6.10.2020

Currently "testing" two different cameras. From nearly the same era. But what does "testing" really mean in this instance?


Belinda cleaned out a closet and found an older camera. It's an Olympus epm-1 which is a very small, very thin m4:3rd camera that hit the market around 2011 and did not take the world by storm. At the time the Olympus offerings, regardless of price, were limited to a sensor resolution of 12.3 megapixels. The epm-1 is the smallest interchangeable lens mirrorless camera that I've come across yet. It's just a tiny bit bigger in one dimension than an iPhone XR and smaller in another dimension. But I don't want to get too multi-dimensional here....  Olympus sent it to me out of the blue. No request to review. No request to write about it even in passing. It came to me some time in 2012 along with a tiny flash that fits in the hot shoe and a highly promotional, super small, black backpack to hold the camera, charger and flash unit. I spent a day trying to figure out where they hid the controls and then, frustrated, I gave it to Belinda to see if she could get any use out of it. Turns out that she is much smarter than me and she used it right up until she discovered the Canon G15. At which point she handed back all the epm-1 stuff to me.

It's funny because the epm-1 arrived back in the studio this week and shortly afterwards I took possession of another G15 so I could have one too. A confluence of weird cameras. (They seem right at home with the equally eccentric - but loveable - Sigma fp).

So, right now I'm "testing" them. What does that really mean? Let me explain.  I have a camera test pedestal that is a massive lead and nickel alloy tripod head on top of a reinforced concrete pillar that goes down through the floor of the lab  (without touching the actual floor --- too many vibrations!!!) to bedrock forty seven and a half feet below. I mount the cameras on this and use a laser interferometer to get the camera perfectly level and parallel to the NASA test target that I had micro-etched with blue lasers onto an 8 by 12 foot sheet of one inch thick titanium. It's a good test target. It seems dimensionally stable.

I can't be in the room at the time of actual testing because we create a complete vacuum in the space in order to rule out atmospheric anomalies during testing. This also helps to prevent dust from impinging on our test results.

The room isn't state-of-the-art since we only filter particles down to 1.5 microns but we're working on improving our technologies because of the important work we're doing here with used, $100 to $150 dollar cameras, which were created nearly a decade ago.

Before we have our robotic interface run the actual tests we mould the center of a 30 pound warhead core of spent plutonium into the shape of the exterior of the camera and place the final plutonium construct on top of the camera to minimize any residual, external vibrations. A tight fitting, low gamma emitting plutonium pseudo "bean bag" is just the right solution for any shutter shock that might be resident in the cameras as well.

Once everything is clamped into place we test the cameras over a vast range of temperatures starting with an immersion in liquid nitrogen and then increasing the temperatures up to the point of failure, or until the camera's exterior begins to melt.

All professionals should know the "melt" point of their cameras if they are to truly deliver the best results for their clients. So far, of all the cameras VSL has tested in this manner, the Pentax K-01 tops the scale for heat resistance and resistance to electromagnetic vituperative lashings. It did, however, fail our test for high pressure immersion in Diet Coke (one of the toughest tests our lab currently has, in house, for satellites and cameras).

Once we've gotten several thousand terabytes of "metrics" that cover aspect from Nyquist quiescence to  all the relevant Ferbil integers from our lab tests, we feel more confident in taking said unit out into the "real world" and "making" test images to evaluate its actual performance. It's a months' long process as we need to shoot the camera in all natural lighting and weather conditions and we sometimes wait months for the right intersection of temperature, humidity and astrological star stage.

Finally we give it to our physics guy so he can take pictures of his girlfriend standing next to her mountain bike. That's the crucial end point of the testing.

We're in early days on the two cameras mentioned above. Really early days. How early? We're still in the battery testing stage at this point. How do we test the batteries? Glad you asked that. First we fire up the cyclotron and.............

Somebody make coffee! This might go on for a while...

But in all seriousness (if I have any left) I'm having fun playing with fun, basic, stupid and cheap cameras this week. Maybe I'll discover something no one else has. Maybe they'll end up back in a drawer for the next 10 years.

