Are online reviews really helpful for the non-pro target audience? i.e. OM-D E-M10 or a6000?

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MV Atlanta
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Are online reviews really helpful for the non-pro target audience? i.e. OM-D E-M10 or a6000?
7 months ago

I am fairly surprised and somewhat disappointed by the E-M10 reviews. Good reviews have to be contextual and please advise if I am missing something here because I am quickly starting to regret the E-M10 purchase.

First, the context: 95% of lower-end SLR buyers get it for family and children portraits (no landscapes, or professional sporting events, or macros – National Geographic and Sports Illustrated photographers do great job in these areas). Also, majority of lower-end SLR buyers never buy a second lens beyond what comes in a kit; tiny subset gets a second lens, usually a mid-range prime to better capture the kids. Unfortunately, the reality for the online reviews and forums seems to be dominated by those who enjoy 1) close-up pictures of the camera bodies more than the pictures themselves, 2) unboxing videos (the weirdest thing in the World), 3) or manufacturer provided specs. (naturally, this is an over-generalization and expertise of many online is truly invaluable and appreciated for peer-to-peer learning).

Here is little more context: unlike professional photographers, majority of the lower-end SLR buyers do not process RAWs in Lightroom; they use JPEGs instead to quickly upload to Facebook. I tried RAWs at some point with pleasing results before realizing the effect it had on other life priorities (i.e. my daytime job and my time with family and kids).

So, here are the first impressions of the Olympus O-MD E-M10 ownership as compared to my previous and current experiences with Nikon D40 and D300, Sony RX100, Sony a6000:

  1. Majority of the wonderful sample images in online reviews seem to be RAW based. Default JPEG noise is unacceptable above ISO800 for portraits. Both my 5 year old D300 and a6000 have much lower noise and significantly better dynamic range. Again, with lots of tinkering one can get OK images but in the context of a family person chasing kids and then quickly uploading/sharing, the images are terrible with JPEG.
  2. Still trying to find that phantom “large selection of m4/3 lenses”. There are very few midrange primes and they all cost much more than what Sony, Canon or Nikon offer. I can get ~50mm fast prime in $100-$300 range (even Sony’s 50mm is only $300). Olympus 45mm 1.8 is $400 while comparable in quality but effectively slower when adjusted for the sensor size. Why? Again, this is in the context of majority of lower-end SLR buyers who do not take wide-angle landscapes or uses fast zooms for sports.
  3. I also tested $1,000 12-40mm 2.8 and, while marginally better than the kit, the size and price difference did not justify the switch. Again, the context: peripheral sharpness is not as important for pictures of kids as it is for other types of photography and I only paid attention to the difference in center sharpness between the two lenses.
  4. Controls and ergonomics are so much more superior on the Sony A6000:
  • First of all, Sony is effectively much smaller when factoring in the protruding viewfinder and longer lens on the Olympus. The“slide in your pocket” is very much literal for Sony while it does not go beyond the advertising slogan for Olympus in practical sense. Yes, the Olympus seems better built but the all the protrusions make it much more likely to get damaged by clipping something.
  • I can comfortably hold Sony in one hand to take pictures and it fits nicely. Olympus has an imitation grip and it is absolutely impossible to hold it in one hand (do not matter how small your hands are). It makes a day and night difference when you try to hanging around with others to only occasionally grab the camera, quickly get in a position and capture a moment.
  • Both my wife and I found the menu system very intuitive on Sony but frustrating on Olympus. Yes, E-M10 may have more customization options but, again in the context, majority of people use very basic controls most of the time (ISO, Shutter, Exposure, Aperture, Flash) and Sony works much faster and better in this regard. Someone pointed out in their online review: “Olympus, please higher a menu designer”.
  • Every review complains about the focusing point change on Sony but, in my 10 + years of using SLRs, I cannot remember having a need to do that. Again, in the context, pictures of slow moving kids always in the center of the frame as opposed to some other types of photography.
  • I loved the flash on RX100 and love it on a6000: the ability to tilt it back and diffuse off a ceiling is priceless. Why is it so difficult for others to implement this simple feature? Yes, there are many different diffusers and flash systems but consider the target buyers of low end SLRs looking for portability. Really, do not get it!
  • f. One of the reasons of going with E-M10 was the touch screen but, in practice, I found it did not get used much. Menu is tiny and the only use for the touch feature is for focus point/capture and flipping through the images. Maybe the menu system needs to be redesigned accordingly to make it really useful but, right now, it is not a major added value.

I was just surprised that, after thoroughly synthesizing all the reviews, I did not see any of these considerations anywhere. Maybe there is a need for a site that does reviews for the 95% of each camera’s target audience in their contextual settings, or maybe I am confused about the 99%, or do not get the point of $700 SLR market or do not know how to use it?

Nikon D300 Nikon D40 Olympus E-M1 Olympus OM-D E-M10 Sony a6000 Sony RX100
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