Too much of a good thing, or Why I'm returning to Micro 4/3

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by stratokaster, Jan 9, 2014.

  1. stratokaster

    stratokaster Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 4, 2011
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    TL;DR: the grass is always greener on the other side, but Micro 4/3 is still the world's best mirrorless system. Also: technical limitations are good, not evil.

    This summer I moved away from Micro 4/3 and switched to not one, but two other mirrorless systems: Nikon 1 (for video and occasional telephoto work) and Samsung NX20 (for everything else). I argued that Nikon 1 as a video camera may not be better than Micro 4/3, but it was certainly better for me because of PDAF. I also liked the fact that I could have a telephoto lens which is both smaller and lighter than Panasonic 14-45.

    My reasons for getting Samsung NX20 were a bit more complicated. To put it succinctly, I wanted a camera with a better sensor than Panasonic and better ergonomics than Olympus.

    Well, after living with this setup for ~5 months I can say that Nikon 1 is great and will stay, but Samsung will be replaced by a Micro 4/3 camera and very soon.

    Actually there is nothing wrong with Samsung NX20. Its ergonomics are perfect: it's as small as Panasonic G3 and as comfortable as Panasonic GH2. The sensor is excellent, the screen is awesome (it's the same OLED panel found on the E-M5 and GH3) and Samsung lenses are great. Even the kit lens is very good, and 30mm f/2 pancake may be the best short-normal prime for any mirrorless system.

    However, there are two pretty big BUTs. First of all, I just don't love the camera. Something doesn't click between us and in the end I just don't want to use it. I noticed that I tend to grab the Nikon even when I know that the Samsung will produce much better results.

    The second issue is that I discovered that I really miss the "look" of images that I took with my Micro 4/3 cameras. At first this was very hard to pinpoint; however after looking through my favorite shots I identified the source of this frustration.

    It is common knowledge that Micro 4/3 sensors are more limited in dynamic range and noise performance than their APS-C counterparts. But this is actually their strength, not weakness& Images from Micro 4/3 cameras with Panasonic sensors, when pushed hard, take on a somewhat gritty, hard-edged look which I find very appealing. When pushed really hard, they sometimes start looking more like a painting than a photograph.

    I also discovered that the excellent dynamic range of Samsung's sensor made me lazy and sloppy. With my Panasonics, I knew that bad light = no shot. With Samsung I constantly try to cheat and take photos in too flat or too contrasty conditions thinking that I somehow might be able to save the image in PP. Needless to say, it never works.

    That's why I'm going to replace Samsung NX20 with Panasonic G6. Yes, I was very vocal about it having the same "old" sensor as the GH2, but now I'm going to buy it precisely because of that sensor with all its strengths and weaknesses! I'm also going to buy a 12MP Micro 4/3 camera because I think this ancient sensor has better colors than everything else on the market (except Sony DSC-R1).

    This revelation has also had a nice side effect of curing me of any illusions that a full-frame camera may somehow improve my photography. If anything, it will make it worse — for reasons that I have already addressed. Peace.
    • Like Like x 13
  2. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    It's true, isn't it?

    • Like Like x 1
  3. It's widely agreed that limitations and constraints force creativity :) I'm surprised that APSC made that much of difference though!
    • Like Like x 1
  4. stratokaster

    stratokaster Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 4, 2011
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    Well, maybe that's because my go-to camera was Panasonic GF2 (because of its small size) and the difference between Samsung's sensor and the GF2's sensor in terms of actual usable dynamic range is more than 2 stops.
  5. orfeo

    orfeo Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 27, 2013
    It's important for us photographer to "click" with our main Tools, being the lenses, the bodies, the software in PP, everything including the photo bag of the flashes! I understand you and I too loved first generation 6 mega pixel sensor back in the day when I switch to 10MP, because when used at 400 ASA in certain PP process I was getting very film like results (astia/velvia/tri X)... I'm sure it's because we are human and we like habits, but still, I really missed that look then and couldn't reach the same level of harmony with my newer sensor. Now I have better result of course but back then I had the same feeling as yours.

    PS: get a new sensor, they are awesome! You can get gritty no problem!
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Livnius

    Livnius Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Jul 7, 2011
    Melbourne. Australia
    Welcome back Pavel. Nothing wrong with setting off to distant horizons and new adventures.

    Good luck with the G6 mate, it's a fine machine...and IMO the finest looking DSLR-type G/GH body.

    Yourself being a long time GH2 user (and someone with a keen interest in video) it's interesting that you've skipped the GH3 ?
  7. stratokaster

    stratokaster Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 4, 2011
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    Thanks Joe!

