I was all set to do a standard review of the Olympus E-P5. Charles, the Olympus representative based out of Dallas, was nice enough to lend me the E-P5 for a week and a half. I was heading out to California on a business trip so I decided to bring it along. I played with it for a couple of days before the trip and already had a good idea of what I was going to say about it. That all changed when I began shooting it in a real environment.
I headed to downtown San Francisco, Market Street, directly from SFO. This was the heart of downtown and would be an excellent place to do some street photography. It has a mix of tourists, business people and colorful characters. The perfect spot to find some great subjects.
While I usually shoot aperture priority, I’ve started to shoot shutter priority for these street shots. I set a minimum shutter speed, set it to Auto ISO and have the camera do the rest. As it gets darker the ISO automatically goes up but I maintain a fast enough shutter speed. I’ve used this technique very effectively in Austin, on 6th street. Except I made some mistakes. Chalk it up to inexperience in the big city.
I started with a 1/125 per second, which worked fine in Austin. But in the faster pace of San Francisco, I got too much motion blur. People were walking briskly and I was also moving so it was hit or miss with this shutter speed. Over time, I increased the shutter to 1/160s and finally to 1/200s. I started getting more keepers with the higher speed. Of course it was getting darker so the ISO eventually hit 1600.
OMG. I’m here to tell you that the Olympus E-P5 is amazing for street photography. Sure the camera looks good and that was going to be the focus of my review but after shooting in San Francisco last night, I needed to talk about this camera differently. The E-P5’s speed, the flip-up LCD and the unobtrusive size make it the perfect street camera.
I currently own 4 Olympus Pen cameras, two E-PL1s, a E-P3 and E-PM2. With over 20,000 frames with these cameras, I’m quite experienced and knowledgable about Olympus micro 4/3. The E-P5 is the best. Not only is it the most beautiful and balanced Pen camera, it’s the most fun to shoot. I’ll go into the aesthetics in a future post but it certainly has a premium feel to match its premium price.
The Olympus OM-D and the E-PL5 both have flip-up LCDs but the E-P5 is superior because of the better ergonomics. The controls fit well in hand, the camera is smaller than the OM-D and the “kit” 17mm f1.8 works great on the street. To keep the lowest profile, I took off the VF-4 electronic view finder. There was no direct sun so I had no trouble using the LCD for composing. I flipped up the LCD and shot it at waist and chest level. Many people didn’t know I was shooting — others just ignored me — probably because it wasn’t a big honking camera. Try that with a DSLR.
I often do street portraits where I ask permission before I shoot. This time, I did classic street photography, I shot away without asking. It also felt a bit strange doing this outside the confines of an event. It is one thing to shoot this way in a parade or the ROT Biker Rally, it is another to do so on a regular city street. Unlike my usual photos, these were shot in JPEG (actually I shot in JPEG and RAW) since Aperture 3 still does not have a RAW converter for the E-P5. I only did some light post processing on the JPEGs.
As it got dark, I set the max Auto ISO from the default 1600 to 3200. The camera continued to focus quickly and bang away shots flawlessly. This camera has the same sensor and image processor as my E-PM2 so I wasn’t expecting too much, just an upgrade to the fit and finish. I was wrong. The camera is a whole lot more enticing that I ever imagined. Curses, I wasn’t budgeting for another camera.
Stay tuned. More E-P5 coverage to come soon.
Please support this blog by clicking on my Amazon Link before buying anything.