Teetering on the brink...

Started Nov 10, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Chris Tofalos
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Teetering on the brink...
Nov 10, 2012

Well, six months ago I had a plan. As soon as the 12-35 & 35-100s appeared I was going to get rid of all my heavy Canon equipment and go M4/3 completely.

I have a GH2 and a GX1 with Olympus 9-18 and Panasonic 14-45, 45-175 & 100-300 lenses, Nissin Di466 flashgun plus an adapter (with iris) to allow me to use my 50 & 85mm Canon lenses for low light work. I've also got an Olympus EPL-2 twin lens outfit but that's headed for eBay because, although I absolutely love the colour repro on this, it's not much use at ISO 400 and beyond (too noisy). I had planned to add the two new 2.8s plus a G5 body and a decent flashgun. I'd go for an OM-D if that had built-in correction for CA but, sadly, it doesn't.

Now, I'm not so sure and my plans are on hold. I'm teetering on the brink of either getting rid of the M4/3 outfit altogether or, at best, just keeping what I have for those jobs where it really comes into its own. I do regular photo features on town and villages in Lancashire for a glossy county magazine and it really is a treat to benefit from the light weight of M4/3 instead of the shoulder-bending bulk of my Canons. My regular kit bag for the latter weighs 28 lbs against about ten when I use M4/3. Thirty years of carrying heavy kit has damaged my spine and the freedom I feel when using M4/3 on walkabout shoots is wonderful. And the image quality, so long as I get the exposure spot on, is every bit as good as my 18mp Canons.

So what's brought about this change of heart? Why the doubts? There are a number of reasons.

I suppose the main problem is the AF. My Canon 7D is the quickest focussing camera I've ever owned. It locks on to moving subjects lightning fast and tracks them very well. I can't say the same about M4/3. Accuracy is generally very good with static subjects but very iffy with sports and action work. I don't do as much sports work as I used to but for things like fashion shoots I know I can lock onto a model on the catwalk with the 7d and fire away and virtually every shot will be focussed spot on. The GH2 & GX1 are iffy with this sort of thing to say the least. Not sure if the G5 will be any better but the reviews I've read aren't encouraging. Maybe the new 2.8 zooms will help but they're an expensive addition - especially if they're not up to it!

I also have to say that in lower light situations the focussing accuracy of my M4/3 cameras isn't what it should be. Even using the built-in AF illuminator doesn't guarantee anything and the lack of an AF illuminator on my Nissin flashgun sometimes gives OOF shots with static group shots at social events like charity balls, etc. OOF shots just aren't acceptable in any circumstances. Don't know if the Panasonic flashes have AF illuminators (better find out!) like the Canon ones but I know I can rely on the latter in any circumstances.

Ergonomics also comes into it. I can pick up any Canon DSLR of the last ten years (with the possible exception of some 1D models) and instinctively know how to alter exposure compensation for ambient or flash lighting, set custom white balances etc and have exactly the same positioned button set up for my preferred back-button focussing technique with every camera. Each Panasonic model is slightly different and that's enough to make working instinctively very difficult, especially on jobs where I require two bodies.

Restricted tonal range is also a problem. Exposure HAS to be spot on and all too often I get annoying highlight clipping (well, it's actually VERY annoying highlight clipping!).

The weight advantage of M4/3 is really important for me. I just love the freedom I feel using a lighter outfit. In fact, I sometimes forget I'm carrying a camera around. Can't ever say that with the heavyweight Canons. Some fellow professionals have told me they'd be worried about their professional credibility using such tiny cameras. It doesn't really bother me but I can see why they say that.

So there you have it. It's going to cost me a couple of thousand pounds to add an extra body and those new zooms. It's an expensive outlay for me and, given the problems I've listed, I'm not sure it's worth it.

Constructive comments would be welcome...

PS: Although only a minor problem I have to add that battery life with M4/3 is a bit disappointing. There's hardly a shoot I go on where I don't have to change batteries at some stage. That's a very rare thing with the Canons, no doubt improved by the battery grips I've added to every camera I've had but, that said, that also increases the weight carried...

Canon EOS 7D Canon EOS-1D Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1
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