Why I love my Micro 4/3 System by Steve Huff

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Why I love my Micro 4/3 System

by Steve Huff

When we talk about camera systems, and which is the best or which is the fastest or which has the most dynamic range or the best low light we usually hear the words “Sony” or “Fuji” or “Nikon” or even “Canon” above all others. Even though Olympus and Panasonic make phenomenal camera systems today using the Micro 4/3 mount and sensor size, there are still many out there who trash talk it or somehow have been convinced that they are not good for image quality. Me, I own systems by Sony, Leica and Olympus right now and my Sony and Olympus systems have been the two solid rocks in my collection of gear. As a reviewer and writer for almost 10 years now, I have had the opportunity to use, and analyze so much gear, it has really numbed me inside a little. I no longer get crazy excited with new releases simply because today almost ALL serious camera systems are fantastic and can in reality, do anything we need to do. We have passed the “Shock and Awe” era of camera tech just recently with the Sony A9’s blazing speed and AF tracking performance.  I do not see much in the future that will truly make me jump up and down and get crazy excited, like some releases used to do for me, but hey, you never know. With imaging heading into drone territory VERY seriously this year with the DJI Spark hitting in June (yes, I want one and will order one) I feel many enthusiasts are also heading into this new territory. Instead of camera bodies exciting many of us today, it is the future tech and way we will be taking photos in the future that is exciting. Even so, if you want a real camera body, one that works well and works all the time and is a joy to shoot there will never be a replacement for that feeling for many of us. But man, there are so many great systems out there today. How do we choose?

The way we should go about choosing a system today, IMO, is by figuring out which one will fit our needs and yes, even desires. Without the “desire” for a piece of gear we may not enjoy using it and what works for me, may not work for you, but even so…without that desire or even lust for that piece of gear, we will get bored of using it. For me and what I shoot…street scenes, family memories, portraits on occasions, and even abandoned buildings from time to time, ANY of these systems that I personally own will work for online and print, if needed.

All images in this post taken with various Olympus Micro 4/3 Cameras and Lenses. Click them for better views…

 

My EM1 MKII and PEN-F from Olympus, both of which use the Micro 4/3 format, are amazing cameras when it comes to their capabilities. The only real difference for some is that when using them, we will not have the same depth of field control on the shallow side as we do when shooting a full frame camera like a Sony A7 or A9. But with that comes a plus for many who shoot this format. We get excellent wide depth of field. With Micro 4/3 I can shoot a nice fast lens like the 42.5 1.2 Nocticron and get the perfect DOF for portraits when wide open. That is because it is not giving me a depth of field from a f/1.2 lens as it would be on full frame. Instead it is more like f/2.4 for depth of field and an 85mm field of view. So for portraits micro 4/3 can be perfect with the right glass.

But even so, no matter what I have shot over the years with Micro 4/3 cameras and lenses has never ever Let me down for image quality. The only area where I see a true weakness when compared to full frame is low light high ISO shooting, which is limited compared to the Sony A7 and A9 series. But take that out of the equation, and know that I have shot images that were printed, using Micro 4/3 that were ISO 10k. They look great. That is my ISO limit for M 4/3 and even that is pushing it some.

But where cameras like the PEN and EM1 series excel is in their feel, their handling, their design and the speed (EM1 MKII) and features that no other camera system offers. I have been high on my Sony gear for the last couple of years as it does all I need it to but when I pull out my EM1 MKII or PEN-F after a long rest for them, I remember what I truly love about them. For me, they are much more “fun” to shoot over a Sony or Fuji or whatever camera is creating the hot talk of the month. They just work. The PEN-F offers a high end point and shoot experience if that is what you want, or an all out manual experience. It’s retro vintage vibe is GORGEOUS and it is my #2 fave camera over the last couple of years (Sony A7rII, PEN-F, Leica SL). The EM1 MKII is a marvel of engineering, and that is a fact. That camera offers some amazing imagery and video and the camera body itself is just about bulletproof. A true pro machine capable of pro results. Some of my favorite wedding shooters use the EM1 MKII and they deliver images with some of the best color and quality I have seen in wedding imagery no matter of sensor size.

To me, 35mm full frame is the sweet spot for IQ but…Micro 4/3? I have always and still do prefer to APS-C mostly due to the bodies, speed, feel and operation of the Olympus bodies.

For one, M 4/3  has the capability to be faster and more accurate for Auto Focus. It has better 5 Axis IS than the full frame models as well. Also, the Olympus bodies have some truly innovative features like high res shot, live time, and all of the crazy cool things we can do with those bodies from Olympus. For me, I see little degradation in IQ from APS-C to Micro 4/3 and I have shot all formats extensively.

At the end of the day, for me, the EM1 MKII and PEN-F are fun to shoot, they always work well, they feel and look great, and the lens selection is one of the best next to Leica for much less cash. Olympus and Panasonic make some of the coolest lenses for any format, and some are pretty cheap though some are pro level and expensive. But man, the Olympus pro line of lenses is drool worthy. I still marvel at my 25 1.2, 7-14 2.8 and 300mm f/4. In fact I am getting ready to take my Olympus gear out on a long 2 week trip in 1 1/2 weeks with Debby. Gonna be a blast.

Now, seeing that I own three really nice camera systems, how do I decide which to take out with me from day to day? Well, it’s tough. When new cameras come out, such as the Sony A9, I HAVE to use it, to get to know it so I cam review it properly. That means my other systems stay in the cabinet. But when times are slow, that is when I start to dig out the cameras I have not used in a while. Right now, that is happening with my Olympus gear. As I said, these cameras have never let me down and seeing that the lenses are smaller than Sony lenses, it is a smaller system, even with the Em1 MKII. But slapping that 25 1.2 or the 8mm fisheye f/1.8 or that gorgeous 7-14 2.8 Pro on the camera is what make sit so special. I have found that Micro 4/3, and how much you really enjoy it can depend on what lenses you use with it. For those using only the old kit lenses, you are missing out on a whole new level of performance with the newer lenses. These cameras have speed, precision, and have worked for me over the years for what I needed, without a hiccup.

