Chase Jarvis TECH: Scott’s personal Olympus Pen E-P2 Camera Kit

Is it bigger than a breadbox?  No.  It’s my new Olympus Pen E-P2 camera kit, and it’s awesome.

As the guy who manages the inventory of equipment here at Chase Jarvis Inc., it’s fair to say that I know a thing or two about what it takes to pull off a photo shoot.  Every time we roll down the street or fly around the world, I pack and move cases of gear.  No matter how light we’re packing, we tip the scales at at least 100 lbs.

In my free time I have access to any and all of this equipment.  A dream come true for any photographer.  Unless you spend your free time deep in the mountains or on travel adventures where an itinerary is unheard of and solitude is the end goal.  In that case, there’s no place for hundred pound cases.  Hell, an extra 20 pounds in the backpack can have a major impact.

This fact has always put me at a loss, oscillating between DSLR kits that feel bloated and obtrusive, and high end point and shoots like the Canon G series that while impressive for their size, just don’t have the gusto when you’re in the trenches.  What to do, what to do.

Well, like many, I took notice when Panasonic and Olympus came out with offerings in the new and exciting Micro Four Thirds format…. On paper it sure sounds good.  Teeny tiny camera bodies, cool lenses, a legitimate sensor, hd video, and maybe, just maybe, a fast shutter and motor drive.  Worth checking out, I thought to myself.  Actually, I nerded out over each new release with anyone who would sit still long enough for me to go through the hmmms and haaaas aloud at their desk.

The end of October found us working New York City and I finally got to put my grubby hands on the cameras I had been reading so much about.  On my way in to B&H I was convinced that the Panasonic GF1 was going to be the ticket.  On my way out I was converted.  The Olympus E-P2 looked cooler, felt better, and had less shutter lag.  Let me say here that these are untested claims, only my reaction to a hands on comparison.  There are other websites that dissect the technology.  I’m here to talk about my feelings.  That’s what the doctor said I should do…

So I had picked the body, what about the rest.  One of the fun things you can do with these cameras is to buy the competitor’s 4/3 mount lenses.  This is awesome except when you’re trying to decide what to put in your kit, then you have to do some real analysis of this lens versus that, the package price of this kit versus that one, the extra third stop in the aperture here versus the more compact design there.  I scratched my head for some time before I decided on a kit that looks like this:

Olympus Pen E-P2 camera body

Olympus 17mm 2.8 Lens

Olympus ED 14-150 f/4.0-5.6 Lens

Olympus VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder (expensive, but necessary outdoors)

2 Olympus Batteries

3 SanDisk 16 GB Ultra SD Cards

Lowepro Rezo 110 AW Camera Bag

That little kit gives me respectable speed (3+ fps with very little shutter lag), RAW files of 12 million good looking pixels, decent 720 video, an effective lens range of 28-300 (micro 4/3 format has a lens factor of 2), good ISO performance to 1600, and a few days of shooting before I need to see a charger or computer.  Sick.  Cooler still?  The fact that I can even pony up for the 9-18 lens when I feel like it and it will also fit easily in my 7 inch camera bag.  So much damned awesomeness, so little space.

How’s it shoot?  I love it.  A lot.  Feels good in the hands, responsive, quick adjustments, quick shutter.  At first I was trying to use it one handed like a point and shoot because it’s so compact.  I quickly abandoned these erroneous ways and started shooting it like a real camera, because that’s what it is.  A real camera with real user controls in a very small package.

Any nitpicks?  The focusing leaves a little to be desired, the AF is a little tricky to figure out at first, and the manual focusing is tough even through the digital viewfinder.  There is a focus assist function, but it’s horribly distracting when trying to compose an image.  I also found myself accidentally changing the ISO, White Balance, Focus Mode, and Shutter mode when spinning the control to change the shutter speed in Manual mode.  That was solved by turning off those functions, they can still be accessed by pressing the center control button.

