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Olympus E420 in low light – Shots from Historic Fort Snelling

March 29, 2009

Yesterday’s picture was taken through one of the muzzle-loader slots at the historic Fort Snelling.    I’m a bit embarrassed to say this, but I’ve lived here for 20 years, ridden by the fort at least a thousand times and I’ve never looked inside.  Well, Friday was the day.  Thankfully, I had my Olympus E420 with me.

I rode by the fort a little after 6:00AM.   The sun wasn’t up yet, but you could see the light on the horizon.   For about 8 months I’ve had a shot in mind and today was the day I’d stop and try to capture it.    So many photographers are image quality freaks.   Resolution and detail is everything.   However, for this shot, I wanted some texture to the photo.  I wanted something that looked a little more historic and captured the feeling and history of the fort.  I think I got it.    Image quality freaks probably won’t like it, but that’s the beauty of photography.   I took this shot for me and to learn.    I love it.


For this shot, I held the camera on the top of a fence post, ISO 1600 with a time of 1.3 to 1.5 seconds.   I took several different compositions, but I liked this one the best because you can see the end of the wall and  get a sense of the scale of the fort.  I also like the texture of the grassy field and the fort itself.

Later in the morning, around 8:00AM I rode back by the fort.  This time, I went around the front side and took some time to walk around and peer inside.


The sun was rising, so the light was coming in all the slots in the walls.  As I looked inside, I couldn’t help but think about what it must have been like to fight and defend from these rock towers.    I can imagine that on the inside there was a flurry of activity with gunpowder, lead and smoke everywhere.   I imagine them as pretty dirty places.   I was a bit surprised to see low ceilings, although I think I figured out why.   The low ceilings allowed for additional levels so there could be more visibility, angles and muzzle-loader firing options.


Even though the fort has been painstakingly restored, it was still fun looking inside.   The light played tricks on you due to all the angles and reflected light.   The limestone can be fairly white and reflects quite a bit of light.   It was a good test of the E420 in low light conditions.    I did take quite a few pictures.  The E420 doesn’t have image stabilization.    In good light, it’s no big deal, but in low light, it is a bit more important.   I was OK as long as I braced my arm/hand on something.   I did delete many of the images due to composition and/or blur.

Overall, I’m still so pleased with my E420.   I don’t think I’d be carrying around a larger DSLR and the image quality difference compared to a P&S is immense.    The E420 is a challenge in low light.  You need to be patient, meaning learning the camera and taking A LOT of images.    If you are shooting with a tripod (I’m not), I wouldn’t worry too much about the lack of IS.  If you really are concerned about the IS and low light shortcomings of the E42o, I suggest you wait for the newly announced Olympus E620.  It’s about the same size as the E420 and is the smallest camera made with in body IS.    I wouldn’t suggest the E520 as I just don’t believe the benefits are enough to justify the size and price.   I also wouldn’t suggest the Panasonic G1.  The G1 is a sweet camera, but it too lacks in body IS and there is less support in terms of lens and accessories.

I love my Olympus E420.

One Comment leave one →
  1. captain bob permalink
    March 29, 2009 6:03 am

    I really love the 1st and last shots. The last does it for me not only due to the composition but just how warm and inviting the space looks. I really can imagine myself sitting on those steps sipping some coffee out of my thermos.

    And don’t be afraid to pack a small tri-pod someday. You might be surprised at how can get the same shot using iso 400 or 800 but without the noise. But, b&w look great with noise in my mind.

    Keep up the good work.

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