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Why I replaced my DSLR with a m4/3

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by AceStar, Jan 18, 2011.

  1. AceStar

    AceStar Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 9, 2011
    Melbourne, Australia
    I'm just an enthusiast, not a pro or anything, but here are some ramblings about why I switched to Micro Four Thirds.

    A number of small, niggly things added together to make me start to dislike my Nikon D40. It's a bit on the old side, but that isn't so much a problem in itself. I had a couple of lenses and a flash unit. But when considering whether I needed to upgrade my body, or experiment with new lenses, got me into re-thinking whether Nikon was right for me long term.

    I don't like how the current split between Full Frame (Nikon FX) and APS-C (Nikon DX) has ended up disadvantaging people who bought DX stuff. Back when I first dipped into DSLR territory, Nikon or Canon were the way to go, and basically all their stuff was APS-C. Nikon called this format DX and they brought out a number of lenses specifically for it. The trouble is, now Nikon seem to be repositioning DX as an amateur format and are bringing out countless cheap slow zoomy lenses for it, and all their good new stuff - fast zooms and primes I may want to try in the future - is FX. That's fine; it'll work on a DX body albeit with a crop factor, but in making any investment into it, you have to think about whether you're going to be able to stay with DX indefinitely or if will be necessary to move all up to FX one day to take advantage of that better stuff. And if it is, it's both hellishly expensive, and you'll need to throw out all your DX lenses as they are not compatible anymore. So if my existing gear wouldn't be able to come with me through an upgrade anyway, I may as well have given the same amount of consideration to non-Nikon gear as Nikon gear when considering an upgrade. And considering how I can't afford to buy into the more future-proof Nikon FX format now, it made jumping ship tempting.

    My Nikon D40 has dust on the sensor. It's not a huge problem, and I can have it cleaned I know. But more would form after that, and the dust sits so close to the sensor that stopping down even to f/8 makes it visible. It made me uncomfortable choosing greater depths of field, and it's not nice to have your creativity hampered like that. Newer camera bodies have a sealed filter further in front of the sensor to throw dust further out of focus. And they have dust cleaning technology - I don't know how effective that is but it has got to be better than nothing.

    Another thing - I don't know if it was the mirror/pentamirror assembly or the camera design or just me, but all my pictures seemed to be tilted on a very slight angle - the same angle. Every picture I took that included a vertical line or a horizon (which is a lot) I ended up spending most of my time concentrating on getting those right and compensating for the fact that I would probably otherwise get it crooked. I can easily fix it in post, but that's fiddly.

    I told you these were all just small, niggly reasons - none of which would make me dump a good camera, but they at least got me thinking about what cool new stuff I'd like to own instead.

    I was even drawn into thinking about image stabilization, having none on my D40 or its lenses (I've had them since before VR came to so many Nikon lenses).

    Lastly but not least, the camera was just too big for me. It meant it was just too much of a hassle carrying it around and getting it in and out of my bag, and everything like that. I would take it with me less, and would feel self conscious with it around my neck or being in a crowd with it. And yet it's basically the smallest Nikon DSLR.

    I considered a Canon G11/G12 and S95 but always put it off because the small sensor size and consequent poor low light performance always worried me. Plus I wouldn't be able to play around with any changeable lenses at all; so I'd have to keep my DSLR anyway and I'd still have the problem of what to do with that.

    I'd heard a thing or two about Micro Four Thirds but always dismissed it since I thought/assumed it had a small sensor too, just like a G12. Then one day I was reading and realised the sensor size was actually very similar to APS-C (just a little smaller). Perfect! I thought. And they've even done away with the mirror assembly and managed to get lenses smaller and simpler, like Rangefinders! The E-P1 and GF1 seemed like great, go-anywhere, stealth (non-intimidating) but still high image quality cameras.

    Now I have an Olympus E-P2 and Panasonic 20/1.7 and it's great. The ability to play around with my old, M42 pentax lenses via an adapter is even a bonus. It's clearly a camera that real camera enthusiasts can play with and get creative doing so, even more so without the bulk or huge expense of Nikon FX or a 5DMkII or anything like that.

