Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Saturday Morning in Sydney: Panasonic 7-14mm, Olympus Pen E-P3 & others

[Photos originally taken on March 15, 2014]

I haven't done this in a while. And by 'this' I mean going out at 4 in the morning to take pics.

4am might be my favourite time to shoot since almost everyone is asleep. You may see one or two people going for a run and there may be some jobs that start at that time (clean up, trash collection, construction) so some are already working. As you go on, the number of people around you increases and it's even better on a weekday since you really start to feel the city come alive. I love being around for that.

This latest early morning photo session is probably my first in about 4 years, maybe more. I've been putting it off for a long time mainly because I work full time and while it's not stressful, it does tends to take a lot out of me. So most of my non-work time is spent recharging my energy reserves.

I've been meaning to go back and recreate a shot of the Opera House that I did several years ago, but this time with my current gear. I found myself wide awake at 3am which is rare so I thought I'd do another of my 4am photo shoots.

Camera: Olympus Pen E-P3
Lenses: Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f4, Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f1.7, Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 40-150mm f4-5.6 R

After going through my pictures, this is what I realised...

Olympus Pen E-P3

I think I'm done with Olympus. At least, for now.

I hate the shadows on this camera. I already knew that JPG shadow detail was horrible (overly aggressive noise reduction turns everything dark into mush) but I thought RAW would be better. It is better but it's still horrible, at least on long exposures. Bumping up the shadows reveals blotchiness and there's not a lot of detail to be seen. And other weirdness to do with colour uniformity. Maybe I've been spoiled by newer sensors like the one in my Sony RX100MII.

I've also been increasingly annoyed at the shadow noise reduction in JPGs, even when I'm not shooting night time scenes. Olympus cameras are highly regarded for their JPGs but things fall apart in the shadows with the E-P3. I like to shoot JPGs only since I do like the Olympus colours and I enjoyed this on the E-P1 and E-P2 but things took a dark turn with the E-P3. It's a great camera when there's a lot of light and I certainly enjoy using it (and also how stylish it looks) but I want to cry every time I look at the shadows.

They've probably improved on this with some of their newer camera bodies but I think it's time to replace the E-P3, possibly with a Panasonic body. The purple flare issue (discussed below) was the last straw.

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f4

I love this lens so much. I love ultra wide angle lenses in general but the size of this lens is perfect and the image quality is sweet. I bought this in Japan in late May 2010. We've been in Osaka for a couple of days and I found myself missing a lot of shots because my widest lens only went to 14mm. I spent somewhere upwards of $900 to get it (and I remember that there was even an issue with the credit card I used, they thought it may have been a fraudulent transaction because I was using it overseas) but I'm sure glad I did. The shots from this lens were some of my fave during that Japan trip.

This lens doesn't get a whole lot of use unless I'm on a holiday but it's there for me when I need an ultra wide angle lens and I'm confident in its abilities so it's worth every cent for me. I wouldn't dare go on a holiday without it.

Here's the thing though. When paired with an Olympus camera, it produces an ugly purple flare when you have a bright source of light in the frame. It's not always there but I cringe whenever it rears its ugly head. It's a pretty challenging task to correct this in post and to be honest, that's not how I want to spend my time. I read that it has something to do with the UV filter that Olympus puts in front of their lenses. This doesn't happen when shooting with Panasonic cameras.

I'm curious whether this happens with the new OMD E-M10 but I think I'm done with Olympus for now. Kinda crazy that I'm basing my camera decisions on how this lens performs on it but there you go. I'll wait and see what the upcoming Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 7-14mm f2.8 is like, maybe I'll switch to that if it's not much heavier. Hopefully it doesn't cost a lot more.

Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f1.7

I didn't use this lens much during this morning photo trip to the city. I mainly wanted to use the 7-14mm and I only used the 20mm when I needed the focal length. It's great though because it's so light that I can put it in the bag and forget about it.

I debated selling this and replacing it with the new Olympus 25mm f1.8. The focus is slow on the Panasonic but I really like the pancake size of the lens, the focal length (40mm full frame equivalent) and how it renders images. Not my go to lens for landscapes but I love it for a lot of other types of photography that I do.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 40-150mm f4-5.6 R

I feel like this lens should be worth a lot more. It's a really good performer in a light package. Good value too. I considered selling my Panasonic 14-140mm and just sticking with this since it's sharper. But if the E-P3 goes then this'll probably go along with it. I have an upcoming trip to the Philippines and South Korea so I'll see how everything performs and which lenses I use more.


Additional photos

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