Thursday, November 5, 2015

Homage to E-P3

I'm ultimately late in mentioning this, but the Olympus E-P3 has been officially retired. Of all the things that could have done it in, the battery charger shorted (yes, I'm aware I could just get a replacement, but superficially forcing this camera into retirement is actually a weird sort of necessity for reasons of quirky mental allocations of value and function... basically I'm just weird).

Purchased in August of 2011, the Olympus E-P3 was as close as I could seem to get to a true spiritual successor to the Panasonic GF1 that died tragically in The Car Accident (caps for emphasis). I was new to Olympus menus, new to the famed Olympus JPG engine, and the sensor was arguably old hat by the time the E-P3 was released, but it appealed to me in both design and image quality from first snap.

One of the my first shots with the E-P3 on August 1, 2011.
Shot with the M. Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 RII at 35mm, 1/160" @ f/7.1 and ISO 200.
I built up an entire prime lens system around this camera body, always in love with the form factor of rangefinder styling. Not even a full year later in 2012, I started picking up my first paid photography work and kicked off my business with the E-P3, M. Zuiko 12mm f/2.0, and 45mm f/1.8 (eventually adding the 17mm f/1.8 which would become my favorite prime lens of all time). A simple, diminutive kit, which earned jeers from clients until they saw the photos and were left baffled.

The E-P3 had banged into more walls and railings than I can remember, dropped more times than fingers and toes can account for, and took a tumble off a moving train once. Never a problem for it to deal with a little abuse, it kept on shooting like nothing happened. Even after picking up the Olympus E-M1 and PRO M. Zuiko zoom lenses to build a (superficial) professional-looking front, the E-P3 still came with me in the car and was frequently my go-to for casual street shooting. Paired with the 45mm f/1.8 (itself showing a lot of wear and tear these days) I had a perfectly subtle combo which produced stellar images even 4 years later.

Olympus got a lot right with the E-P3. It was a perfect maturation of all design philosophies governing Micro Four Thirds at the time, marrying speedy menu operation with smart wheel-based controls and a touch screen that was actually useful (and totally not the gimmicky thing I thought it was until I actually used it). The sensor was older Panasonic tech, but Olympus squeezed every frothing drop of quality from it, and I still miss the use of OLEDs in the rear screen display (I'd often whine about images looking better on the back of my camera than on my computer monitor... that was an actual issue to me once upon a time... wow). With the VF-3 in the hot shoe, I discovered my love of waist-level viewfinder composition, and with the PENPAL bluetooth accessory expanded my horizons by editing and distributing images with my tablet in a completely new workflow paradigm. Mostly, though... I miss the size.

One of the last frames captured with the E-P3.
Shot with the M. Zuiko 45mm f/1.8, 1/400" @ f/3.5 and ISO 200.
Word around the rumor mill is that Olympus plans on releasing a re-envisioning of the PEN line next year. And frankly I can't wait. For all its technological advances over the PENs, the E-M1 simply isn't the camera I want to be using all the time. Even sans vertical grip, there is a lost charm that I could probably get back with an E-P5, but I wouldn't want to hamstring my budget given how much I'm already anticipating this re-imagining, this... New PEN. Coupled with the rumors of those hyper-primes Olympus has patented... Oh yes, I am absolutely prepared to rebuild the prime lens kit.

So thank you, E-P3. Thank for your years of service, thank you for accepting my beatings with grace, and thank you for putting into perspective the kind of photographer I want to be seen as. Now please don't be jealous as I froth over your yet-unborn successor.