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Saturday, 07 January 2012

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Great article, but I'm biased, as I bought the G1 soon after it was launched, and also have the GH1, GF1, GH2, E-P1 and E-P3! Of these the GH2 is my favourite for practical reasons, but the E-P3 is delightful, though I definitely prefer the Panasonic controls and menus, and of course the built-in EVF and articulated LCD. I still have some Nikon and Sony kit, but micro four thirds is my preference except in rather special situations. I was using the GF1 with a 50mm Summicron only this morning.

Ah! the good old Tiltall tripod. My first and longest lasting tripod. Left it some where on a job and some one must have thought it was theirs, never did get it back. One of the first made, 1960, I believe in the inventors garage. lasted me through thick & thin for 35+ years. Fond memories of days gone by.

I've never been tempted to move away from Olympus. It's kinda like...

There is Halo by Beyonce. Nice, modern, well produced song. And then there's this version by Florence and the Machine, done live on the radio. To me, the second version is much more powerful, in spite of the mistakes and imperfections and all. (Was just listening F+tM while I was reading, in case you were wondering.)

On the other hand, I was again reminded why I like having a DSLR just this afternoon. While I can put the 50-200 on my Pen, it's simply not a really good fit.

Some years ago I tried G1. I was greatly impressed when I half-pressed the shutter and the camera focused on a TV-screen nearby, which had a big face talking about something.

I thought that this must be the way! However, the lenses were not the way and probably will never be the way for me. I just can't stand software correction they need.

Now things has changed however, and I am lusting for G3 or GX1 with Panasonic Leica 25mm F1.4 :D

On the other hand my (almost) trusty Nikon 50D has been the way for many years. If I press the button, the Nikon does the rest. It works, so why to change it :D

(Well, I know many reasons why, but that is another story.)

Great post. Would love to hear your take on the Sony NEX 7 in this context.

Very good piece, Kirk. I wonder, though, whether Sony and Fuji will eventually steal the thunder from MFT with their considerably larger APS-C sensors, especially now Olympus has been so badly wounded. Unfortunately it's hard now to tell whether Olympus is financially viable but even before the scandal it was tbe case that the photographic division lost money and was subsidised by the rest.

And then there was the Sony NEX7 ...

It's all very fine. But "Synergy"? This word is so ugly it almost kills the entire piece.

Thanks Kirk, I have been cruising the m4/3 world for awhile now and you have helped seal the deal on the Pana GH2. A few months back I was ready to pull the trigger on a PEN, but their marketing confused me with the PEN, PEN Lite et al. More annoying on the PEN, when I trolled the web for real life differences, no one could really tell me. It was all a regurgitation of Oly press releases. When I queried one blogger who claimed to have all the cameras with questions about differences, he replied with his referral links to buy the cameras.

You're make a good point about the sync terminals too. While the chances would be slim that I would use the cam for any strobe work, it's just nice to have.

I've looked at the Nikon series and even though I'm a Nikon DSLR user, this CX system just doesn't appeal to me. The main reason is that it is closed loop and I want to experiment more rather than be tied to one set of optics. Thanks for an informative post,

The Nex 7 is nice, but it just doesn't have those tiny, fast primes that are available for m4/3s.

I vote that Fuji gives Kirk a new X-Pro1 to test and tell us about. He certainly knows the comparables well.

Dear Martin,

There is no significant difference in any aspect of image quality between u4/3 and APS-C cameras due to the difference in sensor size. The size difference is too small to matter.

Look to the performance of actual cameras to decide what you like. Ignore the format.

pax / Ctein

I just bit the bullet, and got a gh2, and then the lovely 20mm. So far I really like it, but I will give it a bit longer before I get rid of my canon gear. Meanwhile I have to decide whether or not to get anymore lenses ( e.g. Olympus 45, panny 45-175 and 100-300; the Olympus 12mm is a bit pricey for me at the moment.). Sometime next week I'll print my 1 st photos and see how they do.

Steve

Glad to see that you've stuck with the greatest of tripods: Leitz Tiltall.