    It's also a just as if not more capable camera than my D40 - mostly because technology has marched on a bit since then. Low light efficiency is pretty much the same despite the smaller sensor size (though it's no match for something new like the D7000). Dynamic range is fine, color is fine. It goes up to 6400ISO if you want to push it that far, it has in-body IS, it has better autofocus (D40's was very basic, even though it was phase-detection) and has a faster continuous shooting rate. It satisfies my needs.

    Don't know if this rambling story is interesting to anyone, but others feel free to add your own story.
    • Like Like x 11
  2. bilzmale

    bilzmale Mu-43 All-Pro

    First of all welcome to the forum and yes, I can relate to this. I began feeling very conspicuous at family gatherings and even on travels with my Olympus 4/3 system and collection of high grade lenses. For a couple of months I shot with a point & shoot but quality and performance were lacking. :43: appealed to me instantly but the E-P1 minus a VF didn't so when the E-P2 + EVF were announced I jumped. There was still something missing for me in that form factor so I bought a G1 body with VF built in. Have now settled on the GH1. Interestingly I now own no Oly gear - for me Pana has the edge in lenses and I've expressed my preference for body shape. :smile:
    • Like Like x 3
  3. shoturtle


    Oct 15, 2010
    Yeah, a compact solution for my travel need was answered by m4/3. It works great for most my shooting. But there are things that is can't do still. And that is where the big camera comes in. But I love my epl-1. Was the best travel camera I have ever had. Super long trip to SE Asia, and it did all the photo duties without any complaints. Great IQ, great oly jpegs. The only thing I do not shoot with it is action and very very low light stuff. That is where the 60D and the T1i comes out.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Vivalo

    Vivalo Olympus loser

    Nov 16, 2010
    Thanks Ace for telling your story. My first DSLR was Oly E-520, which wasn't exactly a big camera, but I felt many times that people were too aware about me and my camera. Also I don't think many modern DSLRs are very aesthetic and for me photography is art, not only the photos that come out of the camera. First time when I saw proto-photos of the E-P1 I knew that was for me, but it took me almost a year to by one and I haven't looked back since. E-P1 and 2 are future classics. I hope you enjoy your gear and most of all, your hobby.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Danny_Two

    Danny_Two Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 30, 2010

    That pretty much sums it up for me. When I decided to get back into photography after ten yeara the G1 was the camera that always stood out in shops because of its size. I ended up paying more than I had planned so I could have it.
    If I had a full dslr I know Id hardly use it, and like you Im self conscious enough as it is.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Iconindustries

    Iconindustries Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Hey AceStar. I've heard that when the D40 came out it was a pretty good camera in it's time. I guess that it's now been superseded but it was a recommended small (yes it was classed as small) camera for along time. I nearly bought one myself 6 months ago but they have held there value so much it was cheaper to buy a brand new D90. I'm not sure what you mean by saying that Nikon are making cheap glass for the DX line. I bought myself a nikkor 2.8 17-55mm lens and it wasn't cheap and it reflects that in the build quality and most certainly the image quality. Today I was having a look at a nikkor 2.8 70-300mm VR ii, now the price for that rolls in at $2500.

    I think dSLR's still have there place but as time progresses the smaller cameras will get better and better. I find that my D90 will take sharper images and has better dynamic range than my GF1. But I guess the shortcomings of the GF1 make itself up in the weight war. The D90 with a steel lens on the front is pretty heavy. I handed it to my mum the other day so she could take a pic of me and I don't think she realised how heavy it was 'cause she nearly dropped it.

