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M43 as a Replacement System

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I've seen the NEX and Sony RX1/100 threads here and thought I'd start something similar for M43.

 

The background is that until late last year I shot my stock (mainly travel) exclusively on a DSLR kit comprising D700 with 35-70, 18-35 , 70-300VR lens and 35 & 50 primes - all up weight just over 3KG.

 

But age is creeping up on me and I wanted something lighter and less conspicuous for family holidays (one of those sad individuals that see's family holidays as stock opportunities).  I looked at the small Nikon DSLRs but found the viewfinders like tunnels and so after some thought plumped for a Panasonic G5 kit with the 14-42 and 45-150 kit zooms - excellent price including interest free credit in Jessops before they went in to receivership.  I went for the G5 as the Olympus OM-D E-M5 seemed over specced for what I wanted and the G5 EVF is about the same size as the D700's and easy to use with glasses.  I preferred it to that on the NEX 7 when I tried both in the shop.  

 

I've had the G5 since late last year and although initially I didn't use it much, have been using it quite a bit lately as the weather has started to improve and, to be honest, have rather enjoyed the experience.  The convenience of the kit is just stunning and I've realised that I will be able to get a full replacement kit in to a very small bag and less than half the weight.

 

I'm pretty well at a crossroads at the moment -  I need to think about where to go after the D700 and although the D600 seems the natural choice, I'm sorely tempted to go down the dedicated M43 route with a OM-D E-M5 or GH3 and Panasonic 12-35 and 7-14 lenses plus tele zoom and a couple of fast Olympus primes for when narrow DoF is required.  I'll keep the G5 as a back-up.  What's holding me back is 2 concerns - if I shoot 3:2 on all current M43 I 'only' get just over 14MP, not much up from my D700 and not sure that's viable for the next 3-4 years.  I can shoot 4:3 at 16MP, the minimum I want for a replacement, but I'm not sure how important image ratio is to buyers and whether that might make the images less attractive.  Secondly, the general robustness of the kit.  The Nikon and lenses are all pretty solidly built and feel like they'll take a knock.  

 

Quality wise, the Nikon images are cleaner, but I've been happy with the G5 images once processed and I've had no problems with clearing QC.

 

I've decided that there's no point in changing from full frame unless I can half the weight of a full kit but still have something robust that will take regular use for a few years.  Can't see any way to do that except M43 (E-M5 or GH3).  

 

Anyone using a M43 as a main system?  Anyone care to share some thoughts on M43 as a main stock system.  

 

Chris Lawrence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last year I switched from a Canon 5d to the Olympus E-M5 as my primary stock/travel camera. I've been very happy with the results.   I recently sold most of my Canon glass (but not the 5d yet -- the market is much smaller for an older camera).   The switch reasons were mostly weight and size, but also image stabilization and image quality. The 5d was starting to show its age (and it has always shown its dust spots :-).  The Canon even with its nifty 50mm lens now seems huge in my hand.

On the OMD E-M5 I shoot in the 4:3 format although I'll sometimes crop to the more familiar 3:2, but more often recently I just crop for a more asthetically pleasing composition.  The squarer original (and of course the extra pixels of this more modern camera) seems to give me more scope.  With the OMD I shoot almost entirely with primes (primarily the 45mm f1.8 and the 12mm f2) so I guess in some sense, cropping becomes my zoom in those situations when you just can't get closer.  The quality of the images and lenses makes this entirely feasible (within limits, of course).

I was hoping to use some of my very old manual Nikon lenses with the m43 camera, but I've been a little disappointed with the results.  I guess that my old lenses aren't up to modern lens snuff.  I have got some use out of an old 135mm though.

There are  a few things that I miss from the DSLR -- sunny day composition is a big one.  The viewfinders or rear display on the OMD while good, don't give a good indication of what is possible in opening up shadows.  The 5d's optical viewfinder, by comparison gives a much truer preview. I have to keep reminding myself that that solid black part in the viewfinder will open up just fine in post, but sometimes you just don't take the shot since it looks so stark in the finder!