So between Sony, Fuji, Olympus and Leica…my most shot cameras over the last year or two have been Sony and Olympus with Leica a close 3rd. I love the Leica M-D, M 240 and M 10. I love the Leica SL but when I sit back and look at the costs of those systems TODAY, when we have cameras that can do better for less (back in the M9 days, that was not the case, the M9 was in a class of its own back in the day) and are almost as much fun to shoot. Fun factor will always go to Leica for me, then Olympus and then Sony. If it sounds like I am ranting without a point in sight, I think I am and it goes back to what I stated earlier. That today in 2017, no matter the camera system you choose, if you go mirrorless it will be tough to make a mistake if you buy one of the nice camera bodies from any of these brands.

To those who discount Micro 4/3 you should not until you try a nice modern body with a nice pro lens. It is capable of just about anything you may need sans ultra low light shooting and very high ISO. Other than that Olympus files have pleasing color, and pop and always bring a smile to my face ; )

See my Olympus PEN-F review HERE.

See my EM1-MKII review HERE. 

You can buy the PEN-F right now for $200 off, at Amazon or B&H Photo. 

See my lens recommendations for Olympus HERE in the standard NON pro line.

118 Comments

  1. “I have shot images that were printed, using Micro 4/3 that were ISO 10k. They look great. That is my ISO limit for M 4/3 and even that is pushing it some.”

    Just to put things in perspective, it wasn’t that long ago that full frame cameras only went up to 3200 with marginal results.

  2. M43 camera bodies become bigger and bigger and more expensive every time. On the other hand aps-c camera bodies become smaller and smaller and cheaper also in some cases. If panasonic and olympus doesn’t produce a way much light sensible sensor they will stay in life only because of the video capabilities. Ricoh and Pentax already show that nobody of the fewer and fewer amateur photographers have time and money to jump from one system to another and lise money.

    • In the end, ‘market forces’ determine what stays “in life”. For many people, the balance between body size and lens size is a more important factor than body size alone and, for anyone using longer lenses, MFT has a useful advantage in this respect.

      In my opinion, the aspect that MFT cameras needs to improve is ‘tracking-AF’, which would make them very attractive indeed for nature and sports photographers. I suspect that this is a significant market segment

    • While it’s true that M43 bodies are getting bigger and the APC bodies are getting smaller, the APC lens are not. Thats where the M43 still shines in my opinion. I just came back from holiday with my PEN F and just 2 lens. I carried it with me ever whereand it wasn’t a problem. I full frame with the same two focal lengths whould have required a back pack. the icing on the cake, I loved the photos I came home with. Isn’t that whats it all about?

    • People have been predicting the death of u43 for as long as the format has been in existence. The facts point to the contrary though. APSC DSLRs suffer from lack of dedicated lenses forcing users to use FF lenses which are MUCH bigger than u43 lenses. Fuji’s system is APSC of course and whilst that offers slightly better IQ than u43, it comes with downsides such as lack of IBIS, the odd X-Trans sensor, generally larger lenses and, in many people’s opinion, poorer handling.

      Today u43 offers about the widest range of bodies and lenses on the market, including some outstanding optics and camera capabilities that are absolutely market leading. The opinion that IQ is in some way sub-par is prejudice by the uninformed and pixel-peekers. The reality is that image quality is way more than good enough for probably 99% of photographers. As Steve says, unless you’re into uber low-light/high ISO shooting then FF, let alone APSC, will not offer you significant advantages (and I say that someone who sold my A7Rii because for the majority of what I do it wasn’t adding significantly to the results).

    • Hello Steve, first off thanks for the cool informative website. I like your camera and writing style which is why for my first steps into photography i have bought a used Olympus omd em5 mk1. I have bought the Panasonic 14mm f2.5 and the 25mm f1.7 lenses to start with and if I stick with it will upgrade. First impressions are amazing stepping up from my camera phone my shots already look better and starting to look at the world from the cameras perspective looking for that special shot.

  3. Mr. Huff,

    I remember having read one of your past articles from over a year ago I think. The topic was the difference in depth of field and the “feeling” of 3D space that was more pronounced in FF pictures than in the M43. (In fact I remember seeing some of the pictures that are posted above in the article that are also in that older article, especially the picture with the woman and the tire that was used as a comparison.).

    You were explaining that you were kind of disappointed in M43 systems. That the flatness of elements, and the tight field of view was constraining, were negative things about m43 cameras.

    Are you now saying you are changing a bit your point of view with the utilization of the best lenses available?

    • I have NEVER showed disappointment in Micro 4/3 and have been a fan since day one, and that has always been shown here. I may have been explaining to readers the differences and the cons of the system but I have always said I would take M 4/3 over APS-C any day of the week, but I prefer full frame for the 3D pop. Ive never talked down on M 4/3, so you never read that from my words. Maybe you saw a guest post, but me, I have always owned and used Micro 4/3 ever since the Panasonic GF1 many years ago. I’ve never went a time in the last 8 years without a Micro 4/3 camera.

  4. Hi Steve,

    I am still waiting for your part 2 review of the Em1 m2.

    Will you post it soon? I am really curious about the improved sensor (DXO shows an improvement about 2/3rd of a stop).

    I want a camera that I can work from base ISO to 6400. (I never really need more) Should I buy it or go to Fuji Xt2 for instance?

    Thanks for all your good work,

    Eric

    • Sorry for the delay on that, but I am taking a 2 week trip starting Tuesday and will be shooting the EM1 MKII exclusively, so when I return I will finally share my follow up. Thank you!

  5. I just got the Olympus 7-14mm Pro lens because I wanted to finally be done with the wide angle problem on my MFT system. I shoot on Panasonic but my absolute favorite lens in my bag is my Olympus 45mm F/1.8. That lens has something special. I can’t put my finger on it but the images it produces always make me smile. I hope the 7-14 has some of that same magic.

    This is a fantastic system if you love taking photos and video.

    • The 7-14 is such a great lens. Of course, much different from the 45 1.8. That 45 1.8 is $300 and one of the must have lenses for the system.

      • Steve I hope you review the Lakota Venus optics 7.5mm f2 just out for M43 bodies. Intial reviews are very good and price is well under 1/2 the 7-14 which of course is a pro zoom sealed lens!!!

