Yet another "I'm thinking about switching" thread (sorry).

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by misformonochrome, Jan 13, 2014.

  1. misformonochrome

    misformonochrome New to Mu-43

    Jan 13, 2014
    Lamar, Missouri, USA
    M is for Monochrome
    Just joined today after reading some great material here and wanted to ask some advice. I'm sure you get tired of this question as there's lots of information all over the internet on why one would want to switch (or conversely, why one wouldn't); I can read and I know how to Google, so I've got that part covered.

    But what I don't have clear in my mind is: based on the kinds of photography I do, does a switch to MFT make sense? I thought I'd just throw out here something to chew on and if you have the inclination, then I would really love to hear your thoughts on switching to MFT in this situation.

    I'm a software engineer by profession, so am resigned to being a semi-pro (which, to be brutally honest, is a pretty darn good gig if I don't have to worry about health insurance etc... and can still be independent). I'm not terribly interested in dumping my career to focus on photography, either. Anyway, not right now with 4 kids still at home and going into college, yada yada. So while I might "go pro" at some point, I'm content with focusing on the Art of my photography for the time being and maybe trying to make my hobby pay for itself by selling fine art prints as well as sports photos to local parents. I do occasional weddings and portrait sessions, though I don't consider myself a portrait photographer at all (though clients have definitely complimented the results).

    But just because I'm not making my family rely on my photography doesn't mean I'm not interested in producing the finest-quality Art I can. And I do see my photography as Art, not just as Document. I started in photography doing freelance for newspapers, so I have a little photojournalist blood in me. But I was always more interested in getting the "artsy" shots rather than the (what I would consider) boring ones, so I didn't pursue a career in journalism. Since I get the chance to travel from time to time, I've gotten to take my camera along on business trips to Europe and I might be going with a friend to South America this year, so I've got lots of opportunity to bring back some pretty cool travel photography if I've got a camera that I can easily bring with me.

    Last time I was in London, I dragged my Canon 7D around. I got some great shots, but I was less than impressed with the bulk and weight. I was not at all concerned with sticking out because, in London, you're just another tourist mixed among the millions of others and they all have various cameras that look very similar if they aren't the exact same camera. But doing people photography is more difficult than when I tote my Sony NEX with a Konica Hexanon 40mm on an adapter. I want something small, light, and above all, comfortable to whip out at any time and use for, say, nighttime long exposures of the Tower of London, people portraits of strangers I meet on my travels, outdoor sunrises over my 3-acre pond in my front yard, macro shots of anything and everything that grabs my attention, or quick street grabs in the fantastically clean Vienna subway. I need versatility in a single system and while my 7D is very capable, I'm not very happy with the way in which it has to be used to fit each of these situations. But I'm not considering "switching" in the sense that I'll trade in all my Canon gear and go exclusively MFT. I'm planning on keeping my 7D and the excellent 17-40L, the 85/1.8, and the Sigma 50-150 that cover my entire range of shooting needs (especially for sports). I've got flashes, remotes, extension tubes, and all other manner of equipment that certainly help to get the job done, but I simply cannot carry all this stuff around. I can only reasonably carry one lens on the camera (and no flash). I've tried switching out the 85 at times in the field, but frankly I'm so concerned with dropping it onto the pavement, that I rarely attempt lens changes when I'm out and about. The Sigma I would never attempt as a walkaround lens. It's bad enough to tote around on the end of monopod at a football game. Put the battery pack on the 7D and this lens + the camera weighs about 15 pounds. It's painful. Literally.

    I bought the Sony NEX-5n and have enjoyed using it a bunch. I often reach for the Sony when I want to come back with some good shots and don't want to be bothered with the 7D. That Sony is the reason I'm thinking of adding MFT to my arsenal, which might cause me to eventually wean myself off of the 7D and all the other crap that litters my office/studio.

