Review: Why I love the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL7

By now, it's almost a few months since I have started using the Olympus EPL7 and I'll be honest to say that I haven't touched my EPL5 for some time already. The thing is there is so much to love in the new camera even though I have the older version of it. So while it may appear like I'm doing a comparison to the EPL5 here, I'll be posting on what I love about the new camera which is actually also a new feature in the EPL7 or an upgrade.

Note: The pictures in this post will be pictures that I have taken over the course of the last few weeks, so they won’t have a theme or a particular flow of it as I would like to demonstrate the different capability versatility of the camera.

WiFi Capability


// Here’s a picture to show you how the Olympus Image Share app looks like when it is used under the “remote control” mode. Picture taken by Calvin. //

I mentioned in my first post about the EPL7 just how much I welcome the WiFi function cause it meant that I can control the camera remotely and also transfer the pictures I took immediately to my phone to upload to social media or simply just to share with my friends.

Using the Olympus Image Share and my phone which is running on the Android KitKat, using the app to shoot and transfer images were seamless. You can see in the pictures below how the app works in the live view/remote control mode. From the app, you can control settings like the shooting mode, the aperture, shutter speed, self timer …pretty much most of the shooting options can be controlled from the camera itself. Once you enable self timer, the screen will also flip to show the mirror effect.

// This self-portrait was taken using the”remote control” function in Olympus Image Share app, which I used the Touch AF to select which area in the frame to focus on (in this case, it is my dress) and then setting the timer to 6 seconds, giving me ample of time to pose and to keep my phone in the pocket. //


// This is also another self-portrait taken using the Olympus Image Share app, by using the WiFi from the camera to connect to my phone. This time around I wanted to try a full OOTD shot, and with the EPL7 and 25mm lens placed on the tripod, I was able to do so all by myself. It really help to be able to see what’s behind the camera lens which is basically how I look like in front of the camera. That way, it allows me to pose better with my better angles. //


// Here’s a behind the scenes pictures taken by Anna from http://annna.net/. Now, you can see that the camera is placed on the tripod and I’m controlling the camera using the WiFi connectivity of the EPL7 and with the amazing Olympus Image Share app. My phone screen is only showing some of the settings that I can control. //





I have mentioned how often difficult it was to shoot my own self-portraits (I did a Project52 last year, where I shot self-portraits every week) but with this app and the WiFi capability, shooting controlling the camera remotely, allows me to set my settings and compose my picture too. The best part of this all, is that it also works for group self-portraits, like the one above where I captured using the Olympus Image Share app. That will explain why I am holding my phone. The picture above was shot using the 25mm lens, so it was a tight space. Meet Jackie, Robin and Anna.

// Here’s a picture that I captured by using the app with a self timer of 6 seconds, allowing my friend and I to pose. The picture above was not posed though, because I set the timer too long and it captured us, mid-laughing. See the original posed picture below. If you notice, we are still in focus even though we moved from our original pose, and that is the beauty of the Olympus’s AF. //



Faster Autofocus with Touch AF

With the EPL7, the autofocus is fast and pretty accurate for me. It also has the 81-point AF grid which covers the entire frame of the image, hence anywhere can be your focus area. I remember telling this to one of my friends, that my camera had 81 point and he didn’t believe it. But it is true and what makes it even more awesome is that the camera has Touch AF.

// For pictures with this effect, Touch AF is useful as it allows you to select the focus area. I chose to focus on the Mrs Claus’s cupcake, which you can see is sharp, capturing the little details on it even the glitter on her cheeks. //

Touch AF allows you to select any area in the frame that you want to focus on. This especially useful for me when I’m shooting food, because I know exactly which area I want it to be in focus, and the rest is not. By being able to do this, I found that my pictures came out to have the effect I wanted, which is a soft bokeh in the background with the food in focus.



TruePic VII image processor

I mentioned above how I have the EPL5 camera and now, I’m shooting with the EPL7 mostly. So here’s the thing, when I started shooting with the new camera, I realised that my images were much sharper than my previous shots on the EPL5. I would say that the pictures have a certain clarity to them and the effect is a very neat, clean and focused picture. I don’t know how to explain further, but I’ll leave you with an excerpt off the Olympus website describing what the TruePic VII image processor does. And as usual, the colours of the image are just amazing with the new processor, it is vibrant and almost a similar colour as what we see.
“TruePic VII optimizes sharpness according to the optical characteristics of the attached lens and aperture (F) value, performs high-precision demosaicing optimized for the low-pass filter less sensor, and features Fine Details II that reduces false colors. It brings out the potential of lenses to achieve sharpness and high resolution.”


