Olympus OM-D + 12-35mm - m4/3 dream team?

From all the reviews (including mine) and comments, this camera / lens combination should be pretty special. The OM-D probably has the best sensor of any m4/3 camera, though not by much, and the 12-35mm f/2.8 zoom has been getting very positive reviews about its performance. 

Trying this outfit out yesterday, I can confirm that it produces excellent files. Plus the Panasonic lens performs very well on the Olympus body with fast positive AF.

This is obviously not the lightest or smallest m4/3 setup you can use. With the OM-D grip attached, its quite a substantial piece of kit. In fact the whole thing weighs about 1 Kg. However when you consider that the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 weighs almost the same on its own (900k) there is an obvious advantage to the m4/3 system.

It certainly felt very "serious" in the hand when I picked it up, with an excellent high quality feel. As I've written before the OM-D very much reminds of one of the smaller SLR film camera outfits like the Nikon FM2 or the Pentax MZ-5. 

With details of the Panasonic GH-3 emerging, it does seem obvious that both m4/3 manufacturers are seeking to explore a viable alternative to DSLR's with their mirrorless systems. One which will have the same speed, functionality and quality but without the same weight and size. While its true that there isn't that much difference between cameras such as the OM-D and the smaller DSLR's these days, once you factor in the generally smaller size and light weight of the majority of the lenses, there is a genuinely alternative syatem emerging. Plus of course its possible to use the OM-D without the grip, and the 12-35mm is one of the heavier m4/3 lenses. So there are lots of ways to use the camera in a much lighter combination.

Incidentally, there's a nice tongue-in-cheek article by Thom Hogan on this over at Sans Mirror, called Mirrorless, the Minivan of Cameras. Well worth a read.

Certainly, I have no problems with the quality of image this camera / lens combination produces, either in terms of single images or multi-image stitches. I am particularly impressed by the lenses performance at f/2.8. Not all zooms, including so-called "pro-spec" ones produce such sharp images wide open as the Panasonic.

I'm going to take this opportunity to (yet again!) try to debunk this myth about the DOF differences between m4/3 and other systems. I've always thought that the sensible way to approach this is to see the whole thing in terms of the lens. A 12mm lens on any system will give a lot of depth of field, even at f/2.8. Also, other than as a kind of comparison shorthand, I don't like using these 35mm comparisons. A 12mm lens gives approximately the same field of view as a 24mm lens on a 35mm film or 35mm sized sensor digital system. But because of the differences that 12mm and 24mm lenses exhibit, its far from an equivalent. The images will look different. I will do a post on this in the near future, but in the meantime I will say once again that to me the smaller sensor and the depth of field "advantage" that I perceive is very useful to me. The more an image has in focus, or to put it another way the less "unfocused" the out of focus areas are, the more I like it for the majority of images I shoot.  

In conclusion, I sold my previous OM-D before the 12-35mm was released, and if I had hung on to it until I had the opportunity to try this lens I probably wouldn't have sold it. It is a lovely combination to work with and yesterday I enjoyed both using it and looking at the images it produced. As far as I am concerned the debate as to whether m4/3 is as good as other systems is over. I feel no need to convince anyone anymore. If people want to keep on using other larger combinations then thats up to them. I'm happy with my decision to base my picture taking around this system for the immediate future, safe in the knowledge that I'm not compromising on quality or handling or speed of operation in order to do so. I may not have always genuinely thought that if pressed, but now I have no doubts. And judging by just how difficult it is currently to actually buy an OM-D, it seems I'm not alone.

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