But I was also interested to see what the E-P3 would be like as a 'travel' camera. Something small and light, to use when I don't want/need to be carrying my E-M1 around with me. I was also keen to see how the Pen series had progressed - since I had owned the original E-P1, but had sold it for a number of reasons. Primarily because I had found it a bit sluggish and slow (and also a bit too 'fiddly' to use as my main camera).
Well, the E-P3 arrived this week (as I write this), and the weekend weather was looking good. I spent a night going over the camera functions and setting it up for my shooting style (enabling the Super Control Panel etc) and was ready to go on Saturday.
|Brunner Bridge. E-P3 with 14-42mm II R. f5 @ 1/100th|
I was determined, however, to stay for an hour and take some photos. So I had to think 'outside' the box. Colour photos weren't going to look very interesting in flat, dull light - but what about black and white? And if black and white, then what about using the Grainy B&W Art Filter?
Fortunately this just happens to be my favorite of all the Art Filters built into the camera, and it's the one I had already 'pre-programmed' into the E-P3. So a quick rotation of the program wheel on top of the camera to the 'Art' mode, and bingo - Grainy B&W (Mode II) with the filmy-boarder look was set!
Historically I'm not one for using the Art Filters - in fact I don't even know why they are on the E-M1 and I may have even turned them all off. But, on the E-P3 I think they make a lot more sense. I guess I see the E-P3 as being more of a 'fun' point-and-shoot, where using pre-programmed Art Filters in Jpeg mode suits the style of the camera? And I have to say, seeing the grainy black and white image moving around on the rear lcd screen as I composed with the camera at arms length was a heck of a lot of fun. So different to my normal shooting style.
|Brunner Mine Site. Olympus Pen E-P3 with 9mm Fisheye Bodycap lens. f8 @ 1/15th sec, ISO 200. 9mm|
|Coke Bins, Brunner Mine. Olympus Pen E-P3, Grainy B&W II Filter, 9mm Bodycap lens. f8 @ 1/15th sec, ISO 200|
|Silver Fern, E-P3 with 12-42mm. F5.4 @ 1/60th, ISO 1600|
But for me, the Pen series are just a little on the 'too small' side of the scale. I'm not a fan of lcd-only viewing (I much prefer a built-in evf), since this encourages the hold-camera-out-in-front-with-both-arms style of shooting that is the least stable way to take photos imaginable! It's just as well Olympus cameras have incredible ibis (in-built image stabilisation).
The buttons on the back are also on the small side, and are a bit too close together - although the top plate has reasonable separation. I understand why this is - but again, it just hearkens back to the whole camera being just a bit too small. And I don't have large hands.
Fortunately, the touch-screen lcd screen helps to mitigate some of the small-button problems, and using the brilliant SCP (Super Control Panel) means that you won't have to access the menu structure too often. Not that I think there's a problem with the menu structure. Olympus have long been lambasted for their camera's menu's, but I actually find them very easy to navigate and quite logical. I don't use the touch screen for actually taking the photo (although you can), as I think this is even less stable of a shooting platform since you are now probably shooting one-handed. But what I do use the touch screen for is touch-to-focus. I can then steady the camera again with both hands while taking the photo with the traditional shutter button on the top of the camera.
|Wheel stone. E-P3 with 9mm Bodycap Fisheye.|
f8 @ 1/20th sec. ISO 200
I also thought the E-P1 was sluggish to autofocus, and a little too slow overall. Not so the E-P3. At its launch, Olympus claimed it used the fastest auto focus system in-the-world, of any system! Mmmm. Methinks the marketing team doth protest too much! But yes, it is quick. A lot quicker than the E-P1. In good light. With a strongly contrasted scene (it uses contrast detect auto focus). Within these parameters, it's nigh on instantaneous. Which is a marked improvement on the previous Pens. So kudos to Olympus there.
As stated earlier, I prefer to use a built-in EVF - which the Pen's lack, and have never been a big fan of using the rear lcd screen to compose the image. The SD card slots into the same chamber as the battery at the base of the camera - again not something I'm a big fan of. And my preferred shooting mode - Aperture priority, requires a two-step process (push function button and then rotate sub dial) to add any exposure compensation. Again, just a bit fiddly for my liking.
|Brunner Bridge 2. Pen E-P3 with 9mm Bodycap lens. f8 @ 1/50th sec. ISO 200|
I do think it's too small - to use as my main camera. Which was what I was trying to do with the E-P1. It was the only camera I owned at the time, and as my only camera, it fell short of what I wanted in a camera. I wanted something a bit bigger (but not 1D bigger), I wanted something with an in-built evf, I wanted something that felt snappier to use, and I wanted something that felt at least somewhat SLRish. Enter the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk2 - and then the E-M1. As my main camera, they suit my shooting style and needs so much more than the Pen's do.
But... as a second, smaller, lighter, more compact travel camera - the Olympus Pen E-P3 is pretty hard to beat. The Panasonic Lumix GF and GX bodies come the closest. Which are, of course, also micro four thirds cameras.
With the Olympus E-M1 and the Pen E-P3, I have a comprehensive system. The E-M1 is my main man. My tackle anything, conquer all, 'serious' kit for anything I want to throw at it. Whereas the Pen E-P3 is my 'have fun', go light, point-and-shoot, travel recorder. A have-prime-will-travel type of kit that I'm really looking forward to taking away on holidays with me. I think it's going to record some very special family moments. And that alone makes the E-P3 worth keeping.