also different from the softly rounded DSLR look.

The camera is built from a combination of metal and plastic. The two materials match closely and it isn’t always obvious to me which bits are made of metal. Overall, the camera has enough heft to make it feel like a quality product. Compared to the Stylus 1, for example, which is made of plastic, the E-M10 is clearly upscale. But it also doesn’t have that chiseled from stone feel of the flagship OM-D E-M1. This entry-level E-M10 compares favorably with entry-level DSLRs, which can feel very plastic-y, these days.

Being the baby in the OM-D line, it’s not surprising that the E-M10 is smaller than the E-M5 or E-M1. It fits my smaller hands well. People with large hands, however, may prefer the bigger OM-Ds. There is an optional grip that may help. I actually prefer this design over the older E-M5, which I’ll talk about in the next section.

For light kit zooms and prime lenses, the small E-M10 works great. But attach the premium Olympus 12-40 f2.8 zoom and the camera is not going to feel balanced. The lens is too heavy and bulky for the smaller body and the standard grip won’t inspire confidence. Of course, the lens is compatible and will work but it won’t be the ideal setup. That’s probably true for all the new f2.8 zooms from both Olympus and Panasonic. In a pinch, consider getting the optional grip, it integrates well and makes a significant difference.

The E-M10 has a built-in flash. I rarely use flashes and therefore I always get caught without the extra clip on units that come with the E-M5 and E-M1. I’ve personally experienced the “missing clip on flash” problem with my Olympus Pen E-PM2 and Sony NEX-5. For the rare times I need the flash, it’s nice to have it built-in and the low profile design on the E-M10 also saves space.

With a flip-up rear screen and EVF, the camera has all the required compositional flexibility. None of my actively used cameras have a flip up screen and I really miss this feature. The EVF (Electronic View Finder) while not as high-resolution as the E-M1’s (but equal to the E-M5’s), is certainly adequate. I was able to see my subjects clearly day or night.

The Ergonomics

Olympus E-M10 Details
Olympus E-M10v Details

While smaller than the E-M5, the E-M10 improves the ergonomics for most people, I believe. There were a few things that I didn’t like on the E-M5 — the shape of the front grip, the size of the rear grip and the accessibility of the Play and Fn1 buttons. Olympus did a good job to address all three areas.

Given the size of the camera, I always thought that the rear grip on the E-M5 was too small. The flip out screen took up valuable real estate and the control buttons and grip were squashed in a small area to the right. The play button, which I frequently use, along with the Fn1 buttons are tucked in a small, hard to access area above the screen and grip.

The E-M5 was not comfortable in hand, at least for me. The combination of its weight and undersized grip strained my hand. That, coupled with the hard to access buttons, turned me off from getting the camera. I actually ended up buying the entry-level E-PM2 instead, which ironically had a better grip and button placement.

The E-M10 fixes all these problems. The camera is slightly lighter than the E-M5 and the redesigned grip makes it easier for me to use. Back two years ago, if the E-M10 was released instead of the E-M5, I would have bought it. Even the awkward buttons have subtly been repositioned and juts out for easier access.

Image Quality

I’m not going to talk a whole lot about image quality because it hasn’t materially changed in the last 2 years. While Olympus made a few tweaks, the sensor and image processor on the E-M10 is basically the same as all Olympus micro 4/3 cameras released since 2012. The sensor was ground breaking when the E-M5 came out. Now, all cameras from the low-end E-PM2 up to the flagship E-M1 share the same quality. It’s the features and the external controls that change from model to model. As expected, the more you pay, the more bells and whistles.

The State and Paramount Theaters - Austin, Texas

The State and Paramount Theaters – Austin, Texas

I’ll just say that the image quality is wonderful, but you can judge for yourself, from the photos I posted. I took them all with with the E-M10. Make sure to click on the photos to see a larger version. Also, if you hover over each photo with a mouse, you can see the exposure details. I mentioned that the Olympus micro 4/3 cameras have basically matched the quality of the Canon 7D DSLR. Yes, I know that the 7D is a 5-year-old camera but Canon still sells it brand new and it has a large APS-C sensor. And actually, if you look at Canon’s newer APS-C offerings, you’ll notice that image quality really hasn’t improved much since then. So the current Olympus cameras match the Canon APS-C DSLRs.

