One Last Round

Side Note:
1. All images were shot in RAW and developed to JPEG in Olympus Viewer 2.
2. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto, Gradation = Normal
3. Minimal post-processing applied to the images. Only exposure compensation (adjusted brightness/contrast) and cropping performed for better consistency and overall presentation. Apart from that, the images were as good as straight out of camera (color and sharpness)

Not having enough fun, just before returning the loaned Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f1.8 lens to Olympus Malaysia, I decided to bring the lens out for one last spin. This time, I brought along my own trusty E-PL1 together with the loaned E-P3 for a short, but enjoyable shooting session. I did not do any side by side comparison between the E-PL1 and E-P3, I have never intended to do so in the first place. This is not exactly a review entry either, because whatever I wanted to write about the 45mm, I have covered in both Part 1 and Part 2 of my user-experience reviews of the lens.

I was in the central city area, and I originally intended to shoot everything with E-PL1. I wanted to convince myself that the lens is good regardless of the camera body, and I should be getting the lens for my E-PL1 in the future (after months and months of saving up of course). I mounted the 45mm on the E-PL1, and started shooting away. After only 20 minutes, I decided to give up shooting with E-PL1 and switched to the e-P3 instead.

Chilli Pan Mee
E-PL1, ISO200, F6.3, 1/125sec

E-PL1, 100% center crop from the previous image.

E-PL1, ISO200, F1.8, 1/1000sec

E-PL1, 100% crop from the previous image. Possible slight miss-focus.

E-PL1, ISO200, F1.8, 1/2000sec

E-PL1 100% crop from previous image.

E-PL1, ISO200, F1.8, 1/1250sec

I loved the E-PL1, I really do. However, I do have to admit that there are so many flaws in the camera that can really get in the way of shooting. The main issue I had was focusing. The performance of the 45mm in terms of autofocus was about the same with the original 14-42mm Mk 1 version, it hunts, sometimes it hesitates, and most annoying of all occasionally it just gives up focusing. Most of the time it was quick, and it did lock on focus, but in comparison with what the E-P3 can do, I find it very hard to continue using the E-PL1 when I know very well I have the super lightning fast and reliable E-P3 in my camera bag.

Besides focusing, the razor sharp image quality of the 45mm as seen on E-P3 is not the same on the E-PL1, which produced overall softer images. The lens still managed to capture respectable amount of resolution and details, but you can see from the 100% crops that they were noticeably softer in comparison to what the E-P3 can do. There can be only three possible explanations: 1) the E-P3 really does benefit from a thinner anti-alias filter in front of the image sensor, allowing more details to be recorded by the sensor or 2) the E-P3 has a different sensor, or an improved or tweaked sensor from the E-PL1, producing a more optimized result, or 3) E-P3 has stronger default sharpening, which by now everyone is aware of, which could give a false impression that the images do appear sharper. Do bear in mind that those three assumptions are just possibilities which I came up with myself.

Another issue I had was not having the dials to control the aperture immediately. Although I have used the E-P3 for only few brief sessions, the absence of the oh-so-convenient direct dials really made a huge difference in shooting with the E-PL1.

Malaysian independence day is coming soon, hence national flags are proudly displayed everywhere.
E-P3, ISO200, F1.8, 1/1250sec

E-P3, ISO200, F1.8, 1/320sec

E-P3, ISO200, F4, 1/125sec

Making Ketupat.
E-P3, ISO200, F1.8, 1/800sec

Ketupat is a type of dumpling packed with rice, made of coconut palm leaves. A local delicacy served widely during festive celebration of Hari Raya by the Muslims.
E-P3, ISO200, F1.8, 1/800sec

Decorative (not real) Ketupat for sale.
E-P3, ISO200, F1.8, 1/2000sec

After 20 minutes shooting with the E-PL1, I decided to keep the camera in the bag, and used the E-P3 for the rest of the session. The difference between the two cameras are so far apart, you will feel that those two are cameras from separate eras.

