Warning: This is the start of one of my EPIC posts and is about the Olympus Micro Four Thirds (MFT) cameras and accessories, specifically the OM-D E-M1 camera and the new “PRO” lenses.
I have been looking for the best fit mirror-less camera and lens range for quite some time now. As any of the regular readers of my blog will know I have tried almost all of the ones out there at one time or another (Panasonic, Fuji and Sony) and all of these at least more than once. They all seem to have one problem or another. I will point out my thoughts below:
Until recently this company seemed to “get it” and were a safe bet. We did have a two year spell where Panasonic couldn’t decide who they were marketing to; I still remember the G3, GF2 and GF3 period. But then they released the G5 which brought back a lot of what was missing, followed by the GH3 and their 2x f2.8 Pro zooms, it looked like Panasonic were on a roll again.
The GH4 was and is a ground-breaking camera and is arguably the best 4K video camera on the market especially at its price point.
However, sometime around when the GM1 was released something changed and as usual it has to do with money and the fact that Panasonic isn’t making much from their Lumix interchangeable lens cameras (ILC). So it looks like Panasonic is being run by accountants and they have (again unfortunately) started to lose the plot as many signs of cost cutting are becoming evident.
They were going to release a 150mm f2.8 Pro lens – this has now been cancelled as have many other tele lenses. I shouldn’t be surprised as I think that from a ROI (Return On Investment) approach they are not viable. They are now concentrating on just two models, the GH range and the new GM range, the future of the G, GF and GX ranges is now in question and they also have forgotten about their older models as no new firmware is being released for them. Whilst the GH4 camera is a better stills camera than the GH3 it is in the video area that they are more interested in.
All of these issues point to a company that doesn’t see much future in the photographic business and I wouldn’t be surprised in Panasonic pulling the plug on the MFT range in the not too distant future. That said they have just inked a 5 year deal with Leica so they might just sell the MFT business to Leica wholly.
It’s not all doom and gloom though as Panasonic do have two really good (non-interchangeable lens) Lumix cameras in their range: the amazing FZ1000 bridge camera and their soon to be released MFT sensor based LX100 camera.
Until quite recently I had invested into this system and unlike Panasonic they do provide “some” limited support to their older models although this seems to be waning a little now. They have a lot of excellent glass in the range with not one dud. I see a bright future for the company but there are a few things that for me are deal breakers (and hence my exit from the system).
The first problem is around bulk (size and weight); because the Sensor is APS-C sized the cameras and more importantly the lenses are quite large and heavy. Although I didn’t have any f2.8 lenses, the lenses I did have were quite heavy. The other problem is that their best cameras have to be controlled using a shutter-speed dial, aperture-ring and ISO dial – I don’t like these controls; didn’t we say goodbye to these type of controls when we moved to AF/digital cameras? My favourite camera in the range was the X-T1 (no surprises there then) but the D-Pad buttons on the back of the camera are awful and they still haven’t been fixed. There is a rumour that Fuji will offer a chargeable service to replace the D-pad buttons on the back of the camera.
The final nail in the coffin was lack of any real telephoto lenses, granted the 120-400mm is coming out at the end of next year (providing an equivalent 35mm field of view of 180 to 600mm) and will be slow with f5.6 at the 400mm end. However this is it and there is no other telephoto lenses slow, fast or otherwise.
I have detailed many times that Sony have a problem in that they seem to be trying too many things at once, they also seemed to have forgotten their DSLR market (although this is flatly denied). The Sony A7/A7R/A7S is showing some real promise and the lens range is starting to grow although slower than originally envisaged. I have to admit that I was tempted more than once to switch to this camera system but the bulk is still there even though it is less than a typical full-frame DSLR. There are now fast lenses in the range, the glass is mostly Zeiss and costly and I am not a fan of adapters. There is the question about the weather sealing too.
I also looked at the Sony A6000 but this seems to have a very strange lens system and still has a few holes in the range. The pairing of the A7 and A6000 with some E and FE lenses was also attractive.
But in the end there are still many issues with the range which Sony shows no signs of fixing such as on the lens front. There are no f2.8 zooms available for either system (E or FE) and no f1.4 prime lenses either; the FE Lens road-map does show a single f1.4 prime lens (35mm) but this looks huge and comparable in size to a full-frame DSLR 35mm f1.4 lens. The reason for lack of these fast primes and zooms is simply to keep the size and weight down, yes they will be slightly smaller and lighter than an equivalent full-frame DSLR lens but not by much.
That all said there is “something” about the Sony FE/E system that I really like and there are some things that they are doing right, they are sharing the same battery amongst most of their mirror-less models (A7, A7R, A7S, A6000, etc), the menus on nearly their entire range are the same, they can all be charged via the USB (think remote charging from portable USB batteries) and they all now share the same remote connector. Then there’s the Sony app store to add functionality to their cameras. But with the good we get the bad such as poor battery life, no battery chargers in the box to name just two. So more right than wrong and the cheapest way into 35mm-full-frame photography.
I considered the Samsung NX1 but with no real support from them or many retailers they were discounted quickly.
I still think that they are one to watch because they have the gear, they just need to add the support and get some kit into photographers hand s so some real world use evangelising can take place.
I even thought about ditching the mirror-less scene and even considered the Nikon D750 and Canon 7D Mark II which are both very good but by the time you have added the necessary glass to get the best out of them you have too much weight and bulk for me not to mention the serious costs involved.
So there you have my thoughts of the mirror-less camera scene, you can read part two and my thoughts on the Olympus tomorrow.