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Wednesday, 30 May 2018


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I've been using the E-M1 Mark II for a bit over a year, and we currently have a G9 in the house the wife is trying to like. I like the E-M1 Mark II better. It seems to be a cut above in high ISO performance, the color calibration (especially using the Lightroom camera-matching 'Natural' profile) seems more pleasant to me, and the phase detect AF is like the ISO performance just a cut above the Panasonic's system in my estimation. I even appreciate that the pre-defined AF areas of the Oly to support the phase detect make it easier to wing the AF point around. The Panasonic either needs a larger area (which gets less accurate/more prone to searching), or you have to use the precision point and it just feels like moving through molasses trying to get it in place compared to the Oly. The Panasonic does have a few nice features, especially the one where as soon as you raise it to your eye it will focus the last used point before you touch the shutter, and it has a much snappier startup time (I think the Olympus always runs its super sonic cleaning at startup, which is good for dust but bad for 'I need to take a picture right now'). But my heart is still with the E-M1 Mark II, of which I've become so enamored I plan to pick a second one up at the end of its life cycle to keep them working as long as I can.

Mike, I have both the E-M1 Mk II and the PEN-F. I love the E-M1 Mk II for the ease in handling and using. I am thinking of selling the PEN-F since it is harder to use with the heavier zoom lenses. It is the difference in the grip. There isn't that much difference in size or weight.

I suggest that you order both the E-M1 Mk II and the G9 and try them. See which one fits your hand best, and then return the other within 30 days. B&H is great about this.

I haven't tried the G9 so I can't say anything about it, but I love my E-M1 Mk II.

Just personal observations, neither technical nor scientifically rigorous:

-I bought my wife a G85 last year. She loves the thing! It's the first camera of the digital age that she has bonded with. I think finally she has recognized a successor to her beloved Nikon F2, which she still has, and says she'll never part with. (With which she'll never part? Who made these silly rules?)

-Don't knock that 12-60mm lens. All of that image stabilization engineering offsets the slower aperture.

-I would love to get a GX8 to replace my GX7, but then I'd be just chasing the next best thing of incremental improvement. Besides, most of my shooting is with the LX100. Still M4/3, but easier to tote around. (And LX7 for convenience.)

-Olympus menu system makes me crazy.

I've really enjoyed my experience with the Panasonic GX-8. I don't like to use it above ISO 1200 but the files at lower ISO's are excellent. I have made several 15x20 inch prints from the files. At lower ISO's the files compare favorably with my Nikon D-800e.

Don't be afraid of the slower 12-60 Panasonic lens. I got it as part of a kit with the GX-8. My intention was to get rid of it but the lens pulls well above it's weight in acuity and lack of chromatic aberration. It's lightweight and weather sealed also. It feels perfectly balanced on the GX-8.

I've updated the GX-8 to the current firmware and have yet to see the softness issue that others have reported. Here's a sample shot with the 12-60 lens that was taken when I was testing the camera. These shots were taken before I upgraded the firmware.


Here's another image shot with the GX-8 and the 14-140 Panasonic lens (the older f 5.8 model)


With both images I had the camera on a tripod. If you'd like to see the original RAW files or the processed images at full resolution feel free to e-mail me and I'll make them available to you.

I'd say the G9 is a step above any of the older cameras simply due to the processing engine. I've owned the GX8 and have GH5's and can say without hesitation that the files from the G9 are just a bit better and more detailed. The IBIS is awesome and the Hi-Res mode really works.

I've been using one for about 2 months and have shot m43 exclusively since 2013, and I use them to put food on the table, every day. So my time with the cameras is pretty extensive.

[Beautiful stuff Mike. I always like looking at your work. The first of the Montclair State images (grad hugging two women) is superb. --Mike]

This is a mix of personal and paying work and were all shot on the G9 with iso's from 200 to 12,800: https://www.mikepeters-photography.com/Category/Lumix-G9-Images/

I have two GX8s. I have occasional spasms of GAS, but haven't acted on any of them, because for the first time in quite a few years, I'm satisfied with what I have. I've been taking everything from street shots to snapshots to really, really boring documentary shots (cracked concrete on a house we're building) and I've been traveling with them, too, and for me, they're about perfect. They are, IMHO, the equivalent of the 50's Leica M -- not really the super-best quality in large prints, perhaps, but good enough even for very serious people. (I think Ctein still shoots m4/3 and he is known to be somewhat fussy.)

Given your previous post, I think what a guy like you needs is a fast handy camera like a GX8 (which I believe is actually slightly smaller than a Leica M10) as a long-term shooter, and then the ordinary stream of cameras you need to look at to do your job. Just kind of accept that as your situation, that you're going to have two sets of equipment, one to live with, one passing through.

I haven't owned both of these cameras, but I shot with the Panasonic G9 and the Panasonic 12-60 for about an hour an a half at the Sacramento Zoo a few weeks ago as part of a Mike's Cameras "Demo Day", and I really liked it...a LOT. I found the camera to be logically designed, ergonomically comfortable, and fast, fluid and intuitive to use. It reminded me a lot of my Canon 1Ds, so it felt right at home, right away. In actual use, it was very responsive and snappy, and its depth-from-defocus AF system was very fast. It also had a very nice and soft shutter release. I also found its menu system to be logical and easy to understand and navigate, unlike the E-M1 MkII my buddy was shooting with, or the Sony A9 I shot with later in day. Olympus' menu system is almost as bad as Sony's.

