Building the Perfect and Sexiest Micro 4/3 Camera kit for under $2500
By Steve Huff
So the time has come, the time is now. The format I so wanted to love from the get go but never fully could (due to quality issues and lack of lens issues) has finally arrived. The Olympus Micro 4/3 format has grown quite a bit over the past 2 1/2 years and todays cameras are quite a bit better than the earlier generation models. More important, the lenses have finally gotten really really good. Well, in my opinion anyway, and that is because I am a HUGE fan of Prime single focal length non zoom lenses and Olympus, Panasonic, and even SLR Magic/Noktor has now gotten serious about putting out some great glass.
I was waiting for the day when lenses like the ones below would arrive for this format and now all I am waiting for is the Olympus “Pro Pen” (and I am praying that it will have a built in EVF)! Until then the E-P3 is doing quite nicely. If you are someone who is interested in buying into a new camera system (and many of you are as I get e-mails asking me about it daily) then one option for you is the Micro 4/3 format. It is smaller than a DSLR, it is quite versatile and the quality these days is DAMN GOOD.
Sure there is the Leica M9, that has always been an option of course, but sadly most of us can not always afford the $7-8k for the body and several thousands more for the lenses. If you can, then THAT is the way to go IMO. The M9 is magic once you learn it and get used to how it works. So if you have $15k laying around, just go buy an M9 and a 35 or 50 from one of the site sponsors! But if your budget is under $2500 and you want a really kick ass versatile camera and lens setup then below is what I deem “The perfect Micro 4/3 Camera Kit for under $2500 or so” – and this is focusing on PHOTO capabilities not video.
The Camera Body – MY FAVORITE MICRO 4/3 CAMERA TO DATE…
Olympus E-P3 – $899
The original PEN E-P1 was a camera I enjoyed but it’s slow AF, inability to use manual controls for video, and inability to even accept an EVF hindered it. But even with those quirks it was a lovable camera due to it’s retro design and quality feel. The E-P2 was an improvement but still was not perfect though it did look sexy in black 🙂 Now we have the E-P3 and in my opinion it is the best of the PEN series to date and has become another favorite of mine. It has lighting fast AF, a superb LCD OLED “almost too good” display, the ability to use the VF-2 or VF-3 EVF’s (BTW, the VF-2 is MUCH better quality wise) and it still retains that solid feel and great build quality while improving the grip and including a built in flash (for those who like flash).
It would have been sweet if it had a built in EVF but as it is now, it is my favorite Micro 4/3 camera to date. There are also the Panasonic’s like the newer GF3 and G3 (that DOES have a built in EVF) and they are good, but to me there is just something classic about the E-P3 (and no, I am not referring to its somewhat dated 12MP sensor, lol). When I hold the E-P3 I WANT to go out and shoot. When I hold a G3 I do not. Call me strange but I feel that when you have a “connection” with a camera then you can do great things with it and it inspires you. Besides, the image quality difference between the E-P3 and G3 is crazy minimal and not even evident in prints. These days 12MP is plenty for almost EVERYONE. Yes, this is true even though the newest crop of “enthusiast” cameras coming out in 2012 are 24MP and up.
The fact is that the E-P3 inspires and it is much less expensive than buying into Leica. So for those of us with limited funds, this is a fantastic option for those looking to get into a new camera system. I get the e-mails daily that read something like this “I am in the market for a new camera and have no idea what to buy, but I can not afford Leica. Any suggestions”?
Camera purchases are personal. I can not tell you what to buy as what I like, you may not like BUT I do get to use just about any camera I want. Out of everything that I have tried recently I feel the best system as a whole for someone with limited funds is this E-P3 in the M4/3 line due to its qualities, versatility and the new lenses available for it. I also love the Fuji X100 but it is not as versatile and not really a “system” camera. The NEX-7 that is on the horizon looks AMAZING but it is not out yet and lenses are lacking at this moment.
What CAN the E-P3 do? It can do macro, it can do fast wide angle, it can do fast telephoto, it can do HD video (though not the best in this dept.), it can do sleek and sexy. It can focus and fire almost instantly just by touching any area of the LCD. It can do all of these things while giving back really great quality up to ISO 1600 and even 3200. With the EVF using manual focus glass like a Leica 50 Summilux via an Adapter can also bring good results but remember the 2X crop involved with the Micro 4/3 sized sensor. Your 50 becomes a 100mm equivilant. This camera is also a conversation starter. Walk around with it in silver and a vintage looking strap attached and get ready for the comments. Every time I take this out I get a comment on it as everyone thinks it’s a vintage camera. Fun fun fun!
So if you have around $2500 budget, give or take, and are in the market for a really nice kit I would suggest the E-P3 as your base camera. The cost is $899 with the kit lens of choice and you can buy it in black, silver or white. The silver is beautiful and is my choice for my personal E-P3.
The Olympus 12mm f/2 or the new high quality SLR Magic (Noktor) 12 f/1.6
The Olympus 12mm f/2 – $799
The 1st lens that really threw me for a loop for this format was the Olympus 12mm f/2. Not only due to the wide angle equivalent of 24mm but the speed of f/2 as well as the close focus ability and super fast AF speed when attached to the E-P3. ALSO, the superb build quality, design, manual focus control and distance scale. Almost Leica like with it’s execution and style. Also, the performance is exceptional. The lens is quite expensive though at $799. It is unique with all of its qualities but there is another choice in a fast 12…
The Olympus 12mm f/2 is fantastic but expensive…
The SLR Magic/Noktor 12mm f/1.6 – $499
The newest lens on the block comes from slrmagic.com and they are taking this seriously with their 12mm f/1.6. It’s big, it’s bad and it’s output is wonderful and dramatic. DISCLAIMER: SLR Magic is a site sponsor but I do not sugar coat their products. Their 50 Noktor 0.95 is mediocre in my opinion, and it has been their “flagship” until now. This is their “1st serious lens” as they told me and I was expecting less but when I started shooting it I got more that I expected. The lens is long..heavy..and manual focus. So if this is OK with you, the output is, IMO, more “cinematic” than the Oly 12. At $499 it is also not a cheap lens but this lens is great for video AND photo. My 1st look of this lens is HERE and my full review will be up in the next 2 weeks and the lens will be out in December in the USA. It is one to look out for.
The SLR Magic 12mm f/1.6 puts out a more “Cinematic” rendering than the Olympus 12 though no AF and its larger/heavier
The Panasonic 20 f/1.7 or 25 1.4 lens – $349
The Panasonic 20 1.7 is legendary in the M4/3 world. It has been a great seller and for good reason. It was the 1st “fast” prime made available for this format and the quality is well worth its $350 price tag. Above it actually. The 20 1.7 is a deal and a MUST OWN, especially if you never owned this lens. Attach it to your camera, set it to 1.7 and shoot! With this lens we were finally able to get some shallow depth of field control on our cameras. If you want to spend a but more, $250 more to be exact you can get the Pansonic/Leica 25 1.4 Summilux. YES, a Summilux for your Micro 4/3 camera! It is made by Panasonic, not Leica, though Panny builds it according to Leica design specs. We don’t get the exotic Leica glass but it’s still a Leica design. The Summilux is a better lens but also more money at $599.
Below: A test shot from the 20 1.7 (at 1.7) shot on the E-P3. Click on it for a larger and better view. Love the sharpness and contrast of the 20. It is already a classic and at $350 well worth the cost!
The Olympus 45 1.8
This is the newest and hardest to find lens from Olympus and it’s a beauty. Olympus really hit it out of the park this year with the 12 and this 45 1.8 lens, more so than the E-P3. These lenses are important because they work equally as well with the Panasonic cameras and they are both the highest quality lenses yet from Olympus for this format. At $399 it too punches above its weight class. A MUST OWN if you want a 90mm equivalent that is also built well, beautiful and FAST with a 1.8 aperture. I do not use 90mm too much but for those times when I do, this lens will be the one I use. My review is here.
The Olympus VF-2 and VF-3 EVF – $179-$249
To really finish off this kit I had ego recommend one of the EVF’s. The VF-2 will give you the best quality when looking through the EVF but the VF-3 will lock into place and cost you less. I have the VF-3 though I admit the VF-2 was much more pleasurable to look through. I ended up sticking with the VF-3 due to the fact that the VF-2 always fell off my camera. This never leaves my camera though it does make it a but bulky. I find it useful in the daytime when the full sun is out, and here in AZ that is every single day.
