Monday, September 01, 2014

Olympus PEN E-PL7 Review Extension

As promised, I have been busy shooting with the Olympus PEN E-PL7 for the past few days, and I have come home with plenty of images. In case you have not noticed, I have changed the way I did my camera review, I no longer broke the review into several parts. Instead I have said everything that I needed to say in that one part of E-PL7 Review. This particular blog entry shall serve as an extension to the main review, with more sample photographs, and perhaps jotting down a few points and thoughts which may have been missed out. Therefore, before you proceed to this review extension, please make sure you have read the Olympus PEN E-PL7 Review here (click). 

For this review extension, I shall be exploring a few items: High ISO Shooting, Low ISO Shooting and 3 Axis Image Stabilization both in video and still shooting. I originally intended to cover a few more items (eg improved focus peaking, etc) but I then decided I should not cramp too many things within one blog post. This is not my last time using the E-PL7 and surely, if time permits, I can do more extensions. As an extra, I have also provided 14 full resolution image samples for download at the end of this blog entry. 





The above few images were taken during the official media launch for the Olympus PEN E-PL7 a few days ago, and obviously I was the photographer for the event.

So what have I been doing with the PEN E-PL7? I have visited the wet markets (Pudu and Chow Kit), Temples, in the morning to shoot low ISO images. Today is the Independence Day for Malaysia, hence there was a huge celebration going on. I only joined the celebration after the parade and main events ended, and the crowd has dispersed, because I just hate to be in a huge crowd. I still managed to shoot some patriotic citizens who wrapped themselves in the Malaysian flag. Furthermore, I also went to the Limapuluhtujuh project launch at Pavilion. In the evening, I was at both Pavilion and KLCC, getting some night shots to test the high ISO capability of the E-PL7 

There really was no surprise from the images I obtained from these shooting sessions, as I mentioned in my previous post, they were very similar to what I expect coming out from the OM-D E-M10. The sharp, detail rich, beautifully rendered colors, and respectable high ISO performance were all familiar to those who come from using the E-M10. 

One important thing to note about the way I test the high ISO images, I do not purposely bump up the ISO settings unnecessarily, just for the sake of testing the high ISO noise. I seek situations when high ISO is needed. Using high ISO only when you have no choice, is when the real performance is put to test. This is real world test and the results do not lie. 

In terms of sharpness and amount of details captured, the E-PL7 is not necessarily lagging behind, even though only having 16MP. In comparison to competition with much higher pixel count, the E-PL7 images came out really optimized, evidently shown in the many 100% crop images displayed on this blog. I strongly believe that Olympus has the advantage due to the sharp M.Zuiko lens line-up. Looking at the high ISO images, I do think that they were more than sufficient for most of the subjects that we photograph these days. I am comfortable with what I see at ISO6,400 from the E-PL7. Look at the crops of the cats, the details are still very well retained. 

HIGH ISO TESTS

45mm F1.8, 1/200sec, F2.8, ISO6400

100% crop from previous image. 

Oh let's take a high ISO selfie!
12mm F2, 1/125sec, F2, ISO3,200

45mm F1.8, 1/250sec, F7.1, ISO6,400

45mm F1.8, 1/320sec, F3.5, ISO6,400

100% crop from previous image

45mm F1.8, 1/200sec, F1.8, ISO3,200

100% from previous image

45mm F1.8, 1/400sec, F8, ISO3,200

100% crop from previous image. Grain from the original print, not high ISO noise. 

25mm F1.8, 1/80sec, F11, ISO12,800

100% crop from previous image

25mm F1.8, 1/125sec, F9, ISO5,000

100% crop from previous image

12mm F2, 1/25sec, F2, ISO1,600


I have done my own comparisons (well, it is now become part of my job to do so) against other competing models. No, I will not be reporting the competing models here, for the sake of preventing bloodshed. Nevertheless, I was firmly reassured that Olympus PEN E-PL7 is no slouch, and does really well in many regards. 

One very, very important factor is the LCD screen itself. The refresh rate is amazing for E-PL7 that when you pan the camera left and right you do not feel the screen being laggy or choppy, it was all smooth even in low light conditions. This is not the case for the few competing models I have spent time comparing with, the screen resolution may be high, but that means nothing if the refresh rate is not good enough. Some manufacturers boast being able to "shoot C-AF" better, but what is the point of your live view exhibits obvious delay? Your focusing may be able to perform well but you cannot even catch up with the fast moving objects with the laggy screen. Some competing models have built in EVF, which also has the same problem. To really understand what I am saying here, just get whichever similarly categorized model together with the PEN E-PL7, have the live view turned on, and move the camera left to right and then right to left, panning slowly, then increasing the movement speed. See it for yourself.  

Secondly, Olympus image stabilization makes it such a difficult reason to say no to. After having used it for so long now, it has somewhat become a necessity, and without the image stabilization I would feel less confident in getting some shots. Images that I can hand-hold at slow shutter speeds all came out blurred by other models, subsequently having the need to use higher ISO settings. 

Speaking of high ISO, honestly, there really is negligible difference between APS-C sized image sensor against Micro Four Thirds sensor. In fact, you may not agree with me, but the PEN E-PL7 images are superior in so many ways: better fine detail resolving power (due to M.Zuiko lenses), consistently sharp corner to corner, better CA and distortion control, and so many more advantages. Then some may argue, what about full frame? Hey, that is not really something you want to compare with E-PL7's category, right?

