Considering selling my Mu-43 gear and going Pentax KX

Discussion in 'This or That?' started by DJSponge, Nov 27, 2011.

  1. DJSponge

    DJSponge Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 27, 2011
    Seattle, WA
    My last two days and nights out shooting have resulted in a pretty high level of frustration...I'm bumping into limitations of my EPL-2 and I'm thinking of switching gears. I would love to hear thoughts from the seasoned vets, as I could possibly just be expecting too much from my gear.

    A bit of background:
    I've been enthusiastically shooting with my EPL-2 for about 6 months now, and it was my first "serious" camera. I was drawn to the small form factor and thought it would make a great platform to learn with. I haven't been disappointed there. Live view really helped me understand what I was capturing (even if it wasn't exact). I've been engrossed in learning the art, and I feel I'm starting to get a feel for what I like to shoot and accomplish.

    My current setup:
    Kit 14-42 MkII
    LUMIX 20/1.7
    OM ZUIKO 50/1.4 legacy

    RAW into LR3
    Nix plug-ins as required
    Hugin for Pano
    CS5 for serious adjustments

    Been using PS since 5.0 or so, I am average with it. LR3 was new, still learning, as well as the Nix plugins.

    I love to shoot landscape scenes, as well as night shots in the city. I do a fair amount of hiking and backpacking, which led me to seeking a light setup.

    The limitations I'm bumping into are the low-light performance (especially noise -- commonly known limitation), red dots, slow AF, slow RAW write speeds, etc.

    I want to take my game to the next level, and I don't want my equipment to be holding me back. I still have much to learn, and I will be a life-long student, but I feel I'm hitting the ceiling here.

    I could look at the new crop of cameras, GX-1, EP-3, etc. Or even grab a GH-2 with it's better processor. However, with the GH, the form factor isn't much smaller than the K-5.

    I don't find my current setup as "pocketable" as I thought it would be, and to be honest, the size/weight isn't much of a factor for me at this time.

    Last issue, I live in the PNW, where rain/weather is a concern just about every day :smile:

    I'd love to keep the EPL-2 for what it excels at, but my financial manager wouldn't be keen on that plan.

    What do you all think? Am I just convincing myself to get a new toy, or am I raising valid concerns? I'm not a fanboy for any one system, it's just the arrow as they say. I plan to upgrade either way, just unsure if any of the current Mu-43 lineup cameras would keep me happy for a length of time...

    Thanks in advance,
  2. ivoire

    ivoire Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2011
    Naperville, IL
    Real Name:
    I picked up a EPL2 when my Pentax K5 went in for service. I had thoughts of selling my Pentax gear as the EPL2 is fun to use and easy to carry. Then the K5 came back. The low light capability alone made me decide to keep it (not to mention all its other advantages). The Kx and Kr are great low light performers also, but they are NOT weather sealed. The K10, K20, K7 and K5 are. If your current gear doesn't meet your needs then an upgrade may be in order (only you can decide). I've thought of selling the EPL2, but its just so much easier to put in a pocket when i go out for a coffee run that its staying. FYI, the Sony A55, Pentax K5 and the Nikon D7000 share the same sensor. K5 25600 iso sample:
  3. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 5, 2011
    Every camera is about compromises, and no camera excels at everything. The EPL2 is Oly's "bargain" m43 camera, and it's pretty well agreed the 12 MP sensor in the Oly's is at least 1 generation behind the times.

    The GH2 would certainly be better at low light shooting than the EPL, as would be the G3, which is quite a bit smaller. And when comparing sizes, don't forget to include the lenses. The 20 /1.7 and your zoom are certainly much smaller and lighter than their APS-C equivalents.

    For landscapes, I don't think there's much to complain about with the GH2. It's resolving power is extremely good.

    But if, as you say, size and weight don't really matter to you then there are certainly DSLRs that wil provide better low light performance. And better weather sealing. And a wider selection of fast lenses. I'm very happy with my GH2, but I still have my EOS 50D, too. If the Pentax offers a better set of compromises for your needs, I'm not about to try to convince you to stay with m43.

    I'm not that familiar with the Pentax, so I won't comment on whether it's the best choice in a DSLR or not.
  4. sadwitch

    sadwitch Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 9, 2011
    Melbourne, Australia
    I'll say switch. Only by trying out other things we'll learn or fully understand our personal needs.

    When you say low light performance do you mean hi-iso performance? If so m43 will not match any larger sensor cams. I personally think shooting iso200 at night is not a problem for EPL2. I'm not sure how fast is the K5 in low light focusing. Nikon should be one of the tops to consider if that's what you think you need. As for weather sealing, remember you'll have to find weather sealing lenses to accompany too.

    This is shot at iso1600 with E-P2 in what i think is low light conditions. I think its very acceptable to me.