But you can argue that Canon has fallen behind in the sensor race. Compared with Fuji, Nikon and Sony APS-C, in general, the Olympus’ high ISO quality trails by a stop. High ISO performance mainly comes in to play when shooting in darker conditions. I shoot my Olympus cameras up to ISO 3200. With the newer APS-C cameras like the Fuji X100S, I shoot up to ISO 6400. However, with the right lenses and image stabilization on the Olympus, much of this high ISO advantage can be minimized.

What all this technical talk says is that for most people, the E-M10 is more than enough camera. You shouldn’t have any issues with image quality.

Teutonic Beautiy, Congress Avenue - Austin, Texas

Teutonic Beautiy, Congress Avenue – Austin, Texas

Performers at the Bat Bar, 6th Street - Austin, Texas

Performers at the Bat Bar, 6th Street – Austin, Texas

Performance

Speed

The latest generation of Olympus cameras are fast enough for everyday life. As I mentioned up top, unless you’re a serious sports shooter, this camera should keep up with you. I’ve read that the flagship E-M1 is faster, which isn’t surprising. I can’t personally confirm this since I didn’t test the two cameras side by side. Using the E-M10, however, I never felt the speed lacking in any way.

Image Stabilization

All of the Olympus micro 4/3 cameras have in-body image stabilization (IS). Some are better than others. The E-M10 has a 3-axis system that is somewhat detuned from the class leading 5-axis system on the E-M1 and E-M5. In actual usage, I found the E-M10 to be plenty good for my needs, a noticeable jump in performance from my budget E-PM2. On my E-PM2 with a 28mm equivalent lens, I got stable shots at 1/10 of a second to 1/15 of a second. With the E-M10, I got good shots at about 1/5 of a second. So that’s at least a 1 stop IS improvement.

Tossing Rings, Rodeo Austin - Austin, Texas

Tossing Rings, Rodeo Austin – Austin, Texas

Comparisons

DSLRs

I mentioned already that when compared to entry and mid-level DSLRs, the E-M10 compares very favorably, besting it in many ways. But it’s really the size advantage of the Olympus that’s the key. The body is smaller and the lenses are smaller. Smaller usually means more convenient and you’re more likely to bring this camera with you all the time.

I can’t tell you how many friends have just stopped carrying their DSLRs, both the serious camera nerds as well as the casual photographers. Sometimes, people get hung up on technical minutia. They might buy that big camera and big lens because of technical image quality measurements and then realize that it’s no fun to shoot. Also keep in mind that most users look at images on computer screens or make small prints. Under those conditions, those uber cameras with 24 and 36 megapixels is not going to make much of a difference.

Sony Mirrorless

The latest APS-C Sony cameras such as the Alpha a6000 compare very favorably with the Olympus E-M10. They are both priced about the same and both are very refined cameras. Sony has upped their focusing speed and it’s now faster than Olympus. With a bigger APS-C sensor, the high ISO low-light performance is also better.

The Olympus has the edge with its smaller size, particularly their lenses. Keep in mind that often, it’s the lenses that take up more space than the camera body. Lens size is primarily determined by sensor size. So the larger APS-C sensor on the Sony, causes the lenses to get bigger.

Micro 4/3 also has the most lenses of any mirrorless system, Olympus and Panasonic, as well as a slew of smaller companies, make a lot of compatible lenses. That’s one of the big issues with Sony, their lens selection is lacking, even 4 years after their mirrorless launch. Since Sony released full frame mirrorless cameras (A7, A7r, A7s), their lens development is now split between full frame and APS-C. For this reason, I lack confidence in Sony’s lens roadmap.

Fujifilm Mirrorless

Fujifilm uses APS-C sensors in their mirrorless lineup. Therefore, much of the same image quality advantages and the lens size disadvantages that I mentioned for Sony apply to Fuji.

