on March 4, 2015
I have been shooting for 12 years, with some paid jobs and extensive photos, in the field of low-light action (opera/theater shoots), as well as landscape, astrophotography, portraiture, and off-the-cuff every-day shooting. I also did portrait sessions, pre-wedding glamour shots, and wedding reception photography. I've owned many cameras, starting out with the Kodak CX7300 that my dad got me for Christmas when I was 12 years old, then getting a Canon Digital Rebel XT courtesy of my uncle who used to be a Canon regional sales rep, and eventually buying 10-22mm, 50mm f/1.4, 24mm f/1.4L, 70-300 4-5.6 IS, 22-55mm (older slightly unconventional kit lens), and 100mm f/2.8 macro. These were all highly enjoyable lenses and cameras and I did a great amount of shooting. I was greatly invested in the system. I worked all summer when I was 16 to save up for a 5D since I craved the look of 35mm film that I got in darkroom class in high school. I sold off my XT and ended up with a 5D, 50/1.4, 24/1.4L, and 70-300. This gave me great results but in 2013, I was starting to feel like the 5D was dated. The lenses were awesome but I had to do a lot of editing to get my pictures the way I liked them to look--i.e. editing out vignetting, chromatic aberration in the 24mm (mk I), and taking out noise. The 5D felt great in my huge hands but the LCD had inaccurate colors, I had to attach a large speedlite for flash, and I just stopped bringing it with me to shoot because of its heft. I wanted something smaller and up-to-date.
Due to a lack of justification to hold on to a system I was barely using anymore, and a day job that wasn't in photography, I sold all my Canon gear and in 2014 bought a Fuji X100. WOW... This camera was an interesting beast. The quality is the closest I've seen to film in any camera. The JPEGs really are that good. The sharpness was great and natural looking, the noise was well controlled and pleasant if there at all. The dynamic range with the DR400 setting was so convenient and amazing! I couldn't believe some of the shots I could get, especially landscapes. Ultimately, however, I ended up selling this camera because of two huge problems... the general lack of responsiveness and the inability to change lenses. I knew that it would be limiting to only have 35mm equiv lens, but I really did miss shooting with a 50mm or a 70-300 and blurring out the world. Also, even with the latest firmware, the focus was very unreliable even in *decent* light and to turn on the camera, focus, and get the shot, was sometimes impossible due to the delays. I missed a decent amount of shots because of it. And I realized that the great image quality of a camera is wasted if you can't get a hold of a shot.
So, here comes the EPM2 (finally!)
Just a few days ago, I received my EPM2. I decided on the camera for a couple reasons... the very small size and lightweight quality of the camera, the great selection of (just as small) lenses, the reported quick, reliable auto-focus and responsiveness, and the quality-to-size ratio compared to other small cameras. In general I do *not* take DXO Mark sensor scores seriously. I think they are a useful tool to look at dynamic range, however. And the EPM2 was rated over 12 EV which is typically excellent. My idea was that this, along with the small size, different selection of gradation modes, and quick start up and autofocus times, I would have more luck with this camera.
Since I've only had the camera for literally 3 days, this is obviously an early-on review. I'm still getting used to the layout and the system in general. Right away, I noticed HOW SMALL the thing is. Very small and light, but still solid, and a very attractive white body with tan grip. Very cute. I have large hands (I'm 6'1, lanky, VERY large hands) and the grip isn't as bad as I expected based on the dimensions of the body. The grip material is nice and ever so slightly pliable, so that one's fingers can push in and feel secure with it. The tan grip on the back of the camera is also well textured and well placed, so fortunately, I haven't felt insecure holding the camera.
I did some research prior to my purchase and knew that there were menus to "unlock," so right away I unlocked it and started setting up custom button options, sharpness, saturation, etc. I found that the default setting for the images was a little too sharp. I set my sharpness to -1 and I like the sharpness much better. The colors SOOC are pleasing, if a tad bit warm. I actually do like that and left the White balance mode in "warm" but we'll see if I grow sick of it. I also kept gradation mode on auto since it seems to make the right choice depending upon the scene.
With the 14-42 lens (which has an ever-so-touchable zoom ring) I have attained many keepers already! Shooting my coworker's dog on a lunch break the other day proved very fun and I got lots of in-focus pictures of the dog at 8fps! EIGHT FPS THAT IS SO FAST!!! I remember when the Canon 1D Mark III came out and 10fps seemed ungodly fast! I had a few out-of-focus shots but it was totally my fault. I'll get there. Of course, with the kit lens, or any other kit lens, the f/3.5-5.6 aperture is limiting. Certainly trying to get pictures of my cat with only one paper lantern lit was a little challenging...though the camera did great with AF, though it did need to use the AF assist orange lamp.
The in-body IS seems to help but I honestly feel like optical IS seems more effective, at least when I used IS on my old Canon 70-300 or my dad's 17-55 2.8 IS. I have been able to get sharp images down to 1/15th of a second shooting at 42mm. I'll keep observing though and see how it works at slower speeds.
Other things I've noticed... It just really is quite fast. Unless I haven't unlocked the lens, if I see something I want to capture, I've been able to capture it. Like my cat yawning, which I could never capture with the X100... just couldn't get the timing right. And that's what I've learned about my needs as a photographer...Timing is everything in photography, especially if the moment is fleeting. I could have the highest quality medium format digital sensor but if it takes 3 seconds to start up and mis-focuses, I have NO quality. But with the EPM2, I feel like I'm getting maybe not AS high of quality as the X100 but it makes up for it by actually HAVING the image, rather than having a smooth, noise free out-of-focus shot.
Overall, I love the camera for its portability, wide range of native mount lenses, Panasonic, and 3rd party lenses. I can't wait to save and get a fast prime like I'm used to on the Fuji or Canon. The one thing I have noticed is that while sharpness is definitely comparable to the X100, I have noticed more chromatic noise starting around ISO 800. While this is easy to take out in post, the X100 corrected for this automatically. Please feel free to comment on my review to recommend an in-camera fix for this, but so far, I haven't found one. Besides this, I am highly impressed with the images and feel that the dynamic range, color, and overall look is of great quality. I also LOVE having a double exposure mode, but HATE digging through the menus every time to set it. I have everything set up so that I only have to press a button to do my most frequently fiddled-with settings, but I can't seem to figure out a way to program or get a shortcut for the multiple exposure mode. Feel free to comment if any of you know a solution to this as well.
I would highly recommend the camera, though I will say I do miss having an EVF. Surprisingly, though, the LCD, while not as high-res as other current cameras, is very usable and I haven't minded shooting with it. Of course, down the road, I can get the add-on EVF if I want to. And that's a large reason why I picked this... it's a system, and when I get more money or I feel like I've grown out of it, I can upgrade and keep other parts of the system!! Great camera for just about any photographer! Can't wait to find out what it's really capable of, especially at night!! Thanks for reading!