    To me if you're really dying for clean hi-iso performance, only a FF camera will be suitable. I think the gain is only marginal if you move to APS-C cameras. Also sensor is only part of the equation, it's the accompanying lenses that makes the difference. Does pentax provide the lenses you want.
  5. John M Flores

    John M Flores Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 7, 2011
    Somerville, NJ
    For size comparisons...

    Mirror, mirror, on the wall... by john m flores, on Flickr

    Pentax K-5 vs Panasonic GH2 by john m flores, on Flickr

    ISO sample

    One sleeping cat and a tale of two cameras by john m flores, on Flickr

    In my experience...
    • GH2 is maybe 1/2 to 1 worse than K-x in low light. G3 is likely to be similar, if not even closer. GH2 can do ISO1600 ok. Anything above is hit or miss. K-x can do ISO3200 very consistently
    • K-x has in body Shake Reduction, worth an additional stop or more
    • GH2 is similar in size to K-x. K-x is heavier
    • K-x is better for action than GH2, higher FPS, better AF
    • Pentax flash is better than Panasonic flash
    • M43 kits can be much smaller (think GX1 + 2 primes). Can't get that small/light with Pentax
    • Panasonic M43 video is better than K-x

    I've posted a lot about the K-x in my blog - What Blog is this?: K-x

    And also about the GH2 -
    What Blog is this?: GH2

    At the end of the day, I prefer the K-x over M43 as a stills camera. It punches several classes above its entry-level price tag. But the gap isn't that great, and I fully expect M43 to improve steadily over time.

    Hope this helps
    • Like Like x 2
  6. ivoire

    ivoire Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2011
    Naperville, IL
    Real Name:
  7. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    If you are only doing one camera, it sounds like the Pentax might be the choice (I've not tried one, so I'll leave that to the others to comment), but what about a GH2 and EPL2 combo (or GF3 or EPM1)? This nice thing about m43, is you can get a good sized body and a real compact body, and use the same lenses, and m43 has a pretty nice assortment of lenses.

    My sig says EP1 and EPL2, but I've just picked up an EPM1 and have a G3 coming in. I am looking at that bigger/littler split myself.
  8. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    If you're doing landscapes and city shots, what does AF speed and high ISO matter? Especially if you're using adapted lenses?

    Sounds to me like you need a really good tripod and some more practice.
    • Like Like x 2
  9. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    The Kx is not weather sealed, and neither are any of the Limited primes so many love.

    I had a K5 with a few Limited primes and ended up preferring my Micro 4/3 kit for a variety of reasons, mostly coming down to weight and lens character. The Pentax system is excellent, though.
  10. pjohngren

    pjohngren Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 15, 2010
    I am also into landscape/nature photography and came to m4/3 from decades of Nikon gear, which I have essentially unloaded. I went with Panasonic and have never been happier. I believe the system itself is sound and at least the Panasonic lenses seem superb.

    I have the 14-45, 45-200, 14mm, 20mm, and 45mm, all Lumix. I plan to keep these. The bodies have been more of an experimentation, as I started with the GF1, then the G1 and now the G3. The G3 seems to be just what I have been looking for - and in the process I have been collecting the above lenses that will go with whatever new body comes along. However, I still have and use all three bodies.

    The m4/3 system seems to me to be just the right balance of size and quality. I can easily make a superb 16X20 enlargement, and that is as high as I plan to go. I am very surprised that with the 20 f1.7 you have any problems in low light - that would certainly not be the case with the G3, unless you're talking pitch darkness.

    I tried RAW for six months but found I can do just as well with in-camera processing and jpegs - this is especially true with the G3 as the camera is very adjustable to taste, so very little post processing is needed.
  11. DJSponge

    DJSponge Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 27, 2011
    Seattle, WA
    Here's an example of the noise issue (ISO 200, f20, 40 sec exp, no sharpening, on tripod):

  12. ivoire

    ivoire Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2011
    Naperville, IL
    Real Name:
    Its difficult to judge without full sie image, and this looks quite good noise wise. If you want to stay small, you might consider the Sony Nex5N.
  13. ckrueger

    ckrueger Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 16, 2011
    Speaking as someone who has mostly converted from Canon full frame to M43, M43 has some of the worst high-ISO performance out there. So if you live and die at high ISO, you'll be better served by another system. Like another poster said, Canon or Nikon full frame is where it's at for noise performance. The files are simply more usable when the ISO is 1600+.

    For the slow AF, the top-of-the-line DSLRs definitely have better AF tracking, as well as the ability to lock on in lower light (compared to my EP3 and GH1). But static AF speed is a wash between my EP3 and 5D2 or 7D; M43 acquires as fast as any DSLR for static subjects. And given your subjects, I suspect that's the type of AF that will matter most to you?

    For me at least, my AF hit rate is very much dependent upon how well I prepare for the shot. Prefocusing makes a world of difference in AF speed, and in low light aiming for high-contrast edges will get you focus more often than blindly placing the AF point.