Another is processing speed.  For some reason, the Olympus raw files are much tougher on my computer than the Canon ones.  I don't think that it can be the 12M to 16M, but it could be.

I'm still growing the Oly system especially now that the Canon lenses are gone, but I think that I'll be with M43 for a good long time.

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The differene may be how the bit depth and compression are handled. I'm getting an OM-D EM-5 with 25mm f/1.4, 45mm f/1.8 plus zoom and flash/grip which we took in exchange. With more makers moving up to 14-bit depth and 20-megapixel plus sizes the sluggishness of raw conversions is an issue, I was hoping this might be faster to process.

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An M43? I've found nothing enlightening on that. It looks like a US military weapon: M16, M60, M9, M43. 

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I had the Olympus OMD E-M5 last year. I too was looking to replace heavy DSLR equipment.The images of the OLY and prime lenses(14,25mm,45mm) gave me better quality than my Nikon D700 and say the 24-120mm zoom. Discount the depth of field and bokeh though which makes a DSLR better.

Why I decided to sell the OMD is that I took it on a photo shoot for a celebrity event and used the flash cord on a bracket like I always do.flash cord snapped in half on the top and I had to use the Oly flash which recycles slow compared to say the Nikon SB-900s.

Additionally I had a hard time with getting shot sif someone was walking towards me.The first shot would be in focus but the focus would not latch on as they were moving.

Maybe it's me whatever,it was reason enough for me to not keep it.

 

However I found this system,the Sony  RX1 and Fuji x100s to be great small cameras capable of better quality than some DSLR and lens combos I've used.It just depends what type of shooting and jobs that you do.For most thinks it will be perfect but if you have jobs that require fast pace action or more MP,this might not be for you.

 

L

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Linda: I guess since I moved from a Canon 5d (classic), I never did have very good focus tracking so I didn't have great expectations.  I've always had to prefocus for those bride down the asile shots.

 

David:  I asssumed that there were just more programmers optimizing the Canon/Adobe RAW code since Canon Raw files must be an order of magnitude more common.  But I have to say that I'm enjoying the greater bit depth of the Oly files.  There seems to be always lots of room to damp down a highlight or bring up a shadow. 

The Panasonic 25mm f1.4 will likely be my next addition to the EM-5.  Just working out what may be a mis-aligned 12mm first.  I hope that the Olympus warranty is good...

 

One problem that I forgot to mention in my initial post is that the rubber eye piece on the OM-D isn't very good.  I haven't lost an eye piece since the late 1970s on a Nikon FM, but the rubber on the Olympus kept separating and then finally disappeared on a recent shoot.  I carry the camera on my shoulder when it isn't actually in my hand (which actually is most of the time since it is so well balanced) and I guess that it just can't take the rubbing.

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Ikon, I'm not saying an old hand like yourself is guilty of this, but almost everyone I see in NYC is carrying their DSLR with the lens pointed out. If they would reverse the camera on their shoulder so that the lens is pointed in and down towards their butt, the rubber eye piece would not rub against their side, nor would the lens be likely to bump into anything. (I used to love those FM's with the wonderfully simple MD-12 drive.)  

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You know, I'm probably guilty!  Even though I've always practiced the lens in/down carrying technique with my SLRs (some old hand must have mentioned it to me when I was a youth...), the lightness of the lenses with the OM-D meant that the technique didn't work as well. I was also afraid that the aftermarket hood on the 45mm which is bayonetted but rather loosely might disappear when aimed in.  Once I noticed the glue failing on the eyecup I was much more careful and skipped over-the-shoulder carrying altogether.  Eventually, it was further off every time the camera came out of the bag. And then it was gone, lost in the red sands of Colorado de Provence.