    I have a lot more people look at me when I've got my D90 than when I've got my GF1. I'm not sure whether this is good or bad yet. It would be good if young girls like guys with big cameras. haha
    • Like Like x 1
  7. pxpaulx

    pxpaulx Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 19, 2010
    I was drawn to the size of M4/3 cameras as well - the GF1 was my first, eventually acquiring an e-p1 and e-pl1 along the way (I go through a lot of gear, sadly!). I've gone in the opposite direction, back primarily to Pentax with a K5. why? 14 stops of dynamic range, being able to shoot handheld in extremely low light and a compact prime lens setup. Unfortunately Panasonic did just make an offer I couldn't refuse (through their EPP program), and have a GH1 on the way, so I guess I can't give it up completely!
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Fiddler

    Fiddler Mu-43 Veteran


    I feel the same as you about most of the points you've made. I started to feel that taking my DSLR with me to social events was a drag, and I didn't like having to 'keep my eye on' my camera, so it was under used. M43 really appealed to me when the E-p1 and G1 came out, but I couldn't afford the high prices, so I waited for them to come down. As it turned out, I was able to buy into the system very cheaply later. Now the DSLR only comes out when I'm doing studio shots using wirelessly triggered strobes. Just now I'm questioning whether I need the DSLR at all... I know that the m43 cams have lower dynamic range, but I'm happy enough with the IQ that m43 delivers. Being able to use so many legacy lenses was the clincher for me - I knew it was going to be great fun, and it is :smile:
  9. jalex

    jalex Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 24, 2010
    I understand where you are coming from. More and more I am tempted to sell the DSLR gear and just keep the micro four thirds.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. ZephyrZ33

    ZephyrZ33 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 18, 2010
    Southern California
    I like to record my experiences...

    Thanks for the read OP,

    I was on the fence for years with the APS-C DSLR cameras but decided not to pull the trigger because...I like to record my experiences, not make the experience revolve around carrying a dslr.

    This ephiphany came when I was traveling with two friends. One had a Canon 5D while the other was carrying a GF1.

    Mr. DSLR was reserved in his daily activities, and when not, his expensive equipment was sitting in the hotel. Mr. m4/3 ultimately took more pictures because he was able to take his little lumix everywhere.

    To my surprise, the picture quality was comparable, but the clincher was...the GF1 was able to produce some priceless candids. Mr. m4/3's camera was inconspicuous so when he pulled it out, people around him just went about their business. Mr. DSLR's candids seemed a little unnatural and his subjects looked like, with lack of a better expression, "A deer in headlights"

    It's really up to the photographer's style, and in some cases I would rather depend on a DSLR. I realized that I mostly shoot when traveling or at social gatherings, and the micro 4/3rds seemed like the perfect compromise between IQ and portability.

    On the otherhand, I'll make sure to invite Mr. DSLR to the next sporting event, wedding or commissioned shoot. That's my rambling and random thoughts. :smile:

    • Like Like x 1
  11. John M Flores

    John M Flores Super Moderator

    Jan 7, 2011
    I bought a GH2 instead of a Pentax K-5 last month. While the K-5 is undoubtedly an excellent camera that will eventually find its way into my bag, the GH2 has been a pleasant surprise. In many ways it matches my older Pentax K20d and in some ways even surpasses it. With the right lenses and the right backup camera (GF1? GF2?) I will not hesitate taking the GH2 on a paid assignment...
  12. pxpaulx

    pxpaulx Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 19, 2010
    Fancy seeing you over here John! The GH2 does look nice, I am looking forward to getting my new GH1 sometime this week. If you do ever go with a 2nd body, the Oly's with in-body IS do pretty well too.
  13. pjohngren

    pjohngren Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 15, 2010
    My feeling is that DSLR and their mirrors will be a thing of the past. Large heavy imposing, cameras with bazooka lenses will be as well. I have a Nikon D-80 and now never use it. Instead the GF1 and G1 satisfy all my needs and do so with every bit the image quality of the D-80, in fact better. Never got up to the D-90, so can't compare the Panasonics to that. Yesterday I used my GF1 with new 14mm 2.5 inside a new art center shooting entirely by existing light at ASA 400 and the shots are sharp, with beautiful color and no noise. There is no lens distortion that I can see - all linies are straight. No chromatic distortion either. It was fun doing this interior architectural stuff with just a GF1 and a 14mm. I didn't feel like I was on a major mission - indeed no one seemed to care. I just looked like a tourist with a point and shoot. What a great camera. Also, outside I found that the little VF-1 viewfinder works very well with the faster prime lens - better than it does with the 14-45. Not anywhere near as grainy.
    Anway - I have totally jumped ship - no more DSLR for me - there is no point. It is interesting that reportedly Nikon is going to come out with a 'pro' expensive mirrorless system. My guess is that they see the writing on the wall and will try to get the pros on board first, then figure out what to do about the rest of us.
    • Like Like x 2
  14. joanne

