From my modelling experiences, I am convinced that different cameras can make you look completely different, regardless of settings, photographer skill etc... I've had photos taken by different photographers in the same week, in which I look about 3 dress sizes bigger in one set compared with another... And obviously, if self portraits are your main stock in trade, you really don't want the results to depress you every day! I've never really got the entrenchment with which people dig themselves into the Canon or Nikon "clubs", but I do now! Despite reading the manual from cover to cover and playing with every setting I could find, I found the Nikon pictures cold and just really didn't like how they captured me, at all - I wanted to run back into the arms of my little pink point and shoot, crying!
So, my number one tip if you're looking for a new camera? Try before you buy!Sounds simplistic, but hours of internet research or looking at the results other people have got from a camera are no guarantee that it'll feel right for you and produce the kinds of images you're dreaming about (which is still no excuse not to study your specs, reviews and other bloggers' photos too!).
Having narrowed it down to an "EVIL" Olympus PEN or a Canon DSLR, I ventured to Jessops in Epsom (my nearest store with both in stock), where the staff couldn't have been more helpful, or less pushy (although they were politely bemused when my mum and I inadvertently started talking in unison, thanking them for their help in complete synchrony).
Which brings me to my next top buyers' tip: Take your own memory card with you so that you can compare the photos from different cameras when you get home.Zooming in on a camera's LCD bears no comparison to getting the full picture on your laptop. Mum and our friendly sales assistant took portrait and full length shots of me (a bit cringe, but worth it!) with both cameras, and, although I liked the (very similar) rendering of images from both, we were pretty sold on the Canon from the views on the LCDs (although, after much agonising, our Jessops man decided he'd go for the Olympus)... until we got home.
Now I know you can coax awesome fashion images out of a Canon, but, on Auto, in terrible fluorescent shop floor lighting, the images from the Olympus were undeniably better - crystal clear, with slightly better colour rendering and less overblown highlights (or shiny face syndrome!). So, combined with its ridiculously cute vintage styling and handy size (and weight), it was a no-brainer for me.
It's available from Amazon from £285 (in silver; £320.28 in black) with a 14-42mm lens, but I decided to go for the twin lens kit from Jessops, which includes a 14-42mm and 40-150mm lens for a pretty bargainous £369.95 - as the longer lens is selling for around £200 alone, I figured it was a deal not worth missing! Another plus point for Jessops - and I'm not working for them here! - is that they throw in a 2 year guarantee.
The E-PL3 is the middleweight in the PEN range (L for Lite, between standard and M for Mini) - I was originally looking at the E-P3, but from online reviews gathered that the performance of the Lite version was near-identical. I would never have got the standard version plus 2 lenses for anything close to my £400 target budget, so this was a welcome finding! The third PEN generation seemed to be the best fit for my requirements and budget, balancing features and performance with value for money - the E-PL5 has just become available (for some reason there is no E-PL4), but I haven't tortured myself by reading about how wonderful it might be, at the prices it's currently retailing at!
I'll try to do a fuller review once I've got it up and running (waiting for the battery to charge as we speak)... but I think it's a great option for anyone upgrading from a standard compact, or wanting a more portable DSLR-like camera - it offers pretty much all the control you get with a DSLR, plus better video capabilities than most (up to 29 minutes in full HD with stereo sound) and a hot shoe for accessories/flash upgrades. The one thing I was concerned about from reviews was its low light performance (generally regarded as good, but not as good as a typical DSLR), but, as I've said, on Auto, it surpassed DSLR performance in the shop, so fingers crossed! I'd imagine it's not really a "night landscape" camera, but hopefully for indoor outfit shots it will suffice!
Results of initial experiments coming soon to a screen near you...