Olympus vs Panasonic? Or m43 contra mundum?

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William Porter
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Olympus vs Panasonic? Or m43 contra mundum?
5 months ago

So somebody here started a thread expressing deep disappointment in the Olympus E-M1 because, among other things, it doesn't do video as well as the Panasonic GX1. (Who knew?) And I've also seen threads where Olympus fans dis Panasonic for one reason or another.

I'm surprised by these threads that seem to bash the "other" brand. And I don't get them.

Coming from Sony, I regarded my recent "conversion" as a switch to micro four thirds — NOT as a switch to Olympus. It's the entire micro four thirds ecosystem that I find brilliant and attractive. And that system includes both Panasonic and Olympus and other companies as well.

Yes, I purchased an Olympus E-M1 because it was the first m43 camera that caught my attention and seemed capable of replacing my full-frame cameras for my portrait and event practice. I love the E-M1 for its image quality, yes, but also for its ergonomics, body build, IBIS, weight, size, price, not to mention lens selection and the flash system and very other important details.

But I'm aware that Panasonic is making terrific cameras too and I figure Panasonic's continuing success is a boon to me as a micro four thirds user. I love my Panasonic LX7. Not a m43 camera of course but proof that Panasonic really knows something about making small cameras. I own a couple Panasonic lenses for my E-M1 (14 and 20) and they're quite good. When I was a Sony shooter, I felt threatened by Nikon's successes. But as an micro four thirds shooter with (currently) an Olympus body, I don't feel at all threatened by Panasonic's success.

I'm aware that Panasonic rules when it comes to video. That seems to reflect corporate strategy on the part of both companies. I suspect Olympus cameras have video just because you cannot sell a camera these days without video. Too bad. Personally, I'd have paid $5 more for the E-M1 to have the video completely removed. Lack of video was one thing I loved about the Sony A850. I hasten to add that I am a huge movie buff and I love good video. I just don't want to shoot it myself.

And it very well may be Panasonic's advantage over Olympus in terms of video quality is greater than Olympus's advantage (if any) over Panasonic in terms of still image quality. But the idea that it's all about image quality is, well, silly if not delusional. If it were all about image quality, we'd all be using — well, I'm not sure what it would be — maybe $20K Hasselblads or something. A camera is a tool, not a religion, and every different tool does somethings better than others. Olympus doesn't exist because its cameras take better photos than Panasonic. It exists in the m43 system because it makes a somewhat different kind of tool than Panasonic makes.

Anyway, I don't understand why some folks here get so emotional and so defensive about their preferences. Preferring this Panasonic body to that Olympus body doesn't mean that you have to bash the latter, and vice versa. Note that less of this happens within brands, although I can't think of a logical reason why that would be the case. I mean, E-M1 purchasers don't bash the E-M5; they just prefer the E-M1. E-M10 purchasers don't bash the E-M1, they just don't need all of the E-M1's features and prefer to save some money. All perfectly reasonable.

I hold these truths (among others) to be self-evident:

  • that there's no perfect camera, never has been, never will be
  • that what makes a system camera really useful is the system that exists to support it, not the badge on the front of the camera
  • that choice is good and therefore it's good that there are differences between products
  • that competition is good for everybody, for consumers and for manufacturers
  • that Olympus and Panasonic both make excellent cameras and excellent lenses, and that their excellences are to a good extent complementary rather than directly competitive
  • that it's fantastic also to have other lens makers (like Sigma, Rokinon and others) and third-party accessory makers (like Metz etc) making add-ons for our cameras
  • and that growth in the m43 share of the market does all of us good

Just my two cents.

Peace out.

Will

 William Porter's gear list:William Porter's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Olympus E-M1 Panasonic Lumix G 14mm F2.5 ASPH Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm 1:4-5.6 R Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm 1:1.8 +7 more
Olympus E-M1 Olympus OM-D E-M10 Sony Alpha DSLR-A850
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