Dear readers of Mu-43, My name is Napier Lopez, and many of you have probably seen me posting around various parts of this forum, having been a member of the site for almost two years. Well, you’ll be seeing a lot more of me now. Amin recently contacted me looking for help expanding Mu-43 and its sister sites--SeriousCompacts, TalkEmount, FujiXSpot, and LeicaPlace--with regular editorial and review content. I was eager to oblige. Starting out as a complete photography novice, I lurked around this forum for months, finally made an account and posted many of my very first “real” photos for critique, and have since developed my style and technique by observing the works of countless other members more experienced than me. I’m a philosophy graduate preparing for an advanced degree in physics, but photography is an equal passion of mine (some friends have called me the triple ‘ph’, although I’m most fond of philographerist), as well as my full-time source of income. That probably wouldn’t have ever happened without the warm, thoughtful, and encouraging community that is Mu-43. All that being said, I now hold the title of Contributing Editor, and you can expect to see posts from me on the front page at least once a week in the form of opinion pieces, gear and software reviews, and more spread across Amin’s various sites. I hope you’ll join me in helping Mu-43 become an essential resource for all things Micro Four Thirds, and in fostering the continued growth of this wonderful community. Onward, then. Micro Four Thirds in a Changing Mirrorless Landscape I. The Mirrorless Revolution Standing Steady - Panasonic 25mm - f1.4 - E-M5 I’m a bit of a gearhead. I like knowing about consumer technology I have no real interest in buying for the sake of technological progress itself. I remember being fascinated by the “idea” of Micro Four Thirds long before I got my start in photography (not like I could afford a G1 back when I was 17 anyway, but I digress). I also remember reading about how mirrorless cameras (Leicas notwithstanding) would herald in a new era of photography, with this new camera technology soon to take over the DSLR market… over, and over again. Clearly, this change has been slow to come; the US in particular has been lethargic in the widespread adoption of mirrorless systems. Even in a tech-savvy city like NYC, Canons and Nikons are still mostly what you see. That said, I think it’s undeniable that all the seeds have finally been planted for mirrorless cameras to take over. With the arrival of the Sony A7 and A7r, full frame DSLRs lost the one area where they had an incontrovertible advantage for many users: maximal image quality. Now, mirrorless cameras are capable of results equal or better to what you can get with a D800, of the same shallow DoF and low-light performance, in a substantially smaller body. There are definitely other limitations to acknowledge. You’ll have a tough time shooting the Olympics with an A7, and you won’t be able to find the same breadth of lens options even on a seasoned system like Micro Four Thirds. But there’s a key point to emphasize: most of the limitations here are simply related to fleshing out the systems and their hardware, rather than a fundamental limitation of the system itself (and don’t even start on OVFs vs EVFs). More importantly, the advantages of mirrorless systems outweigh the disadvantages for more and more users with every new release. So yes, Canikon DSLRs still rule the public mindshare, but every time I go out on a photowalk, I do seem to spot just one more mirrorless camera here or there. If there were any doubts before, I now firmly believe the ultimate success of mirrorless is simply a matter of time. II. Micro-ish Four Thirds Decagonal Cells - Voigtlander 42.5mm - f2.8 - E-M5 and Temple - Panasonic 25mm - f1.4 - E-M5 With the mirrorless market gaining greater prominence, it’s important to consider how Micro Four Thirds will survive these changes. Right now, one of the primary arguments for the system is that it’s the most complete of the mirrorless lineups. This is partly because it’s the oldest, and partly because there are two main manufacturers that have a tendency to fill in each other's gaps. But ultimately, given enough resources and initial interest, the completeness of a system is just a matter of time. Sony has already accumulated a decent amount of APS-C lenses for its E-Mount, and has ramped things up to an admirable level with its full-frame FE line, expecting to have 15 lenses out by 2015. Fuji is rapidly adding on lenses to its system, and even the Samsung actually has arguably the second strongest lens selection in the compact market right now. Furthermore, both Fuji and Samsung are rumored to be working on full frame systems of their own, and if things continue down this path, you can bet Canon and Nikon are at least thinking of starting their own full-frame mirrorless lines. In a few years, Micro Four Thirds' competitors with bigger sensors (and bigger budgets) will have likely filled in most of their gaps. The other argument, of course, is size, but even that advantage seems to be muddied. Until the release of the tiny GM1, the smallest APS-C kit--the NEX-3N with the 16-50--was actually smaller than the most comparable M4/3 kit, a GF6 with the 14-42 pancake. More affordable, too. Similarly, the NEX-6 is slightly smaller than the GX7. Even the 35mm A7 and A7r are virtually identical in size to the E-M5 and its quarter-area