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E3 to GH2 - What should I do?

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by goldenlight, Aug 30, 2011.

  1. goldenlight

    goldenlight Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 30, 2010
    I haven't posted here for a long while, I've always liked the concept of :43: but I've never really fully embraced it, probably because I'm so attached to my Olympus E-3 which I prefer to use whenever possible. However, I'm being forced to re-think my approach to photography and really would appreciate some opinions and advice.

    I'm a big fan of my E-3, the handling, features and build quality are all top notch. It's true that the sensor is now very out-dated, eclipsed not only by other brands in the same class but also by the latest sensor/processor combinations in recent Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds models. However, it's still the same camera that it was when first released; the image quality was more than good enough then and still is now. Admittedly upgrading to the E-5 would be nice and is the path I always thought I would take, if ever it was financially feasible.

    This has long been a comfortable notion for me; there is much to be said for staying with a camera that suits you and with which you are totally familiar, allowing you to concentrate on the subject and not on the camera. The great thing about the E-5 is that in terms of design, lay-out and handling it is virtually the same as the E-3 but with significantly improved performance. I anticipate that it would take me no more than a day to familiarize myself with the few minor changes.

    Recently, however, I have started to question this strategy. It's not that I'm becoming dissatisfied with my camera and lenses or my enthusiasm for the E-5, far from it, but personal circumstances are starting to force me to reconsider my whole approach to photography.

    It's no secret that I have Parkinson's Disease and that my physical abilities and fitness are in decline. My standard kit consists of the E-3, 9-18mm, 14-54mm and 70-300mm zooms, all carried in a Lowepro backpack and I have to admit that although it's far lighter than an equivalent APS-C or Full Frame system, it is starting to feel increasingly heavy. Over the last two days I've been walking around our local country show, with just an E-PL1 and 14-45mm lens (the original Panasonic MFT kit lens). The small size and low weight were extremely liberating and even if I was to add a lens or two I'm sure that this would still hold true.

    My main passion, however, is landscapes, although it has to be said that my enthusiasm for the obligatory early start has waned somewhat since I became ill and suffered from the depression that so often accompanies Parkinson's. Nevertheless the interest is still there and I hope to return to greater involvement as the mental adjustment to my condition continues; I'm starting to realize that I have to make the most of what I have left. At the moment much of my landscape photography is undertaken almost from the boot of my car and I certainly don't stray very far from the vehicle, so weight and bulk are not too much of an issue.

    All that may be about to change, however. Financially I am very much dependent upon State benefits (ESA) to supplement my occupational pension, which unsurprisingly is significantly less than the salary I was earning before my health forced me to retire. Recent changes to this benefit mean that I can only continue to receive it until next April at the latest and in the meantime the Department for Work and Pensions seem very keen to stop it earlier. Despite winning an independent tribunal hearing in February I have recently been required to undergo another medical assessment, where the doctor (employed by ATOS healthcare who are contracted by the DWP so not really independent) warned me that the requirements for receiving the benefit have recently become far more stringent due to changes implemented by the Government. Clearly by April, or quite probably even sooner, I will lose this benefit, which will have a massive impact on my finances and therefore on my photography, too.

    The first economy will be to sell my car. OK, we're a two car family so it could be considered a bit of a luxury anyway but the rural location in which we live makes it almost a necessity. It certainly won't make it easier for me to look for work, which is ironic really as I have started doing that. I'm extremely pessimistic about my employment prospects anyway; it would be hard enough as a 56 year old but with a progressive, degenerative disease I'm limited by so much I can't do (or can't do fast enough).

    The consequences for my photography will be that for much of the time I will be limited to very local scenes (not that I can afford the petrol to venture far at the moment anyway) to which I can walk. I might also try cycling again for the first time in years, although with my lack of balance and muscular control I'm not sure that would be a good idea, or even possible. Either way, weight and bulk of my photography equipment suddenly becomes a problem and is the reason for my enforced re-evaluation.

