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Has time and technology caught up with m43rds?

biglouis

Well-known member
This is just a think piece - ignore it or comment on it as you please.

Those of you who have commented on my m43rds posts will know I have been an enthusiastic supporter of the format for nearly 4 years. Not only that but several of my (limited) commercial sales have actually been from m43rds stock demonstrating that for print and web it is more than sufficient.

But here is my problem. I think time and technology have caught up with the format. When a new Panasonic GH-3 and OMD-E5 are close to the same price (or in the case of the GH-3 exactly the same price) as APS-C offerings from Nikon and Canon, I have to question the future of these cameras.

My main enthusiasm for m43rds has been portability and lens quality. I have been willing to sacrifice some IQ in order to be able to lug the camera and three lenses in less room and with less weight than a single Nikon offering with one lens. But even there, weight is finally being addressed by both Nikon and Canon and the Fuji X-Pro is so light each time I pick one up my brain overcompensates and my arm nearly throws it over my shoulder.

So, on price the format is not as cheap as it was. On weight the format is being encroached on by lower end DSLRs and mirrorless cameras (don't even get me started on how much I love my DP2M), and in IQ I do not feel confident that high-iso noise control has ever, or will ever be addressed.

Another concern is just how much further the sensors can be developed. There is (of course) a physical limit - just as with any other sensor - but as the size is already 'cut down' I do not believe they can improve IQ much further. I do wish Panasonic or Olympus would do us a favour and go back to a 10mpx sensor with larger photosites and better noise control.

I face the problem that many users face when they build a system. My glass investment is actually about 4 times the price I paid for my GH-2. However, that shrinks with the pricing of the GH-3 and OMD-E5 to about half. Even if I can recover a couple of hundred UK pounds for the sale of my GH-2 I am still making a sizeable re-investment in the system.

Alternatively, the residual value of all my m43rds kit gets me a long way with both Nikon (D7100) or Fuji (X-Pro 1) - sorry, but I have never got on with Canon but it's my problem and I'll have to deal with it.

Decisions, decisions, eh? I want a decent enough digital kit to allow me to do the odd bit of event work and editorial work but I am concerned that if I buy into either the OMD-E5 or the GH-3 I am buying into a system with a very limited future.

One consideration which is keeping me thinking of m43rds is the extent to which film will continue to be important in my life. I am having a ball using film with MF cameras and recently invested a tidy sum in the Fujifilm GF670w. Digital is only in my life for convenience (my nephew's engagement party is coming up and I'll almost certainly be called on to take some pictures - clearly this is not going to be on film!). Likewise, in my day job I contribute pictures to our monthly newsletter of various happenings where I work. So, I could stop fussing, just buy a GH-3 and forget about digital until such time as I tire of film (or it becomes too difficult to continue) and then invest in a state of the art digital system at that time.

I am genuinely impressed with Panasonic as a company. They invented a whole new format, they have never compromised on lens quality (well, ok the 14/2.8 was a bit naff) and I keep hoping they will finally bring out a PanaLeica 17/2 to round out their offering. So, I do have quite a lot of loyalty to Panasonic but I'm not sure that is the best reason for sticking with a system.

Your opinions will be gratefully received and as I said at the top of the post I am not trolling, just genuinely confused about where to go next (if at all) with m43rds.

LouisB
 

emr

Member
On the contrary I see the format's future pretty positive at the moment. As sensor technology has advanced, the newest m43 sensors are now good enough for anything in my amateur use and I feel less and less desire to buy something big (I have APS-C Pentax gear but nothing with sensor bigger than that). And while the better m43 lenses aren't exactly small, a smaller sensor and shorter flange length will always allow a more compact camera size than the ones with older SLR mounts. Admittedly some newer MILCs with APS-C sensors are fairly compact, but I feel not one of them provides a broad system such as m43.
 

Jorgen Udvang

Subscriber Member
I hear you, Louis, and you have a point, but it goes both ways. On one side, m4/3 offers so much variety now that it can be used for almost anything. On the other side, I'm drawn towards larger formats. I shoot more and more film, and when I retire in 10 or 15 years, most of my digital cameras will retire too. I see no point in taking technically flawles photos other than satisfying the client. For my own needs, film is much more inspiring.

So I use m4/3 for bread-and-butter stuff and Nikon for sports and special jobs. The GH1 and GH2 are doing a great job and when they die, I'll just buy another second hand one for a song. It's not as exciting as it was when m4/3 was new, but the results I get are good enough.
 
V

Vivek

Guest
Louis, The m43rds is done, AFAIC. Only the camera sizes of the m43rds cams seem to go up as seen in the GH-3.
 

camping

Member
Louis,

I shifted to a Nex 7 as soon as it became available.
I was mainly using manual glass on my 4/3 that is now on the Nex and am waiting for the Booster and then the FF Nex.

I think the future is in assembling diverse quality manual glass and not following the perpetual digital body update cycle. Different lenses, in themselves, offer unique shooting experiences as has been shown by photographers using the Leica MM.

