Steve Sheppard Photography Blog

Archive for January 2010

Snow Day

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My lovely wife really enjoys the snow. We just had 24 hours of snow, and woke up this morning to a beautiful sunny day. Since she really can’t go out and play in the snow with a broken ankle, I decided to take her and the dogs for a ride around town. Crews are working hard to get the snow off the road, but it’s pretty packed. As of 11 a.m. this morning, the roads in town were still covered. There seemed to be more people walking around than driving. The photos are with the Olympus E-P1.

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Written by stevesheppardphotography

January 31, 2010 at 11:54 am

I Need An Olympus E-P2

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If by chance you visit my blog on a fairly regular basis, you know I am a big fan of the Olympus E-P1. There are a lot of reasons for that. It’s smaller than a Leica rangefinder camera (which I also use), it gives me DSLR image quality, and I can put it in the front pocket of my trousers along with a 17mm F2.8 lens.

Recently, Olympus released the E-P2.  Since then, I have been torn between two lovers. My wife will certainly appreciate the fact that it’s between two cameras.

I have resisted buying the E-P2 simply because I have the E-P1. Until there is a second lens I want, I figured there is no real big reason to get one. Currently, Olympus only has the 17mm F2.8 (which I have) and a 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 zoom. As I mentioned, one of the things I like about the camera is the small size. I’m really waiting on another prime lens or a fast aperture zoom.

Three days ago, my good friend Mike Wray stopped by and gave me his E-P2 to see what I thought compared to the E-P1. Mike has been the photographer at the Martinsville Bulletin since Lyndon Johnson was our president. Many of you probably weren’t even born then. He can go into any situation and come away with a great photo. He likes the camera and wanted to know what I thought. My attitude has now changed about whether or not I need one. Yes, now I know I need one.

There are several – what I consider minor – differences and one real big one. The E-P2 has an EVF (electronic viewfinder). With an EVF, the image is projected in the viewfinder right off the sensor electronically. Before now, I was never a fan of an EVF. The only camera I ever owned with an EVF was a Minolta A1, which actually was a pretty nice point and shoot.

The EVF, which sits on the camera’s flash hot shoe, is amazing. It’s bright, sharp and you can move the camera from side to side without getting dizzy from the electronic image. It brightens, as the light gets darker, so that you can actually see what you are taking a photo of.

I wasn’t sure an EVF was for me, but I love it. I think this could be the future of photographic equipment, and I assume Olympus is counting on that. Having an EVF allows the camera to be smaller because there’s no need for a mirror to project the image to a viewfinder like in a single lens reflex camera. It makes the camera smaller and quiet. Unlike a point and shoot (which we called an idiot camera in the newspaper business), Olympus has put their 4/3s sensor in the camera. The sensor is much larger than what is in a point and shoot camera. Therefore, the image quality is much better. However, the camera really isn’t much larger than the average point and shoot. Having a quiet camera is very important to me. When I am shooting a wedding, I don’t want people to know I am taking a photo. The quieter the camera, the less intrusive I am. Here are some examples of wedding photos with the E-P1 at ISO 3200. Image quality from the E-P2 is essentially the same.

I like smaller cameras. I don’t use a camera with a built in battery pack that also serves as a vertical grip. I have the add on battery grips for my Olympus E-3s, my Nikon D700s and the D300, but I only use them if I am using a bigger lens like the Olympus 50-200mm or Nikon’s 70-200mm. Therefore, I use Nikon’s D700s instead of the D3. Olympus doesn’t have a camera with the vertical built-in grip. The Olympus E-3 is a wonderful camera, but that’s a story I’ve told many times.

I’ve incorporated the E-P1 into my work. I’ve used it at events, weddings and even used it in the studio. Last fall, I shot a few photos with the E-P1 during a bridal portrait session and one of two photos the bride chose to show at the wedding as 16×20 canvas prints was from the E-P1. I have also used E-P1 photographs on the dust covers of two wedding books that are 11×13 inches. Both of those photos were shot at ISO 3200. The image quality is great.

The E-P2 is more useful than the E-P1 if for no other reason than the EVF. Since Mike gave me the E-P2 it has been raining. I used the E-P2 around the house and played with the menus, but wanted to try the camera outdoors before deciding how I felt about it. I wanted to know if it was an advantage using the EVF viewfinder in daylight as compared to the E-P1.

Today was still overcast and a pretty nasty day, but I was able to go out for about 45 minutes to shoot outdoors. The EVF is great outdoors and is almost as good as a normal optical viewfinder, as in a DSLR, and in some cases better. Since it was a nasty overcast day, I shot a few photos that fit the day.