The big difference is that, unlike Sony, Fuji has really concentrated heavily in lens development. Within 2 years, they released a full compliment of highly regarded optics that cover much of the desired focal lengths. I really applaud Fuji for doing this and their mirrorless lineup is certainly worthy of strong consideration. The prices of the lenses, however, are generally (but not always) a lot more expensive than micro 4/3. And while Fuji has a good offering of lenses, micro 4/3 still has a superior selection.

Performance, such as focusing speed, for Fuji, while improving quickly, still is behind Olympus. Their flagship X-T1 is a strong performer but its pricing is inline with Olympus’ OM-D E-M1. In the E-M10’s price range, Fuji’s offerings are not as strong for overall features and usage, though their image quality and high ISO performance will be superior.

Panasonic Mirrorless

I have to admit that I don’t have much experience with the Panasonic micro 4/3 cameras, though I do own several of their lenses. Panasonic has made a strong name for itself in video and its superior to Olympus in this area. Olympus’ primary advantage is in-body image stabilization which most of the Panasonic cameras lack. It’s an advantage for still photography, though for video I heard lens based stabilization is better.

Cowboys Waiting, Rodeo Austin - Austin, Texas

Cowboys Waiting, Rodeo Austin – Austin, Texas

Olympus OM-D E-M5

I’ve mentioned the E-M5 earlier in the review. It’s still a solid, albeit slightly older camera. Its main advantage is the 5-axis image stabilization and the weatherproofing. I already told you that I prefer the ergonomics of the E-M10.

Olympus OM-D E-M1

This is Olympus’ flagship and it’s significantly more expensive. You get a bigger, beefier camera with a solid build. Of course, you get the 5-axis image stabilization and the weatherproofing. It’s the best camera to get if you have the older, legacy 4/3 DSLR lenses — they work quickly on this body with the lens adapter. Because of its larger body and stout grip, it works well for larger lenses. Read my detailed Olympus OM-D E-M1 review.

Olympus Pen E-P5

The E-P5 is the top of line camera in the Olympus Pen series. It’s a bit confusing since Olympus has 2 lines, the OM-D and Pen but they share the same sensor. It’s really a matter of packaging. The OM-Ds, for now, have built-in EVFs and the Pen line doesn’t. The E-P5 is a beautifully crafted and retro inspired from Olympus’ old film Pen cameras. It’s built better than the E-M10 and arguably even better than the E-M5. I love how it looks and feels. Read my detailed review of the Olympus Pen E-P5.

Which would I prefer, the E-P5 or the E-M10? That’s a hard question. For the price, you certainly get more features with the E-M10. The biggest one being the integrated EVF. The E-M10 uses that same batteries as my other Olympus cameras, which is a nice bonus. The E-P5 uses different batteries.

But the Pen E-P5 is seductive in its build and looks. And the E-P5 also has the 5-axis image stabilization. It’s clearly a more premium camera, and when it was introduced, it was noticeably more expensive. Over the past year the E-P5 prices have dropped, to the point where both cameras are about the same price.

Strapped In, Rodeo Austin - Austin, Texas

Strapped In, Rodeo Austin – Austin, Texas

My Likes

1. A complete set of features for a good price
2. Good ergonomic controls in a small form factor
3. That Great Olympus color
4. Fast focus
5. Accurate Exposure
6. 8 frames per second
7. Solid 3-axis image stabilization
8. Good quality EVF
9. Tilting rear LCD Screen
10. Built-in flash
11. Great lens selection, best in the mirrorless market

My Dislikes

1. On and off switch placed inconveniently near the bottom rear
2. Would prefer stiffer control dials to minimize any unintended changes
3. Does not have an accessory port for external mics

Conclusion

There is little to fault the Olympus OM-D E-M10. It’s a highly refined camera which you can tell has been honed over years of improvements. In reality, very little separates the E-M10 from its slightly older and larger brother, the E-M5. And being 2 years newer, the E-M10 has some new features such as a newer image processor and newer firmware. It has HDR bracketing features, for example, that the E-M5 does not have.

It seems like Olympus added all the latest features, detuned the camera a bit (using a 3-axis IS system instead of the 5-axis, removing the weather sealing) used a slightly less expensive body casing and dropped the price. At $799 it has all the features most anyone will need and it’s solidly under the $1000 mark.