My camera dealer suggested today that I write to Olympus about the failure. Perhaps they'll replace it as a goodwill gesture.

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Now what you want is the NEX design where the strap lugs are fitted specifically to make the lens aim down. What more makers do not do - don't know why.

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If they would reverse the camera on their shoulder so that the lens is pointed in and down towards their butt, the rubber eye piece would not rub against their side, nor would the lens be likely to bump into anything.

 

Thanks for that tip, Ed.

 

I've been using SLRs for longer than I can remember (starting out with Praktica Super TL and Zenit E) and I'd never thought to turn the camera round the other way - despite frequently banging the lens against solid objects! I think I'd got fixed in my head the idea that, by having it facing outwards, it would be much easier to swing round and take a grab shot!

 

Ian

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Now what you want is the NEX design where the strap lugs are fitted specifically to make the lens aim down. What more makers do not do - don't know why.

 

I've been carrying my NEX's on wrist straps, but I'll have to try that, David. 

 

You're very welcome, Ian. (I pull up short of mentioning it to people on the street.) 

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I've had a M43 system since buying a Panasonic GH1 in 2010.  Primarily I use it for video work, for which it excels, but more recently for images with many of the excellent M43 lenses.

 

On the GH1 I mainly choose the 3:2 ratio given that the camera has a 12mp 'multi-aspect' sensor which does mean a loss of some pixels over the 4:3 ratio but not as much as a crop.  I think the 1:1 ratio is very useful too but I've yet to make any stock images with it.  The GH1 is certainly not the most robust built camera and it has never let me down but is now well used enough that the markings on the function buttons have been largely rubbed off through wear.  Also the eyecup is trying to detach which is an irritation.  

 

More recently I bought a GX1 with 14-42 x lens and the clip on EVF viewfinder and this is a wonderfully portable camera. There is a little more noise at base ISO with the 16mp sensor but this cleans up in LR easily.  I enjoy the camera, especially its handling, and the tilting viewfinder is a personal fave as it gives the option to frame while looking down into the eyecup.

 

All in all, I like M43.  

 

Anthony.

Edited by digi2ap
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I see that Olympus announced a new M43 camera last week - the EP5.  Seems to have a couple of new features which bode well for the format - focus peaking and GPS via wi-fi and mobile.  As a travel photographer I'd like GPS and seems a good/cheap way to implement it and no extra bits to carry.  

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What's holding me back is 2 concerns - if I shoot 3:2 on all current M43 I 'only' get just over 14MP, not much up from my D700 and not sure that's viable for the next 3-4 years.  I can shoot 4:3 at 16MP, the minimum I want for a replacement, but I'm not sure how important image ratio is to buyers and whether that might make the images less attractive.  Secondly, the general robustness of the kit.  The Nikon and lenses are all pretty solidly built and feel like they'll take a knock.

 

Aspect ratio: 4:3 has bigger thumbnails on Alamy, plus is a more flexible aspect ratio for cropping. I have no idea if 4:3 is a disadvantage from a stock marketing perspective, but a sharp, clean 14MP 3:2 crop from an OMD should pass QC with ease. And it should meet most buyers requirements. Keep in mind that a lot of high-end stock was shot with medium and large formats back in the film days (4:3, 5:4).

 

Build quality: The OMD is well built. Same goes with the Panasonic 12-35mm/2.8. The Oly 45mm/1.8 feels solid. The Panasonic 14mm and 20mm pancakes I have feel cheap (but are cheap). Kit zooms from both Oly and Pany feel cheap (exception is the Oly 12-50mm, which is solid). As with all systems, some lenses within a lineup are cheaply built, and you do get what you pay for.

 

Other thoughts...

 

Noise: The OMD is probably around 1.5 stops noisier than the D700.

