Why do I keep returning to m4/3?

Panasonic GX1 Nikon 50mm f/1.8
Panasonic GX1 Nikon 50mm f/1.8

This is something I've written about many times in the past and probably will continue to in the future. Why, despite everything else that I use, do I keep coming back to m4/3? And why do I enjoy using that format so much? 

There are undoubtedly advantages to using my Sony NEX cameras and the Fuji X-Pro 1. But despite the larger file size, the better high ISO performance, dynamic range et al, I still keep using the smaller format. Sure, I have periods when I don't pick up a m4/3 camera for quite a while, and there have been a couple of (short) periods when I haven't had either an Olympus or Panasonic camera, but that usually doesn't last very long.

I've catalogued its advantages in the past. A significant depth-of-field advantage that is very useful for my work, punchy colours, a small, light system, that seems to have the best  body to lens ratio, the 4 to 3 format and the best lens selection of any of the CSC's are obvious reasons why I find it so attractive. But there is something more than that.

Panasonic GX1 Voigtlander 20mm
Panasonic GX1 Voigtlander 20mm

It may seem strange that someone who owned a Leica M9 would often choose to leave that at home and prefer to go out shooting with an Olympus Pen, which is what I did on numerous occasions. I'm not alone in this. Two of my fellow photographic writers Steve Huff and Kirk Tuck have both written similar pieces. Is there something special about this system? What does it give me that I don't get anywhere else? And why do I constantly feel that I would be happiest getting rid of everything else and becoming a m4/3 format photographer exclusively?

Panasonic GX1 Nikon 50mm f/1.8
Panasonic GX1 Nikon 50mm f/1.8

I've pondered on this quite a bit, and I'm not sure that I have all the answers, but I think I have some of them.

Firstly, for the most part, its a very attractive system. There is no doubt, that to many of us, Olympus in particular make very pretty cameras. I'm certainly a sucker for a bit of retro designed silvered metal and plastic. Panasonic cameras are a bit more functional, but I've always been very fond of the GF1 and I do like the GX1 very much. Much as I admire what Sony have done with the NEX system, they haven't come up with something as classically beautiful as the E-P2. Plus, in terms of the aesthetics of simplicity, I think the E-PL3 is a beautifully designed camera. It doesn't get talked about very often, but I do love using it, particularly in combination with the 12mm and 45mm lenses.

Secondly, its a very versatile system. With two companies making "native" AF lenses for it, plus the 1000's of lenses that can be used via adapters, it has the largest potential lens choice of any photographic format. And while using these alternative and legacy lenses is now somewhat easier on the latest NEX cameras, it is still a pleasure for me to use an m-mount or Nikon D lens on my Pens or GX1.

Thirdly, within certain limits, the sensor manufacturing half of the "coalition" Panasonic, have come up with a quality product. We all know the limitations that exist at high ISO's and that we have to take care with subjects that have a very wide dynamic range, but certainly for the majority of my own use, I have few problems with either of them. Plus there is a special quality that these sensors have when used at their base ISO's in good light. The fairly weak anti-aliasing / low pass filters allow a good deal of detail to be recorded. The images are sharp with good contrast and excellent colour rendition. I've always described m4/3 colour as "glossy", and to me that best sums it up.

Panasonic GX1 Voigtlander 20mm
Panasonic GX1 Voigtlander 20mm

Panasonic GX1 Voigtlander 20mm
Panasonic GX1 Voigtlander 20mm

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