Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?

Started Nov 30, 2013 | Questions
Jon Ingram
Regular MemberPosts: 123Gear list
Like?
Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
Nov 30, 2013

I come from using full frame and APS/C style sensors. However, I'm considering going even lighter for some mountaineering/traveling I'll be doing next year. The 4/3 format is interesting to me, not just for the smaller size of the camera but the incredible selection of light lenses.

Since I know almost nothing about M 4/3 cameras, I'm hoping users can fill me in on which camera has the reputation for best image quality, especially dynamic range at low ISO's, and low noise at high ISO's. Basically what I'm getting at is which camera has the best sensor? JPEG color rendition is less important to me as I only shoot raw and process everything in lightroom myself. Size and weight are considerations, but less important to me than absolute best image quality. All advice much welcome. Thanks!

-Jon

ANSWER:
Rod Baakkonen
Regular MemberPosts: 355Gear list
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to Jon Ingram, Dec 1, 2013

I have a Panasonic GH3 and am very happy with it. I usually have the old 14-140 Panasonic lens mounted. But I also have a 100-300 for birding.

It can take usable pictures at ISO 3200, although I use Topaz Denoise on most of those images. It has great battery life, electronic shutter, an articulating LCD and a lot of programmable buttons. The autofocus is very good in my opinion.

The downside is that it is slightly larger than some of the m4/3 offerings.  I had the GH1 and GH2 prior to my current camera. I can't really think of anything that I would want to do that can't be done with the GH3.

Olympus has some good m 4/3 cameras. There is quite a bit of debate in the m 4/3 forum about whether Panasonic or Olympus has the best m 4/3.  But I'm quite happy with the GH3.

-- hide signature --

Rod

 Rod Baakkonen's gear list:Rod Baakkonen's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F4-5.6 OIS Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-140mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH. / Power O.I.S Adobe Photoshop CS6 Adobe Camera Raw 7 +1 more
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
SLOtographer
Veteran MemberPosts: 3,913Gear list
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to Jon Ingram, Dec 1, 2013

Mountaineering and travel may require weather sealing. If that's the case for you, then the Olympus EM1 plus the 12-40 appears to be the most rugged combo.  That's likely your best bet.  The Panasonic GH3 and the f2.8 zooms are also weather resistant.

Files are good on these newer bodies. They print well and take a decent amount of post processing.  M43 small, bright primes are a revelation. They are tiny, yet perform exceptionally well. The deeper DOF is also handy with m43 (double the f-stop to get equivalent DOF).

If you do long exposures the live bulb feature on Oly bodies is amazing.  Open the shutter, wait for the image to look good on the LCD (with histogram), close shutter. Done.  Almost like you're cheating.

-- hide signature --

SLOtographer
"If we limit our vision to the real world, we will forever be fighting on the minus side of things, working only too make our photographs equal to what we see out there, but no better." -- Galen Rowell

 SLOtographer's gear list:SLOtographer's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Canon EOS 5D Mark III
selected answer This post was selected as the answer by the original poster.
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Jon Ingram
Regular MemberPosts: 123Gear list
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to SLOtographer, Dec 1, 2013

SLOtographer wrote:

Mountaineering and travel may require weather sealing. If that's the case for you, then the Olympus EM1 plus the 12-40 appears to be the most rugged combo. That's likely your best bet. The Panasonic GH3 and the f2.8 zooms are also weather resistant.

Files are good on these newer bodies. They print well and take a decent amount of post processing. M43 small, bright primes are a revelation. They are tiny, yet perform exceptionally well. The deeper DOF is also handy with m43 (double the f-stop to get equivalent DOF).

If you do long exposures the live bulb feature on Oly bodies is amazing. Open the shutter, wait for the image to look good on the LCD (with histogram), close shutter. Done. Almost like you're cheating.

-- hide signature --

SLOtographer
"If we limit our vision to the real world, we will forever be fighting on the minus side of things, working only too make our photographs equal to what we see out there, but no better." -- Galen Rowell

Wow, that bulb feature sounds amazing! I think you are right about needing the weather sealing. Thanks for your input!

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
grcolts
Senior MemberPosts: 1,985Gear list
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to Jon Ingram, Dec 1, 2013

Jon Ingram wrote:

SLOtographer wrote:

Mountaineering and travel may require weather sealing. If that's the case for you, then the Olympus EM1 plus the 12-40 appears to be the most rugged combo. That's likely your best bet. The Panasonic GH3 and the f2.8 zooms are also weather resistant.