    I've narrowed my decision down to either the MFT Olympus E-M1 or the APS-C Fuji X-E2. I don't honestly care about the sensor size arguments. I used to shoot with a D80 (12Mp) and I'm working on a project of converting a bunch of my grandfather's WWII pictures that are all from an ancient 120 roll film camera. You'd think the medium-format negatives would be just chock full of detail and one could blow them up to a print the size of my living room wall. But you'd be wrong. Those negatives were almost all slightly (or way!) out of focus, overexposed, or otherwise inferior in final quality to a 35mm negative. Since just having a larger film negative didn't mean automagically better photos, I can only assume that the same is true for sensors and that improper exposure and other factors mean just having more megapixels doesn't mean better photos.

    From what I've seen, the Fuji fans seem to think the IQ from the X-Trans sensor is "better" than others. By "better" I assume they mean that they respond emotionally to the photos processed on that sensor and through those lenses in a way that they don't to similar images processed on other sensors and through other lenses. That's subjective, so I'll take that into consideration. But that opinion carries a lot of weight with me because fine art is all about responding viscerally to an image and that's absolutely what I want with my own images. MFT fans, on the other hand, tend to be fairly guarded about overall IQ although it's easy to find people that just flat-out gush over lenses like the Oly 45 or 75 f1.8. There seems to be more focus on the lenses with MFT than with APS-C. It's my completely unscientific opinion that APS-C fans talk more about the sensor itself than they do about the lenses in front of it, where MFT users focus on the opposite.

    So the long and short of it is: I'm hunting for opinions and pats on the head of the "it's going to be okay" variety that give me an idea of whether this is crazy to go spending good money on some kit I (on paper anyway) already have covered. The enjoyment factor I think is a lot of what encourages us to go shoot in the first place, so I'd like something that inspires that feeling in me. I do NOT, unfortunately, get that feeling from Canon (nor from my Sony either, for that matter). At the same time, I'm looking to get the best IQ I can, and by "best" I mean I want my images to inspire in me and my viewers something visceral that I can't get from another sensor/lens combo.

    Sorry for dragging on so long. That's kind of against the grain of our culture of "hurry up and get those thoughts out of your head so you can move on to the next thing". But if I had $20k to spend on a camera setup I'd probably buy a Leica anyway, because I'm not all that interested in being forced to speed up and move on to something new and "wonderful".

    What are your thoughts?
  2. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    A few thoughts from me:
    - you already have 2 APS-C cameras (the 7D and NEX) - is the gushing about the Fuji Colors and the possibly slightly better (than Sony) high ISO performance what you're interested in? Because it's not really about the gear so much as the person behind the lens. To a point it will also depend on whether you click with Fuji: some love it, some love the idea but not the reality.
    - I think part of the reason MFT folks focus on lenses is that we have the widest choice of lenses for any mirrorless system, and they're quite a bit smaller (often, not always) than FF or APS-C gear.
    - rent some MFT gear from lens or something if you can't borrow/try some out. I clicked strongly with both my Oly bodies and the Sony a7r (not so much with NEX cams I'd tried before).
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Narnian

    Narnian Nobody in particular ...

    Aug 6, 2010
    Richmond, VA
    Richard Elliott
    Rent them and try them out. You may want to include the OMD E-5 and Lumix GX7 as even smaller options.
  4. misformonochrome

    misformonochrome New to Mu-43

    Jan 13, 2014
    Lamar, Missouri, USA
    M is for Monochrome
    That's an excellent question. I would say what's made me consider Fuji at all is the experience people have had with shooting it, which I envy, but also that the IQ is very good. Many seem very excited by the camera, so I'm considering it based on their reactions but not based on any experience I've had with Fuji (which is basically none).

    That's a good idea. Has an E-M1 and I can then try out the 12-40 zoom which seems to be reviewed highly but which I'm a little skeptical of given the quality of the pictures I've seen taken with the primes.
  5. misformonochrome

    misformonochrome New to Mu-43

    Jan 13, 2014
    Lamar, Missouri, USA
    M is for Monochrome
    I've actually considered that as well. The E-M5 interests me a lot, though I look at the WiFi and other features of the E-M1 and think: "is it worth another lens to have that?" I've looked at the E-PL5 but I don't like the lack of a viewfinder, which is something I really don't like about my NEX.

