I traded up from five year old compact point and shoot in order to take pictures of my 1 year old daughter and use on holidays / days out. I had grown tied of poor image quality and shutter lag and fancied something I could invest in over the long term, particularly where lenses were concerned.
Initially I looked into the DSLRs, such as the Canon 600d and the Nikon D5100, but quickly realised these were a waste of money for my purposes purely on account of their size. As the saying goes, `the best camera is the camera you have with you', and ultimately I knew these big DSLRs would just stay at home.
I soon came across Mirrorless cameras (Compact System cameras) and realised that this segment of the market was for me. The main contenders were the Olympus E-P3, Panasonic GX1 and Nikon V1, but the balance tipped towards the E-P3 on account of its looks (and lens choice, where it beat Nikon). Sony NEX 5n was a brief consideration, but it was so ugly and out of proportion with its lens it put me off, no matter how good a write up it got.
In fact I've just been on a beginners' camera course and without a doubt my E-P3 was the most admired camera. Indeed, a couple of people were there who had just purchased their big Canon DSLRs without really doing any homework and hadn't even realised there was such a thing as Mirrorless cameras. I have to admit I felt a bit sorry for them as they began to realise that perhaps they had gone for the wrong camera.
Here are a few pros and cons of the E-P3 that really ring true for me: Pros o Image quality has been great for all my purposes and so far the out of camera JPEGs have not disappointed. o 14-42mm kit lens - a surprisingly good lens for both photos and video. I had expected a kit lens to be poor. o It looks amazing and I want to pick it up and use it all the time as a result. o Its size is just about right; not too large like a DSLR, but equally not too small for my hands, providing a good solid feel and grip. o The range of Olympus and Panasonic lenses is great for MFT and I've just ordered the Olympus 12mm f/2.
Cons o The menu system is complicated and the user guide is not much help. However, I purchased the `Olympus PEN EPL1 for Dummies' and this helped enormously (even though it was for a different PEN camera it didn't really matter). o Cost - not cheap, but you can definitely get this with kit lens for near £600 if you look around (as at Jan 2012). o The battery is not the best and I'm definitely considering buying a back up.
I bought this camera as soon as it was released, and it has been absolutely fantastic. It is so easy and intuative to use straight out of the box, and yet after some time studying the manual, I was able to customise and personalise this thing to the nth degree. There are also enough direct buttons and dials so I can change my settings quickly. The image quality is amazing. It may not have the latest sensor with the biggest megapixels out there but for anything that I'm ever going to print or crop the image resolution is more than enough. Up to ISO 800 I can hardly see the difference between this and my Canon 7D. And I have never needed to go beyond this level of sensitivity given the in body image stabiliser which seems to work a treat. The best thing about this is the size or lack of. I was sometimes put off taking out the 7D due to its bulk, so just used a point and shoot. The E-P3 I can happily take everywhere. Its not pocketable by any means, but fits easily into a small discrete camera bag, and I am happy to have it hang round my neck on a day out with the family in a way I would not be with my 7D. The build quality and feel of the E-P3 is also great. To me it feels so much better thab the Panasonic G3 which is a bit plasticky. Unlike the sony NEX cameras which I tried out, the lenses are also small and light. Can't wait for the Panasonic pancake zoom lens to hit the shops.
Cameras and luggage have many things in common. They often so give away in compromise what they have gained in features. With luggage its always a toss up between space, strength and weight. With cameras its about size, picture quality and ergonomics.
I have owned my EP-3 for about eighteen months now and have taken, perhaps, 2000 photos with it. I tend to use either the 12mm f2 Olympus lens or a Lumix/Leica 25mm F1.4. Both give fantastic results. With all my previous digital cameras I have found it necessary to shoot in RAW so as to avoid the degradations of in camera JPG engines. With the EP-3 I always shoot in JPG and love the results. For the first time with any digital camera I have owned I often use the Art filters with some more than satisfactory results.
Performance is excellent in all modes of operation. The camera is light enough to carry around for a whole day without a second thought, the build quality is excellent.
Whereas I continue to search for the ideal travellers luggage, dear I say that I have found the ideal camera?