In terms of a camera designed by photographers for photographers, Olympus is getting it right in so many levels. The mode dial is an important thing that many other competing models lack (you need to dive in the menu to find it). Also, so many customizable buttons and shotcuts on Olympus E-PL7. I have customized the top two buttons for ISO shortcut and EV compensation each. The feel and handling of the camera, together with balance with lenses are so well thought out. I have used the 75mm F1.8 lens on the E-PL7 and it still was comfortable to hand-hold for 3 hours shooting session. 

45mm F1.8, 1/125sec, F3.5, ISO200

100% crop from previous image. 
This crop was intended to show the dynamic range of the E-PL7, which is actually not too bad. Detail was well maintained even at the seemingly burned in highlight regions. 

12mm F2. Oh let's take a selfie! Together with Kelvin Ng. 

Kelvin managed to capture me in action. Using E-PL7's touch selfie. 
Have you used the touch AF in Olympus cameras? If you have not, you should give it a try, it is one of the most interesting new ways to shoot in modern photography!

45mm F1.8, 1/400sec, F4, ISO250

100% crop from previous image. 

12mm F2, 1/50sec, F4, ISO250

45mm F1.8, 1/40sec, F6.3, ISO250

100% crop from previous image

45mm f1.8, Art Filter Vintage Type 3

45mm F1.8, Art Filter Vintage Type 1

45mm F1.8, Art Filter Partial Color Type 2

45mm F1.8, Art Filter Vintage Type 2

45mm F1.8, Art Filter Vintage Type 3 + Pinhole

45mm F1.8, 1/200sec, F1.8, ISO200

45mm F1.8, 1/640sec, F1.8, ISO250

I do think that the Olympus PEN E-PL7 appeals to a wide range of users. It does not necessarily fit to everyone's shoes, no it does not. Those photographers and users who know very well what they want and need in their photography, such as having a built in EVF, ability to shoot high ISO1,000,000, able to track multiple running hamsters in dim light at the same time and keeping everything in focus, well, you know E-PL7 is not for you, and please stop making noise just because the camera is not for you! Just because this camera is not good enough for you, it does not mean it is not a good camera, and it is not suitable for everyone else. 

I have demonstrated in this blog entry that the Olympus PEN E-PL7 can be used in a wide range of shooting situations. From super low light (need of ISO6,400 and F1.8 lens) to having to steadily hand-hold 1/2 second for some shots. Combining these two important aspects together, you have one really capable system! The LCD screen may be a flip down LCD screen, but it is also capable of Tilting up and down for low and high angle shooting much like the E-M10 and E-P5, Oh this is something that the competitor selfie cameras cannot do, they mostly can only tilt to one direction (flip up for selfie, can do low angle shooting, but not high angle). 

75mm F1.8, 1/1250sec, F5.6, ISO200

100% crop from previous image

45mm F1.8, 1/1250, F1.8, ISO200

45mm F1.8, 1/320sec, F1.8, ISO200

12mm F2, 1/60sec, F5, ISO200

45mm F1.8, 1/400sec, F1.8, ISO200

45mm F1.8, 1/800sec, F1.8, ISO200


45mm F1.8, 1/500sec, F2, ISO200

9mm F8 Fisheye Body Cap Lens, 1/25sec, F8, ISO400

25mm F1.8, 1/2sec, F8, ISO200
Half a second hand-holding, the 3-Axis Image Stabilization is surely incredible. Try shooting half a second with a 50mm lens on a full frame camera hand-held. I want to see what happens. 

100% crop from previous image. Alright, alright it is not 100% shake free, then seriously speaking, this image is still very usable!

25mm F1.8, 1sec, F10, ISO200
Lets up the challenge to 1 second shutter speed, hand-held. I did it! No, I could not do 2 seconds. I failed, but maybe if your hands are steadier than mine (my hands are not that steady at all), you can do better than me. 

100% crop from previous image. 

The 3-Axis Image Stabilization is best demonstrated in video recording. Please bear in mind that I am a complete noob when it comes to shooting video, so kindly disregard the video quality as I have trimmed the video shorter since the original length was too long and the file was too huge for me to upload. I have edited the video in Windows Movie Maker, hence it has applied some sort of compression, then uploaded to Youtube, with their own further decompressing of the video. I would not know how much quality loss the file suffers!

Anyway the purpose of showing this video is to demonstrate the 3-Axis Image Stabilization, in video. 


12mm F2, 1/250sec, F4, ISO200

Let's do another Selfie. Together with Jason Lioh and Sanjitpaal Singh at Limapuluhtujuh launch !

Selfie!! Taken with Sanjit's camera. 

Niki Cheong (the head of the Limapuluhtujuh project), Sanjit, John Lim. 
9mm F8 Fisheye Body Cap Lens. For the super wide angle, and the fact that the fisheye lens distorts radially at the corners makes it such a good lens for selfie taking. The circular distortion is friendly to people faces if used correctly, rather than a conventional wide angle lens that pulls and stretches the faces in unflattering ways. 

It is quite cool seeing yourself doing selfie in photos taken by other people!

John Lim, Jason Lioh, Jason Goh (aka Smashpop) and myself!
Oh and that is the GM1 the Smashpop was using, surprised to see you use a Micro Four Thirds camera.



On the whole, I think the Olympus PEN E-PL7 is one truly capable camera. Yes it is not perfect, and it may not have significant improvement over E-M10, but in the PEN Lite series, it is one huge level up from E-PL5/E-PL6. 

Here is the link to download FULL RESOLUTION Image Samples:


Ok, let's end with a SELFIE, shall we?


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