      • Oh, definitely the 45 is a much different lens, but it’s my only other Olympus lens! haha. It is a must have lens!

        Steve, keep doing what you are doing. Love the site and the new look. I don’t comment often, but always enjoy stopping by.

  6. Steve, can I post this one more time: would putting crop Sony leneses on the A7rii give just about the same in iq and size as a m43 system? For travelling light purpose while still have the full frame option for more demanding work…

    • IQ would be different as Sony colors are quite different from Olympus. Using cheaper, smaller Sony lenses? I would rather have the EM1 MKII or PEN F or EM5 II with their cheaper lenses as they are better, and smaller IMO. Sony shines with great lenses. So does the Olympus but you can get great lenses like the 25 1.8, 45 1.8, etc that will make the Oly shine. The only advantage to the Sony would be resolution (only needed for crazy huge prints) and low light/high ISO. I own an A7RII and EM1, PEN-F and EM10II. I use my Sony for video all the time, but prefer my Old for day to day shooting as the colors and IQ are more pleasing without putting any work into the files. The Olympus will also be faster to AF than the A7RII btw. But if you use an A7RII and a crop standard zoom, you would be in APS-C mode, and IMO a waste of that sensor. It shines with full frame nice lenses.

      • Thanks! A waste of the sensor yes, but might be ok as an alternative to having two systems. I gues Camerasize will give some answers.

  7. Olympus and Panny (G5) have superb ergonomics, best of all Mirrorless IMHO. The E-M1 Mark II sensor has pop, 3D POP! First time I’ve seen this in M43…I was pleasantly surprised.

  8. I have never shot anything but M/43 and that has been the case since I owned the Panasonic G1. Perhaps I’m ignorant of what other systems offer. I don’t know what I don’t know but so far I’ve really enjoyed the results. I love the ergonomics and the options that M43 open up and besides, its fun! None of my customers seem to care when they purchase a print either. I will continue to use and enjoy my Olympus/Panasonic world because that is the world I enjoy. Besides, you go to war with the army you got, not the army you want.

  9. I turned to Olympus when my Nikon system began to feel too heavy for travel use. I soon found that the Olympus E-M1 handled better and delivered IQ beyond my expectations. I even came to terms with the ‘complex’ menus, once I realised that they are there, mainly to allow ‘customisation’ of the various buttons and switches, rather than for regular use.

    For my chosen field of natural history photography, the real benefit comes from the small and lightweight lenses, which offer a reach in hand-held use, beyond what can be achieved with larger sensors. This benefit may be lost, however, in some other applications, such as portraiture, where the very wide-aperture lenses tend to be as large and heavy as their larger-format counterparts.

    I do hope, though, that Steve’s comment that “The EM1 MKII is a marvel of engineering …. and the camera body itself is just about bulletproof.” proves accurate, because that has been my major problem. Perhaps I’ve just been unlucky but I have suffered potentially catastrophic loss of all my gear, when a strap lug parted company with the E-M1 body. Then my 12-50mm lens failed, was ‘repaired’ by Olympus, and promptly failed in the same way again, after which it was replaced. Then, the contacts on my 40-150mm lens failed and, currently, I intermittently lose the viewfinder image on my E-M1 … so yet another trip to Olympus.

    All this is a great pity because I really like the camera very much but I could not contemplate it for ‘professional’ use.

  10. Steve
    Did you do a part ii on the em1ii ? I thought I had missed, but cant find it. Are you pleased with it?

  11. I am at that point in life that I am now semi-retired and want to take more pictures. I have a Nikon D7000 and a suite of Nikon lenses, a Leica Q and a Lumix GX1 (M4/3) with several of those great prime lenses, including the Leica 25mm. I used the GX1 last weekend on a camping trip out west as I need a little more reach that the Olympus 45mm 1.8 offered, and despite its age, find that unless it is approaching the dead of night, I can get an image that will remind me of where I was. I just love looking back and seeing images that I took, say five years ago, simply because I love photography, even if it is to hear the sound of the shutter. My passion.

    • You have way to.much equipment. Photography is about taking pictures with a camera you enjoy. Like steve’s love for his little PenF.

      I love my EM1. AND RECENTLY PAID ONLY $19 FOR 2 EXTENSION TUBES that have generated some fantastic images of flowers behind my pro zoom 2.8 12-40 using manual focus.

      They will be in a trifold for VF 2017 in West chicago… 15,000 printed and handed out.

      • I used to believe that someone could have too much equipment, but if you have a task that requires a particular instrument or if you enjoy having completely different shooting experiences (like Leica versus DSLR), then stock up. Just because I want to simplify right now, doesn’t mean it is for everyone. These are durable goods. I’ll probably hang on to my V1 because a) they aren’t really worth anything and b) it will be fun to shoot through its limitations to use it to teach people basic digital photography.

  12. Steve, the reason why Micro Four Thirds is not popular is the cost of lenses. They are just too high (twice as much as budget APS-C and full frame lenses).

    • Really? The 25 1.8, which is fantastic is $299. It bests most of the 50 1.8’s that are priced like it and is much smaller. The 45 1.8? Same thing, $299 and an AMAZING lens for the money. Many examples like this, and if you want pro build, you pay for the pro build and optics and the cost is less than an equivalent full frame lens. The 7-14 2.8 is less expensive than a Canon 16-35 or Sony 16-35 G Master year just as good or better in IQ, and still with f/2.8 light gathering. So I have to disagree here. Besides the pro lenses from Olympus are some of the best lenses made today for IQ, size, build, speed, and weather sealing.

      • Let us not forget the gorgeous Mitikon 25MM f0.95. It occasionally drops to 299 at B&H. If you haven’t tried it, you’re missing out. Surprisingly sharp wide open, small and extremely well built. Paired with a E-M5II, you got an extraordinary little streeter.