    The GX7 doesn't seem to get a lot of attention on the review sites I've been tracking. There are some here and there and most of those have said it's a good camera but doesn't seem to inspire much reaction of the "this is the coolest thing ever!" variety like the E-M1 does. That's a little odd given the reviews of the lenses seem to be very, very positive.

    Something to keep in mind, anyway, especially since it's cheaper. :)
  6. Dalton

    Dalton Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 24, 2010
    Portland, Oregon USA
    Dan Ferrall
    It's going to be O.K.

    Or...At least I think so based on the information you have provided so far.

    I think that we have come to a point in sensor technology that M43 can deliver image quality across the basic areas such as dynamic range, color bit depth, noise control, and other key elements that you can be satisfied with images coming from both Panasonic and Olympus cameras. I'm not saying we have reached the "pinnacle." We are at a place where it is a lot more about the technical skills of the photographer than the sensor capability.

    You mentioned the Fijifilm technology and while it certainly has a unique "signature", you can also do a lot with a wide range of software with most current cameras to apply your own "brand" and/or style to your production jpeg (amongst other file types) files.

    See: Just for one example...As a software engineer, you probably already know this but, I wanted to add possible value to the thread for other readers as well.

    The M43 system is now quite mature and with an amazing range of camera body options, you can likely find a body the is just the right fit for the control button layout and menu control management that will suit your desires. The lenses available in M43 is well ahead of any other mirrorless options out there. The new 12-40mm f2.8 is truly exceptional and the Panasonic 12-35 has received high praise as well. And the 75mm f1.8...Wow! Just wow!

    Olympus has just lowered the price on the E-P5 to $800.00 US and you can get the wonderful VF-4 viewfinder for $99.99 US if you buy them together. That is approximately the same price as a Panasonic GX7 which is a very similar body in some ways and the GX7 is a very fine performer in it's own right. If you are inclined to buy the Flagship E-M1 and not be put off by the larger size then it would be produce the best current M43 output if only by a small margin.

    I just ordered a second M43 body to give me a smaller option to my already petite E-P5. I have an E-PM2 (black) coming from Staples...Yes Staples for only $305.00 shipping included.

    It sounds like you are looking for some opinions to help give you an emotional impetus to act. I do not believe you will be disappointed by the higher end Panasonic or Olympus bodies.

    Best to you with whatever you decide to do.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. misformonochrome

    misformonochrome New to Mu-43

    Jan 13, 2014
    Lamar, Missouri, USA
    M is for Monochrome
    That's actually a really good point that I forgot to mention. I'm trying to focus solely on my monochrome work (which means B+W of course, but also largely monochromatic images like selective coloring and highly desaturated colors). I use Silver Efex Pro a lot, though I also have several other bits of software floating around my Mac like Intensify Pro, and Topaz. The point being: I generally don't stick with the OOC capture whether it's JPEG or not. I almost always mangle it in some way. And the moment I add grain to the image, I have just negated subtle variations in sensors and lenses. :) I'm also wanting to do some Albumen contact prints so there's another generation away from the original to take into account.

    Good thoughts. Thank you.
  8. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    Fellow 7D Man

    Hi Jon, I am a bit like you except I can only afford one 'system kit' at a time. So, about a month ago I took a deep breath and sold my entire 7D and 5 Canon lens kit to finance my move to µ4/3. My reasons sound just like yours, plus I also did notice a negative vibe when street shooting that affected my shots and attitude.

    My purely personal view is that the ongoing evolution of the µ4/3 systems has meant that less and less of we photography enthusiasts really need a bigger sensor-ed system.

    But some do. No denying it.

    One factor for me, personally, is that I think the 4:3 proportion is more 'pictorial' than is 3:2, from an arty point of view. Not universally of course, but taking the average. (Take in some art galleries with this thought in mind and see what you think). So I do enjoy working with a 4:3 camera.

