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Which m4/3rds system for wildlife?

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by Overread, Jun 13, 2011.

  1. Overread

    Overread New to Mu-43

    2
    Jun 12, 2011
    Currently I have a Canon DSLR system for my main interests and whilst I'm still expanding that system I've come to the realisation that I also need something smaller and lighter to compliment it. Something that will not be as heavy to lug around nor as bulky. This isn't just for pure wildlife interests, but also for general trips out with family and the like - letting me have a good quality, easy to control camera, but which also affords me the breadth of focal ranges and features that I need.

    Originally I was looking at a good quality bridge camera, single bodies with massive zoom ranges on their small lenses and whilst the focal ranges on offer are very attractive; the overall controls are a bit more clunky. Digital focus and zoom can be slow to respond (and focus can be a nightmare) whilst menu driven settings control is, again, slower than idea.
    Overall I greatly suspect it would end up a system that not only gave me lesser (technically speaking) results than my DSLR, but which also proved to be a pain to shoot with after getting so used to DSLR controls.


    So enter the m4/3rds system, where a modest 200mm lens can get out to around 400mm equivalent. Granted this means I'm losing the single camera aspect, but with the lenses not needing to be so large its the kind of setup that can at least fit well into a small shoulder bag.


    So its narrowed things down to Oly vs Pan, but here I'm stuck choosing between the two companies and would greatly welcome some advice as to which would prove the better in the longer term to choose. As I see it the major differences are:

    Olympus (Epl 1/2)
    In body stabilization, which allows for quick and easy use of the feature for any mounted lens - giving me a wider (and cheaper) range of lenses I can use (in addition to being very nice for a few of my Canon lenses with a mount adaptor - MPE 65mm macro + Oly is something that would be interesting to try!)

    Small, sleek design - honestly I like the design of their cameras, they look compact and small - different to the DSLR appearance.



    Panasonic (G series)
    A more DSLR appearance and shape - might make for a slightly easier hold in the hands.

    All the time viewfinder present - whilst I can get the attachment one for the Oly to even the score, the Panasonic one is always fitted and won't have the slipping off problem.

    Faster AF - whilst both are contrast AF and thus slower then regular DSLR AF, the Panasonics appear to be reported as faster at getting a lock on than the Olympus options.

    In both cases I have to push to the EPL2 or the G3 to get 1/4000sec shutter speeds and a higher usable ISO range.

    Flash - here is the biggest problem/difference and is what is pushing me away from the Oly, which I like, and toward the Panasonics. If I want offcamera flash control with the Oly, whilst also retaining my viewfinder I have to use their wireless flash control via the popup flash. The problem here is if I've mounted a flash on a bracket facing forward (more/longer fill flash range) the sensor won't see the popup flash and the same is also true of if I've got it on a macro bracket and - again - at an odd angle. I've read of the solution being to use fibre optic cables to link flash to sensor and whilst reports say this works I don't want to end up getting too complicated a setup.

    Panasonic is where the advantage is since the G series has the viewfinder sitting right there on the camera under the hotshoe - so I can use offcamera via cable (or even radio remote) without any worries or problems at all.



    So there we have it - the Olympus has the inbody IS and the look of a small compact camera on its side -- whilst the Panasonic has the advantage of better offcamera flash control options (whilst retaining the viewfinder use) and a slightly more DSLR appearance.
    At the moment I'm warmed to the Olympus, but logic is telling me that the Panasonic might be the better option for what I do at a practical level. However I might well be missing some comparative details and also not fully appreciating the features that each offers.

    So if anyone has any advice or own user experiences to share I'd greatly welcome them.
     
  2. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Actually, IBIS is the slower, more complicated solution. You must enter the focal length every time you change lenses.

    Adapters for canon EOS mount are either insanely expensive or don't offer aperture control, so those lenses are almost unusable - pretty much one fixed aperture.

    GH2 and newer AF is as fast as entry-level DSLR and more accurate.
     
  3. Overread

    Overread New to Mu-43

    2
    Jun 12, 2011
    Hmm that is somewhat of a shame concerning the EOS mount adaptors. Annoyingly the market also appears to be flooded with the basic kind (ie no aperture control) versions - would you happen to have any links to current models that do offer aperture control - if just to give an idea of how expensive they actually are on the market?
     
  4. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Just to be clear...

    No need to enter focal length during lens changes for any native m43 lens; Olympus, Panasonic, nor any other brand (ok.. VC 25 f/0.95 is the excepton). It is automatic. In fact, non-IS Panasonic lenses are actually (IMO) more effective on Olympus bodies because they too are stabilized.

    As for adapted lenses, yes the "complicated" solution requires you to enter the focal length but its still a better solution than what is offered by Panasonic bodies... which is no option for IS at all. You can always turn off IS on Olympus.

    This is not my observation nor what I have seen anywhere else. I will agree that Olympus is a bit slower than Panasonic... even when compared to the first generation Panny's (mine is G1).




    BTW.. Overread, welcome! Glad you found your way here. A bit smaller forum than "that" forum but in some ways better.
     