      • Really.
        Canon 50mm f1.8 $110 — Olympus 25mm f1.8 $299
        Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 $230 — Olympus 7-14mm f1.8 $1199
        Tamron 70-300mm f4-5.6 $124 — Panasonic 35-100mm f4-5.6 $247
        Yongnuo 85mm f1.8 $175 — Olympus 45mm f1.8 $264
        Nikon 35mm f1.8 $196 — Olympus 17mm f1.8 $399
        Sigma 18-250mm f3.5-6.3 $349 — Olympus 14-150mm f/4-5.6 $499

        • The Ol;y primes and pro zooms are truly better than most other lens than Leica. Well which other camera has a picture of the camera and lens in the shower with the water running as it is taking pictures!!

          try that with your Canon and Nikon and Leica Lens but not a 2nd time.
          The Oly pro stuff is water sealed.

          • “The Ol;y primes and pro zooms are truly better than most other lens than Leica. ”

            What? No! I say it depends on the type of focal lenght.

            Olympus doesn’t beat the 42.5 1.2 Nocticron (no other lens does anyways, at least you get what you pay for), P-L 25 1.4? Hmm I guess the new 25 1.2 from Olympus could beat it…but keep in mind the PL is from 2011 or 2012…

            P-L 12mm 1.4? Nothing else beats it in the wide lenses.

            Macro lenses? I am very impressed by the pictures I saw online of other people using the 60mm Olympus, I have personally never had the chance to use it. I give the win to Olympus for the macro category.

            Telephoto zoom lenses…the ultra expensive 300mm f4 from Olympus…or the incoming 50-200 P-L 2.8-4. that should cost probably half the price? I am once again impressed by the photos from Olympus I saw online.

            Overall, it looks like P-L are better (according to me) from wide to 85mm..then when you start to zoom and telezoom..Olympus wins it.

    • Are you nuts to expensive. I’ve bought and sold ten primes and they are great and cheap..

      You are right you can pay a lot for some lens like over $1000 For f1.2 35mm new one.

      But most are super affordable. Got a great 12 50mm macro zoom for $99.

  13. Nice write up agree with most of the points expressed. I think the Olympus range offers great cameras for travel reportage and wildlife.
    Years ago I had an OM-1 and some lenses and was a keen wildlife photographer -especially birds.
    The only criticism then of the system was that it was more fragile than the Canon and Nikon alternatives. Now all I hear is that the sensor is not as good as full frame?
    If I were shooting wildlife or birds now the new Olympus cameras would be my choice without any doubt.
    Thanks all for your insights.

    • As to sensor I refer you to reviews of 40 to 150mm pro f2.8 and 300mm f4 with added IS In lens done on robin Wong blogspot. Bird eye sharp as a tack shot 600mm equivalent at 1/10 Devon. That’s 1 over ten the 5 + 1 IS is so good. Of light and water sealed. Sensor is plenty good enough.

  14. I own the PEN F and the 75mm 1.8 what a crazy little set up that is I love it. Makes beautiful portraits. In fact though I own the 45mm 1.8 i almost never shoot with it anymore the 75 has won me over. For walking around and street the 25mm 1.8 is my lens of choice right now.

  15. Steve,
    I agree. I can’t give up on my m43 system either. I have been using since the Panasonic GF1 was released. Now I really enjoy the Panasonic GX8 with the PanaLeica 100-400mm lens. That lens give me such sharp images and you can’t be the weight to reach ratio.
    Thanks for another stellar article.

  16. Totally agree with this article. I have a pen ep-5 with the 42.5 pana Leica lens and shots I get from that set up are amazing. My son recently got into photography and borrows my camera and his pictures from that set up blow me and my friends away. Truly a great system.

  17. Well Steve this is articled on dpreview.

    https://m.dpreview.com/articles/2237674859/steve-huff-why-i-love-my-micro-4-3-system/comments?commentId=4087949899

    Unfortunately some have taken it as an opportunity to bash you.

    Here is what i wrote in dpreview comments :

    “”
    I’ve brought Steve Huff to task plenty times in his site.
    Told Steve Huff off too on his site.

    Still fact is

    1. Steve encourages folk from all over the world, various cultures nationalities religions LGBT to send their photos which he publishes on his site. (my LGBT got published).

    2. Any camera gear we used for our photographs : film, mobile, cheap, high end gets published. (my cheap mobile photos got published).

    3. Just have to see awesome job Steve did bringing up as single parent his son Brandon to realise Steve swell hombre.
    “”

    • Bashing is nothing new. It’s an epidemic today with so many cowards and un-intelligent folk hiding behind keyboards, not just towards me but you name it. Anyone who bashes someone else online is not someone I consider intelligent, happy in life nor is it someone I could ever take seriously. Just a bunch of idiotic people who get joy out of attacking others. Sad to see all over these days. Sign of the times. Most who complain and bash really know nothing about the subject they are going on about anyway ; ) I think it is sad, humorous and silly all at the same time. Have a great Memorial Day and thanks to DP Review for sending over some traffic to this post! Love it.

  18. Leica SL a better made camera than the GFX? Pfft. Only superficially, like most Leicas. Take both out for a week in the tropics and you’ll see.

      • Like I said, only superficially. Like superficial premium build in VWs and Audi’s for example. Just because they feel expensive on the outside doesn’t mean they’re put together better. History has shown that when it comes to Leicas compared to Canikons,, multiple times.

  19. Love the images and thoughts in this thread. I always end up coming back to my m43 systems while second, newer/better systems come and go. It just works for me and what I like to shoot and how I like to travel (light!)

    Use what makes you happy and what gets you the shots and images and vision you seek.

  20. “All images in this post taken with various Olympus Micro 4/3 Cameras and Lenses.”

    But I recognize images from previous articles that were shot with Panasonic lenses!
    We are so lucky to have two highly innovative companies in the system.
    And this site is a great help for making the right choices.

  21. I like your enthusiasm for nearly everything related to photography, and its contagious (which is a good thing). I agree with your review conclusions about quality of Olympus micro 4/3 cameras, but you did not mention the “humming” of the cameras (Pen F in my case) when half pressing the shutter (pre-focusing). Try it in a quiet room and you’ll hear it. I’m surprised nobody talks about it (but web searching reveals it is an issue for some.) The end result (photograph) is great, no arguments here. The process, however, in the quiet environments at least, completely ruins the experience (for me). I guess it’s not an issue when you take pictures in somewhat noisy places, but try to do it at night by a candle light …and the camera is humming (one say it’s like an ocean sound).

