Started Oct 7, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Contributing MemberPosts: 701Gear list
Oct 7, 2012

For anyone interested, a side-by-side view of the Olympus OM-D and the Ricoh GRD:

This gives me a fast nifty fifty in a relatively compact package, and a 28mm-equivalent in an even more compact package. Both cameras are very new to me. The GRD is not the most compact compact-camera, it has a small sensor, and no zoom -- but its ergonomics and lens clarity are second-to-none in its class. Unlike, say, the Sony RX100, Canon S100, or Olympus XZ-1, the GRD4 is designed to be used entirely with one hand -- and it succeeds beautifully. My overall impression from having the GRD hasn't been one of "wow this is so amazing" but more "this is just so simple, straightforward and common-sense -- how is it that so many camera makers just not get it?" (I'm referring mostly to physical UI.) The small sensor is OK by me -- I'm not trying to isolate subjects at 28mm, and the f/1.9 lens certainly helps in low light. Speaking of the lens, even to my untrained eye it is abundantly clear to me just how... clear, and clean, the GRD renders details. I guess that's the trade-off if the glass isn't trying to spread its resources across multiple focal lengths. And like any other compact (and as opposed to just getting the 14mm pancake), I get the stealth trifecta (expressed better than m4/3 can, at least): silent shutter, always-on-me availability, and unintimidating size. Plus that small-sensor macro capability.

OK, enough on the GRD. Well, maybe one more thing (which will segue into my impressions of the OM-D) -- size and portability. Here is another image, this time with a couple cameras from further in the past:

Olympus OM-1, Olympus OM-D, Ricoh GRD 4, Canon SD870IS

Isn't it surprising how close the OM-D (without lens) and GRD seem to be in size? My first impression of the GRD was, in fact, "huh, this compact camera is actually pretty big" and of the OM-D (as many others have expressed) "huh, this mini-DSLR is actually pretty tiny." (Please don't give me any trouble for invoking that acronym, I think you know what I mean!) The real difference, however, is how each camera lives when not in use -- but ready for action. The GRD, of course, collapses flat (and doesn't need a separate lens cap) and fits nicely in Ricoh's leather belt-case. I used the Canon SD870IS in the same way (its case is better though). (The fact that I rarely zoomed the Canon's lens did nudge me in the GRD's direction.) For quick unprepared snaps, I can't fumble through a smartphone's UI, nor do I really need a focal length other than 28mm equivalent, nor would I necessarily like to use my other hand to change settings (I may be using it for something else after all). Also, the whole "might as well just use a smartphone" argument in regards to compact cameras doesn't hold up for me -- there is a big, big difference between what the GRD can output and what my iPhone 4 puts out. Anyway, with a belt-case setup, I frequently forget that I even have a nice camera 'on me' (literally) -- which is great.

The OM-D with 25mm is a different paradigm altogether. I decided to stop trying to make m4/3 as compact as possible. In the past, I've owned (though not all at once) the E-PL1, E-PL2, each of their included 14-42mm lenses, the 40-150, 14-150, 14mm f2.5, 20mm f1.7, 45mm f1.8, and the Rokinon 7.5mm fisheye. Through a circuitous and less-than-clever series of events, I ended up selling, as well as losing (via car theft), all of that. After much wandering in the desert, I concluded there was no point in trying to make m4/3 as much like a pocket-cam as possible, because I'll still never get it to fit comfortably in a pocket or on my belt. Therefore, I might as well embrace all that m4/3 is technically (as opposed to ergonomically) capable of, and spring for better lenses -- and fewer of them. Hence my arrival at the bulky but top-class Panasonic/Leica 25mm f1.4 -- currently my only m4/3 lens. (I'm not sure what my next lens will be -- 12-50, 9-18, 7-14? -- but for now it's kind of nice just to have one really nice lens.)

As for the OM-D itself, I have absolutely no complaints on the performance and image quality side of things -- the thing is amazing and we all know that. My quibbles with it are mostly matters of human-interface. Sandwiched, as it is in the image above, between the OM-1 and the GRD, it was pretty easy for me to see ways in which the OM-D's physical UI could be improved. I think the biggest thing is its width. The OM-1 feels much more natural in the hands. I can really grab onto both of its sides (on either side of the lens mount). The GRD is also very generous with width. Another thing a wider OM-D could allow for is better placement of the buttons and dials. For me, the dial around the shutter is great -- the other one, not so much. I think that dial ought to be the PASM dial. The second dial should instead be the one that the E-P3 has -- put it right about where the edge of the OM-D's screen is now. And of course move those awkward little playpack/Fn1 buttons. By increasing the camera's width and moving the PASM dial, could it then be possible to cram in one of the Pen's awesome tilting built-in flash units? And place the on/off switch somewhere less awkward? And, I don't know what it is exactly about the OM-D, but when I hold it for longer periods of time, a lot of pressure from the bottom edge ends up on my right ring finger. With the GRD, most pressure is from my right middle finger -- right smack in the middle of the grip, probably precisely how Ricoh designed it to be. It's clear enough that I can see that that part of the grip has just very slightly rubbed off. With the OM-1, all of my right hand's fingers are positioned higher up on the body (even though it's about the same height as the OM-D) and pressure is distributed evenly among my fingers -- and none fall under the body to support it, as happens when I hold the OM-D.

This is all just a very long way of saying what others have said before -- you know, stuff like "the OM-D's edges are too sharp". Honestly, I really don't mind that much -- sometimes I just have a bunch of coffee on a Sunday morning and feel like authoring a heavy-duty analysis of industrial design (heavy-duty for a forum anyway). Maybe I am being a little cynical when I think that Olympus 'crippled' the OM-D's ergonomics just to push the $300 battery grip... or that Olympus wanted to make it this small more for shop shelves in mind than human hands. But again, no matter -- this thing really takes photographs well.

As for carrying the OM-D -- maybe somewhat like my unconventional approach to covering 28 and 50mm, my solution is also a little different: a wool hat inside a small shoulder satchel I already had (a funky one I came across in Japan: I have yet to replace my backpack (also stolen along with my E-PL2 and lenses), so I'll have to see how the winter-hat method works... It's nice to go cheap on things after emptying the wallet on tech -- especially if it just works!

I think the OM-D has been beaten to death on these forums, so I apologize for beating it further, however I think any comments or questions in the context of using the OM-D in conjunction with a compact like the GRD might make for a more interesting discussion. For instance, it seems to be quite a bit more common to use m4/3 as the supplement to a full-frame DSLR -- whereas I'm coming to the OM-D with the intention of using it as my go-to device for higher image quality. And as a further jump-off point (as I think I've described above): I don't believe that the 'compact camera is dead.' What do you think?

 pocketpygmy's gear list:pocketpygmy's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm 1:2.8 Macro Panasonic Lumix G Vario HD 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 Mega OIS Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm F1.8 Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15mm F1.7 ASPH
Olympus PEN E-P3 Olympus PEN E-PL1 Olympus PEN E-PL2 Olympus XZ-1 Sony RX100
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