One thing you should be aware of: the G9 is big for a mirrorless camera. So, if you're thinking it will be the same size as your X-T2...well, it ain't. There were one or two very small niggles I had with the camera, but on the whole I really l liked it a lot and if the Fuji X system did not exist, I would be looking really hard at the G9.

I also shot with a Sony A9 for about an hour and a half, and while the image quality from it was excellent, my comments about the user experience, user interface, ergonomics, and menu system are better left unsaid. Lets just say I was worried my knuckles would never be the same again, as they were seriously pinched between the lens (Sony 70-200mm f/4) and camera grip. Ouch.

My strong advice would be to rent before purchasing. I'd also rent an X-H1, too, if I were you, 'cause its almost exactly the same size as the G9, has IBIS, and you could keep the lenses you already have.

I have the E-M1 Mark II.

To me it is a decent repackaging the standard DSLR from around 2010 into a much smaller size that lets me use the excellent Olympus and super-small-for-their-FOV lenses.

I have no major complaints, it does everything I need it to do and more. After an initial setup phase I mostly point and shoot. I wish I could do wireless image transfers to my laptop in a simple way. But that's too much to hope for, it seems.

I like the crazy new fast frame rate things. But I only use the slowest one.

I have a Pentax K5, with IBIS, and I'm quite happy with it.

Interesting post considering the one that just preceded it. You can't go wrong with the GH5. Just ask Kirk Tuck.

I am sure the Sony A7iii you have got on loan has IBIS.Sony calls is Steady Shot. Look at Menu 1 (camera symbol), page 8, line 2.

Hi Mike
I have the pen F and love it. For me it’s perfect either with a set of primes or the 12-40 pro.

And as for the sensor - just right - I think you did a blog that describes it perfectly for me (Started with a bright red car😇 )

And yes, I like and use that little nob on the front !
All the best

Well I'm an owner of an EM-1 II, but I haven't used it for a few weeks as I've been out and about with my Leica gear. Some things of course a Leica just can't do, and for that the Olympus comes in handy. (There is of course far too much to think about (focus point placement, AF mode, zoom setting, etc, etc.) – all of which gets in the way of inspiring pictures. But if you know you are going to need those things then just bite the bullet.)

I got the EM-5 when it came out in 2012, and found the quality was more than good enough for my 13x19 prints, but the camera was really too small to hold. However, the ergonomics on the EM-1 II are about perfect, especially when mated with the larger PRO line of lenses, and it's still substantially smaller than the DSLRs with their full size lenses. And the IBIS is indeed as good as it's reputation.

Have you considered after-purchase service and support? That's something that would be a significant tie-breaker for me (and I sense you may be at that stage). Others will have more experience than my few anecdotes and I hope they'll weigh in, but I think on that score, the OM-D would win hands-down over anything else you've mentioned here.


Don't you have a loaner Sony A7 - with nice IBIS - somewhere at Online Photographer World Headquarters?

"I'm still aimed at buying a new camera that has IBIS.

I'd be interested in hearing about anyone's experience with any of the new Micro 4/3 cameras that have the new 20-MP Micro 4/3 sensor."

I can speak to the Panasonic GX8, which is the finest Micro Four-thirds camera I've owned. The IBIS is improved over the GX7, but the outstanding feature is the DUAL IS with newer lenses, such as Panasonic-Leica 100-400mm.


The rules for hand holding using the reciprocal of the focal length have been tossed in the trash can.

Below: 800mm, 1/80 sec.

Below: 800mm, 1/100 sec.

Wonderful fully articulated touch screen LCD, tilt EVF, 5 custom modes -- and many more features I use daily.

- Richard

I have G9. I chose it over Olympus to get dual IS with Panasonic lenses, so that was it. I believe both are fine cameras.

For my purposes focusing works better than in E-M5 II, which has trouble getting flowing water surface in focus. G9 nails that without hesitation. Also the manual focusing with picture-in-picture is easy to use.

Constant preview with zebras at maximun 105% makes it easy to set manual exposure (similar to Oly orange color). Shooting long exposures G9 can show the exposure time effect up to 8s in preview, which I believe is a unique feature, and not mentioned in any review.

I wish it had is a tilt or two-way screen rather than fully articulated, but I can live with that. Also some of the features are not clearly explained in manual and have dependencies which are not explained nor obvious.

I haven't made critical prints yet from G9, so I won't comment on DR or resolution.

Hi Mike,

I added the E-M1ii to my kit late last year. It joined two E-M1s that were my primary cameras, as well as a tiny GM5 and an E-M5 gathering dust. Naturally I couldn't consider a G9 because Panny was keeping it in their surprise bag at the time. But because I still shoot with four-thirds lenses as well as micro four-thirds, I'm not a likely G9 buyer because it won't deliver good focus response with those. Evidently it does a good job with the Oly Pro lenses and is a viable alternative for a fully m4/3 kit.