I’ve been taking photos since I was six-years-old starting with a Kodak Instamatic 104 and have been using SLR’s for the past 30 years. I used Nikon FM2 bodies when I was a newspaper photographer. The Nikon FM2 did nothing for you. A photographer had to set the shutter, aperture, and focus. Oh My! (A little play on The Wizard of Oz. Sorry.) I loved that camera.

I’ve had Nikon F4s, N8008s and, when I moved to digital, I used the Nikon D1H, D2H and D70. I also used Canon’s 1D Mark IINs, and 5Ds and have also used Olympus equipment beginning with the E-1.

The E-P2 may just be one of the best cameras I have ever used for general shooting. It’s small, light, quiet, and has a great EVF viewfinder. Most importantly, it has great image quality. It’s not the best for sports. I have shot football, basketball and even NASCAR Truck Racing with the E-P1. (You can see some of those shot’s here). However for sports, I’ll use a DSLR. But could I use two E-P2s on assignment? The answer is YES! I could if I had a wide angle, normal and short telephoto for the camera. Right now, I use it in additional to my SLRs.

In a perfect world, I want a fast wide angle, a lens that is considered normal (a 50mm view on 35mm film format) and a fast short telephoto. Even a fast zoom would help. The great thing about the micro 4/3s format, which the E-P2 is a member, is that Panasonic is also producing cameras and therefore lenses for the system. Both Olympus and Panasonic will be introducing new lenses this year.

The micro 4/3s system is based on a sensor that is about half the size of what is called a “full-frame sensor”. A “full-frame sensor” is a sensor that is the same size as a 35mm negative. I think that is pretty much meaningless when it comes to digital, but that is also for another blog post.

Below I have done some comparisons with the Nikon D700, which has a “full frame sensor” at higher ISOs. A lot of what I do is at ISO 800 and higher. The E-P2 has more noise than the Nikon D700, but the E-P2 does have some advantages. A big advantage, depending on your goal, is more depth of field at wide apertures. That can be seen in the photos.

These photos were shot in my lovely wife’s (Mattie) office. This is where I do my ISO test when I get a new camera. All I care about is the final image. I want to know what it’s going to look like as a print. To me, nothing else really matters. With the Olympus E-P2, I shot with the 17mm F2.8 lens. With the Nikon D700, I used the 35mm F2 lens. Therefore, I had about the same field of view since you double the size of the lens with Olympus to get the same field of view with the so called “full-frame sensor” of the Nikon D700. For full disclosure, I used Nik Software Dfine 2.0 noise reduction on the E-P2 files and no noise reduction on the D700 files. On both cameras, I used the normal noise reduction in the camera and shot jpeg on both. Also, I made the photos 240 DPI and reduced them to an eight-inch high photo. These are crops from the 100% view of the photos. Both cameras were shot at F2.8.

E-P2 at ISO 1600 with Dfine

Olympus E-P2 at ISO 3200 with Dfine 2.0 noise reduction

Nikon D700 at ISO 3200 with no post processing noise reduction

Notice the difference in depth of field? At a print size of 8×10 you really would not be able to tell much difference except the depth of field.

Also one thing that many people don’t think about is that the E-P2 has in-body image stabilization. I was shooting these photos at about 1/15 or 1/20 of a second handheld. As I said, the only thing I am concerned about is the final image and what it looks like printed. The E-P2 is not a match for the D700 at high ISO. But, all of my E-P2 images were sharp shot at these slow shutter speeds while I had to hunt for a sharp Nikon image that I shot at similar shutter speeds. With a little noise reduction on the E-P2 images, they look really good. Usually I don’t even use any noise reduction on the images. The E-P2 is no replacement for the D700 at high ISOs but with the right post processing it can hold it’s own.

Having built-in image stabilization, means that I can get a sharp image at really slow shutter speeds. Being able to shoot at 1/10 of a second and even slower and still get sharp photos is almost unfair.

Written by stevesheppardphotography

January 22, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Posted in Olympus E-P1

Basketball With E-P1 and 17mm Lens

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I shot a basketball game tonight and of course took my Olympus E-P1 along for fun. Here are a few with the E-P1 and 17mm F2.8. All the photos were shot at ISO 3200 at 1/320 second at F2.8. In that last photo, the player was getting danger close. I really needed a faster lens to get up to a shutter speed of  1/400 or 1/500. Maybe I’ll get the Olympus 4/3 adapter and try it again with the Leica 25mm F1.4 lens or the Zuiko 14-35mm F2.

Written by stevesheppardphotography

January 5, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Posted in Olympus E-P1