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Personal posts about my life etc…

Personal: Olympus E-520 Double Zoom Kit

Posted by Roy Triesscheijn on Friday 20 November, 2009

Luck

After working with my fathers’ old Pentax K1000 (which is really old as you can see here ) until it finally broke down a few years back (Leaky shutter). I haven’t been doing much photography at all. But recently my little brother bought a Canon 1000D and I found out that I just couldn’t resist not touching it :). So blood began to boil, a few weeks past and then I just had to buy myself a new camera.

Because my budget is pretty limited, being a student and all, I set myself the task to find the best possible camera €300,- could buy me. Quickly I narrowed it down to these camera’s:

Nikon Coolpix P90 (€290~410)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 (€307~403)
Casio Exilim EX-FH20 Zwart (€280~350)
All good bridge camera’s in my price range. As an added bonus the Casio has an excellent film setting, the Nikon has great image quality (for a bridge camera). And the Panasonic just caught my eye as a nice all rounder. As you no doubt have noted hower, the title of this post is the Olympus E-520, which isn’t on this list, and isn’t a bridge camera. I looked at bridge camera’s because I didn’t think I could afford a nice DSLR. However after using tweakers.net excellent pricewatch to check if I had missed any cameras in my price range I came across the Olympus E-520 Double Zoom Kit package. At first I thought I was being fooled with, a fully functional DSLR, on par with the Canon 1000D, and two zoom lenses listed for less than €300,- by the cheapest store (Azerty, Netherlands) . After checking out the store reviews I came to realize that this was a reliable store and that this either was an insane offer or a mistake. Quickly I payed for the kit and had it send to me. And to my delight I really got it for only €285,-. Shortly after I bought the camera there though the normal price was restored and the kit is now listed there at €640,- (although there are a lot cheaper stores selling it for the more adequate €400,-, I guess they want to undo some of the damage 🙂 ).

After toying around with the camera I really felt like a price winner. I’ve given a quick review on both tweakers.net and the store, but I’ll try give a more detailed one here as well.

The review

Facts / external reviews

First some basic facts. The kit I bought is the Olympus E-520 Double Zoom kit, featuring two zoom lenses by Zuiko Digital (Olympus’ daughter corporation that makes some of the most excellent kit lenses, outclassing those of Nikon and Canon).  The first lens is the Zuiko Digital 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 listed at dpreview.com here. The lens scores very good for a kit lens and gets the ‘recommended seal’.  The second lens is the Zuiko Digital 40-150mm 1:4.0-5.6. It hasn’t undergone a decent lens review yet but in a short summary here, dpreview.com says

“Covering a focal range of 40-150mm (equivalent to 80-300mm on a 35mm camera), this 3.8x zoom lens offers superb mid- to telephoto functionality at an attractive price. A fast f-stop of f3.5-4.5 gives Olympus E-300 owners ample opportunity to get creative by extending their telephoto capabilities.”

So,  excellent lenses! But ofcourse these lenses are useless if the body isn’t able to handle them. Luckily dpreview.com reviewed this camera in a 32 page review here. Listing it as just falling into the Highly Recommended category. I’ve taken the liberty of copying the most important pros and cons directly so you can view them without clicking through 32 pages :).

Conclusion – Pros
Good image quality at low ISO settings
In-body image stabilization means the benefit is seen with all lenses
Control panel display allows quick access to the important shooting parameters
Generally snappy performance (though it would be nice to disable SSWF at every startup)
Supersonic Wave Filter ensures no dust on sensor
Quality kit lens
Conclusion – Cons
Dynamic range limited compared to the rest of class – can lead to more easily clipped highlights
Small viewfinder
Disappointing high ISO performance
Menu structure a little longwinded (especially the setup menus)
Auto focus provides only three focus points, although AF performance good

So it’s not the camera to take with you on a nightly trip, but still it has a very good price/quality ratio.