The E-M1ii I like to call an E-M1 back from charm school. Very familiar layout and shape but does everything better than the older model, an observation reinforced whenever I use them together. I won't sum up all the improvements but want to give special attention to the shutter, which is wonderfully damped and so very quiet. An aesthetic pleasure and I suspect it's also contributing less vibration than the old unit. Landscape/architecture/studio photographers should be thrilled with the addition of high-res mode and the dual-processors combined with the big data pipeline and dual cards mean never running into the buffer (at least I have yet to).

Putting pixel count aside the new camera's images require less work, so a combined improvement from the sensor and TruPic VIII. I can't attest to which parameters are improved but see the difference between models from every two-camera shoot.

It may well be the Pen F delivers that same image profile and if so, the lighter, smaller, cheaper and prettier camera may be an legitimate alternative to the flagship E-M1ii. Not for my uses as a sideline sports dad, but I'd probably own a Pen F as much to gaze at the thing as go make photos.

Will be interested to see other responses. My opinion is heavily influenced by my peculiar kit and current mix of subjects, and may not extrapolate to others at all.

"Have you made that decision one way or the other?"

Sans aucun doute.

In accord with your last post, I have chosen the camera that has the least flaws for my needs and desires.

I used and liked a GX7 and use and love a GM5 for my light, compact kit, so I'm not anti Panny.

However at the moment, no Panny has Focus Bracketing/Stacking, which is a big part of my photography now, so the G9, whatever it's other sterling qualities, is a non-starter.

With the E-M1 II, Oly has chosen to copy the big, PRO DSLRs, with three Custom Settings on the Mode dial. Nice looking, might be a draw for those coming from CaNikon, but a very real step backward in actual usability for taking pictures from the MySets they've had forever.

MySets may be assigned to Fn buttons, E-M1 II Custom Settings may not. One push, and I'm in my custom settings, another and I'm back where I was. Using the Mode dial, unlocking and turning to get to the custom settings; turning again and relocking to get back, is much slower and more

My answer to your choice is a highly informed and firm Neither.

The clear winner is not in your choice nor on your list, E-M5 II. I have two, use them extensively, often both around my neck at once, and they are, at this time, the best camera - for me.

My great hope is that Oly will continue to reserve the premium feature of Custom Settings on Mode Dial for their premium model, and the E-M5 III will retain MySets.

I've toyed with getting the G9 to "upgrade" my EM1, which mainly serves me as a really good event camera at this point. Posts like this don't help when I see photos like at Mike Peter's website.

I rented the EM1 II and took it to Alaska last year. There's no doubt the 20mp sensor is improved. To me, it seems most improved in color sensitivity. The G9 is probably similar. Using M43 in general compared to my K1, the edge to edge sharpness is wonderful, superlative, but the color isn't quite as good. But these new sensors and the top m43 lenses really help, I think.

"still only available in a kit with the slower 12–60mm lens, grrr."

The problem for me is not so much the speed, but the optical quality. I tried the Panny, tested it and sent it back. I bought the Leica when it appeared, and am much happier with the it. It lives by default on one of my E-M5 IIs.

No, the Panny one isn't awful; it's a pretty good lens, while the Leica is outstanding.

I have an EM1 mk2 (and a mk1). I've owned each since the day it came out. I'm biased, but it is a bias that Olympus earned and continues to earn from me. I really like using the EM1.

I played with a G9 at a trade show and found the physical interface to be very very similar to Canon EOS cameras. The physical layout feels very "Canon" to me. This is neither good nor bad, but it is distinct from the Olympus (which has a different design concept). I didn't exactly put the camera through it's paces, but it struck me as a fine machine.

I love both the GX7 and GX8, and I was hoping that the GX9 would be a cheaper way to get the lovely 20MP sensor for my back-up camera, but it is not to be. The EVF in the GX9 (and all the other non-top-of-the-line Panasonics) suffers badly from fast movement. I cannot use that camera to track anything that requires camera panning (which is a lot of what I shoot these days).

I have both the EM1 Mark II and the G9 with all the long lenses. I got the Olympus first with the 300mm f4 then the Panasonic 100-400 and eventually the 200mm f2.8. My assumption was that the G9 should have worked better along with the Panasonic lenses. But for birds in flight, the G9 is practically useless. The camera is nowhere near as responsive and it hunts in poor or high contrast lighting situations. If I have to do it all over again, it would have been another Em1 Mark II. Regarding IBIS working with the OEM lenses, I fail to see that much difference between Olympus and Panasonic. They work equally well for their respective long lenses. For shorter focal length it isn't a real issue anyways.

FWIW, if you need long lenses and great focusing, I haven't found anything that can beat the Sony A9 yet. It is the best mirrorless camera by a large margin. I reach for it far more than the A7RIII. The IBIS on Sony works almost as well as the M43 cameras, but the lenses are too big.

Ah, easy wireless transfers from either Panasonic or Olympus would get me to upgrade. My Canon Rebel had a dedicated "print" button. Why is there no dedicated "share" button? I'm looking at a photo on the back of the camera, press "share" and go to my phone (or big computer) to receive it and then I'm in the flow. It's such a clumsy workflow currently. (Hi Thom.)

The answer to your problem is none of the above. You can get an Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II body for $449 (add a grip for $30 if it’s too small) from B&H which gets you IBIS and keep your Fuji XT1.

I have a PEN-F and an OM-D E-M2ii. I love the PEN-F for its beauty, and I love to use it with light, fast primes, but it is in at least three ways a flawed camera.

