If you want to see it bigger (full res but with compression artifacts around the edges....go here: http://gallery.me.com/kirktuck#100264
I can hear it now. A certain percentage of readers will grouse about "having to pay" for video they'll never use. And I get the sentiment but the reality is that the inclusion of a tiny, crappy microphone and an extra button probably added about $2.50 (USD) to your total camera purchase price so you might just want to get over it. The rest of you have heard the call from Canon shills like Vince LaForet and you're thinking you might just want to see what all the fuss is about. Bottom line? The EPL2 is a nice, clean video platform. I'd hate to have to sit thru stuff that was made handheld but if you put it on a tripod it's nice and clean, and sharp.
I almost hate to get into this but........it's not full on HD. It's 720. That means the frame is 1280 by 720 pixels. Full bore ultimate HD is 1920 by 1080. Will it make a difference in the final product? Yes and no. My use for video coming out of these cameras is for interviews and programming that will be part of websites and blogs. A typical commercial use would be a medical practice where a physician walks you thru a procedure that you might have scheduled. The highest imbedded res is probably going to the be one in this embedded video which is something like 640 by 360 pixels. That means that when we shoot at the highest res we're always going to throw some pixels out. Anecdotally, I've heard that Disney used a bunch of EPL1's as second unit cams in a feature film and that noise had to be added to the video frames and they had to be downsampled as well because the video looked better than the first unit film.......
I looked at the footage pretty carefully in FCP and I think it's sharp and pretty much noise free at ISO 400. If you are shooting with the intention of creating programming for HD television you might be aiming a bit high using this camera as a production tool since everything else in the chain, including some connecting cables, is probably going to cost more.
Here are my gripes about shooting "movies" with this camera:
1. It's easiest to view, compose and focus with the VF-2 finder in place....BUT....with the VF-2 finder in the one accessory slot you won't be able to plug in the external microphone adapter. The solution is to do what everyone does with the DSLR's, use the back LCD with a Zacuto or Hoodman finder strapped on and keep the port ready for external mic'ing.
2. You don't get a lot of video configuration choices in video. You can choose standard SD footage at 640 by 480 or HD at 1280 by 720. Both settings lock you into shooting 30 fps. Would I like more? Sure. How about 24 fps or 60 fps to help with slow motion effects? But it keeps things simple.
The only other choice is microphone on or off. I'd just leave it set to "on", that way I'll never forget.
3. It's too light. This is a silly gripe and it's one I could level at just about any of the small cameras on the market. The lens and body are just to light to hold steady if you are shooting hand held. One cup of coffee will separate the men from the SteadiCam rig..... But that's a trade off of all hand held cameras. If it's not shoulder mount it's only as good as your jangling nervous system.
But here's what I like about it:
1. Olympus actually thought about how we'd use the camera and gave us a microphone port. That's pretty darn cool. It's true that you'll need to buy and adapter to accept the 1/8 stereo plug and interface with the proprietary plug but it's not expensive. Once you've got that piece the sky is the limit for microphones. I get good results from the middle priced Rode microphones intended for amateur video production. My favorite is their Stereo VideoMic. It runs on 9V batteries, it's what Ben and I used to do sound for this video and, with the supplied "dead cat" windscreen, it even looks professional. I like the way it sounds but I wouldn't be too quick to judge it from my room's acoustics: It's kind of "bouncy and bright" in here.
2. It's easy to focus the lens between takes and even during takes a half squeeze on the shutter button will drive the lens to re-focus and, in my experience, quickly and accurately.
3. The combination of the camera, the new 40-150mm zoom and the mic adapter is so light and small there is never an excuse to be without a capable video camera.
4. It's really so cheap that you don't need to fret if you are doing commercial work and the client wants to put the camera somewhere dangerous (strapped to a car, or under a moving car, bolted to a skateboard or in a shooting war). You break it and you can always get another one. If you don't make a living with your cameras then it might be better to not hot glue it to a helmet and go bungie jumping......
5. The image, within the constraints of the format, is very, very good. And the sound is as decent as whatever microphone you stick out there (and how good your mic'ing techniques are.....).
6. With inexpensive adapters you can use the complete line of Olympus E lenses or with a Nikon or Leica adapter you can use maybe 60 or 70 years worth of legacy lenses on the front of the camera. Want a nice, compressed shot with lots and lots of "bokeh"? I'm sure you can find an old Nikon 300 2.8 that will do the trick quite nicely.
The camera is not the limiting factor for most video projects and it certainly won't be for this unit either. What you'll really need as you polish your "reel" for commercial success is a good script, good story boards, good direction, good lighting design, good acting and good sound engineering. The Olympus just makes the actual shooting easier...
So, would I buy the EPL2 just for it's video chops? No, probably not. Unless I was on a low budget and I could make movies without expectant clients hovering around. Would EPL2 movies be as good as movies from all the other under $1,000 cameras out there? Yep. The only place you'll see a difference is on the shots that require high ISO. It lags at least a stop behind the Canon 7D and two stops behind the Canon 5D2. But isn't that why we have lights? Finally, is it a step up from the EPL1 for video? Well, the LCD screen is nicer but the image quality seems about the same. So....not really.
That's it for the video part of the review. The review of the actual camera comes Monday. Stay tuned.
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