    So what are the alternatives? Any other make of DSLR is out, that's for sure. I could downsize to, say, an E-620 and replace my 14-54mm with a 14-42mm and 70-300mm with a 40-150mm. However, after being spoilt by the optical viewfinder in the E-3 I'm not sure that I want to go back to the tunnel-vision experience of the E-xxx range and I don't think an E-30 would make enough difference.

    That leaves me to consider Micro Four Thirds. I've flirted with it for a while now, but have until now considered it as complementary to my DSLR rather than a serious replacement. That might have to change, the question is which route do I take? Having tried a G1 I remain underwhelmed by Panasonic's JPEG performance but I do like the concept of an inbuilt EVF plus the articulated screen.

    The new E-P3 does appeal. When I tried it at the Olympus event soon after it was announced I found that with the optional large grip it handled very well for me and IQ is pretty much what I could expect from an E-5. The problem is that I would want an EVF; the VF-2 is great but it adds substantially to the cost of an already expensive camera and I cannot afford this option. My circumstances dictate that any change I make is self-financing. That problem applies to any of the latest Pens and I wouldn’t want to choose an older Pen as my main (only) camera because of focusing speed issues – the new Pens are viable because of the improvements to focusing.

    I was pleasantly surprised recently to see that one of my local camera shops is selling the GH2 body only for £600. Focusing may not be as fast as the E-P3 but I understand it is a significant improvement over previous Panasonic models. By all accounts the 16mp sensor provides great resolution and excellent high ISO performance. With an over-sized sensor actually populated by 18mp, various aspect ratios in addition to the standard 4:3 are optimised for maximum resolution. The processor allows a faster refresh rate for live view which apparently improves the user experience of the EVF – I’ve always thought the EVF in the G1 is very impressive anyway. Another attraction (for me) is the relocation of the input dial from the front of the grip to the rear of the camera. In its original position on the G1 I found it difficult to use, no doubt mainly on account of my Parkinson’s.

    Almost everything about the GH2 seems right but for me there is a big question mark over colour fidelity. For me the G1 was a big disappointment in this department and mainly why I eventually invested in a used E-PL1. For events like our recent country show I prefer to use JPGS as I tend to take rather a lot of shots and the Olympus files generally require very little pp, but if I do make the change I might have to use raw at all times. If anyone has any comments on both JPEGS or raws from the GH2 I’d be very interested.

    I reckon if I sold all my existing kit, including some little used accessories, I could just about muster enough funds to buy a GH2, Olympus m9-18 and possibly the newly announced Panasonic 45-175mm power zoom, although I might have to settle for the 45-200mm. My standard lens would be the Panasonic 14-45mm which I already have.

    I’m sorry that this has been such a long post, but writing it all down has helped to crystalize the issues for me. If you are still reading I really would value some comments and opinions as I’m all at sea on this one. My heart says stick with what I’ve already got, I love using my E-3 and would miss it dreadfully, but my head tells me the change would make sense from both a physical and financial point of view.
  2. peterpix

    peterpix Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 8, 2010
    So. Maine
    Peter Randal
    Sorry to hear your story John. I have a walking disability which restricts the type of landscapes I used to do with a Linhof 617. I have a full Canon DSLR outfit but that too is getting to much to lug, so I have been buying m43s gear: Gh2 and EP2 with viewfinder. I find Olympus much lighter, both the body and the lenses. ONe problem I have with the GH2 is that there are so many buttons on the back and i am often by accident hitting WB or ISO. The GH2 with the 14-140 lens seems not much lighter than the Canon 5dMKII. I think if you can get to a store try both Panasonic and Olympus to see which works best for you. BTW I have not tried the smaller Panasonic bodies. I don't like having to use a live view screen at arm's length and I suspect with your illness that being able to hold a camera at eye level and bracing would work best. Even a light tripod or a monopod seems like a good idea as well.

