Suggestions for M4/3 camera

Started Aug 10, 2013 | Questions
Kaushik Ghose Junior Member • Posts: 38
Suggestions for M4/3 camera

Hi Everyone,

I'm thinking that my next camera will be a M4/3. I like to capture the fleeting expressions on peoples faces, often in low light. I don't use flash. I'm also taking pictures of kids.

My requirements are these:

  1. Should have decent performance at high ISO (I don't do enlargements, if they come out well on screen and 7x5 prints, I'm happy)
  2. Shutter/aperture/iso controls decently accessible
  3. Can take bursts of photos/has low shutter lag.
  4. Can do home movies (for memories, audio video don't have to be spectacular, enough to view on the computer at decent size)
  5. Is compact
  6. Low budget $400-$500

So far I've been happy with my D40, but it does not do movies, is bulky and the 3 AF points can be limiting (though I usually end up locking focus and panning)

So now I'm looking into M4/3 systems and have become overwhelmed. I did find the Panasonic Lumix DMC GX1 and I was wondering if you folks have some other suggestions/personal recommendations based on experience.

One thing that I don't look forward to is buying another prime lens. I am so delighted by the 35mm f/1.8. I think I always shoot with it full open, capturing expressions in low light. Are there such primes for M4/3 that don't cost too much?

Thanks so much!!

-Kaushik

 Kaushik Ghose's gear list:Kaushik Ghose's gear list
Nikon D40 Nikon D5100 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G II Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
ANSWER:
Nikon D40 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1
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Bob Meyer Veteran Member • Posts: 5,375
Re: Suggestions for M4/3 camera
2

Do you care whether it has an EVF, and if so whether it's built-in or removable?

Do you have a strong preference for DSLR style vs. rangefinder style?

What do you consider "high" ISO (800, 1600, 3200....)?

Do you shoot JPEGs, or process raw files?

At that price range, you're probably not looking at the latest generation, but at the image sizes you're talking about that's not as critical.  The GX1 is a decent choice at that price range, as is the somewhat larger (but better ergnomically) G5. Both are being superseded by newer models, and are dirt cheap right now. Both will provide similar image quality.

The Olympus Pen E-PL5 is also worth considering, although if you want an EVF it will push the cost above your budget. It has a newer, lower noise sensor design. How much difference that will make depends on what you consider "high" ISO.

The E-PM2 is smaller than the others mentioned, but you'll find the controls less convenient, I think.

Oly cameras are known for their more saturated jpeg output, which many (most?) people seem to like better. Jpeg output can be customized with the camera menus, though, so Panasonic jpegs come close if you set the camera up that way.

Oly's older cameras (the E-PM1, and an P or PL body prior to the "5" bodies), have a much older 12 MP sensor design that is noticeably inferior in term of noise.

So, if you frequently shoot above ISO1600, the Oly E-M2 or E-PL5 are probably  good choices. Up to 1600, I think the GX1 and G5 will do fine, and leave you more money for things like lenses. If you want a built-in EVF, the G5 is your choice, but it's not really pocketable unless your jacket has big pockets.

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Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F4 ASPH Panasonic 12-35mm F2.8 Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-140mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH. / Power O.I.S Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 +6 more
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Barry Stewart
Barry Stewart Veteran Member • Posts: 8,840
E-PL5 is my recommendation

E-PM2, if you can't quite fit the price of the E-PL5. The PL5 is about $100 more, with the tilting LCD the main (and very useful) extra feature.

Both have big capabilities and upgrade paths, through add-on flash and lenses.

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Barry

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Olympus C-5060 Wide Zoom Olympus E-1 Olympus PEN E-PL5 Olympus E-M1 Olympus E-M5 II +10 more
Alumna Gorp Senior Member • Posts: 1,531
Re: Suggestions for M4/3 camera

EPM2 or EPL5, there are way ahead of the current crop of Panasonic bodies.

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dougjgreen1 Veteran Member • Posts: 3,788
Re: Suggestions for M4/3 camera

Alumna Gorp wrote:

EPM2 or EPL5, there are way ahead of the current crop of Panasonic bodies.

