Shooting the Olympus E-P3 in a sea of Leicas

Jacquelyn's Leica M6, Peter Turnley Lecture - Austin, Texas

Jacquelyn’s Leica M6, Peter Turnley Lecture – Austin, Texas

A few weeks ago I attended a photography lecture given at the Blanton Museum of Art on the University of Texas campus. Peter Turnley was the guest speaker at the Icons of Photography series hosted by ACP, The Austin Center for photography. I got there an hour early so that I can take photographs, a consequence of having a photo blog; you need a constant source of new images and it forces me to get out there and shoot all the time. That night I brought one camera and one lens, the Olympus E-P3 with the Panasonic Lumix 14mm f2.5. The 14mm prime is probably smallest lens in the micro 4/3 line up. When paired with the E-P3, it makes for a very compact and stylish retro-modern camera.

Registration, Peter Turnley Lecture - Austin, Texas

Registration, Peter Turnley Lecture – Austin, Texas

Jacquelyn and Glen, Peter Turnley Lecture - Austin, Texas

Jacquelyn and Glen, Peter Turnley Lecture – Austin, Texas

During the pre-lecuture get together, I noticed an abnormally large number of Leicas, carried by the attendees. Very strange, even if I knew the ACP events tend to attract the more serious, photography purists. It turns out that this particular event was co-sponsered by Leica and some Leica camera club members from out-of-town made the trek to Austin to hear Peter speak. Peter Turnley, a photojournalist who shot for Newsweek, uses many different kind of cameras but some of his famous, early work were shot in black and white and with a Leica. With the Leica connection established, I now understood the atypical skew of photography gear. And the Leicas looked very comfortably at home in a place like this; they look beautiful, classic and not oversized. The few DSLRs at the pre and post lecture gathering looked out-of-place. The people who used them look like event photographers at a corporate media shindig. The size of the DSLR attracted attention and didn’t seem to fit the vibe of the place or the gathering.

Lecture Hall, Peter Turnley Lecture - Austin, Texas

Lecture Hall, Peter Turnley Lecture – Austin, Texas

Inspired, Peter Turnley Lecture - Austin, Texas

Inspired, Peter Turnley Lecture – Austin, Texas

My E-P3, however, worked perfectly. It was small, good-looking and didn’t stick out. While it didn’t have the Leica’s range finder style, the retro curves and small 14mm lens echoed the same feel as a classic rangefinder. while Leica users might disagree, I find the Olympus eminently more usable. It auto focuses, quickly and quietly. I can shoot away and experiment without worrying about film. Its high ISO capability is better then the digital Leica M8 or M9. All this and my Olympus E-P3 was considerably smaller than the Leicas. Now I do know the Leica have their strengths. Their optics are legendary, the full frame film or sensor (in the M9) is going to have more shallow depth of field and in good light, they can take some amazing photographs.

After the Lecture, Peter Turnley Lecture - Austin, Texas

After the Lecture, Peter Turnley Lecture – Austin, Texas

But here is the deal. For a small fraction of the Leica price, I have a camera that’s arguably much more functional. It fits in at the same type of places without standing out like a DSLR and I can shoot and keep shooting. I believe cameras are made for creating photographs. And no matter how beautiful Leica makes them look, why carry a camera around if you are not going to shoot it. With the exception of my friend Gary, who shot so much with his film Leica, I thought he had a digital M9, I didn’t see much photography going on. Now to be fair, maybe taking photographs at a gathering is not their style. After all, while street shooters might like this environment, fine art photographers may find it uninteresting, photographically. Perhaps the Leica owners thought it was a waste of their film and their money to shoot there. But with all these awesome, beautiful cameras around, I found them somewhat underused. And that is what separates my E-P3 from the sea of Leicas. My camera gets used extensively to feed images into my blogs but more importantly I enjoy creating images and improving my photography.