    Most of all however I applaud your willingness to keep photographing. I have seen people in wheelchairs with cameras mounted on them and I recall Edward Steichen photographed from his bed out a large window. Famous B&W photographer Paul Caponigro had a fall and was unable to photograph as he had in the past so he changed to doing still lifes. We CAN keep shooting, sometimes our subject matter changes. So keep pluggin' away and show us some images!
  3. Pen F

    Pen F Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 21, 2011
    First off I am sorry to hear of your problems, my farther suffered from the same so I understand what you are going through.
    My advice if you do like the ep3 would be to try and hold off for about 6 months by then the price should come down quit a bit and would probably cost the same includeing the evf as it does now. Stay well. Chris
    Ps also epl3 is less expensive. To be honest I have ep3 in my opinion the touch screen is sort of a novilty for me and I have mine turned off 80% of the time in hindsite I may have been better off with the articulated screen of the epl3. But thats me.
  4. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Wow, that's a bummer about the Parkinson's and the pension issues.

    Now, on to happier topics - new cameras!

    First, the EP3 is indeed expensive. IMHO, much of the hype about the speed is compared to previous PEN generations. The Panasonic cameras have always been more responsive, and the EP3 is essentially doing what was developed for the GH2 (doubled sampling rate off the sensor) a while ago. There are the new, smaller PENs that are cheaper, but they are also smaller, and that might be a bit of a problem with your condition.

    If you like EVF+tiltscreen, there is the G3. It's JPG engine and low light performance are much improved over the previous generation and it will autofocus lenses the -1 series (G1, GF1) would not if you want to keep your current four thirds glass. It and the GH multi-aspect are the only two sensors newer than the 12 MP that is used in everything else (inlcuding the EP3). It is bigger than the PEN or GF series without their VF, but smaller than if you were to put the viewfinder on.

    Lastly, about Panasonic JPG ... if you don't like the way it looks out of the box, there is a TON of tunability there to tweak it, and it sounds like you have time on your hands that could be used this way... or RAW processing. You can buy Photoshop Elements 9 which is basically Lightroom but at 1/2 the price (NOTE: Here come the LR harpies! If you haven't used PE 9 vs LR3, DON'T COMMENT! There have been huge advances in Elements). No, you don't have ALL the LR tools, but all the major ones and it's much cheaper. Like 90% of the capability for <50% of the price.

    Keep an eye out for used equipment. With all the announcements of new stuff coming out, there are always dcent deals on gear that isn't that old.
  5. MichaelShea

    MichaelShea Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 27, 2011
    Algarve, Portugal
    I too was very sorry to read about your problems. Hats off to you though for being honest about them and not giving in to your illness. As we get older, we all need to learn to live within our limitations, whatever they might be. I'd call that wisdom.

    May I suggest the GH1 as an alternative? With a bit of research, it can be obtained for little more than half the cost of its successor. In terms of picture quality and low light performance, there's by all accounts little to choose between them, unless you shoot videos.

    Colour is a very subjective matter. We all see it slightly differently, although most people would probably agree with you that Olympus is more interesting than Panasonic in terms of jpegs. My advice would be to get a trial version of Lightroom and see how it can transform your raw files with very little effort. You will, I promise, get very satisfying results.
  6. goldenlight

    goldenlight Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 30, 2010
    Thanks for the replies. The Parkinson's is manageable but is getting to the stage where it will require some adjustment to my photography, if only in the weight that I carry. I'm not (yet!) in the real bad stages of the disease and there are many people far worse!

    Maybe I'm being a bit over cautious about the Panny JPEGS, I was getting some odd colours and strange casts from the G1 at times which seemed to be more than just WB issues, but other times it would be fine. In any case, Panasonic have updated their processor since then. I have never tried raw on the G1, mainly because I saw it as my "less serious walkabout camera" but if I am to use a Panny as my main camera that will change. I think maybe my first step should be to dig out the G1 and shoot some raws, I agree with tc that Elements 9 is great software but sometimes, if you've shot a lot of pictures, it's nice to have a set of OOC JPEGs that need very little work.

