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G.A.S. Attack: or E-M10 vs. A7 as a Body Upgrade?

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by Turbofrog, Jul 8, 2014.

  1. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Legend

    Mar 21, 2014
    So I've always been interested in photography and have especially enjoyed it while travelling, but this past year is the first time I've jumped in to the interchangeable lens camera market. I got myself a cheap open-box Panasonic GX1, with its last-generation sensor. I've had great fun experimenting with a variety of native and adapted lens (thanks, eBay!) and I am generally happy with the image quality I've been getting in good conditions. However, in low light and highly contrast-y situations, I do notice the sensor's limitations in both the ISO / noise performance, and more significantly, in terms of dynamic range.

    More noticeable than the IQ from my usage point of view, however, are the body's other limitations.

    • No EVF for harsh sunlight (about half and half to gauge exposure compensation and composition)
    • No focus peaking for manual lenses, so I'm relying on magnified view with a low-res main screen
    • Only 1 main dial (which can be toggled by pressing it) to handle exposure functions
    • No Auto-ISO in Manual mode (really cripples use with adapted lenses, since if I want a minimum shutter speed I need to constantly be fiddling with ISO via push-buttons, since it can't set to a dedicated dial)
    • Grip is a bit on the small side when using larger adapted lenses (an old 800g SLR 75-200 f2.8-3.5 was pretty much entirely unusable handheld)
    So while I don't think my camera's IQ is a deal-breaker (I am pretty happy to work around it), the handling is seeming like much more of a limitation. Which means a new body. Which is potentially a whole new kettle of fish, and a re-evaluation of what I can do with my camera.

    Leading to my Top Candidates...

    1) Olympus E-M10

    • Affordable at $650 new (grey-market), and will be even more so once it starts to filter onto the used market (I'm sure it won't hold its value very strongly)
    • In-body image stabilization (IBIS) worth 3-stops (!) that works even with my primes and adapted lenses, which is a huge bonus
    • 2 well-placed command dials
    • High resolution main screen, decent EVF, focus peaking
    • Nice big removable accessory grip that's only $50 for when I want to use big lenses, but I can take off for more casual shooting
    • About 1/2 stop improved ISO performance, and 2 stops (!) of dynamic range at low ISOs
    2) Sony A7 (not S or R)

    • More expensive, but surprisingly affordable on the used market - $1200? (losing value fast)
    • Really nice grip and lots of nice manual controls that I liked the feel of - solid ergonomics, I think
    • Ability to use full-frame lenses with no crop factor - nice for wide and normal focal lengths, but bad for telephoto and macro
    • A lot of "average" full-frame legacy primes in the f/1.8-3.5 range are very, very affordable, quite compact, and will yield much better results on FF than M4/3 (especially with the crop)
    • Good focus peaking and EVF, should be fun for manual lenses
    • 1.5 stops of ISO performance over the E-M10, 1-1.5 stops of dynamic range
    • Really would compliment the GX1, rather than replace it, since there's no option to make it tiny and usable for casual settings like the 20mm f/1.7 pancake, for instance
    Am I crazy to be cross-shopping the two? And am I crazy for ignoring APS-C entirely? From what I can see, the very best APS-C sensor (a6000) has only 2/3 of a stop of ISO and dynamic range on the E-M10, and if I'm giving up IBIS at the same time, that seems like a very marginal improvement, and only in shutter-speed limited situations. In static situations I could actually be losing image quality. On top of that, if I need to switch lens ecosystems, it doesn't seem preferable.

    I was also looking into Fuji quite a bit, but once I read about all the hassles of working with the RAW files and saw that the super-smooth ISO performance was largely at the expense of detail, it turned me off a bit. I'm also not sure I'm sold on the control logic - that would definitely take some experimenting with to see if I liked it. The native lenses are also neither small nor cheap...

    Probably the only AF lens I would be using with the Sony would be the 24-70 kit lens, since I'm not sure the AF primes represent great value. Size is important, but when I look at how compact my old MF primes are (the Takumar 50mm/f1.4 and 35mm/f3.5 are tiny!) I'm not particularly concerned about being able to build a comapct kit. I do really enjoy manual legacy primes, so that's not a big concern to me, especially if I'm keeping the GX1 and a lens or two. I probably wouldn't sell the GX1 even if I got the E-M10, since I'd be basically throwing it onto the used market for maybe $150...hardly seems worth it.

