Olympus E-PL2 upgrade choice between E-PL5 or Nikon D3200

Date: Tue Feb 04 2014 gadgets »»»» Photography »»»» Cameras »»»» techsparx
E-PL5-hero-black_1Have been looking for a new camera to replace my Olympus PEN E-PL2 and after weighing a number of parameters am going to upgrade to the Olympus PEN E-PL5.  I'm doing this instead of, for example, a Nikon D3200, for reasons I'll get to in a minute.  The E-PL5 is hugely improved over the E-PL2, and because it's nearly identically sized switching to the E-PL5 will be very familiar.  Plus all the accessories I have will continue to work.  Plus, the new features such as ISO sensitivity out to 26,500 and shutter speeds up to 1/4000th of a second will be a big boon.

I really like the Olympus E-PL2 in most ways.  One thing I miss from my previous cameras is the lack of ultra zoom capability - the modern high end point & shoot cameras often have 26x optical zoom (or more) which is just amazing.  But the Micro Four-Thirds format gives you a much larger image sensor meaning the pictures will be naturally better quality than those smaller cameras.  Plus having swappable lenses is a boon even if it means you're carrying more stuff around.  Theoretically the lenses are better quality this way.

Another thing I miss from previous camera's is a tiltable LCD screen.  It's really cool to be able to tilt the screen in different ways to get low angle shots or over-the-crowd shots while still being able to easily see the LCD screen.  The PEN E-PL2 doesn't have a tiltable screen, but the E-PL5 does.

One of the reasons I got the E-PL2 in the first place was to have faster focusing and firing speed over the point-and-shoots.  The E-PL5 improves on the E-PL2 a lot.  The image sensor is also improved, having been borrowed from the OM-D E-M5.  I so much would love to have that OM-D because it's look reminds me so much of the Olympus OM-1 I owned way back in the mid 70's, but the price for the OM-D is way beyond my budget.  As is the Olympus PEN E-P5 which also has some cool features.  Here's another reason for choosing the E-PL5, cost.

One feature left out of the E-PL5 is a built-in flash.  The E-PL2 has a built-in flash, but the E-PL5 comes with a separate flash.  In it's place it does have an "AF Illuminator" to help with autofocusing in low-light situations.  Secondly, the ISO goes all the way to an incredible 25,600.  Well, I have to wonder how much noise shows up when the ISO goes that high.

Shooting movies is something I think I want to do, and one thing that's a must for that would be using external mic's.  If you want to know why, visit this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFpfralkhUw  ... I shot that at a race track and there were gas-powered motorcycles racing during the filming.  It was shot using my iPhone using the built-in mic and it was hard to hear the voices, so I worked around the problem by putting in subtitles.  If I had had an external mic or three this wouldn't have been a problem.

The Olympus E-PL5 does not have a built-in external mic input.  The Nikon D3200 and most other DSLR's do, however.  That's one reason I thought about the D3200.  Another reason is simply that there's a much wider range of lenses available.

External Microphone Adapter Set (SEMA-1)

What an Olympus owner can do is to use the External Microphone Adapter Kit (SEMA-1).  This unit slides into the hot-shoe and plugs into the accessory port and provides a 3.5mm stereo mic input.  With that you can plug in any compatible stereo mic.  I've tried a couple, and found that I have one that's great.

The E-PL5 movie mode supports 1080i resolution, meaning up to 1920x1080 at 30fps.

I already own the SEMA-1.  I also already own the Wide Converter (WCON-P01) which attaches to the front of the 14-42mm kit lens, giving it a wider field of view.  The 14mm wide end of that lens is equivalent to 28mm on a 35mm camera, and there are plenty of times I want to shoot a wider field of view than this.  The WCON-P01 is easy to leave attached to the lens full time and it gives me the wide field of view I want.

An option I see would be to buy the Olympus 12-50mm zoom lens.  In that case I would buy the E-PL5 as just a camera body, no kit lens, and get the 12-50mm lens instead, and not have to use the external attachment to get the wider field of view.  The problem with that picture is cost.  The 12-50mm lens costs $499 whereas the 14-42mm kit lens is basically free.  Buying the E-PL5 body-only is $549 while buying it with the kit lens is $599.  Ergo, from a cost perspective if I were to buy the 12-50mm lens I'd be paying lots more.

With all this out of the way here's what I'm planning to do:

Buy the Olympus E-PL5 with 14-42mm kit lens.  I found that Cameta has some incredible deals on manufacturer refurbished units that still come with a warranty.  Other sellers like Adorama, BH Photo, don't all have the same deals available.  You can of course find deals on Amazon or Rakuten or eBay.

I'll keep the WCON-P01 wide converter, and the SEMA-1 audio adapter.

There's plenty of times with the 14-42mm lens where the long distance end feels constrained.  I bought the E-PL2 with Olympus's 45-150mm lens and I used to carry that with me all the time.  That means switching lenses for any long distance shots.  I since bought a Lumix 45-200mm lens that gives a longer telephoto reach and was quite affordable (Adorama, BH Photo).  I see that both Olympus and Panasonic are selling 14-150mm lenses but the prices are quite high, even though that's a very useful zoom range (equiv to 28mm-300mm), but they're both pricey.  Tamron has also announce a 14-150mm zoom lens but hasn't announced when it would be officially available (BH Photo).  I may get the Tamron lens if it's affordable, because it would mean being able to shoot with just one lens more frequently rather than having to switch lenses.

Another lens I've looked at is the 75-300mm from Olympus (BH Photo) or 100-300mm from Panasonic (Adorama, BH Photo).  These would be useful for longer telephoto shots but I don't think I need it so badly to justify spending the $700 to get one of these lenses.

Similarly there are some ultra-wide lenses like an Olympus 12mm f/2.0 fixed lens, or a 9-18mm zoom, but both are above $700 in cost, and my budget simply doesn't allow for this.

In other words, by selling my Olympus E-PL2 I can cover most of the cost of buying the E-PL5 with kit lens.  That coupled with the 45-200mm zoom lens will cover all my shooting needs at the cost of switching lenses on occasion.  That makes my cost very low because I already own most of the parts.  If Tamron gets the 14-150mm lens on the market at a decent price it could make a great alternative to carrying two lenses around.