    Philosophically, I remain unimpressed by the idea of picking a camera system based on the 'visual character' of its sensor. Try a different raw processor and you might suddenly realize that the 'character' had been wrongly attributed to the sensor -- just a thought.

    • Like Like x 1
  9. Neftun

    Neftun Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 15, 2012
    Patrick Kristiansen
    Personally I came from slrs, film and digital, mainly nikon, and liked shooting with them, but it was quite methodical and technically focused.

    When I got my first mft, the ep1, I felt more fun when shooting, and produced more rewarding, "artsy" shots. I bought the 45mm and was blown away by the performance, especially concerning price. And I had a afs 85f1,8 on my d300. That was the final nail in that coffin.

    When I bought the em5, I felt a connection with my gear that was exilerating. This is reflected in my library, I have 4k shots from 2011 and 10000 from 2012:) I feel the omd's WANT to be taken out and shoot. And with the combination of the EVF, programmable buttons, speed, IBIS and excellent sensor, makes the results predictable.

    One thing I do not miss with my previous nikon gear: in '09 my wife and I were in Prague. On my shoulder was a heavy bag with body, two zooms, two primes and flash. On my trooper-wifes shoulder: a manfrotto tripod with hydrostatic ball-head. I am not putting her trough something like that again, and with mft, I don't have to:) My five-lens, two-body kit and bag is light, and I only bother with tripod at night.

    I'd say go for an em1, it really is all that you've read. Get the zoom, a 20 or 25, and the 75, maybe the 60 macro, and check out some legacy glass for good measure. You'll be having a blast:)
    • Like Like x 1
  10. stripedrex

    stripedrex Do or do not. There is no try.

    Jun 8, 2012
    Long Island, NY
    If you do sports of any kind I would try to hang on a bit longer if I where you and shoot with the current NEX system you have and see which mirrorless system matures the best with the upcoming hybrid sensors (pdaf) that can autofocus for sports. For me not only lenses but tech and convenience are keeping me with m43. 5-axis IBIS, sick autofocus (not sports), and other conveniences like near eye focusing, touch screen (to name a few) are technologies I've come accustomed to. I had a short stint with an A7R and although my images were noticeably better (sharper, more pop, has that ff look) I missed shots I normally wouldn't with my e-m5. I know Sony owns a large share of Olympus and it's expected technologies like the 5-axis stabilization, autofocus, etc is expected to hit Sony bodies. When that happens an a7R with those techonologies + the ability to use APS-C lenses (zooms etc cropped to 14mp) would make a very versatile kit. I would use the FF lenses for the higher quality needs (landscapes, semi pro, portraits) and hook up the aps-c lenses for travel, vacations and having a lighter kit, maybe even sports for lighter zoom lenses.

    For me, I've wanted just a bit more DOF control than what m43 offers which is why I'm waiting. I'm also sick and tired of the video / photo capability gaps between Panasonic and Olympus bodies. Not sure if that matters to you though.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. spatulaboy

    spatulaboy I'm not really here Subscribing Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    North Carolina
    It's always about the lens. The sensor is at the mercy of whatever glass you put in front of it.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    Get the olympus 45mm, buy a used Panasonic G1 for pennies ... see if m4/3rds suits you.
    (see, I'm assuming you absolutely need a viewfinder.)
    Heck if you use the LCD go and buy an Olympus e-pM2 to got with your 45.

    • Like Like x 1
  13. Itchybiscuit

    Itchybiscuit Photon Mangler

    Dec 10, 2013
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Hi there and welcome.

    I'm also one of the 'new guys' but I come at it from the other end of the spectrum. A quick word about me...

    I had a heart attack a year ago and had to have a stent fitted. I had to give up my job (multi-drop delivery driver) but still need to get out and about. Having played around with film SLR's and even developed and printed my own B&W films I decided that wandering around with a camera (or three) would be enjoyable AND healthy. So, I looked around and decided that P&S didn't suit me having learned how to take pictures in a more technical fashion. So, P&S was a no-go but DSLR's were far too expensive for a guy without a decent income. I went online. I researched. I haunted Ebay. I bought an FZ8 bridge. Not good enough. Neither were the FZ38 or FZ50 I tried. I bought a Sigma DP1 - close, but not quite chewing on a cigar. Finally, I found a Panasonic GF1 with less than 300 shutter actuations. SOLD! I love it. It reminds me of an old Russian Fed I used to own over 30 years ago. I also bought a GF5 for the updates but it's not as 'just so' as my GF1. Now I haunt Ebay for old lenses which keeps everything fresh and exciting without having to invest big bucks in the GH's or GX series.

