There are times when the EP3 doesn't do what I need from a camera.....

 All last week I had a wonderful crush on my EP3.  Right up until I used it to shoot some theater stuff at ISO 1600.  I also packed an old Canon 1dmk2n in the bag, along with a 70-200 L lens.  The focus wasn't an issue but getting really clean, sharp files from the EP3 at 1600 was.  (And I didn't expect them to be....).

The EP3 does lots and lots of stuff right.  The images, from ISO 200 to 800 are nice and clean and saturated but at 1600 they don't really stand up to the larger pixels on the larger sensor in the Canon.  That was my first incidence of dissonance.

This morning (Sat. Sept. 24) I had occasion to wake up my kid at the way too early hour of six a.m. to get him ready and deliver him to a cross country invitational race in Cedar Park, Texas.  I packed the EP3 and the same Canon rig again.  In bright morning sun both cameras are superb.  The Canon is a giant brute of a camera and, with it's white lens on the front, it weighs a ton.  The Olympus fits in my hand perfectly and is nearly weightless.  But a few minutes of trying to track runners running at speed, coming toward my camera, had me tossing the weightless wonder back in the bag and grabbing for the 2005 vintage sports camera.
The Canon 1d series has three attributes that make it a top choice for photographing your kid running cross country:  1.  It focuses incredibly fast.  Maybe faster than it's descendant, and with a high degree of accuracy.  Even when you are in AI autofocus and tracking.  2.  It can shoot at 8 frames per second which gives you options for framing and foot placement of your subject.  3.  It has an inherent color palette that works well for sunny and shaded scenes.

This is not some sort of "mea culpa." I am not "wrong" to sing the praises of the Olympus EP3 because it's a very capable camera.  But it is a cautionary blog to remind you that, when I buy a new camera I don't usually divest myself of all the other cameras in the studio.  Each one is a different mechanism for seeing.  Each has its own personality and its own set of strengths (and weaknesses).  I would not select the Canon and a few L lenses for a fun walk across a city.  I'm not into recreational weightlifting.  The EP3 is the perfect camera for that kind of work.  But it's good to acknowledge the weak points of the gear as well.  But I've been repeating, since I got my first EP2, that these are not sports cameras.

The Canon 1Dmk2n is a wonderful sports camera and built to a price point of around $5,000-$6,000.  It was almost custom made to do exactly the kind of work I put it to above.  The focus is better than anything else I've ever owned, from Nikon, Canon or Olympus.  But it's not nearly as much fun to shoot on a downtown street or in a crowded club.

If you only have one camera you'll need to make some practical choices.  If you buy some previous generation cameras that are specialized, along with current cameras in other niches, you might end up with the best of all possible worlds.  Just not at the same time.


Peter F. said...

Yup, those are the shortcomings of the m43 cameras. But you certainly suspected it, and brought along the right tool for the job as well! Isn't having so many toys/tools fun!!

Broch said...

Thanks for this post Kirk, I felt like it was written custom for me! I appreciate the caveats!

Anonymous said...

I ran cross country in high school. Great life-long sport. Kudos to your son.

I've been using the EP3 to shoot my 5 year old son's soccer games. It works, mostly.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Don't get me wrong. The EP3 is a great little camera. I use it the same way we used to use our Leica M series cameras. But we also kept other cameras around for different stuff. That's all I'm saying....

atmtx said...

Kirk, I'm really enjoying the E-PL1. However, I agree with you that ISO 800 is the limit. ISO 1600 looks like it goes off the cliff. Unfortunately, it looks like Olympus really didn't improve high ISO image quality between the E-PL1 and the current EP3.

If they can get to a clean ISO 1600 in RAW, that is what I'm hoping for in a future release.

Pseudo Boethius said...

The "sports" issue is why I'm keeping my DSLR's around, even though I bought into micro 4/3 via Lumix. Well, it's not just sports, any sort of action/event photography is better served by DSLR's. I guess if you don't do that sort of photography, getting rid of a DSLR is no big deal, but not to me.

Thank you for pointing out something that should be fairly obvious by now: there is no "one size fits all" camera.

If you need low-light performance, the Olympus line-up has always been the worst choice. Not that they are bad cameras--far from it--but low-light performance is just not a priority for them. I'm actually amazed how the ISO 800 "limit" hasn't been breached since the introduction of the E-1. If it gets dark, you use a flash, or a tripod--maybe both, just like back in the days of film.

But those Olympus (and Lumix!) lenses are so very, very nice, one can put up with the limits of the sensor without too much complaint.

Mike said...

I had the same discovery trying to photograph my daughter's swim meet using my E-PL1. And, truly, I expected it going into the event. Just wanted to see what I was capable of doing with it, but still couldn't overcome the shortcomings of lag time, slow focus, etc. I love the camera when used for its intended uses; however, there are times when using my DSLR with cleaner high ISO files, shorter lag times and fast focusing lenses makes all the difference in the world.

