I love photography and I really enjoy writing, so now I find myself with a blog to give expression to both of my passions. I’m primarily a landscape and travel photographer. Until recently, I shot exclusively with Nikon and Canon dSLRs, but let’s face it, those things are heavy when you’re lugging them into the backcountry or traveling with them.
A few years ago, I heard about a new camera format called Micro Four Thirds (or Micro 4/3 or µ4/3) that was being jointly developed by Olympus and Panasonic. Olympus’ first Micro Four Thirds camera was the Olympus Pen E-P1. Olympus touted it’s small size, excellent picture quality and changeable lenses. The photography world seemed intrigued by the little camera, but I largely ignored it even though I was taken by it’s retro look. I had never shot with an Olympus camera system. I didn’t think the small sensor could come close to the quality of a dSLR sensor. I also hated the thought of composing my images on a low-resolution LCD screen instead of through a view finder.
Generally speaking, the camera was well regarded, but it suffered from slow autofocus and had problem focusing in low light. People also didn’t like that it lacked an electronic view finder (EVF). The Panasonic model seemed to get almost everything right and quickly eclipsed Olympus’ offering. Not to be outdone, Olympus came back with the E-P2. It improved most of the shortcomings of the E-P1 and included an EVF that could attach to the camera’s hot shoe. On Christmas day 2009, I was reading a review of the E-P2 and decided I would try one out. My friend was coming for a visit to Phoenix and I thought I’d get one and try it out on one of our hikes. I got the camera the first week of 2010 and my friend showed up a week later. He had his large Nikon gear with him, and I took my little E-P2 with me to go hiking at Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona. I felt naked without my Nikon D300, but I felt something else, freedom! It was just a lovely feeling to go hiking without a 10-pound camera and lens hanging from my neck and 20 pounds of equipment on my shoulder.
The battery life was only about half of what I got from my Nikon D300, but I squeezed about 300 shots out of the camera before the battery finally died. Considering that the battery is supplying power for the EVF, 300 shots really isn’t so bad. If I shoot in live view with a Nikon, I only get a little more than 300 shots. All said, I was feeling good about my new little camera, but I was also a little apprehensive: Would the photos prove good enough quality for my picky taste? I got home and uploaded the photos into Aperture on my Mac. The first thing I noticed was that the photos (all shot in raw format) had really nice coloring. I didn’t have to do very much toning at all to get the photos where I wanted them. Then I did a little pixel peeping. Solid blue skies showed more noise than I liked, but using Aperture’s noise reduction tool took care of that little problem. I was solidly hooked on the Micro Four Thirds format.
Since that fateful decision, I’ve sold off my old gear and now shoot with an Olympus E-P3. I’m slowly building up my lens collection and right now I’m salivating over Olympus’ new flagship Micro Four Thirds camera: The OM-D E-M5 and trying to figure out how to get one (I’m not too proud to accept donations). I thought the Pen was retro, but the OM-D takes retro styling to a whole new level. What’s more is that it comes with a built-in EVF. That alone is worth the upgrade to me. I actually hate having to attach the EVF to the hot shoe on the E-P3. What’s more, the OM-D produces a cleaner image and maintains a higher level of dynamic range than the Pens do. What’s not to like? Olympus, if you’re reading this, feel free to send me a test model along with an Olympus M. Zuiko 12mm f/2.0 lens.
In upcoming posts, I’ll publish some of my photos taken with my E-P2 and E-P3 cameras. I’ll also discuss my workflow techniques, lighting, and tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years.