The Barton Braided Leather Strap – $79
I tried out one of these straps from Barton 1972.com and it has become my favorite strap for the E-P3 hands down. It is all leather, hand braided, and is soft and has some stretch to it so it will not hurt your neck or shoulder. I Highly recommend it!
So there you have it…
If you have about $2500 to spend and want to buy a new camera kit that is small, sexy, capable, AND versatile then the E-P3 and lenses/accessories above can give you quite a bit of “BANG for your BUCK”. Sure, with $250o you could buy many other cameras but none will be an entire package like the one above. Sure you can spend less and buy a new Olympus E-PL1 or old E-P1 but the list as I typed it out above is sort of an “Ultimate” list for this format, what I deem to be the best of the best that this format has to offer for photography. The best of the lot. The camera, the lenses, the accessories. It is what I love and I have been using this setup more and more lately and thoroughly enjoying it.
- The Olympus E-P3 camera with kit lens – $899
- Olympus 12mm or SLR Magic/Noktor 12mm – $499-$799
- Panasonic 20mm 1.7 – $349
- Olympus 45 1.8 – $399
- Olympus EVF – $179-$249
- Barton Strap – $79
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Steve: This post needs another update. I presume you would now recommend the E-P5?
I would 100% recommend the E-M1 1st, then the E-P5.
would the new oly 17mm f/1.8 make the list? price aside, would you pick the 17 over the all time favourite pana 20 f1.7?
How would you update this list with all that has come out in the last 8 months?
What about the new OM-D compared to the EP3 in the same set up? any real advantage? (obviously image stabilisation, increased resolution and the RealTime are 3 obvious features…) but is it any real advantage in the real world?
In addition my dad has an old 1970’s Olympus camera he gave to me 10yrs ago but has been in the cupboard, + 2 really nice lenses that could be adapted on.
Over the E-P3? Better control/dials, EVF, swivel LCD, 5-Axis, don’t have to worry if it rains, better high ISO…
Olympus epm-1 with 12-42 mm – $329 (I paid this much in 2003 for a Casio 3 MPx camera)
Sigma 24 2.8 C/Y mount – $100 purchased in the mid 90’s
YUS 135 2.8 C/Y mount $75
Yashica 50mm 1.9 C/Y mount $200?, was included with the Yashica FX-3 super 2000
m 4/3 to C/Y mount adapter – $25
Being able to reuse my old gear – Priceless!!!
Awesome write up! I use a Panasonic gf2 and love it!
Would like to try the ep3 though!
Check out my work @ http://www.Facebook.com/617fotografie
All shot with the 20mm 1.7 & 14-42.
Wow some real dick swinging going on in here lol.
I have bought a E-P1 for £165 and will put a 20mm Panasonic lense on it and take pictures and enjoy myself.
Then once I get the hang of things I will buy something like a x100 and carrying on smiling.
I remember those retro BMW’s from the late 80’s now those were cool.
Its only a camera guys!
I know you can’t say what “I should buy” but my debate right now is do I dump by 5dMII kit for something smaller, more portable, that produces damn near the image quality I am looking for with my style of photography? Or do I just keep the 5D and settle for a lesser m4/3 system. Someone on here said get a used M8 (Leica) for about $2500… I could still get well over $3K for my kit as it is. And buy a M4/3 body and SEVERAL great lenses. Ohhhhh what’s a girl to do?
Keep what you have and just buy a second hand Pen and see how you like it then spend some serious dough if you like it perhaps?
I just completed my own 4/3 kit for under $900, I had to make some compromises and plan to do some incremental lens upgrading later, but overall I feel I put together a capable kit on a budget
e-PL2 (factory refurb) with 14-42mm II MSC lens $379.99
Panasonic 14mm f2.5 (new) $180.00
Pansonic 45-200mm mft lens (used) $200.00
Crumpler Four Million Dollar Home $70.00
Remote shutter release $6.99
Ravelli APLT4 61″ Light Weight Aluminum Tripod $19.69
Transcend 16 GB SDHC Class 10 $15.98
Wasabi Power Battery and Charger Kit for Olympus BLS-5 $23.99
Total —————————————————————– $896.64
Steve you are definitely my favorite professional review guru out there… You also take prefect pictures that best suit the lens you are reviewing! Keep it up bro we appreciate you…
Seems you could also get the nex5n or 7, with the zeiss 25, and sony 50 for the same money or less. If it was the only camera you had, which kit, m43, or nex would you find more useful?
I think I’ll just get EP3 and p-Leica 25 1.4 to get started if I decide to go for m43. I like the 12mm, but it’s a bit too expensive for my purpose (I don’t think I would use wide angle that often, but it would be good to have the option). How is the panny 14mm 2.5? If it’s a good performer, I could get it and oly 45 1.8 later on instead of just the 12mm (& save money).
FIrstly, love your site. great reviews.
I recently got back into m43. I used to have a GF-1, but I never liked the ergonomics of that camera. I sold it and the 20 1.7 and resumed using my D90. After sustaining a wrist injury that prevents me from using a DSLR, I sold my D90 and lenses, and spent the money getting:
12 f/2 olympus
25 1.4 Panaleica
45 2.8 Panaleica (I really like macro photography).
Although I like the E-P3, I figured I would spend the money on lenses and not the camera. I’m still waiting for m43 to come out with a better sensor.
I had a bit of money left over, so after reading the review on this site for the GXR and M mount, I preordered one of those too. I never liked using the leica lenses on the m43 – the 2x crop renders most of the focal lengths useless, and the lack of peaking was annoying. I’ll see how it goes with the GXR
I already got myself the ep3 not long ago with the 45/1.8 and I think the combination is a gem. The 12mm is great but I rarely go that wide. So Im waiting out for the 25 summilux instead for the m4/3 version!
wow i left out adapted glass ….mommy!
shhesh!! i use a nikon q 135mm f 3.5 rf lens in a custom plastic lens cap adapter
konica lenses including a 57 mm 1,2 slr lens with rj lens adapter
nikon 105 micro nikkor 2.8 early version af on rj lens adapter
15mm 4.5 28mm 1.9 and 50 mm 1.5 voigtlander with voigtlander to m43 adapter
45 contax g and 90mm contax g with 2 different style m 43 adapters
also assorted minolta olympus rollei yashica russian rf konica pentax 110 including the tiny 20 -40 2.8 zoom
this is one of the most important reasons i love micro 4\3.lol and i forgot to mention it above
heres my micro 4\3 lineup
two e-p1 bodies
two gf-1 bodies [one has evf]
oly flash [dedicated for e-p1]
14-42 oly kit zoom
14-45 panny kit zoom [ the good kitzoom!]
12mm f 2 oly
7-14mm f4 panny
17mm 2.8 oly
i love micro 4\3 but heres the thing ….since getting my fujifilm x 100 a month ago ive picked up micro 43 about 3 or 4 times , the latest rumors concerning an intigrated evf pro panny or an olympus
x 100 clone is music to my ears,
the next micro 43 body i buy must have a better sensor…it must have a built in evf…must have dials and buttons to make setting ss iso and f stop transparent without any menu dives…the ep3 with its commendable af and other great features must improve its sensor too, with my current investment
im not jumpin ship just yet ….but oly and panny need to get a clue and listen to the shooters who are their customers , the nex 7 is in the amazon top 20 cameras the only non canikon there
its the evf stupid, olympus and panasonic ….snap out of it
Thanks Steve for this post. I’ve been waiting for someone to post a M4/3 setup. I love the E-P3, just waiting for it to arrive here in the country. I’m also looking at the Panny 20mm to pair with the camera. It’s perfect that you mentioned that lens here.
But what about zoom lenses, what’s your recommendations for the camera/system?
did you ever test the Pana/Leica DG 25/1,4 on the E-P3?
Would be interesting versus the 20/1,7.
GF1 body new last summer sales 100€
refurbished olympus 14-42 on ebay 66€
Pentax K ring from ebay reusing 80’s 1.7/50 13€
grand total 179€
Wow, there are a lot of post here. My $.02:
E-PL1 (+kit Crap..)
Vivitar OM 200mm F3
Vivitar 135mm F2.8
Olympus OM 50mm F1.4
While the legacy lenses are fun, the lack of AF and the extra glass (because of the crop factor) means I don’t carry them too happily.