Files are good on these newer bodies. They print well and take a decent amount of post processing. M43 small, bright primes are a revelation. They are tiny, yet perform exceptionally well. The deeper DOF is also handy with m43 (double the f-stop to get equivalent DOF).

If you do long exposures the live bulb feature on Oly bodies is amazing. Open the shutter, wait for the image to look good on the LCD (with histogram), close shutter. Done. Almost like you're cheating.

-- hide signature --

SLOtographer
"If we limit our vision to the real world, we will forever be fighting on the minus side of things, working only too make our photographs equal to what we see out there, but no better." -- Galen Rowell

Wow, that bulb feature sounds amazing! I think you are right about needing the weather sealing. Thanks for your input!

Another angle is to purchase the cheapest m4/3rds and consider it a throw-a-way if you damage it.

If you are considering weather resistance you might want to look at Pentax...they offer more WR bodies and lens than anyone else. I have used them for years and they have been very dependable.

GR

-- hide signature --

grcolts
http://g_richardsphotography.fototime.com/welcome
http://www.blurb.com/user/store/grcolts

 grcolts's gear list:grcolts's gear list
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Canon EOS M Pentax K-50
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Big Ga
Forum ProPosts: 16,739
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to Jon Ingram, Dec 1, 2013

Jon Ingram wrote:

I come from using full frame and APS/C style sensors. However, I'm considering going even lighter for some mountaineering/traveling I'll be doing next year. The 4/3 format is interesting to me, not just for the smaller size of the camera but the incredible selection of light lenses.

Since I know almost nothing about M 4/3 cameras, I'm hoping users can fill me in on which camera has the reputation for best image quality, especially dynamic range at low ISO's, and low noise at high ISO's. Basically what I'm getting at is which camera has the best sensor? JPEG color rendition is less important to me as I only shoot raw and process everything in lightroom myself. Size and weight are considerations, but less important to me than absolute best image quality. All advice much welcome. Thanks!

The best sensors are currently the 16MP sony ones, found on all Olympus 16MP bodies and the Panasonic GH3

Very (very!) close behind that seems to be the panasonic GX7 and GM1 with new 16MP panny sensors (don't have one of these yet, but I tend to trust DXO)

And pretty close behind those two are the slightly older 16MP sensors in the GH2/G5/G6

Frankly, all of the above are much of a muchness at base ISO. The important thing is that all of them are fairly immune to banding in the shadows and colour blotching. The GH2/G5/G6 will be a little worse at higher ISO levels though than the newer sensors (but still not bad)

The panny G3 and GX1 used a different 16MP sensor. Its ok, but there are other issues with those cameras that might mean its best to leave them unless you know the ins and outs.

What you want to avoid is any of the older cameras with the 12 or 14MP sensors. I'm not saying they are unusable, just that decent leaps in technology were made with the newer 16MP ones.

As to which body to get - well that might depend on what lenses you want to use. I know they are supposed to be one lovely system, but often there are advantages to using Oly lenses on Oly bodies, and panny lenses on panny bodies. Make a lens wish list up first!

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Reilly Diefenbach
Senior MemberPosts: 8,398Gear list
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to Jon Ingram, Dec 1, 2013

Jon Ingram wrote:

I come from using full frame and APS/C style sensors. However, I'm considering going even lighter for some mountaineering/traveling I'll be doing next year. The 4/3 format is interesting to me, not just for the smaller size of the camera but the incredible selection of light lenses.

Since I know almost nothing about M 4/3 cameras, I'm hoping users can fill me in on which camera has the reputation for best image quality, especially dynamic range at low ISO's, and low noise at high ISO's. Basically what I'm getting at is which camera has the best sensor? JPEG color rendition is less important to me as I only shoot raw and process everything in lightroom myself. Size and weight are considerations, but less important to me than absolute best image quality. All advice much welcome. Thanks!

-Jon

I can't see going mft at EM1 plus 12-40 at 2 lbs and $2400 when the D5300 and 18-55 comes in at 1 1/2 lbs and simply annihilates any mft for landscape at $999.  If as you say absolute image quality is the goal.

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Big Ga
Forum ProPosts: 16,739
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to Reilly Diefenbach, Dec 1, 2013

Reilly Diefenbach wrote:

I can't see going mft at EM1 plus 12-40 at 2 lbs and $2400 when the D5300 and 18-55 comes in at 1 1/2 lbs and simply annihilates any mft for landscape at $999. If as you say absolute image quality is the goal.

Care to define 'annihilates' ?

