Sound advice: Check closely when you find a deal

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 8, 2011 - 11:45 AM

Do research before upgrading camera.

Q I've been thinking about upgrading from my point-and-shoot to a camera that can provide better pictures and can do more in terms of composition. Among Micro Four-Thirds interchangeable-lens cameras the Olympus PEN E-PL2 looks as if it would work nicely. I saw it at a warehouse club for $699 with the 14-42mm normal zoom and 40-150mm telephoto lenses. Do you think this is a good deal?

A The E-PL2 is a great camera, and the second lens will definitely be useful. But what you found is not a good deal.

The E-PL2 is typically shipped with the Olympus 14-42mm MSC (Movie and Still Compatible) lens. This lens focuses silently, so it works well for shooting video.

Previous versions of the 14-42mm lens are audible when focusing, which leads to a clicking sound on videos recorded with the camera. Most users of the earlier lenses turn off the auto-focus when recording video and focus manually. That's far from ideal in most situations.

In the E-PL2 kit you found, the E-PL2 body is the same and the 14-150mm lens is the same, but the 14-42mm lens is the inferior 14-42mm II lens, not the better MSC version. That makes the kit sold at the warehouse club different from those sold elsewhere.

The superior two-lens kit is available online for the same $699. Buying the warehouse club kit means you are getting less for your money, and shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to shooting video.

Just because it is being sold at a warehouse club doesn't mean it is a good deal. Be sure to check all the details and compare model numbers and specifications with products sold elsewhere.

Don't use older flashes

Q I am just learning to use my Panasonic G1 digital camera. I have two older-model flashes from my film camera days, and both are in working order -- a Sunpak Auto 322 Thyristor and a Sunpak Auto 121S electronic flash. Can I use them with my digital camera?

A I wouldn't recommend it.

They have a high-voltage connection that could easily fry your G1 when you connect or fire the flash. Depending on the version of the flash you have, they also might have extra electrical contacts that will not line up properly with your G1, and that could fry it, as well.

Adapters are available that will reduce the voltage, and you can use them in manual camera mode that way.

But your best bet is to get a new flash that matches your camera.

Submit questions and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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