Just a quick question:
I've been a happy GH1 owner since the beginning using it 80% for stills, 20% for video.
What I was wondering was to what extent the GH2 would represent a worthwhile step up. Compared to a friend's Nikon D700 the GH1 holds up remarkably well but does lack just a little bit of dynamic range and 'pop' factor.
Any opinions would be very interesting.

Someone here wondered if mirrorless cameras with larger APS-C sensors from Sony and Fuji might steal MFT's thunder. I can only speak for myself but I believe MFT still strikes the best overall compromise between size, cost and quality.

I actually like the NEX-7 and all of Fuji's mirrorless cameras. But they all cost more than comparable MFT cameras, the Fuji's clearly aren't everyone's cup of tea and the ergonomic results are absurd when one mounts anything other than a compact prime on one of the NEX bodies.

I think there's room for all of these cameras and systems, and all have their appeal and specialties. But I don't see any of them neutralizing MFT. Others may disagree but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I also mess around with several systems, including a pretty complete Panasonic outfit, and I am coming to the view that there may be a certain size -- about like a Leica M or a Pentax Spotmatic -- that is perfect for a camera. I think Nikon wisely did not try to shrink the V1 so that it would be smaller than the small m4/3 cameras or the Nex-7 because those bodies might be *too small* already. I tried a Nex (a 5? I'm not sure) at Samy's with a zoom lens, and it felt like I should be hanging onto the zoom, rather than the camera body -- but a zoom is not really designed to be hung onto. I get some of that with my GX1s and the Panny 7-14 and 100-300. I like the Pannys because they are great for travel, and I travel a lot, but the other day I picked up my girlfriend's Pentax K5 and was amazed at how *right* it felt. You could get a good grip with both hands, balance longer lenses, and, of course, the view finder cannot yet be matched by any EVF. People keep saying this, over and over, and then Nikon comes out with another boat anchor in its D4. Even with the mirror box, there's no reason that DSLRs have to be as big as they are. The Spotmatic had a mirror, and outside the mirror box was large enough to accommodate all the electronic guts of a VF1...so why won't Nikon or Canon make that camera? I think *lots* of people want one. Do they think all that weight and size is desirable for some reason?

And a question: how is that Craftsman chest for camera storage? That possibility has never occurred to me, and I could certainly use something like it...

Kirk, some time ago on Visual Science Lab you referred to a tantalizing trick on the Olympus Pen cameras: that the EVF image shimmers when you get manual focus just right. Does the GH2 EVF have the same property?

Right now I'm saving money via indecision between a Canon EOS 3 body and a Panasonic G3 kit + 20mm. To add to the Rule of Thirds effect, about a factor of 3 difference in price between the two.

All I know is that since I bought the Ep2, VF2, and two little fast primes, I'm taking more pictures of people and places I'd never have before, and liking the results more and more. I'm sure there are better lenses out there and other cameras that can run rings around the Pen, but the bottom line, for me - it's fun again. (Although I do no commercial work, it is good to know these little gems can handle that work too).

cfw

I am going to buy a V1 set, wait for a D800 and continue shooting only.

I did follow the trend to 'experiment' for short time and find that it's completely a waste of time. It's an activity of keeping our lust to keep buying new toys.

Out there are a lot of interesting things to capture and enjoy!

Hi Kirk, great post and I agree 100% with what you say. I am a travel photographer who usually lugs a D3 and assorted primes around South East Asia. After reading your blog I bought a V1 to try as a travel kit for a trip to Myanmar and it worked out pretty well. As you point out the difference is there between the big cameras and mirror less ones but the advantages for travel unquestionably lie with the V1and only once or twice did I find myself wishing for the F 1.4 Nikkors. The results from the trip are here:

http://phototravelasia.blogspot.com/

Very interested to see more of the flash work you have been doing with the micro 4/3 cameras. Thanks for a nice post.

Colin

"I am coming to the view that there may be a certain size...that is perfect for a camera."