    That's a good suggestion from Michael about considering a GH1, the only thing is the placement of the control dial, which I now have difficulty using. Hopefully I would be more able to use it positioned on the back and operated by my thumb, but obviously it will require a lot of hands on time at the local dealer if I get that far with my decision. The G3 is another consideration but I get the impression that the controls are slightly more cramped and I must admit that the multi-format sensor does seem attractive if I think of going down the G/GH series route. It may be that I need the bigger body of the E-3 for my dexterity issues and have to suffer the weight, but I'm keen to at least explore the alternatives.

    Peter is right about using a camera with LCD only, I've noticed just lately that it is becoming a problem for me to hold my E-PL1 steady at arm's length. I'm also interested in his experience of accidentally hitting buttons because they are too cramped, that could very well be a real issue for me.
  7. John M Flores

    John M Flores Super Moderator

    Jan 7, 2011
    Keep on taking photos John - it keeps us young, right?

    Just want to add a couple of points...

    - I'm not a fan of the front control dial of the GH1 either. I find that I need to change the grip on the camera in order to operate it with my pointer finger. I can use the middle finger, although that takes some practice and feels less precise.

    - If hitting buttons by accident is an issue, might I suggest setting the rear control pad to contrl the focus point (Direct AF Area). The downside is that ISO and WB have to be accessed via Quick Menu. Might be a worthwhile compromise.

    - Overall, I think the GH1 and GH2 are quite close in terms of still image IQ. The GH2 has minor tweaks to the controls that make it a much more usable camera.

    Hope this helps...john
  8. goldenlight

    goldenlight Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 30, 2010
    The front control dial is becomming more difficult for me as time goes on, which is one of the reasons I don't use my G1 very much now. I've lost a fair amount of control and dexterity in the fingers of my right hand but my thumb is not so bad. Your suggestion for the rear control pad is very interesting; there aren't many occasions when I need to continually adjust the ISO and if WB accuracy on the latest models is anything like Olympus then auto WB will suffice most of the time. That's less of an issue when shooting in raw anyway. Thanks John.
  9. mseawell

    mseawell New to Mu-43

    Jun 14, 2011
    Obermohr, Germany
    I still shoot wil my trusty G1 but I can appreciate your concerns. I shoot mostly raw and use lightroom 3.4 with good results ( I believe ;)  I have the GH2 but won't open it till Xmas. Good luck!

  10. CityFox

    CityFox New to Mu-43

    Aug 7, 2011
    London E16
    GH" & Lightroom

    Hello John

    I have also had to abandon my E3 as it was just too heavy to carry around with 14-54 etc. on arthritic shoulders all day, so it just sat around gathering dust. I then pulled out from retirement my reliable old E330 for some work and bought a clearance E620 kit. The E330 is still a great camera with very clean low ISO shadows but the E620 is a great disappointment with a useless OVF if you wear glasses and far too much shadow noise.

    After thinking about the new EP3 but the cost with VF2 was prohibitive I managed to find a second hand GH2 a few weeks back plus the original 14-45. I then added a 4/3 adapter for my 9-18, 35mm and 40-150 Zuikos and could not resist the superb pancake 20mm F1.7. Total spend under £800 ie the same as the EP3 with kit lens. Apparently your 70-300 is quite usable with an adapter just remember to update lens firmware for use with the GH2.

    I also looked at the G3 which is now at a much lower price but could not get used to the cramped body size, whilst the GH2 felt natural in my hands after Olympus DSLR's. My first observation about the GH2 is that the multitude of external controls are good if a little fiddly, but luckily I do have smallish hands. The rear control wheel is nicely placed but a little small. The AF is superb with the Panasonic 14-45, OK with 4/3 40-150 but a bit too slow with my 9-18. If I abandon 4/3 then I may trade to the diminutive M4/3 9-18 which feels great on the GH2.

    Now to image quality. I use Lightroom and the quality from raw with the GH2 like the LX3 is excellent compared to standard JPEGs which can be poor. However after some experimentation I am getting excellent JPEG's with the vibrant setting, Sat -2, Con -2, NR-1, DRO on low and AWB 3 clicks towards yellow and 1 click to green (may change the latter). I then boost the image with the clarity slider and for shots with green foliage reduce saturation and hue by 15 points as the Vibrant setting gets the greens wrong (like velvia slide film did) but is great on blue sky's reds etc. and not bad on skin tones. Image sharpness and detail is way ahead of the E620 and at ISO 160 quite clean. ISO 800 and 1600 are very usable.