  5. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    The only adapter that has aperture control are the ones that adapt 4/3rds lenses to micro 4/3rds. A few adapters have the ability to stop down and open the aperture diaphragms via mechanical linkages; my Minolta AF adapter for example. A trick someone told me about EOS lenses was to stop down the lens on an EOS body and unmount the lens. I haven't tried it.
     
  6. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Panasonic traditionally have the fastest AF, but the newest Olympus E-PL2 is on par now. So the fastest AF systems would be in the Panasonic GH2, G3, or supposedly in the just announced GF3, and the Olympus E-PL2.

    If you want fast zoom lenses with AF though, then Olympus has the best selection with a Four-Thirds mount adapter. Micro Four-Thirds mount currently offers no fast telephoto zooms, or fast zooms period (although the wider prime lens selection is great - but if you want fast telephoto primes again you need to go Four-Thirds). In Four-Thirds mount you can get some of the fastest zoom lenses in the world, including the Zuiko 14-35mm f/2.0, Zuiko 35-100mm f/2.0, or Zuiko 90-250mm f/2.8 top-pro zooms. You can also get more affordable and relatively sized bright zooms such as the excellent Zuiko 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD, which will give you good speed and focal range for capturing wildlife. There is also a very affordable Zuiko 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 which won't give you as great speed or sharpness as the above mentioned lenses, but will give you that extra focal range and serves as a 1:1 EFL tele-macro lens to switch from shooting big game to shooting a tiny bug from a few feet away. It just requires better sunlight than the fast zooms, but may be a better handling size on the small body (personally, I'm perfectly comfortable with the size and weight of the Zuiko 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD on my Olympus E-PL2).

    That shouldn't affect your choice of bodies, just lens mounts. Get the Panasonic DMW-MA1, Olympus MMF-1, or Olympus MMF-2 to operate these lenses with full S-AF.

    In-Body Image Stabilization should be something to consider though, as you will be using some pretty long focal lengths for wildlife. Olympus has this, but Panasonic doesn't.

    Personally, my top picks for your needs would probably be the Panasonic GH2 or Olympus E-PL2. Both are very responsive, and offer full features and handling, plus the premium in Micro Four-Thirds Image Quality (the GH2 has a multi-aspect 16MP digital sensor, while the E-PL2 has a super weak AA filter for more detailed, cleaner images). The Olympus has IBIS, but the Panasonic has a better body to grip with an an integrated EVF (although the accessory EVF on the Olympus is just as good if not better - unlike the integrated EVF, the accessory EVF is a 90 degree vari-finder). Of course, since your entire motive is to reduce size, then the Olympus E-PL2 will definitely do that better, although the larger GH2 body will help in fast-action shooting.

    The GF-3 is also reviewed to be very responsive, but it lacks the functionality of the other bodies, having no hotshoe or accessory port (for electronic viewfinder, external mic jack, or external flash), and being totally reliant on the less efficient touch-screen system. The G3 would also be worthwhile to look at, but if you want the best in a full-sized :43: body with integrated EVF, then the GH2 is a better body as long as price isn't a big issue. The G3 has a similar but more "budget grade" analog version of the GH2's 16MP sensor, but has more reliance on touch-screen in its smaller body. If price is more of an issue, then my top two picks would be the Olympus E-PL2 or Panasonic G3.
     
  7. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    Wildlife is an interest of mine and as much as I like my G2 I'd have to say you're better off with a DSLR than m43. I don't find the AF to be fast enough (granted birds are pretty quick) and the screen blackout when you take a shot makes the whole process a lot slower than ideal. M43 works pretty well for flowers and occasionally I get good shots of my son moving around but it's not the best choice for it. The ability to get long focal lengths is nice but if that were what I wanted I would look at a traditional 4/3 body like an Olympus E3 or E5 (or even an E620) as they have the same 2x crop factor and still have the advantages of a DSLR.

    As an all around camera I like m43 because it is small and I can carry a nice kit with a range of focal lengths in about the same space as my old DSLR body. I have a G2 and like it quite a lot. I find that it handles better than my E-PL1 or E-P1 did/do
    and I don't find the lack of IBIS is not really that much of an issue (even with legacy glass). The EVF is top notch (easily as good as the VF2 which I had paired with the E-PL1) and the rotating LCD is surprisingly useful. There is a lot that is said about the superior IQ of the Olympus JPEGs (and they are very nice) but I don't find the Panasonic ones to be that different. The Panasonic defaults are not as pleasing (color, saturation etc.) but the Panasonic can be set to look very similar. I find the color on the Panasonic to be a bit more accurate but that is also highly subjective and many folks feel differently. It's a very different experience holding the G series and the E-PL series cameras. I think you would be doing yourself a huge favor to go handle them. For instance I was all set to buy an E-PL2 when it came out but once I handled it I found it just wasn't comfortable for me where the G2 was. I think the E-PL2 is a great camera but everyone likes things a bit differently. See what you feel comfortable with.
     
  8. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
  9. SMaturin

    SMaturin Mu-43 Veteran

    243
    Apr 30, 2011
    New York's Backyard
    Shooting wildlife with long lenses is a niche that DSLR still covers better than any other system.