I came to that conclusion in the 1990s. Nothing's perfect for everyone, but my ideal was something about the dimensions of the Pentax LX, about 18-20 oz. (500-560g) for the body, 5-15 oz. (140-425g) for any one lens. I'll still stand by that even now.

That's assuming I carry a camera on a strap, though, never in a "pocket," something I've never wanted to do particularly. (My iPhone is probably the first pocket camera I've ever had that makes sense as such, although I don't think I'll use it as a camera much.)

Mike

That's none other than a tiltall! I own a manfrotto/bogen and a 60's to 70's tiltall. No competition, the Tiltall wins by huge margins.

Kirk, given your history with the Leica M6 (I first read you when you did a review of the M6 on Photo.net), I was rather surprised you didn't take too well to the Fuji X100, a camera which I bought after reading a fabulously eloquent review here by one of the contributors, and a camera which for all intents and purposes, have fulfilled the spiritual role of the digital incarnation of my (long gone) M6TTL + 35 f2 cron.

I am willing to bet both Mike and yourself will no sooner than later buy for yourselves each the new Fuji X-Pro1 that will be announced to much fanfare in a few hours time.

The X100 is my decisive moment digital; the new Fuji interchangeable lens version will be all that the Leica M9 is, and more. And more importantly, it will be affordable for mere mortal photographers like myself who are still grinding out a living doing documentary photography in today's tough economy for photogs....

I was buying a new P/S every year for about 5 years, searching for a good travel camera because my Nikon D100/200/300s and lenses were simply too heavy to lug on long trips, esp. as I passed the age of 60. I finally bought an E-P1 with zoom and took it to Turkey for 2 weeks. The results were as good as the Nikon for my purposes.
I added lenses and 2 more cameras (E-PL1 and E-PL2) and now cover from 9-300mm (18-600 in 35mm language) plus the Oly system flash, so I have all I need. Oh, and the viewfinder is a necessity, esp for longer lenses. It's really cool how it swivels - makes it easy to shot the moon when overhead!
I came back from a safari in Kenya last spring and had Meridian print a 30X40" print from a full frame face-on of an elephant - all you could see was the head. The print is amazing - shows bugs on his ear!
The Nikon stuff? Packed it all up and gave it to my son over a year ago. Never missed it!

Kirk, though the post was an interesting and good read I feel that it is no general guideline on choosing a camera. I do not know if your intention was that. Here in India it is not easy to buy cameras just like that. It takes a whole month's income. I am not talking of savings, it is income. For some one like me who does not earn one's bread and butter from photography, buying a camera is a life time achievement. A second camera is an unpardonable luxury. So it was with great expectations that I got an Olympus Ep-1 even while I had good camera. But what a disappointment it was! One must also realize that the choice of lenses is a minor factor in choosing a camera. For an average photographer any given lens is fairly good enough. By that count the ability of Pen cameras to shoot with any lens is not a big deal. On the other hand the possibility of carrying the camera in the pocket is a real big deal indeed. I use my old trusted Canon G10 and my newly acquired Pen, but trust the G10 to deliver the goods. It is much less intimidating on the street. I do not know why, you even as a professional, have to have so many cameras. The few professionals I know manage with one or two types of cameras. One DSLR system and a medium format. Can a M4/3 replace an SLR? Certainly not. Then why bother? Can a pen perform better than a digicam on the street? I doubt!
Give me my trusted Canon G10, I am satisfied any day. I do not need any focal lengths more that that zoom range. And I belong to the 99%.
ranjitgrover@yahoo.com
India

Dear Martin,

There is no significant difference in ANY ASPECT of image quality between u4/3 and APS-C cameras due to the difference in sensor size. The size difference is too small to matter.

Look to the performance of actual cameras to decide what you like. Ignore the format.

pax / Ctein

Ctein, I wonder what this statement is based on? To me this doesn't sound correct. The size of APS-C is double the size of MFT sensor.

These new small cameras are a real tread. People don't pay attention at you when you handle them. For five month now the diminutive G3 is my carry along camera, almost exclusively with the 20/1.7. The image quality is superb up to 800 ISO.