I would seriously consider this over any entry to mid-level DSLR. The image quality is in line with DSLRs and it so much more versatile and fun. The smaller camera is going to allow you to bring it to more places than a comparably bulky DSLR. In theory, a skilled photographer might be able to get technically cleaner pictures from an APS-C DSLR, but for most people, it probably won’t make a difference. Size and convenience wins.

For any one looking for a camera under $1000, it’s the camera I recommend.

Long Legs, SXSW Interactive - Austin, Texas

Long Legs, SXSW Interactive – Austin, Texas

6th Street Acrobats, SXSW Interactive - Austin, Texas

6th Street Acrobats, SXSW Interactive – Austin, Texas

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Photographs taken with a Olympus OM-D E-M10 with a mixture of lenses. All photos taken in JPEG and processed using Apple’s Aperture 3. If this review is helpful, please support me by buying my products through Amazon or Precision Camera, you get the same price and I get a small commission.

Click on the photographs to see a larger image and hover over the photos to see the exposure detail.

The colorful characters of Eeyore’s Birthday Party

2014 Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas

2014 Eeyores Birthday Party – Austin, Texas

Eeyore’s Birthday Party is always a fun place for people photography. I once called it the Last Remnant of Hippie Austin. The event has been going on for some 50+ years but I’ve only visited the last three. I thought I posted something last year, but turns out I didn’t. When I compared this year’s photographs to 2 years ago, I noticed some interesting differences.

2014 Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas
2014 Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas

I’ve changed my style somewhat and while I’m currently on a saturated color kick, the main difference is due to the lenses’ focal length. Look at the photos from 2 years ago and you’ll notice portraits taken with a 90mm equivalent lens. There’s a formality to them, they’re more posed. The narrower angle of view concentrates attention directly on the single subject.

Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas
Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas
Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas

This year, you’ll see more candids and even my posed portraits are more laid back, I think. With the 35mm equivalent lens, I need to shoot differently. I’m up closer to my subjects but I still include more of the environment.

Over the last couple years, I’ve come to realize that I like the 28mm to 35mm focal length. I still shoot 40mm and 50mm at times but that’s not my preference. And though on my urban architecture photos, I go wider to 22mm, 35mm is the ideal half way point for me.

Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas
Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas

But of course, this means I need to get closer, to get into the action. With a 90mm, I can safely be at the periphery, peering in, without truly committing. This year, I had to get in the midst of the drum circle to get these shots.

Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas
Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas

I was particularly mesmerized by this woman in black. She danced like she was possessed by the god of free spirit. She moved rhythmically to the changing percussive beat. I shot first at 1/250 of a second to stop the action. Later, I experimented with 1/30 of a second to create motion blur.

Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas
Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas
Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas

Eeyores is now popular with photographers and many swarm the area with DSLRs in hand. Some come armed with two cameras with short and long zooms, strapped to elaborate holstering systems. I think that violates the spirit of this place. A single camera with a single lens is more in keeping. Extra points if you use a small camera with a diminutive prime lens.

Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas
Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas

Why one lens? This is not a sporting event. It’s more about getting into the spirit of the place and becoming one with the crowd. A small camera up close seems like it just fits. I still have a ways to go. I still go dressed in civilian clothing. I’ve never been a costume person for any event, so it’s going to take a leap for me to truly fit in.

Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas
Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas

But I like to think, in my own rigid way, I’m making progress. I feel that this year’s images are more relaxed and better captures the mood. A little slice of hippie Austin from a few months back, when the weather was still cool and the grass was still green. I’m trying to stay cool as the summer heat is finally starting to kick in this year.

Stay cool my friends.

Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas
Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas
Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas
Eeyores Birthday Party - Austin, Texas

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I took all the photographs with the Fujifilm X100S in JPEG and post processed with Aperture 3.

Make sure to click on the photographs to a see larger version. Hover over the photos to see the picture details.


Haiku Photo: W Hotel Staircase

W Hotel Staircase - Austin, Texas

Stairway to Music
Of concrete with added glow
Road to ACL

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Is this the ultimate small camera for HDR?