After the Lecture, Peter Turnley Lecture - Austin, Texas

After the Lecture, Peter Turnley Lecture – Austin, Texas

Truth be told, I’m also somewhat guilty of having a Leica on display and not shooting it. My father gave me a beautiful Leica M3, which I have in a display cabinet at home. I don’t shoot film and while I admire the M3 for its beauty and craftsmanship, I’ll take an Digital Olympus for its ease of use and lower ownership cost. I may shoot the M3 someday, if it still works. For now, my E-P3 and other Olympus digital Pens are my cameras of choice. And if I ever shoot in a sea of Leicas again, I may have to put a bumper sticker on my Olympus that says, my other camera is a Leica M3.

Book Signing, Peter Turnley - Austin, Texas

Book Signing, Peter Turnley – Austin, Texas


I took these photographs with my Olympus E-P3 with the Panasonic Lumix 14mm f2.5. Please make sure to click on a photograph to see a larger image and hover over the photo to see the exposure details.

See more images taken with the Olympus E-P3 at mostlyfotos, my one photograph per day photo blog.

Are you interesting in the camera I used to take these photographs? Here are the links to the Olympus E-P3 in Black or Silver from Amazon. I used the Panasonic Lumix 14m f2.5 lens which is sold separately. If you are thinking of buying this camera or lens please use these links. You will get the same low Amazon price and I’ll get a small commission, which helps support this site.

20 thoughts on “Shooting the Olympus E-P3 in a sea of Leicas

  1. I’m loving my E-P3 … except that I’m getting rather more contrasty results than I do with the PL-1. More tendency to burn out highlights, too. usually, I can fix it in PS, but I have had to change me shooting style a bit.

    It’s also REALLY REALLY fast. Virtually instant on the recycle and the battery charges quickly, a strong point in its favor!.

    The BAD part is that for the life of me, I cannot navigate the menu system and it is driving me up the proverbial wall. I can’t find the menu to change the format (it’s shooting jpg and I want RAW!) … and if I manage to find the ISO menu, it’s only by chance. There’s no “dummy book” out for it yes, or wasn’t when I checked a couple of months ago.

    With all the blazing speed, I’m not as thrilled with my results as I thought I’d be.

    1. I do find that the E-P3 exposes a bit brighter than the E-PL1. The Olympus menu is definitely a double edged sword. There is some many customizations you can make to tweak your camera but it does make the menus long and complicated. Luckily, I don’t have to go into the menus often.

      1. I don’t suppose you could give me a hint on how to: (a) change the ISO, and (b) change the format from jpg to raw. I don’t get overly fancy and use a lot of default settings, but these are so basic that being unable to find them is driving me bonkers. Yes, the image DO are brighter — even a bit over-exposed in bright sunlight, so I’d like to lower the brightness a bit — if I can find the menu. I’m not against post processing, but I do prefer getting the base image as close to what I want as possible. Probably a result of my formative years working with film and worrying processing costs. I think they either need to simplify (or minimally, arrange them in some logical way!) the menus or rethink whether or not anyone needs quite so many possible settings. At the very least, we deserve documentation that contains instructions we can follow. I used to write instructions. I’m betting these are not written but, Lord help us, “generated” by some automated process. Yuck.

      2. All of the commonly changed settings including ISO and JPEG/RAW can be accessed by pressing the OK button in the middle of the rotating dial. You can click up or down on the rotating dial to scroll through the settings you want to change.

        There is also an alternative interface called the Super Control Panel (SCP) that shows all the controls on screen at once. The way to enable SCP is hidden deeply in the menus. Page 79 of the manual talks about SCP but doesn’t seem to talk about how to turn it on. I like the SCP because it shows all the settings that can be changed at a glance and also shows all the settings you currently have set.

        To Turn on SCP you first have to turn on the custom menu (with the gears icon). Hit the menu button and scroll all the way down to the Wrench icon which is the last one on the left side. After you highlight the wrench, click right on the rotating dial and scroll down to the Menu Display, click right again and turn on the top menu display which has a gear icon on it. If you do this properly you get an new Gears menu item that appears above the Wrench icon.