Anonymous said...

The EP3 does just enough things right for me. I can only justify the expense of one really good camera and the little Oly beat out the Pentax K5 by a nose. And after my son signed on with the school ski club, did I dispair? Nope, I simply started to learn how to make the best quality videos possible with the tiny beast.

Rob said...

I just recently parted ways with my beloved 1DmkIIN, it was an excellent sports and concert camera, especially with those lovely fast "L" primes. I will miss it, but it was seeing too much shelf time and it was a shame to leave it lying in the trunk. It went to a good home, and it even funded a a new Hasselblad kit. But after reading this post, I'm starting to miss the old workhorse! Different jobs need different tools and all, but the 1D was pretty close. I really do love the Hasselblad though, lighter than the Canon, too.

Anonymous said...

Yep,that's why my wife and I run 3 cars (all Toyotas) - a Camry wagon for those long trips, a small Starlet hatch for local running around and a Hilux SUV for off road and towing. Its like that with cameras. I love my E-PL2 but no way will I part with my 5DII or 7D (or my 400D for that matter). I just use the camera best suited for the job - 7D for action, 5DII for portraits, landscapes etc and the Oly kit for casual shooting or light weight travel. Its good to have a choice!
Cheers, Bob

Mike Strycharske said...

Funny how some lessons are learned and relearned over and over again. I was fresh out of college and had just signed on to a newspaper in New York. The head photographer was a woman who carried two or three camera bodies around with her, (a Rolliflex twin lens, a Canon SLR and a small point and shoot camera).
This was in the early 1980's and we were shooting mostly Tri-X and digital was just a dream in some japanese designers eye. Auto focus was just beginning to make inroads.
Anywho, the head photog told me that cameras a just tools. Don't get emotional about them, don't collect them, simply use the right tool for the job at hand. She used all three during the course of her assignments and all of her photos were outstanding. Camera as tool... imagine that.

Andrez√£o said...

First I apologize for my English poorly. I'm Brazilian.
I follow your site since the first post about the Olympus E-p3. I appreciate the information and reviews.
The Olympus E-P3 will be my first interchangeable lens camera. I will buy for a friend who goes to the USA on 05 October. Here in Brazil the prices are absurd package with an Olympus camera and e-p3 14-42mm lens costs R$ 3,000 (U.S. $ 1,650.00).
I will buy Adorama in the following set:
- Olympus E-p3 (14-42mm)
- 45mm prime lens
- 40-150mm lens
- Extra Battery
- SD card extreme 45m / s
- Think tank case
Total $ 1,800.00

The maximum amount that want to spend are $ 2000.00

Decided by the system 4/3 for several reasons. So far only had ultrazoom models panasonic FZ18 and FZ35 my current. They are good cameras, but it has limitations. I want better image quality. I like to photograph landscape.
I am a teacher photography is only a hobby.

I still have 'doubts about the best package of lenses. I would like to get the 9-18mm too, but would be very expensive.
Kirk you have that many cameras and lenses (including old) know tell me some model of the old lens, I could buy on ebay for a good price and give me a big wide angle (something like 10-12mm equivalent 4/3 20mm 24mm ).
Would have any other suggestions? another set of lenses?
In the limit of $ 2,000.

I thank the attention.

OBS: Photos I do with the FZ35 (remember I'm not photographer)

(what my expectations: with olympus e-p3 want to continue to shoot landscapes, but also want to get more people to photograph and use more resources as the buffet).

Ulfric M Douglas said...

Bright sunshine, cross-country runners : the e-P3 will focus almost instantly with a number of lenses.
I'm guessing you brought the wrong lens and are blaming (quite clearly despite worming denials) the camera.
Kit 14-42 and new 45mm focus incredibly fast according to other users. Did they suddenly stop doing this just for your event?

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Dearest Ulfric.

The EP3 snaps right into focus with the camera set to single AF but it doesn't work well with tracking focus and predictive AF. I presume you've never shot sports before and never tried TRACKING A TELEPHOTO SHOT with a camera that isn't designed for that.

When you shoot moving sports you're working to get series of images ALL IN FOCUS at the fastest frame rate for the camera.

You say, "according to other users..." show me one who's shooting track events or fast moving sports. And since you reference other users you probably don't own the camera in question and have no idea what you are talking about.

Go try it. Then come on back and show us the work.

Or, Yeah, the camera just stopped being a sports camera for my event. And I own so few lenses my options were horribly limited.


Anonymous said...

Hey Kirk, the poster who said you don't know how to use your camera is a ................ Ignore and move on. Thanks for letting the rest of us know about your experiences. It helps.

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