    • You probably know that the humming is the sound of the image stabilisation kicking in, which makes the sound because it is a levitation system that uses electromagnets. I’m surprised that it bothers you so much – most people stop noticing it pretty quickly. However, you can stop the aspect that bothers you, at the cost of not steadying the shot on the half-press. Go to the last page of gear menu C (Release/drive icon) and set the item Half Way Rls With IS to Off. That will stop the louder audible hum that kicks in. The stabilisation will still operate when you actually take the shot if you have the IS itself set to anything other than Off, of course..

      As an aside, the new E-M1 Mark II’s IS is barely audible, even when fully operating on the half-press.

  22. Hi Steve, great article. To be honest, I don’t think anyone needs to defend his/her preferred format. While there are obviously technical differences and limits/restrictions, in the end it’s still about taking good pictures, at which you’re excellent at. Keep up the good work!

  23. Nice article. A little Oly heavy IMHO… just wanted to let you know that you mispelled Panasonic in the tags of the article… to anyone reading this..i also need to add that the Lumix GH5 is a beast of a camera, and feels more rugged, in comparison to the EM1 ii… the grip is also a better design on the gh5 and it sports it’s own amazing features with a similar IBIS system and a better autofocus system. I would also closely compare the pen-f to the gx8 and still find with ergonomics and quality the gx8 comes out on top, weather sealing is so key! Not to say the oly cameras arent great, but just need to point out a few things left out from this article from the brother from another mother i.e. Lumix.

  24. Hi Steve,
    nice article. I use an Oly OMD EM5 with a few lenses. I like the system but I am not completely convinced.
    1. Larger sensors have more potential but cameras and lenses are bigger. MFT cameras are getting as big as Sony Ax series. Lenses are smaller but they should be.
    2. APSC could be an option with Sony using the same bayonett for FF and APSC. Unique case.
    3. I am not sure what is so unique about Olympus apart from IBIS, Panasonic has better video options and same stills. I like my Oly but today I would most likely buy a Pana.
    4. I am afraid MFT cannot grow so much as it is limited by sensor size. In this sense Sony approach is now beginning to pay off.
    Cheers
    Mattia

  25. I think this is a great article Steve, but I still think you throw Fuji under the bus (mind you- I am shooting with a PenF and a GX850 nowadays).

    The Fuji system is at this point pretty amazing and near all their lenses are really good. You have to get top tier lenses in m43rds to match.

    The JPEG engine of Fuji is the leader, though the PENF has a fantastic jpeg engine.

    There’s something about how Fuji interacts with their lenses and sensor, that with their color extensive know how from the years of film they produce some of the best JPEG color I have ever seen. (Again, not taking out from the PenF which also has great JPEG color).

    The main reason I go Fuji is size. But I can say the PenF sure has more trouble AF than latest Fuji. The GX850 though is scary fantastic for what it is at that.

    I will commend you for sharing real photos. That’s always the bottom line. And some pretty nice photos too!

  26. Thank you, Steve, for a really enjoyable and convincing article. If I hadn’t taken the NEX turning those years ago when I went out to buy an Olympus mini (but MFT still lagged behind APS-C), then Olympus would be my system now. But really too late to change, now I’ve got invested in Zeiss lenses and all !

  27. Steve. Great article as always. On the hunt for a smaller camera to suppliment my 5d3 and despite all the fans, I just can’t warm to the Fuji’s or indeed the images I get when test shooting. Everytime I pick up an Olympus camera it just feels great and test images look sharper and to my eye better for colour especially where trees are in the shot.

    You originally said you would be selling the Pen-F when the em-1ii arrived, but keep hanging on to it and rate it as your second favorite camera. You also espouse the pro lenses which are bigger and heavier , so if you could keep only one from now on would it be the Pen-F or the E-M1ii ?

  28. Steve, would putting crop Sony leneses on the A7rii give just about the same in iq and size as a m43 system? For travelling light purpose while still have the full frame option for more demanding work…

  29. Great read. I recently jumped into the M43 world, started with a G85 and quickly moved to the Olympus EM1 Mark II. Since switching I found this new joy in photography. My D5 rarely gets used anymore and I recently shot my first wedding with the EM1. Great little weight cameras.

  30. This was a great article. Steve Huff doing what he does best. Getting at the heart of the photographer and his gear. Really enjoyed it.

    • Very true. It was the Olympus reviews that first brought me to this site in 2012. I remember the picture of the woman from your EP-3 review, and actually always thought that your m4/3 images were usually the most “fresh”.
      I bought the Pen EP-1 in Japan when it first came out as my first digital camera (to replace an old F3). I now use a 6D with primes for work and trips but will always keep my EP-1/EP-5.
      Of all the images I took over the last 8 years, those shot with the Pen are the most memorable ones. Most of them would probably have been (IQ wise) better if shot with a FF camera, but the fact is that none would have been taken, at least not in the same way/mood. I would not have had the camera with me, or would not have bothered taking it out, or it would have been intrusive, or (a haunting Fuji trauma) AF would have been off. Most of all, it would not have given me and the people around the “smile” and joy that the Pens always provide. I respect Olympus for what they are doing (and always did) within the limits they chose (size of the sensor / cameras), and agree that in so many situations, these limits (including more depth of field / less out of focus zones) are actually a plus.

      PS. I miss your m4/3 reviews (crazy comparisons, trips), as Sony has been too prolific recently.

  31. Conducted a casual test at home, Leica M10 w 50 Summilux ASPH vs Olympus EM1.2 w 25mm 1.2 Pro. Just some simple pictures of my daughter, existing room light.

    There was no quality difference worth noting. No issue with images from either that would cause you to prefer one system over the other for any use. A blind taste test would rely on folks understanding how to look for the way people are captured by a 25mm lens vs a 50mm lens, for them to guess which camera with any sort of reliability.

