OM-D compared to GH2 -- my thoughts (LONG)

Discussion in 'This or That?' started by meyerweb, Aug 11, 2012.

  1. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 5, 2011
    For the past three weeks I’ve been shooting primarily with an OM-D, coupled to a Panasonic 14-45, 7-14, and a Rokinon fisheye. Previously, most of my m43 shooting has been with a GH2. While I haven’t really done a direct, side-by-side comparison, I’m plenty familiar with the GH2, and have gotten familiar enough with the OM-D to reach some judgments.

    Understand, though, that this is my opinion, based on how I use the cameras. You may feel differently, and that’s fine. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa. If you want to argue about my opinions, I’d suggest you go yell at the mirror, because they're opinions. If you think I've actually gotten something about the camera wrong, I'll be happy to talk about that.

    I post this in the hopes it will be useful for those still trying to make up their minds whether to buy one or the other camera, and interesting for others. (And, of course, because posting one’s opinion is what forums like this are all about.) Let’s start off by looking at some of the things many people feel are the major advantages of the OM-D.

    Build Quality:
    Yes, it's a nice piece of kit. It’s surprisingly heavy for its size, and has a more robust feel than the GH2. But I think it really is more about feel than actual quality. I’m not convinced that, in the end, it’s really significantly more robust than the GH2. Under the plastic skin, the GH2 has a metal chassis, too, and I’ve seen plastic skinned DSLRs bounce off the ground with nothing more than some scratches, and all-metal bodies come away dented. There aren't a lot of reports of broken or failing GH2s. If you want to use your camera to pound tent states, you’d better use one of Nikon’s or Canon’s pro bodies, and not any m43. Advantage: Tie

    “Weatherproofing”: Frankly, I’m not convinced this is much more than a marketing claim. The weatherproofing apparently is dependent on several removable, and easily lost, seals. That’s a far cry from cameras like the Nikon D3 or D4 and the Canon 1D series, or even the 7D. And even with the seals, it’s rated only IPX1, which means “Protection against vertically falling drops of water e.g. condensation.” It’s not even IPX2 certified, “Protected against direct sprays of water up to 15 degrees from the vertical.” So maybe a light drizzle is safe, but maybe not much more. I wouldn't even think about using it in a storm, or in the surf to shoot surf boarding. This is not weatherproof to the degree professional PJ cameras are. Not even close. Then again, I shoot in the rain very infrequently, and the various aftermarket solutions work well enough for me, so this isn’t a big deal either way. Advantage: OM-D, but just barely.

    Size: Yes, it’s smaller than the GH2. But with the lenses I commonly use, the effective size with lens mounted really isn’t all that different. All of my lenses (except the 20mm) protrude well beyond the grip on the GH2, so the real depth of the body/lens combo is pretty much the same. Yes, the EVF protrudes more on the GH2, but I think that’s actually an advantage, as it leaves more “nose clearance” than the OM-D’s EVF. In any case, I don’t find the OM-D enough smaller in actual use that it’s a significant benefit. If how it fits in your pocket without a lens is important, then the OM-D has the advantage. That’s not important to me. Both are enough smaller and lighter than my EOS gear that I'm happy, and the GH2 may be a little lighter. In some cases, the smaller size is actually a problem for me. See “ergonomics,” below. Advantage: Tie

    Sensor: Some still want to argue the point, but the sensor in the OM-D is better, in at least 2 respects, than the one in the GH2. It is less noisy at high ISO, and it does have better DR. I haven’t done a bunch of side-by-side comparisons, because I’m more interested in taking photographs than pixel peeping. Many other people have done so. But I did take one set of bracketed exposures, on each camera, of a very high contrast scene (under an overpass, in the evening, deep shadows and bright street and traffic lights). Neither could really recover the shadows without noise, and both blew the highlights. Based on what I’ve seen and read on the webz, I think the OM-D has about a 1 stop advantage in DR and high ISO noise. For the vast majority of what I shoot I have no complaints about the GH2’s noise and DR.