Patio at Cru, 2nd Street - Austin, Texas

Patio at Cru, 2nd Street – Austin, Texas

Realize that when I create HDRs, I do so because I like the results. I actually dislike the process.

Why? To do HDRs well, I need to use a tripod, which automatically slows me down. It’s something extra I need to pack and carry around, which usually gets in the way. I also have less freedom to compose and unless I’m careful, all the shots start looking the same since I’m shooting from the same height.

Shooting the 3 or more bracketed images takes time too, especially at night. Understand that the more time it takes, the less time I have to shoot other things. A 3 bracket low-light shot might take a minute or more. Consider that blue hour in Austin only lasts, at most, 15 minutes and the peak color is even shorter. Spend a minute or so per shot and I only get several good blue hour images per night.

Then of course, there is all that post processing on computer that needs to be done after I capture the shots. Fortunately, I’ve streamlined the process quite a bit and the software has gotten a lot better so creating the actual HDR image has become easier.

But today, I want to talk about the image capture side of HDR. How can I make it easier and more fun to take brackets on tripod? Well I’ve been working on the part of the equation too.

Colorful Fado, 4th Street - Austin, Texas

For a number of years, I’ve used Olympus micro 4/3 mirrorless cameras to do my HDRs. They are significantly smaller, lighter and faster than DSLRs. My preferred setup? An inexpensive Olympus E-PM2 with a 14mm f2.5 Panasonic lens and an optional wide-angle adapter. The image quality is pretty darn close to my big Canon 6D but infinitely more fun and faster.

Sullivan's in the warehouse district - Austin, Texas
Sully's on the Corner, Warehouse District - Austin, Texas

Consider too that as the camera and lens become lighter, the tripod can also shrink in size and weight. The total effect is significant. Also because micro 4/3 has deeper depth of field, my aperture can be larger and I still get everything in focus. That means that I can shoot faster because I use a lower f number. I use f5.6 – f10 range on the micro 4/3 rather than the f13 to f16 that I might use on a DSLR.

New Office Construction, Colorado Street - Austin, Texas

A couple of nights ago, on a whim, I played around with what might be the ultimate small camera for HDR. Precision Camera was nice enough to let me use the Pentax Q7 with the standard kit lens. Unlike the Sony A7 Review I did last month, this is not a proper “18 Hours with” review. I literally played with this camera for only a few hours. But what I created in that short time was eye-opening.

The Pentax Q7 on top a small tripod

I used the Pentax Q7 to shoot all of the HDR photos on this post. The Q7 is tiny and even smaller than my already diminutive Olympus E-PM2. Look at this thing, It looks totally ridiculous on my tripod, which is one of the lightest full featured tripods available.

The Q7 also has a smaller sensor, much smaller than the micro 4/3. Its 1/1.7” size is typically used in high-end compacts like the Canon G16. I know, I know you’re thinking “Wouldn’t that small sensor be too noisy in low-light?”. Well, I’m here to tell you that, surprisingly, no. Shot as a ISO 100 JPEG on tripod the images look fantastic.

Willie Nelson Statue, 2nd Street - Austin, Texas

Here’s the thing, because the camera is even smaller than micro 4/3, you lighten the load even more. It might be tough to find a decent tripod significantly under 2 pounds so it might not help with the tripod weight, however, the camera and lenses are tiny. You save space in your camera bag or you might not even need a bag. Extra lenses are so tiny that they easily fit in your pocket.

But here’s the biggest thing. Because the depth of field is so deep, I shot these HDRs at f2.8, which is the widest aperture I had on the kit lens. Instead of taking a minute or longer to capture the HDR brackets, I did so in 4 to 5 seconds, at most. I also didn’t need to precisely focus since, again, basically everything is in focus. I can’t tell you how quick and truly enjoyable this made the entire HDR capture process.

Trace at the W, 2nd Street - Austin, Texas

The standard kit lens has a 35mm equivalent from 23.5mm to 70.5mm. The crop factor is 4.7x, unlike micro 4/3 which is 2x. That means, for me, all I need is the kit lens. At 23.5mm, it’s wide enough for most of my shots, and I also have the flexibility of a 3x zoom range. Want to go wider? Pentax makes a small ultra-wide zoom with a 18mm to 28mm equivalent. Did I tell you that the Q7 is the smallest interchangeable mirrorless camera? Penxtax currently has 8 interchangeable lenses.

