Mismatched cameras and lenses. Fun for an afternoon.

I like heading out the door with a camera in my hands and no real agenda to follow.  Sometimes I use my walks as a time to hand test cameras I'm interested in or cameras I want to write about but sometimes I just want a camera with me for random visual note taking and messing around.  Yesterday morning I had a delicious swim and then Ben, Belinda and I went to P. Terry's Hamburger restaurant for burgers. I had the veggie burger. Plus one for the whole wheat buns and the good jalapeƱos.  Then I got in the car and went over to Precision Camera where I spent some time playing with the Fuji Pro 1 (a beautiful camera with lots and lots of focusing issues), a Fuji X100 (hit the buttons three times before they work?) and this year's swim suit model of cameras, the Olympus OM-D (all the parts are just right and the shutter sounds sweet but.....I just can't pull the credit card out yet).  Can't figure out why this camera always makes me feel better when I hand it back to its owner or to the sales clerk...probably something in my wiring, certainly nothing wrong with the camera. Not in the face of the reviews and kudos it's received from all the people I trust.

I guess I have my eyes on the new Sony full framer and I just don't want to get too badly side-tracked in the languorous Summer months.  

So I headed downtown to walk around and shoot with a wild pair.  My second favorite Pen camera of all time, the EP3, and a weird lens choice, the Panasonic 14-140 HQ zoom lens.  Earlier in the day I vacillated between taking the Olympus 45mm 1.8 (too purposeful), the 25mm Summilux (too chattery on the EP-3) or something else.  Then I spied this beast of a lens and thought, "Why not?"

Right off the bat there was one thing I really loved about this combination. The lens has its own IS built in.  I could turn off the body IS and turn on the lens IS and I would have a stabilized image in the finder of the camera.  In fact, that's why I bought a Panasonic 14-45mm lens as well.  Even at the longer focal lengths the camera's finder image becomes rock solid.

If my own habits are any indication this must be one of the most overlooked lenses around. I've owned it since I bought my first GH2 and yet the only times I think about it are when I'm getting ready to shoot video.  Several reviewers give the lenses some lukewarm praise with the usual stuff  accentuating mediocre corner performance or the lower contrast at the longer end but I've found, overall that it's a really good performer.  Especially on the right camera.  It's also nice to have focal lengths (35mm FOV)  from 28mm to 280mm and have them all be very usable.

I walked to Lance Armstrong's bike shop (Mellow Johnny's) to look at transportation/street bikes and ran into a guy I'd met years ago on a photoshoot at Dell, Inc. He noticed the weird mismatch between camera and lens and that's what got us talking.  I saw some really cool bikes  from a company called, Public Bikes.  Here's a link to their website:  Public Bikes V7 (the one I'm thinking about...).  Still pondering the bikes. I love my electric Bodhi Bike but sometimes I just want a light framed manual bike....for those manual moments.

(above) That's a good looking bike but I don't really like the front rack. I'd like a back rack and maybe a pannier to one side.  Good to see people out biking all over downtown yesterday.  There's still an incredible number of really fit humans in Austin. Not everyone in America weighs 300+ pounds.......at least not yet.

Being fit, however, doesn't mean people will always make good choices about their shoes...

I took the neck strap off my EP3 a couple of days ago and stuck a cheap wrist strap on it instead.  I don't walk with anything in my hands and I leave the cellphone in the car so I was able to keep the camera in my left hand for the entire time. It was a refreshing change from having the camera banging away at the end of a strap, at my side.  And it was much more "ready."  

When I shoot with the EP3 I always use the VF-2 finder so I don't have to wear my glasses and also do the "baby with a stinky diaper" pose, holding my camera way out in front of me with my arms outstretched.  While the EP2 is my favorite of the Pens for nostalgic reasons when it comes to having fun shooting, and getting great results, the EP3 is a bit easier to work with in terms of response.  I kept the camera on the aperture mode, trying to keep the lens at or near its wide open settings for most of the time. I'd correct exposure by riding the exposure compensation button while viewing the image in the finder.

I was shooting on a bright day so the camera had no trouble at all focusing quickly and locking on, even at the long end of the zoom where the max. aperture hits 5.6.

Don't know why but today I was fascinated with manhole covers.  They really can be such fun industrial art.

While the EP3 isn't as advanced as the EM-5 I like it because I feel as though I've mastered the menus and I userstand all the shooting potential of the camera. I've mentioned before that I think 12 megapixels is somewhere close to the sweet spot for digital cameras at the moment. Big enough to look detailed on the coming generation of retina computer screens yet small enough to work quickly in post processing.  I was processing files today from the Nikon D3200 which creates 25 megabyte files alongside the raw files from the EP3.  The difference in speed is pretty stunning. Even with a fast manchine.

I also prefer the look and feel of the EP2 and EP3 bodies to anything else.

