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Micro 4/3 Cameras Make the Grade

Olympus OM-D E-M5

Published in my DAP is my review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5, with more to be added (black and white examples page was added today).

The 4/3 and micro 4/3 (MFT) formats have never been very interesting to me until now, but with the arrival of the OM-D E-M5, I deem the format one worthy of serious consideration for some photographic jobs.

In this day of expensive DSLRs that can’t manage to integrate an EVF, or even offer more than crudely dumb Live View (both Canon and Nikon deserve criticism there), the DSLR is increasingly looking like a dinosaur for many situations. The lack of inspired creativity from both Canon and Nikon is truly stunning in its inertia, with almost nothing changing in a full decade (Live View being one notable exception, but even that is lame by comparison to what it could be).

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 sensor quality, sensor resolution and camera feel make the cut for me, which is not to say I’m about to drop my D800E. And I do wish that 4/3 had been APS-C instead (or at least somewhat larger) but sensor technology will increasingly negate sensor size as an issue, with 4/3 format providing adequate real estate.

The right tool for the job, and there are many photographic situations for which 16 megapixels in a compact camera that one can carry whilst hardly noticing the weight and bulk— well that’s very appealing.

In general, the Micro 4/3 (MFT) format offers some real incentives that are applicable to a wide range of photographers:

  • Smaller and lighter camera bodies and lenses.
  • World-class lenses that while still large and heavy by consumer terms, are nonetheless smaller and lighter than 35mm DSLR lenses. And as good and perhaps better than many if not most Canon/Nikon/Zeiss lenses. I speak of the Olympus SHG (Super High Grade) lenses, which can be used on Olympus or Panasonic bodies (MMF-3 adapter needed on MFT bodies).
  • Already excellent video capabilities, with aggressive development in that area (I expect to see something interesting to emerge as early as August in this regard). In my novice hands, the OM-D E-M5 delivers better video than I can get from my D800 or Canon 5D Mark III. The 5-axis image stabilization alone is a major advantage; I’m not into video on a tripod or a rig wrapped around a camera, I just want to make some half-decent video of Stuff without fuss.
  • Aggressive development of truly useful technologies like EVF with contrast peaking and zooming, in-body image stabilization.
  • A cornucopia of lenses to choose from (including Leica M-mount lenses and a variety of emerging specialty lenses).

The foregoing is not a theoretical point for me— yesterday, I committed to the 4/3 format by ordering quite a nice “kit” of Olympus and Panasonic 4/3 and Micro 4/3 lenses to enable deep and wide coverage of this format going forward.

See my gear page for recommended Olympus lenses.

Olympus OM-D E-M5
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