I am also re-considering film and still have my M's, R9, Contax etc.
B&W 35mm film is still quite inexpensive and developing is reasonable. I also have a Minolta film scanner.
Paul
 

rparmar

New member
Louis, your post is full of existential doubt that could be laid to rest by burying all your cameras but one and logging off the internet. There is no requirement to constantly lust after the next great thing. I mean, how exactly is the E-M5 a worse camera today than six months ago?

"I think time and technology have caught up with the format."

I don't see it. The only advantage of MFT over larger cameras is that they are smaller. There are now, and have always been, better systems.

The presence of new Nikon and Canon models changes nothing, unless you have forgotten Pentax? They have for many years been making compact highly ergonomic SLRs with more capabilities for the price than Canikon. Plus their glass is superior.
 
V

Vivek

Guest
Louis, your post is full of existential doubt that could be laid to rest by burying all your cameras but one and logging off the internet.
I like that and I take that not just directed at Louis.
It is applicable to a wider bunch, including myself.

Great post! :clap:
 

Terry

New member
I don't equate camera size with cost. So, to me, it is sort of irrelevant if m4/3 cameras cost the same as APS-c cameras if they give the right functionality and utility to me.

Even if Canon or others shrink the size of the dslr bodies they haven't addressed the issue of lenses. What do they have in a decent 24-70 or 70-200 that isn't huge.

I went to Iceland with the OMD and 7-14, 12-35, 35-100 and that is all I needed. Add a few primes and you have a fabulous very fast kit that still blows away anything else in size.

Think about what we've gotten in m4/3 land in not that many years

12, 14, 17, 20, 25, 45, 60, 75 primes
7-14, 12-35, 35-100 in pretty fast zooms
a whole bunch of slower zooms

There really isn't a complete, smaller than full frame, system out there with all the bases covered as well. I say that because to get the good dslr lenses you end up buying full sized full frame versions of lenses.
 

ShooterSteve

New member
Well I keep hearing that Micro 4/3rds is growing every day from friends and dealers. They have a lot of respect for their systems and they are truly tiny compared with Nikon, Sony and Canon offerings. There are quite a few forums dedicated to that format with quite a bit of enthusiasm. I've got a few I'm playing with at the moment and for a high quality pocket camera system, there is no equal for my needs. Now it's not replacing my Canon and Nikon systems for high end work yet, but when I don't want to lug around twenty pounds of gear- they are fantastic.
 

biglouis

Well-known member
Thanks for all the posts. Really useful information and ideas. I am the person who keeps on stating it is the photographer and not the camera that makes the shot! Maybe I ought to remember that from time to time :)

Robin, your post on my 'existential doubt' had me laughing out loud - very apt.

I just want the best bang for my buck given that technology has improved a lot in the 2.5 years since I purchased the GH-2.

Having said that, for someone who spends most of his evenings removing spots from negatives perhaps I ought to be less concerned about technology!

Thanks again

LouisB
 

rgeorge911

New member
Hi Louis and others,

I do understand your feelings. I also feel pretty dumb with the investment I have made in Micro 4/3 when I think that way. Of course, that's no reason to change my mind - regret over logic.

I also understand the "shut off the internet" feeling. I recently carried my G3 through the desert in California, had a wonderful time, and got some shots that I love.

I also love film, the M9, lots of other cameras. Hell, I even like toy cameras on the odd day out. So, I'm going to keep shooting. In fact, I just sold one of my G3s back to Amazon after a year (including unused kit lens) and got enough money back to buy a brand new GX1 body. That's right, GX1. It's simply a form factor variation on the G3. But, it keeps things lively, and was VERY cheap ($275 on Amazon). I will eventually spring for new Micro 4/3 sensor technology, but am in no hurry. Certainly no hurry to buy a LARGE Micro 4/3 body. That's not in the cards for me.

I'm also more enthusiastic about what technology may do for this sensor size. That was a bet I made when I entered the system (compromise between system size and future of technology in small sensors). I don't think it's completely down to first-principle physics limitations yet.

Reed
Blog: DMC-365.blogspot.com
 
I don't equate camera size with cost. So, to me, it is sort of irrelevant if m4/3 cameras cost the same as APS-c cameras if they give the right functionality and utility to me.

Even if Canon or others shrink the size of the dslr bodies they haven't addressed the issue of lenses. What do they have in a decent 24-70 or 70-200 that isn't huge.

I went to Iceland with the OMD and 7-14, 12-35, 35-100 and that is all I needed. Add a few primes and you have a fabulous very fast kit that still blows away anything else in size.

Think about what we've gotten in m4/3 land in not that many years

12, 14, 17, 20, 25, 45, 60, 75 primes
7-14, 12-35, 35-100 in pretty fast zooms
a whole bunch of slower zooms

There really isn't a complete, smaller than full frame, system out there with all the bases covered as well. I say that because to get the good dslr lenses you end up buying full sized full frame versions of lenses.
Hi Terry

To add to your list, Panasonic has 42.5mm f/1.2 and 150mm f/2.8 primes on the drawing board. I'm strictly amateur, but M4/3 delivers everything I need while being small and light. It really is all about the glass. When it comes to video, M4/3 even gets the professional's attention. Whats not to like?

