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The Long March

in Olympus E-System , Friday, January 23, 2004

Ah, if only people knew the hardships of living the other side of the Alps to everybody else in Switzerland. Everybody else including Olympus Switzerland, for example. Doubtless somewhere near Zurich, over the 3000m high Gotthard Pass. Just think... some poor courier guy has got to struggle through howling winds and biting cold to transfer the boxes that were in stock on Monday in Zurich to our isolated outpost of civilisation. Well it is only 4 days since the order, can't complain. After all, it's not as if we have DHL, a tunnel through the Alps (road and rail), a 7 flights a day air link, is it ? Oh. We do ? Hmm.

At this rate I'm going to have to order something else to keep interested. At least it looks like the weather will be abysmal this weekend.

I wonder if Hannibal operated a parcel post service ?

New review posted

in Olympus E-System , Thursday, January 22, 2004

Not much to say today as (a) I'm still waiting and (b) I've got a lot of work to do. However I did see a new review posted today at dcresource, which seems to be pretty positive.

It certainly looks promising...

Frantic activity

, Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Regular visitors to this website (me, that is) will notice a burst of activity recently. I've finally worked out where I was going wrong with blog archives (MovableType is very nice, but before they launch their pro version they should hire a technical writer or two :-) ). I've also added a second blog dedicated to my soon-to-arrive new toy, the Olympus E-1 digital. I have a feeling that the way I've set both up to use the same templates is not quite the way it should be ... I've re-arranged my photo archive. Following 99.99% of common practice I've renamed "collections" as "galleries", and at the same time I've realised that I need to give people a chance to get a quick overview of what I'd like them to see, so up front will be the new "best of" Portfolio section. This requires (a) some jiggery-pokery with MySQL, (b) me to see if I can somehow use MovableType to power a comments / feedback feature, and (c) the hardest part, making a selection. After that, I hope to start presenting some "exhibits", presentations of organised, thematic work. Am I taking this too seriously ? Time will tell...

Why the E-1 ?

So why choose the E-1 ? Well first of all, I defy any photographer to pick one up and not instantly recognise that it just feels right, in a way that no other DSLR - and very few film SLRs - does. I don't believe this is an accident. It has clearly been very well designed by people who understand what a camera is for. I'm not saying that Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Pentax or other engineers have no idea, but the Olympus team is clearly top quality, and of course they had the considerable advantage of not being tied into a legacy 35mm system.

But that isn't enough. There are some serious factors weighing against the E-1, and they are mainly to do with the sensor. Really, 5 megapixels is right on the resolution limit. And the noise issue, which seems to affect all sensors produced by Kodak, whilst over stated is should still be considered. The 4/3 side doesn't bother me at all. I like working with squarer formats, alongside my Xpan work, and replacing most 35mm work with 4/3 is going to give my creativity a boost.

So what are the other good things ? Three points: lenses, lenses and lenses. The quality / price ratio of the E-system lenses is second to none, and I don't know how often I've read that you should choose your system on the basis of the lenses you want. Again, nothing wrong with the competition on that front - so long as you accept, largely, that you'll have to compromise because the designs on offer were conceived for 35mm, and also that you're going to pay a very high price for a lens which is capable of extracting the full potential of the sensor. People who should know agree that the Olympus Zuiko lenses are on a par with Canon L glass - that's good enough for me.

On the quality / resolution side, finally I made up my mind by downloading some RAW files from a few web sites who's owners were good enough to post them. I processed them using Photoshop CS, which does not yet fully support the E-1. The real clincher was when I printed out an image at A3, compared it favourably with a good 35mm print, and then discovered after the event that it was taken at 800 ASA - which, as web lore has it is noisy as hell. Well it isn't. Probably a pixel pusher would take issue with this, but a photographer would soon work out what is relevant and what isn't.

Of course I went over endless reviews on the web. The two that convinced are well known, but worth mentioning: the first by Michael Reichmann at The Luminous Landscape - as well as his review in his Video Journal DVD, Issue 9 - and the diary by Uwe Steinmueller at Digital Outback Photo. Both are intelligent reviews, both list pros and cons. After reading these, and of course others (apart from the specification sheet regurgitators), and based on my own first hand experience, I decided the E-1 was for me.

The Canon 10D was a very close second. It lost out on ergonomics (minor issues) and, mainly, cost and weight of appropriate lenses. Obviously if I already had an EOS system it would have won. And had I had a Nikon system, probably I'd be writing about the Fuji S-2 now.

No turning back

{categories limit="1"}in {category_name} {/categories}, Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Well I've done it. Today I placed my order for an Olympus E-1 and various accessories. It should arrive in a few days. Since the E-1 is quite new, and it's all new to me, it seemed like a good idea to maintain a diary of my progress. At the same time it forced me to work out how to run two weblogs at the same time from MovableType (yes I know it's basic but I do have other things to do...) So, what did I order ?
  • The E-1 Body and 14-54mm lens kit
  • the 50-200mm lens
  • the extra battery & grip (yes I know it is really an alternative, not an extra)
  • the 1.4x converter
  • the grid line focussing screen
To be honest I wasn't totally sure about the battery grip, but what the hell. I ordered from my local shop (Il Fotoamatore in Lugano) - I got a pretty good price. Sure I could have shopped around on the internet, but that's a mug's game. Everybody - the shop included - is aware that this is an option, but with this kind of thing I prefer to pay the small premium and get personal service, confidence that any problems will be resolved, and the simple pleasure of being able to discuss things with professionals beforehand (and they initially tried very hard to convince me that the E-1 was a risky choice!)

So, here we go.

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