 

DOF: m4/3 format has 2 stops more DOF than 35mm FF (at a given f/stop). So if you need shallow DOF, note that f/1.4 on m4/3 has the same DOF as f/2.8 on 35mm FF. If you need more DOF, you won't have to stop down as much with m4/3, which can mitigate some of the noise issues by allowing you to shoot at a wider aperture and lower ISO (e.g D700/ISO1600/f8 = OMD/ISO400/f4, for DOF purposes).

 

Image Stabilization: OMD has it built into the body, which means it works with all m4/3 lenses. D700 requires special lenses with VR. Same with GH3.

 

Lenses: Lots to choose from, as m4/3 has a fairly comprehensive lineup with some nice gems. Panasonic 12-35/2.8 is one of them. Extremely sharp, even at f/2.8, but lots of CA. Fortunately, CA is easily cleaned up in LR. Most Olympus primes are fantastic. A good bang-for-the-buck telezoom is the Olympus 40-150mm. Really slow, cheap build, but very light, cheap, and decently sharp. Also, m4/3 lenses are much more compact that their APS-C counterparts. Weight savings add up if you carry more than a couple lenses.

 

Battery: All m4/3 cameras I've owned have mediocre battery life compared to my dSLRs. With m4/3, the batteries are smaller. Plus I tend to shoot quite a bit with the rear LCD. If you buy a m4/3 body, be sure to buy an extra battery or two.

 

Support: You can use a much lighter tripod with m4/3 kit than you can with dSLRs.

 

m4/3 is my go to system 80% of the time these days. I wouldn't get rid of my FF Canon gear just yet, but it has been getting less and less use as of late. And my back and shoulders are quite grateful :) 

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I face the same size, and especially the weight struggle. I love my EOS-1Ds3 but is now juust too heavy for me as a travel camera and have been planning to get a 6D for travel. However I am wondering whether I am putting of the inevitable and should bite the bullet of a much smaller/ lighter system. But I have a major investment in EOS kit built up over many years. I could go back to the old 35mm days and justr carry three primes, 24 or 28/50/135 - need to check whether that would be lighter than my usual pair of zooms.

 

I have toyed with the idea of an OM-D (and like the feel of it) or even the Canon APS-C DSLRs as I have that good collection of expensive Canon lenses. But I underestand full-frame (have been shooting it for over 40 years), have the lenses for it and like the differential focus ability. That is something I would lose completely as it would need lenses 2 stops faster than FF, not possible compared to the fast lenses I already use.

 

Problem is I will have to stay with Canon or change completely - I cannot afford to build a new system without selling the old kit so I can't run a new system in parallel as an evaluation.

 

Decisions, decisions! I guess I could go back to my Canon T90, manual focus FD lenses and film, that would save a lot of weight! But all that scanning :(

.

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I do run two systems in parallel, a Canon 5D3 for landscape and wildlife (and when I don't have to carry it around all day), and the OM-D for cities and days out walking.  I am delighted with the quality of the OM-D plus Panasonic 12-35 and I don't intend to buy any more lenses for the Oly, the range and quality of that one is all I need for the type of shooting I do with that camera.  The extra battery is a must though, one will not get you through a single day of shooting, and the extras are quite hard to buy.  I took the OM-D plunge with some trepidation, expecting to have to accept a slightly lower image IQ than what I had from my 7D.  Instead it is better.

 

No processing issues with the OM-D apart from ACR not having the camera in its database, so CA reduction is not quite as quick and convenient as it should be.

 

Louise

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Problem is I will have to stay with Canon or change completely - I cannot afford to build a new system without selling the old kit so I can't run a new system in parallel as an evaluation.

I was in a situation much like you: wondering if it was just time to bite the bullet rather than going back to a APS frame camera.

You might want to investigate buying from a dealer that will allow a reasonable trial period.  Locally here in Ottawa, Canada most camera shops will allow a return in 2 weeks and sometimes longer.  I've used this to reject a Panasonic LX-5 that I was considering as a light carry-about camera and for a 20mm Panasonic that was just too frustrating to use inside. That said though, it is pretty hard to figure out if a  new system is the right system in 2 weeks, but it is way better than switching and then regretting it.  It does require that you can be out the cash for 2 weeks or at least carry the cost of the new system on a credit card for a bit.