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Reilly Diefenbach
Senior MemberPosts: 8,398Gear list
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to Big Ga, Dec 1, 2013

Sure.  Much better detail, way fewer crunchy artifacts, much better blacks.  I'm just not impressed by mft at all for landscape.  Small and light, beautiful cameras, but short on delivering the goods compared to a 24MP APSC, imo.  The D5300 is within hailing distance of a D800e for a lot of uses.

Cameralabs sample D5300 with 18-55 kit lens

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Big Ga
Forum ProPosts: 16,739
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to Reilly Diefenbach, Dec 1, 2013

Reilly Diefenbach wrote:

Sure. Much better detail, way fewer crunchy artifacts, much better blacks. I'm just not impressed by mft at all for landscape. Small and light, beautiful cameras, but short on delivering the goods compared to a 24MP APSC, imo. The D5300 is within hailing distance of a D800e for a lot of uses.

Hmmm. Interesting that you linked to that DPR compare page. I just looked at it and the D5300 image looks the worst one there to me. I scrolled up a bit to see the test pattern and while the Oly did have quite nasty moire (which wouldn't be so much, if at all, of a problem with landscapes), its the D5300 image that's got quite noticeable nasty artifacting. Its not even cleaner in the blacks.

???

And the 18-55 nikon v the 12-40 Oly pro lens ???? I know which one will annihilate the other in that fight, and the Nikon isn't going to come out the winner!!!

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Reilly Diefenbach
Senior MemberPosts: 8,398Gear list
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to Big Ga, Dec 1, 2013

Big Ga wrote:

Reilly Diefenbach wrote:

Sure. Much better detail, way fewer crunchy artifacts, much better blacks. I'm just not impressed by mft at all for landscape. Small and light, beautiful cameras, but short on delivering the goods compared to a 24MP APSC, imo. The D5300 is within hailing distance of a D800e for a lot of uses.

Hmmm. Interesting that you linked to that DPR compare page. I just looked at it and the D5300 image looks the worst one there to me. I scrolled up a bit to see the test pattern and while the Oly did have quite nasty moire (which wouldn't be so much, if at all, of a problem with landscapes), its the D5300 image that's got quite noticeable nasty artifacting. Its not even cleaner in the blacks.

???

Yes, actually it's way better than the 5DIII (no news there) and about as solid as the D800.

And the 18-55 nikon v the 12-40 Oly pro lens ???? I know which one will annihilate the other in that fight, and the Nikon isn't going to come out the winner!!!

Sure it is.  For landscape, the only thing that matters is the pixel count, as you're always at f8 or smaller where any pretty much any lens is outresolving the sensor through most of the frame. The sides of the above are soft, since it was shot at f4 (!)  There is no substitute for lots more pixels and a bigger sensor.

Feel free to put up a full size mft jpg which comes close.  So far, I haven't seen one, and I've had a good long look at the raws, too.

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
calson
Veteran MemberPosts: 5,497
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to Jon Ingram, Dec 1, 2013

The 4/3 cameras have a sensor that is half the size of a full size sensor and that contributes greatly to their very good performance at high ISO settings. I bought my wife a Pen camera and it is as good at ISO 1600 as most APS-C cameras.

The Olympus have a nice selection of zooms available and the camera with the flash and a battery and the 14-42mm (full frame 28-84mm) weighs a total of 17 ounces. That is less than many of my DSLR lenses alone.

The Pen also has excellent RAW capture performance and excellent video and the video is a push one button to start procedure. The Pen flash can also be used to trigger an off camera Olympus or Metz flash much like Nikon's iTTL and Canon's eTTL.

The primary drawback with all these cameras is that they need to be held away from the body to view and shot. Camera shake is more of a problem and with focal lengths longer than 42mm the in-camera optical stabization is worthless. Fast shutter speeds are needed to compensate.

My wife has enjoyed the Olympus so much that we gave hers to a nephew and bought her a new Pen E-PL5 earlier in the year. It is compact enough and light enough that she takes it everywhere.

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Big Ga
Forum ProPosts: 16,739
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to calson, Dec 1, 2013

calson wrote:

The 4/3 cameras have a sensor that is half the size of a full size sensor and that contributes greatly to their very good performance at high ISO settings. I bought my wife a Pen camera and it is as good at ISO 1600 as most APS-C cameras.

The Olympus have a nice selection of zooms available and the camera with the flash and a battery and the 14-42mm (full frame 28-84mm) weighs a total of 17 ounces. That is less than many of my DSLR lenses alone.

