The continuing appeal of m4/3 (A moderately serious post)

Panasonic GX1 Olympus 12mm f/2 45mm f/1.8 lenses
Panasonic GX1 Olympus 12mm f/2 45mm f/1.8 lenses

Panasonic GX1 Olympus 12mm f/2 45mm f/1.8 lenses

Cute aren't they! Despite all my adventures with the Sony NEX system and my liking for the handling, design and file quality, I'm still very attracted to the m4/3 system. Its actually quite difficult to explain why, but despite everything else I use, I keep coming back to it.

I think its a combination of many different things, none of which makes the system "better" for me, but which put together means that I enjoy using it and the pictures it produces. I should, I suppose, be using my NEX-7 all the time, as it produces the biggest files, and there's no doubt that its a more well-featured camera than anything that m4/3 has come up with so far, but I still need my m4/3 fix every now and then. 

So whats the appeal?

Panasonic GX1 Olympus 12mm f/2
Panasonic GX1 Olympus 12mm f/2

The 4:3 ratio is something I like. As can be seen from all the Pentax 645 film scans I'm posting, its a format I like and have used for many years.

The depth of field advantage is very useful for someone who shoots travel/landscape and architecture. I very rarely use differential focus, and generally need my images to all be in sharp focus. Using the Olympus 12mm, for example, means that I can happily use f/4 and f/5.6, knowing that I will be getting similar DOF results to using a 24mm lens at f/8 or f/11 on a 35mm / FF system. This allows me to use faster shutter speeds when I'm hand holding resulting in sharper images. This was a tremendous advantage yesterday when I was shooting these castle images, as I was working in a gale, and was almost blown off my feet a few times. Without being able to use wide apertures and fast shutter speeds I would have had real trouble getting sharp pictures.

I obviously appreciate the size and weight advantages, and there is no doubt that the system has the best balance between between lens and bodies of all the CSC systems. It also has by far the most comprehensive lens range.

Panasonic GX1 Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens
Panasonic GX1 Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens

Panasonic GX1 Olympus 12mm f/2
Panasonic GX1 Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens + Polarising filter

There's also no doubt that at low ISO's the Panasonic m4/3 sensors produce very high quality files. I've learnt to deal with the luminance noise that the 16MP sensor produces even at base ISO, and I've always liked the colour and overall look of the images. Plus the fact that the sensor seems to use a lighter anti-aliasing / low pass filter than the NEX system makes the images look sharper on the screen.

Panasonic GX1 Olympus 12mm f/2
Panasonic GX1 Olympus 12mm f/2

Panasonic GX1 Olympus 12mm f/2
Panasonic GX1 Olympus 12mm f/2

Panasonic GX1 Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens
Panasonic GX1 Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens

Panasonic GX1 Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens
Panasonic GX1 Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens

And then of course there are the aesthetics of the camera and lenses themselves.

Late last year I was becoming heavily involved with the NEX-5n, and was using it virtually exclusively. However, I still couldn't resist the GX1. My long standing love / hate relationship with the Olympus Pens has been well documented here and just when I thought I'd got the Japanese corporate answer to the Sopranos out of my system, they have to go and come up with this.



 OK, I know this is a fake, but its not going to look radically different to this.

Olympus sure know how to push my buttons. These are my favourite camera designs of all time.





 

The small SLR design with a pentaprism and a silver / black colour scheme makes me go weak at the knees, always has. It may have something to do with the fact the my first "serious" camera was the Pentax ME Super, pictured above, but I've been waiting for a decent equivalent of this for ages. It looks that Olympus are about to do just that with their heavily leaked OM-D. Not only have they seduced me with the look, but they have finally (FINALLY!) decided to use a bigger sensor and have also decided to make it a more robust, weather-sealed body. I guess the 12-50mm weather-sealed lens was a pretty heavy clue that a comparable body was arriving, since what use is a sealed lens without a sealed body. 

There is no way I will be able to resist this, no way I won't have my name down for a pre-order the moment I'm able to do that and no way, I fear, that I won't probably love it to bits and use it despite all its shortcomings, which being an Olympus it will probably have.

If I wasn't taking pictures for a living, I would be using an E-P3 exclusively. I wouldn't care that the images a bit "grainy" at low ISO's, that its got a sluggish shutter button, which tends to make the lighting fast AF a bit redundant, that its got a "peculiar" menu system and that its only 12MP. Despite all my reservations, I loved using it. Its a miracle I managed to sell it, since I tried several times putting it on ebay and then always took it off again. I was about to do the same last time, when someone inconveniently bought it!!

However now I have the OM-D to dream about. I just can't help myself. Of all the cameras announced over the past few years, this is the one that has excited me most. It won't have the best image quality, it won't have the best handling, but if its anything like I think its going to be, it will sure look gorgeous. 

Olympus, I hate you! (But I love your cameras)

Panasonic GX1 Olympus 12mm f/2 45mm f/1.8 lenses

Panasonic GX1 Olympus 12mm f/2 45mm f/1.8 lenses