    And I really do miss one feature of the GH2 sensor when I’m shooting with the OM-D, and that’s the multi-aspect capability. I was shooting with the 7-14 one evening, and decided I wanted a wider FOV than I was seeing in the EVF, so I switched to 16:9. Oops. On the OM-D, that doesn’t actually make the captured image wider, like it does on the GH2. I think the GH2 is a better wide angle tool because of this capability. Advantage: Tie (If the Oly had a multi-aspect sensor, I’d give it the win.)

    IBIS (vs OIS): OK, I think everyone understands the advantage IBIS has in stabilizing all lenses, including legacy lenses. I honestly don’t find myself shooting very slow shutter speeds with wide-angles very often, but I can see that it will be useful sometimes. I didn’t do any comparisons of OIS vs. IBIS, but there are enough people who have to convince me that they are very comparable. Some tests show OIS a bit better, some show IBIS a bit better, but they seem very close. The difference may be due to each individual’s particular form of shake, but I also get the feeling (and it’s nothing more than that) that IBIS might be a tiny bit better with wider lenses, OIS with longer ones. Given that IBIS doesn’t take anything away, I give the Oly the advantage here. Advantage: Oly

    9 fps: This is cool, without question. I don’t shoot a lot of sports these days, but it’s real nice for hand-held AEB. Of course, it’s handicapped by not providing AF after the first shot, but if I shot more sports I might consider this a bigger advantage. Given my typical subject matter, though, it’s not that much of a factor for me. Advantage: Oly, but only marginally for me.

    I’m not sure this got a lot of coverage, compared to the features above, but

    The EVF: I am surprised. It is quite a bit better than the one in the GH2. It seems crisper and clearer, even in the higher refresh rate mode. And it does a better job of showing me what the actual exposure is going to look like. It’s also better in handling rapid subject or camera movement in dim light. And I think finder “blackout” in high speed mode is much better than in the GH2. This is slightly offset by the smaller magnification, but overall I’m very impressed. For me, this might be the biggest advantage of the OM-D. Advantage: Oly

    But I’m not as happy with the OM-D in some other respects. For example:

    The flash: I rarely shoot with flash, which means I probably wouldn’t carry the separate OM-D flash a lot of the time. But occasionally I find it handy to be able to add a little fill, or find myself in a dark restaurant with friends and want to snap a couple of pics. With the GH2 I always have a flash. With the OM-D I’d probably not have one with me when I wanted it.

    The biggest drawback to me, and pretty close do a deal breaker:

    AEB: I've posted about this previously, but the contortions necessary to turn AEB on and off are ridiculous. This is perhaps the best example of how NOT to implement camera controls, and the worst implementation of a camera user interface I’ve ever seen. It literally takes a dozen button pushes or more to turn AEB on, and the same to turn it off again. Unlike Panasonic, which separates the selection of AEB options (e.g. 5 frames at 1 stop intervals) from turning it on and off, Oly combines them into the same menu tree, forcing you to navigate to, and through, the options selection even if all you want to do is turn the previously selected option off, or on. (Yes, I know you can set AEB to a myset, but unfortunately that doesn’t affect only AEB, it affects nearly every camera setting, potentially overriding your current shooting options. That’s just not a good option.) I frankly can’t believe the UI got through Oly testing this way. And, since I use AEB quite often, this is a major issue for me. Advantage: Panasonic

    Ergonomics: Although nothing else is as dumbfoundingly bad as AEB, there are a number of other UI problems that I find annoying at best, and interfere with my use of the camera at worst. Starting with maybe the least significant, the touch screen interface is half-a$$ed. The SCP is a great feature (mostly), but why do I have to touch an option on the screen and then press the OK button or spin the front dial to change settings. It's a touch screen, Olympus! If I’ve tapped the WB button, why can’t the camera understand it’s because I want to change the ISO and go directly to the setting menu for that, and let me tap the choice I want? Having to touch the screen and then push a button or turn a knob, is not making good use of the touch screen. Panasonic implements the touch screen much more elegantly. It’s not a deal breaker, but after using much better touch screen implementations it’s frustrating. Other foibles:

    -- The SCP is nice, but why can’t I customize what features appear? The similar Panasonic feature is customizable. Why is color space, which most people will set once and never change, on the SCP, while the bracketing options are buried multiple levels into the menus? Oh, and setting ISO via the SCP is a pain, with all the ISOs arranged in a row. If you want to switch from auto to ISO 3200 you need to push buttons repeatedly or spin the dial through every ISO in between. On the GH2, the numbers are arranged in a grid, and you can just touch the value you want. Even if you don’t use the touch screen, you can still choose the desired ISO more rapidly wince you don't have to scroll through every value.

    -- Dual control wheels are nice, and I’d prefer to have a second wheel on the GH2. But I much prefer the location of the rear wheel on the GH2. The rear dial on the OM-D is harder for me to reach over there by the hump than the more outside location on the GH2. But because of Oly’s emphasis on making the body tiny, there’s simply no way to position it to the outside.

    --The eye sensor for switching between the EVF and the rear screen is a nice feature, and both cameras have it. But Oly didn’t quite think it through. If you’re carrying the camera around your neck or over your shoulder, the eye sensor will keep the camera from going into sleep mode. So you need to turn off the eye sensor, or turn off the camera in between shots. The GH2 doesn’t let the eye sensor prevent sleep mode. A much better implementation.

    -- The rear screen itself is a toss up. I don’t see a huge advantage in viewing quality for either, for my use. I rarely compose on the screen, though, so I might not really notice. But I much prefer the articulated design of the GH2, both because it’s more useful for vertical and over your head shots, and because it allows the screen to be turned around facing the camera to protect it when not in use. I’m also not thrilled with the capacitive screen on the OM-D, since in chilly or cold weather I wear gloves a lot.

    -- The controls, in general, are better on the GH2, IMO. Changing drive mode (single vs. burst), choosing AEB or self-timer, and AF modes can all be done with a simple flick of a switch. On the OM-D they require diving into the SCP and/or menus. I don’t change focus modes frequently, but I do switch between single, burst and AEB a lot, and that’s simply much, much, much easier on the GH2.

    --The grip on the GH2 is much, much better, for me. It just makes the camera much easier to hold and use, and the more forward mounted shutter release is more comfortable. Yes, a grip is available for the OM-D, and if I could get just the horizontal portion for about $50 I might call this even, but even that would pretty much eliminate any size advantage the OM-D can claim. And $300 is just way too much for me to pay for a grip, when I don't care about the vertical grip or an extra battery.

    So for me, the GH2 is just better ergonomically in almost every way. A little bit better in some respects, a lot better in others. Advantage: GH2

    Two things that I’ve seen others complain about are the location of the on-off switch and the “mushy” buttons. Oddly, neither bothers me at all. The on-off switch on the GH2 is more conveninet, but the OM-D switch isn’t a problem for me.

    So, on balance, the things about the OM-D that I really prefer are IBIS and the EVF. In pretty much every other respect, I prefer the GH2. And I just can’t get over how poorly implemented AEB is on the Oly. I find myself using exposure compensation instead of AEB, but that really slows down the ability to take multiple shots rapidly.

    The OM-D is a very capable camera handicapped by a poor UI and ergonomics that are compromised by Oly’s focus on tiny size. I used EOS cameras for years, and got used to the select an option and spin a dial approach to UI, but when I started using Panasonics, I realized just how much better the GH2's interface is, in most respects. And Olympus is well behind Canon in ease of selecting options. If I hadn’t used cameras with better interfaces, I’d probably be satisfied with the OM-D’s. Unfortunately, I have, and I’m not. Are IBIS and a better EVF enough to overcome the other issues? Not for me. Advantage: GH2.