sensor, and they're smaller than the E-M1 and GH3. For all the forum-flaming and system wars, it seems difficult to argue for the merits of Micro Four Thirds when its most popular cameras are comparably sized and priced to products with substantially larger sensors. What then, does Micro Four Thirds really offer? III. Compromise and Versatility On the East River and Fort Tryon Arches - Voigtlander 42.5mm - f0.95 - E-M5 Photography, like any other craft (and perhaps more so), is about compromise. Shooting a picture of a couple? You’re going to have to make some careful choices if you want to both isolate your subjects and get everyone’s eyes in focus. A basketball game? Better pick the right ISO if you want to maximize detail without risking blurry pictures. Similarly, the photographer needs to make important choices about his or her gear. Do you really need to bring that long tele for an indoor birthday party? Is it worth bringing a flash for a golden hour shoot? In the same vein: What camera system best suits you and your work? Of course, it all depends on what sort of versatility you will require. And that, versatility, is where I believe Micro Four Thirds holds a particular strength. I sometimes get upset with comments about new M4/3 bodies or lenses being too large, or not in the “spirit” of the system. M4/3 isn't just about downsizing--it's about variety. Yes, a GH3 with a Voigtlander 25mm f0.95 isn’t that much smaller or lighter than a DSLR setup with comparable light gathering capabilities. But on the other hand, you’ll never get something the size of a GM1 by using a full frame sensor; to have something the size of a GM1 have equal image quality to something like the GH3 is rather remarkable. Even more so when you consider that with the right optics, it can at least get quite close to typical results from a full frame kit. As evidenced earlier, APS-C and FF kits can get pretty darn small. The caveat is, however, is that these small kits usually come with a host of sacrifices, or only in specific lens combinations. Start adding different lenses, and the number of considerations you need to make will start to increase substantially. The A7 and A7r bodies are engineering wonders, but it's also hard to imagine them ever getting any smaller; add any long and/or fast lenses, and the size differences become more and more obvious. Truth is, it's easier for Micro Four Thirds users to imitate the look of APS-C or 35mm than it is for those camera systems to downsize to the extent Micro Four Thirds can, especially while maintaining a high quality to their optics. This has been particularly relevant for me, as recently I’ve found myself having less and less reason for borrowing or renting a full frame kit for weddings or night-time events. For my day to day social and street shooting, I’m quite happy just carrying around my 25mm f1.4 and 45mm f1.8. But as somewhat of a bokeh addict, I find myself making use of the Voigtlander 42.5mm f0.95 quite often for portraiture (particularly of the environmental type), and will very likely purchase the upcoming 43mm f1.2 lens for its AF. On the other hand, it serves well to remember that the existence of these large chunks of glass does not negate that of the smaller and lighter primes, like the wonderful 20mm f1.7. Likewise, you have a wide gamut of bodies to choose from. The aforementioned GM1 gives you excellent image quality in a tiny package, but if you need a beefy grip and top-of-the-line video performance, the GH3 will be your camera of choice. Meanwhile, the E-M1 will be your go-to sports choice. The E-PL5 and G6 strike different but strong balances of size, image quality, features, and price. Don’t like Olympus’ interface? Then you can buy Panasonic. Whatever you’re looking for, M4/3 probably has a kit for you, and having more options means you’ll probably spend more time actually taking pictures with a “real” camera instead of your cellphone. IV. Thoughts Matching Hands - Voigtlander 42.5mm - f0.95 - E-M5 I don't pretend to ignore the other compromises. The hyper-fast Noktons are bulky and manual focus only. The best focusing camera on the system doesn't compare to the best DSLRs. And ultimately, Micro Four thirds will likely never perform at the extremes. It will never be quite as small as the Pentax Q or Nikon 1 system, and will never give you quite the potential image quality or depth of field control of a full-frame system. But in the spectrum of compromises you need to make when choosing a system, it’s fair to argue that M4/3 strikes a very good deal for a large majority of users--amateurs and professionals alike. And its versatility only continues to grow. The sacrifices one is willing to make will vary from person to person, and every camera system will yield different results. Still, and though it may sound cliché, no system is unvaryingly better than the other. Maybe you don’t care about having a small camera system because you regularly deadlift 967 pounds and always carry a large camera bag with you; an APS-C or FF kit might serve you better. Micro Four Thirds currently strikes the right balance for me, but I consider myself system agnostic. After all, the end result is about the photographer behind the lens, and what works best for that person at that time. So now I turn to you: Why do you use Micro Four Thirds? Is it a secondary system for you? What considerations did you make when choosing the system? Sound off (cordially, of course) in the replies!