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East Brother Lighthouse Lamp
East Brother Lighthouse Lamp

As you know my lovely wife and I are about to hike the Grand Canyon. This epic 3 day walk, carrying all our gear will probably kill me, but that’s OK because I intend to leave some lovely photos of the event for my descendants to quibble over.

The problem I have, is what camera to take? Sure I’m taking my Nikon D300 and a bunch of stuff to make it effective, but it’s really (really) heavy, and I need something to have to hand during the hike. Friends have suggested that I get one of these new-fangled 4/3rds cameras.

Not my picture. Click to visit owner's website
Not my picture. Click to visit owner’s website

Rather than take their word that the camera format is “startling”, “revolutionary”, “will change the way you take pictures”, and other such hyperbole they fed me, I rented the Olympus EP-2, the Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f/2.5, and the Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 for the weekend from the marvelous BorrowLenses people.

Now, I’m going to go all technical on you here and review the finer points of the camera. Ready? It’s shite.

That’s probably an unfair review. It’s a damn fine upgrade from an iPhone but at $568 (with one lens) it bloody well should be.

Here’s my main gripe; it’s slow. Painfully slow. Half press the shutter to focus, snap the picture, and presto, one nicely out of focus picture. I took over 150 images with the two lens combination and easily a third of them are out of focus. I accept that this is probably my fault. That I activated the shutter and then moved on to the next picture too fast for the camera to keep up. I am used to a top of the line DSLR after all. But for almost $600 I don’t expect shutter lag. And this has spades of it.

I love moving the focus object out of centre frame to make the pictures a little more interesting. This camera has the option to do this, but pressing the little wheel to move cursor took so long that I mostly got bored waiting and gave up.

Then there’s the menu system. It assumes you’re a whiz at menu systems and love poking around with nested sub-level commands. I do not. This is way too hard for a point and shoot.

And finally, there’s no viewfinder. I understand that for only an extra $224 I could have added one of these, but come on! With no viewfinder, I found myself snapping away as if this thing was a camera phone and not the serious camera it’s trying to be. Again, I recognize that this is my problem not Olympus’s, but if I’m the target audience, this camera misses big.

One of the other uses that I wanted to try out was the video mode. The Scary Tree – HDR tutorial that I posted last week, was shot on this camera. I really like it. It handled the light well, the white balance is spot on, and while the sound was a bit rubbish, it would expect it to be. I think it did an excellent job of filming me prating about in a horses-head mask. However, the second video I made (not yet posted), required a little more from the tiny guy. This time I filmed myself walking about in my garage. The images are more grainy than I expected, the focus tracking is a joke – most of the footage I’ll post will be out of focus (spot a pattern anyone?), and the sound is completely lost under the whirl of the focus motor pulling the lens all over the shop. Fail.

I will not be taking one to the Grand Canyon but if you’re in the SanFran area and want something unusual to do for the weekend, I highly recommend an overnight stay on East Brother Light Station. Superb food, cozy setting, excellent hosts.


Boat with it's own gazebo
Boat with it’s own gazebo


East Brother Lighthouse Island
East Brother Lighthouse Island

I processed all three of these images, using Photoshop to add a texture layer. I’ll show you how to do that next time. In the meanwhile, thanks to Instagram all the pictures on the internet now look like this. Sigh.


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