// The pictures above and below were taken in a dimly lit with incandescent light bulbs which gave my picture a orangey hue to it. It made the food less appetizing but I used the Olympus’s One Touch White Balance, to get the correct white balance and ta-da! The pictures looks better. I also wanted to emphasize that with the new TruePic VII image processor, I notice the vast difference compared to my EPL5. // Note: If you’re an Olympus user and do not know of the One Touch WB, do click on the link to learn more about it and how to enable/use it on your camera.




3-axis image stabilization

The EPL5 uses the older Image Stabilization system while the EPL7 has 3-axis image stabilization. I’ll be honest and say that in poorer lit conditions (like in the restaurant I mentioned above), I found that the EPL5 struggles to capture a sharp picture and that is when I decided to shoot with three pictures continuously just so that I can get a sharp picture. I shoot in RAW + JPEG, so that means that my memory run out faster that way. But I didn’t know any other way to get my picture clearer in those lighting condition. I could bump up my ISO, but I didn’t want (I like mine at the maximum of ISO1600) and I am already shooting at the widest I can without have too shallow DOF since I am mostly shooting food.

But with the EPL7, I have never once had that struggle of shooting in low light condition. Most of the pictures I snapped were sharp and clear, even in low light and mostly in any lighting condition all together. I must say having the 3-axis image stabilization really helps in that. With this, I am so much confident in shooting at a much slower shutter speed with lower ISO because I can be sure to rely on the axis image stabilization.

// In pictures like this, having the 3-axis stabilization is pretty much amazing because when you extend your hand that high up, hand shake tend to happen and with the Fisheye Body Cap 9mm lens, especially since aperture is fixed at f/8.0. The picture above was shot during daytime so the shutter speed was pretty fast to be fair. Hand shake happen still, but the camera managed to get pretty sharp image. //

// I decided to mount a FL-50R flash, which is a flash meant for Olympus DSLR’s on my camera to shoot for my annual dinner. The whole set up, actually made the EPL7 feel rather imbalanced, with the weight of the flash being very heavy. Because of this, I was relying on the 3-axis stabilization to ensure that the image I take is still sharp. I was also shooting at the speed of 1/60, which is much slower than my usual shots. //


// With most of the pictures from the night turning out good and focused, I can now definitely rely on 3-axis stabilization, along with Olympus fast AF. Even so, shooting with the right techniques and the right settings is crucial. So, as amazingly powerful a camera can be, do ensure and check your settings is right before proceeding to shoot. //



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And with that, it wraps up my reviews on the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL7. I wrote three posts on the camera, so do read them all if you haven’t read it yet.
  1. Snaps: Olympus PEN Lite E-PL7 (where I briefly mentioned about the camera and included some sample images)
  2. Snaps: Selfies with the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL7 (where I talked about the e-Portrait / beauty mode and taking selfies)
  3. And this final post, which I told you what I love about the EPL7
I will be posting more about the camera in the coming months, and since I’m leaving for my Phuket trip soon, I plan to do a photo post on that trip using the pictures I captured with the EPL7 and the Stylus TG3 (which is a waterproof camera with WiFi capability). I am beyond excited to shoot underwater so stay tuned for that. :)



Till next time,
xoxo

Eat: Bmon Cafe, The Strand, Kota Damansara

A friend of mine, together with his brother, recently opened a cafe located in The Strand, Kota Damansara. Now, before you go on thinking this is yet another cafe, it really isn’t. This cafe is an manga themed cafe with its main character being Bmon (drawn by my friend’s brother), so you’ll expect to see comics splattered across the walls and as part of the decoration of the cafe.


It is located upstairs, so do look out for the stairs leading to the cafe. As always, I’m completely hopeless when it comes to shooting pictures of the ambiance and the decoration of the cafe. So, allow my words and your imagination to work. I promise I’ll try to shoot the interior of the cafe next. But for pictures of the cafe, do head over to FollowMeToEatLa post on Bmon Cafe.

I did get to take pictures of my outfit in the balcony of the cafe, which was one of those rare occasions when I do. I always make it a point to dress up but I don't get my picture taken. But the interior of Bmon Cafe was too gorgeous not to take some snaps over there.



As the cafe is newly opened, the menu is simple with the usual breakfast meals, pastas, pizzas, waffles and salad. The drinks menu however, is rather extensive. I won’t be posting so much on the drinks, but instead talking more about the food.

