My DSLR, wide

After reading Kirk Tuck’s take on an older Canon T3i / 600D I had decided to use my 2009 Olympus E-520 double zoom kit for this month. So before I say anything about it, let me show you a photo I took this morning:


Corolla 2002. Olympus E-520 with 14-42mm lens at 14mm.

First impression / learning effect: I had to take this photo twice, the second time with an exposure compensation of -0.3EV. While I would have seen that even before taking a similar shot with the electronic viewfinder of my “Pen” camera, your typical mirrored DSLR with its optical viewfinder doesn’t show you any over- or underexposure warnings beforehand, so you have to “chimp” (= check on the rear display) after taking a picture, correct, and try again. So a modern mirrorless (or “mirror free”) camera is much faster and more secure in this regard – you take the shot and you’ll know that you’ve got it, and walk away.

Second impression / learning effect: I also used a custom white balance after reading about it on Kirk’s site (again, thanks for that as well, friend) a while ago. It really gives you a boost in overall quality if you do this before taking a shot, since you don’t have to boost the blue channel (and with it, the noise) afterwards to get a neutral grey. This, and the use of my tripod here falls under the category of “shot discipline” like Ming Thein uses to call it, and it’s highly recommended by me as well.

Third impression / learning effect: this lens at 14mm on this camera front focuses a bit. While I had the middle focus point on the car’s light, the license plate is actually sharper (also not ‘critically sharp’ as some call it, but good enough for this demonstration). My E-520 camera cannot correct the phase autofocus like you could with an E-620 or E-30, so for future work at close distances and with the lens wide open, this should be remembered, and possibly worked around with using contrast AF with ‘live view’ on the rear display for static scenes like here. It’s far less critical for greater distances like in landscape / cityscape shots like this one (from 2011):


Genova, as seen in the morning from the Youth Hostel. Olympus E-520 with 14-42mm lens at 14mm. Cropped 16:10 in post production.

Fourth impression / learning effect: the lens isn’t bad at all, tho the out of camera jpg bends the pillar on the right in the first image a bit. But this is easily corrected with one click of your mouse in the Olympus Viewer 3 software which I used to convert the raw to a tif file (and the RawTherapee to make a jpg out of that tif; my usual and very fast workflow). It’s probably a bit better than the Panasonic 14mm/2.5 prime lens on my “Pen” camera, but this is down to personal taste and only true if you use both lenses at their optimal apertures. While the Panasonic (and the “Pen”) is definitely sharper in the middle of the frame, the corners are in my opinion a bit better on this one. For a “kit zoom” it’s an absolute bargain without any doubt, and now that I know about the front focusing issue for closer distances I can explain my initial feeling that the longer of the two always seemed sharper – and I know how to get around it. Learning about your tools is at least as important as thinking about getting better gear all of the time.

Yes, it’s only a pretty boring picture of our car. But if you look, you can actually learn a lot from these, and that’s why I keep taking such shots. When it matters, like in the second photo for instance, it’s either luck or this acquired knowledge which will save your butt. 😉

So – day one of my month-long experiment turned out to bring some Aha! effects already. What else could I ask for? Always good to ‘look over the border of your plate’ as we say here, and to reset yourself and to use your old tools with what you’ve learned over the years.

Oh, two more things (and links):

1. I love the question and the replies in this blog post from Mike Johnston’s T.O.P. page. The camera body costs three times as much as my DSLR kit, but’s also in a complete different class without any question as you can see from some of the answers. The fact that some people are moving back from cameras like a Nikon D800(E) to this one should give you something to think about.

2. Cameras are luxury tools. Kirk lately linked to, which republished an article I read much earlier already on Marty’s original page. Highly recommended reading in case you’re obsessed about gear.

As always, thanks for reading.