My life in cameras: Part 4b Olympus PEN E-P1 and M.Zuiko 17mm F2.8 review (Yes the lens is incredibly tiny)

I wrote in my first post about the Olympus Pen E-P1 that I wanted something smaller and lighter for everyday walks. The E-P1 I bought was in a kit with the collapsible zoom I talked about and a small 17mm pancake lens. Additionally they added a glass viewfinder. You can look at the size in this review here (no I am not paid by dpreview, they are just my go to resource to reaquaint myself with the cameras I owned).

Life with the M.Zuiko 17mm F2.8 pancake

The lens is about 22mm long and has “heft” of 70g. Seriously if you come from a big DSLR with full frame lenses this all felt like a toy. But the camera was almost pocketable (at least in a coat) and it was my first dedicated 35mm lens. This 35mm equivalent stuff is really annoying but it is the reference we are all used too even though no one uses 35mm film anymore (well the Hipsters do) and most digital sensors are way smaller than 35mm film. But here we are.

35mm is kind of an iconic focal length. Together with 50mm it is supposed to represent the human vision most closely and was used by many famous street photographers. I came to like this focal length quite a lot. It was wide enough to encompass enough of a scene but not so wide as to look distorted. It might look boring at first glance but I do enjoy the natural viewing angle.

Olympus PEN E-P1 and M.Zuiko 17mm F2.8 examples:

Waves on the Baltic Sea

Waves on the Baltic Sea (Olympus PEN EP-1 M.Zuiko 17mm F.2.8)
Waves on the Baltic Sea (2011)
Olympus PEN E-P1 + M.Zuiko 17mm F2.8 F10 1/320s ISO 200

Let’s start this post with another sea picture. Most people would take such a picture in landscape format. I mean it is a landscape after all. But I was experimenting and I kept this one. The white capped water in the front suggest the viewer stands right in the water. But do not worry, I stayed dry it was a very cold March day after all.

Boarded-up Bakery in Berlin

Boarded-up Bakery in Berlin (Olympus PEN EP-1 M.Zuiko 17mm F.2.8)
Boarded-up Bakery in Berlin (2011)
Olympus PEN E-P1 + M.Zuiko 17mm F2.8 F2.8 1/60s ISO 320

There is this area right next to the famous Alexanderplatz that never really took off commercially for a very long time. There are two hotels nearby and a large empty office block (the former bureau of statistics for the GDR). It was an ugly area and therefore my photographic eye was drawn to it. This shop went in and out of business for a while. In recent years they built more apartments, offices and hotels nearby but it is still a dead area with little lingering foot traffic.


Kulturhaus Berlin Weissensee (Olympus PEN EP-1 M.Zuiko 17mm F.2.8)
Kulturhaus Berlin Weissensee (2011)
Olympus PEN E-P1 + M.Zuiko 17mm F2.8 F6.3 1/320s ISO 200

This area also never really took off commercially even though there are some nice “Altbauten” nearby. I guess the main street was just too busy with traffic to be attractive for pedestrians. But in today’s Berlin even this area is quickly gentrifying. So maybe this old building has found another use for a hip coffeeshop. In East Germany it was one of many, every little town had a “Kulturhaus”. It was the place to gather and they offered small shows, movies, meetups, political discussions and mandatory propaganda events. You can compare it to a community center but it was government or rather party run.

Open Casket

Open Casket (Olympus PEN EP-1 M.Zuiko 17mm F.2.8)
Open Casket
Olympus PEN E-P1 + M.Zuiko 17mm F4.5 F10 1/200s ISO 200

Don’t worry. No one is in there. The actual grave is below. I like old cemeteries and this one has graves and crypts from the 19th century. But because land is valuable and many cemeteries are right in the city center (well they were on the outskirts when first built though) they are being “consolidated”, the graves removed and the land turned over for development. Here the local Nimbys succeeded in stopping any construction plans and part of the cemetery was made into a small park with a playground. They even kept some grave stones as a remembrance. Although it is a nice park the local citizens simply exacerbated the shortage of housing and raised the prices of their already owned apartments.

Potsdamer Platz Train Station

Potsdamer Platz train station (Olympus PEN EP-1 M.Zuiko 17mm F.2.8)
Potsdamer Platz train station
Olympus PEN E-P1 + M.Zuiko 17mm F2.8 F2.8 1/60s ISO 1250

And back to train stations. This one is Potsdamer Platz which is quite new. Of course it is a monstrosity made out of glass and concrete. There is nothing that keeps one staying in place, to spend some time or to gather. Everything is very functional to keep people moving from A to B and preferably into the shopping mall right behind me.

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