Paul
 

wryphotography

New member
I disagree as well. The OMD is a fantastic little camera. Just yesterday I was sifting through some photos and found some ISO 1600 and 3200 photos and was simply amazed at how far 4/3rds has come. I have had a E510, E30 and E5, and the improvement in noise is remarkable.

Maybe the OMD doesnt handle noise as well as some others would like, but for me ISO 3200 is almost always more than I ever need.
 

kit laughlin

Subscriber Member
I have a hacked GH-2 among my cameras, with the best of the Oly and Panny primes; it is what I take on the road when I need to shoot stills and video. It is the best compromise I have used wrt this dual set of needs, so far. I have an RX-100 too, but as I wrote somewhere else, I like the output, but the shooting experience leaves me cold; I want a decent EVF.

I have a NEX 6 waiting for me on my return; I was really surprised when I did a camera size comparison with the LX-7, which I looked at in HK before buying the RX-100:

Compare camera dimensions side by side

And this is the comparison with the RX-100:

Compare camera dimensions side by side

and the NEX 6 has a decent EVF, and the foldout screen. Not as flexible as the GH-2 in that respect, but perhaps very useable.

It will come with the PZ zoom—compact but SO slow, so I bought the Sigma 30/2.8 (and 45mm EFOV is my favourite focal length). I know the Sony video will be good, and I will be very interested in the stills output.

Getting back to Louis's points, I find the GH-3 too large, and the OM-D's buttons were too small, for me. Now, some of this is nitpicking, to be sure, but now that I have retired from commercial work, the pleasure of shooting is a major focus for me.

On the size aspect, I sold the X-E1 and the three lovely primes because although I loved the stills output, the video was very ordinary and in my present line of work, I have to have both. That, and the fact that with hoods on, the excellent lenses are not small at all. I might buy the X-100s; we will see.

If the NEX 6 works, I will sell the RX-100, simply because of the EVF aspect.

I am waiting to see if the next iteration of the OM-D feels better—I agree with many here, it is excellent, and I am not at all sure the format has reached EOL (end of life!). And even if I get out of µ4/3rds, I'll keep the lenses—so small, so inexpensive, and so good!
 
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Peter Klein

New member
Most technologies eventually reach a stage where everything is good enough. At that point it becomes a matter of style, ergonomics and which model variation is best for a specific purpose. For most photography, we've hit that "good enough" point. So the fact that a DSLR will still get a higher DxO or DPReview score than a micro 4/3 camera is irrelevant to most people (unless one is chasing the numbers for personal fullfillment). :D

I'm a long-time Leica shooter, with film and now with the supposedly obsolete M8. My old G1 was my "good enough when a rangefinder wouldn't do" camera. It was only just good enough, though. The OM-D is more than good enough, and for some things, it's better. I have a half stop less noise performance at an ISO I rarely use. The portability,versatility and lens quality of micro-4/3 is worth more to me.

So Louis, I think your best bet is to ask yourself, will I truly help my photography by upgrading to something else? Or am I just having existential difficulties because some marketeer has put FUD* in my brain?

--Peter

* FUD= Fear, uncertainty and doubt, the cornerstones of all advertising.
 

biglouis

Well-known member
Peter

I understand what you are saying but I have always found my GH-2 to be sub-standard where I need to use iso3200 - in indoor environments. Before buying into the next generation of m43rds cameras, e.g. an OMD-E5 or the GH-3 I just really want to establish whether there have been any improvements at higher iso because mostly the GH-2 files take a lot of work on them to make them acceptable at that level.

LouisB
 

Godfrey

Well-known member
I don't worry about these things. The future of a system is not as important to me as what I can do with it.

I bought a used Pen E-PL1 recently to use some of my oddball lenses with. It works very very well, and is producing satisfying results. It's inspiring me to explore some new avenues in picture making.

Yeah, my Leica lenses are much better, the NEX 7 has more pixels, the E-M5 has way more features and sensitivity. But what's important are the photos any if these cameras make, not whether the camera is state of the art or the system is being expanded. There will always be a better camera, in some way, as time gropes onwards.

G
 

Peter Klein

New member
Louis: Look in this folder:
OM-D test shots

There are high ISO real-world tests of the OM-D in tungsten light. The file names should tell you what the photos show (OOC="Out of Camera," the rest are Capture One 6 NR--color NR only, half the default NR, or default NR). The photos labeled "scene" are the entire scene for reference. EXIF data will show if you click the camera icon above the picture, and the full-size 100% crop displays if you click the double rectangle.

The piano shots show highlight and shadow in a small room lit by two shaded 60 watt incandescent bulbs. The bookcase is in my living room with fairly normal incandescent room lighting.

Also see here for some ISO 1600 pictures:

Some party shots:
New Year's Eve 2013

And some stage lighting shots:
All sizes | Poulenc | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
All sizes | Jane | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
All sizes | Seth | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
All sizes | Laurie | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Hope this helps!
 
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