    This isn't a choice I'm likely to make immediately (probably will wait until after Photokina anyway to see if that bottoms out the used market a bit more), but I know some of you fine folks have experience with a number of the bodies in question, so I'm curious for any insights you guys might have.
  2. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    I find my A7r and MFT kit to be very complementary. Also, despite the price, the FE primes (particularly the 55/1.8) are worth every penny. And I say that as someone who enjoys legacy glass quite a lot and has some very nice legacy 50s. Not cheap, but excellent.
  3. broody

    broody Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 8, 2013
    What lenses are you using with your GX1? It's unlikely the Sony will give you better low-light performance with an F/4 zoom than a M43 will with a prime lens. Saving for a 25mm 1.4 might just do the trick for you, no need to change formats.
  4. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Legend

    Mar 21, 2014
    Right now I'm using the 20mm f/1.7, the 14-140mm Mk. 1, and the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye for native lenses. For really low light conditions I have a Takumar 50mm f/1.4 with a $99 focal reducer to give me a 36mm f/1.0, but as you might imagine that gets a bit dreamy and difficult to focus quickly without peaking using magnified view on the GX1's screen.

    I guess part of my question is whether a full-frame camera like the A7 will even have noticeably better image quality than the E-M10 if I'm using IBIS with my primes. Obviously I don't get that benefit for freezing motion, but I'm not a pro shooting weddings...if I'm at a social gathering in dim lighting, I usually prefer to be social rather than taking photos, so that's not a huge downside for me. I sometimes wonder if a camera like the E-M1 with its amazing 5-axis IBIS coupled with the short FL 17.5mm/0.95 Nokton for super-low shutter speeds and low ISOs might just be the best low-light camera around for handheld photos...I wonder if anyone's really tried to do a real-world comparison rather than just setting up a tripod with both cameras at 6400 ISO.
  5. MAubrey

    MAubrey Photographer

    Jul 9, 2012
    Bellingham, WA
    Mike Aubrey
    Like Mattia, I've found my A7 to go very well with my E-M5.
  6. Jay86

    Jay86 Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 26, 2012
    I think I might be finding myself in the same boat here soon... buying a A7 to compliment my E-M5 setup. I started shooting some paid architectural gig's and I could really use the extra dynamic range + be able to use wide angle tilt-shift lenses (thinking of getting the Rokinon 24mm) as an actual wide angle lens since it eliminates the 2x crop factor of M43.

    @OP, no i dont think your crazy for cross shopping these two against each other. It actually makes sense to me. Im starting to think A7 + M43 make a nice complimentary pair of systems. Although I must admit having to pick just one system between the two poses a bigger dilemma.
  7. yakky

    yakky Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 1, 2013
    The DR jump from the GX1 to the E-M10 will feel pretty wide, especially if you shoot jpeg. Olympus has a very nice way of dealing with high contrast.
  8. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    I will add that the difference between the two will not be huge for dynamic range, and the IBIS for relatively static subjects means the ISO performance difference won't be huge either, if it's even noticeable. For really low light people shooting I'll take my W-M1 with a fast prime and out it against the A7R no probs. but the files at base ISO and the detail on the Sony is amazing, and I just really love the files. It slows me down, requires better technique. And is great for landscapes.
  9. alex66

    alex66 Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jul 23, 2010
    With the lenses you have an EM10 or for less an EM5 would work out a good lower cost solution that sort of starting over with the Sony, I think though some of the Panasonic's GH3 GX7 have good focus peaking so may be worth considering as an alternative but you lose the IBIS. However I can see the attraction of the Sony, a small full frame camera, that I think would work superbly with the right primes on it. I do sometimes think it is tempting but I am well invested in m43 lenses. You could keep the GX1 along side one of the Olympus bodies so having a spare should the worst happen or just leave the 20 on there, have you looked for an EVF for the GX1?
  10. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Legend