The Pen also has excellent RAW capture performance and excellent video and the video is a push one button to start procedure. The Pen flash can also be used to trigger an off camera Olympus or Metz flash much like Nikon's iTTL and Canon's eTTL.

The primary drawback with all these cameras is that they need to be held away from the body to view and shot.

You seem to be lumping all the M4/3 cameras in together. This is a mistake. Most of the panasonic range have had built in viewfinders. You don't have to do the zombie stance with them!

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Big Ga
Forum ProPosts: 16,739
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to Reilly Diefenbach, Dec 1, 2013

Reilly Diefenbach wrote:

Big Ga wrote:

Reilly Diefenbach wrote:

Sure. Much better detail, way fewer crunchy artifacts, much better blacks. I'm just not impressed by mft at all for landscape. Small and light, beautiful cameras, but short on delivering the goods compared to a 24MP APSC, imo. The D5300 is within hailing distance of a D800e for a lot of uses.

Hmmm. Interesting that you linked to that DPR compare page. I just looked at it and the D5300 image looks the worst one there to me. I scrolled up a bit to see the test pattern and while the Oly did have quite nasty moire (which wouldn't be so much, if at all, of a problem with landscapes), its the D5300 image that's got quite noticeable nasty artifacting. Its not even cleaner in the blacks.

???

Yes, actually it's way better than the 5DIII (no news there) and about as solid as the D800.

I don't know what you're looking at, but take a closer look at the comparison chart you linked to. I can't understand how on earth you're seeing the D5300 as being good. The image has a certain softness. Its not rendering the lines with the contrast the other cameras are, and the artifacting is so bad, I'm tempted to say something is wrong with raw demosaicing algorithm used, its really terrible. Can't anyone else see that ???

And the 18-55 nikon v the 12-40 Oly pro lens ???? I know which one will annihilate the other in that fight, and the Nikon isn't going to come out the winner!!!

Sure it is. For landscape, the only thing that matters is the pixel count, as you're always at f8 or smaller where any pretty much any lens is outresolving the sensor through most of the frame. The sides of the above are soft, since it was shot at f4 (!) There is no substitute for lots more pixels and a bigger sensor.

You're just wrong here. Pixel count matters, but its not 'the only thing that matters'. A crappy lens on a 24MP sensor is not by default going to give more detail than an excellent lens on a 16MP sensor. Even at f8, some lenses are never going to fully deliver over the whole of the frame, and I'm afraid the 18-55 is one of them. Its actually pretty good in the middle, but its never going to win any prizes against a vastly more expensive lens like the 12-40 olympus at the edges or corners. Your posted image is a classic example, and its not just that its at f4, those corners will NEVER get to the excellent centre resolution.

As a matter of interest, I popped over to DXO and lo and behold, they have tested these two lenses. The 12-40 oly on a 16MP EM1, and the 18-55 on a 24MP D7100. One can argue over the merit of DXOs perceptual megapixel rating, but its interesting to note that they give the 24MP Nikon combo an 8MP score, yet the lowly 16MP fourthirds setup actually gets 9MP.

I wonder how that can be eh?

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
PSCL1
Senior MemberPosts: 2,307Gear list
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to Big Ga, Dec 2, 2013

To the OP:  With respect, you are going to continue to get sincere responses all over the map to your question, which is much too general.  I would suggest you RANK ORDER the following factors, acc/to how important YOU find them to be.   This would organize your decision process, even if it may not simplify it.   Fortunately, there are not too many bad m43 choices!

(1) Size  (2) Price  (3) EVF (attachable or build in vs. none)  (4) Low light capability  (5) Lens range: many Panasonic and high speed zooms are as big and heavy as DSLR lenses  (6) Weatherproofing  (7) Ergonomics for your hand size or wearing gloves.  Picture quality?  It's all surprisingly good.

 PSCL1's gear list:PSCL1's gear list
Leica X1 Nikon D80 Olympus PEN E-PL1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 Sony Alpha NEX-3N +27 more
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Steve Bingham
Forum ProPosts: 20,995Gear list
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to PSCL1, Dec 3, 2013

I would strongly suggest the Olympus OM-D E-M1 (Olympus E-M1) or the Fuji X-E2.

