Above is a short video that Nick and I shot using a pair of Olympus E-P3 cameras. Nothing fancy in terms of lenses, filters, matte box or follow focus. We just wanted to see what kind of footage we could get out of them straight out of the box.
One camera was equipped with the 17mm f/2.8 kit lens and the other used the 14-42mm kit lens. The 17mm camera was mounted on a Glidecam 2000 and the 14-42mm camera was on a cheap Varizoom tripod. The dolly-in and dolly-out styled shots were done using a tripod lean on two legs with the front leg retracted. Other than that, all the camera moves should be pretty self-explanatory.
I cut the footage together in Final Cut Pro X and did some mild grading with Magic Bullet Mojo directly in FCP X. The background music was created in Adobe Soundbooth CS5. FCP X handled the native AVCHD footage fine after importing it and keeping the folder structure intact.
For several of the shots, we left the continuous AF turned on, which led to mixed results. Sometimes it was pretty smooth and sometimes it jumped a bit. If you are looking for classy focus pulls, it’s best to go with manual focus on the E-P3. Other than that, the AF works fantastic on the E-P3. (For still images, it is wicked fast.) As a consumer camcorder-replacement, the E-P3 is definitely a viable option.
Like other large-sensor cameras, the E-P3 suffers from a pretty serious rolling shutter jello effect – worse than you see on Canon HDSLRs. I’ve cut around most of the bad situations where it appears in above footage, but there are definitely still some issues in the final cut. There are ways to reduce this in post, but there’s no perfect solution yet. Just watch out for making sudden movements on the E-P3.
While you can definitely see some depth of field in some of the above shots, it was difficult to work in daylight due to the minimum sensitivity of ISO 400 when shooting video. Some of the shots in the shade could have really opened up the iris to f/2.8 if I could have dipped down to ISO 100. I’m assuming that this is a technical limitation on what Olympus could do with the E-P3 in order to keep it as a great all around shooter. If it were possible to make it down to ISO 100 via a firmware update, I would love to see that for the E-P3. Some heavy ND filters will be necessary for any serious outdoor shooting. If you’re using it as a vacation camera, no worries though.
The E-P3 has a lot going for it on the video side of the coin. It’s got a big Micro Four Thirds sensor (same format as the Panasonic AF100) that can create some cinematic shallow DOF shots. It also gives you the power to shoot with full manual control over the exposure. Additionally, the E-P3 has built-in image stabilization that works at the sensor level, which means any lens you put on the camera receives the benefits of image stabilization.
The E-P3 offers solid performance for consumers and enthusiasts who are looking for a dual purpose camera. The 1920 x 1080 video looks great for a camera of its ilk and will be able to replace casual camcorder use for those carrying around a pair of cameras. If you want to push your creativity, you can produce some very pretty footage with the E-P3, albeit with some limitations that are inherent in the camera’s design.
I’ll be interested to see how the E-P3 stacks up against the last Panasonic and Sony mirrorless models, which I hope to get my hands on soon. Due to the autofocus concerns of prior models, I never thought the Olympus PEN series was a viable alternative to Panasonic and Sony mirrorless models. The E-P3 certainly changes my opinion of the PEN series – and, as far as I’m concerned, Olympus is definitely in the game now.
All in all, the Olympus E-P3 is a great camera. I’ll have more on the E-P3 in a future installment.
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