Leaving Micro 4/3... But what for?

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by stratokaster, Sep 5, 2011.

  1. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Pavel
    I think Micro 4/3 was (and still is) one of the most exciting developments in photographic technology. I had quite a bit of fun shooting first my Olympus E-P1 and then my Panasonic DMC-G2. However, recently I've become increasingly frustrated by the limitations of my gear and of the format itself.

    The first issue is dynamic range. I travel a lot and often need to shoot in a bright and contrasty light. Unfortunately, Panasonic G2 doesn't have a lot of highlight headroom. This means that I need to use negative exposure compensation to save highlights. But because of its narrow dynamic range I often get completely blocked shadows that don't really recover well: they become riddled with ugly magenta and green blotches.

    The second issue is noise. This issue is closely related to the first one. ISO 200 shots are distinctly noisy, ISO 400 - even more so. ISO 800 shots are usable only if I have managed to nail both the exposure and WB, otherwise the image will completely fall apart during PP.

    Those 2 problems could be partially solved by buying a more advanced camera (specifically, Panasonic GH2). However, this is where the third issue comes to play. Panasonic GH2's availability (at least in the country where I live) is still sporadic at best. It's been out of stock for 5 months. The same is true for many Micro 4/3 lenses. Of course, I could order GH2 from abroad, but why should I buy Panasonic products if they don't really care about their customers? Also it raises some suspicion about Panasonic's commitment to the system and the overall longevity of Micro 4/3. After all, 4/3 and Pentax were plagued by the same availability issues, and where are they now? Canon, Nikon and Sony somehow happen to better manage their supply chains — and it looks like those systems are here to stay. Pure coincidence, I know.

    The fourth problem is limited DOF control with Micro 4/3. I'm not really into 'bokehgraphy,' but often I want just a hair more background separation. And no, I don't want to buy the Nokton.

    All of those issues, especially the third one, make me want to ditch Micro 4/3 and buy into another system. The problem is, I don't know where to go.

    Unfortunately, I have a very specific set of requirements. First of all, the camera should have a full-featured video mode and input for an external microphone. Manual audio level adjustment is also very welcome. High-quality viewfinder (built-in or clip-on) also is a must. I often shoot with external strobes, it means that the camera should have a hot-shoe. Unfortunately, this rules out all the mirrorless cameras out there (apart from Panasonic GH2, but I won't buy it for the reasons stated above). It means that I am forced to buy a DSLR, but which one?

    Canon EOS 600D (or 60D) has all the features I need, but I'm not sure I can live with an optical viewfinder. I think I'm spoiled by EVFs with all their useful facilities (live histogram, instant exposure preview, etc.). The other option is to wait for the Sony A65 which is excellent — it packs all the technology and most of the features of A77 into a smaller and lighter package.

    What do you think?
     
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  2. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 12, 2010
    Philly, Pa
    Sounds like your in need of a DSLR type camera. The Canon 600D is a great choice. John has one and his results are often stunning. I know how you feel about the noise and dynamic range of m43. If that really bothers you, like it did me....move on. I would wait for the new Sony, as you stated, it's bound to be a winner.
    Good luck in your quest....
    don
     
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  3. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Pavel
    In fact, there are some things that make me reluctant to buy a DSLR.

    The size of the lenses is the biggest advantage of Micro 4/3 over pretty much everything else. For example, Olympus 9-18 is absolutely tiny. To get the same angle of view on an APS-C DSLR I will have to buy something like Sigma 10-20 which is not small, to put it mildly.

    The other potential issues is the accuracy of PDAF while CDAF is always precise. Last time I had a DSLR it took 3 trips to the service to achieve reasonable AF accuracy with all my lenses. I don't want to go through the same thing for the second time.
     
  4. serhan

    serhan SC All-Pro

    May 7, 2011
    NYC
    Coming from DP1/2 to m43, low iso noise and dynamic range of m43 was an issue for me also. That made me add nex-5 for my travels. Only problem with Sony is the lens selection. I bought VC 12mm for wide angle and used the kit lenses for the other shots. Also nearly all of the old lenses can be used on Nex. I think you can get easily old Russian m39/m42 lenses there.

    If the new Samsung sensor is improved, they have better af/pancake lens choices.

    Other option is Ricoh gxr with m module, again it is more for manual lenses.
     
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  5. lcsolla

    lcsolla SC Regular

    109
    Sep 5, 2011
    Lisbon, Portugal
    Real Name:
    Luis Castro e Solla
    In analogic times I had a Nikon FM2 and a Minox 35 GT, and I did slides. You had to be careful with exposure, and think about whether you wanted heavy contrasts or not, when shooting. I did things with the FM2 that I just could not do with the Minox, yet the Minox was what I always had with me. In spite of the problems with focusing - by distance estimation - I have lots of wonderful landscape pictures taken with it. I also knew that I could get better pictures with a medium-format camera than the FM2, and I dreamed of a Mamiya 8, but I just could not afford it.

