Last week at The Online Photographer, Mike Johnston pointed to various reviews of the E-3. He concluded the post with this observation:
Originally Posted by scott kirkpatrick
Alas, I just can't get over the lack of prime lenses in the system, and I've decided I can't buy into the Olympus system for that reason. I'm a prime lens partisan but not a prime lens snob—I've enjoyed using a zoom on my Konica-Minolta 7D, and on the Contax Aria I had in the late '90s. But I require that at least one or two wide-normal semi-fast single-focal-length street-shooting/snapshooting lenses be available in a system as an option.In the comment thread there are, as one would expect, opinions for and against Mike's view. Some of the comments bemoan the lack of semi-fast, wide-normal prime lenses for the 4/3rds system; others argue that the available zooms offer a more than adequate substitute. A comment by andy, however, was the one that resonated with me:
Were it not for this, I would buy an E-3. It's a beautifully designed and built camera.
It's a weird moment when you realize that a Nikon D200/D300 with any of three sharp, inexpensive AF primes (35/2, 24/2.8. 28/2.8) is considerably smaller than the E-3 with any comparable length Oly zoom. I am a fan of Oly going back to its OM days, and think their prosumer model cameras are pretty great, but when I saw the size and weight of the E-3 I was completely dismayed. It is almost exactly the size of the D200, no svelte figure there, and with the 12-60 that Oly is flaunting it's a big, honking beast. Sure the AF feels nice, and I'm sure the 12-60 is stellar, but it's all 30% too big.I compared an E-3 with a D300 in a camera store a couple of weeks ago and, although I walked into the store fully expecting to be blown away by the E-3, I was instead underwhelmed. The E-3 body is hardly any smaller or lighter than the D300 -- as the following specifications indicate:
Dimensions 142.5 x 116.5 x 74.5 mm
Weight 810 g (body only)
Dimensions 147 x 114 x 74 mm
Weight 825 g (without battery, memory card, body cap, or monitor cover)
Given that there are no small semi-fast, wide-normal prime lenses for the E-3, I'm beginning to wonder what real advantages -- apart from in-body stablilization and an articulating LCD screen -- the E-3 offers over the D300. The upcoming Pentax K20D reportedly has Live View and, given that the K10D weighs 790g *with* battery & memory card, it's unlikely that the K20D will weigh more than the E-3. Pentax already has a range of prime lenses and the highly regarded Zeiss primes as well as the recently released Voigtlander Ultron 40/2 pancake and Nokton 58/1.4 lenses come in both Nikon and Pentax mounts. Admittedly the Zeiss primes aren't small, but they're full-frame designs, as are the Voigtlander lenses.
I can understand the appeal of the E-3 as a supplementary system for a Leica M-8 user who already has access to a full range of stellar prime lenses. For example:
But, having been initially attracted to the E-3, I'm now hard pressed to see why I should purchase an E-3 rather than a Nikon D3 or a Pentax K10D/K20D. Even the 4/3rds depth of field advantage is not that significant (assuming that you regard increased depth of field as an advantage, which I do).
Originally Posted by jonoslack
For example, I prefer the 4:3 aspect ratio and, if I used an APS-C camera, would crop my shots accordingly. "Cropping" the D300's 15.8 x 23.6 mm sensor to 4:3 proportions reduces it to 15.8 x 21.1 mm. For an EFoV of 40mm, one must use a 20mm lens on the E-3 and a 23.5mm lens on the "cropped" D300 (which now has a FoV multiplier of 1.7). The DOFMaster Depth of Field Calculator indicates that, at a given subject distance and aperture, one only needs to stop down the D300 a further half stop to get the same depth of field as the E-3.
Finally, I'm beginning to wonder whether small semi-fast, wide-normal prime lenses can actually be designed for the 4/3rds system, particularly given given this comment by Paul Norheim on Mike's E-3 post:
Olympus said that TELE lenses would be smaller than comparable 35mm designs. Nowhere will you find an original claim that they'll make wides, normals or zooms nor bodies 'smaller'.Taking into account its 3:2 aspect ratio, the 20.7 x 13.8 mm Foveon sensor in Sigma's long-promised DP-1 is almost identical in size to that of the E-3. Yet the DP-1 has a 16.6mm (EFoV 28mm) f/4 lens -- not exactly what you'd call a fast, wide prime. Am I wrong in assuming that it should be easier to design a fast wide lens for a compact camera like the DP-1 than for an SLR such as the E-3? If Sigma can't do it, can anyone else?
Apologies for the long post. I'm thinking aloud here (and, in a sense, playing the Devil's Advocate) because, despite the reservations with which I left the camera store, I'm emotionally drawn to the 4/3rds system in general and the E-3 and the Olympus lenses in particular. I may appear to have made up my mind against the E-3 but that's not the case. Rather, I'd be delighted if someone could point out the error(s) in my arguments. But at this point I can't help thinking that a D300 (from which I could "move up" to a full-frame Nikon later on) or a K20D (with its rumored 1.25 field of view multiplier and correspondingly larger sensor) would be a better choice...