    The floor on interchangeable lens camera image quality is a lot higher than most folks want to admit. There is a lot of “I need this” or “That is so much better” when it comes to gear and specs, but really, it’s the camera equivalent of audiophiles detecting differences in speaker cables. It’s all code for “I like my stuff, and want you to like it too” or “I’m bored with my stuff and want an excuse to get new stuff”. That’s it.

    • Harry, you absolutely nailed it: “It’s all code for “I like my stuff, and want you to like it too” or “I’m bored with my stuff and want an excuse to get new stuff”. That’s it.” Great insight.

    • Well said. The problem with IQ fanatics is in their opinions, and they are so poisoned their minds. Instead the only important question is like how the camera handles and how the camera gets you feel about when handling it. And then what kind results you can get ouf of the camera (digital processing allows to mimic and change the look a lot) as not everyone want to sit front of the computer for hours every day.

  32. Hi Steve,
    We agree there no ‘bad’ cameras today…. Competition is fierce and features abound….
    By the same thinking process, there is not a single ‘universal’ camera. In the 50’s most serious photographers had a Crown Graphic with one lens… It did almost everything a person could want… In the 70’s Hassleblad took over and the
    ‘do-everything’ camera as medium format film became manufactured with sufficient quality to make pro prints. As we moved into the 80’s & 90’s 35mm came into prominence… again as film stock improved and larger prints could be made reliably. Nowdays we photographers have weaned ourselves from prints in favor of visual dislplay…
    The new presentation methods are wonderful.. sharp, clear, beautiful colors… we have never had it so good. So today the process of picking a camera has moved away from only sharp pictures to a persons hand size, the amount of weight or number of lenses they wish to carry around, the remote chance of making larger photographic prints, focus speed is photographing kids or sports, ownership of prior models of lens mount, etc. One critical element for my own choice is the availability of overlapping zoom range for event photography. I do not care for the xx to yy zoom then the yy to zz zoom..where one starts exactly where the other ends…. In this case Nikon has the 24 to 120 zoom and also a 70 to 200 or 70 to 300 with a substantial overlap… this allows me to photograph a generally wider event or a more specific close in situation without having to switch lenses at exactly 70 mm.
    I prefer Canons for weddings and formal portraits as they seem to do skin tones a bit smoother & cleaner while Nikon does event focusing better than Canon on the cameras I have used. Also, Nikon flash seems better coordinated than Canon…So I use other brand flash with Canon for weddings…..and Nikon flash with Nikons for events. and so on…
    Each camera system has specific points which favor individual situations and which were not even in the discussion when we were making decisions years ago. Small details can sway the ‘big’ decision. This is a marvelous time to be a photographer.
    Stuart

    • In my case, I like that I have 12-40mm to 40-150mm zoom range, and partially dislike that I have 7-14mm and 12-40mm with that tiny overlap, but there I find it acceptable a I get 14mm in wide angle when needed.
      Yet when I got 12-100mm, it has almost rendered 12-40mm and 40-150mm combo useless. The 40-150mm feels bad as there is just 50mm benefit, not so much really, so there would be worth carry it too. And 12-40mm is there for f/2.8 purposes, not really needed so often.
      So main package is 7-14mm + 12-100mm

      Now if Olympus would release a long telephoto zoom. There is only one I would consider, it is 150-450m f/4 that would be worth as it would mean f/2.8 all the way from 7mm to 150mm and then require to drop one stop for 150-450mm range.
      If olympus would come out with a 100-400mm like Panasonic, it would not match well with 12-40mm and 40-150mm combo and be really a boring one as it would need to be again bigger and more complex being 4x. It would of course match the great 12-100mm, making it as 12-100mm f/4 + 100-400mm f/4 kit, but that is like killin 12-40 and 40-150mm existence.

  33. Greater depth of field and a smaller body make my Olympus cameras – EM-1.1 and EM-5.1 – ideal for photographing my model railroad. This is a facet of photography most reviewers totally ignore. The image quality is superb and the articulated touch screen is priceless when I’ve placed the camera in some hard-to-reach spot on the layout.
    Both are splash-proof. I’ve used the EM-1 in pouring rain and I’ve spattered it with mud as well as paint. I rely on it to provide me with top quality reference photos for my painting, be it street scene, landscape or seascape.
    The EM-5 is usually teamed with the Zuiko 60mm 2.8 macro because I also love to photo insects. With the fast focus and burst it delivers marvellous macros of bees in flight, for example, especially when the light is good and I can set the ISO to 100.
    My wife and daughter both have Pen-Fs and can’t fault them.
    I couldn’t be happier with the line-up we have.

    • When I photographed with SLR, it was almost always f/5.6-11 range. Rarely I did go below f/8 as DOF was important for portraits and products.
      When I got my FF DSLR, I continued the same thing because the DOF requirement didn’t change. I owned f/1.8 lenses but just didn’t use them. F/2.8 was too shallow and soft even.
      Until I was required to lower the weight and size, get possibility see well (bad eye sight because illness) and Olympus was a match. Now I can again continue enjoying photography as hobby. But I am very jealous for <50 year old people as they have all the gear that I so wish I had almost 70 years ago.

      Seeing a 5yr old grand grand child picking up a E-M10 and being able to expose correctly, be creative and enjoy from taking photos that are in focus, it just amazes me every time. No playing with focus, no problems with exposure etc. And they get the images to their small portable printer and on wall without ever breathing any toxins.

      The 4/3" is perfect system to replace FF. It offers enough DOF at f/4-5.6 range just in the perfect amount so you get portraits where pers on nose is in focus and focus drops just at the ears. Meaning from about 180cm distance I can have nice 70x50cm framing on person and have a DOF worth of about 15cm when using 45mm f/1.8 @ f/4.
      You get the person eyes very strongly looking at you, the whole character presented in the A4 or A3 size prints and it looks so fabulously sharp and detailed, something that shallow DOF dreamers can't achieve because they are obsessed with the background, not with the subject.

      12-100mm f/4 is maybe best portrait lens there is now. Set it to 100mm and f/4 as you can shoot it wide open and it is just amazing what it can do. Another if wanted shallow DOF is 40-150mm f/2.8 when set to 150mm and f/2.8 and it just screams the blurry background if it is ugly and can't be corrected.

