- Feb 12, 2014
- Ajax, Ontario
- Real Name
- Rob Faucher
I have been using m4/3 from the very beginning and have owned a number of bodies and amassed a decent collection of lenses. I started with the E-PL1 to replace a busted Canon P&S. The E-PL1 impressed me with its image quality which was better then what I could obtain with my old Olympus E-3. However, the E-PL1 had mediocre autofocus and was by no means a fast camera, nor was it rugged. Then I upgraded to the EP-3 which was a really good travel camera, but once again, the autofocus was not class leading and its image quality fell apart after ISO 1600. However, when travelling overseas, I preferred walking around and shooting the EP-3 vs my old Pentax K-5 with it’s bulky 16-50 f/2.8 lens. During the day, I left the K-5 kit back at the hotel and took the EP-3 on the streets, it made photography fun again. At that time, the gap in image quality between m4/3 and the K-5 was significant - the Pentax’s RAW files were noticeably better. Moreover, for shooting airshows and birding, almost any DSLR had clear cut advantage for AF and tracking.
Then Olympus released the EM-5 MKI. It was a game changer. I was astonished at the improvements in image quality, focusing speed, the EVF, the LCD screen, IBIS, weather sealing, etc. It was a system good enough for nearly all occasions and the difference in IQ between the K-5 and EM-5 was no longer that significant. I could get two stops better noise performance in low light with the K-5, but since 90% of what I shoot is during the day, the EM-5 was selected more often. Then I started buying good glass for the Olympus and was quite impressed how much good optics could maximize its sensor. Olympus makes some of the best lenses money can buy.
Later on I upgraded to the EM-5 MKII, it was an incremental improvements for stills, but it provided many improvements for video. One again, I started buying better glass for the system, including some of Oly’s pro series zooms. Prior to getting the EM-5 MKII, I had also upgraded the Pentax K-5 to the K-3 with its 24 MP sensor. After taking both cameras on a road trip across the USA, I found myself using the EM-5 MKII more than the K-3. When I got home and compared the images, the differences below ISO 3200 were, in my opinion, trivial. Moreover, I preferred the rendering of the Olympus files, even in RAW. In every measure, the Olympus outperformed the Pentax. Shooting with the EM-5 MKII was a far better experience, it nailed focus and exposure every time and I really liked the advantages of a smaller kit. So, I sold of all my Pentax gear and went exclusively m4/3.
When the Panasonic G9 was released, I was tempted to upgrade from the EM5 MKII and I’m glad I did. Readers of this forum know the G9 is an excellent hybrid shooting machine and it is built like a tank. I also find it works very well when paired with the Pany/Leica 100-400 for birding. DFD focus works well when you know how to use it. Since the G9 is a large camera, there was still a place for smaller body in my kit, so I got the Pen-F and use it with small primes. Once again, shooting with a Pen makes photography fun and spontaneous. To date the G9 has been my favourite camera it is also the most ergonomically perfect design I’ve used. Now that I’ve got the Sony, will the G9 remain my favourite camera? Yes, I think it will.
Once again, let me get this out of the way: the Sony A7R II has better image quality and excellent low light performance. There is no getting round the fact that at a given aperture and focal length it has shallower depth of field. Allegedly it has better AF tracking than other mirrorless systems, but that is not something I’ve tested yet. In other measures, I think the camera lags behind my G9 and Pen-F systems. Shooting is much more than image quality and one needs to account for the user experience and the system as a whole. In recent years, m4/3 has become so good, I believe one needs to take into account far more than just IQ when comparing systems.
So, what’s better about the Pany G9? In no specific order:
Higher quality construction.
Much better ergonomics (at least for me)
More intuitive and sensible button layouts (it’s brilliant)
Less confusing menu system
Flip out LCD touch screen
Faster low light focusing esp. with Panasonic lenses
Faster AF-S focusing
More accurate white balance indoors
Balances better with larger optics due to the deeper grip
Video options and codec selections
OOC JPGs (this is subjective, but I prefer the look)
Dual SD card slots
Does not require a bazooka sized lens when shooting birds.
Higher burst rates
6K high speed stills mode
Overall, the G9’s features seem to compete more with the far more expensive Sony A9.
The Pen-F also has advantages over the Sony. The first and most obvious is size. I can take the Pen-F out on the streets with three small primes and leave the camera bag at home. The extra primes fit into large pockets or a belt pouch. IMHO the Pen-F, is better built and it oozes quality. The Pen’s ergonomics, at least for me, make the camera easier to use than the Sony. Of course, it also has the flip out touch screen which I consider essential. It also has live composite and live bulb modes. Then there is the JPG rendering and the film like B&W mode which I like better than Sony’s.
Oddly enough, the Sony A7R II makes me better appreciate the advantages of current generation m4/3 bodies and lenses. The Sony A7 line is brilliant though and going mirrorless means full frame systems are no longer heavy behemoths. In Sony’s favour, there are times when one wants a sensor that shoots usable images up to 12000 ISO (which allows for higher shutter speeds in low light). There is a subjective quality to FF depth of field which is nice. Finally, in some situations, one will appreciate 42 MP resolution. I know both the G9 and Pen-F have ultra-high resolution modes, but since they require a tripod and completely immobile subjects, I don’t use them. Other than situations where I require higher ISO performance, very high resolution and shallow depth of field, I think m4/3 will remain the system I use most.
In conclusion: there is a case to be made for having both full frame mirrorless and m4/3.