I am adding the Olly 45/1.8 in the next week or so. I would actually rather buy a serious wide angle P&S than a dedicated 12mm prime, but the XZ1 and X10 start at 28mm EFL and others don’t have an EVF, so am “waiting & seeing” on that WA option.
I never would have bought a DSLR because of the size, or a Leica M because of the lack of AF, so am very happy that mirrorless came along. As are many others, obviously!
My m4/3 system so far:
Lumix 20 mm f1.7
mZD 45 mm f1.8
Fujica 55mm f1.8
with m42-m4/3 adapter
ZD 14-54mm Mk I
ZD 40-150mm Mk I
that sometimes I use with E-1 or EPL-1 through 4/3-m4/3 adapter
Plan to have 2nd hand Lumix 14mm tough but still need to justify it as I rarely take landscape shot
GH2 = $732
PL45/2.8 = $700
PL25/1.4 = $600
$2000, all UniquePhoto
great article, thanks for it.
Nonetheless, I purchased the E-PL3 instead of the P3. On the one hand, I’m getting tired of all this retro stuff we have been faced with recently (not only in the photographic world but everywhere) but I would have purchased the P3, nevertheless if it didn’t lack the tiltable screen that allows you shooting at waist level. This really adds another level of fun to my photography. Really can’t understand why the top-of-the-range model didn’t come with this feature. Combined with the touch-focus this would have been a fantastic feature, wouldn’t it?!
Apart from this, I have to admit that I have been spoiled by my wonderful Zuiko zooms and following my semi-switch from FT to µFT due to arguably chronic back problems, I still have got my problems to adapt to shooting with primes. But the new wonderful lenses are helping me to cope with that and I truly am looking forward to discover the completely new approach to shooting pictures the primes are forcing me to opt for.
For me, FT has been/is a fantastic system and now, µFT takes the weight out of it. It couldn’t have come any better!
Just give me a working C-AF for my dog action and I will say farewell to my E-5.
i think that’s called marketing ^_^
if oly made e-p3 with a tiltable lcd, then they’re not going to have a good selling of e-pl3..
but to be honest, i sometimes miss the swivel lcd that i used to have in my gh1.
Juuusssttt sometimes… ^_^
Funny that the demands are that different. I never used the swivel displays of my E-30/E-5 or G1 as I never knew how to hold the cam to shoot at waist level. Hence, the tiltable screen of the E-PL3 is exactly what I had hoped for.
And when it comes to marketing:
On the one hand you may be right – the PL3 certainly benefited from this move – but on the other, Oly would have got some 200 or 250 Euros more from me (and probably a lot of other people) if the P3 had had the tiltable screen. So, I’m not so sure if this marketing move is so clever. Why sell the people the cheaper product if they would be ready to spend more money for the equally equipped top-of-the-range model?
Pana 20mm f1.7
EP3 + EVF or GH2
Why not consider any legacy glass? Micro four thirds is one of the most versatile camera mount systems because of all of the lens mount adapters available.
Honestly, the 45mm seems a bit silly when you can get a 50mm of any legacy glass manufacturer and it would prob look better if not the same. since a 50mm film lens will out resolve any native micro four thirds lens, and have full manual control.
the 20mm f1.7 is a must, but the 12mm could be easily replaced by a canon 15mm f2.8 of a pentax 16mm f2.8
I mean the oly 12mm is fantastic, but is sharpest at f2.8, not f2, and same goes with the 12mm noktor, you have to stop it down to get best results.
it only seems logical to buy legacy glass….
In my bag I’d have:
-GF1 or EP3
-15mm canon FD f2.8
-20mm lumix f1.7
-28mm pentax f2.8
-50mm pentax f1.4
-maybe a voigtlander 12mm too, but thats luxury
I disagree that a (any?) 50mm film lens will outresolve any native m4/3 lens. For example I have the Pentax 43mm f1.9 limited, which is regarded a sone of the best autofocus lenses ever, and on a m4/3 camera it gives pretty much the same resolution as the Zuiko 45mm f1.8 at all apertures.
Pentax 16mm f2.8 instead of Zuiko 12mm f2.0? You do know that the first equals a 32mm lens and the second a 24mm lens?
Can you name a single lens that doesn’t improve resolution when slightly stopped down?
In your setup you have some rather big lenses + 2-3 adapters. So the compact form factor of m4/3 is obviously not important to you? Then why m4/3 at all?
I have no idea which lens outresolves the other, but you can run the tests and tell us.
There need not be a single answer to the question: “Why µ4/3rds?”
I like the compact size, but enjoy the ready availability of lens adapters (at a 2X crop factor) for my “Legacy” OM lenses. It is fun to be able to play around with them on a digital platform. A 100mm f/1.4? That is the effect of mounting my Zuiko 50mm f/1.4 on my E-PL2. That’s fun. How about the Zuiko 180mm f/2.8? I am not in the market for a 360mm f/2.8, but this one is fun as is the Zuiko 300mm f/4.5 at an equivalent of 600mm f/4.5.
The Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 is on my “want list” because it is compact and fast, opening up the opportunities for selective focus even more than with the two µ4/3rds lenses I have (µZuiko 14-42mm II and 40-150mm).
I say to each his own although I have no intention of ditching my DSLR at the moment.
Anthony = Richard?
You’re right, adapting all sorts of manual lenses is a great option on the EVILs.
But in the end, you also have native glas (e.g. 20mm f/1.7) because it’s compact. And exactly the same rationale (+AF) let’s most users prefer a 45mm f/1.8 or 12mm f/2.0, etc. over a whole lot of bigger and less comfortable legacy glas, although that would be cheaper in many cases…
If I were to build up a system with a backbone of legacy glas, then I’d rather take one of the newer NEX cameras – focus peaking is really nice. 😉
I am not building a system with a backbone of legacy glass. I just happened to have a bunch of Zuiko lenses, along with my OM-1, OM-2, OM-2SP and OM-4 and I can play with the lenses on my µ4/3rds body when I don’t feel like shooting film.
I have no first hand experience with the Sony NEX system, but it has a number of appealing aspects to it. The mirrorless market is in the process of discovering just what it is that the consumers really want. That need not be a single answer either. The µ4/3rds provides a good balance between size of the body/lens combination and good IQ. It’s not quite up to the level of a good APS-C sensor, but it is better than P&S cameras.
I would be very surprised if someone does not come out with a package which pretty much provides the same experience as shooting a Leica, but for a whole lot less money. There are a lot more potential customers for a camera in the price range of the current mirrorless CSC offerings than there are for $7,000 bodies and $3,000 or $10,000 lenses. It will be interesting to watch this market segment evolve.
“If I were to build up a system with a backbone of legacy glas, then I’d rather take one of the newer NEX cameras – focus peaking is really nice. ;)”
Yeah right, but that’s just a software thing that easily could be implemented in the µFT cameras by a firmware update. And hopefully will.
What I meant by out resolve was that legacy lenses are designed to cover an image circle which contains a full frame image (24mmx36mm). Because micro four thirds is significantly less than that, there would be more light input into a legacy lens than a lens designed for micro four thirds natively. In my opinion, I believe legacy glass has better bang for buck than most of todays newest micro four thirds lenses because they are relatively cheap and provide a similar if not better image (IMHO). That said, the 12mm olympus is phenomenal….but it aint worth $800. I would rather sacrifice a few mm and get a 15mm or 16mm legacy lens and still get astounding image quality and the backward compatibility with my film cameras.
Your comments make sense at first, but for two factors:
1. AutoFocus! Yes, many of us like/ need/ want it.
2. Size and weight of the lens. Leaving the resolution factors aside (not that it isn’t a fascinating topic…), there is a lot of “wasted” glass on a legacy lens on m43. Even a small legacy prime like an OM50/1.8+adaptor is big and heavy compared to the mZD45/1.8, and this goes across the board.
To me, the strength of the format is that it enables users with so many approaches to find the right balance for them. Olly and Panny found the sweet spot for so many of us.
Sure, IQ/ shallow DOF could be improved with a bigger sensor, but then you need bigger native lenses (a la Nex system). And Nikon have shown us that dropping down in sensor size gives little size advantage in bodies or lenses.
I have an E-PL2 and VF2 with the 14-42 II (and hood) and 40-150 that I picked up for a good price when the E-P3 was announced. It is the camera I take with me all the time now.