I had hoped MFT would replace my bulkier DSLR system, but decided to continue using both systems. When discretion is not an issue I much prefer to use the D700 with a prime lens. This camera, which could be a bit smaller though, handles much better, while I am often hitting the wrong button on the command crowded G3. I also prefer the bigger camera's optical viewfinder, which renders colour, contrast and changing lighting conditions much better, thus keeping me in touch with what I am photographing. Finally, experience shows the weight of the DSLR noticeably reduces camera shake (none of the bodies or lenses I currently use have IS).

This being said I am happy to have found a equilibrium between these systems, and will continue to go the way of two systems for some time at least.

You strike one core issue that's a bit slipped out of focus recently, so to speak, in the talk about the new formats, the PENs and NEXes etc: Usability. Which is the camera that can do the most as a system, that is, body, lenses, and accessories one can use with it. Here the "full size" m4/3 G/GH series models really win over the competing new format cameras.

Of course if the camera is an add-on to some "full size" system, then a PEN or a GX-1 or an X100 will work great for specialty purposes. But if you replace your DSLR equipment completely then you need a workhorse. m4/3 isn't totally there yet but the GH-2 comes closest by far. I've had a G1 since they came out and went "full guerilla", i.e. no more DSLR to complement it. So I need a built in EVF. I really love the swivel screen, it is extremely handy for unusual perspectives. The small size of the camera viz a DSLR is great to look less intimidating, especially when photographing kids. You can mount a flash trigger. You can reverse the screen and have it protected. You can mount a fisheye or a fast lens. etc. Only weakness of Panasonic is their flash system, no manual flash setting on the G1 so you can't easily trigger slaves with the pop up unit. But that being said I have done thousands of studio shots with the G1 now, it is an all around workhorse already - and the GH2 is better.

I actually haven't "upgraded" to the GH2, besides video there isn't quite enough of a difference to the G1 for me. Noise isn't such a huge issue for me and in studio shots with the beloved 25/1.4 the results are flawless.

In one aspect I'd like to see improvement from m4/3, and that is in gentler clipping and overall smoother tonalities, colors basically. Here the larger formats win. But no NEX, Fuji, PEN, so far has the usability of the Panasonic G/H/1-2-3 series.

The strength of a standard is worth a lot.And micro four third is perhaps that standard where this is most obvious. And this article one of the best ones describing its strengths.

There are other, such as the (Leica) Both F and M-mount comes into my mind (you can benefit from both on a M4/3). As far as I know, Sony has released its E-mount as open source, and I suppose that they hope that other vendors will adopt it and that there will be a flourishing market with products from other vendors.

There will be more of this kind.

Last September I had a photo holiday for a week, my first visit to the isle of Arran, exploration with an eye to landscape, geology and long exposures. I took my Canon 500D, my Hassie 500C/M and my Shen-Hao 5x4 LF kit. I used my GH2 for 99% of the photos and the 500D for the others (for want of an intervalometer cable). It works; with a brace of old lenses (a Pentacon 50mm f/1.8 that's the sharpest I own, beating the pants off the kit lenses), it's all I need.

I'm trying not to be rational about the other gear now....

Hi Kirk, just want to say how much I enjoy your articles and blog.

This article proves to me that for most experienced photographers there is no perfect camera for every situation or even every photographer.

If one at least accepts that you may need two or three cameras to "cover the bases" then the challenge becomes how to define your various needs and then make the appropriate choices.

For me, the combination of D700 and J1 is actually amazingly versatile. Even more so when I realised how close the J1 came in terms of AF and how close it's video is to a D7000.

Do I need something in between? Nope. Not "logically". But I still really enjoy using an APSC DSLR for some reason. It's closer to "do everything" than the other two. After all the SLR has been the "do it all" camera for a generation and I can see why. It's an amazing combination of performance and function for the price and size.

Now that "general purpose" mantle is threatened by the MFT and CSC brigade, but it's not been a whitewash by any means and I think there are two major reasons for that. Upgrade path and system expansion. None of them have enough differentiated models, lenses or accessories to make them true "system cameras" but they are no cheaper than low end SLRs and just as fiddly.