All Day Breakfast | RM16.90

Tuna Wrap | RM12.90

Mushroom Wrap | RM12.90

The All Day Breakfast is mostly a staple in most cafes these day, over at Bmon Cafe, I found it to be reasonably priced and rather simple. It comes with scrambled eggs, bacon, baked beans, hash brown and sausage. Then, they also serve wraps in the cafe, with a choice of either tuna, chicken or mushroom. When I was there, we got to try the wraps pictured above.

I never was a fan of wrap, I thought they were soft cold mushy and just not tasty! But the ones I had in Bmon Cafe, was served warm with the wrap being crispy thin and as I sink my teeth into them, I love how generous the serving of the fillings ; for both the mushrooms and the tuna.

Tuna Mayo Salad | RM10.90

Fruit Mayo Salad | RM10.90

I love vegetables, but I have never ordered salad when I’m eating out since it is especially easy to make myself. But the ones at Bmon Cafe were visually appetizing, served in an authentic salad bowl which makes it easy for sharing and the combination of the fresh vegetables and the choice of ingredients are refreshing. There is no secret in which was my favourite one, the Fruit Mayo Salad.

Hawaiian Pizza | RM13.90

Mushroom Pizza | RM13.90

And next, we had the crispy thin crust pizzas which comes in two variety with is the all-time favourite Hawaiian Pizza and the Mushroom Pizza. I have always loved mushrooms, so my pick would be that pizza. It was crispy and loaded with sliced mushrooms, coupled with cheese and with a hint of tomatoes base sauce. The Hawaiian was delicious too, hitting the right notes with the generous toppings of ham, chicken and pineapple.

Chicken Carbonara Pasta | RM13.90

Chicken Bolognese Pasta | RM13.90

Similar to the pizzas, there are two choices of pasta which is the two favourites which the the carbonara and the bolognese flavour. I found the Chicken Carbonara Pasta to be very rich in flavour, more so because of the finely chopped garlic used in the sauce. The Chicken Bolognese Pasta  was tasty too, and there is an option to choose either chicken or beef.

Hippo In The Pond | RM14.90

I saved the best and my favourite dish for last, so if you're still reading the post then you’re in luck because I’m about to tell you about the dish which is served in extremely limited quantity in Bmon Cafe. I heard only 5 were made in a day. So what is this Hippo In The Pond? It is actually potato croquette which have fried with breadcrumbs and hidden within this, is a whole boiled egg. You can see that it is also loaded with salad, ham and chicken floss as well.

You can see the sauce at the right side of the picture, and that is actually the cheese cause. You’re supposed to pour the sauce and eat it together with the potatoes and everything else in the bowl. And can I just say how heavenly the combination of both the cheesy sauce and the potatoes? It was deliciously amazing!

Chocolate Mud with Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream | RM10

Waffle with Strawberry Ice Cream and Fruits | RM12.90

There are a lot more selections of cakes and desserts to choose from but of all there is available, my top two picks would the Chocolate Mud with Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream and the Waffles! Just as when there was a burger trend going about, it would appear that waffles are the trending food for now. So, do hop on over to Bmon Cafe!

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No. 8-1 Jalan PJU5/20B, Petaling Jaya
03-6158 9993
Open daily from 11am to 11pm

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I’ll like to end this post with a couple more pictures of the food that I took, which are of different angles. The pictures in this post are taken with the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL7, or better known as the EPL7 together with my favourite Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 Lens. These were taken with natural sunlight, as my only source of light and edited with Lightroom on the JPEG files, since my version of Lightroom doesn’t support the EPL7 RAW files yet.

Tuna Mayo Salad | RM10.90

Hippo In The Pond | RM14.90

Bmon Plant | RM13.00

Bmon Plant | RM13.00

Fruit Mayo Salad | RM10.90

Till next time,
xoxo

Snaps: Selfies with the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL7

In my previous post Snaps: Olympus PEN Lite E-PL7, I briefly mentioned about my first impression of the EPL7 (I’ll refer it as the EPL7 from here on). In that post too, I talked about the features and upgrades that the EPL7 has over my EPL5. One of the main differences is the screen that tilts downwards now, instead of one that flips upwards.

