This weekend was considerably laid-back: Marcus and Alex and I went to our usual local restaurant on Friday night, and on Saturday we went to a backyard barbeque to celebrate a friend's 40th birthday (the weather has finally cooled down enough that this event was actually a reasonable proposition). In addition, finally, we got ample rain over the weekend. (An aside: one of the guests at the party said that for most of his 2-year-old's young life, it hasn't rained, so the concept of rain was new for her. She could not get over the puddles.)
Even though there wasn't a whole lot of excitement going on this weekend, there was enough interesting stuff happening that I got to really practice with the Olympus PEN E-PM1 camera that Olympus gave me. These are some of the shots I took over the weekend.
Not bad, eh? Frankly, I would have a tough time telling whether these came from the PEN or my Nikon D300 (especially with the top two shots). I'm really pleased with the image quality.
In addition, the PEN has HD video. I've not really worked with video before, so the following are true experiments. This first video, I just wanted to see what kind of detail the PEN was capable of: it was shot outside under a tent at dusk on Friday night, in relatively low light.
In this second video, I just wanted to see how the automatic focus on the PEN reacted when I panned a scene, with items in the foreground and in the background. I didn't adjust the focus manually at all -- it does pretty well, right?
And finally, this last video was just for fun. Note that I got soaked -- and I mean wringing wet -- when I did this, as did the camera. But the camera continues to work beautifully. So, you know, go PEN!
My assessment: when I first started using the PEN, I had it in my mind that it was really a small SLR, and I treated it as such -- and got seriously disappointed. Shooting manually with this thing is a right pain in the backside: there are so many menus to go through to try to change aperture and shutter speed and ISO that by the time you do all of that, the moment has passed. Granted, I've only just begun learning the camera, but still. Ugh.
Then I changed my mindset, and decided to treat the camera as really just a fancy point-and-shoot. I just set it to aperture priority, so that the only thing I would have to adjust on the fly was the ISO. MUCH better. And of course, I think the quality of the images is really fine.
(Although I still keep banging the camera to my head, trying to look through a nonexistent viewfinder. Old habits die hard. But the screen at the back of the camera does allow you to change focal points pretty easily, so I figure I'll get used to it eventually.)
Therefore, my initial thoughts: if you're thinking that you'd want to buy the PEN to teach yourself photography, my advice would be to do yourself a favour, and just get a full-on SLR camera. You can buy one second-hand to reduce cost, and the dials and gauges will be much easier for you to learn and understand photography that way. (And I've written in the past about how to buy a camera and how to choose a lens, if you're interested.)
However, if you are looking for a point-and-shoot that takes images of spectacular quality (far better than your iPhone or camera phone would currently think about doing), and you'd like one that allows for the flexibility that changing a lens would give you, then run, do not walk to pick one of these up. It's tiny and cute and eminently portable, the images will be as good as an SLR, and if you don't care about shooting manually, this is huge. Also (although I haven't played with them as yet), there are settings on the camera that will allow you to do the fun little actions and textures that iPhones currently allow you to do (similar to Instagram and Hipstamatic, for example), so that's even cooler.
I'm going to enjoy playing with this little camera for the rest of the month. Stay tuned for more shots.