The Olympus is easier to learn and more fun for many. It is a great choice. The Fuji has a couple things going for it - like resolution, color, and DR. It uses a new technology called Lens Modulation Optimizer technology which minimizes the effect of diffraction - allowing you to get superb resolution even at f11 and f16. It also uses a unique Bayer pattern on its sensor that allows it to use no anti-aliasing filter on the front. Net results: 16 mp resolution equal to other camera's 24 mp.

http://www.fujifilmusa.com/products/digital_cameras/x/fujifilm_x_e2/

The Fuji is APS-C size but the camera is light weight at .75 pounds. You need to research both cameras to see which one fits your needs.

-- hide signature --

Steve Bingham
www.dustylens.com
www.ghost-town-photography.com

 Steve Bingham's gear list:Steve Bingham's gear list
Nikon D300 Nikon D7100 Nikon D610 Nikon D5300 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR +21 more
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
bosjohn
Veteran MemberPosts: 4,890
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to grcolts, Dec 3, 2013

I must be getting old cus we almost never talked about weather sealing in the bad old days we would just get an oil change for the Leica screw mount and go up everest. I guess the electronics of modern cameras are more sensitive to moisture.

If your well heeled you might consider an M leica and a couple two three lenses which will be a very manageable kit with world class lenses and a full frame in a package about the size of the panasonic g1/ The newest iteration the m 240 will allow you to use zooms and do close up to your hearts content. small package and big sensor is also available from Sony.

-- hide signature --

bosjohn aka John Shick bosjohn@yahoo.com

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Ontario Gone
Senior MemberPosts: 4,056Gear list
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to Big Ga, Dec 4, 2013

Big Ga wrote:

Reilly Diefenbach wrote:

Sure it is. For landscape, the only thing that matters is the pixel count, as you're always at f8 or smaller where any pretty much any lens is outresolving the sensor through most of the frame. The sides of the above are soft, since it was shot at f4 (!) There is no substitute for lots more pixels and a bigger sensor.

You're just wrong here. Pixel count matters, but its not 'the only thing that matters'. A crappy lens on a 24MP sensor is not by default going to give more detail than an excellent lens on a 16MP sensor. Even at f8, some lenses are never going to fully deliver over the whole of the frame, and I'm afraid the 18-55 is one of them. Its actually pretty good in the middle, but its never going to win any prizes against a vastly more expensive lens like the 12-40 olympus at the edges or corners. Your posted image is a classic example, and its not just that its at f4, those corners will NEVER get to the excellent centre resolution.

As a matter of interest, I popped over to DXO and lo and behold, they have tested these two lenses. The 12-40 oly on a 16MP EM1, and the 18-55 on a 24MP D7100. One can argue over the merit of DXOs perceptual megapixel rating, but its interesting to note that they give the 24MP Nikon combo an 8MP score, yet the lowly 16MP fourthirds setup actually gets 9MP.

I wonder how that can be eh?

Owned, ouch!

 Ontario Gone's gear list:Ontario Gone's gear list
Nikon D7000 Canon EOS 70D Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Oleg Vinokurov
Regular MemberPosts: 211
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to Reilly Diefenbach, Dec 4, 2013

Reilly Diefenbach wrote:

Jon Ingram wrote:

I come from using full frame and APS/C style sensors. However, I'm considering going even lighter for some mountaineering/traveling I'll be doing next year. The 4/3 format is interesting to me, not just for the smaller size of the camera but the incredible selection of light lenses.

Since I know almost nothing about M 4/3 cameras, I'm hoping users can fill me in on which camera has the reputation for best image quality, especially dynamic range at low ISO's, and low noise at high ISO's. Basically what I'm getting at is which camera has the best sensor? JPEG color rendition is less important to me as I only shoot raw and process everything in lightroom myself. Size and weight are considerations, but less important to me than absolute best image quality. All advice much welcome. Thanks!

-Jon

I can't see going mft at EM1 plus 12-40 at 2 lbs and $2400 when the D5300 and 18-55 comes in at 1 1/2 lbs and simply annihilates any mft for landscape at $999. If as you say absolute image quality is the goal.

Really doubt this, 12-40mm performs as well on e-p5 as Nikkor 17-55mm on d7100. Term annihilates really doesn't fit in here.

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Oleg Vinokurov
Regular MemberPosts: 211
Like?
Re: Best Micro Four Thirds Camera?
In reply to Jon Ingram, Dec 4, 2013

You can start with used e-m5 it has basically same IQ as new e-m1. You will be missing some features of course, but price difference also rather big. Lens choice on the other hand is far from simple. Olympus uwa zoom is rather good and tiny, if you're in fisheye, there is simply excellent third party lens. Personally I like e-p5 combo with vf-4, physically size feels same as full frame viewfinder, yes, its that big.

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads