Comparing Camera Sizes/Weights/Prices: Why I chose MFT

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mpwolf
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Comparing Camera Sizes/Weights/Prices: Why I chose MFT
9 months ago

I'm currently reevaluating/rationalizing my photography gear and, with a slew of new camera bodies on the market in the past month or so, I've read plenty of articles and posts extolling the virtues of one over another. OK, this phenomenon certainly isn't unique to the recent past, but it does seem to have moved to the forefront along with the recent proliferation of new cameras and even new systems.

Personally, the base image quality of all of the current high-end systems is sufficient for my purposes (I realize this isn't the case for every photographer) so I'm very much evaluating systems on other factors. Namely: size, weight, durability and availability of appropriate lenses. In general, the bulk of my photography revolves around traveling which increasingly means what gear can sensibly fit in a backpack or in motorcycle luggage.

This, admittedly self-imposed, restriction is what led me to downsize from a Nikon D90-based system to an Olympus E-M5-based system before my most recent trip (6-months on a motorbike from New York down to the Darien Gap and back).

Because I know this forum loves gear specifics, in detail, I went from this:

  • Nikon D90
  • Nikon 10.5 fisheye
  • Nikon 35 f/1.8
  • Nikon 10-24 zoom
  • Nikon 16-85 zoom
  • Nikon 70-300 zoom
  • RRS L-bracket
  • RRS BH-40 head
  • Gitzo GT2541 S2 legs
  • Manfrotto 709B or Joby Gorillapod w/ RRS B2-FAB clamp

To this:

  • Olympus OM-D E-M5
  • Panasonic 20mm f/1.7
  • Olympus 45mm f/1.8
  • Panasonic 7-14 zoom
  • Olympus 12-50 kit zoom or Olympus 14-150 zoom
  • Panasonic 100-300 zoom
  • RRS bottom plate and grip
  • Same support gear, save for the Gorilla/B2 which jettisoned itself somewhere on a dirt road in Panama

When I switched to the E-M5, I seriously considered (and demoed) the D7000 as I already had some Nikon lenses I liked. Nothing approaching very high-end, but again, sufficient for my use. However, the size advantage of the E-M5 kit and the notion that it was weather sealed, at least with the 12-50, won the day.

The E-M5 performed very well on my journey and, upon returning home, I decided to sell the Nikon gear. I still have a few vestigial pieces, but the bulk of the kit is gone and with luck (and some nostalgia-induced regret), the Nikon stuff will all be out of my hands in the coming weeks.

When I began to sell the Nikon stuff, I considered whether to stick with MFT and really build out a set of glass or supplement it with another system. My initial thought was that some day I'd start to build up a full frame (I dislike the term, but since it seems to be industry parlance by now, I'll go with the flow) kit.

Then Olympus introduced the E-M1 and the 12-40 f/2.8, which seemed to address my two reservations about the MFT system. First, it took care of the lack of an integrated grip on the E-M5. The way I use the camera, a grip is a necessiitity and, while the RRS grip on the E-M5 is quite nice, I prefer something built-in. And, second, it provided a proper, weather-sealed lens and even more weather sealing to the body. I tend to travel to dusty places and I appreciate the piece of mind.

I was pretty much set on the E-M1 to supplement the E-M5 and the 12-40 f/2.8 and eventual 40-150 f/2.8 to replace the 12-50 and possibly the 14-150. I realize the latter lens is a compromise between image quality and convenient, and heavily biased to the latter at that, but it's a nice lens to keep on the camera when it's is in the tank bag of my moto. When I'm on the road, sometimes it's just impossible to get close enough to something worth shooting and the quick reach has allowed me to get some shots that I'd otherwise miss entirely.

Then Pentax announced the K-3, Sony the A7/7r and Fuji the X-E2 (with hopes of an X-Pro2 not too far down the road). This got me looking much more broadly at the available systems and while there are some very good perspectives and reviews out there, there's also A LOT of noise. In my opinion, the blend of nerdy tech and subjective artistry present in modern photography seems to produce a more emotional and occasionally down-right visceral dialog on cameras relative to those of any other industry I follow.

Partially informed by the wealth of information out there and quite frustrated by the quantity of noise, I decided to have a look at the data.

As I mentioned, given how I use my cameras, two of the primary characteristics I'm looking for are appropriately-small size and light weight. I say "appropriately" as something too small or lightweight just doesn't feel right, neither in my hand nor in terms of durability. And, as much as I'd like it not to be, price is also a factor. While there are other, less numerical properties I consider important (e.g., weather sealing, lens selection), size, weight and price are pretty objectively observable.

I began by piecing together what I consider an ideal kit containing wide, mid, tele and macro primes as well as wide, mid and tele zooms for MFT.

I then tried to compile similar kits for other systems (Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Sony, Olympus/Panasonic, Pentax) and formats (FF, APS-C, MFT). This turned out to be more difficult than I initially thought due to the unavailability of some lenses for some systems and vastly different prices for some lens types. I tended to stay away from consumer-grade lenses if there was a better reasonable alternative, as this is what I intend to do with my gear regardless of the system I choose.

The above is a long-winded but hopefully informative introduction to the following data, which charts various systems based on a variety of camera bodies.

I'm not publishing this here to be controversial or start a see-I-told-you-system-Y-was-better-than-system-Z thread, but I did think this information could be helpful to the community.

Camera System Comparison

Note: In the interest of full transparency, the underlying spreadsheet is available here.

I'm making this available for those who would like to see (and may disagree with) each of the lenses I've matched in the various systems. Feel free to edit as you see fit. I've tried to be as thorough and careful as possible, but I don't guarantee that this is error free. It involved a lot of cutting, pasting and entering of data, so feel free to check my work, if that's your sort of thing.

A few observations/thoughts on the above:

  • The bars represent the aggregate weight (technically mass, expressed in kg), size (volume expressed in l) and price of the listed camera body along with seven lenses (four primes, three zooms).
  • Size is based on body and lens measurements in DPR's camera and lens databases. Admittedly, it overstates the actual volume as no camera is a perfect rectangular box and no lens is a perfect cyllinder, but I'm assuming that any overstatement is fairly consistent across systems.
  • Price is based on Amazon selling prices for the camera bodies (as of 11/5/2013) and MSRP for the lenses. Given the number of lenses I looked at, I couldn't be bothered to check which are on sale, but as this applies across systems, I assume any differences apply consistently enough across systems.

I'll not draw too many public conclusions from the data as this analysis is obviously only one aspect of deciding on a system and I don't expect that what works for me will work for others. The nerd in me, however, couldn't resist slicing the data and I at least found this helpful in deciding on a system.

Given I've posted this in the MFT forum, it's probably not a surprise that I've decided to stick with MFT (E-M1). While this ultimately became up a confirmatory exercise, it did learn a good deal about a few of the other systems out there, specifically the lens offerings (and sometimes, the lack thereof), and the decision wasn't as clear as I initially thought it would be.

Hopefully this is helpful/useful to others as well.

- M

 mpwolf's gear list:mpwolf's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus E-M1 Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F4 ASPH Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH +21 more
Fujifilm X-E2 Nikon D7000 Nikon D90 Olympus E-M1 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Pentax K-3 Sony Alpha 7
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