I'd say that, ergonomically, the E-PM2 is way BEHIND any current Panasonic body other than the GF-series.

1 EV of added sensor performance doesn't make up for inferior shooting ergonomics.

I'd say that the OP has a decision to make, and that is whether or not IBIS and a better sensor is  more important than a good viewfinder and logical menu structure.  If the answer is yes, get an Olympus E-PL5.  If the answer is no, get a Panasonic G5

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Barry Stewart
Barry Stewart Veteran Member • Posts: 8,840
logical menu structure.

As long as the Super Control Panel is activated on the Oly µ4/3 cameras, all the important controls are right there on the screen. The ridiculous thing is that SCP isn't set at ON as a factory default, as it is on the Oly DSLRs.

I haven't seen a Panasonic menu, so can't attest to its simplicity. I don't see how it could be much clearer than the Oly SCP.

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Barry

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OP Kaushik Ghose Junior Member • Posts: 38
Re: Suggestions for M4/3 camera

Thanks for your answers Bob!

Do you care whether it has an EVF, and if so whether it's built-in or removable?

I'm fine with just an LCD so long as I can use it to frame in sunlight.

Do you have a strong preference for DSLR style vs. rangefinder style?

Hmm, this I have not considered. I've never used rangefinders. This refers to the means of focusing, is that correct? I think I'm Ok with the compact/DSLR style cameras.

What do you consider "high" ISO (800, 1600, 3200....)?

I would consider 3200,6400 etc high ISO. The D40 gives decent (by my standards) images at 1600.

Do you shoot JPEGs, or process raw files?

Jpeg.

At that price range, you're probably not looking at the latest generation, but at the image sizes you're talking about that's not as critical. The GX1 is a decent choice at that price range, as is the somewhat larger (but better ergnomically) G5. Both are being superseded by newer models, and are dirt cheap right now. Both will provide similar image quality.

Thanks. Yes, I'm likely to buy refurbished or older models. I'm fine with that if the specs meetup.

The Olympus Pen E-PL5 is also worth considering, although if you want an EVF it will push the cost above your budget. It has a newer, lower noise sensor design. How much difference that will make depends on what you consider "high" ISO.

Thanks. I will check out the Pen E-PL5. (For me if I can push the camera to 6400 and get decent images, I'll be delighted. But I guess I'll have to invest in a prime lens...

The E-PM2 is smaller than the others mentioned, but you'll find the controls less convenient, I think.

OK.

Oly cameras are known for their more saturated jpeg output, which many (most?) people seem to like better. Jpeg output can be customized with the camera menus, though, so Panasonic jpegs come close if you set the camera up that way.

Ok.

Oly's older cameras (the E-PM1, and an P or PL body prior to the "5" bodies), have a much older 12 MP sensor design that is noticeably inferior in term of noise.

Good to know.

So, if you frequently shoot above ISO1600, the Oly E-M2 or E-PL5 are probably good choices. Up to 1600, I think the GX1 and G5 will do fine, and leave you more money for things like lenses. If you want a built-in EVF, the G5 is your choice, but it's not really pocketable unless your jacket has big pockets.

Thanks again for this very detailed run down!

best

-Kaushik

 Kaushik Ghose's gear list:Kaushik Ghose's gear list
Nikon D40 Nikon D5100 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G II Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
Ulric Veteran Member • Posts: 4,532
Re: E-PL5 is my recommendation

E-PM2, if you can't quite fit the price of the E-PL5. The PL5 is about $100 more, with the tilting LCD the main (and very useful) extra feature.

Both have big capabilities and upgrade paths, through add-on flash and lenses.

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Barry

I agree with this suggestion. Also note that at least in some countries, Olympus currently throw in a free 40-150 with the E-PL5 or E-PM2 kit.

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jcuknz Senior Member • Posts: 1,994
I found the Panasonic G3 very good at 6400 ISO

I was very happy with my Panasonic G3 until I gave it to my son on getting as GH2 They go with kit lens for less than $250 these days ... so it is not the latest ... I just want a good camera

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Rokinon 7.5mm F3.5 UMC Fisheye CS
jcuknz Senior Member • Posts: 1,994
Re: logical menu structure.

