TOP reviews the Olympus E-P5

Fellow Philadelphian Gordon Lewis reviews the new Olympus E-P5 for The Online Photographer. Positive remarks overall:

I would have no second thoughts about tossing the Olympus E-P5 into my shoulder bag and taking it on a trip or out for a few hours of street shooting. It’s small enough to be inconspicuous, light enough to be comfortably carried all day, and capable of producing amazingly high-quality photos.

I’m currently using a four-year-old E-P2 that does not have:

  • a built-in flash
  • a touchscreen
  • an articulating screen
  • WiFi

My E-P2 is also comparatively bog-slow focus-wise, and has a sensor that realistically tops out at around ISO 1600. And yet despite the presence of all those improvements in the E-P5, I found it interesting how the E-P5 might be late to the party itself. Lewis writes:

If I were in the market to buy one though, I’d have to look at similarly spec’d alternatives, which are hard to dismiss. The Fuji E-X1, for example, is of similar size and weight, cost $200 less for the body, and has an electronic viewfinder built-in. The E-P5′s sibling, the OM-D E-M5, also has a built-in viewfinder and costs $100 less for the body. The Sony NEX-6 body costs $350 less and also has a built-in viewfinder. A built-in viewfinder frees up the hot shoe for other uses, so the difference isn’t price alone.

Lewis doesn’t even mention the just-announced Panasonic GX7, which has a built-in articulating viewfinder at roughly the same price.

The lack of a built-in viewfinder for the E-P5 (along with its high introductory price) makes it look a bit behind the times compared to those other cameras. The external VF-4 viewfinder is by all accounts the best EVF out there, but I wonder if Olympus would have been better suited putting in a lower-spec built-in viewfinder.

Through New (Old) Lenses

Glasses

These are my new glasses. When I first put them on everything looked weird, even though my prescription hadn’t changed. It took a few days of forcing myself to wear them before my brain caught up with my eyes and everything felt normal again.

That experience got me thinking about how we see with cameras and lenses. Whenever you throw on a new lens, you’re essentially getting a new set of eyes. Craig Mod has written about this quite beautifully in his essay “Seeing Prime”, about the Panasonic 14mm lens for Micro-4/3rds. Describing the shift from the 20mm to the 14mm, he writes:

With a single gesture — changing lenses — your visual lung capacity increases. The sky explodes over subjects and you have to forcibly reframe the world because your brain is stuck in 20MM mode. Your mind’s eye shifts — an internal aperture expanding to welcome the new space. And you start to wonder — how the hell did I live in such a small box before?

I bought the 14mm lens two years ago partially because of Craig’s review.

And I hated it.

Well, hate is a strong word. But I could just never get used to seeing with that lens, which equates to a wide-angle 28mm in 35mm terms. It was always just a bit too wide, a bit too distorted, for the way that I was shooting. I was coming from a DSLR where a 60mm was my normal lens, and I was shooting the 14mm in the same fashion. Eventually I got a 45mm, and then a 25mm. The 14mm? Shipped off with myold Olympus E-P2 to my brother, who was contemplating a switch to Micro-4/3rds.

Eventually my brother recently ended up selling his Sony gear and bought his own Micro-4/3rds gear, so the E-P2 and 14mm are back with me. I’ve given it another try, and while I still don’t love it, I’m learning that part of my issues with it were due to a fundamental misunderstanding of how you have to change your shooting style with different lenses. My brother said, “You have to think of a wide-angle as a close-up lens”. And with that, it something clicked. I threw it on and started getting closer. In short, I hadn’t let my brain adjust to the lens. I was using it like a normal or short telephoto, and so of course it wasn’t working.

So now whenever I feel the urge to click the shutter, I take one or two steps closer, and see how that changes things. Gradually I’m relaxing, and adjusting to my new eyes. I’m appreciating how much I can cram in, even when I’m standing at close quarters.

Soph Fog
Lous Crab Pad
No Dogs
Love and Hope

I actually shot the photo above with the 45mm, but I would never have noticed the door and its reflections if I hadn’t been carrying the 14mm. I’ve passed that door hundreds of times, but somehow having a different lens made me look around more, searching for subjects that might work. I rounded the corner and noticed the “Hope” reflected above “Love”. I took a photo with the 14mm, and resolved to come back the next day and re-shoot it with the 45mm.