Thursday, 26 April 2012


What a pleasant surprise! Ordered the camera and lenses on Sunday and collected it all on Wednesday. Got great service and a fair deal from London Camera Exchange in Norwich (LCE Group - Norwich Branch). Helpful and friendly people if you're in the area. But I digress.

The first items that you come across when opening the E-P3s box are the instruction manual and the CD. I was delighted to find a 200 page manual in the box as I've solely been a Canon user my entire life and felt it would be useful reference material to carry around in my bag.  Unfortunately, only about 7 pages of it are in English and there is no quick start guide. I swear they must have included Esperanto and Latin in here somewhere.

Digging deeper I found the battery and charger and decided that a fully charged battery would be the right place to start so I plug it in (very short lead) and an orange light comes on. What does this mean? With my Canon charger there were a series of red lights that stopped flashing when the battery was fully charged. Of course, I suspect that since it is straight out of the box this means that it is not fully charged but I'll check the manual anyway. Nothing in the manual, so I go online and find a full one. Orange means charging and blue will be confirmation that we're ready to go. Blue? I would have thought green unless things are different in Japan but that's just me being pedantic. Hold on, though. I've just checked and my charger is a BCS-5 and apparently the light will go off when charging is complete - I'd still prefer a green light so I could be sure that it actually worked.

To be fair, the Basic Manual in the box will get you started. It covers battery, memory card and lens attachment, initial set-up of date and time and the key dial and button functions. This will be useful to some. Like most people I'm not one to read a manual from cover to cover so I hope that the Olympus menus are as intuitive as other reviewers have claimed. If I find that they are not, then I will return to the subject. However, I will skip read the comprehensive manual to see if anything catches my eye.

Battery and memory card inserted and it's time to attach a lens. First box to be opened contains the Olympus 17mm f2.8 M.ZUIKO Digital Micro Four Thirds Pancake lens. It's unbelievably small and light after SLR system lenses. Although it's plastic bodied with a metal mount it looks and feels well made. Aesthetically, it's very pleasing on the black body. No lens pouch included which is a bit mean of Olympus in my opinion - will have to improvise now.

Time to switch on and it only takes a couple of seconds for the camera to burst into life. I press the menu button and start poking at the screen expecting to be able to select functions but this is done by the dial on the rear of the camera. Date and time set without any fuss. Even with my sausage fingers the small buttons and dials are user-friendly.

A couple of quick self-portraits in the mirror of the spare bedroom/office/study. The camera is left in Program mode and even on a gloomy April morning with the blinds shut the auto-focus has a quick hunt before releasing the shutter. 1/30s at f2.8 and ISO1600 and all looks good in the bright display, notwithstanding personal aesthetic challenges.

Reviewing the first images I used the zoom function to go in for a closer inspection. This is pretty good though I'd personally have had a 1.5x zoom as my first stage of enlargement rather than the 2x that the camera offers. That's just a minor personal niggle, however. Where the zoom really comes into it's own is as a focusing aid. Simply zoom in to the area you want sharp and focus and shoot. This is all new to me and a fantastic option to have.

Time to load up the software. Registration was quick and painless on Windows 7. No need to go digging around in Explorer. The progress meter on Olympus Viewer 2 Setup rapidly reached about 40% before appearing to stall. After a couple of minutes installation was complete with the progress bar still stuck so just be patient. A similar pause occurred while installing Olympus 'ib' which probably took about 5 minutes to load. Installation of the pdf Instruction Manual was quick and painless and I simultaneously downloaded and installed the latest update for 'ib' which was a bit sluggish on a good internet connection and took about 15 minutes.

Next out of the box was the Olympus 45mm f1.8 ZUIKO Digital Micro Four Thirds lens. Of metal construction it looks and feels great. It doesn't look out of place on the black body and the camera still feels well balanced in the hand. Again, I took some low light shots around the house in late afternoon. Focusing was fast and with the wider maximum aperture ISO800 was possible. The images look great on the display, as expected because this lens gets great user reviews and I've got a feeling this lens might spend the longest time on the camera.

Last, but by no means least, it's the turn of the Olympus 12mm f2.0 ZUIKO Digital ED Micro Four Thirds lens. Again, its of an all metal construction and is very similar in size and appearance to the 45mm with the exception of the snap to focus ring which is a very cool addition. Took a few shots around the house with this using the magnifier to isolate an area and using the manual focus to fine tune things. Absolutely superb.

If we finally get a break in the weather at the weekend (and it doesn't look promising) I'll be hitting the streets with my new best PEN friend and post a practical update and hopefully a few worthwhile pics.

Sunday, 22 April 2012


After much deliberation and hesitation I finally went and did it.

I walked into a local camera shop, traded in my entire Canon system and ordered the Olympus E-P3 kit in Black with the 17mm lens and for good measure added the Olympus12mm f2.0 ZUIKO Digital ED and the Olympus 45mm f1.8 ZUIKO Digital ED.

It felt strange letting it go after all these years but it's lack of portability meant it wasn't getting enough use and it  was time to move on.

I got to handle an E-P3 in store for the first time and I was really impressed with the touch screen focus and face recognition. It felt right straight away and I know that me and it are going to get along well.

It will hopefully all be in my hands by next weekend and I'll be able to road test it properly and provide a further update on here.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


The past weekend came and went in a bit of a blur. Saturday was a long and tiring working day and by Sunday the weather had turned very cold and the fair had left town so I didn't venture out. Instead, I pondered over the equipment I would need if I was going to take things seriously.