Verdict.  Booyah!  Had a need, this camera filled it with power and panache.  Me likey.

So it’s emerging from winter into spring/summer here in Seattle, and my favorite thing to do is head for the hills, climb, ski, and document my adventures.  Here are the fruits of my labors and those of this tough little workhorse.  I don’t get attached to gear very often, but I think this one has already earned some shelf space in the permanent collection.

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63 Responses to Chase Jarvis TECH: Scott’s personal Olympus Pen E-P2 Camera Kit

  1. Hendrik July 12, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    Welcome to the mini camera world of m4/3 :) i’ve been using ep2 myself for around 3 months with 14-42 lumix kit lens (they are awesome when stopped down) and old nikkor lens for portrait (50mm 1.4 ai) with adapter. I leave my D300 for heavy lifting (high speed flash) where most of the time i use ep2 for casual shot (when hanging out with friends n family). The result are comparable to my nikon in good light. For low light i use adapted nikon 1.4 lens with IBIS on for low iso goodness ;)

    hM

  2. JESabater July 12, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    Wow, I gotta say, I had my doubt about the 3/4 sensor cameras, but your pictures have certainly proved me wrong, I may actually consider getting one. Now, I do a lot if sunset beach photography and if I do get a 3/4 I’d most likely want to get an external flash as well. Could you suggest a few that might pair well? And if they can be attached to a remote transmitter that would be even better. Thanks.

    • Scott Rinckenberger July 12, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

      JES, a couple of thoughts on the flash. First, the EP-3 is coming out soon with an on camera pop-up flash that seems pretty exciting. As to external flashes, you should be able to remote trigger with a transmitter on the hot shoe. I’d probably use a nikon SB900 since that’s what I’m most familiar with, but in honesty I’ve never tried to tie a flash to this camera since when I want to light a set I generally bring out the bigger guns.

      • Steven Floyd July 13, 2011 at 7:54 am #

        The E-PL series of cameras has a pop up flash built in. They also have full wireless TTL support for Olympus flashes such as the fl-36r. These cameras are identical to the EP series in terms of image quality, the major difference is build quality. Also when looking at primes for this system one should really consider the panasonic lenses. The 14mm 2.5 is great and the 20mm 1.7 is a must own. These lenses are fully compatible and have faster autofocus.

  3. Mark E Tisdale July 12, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    Still lusting over these but not ready to pull the trigger yet. Thanks for a post that adds fuel to that fire. ;-)

  4. Skunk July 12, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    Scott,

    For the first few minutes I was reading your article racking my brain on Panny vs Oly, which lenses to get for my purposes, then was sidetracked and blown away by your kickass photos.

    Love them, do you have your own personal blog? Ski mountaineering is something I really ought to learn some time.

    Skunk

    • Scott Rinckenberger July 12, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

      Skunk,

      Thanks! Glad you like my images. I’d love to point you to a bunch more work online, but in reality I’ve got so many irons in the fire here at CJ Inc, I haven’t made the time to build a site for my images. Your kudos are a strong motivator to do a little more sharing. Cheers!

      • jake July 21, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

        These pics are better than Chases’! The camera looks like a decent alternative to the hefty dslrs.
        Is Chase jealous of your talent? :)

  5. DanielKphoto July 12, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Interesting look on the Pen camera! I had my doubts about it, but I think it’s pretty good the way you present it :)

  6. Mrcos July 12, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    Does he need another bag?

  7. James July 12, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    Scott – I’m psyched you are big on the EP series. I don’t think people know how great they are as little cameras. I was looking at the 20mm Panasonic lens ’cause I heard it’s a far side better than the Olympus 17mm. But, damn, your pictures look pretty sweet man.

  8. Thomas Sylvest-Andreasen July 12, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    Great shots, really impressed with your ability to take advantage of the light.

    have you checked out the Sony NEX-5?

    A really great camera. I tested it against the ep2, and found several nice features.
    7 fps, APS-C size sensor, 1080P AVCHD format. Only downside is that the range of lenses is a little poor at the moment. Sony plans to put more lenses in the market in the near future though.

