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Olympus E-PL1 Father’s Day Sale
June 17, 2010, 10:31 am
Filed under: Do, Love | Tags: , , , , , ,

Olympus is offering a manufacturer’s $75 instant rebate on its E-PL1 micro four thirds camera (with zoom kit lens) through June 19th, 2010. You can buy online from Ritz Camera with no sales tax and free shipping ANYWHERE, which means that for $525, you can get yourself a m4/3 camera with zoom lens, in-body image stabilization, built-in flash (which can be manipulated as a bounce flash), and some really cool art filters (diorama and pinhole are my faves). The E-PL1 is on sale for $524 on Amazon (I got gold, but available in black and slate blue also), but depending on what state/city you live in, you might have to pay sales tax (in NYC, for example, it’s 8.875%). Amazon is best because they ship extremely quickly and have an awesome return policy, but if you are in an Amazon sales tax district and want to save $46, order on Ritz (but be prepared for slower shipping). If you’re old school and want to play with the camera first, all certified Olympus dealers will be offering the rebate through the 19th, so get thy ass into a store, stat.

Originally, I had purchased the Panasonic GF1 with the 20mm pancake lens, but returned it due to a defective LCD. Upon further consideration, I realized that because I am upgrading from a point and shoot, not coming down from a DSLR, the E-PL1 meets all of my needs and still leaves me room to grow. I like the way the GF1 feels in my hand better, but the E-PL1 is sturdy enough, and while the video is not as strong as the GF1, stills are my primary focus. I also like the punchiness of the Olympus JPEG engine and I don’t want to shoot in RAW all the time and be forced to do post-processing, and I like the in-body IS because that means that I am not limited to purchasing lenses with OIS (the Panasonic m4/3 cameras lack in-body IS so their lenses have OIS, but are also more expensive). I also like that I can angle the flash upwards to create softer light with the E-PL1, unlike the GF1 whose flash is too rigid to angle differently once popped up.

The GF1 with the zoom kit lens is going for $743.95 or so, and with the 20mm pancake is going for over $808.66, plus tax (usually free shipping). For the E-PL1 at $525 with free shipping and no sales tax, I was able to splurge on an additional lens, and I selected the Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 for $375 on Amazon (it was $360 at the end of May; I bought it for $374.99 two days ago; it’s now going for $383.02!) so my E-PL1 could be slim and sexy, just as it was meant to be. So, for about $100 more than I paid for the GF1 + 20mm pancake, I got the E-PL1 plus zoom kits lens and 20 mm pancake. I’d say that’s a pretty solid deal. (I could have gotten the 17mm M. Zuiko pancake lens for $250 and saved $100 but decided to treat myself to the Panny.)

The chief complaints against the E-PL1 vs. GF1 are slower autofocus speed, lack of extensive exterior manual controls, lack of built-in EVF (same w/GF1) and crappy external EVF, and sub-par LCD. I concur that the LCD is rather disappointing, especially since there is no EVF alternative built-in, and the external EVF alternative really isn’t very good (after some in-store testing). However, I think that for a photo enthusiast like me who is upgrading from a point and shoot, the autofocus is actually quite fast, there are more than enough buttons to work with controls, and wow, the pictures look amazing compared to what I’ve been coaxing out of my P&S.

I have read a gazillion reviews, and finally I thought, to heck with it. One guy said, “The best camera is the one you have,” and something clicked for me. There will always be some newfangled camera coming out onto the market, and every camera is going to have its pros and cons. The key is to be honest about your priorities and find a couple that suit you, then to pull the trigger and decide that you are going to master your camera, that you are going to learn to maximize its potential, that you are going to have fun no matter what, and to realize you can always upgrade later.

I CAN’T WAIT to get my hands on this thing!

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Second thoughts
June 10, 2010, 1:13 am
Filed under: Do | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m having second thoughts.

