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What was I thinking?

The American way is “Only too much is enough”. This has certainly been true of digital cameras and megapixels. At one time pro cameras had three megapixels and they were just fine. The pros loved them. Then it was six, then 12, then 20, then 40, 100, 150. Is it all really necessary? What is just right for enough? A recent find got me thinking about this. 

I recently watched a YouTube video extolling the virtues of the first Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera, the Pen E-P1. The Pen E-P1 came out in 2009. I bought mine in 2011 but I didn’t know where it was. I hadn’t seen it in years. I had been looking for it for a couple of months and then, as I was looking for something else in the basement, I found it in a box.

The reason I wanted to find it was because I think it is the prettiest of all the Olympus Pen digital cameras. But once I got it in hand, put a battery and card in it and fired it up, I realized I might have put this camera aside prematurely. 

Some years ago a motorcycle journalist commented that if an old motorcycle was fun to ride new it probably was still fun to ride. The same applies to cameras. If an old camera could take good pictures when new it probably still can. The E-P1 is a 12 megapixel camera. If you read the reviews it would appear that once a digital camera has been replaced by a newer one with more megapixels you would think the old one suddenly couldn't take pictures anymore. That it was now officially crap. I must admit that I may have succumbed to some of this thinking.

Some of my favorite pictures were taken with this camera. Such as…

I’ve printed this at 13”x19” and it’s beautiful. Ctein, a professional printer in the Bay Area was impressed with what this camera and micro four thirds could do. I have a 16x20 print of his taken with the Olympus E-P1 and Zuiko 45/1.8 of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. It’s a beautiful print. The image is sharp and the colors are gorgeous. What more could you want?

Since the Pen E-P1 is an old camera it is short on bells and whistles. That means a lot fewer buttons and switches. The latest cameras can be overwhelming with all their buttons and switches and the tricks those buttons and switches can do but this old Olympus has just what is needed to walk down the street and take wonderful photographs.

Does that mean I will get rid of my 20 megapixel Olympus OM-D E-M1 MarkII? Not a chance. There are times that those bells and whistles come in handy. Shooting tethered for product photography is a dream. Built-in focus stacking and intervalometer are very useful for some of my work. The High Res mode may also have some use in a project I’ve started. Some testing needs to be done on that and I will let you know.

These Olympus digital cameras are really amazing picture taking machines. This also got me thinking about what I’ve been doing lately with film cameras. A good friend I had back in the 1970s had taken one of Ansel Adams Yosemite workshops. Ansel’s criticism of his work was that he was more interested in cameras than photographs. Many photographers are that way and I can be guilty of that too. If you look at all my film cameras you might think I was very guilty. So I think I need to pull away from film for now and focus on making photographs with my digital cameras. Much faster turnaround. Much better return on my time. Fast, cheap, and out of control.

And I no longer feel inadequate about using my 12 megapixel Olympus Pen E-P1.

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  • John Gateley on

    Your E-P1 missive made me go back and look at some of my E-P1 images. I have almost 200m of them posted on Flickr, starting in early 2012. Many are with the kit lens and a few other M4/3 lenses, but there are quite a number of them made with various old manual focus lenses. The Pen-F is my small camera of choice these days, but I still have an E-P3 and a IR converted E-P5, the last of the succession of my E-P bodies. Oh yes, they all still have Gordy wrist straps on them!

  • Michael Presley on

    I too have a Pen E-P1, along with several other m4/3 cameras and lenses. I love my Sony a7 IV for the quality and the bells and whistles it has, but it’s not pretty. I love my Pen F even more than the E-P1 though, it has the aesthetic appeal along with some of the bells and whistles. Isn’t it a great time to be a photographer?

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