    The NEX-7 is coming up this year, with even better specs, check out http://www.sonyalpharumors.com for more details.

    • Timo July 13, 2011 at 12:35 am #

      The NEX-family actually got even more interesting with the latest software update which adds the focus peaking feature to the camera. In practice it indicates the greatest sharpness with colored highlights which makes focusing of manual focus lenses really easy and fast.

      I’ve been shooting with GF1 for 1,5 years and added NEX-3 to my bag a month ago. The bigger sensor certainly helps in higher contrast scenes and focusing with MF lenses is much comfortable. If only the body looked a bit more retro…. =)

      I also thank Chase & Scott for the excellent and inspiring blog. Keep on shootin’!!!

  9. David July 12, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    Hey Scott,

    Nice to see you use a PEN as well!, I use the EP1 and I love it!, an amazing little camera, fantastic for travelling and day to day. I recommend you the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 lens, it is really sharp and light and the forthcoming Olympus 45mm f1.8.

    Keep showing us your photos!,

    Cheers!

  10. Will July 12, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    Can I ask why you don’t use a Nikon P300? Is there something I’m missing when I see specs juxtaposed?
    Sorry, I’m just trying to find myself the best P&S for my money!

    Thanks in advance, and please keep showing your photo’s aswell, I’m particularly inlove with the B and W of the distant trekker on the mountain top. Deece brooo.

    • Scott Rinckenberger July 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

      Will,

      Stats can be problematic when comparing cameras. The Nikon D3s, the Olympus Pen E-P2, and the P300 all have similar specs if you look at megapixels, video, and iso. The differences come in the quality of the sensors, lenses, and speed/performance. The E-P2 comes far closer to shooting like a high performance SLR than any point and shoot I’ve come across.

  11. skipow July 12, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    Yo Scott! Those are the best ski pictures I have ever seen! I would love to get in front of that camera if I could ever catch up with you! More ski pics please!

    s

  12. Gediminas July 12, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

    Hey Scott,
    That was an awesome post and fantastic photos. Put more on Flickr or something, do share!
    I too have been using a digital Pen (E-P1) and it really is a fantastic camera. I think Olympus got it right here. (at least with respect to the size) They made a solid camera with very compact, decent quality lenses. It makes for a very portable solution, even with multiple lenses, and still maintains excellent image quality. I hope they do not mess it up. It really is in a different league when compared to say NEX. Sure Sony body may be small and it has a bigger sensor and better image quality, dynamic range, ISO, etc.. but compare their kit lens with the one from Olympus, or how big would the 28-300mm equivalent for NEX would be? (about 2x the weight) Even Panasonic zooms are much bigger because of the in lens IS. (Panasonic primes are a different story).
    I am really looking forward to the new models from Olympus. I am really curious about the new AF. Could it really be as fast as they claim it to be.
    I still have not found a suitable tripod for this camera though. They are either too small, too big, too flimsy, too cheesy, etc… any suggestions on a portable (~12″ folded), light weight, functional tripod? Do you use any with your kit?

  13. John July 12, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

    Hi Scott,
    Works for me too – http://www.better-photographs.com/olympus-pen.html
    John

  14. Daf July 13, 2011 at 5:03 am #

    Interesting that you publish this and also Zack Arias doe his on the x100 within a matter of hours.

    Have you tried the x100 ?

    I’d love to have a Take-with-me-everywhere camera. Phones just don’t cut it for me with no aperture control. Currently saving the pennies to upgrade my main camera (from D200 to D400/800 – HURRY UP NIKON!) and then after that will see how much I have left.

    Had discounted PEN before as the one I picked up in the local shop (not sure which model) was sloooooooooow, but will re-consider them now.

    • Scott Rinckenberger July 13, 2011 at 9:23 am #

      Daf,

      It is a blast to have a good fully manual camera that you can take everywhere.