    Digital time now. I had a Nikon D70, a Nikon D200, and now a Nikon D7000; all are good cameras. I also had more than a half-dozen compacts, neither of them fully satisfying. More than the lack of quality - some of the pictures I took with them are quite acceptable - I hated the fact that the quality was unpredictable, and too variable from photo to photo.

    A few weeks ago, in the UK, I got a wonderful deal in Jessops: a Panasonic GF2 + 14-42 mm zoom lens + 14 mm lens + a copy of Lightroom for 399 GBP. I usually shoot in aperture-priority mode, and contrary to what I expected, its ergonomics turned out to be very good. I showed several pictures taken with it and the Nikon D7000, printed at my customary size of 20 x 30 cm (8 x 12"), and people could not tell which was which. Although this is true only up to 400-800 ISO, I still remember not daring to go over 100 ISO with slide films. I am very happy, and more often than not leaving the D7000 at home. I ordered a Panasonic case, which takes the camera with the 14 and the 20 mm lenses, and am dreaming of the new compact X zoom, which might fit it as well. With an adapter, I can use my Nikon lenses with it. I think this is a very under-rated camera. Any problems? I can think of two: Panasonic lenses are relatively expensive (I would like to have small and reasonably priced 25/2.0 and 50/2.8 lenses), and the screen can be hard to see in the strong Portuguese sunlight. Wishes? a rotating screen would be welcome, for filming, for difficult angles, and for protection when carrying the camera.
    Most men still care more about the camera than the pictures. Being a man, I try to fight this natural tendency of mine.
    All the best

    Luis
    Lisbon, Portugal
     
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  6. mmacleodbrown

    mmacleodbrown SC Regular

    197
    Oct 10, 2010
    London
    What about a pentax - as they have a selection of very small limited lenses?
     
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  7. pictor

    pictor SC All-Pro S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 14, 2010
    I am in a similar position, but in my case it's mainly the noise. Although the noise is rather high at ISO 200 and ISO 400 and I would prefer a better performance, I could live with that. The major problem is, that I really need ISO 800 too often and ISO 800 is not very usable. The dynamic range is low and I would like a better dynamic range, but that is no major problem for me. I dislike most that I have had to send each lens to the service, which takes weeks and sometimes months until the repaired lenses are back again. My problem is, that there is no other system which is as light as µ4/3 and which offers all the lenses I need.

    I own the Canon G12, too, and I have always thought that the difference in image quality is not that big as it should be due to the much larger sensor of µ4/3. I don't think, that the noise I get with the G12 is much worse than that which I get with the E-PL1, since the IS of the G12 is great and I can get perfectly sharp pictures even with the shutter speed of 1/10s, which results in lower ISO.

    However, I can see big differences by using excellent lenses like the Leica Summicron 50mm. But I do not need µ4/3 for that and could get even better results with this lens by using the NEX or a Canon DSLR, on which Leica R lenses can be adapted, too.

    Maybe it is best to have a light DSLR for doing macro and low light, and a compact for carrying really light. I don't know. I doubt, however, that in my case it would be wise to switch the system completely at once.
     
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  8. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Pavel
    I had a Pentax DSLR before and was not satisfied with it. And I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, but I think Pentax is as good as dead.
     
  9. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    Real Name:
    BB
    Oh Pavel...what are we coming to with WWII and now the death of Pentax?:wink: I'm teasing, of course!

    Now back to the regularly scheduled discussion about which way to go apres le Mu43.:popcorm2:
     
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  10. pictor

    pictor SC All-Pro S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 14, 2010
    The preference for the EVF rules out all DSLRs. So there are just the new Sony cameras A77 and A65, which offer everything you need. Apart from that I would either take the Nikon D5100 or the Canon 600D, if you want to travel light, or either the Nikon D7000 or the Canon 60D, if you want a larger and brighter optical viewfinder (and some other features). If dynamic range is your primary concern, both Nikons seem to be best. I also doubt, that the new 24 MP sensor of Sony will be as good regarding noise as the 16 MP sensor of the Nikons, which is excellent.
     
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  11. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Pavel
    No offense, but I think everybody just loves it when in the middle of a gear discussion thread somebody appears and tells everyone that equipment does not matter and we all need to concentrate on our photography :biggrin:

    On a more serious note, I'm not really a gearhead. I had been shooting for several years with my old trusty Sony R1 and did not even think about replacing it until it could no longer satisfy my needs.

    But now I'm really tired of wrestling with Lightroom in order to make my images look better. Recently I had a chance to shoot with a selection of Canon and Sony DSLRs. Compared to Panasonic G2, their RAW files are a delight to work with. I was especially impressed by extremely wide dynamic range and subtle colors of Sony.

    As pictor has noted, many quality compacts have IQ similar to Micro 4/3. For example, my Samsung EX1 (a wonderful camera) has slightly noisier shadows, but more highlight headroom. In the end, the combination of a DSLR and a high-qualty compact camera probably makes more sense for me.
     
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  12. pictor

    pictor SC All-Pro S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 14, 2010
    You are so right!