As it turns out, my brand new GF1 camera is defective. The camera itself is beautiful, and what few pictures were taken before theĀ  screen went all wonky were gorgeous. Eye-openingly gorgeous. But after firing off a few shots at dinner tonight, the LCD screen got all fuzzy and staticky – like when you have no signal on an analog television – before going all crazy with the red and purple highlights and this is the picture that it took (picture of the screwy screen taken by my trusty BlackBerry camera):

Fortunately, Amazon has an excellent return policy and I’m sending it back tomorrow for a full refund. But now I am agonizing over whether I should re-order the same, or if I should mix things up a bit. The GF1 with the 20mm pancake lens is $808 on Amazon. The other contender in the Search for Mel’s New Camera was the Olympus E-PL1, which has better high ISO output, has a great JPEG processor, in-body image stabilization and cheaper lenses, and goes for $549 with a 14-45 mm zoom kit lens. If I really want the Lumix 20mm pancake (which does not have in-lens IS), I can get that for $360 more, and pay about $100 more in total ($808 vs. $909) to have a camera with in-body IS and two M4/3 lenses.

But the GF1 is faster, has a better autofocus, great HD video… It is extremely well-loved in the reviews, and often compared to the more expensive big brother of the Olympus E-PL1, the E-P2 ($899 with 14-45 mm zoom kit lens). But the E-PL1 doesn’t have the little red light sensor on the front so apparently auto-focusing in the dark is near impossible.

I want to be able to shoot food, portraits, and travel photos.

How do I choose?!



New camera!
June 9, 2010, 3:39 pm
Filed under: Do, Love | Tags: , , , , , ,

Aren’t you sick of looking at my sad, dark little photos of various things I’ve made or eaten? I am. That’s why, after much research and thought, I got me a new camera. Hello, lover.

Meet my Panasonic Lumix GF1, outfitted with the 20 mm aspherical pancake lens.

The most important things for me were quality (duh), a compact size (I would feel uncomfortable about taking pictures too conspicuously at restaurants), portability (if a camera has a gigantic lens and doesn’t fit easily into my purse, I won’t take it everywhere), and versatility (I want to be able to take portraits, landscapes, macro, etc.). For all this, I decided the best option would be to go with a smaller micro four thirds lens system camera. I had narrowed my selections down to the Panasonic GF1 (the GH1 is out of my price range, and I didn’t want to wait for the G2 to come out) and the Olympus EPL-1. After a harrowing research and review period, I ultimately decided on the GF1 because the 20 mm pancake lens is so darn sexy. I couldn’t resist. With the 20 mm lens on, my camera is 4.5 inches wide, 3 inches high, and not quite 3 inches deep. It will fit into any of my purses with the exception of my tiniest clutches, and I won’t incur the wrath of various restaurant staff as I fuss and zoom.

Some reservations I have about the GF1:

  1. There is no string attached to the lens cap. Knowing me, I will lose that lens cap.
  2. There is no built-in viewfinder. I’m going to Guatemala in July, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to see anything on the LCD screen in bright sunlight. We’ll see how it goes.
  3. Lack of in-body image stabilization means I have to have a really steady hand… which is not something I have. The Panasonic lenses have compensation to make up for lack of in-body IS, but as a result, are more expensive in turn.
  4. High ISO output not as strong as Olympus, which has a bigger sensor. Hmm. This could be bad for taking macro photos of food in low-light situations.
  5. The GF1 takes considerably better pictures in RAW than in JPEG, and I have zero photo processing experience.
  6. I don’t actually remember very much from my photography class in college. F stop what? Oh, wait. This is not a reservation about the GF1; this is a reservation about my photo-taking capabilities.

I am going to be learning how to use it for the next few months, and I hope that ultimately, its use will result in a more beautiful blog. In the meantime, if you continue to see grainy, dark photos, it’s probably because I am still trying to use up all the photos from my now-old Canon point-and-shoot (which has served me well, and will still be my carry-everywhere camera) while I figure out how to work this thing.

Wish me luck!