    When the rain allows (this IS the West of Scotland!) I'm having the time of my life.

    I know, not quite on-topic but hey, I ramble.:thumbup:
    • Like Like x 2
  14. daum

    daum Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 26, 2011
    I cringe at the thought of carrying a traditional DSLR around. The thing with m43 is it makes taking photos fun. You don't feel like it's a burden when you carry it with you and of course the performance and image quality is amazing. Even with the announcement of the A7/R, fast lenses would still be huge. I really wish there were more fast pancakes like the 20mm 1.7 available.

    Break from the chains of bulky DSLRs and enjoy your freedom!
    • Like Like x 1
  15. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    I would try them out in stores first. I don't like the 12MP sensors for quality, and really don't like the user interface on the E-PM2 - I'm too used to at least twin dials. Kind of a necessity.
  16. misformonochrome

    misformonochrome New to Mu-43

    Jan 13, 2014
    Lamar, Missouri, USA
    M is for Monochrome
    I will gladly buy used. But I probably want to stay at least comparable to what I have now, otherwise I'm probably wasting my time and money. The Sony NEX is a great little camera and I usually only use the manual lenses on it. I don't have the EVF so I tried making do with the flip out screen and pretending it was like my Rollei or Yashica. Didn't really work out that way, though it's a good idea. :smile:

    After all the advice here, I'm seriously considering starting with a backup camera, though. Maybe a used E-M5 or something that's significantly cheaper than the E-M1 but still gets the IQ I'm looking for. That would give me the bonus of being a good backup camera if I decide to graduate to the E-M1.

    Is it worth it to just go ahead and sell off the Canon 17-40/f4 L and 85/f1.8 to fund this? I'm worried that if I don't, I'll just have a couple of valuable lenses sitting around in my camera bag not being used. At the same time, I'm worried that if I do get rid of them, I'll go somewhere the next day and need one of those lenses! :smile: I've used them successfully at weddings and events, though if I was brutally honest with myself, I'd admit that the slower f4 combined with the disappointing high-iso noise of the 7D makes the zoom not all that useful. The 85/1.8 is a great little lens, but there again, how many times have I actually gotten it out of the bag and used it? Honestly not all that much. It works pretty well in gyms and even for football games when the lighting is bad. It's basically a 135mm on the 7D, so in the short telephoto range.

    I might be seeing a pattern here. :smile: It looks like a couple good m43 primes, combined with the Hexanon 40/1.8 and Helios 58/2 I already own could replace the high end of the 17-40 and the 85. I'd probably need to look at the 17/1.8 or 14/2.5 (or 14/2) to make sure the wider end is covered, as I find that pretty useful when out on the streets (though I'm pretty intrigued by the notion of a 25/1.4 and going "back to my roots" when I started with a Canon A-E1 + 50/1.8).
  17. stripedrex

    stripedrex Do or do not. There is no try.

    Jun 8, 2012
    Long Island, NY
    I don't agree with the "always the lens" comments anymore after using multiple bodies. For sure some bodies and lens combinations are better for sports for example. I'm a run and gun family shooter and I DEFINITELY get more keepers with pictures with my E-M5 than I did with my GH2 (or nikon d5000) because of high iso performance, ibis, and even video is more stable and usable (although I have to throw away a lot due to REALLY REALLY bad codec). I think if you always have patience controlled and heavily planned shots any body will do because you can prepare lighting, use a tripod, etc etc. I think for the everyday almost p&s style shooter or sports etc, body matters a lot. Sorry I just highly disagree with the blanket statement on the bodies. I do agree you can get great photos with any body / lens combo but limitations are limitations and technology is certainly a big help.
  18. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    I am not entirely sure what sort of photographs that you want to take with your new lighter system: that does matter, as different camera systems have different strengths. The DSLRs are still better for things that require very fast autofocus on moving subjects (such as sports; but I note that you are keeping your DSLR for sport in any event).