    Panasonic ended the free lightroom software offer on the 31st August but they may extend it. Lightroom is great software for both Raw conversion and JPEG adjustment with the GH2.
  11. crsnydertx

    crsnydertx Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 31, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Another option for your consideration: the Panny G2. Nice controls,including rear thumbwheel, good grip, overall a modest upgrade from the G1. I actually prefer it over the G3 from a handling point of view. Probably available fairly cheaply, although I don't believe it's been formally discontinued.

    Re LR vs. PS Elements: I use LR now more than Elements but I thought enough of the improvements in the latter to invest in the latest version (9). I have a long and satisfying experience with Elements, having used Versions 1 through 6 before taking a pass on 7 and 8. Besides an excellent set of editing tools and the ability to process RAW images, there is also an excellent support forum (Elements Village) that is populated by many older (and wiser) amateurs who love to help folks young and old to get the most out of the program. It's a forum with a constructive attitude - much like this one!
  12. snkenai

    snkenai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 5, 2010
    I too, have had to make drastic changes in my approach to my all time hobby of photography (50 years). It started 20 years ago, with a slight tremor in my hands. Heavier cameras helped for a while. But it became worse, so I tried tripods. Crippled my style/preference of op.

    Then congestive heart failure. Got rid of the E-1 and all the heavy stuff. Tried E-p1 for the IBIS. didn't work for me. Too much hand shake. Now have the G1. The evf doesn't help. My solution is a different approach. I find some thing to prop on/against, so that the camera is "locked down", with no movement. Most of the time I also use the 2 second timer to fire the shutter. The flip screen makes it work for awkward positions. Yes it is still handicapped. but with creativity, it works.

    My photography has been mostly landscape, with some wildlife. With the heart condition, I had to stay close to home/vehicle. Solution, look really close in. Actually, look at your feet. Bugs, flowers, and even smaller. My new challenge is macro. HEY. You can, maybe even keep the loved E-3! In this venue, handicaps make us look outside of our normal comfort zone.

    All the best
  13. goldenlight

    goldenlight Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 30, 2010
    Sorry to hear of your situation, Steve, it makes me feel fortunate! I admire your attitude of not giving up and adapting your type of photography to what you can do. A lesson and an inspiration for me in the future, I'm sure. :smile:
  14. goldenlight

    goldenlight Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 30, 2010
    Thanks to everyone who commented in this thread, there were many excellent suggestions and opinions that gave me food for thought. That's exactly what I've been doing over the last week, thinking and trying to take in all the advice I've received on this and other forums.

    Regarding my E-3, although it is getting to feel heavier, particularly when using it for any length of time, in some ways that weight gives it a bit of inertia which can actually aid stability. It sits in my hand very well, has a big, comfortable grip which is especially appreciated and, thanks to reasonably big, well-spaced buttons and dials, all with a very positive feel, is probably the best handling camera I've ever used.

    But what about the weight and how that effects me when carrying it? Firstly I have good days and bad days, so their will be times when I'm better able to manage it than others. I also really need to motivate myself to improve my general fitness. Secondly, do I really need to carry everything? Do I really need to take the 70-300mm “just in case,” when I've got no firm plans to use it? Likewise, do I need to take a wide-angle zoom when my plan is to shoot with the 70-300mm? It may not weigh much on its own, but it all adds up. When shooting landscapes my Pentax digital spot meter is handy, particularly when using graduated filters, but with modern in-camera metering, no cost for bracketing and instant review with a histogram, it's not nearly so vital as it was when using film. Like I say, these bits and bobs all add up in weight.