#1: the knob on the front is completely useless, unless you use the camera in a certain way for shooting JPEGs. Stupid.

#2: the light sensor for switching between EVF and LCD is problematic, when you have the sun in your back. You often have to use a hand to block the light.

#3: the extra grip is mandatory. Forget about the camera without it. It makes the camera very usable, but once it is installed, you need pincers to extract the SD card. No joking, I have pincers in my bag. It's not really that inconvenient, but it is slightly ... ridiculous :)

Does not sound *that* flawed? You're right. The problem is, that between the two, the E-M1ii is a very much better camera.

#1: bigger viewfinder! That's much of a difference!

#2: much better image stabilization. Actually when using my "travel lens", the 12-100/f4 PRO (stabilized in the lens as well), I can hold two seconds at the short end and half a second at the long end. Incredible!

#3: much better handling with big hands and much better balance with heavier lenses.

Knowing your preferences, it is no question at all: the OM-D E-M1ii is by far the better choice.

As to Olympus' menu system: I like it :)

Don't you owe us* that A7 III review before you go off shopping for another brand?

[*Said fully acknowledging you provide us this blog and your expertise in exchange for nothing whatsoever from us.]

Back in 2013, I bought a Pentax K3 with IBIS. Used it exclusively for the next 3 years. I could notice the difference IBIS made with hand-held macro shots or slow shutter speeds. But then in late 2016, I got my first Fuji. Now, 2 years later and a total of 3 Fuji cameras, I haven't missed the IBIS. True, I hardly do any hand-held macro work with the Fujis, but still haven't missed IBIS even with the close-focus shots I take. Does IBIS work? Yes. Do I think I really need it? No. Maybe it has more viability with long focal lengths, which again, I seldom use.

I don't need to make the G9/EM-1.2 decision because I've already made the Panny/Oly decision in favor of Panasonic. I had the EM-5.2 and just didn't like the handling or menu system, although it took decent photos. I replaced it with the GX9 which is a whole better world of handling, menus, and image quality. Yes, the new 20MP sensor is noticeably better than the 16 which I have on my G85. The kit 12-60 that currently comes with the GX9 is not bad at all, but my go-to lens on it is the 14-140 for general use. The only decision I'm facing now is whether to replace the G85 with the G9. Pro for me: new sensor, top LCD, large EVF. Con for me: size, size, size! It's strange that it's only a little larger and heavier than the G85 but that little bit makes a lot of difference in handling and comfort.

Just wondering what's going on with the Sony you were trying out?

From one Mike to the another, I might as well add to your confusion. I currently have the GX8, GX1 for air-travel backup, OMD EM1.1, Canon 6D, plus a Sony RX100ii for the pocket and Nikon AW100 for in and on the water. I have used m4/3s gear since a Pany G1 and had a G3, GX7 and EM5.1 too, all now sold. Of all of these, if I had only one, it would be the GX8 with my current kit of lenses. This is my air-travel kit, until death do us part, as I now say. It includes the goodnuf Pany 14-140ii. That pairing is supposed to be gad awful for shutter shock, but I have not seen it. That is because I mostly use the e-shutter. And, I have not seen the jello effect with that either, mostly because things in my images don't typically move that fast, or I cranked the shutter speed and ISO up. Plus, I mostly resist shooting from moving cars, trains, and planes. I just love the GX8 for travel! Plus, it has produced some amazing sandhill cranes in flight photos using the goodnuf and nice for travel Pany 100-300ii (with more bird photos planned for its future).

In the hand, I have to say the OM1.1 wins. It just fits and it reminds me of my early and long love affair with my Pentax MX and its 28 f2.8. But with my Oly 12-40 on the EM1.1, it weighs nearly the same as my 6D with the EF 28 f2.8IS. That is the problem with Olys, the lenses weigh much more than the Panys of the same or similar mm.

Regarding image quality, in my backyard shootout, images from all three of my ELCs are hard to tell apart in Lightroom. For extremely low light (i.e., only a nightlight in the dining room and another in the kitchen, with me in the living room), the best results with LR tweaking came, surprisingly, from the Oly with the 6D a close second. The GX8 produced a strange magenta cast in the deep shadows that I could not easily fix in LR without masking. Late night images of pouch-light lit doorways around the neighborhood with 50mm prime equivalents, produced a tie between the EM1.1 and 6D (did not try this with the GX8 yet). Clearly, the IS on the old Oly was a benefit. Next, I have been teaching myself night sky photography (this remains a work in progress). So far the GX8 is winning. Its weakly documented starlight autofocus feature is simply amazing.

Being a 70+ old-guy gearhead in love with quality EVF, IBIS, lightweight gear, etc., I have given serious and long thought to upgrading to the OM1.2 or the G9. (Pany blew it with the GX9 not being a true upgrade of the GX8). In brief, neither upgrade would give me much more than I already have now in-house for image quality or low-light use. Both would, however, prove nicely longer battery life, a bit better IS, and a slew of feature I likely would rarely if ever use. (I mean, I mostly just set the dial on A (or S), pick the A (or S) needed with the ISO on auto, frame the photo, and click.) Then too, the G9 is not that much smaller or lighter than my 6D using primes.