You might find this article of interest. It is a PJ/Street Photography Documentary of the “Occupy” event and was taken with a M4/3rds.
Panasonic 14mm f/2.5: $200 (on ebay)
Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 $349 (or cheaper on ebay)
Olympus 45mm f/1.8 $399
Less than $1400! :P~
And it looks so cool with the skin you put on it….
I am steering towards the Panny 14/2.5 as a WA, but I think I need a little wider, but not faster or bigger?!
Love my Panny 20/1.7, often travel with that alone, no camera bag needed.
Getting the Olly 45.1.8
Not upgrading my E-PL1/ VF2 yet. Will be sorely tempted by the yet to be announced Panny body “with-EVF-in-the-right-place” (WEVFITRP?), would prefer an Olly version tho.
the durable Pentax K5 with Pentax Pancake lenses is still the best option for me concerning the relation between size, toughness and image quality. OK, it´s not mirrorless- who cares if the set is soo small.
Small camera, cool lenses. Olympus, however should make a reportage zoom, something like 14-35/2.8, preferably in 12/2 style (minimalistic, compact). It is certainly very enjoyable to play with small cuties, putting them on and off camera. However, Olympus and for that sake Panasonic 4/3 are not cameras for all terrain shooting because they have not fixed yet one stupid and very annoying detail. When you remove the lens the sensor stays uncapped by the shutter. I am not talking about rainy blizzard, a misty fog with a bit of wind will garnish matrix with tiny droplets not amount of shaking and blowing will remove. I mentioned the issue several times but it looks nobody has an issue with that. Are all 4/3 lovers changing their lenses in the safety of their closets or it is just me talking nonsence?
Good comment. I change mine inside an Ortlieb Camera bag (rolltop drybag) when conditions are like that, but it annoying to have to do it.
Hi Jeff and others,
for me 2 500 $ for a 4/3 set is not reasonable, that was the intention of my mail.
Yes, I have a Nikon 5100 with kit lense and am waiting to get a 55-200 and a Sigma 10-20. The kit did cost 900 $, and it has a viewfinder!
If the whole set comes together it will cost me 1600 – 1700 $ depending on the Sigma (f 3.5 or 4.5). With this I can shoot everything, in the dark and/or moving and/or far away.
The G 12 of my friend is so good that I wonder when and how I should use the 5 100 to get better results.
By telling you the price of the equipments for under water photography I only want to confirm that my friend is a “highly ambitius amateur and hobbyist” . He is not a bored rich guy who does not know what to do with his money. The D 300 plus case is a huge investment for him. I have not seen D 300 under photos but if he has the ambition to improve on the photos made by the G 12 and he succeeds we will see his photos in camera and diving magazines in the future.
So for me paying 50-100% more (compaared to my Nikon DSLR) to have a 4/3rd system does not make sense. For Street I would have the G 12. Easy to carry, looking nice in the ever ready case. Don’t know if it can match the “speed” etc I need. My Lumixes have problems in the dark (I shoot after work, it gets dark in Thailand between 6-7 pm depending on season) and in Street people don’t pose, they are probably moving.
Weight: the Nikon weights 825 gr. with the kit lense.
Her 4/3 wins: incl.VF and 2 lenses around 660 gr.
But you are at 2000 $, saved 160 gr., have a lense in your pocket (one on the camera) and probalby cannot shoot a dog crossing the street in the dark.
I wish and I am very optimistic that 4/3 will be the system of the future. CSC are the most growing segment and I hope that our hobby will go the same way as for ex hifi: better and smaller.
Assuming the quality of a 4/3 set is between G 12 and DSRL: is this necessary esp. if you pay more? Ok some people buy the highest specified car and put a lot of tuning inside etc.
I would buy a larger/more comfortable or better built car and save some money.
I have to agree with you on all of that post Steve, the EP3 is a great little camera, I find myself using it much more than my G3.
Is that “super fast focusing” dependent on using the latest Olympus lenses?
I just ran across some photos (on LR3) from a trip to Europe last year after reading this article. I used a GF1, evf, kit zoom lens, and 20mm 1.7.
My original plan was to just use what I already have; a Leica M6 and a ton of film that was in stock. I don’t regret leaving the film home at all. I have hundreds of photos that I know are better than my film shots would have been. Two weeks in Europe with my wife and a carefree camera kit to not frustrate either of us was great.
I only wish I had some of the gear you have just mentioned.
Appreciate the site.
Great post Steve!
I’m really fascinated by the fact that i basically have the budget 4/3 kit, except for the 45/1.8, simply because it still isn’t available in germany. But apart from that it’s exactly what i have, plus the toy lens 26/1.4 and Canon’s own FD 50/1.4 and 28/2.8 with mount adaptor.
12/2.0 and 25/1.4 are on the wishlist, could be one or the other for christmas and the E-P3 is, despite your “it’s the lenses, stupid” post, with which i totally agree, something i lust for. 😉
So it’s E-PL1, 14-42 I, 20/1.7, toy lens 26/1.4, FD 50/1.4, FD 28/2.8 and VF-2 for me.
I’m currently just using a X100 (parted with my D700 – I wasn’t happy with the 50G and getting a 35G seemed ridiculous – how often did I want to carry that gear around?), waiting to see how things shake out with the next generation of everything. Also stupidly wondering what I could do to get a M9 to go with my Zeiss Ikon…
MFT needs a pro body with built in EVF ala the NEX-7 – the hot-shoe mounts are workarounds that don’t particularly appeal to me. If the next generation of sensor tech gets them close to D7K high-ISO performance? Killer.
I would like to purchase a Barton Leather camera strap such as one you picture in you review. Is there
an American outlet? Only listing I could find was on Ebay in Hong Kong. I am not member of PayPal
and Ebay. Can you help?
Love that strap! It looks uber sexy on The Olympus PenFT in that image, and since I own a PenFT I am getting one!
I see no point in buying all that exotic glass. I use some old lenses from Nikon (80-200 F4.5 manual and a legend in its own right and tack sharp at any range), a slightly dented 50 mm 1.4 also build in 1976, an Novoflex Adapter, a GF1 body and an Oly 9-18 and the kit 14-45. And for the realy long shots I have to have an (borrowed) 75-300 with TC201 teleconverted. Not that sharp but more then adequate. Total cost. Under 1200 dollars, since I bought most of it (except the body) second hand. And it gets my job done quite nicely. I only use RAW, Silky Pics as a RAW converter and Gimp as a tool. Only problem I have using manual lenses is focusing on the screen (not the screen is the problem but my eyes are weak (unless I take my glasses of which in the field is quite a hassle). But I manage even with the 80-200.
Hihi, something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue (the Novoflex adapter). I could marry my cameraset.
I have mixed feelings about this. Actually, I really liked your kit. They look really sexy, the images from those lenses look beautiful, the camera itself is a joy to use and that strap is the cherry on top of them all. What gets me however, is the price.
2500$ is a lot. I’m not saying that it’s overpriced, surely you get a lof of nice lenses, but do you really need all those? How about a Mark II with just one fast prime? That’ll make you happy if you know what you want to do with that lens. How about the incredible EF 85mm f/1.8? Or just the EF 50mm f/1.8? If you bought a camera in the 70s and 80s, you’d probably buy it with a fast 50mm lens and make good photos with it. How about doing that now? 5d Mark II is as good as it gets. How about a Sony A850 for 1500$? You’ll still have 1000$ to play with, and that body is the nicest and most enjoyable DSLR I’ve ever seen.
Of course, the Olympus is capable of doing much more than a bulky DSLR(and vice versa). Some may prefer the 5d in the street shooting, but actually what we’re aiming for is not that. So we have to drop the second paragraph alltogether.
How about buying a APS-C sized mirrorless camera? Sony NEX or Samsung NX. I know that I can get along quite well with 5N, as I already have an original 5. I’ll probably buy 7 too, but I don’t actually need it desperately. With the viewfinder, 5N will cost about 1050$ and 7 will cost 1200$. I’d get the 5N if I didn’t want to have a viewfinder but let’s assume we get the 7. We’ll still have 1300$ to play with. And x1.5 crop size is more preferable than the m4/3(IMHO). Right now I have a Canon FD set, 50/1.4, 85/1.8, TS35/2.8, 70-210/4 and a Fujinon 35/1.7. If you ignore the Tilt Shift lens, all of those lenses would cost 300-350$ in total. As I still have 1000$, I’d just get the upcoming 24/1.8 Carl Zeiss.