    The OM-D is a very good camera in many respects. It’s just not the best choice for me. If it's the best choice for you, go for it. But I'd suggest you not assume it's the best if you've never used a GH2. Just as Panasonic users shouldn't put down the OM-D without trying one.
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  2. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    I can appreciate that. While I have had several Olympus cameras (and generally liked them) I tend to favor Panasonic cameras and some of the things you bring up are things that are I have thought about when I considered the E-M5 a while back.

    That said, I don't think Olympus' UI is poor but different where the Panasonic does many things very much like Canon and Nikon do. I don't know which is better but Panasonic's is certainly more familiar...and there is a lot to be said for that approach. Controls and UI a re a very particualr thing. What some like others hate and it's difficult to label one or the other as poor...although I have been using a NEX as of late and THAT's a challenging UI.
  3. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Real Name:
    meyerweb... I have been shooting the GF1, G3, GH2, E-PL3 and E-M5... most of them since they were introduced. Your analysis is just about as I, too, would compare the bodies.

    The emphasis on making FULL-featured m4/3 bodies as small as possible is folly, in my view. Having a couple of choices in compact "pen-like" bodies is fine for that market, but when it comes to full-featured, I believe that the E-M5 is smaller than it should have been. If Olympus had just made a better built-in grip, there would be no need for a $300 (outrageous!) accessory for most E-M5 users. And the overall size of the E-M5, if just slightly larger, might well have been much better suited to most users because the buttons and controls wouldn't be so cramped in. I am often a bit frustrated trying to operate the back panel controls on the E-M5 due to their small size and close proximity. Personally, I couldn't care less about wanting to "shoe-horn" a full-featured DSLR-styled mini-body into my coat pocket. I'll choose a different body if stuffing into a pocket is something I must have on particular occasions.

    There has been so much hype surrounding the E-M5 that one might think it was blessed by Jesus himself! :wink: What makes the camera excel for me is the combination of IBIS with the other full-featured attributes. IBIS isn't a huge factor for me, but it's nice to have in some circumstances. The OIS in many of the Pany lenses is an excellent alternative. And I've pretty much given up legacy lenses, at this late date, as the native lens choices have largely eclipsed my need for them - so IBIS for them is not so important. As for the E-M5 sensor, it's certainly a good one, but only very marginally better than what you find in the GH2, G3, and GX1. And I think the sensor and processor in the G5 returns images so close to that of the the E-M5, that the difference is negligible for most intents and purposes.

    The reality is that the E-M5 is an excellent camera in several respects, but is really just an incremental step forward for m4/3 cameras overall. It was a MUCH bigger step up for Olympus -as a brand- than it was for m4/3 -as a format, given the wonderful performance of the G3, GX1, and GH2.

    I'll repeat that like you, I shoot with the E-M5 as well as the GH2 and other Pany and Oly bodies... so I don't have a brand bias... I'll choose the best camera and the best lens for the particular job at hand.

    I'm eagerly anticipating the arrival of the G5, as well as the GH3... and the re-vamped Pens.

    I've stated this several times on this forum... and I'll state it again... I think when we finally get a GX1 quality and style body, but with integrated EVF (no hump), articulating screen, G5 sensor & processor, and other attributes of the G5.... we are going to have a camera which will strike gold for the manufacturer. The wait is on... hopefully it won't be too long and I'd be thrilled to have it from either maker... especially if it combines the excellent attributes which Panasonic builds into their cameras, along with a great IBIS... WOW! That will be a significant camera offering in our beloved format. :smile: I just hope the maker is smart enough to NOT make such a body too small! These days it's easy to build a product that really is too small for good human ergonomics and I think the E-M5 dipped just a slight bit into that "too small" pond. There are rumors of a higher grade OMD body in the works that is likely to be just a bit larger than the E-M5, and I think it will be well received if for no other reason than that fact that it may be just slightly larger than the E-M5 and therefore easier to handle quite comfortably - without having to add a $300 grip!
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  4. tuanies

    tuanies Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 13, 2011
    Graham, WA
    Real Name:
    Tuan Huynh
    I've been on the fence lately, but I pretty much agree with what you had to say about everything. The Panasonic UI has always been easy for me to get into instantly. The Olympus UI I just found complicated and annoying on the E-PM1 and E-M5 I used at the store, unfortunately.