Opinion becomes very polarized about what gear is necessary on the street. There are the 'purists' who think that the best shots can only be achieved by paying homage to the past masters and demand a rangefinder (preferably Leica) and the highest quality lenses. Others still believe that film is best. Some get hung up on megapixels and sensor sizes.

The simple fact is that there isn't a one size fits all solution. Memorable and thought-provoking photographs can be taken with any camera that has ever been made.

There is so much conflicting information and advice on the internet these days that choices seemingly become harder and harder to make.

Here is some good advice :
"The best camera is the one that is with you…" - Chase Jarvis.
"Let the camera choose you" - unknown source.

My interpretation of the Chase Jarvis quote is that you can capture the moment with any camera; composition is the most important element of a (street) photograph. The second reference suggests that the camera that you are physically comfortable with, in terms of it's size, weight and feel and that you are emotionally happy about carrying around and shooting with is the one for you.

In my last post I mentioned how uncomfortable I felt, literally and figuratively, handling my SLR on the street - it was bulky, conspicuous and awkward to use. I could obviously purchase a fast prime lens or two as these would be much lighter then the wide zoom but the camera still wouldn't feel 'right' for taking candid shots and would probably draw attention.

My list of equipment requirements for street photography are : Small; Lightweight; Fast Focus; Image Stabilization; Availability of Lenses.

I've been looking at all the options available and for me it's a no-brainer. The best equipment for me will be one of the Compact System Cameras. Having used Canon since 1981 when I traded my first few pay checks for an A1 I was hoping there would be something in their line-up to fit the bill. Unfortunately, the closest they have come is the G1X and that has slow auto-focus and a slow fixed zoom lens. Shame!

So, I've decided that the time has come for me and my Canon SLR gear to part company. I can't afford to run two systems and this is the trade-off that has to be made. My current system will be sold in the next couple of weeks and the funds reinvested.

The available options included the Leica which is obviously too expensive, the Sony which is expensive, lacks lenses and (if I may be so shallow) is not aesthetically pleasing, the Samsung which apparently buffers RAW slowly and the Micro Four Thirds offerings from Panasonic and Olympus.

The choice has to be one of the 4/3 cameras. They tick all the right boxes and have a huge array of interchangeable lenses. The Panasonic GX1 gets the new 16mp sensor and is a great camera, I love the Olympus EP-3s styling and fast focus and now there's the OM-D E-M5 with the large sensor and fancy image stabilization about to be released on the world. Any of these and a couple of good prime lenses will do for me.

Decisions, Decisions!

Thursday, 12 April 2012


On the face of it Street Photography seems like a pretty straightforward activity to engage in.

Simply grab a camera, lens (or lenses) and storage medium (film or card) and hit the streets.

Most people reading this will think they've got an eye for a picture and I certainly do. Why else would we want to take anything other than record shots of family members and places visited? We all think that we can do as well as the acknowledged leaders in the field. We've watched videos of them on YouTube and it looks easy.

Now, unless you're one of life's uninhibited, ultra-gregarious, rhinoceros hide types the streets become very scary places. And I most certainly don't fall into the described category.

On my first trip out I picked a day when the fun-fair and the market were in town. Guaranteed crowds, plenty of hustle and bustle and noise and bountiful subject matter; not to mention cover for me to disappear into.

My equipment of choice was the DSLR (no choice really - it was that or the mobile 'phone) and the 17-40 lens. I thought it would be discreet. Maybe it was. I had the strap wrapped around my wrist and my hands folded behind my back but the weight of it let me know it was there and boy did I feel conspicuous.

There wasn't as much cover in the sparse crowds as I'd expected and when I raised the camera to my eye I felt like I was being watched and probably judged.

My perception was more than likely wrong. If I saw a kindred spirit out on the streets with their camera it would be noted, unconsciously remarked upon and almost instantly forgotten about.

Needless to say, my first foray into the unknown produced only a half-full CF card and very few keepers.

I love to watch videos of Joel Meyerowitz at work. He describes how he moves through crowds and makes himself invisible. From the perspective of the static viewer he appears anything but invisible as he darts around like a firefly. Maybe he is and maybe he isn't but it seems to me that the most important things he does are to avoid eye contact and be constantly on the move, always looking for the next shot and this is something I will most definitely be working on. Getting out there, concentrating on what I'm there for and being oblivious to what anyone else might think.

I will go ahead and "Eat That Frog" and develop a way of working that makes me feel comfortable and gets me results.


I have always been an enthusiastic photographer but was inhibited in my technical development for years by the cost of film and processing. Whilst it provided an education by making me think long and hard before taking a shot, as I considered composition and exposure, I would also miss many opportunities as I hesitated and we all know that he who hesitates is lost. Digital liberated me and I could invest in a decent camera and eventually 3 good quality lenses. The freedom to take x shots per second, bracket exposures, shoot RAW, vary aperture and shutter speeds for the same shot and go home with 100s of pictures on the flash card enabled me to get more 'keepers' and accelerated my learning; rather like online poker has led to a proliferation of talented young players of that game.

Until recently I had concentrated on Nature photography and the family archive duties (ever noticed there are no family pictures with you in them?). I think I will continue to add to my flora and fauna collection because it keeps my mind busy whilst in the countryside but what really excites me now is Street Photography.

This is not an easy transition for anyone to make and this blog will be a written and pictorial record of my journey.