Jo's on 2nd Street - Austin, Texas

Is the image quality as good as micro 4/3 for HDRs? Very close but the Olympus is a bit better. First, the current Olympus cameras are 16MP and the Q7 is only 12MP. At 100%, while not noisy, there is almost an imperceptible ultra fine grain to the image. I don’t find it objectionable at all.

The biggest issue I found is probably due to the kit lens, rather than the sensor. If you look at the bright lights, you see a bit of flaring or coma. It’s not ideal but I can live with it — it gives a certain character to the image. Plus, I found that even an expensive Sony/Zeiss lens also exhibited this trait on the Sony A7 that I tested last month (more about his in a future post).

Finally, did I tell you the Pentax Q7 plus the kit lens costs only $350? Yup, you can get it here from Precision Camera or here from Amazon.

So, am I going to buy this camera? I’m very tempted, perhaps later in the year. I already own a boat load of cameras so I need to do some mental justification. I want to borrow this camera again for a proper “18 hour review” in the future. I’ll test other aspects of the camera to give you a full impression.

But here’s the take away. The Pentax Q7 is a heck of a small camera and heck of a lot of fun. And at $350 brand new, it is a lot less expensive than most HDR setups and it’s probably the most convenient.

Berry Austin, 2nd Street - Austin, Texas
ATM on Congress - Austin, Texas
Precision Camera
Thank you to Precision Camera for letting me borrow the Pentax Q7.

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I took the photographs with the Penxtax Q7 and the standard kit lens. You can support me by purchasing the camera through these links. You get the same price and I get a small commission. Get it here from Precision Camera or here from Amazon.

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SoCo and Kitsch: Experimenting and gradually losing the fear of color and contrast

The Stores of SoCo - Austin, Texas

The Stores of SoCo – Austin, Texas

I’m usually down in SoCo (South Congress) after hours, at night. But last Saturday, I went during the day with my sons. The stores were open and I got to explore the eclectic jumble that makes SoCo fun.

The Fuji X100S worked well. And while I’m now comfortable shooting the camera, with some 15,000 exposed frames, I haven’t always been thrilled with the color. The images onscreen look decent but they look somewhat wimpy when printed.

Lots of Skulls, Uncommon Objects - Austin, Texas
Doll in Library, Uncommon Objects - Austin, Texas

I like saturated color. I’m no film expert but from what I see, film seems to be more saturated yet with a subtle dimension. Digital looks flat and dull to me. That’s why I alter every photo on my computer, whether shot with JPEG or RAW. But, there’s a nagging feeling that the now colorful photos still look digital. Perhaps I need more experience in post processing? The X100S, while having excellent image quality, looks anemic, even when compared to my other digital cameras. It doesn’t always have that rich color that I really like.

Shopppers, Uncommon Objects - Austin, Texas

The wonderful color I’m getting from my 11-year-old CCD based Olympus E1, got me thinking. Is a CCD sensor truly better for color than the modern CMOS sensors? Perhaps I need to tweak my post-processing and experiment. I also admit that I’ve only lightly played with the in-camera Fuji film simulations. My initial tests were inconclusive, so I still shoot mostly in the default Provia mode.

Edison's Art, Uncommon Objects - Austin, Texas
Extra Letters, Uncommon Objects - Austin, Texas

All of the photos on this post are the results of my experimentation. I’ve increased mid-level contrast and added more vibrancy. The results seem promising. I haven’t achieved that film look but the X100S seems more in line with my other digitals. No doubt, I’ll tweak more, over time. My style will most certainly evolve as my tastes change and experience increases.

Incidentally, the Breda, Netherlands night photos I posted a couple of days ago also incorporates my latest post-processing settings.

Alter Egos, Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds - Austin, Texas
Machine from another era, Goorin Bros. - Austin, Texas

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I took all the photographs with the Fujifilm X100S in JPEG and post processed with Aperture 3.

Make sure to click on the photographs to a see larger version. Hover over the photos to see the picture details.