photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

One year (and a bit) later

in Olympus E-System , Tuesday, February 15, 2005

So I've had the E-1 for just over a year. I've taken about 6000 frames with it, I've made my first commercial sales as a photographer with E-1 photos, and I've probably progressed a great deal as a photographer due to the freedom that digital brings. So maybe it's time for a quick review update. Rabadan_050205_10_001.jpg
Gugge Musik group at Rabadan 2005, Bellinzona. Some of the first entries I posted here included photos I took at Rabadan 2004. This time I had the flash!


I can't say I've had any major problems with the E-1. I've had no failures either of the camera or any components, even when submitting it to quite harsh conditions. I've treated it with respect, but I've assumed it was designed to be used, not left on a shelf, and it has not been mollycoddled. So far it hasn't complained. I have had some problems with auto focus, especially with the 50-200 lens, and even more so with the TC14 converter. The main problem is that the camera has had a bad habit of losing focus on foreground objects. However, a large part of this is probably down to me, not being at all familiar with AF, and underestimating the learning curve. Recently I've forced myself to be more methodical with it, and things have improved a lot. The new 1.4 firmware helped to. Only twice has my E-1 frozen, requiring a battery-remove reset - both times this was with the FL36 flash attached, which I'm not 100% happy with. But then again, I'm a total novice with flash.

What I like, particularly

  • The viewfinder. It is far better than any other DSLR in its class, and most above it. I've at least handled most DSLRs, and the only one with a better viewfinder I know of is the Canon EOS 1Ds - and it should be better! The 100% coverage is fantastic, and makes up for the 1Mpix difference between the E-1 and Canon, Pentax, Nikon and Minolta cameras.
  • The battery life - it just goes on forever. I've only once been caught with a low battery, and it was my fault, 100%
  • Handling: the camera just feels right. It balances perfectly, and all the controls are in the right place - well nearly all
  • The lenses. They're all great. Maybe the best is the 50-200 zoom, which is amazingly flexible, applicable to semi-macro close-ups, portraits, and of course wildlife. It is a little bit heavy though!
  • The dust shaker. One doesn't really notice it of course, but that's the whole point. It is very entertaining watching one's peers frantically cleaning their Canon & Nikon sensors. I've never cleaned mine. I have no idea how to, and I doubt I ever will. And I change lenses frequently, in all conditions. Finally this brilliant innovation is getting noticed elsewhere...

What I like less

  • Image review - it really should be possible to automatically display a image post capture with shooting info, e.g the histogram. I really cannot understand why a firmware update could not incorporate this.
  • No ISO information in the viewfinder. This is a fundamental parameter for a digital camera. Ok, you can bring it up by pressing the ISO button, but the camera should remind you, not the other way around.
  • The software. Olympus Studio is not very good, certainly not worth the price. It has a few nice touches, such as being able to rename files using EXIF data - why does nobody do this ? - and a decent workflow, but all in all the usability is poor, it isn't always very clear what it is doing, it has some irritating bugs, and it remains slow. Version 1.2 improved the speed, but added several new showstoppers, such as - incredibly - killing the histogram update in RAW development. CaptureOne is far better, although Studio remains the only choice for computer controlled shooting.

Long term view

I think investing in the 4/3rd system was a good move. I have bought the 50-200 and 11-22 zooms, and the 50mm macro, as well as the 14-54 zoom. I might trade the 11-22 for the 7-14 when it becomes available. However, I hope that the system will take off to the extent that a wider range of lenses becomes available, and even that specialist lenses such as a tilt/shift are offered. I would very much like to see a Fuji 4/3 body with the sensor from the S3, and even more to see Fuji making 4/3 lenses. At the moment things are looking quite good. However, I doubt that the E-1, or any 4/3 camera, can fully meet my needs as a photographer. This isn't bad - when I had the Canon T90, I used the Hasselblad Xpan just as much, along with a few other more esoteric devices, like the Hasselblad ArcBody and the Fuji GS670. The Xpan still gets used relatively often - the others not so much. But probably at some point I will add a "medium format" digital system to the E-system. A Hasselblad H1 would be nice! But then again, so would a Zuiko 300mm F2.0 lens... Probably the year in which I've used the E-1 has been my most productive year as a photographer, and I can't say much better than that.