        Now that you have the gears menu, you can turn on SCP. If you hit the menu button, you should now see the Gears icon, the 4th one down on the right side. Scroll down to the gears icon and click right. Scroll down to the D menu, which says starts with the word Disp. Click right to get into the Custom D menu. Scroll down 4 lines to the Control Settings menu item. Click right. You now have a choice of iAuto, P/A/S/M, Art and SCN. These correspond to the dial settings on the top of the camera. Since I only shoot in P/A/S/M mode, I select this menu item and click right again. You have two menu items, Live Control and SCP. I turn off Live Control and turn on SCP. This is the very convoluted way you turn on SCP.

        I hope you followed these instructions. Again you don’t have to turn on SCP. The OK button in the middle of the rotating dial gives you access to the settings you want. SCP is a matter of choice.

      3. Thank you thank you thank you! I use the SCP on th PL-1, but I had a copy of “PL-1” for dummies so I can find the menus on that camera. Put there’s no “dummies” book for the P3 yet. Soon, I hope!!

        This is what’s wrong with “generated” documentation. No one “reality” tests it. It’s written by a machine, so maybe a machine could make sense of it but generally, real users can’t. I don’t know how YOU found it, but I commend you. I gave up. I put the camera on iAuto and surrendered. Beaten by a menu structure so obscure that a computer professional couldn’t decipher it. That’s the first time in more than 30 years I got beat by a set of menus. My Waterloo … and it was my own camera that did it!

        P/A/S/M is my preferred mode too, after I have it set up the way I want it. I like the super menu because it lets you see how it is currently set at a glance and if you need to change anything, you don’t have to dig through 27 levels of menus.

        This camera has the MOST convoluted menu structure I’ve ever heard of and I wrote manuals for software created by baby VC development startups for 30 years! I thought I’d seen it all, but I guess I hadn’t. Someday we’ll have to chat about how this kind of awful menu design gets created and why. It’s a hoot, if you like that sort of thing.

        Thank you again, really … a LOT!!!

      4. I’m glad I was able to help and also glad you were able to follow my instructions. I think the Olympus Menus are challenging because you can custom set so many parameters. I find the actual shooting interface decent enough, especially with the SCP. You want to see a bad menu structure try the Sony NEX-5. I don’t think they got real photographers to test that camera. On the Sony, there are not too many options but all of the logically grouped options are scatted throughout the menu system. It really gets annoying.

  2. Leicas are not for everyone. I shot my uncle’s old film Leicas, and one of my first serious cameras was a Zeiss rangefinder. I stumbled across my M8 quite by accident – a guy who was trying to best his camera buddies went out and bought one without having one iota of a clue about rangefinders. When he got the camera, he complained that the autofocus did not work. No kidding. Not wanting to feel like more of an idiot in front of his friends, he sold it to me on the sly. I got quite a deal. I love the camera but have to admit I don’t use it as often as I should.

    I use the Leica D Lux 4 compact much more. It’s the designated Purse Cam. It’s the twin counterpart of the Panasonic DMC-LX3 Nice pic here http://ohnostudio.com/2012/05/chinese-buffet-report/

    As long as you get the results you are after, the camera that you use doesn’t much matter. The key is in knowing what to take when. I’m more apt to take the Olympus E-PL1 when I have the opportunity for general scenics or something like festivals. The Leica D Lux 4 goes with me everywhere. The DSLRs mostly stay home these days unless there is a specific purpose that I can foresee like shooting long or action. Hauling the Big Bag has just gotten tiring. I did that on vacation once – never again. I’m more likely to take the Olympus or even more likely a newly acquired Panasonic G10 that I had converted to Full Spectrum. So now I have infrared in various flavors plus the ability for back to normal shooting using a hot mirror filter.

    1. I also find so many of my friends are leaving the DSLR at home, including myself. Since I don’t carry a purse, I don’t need a really small camera so the E-PL1 and E-P3 work for me, but I’ve have heard that the D Lux 4/LX3 is a great pocket camera. Yeah, and I agree. Most cameras these days have the ability to take good photos especially with a bit of knowledge. But, why bring a fancy and expensive Leica M series if it’s not going to be used?

      1. The sizes are really close on the E-PL1 and the D Lux 4. The D Lux 4 gives me that little bit of zoom when I need it or when I’m lazy.