    I still love my GH2 and its been good to me, I kind of got caught up in all the hype but I think I'd rather spend the money on more glass than another body :).
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Dave in Wales

    Dave in Wales Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 5, 2011
    West Wales
    OK, as both a GH2 and OM-D owner I accept all/most of what you say.

    But IMVHO it goes far beyond that, the GH2 is a 'workman' of a camera, that gives the results, easily, when required.

    The OM-D is a different animal, it's a 'jewel' of a camera, it gives the results, good ones at that but perhaps not quite so easily.

    I just love to pick it up and handle it, it's a 'lovesome' thing, a class act difficult to follow.

    One buys a GH2 with ones head, an OM-D E-M5 is bought with the heart.

    Just my 2p's worth.

    My 'jewel' a class act, difficult to follow.
    P1010265-RS by Dave in Wales, on Flickr
    • Like Like x 4
  6. Dave in Wales

    Dave in Wales Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 5, 2011
    West Wales
    No experience, but from what I have read the GH2 is the industry standard, reportedly the best video of any camera.
  7. nianys

    nianys Mu-43 Regular

    Camera should not be "difficult to follow". I'd rather meet the challenge of making truly compelling images than winning over a capricious camera !
    I've been VERY, VERY tempted to buy the O-MD (still am at times), but every detailed analysis like the excellent one posted above stops me cold in my tracks.
    I have a GX-1 that is a fantastic camera with perhaps the best UI I ever worked with, and since finding out I can indeed manual focus older lenses with decent success, it just become an even more viable option for me.
    I'm an all CaNikonFuji gal, but the Panny has taken me by surprise by how awesome it is, and I'd buy an upgraded GX-2 in a heartbeat even if it had only a corner EVF as difference with the GX-1.
    I tried two Oly bodies and both drove me absolutely mental, and I couldn't live with the UI on a daily basis.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. parka

    parka Mu-43 Regular

    May 12, 2012
    I'm a GH2 user also.

    I've borrowed the OMD to try and my thoughts are similar to meyerweb.

    I really like the idea of two dials but the real dial can't be reached easily so it's as if it's not there for me.

    The jpeg quality is really better. For shoot and forget people, this is the cam for you.
  9. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    A fine comparison. I had totally different reactions but all I try to do when discussing equipment and all I can ask of anyone else is that they're honest and their biases are clear and disclosed and Bob did that. I had both cameras and never got on well with the GH2 but bonded quite quickly with the OMD. Purely personal preference and not that the GH2 isn't a fine tool - but it's strengths and weaknesses didn't mesh with mine at all and I just never liked the DSLR feel of it. OK, fair enough, different strokes, etc. two great cameras.

    But then after Bob's comparison, I found I'd walked into the middle of a Pany fanboys convention (understandable and not a problem), but then with tripe like this:

    Yes, that's the only reason anyone would ever prefer the OMD! And all who chose it are, by inference, "lazy shoot and forget people". You sir (or madam) are a tool. Amin asked us to be nice to each other, so I'll limit my derogatory language to "tool" but I'm thinking of much stronger language here.

    So, as politely as possible, I'll leave it to your imagination where to shove BS like that.

    There are plenty of great cameras out there. The GH2 and OMD are, by many criteria, the best m43 cameras out there at the moment, and each will appeal more to some of us than others for plenty of valid reasons. Personal insults over gear choices are just stupid. And to be clear, I'm not aiming these insults at you because of your gear choices, but because of your blanket insult toward all who would be foolish enough to make a DIFFERENT choice.