Then again, those cheap lenses are fun, but I believe we can do more with less. FD lenses are easily useable with the tiny body and grip of NEX, and 7 will only improve that. But if you ever use a very small lens, such as that Fujinon(same as SLR Magic 35/1.7) or a Leica lens, there’s no going back. How about a Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 for 629$? It’d be almost as compact as a m4/3 camera, and it’ll be at least that much fun to use.
I’ve been avoiding all the image quality discussions and I’ll continue to do so. It’s all about having fun and making good photographs. m4/3 owns the Nex system right now, as the native lenses go, but if you’re OK with manual focusing and buying less(but probably better) lenses, Nex or NX might be the way to go. Or if you really want a bulky DSLR, I’d give A850 or 5Dm2 a go, especially since we’re talking 2500$.
For less money, that SLR Magic and that Oly would probably give magical results. It’d be so much fun to use them, it’d make you a better person overall. NEX and lots of FD glasses are still an option for 1500$ budget, but your camera will be kludgier than the Oly. E-P3, with just one of the lenses you’ve listed will probably be a much refined experience than almost everything I’ve listed above. And it’s possible to get a really nice set for 2500$, something you couldn’t do with Sony.
I’m not sure if I managed to make any points in this post but I’ve just found out where my mixed feelings come from. I guess I simply don’t want to spend 2500$ on so many lenses. I already have so many lenses(all the FD I’ve mentioned above, plus 16/2.8 and 18-55 Sony lenses and a 500/8 tele from ancient times) and all those lenses have not made me a better photographer. The problem is, I’m not happy. I’d probably be a better photographer(and a happier person) if I had just two but very good lenses. I’ve began to carry only two lenses, the one on the camera and one in my pocket. I’m giving my lenses a rotation, right now they are the 35/1.7 Fujinon and 85/1.8 FD. I might also drop to a single lens, see if that limitations trigger anything in my mind. After all, we love prime lenses because they’re limiting us with their fixed focal lengths, encouraging us to explore our limits. So, why buy 8 of them and carry them around?
Someone should stop us 🙂
Why 8 lenses? Steve recommends 3… 😉
A 5D Mark II as an alternative to m4/3? Apples and oranges times ten. Why should you be interested in small cameras in the first place, when you don’t mind lugging around a fullframe body + lens(es)?
The only viable alternatives would be other EVILs. m4/3 currently is the most complete, with a lens lineup that suits most needs. No, not perfect yet, but compared to NEX, NX, etc. it offers by far the best lens choices, that also are really compact.
In a few years, things might look completely different, but for now m4/3 seems to be the best small system.
You’re right. M4/3 is really becoming the first digital compact SYSTEM. My current m4/3 setup includes all your suggestions (except 45/1.8 which is impossible to buy at the moment). However, my most used lens by far is the Nokton 25/0.95. It’s the best lens I have had in 25 years.
Hi Steve, I took the liberty of writing an antithetical post to yours, titled “Building the perfect BUDGET Micro Four Thirds kit”. You can find it here: http://www.efixmedia.de/photography/2011/10/07/building-the-perfect-budget-micro-four-thirds-kit/ Hope you don’t mind 🙂
Good one! It certainly demonstrates the versatility of the m4/3 system!
Steve – thank you for giving the Oly Pen it’s due…I might take some issue with you about image quality of the EP-1 & 2.
This was with one of the kit lenses and an EP-1. This is why I chuckled when so many brand-name shooters were going goofey over the X-100 as if it it were the second coming of the M6. Please.
I hope to pick up an EP-3 soon…
as always cynic Heiner has a different opinion:
Canon G 12, zooms from wide to far, built in viewfinder, you can buy 5 of them (each with a leather case, looks “retro” as well) and form a group or you save 2000 $ and come to visit me in Thailand. You will return home with thousands of photos (street, landscape, wild life, Thailand is great!)
Smaler as well, no extra bag for lenses. Leather case can be closed completely (not with your Pen plus primes).
A friend of mine showed me under water photos he shot with the G 12 (larger than A 4 I guess). I could not believe that he did not use his new Nikon 300 for this! BTW this guy knows what he is doing, his under water case for the Nikon 300 costs about the same as your 4/3 set!
Disadvantage (no free lunch): does not look cool, at least naked.Hidden in the leather case (ever ready) people might think it is a 1965 film (maybe Leica!). You cannot buy and blabla about lenses (has only one)
I always thought that the G 12 wins all comparisons because Canon is the market leader and therefore the largest advertiser. This P&S is a competitor to DSLRs!
I have 2 Lumixes (FZ28 and 40/45), should have bought only one and a G 12. Will wait for the G 14 (don’t think they will use 13) and then buy a G 12 from someone who thinks he needs to upgrade.
New today around 500 $ incl. leather (ever ready costs here in T soem 40$, on e bay it is cheaper, made in China), so every one who cannot afford 2 500 should consider it. No excuse for bad IQ any more!
Glad to hear that you are enjoying your G12, but I guess you have never tried a m4/3 camera matched with the right lens either…
For even less than USD 500 you can buy a NEX3/5 Kit, EPL1 or EPL2 with kit lenses, Panasonig G2 etc. all wiping the floor with the G12 in the performance and IQ departments.
Heiner, I fail to see the logical connection between the fact that your friends underwater housing costing over $2500 and the fact he knows what he is doing. He very well may be a great photographer, but what does the fact he has an expensive housing prove other than that he can afford an expensive housing ?
If I own a $4000 Les Paul guitar does it mean I’m a great musician ?
If I own a $2000 set of golf clubs does that mean I’m not a weekend duffer who still shoots in the 100’s and just can afford nice things ?
All an expensive item proves is that you can afford an expensive item.
That all said, I’ve owned a G10, and G12, and while nice for a point and shoot, with good controls, it takes images like a point and shoot camera. You have very little control over things like DoF.
Have you actually yourself shot with a camera other than a compact to realize some of the differences one can produce using a larger sensor and longer focal length lenses ?
For about $1250 when converted from Malaysian prices I managed to put together a kit that suits me well for most situations.
EPL1 – in white. Loved this camera since it was first released.
Kit lens – not too shabby optically, bit rough mechanically.
Lumix 14mm/2.5 – got one from a kit for roughly half retail 🙂 And I love it!
Lumix 45-200 – I like taking long shots, and this lens really delivers for the price.
VF2 – tried both, but the VF2 is markedly better, and also essential for most shooting.
Still love the Olympus bodies, but also the Lumix lenses. I am debating whether to get the 20mm, or splash the cash on the Summilux. It’s a tough call. Great to have choices at last!
My small travel bag: EP3 black with EVF, 12mm, 45mm, Fuji X100. I’m considering buying the 40-150mm to complete the set up.
I am still very happy with my Panasonic GF1 and the 14/2.5 and 20/1.7 pancake brothers. This to me is the perfect travel kit with body mounted lens fitting into a cargo pant or jacket pocket with the other pancake prime along for the ride in the other pocket. What I really like about the m4/3 system is it’s adaptability with older manual focus lenses. I’ve added my brass and glass collection the wonderful Konica Hexanons 40/1.8, 50/1.7, 135/3.5, and 300/4.0 and an old, Soviet era, Industar 61 L/Z macro. All fit, look, and feel perfect on the metal brick GF1.
Steve, great post about your favorate m/43 setup!
Here is my dilemma: My system used to be simple – a PEN body + a Oly 14-150mm zoom and the Panny 20mm f/1.7. It took care of most of my photography needs. This year, they came out with all these great lenses, that I couldn’t resist but bought them all. The great 12mm f/2.0 and the 45mm f/1.8. I even ordered the 25mm f/1.4, but I love my 20mm too much to let it go. Now, I can’t decide which lens to bring with me! LOL
The Pana 20mm is good but not great. The Summilux might be great but a little bulky. I hope Olympus will give us an outstanding, fast, compact 20mm with build and looks of the 12mm.
If I didn’t know there will not be a Sony Nex-7, I would probably grab this set too…of course with the leatherette. It could be a great set for my wife and the EP3 could serve as a backup to my M9.
…oh… the Canon lens I had, the Fujinon set me back $22 and the Vivitar Macro was mine for $101. Adapters were all in the $25 range. Great deals!
I love the versatility of the m43 system.
