There’s so much talk in the world of photography about people switching from their big DSLRs to compact mirrorless cameras like the Sony A7R II and the Leica M. I get it. I’ve been itching for a more compact camera since last year when I was having to use my camera a lot in restaurants where I didn’t want a ton of attention on myself. I imagined having one of these little Fuji X100 tucked into my pocket rather than slinging my Canon 5D around myself and drawing more eyes on me and what I’m doing.
Well, this past Halloween weekend, I accidentally shot with the Olympus OMD E-M10 for a day of festivals and fairs here in North Central Florida. How was it by accident? I had brought my 5D with me and was ready to shoot when I check my memory card slot and… yup. I left it at home. My mom graciously allowed me to use her new camera (I swear I didn’t leave it at home on purpose.) No better time to do a more thorough review than my last quick write up.
Citra Citrus Cook-Off and Fall Festival
The day started in the sleepy town of Citra off of Highway 301 where the historic society was hosting a citrus fall festival. The day before, I baked some orange scones with an orange chocolate drizzle to enter into the citrus cook-off. Unfortunately, I didn’t win, but we’ve had some tasty treats for the last few days.
I used aperture priority shooting mode the entire day because I wanted to treat this like a fun and easy travel camera. I didn’t want to HAVE to think about my settings if I didn’t want to. The two top dials on the camera made it easy to adjust my aperture and exposure compensation. I set the ISO on auto with the max at ISO 1600. Getting to the menu area to select the ISO isn’t instinctive. There’s ways to adjust custom buttons to easily get to things like this on the camera, though, which for a sub-$500 camera is a nice option.
The focusing speed and accuracy was very good, something these newer Olympus cameras are known for. My only complaint comes from user issues, not control issues—it was set on center focusing (my preference) but when faces would appear, it would automatically switch into face-recognition mode. For shooting on the fly, it’s really not a bad thing to have but it would definitely take some getting used to.
Island Grove Winery Tasting House – Wade Boggs Meet and Greet
After Citra, we headed north a few miles on 301 to the new Island Grove Winery Tasting House where Wade Boggs, Red Sox legendary third-baseman and hall-of-famer came to sign some autographs for a few hours. The store looked impeccable with the most fun fall decor but also baskets of baseballs, Cracker Jacks, and other baseball items. Just the other week, they had former NASA astronaut Bruce Melnick meeting and greeting visitors where I got to talk about horribly inappropriate space questions and if he was going to see The Martian (which he was and he enjoyed the book.)
This was a fun test of the lens as midday sun allows a lot of natural light into the building but there was still a lot of competition from the store’s interior lights. The camera’s auto-white balance worked fairly well in this situation—much better than my 5D for sure. That said, I would have needed to adjust the settings for the auto ISO to have shot in A-mode to have gotten the photos I wanted.
The main photo I was disappointed with was the portrait of Wade Boggs (in black and white up there). The aperture was as wide-open as possible but there just wasn’t enough separation between the subject and everything else there. Even for casual portraits, I do not like the kit lens (which I discuss a little more below).
Micanopy Fall Festival 2015
After hanging out with the Boggs, we moved over through Cross Creek and up to downtown Micanopy for their popular fall festival. This was a busy Saturday on top of it being Halloween! If you weren’t watching the Gator game that afternoon, it was a fun place to do some people (and pet) watching, listen to some great music, and walk through their historic downtown.
I really enjoyed being able to just flip down the LCD screen and shoot from the waist like an old medium-format camera. Compared to the other photographers walking around with their Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS, on one even glanced at me.
Hearing some old-school Prince from a distance, we ran over to watch this group, 7th Street Band from Jacksonville, give North Central Florida a little funk and soul. My wife wants me to hire them to come play a house party for us now and I’m not against it.
I shot predominately with the Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Mk II kit lens that came with the camera body. Reviews and user comments are generally good for this lens, one of the better kit lenses out there. I don’t disagree but I won’t say I completely loved it, either. Generally sharp on both ends of its zoom range, I never worried about shooting on either extreme. If you like bokeh like I do, this lens isn’t going to work for you. It does allow you to shoot fairly close, though (a little less than an inch focusing distance).
The other lens that I started throwing on when we got to Micanopy was the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F/4.0-5.6 OIS. Now this is where I started seeing that some of my issues with image quality may be coming from the lens and not the camera itself. I wasn’t completely happy with the contrast in the kit lens as well as the way it handled lens flare and direct light. When the Panny 100-300mm was on, contrast was much better, colors were a little richer and the longer focal length allowed for some better bokeh.
P.S. – That is a baby gibbon up there in the witches outfit. The woman holding him said she owned a zoo. I initially ran up to her thinking it was a baby sloth from the back. This was definitely topped the baby potbelly pig for interesting pets being carried around the festival.
Overall, the shooting experience with the Olympus OMD E-M10 was a good one. I loved how inconspicuous it is, many of the ergonomics work well with exception of a complicated menu system, and I never worried about focusing.
It’s definitely a camera that takes some work to get it where you’re very comfortable shooting with it. There’s a lot of bells and whistles which for manual shooters like myself can be distracting but I think there’s some usefulness in them somewhere in there.
The kit lens, while a fine little lens, left big gaps in how I normally shoot. I really did miss the DOF and even the color renditions from my Canon 5D and the Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM. It’s not a fair comparison, but just the one I’m comparing it to because that’s what I normally carry around. I would love a chance to try a faster lens like the Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm f/1.8, maybe soon. And if I’m dreaming, someone let me hold the Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 OIS.
Come back on Wednesday when I’ll be posting my post-processing piece about using film emulators like VSCO with Olympus and the overall challenge of finding a look for your own photography.