After much deliberation I bought the Olympus Pen E-PL7 camera and a 45mm lens at the end of January. As a novice photographer that does a lot of travelling I was put off by the bulk of DSLRs but I still wanted much more than a compact point and shoot could offer.
I’ve found my Pen to be a really powerful tool for both my blog and social media but there was a lot of information that I would have benefited from knowing before making my purchase, especially around choosing lenses for the first time.
That’s where this guide comes in. In part one I’m talking about what you should consider when choosing your lens, and then in part two I’ll show you the features of the camera and how I’ve learned how to get the most out of it.
Please note that this is not a sponsored post and I paid for the camera myself, I just wanted to share my experience to help anyone struggling to make an informed decision as to whether it’s the right camera for them!
If you buy the basic Olympus Pen camera package you get the standard 14‑42mm 1:3.5‑5.6 kit lens. This is a good starting point if you’re looking for a good all rounder and don’t want to pay out a fortune at this point. There are now two versions of the kit lens so it’s worth double checking which you are purchasing. The ‘R’ model is the one I’ve got which is a manual zoom, whilst there is now also an ‘E’ model which is electronic. With the manual zoom you have to turn the ring to get in closer, but this is really easy to use and gives you ultimate control over your picture. The lens takes a lovely crisp image and I’ve found it brilliant for taking sharp flatlays and wider shots (like of a whole room of people at an event or a landscape).
The lowest f stop (also known as aperture) is f3.5 which I do find a bit limiting. Why? Well the lower the f stop goes, the smaller the area that the lens focuses on, and so the more blurry the background will be and also the more light enters the camera. Because I do a lot of product and food photography and I try and shoot in manual where possible, I often want to go down beyond this to an f1.8.
I also really wanted to be able to take beautiful portraits, namely of people at events and for street style outfit of the day looks with creamy blurred backgrounds. This is where the much talked about 45mm lens comes in.
Aperture wise it goes down to f1.8 and is brilliant at making your focal point pop and everything else a dreamy blur.
To show you the difference, here are some shots taken on the kit lens and then again straight afterwards on the 45mm. You can see that the kit lens is actually really good on it’s own merit, but the 45mm really makes the most of your focal point.
The difference in these pictures is actually quite subtle because the background is quite close. The further away the background is, the more you’ll notice the difference on the 45mm. When you’re taking pictures with the 45mm every day let me tell you it becomes really noticeable!
Here are a couple of other shots I’ve taken on my 45mm, but as over 90% of my photos are now taken with my 45mm lens you can also just look at my other posts from February 16 onwards to see more examples.
What no one ever seems to mention is that taking a picture with a 45mm lens is very different to taking a picture with a kit lens. It’s a non-zoom lens, so you have to physically move yourself backwards or forwards when taking a shot. It’s also like taking every picture with the camera already zoomed right in, so you have to place quite a bit of distance between yourself and your subject.
Here’s some pictures to put it into perspective. I’ve set up my camera to show you the distance back that you need to be to take this close up of a scarf.
See how far away the camera is? Well these pictures show you how close up the lens is actually getting to the image!
Now imagine that you’re taking a picture of some food with this lens. You need to get out of your chair and take at least one step back to get the same composure of the shot that you would have if you were using the kit lens sitting down at the table.
There are pros and cons to this:
On the plus side you eliminate those awful shadows that you often get from you and your camera hovering directly over what you’re taking. If you’re taking pictures of pets or people it’s much less intrusive and you can take more candid shots without scaring off your subject (hooray for the fact I can finally take pictures of my cats without them knowing!).
On the con side you’ll look a bit of a plonker in a restaurant and may have to sit on someone’s lap at the next table to get that money shot!
Next imagine that you’re taking a full length picture of someone’s outfit. You need to be standing at one end of the room to be able to capture a shot that fits in their outfit from head to knees, and you need to stand at the end of the hallway to get the full head to toe look. This is why you’ll see that most outfit pictures taken outside, because this is how much space is needed!
Other considerations you should make when buying a lens are how much travelling you’re going to be doing, and whether you’re going to want to swap lenses around when you’re out and about. I currently take both of mine with me when I go to events but I very rarely use the kit lens because it’s fiddly swapping them over.
With a point and shoot I didn’t have to worry about any of the set up that you have to do with a proper attachable lens camera, I’d just turn on the camera and start snapping. Now that I’ve got the Olympus Pen I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve dropped the lens caps and feared that I’ve lost one!
For this reason I’m very tempted to invest in an automatic lens cap for my 45mm to make things a little bit easier. (You can buy them here).
The lenses also protrude out from the camera, which means that you can’t just slip one of these in your pocket or a clutch bag. If you want to keep things as compact as possible you may want to consider a pancake lens. These are flatter versions but are a bit more pricey than their bulkier counterparts.
I hope that this post has been helpful. Next week I’ll be sharing part two with my hints and tips on the key features of the Olympus Pen E-PL7, as well as how to master the manual settings!