In terms of movement of the screen, the EPL7 is easier to tilt and to move the screen. What you need to do is just, lightly lower the screen (from the top) and then invert it / flip the screen downwards. In the EPL5, you need to push the screen upwards and the pull it outwards and push it back upwards. If you can’t imagine how it is like, it is okay because all you need to know is that Olympus has definitely improved on the tilting of the screens which now makes it even easier to take a selfie.
When I received my camera, the EPL7 it didn’t come with a user manual but instead consist just of a simple guide. I wanted to show you better on how the screen and the new beauty mode, so I went online to download the user manual. You can find all of Olympus cameras/lenses/flash user manuals here: http://www.olympus.co.jp/en/support/imsg/digicamera/download/manual/pen.cfm.

Before I continue about the EPL7, I just wanted to stress the importance of reading the user manual before actually using the camera. It doesn’t take that long to do so, and it really helps in first understanding the very basic and sometimes more advanced features of your camera. It will most definitely help you make the most of the camera. I have to admit that I, myself have yet to finish reading the manual, but I will because I know that there is so much that this camera can do, that I do not know of yet.

So, back to the EPL7 and selfies! Here is a page of the user manual (page 19) which explains in detail how to shoot self portraits using the EPL7. As I mentioned earlier, with the new LCD screen which tilts downwards, it makes it easier to take a selfie. The movement of the LCD is swift and smooth, which feel rather solid.


As you can read from the page of the manual above, you’ll find every other useful bit of information on taking ‘selfies’ using the Olympus EPL7. The One Touch e-Portrait here is in other words, the beauty mode, which many (especially girls) welcome with open arms. It is very convenient to have that feature in built with the camera, because then there is no need to use another app purposely to smoothen the skin. I can say, just how easy it is now and how amazing it works. 

From this point onwards, I’ll be posting pictures of my ‘selfies’ attempt using the Olympus EPL7 and that is to show you the difference between using the e-Portrait mode as compared to the normal ones. Hence, to better illustrate it, all the pictures posted here will be SOOC (straight out of camera) with no edits whatsoever to be better show the difference.


Even without the caption, you’ll be able to tell which picture has the e-Portrait mode turned on and which one doesn’t. The effect of the e-Portrait or the beauty mode as I like to call it, is that it smoothens the skin (including the neck and my body, if you look closely). It also made my skin looks more vibrant and healthy compare to the picture without the beauty mode.

But what I love the most is that other than my skin, everything else is still as sharp and is in focus. More often than not, when using apps with beauty mode, it tends to blur the whole image. But this isn’t the case with the in-built e-Portrait in the Olympus EPL7. Look at the details in my eyebrows and my eye shadow as well.


To better illustrate my point and to show the stark difference, I decided to do another test. This time around, the lighting condition is controlled along with the same angle taken for both pictures with the similar setting for both. In other words, everything in the picture is the same except one had the e-Portrait mode turned on. I decided to do an almost naked face ‘selfie’, just to show that you no longer need thick foundation and Photoshop to get flawless skin. :p

Again, only my skin is smoothen out but details like my hair, eyebrows and the eyelashes too, if you look closely enough. In all honesty, this e-Portrait mode works better than my skills of brushing and blur in Lightroom and Photoshop. And to think that this was all done within the camera with just one click.


Would you believe if I told you that the picture above has no edits or post-processing done and it is just straight from the camera? For this shot, I enabled the e-Portrait mode along with the One Touch Custom Self Timer, since I was shooting with the 25mm lens. With the self timer enabled, I pressed my shutter slightly to set the focus area and then with the timer enabled, I pressed the shutter and got three shots taken, which means you can pick your best ones.

However, a point to note is that the features I mentioned in this post only works in the iAUTO mode. There are no option for e-Portrait for other shooting modes. Also, if you take multiple shots at the same time with the e-Portrait mode enabled, then it will take a longer time to write/record the image down since the camera is doing some in house post-processing with the camera itself.

Other than that, I found the e-Portrait mode extremely useful and amazing, because while it gives me that flawless face/skin tone finish, I am still able to get clarity from my pictures. The picture above is a great reminder of how sharp the prime lenses are.

I hope you found this post to rather useful or informative or amusing even, because now you know of such technology and *gasps* the secret to my beauty ‘selfies’. :3 Oh wells, here is another ‘selfie’ taken with e-Portrait mode and using the 9mm Fisheye Body Cap.


Now that you read the post all the way till here, you’d be glad you did because here’s your chance to owning a brand new Olympus EPL7, by joining the Celebrating Life with Olympus contest. For more information, click on the link or refer to the picture below. So, what are you waiting for? Take a selfie and submit it to contest page!


PS – I’ll be posting my pictures on Instagram with the hashtag #PENfie, so if you want to see my other selfies … do follow me on Instagram ; @itscarmenhong or click on that hashtag!
Till next time,
xoxo