Finally, there is (as always) cost considerations. On that I have been asking myself, why would I pay almost as much for a new and improved m4/3 camera, which would give me only slightly and maybe unnoticeably improved images and low-light photos, when I could get a Sony a7iii for the same ballpark cost yielding marked improvements for both attributes. Plus, the Sony with a converter would also likely work as well as necessary with my existing prime EF glass. Plus the a7iii and EM1.2 are close to exactly the same size and close enough in weight.

Bottomline from me to you, (if you don't fall in love with the Sony) get the GX8 and love it as long as you can and try it with you existing Pany 12-35, you will likely find that the IS is good enough, the size and weight is great, and the kit will be better than good enough. As for me, I will be saving camera $s for maybe a new lens. The new Pany 50-200 is getting my interest....

Dear God, someone fix those damn Olympus menus.

Love my Olympus - HOWEVER, the big problem is the focus is a small square - not pin point - hence taking photos of say birds in trees more often than not it will not focus on the bird but get the tree.

Mike, I have to say I love my Pen-F. I know a lot of people trashed the front dial but it’s amazing how often I leave it set to B&W (customized settings) and use OOC jpegs. Most of my pictures aren’t ever going to be printed and for the ones that are I can go to the raw file and get “serious”. I have had a Mark I, for several tears and the sensor on the Pen has me reaching for it over the 16mp E-M1. I know it’s not scientific but I just really enjoy shooting the Pen-F especially with the 25mm 1.8 and the 45 1.8. I’m sure the 17 1.8 is great too, I just don’t seem to see well in 35mm equiv. I just (a week ago) bought the Mark II, Mostly because of the 20mp sensor. I will say the speed of the camera is a huge step up from the Mark I, not just frames per second but focusand just about everything else. I’ve used olympus Pens since the E-P1 so the Oly menus are second nature to me, I know that’s a common (and probably not undeserved knock.) I’ve got no experience with Panasonic so no point of comparison.

I’m going to wax poetic on the Pen-F for a minute. I’ve been into photography since the early 80’s, the Pen-F has brought back all the joy I felt at simple photography. Set the camera to B&W, leave the back closed and turn off the image view after each shot. Just go out and see, like it used to be with film. Once you get home “develop” the roll of film without getting your hands wet, and feel the excitement again as the images begin to appear on your monitor. If you’re lucky, or good a few of the images will be even better than what you imagined. As an object it’s beautiful, as a camera
it’s a joy.

I am replacing my Sony a6500 with the Pananasonic GX9. I am quite happy–so far–with the Pany but I think the IBIS is better on the Sony. Still, image quality, focus speed and accuracy, lens selection(especially) and size, operational speed(start up & wake from power save mode,) a great touchscreen, very quiet mechanical shutter, no shutter shock, all add up for me positively.

The only thing that bothers me is shutter lag. But according to Imaging-Resource, the GX9 is very quick, so perhaps there’s a getting-to-know-you period that I’ve not finished.

A few pics:

I'll start by summing up: I enjoy shooting with the E-M1 Mk.2 more than any small camera since the Nikon F2. It has its well-documented drawbacks as all products do, so I won't dwell on those. There will always be something to not like.

This new sensor is very impressive, really the first in this format that I'm able to shoot with confidence without bracketing. Colors are beautiful, exposure range and noise are very well-controlled and the camera just feels great in the hand.

The proof for me is: I have the luxury of being able to select from a number of great choices, and yet I almost always reach for the Olympus...

It's been a year with the PEN-F. No regrets. It got a lot of bad press for the initial price and that knob in the front - and maybe that's why it's easy to find a refurb for $700 + shipping.

Regarding zooms, I use it with the 7-14/2.8 and the 12-40/2.8. I realize they make it front-heavy, but I always have one hand under the lens (for zooming or manual focus). Nothing that gets in the way of shooting, though gripping it with one hand is problematic. Then I mount a prime (like the original Panasonic 20/1.7) and it's all sweetness and smiles. I love it.

Menus are not scary in the least - no more than any other digital gizmo. Just sayin' :)

Pick your poison. You will have to pick nits to find any differences in image quality between the G9 and E-M1 Mark II. My advice is to use both with your favorite lens for a day or two and pick the one that feels better in your hands, has a menu system that is more logical to you, has the controls that are more intuitive and has the features that you deem most important. You will find one you will "want" to pick up and use and the other just okay.

One other thing. I don't know if it is or is not still true, but it used to be that Olympus lenses focused faster on Olympus cameras and Panasonic lenses focused faster on Panasonic cameras, if that is meaningful to your types of photography. If not, it is a moot point.

A comment about the Olympus. The E-M1 Mark II is a remarkable tool. It has more features than you could imagine. It does everything exceptionally well—more than sufficient or satisfactory. However, it is not the best at any of them. Full frame has better image quality and more dynamic range, for example. But the camera and the superb Olympus (and Panasonic) lenses always produce more than I need or ask of them. It is a remarkable machine with excellent available optics.

As far as the Olympus menu system is concerned, it is not cumbersome. It is, by definition, complicated due to the bazillion features Olympus includes in the camera. How do you produce a simple menu when the camera has so many sophisticated features? Once you use the camera for a while and the system "clicks" with you, it all comes together nicely.