Microaggressions. That's when your camera won't switch modes as fast as you want it to. But it seems to require sentience from a camera and that may be a stretch. Conversely maybe it's really the action you take against the camera when it doesn't perform as you'd expected. But really, isn't that why we test?

16 comments:

milldave said...

But, but.....you didn't test it in a blender!!
This is SUCH a deal breaker for me!
Love it!
Made my day.
Regards,
David

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

We have a much tougher test than the blender. We just loan it to our assistants for a week.... Very few cameras survive...

crduke said...

The Panasonic GM-1 is actually a bit smaller and has the benefit of the newer 16mb sensor. Hard to use well with larger lenses, but very nice with the kit 12-32 OIS lens and my Oly primes. The built-in flash would allow for tilting, but the slow flash sync was a real pain. IQ seemed pretty much on a par with my EM-5. I got it because I was looking for a more pocket-able camera for social evenings out, but that got superseded as cell phone cameras improved.

Andrea Bellelli said...

I suggest you send the cameras to the space lab for gravity zero shooting. I have an epm1 and it has a bad case of shutter shock with all 14-42 mm kit zooms (I had two, the rii and the ez), but not with prime lenses, thus I use it with the 17 mm and the 45 mm, and it works well.

scott kirkpatrick said...

Spent or unspent, plutonium is bad news to have around. I think you should stick to spent uranium for all of your anchoring needs. Even in space, it would protect you from the dread shuttershock

I have a small collection of Olympus gear vintage 2014. Not valuable enough to go through the headaches of E-Bay selling, and there are some wonderful lenses that came out around then, like the 25-100 OIS that can do anything. Since they tend to hang around, and certainly haven't stopped working just fine, one grows rather fond of them. And 16 MPx hasn't become obsolete.

Rube39 said...

I have the later Oly PM2, and use it all the time. Not having a mode dial is a bummer but in the daylight P usually provides a fast enough shutter speed to stop action. Otherwise it is 2 button presses to change modes. Too bad Olympus hasn't made anything that small since. Pana did with their GM5, and I used that too. grin

Robert Roaldi said...

Olympus never sends me any cameras.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Scott, I tried the spent uranium but it just wasn't dense enough. A friend had some old, out of date warheads sitting around so I thought I'd try that. It's okay. I wore gloves...

crsantin said...

I know at one point you used an Olympus EP-2. I still have mine. I just never bothered selling it and it's not worth anything now. I was looking at some photos I took with it last summer on a weekend trip-remember when we could do that?-and you know what? The pictures look terrific. It's still a fun camera to use and I realize that if it was the only camera I had, I'd be pretty happy. There are some wonderful little lenses in that system too, like little jewels.

Kylian said...

Haha, nice try, didn't fool me. Physics guys don't have girlfriends.
;)

Chris Beloin said...

For 2020 this is a missed opportunity for Olympus -
I suggest they go back to their roots and produce a small camera that is easy to use.
Have a few key options to work with, but don't overload it with every feature.
Bring us a modern version of the EPM-1, updated with the latest technology in a small package.

So far I have not found a small camera solution that I really like. There are some candidates that have potential, but just not quite there. I would like a very small interchangeable lens camera that fits in above a smartphone phone in quality and optioned out for a enthusiast level of photography, but is simplified for easy use. Why not include smartphone ease of use with larger sensor capabilities?

Anonymous said...

Amy Medina did some nice work and a review of this camera at Steve Huff's site: https://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2011/10/10/no-excuses-olympus-e-pm1-review-by-amy-medina/

Unknown said...

Kirk you have discovered the magic high end turntable mounting in my ultra, ultra hi end stereo system. Our entire house is built around the concrete column (down to bedrock) upon which my turntable is mounted! Earthquake my sway the house but the TT endeavors stays rock solid.
cheers,
Jb

Ross Nolly said...

I'll see your uranium and up you an Industar 61 L/D on my trusty Zorki 4K. The L indicates that the lens has (slightly radioactive) Lanthanum in it. A radioactive lens; now that has to make my photos better right? ;-)

Ray said...

I can personally attest that a Sony a6300 is another camera that won't stand up to a bath in Diet Coke. Very sad.

Unknown said...

Thanks for a great post. Made me smile and laugh out loud for the first time in a couple of days.