    joanne Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 5, 2010
    cumbria uk
    I'm different in that I've never owned a traditional DSLR, the size, weight and bulk of it has never appealed for what I use a camera for. Living near the Lake District in summer I can be out for 8+ hours a day, so that is a rucksack full of 'stuff' to carry round all day without being weighed down with a huge camera as well. But I love my little camera it suits me and my needs. People aren't scared of it and I don't feel self conscious when I'm taking photos either.
  15. jalex

    jalex Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 24, 2010
    I think you are right!
  16. pjohngren

    pjohngren Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 15, 2010
    An additional thought - what is more fun? Messing around with a large heavy camera monstrosity and looking like "a professional photographer", or holding an elegant, classy piece of well thought out, precision gear that is subtle yet takes great pictures? If you want to feel like a photographer, why not feel like one from National Geographic using a small rangefinder to photographic in Tibet, rather than someone from the White House Press Corps with a huge Canon? The small m4/3 cameras give you that Leica feeling at a sane price, in my opinion. They are just fun to use.
    • Like Like x 5
  17. joele

    joele Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 12, 2010
    Melbourne, Australia
    The only thing I really miss from my DSLR days is the portrait grip, my hands are on the large size and even the g2 is almost too small for me (though I am living with it). With a little bit extra optional grip it would still be much smaller than a DSLR with a grip on (I always had a grip for DSLR) but would still be a lot smaller and lighter..

    I also think people in the 'west' will get over the bigger DSLRs being needed by everyone and mirrorless will catch on here as it seems to have already done in Japan.. (based on figures I heard that in the US mirrorless is only 5% whilst in Japan it has already reached 40%)..
  18. John M Flores

    John M Flores Super Moderator

    Jan 7, 2011
    Hey man, I think that we're not the only Pentaxians here - I think that we as a group value smaller camera bodies, so M43 is a logical connection.

    Whatever you do, please don't tell me how awesome the K5 is LOL! I'm going to have to sneak one into the house without my wife noticing!
  19. Fiddler

    Fiddler Mu-43 Veteran

    You are so right. M4/3 is the fun format :smile:
  20. drpump

    drpump Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 28, 2010
    We bought an E-PL1 for a recent trip to Vietnam. I wanted to take our DSLR because our point-and-shoot is kinda limited, but neither I nor my wife wanted to carry it. I was also thinking about upgrading the body. My wife said "as long as it's not heavier than the one we have", which led me to MFT.

    We're very happy with the results. I carried the camera pretty-much everywhere in Vietnam with no problems. The 20mm Panasonic lens was mounted most of the time and was fantastic for quick shots, especially indoors and at night. It produces better images than any lens we had on our DSLR. We also had a 14-150 zoom for the occasions that needed it, and I've been pretty impressed with the image quality from it too. The Olympus JPEGs are excellent, so I'm no longer fiddling with RAW files (although I might dabble again in future).

    At home, the E-PL1 sits out on the bench at home ready for a quick snapshot, whereas the DSLR stayed in the cupboard.

    So, we're getting more and better photos from our new rig. About the only thing lost is speed: the E-PL1 is noticeably slower than the DSLR. Budget permitting, I'm hoping for a body upgrade in a year or two.

    One of the reasons I bypassed the G2/GH1 was because the grip didn't fit my long-ish fingers. I found the rangefinder style more comfortable and natural to hold.
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