    • Like Like x 6
  10. htc

    htc Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 11, 2011
    Real Name:

    I also have to say that IMHO they are different animals and that is a GREAT blessing. I hope they stay that way and people will continue buying both. With their own reasons.

    I shoot a lot in an available light, so anything without IBIS is not for me. Still they all have features I don't like but I just learn to live with those.

    We all have our reasons to buy and sell and those reasons are always going to be partly subjective. I even sold one good lens because it was ugly as… ;-)

    We can't afford to lose either of the brands in m43 so lets respect them all ;-)
    • Like Like x 3
  11. NJH

    NJH Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 8, 2012
    South West England
    Thanks for the review. The response here compared to that over on another popular forum also reiterates to me what a great place this forum is compared to pretty much any other photography forum. Thanks all.
    • Like Like x 2
  12. michaeln

    michaeln Guest

    meyerweb, thanks for your detailed analysis. Your thoughts mirror mine, and are why I returned the OM-D to Amazon for a refund, much preferring almost everything about my GX1.
  13. Bhupinder2002

    Bhupinder2002 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Thanks a lot for putting so much effort into this .I love OLy and Panasonic UI and had never any trouble with it. Having said that , I am also not very much convinced with weather sealing thing on OMD.I am holding back my purchase of OMD and have just ordered Panasonic GX1 .
  14. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin .

    Oct 9, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    Regardless of it being technically "not nice", I'm think that Ray's post was a somewhat warranted response, but it doesn't need to go any further than that. It seems to be easy to forget that just because someone thinks a camera is or isn't serious, doesn't make it so for everyone. Meyerweb has hosed down more enthusiasm over the E-M5 than just about anyone on this forum, but at least here seems to have provided a reasoned albeit predictable analysis based on what is important to him in a camera and didn't resort to insulting anyone for preferring one camera over the other. It's no great concern of mine if someone prefers Olympus over Panasonic, or the GH2 over the E-M5, but I don't want to have to read through ANOTHER thread that becomes a slanging match over the E-M5.
    • Like Like x 1
  15. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin .

    Oct 9, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    I though that a crutch was a tool for people who don't want to hop on one leg.

    P.S. How the hell did we get here from there? A while back we had to create a special thread for these.
  16. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    I've moved the RAW vs JPEG comments from this thread to that one:
  17. drewbot

    drewbot Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 21, 2011
    Toronto, ON
  18. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 5, 2011
    I really haven't done much with video on either. My general feeling, though, is that if you want to do simple amateur video of friends and family either will do. If you really want to get serious, the GH2 is the only m43 camera that can honestly compete with professional video rigs that cost many thousands, in some cases 10s of thousands, of dollars more.
  19. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 5, 2011
    Just in case it wasn't clear (but it should be), I think the OM-D is capable of producing excellent results, in both raw and jpeg :). If it works for you, I think that's great. If the things I consider weaknesses don't bother you, or you value certain of it's strengths more than I do, then it might well be the better choice. As just one example, if I never used AEB, and frequently shot handheld in very low light, the benefits of IBIS would clearly outweigh the disaster (IMHO) of the AEB implementation.

    My use of the camera has convinced me that my feeling that much of the hype is unjustified, but that doesn't mean it isn't a very good camera. It's just not the second coming.

    If you can't take good photographs with either camera, the problem is more likely behind the camera than the camera itself. The GH2, however, makes taking good pictures easier, for me. For someone else, it might be the OM-D that meets that standard.
    • Like Like x 1
  20. jnewell

    jnewell Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 23, 2011
    Boston, MA
    Good discussion. I am currently using a GX1 and an OM-D, as well as an M8 and a D700 and a D300. None are perfect, though I get great results from all and enjoy using each of them...