I have the GF1 with the Lumix 20/1.7 and 45-200 zoom, which I got as a kit recently for $1000 and have to say I love this camera. The zoom is OK but the 20mm lens is pure joy to use. I also shoot with the Canon 50mm 1.4, a Fujinon 55mm 1.8, a Vivitar 55mm 2.8 Macro and a CCTV lens. It’s so much fun to use old lens with adapters!
I’m currently interested in the Lumix PZ 14-45 which should make a fantastic travel lens.
Strangely I downsized to get a lighter kit, which I did, but now I have all these legacy lenses! LOL
For someone on a budget, I would still recommend an Ep2, used ep1 or even epl2. That will get you into the system, you can spend more of your budget on those lenses, and you can still take photos while waiting for the “pen pro” to come out. I’m still using my ep-1, have never really had issues with the autofocus speed, but then I don’t use this in situations where I really need fast auto focus. I use a nikon d300 for that, all five pounds of body and lens. Biggest issue I have with the ep1 is the inability to accept the vf2.
I would also discourage anyone who isn’t experienced from buying “the best”, if that means a Leica, or any pro body. The money would be far better spent taking workshops or lessons from a pro, and the complexity of these cameras can hinder or confuse a less experienced photographer. Time spent trying to figur out how to use the camera could be better spent learning how to see. (My complexity comment applies more to pro SLR’s than the leica, but I include leica because of the expense as well as the “manual ness” of these range finders). I have done a number of workshops where some rich dude with more money than sense shows up with brand x’s flagship , and can’t even configure his settings correctly, let alone concentrate on the learning experience.
Another great looking camera … looked around a bit and found that there is an adapter made that allows the Leica lens to work with this camera … is any one shooting with such a set up?
My kits consists of the following:
EP3 in silver
Lumix 20mm 1.7
Sumilux 25mm 1.4
M.Zuiko 45mm 1.8
Artisan & Artist Strap
Crumpler 5 million Camera Bag
Voightlander 25mm 0.95 (i know, I know too many lenses but i just want one :-)……)
I don’t own any m4/3 gear right now (nex and nikon f user), but if i was to, i would buy the following for a more affordable price
Panasonic G2. 299$ at B&H right now
Panasonic 20mm 1.7 (241$ when you buy it with the G2)
Panasonic 14mm 2.5 321$
Olympus 45mm 1.8 399$
So thats about 1260$ for the whole kit, you lose IBIS but the 1.4milliond dots EVF is included
My is the Panasonic G3-
Lumix 20 1.7
Lumix 100-300 4-5.6
Leica M Adapter – fotodiax
Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH
Zeiss 21mm f2.8
Summicron 50mm 2.0
Summarit 90mm 2.5
When they are not on the M9 🙂
Some test shots –
Image 1 -90mm on G3 – second one 35mm Summilux with Hoya Infrared filter
Can´t really come up with a big negative thing about this system – other than the lack of an optical viewfinder. I´n not sure I would like the EVF…however, it might be very good…
If you had to choose, and if you didn´t mind being stuck with just one lens, would you go for the Olympus E-P3 w/45mm f1.8 or the Fujifilm X100 w/23mm f2.0? And why? As I see it those are the only two that I personally would consider.
Toby, the x100 is a 35 mm equivalent, the 45 is a 90 mm equivalent. This is apples to oranges. Unless you will consider the pany 20mm, you should save your money until you have a better idea of what you need. I don’t mean to be rude or flippant, hope it doesn’t sound hat way. Over to you, Steve…
Sorry, my mistake to forget that the Olympus lens would be a 90mm equiv;-)…I eat both apples and oranges, but I would prefer a 20mm if I had to have only one lens. Being stuck to one lens is only due to economy.
So, If I had to choose between the two and the lenses would be about the same focal lenght – which one is the better? Which one would you prefer? Is the EVF good enough?
Toby, 23mm on a X100 is 35mm equiv. 45mm on m4/3 is 90mm equiv. They are totally apples and oranges.
Why wouldn’t you consider something like a 20mm f1.7 for m4/3 if you wanted to compare it to the X100 ? What is it about the 45mm Oly that makes it the only lens in the pretty deep m4/3 lineup that you would consider ?
Walking around with a short tele photo for an only lens wouldn’t make much sense at all. 35mm semi normal lens on the x100 is far more versatile overall.
Buying an interchangeable system camera like the EP3 and sticking just one lens on it doesn’t really make much sense to me either though.
Walking around with a short telephoto is a great idea, but I wouldn`t like to be stuck to it. I totally forgot that the Olympus lens is equiv. to a 90mm. I would prefer the 20mm if I had to have just one lens…
Just got into this m4/3 system but what I have and want are as follows:
EPM-1 (cheaper than the 3 and has the guts of the higher priced camera) ($500)
Samyang 7.5 Fisheye ($350)
Panasonic 20mm ($350)
Olympus 45mm ($480)
Panasonic 100-300 ($500)
That covers all the range you are going to need and comes in at under $2500.
Hey Steve! I’m using a d300 with a set of pretty cool lenses. But carriing this every Day is a real pain! So i choosed to buy the sexy gf-1 and the perfect crispy 20mm 1.7. I recently added the voigtlander 40mm 1.4 with a 4/3 to m-mount adapter (That was before the oly 45 was out). I’m gonna get the 12mm F2 someday and it Will be the perfect compact/light system That i carry every Day with me in my think tank rétrospective 5. I’m waiting the gf pro to change m’y camera, but the gf1 is so fantastic to use! And the quality is outstanding. Pleasure is redifined with the micro 43 standard.
Thanks for letting me share my set-up…
I don’t know why but it gathers a lot of attention. I constantly get stopped, on the street, by people asking “what are you shooting with?”, followed by a 10 min conversation on camera gear 🙁 all i want to do is shoot!
e-pl1 in black, with the olympus name taped over with electrical tape
3M fake black leather tape for the front plate – additional grip for my slippy e-pl1
Voigtlander 25mm f0.95 – night turns into day. This really cured my GAS (gear acquisition syndrom).
vf-2 – so sharp, clear and bright that i used the focus assist function only ONCE after i bought it
Great post. I agree with you entirely. I already have the Contax G 45mm with an adapter. Though it is manual focus only I love the look of the output. The new Olympus 45mm is tempting me every day though.
Steve, you going to review that C-Sonnar in the photo above, on the M9? That would be delightful.
Hi Steve i also have The EPL1 which i really love. The Price for The Body was 219 €. My lenses are.
Lumix 20 1.7
Lumix 14 2.5
Leica R Adapter
Summicron R 35 2.0
Summicron R 50 2.0
Marco Elmarit 60 2.8
Elmarit R 135 2.8
R Lenses a really Sharp Wide Open
I forgot the VF2
I basically have the same set up as you have recommended but with the E-PL2 and the 14mm instead of the 12 f2.
2) 14mm f2.5 (cheap, incredibly compact, ‘wide’ angle)
3) 20mm f1.7 (portable!,fast and sharp)
4) 25mm f1.4 (great contrast and character)
5) 45mm f1.8 (great sharpness at f1.8)
6) vf-2 (doesn’t fall off for me)
This all fits snugly into my billingham hadley digital (without hoods). I also have the 40-150mm if I go to the zoo and such. Your site has been so helpful in building my kit and I thank you for that!
P.S. I think living in canada actually gets me these lenses faster than in the states, it seems. I got the 25mm f1.4 more than the month ago and the olympus 45mm f1.8 last week.
Right on — What a great way for regular folk to afford an ILC with primes! …and not break my neck or my bank acct.
Prime lenses do make the system. I shoot the E-PL1, almost always with the Panny 20mm, some 14mm 2.5 wide angle stuff, and just occasionally use the zoom. Have the 45mm 1.8 on order too. Considering the E-P3 for the fast focus and expanded ISO range, but the PL1 gives pretty great results as is and one can learn to prefocus for most situations. As for the expanded ISO, hmmm, it may be worth upgrading for that.
If only I had some idea when an Oly PEN Pro might hit the streets?
Hi Steve, I’m new to your site. Great reviews and previews. I wanted to ask a question specifically for this article. What about the bag to carry them all…what camera bag do you recommend? Thanks.
Although I’ve never tried the Olympus cameras (and the EP3 is far too expensive for me) I must say I really love my G3 – nothing else could have induced me to trade in my GF1!
