I was originally going to entitle this article The Magic of the Olympus E-P2 at Night, but as I went through the features that make the Olympus E-P2 such a great nighttime imaging tool I realized that the pieces that make it so were in the entire Digital Pen line currently on the market (the E-P1, E-PL1, E-P2, and E-PL2). So without further ado, here’s what makes the modern Pen almost unique in the way it captures the night. All photos below were taken with a M.Zuiko Digital 17/f2.8 mounted on an Olympus E-P2.
Excellent High ISO Performance
Depending on the philosophy of the photographer, the first thing one thinks of when approaching the night hours is either ‘flash’ or ‘ISO’. I’m into catching as much as the atmosphere as possible as candidly as I can manage, so I think the latter. The Pen doesn’t disappoint. EI1600 seems to be the sweet spot with the camera, with it’s performance there. At 1600 it can render more detail and less noise then comparable dSLRs. I’m not quite as happy with EI3200-6400, where it falls a little behind similarly-priced Nikon and Canon dSLRs, but 1600 @f/4 covers 90% of what’s needed and still leaves a stop free for the other 10%.
In-Body Image Stabilization
All Olympus Pens have IS built into the body. No more spending extra on IS/VR versions of lenses. True, it reduces battery life a little but the trade off is HUGE: I get IS with every single lens I mount, from telephoto to wide, m4/3 mount AF to adapted manual focus. That’s right. I can mount my decades-old cheap Ukranian-made Industrar-61 via an LTM to m4/3 adapter and get image stabilization. And it works well. With IS and a steady hand, I’ve managed sharp shots down to 1/5s at 42mm (84mm eq.).
And I shouldn’t have to explain how valuable a feature IS, in-body or in-lens, is in night photography.
Yes, this is somewhat subjective. When I primarily shot film, my favorite color film for photography at night was Fujicolor Pro H. The combination of the image sensor and image processor, shared across all current Pen models, yields night images with a very similar look and feel. Contrast is excellent, the strong key lights stay contained, and the colors are well-represented. Read why I love Fuji 400H and that’s exactly why I love the way my E-P2 records the night.
Now wait for the sun to drop well below the horizon, insert a 80s Phil Collins song into your head, and take some photos.
No matter what camera you have.