  34. Interesting article not that I want to start something but I was wondering how Oly OMD E1 stacks to the GH5 I never got a Panasonic before but had the EM5 M1 and it did produce some memorable pictures. Been waiting for the a Full Frame that has the features I want and seems like A9 is the best for my needs. Would a second camera M43 be the same if for action photography or would there be a difference between EM1 M2 and GH5. Or is it like you said you can’t go wrong with any of mirrorless cameras.

  35. Interesting take. For me, the only reason I’d pack a camera in bag instead of relying on my Smartphone camera (which today is something very capable) is to get MUCH better image quality & flexibility in post processing, and MUCH wider options when it comes to Depth of field. Just because you can shoot portraits on a Full Frame with the shallow depth of 85mm @ f/1.4, doesn’t mean you have to shoot @ f/1.4 all the time. You have the choice.
    So for me, I’d only go for a full frame, and a very capable one. Sony have capable cameras, but they’re not fun to shoot with, which is an issue. But there’s no alternative for now.

  36. Great article, Steve. Totally agree, and I recently sold all of my Nikon full-frame gear and purchased the OM-D E-M1 Mark II and some of their Pro lenses. Couldn’t be happier with my decision. Not saying that the micro 4/3 sensor at this point totally matches the Nikon’s full-frame sensor, but for most daytime shooting, the differences are practically negligent, specially when using glass like the new M.Zuiko 12-100mm Pro lens. The ergonomics and technology that Olympus has put into their Pro body is nothing short of incredible. And when my photographic mood changes, I still have my Leica M240 around for a totally different photographic experience.

  37. Great article. Too many people look down on m43 and in my mind many canon and nikon aps_c camera are bigger and no better image wise. My point is that 2nd hand m43 cameras depreciate heavily and make great 2nd hand buys. I just got a Panasonic gx7 for £200 and you can pick up great primes such as Olympus 45 and panasonic 25 1.7 for just over 100. At that price you can great some great kit at bargain prices

  38. Each time I hear some fanboy bashing some or other brand, or sensor, I think of John Lennon’s quote on being an artist: “I’m an artist, and if you give me a tuba, I’ll bring you something out of it.” (http://imaginepeace.com/archives/4385 — from the Rolling Stone Interview)
    It’s not the camera (nor the sensor) that makes the picture, but the person behind it.

  39. Hi Steve,
    I actually just bought myself an Olympus e-m1 (mark I; mark II is way beyond my budget) + 12-40mm 2.8 PRO, both 2nd hand (for a good price). Coming from a Canon 450D DSLR that I’ve had for 8+ years, this is quite a step up. The lens is quite a ‘kit lens’ 😀
    My brother has a Panasonic system, so I should pay him a visit and test out some of his lenses.
    So far, I am happy with this system (that I still have to figure out more).

    • False. Most 400mm lenses can be hand held and any 400mm lens can be cropped 2x. Or use a 2x TC. With the image quality of that Panny lens as low as it is, anything competes really.

      • Cropping can be done with any lens, or a converter used, both deteriorate pixels significantly; without these options, the Panasonic lens remains the only choice–light and crisp.

        • From my experience, Canon 100-400 L2 or Sony 70-400 G2 cropped 2x are still sharper than the Panasonic. And there are plenty of APS-C and FF bodies that will still get you 16~20 mpix after the crop.

          To say that the Panny is the only option is a falsehood. On top of that the Panny is a soft lens. If you are going to peddle M43, at least use a sharp lens like the 300/4.

      • The reviews of this lens I have seen would all seem to disagree with you. Is it really from your personal experience?

        • I’m sorry that most reviewers review by pixel peeping and not judging a camera based o n real photography and every day shooting. It’s a shame to see really as these overly technical review mislead many into thinking they need things they do not. We should review and evaluate a camera in a way that shows performance in the real world, not labs, and this is why this site was created 9 years ago and has since had over 100 million visits. I go by reality, not pixel peeping and if I posted a shot using an Old, A Sony, A Fuji and Leica many would have no idea which was which (I know as I have done it before). The best way to evaluate a camera for your own needs is to use it with decent lens for a couple of weeks, get to know it and USE It for real photos. That is why I recommend renting a camera before you buy as everyone has different tastes. My tastes are the way the body feels and is controlled (pro build, great control access and customization) , the features it may have (5 axis for example) and the overall IQ and lens choice. For me, all systems today pass the test but I prefer Sony, Leica and Olympus for my use. Anyone who says Micro 4/3 is no good or not worthy is probably either brand biased, doesn’t know what they are doing, has never used a good Oly/Pana camera and lens combo or goes by what they “heard”. To those who buy and use them, most end up becoming pretty big fans of the system for many reasons. But in todays world of the “bigger must be better” mentality we will always have those who trash M 4/3 or smaller systems.

          • What you can do with the EM1 to your eye is like having an editor at your finger tips. Tweak comp, contrsst curve. Color filters, all settings, spot vs othet, focal point, and more. Water sealed and forget ISO with 5 axis IS.

            now add in fantastic lens what else do you need.

            Well you don’t need a big camera bag or tripod either.

            Just time to shoot and enjoy.

    • Got to agree with that one. I’ve seen that picture crop up on this site a few times over the years, and each time I see it, I think “that is one cool looking old dude.”

  40. Hey Steve, how appropriate to read your article at this moment. I have a Leica Q which I love and had an Oly O-MD1 for interchangeable lenses. And I have some great glass like the 75mm. I love full frame and have been anticipating updating to a full frame camera and replacing the Oly. I have spent so much time playing with Sony, Fuji, Leica to upgrade and every single visit to the camera store the one camera that just feels right in every way is the new O-OMD1 mk 2. It just is the perfect size, even the big lenses are easy to manage with one hand. And it’s so so fast and accurate. So, I traded up to a new Olympus. The image quality is just superb and I’ve even blown up an image to 4 feet across and it looks beautiful. Would it be higher rez with a full sensor? Yes. But would I have bothered to take a larger camera with me and even captured the image? Probably not. Even at the camera store going through all the cameras the sales manager of the biggest store in Los Angeles commented, no one has hit it right yet with the perfect camera but this new Olympus is closer than anything.

