A member from a forum that I frequent had this question to ask today (user name will not be revealed for reasons of anonymity):
Wondering should I part with my e3 and 12-60mm to jump over to m43. Haven't really been using my e3 much and the weight and size actually made me taking it out less....
Any comments on any of the m43 cameras ?? IQ from the limited amount of lens??? anyone please?
For your info, the Olympus E-3 is the flagship of the Olympus Fourthirds system. You can dunk this camera into a river or use this camera in a blizzard or desert storm, and it will persevere as well as a Canon 1D series or Nikon D3 at roughly a quarter of their price. For more info, please read my other article: Olympus cameras - tougher than you may think.
Now back to the main issue.
The Micro 43rds concept basically involves the removal of the mirror box in a traditional SLR system to produce high quality images befitting of the traditional Fourthirds system in a more slim and compact chassis.
For a more complete description of the M43rds concept, please visit the Fourthirds website here.
To date, there have been several variants of the M43 system ranging from the GH-1, G-1 and GF-1 by Panasonic to the EP-1 and EP-2 by Olympus. Its been something like a Nikon vs. Canon tournament, though the big two have been warring for quite some time now.
There have been gazillions of EP-1 vs. GF-1 articles out there, and I am not keen to go into all of the details, but if you're keen, there's one article which I've found here at The Online Photographer which you can have a look at.
Perhaps the new M43 bodies like the GF-1 and EP-1 will yield a greater difference, but here are the lenses mounted on a 43rds Olympus E-3 body on the right, and a Panasonic GH-1 on the left. I guess for the sake of ''cuteness'' and size, a regular 43rds lens should not be mounted on a M43 body. Its like marrying Beauty and the Beast, if you know what I mean.
M43 offers other advantages, such as:
- It allows us to mount an almost infinite range of lenses, and to quote some examples from my friend Gary Ayton: Leica M, Leica R, Olympus Pen, Olympus OM, Canon FD, Nikon F, Minolta, Pentax K, Hasselblad, Pentax 6×7, and even Canon EOS (although at present only at wide open aperture as EOS lenses do not have aperture rings).
- The micro43rds bodies also give true video capabilities akin to a camcorder or a compact digital camera with even better depth of field control. Indeed, there have been several compelling commercial advertisements done solely with EP-1 available on youtube nowadays. Of course, todays modern DSLRs such as the Canon 5Dmk2, Nikon D90 and even the Nikon D3s offer movie capabilities, but unfortunately no auto focus capabilities as of yet.
- The lenses (and current M43 bodies to some extent) are good, small and light, but they're almost as expensive as current 43 lenses, eg. Panasonic 20/1.7, 14-140, 7-14, or M zuiko 9-18, 14-150. I don't think you'll ever see Olympus' f2 zooms (such as the 14-35 or 35-100) in M43 format because they'll be bulky and pricey. Fast primes will be the name of the game now. M43 lenses also cannot be mounted on 43 bodies because of the reduction in size of the lens mount.
- Wanna use bounce flash? Mount an FL-50R on top of your M43 body, and bingo - you will have a very unbalanced and unwieldy kit. You can only mount an external flash OR an EVF at one time, not both.
- The fact that in-camera auto distortion correction is applied for M43 lenses means that you will lose some resolution on the edges, not my cup of tea. You can view photozone.de for m43 lens reviews.
- Very hard to hold longer focal length lenses with M43 bodies because of the lack of grip, eg. 200mm and above despite the availability of IS. Until the long focal length lenses are released, I don't really see it as being popular with birders and sport photographers, unless they have large f2.8 / f2 apertures.
- Incompetent AF technology (for Olympus), eg. not responsive enough compared to Panasonic's
- Panasonic colours not as nice as Olympus ones (a quite a subjective but important issue in my case)
- Limited battery life (300-400 shots max) because of the constant use of the camera's LCD / EVF
- Limited continuous shooting speeds (though in the future, the absence of mechanical parts would enable us to pick out frames from a video, such as the Casio FX-1 which can literally stop time). David Pogue from the New York Times loves this camera by the way.
Another good friend of mine, David Chua has sucessfully incorporated the EP-1 and EP-2 in his artistic projects. But being a traditional Nikon and film user, he has several gripes about the system, notably:
...micro 43rds is definitely the right route they have taken but in order to stay ahead, Olympus must realize it's no longer about image quality or art filters which they have achieved, BUT AF speed and large aperture prime lenses!
OK, art filters are quite a novel way of projecting the M43 (and also 43rds) system, but aside from black and white, pinhole, and maybe pop art and cross process, I reckon we've enough choices for now. Indeed a simple search on Flickr will reveal that the art filters, however novel they are do come very limited in terms of their actual use. Whether they will continue be a serious photographic tool still remains to be seen.
I guess the advent of technology has made us men become wimps. Complaining about heavy cameras makes sense when you're 40 plus, but when you're 20, it should be a non issue, unless you're a couch potato. Otherwise, the very very exclusive Ken Rockwell-endorsed Leica M9 rangefinder is just for you. I'm not saying we need to be body builders, but if I (and some Canon / Nikon / Sony full frame users) need to, I don't mind carrying carrying 2 E-3 + HLD-4 bodies, FL50Rs and several SHG lenses for an important assignment.
So to my dear friend: stop complaining, take your E-3 out and start shooting. You may accuse me of being a traditional digital SLR enthusiast, but your best camera may well be the one you have at hand, not necessarily the one you would like to have in the future.