A few thoughts about Olympus vs Panasonic for wedding photography

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A few thoughts about Olympus vs Panasonic for wedding photography
4 months ago

I decided to share my experience as a professional wedding photographer using the micro 4/3 system.

I transitioned from Nikon D3 + D3s and a full lens and flash system with all bells and whistles to shooting entirely with Olympus micro 4/3. For the last 7-8 months I was shooting weddings and a lot of other commercial photography genres with 2x Olympus OM-D E-M1 with battery grips and one Pen mini 2 (E-PM2). I was switching between using only 12-40 f2.8 and 35-100 on the OM-Ds and 12mm f2, 25mm f1.4, 45mm f1.8 for the dark churches. Usually with the 45mm f1.8 I was struggling during the reception where it gets quite dark so I bypass the problem using only the 12-40 and PL25mm f1.4 - they are quite fast and reliable in the dark. The 45mm is useable in the church because people are mostly still. Moving people in dim light are a big problem for the 45 and also the 75mm f1.8.

Then I decided to go forth in making my dream to shoot weddings with three Pens come true. I bought another E-PM2 and an E-PL5 with a VF-4 viewfinder. It was great - no surprises there.

Last week I decided to go test the PL 42.5mm f1.2 Nocticron. I had heard that it focuses faster and saw a video of it blazing through a scene. Since I find no difference between the OM-D and the Pens in AF speed I jut took my E-PL5 (after all I was planning on using only pens and perhaps keep one OM-D for a few occasions). The Nocticron appeared to be a tad slower than the m.Zuiko 45mm f1.8 and this was very disappointing. Then I tested both lenses on a Panasonic GX7 and I was stunned with the explosive AF speed. It was like these were completely different lenses. The same happened with the m.Zuiko 75mm f1.8. These lenses actually became seriously useable in the dark!!!

I bought the GX7 and the Nocticron. A few days ago I shot a wedding in difficult lighting conditions and compared the Panasonic against a Canon 5D mk III with 85mm f1.8. We had a Canon 85 f1.2 too but it had no chance in that competition. The Panasonic and 42.5mm f1.2 was faster and more secure when focusing than the Canon! Slightly more, but still this is shocking for me. I was able to focus on running children in a way that I wouldn't feel sure with my Nikon D3s and Nikkor 85mm f1.4.

Similar things happened with the 12-40 f2.8. From a fairly quick lens in the dark it became even faster.

The way I see things now when I have more experience with both brands is:

1. Panasonic's AF is so much faster than Olympus' that it isn't even fair!

2. Shooting in difficult lighting conditions with the Panasonic and the long primes is a pure joy compared to the struggles I have with Oly

3. Panasonic's track pad AF (adjusting the focus point by dragging your finger through the screen while you're looking through the viewfinder) is so far the most comfortable way to move the AF point that I've seen so far.

4. Panasonic's silent mode with electronic shutter is a wonderful feature in scenes with little movement (I know about the issue with movement!)

5. Panasonic's video options simply rock

6. Panasonic's WiFi implementation is WAY better than Oly - the camera remains useable!!!, there is self timer, burst mode, bracketing mode - all missing in my E-M1s

7. The GX7 is nearly as comfortable to hold as the E-M1

8. The bounce flash ability of the "integrated evil" in the GX7 is quite cool!

And this is all that I can say about Panasonic GX7 that's good compared to any Oly that I have used.

7. Olympus OM-D E-M1 is a far better built camera in every way. It's tighter, it's solid and has a metal body, it has many times better durability - shock/freeze/dust/splash proof. All controls feel great and are simple to find. The Panasonic feels cheap with it's plastics. The EVF is small and has a rainbow effect, even the battery door wobbles!

8. The Olympus cameras are set up by photographers and not only engineers! I mean:

- Olympus's menu system is many times better organized.

- when you shoot, if you don't release the half-pressed shutter button and keep shooting, the recorded image review doesn't show on any Oly. It waits for you to release the button completely before showing you the last image. The GX7 forces you either to keep pumping the button constantly when taking multiple shots in order to see what you are shooting or disable the image review. This, compared to the Oly is simply lame.

- the GX7 (perhaps other Panasonics too) doesn't indicate blown highlights or black shadows before shooting. When you enable this function you only see it during image review where it blinks so fast that it becomes distracting. If you don't want it to blink, on the Oly you just switch the display mode to another full-sized view. The Pana forces you to disable the function altogether.

- the Olys allow you to set a minimal shutter speed when using auto ISO. The Pana doesn't. Instead it holds a SS equal or slightly higher than the 35mm equivalent focal length of the lens. Shooting with the 35-100 @ 100mm results in 1/200" which is relatively acceptable. Guess what happens when you put on the 25mm lens Who on Earth shoots dynamic social gatherings at 1/50"?! - the engineers, of course! Even the small E-PM2 does all that as good as the E-M1. When I shoot on A mode, I use auto ISO on Olympus and it's such a relief not to have to check the ISO and just concentrate on framing, focusing, nailing the right moment, adjusting the light direction and not killing a child that hangs around your feet. Panasonic - I need my shutter speed setting back. Please release a new firmware with it included!

- the GX7 doesn't have a Flash exposure compensation function unlike the Olys. I have a Metz 58 AF-2 which is also designed only by engineers who apparently don't shoot with their hardware. It's so slow to add a flash EV compensation that I usually do it in camera on my Olys.

- I mentioned that the camera controls are distinctive and are NOT flush with the body unlike the GX7 where I struggle to distinguish some buttons.

- The Oly allows you to customize it far more conveniently than the Pana - whether it's the mode dial or the other dials or buttons.

I could go on but I believe that only 10% of those who started reading me are still here.

Where am I going with this? - It is becoming obvious that micro 4/3 is a system that's ever more capable to handle the intensity of a wedding. Sadly only Panasonic seems up to a dSLR level of AF in the dark and Oly is a few steps behind in this aspect. I also think that this is intentional and is only a matter of firmware settings - this keeps both brands worth while but for completely different sets of pros and cons.

I'm in doubt now.

- Should I sell the Olys and get two more GX7s (I like to shoot with two or three prime lenses) so I get the blistering autofocus and bear with ALL the shortcomings of the Pana?

- Should I keep two cute pens and shoot with them and the GX7 - the Pens with the 12mm and 25mm and the Pana with the 42.5mm or the 75mm?

- Should I have two GX7s and a E-PL5 to keep also for tourism?

I welcome you to share your experience and thoughts.

 Bots_Revenge's gear list:Bots_Revenge's gear list
Olympus PEN E-PL5 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 Panasonic Leica Summilux DG 25mm F1.4 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm 1:1.8 Panasonic Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH OIS +5 more
Canon EOS 5D Nikon D3 Nikon D3S Olympus E-M1 Olympus PEN E-PL5 Olympus PEN E-PM2 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7
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