Personal Experience

Well let’s tell something new instead of just copying dpreview.com (I can’t help it, they are just so thorough). When I first started using this camera I was a bit overwhelmed with options. Especially the setup menu was a bit cumbersome, leading me to frequently ‘wrong click’ which made the setup menu disappear. It was a bit strange walking trough context menus by pressing left and right. Some options really require to use the manual. For example I wanted to set the image format and quality the camera saves the photos in, and I just couldn’t find it. Turns out that instead of image format, or something else descriptive the menu option is hidden behind some kind of arrow icon. The settings weren’t very clear either, L/M/S and F/N (and RAW and RAW+JPEG with one of these combinations of options). After reading a bit trough the manual (which is very clear, and has a good index) I got the hang of it and selected the highest resolution and quality setting for JPEG.

After a bit of shooting I found out that I head a dead pixel in the sensor, these things can happen, it’s not easy to get 10M light sensitive ‘pixels’ on rectangle with a diameter 4/3rd of an inch. The dead pixel was always bright and began to annoy me. Right before I was sending the camera back for repair I came across a helpful fellow who told me to try the pixel mapping feature. (More about that here). This option tries to detect if there a haywire pixels in the sensor and turns them of and compensates for them. I tried as hard as I could but I can’t find any evidence now of there ever being a dead pixel. This option is really valuable!

So then the time came to really get some photos cracking. I love the way the shooting options are set via some sort of “super menu” on the display. By pressing ok once you can freely move over the tiles which represent options and pressing ok again allows you to change the current option to whatever you like. This gives an easy review of the settings you are shooting with, as well an easy way to change them. Of course the most important options are visible in the ocular piece as well.

I’m in love with the ‘paparazzi’ mode which lets you shoot about 3.5 photos per second. And if your CF or XD card is fast enough you can keep doing this until the card is full. (You need at least a card capable of writing 20MB/s).  One oddity about those CF and XD cards btw. Al tough the camera works fine with both XD and Compact Flash, only XD cards ‘unlock’ the panorama setting in the scene menu, very weird.

The photos seem very sharp in places where there is enough light. If there is not enough light the camera sometimes has trouble auto focusing, luckily you can always switch to manual focus with the touch of one button or set the flash to help focusing (even if you don’t want the flash to fire for the photo itself). The photos taken with flash don’t feel so worn out as usual, the white balance options really compensate a lot for this, and thus even flashed photos look warm and great. (But of course you can manually adjust the white balance settings and program).

I really love how feature full this camera is, it’s really a full grown DSLR, but in a pretty compact shape. Its’  body slightly smaller than the Canon 1000D and the lenses, thanks to the FourThirds system are a lot smaller, keeping everything very neat and compact. So this camera is definitely right for someone who wants to do more than just study/indoor photograph. The body and lenses are sturdy and feel less plastic than the Canon and Nikon starter DSLRs. However the camera is not weatherproofed (you’d need a few levels up in the Olympus product catalog).

I don’t know much about lenses so I don’t feel comfortable giving an outspoken opinion about them, so let’s get to the  conclusion.

I think the Olympus E-520 Double Zoom kit has an extremely good value for money. Because of the size of its sensor and the quality of the lenses this camera outclasses every bridge camera out there. It’s also a camera that can keep up nicely with the big boys (Canon and Nikon) in the starter segment of DSLRs. Great white balance, good quality lenses, a sturdy compact body and full featuredness are big pluses for this camera. Of course there are a few lesser points like the poor performance on high iso’s but I as a whole this camera is excellent. Especially if you consider what I paid for it.

Because I’m not a professional photographer, I haven’t shot any really nice pictures yet with this camera. However I can’t review a camera without posting at least one picture. So here’s a picture of one of our cats. The composition is not great but I hope you’ll be distracted by his smirk :). (Artifacts are largely due to the image upload service of tinypic)

Samson

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Personal: One True Thing cd for sale again!

Posted by Roy Triesscheijn on Friday 4 September, 2009

Just a quick personal post to let all of you know that the CD Finally from One True Thing is ‘finally’ available for sale again. You can buy it at their record label Play The Assasin/. I’ve been bugging OTT a few times to see if I could buy their CD in Europe. Unfortunately the record label kinda broke down (website wasn’t updated and never heard from them again). Luckily after finding some youtube video’s and a topic about underrated music @ tweakers.net I double checked the website, and what-ya you know! It was updated and the store was opened again.

