Micro Four Thirds - The Mature Mirrorless system. Olympus OM-D E-M10

Of all the pictures I've taken of my gear, the one at the top of the page of my red and black Panasonic m4/3 outfit (circa October 2009) is very much a favourite. I loved those matte red bodies. This was, in fact, my wedding photography video and backup camera kit. 

My latest m4/3 outfit is the Olympus OM-D E-M10 plus m.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8, m.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8, Panasonic 15mm f/1.7. Below is a gallery of recent images shot with those combinations.

The Panasonic G1 + 14-45mm lens was announced in September 2008, so m4/3 has been with us for 6 years. So these days it can be described as a 'mature' mirrorless system. And whether or not the latest cameras such as the Olympus E-M1 and Panasonic G5 can be described as professional cameras (and as you can see above I was using m4/3 to earn my living many years ago so the answer to that has to be yes) the 'signature' of m4/3 is still pretty much small, light and classy. The latest Olympus 'pro spec' zooms are pushing the small and light tag somewhat, so maybe small(er), light(er) but still classy, would be a better description. 

I come and go with m4/3 and currently my Sony A7s is making me think seriously about what else I want to keep. That amazing camera has pushed the size / weight / quality equation into new territory and the advantages that I once had with my various Olympus and Panasonic combinations have been eroded somewhat. But I'd be very surprised if any larger sensor system ever comes up with anything like my Olympus OM-D E-M10 m.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 combination, in terms of size, weight and image quality. (It looks great too!)

Currently I'm taking it out with various other cameras as my telephoto lens. With my Sony FE cameras, Leica T (Typ 701) and Sigma SP2 Quattro, this gives me options I don't have. And since it isn't that big or heavy, it's no chore to carry it around.

I've written often that I like the mid-size m4/3 offerings the best. Some of the smaller m4/3 cameras are just too tiny for me to get comfortable with and the aforementioned GH4 and E-M1 are moving into DSLR territory. I always liked the Olympus Pens and cameras like the GF1 and GX7. These are around the right size for me. Slightly smaller (and a lot lighter) than a Leica M and with proportionally smaller lenses than many of the APS-C mirrorless systems. 

For example the Samsung NX-1 looks like a very interesting camera, but it also looks bulky and heavy, particularly with some of the Samsung monster lenses attached. And as someone who virtually never stays in one place when photographing and who does a fair amount of walking to create my images, that is very much a consideration. 

I have no idea how long I'll keep my OM-D E-M10 and the lenses, but at the moment that 75mm f/1.8 particularly is proving very useful. Whether it survives after I get my hands on the Leica 11-23mm and 55-135mm zooms for my Leica T, who knows. Apart from anything else, I'm not sure I will be able to afford to keep everything I have now! 

But whatever I do, I'll always be glad that I bought that G1 all those years ago. 

It was a truly revolutionary camera and whether somebody else would have come up with the mirrorless concept if Panasonic hadn't, who knows. It was a genuine innovation, in a world where that word is used to describe products that are no such thing. I don't think it's an exaggeration to describe it as having changed what cameras do, what they look like and where they are currently headed. 

It remains to be seen where m4/3 can go. At some point the issue of squeezing more pixels onto that sized sensor and producing a camera with more MP's has to be addressed. If the Samsung NX1 does indeed take off, then Panasonic and Olympus might be under pressure to come up with something bigger, since then both Sony and Samsung will be offering more pixels. And if Fuji finally go to 24MP (if), then I think they will have no alternative.

And no, more MP's isn't any guarantee of better quality, but it is undeniably a selling point. I suspect Panasonic and Olympus would be hard pressed to hang onto all their current users if all their competitors universally up the pixel counts on all their camaeras. 

But in the meantime, m4/3 is a very attractive system. A great selection of cameras and lenses and if you are seriously into video, Panasonic in particular have some pretty spectacular options. And if m4/3 continues to offer me something useful, then I will continue to use it. Something that fanboys for another brand (you know who you are!) seem to forget.

Because when I use a certain camera system / brand I don't actually sign a contract in blood and forswear any dalliance with heretical products from other manufacturers (the dark side of the force!), I use whatever suits me at the time. And things change, other alternatives appear and what once fitted me very well is superseded by something better, something MORE useful. I'm sure that I'll have a few more 'now he does, now he doesn't' encounters with m4/3 before I'm finished. However, I was an advocate for m4/3 back in 2008/9 and I have no intention of going back on that. Apart from anything else, this is a system that is actually moving forward and developing and that certainly can't be said about all of it's competitors.