      We picked up an x100 last month in New York and I have to say that it doesn’t stack up against the Olympus in build quality, handling, and speed.

      That said, many people are inspired by it’s styling and simplicity, and if a camera inspires people to bring it with them when they leave their house, I’m in full support.

  15. Brian Carey July 13, 2011 at 5:30 am #

    Cool, thanks for sharing!

    Brian Carey

  16. Dylan July 13, 2011 at 6:01 am #

    Hey Scott, nice review, I love the idea of being able to take a very capable kit around in a bag that size. And the photos are proof of the kind of quality you can get from these PEN cameras. You really should start a small blog or site for your portfolio, kinda like what Chase has on the first page of his website. Would definitely love to see more art from you. Also, where were those photos taken?

    • Scott Rinckenberger July 13, 2011 at 9:25 am #

      Dylan, thanks for the feedback. Glad you like the images. They were all taken last winter in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. The natural beauty of this region never ceases to amaze me!

  17. jonny July 13, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    Cool stuff. The 4096 x 1152 desktop background from your mt baker trip i’ve been sporting for the last couple months speaks to the capabilities of this little bad boy.

    http://imgur.com/6XS8D

    • Scott Rinckenberger July 13, 2011 at 9:27 am #

      Jonny, that’s great! Dartanyon had that same image as his desktop. It looks great across two monitors!

      • Jonny July 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

        big time. pun intended.

  18. Puneet July 13, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    Scott,
    I have seen photographers shoot crap with medium format. You blow my mind with an m-4/3-rds. I super-like the shots, and I am astonished at the size. A 9-18 lens would be worthy addition, I think combined with a 70-300, you have got a killer machine.

  19. Puneet July 13, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    Just to bring to your notice, the Panasonic has way faster AF and better video. But Olympus is good at feel and control as you mentioned.

  20. Puneet July 13, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    I would like to see more shots and reviews in the future. Please !

  21. Joel July 13, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    I tried the Olympus E-P2 and love it. I tried also the Sony NEX… It’s a nice camera but comparing the Olympus 14-42 & Sony 18-55, the Olympus 17mm & Sony 16mm I fined the Sony is soft. The Olympus lenses had more sharpness.

  22. fas July 13, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    This camera kit is so sweet.

  23. Curtis Brandt July 13, 2011 at 10:54 am #

    Great post, Scott. One of the best ways to make more interesting pictures is to take your camera more interesting places. Job WELL done, sir!

  24. Christian Lauer July 14, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    Dear Scott,

    thanks for sharing. I’m getting in love with these cam. One question left, what was your post production for the final look. These blue tone is incredible and I also love the contrast. Never seen a style that impresses snow landscapes in that dimension.

    Cheers to you!

  25. Jesus Hidalgo July 14, 2011 at 6:35 am #

    Hey Scott, even though I want to thank you for introducing us to your new favorite camera, my comments is actually about your photography; I think that me and a whole lot of people would like to see more of those images. And like you said, I know you are busy at work but, your photography is very nice! keep ‘em coming!

  26. Jonathan July 14, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    Thanks for sharing! Aside from the awesomeness, what is that amazing beat playing in the BG? :)

    • Scott Rinckenberger July 14, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

      Jonathan,

      It’s an instrumental version of “what a vision” by seattle hiphop artist Victor Shade (also of Common Market). Good stuff.

  27. Laurian July 14, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    Interesting camera, instead of shelling 200$+ for a small VF why not just tack on any of the 3″ LCDVFs ?

    It adds certainly more bulk, but is cheaper and gives a much nicer view in my personal opinion.

    If it works and you enjoy it, let me know :)

    I’ve been looking at picking up a small camera for sport trips where a dslr isn’t suited, was looking at these and the X100, Gotta say love the styling on the X100 alot more, but not so the price and the bad things i hear about em.

