Olympus E system? DSLR Opinions

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    Hey everyone. I’m new to the forums and last week was my first entry in Farktography contest for “Curves”. I can’t wait to post for the next contest.

    I’m shooting right now with an Olympus Stylus 720, which I absolutely love because I can take it virutally anywhere (I’m a kayaker and love to shoot my adventures without the stress of getting the camera wet). Because of this I’ve been paying more attention to what and how i’m shooting, and gaining more of an interest in the artform. With that In mind, I’m going to be upgrading in the next month to a DSLR. I have a 35 mm olympus SLR that I’ve had for the past 8 years but I’d like to branch into the endless possibilities of digital.

    I’m trying to decide between and Olympus (brand loyalty), Canon (because of lens options) and Nikon. I’m under a budget, and can’t feasibly spend more than $1000. This pretty much puts me at a not-so basic advanced level camera.

    I’ve been doing research (as we all have) like things about all of them but none are really stepping out and saying “Buy Me”.

    I guess you could say that I’m looking for some suggestions to why you shoot with what.

    Thanks in advance for all of your time!


    Welcome aboard, CadmiumYellow!

    I really liked Olympus’s dust reduction system (and from the testing results I’ve seen, Olympus has the most effective dust shaker with Canon taking a distant second, though that might be different with their second generation now…). The thing I didn’t like so well about Olympus was the 4/3 system. Sure, it makes it easier to do the math for what your focal length conversion is since you just double it, but it also makes for a smaller sensor which is more prone to noise at high ISO, especially as manufacturers cram in more megapixels. For me, high ISO noise was one of my primary concerns, so that removed Olympus from my short list.

    The smaller sensor size also makes it harder to get a true wide/superwide angle; I’m not sure if there are any lenses for the 4/3 system wider than 14mm, which ends up 28mm with the crop factor. That’s not all that wide, though that might not matter much to you, depending on your subjects and shooting style. For nature photogs (which it sounds like you might fall more into that category), the crop factor works in their favor–a 200mm lens is now 400mm, very handy!

    Now as for noise, Canon generally is considered to have an edge on Nikon, however, Nikon does a better job of controlling chroma (colored splotch) noise. IOW, Canon’s overall noise control performance may be a bit better, but the noise you see on Canon images tends to be that obvious digital/colored blob stuff while Nikon’s noise (more along the lines of black splotches) looks a bit more like film grain. To Canon’s favor, however, color splotches tend to be fairly easily cleaned up in noise reduction. So it’s almost a wash there.

    Lens options are of course another consideration, and both Canon and Nikon have an excellent selection. But don’t forget about third party manufacturers like Tokina, Sigma, and Tamron, each of whom also has some excellent lens offerings for various lens mounts (though yes, the 4/3 lens mounts may not be as well covered as Nikon, Canon, Pentax, and Sony/KM mounts). One thing that might work in your favor here is the fact that you’ve been using a 35mm Olympus SLR–if those lenses are compatible with the digital Olympus line, that can save you some money.

    There are a number of review sites out there ( http://www.dcresource.com and http://www.dpreview.com are two of my favorites) with lots of great info and photographic test results that can help you narrow down the choices.

    Probably the best advice would be to go to a brick and mortar store (if you don’t have a camera shop local to you, try Circuit City or Best Buy) and get your hands on the cameras you’re considering. Ultimately, none of the DSLR’s take bad pictures these days, so it’s often best to leave the decision (at least in large part) up to whatever feels best in your hands. When I was making my decision, I really wanted to like the Nikons (they were cheaper!), but in the end, they didn’t feel “right” in my hands. Other people have the opposite experience. For my part, I already had a Canon point and shoot digicam, so it also didn’t hurt that the interface on my Canon 30D was similar to the Canon A620 I’d been using. Since you have an Olympus digicam, that’s another consideration for you.

    Sorry I get longwinded; hope this helps!


    Welcome aboard, CadmiumYellow!

    The smaller sensor size also makes it harder to get a true wide/superwide angle; I’m not sure if there are any lenses for the 4/3 system wider than 14mm, which ends up 28mm with the crop factor. That’s not all that wide, though that might not matter much to you, depending on your subjects and shooting style.

    Olympus now has an 11-22mm as well as a 7-14mm:


    In general, though, there are fewer choices for the 4/3 mount (and a much smaller selection of available 3rd party lenses) than for Canon/Nikon.

