Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Dog Food

I love dog food! Don't you? Let me expand...

If you are closely watching this space (I know you're not), you may remember how I ranted against the smaller models of mirrorless cameras. Then, shortly afterwards, I had a better look and found that not all of those cameras are as bad as I  thought they must be. Next, I decided to bite the bullet and have a dollop of my own dog food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I gave you a longer missive about how Olympus OM-D was in fact a great little (or not so little) camera.

Now, finally, I managed to come across an affordable really small Micro Four Thirds camera, the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1. It helped I got the body only as I could easily use my OM-D lenses on it. As you can see in the photo above, it also takes the Panasonic Lumix variety (lens shown is the H-H014E Lumix G Pancake, 14 mm, f2.5, Wide-Angle - highly recommended).

So, having played with the E-PM1 for a few weeks now, I can tell you that I still stand fully by my original rant. With anything but the smallest of pancake lenses (like the one in the photo) the camera becomes unwieldy to put it mildly. If you want a more honest assessment: it's useless. It is horribly inconvenient to both hold and stow away, bulging in the most unexpected places, and wanting to tip and tilt when held in either one or both hands. I have tried the Olympus 14-42mm kit lens. I have tried the excellent Panasonic 14-42mm, too. The former is almost, but only almost, usable. The latter looks silly - which I can live with, but also handles silly - with which I can't. Even the otherwise nimble Panasonic 20mm/f1.7 pancake is just too big for comfort. The only lens I can live with on this camera is the 14mm one pictured.

In short, I would probably recommend against getting such a camera, unless you want to stick a tiny pancake prime on it. Yes, this would give you a very good wide angle camera, but it sort of defeats the point of getting the interchangeable lenses model. You'd probably be just as happy with a fixed lens camera, or even a compact (think Sony RX-100). A plus here may also be that you won't be tempted to spend a fortune on lenses which you may end up not using as they make the camera unwieldy.

Unless...

Yes, there is an unless, and a but: if you already have a camera like the Olympus OM-D or one of the Micro Four Thirds Panasonics which are a bit bulkier and work well with all available lenses, then - and only then - and if - and only if - you can afford it, do get a tiny counterpart camera like the Olympus E-PM1 or one of its newer (and unfortunately much more expensive) siblings.

Why?

Well, precisely because they are tiny, or at least tiny for an interchangeable lens camera - when kept without the lens on.

And why would you need that?

You might need that so you can slip one tiny camera body into the same pocket as a couple of tiny MFT lenses and have a backup for your main one. Also, there are times when you may need to switch between two different lenses, but find you either don't have time to fiddle, or you're in an environment where that's not a good idea (either because it may damage your lenses or camera - or your reputation). Think, for example a nice portrait lens on the OM-D (a 45mm/f1.8 or even better a 75mm/f1.8 - if you can afford it) and the wide angle 14mm/2.5 on the E-PM1. The former to capture all the beautiful people, the latter to capture what they happened to be doing with each other. Or any other similar combination you may think of (a long zoom vs normal prime, maybe).

But, again, as a main or only camera I still firmly believe that these tiny bodies are j-u-s-t  n-o-t  r-i-g-h-t. If you were thinking of getting one think again - and have another look at the Sony RX-100.

PS
When mixing Panasonic and Olympus bodies and lenses do keep in mind that Olympus puts image stabilisation into camera body, and Panasonic puts it into lenses. Therefore, a Panasonic body with and Olympus lens will not give you any image stabilisation. Going the other way around should be fine as long as you don't mind paying for Panasonic OIS system which will not be used.