    I gave up my Canon 5D a long time ago. And I haven’t looked back. And the 4k video on this new camera is pretty incredible used with the stabilization built in. Almost a full steadycam.

  41. Couldn’t agree more. I no longer look for the camera with the best low light performance or the fastest shutter speed, etc. Today’s cameras are all really good.

    Now I look for the one that feels best in my hands. The one that is light and small and fun to use. The camera that I will actually take with me when I go out.

  42. I own an EM1 AND Omd 10 mk1 and pro 12-40 2.8 pro, Pan/Leica 25mm 1.4 and 2 kit lens the 12-50mm with macro (great lens for price!!!) And just OK 40-150mm $99 kit.
    I’ve often thought of trading the omd10 on PenF.
    I don’t shoot video, hi ISO, or low light so EM1 MK1 IS fine compared to MK2.

    I THINK THE 1.4 vs 1.2 is probably not worth the weight and $s.

    But so many love the Pen F.

  43. Hey Steve, a very interesting and compelling view of your choice of gear, and I fully agree that Olympus makes fantastic cameras, and especially glass. If I was a sports, action or wildlife shooter, I may indeed have jumped into Olympus. However, the way that you describe the “excitement” of shooting with the m4/3 gear is precisely how I feel with the Fujiflm X-System! From the dedicated exposure triad dials of the XT-1, to the superb sensor, customizability, and ergonomics of the X-Pro 2, combined of course, with the stellar Fujinon XF lenses, I have determined that this system serves my current needs admirably. Actually, the main reason that I went with the APS-C sensor system over m4/3, is simply a matter of physics. I create quite large poster prints from some of my landscape images, and the detail I get from the Fuji sensor at 24×36″ is simply amazing. Granted, I haven’t used or tested the newer Olympus bodies/lenses, but common sense and logic tell me that the larger the sensor, the less magnification required for a given output (print) size. Having used large format view cameras back in the ’70’s and ’80’s, I have seen 8×10″ CONTACT prints, which eclipse Everything in terms of image sharpness and detail, simply because there is absolutely ZERO enlargement/magnification involved! So, I think I have a good handle on image sharpness, and when you need to magnify ANY image to attain a desired print size, you are making compromises. Of course, I realize that Full frame (or medium format) would be even better in terms of ultimate detail in a very large print, for my needs and budgetary constraints, the APS-C Fujifilm X-System serves my needs admirably. I also realize that under perhaps, 8×10″, it would be difficult indeed, to see any significant differences in terms of detail rendition from m4/3 v. APS-C or even FF. But sisnce I go much larger, I think APS-C is my “sweet spot”, especially when using superb Fujinon glass and good photographic technique, both in shooting and post processing. That said, Steve, I’ve always admired certain Olympus lenses such as the 75 f/1.8 and the 60 f/2.8 Macro, for their sharpness, though I still say that the Fujinon XF90 f/2 is the sharpest lens I’ve ever used in my 35+ years doing photography. Thanks again!

  44. Absolutely right and love this honest thoughts of you. I have shot so many systems during my life from Leica, Nikon, Canon, Panasonic, Olympus, Fuji, even Pentax and the prominent MF and MFD ones. But no other system as the OMD m43 system has brought me same pleasure and excitement finally.

    The EM1.2 with a number of pro lenses is my absolute got to system today!

  45. Thanks for this. I always like to say that I don’t care as much about IMAGE quality as I care about PICTURE quality… and the responsiveness, compactness, and mobility of an MFT setup mean it’s often the best overall solution, despite the theoretical advantages of larger-sensor systems.

    The point you make about DOF is worth expanding, since forum posters complain so often about MFT’s “disadvantage” at this. Newsflash: less depth-of-field isn’t always better! If I’m shooting an oblique portrait and the light level calls for, say, f/1.2, an MFT system will let me get both eyes in focus, while a larger-sensor system won’t!

  46. If you know your doing, its easy to make M43 look like a larger sensor. I mostly shoot with the Nocticron and 300PRO. The E-M1MKII has THE BEST ergonomics of any mirrorless camera to date IMHO.

  47. Great article Steve. As a wedding photographer myself, I’d be interested to know who the Olympus wedding photographers you refer to are? I’d like to check out their work. Thanks

    • At the minimum, you can go over to getolympus.com and check out the Olympus visionaries listed there . There are direct links to their websites.

    • Agreed great read and i also would be intrested in your list of wedding photographers ghnx

  48. I’ve Lumix GX8 and GH2, zoom lenses 12-35 and 100-400 (Leica), two primes 25 and 42,5 f.1.7 – that’s my daily gear for my work as press photographer. So no problems with 4/3 at all. On the full frame side I’ve Leica M.

  49. hi Steve , For me the really strong point is that my M43 (Panasonic GX85) can go where few others can go. And what I mean by that it’s small and quiet and fast enough as to become invisible. I get shots that a larger system wouldn’t allow. I have a long term project going of family photos(which can be seen on my website or instagram or facebook album) and almost all were done with the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 wide open. My FF Canon hardly sees use. My main point is that he children hardly notice me making the pictures.

    • Thanks for your comments Frank.. I completely agree. Particularly your last sentence, which has also been my experience and indeed, remaining covert is ESSENTIAL to creating priceless spur-of-the-moment candid shots. No matter how technically wonderful a big sensor GFX (for example) may be, it is unlikely to be as successful as a M4/3 set-up on the run simply because of it’s physical intrusiveness in real-life interaction with our people subjects​. That’s just a fact of life!

  50. Hi Steve great article as always. I recently bought a Pen F mostly because of your recommendation and also because it’s drop dead gorgeous! The speed of and accuracy the single point AF compared to Fuji cameras I have used is invaluable for my street photography. Can I ask will the EM1-MK2 be faster in low light conditions? I ask because I photograph weddings and events where like for the late night dancing the rooms are often only lit by the bands lighting rig.

  51. Even though I currently shoot Fuji X-T2, you make a great argument for the Olympus system. Better AF than my Fuji, and nice 5-axis IBIS. Wish I hadn’t sold my E-M5 and lenses a couple of years ago.

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