The mirrorless landscape and all the hype lately

Thank you everyone for the correspondence!  All the emails I get from you all is amazing.  I really do love our conversations!  This has been a super busy season for me.  I’m hopefully back in the blog swing over the next couple weeks.  And I have been working super hard on so many things behind the scenes for you all…can’t wait for the releases.  I am really pushing for September sometime…but no promises…im like 90% there…

Anyways, there has been all this hype and frenzy on the net lately about cameras.  I thought I should give my opinion.  It just amuses at how much of the talk out there really makes no sense.  Especially when it comes from people who have not used any of this equipment yet.  It seems the 36mm sensor arena is heating up.  Canon and Nikon just released mirrorless cameras with 36mm aka “fullframe” sensors.  This was to spell the end of Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic, Sony, etc…  Then they get released and people have heart attacks because the Nikon is missing dual card slots and the canon crops the video at 1.7x!  LOL.  Really!?!?!

First let’s get something out of the way.  “Fullframe” is a ridiculous term.  It isn’t “full” of anything as opposed to being empty.  Please stop using it.  36mm sensors are just that.  36mm.  They are bigger than 23mm (APSC) and bigger than 17mm (m43) sensors.  They are also smaller than 44mm sensors and much smaller than 53mm sensors.  On the same coin, the term “micro 4/3” doesn’t make any sense either as the sensor is no smaller than any other 4/3 sensor made.  In fact the 53mm sensors in Phase backs are roughly “4/3” ratio too.  Maybe we can call those macro 4/3?

I had someone call me to get a quote on photographing some properties this summer.  Their first questions was “do you have full frame cameras?”  I knew right there this was not a client for me.  I played along for a moment.  It went something like this:

Them: Do you have full frame cameras?  We need to ensure your camera is full frame to shoot this project because we need the best.
Me: Full frame?  I have a variety of cameras including full frame, but I generally use whatever is appropriate for the job.  For this kind of architecture I often use a tech camera with a 49mm sensor.  That is larger than full frame.
Them: But is it fullframe?
Me:  Well, it is larger than full frame…so it technically shows more fine detail and offers better color transitions.
Them: What kind of camera is that?
Me: It is a Phase One Digital Back
Them: Is that one of Canon’s full frame models?
Me: No, it is a Phase One…They are a “professional” camera company and make higher end equipment.
Them: Well we don’t want that then, unless they make a full frame camera you can use.  We absolutely need the best fullframe camera because this project needs quality photos and you can only get that from a fullframe camera.  Also, I need to know that your tripod is the best, and your widest lens is the best.  Which ones are those?

At that point I went on to nicely tell them that I don’t think we are a good fit for this project.

I am not joking, this really happened.  In fact…I would normally not do this…but I was with a client went I took the call and I put it on speaker phone.  It was a client I was close with that I knew would understand and would get a kick out of hearing this.  They were actually more surprised at how friendly I could be about it!  Meanwhile I was shooting architectural images for them using my E-M1 mkII and they were LOVING the results.

Everyone is different in how they use a camera and what their needs are.  People shouldn’t assume one camera is not “pro” or not good, or missed the mark because it doesn’t have or does have X feature.  It is what it is once a camera is released.  It works for you, or it doesn’t.  It’s just a tool.  Maybe you want the shiny new to be something…but that is fantasy.  The reality is what images are you creating, and what helps you achieve that in the best way possible?  Is it always the latest and greatest just because?  Do you care about high ISO performance…when you are always on a tripod at base ISO?  Do you care about microphone inputs when you are a street photographer and always shooting handheld at high ISO at night?  Everyone is different.  It is nice to have one camera that does it all…I get it.  Especially when camera prices are quite high.  It just doesn’t always work that way though and there is nothing wrong with that.  I think people don’t focus on their needs.

I’ve seen a lot of people say that now there is no way Olympus and Panasonic can compete with M43 when “fullframe” camera options are in the same price point.  Well… why not?  How can the high end “full frame” cameras possibly compete when medium format cameras are in the same price point now?  Who would by a 1DX over a Fuji GFX?  Well… the person that needs that specific tool.  Same with M43.  I don’t think $2,000 is ridiculous for a high end M43 camera as long as it delivers in a meaningful way and is competitive.  And competitive means more than just the sensor size.

Here is a list of things I find useful to me about the top end M43 camera I use that makes it highly worth it to me, and more attractive than other cameras i’ve seen.