    Mar 21, 2014
    The E-M5 and GH3 are out due to lack of focus peaking (GH3 is too large for me, anyway), and whenever I have looked for a GX1 EVF, I haven't been able to find it for much under $200. Given that I still wouldn't have focus peaking, it's another accessory to carry, and that I could spend just a little more (in the $300-350 range) and get a used Fuji X-E1 or NEX-6 for using my old MF lenses with, it's never seemed worth it.
  11. dennisk

    dennisk Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 4, 2011
    Bay Area, California
    I had the exact same discussion with myself as you are having a GX1. The image quality was good enough for me as a casual shooter so I ended up getting the E-M10. Eventually I will jump to a FF body (perhaps the next generation of the Sony A7) hoping that at that time, there will be a bigger selection of native Sony lenses and comparable auto focus speed. It's too early to know if I made the right decision but I love the dual dials, EVF, focus peaking, IBIS and grip. (now that I have them that is) :) 
  12. davidzvi

    davidzvi Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 12, 2012
    Outside Boston MA
    I had a GX1 and also found the handling just not there. The E-P5 that I have and the E-M10 that I picked up for a family member (and got to play with for a while) are just so much better than the GX1. I would get the optional grip with the E-M10, great with the 14-140.

    I have no experience with the Sony but I really wouldn't be in any hurry to go FF unless you REALLY need low light or better AF than a contrast based systems provide. If I could, my FF stuff would be long gone.

    Another thing to consider is the options for lenses. Looking at B&H you see 88 lenses to pick from for m4/3 with a very healthy used market. There are 7 listed for Sony E full frame. While I'm sure more options are coming I imagine prices will remain high for some time to come.
  13. val

    val Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 19, 2013
    I'd stay with M43 and the E-M10 really is a good camera.

    for me, I couldn't justify the cost of going to Sony FF A7 especially with current lens selection, I'd end up getting a Nikon MF adapter and using their sweet, sweet D primes on it, while I don't mind manually focusing all the time, it's just nice to have AF.
  14. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    I too think an A7 makes a nice complement to a MFT system. I'm actually selling my second A7 on Ebay right now (gave the first one to my dad) because for me the Leica M system makes an even nicer complement to MFT and I don't want to shoot with all three systems, but if there were no such thing as Leica M, I would be shooting the A7 alongside my E-M5.
  15. wanderenvy

    wanderenvy Mu-43 Regular

    May 11, 2012
    So I bumped into a friend at a July 4th party. I had a spanking new e-m10 in my bag and she had a spanking new A7 in hers.

    She had the 24-70 kit lens, I had the Oly 75 and the 12-40. Let's just say, she went back envious, I went home smiling.

    The A7 is clearly the technically superior camera. And that means zilch when it comes to taking better pictures.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. val

    val Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 19, 2013
    the Oly 75mm alone would tilt it in your favour
  17. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Legend

    Mar 21, 2014
    Hmm, care to elaborate? Obviously it's the photographer's eye and skill that is the most important thing when it comes to getting great photos, but do you mean that the A7's handling was limiting despite having better potential for ultimate IQ?
  18. wanderenvy

    wanderenvy Mu-43 Regular

    May 11, 2012
    Let's leave aside the photographer's skill for a second. I am admittedly more familiar with the E-M10 (and Olympus cameras) than she was with her new A7.

    The A7 was like a Ferrari with cheap tires (lens) and the occasional gear box slip (the AF locked up a couple of times, the camera gave an error code and had to be restarted). The E-M10 was like the lower end BMW with Z rated tires and excellent stability control. It's the whole package that counts, not just the sensor.

    So she ended up going home wondering how I was getting quality pictures with a cheaper body and I went home wondering how much you could get out of the A7 if you dumped the cheap tires and took some serious driving lessons.

    Does that help? :) 
  19. daum

    daum Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 26, 2011
    I think the A7 and m43 is a good combo. But if I had to get rid of one, the A7r will definitely have to go no doubt. The E-P5 is just a smaller, faster, and well balanced camera for my daily shooting.
  20. sLindbergh

    sLindbergh Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 7, 2014
    LI, New York
    S. Lindbergh
    I feel that having an m4/3 to supplement or compliment the A7 is the way to go. I personally have a GX7 and A7, but if I can find an Oly with 5 axis for the right price I'll be all over it. I plan on using these mirror less monsters for professional shooting of weddings, picture days, you name it because they are perfect for it.
    I don't think you're crazy, as they're both mirror less ILCS with tons of options and even (some) shareable lenses albeit via adapters. It's like having your bases covered by owning the two system cameras, each camera has it's pros that the other doesn't which can make them best for specific needs. I think it's an exciting time to be an image maker.
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