My favourite lenses for it:
Voigtlander 25mm f0.95 Nokton – I have illusions that it turns me into an artist every time I use it
Pinwide – what a great idea, and beautifully executed
My Minolta MD 50mm & 100mm macro lenses, with Novoflex adapter – these work SO well
Ditto my Minolta MD 50mm f1.2
Minolta MD 135mm f3.5, now I’ve got the built-in EVF
I like the convenience of my Olympus 9-18mm, but wonder about trading it in for a Noktor 12mm plus a Samyang 7.5…
I haven’t costed my outfit (and have no intention of doing so, I’d like to get some sleep tonight) but for sure the Minolta lenses haven’t added very much to the total!
That kit sure looks sexy, however, after my recent venture into m4/3 I can certainly say the 2x crop killed the system for me. There is no chance to effectivey work with depth of field in anything below tele lenses.
So I went for a Sony NEX 5N instead to use my growing collection of legacy glass. 1.5x crop is suprisingly much better to work with than 2x for my taste.
I like you wanted to get into micro 4/3rds a long time ago but did not like how slow the AF was. You prompted me to buy the EP-3….actually sold my M8 to do so (blasphemy I know) but I wanted a full kit of lens instead of being limited to just one.
So far the kit is the
ep3 with kit zoom (silver of course)
pan/leica 25 lux on order
and one day soon the oly 12
can’t wait to play with this kit, arrived inthe mail today
Thanks for the great reviews and steering my wiselfy
Pete my m4/3 kit consists of the Panasonic GF1, 20mm f1.7 and the 14/45 kit zoom.
I like the both these lenses.Both deliver great results,but the 20mm f1.7 is a lovely lens.
Great article Steve
I really enjoy thinking this stuff through. I am currently building my Nex-7 kit.
For now, I am going with the Zeiss 24, E mount 50, LA-EA2, with the 35 SAM and 85 SAM, I might get the 16 as well, will need to total all this, but I expect it to come in around $3k.
All of the above is autofocus and the 35 and 85 should have amazing AF with the LA-EA2 adapter
Will fund by selling my m8 and will keep my leica glass for future offerings.
How do you keep coming up with all this interesting stuff? Great article, thanks. Still waiting for that 45mm from B+H, hope they get some more soon…
Thanks for an interesting article Steve. Your enthusiam for the NEX system have inspired me, and I am planning to buy the NEX-7 later this year. Please consider making a similar article on the NEX-system.
Thanks, and best regards,
(Nikon D70 and Leica D-Lux 5 owner)
“When I hold the E-P3 I WANT to go out and shoot. When I hold a G3 I do not. Call me strange but I feel that when you have a “connection” with a camera then you can do great things with it and it inspires you.” I couldn’t agree more Steve. I love my Leica M9 but interestingly, these days it’s my Olympus EPL2 (the first PEN I’ve owned) that I grab when I’m out wandering around with no specific photographic purpose in mind and invariably I come back with some photographs that I’m very pleased with. It’s just so much fun to use and like you I’m a great fan of the built in Art Filters (particularly the B&W grainy mode). As the saying goes – ‘the most fun I’ve had with my clothes on’!
Great list, Steve. I still use a VF-2; it seems to stay put on my EP-3 and goes better with the black finish. I would suggest including a Holga lens in m43rds mount; dirt cheap and TONS of fun!
Interesting article about a lovable system Steve 🙂
I´ve also built me a perfect Micro 4/3 kit which costed me under $1500. It consist of a Lumix GF1, Lumix GH2, Lumix 14/2,5, Lumix 20/1,7, Summicron-C 40/2 withadapter, Summicron R 90/2 with adapter, Lumix 45-200/4-5,6, Ricoh GV-2 and a Olympus VF-1 optical viewfinder. I won the GF1 and the 20/1,7 in a photo contest and bought the other stuff second hand.
I’m planning to sell my Canon SLR and all the lenses and only use my Micro 4/3 cameras and lenses along with a good old Leica M3 in my work.
I have Samyang 7.5mm fisheye, 12mm and 45mm Olympus. Waiting for Panasonic 25mm and will sell Panasonic 20mm, for video is 25mm better.
Hi Steve – Your posts and insights have been inspirational, to say the least. I am a college professor who sidelines as a photo hobbyist and I also combine art with science. A seemingly strange but wonderful experience in photography.
I use the Olympus EP1 (silver) with the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens. Moved away from DSLR kits last year for more street photography and less bulk. Camera body and lens cost me $650 (total) from amazon.com – well worth the investment and I’ve never had so much fun taking photos!
The AF on the EP1 is indeed a little slow but with patience and TLC (tender loving care), images can be pretty amazing. You are absolutely right – this micro 4/3 setup truly connects with this photographer and makes me WANT to go out and shoot.
Keep doing what you’re doing – it makes a difference. – B
“Your posts and insights have been inspirational”
That inspiration you’re feeling? It’s clever advertising.
And it’s working – listen to all the people selling off their still nearly new DSLR systems in order to buy new, improved, smaller cameras. And lenses. And viewfinders. And so on. I don’t doubt Steve’s integrity one iota, but this website – like all lifestyle blogs – is a promotional tool.
Enjoy your new camera.
What a cynical point of view. You must be a very unhappy person if you believe that anybody who loves to publicly shares his passion/enthusiasm for whatever just is doing this for promotional reasons. Certainly there are persons that use their blog/website to do so – but to come to the conclusio that they all are promoting or advertising something is… well, cynical to the max.
” I don’t doubt Steve’s integrity one iota, but this website – like all lifestyle blogs – is a promotional tool.”
Steve has stated elsewhere that he spends 10-14 hours per day working on the blog. He has stated which companies are sponsors/partners. He receives the latest photography equipment well before a lot of the competition.
I don’t doubt Steve’s integrity. When he isn’t keen on an item, he says as much.
However, if you think this website, this operation, is just Steve working away at home, waking up to find parcels from photography manufacturers and retailers… then your naivety far exceeds my cynicism. I don’t suggest Steve is in cahoots with anyone, but he has, through his love of photography (and I think Steve is a very good photographer, better than some ‘noted’ internet experts) developed a following, which allows him try out all the latest gear and tell everyone about it. No-one loses with this arrangement. Not Steve, not the industry, not us, the curious consumer.
If you don’t hear mental alarm bells before admitting that you’re finding this information “inspirational” (“I’m finding new ways to spend my money inspirational!”) then you perhaps need to step back and think about a few things.
My cynicism doesn’t make me unhappy; quite the contrary, knowing that I am not easily hoodwinked makes my happiness more secure.
I like this site and I like Steve’s work… but I’m aware what’s going on here.
Good writeup but you can’t forget the fantastic leatherette kits they also make for the PEN cameras. Perfectly laser cut and very easy to apply and not just very sexy looking, but also quite useful in giving the camera a much more tactile grip, especially on the back side of the silver EP3 which is a silly slippery under thumb. Probably the best $23 (shipped) I’ve ever bought on a photographic camera accessory. Just takes the looks to a whole new level. [img]http://img835.imageshack.us/img835/9854/ep3up.jpg[/img]
Hell how nice – where can ‘u buy this leatherette kits ? Got to have this Url – please !
Shipping took about 7 days from time of ordering and fit was perfect. Highly recommended
for $2500 you can buy a used M8 + summitar.. and you’ll produce a LOT better quality pictures than those cheap m4/3s — which IMO should have NEVER existed.. it is a niche that should be filled then let to die..
seriously what’s the hype about a ‘poser’ system like this..? it’s not a P&S meaning you can’t really put it in your jeans pocket.. neither is it an actual APS-C sensor camera..
and really, a $250 just for a viewfinder..? now this simply is a ripoff and complete bs.. i laugh at everyone of you who succumb to this..
man up.. grab your balls.. and decide.. for the money you will spend (as reference here $2500) for an ultimate m4/3s kit, just buy an M8 + summitar.. you’ll earn more respect and preserve your dignity..
First sad that you think respect has anything to do with the camera you own or don’t own. If people don’t respect you without a Lecia do you really think its going to change because you buy a camera ? I mean you could have a nice rare titanium M kit and I know I sure am still not going to respect you one bit.
Second, given current pricing, you can get just a M8 body for $2500 these days, verses a complete system w/ m4/3.