    I ended up somewhat involuntarily replacing my camera system about two months ago after being burgled. Although I had had Micro Four Thirds before, I wished to re-evaluate anew to ensure that Micro Four Thirds was still the most suitable system for what I wanted. Having compared it to the Fuji system and the Sony system (both NEX and A7), I concluded that it was, and bought an E-M1.

    It was not a simple decision, however. Based on side by side comparisons at 100% magnification, the Fuji does indeed produce higher quality images (less noise at any given ISO); but the range of lenses is much more restricted (there is no 1:1 macro, for instance), and the cameras are much slower to use and less responsive than Micro Four Thirds cameras. For those who want a portable landscape kit, this might not matter, but I should have found it very frustrating (and I also particularly like macro). The Sony NEX system has no noticeable advance in image quality over the Micro Four Thirds system as far as I could see, and again its range of lenses is lacking; there was very little to recommend Sony over Micro Four Thirds save that they appeared to be cheaper. The A7 had far too few lenses available for it, and they would all be terribly heavy, which would make photography not very fun or pleasant.

    There is, however, great advantage, to my mind at least, in having a light yet capable camera system. It makes such an enormous difference carrying something small and light than something large and heavy (and I know, having previously used film SLRs with a large and heavy bag full of fixed focal length lenses, all of a size suitable for 35mm film and made of metal rather than plastic, plus a large sturdy tripod so that I could use Velvia in twilight). The capability of Micro Four Thirds cameras is very high, especially the latest generation, and only in fairly specialist areas (such as sports/action photography) or by marginal degrees are larger systems (short of much larger systems, such as medium format digital, the cameras for which cost about as much as a brand new medium sized family car to buy) an improvement.

    Incidentally, there is much to be said for buying secondhand (aside from having a lesser warranty, I suppose). Look out for secondhand E-M5s, and note that it is rumoured that Olympus will be releasing a successor to the E-M5 soon, which is likely to drive the price down further.
  19. I think that the switch from a Canon APS-C system to Micro 4/3 is a pretty easy one now. A few years ago I had a pretty decent Canon setup with a 50D as a primary body, a sigma 10-20mm, Canon 17-55mm f2.8, 24-105mm f4L, 70-200mmf4L, 20mm f2.8, 24mm f2.8, Sigma 30mm f1.4, 50mm f1.4 and some others that came and went. When I first started out with m4/3 in 2010 with an E-P1 there was still no question that I would keep my Canon gear. When I bought a GH1 and a few more lenses in 2011 I shifted more of my shooting across to m4/3, but 2012 with the E-M5 and a few more lenses it was game over for the Canon gear. Your mention of sports might be one reason to keep the 7D and I guess the 50-150mm, however when I've shot something like that I've never used continuous/tracking AF and burst mode anyway because I hate spray-and-pray shooting.
  20. stratokaster

    stratokaster Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 4, 2011
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    I was shooting Canon and Pentax DSLRs, but when I first tried the E-P1 it was clear to me that this was the future of cameras. Since then I have tried every major & minor mirrorless system, but somehow I always keep returning to Micro 4/3.

    The only application for which I could possibly need a DSLR is shooting sports, but thankfully I never need to shoot sports. And even if I did, I have Nikon 1 V1 which focuses faster and tracks motion better than almost any DSLR.

    I think if I ever decide to finally switch from Micro 4/3 to APS-C mirrorless, I will choose Fujifilm — their lenses are spectacularly good and their cameras are getting better and better with any iteration. I don't like the processing overhead that the X-Trans sensor requires (24MP files from Sony and Nikon full-frame cameras are faster and easier to process than 16MP files from Fujifilm cameras), but the results are well worth it.
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