1. Fully customizable.  I know a lot of options turn people off…and I love simplicity too…but honestly i’ve gotten a better day to day working experience with the options.  I am able to really tailor my camera for different situations and have it exactly the way I want.

2.  Dual card slots.  I never shot with dual slots before the E-M1 mkII.  In fact usually I shoot tethered anyways with images going into the computer.  Having the extra backup in camera is a nice bonus.

3.  Specific options like setting focus styles and points that can be toggled with a button.

4.  The lens selection.  There are a LOT of lenses in the m43 system that I really love much better than their Canon or Nikon or Sony counterparts.  Namely the entire Oly Pro line and the Panasonic 8-18 and 42 Noct amongst others.  I love the lens function button and the manual focus clutch.  The 1.8 fisheye is also the best out there.  Hands down.  The 12-40, the 17 Pro, the 40-150 Pro…these lenses just make me enjoy every image I make.

5.  Size and weigh options.  I can take an E-M1 body with a couple small prices and have an amazing kit that sacrifices practically nothing in my use but fits in a fanny pack.  Or I can take the same camera with an L-Bracket and pro lenses and have a fully capable kit with the best lenses.  I have options.  Lenses for large systems are large…and the options are not always there to go smaller.  Canon’s new 28-70 F/2 seems awesome until you read how much it weighs and it takes a 95mm front filter…Not for me thank you.

Speaking of size and weight options…did anyone see the new Canon 600 F/4.  Examine it’s size and price tag.  Yup…i’ll stick with the Olympus 300 F/4.

6.  I love the added features and tech.  Live composite, live bulb, high res, focus stacking, etc…  I do actually use these.

7.  I like that Olympus has actually put in the little bits… a dedicated cable release plug, mic input, headphone jack, HDMI out, PC sync port, etc…  I do use my camera from multiple purposes, and having all of these allows me to use the camera the way I need to in different scenarios.  In a world of wireless everything…some of us still some times need to use a sync cable.  Not everyone, but I do.

I can go on and on.  Bottom line, it is the small things that add up.  Functionality as a whole allows me to work the way I like and make images easier, and in a more efficient way that I could with other cameras.  This to me makes it worth it.  All in a small body that has proven reliable, rugged, and with enough battery life to deal with a day to day commercial photography business.

I am glad that we have options like m43 and that Olympus and Panasonic have been committed to giving a pro level tool that actually performs.  At the end of the day it comes down to you and your use.  Not your fantasy about what kind of images you could be making or how they might be better.  Rent a system and live with it and see if it makes YOUR images better or allows you to work more efficiently.  That is my golden advice.  Or come shoot with me, lets have some fun and see how this system works for you.

Maybe if I were just vacationing I would be a lot more demanding…



6 responses on "The mirrorless landscape and all the hype lately"

  1. I can only think of one word for this article.


  2. Tony,
    This is such a great post. I am still in love with my E5 M2 for all the reasons you mentioned above (minus a couple things the E5 doesn’t have compared to the E-M1). I have yet to see anything recently released that is blowing my mind and wanting me to change all together. I mainly do long exposure landscapes and quality of the images are amazing. Virtually noiseless, great resolution and Im blowing these images up to 100cm x 75cm and selling them. The customers are very happy with the product so I guess thats one of the most important things. Keep up the good work with the blog!!

  3. Do you mean 35mm?

  4. “Fullframe” certainly is a ridiculous term, and is clearly used by camera companies to imply that anything smaller than 24x36mm is inadequate. This allows them to continue to push their current product line of lenses and cameras, still tied into the old 35mm/”miniature” film format.
    I agree with the idea of stating sensor size in mm, but how about using the diagonal? This would take into account the aspect of the frame (4:3, 3:2, 1:1). Hence so-called full frame would be “43mm”, MTF “22mm” etc.
    The term “crop camera” or “crop sensor” is also ridiculous. No sensor is ever “cropped”. If it was, the electronics wouldn’t work. An image is only “cropped” in a camera if the lens used is designed for a bigger sensor (or film) – but that applies to ANY camera. Let’s also stop using that term, too.

  5. People tend to forget one simple thing – most Canon/Nikon lenses fail to deliver even 20 megapixel resolution. So what exactly is the sense of having 40 megapixel sensor?

    The other thing is that it is technically impossible to built a FF lens with same vignetting, CA and sharpness as for micro4/3 – this is the inevitable physical limit. The larger the sensor, the more optical problems. People tend to look on sensors but completely fail to understand lenses, which are in the end often more important.

    Here is a great comparison of various gear, well worth reading:

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