You can get the cd Finally for €12,- ($16,-) if you live in Europe and for $12.- if you live in the US.

I can really recommend this small band, I’m such a fan boy :).

Be sure to check their music at youtube.com, here are a few of my favorites.

😀 happy listening.

Posted in Blog, Personal | 3 Comments »

Personal: CastleFest 2009

Posted by Roy Triesscheijn on Sunday 2 August, 2009

Organisational

As I’ve said in another blog post on my personal blog I’m going to merge my tech blog and personal blog because I hardly use my personal blog and would like to keep everything organized. So this will be my first non-tech related post here, jolly good isn’t it. I’ll mark these blog posts with “Personal” and will put them in the personal category so they can be easily filtered out for those people who read this blog for the tech stuff. ( I can totally imagine not everyone is that interested in everyone’s personal lifes, everyone is writing about everything these days, but well if find blogging a good way to relax a bit and somketimes you get those cheeky comments that it make it worth while).

CastleFest

Well now we’ve got all the bureaucratic crap settled let me tell you all about Castlefest. Castlefest is a small festival in Lisse, The Netherlands where for 5 years, like minded people meet.  The festivals main theme is ‘the medieval age’  but people can be seen wearing just about everything, from apropiate medieval pessant clothing to girls wearing commic-con like outfits. A pritty lass had a really cool Yuna (Final Fantasy) outfit.

However as I said the main theme is ‘the medieval age’ (hence Castle). Unfortunately my medieval costumes are ehm non-existent so I joined the “just wearing witty t-shirts” type of people with a t-shirt that praises leeks (the vegetable).

After some hours checking out all the little stores I was a bit disappointed. For women (and girls) there where the most beautiful dresses and outfits ranging from the year 1000 ‘cute’ peasant look to the 1800 victorian queen look to the  post apocalyptic scavanger girl look. Most of these outfits where hand made from leather and wool just stunningly beautiful.

For us man this was unfortunately quite different (okay I’ll ignore all the medieval weapons that where out there for now, a brave warrior has to wair clothes aswell you know).   There where some nice woolen cloaks that where affordable and there where some beautiful full leather outfits and brilliant napolean era costume but unfortunately these where quite expensive  (like €300,- for just the top expensive).  Normally priced shirts and pants where hard to come by.  (In the end I did get my hands on a cool thick-cotton shirt with leather ropes holding everything togheter but I really hoped that there would be some more man clothes in the affordable price range.)

Anyway later that day  the main reason why I came to castlefest revieled themselves: Valravn took the stage and they played like mad, for those who don’t know this band I really think you should check them out on youtube here.

(Quoted from last.fm) Eyes firmly on the 21st century, Valravn’s inspiration comes from the original Nordic music tradition. The band manages to organically blend the raw sounds from their ancient instruments with the smooth possibilities of electronic music. The fusion of the two yields a unique and powerful experience of the vigour and life, that lies hidden deep in the Nordic roots.

Valravn was really brilliant, looking at old youtube video’s it’s amazing to see how they’ve grown. The video I linked above is only a year old but damn the entire Valravn band seems pretty tame there while at castlefest they really rocked their harts out. They also played a few songs from their new cd which should be out soon(a friend of mine bought the cd right there but bol.com is still saying it hasn’t been released yet)! Brilliant and more energetic than their first album.

The day came to a closing by performing a heretic ritual togheter with the band Omnia, allot of my friends kept whining about Omnia being a bit arrogant and stuff (and I do agree) but their performance was memorable and it felt really as if people set them selves free during the ritual.

I had a great day at castlefest and I will surely go again next year, I might even put some more effort in dressing up and stuff. I can surely recommend these kind of festivals to everyone who enjoys a relaxed mood and doesn’t worry to much about people wearing funny clothes , the people at such festivals are just lovely.

I would’ve posted some photo’s but I didn’t bring my camera, I’ll see if my friend Mart has some pictures and if I can put them up here for a more general impression of what castlefest is.

Please let me hear your thoughts about this blog post and on mixing personal and ‘professional’ blog entries and how you’ve coped with this on your own blog(s).

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