        I think the “unused” aspect for some Leica shooters may have it’s roots in film shooting when every frame cost you something. I’m that way a lot of the time. I tend to think more, shoot as needed instead of pounding out frames.

    2. I loved my old Leica M3 (yes, really OLD … but not so old back then!) … but it had significant limitations that mounted up for me. Rangefinders are not everyone’s cuppa tea. The bare bones design that typified Leica is not for everyone. I didn’t want to sell it, but I wanted an SLR. I wanted WYSIWYG. I wanted a built-in light meter. I loved the Leica optics … the absolutely best lenses I’ve ever had the privilege to use, but that move to SLR was like the moment when I finally realized I wanted I needed an automatic transmission because I was sitting in traffic and the tendons in my knee were wearing out from constantly working the clutch. I wish I’d had enough money to keep the Leica and get another camera too, but back then, I was way too poor.

    1. DeeDee, the M3 is part of 3 cameras that my Dad gave me. He bought them a long time ago since he thought they are classics. I have the Leica M3, a Contax range finder and a Rolliflex. I may have to shoot with them, it would be a shame for them to be just “museum pieces”.

  3. hi, i am a new user of pen ep-3 and interested to buy the panasonic 14mm. i’m just wondering does it goes well with ep-3 ? i like its small size. from the photos that u have uploaded, the quality looks amazing, i just want to know your personal opinion about getting the lens.

    1. izzat, I think the 14mm works great with the E-P3. The two make for a very compact combination. I believe the 20mm might be rated to have higher quality but I’m also happy with the images I get from my 14. Also the 14mm focuses faster than the 20 and it’s better for video since it is a lot quieter to focus.

  4. Went shooting today with the P3. I love how the pictures are coming out now. They’re better, much closer to natural since I turned down the contrast to -1. It wasn’t, as I originally thought, too bright … but everything had too much contrast. I can always increase contrast in post processing. I find it more difficult to reduce it. Also, the “motor drive” is overly enthusiastic. I accidentally took more than 100 extra pictures … it’s quite a hair trigger. I’m going to have to either stop using the multi-exposure mode or qucikly learn a much lighter touch on the trigger. The speed of the camera is amazing, but it also takes a bit of getting used to. The pictures all came out as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen. 171 frames, about 150 of them pretty good. I really missed having a true wide angle lens today … need that depth of field!

  5. I am always amazed when folks who buy and sell all those newer and better cameras worry about us,
    the film users. So expensive! Are you really trying to justify, this gerbil on a wheel economics of digital usage?
    Film does cost each exposure. Guess what, unless a company gave you one, so does digital.
    Newer PC’s, slates, memory drives, upgrades all the time. It is plain crazy. It is bad economics.

    A friend said”Digital has promised us more, than we ever had, delivering way less, than we ever accepted.”

    Oh sure the newer equipment is better. I been told that since 1999, by Kodak no less, to use their DSLR.
    And numerous gerbils on the internet.

    My Leica M3 named “ziggy” came into my life in 1967.
    It stayed while a wife, numerous girlfriends faded into memories. Film memories.
    Yes, it requires maintenance. Irritating but part of deal.

    The M3, ziggy captured Fashion, General news,Documentary.
    Than i moved from Fashion to the streets as South Africa went into historic change.
    No batteries ever. No adapters for power sources, no upgrades.

    Film is available, not expensive, definitely archival plus. Re-Read that.

    My outside drive suddenly decided to send all of 2013, to the “never see again land”, of digital hell.
    My films are safe. Luckily i use memory cards like film, so only a small number of images are lost..
    The main lens is a Summicron Collapsible 50mm f2. It is very sharp but in a pleasant way.
    I hate the aspheric ultra sharp look. I am not crazy about sharpness.

    Yes i use digital. Small compact point and shoots. The Canon Powershot 1200, and old Konica, Kodak,Canon 400..
    All are compacts.Traveled to South Africa to visit family. Only used them!
    You do yourself a dis-service by not using film.
    No major editing.
    I read K.T shot 2500 images in one shoot.
    Wow! Wonderful.
    Glad i am not editing. Real glad.
    I often do a shoot with one 24 exposure roll..jason gold.

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