Eric L. Woods

That’ll do series: Olympus OMD E-M1/Lumix 25mm f/1.7

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A lot of virtual ink is regularly spilled, myself included, about the latest and greatest gear. Perhaps a product of my nature and/or my Industrial Engineering degree minimum requirements are a bit of an obsession. This “That’ll do” series focuses on minimum requirements for my photography. The latest and greatest gear available is fantastic, but not everyone wants to, is able to, or even needs to buy into the latest gear. I focused on individual components already. Now I will focus on pairings as compared to much more expensive current alternatives. I will spend a little time on specs, make some comparisons, and then will share sample photos. Any combination suggested is not the only older gear that could suffice. Meant as a sample of what can be accomplished with gear that has a few years on it at a lower price. Or if you already have something similar it stands as an example of how upgrades are an option rather than a necessity for many.

The brief:

  • Small solid camera with an overachieving 50mm equivalent (nighty-fifty) out front.
  • 16MP minimum.
  • Good ergonomics.

Main Purpose:

  • Compact all around environmental to casual portrait camera.

The title gave away the subject of this post…

Makeshift Lightbox-ish Tryout (2 mini LED Panels)
Olympus OMD E-M1 w/ Panasonic Lumix 25mm f/1.7

…but I will start with a few more recent set ups that cost significantly more. Modern options outnumber my ability to try or mention. I will pull from past set ups I have owned or own so I can speak from experience and provide sample shots for comparison.

  • Full frame sample
    • Sony A7III w/ Sony FE 50mm f/1.8
      • Pluses
        • Better in low light, of course, owing to the larger sensor and aperture.
        • Better battery life.
        • There are times when this set up shines.
      • Minuses
        • Considerably more expensive camera.
        • Larger and heavier.
        • Tried and failed twice to warm up to it. The only lens that I have found unreasonably slow to focus on a Sony camera.
        • There are too many times where this lens will let you down and miss focus or provide less than expected IQ. I do not like this lens. Sony needs to release a version II.
VW Bus
  • APS-C sample
    • Sony a6000 w/ Sigma 30mm f/1.4
      • Pluses
        • More advanced AF.
        • Larger sensor yields better low light performance with this lens.
        • A great lens.
      • Minuses
        • No IBIS.
        • No touch screen.
        • More expensive.
        • Worse ergonomics than the E-M1.
        • Not as compact as I would like for a nifty fifty set up.
Sony a6000
Crown Vic
  • MFT
    • Olympus E-P5 w/ Olympus 25mm f/1.8
      • Pluses
        • This combo is purdy.
        • Slightly better lens build.
        • Better for video.
      • Minuses
        • More expensive.
        • No in body EVF.
        • Slightly larger and heavier set up.
        • Effectively the same sensor so no IQ boost for the extra spend.
        • Minor but loses .1 on the aperture spec.
Flowers

All of the options above are great. While they are not the most expensive options on the market at all by a long shot they will all set you back a few hundred dollars at least. Some thousands. The least expensive option listed above, the Olympus E-P5 and 25mm f/1.8, will run you around $600 used. Even more new for the lens.

Value:

How does less than $400 all in sound? Seriously. I paid around $250 for my EX grade used OMD E-M1 and paid $147 for a brand new Lumix 25mm f/1.7. A clean used example will actually cost you more.

Features:

I point you to my write ups on the camera and lens for details but here is a high level overview.

  • 16MP.
  • 10fps… 10fps!
  • 1/8000s top shutter speed.
  • Solid IQ.
  • Fast, silent hybrid phase and contact AF offers better performance than the already good E-M5.
  • Touch AF.
  • Many, many actually useful image modes and special features.
  • Articulating touch screen.
  • Camera is downright tiny.
  • Unlike the E-M5 you can review images in the EVF.
  • Silent modes available with every shutter mode and easily activated in the shutter settings.
  • f/1.7 really makes the most of the relatively small MFT sensor rendering great bokeh, subject isolation, and respectable low light performance.
  • Fantastic ergonomics rivaling any camera I have ever used. Feels like it should cost far more than it does. Thought I might upgrade later but I am so pleased with this camera that I see no practical reason to do so.

What is missing?:

Practically speaking not much actually. Especially given the price point.

  • Battery life is not the best. A common malady for mirrorless cameras. Nothing surprising, but carry extra batteries.
  • Not a set up meant for video with no 4K and slow video AF. Correction. No 4K but I read the manual (go figure) and the secret is iAuto mode. Once set it makes the best of the phase detect AF and auto contrast. Add in the excellent IBIS and mic hack and it is a decent 1080p video camera.

Samples:

Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 ASPH
Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 ASPH
Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 ASPH
Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 ASPH
Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 ASPH
Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 ASPH
Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 ASPH

Summary:

I really do enjoy this set up. Plain and simple. Far better than the tongue in cheek “That’ll do” descriptor in the title. To get such great performance out of such a small and lightweight set up at such a reasonable price is surprising.

Makeshift Lightbox-ish Tryout (2 mini LED Panels)
Lumix 25mm f/1.7
Makeshift Lightbox-ish Tryout (2 mini LED Panels)
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