A couple of posts ago I mentioned that “I wanted a camera for taking pictures of me. ” I compared the Fujifilm X10 vs the S100 to find an easy to use all around point and shoot camera. I was leaning towards the X10 when a new contender popped up. Well here is the continuation of that story. Back at Precision Camera, I suddenly became curious whether the new Olympus Pens were any better at flash exposure than my E-PL1. After all Olympus had released several new cameras since my older model E-PL1. I played with the E-P3, the latest and the top of the line mirrorless Olympus camera at least until the new OM-D ships this month. I’ve always liked the more upscale look and feel of the E-Px series but reviews online of the E-P3 did not entice me. Sure it focused at lot quicker but the high ISO performance didn’t seem any better than my E-PL1. But maybe the flash worked a lot better, it is at least worth a try.
Jon at Precision brought over a shiny silver E-P3 and I fired off a flash. First impression, the flash exposure looked better than my E-PL1 but it didn’t have that magic color and exposure blending that the Fujifilm’s did. I checked the image details and noticed that the camera picked ISO 200 when set to auto ISO. No wonder the background was so dark. I set the ISO to 800 and fired the flash again. Bingo, nice ambient light with decent flash exposure. This camera did seem better than mine at flash blending. I still don’t think it’s quite the same as the X10 but things looked promising. I shot a bunch of other shots a ISO 400, 1600 and even 3200. Ambient light became brighter with the higher ISOs, as expected, but the images was not getting blown out and over exposed. Olympus definitely improved the flash exposure over my camera. The focusing system is a lot better too with a more accurate and larger autofocus coverage area. It even has face and eye detection which ensures sharp focus on a person’s eyes. However, the E-P3 at $900 was definitely more than I wanted to spend. And, if I was going to spend this kind of money for a Olympus, I would probably spend a bit more and get a OM-D. That new camera, which comes out very soon, seems like a significant improvement over the E-P3. I figured that if the E-P3’s flash exposure was this good, the OM-D E-M5 would be at least as good or better. I left the store empty-handed except for my SD card, and analyzed all the photos at home.
Then I started to dream. The new OM-D E-M5 certainly does look swell. My Panasonic Lumix 20mm f1.7 and Olympus 45mm f1.8 would really work nicely on that camera too. But there were some downsides. This new camera, while still small compared to a DSLR, is larger than my current Pens. It also uses a different battery. It also has features that I really didn’t need such as weather resistance and an electronic view finder. I decided to hold off on making any decisions until I actually played with the new camera and read more reviews. Then I started to think again. The Olympus E-PM1, the lowest cost Pen camera, it’s supposed to have the same image quality as the more expensive E-P3. There was a discount for it too, only $429 with the rebate. That’s basically the same price as the Canon S100. Sure the E-PM1 isn’t pocket-size like the Canon S100 but I really didn’t care about that. The Olympus will have a higher quality than the Canon and even higher than the Fujifilm. Yeah, I think I still like the exposure and ambient light blending of the Fuji a bit more but with better overall image quality and $170 lower in price, this little Olympus was looking more interesting. I wondered if the flash exposure on this model works the same as the E-P3?
I surfed around some more when I paid a visit to the used camera section of Adorama. I’ve brought some used Canon gear there before and I like to check them out from time to time. I’ve also sold some of my stuff there too and I’m familiar enough with Adorama that I trust their used products. I clicked over to the Olympus Digital section and did a double take. A Olympus E-P3 for $579. And it is in Demo condition, which is one step under New. I couldn’t believe the price and wondered what the catch was. Oh, it’s body only, It does not come with a lens. Perfect! I have a kit lens already and I don’t even use it. I use my 20mm 70% of the time and the 45mm for the rest. But, I resisted. I wasn’t ready to plunk down $579 for yet another Olympus Pen camera, particularly when I already had my two camera setup that I really liked. I knew it was a great deal but I decided to go to bed. These deals go fast so I knew if I wanted it I need to pull the trigger quickly.
The next morning, I was still thinking about that low-cost E-PM1 in the shower. It’s a good price and it could be a decent smaller Pen camera that I can use for my family outings. But you know for only $150 more I could get the top of the line E-P3 from Adorama. But I’m probably too late. But maybe I’ll check, just in case. Wow, it’s still there at $579! Well you know, if I got the E-P3, I could probably hold off buying that OM-D for a year or so. Olympus may even have a E-P4 with a similar OM-D feature set in a smaller package. That might be even better. Well I’m sure you can guess how this story ends. Yes, I did end up buying that used Olympus E-P3. The system trumps the individual (camera). Sure the Fujifilm X10 does some really nice things in a smaller and convenient package with a great zoom lens but the Olympus is part of a system. This new E-P3 uses the same great lenses and batteries as my two E-PL1s. Any future lens investment I make now applies to the entire Olympus system that I’ve obviously started to build. The Olympus color and exposure is a known quality, which I like, so there is a certainly level of image continuity. I don’t have to worry about the possibility of wonky color from another camera company. Hey and I’m getting this top of the line mirrorless camera for a lower price than the Fujifilm X10 too. The only downside, I didn’t get my camera at Precision Camera, who allowed me to the do the camera comparisons. When all things are equal, I like to buy local to support the local stores. I’ll have remember to throw some future business over to Precision, when I can.
In the next installment, I will let you know about my first impression of my new Olympus E-P3. I’ve already got some photographs taken with the E-P3 posted over at mostlyfotos, if you’re interested. I’m sure I’ll be posting a lot more in the future.