Learning the Olympus System

Ever since ordering the Olympus OM-D E-M5 over a month ago, I’ve been waiting rather impatiently for it to ship. Unfortunately, that probably won’t be for another couple of weeks.

So in the meantime, I decided to get an Olympus PEN E-PL1 ($289 on Amazon w/lens) and begin to get familiar with Olympus’ menu system and general camera functions. In reading about both cameras, it appeared that they had similar menu setups and would make for an easy transition to the E-M5.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the E-PL1 and have been pleasantly surprised at the quality of images that can be coaxed from this little “PEN”. These images reflect a few of my favorites, so far, and have various amounts of post processing applied, from just a crop to some fairly aggressive black and white work.

All images are from the Olympus PEN E-PL1 with the 14-42mm kit lens.

ISO 1000, f/5.3, 1/40s, 37mm

ISO 200, f/8, 10 seconds, 42mm (light painting)

ISO 200, f/8, 1/1250s, 39mm, B&W processing in Nik Silver Efex Pro

ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/1500s, 42mm, cropped only

ISO 200, f/8, 10 seconds, 42mm, (light painting)

Author: Mike Hendren

Photography is a way for us to express how we view the world around us. It can reveal how we see things - our perception of reality. At times, it provides a creative medium that allows us to alter that reality. Photography also provides a way to capture time and then travel back there whenever you wish. Every time you look at a photo, it can transport you back to that moment, allowing you to relive and remember …

8 thoughts on “Learning the Olympus System”

  1. Well Matt, it sounds like you're having a great time with the new machine! I've been reading and debating over whether to get the 20mm f/1.7 or the 25mm f/1.4. What I've read indicates the 25 is very slightly better, optically, but a couple of hundred dollars more expensive, but I really like the size of the 20mm so that's the direction I'm leaning right now.

    That 45mm sounds like an exciting lens, but to be honest, I don't know how often I'd use that photo length – gonna have to give that one some thought.

    As for the wide angle stuff, I'm going to see what I get out of the 12-50mm kit lens I'm getting before I do anything drastic.

    Hey, if you don't mind, go to my contact page and send me an email (and I'll reply) and then we can continue this discussion in a more convenient way. Thanks so much for taking the time to keep me updated and allowing me to live “vicariously” through you until my E-M5 gets here. 🙂



  2. I've added some more things to the above mentioned gallery- including a trip to the aquarium and some art filter action (dramatic tone B&W + frame, Pop Art). All the aquarium stuff is with the 20mm panny- just right for close quarters and low, strangely balanced light. I'll tell you- the 20mm on the silver OM-D with the full battery grips is a very unusual looking beast. Flat & wide, easy to hold & whip around. I think it's really sharp. There are a lot of camera posers who go to the aquarium with their big slow zooms attached to their Rebels or whatever who are getting terrible shots, and the whole time casting sidelong glances at me pounding through one bright shot after the next on this thing. So fun!

    The 20 is terrific- can't go wrong. It may turn out to be my go-to walking around lens. I got mine for around $350 from somebody who was selling it used through Amazon. I don't think it was used very much (if at all)- not even a fingerprint on it when I got it. Plus- I mentioned before how nice it works on the E-PL1. Not kidding about that- it is a galaxy of difference over the kit zoom. Oh- and one other thing- I really appreciate how large the lens cap is for this one. The two Olympus primes have these tiny caps- I know for certain I will lose them at some point.

    The E-M5 really sings with the Oly 45mm, it's like it was designed expressly for that lens. The metallic finish even perfectly matches the silver camera. It is a telephoto (at 90mm full frame equivalent), so it isn't ideal for everything. But, at $400 it is actually a pretty good deal for the Terminator-like precision this lens delivers. It is a silent assassin. Auto-focus is as fast as you can think. With this lens I'm learning to trust the face recognition capabilities of the OM-D without reservation- it pretty much never misses whichever eye you told it to find.

    The 12mm is an exercise in pure decadence. it is really, really nice. I can't wait to get outside and do some shooting with it. I've been planning specific shots for weeks all around this thing. That's the type of commitment this lens is- you have to plan things around it. Uses for very expensive 12mm super bright & sharp primes don't usually just happen- you have to make them happen. I don't know how many very wide shots you do, but there are several wide angle options available that are considerably cheaper than this guy. But man- it is expensive like a fine BMW. If money is not a hinderance, why not?


  3. Very impressive, Matt! I thought the colors, dynamic range, and sharpness were almost all excellent and the noise levels acceptable all the way up to 6400.
    Are any of the lenses standing out for you, so far?


  4. Here's a first day gallery of the OM-D- http://gallery.me.com/crankymatty#100657. I'd say the E-PL1 vs. E-M5 is like comparing a gracefully aging Honda Accord to a brand new Acura NSX. You will love this thing.

    I will say that the E-PL1 works very well when it has a nice lens on it- the Panasonic 20mm 1.7 is GREAT with the E-PL1. Excellent color and sharpness.


  5. Matt, I'm a bit jealous, right now – I ordered my E-M5 over a month ago and it still hasn't shipped! I'm really liking the E-PL1 but I don't think it will compare to the E-M5, and don't forget it was $500 when it was new.

    I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts about those various lenses, especially the 20mm f/1.7, since I think it will be my first extra lens purchase. So keep me informed going forward as you begin to learn the intricacies of these new toys.

    Have fun!


  6. Ha! As predicted, both my new E-M5 and the E-PL1 will be here tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how a $150 body compares to a $1000 one on a feature-by-feature basis. I'll be testing these with the 12mm f/2, the 20mm f/1.7 and the 45mm f/1.8. Should have some interesting results, especially since these are my first micro 4/3 cams.

    I figure it like this- I just got two brand new cameras for an average of $575 apiece. A bargain!


  7. First, Matt … my apologies to your wife. 🙂
    You've pretty much mirrored my thoughts here – same lens mount, similar menu system and operation, good IQ, and unbelievably low price! Enjoy and be sure and share your thoughts about the E-PL1 and the E-M5 after they arrive. I'd also appreciate some feedback on the lenses you've chosen and how they work for you.


  8. Hello- been lurking for a bit, thought I'd say hi. I too am eagerly awaiting my OM-D (my local shop has my battery grip & my 4/3 lens adaptor held for me, but no camera yet). I saw you are liking the E-PL1 & saw the body only deal at Cameta (thru Amazon) for $150. So- I've followed your lead & got one of these too. I've been buying all these really nice lenses for the EM-5 over the last two months & have had nothing to screw 'em to- it's been maddening. The price of this camera is far less than half for what I paid for every one of these lenses, so what the heck? I am dying to start using this stuff! Worst case: the EPL-1 shows up the same time my OM-D does, and I have a fun second body I can keep the 12-50 kit lens on for location shoots. A solid backup is never a bad thing, especially one so inexpensive and small.

    So thanks- you've pushed me into another camera purchase! My wife will be thrilled*.

    *She will NOT be thrilled.


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