I have both Oly and Pany and after the Pany menus the Oly is incomprehensible

Admittedly it is an E-PL1 and later models may be better ...  BUT !

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OP Kaushik Ghose Junior Member • Posts: 38
Re: Suggestions for M4/3 camera

Thank you all for your suggestions!

 Kaushik Ghose's gear list:Kaushik Ghose's gear list
Nikon D40 Nikon D5100 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G II Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
OP Kaushik Ghose Junior Member • Posts: 38
Re: Suggestions for M4/3 camera

Folks, I'm leaning towards the E-PM2 and just waiting for the price to dip a bit more. But I worry about the menu as some have pointed out.

I have my D40 for "manual" shooting (I almost exclusively shoot in A mode, with auto ISO). This camera will be for kid pics and home movies.

How convenient is the touch screen? I can see myself watching on the LCD and then touching a spot to focus there and shoot simultaneously. Is that how things work? Is it workable? Is the aperture in 'A' mode convenient to adjust?

Thanks again for your detailed replies.

 Kaushik Ghose's gear list:Kaushik Ghose's gear list
Nikon D40 Nikon D5100 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G II Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
Ulric Veteran Member • Posts: 4,532
Re: Suggestions for M4/3 camera

Kaushik Ghose wrote:

Folks, I'm leaning towards the E-PM2 and just waiting for the price to dip a bit more. But I worry about the menu as some have pointed out.

Turn on the Super Control Panel and you will rarely need to touch the menu.

I have my D40 for "manual" shooting (I almost exclusively shoot in A mode, with auto ISO). This camera will be for kid pics and home movies.

How convenient is the touch screen? I can see myself watching on the LCD and then touching a spot to focus there and shoot simultaneously. Is that how things work? Is it workable? Is the aperture in 'A' mode convenient to adjust?

You point to shoot and it is very workable, although the "shutter lag" is greater than if you start from a half-pressed shutter. You adjust the aperture using the buttons on the back.

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Barry Stewart
Barry Stewart Veteran Member • Posts: 8,840
Re: Suggestions for M4/3 camera

Kaushik Ghose wrote:

Folks, I'm leaning towards the E-PM2 and just waiting for the price to dip a bit more. But I worry about the menu as some have pointed out.

If you activate the Super Control Panel, most of the important settings will be right on screen. You can scroll through them — or even better: touch the screen on the item you want to change and dial it in. My friend was amazed at this feature. It is cool.

I have my D40 for "manual" shooting (I almost exclusively shoot in A mode, with auto ISO). This camera will be for kid pics and home movies.

Hey, you can even do manual on an E-PM2 or PL5. If you buy one, I think you'll find the D40 gathering dust. Small is just so convenient — and you're not giving up much in performance... gaining in some areas. YMMV.

How convenient is the touch screen?

Very convenient for settings and selecting focus spots and off-center shooting. (No need to focus-recompose.) If your kids are standing to the left, with a big mountain in the center of the frame: touch where the kids are. In one mode, it will focus on the kids AND take the photo. In another mode, it will focus on the kids and wait for you to press the shutter.

There is a caveat on using the LCD for touch-shutter: there is a perceptible lag in shutter response. If timing is important, it's better to go with the shutter button, which is close to DSLR response. I talk about my testing here: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/51943079 .

8 frames per second can make up for shortfalls in other areas. The camera AF might not track your kid running around your yard — but if you can lock focus on a spot and say, "Jump over this ditch" (for example) 8 fps can give you a lot of fun, full-res sequences. Baseball swings and golf swings in the sand trap would be great (stationary) action settings for 8 fps.

I can see myself watching on the LCD and then touching a spot to focus there and shoot simultaneously. Is that how things work? Is it workable? Is the aperture in 'A' mode convenient to adjust?

Convenient would be a lens with the aperture ring on, as in film-style shooting. There are a few modern lenses like this around but not many. For me, on the E-PL5, setting the F-stop is okay for "set it and forget it" — but if you want to dial up and down between shots, you're asking too much in this price range. The OM-D, for example, has two dials. E-PL5 and PM2 only have the one dial and it has a lot of work to do.