    It is a matter of the physics of capturing natural light. To get really sharp long-focal-length, close-up images of living things that move, you need a big lens of really good quality and wide aperture, combined with fast autofocus and optimal electronics (big sensor chips).

    M4/3 is superb at casual shooting of human-scale images, but is not really ideal for long-distance capture of wildlife. That is not to say that you cannot do it. There are some really amazing captures of little critters, birds, and insects on this forum. I enjoy shooting pix of the little things that can be found in my backyard with my E-P2. But I get better shots of fleeting wild things with my DSLR.

    If you are going into back-country to pursue elusive wild creatures, some of which may be dangerous to get near, high-performance DSLR systems are going to get better and more consistent results.

    But don't let that discourage you from getting a m4/3 camera for "domestic" use.

    -Steve
     
  10. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    I certainly can't disagree with that. The E-5 has the same 2x crop factor, a completely weather sealed body that you can shoot in torrential downpours, blizzards, or even drop in the lake and fish out again. It has a large, bright pentaprism viewfinder which is reputed to be one of the best in the DSLR world, and all the AF points are cross-type. One of the best wildlife systems around, in my eyes, and it is still significantly smaller and more affordable than a Canon or Nikon body/system, even though it has a much more rugged build. Along with the 2x crop factor, you also gain the advantage of 2x the Depth of Field, making it far easier to catch your wildlife in focus, even with the widest aperture zoom lenses in the world (like the constant f/2.0 aperture Zuiko top-pro glass, or the long Zuiko 90-250mm f/2.8 which is equivalent to the gigantic Sigma 200mm-500mm f/2.8 on a Full Frame system).

    Olympus had a much better system for wildlife and nature before the PEN was introduced.
     
  11. brunerww

    brunerww  

    53
    Mar 5, 2011
  12. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Steve
    There is much truth here. The only problem for me is that any zoom over 300mm for my Pentax DSLR is very expensive. Even Sigma's 150-500mm, while quite good, is $1000 - and quite a large and heavy bit of kit. That's why, for less than $500, I got the Lumix 100-300mm zoom for my G1. Here's an example of the sort of shot I can get at 300mm (600mm equivalent):

    https://www.mu-43.com/attachments/f38/4255d1305603143-panasonic-100-300-performance-p1010240a.jpg
     
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  13. SMaturin

    SMaturin Mu-43 Veteran

    243
    Apr 30, 2011
    New York's Backyard
    I understand and appreciate the cost issue, but I do not think that was what the original post was about.

    The OP stated he already had a DSLR, and wanted something smaller and lighter specifically to shoot wildlife. There are trade offs to going to the smaller system. I have done so, and recognize the disadvantages of my E-P2 over my D90 in that realm of use. For "domestic use" I love my Pen, but if I need to capture fast-moving distant creatures, either four-legged or two, I will choose my DSLR.

    For what he will end up investing in a full m4/3 kit with long and fast lenses, he could add a nice long lens to his current DSLR and get more consistent performance, if he is willing to carry the weight into the wild.

    This disadvantage will undoubtedly change in the foreseeable future as optical microelectronics continue to follow Moore's Law and micromechanical designs evolve. I look forward to an mirrorless/compact camera system that can compete with DSLRs for speed, image quality, and autofocus lens choices at "prosumer" price points. The industry is not yet there.
    -Steve
     
  14. brunerww

    brunerww  

    53
    Mar 5, 2011
    • Like Like x 1
  15. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Gordon
    What really bugs me about m4/3 and shooting action is the stupid image review behaviour. Who ever though that playback through the EVF was a good idea? It's ridiculous. And the only way to stop my EVF doing this is to turn off automatic review altogether. Sure there's a longer than normal VF blackout, but it's this behavior that ruins m4/3 as an action and wildlife camera. Someone in the m4/3 world needs to get away from the compact camera mentality and give shooters the option of shooting with the evf and having review on the rear LCD.

    Gordon
     
    • Like Like x 1
  16. brunerww

    brunerww  

    53
    Mar 5, 2011
    Gordon - when shooting action with the GH1 or GH2, I'm almost always in burst mode -- no image review and no EVF blackout. Are other m4/3 cameras different?

    Because there's no automatic image review in burst mode, sometimes I'll hit the playback button for a quick check without taking my eye away from the viewfinder -- this allows me to get back to shooting faster than if I had to take the camera away from my eye to look at the LCD (which is usually reversed to protect it from nose prints, anyway :wink:).

    Cheers,

    Bill
     
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  17. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Gordon
    I'll have to try that, Bill. I have always just used single shot mode. May be time for this dog to learn a new trick.

    Regards

    Gordon
     
  18. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    My epl1 and the g1 still do it in burst mode
     
  19. Glenn S

    Glenn S Mu-43 Top Veteran

    788
    Feb 1, 2010
    Panasonic GH2 with 100-300, at 300mm, burst mode

    P1000437.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  20. sparkin

    sparkin Mu-43 Regular

    173
    Nov 18, 2010
    Lexington, KY
    Overread: You might consider waiting a couple of weeks to see what the soon-to-be-released Olys have to offer.