    • Scott Rinckenberger July 27, 2011 at 9:54 am #

      Laurian,

      We’ve got a handfull of different monitors for shooting video with DSLR cameras, but the whole point of this Olympus kit is to be compact, lightweight and minimal. To this end, the viewfinder is the best solution currently available.

    • Anakin October 9, 2012 at 4:23 am #

      E-P2 hands down, I tried X100 for a week not a long time ago. It’s the slowest full manual camera I’ve ever tried. I think they packed the camera with functions and fitted a 1980 CPU into the camera to reduce cost. X100 has brilliant features, but too slow for my use. It looks really good though.

  28. Neill Soden July 15, 2011 at 12:14 am #

    I do something simler to Scott here with the D3000 and 35mm f/.8, instead of lugging my bigger & heaver D200
    it pretty much goes were ever I go

    it not as small granted, but I use what I have and don’t see the need to spend on another camera

    Other wise I like the shots Scott, You should come try out South Africa’s Drankensberg some time for your adventures here is an example http://blog.neillsoden.co.za/?p=230

  29. AP Hovasse July 15, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    Great article. I went through the same thought process as you but ended up with the GF1 which I love. Every day I am faced with the choice of GF1 or Nikon D3s: ease and facility versus awesome files! I love the Nikon but it’s such a beast, i use it for a lot of night stuff, nothing comes close. I love street photography (see website above) and the GF1 is perfect for this. Traveling abroad is easier with something small ( and there’s less paranoia about it as well) . One day, manufacturers will give us the size of the GF1 with the resolution of the D3s, then I’ll never need to buy another camera again! ( did I mention I also have a Nikon 300s and a Lumix LX3? love them all.

  30. Jay McLaughlin July 16, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    I’ve been using the Olympus EPL-1 for about 8 months now, and it seriously kicks ass! Mine came with the 14-42mm kit lens, but that sits on a shelf collecting dust. 99.99999% of the time I use the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens. It works out at 40mm, so awesome for just walking around and snapping.

    I seriously love this camera!!!

  31. Giulio Sciorio July 17, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    Excellent job on the color and B&W conversion. Did you process these in Aperture?

  32. David Howland July 26, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    Scott,
    Great post and images! Have you run into any problems with the supposedly slower AF on the EP2? I’d think that if there was anywhere this would be a problem it’d be with the kind of photography you posted above. I’m debating between buying an EP2 now or waiting for the EP3 with the supposedly much improved AF.

    • Scott Rinckenberger July 27, 2011 at 9:41 am #

      David,

      If what they say about the Auto Focus on the E-P3 is true, it would be worth waiting. The E-P2 does a good job with single frame focusing, but during motor driving or zooming while shooting quickly it can easily lose focus and require some time to regain it. Most of my subject matter is reasonably far from the camera, so the focus doesn’t change too quickly as a general rule. I’ll surely be getting my hands on the new camera at some point and I’ll try to do a follow up with my thoughts.

  33. Tim Samson July 28, 2011 at 6:53 am #

    Hey Scott! Totally agree with everyone else. Excellent pics!!!!! Again you’ve just proven that the best camera is the one with you. Lugging a DSLR kit while skiing doesn’t seem to be the best idea and I bet the hassle just ruins the skiing experience plus you end up taking lousy pics trying to maneuver a DSLR in skis with gloves on.

  34. Structured Settlement ~ Where To Sell July 31, 2011 at 4:38 am #

    Thanks for sharing. I’ll be sure to bookmark this page being a photojournalist myself, anything related to photography interests me.

    Thanks again!
    Nick

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    Your blog is wonderful! Hope there are more surprises to share with us!

  37. Bechak October 20, 2011 at 8:19 am #

    Scott, I have tested putting the Nikon SB900 on top of Olympus Pen EP3, it work perfectly but only in manual mode. Its realy nice to have the two brand working together. I need to explore more! By the way, I like your articles!

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    technology making life simple and dangerous as well these pen camera is using in spying also, but never the less is the biggest achievement making the small cam which can be carried anywhere.

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