After all is said and done, it is the camera that makes you want to pick it up every time you leave the house that is the one to buy.

I've had an E-M1 II for quite a while, and since early this year have also had a G9. The Olympus has been great, with a few niggles that I'm willing to overlook given its general excellence. The G9 purchase was to optimize the use of two lenses; the 100-400 and the 200/2.8; the latter being purchased with a specific trip in mind. It does indeed work better with those two lenses, but in most cases, all m43 lenses work well on either camera.

At this point I generally favour the Olympus mostly because most of my other lenses are Oly and they somehow feel like they belong there. Either camera has way more options than I will ever really use, but then again I rarely want something that one or both cameras can't deliver. Both cameras have the pre-shot option that allows you to take photos of things that happened before your finger could respond. That is just amazing, especially at speeds up to 60fps at full RAW. I don't use it often, but WOW!

If I'm careful with exposures I get excellent quality quite easily, and both cameras handle beautifully. Yes, I have FF cameras that have better file quality, but in printed results the differences are a lot less than the differences in handling and carrying. Using either the E-M1 II or G9 is such a joy compared with the Sony A7rII that the latter only gets taken out on very specific occasions.

The menus are stupid on both cameras, and deciding between them on that basis is just deciding on a lesser evil. I don't like Nikon's or Canon's either, and all digital camera menus are things we are stuck with rather than being good. They both have enough easily accessed options with buttons and dials that the menus usually needn't be accessed. The G9 starts up instantly, while the Olympus is slower in this regard. After startup they are approximately equal, with the Olympus having possibly a slight focussing speed advantage, but this varies as the technical means vary and therefore different situations benefit one system over the other. Both are fast. I like the eye focus on the Olympus better, and I like the over/under exposure warnings on the Olympus better.

As some of the m43 zooms are so outstanding, I tend to use them quite often, but a favourite combo is the 12-40/2.8 Olympus with the 75/1.8 Olympus. They are almost exclusively used on the Olympus.

I also use a GM5 often, with its two system lenses plus a Laowa 7.5. This makes a tiny, tiny kit that is never taken seriously (or threateningly) by anyone, and gives me a FF equivalent 15mm-200mm field of view.

As far as the E-M1 II and G9 are concerned, worrying about which one is better without having both (or either) in hand is pointless. In my case, either would do and would still by my most used camera.

I have the E-M1 Mark II and the Pen F. Love them both, I don't have any experience with the Lumix G9. The E-M1 Mark II is a great camera. The AF is super fast and very accurate. The camera is well sealed and quite weather proof. And image quality is excellent. It gets the best out of the 20MP M4:3 sensor. The Pro-Capture modes and IBIS are game changers. Worth the price of the body.

The Pen F is dead sexy and a lot of fun to use. It's a great combo with the tiny Oly primes. I find that, even with a grip, it's not a very comfortable camera to use with big zooms.

I think the E-M1 M2 has slightly better high ISO but neither camera is really a high ISO monster. Just because you can set the camera to ISO 12,500 doesn't mean you should.

If I could only have one, it would be the E-M1 Mark II. It does everything the Pen F does only better, and the autofocus in the E-M1 Mark II is much better than the Pen F.

I've owned both. Originally I bought the E-M1 Mark II to replace my Canon gear when it got too heavy for an aging body. The specs and size were right. I found it to be just fine save for a bewildering set of menus whose depth was astounding not to mention frustrating. Coming from Canon I was used to having a "My Menu" that I could customize with frequently used settings.

When I heard about the G9 I was intrigued as one of my sons had a G series camera that he used daily for video. I had opted for Panasonic lenses when I got the OM-D so I decided to try it out. The G9 is a much better replacement for the Canons and it has a My Menu! Sold the Mark II and have never looked back. Thinking very hard about the 100-400 lens as well.

Question for all the micro 4/3rd expertise - is it comfortably possible to print to A2 or 16 x 20? I mean not just the exceptional shot where everything is just right but most of the time where focus / exposure is correct, etc?

Even older than you Mike, I swapped Canon for Panasonic GX9, Olympus lens. Love it. Takes some getting used to the camera in hand (small!) so try in store first?
Good images, good lens choice and the anti-shock is very effective (my decider).

I can only speak about the menu systems, and in general, the Panasonics are pretty ok, whereas the Olympus eventually make my head hurt.

Regarding the complaints about the menusystem of Olympus. Ok, it is complicated at first sight, but there is the SCP at your rescue.
There is a gizmo in the market, that has a horrible menu system, very inconsistent, some features hidden away in a deep vault, far, far away from the home screen. Compared to this gizmo, the Olympus menus are crystalclear.
Horrible as it may be, I never encountered a reviewer or an owner of this gizmo mentioning this, let alone not liking it because of this obvious downside. I am of course referring to the iphone.

Ok, ok, a bit of a hyperbole here....

Purchasing things is about sex. According to evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller we buy things to impress not only our potential partners but also our competitors. We do that by 1: showing our wealth, 2: showing our intelligence by knowing what’s going on (brands, latest gadgets) or 3: showing our intelligence by choosing exactly the right solution for the problem. (I have written about this before).