    Panasonic actually was kind enough to loan me a GH3 when they first became available. The size compared to the GH2 was an obvious put-off, but I was very appreciative of its bigger battery and improved battery life. It was mainly a combination of smaller things:

    – the EVF was kind of washed out and its viewpoint was too tight for me (I wear glasses);
    – I consider myself a tech-savvy person, but I was not able to set up a wireless connection between the camera and my MacBook;
    – I didn't like the new location of AF mode dial, ISO and EV buttons;
    – the 3-dial interface felt a bit clumsy.

    I guess the main thing was that I just did not connect with the camera.

    As for the G6, I'm still oscillating between the G6 and the GX7. The GX7 is oh so sexy, but I think the G6 is more practical (and its fully articulated screen is a godsend in some situations).
  8. pake

    pake Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Oct 14, 2010
    Welcome back! :)
  9. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    ...but then your old-GH2-sensor justification goes out the window if you choose the GX7 and you're back with "too much" dynamic range.

    Your O.P. explains (in general) why my main cameras are e-P1 and e-P2.
    The way that limited-DR sensor creates photos, and the reliably nice colours.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    Well, I actually really love the fantastic DR I can now get from my A7r, and even E-M1. What I am forcing myself to do is see whether I can get an interesting shot in terms of composition and lighting without having to resort to heavy PP. In the end, it's all well and good that we've got sensors that can shoot in darker conditions than I can comfortably see, but the most important question needs to be whether what little light is present is worth capturing - which is what photography is all about, in a sense.
    • Like Like x 2
  11. alex66

    alex66 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 23, 2010
    On a side note I am interested in the Nikon 1 for some of the things it is supposed to do. I am right in thinking it can hammer through frames at a great rate of speed, is this in raw and how do you find the IQ compared to M43? The cam would sit alongside the cameras I have just think it would perhaps make a good replacement for a Casio we have.
  12. stratokaster

    stratokaster Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 4, 2011
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    Yes, you can shoot RAW at 5, 10, 30 or 60 fps. The buffer is good for 30 shots in RAW and in JPEG, it's limited only by the size of your memory card.

    You can also use electronic shutter which is completely (I mean absolutely) silent and doesn't introduce shutter shock. With the optically stabilized kit lens and electronic shutter I can effectively handhold rather long shutter speeds.

    AF is also almost instant.

    Image quality is somewhat competitive with 12 MP Micro 4/3 sensors. The dynamic range is actually slightly better, but the color is not as nice (in my opinion) and the images have less "bite". But overall the quality is much better than I expected.

    I took all those photos with Nikon 1 V1 and 30-110mm telephoto zoom (80-297mm effective):







    View attachment 335575

    (The last one was shot at ISO 1600, 1/15s and equivalent focal length 110mm).
    • Like Like x 4
  13. Neftun

    Neftun Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 15, 2012
    Patrick Kristiansen
    Interesting to have someone vocalise similiar experience to my own with regards to the "outdated" sensors. I still have my ep1, and even though it on paper stinks compared to my em1, it recently have produced some of my favourite shots. And in a similar way to the OP, when pushed hard; high iso, lots of contrast, harsh light, its jpegs look awesome:)

    I'm keeping the ep1.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. vm666

    vm666 Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 19, 2013
    I was saying that to a friend a week ago and he asked who wrote or said that. I was unable to give any reference. Any idea on who "discovered" that?
  15. TheRenaissanceMan

    TheRenaissanceMan Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 11, 2013
    There's an Orson Welles quote that goes something like "A lack of limitations is the enemy of creativity."

    Sent from my SCH-I535 using Mu-43 mobile app
    • Like Like x 1
  16. 50orsohours

    50orsohours Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 13, 2013
    Portland Oregon
    Welcome back! The G6 is a great choice, in fact, to me the G6 image thread is my favorite. There is just something with some pictures posted there that appeal to me the most.
    • Like Like x 1
  17. humzai

    humzai Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 17, 2012
    If the fully articulated screen is your main draw for the g6 the smartphone app sort of makes it less of an issue. Unless you regularly need the greater articulation popping into the app works great for those odd angles or selfies.
    • Like Like x 1
  18. RickVaughn

    RickVaughn Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 8, 2012
    Congrats on the decision! I just received my G6 last night and will be taking it out today for my first shots. I struggled with the decision as there didn't seem to be much interest in the camera on the forums. I can say that I like the initial feel of the camera in the hand and adding in the boxes that it ticks for my style of shooting should be a big plus. Please keep us posted.
    • Like Like x 1
  19. ean10775

    ean10775 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 31, 2011
    Cleveland, Ohio

    Its interesting to me that you say that. I've never felt that way about what I've seen or experienced using m43 (although the only m43 cameras I've used have had the Oly 12MP sensor). In contrast I DID feel that way about the Fuji APS-C X-Trans sensor (which I didn't care for)
    • Like Like x 1
  20. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Welcome back. I missed your avatar.
    • Like Like x 1
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