    It seems to me that the relative advantage between Canon and Nikon in terms of the body specs swings back and forth based on their different release cycles, and it probably makes more sense to look at the lens availability and what you want (and might have some reasonable expectation of actually buying) in terms of glass rather than getting too hung up on the specs of the different bodies.


    I came in to say “Don’t forget Poland Pentax.”

    They have a very solid DSLR and lens line up, awesome prices and hard-core awesome factor you can only get with having a modern, affordable “pancake lens” line up.

    Seriously, they’re called that. Pentax makes the pancakes. If I had a Pentax I would get a 40mm f/2.8 and a shirt with “Pentax makes the pancakes” on the front, with a picture of my camera commiserating with a bunny with a pancake on its head on the back and I would never wear a jacket and I would be late all of the time because people would stop me to tell me how awesome everything about all that is.


    That’s good to know about the wide angle stuff for Olympus and 4/3. ‘mofo‘s right about considering Pentax….IIRC, their DSLR line is completely backwards compatible with any Pentax lens ever in existance. Those pancake lenses are pretty cute, too 😉


    Thanks so much for all of your input. I’m going to pop into the Camera shop today on my way home from work and actually hold each camera in my hand. I’m hoping to narrow down soon so I can plop accessories (lenses-bag) on my holiday wish list.

    You guys are the best! I’ll let you know what happens!


    One thing to keep in mind is that even if the Camera is cheap, the lenses are probably going to be a much bigger cost, so look a t the lenses that are available for each system (Nikon/Canon/FourThirds/Pentax/Sigma), and their costs. One thing that struck me about Olympus is that their lenses are really expensive, but some of the lenses you can’t get anywhere else. (150mm f/2.0 is one that would be hard to get elsewhere, and would be much bigger.) Nikon tends to be cheaper than Canon for the high-end lenses, Pentax has some very small lenses, etc.

    What I did was to make a list of the camera and all of the lenses that I wanted in an amazon wishlist, and compared the prices of the whole system, not just the body. I went with Pentax, because I don’t want to get long/fast/expensive lenses, and Pentax doesn’t make any right now, and the rest of the lenses are pretty cheap.

    It doesn’t help if you save $300 on the camera body and then have to spend $1000 more to get the lenses you want.


    A big consideration in my purchase was Pentax’s anti shake system. After spending 2 hours climbing a mountain last year, I found out that this 51 year old body needs an anti shake system at the top.


    Noise is pretty decently controlled on most modern DSLRs, unless you’re *really* pushing things, like masochistically shooting stop-motion evening football with little lighting, in which case you probably badly screwed by other issues as well (like attaining focus lock before the play is over) unless you’ve gone rather spendy.

    Regarding OM lenses, there is an adapter to use them on Four-Thirds bodies, but it will basically be manual operation, spot metering will not necessary be accurate — and the image-stabilization of the E-510 and E-3 will not function. This last bit has caused much trolling and flaming on dpreview.

    A caution, though, since kayaking was mentioned — very few are splashproofed, especially below $1000. From Olympus, the aging E-1 (which does -not- exhibit good noise characteristics at high ISO — lots of chroma noise; pair w/ 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 perhaps, barring a sweet deal on the 12-60mm f/2.8-4) and the E-3 (which blows your budget away, body-only) are the only splashproofed DSLRs. Pentax K10D has weather-sealing, but Pentax has rather few correspondingly well-sealed lenses right now. And even beat-up Canon 1-series bodies are probably well above $1K. A rain cover of some kind may be appropriate.


    Korovyov- I don’t think I would be taking the SLR kayaking with me, though the tempation would there. I have a waterproof olympus 720 that I love and I usually take that. Actaully, I take that everywhere with me. I was thinking about just saving a bit more and going the E-3 or the Canon 40D (which i heard is weather sealed as well). Every penny counts so I think my best decision is to wait a bit and get something I know I’ll be able to use just about anywhere. Anyone need some graphic’s done? New website? Will work for DSLR… ha ha..


    I second the Pentax DSLR. I have a older *istDS and its great. You can use AA batteries in a pinch (except for the K10) and there’s lots of lenses.

    With a screw mount to kmount adaptor, you can use the older lenses. I have used everything from modern lenses to screw mount bellows to russian Zenit lenses.

    Lots of variety and cheap used glass.

    poke around http://www.saracom and the links and I have quite a few pics I shot with it.

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