For me the PEN-F ticks all the boxes.
Because 1: it’s not cheap, 2: it’s the smartest looking camera at the market, 3: it’s always the right camera for my needs, whether it’s casual OOC JPG in tasteful colors and B&W, high res product shots or discrete documentary work.
Of course different people have different needs.

But the real reason men fall silent and women faint when I step into the room with my PEN-F must be because of its reputation created by several competitor photography bloggers and vloggers:

Here enters the genius who cracked the Olympus Enigma code!

There is IBIS and there is IBIS. I don't think the PEN-x or the GX-x have the best of IBIS that can match the EM1/5, G9 or GH5.

About a year ago I settled on the Olympus EM1-ii and the Pen-F. The EM1-ii is my "serious" kit with three Pro zooms. I found the Pro zooms took a lot of the the micro out of Micro 4/3 but they are fabulous performers. The EM1ii is solid, extremely responsive and yields great image quality. The features like pro capture, live time, and live composite are a bonus.

On the other hand, the Pen-F is my "Lite" kit with several of the lovely MFT primes and it is cool enough to at least partially keep me back from blowing up my retirement fund for Leica M gear.

These systems provide highly editable files and I can easily make up to 13x19 prints with them.

As a confessed gearhead, the real downside is the frustration that I feel as I look on the Internets at all of the shiny new stuff coming out that I can't find anything new that I can't live without. Not sure if that is a blessing or a curse. Good luck!

Pen F-knob on the front has to be treated like a rewind knob, check every so often to make sure the "film is advancing properly " but otherwise ignore it! These complaints aside its a camera that's easy to carry and fun to photograph with!

Since I seem to recall that you like shooting with the Fuji XT 1 why when you talk about IBIS cameras, that you don't include the Fuji XH1 which I think is generally the same price point as the G9. It is a beautiful camera, love the way it feels, the shutter button is really something special and it feels so good in the hands.

Hi Mike -

Although I still love my X100T and Leica T cameras I'm going to have to move to a camera with OIS/IBIS, so rented out both the Pen-F and E-M1ii for testing. The IBIS is amazing on both. Good build quality, and the dial on the front of the Pen-F was smaller than I expected and didn't impact handling at all. For me, the Pen-F seems to have been designed for use with small primes (I didn't like using the 12-40 on it, and that's not a large zoom lens), and to experiment with JPEG settings, esp. B&W. The E-M1ii seems to have been geared towards action shooting and the handling is course much better with the zooms. Even though the Pen-F would be the better camera for me it was the E-M1ii that I was more reluctant to return! In the end, though, I may just sell everything and get a Leica Q.

I first got the Olympus EM5 then added an EM1 and latter the PEN F. I really love the PEN F, it is very inviting, is the one I use most of the time now. It is always close to me. It handles marvelously with the small f2.0 - f1.8 lenses (12mm, 17mm, 25mm, 45mm), but I have also used it with the Voigtlanders f0.95, the 25mm f1.2 pro and 75mm f1.8 with great results, just the handling is not as good. I have done 24x32" prints from its files that are very, very sharp, with great colors. Conversion to B&W gives also great results. Here are some images from it:







I bought a Pen-F the minute they were available (LOVED the looks and knew the quality would be good) and had it until a few months ago when I finally traded it for an E-1 MKII. I will STRONGLY second Andreas Manessinger's negative observations about the Pen-F handling. The front knob will irritate your finger that is gripping the camera, you need the extra grip but then you will have to have needle-nosed pliers handy to extract the SD card; even with the grip, you will not want to use the camera for very long at a time. The MKII with the RRS L-bracket will solve all these problems and of course the image quality is superb. You set the menus once and then it's the easiest interface of all.

It seems that you have moved from writing about photography to writing about cameras. Is this a strategic decision? (Your introduction of various baker’s dozen series doesn’t constitute a serious examination of photography, at least in my view.)

[Whenever I write about gives people an opportunity to complain that I am not writing about something else at that moment. Actually, it's like the weather. It changes. --Mike]

I tried a Panasonic G9 but once I saw the, IMO, extreme curvature of the viewfinder I knew that I would be bothered by that every time I took a shot. Others seemed not bothered by it all. I also find it strange that the G9 weighs more than my A7r iii. I know the m4/3 lenses are in general lighter than full frame e-mount but if you’re thinking primes it varies.

I have a Pen F and like the image quality a lot. I rarely shoot above iso 1600 but the 4+ stop IS makes up for the difference compared to say your Fuji. The IS coupled with the 12-100 f4 is eyebrow raising. Even with some essential tremour I can hand hold that lens camera duo and get sharp shots in the 1-2 second exposure range. Some might complain the lens wags the camera dog but I don’t mind, I hold the camera by the barrel of the lens quite comfortably. Of course with the many small primes it’s a light and easy to carry camera. I don’t shoot video so I find the back lcd flip out and turn is annoying, I prefer tilt only or the Fuji xt2 concepts. The Pen F viewfinder is acceptable but at .6 it’s not as big and beautiful as the g9 (leaving aside the curvature issue) or the em1 ii never mind the big and beautiful finder on the a7riii. Coming from your xt1/2 it’s noticeably smaller.

Yes, I regularly print exhibition-quality A2 images from both by Oly M1II and my Sony A7R II. I don't go after high ISO (up to about 1200) in both cases. If there is a difference it is that Oly files have more headroom, and Sony files allow more shadow recovery.