Circling back to the lens I must say that while there are single focal length lenses that produce somewhat sharper files the Panasonic lens does a fine job.  Especially when you run it through the sharpening and clarity filters in one of the post-processing programs that are ubiquitous.

I prefer to import my files into Lightroom 4.2, give them a brief once over and then size and send them to a program called, Snapseed.  I look at Snapseed as an almost universal "quick adjust and enhance" program. I use the general brightness and saturation settings and also do some sharpening in that program.

The series of images (above, just below and one more below that) are on good argument for using a flexible, high quality zoom like the Panasonic. At the long end I have very good reach for pulling in subjects which are at a distance from the lens. But I can also turn around and get a wide angle shot.  With the Panasonic I can shoot mostly wide open and still be sure that I'll get usable shots.

I'm certainly not advising people to run out and buy what I use. Everyone's taste, hands and sensibilities are so different. In fact, from day to day the cameras I use tend to change. But every once in a while it's nice to have a comparatively small system that does powerful work.


  1. Kirk definitely looks like an interesting combination - have you found any good wrist/hand straps for the Pens? I have a hand strap for my Canon and use it all the time - it's hard to hold Pen same way without a strap

  2. Very interesting. I have both the EP3 and EM5, and I have something of a similar reaction to the EM5, a kind of anxiety using it. Yet it does everything very well. Maybe that's the problem, it's so good it's strangely kind of intimidating, so a sense of relief when I put it back in the bag.

    Some of what you wrote suggest it may be like that for you too. After all, the features you liked about the combo you used, the VF2, the stabilized image view, the responsiveness of EP3 (vs. EP2), are all built-in to the EM5, which makes it seem you'd prefer it.

    Still, I know what you mean. I keep listening to that shutter, each and every time I hear it, that wonderful sound makes me determined to get past IT, whatever it is...


  3. Very interesting thoughts. Kirk it seems you and I share the same attraction/repulsion for the E-M5 (and from the above comment, we're not alone). I handled the camera in a store (not powered though) and it was absolutely NOT drawn to it ?!? OTOH the files I see coming out of it make me drool...
    I just ordered a used E-PL2 to try and wrestle with the Oly menus one more time (tried and E-PM1 before, thoroughly hated it and dumped it at the speed of light, to go back the the GX-1, which I love dearly). Yet, call it curiosity, the E-M5 gnaws at me.
    I think I'll end up getting one. I bet you will, too. By the way, that very first shot in this article is gorgeous. I'm mildly excited at the thought of the E-PL2 coming next week. It sure looks sexy, if nothing else.

  4. So it was the bike and not the legs and stockings that drew you to that shot? Hmmm. ;>

    Some nice street shots landed here.

  5. I'm surprised you haven't tried out the Sony Nex-7? Precision has them in stock. It and a handful of lens adapters and you will forget the OM-D. Buy a sigma 30mm f2.8 to go with it if you want autofocus and great sharpness for next to nothing!

  6. I have played with the NEX-7 extensively. Borrowed one for a week. Played with it again yesterday. I'm not really happy with the form factor or the kit lens but it's on my list of cameras to do an extensive review of. It's too bad, given that it's a natural for Leica M lens use, that they didn't put "Steady Shot Inside" as Sony has in their SLT cameras...

  7. Kirk, can I make a bike suggestion? http://www.wabicycles.com/classic_bike_spec_11.html. It comes with only one speed, but if you choose one you're comfortable with, you won't regret that. (Though, to be fair, I'm more comfortable with a prime than a zoom). I think it comes with drill holes and braze-ons for racks, but you should talk to the owner of the shop about that (he's friendly). I've been riding one of those this summer, and it's totally transparent the way it rides. I point it and it goes there. And I understand that you're probably thinking something a little more laid back, but this will be more of a contrast to your electric bike. It'll be MUCH lighter, but also MUCH more you involved.

  8. "Can't figure out why this camera always makes me feel better when I hand it back to its owner or to the sales clerk...probably something in my wiring."

    I get the same feeling when I handle the Nikon D800. My end of the year purchase will either be the OM-D if all goes well.

  9. I've had the EP-2 for some time and recently took delivery of the OM-D. It's all a matter of personal taste, but I like the feel of the OM-D (with optional hand grip; only the horizontal part) over that of the EP-2.

    1. I agree with that appraisal. Without the horizontal piece of the 2-part grip, the E-M5 feels a bit undersized for my hands especially on the LCD side. With it attached, it's perfection and the camera is still small and comfortable in my hand.

  10. "Can't figure out why this camera always makes me feel better when I hand it back to its owner or to the sales clerk...probably something in my wiring, certainly nothing wrong with the camera."

    For me it's the design. It's a bunch of sharp angles and corners. It's a design by committee peice in my eye. Olympus needs to round some corners, give it some smoother lines. I really liked the Panasonic G3 and if the G5 looks like the rumor pics it looks like what I would like the Oly to look like.


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