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Field Review: Olympus EPL-2 (Night 5)

by Chris Gampat on 03/07/2011

So far in the Olympus EPL-2 review we tested the Art Filters, shot an awkward moment on video, talked about using it on dates and as a street photography camera. Our first impressions are holding together very well and we’re still positively impressed. I felt that the camera needed a real test though. As stated earlier on, I’m reviewing this camera as an option for professionals not shooting paid work and instead just for fun. With this said, I journeyed out to another Chiptunes concert.

Gear Used

Olympus EPL-2

Olympus 17mm f/2.8 Lens

Olympus VF-2 Electronic ViewFinder (Black)

In Aperture Priority

If I had the opportunity to shoot this concert again, I wouldn’t use the 17mm. Instead, I’d use the very good Panasonic 20mm F/1.7 lens that I tested on the GF-1. In low light situations like this, I’m actually very rarely shooting down at F/2.8. Now, this need to be coupled with a couple of other problems:

- At the time of writing this posting, the EPL-2′s RAW files aren’t supported in Lightroom 3. Because of this, I would not have as much versatility to save them since I was often shooting at ISO 1600 and above and sometimes barely reaching 1/40th of a second—which is the minimum that I would need to achieve a sharp image no matter what the image stabilization says.

- F/2.8 also didn’t allow me to capture fast moving subjects. However, something crazy did happen. I sometimes have a weird moment where my shutter speed will go off at the exact same time as someone else’s flash. That’s what happened in the image above. It’s a cool effect, and it did help to stop the motion a bit more.

Here’s a similar image shot at 2nd curtain flash, which allows for trails to be made. No, I didn’t drink at all when shooting this, but it does give you an idea of how much he was moving around.

Because of this experience, I generally will not recommend the 17mm pancake to be used with the EPL-2 when shooting concerts.

But wait, there’s more!

Art Filters

When shooting the concert, I got the crazy idea to start using the Art Filters to embrace the current flaws with the lens and camera combo. The photo above was shot with Soft Focus. Then I switched it up to Dramatic Tone.

Hey, that’s pretty cool looking! In fact, that is some fairly crazy dynamic range and color depth. But what about grainy Black and White film?

That’s not too terrible either.

Since this seemed to work, I started to embrace the flaws more and more.

Autofocus Tracking

Since my subjects were moving around very fast in dim light, I had no choice but to use the AF tracking priority mode. The verdict: it’s fast. In fact, it’s impressively fast. Olympus has done something to revamp the algorithms in their autofocus. It blows Panasonic’s continuous focusing mode out of the water; however Panasonic is still very good for single focusing.

Here’s a small issue: even though it tracked my subjects, it sometimes lost them. When holding the AF button down while this happened, it would somehow pick them back up and retrack them.

Here’s another issue: when it tracked them in the viewfinder, the lens would take a split second longer to achieve sharp and accurate focus on them. This is another reason why I recommend the Panasonic prime over the Olympus.

Even if I had the Panasonic lens though, I’m not totally sure that I would use the combo together at a concert. I’d have to test them out and see.

The current concert photography kings are the D300s and D3s. However, the 7D can hold its own very well and as I saw before, the 60D can too.

Other than this, it was nice to be able to shoot a concert with something as small as a rangefinder (or a bit smaller) and I had no ergonomic problems at all. In fact, I found the viewfinder to really help me compose interesting shots.

Hot Hot Heat!

As stated before in the review, we are using the Eye-Fi X2 pro card. Little did I know that the venue had working WiFi. Because of this, every image I shot was being directly uploaded onto Eye-Fi’s servers and then my laptop. It was actually the first time that I’d seen this happen during a semi-serious gig. The Eye-Fi card was working pretty hard actually: I was able to tell this because of the fact that it heated up the hand grip. Though it wasn’t uncomfortable, it was concerning.

Cameras have heated up on me before though: the GF-1′s video mode made the sensor heat up to the point of not being able to use it, and the D3s melted business cards onto my wallet through my pants while resting on my side (no really, it happened. I still have my witnesses.) This incident wasn’t a sensor related issue though and the creator of the Eye-Fi card has often told me that it’s a radio issue that happens often and that it isn’t something to worry about.

Indeed, the camera didn’t burn a hole through my hand.

And with the end of this concert ended the Olympus EPL-2 review. Coming up: the complete wrap up!

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