For a difference in resolution to show up, I would have to print bigger or do some heavy cropping.

Since I gotthe fabulous 12-100 Zoom, the Oly has become the only camera I take along when going out or on business trips with some photography added.

I went to the store just to look through the viewfinder of the G9. I made them put the vertical grip on before I picked it up. In my 58 years as a photographer, there has never been any other camera that fit as well in my hands. Everything in exactly the right place. I went home with one.

The shutter release is very sensitive. The focus joystick could learn a few things from Fuji. The files are wonderful and the autofocus settings that find the eye and stay there are remarkable. I also own a GX8 and a 100F. They don't shout photographer anywhere near as loudly as the G9. If I am going to be in a situation where everyone knows I'm the photographer the G9 is fast, silent and makes beautiful files. The viewfinder is a joy to behold. I can mount a big lens like the remarkable Oly 40-150 and not worry about the mount breaking.

It's not for everyday carry but in the right situation it is a wonderful tool.

"Dear God, someone fix those damn Olympus menus. "

Whomever may be In Charge, Please fix those damn Sony menus!!

Then Panasonic.

Don't touch Oly.

Yes, I have and use all three.

None are any good in the field. The Oly Super Control Panel and MySets on Fn buttons mean never using the Menus in the field.

The Sony control panel brought up with the Fn button on my A7 is pretty useful.

The Panny Quick Menu and touch tabs are third place.

All three menu systems have too many items, each poorly organized in one way or another, because it's an impossible problem.

But I, for one, don't want my camera less customizable.

I still have a Lumix GH3. I watch with great interest all the new Micro 4/3rds cameras coming on the scene, but the GH3 is too good to give up. The newer cameras have better EVFs which I'd prefer, but otherwise the GH3 suits me fine.

Hi Mike,
And thank you for holding the photo fort so good, always.

I have both the em1-2 and the Pen F. I use the em12 in thevwoods and when corss country skiing, doing slalom, and when going in my veteran boat. Eg on activities. Elsez it is always the Pen F. It really morw fun to shoot. I always have it in my going to work bag with the 17, 12 and 45mm, the small ones that is. And the feeling of classic camera equipment is rather nice. By the way, my commute is bike, boat, bike, metro, bike to work, and bike, boat, bike from work, with the Pen F. Yes. Recommended. ;-)

Anders (Norwa)

I hate the oly menus more than hitler. But when I see statements about how essential the customization is I cringe. For a good 20 years I shot photos of construction sites with a hasselblas 500 cm. customization? Light meter? Autofocus? Didn't need it then, use most of that now, but recognize it as a crutch.


Thanks for your excellent work. I own both the Pen-F and the E-M1 II. When buying Olympus gear, the refurbished items available at http://www.getolympus.com/us/en/outlet.html are quite inexpensive - especially when a "coupon" comes along giving a 15%-25% discount. This happens about 4 times a year. I recently picked up the $2000 Olympus Flagship at the Outlet store for $1275. I just couldn't say "No!" I've purchased, probably, ten lenses and cameras at their Outlet store. In all but one instance, I have been convinced that the item purchased was brand spanking new - including the Mark II. If you love the 12-40mm as much as I do, take it to your nearest camera store, put it on the E-M1 II and spend 5 minutes shooting. Your decision will be made. This combo handles like its components where made for each other. The duo floats in the hand. The handling on the Pen-F can be improved significantly with a simple $15 leather half-case. A great combo is this camera and the 75mm lens. Finally, I notice that Panasonic owners seem to take many pictures of squirrels - lots and lots and lots of pictures of squirrels. You seem like a normal fellow to me, Mike, with normal tastes. Let's just stick with Olympus, shall we?

Aren't you a bit Fuji fan? Why not get the XH thingy (or whatever they are calling it)?

Wrt the E-M1 Mk II or G9, even as a m4/3 shooter only, and with quite a few nice primes, I can't see spending close to $2000 on a m4/3 body. And especially with the G9, I just can't get past seeing all that camera around that tiny sensor (and I am not in mirrorless for size, rather for having on-sensor focus while using the the viewfinder, and accurate and sensitive manual focus through the viewfinder).

I have a GX8 and love it. The camera is very responsive. The EVF is wonderful, it convinced my to replace it with my GX7. I like size of the GX7 but found its EVF eyepiece is too small and difficult to position my eye to get an clear undistorted view.

I'm puzzled at your remark (sigh) about the GX8 and the 12-35mm lens. Panasonic lists them as compatible, only a firmware upgrade is required for Dual I.S. http://av.jpn.support.panasonic.com/support/global/cs/dsc/connect/gx8.html


I must be the only person with a problemagic Olympus Pen-F, considering all the comments. I can easily echo all of the positive and negative comments you have received.

Though, the one thing that has me ready to trade the camera is consistent over exposure, to the point highlights are always blown. My camera always over exposes by at least 2/3 of a stop. It seems like the exposure compensation dial was installed incorrectly. Though, even if you use the compensation dial to reduce exposure the highlights still get blown out.

I really like the spontaneous way M43 works for me. Though considering that the A7 body is almost the same size and you do lose focus reach with M43s focal lengths, I am reconsidering if M43 is still a viable option for me.

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