That's not an issue if you already own a system camera, but if you are getting into photography and only want to buy one body, it's a serious consideration.

I will say that there will be a lot fewer reflex mirrors in two year's time. Nikon proved with on-sensor PDAF that you can have your cake and eat it, and get truly absurd burst speeds as a result.

But I can't see Nikon and Canon giving up on their lens mounts. I can see them both providing mirrorless solutions around those mounts which replace entry level SLR models and gradually the midrange and pro models too.

It will be interesting to see how the packaging gets around the longer registration distance. I can see collapsible lenses (retracting like digicam lenses?) and built in ND filters somewhere in the future perhaps. Even replaceable hot mirrors.

But what affect this will have on the existing MFT and CSC market is interesting to speculate on, especially if they get the packaging right.

Life is about to get interesting, but I can't help looking at the D4 as the impressive swansong of a design and format that has got about as far as it can get, and it will be video that kills it. Mirrorless cameras just make so much more sense for mixed stills/video usage.

Personally I think that is pretty sad. It will be the end of the "mechanical" camera and its complete transformation into "gadget". Everything now is becoming disposable.

Now, where did I leave my filofax...

The Nikon V1 will fail, of course, not in the least because it looks it was designed in Pyongyang.

A certain Mr. hobby has chosen a different path....

http://www.strobist.blogspot.com/

hello,

another great article, thank you much! i have been doing almost the same over the last few years, changing camera after camera, always chasing after the better gadget, the newer gizmo, the next next best thing ... to be honest, i am getting tired of it and i think i will force myself to stop and take a good break from it now, and instead concentrate on taking better images with the camera(s) i have.
i have no interest in the new sony, the fujis, etc., etc.; i owned and E-PL1 and then and E-P2, and they were wonderful cameras. I have a V1 now as a travel camera, and it is one of the best small outfits on the market.
by the way, will people ever STOP abbreviating the names olympus and panasonic? it is so annoying to read those shortened versions ....

i have the feeling that if we continue to chase after the 'next wonder', we will spend more time obsessing over technical specifications and features than taking great photos.

...back to my rangefinders now :-)

Dear Anurag,

The difference in areas is rather less than a factor of two.

Almost every aspect of image quality scales with the linear size of the sensor, not the area. Comparing areas is a highly misleading measurement as it exaggerates any differences.

The improvements in various aspects of image quality that could be attributed to the larger sensor are often smaller than the differences between camera models and designs. All sensors, electronics, signal processing and software are not created equal.

That's what "not significant" means. Doesn't mean there aren't differences attributable to the difference between the two sensor sizes, means they are not the major source of differences between camera models.

pax / Ctein


I currently own an EPL2 and haven't experienced looking thru the VF2/3 viewfinders and seeing what everyone is raving about. Thom Hogan in sansmirror.com has suggested clip-on viewfinder loupes as a worthy alternative. Can anyone compare the two? Is there really a huge disparity considering the price difference?

My initial thought seeing this article is that "synergy" requires cooperation and I see Olympus and Panasonic as competing tooth & nail with each other to the detriment of the micro 4/3 platform. Cooperation (synergy) could have resulted in a vastly more attractive platform 3 years in. While his article doesn't mention the plethora of kit zooms rolled out by the two companies while the system lacked a fast prime besides the 20/1.7 (particularly a portrait prime) Thom Hogan recently wrote an article titled: "Do Panasonic and Olympus Know About Each Other ?"

http://www.sansmirror.com/newsviews/december-2011/do-panasonic-and-olympus.html

It's funny how cameras are mostly a matter of taste. I've tried several APS-C cameras, but I really prefer how full frame or film looks. It's not about resolution, almost not anymore about ISOs, it's about how the bokeh renders and the handling with my huge hands. I don't know if it's me, but those small cameras bokehs looks rough, to me, not velvety enough.
Now, as more people move to micro 4/3, I'm trying 645, mostly for fun. I just don't care about the additional weight.

Whatever your choice is, have fun!

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