There are ways to customize your buttons, though, so someone else may have a  way to easily dial your F-stops up and down. The E-PL5 has more buttons than the PM2 — that and the tilt screen could make it well worth your extra $100-ish, if you want more convenience and control.

I am considering a PM2 for my wife, who just wants a small and simple shooter for the grandkids and social settings.

Barry

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Olympus C-5060 Wide Zoom Olympus E-1 Olympus PEN E-PL5 Olympus E-M1 Olympus E-M5 II +10 more
OP Kaushik Ghose Junior Member • Posts: 38
Re: Suggestions for M4/3 camera

Thanks for the detailed replies guys! Another question that pops into my head: how good is the kit lens?

My standards of 'good' are not demanding.I find the d40 kit lens (The standard non stabilized 3.5-5.6 18-55mm) really good. I find the 35mm f1.8 Nikkor excellent.

Will the kit lens with the E-PL-5 be of similar quality as the D40 kit lens, or do I need to factor in glass (which I see is pretty expensive).

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Nikon D40 Nikon D5100 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G II Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
Charles Pike
Charles Pike Senior Member • Posts: 1,525
I liked the G3 so much I bought a second body.
1

I shoot a lot of street, and some ballet dress rehearsals using the G3.  The controls you say you want are right there and easy to reach.  The EVF is required if you shoot in bright sun and the G3 as well as the G5 and G6 each have one.  I like the G3 so much that I bought a second one.  I wanted the second body to be the same as my first one so changing cameras didn't require me to set them differently.  I just bought my oldest son a G5 because I could get it with a kit lens for less than $500, and he was using my old Nikon D200.  I looked at both the Olympus and Panasonic before I purchased a Panasonic GF1, as I liked the way it fit my hand the best.  I stayed with it because of the way it shot pictures.  The truth is that both Olympus and Panasonic make great cameras.  My thought was that if one of them were to go out of business I would still be able to use my lens on the remaining companies cameras.

no shutter lag here.

and no shutter lag here either.  That was one of the things that I had concerns about when I bought into the m 4/3 format.  I was happy with my GF1, but when the features of the G3 came out I jumped at getting one.  Buying a discontinued model is a way to save big.  I picked up my G3 second body from B&H for around $250.  I think those G3 are now all sold out, but the G5 is now being discontinued and is going through that same drop in pricing.  If you want one you need to move fast, as these sales don't last all that long.

www.photosbypike.com

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OP Kaushik Ghose Junior Member • Posts: 38
Re: Suggestions for M4/3 camera

Hi Folks,

Thank you so much for your input, but I have to fess up: I betrayed all you 4/3rd people.

I did a lot of reading of reviews and forum opinions and I bounced around, considering the Olys, the Panasonics and then the NEX F3 and N3, but this weekend I went to a social function and shot with my D40, and I just could not see myself without the optical view finder. It's just a very ingrained habit for me to see something and raise the camera to my eye.

I had lusted after the D5100 ever since it came out primarily for the high ISO and also wehn it came out for the video. In comparison to current cameras the video is average, from what I understand, but good enough. Yesterday, when I saw a factory refurb on sale for $360, I just bought it. So that blows my camera budget for the next couple of years.

In any case, this will be my upgrade to the D40 with the only two things more I wanted from it: higher ISO and video.

I still find the m4/3 format very intriguing and I will probably buy into the next generation in a few years time!

Thanks again for taking the time to advise me.

Best

-Kaushik

 Kaushik Ghose's gear list:Kaushik Ghose's gear list
Nikon D40 Nikon D5100 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G II Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
Mahmoud Mousef Senior Member • Posts: 2,604
Re: Suggestions for M4/3 camera
1

Kaushik Ghose wrote: I did find the Panasonic Lumix DMC GX1 and I was wondering if you folks have some other suggestions/personal recommendations based on experience.

Panasonic DMC-G3 is still selling at B&H, much to my surprise. It was 'discontinued' for some weeks before this.

* articulating touch screen

* viewfinder

* proper buttons up back to control all relevant things without the touch screen

Also consider the $50 more expensive DMC-G5 ($399). Same with more. Worth it.

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