I have a lot of cameras. Why do I keep coming back to the Olympus ones?

Of course I have egg on my face about the Olympus XZ-1 and my initial perspective of letting ergonomics define everything.  Turns out I just needed to retrain my left hand and part of my brain.  Now I seem to carry it everywhere because, even with the EVF-2 on it, it's light as a feather and the quality of the files is very, very good.  I like the metering and I like the colors.  Noise?  Sure.  Why not. But not enough at 100, 200 or 400 to even register to me.  Print them out and 800 works as well.  Higher than that?  Well, I had a $5,000 Nikon D2x that didn't look any better over 400 ISO, so I don't worry about it much.  I like that it goes wide and I like that it's got a fast aperture.  Is it worlds better than the Canon or Panasonic products.  Not in its native form but when you add the finder it makes it worlds better.  Say what you will about the extra expense, or the way the finder sits on top of the camera like a goiter, but that finder is magical and if you haven't actually looked through one and seen how much fun it makes the cameras it is attached to you should do that before you comment.  Otherwise I'm just trying to describe how good steak tastes to someone who's been trapped and held captive by radical vegans since birth.

What's the story with the pink bike?  Beats me.  I was having lunch with a good friend/client and after we finished and said goodbye I walked past a little grocery store in Hyde Park and the bike just presented itself.  I loved the fill light from the windshield of someone's restored BMW 2002 and I grabbed the XZ-1 dangling around my neck and snapped away.

Speaking of dangling things in front of me....I had coffee this morning with a fellow photographer friend and he had the audacity to bring along his brand new Olympus EP-3.  He hypnotized me into actually handling it and playing with the menus and witnessing first hand how blazingly fast the autofocus was and now....I want one bad.  He offered to let me borrow his until I told him about the video Ben and I made last year which entailed duct taping an EPL1 to Ben's skateboard....that made him rethink his kind offer.  But, bottom line?  One of the nicest cameras I've had the pleasure to caress and certainly on my list of stuff to pick up next time I'm in Precision Camera.  

The photo above and the one below were both taken with the Olympus EP2 and one of the unsung lenses from forty some years ago:  The Pen F 50mm-90mm f3.5 zoom lens.  This is a manual focus zoom that is the equivalent of a 100 to 180mm lens on a 35mm camera.  I don't know if you can tell from these small images but it has its own distinctive look.  Sharp but not too sharp and a whole different color pallet than modern lenses.  I put it on the camera for fun a couple of weeks ago and I kept  it on because every time I looked through I was happy with what I saw.  

If you shot the new Pens you should consider getting a Pen FT to m4:3rds adapter and some of the older lenses.  The 40mm 1.4 is wonderfully sharp and the 60mm 1.5 is out of this world good.  I have a big range of older Pen FT lenses and I'm continually amazed at the results I get when I use them with the new Olympus cameras.  In addition to the lenses mentioned above I also really like the 20mm 3.5 and the 150mm.  If you can only get your hands on one make sure it's either the very rare 42mm 1.1.2 or the 60mm 1.5.  They redefine how much fun it is to play in the m4:3rds sandbox....

I've been shooting self portraits for years.  I think we all do.  I just can't pass up a big mirror or a big piece of reflective building glass without pointing the camera at my own image.  I guess I'm always curious to see what I look like to everyone else.  

This last picture was today's shot.  I was at BookPeople Bookstore and I headed to the bathroom.  I loved the blue wall and the white tiles.  I can see that I need a haircut and that my shirt looks too military.  I can also see that I should support the bottom of the camera better.

We've broken a few records here in Texas and it's starting to take a toll on my usual habit of wandering the streets in my unbooked hours looking for fun things to photograph.  It's been in the 100's for about 50 days in a row.  Last night it was still near 100 (f) at 10 pm at night.  Debilitatingly hot.  Dangerously hot.  And according to the weathermen there's no let up in sight.   The power company spokespeople have been on the news begging people to conserve electricity and threatening black outs and brown outs if people don't or can't cut back on their energy use.  It's getting kind of scary.  The last five days have all been well over 105(f).  In the Hill Country trees are starting to collapse and the danger of wild fires is everywhere.

I'll start working on my roadway annual report again in the next week or so and I'm using every heat defeating trick I can find.  I've got a wide brimmed hat that breathes,  I've got shirts made out of cloth that yields an SPF of 30-50, they wick moisture away quickly and they have vents all around to help cool.  I've found a great product at REI that works amazingly well:  It's a neck scarf that's filled with some miracle substance.  When it's thoroughly dried it feels like the scarf tube is filled with just a small amount of something grainy.  When you soak em in cold water for thirty minutes or so the miracle substance swells up, traps water and takes 24 hours to unswell.  During that time there's a constant evaporative cooling against your carotid arteries.  Here's one brand and a description of how it works: http://cobbercooler.com/content/7-how-it-works

I use the Rei version here: http://www.rei.com/product/691097/kafkas-kool-tie and I just found out I can get them at Amazon, Here.  It doesnt hurt to keep a couple spray bottles of ice water in cooler in the car as well.  You can never be too careful.  I spent half an hour setting up a shot yesterday afternoon on the pedestrian bridge.  The client zoomed in, we clicked twenty frames and they zoomed out.  I broke the lights down and dragged them back to my car.  When I got in and turned the AC on I looked at the car's exterior temperature reading and it was 115(f).  You don't want to spend a lot of time in that kind of environment.  Black top is the worst.

Stay cool and healthy and come out early in the morning to do your best shooting.  At least at 6am it's mostly in the lower 80's.  Coming to think of that as a nice, cool morning.


Frank Grygier said...

Thanks for the recommended PEN lens list. You read my mind.

Paula said...

