4/3 upgrade from u4/3? (long, painful ruminations!)

Started Nov 29, 2010 | Discussions thread
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4/3 upgrade from u4/3? (long, painful ruminations!)
Nov 29, 2010

This is a bit of a meandering question that may not have real answers but hey, it's a forum... I've been lurking here for a while, also chimed in at times as one of those "non Olympus users". In a nutshell I wonder if it's worth going 4/3 coming from u4/3.

I currently own a G1, with 14-45 and PL25/1.4. Before that I had a D70, before that, Contax (film) and Minolta MF.

On my G1 I love the EVF and articulated LCD, I find CDAF more accurate than the D70's PDAF (if slower). I went u4/3 for size when traveling, but lately I am doing more "serious" work again, portraits with strobes etc, for that I bought the PL25/1. And I also now had some low light shoots and that was hard: no IS on the 25/1.4, slow kit lens, no CDAF native options for u4/3 at any price except PL 45/2.8. I rented a D700 once, worked fine but left me cold, and the consumer zoom I rented had nasty WA distortion. After accounting for the stopping down needed to get DOF and upping the ISO to keep shutter speeds fast even the noise advantage over the G1 wasn't that great, see here: http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1022&message=36963506

So where to go from here. I want to add low light and longer focal portrait capability. My issues with the G1 and all of u4/3 are the absence of practical enthusiast features and fastish lenses. The sensors got better (say E-PL1), but on the practical side the absentee list on most bodies includes IR-remotes, remote flash operation, manual flash settings, fast x-sync, battery grip options, PC sockets, tethered shooting options, tethered A/C supply options, hardwired fast access buttons on the bodies that are really thought out, on some models no VF to begin with - and finally, I'd actually like a bigger (but not too much heavier) camera than the G1 for better ergonomics. No u4/3 body has the practical features I'd like.

I could go Nikon/Canon but I want a swivel LCD, so it must have a well functioning CDAF, and I don't think Canon or Nikon have that right now. They just barely started having swivel LCD models. The tempting Pentax K-5 doesn't have one. So ironically my interest now is along the lines of a 4/3 body to add IBIS to my PL25/1.4, and maybe add the 50/2 as a portrait solution, with also a modicum of low light capability.

Trouble is this makes no great financial sense. The E-5 as the most modern choice of body ticks all items on my wish list, serious body, IBIS, lots more lens options than u4/3 (I don't care for legacy lenses) etc. I also don't think it's overpriced but it’s overpriced for me because I would use it mostly for quasi stationary situations and the odd low light theater shoot. For traveling or walkaround the G1 is much more appropriate so I’d keep it. Also: in DPR's lens comparison feature the 12-60 fares no than the G1’s 14-45 kit lens where comparable.

Next cheaper option is the E-30. I would not consider the E-3 because with PDAF I think lens AF calibration is a good idea. There’s front/backfocus issues on PDAF with all brands. One more reason to love CDAF when it’s fast enough... Anyhow, trouble is it is also not really cheap and in resolution a downgrade from the G1. For portraits this might be a blessing but it's a bit vexing isn't it. No braggin’ rights!

Anyhow so here are the alternatives I came up with IF my goal is in this order, add longer focal length fast-ish lens for portraits, get overall better low light capability, and more enthusiast-level body features while not breaking the bank (I will likely never buy one of the famous USD2000+ f/2 Olympus zooms. Price, size, weight). USD prices from B+H for reference:

A) Add E-5, keep PL25/1.4, add 12-60: $2500. Pro: great body, IBIS, full range acceptable low light and allround combo. Con: 12-60 does not beat G1 kit lens from data, and this combination is the priciest, and heaviest.

B) Add E-30, keep PL25/1.4, add 50/2: $ 1270. Pro: cheaper body, lighter so might be usable as low light walkaround. Con: not a full range low light solution, 50/2 slow focuser, so most useful when stationary. Replacing the 50/2 with the 12-60 adds to $1630 - getting pricey.
For A) and B) an added bonus would be that I'd keep the G1 and have a backup.

C) G1, keep PL25/1.4 and 14-45, add PL 45/2.8, cost $ 779. Pro: workable for low light and portraiture minimum kit. Con: no IBIS means the 25/1.4 lacks stabilization which means the low light capability is more limited. The 25/1.4 is also not the fastest focuser on the G1 although this is tolerable, I've done tons of excellent kids portraits with this combo.

D) As C) but add 20/1.7 to complement the low light capability with a stabilized fast lens. Total cost to me $1090. If I sell the 25/1.4 and adapter I might recover about 80% of this but I'd lose the lens I love the most. The 25/1.4 really has something going on at 1.4 to 4.0 apertures and is a prime reason to stay with 4/3 or u4/3 (above that aperture range its looks turn "normal").

As can be seen, all 4/3 solutions are a lot more expensive, and don't really add IQ, than staying with one or another G1 option. What they would do add is better low light capability, more flexible lens choice, IBIS, and more semipro features on the bodies. The question is, is it worth spending a marginal $ 500 - $ 1500 or so over the u4/3 system options, depending on choices, just to get better bodies yet not really better sensors? Yes within limits I can make the G1 do what I want, except for low light at certain focal lengths right now, just not comfortably so . But over the years I went lower and lower in my gear, smaller, and lighter and somehow I start to miss a good solid feeling with big buttons and all. Even if it makes no sense.

Any thoughts welcome.

Btw I suspect the future of 4/3 will be in 4/3 with EVF, not so much in downmerging to u4/3. Which is fine by me.
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