    Should you switch systems? I don't know. FF is THE sensor for landscape and low light shooting, but today's M43 sensors are creeping up to the level of FF cameras from only a couple years ago, and given a couple years you might find the "GH5" matches the 5D2 you might buy next week, leaving you regretting your 5lbs Canon kit. <glances over at his 5D2+24-70+580EX camera>

    Without knowing a whole lot about your situation, I suspect you can squeeze some more performance out of your EPL2, and perhaps even enough to make you happy. A few ideas:

    * A tripod will let you shoot ISO200.
    * Improved handholding technique will let you keep the ISO a bit lower.
    * Avoiding exposure correction in post will help keep shadow noise out.
    * Getting good at LR3's noise reduction will make your images look a lot better.
    * Prefocusing as much as possible will help speed your AF acquisition.
    * Using the AEL/AFL button to AF will help you compulsively prefocus.
    * Learn to focus on high-contrast edges to give the camera a good chance to AF.

    Finally, I've never had a problem with my EP1 or EP3 in terms of RAW write speed. Are you shooting RAW+JPEG? That'll slow you down a lot. Are you using a particularly slow card? My cards are all either Sandisk Ultra II's or Extreme III or IV, and even when I shoot continuous mode I haven't exhausted my buffer. I'm not much of a machine-gunner with my EP3 because the frame rate is pretty slow. (My 7D is another story, however... I can fill up an 8GB card in less than a hour no sweat!)

    I hope my ramblings help a little. I know how much of a bummer it is to have equipment not working the way you want.
  14. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin .

    Oct 9, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    So are you looking for better high ISO noise performance, or low ISO, long exposure noise performance?

    BTW, based on the settings you describe above, an aperture as small as f20 is going well into diffraction territory for m4/3 and will be hurting your resolution. A larger aperture would also reduce your shutter speed and reduce the chance for additional noise from the long exposure.
  15. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    For the kind of exposure you're looking at (from your example), DJSponge, then what you need is a better quality lens... not a different camera body.

    The rain issue is another story though. This issue will not be answered by either your current Micro Four-Thirds setup, nor a K-x like you're looking at. A K-5 on the other hand will answer this, but as Amin pointed out the Ltd. Primes that so many love aren't weather sealed like this body, though Pentax does otherwise have one of the best weather sealed DSLR systems in the world.... along with Olympus. Your other choice though if the weather sealing is important enough for you, is to get an Olympus E-5 with Four-Thirds glass. Where Pentax is best known for their primes, Olympus is best known for their high quality (sharp and high resolving) fast zooms. Unlike the Pentax system though, most of these popular lenses ARE weather sealed. Anything in the Zuiko High-Grade or Super High-Grade category bear weather sealing to match the pro-grade E-System bodies like the E-1, E-3, and E-5. Both Olympus and Pentax have the most durable weather sealed bodies in the top range, when using both a sealed body and lens.
  16. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    The OP is shooting night scenes on a tripod, with long exposure. The only concern there is LOW ISO performance, not high ISO.
  17. ckrueger

    ckrueger Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 16, 2011
    Just saw your pano after I posted.

    Nice photo! Good job keeping the city lights under control.

    You might consider shooting a wider aperture for photos like this. You'll get less DOF, true, but I'll bet you could have gotten away with f/11 in this photo without too much DOF trouble. The wider aperture would have taken your 40sec exposure down to 12sec or so, which would have reduced noise.

    Olympus has never been very good at very long (>30sec) exposures. I don't know what it is, it's just a weakness of the brand. A 60sec exposure from any Oly camera I've ever used (E-410, E-510, E3, EP1, EP3) will look considerably noisier than any Canon DSLR I've ever used (300D, 350D, 5D, 1D2n, 40D, 7D, 5D2). Even Canon's worst beats Oly's best. I don't mean to say that Oly is useless to shoot long exposures. Clearly not. But if you're going to shoot very long exposures it's not the best system out there.

    If you do a LOT of 60sec+ exposures, you'd be better served by a cheap Canon DSLR, in my opinion. But if long night exposures are an occasional thing, I recommend doing everything you can to keep the exposure time down. Take advantage of M43's large DOF at wide apertures!
    • Like Like x 1
  18. ckrueger

    ckrueger Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 16, 2011
    His original post stated otherwise, which was all I had to go on until the pano image was posted after I posted my first response.

    A different lens would have no effect on noise.
    • Like Like x 1
  19. DJSponge

    DJSponge Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 27, 2011
    Seattle, WA
    That Panoramic was just one example...I also took shots at f8 for 4.5 sec, etc. All of them were pretty noisy IMO...

    All the issues I listed where problems I've had with the EPL-2...not in any one particular scene.

    Im just at a crossroads, which could be a particularly expensive one depending on the direction I take...just want to get a more expert-ly-ish opinion from all of you, as I've never owned a FF or even APS-C based camera.

    Sent from my DROIDX using Tapatalk
  20. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Do the Oly cams have dark field subtraction like the Panny long shutter NR?

    If not, you can do it in PS by taking an exposure of the same shutter speed with the lens cap on.