Olympus is loaning me some stuff including an EVF. I haven't ever tried one with my E-P1 but have wondered if I really need one. Everyone says how great it is but I don't see how it can be. I might have to get one after handling the loaner, we'll see.

kirk tuck said...

Paula, The EVF doesn't work with the E-P1. The camera doesn't have the accessory port to accept the finder. Just FYI.

John Taylor said...

Hey Kirk nice to read your post always, this one further assures me that i want and will get an E-P 3 when i can. I have a request, if the good people at Olympus lend you an EVF 3 i would love to hear how it compares to the EVF2 that your are so fond of. As for old lenses and different colour palettes i had one day with a friends E-PL 1 and my adapter for my two Canon FD lenses a 50mm ƒ 1.4 and a 24mm ƒ 2.8. I had forgotten just how lovely they are and had a great time with them

Gino Eelen said...

Can't imagine what it must be like to be working in those temperatures. We could use some of your heat over here (Belgium, Europe), where it's turning out to be one of the grayest and dullest summers in decades. Last Tuesday was the best day yet - half a day of sunshine with temperatures up to 27C (80F). Even though it was a weekday the roads towards the coast were jam-packed with people hoping to soak up what little sunshine they could get. And yesterday a colleague at work was joking "it's a darn shame summer didn't fall on a weekend this year" :-D

Anonymous said...

Hi Kirk,
Hope you and yours can find ways to stay cool and healthy. Thank goodness we aren't having that much heat in my area. Don't know how people affected can take it.

Best wishes for cooler weather.

kirk tuck said...

Hi M. When it doubt turn down the air conditioning and pour a cool Cuba Libre or daiquiri.

Dave Elfering Photography said...

Want to hear something really odd? My E-P2 makes a great companion to my D90 since my 58mm Voigtlander f/1.4 works out to be an 85mm on the Nikon and a 120mm f/1.4 on the Oly. How much more perfect of a portraiture 1-2 punch can you get. Sharp... well... is a frog's butt water tight? I can identify with this and had a blog post a while back called "My Olympus Disfunction".

I never wanted to like them, but their wonderful lenses and class leading jpg engine have worked their way into my photographic psyche. Then again I swore by Commodore computers :)

The coup d'etat was their plucky decision to make the EP1. My creative and emotional side loves Oly but my logical corporate gorilla side says Nikon :)

Craig Yuill said...

I can tell you why I'd keep coming back to Olympus ones. Size! I have been wanting to get a digital equivalent to my Nikon FM2n and F801S. This afternoon I got a chance to handle a Nikon D7000 and an Olympus PEN E-PL2. I loved the size of the PEN - it was similar in size to the OM-1 I owned for 15 years. I couldn't believe how massive the D7000 was, especially with the 18-105 zoom lens attached to it. I thought the D7000 would be like an F801S, but it was definitely bigger. It was the size and weight of 3 or 4 PENs with standard Olympus kit zoom. And to think you regularly shoot with DSLRs that are the same size or bigger. If I feel I can use and focus my various Nikon-mount lenses well enough with a digital PEN then I think I'll be getting one of those. The new E-P3 and other upcoming digital PENs look great.

Your comments about the heat wave in Texas really make me appreciate the relatively-cloudy and rainy summer we've been having in Vancouver this year. Keep hydrated and as cool as possible until it is over.

obakesan said...

to hazzard an answer to the question posed by the blog "because you like the feel and perhaps simply the idea"

the rest of stuff is really moot and just a matter of accepting it if you like it, or rejecting it if you don't. Rather like your friends faults are.

Jim Simmons said...

I got the EPL1 body just to use with my 40mm Summicron. Was great until I went outdoors, and the LCD was unusable. So got the VF2 finder, and all was sweet. When Olympus builds this VF into a body, they will have the killer PEN model.

Good luck surviving the summer, Kirk. We're having a 70-year freak snowstorm here in New Zealand!

Anonymous said...

Great article, I'm thinking of getting the EP-3 body only and getting the zoom lens coming out from panasonic on oct 13th, Whats you thought on that?


Paolo57 said...

Thank you Kirk, I'm very very happy to have read your article and I think that you've been very honest in your consideration. I really liked your comments about "noise". I'm an Olympus addicted and try to talk to people about quality of picture which is possible to realise with Olympus and Zuiko products, but you kinow people sometimes are like cows and follow the stream....I'll get back very often to you blog as I'm sure I'm going to find something interesting. Take care, Paolo

Geoffrey said...

Great stuff. Disappointed Olympus didn't give us a built-in EVF with the most recent batch of announcements, but I'm biting the bullet anyway the moment the E-Pm1 comes out. But why, oh why didn't they put a built in flash into the two lower priced cameras, and why, or why didn't they put the adjustable angle viewing screen into the top model?

I'm moving into Oly from a Panasonic G1 -- a great camera except for one thing -- the pictures! I tested it against an E-P1, side by side, same scene, same lens. Bright sunny day. The Oly looked like what I was seeing; the Panny looked like, well … kind of muddy in one area and washed out in the sky.

"I an put up with a ridiculous add-on EVF for that picture improvement," I thought (with the in-camera stabilization being a bonus).

I was already biased being an old OM-1 hand (2 bodies, f4 21mm, f2 28mm, f2 85mm, f4 200mm) with which outfit I took and sold many a quality pic.

One thing that puzzles me: those four lenses (I used the f2 29mm as "standard") ll wore the same size filter, so I needed only one (expensive!) polarizer, for example. That uniformity was a blessing for users.

Panny with the G and GF series has had regard for this, the 14-45 and 45-200 have the same size filter. Oly's lenses today are all over the place respecting filter size. I wish they would work their way through it!