    Although I really think, that one can make good pictures with any camera, it is not true, that the camera does not matter. The camera does matter, because no camera is equally good for everything. There are cameras which fulfill ones needs and there are cameras which don't. It is certainly true, that the camera does not matter as long as it fulfills ones needs, but it is also true, that a camera, which does not fulfill some of ones critical needs, will become a handicap. It may be good for other needs, but that does not help you.

    When I read this, it is quite obvious to me, that the G2 does not fulfill several of your critical needs. As far as I have seen, your photographs are excellent, but since the G2 stands between you and the pictures like that, in my opinion nobody has the right to call you a gear-head because of your wish to have a camera which fulfills your needs significantly better than the G2.
     
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  13. Pelao

    Pelao SC All-Pro S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 11, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    Real Name:
    Stephen
    Hi

    You have listed the limitations with M4/3 as you see them. Perhaps let's start with the end in mind and work backwards. This can really help in gaining suggestions for another system.

    What is your main output? Do you shoot primarily to share online, or so you print? If the latter, what is your usual print output size?
     
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  14. lcsolla

    lcsolla SC Regular

    109
    Sep 5, 2011
    Lisbon, Portugal
    Real Name:
    Luis Castro e Solla
    Four-thirds vs. SLR

    I never meant to say that camera quality is irrelevant. The camera is important, the lenses not less, and the photographer possibly more.

    I basically meant that the Panasonic GF2 gives me very satisfying images, much more so than the compacts I have or had, and definitely in a much more regular and predictable way. I do admit that none of them is a last generation one, but I tried the Leica D-Lux 5 and Canon S95 and was not fully convinced. Most of the better compacts are neither cheaper nor much more pocketable than the GF2. I put the GF2 with a pancake in a jacket pocket, sometimes the zoom in the opposite one. The Canon S95 is definitely more pocketable, but I tried it and did not like it.

    The GF2 (and system) is sufficiently small that I so not mind carrying in occasions when I would not bring the Nikon D7000 and its lenses. I shall pick the D7000 in many other occasions. People such as Thom Hogan have been claiming for a smaller, Nikon FM2-type, dSLR. Unfortunately, APS-sensor SLRs are bigger than the few APS film SLRs that were ever produced (by Nikon, Canon and Minolta), and much bigger than 35mm film cameras.
     
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  15. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Pavel
    The biggest print I ever made was 2x3m, but it was an exception. I usually print my favorite pictures at 30x40 or 30x45 cm (depending on the original aspect ratio). If a picture is intended as a gift for someone, I may print as big as 40x60 cm.

    But most of my photographs are displayed online. And this is the problem, because often even small photos look worse on the computer screen than they look in print.
     
  16. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    Nic
    I love my Sigma, but um, yeah...see below

    [​IMG]

    On my old Canon 50D you can adjust in-camera for any back or front focus issues for each lens, although to be honest, aside from messing around with it once to see how it worked, I haven't really had to use it to fix a focusing problem.
     
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  17. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Pavel
    Sorry, I think I misunderstood you. You're right: Micro 4/3 undeniably has its appeal. I mentioned some of the biggest advantages of the format in this thread. But no camera is perfect, each comes with its own set of compromises. It's your choice whether you accept them or not. For me it's easier to live with image quality deficiencies of small-sensor cameras... probably because I don't expect much.
     
  18. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Pavel
    Thank you, my friend. You have just demonstrated the biggest strength of Micro 4/3.

    (And I suspect this is exactly why Pentax 15 Limited costs that much :biggrin:)
     
  19. Pelao

    Pelao SC All-Pro S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 11, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    Real Name:
    Stephen
    I am not sure I understand the problem. For most subjects it can be hard to distinguish between cameras at normal screen viewing, all other things being equal or similar. The challenges you have with M4/3: are they visible in a print, say 30 x 40cm? Are they something you are aware of while editing, particularly at 100%? I assume that you shoot RAW..

    There is certainly more room with some sensors, and sometimes better high ISO, but for prints of that size and most subjects, most photographs would be indistinguishable from those taken with, say, an EOS 60D or D7000.
     
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  20. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Pavel
    This is true for photos taken in the ideal circumstances. When I use controlled studio lighting, my Panasonic G2 almost always produces wonderful results, as does my Samsung EX1. Even my cellphone takes wonderful pictures in the studio :biggrin:

    However, in real-world situations there are many factors that make Micro 4/3 perform significantly worse. The problem No. 1 for me is G2's relatively narrow dynamic range, especially when coupled with its live view histogram which is far from truth. And don't even get me started on Micro 4/3's perennial difficulties with brightly-colored objects (yellow, orange, red, violet etc.) which inevitably lead to single-channel clipping and all kinds of weird color shifts. There was a thread on Mu-43.com dedicated to exactly this issue and it was pretty clear from the image samples in this thread that even GH2 in that respect is closer to small-sensor compact cameras than to APS-C DSLRs and CSCs. For example, I incidentally discovered that there are whole families of flowers whose colors can not be reproduced with reasonable accuracy by any 12 MP M4/3 camera (for example, most species in the genus viola). I found it out when a friend of mine asked me to shoot her prized flowers — I was forced to rent a Canon DSLR to finish this relatively simple task.