To fully bring out the potential of the Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8, it is recommended to use the lens on newer Olympus PEN bodies, such as the E-P3. Will I still consider getting one for my E-PL1? Absolutely, because I feel that this is the lens that suits my shooting style and needs very well. For now, there is the Zuiko 50mm F2 macro 4/3 DSLR which I can use with my E-5.


  1. Bravo... what an evil post.. should I... should I not... :(

  2. Wilson,
    You are fast. You should !! Its still very sharp, but don't expect it to be as sharp as it is on E-P3.

  3. I got the message. Keep EPL1 as a spare body and get the EP3 now, right? You so bad one... ;) The 45 seems like a very good lens, unfortunately nobody can buy it now. So looks like I still have to lug my heavy 30mm f1.4 and 20mm for this RAYA :(

  4. i myself own a lumix g2 do you think the shapeness could similiar with the lens like with the e-p3 or worse?

  5. hello ar songkono,
    I did not say E-PL1 as spare body, but the idea itself is a good one !! By the way, your 30mm F1.4 and the 20mm are really good lenses.

    Hey Ongakuturtle,
    I have not used a G2 before, so it is hard for me to comment on the image quality. Nonetheless the 45mm is a very sharp lens by itself. It may not be as sharp as the images produced by newer camera bodies like G3 or E-P3, but you should get very good sharpness. My best advise is try it on your G2 before you buy it. Do some test shots inside the camera shop to see it for yourself.

  6. Robin,

    i think the reason for the difference in AF behavior is the improved AF system of the EP3.
    The EP3 also seems to have improved "detail resolution" (similar but not as good as E-5) when compared to the EPL1.
    I still have my EPL1 and compared the 9-18, 12/2, 20/1.7, 14-42 IIR and 14-150 on EPL1 and EP3. The EP3 is not really sharper but has better defined detail with all those lenses. And the difference in increased AF speed is the same for all lenses except the Pana 20/1.7, which doesn't seem to be faster.

  7. Acahaya,
    You were right. The "fine detail processing" is mainly about the first point "thinner anti-alias filter". I define sharpness by how much resolution (fine detail) that the camera can capture.
    E-P3 has improved autofocus no doubt, that is why the 45mm does not seem to have much improvement at all in E-PL1.

  8. Thank you very much indeed for these three pages of review. As soon as Olympus announced the 45mm, I started saving too! What I like about your review though is that it is a real life one. I don't really understand the technicals behind these lenses either so it's really refreshing to see someone comment on it's day to day application.

    I also have an E-PL1 and I'll be buying the 45mm as soon as I can. Thanks again.

  9. Ismunn,
    Thank you so much for your kind comments and support. I really appreciate it !!
    I was doing something different, because I asked myself, what would I do if I have a new gear (lens) ? Go out and shoot of course !! Hence real life experience is important. I sure hope many others find this useful as well.

  10. Hi Robin

    As an EPL1 owner i am a liittle less inclined to get the 45mm if I won't be able to get really sharp images with it.

    Did you experiment at all by changing software/filtering settings to see if you could get the EPL1 to produce EP 3 quality images?

    Do you or anyone reading this blog have any suggestions for setting to use on EPL1 to maximize image sharpness.

    Again, thanks Robin for sharing your info and images.


  11. Oh, here we go again...
    Hi Robin, this is Michele, how are you these days?

    I wanted to say you're spoiling me, actually... I was thinking about the combination of my E-PL1 with the 45mm lately (TONS of thought!) and said: "Oh, in the meanwhile let's see how Robin is doing."

    And here I am, reading a post about the E-PL1 with the 45mm. Really spoiling me.

    Anyways, I'll be saving up too for sure for this lens, look really attractive, even with the slow AF of the E-PL1. I don't mind it actually - for now!

    As always, have a beautiful day. :)

  12. I've enjoyed your insights and photos with the 45mm. I've been waiting too, as have so many!
    It will accompany my GF1 with 9-18mm, a great two lens compact outfit...