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2011-08-13 Gear: E-P3 AF Test at the Munich Eisbach

I was a bit puzzled about the different reports regarding the AF capability of the E-P3. Reason is that i’d never buy this camera for shooting sports and action but now wanted to see if i was able to take some shots of the river surfers at the Munich Eisbach using the kit lens and the mZD 12/2.

In the first version of this essay i showed the original JPG images OOC. Since then i played a bit with snapseed and liked the results so much that i decided to use them here instead of the ooc jpgs. To give you a better idea how the images looked before i snapseeded them, i linked each image shown here to it's original version with 1200px max side on my FB account.

Today i was fortunate because Steve Ratzisberger, one of our best River Surfers was there, providing me with enough interesting poses and tricks to shoot.

Steve RatzisbergerMunich Eisbach

Those of you who know the location also know that there are 3 possible positions:

  • from the bridge,
  • from the left (standing in the water) or balancing on the small wall
  • and from the right between hordes of tourtists.

Since i only had the 12mm and the kit lens, shooting from the bridge was no option and since i didn’t bring booties, shooting from the water was not possible. In the end i was sitting next to the entry on the right side, shooting against the afternoon sun.

Light is always difficult at the Eisbach because the trees cast dark shadows and wherever the sun hits the foaming water it is bright white. Even with a Fuji S5 you have to decide between blown highlights and surfers on dark neoprene suits ;-)

Steve RatzisbergerMunich Eisbach

Since my E-P3 is brand new, i tried the default settings, but had noise filter set to low, which was a mistake. I turned it off now. I also tried some pics with Gradation Auto, resulting in correctly exposed foam and a lot of noise in the surfers faces.
I still have to play a bit with the JPG settings, they are different from the E-5 and E-PL1, the reds and greens are imo oversaturated although i was shooting in natural but with the “warm colors” option switched on. In the end this is the reason why i replaced the ooc JPGs with converted and snapseeded RAW files as soon as LR supported the E-P3.

Steve RatzisbergerMunich Eisbach

Regarding the AF:

I used C-AF, S-Mode and 1000/s for most of the shots. Since i had only one 4GB Card i did not use burst mode and tried to track the surfer’s faces a bit before actually shooting. This worked better than expected, especially when compared to the E-PL1. I also tried some wipes but was in the wrong posision, because the surfers were moving diagonaly towards and away from me.
Since S-AF is really fast on the E-P3, i also tried some shots with S-AF when the surfers were posing, i.e. not moving very fast. I had more keepers with C-AF though.

Unknown River SurferMunich Eisbach

I didn’t bring the VF-2 and had to focus using the display, which was OK (light was against me). There was a slight and very short blackout between taking the picture and updating the display, this is something you need to get used to when coming from a DSLR.
A slight shutter lag is still present but minimal when compared to the first mFT cams.

Steve RatzisbergerMunich Eisbach

I also did not try to focus via the touchscreen because it was too hard to to move the cam to hold the focus area on the head of the surfer holding the cam with one hand, watch composition and hit the right area on the screen.

Steve RatzisbergerMunich Eisbach

As mentioned above, there is a set on my flickr account with 22 test images, all are JPGs, exported from Lightroom with default sharpening and 1200px for the long side. Most of them are slightly cropped and i sometimes had to adjust exposure/light to compensate blown out highlights in the foam. This worked surprisingly well for the JPGs.

You can also look at the snapseeded versions in the album below