Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winter's Last Gasp / EP-L2 Experimentation

It's a snowy day out in Buffalo, the last gasp of our very long thorough winter before our slow glorious spring begins, so we're passing the time with camera testing. I took the EP-L2 home the other night because I wanted to see how the video worked. You can be taking a video and take a still picture in the middle, then resume video recording. I wanted to see how long a pause there was to take the picture.
Unfortunately there's nothing particularly exciting going on in my house after 10pm, so you all get treated to some rather boring video of my cat. (I assure you, the cat herself is not boring, merely uninterested in being a film star even though she's named for one. Alas I do not have the next feline Internet sensation on my hands.)
So, I present to you the lovely Chita Rivera, under the unattractive lights of my kitchen.
First video:

Then I pressed the shutter button to interrupt the video with a picture:
And then the video resumed:

I chose this sequence because she was bored with me and was lashing her tail, so you could see the motion. The pause wasn't long; I estimated it at about a second and a half to maybe three seconds. So, for a reasonably static subject, you'd notice nothing; for sports or fast motion it would probably be annoying. You'd have to use this feature strategically. But it is appreciably faster than stopping recording manually to take a photo, and then putting it back into video mode and resuming.

Notice everything's kind of an unattractive orange. I didn't post-process anything, for journalistic integrity's, and laziness's, sake. Later I experimented with the EP-L2's white balance a bit, so scroll down if you want to see less hideous pictures. I normally shoot with a Nikon D300, in raw, precisely because I'm terrible at picking an appropriate automatic white balance; Olympus's user-friendly terms like "express motion" and "blur background," while not hard to figure out, are definitely aimed more squarely at the upcoming-from-point-and-shoot market than at the coming-down-from-enormous-DSLR crowd. But they're right in that you have to woo the former a little more aggressively. I was captivated enough by how damn nifty it was to have a camera so tiny that I was willing to put up with the slightly-cutesy controls. Hey-- it has an aperture priority. And it fits into my little purse. (I carry my D300 in a purse, too, but I won't lie, it's an enormous purse.)
For the record, white balance on the Olympus PEN cameras is called "change color image", and is a user-friendly slider between blue and yellow.
I also played a little bit with the art filters. I'd definitely use them more if I were somewhere with, you know, interesting objects or colors. As it is, a small gray cat on a yellow linoleum floor isn't particularly striking when photographed in Pop Art or Dramatic Tones. But here she is in the Black And White filter:
I would probably overuse the heck out of that one. I always tell customers not to shoot in black and white, shoot in color and then post-process, because if you change your mind you can't go back and add color. But I know people don't really want to do that. For the vast majority of people who don't live their lives tethered to Lightroom, having really fun easy-to-use in-camera editing is actually a pretty great feature, and having easy-to-use, obvious-how-to-get-out-of-them-afterward filters you can shoot with is definitely a lot more likely to get your average point-and-shoot graduate shooting more adventurously than the nebulous promise of "post-processing".

I expect to have a series of much more attractive sample shots from a PEN when our district manager gets back from his vacation. He promised he'd use his shiny new camera, and more interestingly, let his clever 8-year-old daughter use it. I'm very interested to see how an intelligent small girl does with a camera like that-- will she puzzle through the features, or shoot in auto?
Mostly I'd just like to see pictures of something besides snow and my kitchen, I confess. (He's in Arizona with his family. I hear it's pretty there this time of year. Don't get me wrong. I like winter, that's why I live in Buffalo. But it's almost March and I miss the sun, just a little bit.)
Here, as a parting shot, is a video of pouring water. It seemed like that might give a decent idea of the framerate of the video. I like how you can see me decide that it's only water and that counter could use a wipedown anyway.

I got the white balance a little better for these shots.

EDITED TO ADD: You guys I didn't know! There's a $50 instant savings on this camera through the end of February! Awesome!

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