During my transition I also found that I could bring myself to part with a Canon 70-200 that I told myself I would upgrade to the IS version if the m43 thing didn't work out to provide some initial funding (or actually mid-evaluation funding in my 10 month evaluation/transition).  I was lucky once the decision was made. The buyer of the 70-200mm liked it so much that he kept coming back and eventually bought 3 of my lenses leaving me with a 50mm for the old 5d.  (He was just discovering the joys of full-frame as he shed his EF-S collection.)

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After a lot of research I think I will probably dip my toe into the water with Fuji X range I will probably sell my G1X and put the cash towards an XE1 with the kit zoom as a trial. The X range seems to get excellent reviews on image and build quality. The relatively slow AF is not a problem for most of my photography now I no longer routinely shoot sport (my original specialism) - which for many years I shot successfully with fixed focal length, manual focus and no motorwind. I am attracted by Fuji's fast fixed focal length lens which should minimise the loss of differential focus capability.

 

Above all I like the idea of halving my bag's weight while maintaining pretty much the same capability. I currently use a Canon 1Ds3 and was thinking of getting a 6D for travel but that would not really be facing up to my real needs; it would be lazy thinking. I need to properly rethink what I REALLY need which is simpler and about getting back to basics.

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I have gone the Fuji XE-1 route and first impressions are very favourable. The first pix seemed to have a sharpness and snap that surpised me despite the overcast day. They definitely seem to "have something" so I am excited to see what comes out from serious efforts in good light. I am using Capture 1 Pro to convert (might try LR4.4 in due course) and have submitted a couple to Alamy, let's see what QC think.

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I shoot only with a M43 based system now. Currently using a Lumix G5 plus a Lumix GF5 as a smaller discreet body (especially when out with family for the day where stock photography isnt the aim of the day). I use a 14-42 X power zoom on the GF5.

 

I also currently use the standard kist 14-42mm and the 45-150 telephoto.

 

I lot this kit. All fits in a small bag and is very light. I am thinking of some prime lenses next, either the Lumix 20mm or the Sigma 19mm.

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Pretty sharp Stephen. I must get down to our local zoo very soon. Even though I don't agree with zoos in principal. The last time I was there, I was 4 I think. 

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I shoot only with a M43 based system now. Currently using a Lumix G5 plus a Lumix GF5 as a smaller discreet body (especially when out with family for the day where stock photography isnt the aim of the day). I use a 14-42 X power zoom on the GF5.

 

I also currently use the standard kist 14-42mm and the 45-150 telephoto.

 

I lot this kit. All fits in a small bag and is very light. I am thinking of some prime lenses next, either the Lumix 20mm or the Sigma 19mm.

I can heartily recommend the Lumix 20mm f1.7 [ i have the "old" one ] I bought a GF-1 in 2009 and the 20 mm was on the camera most of the time. Focus was a bit noisy on my version, GX-1 was not a lot better than the GF-1 in my view but I am looking forward to playing with a GX7.

Best wishes

John

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Ikon, I'm not saying an old hand like yourself is guilty of this, but almost everyone I see in NYC is carrying their DSLR with the lens pointed out. If they would reverse the camera on their shoulder so that the lens is pointed in and down towards their butt, the rubber eye piece would not rub against their side, nor would the lens be likely to bump into anything. (I used to love those FM's with the wonderfully simple MD-12 drive.)  

 

Ed, I too am amazed at how many folk I see carrying their camera on their shoulder such that the lens swings away from their body . . . and they're not all "amateurs" :-) I've seen kids whacked in the face by a swinging lens too, not nice.

 

I still have a couple of MD-12s, betrothed to a couple of FE2s, gathering dust in the corner . . .

 

dd

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