    There was also an excellent suggestion to use a trolly. My first reaction was it could actually become an impediment on overgrown paths (fairly typical in my part of the world) but on reflection it could get me a fair way towards where I want to be and if I transport my kit in my rucksac anyway I can always abandon the trolley when the going gets a bit tough, to be retrieved later. I've googled “fishing trolley” and have found some excellent designs with big wheels designed for rough ground, at very reasonable prices.

    When I need to go really light, I do already have a Pen, the E-PL1. I used this recently over two days at our local country show, when in the past I've used the E-3. It's the sort of event where a standard zoom copes with most situations and I didn't really miss the E-3 at all. I did miss the weight, however – in an entirely positive way and it was a very liberating experience. What the E-PL1 does lack is a viewfinder. I can actually see the screen quite well by virtue of being extremely short sighted – I just peer over my glasses then I can hold the camera quite close, which often helps shade it. However, from a stability point of view there is no substitute for being able to press the camera against your face and tuck your arms in against your body. The simple solution to this is to find some way of affording a VH-2.

    Someone made the point that it might be worth holding on a year or so to see how Micro Four Thirds develops, maybe resulting in a camera that would suit my particular requirements better than anything currently available, or the newer releases would be more affordable by then. There is a lot of sense in that, because if I did decide to go completely MFT now that would produce another conundrum, Olympus or Panasonic? Both have pluses and minuses and, for me, the perfect model has yet to be produced. Whatever I chose at this time would be a compromise and therefore not a perfect solution.

    So I've decided to leave things pretty much as they are for now but concentrate on being more selective over what gear to take with me for a given situation. I'm sure I'll get caught out quite often, ending up wanting something which is at home, but I will have to live with that. It's better than not getting out at all! I also need to rely on the Pen more, adding a VF-2 to make it more usable. That means selling something, maybe a couple of exposure meters, my FL50R (which I rarely use), or several other bits that no longer see much use. I've yet to decide on that. Also, I'm going to try a trolley and see how that works. I'll keep reviewing the situation, see how I manage if, as I suspect, I have to give up my car or my physical condition deteriorates, and look at the current choices if and when the time does come to relinquish the E-3.

    Thanks again for all the comments which really did help me look at the situation from a fresh perspective. I was, perhaps, looking too far ahead for problems which are yet to happen.
  15. 0dBm

    0dBm Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 30, 2011
    Western United States
    Your candor about about your condition and your desire to continue doing what appears to be a lifelong love is heartwarming.

    I, too, have been making some significant changes to my photography equipment due to a deteriorated lower back condition involving a ruptured disc and a compressed one just above it. My physicians could not justify the surgery since both the rupture and the compression are not significant enough; however, the pain level has changed my life nonetheless.

    I have ceased all event work (mostly Hollywood coverage), and just continue to ply my regular trade as an engineer. On the shelf went the Nikon D3, D300 w/grip and the heavy lenses, flash units, and external batteries.

    I even traded my "point and shoot" D80 and 50/1.8 for the GH2 and 20/1.7.

    This Panasonic combo has made a tremendous difference as I return to the weight room to bulk-up once again since the physical therapy has taken my recovery only so far.

    I am slowly acclimating to the GH2/20. So far, I am pleased; mostly with the fact that it is so lightweight in comparison. I am certain that I will find attributes that will pale in comparison to the big Nikons; however, the 20mm/1.7 has made the transition bearable.

    This post is not much help since I am just getting started with Mu-43. I look forward to hearing more about your transition.

    Be well and hang in there.
  16. elandel

    elandel Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 16, 2010
    Milan, Italy
    I too am very sorry to read about your problems. My aunt has the same problems but is not reacting very well to her illness: she refuses it.

    I think you made the best decision: keep your gear and sell what you don't use. Tomorrow is another day and when it arrives youìll think about it.

    Keep fighting and never give up.
    • Like Like x 1
  17. goldenlight

    goldenlight Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 30, 2010
    I'm so sorry to learn of your condition, it's obviously extremely debilitating and does raise the question of just how much pain do you need to be in before surgery is justified. I hope you find the transition from your DSLRs successful and that it helps you to coninue enjoying photography.
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