Third, and as far as I’m going to bother to go, given I doubt you own either a Leica or m4/3 system and your not really worth wasting more time on an internet troll, how can you complain about a $250 EVF as being a ripoff yet ignore the price of Leica and Zeiss external finders. I mean come on, $400+ for a Zeiss finder is a value ?? Please….
forgive me I don’t know what a troll is.. sorry I have a life and I don’t spend a lot of time online to learn the internet lingo these days..
what I do know is I shoot with a steel grey Leica M9 and a silver 50 Planar.. chose grey/silver because to the lay person it looks old.. I covered up the Leica logo with grey packaging tape, even taped the edges to prevent scratches because of the Domke gripper I use.. before it was a Gordy custom, but I hated that thing (don’t believe the hype about Gordy neckstraps)..
used to own a silver 35 cron APSH too.. fantastic lens, but sold it because frankly it’s too much lens for me.. and I do agree that Leica lens prices are ripoff (just look at eBay) and it’s too much money tied up on one lens..
for $2000 to $2200 I’ve seen lots of used M8s being sold.. for another $350 you could get the summitar.. heck, for $1500 I would get the X1 or X100 rather than a m4/3s..
to set things straight, if you think the gear you own doesn’t earn you respect, you are living under a rock.. everything you buy could potentially earn you respect.. why else would people strive for the fancy things in life — that corner office, a luxurious vacation, that new BMW or Mercedes in the showroom, a Leica, an iPhone 5 that doesn’t last a whole day without charging, Billingham bags, etc..
all these commands respect.. maybe not for the price, but maybe for the effort you put to acquire it.. or the time you spent away from family to earn it.. it’s not all about the benjamins..
no I didn’t rip on the EVF just because I can.. point is, no one really likes the m4/3s EVF.. EVERYONE wishes it was built in.. simply because it is just junk.. now you say the Zeiss / Leica viewfinders are exorbitantly expensive, however they do serve their purpose very well.. money well spent IMO..
next, no I didn’t say you should buy a Leica to get respect.. what I meant was, if you’re spending that much money for a camera setup, buy anything BUT a m4/3s system.. because IMO there is nothing good about second best.. cause in reality, a m4/3s is only second best to a P&S in terms of ‘pocketability’ and technology.. it is also second best to an aps-c camera for picture quality.. what an m4/3s really is just a second thought, an idea of taking features of a P&S combining with a DSLR.. an m4/3s really is just an after thought.. like someone scrounge inside the garbage bin of P&S and DSLR designs then manages to pass it as a new radical idea..
why all the ‘hate’ against m4/3s..? I don’t really ‘hate’, more of sensibility and economy.. if I buy a Leica, I’m sure it would retain more value than any m4/3s.. even the X100 would.. why would I buy an EVF that would just be clunky and awkward..? why would I spend $2500 for a m4/3s that would be worth $1250 next year..?
hmmm.. come to think about it, i do think it is about the benjamins.. cause later on i’ll get more ‘bang for my buck’ if I don’t invest on a m4/3s.. just sayin’..
I’m curious on what did m4/3 did to you to hate it that much.
Did it slept with your mom or something?
Don’t forget to take respect and dignity out of the box, otherwise your Leica investment will not be as wothwhile as it can be. lol lol
Harshin’ my mellow, man! What department of Leica do you work in?
Respect is earned by the images you make….not by the camera you use.
I am a NYC photojournalist shooting for 3 weekly newspapers in many instances using m4/3 alongside other pros shooting for every major news organization/picture agency you can think of using their Nikon/Canon DSLRs…Get plenty of looks, smiles and what are you using from them?
It is a system that’s time has come. Amen Steve.
I know… let’s compare a $10k + siver/grey M9 & silver Planar 50 with a $2500 m4/3 system. Sorry. Apples and oranges in my book.
hey onigo, i hate to burst your bubble but most people do not assign any kind of “respect” based on what equipment you can afford to buy. dream on – some of the biggest a-holes i’ve ever met drive BMWs, why would you respect a person based on how much money they can throw at something? makes no sense….
There is nothing good about second best?
Then why are you stuck with a mere M9? Get a large format camera or at least middle format. Ever played around with a Hasselblad, Phase One or Leica S2? All of a sudden the pictures of a M9 look pretty cheap and low res.
I’ll teach you a magic word – compromise. m4/3 is one and the M9 is another, like any other piece of junk in the world too.
Your life might be made up of posing and self definition by things around you. Others just buy cameras to take pictures with, cars to drive around and cell phones to talk to someone else.
All of your wannabe poser existence, and this Hip-Hop slang about “respect” is the niche that should be filled then let to die…
I’m coming late to this forum, but my experience with M8 and M9 Leicas, including a full suite of lenses (WATE, 21, 28, 35, 50, MATE, 90mm, including many the newer ASPH and older versions of some of these, plus various current Voigtlander and Zeiss lenses) may offer some insight as to why I switched to the MFT system. Although I love the feel and mechanical perfection of Leicas, they are still a throwback to the M3 and M4 film era regarding camera handling and ergonomics. I have a love/hate relationship with the rangefinder focusing and viewing; in particular, the need to use external finders is a necessary hassle for wide-angle lenses, and since I wear glasses the 50mm built-in bright line frame line was the only convenient size for viewing. Some people appreciate the additional framing space shown outside the bright lines of a Leica finder, but I found the framing to be inaccurate. This was the state of engineering in the in the film era, but I now expect accurate framing for my digital needs. I value the autofocus, stabilization, and more accurate framing offered by DSLRs, and these conveniences are important to me and my photography. I have used all of the older film-era Leica bodies and lenses (Summitar, Elmar and older Summicrons included) and they do not compare to the newer Leica ASPH lenses (admittedly the best, and should be for the price). From my experience the older Leica lenses are no better are no better than the current crop of Nikon and Canon lenses.
My routine enlargement size is 16×20 from film and digital, and even scanned negatives from my Hasselbald days do not produce the same resolution quality compared to 12 megapixel MFT cameras. I also use a Canon 5DmkII; it’s resolution and dynamic range is better than MFT, but with careful usage I can produce MFT enlargements that are mostly comparable to the Canon images.
Once I determined that the MFT system could deliver decent image quality and good ergonomics, I was sold on the weight reduction. My standard kit is an Olympus Pen body (I’ve used them all) or a Panasonic GH2 plus 4 or 5 lenses. I have all the Olympus and Panasonic wide angles, both the Olympus 45mm F2 and Leica 45mm f2.8 lenses, and most of the available zooms. Depending on what I intend to photograph on any given day or multi-day trip, I can select the best 4 or 5 lenses to meet my needs. This kit has consistently produced sharp images, will fit into a space the same size or smaller than a similar Leica M9 kit, and will actually weigh less than the Leica kit. For airline travel, hiking, or motorcycling (I do a lot of touring), I find the small size and light weight to be a major benefit of the MFT system. Although I have a full complement of Canon frame-frame lenses too, I only use this system when I need the continuous autofocus speed that optical DSLRs still excel at. I am hoping that the newest Olympus OM-D pro camera will improve on continuous autofocus to the point that I can finally abandon my Canon full-frame system.
Spending $2500 on a Leica system that doesn’t even have auto focus is a waste a money. Leica is the biggest poser piece of junk in the market. Wake me up when that dinosaur camera system catches up with modern technology.
Amen to that Fred. The only Leica I would buy would be a mirrorless S2! Sure, the IQ is better on the M9/8 than the m43, but that is the ONLY advantage to me: AF and file sizes gives ME more useability on m43. If I wanted to be a “poser” (Dear Onigo……), I could justify the M9 (and then cover it up with tape? Someone is a tad conflicted…) to go with my MontBlanc and Audi/BMW/Whatever.
If I wanted pure “IQ”, I would go medium format. But m43, like a Leica M, or ANY other camera system, is about the compromise between IQ, size, “IQ”, file size, lens range etc that an individual is happy with.
“AGGGHHHH!, Trolls!” What do they get out of it?
Thanks for the article Steve, and also for Amy’s one yesterday. The Olly Pens are doing great, and they do look very good with skins on I must say. I’m slowly building my system as the “perfect for me” lenses come available, and the 45/1.8 is one of those.
I’ll second that. I too have the covering from aki-asahi, looks great but I got it more for the scratch protection and grippiness. Really makes the silver body look cool with the 12mm, too. Mine is starting to show some wear after about a year of heavy use, but it actually makes the camera more retro looking!